14 days in might be a new world record. That’s a whole two weeks. Half a month, one twenty fourth of a year. The first week went OK, mainly because I was locked up for most of it.
So it was 3.25lbs down, about 10 stone still to go.
I was worried about this week, though. It was always going to be a tough one, for various reasons, but everything stayed mainly on track. Keeping a food diary is easy when you’re signed up to something that has pages and pages of foods to just tick and load up onto a graph. I spend hours doing this. There’s something about seeing pie charts materialise before one’s eyes, that’s quite comforting. I’ve learned to hate the colour orange, though, because orange stands for ‘fat’, and as we all know, fat is baaaad. But as not as bad as grey, which means alcohol.
I’d been very good with alcohol, but this week I was allowed out of Collegiate Debtors Prison, to go to the Lowry in Manchester, for the Clapperboard UK Film Awards. A charitable trust, run by the indomitable Maureen ‘Mo’ Sinclair, and Colin Farrell (no, not that one…), Clapperboard collaborates with young people from all over the North West (schools, youth groups, community centres etc), to write, produce and direct short films about issues that affect them. It’s a fantastic organisation and an invaluable resource for kids who want to get into film.*
This week, then, it was time to give the kids their day, as all the films were screened and the awards handed out. As much as I’d been looking forward to it, I was also dreading it. Because being let out on as long a leash as this, also meant I’d be exposed to the calorific evils of an open bar, and God knows what else. I’d been sensible earlier in the day, and eaten my tea before I left, so that was the first hurdle successfully jumped. Stomach = lined. I did sneak an M&S vodka tonic onto the train, because it had been a very intense day already and I needed to take the edge off.
Pulling into Piccadilly, I was still feeling smug. That one little voddie seemed sufficient, and I really didn’t feel like I wanted another one. I would jump on the tram to the Lowry, enjoy an evening with friends, applaud the efforts of some truly talented kids, then hop the last train home, and early-ish to bed. No bother.
It didn’t turn out that way, though. For one thing, the last train back to Lime Street, that didn’t take ten hours, was the 2207. No way in hell the event would be finished by then. I mulled the dilemma over with my plus one, Tony, and we both agreed that we’d “see what happened”. I still don’t know what either of us meant by that.
Suffice to say, the evening passed by in a flash. After seeing the guys and gals have a ball in the spotlight, picking up their shiny trophies and posing for the paps, it was into the Green Room for more free wine and a proper chin wag with people I’d not seen in far too long. The wine flowed, the canapes got larger and badder, and time disappeared into that Tardis that only ever appears when you have a train to catch.
We missed the train, obviously, and spent the rest of the night chatting up anyone who might be heading towards the M62, later. I vaguely remember throwing Tony into the back of a Ford Focus, as its driver was destined for somewhere near the Irish Sea. I have no idea if he got home or not. Me, I was lucky enough to grab the last spec in my friend Iain’s car, and got home some time around 1.30am (thanks, though, Arthur, for the offer of your hotel room bunk bed but, you know, three’s a crowd…).
Total damage: 4 vodka, 5 white wine, 1 Stella, 435 canapes. Not bad…
Next morning? Felt like s**t, obviously, and I had to fill in my pie chart with one hand covering my eyes, but by the end of the day, I’d grabbed back the calorie deficit and was so back on track, I could have had a toasted cheese sandwich and still been ‘under’.
A small wobble, then, but nothing I wasn’t really expecting, and everything remained on schedule.
Things I’ve Learned This Week:
1. Eating healthily is very, very expensive…
…Especially if you’re single. Think about it. You can go into Iceland and buy 100 frozen cheeseburgers, 10 loaves of white bread, 1,000 cheese slices and 200 pizzas, for about a quid. And you can stick it all in the freezer, and graze at your leisure. You want fresh veg, fresh fruit, and stuff that doesn’t kill you? That’ll be a million pounds. And you have to eat everything within 48 hours before it rots. My food bill has easily quadrupled in the two weeks since I started trying to live longer. Which makes no sense to me. Why is eating fresh, eating natural, eating like the olden days, so much dearer than eating all that manufactured junk that must pass through innumerable fabrication processes before it even reaches the shop? That can’t be cheap. So no wonder we’re a nation of fatties. It costs too much to stay slim. You can’t blame a mother for buying up ready meals and junk food for her family, when the alternative is just too expensive.
2. Chicken Stir Fries Are The Dog’s B******s.
I have a Welsh friend who’s obsessed with chicken, even more than he’s obsessed with sheep. But right now, I love chicken more than him. As long as you pick the right sauce and ‘accompaniments’, chicken stir fries are one of the healthiest meals you can have. My recommendation – get yourself to Tesco (I know, I know, booooo….), and get on their £3 stir fry meal deals. A bag of egg or rice noodles, a tub of mushroom stir fry vegetables/bean sprouts, and a sweet chilli & ginger sauce. OK, so the chicken’s extra, but even including that, I can get four evening meals, for £8, at just 450 calories each.
3. It’s Impossible To Eat Out When On A Diet
And I don’t mean, like going to a restaurant, or anything fancy like that. Even if you’re just peckish and want a snack to tide you over until tea time, there is NOTHING out there that doesn’t contain bread, cheese, crisps, sugar or vodka. I’m lucky in that I work from home, so I’m not tied to a canteen, or the local Gregg’s. But if I was, and I forgot to take in my own lunch one day, I’d be f****d, and would just have to starve until going-home-time. And there are too many pubs around, as well. Too. Many. Pubs.
