Right now, I’m sitting on the SS Pendolino, floating over Runcorn Bridge, a tub of “Red Fruit & Yoghurt” open in front of me, that serves as ‘breakfast’. There are two cans of ready-mixed vodka tonics in my bag, but even I think that 8.58am is a tad too early to jump the booze shark just yet.
In two hours, I’ll be alighting at Euston and falling into the British Library next door, to meet up with Kath, Deb, Abby and Tanya and spend a cultured late morning perusing dusty old manuscripts and scraps of world-changing lyrics, courtesy of the Writing Britain exhibition I mentioned on here last week.
As ever, with any day release from the Collegiate Debtors’ Prison, I will have to spend the whole day dodging temptation, even if two of those temptations were deliberately placed in my bag, by me, before leaving my cell.
My genuine intention, is to be satisfied with this healthy, citrusey breakfast before me, and not even think about the delicious, relaxing, well-earned and completely beautiful alcohol, sitting in my bag. It’s not that I ever had a habit of drinking before midday (much), it’s just that, as with sitting in airport departure lounges, there’s something about ‘going on a train’ that makes it OK to have a drink, whatever the time of day.
These past few weeks, brekkie has largely consisted of ultra-high-calorie bananas and a random citrus fruit, smothered in fat-free Greek yoghurt. Today, I can’t be completely sure that I didn’t deliberately omit the bananas from my mobile breakfast, knowing full well I could substitute them for a double vodka. The cans in my bag will be lucky to hurtle through Stafford, unmolested.
I have no idea what we’re doing for lunch. In my head, I have visions of enjoying a smug tuna nicoise salad in the environs of a leafy Covent Garden brasserie, while I sip on lemon water and cast rolling-eyes aspersions at anyone within twenty feet of me eating a burger. In the real world, that brasserie will probably be called Wetherspoons, and the salad will be an all-day breakfast, or four cheese pasta. Probably both.
In the week just gone, I was right to have been concerned about the evils of the Hope Street Feast. Sure enough, wandering past stalls with names like “Fresh, Warm Italian Herb Bread”, “Hot Pig Sandwiches” and “Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Lovely, Lovely Cheese, Come And Eat Me Now” was, in all fairness, a bit of a bugger. Add to that, meeting up with the folks in Casa, just as the rain came down (“oh well, might as well have another drink, then…”), and it meant the only recipe being marketed anywhere near my struggling, overweight soul, was the one marked “disaster”.
Four vodkas later (which is only two bananas, all said and done…), and I was skipping down Hardman Street with ‘the olds’, towards the Four Seasons Restaurant. Everyone knows that Chinese food is healthy. As long as it’s cooked in China, and not in a Chinese restaurant over here. MSG? Hell, yeah. In spades the size of bulldozers.
Fluorescent food aside, it was also the first time in two weeks I’d had wine. Granted, only two glasses but, when added to the whoppingly naughty evening special sat on the huge plate in front of me, and the sneaky nightcap I managed to slip in at The Phil on the walk home, it meant I was a glorious 847 calories over my allotted pittance. And it was only Sunday.
Luckily, I was locked back in my cell for the rest of the week, only being allowed out every other day, for fifteen minutes at a time, to go and buy more chicken. So I managed to recoup the lost calories, no bother, despite my ever-dwindling allowance which, now I’m at the start of Week 4, is just paltry (see below).
Things I’ve Learned This Week
1. Chicken stir fries are more addictive than heroin (I’m imagining…)
I can’t stop eating them. Every night this week. The only variations I’ve added/deleted from this fail-safe recipe, is an occasional sauce/vegetable juxtaposition, and an experiment with rice noodles, instead of egg noodles (which backfired). If all the chickens of the world were to die from fowl flu tomorrow, I would have a breakdown. And before you ask, turkey just isn’t the same. Next week, I am determined to ‘get on the salmon’. My mum tells me that variety is the spice of life.
2. Berocca is your friend
It doesn’t have to be Berocca, which is a tad expensive for what it is. Get yourself in the pound shop and stock up on effervescent energy tablets, which are exactly the same thing. And make sure they’re multi-vitamin, not just the Vitamin C ones. They rock. I was trying to cut down on coffee, because caffeine is bad, so I’ve gone onto these instead. Which are good.
