I've lost 3 kg in the first week

I’ve lost 3 kg in the first week. It’s just the boost I needed after a trying few days.

My Thursday night headache turned into a Friday morning headache, and despite drinking lots of water and resting I couldn’t budge it, so I walked it off — for 90 minutes! It was just what I needed. I was pretty tired by the end, but after some stretches I felt great.

My iliotibial (IT) bands are quite tight. I didn’t even know I had IT bands until my exercise physiologist, Ellen, told me about these almost-impossible-to-stretch-by-myself muscles, so now I roll them on a foam roller as often as I’m motivated to, which isn’t very often. My right side is particularly problematic and often results in my patella not tracking properly, which causes pain in my knee when I do squats and other similar exercises. Lately, however, my left side has decided to join the party, so tonight I rolled both sides as well as my hamstrings and then my husband helped me stretch afterwards. I also have a hip issue that flares up occasionally. My physiotherapist, Jemma, identified the problem as a weak gluteus medius, and I have exercises to help strengthen this stabilising muscle. In past I’ve also suffered from torticollis (wry neck) and, again, I have neck strengthening exercises to prevent relapses, which seem to be working.

Sometimes it feels like I turned 40 and my body thought “OK, time to break down” and I’ve spent the last few months servicing it.

On the food side, in the last few days I’ve enjoyed sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic & Parsley from our garden, Garlic & Chilli Prawns with a garden salad, Mediterranean Mozzarella Chicken (YUM!), and Cottage Cheese with Sliced Apple & Cinnamon. Today I prepared some dished for the next couple of days: the rhubarb for Rhubarb Yoghurt and the Chicken & Quinoa Salad for lunches on Monday and Tuesday.

Apple Watch Stats for Friday

  • Move 1,1014/529 calories

  • Exercise 90/30 minutes (tripled!)

  • Stand 14/12 hours

  • Steps 14,724

Calories consumed = 786

Apple Watch Stats for Saturday

  • Move 535/520 calories

  • Exercise 4/30 minutes

  • Stand 13/12 hours

  • Steps 8,488

Calories consumed = 775

Apple Watch Stats for Sunday

  • Move 412/520

  • Exercise 0/30 minutes

  • Stand 13/12 hours

  • Steps 7,397

Calories consumed = 819

"Have it with a tomato. It disguises the flavour."

“Have it with a tomato. It disguises the flavour” is what I said to my husband after he said he wanted to “punch spinach in the face”… We’ve eaten a lot of baby spinach in the past four days. Tonight’s dinner bombed: Roast Fish with Baby Spinach & Tomato. It was supposed to be mackerel but I couldn’t find any so went with ling instead. Perhaps this is where I went wrong — maybe I should have gone with salmon or tuna? The cherry tomatoes were from our garden and they were the only thing that I enjoyed.

Anyhoo, what’s done is done and if that meal features in our weekly menu plan again we will be replacing it.

This morning I skipped breakfast and opted for a mid-morning, locally grown apple instead, and I’ve never enjoyed an apple more. (I should clarify I’ve still be having a small latte at home each morning, but I gave up sugar in my coffee many moons ago.) Instead of sitting down to eat breakfast, I prepared our lunch: Szechuan Chicken Salad, which was tasty thanks in part to the sesame oil in the dressing. I ate at midday since I was pretty hungry and whilst I enjoyed the meal it was difficult because the people around me were eating all sorts of delicious-smelling food like burgers and hot chips with gravy and Chinese takeaway. There was chocolate to be had, too, but I remained strong and declined. I don’t think chocolate will be my undoing… it will likely be hot chips or fried rice or a bowl of pasta with my homemade sugo.

My husband and I are self-confessed “foodies”. We bonded over food and have been eating ever since. This 12-week programme is going to be very difficult for us as we avoid many of the Asian dishes we love to prepare and savour, such as chicken and prawn laksa with vermicelli and egg noodles, duck red curry soup with hokkien noodles, crispy pork belly salad, Chinese duck coleslaw; or the pub style meals we have perfected at home, such as surf ‘n’ turf with chips and salad, crumbed lamb cutlets with mash, peas and gravy; or my European favourites, such as moussaka, lasagne, and pasta.

It’s only Day 4. Sigh.

Yesterday I had another bowl of Blueberry & Almond Brekkie Quinoa and it’s going to take me a little longer to appreciate this combination, but it’s lightyears ahead of tonight’s dinner. Lunch was leftover Sweet Potato Soup with Lentils & Pancetta and it was just as tasty at the first time around and has secured itself a spot on our list of favourites so far. Dinner last night was Lemon & Coriander Chicken, which wasn’t too bad but again with the baby spinach… I think I’m going to mix it up a bit in the future with a range of salad greens rather than just one type of leafy green.

