I’ve always been a bit of a porker really, well that’s not strictly true actually, lets just say I have “struggled” with my weight in one way or another, and generally speaking have ended up being at the wrong side of the scale most of the time.
As a child, one of my earliest memories on the subject harks back to the days of family teas at my Nan’s house. These were traditional affairs I suspect replicated in many of your own minds when thinking of childhood, cold meat sandwiches of SPAM, or tinned ham if we had company. Tinned pink salmon complete with crunchy bones soaked in vinegar. Malt loaf, Caramel Wafers, Chocolate Teacakes, pink and white Coconut Mallows, Snowballs and the obligatory Battenberg Cake. The finale always being the centrepiece Birds Trifle complete with “Dream-Topping”, or on the odd occasion a choice of Angel Delight or Instant Whip..
I was quite skinny back then (shock horror), and I can still remember my grandparents poking me in the ribs and saying “you need to eat that, get some beef on your bones” etc. Especially as back then I hated butter (or margarine), and coming from a Northern family, this was a complete no-no. Butter is a “must eat” food item. (Just ask a certain Yorkshire TV Chef, or watch about any ten random seconds, of ANY of his bloody programmes…) Basically, I was always encouraged to pile on the weight to become, “healthy”.
Until of course I did, THEN, “I was too fat…”
Fast forward a few years (a very lot), and a health check at my local Doctors Surgery. The practice Nurse asked if I minded having a student in the room with my while I was examined, I said it was fine and we continued. Stripped to the waist (me, not her), she turned me to the student, plunged her own very pudgy finger (pot and kettle I thought) knuckle deep into one of my pecs/moobs (delete as applicable), and said to him “do you know what causes these?”
Before I had chance to blurt out “they, are the results of strenuous physical exercise” in protest, she turned her glare to meet my own and said, “BEER!!”
Now if I’m honest with myself, at the time I believed she was right and have always thought that beer has had a major part to play in my rotundness, especially in recent years. This thought ably assisted by continuously having beer being named and shamed by every “health expert” under the sun, in some study we’ve paid for in grants over many years. The most recent of course that breweries should have to start putting calorific content values on everything they produce for sale.
Which brings me to Chubvember…
To most people this will mean nothing, but also perhaps seem quite familiar.. During November, a small group of mainly beery friends and I took part in this as a bit of a weight loss self motivational drive. Mostly via a private Facebook group although there may have been the odd Twitter breakout. Nothing serious, just a bit of fun with the Chubvember name being a tongue in cheek dig at the various none drinking/eating/smoking months that seem to have jumped on the Mo-vember bandwagon. There were no rules, no targets, nothing was banned, but I personally chose to at least try and reduce my alcohol intake.
In the beginning I did this for two reasons, the obvious one being that I was too heavy, I felt it draining me, my clothes were starting to strain and I wanted a change for me. The second, the alcohol part, was more that I felt I needed a break, it wasn’t as important any more, things were becoming stale. At least that was, in the beginning, before I sort of wanted to prove a personal point.
After the first few days, of no beer (or alcohol), I think I shocked myself as to how easy I found it to lay off the booze. It definitely took my wife and close friends by surprise too I think, all of whom were very supportive, baring in mind I don’t think I’d taken more than perhaps one day off in the previous year unless by illness. On top of the booze I cut out all or most of the bad things for me (you know the sort, all the tasty enjoyable things you really like) and tried to eat really healthily. I always cook as much fresh food as I can and eat lots of vegetables, but now I was making Hairy Dieters dishes and such, cutting out fats, plus upping my walking much to the dogs delight. I used an app to track progress and was pretty much always under my daily intake targets, genuinely determined to make a go of it.
Predictably I shed around 3lbs in as many days, smiling to myself as I got off the scales that day, all my self-sacrifice was worth it. Then, it stopped….
Some times after a couple of days I lost half a pound or so, other times I had done particularly well on the food, drink and exercise front and had somehow managed to put weight on, it was bizarre. The food and walking alone should really have seen some results I thought considering my size, but no beer too, the source of all the evil if facts are to be believed? I had gone from drinking out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, not to excess but a decent amount, plus a few bottles at home every other day of the week and was massively disappointed by the results I was seeing.
Despite this though I continued and went through the full month, taking around twenty or so days off. I lost around 7lbs in that time, which is still good, normally at about 1lb per week, a steady decline which I am sure is best all round (no pun intended).
I’ve also managed to stick with it up to now too, albeit not so strictly. Chubvember long forgotten and now well into the season of goodwill and Christmas beer (Fatcember) it will be tougher still, but for now at least I feel I can carry on and shed a few more pounds and I’m now another couple of pounds lighter. I feel healthier, my bones don’t creak so much and my dodgy knees are definitely benefitting from more use, carrying less bulk.
The other upside of course is that I’m finding I like a break in taking the odd day off having bevvy, it isn’t really a struggle and the next beer tastes SO much better.
To summarise, what does all this prove, nothing. There’s no science to any of this and I’m certainly not going to try and tell you all that drinking alcohol every day is fine and harmless because of course it isn’t in some circumstances. Neither am I saying that drinking beer won’t make you put on weight, it might, especially when done to excess.
What think I am trying to say though is this, beer alone is not the main culprit as some sources would have you believe, or at least I can safely say at least not for me. It is all a matter of balance. Make your own choices, for you, when YOU want to and only then will YOU be happy with the results and be able to feel whatever sacrifices you made were worth it.
So with that, you can stick “Drynuary”, or whatever the next daft title that some bloody doom-monger comes up with to justify yet another form of enforced abstinence where the sun don’t shine!
Cheers and a Merry Bleedin’ Christmas to you all!
UPDATE: My good friend Claire Knight ( @krider2010 ) who manages to combine being a keen foodie and lover of great beer, with a hard fitness regime to competition level was compelled to write a very complimentary and informative post over on her own fitness and nutrition blog Deskbound Girevik. It’s called “Moderation Is Key” and can be found following the previous link. Please give it a read, comment and give Claire a follow too 🙂