diamond geezer

 Friday, March 15, 2013

diet update: It's five years this week since my doctor jabbed me in the arm, crunched some numbers and told me that my cholesterol levels were too high. He gave me a badly photocopied sheet donated by a margarine company and sent me away to see what changes I could wreak in two months flat. I embarked upon a puritanical low-fat diet, cutting out excess stodge and living off only permitted foodstuffs. No crisps, no pie, no pizza, no chocolate, but plenty of oily fish and un-sauced chicken. It was grim, but blimey it worked.

By mid-May I'd lost a whole stone and my cholesterol was down by a third. My doctor was delighted by the latter (and decided he didn't need to prescribe me tablets for the rest of my life), whereas I was rather chuffed by the former (and the fact I'd dropped an entire waist size). My two month crash diet over, I took a reality check and reverted to a semi-sensible food intake. Cheese sometimes not never, salmon usually twice a week, biscuits thankyou, porridge most mornings, chocolate yeah why the hell not. Realistic, but not rigid. And I carried on weighing myself to see what happened.

March 2008      X stone 7
March 2009      (X-2) stone 12
March 2010      (X-2) stone 10
March 2011      (X-2) stone 8
March 2012      (X-2) stone 10
March 2013      (X-2) stone 11
After a year I'd lost almost two stone, which was ace, and meant I now slipped into smaller trousers. So I decided to put the diet on hold. I didn't want to waste away altogether, and I was tired of porridge, and I fancied pie sometimes. So I returned to eating what I wanted, within reason, but without reverting to previous gullet-stuffing practices. And something far more impressive happened. I didn't put the weight back on again.

My weight's gone up and down over the last four years, sure, you'd expect that. It tends to go up in the winter and down in the summer, which I attribute to long nights in and active days out. But it fluctuates within a fairly tight half-stone band, always bobbing back to approximately the same level, and that's good news for me health-wise. Part of this is down to sensible-ish eating, like not buying mid-morning snacks at work, and not having double helpings of pie. But more important, I reckon, is being in the correct mindset each day for keeping excess weight off. And that's where weighing myself comes in.

Sat 9th      more
Sun 10th      less
Mon 11th      more
Tue 12th      same
Wed 13th      more
Thu 14th      less
Fri 15th      more
The dg weight stabilisation diet is based on weighing yourself every day. That's every single day, at roughly the same time, and then making a note of the result. It won't surprise you to hear that I have a spreadsheet that runs to 1830 lines of daily weight data, plus graphs, but you don't need to go that far to make this work. All that's important is to know whether you weigh more than yesterday, the same as yesterday, or less than yesterday, and adapt your behaviour accordingly.

If you weigh more than yesterday: This is a warning sign. A single day's weight gain is nothing serious, indeed it's probably insignificant. But if you carry on this way you'll end up putting on weight, so take steps today not to. Today there'll be occasions when you have the option to eat something extra, something nice but unnecessary, so turn that down. Choose a jacket potato rather than chips, have an apple rather than a bag of crisps, leave the ice cream in the fridge, that sort of thing. No need to be strict about it, no need to turn down sensible opportunities, no need to cut back on everything. But approach the the next 24 hours with the mindset of "probably not, thanks", and you should avoid making too many potentially bad choices.

If you weigh the same as yesterday: This is probably good news. Indeed, if you could guarantee that you'd always weigh the same today as you did yesterday then there'd be no need to diet any more. Carry on as normal and eat sensibly, and everything should be fine. That's unless you're at the top of your ideal weight band, in which case maybe it's time to ease off slightly and nudge back down a bit.

If you weigh less than yesterday: Well done, you've actually lost weight. Again a one day loss is probably insignificant, but let's pretend it isn't and reward this decrease with a treat or two. Today there'll be occasions when you have the option to eat something extra, something nice but unnecessary, so this time say yes. Slice your cheese a little thicker, add an extra roast potato, gobble an entire bar of chocolate, that sort of thing. No need to be excessive, no need to throw away all your principles, no need to binge. But approach the the next 24 hours with the mindset of "yeah go on, why not", and enjoy a little extra freedom.

That's my dietary philosophy. Essentially it's self-correcting feedback, eating a little less if I weigh more, and eating a little more if I weigh less. I know it's stupid because these changes in weight are almost always the result of random variation, not genuine movement. That extra pound gained or lost since yesterday is merely the equivalent in weight of one pizza, or one pint of beer, or two mugs of tea. Your precise weight depends very much on how much is in your stomach, or when you last emptied your bladder, and not on how much excess fat you're carrying round your waist.

I know I'm reading too much into insignificant fluctuations. I know that gaining or losing a pound signifies nothing other than anatomical background noise. But my approach to weight control works by assuming these trivialities are meaningful and adopting a mindset for the day accordingly. And it's worked. I've weighed pretty much the same since 2009, maintaining a weight that keeps me and my doctor happy without having to resort to lettuce. Daily feedback may not work for you, it's probably too geekily obsessive. But it's kept me in check for the last four years, and hopefully will continue to do so.

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