“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates
A few years ago, my body wasn’t in great shape, so I embarked on my first ever diet. After gradually losing just under ~40lbs (17kg) over a two year period, and consistently keeping the weight off for more than 12 months, these are some of lessons that I learnt along the way.
1. Be very careful about what you read and who you listen to about food and nutrition. The whole sector is awash in fad diets, pseudo-science, biased industry-funded research and fake experts. Even qualified nutritionists or dieticians can sometimes fundamentally disagree on what constitutes a healthy diet. In this post, I’m speaking solely about my personal experience.
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need”. Ayurvedic proverb
2. The primary cause of my weight gain was sugar intake. By sugar, I mean alcohol, simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice, cakes, biscuits, sweets etc), fruit juice (rather than whole fruit) and sugary drinks. I highly recommend the book “Fat Chance” by Dr Robert Lustig. A lecture that he gave on his findings is available on YouTube. Breaking my sugar addiction was the hardest part of dieting and it was the first thing that I tackled. It was tough…kind of like when you start doing exercise and the first ten minutes are always the worst.
3. Learning to manage my blood sugar was the key to breaking my sugar addiction. I started having 5 small meals a day (all of them including a portion of protein). Avoiding getting too hungry helped me to wean myself off the mid-afternoon munchies and now I don’t need to do this anymore.
5. The 5:2 diet also worked. I lost the other half of my weight by intermittent fasting. This means eating a “normal” amount of calories five days a week and then reducing to 500 calories two days a week. On the “diet days” I typically had a dinner of stir-fried vegetables and protein. Interestingly during this period, I wasn’t doing any intensive exercise, so I definitely found that it was possible to lose weight through diet rather than exercise.
6. Some of my weight retention was for reasons entirely unrelated to diet and exercise. For several months, I reached a plateau and was struggling to lose weight below a certain level. I talk extensively about repressed emotions on this blog, but yet again one of the reasons for my weight gain was accumulated stress from repressed emotions. Meditation, yoga, exercise, breathing exercises all helped, but it was only after a soul retrieval, that my body released the final 3kg/6.6lbs.
7. I still weigh myself every day. Peter Drucker was right “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.
8. For the past year, I’ve settled on a whole food plant based diet. This is a diet centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants ie fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and excludes or minimizes meat, fish, dairy products and eggs.
“Real food doesn’t ‘have’ ingredients. Real food IS ingredients” – Jamie Oliver
9. Somewhere along the way, my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) disappeared. IBS is thought to affect 1 in 5 people at some point in their life. Dealing with the symptoms was one of the triggers to change my lifestyle. The exact cause of IBS is unknown and women are twice as likely to suffer from IBS than men.
10. You are what you eat. Gaining and shedding weight and finding the diet that suited my body in the process was definitely a foundation for seeking a broader balance between mind, body and spirit.
“And I said to my body. Softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this’. – Nayyirah Waheed.
Featured image by Paola Kizette Cimenti via Flickr, published under non-commercial creative commons license.