Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Competition time

Luckily for me, my Rosemary Conley plan seems to be going surprisingly well. It's a christmas miracle! I've chosen a series of spicy main meals (which I'm cheating and eating for lunch, not supper) which are actually quite delicious - although I'm not sure my colleagues are so happy with me eating curry at my desk every day. And while I think of it, my husband's not so happy that I'm forcing him to have soup for supper every day. In fact, he's even refusing to allow me to call it supper any more...

So, I have a cunning plan to make sure that at least someone is happy! If your diet plan isn't go so well, and like me, you've got a series of Christmas party dresses to squeeze in to this month, the lovely people at Spanx are offering three lucky readers of this blog the chance to win their super-duper, Super High Power, best-selling shapewear!! The Spanx have a tummy-taming panel, and will even give your bum a lift. What's not to love??

Before                                        After

All you have to do is email me at by Wednesday 14th December, and tell me about your best diet success or failure, and the three best will win a pair of these fabulous Spanx. Good luck!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Diet #36, Rosemary Conley

This week, Rosemary Conley. I had assumed that she was she guru of all things 80's, and had no idea that her brand is alive and kicking and going strong all over the UK. Although I suspect from a quick google search that every photo of her was either taken in, or at least styled in, the eighties!

This diet has two core pillars - a low fat, low GI diet, with food that you can buy online, and weekly weigh-ins, with an exercise class.

The diet plan starts of with a very low cal, 1200 calorie/day diet, for two weeks, to kick start the process, followed by a still gruelling but more forgiving 1400 calories a day after that, which allows for alcohol and treats. As I'm only doing this for one week, I'm stuck on 1200 calories - but this is actually a blessing, as we're entering the christmas party season, and that bodycon dress that I'm dying to wear still doesn't match up in the mirror to how it should look in my head...

The class included a very mixed group of women, of various ages, shapes and sizes. They all had one thing in common - that they were MUCH, much more co-ordinated than me. In my defence, they'd all been before and this was my first class, but it may also have something to do with the fact that I have two left feet, and my arms seem to work totally independently from my legs, which in turn do not seem to be controlled by my brain. I have been known to dance, but usually only when there's alcohol involved, and a whole bottle of wine (the minimum amount required for dancing) seemed inappropriate as a) I was driving, and b) the bottle of wine would have contained 500 calories, which would have completely defeated the purpose of going in the first place.

After a brief pep-talk ('sweat is just your fat crying'), we got down to business. The 45-minute aerobics session was good exercise and good fun - well, fun for the women behind me who had to watch me box stepping forwards and salsa'ing back, jumping to the left and right, toe-stepping down, and generally making a right tit of myself. It has made me realise that I should make an effort to do something, although it's not going to be this.

I've ordered the box of Rosemary Conley food - cereal for breakfast, soup for lunch, and various (vegetarian) options for dinner - 200, 300 and 400 calories respectively, supplemented with milk and various 'power-snacks' during the day. My weight hovers around an incredibly annoying 10st2lbs. My goal is definitely to get down to 9st-anything by the end of the year - and to stop sabotaging my efforts with curry and chocolate!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The end of Diet #34 (diet pills), and the ongoing search for diet #35

Whilst the diet pills didn't exactly make me lose weight, I didn't put back on the weight that I'd lost from the week before, so not a total failure. Weight hovers at a fairly steady 10st 1lb.

Although I was planning to try a diet a week, it's been tougher than I anticipated - finding time to read and understand each diet, buy the necessary ingredients and blog Every.Single.Week, whilst still managing to be a good mother, wife, employer, employee and friend has been more difficult that I thought. Who knew?

A year on, although I've lost the half stone I initially wanted to, I still want to lose another half stone - not even enough to drop a dress size, but just to tone up my stomach and tone down the muffin top.

The other major difficutly has been finding diets. I think that I've probably blogged about most of the main ones, and the rest are far too complicated to be either popular or easy (or both). Take, for example, the Hamptons Diet. The essential ingredient is Macadamia Nut Oil, which is very difficult to come by in Leytonstone (The most 'interesting' thing about Leytonstone is that it's the birthplace of Alfred Hitchcock and David Beckham - which only proves that it's a place you come from, not a place you go to!). The basic rule of the Hamptons Diet is to eat less than 30g carbs per day - which is probably fine if you're summering in the Hamptons - less fine if it's winter, and it's the east end, and your basic subsistance diet consists of baked potatoes, pasta and toast.

I also contemplated the Omega diet, so called due to the importance of Omega fatty acids in food and because the greek letter Omega also means 'conclusion' - referring to what will happen to your weight problems once you've been on this diet... Still with me? Died of boredom yet? I hope not, as you're going to need to concentrate to keep up. The Omega diet consists of 'just' 12 food units per day: Protein; Oil; Nut; Seed; C-Fruit; Fruit 2; Green unit; Flame unit; Pulse; Quality Carb; Calcium; Water. Really, who has the time? No wonder this never caught on.

In the meantime, following on from the feature in the Sun (if you missed it, you can see it here), Reveal have asked me to write about Slimming Clubs for the new year, and so this week, as well as following another diet (more to come about that shortly), I shall also be visiting Rosemary Conley, WeightWatchers (part 2, pro points) and Curves, as well as re-visiting Slimming World. You can read about how I get on in print!

This week's diet (#35) is the Soup Diet. Only two rules: Replacing my evening meal with a nutritious, homemade soup and no chocolate after dinner. Easy, right?

Still on the list to try:

36. Rosemary Conley
37. The Omega Diet
38. *New* Weightwatchers
39. The Hamptons Diet
40. Zotrim
41. Curves
42. Zoe Harcombe
43. Body for Life
44. Joel Fuhrman
45. Macrobiotic
46. Montignac
47. Paleolithic
48. Sonoma
49. Subway
50. Hackers

Which means only two more to find...

Monday, 31 October 2011

Diet #34, Diet pills (aka cheating)

Those of you who follow my blog regularly can probably already predict how this might go. I spent two whole days following the diet religiously, ploughing my way through home-made cookie after cookie, taking little tupperwares to birthday parties, the park, even to work. I ate around 20 of the little buggers before I wanted to die of boredom. And then came half term. Three days off work, playdates with Sadie's friends, and the healthy cookies turned into chocolate chip cookies.

 Then Iced Fingers

Then Millionaires Shortbread

Luckily, I've gone back to work, and the cakefest has come to an end.

As I've been blogging, I've had lots of lovely supportive emails from family and friends, even strangers who've read about what I've been doing and offered help and advice. The most surprising of all came from a cousin (a Doctor, with an amazing Phd in Clincal Psychology), who emailed to tell me her 'secret', how she'd lost all of her baby weight after having an impressive FOUR children.

She emailed to tell me that she'd used "a combination coctail called T-Burn and Fat Attack.  The T-Burn is a stimulant that increases metabolism and cuts hunger, and the Fat Attack sucks out the fat molecules from the food and also has something in to deal with hunger... When I was taking them, I would eat a small breakfast, get a venti latte at Starbucks (more stimulant!) wasn't hungry at lunch, and would eat a healthy dinner. No snacking - I just wasn't hungry! It's manufactured here (in the US) by Klik Nutrition. And yes it's sort of cheating, but not really, cos I'm goal oreinted...I had a goal and this worked!!!"

I'm a terrible chicken, and the thought of buying drugs over the internet from the US terrified me. Not to mention the fact that I can imagine that I would immediately get addicted, and my next blog will be some sort of plea to raise enough money to fund my drug habit. In the same way that some people ask "What Would Jesus Do?" my general mantra for life is "How would I be judged if it ended up in the Daily Mail?". This was not looking good.

So, a compromise. I popped into the very respectable Holland & Barratt, to find out what I could buy over the counter here in the UK. The woman behind the counter looked at me very strangely, before assessing my requirements. Her: Do you do any exercise? Me: No. Her: Do you eat sweets? Me: Yes. Ever so politely, she didn't tell me to get off my fat arse and move more - instead, she recommended two different products - one hideously expensive, and one cheap. So guess which one I went for? And so now I'm taking two "Fat Metaboliser" tablets a day. At only £6.45 for two weeks supply, it's cheaper than most of the things I've tried.

The ingredients include B6 (to metabolise fat), Chromium (decreases fat, increases muscle mass), Cayenne Pepper (from the maple syrup diet), Green Tea (more fat burning), L-Carnitine Tartrate (speeds up metabolism), Kola Nut (more caffeine than coffee - makes me a little crazy), and Uva Ursi (aka Bearberry, a diuretic). Two tablets a day, with one very specific instruction DO NOT TAKE NEAR BEDTIME.

