The trouble with blogging…

… or rather, the trouble with my inept slow-arse brand of blogging, is that I spend days and days dithering over an angsty post and by the time I get my words together, I'm in a completely different (non-angsty) frame of mind. So I don't want to publish it because then that slab of derangement will sit at the top of the blog until I get around to writing another one!

I was feeling truly crazy at the start of this week, but I got out of my head by getting into the garden then on the spinning bike. I hacked at the earth with a fork (very theraputic), planted some beetroot seeds, then sweated away to the finale of Biggest Loser Season 11.

Hannah-and-oliviaWatching old episodes of Biggest Loser is my favourite guilty pleasure. I love the pointlessness of getting enraged about and/or enamoured with things that happened on television many years ago.

Hannah and Olivia have now usurped Tara Costa as my favourite contestants ever. They're sisters, they banter wittily and they're the same age gap as me and my sister Rhi… so I just fell for them bigtime.

When I'm on the bike I love to daydream about being a contestant. It would be vintage Loser with Bob and Jillian. If slimming Black was unavailable, I'd be on Team Purple coz it's probably the best of those lousy colours with my ginger tones. I'd totally do as I was told and I'd never fake-puke into a bucket. I'd flog the Jennie O turkey with a knowing twinkle in my eye. I'd be charming and jovial and inspirational. Except for about one week per month when I'd be a loathsome, whiny twit.

See that's the problem with The Biggest Loser. Unlike blogging, you can't just go AWOL during Crazy Week. Your hormonal rantings are captured by the camera and presented to America! I think I better stick to the blogging.

Image credit: ViralFashion

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His Simple Proven Treatment

Getting on the internet is like ducking into the supermarket with the intention of simply buying the milk then getting on with your life, but always ending up in a random aisle with a trolley full of nonsense. Today I wandered from a Times article about the passing of Nicholas Hughes to an archived review of his mother Sylvia Plath's new book The Bell Jar, from January 1963.

On the same page was this review of an amazing new diet book! For what would January be without an Amazing New Diet Book, even way back in 1963?

Strong Medicine book review

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The Humble Spud

Did you know that it was recently National Chip Week? Brought to you by the British Potato Council, of course. Chips are loved the world over but seem particularly celebrated here in Scotland. Some of my happiest moments in this country have involved chips… limp ones in a polystyrene box after a drunken night oot, with fish and mushy peas by the sea; gobbled down in the car after a hike in the hills.

A popular chip manufacturer currently has a billboard that truly shits me off. It features a big bowl of oven chips with the headline: EAT YOUR GREENS. Then there’s wee green icons that say: Low fat! Low salt! Low sugar! Etc etc.

A chip ain’t a green. A chip is a chip. It’s starchy, sometimes greasy, and usually delicious. Why do we have to pretend otherwise? Why can’t we just enjoy a food for what it really is? Why do food manufactures have to dress things up with flimsy health claims?

Recently a Nutella advert proclaimed that every jar contained, "52 hazelnuts, the equivalent of a glass of skimmed milk and some cocoa" and was a healthy breakfast for the kiddies. Never mind the fat and sugar and the fact you’d have to eat the whole jar to claim that glass of skimmed milk.

I wish there was some sort of regulation of food advertising. Right now you could stick a blueberry in a bucket of ice cream and scream, CONTAINS ANTI-OXIDANTS! Next thing they’ll put 5p coins into yogurt pots and claim they’re rich in… richness? Is it any wonder people are confused about what the hell is a healthy food?

I guess these companies wouldn’t make as much money if they said something sensible and honest, like:

Yep, this is Nutella. It’s brown and gooey and delicious. The Europeans are fond of it on bread for brekkie, but we don’t advise you eat the whole jar with a spoon like certain people used to do. Think of it as a Sometimes food.

Likewise the mighty Chip. I wouldn’t call them an everyday food, whether this be in their traditional soggy Scottish or pre-fried weird-coated freezer-to-oven incarnation. But they are tasty, and they are there to be enjoyed without guilt or apology.

I’m still immersed in a Heston Blumenthal-style search for the perfect homemade oven chip technique. When you’re married to Scot, chips need to feature on the menu. If you cut Gareth with a knife he would bleed starch. But we do try to keep them reasonably  healthy.

Most people say the Maris Piper potato makes for the best chips but I made a cracking batch with the good ol’ King Edward. The best batch yet involved cutting into wedges leaving the skin on, par-boiling them until JUST stab-able, then draining in a colander. Then I left ‘em to dry completely and cool down quite a bit. This drying and cooling step seemed to make ALL the difference.

