I’ve wanted to write this post for a while and always planned it to be a long one. For the time being i’m going to do a brain dump, as otherwise I’ll never get all the info out, and flesh the post out as stuff comes to me. Inspiration usually comes to me when I have no way of recording it… I’ll do another massive push for this post when I feel it’s complete (which will be a while because I’m a weird kind of lazy-sudo-perfectionist).
I am not a nutritionalist. This post is designed to be anecdotal, a way of me recording an achievement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply some of the ideas I talk about. (That was the “covering myself legally” paragraph).
I have found a way of loosing weight which works for me.
What the plan is - a mixture of slimming clubs and 4 hour body wisdom mixed with a Wikipedia entry on weight loss.
Lean meat, veg and calorie counting.
This is the basis of the whole plan. Every meal should be a piece of meat, whether it be steak, chicken, pork chops or fish, and two to three sides of vegetables.
Become the person who reads the backs of food packaging. Become the person that adds their shopping together to get a total calorie count for that meal.
If you’re looking to loose one to two pounds(lbs) a week, you need to be on 1300 calories a day. This is a slow, healthy way to loose weight that wont result in any weird side-affects (extra skin, tummy rumblings) and will be easy to keep to.
Want to loose the weight quicker? Decrease your calorie intake and increase your exercise (see dirty great big blue image above).
Packaged meat can be tricky as the don’t always display a calorie count on the front or back.
With BEEF (steak) you can indulge to a certain extent. The old adage was your steak should be about the size of a deck of cards. If you find a nice big steak and get a count of, for example, 450 calories, decrease the amount of veggy sides you have with it. Or have less meat with your next meal. All meat should be lean, so cut off all the fat before cooking.
My preference for CHICKEN is to buy it in fillet form. You might prefer to buy legs and thighs. There’s no real difference, you might just get more for your money with the fillets. Chicken is low calorie, high protein, cheap and is the go-to meat if you’re on a diet.
Other birds can range from low to extremely high in terms of fat content so keep an eye on that. TURKEY is always a good option, and you can make a great, healthy burger with turkey mince. Pound and knead into a burger shape and then bake on a grill in the oven.
PORK is dangerous ground due to the fat content. However, The supermarkets (and brands like weight watchers) do healthy versions of sausages and bacon that are stacked right next to their fatty counterparts on the shelf. You just have to do a bit of searching.
Pork chops and gammon are okay, just keep an eye on fat/sat. fat and calorie content. You are the calorie counting person now.
FISH should ideally be in fillet form, and not breaded. This goes without saying as you will find out in the next section. You can do so much with seafood, but then not all people are fish people. There shouldn’t be too much fat on fish. This plan also allows
Bake everything, yes it takes longer but it will remove the need for any unnecessary oils. Grill as well, there are lots of bargain versions of the George Forman if you think they’re too expensive. Fry only if you have to, stir fry preferably.
The best way I’ve found to do the vegetables is to go to the supermarket, and in the veg section look for the prepared vegetables in the foil trays. If you’re on a budget then by all means grab all the veg separately, but I like the trays because they allow me to experiment with different combinations and keep track of how many calories I’m getting in each tray.
We’re told that an adult should be consuming 2000 calories (2500 for dudes) a day. This is to maintain a steady diet (even then it’s probably too many) and where do we find this guidance? Food packaging. At the end of the day they’re selling you a product.
This is the basis of the plan to loose weight. Later on we”l talk about keeping on track without becoming obsessive, which is a problem for anyone slimming. The hardest part of any diet, however, is not what you can eat, but the foods you have to give up…
Drop the Carbs
About a year ago I read the first chapter of 4 hour body. There’s a lot in there, but the main thing I took away was dropping the carbs. Essentially the first stage of the Atkins diet. That’s right, goodbye potatoes, pasta, rice and bread. Cakes, cereal and biscuits are also out the window. But you know this stuff. Nobody goes on a diet and then eats a cake thinking it’s going to help.
