Diet Going Well Then?

For the past week I have had a terrible bout of either food poisoning or gastroenteritis, and I’ve found myself eating (or mostly not eating) for survival rather than for any other reason. And I won’t lie, it really got me thinking…. (VERY dangerous I know).

Just over a year ago I was introduced to intuitive eating (or what I like to call… ‘eating’) and quite frankly it was life changing. Not because I’ve become a fabulous intuitive eater in that time but because it truly highlighted the flaws of the diet industry. And try as I may, I can’t help but look at all the diets available without a great deal of scepticism. But yet, up until now I’ve still kept going back.

And then I discovered this…

So in answer to your question? The diet’s going GREAT thanks (insert sarcastic emoji).

As I lay on the sofa clutching my stomach and trying to force feed myself starchy carbs, I had the epiphany that for the past year I have been eating what I think I ought eat, rather than what I have wanted to eat.

Which is why I’ve found myself eating 2 icecream sandwiches and a chocolate bar after dinner every single night for the past couple of weeks. Counterintuitive I know.

Scientifically speaking, diets DO work because they *should* put you in to some sort of calorie deficit which will result in some form of weight loss – however this weight loss could include water loss, muscle loss or fat loss.

But where it really goes wrong is our adherence to sticking to ‘the plan’. Personally speaking I think the maximum I’ve managed to ‘stick’ to a diet in the past 3 years is 4 days.

Despite educating myself on everything possible about nutrition, the subliminal messages coming through the internet has one again left me doubting what I know and I sit here having achieved absolutely nothing.

One day 1200 calories is too many, the next day it’s not enough. Another day you should maximise protein and the next you should maximise ‘healthy fats’. The following week you should cut carbs and the next you should up your carbs to 50% of your macros. Don’t forget to count your macros, but then that’s going to cause disordered eating so convert your calories/macros to points instead. You should really eat whole foods but they have too many calories so switch to chemical based 0 calorie foods. These won’t have points but then you shouldn’t count points anyway so just eat between 12-2 everyday and you’ll be grand. Oh but wait, that’s an eating disorder. But so is not eating at all. So eat what you want because obesity can be healthy too. But then obesity isn’t healthy so you should move more. Oh but you don’t need to move when you can lift weights even though weight lifting burns less calories. Oh but the extra muscle will burn more calories so it’s fine. But what about cardiovascular health? Oh that doesn’t matter.

And this is why I don’t belong in the health and fitness industry. When you truly delve into what it’s all about, it’s fundamentally the opposite to what it’s promoting. It’s more ‘unhealthy and unfit’.

Abs do not equal health.

The amount of weight you can lift/squat does not equal health.

Clean eating does not equal health.

Do we even know what we are trying to define when we refer to ‘health’. It doesn’t appear that way anymore.

In reality I will never be eternally ‘healthy’. Not only because I live with a chronic health condition but because we all have to die from something right? None of us will be ‘healthy’ forever.

The healthiest person I know is my husband who ate Yum Yums and icecream yesterday and weighs 153lb. He’s not needed to go to a doctor or a dentist in the 6.5 years we’ve been together.

We can of course make improvements to our lifestyles and optimise our health, but the fundamental problem is that a truly balanced lifestyle isn’t entertaining to watch and learn about. We are prioritising extremism (and subsequently entertainment) over our true health and well-being.

I Naturally Intermittent Fast and Didn’t Even Realise It

To some extent, the majority of us all fast…. unless you’re extra fancy and can sleep and eat at the same time (in which case you need to get yourself on some kind of talent show!) we typically all ditch eating when dreaming about (insert famous celebrity).

I don’t want to undersell intermittent fasting in anyway as it has done WONDERS for the amount of antacids I consume (and as a byproduct my purse strings) AND my weight loss, but we do all do it to some extent.

Now I’m not a huge fan of extreme fasting such as water fasts or 24/72 hour fasts (unless you need to for some kind of medical procedure). From my understanding women tend to do better with shorter fasts such as 14-16 hours, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research (and no, this doesn’t mean copy your favourite influencer on Instagram).

