Excess Baggage – Another Fresh Start

First things first, I’m a tad embarrassed to be writing this post and apologise in advance for too much information.

At the beginning of the year, almost exactly 6 months ago, I published something that I titled “A Fresh Start.” It outlined how each month I was going to change 3 habits with a view to getting to where I needed to be goal and health wise.

Yeah. Nah. That lasted a month – and then the brown smelly stuff hit the fan work wise and all of my fabulously good intentions were blown away. 

In the months in between I’ve put on some weight – it’s only a couple of kilos but when you consider that I need to lose between 20-30 kilos, any extra is, well, extra. As at a week ago I was the heaviest I’ve ever been – and given that I’m quite short (and shrinking fast) that’s not a good space to be in.

I’ve spent the last month looking critically at my habits and weighing up (no pun intended) a number of different “diets”, although given that I detest the word diet, I’m preferring to think of them more as eating plans.

After reading extensively some, such as Dr Michael Moseley’s 5:2, 16:8, Fast 800, and the CSIRO Low Carb, make sense to me for a number of reasons. I also like the principles of what is termed the Mediterranean Diet, but which very few people who live in Mediterranean countries probably follow these days. These pieces by the fabulous food writer Matthew Fort explain this conundrum well: Mediterranean Hogwash Part 1 and Part 2.

In fact, I was listening to a Desert Island Dishes podcast with Stanley Tucci the other day and he said how when he lived in Italy as a 12-13 year old the Italians ate the way Italians had always eaten – good food, plenty of veg, not too much red meat, healthy fats, a glass or so of red wine. These days, he said, it’s about the meat and the cream. Italian food had been, in his words “Americanised” with more meat and larger serves. 

Take one of my favourite pasta dishes for instance, carbonara. The traditional recipe has no cream in it. None. The creamy texture comes from the cooking water and the egg and parmesan. Order a carbonara in many (thankfully there are exceptions) Italian restaurants in this country, however, and you’ll get a dish of pasta and cream. But I’ll put my soapbox away for now.

Then on my lunchtime walk with @adventurespaniel a couple of days later I was listening to another episode, this time with British chef Adam Byatt who said something along the lines of how at his age – which I suspect is similar to mine, perhaps a little younger – you can’t just eat and drink everything you want and expect not to look like the side of a house. He said that he runs and keeps his weekday breakfasts and lunches simple so he can enjoy the good things in life occasionally too.

It struck a chord for me.  

I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have a bad diet. I don’t have takeaway or ready meals, and despite the amount that I bake, rarely indulge in the sweet stuff myself. I’m that weird person who doesn’t eat after dinner, can’t do a block of chocolate or a carton of ice-cream and who actually likes vegetables. I love food – well, except for offal, okra, and bean sprouts. I like planning it, preparing it, eating it, writing about it and feeding it to other people. 

Before you hand out the halo, I do, however, have some dietary weaknesses – obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this position. I love pasta (hello, mac cheese) and adore bread, and by bread, I mean good bread – from a crusty baguette to a sourdough, to a dense and almost chocolatey rye. I have a weakness for butter and cheese that neither my waistline or my gut is terribly happy with, and I really enjoy wine – and whisky. 

My food might be home-cooked, varied and often delicious but more of it goes into my mouth than is expended in energy. And, while not all calories can be treated equally – more on that another time – that’s a problem.

While I don’t intend to completely give up any of the things I enjoy – after all, mine is not a quest for Twigginess – compromises need to be made, portions reduced, experts consulted, and answers sought. Given that I learn best as I research and write, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing here – each Tuesday.

As for the experts I’ll be consulting? There’s enough science out there – and I’ve read an awful lot of it, much of which is conflicting. Instead, I’ll be consulting people like me: food writers and chefs. People who, like me, enjoy food in all its glory and who enjoy preparing it and writing about it. People like me who have had to balance their enjoyment of food and flavour with the demands of their mirrors, the size of their jeans, and, in some cases, the request of their doctors. The way that I figure it if some of my foodie heroes can do it and continue to cook and write about food, then so can I. 

Most of what I’ll be eating will be accidentally healthy foods – food that tastes great despite being good for you. I might want (and need) to shed some excess baggage, but life is way too short to compromise on taste. I’ll be consulting my vast collection of cookbooks for ideas and variety.

