Would you pass the mashmallow test?

Scout passes the marshmallow test

Scout passes the marshmallow test

Anyone with young children will know the sound of our ‘Amy brain’ in full cry.  “I want it now!” the toddler screams, pausing between wails only for the briefest, panicked gasp of air.  Snot and tears running in rivers.  Cheeks red with rage and creased in anguish.

And if you’ve not had the pleasure of your own offspring’s tantrum, the scene is played everyday at your nearest supermarket checkout. 

We’ve all seen the poor parent, desperately trying to work out if they can finish the self-scanning before they crack.  Thank God for contactless payment.

But add a couple of years and the uncontrollable child becomes a paragon of virtue.  Poised with self-awareness and restraint.  It was a transformation that fascinated the psychologist Walter Mischel.

"I began with a truly burning question," he says. "I wanted to know how my three young daughters developed, in a remarkably short period of time, from being howling, screaming, often impossible kids to people who were actually able to sit and do something that required them to concentrate.”

His findings of how children came to learn to control themselves came to be known after the key tool in his experiments; a marshmallow.  And they have laid the foundations of what we know about our own will-power.

In his book, The Marshmallow Test, Mischel goes on to describe how self-control is the engine of success in life.  It’s a big claim, and for someone who’s never prided themselves on having much, it’s quite a daunting prediction. 

But if my dog can master it, then so can I.  There are learnings we can borrow from his tests with six year olds that will help us adults in the fight to lose weight. 

The way the test worked was to sit a child at a table in front of a marshmallow and a small bell.  An assistant would tell the child, (let’s make this one a girl) that they would be leaving the room for a little while and that if at any time she wanted to eat the sweet she just had to ring the bell and the assistant would return and the girl could eat the marshmallow.  If however, the girl would rather have two marshmallows, then she could wait for the assistant to return and at that point (if she’d waited without ringing the bell) she would be given a second marshmallow too.

The children were observed while waiting by Mischel and his colleagues who made notes while hidden behind a two-way mirror.  He describes the experiments as delightful to watch.  The children went to all sorts of lengths to help themselves resist that marshmallow.

The hid it under the plate.  They gazed around the room.  Some would sing songs to themselves, others made up stories to tell themselves.  Some sat on their hands, others pushed the marshmallow out of reach.  Some took to giving themselves verbal instructions… Out loud, they addressed themselves by name and ordered themselves not to ring the bell or touch the sweet.

Many employed a range of tactics. 

But it was the ones who employed the tactics who were always the more successful.  The kids who just sat there were the most like likely to give in.  And, Mischel reports, they often gave in without seeming to even think about it.  On a whim they would ring the bell and eat the sweet.  Mischel reports that most of the time they would then look surprised that they had even done it. Often they hadn’t meant to.

It wasn’t their rational, in-control brain that had reached for the bell.  It was their Amy brain.  Mischel calls it hot thinking, but it’s the instinctive, evolutionary part of brain that we have to control if we are ever going to lose weight. It’s controlled by the amygdala – hence Amy brain, for short.  And given the degree of temptation we face in the today’s world (even in our own kitchens) we cannot let Amy brain give in to every impulse she has or we’d simply not stop putting on weight.

So look at what the children did.  They distracted themselves.  They went and did something else.  They put physical and mental barriers in place.  They even helped give voice to their thoughtful brains, and shut up the voice of their Amy brains. 

And these are just the things that will also help us to get one over on our Amy brains.  Given the temptation of Traybake Britain we need all the help we can get to deal with it.

You can read more about how your Amy brain works here.

There are six big ways you can help win the battle and lose weight.  They are here.

And there are a ton of other ways to win here.

Whatever food diet you want to follow, just make sure you get all the help you can to make it stick.  Find the Diet Grove that works for you.

And if you’re good there’s a marshmallow in it.  Or, better still, some chocolate.

The Big Lemon Question

What gets you going in the morning: a cuppa workman’s or a shot of coffee?  Both work for me, and on a Monday especially, I need both.  But recently, I’ve been drinking warm lemon water first thing.  Until now most of the lemon I've drunk has been heavily diluted with gin but I’ve heard so much recently about its benefits that I thought I should check it out.  As Gwyneth Paltrow would tell you, it wakes you up, provides you with vitamins, rejuvenates the skin, helps you lose weight and (the one everybody talks about) it detoxes the body.

So does it?  Well, it’s not as cranky as I’d feared.  As long as you squeeze enough juice from your slice there’s a pleasant, energising taste.  It’s where the zest in ‘zest for life’ came from after all.  And, perhaps it helps you feel a bit more virtuous, which might stiffen your resolve to eat well for the morning at least.  The bright sharp taste does encourage the idea that you’re doing yourself some good.  Which reminds me of a joke.

An unmarried woman is confessing to her priest:

"Father forgive me," she says, "for I have sinned."

"Tell me your sins, my child," says the priest.

"Father, last night I had sex with my boyfriend seven times.”

The priest thinks for a while; "Go home and drink the juice of seven lemons," he says.

"Will this cleanse my soul?" she asks.

"No.  But it'll wipe that smile off your face."

But I digress.

There’s no doubting lemon's role as a source of vitamin C – good for the immune system – plus it’s full of calcium, iron and potassium too.  It’s refreshing and, at least unlike tea and coffee, it’s not a diuretic so it does hydrate you.  Yes, just like water.

On the weight front, there’s nothing to declare.  More calories than the none in a glass of water but not far off those in a cuppa, depending on the colour of your milk bottle top.  Either way no big deal.  But how it’s supposed to help you lose weight makes no sense.  It all seems to be attached to the alluring promise of detox.

This, I understand, is appealing.  The promise of flushing out bad stuff.  Purging and purifying seems so likely to wipe out the bad effects of all those ‘toxic’ things you’ve eaten.  But as I’m sure you’ll already know deep down, this is nonsense. 

What I also understand is that the use of the word detox came from the treatments that people had to suffer to rid themselves of slightly more toxic substances.  Like heroin. 

‘Detox’ was coined in clinics where addicts suffered withdrawal symptoms when trying to kick various nasty habits.  And because bad stuff is cool, it inevitably became something we all liked the sound of.  Plus of course the clinics were all in LA and filled with Hollywood stars.

So now we ‘detox’ after sausages and cream buns.  For goodness’ sake.  We detox from our consumption of sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol and, heaven forbid we forget, gluten.

 Now I’m not going to join the debate about which of these foods cause people problems or not.  I’m not a nutritionist.  But I do appreciate is that a two day detox or less still a morning glass of lemon juice isn’t going to do a better job than what my body is doing already.  If you’ve got a functioning liver and kidneys then the trick to digestive health is eating good foods and not eating or drinking rubbish.  The body has its own amazing detoxifying processes and there is no scientific evidence that you can make it detox harder by adding special supplements.  Either cut out the toxins or let your body deal with them.  Your choice.  But don’t pretend you can detox from whatever toxins you eat by adding special supplements or procedures.  Coffee enema?  Really?  Only if it's arabica.

