Dieting Special #4: Dieting and PMS Cravings


SONG: Duran Duran – Hungry Like the Wolf

Just like that time Alan Davies bit a tramp’s ear, we all have off days.

You can lead a healthy lifestyle, consciously trying to make good food choices (even to the point that you start saying twattish things like “I can’t eat any more carbs today”) and then without any warning at all: BAM. It’s all over. Because your stupid bloody period is about to happen. (Edit, pun not intended at all. In fact it’s gross. Sorry.)

It’s not just PMS – various factors can lead to moodswings – but they all tend to give you hellish days when you’re so desperate for fudge-cake, chips, or Ben and Jerry’s that you’d happily inject yourself with it like some sort of gooey heroine.

How do you fight something like that? You spend all month being rational and committing to conscious choices, and then you have a few days where you’d happily sacrifice your own mother to the Gods in exchange for a packet of chocolate digestives. Nothing in your mind can convince you otherwise: you NEED a mountain of fatty, greasy food.

It’s all you can think about. Trying to appease the beast with healthy snacks is like trying to distract an angry guard dog with celery. So what do you do when your body rebels against you in this way?

A company in America reckons they’ve come up with a herbal pill that alleviates PMS cravings, but I don’t buy it. And a lot of magazines give advice like “Try and eat balanced meals”, “drink herbal tea” and “get plenty of exercise.” Okay, good luck telling a hungry pre-menstrual woman that to her face – she’ll rip yours off.

If that worked, we’d all just do it. It doesn’t. So how do you make the best of things? Well, here’s a little bit of advice – some from my own experience, and some from research I did just for you. And, well, me.

1. The Science Bit: Apparently, if we boost serotonin levels then the cravings are eased – it helps lift grumpy, self-destructive moods. Some people claim fruit does this, but WHO THE EFF WANTS TO EAT FRUIT WHEN YOU’RE PMSing?! Expert Judith J Wurtman PhD has written in the Huffington Post and Psychology Today about a study saying we need to eat a non-fruit, low-protein carbohydrate to produce serotonin. Stuff like popcorn, pasta, low-fat ice cream, cereal, English muffins, porridge with brown sugar, and fat-free fudge sauce. The cravings should ease in minutes. I think I love you, Judith.

2. Be Prepared: Now you know what foods ease cravings, you can make sure you have them around when you’re due on. They’re not exactly health-foods, but they are damage limitation, especially if you try and be realistic with portions.

3. Have less caffeine. It suppresses serotonin. It also makes me want biscuits, but I don’t think that’s exactly scientifically proven.

4. Don’t freak out. Some days, you’ll just eat crap, despite any advice. Let yourself enjoy it, that way A. You’ll realise when you’re full quicker and B. You won’t get into the vicious cycle of bingeing when you eat more because “oh well I’ve fucked it all up now anyway.”
Allow yourself some of your poison, even if it means you relax your diet for more than one day. If you avoid the guilt-binge, you’ll limit the damage, and will probably only have put on a couple of extra pounds at the end of it all.

5. Don’t weigh yourself until after your period. FFS, woman, are you batshit mad? As well as eating extra calories because your body is telling you to, you’ll probably be retaining water so you’ll weigh more anyway. If you weigh yourself, you’ll end up back on the guilt-binge train, destination: Sitting on Your Kitchen Floor Eating Cake Mix And Crying.

6. Remember your tricks. They might not work, but it’s still worth trying things like:
* Drinking a glass of water to check you’re not just thirsty.
* Having a little snack and waiting fifteen minutes to see if you’re actually full.
* Brushing your teeth (I do this shortly after lunch to put off my snack urges because it’ll taste all Colgatey)
Obviously, if none of these work then don’t be miserable, grab what you fancy.

7. I hate to break it to you, but exercise does increase serotonin. It’s the last thing I want to do when I’m pre-menstrual, so don’t feel you have to go to the gym or do that Davina DVD. I try little things, like walking to the shops for the paper every morning, or running around playing hide and seek with my niece. Or you could always wander up and down a jetty wearing a loose pink dress like the Bodyform ad.