I’m not aiming for perfection, and my body type is such that I’ll always be curvy – and I’m completely cool with that – but I am changing my habits, although not all at once. I’ll also be building a few indulgences into my week – so please don’t email me when you see me post something on Instagram that can’t possibly be on my plan. Saturday is on my plan. 

This series of (mostly) weekly posts are likely to be the most personal that I’ve written – and in writing them I’ll be making myself more vulnerable than I normally tend to do. I’ll be writing about what I’ve learnt – about myself as well as from others – and, naturally, sharing the occasional recipe.

Follow along if you want but bear in mind that my food story is likely to be different to yours – as is my “why”, something else we’ll talk about further down the track. After all, if there was a one size fits all answer to this question, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Most of us know what we should be doing – it’s the brain that gets in the way of the actual doing.

Edina: Why am I so fat?

Saffron: You eat too much, you drink too much and you take no exercise.

Edina: Darling, Darling… Please…. it is far more likely to be an allergy to something, isn’t it? You know, a build up of toxins or a hormone imbalance.

Saffron: All you’ve got to do is eat less and take a bit of exercise.

Edina: Sweetie, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.

(From Absolutely Fabulous… Series 1 “Fat”)

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

32 thoughts

  1. Aloha Jo! Enjoyed your post! I know how you feel. I cannot even count the restarts I have had. Actually, I am on one right now. I gained 20 pounds while teaching middle school and am currently juicing (after watching Fat, sick, and nearly dead). Mahalo for your post. Have a wonder-filled day!

  2. Hi Jo, You made me smile about the Mediterranean diet. Actually, all of your post made me smile with your humorous, relatable take on weight, food, health, diets. I feel your pain! I have had a love/hate relationship with food and weight all of my life. I think my first blogging post was “The year I refused to step on the bathroom scale.” My family knows that cheese is “crack” for me and cannot be brought into my house. I will be following you along on this journey, supporting you:) Erica

    1. Hi Jo, ehenault is Erica/Erika……….I went through Firefox with comment since I used to have issues on Safari with comments on some sites. I think I may now be able to comment via Firefox and Safari:)

    2. I read that post and giggled. I’ll actually be writing about my bathroom scale next week lol…and thanks for the support!

  3. Hi, Jo – I am a huge fan of your writing, especially your writing about food. Ramping up your “personal voice”, along with your regular wit and humour is something that I greatly look forward to. I will definitely be following along and cheering you on!

  4. Good on you Jo. As a fellow curvy petite woman who is constantly trying to keep her weight down, I will follow along with great interest! 🙂 xo

  5. This was a fun read although the subject is quite serious, you turned it into a humorous post with your graphics and asides. I always enjoy reading your words 🙂 . I just adore that scene from AbFab and can hear their voices as I read through it. I wish you luck, it is a big job but your commitment to the cause and your extensive knowledge should help you out. I’ll be following along 🙂 #mlstl

    1. Thanks Deb. It’s a real mind game and that’s where I tend to fall over. The knowing what to do is one thing the doing is entirely an other.

  6. Really interesting post. It is so not fair that you love good food, how to prepare it and then the eating of it does this…weight putting on thing.

    I applaud your planning.

    I have found, since “losing all the weight” from not being able to eat much (cancer, anxiety) and I have put on around 5 kg. It has necessitated some new clothing but not much. What my surgeon said about this was “good on you” because eating well after head and neck cancer is a challenge.

    What old weight-concerned Denyse thought was “oh but I liked being thinner” but I gave myself a talking to and I have now ended up accepting this:

    my mouth is too uncomfortable to eat a lot but I can give things a go.
    Serving sizes are ridiculous and unfortunately sees me not eating out unless for coffee.
    I can now identify (huge shift for me) the idea of a craving and letting it go. BIG news. A craving is like any feeling. Who knew?

    So, sending you love and my best wishes for wellness and some loss on the scale as per your plans.

    Denyse x #mlstl

    1. Thanks Denyse. Serving sizes out are ludicrous. Hubby and I have taken to splitting a single meal at lunch times if we’re out because otherwise it’s just way too much.