I prefer to keep it simple so 14-16 hours is something I’m down for. Even 5:2 isn’t the worst idea in the world (5 days eat to maintenance calories, 2 days to consume 500-800 calories).

When I actually listen to my body, it would prefer to go about 14 – 15 hours without eating. Of course, I have the luxury to honour that at the moment because of working from home, which isn’t always possible. However, now I’ve had the time to stop and listen, I’m going to try and incorporate that more once I have to return to the office.

Truly not public sector life

So when do I actually eat?

I’m a breakfast gal… it’s by FAR my favourite meal of the day (if I could get away with having breakfast for every meal, I totally would… and on reflection I’m not far off!)

Therefore I tend to ‘break my fast’ at between 7.30-10.30AM (time and day dependent). I’m not that hungry at 7.30am but that’s prime breakfast time when commuting. I then come in from work at about 4.30, and I much prefer an early dinner (pre COVID-19).

In a parallel universe where I am a billionaire and don’t need to work (and therefore have the time to be slightly more intuitive) I’d probably eat from 10-6/7PM.

I don’t like eating late because I’m 100% guaranteed indigestion. My digestive system clocks off at 8PM and I have to rely heavily on antacids and sleeping upright to get me through the night… which quite frankly I’m not that fond of.

I also find that the more I drag out eating (and the more I eat), I feel increasingly sluggish. I can relate to a 1L car… faster when running on half a tank of gasoline than a full tank. Anyone else identify with a car? No… just me? Anyhoo, moving on.

Do I live on salads when I eat?

I wish I loved salads… I really do. And I could perhaps get on board with a salad from Subway, but my own salads are rubbish. So in short, no.

Now I do restrict some foods as I’m yeast intolerant, and as much as I don’t want to be up all night with heartburn, I also don’t want to spend all day on the toilet either.

In the manufacturing world, I understand yeast is not only used as a raising agent but also a salt substitute and MSG substitute so it’s in a LOT of processed foods. I dare you to go look. Fortunately, they are yet to tamper with cake and chocolate and so I refuse to cut out that. They’re my only vices.

When you remove 90% of the processed food it leaves you with a surprisingly balanced, whole food diet, so I do allow myself treats on the daily. For example, homemade banana bread is on the cards for today.

As far as I know I’m not diabetic or insulin resistant, so I’m not too fussed about carbs. And if we’re to get all intuitive again, I’m not that keen on a stodgy carb (technical term). I like to reserve those carbs for days like my birthday (yesterday) where I ate yeast free doughballs/pizza/banana bread and lay in a comatose state for the rest of the evening whilst watching Jack Bauer save the world in 24.

On the flip side to that however, I do think it’s definitely worth encouraging yourself to make conscious healthy choices throughout the day. This doesn’t mean go in full force with all the fruit and veg on the first day, but gradually introduce more nutritious foods as the days go on.

I now try to make sure there’s some kind of one of my five a day at every meal. I tend to have 3 meals and 1 snack a day, so by doing this I’m guaranteed at least 3-4 servings of nutritious food in a day. It’s also essential to try and get some protein in too (even if it’s a case of using protein powder). They often say healthy fats are satiating but I find protein is much more useful for this.

So Chantelle… what does this actually look like in a day? Well, let me tell you:

7.30AM – 10.30AM – Protein Snickers Oats & Decaf White Coffee

12.30PM – Granola, Berries, Honey and Greek Yoghurt (see, I wasn’t lying about my love for breakfast).

3.30PM – Decaf Coffee and Fruit

5.30PM – Wholewheat BBQ Chicken Tortilla Pizza and Garlic and Herb Sauce

Dessert: Homemade Banana Bread (straight after dinner)

By doing this, my digestive system is happier, my waistline is happier and I’m happier.

Now I do have a couple of disclaimers.

Firstly, as weightloss is my intention at the moment I am monitoring my portion sizes. However, when I’m size sexy (lolz), this will relax somewhat and I’ll just keep to listening to my body.

