A truly abysmal week

There is little to say this week. I’ve not stuck to the plan at all. Life has taken over a little bit and I have found that I’m able to move house a little bit sooner than I’d anticipated, so this week has been taken over with 3 flat valuations (insane – the last 9 and a half years have treated me well) and handyman visits.

I’ve eaten carbs. Pitta breads and eggs. Bagels and cashew nut butter. Takeaways: salt and pepper squid and four cheese pizza. I’ve really screwed up. I’ve exercised once all week and it nearly broke me. In the midst of this, I came to the end of cycle 1. It was fairly anticlimactic to be honest. 2 inches off each of my hips and my waist. I measured my “chest” wrong at the start of cycle 1 and measured my bra strap rather than my actual boobs (error – 1/2 an inch off the former, clearly tons off the latter – hurrah – except I missed it!), nothing at all off my arms (HOW?? My coat didn’t fit my arms before and now it does – even with a woolly pully on!) and an inch off each thigh. 

So those are the measurable measurements. Disappointing. But the photos tell a rather different story. I’m still appalling from the side – seriously gross. But my front and my back are definitely slimmer. I have ankles! And calves! I wish I was brave enough to show the 4-week comparison photos but many of you know me, so I’m not, so I won’t. And I’m sitting here wobbling my flabby belly for fun. Blublublublublub. 
Cycle 2 beckons. I need to tell myself that I don’t need bagels and pittas and pasta and get back on it. Cycle 2 looks a bit scary. Exercise increases from 25 to 45 minutes a session, 4 times a week – HIIT, weights, HIIT, weights. I love a bit of weight training and I’ve just bought these bad boys: 
  

I AM NAILS!!!!! Ralphie doesn’t dig them, they’re clunky and noisy. She’s rather fond of the receptacle though:  

  
Anyway, this week was valuation, valuation, handyman, exhaustion, cheering up a friend, hangover, Sunday roast. Copious room for improvement. Tomorrow I see a friend from home home, so cycle 2 starts on Tuesday. Carbs increase – you have them at all three meals on an exercise day. I made this rather delicious looking granola this morning:

    

Things are simpler – it’s a mix and match style thing, choosing one thing from each of a number of genres (protein, veg, fat etc), so there’s a flexibility now, which I hope will be good. 4 weeks of prescribed recipes was driving me pretty insane. I’ll definitely be haranguing my sister (who is 1/2 a week ahead of me, and a recipe writer by trade) for ideas. 

Aha. I remembered an app where you can edit out stuff. Here’s my legs. 4 weeks difference: 
     
There’s a difference, right? More shapely? Or am I imagining it? 

Bed time. I think it’s clear I shan’t be thin by the end of the year, but maybe that’s ok. Maybe it’s ok that it’s slower with habits developing and then maybe it will stick. Maybe. All I can think about right now is little houses, period features, roll-top baths. Bliss. 

Quandaries and more eggs than you can shake a stick at

This week has been a bit of an unmitigated disaster.  I planned all my meals and then life and absent-mindedness took over. 

On Monday I forgot to take chicken out of the freezer. I have now remembered that I have a microwave, but I have also remembered that the defrost setting on it doesn’t exactly work. Half remains stubbornly  frozen, the other half cooks itself until it is hotter than the sun. I’ve had salmonella. I got it in Greece many moons ago in a place where the hotel’s cats spent their days sitting on and licking the grills on the barbecue. It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had – sure, the weight loss is pretty spectacular – but I’d rather not willingly poison myself. 

Prawns defrost quite easily. The only problem is that the only prawn recipe on this plan is absolutely revolting. Cue panic! Now, I like cooking and I think I’m fairly good at it, but I am not one of those people who opens a fridge and conjures up something magical from the odds and ends contained within. I would fail horribly at an invention test – you’d get stir fry or spaghetti carbonara and you would bloody well like it. 

So with the prawns, I turned to my trusty favourite recipe – the satay. I thought it would be rank, but happily I was wrong. Delicious! 

 
And that is pretty much where the good ends this week. Actually, I lie. Tuesday wasn’t so bad either, except I sacked off what should have been the first HIIT of the week as I just couldn’t be arsed. Dinner was a bit weird: 5-spice chicken with the courgetti stuff and, for some unknown reason, I added some sweet chilli sauce to the courgetti. It wasn’t right, but it wasn’t a total disaster. 

  
Wednesday. Home late. HIIT. Anger, rage, I really wasn’t feeling it. Nor was I feeling any of the carb recipes – I really don’t like them much, and it’s safe to say I’m getting pretty bored of everything I’ve eaten. BORED. So I improvised. Sweet potato, eggs, ham, a mountain of broccoli…it was so dull and I learnt that eggs should never, ever be paired with sweet potato – I may as well have smothered them in jam. 

  
Thursday and Friday I was at work until late. Too late. Once again, I had failed to defrost any chicken, I had no time, no energy or smiles, no joy. I ate eggs and bagels and couldn’t even enjoy the illicit carbs.  

Saturday was a weird day. I spent most of the day feeling totally wired after 3 strong coffees on an empty stomach. I had my flat valued so was in a state of nervous anxiety/excitement: Am I really going to move? But Fran doesn’t like change! Maybe just stay here forever then?? But I could get a HOUSE! But who would buy this tiny flat? etc etc ad infinitum. 

I forced myself to eat in the evening and made something new – this is called “lean muscle mince”.  It is minced beef (which I was hoping would make a nice change from the bloody chicken), onions, mushrooms, smoked paprika and this weird BBQ sauce that has no calories or fat or anything that’s nice in it:

  
It was absolutely revolting. I ate the egg. I ate the vegetables. I struggled through just under half the mince and admitted defeat. That BBQ sauce is so sweet and so synthetic, and it is now being washed out to sea, via my kitchen sink. 

