By Allan Davis  

Allan Davis

Allan Davis

Anyone that knows me, follows me on Facebook or Twitter knows that I have lost a lot of weight.

At the last count it was 78lb (5.5 stones or 35.5 kilos).

I often get asked about it. The first thing I am asked is ‘How did I get so big?’

There are many reasons for weight gain and in this first of two articles I will talk about my own demons that drove me to tip the scales at 17.5 stone. To be honest I must have been a text-book case. 

Raised in a Jewish household food was always on offer.

I was brought up at a time when you  finished everything on your plate before leaving the table, something I still struggle hard with today and the fact that I don’t have to eat everything. As a child we had dinner every night at 6.30pm or when my father came home from work. My mother cooked every night big hamishe portions, she never said it but I’m sure she was thinking ‘Eat Dolly, Eat! 

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At my heaviest.

Friday night and all the Yom Tov’s were always big family dinners never less than three courses and of course never a small portion in sight. And if you said something tasted nice you were given just ‘a little bit more’ the pot or dish the food was in had to be scrapped clean of everything, it was a waste to throw anything away.

A trip to see my grandparents in the East End always involved Smoked Salmon, Chopped Herring and of course a slice of Plava or Honey Cake.

You never left hungry.

As they sang in the movie, Oliver, ‘Food, Glorious Food!’, the only difference was, in the movie they were dreaming about it and I was eating it all up! 

Fast forward to September 2010.

An unhealthy relationship, unhappy, with low self esteem together with a touch of body dis-morphia.

I was living an unhealthy lifestyle and being more than a little reckless.

I had just returned from a holiday with my partner when I started to feel unwell, thinking it was just a touch of anxiety, I ignored it.

To make matters worse my partner was a doctor and still I said nothing until one day I felt so unwell I couldn’t breathe.

I was in full blown heart failure. Rushed into hospital just in time, I was treated and started the road to recovery.

I was told by every doctor I saw that I had to lose weight. I ignored their advice. I loved my food.

I was also into going to the gym and I wanted to get ‘big’. But I was eating all wrong, so, of course I got the wrong kind of big. People would often tell me I was ‘so big’. But what they should have said was, that I was fat. Maybe they were just too scared to tell me and I was confusing the two. Surely big meant ‘muscle big’.

The following year in August 2011 and I had a wedding to go to. My weight was still the same. Little had changed.

I had to hire a dinner suit. In my head I wanted to look like 007, James Bond, in reality however I looked more like Peter Griffin from ‘Family Guy’. It was only when vanity stepped in that I realised that I had to lose weight. For the first time I looked in the mirror and really saw what I looked like. I was 45 years old, 5ft 8″, 17.5 stone, looking tired and bloated with a 38″ waist. When you really don’t like yourself, that’s when you know you have to start making changes.

I had to forget everything I knew about my eating habits and start again. I had to teach myself how to eat properly. By this time I was single and I started the long journey to losing weight, getting to know myself again and accept myself for who I was.

Understanding our relationship with food

From an early age food is used as a bribe or as a reward. As a child we are often told that if we behave we can have an ice cream, some sweets or better yet, we can go to McDonalds. And so the seed is sown.

We start to see food as some kind of reward.

Got a promotion, a pay rise, or some other milestone in our life, let’s celebrate with dinner out!

Not that it’s a bad thing but we tend to over indulge, it’s a sign of achievement. And restaurants encourage us to eat more, starters, mains and deserts, what kind of celebration is it if we don’t have three courses?

I was of course guilty of using food as a reward. I always had three courses. And then some.

We’ve also been ‘programmed’ on when and how to eat. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. We even have a timetable when to eat.

That might have been fine back in the 1950’s or 1960’s but our lifestyles have changed and so unfortunately have our diets. Our lives are much more ‘on the go’, as our lives have become faster so has our food. A friend of mine recently asked me why she’s put on a bit of weight, she told me “I eat 3 meals a day, nothing after 6 and no snacking, can’t understand why I’ve put on weight”.

It’s because eating has become a routine, she’s sticking to the timetable.

Our lives change all the time but sometimes our diets stay the same and there lies another problem. Lifestyle, age and activity all play a part in how much or little we should eat plus just eating three times a day just isn’t healthy, for some people it can be up to six hours between lunch and dinner.

We should be looking at our diets all the time.

I’m going on a diet

Perhaps even more dangerous is our language we use when we talk about diets. How many times have you heard someone say ‘I’m going on a diet’? Five little words that are perhaps the reason why diets fail. Firstly we are ALL on a diet.

Everything we eat constitutes a diet. So if you only eat chocolate and cream cakes, that’s your diet.

We also say ‘going on’ a diet, which implies that at some point we will get off, much like we are ‘going on’ a train or a plane, we know we will eventually get off them.

It would be far better to say that we are going to change our diet, because that’s exactly what we should be doing.

Changing your diet is not a negative, but we continuously talk about the food that we are having to ‘give up’, as if it is a bad thing.

People are always asking me ‘Don’t you miss chocolate, cakes or bread?’, the plain answer is no, I also don’t miss getting out of breath putting on my socks, having no energy and being bloated. Every cloud as they say. There are so many unexpected positives to losing weight that you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

For me it became a journey of self discovery, for every pound I lost I learn’t something new about myself.

For every stone I shed I became more confident. Losing weight somehow empowered me to be brave, take chances and to believe that I deserved better.

Being ‘lighter’ I was able to face my demons and make peace with them, finally I’m ready for the rest of my life.

In the next part I will let you know how I lost the weight. There’s only one real secret. You have to really want to lose weight, and that’s it.

I’ll tell you exactly what changes I made to my diet and I’ll give some of my tips that helped me and I’ll reveal what I look like now.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a family wedding and this time I’m pleased to say I did look like 007!

Please note, I am not a trained dietician. Other than studying Home Economics at school and Nutrition at college’, I have never taken any further education in this subject.

Everything in this article relates to my own personal experiences relating to weight loss. I have written this, to answer questions that I am frequently asked and to to inspire others!

Allan Davis is a Jewish LGBT activist who runs http://hotsaltbeef.com/ and tweets HERE.

Originally posted HERE, on http://hotsaltbeefandmustard.com/.