Below is my cousin Jill’s first blog.
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How many of us are happy with our bodies? And, if we’re not happy with how we look, are we justified?
Last weekend Mum and Dad took me to an outdoor sculpture exhibition at Marks Hall and Arboretum. With blue skies and scarcely a cloud in sight, the weather was perfect for wandering round the sculpture trail containing 300 quality pieces from over 50 national and international sculptors artistically placed throughout the garden. One of the pieces – a floral glass mosaic sphere by Sue Smith – particularly caught my eye, and so Dad took a picture of me standing next to it.
The following evening Dad e-mailed me a copy of the photograph. I was horrified! A beautiful glass mosaic, with a person resembling a beach ball on stilts standing next to it. Was that really me?!
The absence of a full length mirror in our house isn’t something I miss. I would far rather judge my fitness on how I feel than how I look. But, in some ways, not wanting / needing to know how I look is a form of avoidance. If I don’t feel “fat” then, in the absence of visual evidence to the contrary, I can quite happily convince myself that I’m just slightly overweight rather than (according to standard BMI calculations) that unmentionable o-word that’s the next category up from overweight.
I’ve always had a problem with weight categorisations. At one point there was a sustained media campaign about how much of a burden on the NHS overweight and obese people are. It was relentless. I couldn’t turn on the radio or television without hearing about it. The campaign message “you are a burden, you are a burden” got into my head and wouldn’t go away. Over the space of a few months, I went from feeling content that I was fit and healthy enough to do everything I wanted to do (Ben Nevis, Snowdon, Yorkshire Three Peaks) to thinking of myself as a failure and a potential future burden on the NHS.
So, on the back of those ads, I hopped on my bike and went to see my doctor. Amazingly, for the first time in my adult life, the response I got wasn’t a patronising “now, based on your weight and height, you DO know you’re obese, don’t you?” but a refreshing “you look like you’re fairly fit – here’s a few diet sheets to help you – but don’t worry about your BMI too much – you’re not overweight, you’re under tall!”
Over the last couple of years I’ve been weighed a number of times using total body scales, which give additional information including how much of your weight relates to bone density, muscle and fat. What a revelation!
Finally, the proof I’d been waiting for, that a lot of my weight is muscle. And, as if I needed any more of a morale boost, my visceral fat rating was well within the healthy range. So why aren’t these scales used in doctors’ surgeries and health centres across the country? What right does a medical professional have to tell me that I weigh too much, or suggest that I must be making the wrong food choices, without looking at the wider picture of overall fitness and health?
But, comforting though those experiences were, of course they don’t change my basic body shape. And whilst I have no desire to lose 4 stone, which is what I would need to do to be considered normal by BMI standards, that’s not to say I wouldn’t like to shift a little weight. Just half a stone would bring me down to the boundary between overweight and obese – which, if truth be told, is the point below which I do feel noticeably better.
So on Sunday night I googled rapid weight loss and came across the Military Diet. Yes, I know, diets aren’t the answer and it’s long term change in eating habits/quantities and keeping active that are the real keys, but sometimes a psychological kick start can help with motivation. And, given that three days is about my diet-keeping maximum, the plan looked like it would suit me well.
Here’s how I got on:
04/09/17 – Day 1
Woke up feeling slightly on edge. How am I going to cope with eating so little food? And what’s going to happen when I get hungry? On the plus side, there’s nothing on the menu plan that I really don’t like, so I need to think positive! First stop – the weighing scales. Next step – breakfast.
10 o’clock and my stomach’s rumbling already! Need to keep busy to take my mind off it – and tuck my supply of healthy snacks out of sight! Drinking loads instead.
It’s lunchtime and I’m still worried about getting too hungry. Couldn’t decide if I was supposed to have half a tin or a whole tin of tuna (the website refers to “cups”), so elected for a whole tin … then struggled to eat it!
If I hadn’t been due to go straight out afterwards, the paucity of the evening meal would have bothered me – but, again, by keeping busy I managed to keep my mind off my stomach.
05/09/17 – Day 2
Brain’s not working. Not sure if it’s lack of sleep, lack of food or both. Breakfast seemed disappointingly unsatisfying. Had lunch, and as soon as I’d finished I desperately wanted more food … but waited and the feeling soon passed. I wonder how much hunger is psychological not physiological?
So hungry this evening that I dished myself up a bigger portion of dinner than I should have. Slightly disappointed with myself for (deliberately) not weighing the meat, but still pleased that I haven’t eaten anything that isn’t in the plan or on the substitute list.
06/09/17 – Day 3
Woke up feeling surprisingly not hungry. The weight loss is starting to kick in – 4lb in 2 days! Maybe not quite on track for the “up to 10lb” the diet promised, but still pretty impressive.
In the past, most calorie-controlled diets have made me feel pretty dire by the third day. Yet for some reason this one hasn’t. I started Day 3 feeling brighter, lighter, only slightly wobbly through lack of food – and was jabbering away to my boss at twice my normal speed before it struck me… where had the brain fog gone? That tangle of candy floss inside my head that can cause me to speak really slowly whilst I unscramble my thoughts … wasn’t there!
The biggest problem today, in the end, turned out to be hunger again. Breakfast was tiny; my packed lunch had disappeared by 10.30; and I was dreaming about dinner by mid-afternoon.
But I made it to the end of Day 3 – with no deviations from the menu or substitute list, and only a couple of minor transgressions on portion size.
07/09/17 – Reflection and Conclusion
When I started the Military Diet plan 3 days ago, I was expecting its ultra low calorie approach to make me feel far worse than it did. The sleep disturbance and inability to concentrate that I’ve experienced with other low calorie diets didn’t happen as much. The tuna was particularly good for satisfying my hunger, and it seemed as if it was the habit of eating a certain portion size that I missed more than any particular foodstuff. It’s surprising how little food our bodies can get away with, if the nutrient balance is right.
The plan delivered a respectable 5lb weight loss in 3 days – not quite as much as I’d hoped – but even a 5lb weight loss has made me feel considerably better. And, as an added benefit, it’s got me off the weight plateau that I’ve been stuck on for months.
The Military Diet menu is very simple and there are plenty of substitutes to choose from if you don’t like what’s on the standard menu. Chances are you will feel hungry, but any discomfort is only temporary – and, as I had to keep reminding myself, the pain is only for 3 days!