Saturday 24 March 2018

Slimmer for summer: Tales from the scales update

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.
Eleanor Goggin
Triona McCarthy has rounded up the multi-use products. Photo: Tony Gavin
Sweet life: Brendan O'Connor says he was addicted to sugar, and he is now fundamentally rethinking that treadmill.
John Drennan

It’s the fifth week of the challenge, and a clear divide is opening up between our columnists

Eleanor Goggin

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/85.9kgs

When I think about my upbringing, I realise why I have such life-long issues with food and weight fluctuation. There were six of us. The parents, two boys and two girls. I was the youngest. My father was thin and ate slowly. My mother was larger and ate quickly. And I mean quickly. One of my brothers, myself and my mother used to have races to see who could eat their dinner the quickest. My father and the other two laboured and savoured. Get the picture. There really wasn't any rush. Nobody was going to steal it. To this day, I wolf my food down. I'm always finished first, and a meal is normally over in minutes if not seconds.

My neighbour in my previous house used to be horrified at the speed with which I could polish off biscuits and chocolates. A large biscuit fits into my mouth in one go. I have a big mouth. In every sense. She used to watch me with amazement. I became something of a circus performer. Totally uncouth. She, on the other hand, used to take about ten bites to a biscuit. She's thin.

But if there's one thing this diet is making me do, it is slow down. I'm supposed to take 20 minutes to consume my meal. My initial reaction was 'Jesus, it'll be freezing'. But it's not, really. I don't think I'm taking 20 minutes, but I'm definitely slowing down. And I'm actually sitting down at the kitchen table, which the Motivation clinic recommends. Gone are the steak and kidney pies in front of the telly. It's a performance now, this whole three meals thing.

I say this every week but I didn't have a great week, and so far I've done better than I expected. But not this week. I only lost a paltry pound. I know it's a full stone in four weeks, but to say I was violent would be an understatement. I have a few days in France which I know will be hedonistic so I had hoped for a buffer before I went. A little bit to play around with. I guess when I get back I'll have to go into complete hibernation.

A world where dark  chocolate is decadent

Aine O'Connor

STARTING WEIGHT: 12st, 3lbs/77.7kgs

A week of dog vomit and maggots is more than enough. Week four, half way. I have been good, really good, a bleeding saint. I plead Mercy, and Mary offers mercy. That was the worst week, she promises, unless I relapse, offering me a gentler weight loss CD and one that combats stress. You don't have to be winched out of your bedroom to be classed as a compulsive eater, you just have to be someone who is fat, hates being fat and does nothing about it. That's what Dr Google and I reckon anyway. While the stress CD urges me to love myself, forgive myself and become more confident, the weight one is to switch off triggers that make me use food to deal with unwanted emotions. To do something healthy instead of self-flagellating with giant Dairy Milks.

There were some unwanted emotions. Whether it was simply a question of recognising them better or of having them surge because I wasn't using food to block them, I don't know. But instead of eating, I ran. My brother, who took up running one recent January and completed the marathon the following October, so may know a thing or two, suggested I stop arsing around with the bits of running and stick 'em together to make a 5K. So I did, with just one pee break. He says pee breaks aren't allowed.

I pleaded fat ould one and post-childbirth traumatic stress of the pelvic floor. He looked disgusted and told me to shut it and run. So I did. I ran from the maggots and dog vomit. I felt liberated from a bad habit, 600 calories and that particular excuse for self-loathing.

My palate has changed too. Once I thought dark chocolate was a last, desperate nothing-else-chocolatey-for-miles-around resort. Now I think two squares of it are a decadent treat. I feel mildly repelled at shop displays of sweets. That would be the maggots. According to the scales, I lost seven pounds between Monday morning and Friday afternoon. Which is not really possible, so it suggests that the scales are bogey. But precise poundage aside, even I can see a bit less of me.

I fell off the diet - and into his arms

Triona McCarthy

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 2lbs/83.6kgs

Dear Diet,

I'm really sorry,

I, I, I cheated on you.

It's not you, it's me.

Two and a half little carats, that's all it took to derail my diet.

Now that's not a typo back there, I do mean carats, not carrots, because guess what, Will popped the question this week and I said YES!

If you close your eyes and listen very, very carefully, no matter where you are reading this - can you hear that high pitched noise? That's me shrieking like a hyena with the happiness!