Baked Fish with Baby Spinach & Cherry Tomatoes

Baked Fish with Baby Spinach & Cherry Tomatoes

I’m giving myself a day off from exercising today as I have the inevitable headache and feel it getting worse rather than better. Yesterday I went to my regular Wednesday afternoon clinical pilates class, which I didn’t really have the energy for but dragged myself to anyway. I always feel better afterwards. My aim over the next few weeks is to shift some weight so I can start jogging again without the extra kilograms burdening my knees. I started to jog a couple of years ago before our wedding and enjoyed it despite how difficult it was in the beginning. I never quite cracked the 5 km in 30 minutes goal the app was coaching me towards, but I wasn’t far off it at the three-month mark. I know I can get there again, but this time I want to make it part of my everyday lifestyle, rather than just a means to an end. I’m also keen to start burning more calories so I can have the occasional treat, knowing that a 200 g steak will not tip the caloric deficiency scales.

Oh, last night when I got back from my pilates class I arrived home to find we had visitors (colleagues of my husband) and we sat outside talking for an hour or so and I was starving the whole time but declined the salty, flavour-filled crackers they had brought with them and that I love so much, as well as the bottle of sugary Agrum that was open. As trite as it sounds, I was proud of myself.

Apple Watch Stats for Wednesday

  • Move 643/520 calories

  • Exercise 49/30 minutes

  • Stand 14/12 hours

  • Steps 4,689

Calories consumed = 716

Apple Watch Stats for Thursday

  • Move 404/520 calories

  • Exercise 5/30 minutes

  • Stand 13/12 hours

  • Steps 5,127

Calories consumed = 755

I woke up at 4:19 am today

I woke up at 4:19 am today. Not because I was hungry — just because I seem to have lost the ability to sleep properly. Also, I got up to pee about 500 times during the night because of all the water I’ve been drinking! It was most inconvenient. Anyway, I stayed in bed until my alarm went off at 5:00 am, and then I got up and prepared today’s lunch in advance: Haloumi & Asparagus Salad. I have a feeling I’ll be doing this quite often otherwise I risk falling back into not-so-healthy food choices. It means always being one step ahead, which was the way I used to operate until I started feeling so lethargic. I hope once my health improves that improvement will transfer to other areas of my life.

I was eating breakfast by 5:30 am: Blueberry & Almond Brekkie Quinoa, which was only saved by the blueberries. I’m not sure I’m a fan of quinoa is this form — probably because I’ve only eaten it as part of my smoked chicken quinoa salad, with lots of roasted capsicum, kalamata olives, red onion, Persian feta, rocket, parsley, chives, and an olive oil, balsamic and lemon juice dressing, scattered with toasted pine nuts — but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

At 6:30 am I was in the lab and prepping the experimental diets for my ant colonies. For some strange reason I was particularly drawn to the 20% sugar solution and the honeydew mimic… After feeding my colonies, I recorded my observations every 15 minutes from 7:00 am to 8:00 am, slightly envious of my ants’ freedom to guzzle as much as they could in that hour. My morning was quite busy so I didn’t have a chance to think about food too much, which is one of my biggest problems: if I’m bored I’m likely to indulge in procrasti-eating.

I enjoyed the Haloumi & Asparagus Salad for lunch but in my excitement I forgot to take a photo of it, so you’ll just have to make do with my description. I ate it cold. The haloumi was golden and deliciously salty and the meatiness of its texture definitely filled the void in my belly. The asparagus was still crunchy and very flavoursome, while the baby spinach leaves were crisp. The whole dish was drizzled with the tartness of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of ground black pepper. I would certainly make this dish again. I think my husband would have preferred it alongside a scotch fillet steak (to own the truth I would have enjoyed a steak, too) but c’est la vie.

Tonight, Sweet Potato Soup with Lentils & Pancetta was on the menu and I’ve never enjoyed those morsels (however tiny) of cured pork more! It was perhaps a bit hot weather-wise for soup, but it was tasty nonetheless and another dish I’d whip up again. My stomach started to grumble while it was cooking, even though it had only been four hours since my last meal.

