How have I lost 6kg? By going to bed hungry. I know it's not what any of us wants to hear, writes Robert Crampton.
Ive lost a stone (6.35kg) in the past seven weeks. Fourteen pounds, two pounds (0.9kg) a week, steady as she goes. It can be done, readers, but I ain't about to tell you it's been easy. Not once you're over 50 and your body decides you're a waste of food and you're not far off taking the long self-sacrificial trudge into the snow like an Inuit. Or, at the other end of the globe, Captain Oates.
As recently as 1900, life expectancy at birth for men in England and Wales was about 46. It's now about 80. But evolution hasn't caught up with this very welcome yet very rapid development. Once you hit 50, unable or unlikely to reproduce, work rate slowing up, you're on borrowed time, surplus to requirements, freeloading on scarce resources. Which means you get reprogrammed to start eating a great deal less.
Time was, not too long ago, I could stuff my face and not suffer the consequences. Or at least burn off those consequences, given a couple of days of moderation.
Not any more. The only way I have managed to ditch these not-insignificant yet neither frankly earth-shattering 14lb (which equates, youngsters, to 6.35kg) is by barely eating anything.
And it really is all about eating – or rather, not eating – as opposed to exercise. Yeah, I've upped my activity a bit, but not by that much, to be honest. These past seven weeks, I've averaged 3.5 miles (5.6km) walking a day rather than the 2.5 miles (4km) I was doing previously. At about 8,000 steps, 3.5 miles isn't bad, although it's still a fair bit short of the holy grail of 10,000, albeit that figure turns out to have been cooked up in an arbitrary fashion by some Japanese researchers 50 years ago. The point is, while an overly sedentary lifestyle is not good for you, losing weight relies much more on calories in than calories out.
Many of us exercise too little. Many more of us eat too much.
Keen amateur statistician as I am, I can back this assertion up with hard facts. Some days, according to my phone-counter, I cover 6 or 7 miles (9 or 10km), traipse up 20 floors' worth of incline, maybe even swim or cycle a bit as well, and the next morning on the scales, I have either lost weight, or gained weight, or stayed the same weight. I can find no correlation between exercise and weight whatsoever.
So while I'm sure the extra exercise is a good thing rather than a bad thing, I'm equally sure exercise levels have little effect on my overall poundage. And the poundage is what concerns me.
In contrast, the morning after the day before on which I've eaten pretty close to bugger all, while the red digital readout in the bathroom may flicker and fidget and fuss while I flex my toes up and down to see if that makes a difference, it always ends up registering a lower number than it does if I've spent yesterday scoffing what I wanted. If I've gone to bed hungry, I reap the reward.
Going to bed hungry these past 7 weeks – not every night but a majority – is how I've come to shed 14lb.
I know it's not what any of us, least of all me, wants to hear. It is, nonetheless, the inconvenient truth of the matter.
Not every day, but most days, I've had porridge for breakfast, a salad for lunch and then … er … That's it. Quite often, in the 21 hours between the salad at around 1pm and the next morning's porridge at 10am, not a morsel of solid food has passed my lips.
On a few days – maybe 6 or 7 of the 49 – I've not even had the salad. Or the porridge. Which is to say I've had nothing the whole damn day long beyond a couple of coffees and a couple of Diet Cokes. Hardcore, eh?
I don't have any special powers of self-discipline – quite the opposite, as my wife would be happy to confirm. That said, as we all know from occasional experience of serious deprivation, you can at some level psychologically embrace, even revel in, the misery of denial.
It hasn't been all doom and gloom. My children, as ever, have been quick to celebrate the comedic aspects of the endeavour. Sam pretends he can't see me if I turn sideways. Rachel, meanwhile, has played along gamely, too.
"I have to warn you," I informed my daughter shortly before she returned to university after Easter, "that when we next meet, you might struggle to recognise me."
When Nicola sent a WhatsApp pic of Sam and me in Kent for the weekend not too long ago, Rachel dutifully replied with the question: "Who's that strange thin man standing next to my brother?" Good effort.
According to the dreaded BMI calculator, I've now shaded over from obese to merely overweight. There's a long way to go before I get to healthy, though.
Written by: Robert Crampton
© The Times of London