The Skinny Thing- Midsummer Check In

Close Up Of Bathroom Scales DialI come to pen this post feeling renewed and positive, having verily turned my back on the NHS programme I was referred to in March. I’m not going to break the whole thing down as it will take me ages and if you’re going to do it you should do so on referral with support and without my negative cliffnotes. It is a very similar set up to Weight Watchers and Slimming world, with weekly weigh ins and little booklets and no calorie counting! Only you do of course count other stuff without any meaningful explanation as to why you are comparing chicken to a deck of cards or trying to gauge a thumb’s worth of olive oil instead of just using a bloody tablespoon. I dropped a little over four kilos on this plan. Slowly. And that loss stalled the moment I looked at a glass of wine or missed a run or even considered a 98 calorie bag of baked-no-fat-crisp-like goods. I fell off the regime a lot and I did not feel good while I was following it.

Not to say it doesn’t work for others, but I found the biggest problem with this diet, as with it’s SW/WW hybrid cousins in the past, is the assumption that you go in as a nutritional retard who eats piles of lard soaked sugar balls for breakfast and never moves further than between the sofa and your special Mountain Dew fridge. When you start having free foods and alloted generic portions it all goes to shit, for me. When you start casting out higher fat wholefoods or putting limits on protein it all goes to shit, for me. When you have an out and out ban on anything that you aren’t violently allergic to as a long term plan, seriously who can that work for?

A legit day on the previous plan would have involved a smallish amount of cereal and yoghurt; ryvitas and fake skinny cheese spread or 2 boiled eggs; banana; salad with chickpeas and a cupasoup; some screaming hunger rage afternoon snack; an apple; the deck of cards sized bit of meat and some green veg plus a plain carb in a small amount. In that order plus ONE of the following evils per day: a teaspoon of jam or honey, a pack of practically no fat baked crisps things, a half pint of beer or inhumanely small glass of wine, a tablespoon of ketchup or reduced fat mayo or reduced fat dressing, a plain rich tea biscuit. I was allowed half an avocado once a week if I absolutely had to but it was cool to use up to six slices of bread every day if there was no rice, pasta or potatoes in there.

Nutritional. Retardation.

And hell on earth for anyone who actually enjoys food or creates a calorie deficit from exercise. I think I lost most of the weight I did from just being too baffled to cook and too guilt emblazoned from my constant portion referral and tick lists to allow myself into the kitchen. So I’m not doing that anymore.


Gratuitious Veg Shot

Basic science is what I’m back to. Get a plan, get a calculator and don’t eat more energy than you use. Also, get a spiralizer. I bloody love my spiralizer and may begin my own missionary movement to convert the world to courgetti!! Ah, she said courgetti, has she given up carbs??? No, I absolutely have not. There are carbs in courgettes you know. There are carbs in all veg. Calories too.

I count calories for balance but focus more on macros- that is the major chemical groups of food types. More details on this in posts to come but basically I aim for 40% of my calories from carbohydrates, then 30% each from fats and protein. I’m not struggling to stay under 1600 calories a day on this plan. I have actually stashed enough spares to not worry about a few vinos and some birthday cake this weekend.

I use My Fitness Pal* to track what I’m eating and am taking most of my menu motivation from Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts (buy this book it’s awesome) by the sickeningly lovely Gizzie Erskine, and my old hero Jillian Michaels. I hate the phrase but I have more or less gone ‘clean’, opting for whole, real food almost all of the time other than a small amount of whey in the mornings and a larger amount of instant coffee through the day. I’m not ever giving the coffee up.
The last few days have involved plenty of veg and meat but less dairy than before. I will enjoy a whole avocado in my lunchtime salad with olive oil dressing and a chunk of sourdough today, rather than drudgingly ruminating my way through cucumber and legumes then waiting a long, rumbly hour for the Hangry to catch up with me.
I’ve lost over half a kilo since the weekend and not gone over my calorie target once and most impressively: I have not been hungry. So not hungry that I’m not feeling a need to fill up on those dread no-fat-baked-crisp-like-goods of an afternoon and although I know the calories alone in them weren’t hindering my efforts, the salt probably was. In fact I feel better than I have in some time and the only consistent change for the worse I’ve seen is a crippling need for a mid afternoon caffeine fix. Which isn’t the end of the world.

