It seems to me that a lot of people make a lot of money, pretending that weight loss is a complex and mysterious process. I don't think it is. I am not a nutritionist, nor am I a doctor, I am someone who was well on his way to Porky City in Lardy State Fatsville but I turned myself round by adhering to some basic and rather obvious rules. We all know what you have to do. You eat a range of healthy foods and you exercise. I don't need any letters after my name to know, that so shut it. Here then, is my own guide to getting into shape.
"I'm fat because my mum is."
No. You are fat because you eat too much and you don't exercise. I used to moan that I was unable to exercise because I was born skinny and weak. No, I was skinny and weak because I didn't exercise. That's not to say that your genetics aren't a contributory factor. Of course they are I mean come on, whatever! Indeed it is true that some people put weight on more easily than others and these are given the lovely marshmallowy name: endomorphs. But, if you are an endomorph then you also build muscle more easily than ectomorphs (skinny people like me) so you are better equipped to start exercising. Therefore, I order you to put your onion rings down, get pumping some iron and show the world that parents can make us bitter and sexually repressed but they can not make us fat! High five!
In my opinion, diet plans are complete bunkum, no matter how well researched they are. Why? Because they prey on our insecurities, our naivety and our laziness and, crucially, they sell the lie that we need someone or something else to help us achieve our goals. No, no, no. You don't need a big American company or some old crow in a leotard to help you get into shape. And if you do, then the battle is already lost. If you cannot grasp one of the fundamental and most instinctive facts of life (eat less and exercise to lose weight) then you are frankly beyond hope. If I made a leopard watch TV all day and fed it microwave meals, guess what? That leopard would be proper fat. Just follow the basic rules below and you will be as lithe and limber as that lovely gorgeous leopard. Take responsibility. It's free and only five calories!
THE HUNGER MONSTER: Never ever under any circumstances shop at a supermarket when you are hungry. ALWAYS eat before you do your shop. If your tummy is full when you're pushing that trolley down the biscuit aisle, then you are much less likely to scoop an entire shelf of cookies into your trolley.
THE FIVE GRAM RULE!: Look at the nutritional info on the back of the packet. As a general rule of thumb, I don't buy anything that has more than 5g of fat per 100g in it. I use the same cut-off point for sugar. Be careful. Many things will be low in one but high in the other. It can go too far, mind you. At one point I spent 20 minutes deciding which type of rice had the lowest fat content. This is when you know it is time to buy a Danish pastry and give yourself a break.
BEWARE THE FOOD LABEL DEMONS
"LOW IN FAT!" Yes... but high in sugar! I bet you.
"LOW SUGAR!" Yes... but high in fat. Take a look!
"SEEDS!" Am I a chaffinch?
"HIGH IN FIBRE!" Great if I need to use my poo as a flotation device but how much sugar and fat is in there to make the fibre edible?
SNACKS: The mistake people make is to think their snacks are there to taste nice. No. Your snacks are there to fill a hole and to stop you stuffing your face. I think of snacks as a cure for cravings. The medicine doesn't have to taste like chocolate, it just has to be edible and effective. So stop searching for healthy biscuits, there aren't any.
JAMIE, LLOYD AND UNCLE BEN BE GONE!: Replace ready-made sauces with chopped tomatoes or gravy or kidney beans in chilli sauce. Or, just have chicken that tastes of... chicken. Once you wean yourself off high-sugar sauces, you'll actually start to remember what meat tastes like.
THOSE YOGHURT DRINKS: Just no.
GET SPICY: I find that healthy food is a bit dull, so I got over that by using more chilli in my food. I love stuff to be spicy so this really worked for me!
VEGETABLES: I hate veg, partly because I'm English and I grew up with everything being boiled and partly because I cannot be bothered preparing it. So I chuck my veg in the pan at the last minute to keep it tasty and crunchy. And to save time. I never slice, dice or peel. You should see me go to town on a mushroom. It doesn't know what's hit it. I just rip the little blighter up and chuck it in. It's the same with peppers. Pop it in half with your hands, rip it apart, gut it with your fingers and then snap chunks off into the pan. No knife, no time-wasting, no washing up.
DRIBBLE THE FAT AWAY: When you cook mince (my favoured meat option) just make sure you pour away the fat in the pan before adding your sauce and veg. Even lean mince will create a good pool of fat in the pan. Get rid of it. We all need fat to build muscle and keep ourselves in good health, but there'll still be enough left in the meat to stop you wasting away so get over yourself, okay?
