Fast Metablogism

I have been on a bit of a health kick for the past few months, and I am pleased to report that I am finally starting to see the benefits.

As well as forcing myself to go running at least a couple of times each week, as I prepare for the next 10k race in my charity challenge, I have been thinking more carefully about my diet too, and whilst I have naturally had to make some sacrifices (for example, devouring an entire pack of chocolate Hobnobs is now, sadly, a thing of the past), it hasn’t been as horrendous as I expected.

Please don’t imagine for one second that I am dieting to excess, as I have always been blessed with a naturally fast metabolism, so I have never needed to lose a lot of weight (besides, I have never advocated crash dieting for anyone), but in recent years I have noticed my waistline getting somewhat out of control, and I felt it was time to make a few slight changes to my diet in order to halt the expansion.

My three main reasons for deciding to take action were as follows:

1. Daft as it may sound, collapsing while running earlier this year – and spending the best part of 48 hours in hospital as a result – gave me a bit of a wake-up call, and even though my diet seemingly played little or no part in what happened, I couldn’t help but think now might be the right time to make that change (and don’t pretend for one second you didn’t read that, then immediately start playing Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror in your head…);

2. Some of my clothes, particularly my work suits and shirts, were beginning to strain somewhat around the middle (to the point that my midriff often looked like the end of a duvet cover, where the duvet itself is visibly bursting out between the buttons of the cover);

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Not actually me, but alarmingly accurate

(NB: For anyone struggling with the duvet cover comparison, you could alternatively visualise a burst sausage).

3. I realised it had been some time (perhaps even a few years BC – Before Children) since I had last glanced down in the shower and seen my ‘junk’ (and this had everything to do with my expanding waistline, and nothing to do with any inadequacies in that department, I hasten to add). In fact, my stomach had become so out of control, I suspect the only reason I could still see my feet when looking down in the shower, is because I am a size 12 (that’s right, ladies), but it was only a matter of time before even they were eclipsed by the belly.

So, on my wife’s suggestion (and it was nothing more than a suggestion, prompted by my obvious dissatisfaction at the state of my prolific gut), a few months ago I downloaded the ‘MyFitnessPal’ App onto my phone.

For those unfamiliar with this marvelous piece of technology (and I have no doubt there are many alternatives on the market), MyFitnessPal is an App for recording your weight, everything you eat/drink on a daily basis, and any exercise you do. By uploading your routine each day, you can closely monitor your calorie intake, earn extra calories back by exercising, and – hopefully – watch your weight decrease over time.

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NB: This photo was taken from Google, not my phone, so please don’t think for one second I have started eating Broccoli and Cauliflower salad (I’m not that much of a prick)

The calorie counter was a bit of an eye opener for me, as I now accept that I was being somewhat naïve when it came to which foods are good/bad for me. Obviously, I’m not stupid enough to think that an entire pack of chocolate Hobnobs is a healthy option when it comes to losing weight, but I was surprised to discover that red wine is just as calorific as beer (more so, when you consider the relative volumes), and astonished that an apple is twice as bad for you as a carrot, and almost as bad for you as half a KitKat Chunky. Given the choice between two apples and a KitKat Chunky, it’s not even a contest. I’m surprised people still buy apples at all.

I have also been extremely honest with my recordings (well, there didn’t seem much point in lying); and whereas historically I would always consider devouring a nice bar of chocolate – or some other delicious treat – after a hard day at work, I now check what calories I have left for the day before doing so.

True, there have been occasions when I have already exceeded my daily intake for the day, only to adopt a very swift ‘ah, fuck it’ attitude (before pouring another glass of wine and eating a slice of cake), but this tends to be on a Friday or over the weekend, when we all know calories don’t count (note: they do count, I am just making light of my tendency to binge eat when I am around the kids for too long – it’s my personal coping mechanism, and I don’t endorse it).