Starting weight is 10st 1lb - slowly creeping down. Can this help? Or will you come back in one week to find a gibbering wreck who hasn't slept for a week?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Cookies...

Lots of healthy ingredients...

...Chuck it all in, give it a stir... 

...And make two trays of cookies.

And they taste delicious.
Not sure I'll still think that after I've eaten little else for a week.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Diet #33, The Cookie Diet

Diet #32 was the "Revolutionary Diet". I mean revolutionary in the ironic sense: Just Eat Less! But calorie restriction is just too sensible. It might make good sense, but where's the fun in just eating smaller portions? 

And what could be less sensible than diet  number #33, the Cookie Diet? This diet was created by Dr Sanford Siegal. We're off to a good start, as he appears to be both old and still alive - so he's already one up compared with Drs Atkins and Tarnower (of Scarsdale fame). According to his website, Dr Siegal mixes every batch of his secret amino acid protein blend with his own hands in his private bakery. A month's supply costs 'only' $219.80 (plus P&P).

I plan to make my own cookies - and to use a spoon!! It was easy to find a recipe online, basically lots of bran flakes, almonds, oats and fresh fruit, and the idea is that you eat cookies for breakfast, lunch and snacks, and a healthy meal for either lunch or dinner.

Here's a handy illustration, if you're having problems understanding how this might work. One or two cookies every hour, and one balanced meal every day.

If this is the first time you've read my blog, then welcome!! It started back in November with a simple idea - to lose that pesky half a stone that didn't vanish after the birth of baby number two. It didn't seem like a lot. Probably all it required was a little less chocolate and a little more self-control. But driven by the boredom of maternity leave and the desire to do something more interesting instead, I decided to work my way through 52 diets in 52 weeks, and see how I got on. I'm up to #33, and over the last few months, I've already tried many of the mainstream diets, and a few crazy ones too. I've tried to be honest about how easy they are to follow, how much they have allowed me to continue with normal life, how expensive they've been and most importantly, how much weight it's been possible to lose (or gain, in some cases!!).

I set myself a few rules, which I've mostly stuck to. Nothing crazy or dangerous. Breatharianism (living on fresh air alone), for example, didn't appeal. But some did - I've listed a few of my favourite below, but I'd love you to read through the rest, and let me know what you think...

It all began with the six-meals-a-day diet which you can read here. Followed by my personal favourite, The 100-Mile diet. I've also tried Slimfast and Atkins , I've juiced myself slim, and eaten three apples a day. I hope you enjoy reading is as much as I've enjoyed living it.

I've still got 19 diets to go - so please feel free to follow my blog, share it with your friends, check back on my progress and suggest any new diets you think I might have overlooked.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Diet #32, The Revolutionary Diet

Amazingly, my Revolutionary Diet was front page news this week; I have captured the prevailing zeitgeist (I've been dying to say that for ages!!) This is from yesterday's Evening Standard...

Scarily, though, according to Thursday's Standard, the average recommended calories has actually increased, to 2605 for men and 2079 for women - which means that my 1200 per day, which I'm managing on perfectly well, is well below the suggested level.

Happily, though, it's working!! I've lost three pounds, and I can eat whatever I like (within reason), no stupid rules, no crazy fads (think weird shakes/cabbage soup/green bananas), just lots of fruit and veg, reasonable size portions and chocolate if I fancy some (which mostly, I don't, strangely). I've been using this great little free app on my iPhone, called Shape Up, and tracking my daily food, which I would recommend downloading if you want to give it a try.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Diet #32: The Revolutionary diet

I've been a bit slack in my dieting/blogging recently - something to do with a full time job, two children, a new shopping centre opening on my doorstep... End result - I've lost weight - from my purse but not on the scales.

The Scarsdale Diet was a bit too difficult to stick to - particularly with friends tempting me out for lunch and dinner all week! Apparently the Bel Sit don't know what a 'Scarsdale Highball' is - so I had to settle for the pizza instead.

In the prologue of the Scarsdale book, there's a hint that all did not end well for Dr Tarnower ("...until his tragic and untimely death..."). Turns out that this diet killed him - although not in an Atkins/heart attack kind of way. His diet was so successful that his fame and notoriety attracted a string of beautiful women - and overcome with jealousy, one of them shot him. For the full story, you can rent the film, Mrs Harris, starring Chloe Sevigny as the lover. If anyone murders me over this blog, I think I'd rather Rene Zellweger played me. She has kindly agreed to gain some weight in order to really get under the skin of the part.

Look how she's shamelessly copied my look, for the part.

Uncanny, right??

Anyhow, I've called diet #32 the Revolutionary Diet, in the ironic sense. After 32 weeks, one or two people might have mentioned that there's really only one way to lose weight - eat less, move more. So, for next week, that's what I'm going to try. A few rules: 1200 calorie a day limit. Two litres of water a day. Seven portions of fruit and vegetables. More protein, less carbs. 30 minutes of excercise every day. And if that doesn't work, I've bought some pills from Holland & Barratt.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Scarsdale Medical diet (#31)

1984. When shoulder pads were big and the internet was small. Celeb diets hadn't been invented, and so instead the only decent weight-loss advice came from patriachial doctors with patronising overtones. And this is the most patronising of all. Dr Tarnower's Scarsdale Medical Diet (he wasn't lucky enough to live in South Beach...) is possibly the most amusingly patronising diet book that I've encountered so far.

Dr Tarnower is very specific. How much you need to weigh (me: no more than 9st 4lbs - and even this is the top end of the scale), how often you should weigh yourself (daily) and what you need to eat to achieve this (next to nothing, obviously!!).

In some ways, I actually like this diet, as it's based in science (fat/protein/carb ratios) and there are strict rules. Not too much science - just simple sentences so as not to baffle the poor, stupid, fat people.

Much like every other diet I've tried, this diet could have been summarised in around 5 pages. But then it would be a greying pamphlet rather than a  best-selling book, and where's the fun in that?

Here's the diet:
Breakfast, daily
Half a grapefruit, 1 slice of wholemeal toast (no spread), coffee/tea (no milk)
Lunch: Assorted cold cuts, tomatoes, coffee/tea/diet drinks
Dinner: Fish (any kind), green salad, wholemeal  toast, grapefruit.
Lunch: Fruit salad
Dinner: Grilled lean hamburger, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, olives or cucumber
Lunch: Salmon or Tuna salad, lemon and vinegar dressing, grapefruit
Dinner: Roast lamb (no fat), salad
Lunch: Two eggs, any style, no cooking fat, low fat cottage cheese, courgettes or tomatoes, wholemeal bread
Dinner: Chicken, spinach
Lunch: Assorted cheese slices, spinach, wholemeal toast
Dinner: Fish, salad, wholemeal toast
Lunch: Fruit salad
Dinner: Roast turkey or chicken, salad of lettuce and tomatoes, grapefruit
Lunch: Chicken or Turkey, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, brocolli or cauliflower, grapefruit
Dinner: Grilled steak, salad, brussel sprouts.
Repeat for two weeks only.

This most simple of diets raises so many questions that there follows TWELVE pages of questions on the subject. My favourite is this:

Q: When I'm on the Scarsdale Medical Diet and can't have an alcoholic drink, is there a special non-alcoholic drink I can enjoy, particularly at a cocktail lounge or bar, or at a party?
A: Yes, a number of dieters are enjoing what is becoming known widely as the 'Scarsdale Special Highball'. It's easy to mix - just plain soda and a chunk of lemon in a frosted glass. It's very dry and refreshing, and looks as alcoholic as a gin and tonic or vodka and tonic. Actually, it's the famous Gin Rickey without the gin. Or (my parentheses: 'for variety'), you could try it in a tall glass with a chunk of lime.

There is so much wrong with this!! Where to start?? IT'S. A. GLASS. OF. FIZZY. WATER. My 4-year-olds favourite drink (that is, when she's on Scarsdale and has to forgo the gin).

There are another four, ridiculous variants on this diet, clearly designed to pad out the book rather than the fridge. The Gourmand version: replace grapefruit with 'exotic fruit salad', assorted cheese 'wedges' (so much more exotic than 'slices'); Lobster a la Nage and grilled filet mignon (to replace Sunday's grilled steak). The International version: Monday, American Day; Shrimp cocktail. Tuesday, Japanese day: Tori shrimp and chicken. Wedesday, French day: One hard boiled egg (??) and artichoke provencale. Thursday, Italian Day: Pickled aubergine and cheese sticks. Sunday: Hawaiian day: Pineapple surprise Aloha. Also, the vegetarian version and the money-saver version (the same as the original, but with cheaper cuts of meat).