For me, succeeding with this programme will be about overcoming my obsession with food. I think about it far too often and it wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t follow up with eating almost as often, but that’s the pattern I’ve fallen into: it’s only one little packet of chips or it’s only two slices of cheese or it’s a homemade duck curry so I can eat more because it’s not takeaway or I don’t eat pasta very often so when I do I can justify devouring two serves in one sitting or one slice of bacon isn’t quite enough but two is too much but I’ll eat both because otherwise what will I do with the leftovers? It’s even worse when I’m exercising more because somehow I think I’ve earned the after-dinner ice cream or the extra slice of (homemade) pizza or the row of chocolate: I’ve sweated today so I deserve this.

I’ve never been starving, I mean actually starving, so I don’t know where this obsession with food comes from. Both my husband and I love cooking and we prepare a lot of wholesome meals at home and very rarely order takeaway or eat out. We love eating at home and trying new recipes and my habit for many years now is to plan the weekly menu and then go grocery shopping once a week for everything we need (sometimes we do a mid-week shop for fresh fruit and vegetables). I love the whole process from beginning to end, but it often ends with an inability to control consumption speed and portion size, and I eat too fast and too much because I eat too fast.

Exercise today consisted of a HIIT session: warm-up walk for two minutes, followed by three reps of 40-second running bursts and 20-second catch-my-breath-my-heart-is-pounding-my-lungs-are-bursting recovery periods, followed by a cool-down walk for two minutes. Only seven minutes altogether, but the “endolphins” (watch the video below — a scene from Postcards from the Edge — to get the joke) certainly had time to kick in, and it was on top of 10 minutes of incidental exercise throughout the day, which was probably walking around campus.

Endolphin rush.

Apple Watch Stats

  • Move 646/520 calories

  • Exercise 17/30 minutes

  • Stand 15/12 hours

  • Steps 7,398

Calories consumed = 790

And so it begins...

And so it begins… I’ve never been a “dieter” but I’m carrying an extra 20 kgs at the moment and am the heaviest I’ve ever been, so today I commenced the 12-week Fast 800 programme. I selected this particular programme after completing a series of questionnaires. Essentially, it’s a calorie-restricted meal plan, complemented by exercise, mindfulness, and learning.

Generally, I’ve been feeling lethargic and a little bit anti-social, and while two clinical pilates classes per week keep some nagging issues in check they’re not enough to help me lose weight and get fitter. Enter Dr Michael Mosley and Fast 800.

Starting now, I hope to track my progress by keeping a regular diary in the form of this blog.

Today wasn’t so bad. It’s the first day, so I was kind of excited to kick it off.

My day started with a 6:30 am visit to my mesocosm at the university where I’m a research student, studying the effects of a warming environment on ants. Ironically, I had to take my ants’ food away to starve them for 24 hours before I recommence my experiment tomorrow morning after a fortnight hiatus.

At 7:30 am I was having blood drawn for a series of tests, which will become my “before” baseline so I can compare my stats at the end of the 12-week programme (because of course I discussed this with my local GP before starting). She was quite excited for me and measured my height (168 cm) and weight (88.6 kgs), took my blood pressure, and gave me the pathology referral.

At 8:30 am I was grocery shopping and by the time I got home, unpacked and put everything away it seemed a little late for breakfast, so lunch became brunch and I skipped the Blueberry & Almond Brekkie Quinoa and went straight to the Kale, Tomato & Poached Eggs, except I substituted baby spinach because I don’t do kale. (The Brekkie Quinoa has been moved to tomorrow morning, and I cooked the quinoa tonight in preparation.) The eggs kept me going for a few hours, but I did snack on some raw, whole almonds mid-afternoon. Incidentally, 20 almonds weigh about 30 grams.

Dinner tonight was Coriander & Coconut Baked Salmon, which was delicious but not enough. You see, my background is Italian so I’m used to not only great food but lots of it! A 150-gram piece of salmon was satisfying for the tastebuds but not my expansive stomach. I’m assured by the programme that, in time, my body will get used to this, although, in the meantime I can expect headaches while my body switches from burning sugar to burning fat. Apparently, water is the key to moving through this phase.

My activity today consisted of two sets of six different resistance exercises, each lasting 40 seconds with a 20-second break between: crunches (I use a clinical pilates method for these), push-ups (against a wall for now because I have very limited upper body strength), tricep dips, squats (using a fitness ball behind my back and rolling up and down a wall, if that makes sense), jumping jacks, and overhead shoulder press. And repeat. I also worked out, in preparation for my HIIT sessions, that my 180 bpm stride is 8.5 km/h on my treadmill at home, which is not very fast but I expect to improve as the weeks tick by.

Apple Watch Stats

  • Move 788/520 calories

  • Exercise 30/30 minutes

  • Stand 12/12 hours

  • Steps 10,441

Calories consumed = 814