Brinkmanship (ii)

I have been out on another four runs since my last post. Most importantly, the latest, this morning, was the first in which not only did I experience no pain or discomfort in my right knee during the run, but I have also experienced precisely zero pain or discomfort post run. Hopefully, this is the last post which I will need to tag ‘recovery‘ for some time. 😉

Across my eight runs so far this year, I can see my returning cardiovascular fitness reflected in my generally constant average HR, notwithstanding the increasing distance or reducing rest days. I plan to be running every other day soon.

date distance average pace average HR rest period since previous run
5 Mar 7.0k 5:00/km 141 2 days
2 Mar 6.0k 4:59/km 140 3 days
27 Feb 6.0k 4:58/km 144 2 days
24 Feb 6.0k 5:00/km 139 4 days
19 Feb 5.5k 5:00/km 139 5 days
13 Feb 5.0k 5:10/km 145 10 days
2 Feb 5.0k 5:18/km 139 2 days
30 Jan 5.0k 5:20/km 148 3 months

I have some way to go though to return to levels of fitness of early 2015; on 29 January that year I ran 16.1k, averaging 5:00/km and HR 126, and that was my fifth consecutive running day. It is not co-incidental that, just a few weeks later, was the last time I achieved a significant PB. (I recorded a 5000m PB in April 2015, but, in only my second participation in the discipline, there was little likelihood of not recording a PB that evening.)

There are a couple of other brinks that need manning too …

My weight. Having returned to close to 70kg by Christmas I’m a bit frustrated by my disappointment, in not running in the first quarter of 2016, being expressed in weight gain. At 72.3kg today, my first goal is to return to sub 70kg by late Spring and then, hopefully buoyed by ongoing fitness and some racing success, to press towards something close to 66kg.

At 72.3kg today, my first goal is to return to sub 70kg …

Finally, my RunBritain handicap is now languishing at 7.9, its lowest value since mid 2012 when it was still rising following my return to running at the beginning of that year. I don’t have absolute goals in mind for my handicap, but would enjoy a return to my previous peak of 5.1 recorded in December 2014.


My RunBritain handicap is at its lowest value since mid 2012 … I would enjoy a return to my previous peak of 5.1 recorded in December 2014.


Success! [5:2 Diet, Epilogue i]

Those of you who have been enthralled by my recent series of posts (the precursors to this post being chapters one, two and three) regarding my attempts to control my eating and lose a small amount of weight will perhaps be disappointed that we are entering the epilogue. (For completeness the effective prologues “Can’t Weight!” and “Redemption?” should also probably be included as part of the canon.) However, I cannot contain my satisfaction a moment longer. I weighed in this morning at 67kg!

something something

Weight change from 25 March to 9 June 2014 achieved using Fast Diet approach to weight control.

Whilst 67kg is strictly short of my 66kg running weight goal, I decided this morning – a scheduled fast day; currently Mondays and Thursdays – not to fast and to adopt a practice of weighing in on each scheduled fast day and only fasting if I weigh more than 67kg. This formalises what I have been doing by feel over the past few weeks. On a few scheduled fast days I have either skipped the fast entirely or modified the day so that I have eaten a light breakfast and even lighter lunch as normal, but have then also eaten a light dinner rather than omitting it entirely as has become my habit. The Fast Diet book suggests moving from a 5:2 pattern to a 6:1 pattern as an option to maintain weight which is essentially what I have begun to do.

The last few weeks have been successful not only in that I have effectively achieved my weight goal, but also that I have not binge eaten either. As a direct tool for weight loss the Fast Diet has certainly worked for me. But more than that, and the core reason why I intend to continue fasting as part of my lifestyle, I have found that each fast day effectively resets and re-calibrates my physical sense of hunger, re-sensitises me mentally to my eating choices and reasserts my control over eating and my weight.

As of the last few weeks I am back to running around 20 miles a week and I’m aware that there is still significant recovery required; for my sprained right ankle which is still noticeably ill at ease in comparison to the left one, for my cardiovascular system as it adjusts to my renewed activity after 6 sedentary weeks and for my body composition; dieting as I have been and mostly without exercise I have certainly lost significant muscle as well as fat. I’m looking forward to returning strength, fitness and my next PB!