Are there magic ingredients in wholefoods? Arguably, yes there are but even if you don’t believe in vitamins you definitely get more of them for your calories. It is just so much easier for me to watch the needle on my counter and choose the apple over the go ahead slices when I see how much they will comparatively leave me for the rest of the day, in handy numbers and pictures. It works because I’m greedy and I’m not going hey I can eat this and tick off a carb box as I was before, I’m thinking if I have fruit now I can have an extra spud with dinner and a little lick of butter and that’s way better than this processed low fat fake baked good. 

It is working.

Am I over excited about another new but ultimately unsustainable plan? I don’t think so. Because it is the same plan I used a couple of years ago when I was a stone lighter and trying to build muscle from a strict gym weights routine.  These days I have a dud shoulder and a temporary leg injury, I’m doing no exercise at all so I’ve pulled down the calorie allowance somewhat but the principles are the same. Again in a very simple terms that I will expand on another time the calorie watch gives the weight loss and the macro count manages hunger- that is why I think this is manageable. It’s just maths. I would lose weight eating only 1500 calories a day in prawn cocktail crisps and boiled eggs yes, but I wouldn’t like it very much. Nor would anyone who had to deal with me. By watching macros my diet is automatically moving to lower GI and higher fibre foods as well and freeing up my ability to have some good, natural and most importantly satisfying fats.

So far it feels good. So far I’ve probably dropped a lot more water and processed wheat bloat rather than actual fat, but that’s ok too because a consistenly decreasing number is motivation to keep at it. My 2016 pimple plague is settling right down and I’m sleeping well and needing my asthma medication a lot less (due to less dairy?). I can do this. Life is good. I was so sick of yoghurt and chickpeas.
*I am in no way compensated for endorsing My Fitness Pal. I would love some new under armour running leggings though if anyone is listening 😀 


Grow Your Own- It’s A Jungle Out There


 The Weeds! A creeping invasion of possible wood sorrel  or geranium babies 😦  

Show me a happy, relaxed gardener in my part of England at the moment and I will show you a man with only paving and pot plants. Consistent extremes of blazing sun and driving rain have caused exponential growth explosion that would have been a challenge to control if I hadn’t been working the last 3 weekends. But I have, and as such my arable kingdom is a wet weedy mess.

Lower body injuries and almost hourly downpours have written off anything like proper gardening for today although I have just enjoyed a moist half hour ripping out a sadly tiny amount of my new nemesis: The Weeds. Jury is still out on if these are some kind of creeping wood sorrel or more bastard, bastard Geraniums*.

They. Are. Everywhere.

A rapid growing blanket of spindly looking dark leaves, not unlike a comic book clover, creeping forth under and over and around everything in their path until they have raped enough goodness from the soil to burst up with their insidious little flowers and choke the life out of almost everything else there. I have happily ripped out a confirmed adult population of wild geranium grin the flower beds and am slowly edging towards the sad conclusion that I might have to give up on the veg for this summer and let them run their course in strangling my edibles as they are comparatively easy to get out when they are established larger plants. As these tiny creeping weeds you can’t really get a hold on them and the rhizomes are too small to find in the soil and thus remove to ensure the extinction. Regardless of what they turn our to be in classification terms the treatment is the same: just pull them out. Forever because they will be back next year no matter how you think you have killed them.  

I’m trying to remain upbeat, we have some really beautiful flowering flowers to cut and have in the house and a potentially sizeable fruit yield to come in the autumn. My fat blackbirds are getting fatter. Kevin the Depressed Wood Pigeon has either cheered up or moved on and the beer traps seem to be keeping the snails down if not out.