4. Cutting Out The Junk Gives You Shedloads of Energy.
Seriously. Even after two weeks, I have twice as much energy as I did in August. And I count bread, as junk. I guess it depends on body type, speed of metabolism etc, but for me, cutting out bread has had a massive effect in such a short space of time. As much as I love the stuff, I’d always feel heavy after eating a sandwich, or having toast. My belly would become bloated, and lethargy would soon creep in. To save time cooking, I used to just buy those ‘Healthy Options’ sarnies from Boots/Tesco/Somewhere, thinking I was still being good, but they’re not good, not at all. And unless you buy straight from the baker (ergo: pay twice as much), most bread is processed anyway, and it’s full of rubbish that just sits there inside you, because your body can’t break it down, until it slowly turns into fat. Bread is gorgeous (especially smothered in Primula), but bread is also as bad for you as hula-hooping.
5. Sugar Is Hiding Around Every Corner.
And I don’t even have a sweet tooth. We’re all busy people, so we don’t have time to analyse every ingredient, every ‘recommended daily allowance’, every calorie and every ‘fat per 100g’ label out there (unless you’re me, of course). But know this. Just because something claims to be ‘low fat’, or ‘diet’, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. How many times do you see ‘no added sugar’ displayed as a positive thing? Doesn’t mean there isn’t any sugar in it, there’s probably a truck load. It just means they haven’t added any more to what’s already there. Natural sugar, such as that you’ll find in apple juice, grapefruit juice, ‘diet’ Ribena etc, it’s still sugar, and still bad. Choose your fruit wisely, and always brush your teeth afterwards. Fructose destroys enamel quicker than anything else. And those health bars and protein bars you see at the checkout? About 15g of sugar in each one. One tablespoon of ‘low fat French dressing’….6g of sugar. A cup of skimmed millk…12g of sugar (lactose). And I love cold, skimmed milk. When I added up the calories in 3 pints, which is what I used to drink most days, it came to 582, which shocked the hell out of me. That’s over a third of my daily allowance.
6. Special K Isn’t Very Special.
We all want to be the girl in the red dress, right? Even the blokes. Skipping through her white house, or sitting on her ocean-front verandah, shoving Special K down her gob, because she really looks like she needs to lose weight. Here you go, people, eat a bowl of this fabulous, healthy, deliciously tasty cereal for breakfast, then again for lunch, and a regular meal in the evening, and you, too, can look like this in just 12 weeks! If ever a company was taking the piss, it’s Kellogg’s. Like most breakfast cereals, Special K is absolutely packed full of sugar. An average bowl contains 6.8g of sugar – that’s only slightly less than a jam doughnut. Their boast that consumers can lose 6lbs in two weeks, by eating Special K twice a day, is based on a 30g serving. Have you seen what a 30g bowl of cereal looks like? It’s like saying, eat this piece of paper, and nothing else, for two weeks, and watch the weight drop off! Well, sure….but how do I survive in the meantime? Like most ‘healthy’ foods on the supermarket shelf, Special K is a con.
7. There Is A Gap In The Market For Low-Fat Pistachio Nuts.
I love them, seriously love them. Next to Primula, and Gorgonzola risotto, they’re my favourite food. And nuts are an A1, diet-tastic super food, right? One of those tiny bags from the top shelf of the health food section in Holland & Barrett…. 989 calories. Bastards.
The Weeks Ahead
As we move further into September, a few things are standing out as potential high-calorie banana skins. Tomorrow, is the Hope Street Feast, here in Liverpool; an “urban village fete” with theatre, dance, music….and lots of fine produce stalls. And, of course, lots of pubs. And friends who like pubs. It’s going to be tricky.
Next Saturday, it’s down to London on the Space Shuttle Pendolino, to catch up with friends and take in an amazing exhibition at the British Library, called “Writing Britain” – a collection of original manuscripts and lyrics, such as Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of The Day, and even John Lennon’s draft for “In My Life“. I am beyond excited, but the day will inevitably entail some kind of “lunch”, which I’m guessing may include wine, and victuals of a satanic variety.
The day after, we play United at Anfield. Three guesses where that one’s heading…
Then, on the 27th, it’s a toe-tapping night out aboard a Mersey Ferry for “Ian Prowse and Friends”, which definitely won’t be tee-total.
The wobbles are going to get wobblier, and I can’t even think about Christmas.
Still, the results of the DD Weigh-In Jury for this week, are…
Week 1: 3.25lbs
Week 2: 4lbs
Total after 14 days: 7.25lbs
Footnote: Too Much Too Soon?
My plan was to go at a steady 1lb a week, something that was realistic, something that was achievable, something that would fit in with my current lifestyle, and not put me at risk from getting demotivated if things didn’t go my way. Losing half a stone in two weeks, makes me feel fabulous, and I’d be lying if I said otherwise. BUT, it’s also a massive warning bell.
It’s too quick, I know it’s too quick, and I know the way my brain works. Now, if I don’t lose between 3-4lbs every week, I’ll think I’m failing, when the plan was only for 1lb a week anyway. Instead of being rational and thinking “well, I’m ahead of schedule, so ease up and let loose a little…”, I’m going to be thinking “I’m slowing down, it’s all going to come back…I’m plateauing already...!!” And that’s when I’ll be at my most vulnerable. Watch this space.
* To actively support Clapperboard, get yourself along to their regular film screenings and Q&As at FACT on Wood Street/Fleet Street, Liverpool, usually on the mid-Monday of the month. Previous guest speakers include Jimmy McGovern, Stephen Graham, Kevin Sampson and Christopher Eccleston.