I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist but I know what works for me. I’ve never really been overweight except for when I was a young teenager. For some reason when all my friends at school started getting taller I got wider. In grades 7 and 8 (ages 12-13) I gained a lot of fat. My cheeks got big and my waist wider and it came with a lot of teasing, name-calling and bullying from school and from my family. I didn’t know much about nutrition at that age and was pretty sedentary other than my short walks to school and back. I ate a lot of McDonalds, potato chips, cookies, pasta and very little good meats and vegetables.
At the age of 14 prompted by the need to earn money I got part-times jobs and had no choice but to ride my bike to and from school and to the jobs and back. In a very short time period I developed a passion for cycling and began riding my bike everywhere. I still didn’t know much about nutrition but started losing a lot of weight and by the age of 15 I lost a most of the fat. I was also growing taller but not at the same rate as all my friends.
By the age of 16 I was working in a bike shop and found myself surrounded by athletes where I learned a lot about nutrition, exercise, training, rest, focus, and discipline. I began eating better foods, more vegetables, better meats, less refined and processed foods, very little sugar, more fruit, etc. I got very lean, stronger on the bike and eventually grew to a height of 6ft (183cm). For some reason, my body decided to grow later than the rest of my family and my friends. At the age of 17 I was around 5ft8inches (173cm) and by the age of 19 I was 6ft (183cm).
From the age of 13 to 19 I gained about 10lbs and went from about 5ft (153cm) to 6ft (183cm). I converted a lot of weight in fat into height and became very lean. At the age of 19 at 6ft I was around 145lbs (66kg). Of course, growing had nothing to do with nutrition or fat conversion as my genetics eventually propelled me to my height.
Today, I’m 44 and weigh around 67kg, not much heavier than I was as a teenager. But it wasn’t always the case. I’ve been an active athlete most of my life. But in my late 30s and early 40s I began struggling with weight gain… mostly fat around my waist. Despite still running and cycling I wasn’t losing weight. I continued struggling with the weight gain and found myself consistently between 155lbs (70kg) and 160lbs (72.5Kg). When I moved to Paris in July 2014 I thought with the additional walking I might start losing some fat but instead I gained a lot more weight and got as high as 76kg (167.5lbs). Even though I was walking and running more than I had been in Canada I still gained fat. It was the heaviest I’d ever been. I felt sluggish, had to buy new clothes, new suits and was frustrated.
This is when I made a decision to simply cut out sugar. Reviewing my diet once I moved to Paris it was clear as to why I was gaining weight. Contrary to popular belief it had nothing to do with butter and fats. I was gaining weight due to sugars, grains, pastas, and bread. I always knew sugar was a main culprit for weight gain but I was lazy and enjoyed desserts at lunch and often started the morning with a pain au chocolat from the local pastry shop. Also, all the sugar hidden in pastas, grains, and breads created spikes in my blood sugar and increased cravings throughout the day.
I dropped sugar, bread, grains and many starches and carbohydrates in late December 2014. By April 2015 I had lost nearly 22lbs (nearly 10kg) and was back down to 146lbs/66kg. In fact, it was lighter than I had been for about 10 years.
In dropping sugars, breads and many carbs I converted my body into a fat burning machine. I would run on an empty stomach a few mornings a week and do my long runs on just eggs and cheese for breakfast. Today, I can do a two-hour run without taking any food, gels, or supplements. My body fat is down to about 8%.
More importantly, I don’t count calories. I eat as much as I want as long as it is real food. I strictly avoid sugar, processed or refined foods. I eat a lot of meat, good quality high fat foods like butter, cashews, avocados, eggs, wild salmon, and a huge variety of vegetables. I eat carbs from time to time like rice, sweet potatoes and on the odd occasion regular potatoes. But I avoid grains such as pastas, wheat, barley and rye.
If you control your blood sugar and avoid the troughs and peaks that create cravings and fatigue after meals (postprandial) you can better balance your caloric intake needs. By controlling your blood sugars and keeping them consistent throughout the day you can go longer in between meals, and because you are eating foods with high satiating value you remain full longer. Good fats like nuts, olive oil, fish oils, and avocados keep the body well nourished and diminish cravings. Some days I eat four meals a day and other days I eat only two meals depending on how hungry I am given the level of physical activity I’m doing.
Despite eating more eggs adding more fats into my diet my blood levels all got better from January 2015 to May 2015 I lost over 22lbs and my cholesterol, C-Reactive Proteins and Triglycerides all improved dramatically.
Here are two photos of typical lunches I eat throughout the week.
So many people have this belief that if they exercise more and eat a restricted calorie diet they will lose weight. But go for an hour run on 1800 calories per day and you’ll be starving. You need to feed your body with good nutrition and the right level of calories to replenish and fuel yourself to propel you forward as an athlete or simply someone living a normal lifestyle. Just eat real food and you’ll never count calories again.