Sunday 19 November 2017

Slimmer for summer: Tales from the scales update

Last week, some of our columnists took on a weight-loss challenge, here's how they got on

Pat Fitzpatrick, John Drennan, Triona McCarthy, Eleanor Goggin, Brendan O'Connor and Aine O'Connor before their weight-loss programme.
Pat Fitzpatrick, John Drennan, Triona McCarthy, Eleanor Goggin, Brendan O'Connor and Aine O'Connor before their weight-loss programme.
Aine O'Connor
Eleanor Goggin
John Drennan

Last week, some of our columnists took on a weight-loss challenge, here's how they got on.

Pat Fitzpatrick

WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/ 85.9kgs

I could be in over my head here. The eight week diet and fitness regime I'm doing on-line appealed because I thought it would involve some jogging and blueberries. Now that it has started, I'm wondering if I made a mistake. A big, sore, hungry one. I blame the strength workout. Forget about a bit of jogging. This includes squats, push-ups and something called The Plank. The bad guys in the Spanish Inquisition famously showed their victims their implements of torture before getting stuck in (literally.) There was no need for that. They should have just said we're going to make you do The Plank.

The problem is with my glutes. I never really had glutes before. You'd see the odd mention of them by angry looking people in Lycra on daytime TV. But I didn't think that applied to me. As far as I was concerned, I would live a glute-free life. I wouldn't bother them; they wouldn't bother me. Until I did my first strength workout last night. I think I've angered my glutes. The coach on the on-line video did say that a good few of the exercises would stretch this muscle group, which runs from my bum cheeks and down the back of the thigh. It feels like the glutes are getting back at me this morning for neglecting them all my life.

I probably wouldn't make it without the other guys taking the course. We're swapping messages on Facebook as we go along, showing photos of our protein shakes and geeing each other up. I never saw myself as a positive person really, but this support is buoying me along. So I'm going to keep on the road, taking small steps to fitness. Which is about all I can manage with my angry glutes.

Triona McCarthy

WEIGHT: 13st, 2lbs/83.6kgs

So the stress of this Slimmer for Summer challenge had me binging like a bulimic all last weekend. Well, like a semi-bulimic, I didn't do the purging part. I'm an emotional eater, you see, 'cause I eat when I'm stressed, I eat when I'm happy, I eat when I'm sad but mostly I eat when I'm not hungry!

My BFF was home from Boston so I had stocked up on all the Irish, em, "food" that she misses like Tayto, Monster Munch, Chipsticks, and every variety of Cadburys chocolate and of course I ate most of it on my 'goodye binge'.

By Sunday night, there was more food in my body than in my fridge and cupboards!

On Monday morning I had to bring my two year old to Crumlin children's hospital to have his cast taken off - he'd broken his leg a month beforehand, so we both had toast and a banana for brekkie and I only had an Americano at the café during the long wait.

When we got home Steph from arrived for my first workout session. I told her she had to go easy on me or else I'd be hiding in my wardrobe and sending Will out to tell her I had gone on an urgent beauty fact finding mission in Mars and wouldn't be back till 2024! You see, I prefer lie-downs to sit ups.

I needn't have worried. Steph had her second baby, Alex, only six months ago, so we compared breastfeeding stories while she eased me into things. Steph wants me to build muscle, get fit, and burn loads of calories and being a busy Mum like me, she understands how time is tight.

Our workouts need to be short and efficient so I'm doing a form of HIIT (High Intense Interval Training) called Tabata, named after the Japanese doctor who pioneered this style of fitness. It involves 4-minute blocks (8 rounds of 20 seconds of hard work) followed by 10-second breaks in between.

I do four of these 4-minute blocks each session, so I won't tire myself out too soon.

Steph promises I'll be nice and toned, from this but we also need to "go heavy" so I'm also doing weight training, with short bursts of cardio and core work so I'll get fitter/stronger each week. Apparantly, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn on a daily basis and HIIT helps to burn calories for up to 36 hours after the workout has finished.

Burning calories while I'm just watching TV - yes please!

