Slimming My Lockdown Body
I have two pairs, both are black, size ‘large’ and fit me, well, like a glove. So having sorted my hated ‘bottom half’ I have been free to wear something bright and cheerful on my much preferred top half for the many Zoom calls and videos I’ve been making every day for our Bright Spots programmes. It’s a bit like that old joke that newsreaders sit at their desks blithely wearing just their underpants, I’ve also indulged myself by eschewing elegance for practicality below the waist. Trouble is that wearing very forgiving, very stretchy lycra on the one part of my body prone to weight gain has finally caught up with me and every single pair of summer trousers that I possess has unfortunately shrunk quite dramatically whilst waiting in my wardrobe for the weather to warm up.
What to do? “Easy, just go on a diet!” I hear you all shout in unison, but ‘going on a diet’ is the equivalent to me of encouraging a recovering alcoholic to “have a drink - just one won’t hurt you!” So somehow I have to find another way to shift those extra unwanted pounds.
Weight and women - a fatal combination in my experience. For me the angst started in my teens as the womanly curves of the 1950s, when women were expected to have full breasts, curvaceous hips and a narrow waist, morphed into that androgynous, slim, flat-chested aesthetic of the 1960s. Paul MacCartney fell for Jane Asher and Mick Jagger for Marianne Faithful, both mere doe-eyed wisps with legs up to their armpits. Try as I might to restrict what I ate, my legs stayed heavy and my ankles like milk bottles. And the more I detested my body, the more my relationship with food became dysfunctional. My first thought on waking was about how ‘good’ I was going to be that day. A ‘good’ week would be lived mostly on salads (minus the ‘fattening’ dressing) with the odd hard-boiled egg and tin of tuna (in brine, never in oil). On a good week I would lose maybe 3 or 4lbs and feel positive and happy, if somewhat hungry. However the good days were invariably followed by ‘bad’ days during which I’d open a tin of Tate & Lyle golden syrup and eat it by the spoonful or slathered on round after round of white bread thickly coated with butter. The disgust I felt for my lack of control may equal the disgust you feel having read that sentence!
This went on for twenty-five years. Binge and starve. Starve and binge. The fight was exhausting, the battle was never-ending, and the war was never won. Food was the enemy and my pear-shaped body was the battleground. Ironically, apart from my two pregnancies when I gained over 4 stone each time, my weight varied by only a few pounds, but I was never ‘there’. In my mind my destination was always around a half a stone away at which point ‘all my troubles’, as the Beatles sang ‘would be far away’ and I would finally be acceptably slim and I’d finally love my body. So what changed in my 40s? How did I finally break the starve/binge cycle? Firstly, I got divorced and was no longer responsible for the daily feeding of other people as my daughters were in boarding school. I lost all interest in food and cooking. Secondly, I stopped the daily weighing sessions, threw away my scales and came to terms with my body shape. And finally I stopped seeing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but rather as basic sustenance. If I fancied something ‘naughty’ I ate it, but never to excess and gradually the old cravings for intensely sweet, comforting foods lost their grip and I was able to make different choices. Like the recovering alcoholic, I found that I could say ‘no’ to something and genuinely feel no desire for it. However, also like the recovering alcoholic, I was permanently terrified that if I ‘went on a diet’ then the whole crazy roller-coaster of bingeing and starving would be triggered once more.
And now we come to my lockdown weight-gain. I blame the Sweaty Bettys, I blame the winter and the feeling of deprivation which it engendered this time around. I blame the sweet tooth which has never gone away and which saw me indulging once again in a toasted teacake liberally piled with butter and jam on many afternoons with a cup of tea. I rationalised that I needed the odd treat to comfort me in my socially isolated state. I blame the low level of activity, albeit ameliorated with four or five sessions a week on my exercise bike. And I blame my age as we all know that we need less food as we get older and I have definitely been eating more than my body needs.
So - what to do? Well, surprisingly (I still can’t quite believe I’m writing this) my solution has been to start cooking myself extremely tasty meals three times a day and rediscovering the joy of proper food! Two things have supported this transformation (not an exaggeration). One was making a weekly video with Leonie Wright for our Bright Spots programme and getting her Eatwright cookery book*, and the other was the Christmas gift of a Dr. Michael Mosley inspired book called ‘The Fast 800 Recipe Book.’ My daughter saw the title and the picture of a salmon dish on the cover and wrongly assumed that the book contained 800 fast recipes! In fact it contained photographs of utterly delicious looking food based around a low-carb Mediterranean style of eating with intermittent fasting on 800 calories, which I actually felt inspired to try.
