Healthy eating, my new year's "resolution", and body image

CW/TW: body shape / image, diet

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I'm currently on day 2 of my new year's "very healthy eating" resolution. After losing a lot of weight three years ago, I've been determined to keep it off and, on the whole, I've done pretty well.

I haven't done well enough though, and a few more kilograms than I would like have piled on.

Christmas definitely did not help with this, especially as I gave myself licence to have a few more treats this year than might normally be the case, but I've been more lax over lockdown that was probably a wise idea.

But, in short, something needs to be done, and now is as good as time as any to do it.

Healthy eating and lockdown

Except it's not, is it? Not really.

Even though I've worked from home for years, it just feels different at the moment. I mean, we're lucky. Incredibly lucky. We can get the food and other things we want, or close enough to it, delivered, and we have plenty of space to live without tripping up over each other, and a nice garden, and many other things for which I am, and should be, grateful. But even with all these things in my favour, it's not exactly a normal situation, and the extra stress of trying to lose weight, and finding the motivation to do so, is not helping.

I expect I will perserve, as part of the purpose of this one month (perhaps longer) of stricter eating is proving to myself that I can do it, but we'll have to do.

The blood sugar diet

My typical diet is aligned with the blood sugar diet, and I say "aligned" in the sense that it's my typical eating habit throughout the year, rather than a faddy "crash diet", after which I go back to unhealthy food.

I don’t follow the diet rigidly, as I don't think that 800 calories a day forever is healthy, but I stick to its principles, and I certainly consume a lot fewer calories than I did four years ago.

January, however, sees me following it more rigorously. Not perfectly — after all, the local kebab shop will not support itself in a pandemic, and I see it as my duty to ensure its survival, most usually on a Friday evening — but I'm not beating myself up about that, as knowing there's a treat meal at the end of the week helps me through the days when even drinking pint after pint of water doesn't stop me from feeling hungry.

I've done this approach of a month's strict adherence to the diet after a period of treats before, and it has worked well.

I also know that the first few days are the toughest, as my body weans itself off sugar. So far, I haven't had the headache which normally accompanies this, which is remarkable since I must have consumed my body weight in chocolate over Christmas.

What I'm aiming for

When I first followed this diet, I stuck to it pretty rigidly for months — a lot longer than the eight weeks proposed by the book. And, in that time, I lost just shy of 40 kgs. And I felt great for it.

Fortunately, I've got nothing like that amount to lose now, but I'd be happy to drop 10kg, and ectastic if it was 15kg, but either is going to take quite a bit longer than just January. End of February is a little more realistic, but may still be a stretch.

I'd probably accept "my jeans fit me comfortably again", but I'd like a bit more than that if I can.

So we'll see. I started at 88.4kg yesterday, so I'll just have to see how I get on.

But Neil, why don’t you just do more exercise?

Good question. Here are my answers:

  • I do, but, alone, that's not enough. My experience is that the best way to control my size / shape / weight is to be more careful about what I put in, rather than just trying to burn off the excess.
  • Exercise takes time, and time is something for which I struggle. Outdoor exercise also takes more motivation at the moment, as the times of day when I can typically do it are dark and cold.
  • I am trying to cycle more, but cycling seems to be a remarkably efficient way of moving, and so I'd probably burn more calories goes for a walk for the same period of time. But I'm a bit fed of walking around where I live, as I know the area inside out, and I'm not prepared to drive somewhere to go for a walk. So I'll probably cycle more, for the fun of it, exploring a bit further afield, but accept it's not optimum exercise (at least, not the way I do it).
  • I have a treadmill under my desk, and I'll use that more, plodding along as I work.

You're a "body shape positive" person; shouldn't you be happy with the way you look?

Probably. But I'm not. And haven't been for years.

I won't judge anyone for how they look, but that doesn't mean I'm happy with me.

I suspect that the mainstream representation of what a "good" body looks like has affected me more than I know (it's definitely not just something which affects women!), but even recognising that does not make it easier.

I could lie to myself, and say "it's a health thing", but it's not. At least, not any more. It's an image thing.

The better question, perhaps, is whether I will ever be happy with my body shape. I doubt it, but that's mainly because moderate exercise and a decent diet will only get me so far, and I can't see myself buying a home gym setup, let alone going to a gym with other people.

So let's see what January brings me, other than a persistent longing to make an incredibly unwise order at our local cheese shop.

Christmas chocolate cheesecake

Chocolate cheesecake in a rectangular tin on a kitchen worktop

(There's nothing which makes this particularly Christmas-y; it's just something we've always made for Christmas Eve. Perhaps eating in then assuages some of the guilt of the sugar, butter, cream, and chocolate...)

Ingredients

Base

  • 3oz / 75g butter
  • 7.5oz / 225g crushed digestive biscuits
  • 3oz / 75g brown sugar (demerara granulated)

Filling

  • 6oz / 175g plain chocolate
  • 8oz / 227g cream cheese (I just use a whole tub of Philadelphia)
  • 3oz / 75g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 5fl / 142ml double cream, lightly whipped

Method

  1. Make the base: melt the butter, then mix with the remaining ingredients. Line a tray (around 9") with baking paper, and cover with the base mix
  2. Separate the eggs carefully. Put whites in greaseproof bowl, and whip until quite firm
  3. Whip cream until quite firm
  4. Put egg yolks, cream cheese and sugar in bowl, whip together until smooth
  5. Break chocolate and melt gently in microwave
  6. Fold everything together (trying not to break down the texture of the whipped cream and egg whites) and spread on base
  7. Chill it until a couple of hours before you want to eat it (or freeze it, if you are making it in advance)