What happened and where did I go?

I’ll be writing about something slightly different now on this blog, and I confess straight up I’m writing this for me rather than you, so forgive my selfishness but I need it because I have a long journey ahead of me to go back to the start;  and all I ever really knew was writing so I guess it is by writing that I will get there.

I now weight 233lbs – so I’ve stopped gaining weight, which is because I’ve come off the Gabapentin but I now have 89lbs to lose.  But it’s more than that.  Since I damaged my jaw joint and nerve and had to go on the heavy medication and off sick from work, I’ve lived in this netherland for the last 18 months.  Unable to hold at first pretty much any conversation, and now 18 months later unable to hold more than one conversation before my face hurts for the rest of the day, I’ve withdrawn from socialising.  Added to that not being able to recognise myself under all this weight, just not feeling like myself, has made me withdraw further.  And now, from being someone who had a full and functioning life, I’ve become someone who hardly sees anyone, hardly goes anywhere and hardly does anything.  I’ve learned to just survive with as little discomfort as possible, and I wouldn’t even say I’m particularly unhappy.

But this is not a life, and I realise to get my life back I need to let myself be unhappy and unsettled and admit that this is just not enough.  I’ve led such an interesting, varied and sometimes difficult, sometimes magnificent life – but now, I’m just this fat, solitary middle aged woman who gets by.  Many circumstances have contributed, but the truth is I am the only person who can dig myself out – and I know it starts with my body.

I need to be the lithe, slender, restless, ambitious person I always was.  The person who was always trying, who never stayed on the mat but always got back up;  that was always dreaming and striving.

The drugs I’m on for my condition keep me medicated, they rob me of most of my creativity and I want my creativity back because I still have to do the one thing I wanted since I was a child – to be a writer.  I have written, I have had short fiction published, I even finished a novel – but these drugs numb me.

So I have to get my body sorted back out and off these drugs, and I think accomplishing this will be the biggest fight of my life.

But I’m game.  And I’m not someone who does things in moderation – I function in extremes.

So from tomorrow, I’m going on the Blood Sugar/Xand van Tulleken diet and cutting back to 800 calories a day until I am the me I and everyone who knew me recognises again.  And then I want to get off these f***ing drugs and write the novel I know is inside me.

Wish me luck.

Dr Michael Mosley & the death of CICO

in his latest book ‘The Clever Guts Diet’ (2017), Dr Michael Mosley says this:

Why weight loss is not simply a matter of eating less and exercising more

What studies like this [the one quoted above] have done is undermined the idea that has dominated weight control thinking for the last half-century:  ‘CICO’ (‘calories in, calories out’).  According to CICO the reason we’re fat is because we eat more calories than we burn off.  The answer to obesity is to eat less and exercise more.

Except, of course, it’s not as simple as that.

For those of you who don’t know of him, Dr Michael Mosley (see above) has a loping, slightly lisping, eye-twinkling charm that make him an ideal TV presenter, and he wears his erudition lightly enough to communicate easily what the results of scientific study actually mean for us.  He’s the anchor of a TV programme ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’ which examines health myths, fads and science and is a regular contributor to the BBC’s Horizon programme, which explores scientific issues.  He’s made a name for himself as a have-a-go experimenter who, in the name of science,  will try out things on himself – such as tapeworms, leeches and malaria – so that we don’t have to.

During his research for a TV programme, he created the 5:2 Diet, also called the Fast Diet, and in so doing brought the idea of intermittent fasting to the British public;  and then followed on by bringing HIT workouts to us too.  I’m not sure I forgive him for the latter.

Now, as he created the Blood Sugar Diet, which demands its followers eat no more than 800 calories a day, I’m surprised to hear he no longer believes in CICO.  I can only assume that Michael is demonstrating the hallmarks of a good scientist, by being prepared to rethink his own conclusions when new evidence comes to light.

So there it is.  Finally.  The death of CICO.



Day 2 Defatting, More Fuel to the Calorie Debate & Sundry Scans

So I’ve done 2 days of the diet I devised for myself – Defatting: The Principles (and why your body will always win in the end) – and this morning I weighed myself.

I’ve lost 7lbs.

Now I know there’s a fair amount of water weight etc in there, but all the same.  I did a calorie-careful vegetable-based day (lost 3lbs), and followed it with a calorie-uncounted high protein-high fat day (lost 4lbs).

Yesterday was a big fat fest, and although I actually really can cook, what I felt like was an utterly self-indulgent day and after trying to adhere to the almost-vegetarian Alkaline Diet, that could only mean lots of bacon and eggs.  I can’t be bothered working out my calorie count from yesterday, but this is what I ate:

– 3 eggs fried in 1 tbsp butter + 4 rashers grilled bacon

– 1 salmon fillet + 2 boiled eggs made into egg mayonnaise with 2 tbsps mayonnaise

– 250g chestnut mushrooms fried in 2 tbsps fat + 5 grilled rashers bacon

I only know that it’s way more calories than should result in a weight loss.

Hmmmm.  This is something I’ve seen before – that the calories in/calories out equation isn’t the whole picture.

