“I’m not fat – I’m well built.”
“I’m not fat – I’m just in the wrong century.”
“I’m not fat – everyone else is thin.”
It’s supposed to be a more inclusive, less judgemental world we’re living in, yet the concept of “fat shaming” still flourishes. And that’s pretty unfair on those of us who are naturally on the heavy side.
If we’re overweight we have to justify ourselves, and that often means lying to ourselves.
Because the trouble is, medical science is on their side. There are no health benefits associated with being overweight, and loads of benefits to be had from being slim, or at least slimmer.
The best way to go about something like weight loss is to do it for yourself. Don’t do it because other people say being fat is bad, do it because you’re going to benefit from it. Your clothes are going to fit better and feel more comfortable. You’ll be able to strip off in public (at the swimming pool or the beach, that is) and not be worried about people thinking you should cover up again because you’re a walking eyesore.
The odd thing is, overweight people are often happy people who are not burning off the calories through nervous energy because they’re naturally relaxed. There’s a song my Dad used to play called Fat Man, written by a thin guy who realized he was lucky to be naturally skinny. The last line goes, “Roll us both down a mountain and I’m sure the fat man would win.”
Well thanks, but we don’t need a mountain-rolling contest to feel good about ourselves. And yet… many of us do want to shrink a little.
It’s got a lot to do with self-discipline, from forcing yourself to get some exercise to making that exercise include walking past a burger joint rather than into one.
Why does being healthy have to seem like such hard work? Don’t eat this, don’t drink that, don’t sit there watching TV, get out and go for a run. All that stuff. Unfortunately, you can’t fight the facts and you don’t have the option of returning to the 17th century when the Dutch painter Peter Paul Rubens took great delight in painting lovely, rounded women who would today be dismissed as more than a little porky.
However, don’t be despondent, because there are ways of doing this that make it a lot easier. And here are five of them.
1. Learn What Foods Are Causing Your Excess Weight
You need to become a bit of an expert on this (and if you already are, forgive me for preaching to the converted.) What foods make you fat? Sugary ones! Yes, but not only sugary ones. Carby ones. Sugar is a carbohydrate. So are potatoes, rice, and pasta, so in this particular case those things have to be treated the same way.
Do not drink full-sugar soft drinks – this is a very basic no-no, but it should be closely followed by this: do not eat the fries that come with the burger. Or only eat a few of them. And don’t have a mountain of spaghetti or rice. The bolognese and the curry are maybe not so bad, although they are laden with fat, it’s those carbs you have to beware of.
On the subject of sugar, the obvious thing to do is replace it with sweeteners, either artificial or natural (like stevia, which you can find in many supermarkets, and Lo Han Kuo, also known as monk fruit, which is a lot less common. If you use the artificial ones, you will come across the wise guys who tell you they’re worse for you than sugar, but what they probably mean is some of them are thought to cause cancer.
Well, it’s your choice. If your immediate worry is excess weight and the possibility of developing diabetes, you need to get rid of the sugar at all costs.
Having established that, in your life, carbohydrates are evil (actually they’re great for athletes who burn the fat off at a rate of knots), consider the rest of the food world. Protein, for instance, is vital for building muscle, so you need plenty of that (meat, cheese, seafood etc.) and vegetables are the saints of the dietary world, full of vitamins and minerals and with no apparent downside at all.
Fruit is a strange one: at one time nobody had a bad word to say about it, but the fact that it is sweet means if contains sugar, particularly tropical fruits such as mango and watermelon. So don’t go overboard on them – and I have also seen grapes described as “Little bags of sugar”, which is an interesting way of putting it, so be careful with them too. And likewise the cartons and bottles of fruit juice, which often contain added sugar, and even if they don’t, there is a lot of the sweet stuff in there.
2. Trick The Carbs
Here’s a great one. We have looked at the need to reduce carbohydrate intake. Now we take it to another level in an attempt to outsmart the body, which is something you don’t hear about too often. The thing is if you cut the carbs drastically, your body notices and slows down its process of dealing with them (it’s a chemical thing involving something called leptin, and it’s a bit complex, but we don’t need to become boffins to use the trick). Your reduced carb intake results in your metabolism slowing down and also you’ll feel hungry. But give the body a couple of higher-carb days each week and it will carry on dealing with the carbs at a similar rate to how it used to when you were eating pasta by the ton. Want the full technical picture of leptin?
3. Lose The Booze
I’m sorry to lay this one on you like Mr. No-Fun, but guess what alcoholic drinks contain: yes, sugar. And it’s not just obvious culprits like piña coladas. Cocktails these days are simpler to make, thanks to the invention of “mixes” which contain much of the flavor and a bucketload of sugar.
Beer is well-known for its fat-making qualities and even wine is not exempt, although the drier it is, the less sugar it contains, so a glass of bitterly cold white so dry it gives you neck cramps is the best bet. Red is often not usually billed as being sweet or dry, but particularly with the cheap ones, they’re blended to appeal to all palates and when you really taste a mouthful of that $5 merlot, there’s quite a lot of sweetness there.
If you find this a bit hard to believe, don’t just take my word for it: read this authoritative article on alcohol and sugar.
More than a little alcohol is bad for you, most people agree, and it makes you retain water, which looks like a fat, so if you’re serious about losing weight, lose the booze.
4. Get Lots Of Sleep
This is something that turns up on just about every list of health tips. Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water, they say, and it’s one of those things that sounds so obvious we can hardly take it seriously. In this case, it’s not just because when you’re sleeping you can’t be eating pizza and drinking Tia Maria and maple syrup. No, it’s a technical thing. If you aren’t sleeping enough, your body will become less sensitive to the hormone insulin, so that will be less effective at dealing with glucose in your blood. So your body will produce more insulin, and the problem with that is that insulin also stores fat. You can find the full story of what insulin does here.
We hear about insulin in relation to diabetes, so this underlines the link between that disorder and being fat. It really doesn’t make sense to be overweight.
5. Laser Power
Yes, professional intervention using a medical procedure. We’ve all heard of liposuction, kind of sucking out the fat. Well, this is a new and advanced process that brings the same principle into the 21st century. The laser effectively melts the fat, making it quicker and easier to remove.
Obviously, this costs a bit of money, as opposed to the free options that involve depriving yourself of things you enjoy, but if it’s available in your area and you can afford it, why not? Lasers are incredibly versatile and the only limit to their usefulness seems to our own lack of imagination. Now that they have been assigned this astonishing new use, it would be foolish to ignore it.
There is a sixth tip which I discovered by accident last year. I packed in my job and upped sticks for a new country before I’d got immigration clearance, which took 10 months and resulted in me hanging around with no real income while the bureaucrats did their stuff. And boy, does the weight fall off when you can’t afford to drink and can barely find the money to eat. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s highly effective.