Sunday, April 23, 2017

Life's a Bich and Then You diet


Dieting has never appealed to me, partly because the pseudo science that drives the diet industry has so often proved itself to be just that. Even professional dieticians fail to enable their clients when they pursue a non-holistic approach, driven by their scientific methodology which doesn't adequately address the human condition.

While it must be under-girded by science, dieting is generally more an art. It also doesn't exist as a discipline in itself, it has to be part of a lifestyle to have any hope of maintaining traction.

I first fell into the trap of thinking that losing weight was a case of mind over matter - that somehow I could think myself thin. I can now attribute that to avoidance. To engage on a proper diet I would need to declare myself fat and my girth was not something I wanted to draw attention to (for many reasons).

But what you have to realise is that people don't pay much attention to things that don't change so if you are not gaining or losing weight you don't stand out. Also, everyone has their own image of who you are. You might compare yourself to George Clooney or Beyoncé but no one else does. Your crooked nose or double chin is only ugly to those who don't like you.

But your public image is affected by your self image and you will be more attractive externally when you feel attractive internally. In part, this depends on transparency (if people don't appreciate your inner beauty its because you are simply not nice or because you are hiding it); hence my decision to go public (that sounds over dramatic). As well as making a statement of intent I genuinely wanted advice from real people rather that Google.

I wanted a diet that was not based on some modern idea that prided itself on thinking outside the box or was gratuitously counter-intuitive. I was also not interested in a club as such where I would either follow some strict rules or feel the need to justify my own deviation from them. Being a closet rebel I needed a plan that was not my invention but would allow me to be innovative.

So I settled for the GI [glycaemic index] diet (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycemic_index). I've stolen from the GI model but its really more of a low carb diet, partly because its much easier to source low carb than low GI and because I don't want to get nerdy on the science. I had a diet buddy who has since given up because it wasn't working for her, but I don't think I could have started successfully on my own.

I was hovering around the 199lb mark but was happy to weigh myself at 200lb on day 1. This was not a complete accident as I consciously made the decision to eat what I wanted up to the night before. Losing 5lb in the first week might have owed some to inertia but, by strategy or design, I think I got it right. Losing 1lb per day over the first 3 days was a big confidence booster.

The general plan was to combine low carbs with fat (glycaemic index vs glycaemic load). My first shop consisted of strawberries, tuna, crisp bread, créme fraiche (full fat), peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, smoked mackerel, chicken breasts, Wheat Shreds (Aldi), brown rice, cucumber and almonds. I've regularly included cheddar cheese, onions, various veg such as green beans and cauliflower. I've avoided sugar, pasta, potatoes, bread and anything low fat or diet related.

At first I was having Wheat Shreds for breakfast, swapping sugar for strawberries and créme fraiche. I've since come to realise that cereals tend to be high carb (Aldi's Wheat Shreds are low carb in contrast to Shreddies which are not). Of course there's no good reason why I should start the day on cereals so I've since gone more for the fried breakfast option.

One piece of advise I was given was to eat smaller portions and that is really important. Part of the lifestyle change is to teach your stomach restraint which means learning to be hungry and not needing to be full. However, you also have to be aware of what your body needs. So when your stomach aches and you've not eaten you probably need to eat something and hunger should not be ignored, just overridden sometimes.

One of the key factors in deciding on a plan was sustainability. It was important I had a plan that wasn't too restrictive, prescriptive or utilitarian. It had to be a real life solution that I could live with long term. It needed to be based on foods that were easily available from most outlets and allowed for stepping off the wagon from time to time. I didn't want anything that involved counts which inevitably lead to guilt trips and discouragement. So I have a system that isn't a system.

All the best plans are triangular in nature (because a triangle is the most stable shape). So in addition to low carb/medium fat meals and small portions I've been walking briskly for a minimum of 30 mins per day (or average thereof). As well as helping to burn my reserves and keeping my metabolism firing it helps psychologically. Not only does it keep me alert its a distraction from the diet.

I've only just completed 3 weeks so you can take this all with a pinch of salt. But I do believe there is sense and logic behind this which I've gleaned from years of diet watching and dabbling in the science. If you will bear with me I'll give a summary of my progress so far by way of observations.

Observation 1. Cheat like hell. You are competing only with yourself and if you need a Mars bar go for it. If you are being honest with yourself, like not robbing Peter to pay Paul or fiddling with the scales you'll find a good balance. Use your natural inclination to sin and repent to advantage.

Observation 2. Avoid the weight watching aisle like the plaque. Ignore calories completely because, of themselves, calories don't make you fat. Neither does beer make you fat though you might want to moderate wine or cider.

Observation 3. Learn to be hungry. Don't swap munching crisps, chocolate and sweets for celery and carrots. Your weight loss will not be sustainable unless you change your eating habits. Sometimes you will get the munchies but be creative. I've microwaved frozen peas for a snack. Its quick and they are sweet.

I will be doing more research but only to inform what I'm already doing. Just like our bodies don't automatically turn fat into cellulite and cholesterol from eggs doesn't automatically clog your arteries, what I read doesn't dictate how I live. I'm just beginning this new journey and hope to gain more than I lose.

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