Lightening the load

If to feel more free is the aspiration, and getting rid of some of the accumulation of stuff is already underway, what else could I be thinking about shedding?  We come round again to weight, fat, excess.  I am not hugely overweight, probably about a stone or so (fourteen pounds to my American readers) but I have been carrying this extra weight for about eight years.  I have never been one of these people who are rake thin and can eat anything but for most of my adult life my weight has hovered between nine stone and nine stone seven, not slender for my height of five foot four but not heavy either.  I would only ever be able to eat what I liked if I was exercising a lot and I cheerfully accepted a sort of discipline which meant that when my weight started to approach nine and a half stone I would exercise more, eat a bit less until it nudged back down again.

All that changed when I became seriously ill with an ovarian growth nine years ago.  I lost a huge amount of weight, down to seven stone, and for the first time ever you could see my ribs, the bony edge of the clavicle, the curve of my hip bones.  I hated it.  It was part of the frailty and physical weakness of being ill.  I was off work for six months and most of that time , perhaps four months or so, was a slow and gentle recuperation and a return to myself.  During that time I ate quite deliberately to regain my weight.  It was great to watch the scales gently edging upward.  I got to nine stone, and then nine and a half and still kept on going with the extra portion, the lavishly buttered bread, the extra slice of cheese.  I seemed to settle at about ten stone five, heavier than I had ever been but not so heavy as to feel uncomfortable with myself.  And there I let it stay.  I was alive.  I was healthy again.  What did it matter?  It was a relief not to think about weight.  I was in my fifties and if I needed a size fourteen that didn't seem to me (still doesn't) anything unusual or excessive.

About eighteen months ago I decided that perhaps I would do something about my weight, noticing that things were edging up again and thinking that I didn't want to find myself very much heavier.  I lost about half a stone, using the calorie counting app on MyFitnesspal, and felt much better for it.  Then, out of the blue, my mother died.  I don't think I have ever been a comfort eater but I put all that weight back on.  I knew as I was doing it that the sad, emptiness I felt would not be filled by eating but we have always loved food in our family and somehow I found myself eating the extra sandwich, hearing my mother's voice from far away in my childhood saying "You will feel better for something to eat".  I didn't.  Only the slow passage of time does that.

And so we come to this year, 2015.  I can tell by my clothes that I have put a little bit more weight on and I begin to wonder whether I should try to lose it.  Things that were comfortable are not quite so comfortable.  A couple of skirts which were a bit tight are now so tight that I take them off again.  We were watching the recent Horizon programme which has been looking at the scientific evidence which indicates that different diets might suit different groups.  One group of guinea pigs was put on a diet involving intermittent fasting, where for two days a week you eat very few calories and for the rest of the week you eat normally.  "You could do that" said Ian.  "You're a self disciplined type."  Now I should make it clear that Ian has never commented on my extra weight other than to tell me jokingly that he doesn't like skinny birds.  I was interested in what we were watching and wondering aloud about whether any of these diets were of any use to me.

After the programme I went and weighed and measured myself.  And here was the shock, not so much the weight which was three pounds or so above the level it was last time I weighed myself but the measurements.  I knew I carried weight about my middle because I always have.  I know that the "apple" shape which that produces is associated with a number of health risks, particularly with regard to heart attack and stroke, but when I saw my waist measurement was thirty seven inches I could not believe it.  I don't look like a beer barrel, honestly, but a thirty seven inch waist means I barely go in at the waist at all.  My mother died of a heart attack.  My brother had a huge stroke four years ago which has left him seriously disabled.  It was not a vanity thing.  I was messing about with my health.

So time to do something about it.  I spent Monday evening researching intermittent fasting, or the five:two diet as it is often called to reflect the pattern of two days fasting and five days normal eating.  I found a website which supports it and ploughed my way through information and forums.  I found a waist to hip ratio calculator which told me my ratio was "extreme" and associated with increased health risks.  I read about fasting for two days a week and thought I could and would do it.  So yesterday was my first fasting day.

