Monday, 28 February 2011

Diet #14, Diet Chef- not going exactly according to plan

I don't mind the granola for breakfast, in fact, it's quite delicious, and refreshing to see what an 'actual' portion should look like. What it actually looks like is about four little spoonfuls - this morning, I ate it from a tiny bowl with a teaspoon so it looks like more! Or just made me look like a giant, which is not exactly what you need from a diet. Lunch isn't so bad, thick soups which are quick and easy in the microwave and quite filling.

Here's where it goes wrong: I hate the suppers. Tasteless lumpy aeroplane-style food, served in microwaveable sachets. There's a school of thought (not mine, obviously) that says fat=lazy. For those lazy people, this would work.

In addition, it doesn't even make any sense. Their chickpea tagine that I (didn't) eat tonight has 237 calories, and wasn't even as half as nice as Lisa's from last week. The veggie burgers that I've made for Simon are only 180 calories and taste nicer. This is completely anti-social - I'm eating differently from the rest of my family, and cooking two meals at a time, so the rest of the family don't starve. On top of that, it doesn't teach you anything about food or healthy eating - how much protein/carbs/calories or fat you should eat - so it would be difficult to carry on once you go back to normal life.

I'm going to carry on with the breakfasts and soups, but I might swap out the dinners. I hope you'll forgive me.

Tonight's Chickpea Tagine that I couldn't quite bring myself to eat

From Lisa Jackson's recipe, last week. Tasted a million times better, and all fresh ingredients:

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Diet #14, Diet Chef

Last week, I gained 3lbs. I weighed myself this morning and literally leapt off the scales. 10st 5lbs. I gave them an accusatory look, shook them to check they were working, and then realised that I have only one person to blame. Actually, more than one, a list. Here it is:

Friend A: For having a birthday, and organising a delicious dinner at Aviv. For forcing me to eat three courses, including hoummos and deep fried lamb for starter, lamb kleftico for main course (with chips, not salad), and a chocolate "volcano" for dessert. Delicious, but rubbish volcano, could barely have melted the ice cream on the side, let alone stopped all international flights for a week.

Friend B: For coming over for tea, and only eating one of the delicious cadbury marshmellow biscuits that I so carefully selected for her, leaving me to eat the remaining 15. I couldn't leave them - it would have been too much temptation for this week.

My husband: For not hoovering up all of this food so that I wouln't be tempted.

Diet Guru Lisa Jackson: For making me believe that listening to her cd twice a day and running up a few stairs would automatically make me thin.

I, on the other hand, completely refuse to take any responsibliltiy for this dreadful turn of events. Other than the slight deviations from the diet this week listed above, I have been nothing short of angelic. I have run up hundreds of stairs, and walked for miles. I've eaten salads for lunch, drank americano's rather than latte's, and had virtually no crisps or chocolate.

So with renewed determination, this week's diet is Diet Chef. You may have seen them advertised on television (if not, you can see their ad here). For a little less than £50 a week, they'll supply all your food - breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack. It's carefully calorie controlled, like slimfast, but with actual food - which has the benefits of not feeling so much like you're on a diet, and also not sending out such horribly negative messages to my daughters. The food comes with a diet booklet, reminding you about all the usual things: exercise (do some), water (drink more) alcohol (drink less), eating out (don't), and so on.

 Although they say that all the food is "chef prepared", there's quite a dramatic disconnect between the images on their website, and the food when it arrives.

Their pictures:

 and mine:

However, I reluctantly started this morning with the Granola for breakfast, and it was really good... Maybe this week won't be such a chore after all.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dinner tonight: Lisa Jackson's Butternut Tagine

Ingredients: 4 tsp olive oil, 2 onions finely chopped, 4 garlic cloves, crushed, 2 tsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp cinammon, half tsp cayenne pepper (which luckily I had left over from the maple syrup diet), half tsp black pepper, 1 tbsp honey, 1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks, 800g chickeas, and three ingredients which I didn't have, so didn't include: handful of parsley, 4 tbsp natural yogurt and lemon wedges.

Method: Saute onions and garlic til soft, then add the spices, honey and butternut squash. Pour in just enough water to cover the base of the pan, cover, and cook gently for 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas and a little more water, cover with a lid, and cook gently until the butternut squash is soft.

Didn't quite look like in the book, but tasted delicious!