I'd say with all the weight I've lost in the last three weeks - seven pounds to be precise - Will probably decided to ask me now before I become such a teeny, tiny lil ting, I'll slip down the back of the sofa and he won't be able to find me ever again!

My brother Justin pointed out that we are getting married before the Marriage Referendum decides whether Will can marry a man if he prefers!

So yeah, there was lots of Champagne and shenanigans in Patrick Guilbaud's as we celebrated with our closest friends before we headed off to Ballyfin for a lil mini moon.

Calories don't count when something like this happens, right?

Although I'm sure I burnt loads anyway with all the excitement. And shrieking.

If only weight was like virginity, once you lose it, you never get it back!

So, yeah, I went on the Booze Diet and all I lost was two days! As for the hangover, I took two aspirin and kept out of the reach of children, just like it says on the bottle!

Ballyfin is just beautiful. In case you're not familiar with it, it's where Kim Kardashian and Kayne West went for their honeymoon. Well, if it's good enough for Kimye, then it's good enough for Trilliam!

I swear I didn't make it into an eat-all-you-can food festival.

For one!

I tried to watch what I ate, but it all went in so fast! Anyhow, you can't go to a place like that and not enjoy yourself, even though I now have a wedding dress to fit into, that Will's bestie, the very talented couturier designer Dawn Fitzgerald, has delightfully decided to make.

Dawn made Rosanna Davison's dress and I plan to look very similar on my wedding day.

I just need to eat Rosie first! You are what you eat, so I need to eat a skinny person like her!

So I lost absolutely no weight this week. I was in Paris as well for a few days during the week for a Lancome event. So it was bonjour macaroons and pain au chocolat and vino. Beaucoup de vino!

But I didn't lose the total run of myself.

I'm so used to eating well with's delicious delivered meals, that I craved the healthier options after an initial blowout.

There was a lot of walking as well - Steph from BabyBodyFit, if you're reading this!

So I've started back again and I'll probably lose mostly water again this week.From crying.

If Steph my trainer gives out to me, I'm going to totally give her my 'I'm deaf in one ear' excuse, and say I thought she said I needed more extra fries not more exercise!

Actually, I must ask Steph if hauling around this big rock on my finger is like continuous weight-training as well!

Like I said before, I'm all about finding the easiest options for losing weight and keeping fit, although I really wish I could just pop myself into the tumble dyer and come out a few sizes smaller and wrinkle free!

But right now I'm so happy with my new rock from Rocks jewellers, and I have that wedding dress to fit into . . .

So if you'll have me back, Diet,

I'm all yours.

Call me!



Off the wagon, and I toasted myself with beer and white rice

Pat Fitzpatrick

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/ 85.9kgs

That loud thump was me falling off the wagon last week. I've put back on the three pounds I lost since starting the new regime. The little bit of toning I'd worked up around my belly has gone back to jiggly. The positive vibes I'd picked up via Facebook from the other guys doing the eight-week course are history. To be honest, I'm a bit sheepish about myself this morning. All the other guys were out doing their 5k runs and strength work over the past week. A few even went up Croagh Patrick. In the meantime, I ate a loaf of white bread.

It started with a sleepless night when our little boy got sick with a stomach bug. The doctor said we should ditch the healthy food for a few days, to give his digestive system a break. There's no way you want the little guy going through that on his own, so we got into these mad rounds of white toast last weekend. It reminded me of when I used to have a life and we'd stay out until ten past crazy. Things got so frenzied that I'd say you could nearly see our toaster from space.

White bread was just the gateway to a weekend of white rice and beer. There's only one word for that. Bloated. The lethargy that comes with it means that I missed a couple of my strength and cardio workouts.

It's time to clear out the junk and return to the good life. Pat Divilly has just released our Week Four strength workout schedule. The good news is that the dreaded Plank is out. The bad news is that it has been replaced by something called The Mountain Climber. It looks like a form of madness. I'm going to try a few tonight. The important thing here isn't really that I do The Mountain Climber. The key is that I don't decide to reward myself afterwards with a few pints and a slice of toast.

