Wednesday, 6 August 2014

How do you know if it's working?

The thing is, because I never planned to quit sugar, I never really had a plan for what I was hoping to achieve. It was more a kind of 'see how it pans out' type experiment, so I hadn't really devised any success criteria or objectives. I didn't even think to weigh and measure myself at the start, because I didn't realise I was doing anything to record.

So, if you don't have an obvious benchmark to measure against, how do you know if it's working?

I did know roughly how much I weighed at the start, and I have lost some weight, although not very much - about half a stone only. I think this is actually a bit unusual, because lots of other people's experiences have been that weight seemingly dropped off, either as a massive quick weightloss, or otherwise as a slow and steady reduction. I think the difference there is how much sugar you had anyway - it would make sense that people who eat loads of sweets and drink sugary coke would see a more marked drop when they first stop. It's a bit depressing though. My dad lost 18lb in a couple of months, whereas I have been unwaveringly dedicated for six months now, and have not even dropped a dress size.

It raises the question, am I doing something wrong?

For six months I have followed Sarah Wilson's guidelines religiously, and have never wavered once. Aside from the time I had cough medicine (5 day headache!) I have not had any added sugar, anything with more than about 6% sugar, or more than about 20g sugar per day, for six months.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have seen some results. Last weekend I watched a short film a friend had made of me just after Christmas, and I could definitely see a difference in the shape of my face. I look much less puffy, less rounded, and my skin looks clearer and less wrinkled. I did take measurements about a month into the quit, and I have lost centimetres from every measurement all over my body. I have lost 5cm from my waist, and 3 from each thigh.

I am also fitter than I have ever been, and whilst I do still have weight to lose, can definitely see muscle tone and definition hiding underneath. I can swim non stop for and hour and a half, covering a distance of 2.5 km and can lift my body from lying face down to a forearm plank. I couldn't do this 20 years ago.

But - and I wish this didn't bother me so, but it does - why haven't I lost more weight?

Perhaps it isn't about the weight loss. Perhaps actually, I am losing weight, just very slowly, and need to focus on the other things that are happening. As well as the physical issues, I can't argue with the fact that I have a healthier relationship with food than I have ever had. I am no longer addicted to sugar, I don't comfort eat, don't crave dessert or find myself buying a chocolate bar after a hard day because I deserve it.

I make all my own bread, since I discovered that sourdough is much easier to digest than the typical shop bought loaves. I eat homemade burgers on a bed of salad, not a bun. I add fermented veggies to meals wherever possible, and make my own recipe sugar free oat and seed cookies.

I wonder sometimes if I am being impatient; if perhaps the process of recalibration will mean that weight gradually ebbs away over a year or two. However, six months in, most dieters would have jumped ship of they weren't seeing some impressive results by now. To be fair, most dieters would quit 6 weeks in if they saw no results.

I did have the idea to visit the GP, talk through what I have been doing and ask to be weighed and measured, then leave it three months before going back. Then I wonder whether there could be any underlying cause for not seeing results... Would the GP be able to run tests to check everything is working properly? Or, would they just tell me to try the slimming clubs, and choose low fat again?

It has occurred to me that there are a few differences between what I have been following and what the big diet clubs recommend, but I need to keep listening to the plan, and not get sucked back to the bad ways. That sounds like I'm saying I'm not prepared to listen to advice, but actually what I mean is that no other diet plan has ever helped my relationship with food, nor have I ever stuck to food rules for this long. I do feel better, fitter, healthier... Just not slimmer. But it wasn't originally about slim, was it?

Thinking back a few years to when I successfully lost weight with a big weight loss group, the mantra was so different. Yes it was low sugar, but the main issue was about fat. Points were calculated factoring in calories per portion and grams of saturated fat, which I now understand means that 100 calories of sugar was deemed better for you than 100 calories of avocado. The way to success was to consume as little fat as possible, replacing fat with low fat, and often sweetened alternatives, diet chocolate bars, and fat free light yogurts laced with aspartame.

The fact of the matter is, yes if I were to go to a slimming club, the rules would change. I could still stay sugar free, but they would also suggest fat free, or low fat at best. But fat helps you stop eating when you have had enough - would his affect my ability to push the plate away? They would suggest that a glass of red wine is worse for you than a double gin and tonic, despite the known health benefits of a glass of red, and despite the insulin spiking tonic full of sugar or artificial sweeteners. They would measure bread by the ounce, and not identify any difference between a slow acting wild yeast and a squishy supermarket square loaf. Logic tells me that I would lose weight if I were to follow a slimming club plan, but my fear is, would I fall back into that horrible cycle of constantly having talk myself out of eating foods I 'shouldn't have' and undo all of the wonderful liberating work I have done. I don't want to go back to the idea that fat is the enemy and calorie free sweeteners are the way to happiness.

I have learned a lot about fat during this process. Firstly, that fat doesn't make you fat. Sugar does. Secondly, that fat is essential to your body to unlock vitamins and minerals from vegetables. Thirdly, that whilst saturated fat has had a terrible press over the last 40 years, it is known actually now to have a positive impact on health. Fourthly, fats and oils that destabilise at high temperatures are far worse for us than stable ones, so we should be cooking with butter, ghee and coconut oil, pouring extra virgin olive oil, and keeping well clear of vegetable and seed oils. It doesn't make sense to now go back to restricting good fats in favour of fats that are known to be harmful, or worse still, pseudo fats like spray emulsions, no calories, just pure chemical nastiness.

So what should I do then?

1) keep on keeping on, and see how it all feels in another 3 months or so?
2) count 'points' but still eat the good fats and try not to swallow to nonsense?
3) ask the doctor to run some tests?
4) try and cut down on the known naughties, such as wine and cheese, and see if that is the problem?

I think I will start with 1 and 4, and maybe consider 2 and 3 if I'm not getting somewhere in another few months. It's weird because aside from the lack of any real weight loss, this is the healthiest, easiest, most nutrition-dense diet I have ever followed.

I guess I will keep you posted on this one. If you have any pearls of wisdom to share with me, please do leave a comment. Cheers all xx

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