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Monday, 19 October 2015

Is dieting making us heavier?

I’m sure you’ve noticed lately the sneaky Christmas additions popping up in the shops. A few decorations, the odd subtle jinglely bells sound effect on TV, a snowflake or two in Boots. It’s moving in on us gently before we’re smacked in the face with it after Halloween and bonfire night. Then all bets are off.
The 10 weeks ‘till Christmas count down is also the perfect opportunity to start getting in on the diet guilt. It’s nearly party season after all and those sparkly dresses won’t squeeze into themselves. Yes I know you want to drink away the stress of the year after all your hard work, and a cold evening just doesn’t feel right without a hot chocolate with lashings of cream, and don’t get me started on the hot toddies, fondue and crusty bread (just because), markets with churros and mulled wine... It’s the most wonderful time of the year, unless you’re on a diet.

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I’m the worst for it. But then a lot of us are. Everyone I talk to is either on a diet, has been on a diet, or knows they should be on a diet. There are only a lucky few for whom their weight seems to stabilise beautifully and naturally without any sort of control or intervention. ‘Bastards’ I hear you cry!
But could these seemingly unnaturally jammy beings that obviously exist on dust and water alone actually have something to teach us? For years I have been convinced (or consumed more like) by the dieting culture. If you’re fat, it’s your fault, and if you’re not losing weight well, you’re just not trying hard enough dammit. I have possibly been on every diet known to man, and explored all avenues, nooks and the cranniest of crannies of the research on emotional eating, and still, the fact that I cannot get a grip on my weight drives me insane.

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So what if we just ‘let go’?
Let go, like how much? Only a little bit you mean? Oh sure, ‘Let go’, but stop at the government recommended daily allowance, right? ‘Let go’ but not too much, surely…?
No, I mean, really. Let. Go.
How many of us would be willing to do that? To trust in the wisdom of our bodies and truly accept where our weight fell without fasting, kale or vacuum packed stew. Wouldn’t that be a novelty?  
Well, actually it’s not. There are already lots of people on this train – Anastasia Amour, Sarah Jenks, Caroline Dooner, many participants of the #bopo movement, and researcher Gwyneth Olwyn particularly who provides some extremely compelling and exciting science in this field here

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The proven theory of weight set point (that is, the fact that we are genetically and evolutionary programmed to stay within a set weight range) is particularly galling for me as a seasoned dieter to find out, but also extremely freeing.
Has it all actually been a complete waste of time? Have we been forgoing the puddings and limiting ourselves in order to achieve our ideal bodies, when in actual fact it’s our bodies which know best? Letting go and really saying ‘fuck it’ then isn’t such a lottery as we think it is, and we could even be heavier right now than we’re predisposed to be naturally because we’re always dieting and restricting. What a revelation.
If it’s actually all the conscious and incessant interfering which has screwed it all up, then the answer requires that we stop all the thinking, and just. Eat.
Food for thought certainly, so, if like me you are a serial dieter - I urge you to do one thing today, and read this before signing up for another round of Weight Watchers. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

When you hit a wall

I hit a bit of a wall this week.
The reasons for which I won’t go into detail, but it has all been a bit miserable, really.
Tiredness, loss of my usual perkiness…everything just went a bit grey. Even my hair went flat… it was that bad. 
For modern life in the developed world we shouldn’t have much to complain about – we have food in our bellies, a roof over our head, and spare time (weekends, holidays and evenings of course) to enjoy what pleases us most. We can sit on our arse and watch TOWIE or re-runs of Friends (still), head down to the latest pop up whatever for a cup/beaker/hollowed out drum of the latest creation, visit new countries for a hundred pounds or start up a business. 
The world is ours. We should be laughing. So how come so often, we’re not?

Does this mean we are ‘Generation Gloomy’? Did our predecessors ‘just bloody get on with it’ better than we did? Are we missing some of that good ol’ British bulldog spirit, and perhaps is it time to give ourselves a darn good shake?

I think there is an element of that. Sometimes a bit of sock pulling up is exactly what anyone needs – and a good few friends to head down the pub with can do just that. Not that I condone drinking to heal emotional ills, but a dance and a few shots really can do wonders for ‘killing the bug in your arse’ as my parents frequently say.

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But sometimes, life just kicks your butt. You can push as hard as you can push, you can be full of positive beans and have that ‘raring to go’ attitude, but it’s not enough. The fact that the world is ours for the taking could even be part of the problem. Do we expect too much of ourselves? Are we, rather, 'Generation Dissatisfaction'? 
When everything moves so fast, news comes in a tweet, you have less than 10 seconds to catch the latest snapchat, and even on planes now we can't escape wifi, could it be that we will become bored if we too are not moving at the same warp speed? Is it time to make the distinction between the fact that we are humans made of skin and bone, with hormones and feelings (and an expiry date) and that is technology? 
Our progress should allow us time and space for more thought, and reflection, and learning. But if we are so exhausted from the sheer pace of it all, we cannot do any of that.

