Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 4 – A note on diet “cheating”

Thursday 18, day 4 of 7

Three words to describe today: Perseverance, habit, positivity

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✧✧ (I cheated. But hear me out. It’s not like I ate a cheeseburger or a box of Krispy Kremes or anything.)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Fine. Getting a bit bored with the same cardio now. But otherwise all good.)

Notable comments? Drinking water helps massively with headaches. Oh, and you have to make a plan like this work for you.

So today I cheated on the plan, more than I have all week. No major transgressions, but instead of a healthy low-fat yoghurt for a snack, I ate a small tub of what is basically a heart coronary in a pot (but a VERY delicious one) – Biscoff spread.

Allow me to introduce you if you are not already familiar. Biscoff is a brand of those “coffee biscuits”, often known in France as “speculoos”. As well as very moreish biscuits, these genuises have also made a spread version, which is creamy, sugary, unctuous, and fabulous for cheesecake bases, I’m told.

Personally, I reckon a teaspoon of it is enough for anyone, even if you have a raging sweet tooth. Because I work for a restaurant, hotel and foodservice magazine, we were sent some as a “taster” of the product. In industrial-sized quantities. AND OH MY GOD.

I had some a couple of weeks’ ago, when we were first sent it, and wow. It came very close to knocking Nutella off its pedestal as my go-to better-than-sex food (no, srsly). The Daily Mail even called it “crack in a jar”. So when we got sent some little individual tubs of it I couldn’t help but have a taste. I know, BAD DIETER.

But you know what? After nearly a week of not having super-sweet things, I was underwhelmed. I mean, it still tasted good, but there was a chemical hint I hadn’t noticed before, and it wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped.

AND THEN – nearly-instant headache. Sugar rush headache. Didn’t really believe that these existed – omg they do. How depressing. And I was like, oh, maybe I’m turning into one of those really sanctimonious arseholes who is all: “Oh, I don’t eat sugar, it makes me feel ill”, and wasn’t sure whether to feel smug or totally ashamed.

Well, not to worry, I cheated later in the evening too, with, wait for it: TWO small squares of dark Green & Black’s. I also had 2 sips of whisky, to toast the Scottish referendum vote. AND I WAS TOTALLY FINE. So that clears up that little conundrum, friends!

My favourite whisky 🙂

BUT MY POINT (I do have one) is that I included these little cheats into my calorie allowance for the day, and wasn’t really much off the average 1,200 total (we’re talking 50 extra calories here).

Now, I know that taking in extra calories of sugar, or fat, isn’t exactly great, but I’m thinking that with two workouts a day, 50 calories is sort of neither here nor there. As long as I don’t then sneak in another 50, etc.

And I realised that even though technically I didn’t 100% stick to the plan, letting myself have those little bits, a) demonstrated that I don’t NEED a rush of sugar to feel OK and that actually, it might make me feel a lot worse (no shit Sherlock), and b) a restricted plan like this is FAR more sustainable if you let yourself wobble every now and again, and get right back on it afterwards. I sort of knew that already, but it’s nice to have it reaffirmed, and actually do it.

And workout-wise? All good. Still mildly horrific getting out of bed ½ an hour earlier than I’d like, but it’s already starting to become a bit of a habit (HUH?). And we all know what I think about those.

Onwards…

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I’m starting a Jillian Michaels diet tomorrow and here’s 10 reasons why I’m really bloody scared

Tomorrow I start another diet. And I’m REALLY BLOODY SCARED. Here’s why:

1. This is hardcore…

This isn’t just cutting out chocolate. This is the Jillian Michaels, kick-start your metabolism, all-out nightmare, diet.

Who’s Jillian Michaels, I hear you ask? Well…my near-daily workouts for the past 8 months have been Jillian Michaels DVDs – tough body-weight workouts and high-intensity interval training from the personal trainer who features on the American TV show The Biggest Loser, which sees very large people lose ridiculous amounts of weight in a few months.

