Diet – a four-letter word, but a necessary evil

Right, you heard it hear first. No more half-hearted mucking around. I am officially back on the diet again for November.

Despite playing sport regularly throughout school and my twenties, I have always been slightly overweight, even at my best. And, in common with many people, my weight has been gradually creeping up over the years, bringing a load of health and self-image issues with it.

As an adult, my ideal weight is probably somewhere slightly north of 14st, a benchmark I haven’t been below since the age of 16. I can’t recall when I first topped 15st – it was probably some time during my A levels – but I can remember with some horror the first time I realised my weight had crept above 16st – it was the summer leading up to my 20th birthday, and I had piled on about 20 pounds while rehabilitating a knee injury.

Although I managed to lose all that weight over the summer, I have been fighting – and slowly losing – a yo-yo battle against the bulge ever since. After a couple of bad years, I lost about 15 pounds to settle at around 14st 7lbs before our wedding in 1997. I gained maybe 20 pounds during my MBA (1998-9), topping 16st once again. And since then, I have oscillated up and down either side of, initially, the 16st mark – and more recently 17st.

In fact, the last time I was even remotely in sight of 15st was four years ago, which was the last time I was 100% focussed on losing weight and getting fit. At the time, I was going to the gym regularly and walking 15-20 miles a week while winding down before my departure from the BBC, having just returned from completing the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand. And while no one would ever have mistaken me for a marathon runner, it was the fittest and lightest I had been for a fair while, tipping the scales at 15st 3lbs.

That was then, though; this is now. Since 2005, my weight has steadily increased, a trend occasionally interrupted by post-Christmas bouts of half-hearted dieting, to the point where I returned from our late summer getaway in Cornwall having put on five pounds in five days to attain a new personal worst of 18st 1lb. That meant I had gained 40 pounds -nearly three stone – in four years.

Okay, I’ve managed to lose all that bonus weight already just by returning to a sensible eating pattern, but even so that’s pretty depressing, particularly knowing we are about to enter the diet-unfriendly Christmas party season.

As I see it, my problem is threefold. Firstly, I’m getting older, which makes it harder for me to lose weight. Secondly, I need to eat less and avoid my not infrequent tendency to graze without thinking, something I tend to do more when I’m bored. (It has been a relatively quiet time at work for the last few months, which doesn’t help.) And lastly, I’ve stopped doing any kind of regular physical activity.

While I can’t do anything about the ageing process, I can control the other two. And the lack of exercise really hit home last night when I went out bowling with work and returned with aches and strains all over my body which reminded me just how unused I have become to any remotely strenuous exertion.

So, the not-exactly-rocket-science plan for the next four weeks is:

1. Locate willpower, and switch to ‘on’ (and then keep it on for more than a week at a time)

2. Eat less – and in particular stop snacking

3. Dust down the exercise bike, walk rather than drive into town, use the stairs at work etc (but not be too discouraged if there is no immediate step-change in my fitness)

This morning, the scales reported my weight as 17st 10lbs. I want to have lost (at least) five pounds by the end of the month – i.e.achieve a target weight of 17st 5lbs – a significant but achievable amount. Then, after hopefully limiting the damage through December, I need to try to get down under 17st by, say, next Easter; I reckon that will equate to a target loss of nearly a pound a week once I have put my Christmas weight on.

That’s still 30 pounds or more shy of where I ought to be, but I can’t really get my head around such a big task at the moment. One step at a time.

There we go. I have set down my target in writing now, rather than half-committing to it in my usual, wishy-washy fashion. So here goes.

Now where did I put those carrots?