Monday 19 March 2018

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.

It's the sixth week of the challenge, and our columnists fight hard to resist temptation.

I went to France, and avoided the sauce

Eleanor Goggin

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/85.9kgs

I've had my fair share of weight-related insults over the years. Like the time a large lady gave me a dig and said 'sur we're fat and happy aren't we'. She might have been happy but I certainly wasn't at that moment. She's lucky she didn't get a dig back that brought her bulky frame to the ground. Or the time when, twice in fairly quick succession, I was compared to a very large well known person by two completely different people. It's more your sense of humour they assured me. I was not convinced.

And then there was the time in a small boutique in a county Cork town I was directed to the larger sizes. 'Bigger sizes down the back' she said. She was a corpulent lump herself. I refrained from telling her and walked out. And then when a friend and myself were at a Munster rugby match and wandered in to a lingerie shop in Bilbao, the shop assistant called my friend, who is skinny, and said in a very loud voice 'tell your friend ve have nuting to fit heer'.

Now I'm not that enormous, but when gormless gobshites pass remarks like that, it's bound to take its toll. The fact that I've remembered them says it all. I'm sure there were many more over the years that I was probably too drunk to remember.

So I'm looking forward with anticipation to the day they will be saying 'Jesus, did you see Eleanor Goggin lately? Skin and bone, skin and bone, I say '. And if any one says I'm too thin and it's very ageing, I'll be dug out of them, as we say in Cork. I'm not saying this is likely to happen but I can dream.

I've just come back from a few days in Brittany, so the diet was on a small bit of a back burner, but I did try to opt for the healthier options and shove the sauce to one side. I managed to avoid all the bread and nearly all the desserts. Just a few tastes to whet my desires. The alcohol was a different story. But I managed to lose two pounds while I was away! That's 16 pounds in total. Yippee!!!

A good week, in which I resist a Battenberg 

Aine O'Connor

STARTING WEIGHT: 12st, 3lbs/77.7kgs

In the eighty million weight loss attempts I have undertaken, I have never struggled too much in the beginning. I start out all gung-ho, full of conviction and determination that This Is It. Then I starve too much, overdo the exercise, get some class of a sprain, feel light-headed or just feel overwhelmed by the feelings of deprivation, and give up. This usually happens somewhere around the point where I start to notice that I've lost a bit of weight. Which is where I am now. I braved the scales and was amazed, like seriously, properly shocked, to discover I had lost 13 pounds in under four weeks. How much shit was I eating?

I am also at the weight at which I tend to plateau, self-sabotage notwithstanding. It seems to be the set point at which my body (very erroneously) thinks below which I am starving, so it clings fervently to every ounce, no matter how much bad stuff I don't eat or how many miles I trot.

These treacherous points also happened to coincide with a bereavement that called for a weekend trip and an inevitable derailment of my healthy living regime. It's also a bit hard to listen to half an hour's hypnosis twice a day when you are driving and in company. I feel that thus far the hypnosis has been really helpful in changing how I feel about weight loss and how I feel about triggers, hunger and about certain food. But I also feel that this week will be a true test of its power. Because this is where I always fall off the wagon for about 40 different reasons.

It will also be a test of its power because I got back to a house full of sweets and biscuits and cakes. I've been managing the grocery shopping with an iron claw, refusing to let anyone else do it and cutting the confectionery aisle out of our lives. In my absence, that self-same confectionery aisle, in its entirety, seems to have been transplanted into the kitchen. It was with some relief that I felt a wave of mild nausea at the sight of a Battenberg. But I am under no illusion, this will be a testing week.

I try, but my sins of the flesh continue

Triona McCarthy

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 2lbs/83.6kgs

Hey Brendan, Eleanor, Pat, Aine and John, may I have your attention for a moment please? I have a top diet tip you need to take note of - I always have good tips remember.

That's TIPS, I said!

Anyhow, if you're thinking of getting engaged during this diet - DON'T.

Trust me, champagne and dieting don't mix. Champagne may be gluten free, dairy free, and fat free but calorie free it ain't.

Although I would much rather have champagne than real pain, hee hee, as I texted Steph my trainer last week to tell her I was away in Istanbul filming for most of the week, so, sadly, wouldn't be available for torture, I mean training.

Now, in fairness, the week started well enough, after the big blow-out at the weekend, and I was full of great intentions on Monday morning.