There follows another TWENTY FOUR pages of hints, tips and questions, to explain this not very complicated diet. Apparently, one scarsdale dieter finds it useful to have the following sign taped to her fridge: "Keep America Beautiful - stick to the Scarsdale Diet. There are no forbidden foods in this house". Three randomly unconnected facts, clearly designed to confuse you when heading for the fridge - you would therefore spend so much time wondering what this actually means that you forget what you went there for in the first place.

More questions:

Q: Lunch on Wednesday includes tuna fish. Can I add carrots to this.
(My) A: Yes!! It's not the carrots that are making you fat!!

(My favourite) Q: I feel terribly guilty - at breakfast with the family I let go and ate three sweet rolls and six slices of buttered toast. What should I do? Starve for a few days?
Dr Tarnower's much more sympathetic than mine would have been A: We all have our failings. This is not catastrophic. Start again. (Lardass)

Q: My husband warns that losing weight will weaken me, and with a houseful of kids I must stay strong. Is he right?
A: Your husband sounds like a twat. Leave him.

Despite all this, I'm still willing to give this a go. Wednesday morning. Weight 145lbs. Have stuck to breakfast and lunch, and am about to go and whip up a chicken salad for dinner. Will weigh myself every day. 20lbs in two weeks would be just marvellous, thank you very much.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Slimming World: Not for me!

Despite two encouraging texts and a phone call from the lovely (and not-at-all-Marjory-Dawes-like) Dyanne, I didn't make it to the second meeting for my weigh in. Something to do with a mad dash to leave the house/forgetting my membership card combined with a massive breakfast at The Wolesley the same morning. Which was a shame, as I'd made a massive effort - even wearing a green dress, to demonstrate my committment and remind me what day I was on.

I still don't really understand how it works, and every time I tried to explain to someone that I didn't really understand this diet, they just shouted "Red Days Green Days" at me... So now I'm confused and terrified - and still not thin!

Ignoring the red and green/extra easy/syns confusions, the main tenet of this diet is basically common sense. Eat as much fruit and vegetables, and meat and fish, pasta and potatoes as you like, limiting bread, sweets, cheese, cereal, milk and alcohol. Realistically, if you had a serious amount of weight to lose, this would be great, as it's all healthy, and let's you eat until you're full without feeling too restrictive, whilst restricting the things that we sneak into our diets pretending that they don't make a difference... a chocolate here, a glass of wine there, takeaway once a week... Although that might only be a quarter or half a pound weight gain every month, not enough to show on the scales, even, cumulatively, that's an extra dress size every year!!

Despite the fact that under normal circumstances, I love being right, in this instance I'm just plain cross with myself. I started on the premise that the last half a stone was the hardest to lose, and guess what? I still can't shift the weight. My size 10 jeans are still a little too tight and muffin top-py for my liking, and my little dresses feel a bit too little for my liking (although that's as much to do with my age as my waistline).

I've still got a pile of diet books to work through: The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet (lose up to 20 pounds in 14 days), The Biogenic Diet (the natural way to permanent fat loss), The Hamptons Diet (lose weight quickly and safely with the Doctor's delicious meal plans), The Omega Diet (the revolutionary 12-unit plan for health and easy weight loss) and The Good Sex Diet (how to use food to transform your sex life). That last one makes me suspect that the husband has been at my ebay account again.

I think I'll start with Scarsdale. After all, if I can lose 20lbs in 14 days (or 10 in 7), I can stop blogging and go an do something more interesting instead.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Slimming World: Cry for help...

I don't see how they can call this plan "extra easy", when really, it's extra complicated. At least I understand the point of the groups - I'm just so confused by it all, I need someone to hold my hand and tell me it's all going to be ok.

I've been keeping a food diary, and have managed to get this far:
Thursday. Green Day
Branflakes 1st B, milk A
Cashew Nuts 2nd B
Yoghurt: 0.5 syns
M&S Couscous salad: 8 syns
Asparagus: free
Pasta: free
Mozarella: 3.5 syns
So that's 1 A, 2 B's, 12 syns, right??

Friday, Green Day
Banana, grapes: free
2 x yoghurt: 1 syn
1 slice toast: Half a B (can I do that??)
Pret Hoummos wrap: Either, 16 syns (according to the catchily named 'snackulator' online)
Wrap B, Hoummos B, vegetables free. So, which is it???
Chicken: B
Soup, vegetables, potatoes, fruit: free
Plus one small piece of challah and two chocolates, which I ate standing up so they don't count
So, that's either 1.5 B's and 17 syns, or 3.5 B's and one syn. Or something else altogether?

Saturday, Green day??
Mushrooms and scrambled eggs: free
Vegeburgers and salad: free
2 x cheese triangles: Half an A on EE or half a B on Green
3 x corn thins (not on any list, but they vaguely resemble the crispbreads on the B list, so, B then)
Pasta: free
Chicken: B on green (but free on Extra easy, so maybe this can be an EE day??)

Plus, I wanted a bag of crisps, and when I looked it up online, it's 6.5 syns for a small multipack pack of Walkers crisps - my entire days syns basically, which seems a bit unfair to me.

Seriously, you need a degree in this stuff to make any sense of it. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I think I'm relatively bright. I've got to grips with 29 diets prior to this one, but I just don't get it. I think that the 'old' red and green days was probably easier, and adding an "extra easy" element was anything but...

I would massively appreciate any comments on this on what I'm doing wrong, and what I can do to simplify it... In the meantime, I'm off to have a little lie down.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Week #30, Slimming World

My name's Katie, and I'm an alcoholic.

Or, as it turns out, just not very good at directions - I'm in the Salvation Army Church on Oxford Street (who knew?) and I seem to have walked into the wrong meeting. There were a few choices - weightwatchers upstairs, choir practise in the main hall, and Slimming World is "through the gift shop". I love shopping on Oxford Street at lunch time, but luckily Christian parephernalia doesn't hold much temptation, and I make it through the gift shop purse intact.

It's all gone a bit wrong over the last few weeks. The incessant dieting is dull dull dull, and even trying to mix it up by changing my diet every week, instead of making it interesting, is turning it into a chore - trying to find a new diet every week - and finding the time to swot up on it, shop for the right sort of food and write about it all, on top of all the other *boring* little details that get in the way (children, husband, job, social life, house, etc etc).

So, a slightly new tack - instead of switching from diet to diet, can sticking with one for a few weeks help me to shift the weight? Slimming World seem to think so, and to prove it, they've given me six whole weeks membership!

Slimming World involves attending meetings, weekly weigh-ins, and sharing your experiences with other members of the group. Dyanne, the incredibly upbeat lady who runs the group, bears only a very passing resemblence to Marjory Dawes. She knows every member by name, and greets them all as long-lost friends, insisting (somewhat uncomfortably in my opinion) that they share their weightloss as they try to slink out unnoticed (slinking comes more easily to some members than others). She has a host of well worn phrases designed to motivate and inspire: "if it's grown on a plant it's free, if it's made in a plant its not", and my personal favourite, a sign which she waves at members as they leave:

Her mantra seems to be how "easy it all is". You can choose between 'Extra Easy Days', 'Red Days' and 'Green Days'. On 'Extra Easy Days' you can eat unlimited 'free' foods from the orange list (fruit and veg), red list (meat/fish/eggs) and green list (starchy veg/rice/pasta/eggs) but only one 'A' (milk/cheese) and one 'B'(cereal/bread), plus around 5-15 syns. On 'Green Days', you can choose unlimited 'free' foods from the orange and green lists, and then two 'A's (milk/cheese) and 2 'B's (meat/fish/dairy) and on 'Red Days', you can have unlimited 'free' foods from the orange list plus two 'A's (milk/cheese again) and 2 'B's (this time starchy veg & pasta), but it's really easy, honest...

Yesterday, I'd already had cereal & milk (one A, one B), and a handful of cashews (7 syns) by the time I got to the meeting, so I thought that the 'Extra Easy' option would be best for today. The whole thing was so complicated, I had no idea what to have for lunch, so I grabbed a roast vegetable and couscous salad from M&S on my way back to the office - which the genius online tool tells me is another 8 syns, and a fat free yoghurt (free). Asparagus (free) followed by pasta (free) with tomato sauce (no idea) and mozzarella (another 'B' on green) at Zizzi means that I've decided, at the very last minute, to switch to a green day (can I do that??). And now I've realised that on 'Green Days', cashew nuts are a 'B' choice, so I'm going to change my mozzarella to a syn (as it's only 3.5 syns), and have the cashews as the B. But it's really easy - honest!!