Fasting suggests no food at all and the 5:2 diet doesn't demand that.  Instead it suggests that you should restrict yourself to 500 calories and day for women and 600 for men on your fasting days.  The website offers you a way to calculate the calories you should consume on the non fasting days, based on your age, gender, height and levels of physical activity.  This is based on something called Total Daily Energy Expenditure.  It all seemed quite straightforward.  The forums were full of a whole range of responses to fasting from "I feel terrible, I can't do this, I can't sleep" to "I feel wonderful.  I feel so great on my fasting days that I look forward to them".  How would I find it?  There was only one way to find out.

Yesterday was my first fasting day.  I started with a breakfast of two hard boiled eggs.  That is an easy one for me.  I love eggs and usually have them for breakfast, generally a poached egg on toast.  My reading had suggested that protein kept you feeling fuller for longer than carbohydrate so I thought two eggs might work better than my usual egg on toast.  It seemed to be true.  I wasn't at all hungry over the course of the morning and arrived at lunchtime feeling I wanted a little bit of something but not even as hungry as I normally am.  I did drink quite a lot of fruit and herbal tea, having had two cups of my normal tea with milk to start the day.  For lunch I had a cup of Marigold Bouillon stock and another hard boiled egg.  That felt fine.  I was much less hungry than usual, had no headache or any of the downsides of fasting which I read about.  So far, so good.

I calculated I had used about two hundred and ten of my calories for the day.  It depends on how you categorise our home laid eggs!  For dinner I reckoned I could have a salmon fillet with tomatoes and peppers and that should be it.

By late afternoon I was starting to feel decidedly peckish, not starving or uncomfortable, just ready for something to eat.  I raided the fridge for a couple of cherry tomatoes and had another cup of bouillon.  There is something about the salty, savoury taste which makes you feel you are having something more substantial than it really is!  I had a bit of a wobble before dinner when Ian was eating black olives and bread cubes but I held out and made it through to meal time feeling quite proud of myself.  I cooked the salmon in the oven on a bed of tomatoes and chopped yellow pepper with some capers for sharpness and a little oil and black pepper.  It was delicious and Ian had the same but with roasted new potatoes as well.

I always knew that the evening would be the hardest time as this is when I normally get to around nine o' clock and have a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers.  No more calories left for this.  Strangely I was aware that I wasn't really hungry, it was more that I have a habit of rounding off the evening this way.  I had a couple of glasses of slimline tonic with ice and, without the wine to set off the munchies, didn't feel the need for anything else.  So I reached bedtime having achieved my aim of no more than five hundred calories and feeling pretty good.  I thought I might struggle to go to sleep which is a problem many people have complained of, particularly on their second fasting day of the week.  Perhaps because this was my first day I had no difficulty going off to sleep.  I woke this morning with a dry mouth but otherwise feeling fine.

Today I am keeping to 1500 calories, again using MyFitnesspal to track them.  I will decide tonight whether to fast again tomorrow or on Friday.  At the moment I am feeling hugely motivated.  Somehow deciding that the driver is my health rather than anything else has been very freeing.  It would be nice to fit into a size twelve again and to look slimmer but to be honest if that was that important to me it would have made me act about my weight before now.  I hope to look better out of my clothes and in them but what I really want to do is to achieve a waist measurement which is no more than half my height in inches.  That seems to be the rule of thumb which indicates that you are not carrying unhealthy levels of abdominal fat.  So we shall see.  I will give it a month of really having a serious go at intermittent fasting and keeping an eye on the calories on non fasting days.  I think this will have a by product of reducing my wine consumption which can't be a bad thing.  When Ian is completely recovered I will go back to walking our hills again.  And I will report back.  I hope this is not too personal and too boring but having the discipline of writing about what has happened when I have done my first week seems like a good idea.  Wish me luck!

Comments

  1. Good luck. the 5:2 isnt something I would do, preferring the calorie and exercise counting using Myfitnesspal and Fitbit :) xx

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    1. I think, as the Horizon programme showed, that it is very much the case of finding what suits you. I will let you know whether this one suits me!

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  2. Good luck. Could do with some of that discipline myself.

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    1. Perhaps I had better not take any plaudits for discipline until I have done it for a bit!

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  3. You have far more willpower than me Elizabeth, something I've noticed before. If anyone can do it, you can.

