Wednesday, 14 November 2012


As someone who had become one of those middle-aged, middle-class wine drinkers that the government keep announcing are the scourge of the country, I had been aware for some considerable time that I needed to break the daily wine habit.  I am not talking about a serious, roll around the floor slurring my words problem, just a tendency to open a bottle of wine after a stressful (or un-stressful) day, and having a glass or two.  The week-ends were worse, when I started looking forward to 5 o’clock to justify opening the bottle and having 3 or 4 glasses during the evening.  Whilst this was rather habitual behaviour, I didn’t feel it was addictive. 

Rather than attempt to give up totally, either for a short or longer while, I decided that I would simply drink more consciously, and just have a small glass or 2 with my week-end meals.  It was actually really easy to give up the mid-week drinks.  When the little voice inside my head started saying “don’t you fancy a glass of wine?”, I quickly forced another thought inside my head.  If it persisted, I forced an image of a glass of very warm and very sweet wine to come to mind, and the desire soon went (I like wine very dry and VERY chilled!). 

It’s been well over two months, and I have been sticking to the plan pretty well. As I mentioned in my last post, apart from the week we were away on holiday, when I drank alcohol every day, I have managed to stick to no alcohol Mondays to Thursdays.  The best thing is that it has stopped occurring to me to open a bottle of wine in the evening – in fact, there is an OPEN bottle of wine in the fridge, left over from the week-end and I am going to have to tip it away as it won’t taste very nice by the time Friday comes round.

I have read articles in the past about people giving up alcohol and feeling fitter and healthier, whilst looking 10 years younger.  I am still waiting for this to happen!  Perhaps it only works if you give up totally?  

Monday, 12 November 2012

Back again!

I thought I’d better check in and give a quick update as it’s been a few weeks.  Although the initial enthusiasm for starvation and increased exercise is somewhat reduced, I have kept up with some of my goals...  First the good news – since the holiday, I have got back onto the mid-week wagon, and have managed to stay off alcohol from Monday to Thursday.  I am also keeping up with the 2 days a week fasting, which is just as well because I have had a couple of fairly indulgent week-ends.  There has been no permanent movement on the scales, only a few mid-week fluctuations either way, so the fasting is managing to balance out the over-indulgences! 

The thing that has gone a bit awry is the daily 10k challenge!  It was difficult enough to get that many steps in a day in the good weather, but over the last month or so the weather has turned miserable, wet and cold, and does not entice me to get outside and walk.  I’m no longer walking round to meet the school bus as the evenings are dark and the walk home is along unlit footpaths – it also means a considerable upping of the whinge level from my son if I dare suggest a walk when it is cold/dark/wet.  On-the-spot walking at the bus stop is all very well, but doesn’t go far enough towards getting to the 10k.  I am contemplating buying a treadmill, but DH is very sceptical and is convinced it won’t get used!  I would like to prove him wrong, but past purchases of steppers, re-bounders, gym balls, weights, a cross-country skiing machine, an “iJoy ride” (don’t ask) and a surfing machine, have not given him confidence that a treadmill will be any different.  I am looking out for a reasonable one on eBay that is not too far away.  This time it will be different....

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Further Fasting

This is now week 6 of the Intermittent Fasting, and it isn’t getting a lot easier.  Having said that, compared with watching what I eat 24/7, it isn't that bad!  It has also had some amazing results in that I have lost 10 pounds!  No diet that I have ever been on in the past has achieved that sort of a result in such a relatively short space of time.  My body fat percentage has also gone down a few percent, which is a great result too, and shows I am not just losing muscle but am losing some of the lardy stuff clinging to my waist and stomach.  I am comfortably back in my size 10 trousers and feeling much better about myself.  I will be happy with just a few more pounds off, then aiming for long term maintenance, however, I am going on holiday next week, and am unlikely to spend the week off food and alcohol.  Hopefully a couple of fasting days on my return will rectify any overindulgence. 

