I have been on a bit of a health kick for the past few months, and I am pleased to report that I am finally starting to see the benefits.
As well as forcing myself to go running at least a couple of times each week, as I prepare for the next 10k race in my charity challenge, I have been thinking more carefully about my diet too, and whilst I have naturally had to make some sacrifices (for example, devouring an entire pack of chocolate Hobnobs is now, sadly, a thing of the past), it hasn’t been as horrendous as I expected.
Please don’t imagine for one second that I am dieting to excess, as I have always been blessed with a naturally fast metabolism, so I have never needed to lose a lot of weight (besides, I have never advocated crash dieting for anyone), but in recent years I have noticed my waistline getting somewhat out of control, and I felt it was time to make a few slight changes to my diet in order to halt the expansion.
My three main reasons for deciding to take action were as follows:
1. Daft as it may sound, collapsing while running earlier this year – and spending the best part of 48 hours in hospital as a result – gave me a bit of a wake-up call, and even though my diet seemingly played little or no part in what happened, I couldn’t help but think now might be the right time to make that change (and don’t pretend for one second you didn’t read that, then immediately start playing Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror in your head…);
2. Some of my clothes, particularly my work suits and shirts, were beginning to strain somewhat around the middle (to the point that my midriff often looked like the end of a duvet cover, where the duvet itself is visibly bursting out between the buttons of the cover);
Not actually me, but alarmingly accurate
(NB: For anyone struggling with the duvet cover comparison, you could alternatively visualise a burst sausage).
3. I realised it had been some time (perhaps even a few years BC – Before Children) since I had last glanced down in the shower and seen my ‘junk’ (and this had everything to do with my expanding waistline, and nothing to do with any inadequacies in that department, I hasten to add). In fact, my stomach had become so out of control, I suspect the only reason I could still see my feet when looking down in the shower, is because I am a size 12 (that’s right, ladies), but it was only a matter of time before even they were eclipsed by the belly.
So, on my wife’s suggestion (and it was nothing more than a suggestion, prompted by my obvious dissatisfaction at the state of my prolific gut), a few months ago I downloaded the ‘MyFitnessPal’ App onto my phone.
For those unfamiliar with this marvelous piece of technology (and I have no doubt there are many alternatives on the market), MyFitnessPal is an App for recording your weight, everything you eat/drink on a daily basis, and any exercise you do. By uploading your routine each day, you can closely monitor your calorie intake, earn extra calories back by exercising, and – hopefully – watch your weight decrease over time.
NB: This photo was taken from Google, not my phone, so please don’t think for one second I have started eating Broccoli and Cauliflower salad (I’m not that much of a prick)
The calorie counter was a bit of an eye opener for me, as I now accept that I was being somewhat naïve when it came to which foods are good/bad for me. Obviously, I’m not stupid enough to think that an entire pack of chocolate Hobnobs is a healthy option when it comes to losing weight, but I was surprised to discover that red wine is just as calorific as beer (more so, when you consider the relative volumes), and astonished that an apple is twice as bad for you as a carrot, and almost as bad for you as half a KitKat Chunky. Given the choice between two apples and a KitKat Chunky, it’s not even a fucking contest. I’m surprised people still buy apples at all.
I have also been extremely honest with my recordings (well, there didn’t seem much point in lying); and whereas historically I would always consider devouring a nice bar of chocolate – or some other delicious treat – after a hard day at work, I now check what calories I have left for the day before doing so.
True, there have been occasions when I have already exceeded my daily intake for the day, only to adopt a very swift ‘ah, fuck it’ attitude (before pouring another glass of wine and eating a slice of cake), but this tends to be on a Friday or over the weekend, when we all know calories don’t count (note: they do count, I am just making light of my tendency to binge eat when I am around the kids for too long – it’s my personal coping mechanism, and I don’t endorse it).
Generally speaking, though, if I realise that I cannot enjoy a treat after my dinner without exceeding my calories for the day, I will either:
- Abstain completely;
- Reduce the size of the treat to keep within my limits; or (if desperate)
- Stay up until after midnight so the treat is deducted from the next day’s allowance.
There are of course disadvantages to my recent healthy (or at least healthier) eating plan, not least the fact I am becoming more irritable (even by my standards), and I genuinely fear for the survival of high street chains like Greggs, but when it comes to the future, the survival of this particular Greg is infinitely more important.
Better still, keeping a close eye on my calories each day has given me more of an incentive to go out running, as I can earn back roughly one-third of my daily intake by completing my usual five-mile circuit around Sandbach. I don’t even need to do any calculations, because the ‘Strava’ App (look at me with all the technology) monitors my progress as I run, turns the distance and speed into calories earned, then automatically credits my total for the day on MyFitnessPal.
NB: Again, this photo is from Google, not from my actual phone, so please don’t think for one second I have started cycling as well as running (I’m not that much of a prick)
Don’t get me wrong, I still hate running with every fibre of my being, and I cannot promise I will continue to drag my sorry arse out onto the cold streets of Sandbach twice a week once this 10k challenge is over, but it’s amazing how the prospect of an extra pint of beer, or some chocolate, is enough of an incentive to get me out there.
Yes, yes, I know I should go running without then devouring all the extra calories I have earned, as I am rather defeating the object of dieting; but the way I see it, so long as I end up in ‘calorie-credit’ at the end of each day, I’m heading in the right direction.
I know this to be true, because the scales do not lie (despite me calling them a ‘fucking liar’ on more than one occasion – whilst standing on tip-toes, removing items of clothing, and even farting in an attempt to drop that needle a pound or two), and I am pleased to report that in the few months since I first downloaded MyFitnessPal, I have lost the grand total of one-and-a-half stone.
To put that into context, the weight I have lost is roughly equivalent to:
- A bowling ball;
- A sperm whale’s brain;
- Four chihuahuas;
- Two-and-a-bit human heads; or
- ‘Ginge’, Britain’s heaviest recorded cat.
Better still, that one-and-a-half stone seems to have been lost primarily from my belly (I did fear that I would lose weight from my already pathetic arms and legs, but they, thankfully, seem to be unaffected) so I really am noticing the benefits – not to mention a larger proportion of ‘him downstairs’ when I shower (look, I know I’m going on about it, but it’s like seeing an old friend after many years).
And, on that mental image….
Thanks for reading x