Fat, middle aged and going downhill!
Well after my diagnosis of prostate cancer and my decision to go ahead with surgery, my surgeon opened up the subject of my weight problem.
As you can see I was carrying too much fat! He said that the fat would not only be detrimental to the operation and the healing process afterwards, but would also interfere with the operation itself.
I had high blood pressure as well and was taking medication for it. I was taking anti cholesterol medication (statins) and I was told that my blood glucose levels were too high which indicated a risk of developing diabetes in the future.
Yes, in a word I was getting fat and middle aged and going downhill! On the journey home after this conversation with my surgeon I had a lot to think about. One thing was clear. I had not only to get Fit for Surgery but also to get Fit for Life! I had to reverse the steady downhill slope that I was on.
I had to lose the excess weight that I was carrying and quickly! I had to get fitter and stronger, more agile and robust!
So I started a very vigourous exercise programme to improve my strength and agility and get me Fit for Surgery. And as for the weight, in the end I lost about 18 kg before my operation and have lost another 3 kg since – making a total of 21 kg.
That was no mean feat and here’s how I did it ….
Some thoughts about diets
Firstly I thought about diets. It’s well known that diets very often fail completely. Yes you lose a few pounds in the first week or so and then you stop losing weight. You start cheating a little bit and then a bit more and then finally you give up the diet and go back to your old ways.
Fashionable, high profile diets that promise the world and/or force your body to go into a malfunctional state are neither a healthy alternative nor sustainable in the long term.
Frankly, if you go on a diet, sooner or later you’re going to go off the diet. Even the term ‘going on a diet’ implies something temporary.
If you really are going to lose weight and keep it off your changed eating habits have to become a permanent part of your life.
So diets are not for me. This weight loss business was not a temporary glitch in my life. I decided this was for life! So the decision was made. I had to make permanent changes to my lifestyle including my eating habits.
Some myths about weight loss
Myth 1 Move more and eat less
No not quite! If you eat less you get hungry and when you get hungry you start getting tempted, and when you get tempted …….. well it all falls to pieces!
So you need to have a full stomach as much of the time as possible. You simply can’t afford to get hungry and be tempted to break your weight loss programme.
Myth 2 Certain foods are forbidden!
It’s not true that you mustn’t eat certain foods such as sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes and all sorts of other high calorie foods. This is poor advice. As soon as you make anything ‘forbidden fruit’ you then have an almost intolerable desire to have it. So it’s a question of balance. Nothing is forbidden, but you need to achieve a balance between high bulk low calorie foods and low bulk high calorie foods. Obviously if you’re going to lose weight you want to have the majority of your diet based on high bulk low calorie foods rather than the other way round.
Myth 3 Going on a diet will make you lose weight
This also isn’t true for many people. As I mentioned above, as soon as you go off the diet you tend to put the weight back on again. So the name of the game is ‘lifestyle changes’. It’s a matter of simply changing what you eat and the way that you eat it.
Seven tips for changing the way you eat
Tip 1 You need to eat:
- breakfast like a king
- lunch like a prince
- and dinner like a pauper
But that’s the exact opposite of what most of us do!
We go rushing out of the house first thing in the morning having had only a cup of coffee ….. well sometimes not even that. Maybe we have it on the way to work.
By mid morning we’re feeling a bit peckish so we have a snack and a drink.
Then of course during the afternoon we start feeling a bit peckish again so another snack and drink.
And when we get home we have a nice big dinner!
One of the problems with this is that we take in a lot of calories at night, go to bed and all the food we’ve eaten has nowhere to go. So it turns into glycogen and then fat.
And of course all through the day we’ve been nibbling at high calorie snacks to keep going.
So the problem gets worse.
Imagine instead that ……….
You have a really big breakfast of whatever takes your fancy – bearing in mind that the most important thing is that you must feel full. If you do this you’ll find that you don’t need to snack in the morning.
By lunchtime you still don’t really want much food because your stomach is so full.
And for dinner you can have a light meal possibly emphasising salads and other low calorie foods.
By doing this you take in most of your calories first thing in the morning and you’ve got the whole day to work them off. So that by the evening there’s no huge calorie overload with nowhere to go while you’re asleep.
Tip 2 Do more chewing!
On average we chew a mouthful of food four or five times before we swallow it. It’s well known that there’s a delay in the feedback from the brain telling you when you’re full. So if you wolf down your food you almost always overeat. So by taking twice as long to chew your food the feedback mechanism works more effectively.
The German scientist who originally proposed this technique suggested chewing each mouthful at least 20 times before swallowing it. I found that this was far too much so I now chew every mouthful 12 to 14 times before swallowing it. It takes a long time to eat a meal, your jaws and teeth get a bit tired, you get bored. And you’ll sometimes find that you really can’t finish the plate of food in front of you.
On social occasions I’m always the last person to finish eating. The host or hostess is usually clearing up around me while I finish my dinner. Or I just give up on it and I don’t finish it.
