Lent is a test of willpower.
Every year, like many people around the world, I renounce things I like for 6 weeks – not because I’m a Catholic (although this is what the official papers say I am) but because I feel like if I don’t follow Lent, something bad will happen.
In other words, Lent has become an obsessive compulsion. For six weeks of the year I have an uncharacteristically high level of self control. I simply can’t NOT do it. This is interesting because if I try restricting my diet at any point outside of those six weeks I always fail.
Usually, as you’ll know if you’ve read my other blogs about Lent, I give up anything classed broadly as ‘bad’ (biscuits, crisps, chocolate etc.). One year I gave up sugar in all its forms, including white starchy carbs and fruit. This year I’ve decided to stop faffing around and go on a proper gritty puritan-esque fast like they did back in the good old god-fearing days.
Except unlike in the good old god-fearing days, I won’t be living on a diet of ale, potatoes and prayer. I’ll be following Dr Micheal Mosley’s Fast 800 diet, which is hopefully a bit more pleasant. This involves fasting for 16 hours a day (not as hard as it sounds because half of that involves sleeping) and only consuming 800 calories worth of healthy Mediterranean style food each day.
I’ve been planning this diet for three weeks now and the closer we creep towards Shrove Tuesday (the last day before Lent, better known as pancake day), the hungrier I feel.
My body has a mind of its own. I like to think I’m fairly sound of mind but my body is a hardcore gas-masked, preaching-in-the-street doomsday prepper. It is absolutely adamant that some sort of disaster is on the way. If I allowed my body to have its own way it’d be building a nuclear-proof bomb shelter and learning how to filter radioactive fallout out of rainwater. As it goes, the only thing it’s been allowed to stash is fat, and it appears to have thrown itself into this job with some aplomb.
Since my body caught wind of my plan to do the Fast 800 diet over Lent, it’s jumped into action. It’s ramped up the hunger chemicals. It’s switched on the sugar cravings. It’s dialled up the fat storage engines. It’s going through what I can only describe as a feeding frenzy.
My general life rule is to try to offset the damage with exercise. My relationship with exercise is, I feel, a lot healthier than my relationship with food. I’ll give my body that one. It doesn’t complain too much when I put it through a hilly run or an hour of weight lifting. It seems to like the buzz that comes after it.
This is what my week of exercise looks like:
Monday – 30 minute walk, 30 minute HIIT workout in gym, 55 minute Body Balance (kind of like yoga on steroids).
Tuesday – 30 minute walk and either a 3-5 mile run, or a 1 hour weights and circuit workout in the gym.
Wednesday – Usually 45 minute legs bums and tums class and a walk.
Thursday – Either a long hill walk, or a 3 mile run.
Friday – 45 minutes of legs bums and tums and a walk, or Body Balance if I’m tired.
Saturday – Either a 3-5 mile run, or a 1 hour gym work out.
Sunday – Either 1 hour of yoga, a run, or a long walk.
I very rarely have a day where I don’t do any exercise. It just makes me feel really shit. Even if it’s just a long walk up on the Downs or gentle yoga, I have to do something because my job and my main hobby (writing) involves staring at a computer screen all the time.
So that gives you an idea of my activity levels. Over January I recorded a food and exercise diary. Here’s one week of it (bearing in mind I was trying to be healthy):
|1||5 mile run, 15 min walk||2 x scrambled egg on olive bread with butter||Butternut squash and parsnip soup with olive bread||Noodles with peanut satay stir fry vegetables, tofu and quorn chicken||1 oatcake with hummus|
|2||45 mins class – spin, weights and abs||Porridge with honey||Couscous, roasted butternut squash, 2 x boiled egg, celery, spoon of hummus||quorn and vegetable tikka masala with rice||greek yoghurt|
|3||30 min walk, 20 min kettle bell and TRX circuit||Porridge with banana and honey||butternut squash soup and small portion left over curry (without rice)||half tomato and cheese pizza with sweet potato wedges and beetroot, spinach and avocado salad||yoghurt break (forest fruit), greek yoghurt|
|4||1 hour yoga, 30 min walk||2 x toast with 2 x scrambled egg, half avocado, mushrooms and cheddar||2 x toast with peanut butter||2 small beetroot and goats cheese burgers with brioch buns and salad||greek yoghurt|
|5||30 min walk||bircher muslea||Janet’s 90th luncheon – salads, quiche and a lot of vol au vonts, 3 x red wine||Spag bol and apple crumble with ice cream||1 thorntons choc|
|6||5 mile run, 20 min walk||muslea||butternut squash risotto with hallumi and a few chips||cheese and spinach omlette with salad||home made ice cream and a cookie|
|7||20 min walk, 1 hour yoga||porridge, honey, raisins, cashews||homemade tomato and basil soup with piece of bread and slice of cheese||quorn and vegetable tikka masala with rice||yoghurt with pineapple, protein nut bar, handful of vegetable popped crisps|
That’s me trying to be healthy and it still involved ice cream and a cookie. For the last few weeks I’ve also been eating things like biscuits and crisps (because of the impending approach of Lent).
So that gives you an idea of my normal eating and exercise habits.
Over Lent I’m going to do another food diary and document how much exercise I do, how I feel and whether I lose any weight.
The interesting thing about the Fast 800 is that it’s not all about weight loss. It basically puts your body into a state of ketosis, which is this (sorry my writing is so lazy this evening because I’ve been doing so much of it recently).
When we’re in this state of ketosis, our bodies are allowed time to regenerate (or something like that, just read the book). To cut a long story short, it reduces body fat, slows down the ageing process, makes you feel good and keeps your organs and what not healthy.
So there we go. I’ve reached the end of my writing limit for one day. I’m going to make dinner (something starchy and too much of it, if I know my body at all) and put the telly on while scrolling mindlessly through Instagram.
Oh and let me know if you’d like to try the Fast 800 with me . The book is actually really interesting and I’d like to see more evidence of its effectiveness in practice.