You may have noticed that this week hasn’t exactly been exercise heavy. Sunday morning was my second and final HIIT session of the week. I don’t think I even care enough to feel guilty, I’m SO EXHAUSTED. On the plus side, I stepped it up a level and did 15 rounds instead of 12 for the first time, so that’s a small achievement. And, actually, despite it being somewhat disappointing and lacking in exercise and adherence to the diet plan, I’ve actually lost 3.5lbs this week, so I can’t really complain. 
I’m approaching the end of cycle 1. Day 30 is on Wednesday, after which I’m supposed to submit my measurements (weight, tape-measure all over) and my 4 week photos. They then send you cycle 2 around 3-5 days later. So here’s my quandary: do I (a) tack on an extra week to make up for the poor exercise and diet performance this week? or (b) carry on as planned and submit my results on Wednesday on the basis that it’ll almost be like adding nearly a week on anyway if I have to wait for the next cycle?  

Another quandary and, frankly, a far more critical one:

  
That’s me on the left. I’m blonde-ish. That’s also me on the right, but digitally enhanced. Shall I go brunette???? 

On that note, I’m off to the cinema to see Spectre. 

Week 3: Fruity hair

I started this week with really good intentions.  I planned all my meals and decided to try some of the weirder sounding recipes just to mix things up a little (tuna and flaxmeal fishcakes anyone?!)  THIS is how organised I was:

Menu plan

Monday didn’t start so well.  I’d slept badly and was in a zombie-like state.  As such, I managed to get two, rather different, things confused:

smoothie

On the left, curl cream.  On the right, lime, raspberry and avocado smoothie.  No prizes for guessing which I slathered on my hair.

An additional hair wash and half a day at work later, I got a last-minute invitation to a gin and seafood event at the Gherkin from my friend Janie.  So much for getting my mincer out and thai-ing up some chicken, this is what I actually had:

Monday dinner

Clockwise from top left: smoked halibut, a 12-year old scallop, blackened mackerel and confit salmon.  Not technically on the plan, but it wasn’t very carby, so I’m not sweating it too much.

Tuesday was scheduled to be my first HIIT day for the week.  I really wasn’t feeling it after another terrible night’s sleep and getting home late, and yet I did it and I killed it – it’s definitely becoming a little more manageable, although I’m yet to work my way up to 15 rounds rather than 12.  Ralphie wasn’t feeling the HIIT either – apparently my exercising induces extreme rage in her, as she flung herself at me and attached herself to my leg using her teeth halfway through a set of boxing punches.  Fun times!  After dealing with her, I was rewarded for my efforts with 5-spice chicken with brown rice and rather a lot of toasted sesame seeds:

Tuesday dinner

Wednesday was planned to be off-plan again as I had dinner at Brawn which was BRILLIANT.  Loved, loved, loved it.  I more or less forgot to take pictures, so here are some half-eaten snails and some totally eaten clams:

Brawn

(Pretty sure that these pictures are the sole reason why I’m not a successful restaurant blogger.)  For what it’s worth, the snails with the garlic and mushroom goos were PHENOMENAL, and Marina O’Loughlin was right when she said that Brawn’s pannacotta was the best she’d ever had.  Game-changing.  Ditto the black pudding and squid.  It was a happy-making meal – go, go, go.

Thursday was supposed to be a HIIT day but, frankly, I couldn’t be arsed so decided to shift it to Friday.  I was meant to be having steak and sweet potatoes, but I forgot to buy steak and no exercise = no carbs, so that dream ended there.  Happily, I had remembered to defrost chicken breasts which I turned into mince and did my favourite spicy chicken mince with double avocado, because I hadn’t fancied my breakfast smoothie.  No picture, you’ve seen it all before.

I was in a rotten mood on Friday.  Work was manic and in the afternoon, illness in the form of throat, jaw, ear and head pain crept up on me.  I left work in a terrible grump and, by the time I got home, there was no way I could do any exercise.  I had lost all of my beans.  Even more anger-inducing was the fact that the chicken breast that I’d got out in the morning hadn’t even vaguely defrosted, so there was to be no dinner.  I conveniently forgot about the fact that I’ve owned a microwave for the last 18 months (genuinely – I’ve only just remembered) and so I stuck two fingers up to the plan and ordered a takeaway.  Suffice to say, two hours later I was struck down with terrible remorse, so I shan’t be doing that again, even though the salt and pepper squid was SO delicious.

Saturday started with a liquid breakfast because there was no food in the house other than a now-defrosted chicken breast, which wasn’t appealing much.

liquid breakfast

Lunch was meant to be the tuna fishcakes, but my sister (who is also doing this plan and is a week ahead of me) had texted me this earlier in the week:

text

I may be a glutton for punishment, but slimy bloating is a step too far, even for me.  Luckily, I had a little more energy than on Friday so I did my HIIT and rewarded myself with something other than chicken.  Steak!  And sweet potato chips!  It was ace.

Steak1

Dinner was satay chicken – you know how that goes.

Sunday started with some HIIT so I had a giant protein pancake for breakfast.  This meant that I wasn’t so hungry at lunchtime, so I tried something from the plan that I hoped would be a little lighter – the tuna salad.  It was nice enough but mammoth in size and something wasn’t quite right with the dressing – it just wasn’t punchy enough – and my avocado was rubbish so it was a bit off-putting.  Definitely a recipe that needs some developing.

tuna

Finally, beef stir fry.  This was GOOD:

beef

All in all, not the best of weeks.  3 meals totally off-plan and only 3 HIIT sessions, so I’m a bit disappointed in myself.  That said, I think that my shape is changing.  My arms look to me like they’re getting smaller, as do my legs.  Even better, Janie greeted me on Monday, with: “You’re wasting away!”  and when I saw Andrew on Wednesday, his first words were “Where’s the rest of you?”  HUZZAH!!!  I must be doing something right, right?.

However, something that I’m struggling with is the HIIT.  My knees aren’t feeling great and the outside of my calves hurt from the star-jumps and I don’t know how to stretch them.  Basically, I just can’t jump.  Running on the spot seems to be fine with a knee support on.  Boxing punches – fine.  But what else can I do?  I think burpees, mountain climbers and squat jumps will absolutely annihilate my knees, so I’m a bit stumped. My back feels like it might go any minute.  I don’t think I was born to exercise – it really doesn’t suit me much – and yet when I decided to do an exercise video on Saturday morning, I got frustrated because it was just too slow and not exhausting enough, so I abandoned it for my normal HIIT.  What’s happened to me??

