What no one told me before I started losing weight was that I was overweight. I would hear justifications about my size from other people: “you’re just thick”, “you’re not overweight, you just have a big frame” or “you’re just built that way”. So I never thought much about losing weight.
I still did everything I wanted to do: hiking, cutting firewood, snowmobiling, biking and so on. So I never thought I needed to lose weight. I was always self-conscious about how I looked but I was also so stubborn that society shouldn’t dictate how I needed to look. Heck, thinking about on it now, it is almost like I rebelled against the idea of bettering myself.
However, one day in about June 2016 I started walking in the evenings with my father, who is also on a journey of his own, a few times a week and from there it all just took off.
What Have I Done?
I’ve changed two things in my life over the past 6 months and I’ve done it very slowly at my own pace. And I want to stress two things first: one, I did not set out on a goal to lose weight or to feel better, I just started doing something, and two, I have no idea what weight I started at or what weight I am current at. I’ll explain why I don’t want to know my weight further down.
1. I Started Moving
Like I mentioned, I started walking with my father a couple evenings a week and slowly started doing it more frequently. My father is a fast walker so this was a good challenge for me. My shins would be burning at the end of our 4km walk but I kept at it. As I got stronger though I started to build enough of a habit that even when my father wasn’t with me I would still go and walk. When he wasn’t with me I would start to jog short stints. Very short at first. Gosh, they killed me. I’d go 20 seconds and be gassed.
Slowly I got stronger still and could go further with the jogging and it was getting addicting.
At the same time, I started mountain biking again. A friend pushed me to get out on the bike more and more. We’d do evening rides around the lake and I was taken right back to my childhood with no fear. It was a great workout for my legs and my upper body as I love throwing myself over the rough rock terrain Yellowknife so plentifully has.
As winter started to set in I was nervous I would quickly give up my new found hobby but along with this new found addiction, I found that I had crazy willpower and wouldn’t let myself stop. I pulled out my old treadmill and set it up in my room and off I went. I would mix walking and running on it every morning for 40 minutes. Nowadays I can run at about 10.75 km/h with sprints of 12.2 km/h.
Then the crazy set in. I started jogging outside in the winter. At first, it was awkward with so many layers on but now I love it! I trot along at about 8.4 km/h for 50 minutes covering about 7.07 km. Today was a cool -30ºC.
2. I Changed My Eating Habits
The second big change I made was my eating habits. Now, please keep in mind I’m not a nutritionist and I barely did any research into what I should properly be doing but obviously, something is working with only some minor changes.
First, I stopped eating so much. I use to eat huge portion sizes but I learned to stop that with a couple easy tricks:
- Don’t put as much on your plate to start, I found I needed way less than what I thought was a small portion. Another trick is to just use smaller plates. What we all think is a normal portion size is most likely way too big.
- I didn’t get seconds. It is a simple trick but willpower is a bitch, you have to fight it mentally. What I found was the better I ate and the more I worked out the better willpower I had.
Second, I slowed down! My mother and a friend or two had made comments about how fast I use to eat and that constantly stuck in my head. So when I read Foodist by Darya Pino Rose I learned some interesting information about eating. Such as how it takes the body 20 minutes to realize it is full, so slowing down helped to not over eat. I learned to put down my fork while I chewed my food to slow myself down. The whole book is very good for talking about healthy eating habits, I’d recommend it to anyone.
Third, I changed what I eat, a little bit. Obviously, this is something a person needs to do but honestly, I don’t think I cut out much I hadn’t already stopped eating. A big one for me was sugar. Cutting out sugar in simple things like my coffee, jams, peanut butter and being more conscious about what had added sugar was a defining point for me. I, at some point, stopped eating beef for some reason and started to eat more fish, although I already eat lots of lean chicken. And as surprising, as it might sound, I don’t really eat any bread.
A big change for me though when it came to eating was how much I ate out. I’ve almost completely stopped eating out as most establishments have very heavy foods and it just isn’t appetizing anymore. I still indulge once and a while, I’m not that crazy, but it is very minimal.
Cooking being a big interest of mine has really helped because the idea of using different ingredients and learning what is healthy has been a lot of fun and my cooking has dramatically improved over the last few months and I have never once felt like I’ve depriving myself of eating flavourful food.
Many might think that eating healthy is bland, boring and unenjoyable but I’m here to tell you it is certainly not. I’d actually like to explore the idea of how to work with people on eating and meal prepping because time is a luxury for some.
Also, I don’t snack. If I do, it’s an energy ball I’ve made myself.
What I Noticed About Losing Weight
When I started losing weight, eating differently and looking differently, strange things were happening. Things were different and I received some strange comments. These are some of those observations:
1. When I started to lose weight really quickly my clothes didn’t fit anymore but people advised me not to buy new clothes in case I put the weight back on. I thought this was hilariously discouraging. So what if I have to buy new clothes! I think it is more important to celebrate the small victories than to think it might all fall apart. And besides, those old clothes are hidden in my closet for the time being. I was also tired of people telling me my clothes were too baggy. I’ve now bought new pants twice in the last 6 months and dropped 5 sizes.