Tip 3 Use smaller plates and cutlery
Using smaller plates means that you’ll eat smaller portions while your perception is that you’ve got a bigger serving. More importantly though use smaller utensils. So instead of using a large fork, use a smaller fish or dessert fork to eat your food. You simply can’t put as much food on it so you’re eating smaller mouthfuls. But also always make sure that the fork is only half loaded so that you’re not only reducing the size of each mouthful by a 1/2 to 2/3, but chewing it for twice as long. You start to feel satiated (with a full stomach) sooner. And after a while you’ll find that you can only manage smaller portions.
Tip 4 Kill your appetite before meals!
Very often when we feel peckish and want a snack what we really need is water. So ten minutes before every meal or before having a snack drink a large glass of water. Then eat some vegetable or fruit that needs lots of chewing. Among my favourites are things like apples, carrots, cucumbers, kohl rhabi, cauliflower florets and celery. Anything that’s fibrous as it will need a lot of chewing. So you’ve had your glass of water and you then cut up vegetables/fruit into small pieces. Slowly and methodically chew your way through them ………. and now ……. dinner is served! By this time you’re not even hungry any longer let alone capable of eating a huge calorific meal!
Tip 5 Have a snack
Most days – more out of boredom than anything else – we feel the need to have a mid morning or mid afternoon or early evening or other snack. At times like this first drink a large glass of water, then eat small pieces of fruit or vegetable that needs lots of chewing and then, if you still feel like a snack – have one. But you’ll find that you only have one biscuit or chocolate instead of three or four. Or maybe you won’t bother to have any at all!
Tip 6 Have a day off!
Current research indicates that having a regular day off from weight loss programmes gets better results than remaining on the programme continuously. It seems that having one in every five days off the programme gives optimum results. But a day off doesn’t mean going wild and making up for the previous four days. It means relax and eat what you want to, when you want to and in the way you want to. And then return to the programme the next day.
I found that minimising highly refined carbohydrates, sweets, chocolates, sugar etc. and compensating with nuts, fruit and vegetables and water works very well for me for about three days. By the third or fourth day I start to get lightheaded, developing a headache, unable to concentrate properly and tired. So for me it’s one day every three or four days that I take off, depending on how I’m feeling.
On my day off I still stick to the programme but only partially. Instead of fruit at when I want a mid morning snack I treat myself to a cup of tea and a biscuit. I cut the biscuit up into small pieces of course and chew it 12 to 14 times before swallowing. Sometimes I might have two biscuits but most certainly not more. The same might happen in the afternoon. And maybe I’ll even eat more carbohydrate with my meals.
If I really let go and have something like a hamburger, I routinely discard the upper half of the bun, cut each chip into three pieces and eat each third of the chip separately. That’s enough to get me back to normal to start the programme over again the next day.
Tip 7 Learn to nibble!
As I wrote right at the beginning, nothing is forbidden. If you want a chocolate have a chocolate. But don’t put the whole thing in your mouth, chew it a couple of times and then swallow it. Savour every morsel of it, a little nibble at a time.
If I have a single square of chocolate I will start by nibbling off little a piece of the corner and chewing it slowly until it dissolves. Then the next bit and the next bit and the next bit. One square of chocolate can take me half an hour to eat and I taste it better than if I’d eaten two or three pieces in a row – or even half a chocolate bar which wasn’t uncommon in my previous life.
A lady I know who has diabetes told me that she simply couldn’t give up chocolate so her diabetician told her to break a chocolate slab into its little squares, wrap each one in tinfoil and freeze them. She could take out a piece when she wanted one. But because it would be too hard to chew she’d be obliged to suck it. One little square can last half an hour this way.
The same applies to biscuits, cakes and all the other high calorie foods. Nibble off little pieces and chew them slowly and carefully one piece at a time. One thing that I now include in my diet is a lot of nuts. Before I would have put a small handful of peanuts or cashew nuts in my mouth. Now I eat them one at a time. And I chew them at least 14 times.
Wherever possible I make a point of buying nuts still in their shells. This means that I have to break open the shell and more often than not the nut breaks in half at the same time. So I end up eating half a nut at a time on the same basis. You’ll be surprised how soon you feel you’ve had enough nuts or chocolate or biscuits when you eat them this way.
My life and food now
Now that I’ve lost weight and I’m down to a normal level, this way of eating has simply become part of my life. I still avoid high carbohydrate foods but if I feel like a sandwich or something similar every now and again, then I have it and enjoy it. And the same goes for biscuits and chocolates etc. But I’ve found that my stomach has simply shrunk to adjust to the different quantity and quality of food that I’m eating. I simply can’t eat a whole plate of pasta and I usually order a child’s portion or a half portion. This isn’t because I’m on a diet. This is just how it is for me now. And I’m still slowly losing weight although I did put on some in the post operative period.
So here I am three years after my operation – fitter, stronger, slimmer, more energised – and most importantly taking no medication for hypertension, high cholesterol or even high blood glucose. They have all returned to normal levels.
You can do it too!
Changing your lifestyle in terms of exercise, nutrition and attitude to food in general is a long and difficult journey. But believe me it has been worth every bit of it. And you can do it too!