Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Secret to Permanent Slimness?

Breakfast bowl

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany with my food choices lately, and some helpful resources I came across at just the right time have been the catalyst.

From my mid-twenties I’ve joined Weight Watchers a few times and followed their very sensible diet but always fell off eventually, then went back to how I ate before and put the weight back on.

We’re not talking about dozens of kilos here but the same 5-10kg (11-22 pounds) which were quite inconvenient when it came to feeling chic and healthy and looking good.

I’ve always considered myself to have a sweet tooth and I’d tell myself it was harmless really to have sweet treats and if they were low-fat then what was the harm.  That’s the low-fat/high-carb old dietary way of thinking that has had me brainwashed from back in the nineties (or was it eighties?).

The ‘diets don’t work’ message we’ve all heard before confused me too.  If I said to myself ‘right, I’m not going to follow a diet, I’m going to eat what I want’, I would eat what I wanted, regardless of if it was healthy or not.  And of course I put on weight.  So if I’m not going to go on a diet, and I’m going to not go on a diet, what do I do?

One day several months ago I searched for a link between sugar consumption and sinus headaches.  I realised that I would invariably wake up with one after a ‘treat’ night of sugary crap.  I came upon this link here which horrified me.  It made such disgusting reading that I gave up eating sugar for the most part from then on.

I’m not totally 100% strict, I’ll always join in something when we’re out for dinner etc.  But I just don’t, for the most part, buy sweet things for myself at home.  I keep myself from feeling deprived by saying I can have anything I like, as long as it’s not sugary.

But from eliminating the bulk of sugar from my diet, everything started falling into place.  I naturally wanted more nutritious food, I felt better and had more energy, I slept better and my weight started dropping.  From a stable weight in the late sixties (kg that is, or 148-149 pounds), I am now around 64kg (141 pounds) and I know there is a little bit still to come off (I’m 5 foot 7 or 170cm so 135 pounds/61kg is meant to be ideal for my height).

The Giant Salad for lunch

When the weight stops coming off then that will be my natural weight.  I am not measuring portions because you don’t really need to when it’s real food you’re eating.  I know that 1-2 pieces of fruit is a good amount to eat, or half a chicken breast is right for me etc.

After starting on my non-sugar thing, I came across a book at the Red Cross shop for $2 which I almost left on the shelf.  I opened it up though and read a few pages, and it was talking about cutting out sugar and how this was the key to being slim and healthy.  I thought ‘we’re on the same wave-length’, so I bought the book and I have to say it’s the best $2 I’ve ever spent.  The book is by Lee Janogly and called ‘Only Fat People Skip Breakfast’.  Lee is an English author who is a diet counsellor and every page is filled with common sense, humour and good ideas. 

This book did for me with food what Alan Carr’s book did for me with alcohol.  It really changed my mindset towards the foods I chose and makes me feel happy with those choices.  Coincidentally I think the reason why I am so happy being a non-drinker is the same reason I feel so well not taking in much sugar, as alcohol has tons of sugar in it.

Two other books which I have also gained lots of good information and inspiration from are:

Peter Walsh – ‘Does This Clutter Make MyButt Look Fat’.  I love Peter for his decluttering motivation, but this book is even better – decluttering with weight loss in mind.  As with his other books Peter has lots of common sense and good practical ideas you can immediately put into practice.

Gary Taubes -  'Why We Get Fat (And What To Do About It)'.  Gary explains the scientific background on why we are getting fatter and I find that really helps make habit changes that stick.  It’s one thing to be told what to do, but it’s quite another to understand why it is good for you to eat something and not another.  This book sounds boring but it's really not!

A roast of beef ready to go into the oven.  Extra veges are done to add to the next day's lunch salad.

Here is what a typical day of food looks like for me now.

1-2 pieces fresh fruit, washed and sliced – I eat whatever is in season/on special/what looks good at the supermarket or fruit shop.
Small handful of mixed raw nuts (about 16-20) – sometimes I buy a mixed bag and sometimes I buy bags of a single type and mix my own.  If I do this I might have 2 brazils, 6 almonds, 4 cashews, 2 hazels, 2 macadamias, 2 pecans for example
A couple of dessert-spoons of yoghurt on top (mostly but not always) – my favoured yoghurt is full-fat with the only ingredients being milk and culture.

This gets me through to mid-morning when I have a soy or milk café latte.

At lunch-time, I have a Giant Salad.  My lunch salad deserves capital letters!  I use a pasta dish (not the family dish, the individual dish) and I pile in fresh salad ingredients, add some protein (half a cooked chicken breast, tuna in springwater or any leftover roast meat from dinner, diced on top) and my favourite treat – creamy dressing.  Currently my favourites are Paul Newman – Ranch or Creamy Caesar.  I don’t have any bread or carbs with my lunch salad and I don’t really miss it.

Mid- to late-afternoon I will have a small snack, maybe a few slices of cheese on crackers, but more often than not I will steal some of my husband’s protein powder and have a quick protein drink.  That stops me coming home starving and looking for pre-dinner snacks.

