Friday, August 29, 2014

Fast or slow?


The general received wisdom is that it is better to lose weight slowly, that you are more likely to keep it off. I saw Michelle Bridges (trainer from Australia's Biggest Loser) talking about this in relation to the extremely rapid weight loss on that show, and she argued that EVERYONE struggles to keep weight off, whether they lost it quickly or slowly, and that people who lose slowly don't have a better record of keeping it off. In fact, losing weight quickly can be very motivating. (Although I suppose that doesn't make any difference once you get to maintenance.)

I was thinking about that this morning so I found Gretchen Rubin's post today about habits very apposite. She says:

Sometimes, counter-intuitively, it’s easier to make a major change than a minor change. When a habit is changing very gradually, we may lose interest, give way under stress, or dismiss the change as insignificant. A big transformation creates excitement and energy and a sense of progress, and that helps to create a habit.

Anyone want to weigh in (pun intended) on this issue? Fast or slow?

Of course there are other factors to consider when it comes to losing weight fast or slow. Skin elasticity. Getting enough nutrients in a low calorie diet. Not injuring yourself exercising excessively. Taking up so much time and energy it interferes too much with the rest of your daily life.

I've mentioned carb cycling a couple of times over the past two weeks, but I haven't managed to get it going yet. Being sick has had a lot to do with that - I find simple carbs (like toast) are all I want to eat when my stomach is upset. (My weight is down to 81.7 kg today from 82.5 kg last Monday, which is nice, although I didn't enjoy the process!) My husband likes scrambled eggs when he is sick, which I don't understand at all. Yuck. When I am sick, eggs are the last things I want to smell. Stomach-turning.

So anyway, I've done a lot more reading about carb cycling (mainly from the website of Chris Powell "Choose to Lose") and I'm giving it another go starting tomorrow. I'm not starting today because I haven't been shopping yet, we're going out to dinner tonight before Jasmine's big dance concert, and Saturday is going to be my "free" day anyway. But I'm not waiting until Monday, first day of spring, either! Sunday will do just fine, and fits in with how I want the low carb/high carb cycle to run. And don't worry, I'm not doing a last hurrah binge today either.

I plan to copy Sean Anderson and take photos of all my food to keep me accountable. I'll talk a lot more about carb cycling as we go along, I imagine, but the basic premise is you have some low carb days (starchy carbs/fruit only at breakfast) and some high carb days (starchy carbs/fruit with every meal) so that you get the benefits of a low carb diet without the problems. There are different ways to alternate the days in different amounts. You also eat lots of non-starchy vegetables, and it's low fat especially on the high carb days. In the past I have found I lose weight when eating low carb, but couldn't handle the misery and crankiness - and wasn't much fun for my family either! I'm hoping this method will work for me without messing with my emotional health, if not obviously I'll stop it. You also get one free day, Saturday for me, or else three free meals throughout the week if you prefer, so you still get to eat whatever you like sometimes. Without going overboard, of course, if you want to lose weight!

I'm in that lovely excited state just before starting a new diet. Yay for honeymoon periods! As long as it lasts past the first morning.

To relate this back to the start of this post, I don't really intend to do carb cycling for the rest of my life. Unless I love it and it makes me feel great; there are modifications for maintenance, I think. I've downloaded Chris Powell's iPhone app which has a 12 week transformation challenge, and that is my current plan and goal. I want some fairly quick results to keep me motivated. If/when I get to my goal weight, I'll worry about how to vary my diet for maintenance then.

I will also be exercising, of course. Six days a week (Saturday off), walking and dance.

If you're wondering about where my professed love of cognitive therapy went, well I still plan to use that. Cognitive therapy isn't a diet, it helps keep you on your diet. I feel it did help me stick to my last one a lot longer than my usual record. So I'll be reading my flash cards again, reminding myself of all the reasons I want to lose weight.

The biggest reason? To get rid of my CPAP. Sleep without it by Christmas.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

CPAP and pizza


I'm a bit over talking about this, but I've spent the past two days sick again with round five (I think) of this stomach bug I've got. I'll be better for a few days and think it's over, then... it's not. If it happens again I'll see my doctor, I would have before except I just assume there is nothing they can do other than tell me to rest. And it occurred to me this morning that maybe cleaning my CPAP more often than the recommended once a week might be important right now to avoid reinfection!! I don't know why I didn't think of that before, it's a warm moist environment in there and I'm probably breathing in my own horrible germs every night. Yuck. I'll be cleaning it every day for a while!! Hopefully that will help.

