England Football Team - More Woes

A couple of months ago I posted my views on McLaren as England Coach. I didn't feel he was up to the job back then, and I don't feel he's up to the job now.

Today, England were beaten by Russia in the Euro 2008 qualifiers and have a slim chance of qualifying. Russia qualify if they beat Israel and Andorra. England will not be invited to the party.

Its nothing personal against McLaren. I don't see him as capable of producing a strong side, playing fluid, entertaining football. His Middlesbrough team were mediocre at best. Since he's taken the helm at England, their game has been laboured and lacking imagination.

Come on FA, roll out the next failure...

Rugby - England v France

I watched the England-France game on Saturday, and amazingly England beat the host nation. It was a very close game with little great rugby to shout about. What a thrilling encounter between two evenly matched sides. The game could have swung either way, any time to the final whistle. Commiserations to the French team and their supporters.

Considering how poor England performed in the early games of this tournament, and the results they've recently achieved over more strongly favoured nations, what can be attributed to the turnaround in their game? From the newspaper and online reports I've read, there are a number of things.

The return of Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson is such a vital component of the England team, when he's absent, the team limps along. His kicking is superb, most of the time. (Recently his kickin from has been average). Wilkinson has been plagued with injuries and since his return, and has not found his sniper-like accuracy with his kicks. His work rate is truly amazing. He throws himself at any opposing player, no matter their size. This attitude infects his team mates and they develop dogged can-do mentality.

Finding the right team and balance
Brian Ashton, the England coach inherited a dispirited team that limped from one beating to the next. Its taken Ashton a while to get a feel for the team and the players. Getting them to gel, to play cohesively and to play for each other has taken time. Ashton had to rethink his game play in the light of poor early results. Ashton was initially reluctant to play the power-game, in favour of a more attacking approach, as had Robinson his predecessor.

Rediscovering the desire and will to win
A team that has little desire to win, will win nothing. That's a fact. You can see this in nature. When two animals fight over a carcass, the one with the greatest desire and will to win will get his meal. The other will give up and go elsewhere looking for fresh game or scraps. In sport, it is no different. This cannot be over emphasized.

The belief they can win
The desire to win must be allied to a belief you can win. Without this belief acting as a firm foundation, the enterprise will collapse.

The confidence to support the above
Finally confidence, the all-important ingredient, essential for any success. Without confidence your going nowhere.

Even Liverpool FC's manager Rafa Benitez, realises how important confidence is in achieving results. Listen to his post match interviews and how often he states lack of confidence as a factor in the teams poor performance.

Fasting and Glycogen

As a result of the stomach bug I picked up in Egypt, I stopped taking solid foods last Saturday. The last time I ate anything solid was Friday 5th October. I haven't taken anything since then.

I know I've lost weight, as my jeans are looser than a week ago. I weighed myself last Friday and I was 11st 10lbs (164 lbs). I decided to have a weigh-in today to see how much I lost. Last weigh-in I stood on the scales completely naked. This removes the possibility of shoes or clothes providing a misleading reading.

I fired up the electronic scales and in my best (make that only) birthday suit, I stood on the scales. The reading swung up, then down and settled at 11st 2lbs (156 lbs). I've lost 8 lbs in a week.

I know from past experience some of the weight will come back when I start eating. I will add back 2 or 3 lbs. This is explained by the glycogen stores in the body slowly depleting during the fast. When you start eating, the glycogen is restored to its normal level. One of the reason you feel drowsy or light-headed during a fast. Insufficient glycogen stores to meet demand.

Its also the cause of frustration and disappointment among dieters. They normally hit their target weight and stop. Get off the diet and back to eating normally, add back 3 lbs and get cheesed off. Now you know why.

Today I feel fine, taking fruit juice, weak coffee and water. Its well into day 8, and I'm gonna watch the England v France, Rugby World Cup semi-final on TV in a couple of hours.

I'll update again in a few days.

Lack Of Willpower

I Have None

"I can resist everything except temptation" -- Oscar Wilde

All around we see products advertised to help us lose weight. It seems there's a new fad diet every week. The Low-Carb diet. The No-Carb diet. The Pineapple diet. The Atkins diet. The Fruit-Only diet. A couple of days ago I saw the Baby-Food diet is vogue in Hollywood. How silly.

Why is it people have so much trouble losing weight. Surely, its just a case of getting on the diet and sticking with it. The diet does the rest. I got thinking about this in the light of my recent experience.

Why do people keep chasing the latest fad diet? Is the newest fad better than the last one? Reflecting on this I realised its not the diet that fails, its the dieter.

I saw a TV ad the other night, part of the Government drive to get people to quit smoking. Bottom of the screen in small print said: "Willpower required". There's the rub. You hit the same problem whether you give up smoking, give up food (ie go on a diet), give up sweets, give up drugs, give up computer games. Giving up any of these activities "Requires willpower".

