Making resolutions to turn over some new leaves just because it’s spring is about as predictable and potentially futile as doing it because it’s a new year. However there’s a sense of reinvigoration that comes with spring (all that blossoming, budding and blooming) which, for me, triggers some serious self-incentivisation (if it’s not a word, it should be).
Whether it’s the change of seasons or just a desire to reinvent myself, I’ve been inspired to get serious about getting healthy. Having cast off the shackles of winter gloom, I’m striding forth once more on my early morning walks. I restrict myself to walking because the last time I tried running, I ended up flat on my face on the pavement which isn’t a good look (or feel). At a brisk pace for around 40 minutes (and on the days I’m super self-incentivised, up some hills), this is still a half-decent workout. Along with walking the dog later in the day, albeit at a more sedate pace and with frequent leg-lifting stops (for the dog), it’s about as physical as I care to get.
So that’s got the exercise sorted. Now to the diet. On the weekend I steeled myself to mount the scales. This was purely an academic exercise as the boa constrictor-like embrace of my favourite jeans was already testament to the presence of (as the diet industry so tactfully puts it) some unwanted kilos. Unwanted, unloved, but not undeserved, the flab is the legacy of a winter of throwing not just moderation but all restraint out the window. With the excuse of wanting to try out delicious recipes for the blog, I’ve been wallowing in a surfeit of sugar, carbs, butter, fat and all things heavenly to the palate but hellish for the figure.
As well, summer’s just around the corner. Not that I’m planning to get bikini ready, as the chemist brochures suggest I should be. The beach scene can get along just fine without that particular spectacle gracing the sands. However some moderate unveiling of the flesh can’t be entirely avoided if you don’t want to die of heat-stroke. So the day of reckoning didn’t just arrive, it crash landed on my head, but not before I’d caught a glimpse of the bad news scales-wise. Winter’s careless indulgence would have to be paid for in stringent self-denial.
Now I’m not an advocate of fad diets (or any diets at all for that matter). Everyone who knows anything about nutrition says they don’t work and are just an elaborate form of self delusion. Any weight you think you’ve lost is not gone. It’s still lurking (probably in the folds of your recently spurned fat clothes). All it takes is for you to drop your guard just for a moment and, like a snake emerging from its winter hibernation, it will stealthily slither back, often bringing some of its mates with it. In other words, far from reaching a pinnacle of diet success in which you remain sylph-like for the rest of your years, you’ll end up fatter than ever (and even more pissed off).
But any time I need to lose weight, I find sensible eating in moderation just doesn’t cut it for me. It is of course a wise approach and I don’t recommend anyone follow my example, but I have to do something so beyond my normal eating behaviour that the novelty of it is enough to keep me on the straight and narrow, at least temporarily. Several friends have extolled the virtues of the 5:2 diet, in which you feast for 5 days and fast for 2. This apparently first became popular as a result of a documentary called Eat, Fast and Live Longer, a BBC program in which Michael Mosley tries a few fasting-type diets for himself and ends up considerably slimmer and healthier. It’s a fascinating show if you haven’t seen it (video link below).
Eat, Fast & Live Longer HD by limoslight
Michael Mosley concludes that the best regime to suit his lifestyle is the 5:2 diet. There’s also a book (isn’t there always) – “The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting“. There are a few variations around, for example the alternate day fasting diet (or ADF), in which you eat normally one day and fast the next. Of course there’s a book on this one too – “The Alternate-Day Diet: Turn on Your ‘Skinny Gene’, Shed the Pounds, and Live a Longer and Healthier Life“ by Dr James Johnson.
The theory is that some regular days of fasting can have health benefits, over and above weight loss. Research suggests positive aspects may include lowered insulin levels and risk of certain types of cancers and a reduced likelihood of Alzheimer’s Disease. None of it is entirely conclusive at this stage but the indications seem to be promising and a number of respected nutritional scientists support the theory.
Because they’re theories, their exponents can’t guarantee success and like all dietary advice it should be considered in relation to other factors, but I’m sufficiently intrigued to give the ADF version a go. If the word “fasting” strikes terror into your heart, don’t worry. In this context it doesn’t mean absolutely nothing. You’re encouraged to severely restrict your caloric intake on the “fasting” days to about 500 calories for women and 600 for men. This isn’t much and it does require some serious self-denial. It apparently doesn’t matter if you eat all the calories in one meal or spread them out over the day. The latter option appeals more to me as I don’t like the idea of going for too many hours without anything to eat whatsoever. Hypothetically you can eat anything you want on the non-fast days, even a Big Mac and chips. However people who’ve tried it seem to find they’re not wanting to gorge themselves on the “on” days and presumably once you’ve experienced some benefits in either lost weight or feeling fitter (or both) you may well be more inclined to lean towards healthier foods even when the sky’s the limit.
I started this on Monday so it hasn’t even been a week yet and far too early to decide whether I’m feeling better just because I’m feeling virtuous (an unaccustomed condition), or if anything real is happening. However I shall persevere and report back in due course. Meanwhile don’t expect too much in the way of yummy cake and dessert recipes on the blog. The trouble with whipping up something tempting is you don’t usually eat it all in one day and if it’s still hanging around on a fast day, it’s going to drive me mad.
(Oh and I hope you like my spring photo collection – taken while out walking, of course).
by Anne Green