Weight loss latest

If I’d gotten around to doing Christmas cards last year, my newsletter would have had an acerbic comment about 2012 being the year in which I lost 10kg twice, this being sadly different from losing 20kg. It’s amazing how fast you can eat 10 kg back on – just over three months last summer for me.

But it is going back to coming off as these helpful badges from MyFitnessPal show:


MyFitnessPal – Nutrition Facts For Foods

(As I write, the badges say 24 lbs lost, 36 lbs to go – conceivably the story could be worse or better if you are reading this a long time after January 2013!)

Going many, many days over Christmas eating only a few hundred calories a day because I felt so rough, helped no end, and finally, from a BMI point of view, tipped me from “obese” to “overweight.”

In addition to keeping tabs on my weight I am tracking some vital statistics with an old fashioned tape measure. And despite a fairly significant drop, the measurements I have taken (chest, waist and neck) have not gone down at all. And yet people have started making a point of telling me I look as if I am losing weight. Maybe it’s just because I’m wearing the bad suit I bought in a hurry that never really fit even in the dark days when I was over 100kg.

I’m losing weight because I take a very sensible, fruit and sandwich based packed lunch to school. I don’t tend to eat breakfast because I just don’t feel hungry at 6am, so my daily sandwich, apple, banana and graze box tend to get me to about 600 calories by 6pm, which leaves me loads in which to eat a sensible evening meal. Although there is a cake-selling canteen at work, it is easily avoided, so basically all I can eat is whatever I take with me. So long as I avoid pitstops on the journey home, which I do most days, we ought to be at target weight before the end of the school year.

I’ve also invested a little in gadgets and am currently wearing a Fitbit Ultra tracker (no longer on sale) which is helping me count steps every day, turning that into km walked, and also, thanks to a tiny onboard altimeter, it estimates how many equivalent flights of stairs I have climbed. I can also wear it at night on a wrist or ankle cuff and it tells me how well I slept and for how long. During flu days I have been sleeping for 18 hours plus. And newsflash – when I’m at school I am spark out within minutes of head hitting pillow and I stay fast asleep almost all night!

Liking the graphs and data I get from the tracker I also bought a set of wifi scales that wirelessly record my weight and percentage body fat, if I stand on them with bare feet. This is a needlessly fancy and expensive gadget. But I like it a lot. Which is more than I can say for any other set of scales. (I previously weighed in weekly or less often using the 20p scales at the supermarket)

The magic scales have once – ONCE – recorded a weight below 90kg in the last few days, but apart from that they have been, ahem, faulty.

I have also taken to calorie counting using MyFitnessPal, which is pretty awesome. A) it links seamlessly to fitbit’s data tracking. Standing on the wifi scales automatically sends my weight to MyFitnessPal too. B) it has the most complete food database I have encountered during quite a lot of experimentation. And it’s actually UK food! also C) the mobile phone app has a barcode reader that is also helpful!


Losing and gaining weight

In 2010, I successfully lost a bit of weight with Diet Chef – so much so that when I bought a tailored suit for getting married in, I confidently told the tailor I would lose more weight. At my thinnest, I was 94kg. I stopped with the diet with a months worth of food left uneaten, as poor motivation took over. The suit didn’t fit great at the wedding.

By the start of 2012, I was over 100kg. The suit was a struggle to do up.

Somehow, during teaching practice, fourteen weeks from January to May this year, not counting the school holidays, I got down to 92kg, the lowest I have been in some considerable time. (My target weight is 75kg, the weight I was in 1999, which felt fat at the time.) My prompt for getting back on the scales was putting the suit back on for an interview and discovering the waistband was ridiculously loose. Ten kilos off translated to 8cm off my belly.

I lost weight on TP in the following ways, I think: leaving the house so early in the morning I was not ready for breakfast; sometimes being too nervous to eat for most of the day; and once, having to stop the car to be sick on the way to work. More positively, eating packed lunches every day and mostly making them very healthy: a graze box, 2 or three pieces of fruit and a sandwich made from 2 pieces of bread.

That last bit sounds vaguely healthy – but it also led to being ravenously hungry by 4 or 5pm and many nights stopping for desperately unhealthy fast food on the way home. So quite how that all added up to ten kilos of weight loss is a bit of a mystery.

