I love food.
Thinking about it usually occupies a pretty significant portion of my brain. If I’m not day-dreaming about potential meals for the rest of the day, I’m probably browsing photos of baked goods on Pinterest. My mum frequently reminds me that eating has long been a prominent interest of mine: I was born ‘just in time for lunch’, and my first word was ‘more’ (she was feeding me chocolate at the time…). I think it’s safe to say that food is always going to be an important part of my life.
My love of tasty things led to a gradual weight gain during the last few years. I wasn’t the skinniest of minnies to start with, and my weight gain wasn’t exactly dramatic, but I wasn’t happy about things. My BMI showed me to be medically ‘obese’, and I couldn’t fit in a lot of my old size 12 clothes. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident in my own skin.
This weight gain came as a result of the various eating habits I’d picked up during my three-year undergraduate degree. I loved cooking with my friends – we’d spend most evenings concocting extravagant feasts, and I often baked cakes, biscuits, and desserts to share around. Living a 25-minute bus journey away from my university campus meant that I frequented on-site eateries, and so my fried food to healthy food ratio became slightly unbalanced. My third year routine probably did the most damage, though: I’d rock up at the Learning Grid (chilled-out library) in the morning, have a pastry and a double chocolate mocha, work until I ran out of steam, have a slice of cake and another coffee to perk me up, and then work until around midnight with another break for ready-meal/takeaway consumption. I knew it wasn’t great, but I told myself that getting my 984 assignments finished on time was more important.
I really wanted to change my eating habits before beginning my MA. I’d been told that completing a one-year Masters course was just like third year all over again, but with an even bigger workload. Letting my Learning Grid routine become a permanent way of life was something I wanted to avoid, so I did something about it. I joined Slimming World.
Since August 2015, I’ve lost 2 stone 9.5lb. My size 14 wardrobe has been replaced with lots of lovely things in sizes 6, 8, and 10 (all hail charity shops and clothes swaps!), and my BMI is now bang in the middle of ‘healthy’. I’ve never felt so fabulous.
This post isn’t intended to be an advertisement for Slimming World (though I absolutely recommend it if you’re looking for a structured, healthy way to lose weight), but I do want to share a few things that I’ve learnt about food during these past few months.
Eating healthily can be tasty, fun, and fulfilling. Carbs are great, and are very important for sustaining brainpower. I eat big bowls of pasta, lots of rice, and continue to worship potato on a near-daily basis. I snack on sushi and Mug Shots, I have an evolving repertoire of breakfast options, and I cram my face with fruit and veg at every opportunity. I never go hungry, and I treat myself to something sweet and scrummy every day.
I’ve massively lowered my fat and sugar intake by cooking from scratch, making simple swaps (using sweetener instead of sugar, for example), and knowing which foods to eat in moderation.
I usually start my day with baked oats and honey, cereals, syn-free pancakes, or wholemeal toast. Lunch could be a jacket potato, an omelette, or reheated pasta, and the plethora of possibilities for dinner always gets me excited. My favourite meals are probably Hunter’s Chicken and chips, ramen, gnocchi, spaghetti carbonara, and a good ole’ roast dinner. All are perfectly Slimming World-friendly, when made in the right way. I could eat them every day and still lose weight.
Planning ahead always helps. Why make one portion of delicious pasta when I could make two and have the leftovers for lunch the next day? I also keep a few snacks in my bag for emergencies. Cereal bars and Mug Shots are excellent weapons against the inevitable 3pm energy slump, and I’m always grateful to past-Ella when I remember there’s a tub of ready-prepared chopped fruit, potato salad, or chicken legs in the fridge.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learnt that it’s okay to love food, and that it’s also okay to be conscious of what I’m eating. I’m proud to be a foodie, and enjoying eating is no longer something I feel guilty or concerned about.
In 2014-15, I managed deadlines, commuting, and a busy schedule by eating. In 2015-16, I did exactly the same thing; I just figured out how to enjoy food in a way that’s better for my waistline.