Seriously, I've read the book three times. There must be something wrong with me! It's supposed to be EASY (sorry, EXTRA-easy), and it's giving me a headache!!

However, just as I have noticed a regular pattern in the diet books that I read, you may have noticed another pattern here on my blog - I start each week annoyed at the ridiculousness of each diet, and end the week converted to the wonderousness that is each new thing that I try. Will the same be true of Slimming World? Check back next week to find out...

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Week(end) #29, Tesco Ultraslim

Saw this on the shelf in Tesco and thought I'd give it a try for a couple of days to get me back on track. Same principle as but cheaper and not as nice. Reignited my sweet tooth... but Poppy seemed to like it...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Diet #28, The South Beach Diet

Turns out the only way that Paul McKenna can make me thin if I was too thin to start with, and he has just made me "normal" thin (highly unlikely!!!). I put on 5lbs this week. Here's me Slowly and Consciously plowing my way through a plate of chocolate brownie and Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream (I heard that if you eat standing up it doesn't count...)

This week, The South Beach Diet. This puts me firmly in mind of denim-hotpant-wearing, bikini-clad girls rollerblading along the sea front, a la 1980's tampons advertisement. More surprisingly, what you get is a very serious, middle-aged cardiologist, who has (unlike virtually every diet book I've read this year), thoroughly researched his material and presented his findings to a series of highbrow sounding conferences. He's just lucky enough to live near Miami's South Beach!

This is a long, slightly dull, very text-heavy book, filled with scientific facts, and peppered with anecdotal evidence from previously fat, seriously unhealthy, mostly Americans, who have had long-term success in keeping the weight off with this method. Predictably, it follows the same formula as many: Slag off other diets (Piritkin - worsens cholesterol and triglycerides; Atkins - too much saturated fat; Ornish - too many carbs, too little fat, too hard to follow), so what's a guy to do but make up his own, best-selling, multi-million dollar generating diet.

Actually, in this instance, this is a bit unfair. Dr Arthur Agatston, the author of this diet, seems to have fallen into this totally accidentally (much like me and blogging). As a cardiologist treating a number of overweight patients, he saw that many diets weren't working, and developed his own. A news channel picked up on his success, and featured a series of dieters following his plan - worldwide acclaim followed.

In brief, this diet is relatively simple. For the first two weeks (Phase 1), there is severe carb restriction. Phase two begins to reintroduce carbs slowly, until desired weightloss is achieved. The carb restriction is more Atkins than Dukan - it allows for vegetables which makes the biggest difference to the managability of this plan.

Whilst I initially loved Atkins, and the immediate results I achieved, more recently, Dukan has put me off carb restriction for life, even for such a short period of time, so this is difficult to stick to. I'm sick to death of eggs for breakfast, so yesterday polished off what can only be described as a bucket of yoghurt instead. The first phase of this diet doesn't allow for any fruit, so I'm having to be inventive with my vegetables, so that I don't die of scurvy.

A positive side of these diets is that i'm having to be truly creative when it comes to interesting food. Yesterday, an early morning trip to Tesco resulted in a babybel-stuffed celery snack, and my lunchtime jaunt to to M&S inspired a bag of salad and mackrel - all for only £2.59. Bargain!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Paul McKenna really can make you thin...

Luckily, not reading the second part of the book, I really hadn't missed much. It's mostly about altering your state of mind - neuro-lingusitic programming dressed up as self-hypnosis - anchoring positive feelings, learning to love yourself, motivating yourself to exercise, and overcoming cravings through tapping.

That last part deserves further explanation. The tapping technique is about using acupressure points to reprogramme your brain to eliminate cravings. It *works* like this:

1. Get a craving
2. Tap under your collarbone 10 times with two fingers whilst concentrating on the craving
3. Tap under your eye ten times
4. Tap under your collarbone again
5. Tap the back of your hand between your ring and little finger
6. Continue tapping your hand, close your eyes and open them
7. Still tapping, look down to the right then the left (keeping head still)
8. Still tapping, rotate your eyes 360o clockwise then anti-clockwise
9. (This part is really odd) hum the first few lines of Happy Birthday
10. Count out loud from 1 to 5
11. Hum happy birthday again
12. Get your coat, go and howl in the street (ok, I made that part up, but by now everyone thinks you're mad, so nothing to lose, right?)

Like any simple illusion, this is mostly about distraction. Unlike magic, if I tried this technique in the office (or even worse, say, in a restaurant), I'd be locked up.

My main issue with the book is this: there's nothing in here at all about food... I suppose technically you can't blame the food - all it does is fill my cupboards (and the occasional emotional void). I'm the one who's guilty of shovelling in vast quantities of it. But even if you follow the techniques, I still maintain that you need a basic understanding of what's good and what's bad, so that you are able to make healthy choices whilst following the four rules. Otherwise, I could just wait until I'm hungry and then slowly and consciously stuff my face with chocolate croissants - but only until I am full.

My other issue with the book is that it seems to work. This week, I've definitely eaten less, more slowly and conciously, and only until I'm full. I think he's playing tricks on my mind...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Diet #27, I Can Make You Thin, by Paul McKenna

"Look into my eyes, look deep into my eyes" whilst I talk you through diet #27.

Paul McKenna would (and does, vigorously) dispute that this is a "diet" (don't they all). According to Paul, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want and still lose weight.

This book is fairly simple to abridge, as follows:

Chapter 1: Why aren't you thin yet? A bit harsh, but good news for Paul, as otherwise this book wouldn't have been a "number 1 bestseller". There are a few reasons why're you're not yet thin, apparently.

Pattern 1: Obsessive dieting: the more you diet, the more you fail. The more you fail, the less likely you are to succeed (or something like that). There is a *small* possibility that I am guilty of this...
Pattern 2: Emotional eating: Feel sad, eat to feel better. Feel shit about yourself  because you ate too much, eat to feel better, repeat until they come and fetch you out of the window with a fire engine.
Pattern 3: Faulty programming: It's not your fault, your wiring is just a bit haywire. Luckily Paul can fix this. Read on...

Chapter 2"The Simplest Weight-Loss System in the World". Apparently, this is trademarked. Is that even possible? Paul says that there are no naturally thin people - a point that I fundamentally disagree with. People might not stay naturally thin forever (sorry if you're reading this in your twenties, but your thirties and/or your childbearing years may not be kind to you), but some people are, just, naturally thin. I've seen Lily Cole, up close and in the flesh. She may look like a strange, beautiful, unusual alien creature, but I'm convinced that she is, at least, naturally, thin.

I'm ignoring the flaws in his logic and plowing on.

Four Golden Rules
When you are hungry, eat.
Eat what you want, not what you think you should
Eat consciously and enjoy every mouthful
When you think you are full, stop eating

The book is peppered with odd metaphors, unsubstantiated facts and weird anecdotes. Apparently, as a child, he attempted to steam open an envelope, and broke the thermostat. Moral of the story is that if you overeat, you'll break your internal "off switch". But I just want to know why on earth he was steaming open someone's post?

Chapter 3: Reprogram your mind. Imagine chocolate cake. Yum. Imagine chocolate cake covered in maggots. Yuck. Easy, right? Imagine your food wasn't described in appetizing terms: so your hamburger becomes a patty of miscellaneous bits of dead cow of dubious providence (if you're lucky, and the cow part is at least right). Focus: Think yourself thin, and you will be thin.

Chapter 4 is, intriguingly, called "Overcoming Emotional Eating". I haven't got this far yet, and I haven't listened to the CD, but repost later in the week, as soon as I do. In the meantime, I'm off to have some dead fish for supper.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Diet #26, The 3-Apple-a-Day GI diet

Diet 26 - half way through!! To celebrate, another mad faddy-sounding one - the 3-apple-a-day GI diet, by Tammi Flynn (an American, natch). The whole book reads like an info-mercial, those cheesy programmes that take up all those channels on Sky and makes you wonder who would ever buy anything from them. In this case, you have to imagine Tammi in a tight-fitting shiny leotard and high heels, standing behind a counter piled up with apples.

Fine, scene set, I'll begin to explain what this is and how it works... Although to be fair, I feel slightly misled. According to the very first line of the book, the "3-apple-a-day diet is not about eating apples". Eh??