I could definitely do with some non-knee-ey HIIT suggestions, so if you have any (bearing in mind that I don’t have a gym membership at the moment) please let me know!

HIIT me up with some chicken

Last time you heard from me, I was feeling a bit blue.  I’d ditched the PT, ditched the gym and suffered a world of pain from spinning.  Since then, I’ve done zero exercise.  Diet-wise, I’ve not been too bad, nor have I been too great, so my weight has stayed more or less the same.  I have felt de-motivated, de-skilled, bored.

My sister came to stay with me in September.  We had previously been discussing this thing called “The Body Coach“.  Basically, this guy is like a hotter, possibly more annoying, Russell Brand.  If, like me, you occasionally enjoy the feeling of being enraged by other human beings, check out some of his Lean in 15 meal video thingies on Instagram.

Are you feeling suitably irritable?  Great stuff.

Aside from the videos, the other thing that he puts on his Instagram the body transformations of people that have done his “90 Day Shift, Shape and Sustain” plan.  Now, I’m a fairly sceptical person.  I tend to err on the side of my glass being half empty (always where there’s wine involved), but there’s no getting away from the fact that some of these transformations are pretty amazing.  Yes yes yes, I know, I’m sure lots of them are sucking their tummies in and so on, but so many of them have properly changed shape.  And loads of them have changed dramatically in just four weeks.

After some pondering, a lot of freaking out and a bit of alcohol induced bravado, my sister and I signed up.  The basic idea of the plan is lots of protein, minimal carbs, lots of HIIT (for those, like my brother, who are blissfully ignorant as to what HIIT is, it is “high intensity interval training”.  Here is Hotter Russell Brand doing some HIIT and nearly dying.  And he is stacked.)  The plan is divided into three cycles, each of 30 days.

After submitting my lengthy questionnaire and The Dreaded Photos of me in my underwear (utterly revoting, and that’s after I’ve lost 2 stone) I disappeared on holiday for a week which was utterly blissful.  What was less blissful was that cycle 1 of the plan landed in my inbox the day I arrived.  THE HORROR.  Firstly, it was 100 pages long.  Granted, lots of those are recipes, but 100 is still a little much to take in on an iPhone.  Secondly, there is a lot of turkey involved.  Not to get all TMI on your ass, but FatFran can’t eat turkey.  Turkey is massively illness-inducing.  I had told them this; they appear to have ignored it.

When I returned from holiday, I sat down and made a shopping list.  Chicken.  Chicken.  More chicken.  Spinach.  Chicken.  Eggs.  MISERY.  And, man alive!  Expensive.  I was feeling very deflated.  The recipes all sounded weird, the quantities were odd (12g coconut oil, anyone?) and the exercise looked terrifying.  But despite all my misgivings, I started on Tuesday…sort of.  I had intended to do HIIT on the first day.  This was scuppered by a long, late call with my boss, so I was going to do it on Wednesday.  This was scuppered by getting home from work at 9:15pm, needing to eat dinner and make breakfast and lunch for the following day.  So the HIIT actually started on Thursday.

In the interests of full disclosure and shiz (the “shiz” being “maybe this will motivate me to actually get off my arse and do the HIIT), I’ve decided to be brave and show you my pre-workout photo.  WARNING: Lycra is involved.

Fat Fran (2)

HORRENDOUS.  You see why I need to do something about this, yes?  HIIT session one didn’t feel very successful – it’s incredibly hard and sweating gives me major anxiety.  I only managed to do two-thirds of what I intended to do, so I felt pretty defeated. Since then, I’ve only done one other HIIT session which was yesterday morning, before I’d eaten anything.  It went a lot, LOT better.  I did it all, so HURRAH!  I had been meaning to do it again today, but it turns out that I’ve spent all of today feeling nauseous and like I’ve been hit (HIIT?) by a bus.  This means that I’m going to have to get On It next week.

Onto the food!  There’s been a lot of it.  The quantities have stressed me out.  Part of the reason that I’ve already lost 2 stone is because I’ve been eating a lot less, so I wasn’t particularly thrilled to suddenly be faced with enormous portions.  I freaked out a considerable amount on day 1, but I’m starting to get used to it.

Meals 1

Clockwise from top left: omelette with spinach and feta (this is the first omelette I’ve had in years following an incident in America where I was force-fed an omelette filled with bananas and sour cream – I’ve thus avoided them for the last 22 years); cashew chicken curry (delicious but too darn big); post-workout fragrant brown rice with spiced chicken; chicken stir fry.

Meals 2

5 kilos of chicken for £20 (SUCH a bonus working near Smithfield Market); revolting chia/flaxmeal/oatmeal stuff – slimy and disgusting – the one truly unpleasant thing I’ve eaten this week; post-workout bagel with three types of protein; satay chicken with courgetti;(really delicious).

Meals 3

Scrambled eggs with tomatoes, spring onions, feta and spinach; aaaand again, because it was SO GOOD – Ralphie even wanted to get involved and she doesn’t even like human food; teriyaki tuna with courgetti; mushroom and mozzarella omelette (check me out with my omelettes!)

So. Much. Food.  Until today, it was going quite well, but I think I’m in the midst of a protein overload.  I feel a bit nauseous, I feel like I’m cooking constantly, eating constantly, washing up constantly. I’m making double of every meal to have for lunch the following day.  Breakfast is difficult – Hotter Russell Brand basically wants you to eat these types of meals for breakfast which just isn’t happening.  It takes me a lot to even get a coffee down me in the morning so chicken stir fry just isn’t going to happen.  I’ve therefore become overly reliant on this:

Smoothie

No, not a liquidised Mr Blobby, it’s an avocado, lime and raspberry smoothie.  Apparently this should only be had twice a week due to its low calories (it has avocado in it…low calorie?  Really?) but I’m sticking two fingers up to the plan and doing what I need to get through this.  The smoothie stays.