What’s more if you do drink a bit and enjoy the odd cream bun, no end of lemon juice is going to help you lose weight.  Detoxing does not remove any of the fat you’ve stored as a result of all the cream buns.  The only reason you might lose weight on a five day detox is because you don’t eat much.  It’s not because you spend hundreds of pounds on pre-bottled, cold pressed, vegetables.

So coffee, tea or lemon?  It’s not going to cleanse your soul or detox your body, but maybe it helps you start off with slightly better intentions of a Monday morning.  And remember, when life gives you lemons, at least you’ve got a slice for your GnT.  And it gives you coffee I recommend that you drink it.

 

The Joy of Easter Leftovers

So how many Easter eggs did you scoff this weekend?  Once the bunny had done his work we had a bowl full of mini eggs on the kitchen table.  We have a democratic rule means that all spoils of the hunt are pooled into a central stash.  And while this means that no one runs off with the lion’s share of mini eggs it does make for a dangerously tempting display.  Especially the candy-shelled ones that don’t even have a fiddly slip of foil to slow you down.  Just pop and go.

Add to that the hot cross buns – such a favourite in our house that we had our names down on a batch at the bakers at least twice over the weekend.  And then just four lazy days, plenty to drink and a few breakfasts that went on a round of toast or six too many.

So how does that leave me on Tuesday morning?  Well, if a decent sized Easter egg gives you a thousand sugary calories that turn easily to fat, it’s no surprise that I’ve put on a good few pounds this weekend.

But that’s what Easter’s for.  And with the short working week there’s a clear (and happily limited) window to put it right.  I’m straight back into a Fast day today.  Yes, it’s tough.  Just the old bran and yoghurt for breakfast.  I’m drinking lots of tea and water.  I’ll have just a tiny snack at lunch time and take a good walk. 

But tonight there’s something to look forward to.  We’ve got cold lamb in the fridge, thanks to the leftovers from Easter Sunday (you can keep cooked lamb in the fridge for two or three days) and I know exactly what to do with it.  Lamb can get quite greasy when it’s cold so it’s not the most versatile of leftovers.  The classic is a shepherd’s pie but that’s not going to help me fast.  I’m just looking for an high protein, low calorie tasty snack to get me through a Fast day evening.  So here’s what makes the Diet Groove work so well: lamb shawarma can be diet food!

Tonight, I’ll strip the rest of the lamb off the bone and mix it with a bit of harissa.  Then I’ll mix some spices - ground paprika, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and a good few twists of black pepper.  I’ll prepare some chilli yoghurt on the side (nothing more to it that– a chopped red chilli stirred into a couple of spoonfuls of zero-fat yoghurt).  Then I’ll fry the lamb in a little oil (it might not even need any) and a couple of bashed up cloves of garlic.  This is just to heat up the meat, get the fat melting and perhaps crisp it up a little at the edges.  Be careful not to overcook it though – you don’t want it to dry out.  Finally, I’ll dig around for some fresh parsley or coriander, or we might still have some fresh mint left over to add a little garnish of green.

Enjoy!

Will x

Happy Easter Eggs

So, it appears Cadbury has ditched Easter in favour of a more honest description of what we’re celebrating this weekend: chocolate.  And whether you agree with it or not there’s no doubt that the eggs we’re going to scoff over the next few days have more to do with celebrating the hit of chocolate than the wonder of new life and new beginnings.

For anyone trying to lose weight it is just another onslaught of temptation to resist.  We're designed to crave the very things we're trying to avoid.  That sweet, melty chocolate promises our body the energy and nutrition it needs.  Trouble is, we don’t physically need that much of it.

But we are living in Traybake times.  We are tempted with delicious, beautifully presented food from morning to night and at Easter it only gets worse.  If it’s tough enough resisting the lure of sugary carbs on any ordinary day now you’re up against the might of the confectionary industry and at Easter the gloves are off.  It's not hard to find fabulous examples.  Check out #pimpmycarbs on Twitter or Instagram and add your own.  What’s the most tempting, over-the-top, or just plain cheeky carb pimping you’ve come across?

So how do you resist?  If you’re anything like me you can’t.  But at least you can limit the damage.  Leave the sugary milk chocolate to the kids.  Allow yourself a little bit of high cocoa content dark stuff.  Read about how here.

And try to keep out of the food hall at Selfridges!

Happy Easter, and happy hunting!

Will xx.

Enjoy your diet

A couple of bbq'd chickens.  A ton of bbq'd vegetables.  And while the bbq's on, you might as well chuck a couple of sausages on.  What's not to like?

Last night was an amazingly balmy spring evening.  Supper for the family just had to be eaten outdoors, so out came the bbq.  Second time this year (we had steak and burgers last weekend) and always a joy.

I couldn't have wanted a better meal.  The vegetables made a braised salad, we chucked on some sweet potato too, and then we ripped our way into the smokey, salty chicken.   I'm sure mine was made all the better washed down with a couple of cold glasses of Gavi, but the children enjoyed theirs just as much.  

And the point here is that, diet or no diet, I wouldn't have wanted to have been eating anything else.  OK, this wasn't an abstemiously strict Fastday meal, but it was never supposed to be.  And for a meal that feels like a hugely indulgent chow down, it's actually completely 'on message' as far as low carb guidelines dictate; a simple Burnday meal that feels like a feast.  

And that's the great thing about following the Diet Groove way of eating.  Even without the bbqs, it's about enjoying food, and finding easy ways to lose weight without going hungry, and without depriving yourself of great meals.

 If you're not happy with a way of eating you're not going to stick with it.  That's why so many diets fail.  And that's why finding a groove that suits you works.

You can't lose weight by denying the pleasure of great food. Enjoy!

Will x

How Well-Defined is your Elbow Egg?

Ab crack, thigh gap, elbow egg?  Elbow what?

Yes, this is a diet blog.  It’s about trying to lose weight and finding a shape you're comfortable with.  But comfortable is the operative word here.  What is it with this torrent of unattainable body trends?  And what the heck is an elbow egg?

The Victorians started it with the wasp waist.  That's the extreme hourglass figure that still dominates media ideals of the female body.  It was achieved by a corset so tight that women fainted at the mere sight of a man in breeches and a linen blouse wandering around in a lake.  And it made a good job of mangling your internal organs at the same time too.

Next we had the ankle flash.  That was the daring glimpse of stocking that set pulses racing if a skirt ever rose further than two inches from the floor.   And we all know what the Victorians did to piano legs.  Allegedly.  Well there was no Specsavers back then so it was an easy mistake to make.

It’s easy to laugh at the Victorians, they can’t laugh back.  But if they could see what Instagram is obsessed with in 2017 I'm sure it would raise a smirk.

A couple of years ago along came Cara Delevingne and Millie Mackintosh with their thigh gaps; a look that glamorized bandy legs.  And last year we had the ab crack.  That one’s just a deep crease down the front of one’s tummy where some tummy would normally be.  Emily Ratajkowski provided the ab crack shot that all the internet used for that one. 

'How do you get yours?' the sites asked.  I don’t think a pint of Stella has much to do with it.  It's not even something that people can achieve by reducing what they eat.  Unless you make your living in just your undies then you're never going to have the motivation to put in the exercise that an ab crack demands.