I hadn't been eating that much while I was unwell but I was still eating a bit, so I shouldn't have been starving. I'd had cruskits for breakfast and plain noodles for lunch, so basically pure carbs with a little fat, it was all I felt my stomach could handle. But then we ordered pizza last night because I didn't want to cook and Tim was dashing around getting Jasmine to dance, and I ate six slices of pepperoni pizza! Six! I usually have three. I just kept eating and eating. And at the end I felt much the same as when I started: a bit sick, not particularly hungry but not stuffed full either. I could have kept going but I didn't let myself. It was really weird. Was it just carbs triggering cravings for more carbs?

Back to normal today, I hope.

My kids have four more weeks of school before two weeks of holiday, I would really love to have finished the first draft of my novel by then. No reason why I can't. Except I don't write when I am sick, so I really hope that is over now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The perfect day to start a new diet


I've been fighting off the impulse to put off a big "restarting my diet" until next Monday. It is very appealing to think that there is a "perfect" day to start a diet. Monday is traditional in itself, of course, but next Monday is also the first of September so it's a whole new month of unblemished days. AND, biggest of all, it's the first day of spring. Not just a new week, a new month, but a new season - and the most new-start-y season of them all.

And this week is so hectic there's hardly any point trying, right? And I keep trying and failing which is disheartening, so better to start when I have a chance of succeeding, right?

But the thing is, even on a Monday, even on the first day of spring, I will still be me.

I. Will. Still. Be. Me.

Nothing wrong with being me. I am quite nice, overall. But on Monday, I will still struggle to drink enough water. On the first day of the month I will still be lazy about exercise. On the first day of spring I will still be tempted by unhealthy foods. I won't miraculously change just because I've turned a page on the wall calendar.

Sometimes I somehow think I will, though. Like there is magic on the first day of the month. Like somehow it will be easier on that mystical day in the future.

Maybe on Monday I will be glad of the new page, the clean slate. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up on today.

Sunday, August 24, 2014



This weekend we introduced the kids to the card game Magic: The Gathering. It's one of the many geeky things my husband introduced me to, along with Dungeons and Dragons and the computer game World of Warcraft. We used to play Magic a lot when we were first going out. Since we lived eight hours drive apart, we even played over the phone! You each have your own deck, so as long as you trust the other person to be honest about what cards they have, you can do that. It's a collectable card game and we have hundreds of cards, plenty for the kids to make their own decks.

It was a perfect demonstration of my children's personality types. Jasmine sat with me for an hour sorting cards and taking my advice to create a balanced deck. Aiden randomly grabbed whichever cards looked good. His needed a bit of tweaking to make it playable!

I did not stick to carb cycling or any other diet this week, or exercise much. I just ate. This morning I weighed in at 82.5 kg, up again. My main excuse is lack of sleep driving me to want fatty sugary food to keep me awake. Thor has suddenly started waking much earlier, presumably because it is getting light earlier but it's still a big jump. Tim and I take it in turns to get up to let him out and we both dread it. I'm already sleep deprived but even Tim is walking around with dark circles under his eyes. We're getting up nearly an hour and a half before we otherwise would (and on weekends don't get to sleep in). And of course the other person is woken by Thor's banging on his door (he sleeps in the bathroom) even if they don't have to get up. I know some people thrive on getting up at the crack of dawn, or hate it at first but get used to it. But I've tried it before and continue to hate it forever. And Tim is definitely a night owl, not a lark. Maybe we can pin a blanket over the venetian blinds to keep it dark longer in there so he sleeps? I've been doing a fair bit of napping in the afternoons, on the lounge with Thor draped over me. It keeps me going.

That is my excuse, but I know that I have to put on my big girl panties (as I've heard it expressed) and get on with my life regardless. I can be sleep deprived and fat, or sleep deprived and a healthy weight.

This week is going to be particularly challenging. Jasmine's big dance concert is on Saturday night and she has rehearsal every day after school, often until late. And Tim and the kids also have a karate grading assessment. And Jasmine also has two band performances (trumpet) and a dance performance at school that Tim & I will split between us. She's going to be exhausted! She's like me, too, a very poor sleeper. What all this means for my diet is that I'll be trying to juggle making healthy meals with driving back and forth and sitting around at the dance studio, and having dinner really early or late. I'll be making casseroles every night, I think! Then I can put it on at lunch time and have hot food ready even if I haven't been home to cook it. It's less tempting to get take away if you know food is already ready at home. I'll also be up at the school at lunchtime a couple of days.

