I like food, a lot. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted and it wouldn't make a difference. Then I discovered that when you hit a certain age, you are what you eat.
In my first year of university, I had a wakeup call. Cooking for myself for the first time meant that my diet of cereal, baked beans on toast, and pasta just didn't make the cut. My metabolism decided that I had enjoyed its rapid bliss for long enough, and gave me a taste of reality—I started to put on weight.
Although something in my subconscious was aware of this change, I was largely in denial of this fact until I went home in the holidays and my family took it upon themselves to remind me constantly.
I was angry at them and frustrated at myself. I had always been the 'skinny one' and I had never had to go through the turmoil of losing weight before so was at a loss of what to do. I knew I had to eat healthily, but it's not like I had even been eating that badly... I mean cereal isn't that bad for you is it? And I was still eating fruit on the side...as far as I was concerned, if I was what I was eating, then I should be a pretty balanced person right now.
I began to scroll through the internet, trying to figure out how I was going to overcome this predicament I had found myself in. I considered everything and spent a small fortune on 'diet tea' that promised it would give me abs, relieving me of any need to lift a finger.
Then in hit me...there was a reason that not everybody was a healthy weight, that not everyone had abs or could run five miles... Losing weight, and staying in shape is hard. It means you have to watch what you eat, say no to cravings, and build up a sweat in the gym.
It's 80% what you eat
I like a challenge, and so I challenged myself. I was going to get back in shape. And so my weight loss journey began...
I started by cutting out 'bad' foods from my diet. I wasn't prepared to go on diets where you eat less than 1000 calories a day, or only drink juice for lunch. I needed proper food, but I was going to make sure that the food I was putting into my body would only do me good.
Once I got on the right track, it was pretty easy to maintain. I found that I didn't necessarily have to eat less but just substitute certain foods for healthier options.
For example, I substituted porridge for cereal, quinoa for rice, rye bread for white bread, courgetti (or zoodles) for pasta, dark chocolate (max two squares per day) for chocolate bars, cottage cheese for cheddar, Greek yoghurt for mayonaise/salad dressing, salsa for ketchup, and almond milk for semi-skimmed milk.
I cut out cereal bars and granola bars completely after realizing that they tend to be packed with sugar. Sugar, I discovered, is the culprit and not fat, which is often assumed (so keep on eating those avocados).
I made sure that I always had a source of protein with every meal, and that my meals were dominated by vegetables rather than carbs
One might feel like these measures are extreme, but in order to lose weight, I needed to have a controlled diet. Now that I have hit a healthy weight, I allow myself a bit more lenience with what I eat. As my granny says, everything in moderation.
So what about the other 20%?
Eating well will help you get the weight off. I would say losing weight is 80% what you eat and 20% exercise. When I had put on weight in my first year of university, I had been exercising frequently so I stand by this statement. However, exercise is what makes you toned, lean, and defines your muscles. Most importantly, it makes you strong and healthy.
I decided to workout at least once a day, adopting a HIIT workout which I stuck to faithfully and swear by. I work out before breakfast, knowing my bowl of porridge is waiting for me as incentive. Working out in the morning also gets it out of the way, so if I run out of time later in the day it's not the end of the world.
Recently, I have switched things up and do Kayla Itsines BBG program, which has been fantastic and if done while also eating well, really tones you and allows your muscles to become defined. I also try to run 5km (3.1 miles) at least twice a week. Cardio is fundamental to losing weight and running burns far more calories than most other types of exercise.
Now, this might all sound quite extreme and, truth be told, it is a little. As soon as I started seeing results and getting the positive feedback, I became addicted to a healthy lifestyle. Eating well and working out makes me feel really good. This is definitely aided by the positive endorphins.
Some of my friends say to me that they admire my dedication, but for them it's not worth it. They say that they don't want abs enough to get up at 5:45 in the morning to fit in a HIIT workout before an 8 am lecture. They argue that they like pasta too much to ever give it up, and that they would be too depressed if they cut out chocolate from their diet entirely. And that is completely fair. I have found that this lifestyle works for me, but that doesn't mean that it's for everyone.
Is it worth it?
To sum up, if you're looking to lose weight, eating plays a fundamental part. The phrase 'you are what you eat' might sound cheesy (if you'll excuse the pun) but it contains a lot of truth.
There's no magic product that allows you to sit on the sofa eating pizza and see the weight drop off. It takes time and dedication, and the results won't come immediately; you have to stick at it. I'd say it took me about a year to lose 5kg (11 lbs) and be back to a weight I am happy with. This will be different for everyone, but if you are committed enough, it will happen.
You are what you eat. If you want to be an avocado, be an avocado. If you want to be a burger, be a burger. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you are happy in yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin. For me, that meant adopting a crazy workout regime and stocking up the kale in my fridge. But that's definitely not right for everyone—do what's right for you.