Friday 24 November 2017

Tales from the weighing scales

In need of a body reboot

Weighting game: Pat Fitzpatrick, John Drennan, Triona McCarthy, Eleanor Goggin, Brendan O'Connor and Aine O'Connor before their weight-loss programme.
Weighting game: Pat Fitzpatrick, John Drennan, Triona McCarthy, Eleanor Goggin, Brendan O'Connor and Aine O'Connor before their weight-loss programme.
The Incredible Shrinking Man
Aine O'Connor
Eleanor Goggin
John Drennan
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

The promise of summer has been in the air and with it a young man's, and a young woman's, fancy turns to thoughts of feeling healthy, looking good, and weight loss. Over the next few weeks, our team of writers will be following various weight-loss plans and telling us how they get on. They begin here with why they feel the need to lose weight and what they intend to do about it

In the last few years I managed to change my body quite a bit. By taking a bit of exercise and being reasonably sensible about eating, but without denying myself too much, I have managed to lose some weight and to stay at what is, for me, a relatively good weight. Some people even describe me as skinny now. "Don't lose any more weight", they say. "You're gone too thin." But the truth is I am not. I'm not skinny. Never have been. Even when I became a complete beanpole for a while in my late teens, I never had a flat stomach or a flat chest. I sometimes daydream about how nice it would be to actually be skinny, and not to have a belly or love handles or - it hurts me to write this - boobs. But I've never been motivated enough to do anything about it.

At this stage, I have almost resigned myself to always carrying excess flab, to being a person in a skinny frame, with fatty deposits. But my vanity has been appeased by the fact that I can buy normal clothes now and I'm only a large in most things. And you can generally disguise the flabby bits around the middle.

But sometimes you need to reset and reboot. And I am at that point. For the last three or four months things have been slightly out of control. Due to a broken arm I've found myself sitting around a lot. I also started eating a bit more, and a bit more comfortingly. But I forgave myself because steaks and root vegetables felt like what I needed to feed my ailing, healing body. And with everything I was going through, I always deserved a treat.

As my upper torso and arms withered away, the middle expanded and my spare tyre is now making it difficult for me to fit into my clothes. On the scales, I am up over a half a stone but I suspect when you offset muscle loss, the gain of flab is more than this. Strangely, just as I returned to some exercise in the last few weeks, the weight started increasing more. Right now, I feel pretty disgusted with myself and self-conscious about my spare tyre, which I hadn't done in a while.

I've never been on a diet. I have changed my eating habits, trying to be sensible. I have started doing a bit of exercise. I have limited certain food stuffs. But I have never been on a diet as such. As far as I can see, a diet is pretty much guaranteed to have you obsessing about food all day, which pretty much guarantees that you will feel hungry all the time and actually eat more.

The solution

But it is time for a diet. Over the next eight weeks I want to lose a stone or so and reset myself back to a good weight, and hopefully then good-ish living will help to keep me at that weight. The Taylor Made Diet is a diet for people who don't want the hassle of dieting.

According to the website,, every Monday Wednesday and Saturday, between 6pm and 8pm a temperature-controlled bag is delivered to my front door containing two days' quota of healthy food. So there's no need to plan meals, go food-shopping, weigh ingredients or count calories.

And because Ken Taylor is a chef, he promises the food is tasty. He tells me I'll feel great straightaway, even though I'll be on only 1100 calories a day, and he says I'll easily lose at least two pounds a week, especially if I'm exercising.

I get one day off a week and we have agreed I can have one coffee in the morning, even though caffeine is discouraged because it gives you sugar cravings. This diet is all about balancing blood sugar throughout the day, so apparently no energy slumps and no sugar cravings. Sugary junk is one of my major problems. I absent-mindedly graze on it all day and especially in the evening.

I'm not sure if I'll manage to keep this up but I'll give it my best shot. I'd love to tackle my flab and my spare tyre for once and for all, and I imagine if I got it under control, I could maintain it then with a reasonably ordinary lifestyle. I'll keep you updated. (086) 816 7534

Triona McCarthy

Mother of two under-twos

'Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." It's the perfect mantra for me now that I've decided I'm going to lose weight and get fit.