Lets talk about dieting for a moment (though this applies to other things). Most diets fail in the first few days. This is when we experience the greatest onslaught of desire. It comes at you in waves, overwhelms you and the dieter throws in the towel. A person may start a diet with great conviction, desire and will to succeed, but after a couple of days, their willpower disappears like the darkness of night before the morning sun.

The hardest part is when the desire to eat hits you. No diet can give you this willpower, you have to get it yourself, or at least cultivate it. When the desire hits, you need to grit your teeth and hang in there. Abandoning your existing diet or changing to a diet you believe will be more successful, misses the point. Your gonna come head-to-head with your desires whichever diet your on.

Its funny. I've heard people say: "I tried xxxxx diet and it didn't work". What they mean: "I tried xxxxx diet and I caved in when the hunger pangs and the craving started. I just couldn't take it, cos I have little or no willpower".

Its the same for smokers. People decide to quit smoking, smoke their last cigarette. Throw away the pack with whatever cigarettes are left. Give away their lighter. Next day its Cold Turkey. All the resolve and willpower they had when they quit has disappeared. Its deserted them. They chew gum, eat sweets, use patches, smoke plastic cigarettes. Pace the floor till they can't take it anymore, then light up. "I'll give up next week".

Willpower is not a commodity you can buy. Its not for sale in supermarkets. You don't get it in diet books. It's an individual characteristic and a personal quality. If you don't have willpower and wish to quit smoking or go on a diet, you got problems. No diet can give you willpower. No nicotine patch can give you willpower. You have to supply willpower yourself. But most people don't know how.

If you don't have willpower, how do you get it?

Egypt, Stomach Bugs and Fasting

This summer I went on holiday to Egypt for two weeks. I picked up a stomach bug. On returning to England, I suffered from sickness, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and sleepless nights. This continued for weeks, I was hoping it would sort itself out, the body would deal with it and normality would return. No way.

Its now October and little has changed. Each time I think its getting better, another wave of nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea. I went to my doctor, who put me on a course of anti-biotics. They didn't work. He was at a loss and sent me to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in central London. There they took blood, urine and stool samples, and instructed me to return in two weeks. Their early diagnosis was "Amoebic Dysentery", but this was unconfirmed. On returning home, I looked it up on the web, its a form of parasite and the body has no way of dealing with it.

The stomach pains were bad. Each time I ate food I was feeding the bugs. They seemed to be celebrating, particularly if I had dairy produce.

Last Friday I ate heartily, not a blow-out but I ate well. The next day, Saturday, I was in trouble. When was this going to end. So much stomach pain. Enough was enough. I vowed not to eat again till this thing had been diagnosed and treated.

All day Saturday, I drank fruit juice, and small amounts of diet coke and diet lemonade. The diet coke tasted foul and I switched to weak coffee. Sunday, things seemed a little better, as the bugs had been deprived their usual nourishment. I stuck with the diet, drinking fruit juice and the occasional weak coffee.

Monday was uneventful, it passed quietly. Tuesday I was wacked. I felt sick and slept for 2 - 3 hours in the afternoon. I was sticking to the fruit juice.

Wednesday it was back to the hospital, for the results. More urine samples and wait to see the consultant. He was really nice and understanding. He admitted they had not identified the parasite, but all the evidence seemed to indicate it was "giardia lamlia".

"Here take these pills, but no alcohol for 4 or 5 days, or you'll vomit". "Another thing, they may leave a metallic taste in your mouth". I was put on a course of Tinidazole. "Take four today and four more in five days time". "Remember, no alcohol". I explained that the stomach cramps were so bad, I had stopped taking solid food. "That's okay. Take the pills, stay off the solids for another 24 hours, then eat what you like". On the train home, I took the pills, the metallic taste slowly over-ran my taste buds.

Thursday, the diarrhoea returned with a vengence, I was on and off the pan all day. The stomach cramps returned, along with the nausea. I felt ill. Had they got the diagnosis wrong. Were these the wrong pills? Considering I hadn't eaten in 6 days, how come I was passing so much stuff?

I'd got used to going without food and when I felt a little faint, I'd take a sugar hit. This lifted my blood sugar level and I was back on track. Slowly the desire for food fell away. The rest of the house was eating and I could smell the delicious dishes being prepared in the kitchen, but it was okay. It didn't bother me much. My main aim was to stablise the cement mixer that was churning in my stomach. Avoiding solids seemed to help.

Its Friday evening on day 7. I don't feel weak and I have a mind to stick this out for another week... I'm gonna record my progress in this blog.

When I started I weighed in at 11st 10lbs (162lbs). I know I've lost weight, cos my jeans are loose. I'll weigh myself tomorrow and report back. I'm also gonna take some photos to record the change and include them in the blog.