Archive for the ‘Diets’ Category

Seven Days of Positive – Day 119

In Diets, Food, Weight loss on February 12, 2015 at 9:45 pm


I’ve gone coco loco. As in mad for coconuts, coconut oil, in particular.

It came into my life a few months ago when I read about oil pulling. This is the Ayurvedic dental technique, where you put a spoonful of coconut oil – it’s solid at room temperature, so it feels weird until it melts – in your gob and swill it around for 20 minutes, sucking it through your teeth.

At the end you spit the now thin foamy liquid out into your bin, not your sink, because it will harden again, blocking your drains.

It’s meant to whiten teeth, soften plaque and remove bacteria from the mouth, which is good for all round health.

I started doing it because after taking so many heavy duty antibiotics my tongue had a really nasty coating and my mouth tasted funny.

I also feared I had death breath.

It has definitely helped and while I don’t do it every day religiously, I do it quite often. It’s surprising how quickly you get used to it. I admit I rather enjoy it now.

Even more so because my tongue is pink again and I do think I have less plaque on my back teeth.

So I’m a fan of oil pulling, although I don’t subscribe to the usual American hysterical reaction where there are now crazed blog posts all over the internet claiming that it can cure cancer and every other disease known to man.

That’s clearly bollocks.

I am normally very wary of superfood fads, because of that kind of carry on. It amuses me every time I go to New York to see what the latest food obsession is. There’s always something and immediately it’s everywhere.

I can only imagine how much extra virgin organic coconut oil there on Manhattan right now. It might sink under the weight.

But despite all that, coconut oil seems to be playing a bigger part in my life every day.

It’s a big part of Amelia Freer’s weight loss and health boosting regime. Amelia is a great believer in the health benefits of coconut oil, for its nutritional benefits – and she also subscribes to the increasingly accepted belief that it helps you lose weight.

I can’t be bothered to go into the science of this, so please read these excellent post by Sarah Wilson, which explains it all.

I cook with it whenever possible and if I decide to use olive oil because I don’t want the slight tropical flavour in my Italian style dinner, like Sarah, I’ll munch on a spoonful of coconut oil at the end of my meal. It’s very satiating, so you feel full for ages.

And when you only eat sugar once a week, as I have for the last four months, it tastes great.

So between oil pulling, frying and munching, coconut oil has become part of my daily life. Now it’s making inroads into my beauty routine.

I’m typing this with a load of it on my hair (zapped in the microwave to melt it), to see whether it’s as good an overnight moisturising hair mask as is widely claimed. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I will also be trying it out as eye make up remover.

For more on all that read this by Lauren Conrad.

Celebrities are mad about it too. Gwynnie is oil pulling like mad (of course she is…), Angelina has it for breakfast, Jennifer fries her nachos in it and Miranda Kerr doesn’t go a day without it – and she’s looking good on it…


Are any of you going coco loco too?



Seven Days of Positive – Day 113

In books, Diets, Uncategorized, Weight loss on January 31, 2015 at 9:54 pm


On the chair in my bedroom is a pile of clothes which keeps getting higher. They’re the ones I can’t wear any more because they are too big.

Too. Big. Oh how I savour those words.

Since starting the plan of my nutrition guru Amelia Freer in October I’ve lost ten kilos – which is over a stone and a half in olde Englishe – and I’m down nearly three jeans sizes.

I say nearly because even the small size 12s are so big I can take them off without undoing them and have to hold them up with a belt, but while I can get into the small size 10s (jeans sizes are so inconsistent, it’s a total joke) they’re just a wee bit too snug to be quite comfortable.

Four years ago they were my go to jeans, comfy enough to wear on the plane from London to Sydney, so that’s where I’m trying to get back to. I reckon another two kilos should do it. Maybe three.

But I’m trying not to obsess on the numbers, what’s far more important is how much better I feel and not just ‘about myself’, in general wellness.

Obviously my self-esteem is boosted, no longer carrying fat bastard failure shame around with me, but I also feel exponentially better in myself.

It’s more than just less tired – although imagine carrying round a ten kilo suitcase all the time, strapped to your body… no wonder I was exhausted. I feel more cheerful, more optimistic and I’m sleeping better than I have for years.

In that regard, I think my adored five or six mugs of strong tea a day were messing me up a lot more than I realised.


I’m now having just one in the morning and occasionally another with lunch – with milk. I’m not supposed to have milk on the regime, but while I was perfectly happy to drink black coffee in the morning my skin went insane from it.

Coffee seems to be absolutely the one worst thing for rosacea, so I had to can that, but fancy dancy China tea served without milk, while very dainty, doesn’t deliver the caffeine kick I need first thing.

