(or: how I lost a little weight myself)
She was petite, Asian, and not unattractive. Her services weren’t coming cheap. I was shy, but she whipped my underpants off despite my protestations (‘don’t be so silly!’). She felt my balls for a while. Then she finished off by sticking her finger up my bottom to get to my prostate. I had never felt a sensation like that before. Before I knew it, my shirt was off too. She gestured at my lower half: ‘We need to do something about that’…
… Dr. Ang removed her gloves and went to wash her hands. It was June 2013 and I had come to hospital to undergo a full health screening. In my mid-thirties, I had never had a full medical check-up in my entire life: it seemed a good time to look under the bonnet.
So I needed to lose weight. I didn’t want to turn into the kind of man whose vital statistics included his deadweight tonnage. Now I admit, I didn’t have a huge mountain to climb: only 5kgs to bring me down to the sunny uplands of ‘normal weight’, and then maybe a couple more to for use during holidays, nights out on the wheat-beer, and those lazy evenings when only takeaway garbage makes any sense for dinner.
But the lard needed to come off. And I have to say: it wasn’t that difficult.
So here’s what I did:
First, I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app onto my iPad. This app is pretty well known, so briefly stated, it is a food diary and calorie counter. You log all the things you eat and drink each day, plus exercise taken. The app tots up your calories for the day (it has a large database of food and drink so it knows how many calories each of your diary items contains) and compares that against a daily target it sets you that will allow you to lose weight. Not complicated at all.
This thing works: it makes you much more sensitive to what makes you fat in your diet and what doesn’t. A major case in point: I hadn’t twigged that Thai hommali rice – which I absolutely love – is hugely calorific, especially if you are guzzling great plate-loads of it like I used to. People talk about a ‘bed’ of rice, so you could say that I used to eat beds of rice by the dormitory-load… And let’s not get started on bread…
Having a target set for you by the app makes you want to achieve it; and filling the damn thing in with data each day, from every single grape to every splot of gravy, while fairly easy on one hand because it’s an app, still involves imposing a level of self-discipline and honesty on yourself. That can’t be a bad thing if you’re the kind of person who let yourself bulk up. Probably because I was subconsciously turning away from the ‘bad’ stuff and towards the lower-calorie stuff, it steadily started to work.
Second, exercise: or, less thereof. The thing is, in the run-up to the health-check, I used to only have time to exercise on the weekends owing to the demands of my job: maybe swim half a kilometre in the pool and then 40 minutes of pushing myself hard on the elliptical trainer on a Saturday and Sunday morning. Hardly an Olympian regime. In the few weeks immediately before the check-up, I happened to be on garden leave as I had resigned from my dreadful, stressful job, so I was doing more exercise during the week. But having then discovered that I was overweight, I think it sent me a psychological message, telling me that exercise didn’t help keep my weight down – and now, I actually think I exercise less than I did when I did the health-screening. So I certainly haven’t had to make big sacrifices on that front.
Third, I’m not on a ‘diet’, and never have been. I am highly suspicious of crash diets, diets with names, clay diets, diets that involve drinking only celery juice for 2 weeks – the best things in life rarely come to us so quickly, and I strongly suspect the weight would go straight back on if I did successfully complete such a drastic quick-fix. In terms of what I was eating, I can only think of one genuine sacrifice that I have had to make on the food front, and that is that I have not eaten a Domino’s pizza 8 months.
I love Domino’s pizza – I love the greasy dough, the chewy cheese, the overwhelming saltiness, the chilli flakes (the excess so good for recycling in soups), the free side order of onion rings if you order online, the way you get a free pizza if they take more than half an hour (which used to happen all the time when I lived on the 33rd floor of a condo in Bishan). I’d scoff a ‘medium’ sized pizza, plus half a box of onion rings, washed down with a cold can of Leo most Fridays – my reward for a tough week at the office. But they are hugely calorific: I used to eat, say, an entire Medium Classic Crust Meatzza – and that’s 1,712 calories according to Domino’s themselves. This is over 80% of the daily calorie requirement of a guy my age, height and weight (assuming a sedentary lifestyle) – in one single pizza…
But to be honest, that is the one and only sacrifice. I still drink. I still eat McDonald’s quite frequently. I still eat meat, still eat dessert. But there are some small but important differences:
- Most important: I exercise portion control. I still eat chocolate, but much less frequently than before; I weigh the rice I cook so that it’s always around 75g (was probably eating at least 125g-150g in a meal before, I’d have thought); I generally cook smaller portions for myself full stop;
- I developed a taste for eating salads for lunch (the ones from Sumo Salad and Salad Stop are delicious);
- I rarely order a starter when I eat a meal out these days (when I pretty much always did in the past); and
- I don’t keep fizzy drinks at home and only drink them now if I eat out, if at all.
The bottom line is, I lost about 7.5kgs between mid-June and late October. My jeans and shorts are hanging off me like a clown: I keep having to pull them up as I walk along and I need a new, smaller belt. Once well-fitted shirts look baggy. I admit, 7.5kgs in 4.5 months is hardly a record-breaking achievement (although it happens to be the same weight as the dumbbell I keep in my bedroom, and the idea that I was lugging that around on my waist all that time is quite sobering). But I wanted to put it out there that it doesn’t have to be that hard to lose at least a small amount of weight. None of the things I’ve done above are new or original. It’s just to make the point that there are a lot of quick wins you can make – easily – to start the process towards weight loss. When I say ‘quick wins’, do I really mean low-hanging fruit…? I mean, it’s nutritious, full of fibre and vitamins and…
MyFitnessPal app: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/calorie-counter-diet-tracker/id341232718?mt=8
Domino’s – calories in a pizza portion: http://www.takeafreshlook.co.uk/downloads/Pizzas-Nutrition-Pizzas-PerPortion.pdf
Salad Stop and Sumo Salad Singapore: http://www.saladstop.com.sg/ and http://www.sumosalad.com/