The programme is controversial for its tough approach, and Jillian is often called “TV’s toughest trainer”, simply because she has a no-nonsense, kick-butt attitude. Some people hate her, and say that she yells, is mean, and expects too much.

But I love her. I find her incredibly motivating, and not mean at all – well, as not mean as someone can be when they’re telling you to do five more press ups when you’re already dying and sweating on to the floor.

puke-faint-dieHer slogan is “Unless you faint, puke or die, keep going.” Sometimes, when I’m nearly on the floor during one of her workouts, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought “Well, I haven’t puked yet, so I must have to keep going.” Nice, right?! But it works.

I mean it – I LOVE HER. I stick on one of her DVDs so often, I see her more than I practically see most of my close friends (ha). She’s also on Twitter and Facebook, so it’s a bit weird how often her motivational repartee pops up in my life.

I’ve lost weight, put on muscle, lost inches, gained energy and strength, all through following her programmes.

But it’s still not enough. I can feel new “abs” in my stomach, and see the beginnings of biceps, but that’s not much use when there’s still a lovely layer of flab over the top of them, that I cannot shift.

Jillian says you can eat your way “through” any workout – i.e. Eat more than it burns off. And despite following her exercise plans religiously, I’ve always been a bit slack about going all-in with her diet plans.

But I’ve finally accepted defeat. Jillian’s good enough for my workouts, so she’s good enough for my diet. I think. Just what my sloth-like metabolism needs. Eeeeek.

2. It’s pretty brutal.

The initial week-long plan (followed by an easier, 90-day programme) features no carbs, no sugar, no fruit, and only one serving of low-fat dairy a day.

The overall calorie intake is about 1,200 – which I’m not sure I agree with anyway, as I know that there’s a whole school of thought that says you should work out your BMR (basal metabolic rate – the number of calories your body would burn if you stayed in bed all day) plus your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure, the amount of calories you actually need to function if you DO get out of bed), which is inevitably more than 1,200. But this is the plan, so I’ll see how it goes. If I feel like I’m about to fall over, I’ll eat something like an apple. Big bloody deal. BUT STILL. Scary stuff.

3. The workouts

Oh, did I mention that there are TWO half-hour workouts a day for this initial week-long stint?! A strength one in the morning, and a cardio one in the evening?!

As a total non-morning person, the idea of getting out of bed to do a workout (and then another one in the evening), is HORRENDOUS. In the past two years, I’ve managed three, yes, three, before-work workouts. And hundreds of after-work ones. I’m just not a morning person. But Jillian doesn’t care. So morning workouts it is.

Between you and me, I’m scared that they’ll be more painful than the not-eating thing.

4. I’ve already done a lot of diets, with mixed results

As well as generally watching what I eat, I have done a lot of diets in my time. There was the Atkins (lost a lot, put it all back on the moment I ate a slice of bread), the 5:2 (terrible headaches); Slimming World (the best one so far, but too slow, too expensive, and too time-consuming to go to the weekly group). The only reason I haven’t done the cabbage soup diet, or the maple syrup and lemon juice one is because I don’t really like cabbage, or maple syrup. So there we go. But I trust Jillian Michaels, so maybe this one will actually work.

5. I don’t exactly eat loads already.

I find my weight incredibly frustrating, because I try to do everything right, and it never quite works.

Take calories. I know, from daily food diary keeping over several months, that I generally eat between 1,200-1,500 calories a day. Admittedly, some days, this veers towards about 1,800 – if I go out for dinner say, or I have a drink after work, and at the weekends it can be a bit more.

But then, my workout burns around 250-300 calories, depending on how much effort I put in. Six or seven days a week, plus weight training twice a week.

I HATE to count calories as much as the next person. I only really do it to keep an eye on things, rather than because I think it’s particularly useful, or because I want to obsess over numbers.

