Cape Town - I’m up at 5am. And out of the door by 6.
By 6.25am I’ve parked the car and am hitting the coffee shops. The order is one I repeat just about every morning: one chocolate croissant and a tall cappuccino with two sugars. That’s breakfast. And because by mid-morning I’ll be crashing from my sugar high, I’m already thinking about what I’ll get for “second breakfast” from the buffet downstairs from my office.
By 6.40am I’m at my desk. And that’s where I’ll stay until at least 6pm.
There’s a chocolate in my drawer – it will help with my inevitable 3pm slump.
Eat. Work. Sleep. Repeat.
Hi. I’m Chantel, a newspaper editor who became more than 40kg overweight behind my desk and then lost 36kg in a year when I decided it was time to take back my life... And through this column I will tell you how I did that.
I was unhealthy, unfit, uncomfortable – and pre-diabetic – when I realised I had to do something about my weight and my health. At 38 years old, I weighed in at 107.4kg - fine if you have ambitions of being a heavyweight boxer... not so much if you’re 1.6m tall with a small frame. So I decided to make a change. But, like many others who want to make a lifestyle change, I wasn’t sure where to start. What I realised, however, is that once you start looking, you’ll find there’s lots of support around – and if you’re really serious about it, you’ll find that you have huge reserves of inner strength just waiting to be activated.
In addition to joining an online support group, I decided to draw on the skills I had been cultivating over nearly 20 years in the media industry. Having worked as a journalist and, most recently, an editor, my skill set lay in sourcing a good story, knowing the best way to tell it, and sub-editing. So, I chose to use these abilities to edit my lifestyle and rewrite my own story.
Sounds like a cool hook, right? I suppose it is... but it’s a pretty accurate description of what I have done over the past year. You see, just like an alcoholic in recovery has to change her environment and lifestyle to remain dry, I have had to edit my environment and day-to-day living to shed the extra 42 or so kilograms I was carrying in January 2017. And with 36kg gone so far, I’m ever mindful that maintaining my weight-loss may possibly be even more difficult than it was to lose the extra weight.
Oh boy, I can hear my friends say... Does this mean she’s never going to go out for a burger and a beer with us again? And my dad’s probably cringing at the thought of never again eating my delicious vanilla cupcakes – and having to smile as I serve him another slice of sugarless, flourless chocolate “cake”.
Ah... sugarless and flourless, you say... I must be on Prof Tim Noakes’ “Bant-wagon”. No, but close. I follow a Paleo lifestyle, which, promotes a diet that includes whole foods and excludes sugar and processed foods, legumes, cereal grains and dairy (excluding butter) – and is sometimes referred to as “the caveman diet” because it’s based on eating whole foods that anthropologists believe our prehistoric ancestors ate, and that our bodies are genetically designed to thrive on.
But Paleo living is also about how we move and sleep and interact with our food sources ... matters which are far too intricate to delve into in my first column, so keep an eye on this space as I explore – from a layman’s perspective - how going back to basics has helped me improve my health – and can help you too.
To get you started, here’s a simple challenge for the upcoming week – or you can choose to do it for just one day: keep a journal of what you eat and at what time, noting how you feel before and after. Your notes can be as simple or detailed as you want them to be. At the end of the week, review your notes and see if any patterns emerge.
* Chantel Erfort Manuel's Edited Eating column appears in the Weekend Argus every Sunday. If you’d like to share your thoughts with her, send an email to [email protected] or follow @editedeating on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.