I reweighed this evening and the weight is coming back on. The current phase of teacher training is less nerve racking than actually teaching every day, and there are too many opportunities for biscuits and cake in the staffroom. The same packed lunch that was too much food on TP is now not really seeing me through till morning break.

Dietchef had positives and negatives. On the bad side: it was expensive. I didn’t really like the food. What came in what they had the cheek to call a “hamper” was not all you eat as it needed supplementing with salad and other fruit and veg. The meals were odd. Essentially it was porridge or cereal for breakfast, soup for lunch and something sloppy like a casserole or pasta and sauce for tea. There were various fake chocolate, fake biscuit and fake other things for additional snacks and milkshakes as well.

Tomorrow's misery pouches

I got into the habit of calling them misery pouches. Although a few were quite nice, it was a real struggle to eat them and not find almost anything else to eat instead.

I think what it gave me most of all was a better understanding of calorie counting. Because you had to eat both the pouches and regular food, you had to count quite carefully. So I do now know for certain that if I can stick to 1500 calories a day for a few weeks I do lose weight.

Some of the surprises with counting was pasta, potatoes and bread. You really do not need much to get up to staggering quantities of calories. My standard day used to be two pieces of toast with butter and jam, and two pieces of bread at lunchtime as a sandwich. But if each piece of bread is the best part of 100 calories, 4 of them is almost a third of your daily allowance. Best cut one lot out.

It does seem though that if you eat a sensible amount of porridge for breakfast, with no syrup or cream, and base your lunch around soup – any soup – and fruit you will be eating healthily and constraining your calories without trying too much. There’s no need for them to be expensive special diet porridge or diet soup as almost all porridge and soup is low calorie.

This understanding is still very much theoretical, of course, I haven’t actually put the knowledge to use consciously to lose weight.

Another weird and annoying part of the Dietchef régime was that it was set up for women who have a lower calorie requirement – so the basic Dietchef day was a 1200 calorie diet. Men and those who have more weight to lose – and I was in both categories – get more. So they suggest you have a 200 calorie milkshake and then 200 more calories to find yourself. I have to say that the milkshake just seemed to me to be a complete waste of calories. Milkshakes do not normally play any part in my diet, least of all manky UHT box horrid bleirgh milkshakes. If I have to get 200 calories from a drink, what’s wrong with beer?

At the time, living off ready meals was a hardship. Perhaps I ought to reconsider using that approach next term when I might again be too busy to cook properly?

How’s the diet going?

When I started on t’diet, I mentally thought to myself that I wouldn’t be doing the dieting quite so publicly as much of my life.

But I can’t really resist talking or tweeting about it, so people know what’s going on.

And I’ve been doing it for a month now, with a variety of days from very strict to very liberal in the interpretation of what’s allowed. Some days I am more hungry than others. And actually, my weight is falling consistently and my clothes are feeling loser. I’ve had to start wearing a belt again for the first time in years just so that I don’t lose my trousers whilst leafleting.

I don’t actually weigh myself at home, although we do have a set of scales. I’ve been using “Healthy Weight Machines” at supermarkets and Boots. I’ve not been too conscientious at using the same machine all the time – it rather depends where I am.

In the last four weeks, my weight has dropped from 102kg to 95kg. The better part of 7kg or 14lbs or one whole stone. My waist, neck and chest measurements have all fallen. Go me!

I’m on a diet

This is a decidedly odd post to write as a follow up to one about chocolate mousse, but I am currently dieting.

A good number of reasons have prompted me to do this. Only one is the upcoming nuptials – amongst the many others are how many of my close colleagues and internet acquaintances have recently been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease like diabetes and heart attacks. Another is that my clothes don’t fit, and if I get any bigger, I’ll have to leave the high street behind. Yet another was a recent internet chat with friends across the planet. I was kvetching about being overweight and heading for early death and there being little I could do about it – only to discover the two svelte hunks with web cameras have both been heavier than me in the past and both lost the weight.

I kid myself that it doesn’t show too badly. There are many people my weight who look a lot worse, I think anyway. My last, pre-diet weigh-in tipped the scales at 16 stone 1lb, which made my BMI a scary 33 or so. I’m aiming for 12 stone at the least, hopefully even down to 11. That’s going to take months.

