There is one relationship in my life that I just can't figure out. It is a relationship that has been with me most of my adult life, and though years and maturity should make it a comfortable liaison, it doesn't. Indeed, the older I get, the more frustrating and challenging it becomes. It is not an equal relationship and it is certainly not a fair one.
So why stay in this union, you may well ask. Because I have no bloody choice -- I carry it everywhere. The relationship to which I refer is the one with my weight.
The whole weight thing is like the luggage carousel in an airport terminal with the 'fringe' representing the weekend. Out of the fringe emerges a laden-down body of baggage. As the carousel weaves its way around, the excesses are shed and by the time it hits the fringe again, the carousel is altogether lighter and neater. However, we are now entering the black hole that is the fringe and it starts all over again.
Let me put it more simply.
I had been good all week. Really good. In truth, I had to be. Seriously. I had eaten for Ireland last weekend and probably drank for the whole 32 counties. I wouldn't mind but I had been very good the previous week too. If I just hadn't gone and ruined it all last weekend, I would be at least a half stone lighter by now.
I had started out great. Friday morning -- just a pound or two within reach of my goal weight. Now all I had to do was stay on track. Happy days. So I spend Friday having coffee. Important tip: choose coffee shop with complimentary chocolate -- keeps the wolf at bay and stops you ordering the pecan pie.
Friday night is fish night. This chosen fare coincides beautifully with the Friday version of me (as opposed to the Monday version of me, but more of that anon). So it's salad, cod and a few chips for the normal beings in the house. Personally, I replace the chips with nuts, just to keep everything moving, if you know what I mean, and we're all sorted.
So the weekend starts beautifully. The tummy is looking good and then, just as I think I might venture upstairs and give that dress that isn't quite right (too tight) another go, the glass of wine appears.
The first glass of wine of a weekend (not having had one since the previous weekend) is the most precious moment of the week -- of course, my kids' adorability and my husband's charms are significant too -- but really that glass of wine has a platform all of its own. And I sip it with all the sophistication of the French. The second glass is consumed a little faster, and by the third I get the nibbles.
"Is there any chocolate in the house?" is the invariable request.
Part of the charms of the aforementioned husband is that there is always chocolate in the house. I take the first square with the same sentiment previously adopted in respect of the coffee. Just one square, one sugar burst and I will be grand.
It works beautifully.
Until the fourth glass of wine, when really the whole bar needs to be consumed because I am bloody starving. Disappointed at the dip in my resolve, I console myself that I haven't eaten all day and sure, I tell myself, I am still within my daily quota. That is until the thought of crisps enters my head and all I want is the taste of salt.
By the fifth glass of wine, my waistline, my goal weight and the shagging dress in the wardrobe are of no importance at all and those digital numbers behind a glass window on a stainless steel box are just that: numbers.
Of course, the next morning I'm kicking myself. But we are now into Saturday. I eat a good breakfast as soakage and fuel for the endless GAA runs. I reckon I am still on track to losing weight (hope you're still with me on this). That is until lunchtime, when the easiest thing is to buy a roll for everybody because I really can't be arsed cooking and, shag it, it's Saturday.
After the roll the tummy isn't looking too good, but that's not going to compromise my one treat of the week, the Indian meal. The korma is ordered, and why I insist on having wine with it is anyone's guess because you can't even taste the bloody thing.
By Sunday I am so far gone over my limit, what in God's name is another couple of thousand calories? I go hell for leather for the big Sunday roast and the whole shooting match. I assure myself I will starve myself come Monday, so better eat up now while I have the chance.
The result: Monday dawns and there is a whole new version of me. The cycle begins anew.
Now, throw a variation into the mix: the complication of being invited to dinner.
This is a whole lot trickier because although you are trying to keep the weight down, you really don't want anyone to know you are. This requires much situational analysis, skulduggery and downright deception. If you arrive to fish, salad and new potatoes, you are laughing. No one need know anything. If you arrive to steak and fat chips, you can skirt around it. If you arrive to pasta, you're screwed.
You are now in an awkward position. You need to determine how to limit your intake without causing offence, without giving the impression you are suffering from an eating disorder and, finally -- and this is most important -- you cannot in anyway infer you are worried about your weight ("You're not watching the weight? Are you?").
You assess carefully what's on your plate -- situational analysis -- while all the time feigning intense interest in the chit-chat of the dinner table. Often there are two conversations being conducted simultaneously: the one in your head and the one with your neighbour.
You look to the salad bowl -- thank God for suburban dinner parties, there is always a huge bowl of salad -- you pile this high on your dinner plate and under the layers of leaves and green stuff, you rearrange your plate (I did mention skulduggery). As the meal proceeds, your interest in your neighbour should increase because it will serve a purpose. For your host, what you lacked in consumption you more than made up for in appreciation of their alliances socially (enter 'downright deception').
You can always get out of dessert -- this is socially accepted, and if your hosts have taken the boat out and are serving a cheese board, then all you need do is to cut a small corner off the triangle of brie (not to be eaten, mind), make a big ding-dong of putting it on a cracker and people will envy your knack of staying slim without any apparent effort.
The climax in my relationship with weight happens once in a blue moon, when the numbers on the scale tells you that you are the weight you want to be. You look, you admire, and then you get off the box quick, just in case the thing is still calculating.
It is a curious partnership, my weight and me -- despite its longevity and familiarity, it still manages to retain a perplexing mystery for me. I still, for the life of me, cannot understand how it takes five days to lose what you put on in two, but then I did say at the outset that it is not an equal relationship and it certainly isn't fair!