I'm sick of feeling fat. And unhealthy.

After two babies in two years, I want to get back into my itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny Balenciaga bikini.

I don't have an upcoming Victoria's Secret show, but I do want to be as fit and healthy as I can, as I want to live a long, happy life with my lovely family.

I actually have the opposite to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, you know, where sufferers think they are really fat when they're not at all!

I actually think I look grand most of the time, and if I see a photo of myself or catch myself on TV, I just think "Oh that's the camera adding 10lbs" and lately I just think those new high-definition cameras must be adding 20lbs, the meanies!

I also use this app on my phone for photoshopping my own photos.

It's bloody brilliant as it slims and trims, and I'm so used to seeing these edited versions of myself that when I see an untouched photo, I'm shocked.

I've got these three chinny, chin, chins that I HATE as my face looks all distorted like it's attached directly to my neck like a, a, a feck!

New word alert -a feck is when your face runs into your neck!

I just made that up. Fer feck's sake, what am I like?

I'm now the fat, funny girl dressed all in black in the corner, relying on my fabulous wits, not my tits!

Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to lose a few pounds. OK so, maybe a stone. And a half.

And feck it, another half while I'm at it.

But life is so busy, I just can't seem to get around to it.

I've never been a skinny milinny but I can't ignore the 'spare tyre' round my middle which is becoming harder and harder to hide, even though I'm 'good' with clothes.

I hate that I can't get into any of my 'swanky' clothes, hanging in my wardrobe, never mind that I can't imagine getting dressed without first of all holding it all in with my Spanx all- the-way-up tights.

So I'm a fat, fortysomething, 5ft6", 12st, breastfeeding mum of two under twos, freelance writer/broadcaster/whateveryouwantmetobe.

I work mainly from home, in my office, which is only a short distance from the kitchen.

My average day goes a li'l something like this.

I'm up at 7 to breastfeed Seren, then I give Maxim his breakfast and then I have tea and toast with a boiled egg and a glass of water and a Pregnacare supplement.

Once both babies are fed, changed and dressed I answer emails and do some housework, taking a break at 11.30 for coffee and some chocolate - I know, I know; I have a very sweet tooth.

Then I feed Seren again and give Maxim his lunch and put him down for a nap and then I have a pitta bread with tuna and sweetcorn and mayo and another coffee and hopefully a glass of water.

Afternoons are spent in town at meetings or filming for Xpose and I usually have cappuccinos and more chocolate, then it's home to nurse Seren again.

My partner Will is the feeder in our family.

He always does everything fresh from scratch, we could have anything from coq au vin to curries to fresh soups and salads.

We eat together at 7 then put Maxim to bed.

I feed Seren again and we have tea and something sweet like homemade lemon meringue pie.

Then I feed Seren one more time before bed at midnight and then I read till 1am.

I get very broken sleep because Seren is in the room with us.

The solution

I decided I'd rope in nutritionist Emma Buckley - Emma and I often work together on Midday on TV3, and recently Emma was on promoting her new business, a health and nutrition company delivering nutritious and calorie-controlled meals to your door and I thought, 'this could definitely work for me as I can't cook and I can bring the food with me as well when I'm out and about.

The firm has a range of clients - from new mums like me to the elderly who just want a nice healthy dinner, to firemen, office workers, and professional athletes for whom nutrition is key to their performance.

Basically, anyone who wants to improve their health.

The firm provides the whole solution; a nutrition and physical consultation, so that what the client needs to meet their goals is fully understood, then a bespoke calorie- and macronutrient-controlled plan is created, along with a training regime, which they can perform at their fitness centre in Stillorgan.

However, I thought the only way I'll actually work out is if someone comes directly to me, so I also went in search of sleek fellow mum and fitness instructor, Stephanie Sinnott.

Having given birth in 2008, Stephanie also struggled with her health and fitness, and so researched and developed Baby Body Fit to help pregnant women and new mums to get in shape, and stay in shape, both during and after pregnancy.

