Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Personal Weight Loss Experiment

An example of my new style of eating: low carbohydrate, healthy fat.

Four years ago, in February 2012, I completed a 27-day juice fast. I felt fantastic and documented my little experiment here. I maintained my weight easily enough for the next year or so but then as I entered my mid 40s the weight started to creep up again.

My weight gain started innocently enough. Following the successful completion of my first ever Great Victorian Bike Ride in late 2013, an epic cycling journey of more than 610km, I decided to reward myself with a “calorie amnesty”.

I ate and drank my way through the festive season that summer with gay abandon; avocado on several of pieces of toast every morning for breakfast, a big bowl of last night’s risotto for lunch, working days often concluded with a packet of kettle chips, a selection of dips accompanied with half a packet or more of water crackers and a generous glass of wine or three down on the riverbank before a substantial serving of dinner. In hindsight this was not one of my finest ideas.

By the end of that summer, I’d gained 5kg and my appetite had increased considerably, to the point where I always felt hungry. Initially, I had optimistically thought the weight gain may have been muscle. You know, from all that bike riding.

It was the arrival of winter 2014 and my winter wardrobe that dispelled any illusions the extra weight might have been muscle. Muscle does not bulge over the top of your jeans like… like the top of a banana muffin!

Admitting to myself that I needed to trim down and actually doing anything about it were two different things but I did try.

I decreased my alcoholic drinks and increased my exercise… and swapped kettle chips for dark chocolate, all the while allowing myself generous servings of pasta, rice and wholegrain bread because I was a cyclist riding anywhere between 100 and 200km per week and I needed carbohydrates, right? I gained yet more weight in 2015.

Last month, despite the fact I had added swimming three times a week to my exercise regime, I topped my scales at 72kg - proving to myself you cannot out exercise a bad diet or even a good diet that is far too generous in portion sizes. I had begun to feel quite self-conscious about how I looked… and how my clothes no longer fitted me. I decided to get serious about losing the weight.

First of all I wanted to do some research into weight loss diets to try and figure out what would work best? Unfortunately, weight loss diets are renown for their long-term failure rate.

It’s all very well replacing meals with “diet shakes” and smoothies or dramatically cutting out whole food groups for short-term weight loss but if you go back to your previous eating pattern once you’ve reached your target weight, the excess weight comes straight back on, plus a bit more.

I was confident my general diet was pretty healthy and I certainly wasn't slack in the exercise department but I always felt hungry and ate far too much; far more than my body really needed.

A good mindset, I felt would be essential for losing the excess weight and I allowed myself nearly the whole of January to just think about a healthy eating plan. To help keep myself accountable, I also told my family and many of my friends and clients that I would be beginning my personal experiment into weight loss on Sunday 31st January.

The more I read, the more convinced I became that the amount of carbohydrates and refined sugars in my diet were the principal cause of my hunger and weight gain.

My personal weight loss experiment began with a 5-day juice fast; every morning I juiced a variety of fruits and vegetables to drink throughout the day. For the next five days I continued on with the juice but added an avocado and/or boiled egg, a small portion of meat and vegetables and some dairy in the form of cheese or plain yogurt. By this stage I’d read a considerable amount of information on low-carb/healthy fat diets (LCHF) and the similarly principled Paleo diet and I was encouraged by what I’d learnt.

I gave up alcohol, tea and almost all coffee and refined sugar for the month of February.

As the weight started to come off, my appetite decreased and my energy levels started to increase. The less carbohydrates and refined sugar I ate, the less hungry I felt.

Within four short weeks, I have lost 4kg and amazingly, my symptoms from primary lymphoedema (excessive swelling in my lower legs, ankles and feet), have all but disappeared. Some long-term aches and pains that I had put down to aging have noticeably reduced and my skin looks clearer.

I’m still fine tuning my general diet and will write an update in a couple of months time to let you know how I’m going and what I’ve learnt but without doubt the biggest difference for me has been from dramatically reducing the amounts of carbohydrates and refined sugars I consume. I no longer feel hungry all the time, I feel clear-headed and my energy levels have increased. I’m happy with that!

There's nothing like some before and after photos when it comes to weight loss:
Not a recent photo but how my feet, ankles and lower legs typically look by the end of the day

What my feet, ankles and lower legs looked like the other night (21.2.2016)!