Sunday, 30 March 2008

Sunday lunch

We didn't have a service at our village church, where I'm churchwarden, because we were joining with the other villages in the group, so I went to the service in the next village. I didn't cycle - it's four miles, two of them uphill and I got going a bit late this morning because of the change in the hour and because Sunday morning is a splendid opportunity to stay in bed and cuddle my husband. I biked into town for the papers, then got in the car and drove to Alburgh. It's quite cyclable, actually (I don't really do hills) as its a steady uphill rise rather than hills, and none of those wasteful dips down that lose you all the ground you've gained.

The result was that I arrived home nearly an hour earlier than usual, and briefly contemplated going to the pub - but by that time I was hungry as I'd only had dry toast for breakfast. So I scrubbed and cut up a carrot and some celery, toasted another slice of lovely organic nutty bread from the wholefood shop, added a couple of teaspoons of cottage cheese and ate them with half a litre of St Peter's Brewery Best Bitter. A splendid use of those calories saved on the food, I thought. I feel mellow and content now.

I love drinking at lunchtime. It's my biggest treat, almost, because it's quite rare. Actually, the other day I came in cold and tired and had a big bowl of homemade minestrone soup and a glass of sherry. That was a pleasure, too. I drink most evenings, but not often at lunchtime. Best of all is when there's an excuse to start in late morning and just keep going. But that's Christmas and the occasional wedding or funeral. It wouldn't make sense to do it regularly.

I can stop, you know. Any time at all...

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Hello, darkness, my old friend...

...which has nothing to do with it, although when I was sitting at my desk this lunchtime, I could feel the familiar soreness in my hip and it seemed almost friendly in a peculiar way, in that it was familiar and sort of part of my life. Until I noticed that it was the wrong hip. That was a bit disconcerting. I won't do strenuous post-bank-holiday-guest hoovering again for a bit - the sort that involves moving all the furniture.

When the Sage asked me if I was going to cycle to Yagnub, I quoted Eliza Doolittle; at least the first three words were a quote as I did not declare an intention to hire a taxi. But when the time came, it seemed just too winpish to get the car out to drive less than a mile and a half, so I biked in after all. Later, I made a big pot of vegetable soup and we had that for dinner with cheese scones. The other day, the wholefood shop was right out of ordinary yoghurt and I've been told how solemn plain soya yoghurt is, so I bought the goatmilk sort. I had a cautious spoonful this afternoon. Goaty, yes, it is. I'm not sure I can eat it straight. I used a good dollop in the scones and I'm trying to think of ways to use it in cooking without the Sage noticing.

I've not been very energetic for the past couple of weeks in an exercising context, because I've been quite busy and the weather has been bad. I'm not cycling in strong winds, because that would be really silly. The only point of that would be if I fell on my right hip and got an early implant, but the Law of Silly-Buggers surely dictates that I'd break something else instead.

I ate and drank silly amounts over Easter - nothing awful, just an increase in the usual, which meant a strong urge to eat pumpkin seeds and such sensible-sounding but deceptively oily snacks, while standing at the Aga, cooking, yesterday. Hence today's regime of porridge, cottage cheese, rice cakes, chickpeas, fruit and soup. And the cheese scones, but they were small and not very cheesy so I think I'll let them pass.

Sunday, 23 March 2008


I remembered something recently. Two things, that people have said to me in the last few months. One was at an exhibition. An editor of another magazine said hi as I was grabbing a very quick bite on a stand; it's very hard, nay impossible, to eat well at these things. You eat what you can, when you can, and always try and have breakfast.

Anyway, I was eating some kind of wurst, I think. I had some desserty thing with me too. He looked at me and he said: "Live for today, eh?" He's in incredible shape – and he dresses perfectly too, so you wouldn't know it. I've seen his forearms though, and he's a pretty serious weightlifter if they're anything to go by. Once I had clocked them, I reassessed the rest of him and realised that he's fucking built. And that's how well he dressed – you just wouldn't know it.

The other thing was said to me at a funeral thingy. Like a wake, but no-one called it that. I was tucking into some tasty cocktail sausages, and a friend's boyfriend, who was doing the same thing but less so, said: "It's that attitude that's made you into the man you are today."

I've had both of those things on my mind recently. I think that's what's got me into the idea of eating less but more often again – I'm happier that way. Always make sure there are carrots in the house, always make sure there are no crisps… and change your habits. I re-try my gymming again next week, with SLW's help. I've been lazy, and I've done myself no favours; things have to change, and now.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Easy to say, isn't it?

