Wishful shrinking: intellectual approach to losing weight

Mindless munching has got me to where I am, but could a simple food diary make a real difference to my eating habits?

 

My children are deprived. There are no biscuits or sweets in my house for one reason: I will eat them. It’s a sad reflection on my willpower.

Recently, an open packet of biscuits left unguarded on the kitchen table was slowly whittled down with each passing. They weren’t particularly nice, but that was little disincentive. It was habit, almost involuntary. Monkey see, monkey eat.

Later, one of the children was spotted feeding the biscuits to the dog.

When I enquired why, I was met with: “Why not? They’re dog treats!”

As a teenager I ate like an earth-mover: cereal from a cooking bowl; dinner was a mini-festival; and, for many years, the late evening involved demolishing a full loaf of white bread. Every night. Crust to crust.

Carbohydrates are my DNA.

Back then I was also lean, fit and healthy, because life was divided into three equal parts: sleep, school, and sports. Unfortunately, I’m not a teenager any more and, while my breakfast bowl no longer comes with a lifebuoy, when it comes to food, quantity and quality remain a struggle.

Exercise alone is no longer sufficient for health and fitness – food intake was also going to have to be on the agenda.

Otherwise, it’d just be wishful shrinking.

Soon after I afflicted myself with this health drive in March, a coworker – who is also a food consultant – took pity on me.

Rose Costello is a weight-loss coach with Zest4Life and an enthusiastic advocate of Patrick Holford’s low-GL diet.

I, on the other hand, am a cynic, and anything that wants to separate me from a high-fat, high-calorie and highly satisfying diet – whatever the consequences – is not exactly music to my taste buds.

I have tried to lose weight many times, but it has found me each time.

I was usually discovered hiding behind a biscuit barrel, rewarding myself for minimal physical effort. Eating was never a consideration before in any fitness plan. Before talking to Rose, I can honestly say I’d never before thought about what I was putting in my stomach.

Cotton balls

There are thousands of food plans. They’re concerned with calories, fats, carbs, proteins, fibre or even blood type. Some advise starving on certain days, or drinking horrible shakes, or eating baby food. There’s even a plan that involves eating cotton balls before meals – thereby filling your stomach. It was dismissed – we’re trying to live healthier, not die healthier.

However, many of the more sane plans, including Zest4Life, include one simple exercise that has had a surprisingly transformative effect: keeping a food diary.

I could eat a bag of crisps and swear an hour later that I hadn’t seen a treat all day. But a food diary, kept updated, doesn’t lie – and, worse, doesn’t forget. A bag of crisps can disappear quickly, but it lingers in a food diary, scowling and disapproving. A regular reminder of mindless munching.

It hasn’t been plain sailing. I have fallen for the temptation of sweets and ice cream. (Does this make me a desserter?) But, in general, the very fact of having to record every bite is a powerful deterrent to overeating, and particularly to eating rubbish. But could it be that simple? Write down what you eat and lose weight?

There are apps that can be used to record the info, but – for the moment at least – we’re still using paper.

There’s nothing like writing “Steakhouse bacon triple cheese big mouth burger with jalapeño ranch dressing” on a Tuesday to focus the fitness mind. 

Step by step
Intellectual approach to losing weight
Most apps on straps are rubbish
My daughter is trying to kill me
It’s not you, it’s me. Hold on, it’s you
You don’t have to turn into an ass
I met my next child’s godfather at a race
It’s tough when momentum runs out
No sweetness, and lite everything
Stopping the treadmill with your tummy
When it’s my turn to make dinner . . .
The kitchen table looks out for us
- Skinny friend eats like an elephant
Tomorrow we diet
How to get back into exercise
At what age do you fall apart?
I’d jog for wine
I’m a binge drinker
- What if losing weight makes you sad?
- 12 months later, time for health tips
- The ultimate global deception

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