Plink, plink, fizzzz, just like those 80s Alka Seltzer ads. One, every morning, kick starts the old motor, and the rest of the day is like going round and round on “The Big One” at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. And to think these super-size Refreshers are banned in some countries? Like Holland. That’s right, pot-smoking Holland. My cousin, who’s Dutch, spends most of the time when she’s over here, stocking up on dozens of tubes of Berocca to sew into her suitcase and smuggle back to Amsterdam. Airport security are so preoccupied stopping all the thicko Brits trying to shufti back home a few grams of hash shoved down their ear canals, they’re completely oblivious to the kilos of contraband vitamin C currently flooding the leafy, middle-class streets of Amstelveen. “It’s the best hangover cure in the world…” my cousin proclaims, proudly, with not a hint of shame. I do concur.
3. My Diet Yoda is a sadist, with a very twisted sense of logic
After programming all my measurements/weight/favourite colours/who I’d been in a previous life, etc, into the online chart, on Day 1 of this quest, I was given (there’s that word again), a daily allowance of 1300 calories. This was based on my desire to lose just 1lb a week. After the first week, I’d lost over 3lb. So what did the Diet Yoda do? He (I presume it’s a ‘he’) shaved another 150kcal from my allowance. Which makes no sense at all.
Shouldn’t he have given me more calories to consume, not less?
I’d lost way more weight than planned, in the first 7 days, so surely that meant the initial calorie quote was too low? If I was to pull back to the 1lb weekly target, and not go too fast, then wasn’t it more calories I needed, not less? Decreasing the calorie allowance yet further, would only increase the speed at which I was losing weight. Which isn’t the plan at all. At this rate, I’m going to smash into that plateau at Mach speed, and be buggered by October.
True enough, this was borne out in Week 2, when I lost over 4lbs on the new, reduced allowance. Over to Diet Yoda who, you guessed it, stole yet more calories from me for Week 3. And my Week 3 weigh-in, this morning…? See below.
By Week 10, if I make it that far, I’ll probably be on eight calories a day. Which wouldn’t even cover a paracetamol.
Is this a major flaw in most of the world’s calorie-based diet plans? Have I stumbled on a secret the billion-dollar weight loss industry doesn’t want us to know? Is this calculation deliberately designed to give dieters like me false hope, knowing the plan is unsustainable, so we keep yo-yoing, destined to be trapped forever in Diet Hell?
Or, as is more likely, am I just crap at science?
4. Dieting has improved my ability to multi-task
It’s true. Years ago, I was Queen of multi-tasking. When I had a proper job, I used to manage four or five different projects at once, each completed on time, and I’d still have space for coffee breaks, several times a day. When I went freelance, that ability disappeared, almost overnight. For the past 11 years, it’s been a miracle if I can even hold my phone and a front door key, in the same hand, never mind actually use either of them. Work-wise, I can usually only concentrate on one project at a time. I’d be battling a constant backlog of scripts, stories, features and just general stuff, all with the same deadline, because I’m just not capable of compartmentalising, or working on things pro rata. It’s all, or nothing, with me, and I have to be able to put to bed one thing, in my head, before I can even consider moving on to something else.
You’ll imagine my surprise, then, when on Thursday, it hit me that I’d spent the day working on three different projects, and it was okay. My concentration was sharp, my energy was centred and focused on the jobs in hand, and even at 10pm, I knew I easily had another hour of productive work left in me. An hour that soon turned into four, as I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2am, my brain buzzing with creativity, my whole body primed and raring to go, and my entire soul just too damn motivated to sleep!
Why did I feel so alive? Had the discipline of dieting really had such a significant impact on my mental health, as well as the physical? No, of course it hadn’t. I was simply taking far too many Berocca.
What I’m Afraid Of This Week
1. The Man Utd game tomorrow
Not because I think we’ll get beat (I never think we’ll get beat, and I’m happy in my delusions), but because my friend, Chrissie, is up from Cardiff, and it means getting very drunk. This will easily be my biggest test to date. Chrissie and I don’t do things by halves. We do them by pints. Lots of them. They haven’t invented the number yet, which would accurately reflect the amount of calories by which I’m going to ‘go over’, tomorrow.
2. Falling overboard on Thursday
I’m not being metaphorical. I am actually afraid that I’ll somehow end up in the river before, during or after the Ian Prowse gig on a Mersey Ferry this week. I’m not good on boats. I’ll probably get seasick. Mum’s got a pair of our Mollie’s blow-up armbands in the little bedroom at their place. I might take them with me, just in case.
Here it comes! Here it comes!! Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But definitely next week, and then for the rest of my life…
The stats bit:
Week 1: 3.25lbs
Week 2: 4lbs
Week 3: 0.75lbs (see, I am crap at science…but it was that evil Chinese wot done it…)
Total after 21 days: 8lbs