4 Fundamentals of Weight Loss I’ve Come to Realise

1. Failure is an essential part of the process
One of the most common reasons weight loss fails is because it’s seen as a rigid thing which will either succeed or fail. In reality, it’s a process which will both fail and succeed simultaneously, and that’s an essential thing to come to terms with. Whether you decide to dive head-first into fasting or eating at a severe caloric deficit or you take a slow steady approach of eating just 200 calories less for a few months you’re still probably going to fail, and often. Whether that’s failing to record your calories one day or binge eating at the weekend you still have plenty room for error if your goals aren’t too rigid and from those errors and mistakes you realise what you’re good at and what you’re bad at, you come to terms with and get to discover the reasons you binge eat or forget to track because those failures shine a spotlight on your thoughts and choices and actions. Over time as you’ve failed more and more times, you’ll begin to fail less and less often because you’ve found ways to manage those weaknesses or situations.

2. Patience isn’t necessarily a requirement, but consistency is
Most popular weight-loss diets, websites and celebrities will tell you about patience and how you need to slow down to get things right. Others will recommend things like prolonged fasting and tell you that losing weight is healthier or more natural when it’s quicker and that by shortening the time you spend being uncomfortable you’ll maximise your results. The key thing here is that different things work for different people and taking 2 years or 2 weeks to lose the weight you need to are both absolutely fine so long as you reach your result, ultimately only consistency matters- whether you stick to your diet or not depends on the balance of discomfort you’re able to tolerate and the effort you’re willing to put in and finding that balance is a matter of trial and error but you will eventually find the level that lets you remain consistent, and once you’re there you’re set for almost inevitable success.

3. Follow the many AND the few
Facebook groups and Instagram channels are a particularly conflicting and sore point for me- I find them fantastic for finding people who are like me- trying to lose or gain weight and others who have already lost weight and overcome significant challenges, but at the same time they’re full of people following trends, fads and pseudoscience of all sorts from Alkaline/Acid balancing diets to ingesting dangerous chemicals and everything in between. So it’s very important to find people who have succeeded and to listen to their advice because it’s what has worked- but since weight-loss is a multi billion dollar industry and many successful people are willing to distort the truth to sell a product, it’s also important not to trust a damn word they say and check everything.
Similarly, pools of large numbers of people interested in the same outcome are an incredible resource because they can collect and collate relevant information and share their results which can benefit everyone else, but again the herd-mentality is a very real thing and marketing has a big interest here.
So joining and following the masses does offer practicality and benefit, and finding and following those few successful people who have taken the time to document what worked for them can put you on the fast-track and save you from making many mistakes, but for the best results you want to follow both but do plenty of research and make your own best choices.

4. Learn from people doing the complete opposite
Some of the best tips and tools I’ve come to utilise have come directly from people trying to gain weight. Bodybuilders in particular are a group who have spent years honing and crafting their diet and ways of eating to consume anything up to and over 10,000 calories per day. These are people at the uppermost level of ability when it comes to eating and gaining weight and the vast majority of techniques they use can easily be reversed and applied to weight loss.
Adding calorie dense foods like peanut butter to meals can be reversed into sticking towards calorie sparse foods like leafy greens and soups.
Eating more quickly so as not to get full can be changed to eating more slowly and chewing your food for longer so the stomach has time to send signals to the brain letting you feel fuller quicker.

Bonus Point I Forgot to Add: 5. Learn to think long term
Weight gain and loss are a lot like income and finance in that they become more behemoth over time and require more or less effort depending on time scale. The richest people in the world consistently attribute long term thinking and planning as the primary factor to their wealth and that by saving small amounts over time and starting businesses and launching before the products or services become mainstream puts them ahead of the flow and makes it easier to capitalise. Similarly with weight loss, losing a little weight every month involves far less effort than losing the same amount in a week and is usually the better approach. Small consistent changes to diet add up over time and often eating just a few hundred calories below maintenance is enough to get you where you want within a year. While I don’t expect anyone to become the Bill Gates or Warren Buffett of weight loss, I think adapting a longer term attitude and planning for the future as well as the present vastly increases the odds of success.

