I'm not genetically designed to be thin. I could eat paper, and it will end up as an extra chin or padding on my stomach. And the worst part is that since turning 30 in 2008, my body seems to want grow exponentially until I have to drive around in a buggy and buy two seats to fit on an airplane.
Well, I continue to fight the future, and over the last few years have tried a variety of diets, including:
Atkins: amazing initial results, leading to a long-time love affair with bread, pasta, potato and all things forbidden and the return to "a few pounds" over, to use the Match.com euphemism.
Cabbage soup: the ultimate diet - you can eat as much as you want, as long as it's cabbage soup. Borrowed from Henry Ford's "any color as long as it's black", it too has a good initial success rate until you rapidly develop a psychotic hatred of small, round green vegetables. It took six months of therapy to stop accusing lettuce of causing the subprime crisis.
South Beach: similar to Atkins, but includes all the things that Atkins forbids. Little frozen boxes everywhere make it feel more like the cheap end of Wal-Mart than Miami. Doesn't last long.
WeightWatchers: counting, counting, frozen, frozen. Takes all the fun out of food, until you long for day when Nasa just gives us food capsules.
There are others, all of which are centered around the concept of avoiding the gym. Unfortunately, I've suspected for a while this may be the problem, since I really enjoy eating and clearly the "calories out" number needs to increase to match "calories in".
So, enter Matt Roberts, personal trainer to the stars. Matt's a fellow Brit, but unlike the rest of us who went down the road of learning to enjoy the communal benefits of the local pub, he's built an approach to fitness which I can completely connect with. I forget who gave me their copy of the book - covered with the sweat, tears and food stains - but I should take this opportunity to buy them a beer (which I no longer drink, per Mr Roberts).
Matt's approach combines diet and exercise. The diet contains recipes that are tasty, nutritious and not too onerous to make. There are maybe 100 different recipes, and I've found 90% of the ingredients at Trader Joe's and Safeway, and 10% of the harder ones at either Whole Foods or the local Asian market. The food cost is comparable to a regular week's shopping. Essentially, the recipes focus on alkaline fruit and vegetables that are low in fat and sugars, and yet qualify as decent food.
The exercise plan is so perfect that it feels it was developed just for me. Whereas most personal trainers and fitness plans have an insanely high entry level (who can do an hour's workout after 30 years of clicking a mouse and eating everything?), which deters you through complete exhaustion, pulled muscles and nondescript weird pains, this sets the bar just right. The plan also varies the exercises to eliminate boredom, and introduces a range of new resistance moves and stretches that you may not have seen before. More importantly, he gives accurate and detailed descriptions and photographs so you don't feel humiliated at 24 Hour Fitness while ripped trainers are giggling at your incredibly-incorrect and potentially dangerous reverse curl.
The key thing is that I'm winning the battle against my fat genes, and don't feel like I'm missing out on life or killing myself during workouts. I'm actually enjoying both the exercise and the diet. I'm losing weight - nowhere near as fast as on a fad diet - but in a consistent and progressive way. I have no desire to become a bodybuilder or Marathon runner (God forbid), but I'm told that at the end of 8 weeks, a 31" waist, single chin and higher levels of energy are pretty much in the bag. And that, my friends, is what dieting means to me. While I won't be buying Matt Roberts a beer to celebrate, I might send him a bag of sunflower seeds.
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