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Dieting without doom

26 Jan

Veggie nice
This summer I became uncomfortably – quite literally – aware of an increasing case of weight creep. Not much, just a smattering of pounds (sorry, old money only in this blog) above where I like to be, but it was nearly impossible to pinpoint any dramatic reason for all this. So I realised that I had inadvertently fallen into some rather damaging dietary habits and even my passion for power walking couldn’t neutralise their effect. Slicing cheese for lunch? Oooh go on, just add an additional couple of slices which I’ll just scarf down. The odd crisp or two a day won’t hurt, will it? Odd one or two bags, I mean. And having a cider on a Thursday can’t possibly do any damage. So I’ll go ahead. These innocent examples simply form the tip of the iceberg.

And let’s not even get started on my caffeine and aspartame intake… pint after pint of squash (hydration – that’s definitely a good thing right, despite whatever it is I’ve flavoured it with) on top of pint after pint of coffee and some lovely diet Coke or Coke Zero, that’s the way to keep sharp during long days. The peaks and crashes caused by such dramatically fluctuating sugar levels were a wonder to behold, not such a wonder to experience.

The nudge I needed to tackle my dissatisfaction, which was creeping as inexorably as my weight gain was, arrived in the very welcome form of my wonderful colleague Katie and her nutrition course. She had devised a three day detox as part of the programme and needed victims, oh did I say victims, I meant volunteers, an easy mistake to make given that they both begin with ‘v’ (only kidding, Katie!) to trial the programme and give her feedback. This was exactly the trigger I needed to address the increasing lack of respect with which I was treating myself.

In a mere three days my eyes and my tastebuds were opened, and I am genuinely fascinated by how to nourish myself and my family in new ways that make everyone feel good. I realised I hadn’t tried a truly new meal for months, probably for years. I remembered that eggs are brilliant. I found new grains, and grain substitutes, to help me cut down my reliance on wheat (specifically, bread and pasta) while still keeping me nicely full and energised. Turns out this was just in time, as L1 now appears to be wheat intolerant – so I would have had to carry out this investigation into alternatives sharpish anyway.

Nuts and seeds are a pleasing crisp substitute, particularly macadamia nuts, with their smooth milky round crunchiness. Infusing turmeric root, ginger root and lemon juice in a pint of boiling water brings the day sharply to life and doesn’t taste like ‘a curry drink’ (copyright: my children, daily). I won’t claim to have given up coffee and have no intention of doing so, but I have quit squash and all forms of fizzy cola and their friends. Chromium genuinely quells sugar cravings. And yes, I feel significantly better for it all. And no, no-one’s really noticed that I cook in coconut oil, pour water with dinner and our pasta is made from spelt, not wheat.

What’s best about all this is that the dietary changes I’ve made have all taken place comfortably within the confines of normal everyday life. Katie’s healthy living ethos is that being kind to yourself includes a healthy dose of indulgence alongside healthy nutrition. It acknowledges that we all deserve treats and these can sit comfortably alongside a plan for good living. I can most definitely be doing with that attitude and I would thoroughly recommend anyone interested in this area finding out more via her perfectly-named website Imperfectly Pure.

The last six pounds, Special K, and a challenge

5 Nov

SONY DSCOn and off for, oh, the last six years, I have been trying to lose the last six pounds. To be honest, its longer than that, but it wouldn’t run together so nicely as ‘six’ and ‘six’, so forgive the understating for literary purposes. You get my drift.

Basically, I have had just under half a stone to lose for quite a while. That sums it up.

Start of this year I tried the 5:2 diet. Problem was, the decision to do that fell at a time when I simultaneously went on the ‘argh I am freaking out’ diet, which proved highly effective, but therefore made it impossible to evaluate the efficacy of the former. I was a bit gutted about that, to be honest – I was looking forward to relaying my experience via the medium of blog.