Generally speaking, though, if I realise that I cannot enjoy a treat after my dinner without exceeding my calories for the day, I will either:

  1. Abstain completely;
  2. Reduce the size of the treat to keep within my limits; or (if desperate)
  3. Stay up until after midnight so the treat is deducted from the next day’s allowance.

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There are of course disadvantages to my recent healthy (or at least healthier) eating plan, not least the fact I am becoming more irritable (even by my standards), and I genuinely fear for the survival of high street chains like Greggs, but when it comes to the future, the survival of this particular Greg is infinitely more important.

Better still, keeping a close eye on my calories each day has given me more of an incentive to go out running, as I can earn back roughly one-third of my daily intake by completing my usual five-mile circuit around Sandbach. I don’t even need to do any calculations, because the ‘Strava’ App (look at me with all the technology) monitors my progress as I run, turns the distance and speed into calories earned, then automatically credits my total for the day on MyFitnessPal.

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NB: Again, this photo is from Google, not from my actual phone, so please don’t think for one second I have started cycling as well as running (I’m not that much of a prick)

Don’t get me wrong, I still hate running with every fibre of my being, and I cannot promise I will continue to drag my sorry arse out onto the cold streets of Sandbach twice a week once this 10k challenge is over, but it’s amazing how the prospect of an extra pint of beer, or some chocolate, is enough of an incentive to get me out there.

Yes, yes, I know I should go running without then devouring all the extra calories I have earned, as I am rather defeating the object of dieting; but the way I see it, so long as I end up in ‘calorie-credit’ at the end of each day, I’m heading in the right direction.

I know this to be true, because the scales do not lie (despite me calling them a ‘fucking liar’ on more than one occasion – whilst standing on tip-toes, removing items of clothing, and even farting in an attempt to drop that needle a pound or two), and I am pleased to report that in the few months since I first downloaded MyFitnessPal, I have lost the grand total of one-and-a-half stone.

To put that into context, the weight I have lost is roughly equivalent to:

  1. A bowling ball;
  2. A sperm whale’s brain;
  3. Four chihuahuas;
  4. Two-and-a-bit human heads; or
  5. ‘Ginge’, Britain’s heaviest recorded cat.

Better still, that one-and-a-half stone seems to have been lost primarily from my belly (I did fear that I would lose weight from my already pathetic arms and legs, but they, thankfully, seem to be unaffected) so I really am noticing the benefits – not to mention a larger proportion of ‘him downstairs’ when I shower (look, I know I’m going on about it, but it’s like seeing an old friend after many years).

And, on that image….

Thanks for reading x

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Blog Eat Blog

I have an apology to make.

In my last blog, I may have given the impression that alcohol is solely to blame for my ever-expanding waistline. This is unfair to alcohol, and I offer a full and unreserved apology. Alcohol and I have had some wonderful times together over the years, and I would not want to jeopardise the bond we have, by making sweeping generalisations about our relationship being detrimental to my health.

In truth, Chocolate Hobnob is just as much at fault for my rotundness, and poor fitness in general, whilst I, too, must share some of the blame, for shovelling entire packets of the delicious little bastards into my mouth in one sitting. But, show me a man who doesn’t love dunking a chocolate hobnob into a brew (you need an especially large mug to get the whole biscuit to fit in), before pushing the entire thing into his gob in one go – usually leaving little chocolate smears at the side of the mouth, which require the delicate dab of a tissue – and I will show you a stinking liar.

Anyway, it matters not who is fault for my increasingly unappealing physique. What matters, is what I’m going to do about it. And something must be done.

I’ve known for some time that my diet, and my penchant for snacking in general, wasn’t great. But there have been signs over the past few months in particular, that I needed to change my lifestyle as soon as possible.

I mentioned in the last blog that, lately, my towel has started springing open after a shower, barely (pun intended) seconds after being wrapped around me. I can prolong the inevitable by refusing to exhale, but eventually that means I pass out, and then I’m an unconscious naked man lying spread-eagled on the floor. No one needs to see that. Granted, whilst it isn’t ideal to find yourself suddenly, and unintentionally, naked in any situation, at least if I’m conscious I still have the opportunity to make a desperate grab for the escapee towel, or something else to cover my modesty (a large cushion, a Pringles tube, the dog….)

