It’s about more than stones and pounds. I’ve adopted a new, realistic way of eating - one that doesn’t leave me thinking about what I am missing: Read more
When I returned from “fat camp” two months ago, the first thing I did was try on a pair of “leisure slacks” with a 40in waist - an emergency purchase last Christmas when I could no longer squeeze into any of my smart trousers.
I had lost a stone and two pounds in one week at FitFarms - the weight loss boot camp in Devon - but it didn’t matter what the scales said. If these brown corduroy monstrosities were still snug on me, then all my hard work - six hours of exercise a day on a diet of 1,500 calories - would have been for nothing.
I needn’t have worried: they hung off me like clown’s trousers. However, I couldn’t afford to be complacent. My first report on life at fat camp had generated huge interest from Telegraph readers and I risked humiliation if I piled it back on.
I was 15st 6lb before I went and 14st 4lb when I returned home. I was determined to be 13st 6lb by the time I wrote this follow-up: that would mean I’d lost two stone in as many months. Things haven’t turned out quite as planned.
From the start, I was surrounded by temptation. The day I got back, my elderly neighbour Rene knocked at my door. Her freezer was broken. Any room in mine for a party pack of sausage rolls? If the devil was trying to test me, I was up for the challenge. In the coming days, I was sure I could hear the call of the snack-sized sirens - “We’re in here, below the chicken, next to the tofu you bought but will never eat” - but I stood firm.
I focused instead on the healthy recipes we’d been given by FitFarms and after an online shop for unfamiliar ingredients such as miso paste, chervil and soya yogurt, I found myself making things I would never have imagined before: mushroom consommé; chicken, avocado and spinach wrap; tofu and soya tart; steamed herb chicken. I loved these dishes and, in my quest to lose weight even more quickly, I cut back on the portion sizes.
On top of all this, I exercised five times a week, huffing and puffing around my local park on four-mile runs - not bad for a 43-year-old who, with a body mass index of 30.4, was still technically obese.
All in all, I was very pleased with myself. I even suffered little pangs of hunger, a sign that my calorie intake was less than it had been at fat camp. But there was a problem. Whenever I weighed myself - and I did so obsessively, several times a day, and sometimes at night (well, you never know) - the scales stuck stubbornly at 14st 4lb, the weight I was when I left Devon .
“What on earth is the point?” I wondered. I might as well defrost Rene’s sausage rolls and be done with it.
Instead, I rang Julia FitzGerald, the nutritionist who runs the healthy eating workshops at FitFarms. Through her own company, Koru Nutrition, she provides one-to-one consultations.
Julia explained that my sudden weight loss at fat camp had slowed down my metabolic rate, the speed at which we burn calories. An ancient survival mechanism had kicked in, ensuring my body conserved energy at a time when food seemed to be scarce. By cutting portions, this particular hunter-gatherer had convinced his body that it was facing famine and caused it to postpone weight loss indefinitely.
Julia told me to relax, promising that if I ate healthily 80 per cent of the time, and didn’t worry too much about the other 20 per cent, my metabolic rate would return to normal within two weeks, and my weight loss would then continue.
I’m not sure if she intended I should consume a bottle of wine at one sitting, eat a family-size bar of chocolate or indeed a large portion of fish and chips but I did all those things in the next fortnight. I was “relaxing”, as she had advised. I was worried that 80/20 could quickly become 20/80, but I usually offset these occasional excesses by exercising and eating healthily, just as I had done post-fat camp. The crucial difference was that I no longer felt hungry or deprived.
For days the scales remained at 14st 4lb and I began to worry that soon they might actually show an increase. But I stuck it out, adhering to the 80/20 rule, serving myself full-size portions and bravely eating the odd packet of crisps in the interests of the new slim(mer) me.
At the end of the fourth week post-fat camp, I edged nervously on to the scales, hoping that if I crept up slowly, they might give me a kinder result. Julia was right: I had lost two pounds. Weeks five and six showed further falls of 2lb each, and by last Friday, the end of week seven, I was down to 13st 11lb - half a stone lighter than when I returned.
It’s not the 13st 6lb I had hoped for, but I don’t mind: it’s about more than stones and pounds. I’ve adopted a new, realistic way of eating - one that doesn’t leave me thinking about what I am missing.
I am sure I can keep this up, even after I have reached my target weight of 13 stone. And when I get there, I will throw away those 40in-waist trousers and mark their passing with a glass or two of champagne and, perhaps, a plateful of Rene’s sausage rolls.