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When I was an active Freemason, one of the central tenets was to Know Yourself and now that I’m on this healthy-living journey, this advice seems more relevant than ever. I’m a worrier – always have been and probably always will be, but fortunately I know this about myself so I can manage the impact. Being such a scaredy-cat was quite an impediment growing up and I think I missed out on a whole bunch of exciting things because of it. Anyhow, among the many things I’d worry about was my obesity but, true to form, I’m now worrying that I’m too underweight.
My weight dipped below 82kg which, given that my dietician said 90kg should be my goal weight and that people as obese as I was typically carry between five and seven kilos in excess skin, that means I’m actually about 75kg. Rather than worry – I’ve had a whole bunch of bloods done to confirm that I am a picture of health and am seeing Judy Kotze to discuss my lightness on Wednesday.
But I’ve decided that the only way to overcome my fears is just to, as the sages say, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. Pretty soon I will be able to tell you about an experience that will be testing my physical and emotional fortitudes. The most amazing thing is that I would not even have considered something like this six months ago. But, having successfully completed my second long bike ride, this time a roundtrip from Pringle Bay through Rooiels to the Kogelberg Beach Resort on Clarence Drive, I feel I can overcome any obstacle.
The great thing about overcoming challenges is that it gives me courage to take on even bigger things – whether I worry about them, or not.
When you ask nicely, I find people overwhelmingly obliging. Take pulp kitchen & deli at Willowbridge Mall, for example. I was so impressed with the chicken salad (R49), a good-sized portion of peppery rocket, creamy, perfectly ripe avocado, shaved carrot ribbons, feta and seeds along with other greens served with Willowcreek Director’s Reserve Extra Virgin olive oil and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, that I looked for something else on the menu.
They get their coffee from Deluxe Roasters and I like that they say so on their menu. I feel like a little more action than my usual black Americano and spied a Cool Beans (R22) smoothie. I ask Deonette who was serving me if she could tell me how many calories were in the frozen yogurt used in the smoothie. She returned in a heartbeat to say the owner was going onto Marcel’s Yogurt website to check. Next, I assumed, was the owner to tell me she couldn’t find the information on their site but had called them. Turns out the only person at Marcel’s with that info was not there. The owner then suggested I might prefer a Frozen Latte which is the same thing but without the yogurt.
I would have been satisfied had said she couldn’t get the information I asked for and appreciated her trying to. However, the levels to which they climbed to provide me with what I wanted, not to mention that my salad was delicious and good value for money, means I will make a beeline for pulp kitchen & deli. I will again skip Kauai, which is directly opposite them, because despite calls and two emails to Kauai HQ last year, I still don’t know the nutritional content of the Peanut-butter Bomb if I skip the chocolate.
While I think this experience was exceptional, the other day at Treat –my other go-to spot for a salad lunch, the chef assuming I was gluten-intolerant because I avoid carbs, said she could bake me something with gluten-free flour. Isn’t that great? I had made no special requests but she drew a conclusion, incorrectly but that doesn’t matter, and offered me an alternative.
All diners, those of us on limited diets or not, are better off with restaurants like pulp kitchen and Treat around.
Although on separate sides of the pond, my brother Steven and I both excelled at physical endurances today. He completed the Watford Half-Marathon in 1 hour and 58 minutes while I cycled 34km today to The Palmiet River and back to Pringle Bay. Previously cycling about 20km was my record. I mention this because it proves that we Berkman boys have the genes of athletes and what I had to do was to shed excess weight and get fit to succeed at it. I was pretty tired when I got home but not so tired that I couldn’t have done an extra 10km which is what I’ll aim for next time. Maybe this time next year I will also be able to run a half marathon.
The most extraordinary thing about this is that in May 2012, when the picture of me was taken in The Maldives, not only would this have been impossible for me but I would also have considered you crazy for even suggesting it. If ever you needed proof that what nothing is impossible, I must be it. The second image was taken in Pringle Bay in January 2013.
On re-reading Prof Tim Noakes’ thinking, http://bit.ly/YiiSbr ,I’ve stopped eating porridge for breakfast and instead eating eggs or left-over supper. He also suggests that the notion of eating three meals a day may not be the best for us and admits that he is experimenting with just one meal a day or only eating when hungry. Broadly speaking, a low carbohydrate diet is the single biggest change to previous eating plans and I believe 100% that this has been the key to unlocking my 70kg weight loss. But, and here’s where I’m rethinking things, I used to routinely start my day with cooked oats porridge, a table spoon of dried cranberries and half a banana and I’m also not having artificially sweetened drinks like Sprite Zero which had become my tipple of choice to see if my body functions even better because of it.