I decided to experiment with the one cup of proper tea with milk (OH JOY) and it hasn’t slowed down my weight loss so I’m sticking with it. Sometimes at 3pm I have to gnaw on my knuckles I want another one so badly, but I don’t give in.

I’ve come way too far to blow it now.

Apart from that I haven’t diverged from the plan at all – because I find it really easy to stick to. If you check back to my original posting on it here you’ll see what the key points are.

I really enjoy my meals. For lunch I had salmon fillet, stir-fried with leftover roasted butternut squash and green beans, with garlic, chili, ginger and coriander for flavour, with a delicious mango for pud. Tonight I had a two-egg omelette with fried courgettes, followed by a baked apple. Over an hour later I’m still absolutely stuffed. There’s no doubt eating fat keeps you fuller.

I have 190g of full fat Greek yogurt for breakfast and it’s so sustaining.

So losing weight feels easy when you’re never hungry, but in the last couple of weeks something else amazing has happened – I’ve got the Amelia Freer glow.

That was the thing that struck me almost more than the weight loss in my friend when I saw her post-Amelia. Her skin just had this radiance that makes her look really beautiful. The slender figure is almost a bonus on top.

George before

You can see it in the pictures of Boy George too. I just about it have it now. My skin is clearer from rosacea than it’s been for years and it’s getting that dewy look which seems to take about ten years off Amelia’s clients.

Changing the way you eat has to be worth it for that.

Quite a few Aussie readers expressed interest in Amelia’s book Eat. Nourish Glow. when I first wrote about it and I’m happy to say it’s now available there.


Here’s the link to the Harper Collins website with various suggestions where you can click on to buy it.

(I’m not going to advise a particular bookseller – as an author they are ALL my friends – and the other option is to ask your local independent bookshop to order you a copy, if they don’t have any in.)

Seven Days of Positive – Day 100

In Diets, Music on January 2, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Day 100? Wowsers, how did that happen? Crikey.

Anyhoo, several of you have asked about the 5:2 fasting diet (the last one I was on…) in comments and why I have ditched it in favour of this new regime.

I did find 5:2 very effective and surprisingly easy to do. I lost weight – and I felt incredibly energised on the days I fasted – but after a while I found I couldn’t help myself developing a rather famine and feast approach to food.

So on non-fasting days I would want to eat every rich and fattening food going – because I could. I tried not to go mad, but there was a tendency to think, if I want lasagne followed by trifle, I’ll jolly well have it…

But the main reason I decided to quit 5:2 in favour of working with Amelia was that after my system had been so soundly blasted by (wonderful, blessed, ear-saving) medication, I felt like I needed to undergo something of a detox and a re-calibration.

And I felt I needed the help of a one-to-one nutritional advisor to achieve that.

Losing weight wasn’t enough, I wanted to cleanse and fortify my system. And I want the inner glow that Boy George and my friend have.

While the weight is still coming off steadily, at about half a kilo a week and I now recognise the face in the mirror again, I’m not there yet and I’m not giving up until people start asking me at parties, what my secret is…

Not much else to report today. I’ve got to finish editing my book by Sunday or the sky will fall on my head, so I’ve been hard at it all day, with a set number of pages to finish.

It was hard to stay at the desk, with the most beautiful towering blue sky outside, but sometimes that’s just what you have to do, isn’t it?

The only light relief I allow myself on such days is the odd peep at Instagram. One of my friends had posted a pic of his old 45 of He’s a Rebel by the Crystals, which led to a short excursion to YouTube, where I found that and other treasures.

No video on this one, but I’ve always loved the track.

That is not how I ever pictured the leader of the pack. A tie?

Once you start on there, you can’t stop… and caught in the Bermuda Triangle of the 1960s music area, I remembered how much I love The Monkees, the One Direction de mes jours.

And I could never decide whether I loved Davy or Mickey the best, rather as I feel about Louis and Harry now.

Seven Days of Positive: Day 99

In Diets, health, Weight loss on January 1, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Eat. Nourish. Glow. by Amelia Freer

There’s something I’ve been dying to tell you: I’ve lost loads of weight. Hurrah!

I haven’t mentioned it sooner because I wanted to be sure it was working first. Would have been very embarrassing to say, hey, I’m going on this regime and I’m going to be really skinny… then not.

But now I can reveal that in the last two months I’ve lost 17 pounds, which is nearly 7.5 kilos. Yee haw! I’m thrilled.

How have I done this? With the help of the brilliant nutritional therapist Amelia Freer.

I first heard about Amelia after I saw a very old (as in I’ve known her since the 80s, she’s my age) friend about 18 months ago and she looked ten years younger than the last time I’d seen her.

