My weight loss programme

Since I’ve been asked by so many of my friends, I’ll blog my weight loss regime here.

First, I have to say that this might not work for everyone. I am 53, with a natural low heart rate (bradycardia) and was skinny in my youth. My weight gain happened over time as I got older, and having a sedentary life style didn’t help.

Second, I am not a fitness person, or a nutritionist, so I might get this all wrong but I’m an academic and I’ve just read a lot of research that I thought I’ll put together the information I have and try it out.

So……I started 11 Sep 2016 at 63kg and hit my lowest at 59.9 on the 10 January 2017. It’s not a lot of weight loss but it’s one of those stubborn ones, and I wanted it to become part of my lifestyle.

What I wanted to address were: expanding tummy, low metabolism, flabs and weight loss that I can sustain. By sustainable, I mean I can still drink a glass of wine when I want it (usually 2-3 times a week), eat a cake in the afternoon (3-4 times a week), take some chocolates in the evening (2-3 times a week) and have nice meals.

Principles of the regime

1. I believe a person has 3 types of ‘weight’. I tend to think about the body as a steam engine with your very own stoker, the man shovelling coal to keep the engine going. The first type of weight sits in the the fire itself. That’s the stuff in the bloodstream and it’s the first thing you burn. The second type of weight is the coal used by the stoker. That’s the bulk of the weight you have, and what you want to reduce. The third type of weight is the coal you have in the store on the train that the stoker retrieves when he needs more fuel. That’s the fats. You need all 3 to function.

2. remember there are 2 of you making decisions here. You and your stoker. Your stoker is your body’s regulating system. It seeks to ensure that you have enough energy to do whatever you want to do. It monitors you constantly. If you exercise, that means the train is running faster and the stoker has to decide if this is going to continue and what he will do about it. To protect you and to ensure you have enough coal, the stoker has to decide how much coal should be in the store (fats), by the fire (your weight) and into the fire (in the bloodstream).

I’m sure you see the problem.

The moment you start that exercise that is too intense, your stoker will want to store fats. He thinks you’re going to need it. And if you stop exercising, that’s a lot of coal by the fire not being used and accesses in the store as well. That is why I find intense exercise periods to be less effective for weight loss.

The key part of weight loss is to leave the coal in the store (your fats) for the moment. You just want it not to increase and you need the stoker to decide to reduce it. You have no control over the store. The objective is to get your stoker to believe that he should reduce the amount by the fire (Your weight), and deplete the store (fats). Your stoker won’t like that because if you exercise, he feels he needs to do the opposite i.e. increase it so that he can sustain your activity. Conversations in my mind go a bit like this:

Activity: Swam 600m with a heart rate between 145-160 (fat burning level). No cardio. At all. And only 20mins

Stoker: what’s this? Is this exercise? Are you needing more energy?

Me: nope. Nothing to see here. It’s just daily routine.

Stoker (suspicious): does not look like a daily routine, I think I need to get more for the store…

Me: look, there is nothing going on. My heart didn’t even reach cardio levels.

Stoker: o…k…. then…

3 days later, I swim again. The same routine.

Stoker: whoa… that is definitely exercise. I need more coal.

Me: yeah, but you have plenty. Look. The last time I swam you didn’t need any thing extra.

Stoker: I still think I need to store (more fats). But I’ll wait and watch.

4 days later, I swim again.

Stoker: this is getting regular and my stockpile by the fire is reducing at a faster rate than it’s being replenished. I need to get more from the store.

Me: yeah, sure, do that. But you don’t need such a big pile by the fire anyway. My swim is only twice a week and your pile was way to big for that.

Stoker: ok, so I reduce the amount I need in front of the fire, and bring in more when I need it. You sure you won’t be exercising more? If you do, I’ll bring more into the store.

Me: nah. There’s enough.

Stoker: ok – but I’m watching you.

FullSizeRender 5.jpgSo that’s my regime. Manage the stoker. Exercise twice a week, no more than 20mins, only within the fat burning zone, regular routine. On a week that I drink or ate more, I exercise 3 times a week. It’s my metabolism that I want to keep up (i.e. The stoker consistently shovelling into the fire). I watch the fluctuations because they indicate how much food and drink impact the variances, but my fat burning exercise is targeted at reducing the mean. I don’t do cardio, because that alarms the stoker. I also don’t do anything more intense. And I try not to build muscle because not only does muscle adds to weight, if you stop, it turns to flab. The only muscle I build is around the tummy, where I plank every night – routine that lasts no more than 3 minutes. I’m happy to report that the tummy is under control finally (if you’re interested in that part of my regime, comment below and I’ll be happy to blog another one).

Food: Food is a very important part of the regime. My daily intake is 2 eggs and a piece of toast every morning; Lunch is simple – a sandwich, or some cheese and meats or soup and bread or a noodle soup or a salad. Tea at 4pm is a cake and some tea and dinner is rice with meat and veg with around 3 spoonfulls of rice. Carbs are reduced after 12noon. Food also has a relationship with the stoker. If you go hungry, the stoker feels he needs to store because its your reserves, so don’t go hungry and don’t eat too full. Everything is a balance and if you manage your stoker, you will manage your weight.

A note about 20mins in the fat burning zone. You need to pick your own exercise for that. Brisk walking will not do. You need to get past the lactic acid build up if its new set of muscles and yet make sure your heart rate is within that zone for a full 20mins, so it needs practice. I swim and I bike (its winter now, so its only swimming). I track my average heart rate for my exercise, because that’s the most important number.

The biggest contribution to daily fluctations of weight is water. So weigh yourself in the same context every day. For me, I weigh myself after I wake up and have been to the toilet. Everyday. Use a Withings scale if you don’t want to log it.

Hope all this helps!


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