Losing Weight: Who Knew Salmon Was Such A Traitor?

I was listening to a podcast with Clare Bowditch on Conversations this morning (about her book Your Own Kind Of Girl) and it made me question exactly why I’ve started another diet. Like her, I came to the conclusion a while ago that weight is unimportant (as long as it is within a healthy range and not affecting your health); that it’s what’s on the inside that counts; and that society needs to bloody well grow up and accept that most healthy women do not fit the skinny model stereotype promoted by magazines – hence the popularity of Celeste Barber.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.com

In general, I manage to maintain my Reubenesque figure by compensating for my food and alcohol over-indulgences by working my butt off on walks and runs. However, the toll from Christmas this year has been grim and I’ve been sucked into a diet by the vanity of the old man who says he feels uncomfortable being overweight.

Imagine that?

Neither of us wants to get down to the sort of unrealistic weight that means that you start rocking in a corner when you think about a Magnum, but we’d like to lose the weight we’ve gained over the last two years – to avoid the slippery slope of unfair weight distribution that happens to so many people in middle age.

I blame our Christmas visitors for the last few kilos I’ve gained – skinny visitors who ate as much as us, exercised less, and still manage to remain thin. Also, any host knows how impossible it is to eat mindfully when you have guests in the house and you have to show off the enviable lifestyle of Australia (bushfires excluded). And in Sydney the food is as spectacular as the beaches. The day only starts after one of THE BEST BREAKFASTS in the world, followed by – as a result of our wonderfully diverse population – a veritable smorgasbord of international feasting to choose from over the rest of the day.

Worse, when you have guests (particularly at Christmas), any rules around drinking fly out the window. – so even though we weren’t officially on holiday, we were happy to use the rellies as an excuse for extra bevvies.

Hence, I find myself fitting a little too snugly into my size 14 clothes, and albeit that left to my own devices I would probably have continued to ignore the extra tire around my middle and hoped for the best once I get back into some sort of routine – When? – I am sadly married to a man obsessed with his weight.

So we’ve hooked up to an app called Easy diet diary which is basically a calorie counting tool that works like this: You put in your weight, height etc and tell it how much weight you want to lose and in how much time, and then it suggests a daily calorie intake to achieve your goal. Each day, you add in every morsel you eat, every drop of liquid you drink, and every kilometre you sweat – although I’m not counting calories burnt during exercise as that me permission to drink more.

It is unhealthily competitive and we are learning to be cunningly strategic – which is the only fun aspect of a diet – but it has given us something to talk about over the past few days i.e. like how f…ing hungry we are. And on a more serious note, we have started to think about what we put in my mouths, particularly when it comes to portion sizes. You can imagine my pain one morning when I had to put a large slice of watermelon back in the fridge because it meant I would have to forego a glass of wine that night.

And talking of wine, basically what feels like a mouthful of wine (100mls) equates to around 80cals, so on drinking days you really have to be careful about how many food calories you consume or switch to spirits which are generally kinder.

It’s amazing what you discover. I won’t bore you with the calorific content of every food faux-ami – i.e. foods we thought were healthy but turn out to be wickedly calorific – That’s right SALMON, I’m talking about you – but who knew that trail mix, coffee, and chocolate were so bloody fattening? Or that a shot of Cointreau is a whopping 91 calories?

Where the fun really comes in is seeing how much yoghurt or muesli you can squeeze into a quarter of a cup; or how many units of alcohol you can fit in without starving; and what you can eat with those precious six calories left at the end of the day – suffice it to say, I’m still trying to work out the value of a single M&M.

The experience has certainly been an education – one I won’t be repeating as soon as I get down to a svelte size 12 over the next week or so.

Can I Suggest Eating Mindfully This Christmas Rather Than Dieting?

Let’s make a pact and enforce a community embargo against dieting this Christmas.

I won’t be dieting. In fact, I will be eating all of the pigs-in-blanket, swigging the whole jug of brandy custard, and scoffing every one of the purple Quality Street!

