“I know you’re exceptionally smart and good looking, but still – how do you do it?”
I get that a lot. Lately, these questions relate to my allegedly exceptionally successful campaign of weight reduction, a campaign that – by the way – is now in the process of getting itself wound down due to it shattering all the goals I could have imagined along the way. I will still answer the question, though.
But before I answer I want to stress something out: I never did embark on a campaign of weight reduction. What I did do, starting mid January, was start playing with a funny calorie counting app I got for my phone after reading a funny article about it. That’s all I intended to do; there was never a New Year’s resolution or anything like that. So much for being perceived as a person of supreme will power or long term vision; I’m just a person with tons of affection for gadgets.
That said, when I started playing with the CARROT Hunger app, the analytical part of me kicked into action. Yes, there is more to the analytical part of me than movie reviews! That analyst quickly recognised facts evident through the food consumption data I have been collecting via CARROT: it became clear my default eating habits are slowly, but very surely, making me gain weight. Something had to change if I wanted to stop this trend.
If you are looking for the two word answer to the above question of how I did it, then it would be “portion sizes”. However, if you are a mature person you would know life is more complicated than two words and the devil is in the details. So here are my insights into the details that make the reduction in portion sizes such a big deal.
First, there is the fact that, as calorie counter applications go, CARROT is not a particularly good one. I mean, it’s got the sarcasm and attitude, which is funny and all, but it’s got a shit all database of built in [Australian] food items. This meant that when I wanted to feed something I ate into CARROT, I had to look at the packaging to see what to enter; I had to weigh or estimate how much I ate; and I had to look over the Internet to try and assess the qualities of the food that did not come packed up and labelled. Doing this meant my awareness of what goes in through my pie hole, as CARROT calls it. In turn, this made me start to question thing I’ve been taking for granted. To put it in terms I can easily relate to, it made me erect a firewall around my mouth.
The second factor is to do with what it is that one tends to cut when one realises one needs to cut portion sizes. I didn’t go about cutting the portions uniformly; it’s the fillers that bore most of the grunt. It’s the chips that come on the side of the shawarma, the pita that comes with the hummus, the sides that come with the main that bear most of this burden. When you stop to consider the nature of these items that tend to bear most of the load of the portion cutting, one word dominates affairs: carbs.
Now comes the third factor, which is perhaps the nicest one. It is the analysis and the learning that pushed me into submission [to cut portion sizes]; what made me able to persevere is the fact my stomach quickly got used to the idea and felt perfectly happy with the reduced portions. In other words, I no longer feel the need to eat as much as I used to. Indeed, I feel better eating less, thank you very much. I cannot stress how important this is, because it means the process of taking control over my diet (and by proxy, my weight) is no longer a struggle but rather one of perpetual motion.
Which brings me to add an important fact: Exercise. Or rather, the lack of it. I do not know if my successful affairs would, or could, have been as successful as they were if I was to add exercise to the equation. I severely doubt it, for the simple fact that exercise creates unquantifiable hunger that is hard to control; no longer would I have been able to enjoy the smaller portions I got used to. In other words, exercise would add significant and hard to control chaos into my comfortable little world. My point is simple: given that my success depends on the relative lack of exercise, I cannot claim my approach to controlling my diet and/or losing weight is a healthy one!
So there you go. This is how I do it. Perhaps you’d be able to gain something out of my experience, and perhaps – probably – not.
Personally, I’m curious about the why question, especially given this quest of mine was rather unintentional. I can point to three reasons to explain my perseverance thus far: First and foremost, inertia. By the time I realised something was going on it was already going on. Second is the feeling and realisation I’m doing better, supported by things like clothes being more comfortable, belts going up a notch, and the very complimenting process of acquiring new clothes that fit my current size (as well as witnessing how baggy some of my “old” clothes are); I will not deny this feeling is heavily mixed with the fear of regressing back to where I was before.
The third reason is one of those that explain a lot about yours truly lately: my father. When my father died, more than a year ago, the dominating notion was that he had a few more good years left in him that he missed out on. When I track the reason for his perceived premature death, the common theme that keeps coming up is overweight. While, as an adult, I never belonged to a category most people would label fat, I do see the point in reducing mechanical stress off my body – my non exercising body – as a measure with which to reduce the probability of inheriting a similar ending to my father’s.