For a kick start, I have chosen Diet Chef, a method with pros and cons.

Advantages of Diet Chef

You go on the internet, plug in your height, sex and weight, and they recommend a nutrition plan. You plug in your credit card and within a few days, huge cardboard boxes they laughably call “hampers” arrive, containing almost all the food you are supposed to eat.

Breakfast is porridge or granola, in a variety of different flavours.

Lunch is a soup in a pouch.

Dinner is a casserole, stew or curry, also in a pouch.

In addition, you also get a snack – either a low calorie sawdust bar or a pack of two oat cakes, in an assortment of flavours. There is also a daily milkshake.

The cereal, soup, shake, snack and stew between them average out at 1500 calories per day. You’re supposed to add one piece of fruit and veg a day too, as well as half a pint of semi-skimmed milk. Since I’m a man, and since I have so much weight to shed, I’m allowed an additional 300 calories a day to make it up to 1800. The booklet you get makes suggestions like rice, pasta, slices of bread and additional veggies, but I have on occasion resorted to making it up with 6 rich tea biscuits.

It’s basically a slop-based diet. It is however, pretty tasty slop. The soups are mostly excellent (Thai Chicken was horrible, however). The evening casseroles are also on average pretty good, although not as good as the soups.

Tomorrow's misery pouches

The main advantage is not having to think too hard. At meal times, you wander into the conservatory and sift through the boxes, make a choice, bung it in the microwave for two minutes, and eat it. If you know you’re going to be out over lunchtime, put a pouch, a shake, a snack and an apple in your bag, and that will more or less keep you going through the day.

It fits very well into my chaotic lifestyle.

You get a lot of choice – when you’re deciding what goes in your “hamper” you can choose from a fair variety of soups and meals. The shakes, snacks and breakfasts are more limited, but there’s nearly a month’s worth of different evening meals.

They suggest you give up caffeine. Out of my cold, dead hands, DietChef!

I’ve made almost all of my own bread this year – I have to cook and eat less bread while I’m doing the diet.

Disadvantages of Diet Chef

It’s not exactly sustainable – once I finish, after months of microwave ready meals, I will just have to go back to the ordinary eating that got me fat in the first place, without having learned a whole new set of eating habits.

It’s not exactly cheap – the cheapest deal is 35 days’ food for over £200, and on top of that you need to buy fruit, veg and milk. Even with my extravagant supermarket and alcohol habits, I don’t think I was spending that much on just my food. If we both go on the diet – P has less to lose than me – it will really hit us in the wallet.

You could easily make up most of the food yourself – the cereals in particular, and also the low-cal veg-based soups either from scratch or from tins or packets. The evening meals would be a bit trickier. That would require thinking, though, and the main benefit of DietChef is not having to do that too much.

Until the diet, milkshakes were not really something that featured in my food habits. Each milkshake is 300 calories – but also a lot of vitamin supplements. I am fast learning that 300 calories is easily found and wondering if there are better ways to do it – order the 1200 calorie version without the milkshakes and have 600 calories a day for free choice. Again, more thought needed.

Slop based food has meant lots of stains on clothing. Must eat more carefully.

Early successes

In my first 10 days on the diet, I have lost 7lbs, which is far better than I dared hope. Oodles of caveats for that: I know the first week of any diet almost always sees a higher loss than can subsequently be sustained. I didn’t use the same scales (not sure we own scales – I’ve been using Boots’ “healthy weight” machine – in different branches of Boots).

But to get there, I have not been too rigorous about the diet. I’ve had more than one portion of fruit and veg – although tapering off from 5 on the first few days. I had a day off when we went to London to see a show and get a meal. I might be able to get to a microwave at work, but there isn’t much chance of that on a train.

I’ve been jokingly referring to the food as “misery pouches” – in fact it’s not miserable. Most of it is tasty. It’s reasonably filling – although I do want to snack as much as I did before. There are long periods of the day when I am thinking about food.

The first week success has persuaded me to keep going, and I have signed up for two more whole months of this. Wish me luck. If you hear no more on this, assume I’m still fat.