It's only a week until spring and we've had a few lovely days already. Floriade must be soon, our annual flower festival. A whole big park by the lake is filled with tulips and hyacinths and other spring bulbs and flowers, it is quite a tourist attraction. I am so looking forward to that! I don't think dogs are allowed, which is a shame, but it's a lovely place to sit and read or walk around. -- I just looked it up and dogs are not allowed, except they are having one "Dogs Day Out" for RSPCA. I'm not sure how Thor would cope with a whole park full of dogs! He's a bit scared of them. I'll see how he's going at that point. It's around then that we start puppy preschool class with him, the current session was already full when I enquired so we had to wait. So he's not really socialised with other dogs yet. They are all so much bigger than him.

Here is Thor being a good dog at the dinner table:

and being a wily predator:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting back on the carb cycle after a fall


Ok, lets try this again! I'm over my two days of PMS and ready to begin.

I think my PMS is getting worse. When I was a teenager I such horrible cramps I had to take a day off school each month. I was put on the pill and that helped a lot. I've always had a lot of physical problems with my cycle and have tried a few different pills over the years. I don't remember any emotional issues, or just a very rare weepy day in my 20s, until maybe the past ten years. Since I had children? Maybe before that, but not so bad it really affected my life. Now I generally have two days when the world seems a dismal place and I'm annoyed with everyone and everything. I'm both sad and snappy and try not to take it out of my family too much but I don't know how well I succeed. The best I can do is keep my mouth shut. If I let myself make major decisions on those days I certainly wouldn't have a puppy any more and I don't know what else. I don't want to think about it. I also eat too much and don't exercise. Maybe I need a strategy for that, but for the moment I'm just going to accept that I need to do whatever I can to get through those days without any consequences more dire than gaining a little bit of weight.

I'm ready to do more exercise than just walking Thor. I seriously considered joining the gym again - I have at various times in the past enjoyed BodyStep, BodyPump, the rowing machine, the elliptical and the weights machines, but I get bored with them within a few months so next time I join the gym it will be for three months instead of a year and wasting most of my money. But going to the gym is a huge time investment with all the driving and finding parking and changing twice and showering etc, an hour exercise takes nearly two hours out of my day. So for the moment I'm going back to dancing at home. I still have to change and shower but it takes travel time out of the equation.

I was inspired by a new TV show, "Bringing Sexy Back" (terrible terrible name!) which is like an accelerated Biggest Loser. Each week they show a new person or couple, and follow them over about three months with a personal trainer and help from a celebrity chef and a big makeover and reveal at the end. They do it all from home, fitting healthy living around their normal work and other commitments so it is a tiny bit more realistic than Biggest Loser where all you do is exercise.

I did some writing this morning (I have rewritten what was lost and moved on) and then an hour of dance. It went well. I'd dipped my toe back into dance a few times recently but had trouble keeping up with the energy levels and the choreography, neither my mind and body were cooperating. But today I was back in the groove. I'm working my way through getting 5 stars in every dance on medium difficulty in Dance Central 3. I love a goal.

Then I had my lunch, and took a cup of tea outside with the puppy so he could run around a bit without getting lonely. I did some work reading, then took Thor for a walk that went past the school on our way home. Thor is getting a bit better with walking. He still pulls a lot. The kids rarely ask to walk him now, it's not very pleasurable. Yesterday I started giving him food treats as well as verbal praise when he was behaving well, and it certainly keeps his attention on me more! My previous dog, a collie, was not particularly motivated by food and was very eager to please so I don't think I ever used food treats, just attention and praise. The working dog (sheepdog) temperament. But Thor, both sides of his ancestry from hunting/gun dogs, likes praise but it takes food to distract him from the exciting outdoors! He tries to chase birds, too, and points his little foot. Very cute. But he is much nicer to walk when you don't end up with the lead strap embedded in your hand.

