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"Tears and light"

On Mondays I usually fast unless something - like a book group which involves food - is scheduled. After all I have just enjoyed a weekend of eating and drinking - we try to only drink wine at the weekend - so Monday is a good day to fast.

Why am I still fasting? Well, long ago now, I lost a lot of weight, after becoming somewhat dumpy in shape. It took a while but I found following the 5/2 (intermittent fasting) method pretty easy because I find it much easier to eat nothing than to eat moderately and consistently. Not that I eat massively I hasten to add. But I do have weaknesses - potatoes and dairy mostly. Anyway, having reached my target weight of 60kg it's become a bit of a challenge maintaining the 60kg, and so I continue to fast once a week - unless I'm on holiday. Well holidays are escapes. No deprivation is allowed.

So Tuesday mornings, when I weigh in can be either an occasion of joy or an occasion for depression, although not quite tears, and for the last couple of weeks it has been depression. Depression because having put on weight, not lost it, means a second day of fasting and I do enjoy both the cooking and eating of food. I suspect, in fact, that you can't have one without the other.

Today was such a day, and having now been browsing Google Images for appropriate images for my state of mind I came across the notion of rainbows and in a rambling kind of way, that rather beautiful picture and Coleridge's perfect line. A rainbow is unreachable, partly because it is, in a sense, not real - a sort of optical, transitory illusion. A dream. And maybe that's my position with respect to my weight, and that I should do like we all do with rainbows - enjoy the beauty and the sense of magic that it brings to one's day, but don't try to get there because you never will. Not that there is that much magic or beauty in my weight dilemmas.

I came to the rainbow via this image and a Google search 'maintaining weight difficult art'. This picture was, in fact, my initial starting point because I thought it expressed the difficulty of reaching a target, and also it included the notion of exercise - and being slightly overweight - which is me. But seeing that distant target put me on to the idea of the unobtainable rainbow. Such is the rambling nature of my 'research' for my posts. I start out with one idea and via those rambles, sometimes end up with another - or at least a rearrangement of my ideas.

The rainbow is a good metaphorical image and not just with respect to managing weight. After all there are a whole lot of things in life that are always just out of reach. No - far out of reach for ordinary mortals such as I.

Having found my images - so often the starting point for me - I began to look for practical and informational advice on why, after dieting and reaching a target weight it is so difficult to maintain that position. Because I really wanted to know. I seem to have reached an impasse and the only way seems to be up - in terms of weight. Which is a depressing thought. Being overweight is not at all healthy as the world - and my husband in no uncertain terms - tell me. And I certainly get that - and all that stuff about the human biome, which is related but not really the issue here. But there is also another group with a somewhat contrary view - as represented by an article by Maggie Battista on the Kitchn website who maintains that:

"If we feel good and are healthy, our weight should not be on our list of worries."

I posted this picture in another recent post about the day I turned 64. It's apposite because here I am looking very happy, 'feeling good' - and I was, although Graham always had the knack of making people relax and smile. But in spite of that I am overweight - probably at my maximum. In many ways I look awful - the trousers around my waist and hips are obviously straining to be closed, and the tank top barely hides the bulging tummy and boobs. The arms too are somewhat plump - I'm sure that's not muscle. But at least they are not papery and wrinkly with flesh dangling down. Thank goodness you can't really see the tree trunk legs.

In contrast here I am in my size 8 days - a size I maintained with no effort - indeed I often over ate - more or less until menopause. Which brings me to one theory that was expounded in an article in The Conversation - What’s the ‘weight set point’, and why does it make it so hard to keep weight off?, the general drift of which was:

"We each have a predetermined weight – a set point – which our body protects. It’s the weight you’ll remember being at for a long period of time in your adult years (over 20 years of age) and it’s the weight you’ll remember bouncing back to after any bout of dieting."

The theory is that this is set in childhood from a mix of genes, eating and exercise habits and mental state. Which may have a grain of truth in it, but which, in my case, is profoundly not true. Prior to menopause I could eat anything and not put on weight. I tried once and it was virtually impossible besides being rather unpleasant. From menopause on I steadily put on weight - well fairly quickly put on weight although the progression slowed somewhat and perhaps found a new 'weight set point' which I now find myself continually working back to if I'm not careful.