The principle is really simple. In addition to following a healthy, low-gi diet, you eat an apple before each main meal (GI diet, week 15). The idea of the apples is that they're high in both soluble and insoluble fibre, fill you up to stop you overeating, provide nutrients, curb your sweet tooth, and provide a portion of your recommended 5-a-day.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, in order to support their credibility, it's imperative for diets books to source a scientific study to back up their findings. Luckily, I think that I've found the most tenuous of all. Tammi quotes a recent "Brazilian study of overweight women" which compared three groups of women who ate three apples, three pears or three cookies a day. Unsurprisingly, the groups that ate the fruit lost significantly more weight than the biscuit group. Really? Now there's a surprise! Another handy hint for anyone writing a diet book: throw in some arbritrary, unsourced statistics to support your case. In this instance, "a family history of obesity increases our chances of becoming overweight by about 30%".

As always, some random quotations that don't seem to make much sense. Here's my favourite:
Think of appetite as a sleeping lion. If you feed him, he will purr and sleep. If you starve him, he will attack. The lion is your appetite. If you aren't prepared with food on hand, your appetite may attach and you'll be relying on your willpower. That's doing it the hard way for sure.  Tip: Take apples with you everywhere you go.

To be fair, aside from the faddy, slightly misleading title, and infomercial tone, this book is actually full of sensible advice. Set yourself realistic goals, get fit, stay motivated, etc. The second half of the book contains over 100 high-protein but mostly delicious sounding recipes, and some suggested daily meal planners. Essentially, you set your own calorie limit, based on your weight in pounds multiplied by 10 (so, for me, 1400 calories), and then off you go...

As always in these books, FAQ's. In this case, should maybe be called SAQ's (stupidly asked questions). For example, can applesauce be used as a substitue? Yes. Of course it can. NOT!! At least we've quickly got to the root of the problem. Not diet. Stupidity. However, no one has asked about whether Cider counts instead of apples, so I'll assume it's ok, and I'll have that three times a day. At least I won't care about my weight.

The breakfast recipes are all-American: Bran muffins, breakfast quesadilla, breakfast burritto, breakfast-in-a-blender, turkey sausage patties. No wonder obesity has become such an issue. I might just stick with my all-English bran flakes and semi-skimmed milk in the morning, but I'll try some of the recipes for supper.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Gluten-free experiment

Avoiding gluten for a week is kind of cheating in the world of dieting. My aim was to lose half a stone (which I'm still trying to do, btw), and avoiding gluten for a week probably won't help with this, although it might make me feel a little less bloated, which is a good thing.

It has made me think about food allergies, though. When I was young, I don't really remember anyone who was allergic to anything much. I also don't remember anyone wearing glasses, and the naughty kids were just 'naughty', not ADHD. These days, every school picnic has to be "nut-free", and kids parties have become a minefield of nut-free, wheat-free, dairy-free (fun-free) trouble.

This week, I bought a packet of crisps in Marks and Spencer, and they're marked as unsuitable for egg, milk, wheat, barley, gluten, soya and shellfish allergy sufferers! That's a lot of boxes ticked for a packet of ready salted potato squares.

It does seem like we've gone warning mad. Have you ever noticed that kids clothing labels all say "Keep away from fire". Of course you should, it's got a child in it!! And despite rising gas and electricity prices, when was the last time anyone reading this sat themselves (or their children) in front of a fire in their pj's??

An interesting study recently on British and Israeli children seems to prove that early exposure to nuts can actually reduce, rather than increase the risk of allergy. Israeli's wean their children on a snack called Bamba - peanut flavoured wotsits, whereas us risk-averse Brits avoid them like the plague.

Anyhow, none of that ranting has much to do with dieting. But an experiment of my own: Tonight, I'm making Simon (the 'other half'), a gluten free pasta bake. Do you think he'll notice the difference?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Diet #25, living Gluten-free

But first, the end of the Kick Start/Cabbage Soup diet: The problem with faddy diets is that they're so goddam hard to stick to. This diet worked well for the first three days (soup and fruit/soup and veg/soup and fruit AND veg), but it all fell apart on day 4. I had a most lovely lunch with Russell Blackburn (of Blackburn Bridal Couture) at the shiny new Pollen Street Social, with delicious food from Gordon Ramsey's protege Jason Atherton. Our waiter was so charmingly amenable, I'm sure that if I had explained that all I could eat was soup and banana's, they would have rustled me up something delicious, but it seemed churlish to resist the carefully crafted, cool modern menu.

Here's a picture of my starter: The description (light cured Shetland salmon, avocado, smoked herring roe cream) doesn't really do it justice...

I'm conviced that, crazy as this diet sounded, had I stuck to it, there's no doubt that I would have lost weight, and so I might come back to it later, to give it another go...

Some more excitement this week, my blog is going national!! I did a shoot for a national newspaper (strike that - HUGE national newspaper...) this week. Here's a sneak peek...

Enough about me, and on to diet #25, living gluten free. My BFF doesn't eat gluten (for medical reasons), and is somewhat of an expert on all things wheat-free. I'm expecting her to furnish me with baskets of home-made bread, and a list of Soho's finest eateries for lunchtimes...

The lowdown: Gluten is a protein which is found in wheat, but also in spelt, barley, rye and oats. It's often used as a thickener in food (under the label 'dextrin'). Luckily for me, potatoes, rice, corn and quinoa are gluten-free, and so on the menu for this week.

According to, "between 50% and 70% of the population are sensitive to Gluten". This seems a little dramatic to me - on a macro level, that's 3 people just in my house!! Wouldn't it be ironic if the one person who wasn't gluten intolerant was me!!

Although this is usually a medical diet, there are lots of reasons for everyone to try to live gluten-free:
  • Wheat is hard to digest - undigested wheat ferments, forming 'gas'.
  • Wheat is quickly converted to sugar, leading to a spike in insulin.
  • Apparently, wheat can cause 'leaky gut syndrome', allowing toxins to leak into your bloodstream.
  • Refined wheat has very little nutritional value.
Two scrambled eggs and cheese for breakfast (again!!), and any suggestions for gluten-free pizza for dinner tonight would be most welcome.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Day 1: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Before and after shots of the soup.


And here's me and Kirsty Allsop doing decoupage this afternoon. Unconnected to the diet, but judging by her face, the gaseous phase might have started already...

Saturday, 25 June 2011

End of the Shangri-la diet, and on to diet #24, the Kick Start Diet, aka 'Aussie Cabbage Soup Diet'

I will grudgingly admit that there may be some logic to the Shangri-la diet. The two-hour, 'taste-free window' twice a day prevented me from eating too much crap, and the spoonful of ELOO stopped me feeling too hungry, and made me feel like I was doing something. Small problem is that the something clearly wasn't enough, as I didn't actually lose any weight...

I have to admit that I didn't actually read the book, so I might have missed out some key things. I can probably guess how it goes, though. Three hundred or so pages: Start by establishing credentials of author (Doctor, Professor, lifestyle coach...) and then slag off all other diets (Atkins, of course, and probably Grapefruit, Weightwatchers, Cabbage Soup and Maple Syrup for good value). A few reminders about drinking water (lots), doing exercise (lots), eating sugar (not a lot), and throw in  some recipes for good measure (the more random ingredients and the worse tasting, the better). I might be being unfair, but I'm willing to stake at least a tenner on it...

On to Diet #24. I've looked at the Cabbage Soup Diet a few times. It's been around since the 80's, and been made famous by various slebs and supermodels, but mostly, it's always the source of ridicule for the other diet writers who I've been *lucky* enough to have read over the last 24 weeks (see above).

Brief explanation, if you've been living under a rock or not read a celebrity magazine recently. Make Cabbage Soup according to widely available recipe, and then on day 1, as much soup as you like, plus as much fruit as you like (excluding bananas). Day 2, unlimited cabbage soup plus vegetables including 1 baked potato with butter. Day 3 unlimited soup plus fruit and vegetables (but not potatoes or bananas), day 4, cabbage soup plus up to eight bananas (!!) and as much skimmed milk as you like. Day 5, soup plus up to 10 ounces of beef and up to six tomatoes, day 6, cabbage soup plus as much beef and vegetables (excluding potatoes) as you like, and then finally, day 7, soup again plus brown rice, vegetables (not potatoes) and unsweetened fruit juice.

I've been avoiding this as it sounds so grim, and is notorious for making the dieter gaseous. Never a good look when you commute on the tube and work in an open plan office. So when Nerissa, my lovely "step-aunty" who's in London from Australia celebrating her 40th birthday, suggested the latest craze sweeping Oz - the The Kick Start Diet - I was excited to find out more. Which is when I realised that it's just the Cabbage Soup Diet but replaced with Tomato Soup. The "Tomato Soup Diet", if you will.