So there we are.  This is me for (hopefully, if I can manage it) the next 3 months.  It is not going to be easy; the food is better than I’d expected it to be, but the volume is borderline stressful.  The exercise is going to be my biggest challenge as I just hate everything about it.  My aim: 5  HIIT sessions this week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday.  Tune in next week to see whether I came even close to managing it.

An anniversary…of sorts…

Today is my friend Jordi’s birthday and tonight we have celebrated with schnitzel and spritzes at Boopshi’s and it has been lovely.

What today also marks is the anniversary of the thing that (dramatically) nearly shuffled me off this mortal coil. This time last year I arrived at Jordi’s birthday party at Honey & Co and promptly burst into tears on my friends because I felt A Bit Unwell; my chest hurt and I couldn’t breathe properly and it was all a bit weird and scary.  And then I decided to ignore it for two weeks. Probably not the most sensible decision I’ve ever made, but sod it – I got to spend a week on holiday with my mum at our cottage when I would have otherwise been in hospital.  I had a fabulous birthday, with lots of wine, a spectacular tasting menu and presents, when I would have otherwise been in hospital.  I was also around to be made godmother to these gorgeous girls, before I admitted myself, later that night:

Girls
So I have no regrets about waiting two weeks before I submitted myself to nearly a week’s residency in hospital and 6 months of stressful, weekly(ish) hospital appointments. (DISCLAIMER: obviously if you get chest pains and can’t breathe, go to A&E sharpish, yes?  I do not encourage flippancy.)
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So I’m a year down the line and I haven’t felt like blogging much because I haven’t had a lot to say.  It’s safe to say that it’s been a strange year, full of highs and many deep lows. The months after my pulmonary emboli were very, very dark.  I was very unhappy and really quite shocked by what had happened to me.  I had always known that I was overweight and unhealthy and, if I’m honest, I’d been waiting for something bad to happen, but I didn’t really think it would actually happen to me.  So it took a lot of adjusting.  Happily, it was only really 6 months of true hideousness and I came out the other side feeling pretty invincible.
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I was given one hell of reality check.  I’m naturally a fairly fatalistic person – I think that when it’s your time to go, it’s your time, and had that happened to me last year, so be it.  I’m OK with that – I was then and I am now.  BUT. But.  Patently, it wasn’t my time.  I’ve been given another chance and – however wanky this may sound – I feel very strongly that if something or someone has dictated that I’m going to live, I’d better bloody start living a bit better, because I was making a real hash of it.  I was lazy, depressed and unappreciative.
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I struggled for months to find my way until my dietitian said to me in a particularly dark moment “You know how to diet.  You’re just not doing it.  It’s time for you to throw some money at this.  You need to try a personal trainer.”  I did a bit of crying – frustration, patheticness – and then I contacted someone that night and I have never looked back.  That was about 3 months ago and, let’s not be under any illusions, I’m still a fatty, but I’m a little bit less of a fatty.  Jordi even said I looking thin tonight (LIES, but I’ll take what I can get.)
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I am now seeing my personal trainer twice a week and those hours are absolutely my favourite hours of the week.  I’d see her daily if I was loaded.  Do you know how much fun boxing is?  And weights?  I’m a bit of a hard-ass and strong so it’s FUN.  I’m getting fitter and stronger and more determined which is all good and great, but the best bit is I’m HAPPY.  Or, at least, happier. I always thought it was bullshit when people said that thing about endorphins from exercise making you happier, but it turns out I’m the stupid one because it’s absolutely true.  We’re going to start running soon and apparently we’re going to sign up to a 5k race in September/October.  I’m lucky – my personal trainer is rapidly becoming one of my most favourite people, so she makes it easy.
gym
And my diet is starting to get better again. I’m working slightly silly hours at the moment and I spent a few weeks living on spaghetti and instant noodles and feeling so carby bloated, until I bought this guy:
micro
I don’t care what anyone says, Tilda microwaveable brown rice is brilliant. Ditto Innocent’s Thai coconut veg pots. And the absolute king of foods?  Unearthed garlic prawns.  Mixed with half angel hair spaghetti and half spiralised courgette, they are the ultimate fast, healthy food that makes you happy.  I can also heartily recommend mini magnums.  170 calories of pure, unadulterated joy and one really is enough.
magnum
And I have a goal for this diet malarkey.  DECEMBER 25th.  Yes, it is the day that the baby Jesus was born and when we get to overeat turkey.  It’s also the day that I’m flying to Australia to go and visit my sister and her family in Melbourne.  This will be my third trip to Melbourne and I am DETERMINED that I won’t be fat when I’m there, if only because it could be over 40 degrees celsius.  I cannot even begin to fathom how hot that will be (London was 27c today – I WANTED TO DIE), but it probably means that thick black jeans and long sleeved black tops won’t be weather appropriate.  So, the challenge is set.  I’m (mutter mutter) XXX stone and 8 lbs today.  I have 161 days until my holiday and I’d like to lose 3 stone in that time.  That’s 42lbs which is nearly 2lbs a week which is probably a tad ambitious, but hey.  AIM HIGH.
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And in other positive, uplifting news, I appear to have a date (or two) in the pipeline.  Watch this space.
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Life is on the up, I think.

2013 – a round up

This time last year, I did a little round-up of 2012 which I’d entirely forgotten about until about 20 minutes ago.  It was interesting to re-read it a year down the line, so I’ve decided to do one for 2013, purely for selfish reasons.  A little diary if you will.

January was dominated by mice, specifically my insane fear of mice and multiple visits by the mouse exterminator dude.  It actually took many months before I stopped being completely on edge every time I heard a tiny, unexplained noise.  The fact that Ralphie and I are still friends after she traumatised me so badly by bringing that tiny, live mouse to me at the end of December 2012, is no small miracle.  To distract myself from the mice, I had a few fabulous meals out, most notably at Medlar, Zoilo (which I really love) and Bonedaddies.