Secondly, I’m not RELIGIOUS about sticking to these time frames. I have spent years learning to listen to my body and I trust it implicitly. Therefore, if I find myself genuinely hungry (rumbling of the stomach), I won’t wait until my allocated time slot to eat.

Finally, I increase my calories in the lead up to the naturally unnatural ‘time of the month’ (sorry gents). It has been found that women tend to burn more calories when Aunt Flow arrives so I’m going to make ‘allowances’ for this but only if that insatiable hunger rears it’s head.

Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be some complex magical algorithm. I know to overcomplicate things is a great ‘sell’ on the business front and I’m probably doing myself a disservice, but as long as you seek advice from a medical professional before embarking upon it, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t give intermittent fasting a bash… especially if you’ve been sitting on the fence about it. I know it’s completely changed my relationship with food for the better.

I now know I can enjoy food without the repercussions of heartburn/vomiting, sleepless nights and feeling sluggish. I know they’ve found another zillion reasons why IF (that’s what the cool kids call it by the way) is beneficial for the human body, and of course you’ll come across this as you go away and read reliable validated studies *winking emoji*, but I really can’t see me going back to my old ways.

The Importance of Maintaining a Routine

I would predict that 99% of us have seen some shift in our routine recently… even if it’s because the ‘I’ll just pop to the shops’ now takes 2-3 hours.

It is likely that even the most ‘go with the flow’ people within our society have struggled. And I’d expect them to because a pandemic isn’t normal.

However for most people there has been a HUGE shift in routine… children are now at home, people are attempting to work from home whilst trying to educate their kids. People have either switched to home working or have been furloughed and even for those who it’s a case of ‘business as usual’, work is probably busier or quieter than normal. We have to wave goodbye to our key workers and hope that they’ll be okay.

Lack of food in the shops may result in a change from what we’d normally eat. If you were someone who ate out for most meals, you’ll find yourself either living off takeaway pizza or trying to facilitate a relationship with your kitchen.

Socially things are a mess. We can only see the people with whom we live with and it’s putting marriages through their paces. We have to explain to our children why they can’t see their friends.

None of this is normal and everyone’s resilience is being tested.

But by maintaining some kind of routine will help us maintain some kind of normality. If your mental health has been affected, it’s likely ‘what’s the point?’ thoughts may start to slip in. The odd day of ‘what’s the point?’ is fine. On Easter Sunday my husband was working so I stayed in my PJs and binge watched all 7 episodes of Tiger King on Netflix.

However ‘what’s the point?’ could begin to slip in on the daily and before you know it, you’ve no food in the house, all your clothes are needing to be washed, the dishes need doing and everything feels VERY overwhelming.

So here’s my top 10 tips on maintaining a routine:

1) Go to bed and wake up at a reasonable hour – even if you wake up and have nowhere to go. Keeping your sleep routine in good shape is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health.

2) Get washed – some of you may be judgemental on this one as it’s assumed it’s a normal habitual task. However, it’s very easy to slip in to ‘my hair can go another day without being washed’ or ‘my teeth don’t feel that bad’. Trust me, you’ll feel loads better if you make sure you keep your personal hygiene intact.

3) Eat regularly – even though I’m still working and I’m now exercising more than ever, my appetite is all over the place. My body is telling me it’s anxious even though I don’t mentally feel anxious and I assume it’s because I’m generally unsettled ALL THE TIME. Some days I’m eating more and others I’m eating less, but I’m trying to make sure that each meal has a source of protein, carbs and fats and trying to maintain some kind of appropriate relationship with the biscuit tin. Obviously don’t force yourself to eat, but try to stick to as normal an eating plan as possible that you know works for you.

4) Try to learn a new skill – there is a lot of promotion on learning a new skill but it may be you don’t have a burning desire to do anything which is totally okay. I went through a period of unemployment two years ago and I had no idea what to do with my time. I ended up starting to explore blogging and vlogging/watching YouTube and it’s something I’ve kept in my life ever since. It’s okay to sit in front of a blank piece of paper and get creative in even the slightest of things that pique your interest.