Take a look at Yola for the Win - one of the #abcrack crowd (before that hashtag was banned on instagram).  She seems to exercise so much that she never even gets a chance to change out of her gym kit.  And 'British model Jourdan Dunn works hard to keep her abs in shape' I've learned from a popular newspaper.  I'm sure she does.

So which bit of body are these golden beanpoles going to obsess about next, I wonder?  According to Russian born, and self-confessed 'fitness bear', Ivana Wekmefatov, it's a couple of inches on the outer side of your elbow; a well defined bump that’s formed when you bend your lightly tanned arm while taking a selfie on the beach with your favourite Walden filter.  The elbow egg.

Is that a thing now?

I'm still working on my muffin top.

Will x

Humpty Trumpty

IMG_5413.JPG

We all know what happens next... 

Hope you like this year's entry for my youngest's school Easter egg competition.  She used duck eggs this year.  Then we ate them in omelettes.  A few chopped chives for me.  Delicious. 

The egg is just such a fabulous protein snack.  We associate them so much with breakfast that we forget just what an easy snack they are.  Feeling peckish?   Boil yourself a quick bite.  Don't forget a grind of pepper too. 

New Year New You?

Scout, full of the joys of spring

Scout, full of the joys of spring

British Summer Time is here, so it’s officially spring.  The sun’s out, the daffodils are out and our young puppy is bouncing around with all the boundless energy of, well, a young puppy.  So why am I thinking about New Year resolutions?  It’s because by this time of the year so few of us do.  They're well forgotten by Easter.  Mine was to get back in the Diet Groove after coming well adrift over Christmas, but so far it’s been a bit tricky.  I've been in danger of letting it slip.

I’ve been using the Diet Groove for years now and I know that it works so well, that perhaps bizarrely, it’s in danger of being a victim of it’s own success.  Let me explain.  As the Diet Groove recommends, I allow myself some big Reload times in the year and Christmas is always the biggest.  This year was no exception.  Between 15th December and 2nd Jan I put on the best part of a stone.  So as of Jan 2nd I threw myself into some concerted 'Fake' Fasting (that's fasting for a day or two at a time, but cheating with a good supply of lean protein foods to keep hunger at bay.  It’s boring, but simple, and by God, it works).  And I backed it up with a day by day commitment to Dry Jan.  By the 18th of Jan I’d lost the stone.

Trouble was I was still off my ideal weight.  Things had slipped a bit towards the back end of 2016.  Perhaps the cumulative misery of such a shit year had driven me to a few more gins than my waistline needed.  So as I eased off the Fasting and going into February, my weight started to plateau again.  

Yes, since then, I've kept the stone off.  But ideally there’s another half a stone to go.  I know I can do it.  I know the Groove will work.  But the question is do I do it now or later?  We went to the seaside at half term and so that meant a good few days Reloading again, with lots of fish and chips and holiday pastries.  And yes, I've dealt with that easy enough, but now I just don’t know how much more to push on.

Last week I got off to a great start with some more Fake Fasting.  But ‘not drinking during the week' turned into 'not drinking until Wednesday'.  Oops.  So let’s see.  I’m getting there.  I'm a couple of pounds off my ideal weight on a Friday but a few pounds adrift on a Monday.  I just need to stick to a weekend on Burn and that’ll crack it.  But when?  Maybe I should remember my New Year's resolution.

So what was your New Year’s weight resolution?

How’s it going?

Do you need any help?

All the very best and a Happy New You.

Will x

Lose weight with an alarm

Never go hungry on a Fastday

Never go hungry on a Fastday

I made a confession last week, to myself at least.  And that was that I’d let things slip.  Without noticing it, I’ve put on a few pounds over the last couple of months.  Ooops.  But there’s one good thing that’s really worked for me here, and that’s the fact that have actually noticed now.

Once you have got to your Reset Weight there’s a huge temptation to relax a little.  Then, all of a sudden, without ever meaning to, you’ve thrown the diet out of the window.  Hitting your Reset Weight is certainly time to celebrate.  But the brutal truth is, if you’ve had a weight issue like me, you’ll never be able to forget about your diet for good.  Stop thinking about how you eat for a week or two and your Amy Brain responses will be completely overwhelmed by the ‘traybake’ temptation that surrounds us.  And whether your particular temptation is the chocolate brownies themselves, or whether it’s savoury crisps and nibbles, a few beers or the odd gallon of Pinot Grigio, there’s just so much temptation in our lives that we will eat more than we need.  We can’t help it. 

But when you’re in the Diet Groove, that’s when you’re saved by the bell.  By following the Diet Groove long enough to get to your Reset weight you’ll have automatically created an alarm bell for yourself.  As long as you’re in the groove of weighing yourself every day you’ll soon start to feel uncomfortable if your averages start to linger at levels that they shouldn’t.  And I don’t just mean uncomfortable in the waist-line.  Even before it gets to that you’ll feel a bit unsettled about the numbers.  After you’ve lost so much weight you’ll have a conscience about it.  Even Amy Brain respects your achievement.  You’ve come this far there’s no sense in throwing it away.  And if there’s even the slightest risk of that happening then your Thoughtful Brain can sit Amy Brain down and give it a good talking to.  And so Amy Brain is put back in its place.  And because you know how the Diet Groove delivers results you just re-engage with it properly and off you go again.  And that’s what I’m doing now.

It’s been a week and it’s going ok.  I went back into Fastdays for four days.  A big hit but remember, there’s never any question of going hungry here, so nothing to worry about.  And then a Burnday and a gentle Reload weekend.  I say that only because I didn’t Reload at every meal.  Great Burnday breakfasts are easy at the weekend with brancakes, ham and eggs.  Such a good breakfast (along with a coffee and the paper) you don’t even think you’re being good.  But then, for me, things got a bit out of hand.  Some friends arrived and it turned into a bit of a party weekend.  And well, who can diet at a party?  And so naturally, things came undone a bit, but all within the Groove. 

Over the week I lost the seven stone easily enough on the Fastdays, but rebounded a lot with the Reload.  And that’s OK.  I’ve touched back in with my Reload weight for 24 hours so I know it’s possible.  I’ve lost a pound off my average and I’ve had a brilliant weekend.   And I can build on this some more, and if I have just a gentler time next weekend (which shouldn’t be difficult) I’ll take even more off the average.  So all good. 

How about you?

Do let me know.

Cheers

Will

Read this to lose weight

How observant do you think you are?  Did you notice how many ‘ups’ there are in that sentence, for example?  I know the first time I was shown that test I missed the repetition.

And I’ve just missed putting on about half a stone.  How does that happen?  For starters, we are just not very good at noticing small changes.  Our instinctive Amy Brain will spot a big threat when it suddenly appears, but when the scene changes subtly we miss it.  I suppose we’re like frogs.  According to the story, a frog won’t die if it is thrown in a pan of boiling water, it’ll jump straight out.  But if it is sitting in a pan of water that gets heated gradually, it won’t notice the change.  Don’t quote me on that I’ve never tried to boil a frog, the last time I ate frog’s legs they were sautéed in flour and butter.  But I digress.  The point is that it’s easy to put on weight a tiny bit at a time, and not really acknowledge it for a while.