I'm not dieting any longer. That is, I am still intending to lose weight, but if a diet is to continue for more than a few months, it has to become the way you eat, rather than a temporary regime for the time it takes to get to the weight you want to be. I think it's useful to be very strict for a time, because you need to adapt to food with less fat and sugar, or whatever you're cutting out, and your tastebuds and stomach learn to stop expecting rich food while you still have a determined mind. But the reason most of us are overweight is not that we can't lose weight, with more or less effort and change, but that we relax, after a while, into our old ways. And we get away with it too, at first. One indulgent weekend, one relaxed holiday, will put on few if any pounds, and then it's easy for the Saturday morning croissant, the nightly chocolate, the Friday night fish and chips or Chinese takeaway, to become part of life again, and it's really hard to arrest if 'all' you've put on is an odd half stone and your clothes still fit.

A year or two down the line, however, it's a different story.

So, I have relaxed somewhat, and yet I haven't. A snack is still a ricecake or some raw vegetables, but if I'm offered a chocolate, I'll take it if I want to (my family are too kind to think of giving me chocolate for Easter, I'm sure) - but not a second one, and only once a month or so. I still will eat porridge or dry toast for breakfast and I won't have toasted cheese for lunch (quite possibly never again - oh woe, that's not a thought to encourage me). I'll continue to eat huge amounts of vegetables to distract me from the small helping of meat - but on Sunday I will have some Yorkshire pudding with my roast beef.

In fact, nothing has changed. I am going to behave the same, pretty well, as I have been since the end of October, but this is now the way I eat. My diet, rather than 'a diet'.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Eat just one pie, perhaps?

The same friend I mentioned the other day (who tried the non-absorption of fat pills) has been trying to lose weight for the past three years. He is my age, used to play a great deal of sport, mainly rugby and swimming, but once he got into his forties various factors put an end to that - work and family commitments, some joint trouble, that sort of thing - and he started to put on weight. A scare about the condition of his liver (at one time he'd drunk quite freely too) prompted him into dieting.

He does know all about healthy eating and he thinks he does eat pretty well (I don't), but I just can't get him to acknowledge how easy it is to add a vast amount of extra calories to what you eat for no extra goodness. For example, he says that he never buys mayonnaise. Well no, he buys prepared potato salad and coleslaw though, which is laden with the stuff - a little good quality mayo or salad dressing added at home is far better. If he goes to the supermarket on the way home from work, he snaps up the ready-prepared fresh meals, things like crispy pancakes. He points out that they are half-price. I tell him that cheap does not mean good value - besides, that sort of thing costs far more than the price of the ingredients.

He's tried appetite suppression pills, too, but what he does is to go as long as he possibly can without eating, then eat as little as possible. A dramatic weight loss results, but the effect of these pills diminishes with time, so by the time they aren't working and he stops taking them, he has done nothing about getting into a really good healthy eating pattern and weight creeps on again in a few weeks.

I do understand his problem with cooking meals, as he works long hours in a demanding job and lives alone, but yo-yo dieting is the worst of all for good health and, although he loves vegetables and healthy food generally, as well as the fatty German sausages and pork pies, his real weakness is eating just because the food is there. He is unable to leave food on his plate and he never turns down a second helping. He says that he wasn't allowed to leave food uneaten as a child and besides, sometimes there wasn't all that much of it - but when I said that knowing the root cause of a difficulty can show the way to overcoming it, he said that was too hard and he couldn't do it. The thing is, if he can't learn to stop eating when he is no longer hungry, he needs to be even more careful about what he puts on his plate.

I tried, I really did. I encouraged him and cooked food for him, I listened to him and was pleased for him when he lost weight. But I ran out of things to say in the end. I haven't run into him for some time - he has a girlfriend now so tends to spend weekends with her - and maybe she'll have more success.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Z turns into her Mother

"I'm turning into Grandma" I said dramatically to my daughter at the weekend. She was alarmed. It's the fear of our lives that one or both of us is becoming like my mother. Though fine and lovely in many ways, they aren't the ones that creep up on one all unbidden, are they?

The whole family had always been bemused at the range of vegetables she served up. Each in its own dish, they took ages to pass round and the meal was nearly cold by the time we all started eating. My sister and I often wondered why she had to serve half a dozen different ones when two plus potatoes would all have been cooked at the same time and could have dished out quicker.

Now I know. It's because eating a little of lots of things is more satisfying than eating a lot of one thing. On Saturday, we had roasted shallots, garlic and butternut squash, sprouting broccoli, carrots, parsnips, onions, baked potatoes and courgettes. I ate the cores of the parsnips raw, as I wasn't sure I had enough carrots to steal before the meal. We had a socking great loin of pork too, but I only had one smallish slice, enabled to do so because of all the vegetables, which gave me as full a plate as everyone else.