From the book

Real life version

Monday, 21 February 2011

Diet #13, Adore Yourself Slim by Lisa Jackson

Monday morning. Refused a lift to the station (not such a biggie seeing as it's less than a two minute walk), walked up the escalators, and ran up the (101) stairs at work. Not going to try Lisa's "sneaky workout" suggestion of squats whilst waiting for the kettle to boil - I might be following this diet for one week, but I have to work with these people for longer!

Start weight is a very static 10st 2lbs, so I'm going to focus on Chapter 6, "Get Yourself Over a Plateau" and listen to track 4 of the cd "Hypnotise Yourself Over a Plateau".

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The end of the detox, and on to Diet #13, "Adore Yourself Slim" by Lisa Jackson

I was originally planning to do a 3-day detox, but I enjoyed it so much, I did even longer, broken only by the temptation of pizza in Prezzo at the end of day four. My weight yesterday morning was a very healthy 10st, although a bit of a fried food/wine binge last night tipped it back up to 10st2lb this morning. I've had a good day today, so hopefully it's only a temporary glitch, and although it's cheating a little bit, I'll use whatever I weigh tomorrow morning as the start weight for this week.

There are a few strange habits that I've picked up and kept up over the last few weeks - I choose to have eggs for breakfast instead of cereal or bread - scrambling two eggs takes less time than toast, and keeps me full all morning (thank you Dr Atkins). I'd rather have a salad for lunch than bread - it stops that mid-afternoon lull and desperate craving for chocolate that I always seem to get. And finally, I've given up my latte's, and I'll have a regular coffee with a dash of milk instead. Which also means (with a previous two-starbuck-lattes-a-day habit at £4 a day) that I've already saved nearly £150 in the two months I've been back at work. 

Overall, I'm beginning to see that lots of small changes to my lifestyle can make a big difference to the overall picture, which ties in nicely with diet #13. One of the lovely ladies on Prima Baby magazine (who sit just along from me in Natmag Towers) loaned me a brand new book called Adore Yourself Slim by Lisa Jackson. It's a bit of a strange title, which I think is in the vein of "think yourself thin" - that all I have to do is adore myself, and the rest will follow (I know, before you say it, that shouldn't be too hard then...)

Lisa is a clinical hypnotherapist/author/long distance runner and health journalist. Alongside her book, you get a cd with five different hypnotherapy sessions with Lisa.

This is more than just a book; it's a workbook, with spaces to write and add photos. You start off pasting a 'before' picture, with a space for an 'after' shot. You then have to assess your past weight battles, to overcome them and move forwards. There's (a very small) space to write why you've gained weight in the past, how you felt about it, what you were eating before, what your turning point was, how you felt listening to the hypnosis cd, mistakes you've made, strategies you've learned, other people's reactions, and so on...

For me, this is where it all becomes a bit, umm, how can I put this... American. Her recommendations include "taking a daily praise pill", getting "in touch" with your body (I used to work on Cosmo, who urged its readers to do this a lot, but I don't think that's quite what she had in mind), evicting the "wicked witch" (negative thoughts), getting in the gratitude groove, and acting like a girl guide (this is a particularly bad idea for me - those were the years that I mostly smoked too many fags, ate too many crisps, and hung out with more boys than my husband would have approved of). This is followed by an Adore Yourself Slim body map, where you write down why you love each part of yourself. You also have to create a goal group people who will follow your diet and help and encourage you - and there's a page to stick photographs. I realise that I've already got my group - it's you, the reader. Lisa next urges you to set your goals, and reward yourself accordingly.

The biggest chapter by far is on food. Lisa has some quite strict but sensible rules. Every day, you should eat 1 snack, 2 fruit, 3 protein, 3 nutritious carbs, 3 dairy and 3 fat servings.

This book is big on lists. There's lists of what's included in each of the above categories, lists of "sanity savers" (eat soup, olives, exotic fruit for sweetness/variety/fullness etc), a list of slimming foods (green tea, chilli, beans, eggs, salad), a list of slimming commandments (the oddly named although sensible enough "thou shalt not order sushi if thou doesn't like fish", "thou shalt never eat anything bigger than your head" and "if you fail to plan you plan to fail"...).  There are some really good recipes which I'm going to try this week, including a chickpea and butternut squash tagine, and roasted veg with halloumi.