I weigh myself every day.  That’s an important part of keeping your Amy Brain engaged with the task of losing weight and not letting it drift but, clearly, it’s not fool-proof.  And for me the pressure has been off for a while now as I’ve hit my target weight and am just coasting.  Which is all well and good, except that the coast got a bit too easy.  My Fastday dropped to just once a week and the Reloads got a bit more loaded.  Then there was Easter and chocolate.  And then, egged on by the holiday feeling, the weekend drinking slipped into the week, well, all the way to ‘maybe not drinking on Mondays’.

And the snacking started to creep back in too.  Well if I was having a glass of wine then I might as well throw in some crisps.  And before I know it I’m not actually13 stone, I’m thirteen and a half.  So I’m going to do something about it.  I’m going to put in a few days of simple protein fasting, I’m going to cut out the drink until Friday, crisps are out until the weekend too, and even then I’ll do popcorn instead, chocolate will be down to just one square.  And my Reload meals are going to be a little less frequent.  Maybe just two or three over the weekend (Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday lunch), instead of all of them.

And this too is how the Diet Groove works.  We are all human.  We all drift.  Good intentions don’t last.  But I know not to let it bother me.  I know that I’ve got the simple tools to put this right and just the fact of noticing that I need to act is down to the success of the Groove.  I know I’ve go to reset.  Having lost over four stone I now see myself as 13 stone.  I know I can easily get back there.  But what’s important is that I know that I have to.  Being 13.5 stone is just not acceptable to me any more.  It’s not a bad weight (for me being 6ft 4) and I’m still in the green zone for my BMI but there’s no way I’m going to get carried off down a slippery slope. 

Dieting is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be just a battle of willpower either.  With the help of the Grooves – simple, tangible ways to get into a sticky weightloss routine – you can stay in control.

I’ll let you know how I get on.  Let me know how you’re doing too.

Happy Grooving

Will x

Chocolate helps you lose weight

Happy Easter!  It’s time to eat chocolate.  Time to eat more chocolate than usual, that is…  Yipee!  I’ve lost four and a half stone, I’ve kept it off for three years and I’ve made a point of eating chocolate every day.  Why?  Because chocolate helps you lose weight.

But, before you kidnap the Easter bunny, let me explain something.  The vast majority of diets fail, but they don’t fail because people don’t know the right things to eat.  They fail because dieting is hard to stick to.  One way or another a diet means depriving yourself of food.  That’s not a natural thing to do and somewhere deep in your brain you reject it.

Our instinct, our ‘Amy Brain’ that is, rewards us for storing as much energy as we can comfortably eat.  And in sugar-filled, Traybake Britain, that’s a lot of calories.  But we can’t fight our ‘Amy Brain’ forever.  We can’t easily hold out for more than a few weeks at most.  So instead of just denying these urges, it’s actually far more successful to find a way to give into them (to placate our Amy Brain) but to do it on our own terms.  If we actually reward ourselves for sticking to a diet we can lose weight indefinitely.

And for the reward to work it has to be one that means something in terms of what we eat.  And for most of us that simply means chocolate!  It fits the bill perfectly.  You can read about exactly why and how, here.  And I’m afraid other rewards just don’t come close.

But when it comes to Easter things get a bit more difficult, especially if you’ve got young children and you find your kitchen filled with the sight and smell of foil-wrapped temptation.  There are a couple of ways to help deal with it. 

The simplest is to deny everything.  Make a pact with yourself.  Don’t so much as touch the chocolate button.  But this is high risk.  Simple does not mean easy.  That milky chocolate that tastes of childhood is powerful stuff for us Brits and we’ll find it hard to stick to just a bite.   So lets forget that.  Stupid idea.

Another plan is to give in to everything and write the whole thing off.  Go for the biggest egg you can find and throw in a bunny too. This can be done in the Diet Groove, you simply need to schedule your Reload Days accordingly, but it’s probably not the best idea you’ve ever had.  It might be fun for a bit, but most chocolate is so calorific and so sugary, that not only is the cost so high but the reward is short-lived too.  It’s not a great trade off.

Far better is to take a Diet Groove approach.  Find a simple way to indulge on your own terms.  And there are a couple of nice approaches.  You need something chocolatey: a definite treat, but one that’s easily limited.  Here are two ideas. 

First is Cadbury’s Crème Eggs.  Offer yourself four for the weekend.  One a day from Good Friday to Easter Monday.  They come in at 150 calories each so they are not going to break the bank.   They are satisfyingly sweet and are ‘limited’ by their singularity.  Then see if you can go the Friday without one.  And the Saturday for that matter?  Just knowing that you’re allowed it might give you the control to leave it.  Then give it to a handy child on Easter morning.  Have one yourself on Easter Day.  Then decide on Monday if you need that last one.

The other product to use are the Lindt Excellent bars.  As a treat you could buy yourself one of these.  They’re about 520-530 calories each and you could choose one of the flavoured ones as a special bonus.  I can recommend sea salt, and orange is always an Easter favourite.  Keep one for the whole weekend.  Stick to two chunks a day.  Or save it all up for Easter Sunday.  Either way, like the Crème Eggs, it’s not such a dietary disaster.  It’s tasty, it’s rewarding and it’s a whole lot easier that trying to stop yourself picking at the children’s stash.

Then back to a Fastday on Tuesday.  But remember, keep eating the chocolate.  It helps you lose weight!

Eat with your brain to lose weight

Brain food

Brain food

We eat with our brains.  The way we think about food directly affects what we actually taste.  If a menu describes a dish as ‘Traditional Cajun Red Beans with Rice’ instead of just ‘Red Beans with Rice’ people will think it tastes better.  This has been shown in research.  It’s no wonder that you can’t look at a menu these days without finding that everything has been delicately infused, flame-grilled or generously drizzled.

Our Amy Brain learned the cues millennia ago.  The colour of a berry on a tree taught us whether to expect a sweet delight or a sour shock.  And it’s not just about perceptions.  Having your brain scanned while you drink a glass of wine doesn’t sound like fun, but it has revealed how dominant our minds are.  People will actually enjoy one glass more than another (from the same bottle) because they have been told that it is more expensive.  Not that they say they prefer it.  They actually feel more pleasure.  Their brains’ pleasure zones are more active.

So today’s food companies waste no time making stuff that makes your brain happy.  If you walked into a baker’s shop a few years ago you’d have seen a lot of brown: loaves, buns, cakes.  All brown. These days bakeries look more like toy shops.  Fairy cakes in wonderful pastels.  Icing as shiny as plastic.  And now rainbow bagels.  Wow!  As Buzzfeed said, ‘Here’s a thing that really exists.’

So how are you going to feel satisfied with lentils, kale and crisp-bread?  When you’re dieting you miss out on all the fun.  That’s one reason why diets don’t work.  You get bored and your Amy Brain rebels.  At least when you’re dieting with the Diet Groove, you can have that rainbow bagel.  And if you’re in Birmingham, good news, they’ve just arrived.  That’s the joy of Reload days.

But there’s much more to it than that.  Even when you’re on a Fastday or a Burnday, you can appeal to your Amy Brain when you eat.  And the answer is simple.  Meat.  Ok, a lot less colourful, but a food that really delivers for the senses.