I was actually looking forward to my healthy breakfast and lunch from

Then it was off up to the TV3 studios where the team very kindly presented me with cards, flowers and more champers for my engagement.

It would have been rude not to drink the champagne. Straight away!

So breakfast was about 250 calories, lunch 350 calories and dinner was 7,969 calories as champagne, actually, any alcohol, just makes me want to eat rings around myself.

But because I knew I was away filming for the rest of the week, and the camera adds ten pounds remember, on Monday I decided I'd try out this new weight-loss tea I had bought from another company as a supplement to my gourmetfuel diet.

Big mistake.



As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, this tea is basically a laxative.

And it works really well.

Just don't have it before going on TV, like I did before appearing on Midday!

Stay at home the morning after drinking it. Near the loo.

Actually, just move into the bathroom for the morning.

That's all I'm saying

So, yeah, it was off to Istanbul on Wednesday, business class if you don't mind, and of course there was, you guessed it, more champagne. And chocolate.

And lots of lovely food and that was before I had even set foot in Turkey!

In fact, I felt like a right stuffed turkey altogether getting off the flight.

I was staying in a very swanky hotel that's just opened with a rooftop bar and rooftop pool. It was full of model-ly types.

I ventured up to the rooftop pool looking like I was about to do a belly dance in my bikini.

I'm still wishing the fashion Gods would invent a floor length swimsuit.

With sleeves.

To cover my sins of the flesh.

So yeah, I didn't fall off the wagon, I jumped!

Right now, off, is the general direction in which I would like this diet to f*ck!

But I'd better get back on that damn wagon, or I'll have Doctor Ciara and my editor and Steph the trainer from and Emma from all at me.

And I have a wedding coming up - my own.

So guys, like I said, don't get engaged and try to diet, because it just doesn't work.

Now, where did I park that wagon….

Dear body,

I'm sorry I treated you this way, feeding you lots of lovely champagne and delicious kebabs and other Turkish delights and not taking care of you,

I promise to do better and get you back into the best shape and fitness level for this Slimmer for Summer challenge.

We can do it!



I'm really sorry.


I'm back on track, but not ready yet to be a Tough Mudder

Pat Fitzpatrick

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 7lbs/ 85.9kgs

I'm in week five of the eight-week diet and fitness regime at Pat Divilly Fitness. Pat asked via Facebook last week if I want to be a Tough Mudder. I doubt it. Judging by the YouTube video, Tough Mudder is an obstacle course that involves mud, ice, barbed wire and lots of climbing up stuff. Participants in Pat's team at last year's event in Dublin, all wore T-shirts with the logo 'No Excuses.' That's the problem. I'm full of excuses this week. Good ones, too.

I have a horrible vision of how this might pan out. I'm sitting in a pool of mud somewhere outside Dublin, with 500 Tough Mudders urging me to get up and complete the course. "I can't" says I, close enough to tears. "Why not?" says they, with No Excuses on their T-shirts. "Because my two small kids got sick, one after the other, and I missed over a week of the cardio and strength workouts." They walk away, disgusted, shaking their muddy heads.

The problem is, it's true. One week after our little boy caught a stomach bug, our little girl decided it was her turn for hospital. My spare time evaporated. The only way to find time for a workout would be to get up in the middle of the night. I'm just not that desperate to get in shape.

That said, I found myself pushing the small boy around the Lough in Cork a few days ago, wishing I was one of the runners bobbing by. I missed the mental stability that comes with running around, aching in all the right places. More than anything, I missed getting stronger, week after week.

Our kids are back in rude health. I got back on track last night, squeezing in 30 minutes of strength work before crawling into bed. I'm buzzing today, with a sense that anything is possible. Well, almost anything. I won't be taking Pat up on his invite this year, even though it's for a fantastic cause (Console.) I'm just not one Tough Mudder. Not yet.

Being in a restaurant was a little  like Sodom and Gommorah

Brendan O'Connor

STARTING WEIGHT: 13st, 10lbs/87.3kgs

Alan Levinovitz, a professor of religion who has a written a book about what he sees as the big lie of gluten intolerance, reckons that diets are a bit like religion. "Religion", according to one piece about him, "helps people make sense of a chaotic world: Suddenly, there is order, and there are instructions. All you have to do is follow them. 'You have a certainty about the choices you make,' Levinovitz said. 'That gives you a way to make decisions, and it makes for a comforting world.' It's understandable why people would pick a way of eating and then stick to their guns; it gives them some solid ground to stand on amid ever-shifting recommendations."

