I was a little over seventeen stone at my heaviest. I lost four.
It’s a running joke that if I wrote a book on weight loss, it would be two pages.
Page 1: Eat Less.
Page 2: Exercise more.
Perhaps three, if I decided to put in a page about how I managed to get to where I was.
Page 3: Food.
I have always adored food. This adoration did not quite extend into actual appreciation. I ate too much of it, all at choking speed. Pairing this with my natural propensity for laziness was a recipe for an extremely unfit Jean.
I was not unhappy and I didn’t simply ‘decide’ one day to change my lifestyle. My weight did not make me sad, I could not have cared less about my BMI – I still don’t. My happiness, my friendships, my self worth, my successes and failures are not dependent on my weight. My health, however, is a different story.
I’ll never know what the original spark was that started the slow burn but, over months, there was a progression, a change in my attitude towards exercise, food and therefore my health.
My changing attitude did not make it in any way easy so I can expand, ever so slightly, on the first two pages of my weight loss book over the next couple of blog posts.
Page 1: Eat Less
I love Burger King’s XL bacon double cheese burgers. I would happily eat one for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They taste insanely good, are cheap, fantastic after a few beers, and close to one thousand calories a pop.
Each burger equals a ten mile walk – two and a half hours of plodding one foot in front of the other.
Like I have the time – I have TV to watch, and a couch to lie on.
(Attributed to Pyry)
The slow change in lifestyle included considering calories – a small amount – but thinking about them nonetheless; In my mind is always the question, “Is this worth the calories?”
Before, I didn’t think. I didn’t taste, I didn’t appreciate. I ate all foods, at all times, equally. When I started questioning, I realised that some things are worth every single last calorie – cheese, bacon, a take away on the weekend – these are essential, integral to my happiness. A bag of midget gems, coke every day, sausage rolls for breakfast, the entire tub of rice with my Friday night korma? Nope.
The breakneck inhalation of food, mostly, stopped. I started to listen to my stomach, pause during eating, pile my plate with vegetables, and quickly realised I had never actually needed as much food as I was taking in. My portion size shrank dramatically – from a baking tray of pasta, smothered in melted cheese with a roll of garlic bread, to half a plate of pasta (with a similar amount of cheese, to be honest), and a couple of pieces of garlic bread.
The quality of my food increased equally as dramatically – I started to cook again, as opposed to always falling back on quick, greasy meals. I remembered how good home cooked meals were and the smug sense of satisfaction I got from being able to provide for myself, like a proper adult.
I was hungry. My stomach rumbled a lot for the first couple of weeks. My body was used to vast quantities of fuel; sausages with butter and ketchup on a roll for breakfast, a full dinner for lunch, and then a second in the evening – and now I was feeding it normal amounts of food. It took time to adapt. Then, it had to adapt again when I started jogging. Learn from me – I didn’t increase my intake, even though I was burning extra, and ended up faint and tired for weeks. I wasn’t able to push myself on my jogs and had no energy. Not a good feeling or situation, but easily remedied by raspberry and yoghurt smoothies, and handfuls of nuts on my jogging days when I realised the correlation.
So, if you are thinking about changing your lifestyle to get fitter or lose weight, start slow, and keep eating almost everything in moderation. If I denied myself foods, I would crave them, and my willpower is already all used up with getting myself off the couch and into runners.
Think of it as a lifestyle change, not a diet. Diet implies an end point, a specific date, or goal. I do not have an end point; I will be fitter and healthier and attempting to increase both as time goes on.
Start cooking, learning your favourite restaurant dishes, and get in the kitchen. Once you know the recipes, you can adapt the serving size and ingredients to suit your needs. Few things are as satisfying as that first mouthful of a new dish, and realising it will become a dinner on the regular rotation.
Spend a little time looking into the calories of your everyday foods. I automatically compare treat foods to the length of a walk that it would take to burn them off. This helps me decide whether it’s worth it or not.
Branch out. In an attempt to eat healthier meals, I started selecting different dishes in restaurants, and discovered a world of foods I had never eaten, never gotten to enjoy because I’d asked for steak and chips every time previous.
Know what you are taking in. Use your new found knowledge of calories to keep an estimate of your intake in your head, or you’re going at the thing blind. What goes into the mouth is more important than how much exercise is taken.
Eat three meals daily, eat properly. If you’re increasing exercise, increase calories – what’s the point of getting fitter if you feel terrible? If you’re losing more than two pounds a week, you are pushing too hard.
It has to come from you. You have to want to change, you have to hold yourself accountable, and you will not fail.
Stay tuned for Page 2 from the best-selling book, “Sure why would I go for a walk?” by your fearless food blogger.