Then I put them onto an oven tray, making sure they had a reasonable space around them coz overcrowded chips don’t crisp up very well. Then I seasoned and sprayed them in olive oil, then put into a 230’C oven (which may be cooler as our oven sucks) for about 30 mins, turning halfway. They were bloody beautiful – crunchy outsides with tender guts.

Yeah baby. Chip week may be over but I will party on all year.

Tatties

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The Chocolate Gap

Creak… creak… creak. What’s that sound? It’s the sound of my Will To Live returning! It’s only four weeks until daylight savings begins. It’s getting lighter in the mornings. Birds are twittering again. For every minute of sun we gain each day, I will surely become one percent less crabbit! Right now my temper is short, especially when watching University Challenge and the students deliberate too long before answering the question.

"Hurry up FOOLS!" I screech at the telly. "This is not a pub quiz!"

If I was the producer of the Challenge, any hesitation longer than five seconds would be rewarded with a small electric shock to the buttocks. I’m sure we could rig up the chairs somehow.

Speaking of televison and chairs, Monday nights aren’t the same since Nigella Express finished. I used to scoff at Nigella’s sprawling adjectives and deep-throating of vegetables but I love her, really I do. Watching her show makes me ever more resolved to enjoy my food and never diet again. Yes there is the annoying Scoffing By The Fridge Light scene at the end of every episode but I feel she has the right idea. There’s a great chapter in her book How To Eat about dieting and healthy eating that is one of the most sensible things you could hope to read on the subject. She celebrates food. She doesn’t divvy it up into Good or Bad. She can wax lyrical about a bag of spinach just as much as a wodge of chocolate cake.

One time in the new series she made herself a tasty lunch of sourdough toast, chopped into three slices. One had hummus, one some avocado and tomato and olive oil on the other. It was a nice little meal on a nice little plate, but a year ago I would have freaked out… FAT! CARBS! PLEASURE! I used to restrict toast to a Weekend Treat, which of course made me pine for it from Monday to Friday, sputtering with resentment over a perfectly tasty bowl of porridge. These days I’m not breakfast bossy  – sometimes it’s toast, sometimes it’s yogurt, sometimes it’s leftovers, whatever I’m hankering for. The less restrictive I’ve been the more I seem to lean towards a healthy choice.

Anyway, The Nige has inspired me. I have a gigantic folder full of recipes I’ve saved over the years that I’d filed under Cook These Once I’m Skinnier. I’ve always loved food and cooking but I’d deemed most recipes off limits. As if I couldn’t be trusted with certain ingredients; as if one mouthful would be my undoing.

Why not just COOK what you want to cook? You don’t have to eat it all at once. You can share it with pals. What are you waiting for? I’m talking to myself here, by the way. Was that confusing?  Anyway. I am going to make some of these Forbidden Recipes. Fetch me apron, luv!

Gareth says I have a Cooking Show Face, an expression of utter peace and happiness that is reserved purely for when there’s cooking on the telly. My eyes are wide and gleaming and he’ll be telling me a story about his day and I do not hear a word. He reckons there’s a certain Cooking Show Posture too. If chocolate is on the menu, he’ll cackle, HA HA you’ve got a Chocolate Gap! and wave his hand through the space between the couch and my back, which is alert and upright like a police sniffer dog. Do you have a chocolate gap too? Get out your rulers, tell me I’m not alone?!

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Knickers Save The Day

PantsA great story this week about the heroic potential of large undies:

"Jenny Marsey's size 18-20 cotton pants were a lifesaver when they were grabbed to cover a frying pan fire at her home in Meryl Gardens, Hartlepool, Teesside.

Her son and nephew were trying to fry some bread when the blaze broke out.

But the quick-thinking pair used the Marks & Spencer underwear from a pile of washing, doused them in water, and threw them over the fire."

It tickled me that the BBC reporter seemed awed by the scale of Jenny's drawers. You could have put out a burning truck with a pair of my old size 26's. But what I loved was how Jenny wasn't one bit ashamed or apologetic about the size of her gonks, she was just amused by the whole thing. I snaffled this bit from the radio:

It's been all about the knickers lately. The DG book was serialised in You, the Mail on Sunday's glossy mag, with the headline: The Sight of My Monster Pants Made Me Realise I Had To Lose Weight. Which is fair play since the book opens with mentions of my mega-kegs, but I hadn't cringed so much since the NET LOSS incident of 2005!

In other news:

Thanks to all you legends who kindly wrote, commented, blogged or reviewed on Amazon. I've been gobsmacked all week. It's quite difficult to capture people's attention when the shelves are heaving with Famous People's Miracle Diet Books so I'm slobberingly grateful for your word o' mouth goodness. It really does help spread the news. CHEERS!