February was relatively quiet.  I learned how to crochet, promptly forgot how to crochet and went to Silk Road in Camberwell twice.  I also threw a Pancake Day party (which MUST be repeated) and went to John Salt when the kitchen was still being run by Neil Rankin, and had one of my favourite dishes of the year – green chilli poussin – which he kindly told me how to make.

d455f-poussin

Where February was only a little quiet, March was positively sleepy.  I took my friend Shed to see the Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House which was just incredible.  I also took my first of 3 trips up to Yorkshire to see my parents and have a bit of much needed down-time.

In April, I had one of my very favourite meals of the year at The Clove Club.  If you haven’t been yet, GO.  Go fast.  Shed and I indulged in a little more culture, this time it was Old Times at the Harold Pinter Theatre.  The play was weird.  We emerged into daylight feeling totally confused and headed over to Duck & Waffle in order to make sense of the world.  We ate far, FAR more than was strictly necessary (thanks Dan) and rolled home stuffed to the gills.  Also in April, Jordi and I brunched at Balthazar before seeing La Bayadere at the Royal Opera House  (SO MUCH CULTURE).  We then headed over to Shed’s for this pig.  It was DELICIOUS.

d7aa1-piglet

Hold the phone – April isn’t over yet.  MORE ballet, this time with my friend Andrew and my favourite ever ballet – Mayerling.   It was good, but I’d booked to see Johan Kobborg dance Crown Prince Rudolf and the git was injured.  So selfish.  I also ate twice at Polpo and had my first visit to FM Mangal in Camberwell.  Finally, I saw a hypnotherapist to see if he could fix my weight problem.  He couldn’t.  Judging by this recap, it’s not that surprising.

My mum came to visit at the beginning of May.  We went to Brockley Market, had dim sum at Hong Kong City in New Cross and I took her to The Clove Club which was almost as good the second time around.  I also went to Beagle in Hoxton which I really didn’t love.  I think I ordered badly as everyone else seemed to like it.  I also visited Honey & Co with my friend Janie and had a pudding-gasm from their cheesecake.  Seriously, LOOK AT IT:

cheesecake

May also saw my friend Jassy opening the cafe at Stepney City Farm and I volunteered to help out on the first day which was actually a lot of fun.  We celebrated that night at Bob Bob Ricard and, yes, we pushed the champagne button.  2013 saw Jassy and I start our own little cinema club and in May the film was The Look of Love.  For some reason, when I booked it, I was under the impression that we were going to see some sort of romcom.  I was rather surprised when, over our pre-cinema dinner at Elliot’s Cafe, Jassy informed me that I’d actually chosen a film about porn baron, Paul Raymond.  It transpired that the film was BRILLIANT.  The dinner, not so much, but it didn’t really matter.  At the end of May, I was invited to a Save the Children/River Cafe charity dinner to raise awareness of The Big IF campaign.  I wrote a little thing about it here.

In June, my stepdad came to visit.  We went to The 10 Cases and spied Nigel Farage (*shudder*.) The following night was the first of my many trips to Tozi and another of my favourite things I’ve eaten this year – their buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle is on another level.  I am reliably informed that @tehbus licked the plate clean when he visited.  Can you blame him when they look like this??!

ravioli

Being a massive knob, I couldn’t get over my Mayerling disappointment, so I went to see it again in May, this time to see Edward Watson as Rudolf.  It was incredible.  I cried.

And then we hit July.  Holy crapola, a mixed month.  It started really well.   I went to Peckham Bazaar for the first time, more Tozi-ing, more Honey & Co-ing and had another trip up to York, this time for my birthday.  Andrew took me to Quality Chop House, also for my birthday, and some other friends took me to the anniversary games at the Olympic Park which was just brilliant.  The next day marked one of the best bits of 2013: I became a godmother to my friend’s two gorgeous girls. In July I was also contacted by a family friend who is a dietitian and we spoke several times.  She turned my thinking about food on its head completely and I started to eat in a totally different way.  It was nothing short of a revelation and I started to lose weight for the first time ever without actually dieting.

And while all that was happening, something bad was going on inside me which I was trying very hard to ignore.  On the evening of my goddaughters’ baptism, I faced the fact that I had to do something about it and toddled off to A&E.  Assuming that I was in for a long wait, I took my kindle with me and was a little surprised, not to mention scared, to find that there was to be no waiting around for me.  Apparently chest pains = speedy service.  Apparently chest pains + dodgy blood tests = you, lady, are being admitted.  The possibility of this hadn’t occurred to me at all.  Luckily, my mum had rushed down from York, arriving at Lewisham Hospital at 11pm.  I nicked her nightie and ended up sitting on a ward for 5 days.  It was horrible.  And scary and emotional and upsetting and scary some more.

August and September sucked.  Having been diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis that led to pulmonary emboli, I spent most of it in and out of hospital having my blood checked.  Actually, I’m STILL doing that, nearly 6 months later.  I was told that I had to be very careful about what I ate because it can upset the medication I’m taking and I became totally paranoid about everything.  I stopped drinking, freaked out every time I saw a green leafy vegetable and sank into a deep depression.  I didn’t really see any of my friends at all, instead taking some time out from normal life to process everything that had happened.  It was a really awful, dark period of my life.

And then October happened.  I went home to York again.  My sister and her children were visiting from Australia and I had some lovely family time with them.  While in York, I was in hospital every single day because my blood just wouldn’t behave.  This was nothing new in itself, but it made me come to the realisation that my blood was never going to behave so I decided to let go of all my neuroses around food and start living again.  I started to drink again – in moderation  – and stop fearing broccoli.  I also made a decision which I’m pretty sure saved my sanity – to join the gym.  It was a strange decision, given that I’m just about the laziest bastard that you’ll ever meet, plus the medication that I’m (still) on drains me of my life force, leaving me in a little crumpled heap of exhaustion, but I knew that I needed to make some drastic changes to my life.  As shit as the DVT and PE have been, I’m actually one of the lucky ones.  I was given a warning.  Not everyone gets that.  I was made to take a real reality check and I realised that I had to start living my life a bit better.