Another article, in Time Magazine, http://ti.me/128JDDW suggests that the time of meals may make a significant difference to weight gain/loss and repeats the old age wisdom that we should breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.
I’m also reading Breaking The Food Seduction by Neale Barnard which suggests that there are addictive substances in dairy and meat as well as the better known ones in sugars. So, if I follow their plan, I’ll end up eating mung beans and tofu instead of meat and dairy which, frankly, doesn’t appeal to me.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been sexing up my broccoli with a peanut butter sauce. I know that most brands of peanut butter contain sugar but as I only use about two tablespoons for 700g broccoli I don’t think it is too worrying. What is worrying, however, is that I find myself craving peanut butter which makes me think that perhaps Prof Noakes is also right in suggesting that peanuts are not good choices in terms of their carbo-load.
Now that I’m working to maintain my healthy weight and increase my cardio fitness and muscle strength, this goal has replaced the desire to eat and drink the things I once loved. What I’m getting now is worth so much more to me than what I’ve given up. If you also found a way of internalising this it may help you on your journey to a healthy weight.
Obesity is being blamed, according to a report out of Davos, for 2.8 million deaths a year. The report is from Sapa-AFP and published online by Times Live http://bit.ly/Uwih65. It claims that 1.4 billion of us are overweight and that it is likely to increase to 60% of the world’s adults in two decades. Among the reasons cited for what is being considered by Linda Fried of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University as a pandemic, are the ease of availability and the relative cheapness of high-calorie foods.
I think it also points to a deeper problem that may also explain why divorce rates continue to climb. Somewhere in our recent history we were told, perhaps by Madison Avenue or as a response to post-war life, that things should be easy. I think we must fundamentally change the way we think about this: if we believe life ought to be easy and that if it is easy we are somehow rewarded, I think we believe that when things are hard that they shouldn’t be. Have we lost our ability to tolerate discomfort?
Losing weight, especially for those of us who have been obese all our lives, cannot be remotely considered easy and, yet, I believed it should have been and that experiencing difficulty and discomfort was a signal that it wasn’t meant to be.
Do you think this is why we end relationships as quickly as we do, rather than work hard at them to find a resolution? I get a lot of fulfilment from the challenge of leading a healthy lifestyle and refusing to eat something that I’d like to eat but isn’t good for me. I’ve come to like that it is difficult because it means that I achieve more than maintaining a healthy weight – I achieve a solid sense of being hardworking and achieving something in challenging circumstances.
What spurs me on to increase my fitness now is the affirming feeling of getting better at something. I like the feeling of being stronger and the discomfort in my muscles tells me I’ve worked hard and will be rewarded.
Perhaps if we thought that life ought not to be easy, we might better tolerate the effort and time that it requires to do a good job of it.
Having hard and fast rules about what I will and won’t eat and drink helps me maintain my healthy weight. While my behaviour has changed dramatically, my desires haven’t. I notice, especially when eating with other people who are having desserts when I am not, that I eat more than I need to.
I was very inspired by a documentary, Forks Over Knives, which, among other things, pushes a plant-based diet as the solution for best health. That wasn’t, however, what resonated with me. Two things did: One, the correlation between the Food and Sex motivators linked to our evolutionary imperative of avoiding pain and increasing our species and the other, how because of the increase in the density of calories in processed food (think about the calorie density of corn syrup relative to cane sugar, for example) that we are all unknowingly consuming more calories. Because we are evolutionarily programmed to seek out high-value foods, those that are protein, vitamin and mineral rich and will sustain us for the longest possible time, our bodies report feeling satisfied when we eat high-quality calories and, conversely, not when we eat junk.
I am aware that I continue to eat even when I feel full when others around me are still eating. As I’m an All-or-Nothing kind of guy, it is easier for me not to eat at all than to temper my consumption, albeit of “good quality calories”. My challenge is to find a way of just responding to what I need.
Another thing that Forks over Knives suggests is the insidious and creeping impact of small increases. A little more today and every day onwards very soon amounts to a lot more. When I look back at the many times I lost weight and regained it, it was because of small increases and loosening of my rules little by little.