When it comes to losing weight by appealing to your brain, lean protein has a lot going for it.  From a nutritional point of view it works.  And you can read about it here.  But there’s much more to it than that.

Let’s take steak. 

Steak satisfies you because it feeds your Amy Brain.  Everything about it.  The wet slap into the pan, the sizzle of the griddle, the sweet smell of burnt, caramelised lines on the bars, a scattered dusty crust of salty flakes.  The blood red, the roasted brown, the perfect pink.  In just five minutes it promises fulfilment.   Plate it with a bunch of rocket leaves, balsamic and a drip of oil.  A dollop of mustard or some fresh horseradish grated into fat free yoghurt and you have yourself a huge flavour sensation.

You know you are going to love it, you are going to be satisfied and you are going to be full before you’ve even taken a bite.  Eat it slowly.  Carve your slices with a very sharp knife.  Open the flesh.  Feast.  Savour.  This does not feel like dieting.  This feels like eating.

Your brain is happy, your stomach is happy.  And when you wake up the next morning your scales are happy too.  And of course it's not just steak that does this.

Losing weight is not just about what you eat.  It’s about how you eat.  And if you don’t take account of your Amy Brain, you’ll be doomed to the cycle of broken diets.  You can learn how at The Diet Groove.  It’s way of eating that has worked for over three years for me now and I’ve lost 4 ½ stone.  Let me know how you get on. 

Are you a clean eater?

Naughty but nice

Naughty but nice

I’m not.  And I’m not falling for it either.  Yes, processed foods are not going to do you any favours and it’s best to avoid the hit of carbs from fast absorbed carb sources like refined flour when you’ve got pounds to shift, but does that mean we should think about food as clean or dirty?

Diets only work by limiting the amount you eat.  It’s not rocket science.  And they use some kind of rule to help you to stick to them.  It might be ‘only eat cabbage soup’, ‘only eat fat’, or ‘only eat things that were available in Palaeolithic times’.  And despite what their authors earnestly try to explain, the nutritional merits of any of these rules are actually besides the point.  What matters is that if you follow the rule, you limit the amount of total calories you eat.  There is only so much cabbage soup you can eat.

It’s the cutting out that counts.

And it’s how they make those rules that determine how successful the diet is.  Strict rules are good, as far as they go.  The stricter they are the more weight you lose.  For a while.  We all know what happens then.  And once we’ve broken them we don’t put them back together.  Your Amy Brain doesn’t work like that.

The Diet Groove works on a very simple rhythm that allows you lots of freedom and stops any rules from feeling too strict.  And because it’s flexible it’s actually quite hard to break.  It bends rather than snaps.

But this ‘clean-eating’ thing takes a slightly different approach.  Yes, it has its rules.  And basically it’s a low carb diet.  But it’s the name that puts me off.  I love all good food: from a squeaky clean bean to a dirty great rack of sticky ribs.  I love fatty pork belly and muddy chocolate pudding.  And I’m not going to have it divided into clean and dirty. 

People struggle enough with feelings of guilt about what they eat without attaching the idea that we’re doing something ‘dirty’.  There’s a place for everything in our diets without putting extra emphasis on the ‘forbidden fruit’ of dirty foods. 

And will it really do any good to hype the appeal of something by labelling it as wrong?  Won’t that only make us want them more?  That’s how Amy Brain works.  After all, they used to sell cream cakes on the basis that they were ‘Naughty’.  But nice.

Why you must eat chips on a diet.

Great for dieting

Great for dieting

Imagine two children are playing catch.  A girl throws the ball to her brother, but it’s a bit high and so the boy just watches as it flies over his head.  It goes over the fence and smashes the neighbour’s greenhouse.  Whose fault is it?  The girl’s, because she threw it too high?  The boy’s because he didn’t even try to bat it off course?

Or think about a slightly more high-stakes situation.  A train trolley is careering down a railway track.  There are five people working on the line ahead and they will all surely die if the trolley carries on.  But you are standing at a junction with a big lever in your hand.  Pull the lever and the trolley will swing off onto a siding.  Unfortunately there is someone on the siding.  But just one person, not five.

Are you guilty of a crime that happens because you don’t act,?  Is the brother equally guilty by not jumping?  Are you guilty of killing four more people if you don't pull the lever?  People tend to think that not acting to prevent something is usually less of a guilty position than acting to cause something.  Tell that to the guys on the railway line.

So what’s this got to do with chips?

Clearly it’s wrong to eat a big bag of greasy chips on a diet, isn’t it?  You can’t just justifiably go down the chip shop on a Friday night, buy yourself a bag of chips and scoff the lot.  That’s not dieting.  Or is it?

What happens when you’re on the bus going home and your best friend gets on with that lovely bag of golden salty chips and starts sharing them with you?  Is that so bad?  Or when you go to a friend’s for dinner and he’s made a big stodgy lasagne?  Or your child comes home from school with a big sticky cake she’s made for you?  Or a million other times when we are faced with temptation that we didn’t go looking for?

Most people on diets feel somehow that the chips you bought just for yourself are the greater ‘crime’.  You can forgive yourself from being tempted by the friend’s chips, but it’s un-forgivable to go and buy yourself the chips.

Clearly in dietary terms chips are chips.  There’s no difference in the calories you get from chips you buy yourself and the ones your friend offers you.  The only difference comes in your approach to dieting and how your Amy Brain deals with it.

This is the time of the year when lots of New Year’s diets become history.  The vast majority of people who follow a sustained eating plan simply can’t stick to it for much longer than a month or so - or as this article rather says with ridiculous accuracy, ‘women give up diets after five weeks, two days and 43 minutes’.

We don’t buy ourselves chips because that’s wrong.  But we can’t resist them because it wasn’t our action to go looking for them.   At the time that doesn’t feel too wrong, we’re not guilty of buying chips.  But it’s how we feel about it afterwards that causes the diet to fail. 

Any diet that depends on not eating certain foods works until you eat that food.  Then as soon as you do, it’s scuppered.  If you are on a no carb diet and you eat carbs, that’s it.  You’ve failed.  This is the brutal logic of the situation but it’s made so much worse because you’ve denied yourself chips for five weeks, two days and 43 minutes.  After this time you want the diet to fail.  You are fed up with it.  You’ve probably lost a bit of weight too, so it’s justifiable just to draw a line under it and forget about dieting for a while.  Well done.  Now, that’s over.  Thank God.

And so we go back to normal.  And we all know what happens to the weight.  Welcome back, pounds.

Perhaps the best dieting position is to never again eat chips, but you know that is just not workable.  It's good to know that the alternative is simple: just eat chips on a regular basis.  And you can.

Not every day.  Not every week even.  Especially if you want to enjoy other fattening food.   But you can lose weight easily and still include one or two relaxed eating days a week.  They are your Reload Days.  When you follow the diet groove, you’ll learn how to use them to great effect.  

A treat you can’t resist doesn’t ever have to break you diet.  It just gets incorporated.  And after five weeks, two days and 43 minutes there’s nothing you crave.  Because you can just have it.  And then carry on losing weight.  Welcome to the Diet Groove.