In Joanna Nell’s book, The Single Ladies Of Jacaranda Village, her doctor advises 80-something Peggy not to diet, but rather to ‘start eating mindfully.’ He elaborates: ‘I want you to think about every single thing you put into your mouth. I want you to taste it as you chew and listen to your body so you can work out when you’ve had enough.’

Easier said than done, I know – particularly at Christmas and when you’ve been raised by a war baby. And yet, the words of Peggy’s doctor really do make sense. He wants her to think more carefully about her relationship with food along with other adjustments to her lifestyle that will help her maintain her weight, rather than increase it.

No one should be miserable or deny themselves at Christmas, but it’s important to recognize when you’re full, make smart choices about what you eat, and exercise.

I’ve been trying to find that balance for a while. In calorie-speak, I have learned that when if I want a wine or two at night, I need to sacrifice bad carbs (such as potatoes or rice) with my dinner; I know that drinking water during the day fills me up and that chewing my food more slowly helps me feel more satisfied. I am also aware that the first mouthful of food is like the first sip of wine – it’s always the best!

I suppose that what I have been doing unconsciously for a while is eating more mindfully. The “eating healthily” part is easy for me – I love healthy food – although portion control, not so much. But I have also pushed myself to incorporate exercise into my routine each day. I don’t go on the scales anymore – why, when there are still women being murdered and Trump to depress me? – so instead, I gauge my weight by how my clothes fit.

Sadly, gauging your weight by how your clothes fit is becoming an increasingly difficult exercise due to the way that women’s sizing works.

The other day I tried on a bikini top in Bonds. I do not have a large bust, but because I have always carried some extra weight had a wide back (and didn’t want to spoil my day quite so early on), I attempted to be realistic and opted first for a size Large… moved swiftly onto the Extra-Large… and then, instead of beating myself up about it (and cutting up the Extra-Large into tiny pieces and shoving them down the front of the lovely sales assistant’s dress), I walked out of that shop with my head held high.

Generally, I wear a size 12-14 in tops, and yet I couldn’t squeeze my puppies into an Extra-Large. How can that make sense when the average size of women in Australia is a size 16?

So what do we do? How do we cater for the range of different shapes and sizes that women come in, without encouraging obesity? The only solution that I can see is education. 

I’m no scientist, but I’m always surprised by how little most people understand about the risks associated with processed food, portion control, sugar and the way our metabolism slows down with age. And that’s without taking into account the emotional eaters and drinkers among us or those of us in menopause.

I stopped self-flagellating over bad eating days a while ago. Like everyone, I have shit to deal with. Some days I feel on top of the world and others I want to never leave the house, and even though food is not my natural go-to substitute for happiness or self-medication – I’m wino! – I am guilty of major blow-outs like everyone else.

However, I’ve changed the way I handle them, which has nothing to do with the fact that I feel invisible anyway, or because these days I give zero fucks about pretty much most things, or even the emergence (finally) of some middle-aged wisdom. The alternative to getting depressed about something that is pretty irrelevant in my life right now – even if the magazines try to convince us otherwise – is to try to think calmly and positively for a solution to reverse the damage – such as half wine-half water, a few more salads, or some brisker walks. 

I’m already looking forward to those brisk walks this Christmas.

Have you got any other tips to share about eating mindfully? 

How The F*ck Am I A Size 16?

I know that we all have inherent body image issues to some degree, not aided by the pressure put on women, in particular, to squeeze into Barbie- sized clothes deemed acceptable by society due to the influence of the media – even though the average size in Australia is now a size 16. air-kiss-1255358_1920

But I can’t say I’ve ever really struggled with my weight – or perhaps I just didn’t care enough – until now. I’ve been a 12 for most of my life, bordering on 14 at certain times (of the month) and a nervous 10 just before my wedding day.

 

I stopped weighing myself after an over-enthusiastic two weeks in London last year, and although I consider myself a glass empty kind of gal, I am the type of woman that looks in the mirror each day and thinks I look okay. That is until  I go clothes shopping. In the past, I’ve put this anomaly in sizing down to a male-led conspiracy in the women’s fashion retail sector which means I’ve had to come to terms with keeping my eyes shut until I reach the plus size floor in Myer, but now I’m not so sure.