Today is a low carb day. I've gone a bit over my very low carb allowance (36 - 90 grams) because I was surprised by a few things. My banana had nearly 22 g, the orange 17 g and the Yakult a very unexpected 11.6 g of carbohydrate considering it is a tiny 50 mL bottle. I know I could have checked before I ate things but I don't want to give up fruit regardless so I'm not sure how I'm going to get around that on low carb days. Maybe only one piece of fruit? The Yakult is a rare thing, just to help my gut flora rebalance. Apart from that, my carbs came from one slice of toast, four wholegrain crackers and lots of non-starchy vegetables. If I cut out any two things (not the veges) I would be under my limit. On high carb days I get 180 grams of carbohydrate, plenty for just about anything, but high carb days are low fat days so I still have to monitor everything carefully.

If you haven't tried Yakult it is a fermented drink full of probiotics that I expected to be like slightly nasty runny yoghurt but in fact tastes just like melted vanilla ice cream. Delicious. Full of sugar, of course. I don't get it very often, but I buy a pack after a stomach upset. And hide it from the kids.

... (A bit later.) I had a lovely low carb dinner of steak and salad. Then ate three chocolate biscuits. So, hmm. I'm still giving myself a B for today's healthy eating. Mostly I did very well. I ate at least five serves of vegetables. And I did an hour and a half exercise! And drank seven glasses of water! And wrote! Overall an excellent day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Maybe not today

a bit later Monday:

I am getting the feeling that today wasn't the best day to start a new diet. That cranky time of the month, and leftovers still in the fridge. Cheesecake. Not very low carb.

What can I eat that will make me feel better?


Apparently people without food issues don't look to food to solve problems that aren't hunger. Isn't that a weird thought? Whereas I (and I imagine a few of my readers) look to food to solve sadness, anger, tiredness, boredom, frustration, and even an upset tummy. And it does kind of work, in the short term.

Tim and I both still have this stomach bug that we'd thought we got over (twice). It's a bit annoying, although I feel ok most of the time. It certainly hasn't stopped me eating! In fact I eat to settle my stomach. But it has stopped me exercising. Funny, that.

I haven't been sticking to any kind of diet for a couple of weeks. That doesn't mean binging, but I haven't been worrying if something is fried, I have some dessert if I want to, I take a chocolate from my hairdresser's reception desk. Last Thursday I was 81.8kg, about the same as I'd been hovering around for a few weeks.

Then this weekend was absolutely horrendous in terms of unhealthy food. We had family staying. I provided desserts and snacks. My sister-in-law brought dessert and snacks. I actually started eating junk on the Friday before they even got here because me and chips in the house? How have I not learned yet that that is a problem? I indulged in everything while they were here. I ate some leftover cheesecake after they left.

This morning, resolving to start over and needing to know the worst, I got on the scales. 81.8kg. No change. I was puzzled but I'm not complaining! The body can be weird. It doesn't do what you expect.

I'm calling this a new diet, starting today. A new plan. The old one has been dead for weeks. I'm doing it this way because I find I do better during the honeymoon period of a new diet. New rules to follow. Some people are better off refreshing the same plan. I like having something new. I just want to stress that I'm am not looking for that one perfect diet that will quickly and effortlessly make the weight fall off. I just enjoy researching and planning a new diet, it gets me motivated again.

That said, I'm thinking about carb cycling. Intermittent fasting is popular at the moment but I can't do that, I feel awful if I try to fast (as I have done for charity - I didn't make it through the whole 40 hours - or for a shorter stretch for medical reasons) - sick, tired, headachy, trembly, miserable and irritable. How can anyone work through that or do anything other than lie in bed? Maybe it's because of my insulin resistance. I also can't do very low carb, I've tried that too and feel almost as bad as fasting, which makes sense because it's the carbs that affect blood sugar. On the other hand, I lose weight if I reduce carbs. And I feel just as sick, in a different way, if I eat too many carbs. Really sleepy and bloated.

Carb cycling, as I understand it, alternates days of low carbs with days of higher carb intake. You eat more protein on the low carb days and very little fat on the high carb days. It was apparently developed by body builders to strip off the fat layer before a competition so all their huge muscles would show better. For me, it would mean 1200 calories on Mon, Wed & Fri (low carb) and 1500 calories on the other days (high carb). As with any reasonable diet, there is a focus on lots of fruit and vegetables, lean meat, and "healthy" carbohydrate (ie not cheesecake). There is a formula for how many carbs and protein grams I should be eating based on my weight that could be a bit fiddly to translate into daily meals - but isn't that what I want? To spend time on the technical aspects? Worth a try.