But I've been kind of dying to give this a try, so now's a good excuse to start.

It's literally exactly the same as the cabbage soup diet, above, except with a slightly different soup recipe, and you can replace the beef with chicken (lucky for me, as I'm allergic to beef, but that's a story for another blog).

Here's the recipe for soup:
One packet of powdered soup mix/stock, two 800g cans of tomatoes, 3 large fresh tomatoes, 4 cups of water , bunch of celery, bunch of spring onions, 3 green capsicums (peppers), 2 cups green beans, 1kg carrots. Dice veg, add all ingredients to pot, bring to rapid boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
Preparation is the key here, and I'm not at all prepared. I'll start after I've been to the supermarket tomorrow to buy the ingredients...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Shangri-la Diet, day 3

Drinking extra light olive oil is GROSS. It's warm and gloopy, and tastes disgusting. But for the sake of my blog, I'm still taking two spoonfuls a day, mid-morning and mid-afternoon. That's dedication for you!

I've also learned that the followers of the SLD have their own language. Apparently, you're supposed to refer to the oil as ELOO, and they also have something called "noseclipping", basically where you use a swimming nose clip to stop yourself tasting anything - to add to the disassociation between food and taste. And apparently to really see the full effect, I need to wait until my enzymes adjust to digesting the oil properly. Who knew?

There might be something in this, though. I'm not grazing in the day, and I've just had the smallest dinner and I'm stuffed. And not to put too fine a point on it, the ELOO seems to be speedily aiding the passage of my food...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Diet #23, The Shangri-la Diet

According to the dictionary, Shangri-la is "a place regarded as an earthly paradise, especially when involving a retreat from the pressures of modern civilization". It seems to me that that any place where I can weigh half a stone less will indeed be "a place of complete bliss and delight and peace". So, you're clearly desperate to know, what diet can be worthy of such a heavenly title? What diet can offer such utter bliss and peace?

In reality, the rules of this diet are disappointingly mundane. Take 100-400 calories of flavourless food, such as light (not extra virgin) olive oil, a couple of times per day, in a 'flavourless window' each day (wait at least an hour after eating, and then wait an hour until eating again...). Other than that, you eat normally. That's it. Simplez.

The diet is based on the fundamental principle of a "set point" - the weight which your body wants to be. When your weight is below the set point, appetite increases, and when it's below the set point, appetite decreases (I think that this may be based on some prehistoric principle that enabled people to eat more at times of plenty, to store fat for leaner times). The creator of this diet is Seth Roberts, a Professor of Psychology at the University of California. He believes that by eating certain foods, you can raise or lower your set point, essentially fooling your body into losing weight. Foods that have a strong flavour-calorie relationship (such as a big mac) can raise the set point, whereas bland foods which are slowly digested (like light olive oil) can lower the set point. The idea is that you break the association between taste and calories.

There's no specific calorie restriction, although the idea is that there will be self-regulation, as appetite decreases, which produces weightloss.

A word of caution, I found this online:
"I’m not sure if this diet is a hoax or not. It’s possible it is a social psychology experiment. Maybe Dr. Roberts had a bet with someone that “anyone can write a popular diet book if they just use the formula".
There's a lot of long words and some graphs at if you want to decide for yourself.

What I can tell you: the olive oil tastes grim, but I haven't eaten for two hours... My start weight hovers around an annoying 10 stone, but this weeks diet should be a breeze compared to Dukan...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Premature end of Dukan

I HATE not being right (see, I can't even say it... "being wrong"), but everyone warned me how difficult this diet would be and they were right.

Protein only, even for five days, is IMPOSSIBLE. On day two, I had eggs for breakfast, three smoked mackeral fillets for a snack, and a whole pack of turkey for lunch. By late afternoon, I felt rubbish, my brain felt like it was on an international phone call with a two-second delay, and my mouth was dryer than sand. Although I'd planned smoked salmon and eggs for supper, I had to add a couple of slices of toast.

No use beating myself up, it was only toast, right? Ignoring the massive bag of smarties that we shared at the cinema afterwards... Only 92 calories per 17 sweets. Fine, until you realise that's about 1500 calories in the packet. But at least I shared them.

Here's some pictures of some protein that I ate. Shangri-la starts on Sunday.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Diet #22: Dukan

A quick note on diet #21, the F2 diet. I really, really like this one, and I would strongly recommend it, as a weightloss plan and as a lifestyle choice. As well as taking the focus off of calories (so it doesn't feel quite as much like dieting), it's healthy, and remarkably un-faddy. Thumbs up from me. Weightloss: 2lbs. Woo hoo!!

Onwards and upwards: The Dukan Diet. This is the newest craze in dietland. Dr Dukan is a French Doctor, who has devised this weightloss plan based on years of observations. It's a bit like Atkins on speed. I work for a French person, and a French person works for me, so you think that I'd be used to the whole crazy-French thing, but this takes it to a whole new level.The book is the driest, most medicalised tome that I have come across so far. In fact, ever! It has no humour, no enthusiasm, no real motivation.

The entire concept is neatly summarised on the back of the book - so why the bloody hell do I have to read all three hundred plus pages? I'll spare you some of the dullest parts, and just try a neat summary, although I might come back and outline some of the most tedious parts, to give you a flavour...

4 Step Programme
Step One: Attack. 2-7 days - eat as much as you want of 72 protein rich foods
Step Two: Cruise. Continue eating protein; add up to 28 vegetables (until desired weight is achieved)
Step Three: Consolidation. Add fruit, bread, cheese and starchy foods, and 2 celebration meals a week
Step Four: Stabilisation. Eat what you like, but follow three "simple" rules, including the "famous" 'Protein Thursdays'.

Yesterday, day 1, I ate two eggs for breakfast, two whole salmon fillets (mid-morning) AND a fillet of sea bream for lunch, plus one fat free natural yoghurt. I also added another 'first' to my purchase list: oatbran - to make the daily Galettes that Dr Dukan has kindly included. I had planned so well - defrosting mince to make burgers for supper - which turned out to be so sloppy I had to add matza meal, which in turn meant I had carbs. In for penny in for a pound, I also had some fruit, and a chocolate finger. Doh!!

Every day is a new day (my new mantra), so I'm starting again today. I've bought cold meat and two types of fish, plus the oatbran to make porridge (the galette's were a DISASTER). Pictures to follow...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Yesterday, I hit the fibre jackpot. M&S do a new Tuna and three bean "fuller for longer" salad that contains 30g fibre - which is 126% of your recommended daily fibre allowance - and three quarters of mine. After a little bit of American-style jumping and wooping (I clearly still haven't fully recovered from the enthusiastic USA-style of Jenny Craig on week #19), I got a grip, paid for the thing and left. It turns out that there may be something of an inverse correlation between fibre and taste - it wasn't actually all that nice - but it fit the brief and filled me up, at least.

Yesterday, I also made the Tomato and Red Lentil soup from Audrey's book (fry off one onion, two carrots, two celery sticks , add 6oz split red lentils, tin chopped tomatoes, one tblsp tomato paste, 2l stock, cook for 35 mins, blend). I'm learning a LOT of new soups on my diets. Maybe I'll write a recipe book...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The fibre challenge...

According to Audrey, I have to eat 40g of fibre per day. So far today, I've had three pieces of wholemeal toast, a sprouted bean salad, cabbage, leeks, cous cous, salad, bran flakes and a ton of fruit, and I still think that I haven't managed 40g fibre.

To get 40g of fibre, I could also eat 400 cherry tomatoes, 8 bowls of bran flakes or 30 jars of tartare sauce. I think that I'm going to struggle.

I am enjoying this though - I'm full all the time, and I'm sure that my colon is in rude health! And spending a lot of time in the loo. But luckily I've found a blogging app for my iPhone, so I can do two things at once.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Food for F2 week

So far for breakfast, I've had a slice of toast, bran flakes, the probiotic yoghurt and half a grapefruit. Green grapes for a snack, and the aubergine and lentil salad for lunch. The greenish banana made me feel a bit greenish, so I'm avoiding it for now. Full to bursting with healthy fibre goodness. Am a bit worried about the bursting.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Week 21: Audrey Eyton's F2 diet

By the end of week 20, following The Cambridge Diet, I have lost a moderately impressive 3lbs - bringing my weight to a much happier 9st13lbs. I found 'stage 4' quite difficult to manage - turns out I'm an 'all or nothing' kinda gal, and using the diet products as 'inbetween' snacks for me didn't give as much control as I wanted - compared to sole source, where you only have their products. I still have a reservation about the nature of the products - the fact that it's all chocolate bars and sweet shakes (ok, there are soups, but the point remains...), and the extreme calorie restriction, but I guess the proof is in the pudding (literally, in the case of the chocolate desserts), and if you're seriously overweight, then this seems to work as a starting point for a weightloss journey.

