It’s been four months since I landed in hospital with a liver infection caused by gallstones that diseased my gallbladder. Four months since I embarked on a weight loss journey. Losing 5-10% of weight was a necessary if not essential part of my recovery. 

I didn’t want a fast-track weight loss, no ’30 pounds in 3 months’. Several reasons—including that I didn’t think my skin was elastic enough to deal with all the sudden emptiness of losing weight fast. Mostly, I was looking for a long-haul new balance.

But I did want to lose 30 pounds. I just had to figure out what worked for me—with a panic emoji at the word ‘just’.

I settled on a ‘less in than out’ diet full of nutrient-dense yet low calories foods that would help me lose weight slow but steady. With a lifestyle that incorporates cooking from scratch, strong in local, organic, vegetables galore and all that, I wouldn’t have to do a full 180, either.

I did the research. While still in hospital, early August, I started with ‘foods good for liver health’, ‘foods good if you have no gallbladder’, in addition to foods listed as great for weight loss. I looked up all different foods, to check how many calories they had and other nutrition info. One thing led to another and before I knew it my research took me all over the place, looking into high and low glycemic carbs, good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, insoluble and soluble fibers. It was a steep learning curve, especially for someone like me whose interest in food is predominantly about taste, not its calorific content, glycemic index or let alone if these are fibers that will bulk up my stool.

In all that research I also noticed that ‘super foods’ lists and weight loss meal plans lean heavily on Western foods. Not a lot of gado gado, pepper stew or palak paneer. With ‘taste’ in mind, for me it was imperative to tap into the widest range of foods to feed my dieting body nutritious, varied and great-tasting food. 

My own ‘super foods’ list grew appetizingly long. Fermented foods like kimchi can rival yogurt for its probiotic properties. Mung bean sprouts are up there with good old broccoli as a super food and so easy to snack on. Chili peppers are good for a whole bunch of things. A bowl of buckwheat noodles in miso broth with baby bok choy, spring onions and bean sprouts makes me happier than grilled lean chicken breast with blanched asparagus and lemon juice. 

I set a few target dates. I kicked off with a 10-week rigorous fit food plan, aiming for 1200-1500 calories daily, or a deficit of 500-1000 calories. I kept score of calories, developed weekly menus with a heavy focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fat (good oils) and more plant-based protein. No alcohol at all during these 10 weeks (ok, with the exception of the weekend before I went into surgery). And I hiked like I was on a mission.

After those first 10 weeks, I fit into clothes that I hadn’t worn in ages (or at all). Heck, it felt like I had a whole new wardrobe. It was the perfect incentive to continue on this track, while also reaping the benefits of feeling fitter and energized. In fact, I felt good enough to ease up on the strictness and adopt a more relaxed approach. Have a glass of wine, be the dinner guest who eats everything. But keep a sharp eye on the weekly calorific balance and never consume more than you burn. Is what I told myself.

It’s been 19 weeks since that week in hospital, early August, and I am happy to share that I managed to shed 20 pounds. That averages beautifully to my pound-per-week game plan. So far also, I seem to have toned overall rather than end up with sagging skin.

My next target date is another 10 weeks from now-ish, when I hope to have shed the final 10 pounds. After that, I’ll consider the balance reset. Then, it will only be a matter of maintaining—with a panic emoji at the word ‘only’.

Just a few take aways:

  • High fiber foods are an essential part of a healthy, nutrient-dense diet. But boy do they make you gassy! At times it was all-out chemical warfare. Drink plenty water whenever you eat fiber-rich foods, I now know. It will help ‘move the stool along’ instead of having it sit in your system and ferment…
  • For the gallbladder-less: I learned the hard way that heavier, fattier foods cause restless nights of discomfort.  
  • Walking IS terrific exercise, as long as you’re at it long enough per go (45-60 minutes moderate to brisk walking)
  • I didn’t cut out one food group or other, and don’t stress over what I can or cannot eat as long as it isn’t too fatty or heavy.