The challenge draws towards its end, and our columnists are seeing some positive results now
STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/85.9kgs
I don't buy magazines anymore but I do read them when I go to the hairdressers, and I'm fascinated by the weekly assessment in one of them on the food that celebs have in their fridge. Now we all know it's made up and it's not really their fridge, but the amount of green stuff in there is frightening.
And now my fridge is beginning to resemble that of a celeb. Green stuff. Lettuce, broccoli, cucumber, spinach. I'm stunned when I open it. And I'm even more stunned when I look into my shopping basket. It looks as if I picked up someone else's by mistake.
I don't know if this will continue, but if I could get another stone off I'd be thrilled. I opened one of my underwear drawers the other day and found myself looking wistfully at all the sexy sets that I bought half price in a Brown Thomas sale years ago. I'll get into them yet, I said to myself. I like talking to myself. If I said it to someone else, they'd probably fall around the place laughing . . . I may wear nothing over them.
I have a fear of photos. I always seem to be in the foreground and consequently huge, but when I saw photos of myself in France recently, I realised that I still have a long way to go. I was actually in the background in a few and still didn't exactly look like Kate Moss. I know I'll never be skinny again, but able to wear fitted clothes with aplomb would be good.
I'll definitely have to embrace the whole exercise thing a bit better than I am. I really only like walking to the pub. Walking for the sake of it does my head in. Luckily, the dog hates walking too, and when I take him for a short walk, he spends the entire time endeavouring to go back home.
But I'm going to have to get over myself and get out there. Nothing too strenuous. Just my weekly Pilates class and a few walks. The gym is over forever. Life is too short, and at my stage of life I could do myself a serious injury.
STARTING WEIGHT: 12st, 3lbs/77.7kgs
The dreaded plateau phase has well and truly arrived and made itself at home. And what a tedious place it is. No matter how far you run, how much you don't eat, the scales stays the same. It generally happens because having played nice for a few weeks, dutifully shedding fat in a calories-in, calories-out fair deal, the body panics and goes into safety mode. It clutches on to every familiar fold and lump, reluctant to shed the safety blanket of old fat.
The established wisdom is that it is best to wait out these becalmed waters, keep doing what you're doing and wait for the body to adapt and once again begin surrendering the flab. The plateau is a place which usually prompts me to say something defeatist, dig out an excuse and something laden with calories, and attempt to resign myself to being a fatbird. How bad can it be to be chunky? Who's looking? Who cares? And although I always know the answer is, "Me, I care", I still manage to undo all the good work and chunkify again.
But something has changed. Advised by Mary, my guide through this hypnotic weight-loss, to ignore the scales and concentrate on eating right and living well rather than on weight-loss per se, it is much easier to just see this as a way of living as opposed to a period of deprivation and much easier to keep going.
The twice-daily listening sessions also mean I have very little interest in eating fattening food. Every week there is a different CD and we're on the gentle downward slope now, more encouragement than aversion therapy, as much about self-esteem and confidence as dog vomit. I can eat chocolate if I want as long as my body rather than my self-saboteur dictates the amount. And it turns out my body is a much more moderate creature than I knew. Sweet things taste too sweet incredibly fast. I stop eating when I'm full, come back for more if I want it later.
And I trust that at some point the plateau will pass; it's only occasionally that I want to fling the scales out the window.
STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 2lbs/83.6kgs
Seven weeks in and I've lost, weight, weight, weight, for it . . . a stone! Not bad eh?
I'm around 12 stone now; down from a humongous 13 stone 2.
So many people were so surprised at how heavy I was and how I had no problem admitting it. I can't keep anything in, especially my belly!
I even heard back from a few friends who told me such and such was giving out about me saying 'isn't Triona McCarthy gas, thirteen stone, THIRTEEN STONE', only loving to give out about me.
But for goodness sake, I've had two babies in two years and now that I've stopped nursing Mini, all that fluid and the weight of my milk churns have made a huge difference!
I realise now as well that hunger is the greatest enemy to a diet; before I would mindlessly pick at food and had no structure, and with the crazy schedule of a freelancer, you never know what's going to happen on any given day.
Gourmetfuel.com delivering my delicious food fits into my often crrrrrrrrazy schedule.
In fact, I feel like at least one part of my life is a bit more under control as I know what I'm going to eat each day. The food is just so delicious and every day there's something different so I've never felt bored.