Many people don’t realise how high their weekly intake of bread or pasta is. The “lazy” foods. I used to see a sandwich as a light snack, regardless of each bread slice being 200 calories. If I didn’t know what to cook, I’d rustle up some tuna pasta, with 70% fat mayonnaise, in huge portions. There’s often a spaghetti or lasagne night in many households. The main reason for this is that bread and mainly pasta are easy and cheap.
The hardest part of this is going through just how many dishes are served with a side of pasta or rice. You could cook up a deliciously healthy meat dish, with a little sauce (not too much), but then what to serve it with? It screams out for a side of rice.
Rice is an unusual one as lots of people think it’s good for them. I’m not saying rice or carbohydrates are necessarily bad, you just stand a higher chance of shifting the weight without them. A great recipe we’ve discovered recently is to shred cauliflower with a cheese grater and then shallow fry with a little spray oil. Perfect replacement for rice.
The other problem with rice, bread and pasta is the fallacy that the brown or wholemeal versions of any of them are diet friendly. Yes, they’re marginally healthier than their counterparts, but we’ve dropped the carbs, so no, you can’t have them.
Potatoes are another tricky one as there was a lot of post-war propaganda in the 50s and 60s that pushed potatoes due to rationing. They were plentiful, kept people full, stored energy and bulked up a plate that wasn’t full of much else. We know chips and crisps are bad, but will often allow ourselves potatoes as they fall under “vegetables” in our minds. When there are so many other bulky, but diet friendly vegetables out there, you’ve got no need for potatoes.
People will try and convince you that jacket potatoes are part of a healthy diet. They are not part of this healthy diet. When people try to convince you of this, do a comedy water spray and give them a stern look.
Yes, vegetables have some carbohydrate in them. We’re talking about cutting the naughty ones. Would you really go on a diet that advised cutting vegetables? Most people don’t get enough vegetables, so eat up on your carrots and zucchini.
Apologies if this section is a little preachy. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting through it.
Drop the Dairy
Dairy is fairly easy to drop. A little lower down we talk about beverages, and getting used to the taste of black coffee. You’re also not eating cereal, so having milk with your non-existent cereal shouldn’t be a problem.
This goes for soya milk and skimmed milk to, btw, they all go.
As far as cooking with dairy, butter can be replaced with a few sprays of oil, and cream should be dropped all together. There are plenty of dairy-free recipes out there designed for lactose intolerant people, go look them up.
When I’ve started to reach my target weight I’ve actually reintroduced Muller light yoghurts, which are, yes, dairy, but come in at around 60 calories a pot and have chocolaty flavours to sooth the cravings. Just know to re-introduce them when you are ~5lbs away from your target weight and not before.
The scorn of non vegetarians.
Common conversation on the topic of Quorn:
Guy 1 - Gonna go cook me up some Quorn mince.
Guy 2 - Eww, how can you eat that stuff? Isn’t it just for vegetarians? It doesn’t even taste like the meat it’s supposed to be. The beef burgers taste nothing like beef.
Guy 1 - Well, things like the mince or sausages may not be bang on taste-wise, but you can use them in the same recipes. I eat them because they’re half the calories and have next to no fat in them.
Guy 2 - Yeah fine, but they taste shit.
Guy 1 - I don’t mind it. If you smother it in sauce or cook it with enough stuff then you over-ride it.
Guy 2 - Yeah, whatever, it’s not for me.
You’re either going to eat Quorn or not. The fact is, it’s low in calories and fat. The mince tastes great in Chili’s and Bolognese. The Chicken pieces are great for stir-frys.
Quorn Sausage recipe - Grab some Quorn Sausages (preferably the ones with apple in), some green apples, a handful of sage and an onion. Chop the apples into long thin slices, so they’ve got that curve. Chop the onion into little bits. Break the sage leaves off the stem. Throw all into a pan with five to ten sprays of oil. When onions and apples have browned and caramelised, throw in the sausages following the instructions on the pack. Eat and rejoice at tasty yumminess.
Eggs are your friends.
A regular medium size egg has ~60 calories. They are useful for things like:
Scrambled eggs – take two eggs, and beat furiously in a microwavable bowl. Add two teaspoons of water. Cook in the microwave for around 3 minutes, keep checking to make sure it doesn’t explode. Salt and Pepper to taste and give it a stir before serving.