 

One day on my holiday,  a few cocktails in, as the tropical island spirit of ‘not worrying… about a thing’ finally took hold, I decided to go shopping for a new swimming cossie. I’ve written about this Armageddon for womankind before, and suffice it to say, my newfound holiday positivity did not help me at all to cope with the savagery of it, and twenty-five cossies later (just to make sure), I left the store with a size 16.

 

I’m still hoping that this setback isn’t karma related to all the photos I took of the old man in my bikini bottoms (here), but I’m beginning to think now, that simply maintaining my weight is almost as big an impossibility as Trump not being impeached. Don’t worry, I’m not beating myself up about it, looking at myself in disgust in the mirror or self-flagellating in front of photos of Elle McPherson each night – but I am frustrated.

 

‘It’s cortisol,’ a friend of mine explained. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress, which in real terms means that it instructs any excess fat in your body to move to your tummy area when you’re already feeling like shit.

 

‘I thought you lost weight when you’re stressed?’ I argued, ‘and anyway, I’m not feeling stressed.’

 

And then she reminded me about my ongoing worries about Kurt and the latest rejections of my writing, my father coming over at Christmas and how awful I looked in NC’s graduation photos – she’s a good friend – and it kind of made sense. Even though I’m not as stressed as I was…apart from the usual symptoms of anxiety that make me catastrophize over every damn thing like the crick in my neck which I’m convinced is cancer.

 

So, what’s really going on in my body? I don’t want or need to be a size 12 – I think skinny, older women can appear gaunt and look older. But on the whole, I eat healthily. Admittedly, crisps do hold a dangerous fascination, particularly around 5 pm each evening when I start on the wine, although I do make allowances for my wine by cutting out most carbs, as well as committing to my 10,000 steps each day (to the fridge, for wine) and I have even been known to pick up the pace if it’s a particularly good year. And my FitBit assures me that what’s going in is roughly the same as what’s going out.

 

So, WTF’s going on?

Middle-Age: The Best Way To Gain Kilos Without Really Trying

diet-403588_1920

Do you, like me, sometimes look in the mirror and secretly wish you were larger? Are you disappointed when you can pinch less than an inch, or can’t find clothes that fit because you’re simply too small? Do you watch other women on the beach flaunting their curves and muffin tops, and imagine yourself in their body? 

Well, worry no more because I’m about to share with you here my secret for gaining weight. And all that’s required for you to look YOUR BEST EVER YET is to be 1. Peri/menopausal, 2. A serious food junkie, and 3. A functioning alcoholic with a positive outlook.

I promise you it’s REALLY simple.

Here are my top tips for gaining weight in middle-age:

Holidays – The more the better, because…BUFFET BREAKFAST! Every one of us knows how easy it is to eat compulsively on holiday and pile on the pounds. Somehow, it’s so much easier to forget food discipline when the sun is shining and you can wear kaftans. Holidays gives you that free pass to eat as much as you can because in your head you’ve worked hard all year and your deserve it. Scientists have proven that our mindset changes as soon as we see an ice cream parlour or a cocktail bar in a relaxed environment where there is no-one we know to judge us.

Menopause – Thank God that our bodies think of us and protect us at what could be a difficult time of our lives, and one of the hardest transition periods of the ageing process for women. But ladies, I’m here to tell you that Menopause is our friend, proven by the way it increases our appetite to make us feel mentally stronger and better about ourselves, as well as laying down extra fatty tissue to protect our bones so we are physically stronger as well.

Serial snacking, is how I like to describe the chips n’dips that I like to indulge in right before meals (as well as mid-morning and mid-afternoon). I like to kid myself that eating natural, savoury snacks like hummus and peanut butter, i.e., foods that look low in calories, really are.