Diet Special #3: The Skinnygirl Way

Naturally Thin Bethenny FrankelLast time I blogged, my waistline was getting ugly but my attitude to dieting was getting uglier.

I’d spent a month following Weightwatchers religiously, only to find when I gave up and ate normally my weight remained as vigilantly the same as it did when I was constantly hungry. Put simply, Weightwatchers does not work for me. 

You were ever so lovely in the comments: giving me good advice, and not pointing and laughing at my wobbly bits or anything. Best of all, however, was Stefanie Grace‘s recommendation that I check out a book by Bethenny Frankel.

This book stuck in my mind, and after a day or so I plonked it on my Amazon wishlist. On my birthday – a day of eating cake and steak and pancakes – I unwrapped one of my delightful Grandpa and Grandma’s gifts to me, and there it was: Naturally Thin: Release Your Inner Skinnygirl and Unleash Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting.

I devoured it in just over a day, and here is my review:

Book Review: Bethenny Frankel’s Naturally Thin: Release Your Inner Skinnygirl and Unleash Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting (£12 at Amazon).

Bethenny Frankel doesn’t want us to diet, EVER AGAIN. Have you got that? Okay, now stop laughing and actually read what she has to say. It makes sense.

Because ladies: we spend our lives dieting. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to take responsibility for what we shove in our face holes. We’ve become terrified of eating, lest we “slip” and eat ALL OF THE BACON.

We need to start taking control of our diet like actual adult human beings. Living life according to others is silly – even if you’re copying your Mum or your best friend rather than what Mr. Atkins tells you – not least because everyone is different anyway, so you need to start listening to yourself.

This is the basic premise of Frankel’s book, and is it a bit brilliant or what? Yes, yes it is. Even though it’s common sense, sometimes we need to re-educate ourselves to break the habit of freaking out every time your stomach rumbles and wondering what you’re “allowed” to eat.

So Frankel gives us this education in a handy set of 10 lessons, each building on the last. For example:

Lesson #1. Balancing your diet like a bank account – you wouldn’t spend your monthly salary each day and not care about the consequences, so don’t eat cake and pie and cheese every day if you “haven’t got the funds”, shall we say. But if you’ve been frugal all week, you can afford to splash out a bit on a Saturday night.

Lesson #5: Downsize. You don’t have to cut your favourite foods out of your life, but you’re not daft: you know how much is too much. So why not drink wine out of a smaller glass, or put your maltesers in a smaller bowl? That way, you don’t even notice.

Lesson #8: Know Thyself. Do what will actually suit you in the longrun. Exercise is great, but if you can’t make a thrice-weekly session stick, don’t smash yourself in the face over it. Find something else. Some people can do without cream in their coffee – if you can’t, just do without something else. If you can have chocolates in the house without scoffing the lot, have them. If you can’t, stop buying them until you can.

It’s not a long book, but it can be slightly repetitive and the American “HECK YEAH!” attitude became a little wearing at times (forgive me, I’m British, I get grumpy a lot) but all in all it’s a bloody good read. Especially redeeming is the way she repeatedly warns us not to freak out if you go wrong: there’s a lot of days left in your life to get it right, so just try again.

Throughout, Frankel is firm but fair: she’s not afraid to say “You’re not stupid – you know how much ice cream is too much” but then she also spends a rather touching chapter reassuring us that if you binge, you need to forgive yourself and move on – that way, you stop the vicious cycle of comfort-eating.

It’s not perfect – there are times when the ingredients and foods Frankel suggests are a bit too ‘health-freak’ for me, and she doesn’t really cover situations like visiting friends or young adults living in houses where they don’t get much say in the weekly food shop. But as she keeps saying, if you’re different, you just have to find another way to do things.

Literally packed full of advice that is realistic and easy to follow, after reading the Skinnygirl book I already feel good about myself again. I’ve been following it for a week and I’ve lost a pound, and it feels like I’m not even trying. Whether that continues is up for debate, but I’ll let you know.

Bethenny Frankel’s “Naturally Thin” is available from Amazon in paperback for £12.