Omelettes are filling, come in a number of varieties and are low calorie. They can make a good substitute for jacket potatoes as they go well with baked beans, bacon or some grilled fish.
Remember that adding milk to either is not on the plan, and that they should retain their taste given enough whipping in the first place.
Every week or so we like to go out to eat. If you’re following the plan, you’ll notice that cooking for yourself is happening a lot more often. Of course, there are certain events, birthdays and parties that you will go out for, and you may fancy a break every now and again from cooking.
When I go out to eat, usually in a pub, but it could be anywhere, I treat the menu like I am lactose or gluten intolerant, maybe even vegetarian.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a piece of meat of the menu and two sides. Problems occur if you are in a sushi, Chinese or American food style restaurant where the choice is burgers or rice.
Most restaurants will have a steak, some form of chicken or fish. Ask for one of these and exchange any chips or mashed potato for another vegetable side.
Sauce should be asked for on the side, or to just be removed. A dish could be perfectly healthy, and then covered in a cheesy or high calorie tomato sauce that ruins it. It tastes great, don’t get me wrong, but so does everything that’s bad for you.
Avoid the salads when eating out. The famous one is the McDonald’s salad shaker, which had more calories than the big mac. While it is true that salads are largely vegetables, pubs and restaurants will often add to copious amounts of oils and dressings to disguise the taste of lettuce.
Friends and family need to be told of your goals. They will congratulate you when you do well on your diet, but also try to lead you off the beaten track.
If I’m heading to a family members house for dinner, or a friends, I make it clear over the phone beforehand that I’m eating healthily. Often, they will still give you potatoes. Just eat around the potatoes. And decline the ice cream afterwards.
As well as avoiding the lovingly prepared carbs, your family and friends will also try and convince you to have a day off, or that you have done so well that you don’t need to diet any further. If you are anorexic, with an eating disorder, then they have every right to say this. If you just haven’t reached your target weight yet, then discuss this with them. Honesty is the best policy.
Make your friends and family aware of your target weight. Don’t annoy them with it, but they will ask every now and again how the diet is going. There will be a point where you will need to start introducing foods (like yoghurt) to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and they can aid in this and support you.
You will diet for a period to get to your target weight. You will get there and reintroduce foods to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When your family and friends see that you have started to reintroduce foods, they will assume that you will now eat some doughnuts. When you decline a doughnut, they will accuse you of being obsessive. Explain that, although you are no longer losing weight, you would still like to maintain your current weight, and cannot do that when eating cakes.
If you miss something, go find the “Be Good To Yourself, “Light Choices” or whatever the Asda/Wallmart version of that is. I’ve always been a massive supporter of these healthier versions of foods. Weight watchers bacon and sausages are great.
I recently missed mushroom risotto. Yes, it has rice in it. Yes, that’s not in the plan. But it was a light choices version, at only 390 calories and a miniscule amount of fat. It had no effect on my weight loss whatsoever, and hit the spot.
This doesn’t mean you start consuming Be Good To Yourself cakes because they are lower in calories. A small cigarette is still a cigarette. My point is that it was such a small amount of carbs, and a controlled amount of calories, that I could allow it for one meal. And it was my first carbs in two months.
Every now and again I will have a healthy version sandwich for lunch.
You diet will fail if you cheat too much, see the “Cheat Days” sections below for more information. Be mindful of how much you want your goal, and consider this every time you miss a certain food.
The “3 DAY HUMP” is a concept I got from the movie “Super Size Me”. SSM is one of my favourite films anyway, but whenever I’m dieting i will watch to keep myself on track. in part of the film, Morgan Spurlock talks about how after 3 days you can do anything. After the “3 day hump” you are halfway to giving up smoking or biting your nails. It takes 3 days to do anything.
I always keep this in mind when starting anything, but especially when controlling my diet. There’s also a “2nd day denial” phase where you have thoughts like “is this really worth it?” and “i’ll never stick to this”. This is why the hump is so impportant. You have a sence of acheivment. You’ve made it this far, why not continue?