Stillman running weight

I first came across the Stillman running weight formula sometime in 2012 although I can no longer find the particularly thorough article in which I first read about it. The formula presumably comes from the pre internet age as I can only find it referred to indirectly online and even then some articles* appear to have been published offline before appearing online.

The formula reflects the simple observation that elite runners are typically lighter than non-runners (of healthy weight) and that as the event distance increases so the athlete tends to be proportionally even lighter. Whether there was any physiological justification of the formula is not clear from the articles I’ve seen; it may be that Dr Stillman derived the formula mathematically to best model the weight of elite runners at the various event distances. I’m writing about the formula not to prescribe a particular running weight as “right”, but purely because I’ve used it to set a personal running weight goal and found using it interesting.

The formula uses imperial units for both weight and height and though I’ve seen the formula re-expressed to use metric units I’ve found it simpler to convert my metric height to feet and inches via Google and subsequently convert the imperial weight value produced to kilogrammes. If imperial units meet all your needs it’s a calculation that can easily be done mentally.

The formula can be expressed concisely in two steps:

Calculate a base value for a healthy, non-active individual by adding 5½ lbs (male) or 5lbs (female) for every inch in height over 5 feet to 110lbs (male) or 100lbs (female).

Modify the base value reducing it by a percentage dictated by event type; sprinters 2½%, hurdlers 6%, middle distance runners 12% and long distance runners 15%.

In my case, a five foot ten inch male, the base value is calculated as:

10 x 5.5 + 110 = 165 lbs = 11 stone 11 lbs = 74.8kg

And modified as below for each event type. [Note  the additional information on what constitutes a sprinter, hurdler etc.]

event type reduction weight BMI
non-active 11 stone 11 lbs 74.8kg 23.7
sprinter (100m – 400m) 2½% 11 stone 7 lbs 73.0kg 23.1
hurdler (100m – 400m) 6% 11 stone 1 lb 70.4kg 22.3
middle-distance (800m – 10K) 12% 10 stone 5 lbs 65.9kg 20.8
long-distance (10 miles plus) 15% 10 stone 0 lbs 63.6kg 20.1

I spent some time considering my racing weight in the context of the formula during early and mid 2012 and in the process decided I was most definitely a middle distance, not a long distance, runner. That is quite likely the case as subsequent performances over 800m, 1500m and one mile would appear to confirm, but at the time it was more in the harsh light of the results produced by the formula. When I first completed the calculation, the goal weight for even a middle distance runner seemed to border on the impossible; I had come close to 70kg / 11st as an adult, but only momentarily. Nonetheless by the time I set my running targets for 2013 I had fixed my goal at 66kg / 10st 5lbs / BMI 20.8.

By August 2012 I’d come close to 70kg / 11st as an adult, but only momentarily.

By August 2012 I had come close to 70kg / 11st as an adult, but only momentarily.

Writing now, within 2kg of my goal weight, it doesn’t seem extreme to any degree; it’s remarkable what a change of position does for perspective. I’ve read that every pound of excess weight lost can be expected to produce a two seconds per mile increase in pace …

event PB weight at PB hypothetical PB
at 66.0kg
800m 2:25.9 71.6kg 2:13.6
1500m 5:18.2 71.2kg 4:56.8
1 mile 5:31.7 73.7kg 5:08.8
5k 18:55 73.5kg 17:13
5 mile 31:36 71.5kg 29:35
10k 39:33 71.6kg 37:00
10 mile 66:41 71.3kg 62:48
half marathon 88:16 73.2kg 81:20

There are some pretty exciting numbers there! I’m looking forward to achieving my goal weight, returning to full fitness after my recent ankle sprain and then rigorously testing out my new physique to see just how much difference it makes.

* See articles at Serpentine and Horwich RMI Harriers club sites.

Weighting too long … [5:2 diet, chapter 3]

One problem with keeping a post in draft too long, aside from thoughtlessly keeping my adoring public waiting, is that the whole tone of the piece may need to change as circumstances unfold. This post for example was set to be an entirely positive update at the end of my fifth week using the Fast Diet (5:2 diet). A further week in draft and I have another binge eating episode to record. I’m not going to detail the crime scene as I did in my last post, but several gingerbread men, assorted nuts and raisins and two small golden rabbits were involved. Oh well.