Silsden Butcher Review

Being on a low-carb diet, a cooking addict, and a massive nerd means I order and try a lot of weird and wonderful products, services and companies online and after trying both MuscleFood and LiveLean a try I heard about SilsdenButchers. All three of these companies use local produce and offer large meat packs intended for home freezing and I’d heard that SilsdenButchers was one of the cheapest options available anywhere in the UK.

Their Background
SilsdenButchers is, as the name suggests, a butchery shop based in England. They boast a 25 year history and their own farm with free range pigs, and have recently moved into online sales, posting daily deals on their Facebook page. The physical butcher itself has great reviews on Google and generally favourable reviews on their Facebook page for online orders, but at the time of writing I couldn’t really find any reviews or information covering their online deliveries. A google search turned out some unsavoury reports of Court fines over hygiene issues just a few years ago, though does seem to suggest they’ve since either met or improved standards. Not an encouraging finding but considering it’s a small, discount and relatively old-school butchery I guess it’s somewhat to be expected but something to be aware of.

My experience
I ordered one of their larger meat packs on the Friday with the idea of trying a little of everything to get an idea of the produce and quality, and with delivery to Scotland coming in at £7 my total came to £97. I ordered over their Live Chat system and, while a little concerned about handing my credit card details to a chat system which can and does save text, I was provided with quick and courteous service and told payment would be taken on the following Monday upon delivery. A few minutes later I was given a ParcelForce tracking number and all was good.. until it arrived a day late, the following Tuesday. Not a big problem, so I accepted the parcel and immediately regretted it when I went to pick it up- the smell of meat was overwhelming and there were several large damp holes in the box. I opened her up and found several of the packages had leaked blood and mixed together inside the package- not a pleasant experience at all. Not only had the packaging on the individual meat trays come lose or torn, but several of the items like the burgers had been flattened and turned into meat pancakes and there was quite an overwhelming smell of meat beginning to turn bad.
I phoned to complain and was asked to send photos to the proprietors phone by text- an annoyance but one I was happy to oblige and explained that I wasn’t willing to eat meat where the blood had mixed and which had been exposed to the elements at least overnight. Several minutes later and I received a call back to explain the package had been delivered by 48 hour instead of 24 hour express by mistake, and was supposed to be shipped in two boxes rather than one, which would’ve alleviated the pancake problem. I was given an apology and a full refund just 3 days later.

ParcelForce Delivery

In short, my experience was poor but I would say that the problem lied with the delivery service rather than Silsden, though I would’ve liked some better quality individual packaging for the meats rather than just Styrofoam trays with clingfilm over the top. All in all I wouldn’t order again, but since the fault lies with the delivery company and the meat, despite being bad, actually looked to be good proportions and quality, I wouldn’t let my story deter anyone from trying them out.

They have plenty range available and offer free delivery to local areas and since delivery time is presumably much quicker to these areas I wouldn’t be put off by my experience. Certainly the price is good- coming in cheaper than MuscleFood and LiveLean on many packages and individual items, which are both considered good value meat sources in the UK. Ultimately they’re a small business trying to make it and I have no hard feelings but due to the history and my experience I wont be ordering again.

What the Hell is a Complex Carbohydrate Anyway?

You often hear about Complex Carbs and their alluded benefits to nutrition and health, but after digging into it a bit more I realise that the vast majority of people hear about complex carbs exclusively through marketing and food products and simply don’t understand what a complex carb is and why at best it’s often misleading or a poor reference and at worst it’s irrelevant to your dietary needs or flat out dangerous.