There's also a whole section on exercise. Sarah Maxwell, a personal trainer has devised something she's called a "sneaky workout". The idea is that no one is too busy to exercise (even me, with a full time job, two small children and a house to 'run'???). For exercise, Lisa suggests finding the time to train in "dead" time slots - whilst you're commuting, sitting at a desk, waiting for a kettle to boil and running a bath (ha, like I have time for a bath. Just to clarify, I do wash - I shower, but I'm so time-poor, I even have a 4-minute timer in the bathroom to make sure I don't stay too long). Some are good ideas - running up the stairs at work rather than taking the lift (I'm on the fifth floor), walking to the next station rather than the nearest (which is genius, she must know the horror that is Oxford Circus at rush hour) and some are less so. My least favourite: "Got a few minutes beforoe you go out? Put on your favourite cd and dance, burning calories and increasing bone density". Seriously, I have a job, two children and two left feet. I often don't even have time to put on lipstick and do a wee before I go out.

  • The cumulative effects of the smaller changes that Lisa suggests (like walking up stairs), are easy to adopt and make a bigger difference to the overall picture
  • Lisa looks at the big picture - as well as considering the reasons for weight gain and strategies for weight loss, there's a whole chapter on dressing better - wearing heels and make-up , clothes and make-up. As far as I'm concerned, a little bit of blusher and mascara isn't just good for the person who's wearing it, it makes the world nicer for the rest of us who have to look at you too! 
  • The nicest recipes of any of the diet books that I've read so far.
  • Good, solid, practical nutrition advice.

  • The hypnotherapy is a bit wishy-washy for me. Lisa's calm South African accent urging you to "breeeathhhe innnn throughhhhhh your nose", and "imagine sand trickling throughhhhhh your bodyyyyyyy" just makes me want to roll my eyes.
  • I only have time to listen to the relaxation techniques on the tube, which is exactly the opposite of relaxation. And even worse, I've lost my headphones, so I've had to borrow Sadie's pink hello kitty ones.
  • I'm not really into workbooks, and I can't write in this book anyway, because I've got to give it back.
  • Some of the techniques are a bit "american" (sorry, again) for me.

For me, the style of book isn't really the sort of thing I'm into. I don't want sensible, practical advice for every day, I want crazy, faddie, hard-to-follow diets that feel like punishment. I'm still a firm believer in the whole "no pain, no gain" school of thought. Her sensible, no-nonsense approach means that this probably isn't going to be a bestseller, but for the women who buy it, her good, solid, practical advice will not only make them thin, it will make them happier and probably extend their lives.

For this week, I'll live by Lisa's rules. I'll find time to exercise wherever possible, I'll eat according to her guidelines, and I'll make an effort to dress well and look nice. I'll listen to her cd every day, I'll eat only food that I like, I'll eat slowly, I'll plan and I'll relax. And I'll give myself a 1-minute daily pep talk. If I have time.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Diet #12, Detox diet (also elimination diet, gluten-free, paleolithic, possibly macrobiotic and definitely very low calorie diet)

Fruit for breakfast, fruit for a snack, salad for lunch, more fruit for a snack, some cashew nuts (unsalted, natch) and salad for dinner. Start weight 10st 3lb. End weight... well, eating like this, I might just fade away...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

I 'heart' Weightwatchers...

I LOVE weightwatchers. I'm a bit of a control freak at heart (this will not be a surprise to those who know me) and this diet feeds into my obsessive tendancies. I measure and write down everything I eat. I constantly analyse my choices - should I swap a salad for a sandwich? Can I 'afford' a chocolate bar? I have stuck to this religiously for 5 days, and on the sixth day I took a teensy-weensy break, and bam, no weight loss. Probably, because according to most religions, you're not supposed to rest until the seventh day. I'll try to remember that for next time.

Despite this, I still feel better. I feel healthier, my tummy feels a bit flatter, and I feel like I've remembered how to make good choices, and so I still maintain that I love weightwatchers.

I was going to try a second week of 'new' weightwatchers (diet 11'b'), but I haven't had time to go to a meeting (I guess this is one of the downsides of weightwatchers - time), but I'm actually excited about coming back to it another week. Sad, I know, but that's the way I roll.