So, since I need to tackle this Before Christmas (yeah, I said the C-word, get over it, I’m having to mutter mutter bah humbug bleeurgh), I think the most effective way to do it would be to try a selection of headline diets, and write about ‘how was it for me’ on this blog. An unconventional motivator, perhaps, but a motivator nonetheless.

So, from today, for a fortnight, it’s the Special K diet. I am obsessed with Special K, it’s fair to say, anyway (mainly how it rhymed so well in that sentence). I love the sweet salty crunch. So all I need to do is weigh out a bowl twice a day, and have a normal meal for the third, plus fruit. Whether I’ll feel the same after two weeks – who knows. I’ll make sure any readers do, though. And then after that fortnight, if there’s still additional poundage to shed, I will find another diet that’s been reported about to try. Maybe even 5:2 again… Although my line is drawn at the cabbage soup diet. Watch this space.

5:2 – what are the odds the diet’ll work for me?

26 Jan

DINNER! DeeeeliciousI have a few motivations to start the 5:2 diet (where you eat what you like for five days, and fast – 500 calories throughout the day – for the other two – explanation much better than mine is here).

Firstly, because I want to shift the stubborn 4lbs lurking around my midriff – I bought a pair of very pleasing fitted trousers (in a dark aubergine, for those interested, not purple, L1 has banned the purchase of any other purple clothes for me) and there is no way that when the current freezing conditions lift I will be able to wear them with anything other than an exceptionally baggy top;

Secondly, because reports say that this diet has additional health benefits, and let’s get real, I’m not getting any younger;

Thirdly, because I love love love my food (a downfall with most diets) but I figure that even I can ‘deprive myself’ for two days a week on the promise that I can eat normally on the other five days – that’s a good ratio, I would argue;

And finally, because M and I are seriously stuck in a rut foodwise, something that came home to be when I referred to a dish as ‘Monday Night Tea’ and he knew exactly what I was talking about. It’s time to be more adventurous, at lunch (with leftovers or something fresh) and at dinnertime.

So, I can’t do it on my ‘home days’, since we eat with the kids. It’s still such a thrill for me to be able to do this during the week that I’m not going to compromise on our cooking and eating together by saying “You can have spaghetti bolognese, but Mummy has to eat coal”.

This means it’s left on work days, when M and I eat separately from the kids. This also makes things easier from another perspective, since a couple of others in the office are doing it and that’s great moral support.

So, two fast days in (I don’t count the previous week when I had exceptionally minor surgery and as a result didn’t eat for two days, but there’s no denying the fact that helped the weight loss progress!), how’s it been?

Better, easier, and more satisfactory than I had imagined, is the honest answer. Banana for breakfast, huge salad and Quorn slices for lunch, teeny slivers of apple as a through-the-day snack, and fish and veg for tea. On Thursday I made a fish stew – just cod, veg, a chili, some haricot beans simmering in tinned tomatoes – which M had with rice; it was absolutely delicious and because of the protein from the fish, much more filling than I had expected. And importantly ticking the ‘I wouldn’t usually have this for tea’ box. I have enjoyed experimenting with salad ingredients: finely slicing a sundried tomato into basic leaves, for instance; and rediscovering capers (best foodstuff ever, probably). The only dark night of the soul I encountered was on the first day, when I craved something sweet after my tuna and veg; I had to leave the room as M ate his yoghurt.

The best thing about it, though, in my view, is the fact that a day is finite. That may sound like a daft and obvious thing to say, but consider this: on most diets, every day is a deprived day, however well marketed and well planned the diet is – and I am a fan of WeightWatchers, which I believe to be effective and fair as a dieting strategy, but you still can’t eat ‘normally’ on any day. On this diet, even if it’s really tough, and you want carbs more than anything ever, you can focus on the fact that soon as you wake up the next day, that toast and that cereal, they’re yours, and even I can live with that, and boy do I love my food.

So let’s see how I do. I have to say that after a week on it I don’t feel as hungry on the days that I’m not fasting, and there is something quite invigorating about the fast itself. I have a friend who I recently learned has been following this eating pattern since August; she looks fantastic and I’m going to focus on that!