When is the time right ?

A heath, fitness and nutrition post.

New year’s resolutions.

The right and wrong times to start a ‘diet’ or training ….or not.

Blog time : it’s late November 2020 and almost a year since i started my 3 month (planned) experiment to see if i could turn my health problems around.    Well, what was supposed to be a fairly short experiment, and i didn’t have much confidence at the start, has turned into a year so far of a completely different way of life.    In that time iv’e lost some 16kg of fat, taken a good 6 or 7 inches off my waistline and accidentally reversed both my hypertension and my early arthritis.  On the downside my overall weight seems to have stabilised completely somewhat above where i would like it to be although even i have to admit that it’s a lot better than it was a year ago and maybe that it doesn’t matter that much.

Today i’m thinking back to last Christmas when i decided that i had to at least make an attempt to sort myself out and what i did was to allow myself a week of reading, researching and video watching and then in the first week of the new year went full car-crash Keto.  I admit that i didn’t really have a plan and i certainly didn’t have a plan, rather i just blundered my way into sugar and carbohydrate reduction while i tried to work out what and when to eat and how to exercise.  I’ll also admit that i made and continue to make lots of mistakes : one big mistake being that i didn’t talk my GP into doing some simple blood tests and neither did i get some measurements of my body fat profile done.

In today’s post though i want to pick up on the idea that many people have at this time of year and that is some form of new years resolution to ‘lose weight’, ‘go on a diet and/or ‘get fit’ and to do that i’d like to tell you a short story from my own past of being a gym goer…..hint…..lots of people join a gym in the first week of January and by mid February nearly all of them will give up.

To Gym or not to Gym ?

Ten years ago this month i went out walking on a very cold winter morning i had a very strange accident : just as i stepped down from a path into woodland i felt a sudden sharp snap and pop in one calf muscle….my gastrocnemus muscle had spontaneously torn.   It’s a long story so in the short version i ended up having to join the ‘posh’ (read expensive) gym cum health club so that i could have continuous access to a swimming pool over the holiday period so that i could start my rehab program .  Once i was mobile again i had to start using the gym, on physio advice, as i needed to regain stability and strength on that side, however, what i then did was that i decided to use that year membership of the gym to try and become radically fit (for my age)….thus i booked some time with one of the PT’s and he taught me the basics of training with free weights and for the first time in my life i took training very seriously indeed.

By the end of that first year i found that i was enjoying my gym time so much that it was an easy decision to continue my membership into the next year, by then also i’d become one of the weights room regulars and knew most of the PT’s to talk to when i wanted to add something to my routine.  In early January of that second year was when i first noticed the new years resolution gym fail for the first time…..and an apparently expensive fail as well.

What happened is that in that first week of the new year the gym was suddenly a lot busier at normally quiet times as the many new members turned up for their first sessions…..lots of new and smart training shoes and gym clothing on display and lost looking people wandering around looking at the strange equipment for the first time : and just to say that all new members were offered a gym orientation session with one of the trainers.

That morning i was doing an upper body push-pull split, working between the bench press and pull-up bar and i admit leaving my bench and bar set up between sets on that and sets on the pull-up.  Now, iv’e never had a strong bench press and partially at least because i have very long limbs for my height so the bar was only set at 60 Kg…at that time my 5 rep maximum.   Anyway, i finished a set on the bench and went straight over to the pull-up bar, all of 15 feet, and started a set on that…..then, as i looked around one of a couple that i’d clocked as gym beginners that day, a bit lost looking, was on the bench , had un-racked the bar and it was now resting on his chest as he was unable to press it beyond a few inches off one side…..i quickly ran back over and lifted the bar off his chest and racked it.  Not muc was said : he gave a kind of rueful grin and his wife just looked embarrassed…..then after maybe a quarter of an hour in the gym they disappeared and i note, i never saw either of them again.

As a postscript to that i mentioned the incident to one of the PT’s a couple of weeks after and all he said was ‘don’t worry…..most of the newbies will be gone inside 6 weeks’ !……sad but apparently true.

So….is the new year a good time to start training, or start a ‘diet’ ?

What the evidence suggests is that nearly everyone who starts a diet or takes up a gym membership (or both) at new year fails and drops out within the first 6 weeks of doing so : iv’e been doing a lot of thinking about that because it was the last new year when i started my 3 month experiment and it’s still going 11 months later so iv’e failed on the failure (this time).

Now, i’m not so sure that there is a good or easy time, or best time, to start a training regime or some kind of diet but there may be some very bad ones and i happen to think that the new year just might be one of the worst times : here i’d like to explain why.    As i continue to study the subject i keep kicking over new stones in my quest for insights into health success and failure, recently iv’e been taking a serious look at sugar/carbohydrate addiction and come to the conclusion that i may well have been a carb addict….notably a sugar-hit addict, at some time i’m going to talk about that lightbulb moment in the blog.

Having been extremely skeptical that there was such a thing as sugar/carbohydrate addiction i’m now convinced that there is, in fact that it makes perfect sense physiologically and psychologically because of it’s opioid-like and mood-affecting qualities …..as i said above, i need to come back to that.  Given that i now accept concepts such as carbohydrate addiction and unhealthy habits and relationships to food then it also follows that they might be seasonal.  I for example used to experience quite bad seasonal affective disorder (SAD) when i worked a lot of night shifts and i can also associate those times with excessively high carbohydrate consumption : i note here ‘association’ and not of course causation….just an anecdotal observation.

It’s true though that SAD or the winter blues do affect a lot of people and it seems to be the case that many people turn to the sugar hit as a form of comfort over the winter…..just look at the Christmas excess that seems to start with ‘Christmas’ mince pies and family sized tins of cheap chocolates in the supermarkets right now (November).    My hint of a suggestion here is that if you are someone who uses sugar/carbs to help control your mood then going ‘cold turkey’ from sugar addiction in the first week of January might be an impossible thing to do……go to the gym/go out for a run in the dark and rain……or curl up on the sofa with the biscuit tin ? .  Well, you might get it right for a few days or a few weeks but when you’re feeling hungry and miserable from the latest form of food restriction diet and not seeing that perfect beach body appear in the mirror then what chance do you have of success.

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