With that realisation, the depression slowly lifted and I re-entered society in late November.  Hoorah!  I went to see Chase & Status at the O2 and had dinner at Briciole with friends.  The rest of the time I rested and swam, rested and swam.

pool

And so to December.  Work went crazy.  I lost the plot again through exhaustion.  I swam a bit, but not as much as I wanted to.  I ate schnitzel at Boopshi’s and octopus and some incredible crispy lamb belly at Peckham Bazaar.  My parents came to stay with me for Christmas and, after two days in two different A&Es (more chest pains which, luckily, aren’t caused by another PE) we celebrated with a brilliant meal at Alyn Williams at the Westbury.  Hands down, best meal of the year and the man himself came out to say hello (I blushed – SUCH a fangirl.  Thanks GC for a truly wonderful evening).  We went to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells followed by another meal at Peckham Bazaar (it’s really good, OK?)  Last night, I saw in the New Year with my parents, my sister and her partner and it was good.

I’m not sure how I feel about 2014.  Last year I wrote this about 2013: “Ordinarily, I feel quite positive at New Year, feeling that the next year HAS to be better than the preceding year.  This year, I’m limiting my expectations.  I’m just going to hope that it isn’t any worse.”  Well, IT WAS.  Much worse.  But that HAS to mean that 2014 is going to be my year, right??

My only resolution is one that I’ve never had before: to be healthy.

A little update

So you may have noticed that I let the weekly blog fall by the wayside.  There are a number of reasons for this, not least the fact that the whole raison d’être for it – to be accountable for what I was eating in the hope that it would make me eat better – simply didn’t work.  I lost no weight at all.

My last blog post was probably a bit of a cry for help, looking back on it.  I got a bit scared by how totally out of control I was and I couldn’t see any way out.  My cry for help worked.  I was contacted by an old family friend who had stumbled across my blog several months earlier when she was searching for a beef shin recipe.  As luck would have it, she is now a dietitian and offered to help me change my eating habits for good.  I spoke to her and she completely turned on its head everything I believed and understood about food.  I realised that I needed to completely change my eating habits if I wanted to eventually lose weight.  She told me that diets make you fat which I’ve heard a hundred times before, but suddenly I saw the truth in it, given that I’d been dieting for 5 years and had put on around 5 stone. My immediate goal wasn’t to lose any weight, but simply to not put any more on.  Over the following few weeks, I put into practise everything that we discussed – I started eating a small breakfast to kickstart my metabolism, I started snacking (something that I just didn’t do before), I upped my fruit and vegetable intake enormously and reduced my portion sizes, particularly of white carbs – and I found that without counting any calories or points, without really thinking that much about it or trying to lose weight, I lost about half a stone in 3 weeks.  Moreover, I was excited and happy and I felt really well and healthy.

Which was ironic, given what happened next.

hospital

The other reason that I’ve been rather quiet is that my health suddenly took a turn for the worse.  It turns out that if you have chest pains and shortness of breath for a couple of weeks, you probably shouldn’t ignore it – who knew?!  I did ignore it and ended up in A&E on a Sunday night nearly 5 weeks ago with my poor mother rushing down from Yorkshire in a blind panic.  After lots of X-rays and CT scans (ever had one? They make you feel like you’ve wet yourself) and blood tests, it turned out that I have multiple pulmonary embolisms (embolisms? embolis?? no idea) on both lungs, which probably resulted from a DVT, and I was really rather poorly.  I spent just under a week in hospital which was pretty miserable – days and days of getting nothing but bad and depressing news (repeatedly: “you could have died!” – yes, yes, I get it), being prodded, poked, injected and syringed several times a day from 6am until midnight, being fed absolutely god-awful food (the mashed potato tastes like FLOUR – how???) and getting next to no sleep.  Hospitals truly are not conducive to recovery.

Eventually, they decided that my blood was thin enough for it to be safe to leave hospital and I was sent home with a load of injections to self-administer (a very low point was overdosing on these and ending up back in A&E again) and very little other information.  I have to be on a blood thinner – warfarin – for at least 6 months which is utter pants.  It’s a horrible drug which reacts with absolutely everything including, importantly, Vitamin K rich foods which lower the drug’s effectiveness.  “What are Vitamin K rich foods?” you ask – well.  They’re the green leafy vegetables that I had been filling up half of my plate with just 1 week earlier.  The thing about Vitamin K is that it clots your blood and stops you from bleeding profusely, which is a great thing – for you.  For me, not so much.  I want thin, bleedy blood OR I MIGHT DIE (I was told today that it’s sick to joke about this…whevs.)

So having completely changed my eating habits and having increased my vegetable intake by a good 200%, suddenly I found myself freaking out if there was a lettuce leaf in my sandwich or a broccoli floret in my salad.  Like, ACTUAL MELTDOWN.

In desperation, I went to see a dietitian (not the lovely dietitian referred to above, just for the avoidance of doubt) about Vitamin K.  I’m fairly sure she was insane – when I told her that I wasn’t sufficiently organised (or, indeed, motivated enough) to get up earlier every morning to heat up food to take into work in a flask, she became faintly hysterical, telling me that if I’m not capable of being organised enough to heat up food in the morning, HOW ON EARTH AM I EVER GOING TO MANAGE A RELATIONSHIP AND HAVE CHILDREN???????!!!!!!  It was bizarre and not especially relevant…I think it’s safe to say that I will never see her again.  That said, she was fairly helpful on the Vitamin K thing and told me that I CAN eat it, I just have to eat the same amount every day.  Apparently I can also drink a bottle of wine if I want to, but I just have to make sure that I drink a bottle every  single day.   For the next six months.  Roll back a couple of years – no problemo!!  Unfortunately I’ve worked hard to cut down my drinking and drinking every day just isn’t going to work for me, so now I’m teetotal for the next six months, which sucks ass and effectively ruins my social life because I really am shallow enough to think that if I can’t drink, a good time cannot be had.

I’m also not really supposed to lose weight.  Or do sporadic exercise.  If I suddenly want to take up swimming…that’s right!  I have to do it EVERY DAY.  This is what I mean about warfarin being a little bitch – there can be no spontaneity in life.  Everything has to be the same, day in, day out and the blood monitoring is constant; I’m at hospital twice a week at the moment which is a nightmare and makes me tired and miserable.