But also, counting calories can be like a kind of vindication. All those people who say that those of us who are slightly overweight should just eat less and move more, and not eat chips?

This idea that EVERYONE who isn’t thin can just change their habits and just not be lazy, and magically they’d no longer be big? Well, balls to that (Katie Hopkins, I’m looking at you) I’m proof it isn’t true. It’s not like I’m living off chips and biscuits, let’s put it that way.

So reducing my food intake further is just plain terrifying. Argh.

6. Food helps my day go better

Don’t get me wrong, given the chance, I don’t exactly eat like a bird. I love food.

For me, it’s sociable, and emotional. Have a shit day? Look forward to the evening, when you can savour a nice biscuit. Feel bored and tired at work at 4pm? Have a square of dark chocolate and enjoy those five minutes with a coffee.

Going out for a friend’s birthday or hen do? Order a pizza or a LOT of mezze, plus some cake and also vodka and probably gin. Of course (and screw the calorie count for that day).

And also, I try to eat well too, so I feel healthier.

At least six days a week, I make sure I get lean protein in each meal, not too many “bad” fats (small amounts of coconut oil or avocado, rather than loads of chocolate and cheese), not too many carbs, and wholegrain if possible.

I also drink green smoothies five days a week, which include swiss chard, spinach (cooked, to deactivate the goitrogens that can inhibit thyroid function…), kelp powder, chia seeds, spirulina, and matcha powder for good measure. I enjoy good food, whether that’s good = tasty, or good = nutritious.

I also go to food for emotional support, sometimes.

The idea of not being able to turn to that square of dark chocolate when at work makes me feel a bit worried, I have to admit. At least this diet lets me have an afternoon snack, even if it is a low-fat yoghurt (sigh). I guess it’s only for a week. You can do anything for a week, right?

7. I have an underactive thyroid, which makes dieting in general frustrating beyond measure.

This year I’ve been officially diagnosed with mild PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and an underactive thyroid, confirming what I’ve long suspected: my metabolism isn’t so much slow, as crawling along the floor. It makes a sloth look perky.

I now take medication, but it does explain why it took me a year (and many tears) to lose a stone on the Slimming World diet plan when everyone else around me was losing weight like it was the easiest thing ever.

It also explains why I never seem to lose weight despite eating less than a LOT of slim people I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not that big, but I’m also pretty teeny (5ft tall) so am actually a bit too big for my frame.

And I’m worried that this diet will just go the way of the others, i.e. not do that much. And then what? *CRIES*.

8. Dieting, and writing about it, feels so self-indulgent and boring

Another caveat to dieting: BOO FUCKING HOO, right? Compared to pretty much everything you can think of – you know, cancer, degenerative diseases, poverty, war, the situation in the Middle East, racial hatred, domestic violence ‒ being a bit overweight is nothing. NOTHING. I realise that.

I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t care – (it’s self-obsessed, it’s boring, narcissistic, not living life to the full, over-anxious, non-feminist, an insult to larger people, over-controlling, non-realistic, a luxury most people can’t afford, etc etc etc.) Faced with all that, ACTUALLY CARING can seem like a self-indulgent exercise. Life’s too short, you think. But then, being over your ideal weight and worrying about it can make your life shorter too. Sigh.

And health wise and self-esteem wise, years and years of trying to lose weight and feeling like you’re NEVER getting anywhere, can start to get a bit wearing after a while.

Especially when a lot of people you see seem to be able to eat what they like, and stay thin, in a culture that is obsessed with equating beauty and success to thinness. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is. And it can get to you after a while, despite ALL THE REASONS why it shouldn’t. So I at least want to try.

9. Dieting can get judgemental quickly

Let me just take a second to say that I’m not critical of ANYONE who is any size (from a zero upwards) that makes them happy. Fair play to them.