Meditation – Or what I like to call ‘mind over matter.’ I use the power of my mind to think about what food is in my cupboard – like ALL OF THE TIME. Obviously, I continue to count calories, but I use a reverse psychology where I have to think about how many calories I can gain. Scientists may remain uncertain about the true benefits of sugar consumption, but what we do know is how good it makes me feel and that’s good enough for me.

Alcohol – The jury may still be out about how much alcohol it is safe to consume, so I’ve decided to empower myself and run my own research at home.

Exercise – Step away from the gym because it turns out that it is not your friend when it comes to gaining weight. Exercise turns fat into muscle, makes you drink loads of water (which fills you up when really donuts feel so much better), and worse, it makes you incredibly boring. Have you noticed the reaction of your friends’ to tales about your work outs, new gym equipment and yoga? Instead, try mentioning that Amaretto ricotta cheesecake with white chocolate shards you baked recently and ate in one sitting.

The best part about this diet is that anyone can do it. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t eaten exactly what they wanted without gaining weight. It’s almost guaranteed! No more disappointment each time you get on the scales!

The Secrets Of Trade Off Dieting

There are certain topics that even I won’t discuss on this blog, and one of them is ‘poo’. An article was doing the rounds on Facebook the other day that contained images of different poo textures and what they symbolise in terms of your health and I found it absolutely no problem at all to ignore it.

Secrets Of The Trading Off Diet
Vintage Balance Scale by Joie de Cleve, found on Flickr.com

When it comes to ‘poo’, I’m a great believer in the adage that if it floats, everything is probably okay.

The only time I might take more than a glance at my poo is if it changes in any way, which happened last night, when I was struck down by a rare bout of diarrhoea in Byron. Inevitably, I was away from home, sleeping in the crisp-white, freshly laundered sheets of my guest house, but hell, it made a change from the usual holiday period to worry about!

Any change in my bowel habits is a pretty unusual occurrence so normally I might have felt some concern, but on this occasion I have to admit to experiencing an inordinate surge of pleasure as I rid most of the contents of my intestines.

You see, only hours beforehand I had consumed a whole bag of Pods on my own.

This was an extreme example of my approach to weight maintenance, which I like to call Trade Off dieting.

Now I realize that example probably sounds slightly radical to you, but when it comes to the balance between what goes in your mouth, and how much weight you gain, I know there’s no rocket science involved, and that if you like your food like me, balance has to be about careful trade offs – particularly once you reach middle age.

So the moral of last night is, that if you pig out on a whole bag of Pods and then are lucky enough for your gluttony to induce a bout of diarrhoea, the gods are obviously smiling down on you.

After thirty years of a roller-coaster when it comes to weight gain and loss, I GET calories now; I know how the psychology of those pesky little critters work and I know what I can and can’t eat. I know that if I want to knock back two glasses of wine in an evening, I need to eliminate carbs from dinner and forego any morning or afternoon tea snacks, no matter how healthy they are. It’s simple mathematics. I know now that I can NEVER eat dessert or cake because I have to counterbalance my other, preferred dietary transgressions.

My personal vice is chips. Some people think you’re lucky if you prefer ‘savoury’ food to ‘sweet’, but that’s a fallacy put out there by the cookie monsters who are always looking for excuses for their own bad habits. Whereas they might take their comfort from a packet of biscuits (or five), put a vat of humus or a plate of cheese in front of me and watch it disappear quicker than a bat out of hell.

And the bigger issue is that I don’t feel anywhere near the same level of shame as when I eat an entire bag of Pods, so it takes the brakes a lot longer to engage.

I’ve always felt an innate shame linked to sugar, probably because I was raised in the Medieval times when lollies were a Sunday treat. ‘Guilt’ means I don’t experience that ‘high’ or ‘rush’ you’re supposed to feel after sugar, although that may also be because, in general, my diet has had to become boringly healthy these days.

There is no doubt in my mind that last night’s diarrhoea was a Pod-induced drive by my body to purge my system.

However, I resort to much more comfort-eating these days, which I could blame on menopause, because I realize that my body is kindly layering a thicker foundation of fat around my bones to protect them – (thanks Meno)– but is more likely due to the stress of trying to cross the psychological bridge of ageing. Apparently, that journey is called the u-bend of middle age, and is responsible for all those male midlife crises, too.