Thanks also to those who told me the book is currently out of stock on Amazon's UK and Canada. There are lots of other places you can buy online in the UK, including Play and Waterstones who both have hefty discounts and free postage. I'm not sure about Canada but it will be back soon, comrades! And Aussies, Liz commented that you can pre-order with free postage from this site. Rawk!

(i hereby assure you that i've not disappeared up my own backside and the next post will not be so book-ish!)

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Bifidus Bullcrapium

Of all the new year Hey Fatty Give Us Yer Money commercials, the one that most fills me with bile is a certain yogurt that promises to "improve slower digestive transit". I seek solace in this Skoda advert, in which they painstakingly construct a car out of CAKE. Welded together with icing. With golden syrup engine oil! And jelly brake lights!

I’m not sure if this is shown outside the UK, so sorry if it’s old news. Personally I don’t mind old news if it involves sugar and construction. Gareth also enjoys it because it plunges me into complete silence for thirty seconds. It came on the other night when Rhiannon was here, and the two of us stopped mid-babble and just stared, drool dripping onto the couch.

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Babble On

It would be very easy to watch ten minutes of American television commercials and drown in a puddle of insecurity. Your teeth aren’t white enough, your belly’s too big, your hair needs to be more shiny; buy this pill coz you’re not happy enough. And don’t forget your floppy manhood! I don’t even have a manhood and I started feeling ugly and inadequate. Mwahaha.

Of course we have these sorts of ads in the UK and Australia but it just seems more relentless over here. Then there’s a chick on the cover of a magazine this week who vows she WILL lose ten baby pounds by January, or bust. They had a story about the story on E News, and it seemed like her happiness depends on the removal of these errant pounds.

But apart from the telly, the thing I love about travelling is that it makes me feel small and insignificant. And so aliiiiiiiiiive! Back home over the past few months, I’ve been isolated hypercritical in a way I hadn’t been for years…

(I don’t know why, but when things get dodgy in my life, that negativity can leak onto the ol’ body. I start mentally resculpting, shrinking and smoothing; as if that would make everything else better. I guess sometimes it feels easier to focus on stupid little skin deep flaws than to think about the real issues)

… but over here, scurrying about in this gigantic city, I’ve finally regained some perspective. It’s like the brain has been rebooted and things seem manageable now. I feel good in my skin.

I sent myself a postcard today, because I am a deranged dork. But also, I just wanted something physical to surprise me in a week’s time (or seventeen weeks, depending on the whims of the Royal Mail)… a handwritten reminder to hold on to this Good Feeling again.

In my first few delirious days in New York I thought, "Enjoy the holiday feeling while it lasts", but I think I can bring it back to the everyday grind. I just have to remember not to amplify problems in my head, to stop worrying about things that haven’t ever happened yet, to chill the hell out, really. And to ENGAGE WITH THE HUMANS, darnit! Every time I get down, I disappear into my burrow and lose all perspective. But just a few moments with friends and sunshine and wine and noises and colours and everything feels okay again. I don’t need to fly to fancy cities to do that, but this New York trip has been the most unforgettable reminder.

Sorry this is bloody indulgent and not very weight-lossy, folks… I’m over-excited and sleepy and so bittersweet coz we’re heading home tomorrow. Normal service shall be resumed soon :)

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Then I’ll Have Me Fish

Tomorrow is Good Friday! WOOHOO!

I’m not really a religious sort but Good Friday has special significance to me. My stomach, specifically. My friend Jane makes the most incredible hot cross buns on the planet and for the past three Easters we’ve got an email a few days beforehand inviting us over for Annual Bun Day.

I think her trusty recipe comes from an Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook. Each year I look forward to that moment when I walk into her flat and get smacked in the nose by that cinnamon fug. And there they are, fat and shiny and snug in a heavy old cake tin. There’s always heaps of butter and endless pots of Earl Grey Tea. I think I ate a good half dozen buns last year.

I thought there wouldn’t be an Annual Bun Day this year as Jane gave birth to a handsome baby boy just ten days ago. But yesterday we got The Email. It’s ON, baby! I couldn’t believe it! Baking would be the last thing on my mind if I had just popped out a sprog. I’m awe of my friends and their commitment to Easter traditions.

Good Friday is also about fish. I have many miserable memories of Good Friday, sitting at the dinner table long after everyone else had finished, whinging and stabbing at congealed fish with a fork. You’d think if we had to pretend to be good Christians once a year, we could have had fish fingers or something easy to digest. Why did it always have to be sensible fish with bones and stuff? Wah.

