Pre Christmas 4 Week Diet / Detox: The Highs and Lows

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If you’ve read back through any of my posts in 2017 you’ll see that this year has been one of indulgence for me. We have eaten at and written about some incredible places, and I don’t regret a single moment. What I do regret though, and have been beating myself up about, is my lack of self control in terms of my diet and exercise regime. For friends and family who know me, this is something that in 2016 I was very in control of. I’ve always enjoyed food and alcohol, and last year was no exception. However, I found a plan which worked for me, and enabled me to maintain a healthy weight whilst still being able to enjoy all of my favourite things. This was achieved through calorie counting. I adopted a fitness routine which included regular walking, swimming and running and I found a sensible balance. My weight was at its lowest in my adult life and for the first time ever I felt fit, healthy and happy with my body.

Despite several attempts this year to get back on track with the formula which I know works for me, I just couldn’t seem to find the motivation to do it. I could list a number of excuses behind why I ignored the inevitable weight gain, (and all of the unhappy feelings which came along with it) but the truth is that I just didn’t want to. Leading up to our engagement party in November it really began to dawn on me that I wasn’t happy with the new me and I knew that it was time to take some action. Yes, I did say that I had previously found a formula which works for me, but I wondered if by temporarily eliminating some of the foods from my diet that I tend to over indulge in, that I might somehow be able to press the reset button.

The Diet / Detox

I agreed with myself that I’d put my willpower to the test in an extreme way, partly to see if I could do it and partly as an experiment on how my body would react. The plan was to remove wheat, dairy, alcohol, soy, processed foods, chocolate and red meat from my diet for 4 weeks. To make things even tougher I was only going to allow myself to drink herbal teas and water, which also meant excluding my favourite low calorie drinks: Diet Coke and coconut water.

I wanted to schedule some exercise into the plan, but also realised I needed to be careful not to do too much, since I would be lacking in certain nutrients and therefore likely to be low on energy. Dog walking is something I have to do regardless as I have a dog, and an hour a day (approx. 3.5 miles) was achievable. In October I’d signed up for a 6 month membership at the local leisure centre, so it seemed silly not to make use of this. I planned to do 3-4 (45 minutes) swimming sessions in the pool each week.

Week 1

Brunch at Natural Healthy Foods, Birmingham

Now that I’d made the commitment to myself to give this a go, the next step for me to have any chance of sticking to it was to plan ahead with my meals. I created a spreadsheet and searched for recipes that would be relatively simple and that Mr R would also be happy to eat, as I didn’t want to be cooking separate meals for the 2 of us. I figured that the key would be variety, especially with our main meals. The majority of recipes I found for the first week were in Jamie Oliver’s latest book ‘5 ingredients – quick and easy food‘, (if you don’t already have a copy, go and buy it now as it’s the best recipe book you’ll ever own) as well as sourcing a few from searches online. *Most of the recipes from week 1’s plan can be found below.

Although the focus wasn’t meant to be on calories, I did record how many I’d consumed each day as a point of interest. I also logged everything into myfitnesspal. The next step was to create a shopping list which I organised into 3 sections. This was quite simple as most of the ingredients could either be found in the vegetable aisle or in dry stores, and the main source of protein I used was fish (I used my local fishmonger). My shopping bill was much cheaper than usual – it’s amazing how much a couple of bottles of wine can add to the total!

After the first few days I wasn’t feeling hungry at all, although I did notice that my energy levels began to decrease as well as feeling quite dizzy at times. In the mornings particularly I had a deep hazy feeling, similar to that of a hangover. I was enjoying the food and so was Mr R during our evening meals so I decided to carry on. I knew that I would find the weekends tough as well as coming up with new content for my blog that didn’t compromise my diet. Coincidently I received an invite from Natural Healthy Foods in Birmingham to check out their new plant based vegan brunch menu, so we got booked in on the Saturday. Turning down my Mum’s Sunday lunch seemed ridiculous, but my family were very supportive and I continued to stick to plan.

Meal plan week 1

*Week 1 recipes:

Week 2

Spinach and sweet potato tortilla

By week 2 I started to notice that my skin appeared a little clearer and it seemed to have more of a glow. Despite this, I was still experiencing dizziness and now with intermittent headaches creeping in. My stomach felt and looked constantly bloated and uncomfortable and I was getting ulcers under my tongue and one on the roof of my mouth. I expected to feel a little bit dizzy, but the other side effects were most unwelcome. In terms of weight loss I had only lost 1lb which was seriously frustrating compared to my past calorie counting efforts where I’d easily lose 2lbs per week (often more in the first week). I didn’t struggle with the dog walks, but found swimming particularly hard work. After about 30 minutes my energy levels would drop and I was having to really push to get through the last 15 minutes.