But dieting can get scarily competitive and fraught with opinions and arguments. Everyone eats, so everyone’s got an opinion – “Oh, well, just cut out bread and you’ll be fine/just don’t eat fat/sugar/move more/do a fast/liquid cleanse/eat in moderation/stop obsessing/just eat when you’re hungry/life’s for living” etc etc ad infinitum.

Basically, I reckon it’s whatever works for you. And I know that I would look and feel better at my goal weight, which is about 15% less than my current weight now. And what I’m currently doing isn’t quite working, despite not being awful. That simple, really.

10. It’s just BLOODY SCARY THOUGH.

I’m worried I’ll be hungry, irritable, tired, achy, headachy (when I did the 5:2, I didn’t get hungry, I just got pounding headaches that wouldn’t leave).

I’m worried about not being able to turn to that little square of dark chocolate that I keep for 4pm in the office.

And what about having to actually be organised and COOK dinner and tomorrow’s lunch every evening after work? Not to mention expensive to keep myself in salmon fillets and fresh veg.

What if a murderous cake-binge mist descends during Wednesday night’s Great British Bake Off TV show, ending in a no holds-barred sprint to the nearest supermarket pastry shelf?!

But well, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that writing about something can help you evaluate it, and keep you going.

Also, sharing your progress online – and getting support back, as I did when I first started Jillian Michaels’ 30-day Shred programme ‒ can work wonders for motivation.

SO, I’m going to try and keep a log of what it’s like. I assume that log will mostly be me going “unnghhgh” and “caaaaaaaake”.

But if it stops me inhaling a packet of Jaffa Cakes in one sitting, then it might be worth it.

If it kickstarts my metabolism and shifts any weight that isn’t water, FINALLY, then it will be worth it.

Wish me luck…

On self-hatred: New Year’s Resolutions and celebrating women’s bodies

Bit less of this…but still have a bit

We’re barely a week into the New Year, so naturally I’m working hard to maintain that determination I felt nary a few days ago to do more exercise and eat slightly less crap.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a curvy size 12, and, at my little height (5ft), really could do with being more in the region of a size 8 – healthwise, and self-esteem wise. For me (and me alone, I’m not judging anyone else) I’m not happy with my weight and by extension, with that element of how I look or feel.

It’s boring and self-involved, but no matter how many “fat-positive” blogs I read and love, or how many times my boyfriend and friends tell me they genuinely think I look fine, it’s still true – I want to lose weight. Problem is, I love food (and work writing about the restaurant industry) and put on weight extremely easily for a variety of health reasons, so it’s an on-going, thankless battle.

It’s going OK (I’ve eaten out once, but managed to stop myself inhaling too much Hotel Chocolat, and also done a Zumba work out every other day) but it really is a work in progress – and, if it’s to be a permanent thing (as I learned a couple of years ago when I managed to lose a stone), I know it has to become a proper “lifestyle choice” rather than a short-term purgatory involving no treats and a constant, internal monologue of self-hatred, pain and punishment.

It’s so tempting and easy to look in the mirror at the curves you wish you had less of, and loathe every part of your body. Of what you are or are not, of your constant failure to achieve your weight loss goals, of your “lack of willpower” around food, of the bits here and there that simply won’t disappear, at how different you look to your friends, colleagues, strangers on the street, let alone the much-maligned media figures.

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Mindful eating: It’s about ‘why’ I eat, not just ‘what’

After years of beating myself up for struggling with weight gain, I ask whether a new approach will help me work out why following an eating plan isn’t always a piece of cake

Sugar

Sugar…hmm?

Eating, and food. Few other words in the English language have such an effect on my thoughts, mood or self-esteem. Thinking about those two things can either send me soaring above the clouds in wonder and delight, or freefalling into a dark hole of misery and self-loathing, where everything I eat and everything I do, healthy or unhealthy, is wrong, misjudged, panicked or painful.