Diet Special #2: I’d Rather Be Curvy Than Hungry

Song: Chumbawamba – I Get Knocked Down

Here we are, a full month into my Weightwatchers shenanigans, and I can officially confirm I’m not Patsy Kensit yet.

You’ll be pleased to know in Week 2 I lost 3lbs, and actually quite enjoyed the food I had. The issue is that due to my bizarrely low ProPoints allowance, I realised I was starting to associate feeling ravenously hungry with succeeding at the plan – not the healthiest thing you’ve heard all day, I imagine.

Let me give you an idea of what I’d be allowed in one day if I didn’t use any of my ‘Weekly Allowance’ (let’s just be honest and call this my ‘Booze and Cake Points’, which can easily be used on a person’s average weekend.)

Daily Allowance: 26 points

Breakfast:

One 40g bowl of Shreddies – 4 points (have a look at how much 40g is. I guarantee it’s about half what you’d call a bowl of shreddies)
One ‘serving’ skimmed milk (140ml) – 1 point
Total = 5 points

Lunch:

2 slices of bread – 4 points
1 tsp low-fat spread – 1 point
1 30g slice of roast ham – 2 points
Total = 7 points

Dinner:

One small salmon fillet – 6 points
175g cooked couscous – 5 points
(in the couscous) vegetables roasted in 1tsps olive oil – 1 points
(in the couscous) 1 tbsp raisins – 2 points
Total = 14 points

Total = 26 points.

That’s it folks. No snacks, no treats, no dessert, no wine. A tiny bowl of cereal, an uninspiring sandwich, and a bit of salmon and couscous. END OF FOOD ALLOWANCE, CHUBS.

Yes, I appreciate if I could buy that weird spray-on cooking fat and spend hours researching how to squeeze every last drop of joy out of my food, I’d probably have a more interesting daily lineup of eats. The problem is I HAVE A NORMAL LIFE. We work hard, we socialise, we do stuff like relaxing, paying bills and washing ourselves, all of which take up precious calorie-counting time.

AND YET I managed to stick to the plan EVERY DAY for the whole of Week 3 too. And I weighed myself. And I’d put a pound back on again.

Total weightloss in 3 weeks of sticking to the rules: 2lbs. QUOI?

Week 4 was tricky – I attended a social gathering where it turns out my lovely hostess had bought us all a Chinese. Rather than being a whiny bitch and storming out to buy myself a Weightwatchers readymeal, I said thank you for the obvious act of kindess and ate a small portion instead. And used the rest of my Weekly Allowance for some weekend wine. So sue me.

I then spent the rest of the week being super-good to make up for it. I also did more exercise than usual, but didn’t use my ‘Activity Points’. Weigh in: Put on ANOTHER POUND.

This means that so far this week I have been in full rebellion mode – 2 parties, all of the wine, even a sneaky biscuit or two.
Weigh in today: Put on my final pound (the same amount as the weeks where I ate sweet fuck all), bringing me very nearly back to the start of my journey.

The question is – do I stay or do I go? Is one month enough? Feel free to motivate, placate or berate me in the comments.

Diet Special #1: Evil, Thy Name is Weightwatchers

Song: Perfect 10 – Beautiful South

I’m back already! I know, two blog posts in two hours when the last one was nine months previous. I get my timings wrong sometimes.

It’s time to mention the D word. January brings all manner of wrongs: the knowledge you have twelve months to wait until Christmas, the month with the highest suicide rate, and the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions.

It seems almost obligatory to be on a diet, and because during the previous month it ironically seems almost obligatory to gorge yourself into oblivion, losing weight can seem a somewhat perilously high mountain to climb.

It’s also massively NOT IN ANY WAY FUN, no matter how much the dreaded women’s mags dress it up to seem like such a total breeze and the tastiest time you’ve had in ages. “Craving a snack? Simply eat a small handful of unsalted nuts!” Thanks, but I’d rather die choking on a Twix.

As you can tell, I’m not afraid to admit I am pessimistic about diets. I’m also nowhere near overweight, but I do want to lose maybe half a stone and try to get fitter and healthier – so I signed up to Weightwatchers.

