Keeping up Appearances

Cycling and appearance has been making the news at the moment.

Chris Hoy declared in his new GQ style article that:

‘professional cycling gear generally looks awful on pretty much anyone heavier than eight stone and with more than five per cent body aerodynamic fat’

He has since apologised and said that the article was ‘tongue in cheek’.

For me though, the damage is kind of done. I don’t think I’ll be buying a Hoy bike any time soon.

After all, I might break it – I’m well over 8 stone.

What he said may not seem like that big a deal. I don’t think that Sir Chris really thinks that what he said is that big a deal. The thing is, it is that big a deal when it is said by someone like Chris Hoy. A man who is looked up to and admired by thousands of cyclists.

When I ride the cargo bike to get to places and ferry my kids about, I wear ‘normal’ clothes. Generally jeans because I frankly lack imagination when it comes to my wardrobe. I choose to dress like this because I am going about my normal daily business and the bike is just how I get there.

When I ride my road bike for pure enjoyment, I wear lycra. I choose to dress like this because it is so much more comfortable than jeans. I don’t actually care that much what it looks like. I care about whether I am warm enough. I care about not having my clothing flapping about in the breeze since this would slow me down. I may not be all that fast on the bike, but I would like to be as fast as I can be. Fast is fun. Quite frankly, I care about whether or not my arse is sore after a couple of hours on a bike saddle.

I have been cycling for years. I know why I do it (because I love it and it makes me feel like me). I don’t really care what other people think of my hobby or my clothing.

But that’s not the case for everyone.

Right now, more and more people are getting on bikes and this is fantastic. It is fantastic for individual people’s health. It is fantastic for easing congestion and pollution on our roads. It is fantastic for setting an example to our children.

Right now, more and more women are getting on bikes. Even more fantastic because women are under-represented in cycling at the moment.

Lots of these women will be concerned about what they look like. And lots of these women will have heard about Chris Hoy’s comments. And the vast majority of them will be over eight stone in weight. Where does this leave them? Are people sniggering at them when they walk into cafes like Sir Chris suggests?

Right now, there is a major problem with girls leaving all forms of sport and activity as they become teenagers. They leave sport and activity because they are worried about what they look like. They then fail to develop the habit of physical activity. A habit which would keep them healthy for life.

These girls are massively concerned about what they look like. And lots of these girls will have heard about Chris Hoy’s comments too.

Eight stone is not a healthy weight for many people. I’m sure that Chris Hoy didn’t intend to suggest that eight stone is a healthy weight to aim for. But the thing is, he is Chris Hoy. He is an icon that people look up to. I can make flippant comments all I want because very few people care about my opinion. If you are Chris Hoy and many many people care about your opinion, you need to be a bit more careful what you say.

In his defense, I think the article is so poorly written and confused that it’s hard to know what Sir Chris’s meaning really was.

Not that much of a defense though.

So cyclists, wear what you like. Be comfortable. Be whatever weight and shape makes you healthy and comfortable.

And be careful who you look up to.

And wear an aerodynamic helmet if you want to. Even if you’re not at the Olympics.

Me. Not at the Olympics.

 

Winning the Weight Loss Challenge

I’ve posted a couple of times this year about weight loss and me. About losing weight after pregnancy and about the culinary challenges I now find myself facing.

Time for an update and the update is positive.

Since New Year, I have lost just over a stone. Even better, I find myself fitting into clothes a size smaller. This is the first time I have been a size 12 in many, many years.

Yay for me. I feel great and I feel positive about maintaining my new weight.

The remarkable thing is that I’ve not really found it that tough to lose the weight this time. I’ve not been hungry and I’ve not gone without my red wine and chocolate at the weekend.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing.

I discovered the myfitnesspal app when I first started losing the ‘baby weight’. I think it’s a fantastic tool. But, like any tool, how well it works depends on how well you use it. I have used it well and I have used it badly. More about that in a future post.

Here is why I think I might just of got it right this time:

  • Accurately measuring calories out:

I got a new Garmin (I am a bit of a Garmin gadget addict). My lovely husband bought me a Garmin Vivoactive HR for my birthday. I have tried all sorts of heart rate monitors over the years. All of these used chest straps to measure heart rate. All of them have ended up flung across rooms in disgust. I came to the conclusion that I am simply not the right build for chest straps.