So that's my plan, food and exercise delivered to the door for the next eight weeks.

So, remember my new mantra?

Well, here's to a happy ending!

Pat Fitzpatrick

Father of two under-threes

We have our little boy in a cot next to the bed. It's a tight fit, trying to squeeze between the wardrobe and cot and around to my side of the bed every night. I've recently started to rattle the wardrobe door on the way past. There is no getting away from it - I am after getting a fat ass. I don't like this new arrival. It's like a distant cousin you never met before turning up at your stag party and making a right disgrace out of you.

I've never had an ass of any sort, let alone a fat one. If I had a look in the first 40 years of my life, you could say it was String of Misery chic. My wife maintains that she prefers me with a bit of meat on my bones. She's always good that way for a bit of encouragement. But let's face it, these aren't proper sexy buns we're talking about here. They are not the result of Pilates or sit-ups or whatever they make people do on Operation Transformation. That extra bit of real estate on my rear end is just fat. It's only a matter of time before it goes jiggly. And nothing says "I have completely given up" more than a big heap of jiggly on your backside.

Actually I reckon this big ass is just the beginning. Here's a thing middle-aged men tend not to admit. We keep a close eye on our friends. I know from watching a few guys go to seed that it starts on the backside. One month, you're looking a bit snug in your jeans. The next, you start wondering if you might need to buy a training bra.

Now is the time to act. The problem is that my new ass gets a lot of use. I spent way too much of the winter sitting on it, munching chocolate in front of European noir crime shows on the TV. It wasn't supposed to be this way. I made a bunch of lifestyle resolutions around New Year, but they were no match for Spiral and a Crunchie.

The solution

I need to work on a couple of things. The first is diet. In fairness, I'm pretty disciplined when it comes to main meals. I'm like some kind of Gwyneth Paltrow up to about seven every evening. We start the day with porridge and coffee in our house. It's often chicken, fish, brown rice and vegetables for dinner and lunch. White bread is considered a treat. OK, some days we'll crack out the sausages, beans and eggs because none of us signed up to be a monk.

The problems start after seven, once the kids are in bed. I start with one of those luxurious Belgian chocolate bars from Aldi. I follow that up with another one. If there are crisps around, they won't be around for long. After that, we could be looking at another bar of Belgian. If you are wondering how I sleep after that, the answer is eventually, after a lot of staring at the ceiling. I justify the chocolate binge as a reward for helping rear two kids under three. The reward is starting to show on my rear end.

The second thing I need is a fitness programme that doesn't require much travelling to a gym. (I don't have time, what with the kids.) Enter Pat Divilly Fitness. Pat is devising me an eight-week diet and fitness plan. It is built around five weekly workouts and daily exercises that can be done from home. It also includes daily mind-set and motivation videos, to keep me up for the fight. Judging by what I have seen so far, Pat is a very nice guy who can stop being very nice if he catches you watching The Killing with a left-over Easter Egg. I need a bit of that in my life right now.

I have a few goals for the next eight weeks. I want to get off the couch and stop eating Belgian chocolate every night. But more than anything else, I want to wave goodbye to my ass.

Eleanor Goggin

For whom size 10 is a memory

I love food. And that's basically where the problem arises. Simple as that. I salivate at the thought of steak and kidney pie. Not the steak or the kidney, the puff pastry. I visibly shake with anticipation at the thought of bread and butter pudding. The sight of lettuce wants to make me puke. Vegetables and fruit don't do it for me either.

My mother grew up in the days of post-war rationing and abhorred any sort of waste, so we had to finish everything on our plates. And we were a sturdy lot. Definitely not the greyhound breed. More the St Bernard. My father's family may have had a touch of the greyhound, but my mother's lot were far more corpulent. I unfortunately inherited those genes. Down to the Fitzgerald legs. My mother regularly reminded me with regard to these appendages. I would try on a dress and she would look at me pityingly and sigh "Ah sure, you have the Fitzgerald legs". In other words take the dress off.