The mixed berry parfait and the salmon omelette are like something from a swanky restaurant, while the balsamic chicken salad with goat's cheese on a bed of rocket and pecan nuts, if that was available in a restaurant, I'd be ordering it everyday.
What's made a huge difference as well, is the fact that they send me litres of their own branded gourmet fuel water, which is naturally filtered through limestone filter beds, deep beneath the hills of south county Monaghan.
I hadn't realised before how little water I drink, but this has made my skin look so much better and my eyes look brighter.
Top tip: Drink more water. I know you've heard it a hundred times, but do you actually do it?
I've lost a few pounds every week without realising it and it's stopped my ridiculous craving for sweet things.
I've been travelling a lot lately and I find I now automatically go for the healthier option because I actually crave clean, healthy food.
However, while my diet is definitely under control, I've realised I need to up my exercise regime.
I finally made my way down to one of Steph's Babybody Fit classes in Old Belvedere Rugby Club on Friday morning.
They're also on on Wednesday.
It's in a room upstairs with loads of other mums and their babies, all trying to get fit, toned and lose baby weight.
It's great that babies come to the class too, because I don't need to find a babysitter for Mini, although Mum came along and had Maxi downstairs in a play cafe where there were a couple of other toddlers from Baby Body Fit hanging out.
The babies were all so good, some were lying on a blanket beside their mums, others sitting up looking around, some practising their tummy time, and others having a quick five-minute feed.
Steph taught the class I went to, and, let me tell you, it was not some easy-peasy mummy-and-baby breathing or yoga class.
This is a proper workout!
Luckily, my personal training with Steph had prepared me for this, but still, it was an hour of press-ups, ab curl, plank, squats, tricep dips and all that malarkey!
Then the cardio, thankfully each exercise is only for 20 seconds with breaks in between.
I thought I'd be the most unfit person there, but everyone is in the same boat - we've all just had babies and are not at our fittest.
Yes, it was tough, but I felt amazing afterwards, so glad that I had got through the class, thinking of those 300-odd calories Steph told me I'd torched!
Then the mums go for coffee afterwards, which was nice, although Steph warned us to stay away from the scones!
At the weekend, I was out at a friend's birthday party and lots of peeps that I hadn't seen for a while commented on how well I was looking.
So thank you, Steph and Emma, for my swelled head and slim bottom!
STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/ 85.9kgs
I'm slacking off and I don't care. With just one week left of my diet and fitness regime, the important thing now is that I look to the future. And I just can't see myself finding the time to keep up the five workouts a week over the long term.
I've been thinking a lot about time recently. (Maybe because I'm running out of it, says you, not helping one bit.) It's easy, when you have two small kids, to let them fill up every minute of your day. You actually have to be a bit selfish to keep your mental and physical health in good nick. That's why I plan to carve out two slices of 30-minute 'me time' every week - one strength workout and one run. That should be enough to keep me going.
I only managed one of my two scheduled runs last week. But I think this was the one where I crossed the Rubicon and became 'a runner'. For the first time since I started out, I arrived home stronger and without a s tabbing pain in my knee. I'm starting to think I'll do a 5k run sometime in the near future. If that's the only outcome of eight weeks with Pat Divilly fitness, it will be more than enough.
The course has given me body-confidence. I reckon I can do a bit more. We were in a restaurant on Saturday night when the maitre d' came over and said he remembered me from five-a-side soccer about six years ago. I told him I had to give up because the younger fellas were just running around me as if I wasn't there. He said something kind about my tackling. I believed him, possibly because I was after half a bottle of prosecco. (Like I say, I've been slacking off.)
Anyway, he said the guys in the restaurant have a five-a-side game every Sunday, if I am interested. Here's the thing. I am. Nothing rolls the years back faster than running around after a ball. I reckon my knees and ankles will be able to take the strain.
The only question really is if I can find the time. That would be a question for the wife. I must go off now and ask her.
STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 10lbs/87.3kgs
I've always thought that hermits have it easy. Of course they are all spiritual and calm. Who wouldn't be? If I was sitting on my batty half way up a mountain with no one annoying me, I'd be totally Zen. But try maintaining your Tao out here in the real world with kids and people and the rest of it. That is the true challenge.
Dieting is a bit like that. It's easy to maintain your principles when you are hermetically sealed off from the world, as I tend to be anyway up to this time of year. It's a form of work-related hibernation. And it is easy to be good. Life is simple.