Week 21 is going to be Audrey Peyton's F2 diet. This is a sequel to her multi-million selling F-Plan diet. Now, it's not often that the sequel is better than the original (think Pirates of the Caribbean, Look Who's Talking 2, any of the Star Wars films - although I'm relying on husband for this information, as I slept through every single dull moment).

I'm beginning to notice a formula to these diet books - start by establishing your credentials (Audrey was Beauty Editor of a best-selling womens magazine), then slag off all other diets (Atkins comes in for the most abuse here, possibly because it really is the most discredited, although it helps that he's dead and therefore can't defend himself). You must then establish the 'science' behind your plan - although I use this term loosely, as there is rarely any supporting evidence, before finally actually revealing what your plan is...

A note on the 'science': There's a nod to gender: Audrey notes that the carb-weightloss effect is a girl-boy thing - girls crave carbs on a primitive level, from a time when digging for tubers was a girls work. If this is true, I wonder whether girls in later generations of my daughters will eat more red-meat, as a direct result of my leather-handbag addiction. On statistics: she says that an American is seventeen times more likely to get heart disease than a rural chinese (unsourced, much to my annoyance). A quick google search tells me that in reality (according the World Bank), the average life expectancy of an American is five years more than a Chinese, and Audrey fails to even consider other likely factors, such as exercise (I doubt rural china is as heavily reliant on America than the car), pollution and access to health and education.

Next follows a brilliantly descriptive chapter on poo - illustrating six types, from the nutty/pebbly variety, to the fluffy - and everything in between. Apparently, we should aim for type 4 or 5 - smooth, sausage like, and preferably floating.

So, what actually is this diet? Get to the point, Audrey!! It's basically just a high-fibre, low-GI plan which is designed to benefit your health as well as your waistline. Advantages: high fibre foods are lower calorie and more filling, more calories are wasted (that is, excreted), you feel more full and your blood sugar levels stay steady.

The Rules
  • Eat around 40 grams of fibre per day
  • Breakfast on half a grapefruit, a bowl of high-fibre cereal and a greenish banana each day
  • Have a low-fat probiotic drink each day
  • Eat large quantities of vegetables and pulses - including at least two from the 'F2 Star Bioactive Veg and Pulses' list - at least 15 grams daily (there is a list of 24, including lentils, peas, beans, carrots, spinach, brocolli and sugarsnaps)
  • Eat at least two F2 Star Bioactive Fruits daily (a list of 12, inclduing apples, nectarines, grapes and plums)
  • Eat two slices of fibre-rich wholemeal bread each day
  • Eat grain based foods, such as wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat and couscous
  • Ration fat-containing foods to 10 units daily (a handy guide to almost every food is included)
  • Choose fish instead of meat (or better yet, be vegeatarian), limit red meat to twice a week
  • Drink water freely
With all of this in mind, the weekly Ocado order has been placed. As well as vegetables, I've included ingredients for two of the soups - Spicy Sweet Potato and Red Lentil and Tomato, and some probiotic drinks.

By way of measuring the success of this diet, as well as the weightloss element, I might try to add some pictures to the charmingly titled 'rate my poo', in order to ascertain whether they really do improve over the course of the week.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Cambridge Diet - progress so far...

Yesterday was a freaking disaster. I had a teeny tiny shake for breakfast, and by lunchtime I was STARVING. I hoovered up both of the salads that I'd bought from M&S for yesterday and today, and then, like a mini-vortex, swept up almost anything edible within my path. I did manage to restrain myself at dinner, with a salmon fillet and salad, and I still think that I stayed pretty much within my daily allowance of 1200 calories.

Today, I'm trying to be more sensible, and stick to what Liane suggested. I had breakfast at home before work - which normally I try to avoid seeing as Poppy insists on eating all the cheese off my toast, and my coffee is NEVER ever hot, as I'm trying to make sure that bags are packed, children are dressed (is it just me? I always seem to forget their socks and coats...). I had my chocolate milkshake 'diet' mid-morning (yum), a salad for lunch, and another 'diet' for a mid-afternoon snack (note: calling the 'chewy' chocolate bar chewy is an not an over-exaggeration, it's like chewing gum in a protein-rich chocolate bar), and I'll have an apple to keep me going if I'm really starving. Healthy supper, and no snacking for me tonight.

A note to the followers of this diet: I have the utmost admiration for you. The 450-calorie daily allowance might be carefully calculated to allow you to survive, but it is hardcore, 'extreme dieting', and I salute anyone who sticks to this!!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Diet #20, The Cambridge Diet

Oh. My. G-d. Three weeks until holiday and I STILL haven't lost any real weight. I bought a new bikini this week, and the 360 degree changing room mirrors reminded me of the horror of my 'mummy tummy' from every unflattering angle! This is the bikini. This in NOT what I look like. Goddammit!! Definitely time to get back on the diet wagon.

A quick call to Liane at from The Cambridge Diet, and I've arranged to try it for a week. Similar to slimfast, this is a meal replacement system in the form of shakes and bars (and soups and mousses). The difference is that this one feels quite highly medicalised, compared with the slick 'commercial-ness' of slimfast. You meet with a local consultant, who weighs and measures you, runs through the programme and then gives you a week's worth of food. Unlike (say) weightwatchers, where the heavier you are, the more calories you start with, with Cambridge, you start with fewer. So, Step 1, 'Sole Source', can be as few as 435 calories, spread across 3 'diets' throughout the day.

As I arrive at Liane's, I meet a very slim girl on her way out. Immediately filled with great confidence that this must be a fantastic diet if I could leave looking like her, I am slightly disappointed to learn that she'd just been there to have her nails done (Liane's other source of work!). The consultation itself was a lot more medicalised than expected. I was hoping for a biscuit and a cup of tea and a nice heart-to-heart about why I was such a bloater in the first place. However, seeing as, for most of her clients, that biscuit represents virtually their entire day's calorie allowance, I was quite clearly deluding myself.

As I'm a bit lighter than their average dieter, I've skipped straight to 'Stage 4', which is based on 1200 calories a day.  This involves eating two of their products, alongside 3 small healthy meals during the day (150-300 calories each). Apparently, I can't cram all the calories into one session (which is a shame, because I'm having lunch at Gordon Ramsey's Maze on Monday), and under absolutely no circumstances must I drink this week! My 14 products cost £27, and the average client will spend £35-£45 per week.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Jenny Craig - The verdict: Guilty!!

The timing just didn't work for me. In the sunniest week of the year, the team was heading out to the park to eat al fresco salad and sushi at lunchtime, and I was stuck in the office, microwaving soup. The cereals were great (and although the portions were small, I know that they are sensible and realistic yada yada), and I munched my way through the snack bars with no guilt at all (well, a little guilt after I ate three at once on day two). Bored of the microwaveable pouches, I ended up using the dinners as side dishes, which earned me a (very polite) telling off from my telephone coach Angela. I can see how the telephone support from the lovely Angela would have kept me on the straight and narrow, if I'd been really focussed on this, and it was nice to have someone check in on me, without the inconvenience of having to go anywhere.

I promised that I would try this for two weeks, in order to really get into it and see the results, but after a week, I'd pretty much given up - on dieting altogether!! However, the food didn't go to waste. Offered to a team of journalists and media execs on a near-constant state of diet-induced starvation, it was devoured in an instant.

I've been a bit slack the last couple of weeks, and need a new incentive - namely the fact that I shamefully haven't lost any real weight in a while, and the impending holiday and requisite bikini. New diet is self-made: the chewing gum and coffee diet: The Rules: replace all snacks with chewing gum and coffee. Easy peasy!

Start weight: 10st 2lbs.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Diet #19, Jenny Craig

After such a successful week of juicing (minus 5lbs), I'm really keen to keep up the momentum, so I'm trying a fortnight of Jenny Craig.

Jenny Craig is an American sensation. This immediately sets alarm bells ringing for me, as I'm something of an Americophobe - it's all supersized teens and crazed postal workers and as far as I'm concerned.