I’ve decided to blog about how it’s going, with the aim of maybe showing a bit of solidarity among all my miserable, dieting friends. I’m also recording my experiences to show it’s okay to hate it, it’s okay to take some bits of advice and leave others in order to make it work in the long term, and it’s okay to have days when you just go “OH FUCK IT, GET ME A TRIFLE.” We’re human, and it doesn’t hurt to fail sometimes. Warning: I fail, a lot.

P.S If you’re not interested in reading about my day-to-day eating, you probably don’t want to read on. Shoo, now. I’m doing this more me more than anything.

Here we go with: Week One

Daily Points Allowance: 26. Weekly Allowance: 49
(If you want to know more about how Weightwatchers works, click here. I’ve been on it in the past – about five years ago – and I lost around a stone, but they use an entirely new system now.)

Day One (Weds 2nd Jan): Ate leftover chocolate cheesecake for breakfast. Erm, my bad. But I made up for it by eating delicious vegetables and a low-calorie sandwich as the sum total of the rest of my daily food. That’s healthy, right?

Day Two (Thurs 3rd): My ‘Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself’ chicken salad sandwich manages to wipe out almost a third of my points. ONE SANDWICH, that was mostly cucumber. Spent the afternoon sulking, and had to pick the meat out of my stew in the evening so I wouldn’t go over my points too much.

Spent the rest of the evening screeching “HOW is this normal eating?” at random intervals, and in the end totally caved in and ate a leftover panna cotta in a fit of rage. It was the tastiest thing in the world.

Day Three: I wake up with a horrendous cold and no voice, which makes me feel like the inside of my head is expanding and that someone snuck into my room and sandpapered my throat in the night, so I spend the day in bed feeling even more sorry for myself.
Still, Friday night is supposed to be fun, right? So I decide to set aside enough points for a couple of glasses of wine (that I can’t taste) so I can curl up on the sofa and get tipsy watching Channel 4 mashup with The Boy. I have to watch him eat a hearty, homemade spag bol and biscuits which I AM NOT ALLOWED, while I tuck into the world’s smallest Weightwatchers readymeal. Aside from this all I’ve had is marmite on toast and some shreddies, all day. I do not feel like I am winning at life.

Day Four: Big dinner party plans, so I know I have to be careful during the day. My dinner party host is kind enough to give me the menu in advance. I work out that – without including any drinks – I have the sum total of 1 daily point left for the rest of the day.
Obviously, I go way into my Weekly allowance. This is my lunch:

photo-3

That, quite literally, is 2 seasoned tomatoes on two slices of toast. This is the point where I start to wonder whether I should just chop off a limb instead.

Day Five: Let me show you my miserable excuse for a breakfast:

photo-4

(One slice of toast, 1 tsp of margarine) The Boy, on the other hand, ate this:

photo-5

I hate him. Also: DUN DUN DUN. Sunday means family roast dinner. But, additional DUN DUN DUN: I manage to keep to my points all day, with no problems. EVEN THOUGH I ate this:

photo-2

In your FACE, diet. I’m back on track.

Day Six: Another day of keeping to my points all day, and I get to eat things like roasted mediterranean vegetables, a chocolate mousse, and a Weightwatchers chocolate miniroll. I even get a glass of wine. And it doesn’t hurt at all!

Day Seven: Just like yesterday, I aced being on a diet and ate seriously delicious food, in moderation. I’m also finding I have more energy than I did at the start, and drinking more water. I expect to wake up tomorrow having lost ALL OF THE WEIGHT and looking like Charlize Theron.

Weigh-in: I have lost half a pound. Half a buggering pound. All together now: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Although I’m disheartened, I’m also aware that I need to give this more time before I dropkick it entirely. I just can’t help feeling like this isn’t a normal, or worth it, way to live. But I’m giving it one more week before I jack it all in and eat the contents of all my cupboards.

Are you on a diet? Are you feeling as hard done by as I am? TELL ME ABOUT IT.

I’m Back!

