It’s a rude shock, getting older. There you are, cruising along, thinking you know your body and then suddenly 30 comes along. And in the following years, the diet you followed to keep you on the straight an narrow, in the same clothes, feeling the same way, fails you.
Then if babies come along it all goes kablooie and you’re left with that fucking unshiftable bloody half stone that won’t go. And then you get to 35 and it’s just war to stay at the weight you know you ought to be.
At 27 you are a furnace, burning up calories merrily; after 35 you’re like an old rusty, slightly blocked log burner possibly with a couple of ravens nesting at the top of the flue.
You have a choice. You can either decide that life is too short for this, accept a new body shape and move on.
Or you have to adapt and change your approach to food. Not least because a) eating the same old things gets boring and b) as we get older, we need more of some things and less of others. Eating the same things in your 30s as you did in your teens or 20s is like wearing the same clothes or having the same opinions. It all has to change.
I think it’s safe to say we’re now in a post-Atkins world and Dr Robert Atkins left a few good legacies, and some bad ones.
The good thing about Atkins was that it taught the world that refined sugar is the fucking devil.
Sugary shit in bright packets, white pasta and white bread will set you off on a horrendous blood sugar spike/crash rollercoaster, damage your teeth, do nothing at all except make you want more, then make you fat then give you cancer then kill you. If you’re over 18 there is no excuse for eating any of it, ever, unless it’s a fucking emergency.
(And don’t start talking to me, please, about “treats”. Ugh. “It’s a treat”, “treat day” – both phrases make me want to set fire to things. Categorising some food as a “treat” and some food as not will make you feel like every time you’re not having a “treat” – like a dog being trained to ride a skateboard – then you’re somehow being punished.
Don’t think about food like that. Think about what you want to achieve – eating this kind of food and in this way will do these things to your body, eating that kind of food that way will do other things. And that’s all there is to it.)
The bad thing about Atkins was that we have broadly forgotten the central message about ketosis and just taken from it what we want, i.e. cream and cheese and meat is great, pasta and potatoes are bad.
I was following a “kind of” Atkins diet, scoffing stews and roasts and all kind of meat and cream in any quantity, while still eating fruit and sourdough toast for breakfast. Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Unless you’re going to do Atkins properly, foul-breath and all, don’t bother. Even if you are doing it properly it’s miserable, boring and if you’re a woman over 35 it’s really not good for you.
So what, then, you are screaming at me. What, what? What do I do?
In the next 18 months the buzzwords in the diet industry are going to be portion control, fibre and gut health. This basically means you need to eat less all round, more fibre and more fermented stuff. And that’s broadly it.
First let’s have a pep talk about portion control.
Every diet, everywhere ever written has some element of calorie restriction or calorie counting about it. There is simply no getting away from the fact that if you want to lose weight you have to eat less. And as you get older you need fewer calories anyway.
(For some people, that means 5:2. Personally, I can’t do that. I don’t eat much but I stop short of actual regular fasting.)
Exercise doesn’t even really come into it; unless you are really doing a shiteload of cardio, it’s diet that matters more. I read that somewhere! I’m not completely making this up.
There are two kinds of over-eaters – emotional overeaters and habitual overeaters. If you are an emotional overeater 6 weeks of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will sort you out. *** (For a note on this please see a comment from Laura on the subject in the comments section.)
If you are, like me, a habitual overeater, you just need to reassess your portions, even if you have a good diet. Do you really need to eat that much muesli? A bowl of stew doesn’t have to be brimful.
I feel like I’m ranting now but you get the picture…
Anyway homework today is to have a think about portion sizes because you could perhaps lose whatever weight you want to lose just by reducing what you eat by 1/4 without making any other immediate changes to your diet.
Next time, we’re going to go back to the 80s and talk about FIBRE.