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Sometimes you just need to turn off your phone, don your cosy socks, get into bed and call it a day. Call it a week if you need to. Take that rest, get outside, book that pedicure, and just take care of yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. Let's have a bit more respect for ourselves, and let's not be 'Generation Burn Out'.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

My sister's moving to Watford

I'm a bit of a sensitive soul really, on the inside underneath a scratchy exterior so few people know it's there. So when my sister told me she was moving to Watford (it's not Watford, actually - it's even further than Watford, so I'm saying she's moving there to make myself feel better), well, I may have felt a little pressure and wetness in my eyes. 
Where she's actually moving to, you should know, is about 50 minutes drive from where we live. It's not far. But for this sensitive yet scratchy soul, it feels a little bit further than is entirely reasonable. 

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When I moved to London, I with all my bags and cases unapologetically barged into her life, set up camp and made a bit of a fuss. She's always been obliged to make room for her little sister, which I am forever grateful for, but she just keeps moving. It's almost like she's trying to have her own life or something, but that must just be my paranoid mind... 
In any case, I wish she'd stop. First it was from our home town of Chester to Newcastle for university, then down to London for her job. She then proceeded to move from Islington, to Camden, out to Surrey (of all places), then to Hackney (I felt much better) but now she's bloody leaving again! It's most inconvenient really, because every time she does, I have to adjust. I don't like adjusting. I don't like change. I like all of my friends, family and the people I love in one place where I can find them at all times. 

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But it's in times of change like this, that I forget that I too have also moved. First it was from our home town of Chester to Newcastle for university, then down to London for my job, and now from Islington out to Walthamstow, which is a tiny bit close to Hackney (you may notice a repeat pattern here - but it's entirely coincidence I assure you). 
But as any agony aunt will tell you, adjustment is of course part of life. Our parents had to adjust when we left home, we had to adjust when they moved to Gibraltar. People move every day. It's all the industrial revolution's fault, really. 

So when change is inevitable, how come it never gets easier? No matter how many of my friends move on, move house or move back home, the same worries go through my mind; the same fears of not being able to hold on to all the people I love so very dearly.
Sometimes it does happen that way of course. People change jobs, friends lose touch, and connections fade away. The ones you once spent every day with, now you never speak to them. But even though there is always a risk of some friendships never quite making it, you can't stay still, hanging on to the past. Life is the here and now and the future you will build for yourself, wherever that may be. Progress and the desire to propel forwards has defined the human race for centuries, and that instinct is not about to stop now just because I'm getting a bit weepy about Watford.

So, around we go again - hiring that removal company, ordering yet another packing kit from Argos, and drinking our way through another few bottles of wine to toast the closing of one more chapter, and the opening of the next.

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Friday, 17 July 2015

What my friend taught me

I have a friend. A great friend. A friend I couldn’t do without. One of those friends who you want to tell when something goes well, or to whom you rant when everything is going to shit.
My friend is beautiful. My friend has an AMAZING body. My friend is stylish, intelligent, funny and crazy (which is brilliant). I love spending time with her, and I am lucky to have her.

The only thing is, my friend doesn’t know this. She spends all her time seeing the best in me, but can never see the best in herself. Some of it is her own humour and how she bonds with people – self-deprecation. We all do it, and it’s definitely a cultural thing.

But my friend goes further than this. She is so down on herself, it makes me sad. She just doesn’t see it. She doesn’t see the light that I see and I wish I could help her do that. It makes me sad because that’s how I can be, and how many women (and men) can also be.

We criticise, we self-berate, we see the worst and remember only when we’ve fucked up. Sure not everyone does this, but many of us do. We focus on the negative, on the bad things people will say about us and not on the best.

What if we chose to focus on the good? On how well we’ve done today, who we’ve helped, and which dragons we have conquered. What if we asked what would need to happen to make us feel happy, peaceful or satisfied in life rather than ‘I'm not good enough’? What if we focused on feeling good today, on meeting our needs and finding our pleasure, because well, we all deserve that?
You’ve seen ‘This Girl Can’. We’re moving to a place of self-acceptance, and it feels good. It doesn’t mean we can’t reach goals and achieve, it just means maybe it’s not necessary to hate ourselves so much anymore while we find our way. 

So to my lovely, crazy friend I want to say again, you're great. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Slimming World Spring Rolls

It's January, and that means for a lot of us it's time to watch the waistline after a bit too much of the old Christmas indulgence. I love spring rolls, but they're not exactly healthy, so Slimming World have come up with a lower fat alternative. For a lighter version of a firm favourite. you can try these instead. They are a little fiddly when it comes to wrapping them up, but definitely worth it in the end - and bonus, you can eat as many as you want!  

To make you will need:

Lasagne sheets (dry to be classed as 'free' on Slimming World) - 1 sheet per roll
Chicken drumsticks with skin removed 
Pack of stir fry vegetables 
Chinese 5 spice seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic and soy sauce 
Low cal cooking spray
Sweet chilli sauce for dipping (this has a 'syn' value) 

Start by seasoning your chicken with the 5 spice, salt and pepper and roast in the oven with all fat removed for about 40 minutes until nice and crispy. In the mean time, put a large pan of water on to boil. 