Of course, whatever, the weight loss will slow very soon but I’ll keep you updated.

Today is a starch-based day, although I freely admit it may go a little awry as I’m going in for an MRI Craniofacial Scan today and they may want to inject dye into me so *ugh*  I’m a little nervous going in and know I will come out with a shocking headache, so I’ll do the best I can in terms of diet but make no concrete promises.

However the scan should shed light on what’s going on with my TMJ/TGN so that’s a good thing. Strangely, yesterday I finally got called for the ultrasound on my shoulder which will happen on Thursday 15th February.  As is so often the way in life, it’s all happening at once.


Defatting: The Principles (and why your body will always win in the end)

So, Defatting: this is the diet I’ve worked out for myself – and yes, I am calling it a diet.  I find the current fad for insisting ‘it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!’ somewhat disingenous.  The lifestyle change they’re talking about is changing your nutrition and exercise to lose weight.  Isn’t that just a diet?  Spades and spades, please honey.

Over the years, I have tried pretty much every diet, sorry ‘lifestyle change’, going and for family reasons I’ve done a great deal of research into nutrition, human biology and exercise;  so I’ve sat and thought, and explored and distilled everything I have read and learned and experienced into one nutritional programme – this diet is intended to induce fat loss and exchange a healthy amount of it for muscle.  The look and feel I’m aiming for with my body is long,  lean and lithe.  I want to love my body again.

I’m not going to try to justify here any choice I make with science, because science is doing its best but doesn’t yet know everything;  and for every ‘expert’ using science to prove it’s day another will be using it to prove that it’s night.  I am far from anti-science (my eldest is in fact a Scientist and through his eyes I’ve come to see the world in new and dazzling ways):  but I am anti-people-twisting-science-to-their-own-ends.  I make no claims to be a medical or nutritional expert, just an informed layperson wanting to take back my own errant body.

So.  The Principles of Defatting.  It goes like this –

On Day 1, I eat a starch-based diet – we’re talking buckwheat, pulses, fruit and both starchy and non-starchy vegetables, with some protein.  This is the day I’ll fit in a low-glycemic sugar hit.  I’ll be generous but not stupid with the amount of food I take in, while being a little careful of the Easy Extras it’s too simple to blow a diet with, such as Butter On Everything.  If you need to give it a calorie count, let’s call it 1500 calories.

On Day 2, I eat a high protein, high fat, low carb diet.  I’ll have a bit of fun with fat.  I’ll be melting some butter on those vegetables.  If I was a vegetarian, it’d be a day for tofu rather than pulses.  Carbs will be limited to non-starchy vegetables.  If you need to think calories, let’s think 2000.

On Day 3, I eat as little as it takes to fuel me for the day without my being hungry.  This will mean limited protein, limited fat and alot of vegetables, with a protein-enhanced fruit smoothie.  If you have to give this a calorie count, 1200 should do it.

I’ll be repeating this cycle twice a week – and on the spare day inbetween the two cycles I’ll pick whichever day I most feel like doing.

I’ve worked out these principles because I know elimiination diets are tough and in the end I’ll crack, and will fling myself right off that diet wagon, with catastrophic results – so I’m planning to take in as wide a range of foods as possible, so I’m not missing or craving anything.  I also feel instinctively that’s the best way to keep myself healthy, and now that I’m moving into this stage of my life I think that’s more vital than ever.  If my body is to escape the commonplace vagaries of ageing, it needs all the help it can get!

I am not imposing any Carb Curfews because in my experience it makes no difference whatsoever when I eat what.

I think completely eliminating all forms of sugar is highly desirable and totally unrealistic – see my blog post To sweeten or not to sweeten – so I’m introducing sweetness with 85% dark chocolate (I’m a massive fan of the Co-op’s own), low glycemic fruits like berries and sweet dark cherries (both of which I buy frozen),  the very occasional use of Clark’s Carob Fruit Syrup and Whole Earth’s Sweet Granules With Stevia.  Powdered Carob may also make a very occasional appearance.  Again, see the above post for more information as to why I decided on these particular things.

The Sweet Rule though is this – no sweetness at all on a high fat/high protein day.  This is because, as you probably know by now, sugar stimulates the production of insulin.  Insulin is necessary for fat storage.  Without the presence of insulin, fat cannot be stored.  So on days when you’re stimulating insulin, you don’t want to offer it unlimited calories to drag out of your bloodstream to the nearest fat cell for storage.  I have no scientific study to state that it’s a good idea to keep high levels of insulin away from high levels of calorie, but it makes sense to me and can’t do any harm.

I think those high protein/high fat days are, though, especially important to we menopausal women, because we will now be losing muscle at an increased rate and we do not want to exacerbate that.

I am also very wary of a low calorie diet as a menopausal woman for the same reason – that your calorie-deprived body will feast on your muscle as well as your fat;  and because my hormones are already all out of whack;  and I don’t want to distress my body –  and I believe depriving my body of the energy it needs to function too brutally, too often or for too long will do that.  Remember, we no longer have oestrogen to control our cortisol – see my post on Menopause and how it relates to weight – so we want to keep our bodies calm and happy.

