Following on from my posts about mindfulness and willpower, I promised I would write something about diet. Specifically about how I have managed to go from being a bit of a fat bastard, to a svelte hunk. Well, I started writing that blog post, and it got longer and longer, and people started asking me when I would put it online, and I started to have doubts about parts of it, to want to wrap everything in big, fluffy disclaimers. As the post started clump into subheadings, and as the contents under each heading got longer, I decided to split it into a series of posts. I will start now, by giving a little background, a personal history of me and fat.
For most of my life, I have been a skinny person. I’d always presumed that I would remain a skinny person. Weight/size was never an issue for me and, to be perfectly honest, I often felt a bit snooty about those for whom it was. Before my 30th birthday, I don’t think I could have told you quite how much I weighed – I probably only weighed myself once or twice in the previous ten years – but I’ve a feeling it fluctuated somewhere around the 8 or 9 stone mark (50-60kg). I’ve recently seen photos of myself from my early 20s and, believe me, I look like a famine victim.
This wasn’t down to any obsessive food-avoidance or anorexic/bulimic behaviour on my part. I could, and usually did, eat for England. Breakfast in those days would be one or two bowls of cereal, full to overflowing, ideally drenched with the cream off the top of the milk. For lunch, I would pop out of work and buy two packs of sandwiches, a large bag of crisps, a Belgian bun, and maybe an apple. And in the evening, whack a frozen pizza in the oven and, when it’s done, cover the top in a thick layer of mayonnaise and wolf the lot. And yet my weight never changed. Static. Skinny as a beanpole.
I don’t know entirely what happened when I hit 30, although I have some idea. I’m guessing that age and metabolism played some part in it, but also at that time my job changed radically, I started eating three course meals at restaurants every day, sometimes several times per day. I went from being happy with one or two glasses of wine per week, to drinking a bottle at lunch-time and another one or two in the evening. Yes, I think it was probably the wine that had the biggest effect; that, and the Jack Daniels and Cokes.
Suddenly I realised that I’d grown fat. My trousers didn’t fit me any more. My waist measurement had crept up from 32″ past 34″ and was now a 36″. In the course of two years, I’d gone from somewhere south of 10 stone, to a verging-on-the-obese 15 stone. In 2001, I briefly fought this trend – I used a month’s paternity leave as an opportunity to detox completely, and during that month of healthy eating and endless exercise I shrank back almost to 13 stone (83kg). But within another 6 months or so, all of that work was undone, and for the next 10 years I remained somewhere between fat and obese (although my height did a good job of hiding that from others), until at some point I realised that I’d hit 16 stone and Something Must Be Done.
That point was in 2009. Since then, I have done various things to try and control my weight. I’ve never let it become an obsession, but I have tried to maintain a downwards trend. I started off slowly, getting a little over a stone off in my first year, before slipping backwards a bit, and then attacking the problem more scientifically. Little by little (and occasionally a lot by a lot) I slimmed down until now I’m back to around 13 stone, with a body-shape I’m happy with, and a healthy BMI.
In my next post, I’ll talk about cycling (and walking, and other forms of exercise), how it helped kick-start my return to good health, and what it can and can’t do for fat bastards like the former me.