Then there's the prestigious scientific rationale:

"One theory about regaining lost weight is that people who decrease the amount of calories they consume to lose weight experience a drop in the rate their bodies burn calories. This makes it increasingly difficult to lose weight over a period of months. A lower rate of burning calories may also make it easier to regain weight after a more normal diet is resumed." John Hopkins Medicine

Which is very depressing really as it seems to be almost saying that you can't really lose weight permanently. It is also at variance with Maggie Battista's experience - similar to mine I think, although I'm guessing she started from a much higher weight than mine - when she followed the standard advice:

"Eat everything in moderation. - Eating in moderation may work for some, but it never worked for me. Enjoying just a little bit of cake only tempted me into swallowing the entire cake tray." Maggie Battista/Kitchn

Which is why the 5/2 diet worked for me. Much easier to not eat at at all than to eat in moderation.

So should I just stop worrying and weighing myself every week? Well no, because I know that if I do nothing and just eat as I would want I would inevitably put on weight - tracking back to my possibly new set point, which to my mind is way too high. Indeed it might even go beyond where I was before. Which is why I think I shall continue to weigh myself, - just to keep an eye on things, depressing though it sometimes is.

Of course there is also the whole thing about body image and why we think we have to be slim. Of course we should be slimmish for very definite health reasons, but there's a whole lot more than good health in our reasoning for why we should be slim. Heavens I'm 80 years old and it really doesn't matter what I look like anymore does it? Who cares? David does a bit I suppose and it certainly mattered to us all when we were young and looking for love. Although maybe it didn't even matter then. Even then I remember remarking that attractive did not necessarily mean beautiful or handsome. Attractiveness is much more than physical appearance. It's a kind of charisma, which might only be recognised by a few people I suppose, but an indefinable thing - personality, inner confidence, assurance ... I mean look at Mick Jagger - he was never beautiful but ...

You may have noticed that I have been ignoring the whole exercise thing. The other - and I'm beginning to think - more significant factor in maintaining weight. You see in the last couple of weeks I have barely walked at all, partly due to weather and mood, but more because of muscle strain which has restricted my ability to walk far. And it's in the last couple of weeks that my weight has refused to go down. So I should perhaps start an experiment of not fasting at all, but making sure I do at least four longish walks per week. Then weigh myself again after a couple of weeks. Not one.

Which brings me back to the rainbow. As I was searching for that rainbow picture I came across this rather lovely picture. What's a rainbow walk I wondered? Surely you can't just go for a walk looking for a rainbow? The weather has to be right for that.

No, it dated from COVID times and is not related to diets but is therapy for depression, as well as a way of keeping the kids amused at that time. Well full circle in a way because being overweight is a depressing thing. So what is it?

"Take a walk, and look for something red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Keep going through the colors, in order, until the end of your walk."

Apologies - I've lost the original source of the quote, but it's an actual thing that many therapists recommend. Some of them recommend you take photos, or sketch, or write, along the way - in order of the colours of the rainbow - something red, something orange ... Well I've missed my little photo projects so perhaps I should try that today. The sun's come out so why not? What if it rains? Well:

I think Maggie Battista's battle with weight ended more as a battle with being happy with how one looks, as long as you are healthy - her most apposite piece of advice being:

"A proverb to live by: What works for someone else might not work for you." Maggie Battista/ Kitchn

BY THE WAY - on Sunday I made that crispy zucchini and spaghetti dish from Pinch of Yum. Here is my not very good photo of the result.

It looked good, and the texture was very crunchy and interesting but I confess it wasn't all that tasty. Well zucchini doesn't have much taste does it. The lemon zest was good though - maybe a bit more might have been a good idea and the chilli flakes that I sprinkled on with my salt and pepper were a good idea too. If you like chilli that is.

OK but probably not worth repeating.


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Apr 30
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Ah to be size 8 again, that's a dream of times past! As some one who is the same weight as 50 years ago and the same size Levi's I can't complain. Of course as Rosemary is on her Michael Mosley (Dr) 5:2 diet so am I. Helps to enjoy food all the more, when it is there, wonderfully cooked.

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