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Having ignored the visual cues for far too long, and also Shelli’s oh-so-subtle comments, it was time I faced up to the fact that I was indeed fat. I wasn’t at my biggest (196 lbs / 14 stone) but I was well on the way weighing in at 188 lbs / 13 stone 6 lbs, with a BMI of 28.5!

Before anyone shouts, yes, I know BMI isn’t an exact science. In fact, depending on your body shape, it can be ridiculously inaccurate. That said, unless you’re a muscle-bound fitness fanatic – which I most certainly am not – it’s a reasonable measure and that’s how I’ve always taken it.

So, with a BMI of 28.5 (30 being classified as being obese) something had to be done, although I wasn’t looking to get down to a BMI of 25 as that would be mental.

To get a BMI of 25 I would have to get down to 165 lbs / 11 stone 11 lbs, something I didn’t manage to do after walking up the country. As I’m sure anyone who saw me when I first got back from the walk will agree, I was too thin then!

My target: to get down to 168 lbs / 12 stone, which would mean a BMI of 25.5, which would be a lot better than 28.5 and good enough in my books.

The Problem

I spotted a cartoon drawing the other day on my tour of the interwebs that pretty much summed up the problem I have. Here it is (click on it to see a bigger version):

It wasn’t so much the feeling full bit but more the absent-mindedly eating, and then forgetting about, all of the snacks each day.

I love my snacks, and I love my food, but exercise-wise I clearly wasn’t keeping up with everything that I was shovelling into my mouth. Was it any wonder I’d put on so much weight?

And therein lies the problem. For as long as I can remember I’ve relied on exercise to save the day. With the level of exercise I used to undertake it didn’t really matter too much what I ate.

I think I’ve proven on some level over the last few years that it’s [almost] possible to out-exercise a bad diet, but ultimately that’s not really a solution. Unless you’re really fortunate you can’t dedicate most of the day to exercise to counteract the thousands of calories consumed.

What to do?

It was obvious after the realisation above that a different approach was needed this time. Yes, I could drag myself out for a run every morning/evening to battle the fat but putting myself under that sort of pressure was something I didn’t want to do.

Instead of doing the mad miles and losing all of my time to running and cycling I decided that it would be better to concentrate on what I was eating.

By that I don’t mean going on a crazy or fad diet and hoping that that would do the job. No. What I mean by that was to be more mindful of what I was eating, how much I was eating, and ultimately what that meant calorie-wise on a daily basis.

This was something I’d never really done before so it was going to be unknown territory for me.

As you’d expect, I did a bit of research to see what tool(s) would be best to use to achieve that goal without making it too time-consuming or complicated. For this to work it had to be something simple and easy to use otherwise there was a risk I’d give up using it.

I eventually decided to use myfitnesspal. They have an app and a pretty decent website, both of which are free and have access to their huge database of foods so there really was little effort in recording things especially using the bar-code reader built into the app!

I set up a free account, after which I set up my goal, which was to lose 1 lb a week. I didn’t want to set the goal too high as I ultimately didn’t want to set myself up to fail, plus that’s a healthy amount of weight to lose each week.

Entering my age, height, weight, activity level etc. myfitnesspal reckoned I should be limiting myself to the following each day:

Daily Limits
Calories Carbs (g) Fat (g) Protein (g) Sodium (mg) Sugar (g)
1650 206 55 81 2300 60

So, with my goal in place, on the 22nd April I started to record absolutely everything I ate or drank throughout the day. I mean everything. If I had a single biscuit it went into the app/site. If I had a tic-tac, it got recorded.

If I wasn’t completely and utterly brutally honest with what I was recording then what was the point in doing it? Missing things off because I wasn’t happy with them would be the same as “forgetting” what I’d eaten that day.

As well as the food/drink consumed I started to record any exercise I did each day, and also my weight so that I had a full record to review and to – hopefully – inspire me to carry on.

The “Diet”

The main aim of using the app/website to track what I ate was really for it to be a check-point before putting food in my mouth. If I wasn’t happy with how the numbers would look if I had a cake, for example, then that would hopefully stop me from having it.

That said, I didn’t want to put anything off limits. If I wanted a cake and I had calories to do it then why not have it? The same went for pretty much anything. It was important that during this “diet” that I could eat anything I wanted.

I made sure that I kept it up to date throughout the day so that I was always aware of how the numbers looked and what I had left for the day.

This definitely helped when it came to overindulging as it didn’t happen by accident; it was a concious choice to go over and therefore didn’t make me feel guilty for doing so.

As you would expect, having such a check in place actually changed my eating habits. Gone were a lot of the bad things I was eating, replaced by healthier snacks and meals, which is no bad thing.

The Results

68 days after I started my “diet” I reached 167.6 lbs, taking me to just under 12 stone. To be honest I was shocked that the weight came off as quickly as it did, especially considering that I really didn’t up my exercise levels madly over that time. Most days it was just the distance recorded on my pedometer and that was it.

I won’t lie, I was hungry most days while I lost the weight. Pretty much at no point did my body get used to taking in the smaller number of calories. I don’t really understand that but I’m sure there’s a good reason for it.

Regardless of what I was actually eating, as long as I was keeping around my daily limits the weight came off.

Yes, there were a number of times I completely blew the limits out of the water, but this comes back to the point I was making earlier: this wasn’t a diet and I didn’t want to limit what I was allowed to eat.

Going Forwards

Having reached my target weight I changed my goal on myfitnesspal to remaining at the same weight, much as I did when I set it how much I wanted to lose each week. Plugging in the numbers again it reckoned I should be limiting myself to the following each day:

Daily Limits
Calories Carbs (g) Fat (g) Protein (g) Sodium (mg) Sugar (g)
2040 255 68 102 2300 77

I must admit, the jump in calories seemed a bit much and, even after a number of days working to these new limits, I found myself almost eating things for the sake of eating them just because I had calories left over for the day.

I’m not sure that’s a particularly good thing so I’ve decided to rely on my stomach to tell me when it needs something to eat. With some extra calories available each day hopefully feeling hungry won’t be an issue now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going mental and just eating stupidly. I’m still tracking everything I eat and drink and I’m still very aware of the daily limits I’ve got in place. I don’t want to put all of the weight back on and so far it seems to be working as I’ve remained within a pound or so of my target weight. I am however eating just over 1800 calories a day on average, making my initial concerns about the estimated calorie intake justified.

Unfortunately, because of my love for snacks I think this is something I’m going to have to keep track of every day to make sure I’m not slipping back into my bad old ways. That will be a small price to pay to make sure I don’t end up so badly overweight again!