How to lose weight

Or how I lost 2 stones in 4 months.

There’s a culture of silence about weight loss if you’re a guy.

Diets aren’t manly, and it is NOT cool to do Weight Watchers. I’ve decided to break this vow of silence because, frankly, it’s stupid and shouldn’t be a big deal. I went on a diet, I lost weight, and will hopefully now live a little longer – bring on the chat.

I hit my third decade in January this year and decided I was carrying more padding then I liked. I’ve often heard that it’s increasingly difficult to get in shape after you’re 30 and that it’s increasingly so decided that it was time to grow-up and sort myself out.

Up until University I was skinny and healthy, eating well, swimming competitively, and training by jogging, cycling and going to the gym. University annihilated that in under a year: I quit a healthy diet and exercise regime and replaced it with getting up at noon, drinking lots of alcohol and eating takeaways (which was a blast, incidentally).

Obligatory before and after picture

Obligatory before and after picture

Fast-forward 12 years and I weighed 17 stones and 4 lbs. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, this is way outside my healthy weight range and way off my ideal weight (of about 14 stones 7 lbs). I need to do something now or the risk of things like heart disease begin to rocket . . . and by complete accident, I discover Weight Watchers.

I quit a healthy diet and exercise regime and replaced it with getting up at noon, drinking LOTS of alcohol and eating takeaways

In the past I’ve been on the receiving end of people who’ve been on Weight Watchers (WW). Mainly women, truth be told, and with varied success. I spent a year of my life sat next to a WW fanatic at work (mentioning no names JB :). I’d never thought to do it before because . . . well because it’s not very ‘masculine’, is it?

Well this time, several people close to me were doing it. I thought they could provide me with help, and it would be of support to them to have someone to do it with. And in this way, I lost over 2 stones between February and May 2011. This was purely through changing my diet, my exercise didn’t change at all.

The hard stats are these:

Start Size (inches) End Size (inches)
Neck – 17.5 Neck – 16
Chest – 48 Chest – 42
Arm – Long Arm – Long
T-shirt – X-Large T-shirt – Medium/Large
Waist – 42 Waist – 34
Leg – 34 Leg – 34

Success! I won’t go on about Weight Watchers in detail because they have their own website and this isn’t a sales pitch for them. I will say that it worked for me because I didn’t have to go to any meetings, or eat anything weird, or do loads of exercise.

It worked because by investing 15 minutes a day planning my food I could see results. I was allocated a certain amount of ‘points’ per day. I’d then plan my meals for the day, making sure not to go over my points allocation. It was that simple. Pretty soon I realised that I didn’t have to stop eating anything I enjoyed, all had to do was either reduce the portion size or be tactical about ingredients.

For example, I really enjoy a big plate of spag bol. To reduce the amount of points but keep the quantity the same I used wholemeal pasta, Dolmio Light & Quorn Mince. It’s got about half the ‘points’ of normal pasta but honestly, I enjoyed this ‘healthy’ version just as much.

beer is ridiculously high in points

In other cases, I tweaked my habits. For example, beer is ridiculously high in points. About 6 points per pint. Even someone my size is only supposed to have about 50 points in total for a day, so 4 pints on a Friday suddenly wipes out half of my allowance. Instead, I shifted to whisky. One shot is 2 points. A double, which is the same strength as a pint, is 4 points. So I can consume the same amount of alcohol by drinking 4 double whiskeys as with 4 pints, but for 2/3 of the points.

Admittedly this probably not what the inventor of WW had in mind when they created their system, but I know enough about myself to realise that any weight loss that required me to fundamentally change my habits just wouldn’t work. So better to just acknowledge this and find something that works within my current habits – which generally include a big spag bol during the week, and a few drinks at the weekend.

If you want to know anymore about WW then check out their website or drop me a line. But the point of this rambling narrative is not to promote WW, it’s to share the biggest thing that I learnt from this whole experience:

Being honest about my habits and my lifestyle was the reason why I actually lost weight this time versus all of the other times I’ve tried.

Trying to fundamentally change my weight AND my habits has always been too much for me. This time, I carried on eating almost identical meals, I just tweaked the portion size or the ingredients. I still eat bacon sandwiches, and I still sometimes demolish a whole tub of ice cream. But I do it in the knowledge that if decadence is the exception rather than the rule then I’m not worried.

The challenge now is to maintain weight.

There are hundreds of websites telling you how to lose weight. There are hundreds of websites telling you how to make decadent dishes. But I’ve not yet found one that talks about how to maintain a healthy weight, and covers the functional meals that are made 99% of the time in the real world. That’s what I’m hoping The Boy Can Cook can do, every now and again.

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