Escape From The Diet

I’ve never been a fan of diets. Breathless discussion of the latest fad by shiny-eyed converts over dinner makes me want to stab my ear drums.

Admittedly, I’ve never really needed to purposely diet, having been born with suitable genes to keep me reasonably thin. Not that I can eat what I want and never put on weight but a moderate approach to food and exercise seems to work.


I work on the dieting theory that if my clothes start to feel a bit tight, I cut back on the naughty foods and exercise more until my clothes fit properly again. Then I go back to what I was doing.

I do occasionally undergo what I call the Stress Diet. Whenever life gets really challenging I tend to stop eating. The worse things are, the more weight I lose. After the deaths of my sister and niece my weight dropped to 52kg (115lb). I’m 173cm (5’8″) tall. Not healthy.

I think my main objection to diets, particularly those that target a particular food type such as carbs or sugar, is that they tend to demonise food. If you eat the ‘wrong’ food, it’s supposed to make you feel bad. Food is there for nutrition, yes, but it’s also there for enjoyment. And oddly enough, diets that are highly restrictive are shown to be ineffective in the long term. Hardly surprising. I mean, who wants to live without beautiful bread or delicious chocolate for the rest of their lives?

So then, how was it that I found myself recently counting and recording calories and obsessing about whether I could afford to eat that slice of freshly baked sourdough bread? Why was there an app on my phone adding up every little thing I ate and sending me messages if I forgot to input what I ate for lunch?

I told myself it was a motivation tool for exercise. After all, if I exercise, I burn calories and thus I earn extra ‘credit’. Maybe I could have that piece of chocolate?


Making those 2km on the rowing machine worth it

I told myself, why not lose a little weight now that I didn’t have to keep my weight over a certain value so I could donate more plasma at the Blood Bank since I can’t donate for a year because of my pulmonary embolism?

To be honest, my original intention was to lose a lot of weight. I was hurting. Not physically but mentally and emotionally. But mental injuries don’t show and it’s hard to convince people that you’re in pain. I thought if I could suddenly lose a lot of weight maybe it would be a physical signal to people that I was not okay.

So I signed up to an app and I set a strict weight goal and I started counting calories.

Of course, as part of this I started exercising more regularly and I started to feel better within myself. But by then, the Diet Cult had me in its grip.

I cut out breakfast and lunch and tried to minimise what I ate in the afternoon when I got home from work. I switched from my favoured flat white coffee to an espresso. I went to the gym and worked hard despite pain in my left foot. I started researching low calorie meals I could cook for dinner to help keep my calorie count low despite the fact that the men in my family all actually need extra calories in their diets.

But it was when I found myself drinking black tea – which I loathe – and going to bed hungry and sad that I realised that I had in fact fallen into exactly the traps I don’t like about diets. I was paranoid about what I ate. I felt guilty about every extra little treat I recorded in the app. I got depressed when my weight didn’t go down as fast as I wanted.

I deleted the app from my phone and I broke the diet. Oh boy, did I break it!


And in the weird way the internet has of tapping into your psyche, just as I was coming to the realisation, on a YouTube session on the TV I stumbled across this hilarious piece from Michael McIntyre. It was like a sign. I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks and I knew it was time to ditch the diet and go back to my usual plan – Everything In Moderation. Or, Run Marathons So I Can Eat As Much Chocolate As I Want.


Have you tried any diets? Did they work for you?




Running Out Of Form


It is one of the great injustices of life that fitness built up over several months of running takes a mere couple of weeks to lose.

I took up running in 2009 as preparation for a trek in Peru. I took on an extra fitness regime to the one recommended by the trekking company because I was terrified of not managing the trek and being sent back. As it happens, I needn’t have worried as I thrived at high altitude. In fact, all the ‘oldies’ on the trip made it to the end while it was the young ones who piked, thus proving that endurance is less about physical fitness and more about mental attitude.

There we are at the top of Yuracrumiyoc Pass, 4680m above sea level.

There we are at the top of Yuracrumiyoc Pass, 4680m above sea level.

I was a sprinter at school and hated the cross country so I did not expect to enjoy this new activity. I bet you’ve already worked out that this proved to be false. I continued running even after the trek was over. I think I liked the easy fitness it brought (a 30 minute run gave great results in a short period of time). And it kept me trim while I ate too much chocolate and drank too much wine. Always a good incentive.

I was never a serious runner. I didn’t go out in all weathers and I’ve never run so much as a 5km fun run, let alone a marathon. But it was a nice way to spend a sunny morning, particularly as I live near a river path with an easy 5.5km loop between two bridges.

I ramped it up in time for my first tilt at Oxfam Trailwalker in 2012. Not long after I ran my first 15km training run, my knee gave me trouble and I was advised not to run for several weeks. Not wanting to risk my ability to walk the 100km for Trailwalker, I chose to walk only in training for the event as walking did not seem to give me trouble, only running.

And I’ve never really been able to establish a regular running pattern since.

The trouble with losing momentum is that the longer you leave it, the harder it gets to start again. You know it’s going to be hard. It is Going To Hurt. It will Not Be Fun.

But the blocks of chocolate and the glasses of red wine have been taking their toll and so the time (and the weather) was ripe for a running return today.

I think my shoes were as shocked as I to be once more assaulting the asphalt. (As opposed to pounding the pavement, of course.)

I think my shoes were as shocked as I to be once more assaulting the asphalt. (As opposed to pounding the pavement, of course.)

It didn’t take long before I was starting to think this was a bad idea. That’s when Sadistic Coach Me stuck her oar in.

“Okay, you’re struggling, I get that. Tell you what, you can stop when you get to the bridge.”

“No, no, actually, don’t stop here, at least get to the hockey field.”

“There’s a downhill bit here, you might as well keep going.”

“Why are you slowing down??” “It’s the café. I haven’t had my coffee yet.” “Well, you should have started the loop at the café so you could have coffee when you got to the end. Get moving.”

“Can I stop for a drink of water at the drink fountain?” “No.” “Why not?!?” “Are you kidding? It’s taken me three months to get you back out here. If I let you stop, I’ll never get you started again.”

“Don’t stop on the bridge! You’re almost there, for Pete’s sake. Why would you stop now?”

But in between these bullying phrases was the constant mantra going around and around in my head.

“You’ll feel so good when you can say ‘I ran the whole 6km without stopping.'”

I hate it when she’s right.

I ran the whole 6km without stopping!!



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