It’s a strange phenomenon, because although I have always loved food, I have never used food as a comforting mechanism or particularly enjoyed over-indulgence in the past. I had far worst vices like cigarettes and wine to get me through the angsty periods of my younger years, so biscuits never really stood a chance.

And up until recently, the self-imposed regulations of my Trade Off dieting have worked quite successfully. Sure, I’ve slowly gained what appear to be a requisite number of middle-aged extra kilos each year over the past decade, but an increase in exercise and brutal self-denial have kept some of that potential weight-gain at bay.

But recently I have noticed that something has begun to tamper with my will power and the trade-offs are getting harder to balance. As the big 50 approaches, a revolutionary ‘fuck it’ attitude has begun to compromise my judgement when it comes to food, causing internal confusion. The confusion of happiness versus weight gain. Eating is much more fun now we have more income at our disposal to go to nice restaurants and can get out more easily. Eating out has become a hobby that both the old man and I enjoy and we can even enjoy it together. With the wisdom of middle age, I realise that it’s important to enjoy the excesses that my body will still allow me to enjoy because happiness is one of the main factors to contribute to long life and so I want to make the most of every day; and sometimes that might include new food experiences and over-indulgence.

That first glass of wine of the day just isn’t the same anymore without a bag of Veggie Chips and some beetroot dip; and I’ve grown equally partial to an intravenous-drip of homemade hummus while I work.

How do you control your weight?

25 Diet Questions You Know You Want To Ask

Dear Diet Helpline,

25 Questions About Dieting You Know You Want To AskI recently started your ‘How To Be Really Miserable Without Even Trying’ diet, but have since noticed some worrying side effects. I am aware that not all diets suit every body-type, because each person has a different metabolism and physiology, but please would you reassure me that this is the right diet for me by answering the following questions:

  1. If your diet is so ‘easy’ and ‘satisfying’, why am I always so psychotically angry and hungry?
  2. Why haven’t I lost any weight yet when I’ve been on your diet for five days now?
  3. Why can’t I still fit into anything at my local surf shop?
  4. Why does cutting out sugar make me want to take an axe to my husband’s head every time he looks at me?
  5. Can anyone actually eat quinoa, bulgur wheat, kale, buckwheat noodles or seeds without retching?
  6. Do organic chips really count as carbs?
  7. Why don’t I feel ‘full of life, confident, energised and happy’ yet, as described on your website?
  8. Why do all the healthy drinks you recommend taste like cat piss? Eg. Green tea,  vegetable juices and just about anything with coconut water.
  9. What does ‘bikini ready’ actually mean and will it involve trimming?
  10. Why do I want to eat my weight in Big Macs after jogging?
  11. Does stopping for coffee during exercise count as interval training?
  12. Can jogging really cause a pelvic prolapse?
  13. Is my husband right when he says that sex is the best form of exercise?
  14. Does lying there while we have sex and thinking about Jared Leto’s hair and Chris Hemsworth’s chest count as exercise?
  15. Is it normal to clear a shopping centre with wind?
  16. Does having a pelvic prolapse prevent you from having to have sex?
  17. Is it normal for me to miss Snickers bars more than my deceased grandmother?
  18. Why is my sleep continually disturbed by visions of Chris Hemsworth in his Thor costume delivering pizza to my door?
  19. Does a salad without crispy bacon and croutons even count as a meal?
  20. How much is too much cucumber?
  21. According to your website, nuts, bananas and avocados are fattening? FML.
  22. Has it been scientifically proven that fruit is full of sugar?
  23. I read on Pinterest that chocolate is a vegetable? Please confirm?
  24. Is it normal for my skin to be a fluorescent shade of ‘Hewitt orange’ since replacing my Snickers bars with carrots?
  25. Do cocktails count as shakes?

Yours truly,

Mrs FuckNewYearsResolutions

The ‘Replacing Food With Wine’ Diet For Women

I’ve never really been one for diet fads or exercise.