Weighing in last week at 69.3kg I had achieved my short term goal by reaching 70kg / 11 stone by the end of April. Even with this week’s lapse I remain inside that threshold at 69.9kg. When first calculating my goal running weight I rationalised that whilst 66kg was potentially the optimum for running performance I wanted to stay at or under 70kg at all times. Having now achieved that for the first time I want to maintain it.

The 5:2 pattern, fasting for 2 days and eating normally for the other 5, has become part of the rhythm of life and I find myself genuinely looking forward to my fast days every Tuesday and Friday. I notice the taste of my food and savour it more, particularly the food eaten on fast days and breakfast the following morning, but also at other times. It seems that the fast days continually re-calibrate my appetite both in terms of restraining my physical appetite and increasing my conscious consideration of food. My habit of binge eating is quite separate and I’ve gained awareness and some control just by blogging about it.

I now think that retaining the 5:2 pattern permanently, beyond my immediate desire to lose further weight to achieve my goal running weight, is not such a strange proposition after all. This is what is proposed in the Fast Diet book since there is evidence that intermittent fasting produces health benefits aside from its effectiveness in weight management. For the last few weeks my typical fast day nutrition has been as described below. I changed from the porridge and poached egg that I had typically eaten for the first two weeks since it included no fruit or vegetables and, given that I’ve not been running either, was leaving me feeling distinctly lethargic. Yes, that’s a euphemism.

typical fast day nutrition
cereal: 30g bran flakes, 15g all bran, 35g porridge oats, 165g semi skimmed milk
energy: 110 + 50 + 133 + 81 = 374 calories

tuna salad: 139g tuna, 10g olive oil, chinese leaf, spinach, cherry tomatoes
energy: 138 + 88 = 226 calories (+ salad)

one white coffee: 1g instant coffee, 20ml semi-skimmed milk, 5g brown sugar
energy: 2 + 10 + 19 = 31 calories

TOTAL: 621 calories (+ salad)

Fast Diet, chapter 3, weight graph

Weight change from 25 March 2014 to date achieved using Fast Diet approach as modified by two episodes of binge eating.

Here’s to maintaining my sub 70kg weight.

Reality check [5:2 diet, chapter 2]

The first post describing my Fast Diet (5:2 diet) weight control efforts was almost uniformly positive. I recorded a weight loss of 1.6kg in the first week and the post culminated in the first fast day of the second week; another successful day.

This trajectory continued through day 11, the second fast day of the week, which was unlike anything I’d experienced previously. Starting the day with porridge I barely felt hungry as the afternoon progressed and didn’t eat until about 7:00pm, enjoying my by now standard dinner time poached egg about two hours later than I have previously.

typical fast day nutrition
porridge: 60g rolled oats, 200ml semi-skimmed milk, 5g brown sugar
energy: 228 + 98 + 19 = 345 calories
poached egg: 40g slice wholemeal bread, 54g medium egg, 7g olive spread
energy: 88 + 82 + 38 = 208 calories
one white coffee: 1g instant coffee, 20ml semi-skimmed milk, 5g brown sugar
energy: 2 + 10 + 19 = 31 calories
TOTAL: 584 calories

On day 12, weighing myself informally, I was disappointed to find that my weight was exactly as it had been at the same point in the previous week implying that I was unlikely to record any weight loss when weighing in formally at the end of the week.

The following day I felt a little low though nothing exceptional in the context of my normal first world bubble; my anticipated lack of weight loss and not having run for almost three weeks since spraining my ankle were probably no more influential than the typical stresses of life. Nonetheless I was aware as I picked up a two finger KitKat during the afternoon that I was going to eat it for comfort; not as a treat. The comfort did not materialise; it never does of course or rather the fleeting sensory comfort is almost immediately overtaken by the antithetical emotional response and the negative feedback creates a strong urge to repeat the error. After my third KitKat I somehow distracted myself.

