Amazingly, I’m keeping things pretty much on topic this week, instead of rambling on about nothing, like I usually do. Things have kind of calmed down, but only because, notwithstanding the Newcastle match last Sunday, when alcohol was drunk in copious quantities, I’ve mostly been just getting my head down, scrutinising the job pages, cracking on with spec scripts, polishing up treatments and outlines etc. So it’s been very busy, just not in the fiscal sense, unfortunately.
What’s been keeping me up at nights – literally – are hunger pangs, usually around the 5am mark. Initially, I didn’t know why this was, as I wasn’t doing anything different from the usual routine and, this week particularly, I’ve been stringent with calorie control. In short, I’ve been at my most disciplined since I started this thing, and a typical day goes something like this:
7am-10am – Breakfast: several large coffees (4kcal per mug), each with just a dash of skimmed milk (I struggle to eat anything before noon so, technically, this is breakfast). Calories: 16
11.30am – Elevenses: 250g of red/white grapes (160kcal), or 300g of fresh strawberries (84kcal), with 250g of low-fat or fat-free Greek yoghurt (112kcal). (Strawberries are an absolute super food, and half the calories of most other citrus fruits. You can never eat too many strawberries, and 300g is a whole punnet). Calories: 196-272
2.30pm – Lunch: 150g cucumber, cut into crudites (15kcal), then wrapped in wafer thin chicken or ham (10 slices-80kcal), to dip into 100g of lemon & coriander houmous (250kcal). (Houmous is not as healthy as you think, and is quite high in calories because of the amount of olive oil in it. Those 300g tubs you see in the chiller in the supermarket? About 750 calories, so beware the houmous!!). Calories: 345
7pm – Dinner: Yep, the tried and trusted chicken stir fry. 130g chicken breast fillet (192kcal), 150g straight-to-wok noodles (245kcal), 80g fresh mushrooms (13kcal), 100g fresh bean sprouts (37kcal), 100g pak choi (17kcal), 120g sachet of Blue Dragon/Amoy/Sharwoods stir fry sauce (eg. Chow Mein-110kcal, Peking Lemon-160kcal, Sweet Chilli & Garlic-141kcal, Yellow Bean & Ginger-180kcal), or 75ml of light soy sauce (34kcal). (Home Bargains and B&M do these stir fry sauces for around 29p a pop, a fifth of the price of supermarkets. Some also do the straight-to-wok noodles for around 40p-50p, again a lot less than Tesco etc). Calories: 538-684
Total Calories: 1079-1301. Daily Allowance: 1300.
If I do have any ‘playtime calories’ to indulge in, then I’ll chomp on some wasabi-coated broad beans, or just have some more fruit. Saying I eat wasabi-coated broad beans, makes me sound like a tit, and is incredibly poncy, but I have an excuse for this. I live just off Liverpool’s London Road which, for the uninitiated, is one of the city’s most multicultural areas. It’s rare for me to walk into town and hear any English being spoken, but for some reason I’ve never investigated the tons of fascinating shops along the way. There are Turkish, Afghani, Persian, Indian, Pakistani, and Polish food stores, as well as a very well-stocked Chinese supermarket, and it’s in the latter that I’ve been spending most of my retail time. It’s not the first time I’ve been in a Chinese supermarket, obviously, but it always amazes me to see the vast range of stuff they manage to get a hold of. The good thing, is that most stuff is surprisingly cheap. The bad thing, is that most of the packaging is in Chinese, and I have no clue how many calories are in anything.
However, when you’re as obsessed with chicken stir fries as I am, this place is like walking into a free bar. Fresh pak choi, the tastiest mushrooms I’ve ever had, huge bags of bean sprouts for about 50p, and a whole floor-to-ceiling shelving system dedicated to soy sauce. Seriously, I counted at least 40 different varieties of soy sauce last time I was in there, and I’ve made it my mission to try them all. Soy sauce love runs in our family. Mum’s a fantastic cook, and with her Singaporean genes she’s no stranger to rustling up amazing Chinese meals in minutes, with lashings of soy sauce. My brother puts soy sauce on everything, even sandwiches, and if I’m cooking with a separate sauce, like sweet chilli and ginger, I still can’t help adding a dollop of soy on the top, (this horrifies Mum, though).
This Chinese supermarket is also where I found the wasabi-coated broad beans. They were hanging by the till, alongside a dozen other packets of Chinese snacks, like butter peanut cake, tamarind candy and shrimp chips. Obviously, most are packed with sugar, but the beans were relatively ‘good’. What I like about them, is their unpredictability. Some beans are mildly hot, with a pleasant crunch. But you never know when you’re going to pick the bean that’s going to blow your head off. It’s like a wasabi lottery, so always have a glass of water on standby when eating these muthas. But at just 120kcals for about 40g (a large handful), they can fill a small hole, and singe your tongue, without breaking the calorie bank.