Two of my male work colleagues have also been following the Intermittent Fasting plan 2 days a week and, like me, they have had some great results.  It is good to have other people to compare rumbling tummies and drool over our other colleagues' sandwiches.  There are, of cause, the well-meaning know-it-alls who like to share their deep nutritional knowledge gleaned from a mixture of alleged "well-known facts", TV adverts, cornflake packets, and what their mother told them.  I have been told on more than one occasion that missing meals is bad for you, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, your metabolism slows down if you go too long without food, blah, blah, blah....  It is difficult to challenge conventional wisdom, however what we are being told about what is good / bad for us is constantly changing as science advances and more research is done into every aspect of what we eat, drink or inhale.  When you cut through all the variety of diets on offer (eat more/less fat/carbs/protein; eat grapefruits, eat only raw food, eat for your body 'type', etc, etc), the overriding factors for successful weight loss are simply eat less and move more.  This doesn't have to mean living every day constantly counting calories and resisting all the nice things we like but are so bad for us.  Our weight isn't determined by our worst or best eating days - it is determined by our average intake over time.  Therefore, by severely restricting intake to around 500-600 calories on 2 days out of every 7, that will provide the body with a calorie deficit over the week of around 2500-3500 calories (dependent upon your sex, weight, activity levels, etc).  Depending on the intake on the other 5 days, this deficit can either be used to balance out any small over-indulgences (the type that tend to slip by un-noticed, but result in a gradual upward movement of the scales and the waist size), or, for those struggling to lose weight, an overall weight loss with relatively low effort.

Research has been carried out and, although still in early days, appears to be demonstrating many other health benefits that can be gained from periods of fasting, including improvements to blood sugar levels, reduction in ageing hormones and improvements to the brain.  It has also been proved that the body doesn't go into starvation mode after missing one or two meals - so the metabolism doesn't slow down.  People have been fasting for religious reasons for centuries, and have felt many health benefits that have not been recorded widely until fairly recently.

A few articles about fasting:

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Further Fitbitting

I’ve now had the Fitbit for 5 weeks and I have to say that it is still surprisingly motivating trying to meet the daily targets of 10,000 steps and 10 flights of stairs.  I am still a bit obsessive about checking the tally at various points during the day, so have taken to wearing it clipped to my trouser pocket, thus avoiding having to fumble down the front of my top to locate the device in the deep depths of my bosom.  Choosing to take the stairs rather than the lift has become second nature, and this works really well at work where I work on the third floor and have to go to the ground floor a few times a day.  I also choose to walk more when the opportunity arises, such as the just under a mile round trip to the bus stop to pick up my son.  I am quite disappointed when it’s pouring with rain and I have to take the car.  If this happens, I now jog up and down on the spot in the bus stop until the school bus arrives.  I don’t know what the motorists going past must think, and it is a main dual carriageway!   If it gets to bedtime and I am sitting at the 9k mark, I run around the house until I get my count up to the magic 10k. 
The Fitbit is not without its flaws, however.  It does exhibit some inconsistencies and strange counting that can skew the logged results.  The first time I noticed anything odd was on the first week-end I had it when we went out for the day.  This was to a “Truck driving experience” (a Father’s Day gift for DH who strangely prefers the idea of driving large trucks to speeding around a race track in a Ferrari....).  This involved an hour or so in the car, followed by a short walk from the car park, a bit of waiting around, 30 minutes or so in the truck (DS and I were allowed to sit in as passengers), and then returning home.  NO climbing flights of stairs or steep hills.  So, when I got home, I was most surprised to see an email from Fitbit giving me my “50 floors in a day” badge!  When I checked the results, it showed that during the time I had been out, I had climbed 68 floors.  More detailed checking of the times I did all this climbing (the display on the website breaks the activities down into 5 minute slots), showed that all that stair climbing had been done whilst I was sitting as a passenger in my husband’s van.  A bit of research on the Fitbit forums shows that driving can frequently log steps and floors, so to get around it you have to record a log of the driving activity.  A bit of a faff, but once I had done this, it wiped out all the erroneous flights of stairs and a number of steps that had been recorded.  More annoyingly, I have to remember to do this every time I make a trip in my husband’s van. 

Another quirk is that the number of flights of stairs it logs when I go from the ground floor to the third varies between 4 and 6.  There are, as you would imagine, 3 flights of stairs between the ground and the third floor.  The first floor is a mezzine floor, so the first flight of stairs is shorter than the others.  Flight 2 and 3 are split in half by a small landing, so technically each could count as 2 flights.  I would probably expect a consistent count of 5, however I sometimes get 4, sometimes 5 and sometimes 6!  What accounts for the difference?  Does it depend on whether I bounce up the stairs enthusiastically, or whether I drag myself slowly??  A mystery.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

At last... progress!

So, I can hear you asking  – is any of this working????  3 weeks in to the new approach, and it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of how it is going.

