Yep, lost. past tense. I’m half way to my goal.
A little over six months ago I decided I was sick and tired of being the big guy. Years had gone by where it became the ‘norm’ and it was time to finally do something about it. I’d tried diets, I’d tried exercise, hell I’d even cycled from London to Paris – they all showed temporary results, but I needed something permanent. It was time to invoke logic, science, discipline and common sense. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
1. It’s all in your mind.
When I stopped smoking, I did just that – I convinced myself that I no longer smoke. In order to succeed, I needed to convince myself that this wasn’t a diet, but a lifestyle change. Diets fail. I am simply not going to be fat any more and that means I need to…
2. Eat less and move more.
This was said to me many years ago but I never truly took it on board. It’s a really powerful statement when it becomes your mantra. I count my calories and monitor my movement, aiming for an absolute minimum of 10,000 steps per day.
After the first few weeks you really do get in the habit of eating less because you want to eat less. That doesn’t mean eating horrible diet food (more on that later), in fact when people ask me what diet I’m on, I jokingly call it the Pie and Taco diet. Importantly, I still eat until I’m full and do this by adding low-calorie, tasty and complimentary fillers like lettuce or a big bunch of grapes for desert.
When I was at my heaviest, even a sedentary lifestyle required over 3000 calories per day just to maintain weight, so I set my initial calorie intake at 2000. It was only a few months before I was finding it hard to actually get to 2000 every day, so I’ve dropped my target to 1500 which is working really well for me.
I’m using MyFitnessPal and Fitbit to monitor my calories and exercise respectively and the information they provide is probably the most important aspect of my weight loss. The 2 apps run on my iPhone, but their servers sync to ensure that each app knows what the other has recorded. If MyFitnessPal shows a green number of calories remaining for the day, I’m pretty likely to lose weight. The best things is that you get credit for exercise above normal movement, so if I’m walking around town all day I get an extra few hundred calories to eat if I need them.
I also have the Fitbit Aria WiFi scales that can tell myself and my wife apart and upload our stats to our respective accounts. There’s no lying and no hiding – you get on the scales and it’s logged.
This is all about knowledge and while we’re on the subject, check out this great article about extinction bursts – forewarned is forearmed.
3. It’s okay to slip.
Bad days happen. There, I’ve said it. It happened when I quit smoking too, but unlike a lot of people who then think ‘Oh damn, I’m smoking again’, I simply continued to ‘not smoke’. I’m applying the same principle to weight loss – if I have a glass of wine that becomes a bottle of wine that is joined by a pizza and ice cream, it’s not the end of the world. You get up the next morning, have breakfast, brush yourself off and get back to your new lifestyle.
I stopped drinking 2 weeks ago and have noticed a massive change in my health, my skin, my sleep and my weight loss. I generally always had enough calories left over for a glass of wine with dinner, but the wine makes me lazy and robs me of discipline. That sometimes leads to finishing the bottle, having dessert, digging that chocolate out of the pantry – you get the picture. No booze means fewer slips and quicker weight loss.
I am, however, really looking forward to having a glass of wine at Heathrow in two weeks when we head off to Thailand – I’m pretty sure I’ll be close to a stone lighter still.
4. Breakfast is King.
I’ve read a lot about 25-30 grams of protein for breakfast and its ability to kick start your metabolism. It made sense to me, so I tried it and had great results. Let’s say I eat breakfast on consecutive days and have a 330 calorie breakfast baguette at my desk one day and a 330 calorie goat’s cheese omelette before leaving home on the other. I’m far more likely to lose weight with the cheese omelette because I’ve started my day right. Purple smoothies a-la Alton Brown also do the trick.
And yes, you read that right – I’m losing weight by regularly eating cheese omelettes cooked in butter.
5. Because you’re eating less, you can eat better.
It’s no secret that I love food. Man, I just can’t stop thinking about it. This was always going to be my biggest challenge and my ultimate fear – I really would rather be fat than eat diet food. Then the Hairy Bikers showed me a few tricks when they lost weight. I’ve learnt to substitute high-calorie ingredients for lower calorie options where appropriate and to simply eat less when that’s not an option. As I said above, I still eat cheese and cook with butter but in far smaller quantities than before.
I’ve also switched to getting meat delivered directly from the farm on a monthly basis and I’m using my slow cooker a LOT. It’s really wonderful to come home to a house smelling of dinner and then seeing all the fats floating on top. Pour the liquid into one of these fantastic things and then a few minutes later, return it to the slow cooker without most of the fat.
Smaller portions of really high quality food – there’s tons of tricks like this to get full flavour while leaving most of the fat behind.
6. The time of year can get in the way.
I would be 10kg lighter right now had my company not had their 25th birthday party just as we were heading into the holidays season. A few drinks lowers your self control and old habits come back. Hangovers call for bacon sandwiches and cans of coke. Kebabs get consumed at 3am.
On top of that, this has been a brutally cold winter and exercise hasn’t been the frequent companion I’d like it to be. All I’ve wanted to do is sit inside with a bottle of wine and a ton of food. That’s not how you lose weight. In fact, I bounced up and down through the same 3 or 4 kilos for 2 months or more before screaming ‘ENOUGH!’ and taking myself off the booze for 4 weeks.
This is actually another habit that I need to break. I set myself incredibly hard challenges over winter. Last year I was trying to get fit enough for the above mentioned ride to Paris while it was snowing. I’ve leant that lesson – this year we’re doing a long ride in September!
So there you have it. 6 simple things that have changed my life. Get in touch if you need some help getting motivated.