Generally I wasn’t feeling deprived from not having a glass of wine, except for on occasion when we were with family members who were having a glass or 2. It became clear to me that I didn’t ‘need’ the alcohol at all, since I was only missing it in social situations. When I began this journey I wondered if a break from alcohol would give me a feeling of clarity, but this didn’t seem to be the case at all. I didn’t feel a single craving for bread, cheese or pasta which honestly surprised me. In fact the only craving I had up to this point was oddly for a glass of diet coke. When the weekend came I made sure I kept as busy as possible, so that I wasn’t sitting around with the temptation to use the weekend as an excuse to go off the rails. I made it through another week. *Most of the recipes from week 2’s plan can be found below.

Meal plan week 2

*Week 2 recipes:

Week 3

Smoked salmon and gluten free bread at Friar Street Kitchen, Worcester

By now the biggest pain in the neck on this plan was with the amount of cooking I was doing. Preparing 3 meals a day from scratch (and up to 3 dishwasher loads) was becoming really time consuming. I am fortunate enough during the winter to have a little more flexibility with work, which allowed me to do this. I would have to say I’d find it almost impossible to stick to this plan with my work commitments over the summer months, unless I was super organised and cooked some meals in advance. It also occurred to me how many eggs I had been eating – sometimes 4-6 a day! I wasn’t sure if this was a bad thing or not? Many of the recipes I turned to in week 3 were from the Joe Wicks ‘lean in 15’ recipe book, which you can buy here.

My total weight loss to date was now 4lb, which still didn’t seem like very much considering my hard work. The voice in my head started to get louder and louder telling me to quit and switch to calorie counting as I’d get better results and feel less rubbish. The thing is that I’d come this far already and the end was in sight, so I wanted to see it through. On the plus side I had noticed that my sleeping pattern was much improved since starting the plan, so it was almost certainly a contributing factor. I have thought before that alcohol has caused me to have distruptive sleep patterns.

The next hurdle was a Christmas dinner we had planned with friends at Friar Street Kitchen in Worcester. We’d been previously for a ‘run through’ back in October and enjoyed it so much that we booked to go back and do it again. The easiest thing for me to do would have been to give myself a ‘night off’, but instead I called the restaurant and made arrangements with them to cater for my dietary requirements. Whilst Mr R and my friends were enjoying the cheese fondue, I had a delicious plate of smoked salmon and gluten free bread. For main course I had the beer can chicken breast with steamed vegetables and felt completely satisfied and full. I am not big on desserts anyway, so was quite happy to sip on my green tea. Again, the only thing that really bothered me was that they were all drinking wine and I wanted desperately to join in. *Most of the recipes from week 2’s plan can be found below.

Meal plan week 3

*Week 3 recipes:

Week 4

Blueberry and banana pancakes

When the snow came on Sunday and I could only get out for a 20 minute dog walk, I thought this was going to be the day to throw the towel in. We live in a very rural part of the countryside and even a little bit of snow can mean we are stuck. We didn’t have much food in the house, just enough for a day or 2, but there was plenty of wine and gin in stock! On Monday it was obvious that we weren’t going anywhere and Mr R was off work as a result of the weather. I persevered and managed to get around the whole 3.5 mile walk with the dog in the snow. It was hard going and I felt like I was in army training. I cooked the meals that were on plan and Mr R joined in.

I’d only seen 1 more pound shift since my last weigh in, bringing the total now to 5lbs. With only a few days left to go this actually made me feel quite sad. My energy levels were still feeling low, although the headaches had lessened but I still had a stupid ulcer under my tongue. I began to realise that I wasn’t enjoying this diet at all and the ‘healthy’ food wasn’t making me feel good. On Tuesday temperatures dropped to -9 and the snow iced over making driving conditions even more dangerous. I was able to get out to the shops in my 4 wheel drive and whilst there managed to sneak in a 40 minute swim. Back home we started wrapping Christmas presents with a festive film playing in the background. I really wanted a glass of wine.

By Wednesday evening my tummy ache worsened and it was starting to make me feel quite miserable. On Thursday morning it had eased off and a weigh in saw me reach the 6lbs mark. I reflected on the experience and began writing this post. Mr R and I had an invite to an annual Christmas party at a neighbour’s house the following evening. I would have no idea what food would be on offer and as we had accepted the invitation a couple of months ago we were committed (and wanted) to go. With just the weekend left to complete the 4 weeks, I decided that I had come far enough to look back and know that I have no need to attempt this again. I’m not saying that it might not be more successful for anybody else, but for me it just isn’t sustainable.

On Friday I will switch back to good old calorie counting and enjoy the Christmas party with a glass or even 2 of wine. I’m also looking forward to having a mince pie at the Wayland’s Yard Christmas Festival on Saturday (post to follow). It genuinely wouldn’t have killed me to go another week or more without alcohol, but I don’t have to because moderation in everything is definitely key. *Most of the recipes from week 4’s plan were sourced from Tesco real food and can be found below.

Meal plan week 4

*Week 4 recipes:

* The above diet was a personal experiment and I was not asked by anybody to undertake this particular plan. I created it entirely myself and it does not follow any specific or official diet or detox. If you choose to follow this plan, you do so at your own risk.

** Please excuse the typos on the food diaries.