So this diet, then. I know you want to know about it, even if you have no intention of going on one. I have been a journalist for too long, you see: I believe all that anyone truly cares about are diets and Princess Diana.
I waited until we returned from a blow-out all you can eat bucket and spade holiday in Devon before embarking on my regime: while we were on holiday, I didn’t want to ruin the atmosphere by going on about how I wasn’t eating anything. Then with the cold, dead heart of a Dementor, I imposed a chilling food timetable on myself.
The rules, as mention before, are: no carbs, no sugar, no drinking during the week.
The first three days were simply awful. At one point I was so desperate for sugar (but refused to eat a biscuit) that I strapped Sam into the sling and galloped up to Sainsbury’s for some yoghurt-covered cranberries.
But I also realised in those first three days just how much sugar and snacking went on in my life simply because of the number of times I found myself standing in front of the biscuit tin with no recollection of how I got there.
My daily diet went something like this:
Breakfast: 3 pieces toast, 3 cups tea with sugar
mid-morning: 1/2 bagel (sometimes whole thing?) sugary, full fat latte
post-mid morning: more tea, custard cream?
1.30pm: tea, custard cream(s)
1.35pm Kitty’s lunch leftovers, custard cream (cup of tea?)
2.30pm: “balancing” (possibly “fat burning”) diet coke
3pm: some digestive biscuits
5.25pm: Kitty’s leftovers, mini cornetto
7.30pm: dinner – something with rice or pasta
7.50pm: telly and 1/2 bar Lindt “Orange Intense” chocolate (AMAZING)
… and I wondered why my weight was stubbornly at 11 stone. I told myself that I was on the Shitty Food Diet, but the thing about the SFD is that you have to be very busy for it to work. If you are sitting about with a newborn all day long, very close to cupboards full of toddler treats, simply replacing lunch with custard creams doesn’t really cut it.
So now a typical food day looks like this:
Breakfast: punishment museli with banana (yes I know that’s carbs, but barely – and also carbs are free before 8am)
lunch: ham and cheese omelette
teatime snack: diet coke
dinner: 1/2 steak with a soy bean salad
Then after the babies go to bed I go for a 10-min run and do 80 sit-ups.
I know it sounds utterly fucking ghastly, but it’s actually not going too badly. My run is very short, I go slowly and I listen to very loud, very bad music. It is a critical 10 mins alone after a day of listening to other people’s problems, (YOU have to listen to MINE), I get to leave the house, which I don’t do much at the moment and I really think the sit-ups might be doing something.
The thing about diets, the thing you have to do in order to make them work, is to mentally adjust to being okay with feeling quite hungry quite often. A couple of nights of my new regime were spent awake, hungry, with aching legs from the running. I just kept telling myself that hunger is fat leaving the body and the aching legs are just because I haven’t done any exercise for 33 years so of course it’s going to hurt a bit.
Once you get used to feeling hungry, diets are easy. Once you know that being hungry isn’t going to make you faint, or die, you can ignore it. And then your stomach starts shrinking and adjusts to the new amount of food you are eating, and then you’re away.
Diets can often seem anti-food, like food is the enemy. And the things you are allowed to eat when you are on a diet just don’t seem that appealing when you are existing on Planet of Anything-Goes Pregnancy Food Blow-Out.
But – the simplest of lunches and the most punishment of dinners tastes like the best, most fantastic gourmet plateful when you are really, truly hungry.
Not “starving”, you understand. I have become one of those disapproving old biddies who leaps on the use of the word starving as abhorrent and silly when people actually ARE starving in Afghanistan, in Syria – even in parts of this very country.
So if you are actually on a diet, calorie restriction or Atkins or anything, it doesn’t matter much what actual things you are allowed to eat – you will fall on them like a ravenous wolf and scream “WOW THIS IS THE MOST DELICIOUS THING EVER” as you sip some scalding miso soup.
Having said that, I do try to make an effort with dinner. My husband has gamely joined with me on this strict diet and the Lord knows he likes a bit of effort when it comes to food.
The most successful dinner I’ve conjured up recently has been steak and beans. Because I disapprove so massively of eating steak we never have it, but just for the moment I am relaxing and allow us one very expensive organic steak between two of us, accompanied by a soy bean salad and some fried courgettes if I’m feeling really wild.
The secret to the soy bean salad is a dressing made of:
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
5 or so mint leaves, ditto
1 spring onion, chopped
3 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp capers, chopped
the juice of one lemon
a sprinkling of chilli flakes (if you like)
You boil the soy beans (available frozen from Waitrose – and many other supermarkets, I’m sure) and then dress them with this sort of salsa thing while still warm.
It really is delicious!! Although I might only be saying that because I am just so hungry.
Fried courgettes, if you are interested, are also nice. Take one courgette, chop it into pieces about 3cm x 1cm long then fry in hot groundnut oil turning occasionally for about 20 mins. They brown up surprisingly nicely. Drain on kitchen roll and sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
Eat all this with an abstemious glass of tap water and remember to work your core muscles while chewing.
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