Armand is a young man of 18 years and has battled with his size for most of his teenage life. Losing weight is not just about reducing his body size, it's about improving his risk factors for disease and changing how he eats. Keep reading to discover his journey through his weight loss.
How do you feel after losing 20kg?
I feel better. Life is easier. It's now possible to play sport. Even the simple task of moving and just living life in general is easier. What I really enjoy about the weight loss is that it’s easier to buy clothes. I have more choice with a smaller size. Smaller clothes are more trendy and stylish. I especially love being able to wear my brother’s clothes now that I am almost closer to his size.
How long did it take you to lose the weight?
Two months. I lost 15kg in the first month and then a further 5kg during the second month. The hardest part during this process was to not regain the weight. Losing weight was the easy part. Having said this, I found the process of weight loss extremely difficult on my body.
What diet did you follow?
The Dukan diet, which originated in France by Dr Pierre Dukan. It consisted mostly of protein foods for 2 weeks, followed by 2 weeks whereby vegetables were introduced. I then introduced carbohydrates at lunch, but never for dinner. For the evening meal, I ate only vegetables and I ate one serving of fruit. After the second month, I started to increase this to two servings of fruit per day.
I found this diet useful as it was the first step that I needed to start losing weight and decreasing my size. Learning to control my appetite and portions was the next learning phase.
Did you see a dietitian?
My neighbour and family friend is a dietitian. I casually chatted with him one week after commencing the diet. He was not a fan of the diet but he suggested that I continue with the regime since I had already committed myself to this.
As I was following the 'protein' only phase, he advised me to increase the variety of the foods that I was eating. He suggested that I cook using olive oils as he explained that it contains essential oils for hair and skin. He also suggested that I slowly introduce my 'usual foods', with careful attention to portion sizes. A tip that he gave me was to eat no more than 100g of uncooked pasta or 250g of cooked pasta per day. As I can eat pasta twice in the same day, this was a very useful suggestion.
How did you find the first two weeks on the diet?
I found that the diet zapped my energy, especially as the Dukan diet consisted of very little energy or calories with limited vitamins and minerals. Due to my size it was also very difficult to play sport or participate in any type of activity.
Are you currently participating in sport or regular activity?
I play football once a week and I plan to cycle to work. Considering that I have never played or participated in activity before, I am really happy to be able to join my friends for football.
How did you learn to limit your portion sizes?
On the Dukan diet it was impossible to overeat as I was always full. I would not recommend this diet if you want to lose ‘a little bit of weight’ for the summer. This was about a lifestyle change for me and I work very hard to not overeat every day. This journey is about teaching myself self-control. This is not the first time in attempting this diet either. At the first attempt, after the initial loss of 8kg, as soon as I returned to my previous eating habits I regained the 8kg plus an additional 4kg.
What advice do you want to share with others?
Consult with a dietitian. They are the experts and I found the little practical pieces of advice really useful and still follow them today.
I feel like my body still carries the 'scars' from the Dukan diet. I remember days when I could hardly climb out of bed as I felt extremely tired from the lack of energy and calories.
Be sure that you want to lose weight. For me, I was 30kg overweight and although the Dukan diet is ‘dangerous’ and rough on your body, I believed that it was more dangerous to do nothing about my weight. I knew that I had higher risks for diabetes and heart disease. I needed and wanted to take the risks of following the Dukan diet to start the journey of improving my health and reducing my body size.
This is not a miracle diet, I still need to learn how to ‘eat’. This was especially important after the weight loss as I do not want to regain any weight. This was the first step and the trigger that I needed to initiate the weight loss. As I shed the weight, I found that this also motivated me to continue and stick to the diet.
It’s the period after the Dukan diet that’s the most difficult (after the initial four weeks). As I started to eat ‘normally’ or socialise with friends, I've found that it's extremely tempting to have just that 'little bit more'.
Always pay attention every single day to what you eat. Be aware of what you eat and how much you eat.
What further changes do you need to make to your diet?
I need to start eating more vegetables with lunch and dinner. This is the most difficult change for me as vegetables are time consuming to prepare and they are not foods that I would necessarily choose to eat first. I do enjoy eating fruit and will continue to eat 1-2 servings per day.
I understand that eating breakfast is something to work on, but breakfast is a struggle. I really cannot face eating in the morning. I will work on it!
Do you plan to lose more weight?
I would like to lose a minimum of 10kg. I plan to achieve this by increasing my activity through cycling. I also plan to increase the portion sizes of vegetables for dinner. For lunch I plan to eat a serving of meat, carbs and vegetables but with attention to the portion sizes. I find that it works well for me to eat a filling lunch but a 'light' meal for dinner. I plan to limit starchy carbohydrates for the evening meal.
What motivates you to achieve your goals?
A friend offered me a football t-shirt from the Dutch team but it's too small for me. I would like to be able to wear it. This is one of my motivation. I want to work on my fitness so that I can improve my performance at football with friends. Finally, I want people to notice me not because I am ‘large’ but because I am ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’.
It’s not about motivation but the obligation I have to myself to get healthy.