Luckily for a baby boomer, my weight has hardly fluctuated from when I left the farm to work in the city. For most of my adult life it was well under the 81 kg (178 lb) I weighed when I finished my basic army training at age 19. That was a result of miles of walking through the bush carrying heavy equipment and surviving for the most part on dry rations. I was not carrying excess fat.
During the period I was running marathons, the weight fell off me until I got under 70 kg (154lb) dropping to under 65 kg at the end of one 85 km ultra marathon. After I stopped running I did put on a few kg and then a few more after moving to Canada in 2004 but my farming activities, horse riding and wood splitting kept it under 80 Kg.
When my heart attack in 2010 made me slow down on the exercise, my weight started climbing. Not only did I put on weight, but it all settled around my waist. My pants got tighter by the week until I had to buy new ones 2 sizes bigger. Uncomfortable and unhealthy, but a source of great hilarity for Sue and my sons. Despite changing my diet, resuming a bit of wood cutting and splitting, walking and horse riding, my weight climbed to almost 90 kg or 200 lb.
For several weeks, I have been walking every day, I started running part of the route and bringing my time down a little each day. I cut back on the amount of sugar in tea and coffee and the number of cups a day, reduced my bread consumption, stuck to a healthier diet. I also had major dental problems as a result of the heart medications causing my teeth to decay rapidly. Rather than spend the equivalent of a new medium size car on getting all my teeth fixed, I elected to have most of them extracted and replaced with dentures.
Problem is that because of complications with the extractions I have been left with very few teeth and will only get the dentures fitted in a few weeks time. I felt sure that 3 months with more gaps than teeth would help the weight loss. It’s amazing how adaptive humans are, I can even eat steak if I cut it up into small pieces. I have more difficulty with the stuff that is better for me like vegetables and salads.
The lack of teeth has not helped me lose weight, the increased exercise did get the pointer on the scale to move slightly downwards, at least it reversed the trend. With winter approaching and with it a reduction in exercise, I was getting concerned. Particularly after reading many reports that fat around the waist was a strong indicator of heart problems, increased risk of damage to other organs and more horror stories.
Last week I saw this BBC video about a 55-year-old English man’s quest for a healthier diet. He travelled to the USA and visited several universities. The video records his interviews with several experts conducting trials on various fasting systems and a restricted calorie diet. He relates his experience of 4 day fast, alternate day normal / low-calorie diet, and a 2 day a week fast.
Watch the video, it does take 58 minutes, but believe me if you are middle-aged or having difficulty in getting rid of your spare tyre around your middle it is well worth watching.
After watching the video and looking with horror at my still large waistline, I decided to try the 2 day fast this last weekend. It was a lot easier than I expected. I only drank water and green tea, had a 15 calorie mug of clear broth for lunch and supper both days and about 10 grapes each day. I went for my normal 20 minute walk / run on Saturday but was feeling light-headed by Sunday morning so skipped the walk. I was starting to feel a bit weak by Sunday evening and had to finish some writing so I cheated a little and had some yoghurt.
I did not feel the urge to stuff myself with food on Monday morning, I just had tea (with milk and sugar) and cereal. I went for my normal walk / run that morning, increased the pace and the distance on Tuesday morning, the scale has definitely moved in the right direction, if only a little. My belt does feel under slightly less tension.
As a heart attack survivor, I cannot stress how important it is to reduce as many risk factors as possible while you are still young enough to make a difference. It’s too late when you are lying on a table with a huge catheter in your groin looking at a picture of your heart on a computer screen as the cardiologist points out a completely blocked artery and damage to your heart. No amount of wishing that you had stopped smoking, done more exercise or kept to a healthier diet will help you then.
I was lucky, I survived. Although damaged, my heart functions well enough for me to do most things I want, just a bit slower at times. The downside is that I will have to take daily medication for the rest of my life to keep things working.
Like all severe diets or radical changes in eating habits, we should consult our doctors first. I knew that if I waited to see my doctor, I would never start the programme so somewhat irresponsibly, I just did it. I survived the fast. I am glad I did and I will do it again next weekend and every weekend until I get back to 75 kg and can fit into all the old, comfortable smaller jeans and shorts in my cupboard.
Wishing you success and a long and healthy life.