Not just wonderfully lean – she’s never been what you would call fat, just a bit rounded in a normal way – but incredibly well and vibrant. Her skin really glowed, that thing we’re always reading about in beauty pages, but don’t often see.

I didn’t see her after that for nearly a year and when I did, she looked exactly the same. Not a pound of weight, or a mark of stress appeared to have returned.

In that same year I had put on a terrifying amount of weight as a result of a lot of ill health in my 2013 hell year.

I’d been on multiple courses of steroids and the strongest antibiotics there are, to stamp out repeated infections relating to a health issue from twenty years ago.

The drugs prevented me from having an ear amputated, which was a relief, but seemed to do something terrible to my system and even eating normally, exercising a bit (never enough) I was gaining a pound (nearly half a kilo) a week.

I just couldn’t stop it piling on. And I hardly recognised the puffy face looking back at me from the mirror. Practically none of my clothes fitted me.

So, while I would normally refrain from such an intrusive question, I had to ask my friend how she’d done it and that was when I heard Amelia’s name for the first time.

‘Who is she?’ I asked.

‘Google Boy George,’ my friend replied.

George 3

George before

I did and my jaw just about hit the deck. And what I was really interested to see was that he isn’t just mahousively slimmer, he has the same peachy youthful look that’s so striking in my friend. I think he looks even better than he did in his 20s. OK, George wears a lot of make up, but you can still see that glow.


I immediately got in touch with Amelia and she agreed to take me on as a client, which was thrilling, because she has a waiting list now.

So what is her secret? It’s a mixture of things, one of them being that she is as lovely a person as you could ever meet and you want to stick to the regime for her.

She’s also been there, struggling with her weight and stress-related health issues symptoms herself, which was what prompted her to train as a nutritionist in the first place. She made herself better by changing her diet and is now devoted to helping other people do the same.

I knew she was the one for me when it came to the tricky question of my tea addiction. ‘I couldn’t possibly give up tea,’ has been my mantra for years. I’ve been drinking it since I was three and that’s that.

When Amelia told me she used to drink ten mugs a day, strong with plenty of milk, just how I like it, I knew I was talking to a kindred spirit.

Guess what? I gave up tea (I did it very slowly, before I started the regime). Well, I now have one a day, with my breakfast, that’s it. And if I need another boost I’ll have a black coffee with lunch, but I try not to.

Amelia chopping credit Ali Allen

Amelia doesn’t promote a one-size fits all regime, each programme is tailored individually to suit the client, after discussing a very detailed health history and lifestyle questionnaire, but there are certain principles she has learned from her years of study – and applying them to her own life – which she believes can improve everybody’s weight and wellbeing.

These have now been gathered into her first book Eat. Nourish. Glow. (published by Harper Collins in the UK, £16.99) a compendium of all the knowledge, advice and tips, she has gathered from her years of research and practise, broken down into ten easy to absorb key steps, with a section of her great recipes.

Some of them are as simple as the need to drink water rather than endless tea and coffee, juices and carbonated drinks (diet or otherwise), others more radical, but they are all explained in Amelia’s warm and calm voice, none of that Change Your Life Now! frenzy that makes ‘diet’ books so enervating.

Amelia is very against the concept of diets, which are always short term both in the time we can stand to be on them and their benefit. Instead she recommends making small, but permanent changes to the way we eat, factoring in some room for human nature.

Which is why my friend has managed to keep the benefits of Amelia’s coaching in place for eighteen months and counting. She’s no longer on the stricter weight-loss regime, but some of Amelia’s basic tenets have become part of her life.

As Amelia puts it: ‘Create healthy habits, not restrictions’.

If you make these part of the way you live, you don’t have to be in a permanent state of steamed fish and sugar snap peas (no oil) deprivation which some high-profile women exist in. (Ooh, is that Victoria Beckham I see in the palm trees?)

Probably the new healthy habit that has been the biggest change for me, is to stop eating between meals. Amelia believes snacking, even the healthy carrot sticks and nuts kind, is a big no no – especially the post-dinner, pre-bed mini-munchies.

This is a radical shift from the long-held belief that we should eat ‘little and often’ which Amelia says was the accepted wisdom when she first trained as a nutritional therapist.

Her position changed after she went to a lecture about insulin management – and its relation to our old friend blood sugar spikes, familiar to many of us from forays into the Atkins, GI and Dukan diets – in 2008 and first heard the suggestion that the human body did not evolved to eat a constant supply of food, but rather to function perfectly with an entirely random supply.

This is now one of the cornerstones of Amelia’s advice: consume nothing between meals, not even cups of tea, coffee, diet drinks, or sugar free gum. Even the serial dieter’s old companion the celery stick (gag), is banned.