Song: Dolly Parton – Here You Come Again

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, so I thought it was time to say Happy New Year and fill you in on a few things…

2012 was a big, brilliant year. On the whole, it was magnificent, but I can’t celebrate the good times without remembering that it hasn’t all been rosy.

The Bad: There have been some tough times since I last blogged in March – family illness, my lovely dog Phoebe passed away, and some of my closest friends have been tested to the limit.

The overwhelming sadness last year was Sam’s stepdad Mike passing away in November. He was a wonderful, funny, wise, kind and indeed one-of-a-kind man and it was an honour to get to know him over the year I had. It’s hard to accept all the utter marvellousness of life right now without wondering how something so heartbreaking and unfair can happen in amongst it all. Sam’s family have been unbelievably strong and I love having them in my life – they’re a huge part of all the good things that happened too.

The Good: 

– I went travelling for 6 weeks (erm, yes, I’ll get back to you on that in more detail later…)
– I AM AN AUNTIE AGAIN! I have a gorgeous wee nephew called Charlie who is as cheeky as his name deserves. An absolute bundle of joy.
– I was shortlisted for Young Wine Writer of the Year
– I handed in my notice after 6 superb years at The Wine Society – I finish at the end of January and start my career as a freelance writer full time (so, er, if you want to hire me then please get in touch!)

I’m going to be blogging more frequently from now on on various topics, from weight-loss (I’m on Weightwatchers and firmly believe it to be evil) to my joyous travels, food adventures, and any other shenanigans I fancy telling you about.

It’s good to be back.

I Can See Clearly Now…

About eighteen months ago, I blogged about how I’ve always been really insecure about wearing glasses.

The blog post was kind of whiny, self-indulgent and more than a little bit shallow, but it is one of those body-image hangups we’re all guilty of that I wanted to share, because it’s been hanging around in my brain for over half my life now.

After I wrote it, I felt better but I still didn’t wear glasses all that often, and never when I wanted to ‘look good’ (replace ‘good’ with ‘less like Professor Trelawney’ if you like. Meanies.)

Then, stuff happened. The uber-trendy (YEAH alright that’s Tinie Tempah, but he’s cool) have been wearing big old chunky frames for a good 3 years or so, but it started filtering down to everyone else, and I started hankering after a pair of specs the size of my face.

^ My delightful friend Carrie let me borrow hers while we were absolutely off our tits on free cocktails (marvellous evening, my love!) and that was it: I had to get my mitts on a pair of my own or I WOULD DIE.

So I mooched on down to Specsavers with my beau and we both tried on ridiculous glasses for about three hours until we realised we were actually there for a reason.

^The pair I eventually chose were by Gok Wan and made me feel very sexy indeed. SERIOUSLY: glasses that make me feel sexy. And I’m getting compliments all the time. It’s happened. I’m cured.

They make me want to wear glasses. I actually choose to wear them as part of an outfit. Like this one we chatted about on Twitter last week after I got inspiration from another Domestic Sluttery pal, Elizabeth (she’s rad):

Maybe you’re all thinking this isn’t exactly breaking news, and isn’t even blog-worthy, but for me, on a scale on one to pretty darn hoorayful, it’s up there.

Years of insecurity have gone up in smoke and now I’m going to frolic about in glasses and not give a monkeys whether I look like a geek or not. I’m a glasses girl and proud.

Why Valentine’s Day is EVIL and MUST BE STOPPED


Etta James: My Funny Valentine

Today is 14th February. Nothing else, nothing special, just the day after the 13th and the day before the 15th and also my boss Deb’s birthday and if I mention her in this blog she might give me a payrise. (Seriously, happy birthday Deb. I’m nice.)

But for some reason, despite it being just 14th February, everyone seems determined to make it some day of FUN and LOVE and BEING NICE TO PEOPLE WE CARE ABOUT and EATING STUFF IN THE SHAPE OF HEARTS. Well, fuck them. Fuck them in the eye.

Okay, I should stop there, because if anyone mistakes this as me being serious then I will have to fuck MYSELF in the eye, because I actually really don’t mind Valentine’s Day at all. I quite like it. And I do not want to fuck myself in the eye.

