There aren’t any.
If you believe everything you read, what the Experts say is good for you one week, is bad for you the next, and I’ve even read conflicting reports on the same day in the same headline group!
If you’re expecting facts, figures, charts, recipes and diet tips, you can get loads off the internet and probably get as confused and swamped as I did. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a magical ‘cure’ for being overweight, you won’t find it here. Likewise, if you’re hoping for a guaranteed successful diet, you won’t find that here either.
What you may find is the occasional cliche, some personal experience and hopefully a little bit of humour.
First and foremost, I am by no means a professional medical person, a dietician or a nutritionist.
I have however received my fair share of put downs, fat jokes, bullying, the see-saw of weightloss/gain and lack of self worth. So if any of the following helps anyone, this will have been a worthwhile post.
Judging from early childhood photos, I wasn’t a fat kid. We ate 3 meals a day, my folks were late in getting a telly and there were no home computers then, so we played outside on sunny days, painted pictures inside if it rained, had bikes, go-karts and rollerskates, and played football in the street.
It was Grammar School that made me weight conscious as certain members of staff kept telling me I was fat and unfit. Their solution was to make me run further than most of my classmates and putting me in the more aggressive hockey positions, thus being expected to cover the whole field in less than 5 seconds. The funny thing was I was taller and lighter than several others but they were never singled out due to Mummy or Daddy’s “elite position”.
In my teens, I never followed fashion, so didn’t get on the ‘I want to be model thin’ wagon which could have led to bulimia and anorexia. Sadly this was how the world lost Karen Carpenter and Lena Zavaroni, both victims of careless and ignorant comments on their figures and how it was felt the public should see them.
“You are what you eat”. Yeah, right. There is an absolute fortune to be made in the diet business, but the only slimness guaranteed is that of your wallet when you pay out ridiculous amounts for the latest fad. I’ve tried loads of diets over the years and learnt something from each of them. High Fibre diets give you wind, Chocolate Bar diets give you spots, Liquid diets have no bulk and so you lose weight fast but put it back on (plus a bit more) in double quick time when you stop, the Traffic Light diet makes you colour blind with all that green, and a Low Fat diet means you can have lots of liquorice allsorts, marshmallows and jelly babies because they’re all fat free.
Seriously, diet is a four letter word… F O O D. If more of us were educated properly about nutrition and understanding our body’s calorific needs instead of trying to tick all the boxes on some GP’s misguided chart, perhaps obesity wouldn’t be so apparent in our children. You don’t need to fork out hundreds of pounds for pills to restrict your appetite, nor do you have to avoid the things you love.
“A little of what you fancy does you good”. As with so many things, you can still have more or less whatever you like, just in moderation. It’s knowing which is the More and which the Less!
Chocolate immediately comes to mind here, yet this is a natural anti depressant, and even if you are diabetic, you do not need to delete it from your food list, or buy the expensive ‘diabetic’ stuff.
The key to success is balance and variety. Sorry, but a chocolate bar in one hand and pint of beer in the other is not a balanced diet, however long and hard we wish it to be so.
Looking up some stuff on the internet for this post, I discovered the Food Plate.
There is even a market for specifically divided plates with each section labelled so that you get your quantities right when you dish up your dinner!
The USDA suggests that 50% of your calories come from carbohydrates, about 30-35% from fat, and about 15-20% from protein.
For a 2000 calorie per day diet, that equals 250 grams carbohydrates, 67 grams fat and 75 grams protein per day.
That’s a quote off the internet by the way.
On practically every food purchase label there will be an RDA (recommended daily amount) breakdown. What you decide to have as your carbs, proteins and fats is up to you. We are all individuals afterall, so our tastes and preferences vary.
When I left school at 16, my weight was around 145 pounds. By the time I was 17, I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day, chewing gum by the multi pack, and dropped to 120 pounds. I married at 21, quit smoking and my weight increased to 170 pounds thanks to that and birth control pills. Divorced at 25, the weight dropped by 10 pounds.
In 1991, I tipped the scales at 180 pounds, but this increased over the next 4 years by another 40 pounds. Twenty odd years of dieting screwed up my system to the extent that although I wasn’t eating much, my weight was still increasing. I joined a slimming group, sticking religiously to their diet sheets, to be told every week I’d lost a quarter of a pound for a £3 outlay. It was soul destroying, so I joined an exercise class and thoroughly enjoyed it until I hurt my back. I started swimming twice a week instead, but that didn’t seem to help very much and so I decided to get medical help. My GP (a male with the biggest tick list imaginable) was useless, telling me that I would only lose weight on a diet of 300 calories or less a day. I walked out of his surgery in disgust and never went back.
My next attack on the weight loss front was investing in 3 books: calorie counting, balanced eating and a journal. In it, I wrote down everything I ate (no cheating), then calculated the calories and the percentage of carbs, proteins and fats. It looked like I was doing all the right things, but the weight continued to go on. I ate nothing but salads for over a month, and the scales were still going in the wrong direction. Thankfully they never broke or started going round the numbers a second time, but I didn’t understand and again sought medical help. I was at another surgery now so had a different GP and she was wonderful.
I showed her my journal, and the first thing she told me was to forget dieting.
She explained that my body was automatically going into starvation/survival mode at any reduced intake and so literally storing everything. She said to eat sensibly, increase my exercise if I could, and it would find its natural level. Once my weight had stabilised, we could then address the problem together.
Eventually, I maintained the same weight for 6 months. With her support (and no preaching) a year later I had lost 20 pounds. That doesn’t sound a lot when you read articles boasting “Lose 7lbs in a week”, or “I’ve lost 8 stone in a year”, and the temptation was almost overwhelming to give these latest miracles a go. However, our aim was to lose between 1 and 2 pounds a week, thinking for the long term, not a quick fix.
It was hard going, but keeping a food diary helped. I was no longer paranoid about the ratios, but checked the food labels when we went shopping. Low Fat may have meant exactly that, but in most cases there was an increase in sugars or salt. Shopping became a bit of a minefield and what we thought was good for us, actually wasn’t. Too much of one thing could counteract something else, so getting the balance right was difficult at times. The weight came off at one or two pounds a month, but it was staying off, so I wasn’t too worried, and neither was my GP.
My diary proved we were not eating enough fruit and veg. The “Five a Day” campaign was coming into its own, but basically we just weren’t fruity or veggy people.
I started experimenting in the kitchen though, making my sauces from scratch. This progressed to home made lasagnes and the like, thus knowing exactly what went into each dish. Over the next year or so we changed our eating habits considerably, ditched the deep fat fryer and grilled our food instead.
We have an apple tree in the garden here. We also dug out a veg plot and have had success with tomatoes, onions, green beans, peas, leeks, potatoes, and rhubarb. This has resolved our fruit and veg issue, as there is nothing like the taste of your own fresh produce and I freeze any surplus.
In 2011, I was told I had borderline type 2 diabetes. I’m not on any medication and controlling it with diet so am still very food aware. I am convinced though that all those stupid faddy diets and years of abusing my body trying to be an “acceptable weight and shape” in the eyes of society were a serious contributory factor.
Surprisingly, Tom Hanks believes that it was the extreme diet regimes for certain film roles that triggered his diabetes too.
Now that’s food for thought isn’t it?