*Trigger warning – diet discussion* I’m sorry. I’ve knowingly lured you in under false pretenses. Because this isn’t really about what I eat in a day – well it is a bit. But it’s more about how I’ve changed my perspective on (and my general annoyance over) diet culture. I’m sure you’ve seen the trend on Insta and TikTok (I don’t have ‘TikTok’, I’m fifty). Some twenty-something Fitspo (that’s short for fitness inspiration, I’m told) posts a video about…well, what she eats in a day. But not before she does a little ‘body check’ by pulling down her leggings a bit and showing you her sculpted abs. And the subtext really is, ‘I eat all this stuff and still stay lean, and so could you!’. Except you couldn’t, as she’s twenty-something and you’re fifty-something. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. There are the more insidious types who post ‘what they eat in a day’, and it really isn’t enough food to sustain a small child – UNFOLLOW. But most are just tying to show you that you don’t need to be on a big ol’ diet to be trim. And that’s okay. Apart from the fact that you cannot compare your body and your metabolism to somebody completely different to you in age and genetics.
I’ve been very much a convert of anti-diet culture for the last year. I was on a low carb diet before, but just got so tired of the restrictiveness and always having those restrictions control my life. And then I fractured my shoulder without even falling over, and I thought, ‘maybe there’s something missing from my diet – are the lack of carbs reducing my bone mass?’. There is no scientific evidence for this, yet. However, I stopped the low carb life I’d been living and ate in a more balanced way; all food groups back on the menu – carbs, yay! It was wonderful. I still rarely ate cakes or full-on sugary stuff (luckily, even though I REALLY like sugar, it doesn’t like me; it messes with my digestion). My weight stayed at an acceptable/maintenance level for a long while, and I started to build more muscle through the gym (I’d noticed stagnant muscle growth on the low carb diet, I guess my body just didn’t have enough of its prefered fuel source). So all was hunky-dory. Until peri-menopause started.
I know I mentioned it the other week, but I’m steadily gaining weight – through, I staunchly believe – little fault of my own. I’m up a jeans size and I haven’t been this heavy in a long time. I have some fairly fancy bathroom scales which break down body composition, and my muscle mass is most definitely up – so much so, the scales have switched me onto ‘Athlete Mode’ without my even asking (athlete mode, ha ha *shakes head*). But it isn’t all muscle. The fat is up too. And I don’t deserve it. You know, my mother has the right of it. She has never been on a diet in her life. Never. And I don’t think she’s overweight, either. She just eats what she wants, and thinks (I’m not sure she thinks this as she’s not as foul-mouthed as me), ‘f*ck it”. I want to be like that. I want to just go to a cafe and have a coffee which is mainly full-fat milk that’s just had a passing glance at a coffee bean, and drink it – with a big slice of coffee & walnut cake. My mother would. It never did her any harm.
Did you know, and you won’t like this, a woman of fifty requires two hundred fewer calories per day than a woman in her twenties? And a woman of sixty needs four to five hundred fewer calories!? How is that fair? And where does it end? You cut and cut and cut until you eat barely anything at all? So if I hear one more Fitspo condescendingly telling me, ‘it’s science – calories in must be less than calories out – you simply need to be in a calorie deficit.’ F*ck your science. Come back and tell me that when you’re fifty and all your little tricks don’t work anymore – because they won’t. We’ve all thought we had a diet epiphany, ‘it’s so easy! I should write a book! Why doesn’t everyone do this?’. They did. It worked, and then it didn’t. The body adapted; it got wise. The REAL science is, eating a constantly low calorie diet just makes your metabolism even slower and reduces your bone mass. So, low calorie (which I’ve known for some time) just isn’t sustainable. And I apologise if I’ve ever lead you on this blog or anyone else in real life to believe that it was (yes, I’ve ignorantly peddled that bullshit too, but life is about learning from your mistakes). And these Fitspo really need to educate themselves on the ageing process.
The anti-dieter in me thinks, ‘oh well, your body is supposed to change, and weight gain isn’t necessarily a bad thing’. But then the medic in me says, ‘well, you can’t just let things get out of hand; become so heavy that you have a huge mountain to climb to lose it – what about type two diabetes? What about all the health implications that would bring?’. So after Christmas, I tried to work out my ideal calories in a scientific way. I calculated my BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) multiplied by my TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) – it’s a big old calculation and you’d have to look up the equation but I was allotted 1,800 calories a day. It should have worked. But alas, because I’m fifty – and I have the genetics I have – I just carried in getting heavier. And now, much to my chagrin (but just for the month of February) I’ve put myself back on a low carb diet. I know! I know! I don’t want to be doing this, but it’s really more of an experiment. I’m not really enjoying this kind of food anymore, I feel a bit queasy with all the meat and fat, and I’m bored stiff of salads, and I’m worried about the reduced carb fuel source. But I felt I needed to shock my body out of a funk. I’m not hungry, at least. And it worked before – but don’t all diets? It’s too early to tell you if it’s working this time. Honestly, it’s just for the month of February *she reiterates again because there has to be an end to this*. And after that? Maybe a Mediterranean diet (not really a diet at all, but rather a lifestyle)? I want and will have carbs back on the menu, but perhaps not go quite so mental on the bread.
Look, I don’t want to be skinny. I’m not genetically built for it. I don’t come from a skinny people. I just want to be athletic – or strong enough to live my best life, it’s not really about aesthetics anymore. That’s why I’ll always go to the gym; I truly enjoy it and my body needs it to age well. Perhaps, food wise, I’ll just live my best life the way my mother does. Y’know, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and what will all the weight-watching and restriction have been for? How shit would it be if you knew life was going to end tomorrow and you’d never enjoyed the delicious food; the slice of cake, the Bombay potatoes, the fish and chips? I am NOT prepared to be on a diet in my sixties. Or my seventies. I’m not even prepared to be on one now – after February, I’m done. It’s no way to live. And I’m tired of not really living.
NB: I do have another daily snack that’s not pictured. 2 squares of 70% dark chocolate (if you were worried).