Last year, I blogged about it from the point of view of a singleton sick of being presumed to be bitter about the evil V-Day, but this year I actually haz a fella (I know, I don’t believe it either) and – seeing as this year I’m neither single nor dating a total dickhead*** –  I’m celebrating Valentine’s properly for the first time ever.

Yes, I bought a silly card. And I bought him a present (nothing soppy, just something I think he’d actually like). And he’s taking me away to a mystery surprise location for the night (the only clue I have is they serve oysters), because, according to him, I’m awesome. YAY ME. There, I said it.

Normally, when people get bought presents for whatever reason, we as humans are quite happy for them. We exclaim things like ‘How NICE!’ and stuff. But, when someone buys you something on Valentine’s Day, suddenly there are at least three things that are fundamentally wrong with you as a person:

1. “Valentine’s is so commercial!”

Catch up, shit-for-brains, so is every holiday.

At Christmas @fart retweeted all the spoilt brats who didn’t get the right colour iPhone, and it made us all giggly at people who thought shiny presents were important, and now @shoutsatcows are doing the same with people who didn’t get enough presents on Valentine’s. We get it, they’re tools. Doesn’t mean that everyone that likes Valentine’s Day or Christmas subscribes to that particular brand of fucktardery.

Yes, it can be tiresome: suddenly, there’s a card for everything. These days, you can’t successfully digest a meal without someone you know scuttling off to moonpig.com and finding a hideous photo to mark the occasion to show they care. Doesn’t mean I have to start doing the same, but I’m not about to piss on anyone’s cornflakes if that’s what they want to do.

People that want you to buy stuff are going invent excuses to make you buy stuff. Duh. You don’t have to buy it – you don’t have to buy anything –  but you also don’t have to do a sneery face at people that do decide to spend money on someone for no other reason than a stupid myth about a saint.

2. “It’s so smug.”

Yeah, I know. How dare people be happy and, you know, actually show it? Twats.

NO ONE ELSE is allowed to be happy until YOU ARE EQUALLY HAPPY. Them’s the rules. If you’re a douche.

3. “Why not do it every day?”

Exactly. Look at them: all these people wandering around COMPLETELY ignoring the person they care about until this ONE DAY of the year. If you celebrate Valentine’s Day, it actually, definitely 100% means that throughout the other 364-5 days, neither of you can bear to look at each other’s disappointing faces, let alone be seen together in public, and they can buy their own fucking birthday present. Yeah, that’s definitely how it works. You just don’t care, do you? People that celebrate Valentine’s Day are monsters.

So we’re doing it wrong: according to lots of super-happy, never-grumpy and certainly not cynical people, in fact every day should be like Valentine’s Day, apparently. I mean, why do we even have days about stuff anyway? Christmas? Sod it, I’m having a twinkly tree in my living room all year round. Birthdays? Pah. I want candles on my food every day. All this doing stuff on a certain day is such a menace to the rest of the days in the year, and must be stopped.

…Okay, I think I’ve ranted long enough. Basically: stop hating on a day just because some people want to buy each other stuff, you miserable bunch of sods. If you don’t want to mark Valentine’s Day: jolly well done. I do. And just because you insist you would rather be loving for the rest of the year instead, it doesn’t mean you get to be a total c*** on the day itself to balance it out.

And – no shit Sherlock – I’ll also go out and about with my fella pretty frequently – Valentine’s or no Valentine’s. It’s what people do. I’ll buy him stuff sometimes, if I want to, or sometimes if I have to because it’s his stupid birthday.  I’ll even tell him he’s not a smelly bumface occasionally (gotta keep him sweet, after all). And he’ll be nice back (hopefully), and will probably even keep  giving me a lift home every time my friends and I drink so much we can’t remember where we live (so see you at the usual time on Friday, babes.)

But tonight, we’ve got a daft, silly, meaningless excuse to have all the usual fun we have, but with a tiny bit extra pizazz than normal. And oysters. And so we will.

***And no, they weren’t just dickheads because they didn’t celebrate Valentine’s, before you get all agitated about it in the comments. Shush.