Today’s post is a big one. Big in the realisations it contains. It started off as a post on my first week on the Dukan Diet and turned into a complex examination of my relationship with food and the reasons we eat. It’s lead to some really deep thinking, on my behalf anyway, so I’d love to hear what you think.
I planned to start the Dukan for 2 reasons. The first, and I won’t pretend it wasn’t the main one, was my forthcoming holiday and the threat of being pool side in America, land of the botoxed brow, filled cheek and cosmetically enhanced (other) cheek. I don’t normally feel uncomfortable in a bikini, but being in mine next to others in theirs around a hotel pool seemed suddenly daunting. Secondly, although a previous fan of Weight Watchers, I have come to the realisation that trying to eat in moderation, or healthily, just seemed beyond my will power these days. I have always had a sweet tooth, but where I usually don’t have anything in the house that could be eaten in moments of temptation, first Christmas, then Easter brought piles and piles of chocolate into the house which I steadily consumed nibble by
nibble mouthful. I had to face the fact that just one block of chocolate was never enough, and I ended up grazing. I needed a diet that was going to cut through the crap, that clearly defined what I could and couldn’t eat, and I needed results fast. So Dukan it was then. I won’t cover the ins and outs of the diet itself, you can read more here in the Daily Mail’s article and the ones that follow, but I started on what is the initial ‘attack’ phase, which consists of pure protein and 0% fat dairy products only.
I honestly debated sharing this. On the one hand, I (rather optimistically) thought that if I turned up on these very pages significantly smaller, I was going to have to come clean and why not share something that I thought would benefit you guys? The other part of me was horrified at the thought that people reading may take away the wrong message, that I would encourage women to feel the way I did, that slim-ish isn’t quite enough. I hold my hands up now and say that I would never recommend this as a doctor, but like you all, I’m only human.
So here goes…
Day 1 – Starting weight unknown, but three days earlier I was 10st 3lbs.
Breakfast: 2 eggs, scrambled, with smoked salmon.
Lunch: Smoked mackerel fillet with a dollop of cottage cheese.
Dinner: Surf and turf! Steak with a prawn skewer.
Exercise: The prescribed 20 minute walk (part of the diet plan).
Day one, and I am already wondering what all the fuss is about. I was at work and didn’t have any more difficulty concentrating than I would during any other Friday(!) and the only unusual effect I had was a niggling headache. When I thought about it, not only was I forgoing carbs, but any form of sugar plus my usual caffeine intake, so it’s no wonder there’s some real effects to be felt.
Day 2 – Weight 9st 13lbs
Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled, and smoked salmon
Late lunch: Smoked mackerel fillet and cottage cheese followed by 0% yogurt with oat bran mixed in.
Dinner: (out with friends) seared scallops in sweet chilli sauce, sea bass on tomatopurée and wilted spinach, with dauphinoise potatoes (which I ate a few mouthfuls of) and then the big cave, warm chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream.
Exercise: My usual Saturday morning BMF class.
Today we were already booked for dinner with friends and but when I decided to try the Dukan, there was always an excuse not to. Instead I decided to extend the recommended 2 days of the ‘attack’ phase for my weight to three days and just consider Saturday night a write off. I chose high protein dishes at dinner, tried to avoid the carbs and chose wine instead of sugar packed cocktails. I was too embarrassed to tell the people we were out with what I was doing which lead to me eating the dauphinoise in an effort to reduce its conspicuous presence on my plate and go on to have desert. Fortunately, I managed to get rid of the ever-present headache just before we went out for dinner.
I also got my hands on some Oat Bran. This is a non-negotiable part of the diet which is included for its (medically proven) ability to increase satiety and to cling onto fats and transport them through the bowel to be excreted. I wasn’t going to turn down something that resembled carbs although there was no cereal-like sweetness to satisfy my craving for sugar.
Day 3 – Weight 10st
Breakfast: Oat bran mixed with 0% yogurt.
