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Life Off-the-Grid

The Dieter’s Guide To Weight Loss While Gardening

By Cam Mather

I am NOT one of those weight-obsessed people. So you might wonder why I am writing a blog about my weight. Well, a few weeks ago I weighed myself and discovered that I’d lost weight. Again. What’s with that?

Well it probably had something to do with the fact that Mike and Melissa, our HelpXers, were here and we all worked in the garden a good chunk of every day. My weight has been as high as 150 lbs and sort of fluctuates between about 145 and 150 lbs. I know … it’s my metabolism. That’s what everyone tells me. I can still wear my Adidas shorts that I wore when I was in high school, although they should be banned for being indecent. I’ve noticed that about fashion though. I just hang on to all my clothes and eventually they come back in style.

And yes, I do have a good metabolism, and I didn’t gain weight having babies, etc etc. but I give most of the credit to the plant-based diet that I have eaten for 20 years and being pretty active. I cut all of our own firewood, for both the house and the guesthouse. I can soak a shirt with perspiration in a day of woodcutting on the coldest day in winter. But I think gardening has a big effect on me keeping my weight in check.

Since I always seem to have a number of large projects each year that involve rolling round hay bails or moving soil from one spot to another with a wheelbarrow, there are plenty of opportunities for me to burn calories. But once planting season starts it’s a marathon. With no tractor, it’s just me against a ½ acre garden that has to be rototilled, raked to remove last year’s residues and then I make rows, plant, weed and water.  I repeat the last two steps endlessly over the summer.

And then there’s the endless walking. Move this flat of sweet potatoes over to where I’ll plant it later. Move the hose from the dug well from the upper irrigation system to the lower one. Grab that cultivator that I left up by the gate that I now need down near the barn foundation. Back in 90 seconds.

I’ve tried to reduce the amount of walking I do by buying multiple tools. I have tools and cultivators everywhere, but it doesn’t matter how many I have, the one I want is always at the opposite end of the garden.

So when Mike and Melissa were here for the week it was a bit of a marathon getting everything done that I had planned for them. Well we didn’t even get close, but we accomplished an enormous amount. And while I worked just as hard as they did, I was also a little obsessed about making sure that I had the next job ready for when they were finished the existing one. That inevitably meant walks back to the house for more plants or seeds, or the woodshed for tools, or the berry patch, or wherever.

So with all this exercise I had every excuse to call out the dessert brigade! Michelle has basically given up eating desserts. She has amazing will power. I am trying, but failing miserably. Having three square meals a day was weird enough, but I had Mike and Melissa as an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth. We started with chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream and strawberries. Then the next night was chocolate cream pie. Then coconut cream pie. Then Michelle made maple tarts. Then brownies with chocolate ice cream. I think we opened a few bags of Oreos in there as well. And I didn’t scrimp on the size of my portions!

So if I worked in veal fattening pen in some office and commuted an hour to that job, I’m sure I would have gained 10 pounds that week. But when I weighed myself at the end of the week I’d lost 8 pounds and was down to a little over 140 pounds! Holy crap. That’s like 7% of my body weight. Apparently there’s something to this gardening thing. Now I’m regretting not having a chapter on this in “The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook.”

I simply can’t imagine having to reduce my caloric intake to lose weight. I refuse to do it. I believe increasing your physical activity is the only way to lose weight. And if you really ramp it up then you can eat whatever you want. Well, for someone like me with no willpower, this has been working. And eating a plant-based diet has been a huge help as well. It’s simply much harder to eat the number of calories when you’re not eating protein and calorie dense foods with a lot of saturated fat.

So I think my next book should be “The Cam Mather Off Grid Guide to Losing Weight Through Gardening.” I’ll get a picture of myself in some cheesy gardening coach-like attire waving my hoe at some gardening neophytes eating Twinkies and looking apprehensive. It’ll be awesome!

Once my gardening program is proven successful at weight loss I’ll start a new service, “The Sunflower Farm Weight Loss Gardening Spa”. The HelpXers were here for free, well just the cost of their food. What was I thinking? Now I’m going to charge for people to come and garden. I’m going to charge a lot, because people don’t associate value with something unless it’s expensive. So it’s going to be like $1,200/week, and I’m going to work you. Oh am I going to work you! I’m going to be like one of those obnoxious coaches you see on “The Biggest Loser” and the myriad of programs about losing weight. I will work you ‘til you drop.

“Come on you big bag of dirt, hoe that row! Shovel that manure! Oh you need a shovel? Well it’s over in the blueberry patch. That’s 200 meters away. I want you there and back in 45 seconds or I’m going to make you chop some firewood! So you’re tired of rolling 1,000 pound round bales around? Come over here. I’ve got some wet ones. These should be closer to 1,200 pounds. Now put your back into it! Come on, stop your whining! Suck it up and push it!”

This is going to be awesome! Taking reservations now!

In the meantime I’m going to need to carbo-pack to get ready. Shall it be chocolate cake or strawberry shortcake tonight? Wait, that’s too tough a choice. Maybe I’ll have both.

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1 Comment

  1. Jerry and I have worn pedometers a few times and we easily walk 6-8 kms in a days gardening and we have a lot smaller property than you. Like you, most of the kms come from retrieving tools from another spot than where we are or retrieving watering cans from one set of rain barrels to the other. Love your idea of the “Gardening Weight-loss Program” – do you think we can franchise ?

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