The foods that boost weight loss

Have you read about the Sirtfood Diet yet?  It’s worth taking a look at.  And then there’s a press release from the University of East Anglia (UEA) which was in the papers this morning.  I’m printing it below, in full, because it just happens to completely coincide with a little one-man experiment of my own.  And what both my personal experiment, this mega study, and the Sirtfood Diet all show is worth knowing if you are remotely serious about losing weight.

I’ve been reading about Sirtfoods a lot recently, especially the work done by Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten (see the book).  They found that certain plants seem to help us lose weight.  They call them Sirtfoods because they are high in a particular set of nutrients that stimulate our body’s sirtuin.  (Sirtuin: genes that help us regulate energy and fight disease and aging).

This can all get very complicated very quickly, and you’d need a degree in molecular biology to even understand the half of it but what it boils down to is that the stuff plants use to help them defend against disease and attack seems to also work remarkably well for us too.  Just by eating enough of it. 

If you want a few big words, try ‘polyphenols’ for starters.  These are the natural chemical compounds, made by plants, that do all the good stuff – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, pro cardio-vascular, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, metabolic regulating, and more.  Flavonoids are the biggest group of polyphenols, and they are the subject of the UEA report, but there are many more. 

The molecular biologists have known about this for some time now, and you’ll have probably heard headlines telling you that drinking red wine is good for you.  That’s all part of the same effect.  It’s the skins of the grapes that are particularly high in flavonoids, and the process of making red wine means that there’s a long time for the flavonoids to enter the wine.  (The skins aren’t used for long enough when making white wine or grape juice I’m afraid, so you’ll just have to drink the burgundy.  He, he, what a shame).

So far, only a fraction of this whole area has been clinically studied in humans and so what we see in the Sirtfood Diet study and in the UEA results (below) are more just powerful indicators rather than incontrovertible, comprehensive facts.  But on this beautiful mid-winter morning, the release of this report has coincided with the first results of my own brief Sirtfood experiment and the results are astounding.

So on a sample of one, this is no more scientific than a lucky dip, but with what I’ve just read from the UEA I thought it’s something you should know.

Any one who follows the Diet Groove will know that I believe in whole heartedly making it as easy as possible to stick to a diet and that I use simple behaviour grooves to help make that happen.  One of the most important grooves is the power of taking dramatic action for short periods of time and for that I’ve found that the best results come from fasting (no surprise there) and a focus on protein. Combining the two then makes it easy to fast as you never need to feel hungry.

Everything I recommend has been borne out of my experience.

So as a bit of a one man experiment, when I heard the promises being made about Sirt Food I thought I’d give that a go too.

The impact has been off the scale.  I’ve lost 10 pounds in three days.    That sounds a bit crazy but the scales don’t lie.  Sure, a deal of that will be water weight, and just the impact of less food in my system, but it’s got to be a good sign.  I’ll carry on with the use of Sirtfoods and let you know how it goes but with this news hitting the headlines today I thought you might find this useful now too. 

So, to get to the point, here’s what I did. 

To set the scene I got to Monday morning of the back of a very indulgent past few days.  I believe in Reloading, not least for my own sanity, but it had been a bit of a big one.  For a start I hit the wine back on the Wednesday of the week before.  So much for not drinking during the week.  So that meant beer, wine, gin and coffee for five days.  My youngest daughter had a birthday party with friends and so my elder daughter made her the biggest chocolate fudge cake I’ve ever seen, and that provided a constant source of grazing all weekend.  I had a curry on Friday night, a burger for Saturday lunch, pizza for supper, a fry-up on Sunday and the most fabulous Roast Beef for Sunday lunch obviously with roasties andYorkshires, but also lots of wine, cheese and chocolates too.  So by Monday morning I was way off course.  13st 11.  Ahem.  I’ll say it quickly as it negated all the good work I’d put in over January so far.  This morning I weighed 13st 1.

For three days I simply combined my own protein fast approach with some of the key Sirtfoods that Goggens and Matten and the UEA studies recommend.

Each day started with my usual yoghurt and bran and I snacked lightly on lean chicken, prawns and mackerel as needed too as I would normally do on a fast day.

To introduce the Sirtfoods I also snacked on celery and kale chips.  I drank lots of water, green tea and green matcha tea (not a pleasant drink, that one).  And had a glass or two of green Sirtfood juice.  On the Monday I kept to a Fastday and just lightly snacked on chicken in the evening with a green juice.  Finally, I added a teaspoon or two of raw cocoa nibs to pick at with my after-dinner piece of 85% Lindt chocolate.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I had one of the Sirtfood recipes in the evening:  Miso broth which I made with prawns but no buckwheat (to avoid any carbs) on Tuesday and poached salmon with a Sirtfood variation of cauliflower cous-cous plus spring greens on Wednesday.  All available in the Sirtfood Diet book.  And here I am, three days later, ten pounds lighter.

The key foods for me were:

Kale

Celery

Rocket

Red Onions

Chillies – bird’s eye

Capers

Turmeric

Blueberries

Cocoa Nibs and 85% chocolate

Green tea and coffee

Plus chicken, salmon and mackerel – the protein for its own sake plus it works well with the polyphenols, ...apparently.  And a bit of Burnday veg with cauliflower, and spring greens.

Does it prove anything?  No.  Is it worth doing more of? Yes.  Should you give it a go?  Why not, what have you got to lose?  Hopefully lots of lbs, like me.  Do let me know how you get on.

Eating blueberries

Eating blueberries

And here’s the UEA report press release:

"The study, published today in the BMJ, reveals that apples, pears, berries and peppers were found to have the greatest effect in reducing weight gain.

Researchers from the departments of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and UEA’s Norwich Medical School examined the association between the dietary intake of all flavonoids and weight change in a large study of 124,086 men and women based across the US with data collected over 24 years.

Prof Aedin Cassidy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Dietary flavonoids are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables.

“This is the first large study to examine the associations between consumption of all flavonoids and weight gain in middle-aged and older adults.

“Most adults gain weight as they age and even small increases in weight can have a substantial impact on risk of high blood pressure, developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes - so strategies to help individuals maintain a healthy weight in middle age are needed.

“We found that an increased consumption of most flavonoids were associated with weight maintenance, and even a modest weight loss. The results were found to be consistent across men and women, and different ages.

“However losing even small amounts of weight, or preventing weight gain, can improve health and these modest effects were seen with a small, readily achievable increase in intake of many of these fruits.

“Just a single portion of some of these fruits per day would have an important impact on health at a population level.

“The greatest association was found for anthocyanins - which are found in blueberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, grapes, radishes and blackcurrant. We also found that flavonoid polymers - found in tea and apples - were particularly beneficial, along with flavonols – found in tea and onions.”

The research team tracked participants who were part of three large prospective cohort studies: the Health Professionals Follow Up Study, Nurses Health Study, and Nurses Health Study II.

Participants self-reported changes in their weight through a questionnaire every two years, between 1986 and 2011. In addition, they self-reported their diet, lifestyle habits, and any recently diagnosed diseases every four years.

The study adjusted for a range of dietary and lifestyle factors that may have influenced the results, such as smoking status and physical activity.

The results show the amount of weight loss associated with very small intakes – called ‘standard deviations’ - including 10mg of anthocyanins and 138mg of polymers.