I thought I would find this very hard, as one of the ways I keep my bum stuck to the seat during the hard parts of the writing and editing process, sitting alone in a room all day, is to have a nice little array of snacks to graze on.

Type, type, type – nuts, rice crackers, cup of tea, oatcake, Diet Coke… I also grazed freely while cooking and cleaning up. Child leftovers are a delicacy familiar to all mothers.

But now I eat only my three meals, everything weighed, with five hour breaks between, no food after 9pm and after a short period of adjustment, I don’t miss the snacks any more.

In between meals I drink a lot of hot water, which is much nicer than you’d think, when you get used to it.

To my utter astonishment, it has filled the hole left by tea. (When meeting friends in a café, I now order a sparkling mineral water, with a pot of hot water on the side, as some places can be a bit funny about you occupying a seat with a free drink, which is fair enough really.)

Other cornerstones of Amelia’s philosophy include keeping the tempting rubbish out of your kitchen, eating the best fats (olive and coconut oil, and the odd bit of yummy fat on your steak mmmm) but chucking out sugar, taking supplements if you need them, and exercise.

On the latter, I love this line: ‘If you’ve got time to go on Facebook, you’ve got time to exercise.’ I think I need to pin that on the wall over my computer.

For some clients Amelia uses an additional tool called Metabolic Balance, a trademarked system invented by a German doctor, which analyses your blood and gives you a very specific list of what foods you can have, how much of and when.

I find it a bit bonkers that I can have cabbage, but not Brussels sprouts, but with the weight falling off the way it is, I’m not going to argue with it.

Boy George gave an excellent precis of his Amelia-directed regime on Twitter:

“Portion control. 5 hour gaps between meals. No coffee or tea, except at meals. Water & fizzy water between meals!”

George after

He had Amelia’s full service, where yummy meals adhering strictly to his plan were delivered to him, whereas I’ve gone the do-it-myself route, which I prefer, because I love a cooking challenge.

Amelia gave me some recipes when I started my regime, but now I have lots of fab new ones to try from the book.


Chicken Nuggets_030

I made the Chicken Nuggets (above) for dinner tonight and they were delicious, (although I couldn’t have the accompanying salsa, because my daughter had eaten the last avocado, dammit…).

So for anyone thinking about a New Year weight loss and detox, I can’t recommend Amelia’s advice highly enough.

And I’ll keep you posted on my progress over the weeks to come. Perhaps I’ll even put up some before and after pictures of my own… (The pics of Amelia and the food above are by Ali Allen.)

Fasting tips

In Diets, Fasting on June 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm


People have been asking for an update on the Fast Diet, so here we go.

I’m still on it, although I did have another break (after the infuriating illness and antibiotic induced one) when I went to New York for two weeks. I’m not that strong…

And then there was another week when I had lots of people to stay in succession and there just wasn’t a day when I could eat – and drink – nothing. Or so I told myself, ahem.

But I’ve made a decision to stopping and starting like that, because it’s making the weight loss too slow.

In this, as in any diet, the facts are simple: if you stop, you put the weight back on. So I’m determined not to have one more break until I’m down to my goal – and then I’m going to commit to fasting one day a week for life, to keep it off.

In the meantime I’m sticking to the regime I described in my earlier post Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! where I eat nothing at all until dinner time and only 300 calories a day in total– which allows me not to count every drop of milk I have in tea or the odd half apple (40 calories) if I’m desperate. Link to that post here

I found that when I budgeted 500 calories exactly I often ended up eating slightly more by accident and it’s really not worth the torture of eating nothing all day only to blow your weight loss on a cream cracker. Aiming for 300 just gives you that little bit of wriggle room.

I still find that I’m weirdly not hungry when I wake up the morning after fast day. I’ll even feel slightly disgusted at the thought of food – having planned a massive fry up as I went to sleep the night before. But if I then skip breakfast, I’m cave man ravenous by 11am and could eat a whole packet of bagels with cream cheese, so I have a light breakfast at the normal time.

I do worry that I’m eating more than before starting the diet on my non-fast days as there is rather a sense of having to cram it in while I can. I certainly found I was eating more chocolate bars than I used to in a ‘because I can…’ spirit, so I’ve cut those out.

But while I do tend to reach for the crackers – crunch is what I miss on fast days – I’m not sure feeling very full after normal dinners is because I’m eating more. I think it might be that my stomach is shrinking and I feel much fuller on the same amount of food.

I know people who are doing no carb on the other five days, as well as the fasting and losing a lot more weight, but I think that’s making it too hard. I know I wouldn’t be able to sustain it. I’d rather lose weight slowly and lose all the weight I want to lose, than give up after five pounds.