I have dieted all my life. On and off. If the truth be told more off than on. At one stage when I was in my early twenties I was under eight stone and, if I say so myself, had a very good figure. I spent my Saturdays in Dublin trying on clothes that I could never have afforded. Just for the hell of it. Size 10 would often be too big and I would take great pleasure in calling out of the changing room to the assistant, "the 10 is a bit big, do you have smaller?" Smug is a word that comes to mind.

Sadly, those days are well over. After three children, who are now adults, and numerous forays to weight-loss clubs, I would now be very grateful if I could get down to a size 14. Forget the tens and eights. They will forever more be numbers on doors.

Bikinis are a thing of the past. Sturdy togs with a panel that's meant to pull you in have been the order of the day for some time now. I'm actually very close to investing in a toga or sheet for the beach. I've tried to learn the art of standing sideways in photographs and endeavouring to hold my stomach in. It doesn't work. Some recent photos have proved that.

I had started going to the gym last year and was persevering, even though I hated every minute of it. And I mean hated. I cursed under my breath and counted down every second I was in there. "You'll get to like it" the instructor assured me. I didn't, and never will. I had lost a little weight and toned up a bit but then my friend died and I literally started shovelling food in to my mouth.

I've always been a comfort eater. I envy those people who find it hard to eat when they are upset. I gave up the gym and wallowed in my own sadness. And shovelled. And shovelled. I'm so bad now that after a long day of eating, I take my iPad to bed, rest it on my stomach and line up the chocolates on the very convenient little stand I have for it.

So I need to do something about this out-of-control behaviour before summer. I have no plans to go abroad but I would actually be nervous of lying out in the garden in togs. My back garden is overlooked and I'm afraid the neighbours would complain.

It's time for a drastic change. In the form of Motivation Weight Management. There are 31 centres in the country but I took myself into Susan in Grand Parade in Cork for a consultation. A slip of a girl. She assured me that she had lost three stone with Motivation and maintained it. That was eight years ago. It's based on balanced nutrition and positive thinking. And most especially, not going too long without eating. My three rules are to eat every two to three hours, eat all the prescribed food and eat protein each time I eat. I'm the heaviest I've ever been and have to lose three stone. No problem, I say. My ambition is to do a negligee photo shoot for Life magazine.

McHugh House, Grand Parade. Cork

Aine O'Connor

Veteran of weight-loss plans

At a conservative estimate I have lost at least 25 stone over the course of my adult life. Sadly, I've also gained about 28 stone. The end result is an endless push against those 42 errant pounds and a remarkably detailed knowledge of every weight-loss theory going. From Atkins to the Lemon Detox to slimming clubs, I have done all of them at some stage. And they all work.

The truth is that simple, if you eat less and move more, you lose weight. For some people it is slower than for others, years of yo-yo dieting mess with your metabolism and can change your set weight point, the point at which your body thinks it is healthy and below which it can be difficult to drop. Age is a factor, lifestyle, underlying health, the age of your children, the hours you work, having or not having a partner, all that stuff makes a difference but still weight loss is just maths: reduce calorie intake, increase calorie burn, and Bob's your thinner uncle.

However for lots of us, it just isn't that simple. It's not lack of education, we know that a deep-fried Mars bar is not a low-calorie treat. In fact, we'll most likely have read more weight-loss articles than the average nutritionist. It's not apathy or a lack of motivation, we often obsess over the pounds that we wish we could lose, on some level we even reckon losing them could change our lives, but we don't do it. It's not laziness. Studies have found that the pudgy are often fitter than the naturally thin precisely because they are in a perpetual battle to lose weight. I fall into that category. I won't run a marathon, now or ever, but I run a (slow) 5K most days and can sweat and grunt my way through most exercises classes.

The accepted wisdom, however, is that weight loss is achieved by calorie-cutting and maintained by exercise. Essentially, that exercise alone will not lose weight, you will be fitter, more toned but to seriously lose weight you have to cut calories. But there are two kinds of overweight people. Some get fat because they develop bad habits. They get educated about those habits, fix them, lose weight and stay thin. Other people get fat, know exactly why they're fat and how to fix it, but don't do it. Sometimes it feels like you have so much to lose that the recommended two pounds a week won't cut it, so it is better to just have a nice big extra fatty meal today because you'll do some extreme three- week juice diet tomorrow, or on Monday. For many of us there is always an extreme juice diet and ideal slimness in our near futures.

