First week impressions of the Fit24 Challenge

(Warning contains references to digestive systems processes and “malfunctions”)

I’ve been part of a team doing a Fit24 Challenge for almost a week; it started on Saturday, 1st November 2014. There are three components to the challenge. The first is diet, the second is sleep and the third is exercise.

The diet is one that minimises free sugars, the little tykes of the carbohydrate family such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. They generally have their own line in the nutritional label. For the duration of the diet I need to eat foods with less than 10 grams of sugar per 100g i.e. it contains less than 10% sugar.

Nutritional label

Larger, complex carbohydrates such as those in wholegrain bread, oats, beans and rice are fine I think. We are also urged not to restrict fat so cheese, full fat yoghurt etc are encouraged. Nuts, in moderation, are recommended as snacks. Spreads such as peanut butter and avocado are to replace jams. Dried fruit is also out (lip wobble, Mwaaahaaa haaaa sob, sob) – fresh fruit is ok but only up to 2 serves per day.

The guidelines around bread and pasta are a bit confusing. Neither of these common foods feature in the “what’s in, what’s out” guide which is an A3 poster with pictures of what is in and a text list of what is out. Coconut milk gets a tick, cream gets a tick, cheese gets a tick along with vegetables, salads, nuts, peanut butter, rice. Alcohol, cakes, biscuits, ice-cream, jam, sugar, sugary cereals such as Nutrigrain, low fat products, dried fruit etc are out. Bread and pasta don’t feature in either list and this is strange given they are likely to be common in people’s current diets. There is just one sentence on the website “Sugar is what we call a fast carbohydrate. Things like bread and pasta are also fast carbohydrates” but no comment that I could find about whether or not we can eat them as part of the challenge. Oddly there are no guidelines on potato chips either but I won’t partake.

The reduction in free sugars is similar to that recommended in a recent comment piece in “The Lancet” by Jim Mann, Rachael McLean, Murray Skeaff , Lisa Te Morenga but they recommend being vigilant about fat content in your diet as well i.e. that it is 30% or less.

During the month we are allowed 6 treat days where the rules can be dropped.

So to emphasize; this isn’t a low carbohydrate, high protein and high fat diet. Things like tabouli, a steaming serve of rice, porridge and home cooked wholegrain bread bring me too much joy in consumption for me to ever consider cutting them out. They fill a need that extends beyond their nutritional value.

The snack I’m currently munching on is some lettuce, grated carrot, thinly sliced red capsicum wrapped in a tortilla spread thinly with avocado, peanut butter, a squeeze of lime, salt & pepper. I was pleasantly surprised given it was a totally unplanned, “what IS there in the fridge that I can eat, given that the weekly shopping day isn’t till tomorrow”.

So far I have been able to keep to the diet. However I have noticed a couple of changes. I’ve been thirstier and I am feeling more frequently light headed or have a mild headache and a psyche of dissatisfaction. I haven’t noticed a difference at all in how often I feel hungry.

With respect to snacks -there’s more time needed on food prep with chopping of carrots, celery, capsicum etc. instead of just washing or peeling a piece of fruit.

By far the worst problem is that my digestive system feels more like I’m hosting a railway siding and a hot air balloon rather than an autobahn. However this may just be because I’ve changed the suite of things that I eat and some re-adjustment is necessary. I’m eating more pulses, almonds and cheese than I normally would. One of the foods featured on the in-list was soy milk. So I decided to substitute full fat whole soy milk for my normal low fat milk. According to my friend this can cause flatulence.

I did a quick Google scholar search and wow yes there are a range of peer reviewed papers on efforts of scientists to reduce the flatulence inducing properties of soy milk. Someone has even done a review on flatulence. My recommendation after a quick reconnaissance of the literature is that if you must have soy milk and don’t want gastric distress then use the more processed ones. Otherwise my friend recommends protein enriched rice milk.

Let’s move on…

I’ve been successful with the exercise recommendations. I’ve done at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This isn’t a huge change in my routine though.

Sleep has probably been the biggest challenge and the one I feel I have least control over. There were 2 nights out of 7 that I didn’t get the recommended 7 hours. The problem isn’t falling asleep – it is waking in the early hours and being unable to get back to sleep at all or for a couple of hours. The recommended strategy for dealing with this on the fit24 website is writing problems down and parking them however I didn’t have any outstanding worrisome issues that I could write down and put aside. I just couldn’t drift off to sleep again easily.

Unfortunately…

I haven’t lost any weight yet. By this time using my usual strategy I would have lost at least one kilo. In fact I’ve gained a kilo. I’m hoping this is a temporary glitch. There are three more weeks to go.

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