    I've tried switching my main meal to lunchtime and it does seem to work, especially if I then eat nothing for the rest of the day. Your body has more time to burn off the calories than if you eat later. I lost a stone this way, over six months, with very little hardship although the weight did start to edge back over Christmas.. a glass of wine in the evening is my downfall too.

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    1. I think it is probably the case too that eating your main meal at lunchtime might be better for your health generally. It's quite hard to switch over if your lifetime habits have been for evening eating though. I am impressed that you managed it!

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  4. I do wish you luck. I've been on a quest to drop several pounds and I find at my age that a regular regiment doesn't work as well as it did when I was younger. It seems shocking my body gets it's attention better like the fasting concept. I tried a program called fast five in the past where you only eat during a five hour period of the day. Drinking in the evening definitely makes me want to eat more.

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    1. I think there is no doubt that a glass of wine in the evening for me normally ends up with the desire for some crackers and cheese as well. I do agree that weight seems harder to shift as you get older but I am not sure if that is that I have less motivation or something hormonal!

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  5. Best of luck. The Lovely Husband and I had great success on the 5:2 diet last year. Well, he had better success than I but, being a bloke, he's one of those ones who can lose weight very quickly while it takes me a long time. I think I managed about half a stone (he managed nearer 5, believe it or not, but he also started doing serious running and training for half marathons too). I did give it up sometime last year and put it back on again, sadly. At the moment, I'm hopefully coming to the tail end of a nasty bout of Gastritis which started in November which has caused me to lose about 10lbs in weight due to dietary change (smaller portions, minimal fat, no alcohol, caffeine or chocolate) and now I'm starting to eat more normally, I'm hoping to try and continue the weight loss by continuing with the smaller portions, etc. One of the things that I did when we were on the 5:2 diet was I found I got bored with constantly trying to cook food that only had 300 calories or whatever, and I didn't want to just eat salad all the time, so I ended up getting weightwatcher's/healthy eating ready meals from Sainsbury's to just shove in the microwave for convenience. There was a really rather acceptable roast chicken dinner one, I seem to remember. It does feel like cheating and, to be honest, there'll still be colourings and additives and preservatives, etc., so it's not the greatest thing but, every so often, it's nice not to have sit there and wonder what you're going to cook that night!

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    1. Thanks for the tip Mrs J. At the moment working out how to make the fasting day work seems quite interesting, because it is quite new. I can see that after a few weeks it might be less so. Hope you recover entirely from the gastritis and have a happy and healthy 2015.

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  6. Best of luck with your weight loss regime, like yourself I'm carrying a stone too much but need the more rigid routine of a weekly weigh in. It sounds like you have it sorted. x

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    1. It was interesting to see how different people suited different approaches. Lots of people seem to thrive on the group support and weekly weigh in of something like weightwatchers but I know that would not be for me. Good luck.

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  7. I wish you luck!
    I had a health scare at the start of November and cut out all the usual suspects and more and am now eating very healthily indeed, bordering on vegan, awash with green tea and lentils. Yet, here I am, over two months later and I haven't lost a single ounce! Demoralised is a word that comes to mind, but hopefully, the weather will improve soon and I can start walking again {the weather is off putting right now}
    The trouble is the older we get those pounds do seem harder to shift, or is that a myth waiting to be busted.

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    1. I think what has struck me is that it is very easily to eat very healthily, which I do normally, and still take in too many calories. I was astonished to find that for someone of my height, age and gender I need to eat about 1200 calories to lose weight. That is not a lot! I am hoping that the advantage of 5:2 is that the severe restriction on two days will be manageable in a way that moderate restriction all the time may not. We will see. There also seem to be health benefits to fasting, regardless of weight. I will let you know!

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  8. Good luck! I have several friends who've done the 5:2 diet very successfully so I'm sure you will too!

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    1. I do know other people who have done it and a good friend who is slim who uses a modified version of this to stay that way. I also know one or two who didn't like it at all.

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  9. Best of luck with your diet! It's good to focus on your health.

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    1. I think the focus on health is crucial for me. Perhaps it is one of the things about getting older but vanity alone, which might have worked in my twenties and thirties, just doesn't seem a powerful enough driver.

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  10. I totally wish you luck!
    Weight is the most bothersome thing. The less you think about it the better it is - the moment I decide to go on a diet I get fatter...
    Hope all goes according to plan!