Then dinner is usually meat and three veg, the old-fashioned way.  A roast or mini-roast in the oven with roast pumpkin and carrot (with potato maybe twice a week) and steamed veges dressed with olive oil (such as broccoli, cauliflower etc).  And some packet or home-made gravy.  Sometimes we have a stir-fry.  Two or three times a month we’ll have a pasta dish.

My father-in-law is from England, and he went through sugar rationing during the second-world war.  To this day he doesn’t have a sweet tooth and couldn’t care less about dessert, chocolate or anything like that.  And he’s pretty lean and healthy for his age of 79.

Better late than never I say, and my ‘sweet enough without sugar’ chic and slender lifestyle starts now!  Come with me – are you brave enough to try?


  1. What an interesting read Fiona. I'm on "la regime" as the French call it, not a diet but a watching of what I consume because I've put on a few pounds lately and I want them off before winter. My downfall has been chocolate and ice-cream, the old sugar tyrants and I know that eliminating them will do the trick as you say.

    Have you read Andie's blog "Can you stay for dinner?" She has a classic post on making a salad here:

    I'm not a calorie/kilojule counter but the method in Andie's salads is brilliant.

  2. I'm on board with you, Fiona! I, too, suffered from sugar "hang-overs". On April 1, I made up my mind to give up all forms of refined sugar, especially sugars hidden in foods. I scrutinize ingredient labels and any form of sugar listed on the label is considered poison for me. By the third week, it dawned on me how clear my skin has become and one day I found myself bouncing UP the stairs with a burst of energy. Joint pain has no longer been an issue for me, either. I am convinced this is due to getting rid of sugar and therefore inflammation. I will find out at the end of the month if I lost any weight. It is amazing how we all were brainwashed by the so-called "experts" to believe in the "fat is bad" mentality while slowly and unknowingly becoming addicted to sugar.

  3. I eat pretty much like you do Fiona and if it were not for Weight Watchers I would still be 30 pounds heavier. I owe a lot to the program and the leaders for their encouragement and support.
    If your readers were to follow your plan they would certainly be healthier and lose weight. No wine or one glass a day is a great way to cut sugar and calories too.
    It might sound funny but I find fruit quite makes a great dessert too. Your approach is well thought out and I hope your readers will follow your plan.

  4. Merci Fiona for sharing your personal journey to better health. Very inspiring. Yves

  5. You are definitely on the right track here Fiona - I gave up sugar 12 months ago and lost 8-10kgs and have kept it off. I also incorporate this with the the 5:2 diet and will continue forever as it has been the only time in my 60 years that I have had long term success. (I also have not given up red wine except on my 2 fast days per week).
    Love your blog and was so pleased when you restarted it!
    Cindy F from Oz

  6. Dear Fiona, I will join you! Actually, I discovered by experimenting with sugar about one month ago now that my migraines have become less frequent with lower sugar intake. I used to have a terrible sweet tooth and overdid it sometimes, but no more. I still have sugar, just not the overly sweetened foods like certain desserts, candy, drinks, and so on. I also don't add sugar to anything anymore (like coffee and tea).

    It's so strange how much of the things I am currently doing and interested in parallels what you post about at around the same time!

  7. I would have to say my weakness is sugar. I also would like to lose some of my excess weight for a trip to Europe I am taking this summer. I have been reading and hearing about the link to sugar and heart disease.
    But mostly for now I am really motivated to loose the extra 30lbs. It will be really tough the first week will be the hardest I think. Good luck to us all.

  8. The only "diet" I have ever been successful on is WW. I rejoined in September after seeing a dreadful picture of myself which made me face reality. The progress is slow, 11 lbs so far, but I added the poundage slowly and expect that it will come off slowly. My question is this--you say you have eliminated sugar. Are you also trying to eliminate "hidden sugars" like corn syrup or those present in packaged foods? That has been a challenge for me.

  9. Great post Fiona. I used to do WW and it works but so detailed that I like real whole foods like you show here much better, and watching my portions like the French style of eating books teach. Then when I go out I splurge a little bit more. Also, something I learned of in the past year is coconut oil helps with weight loss. Dr. Bruce Fife, ND has written several books on coconut oil's amazing health benefits if you want the scientific reason why it helps with weight loss. Amazon has them. I have forgotten what the science behind it is since I don't have a science mind. I use Tropical Traditions Expeller Pressed because I don't like the smell of coconut oil and it has none. I also use it as a facial and body moisturizer. Just towel off a bit after applying. Really nice after a shower. Amazing for beauty and health. Love it!

  10. I admit that I am addicted to sugar, and it has not been treating me well. A couple summers ago I gave up sugar, and my skin glowed. I really think what you're doing is healthy and wise. I hope to be able to join you, as I know how much better I'll feel. thanks for the inspiration Fiona.

  11. I really like the practical advice on your blog. Not too preachy, just like a friend passing on her tips. I am going to buy that book you quoted from, A Success Story by Estee Lauder". The quotes are quite inspirational and I think can apply to many things we do in our daily lives. thank you.