In a separate pan, stir fry your vegetables with Fry Light or a low calorie spray, lots of seasoning and finish with a dash of soy sauce. Leave to cool while your chicken finishes cooking, then remove it from the oven and shred it all up. 

Add your chicken to your vegetables and taste to make sure it has enough flavour.  Spray some more low cal spray onto a baking sheet and leave to one side for later. Now it's time to prep your lasagne sheets and start rolling! 
This is the fiddly bit, because if you cook them all together they will stick and form a big pasta lump. Boil about five sheets at once, and once soft, gently lift out with a fish slice and place on a surface. Add a small amount of the filling and carefully roll the sheet up. Don't worry if it falls out, you can stuff it back in.

Once you've rolled up your five, then boil another batch of pasta sheets and repeat until you've made as many spring rolls as you like. Spray the tops with a little more Fry Light and pop in the oven for about 20 minutes or until crispy. 

Leave to cool for a few minutes, then cut in half for a totally 'free' Slimming World bite size snack. Serve with some sweet chilli sauce. which is 1.5 syns per tablespoon. 

Tip: you can also freeze them before baking and whip them out before a party so they're fresh - just freeze on the tray, loosely covered with clingfilm. Then when you're ready, bake for about 35 mins or until piping hot through and crisp. Enjoy! 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Le Boudin Blanc, Mayfair

Tucked away in the intimate Shepherd Market area of Mayfair is the cosy and bustling Boudin Blanc. Our family will be spread across the world this year; India, Poland, London and Holland so we had our Christmas meal a little early. Noisy, romantic and warm, this place is a firm favourite of ours, and deservedly so. 

Hailed by the press as a little piece of Paris in London, Le Boudin Blanc's food is really special. It's hearty yet refined, so despite being on the expensive side you come away feeling satisfied and suitably fuzzy! We started with escargots de Bourgogne persill√©s - snails in garlic butter - and a rather entertaining moment watching Kate trying one of Ben's Jersey oysters for the first time! Served with fresh lemon juice and Tabasco, they're an acquired taste. 


The Cornish crab meat with mayonnaise, spring onions and cucumber was creamy and fresh, and the wild mushroom risotto with truffle cream and parmesan shavings superb and earthy. Served with lots of freshly baked bread, we set about trading taster bites. 

We're a family big on our meat; we enjoyed succulent and rare 8oz fillet steaks, grilled and served with a tangy and smooth b√©rnaise, and lots of garlic butter and wilted spinach. We also tried a braised lamb shank with dauphinoise potatoes, mushrooms, onions and lardons which was tender and falling off the bone.  

The steamed sea bream fillet was butter soft, cooked to perfection and drizzled with a light ginger butter sauce, The fat and juicy cod cheek came with an unusual mushroom mousse and a decadent and rich lobster bisque sauce. Beautiful. 

The waiters were brilliantly attentive (perhaps a tiny bit pretentious, but it's Mayfair - we'll allow it). We shared dishes of crisp and fluffy frites, melt-in-the-mouth spinach and sprouts jazzed up with bacon and lashings of butter. We drank a fresh and dry 2012 Sancerre 'La Croix du Roy' wine which was delightful, and fast becoming one of my favourites - at £53 a bottle - eep! We managed to put away a few during the night - it was going down very easily. 

After such a lot of food Kate had to twist my arm (well, only a little) to share the hot chocolate fondant with praline ice cream and caramelised hazelnut dust. It was wonderful - just the right amount of bitterness, and nice and oozy in the middle. 

Full of Christmas spirit (and a double Baileys, Amaretto on the rocks, and couple of Jack Daniels) we waddled back home to open our presents and another couple of bottles of wine. 

Le Boudin Blanc's website is here. Book a table, this place is popular and is understandably busy.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Arabian Nights

For the Christmas party season we were transported to an Arabian paradise. Dripping in beads, belly dancers and bucking rodeo camels we partied the night away in style. The events company had pulled a blinder - we were surrounded by colour, glitter and even a genie if you could find the lamp... 

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Temptresses shook their hips and swayed to the music holding live snakes (I didn't touch). Thick red and gold carpets and tented ceilings added to the atmosphere, and trays of tinkering glasses made their way through the crowds, balanced expertly on waitresses heads. 

We were told to don our own costumes of silks, sequins and saris... some people got quite creative, naturally.

Miniature Moroccan masterpieces were served on giant silver platters - lamb and herb meatballs with fluffy couscous and tagine baked vegetables, and a falafel version for the veggies.

We were treated to a spectacular show of exotic dancing and sword swallowing. The way their bodies bent was incredible, and enough to make you want to start yoga! The beautiful ladies gracefully twisted and turned, grabbing the shy ones from the audience to dance with them. 

The evening descended into debauchery, naturally but I managed to slip away before the doors of the magic cave closed. A fantastic celebration of 2014... 

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