The Year I Tightened My Belt

I’ve had the same belt holding up my jeans since I was a teenager. It has five holes and I’ve used them all at various times. For the last several years it has been on the last hole. Oh, don’t worry – there was never any danger of it moving any further, even thought it has felt tight at times. But here’s the thing: last year – 2017 – was the year I moved it back a notch!

Want to know how I did it? Then subscribe to my podcast at …

Only kidding.

I think some of it was because in 2017 I started flirting with veganism. There must be a heck of a lot of fat in milk and cheese for it to have that much of an effect, and fake cheese and milk must have less fat, right? Dunno, I’ll have to look it up. But friends who have embraced the vegan diet say that they have lost weight too, so perhaps there’s some truth in it.

Another part of the change is to do with chocolate. Or should I say – the absence of chocolate. Between July 2016 and July 2017 I ate chocolate every single day. Sometimes several times. Sometimes I demolished those big bars. Insatiable I was.

I wanted to see if I could become acclimatised to chocolate. Usually it makes me moody and I needed to see if a constant diet of chocolate would cease to have that effect on me. I tried to see if my mood would level out.

Well, I did attain a steady-state, but unfortunately is was at a low level of mood. So I knocked it on the head (stopped it). Whilst eating the chocolate, I actually felt fine within myself, but other people suffered. I guess for me, it’s a choice between people or chocolate. And it’s a hard decision – believe me!

There were some other effects too. Chocolate made me more outgoing in other ways. But that’s for another Post. Maybe.

So where have we reached? Vegan diet and chocolate is about the inputs to my system. The other aspect is to do with the outputs. Or to put it another way – what I did with my energy.

Well, I started exercising more. On top of all the walking I do (not as many as I thought according to my new phone, which suggests I am not hitting the 10,000 steps per day recommended by various health organisations, but that’s for another Post) I’ve also started doing sit-up and push-ups on a daily basis. You should see my abs – they’re simply fab!

Well, actually, that’s not quite true. My stomach is flat, and has a good layer of solid muscle, but it’s not a six-pack. And late last year I decided I needed one of those. But, again, that’s another Post.

Gosh, but it’s hard to keep myself to one subject. I have so may thoughts buzzing through my head that it’s difficult to keep them in check. I guess it’s a consequence of not posting for a while. A blog is a lovely outlet for all the thoughts that come and go – but, that’s yet another Post.

Anyways, the long and short of it is that I’ve changed my diet from vegetarian to vegan (mostly), stopped eating chocolate every day, started exercising and, lo and behold, have been able to tighten my belt. Yay!

But when I put it like that – what’s the big deal?

Well, there’s something else.

When we do something regularly, our body gets accustomed to it. Like, if we take cocaine every day, our body tries to limit the effect of it so that our mood stays within pre-defined limits.

Here’s how it works: if your mood is something that can vary between one (severely depressed) and ten (ecstatic) and your normal level is seven (happy enough), then your first dose of cocaine will move you to ten. Then afterwards you move down to three and then rebound to your normal level of seven.

The next time you take the same dose of cocaine, your body is ready. It wants to keep you at seven so it regulates (through all the hormones and other substances it can manufacture) the effect the cocaine has and only allows it to take you to a nine. Then drops you to a four and returns you to a seven. Job done.

The third or fourth time you take the drug, your body has got the knack and might only let the cocaine take you to a seven and a half. You feel like it hasn’t had an effect and so you conclude that you have to take a larger dose to get your original ten. Again the body adjusts. It compensates for the larger dose and brings your mood under control more easily.

Now imagine that you suddenly stop taking cocaine. Your body is damping down on your mood – hard. It has come to expect that you will take a high dose of cocaine and so it prepares it’s defences. When you don’t take the substance, the body will still depress your mood, but instead of taking you from the expected ten down to a four, it takes you from seven down to one! Imagine how that feels.

After a while the body gets the message that you have stopped taking the drug and returns you to your usual seven, but in the meantime, you will have gone through hell.

I reckon that something similar to this happened when I was eating chocolate. Not just with my mood, but with my weight.

My body wanted to keep my weight constant at between eleven & twelve stone (look it up – that’s what we use here in the UK to measure weight). When I put all that fat into my body, it adjusted by altering my metabolism so that I could handle it, and my weight stayed in the normal range.

Imagine then what happened when I went cold turkey on the chocolate. My body expected an intake of fat, and adjusted my metabolism upwards accordingly. The effect? I lost weight and was able to tighten my belt. My faster metabolism just burned away the fat that was already in my body. Neat, huh!

Now I know that this sounds obvious – start eating less and you lose weight – right? To some extent it is a bit of a no-brainer. But it’s still helpful to understand what’s happening under the hood (so to speak), yes?

But here’s a warning – don’t try this yourself at home.

Eating loads and loads of chocolate over a long period of time and expecting to keep slim and handsome like me is not going to work for everyone. The reason for this is that I use my mind a lot. I actively use my thoughts to keep myself in order. I have been meditating for a while and I’ve got pretty good at it. This means that if I want to be a certain way, I will be that way. Like, if I want remain healthy while everyone around me (in the office, at Xmas parties and at home) has a cold or has the flu then I will be that. I just decide not to be affected, and I’m not. Hence, if I decide not to gain weight whilst overdosing on chocolate, then I won’t – simple as.

So why, I hear you ask me, can’t you (me) eat chocolate and still keep your (my) mood high? Well, that’s another question altogether! My immediate thought is that I don’t want to. I mentioned earlier that for me, life comes down to a choice between chocolate and people. Well, at the end of the day – it might well be that I allow the mood swings so that people are driven away. Imagine that!

I’ve never travelled as far as this on that particular train of thought, but when I examine this tentative conclusion, I can see a lot of merit in it. I can see my plans for further on down the road of my life. I can see the secret thoughts I hold about people and their role in it. I can see … but I won’t go further. I’ve told you plenty for now. Enough said.

So, in conclusion – I’ve tightened my belt in 2017 – yay! What did you achieve last year? Spill the beans now!