Wednesday, February 12, 2020

As IF

Currently, I am sitting in Costa coffee, having a cup of tea (21 calories) after having had nothing but a glass of orange juice for breakfast (94 calories) and trying to not eat anything.

I am, you see, on a diet. But it’s not my fault.

I blame my wife.

Unlike the female of the species, men are generally comfortable with their weight, and I am no exception. I weighted in the mid-120s when I was in my 20s, and I looked like I had just been released from a POW camp. In my 30s, my weight slipped slowly into the 130s, reaching 140 when I entered my forties. I was, by then, beginning to suspect that my body was conspiring to count off the decades of my life via my weight, and then I hit the 150s, in my 50s, which served to confirm it.

Therefore, seeing as I am currently in my sixties, I weigh 165 pounds, and have done so for quite a while.

Although the BMI chart classifies me as grotesquely overweight (or far too short, depending on how you look at it) I remain complacent about the numbers that appear on the bathroom scale on those occasions when it occurs to me to step on it. My wife, however, has not.

Basically, I need to grow 5 inches, or lose 45 pounds
My wife weighs (Come on! Do you think I’m insane?) and wishes she didn’t. She not obsessive about it, but when an opportunity arises, such as an interesting—and not too complicated—diet, she is generally game to give it a go. And I come along for the ride.

I hasten to add, we are not engaged in fanatical yo-yo dieting, or jumping on the latest fad. What we are more interested in is lifestyle change. Unfortunately, my lifestyle, no matter how much I change it, continues to keep me at 165.

Some time ago, I stopped taking sugar in my teas and coffees (which cut an obscene amount of calories out of my diet), I no longer consume beer in the vast quantities I did when I was younger (and more single), and I gave up having my nightly Penguin biscuit with my nightly cup of tea (for my US fans, Penguin biscuits are chocolate cookies, not incentives for black and white aquatic birds to sit up and beg). Sadly, despite the continued chipping away of life’s little pleasures, none of these sacrifices made a whit of difference.

Neither did any of the low-impact diets we have tried over the years. We did the Special K diet (cereal for breakfast and lunch) and merely learned that you can grow tired of your favorite breakfast food in a relatively short time, and we tried the trick of using smaller plates, and merely learned how to balance a Sunday roast on a salad dish.

But then my wife discovered the IF Diet, and proposed we give it a try for January.

IF stands for Intermittent Fasting and, after I read up on it, I was all for it. Unlike diets that compel you to eat more greens, or more carbs, or more protein, the IF Diet concentrates on NOT eating, and if you are looking to lose weight, avoiding the thing that causes you to gain it (i. e. Eating) seemed to be the way to go.

The IF Diet is also the most flexible diet I have ever seen. There is the 16:8, the14:10, the 5:2, the Eat-Stop-Eat, the Alternate Day, the Warrior (and who doesn’t want to diet like a warrior?) or the Spontaneous (for, one must suppose, the unorganized dieter).

In brief, the diets (or, lifestyle changes as we prefer to look at them) go like this: don’t eat for 16 (or 14) hours, then eat normally for 8 (or 10). If you opt for the 5:2, you can eat normally during the week, except for two days when you fast all day and have a normal dinner in the evening. (Normal is the keyword here.) If you like starving yourself, you can do the Alternate Day, which is one day fasting followed by one day normal eating from now until eternity. The Warrior Diet allows you to graze during the day (just fruit and veg, and only up to 800 calories) then you’re allowed that normal dinner—no seven-course meals for Braveheart.

Inundated with all these options, we selected one that suited and, during the month of January, we:
  • did not drink any alcohol
  • ate only during the hours of 8AM and 6 PM 
And at the end of the month, I still weighed 165 pounds.

In retrospect, I think it was a matter of intensity. There is low-impact, and no-impact. Eating in that narrow window meant only that we moved dinner up an hour. As for the not drinking alcohol, I guess I simply don’t drink enough these days for it to make a difference. Even so, my interest in the IF diet didn’t diminish. On the contrary, I decided to increase the impact.

During my religious cult days, I could do a three-day fast at the drop of a hat. And that was three full days with no food at all. Going from dinnertime to dinnertime with a handful of rabbit foods to tide me over would be a doddle, so I opted for the 5:2. The thing is, however, that I also decided, on my normal days, to trade in my lunchtime toasted cheese (or tuna with cheese, or fried egg with cheese) sandwiches for carrot and celery sticks. And, on top of that, we are still eating within the 10-hour window.

I am, therefore, currently doing the Warrior, the 5:2 and the 14:10 diets simultaneously.

If, at the end of this month, I still weigh 165 pounds, I am going back to beer and cheese and Penguin Biscuits. Because, really, what’s life without the occasional Penguin?