I hate diets. Diets are designed to force people into focusing so much on what they are eating that it stops being food and starts being a science project.
I have tried a lot of diets in my life, low-cal, low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb and one insane starvation diet where I drank lemonade made from maple syrup, lemon juice, water and chili powder for a week.
They all worked when I stuck to them, but you could force yourself to stick to a diet of twigs and pond scum and it would work.
I worked for a company that made fitness equipment back in the BC days (Before Children). It was a common practice among the women of the office to ask the various sales managers, fitness experts and marketing gurus for a gym program to use in the office gym. I was no exception.
One trainer gave me the best program I have ever had, easy to stick to, involved no special training or equipment, needed no crazy food plan to follow. I refused to follow it, didn’t think it would work, thought he was being facetious.
It took 6 months of him repeating the plan every time I asked for it to finally sink in. I didn’t need to do stupid diets or kill myself in the gym every lunchtime; I finally accepted his advice as sound.
Eat less. Move more.
It took a further 5 years for me to follow the plan properly, with some help from Paul McKenna’s hypno CD and a healthy dose of psychotherapy for other issues.
I have stopped thinking of some foods as “bad” and some as “good”. Food is food, some tastes better than others, and some have more nutrients, some less. Some are just pure fat, salt and flavour enhancers (mmmmmm) but it’s all just food.
The hypno CD helped me to stop and listen to my body and to SLOW DOWN when I am eating. It made me more aware of the food I was consuming, and therefore I enjoy it more and tend not to inhale it in order to get on with the next thing. It also helped me to stop eating when I had had enough, and to be able to leave food on my plate. I have now learned how much I need to eat and put less on my plate in the first place, so I don’t tend to leave anything now.
The psychotherapy helped me to start shedding my guilt-baggage I carry around, and the less guilty I feel about stuff, the less I focus on food either to comfort eat, or as something I have to feel bad about enjoying.
I am also getting better at being more active in my daily life. I am not very good at following a consistent exercise program (I mean, who is?!), but I am pretty good at looking at the clock and going “oh, I’ve got 10 minutes before I have to be somewhere” and putting on some music to dance around the room.
I have two 1kg weights in my bathroom, and before my shower if the kids are playing nicely, I do 50 reps of something – tricep raises, bicep curls, squats or leg raises. It takes 5 minutes.
I walk around when I’m on the phone; I squeeze my bum muscles when I am sitting at the computer; I tap my foot when we’re driving in the car (thank goodness for automatics!); I play tag with the kids and jump on the trampoline when the weather is nice, in the 15 minutes between finishing cooking and putting the plates out for dinner.
My weight loss is slow, and I am currently at a plateau but I have lost 15kg since Hakopa was born, and he’s 15 months old now. I am about to do a 10km walk which should bust the plateau and I am fitting into my size 14 jeans again.
I feel fitter and the more I do, the more I feel like doing. It’s a positive feed-back loop and it can only get better.
To summarise, here are my top tips for changing your guilt-riddled food-obsessed mindset into one of enjoying food and exercise again:
- Stop denying yourself things, but don’t buy crap regularly. If there is no food in the house that you do not have to cook in order to consume (other than fruit), then you can’t eat it. I get my chocolate fix once a week when I fill up the car with fuel.
- Share your food. Half a chocolate bar is still chocolate (mmm, smooth creamy chocolate), but you only eat half and your husband/child/best mate will think you’re really generous for sharing.
- Cook a new recipe once a week. Trying out new tastes, textures and ingredients gives you enthusiasm for food and new ideas for eating better quality meals.
- Eat as much fruit and veg as you can possibly manage without turning your insides to liquid.
- Fidget. Skinny people don’t sit still.
- Drink a full glass of water before every meal. I am rubbish at sipping a glass of water while I am eating, so I down half a pint as quickly as I can then get on with the food.
- Fill 50% of the available plate space with fruit or veg before you add the protein and carbs, and eat that first.
- Keep a full fruit bowl out on the bench and put the crisps and biscuits out of sight. I have my fruit bowl right by the computer, so it’s easier to eat an apple than get off my bum and rummage in the cupboard for TimTams.
- Dance every day, and sing too. Put on something that makes you think happy thoughts and sing like you’re on x-factor.
- Love food, love yourself. You do NOT have to feel guilty for enjoying food, food is ACE. It is brilliant and lovely and tastes like rainbows and happiness. Food keeps us alive and we are lucky to have the choice between the chicken wrap and the Mega Burger, unlike a large proportion of the world who have to survive on ½ a cup of rice a week. We are blessed with bountiful, beautiful, glorious, delicious food, and it is a shame to deny yourself the pleasure of good, tasty, high quality food (and some shit that just tastes good). Eat it, savour it, take your time over every mouthful and remind yourself why you LOVE this stuff. Share your joy with friends and family, cook elaborate dinners for your mates and show them how much you love them and your food.
Eat less; move more. Love food; love life.