And it's true. The abdication of all choice is the saving grace of the Taylor Made diet for me. The food comes in the bag; you eat what's in the bag. You don't eat anything else. The whole element of choice is gone out of it. It makes things simpler and thus easier to deal with. You just drink the Kool-Aid (metaphorically speaking of course. Kool-Aid would be the last thing I'd be having right now) and follow the rules and it gives you some consistency in a world gone mad.

I also find myself enjoying the little inspirational letter from Ken Taylor that comes with the food deliveries every two days. It is a series of quite low-key mantras, and generally encouraging thoughts reminding you to drink lots of water, nudging you back on the path after a bank holiday weekend and repeating the main point of the diet, which is essentially re-education. You join the cult to be re-educated about portion size and about kicking your addiction to sugar in all its forms. It almost feels a bit like living in a rehab facility, where all choice is taken away from you for a little while and they take over your brain by remote control and run you for a while until you are suitably rewired and ready to run your own life again. There is something quite institutional about the stultifying monotony of it. There is the regularity of the deliveries, by the same guy, Eric, at the same time every two nights, the same structure to every day - the muesli, the soup, the dinner.

The problem, of course, with being in a cult, is that you are fine when you are with the other cult members but when cult-life collides with the real world, it can be confusing. I went for lunch with a guy last week and my head nearly melted in advance about how I would play it. In the event, I just told him I was on a diet and ordered a salad and tried not to think about it any further. Just moved on as if it never happened. At the restaurant I felt a bit like an Amish guy at a brothel. It was like Sodom and Gomorrah there.

The day off, currently Sunday, can be confusing too. Without the teat of Ken to suck on, with all the choice I become agitated. Comfortingly, I'm finding that I don't really want to totally binge on Sundays. The crisps and junk cravings I get during the week don't seem to occur on Sundays when I know I can have crisps if I want to. But I usually have a bag for the sake of it. My main blow-out is probably a few drinks but I'm trying to stick to prosecco or white wine which, sugar-wise, are the next best thing to clear spirits. I think we all agree vodka or gin would not be a good idea. I slipped and had a few pints on Sunday because there was no way I was ordering white wine in the Bishopstown Bar in Cork, so I had Coors Light to kid myself I was being good. I have also let the day off begin on Saturday night in terms of having a few drinks.

Over the next few weeks there will be more challenges from the real world - nights out and visiting and various things. I guess I need to face up to real life eventually. My plan is to enjoy myself when I need to but to make up for it later.

It does mean the diet will slip a bit and I will be cheating for two or three days but I guess the key is to get back on an even keel then, not to just lapse into the old ways. This will be the first real test of how strong my faith is.

Also I am obviously worried that the weight loss is going to keep slowing down. I am down another sensible, sustainable two pounds this week. But I worry the low hanging fruit is gone now and it is going to become harder to drop the pounds.

The honeymoon is over. My faith is being tested. Bumpy times ahead.

I am in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes. It was the coffee cake  

John Drennan

STARTING WEIGHT: 16st, 5lbs/104.1kgs

Allow me to be sentimental for the moment. It is the youngest child's communion. The last moment of innocence is here. Afterwards he will buy his first iPad.

He is in the possession of corporate America and the digital world from now on.

There is, of course, the consolation of the communion feast to console and divert us from gloomy meditations.

Of course, with communion, once one has washed out the sodden bouncy castle, comes difficulty on the food front. Any gloomy meditations are swiftly swept away by the incipient food feast.

Soon enough, the house is filled with the happy scents of cocktail sausages, fried chicken and the blessed familiar trays of ham, turkey and beef. Concern swiftly rises as to whether there might be too many leftovers.

That, after all, would not be at all eco-friendly.

And above all, are the cakes from our local confectioners McCormack's - chief of which is the heavenly coffee cake.

The coffee cake may, of course, be a child of seventies cuisine, but like Joan Collins and shoulder pads, the McCormack's coffee cake has lasted exceptionally well.

So did I, like Yeats's horseman, pass by?

All I will say is that at this rate I am nicely poised to become the only contestant, apologies, colleague, to put on weight during this challenge, apologies, team-building exercise.

Disgrace, my old familiar friend, awaits.

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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