Next stop was Gourmet Fuel HQ in Sandyford to meet nutritionist Emma Buckley and get started on my diet. I was seriously impressed with the facility. Their chefs (Head Chef, Andy Dowling was Head Chef at Avoca for four years) create all the meals on site.

Upstairs there's an impressive gym. It's pretty much a one-stop shop for health!

A very handsome fella measured me with a massive tweezers style thing. I was morto in my breastfeeding bra that had once been white but was now fifty shades of chewing gum!

Anyhoo, he couldn't have been more helpful - his wife had also breastfed - but I nearly passed out when he weighed me. I said last week I was 12 stone, thinking I was probably 11 and three quarters - I hadn't weighed myself - so I was horrified. Horrified to discover I'm actually 13stone 2lbs.

I slunk into Emma's office, completely dejected for my consultation. Emma was fantastic and gave me a completely bespoke programme and will monitor my progress so I can achieve my health goal. I picked up my food and 2 litres of water for every day and on Tuesday morning I started my 'diet'.

It's the yummiest food I've ever eaten. They got the name right for sure, it really is gourmet style food that's so tasty yet so nutritious. I have the most delicious fruit and nut parfait for breakfast and then chicken salad for lunch and risotto for dinner as well as snacks which meant I didn't even feel like I was on a diet.

I honestly wasn't hungry and I love how clean and healthy I feel and I have tons of energy.

John Drennan

WEIGHT: 16st, 5lbs/104.1kgs

MOOD: Black

Much of our problems with food are cultural and habitual. In the East for example people are trained into liking fish on its own merits. Paddy by contrast only trusts fish if it is wrapped up in a prophylactic of batter and deep fried in week old grease to take the fishy taste off it. So if we are to reduce weight it is about abandoning old habits and desires. So it is that the first test occurs on Saturday evening where I am in a pub with some colleagues. Bad habit but good John is sipping from some sparkling water with a dash of blackcurrant.

It is of course not easy when every-one else is swallowing down pints of cider and Guinness at a merry lick. Of course one of the reasons for our current obesity epidemic is that, in the past, ale and cider was the actual diet of the peasantry. They didn't call the pre-Industrial revolution Britain 'merrie England' for no reason. Nowadays by contrast pints are a mere add on to an already calorie laden diet.

As though to prove that, the generous owner of our local brings out a large overflowing Beano-style platter of sausages, chips and various other fried delights. The hungry hacks fall on it like a pack of lions from the Serengeti.

I, of course, desist and order a salad sandwich that is of such vegetarian purity that even a rabbit would snarl 'is there any f*****g meat on this' were they to be the recipient of such green and unpleasant fare.

As my colleagues wipe the grease and blood off their happy jowls I am reminded of the saying that virtue is its own reward. It certainly appears to be a solitary presence in Irish society and proper order too.

Virtue is over-rated and frankly I would prefer if it was somewhere else other than here.

John Drennan is following the 5:2 diet

I think I might be addicted to food

Brendan O'Connor

WEIGHT: 13st, 10lbs/87.3kgs

If I have realised anything in the first five days of my new diet (that includes one day off), it is that eating is my hobby. And when you think about it, it makes complete sense. Men my age with young children find it difficult to have hobbies these days. Somehow, in these politically correct times we live in, it has become unacceptable for men to go to work all week, come home exhausted each evening demanding slippers and a Martini and then disappear golfing for the weekend. Many men have compensated for this situation by working at the weekends also. "It keeps me out of trouble", is the phrase they often use, by which they mean, "It keeps me out of the house." You see, the problem is that when the men come in after a hard day's work nowadays, the "little woman" is also likely to have done a hard day's work, and she is likely to have done a whole lot more on the home front too. So no Martinis.

So in short, hobbies are a no no these days unless you can integrate them into your family life and the time you spend with your children. But unless your hobby is watching certain bits of Frozen over and over again, or maybe playing the same silly game repeatedly, or maybe reading children's books that you have read a million times, then it can be difficult to find a satisfying hobby that you can enjoy with your kids. Tickling is a good one, but you can only do so much of that. And the essence of a good hobby is some kind of development. Tickling is a one-note business. It's too easy. You don't even need to have a technique.