  12. I have been doing sugar free and (almost) gluten free for quite some time. I agree that eating out is challenging but you are rewarded with more energy and significant skin improvement! :)
    ~ Adele from Toronto, Canada

  13. Rose, I love the term 'la regime' and may borrow it from you! Thank you for Andie's blog link. Her salad ideas are legendary and I will definitely try out her ideas.

    Deborah, that's exactly what they are, hangovers. It doesn't end up being a hardship giving something up if you feel so much better for it.

    Leslie, out of all the commercial diet companies, I still think WW is the best and most sensible. You can choose to follow their plan with real foods if you want. I agree, fruit is quite sweet now that I am not eating truckloads of sugar!

    Yves Calmette, glad to help. Thank you for commenting.

    Cindy F, great to hear your fantastic results. I'm really excited about no sugar.

    Anon, I'm like you - I haven't cut sugar out 100% but it would be at least 80%. Who knows, maybe I'll be really strict in the future, but if this way suits me, maybe not. Life is for living, and a few fun/naughty things add a bit of spice.

    Sisty, yay!

    Lou, you won't regret it. Imagine yourself strolling the streets of Europe slender and happy, fitting your favourite chic outfits with ease. The main thing for me was making sure I had enough protein with lunch, and also having something small/sweet for after dinner such as 2 pc dark chocolate. And keeping NOTHING in the house that could cause me to waver. Your will be surprised at how excited you can feel over a new way to become slimmer that is not a diet and you will be happy to bypass all those chocolate specials at the supermarket like I did yesterday. It was incredible – there were so many amazingly cheap offers which I would have purchased in the past. Then eaten them, then felt sick. Passing the stacked up specials was hard, but then they were gone, and behind me forever!

    Kristien, we are lucky in New Zealand that there really isn’t any or much corn syrup or HFCS in our packaged foods. The majority of my food does not come in a packet though, so the few that do, it’s easy to read the ingredients. I haven’t cut out all sugar, just the main evil villains.

    Kathryn, coconut oil is quite magical isn’t it? And it gets such bad press for being a saturated fat. I’ve never eaten it, just put it on my face, so perhaps I’ll get brave and try it.

    Deborah, the main reason I want to not have sugar, even more than weight loss, is the wrinkles it brings. I don’t want saggy baggy skin because sugar has broken all my collagen. Bring back glowing skin, I say!

    Anonymous, thank you for your comment. Your words really made my day and I appreciate your thoughts so much.

    Adele, I rarely eat out, so when I do I have what I want. Thank you for your healthy eating recommendation from further than the track than me.

  14. I've never had a sweet tooth and have a very low sugar diet ( no table sugar, just carbs from carrots, tomatoes etc) but I still need to diet all the time to keep my weight down, I wish sugar had been the answer for me, I think I'm just meant to have the build of a sumo wrestler - so it will be a constant fight.
    I had a few very in depth gene testes done and was told that I did have to watch my fat intake, regardless of sugar/fat intake, the typical healthy olive oil Med diet for instance is a no no for me.

    Lovely to see you back!

  15. This post comes at precisely the right moment, as I woke with a horrible sinus inflammation (to the point of getting up at 5 AM). I ate several handfuls of m&ms last night and drank 2 glasses of wine. The connection seems clear; though I'm not sure i would have made it w/out your post. The #1 rule I have for weight loss is to sleep well. Otherwise, hormones get all wonky and we crave dodgy food. So, I sleep well. That is my ultimate diet strategy. I've kept 122 lbs. for 3 years doing this, and I'm 5'8. Sugar is the next part of the diet conundrum I plan to tackle, because though I am slim, I realize it wreaks havoc with my body in other ways. As I age, it really does become about health rather than weight. Thanks for your post!

  16. I've had four babies and actually had to have my wedding ring sized down 2 sizes. The only thing I guess that I've done is cut out junk little by little every year - and after having a baby I would eat salads, cottage cheese and fruit constantly. Keeping it down to whole foods I think is key - and then trying not to obsesses about looks but instead...character.

  17. Thank you for posting about this and providing the link to the article you found. I have struggled with stomach issues all of my adult life, and this article describes them quite well. Now…I just have to get down to making the necessary changes. :)

  18. Your post came just in time! I've been eating all the morning - some foods I craved but felt terrible eating- cheap chocolate, lots of butter, cheap ice cream... trash. And when I realised how bizarre it must have looked like from the side, I made myself stop, prepared a mug of peppermint tea and switched the laptop on for inspiration. And here we go... You made me realise it's possible to beat sugar addiction, though tight now I'm suffering from the sugar hangover, am really nervous and stressed out. But I want to get through this, cause"discipline is freedom", want to have more energy, better skin, look great in Paris and Vienna in September, and honestly, cheap, sugary snacks are not chic at all! Love your blog Fiona, and looking forward to more posts like this! Bisous bisousxxx

  19. I suffer from sinus and discovered that foods high in oxilates can form crystals in the membranes and cause pain. A low-oxilate diet, commonly used by kidney stone sufferers helps. You can find a list of low oxilate fioods, and also, low gluten.


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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