But I discovered a whole new level of piscine loathing on Good Friday 1999 when I was working in the fish and chip shop. Good Friday is the busiest day on the takeaway calendar, naturally. I had been promoted to Chief Fryer and fried 480 pieces of fish that day. We kept a tally on a chalkboard, smeared with flour and grease. It was 35 degrees inside the shop and a good ten degrees higher over the gurgling oil. And I was a hefty lass by then, so you can imagine how bloody exhausting it was. I never wanted to see another piece of fish again. But somehow I managed to fit in two pieces of fish and extra large chips for my dinner, being a good Catholic and all!

Speaking of fish, I have to tell you about Danny. He was a supremely buff bloke featured on Baby-Faced Bodybuilders the other night. Yes, the wacky dudes at BBC Three again. At the tender age of seventeen Danny managed fourth place in the Mr Universe competition. It involved a helluva lot of hard work, sacrifice, fake tan and FISH.

If you have a spare minute or two, please go to the website and click on the link in the top right-hand corner that says Watch Clips – Baby-Faced Bodybuilders. A wee video player will pop up so you can witness Danny, deep in thought as he outlines his daily meal schedule while he’s preparing for competition. It’s the most unintentionally hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. Gareth and I cackled when we saw it on the telly and have watched it a dozen times since and I love it more every time. Or maybe there is something wrong with me. Oh well.

Ricecake

Whether you’re into Easter or not, have a great weekend everyone! See you on the other side of my carbohydrate coma.

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Girth On Film

Where would television be without fat people? How did they fill all those hours on air before they cottoned on to us?

Here in the UK  the evil godmother of the genre was Crackpot McKeith, but now the schedule bursts at the seams with shows about fat people. We’ve had Celebrity Fit Club and The Biggest Loser and casual lipo on  Ten Years Younger. There’s even been Serious Documentaries like World’s Biggest Boy and The 34-Stone Teenager (476lb/216kg).

But now they’re getting truly nutty. On Fat Men Can’t Hunt a bunch of large folk were dumped in the desert with some Kalahari Bushmen. They were filmed all red-faced and grumbling and trying to hunt lions and useless tiny birds. From the website: Isolated in one of the world’s harshest environments, will our brave volunteers adapt to their new lifestyle or end up begging to be airlifted to the nearest kebab shop?

They’ve even diversified into the canine world. Help! My Dog’s As Fat As Me takes fat dogs and fat owners and puts them through their paces to see who can lose the most lard and win the prestigious Golden Collar award.

And this week there’s a new series starting on Five brilliantly titled, I Know What You Ate Last Summer. It follows six obese British teenagers as they spend two months at a Californian adventure camp.

I have mixed feelings about all this Lard TV. Some of it is really well done, like BBC Three’s Freaky Eaters series. I had a really good honkin’ cry after an episode about a girl who binged on chocolate. She really turned around her thinking with the help of a therapist and the nutritionist. It was a great show with sound, sensitive and sensible advice. I meant to write about it at the time – it touched a nerve and I learned a lot and wanted to pass it on. Hopefully I’ll catch a repeat.

But on the other hand, I want to throw things at my telly with the more ridiculous shows, the ones that pull out all the horrid obvious stereotypes. Whiny, lazy, argumentative fatties. Lingering shots of triple chins and wobbly bellies and thighs clashing together. Smug and smarmy voiceovers. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t be grumpy if they were stuck in the Kalahari with only a sparrow for breakfast, but no doubt some folk watching would have thought, "Lookit them stupid lard-arses."

Why do I watch these shows anyway? It’s a strange compulsion. I do steer clear of the gameshow-y ones, but I admit I scan the TV guide looking for them coz I can’t help laughing at the names. I’m more a fool for the shows where you feel like the fat person on the show is actually getting something from the experience. Sometimes I learn something new. Or sometimes I just find it comforting to see people on telly struggling with the same things I struggle with.

I don’t know. I feel like such a sucker; I’m so easily emotionally manipulated. I get angry and I want to kick people on the screen, or sometimes I just get teary and want to dive into the telly and say, Dude! I know how you feel! Let’s go eat cakes together! Actually, maybe we should just go for a walk.

So yeah. There’s a lot of fat on the box these days. Some of it’s shite and some is pretty good. But this week I shall widen my horizons and tune in to F*** Off, I’m Ginger, which explores perils of being a redhead. Indeed!

. . .

Things are going great guns with my own flab fighting efforts. It’s not dramatic but it’s steady and consistent. I’ve obediently followed my exercise plan and kept track of my food for ten weeks in a row now. Woohoo!