They found that consuming just a small amount (a standard deviation) of flavonoids correlated with maintaining a healthy weight, and even losing a little - but only around 0.1KG.

However many fruits provide more than one standard deviation increase - for example a single serving per day of blueberries contains up to 121 mg of anthocyanins and tea contains a range of flavonoids (including flavonols, flavan-3-ols and their polymers).

The research team hope that choosing flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables could help people shed up to one or two pounds.

The researchers conclude that even small changes in intake have the potential to have a significant impact on helping to maintain a healthy body weight.

Prof Aedin Cassidy said: “People tend to put on weight as they get older. But we found that people who ate a few portions of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables a week maintained a healthy weight, and even lost a little.

“We hope that the results will help refine previous dietary recommendations and provide guidance on which specific fruits and vegetables to choose for preventing of obesity and its potential consequences.

“Losing or preventing even small amounts of weight can reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

“In the US, for example, most people consume less than one cup (portion) of fruits, and less than two cups of vegetables daily. This is below the recommended daily intake and should be increased to two cups of fruits, and two and a half cups of vegetables – which equates to the UK’s recommended ‘five-a-day’.

“And people may be able to improve the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables by choosing those including high levels of flavonoids, such as apples, pears, and berries.”

‘Dietary flavonoid intake and weight maintenance: three prospective cohorts of 124, 086 US men and women followed for up to 24 years’ is published in the BMJ on January 27.

Volunteers sought for new blueberry study

The research team are currently looking for local volunteers aged 50-75 for a study to see whether blueberries can improve aspects of health linked to heart disease and diabetes.  

Eligible volunteers will be overweight (with a waist size of over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women), non-smokers, with no previous history of diabetes or cancer, and who are not taking hormone replacement therapy.

For more information on the study and eligibility, call 01603 592424 or email circles-study@uea.ac.uk. 

…And don’t forget to let me know how you get on adding Sirtfoods to your groove.  Meanwhile, I'll be trying the Burgundy tonight.  I hear Pinot Noir is a particularly good source of flavonoids!

Cheers, All!

Will x

14 pounds in 14 days!

How do you lose 14 pounds in 14 days?  It's actually not that hard.  What's more difficult is keeping it off.  And if you're in a similar state to the way I was a little while ago (ie. enormous) then it's how you keep on taking more off too.

The key to success is in how you translate all your well thought-out good intentions into everyday action.  And this isn't always easy because our brains and biology are designed to over-ride our sensible thoughts with the instinctive actions to keep us alive.  Our Amy brain (Amygdala) goes for instant gratification ahead of weight-loss every time.  This was all well and good as a survival mechanism for our ancestors.  It's somewhat less helpful in modern Britain where even the warm, doughy air in Tesco's is designed to make you feel hungry.

To fight back we need ways to win over our Amy brain and get her on our side.  And that means resorting to simple actions that just give your sensible head a bit of an advantage.  I call them grooves because they are ways of behaving that are good to get into.  They are combined with some time-tested nutritional nuggets, and I've found them the only way I ever got my 19 and a half stone obesity turned around for good.  

The grooves are here.  And they include things like constant measurement (to provide lots of feedback), dramatic behaviour (to make noticeable impact) and the need to build in escape routes to your progress so you can learn to come off course and get back on again easily - embracing the yo-yo. We need variety to stop ourselves getting sabotaged by Amy.

For example, fasting is the ultimate weapon in weight-loss.  But traditional fasting is hard.  You either have to deny yourself food altogether, or count calories, or make up special meals.  These things don't help.  Starving yourself is never going to be fun and counting calories and making up special meals or juices only makes you think more about food, and inevitably about the food that you're missing.

Instead there is a different way to look at fasting.  The aim is to get through the day without making any fuss about food at all.  No meals, no restaurants, no socialising over food.  There is no need to put yourself through any of this, when you can arrange your life so that you enjoy food on Burndays and Reload days.

And as for feeling hungry, you can avoid that by snacking on protein. The power of protein as a highly satisfying eat with a high thermic value has been well known to nutritionists for decades and it forms the basis of everything from Atkins to Sirtfoods.  I'll spare you the science but protein keeps away the hunger pangs as well as giving you a really tasty eat.  Just ripping the flesh of a chicken drumstick feels good, in a Henry the Eighth kind of way.

So don't even give Amy brain a look-in.  Last week I made a simple coriander salsa just to give my protein a little extra kick.  Red onions, chilli, tomato and coriander.  Not much more than just a salsa.  I kept it in the fridge and used a couple of spoonfuls with evening Fastday snacks.  Once with chicken, once with salmon flakes.  So each 'meal' took about ten seconds to prepare.  And then I left the kitchen.  'Move away from the fridge'.  You could go to the cinema, read, take up basket weaving.  I sat on the sofa and watched box sets.  Like I said, don't make it hard on yourself.

Keep it simple.  Coriander salsa goes with chicken...

Keep it simple.  Coriander salsa goes with chicken...

...or the next day, with salmon.

...or the next day, with salmon.

It wasn't a smooth journey.  The earlier post charts the first few days.  I hit a big plateau in the middle that wasn't much fun.  Don't be disheartened by this stuff.  Just keep watching the numbers and you'll soon see how thing works for you.  There'll be a reward coming up.  And then there was a bit of a wobble with my daughter's birthday cake.  When you switch between Fastdays and Burndays there can be some lags as the bulk of vegetables makes itself felt, but the full-on empty carb hit of chocolate cake is a tough one.  That will easily not just stop all the progress but send it into reverse.  But hey, a birthday is a birthday.  And though I put on a pound or so I still got back on track.  

My goal, in lights

My goal, in lights

And so by the third week in January I've lost my Christmas weight and am ready to resume the normal rhythms of my Diet Groove.  I'll still fast once or twice a week, but there'll be lots of reload days and meals too, and not to mention a few gins.






Lose 10 lbs in 10 days, eating well

Sofa.  So good.

Sofa.  So good.

We’re deep into January, headed straight for the most depressing day of the year (according to the internet), but at least the telly’s ok.  Do the TV stations know that we need a bit of crime and murder on the sofa to cheer us up on these cold, dark evenings?

Well, it’s working for me.   Spending an evening with Chief Inspector Barnaby, D.C. Morse, and Dr Nikki Alexander is, at least, taking my mind off the fact that I’m not spending it with my usual friends Stella and Sauvignon.

And it’s also cheering to see that my Diet Groove is working really well.

How about you?

If you’re following the simple beats of the Groove then your weight should be dropping off.

If you want to compare notes, here’s what’s happened for me over my past week of Fastdays and Burndays.

By the 4th of January, following a very enjoyable Christmas reload, and aided by a steady supply of Quality Street, I’d reached 14 stone dead and had paused there for a couple of days.  That was a clear stone more than I’d weighed before I touched my first mince pie back in early December.

That Monday I switched my Groove back to Fast in a big way.  The Diet Groove is designed around simple behaviour changes that help us over-ride our instinct to store fat.  One of these behaviours is the need to be extreme.  Well-intentioned, but moderate dieting will never be powerful enough to beat our instincts.  Our Amybrain always wins.

