Tuesday, 4 February 2014

You are what you eat

This phrase first came about in 1826 and we still use it today. It means the notion that to be fit and healthy you need to eat good food. [Origin]

Like many people in Australia and the world, I’m overweight. I was born a really small toddler, turned into an overweight teenager and shed the weight to get a boyfriend (which I did). I wasn’t skinny and I wasn’t sporty but I was a good size. I enjoyed my life in my twenties, worked, walked my dog, went to the beach and went partying most weekends. I then managed to progress my career and went from a job where I was on my feet all day to a job where I was sitting down most of the day. That was the same time as I turned 30. I don’t know what happened there but suddenly I was a year older and 20 kg heavier. I know that sounds impossible but it happened. At least it appeared to just happen. I lived like I normally did, didn’t eat any or more any less; I didn’t go partying all that often anymore but still, nothing major changed. My colleagues said my bum got big – I ignored their comments. The battery of my scales had died and I conveniently forgotten to replace it. When I had to wear a jumper over my uniform because I couldn’t close the button anymore, I thought it was time to do something. So I changed jobs. I started to eat healthy (at least I thought I was) and was fairly active (walking the dogs, gardening, cleaning ect). I thought I’m slowly losing weight while one evening my long term partner declared I wasn’t. I never will forget the look on his face when I said something along the lines that I’m losing weight with all the activity, the renovation and the big house. He just looked at me, shook his head and said ‘You aren’t.’ We were in the middle of eating Pizza and I was too embarrassed to finish my meal. I weight myself the first time in 3 years and was shocked. I put 30kg on! Ok, I will have to do something. And I did.

I did Jenny Craig, I only ate fruit, I only ate salads, I didn’t eat carbs, and I signed up to I-can’t-remember-how-many diet plans. Nothing. Nothing for years. I decided there must be something wrong with me. I went to the GP, she didn’t believe me. I had my blood checked – nothing. I did an elimination diet – still nothing. I had my thyroid check – nothing. I tried more diets; one of them was Ducan and I actually lost 7 kg but after about 3 months, my cravings got the better of me and I ate bread. I just did not want to live without bread and pasta for another 9 months. I signed up with Blackmores and then later with Curves. Nothing worked. To be honest, I can’t really say that these programs don’t work; I was just never fully committed. I mean who do they think they are? They don’t even know me and hand me a plan which tells me I should have a bean salad for dinner? I don’t even like beans! Yes I know there are substitutes but there are only so many of them and if my meat plan repeats itself after 2 weeks, I get bored and will not follow it. I also never measured anything I just guessed it. It was always the fault of the diet provider. I’m really trying, aren’t I? Well, this went on for 7 (!!!) years. 7 years of me panicking to weigh myself or to buy myself clothes. 7 years of eating little with no success. 7 years of my self-esteem to hit rock bottom. I was embarrassed to present myself to my partner and when I visited my family in Germany, I was teased within less than 10 minutes of me turning up on their doorstep (‘How long have you been pregnant for?’). At the end of last year, after I have learnt about the simple life, I remembered a Latin Quote: 'Mens sana in corpore sano' meaning 'A sound mind in a healthy body.'

Since I felt calmer and happier than ever before, I thought I should be ready to commit to a healthy diet. And I did what I should have done years ago. I went to see a Dietitian. Why is it that we spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on protein shakes, frozen food, meal plans from various companies, Gym memberships, exercise equipment and wonder drugs when we know that if only one of them worked and we would lose weight without effort, there would be no more competition of diet products??? Only last night, I saw the preview of a morning show with the topic of how a woman lost more than half her size without diet and exercise. Really? If this would be true, how comes she was overweight in the first place??? I don’t know. I still don’t know how I put all this weight on. I don’t eat fast food very often; I think I have a balanced diet, I do like sweet things but I don’t eat them everyday. My friends say I eat like a sparrow. I’m happy with breakfast and lunch. I don’t even need dinner – so why did this happen to me? I don’t know. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. All I know is that I’m obese now and I need to fix it. Obese is a terrible word. I’m not even THAT big. But if I calculate my BMI, that’s what I am. Obese. So off to the Dietitian. She weights me, she measured me, and she listened to my story. She didn’t judge, she didn’t say you should have done this or that; she made some notes and then gave me a comprehensive meal planner and explained it to me. This plan didn’t tell me what I need to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner – it told me how. It gave me options, not prescriptions. So if I wake up and feel like cereal, it says you should have that much of those cereal (e.g. muesli, oats, wholegrain cereal or biscuit cereal) and you should avoid those cereal (e.g. toasted muesli, low fiber/high sugar cereals). But if I don’t want cereal, the plan also provided options for bread, cooked breakfast and fruit/yoghurt combinations, as well as eating out options. Under each option the plan provided examples on what to avoid. We continued to lunch and I could choose between various carbs, protein, veggies and fat. Again there were eating out options and things to avoid. Dinner was the same, just different amounts. And then it gave me a list of snacks – everything from fruit to dairy over cakes and chocolate to drinks and savoury snacks. My dietitian explained to me that I can have three snacks a day but 150 ml of wine is a snack. 150ml is not a lot! When I came home I was curious and measured my wineglass. It actually measured 300 ml and I hardly ever have just one of them… So for the first time I actually gave it a go. I weight my food, I picked the items of the plan, I kept book over what I ate. I quit the Gym and instead walked the dogs more often. I increased incidental exercise. And if I was naughty I put in a fast day.

During the fast day, I reduce my calorie intake to 500 kcal which is normally 2 meals a day. That sounds really hard but it isn’t. You need to start a fast day with the attitude in your mind ‘Today I’m only going to eat the bare minimum’. I strongly believe if you tell yourself that you can’t do it, you won’t. During the fast day I live normally as on every over day – I work, I exercise, I just don’t eat. I have eggs of porridge for breakfast and a salad or stir fry at lunch and that’s it. However, you will have to drink plenty of water! Fast days taught me a lot. They taught me to differentiate between appetite and hunger. They taught me, I do not collapse if I don’t eat for a day. They helped me not to feel hungry on my normal days. Not that I ever felt hungry, I just had appetite, but I didn’t know that. I now don’t need fast days anymore as I have re-learnt how to eat. But I enjoyed them so much; I continue to have them twice a week.

As for my weight loss? I’m losing about 0.5 kg a week. It’s slow but it’s happening. I can have Nutella if I want to. I know I can do it. By Christmas 2014, not only my mind but also my body has transformed. I’m really enjoying my new life!