How to lose weight and how I managed to keep it off

How To Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Gavin Wren Food Education, Food Opinion Pieces, Writing

“I just assumed you’re one of those people who are naturally slim.”Somebody, to me, last week.

Naturally Slim.

Feeling mildly offended by the comment, I calmly explained that I’m naturally tall, however I was previously fat, with my BMI sitting firmly in the upper half of the ‘overweight’ section of the BMI scale. The person has only known me a short time, so they can be forgiven for having little knowledge of my previous corpulence, because it was 10 years ago, exactly.

It set in process a barrage of thoughts about my weight, how I lost it and the terminology they used. Is ‘naturally slim’ a state that actually exists in some people? What does ‘naturally slim’ mean? Does it mean someone who naturally doesn’t eat too much food? Does it mean somebody who was born with the ability to restrict the amount of food they consume to an amount appropriate to their lifestyle?

After all, that’s what slim people are, they’re people who don’t eat too much food, sticking within their calorific requirements, rather than breaching them. Or is someone who is ‘naturally slim’ a person who can eat whatever they want and not get fat? And does that actually exist? I’ve seen thin people eat lots of food, but I’ll wager they don’t do it every day, which is why they’re still thin. Anyway, it’s irrelevant, because I was born with the ability to eat way too much food for my lifestyle, to ensure I did not stay slim, naturally or otherwise.

Choose Life.

I worry that the internet sells people wafer thin excuses for losing weight. Simple five minute weightless fixes, 15 minute yoga routines, easy happy healthy diet plans. All that bullshit. Whimsical, fleeting plans which don’t hold water and won’t help permanent weight loss because they disappear as quickly as they arrive. I lost over four stone and it wasn’t from an simple weightloss plan, adding chia to my breakfast or squeezing in a 15 minute abs workout once a week. I didn’t even go on a diet to lose weight, because ‘going on a diet’ is a temporary state, and I didn’t want temporary weightloss.

I feel like Renton in Trainspotting, saying “choose life”, because there were no quick fixes, no shortcuts, no weight-fucking-hacks and no periods of dieting. Just a simple, sustained and incredibly successful loss of weight.

Be Obsessive.

I stood on the scales last Wednesday morning and they stopped at 70.2kg. I stepped off, and then returned to them, watching the number stop at 70.2kg again. I felt a sense of calmness wash over me. Relief that the numbers on the screen didn’t spiral ever skywards, only stopping when the screen on the scales exploded, showering the bathroom with splinters of LCD and glass.

Today, I’m obsessive about my weight. I weigh myself on Wednesday morning of every week. It’s a ritual I started almost exactly 10 years ago, in January 2007 when I faced the realisation that I needed to put 36″ waist jeans on my shopping list. At that point I started a spreadsheet, noting down my weight almost every week for about 6 months until I lost the weight. I still weigh myself at the same time, same day, every single week, making sure the number falls within my psychological boundaries.

The highest weight that I recorded on that spreadsheet was 96.1kg, meaning that I now weigh 25.9 kilograms, just over 4 stone, less than that day. I suspect that my weight breached even 96.1kg during the 6 months prior to starting the spreadsheet, however I have no data to back that up, only photos which show off a very ample double chin and an unrecognisable face.

Previous attempts to lose weight saw me shedding a few pounds, then gaining them back. I’d dieted a few times in the previous 5 years, well aware of my burgeoning waistline. I’ve seen friends and family try to lose weight and consistently fail, or rapidly regain anything which they lose. I believe that getting rid any significant amount of weight, then keeping it off, is unattainable for many people, because regardless of the words that come out of their mouth, deep down inside, they don’t really want it.

1. Because You’re a Victim.

Let me give you the example of a victim. Not a victim of crime, or a victim of hatred, but a victim of life. Somebody who is convinced the world is against them. I can spot them a mile away. They’re often happy, jolly people, but in their eyes, everything in the world colludes against them. They believe that mysterious dark forces conspire to guarantee they are never able to leave their spiral of existence, despite believing they make every effort to release themselves from this bondage. They may even have some success in certain areas of their life, but still, failure looms large and the world keeps on fucking up their plans for them.

Nobody will ever admit to being a victim, all victims live in utter denial of the status they hold. You can never tell someone they’re a victim, they’ll tell you you’re a wrong and explain why, normally with earnest tales of the very real efforts they’ve made. Conversely, if you suddenly realise that you are a victim yourself, then at the precise moment you make this realisation, you are no longer a victim, because you’ve just taken responsibility for yourself in that revelation.

If a victim tried to lose weight, it would be result in almost guaranteed failure. They may not fail immediately, but deep down, subconsciously, they enjoy the pain and sadness of failure, they need some misery and hurt to cling onto, something to perpetuate the sadness in their life. Even if they succeeded in losing weight, either it wouldn’t stay off permanently, or factors which they perceive to be outside of their control would ruin it, such as work getting in the way.

2. You’re Talking The Wrong Language.

This is another brilliant example of destination: failure. It’s an easy one to watch out for, you just need to listen carefully. Put your ear to the ground and hear the language people use. For example, if you hear someone say “I’m going on a diet and have joined a gym, because I should lose some weight”, then you’ve just witnessed a commitment to failing.

But surely these are the words of someone committed to losing weight? There’s talk of positive actions in there, joining a gym and planning a diet. Despite what you may think, these are the words of a completely uncommitted person, because ‘should’ is a pointless word, deferring responsibility to some intangible, non specific part of the universe other than yourself. It’s a non-commitment.