The first week didn’t include the fasting.  I didn’t have an alcoholic drink all week, which would have saved a considerable amount of calories, and I upped my exercise by going to the gym 3 times and, using my Fitbit to count the steps, upped the amount of walking I did (although I didn’t quite manage the 10k on EVERY day).  Whilst I didn’t write down, or count the calorie value, of everything I ate, I don’t tend to eat much rubbish, and I decided to just try and cut down portion sizes.  I stepped on the scales after a week (well actually, I can’t resist stepping on them every day, even though I know I shouldn’t, but only once a week is the ‘official’ recording) and, to my disappointment, they hadn’t shifted at all!  Not even a measly quarter pound!  It was when I went into work the next day and my colleague told me about the intermittent fasting that I decided to try the 5:2 approach, ie eating normally for 5 days and restricting calories to 500 on 2 days a week.  Well, it is by no means easy to go all day until 6.30pm without eating, but it is quite a bit easier than weighing and measuring and writing down every calorie consumed during each day.  By the time I walk into my house, I am ready to eat the front door! 

I am also continuing with keeping up the walking, managing 10k steps on most days.  I am managing 3 sessions at week at the gym, although I definitely need to get a re-assessment as I need an update to my routines.  Still keeping the alcohol down – just sticking to a glass or two only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  I was very relieved to see at the week 3 weigh-in an overall loss so far of 6 pounds!  Whilst I am very pleased with that, it’s still very early days to know how sustainable the weight loss is – I am pretty sure it is mainly down to the fasting.  I guess a long term solution might be to incorporate some sort of fasting into my week – perhaps one day each week, or perhaps just missing one or two lunches a week will make it easier to keep the weight down whilst still being able to enjoy the occasional indulgence. 

The aim of the changes I am making is to try and put in place a sustainable eating and exercise plan that I am happy to stick to, not just for a few months whilst I try to shed a bit of excess baggage, but for ever more....  I know there will be holidays, Christmases, special occasions, “bad” days, etc, but I want to be able to face these head on – enjoy the overindulgence, then deal with the consequences!    

Friday, 21 September 2012

Fitibit mark 2

Gosh, that last post was rather long...  I can go on a bit once I get started!

I am a bit miffed this week - having owned my lovely little device for under 3 weeks, I was not happy to see the huge announcements on the Fitbit website that they have introduced two new versions of the device - one of which is an upgrade with more functionality!  Grrrrrrrr!!    

My [OLD] model is the Fitbit Ultra (the one on the right) and the new shiny improved one is the Fitbit One, on the left

Before I go sticking mine on eBay and rushing out to get the latest model, let's examine the additional functionality:  Firstly, the new models are waterproof.  This is in response to all those people whose FBs have died following the user's neglect to remove them from the article of clothing it was clipped to before putting it in the washing machine.  There were also, apparently, some who managed to drown their FB devices by sweating too much!!  Not a problem I'm going to have me thinks... Regarding the washing machine problem, I did once manage to wash a mobile phone, but that was because I had chucked in in the basket of washing to carry downstairs and forgot I had done this when piling the washing into the machine.  OK, that was rather dumb, but I never put my bras in the washing machine so hope that I would spot it before hand washing them.  That really just leaves dropping in a puddle (hopefully won't happen due to where it is located about my person) or me falling into deep water.  If the latter occurs, my FB probably won't be the first thing I worry about… Right, I just checked the features again and it isn't TOTALLY waterproof, so in the case of falling in deep water my FB wouldn't survive anyway.  

OK, the next new feature is a little alarm to wake you up.  Apparently you get a gentle vibration at the pre-set time which can avoid waking your partner.  Well, in the unlikely event that I have to get up before him, I am a bit too selfish to care about ensuring that the precious thing doesn't get woken up [offering him the same consideration he has offered me over the years when his alarm has gone of at 5am!!!].

Finally, and this is the killer, it has bluetooth syncing with the iPhone app!!!!   {jumps up and down with apoplectic rage].  Call me odd and geeky (and you wouldn't be the first), but this is a fab feature!  I have my phone with me at all times and it would constantly be receiving little messages from the FB - how kool!  I could check my progress at any time without having to fumble down my top!  Far more dignified.  However, much as I may lament the lack of constant synchronisation, it doesn't really justify ditching the current model, as I will probably eventually tire of checking my progress every half an hour.

So, in conclusion, I'm probably going to hang on to the little fella a good while longer.  Given where it lives most of the time I feel a bit odd about selling it on eBay anyway...

Thursday, 20 September 2012

WTF is THAT???