So I’m sticking to the diet as outlined in Dr Mosley and Mimi Spencer’s book. Find link here

Other things which are still helping me are:

Black coffee at the 11am snack twinge moment

Lots of water

Diet Coke

Diet ginger beer (in a nice glass, with ice, it’s my fast day ‘cocktail’…)

As many packs of sugar free gum as I need to get through the late afternoon (just finished my second pack of the day). I mix it up between mint and fruity flavours. I’m krazee, me!

Don’t even think about ‘spending’ 60 calories on 50ml (a pub single) of gin with a Slimline Tonic. It made me ravenous and it was torture not eating anything after it.

Don’t go near a supermarket on a fast day. It’s torture and you will buy everything in the shop and then have to drive home with it taunting you from the boot of the car.

Don’t fast on a Friday. The Thank God It’s Friday effect is just too great to resist – and that’s how I ended up having that foolish gin and tonic last week.

Take aerobic exercise, if you can bear it, and you will lose more quickly. With no concerted exercise I lose one pound (half a kilo) a week. With exercise it’s usually double that.

I still sincerely believe that this diet is the Answer – the one we’ve all been searching for and I’m committed to it.

But I’m not going to blog about it again until I reach my goal – which is getting back in a particular pair of trousers I haven’t been able to wear for two and a half years..

At my current weight loss rate that should happen some where around the middle of August… which puts me on the spot.

How are you doing on it? Got any tips for me?

Life in the fast lane

In Diets on February 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm



OK, here it is for all of you who’ve been wanting to know how I’m going with the fasting malarky… You want the short answer? Of course you do: so far it’s yes and no and yes.

YES because it’s so much easier to do than I expected, but NO because I haven’t lost as much weight as I was hoping. And YES because I feel really great on it.

On the down side, I’m not back in my skinny jeans and I’m definitely not back in the favourite pair of trousers which are my goal garment. But on the up, my meh jeans are feeling looser and I could wear my belt one notch in, if I wanted to. My husband says I look slimmer.


But while I’m a bit disappointed about the slow tummy inches loss, I’m not giving up. Losing fat slowly and steadily is meant to be the best way to keep it off and, even apart from that, I feel so spiffingly well on this regime. Full of energy and good cheer. Much better than I did when I started.

Glancing through the Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer book this morning, I came across a section I hadn’t read before, where they explain the research that’s been done on the positive effect of fasting on mood. That is definitely working for me – and for a moody cow, that has to be good.

Picture 68

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

You have to be really obsessive
I’m now at the end of my first four weeks, except it really only counts as three because I squandered the first one, not being meticulous enough about my intake.

I had loads of cups of tea with semi-skimmed milk and finished off what was left of my daughter’s chicken at dinner, without accounting for the calories in either of them and, I soon realized, this really made it all a waste of effort.

If you’re going to do this thing, you have to do it. You have to be utterly anal and count everything you eat, which does take some mental arithmetic as the calorie value of everything is listed per 100g… I have weighed lettuce, which was a new experience, but if you don’t go to those lengths, it’s amazing how easy it is to whack on another fast-wrecking 100 calories.

So from week 2 onwards, I weighed everything and measured out 100ml of 1% milk at the start of each day, accounting for the calories in my daily reckoning.


Find out which fast day meal system works best for you
Michael Mosley has a cooked breakfast and dinner. Mimi Spencer has a muesli breakfast, an apple for lunch and a cooked dinner.

After trying both regimes, I found the resulting dinners too disappointing and have taken the lead of my fasting buddy, Maria, who has been doing it for two months and has lost loads of weight. She eats nothing at all until dinner.

Like her, I find it exponentially easier to eat absolutely nothing through the day than to tease my hunger with little morsels and then I can use all my calories – except for the ones I’ve assigned for milk – for dinner. If I’m desperate, I have an apple at lunch time and take another 50 calories off my evening meal.

Choose your days
It’s important to choose your fasting days on Sunday night for the coming week and stick to them. If you keep changing days, it would be all too easy to accidentally miss one, so I do Monday, then Wednesday, or Thursday, depending what I have on.


Plan your fast day food
Obviously you can’t rely on happening to have the right food in the fridge. I plan my fast dinner the day before, so I can maximise the satisfaction of my measly calories.

I don’t find the food plans in the book very helpful, as they are all for a two-meal day, so I’ve calorie calculated a few dinners which work for me and it’s easier just to stick to them, rather than constantly trying new things. I’m looking forward to the the weather getting warmer (it’s foul in the UK right now) so I can have more salads.