Separately, I've continued to get some really nice feedback on my blog. According to the stats page, I have a reader in Iran - 'Ahalan' (that's 'hello' in Iranian, not the name of the person in Iran who's reading my blog, for those of you who aren't fluent in Arabic). Another friend, who has a very good job with a very good TV production company, texts me to ask if she might tentatively mention my blog in a production meeting. To describe this as an embryonic development in the life of my blog would be to overstate the case, yet in my head, I'm choosing the dress for my Oscar award speech, and worrying about how fat I'm going to look in front of the cameras. Which means that I'm now panicing about what diet I'm going to do next, in readiness.

After a small delay, thanks to the vagaries of email, the lovely people at Diet Chef have finally arranged to send me enough food to try their diet for a week (you might have seen this advertised on tv - they send you all your meals and snacks, a similar principle to, but with real food). As it hasn't arrived yet, I'm going to do something else first, and then start that from next Sunday. So, for the next few days, I'm going to try a detox diet. This ticks a few boxes on my list - a vegan diet, the elimination diet, raw foodism (to an extent) and the caveman diet. It's also gluten-free, probably macrobiotic, and certainly very low calorie.

So diet #12 is a detox diet - nothing processed, raw where possible, no alcohol, no coffee (hmm, maybe a little bit of coffee), and lots of healthy fruit and veg. Start weight is STILL an annoying 10st 2lb.

ps, just in case you're wondering, Claire Goose would play me. I hear people are constantly telling her how much we look alike...


Claire Goose

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Weightwatchers, the 'before' and 'after' shots...

Before Weightwatchers
My 21st birthday party (January 1998)

After Weightwatchers (and a trip to the hairdressers) 
January 2005

Diet #11(a), Weightwatchers

Once upon a time, in a kingdom not so far away, a teenage girl ate her bodyweight in chocolate. And Macdonalds, potato waffles, french fries (which I just mis-typed as french friends, which says a lot...), milkshakes, cakes, Kitkats, crisps, and wine. Breakfast was Poptarts (or Coco Pops for variety), cheesy chips, with mayo on the side for lunch every day! This (by now) twenty-something girl decided, as the scales reached 15 stone, to head to weightwatchers. Just in case you hadn't guessed, that girl was me, and this is where my obsession with dieting began. Photo to follow.

I LOVED weightwatchers. I measured EVERYTHING, and wrote everything down, every day, for six whole months. I never skipped a meeting, and I lost over three stone in that time.

Most importantly, weightwatchers taught me important lessons about healthy eating - making healthy choices, portion control, eating vegetables and drinking enough water, There are no fads - no soups or shakes, no mad detoxes. It fits in brilliantly with life and work, because you can still eat out - you just have to count whatever you eat.

A brief explanation for those who've never done it - it's very straightforward. Everything has a 'points' value, based on calories and saturated fat. The 'weightwatcher' is allocated a daily point allowance (based on their sex and start weight). So a slice of bread has 1 point, a small glass of wine is two points, a bowl of cereal has around 4 points, and a pret sandwich can have up to 18!! You can earn points back, based on exercise. Although I started originally on 24 points a day, and the more you lose, the fewer points you eat, so for this week, starting at around 10 stone, I'll be on 18 points a day.

Over the years, Weightwatchers has made small tweaks to the diet - first there was 'Switch'- comprising two plans - the 'core' plan, where you can eat as much as you want from a set list of 'core' foods, with a weekly points allowance for treats, plus the origianl points plan, and you could 'switch' between the two. Now, most recently, there is Pro-points - which takes out the blatant anomaly with weightwatchers. You could eat chocolate and drink wine all day, as long as you stick within the allocated points allowance. More realistically, say for 4 points, you could have a kit kat or a salmon fillet. It's obvious which one is better for you, and the new plan reflects that, with the points altered to reflect healthier choices.

I haven't had a chance to go to a meeting this week, so I'm going to do a two-parter - week one (this week) on the old plan, and then week two on the new plan - to see if there's any difference.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Diet Fail: Who would have guessed?

On day 1 I managed until 10.30 (am) before eating - and on day 2 I lasted until a much more impressive half past 12. I remember the exact moment. It was when someone offered me a cupcake. And, even worse, I swear that once I went back to eating, this actually made me more hungry, and craving more sugar. I met someone this week who did this for a whole month - drinking only this and eating fruit. It was when I was visting an asylum, but still...

Another setback today - I met the PR from Lighter Life, and my BMI isn't high enough to do their programme. Considering putting stones in my pockets and heading there anyway.