Bad Tourists & Dieting:

Bad Tourists & Dieting: 

This is me

This is me

NHS assesemnet of my weight

This is the NHS assessment of my weight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within a 46 hr window I will have eaten about 600 calories: to put that into some context that works out at about 12% of a ‘normal’ man’s calorie intake, based on 2500 calories per day pro rata.

Why? you may be thinking. As it happens I am not fat. When I started this experiment I was actually slightly ‘lean’ and had a body fat % between 15%-20%.

The truth is my opening paragraph has been written to be as attention grabbing as possible. By the end of the day I will have had a fairly massive dinner, viking size portions and i expect that my calories will be much closer to normal, though still well bellow the 2500 cals the NHS say i ‘need’ to eat.

I would also point out that my BMI is 26.6. Which puts me in the ‘overweight’ category. There is a discrepancy between my estimated body fat percentage as measured with body fat callipers (pinch an inch test) and an estimate based on my height and weight BMI. So I am both Lean and overweight all at the same time.

Clearly something is very wrong.

Have you ever noticed how fad diets come in waves? Why haven’t we found the one true path yet? Why don’t any of these things work? The truth its that almost all of these diets work to some degree. I have been regularly fasting on the 5:2 regime popularised by BBC Dr Michael Mosley for the last three years and that has worked really well for me.  What I have learned in that time is that no-one has the right answer for you. You have to find that for yourself.

A friend directed me recently to http://fast5.org/ Although my weight is under control, I jumped at this opportunity to see if I could further refine my system. 5:2 fasting is where twice a week, you only consume 600 calories in a 24hr period. Fast-5 is where you eat what you want but each day you have to consume all your calories for the day in a 5hr window.

I have been doing the five two for a while, i know that bringing the two fast closer together in the week makes the second one much easier. So I suspected that training my self to not need or expect breakfast and lunch would have a massive advantage: it would make the extreme 5:2 fast much easier and potentially unnecessary.

The problem with Fast-5 is that because there is no calorie restriction in the evening, you do have to do it every day. The obvious problem with fast-5 is that most people are not doing it so you get invited to lunch and you have to decide how you are going to play that.

It is clear to me that I am going to need a blend of the two systems. At the moment I am doing both. Twice a week I only have 600 cal dinner and every other day I have what i want to eat (which is quite a lot) but i wait till 5pm to start eating. I do however drink black coffee, teas and have the occasional coke zero. Unless My mother in law is cooking Sunday lunch in which case I blow it all off.

So how is it going: 

A problem with the 5:2 system is that occasionally one of the fasts is really tough. I may find it hard to concentrate, or I just cant do anything after about 5pm. There is also some irritability. Killing breakfast and lunch seems to have dealt with this problem. Mondays any Thursdays really are like any other day now, with perhaps slightly more irritability after 5pm on the days when i cut back to 600 cals.

Another advantage is that my personal spending is almost nothing. We cook at home, so food there is very cheap. Lunch was always a big expense for me because i like nice food. By working out how to make it possible to wait till i am home I am able to eat all my calories where they are cheapest which frankly is great. that is roughly an extra £100 a month that appeared out of nowhere.

I want to be clear that I am not sat here ‘Starving’. It literally is completely normal. My energy levels are very stable. I also have an extra hour in my day, which i sort of don’t know what to do with. To night when I get home, i can really let my dog off its leash and go nuts eating. Which is fun for me.

When I started the 5:2 it was really tough.  However adding fast 5 now has been incidental to me because my metabolism is already set up to go for extended periods without food. If a marathon runner asked me to go for a 24mile run with them tomorrow, i would say: ‘No’. Because I am not trained to do that. If a powerlifter ask me to pick up 120kgs weight I wold say: ‘No’ because i am not train to do that. So i wouldn’t expect someone to wake up tomorrow and find this regime easy and I am not suggesting that you dear reader, do this.

What I have learned:

Clearly a man 6ft 1inch tall doesn’t need 2500 calories a day. This realisation lead me to briefly look into where this number comes from, and it seems that it is sort of plucked out of the air.

“In September 2007, the Institute of Medicine held a workshop entitled “The Development of DRIs 1994–2004: Lessons Learned and New Challenges.”[16] At that meeting, several speakers stated that the current Dietary Recommended Intakes (DRI’s) were largely based upon the very lowest rank in the quality of evidence pyramid, that is, opinion, rather than the highest level – randomized controlled clinical trials. Speakers called for a higher standard of evidence to be utilized when making dietary recommendations.”

That makes sense; when ever you here an expert quote this figure they just name the body that recommends it, they never talk about why that is the number. My guess is that this is the upper end of a fairly large range: i.e. 1000-2500 calories for a man depending on the nature of his work or total daily activity level. If your job involves sitting in a well heated room in front of a computer, chances are you don’t need that much food. If you are an olympic rower you may need much more.

You know what it is like if you don’t have food: you are ‘starving’ you have terrible energy crashes, you have felt that and I am asking you to believe that you don’t need that much food right? The difference is the type of metabolism you are in. I am in ketosis: metabolising fat. Most people are not, they are living off blood sugar. What causes irritability and the feeling of faint is switching into ketosis, that is particularly true if you don’t do it very often.

Ketosis (fat metabolism) is much more efficient than Glycolysis (carbohydrate metabolism). That is the real reason I don’t need that much food to get through the day. If I eat 3 meals a day i would be in Glycolysis and my calorie requirement would be much higher.

Conclusion: 

I don’t think fasting is for everyone. In fact I think the biggest problem with fad diets is that there participants rave about them and evangelise for their system. When it comes to picking a diet people have tendency to be “bad tourist”. They show up in a new place where things are done differently and say: ”that isn’t the way i do it, so its not right”. I am ashamed to say I have done this in the past.

However I also don’t think that the ‘Western diet’ is for everyone, nor are the NHS dietary recommendations for everyone. There is no ‘one true path’. As I eluded to at the top of this article I am quite a thick set man. I also find it hard to stop eating when i start. I don’t find it very hard to go for long periods of time without food so fasting in one form or another suits me. My wife on the other hand didn’t get on with it at all.

The basic problem is that their is too much food available to us. So very few people can get by eating as they want when they want. The market is offering way to many foods that are high in sugar, because these foods have long shelf life’s and a high profit margin.

What is really important is not judging yourself, be honest about your own limits, and use careful  persistent experimentation. If you do those things, you can find system that works well for your genetics in your circumstances.

If anything the requirement on the NHS to make recommendations is a poison chalice. I think the fact that they accept it show some hubris. I can’t help wondering if the health of the nation would be better if we desalinated the tools and information people need to work out their own daily food recommendations, rather than assuming experts are better placed to do it for us.

Top Tip: Ignore BMI:  its just nonsense.

Update: some time ago i dropped the ‘fast-5′ part from my system, it started to wear me out & food was too taisty to eat that little that often.