Despite this distraction the urge remained and a few hours later, in the late evening and by now watching TV on my own, I sought out the elements of cheese and biscuits. Normally, if that’s the right word, when binge eating I do not take notice of what I am eating, rather quite the opposite. The full cycle described in the previous paragraph is essentially “eat, fleeting comfort, negative emotion, urge to repeat, repeat”. In reality this becomes “eat, fleeting comfort, repeat” thus avoiding any negative emotion for the duration of the binge. On this occasion that wasn’t quite the case, I couldn’t eat completely mindlessly as I was aware that I would be posting about my experience here and this forced more present consciousness of my actions upon me. However I don’t think that this made any difference to the number of repetitions of the truncated cycle. Afterwards, as usual, I put everything away and did not confront myself with any detail of what I had eaten, but the next morning, again because of the knowledge that I wanted to write about my experience here, I made a point of seeking out the packet of crackers and the block of cheese to calculate/honestly estimate how much I had eaten. I have never done this before.

CSI binge
cream crackers: 13
nutrition: 455 calories, 14g of fat
cheese: 36g
nutrition: 150 calories, 13g of fat
olive spread: sufficient for 13 crackers – 45.5g
nutrition: 244 calories, 27g of fat
TOTAL: 849 calories, 54g of fat

In the context of my, currently sedentary, nutrition requirements of just under 2000 calories and just under 80g of fat per day that is a massive amount to have eaten in addition to a normal day’s food. The following day, yesterday, was better in that there was no concerted binge, but again I forced myself to note food I ate for comfort in addition to the normal meals of the day; three chocolate chip brioche and a wholemeal bagel.

Both the results of the calculation and the act of publishing this post are uncomfortable and I’m consciously not directly promoting this post via Facebook or Twitter as I normally do for my running related posts … I find myself wondering if other binge eaters have a similar pattern? If my ‘truncated cycle’ is a common experience? If anyone else blogs on this subject?

And so this morning, day 15, I weighed myself. 71.9 kg, no change. Reality.

Oh, I almost forgot the 3 two finger KitKats: 318 calories and 16g of fat. Check.

Weight for it … [5:2 diet, chapter 1]

So one week into my renewed weight control efforts using a Fast Diet (5:2 diet) approach, things seem to be going well. Of course. It comes as no surprise to me that, having taken my previously private food struggles online and implicitly invited the world to hold me accountable, my self discipline has been all but flawless; food binges have not featured at all and my day to day discipline has been good.

day 1, fast – Tuesday
Starting weight 73.5kg. Porridge for breakfast, no lunch and a single poached egg on toast for dinner. I drank plenty of water throughout the day and had some noticeable sensations of hunger in the afternoon, but overall I felt that the day wasn’t that difficult.

On day 2, a normal day, I actually repeated my previous day’s breakfast and felt comfortable; not urgently compelled to compensate for the calories missed the previous day. During day 3 I decided to bring forward my second fast day to avoid it falling on a weekend.

day 4, fast – Friday
I repeated my menu and eating pattern from the first day; porridge for breakfast, no midday meal and a single poached egg on toast for dinner. I did feel a little more insistently hungry in the afternoon, but drinking plenty of water helped me through to my evening meal. At the end of the day I felt that it had been harder than the first fast and wondered, with just a little trepidation, how my third fast day would feel.

Saturday, eating normally, I enjoyed a fabulous morning in the local swimming pool with The Cyclist* and our two little girls and snuggled up on the sofa with them in the afternoon watching “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue”; any film is elevated watching it with two wide eyed little girls! We accompanied the movie with a huge saucepan full of home popped popcorn – just 475 calories – eaten between us. I didn’t check the calories in the accompanying raisins though. Later that evening whilst watching TV on my own; prime binge eating time, I sought out a two finger KitKat … ate only one and left the rest of the packet intact! I think that accompanying it with a coffee, not my normal habit, really helped.