Here’s my menu:
*Chicken breast stir fry, with lots of chili, garlic and ginger, with a 10 calorie pack of miracle noodles – which are bearable if you rinse them a lot before cooking and definitely add to your sense of satisfaction.
*Chicken breast cooked en papillotte (in a tin foil parcel) with garlic and lemon, served with piles of steamed veggies, toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on the top (all weighed, of course…)
*Grilled chicken salad
*Grilled fish with salad, stir fry or steamed veg.
*Smoked haddock baked in the oven with steamed veg.


Black coffee is your best friend
I find having no food all day exponentially, weirdly, easier than I expected. It’s odd. But if I do have a serious hunger pang, black coffee really does the trick. There’s a reason all those slender French women drink so much of the stuff…

So is sugar-free gum
I’ve heard about all the possible (but not irrefutably proven…) health hazards of aspartame, but as a means to an end – to get rid of what is a definite health risk, with the fat around my middle – I’m not going to worry about chewing gum for a few weeks.

It gives my mouth a burst of flavour – I particularly like the new exotic fruit ones – which gets me through the tricky part of the afternoon.

And as above for sugar free drinks. I have a diet ginger beer as my cocktail while I make dinner and I love it.


Weigh yourself once a week – and after a fast day
I have weakly allowed myself the odd ‘in between’ weigh in and it was very disappointing as my weight seems to go oddly up and down day to day.

It’s hard not to worry about the non-fast days
I have rather been torturing myself that the home-made cookies and treacle tart I’ve eaten on my non-fast days are the reason for my slow weight loss.

I keep neurotically re-checking the section of the book which says you can eat what you want on the other five days – cakes, pies etc – but after years of restrictive diet misery it’s just so hard to trust it.

I always go to sleep on a fast day planning the lavish breakfast I’m going to have the next morning – fried bread always features in my fantasies – but when I wake up on that blessed dawn I don’t feel hungry at all. It’s really surprising.


Some post-fast mornings I haven’t even managed my normal breakfast, but once I do start eating I do rather want to eat the whole world. I don’t, of course, but it makes me a bit anxious that I’m mustering all this self discipline to fast and it could be all for nought.

This wasn’t helped when I read one of the many excellent articles Mimi Spencer has penned in the British press on 5:2 fasting in recent weeks, where she mentioned that at the same time she started fasting, she also gave up drinking alcohol entirely.

This isn’t mentioned in the book – it just advises not wasting calories on alcohol during a fast day – and in my moments of doubt, I can’t help wondering how much that contributed to her fabulous weight loss. I don’t drink much anyway, so I don’t think it’s the golden ticket for me, but I felt slightly let down when I read it.


You have to exercise
I’ve now accepted this is where I’ve been sabotaging my efforts. I absolutely detest all exercise except for dancing, sex and walking round shops, but I know I really have to force myself to do it. My successful fasting friend, Maria, is very sporty and gets a proper work out four times a week, plus cycling everywhere.

My other two successful weight loss friends (one’s a committed Dukan-ista, the other swears by Weight Watchers) both exercise that much. I know it’s the answer. So I went to the gym this morning and I’m determined to make it three days a week, plus my beloved yoga for toning.

I’m hoping this will make the difference the next time I report in on my progress, in four weeks time. Meanwhile, we will speak of jollier things… Watch this space.

PS I didn’t want to illustrate this post with any more pictures of empty plates, dismal bowls of salad, or even shots of women whose body shapes I envy, so instead I’ve just put up things which make me happy. Which are:

Treacle tart from the baking blog notsohumblepie; my cat Gonzo, when he was a kitten, conquering the North face of my drawing room curtains; Cary Grant with his poodle; chickens; Gucci loafers; Miranda Hart kissing ACTUAL Gary Barlow in a recent episode of Miranda; Bill Nighy; the Manolo Blahnick Campari pump in patent leather; Cam from Modern Family, saving their special tree in the park (I fell off the sofa laughing when he appeared in this outfit…); Paul Hollywood’s cream buns.





A quick fast update

In Diets on January 20, 2013 at 10:23 am



I wasn’t going to write any more about the new – and very ancient – ideas about fasting for health and wellbeing until I’ve been on the two day a week fasting regime for a month, but then yesterday the Australian ran a big story about it. (I felt a little smug. Not something I normally allow myself. Rather enjoyed it.)

This is useful as it goes into all the scientific research in some detail so am posting the link here FYI.

I also came across an article by Mimi Spencer (a most excellent fashion writer) who wrote the book the Fast Diet with the BBC’s medical journalist Dr Michael Mosley, after she watched the same programme which inspired my interest in fasting, so here’s the link to that too.

Fast love

In Diets on January 18, 2013 at 10:23 am


I’ve made an interesting discovery since posting about the Fast Diet yesterday – the word ‘diet’ provokes strong reactions. I entirely understand. I loathe the word and concept so much I covered my copy of the Fast Diet book in wrapping paper, so my daughter wouldn’t see it lying around the house. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that dieting is something all grown ups do.

