One of the most common questions that I get asked when people want to know about my weight loss is whether I went on a crazy strict diet or if I made any drastic changes. I also find people are curious to see what I eat when I eat with them. There is literally too much information out there about food and I am seriously confused by it all. I need to start by saying that I love food ALOT. I mean I was pretty big, that didn't happen because I starved myself. I am also no nutritionist. I can not and will not tell people what to eat. I do make suggestions for things to avoid (sugar, it is evil) but now that we have gotten that out of the way I want to talk about why Food is the F word that people love to talk about and the F word that many people struggle to come to terms with.
When I started to lose weight I did not make any significant changes to my diet. I started training and noticed that the weight would fall off. I actually thought that I had finally cracked the code of weight loss and it was going to be easy. It lasted for about a month before my weight loss plateaued and I realised I would have to make some changes. Allow me to paint you a word picture of what my diet used to be like. Weekdays was usually no breakfast, sometimes a ham and cheese croissant or a bacon egg roll, 3-4 large soy flat whites a day, a schnitzel roll or a plate of pasta for lunch and the dinner was pretty much always take away (lots of it). I used to go through a case of beer a week too. Weekends I would always go the big breakfast and probably throw in another meal either chips at the pub or share a pizza while watching the footy. I drank a lot and I was actually proud of my ability to eat all of my food and then most of everyone else's as well. When I started working out regularly I just kept doing the same thing.
Once I was having success only to have it stop I realised that maybe it was time to make adjustments to what I was eating. I found that there was a really great recipe section on Livestrong.com so me and Dez decided that we were going to start cooking more and watch what we ate a bit more too. As I mentioned before, I love food and at this point I did not eat vegetables at all (except chips). I didn't know anything about nutrition or calories but had seen a recommended daily calorie amount. So I set the search paramaters to low fat and set an upper limit of 500 calories per serve for my dinner. For breakfast I started to have a slice of bread with ham or maybe a bowl of cereal and one coffee. Lunch was often a couple of small chicken rolls I would put together myself. Off I went. It was hard. Really really hard. I decided that I was going to stop eating 'bad food' like burgers, pizza, all my favourites. I was working out twice a day and I was hungry. I became cranky at first and had many many mental struggles with myself to stick to it. This is something that I can still struggle with today. But it got easier.
Now as I have said, I never give nutritional advice. But why I think I was able to manage my new way of eating was because I never considered it a diet. There was no end date, no 16 week limit. I wanted to change how I ate forever. I once saw an interview with a nutrionist and she said the best guide to a diet was if you can see yourself doing it for the rest of your life then you will likely be successful with it. I am not saying that a trendy dinosaur diet or a diet where you drink juice or only eat 5 days a week won't work. I am saying that I believe you will be a nicer, healthier person if you do something that is sustainable for a long time.
So we went on our new food journey and I lost a lot of weight. It was then that I started to train for sport. Training for sport and training for weight loss are completely different. When you do the volume and intensity of training required to compete for endurance sports you may struggle with a limited diet. I however was ignorant and paranoid. Food had this hold over me. If I ate something I knew I shouldn't I would be moody and depressed. It still happens sometimes but not as bad anymore. So I was eating my normal diet but training a lot more (not necessarily volume but intensity and almost exclusively cardio) and I was getting tired and lethargic. I started looking on the internet and there was so much information. One of the constant threads was to eat a balanced diet, get your servings of vegetables. At this time I was watching River Cottage, a UK series about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his adventures as a self-sufficient farmer. One of his series he went vegetarian for 3 months. I was intrigued and I knew I needed to eat more veggies. I sat Dez down and suggested we go vegetarian for a month. I know I married the right woman because instead of laughing at her carnivorous husband she agreed on the spot.
Our vegetarian adventure began. Like with any change to your diet it was hard to begin with. I struggled to feel full and struggled to find good recipes. I love cooking but I had almost no idea how to cook vegetables well. We persevered and discovered some great meals. Amazingly, I started to feel good. I wasn't as fatigued and I was training well. At the end of the month I was excited because I now named some vegetables as my favourite foods, I was energetic and in the process I had dropped about 5kgs. I went back to eating meat, but I started eating more and more vegetables. Currently I eat vegetarian Monday to Friday and then go back to meat on weekends. I won't get into the ethical issues of why I do this but I find it is a good balance for me. I like doing it and I think that is why it easy for me to do it. I don't think I could go vegetarian all the time and I know there are many plant based people who would disagree with me that I could. I simply am not that interested in it to devote that much time to it and I really like eating meat. I also eat meat during the week when I go out for dinner with friends or something. I don't want to be difficult for my friends as it can often be when dieting.
So this has become a lot longer than I meant it to be. The point that I want to make is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to food. The human body is an incredible thing. It will adapt. I stand by the advice that if you can do it forever you will be successful and I admit that i do not like 'fad' diets. But I will never tell someone they are wrong for doing it. I quite simply am not qualified to do so. What I do with my clients though is make them keep a food journal for me. I make them tell me everything that they eat to make them accountable and play on their guilt a little bit. If they have to tell me that they ate a doughnut when they shouldn't have maybe they will avoid it.
I think that if you are going to try a major shift in your diet you should seek professional advice first. I also think that food is on off the best things in the world. I love eating and I love talking about food. But when you start talking about food in this way people start to get cranky and it is why I call it 'The F Word'. It is almost like religion and politics these days. Instead, lets create an open dialogue about food and accept that everyone is different. Not preach to people or get angry at them because they do something different. Food is meant to bring people together not separate them.
So this weekend, talk to a friend, family member or neighbour about food. If you are vegan talk to a meat eater and do it without an agenda. Lets make food fun again. Im going to go now and have a snack before I go to bed.
Stay safe, eat with friends and remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.