Archive for the ‘Diet and exercise’ Category

I’m three hours into my second 24 hour fast of the week and I’m desperately trying to create distractions from the fact that it is clearly dinner time; it is all too mind-preoccupyingly (nope, not a word but I’m having it) evident that what I should be doing is preparing something scrumptious and looking forward to my stable pudding of raspberry yoghurt, peppered with crunched up cereal and chocolate drops.

So I’ve taken to doing a bit of writing: I leave my town in five weeks and I’m keen to finish a little ‘livealogue’ (can’t be a travelogue as I’m not travelling anywhere so figured…) about this town as I think it’s pretty interesting – in as much as it’s filled to the brim with eccentrics.  In doing so, I’ve stumbled across an old diary of the time I first arrived here and a second diary of my travels last summer to Kyrgyzstan.

It was in Kyrgyzstan, trekking up glacial mountains with a translator/trek guide named Vlad (actually Vadim but that only transpired two weeks after everyone had been calling him so Vlad so Vlad it was) that I began to question the ‘wisdom’ I’d be consuming from dietary and exercise books back in the West since an early age.

It was one blue-skied, dewy morning camping at a hot springs in the foothills of the Ala Archa National Park that I managed to grab an hour – and crucially a coffee (albeit packet) – with Vlad as he lay in his one-man tent, boiling water on his camping stove.  I spotted an old Fanta bottle filled with what looked like little stones and questioned Vlad as to what it was.  I was particularly intrigued as people had started to notice how little Vlad appeared to eat…and yet how impressively strong he appeared to be.

As an example, one day when crossing a shallow but reasonably fast-moving river, I was the first in the line and, looking what I imagine to be somewhat dubious, Vlad had reached out his hand.  Not wanting to fall too heavily into the bracket of ‘pathetic female’ but having a similar distaste for becoming a drowned rat, I reached out my hand to gain the balance-support I assumed Vlad was offering.  Only he wasn’t offering merely support. No.  Instead, he whisked me (all 167k of me) and my bag (pushing 17k) onto his shoulder, balancing this entire load with just one hand and trotted across the river, depositing me effortlessly on the other bank before returning to do the same with those behind me.  It’d be fair to say, there was somewhat of an aura of mystical wonder about this character.

So I’d asked Vlad what was in the bottle and he’d told me it was buckwheat – the only food he consumed on his average hiking day, bar a couple of bush/tree picked fruits and flowers and an orange drink at lunchtime.  I was frankly horrified.  How on earth could this embodiment of strength and fitness be the way he was without following the precise protein-carbohydrate-fat-fitness regime I’d come to measure out my daily log by? Unbelievable.

And so slowly (probably a little late at aged 27), I started to realise not everything I’ve been told and read to date is necessarily the best advice.  Not to say it’s all to be dismissed but there are clearly other ways of achieving similar (or even better) effects.  This tiny seed continued to blossom throughout the summer and ever since and has lead to all sorts of new discoveries.  But for now, I’m fasting and thinking of Vlad – if he could essentially fast whilst rocketing up 5000 metre mountains in flip-flops, surely I can battle through another hour or two of lolling on my bed reading plus a couple of lessons teaching before 4pm tomorrow arrives… and I EAT.

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When I first overheard a colleague telling the canteen staff he couldn’t have any more than the measly cup of luke warm soup nestled in his palm because it was a ‘fast day’ and he was restricted to 600 calories, I looked aghast at his 6 foot 6, cyclist frame and told him in no uncertain terms that he’d lost the plot and that I ate more than that just walking past the fridge.

At precisely 3.45pm this afternoon, I finished the first of what may or may not become regular 24 hour fasts as part of my initial experimentations with the world of intermittent fasting.  No sooner had I informed my colleague that he needed to have a serious word with himself, he was delivering – eager and bright-eyed as always – a surprisingly convincing collection of reasons why this wasn’t so absurd after all.

I went away mildly intrigued by the idea, chiefly as I’ve been looking for something to adapt in my diet in an attempt to stop the sugar-purges of late evening.  I’m by no means a serial dieter; in fact, my approach to food and exercise is always that I won’t start something that I do not believe sustainable.  No crash diets here.  And I tend to do quite a bit of reading before trying anything new.  And so, the more I read about intermittent/alternate/5:2 fasting, the more fascinated I became…which culminated in watching BBC Horizon’s August 2012 documentary ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’ in which Dr. Michael Mosley researches various people who incorporate fasting into their diets – whether voluntarily or not – and indeed tries it himself.  And the really interesting part is that weight loss, though a welcome addition to the host of potential benefits (though still very much under-evidenced in human subjects), is not the primary motivation, with a lessened risk to diseases such as diabetes and cancer being more marked possibilities.

Anyhow, after a excellent slice of carrot cake and a strawberry and cream flavoured tea at Bristol’s Cox and Baloney’s tea shop yesterday at around 3.30pm, I figured that was that.  I just wouldn’t eat until 3.45pm the following day.  I got on the train back to Devon, admittedly had to shelter from view of my chocolate stacked fridge by getting a very early (but much needed) sleep and did a day’s teaching with no food.  And I was fine.  Needless to say, we don’t fall down and collapse if we fail to receive the traditional three square meals a day.  Not at all.  A mild headache crept in about an hour before I finished but all-in-all, not at all bad.  And I felt less like I’d spent the day cramming whatever food came my way in between writing reports, marking books and trying to entertain rooms of teenagers – a feeling I usually have and generally am not so fond of.

I finished the fast with a fair-sized bowl of my favourite cereal, a banana, some grapes and a cake.  Not the best choice really, given that’s a fair chunk of sugar right there and one of the key hopes I have for this new way of eating is to reduce the sugar cravings that plague my every evening.  But still.  It’s early days.  Dinner was a very large pile of fish, quinoa and greens (and I’m just about to have a little chocolatey night cap!)  Tomorrow, importantly (and much emphasised in the literature I’ve started to read) is a normal eating day.  Then on Thursday, I think I’ll have another stab at it.  Not planning to necessarily pursue total fasts long-term, possibly the reduced 500 calories day (600 for men) but just going to see how it goes.

Is anyone else dabbling with fasting and has had any major success/tips?