Food and wine pairing at the fine dining resta...
Food and wine pairing at the fine dining restaurant, The Flute, in downtown Mumbai. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not that I’m one of those lucky skinny bitches with an irritatingly fast metabolic rate who end up slimmer than before they had babies; I’m just fundamentally too lazy to be arsed.

I also REALLY like food.

I honestly believe that a little extra meat on your bones looks a damn sight healthier than the skeletal look as you age.

Lucky that!

Having said that, I admit that I am a good (ahem!) 20kg heavier than I was on my wedding day and I don’t really want to get any heavier, so to maintain this new (just about acceptable) middle aged weight, I’ve had to make some radical adjustments to my lifestyle.

Such as:

  • Working my ass off in whatever my latest fad exercise is
  • Walking the dog when I can be bothered or she makes me feel guilty enough
  • Creating a personal diet plan that includes wine suits me.

The problem with all those commercial ‘diets’ with controlled eating plans, those ‘questionably thick’ shakes, putrid soups or just lemon juice (WTF), is that they don’t allow for you having a life, and although they might bring results in the short term, maintaining that new weight proves difficult once you get off the diet treadmill.

Scientists have proven that once you reach middle age (just when your comfort-eating skills have maximised), your body doesn’t need the same amount of calories as it did before – it also takes malicious pleasure in depositing the surplus.

I am a strong advocate of ‘The Replacing Food With Wine Diet.’

You see, the biggest problem I have with watching my weight is that I am an alcoholic.

The fact is, that I enjoy a glass or two of wine in the evening so much, that I am happy to sacrifice food for it.

And there’s nothing controversial in that statement – even Weightwatchers allow you to drink wine if you save the points elsewhere. If you need any more justification, wine is apparently now beneficial for heart health (well, this week anyway).

There’s actually no massive secret to maintaining a healthy weight when you reach middle age, but it does involve hard work and discipline in the form of exercise and a calorie-controlled diet.

Deciding what those calories will be is the fun part.

Here’s an example of my typical day (give or take a few hundred calories):

Breakfast

Bowl of cereal or scrambled eggs on toast, juice and coffee

Morning Snack

A real coffee or some fruit

Lunch

Sandwich and fruit,

or soup, bread and fruit,

or crackers, cheese and fruit

or (a Weightwatcher’s favourite), beans on toast

(Sneaky biscuit)

Lunchtime is when I eat carbs. If I don’t eat carbs at lunchtime, I put on weight because I start gnawing on my own arm or attack the cookie jar by 4pm.

Afternoon Snack

Cup of tea and biscuit

Dinner

Lean meat or fish, with salad.

Reward Time For Being So Inhumanely Stoic (Orgasm Time)

1-2 glasses of wine and a few squares of the darkest, sexiest chocolate I can find.

This diet seems to work for me – at the moment. I probably consume in the region of 1500 to 1700 calories per day, but I do try to exercise at least three times a week. I know the recommended amount of exercise is 30 minutes per day but P.L.E.A.S.E!

My diet is noticeably low in fat/cholesterol due to a genetic cholesterol issue, but sometimes if I’m feeling really crazy, I might sneak in a yoghurt or smoothie instead of fruit.

I’m not what you’d call slim, but my weight hasn’t really changed over the last three years, and with menopause looming, I realise that my diet plan will need revising at some point – I may then be forced to cut out food altogether.

Crème brûlée (Creme Brulee)
Crème brûlée (Creme Brulee) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rest assured, I am no saint and at the weekends I love to ‘eat all the pies’ as much as the next person. But I do make informed choices. If I do have a big meal out, I’ll try and cut back the next day and I always endeavour to opt for Asian food (except Chinese) which is usually less fatty. (Actually that’s a blatant lie – my penchant for Creme Brulee, may go some way to explaining my Rubenesque hips).

But the best thing about The Replacing Food With Wine Diet is that you always feel content because you’re pissed full all the time.

Have you found a diet that works for you?