I gave the book a really good trial and followed it for about three months but I can’t say I lost any noticeable weight. I felt healthy and had plenty of energy on the diet but, to be honest, I felt that way before I started. That was never the problem. Losing weight was.
A new diet that works
But I’m delighted and excited to report that I have stumbled on a diet that really has helped me lose weight over the past couple of months. I’m excited because after trying pretty well everything (5:2; low carb, low GI, eating like a French woman, Marisa Peer’s diet mentioned above) I was starting to think I’d never lose weight, which was pretty depressing. This method is slow, so won’t be for everyone, but I believe the slow, steady methods are more sustainable long-term. And the best part is I genuinely never feel like I’m being starved.
Eat chocolate and still lose weight?
What have I been doing? Well first of all I got rid of all my diet books. They haven’t served me well. I no longer want to follow a diet that deprives me of my favourite foods. I love bread, potatoes, chocolate and wine. Now I can eat them …and still lose weight. The catch is to just eat small amounts, such as two squares of chocolate, and note the calorie content.
Consume less than you burn
I’m sure you’ve heard the advice that the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. I had. And I’d rejected this advice as being too simplistic and anyway calorie counting just didn’t work for me. But I decided to try it again but do it properly this time.
I didn’t set myself ridiculously low targets but aimed for about 1300 to 1400 calories a day. To my surprise and delight I actually started losing weight but…and this is a big but…doing it properly meant I had to weigh and record the calories of everything that went into my mouth. No guesswork allowed, or thinking one little bite wouldn’t count…it does!
There are a few tools required for my new eating plan. A fitbit or similar device that keeps track of the energy I’m burning, a calculator, food scales, a notebook and pen and a guide that tells me kilojoules/calories in everything I’m eating. I’ve found the Calorie King website invaluable and there’s an Aussie version too. I don’t eat a lot of packaged foods but this website has nutritional information for many branded foods.
I follow a few simple rules. I weigh everything I eat and I write it down in my notebook along with its weight and kilojoule/calorie content. Then at the end of the day I add it all up. With my fitbit I can work out the difference between how many calories I’m eating compared to how many I’m burning.
At a daily calorie limit of 1300 to 1400 a day I’m not starving myself and, as I burn between 2000 to 2200 a day, I’m eating about 700 less than I burn. At that level the weight seems to drop slowly and steadily.
Everyone’s energy needs are different depending on several factors such as how active they are, their starting weight etc. This is where the fitbit is helpful as it allows you to put in your own details then it calculates how much energy you’ve used based on how active you’ve been and your individual profile.
You can also programme it to calculate the calories in the foods you eat. I don’t use it for that purpose because here in Australia the food information on packaging shows energy in kilojoules and the fitbit only provides calorie information.
I could perhaps work it out, but to be honest I like writing it down in a notebook. It helps me review and reflect where adjustments could be made. I still have to convert the totals from kiljoules to calories to find out how much I’ve burnt, but it’s an easy enough calculation and I’ve set up an excel spreadsheet to work it out. (there are 4.158 kilojoules to a calorie in case you’re wondering).
Make it a hobby rather than a chore
Yes, weighing and recording all my food is time consuming but it’s become more a hobby than a chore. It is a lot easier for me as I prepare most of my own meals. It would be hard for people who eat out a lot, or have someone cook for them.
The challenges when eating out
After weighing my food for a while I can gauge the weight of food by looking at it. So when I do have a business lunch or have a meal with friends in a reataurant it isn’t such a problem. I’ve learnt which foods to eat less of or avoid. For example the tiniest slice of cake weighs 75 grams and has about 270 calories which is a big chunk out of my daily allowance.
To begin with I was surprised how small a standard portion of meat is or how I could load my plate with non starchy vegetables and not make a big dent in my daily calorie intake.
Clothes that now fit
The best part of all this is going through my wardrobe and trying on clothes I haven’t been able to wear for a while and finding they actually fit. Yesterday I wore my jeans for the first time in years. It felt great!
I do face quite a big challenge, however. I’m going on holiday next week. A month in Europe including a few weeks in Tuscany, Italy with its beautiful food. It will be impossible to weigh my food so I’m not going to try but I’m hoping the lessons I’ve learnt over the weeks I’ve been following this diet and recording everything, will help me make good choices with my meals. I’ll continue to write down everything I eat and drink. I’ll also be walking more so hopefully I won’t go backwards and gain weight while I’m away!