Lunch: A tin of tuna (in brine) drained with some smoked salmon and cottage cheese
Dinner: 2 Chicken Fillets
After getting weighed this morning, I wasn’t too disheartened to see the increase on the scales. I have always retained water the morning after drinking so expected something and I’m now waiting with bated breath to see if I can rectify it with another protein packed day.
As of yet, I haven’t been to the toilet, (to, you know…) so I took a laxative and carried on glugging the water.
As day 3 went on I felt more and more depressed. It was the bank holiday Sunday. Everyone was out having a good time. Normally, I’d be dragging Pete out for cake, or lunch, or both and I started to realised how ingrained my happiness is in food.To me, food means socialising, friends, chatter and laughter. In an effort to take my mind off things, we went to the cinema and literally everywhere I turned, it seemed there were adverts for treat bags of chocolate and Ben and Jerrys. The final straw was sitting down next to a man tucking into an ice cream sundae. I felt truly miserable and all day the headache was there taunting me.
Day 4 – Weight 9st 13lbs
Last night I lay in bed thinking about the Dukan, my diet. I was completely listless at the thought of another day without any enjoyment in the form of food. Bank Holiday Monday and no nice lunch out or dinner out, no baking, no time spent with friends doing either of those things. I began to think about caving, giving up. I had pinpointed my problem, I was desperate for sugar. Perhaps like some people say, it takes days of abstinence to quit the habit but every time Pete had asked me what I wanted yesterday the answer had been to eat cake or ice cream!
I started to think about my upcoming holiday and the effect suddenly going back to carbs would have on my body, or weight. Unfortunately, the bikini part of my holiday is coming at the end of a 7 days stretch of travelling (and eating more than likely,) none of it in clothes that will remind me to watch what I eat. I worried about undoing the progress I had made already by the time I got to bikini o’clock. I started to think about going back to ‘normal’ food and felt wracked with guilt, a failure and even more depressed. The strongest feeling however was that never had I felt more miserable, for such an insignificant reason. Was being a few pounds heavier that I would like worth feeling like this?
The diet had made me feel all these things and I decided to stop. I don’t consider it quitting, or failing, it was the right decision. It wasn’t sustainable, healthy or right for me.
It has made me think long and hard about my relationship with food though. I doubt I’ll ever extricate my personal happiness from the social pleasures of eating. What I’ve come to realise is that I need to address the internal monologue of ‘you’ve worked hard today, you deserve that glass of wine/piece of chocolate/dessert.‘ or ‘what a rubbish day, let’s have pizza‘. I need to stop putting food in my mouth when I’m not thinking about it or savouring it and I need to start thinking about what my body needs as opposed to what my mind tells me it needs or deserves. I need to take the time to shop properly and make healthy choices, to make sure I have appropriate snacks and I probably need to cut the sugar down. But for now anyway, I’m going to stop focusing on my weight and I’m going to focus on my health instead. Things I’m taking away from my attempt at the Dukan will be the daily 20-30 minute walks – something I always found boosted my efforts at Weight Watchers, and trying to have a drink of water first when I feel hungry, not immediately reaching for a snack. Of course, I hope these small changes will make a small difference and help me lose a couple of pounds pre-holiday but what is most important to me is being happy, not losing a few pounds or the number staring at me when I step on the scales.
The feelings of self doubt I had over the last few days were horrible to experience and hard to share too, I even felt ashamed to admit that I wanted to even try a diet, that I wasn’t strong enough to rise above the pressure I put on myself to be the perfect size. (I hasten to add that the definition of perfect was entirely self imposed… why as women are we so hard on ourselves?) However I’m sure there isn’t a woman reading who can’t identify with the feelings I’ve described at some point in this post. I wrote about it all because I don’t ever want people to look at my what to wear posts and feel inadequate, or think there is some super-humanly confident person staring back at them. I wrote it because I know there are women who through self confidence issues or mental illness would never be able to step back and choose happiness over weight loss rather than equating weight loss with happiness and I wish I could change that.
As ever, please let me know if this post has made you think, if you have had a similar experience, or if I’ve struck a chord today. It’s an emotive subject and I look forward to hearing your opinions…