So, I’ve made it to the end of Week 2 (29th May 2016) on the BSD – still not killed anyone – and this week I’ve lost 4.5lbs, taking my total to 11lbs (5kgs). It’s not as much as some others on the BSD website have reported, but I’m very pleased with my results so far.
I’m also pleasantly surprised how rarely I’ve felt hungry. The only ‘down’ side is that my legs (calf muscles, quads & hamstrings) are very achy and cramp easily. They also tire very quickly when I’m training – I’m a Specialist Personal Trainer and teach 12 classes a week, so it’s not like they’re not used to being worked hard!!
Dr Michael Mosley suggests doing a review at the end of Week 2 in order to assess how things are going:
Are you losing weight at a steady pace? – Yes!!
Is your appetite under better control? – I’ve never really had a problem with my appetite. My weakness / problem has always been emotional eating: turning to food as a way of getting through life, and therefore eating when I’m not hungry. This has changed drastically over the past 5yrs as I’ve learnt new ways of acting and reacting to life, and have faced up to the various reasons why I was overeating in the first place.
Are your blood sugar levels coming down? – I’m not a T2 diabetic, but have some insulin resistance issues due to having PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and my previous weight issues (used to be 23.5st). I do monitor my morning blood sugars (fasting), and these are slightly down to an average of 4.2mmoL/l.
Are you sleeping? – I’m very fortunate in the fact that I rarely have sleep problems. I try and get to bed at a sensible time most evenings, and don’t have a TV in my bedroom (or even the house!!) or use my phone / other devices before going to bed. Occasionally, when I’m feeling particularly stressed, I’ll wake up at 4am ish…but this isn’t happening at the moment.
Are you getting constipated? – No! I’m grateful I don’t suffer with this…apart from one specific incident which sticks in my mind: I used to love McD’s Big Breakfasts; served on a tray (they’ve now discontinued them!). I would regularly eat two (or even three) at a time on 4 or more days of the week. After a few weeks of this, I was SO constipated I made a very embarrassing visit to my local NHS walk-in clinic. I won’t go in to details here (it wasn’t pleasant, and certainly taught me a lesson I’ve not forgotten!), but the reason for my predicament was pleased firmly on my high level of egg consumption!!
Are you coping emotionally? – Yes. I’m surprised at how easy the first two weeks have felt. I’m sure this ‘honeymoon period’ will pass… but for now, I’m managing to keep the emotions under control.
Are you managing to stick to the diet most of the time? – I really like the ‘most of the time’ phrase. It allows for minor lapses without the urge to beat yourself up and go into Catastrophic Thinking mode – vital! Again, the answer is yes.
If you answer ‘No’ to two or more of these questions, Michael suggests switching to his other popular diet, the 5:2 Fast Diet. However, I’m doing ok so will continue on.
So what is the Blood Sugar Diet based on? It’s mainly a Mediterranean diet, based on 800 cals a day for 8wks. It is low in starchy, easily digestible carbohydrates (potatoes, pasta, rice, couscous, bread etc) and high in disease-fighting vitamins and flavonoids (i.e. a wide variety of veg and some fruit!). It is rich in olive oil, fish and nuts too. You’re also encouraged to eat full-fat yogurt and eggs (in moderation though!!).
In large randomised studies, researchers have found that this kind of diet gives many health benefits – other than just weight loss – and is effective because it’s easier to stick to as the food is enjoyable and easy to prepare.
Indeed, this has been one of the attractions for me. The full menu is given for four weeks; you just repeat it for weeks 5-8. The recipes are all provided too. I have three jobs at the moment, so life can get busy! Being told what to eat just gives me one less thing to think about. It saves on the dilemma of choosing what to eat, and the risk of being tempted off track when shopping. I simply make a list of the foods required in each recipe for the week, and shop for those specific items. That’s it.
The recipes put together different combinations of foods (I love experimenting), and I’m trying and enjoying avocado, pomegranate seeds, Greek yogurt and cauliflower rice (pictured). I’m also using coconut flour for the first time.
However, the BSD is NOT just about the food, but also about getting more active and sorting out your head too! This again totally resonates with my past experience of weight loss – it has to be holistic – looking at physical, emotional and spiritual areas of everyday life. Diets, on their own, don’t work.
The ‘getting active’ part of the BSD is also based on scientific research and is evidence-based (proven to get results). There are three parts to it:
- a) Aim to increase your daily steps by 500 each week
- b) Do 3 high-intensity training sessions each week
- c) Do some resistance / body weight exercises 3 times a week.
As a Specialist Personal Trainer, I’m no stranger to the benefits (and barriers) of increasing your activity levels. I work with people who have long-term medical conditions, and see on a daily level how people can improve their quality of life by being more active: medications get reduced or even discontinued; depression lifts; pain reduces; life just gets better!
I’m also aware of the barriers to exercise: feeling unfit (and fat) can make you dread getting active. If you have arthritis, just getting out of bed in the morning can be a struggle. But the BSD doesn’t ask you to go from zero to a marathon!! It asks you to just gradually increase your own activity. Start from where you are and build up slow and steady – anyone, whatever their health status, can do that (always check with a qualified health professional before starting any new exercise).
Five hundred steps are approximately 300m (I’ve only got short legs!!) – that’s the distance between four lampposts. So, set yourself a little challenge to walk that much further each week. If need be, break it down into smaller chunks – you don’t have to do it in one go, the benefits are the same in one session or three per day.
High-intensity training is not for the faint hearted. It’s meant to be tough…but the beauty is in the fact that it’s over quickly. For average fitness people, Michael suggests 3 x 20s bursts of all-out effort, with a 2-min recovery time between each session. Make sure you warm up and cool down before and after each session. I do my HIT sessions either on a static bike or a rowing machine. I’m a bit of a data nerd, and love the stats I get from the rower. My session today saw me get up to a maximum of 298 watts of effort, and an average of 250 watts for a 30-sec interval.
Resistance exercises can be done anywhere: in a gym, in a park, in the comfort and privacy of your own home. You don’t need any equipment, just your body! Michael suggests some exercises to do: press ups, squats, abs crunches, bicep curls, plank. Start with one set of 10 reps (or whatever you can manage), and build up steadily each week.
I find keeping an Activity Diary really helps. You can see how far you’ve come each week, and it helps keep you motivated and encouraged when you’re having a tough day. Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing!
The ‘sort out your head’ section of the BSD is focused around mindfulness and meditation. When a mentor first mentioned mindfulness to me a few years ago, I was sceptical and reluctant to say the least. I had visions of ‘emptying my mind’ and repeatedly chanting meaningless phrases – neither of which I was keen to start!! Thankfully I didn’t have to.
Sorting out your head is a way to de-stress and reduce impulsive eating (and behaviour). Over the last couple of years as I’ve put it into practice, I’ve found it really beneficial. Like anything new, it takes time to master, but stick with it.
There are lots of apps out there to help you meditate – explore them and find one that you like. Many people find ‘Headspace’ particularly good.
So… that’s it for this week. I’ll keep pressing on. See you next week!