Month: May 2013

The Exercise High; or, Why You Should Think Happy Thoughts

The Exercise High; or, Why You Should Think Happy Thoughts

It’s been a long week. And yes, I’m aware it’s only Thursday; on a Bank Holiday week no less, so technically it’s only been a three dayer thus far. But I’ve been frazzled and tired all week, and my mood has been a bit bleak […]

Life Really Is Too God Damn Short

Life Really Is Too God Damn Short

Recently, everything’s been pretty damn great for me, personally. I’m getting fitter, healthier, and I’m pretty much settled into my new life in the big smoke. Obviously it’d be nice to have a little more money, a little more time, and all the usual things […]

What Slim Fast (and Every Other Diet) Can Do With Their 7 Day Plan

What Slim Fast (and Every Other Diet) Can Do With Their 7 Day Plan

So, this morning I was casually scrolling through Twitter, minding my own business. Picture the scene: I’m humming cheerfully, enjoying my Saturday morning coffee and eggs, listening to some old-school jazz. The sky is blue, and I’m still in my pyjamas.

Okay, the part about the sky isn’t true. But the rest of it stands.

Next thing I know, I’m faced with a promoted tweet from none other than Slim Fast.

Slim Fast.

Now, I did hurl out a bit of a snarky tweet in response, and then let it go. Then, as I listened to the radio in the shower, I heard an ad for a cosmetic surgery business telling me I could get the body I want today. Then, some old bloke told me to “take a chill-pill” before calling me “babe.” And then, I went on Twitter again, to the same promoted tweet.

And that’s when I got mad. So I’m sorry if we’re re-hashing old ground, and I’m sorry if this post isn’t my most tidy or grammatically correct, but y’all know how I get when I’m pissed off. Today, I am pissed off. Like this.

So, to Slim Fast: I have a problem with you.

Actually, I have numerous problems with you. Let’s start with the product in question: the 3-2-1 7 Day Plan. It’s built around the idea that you can have three snacks, two shakes or meal bars, and one balanced meal.

I think you’re already going down the wrong track when you think a healthy way to live can be structured around one balanced meal a dayThat’s crap, and I don’t care what your nutritionist Fiona (apparently without a surname) has to say about it.

This is no real way to live. Here’s what one day looks like:

SnacksChocolate Snack Bar, 1 Orange, Sour Cream and Chive Pretzel Snack Bag

Meal ReplacementsChocolate Crunch Meal Bar, Chocolate Flavour Shake

Balanced MealQuick Fish Pie

They’re selling it on the fact that “you get to eat six times a day!” idea, although you’ll note that they’re very, very tiny eats indeed. And also, if I were only eating six things over the course of a day, and three of them were chocolate flavoured – and when I say chocolate flavoured, I mean artificial-kinda-gross-chocolate-flavoured – I’d be pretty unimpressed. Unless it was Easter. I mean, I love chocolate like a friend – but that’s not how you want to survive.

Anyway, let’s look at that again, with a good old fashioned ingredients – or rather, “ingredients” – list attached:


Chocolate Snack Bar (Rice Crispies (23%) [Rice Flour, Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Salt, Rapeseed oil, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin)], Plain Chocolate (22%) [Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin), Vanilla Extract], Chocolate Biscuits (11%) [Wheat Flour, Sugar, Vegetable Fat, Cocoa Powder, Malt Blend (Glucose Syrup, Barley Syrup, Malt Extract), Skimmed Milk Powder, Salt, Flavourings], Glucose Syrup, Oligofructose Syrup, Bulking Agent (Polydextrose), Sweetened Skimmed Condensed Milk (Skimmed Milk, Sugar), Sugar, Humectant (Glycerol), Cocoa Powder (3%), Sunflower Oil, Flavourings, Emulsifier (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids) MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF EGG, PEANUTS AND TREE NUTS.)

1 Orange (just an orange)

Chive Pretzel Snack Bag: (Wheat Flour, Dried Potato, Vegetable Oil, Salt, Dextrose, Onion Powder, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Modified Maize Starch, Sour Cream Powder (0.5%), Whey Powder (from milk), Flavouring, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Parsley, Chive Extract, Colour (Paprika Extract) MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF SOYA.)