Or else we lose the weight, love it, then get fat again because what we eat is much less of an issue than why we eat. That's me. I could give you 20 reasons why that's me, some of them are even bordering on the not-that-far-fetched, but essentially I need to work on why I use weight as a type of self-flagellation. What is my relationship with food, and fat?

It's emotional stuff for some of us, something about having to restrict food intake that taps into something much deeper than hunger. The sense of deprivation can wake all kinds of demons, the notion of being controlled can wake a few more, and then there is plain old self-sabotage, so many of us are more attached to that fecker than we like to admit.

So at this stage in the fat- busting game I don't need any tips on diet or exercise. I need something to tap into and stop whatever bad processes I have in my head. So I will be falling asleep to the dulcet tones of Paul Goldin every night, telling me to relax, be happy and that my body wants to heal. Once a week, for eight weeks, I will see a hypnotherapist, Mary, who establishes where I am and what I want, and then twice a day I listen to different recordings of Paul. I can deal with my conscious, this aims to deal with my sub-conscious and my inner critic and silence the voice that tells me I am bound to fail.

The Paul Goldin Clinic

(01) 2802797

John Drennan

The reluctant conscript

Contrary to popular belief, it isn't easy being fat. Nothing epitomises the difficulties in that regard more than the sad fate of a corpulent hack sent to Bernard Manning's working-men's club to report on whether he was telling racist jokes.

Being an innocent sort, our man sat in the front seat, put his notebook on the table and prepared to pen his exclusive.

Bernard though was no fool and on entering the hall saw the hack who was admittedly hard to miss and realised immediately what he was up to. The comedian, no lightweight himself, strode over to the table, looked at our man with an evil grin and roared, 'You fat b*****d'.

The crowd howled with delight. Indeed they did so for the rest of the hour that Manning tore into the blushing 'fat b*****d' who obviously, seeing as he was the centre of attention left without a single racist joke to bolster his resume. Apparently when he returned to the office he was called a 'fat useless b*****d' too.

I am fat.

Oddly enough, I am happy enough being fat. Part of this is informed by my contrarian spirit. The world now is full of little Hitlers  -be they water bailiffs, Tidy Towns merchants, health advocates, and moral censors - who can be truly happy only if they are telling you to not do something.

I know it is unwise to be fat. In the work-place, for example. the new moral Puritanism means if you are fat you are lazy and not a team-player.

I suppose I am fat because I am not good at saying no. I am also fat because I am Paddy.

I eat in the same way that I would have eaten 20 years ago when I might walk 20-40 miles across the countryside shooting and fishing over the weekend.

But I don't do that any-more (thanks for the new culture of more for less, Enda) and I still eat the same way I did then. That isn't clever.

Ironically enough I am doing this diet, whatever it is because I can't say no.

Paddy you see never does anything without being grabbed by the ear and forced to do it.

Anyway poor Paddy has been grabbed by the ear by the Features Editor and told he has to lose a stone with five other people.

Thankfully there will be no group therapy sessions, or Paddy would have hit the road fairly sharply.

Nothing personal like but I don't want to be in a room with a group of fatties.

I have already been given a couple of books with recipes.

Unfortunately I haven't got to read them yet, owing to the fact that I have been finishing a book of my own.

A book, in passing, generally adds half a stone owing to late night working and the little treats you give yourself as a reward.

Apparently though, I can eat what I want then consult the good book for recipes on the weekend.

If you are thinking I am more of a conscript than a volunteer you are right. But sometimes conscripts make for far better soldiers.

John Drennan will be following the 5:2 diet and reading the following books:

The Fast Diet by Dr Micheal Mosley & Mimi Spencer, €11.90, Short Books

Fast Cook, by Mimi Spencer, €10.99, Short Books

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