So part of the plan is to increase my activity levels.  For me, no new plan is complete without the purchase of at least one shiny, new gadget.  In this case, the gadget is the Fitbit (see picture).  The Fitbit is a very posh pedometer.  It counts your steps (duh!), but does quite a bit more: see the website for more info - Fitbit.  It has a built in accelerometer, which is similar to the Wii remote, in that in can detect movement.  As well as counting steps, it also counts the number of flights of stairs you climb and monitors your sleep (worn in a wrist band overnight).  It has a little base station that is connected to a computer.  You clip the device to the base station for charging, but it also acts as a syncing device either when the device is attached or, through wireless technology, when you are within 15 feet of your computer.  Data syncs to a website giving you a record of the number of steps and flights of stairs you have climbed, how active you have been and details of how long you slept for and how many times you woke up.  You can also log other information, such as additional activities (gym, cycling, swimming, etc), weights and measurements, and you can also keep a log of the food you eat if you wish (I don't wish!).  

Unlike previous pedometers that I have tried, this one is easier to remember to wear all the time, and less likely to (a) be seen and (b) fall off.  This is because the suggested place to wear it for a woman is clipped to your bra.  Pretty handy, but I have to resist the urge to keep checking my daily step total when I'm out and about because you get some pretty strange looks fumbling down your top to try and press the button to see the results! 

I'm now on the third week of wearing the Fitbit, and I have to say it has changed my behaviour.  I left my daily targets at the suggested 10,000 steps and 10 floors and started wearing the Fitbit (or FB) the day after it arrived.  Before I started to wear the FB, I would have said that the days I would find hardest to hit my 10k would be work days, as I have to sit at a desk for the best part of 8 hours a day staring at a computer and tapping away on a keyboard.  However, I was quite shocked to realise just how little I move around when I am NOT at work.  My first day wearing the FB was a Friday - the one week-day I don't work.  I didn't really pay much attention to how many steps I was doing during the day, so I was horrified at the end of the day when I realised I had only clocked up just over 5k.  Over the week-end I fared a little better, but still didn't manage to clock up the magic 10k, nor did I even manage the 10 flights of stairs.  
I decided I had better actually try and DO something to get the total steps closer to the target, so I started looking for more walking opportunities to fit in to my day.  Flights of stairs were easy on work days as I work on the 3rd floor, but the 2nd and 3rd flights of stairs are in 2 blocks, so each time I go from the ground to my floor I clock up 5 floors!  I have completely stopped using the lift, and now climb the stairs quite a few times each day - there is a cafĂ© area on the ground floor with very posh coffee machines, so I get my coffees from there, meaning extra steps and floors each time I go for a coffee.  I have always gone out for a walk at lunchtimes, as I have to get away from my desk (and some of my colleagues...).  My usual walk is up to the shopping centre, around the centre and back, so I was pleased to discover that this clocked up around 4500 steps - almost half my daily target!  By the time I had walked around the office a few times with trips to the coffee machine, the toilet and to speak to people in the building (I am allowed to do that sometimes...), my total by the time I left work was usually around 7k.  Some days I go to the gym at lunchtime instead of a walk, and that usually takes my total to around 8-9k, depending on how long I spend on the treadmill.  Shortly after getting home, I have to go and pick up my son from the bus stop - a round trip in the car of about 3 miles.  However, there is a lovely walk across the village green and over the canal which is under half a mile, so, unless it is pouring with rain, I walk over.  My son complains bitterly about having to walk back, especially when he has his very large and heavy sports bag (although I always end up carrying it!), however that trip clocks up another 2k, so gets me pretty well on or over my target (with the general walking around at home whilst I am cooking, etc). 
So far so good!  The week-ends don't offer so many opportunities for walking with a purpose.  Since we have been dogless, I no longer simply go for a walk.  I don't mind walking when there is somewhere to go and I don't need to carry anything heavy, such as a load of shopping, however I have a strange reluctance to just open the front door and walk around the block with nowhere to go and no doggy companion.  Much as I would love to have another dog, it is a drastic and impractical solution - I will just have to get out and do it!  Maybe I could imagine I have a dog with me that is running on ahead... some real benefits as I won't have to follow behind with my plastic bags and gloves, or have to hose down a stinky wet doggie when I get back!!  Might be a bit embarrassing when I start to call for the invisible dog, or throw sticks for him tho'...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Eating / not eating

As I said in my introduction, it is not all about weight loss.  That said, it is most definitely in SOME part about weight loss - about 10-14 pounds.  Not a huge amount in the scheme of things, and not particularly noticeable - the sort of amount that can be hidden under well structured clothing, such that people say "You - you don't need to lose any weight…", but you can't hide it from yourself (or your trousers!).  This is the amount that, over the past 2-3 years, has, very gradually, crept on, slowly easy its way around my middle, the result of not dealing with excesses of holidays, Christmases, special occasions, days with a 'Y' in...