Moby Dick The Phantom Crapper was found ‘cross mine threshold a couple of weeks ago which lead to both outrage and amusement as I chased the cheeky sod out of my kitchen. With hindsite this might not have been the right move. A couple of cat owners have shared that their cat never poos in their own garden, and maybe if we make old Moby a bit more at home he might take his toilet breaks elsewhere. I’m not sure if I am ready to take this step in negotations yet, though fresh evidence of his presence this very morning emphasises the escalating requirement for a new plan.

And for the rest…………

Lettuce- salad bowl varieties red and green in ground and pot. Not doing so well due to aphid like eating, the bloody snails and mild trampling during Operation Fell as confirmed later on. The ones in the pot are still healthy though and I will be trying to sow some more over the weekend in the empty spots in the ground. If you’re going for lettuces, I would reccomend that you sew them as early in the year as you can get away with, when it’s still a bit cold and the slugs haven’t woken up as my recent seedlings aren’t getting the chance to become teenagers let alone grown ups but the ones that were established first are clinging on with what little dignity can be affored to a bunch of wibbly green leaves.


lone  and struggling cabbage seedling

Cabbages– January King, planted in the ground. Also suffering from pest activity. More to be sown this weekend, if these don’t take I will try again after the summer as they will grow for most of the year. Weirdly the geranium/sorrel blanket seems to not get much hold in this quarter of the patch.

Carrots– Nantes 5 variety in ground and pots. Now fighting the geraniums as well as the cat and not showing very well for it. The potted ones are stong but not very big, larger tops in the ground but only 4 survive at today’s count.

Herbs– Another sad tale, this time of some nobhead who forgot to pierce the pot bases before planting out the herbs and thus allowing them to become waterlogged tubs of peaty yuk. It doesn’t seem to have bothered the rosemary that much but the oregano is very unhappy and shrivelled. The most outer stems are starting to recover 4 days after my error was corrected so hopefully this is a setback rather than a fatality.
Applemint and Spearmint still going great guns and I must find use for them, considering a drying experiment to make some tea.
Wild Thing Sage not edible but works well as a cut flower in the house.


The mighty onions sprouting forth to glory!!!! Going anti clockwise there’s the remains of a lettuce at the back, the clean stripped cabbage patch and then the sadness of carrots in front left.

Onions– Red Karmen in ground and pots from bulb. You really can’t kill an onion you know! They carry on in the worst invasion point, some with the green tops approaching 3ft high. The strongest ones are just developing flowers which suggests that harvest could be due in a few weeks.

Hazelnut Trees- Sulking following Operation Fell which saw them cut back most severely as they were trashing the fence and making it difficult to get to the beds which they were also destroying with shade. They are healthy though and will bounce back, hopefully in a controlled and symetrical fashion. We might have screwed the nut harvest for this year but have secured the lineage as I am now potting up all the saplings I’m finding around the garden to transplant to new homes. Homes of my neighbours. Neighbours who are far away. Our Hazlenut population is at it’s boom max.

Fig– massive, heavy and pitching worryingly to the ground as we try to constuct a suitable support for it.

Crab Apples- going ok, budding fruit is small and very hard but starting to change colour

Probably Plum Trees- Showing fruit which is definitely not apples. Possibly matching a tree at the Patriarchal Homestead which means they will stay green but mature well enough for jamming.

Chilli Plant– enjoying a new lease of life and putting out several new small but punchy peppers on the window sill.



Errol The Lemon Tree– Growing like a weed from all the light in our conservatory. Research shows he wont survive a winter in the actual garden so we won’t be planting him out. I am now accepting applications to house him for the winter months. Good wholesome families with temperature tight conservatories only please.

So that’s it for now, a disappointing time but with more green victories to come I hope. For the love of the everlasting PLEASE let me know if you have made a success of removing a geranium invasion.


*geraniums or gerenia?