My mother watched her weight assiduously all her life. When I was a child, she weighed 10 - 10 1/2 stone and was a size 14 - 16 (yes, I know, but clothes were much smaller then. Now at that size she'd be a 12 at most - she was nearly 5' 6" tall.) When my father died suddenly, she stopped eating for a long time and lost a couple of stone and kept her weight at around 8 stone 4 pounds after that, which was slightly thin for her build and I suspect was much of the reason she lost several inches in height in her 60s and 70s. Ironically enough, in the last few years of her life she had dietary problems and could not put weight on.

Anyway, when I was younger I couldn't eat the high protein diet she preferred, it just didn't suit me. Carbohydrate and vegetables did me nicely - not that I didn't eat meat and the rest, but I never thought of it as the basis of my diet. But now I'm older, I seem to need more protein. And I cook and eat all these vegetables. Oh, and she chomped whole lots of ricecakes. Like I now do.

Monday, 17 March 2008

A Flush in the Pan

Katy had a rant yesterday (over on A Lard off my Mind), about assumptions made by thin people about fat people being unhealthy and unfit. The bit that suddenly reminded me of something of which I'm about to tell you was her reference to her brother, who eats a really bad diet, takes little exercise, yet is stick thin.

My daughter had a friend, Mel. Mel was tall and slender with long dark curly hair like Charles II (though I suspect he wore a wig). She did eat a healthy diet, but never put on a pound, however much she put away. I saw her not long ago, actually and she is still slender (as are her sisters and mother), despite two small children.

My daughter didn't tell me this until a couple of years after the event, probably because she thought Mel would be embarrassed. Oh dear, will she now? Maybe I should have changed the name. Too late ... sorry, Mel darling, if you ever come across this.

One day at our house, Mel went off to the loo. She flushed. A few minutes later, she flushed again, then again. Then she called El. They peered at the vast sausage-like turd in the pan and flushed again, but it was too big to go round the bend. Eventually, they decided the only thing to do was to cut it up a bit. I have no idea what they used. I don't think I want to know, it was a long time ago and there are some thoughts you prefer not to have.

The point is, when it was cut open, a great oil slick rose out of it and settled on top of the water. Maybe some naturally thin people don't digest fats like we do and it passes straight through them? I know you can get pills that do that, but I understand the side effects aren't pleasant. Isn't 'anal seepage' a nasty thought? I've a friend who tried them valiantly for a bit and he said you certainly are encouraged to keep up a low fat diet, because you always need to know where the nearest loo is otherwise, but he couldn't take the anxiety of it after a while.

Anyway. That's my theory. The poos of skinny people who eat fatty food contain oil slicks.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Weighed again.

I did. Myself.

According to the gym's (very kind) scales, I weight about 15st 7lbs, which is 6lbs lighter than when I last weighed myself there, I think.

Can't be right, unless it's muscle disappearing.

I did a light workout last night just to remind myself what it's all about – just a five-minute warm-up and 25 minutes cross-training. 15 minutes walk there, 15 minutes back. Felt good to do it again. All being well, I'll go back tonight, do a little bit more and add some weights. Then again tomorrow, when I'll add core strength training. Depends a bit more on how work goes though.

Not a bread I've eaten a lot of in the past, but it seems to be great with anything as long as there's enough mustard on it… Also, on the food front, I have found a couple of sandwiches I love and both are on rye bread. It's also a lot more filling – while eating less – than regular bread, and it's impossible to eat it quickly. Total bonus; win-win.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Another friend asked if I'd lost weight and I explained about my diet - she said that I'm noticeably thinner. It seems to have suddenly got visible that I'm thinner and I rather want to weigh and measure myself to check, but I won't. I'm trying not to get competitive with myself about this, to take the view that what I weigh and how quickly the weight comes off isn't the point; because then I'll get discouraged when I stick, as I surely will at some point.

When I used yoghurt that I'd drained surplus whey from the other night in a sauce, no one noticed, although usually I'd have used crème frâice. I'm experimenting with fat-free yoghurt - that is, I've lined a sieve with two layers of kitchen paper and have dumped the yoghurt in it. I wonder if we'll be able to tell the difference between that and regular Greek yoghurt - or rather, that the difference will actually matter.