I appreciate that if you’ve never had this problem, this complaint will look like an unfathomable, self-indulgent mass of psychobabble rubbish. It may look like that regardless, but allow me to explain.  For some people, i.e. me, the supposedly simple process of eating really can feel this complex. Perhaps, if you have even a flicker of recognition for the above, you might see where I’m coming from.

Because I love food, and I love eating.

I love cooking, I love food shopping, and I love eating out. I love cooking and/or eating with friends, for myself, for others; for Christmas, for birthdays; just because it’s a Friday. Wandering around food markets, whether there are samples or not, represents one of life’s greatest pleasures for me, and I can rhapsodise endlessly about the intense layers of flavour found within a just-fried piece of chorizo; the soul-warming smell of crushed garlic, the differences between Spanish and Italian olive oils; the sharp way in which coriander can cut through a curry; the bite and deep aroma from a proper piece of chocolate; the way crispy prawns nestle in saffron-yellow paella as jewels on a velvet shawl; the sumptuous yield of freshly-warmed pastry as it flakes with every taste; or the way that crème fraîche languorously melts into a carrot, pumpkin and potato soup.

And that’s just for starters.

Also – a disclaimer: I can be a food snob, yes; but am equally undone when presented with a Sainsbury’s freshly-baked cookie, a pack of Doritos or on-offer sausage rolls. Seriously, I’m not fussy.

In my life – and it seems, in very many others’ ‒ every occasion, tradition, celebration or commiseration is improved by the presence of food. Indeed, what problem cannot be eased, at least in part, by an array of various pastry-, sugar-, cheese- and/or fat-laden goodies (with a bit of fruit and salad thrown in, for measure) enjoyed in the presence of good company and much-needed conversation?

Also, though, I hate food.

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TV review: BBC 2’s The Little Paris Kitchen, or why I love Rachel Khoo

Upon arriving home from a month away, I come across a fabulous new BBC 2 food programme that reminds me of my love of France ‒ and which, unbelievably, proves that there is most definitely still room on TV for yet another cooking show

Rachel Khoo

Rachel Khoo, my new TV food-crush (even if it is a month after everyone else)

I’ve been out of the country for the past month (briefly volunteering at small but interesting projects in Himachal Pradesh and Goa) and frankly, it makes me cringe to think that among some of the reasons I was apprehensive about going away for four weeks – including, for example, people realising they could do my job without me, what would happen to my waistline, whether I’d be able to carry everything I’d need for a month on my back ‒ was that I’d miss out on BBC iPlayer (I know, shoot me).

I hardly ever watch live TV, but I’ll regularly peruse the glorious iPlayer and open in endless tabs the frequently interesting, entertaining and fabulously on-demand programmes I find that I haven’t yet had a chance to watch.

Doing just that upon my return home, I discovered a new programme I hadn’t heard of before – BBC 2’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo’. As in love with cooking programmes as I am (my watching of Saturday Kitchen of a morning is akin to a religious ritual, and I will be hoofed out of bed only for the most paramount of familial or national occasions, sighing with a resigned acceptance that I’ll just have to catch James Martin’s yummy offerings later on) I was sceptical of this one, fronted as it was on the BBC site by a young girl laughing into food mid-frame, eerily reminiscent of those hilarious but depressing ‘Women Laughing Alone With Salad/Fruit’ stock photos that regularly do the Internet rounds. Sigh.

Also, another programme on luxurious, indulgent but oh-so-easy cooking presented by a young, pretty woman? If Nigella hadn’t already cornered that market a while back (albeit, slightly more saucily than entirely necessary), who could forget Sophie Dahl’s well-meaning and sweet but essentially lacklustre attempts at comfort food, or Lorraine Pascale’s enjoyable but nonetheless slightly sickening missives of trying to convince all us mortals that she does really eat loads of cake and cheese and bread, honest (hey, maybe she genuinely does, in which case, I’m still annoyed!)*? Could this new programme really be offering anything different?

Well, it turns out, yes.

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