“Should” refers a duty or an obligation, an action where there is outside pressure to perform. People don’t enjoy doing things they ‘should’ do, these are chores. Think about other times you’ve used it. “I should do the hoovering”, “I should give money to charity”, “I shouldn’t eat that cake”, whilst reaching out for another slice. These are all perfect examples of activities being viewed as a burden, an obligation which will rarely get completed. I never, ever want to do the hoovering and I always want to eat the cake, so those statements go against my will and needs as a person.

This makes it’s use a sure sign of a complete and utter lack of willpower or genuine commitment to a statement. Stating “I should lose weight”, is saying “I have an obligation that I feel pressure to act on”, it’s not owning the statement, there’s no real desire to do it. That’s why it’s doomed to failure, because you’re doing it for someone else, not yourself.

What about “I’ve just made an awesome salad for lunch because I want to lose some weight”.

Fail written across it in massive neon letters.

You must be thinking, “surely that’s better?”. Barely. The things we ‘want’ in life are the things we DO NOT HAVE. The statement above was negative, it was stating that weightless is something that might happen in the future, but it’s not happening now. Either you are losing weight currently, or you think it’s something that could happen in the future. If you’ve made some changes to your life, such as modifying your diet, you need to own that fact, by saying “I am losing weight”, rather than making a vague wish by saying ‘I want to’, when you’ve already started! When you ‘want’ something, you are saying you do not have it. Wanting to lose weight means I am NOT losing weight at this moment in time, despite the healthy salad. The statment simply means “I am failing”.

Better still, just keep your mouth closed. Shut up. Don’t tell anyone. Only state positive facts, once you have them. Tell people “I’ve lost 5kg and I’m much fitter than I was last year” when it’s true. Don’t give out ‘wants’ and ‘shoulds’. If you find yourself want-ing or should-ing, then give yourself a slap and go for a run.

3. You Have a Dirty Mind.

Losing weight and keeping it off required wholesale change to my entire lifestyle. If you think you can go on a diet for a few months, do a bit more exercise and lose a few pounds, then come back to the same lifestyle, with the caveat that you’ll be a bit more careful this time, then you’re lying to yourself. You’re setting up for a lifetime cycle of depressing diets and even more depressing weight gain. Going back to the same lifestyle, even if you’re careful, will only ever result in putting the weight back on.

I say this with such confidence, because I’ve been there, done it and got the XL t-shirt to prove it. Einstein put forward a definition of madness, “Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result”. That sums up my history of weightloss until 2007. Spending time eating more carefully, drinking less, doing a bit more exercise. Then creeping back to my old lifestyle and returning to an even fatter Gavin.

“Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result”Albert Einstein

Losing weight permanently meant never returning to my old lifestyle. I had to make changes and then stick to them, forever. Like marriage, but with greater commitment and no chance of divorce. This eternal commitment is the very reason why many people don’t lose weight. It’s the reason why I hadn’t managed to lose, and keep lost, any significant amount of weight until that moment, after all, commitment is scary.

I had to realise that any attempt to resume a ‘normal’ (fucking horrid word, isn’t it?) lifestyle will fail. Besides, there’s no such thing as normal, we’re all weird and fucked up. The sooner you realise that, the better. Normal is nothing, normal does not exist. Normal is abnormal.

How To Lose Weight.

Don’t join a gym, don’t buy an expensive yoga mat and super-fly new trainers. Don’t splash out on some kooky new gym kit, because they’re all bollocks. I’m convinced there’s an inverse relationship between how much I’ve spent on turning a ‘new leaf’ and how doomed to failure they are. The more I spend, the less I succeed, because eating less and moving more requires very little spending.

Also, screw diet drinks. There’s mounting evidence that artificial sweeteners make you MORE hungry and tired. The reason is that your body feels the sweetness, which has a biological connection to energy, because sweet things normally give energy. Your body then expects energy, in the form of simple carbohydrates, or sugar. With a diet drink, your body receives nothing, no energy, no fuel, no calories, no carbs. You’ve just tricked yourself, but your body can kick back by having a slump at this deceit, or becoming even more insistent that it needs some food.

This is what I did:

  • Quit making stodgy, fatty meals.
  • Plan portion sizes.
  • Stop buying a takeaway every week.
  • No more seconds.
  • Never eat until I’m ‘full’.
  • Never, ever eat until I’m ‘stuffed’.
  • No snacks between meals.
  • No chocolate bars, crisps or cakes unless it’s a Birthday or GENUINE special occasion.
  • Stop eating sandwiches every day.
  • No more squash, drink water instead, lots of it.
  • Gave up sugar and milk in my coffee.
  • Quit buying fizzy drinks.
  • Eat lots of fruit and small portions of nuts.
  • Run lots.
  • Walk lots.
  • Learned to live with feeling hungry all the time.
  • Weigh myself at the same time on the same day, every single week.
  • BONUS: Gave up alcohol (-3kg)

Staying Slim.

Today, I can eat an occasional stodgy meal when out for lunch, or have a burger, cake or takeaway sporadically, because I know I have room in my food consumption for those indulgences. I’ve lost all the weight I ever want to and understand exactly what caused me to get fat, so I can play around with it. It’s like an elimination diet, I had to remove everything completely and recalibrate my understanding of food before I could let anything back in.

I know that I didn’t like being fat, it made me unhappy. I have utterly no regrets in losing this weight and keeping it off, it’s become part of who I am and I only need to look at the photo below to remind myself of that fact. I turn 40 this year and I’m in better shape than I was for most of my twenties, which is a rare thing. It’s something to be proud of, something which I can look back upon and be happy about, be proud of and motivate me to take even better care of myself in the next decade.

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