Christmas has come and gone, and the writer is getting fat. I like my food, and disapprove of diets, but... there's more of me than there used to be. Enough to push my Body Mass Index into that pesky obese category. Not by much, but something had to be done. I look down, surveying all that lies below and surely there used to be feet down there, or at least toes. Something really, really had to be done.
The something has been the 5:2 diet, or intermittent fasting. Over the years (and in spite of my fundamental disapproval) I have joined my wife in one diet or another (My wife says not, I say I caught the tail end of it). Apparently, trying to diet whilst someone in the house is eating chocolate biscuits doesn't work.
Quite by chance, we happened to watch a documentary presented by Michael Mosely, and the wonders of the 5:2 diet. Now this 5:2 business is supposed to be more than just about losing weight, and there are all sorts of claims about it making you live longer, appear younger... but really, all I need to do is shed a few pounds.
OK. Maybe more than just a few. Let's not get too specific.
The full-blown version of 5:2 is to eat nothing on two days of the week; the more user-friendly approach is a quarter of the recommended calories two days a week. So that means 500 calories for my wife, 600 for me, which has evolved into 750 calories, because that just takes the edge off it.
There is a down-side. The diet days can be a total write-off in terms of getting things done. I find that physically demanding activities are fine to start off with, but I steadily run out of steam and, by the afternoon, I have no energy left. Equally problematic, is trying to do anything that requires mental effort – as those blood-sugar levels drop, so does my concentration.
The thing is, after all those horrible, unsuccessful diets, this 5:2 business has actually worked. Not only have I lost weight, steadily and consistently(ish), but I am now down to roughly what I weighed when I was twenty. The trouble is, those two days a week are still not very pleasant and I really have to ask my self, is the possibility of living a bit longer worth spending roughly 28% of my life waiting for the other 72% when I can have a proper breakfast?
The short answer is no. The longer answer... seriously no. Now that my weight is arriving at a reasonable level, I am going to start experimenting – just how many calories on the two days gives me a tolerable maintenance level? I know the original idea of the 5:2 system is to make your body 'younger' and live longer, but unless someone can give me a cast-iron guarantee that two days a week waiting for the other five is going to add a lot of years to my life, and those extra years are going to be happy, healthy and active, is it worth it?
There is a fundamental problem with all of these plans to live better and longer – life is a lottery. I can eat all the right things, do all the required exercise, and get hit by a bus tomorrow. Or I can drink to excess, smoke like a chimney, still get hit by the bus, and survive... Unless it is all governed by my genes, in which case I need to drink more, take up smoking and dance in front of buses.
Against my natural inclination, I will stick to the diet in some form or other, if only to get the occasional glimpse of my toes without looking like the victim of a yoga class. Forget the living longer, I just want to enjoy living now.
On the positive side, we have both lost weight, waist-lines have shrunk, lower extremities have come into view and hands reach further when we hug. I'm sure I read somewhere that hugging makes you live longer.