On Sunday, between meals, I needlessly ate one of The Cyclist’s Tracker bars and, still in that “needless” mindset, was momentarily tempted to follow it up with peanut butter and jam on toast. I swerved to Marmite on toast just in time and, taking into account my light lunch, felt satisfied that I’d managed to remain on an even keel. Later that evening I found myself craving “something” … I quickly ruled out anything significant, briefly considered coffee, but in the end just drank water.

day 8, fast – Tuesday
Having weighed myself informally immediately after my day 4 fast I knew that, at that point, I’d lost significant weight, but of course at that time I had fasted two days and only eaten normally for the two intervening days; I still had to eat normally for a further three days to complete the week. Stepping on the scales after I woke up I recorded 71.9kg, a loss of 1.6kg; approximately 3½ lbs. Though if anything that is a little quick, I am aware that a first week often produces a larger than typical loss. Swapping my porridge for a more typical cereal and milk breakfast I stuck with my poached egg on toast for dinner eating it a little earlier than normal at about 4:00pm to ensure I didn’t fade walking my daughters to the park and back.

I’m looking forward to the coming week, building on my progress and thinking up further painful “weight/wait” puns.

* DC Rainmaker, whose blog I regularly read refers to his partner throughout as “The Girl”. I’m not quite sure why. So I’ve decided upon “The Cyclist” as the affectionate nomenclature for my most significant other.


It has been less than 24 hours since my last confession.

That post was in draft for several months as I tried to gain control of my weight; control that would be evidenced by my weight reducing towards my running weight goal. As I continued to drift in the wrong direction so I would reassure myself that the following day offered another, equally good, opportunity to improve my food behaviour and reverse the trend. And when I occasionally revised my draft post and considered publishing it I felt that I couldn’t as I had little to report beyond the passing of the days and the increase in my weight.

recent weight graph

My recent weight history consists of three distinct phases: 2012 – return to running and associated significant weight loss, 2013 – levelling off in weight despite 66kg goal, 2014 – continuing trend, started towards the end of twenty thirteen, of weight gain …

I am firmly of the opinion that weight control is purely psychological in nature for those of us who aren’t affected by food poverty or a physiological condition that supersedes this. With that caveat weight control succeeds or fails entirely on the choices made day to day, moment by moment. With a basic understanding of nutrition and what constitutes a balanced diet, it is clear that the only rational approach to weight control is to restrict food calorie intake to match calorie expenditure to maintain weight and to restrict it a little further to lose weight.

To date all my weight management has applied this approach in its simplest form; daily restriction of calorie intake. Typically this is done fairly informally; I don’t often calculate calorific values for my meals, but use my experience to judge. For some this approach in itself is the primary cause of failure due to misjudging calorific intake, but as can be seen from my previous post in my case the primary cause is much clearer. It’s taken two posts to approach using the phrase, but here it is; “binge eating“. I don’t want to medicalise my eating choices and I do not exhibit the full range of symptoms described, but a selective quote from the NHS Choices website linked to above accurately describes my behaviour:

” … feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis … consume … quantities of food over a short period of time … often eat even when they are not hungry … usually takes place in private … feelings of guilt”

The quote is somewhat selective, but I think that this reflects that I am at the lower end of the spectrum of severity of binge eating and associated behaviours rather than that I am forcing an inappropriate description to fit.

So yes, “Redemption?” I want a shot at redemption. When does the redemption start?

A few nights ago I got around to reading my wife’s copy of “The Fast Diet” or the slightly less snappy “The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting – Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer” as Amazon UK have it. Either way it was a very interesting read and solely from a weight control / loss perspective it is possible to sum up the message in a two or three sentences:

“Eat normally 5 days a week. Fast, consuming only a quarter of your normal calorie intake, on the other two days. Yes, you’ll eat more on the non-fast days to compensate, but overall you are unlikely to compensate fully and hence there will be a net reduction in calorie intake.”

I find this approach very appealing primarily because it requires concentrated focus on food for only two days a week. Also the days are contrastingly different and clearly defined; I will either be fasting or not. It may be that this appeals to me for similar reasons that running does; short periods of concentrated effort with known end points and extended recovery periods. Daily calorie counting on the other hand requires constant food focus and has little contrast from day to day and it is too easy to defer goals and not notice the passing of time. More like cricket.

As suggested in the book I didn’t procrastinate and fasted for the first time the day before yesterday. I shall fast again the day after tomorrow.