Author’s note: This article is part one of a series. Stay tuned for part two and three on exercise and mindset in the next few weeks.
Can you really be fat and fit?
Yes, it actually is possible to be totally healthy in a bigger body.
And it’s not about weight loss, but rather about creating a healthier lifestyle so that those with a fuller frame can find their bodies’ natural balance.
Fat or thin, curvy or slim, there are some universal truths to help anyone realise their full potential in health and happiness.
When I was a kid, I went through a fat phase, and my kinder friends nicknamed me Tubby. That was enough negative motivation to get me off my chubby black butt and be more active.
When school finished for summer, I rode my super cool Chopper bike every day, played more football, ate less junk, and drank less sodas. By the end of that long hot summer of ‘77, I was a much healthier and happier nine-year-old. Sure, I was still a little chunky, but for the first time in my young life my Afro was bigger than my arse.
In honour of the Tubby I used to be and all the tubbies out there striving to be healthier and happier versions of themselves, I have developed a three-phase approach to health and fitness, taking into account: food, exercise, and mindset. I call this three-phase program, “Tubby’s Triangle,” in honour of the fat kid inside me, just waiting to eat me alive.
So where do we begin?
Let’s start by throwing out our scales. That’s right, throw them out! We are worth more than our weight in gold—our true wealth is our good health.
How many years have you been weighing yourself and defining your health and happiness by where that stubborn indicator rests? Well, no more.
This is the only indicator to wellness I believe we should be using: how do I feel?
How do I feel when I climb a flight of stairs? How do I feel carrying heavy bags from A to B? Does my body feel strong with everyday physical activities? Does my body feel mobile? Does my back give me pain—my hips, my knees, my ankles? Am I often ill, tired, or depressed? Am I comfortable and confident in my own skin? In essence, am I fit for life?
Answer these questions honestly for yourself. If your answers tell you that you could be healthier and happier than you are presently, then here are some simple healthy habits you can start to form to help you realise your full potential for well-being.
Having thrown out the scales, the next step is to quit dieting.
That’s right, no more celebrity endorsed, glossy magazine, or tatty tabloid fad diets. How many years have you been dieting, and then stopped and regained weight? Over the long term, the vast majority of chubbies who diet fail to lose weight and keep the weight off. Why?
The simple truth is, we can’t live forever on a diet. At some point the diet ends and then we have to go back to our own eating habits. Unless the diet has educated us honestly about nutrition and how to maintain a healthy weight after the diet ends then we have been set up to fail, again and again.
The other significant reason why diets generally fail in the long term is because dieting is only one part of the energy equation, or one side of Tubby’s Triangle. Our bodies take in energy in the form of food and drink, and then use that energy in the form of physical activity. Energy in, energy out.
If more energy is going into our bodies in the form of food and drink, and not enough energy is being used in the form of physical activity, we will steadily gain weight, or more specifically, fat. Ultimately, diets create a thin impression of making an effort without making much effort at all.
Vaguely aware of the energy equation, many dieters count the units of energy they consume: calorie counting. But again, without enough regular physical activity to use those calories effectively, body fat will inevitably accumulate when the diet ends.
Why not quit making food your math-to-mouth addiction, and start making it your passion?
For many tubbies, food has indeed become something of an addiction. Food is a comfort, a consolation, and a confidante. Like any addiction, it rarely works to just stop using, especially with food. We all have to eat, right?
The key is to create a new lifestyle, a lifestyle in which it becomes easier for us to eat better quality food and harder for us to eat compulsively. If we do not create a new lifestyle for ourselves then the old traumas and traits, the patterns and pathologies that initially triggered our food addictions, will reassert themselves.
Creating this new lifestyle is easier than you might imagine.
Embrace the moderation mindset. Most diets are the antithesis of moderation, they usually advocate far more of one thing and far less of another, intentionally keeping us out of balance.
To the promoters of fad diets the simple fact is this: moderation doesn’t make money. They see you as their cash cow, their piggy bank, and they make huge profits from the misery of the millions just like you stuck on the yo-yoing diet-and-bust merry-go-round.
Once you have embraced the moderation mindset, forming new eating habits really begins with knowing what to eat and why.
So let’s begin with whole foods. Sorry no, that doesn’t mean eating a whole pizza and drinking a whole bottle of wine!
Whole foods are usually plant based foods that are unrefined and unprocessed, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (like rice, oats, and quinoa) and legumes, (like peas, beans, and lentils).
