I’m 46 years old and it recently occurred to me that I’ve effectively been on a diet for the better part of 25 years. And while I haven’t spent all of that time dieting, the point I’m trying to make is that when I wasn’t on a diet I was not dieting. Does this not mean that I’m always dieting?!
Not dieting is the phase between diets when I keep telling myself that I really need to start another diet. Or, worse still, hating myself, cake in hand, as I’m breaking my latest diet, knowing it will take ages to build the motivation to start again, and just when, ‘I was doing so well.’
Except I wasn’t ‘doing so well.’ Not really. Sure I’d lost some weight, sometimes pounds, sometimes stones, but it was still a diet. And a diet has to end, otherwise you are always dieting, and it’s certainly not that Holy Grail of the chubby; a lifestyle change. I’ve never seen a real, live lifestyle change; I thought I caught a glimpse of one back in ’03 but that was around the time my second daughter was born and it turned out to be exhaustion induced malnutrition.
I’m currently just shy of 20 stone. Or 279lb. Or 126kg. It doesn’t matter how you write it, these are not good numbers. While I am reasonably tall at 6’1″, that still gives me a BMI of 36.8; well into the obese range
So when, last week, I once again tipped the scales at 20 stone, my trigger weight in the always dieting cycle (diet down to 16 stone, give up at 18 stone, gain weight to 20 stone, repeat), I finally realised that I was being an idiot. This news will not come as a surprise to anyone that knows me but I usually deny it, coming from myself, however, made it harder to ignore. I simply asked myself why I was always dieting.
I had no answer. Not really. I’m happily married and my wife accepts my weight. I wouldn’t say she was happy with it but, after 25 years of being together, and me always dieting, she has long since acknowledged that it’s not going to change. She says that whatever weight I am, she loves me… Yeah, I know, I was suspicious too but it seems that she really does have incredibly low standards and I’m happy to take advantage of that. The net result is that I don’t have to lose weight to impress the opposite sex because my work there is done.
I don’t wish this to be read that I’ve given up on romance or that I take my wife for granted. As far as you know, neither of these things is true…
Another reason I always gave myself for always dieting was so that I could run around with the girls without my knees giving out (my knees don’t like unplanned exercise due to decades of abuse on the hockey pitch). However, the sad truth is, that in the last three years I’ve spent battling cancer, the girls have grown up to the point that they don’t want to run around with their dad any more.
So I don’t need to lose weight for my wife and I don’t need to lose weight for my daughters. Do I, then, need to lose weight for me?
The answer, it seems, is no.
To justify this, I should explain that I still play hockey; that I can play a full 70 minute match without ill effect. Yesterday I hiked five miles over the Brecon Beacons, in Wales, and both of the two days previous to that I cycled over 30 miles. In the last three days I have spent more than eight hours exercising where my heart rate has averaged about 130 beats per minute. My resting pulse is in the 50s. In short, I’m physically fit and healthy; I’m just fat with it.
So, while I might not need to lose weight, do I want to?
And the answer to that seems to be; it’s complicated!
I have a very sweet tooth. Part of this, I think, is because of my very poor sense of smell. Smell relates to taste, which means I also have a poor sense of taste so, unless something is epically sweet, I can’t taste the sweetness. And, as I have a sweet tooth, to get the hit, means a shed load of sugar. This, however, is a cross I’m willing to bear because the lack of sense of smell stood me in very good stead when the kids were babies; I simply didn’t smell when they’d filled their nappies. The kids are fine, by the way.
I’ve also invented Cheesecake Chuesday, where I bake an exciting new cheesecake each Tuesday and then spend the rest of the week either trying to give it away or simply eating it. It would be better not to do this but I love baking and I love cheesecakes and I love the idea of blogging the results. So Cheesecake Chuesdays are a thing. And things like Cheesecake Chuesdays might give some hint as to why, historically, I’m always dieting.
The point, then, is that I like eating sugary foods and, judging by the headaches I get in the first three or four days of sugar free diets, I wouldn’t say it was a stretch to assume that I’m lightly addicted to sugary foods. Either way, I don’t want stop eating them so, from that point of view, I don’t want to diet.
My wife blames my mum for this. Because, when I was growing up, mum always gave a dessert with each meal she made, I am now trained to want a dessert, or something sweet, at least once a day… According to my wife.
Both of my brothers also have a sweet tooth, so she might be on to something. Not that it matters, what matters is that I’m going to grass my wife up to my mum at the next opportunity and video the resulting carnage.
On another, food-related, note I am somewhat prone to depression and those episodes come with a side order of comfort eating. This means that there are going to be times, like it or not, that I’m going to eat more than I should. Experience tells me that trying to fight the comfort eating and, inevitably, failing just leads to a deeper depression. Better to just accept it and get it over with. This is something that I neither need nor want but it is something that I have.
On the other hand, being lighter has very definite benefits. The lighter I am, the better I am able to play hockey and the less my knees hurt after each match. The lighter I am the more stable I am on my bike, making it safer and more comfortable to cycle long distances. Being lighter also makes doing up my shoe laces less of an ordeal.
My main weight-related concern, then, is a 12 day cycle with my dad from Biarritz to Roscoff in early September. We’ll be cycling 60 miles a day and, the lighter I am, the easier this will be. In fact, all the training rides in between time will be easier too. The one good thing is that I’ll never be tempted by one of those expensive bikes, where you pay a fortune to save a couple of kilos, until I’ve lost a good 40kg of body weight. So my wallet is pretty safe there, then.
So I find myself in the situation that I do want to exercise but I don’t want to diet. Exercising becomes easier and more rewarding with weight loss and by exercising I can achieve weight loss, unless I keep eating too much.
Both of my brothers, neither of whom is always dieting but remain much thinner and fitter than I am, have told me that, if you exercise hard, three times a week, you can eat what you want and not gain weight. Unfortunately, you don’t lose weight either. I am currently exercising hard, three times a week. If I do more, I’m likely to pull a muscle, or strain a joint and ruin the cycle tour in September.
The logical choice, then, is to diet down to 16 stone and then exercise hard, three times a week, to maintain that weight. Of course, if I diet hard, I won’t be able to exercise hard, certainly without injury and, besides, I already know how that goes…
The definition of insanity, according to someone who probably wasn’t Albert Einstein, is; ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’
And now, having written all this down, I realise that I still have no answer.
Damn! I really thought this process would lead me to a solution. Or a nudge in the right direction, at least.
The one good thing that I have noticed is that I feel good after I exercise, which has left me feeling less depressed. I’m also choosing not to eat some sugary foods, not because I feel compelled by a diet but because I don’t want to undo the benefits of the exercise.
It’s very early days yet but if regular, hard exercise naturally leads to an improvement in mood as well as a decrease in the desire to overeat, then maybe, just maybe, I could be approaching the foothills of the promised land. And maybe, just maybe, over there in the distance, shrouded by mist, is the faint outline of a Lifestyle Change.