Monday, 5 January 2015

The Battle of the Bulge: Or How I Lost 5 Stone in 9 Months.

Several people have expressed an interest in how I managed to lose such a large amount of weight without doing too much excercise. For those that don't know, I have a bad back and so find that excercise, even gentle excercise, will more often than not end up with me lying on the floor in agony. Consequently it's something I used to try to avoid.

I guess I should explain how I got to the stage where I needed to lose a few (dozen) pounds in the first place. Well, a long time ago, 11 years to be precise, I quit smoking, for reasons I won't go into here (that's another story), and as a result, without excercise, I piled on the pounds over the subsequent years. Eventually I found there were a lot of things I couldn't do as well as I used to. I put it down to old age, but there were people around me of a similar age who didn't seem to have the same trouble. Eventually it dawned on me that my weight may be a factor, being blind to the obvious is quite common I hear. That and the fact that I was out of breath just walking up to the local, which it not very far at all, prompted this change of lifestyle! And so a plan was hatched...

Hints and Tips:
Having made the decision, I decided to start by making a food diary for a week before commencement. This was most revealing; it showed that not only was my diet pretty boring, but there were certain (unhealthy) things I ate an awful lot of! This gave me a starting point. To further increase my chances, I had some advice from a very good friend of mine who was already on a plan with Slimming World, and doing well. I had already decided I was going to 'go it alone', but the advice was sound and I still use it. So what was this advice I hear you ask... I'll tell you:

1. Avoid anything deep-fried: Oil and fat contain huge amounts of calories. The bloke that runs my local chippy thought I had disowned him for nine months - I'm back on a monthly basis now though.
2. Fruit and veg, assuming it's not been fried, you can have as much as you like. These are good because the fill you up and they generally contain stuff that's good for you too.
3. Smoothies - Avoid. Yes, they can be made from fruit, but in smoothie form you're just getting all the natural sugars but no fibre. In digesting fibre, you use energy - using energy burns fat.
4. Try to avoid having too many carbohydrates. Things like bread and pasta are pretty high in carbs, so try to cut down on these. I discovered tortilla wraps are a good substitute, particularly for lunches, but I always make my own; that way I know exactly what is in them.
5. Try to use the 'low fat' versions of things like butter and mayonaise. I know they don't taste quite as good, but, believe me, you'll get used to them.

The Hairy Bikers have written three of books that I found really useful for ideas of what to eat. They are under the guise of 'The Hairy Dieters' and were still all available from Amazon (UK) at the time of going to press.

Calorie Counting:
I always vowed I would never become a calorie counter but it soon transpired that you can't really lose weight without knowing the value of what you're using to fuel your body. I discovered, after a while, that you will know instinctively what is good and what is not so good for your diet. For instance, I will no longer buy a ready-meal, even the ones that claim to be the 'healthier' versions; they often have hidden calories that you won't know about without reading the small print. I tried to keep the calorie count down to around 300 to 350 for any meal. I know that sounds low, but believe me, you can soon become quite inventive in the kitchen.

Since government legislation has made food manufacturers put nutritional information on food packaging it makes it a lot easier to pick and choose what you buy. On the down side, it means you have to sometimes stand in the isle of a supermarket reading the small print to find the relavent bit of info. I guess it's not something I consciously do, but as a matter of course I like to be aware of the calories I'm consuming. It soon become apparant if you've got it wrong! The 'traffic light' style indicators are usually pretty good for deciding whether something is worth considering; try to avoid too many reds (the occasional one is ok), stick with the ambers & greens. Note: you also have to read the labels as well, they can be slippery and deceptive at times, so be careful!

I would be a liar if I didn't admit that, yes, I did cut down on my alcohol intake. I know this may be a deal-breaker for some, but it is a fact that alcoholic drinks, by their nature, have quite a high calorie count. Exactly how much you cut down is entirely up to you, but I've hit a balance now where I can go out for several beers about 6 or 7 times a month without it adversely hitting the waist-line too much. I can't really quantify it because everyone has a different metabolism and as this makes it impossible to put a figure on it, so I won't. At the end of the day, if you're dieting but not losing the weight, you may have to address how much, and how often, you drink.

10 Golden Rules:
And so we come to the crux of the matter; here are my ten golden rules for losing weight:

1. Eat little and often - It's a good way to speed up your metabolism.
2. Eat the right things - Plenty of fruit and veg I'm afraid; and cut down on the carbs!
3. Drink plenty of water - Keeping yourself hydrated helps to ease the hunger pangs a little. Try to avoid carbonated (fizzy) drinks (if possible).
4. Weigh yourself every day and don't be disappointed if you see your weight rise occasionally. Your weight will nautrally fluctuate, but if you plot it out, you'll (hopefully) see the overall trend is downwards.
5. Treat yourself - I allowed myself one small piece of cake or a biscuit every day whilst on the diet, it doesn't have to be all doom & gloom as someone once said.
6. Try to put together a menu for the week and stick to it - It's easier I find if I know what I'm going to eat each day, although the occasinal 'experiment' has worked out pretty well!
7. Cut down on the alcohol - I know this could be hard for some, but it will make a difference.
8. Set yourself a target weight - This is pretty important. You need something to aim for. Just try not to be too ambitious at first; once you've hit your target you will know just what to do if you subsequently want to lose a little more. Just remember, time is not a factor!
9. You have the internet... use it - There are plenty of low calorie recipes out there and they're all free! Also, I've found that using herbs and spices (particularly chilli) can make your food much more interesting.
10. Enjoy yourself! - You will probably find you will have more energy once the weight starts to come off so try to use it! I'm a bit limited due to my back problem, but I do enjoy a nice walk in the countryside about once a week.

So there you have it!
If you would like any more advice or you'd like me to expand any of the above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Your next mission is to make a diet that will maintain your new-found figure... I'm now doing that, but that's another story... :)

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