So back to the hunger pangs. I never go to bed hungry, because there’s no point going on a diet if you’re just going to starve yourself. Eating less food is not a diet. It’s not the amount of food we eat that determines our weight and general health, it’s the kind of food we’re eating. And if you starve yourself, your body will create essential fats from other parts of your body, to compensate. I know I’m bad with breakfast, which experts say is the most important meal of the day. But, just as I will eat when I am hungry, I’m not going to eat if I’m not hungry. Always listen to your body, because despite what the gurus say, there are no rules. We are all different, and our bodies work in different ways. It takes me a fair few hours in the morning to even feel like eating anything, but sometimes I do force myself, especially if I have to go out and I know I won’t have the opportunity to eat until the afternoon. But when I’m at home which, being a freelancer, is most of the time, I just don’t get hungry until around 11-11.30am, and even then I have push myself upstairs to the kitchen (my apartment is upside down), to start getting stuck into the fruit.
When you’re on a diet – and I still hate that word – routines are crucial, until you’re confident enough to take full responsibility on your own. I still subscribe to the online plan I signed up to in September – Weight Loss Resources – because although I seem to be able to reel off the calorie counts of most stuff now, I still like the security of having access to their vast database of foods, because the learning never ends. Also, I like filling in my charts, and watching that blue line getting lower and lower (touch wood). Targets are essential, and a huge motivator and, notwithstanding the odd football/pub/gettingsmashed deviation, I’ve been pretty self-disciplined over the last 10 weeks.
So it was puzzling me as to why, this week, I’ve actually been so hungry, that it’s woken me up. I think the weather getting colder might be a factor, because we all need more energy when the temperature dips, but that’s still no reason to actually be woken up by hunger. Then I remembered that I’d been a bit ill at the beginning of the week. Not the nauseous, feeling sick kind of ill, just that having to run to the toilet to get it all out, kind of ill. This was my own fault as, on Monday, I knew I’d been a bit slack with the old food hygiene, and the consequences had been affecting me all week. When someone says ‘salmonella’, you automatically think eggs or chicken. But, being a chicken devotee, I’m always careful around raw chicken, from the plastic chopping board (never use a wooden one) that has to be mildly bleached after every use, to the multi-washing of hands, and always checking there are no pink bits left in the wok. What a lot of people don’t know, though, is that the majority of people who contract salmonella, do so from eating unwashed fruit and vegetables, and that’s what I did. At least, it may not have been salmonella, but forgetting to wash my mushrooms on Monday evening, certainly came back to bite me in the duodenum, later on. Within an hour of wolfing down my CSF, I was running to the loo. Admittedly, I felt fantastically light and lithe, afterwards, but still, using dirty mushrooms as a slimming aid, is not to be recommended.
So, on Tuesday morning at 5am, I woke up with hunger pangs, probably because of the diarrhoea a few hours earlier (sorry…). I never felt sick, but you just have to get it out. Tuesday was back to normal, with mushrooms so clean, they looked like they’d been dipped in Dulux. But again, at 5am, I was awake with hunger pangs. This happened every day, including this morning, but now I think I’ve figured out why. Diarrhoea makes you severely dehydrated. The pangs I was getting, were not hunger pangs, they were dehydration pangs. Another tip for anyone who feels ‘hungry’ during the day, between meals – just try drinking a glass of water instead. Chances are, you’re not actually in need of food, you just need fluid. One nasty attack of the runs strips you of 20% of your body’s normal water content, and you need to put that back in your system asap. I’d been so busy this week, it just never occurred to me, hence the hunger pangs.
Thankfully, the early morning wake-up calls never inhibited my ability to stay up late every night this week, watching back-to-back downloads of my current obsessions. 30 Rock was a scream, with Season 1 Episode 18 – “Fireworks” – actually making me laugh out loud, which is very, very rare for me, because my sense of humour isn’t usually tuned in to an American frequency. I’m waiting on Season 2 to hurry up and download…but ‘Antoine’, next door, keeps switching his hub off.
