First things first, I’m a tad embarrassed to be writing this post and apologise in advance for too much information.
At the beginning of the year, almost exactly 6 months ago, I published something that I titled “A Fresh Start.” It outlined how each month I was going to change 3 habits with a view to getting to where I needed to be goal and health wise.
Yeah. Nah. That lasted a month – and then the brown smelly stuff hit the fan work wise and all of my fabulously good intentions were blown away.
In the months in between I’ve put on some weight – it’s only a couple of kilos but when you consider that I need to lose between 20-30 kilos, any extra is, well, extra. As at a week ago I was the heaviest I’ve ever been – and given that I’m quite short (and shrinking fast) that’s not a good space to be in.
I’ve spent the last month looking critically at my habits and weighing up (no pun intended) a number of different “diets”, although given that I detest the word diet, I’m preferring to think of them more as eating plans.
After reading extensively some, such as Dr Michael Moseley’s 5:2, 16:8, Fast 800, and the CSIRO Low Carb, make sense to me for a number of reasons. I also like the principles of what is termed the Mediterranean Diet, but which very few people who live in Mediterranean countries probably follow these days. These pieces by the fabulous food writer Matthew Fort explain this conundrum well: Mediterranean Hogwash Part 1 and Part 2.
In fact, I was listening to a Desert Island Dishes podcast with Stanley Tucci the other day and he said how when he lived in Italy as a 12-13 year old the Italians ate the way Italians had always eaten – good food, plenty of veg, not too much red meat, healthy fats, a glass or so of red wine. These days, he said, it’s about the meat and the cream. Italian food had been, in his words “Americanised” with more meat and larger serves.
Take one of my favourite pasta dishes for instance, carbonara. The traditional recipe has no cream in it. None. The creamy texture comes from the cooking water and the egg and parmesan. Order a carbonara in many (thankfully there are exceptions) Italian restaurants in this country, however, and you’ll get a dish of pasta and cream. But I’ll put my soapbox away for now.
Then on my lunchtime walk with @adventurespaniel a couple of days later I was listening to another episode, this time with British chef Adam Byatt who said something along the lines of how at his age – which I suspect is similar to mine, perhaps a little younger – you can’t just eat and drink everything you want and expect not to look like the side of a house. He said that he runs and keeps his weekday breakfasts and lunches simple so he can enjoy the good things in life occasionally too.
It struck a chord for me.
I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have a bad diet. I don’t have takeaway or ready meals, and despite the amount that I bake, rarely indulge in the sweet stuff myself. I’m that weird person who doesn’t eat after dinner, can’t do a block of chocolate or a carton of ice-cream and who actually likes vegetables. I love food – well, except for offal, okra, and bean sprouts. I like planning it, preparing it, eating it, writing about it and feeding it to other people.
Before you hand out the halo, I do, however, have some dietary weaknesses – obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this position. I love pasta (hello, mac cheese) and adore bread, and by bread, I mean good bread – from a crusty baguette to a sourdough, to a dense and almost chocolatey rye. I have a weakness for butter and cheese that neither my waistline or my gut is terribly happy with, and I really enjoy wine – and whisky.
My food might be home-cooked, varied and often delicious but more of it goes into my mouth than is expended in energy. And, while not all calories can be treated equally – more on that another time – that’s a problem.
While I don’t intend to completely give up any of the things I enjoy – after all, mine is not a quest for Twigginess – compromises need to be made, portions reduced, experts consulted, and answers sought. Given that I learn best as I research and write, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing here – each Tuesday.
As for the experts I’ll be consulting? There’s enough science out there – and I’ve read an awful lot of it, much of which is conflicting. Instead, I’ll be consulting people like me: food writers and chefs. People who, like me, enjoy food in all its glory and who enjoy preparing it and writing about it. People like me who have had to balance their enjoyment of food and flavour with the demands of their mirrors, the size of their jeans, and, in some cases, the request of their doctors. The way that I figure it if some of my foodie heroes can do it and continue to cook and write about food, then so can I.
Most of what I’ll be eating will be accidentally healthy foods – food that tastes great despite being good for you. I might want (and need) to shed some excess baggage, but life is way too short to compromise on taste. I’ll be consulting my vast collection of cookbooks for ideas and variety.
I’m not aiming for perfection, and my body type is such that I’ll always be curvy – and I’m completely cool with that – but I am changing my habits, although not all at once. I’ll also be building a few indulgences into my week – so please don’t email me when you see me post something on Instagram that can’t possibly be on my plan. Saturday is on my plan.
This series of (mostly) weekly posts are likely to be the most personal that I’ve written – and in writing them I’ll be making myself more vulnerable than I normally tend to do. I’ll be writing about what I’ve learnt – about myself as well as from others – and, naturally, sharing the occasional recipe.
Follow along if you want but bear in mind that my food story is likely to be different to yours – as is my “why”, something else we’ll talk about further down the track. After all, if there was a one size fits all answer to this question, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Most of us know what we should be doing – it’s the brain that gets in the way of the actual doing.
Edina: Why am I so fat?
Saffron: You eat too much, you drink too much and you take no exercise.
Edina: Darling, Darling… Please…. it is far more likely to be an allergy to something, isn’t it? You know, a build up of toxins or a hormone imbalance.
Saffron: All you’ve got to do is eat less and take a bit of exercise.
Edina: Sweetie, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.
(From Absolutely Fabulous… Series 1 “Fat”)