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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Keys to Successful Dieting in Midlife - or not! The Mid Life Devil’s Advocate View

Most of us would like to be slimmer and we have all (almost without exception) tried to lose weight at some point. Midlife is a time when we are prone to putting on weight and dieting becomes more important in our lives – at least for those of us who worry about these things.

So we do our research and find out which is the best diet for our own particular body and our own particular lifestyle. When I was doing my degree, some years ago now, one of my friends went on a ‘beer diet’. He didn’t eat for 5 days, but carried on drinking beer every evening. He did lose weight but this is definitely not to be recommended!

We might try the Atkins diet, the cabbage diet, the ‘this’ diet and the ‘that’ diet and we lose some weight. Hooray. So what’s the problem?

The job of the Mid Life Devil’s Advocate is to help you to understand the reality of dieting. The Advocate isn’t trying to dissuade you from dieting, quite the reverse. He just wants to give you the reality of what you’re contemplating.

So what is the Devil’s Advocate’s view of dieting? Here are some points to ponder:
  • Statistically, most of us don’t keep our weight off when we finish our diets – so why bother?
  • To maintain a constant healthy weight, men need 2,500 calories per day, women need 2,000 calories per day – not fair, but that’s the way it is.
  • So anything more than this will be stored in the body as fat.
  • All the things you like to eat are fattening – it’s one of the laws of nature:
    • A Big Mac and medium fries (UK size) contains about 800 calories
    • A Danish Pastry contains nearly 300 calories
    • 100g of chocolate contains about 500 calories
    • 100g of popcorn contains about 400 calories
    • A traditional Christmas dinner contains about 1,000 calories
    • A medium size tub of potato salad contains about 1,000 calories
    • A decent BLT sandwich contains 800 calories
    • A Caesar Salad (which you might expect to be low in calories) contains about 750 calories (it’s the dressing)
    • On the other hand:
    • An apple contains about 50 calories
    • A portion of carrots contains about 15 calories
    • You can see where this is going …
  • You need to have a calorie deficiency of 3,500 calories to lose a pound in weight – so, if you’re a man and you eat 2,000 calories per day (2.5 decent Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches) you will lose 1lb per week. It’s a long haul.
  • So willpower and staying power are important. Do you have will power?
  • You will start off very confidently – then you get hungry.
  • You won’t lose much weight in the first few days so you lose your enthusiasm.
  • You decide to keep a food diary – you conveniently forget to write down the biscuits that you eat with your coffee.
  • You do very well during most of the day and then start nibbling while you’re watching TV. And you don’t nibble apples …
  • You decide to have just one alcoholic drink – then two, then three. Fun, but alcohol is loaded with calories.
  • A bag of crisps (fries) has about 200 calories in it – that’s a small bag though, not the big ones!
  • Cereals for breakfast are a healthy option and the adverts tell us that there aren’t too many calories in a portion. True, but not the portion size that you eat!
  • You will lose weight if you use more calories than you consume. So you decide to do more exercise. This makes you hungry and you eat more.
  • You join a Gym on January 1st. On February 1st your membership lapses.
  • Exercise is hard work and you decide that, rather than exercise, you will eat less. This is hard work too.
  • It’s the QUANTITY of food that counts. It’s all very well eating the right type of foods but you mustn’t eat large quantities of food. You know this but you still eat Seconds, sometimes Thirds.
  • When you have friends for dinner you cook a lot of food, saying that you don’t want your guests to starve and any leftovers can be eaten the next day. You eat it all anyway, because it’s there, on the table, looking at you.
  • You go out for drinks with your friends and you’re really good. Slimline drinks all evening. Then one of your friends suggests going for a curry or a kebab. Oh dear, all that effort wasted!
  • You will soon start to believe that the bathroom scales are broken.

If you are keen to go on a diet, don’t let the Mid Life Devil’s Advocate put you off. The points above are all exaggerated (apart from the calorie contents) to give you a real flavour of what’s in store for you.

If you feel that you need to lose weight, then try to lose some of your excess pounds. Just understand that you’re in it for the long haul. It’s really about a lifestyle change more than a short term diet and you need to understand this. 

Try making some simple changes – stop having sugar in your drinks, use semi-skimmed milk, don’t eat after 8pm, only put butter/spread on one side of your sandwich (and not too much butter/spread either!) These are simple changes which add up.

Remember – taking in more calories than you use up will lead to weight gain. Pig out occasionally by all means, but make sure you restrict yourself afterwards to make up for it.

Good luck,

The Devil’s Advocate
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