So what is a complex carbohydrate?
To answer that, you must first understand what a carbohydrate is. It may seem obvious, we all know which foods have lots of carbs, but when you zoom in and analyse them close up, what are they? In short, they’re macronutrients (or molecules we consume, like fat and protein) made up of sugars, starches and fibre. They’re found in most foods, even in very small amounts in meats and fats, but are abundant in almost all grains, most fruits and some veg. Sugars are simple molecules, monosaccharides like glucose and disaccharides like fructose. Starches are chains of these sugars, known as polysaccharides. Starches tend to take longer to be broken down when consumed and thus sugars will affect your blood sugars more rapidly (but not always).
Great, so does that mean starches are complex carbs and sugars are simple carbs?
Unfortunately it’s not that simple. The reality is that there’s not really any such thing as a complex carbohydrate, or at least not a definition that everyone agrees on or any cut-off point that makes sense. The first uses of the term Complex Carbohydrate comes from government food reports in the late 1970s trying to arbitrarily separate sugars from starches in categorisation. The latter were thought to be better in terms of nutrition and health, but since those same reports headed grains, fruits and veg as complex carbohydrates, when they all also contain sugars, it doesn’t make much sense and somewhat contradicts itself from the get-go.
Nutritionists today on tend to classify complex carbs as anything with longer saccharide chains, which means they tend to be broken down slower in the body, but again, this cut-off point and categorisation is entirely arbitrary and subject to whim.
Importantly, absolutely none of this categorisation, however you do it, helps you to measure the nutrition of carbohydrates from a dietary perspective. This can be illustrated by the fact that if you were suggested to eat more complex carbs, you could meet this requirement by regularly eating more cakes, pastry and white bread- all horrible in terms of nutrition and health.

It’s also important to understand that for diabetics and to a lesser extent non-diabetics, the effects of carbohydrates in any form (other than fibre) are exactly the same- they raise blood sugar. Whether they do this slowly or quickly might matter if we’re planning to use multiple injections per meal or testing new finely accurate pump technology 20 years from now, but for all current intents and purposes there’s no difference- carbohydrates are all chains of sugar and have the same effects of raising blood sugar and traditional carb counting does the job and is the best we have- complex carbs are irrelevant to us.

Granted, some nutritionists and dietitians may advise complex carbs but really mean foods higher in nutrition like starchy vegetables and whole grains, but again, the heading of complex carbs just opens these foods up to interpretation and helps neither the nutritionist nor the patient.

Here is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to understand a bit more about the make-up and terminology of carbohydrates.

Diabetic Annoyance #1 – Too much stuff

One of the most minor but common annoyances of Type 1 diabetes is all the supplies and equipment you need to manage and carry around with you. Compact glucose meters have come a long way since the Ames Reflectance Meter in the 1970s but even still most of them don’t fit in a jacket pocket and are a hassle to remember.

I don’t envy early diabetics who had no means of knowing their blood sugar when out in the world, and I’m glad medicine and technology have moved forward from there and that future diabetics will have less and less things to remember, replace and carry. One big benefit of pumps is that they allow freedom and the ability to be more spontaneous than you might otherwise be, though diabetics on MDI like myself may still prefer pens which can be carried around pretty much anywhere in a pocket. Some products are also moving towards multi functionality of supplying insulin AND monitoring blood sugars- meaning less to worry about and carry, and of course there are now several early iterations of artificial pancreases either built or available taking out more hassle and supplies. As time passes smaller and better equipment and more effective medication is inevitable, but for the time being this is still another thing many of us have to deal with- managing equipment like sensors, infusion sets, blood glucose monitors, test strips, lancets, batteries, chargers and cables, ketone testers, glucotabs or a source of sweets, cases, bandages and cotton balls, basal and bolus insulin pens or vials, sharps bins and plenty more. Here’s a picture of most (yup, not all) of the stuff I use to treat and manage my diabetes and help keep myself together.

Diabetic Paraphernalia

Of course having too much paraphernalia is a laughable problem when compared against not having enough or being unable to afford diabetic supplies, but it’s still a very real annoyance and another small thing we have to deal with so I have to joke about it and show the annoyance of having to manage too many things.

