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Losing weight doesn’t seem so hard after all
I’m a reasonably active, healthy, 38 year old, and I’ve been watching my weight creep up slowly over the years with a feeling of resigned inevitability. That’s just what happens with age, right? Anyway, a size 12 at age 38 isn’t bad, even for a petite 5’0″ like myself. But actually deep down I knew I wanted to do something about it, without going down the yo-yo diet route I see in so many of my friends.
The turning point for me was a couple of months ago when, having polished off my plate at a delicious Greek restaurant, I generously helped one or two others finish off theirs, and received a mild-mannered leg-pulling from my dinner companions. “How do you fit so much food into such a small frame?” was the kind of thing.
Later I reflected that no so very long ago, back in university days, I would never even finish my own meal. My then boyfriend was very appreciative, as he used to get an extra half meal every time. How could it be that my appetite had increased so much? My height and build are the same, and so is my activity level, so I couldn’t think of any good reason why I’d be eating more at 38 than at 20. Could my stomach have gradually stretched over time? And could I re-educate it?
I’m totally against diet fads, and decided that any changes I make must be sustainable indefinitely. So I decided on my own mix of calorie counting, cutting down a bit on fat, and big reduction in carbohydrates. Why carbs? I kept a food diary for a week and noticed I was eating a huge amount of pasta and bread, and many diet experts think carbs are hard to break down and can cause weight gain.
But the main idea was to retrain my stomach so that I stop eating when I’m full. After all, unless you have a major eating disorder, at some point in every meal you will stop eating, even if the food still tastes good, because you’ve had enough – in other words, you exercise restraint. I decided I would simply move that point of restraint a little bit earlier in the meal. I wouldn’t even have really lost anything; after all, you don’t feel any better after having two slices of chocolate cake than you did after the first one – it’s still a wrench to not have the third delicious slice, so why not just stop after the first one!
The most important change is simply to cut down massively on the portions I eat. When I cook something for myself, I serve half the amount I normally would, then I put the rest back in the fridge. I am allowing myself seconds if I really want – after a pause to make sure I’m still genuinely hungry – but just by not putting so much on my plate first time round I’ve noticed I’m eating less; repeated seconds have always been my downfall, especially when followed by “just one more spoon” several times. If I really get the urge to nibble I go for more vegetables.
Some other things I’m doing:
Breakfast: Medium sliced bread has 65 calories per slice, while thick slice has 120. I switched to one medium slice from two thick slices of toast for breakfast. This left me hungry for the first couple of weeks, then it just seemed normal. I have my usual mid-morning banana and that lasts me till lunch.
Lunch: On work days I still usually make myself a sandwich, but I no longer put in butter, instead lashings of mustard (very low cal) and ham (ditto, only 12 cals per slice). Soups without cream or butter or cheese or potato are fine, and supermarket crab sticks are very tasty and only 15 calories a stick, as are pickled onions (also a good snack as they have virtually no calories!). Fruit is good to some extent but is higher cal than vegetables, so I try to eat a carrot rather than an apple.
An alternative lunch is noodles with stir fried vegetables – under 300 calories but really fills you up. I’ve switched to using a “one-calorie” spray for frying with, they are great! You can use them instead of cooking oil. Save loads of calories and fat.
Supper: I still eat fatty meat – I ate pork steaks for 4 nights running last week. Very fatty, AND had them with a peanut butter and chilli sauce. But I made up for it by not having any potatoes or carbs with them. Made really nice stuffed aubergines to go with them, and some lovely butter beans in a tomato sauce. I’m trying to replace some of my carbs with lots more veggies as I really like vegetables and their calorific value is fairly negligible.
I still have a pudding at night but mostly keep it to under 300 calories (some nights under 200), and I have a cup of coffee which seems to fill me up more than the equivalent amount in water.
None of this seems very drastic. All the food I am eating I am enjoying and it’s tasty, so I’m not suffering through lack of nice stuff. I do have to cook a lot more as you need to make things like veggies very tasty to make up for fact you are eating more of them.
And the results? So far I’ve dropped one clothes size and lost a stone in 6 weeks! And all through a few small bits of changing around what I’m eating, and stopping eating when I’m full. Among all those complicated and faddy diets, it’s the perfect application of the KISS principle – “Keep It Simple, Stupid”!