A statistic that is often quoted is that it takes Six weeks to make (or break) a habbit. This is after you have beaten your three day hump. After six weeks you will be so used to sticking to the plan that you will make decisions based on it. You will also have seen a dramatic difference by now, enough to spur you on to stick to the plan, and will want to continue.
It is important that you don’t become obsessive. Stick to the plan, but allow yourself to fuck up every now and again. Becoming obsessive leads to eating disorders and nothing is worth being anorexic. My problem is, and I know when I’m becoming obsessive, that if I let one thing go, a bottle of beer here, a sandwich there, that the whole plan could go to shit.
There is a fine line you are going to have to tread. Later on I will talk about cheat days as a way to stay satisfied, but there are issues there too. If you feel guilty after grabbing a couple of olives from a jar, that guilt is a sign you are becoming obsessive.
The best advice I have been given is, and this is not what they said exactly, “If you fuck up today, just pick up the plan again tomorrow and try your hardest not to fuck up again”. On reflection, this could apply to anything.
I weigh myself at boots every week. This is because it gives me reading of my weight and height, measured by laser, and my percentage of body fat. From this it calculates my BMI. I also get an idea of where I am health wise, whether I am overweight or underweight, and where I am in comparison to other people. There is also a receipt with all this info on there, which you can keep for comparison.
You weigh yourself at the same time every week, once a week, and this is your day to work to. I made myself feel even better by not eating before my weigh in, then having breakfast afterwards.
There’s no need to weigh yourself every day. If you already have some bathroom scales, use these once a week and keep a reading somewhere. This also goes back to being obsessive. If you’re weighing yourself before and after having a shit to see the difference in weight, you have started to obsess.
I don’t mind water, but I wouldn’t choose it over something more appetising. If in doubt, drink water, a flavoured tea (with no sugar) or a black coffee. No milk of course, because you’re off the dairy. Flavoured teas are great because they are essentially water.
It’s fairly obvious which drinks to drop, Milkshakes and sugary drinks. Fruit juices and smoothies will claim to be good for you, but are actually full of sugar and calories (and full fat yoghurt). Avoid the fruit juice propaganda!
Black coffee – you will get used to taste and eventually prefer it over the taste of a latte, in the same way you will eventually like the taste of being fit and healthy over a doughnut. If you’re not a coffee drinker then this doesn’t matter, stick to the flavoured teas.
Skinny lattes have dairy in them. Some people say these are okay, but replacing the dairy with soy would lead to more calories, negating the “skinny” part.
Diet Coke/Coke Zero – genius inventions. <1 calorie per 500ml. It’s like water but it tastes nice. You’ll hear a lot of people talking shit about these drinks, and yes, too much of anything is bad for you. Don’t drink 5 bottles of coke Zero during one day. I’ll leave this up to your digression, but if you’re drinking more than 2 bottles of Diet coke a day you might have other issues. See also – Dr.Pepper Zero, Sprite Zero – maybe Fanta Zero but they have a few extra flavourful calories in there than the others.
Alcohol. The first time I used this plan I drank far less, even though I was right in the middle of Uni. The truth is that, whilst I enjoyed a fair amount of beer during these years, I wasn’t as heavy a drinker as have been recently, a factor which most likely resulted in weight gain.
Leaving off the alcohol during the week has made a huge difference. I can see where I was getting 1000+ extra empty calories a day by relaxing with a couple of pints after work. Maybe you work the kind of job that requires you getting shit-faced every evening? If you find it difficult, then, as with food, there are replacements you can use. It might be that your mates like to drink a lot, and you don’t want to be a butt-hurt captain killjoy. We’ve sort of already covered this in “Friends and Family”, be mindful of peer-pressure, but still remember to have a good time!
A great motto is “Don’t drink your calories”. You can get wasted, and not ruin your diet plan.
Giving up the beer. If you’re a big beer drinker then this is going to be tricky. There is an entire culture built around beer. Enjoying a pint is not something we are unfamiliar with, and it will be noticed when you start to order gin and slim tonics instead of a Kronenburg. The beer has to go I’m afraid.