2. People were shocked when I didn’t eat a lot of food anymore. As if I was doing something wrong and making them feel bad about themselves. This was an odd realization for me because I try not to compare myself to others and listen to what my body is telling me.
3. No one told me when I was a bigger guy that I was overweight and they justified my size by saying “You are a big guy”. Again, this was a bit of an annoyance once I started changing. It would feel at times that people use to say that because they didn’t think I could ever change. I would’ve rathered someone been bluntly honest with me than justify it.
4. Some people think they are being supportive as I changed by being realistic and telling me eventually the weight loss will stop. While this is true and you do have to mentally prepare yourself for when that happens, if you’re like me and don’t know your weight you are motivated by just changing your lifestyle not archiving a goal this isn’t a problem.
5.Not having a goal or knowing my own weight has been the most liberating feeling ever. People always ask and each time I get to say I don’t know I feel a surge of motivation. There might be health reasons for monitoring such things but I’ve found that by not knowing and not setting any goals I’m setting myself up better for lifetime success, rather than just momentary success. I still have no plans on finding out my weight.
6. Willpower is something not everyone has. In my journey, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have this crazy willpower. It keeps me motivated and moving when I might not want to. It also stops me from falling back into bad eating habits. I can also refuse treats without hesitation or temptation. That’s not to say I haven’t broke a couple times ;).
I still don’t fully understand why I started all of this. The running became a way for me to control my stresses, feelings, and emotions. It is now my vice for when I’m feeling conflicted or down. It helps me push through feelings and tough situations.
That said, I’ve also been inspired by others who seem to be making similar changes in their lives. And I don’t want to put them on the spot too much but Darren, Amy and Ken and Bev, just by following them on Facebook keeps pushing me as I get further into this change. And I have to thank my friend Jess, who has been inspiring me to constantly eat better and try different foods and ways of cooking.
And If I can leave you with one thing right now it would be this: we all move at our own paces in life. I didn’t write all this to be a role model, I wrote it to put my journey in words. If you want to make a change in your life start really small. Make one little change and keep doing it. Once that is a habit, move to the next thing and so one. If nothing else, all that I have done is developed new habits in my life, ones that I can’t stop now.
Thanks for reading.
I would also be remised if I didn’t mention the awesome photographer who took the before photo way back in 2015 and then these more recent ones. Samantha Stuart is a photographer here in Yellowknife who just continues to blow me away with her own dedication and determination for her craft. You rock, Sam.
I said I would do this more often but then forget. The culprit is most likely the fact I don’t write out complete recipes and just write would I need to know. I’ve decided, though, that if something doesn’t make sense you can fill in the blanks with your own intuition. That way, you learn. 😉
Sweet Smoky White Fish Soup with Charred Onions and Potatoes
6 normal sized servings
12-16 small plate servings
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon dried Labrador Tea
1 tablespoon Smoky Sweet Paprika
8 cups fish stock/vegetable stock
5 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 pounds white fish, skinned, boned, and cut into large pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Saute onion in a pot or cooking vessel with canola oil until translucent. Add garlic and spruce tips, paprika and sauté until ready.
Add the fish stock to the pot and bring it to a boil. Add the potatoes to the soup and reduce it to a simmer. Allow it to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the cod to the soup and continue simmering it until the fish is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Process the soup, in batches in a food processor until it has a smooth consistency. Alternately, use an immersion blender until the desired pureed consistency is reached. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.
Cool and refrigerate in an air-tight container for use later in the day. Reheat on stove slowly.
8 pearl onions, halved
Heat a dry pan on med-low heat and put onions cut side down until formalized and charred. Turn over and char second side
6-8 baby potatoes, coined
In a pan with oil on med-low heat sauté coined baby potatoes for 6-8 minutes until golden brown and tender. Mix in mustard and salt if desired.
In a small bowl or glass pour in small amount of soup.
Slide slices of potato along the edge of the dish.
Place charred onion beside the potato
Sprinkle of paprika and garnish with water cress or other green garnish
Add a piece of focaccia to side of plate beside soup bowl
I got inspiration for this somewhere, but I don’t remember where. Sorry.
I sometimes spend hours writing and formulating recipes and then never publish them. There is no reason I need to but I often pull inspiration from others, so maybe someone out there can pull from the things I’ve tried. I also don’t claim to be very good at coming up with these dishes, but they do generally turn out pretty good. And I just like trying new things.
The thing to note about this dish is that while the fish is in the cooker you can make the risotto and the timing lines up pretty well.
