Ok, so I talk a lot. We know that. I verbally posture all the time about how easy it is to be healthy, to be vegan, to be fit and active, to be healthy. I make grand statements about relaxing and taking it easy and enjoying the little things in life. And that’s all good for someone who has grown up slim and reasonably active, given carrot sticks and rice cakes (albeit milk-chocolate-covered) as snacks but also my fair share of chips and pancakes, being fed a home-cooked meal at a dinner table every night. What right do I have to argue how easy it is to lose weight?
Don’t worry, I ask myself that all the time.
Especially as last time I put on weight and had to lose it, I went a little bit nuts and lost way too much and didn’t have a very happy few months!
That happened to be the last time I went to Australia, so I was quite wary of that this time around. Unfortunately, while I was much more controllable on the food front, losing an hour or two of fairly intense training every day does add up, but I found that what made the biggest difference was not walking. In London I estimate I probably walk at least about one hour a day – even if I am conservative in my estimate and assume that I burn a maximum of 3kcal per minute at my bodyweight, that’s roughly 180kcal being burnt per day without any noticeable effort. Even if it were only 150kcal, that’s still more than my daily serving of dark chocolate being used up rather than stored as fat!
So my first message I guess is – every little helps. Sure, you’re on holiday, so please take a break from training, try different foods you don’t have access to at home, enjoy life – but if you are concerned about weight gain, it doesn’t take much effort to remember to take a stroll especially after a big meal and it can really make a noticeable difference.
But of course I didn’t do that. To be honest, even if I had I think I would have struggled to adjust my food intake to the drop-off in energy expenditure. Maybe if I had been hanging around the house I would have nibbled more and feasted less, but when you are out all day and you don’t know what you are going to be doing and when you are going to be eating, the survival instinct tells you to eat heartily “just in case” – even though the rational side of you knows that you will be sat in a car for a few hours and that your next meal will either be a sandwich or chips, so you really don’t need to worry.
Whatever the explanation, I gained weight. Not much weight, maybe only a kilo or two, but considering I probably lost a fair bit of muscle, I don’t even want to know what the change in bodyfat/lean mass percentage was. Let’s just say I felt a loss less comfortable putting my lycra on once I got back into the gym, and was relieved to be able to swaddle myself in a bulky gi and tie my middle up with a belt. Because it’s really not about the number on the scale or even the look of your thighs in your capris – it’s about feeling healthy and athletic, and I no longer did. That was what made me want to take action sooner rather than later, and I think that is why so many people don’t notice the kilo creep; an extra kilo isn’t a big deal – I must have had a bit more to drink, it’s a bit earlier in the day, whatever, let’s not obsess about this. But when you go from feeling invincible to feeling like your mind doesn’t have much control over your body, to being aware that a fair amount of your body mass is not active muscle but fat which needs to be dragged around, it matters a lot more.
So I did what I always talk about doing and took responsibility for my own health.
I’m always scared of putting myself on a diet because I hate being one of “those”, but to be honest I didn’t need to. I just needed to be a little more conscious of what I was eating when, and to be honest I think it made me enjoy my food more. Prior to going away I had been eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Treats weren’t fun anymore, and I was constantly full. All I needed to do was to be a little more conscious, and implement a few little tweaks here and there. Less than two weeks later, my weight is back to normal, I feel like my bodyfat levels are probably back to where they were, I feel athletic and healthy again. And I am enjoying my food. So I thought I would share an outline of my diet over the past couple of weeks, to show that it really is possible.
1 scoop Vital Protein Green Coffee (100kcal)
about 1/3 cup of oats, made into porridge with water – topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon, 10g flax seed powder or a tablespoon of peanut putter, and a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses (250-300kcal)
some days I also had a kiwi or 5 brazil nuts (50-100kcal)
pasta with mushrooms, peppers, chopped tomatoes, and soy mince (hard to give quantities as I made a big batch up, but when I made it I calculated each portion to be about 400kcal)
snack of a handful of sugar snap peas or a chunk of cucumber (50kcal)
soy yoghurt (100kcal)
another kiwi or another 5 brazil nuts (50-100kcal)
1 scoop NitroFusion or Sativa High Pro (120kcal)
sometimes some more nuts (100kcal)
20g dark chocolate (120kcal)
30g (half scoop) Ignite Ultra-V (115kcal)
2 Linda McCartney sausages (200kcal) with side of roasted mushrooms, salad with balsamic vinegar, or grilled asparagus (50kcal)
a combination of mushrooms/spinach/aubergine/green pepper/okra (normally 2 or 3) cooked in olive oil with frozen soy mince and various spices – low-calorie spices like chili powder, paprika and Tabasco sauce – topped with a spoonful of tahini (about 350-400kcal)
similar combination to the above but cooked with half a can of coconut milk and madras curry powder (about 350-400kcal)
often followed by 15-20g dark chocolate (100-120kcal)
I also had the occasional additional piece of fruit, or coffee with soy milk, or extra handful of nuts. In the past two weeks I have also eaten at Karma Free Pizzas twice, including doughballs and garlic butter, and have had a weekend away at Ben’s family where I ate differently. At no point did I feel restricted – honestly.
The main guidelines for me were to be conscious of what I was eating at all times – was I really eating the thing that would make me happiest? Even if I did feel like having another piece of fruit, would I regret it by feeling full? I made a real effort to gear everything towards my physical wellbeing – staying on the safe side of fullness, because I hate being uncomfortably stuffed. The key to making this work was having plenty of snacks available, so I didn’t get scared of getting hungry, which I’ve realised is the main reason I overeat. Once I got used to not eating past the point of fullness, I was able to eat smaller portions, especially at dinner, and go to bed feeling slightly hungry.
Along with this I made plenty of resolutions for myself – to read before going to sleep, to get on with projects, to take a walk in the sunshine in my lunch break, to chat to my family and to make plans with my friends. I believe this helped take the focus off food and weight – and has directly contributed to me feeling healthy and happy now.
Admittedly, I didn’t have a huge amount of weight to lose – but it’s all about the habits and the mechanisms. The key is consciousness. Take responsibility for your happiness and wellbeing, think, enjoy. Welcome to the non-vicious circle of feeling good!