There was a long period where I looked into “healthy” beer, and it’s true that light beer can be great for aiding in weight loss. Coors light or Corona light have great calorie to alcohol percentages. Guinness has a fairly low calorie count. The problem is you’re justifying ~95 calories a bottle, because “it’s a drink” or “I like the taste” and separating the idea that you can drink your calories. We’ll explore low-calorie alternatives anyway.
The best way is just to drop beer completely, the same was you drop cakes and biscuits.
RED WINE is good for cutting blood pressure apparently. (Source). I like red wine and, previous to starting to slim, I could pile through a bottle a night. This is now one glass a night at a push, I’m not drinking during the week, but if there’s a bottle open… It would almost be rude not to.
Note: this is tricky if you have a wine rack. You’ll be saving so much money by not buying wine all the time that you can afford to buy a really nice wine, and share it around, when you do allow yourself to drink.
WHITE WINE has a higher calorie count, Rose has more sugar. If you’re a wine drinker, it’s best to stick with one glass of red. It’ll hit the spot.
I absolutely adore Amaretto and Ruby Port, but accepted that these would have to be for Christmas and Birthdays. No more Baileys :(
So what do you do when you want to get super drunk? Maybe you have a party to go to, a birthday or a big night out planned? What’s the most economical way of doing this, without ruining all the hard work with food?
A shot of gin or rum is going to be ~30 calories. Keep this in your head. 10 shots is going to be ~300 calories. You should be drunk by this point. Don’t do them all at once. Mix with Diet Coke or Slimline tonic, I tend to gravitate now towards the Rum and diet coke as it has the least calories (for the alcoholic drinks we’re talking about). For carnival this year I made up 4ltrs of Rum and Diet coke and drank all that day. It didn’t seem to affect the weight loss too much. It’s also a little more palatable for first-timers than a G&T.
Note: Always stress the “diet” and “slimline” words to waiters and bartenders and they don’t care that you’re slimming.
Not a fan of spirits? See the “Black Coffee” section.
Now you’re drunk without the guilt!
Insert “drunk not fat” image here.
If at any point you don’t feel well, EAT A FUCKING SANDWICH. SERIOUSLY. It’s not worth making yourself ill.
Every now and again you can cheat on your diet. There are two ways of organising cheat days.
In the first instance, as part of the 4 hour body, you are supposed to have a cheat day every week. You could eat whatever you like, 4 pizzas followed by two chocolate cakes and a lard shake, and your diet wouldn’t suffer that much. This is to do with shocking your body with a sudden intake of all the food you’ve been avoiding. These cheat days could actually help you stay on track in the long run, and some research actually points to them aiding weight loss. But this is ONE day a week.
The problem with this first instance is that I got very liberal with how I doled out my cheating. I had a short health kick at the beginning of the year, and it was short because I would base my cheat days on curry night. It wasn’t curry nights fault either, because I would arrange cheat days for the night after, almost buying cheat credits from the next week. My health kick suffered, I was trying to convince myself I was eating healthily, while knocking back a pint or four.
The second and more effective way of cheating is to save them. Don’t cheat if you don’t have to. Don’t cheat because there’s a birthday at the office, or because someone has cooked you dinner. If they serve you meat and potatoes, just eat the meat and explain to them what you’re doing. If you were vegetarian they would prepare you a separate meal.
This year I plan on cheating on my birthday and on Christmas. On my birthday, I’m still going to be having low calorie alternatives and avoiding the carbs and dairy. That is until I hit my birthday dinner. Then I shall be ordering the number 3 at chicken cottage (bargain basement KFC) and feasting on a side of chips covered in mayonnaise. If there’s cake, I will have a slice of cake.
On Christmas I will decimate the gammon joint.
At carnival this year I was all prepared to cheat. I’m going to say it was a semi-cheat day. I ate some white rice (shocking, I know) and had two mouthfuls of beer. Did it affect me the next day? No. I kept to my diet. I call it a semi-cheat because I turned it around at about mid-day (after I’d finished my healthy alcoholic beverages).
If you cheat on your diet, you have a stronger chance of failing completely and giving up. Use it rarely.
Exercise - my least favourite thing.