I’ve been dipping in and out of The Amazing Race for a few years, and not always in season order (the order isn’t relevant, anyway). At the moment, I’ve just finished watching Season 6, which is one of the best, thanks to the incredibly dislikeable Jonathan & Victoria. For those who haven’t watched it, The Amazing Race is a global treasure hunt (“aracearoundthewoooorrrrld”, as host Phil likes to say it, very quickly…), with eleven teams of two having to solve clues and complete physical challenges, as they travel to various destinations on limited budgets, with the first team across the finishing line, a month later, winning $1m. Like Big Brother, the producers always seem to pick the 11 most irritating, dense, utterly clueless bunch of people for each series, none of whom could find a beer in a bar, never mind negotiate passport control. The teams range from siblings, to fathers and daughters, best friends, grandparents etc, plus there always has to be a token gay couple (sorry, I mean “life partners”), to please the TV Equality Commission, and piss off the Republicans. Ideally, the gay couple will be black, or Asian, and if they can get lesbians, then that’s even better. Jonathan, however, is not gay, or black, or Asian, or a lesbian. He’s just a tit.
He and Victoria are “from Hollywood”, and introduce themselves as “married entrepreneurs”, which means they sit around a swimming pool doing f**k all. Victoria is a victim of emotional domestic abuse. Every time something doesn’t go Jonathan’s way, he walks up to his wife, pushes his face up to hers, and screams at her that she’s “dumb”, “stupid”, even “retarded”. Jonathan says “retarded” a lot. He’s a bully, a misogynist (“this is why women don’t rule the world, VICTOOOORIA!“), a borderline psychopath, and an utter cock. He thinks he’s the most amazing, handsome, AH-SUM person in the universe, but is so thoroughly unpleasant, even nice Mr Phil struggles to smile at him when they ‘check-in’ at the end of each leg. He is so unbelievably vile, I feel forced to share him with you, here, and this isn’t even the worst of him.
For her part, Victoria just stands there and lets her adoring husband abuse and bully her, although she’s not immune to her own hissy fits, which is hardly surprising, considering what she is inexplicably willing to put up with. I was horrified when Jonathan announced that his biggest dream was to have children with Victoria. Realising that Season 6 was a few years old now, I couldn’t help googling the pair, to see if a) Jonathan had managed to avoid assassination, and b) if they’d actually had kids. They have two. And I’m sorry, but there’s no way in hell, a couple like that should be allowed to have children. It’s child abuse, pure and simple.
Anyway, it was great TV, which is all that matters. Here are some gems from The Amazing Race, but there are really just too many to mention.
“It’s horrible here, no wonder so many of them wanted to escape to America…” (Lori, on passing through an impoverished port town in Senegal, where thousands of local families were forced onto US-bound slave boats in the 18th century.)
“I need someone who speaks English! Why doesn’t ANYONE speak GODDAMN ENGLISH AROUND HERE!!?? What is WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!!” (Our Jonathan….in rural Ethiopia).
“Why should it be me who has to tell you where we’re going, just because I have the map?” (Rebecca, trying to get her and Adam out of Oslo).
“We’re trying to get to Mortius…Mowtittus…Mow-ree-artus….” (Kendra, trying to get to Mauritius).
(Justin, reading the next clue): “Make your way to London….where is that?”
Moving on, The Cleaner remains my third late-night laptop telly option, and I was ‘stoked’ on Tuesday, when settling down to Episode 5, that the guest star of the week was none other than Lord Eric of Roberts. No-one does Biker-Druggie-SingleDad-Guy better than Eric, it was made for him; a masterclass from the maestro on how to steal 41 minutes of cable TV. I adore him, in case you hadn’t guessed, and I genuinely think he’s one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. If you don’t believe me, check out It’s My Party, Runaway Train (for which he was Oscar-nominated, no less) and In Cold Blood.
As always, I welcome any TV recommendations that feature overlooked B-movie actors, preferably series that run/ran for more than five seasons, so a suitable level of all-consuming obsession can be achieved.
Things I’ve Learned This Week
1. Always wash mushrooms
2. Whatever deadline someone sets you, always complete earlier
I got stung this week by naively thinking that meeting a deadline would mean getting paid the same day, but when that payment has to be timed in line with ‘payment cycles’ that only happen twice a week, it’s more than likely you’ll end up in the second one.
3. Women could never rule the world, according to Jonathan
No, we just give birth to the idiots that reckon they do.
Things I’m Dreading This Week
1. The Chelsea game
Again, it’s not the result I worry about, as I’m an eternal optimist where the football is concerned, though God knows why. But I am going to watch it at The Olds. Ergo…
2. Falling off the Wagon of Willpower
I’m cat-sitting in leafy Oxton next weekend, together with the lovely Brenda, who’s over for the Wigan game. It might mean tapas, and it will definitely mean wine. Either way, it means saving up some calories, starting right now.
The Stats Bit:
Weeks 1-4: 8.75lbs
Weeks 5-8: 5.25lbs
Week 9: plus 0.75lbs – first week of weight gain.
Week 10: 1.75lbs
Total after 70 days: 15lbs