The calorie argument is, I think, pretty much discredited anyway and on its last legs – see my post Calories (Oh bloody hell) for my reasons for saying this – so while I think 2 or 3 lowcal days a week might generate some weight loss, I don’t want it to be my main weight loss strategy.  I know from research and personal experience that a body deprived of sufficient calories for too long will rebel and prevent further weight loss.

I included starch days because they’re great fun – sweetish, stodgyish and comfortably filling.  They’re also great for gut health and the role of the gut in fat gain and loss is increasingly being revealed as pivotal.  If you haven’t read Giuila Enders’s ‘Gut’ yet, I would recommend you do and quick – it’s fascinating and charming at the same time, a rare thing in a science book.

As to exercise –  I personally have never found that exercise enhances my weight loss.  In fact, I’ve found if I overdo it the exact opposite happens – my body refuses to release weight.  There are good reasons for this, which I’ve discussed in How and when to exercise.  So  I will be exercising – as in still walking daily but for no more than an hour;  and doing rhythmic stretching sequences followed by muscle toning with light weights – but this will be for my mental and physical health, not as a calorie-burning strategy.  However, I do want to rebuild and maintain muscle to protect my skeleto-muscular frame, because we are coming into an era in our lives when it can so easily be damaged, leading to chronic conditions and their attendant pain.  When she was only a little older than I am now, my mother had to have both her knees replaced.  Ouch!

As muscle also burns more calories than fat, it may also be that rebuilding muscle speeds my metabolism back up, burning more calories and generally keeping my body humming happily.

So those are all the reasons I put together Defatting in the form I have.  We are omnivores, meant to take in as wide a variety of foods as possible.   My body talks to me when I don’t feed it properly, in the form of cravings and if I don’t listen and comply healthily, it will eventually force me into extreme action and I will binge again.

Frankly, you will never beat your body.  Your body will win every time.  If you’ve ever been strictly Low Carbing and found yourself, suddenly, with a Mars Bar in your hand, you’ll know exactly what I mean.


Calories (oh bloody hell)

So do calories count?

My own feeling, after years of research, and experimentation on myself, is that they have a role to play, but not the decisive one – I’ve found Glycemic Load/Index to be far more important.  What I’ve put into my body has turned out to be a much better determiner of whether or not I lose weight than how much.

When my Mum died in 2003 my research turned me to a low carb diet.  A nutritionist friend was horrified (this was when Low Fat was still the Gold Standard of nutrition) and said it was incredibly dangerous;  she also insisted that the only reason I was losing weight on low carb was because in cutting out carbs I was cutting out a whole food group, and therefore alot of calories (remember that rather stupid argument?).  So we called up a calorie counter and entered into it what I ate in a normal day – it totalled 2,300 calories, and yet I was losing 2 or 3lbs every week.  My nutritionist friend was irritated, bewildered and had no answer.

As an experiment a few months ago, I ate 1,600 meticulously counted calories a day of low glycemic foods (with starch in the form of pulses, sweet potato and buckwheat playing a big role) and walked for at least an hour every day, which brought my net calories in total to about 1,350.  I did this religiously for 3 weeks.  I didn’t lose a single pound.

I was recently reading James Duigan’s Blueprint for Health – I rather like him because, despite the exclusive gym which only the elite can afford, I think he is sincere and sensible – what’s more, seeing as he is the man who Hugh Grant credits with making him ‘look dazzling in his panties’ I’m going to listen to him.  I’ll quote what he has to say in Blueprint for Health in response to the question ‘Do calories count?’ His answer – ‘No.’  That’s pretty unequivocal.  He then goes onto explain why not, and he makes a good argument.

I did lose alot of weight fast on a very low calorie diet last year, but I’ve regained it all. Take a look at this photo of Michael Fassbender in the film ‘Hunger’, for which he lost almost 3 stone to play Bobby Sands –


Yes, that really is Michael Fassbender.  In an interview with the Telegraph, he revealed how he lost the weight –

Fassbender underwent medical checks throughout, and after meeting with a nutritionist, he settled on a diet of berries, nuts and sardines, eating 900 calories a day for the first five weeks until his weight levelled, forcing him to cut down still further. He skipped, did yoga, and walked four and a half miles a day.

However  –

When the film wrapped, the first thing that Fassbender ate was sushi. ‘I was stuffed,’ he recalls. ‘And I was freezing, because my body wasn’t used to handling food. That was really interesting. And then the weight went on really quickly. In maybe two weeks, I was only about three kilos less than what I’d normally be.’

He regained two and a half stone in two weeks!!!

If you deprive your body too much, it will adjust its functioning and when it comes into contact with food it will lay that fat down quicker than you can say ‘900 calories’.

I’ve also noticed that when I cut down on calories, I eliminate foods which I know to be healthy because there are lower calorie options:  for instance, salmon and mackerel slip off the menu.  Beef bourguignon becomes a distant memory.  I stop adding avocado to a salad.  And even as I’m doing it, instinct tells me it’s not right.

So the take home on calories – on balance, I think it’s a bad idea to count them;  so I’m not going to use them as a measure of my diet.

And yes, I am going to call it a diet!