Sandwich

The problem
I’m overweight. It’s hardly a secret. Have been for years.

I’m not massively obese or anything, but I am carrying a fair bit more weight than I should and I’d prefer that I wasn’t. It’s not ruining my life, but I am aware of it. It fluctuates – and every now and then I go on a diet, but it always ends up back at the same level – or worse.

It’s a very common story.

My line was always “I’m prepared to carry a few extra kg in the interests of good living.” But realistically, I’m in my 40s. You’re supposed to think about your health, and it can start to be a bit of an uphill battle around this point. I gave up smoking about 6 or 7 years ago (I forget when, actually) and I reckon this is something else I can get a handle on, if I just figure out the best way to manage it.

So, I decided a while back, after my last attempt of dropping a fair bit then putting it all back on, that rather than try and lose the weight as quickly as possible or go on a diet, I’d just be a bit more sensible about what I ate, and do a bit more exercise – and aim to hit my target weight in about a year’s time.

No hurry. Gradual. Not dramatic.

And then I thought about ways of making sure that happened. And I had an idea. Quite a geeky idea, actually – and therefore, rather a fun one.

The plan
The usual stuff hasn’t really been working, and nor have I been putting much effort into it. For instance, I’ve been weighing myself recently, and that just goes up and down in a miniscule, unrewarding and unsatisfactory way. And because I have an iPhone, and I’m a bit of a geek, I’ve been using an application that tracks your weight and BMI. I’ll probably keep doing that, just as a way of monitoring where I’m up to – but I’m not going to weigh myself every day. Maybe every other week or so.

I’ve also started to do a little more exercise. I’m not down at the gym every day – but I’ve been swimming, out on my bike and walking around a bit more than usual. I do plan to gradually escalate that, but my reluctance to work out is quite remarkable.

But I’ve hit upon a way that I think might be interesting and motivating for me – and may lead me to be more deliberate and thoughtful about the food I eat. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea:

I’ve decided to photograph and blog everything I eat and drink for a year.

whisky
One for me, one for Clutch

I’ve been known to photograph food on my travels quite a lot. It actually became a bit of a talking point at one of the conferences I went to. So taking photos of ALL my food is not such a stretch.

It sounds like a massive hassle – but it’s actually not.

Using an iPhone app called PicPosterous, I can just snap the food, and publish it straight to a Posterous blog. Two button presses, essentially.

Every meal, snack and drink gets a moment’s thoughtful reflection while it’s framed in shot – and then it’s published on my food diary blog. I don’t expect it’ll be of any interest to anyone anywhere, but it’s really useful and kind of fun for me. And that’s all that matters.

My 42nd birthday is coming up – so that’ll be the official start date. I’ve already started, just to get in the swing of it, but this is just a warm-up. Kick-off is on the 14th of September. It’ll end on my 43rd birthday a year later.

Hopefully, I’ll have had some interesting meals in cool places with lovely people along the way, and with any luck, I’ll be a bit skinnier and healthier when it happens. We’ll see how that goes. But if nothing else, it’ll be interesting for me to see how much I eat in a day, a week, a month…

Of course, doing it somewhat in public puts the pressure on a little bit – but this is not going to be one of those reality-TV style dieting things featuring photos of me with my shirt off and my belly out. Just nice photos of nice things to eat.

Hopefully it’ll also make me think twice about eating junk food too – because it’ll all happen in plain sight.

The inspiration
I was sort of inspired by Vaughn Rowsell, who cycled the length of New Zealand from the bottom to the top to raise money for charity, get active and lose a bit of weight. Really impressive and a great combination of interesting, personal narrative, an awareness campaign and sightseeing by proxy. He did the journey online and it became his whole thing for a while (and understandably so). Really brilliant stuff.

I love cycling too – and I did entertain the notion of a similar journey, but only very, very briefly. I don’t want to completely change my life for a month to drastically alter my lifestyle, and nor do I want to fill this blog with news of how much I weigh or what I had for dinner. That’s boring.

I want this to be a kind of background affair. I aim to lose weight while I carry on just doing my work, living my life and continuing all my other stuff. I’m not on a mission to raise awareness or money for anything – I just want to gradually get thinner, and this seemed like a fun way to try and do that. Nobody has to look at it. It’s a process, rather than a product.

For quite a while I’ve been doing a daily mugshot – just one snapshot of my face each day taken on my computer’s webcam. And I know people who’ve done other sorts of routinised web activity (song-a-day, etc.).

And I love food – so it seemed like a great way to celebrate it, pay extra attention to it and capture it – rather than simply turn eating into an ordeal of self-denial (as was the case with my previous weight-loss attempt). It’s a way of reflecting upon each meal. Thinking about what I’m eating. Stopping for a second and thinking “look at this food” before I dive in.

The added bonus and the caveat
One of the cool things about this strategy is that the iPhone knows what city it’s in, so that’ll get published underneath each photo. I travel a fair bit, so this will also serve as a reminder of fun times and travels.

Everything’s going to be included – restaurant meals to airline food, morning coffee to pints down the pub with friends, gateaux to sausage rolls. Sometimes I may even include shots of the people I’m eating with and the place I’m dining, if it’s interesting and appropriate.

I’m not going to tell you how much I weigh, nor what my target is. It’s nobody’s business, as far as I can work out. But if you like pictures of food, and the idea of seeing the sum total of one man’s dietary consumption for a year play out in real time online, then knock yourself out.

It’s imaginatively called Dubber’s Food.

If I forget to do it – please remind me, though I’m not going to throw my hands up in the air and call it a disaster if I forget to take an image of an apple or a pie every now and then – and nor am I going to wait for my iPhone to charge while dinner goes cold. But I’ll try and be conscientious about it.

Like I say – it’s already in operation, but the year commences on Monday next week. It may not be the length of New Zealand, uphill on a bike – but all the same… I’m looking forward to the journey.