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    1. Ah I do recognise the deciding to diet and getting fatter syndrome! It is easy to obsess about food but I hope to manage not to. We will see.

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  11. All the long stress of selling and moving has knocked my weight down.

    I had a lovely 5:2 blog Found it! And she's posting again.
    https://feed5fast2.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thanks for the link Diana. Lots of interesting recipes there.

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  12. Elizabeth, reading your post and the earlier comments has been very interesting.

    This 5:2 diet seems like a way to trick your existing metabolism into a new calculation of what is a day. Like you, I also like eggs...even if mine are store bought, but was encouraged by my doctor some years ago not to eat quite so many as I was. Since then, I have read news of other studies that seem to challenge the threat to our heart health that eggs were thought to provide.

    Ahh, time passes, and these theories change. My employment workdays do require me to be quite physically active, and I think that is how I keep my weight and measurements stabile. Oh...no snacks, and mostly cooking "from scractch" are also part of the mix.

    I wish you well with your own plan and am interested to hear more about how you do get on.

    xo

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    1. I think there has been a big change in the attitude towards eggs. As I understand it the view now is that they are connected to "good" cholesterol, not the dangerous stuff. You will see from this how scientific my understanding is! I do think your busy day is a huge part of what keeps you slim.

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  13. Not too personal or boring at all! Another interesting facet to your writing. The weight thing seems to be a constant with most everyone, doesn't it. I'm an apple too, and always have been. :<)

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    1. yes, I always have been an apple shape in that I have never been very waisted even when I was slimmer. It is only now that it is beginning to look like an issue!

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  14. Nan took my first thought..........that's exactly what I was prepared to say. I like real posts about real life.........and of course I'm remembering you from my visit and recalling a very vibrant and fit-looking you, so I encourage you to take care of your health however you go about it.

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    1. Thank you. I think I am reasonably fit, although undoubtedly less fit than I was before this last year which seems to have involved much time spent in the car and a lot less time walking!

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  15. You are inspiring me with these good ideas. I did exercise today in a pool, but I think it would be good to cut back on calories. Good for you.

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    1. Thanks Terra and welcome to the blog. I always admire people who take their exercise by swimming. It is such a good idea because you can do it rain or shine but somehow I never took it!

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  16. Kudos to you, Elizabeth! Getting a grip on your health is the best thing you can do for yourself. I like wine too, but it really is just empty calories. And keep moving! It seems that being active is even more important than not being overweight. Please keep us updated on your progress; I am here to cheer you on!

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    1. Hoping to be both active, which I am generally, and a bit lighter too!

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  17. Me too, me too! Although I have more than a stone to lose. I was always underweight, swam at least three times a week, walked about six miles at least five days, but then I got RA in my feet, was put onto steroids, and I ballooned. I feel like I am wearing someone else fat suit. But now I've cleared my system of steroids - it takes six months - I am trying the 5:2 ... good luck to us both :)

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    1. Very best of luck Annie. Getting clear of the steroids is an achievement in itself!

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  18. Health is an excellent motivator, and I don't think it really matters what you do, so long as you find what works for YOU, which is not the same as what someone else will find effective.

    I lost half a stone last year just by being careful and noticing what I ate, over the last couple of months a little has crept back on. Time to deal with it :}

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    1. I think that is it exactly, finding the approach that fits you. I am still considering whether I found the right one, seems ok so far!

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  19. I don't weigh myself, but have a pair of 'barometer' shorts that tell me whether or not I need to cut down. This method works for me, and as you say, that's the key to success.

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    1. I used to have a pair of jeans like that which were a good indicator of needing to cut back a bit. Maybe if I achieve my goal I will go back to monitoring things in that way rather than using the scales. Scales can be a bit addictive and a bit unreliable too!

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  20. Mimi Spencer's Fast Diet recipe book has some good recipes . The trouble is , they're so nice that sticking to the portion size is beyond me . Only a mental image of that extra chicken meatball bulging over my waistband deters me !
    And yes , the only real motivator is the 'can I do my zip ? ' one .

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  21. I have been thinking it is time for me to take about a stone off as well. I will do it by getting out of doors for a long walk at least 4 days a week....as soon as I get around to it....

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