It’s all quite overwhelming and I’m finding it all a bit of a struggle, but I’m getting there.  It’s still early days and there’s so much to get my head around and so many changes to make.  I have to be super organised (but yay – I’ll be prepared for having kids!!) and think about and plan everything.

For the first two weeks after I came out of hospital, I avoided Vitamin K foods completely because the internet is confusing and so Americanised (seriously – why can’t Americans WEIGH anything?  What’s with the obsession with CUPS?) and it’s just so hard to ensure that you really are eating the same amount every day.  With the help of a few twitter people (thanks here go to @applelisafood, @EvidenceMatters and real life friend @ginandcrumpets) I think I’ve got to the bottom of it and am nearly brave enough to start filling half of my plate with vegetables again.

So that’s where I’ve been.  And here I still am.  Phew.

 

Motivation

Years ago, when I managed to lose a lot of weight and became relatively slim, I got there because I had so much motivation and willpower.  Not dieting just wasn’t an option.  I could easily sit with a friend who was scarfing a huge burger and could resist their offer of a chip or two.  I could see The Bigger Picture which, ultimately, was happiness.  I worked really, really hard at it and the results were amazing – 3 stone in 4 months.

I’ve never been able to get back to this.  My life has changed dramatically since then.  For one reason or another, my network of friends is very different and my spare time now revolves around eating out in a way it just didn’t before.  It’s an easy excuse to make – So much temptation!  How do I diet when I’m always eating out! – but it doesn’t answer the problem with my motivation.

A huge part of the problem is that I’m all or nothing where dieting is concerned.  When I start dieting, it’s like I’m an inflated balloon, filled with good intentions and I do well for a while, but nobody has tied a knot in the bottom of the balloon to make it secure to keep all the goodness in.  I do one thing that’s not diet friendly and instead of looking at it as a tiny lapse, I let the balloon go and it loses all control, bouncing off everything, doing as much damage as it possibly can before it lands, deflated and miserable in a heap.

Since my Weight Watchers meeting was cancelled, I have spent the last three weeks over-eating to such an extent that it makes me hate myself.  I’ve eaten everything in sight – office doughnuts even when they’re a day old and hard, takeaways, so much toast with peanut butter, pasta pasta pasta, fat and filth.  I feel sluggish and disgusting.  I’m putting back on the weight that I’ve lost, my plus size clothes are becoming tight again and I have no energy.  Why do I do this?  It makes me so sad that I do it to myself time and time again.  And yes, the obvious and only answer is just to stop doing it…if only it were that simple.  I live alone, I feel very alone a lot of the time and I guess I feel like the hopes and dreams that I had a few years ago to meet someone and have a family have slipped away, so what’s the point in trying?

I don’t know how to fix this.  I’ve tried everything – fad diets, sensible diets, diets where a month’s worth of meals are delivered to my door, I’ve had dieting “buddies”, hypnotherapy…I just can’t make anything work.  I promised myself I wouldn’t be fat when I went to Australia last year, but I was enormous.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t have another fat summer and yet another one is bearing down on me when I won’t be able to go and sit in the sun with my friends because I’ll overheat in my black winter clothes which are the only clothes I own because they cover up the flabby flesh.

I don’t know how to fix this and it’s making me so unhappy.

Week 19

I have a bad habit that kicks in when I’ve had a good week and lost quite a bit of weight.  Instead of capitalising on it and pushing on through, I see it as an opportunity to have a bit of a lapse which is what I did on Friday and Saturday following my 5lb loss last week.  Luckily I managed to pull it back by behaving myself pretty well for the rest of the week, but it still puzzles me why I do it.

My excuse for misbehaving on Friday was partly down to the fact that I would have the rest of the week to make up for it and partly down to having no food in the flat – not that that couldn’t have been rectified by a quick trip to the supermarket.  But no, I decided to get takeaway instead.  I was better than normal though; I avoided salt and pepper squid (it nearly killed me) and went for a small portion of singapore noodles, grilled dumplings and prawn crackers.  As it turned out, I didn’t like it much and didn’t finish either the noodles or the prawn crackers.  Wasted opportunity.

noodles

On Saturday, I met Shed at Hyde Park and went to the Big IF rally.  It was actually a brilliant day – a gentle stroll through the park with little cups of ice-cream and then sitting in the sunshine listening to some pretty amazing people talk about what needs to be done to end world hunger.  The best bit, though, was this little dude:

dude

Big IF

We left Hyde Park and went to meet a friend of Shed’s for dinner at Leon.  I haven’t been to Leon in ages and very rarely have I been in the evening.  Their evening menu consists of everything they do during the daytime but put into proper dishes rather than cardboard boxes.  We ordered most of the things on the menu (we had a 40% off voucher) and it was actually pretty delicious.  The chilli chicken and the mackerel salad were really good and the baked fries were incredibly moreish.

leon

While there, we bumped into Danny of Food Urchin and his lovely wife Holly and proceeded to get quite merry, which resulted in this absolute gem.  Watch it.  It’s very, very funny.

I was hungover on Sunday and desperately wanted to eat the world.  God knows how, but I managed to stop myself.  Instead, I made spaghettini (you feel like you are getting so much more pasta for your points which is essential – pasta is so pointy) with prawns, lemon and samphire – 20 points in total which is pretty high, but it tasted good.

samphire

On Monday I picked up some sea bass and made fish parcels – so much food for only 12 points.

fish

On Tuesday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and in need of comfort so I made n’duja pasta bake.  Because pasta is irritatingly high in points, I only used 75g and added a chicken breast to bulk it out.  Ordinarily, I would baulk at pasta with chicken (tantamount to putting prawns on a pizza – WRONG) but it worked.  What didn’t work was using reduced fat mozzarella – it melted into nothing and was a complete waste of time.  If I was doing it again, I’d probably just heat it through on the hob in the hope that the mozzarella would go stringy rather than disappear completely.  Or I’d leave the cheese out altogether.  This came to 19 points – it would have been 15 without the mozzarella.

nduja pasta

On Wednesday I popped over to see my friends and their brand spanking new baby.  I took them dinner – chicken and tarragon casserole from the freezer which we had with rice and extra vegetables.  Tom did a beautiful job on the presentation but I forgot to take a photo so here’s what it looked like the first time I made it. The casserole is 12 points and is worth every single one of them.