Meal Replacements

Chocolate Crunch Meal Bar: (Soya Nuggets (23%) (Isolated Soya Protein), Rice Crispies (12%) [Rice Flour, Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Salt, Rapseed Oil, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin)], Glucose Syrup, Milk Chocolate (10%) [Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoas Mass, Skimmed Milk Powder, Lactose, Whey Powder, Milk Fat, Emulsifiers (Soya Lecithin, Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate), Vanilla Extract], Bulking Agent (Polydetrose), Oligofructose Syrup, Humectant (Glycerol), Sweetened Skimmed Condensed Milk (Skimmed Milk, Sugar), Vitamins and Minerals (Dipotassium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin C, Magnesium Oxide, Niacin, Ferric Pyrophosphate, Vitamin E, Zinc Oxide, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Vitamin A, Copper Carbonate, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Biotin, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12.), Milk Chocolate chips(3%) [Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Whey Powder, Skimmed Milk Powder, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin), Vanilla Extract], Sunflower Oil, Sugar, Reduced Fat Plain Chocolate Powder (1%) [Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin), Vanilla Extract], Flavouring, Emulsifier (Mono-and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Salt, Lactose. MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF GLUTEN, EGG AND TREE NUTS.)

Chocolate Flavour Shake: (Skimmed Milk (78%), Water, Milk Proteins, Cocoa Powder (1.2%), Vegetable Oil, Sugar, Stabilisers (Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Dipotassium Phosphate, Carrageenan), Thickener (Gum Arabic), Maltodextrin, Emulsifiers (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Vitamins and Minerals (Potassium Chloride, Sodium Carbonate, Magnesium Hydroxide, Vitamin C, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin E, Ferric Pyrophosphate, Niacin, Sodium Selenite, Copper Gluconate, Pantothenic Acid, Manganese Sulphate, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Beta Carotene, Thiamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodate.), Sweeteners (Sucralose, Acesulfame-K), Flavourings, Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid).

Balanced Meal

Quick Fish Pie: Skimmed milk, plain flour, butter, spring onions, salmon in brine, salt and pepper, French bread slices, finely grated mature cheese.

I’m not going to pick a fight with the balanced meal, although it sounds pretty god damn boring to me – but the rest of it? Heck, that does not qualify as real food – and it certainly doesn’t sound like it’s going to do you any good. There are a lot of chemicals you’ll find above that I’ve seen before, when I listed the ingredients in a Happy Meal last Halloween – so it’s still the same old processed crap that contributed to weight gain in the first place.

It’s just… It’s not food.

For comparison, here’s what I ate yesterday:

Breakfast: Smoked mackerel and poached eggs with fresh basil, red peppers and spinach.

Lunch: Salmon fillet (marinaded in lemon and black pepper), with red onion, fresh peppers, jalapenos, tomato, cucumber, spinach, hazelnuts and avocado, with balsamic vinegar.

Dinner: Steak with asparagus, mushrooms and spring onion with avocado and fresh red chillies.

Snacks: Apple, brazil nuts.

I don’t need an ingredient list, because I’m eating things composed of actual food. That’s a great start. And it’s all good, tasty stuff. I am not going hungry, and I’m eating six times a day. GO ME.

So that’s the first part of my issue with Slim Fast. My second issue, however, is with the fact that Slim Fast – or any other unsustainable, extreme diet – will never help you to lose weight and keep it off. Unless, that is, you plan to spend the rest of your life eating meal replacement shakes and going hungry. Although because your metabolism will adapt pretty quickly, the initial weight loss won’t last long anyway – so soon enough, you’ll plateau.

Once you’ve plateaued, you’ll either have to further restrict your calorie intake, or you’ll get disheartened and go back to eating the same stuff you were before – processed foods, all calorie-dense and nutrient-poor – and you’ll gain the weight back with interest. 

All you’ve done is screwed up your metabolism, your food habits, and your self-confidence. You’ve failed at a task that the marketing tells you is “simple” and “easy.” According to the diet industry, you suck.

And that’s what the diet industry is built upon. If there was one diet that was easy, and did work, they’d have gone out of business already, and we’d all be Rihanna-a-likes by now.

No: Slim Fast and their ilk can, quite frankly, shove their seven day diets, their quick fixes, and their soul-destroying bullshit, where that big ol’ sun refuses to shine.

Please guys: don’t fall for this shit. Make a real change to your life by learning how to eat real food, to exercise, to enjoy your life as much as you deserve to. Make a permanent change by realising that you can be a success; you can be happy; and you can be well, just so long as you believe in yourself.

And now, I’m going to go back to enjoying my day off. Over and out.

Lifting What I’ve Lost; or, Revelations On Public Transport

Lifting What I’ve Lost; or, Revelations On Public Transport

I’ve been doing this weight loss thing for a really long time now. I mean, I started in September 2010 – so we’re talking almost three years since I first stepped into the gym in Worcester, weighing 290lbs. It’s been a while, then, since I’ve […]

Proportion, Perspective, and Why Sometimes Good Things Seem Bad

Proportion, Perspective, and Why Sometimes Good Things Seem Bad

Y’know when you start out on a journey to a ‘new you’ – or even just pick up where you left off on an old one – it’s hard to imagine failing. You’re resolute. You’re determined. You’re totally going to kick ass and achieve your […]

Strength (and Pride, and Power) Training

Strength (and Pride, and Power) Training

Back in the day, I’d say I wasn’t a very strong person. I wasn’t necessarily weak, but I just kinda let things happen. I stayed in relationships too long because leaving them would be too hard; I stayed in education too long because I didn’t think I’d be able to find a job; I comforted myself with pizza and cake because dealing with my problems just seemed like too much.