5) Talking – just because we can’t see our loved ones like we used to doesn’t mean we can’t speak to them. There are loads of ways to contact and it doesn’t have to be on Zoom. Telephone calls, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, text messages… if you speak to someone anyway, it doesn’t have to change just because we’re in lockdown. I’m all for Zoom, but I feel like there is a bit of a stigma developing if you don’t use it…

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

6) Exercise – now don’t worry, I’m not about to get all #fitspo on you. But the sun has been shining in the UK and I would encourage you to go for a walk/run/cycle or HIIT (indoor/outdoor) some/most days of the week. Don’t feel like you have to go out every day, but I think we’re all needing some Vitamin D (well that’s a fact) and some endorphins from exercising. For many of us, we are no longer going about our ‘usual movements’ e.g walking from the car to our office building, walking to the shops for our lunch and these movements add up. I know if I don’t do anything else in a day, I’m currently looking at doing 400-500 steps a DAY.

On the flip side to that, don’t spend ALL your time exercising. It’s essential your body has time to relax, especially if you’re stressed. Even though you may experience a rush of endorphins from exercise, doesn’t mean that using muscles are still experiencing a stress from physical use/overuse.

7) Reduce screen time – as we all know by now, screen time (and blue light) can affect sleep quality. But, it’s also important we do other things in addition to watching YouTube, Netflix or working. Even if it’s just staring out your window, doing some mindfulness or chatting to your partner, give your eyes a rest.

8) Do one domestic activity a day – I know. You thought you’d escaped someone telling you to clean your room. I’m sorry. But even if it’s cleaning the dishes, vacuuming, doing one load of laundry… try to keep on top of your domestic duties otherwise they can quickly build up. It’s also more calming to live in a aesthetically calm environment (or at least in the environment you’re used to).

9) Take your medication – this applies for everyone who takes regular medication obviously. Now is not the time to be experimental in whether you actually ‘need’ to take your medication or not. Taking medication is actually quite routine based for us and adds an additional sense of normality. Disclaimer: Ensure you always speak to your doctor about any medications you are taking.

10) Be kind to yourself – A phrase that is often said but what does that look like? The concept of self-care is often misused on social media. It’s not all facemasks and bubble baths. Maintaining a routine can be considered self-care. It’s okay to feel like this is a complete mess. It’s okay to feel whatever emotions you are feeling. If it feels like it is becoming too much, you can contact your GP, or charities such as Mind, the Samaritans or even a friend or family member. Let’s be kind to each other and to ourselves and remember we are all in this together.

A Weekend Dedicated to Self-Care

On the face of it I have most certainly had a ‘lazy’ weekend. I’ve binge watched on Netflix like it’s going out of fashion, indulged in some tasty food and spent more time on the sofa than I care to disclose. I also downloaded some new songs of iTunes and bopped around my house til my heart’s content.

On the face of it I have most certainly had a ‘lazy’ weekend. I’ve binge watched on Netflix like it’s going out of fashion, indulged in some tasty food and spent more time on the sofa than I care to disclose. I also downloaded some new songs of iTunes and bopped around my house to my heart’s content.

In fact I was actually taking some time out from the world to regroup. Last week was hard – a couple of colleagues were experiencing quite significant mental health problems and I ended up involved with that (and I was already feeling overwhelmed with work). On Friday night I woke up and shared the remains of my dinner with the toilet. I was absolutely exhausted on Saturday with big black circles under my eyes and today I managed to develop a full blown cold within about 30 seconds. Clearly some things aren’t right.

One thing that I pride myself on (most of the time) is my ability to stop. One of the perks of having epilepsy I guess… My health is my priority. It’s not to say I don’t have my own mental health blips because I most definitely do… but I feel that despite being deprived to the core of Vitamin D, I’m doing pretty well on the whole.

I am also pretty good at being able to hand peoples problems back to them… I rarely take home what they disclose to me. But it’s a draining process (and I dread to think how draining it is for them), but I’m no good to anyone if I don’t look after myself.

So yes, it’s a ‘lazy’ weekend. Yes I’ve got square eyes and feel a bit rounder than on Friday but it was 100% worth it. We don’t always have to be productive ALL the time.