A couple of people wrote to ask why I’ve not been posting my weigh-ins. As I’ve mentioned before it was messing with my head – six years of telling a whole bunch of people what I weighed.

Somehow when I don’t write about my weigh-ins I don’t fuss over them. I just jump on the scale and interpret the numbers in a cool, logical and honest manner. But when I had to sit down to write about it, I’d started to lose my perspective. I was too emotional and put too much stock in the numbers. If it was a bad week I felt like I had to come up with a justification for the result. It was like being back at Weight Watchers, yapping excuses to the weigh lady about fluid retention.

A good week was just as bad. If people congratulated me and said, "You’re so close to goal!" I’d panic and worry I’d  screw up in the following week, then feel like an idiot because I’d have to blog about a gain. And the more I worried the more I’d tend to go off the rails – my traditional all-or-nothing approach.

Just so you understand, this pressure was coming entirely from myself, not from you lovely folk. And the closer I got to goal, the more pressure I piled on.

So I had to step back and sort my relationship with that stupid machine, once and for all. I’m doing all those positive things I talked about in February – takings things slow and steady, making sure what I do is sustainable and enjoyable in the long term. And it’s still working – I’m still shrinking. Slowly but surely.

I know it’s all a bit dull and wishy-washy without cold hard statistics, but bear with me for a wee bit longer. I’m really trying to figure things out and make sure that the phrase "lifestyle change" isn’t just lip service. This time I need to believe it and live it.

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Bigger

DesktopToday I’m dreaming of puddings. Specifically, that pudding I made at Christmas with the sticky toffee sauce. I took a photo of it at the time and right now it’s dished up as my desktop wallpaper (click the pic for closeup). I can see the dense crumbs, I can even make out individual chunks of carrot. There’s a pool of toffee sauce and melted ice cream and I wish I could dive right in. You can even see the wee flecks of vanilla in the ice cream! Just staring at the picture is almost as satisfying as the real thing.

Aye, right!

. . .

Someone arrived here today from Google with a very precise search string: Dietgirl, the Amazing Adventures of. Like it was in a catalogue or something! For some demented reason, that comma made my day.

There are a lot of new people coming by lately so why not say hello? I don’t bite! I am not that hungry.

. . .

The Mothership sent me a card in the post this week. Inside was an old photo she’d found, taken the day I left Australia. On 27 March 2003 I was about 110 kilos (250lb) and a size 20/22.

I gawked at that photo in complete disbelief, barely recognising myself. Which is strange because at the time I’d felt so tiny, having spend the previous two years busting down from 350lb, as you know.

I remember that final morning in Oz – frantically stuffing things into my suitcase, sneaking online one last time to type goodbye to friends, and The Mothership fretting we’d get SARS in Singapore or shot down over Iraq. Now I look at my eternally chubby cheeks in the photo and think, Dude, if only you knew all the crazy shit that’s going to happen once you get on that plane. Woohoo!

Sometimes I have trouble remembering how things used to be. When I came to the UK it was almost like wiping the slate clean. The first two years of lard busting had changed me, but the real changes began once we arrived in Edinburgh. I really had to leave the fat girl insecurities and fears at the airport, coz we had to find a job and somewhere to live quick smart. There was no time to be shy and scared of strangers.

These days I am so used to feeling comfortable in my own skin that I almost forget that it used to be very different, and that it was a real stinking struggle to reach this point.

. . .

I was getting a haircut the other day and my beloved hairdresser was chatting away about Dr Gillian McKeith’s new show, in which she gets the fatties to live in her house for eight weeks so she can torture them at closer proximity and examine their poos at any hour she chooses. My hairdresser found out about my weight loss so she often talks about That Sort Of Thing with me.

Another stylist overheard us and asked what she was on about. My gal explained, "Well, Shauna used to be… bigger."

I cracked up laughing but then the inevitable questions came. How much bigger? She’s lost 12 stone. No way! I know, you’d never know would you? It’s amazing! How did you do it!?

"I dunno really," I mumbled, "I ate less and did a lot of exercise!"

You know, I’m bloody proud of myself for turning my life around and I’ve never been at all ashamed or contemptuous of my former heavier self. Sometimes I do wonder why on earth I made my past so bloody public. It’s really unsettling to have someone staring at you, knowing they’re trying to picture an extra 70 kilos on your frame.

Just as when you’re morbidly obese you want people to see you as more than your fat, when you’re smaller you want people to see you for more than the fat that used to be there.

I know people wouldn’t really do that, but it’s more of a reminder to myself that there’s more to me — to all of us — than the size of our pants. Past or present!

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