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Walking in the rain
I’ve started a personal weight loss programme recently, as my weight has been creeping up to unacceptable levels. Not only is this unhealthy, but it is also extremely uncomfortable and unsightly, as my bathroom mirror confirms to me every morning. I’m fed up with cinching in my belt only to create a ponderous overhang, which, quite frankly, looks ridiculous and causes some discomfort throughout the day. So it didn’t take too long to decide that a weight reduction of around two stone (28lbs or 12kg) would bring me back to somewhere near an appropriate BMI (body mass index) for my age and build.
My problem has been somewhat complicated by a health issue which over the last couple of years has focussed attention at increasing and maintaining weight after a rather dramatic and traumatic weight loss. But enough is enough and I feel things have gone a tad too far; indeed, I’d hate to be the subject of that wonderful P G Wodehouse quote: “He was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say "when!"
So a strategy of diet and exercise was on the cards. But I’ve always found the idea of dieting tedious and discussing diets simply make my eyes glaze over. I enjoy food; I like to eat, cook and discuss food. A relaxed meal with family and friends with plenty of good food and wine is my idea of a good time, so I’d be reluctant to change that. But the big problem with diets is similar to that of global warming; it has to be SUSTAINABLE. You have to be able to live with the regime indefinitely and it has to be adjustable to allow both weight loss and weight maintenance after the desired weight has been achieved. So it was in early August, as I was steeling myself to embark on such a regime, that I watched a BBC television programme called “Horizon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer”, where the presenter, Michael Mosley underwent a series of tests and new research-based regimes with both fascinating and dramatic results.
The TV programme was really very interesting and pretty comprehensive; if you can locate a web player for it I would strongly urge you to watch it, but ultimately it focussed on current research into Alternate Day fasting (ADF), involving eating what you want one day, then a very restricted diet (fewer than 600 calories) the next, and most surprisingly, it does not seem to matter much what you eat on non-fast days.
Presenter Michael Mosley decided he couldn't manage ADF, it was just too impractical. Instead he did an easier version, the so-called 5:2 diet. As the name implies you eat normally 5 days a week, then two days a week you eat 500 calories if you are a woman, or 600 calories, if you are a man. He found that he could get through his fast days best if I had a light breakfast (scrambled eggs, thin slice of ham, lots of black tea, adding up to about 300 calories), lots of water and herbal tea during the day, then a light dinner (grilled fish with lots of vegetables) at night.
On his feed days he ate what he normally would do feeling no need to gorge, and he stuck to this diet for 5 weeks, during which time he lost nearly a stone (14lbs, about 6kg) and his blood markers, like IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol all improved too. Current medical opinion is that the benefits of fasting are unproven. If you really want to fast then you should do it in a proper clinic or under medical supervision, because there are many people, such as pregnant women or diabetics on medication, for whom it could be dangerous. But Mosley was closely monitored throughout and found the 5:2 surprisingly easy and will almost certainly continue doing it, albeit less often. Fasting, like eating, is best done in moderation.
So, impressed by the ease and success demonstrated by the programme, I thought I’d have a go. Sure enough, after three weeks of the diet which I found relatively easy, I too had lost between 0.8kg to 1.0kg per week, totalling 2.9kg in the 3 weeks. However, importantly for me, I have added some fairly gentle exercise first thing each morning, whereby I walk about 1½ miles (2.4km) of undulating Peak District landscape, which gets my heart pumping and lungs panting in an invigorating way. My dog seems to enjoy it too, and I’m surprised and gratified that weight loss can be this successful, while being sustainable and indeed flexible.
This brings me, at some length, to the title of this work: ‘Walking in the rain’. I’m determined that the weather should not inhibit my early morning strolls, and this morning I set off in bright sunshine, but with the strong expectation of a heavy shower in the half-hour or so I’d be outdoors. Sure enough, as I reached the zenith of my perambulations, looking down with great approval on my delightful Peak District home valley, and also on achieving my personal goal in terms of altitude, the heavens opened and I enjoyed 10 minutes of torrential rain. I say ‘enjoyed’ advisedly, as, strange creature that I am, I really do love being out in all weathers, PROVIDED that I’m appropriately attired.
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