My new Garmin is a watch which measures heart rate at the wrist. I have found it to be reliable and accurate. It uses the heart rate measurements to calculate calories burned, so the calorie count is pretty accurate. The Garmin Connect app talks to the myfitnesspal app so the calories I burn are added onto my daily allowance. It also counts steps so I don’t have to tell myfitnesspal how active I am (since this varies every day anyway).

  • Thinking about the quality of everything I eat

I have had my daily calorie ‘allowance’ set at around 1500. This is fairly low, but because I am on the bike pretty much every day for transport or fun, I generally have another 500 calories added to this to make up for calories burned. I have found that this level is perfectly achievable without feeling hungry as long as I think about the quality of everything I eat. For me this has meant lots of fruit and veg, and lots of malt loaf. I look for what I can eat which will make me feel the most full, for the least calories.

Sadly, if I consume 685 calories with a slice of tiffin and a medium latte from Costa (I love tiffin and latte from Costa) that is a huge dent in my allowance and it doesn’t really keep hunger at bay for long. That said, a small skinny latte from Costa comes in at 70 calories and, because milk is largely protein, this is actually not a bad high quality, low calorie snack.

  • Eating enough and eating often

Eating enough and timing when I eat has been a tricky one for me. I now never go out without snacks (for me, as well as the children). I would no more leave the house without bananas and malt loaf bars, than I would leave without a packet of wipes (Once you have had children, it is almost impossible to contemplate not having wipes on hand at all times, even once the children are out of nappies). I have realised that, if I actually let myself feel more than slightly hungry, I overeat.

Mid-morning and evening are the important times for me. We have breakfast pretty early, then the nursery and playgroup run is on the cargo bike. By the time I have done that, I always eat something. I often don’t feel hungry, but if I don’t eat something around 100 calories, I will find myself eating closer to 500 calories later.

I now try to keep meals under 500 calories, but I kind of count snacks as a meal – especially evening snacks. I eat with my children at around 5pm and I go to bed around 10pm. That leaves a huge stretch of time without eating if I don’t have enough calories to eat in the evening. So, I make sure I have enough calories to eat something in the evening. This is usually the calories I have burned through cycling, especially if I have been on the bike in the evening.

Some days, I find it hard to get my head around eating enough in the evening. It is hard to see that you have 800 calories left because it has been an active day and not to think that that is an achievement, especially if I’m not actually feeling all that hungry. I have done this in the past and have found that the next day, or even the day after, I go on a bit of an eating rampage. Bring on the Costa tiffin and unlimited home baking! So now, if I have 800 calories left at the end of the day, I use those calories before I go to bed.

  • Minor changes in family meals

I recently watched the ‘Hairy Dieters’ programmes and thought they had lots of good ideas for cutting calories without sacrificing enjoyment. I bought the cook book too and have found it really helpful. It has some good, simple, tasty recipes which have been acceptable to everyone in my family (Husband: larger portions, 4 year old: happy to eat most things, 2 year old: put bread with it).

I have taken the hairy biker idea of little swaps and used that with other meals too. So, if I make pasta and pasta sauce, for me I swap the pasta for baked sweet potato (5 minutes in the microwave so not a separate meal to my mind) – just as filling, half the calories. My family loves chilli and quesadillas – I make the chilli with quorn mince, use the food processor to add in loads of peppers in disguise, and I have baked potato instead of quesadillas. Lunches have been the same minor changes – one slice of toast with extra baked beans or scrambled egg is more filling for less calories.

  • Chilling out about going over my daily ‘allowance’

I no longer panic when I go over my daily allowance. I regularly do go over it and I am still losing weight. My reasoning it that I have my allowance set fairly low and that leaves a nice ‘margin of error’. According to the NHS, a woman should consume around 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight. So, even if I go over by 500 calories every day for a week, it’s really no disaster. I probably won’t lose any weight that week, but I probably won’t gain any either, and that is fine.