Neither do I want her to spend her childhood – as I did – with a parent in ill health, so I simply have to get the weight off that I carry around my waist; the place we are constantly told is the worst risk for heart disease. Which is what killed my dad at 63 and both his parents even younger.

I’m a genetically programmed cardiac time bomb and the apple shape body has to go. I wish I could do it by taking more exercise and eating ‘in moderation’, but I know from experience I just can’t keep that up. I need clear rules and the sense of undertaking a project to stick at it.

And, as always, I’m fervently hoping this is the last ‘diet’ this yo yo dieter will ever have to do. The proof will be in the pudding – or how much less of one I resemble in a few weeks time – but here’s how it’s been so far.

Fast Day One

8.45am An hour ater than usual, had my usual breakfast of oats soaked in semi-skimmed milk, with 0% fat yogurt, half an apple chopped up and blueberries. This seems to add up to 224 calories – or nearly half my day’s allowance of 500, which is a bit scary.

11am Feel peckish, with a craving for some nice crunchy crackers. Which is exactly what I would normally be snacking on aroud this time on a normal day. Remind myself can have them tomorrow and resist.

Have another cup of tea instead. Think I will find not being able to have tea with milk, whenever I damn well want it, the hardest thing on this regime. I certainly couldn’t deal with caffeine cravings as well. So in future will measure out 100ml of milk each fasting day (100 calories) and see how far I go with it.

12.30pm Starting to feel food obsessed. This is when I would normally start thinking about what to have for lunch. Have a cup of black coffee, which is surprisingly satisfying. Once that wears off start to feel really chilled. I suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome and all my fingers go white, so I can’t type.

1.30pm Have a cup of instant miso to get fingers back. Delicious, although 84 calories seems monstrous for what is basically a mug of salty water.


2.30pm Go out for a walk with a friend to distract myself.

3.30pm Could gnaw my own arm off. I normally have a mid-afternoon snack around this time, so it’s clear my body is well programmed to expect these regular top ups.

4pm Have to go to kitchen to check options for child/husband dinner. Everywhere I look there is food. A big chunk of brie. A pomegranate my daughter has cut in half. A bowl of apples. A bow of grapes. Normal me would have happily grazed on all this without thinking about it.

4.30pm Is it really not dinner time yet? It’s hard putting just two potatoes in the oven to bake… Wonder if the family will notice they are having their dinner an hour earlier than normal.

5.10pm Can smell the baked potatoes cooking. Feel like a dog in a cartoon, could follow the scent for miles…

5.15pm OOH I think it might be time to put my fish in the oven!!! Oh, no it’s still too early. If I eat at 5.30 I’ll be climbing the walls by bedtime, although I have scheduled an orange for later… that’s how KRAZEE I am. How much orange is 100g though? Finding the food weighing aspect hard. Will have to be more stringent about it, but really don’t want my daughter seeing me do that. It’s neurotic and eating disorder-y.

Measured my waist to concentrate my mind. V v bad.

6pm Dinner! Fillet of white fish, cooked in tin foil with garlic, ginger and lemon (a combo which would make balsa wood quite palatable – actually, I wonder how many calories there are in 100g of that…?). A small mountain of spinach. Feel quite satisfied.

It was hard watching the family tuck into cold chicken and baked potatoes (with lashings of butter). Had a little bit of chicken – no idea of the weight. Find that element of this regime hard to accept. Think I will deny myself the orange to make up for it.

But I’m just about through Day One and I’ve survived and feel oddly keen to get on with the next one. Will stock up with Diet Coke and sugar free gum, although I didn’t need either today.

Also very much looking forward to the arrival of my Miracle Noodles… A friend who has already lost 5 kilos on the diet told me about them. They’re the secret of slim Japanese women, noodles made of fibre some obscure Asian vegetable, which rack up only 5 calories a packet.

7pm Finding it distressing even to read the word ‘gin’. Have a diet ginger beer in one of my best highball glasses and it hits the spot.

According to my calculations, I have eaten exactly 501 calories, although I do fear I’ve been a bit lax about milk in tea.

10pm Go to bed feeling quite hungry, but buoyed up by the knowledge I can have a monster fry up in the morning.

The next morning: didn’t feel hungry at all… Less hungry than usual, in fact. I’m a big breakfast eater, but feel slightly queasy at the thought.

Amazed. Would be quite happy to face another day of fasting and it feels a bit like I’m ‘breaking my diet’ not to, but I’m going up to London, so I’m going to eat normally today and fast again tomorrow.


