Did anyone watch the Australian Biggest Loser Finale on Tuesday night? The contestants blew me away with how much weight they had shed in only 4 months!!! I am not taking away from anyone here, because you don’t lose that amount of weight without making big changes to your diet and lifestyle. Anyone who watched what the contestants were subjected to by their trainers knows that they endured a lot of blood, sweat and tears. So kudos to all of them for their efforts, they deserve to be very proud of themselves. However, the big challenge for them will be to keep that weight off, indefinitely, because let’s face it, the very nature of radical diets means that they are doomed to fail.
Andrew and I get asked all the time ‘are you STILL on your diet?’ as if what we have achieved over the past eight years was only ever meant to be a temporary fix to knock off those extra (um like 60) kilos. I can assure you, that although we often say no to unhealthy foods, we are definitely not on a diet! What we have managed to achieve however, is a complete food and lifestyle overhaul. We consider ourselves clean eaters in that we avoid processed foods and sugar but in saying that, we hardly deprive ourselves. You have probably worked out by now that we eat really delicious food – a lot of it! But we also let our hair down every now and again. We are not the type of people who beat ourselves up (too much) if it is too difficult to eat clean when we are out or on holidays and we do enjoy a drink or 2 – just not with sugary mixers. Life is short so we like to make the most of it! What we have discovered is that by turning our health around, we actually prefer good clean food and happily make healthy choices whenever possible, but again, that choice is not a deprivation, which is what a diet is really designed to do.
Traditional ‘diet’ foods substitute chemical sweeteners for sugar, and low fat rather than full fat, however these are not healthy foods. If you don’t recognise something on the ingredient panel (i.e. because it is a number or specified chemical compound which ‘diet’ foods are full of) – your body isn’t going to recognise it either! And I can guarantee that if your body doesn’t recognise it as food, your whole system is going to be confused as it tries to deal with its disposal. This is where I have a big problem with the way traditional diets treat all calories as equal – just because these chemical concoctions have little or no calories, does not make them a healthy choice. In fact just the opposite!!! I remember years ago being on the Weight Watchers diet where I happily drank a daily diet coke or 3, and indulged in artifically sweetened, low fat yoghurts and ice cream and was rewarded by the programme for doing so. So unhealthy!
And I should probably mention that when I met Andrew in 2001 he had just lost about 25 kilos with Jenny Craig, all of which he put on, with interest, over our early years together. You can read more about his weight loss journey here.
Also most low fat versions of many foods have a higher sugar content to make them more palatable and there is so much information and research out there to show that it is sugar not fat that is our real enemy here. Check out my blog post on good and bad fats here.
Since I started The Shrinking Hubby I have had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to so many people who are following my blog or Facebook page and are genuinely benefiting from our story. Whether they themselves struggle with their weight or their partner or child has this issue. They all want to know how a 150 kg plus man had the discipline to lose 60 kilos through clean eating and exercise (without lap band or similar surgery) and kept it off!
I won’t lie to you, it hasn’t always been easy. Andrew’s success is largely due to the support network he has (and still has). Initially The Food Coach and myself, and then a lot of it was just me. We also have a fantastic trainer, and a great network of people we train with which is very motivating (especially at 6am in the middle of winter!) But having said that, Andrew really needed to commit and it was he who made the decision to embark on this journey and make the changes. He deserves most of the credit for the discipline that he continues to incorporate in his daily life.
You don’t get to 150 kilos simply because you have a love of chocolate or pizza. It is deeper than that. For many overweight people, food is much more than nutrition and enjoyment. It is used as a tool to deal with other issues and it makes changing the diet and getting rid of unhealthy foods really difficult. So it’s important to acknowledge the emotional side of being overweight as well as the diet and exercise front.
Of course initially, there was a lot of hard work to be done by Andrew. His diet was pretty bad, there was a lot of binging on sugar, diet coke, alcohol, fried foods etc … but once we cut out a lot of that stuff, and once he started exercising and feeling really good about himself, he really enjoyed introducing fresh, healthy and new foods into his life.
When you eat well, exercise and generally look after your body the way it deserves to be treated, you reap wonderful benefits and your quality of life improves so much. It’s more than just about your waistline (although that definitely is a pleasant side-effect), it is about that spring in your step and extra energy every day. So, no, we are NOT on a diet – this is for life!!!