I am not en elite athlete and I never will be. It is not vital that I keep my weight low, it never will be. I just want it a little bit lower. I always go over my allowance on Fridays and Saturdays. Wine and chocolate. It is worth appreciating just how easy it is to consume a couple of thousand calories through wine and chocolate. This allows me to be moderate in my indulgences and to be aware of them, without giving them up entirely. If I have kept more or less within the limits I have set throughout the week, although I go over at the weekends, my average daily calorie consumption for the week is still under 2000 calories so I should still lose weight.

So, these little revelations have meant that for now I have found a ‘diet’ that I can keep to and not feel deprived. I also feel that I am not demonstrating an obsession with dieting to my children. I am perhaps demonstrating an obsession with healthy eating and moderation to my children. To me that is ok. I want to bring my children up to be active and to eat healthily, not to diet. I find that if I stay active and eat healthily (not Costa tiffin, or at least not too often), then I don’t need to diet.

 

Culinary Challenges

I’m watching ‘How to Lose Weight Well’ while I type.

I have no experience using any of the ‘fad diet’ approaches to losing weight. I don’t think I ever will, for a simple reason:

For an active person I am really quite lazy. Lots of these diets seem like a lot of work. I am just too lazy to work out proportions of protein to carbohydrate or any such nonsense.

Years ago (actually on honeymoon – how romantic) I read Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. His approach makes a lot of sense and is really very simple. This is the essence of it, as I interpreted it (rightly or wrongly):

  • Calories – if you eat more than you use, you will gain weight; if you eat less than you use, you will lose weight.
  • Quality – high quality foods tend to be lower in calories and tend to make you feel fuller. Think fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, little or no processing.

I have always aimed for a healthy diet, which to me means plenty of just such high quality foods.

Sadly, some of the things I really love aren’t really all that high quality. I love red wine. I love chocolate. I love cheese. I love lattes and cake. All entirely acceptable in moderation.

I’m not great at moderation. ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth going completely overboard with’ might as well be my motto. This is possibly one reason why  could really do with losing a bit of weight.

As a mum and cook to a family of four it is not as simple as just deciding to change my diet. I face a number of culinary challenges:

  • I enjoy cooking. But I don’t enjoy it enough to cook more than one evening meal a day – everyone eats the same in my house.
  • I don’t really want to cook an evening meal every day. I like big meals which can be re-heated for a second night.
  • I don’t have a huge amount of spare time so cooking time needs to be planned for.
  • Cooking cannot be too involved. If I can’t pause midway through cooking something to change a nappy / sort out an argument / wipe a bottom / locate an essential toy without the meal being spoiled then it isn’t going to work.
  • I want my children to eat a balanced diet. I also want them to to develop a healthy attitude to food.
  • It really winds me up when I spend time cooking meals which nobody then wants to eat.
  • I love to bake, and love to eat what I bake.

There are also the individual requirements of the various members of my family:

Me

Likes: Most things, fish, chilli, anything in pastry, Christmas cake, chocolate

Dislikes: lamb, raw tomatoes

Special requirements: wants to lose some weight, doesn’t like to eat too much meat

Husband

Likes: stir fry, chilli sauce, curries, chicken, Nandos, biscuits

Dislikes: fish,

Special requirements: meals which can be reheated without spoiling when he gets in from work.

4 Year Old

Likes: a remarkable range of foods for his age

Dislikes: ‘crunchy bits’ (real or imaginary)

Special requirements: No different foods to be mixed together (pasta, broccoli and chicken = good; broccoli and chicken pasta bake = bad) or touching on the plate.

2 Year Old

Likes: milk, pasta, milk, boiled eggs (all traces of yolk removed), milk, cheese on toast, milk, pizza, milk, sausages, milk, ketchup (ideally with nothing else on the plate), milk, milk, milk

Dislikes: everything else. Absolutely everything else

Special requirements: vary from day to day.

Suffice to say that much of my waking time revolves around food. Thinking about food, planning food, shopping for food, making food, sweeping up food.

However, this is a challenge I am determined to rise to. Not least because husband and I are channeling our competitive selves in the hope of losing weight. We have a chart on the wall and weekly weigh-ins planned. And neither of us likes to lose.