Fasting Day 2
Woke feeling really hungry after fisting chocolate raisins into my mouth last night in panic at the thought of the food restriction coming today. Find it hard not to eat daughter’s breakfast bacon…

Made myself weigh everything and used water instead of milk on the oats, which was fine. Measured out the 200ml of milk for the day – not much of it. If I can’t have enough cups of tea from that will have to switch to vile, lower-caloried skimmed milk, which I loathe.

11am Postman delivered Miracle Noodles! Can have two packs with my dinner and will only be 10 cals. Here’s praying they are edible.

12 noon Feel really hungry again and slightly crazed with it. Re-read book and reminded myself that I could snack, if desperate but the whole point is to give your body a good long stretch with no food to deal with at all. Had one spoonful of the coleslaw I made for dinner the day before and a precious cup of tea.

Rest of day much the same as yesterday’s pattern, including miso soup, which was almost too salty to bear. Think I will phase those out. A packet of sugar free gum got me through the afternoon in my office.

6pm Managed to hold out reasonably late for dinner again. Had the Miracle Noodles – the ‘fettucine’ style – with a tomato sauce and three meatballs. The meatballs and sauce taste like celestial angel food. Feel my senses have been heightened by the day without snacking.

The noodles are pretty foul, like hot shredded plastic bags, but with the sauce mostly drowning the taste, they were bearable and have certainly filled me up. They would be much better in soup or a stirfry and that’s how I’ll use them in future.

Miracle Noodles pic

7.15pm Have found today much harder than the first fast. I feel quite weak and want to go to bed. I think next week I’ll do my fast days two days apart – say, Monday and Thursday.

I’m also going to follow religiously one of the daily menu plans in the book, or from the Sunday Times Style supplement, as I am a little concerned I’ve gone through all this and busted my 500 limit unintentionally and I won’t lose any weight.

Am surprised to find there is still 50ml of milk left in the fridge at bedtime, so that’s going to be fine.

One thing I have realised doing this, is that I am like a prawn in our kitchen: swimming around cleaning up all the little bits other people haven’t eaten. My daughter left two licked Orea halves in her lunch box today and last week, they would have been in my mouth in a flash. Equally I would have hovered up all the delicious slightly burned little crumbs of meat balls left in the frying pan. Today I stopped myself. No point making such an effort and then blowing it for some cheap biscuits.

No fasting now for three days. And no blogging about it for a couple of weeks, when I’ll tell you how I got on.

Another day, another diet

In Diets on January 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm


I am to diets what Taylor Swift is to relationships. I’m convinced every new one is The One, the stayer, the answer to all my prayers… then three months later it’s all over. Except in my case, I then put all the weight back on and she writes a new album about the latest heartbreak and makes another $50,000,000.

I’ve done every diet craze of the last ten years. They all worked. I think the GI Diet was the best, the one it was most possible to live ‘normally’ on. Weight Watchers also worked brilliantly for me. Twice. When I went back a third time and the ‘leader’ just assumed I’d done it before, I knew it was a loser’s game. And not the right kind of losing.

Dukan is amazing. Three of my friends have each lost a stack of weight on it and kept it off. They followed it to the letter, no short cuts, and I don’t think they will ever put it on again now. It worked for me, but I didn’t follow through all the stages, put the weight on again, and then found I just couldn’t go back to endless plates of slimy food.

So I was immediately gripped when I happened to see Dr Michael Mosley’s (below) fascinating Horizon programme about the health and weight loss benefits of fasting.


Annoyingly it doesn’t seem to be on Youtube and I fear people outside the UK won’t be able to watch it on the BBC iPlayer, but the progression of his research was fascinating – the science rigorous and very convincing.

I immediately wanted to try the system he decided combined the greatest effect (on blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as weight loss) with the easiest stickability, which has come to be known as 5:2 fasting. This means one week equals five days of free, unrestricted eating and two when you eat no more than 500 calories (600 for men).

I started looking at calorie counting apps online and found it too difficult because everything is listed by 100g. The thought of boiling an egg, weighing it and then working out the percentage of 100g and thence the calories was just too hard. So I waited for the inevitable books to come out.

This January magazines and newspapers in the UK are full of versions of the diet programme, but I was thrilled to see that the man himself has produced a book with the very excellent Mimi Spencer, one of my preferred journalistas.


The book is great, going through all the research, before getting on to the nitty gritty of follwing the diet, with tips and meal plans, and although the calorie charts are still in the maddening 100g system (I suppose it is the only way, really…) you can find out the value of a boiled egg by cross referencing to the recipe section. 90 calories.

I am now in my first week of the diet, coming towards the end – THANK GOD – of my second day of fasting. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how I’ve found it so far. I may have chocolate all round my mouth…

Meanwhile, here is the link to the article about the programme on the BBC website.

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