So Monday 4th through to the morning of Wednesday the 6th were Fastdays for me.  Extreme?  Sure.  But difficult?  No.   You can Fast easily using pure protein.

Protein snacks make Fastdays easy

Protein snacks make Fastdays easy

I had yoghurt and bran for breakfast, then just snacked on chicken and smoked fish (my personal favourites) to keep me from getting hungry.  And my weight responded really well.  It can take a day or two to kick-in but this time I lost two pounds overnight.  Yes that’s just water weight, but it’s a nice start.  By Thursday I was down to 13st 6.  And then I hit Burn.

Veg fest

Veg fest

Thursday night was a massive veg fest.  And because I’d missed them for three days it was a lovely reward.  Warm, crunchy roasted vegetables and a ton of chicken in a simple dressing of soy and sesame oil.  Completely satisfying, without a thought for carbs.

Eggs for Friday breakfast.  Brancakes make the difference.

Eggs for Friday breakfast.  Brancakes make the difference.

Scrambled eggs and brancakes for breakfast on Friday.  And in the evening, take-away time.  With a couple of tweaks it was a happy Burn meal.  Aromatic crispy duck pancakes are a winner, especially with the hoisin spread thinly, and adding some plain chicken to the Thai Red Curry meant that the kids got most of the sauce and I just added a fresh chilli to mine for extra oomph.   I skipped the sticky rice completely, but chomped on a couple of bbq ribs.  Or four, or five.

Saturday was another simple day.  Lunch didn’t really happen.  A bit of yoghurt for breakfast (low fat of course), and then I saved my bran to make brancakes for a great brunch of bacon and eggs. 

Saturday brunch on a Burnday

Saturday brunch on a Burnday

Then a steak for supper: a massive sirloin, size: well off the scale, with home made horseradish and a spicy salsa.

And a steak supper.  Size XL.

And a steak supper.  Size XL.

By this time my weight had plateaued and I was levelling out at 13st. 6.  Not an exciting reading every morning but nothing to fret about. 

Sunday called for a roast.  An omelette for lunch, then a shoulder of pork to do the business.  No holding back on the meat, and plenty of crackling too.  Plus a ton of sprouts, carrots and beans.  And a sneaky roastie.  Don’t tell anyone.  But strictly the one.

I managed my first run of the year on Sunday too.  A slow jog round the track while my son was training with his rugby team.  Slow, but hey, a start.

Still 13st 6. on Monday morning.  Then bask to Fast, and kerching! Tuesday saw a big step down.  13st. 2.  Yes, water loss again as I switched back to Fast, but clearly more than water lost compared to a week earlier.

This morning, a little bounce back to 13st. 4, but that's nothing to worry about.  There's always a bit of random variation because of water weight and bulk in the digestive system.  Plus, there's often a little lag as you switch between phases.  The thing to do is just get to understand how your body responds to your groove.   

So I've just got 4 pounds to go, and we’ll see how that holds up against a couple more phases of Fast.  I don’t give it a chance.  Last night I ate chicken again, mixed with a very light salsa of onion, tomato, and coriander, but not so much to count as anything more than a garnish. 

Chicken dressed in a tomato, red onion, chilli and coriander salsa

Chicken dressed in a tomato, red onion, chilli and coriander salsa

Here’s the story so far:

Jan 4               Fastday - 14 stone

Jan 5               Fastday – 13st. 12

Jan 6               Fastday – 13st. 9

Jan 7               Burnday – 13st. 6

Jan 9               Burnday – 13st. 6

Jan 10              Burnday – 13st. 6

Jan 11               Burnday – 13st. 6

Jan 12              Fastday – 13st. 2

Jan 13              Fastday – 13st. 4

So, so far, so good.  January 13th, and my Christmas weight is virtually gone.  My jeans are loose, I’m feeling good and there’s no mystery for Barnaby to solve.  It’s simply that I’m in the Diet Groove. 

How about you?

The Friday / Saturday night challenge

The Bitter Truth

The Bitter Truth

I did it.  A dry Friday.  Never easy.  And, for me, the very hardest part of any weight-loss attempt.  Fasting is one thing, but even that is easy if you’re snacking on meat.  Giving up drink is quite another.

Alcohol is a vice all of its own.  You don’t need me to sell its special charms.  Not even after all the bad press it got yesterday.  Thank you, Dame Sally Davies, perfect timing there.  But clearly if you, like me, look forward to one of your fourteen weekly units, perhaps in a long chilled glass, first thing on a Friday evening, then you’ll appreciate the effort it takes to go without it.

That’s why I don’t do it more than once.  To lose weight on a steady basis, there’s no problem with drinking for a few days a week.  Well no issue for weight-loss at least (that’s what Reload days are for) and I’m not going to venture any where near Dame Sally’s findings.

But when there’s a job to do, like offsetting the Christmas pounds, you need the big guns.  And the cumulative effect of back-to-back Fastdays and Burndays, stretching through the weekend from one week to another, is just too powerful to pass over.  So for the first couple of weeks of January no Reloads and no drink.

I can get through it because I know it’s only once a year.  You’ll find you don’t even have to come close to the full #dryjan to take good run of pounds off.

But, for me, a Friday or Saturday night without a drink is just, as Amanda so perfectly put it in her comment yesterday, ‘So depressing!’.

And, apart from knowing that next Friday.  By 6pm AT THE LATEST I will have a strong G and T in my hand, the only small (yes, tiny) compensation I have is finding a virtually zero calorie soft drink that I can actually enjoy in itself: Rock Shandy.

It’s said that the drink has Irish roots and is named after Blackrock, Co. Dublin - at least there’s a pedigree of drinking there! But I don’t think it was ever intended as an alcohol substitute.  The idea of substituting something for alcohol is such a daft modern conceit. 

It has a number of variants. The most simple is lemonade and sparkling water or club soda with a dash of Angostura bitters.  So make it with diet lemonade, use lots of ice and add a slice of lemon.  Another standard is to use fizzy orange instead of lemonade.  And there are a few more alternatives here: http://www.thedietgroove.com/a-drink/.

Of course it doesn’t come close to the taste of a proper drink, but at least it avoids the saccharine sweetness of fruit juices, sodas and even the ‘grown-up’ style soft drinks.  And still is largely calorie free.

The trick is in the bitters.  At 44% proof (that’s Angostura) they are definitely alcoholic, but you use so little - literally just a drop or two - that it can’t count.  They give the drink the complexity missing in any soft drink, and there’s a hint of sophistication in the taste.  And because of its dry, bitter taste, you can carry on drinking it, in various forms, all evening. 

To make the drink even drier, try adding some low-cal tonic too.  Or, on a parallel track, you can switch to a simple Angostura and tonic.  Again with lots of ice and a slice of lemon or lime.  Variety can help ease the pain you’re feeling.

And finally; other bitters are available.  A friend gave me ‘The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveller’s Set’.  Thank you, Sam.  With five little bottles I don’t think airport security would allow you to actually take them travelling these days but they regularly come out at home.  The orange one is a favourite and there’s a lovely cardamom hint to the Creole Bitters.

So, bottoms up!  But not in girth…  And here’s to next Friday.

Will x