Sous-vide Paprika and Juniper Halibut or White Fish
Do this up to an hour before cooking. Once fillets are seasoned, seal and put in fridge until ready to use.
- Sweet Smoky Paprika
- Ground Juniper
Heat Precision Cooker to 140ºF about 20 minutes before use (depends on water container size)
In Precision Cooker Bag
- 2-4 fillets of seasoned Halibut or White Fish – two per bag
- 2 tbsp butter per bag
- Lemon Zest
- Seal and remove all air from the bag
Cook fish for 30-45 minutes depending on thickness of fillets.
Finishing Cooking Process
- Remove from pot and pat dry with paper towel
- Heat skillet to med-high heat with more butter
- Brown presentation side of fish for 30-45 seconds in pan
- Remove skin
- Serve immediately
- Plate with Morel Risotto
Spruce Tip Morel Risotto
- 900ml vegetable stock
- 2-3 cups water
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup minced shallot, leek or onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups risotto rice
- 1-2 ounce dried morels
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives or parsley
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
Pour boiling water over dried morels in a bowl and let sit for about 30-minutes. Clean morels in water once steeped. Remove hydrated morels and reserve and filter the morel water for later use.
Pour the stock and 2 cups of morel water into a pot and bring it to a gentle simmer.
In another pot or pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat – at this point, I also added some dried spruce tips to start infusing into the butter – and saute the minced shallots until they soften and turn translucent. Add the garlic cloves, the morels, more spruce tips and the rice and mix well. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
When the liquid from the morels has evaporated, add 1/2 cup of hot stock to the rice and stir well. I didn’t particularly measure out 1/2 cup but used a ladle throughout the whole process. Sprinkle a little salt over everything. With risotto, you have to constantly stir the rice as it absorbs the liquid as to ensure everything is evenly cooking and not burning to the pan. As each scope of stock is absorbed, add another, then another until the rice is cooked through, but still firm.
When you reach that point, add the grated cheese and a little more stock. Stir to incorporate the cheese into the risotto. Once ready, remove from heat.
On a clean plate scope, a small bit of risotto into the middle and with a knife or spoon shape it into a circle. Sprinkle with leftover juniper and paprika spice mix. Place a cut of fish on top of the risotto. Then add a garnish of parsley or chives. I happened to have pickled baby onions, which added a weird pop of colour. It needed something green.
Inspiration came from here: http://honest-food.net/2012/06/10/morel-risotto-recipe/
There I go again, trying something that isn’t normal for a guy in his mid-twenties to do. Knitting.
Spare me the shock and excitement that I’m doing it, I don’t do it because I want to break barriers of some sort. I try new things all the time because I’m a self-professed learner or trier or explorer or investigator of new hobbies. I don’t know what to call it.
I believe that we as people have lost our way slightly when it comes to very primitive tasks. We are fortunate that there are those who make us clothing, make us ready to eat meals and build things to make our lives easier but as we progress I see we’re starting to lose some of those very basic skills. These skills are often the things I get obsessed about. Be it carpentry, welding, bread baking and, now, knitting.
When I was in Iceland in October of 2016 I became obsessed with the idea of their Icelandic Wool being used to make their clothing, especially sweaters. I was told that most Icelanders have at least two sweaters. One formal and one casual. And as I drove through the Westfjords of Iceland I noted multiple farmers walking their pastures wearing the wool sweaters.
Iceland has an abundance of lamb. It’s their thing. So it is only natural that they weave the wool into yarn and make clothing. It is not only an easy product to come by but it is also ridiculously warm and resilient product. So amazing that I bought two sweaters and haven’t gone through a day without wearing one of them since getting back.
All this new information I had learned while in Iceland spiked my interest on how this clothing is made. Enter knitting.
In a very half-hearted way, I asked my mom to show me how to knit one day while visiting at my parent’s house.
She pulled out a set of needles, showed me how to cast onto the needle, how to do a stitch, and within five minutes I was working away are my first scarf?, cloth?, rag?, sheet? I don’t actually know what it is.
My first several rows were horrible. The stitch was too tight, I would miss a stitch, it got bigger randomly. Then, as if remembering to ride a bike for the first time in years, I got into the right rhythm and now have gone several rows without missing a beat.
Sadly, I’m going to unravel what I have done. Now that I know how to knit comfortably I’m going to start over. Make a proper scarf, fix my errors and see what I can do.
The goal you ask?
I’m learning this skill, not to master it and be the best, but to put in the arsenal of skills I’ve tried and attempted.
I can see how knitting is very therapeutic. It is a rhythm. A pattern on repeat. Funnily enough, I can draw many parallels between knitting and welding. Two skills typically performed by very different people. And thus I find it even more facinating, and this fascination is what drives me to learn more and see where skills of one particular trade are actually used in another trade altogether without anyone really talking about it.
I wonder what will be next.