Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The diet

I've never believed in diets, per se. I think for the most part, diets are just not sustainable. I mean, do you really want to eat soup most days for the rest of your life? Or give up cake on special occasions? Feel hungry every second of every day? Nope. Not for me. I've always believed - and have expressed this opinion many times online on various sites - that if you eat well, exercise regularly, drink lots of water and eat crap occasionally, then whatever weight you are is the weight you're supposed to be. We're not all genetically engineered to look like Kate Moss.

However, I'm also 'lucky' because I've never struggled with weight. (Well, except for when I wanted to gain it as an insecure fourteen year-old. MYTH: if you're naturally 'skinny', you automatically don't have to worry about your weight.) So, you could possibly argue that I'm not exactly the right person to talk about whether diets are a good thing or not.

BUT - can I also say that since I reached the big 4-0 (four years ago now - ouch), I've noticed my body start to change, and whilst, in the past, I've enjoyed being able to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, that's not quite the case anymore. My mid-section isn't quite as svelte as it used to be. (Ok, it  probably hasn't been 'svelte' since circa 2001, ie pre-kids), and I feel I could shift a few kilos. I knew that eating well and exercising - just as I mentioned above - would make all the difference, but I kept letting myself down in that department. I started well with a healthy breakfast, and I eat pretty good dinners too, but everything in between? I don't always make the healthiest of choices. I love to walk the dog when I can, or jump on the treadmill at home, but some days the housework, errands and the like keep me from doing just that. (And I've never been a morning person, so getting up at 5am to fit in exercise is not natural for me.)

Another thing that has concerned me, especially in recent years, is the kind of genetic background I have, inherited from my family (cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes etc). I knew I had to do something to reduce the risk of such diseases. I need to make a change. Albeit a small one. But how? A diet? No way, I thought. I love food too much!

Then late last year I saw a BBC documentary on the 5:2 Diet that absolutely fascinated me. The concept is kind of simple: for five days a week, eat normally (or 'feast' - but obviously, don't go crazy on the donuts), and for the other two days, 'fast'. And by 'fast', they mean women should eat no more than 500 calories, and men 600 calories on those days. So, it's not exactly 'fasting', is it? The benefits? Not just weight loss - but an increase in overall health.

Basically, the doco shows that scientists have found that we are genetically engineered to not eat constantly all the time. After all, as cavemen, there weren't a lot of Maccas around and food was hunted/gathered and consumed in stops and starts. Not every day. You see, according to Dr Mosley - the scientist who has made the diet popular through the doco - our bodies like stress - in fact, our bodies respond well to it. Just like our bodies love it when we exercise (ie, we tear muscle), our bodies like to/need to feel hunger. Intermittent fasting activates the processes that repair the body's cells and cuts insulin production, which in turn makes us less likely to lay down fat stores. And healthwise, the 5:2 diet seems to have many other positive effects: research on animals and humans has shown, for example, that fasting tends to lower the production of the IGF-1 hormone that plays a role in the development of cancer. Apparently, the effects on the brain are encouraging too. There's a potential reduction in the risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. That's good news for me: my dear Dad had Alzheimer's in his latter years, and I'd like to avoid that like the plague. 

Curious, I asked Mr A to pick me up a copy of the book on the 5:2 for Christmas, and he thought he had, but instead he bought me a book called 'The 5:2 Diet Book', written by Kate Harrison (pictured above). Basically, the book is written about Kate's experience on the diet, coupled with tips, science, recipes and case studies. I devoured it (not literally!) and decided a few days later to give the 5:2 a go.

The first couple of fast days were ... uncomfortable. I was hungry. But I'm writing this on my sixth fast day since starting. It's currently 3.05pm and so far today all I've had is a small, soft-boiled egg and two long black coffees with a dash of milk and half a teaspoon of sugar in each. And I feel absolutely fine. Later, I'll have some canned tuna in springwater (drained) mixed with cottage cheese and a handful of carrot sticks. For dinner I'll have 100 grams of roasted chicken (no skin!) and a crunchy salad next to it, including lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. Maybe I'll have a cup of black tea in the evening (no sugar). In fact, I can drink that all day if I want to.

In the first two weeks on the 5:2, I lost 1.6kg and my waistline looked less fuller. And that's a period during which Youngest Son celebrated a birthday and chocolate cake was consumed. Two pieces, in fact. With freshly whipped cream on the side. So were pancakes, complete with maple syrup and gorgeous marscapone. Hot chips were enjoyed at the local bowling alley. I shared a delicious pizza with a friend one night. Yesterday, I ate two homemade banana muffins. I'm not missing out, people. Not at all.

Just two and a half weeks in, I have more energy already. I really do think I'm thinking more clearly. On my 'feast' days, I find I'm naturally making healthier choices with my food - a fantastic flow-on effect from the 'fast' days. I also now realise that feeling hungry is ok. I don't have to eat something as soon as I feel those initial rumblings of hunger. I'll survive! And a little can go a long way.

I'm a FAN. If this is a diet, then so be it. I am ON it.


* This post is not sponsored. I don't do sponsored posts!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The writing year that wasn't

Almost a year ago to the day, I promised myself I would write more in 2014. My initial thought was to continue writing a book (a fictional story) that I started during the fiction writing course I took some time back. My tutor at the time commented that she thought it a story that could work well. But then I got distracted writing another story that suddenly came to me (I started it as a short story, but then it got bigger and bigger ...), and then I got distracted again thinking about yet another storyline that I felt could work, even if it seemed it could be a little tricky to write (for various reasons).

After confusing myself considerably, around mid-year I decided I would step away from the fiction writing altogether for a bit - give myself a break from it, you know? - and focus again on freelance writing instead, as I hadn't written an article in a good while. I thought I'd better hone my skills some more before leaping in to that again, so I took an online course.

To be honest, I didn't enjoy that course as much as the fiction writing one. It had nothing to do with the course itself, or the tutor (someone I admire greatly); rather it was about my mindset, I think. I just really love writing fiction, and although I like writing articles (and blog posts!), the process of doing so doesn't come as naturally to me as writing fiction does (never has). Nor, to be honest, do I find it as enjoyable.

After the course finished, and we were encouraged to go out and start thinking of ideas for articles to write, and figure out what publications to approach with those ideas, I couldn't get in the head space to even consider doing it. I guess, almost immediately after the course finished, I pretty much abandoned the idea of writing articles again. For the time being, at least.

And yet, I still didn't go back to my fiction writing either. I suppose I've been a bit distracted this past year with other things, not to mention my dodgy elbow hindered my writing capabilities for a good six weeks. I think all in all, I haven't been 'in the zone' to dive in to my writing with enthusiasm. I need to sort out what story I want to write, and write it. (And stick to one story!) I have a terrible habit of starting things and not finishing them. Always have, actually. (Not a trait I'd like my kids to pick up from me any time soon.)

And so, even though I made a New Year's resolution of sorts last year to write more, I'm making one again now.

It's a good thing it's here in writing, eh?