If you’ve watched the videos I made with Leonie over the past 12 weeks, you may understand from my conversations with her just how much I’d lost the habit of actual cooking. I may have thrown a salmon fillet, topped with sliced tomatoes and wrapped in a foil parcel into the oven and boiled some potatoes and broccoli for a (completely tasteless) supper several times a week, but I wouldn’t have dreamt (as I now do) of ‘roasting’ the salmon with whole cherry tomatoes and spring onions and then adding a tablespoon of soy sauce and some sesame seeds and topping it with the par-boiled tenderstem broccoli for the last 4 minutes for a scrumptious tray bake! Watching the ease with which Leonie sliced fresh onions, garlic, aubergines, courgettes and added a tin of tomatoes to fried beef mince to make a one pot Ratatouille and Mince meal, finally convinced me to embrace my inner and long lost Nigella and finally buy myself some proper kitchen utensils (in January I owned a single small sharp knife, 3 saucepans and little else). I have also been introduced to fresh ginger, fresh chillies, coconut oil and coconut milk (who knew the coconut could be so giving!), organic cocoa powder, cannellini beans and frozen mixed berries which make an amazing topping for greek yoghurt if heated and sweetened with Stevia. Honestly, I could go on, but I fear that I’m in danger of coming over as a complete foodie bore!
And I am happy to tell you that it’s working. This morning I tried on a pair of particularly recalcitrant summer trousers and the zip finally closed as did the button at the top. Not quite there yet, but I’m so enjoying the new regime that I suspect that the final few pounds will gradually come off. Today I have eaten home-made chocolate granola for breakfast (recipe below), one of Leonie’s delicious soups for lunch - today’s made with red pepper and cauliflower - and for supper I may just treat myself to an amazing stir-fry with fresh tuna, a plateful of mixed vegetables all cooked together for 3-4 minutes in hot coconut oil and finally mixed with two tablespoons of hoisin sauce. No more ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods or ‘good’ or ‘bad’ days. No longer the sense of punishment and deprivation in order to get the unwanted pounds shifted from my backside. Just the sense of a reawakening of my taste buds and relating to food via the process of actually preparing and then cooking it.
This is the first time for thirty years that I have actively followed a different eating regime in order to lose some weight (or, in other words, ‘been on a diet’). After about 8 weeks of this new way of eating I’m confident that it’s not going to trigger me back into my starving and bingeing hell. The answer for me is to use those summer trousers to measure my progress rather than a pair of weighing scales, after all the objective isn’t to be lighter, but to fit into my clothes more easily. And, as importantly, everything I am eating is delicious, looks and feels nutritious as I prepare and eat it and satisfies my taste buds in a way that I had long forgotten. I’m not quite there yet, but I am trying to see food preparation and vegetable chopping using my new Sabatiers as a slow and enjoyably ‘zen’ process rather than an irritating waste of my precious time. Lockdown has been a revelation in so many ways and I am very happy that one of them has been the discovery that good, healthy weight loss can involve so much more than an undressed lettuce leaf.
*Leonie’s book is available from www.eatwright.co.uk and she is offering a 10% discount to you all on her brand new Eatwright Forever 21 Turnaround where she will help you in your eating habits - launched on 6 April 2021. You can see more about it in a short video here.
Look Fabulous Forever followers can get a 10% discount by putting the following code: TRICIA10 in the pink bar on the payment screen
*Recipe for Chocolate Granola from the Fast 800 recipe book by Dr. Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison:
Melt 4 tbsp Coconut Oil and add 1 tbsp of cocoa powder and 1 tbsp of maple syrup in a large saucepan. When melted mix with 200 g of jumbo oats. When well coated, spread the oats over a very large baking tray and bake at 170º C/fan 150º C/Gas 3 for 15 minutes. Combine oat mixture with 100g mixed nuts and return to oven for further 10 minutes. Allow the granola to cool and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Makes 8 portions of 275 calories each if served with 75ml of fresh milk.
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Virtual Teatime With Tricia and Lisa Kay
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Day: Tuesday 13th April
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