I so want to just voraciously devour a peanut butter sandwich right now.
Right now, though, I cannot.
As of about three weeks ago, I am now on the “5-2” fast diet, and today is one of my fasting days.
Yes, I am finally doing something about my weight. I have always, and I mean always, preferred staying chunky and felt no need to correct my figure because I’m happy with how I am. That’s still kind of true in a way, in the sense that being a little bit overweight is not a horrid idea to me, but I think I’ve overstepped the boundary. I don’t feel young and spry and full of energy anymore. I don’t feel healthy. I get back pains, neck cramps, headaches, shortness of breath and am in a virtually perpetual state of tiredness. I put this down to 22 years of bodily neglect, i.e. eating what the hell I want when the hell I want, having a largely inactive lifestyle, and saying “bugger you, good sir” to exercise.
But now I think I’m about to make a change. Recently, a couple of my parents’ friends discovered the magic of this ingenuitive new “dieting” regime whereby the dieter eats what exactly they want… for five days of the week, and on two designated “fasting” days, eating virtually nothing. For men, the recommended max is 600 calories, and for women it’s 500. Those values are, to my estimate, about two peanut butter sandwiches and a couple of cups of tea. Not very much at all.
Still, my parents have been
enduring adhering to the diet for a while now, maybe a year, and the weight loss has been rather amazing. Imagine a large watermelon. No, even larger. Like, quite large, like the ones you get in supermarkets. Now imagine two of those together. That’s how much weight just my dad has lost in that time.
For me, it’s been hard. The cravings are hard to control (I have a pretty bad sweet tooth), and drinking mineral water just isn’t the same as say fruit juice or a refreshing glass of milk. But I’m doing my darnedest to restrict my calorie intake (boy oh boy do you hear those words a lot from the people who back this diet) to make the weight loss as quick as possible. I’m actually trying my hand at three fasting days per week instead of two, because I want to see a difference fairly quickly. I tried just two days, as the diet recommends, but it didn’t feel like I was making enough of an impact on my weight, and that I was given too much free time to just pig out and give in to my cravings, even though I was, for all intents and purposes, allowed to. My fasting days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so I still get to partake of the family roast dinners on Sundays (which I’m getting better at preparing myself). They’re also spaced out evenly so that I’m never more than 24 hours away from eating what I want. A lot of this diet is purely psychological. The promise of all the food I could want to consume the following day is what keeps me going.
On my fast days, I’m not allowed juice drinks, sugary snacks, or a huge amount of meat. I usually have a bit of cereal and tea at breakfast to start the day, then it’s essentially an all-day fast until dinner time, with perhaps one apple at around lunch time just to stave the pangs. I’m getting used to eating salads. They’re not that bad. Throw some bits of chopped apple and some Greek yoghurt in there and they go down a treat. Yum.
I can still drink tea, which is excellent. I’m using a sugar substitute which is more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, and I’m slowly starting to wean myself off of that, too, although one teaspoonful of it is like 2 or 3 calories, so the difference I’ll make doing that is perhaps negligible. The tea over here in Strayaland doesn’t seem quite as bitter as the UK varieties when unsugared – not too sure what that’s down to – but I am finding it easier to stomach tea that isn’t crammed with sugar.
The problem I’ve found is that hunger really feels uncomfortable and is sometimes kind of distressing. Well, I mean, it’s never to the point where I’m hallucinating or thinking I’m about to die – at least, so far – but not eating when my body wants me to really throws me off. I can’t stop thinking about the things I’d like to be nibbling on right at that moment. A bit of raisin toast. Some chocolate chip cookies. A glass of apple juice – to wash both of those down. Stop it. Bad brain.
Apparently it’s when you feel hungry that the body starts to burn fat, turning the excess calories stored in your fat reserves into energy to run the body. My only question is – why does the body have to demand more food as it’s burning fat. I feel that it’s the most counter-intuitive and counter-productive design choice by evolution ever not to have the sensation of the body starving as though a famine had struck and the simple process of the body employing its backup energy reserves to be completely separate. It’s kind of like having a car that wails at you with an annoying siren on the dashboard the moment the needle on the fuel gauge rises a nanometer or two above the F. Seriously, body. You done gone F’d up there.
I’ve been measuring my weight daily with the Wii Fit program, just to track my progress – and it’s annoying for three reasons.
1. The little Wii Balance Board character is a little shit. He’s so damn chipper and optimistic, and loves to throw in random comments about how much thinner and healthier I’m looking (all in his weedy high-pitched voice), when he’s clearly an unfeeling computerized being with absolutely no humanity to speak of. My weighing scales should not talk to me – that’s some Futurama shit right there. Joke’s on him, though – he doesn’t know how the seasons change between the planet’s hemispheres. (He knows we’re in Australia because he measures us all in kilograms, but somehow he fails to realize that we are not suffering from “gloomy winter skies”. I am sat in my pants right now at well after midnight as I write this blog post – sweltering in the stuffy heat.) He was also designed to be stepped on. So ha ha.
2. My weight apparently fluctuates like a kangaroo doing the worm on a trampoline. Sometimes I gain weight after my fast days, and lose weight after my feast days. It make-a no sense. And I really can’t figure out what I’m doing right or wrong. Metabolism, y u do dis.
3. I have to do it first thing in the morning. Did I ever mention on this blog that I am the least morning person ever?
All in all, however, I’d say it’s going well. Nothing’s gone terribly wrong as of yet, apart from the days I have every so often on which I gain close to an entire kilogram in weight, and feel a bit shitty with myself, and I can tell (just through numbers, rather than through my actual figure, so far, anyway) that I am losing fat very gradually. Would be nice to be able to speed up the process a bit more, but there’s perhaps a problem with that, in that doing a “4-3 diet” is perhaps overkill and would be demotivating as hell, and then there’s the obvious issue of when I cave into the temptation to gorge myself on my feast days, I’m not going to be able to make up for the resulting net loss (or net gain, if you want to put it like that) with the following fast day, slowing the pound-shedding process down even more. I’m trying my best to conserve my intake on my feast days, but I do find myself guzzling a glass of juice or two to wash down my regular meals. And my fast days can be problematic when the cravings strike. (I can sleep them off, but then of course I wake up on a feast day and ironically don’t feel like eating anything. Stomach, are you high.)
I’m excited to get past this mindset of needing to consume. I might soon get used to eating this little, or even start being brave and having absolutely nothing all day – biologically, there’s no harm in doing so, and the body isn’t exactly starving, even though that’s what it might feel like (again, thanks, human digestive system) – it’s simply running off its reserves. I’ll be trying to stretch myself a bit further every now and then, and try to blot out the hunger pains. And the unpleasant growls that my stomach emitted literally as I was typing that.
If you’d like to learn more than my hopeless stream-of-consciousness ramblings can impart, the book you’ll want to read is Michael Moseley and Mimi Spencer’s The Fast Diet. Experienced dieticians collaborated to confirm the science behind this diet. I have the evidence that it really does work – in all its glorious simplicity – in what it did for my parents. Maybe it’ll work for you?
Note: It kind of helps to keep the cravings at bay if you don’t write a 1600-word blog post mentioning peanut butter sandwiches while simultaneously craving peanut butter sandwiches.