I have been off the grid for a while I am afraid. Part of that was sheer busy-ness in both work and home life, a fabulous part was a wonderful 3 week trip to Vietnam, but the main reason has been, after a number of false starts, I have finally been dealing with my weight. Over 6 years, which happens to have co-incided with my re-discovery of baking as well as a generally very stressful period of my work life, I had gradually increased in size – from 74 kg up to 100kg. This was the second time this has happened to me but this time at the grand age of 55 it came with all those classic middle aged health problems.
The doctors have been at me for over 2 years with an increasing litany of medical issues: non alcoholic fatty liver, liver inflammation, threats of imminent diabetes, rising levels of blood pressure medication as well as my getting increasingly frustrated with various physical symptoms of being heavily overweight including lack of breath climbing even the smallest staircase, aching knees and a clever knack of avoiding mirrors and cameras. None of these really motivated me in any true way to tackle the weight.
So what finally motivated me ? We human beings are funny animals. Out trip to Vietnam was wonderful, the Vietnamese are wonderfully friendly and we westerners look like hulking sweaty giants next to them. Add in a touch of obesity and you look even more huge and hulking. And how do most of the Vietnamese react to this? A beaming smile, and an outstretched hand gently patting your belly with the cry of “Happy Buddha, Very Lucky”, by which I am pretty sure they don’t mean for me but for them from that gentle stroke of ponderous belly. None of this was ever said with any malice or mockery but as it became a refrain almost every day, my resolve to be rid of it gradually strengthened.
Towards the end of the holiday our friend Chris posted his story onto Facebook. He had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, a disease whose awfulness in the long term I had little idea about, and was determined to diet his way out of it. He had embraced Dr Michael Mosley’s 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet and in 8 weeks had successfully got his blood sugar levels back to normal and lost 12kg. I was impressed. The thought of 6 months’ grind on Weightwatchers logging food and losing 1-2lbs a week which worked last time I had to lose weight, had left me feeling disheartened when I had tried to diet before our holiday, and whilst I am deeply suspicious of miracle diets, Michael Moseley is no quack and his TV programmes on diet and health are always backed with scientific rigour.
We did the fast 800 calorie a day version, but it was death to baking. For 8 weeks it has been no alcohol or carbs, absolutely no sugar or sweeteners, and limited fruit. Butter, Full Fat Greek Yoghurt, Full fat cream cheese, coconut oil are all encouraged as they are major contributors to appetite suppression (there is tons of research now showing that the low fat advice of the last 40 years has contributed to the obesity crisis in the West) but without sugar and flour those ingredients can’t be converted to patisserie and baked delights.
It sounds awful but actually it was not that hard. At no point were we hungry (well the first week was tough), all sugar cravings came to an end quickly and I actually enjoyed being sober and clear headed for 8 weeks. It also works like a dream! In 8 weeks I lost 14kg and the beloved lost 10kg. As you can see from the pictures from Vietnam in March and now, the transformation is very gratifying. Not only that but my liver blood tests are back to normal with all inflammation gone. In 2 weeks time I also find out if the fat on the liver is gone but given the blood results I think my doctor and I are optimistic.
The diet has been relaxed in the last 3 weeks to the 2 day fasting version but as there are still 8kg to go to get to 74kg , I can’t relax too much. I do however want to be able to bake still. So now my exploration into the world of baking and patisserie is about to take a new turn – low carb, low sugar baking, dotted with the odd piece of fabulousness in full sugar and flour as a treat. The internet is full of recipes using low/zero calorie natural sweeteners like Xylitol, Stevia, Erythritol all of which have slightly chemical sounding names but all of which come from natural products. I plan to try them all. Then there is the whole gluten free/paleo movement taking you down the road of coconut, almond, buckwheat and chickpea flour for bread, pastry and cakes. Whilst not low in calories they have very low glycaemic indices which means the liver produces less sugar from them. All of these seem to mean the calorie content of baked items is reduced by a third. I am definitely intrigued and the beloved has already noticed the arrival of strange packages from various new online suppliers. I have tried a few things so watch this space whilst I find the time to write them up.!