Health

Me and my Diet

Readers mail….
From  Arthur Wisley…

Dear Kyreniacommentator,

The following may amuse your readers. ME AND MY DIET

After the feasting of Christmas 2019 I found that my belt would no longer fit round my waist. I decided that it was time to get a longer belt. Not long afterwards though I discovered that I had a heart condition and, almost simultaneously,  I seriously injured my knee.

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Reports also started seeping out that old, fat people with health problems, like me, were hundreds or even thousands of times more likely than a teenager to suffer very serious complications from the rampaging Covid-19 virus. Out went the idea of buying a longer belt. Instead I decided that I needed to go on a diet to try to protect my heart and my over-burdened joints as well as trying to minimise the risks from C19.

To help me to stick to my diet I thought it wise to have a specific weight loss target, one which was appropriate for me. The Body Mass Index is regarded as a useful guide to a healthy weight. The index is calculated by dividing your weight, in kilograms, by the square of your height in metres. A healthy weight is in the range of 18 to 25 on the index. This spread allows for differences in body type, age and fitness.

As I am a pretty average bloke I decided to go for an average BMI of 21.5 rounded down to 21 as, due to my age, I had a lower proportion of muscle in the make up of my body than younger fit men.

This target BMI indicated that I should aim to lose at least 25 kg! That is the same as a really big sack of dog food! Despite the evidence of my belt I was surprised to learn that I had become such a porker!

Another measure frequently used by doctors to assess a healthy weight is the waist to height ratio. Particularly in men, fat accumulates around the internal organs where it can cause all sorts of problems, like death. The weight to height ratio is a very simple formula namely that your waist should be less than half your height.

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I measured my waist. As expected it was substantially more than half my height. Realising that it would not be possible for me to grow taller I had no alternative but to try to reduce my circumference. Shockingly, in order to get myself into good shape, I needed to lose around 25 cm from my girth. “Cripes that’s impossible” I protested to my wife. Shortly after she brandished at me a long forgotten pair of trousers hidden at the back of my wardrobe which was labelled with that 25 cm smaller waist. That told me that it was possible.

I found it very satisfying that there was a numerical symmetry between weight loss in kg and waist loss in cm. I had found my magic targets.

The process of weight loss is incredibly simple in theory. Burn off more energy than you consume and your body will dig into the energy saved up in your rolls of fat and, Hey Presto, you lose weight. An appropriate mixture of more exercise and less food is what is required.

Unfortunately for me, my leg injury and the need to take care of my heart meant that hours of vigorous exercise were not possible. Anyway, the Cyprus summer is far too hot to do much more than lie in a hammock. This dictated that I would have to concentrate on reducing my calorie input, at least for the time being.

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There are 1001 different diets each of which is fêted as being so much better than all the others. The one I chose to follow could hardly be easier. Eat normally whilst avoiding all those things which are famously fattening, like chip butties and 500g bars of chocolate. But don’t eat every day.

Eat normally on day one.  Eat nothing at all on day two. If your last meal is at 6 PM on day one your next meal is breakfast on day three.

This results in a significant period of fasting of about 36 hours. This length of fasting gives your body time to burn up all the glucose in your system after which it tucks in to your stores of fat. Some of my friends commented that they would not be able to follow an alternate day eating pattern but having resolved to do it I have found fasting to be easy. It may sound tough until you actually try it, then it is a doddle.

On the non-eating days I drank plenty of fluids, cups of tea, and diet soft drinks which helped my stomach to forget that there was no food going in. By eating on alternate days my calorie input should have been halved. In fact, the reduction was slightly more than half because I also abandoned my tummy expanding habit of snacking on biscuits, bars of chocolate, crisps and delicious Magnum bars. Avoiding these treats was no problem. Having really set my mind to succeed in the diet, and that is the key to success, these sweet temptations transform themselves into poisonous potions.

Apart from losing weight and becoming active and attractive, another huge benefit of the alternate day diet is that instead of spending time preparing food,  eating it and washing up afterwards you free up a couple of hours to do other things. You will have regular, whole uninterrupted days to pursue a project or hobby.

I kept a chart of my weight loss as there is nothing better than to see how well you are succeeding.  If you start to relax or cheat a bit on the diet this will show up on the chart quite quickly and acts as a reminder to stay on course to reach your weight target.

You cannot achieve a substantial weight loss quickly. In the first few weeks you can lose a surprisingly large amount of accumulated rubbish and fat but after that the rate of loss slows down. Apparently this is due to the body becoming more efficient. In my case I have been using the alternate day diet for six months and I have almost, but not quite, achieved my target. Nevertheless, I have rewarded myself by buying a new shorter belt as my old one is now ludicrously long.

Even when I get to my target that will not be an end of my efforts to maintain a healthy weight. Two things will remain to be done. One will be to tone my, now slim, body so that it is composed of the right proportions of muscle and fat. For me that means doing some weight training to increase the amount of muscle at the expense of fat. It is said that more muscle results in a higher rate of metabolism which in turn helps to burn off extra calories. A helpful virtuous circle.

The second task will be to permanently adjust my eating habits so that after the alternate day diet I do not return to gorging myself every day and adding back all those kilos. After all, now that I am slim, sexy and, I hope healthy I would not like to go back to be looking like the Michelin Man. Besides, my new wardrobe of clothes would not fit.

Best wishes

A A Wisley