Not that I'm big on reduced-fat versions of things. I mistrust them. Often, the calorie difference is pretty negligible and I suspect that they reassure me into thinking I needn't watch how much I eat of them. I'd rather eat less of the proper thing, which isn't processed with the addition of emulsifiers and suchlike (this particular yoghurt just has organically-produced milk as its only ingredient). I never buy reduced sugar things either, unless it means it's simply less sweet; but it never is. It's just had artificial sweeteners added, which I think are bad in themselves, especially for children.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Beetroot risotto

It's not a great picture, because the colour was more vibrant than that, but it'll do. I served it with briefly-cooked cabbage, for the contrast.


Well, I haven't lost any weight, I've withdrawn from the London Marathon and I feel bloated and horrible.

However, I am also making some positive changes. No more pressure on myself to run, for example. I'm not enjoying it, so I'm not going to do it. I'll run if I am in the gym and I feel like running on a treadmill, and I'll only do a few miles, if I can.

I plan to use the gym far more, because I can now see my weight affecting my health. I can also see that part of this is drinking heavily, which I only really do A) when I'm not getting any exercise and B) when the moon is fucking with me. And the only way to handle B is to exercise, so that's two birds with one stone.

I thought, next week, I shall go to the gym every day and see how it feels. Rotate what I am exercising (not physically, you understand) so I don't tire, and see what happens. One morning cardio, and maybe a swim at lunch; next morning upper body weights; next morning cardio and leg weights. You see? It means I won't spend hours there, which has stopped me going in the past (I love working out for 2 hours+ – it's immensely satisfying) because I have thought I won't have time. I'll be there for 70 - 80 minutes at most, and I'll enjoy it too.

The pressure's off, and I just aim to get back to what I enjoy doing – exercising for the sake of it, and see what happens. It should help quell the urge to booze, and help psychologically with the lunar cycle – and if I get those two things in hand, my weight will come down of its own accord. So we'll see how the next week goes, for certainly in psychological terms, I have been beating myself up a bit of late.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

A compliment!!(!)

I was at a coffee morning today, where the group of people going to Madrid next month met up to get to know each other. There will be 39 of us; I know about 25 of them already - we're all members of the same NADFAS branch and they all know me, as I'm the muggins who stands on the stage each month thanking the lecturer.

Jill, whom I met when we went to Krakow last year, came up to me. "You're looking very trim, Z, have you lost weight?"

She's my new favourite person.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Dumpy, pale and drearily virtuous - ooh, yum

I'm getting worried at what is happening to me. Last week, the wholefood shop was out of plain yoghurt, except the soya stuff that even the vegan, sugar-avoiding assistant can't take. I found myself, as I'd nothing but salad for lunch, buying some cottage cheese.

Now, as we all know, cottage cheese is unspeakably dull. It's not even interesting enough to disgust or revolt, but just sits there dumpily and pale, like the fat white woman in gloves in the poem (for whom I've rather a soft spot, as I think the poet - is it Frances Cornford? - was quite unnecessarily mean about her) ... anyway, I had half an avocado, two sticks of celery and other salady things, a couple of olives and several yummy rice cakes. It was virtue personified, but boring as.

Today, I found myself buying another pot of cottage cheese, without even the excuse of a lack of yoghurt. It seems that I quite enjoyed it. I am shocked and appalled.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Being let down by one's body.

I don't feel any different at all, even though I know I'm smaller by the fact that clothes which used to fit now hang loosely. I tried on a very old skirt this morning - it must be quite 15 years old, maybe more, which is a size 12. Size 12s are much bigger now, I might add. I could get it on and do the zip up, but it's still a bit snug so I'm not wearing it yet. I also discovered a pink wool shift dress which must date from the late 60s which I kept from sentiment. It's got some moth holes, so I can't wear it again, but when I fit into that I'll know I'm back to teenage size...okay, that might not happen. It's a size 12 and firmly states that this measures 34-24-36, which size 12 did in those far off days.

I've had a busy and rather strenuous weekend with a lot of bustling about and carrying of grandchildren, with the result that yesterday afternoon I was limping heavily and my hip kept giving way. It's not so bad as that this morning, but is still sore and painful and I can't walk far without limping. It hasn't been like that for some while and it was something of a shock. I'm taking it that it's temporary and that there's a reason for it, but I know that when I reach the stage that I'm like that most of the time, I'll need a new hip. It's spurring me on. Greater strength and fitness and a lower weight will stave off that day. I don't want an operation any sooner than I must have it; not only because it is a major op but also because it won't last forever and will eventually have to be done again.

Being heavier than I should be hasn't caused the arthritis, that's heredity, but it is making it hurt more than it would otherwise. I am quite tough when it comes to pain and can take more than you'd think when you see the delicate little flower I appear to be, but I can't help the limp, nor the sudden squeal when I lurch painfully. Fortunately, adversity makes me both tenacious and aggressive and I'm feeling more determined than depressed.