Some of the diets that I've done in the last few months have bordered on the ridiculous, and it's been easy to be irreverant when I review them. However, it's hard to be  super-critical when, instead of a website or book, you get a lovely lady on the end of the phone to guide you through the package. Jenny Craig is a nutrition-based weightloss programme, with all your food supplied each month. Unlike dietchef, where the food turned up in a jumbled box, this is Monica Geller-style organisation. A large box arrived, with two layers of prettily packaged food, separated into sections for breakfast, lunches, supper and snacks. In addition, there's a pastel colour-coordinated folder, with a complete instruction guide to the week, and some charts to fill in, to keep track of your weight and inchloss. There's a grocery shopping list, a guide to eating out (it just says 'don't'), an activity planner and some positive affirmations. Suggested affirmation:

My goal is progress, not perfection
I am responsible for my own success
I turn lapses into learning opportunities
Priorities are my stepping stone to results
Each healthy choice takes me closer to my goal
Apparently, I don't have to read these in an American accent, but it helps.

The idea is to use weekly meal planners as a food diary, crossing off breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack as you go, to a total of 1200 calories. There's a section for 'unplanned foods', which also requires you to answer the question 'why' - will be interesting to see what ends up in these boxes by the end of the week. All of this is supported by a very sweet phone counsellor, who guides you through the plan, reminds you to do exercise and adds lots of encouraging words.

Tomorrow, I have muesli for breakfast, Tomato soup for lunch and mushroom stroganoff and rice for supper. Snacks are yoghurt, Jenny Craig snack and fruit, plus as many free foods as I like. Saturday's weight was 9st 13lbs, but a last binge on Mothers Day chocolates mean that I'll start tomorrow at 10st exactly! I've booked another phone session with Angie at 10am on the 6th, to keep me on the straight and narrow.

The end of diet #18: We juiced ourselves slim!!

I'm quickly learning that the more I dread the fad diets at the beginning of the week, the more weight I lose by then end of the week. Betweeen us, Simon and I have lost 13lbs this week (me 5 and him 8), and I also feel better than I've felt in ages.

Favourite juice: Breakfast blueberry smoothie (juice half a pineapple, and blend with 2 tablespoons of bio-natural yoghurt, couple of handfuls of frozen blueberries and some ice), and a special mention to the sweet potato, spinach and watercress soup. By far the worst - Beta Carrot juice - apples, beetroot, carrots, parsnip, lemon and ice - I've never thought of parsnips as a particularly 'juicy' vegetable and it's still repeating on me a week later!

Hardcore diet, yes, but totally worth it! The juicer has pride of place on my kitchen counter, and I take back everything I said about Jason Vale...

Monday, 28 March 2011

Day 2: Juice Yourself Slim

Day 2: Started day with a terrible headache, which I'm sure is not hunger-related, simply 'withdrawl'. Overall though, the day is going well so far, I had a 'blood builder' juice for breakfast (carrot, beetroot, apple, avocado) - thanks to the beetroot it looked more like a blood-milkshake, and a 'Hangover-Over' smoothie in Pure for lunch (Blueberries, banana, strawberries, low fat yoghurt, apple juice). Souper-Green soup planned for dinner. Ocado cancelled my delivery planned for this morning - but have promised to redeliver at the same time tomorrow - with a £25 discount by way of apology. Which seems to have cleared up my headache!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Diet #18, Day 1... Success!!!

Breakfast and lunch, look the same but taste completely different (honest!)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Diet #18, Juice Yourself Slim

The Jenny Craig food is being delivered on Monday, and I need a consultation on Tuesday before I can begin - for any normal person, this would be a good excuse to put off dieting for another week. In the meantime, I (not normal person) found a copy of Juice Yourself Slim, by Jason Vale, aka the 'Juice Master', knocking around the office this week, and I've decided to do this whilst I wait for the food to arrive.

This is not a complicated concept - seven days following Jason's 'juicy' plan, drinking only freshly made juices, soups and smoothies, enough to drop half a stone (at least) and kick start a new, healthy attitude to dieting. The juicing itself is a little more complicated, requiring expensive kit, enough fresh fruit and veg to rival spitalfields market, 5 daily-made juices/smoothies/soups, and a series of increasingly complicated recipes.

Jason Vale comes across as more evangelical egomaniac than medical professional - the book is basically a soapbox for his ranting. The cover promises that you can 'lose weight without dieting', although I'm not sure what else you would call a week of juice-only fasting.

This is a long book, very long, and Jason is absolutely insistent that you must read and absorb Every. Single. Word. The problem for me seems to be that he says a lot of things that don't actually seem to make any sense when you think about them - just because he's written them, doesn't make them true. Here's some examples:

He makes lots of references to popular culture - celebrities, films and fad diets. He talks about diets only working the first time, 'Many people try to relight the inspirational fire using the same method that helped them to succeed before', he calls this 'The Sixth Sense Syndrome'.
"The first time that you see the film, the twist at the end is a complete revelation, but you can't possibly get the same revelation the second time round".
But when you think about it, you can't compare the calorie and fat-controlled regime of weightwatchers, or the carb-free atkins - both of which continue to work scientifically regardless of whether you've seen some shit old film with a washed-up Bruce Willis once or ten times. Jason also doesn't like the BMI system - he calls it antiquated - and says that:

"According to the BMI index, Brad Pitt is obese - yes, Brad Pitt, obese!"

Why, exactly does he single out the not-very-muscular Brad Pitt. Rugby players I can understand, but what's he got against Brad? Maybe he fancies Angelina? And this one's my favourite.  In his chapter 'The Juice Revolution', he says how people from all walks of life are seeing the results. 'Even Kate Moss has been at the wheatgrass shots'. Yeah, wheatgrass, I'm sure that's what Kate's been at...

Two common themes emerge with most of the diet books I've read - it seems to be necessary to slag off all other diets, and to either rubbish all the science, or highlight the science that supports your own case, even when it's the most tenuous possible. He says that:

'Over the past 10 years, there have been scientific studies carried out with regards to juices and smoothies'
but then fails to mention any more about any of them. Where were they? What were the results? When he does reference them, it's in the vaguest terms - Apple juice has a powerful effect on memory and 'can help' prevent asthma. "Polyphenols might play an important role in delaying the onset of Alzheimers" Resarchers said that "it was probably due to disease-fighting polyphenols". Can? Might? Probably? That's not science, that's conjecture... Anyway, he then goes on to totally rubbish science, in the chapter "What is science anyway", basically rejecting any findings that don't conform to his thinking with a "well, we once thought that the world was flat" attitude.

The science part: Jason is obsessed with the dangers of trying to medicalise weightloss, what he terms 'Pharmageddon'. The dangers of Phen-Phen, Vioxx, Alli and the like. My favourite line from the book: 'If you're overweight, the cause is not a slimming pill deficiency'. No, it's also not a chips or pies deficiency either!

Jason Vale also relies heavily on the anecdotal evidence that he receives via letters from successful 7-day juicers. My favourite is this one:

"Dear Mr Vale, My husband and I enjoy delicious juices as a result of reading your books. Not only do we have more energy and better health, but our hair is going back to the original colour"

 This worries me on a number of levels. I have no idea what my hairs 'original' colour is, but I pay my lovely colourist a small fortune every few weeks so that I never have to find out. Secondly, a weeks worth of juices (even a years worth of juice) can't possibly make your hair change colour...

Apparently, during the first few days, I may feel a degree of excessive hunger. According to Jason, this is not genuine hunger, but 'feelings of withdrawl'. Yes, withdrawl from FOOD!! He goes on to say that "this withdrawl is a slight, empty feeling identical to normal hunger". Hmmm, no food, a feeling identical to hunger... He then goes on to further clarify "if I didn't know how much food I have had, how hungry would I really be?" Fucking starving, that's how hungry! Apparently, "the principle is the same for many aspects of life. For example, if you didn't know how much sleep you'd had, how tired would you really be?" Seriously?? I have a full time job, and two small children who often wake me in the night for the most random of reasons. I don't know how much sleep I have, but I know that I'm fucking exhausted all the time!!

Anyhow, I bought a £100 top of the range juicer yesterday in Argos (don't say I'm not serious about this...) and have ordered the necessary fruit and veg (Ocado £40, Tesco £15, £1-a-bowl man 5 bowls). Let's just hope this gadget doesn't join the growing pile of 'seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time, waiting-to-be-put-on-ebay' items in the cellar (Vax carpet washer, kenwood blender, roller blades - to name but a few).

Silver Lining: Having convinced me to buy the juicer, Simon's agreed to join me for the week...