When I passed my driving test, way back in 1980, the examiner said to me ‘Congratulations Mr Colgan. Now you start learning to drive’. And he was right. I no longer had someone in the passenger seat telling me what to do and rescuing me from my mistakes. I now had to experience driving different vehicles that were different heights, widths and engine sizes. The controls moved about the dashboard and no two cars had the same pedals. And to top it all, the weather changed with ridiculous regularity and I often found myself driving in unfamiliar places. It’s the reason why people have more accidents in their first year of driving than any other. According to RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), the accident risk of a 17 year old novice driver reduces by 43% after their first year of driving experience.*
The same thing happens with ex-dieters. As soon as we tear up our ‘D’ plates and we’re allowed to eat whatever we want, we either eat like maniacs, eat the wrong things or fall back into bad habits. We’re in control once again and we like it. But then we find that we’ve put the weight back on and we’re faced with two choices – we can learn from our mistakes and fix them (which invariably means another diet), or we can think ‘sod it’ and watch that waistband expand.
However, there is a third way. You can change the way that you interact with food. As Einstein once famously said (or words to this effect), ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. Cream cakes don’t get any less fattening while you’re on a diet. Saturated fats don’t become a lot more healthy. If you leave your diet and go back to using food the same way that you did before, history will repeat itself and you’ll soon be able to hire yourself out as a bouncy castle again.
I am determined not to put my weight back on, absolutely determined. I'm enjoying the new, slimmer me. I like the fact that I feel healthy and happy. I like the fact that I can buy clothes that don’t resemble the tents at the Glastonbury festival. I like the fact that I don’t ache or snore or suffer the sensation of having a small volcano in my chest. I hated heartburn. And I really like the fact that, despite having a face fit for radio, I've actually experienced being 'checked out' by some ladies recently. Older ladies with very thick spectacle lenses, admittedly. And guide dogs. And tartan shopping bags with wheels. But a check out is a check out.
So, how do I keep the weight off? I’ve never particularly enjoyed sports, I don’t want to join a gym and I want to enjoy my food. So the answer seems to be that I will have to become a Scale-watcher. I will weigh myself with obsessive regularity and, if I find that some rogue pounds have crept back on, I will lose them before having any more treats. It's easier to lose three or four pounds than three or four stones. Portion sizes will also be smaller. There'll be no more second helpings. And I won't get hung up about leaving food on my plate when I'm full. Despite my late Gran's dire warnings, starving children in Africa will still be starving whether I eat those last four chips or not.
Like it or not, food is my drug of choice ... so now, and for the rest of my life, I need to keep my addiction in check. Watching the scales will be a pain ... but at least I can see them now!
And the future?
*For 18 year old drivers, the reduction is 40%, for 19 year olds 38% and for 25 year olds it’s around 25%. Source: Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – www.rospa.com