In the grand scheme of things, my situation wasn’t that bad – but the things I’d have to do to change it seemed impossible, and so, I sandbagged up and stayed where I was. For years.

And I do mean years. I just plodded along, waiting for things to happen to improve of their own accord. Naturally, they didn’t, and the next thing I knew, I was pushing 300lbs and unable to walk.

Eventually, I joined the gym, and the rest is history. You guys know that story by now. But recently, I’ve become more acutely aware of these things: power, strength, and pride – and the way they all link together to make life pretty damn great.

This has come about in part because I’ve been exploring the physical kind of strength. Look at my face in this photo – this is not what someone taking it easy looks like:


That thing weighs 50kg, or 110lbs, which equates to pretty frickin’ heavy, if you’re me. And it’s just a part of what I’ve been doing in these training sessions with Tom. It’s taken a fair amount of discipline and hard blimmin’ work – but in the last three weeks, I’ve lost 16cm from my bust, waist, hips, leg and arm measurements, and I’ve lost 4% body fat – about 10lbs – and more importantly, I’ve gained 2.5% muscle. This, from someone who was pretty confident in their booty size anyway.

Turns out, I’m pretty strong. I can do a lot more than I thought I could, and it is very, very exciting.

As I said before, my motivation in doing this is to see how far I can go with this body o’mine – an experiment to see whether it’s possible to go from a morbidly obese girl who can’t walk, to someone who’s at something resembling peak physical fitness. But this does mean I’ve got to do a bunch of things that are way, way outside my comfort zone.

Each time I’m approaching one of those big ol’ weights, I have to tell myself I can do it. I have to genuinely believe that I’m not going to splat face down on the floor with all the grace of a chicken fillet falling off a worktop – and in doing that, I’ve realised it’s something that I have to keep doing outside of the gym, too.

In fact, I’m rapidly starting to think it’s something we should all be doing, pretty much all the time.

Now, I’m not suggesting you go and try hoisting a car over your head on your way to work, or go all Incredible Hulk on your three-piece lounge furniture. I’m also not suggesting you go trying to take over any small countries, or anything like that – because there are definitely negative connotations attached to those three lil’ words.

No – right now, I’m talking in a purely psychological, iddy-biddy-things sense. Trying to do something you don’t think you’re capable of, even though you might fail – that’s a bigger display of strength than actually doing it, to my mind. It takes courage, pure and simple. Then, once you’ve achieved it – even if you fail a few times at first – you’ll gain confidence. Pride, even. And if you follow that with something else you don’t think you can do, that’s it. You’ve got it. You’re cultivating the kind of mindset that can make pretty much anything possible.

In short, you’re empowered by it. That’s a successful little cycle you’ve got yourself – in which you use your strength, take pride in your achievements, and use them as power to do more amazing things.

Sounds simple – but it takes a little while to make it a fully fledged habit. You’ve got to start small. Take the stairs. Speak up more at work. Cut down on the cigarettes, or cans of soda, or bars of chocolate. Remember to appreciate the things around you. They’re small steps that can seem like big challenges – but once they become normal, you can move on to the next. Soon enough, you’re living your life by consistently pushing yourself – and consistently being more awesome.

And if you stick at it long enough, you’ll find that lil’ trifecta will take up residence. You’ll get a kind of calm confidence that sits down there at the bottom of your chest – like an anchor that keeps you steady when things are more difficult. It’s no surprise that there have been studies showing that exercise reduces stress, depression and anxiety – and I’d wager that’s not just a result of the physical activity. Doing something – anything – that challenges you, a couple of times a week, is bound to do good things for your psychological wellbeing – and let’s face it: that, right there, is the grand prize.

Back when I was my 290lb self, I wouldn’t have thought I’d struggling to deadlift something that’s about 30lbs lighter than the weight I’ve now lost. (I also wouldn’t have thought the lovely people at Natural Balance Foods would send me a bunch o’ these snack bars to keep me going – so consider this a shout out, because I love free food!)

When you start doing amazing things, other great things will inevitably follow – meaning instead of coasting, waiting for change to happen, you’re generating one awesome thing after another. The more you do it, the easier it gets – and once strength, pride and power become words that you’ve internalised, and made a part of yourself, I promise you’ll be stronger, in every sense.

So this week, this month, and this year: try the things you don’t think you can do. Be proud of them. And be empowered.

‘Cause I promise you can do a lot more than you think.