And so many men turn to eating as something that all the family can do together, and as a hobby you can pursue while also being at home. The Taylor Made Diet has made me realise that I have fallen into this trap.

You see, it's not that I'm hungry on this diet. Technically speaking, even thought I am eating small portions of healthy food, I am not hungry as such. Ken Taylor has clearly managed to balance the whole thing so that you are actually getting enough to eat. But that's not the point. The point of the eating marathon I embark on most days is not that I am hungry. I just like to eat because that's what I do. Eating goes with everything. If you are sitting in front of the box of an evening, what could be more natural than to eat some food that you don't need? And the bonus is that the kind of crap I eat in the evening is the kind of stuff you don't need to be hungry to eat. It's just something to do. And the benefit of it is that the more of this kind of rubbish you eat, the more you want to eat, because it never actually satisfies you. So the eating hobby is not limited by hunger.

I have started considering the fact that I may be addicted to eating. I do it pretty much all day. My day is marked out by little snacks and cups of tea. It never stops. And at no point do I ever think. "That was nice. I feel satisfied now." Eating the way I eat is not about being satisfied. It is an ongoing process where eating is just a prelude to more eating. Sometimes, I even eat things as a warm up to eating other things that won't satisfy me. My life is one long grazy meal.

I think that I am learning something already from the Taylor Made diet. And that is the notion of enough, the notion of treating food like food, the notion of eating food that will actually satisfy you and then stopping. And it's not about hunger, it's about breaking habits.

And boy, are there bad habits to be broken. I'm usually OK during the day. But once I eat the dinner then the evening stretches out ahead of me, with no treats at the end of a long day, no nibbles to punctuate my work or my reading or my TV viewing. And I actually get twitchy and ansty. But it's not hunger. It's purely habit. And even as I twitch I realise that if I did have a little snack or a treat, it wouldn't actually solve my problem, because I'd just be back to square one then, wanting more. Snacks and treats are pointless to an addict like me, because they will never bring the happiness I imagine they will. I am just chasing the dragon. And one snack is too many and a million isn't enough. So better off not to pick up that first little treat. It's not easy, but it will get easier. One day at a time.

Not so little 'ol wine drinker me

Eleanor Goggin

WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/85.9kgs

Well it was with fear and trepidation that I went to my Motivation clinic this week. I honestly felt like I did going into the oral Irish in the Leaving Cert. If I hadn't done well for week one then there was no chance. And I had a bit of a mixed week.

It all started fine for the first three days. I pretty much stuck to it. Lots of protein and no fat. Now I don't know what category wine comes under but that's where the problem arose. Because I have developed quite a penchant for drink over the years, I decided that if I had to give it up, then I wouldn't last.

Susan had told me I could have three quarters of a bottle of wine a week. That's really only when I'm getting going and I had a big birthday party at the weekend. Starting at three o'clock and no finishing time. Not that I fully understand the whole concept of a finishing time anyway. By six o'clock I was nearly comatose. Much to my embarrassment.. People often say to me I don't look or act visibly tipsy even when I am. I deviated badly on this occasion. Langers, as we say in Cork. But, when I finally got up, holding my head, the next day, I stuck to the plan. Porridge and blueberries, brown bread and salad for lunch and fish and veg for dinner. Because I'm stoic, I managed to have my usual few vodkas at poker on Sunday night and skipped the lovely supper. A real feat. I even managed to go for an Indian meal on the Monday night and avoid all the creamy stuff. I didn't love the clay oven cooked chicken but I ate it, because basically I would eat cardboard or dog food.

So with those few misdemeanours in my head, I stood up on the scales. My excuse was going to be that I thought she had said three quarters of a bottle of wine a day. But I managed to lose six pounds. Six whole pounds. Now I still look like an older pregnant person but it's a good start and a step in the right direction.

I feel ready for the oral Irish now.

Sunday Indo Living

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News