But then, around this time of the year, I start waking up and smelling the coffee. I start to re-engage with the world. And it's tricky. Rules are easily kept when you are living a very simple, routine-driven, isolated existence. But I have been gradually coming down from the mountain. The past week I've been off the diet more than on it. There was the guts of three days visiting family which was challenging. On Saturday, for example, lunch was my fifth meal or collation of the day. There were lots of buns involved. There was drink involved too. Then on Tuesday night I had a meal out. There were a few drinks involved too.
Now I could look at that and think, "Oh my god, I totally fell off the wagon. It's all fallen apart. I have failed." But to think like that would just open the flood gates and you'd basically go bananas on the eating. But we all know that the rollercoaster of striving to be perfect and then letting all hell break loose when you fail in that perfection, is not helpful.
So what I learnt this past week was to be realistic, and to decide in advance when I am going to break the rules, thus avoiding feeling that the situation had spiralled out of control. I am just making choices. Deciding in advance to break the rules also means you don't get into a blame-and-shame spiral. It allows you to enjoy your breakouts.
So, instead of trying to stay perfect in impossible situations, I told myself that I would be breaking the rules, that I would enjoy it, but that I would keep some semblance of sense about it and apply what I have learnt over the past couple of months.
So, for example, I ate out a bit but generally avoided stuffing myself with carbs. I didn't generally bother with dessert, because dessert doesn't really do it for me anyway; I preferred to use my calories on nice savoury food. I drank sensibly enough and where possible I drank prosecco or white wine. I had one beer at one stage because I felt like it, but I didn't get into having a feed of pints. I didn't bother with bread generally either because I am gradually going off it. It was about picking my battles, and choosing how I wanted to focus my blowouts.
And crucially, I didn't get on a roll. When the cheat days were over I got back into my heathy routine the next day. Donal O Se says that people who stay slim for life tend to follow this strategy. If they have a "bad" day, they compensate for it straight away with a good day, rather than letting the eating snowball.
I think all of this is good practice for putting in place a sustainable 5:2 style situation after the diet is over. Basically, I reckon I will eat healthily during the week and then enjoy myself a bit more at the weekend. I will enjoy my blowouts and I won't feel guilty about them because I will plan them and therefore they will not feel like a loss of control. Whether this will help me when I head to Turkey tomorrow, who knows? I intend to enjoy myself on holidays but I will not be eating until I feel full and mildly sick, as I would normally do on holidays. My aim this past week was to maintain my weight, which I did. That is a great result considering I had four days of breakout. I now stand at 12s 7lb, which was roughly the target I had in mind. It represents a loss of 17 pounds over the past seven weeks without huge effort. The food has been generally lovely, I have not gone hungry and I have augmented the diet with snacks as I have gone along. So there has been no element of starvation. My plan now is to do my final week of the Taylor Made Diet when I come home from holidays and hopefully that will counteract any weight gained on holiday. If I can finish up on 12 and a half stone I will be more than happy. Famous last words!
STARTING WEIGHT: 16st, 5lbs/104.1kgs
It is very important that the reader now realises that despite all the spin to the contrary, I am starting to embrace the concept of the diet.
There have been some unfortunate moments of confusion along the way.
For some reason I believed the Paleo diet was actually a police diet. It's all in the pronunciation.
Sadly, given that my experience of policemen's diets consists of The Simpsons and D'Unbelievable's sketches, I was quite hopeful given that the eating habits on both shows appear to consist of breakfast rolls and doughnuts.
Anyway, I was wrong.
Of course it is still too easy to be diverted.
Last week, just as I was about to go up to the attic to retrieve the diet books, I came across a new internet animation series by a company called Sminky Shorts.
One of the short cartoon clips consisted of a meditation on the cruel fate of a fellow called Junkie Bear, who, having eaten too much honey, lies beneath a bee hive abusing the bees and demanding more honey, until they sting him to death.
Though the cartoon was amusing on a facile level, I found it contained deeper meanings too.
Junkie Bear in a real sense was a meditation upon the Celtic Tiger economy.
People partied too much, demanded more than was good for them, berated the government for not giving them more than was good for them, and the whole thing ended unhappily.
Such, of course, is also the pattern of our food consumption.
We eat too much, then, like Junkie Bear, demand more, get stung, and wonder why it has all gone wrong.
It is a valuable lesson indeed as we prepare to embrace our new regime.
John is reading 'The Fast Diet' by Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer, €11.90, Short Books; and Fast Cook, by Mimi Spencer, €10.99, Short Books
John Drennan is a former Sunday Independent columnist. He now works for Renua