In my related article 'What Would a Thin Person Do', I ran through various reasons why it might make more sense to go to naturally thin people for diet advice, rather than the formerly obese. So I intend to give you a few tips from personal experience as a long-term thin person! Disclaimer: I did have a short period in my youth when I became slightly chubby due to bingeing (although not purging - maybe that was the key!). This was due to following a (very unhealthy) 'super-healthy' diet and eating what I thought I 'ought' to eat, rather than a more natural approach. This was a brief period and I've been a normal weight ever since for many years (and was prior to this episode).
1 LIMIT HOW MUCH OF YOUR BUDGET IS ALLOCATED TO FOOD
Let me make it clear, I do not mean to suggest you should live on tinned beans and dry bread, or finish the week sucking wanly on a damp rag, staring into an empty larder. There's nothing wrong with pleasure, and enjoyment from food is very important to me.
What I do mean is that if your budget for food does not have a top limit, and your shopping trolley every week is a tottering tower of goodies, then with so many luxury foods rather than staples, then you're eating the diet of a rich person, not the 'plain' food of a simple peasant. In centuries past, the rich were fatter than hoi polloi, because they could afford to be. I think we can draw a few conclusions, there. Oh, and by 'luxury' food, I mean anything highly packaged, with added sugar, or high fat other than nuts, avocados and olives. You have common sense. You can work it out.
2 THIN PEOPLE ARE GREEDY TOO
I have been friends with and worked with many, many overweight people in my time, and I feel that, in the course of the many conversations I have had with them, one dominant idea seemed to crop up again and again in relation to diet and food. This was the notion that, in relation to food - however delicious, luxurious and tempting - all thin people either possessed an almost superhuman level of control or didn't really care about food. I suppose this is based on the idea that, if thin people truly enjoyed and relished their meals, or did not rigidly police their diets, then the entire population would be significantly overweight. This is not the case!
There are more factors feeding in to the amount of food someone eats than just appetite and enjoyment of food and perfect self-control. Point (1) above is just one of these. I cannot speak for every thin person out there, and perhaps there are exceptions - but I know that personally, if you confront me with an unlimited amount of one of my truly favourite foods - turron durro (Spanish nougat) perhaps, or plain madeira cake, or pizza - then it is truly mind-boggling just how much of it I can put away. (To the extent I wind up looking rather like a snake - or thin person - who has swallowed a whole pig). Given the right circumstances, I'm greedy - I will admit it - and I think everyone is greedy. Thin, fat and the whole continuum in between!
3 DON'T KEEP TEMPTING FOODS IN THE HOUSE
Not all the time, anyway! I don't mean don't buy them: I just mean don't treat cookies or pizza - or even more workaday staples, such as your favourite nutty seeded granary bread or yummy stuffed olives - as if they were necessities of life like water or Vitamin C. Word up, they're not. No bread in the house? Eat rice. No rice? Eat potatoes. No potatoes?... Okay, I think we all get the general gist here. Bottom line, if you have food in the house of some kind, you're not going to starve anytime soon and it's not, underline not, a shopping emergency if you run out of pistachios.
And if you keep going shopping to replenish your store of favourite foods when you run out, then you have a problem. The problem is that your favourite foods are continually available, which is not something that could be replicated if you were, say, a peasant farmer, or a hunter-gatherer tribeswoman. Do you think that you are likely to eat more if your favourite foods are continually available? Speaking from experience, I certainly know that I do!
4 TAKE SOME EXERCISE
I've seen them, you've seen them, we've all seen them. What am I talking about? The weight-loss reality show type programs where the subject is willing to do just about anything to get some weight off. Anything, that is, except for getting up off the couch and getting some exercise.
Note, as a thin person, I'm not talking about joining a gym or running twelve miles a day. I dislike exercise as much as any sane, rational person. I love a walk around a beautiful area of designated natural beauty, though. Even then, I don't always feel like it when the suggestion arises - but forcing myself to get up and put my boots on gets me moving. And once I'm out there and enjoying the wildlife and scenery, I'm loving it.
What I mean to say is, physical activity is important for health. And if that's how you approach it - rather than as a mad-dash rush to lose weight - then it can be enjoyable. What you need to do is to find the type of exercise you can enjoy - swimming, yoga, whatever feels right.
5 THROW SOME VEGETABLES IN.
Now this one may seem just a little too much like basic common sense to include. But I think it's worth pointing out, just in case. I'd just like to make this point: food quality is important, just as much as calories. And so is caloric density. Am I contradicting myself? Not really. High quality, nutritious food - real food - like vegetables, whole grains, pulses, fish - is often of lower calorie density than, say, doughnuts and pizza. Depending on the specific item added to a meal, it can increase the volume you can eat for the same calories, while improving the nutritional quality of the meal. (This said, I never consider the caloric content of anything I eat - merely whether it tastes good and if I want more. Improving food quality takes care of the rest.)
How much frozen veg, pulses and brown rice do I add to a chilli? Well, how much ya got?
6 I DON'T EAT DIET FOOD.
I guess this one is up to you. What can I say? If I'm any example, long-term thin people (rather than chronic dieters) don't eat diet food. They eat real food, mostly high quality, with a few naughty treats. End of.
If it has more 'E' numbers than you could find in a bag of Scrabble tiles, and some type of artifical sugar-substitute is high on the list of ingredients, then - well, I'm not going to say I won't eat it. Not if you offer me some. I will - I'm the least picky person about food! But will I spend a couple of pounds on it, when I could get half a chicken, or a pack of frozen spinach, or some brown rice and peanuts for the same money? Ahem - not likely.
Food is real food, not diet food. Anything else is fake food.
7 DON'T SUFFER. ENJOY FOOD.
Is this the most important point of all? I tend to think so. Should food make us miserable? Should we agonise over every mouthful? I dare to say, no. I think not. Enjoy food. Let it take its proportionate and reasonable place in your life. Free up all that energy used on calorie counting and worrying about fat grams, and use it on something creative or generally awesome. Crazy?
Maybe I am. But you could try it.