Half the man I used to be

On the left, me in a group photo in July 2014 and on the right, me again, in July 2016… minus sixteen kilos. Marie Louise (gorgeously) remains the same in both cases.

Of late, I’ve got used to people who have not met me for a while looking me up and down, with the more daring saying “Gosh you’ve lost an enormous amount of weight!” with the implied hope that I’m ok.

I am very much ok, in spite of my usual chronic conditions! The weight loss was intentional, took a bit of time and a lot of will power, and it worked. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, since the logical next question by those daring ones is, “how did you do it?”

OK, first off… I did not lose an enormous amount of weight. I lost 16 kg, which, given my height is, I suppose, quite substantial. I got rid of about 18% of my body weight.

I had got to 91 kg, and my health was suffering. I’m severely asthmatic and have been suffering from hypertension most of my life. Apart from that, walking long distances (which I love) was becoming a series of aches and pains in ankles and knees. So something obviously needed doing. My weight has been inconstant all my life. I balloon at times and manage to slim down at others, but since I turned forty (eighteen years ago) losing the extra kilos became damned difficult.

I do work out whenever my health allows it, but am not a great believer in diets. They are daunting and once you’re psychologically damaged by them, there’s no way they’re going to help you lose weight. Transgression becomes a form of protest, and that’s that.

So I knew I had to go the personalised way. I had to suss out what I was doing wrong and cut down on that. And I knew straight off that my worst sin was chocolate. I don’t eat mounds of it, and only as dessert, but one square is never enough, nor, once I get started, are four or five. I don’t particularly like cakes, but on frequent birthday bashes at the office, I’ve been known to wolf down large chunks of the stuff, and often go for more. So sugar had to go. I bring 70% cocoa slims with me down to Malta from Sweden (the Marabou ones are to die for) and started having half of one (c. 5 gm) at the end of every meal. And that was the only added sugar I had all day. Well… except for my habitual, relaxing whiskey in the evenings, which I decided to keep.

Breakfast has always been a mix of sugar-free cereals and milk, with one day a week allocated for toast with pålægschokolade (very thin Danish breakfast chocolate… a total yum!), and I retained that. The latter being a reward for the former.

Bread is also something I love. I eat it with everything, and I decided not to cut out bread entirely, but to cut down drastically, so that lunches often became four or five Finn Crisp slims with cheese. I only ever drink water with meals, so there was nothing to cut down there.

I still wanted to have my habitual, cooked evening meal… but here, volume was the main kilogram culprit. So I started getting volume down to about 70% of what I used to have before. Sometimes more. Sometimes a bit less. And also broke the habit of a lifetime of always finishing what was on my plate, regardless of how full I felt.

And then there was the secret ingredient. A hyperactive conscience that screamed at me at  every transgression. It still does, though I reached my target (and slightly beyond … 74.5 kg) a few weeks ago. It took me a year and a half to get there. I lost between .3 and .5 of a kilogram a week, with the occasional increase of roughly the same, which then had to be made up for. I now hover around the 75 kg mark, give or take a kilo here and there (more often give than take, alas!)

My conscience will make sure I stick with this weight, though my frequent travels do mean I and/or my partner Marie Louise are not always in complete control of the calories. But I’m very very careful. It was hard work, in spite of the simplicity of the lifestyle change, and it still is, and will be forever. The worst enemy is complacency, or the giving up when a plateau hits – was damnably stuck at 78 kg for weeks! I’ve seen too many people go that route. I’ll also work out whenever I get the chance… hopefully c. three times a week to try and tone the remaining flab.

So, there you go. Not quite a formal diet. More of a permanent lifestyle tweak, and a massive stoking of a nasty conscience that’s really quite a monster. Oh, and having someone (in my case ML) to keep track of gains and losses is also very useful. I knew my weight loss was pleasing her. She was worried about my health. So that too is excellent motivation. She kept a graph of my weekly weighings, and when I thought things were moving too slowly, she could encouragingly point out a clear – even if not fast – downward trend.

Admittedly, writing this is part of the process. If I ever balloon again, I’m hoping many of you who have read this will point at it and shake your heads with disappointment.

I intend to make sure you don’t have the opportunity to do it.