  7. One reallly sucky part of Midlife is that our metabolisms seem to take a major nosedive. My DIL was commenting on how hers had dropped now she was 30 – I told her “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet kid!” and made her even sadder (I’m a bad MIL!) That being said, I’ve probably added 10kgs over the last 10 years – mainly from deciding not to weigh myself anymore – BIG mistake – it crept on and I ignored it and now have to deal with it. So, I’m working on a really low calorie day once a week + upping my exercise as my way of dealing with it. I can’t be bothered with the Keto diet (which seems to be the only one that works for most people – my daughter has lost 14kgs on it and she wasn’t hugely overweight to begin with – just feeling a bit chubby) the 16:8 did nothing for me – I think it only works if you skip eating dinner and that wasn’t going to happen. Good luck and I’ll be following along with interest xx
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    1. Keto works for lots of people but is quite prescriptive and I’ll rebel against that. I need to weigh myself (something I’ll be talking about next week) because otherwise I have no idea at all and it creeps up. 16:8 does seem to work with the dinner skipping, but life’s too short for that too. x

  8. Jo, As another vertically-challenged curvy girl who loves food bread and pasta, I hear you! Love your quotes in the post too. I’ve lost 2 kilo’s in the past 2 months and am ecstatic. No diet – I hate them. What I’m focusing on is portion control, more fruit & veggies, and less chips. And trying to move more. And I’m trying to come to terms with being a curvy girl with a few extra pounds on her. visiting from #MLSTL

    1. TBH I love my curves – I just have more than I need of them lol. Well done on the 2 kilos – and the small changes. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks measuring portions just to get my boundaries back in place and already it’s having an impact.

  9. Hi Joanne, nice to meet you via #MLSTL today! I feel you, although I would replace pasta, bread and whiskey (LOL) with chocolate, dark chocolate and a smidge of vodka, oh, and potato chips (my meth). I finally joined Weight Watchers a few years ago and dropped 30 pounds in a year (25 in 6 months) and have kept off about 25 to this day. It ain’t easy for sure! Thanks for the reminders that food is not the enemy nor should our attitudes be!

    1. That’s such a fabulous result! It’s hard work staying there but food absolutely is not the enemy.

  10. We are bombarded with so many fad diets Jo and I think you are on the right track for you. As Pat said it really is all about portion control, increasing your veggies and maintaining your walking and general activity. Loving ourselves and accepting our bodies is great, as long as we are in good health. We are all built differently, I will never be a 6′ tall lean goddess but I’m okay with that. Thanks for your honesty and sharing with us at #MLSTL I’m sure your thoughts will resonate with many. #MLSTL xx

    1. The thing is we know what to do, but doing it is entirely different. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks making very small changes but weighing and measuring to get a handle on the portion thing – it makes a difference.

  11. I think you hit a chord, Jo. So many of us struggle with finding the right balance between healthy and joyful eating. While healthy eating can be joyful, it can also turn into feeling restricted or deprived. I like the principle behind the Mediterranean diet. Another thing I would add is to be mindful in your eating–make thoughtful choices, slow down, and really savor the food. A blog you might like is called Fit Bottomed Girls. Their motto is “You can’t hate yourself healthy.” They cover fitness, eating, and zen. Good luck on your journey. I’ll be following along.

  12. Jo I can totally relate to this, I’m hoping to lose about 7lbs as I’m on the list for ankle replacement due to arthritis. I eat well but snack in the evening so i’m trying ThinkingSlimmer & trying to retrain my brain. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  13. Hi Jo – I’ll be following along and cheering you on. Thank you for joining Wellness Wednesday this week. I think measuring and tracking are important when you want to achieve concrete results and see where adjustments are needed. Plus the numbers can be motivators themselves. I love the changes you’ve made to your blog and your profile photo.

  14. I’ll be following along and cheering you on and should really try and join you in some shape or form because we have the same amount of excess baggage to lose. I have fallen off the wagon of the 5:2 of late and it’s really starting to show. If you want to look for chefs who made healthy changes in their diet check out the Hairy Bikers – they did a diet book and lost loads of weight – and also Tom Kerridge. I can’t wait to follow along (but not in a stalky way!)

    1. Tom Kerridge is on my list – I’m streaming his Fresh Start shows at the moment – as is James Martin & Diana Henry (her Change of Appetite is a fab book). I didn’t know about the Hairy Bikers. It’s a really cool way to look at it – especially for people like us who take joy from the whole of the process.

  15. Thank you for joining Wellness Wednesday. I have switched my thinking from thin to healthy and just trying to eat a better balanced diet, and toning up. And instead of dieting we are Weight Watching. I really think it just encourages balance. If we want ice cream or a cookie or a baked potato, we have it. We just balance the rest of the day around that indulgence. And we don’t indulge every meal or every day. PC has lost 20 pounds by balancing. And I have lost about 7 or 8. It feels good!

    Hope you find your balance.

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