HEALTHY CHIPS: I love, love, love chips. They are my favourite. But they don't fit within my 5g fat rule. So, slice a potato into chips, use a quick spray of oil (you can buy spray oils now) and stick them in the oven for 20 mins. Really crispy, healthy chips. They taste great! And guess what, you can drown them in vinegar and feel totally smug about yourself! I love vinegar. Sometimes I drink whole pints of it. I call it The Devil's Vimto.
DON'T GET SILLY: I once became so obsessed with my food I ended up fainting on the phone to Ken Dodd. This was ridiculous and clearly, I had taken things way too far. I hadn't eaten any salt, sugar or fat for ages and I was running every day. If you have a slightly obsessive personality like mine, beware. There kind of is such a thing as being too healthy.
Crucially, a massive reason why diets almost always fail is because they are used as a substitute for exercise. Well, guess what? There is no substitute for exercise. Weight loss diets are for the deluded and the lazy. Unless you have a debilitating physical condition, then get out there and do some flippin' exercise! Alternatively , take off all your clothes, stand in front of the mirror and say "I am overweight and a bit wobbly but I have no inclination to do anything serious about it...but I am happy." That's fine. If you are not happy, however, it's time to face up to the truth. You need to start working.
MENTAL BLOCK: As a boy, I was into reading, writing and drawing. I had the mind of a gazelle and still do. But, I did not have the body of a gazelle. I was terrible at football and horribly self-concious about the way I looked. I had massive legs but the torso of a gnat. I was like a really rubbish centaur. I felt very skinny and ugly which was insane because actually I was well good looking. I was constantly afraid of other children laughing at me for being a slow runner or an ungainly athlete. This gave me a real fear of exercise which I didn't overcome until I was 24 years old.
That is when I put on my only pair of shorts and a T-shirt, walked to the front door and went for a run around the local park. It was probably less than one kilometre... and it killed me. I got terrible shin-splints but I felt so good to have done something positive and, in the weeks that followed, I felt for the first time in my life, that I was in charge of my own body. It was probably four months of painful legs and exhaustion before I was able to run comfortably but I managed to keep going because I was angry at myself for being so useless.
Today, when I'm out running and I see someone who looks a little overweight or is really battling hard, I feel a huge wave of respect for them. I don't think they look silly, I don't think they look out of place, I think they look wonderful and I silently urge them on.
PAIN: For those who have never exercised as an adult, the subsequent pain can come as a real shock. It really, really hurts but that's a good sign. Be prepared for it. I have learned that the right kind of muscular pain is a good thing and it is my opinion that, if you are not willing to put up with discomfort, then you are not serious about changing the way you look and feel and you are doomed to failure. Be proud of your agony!
RUNNING: Start with a short run. Just set yourself a goal, no matter how short and get there, even if you have to walk back. Next time, go a little further. It's quite incredible how quickly you can improve. Be sure to buy some running trainers and eat an hour before you head out. If it's hot take some water. You might want to roll up some toilet tissue in your sleeve in case you have to do a poo in a bush.
SWIMMING: I swim like a sinking moose so I can't give any advice. God, I am an awful swimmer. But swimming is a brilliant form of all-body exercise and it's the only time you are allowed to kick snooty elderly women in the face.
GYMS: I don't like gyms. They are impersonal, sterile places and they make me feel caged and embarrassed. I don't think they are the answer for those of us who feel awkward about our bodies. They're the natural habitat for exactly the kind of idiots who used to make us feel insecure in P.E. One look at some Darren in his vest and joggers huffing, puffing and groaning as if he's blowing up the world's heaviest balloon and I've had enough. Leave him to it and save your money, I say.
BOOTCAMPS: These are great. They are much more motivating than gyms and you get a real sense of togetherness with your fellow victims, as you splodge through the mud and rain, smearing your hands with goose poo and feeling your back freeze on the grass. There is no better way to lose weight. Your whole body is moving and by the end, everyone is exhilarated and exhausted. When I went to my first one, I couldn't do a single press-up. Nobody laughed at me, it was encouragement all the way. By the way, I don't go to the military ones, I go to something called FitMK. I find it a bit less contrived and more supportive.
HOLIDAYS: If you can bear it, go on a cycling or walking holiday. Imagine all of your friends returning from their breaks all swollen and orange like glazed pork and there you are, slimmer and fitter than ever and with a beautiful tan. And, because you've pushed yourself through the day, you can eat what you like in the evening.
I suspect no one has bothered to read this far. If you have, then you are destined to succeed, I reckon!
Eat healthily. Exercise. Lose weight.