Weight Loss Progress- May

I’ve loved gaining strength and reaching my targets over the past few months but bulking comes with its own problems and limitations, namely weight gain other than pure muscle. May has been a month of fantastic strength progress but also a roller-coaster in terms of body weight- I started the month out at 85kg and 16% body fat which is the heaviest I’ve been in life- not a personal record I particularly want, but through a combination of tentatively trying Keto and improving my eating times I lost 2-3kg, only to have a sensor on my bathroom scale pack in half way through the month, meaning I have no idea how much I currently weigh, hurray.

Strength & Weight goals-
For May, my strength goals were to reach 65kg in OHP, 115kg in Bench and 180kg in Squat and Deadlift. These were already pretty big targets as by the end of June I hadn’t been doing OHP for at least a few weeks and it was somewhere around 55kg, Bench was just touching 100kg, Squat had just hit 160kg and my Deadlift was actually lower than my Squat- just 150kg. So I was looking to bump my lifts up by 10kg, 15kg, 20kg and 30kg respectively- not a small feat, but certainly achievable.

I also added a weight goal for the first time ever for a couple of reasons. First, I was just plain getting podgy. At 16% bodyfat I wasn’t what most people would call fat, but I’ve been fairly lean most of my life and it’s higher than I’d like. I’d also read a wonderful article by Lyle McDonald showing his preference for a happy medium of bulking and cutting and the reasoning behind his statement that “men should be 10-12% body fat (19-24% for women) before even considering going on any kind of ‘bulk’”- the skinny of it is that testosterone naturally increases in men between this range and thus helps strength gain and health in general, not to mention it looks great.
The final consideration was another health issue- Being both diabetic and having a very thick neck (both naturally and from Deadlifts, face pulls etc) I’m at extreme risk of sleep apnea and almost certain I’m suffering from it. Since I always like to try to solve health issues myself first and since I’d rather not use a CPAP machine I figure losing body weight is the best approach since it’s one of the major factors helping reduce or cure sleep apnea.

From all of those considerations I decided on a target of 12% body fat with a loss of just 3kg in May- slow and steady so as to keep strength losses as close to zero as possible.

How I got there-
For the first two weeks I tentatively dipped my feet into the Keto diet. This was fairly easy for me since I’ve been fairly low carb for the past couple months and I only had to worry about rice, potatoes and the occasional custard or ice cream binge. I messed up a couple of times, particularly with porridge at night time (thick, creamy vanilla porridge with salt and sweetener- oh baby) but despite the set backs I lost a ton of water weight and by end of week two I’d hit 81.9kg, a drop of 3.1kg, meaning I’d reached my goal early. This was all despite improving my strength in the gym and actually feeling more awake and alert because of the small changes. I would quickly add however, that most of that weight was probably water since the Keto diet is so low in carbs you retain far less of the stuff. Unfortunately my bathroom scale decided to pack in around this time due to a faulty sensor and I’ve been without one since then. I’ve also slowly slid back into eating carbs with Jasmine rice and even the odd slice of white bread sliced and fried in butter with salt, garlic powder, paprika and lemon juice to make croutons. I’m fairly confident I’m still lighter than I was at the end of June, but I’m starting to put on some of that podge I lost.

Going into June
So I’m going to focus on cutting pretty hard for June. As soon as new scales arrive I’ll take a starting point and aim to lose 4kg from there over the month. I’m going to find ways to be stricter about what I eat at night and try to adopt a cut off point instead of continual eating until I sleep. I find that almost the only time I over-eat is when I’m watching shows/movies or playing games at night and suddenly my carb cravings go full tilt- so timing my meals around that and forcing myself through a checklist of

>Have you drank a glass of water?
>Are you eating out of boredom or hunger?
>If boredom, what can you do to keep yourself occupied?

Should be enough to keep me on the straight and narrow and fix those evening lapses.