Blog 39


To be or not to be, that is the question

Actually a more pertinent question is:

How much ‘be’ do you want to be?

Dietribe [sic]

This article is about my roller coaster 'weight cycle' ride since the ‘goodness’ going in started to be diverted from growing upward to growing outward.

Until I was 20 I was considered by some to have been ‘skinny’, but all that was about to change as life settled into something of a routine weight-wise. I’m talking specifically about the inevitable gaining of weight [for most people] as the years pile up.

My first encounter with the ‘beast’ was in my early twenties, a two year secondment [career-wise] to Barnstaple in North Devon [UK's] was the trigger. An idyllic two years in the land of endless cream teas, clotted cream coated ice creams and quaint village pubs serving the ‘new trend’ in tasty but greasy, 'served in a basket' bar snacks.

To say I encountered the beast in Devon is perhaps jumping the gun, in fact so stealthy was its approach I didn’t really notice its arrival until my secondment to Manchester in 1971. At 24 years of age a chance photograph captured the beast in all its glory. Christ, who the hell is that?

Shock over, mortified but at least with the beast having now been identified, it was time for some drastic action and serious ‘taming’.

Now I’ve never been one for following recipes or any rule book for that matter. There is a right way to do everything [practically and socially] and while recipe and rule books are alright for ideas, what is actually required should come naturally from knowledge, morality and instinct. It was upon this basis that I embarked upon my first real ‘diet’.

Nothing spectacular and I’m not going to bore you with details of the eating regime, suffice it to say I just cut down on quantities, instigated a ‘no snacking’ rule and allowed myself one day per week of no holds barred gorging. Once the routine was established it was not so difficult and after 6 weeks I was back to what I considered to be normal. Weight loss around 8Kgs (17 Pounds).  I remained more or less at my re-established ‘normal’ weight for the next several years.

But life goes on and as everyone who lives in the shadow of the beast knows it’s always lying in weight, sorry, wait. Age thirty five came and went and another secondment, this time to a project in Cambridge which saw me settled down for an unusually extended period of time [for me]. Life became easy and with leisure comes, yes you guessed, the beast. Again, just as stealthily as before, a few grams at a time it had accumulated its forces in all the vulnerable places. It was back.

Having tamed the beast once I steadfastly and with equal enthusiasm embarked once again upon what was after all, a proven routine. But hey, it’s not so easy this time, I feel hunger, I’m edgy, I’m snappy, time I think for some research and a little guidance. Six weeks of culinary control seems just a little too daunting this time round, time for something a little faster. What’s this, a new diet? ‘High protein’, create an abnormal imbalance between protein and carbohydrate in the body thus forcing it to liberate the stored fat, fast. This sounded like just the biscuit, [except biscuits were definitely not on the menu].

Well, as it happened it worked, it wasn’t easy and well before the end just the thought of unlimited quantities of fillet steak, chicken breasts, eggs and spinach does absolutely nothing to satisfy your ravaging appetite for all things carbohydrate. In fact you develop an uncanny ability to identify foods that contain even the slightest amount of carbohydrate, just on sight. But it does work and again 8Kgs were shed in just 3 weeks. Hard work, do doubt dangerous and at the end of it all, much more difficult to keep the lost weight from returning.

It seems that the most successful diet is one that changes your whole eating routine, permanently. Low input initially reverting to a less modest routine when the desired ‘normal’ weight is achieved.

Life took a fairly drastic turn for me as 1982 came and went, bored and not a little unhappy with corporate life, selling my body daily like some industrial prostitute, I gave it all up to pursue a more independent life running my own business. The increase in physical activity that followed kept the beast at bay with little or seemingly no effort. A decade passed and life as it does for some, took another turn, I left the UK for a much simpler life in Turkey where I can say I have lived happily ever since.

Now, I’m not sure just how it happened because I was equally active at the time but by 1997 the beast was back, it had somehow found me in my new location. This time, cognizant of the extra years I resorted to my original [more healthy] regime of smaller meals, usually consisting of a very light breakfast and lunch and just a salad in the evenings. This was again successful, so much so that it took real effort after attaining my target weight to begin eating properly again. But when your friends start telling you that you are too thin, then it's time to take heed, especially when the beast has been depleted to zero and muscle mass [in other words you] start to disappear.

So now, as the end of the first decade of the new century approaches, again because of easy living, most days being spent behind a computer and living life in a rural village in western Turkey the scene was set. The perfect hunting ground had been established for the beast, thus it emerged from hibernation yet again but treading more warily this time. It approached softly and settled in, it had found me again only this time with a vengeance.

A combination of the hyper efficient movements that develop as you get older and several other age related factors allowed the beast to really establish an almost unshakable foothold this time. Several, I have to admit half hearted attempts to fight it failed, not miserably but failures nonetheless.

A more developed philosophy also added a negative factor to my resolve to do battle this time, arguing that the enjoyment of life has to be balanced against the pain of culinary frugality. The joy of eating good food has to be balanced with the joy of feeling good about yourself and if you care that much, about how you look to others. Some people say they are fat and happy and the enjoyment they get from eating [and overeating] far outweighs [no pun] the downside of being perceived by others, as fat.

There are equally as many people who think exactly the opposite and I consider myself to have always been in this camp. Having said that, there was a point in time when I did seriously consider joining the 'fatties forever' group, that is until the physical effects of being somewhat overweight also started to become manifest. Shortness of breath climbing stairs, difficulty doing up shoelaces and pains in the lower ribcage as the visceral fat molecules under the ribs fought to establish yet more space, plus several other less than desirable symptoms.

And so to the present, my time proven ‘beast bashing’ system comes to the rescue yet again. Now, at 62 years of age, drastic ‘high protein’ solutions featuring mountains of fillet steak are just not practical, or safe for that matter.

Progress Update 1 [Day 20]
At day 20 into my current 'low intake' battle with the persistent and by now familiar beast I have passed the ‘goodbye 5 Kilos’ marker, the beast is slinking away. Still no hunger pangs and an encouraging amount of enthusiasm to continue towards my goal of 82 Kilos.

Progress Update 2 [Day 46]
From day 26 to 34 there was virtually no weight loss, a little research identified this as the 'plateau'a state feared by all weight watchers but which is apparently quite normal. A bit disheartening but I soldiered on instigating a self imposed 'no alcohol' month starting from day 32. I also decided at this point to take up walking and swimming on some days to divert some of the meager carb' intake towards muscle. On day 39 I notched up 7Kgs loss, the beast is now on the run. Despite the plateau the 'trend line' still looks to be on target. I have now extended the diet program to 69 days and may well aim for 80 Kilos. I now call it the 'Soixante-Neuf' Diet. It's all about what you eat, not what you do to exercise.

Progress Update 3 [Day 90]
I achieved what I set out to do. The length of the diet has caused my eating habits to change, permanently. I reached another 'weight plateau' caused mainly by the introduction of exercise into my daily routine consisting of a 3 Km walk and an 800 meter swim. So the fat loss is being replaced by muscle [I hope]. Hopefully the cycle of weight loss/gain has been halted.

Progress Update 4 [Day 150]
My eating habits have changed permanently and my exercise routine now includes weight exercises for 30 minutes on the days I don't swim. The weight loss has leveled at 15 Kilograms since the start of the diet. It's now November and I have the beach to myself on my swimming days, usually 4 times a week.

In remembrance of my weight loss I have created a sculpture called 'Fat Bastard' which weighs in at exactly the 15 Kilos I lost. A physical incentive to keep the weight off [this time].

See also: HERE



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