But it’s when that embarrassment went public that I really had to take stock of my life.

Now, please don’t think for one second I was showering in public, or in any way naked for that matter, but when you are on your way to a very important meeting at a barrister’s chambers, for a case worth upwards of £250,000, the last thing you need is for your suit trousers to suddenly, and quite emphatically, split. Fortunately, this happened whilst I was on my own in a car park lift, before the conference had started, so no one was around to see my arse burst out of the fabric in quite spectacular fashion, but that didn’t make it any less traumatic.

The glorious irony was, it happened as I was bending down to place my bag and files on the floor, so that I could straighten my tie, which I felt was… wait for it… a bit scruffy-looking. Had I known what was about to happen, I would almost certainly have opted for a slightly skew-whiff tie in preference to having my behind al fresco as I fought to settle one of the biggest cases of my career. I was wearing boxers, obviously (everyone knows that the general etiquette for going to a barrister’s chambers is to avoid going commando), but the split went all the way around so I was extremely self-conscious (not to mention draughty).

Anyway, shortly after this unfortunate event, I decided it was time to lose some weight. And, in the short term, buy some more suits.

Step one in my new fitter, and less trouser-destroying, lifestyle, was to cook healthier food. So, for the past few months, we’ve ditched the jars and tins, and I’ve been trying to do some proper cooking. I say this like it’s a revelation, when I know full well most people are well ahead of me – it’s not like I’ve invented the wheel for Christ’s sake – but it’s quite a step to go from cooking relatively easy dinners, to wrestling with all sorts of actual kitchen equipment, like slow cookers and blenders (again, I realise how ridiculous this sounds, but it’s quite exciting for me).

I’ll happily admit that I’ve started off relatively easily, with some basic curry and pasta recipes, but I’m also well aware that I need to walk before I can run. There’s no point in me scouring the internet for Michelin star recipes, when I haven’t got the first fucking clue what a celeriac puree should look, smell or taste like. Well, celeriac I’m guessing, but that still doesn’t make me any the wiser.

I’m quite enjoying my new cooking hobby to be honest. I think the keen scientist in me (who I repressed somewhere between A-levels and University), likes the idea of putting lots of different bits together to make something wonderful – although, at this stage, I’ll happily settle for edible.

Now, I fully expect that my loving wife would try to protect my fragile ego if I did create something truly monstrous, and smile as she chewed her way through it, but even she couldn’t put a positive spin on food poisoning or choking, so I’m relatively confident that I haven’t, yet, totally screwed something up.

Ollie, on other hand, is usually only too happy to offer some unconstructive criticism of everything I do, so the fact that I’m repeatedly getting a thumbs up and a “yum” from him, is praise indeed. He also likes to pull up a chair and help me sometimes, so it’s good for our father-son bonding too. Not that we ignore each other normally, but it all helps.

Even better, his school have recently started doing after-school classes, and he was desperate to do the cooking course so that he could follow in my footsteps. Bless him.

Now, remember he’s only 4, so I hardly expected him to leave school after the first class, lumbering under the weight of a huge croquembouche (thank you, Masterchef Australia), but his first attempt was sliced up fruit dipped in chocolate. Hardly haute cuisine, is it? In fact, there was very little cooking involved whatsoever, other than the melting of some chocolate. Still, at least melting chocolate does involve an element of heat, whereas the sandwiches he made in his third week were less ‘cooking’, and more ‘assembling’.

Still, we were immensely proud as we sampled the chocolately-fruit delights that he had lovingly carried home, because they meant so much to him.

We told him how impressed we were (quite convincingly, as it happens), and he looked up with a beaming smile and said “I just want to be a good cook like Daddy”. I don’t mind admitting, that at that very moment, I had a tear forming in my eye, and a huge lump in my throat.

Pear, I believe it was.

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