I have never been a healthy weight; deep down I don't believe I can be

Brendan O'Connor

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 10lbs/87.3kgs

It seems the timing of this whole malarkey couldn't be better. The panic over obesity hit a new high last week when new figures appeared to show that pretty much everybody in the country will be overweight or obese by 2030. It is already freakish to be a healthy weight in Ireland, with most people being overweight or obese. I have never been a healthy weight in my adult life. Indeed, I rarely was as a child either. In fact, I don't think that deep down I actually believe that I am capable of being a healthy weight.

Of course, some people will say that I am a healthy weight, and if you take some kind of crude measure like BMI, I possibly am. But BMI, let's face it, is bullshit. If you take my height and weight right now, my BMI is 22.2 which means I am in the healthy range. But that takes no account of whether that body mass is made up of a skinny frame and excess deposits of fat or a lean muscular frame. Two guys could have the exact same BMI and one guy could have no fat on him at all and the other plenty.

I have a skinny frame. I do not have a lot of muscle, something I intend to do something about once I have full mobility and strength back in my left arm again. What I do have is deposits of fat. They have been with me as long as I can remember and I can't imagine being without them. But I guess the basic laws of physics and biology dictate that I could get rid of them. I lost another two pounds last week. This means I have lost 13lb in all. I am four weeks in now. The likelihood is that I will do this diet but for three more weeks, finishing it at the end of May when I go on holidays. If I do that I will hopefully lose another half a stone. I am unsure whether this will be pure fat I will lose. If it is, I do not know how much fat this represents visually. As in I don't know how much I need to lose to have no desposits of blubber. I could go along with the general feeling on this, which is "You've lost enough weight now. Well done, and now try and keep it off. Shure you're fading away to nothing." But I wonder if this isn't my big chance to actually become that thing I never thought I could be: a lean, healthy person without tits and a belly. Maybe I should keep up this momentum and maybe I can really change who I am. Maybe I can finally not be a fat person.

When I spoke to Donal O'Shea recently, he questioned this diet. And I don't blame him. I have huge admiration for O'Shea. I think he is one of the most important and compelling people in the country right now. I think he is a man of huge courage and integrity too, and I think he is taking on incredibly powerful vested interests. He questioned this diet on a few levels. Firstly, he did not think it was sustainable. He also thought it was not affordable or realistic for ordinary people. And he also thought that I didn't really have a weight problem and that my main task now is to keep off the weight I have lost over the past three years.

I take his points in general, but from my personal perspective I disagree. On the sustainability front, of course I won't be keeping this up. But I think it is sustainable in the sense that this diet is changing my habits. I don't believe in willpower, which is weak and limited and wears down the more temptation you face. What I do believe in is harnessing the incredible power of the subconscious through habit. And I believe this diet is changing my habits fundamentally, especially with regards to sugar.

I was addicted to sugar and I am now fundamentally rethinking that treadmill. Sugar addiction involves constant eating and see-sawing. I have broken that vicious circle and I hope that in three weeks time I will not lapse back into it. As regards realistic and affordable? If I was paying, my seven weeks on this diet would have cost me about €800. But bear in mind that that means that for seven weeks I will have spent nothing on food. Also bear in mind that €800 will have lost me probably 18 to 20 pounds in weight and hopefully we have reset my notions about portion size and how I eat. And then think how much that will save in the long term in health costs if I keep the weight off, which I intend to. Potentially, that's €800 to change my life.

It's happened. Even the man in the street knows my game now

John Drennan

It winked at me seductively. Go on, it said. You know you want to. Still I shrank back like a nervous fawn. It was, after all, my first for a very long time.

I eyed it up from every angle. It seemed to be toying with me, daring me, almost laughing at me. An Eve to my Adam. In the end, though, I took my courage in my hands and went for it.

It must be said that I have had an apple for breakfast before.

I have even had a banana.

But, as Robinson Crusoe said to the first blonde that he met in a bar after escaping from the island, "It's been a while, and I'm nervous'.

The apple wasn't bad, though I fear it was one of the unhealthy ones, for even when my intentions are good (and that's rare), I am drawn to sugar in the manner of a colony of ants.

Of course, the public do not see all of the fine work I am now engaging in.

Two days later, as I walk home (well, it's healthy), carrying two pizzas for my family, a man eyes me quizzically.

This is followed by a wide grin and a chortle of "Ah, bejaysus, how's the diet going?'

Answer, dear reader, I had none.

I also, for the record, had just one slice of pizza.

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

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