Filling The Freezer

On Thursday I had some Very Good News and celebrated with Pilpel for lunch and champagne and the ballet in the evening.  I didn’t eat until 11:30pm which, with hindsigt, was too late.

pilpel

I only lost 0.5lb this week which I’m a bit disappointed with but isn’t terribly surprising – I really don’t think eating so late last night will have helped.  I’m also feeling extremely fed up as I’ve just found out that my Weight Watchers meeting has been cancelled, so I will have to go to a different one that is further away and on a Thursday, which isn’t nearly as convenient.  I really wish that I could trust myself to diet properly if I weighed myself, but this blog is evidence that that just doesn’t work.  Perhaps I should let my colleagues weigh me on a Friday…but I don’t think I could bear for them to know just how heavy I am.  Decisions, decisions…

Week 18

If I thought that last week was a game of two halves, it was nothing in comparison to this week.

Friday started off OK once I reassured myself that losing 1lb wasn’t so terrible.  That evening, the lovely folks at Plusixfive and Yum Bun were holding a bao pop-up at the latter’s Old Street shop.  I have seen countless Instagrammed photos of friends eating  ao and every time I’ve thought “I need to get me some of that bao action.”  I was right – bao is right up my street.  Steamed buns (actual bread – I assumed that the bun was made from something like tapioca flour but it’s wheat) filled with meat, salady things, herbs, chilli or hoisin sauce and a few crunchy bits…these really rocked my world.  From top to bottom, slow roasted pork belly with cucumber, spring onions and hoisin, ox cheek rendang with coriander and peanuts and vegetable popiah with some seriously hot chilli sauce.  You can’t really see the veggie one because I’d been over-enthusiastic and started eating it before I remembered to take a photo.

bao

On Saturday I was hungover and in need of some serious comfort.  I was faced with a bit of an empty fridge so I had to do a storecupboard dinner: Fuchsia Dunlop’s mapo tofu with rice and purple sprouting broccoli.  This is the second time I’ve made this and I upped the chilli level and it was so good – a brilliant combination of soft and bland with salty, chilli heat.  Delicious.

tofu

On Sunday I was up early and went down to Stepney City Farm to help my friend Jassy in her cafe.  While I wasn’t completely wild about the getting up early part, it turned out that there was a little bonus waiting for me: 3 freshly laid goose eggs.  I quickly snaffled one for £1.50 and squirrelled it away for later.

egg1

Goose eggs are equivalent to about 3 chicken eggs and are more similar to them than they are to duck eggs.  As I trotted home from a brilliant day at the farm, I planned what to do with it and realised that I could only do one thing – mega fried egg.  I picked up some potatoes to make some leek and potato cakes (my new favourite thing) and had an absolutely awesome dinner all within my points.  Happy days.

egg2

On Monday I was tired and grumpy.  I didn’t manage to plan anything very well so ended up only eating 6 points before I got home in the evening.  This meant that I was left with lots and lots and lots going spare and yet my dinner was pretty saintly; roasted butternut squash, prosciutto, leaves and pecorino.  I bumped up my points with some Walkers French Fries and a couple of fun size bags of Maltesers, but still came in at 10 points under my daily allowance.

salad

I’ve been craving steak badly.  Tuesday’s dinner was a butler’s steak from the East London Steak Company with diet chips (parboiled and then tossed in 1 tbsp oil and baked), garlic mushrooms and broccoli, and it was delicious.

steak

On Wednesday, the naughty part of my week kicked in when my stepdad came to stay becuase he had a conference in London.  I’ve wanted to go to The 10 Cases ever since my boozehound friend Donald recommended it and thought that this would be a perfect opportunity.  Mike and I started with a glass of champagne, and moved onto a delicious bottle of riesling.  I had soft shell crab (amazing) followed by pork belly and mash which, after behaving myself pretty well for a couple of weeks, I found very rich and didn’t quite finish.  It was delicious though and I absolutely loved the restaurant.  It was a gorgeous evening and the whole of the front of the restaurant was opened up; it felt like we were on holiday.  Bliss.

crab

On Thursday we went out again, this time I suggested going to Tozi in Victoria.  Tozi opened very recently and serves cicchetti; small plates of Italian food.  We shared several small plates, the best of which I forgot to photograph, but included buffalo ricotta ravioli with truffle (I nearly cried it was so good), ox cheek with wild mushrooms and baccala mantecato, which is rehydrated salt cod whipped up with oil in the way that you’d make mayonnaise, to make a sort of whipped, moussey cod deliciousness (recipe on Food Stories blog here).  Other delicious things included calamari, bruschetta and, shown below, swordfish with caponata, burrata with Mediterranean vegetables and sorbets – coconut, passionfruit and lemon & basil.

Tozi

It’s safe to say that I absolutely loved Tozi.  I know that a lot of people are getting a little tired of the small plate thing, but I love it.  It’s a brilliant opportunity to try lots of different things and, most importantly, it negates the possibility of food envy!  The food last night was seriously good and pretty reasonably priced.  If I wasn’t such a miserable cow and I didn’t go out of my way to avoid celebrating my birthday, I’d definitely be celebrating it here.  My new favourite place.

I really thought that the last two nights may have screwed up any chance I had of losing any weight this week, but Tozi really wasn’t too bad – the portions were small enough that even a 50% share in something deep fried wasn’t a huge amount of bad food, so it was relatively diet friendly.  The 10 Cases wasn’t diet friendly in any way, but I’ve been so good for the rest of the week, including eating incredibly low point salads for lunch, that it’s all balanced itself out a bit.  I lost 5 lbs this week which is incredibly pleasing and has made up for last week’s slow start.  Hooray!