As I have spent over 30 years being "careful" what I eat, I should be an expert by now on how much I can eat each day to lose or maintain weight.  Knowing is one thing, and doing is an entirely different thing.  As I don't tend to eat a lot of junk in the form of fatty food, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, etc, there isn't much to give back on that front.  Calorie reduction can only come from cutting down the wasted calories consumed in liquid form (and I'm not talking about tea and coffee here...), and from managing portion sizes of my meals.  One other option, and one I am going to try, is  to actually miss out some meals.  There are lots of opinions and research about whether or not you should be eating 3 meals a day, and many people saying that you should never miss breakfast, etc, etc.  There is also a lot of research that shows that periods of fasting can not only improve your health, but can significantly increase your expected life span.  [It is at this point that I should be linking through to pages of official research that I have done on this, but hey-ho...].There are many different ways of fasting, including alternate day fasting, fasting for blocks of days at a time, but I am looking for the least inconvenient and painful method.  Having watched a Horizon show on this topic, the presenter tried various methods, and the method he found easiest to live with on an on-going basis was to have 2 days each week with a very low calorie intake (600 calories for men, 500 for women).  This can be split into a couple of small meals, or eaten in just one meal.

My plan is to try this for 2 days a week, eating just one meal on those days.  It will be an evening meal, as I have to prepare meals for DH and DS.  On other days, I will continue to eat sensibly, but not counting every calorie, although I will try to be more aware of keeping portion sizes a bit smaller.  More details of my plans/attempts to follow, but information about the fasting can be found on the BBC website at  I don't think the program is available on iPlayer any more, but it can be found on YouTube.  This is my second week of intermittant fasting, and I will update my progress soon!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Yet another diet/fitness blog?

So how is this one different?  Well the answer is, it isn't!  It is destined to be yet another one of those dull and boring records of a battle against the bulge and an attempt to hold back the ever advancing years.  The good thing, as far as I am concerned, is that it is just for me!!  Every now and again I might try and add something a little more interesting, just in case my loyal follower gets bored (hello sis!), however, in the main, this will just be a bit of a journal to help me on my "journey to betterment".  [Not sure if that phrase makes any sense so I put it in quotes so it looks like it might have come from somewhere else].  The theory being that if I document my plans and my progress, I am more likely to stick to the plan! (Ha!)
ttfn to my avid reader!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Another new start?

I’m back, with news of a brand new me!  Well, that is the plan anyway... I am in the early stages of my “journey” (as I would describe it, were I to be interviewed for my reality TV programme).  Still the ‘old’ me at the time of writing, but hoping that by blogging my progress, there will actually be some!  So, as you are no doubt dying to know what I am waffling on about, I will tell you dear readers reader: I am going to improve my health and lose some of the excess podge that has slowly been growing around my middle!  Not radical, I know, and not something I haven’t attempted in the past (on MANY occasions), however I am going to try a few different approaches in the quest to feel better, look better, ensure that my twilight years are spent in good health and, hopefully, add a few more years to my life expectancy.  Nothing too radical - just a few variations on the eat less/move more theme that is the only way to lose weight sensibly.  
So, why do this?  

  • Well, as more and more birthdays come and go, each year seemingly quicker than the previous, it is becoming ever more difficult to battle the gradual upward creep of the needle on the scales (ok, my scales don’t actually have a needle as they are digital, but it doesn’t sound as good... anyway, I digress..).   
  • Secondly, the wine drinking has become far too much of a habit, as confirmed by the overflowing re-cycling bin each week.  
  • Having been in denial for the previous 12 months, I finally had to give in and start buying a few pairs of trousers in a bigger size as I thought it might be nice to be able to breathe during the day
  • Having lost both my grandmother and mother at relatively young ages to pancreatic cancer, I feel that I can't fight the overwhelming amount of evidence that shows that lifestyle is a major factor in the likelihood of an individual developing many of the cancers.  
  • I want to look, and feel, better in my clothes 
  • I want to be around when my son grows up

Back soon with more details of my approach, and my progress so far