Whole foods can be supplemented by fresh meat and fish, as well as a moderate amount of eggs and dairy produce like cheese, butter, fresh milk, and natural yoghurt. There are also many alternatives for vegetarians, vegans, and those who are lactose intolerant.
Try to eat the absolute minimal amount of processed food from cans, jars, and bottles. This kind of processed food is often packed with sugar, salt, artificial colours, preservatives, and huge array of additives.
This synthetic cocktail of additives play havoc with our brain chemistry and hormonal balance, causing any number of side effects ranging from mood swings, migraines, lethargy, and depression.
Furthermore, because processed foods usually contain less vitamins and minerals than whole foods we tend to eat larger portions in order to bridge the nutritional deficit. With larger portions, along with cravings and crankiness induced by a hotchpotch of additives, your body is hit with a double whammy.
However, not all processed food contains harmful additives, so get used to reading the list of ingredients on labels. Once you have a collection of trusted healthy brands, you can make more confident and conscious choices when shopping.
The myths and misconceptions perpetuated by the food industry keep the masses ignorant and enslaved. The same multinational companies that feed us fast food, cynically promote their unhealthy products at major sporting events, also sell us fad diets, so called “fitness” drinks, designer water, and, eventually, the patented pharmaceuticals when our bodies or minds break down.
So let’s bust some of those myths and misconceptions and emancipate some bodies and minds.
Sugar is not bad for you—too much sugar is bad for you.
Add unrefined sugar to your home-cooked meals instead of refined sugar, or sugar substitutes added for you to processed food. Half a teaspoon of raw cane sugar in a pasta sauce or soup can make all the difference.
Salt is not bad for you—too much salt is bad for you.
Add sea salt to your home-cooked meals instead of refined salt, or salt derivatives added for you to processed food. A pinch of sea salt on your homemade pancakes or raw porridge can really bring these dishes to life.
Fat is not bad for you— too much fat and the wrong kind of fat is bad for you.
Did you know real butter is far better for you than margarine? The highly processed manufacturing of vegetable oils with the addition of artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, and a hydrogen molecule to turn a healthy unsaturated liquid fat into an unstable and unhealthy saturated fat (or trans fat) makes margarine one of the greatest cons the food industry has ever pulled off.
Trans fats actually increase cholesterol levels and the chances of heart attack. Trans fats decrease immune and insulin response, contribute to bone and tendon degeneration, fertility problems, proper growth of children, as well as lowering the quality of breast milk.
And no, trans fats are not chubbies undergoing gender reassignment.
Eating a proportionate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and fish, whole grains, legumes and dairy produce, or vegetarian and vegan alternatives, will give you the legendary “balanced diet.”
However, there is no one ideal balanced diet.
Different things work for different people according to their body type, genetics, food sensitivities, allergies, and conditions like diabetes. Taking these differences into account, eating a balanced and healthy diet is essentially quite simple.
A healthy human body needs a variety of carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, and grains to provide energy, and fibre, to help prevent conditions like constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
A healthy human body needs a variety of proteins from meat, fish, eggs, and legumes to aid in cell replacement, tissue repair, bone growth, and development of lean muscle.
A healthy human body needs a variety of fats from cold pressed cooking oils, dairy produce, nuts and seeds to facilitate proper vitamin absorption, the regulation of hormonal levels, to help conduct electrical impulses in the nervous system, energy storage, and insulation.
In broad strokes that takes care of your evolved eating habits, but what should you be drinking to help maintain your new healthy self? Again, it’s quite simple. Reduce your alcohol and caffeine consumption to a minimum. This will have an immediate positive effect on your brain chemistry and energy levels. Try smoothies, herbal teas (chilled or iced in the summer), fresh fruit juices, or water with a squeeze of lemon or lime, instead of the chemical cocktails that make up most sodas and soft drinks.
Above all, remember your moderation mindset.
Once you have evolved a 90 percent healthier eating habit, you can enjoy the occasional 10 percent treat—100 percent guilt-free—be it a take-out, icecream, cookies, chips, or chocolate.
Lastly, make the time to prepare real food. Living in the now will not help you evolve healthy eating habits. Plan ahead. Carry healthy snacks and drinks with you. Buy a cookbook. Fall in love, and out of lust, with food.
Mother Nature has diligently designed a literal forest of foods for our alchemy. So, ultimately, it is a simple choice: we can be conscious alchemists and allow the natural intelligence of the human body to organically synthesize food as its medicine. Or, through ignorance and illness, we can allow synthetic medicines to become our food.
Your body really is a temple, and you are the goddess that abides within.
Treat yourself as such, rather than a corporately conditioned gastronomic garbage dump.
It really is food for thought.