Addiction is something that every single person I know suffers from. But I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol, I’m talking about food. When was the last time you met someone that was 100% happy with what they ate? A few Paleo/Vegan extremists exist, sure, but for the majority of us, bad eating is just a way of life. In 2012 I weighed 76kg, not a huge number but certainly overweight for someone of my stature. I now average around 60kg (depending on which leg I’m wearing), so I thought I’d share some thoughts on weight loss and healthy eating.
People often ask me how to lose weight, or what kind of foods I eat that keep me so trim. Put simply, I don’t eat a shit tonne of carbohydrates. I don’t drink sugar drinks, or consume alcohol. I’ve swapped potatoes for pumpkin, rice for broccoli and bread for vegetables. In actual fact, I probably eat more food than I once did, but it’s the right food. I wasn’t however able to make these changes overnight, it was a gradual process where I incrementally removed bad things from my diet. Sugar and alcohol were the first to go – easy, who actually needs those? I then switched to eating kumara, brown rice and whole grains; these are known as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates stick around in your system and keep you full for longer. As a general rule of thumb, any brown carbohydrate will be considered complex.
Orange kumara is delicious, it’s also freakishly expensive. One night I found myself with no kumara to cook, and instead I replaced it with a head of broccoli and extra carrots. It wasn’t until this meal that I realised that my body functioned fine without these traditional staple foods I’d been brought up to expect with every meal. It was around this time that the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) type diets were fadding, and a guy at my work was losing 2kg per week eating as much food as he wanted. The idea is that the traditional source of energy (carbs) are replaced with fat, the concept of this interested me greatly. I, like the rest of the world, had been led to believe that fat was bad, it made you fat and caused heart disease. Well, fat in-fact does not make you fat. I now regularly use butter for everything, have a high intake of nuts, and devour roasted chicken skin whenever I get the chance.
Occasionally I go cold turkey on caffeine for 21 days, to prove to myself that I’m mentally strong enough to stop consuming it if I choose to. The first week of this involves headaches, restlessness and a dry throat. This is the exact same response I get if I go for 2-3 days with no carbs, my body is totally addicted. This is the biggest problem I see when people try to give up bad foods. They don’t realise that they’re dealing with an actual addiction, and try to go cold turkey. This is generally combined with an attempt to attend the gym 5 days per week. In my experience most people give up after two days, they miss that can of coke, or that hearty subway sandwich just a little bit too much. In this situation, less really is more. In the same way that 4 minutes of exercise per day is worthwhile, making one of many small changes to your diet can have a huge impact on your health and well being. Here are some examples of individual changes that have a huge impact:
- Lower your portion sizes. Most people eat far more food than they actually need.
- Snack on nuts. Nuts contain protein and healthy fats, and a couple of handfuls can easily get you through an afternoon.
- Whatever you are currently eating for breakfast, switch it for eggs or meat.
- Drop dessert.
- Drink more water.
- Opt for brown carbs (complex) over white.
- Get to a farmers market. Vegetables are actually super affordable.
- Read labels! People mock me for this, but seriously, you’d be surprised at what you are actually eating.
I would say that two thirds of weight loss is attributed to a healthy diet, the final third being exercise. I’m not that into cardio, so my prefered form is lifting weights. I workout about 3 times per week, and that is enough. By manipulating the variables you can certainly lose weight with diet or exercise alone, but the two thirds approach feels like a nice balance to me. Besides the many health benefits, regular exercise feels good and provides a fantastic mental release from your work day.
So let’s recap. No potatoes, bread, rice, sugar or alcohol. Smaller meals, good snacks and read labels. Cool, lucky we’re all robots. In reality I don’t actually adhere to all of this advice. Fish and chips is still my favourite meal (consumed weekly), I also regularly eat chocolate, noodle soup and chicken rice. Do I consider myself a hypocrite? No, I’m a human being. I believe it’s about finding a good balance, and enjoying all the things that you want to in life. I tend to eat around one meal a day that has a decent sized carbohydrate component, this keeps my energy levels up without making me feel too lethargic. I also genuinely love to eat vegetables, enjoy drinking water, and get off on working out, which helps a lot.
Ultimately the best thing you can do is commit to some sort of lifestyle change with the purpose of making you feel good. All I do now is listen to my body and give it the fuel that it needs to perform the tasks I set it, the rest just takes care of itself.