Wednesday, 30 June 2010


To say I am a bit of a worrier is like saying….the Queen is a little bit posh. I worry so much, that I have an actual, official diagnosed Disorder. Yep, my medical records show me as a sufferer of Anxiety Disorder (with a bit of depression thrown in for good measure).

If you break a leg, or your appendix explodes, you have an actual, tangible thing wrong with you. It’s something you can point to (actually, I wouldn’t know where to point for my appendix. My leg is, obviously, less of a problem). To say you have an Anxiety Disorder…well, it makes me feel a bit silly frankly.

The reason I’m writing about this (believe me, it is not something of which I am particularly proud) is because I was looking back at my first entry. You know, the one where I say that I got fat because I loved food. That’s partly true, but it isn’t the whole story. Plenty of people love food and don’t get fat. It’s the starting point, perhaps. Food for me has always been a source of comfort and joy and comfort is the operative word here. In times when my anxiety was at its absolute worst – the weekends when I was, literally, scared to get out of bed, I needed comfort, I needed something to smother me like a blanket. I think that’s where the food came in. And the wine. The world seemed better when viewed from the bottom of a wine bottle. It made the fear recede a little.

Anyway, tackling these issues is as much a part of this lifestyle change as changing how and what I eat. Tomorrow, I am going for my first appointment with a Clinical Psychologist. She’ll ask me what’s wrong and my instinct will be to say something self deprecating like, “Oh, I’m just a bit worried. It’s nothing much.” But I hope I can resist that instinct, I hope I can let her help me. I need to retrain myself, to find alternative ways of coping that are not actively harming my body.

Maybe I should print out this entry and take it with me.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Recipe corner - curry night

As per my last post here are some of my current favourite curry recipes. They're dead easy, quick to cook and seriously tasty.

First up - Creamy spiced dahl. Granted, it's a bit high on points for a side dish but it is really good (promise!) and the lentils are so filling that you can cut down on your rice portion.


1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1cm fresh root ginger, grated
4 cardamon pods
pinch of dried chilli flakes
200g red lentils, rinsed and drained
200ml reduced fat coconut milk

Serves 4, 5 points per person, 7 pro points per person

Toast the seeds over a low heat until fragrant, and transfer to a pestle and mortar. Add the cardamon pods and the chilli flakes to the seeds and give a good pounding.

In the same pan, eat the oil and soften the onion, garlic and ginger.

Tip the lentils and seeds into the pan and stir well before adding the coconut milk and water to cover. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer over a low heat until the lentils are soft - probably about 20 mins.

And now for the Cumin-spiced chicken one of my all time favourite WW recipes. In our household, the ultimate mark of recipe appreciation is cooking it on a regular basis (because we try so many new recipes and many don't make it into regular rotation).


Large onion sliced,
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut into 8 pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
tsp cumin seeds
tsp ground coriander
tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 medium green chillies, de-seeded and chopped
300ml chicken stock
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp 0% fat Greek yoghurt

Heat a non stick frying pan and stir fry the onion for about 4 mins until soft.

Add the chicken pieces and continue to cook until browned on all sides.

Add all the other ingredients except the lemon juice and the yoghurt. Heat gently until simmering, and then cover the pan and cook for 15 mins.

Remove the lid and cook for a further 2-3 mins until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Stir through the lemon juice and yoghurt, season to taste and serve.

Serves 2, 2.5 points per person, 4 pro points per person

Curry(ge) in defeat

In common with many of my countrymen, I watched the football on Sunday.

Now, I don't like football. I just don't understand the appeal of watching grown men running around in knee socks (convent school flashback!) and lurid trainers kicking a ball at each other. What I can get on board with though, is the excuse to drink beer and eat Kettle Chips at three o clock in the afternoon (and no, I've no idea how those things fit into a supposedly WW friendly foodplan either. Rather like birthdays, Christmas and days of the week ending in "y", the points don't count when you're tapping into the national zeitgeist.)

Anyway, after beer, crisps and football, there is only one type of meal to end the day with - and that is curry. Some might argue that a kebab would be suitable as well but I say why would you want to eat meat that looks like it has been carved off a human limb? Sorry, but kebabs creep me out.

I LOVE curry - all types. I'm making up for lost time you see, when I was little I decided I didn't like spicy food and didn't touch anything more daring than tandoori chicken for years. Now, we tend to eat curry at least once a week. Unfortunately for me, my wallet and my hips, we have a fantastic Indian takeaway just across the road from us - literally, spitting distance! But I do enjoy making it as well - there is something incredibly satisfying about pounding up spices in my beloved pestle and mortar. And I have found that most curry recipes I've come across are easily adaptable for a "diet" (or, permanent lifestyle change - diet is just so much easier to say). Just reduce the amount of oil and/or butter.

I'll share the recipes I made on Sunday night in a later post...they're both seriously yummy. Had I been concerned at the football result, it would have been like spicy balm for the soul. As it was it still made a nice tea.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Recipe corner - Steak with blue cheese sauce

I suppose I should preface this post by saying if you don't think it is worth using half of your daily points on one meal, you may want to skip this.

Me, I like a bit of luxury at dinner time, and am prepared to scrimp earlier in the day if I've got something really yummy to look forward to in the evening. And the following is seriously good that it is even worth hitting the gym for an hour and sweating out a few extra points.

In my last post I mentioned that I wanted to try and incorporate cheese into my meals a bit more in a kind of look-the-devil-in-the-eye type way and here is my first attempt.


2 x 200g medallion steak - trimmed of fat
100g strong blue cheese
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Shallot, finely chopped
Tbsp white wine
Tbsp butter
2 tbsp water
200g oven chips (I like McCains)

Serves 2, 13 points per person

Over a low heat, soften the shallot and garlic. A pinch of salt at this stage will help the veg to sweat rather than brown.

Add the wine, let it reduce down. Then add the blue cheese, and, over a low heat, melt it down to a gorgeous, oozy sauce. Check the seasoning - I'd add pepper but it probably won't need any salt.

Heat the butter in a frying pan, and when frothing, season the meat, add the steaks and cook to your own preference. I like the cow to basically still be alive on the plate, so a minute or so each side is perfectly good for me.

Remove the steak to a warmed plate and allow it to rest (you should never eat meat straight out of the pan - it needs time to recover from the trauma!)

Add the water to the steak pan and use it to deglaze - i.e. scrape off all the lovely, steaky burny bits in the pan. Pour the meaty juices into the blue cheese sauce to loosen it slightly.

Bake the chips according to the packet instructions to serve on the side. You could make your own from scratch if you were so inclined...


If you are NOT keen on the idea of blowing so many points on one meal, I reckon it would be fairly easy to bring the total down. Ditch the butter for a start, and cook the steaks in a dry pan (maybe add a little spray oil first). This saves you 2 points per portion. Also, you could make the sauce using 50g blue cheese and 50g extra low fat soft cheese which would save you another 2 points. Oh, and it has just occurred to me that you could make butternut squash chips to serve on the side which would save you ANOTHER 2 points - making all of these changes turns this into a 7 point supper, which is probably much more reasonable. I might try it that way next time and see if D notices the difference (he's a good gauge - he tends to pull a face if he thinks that I am trying to serve him "diet" food.)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The good, the bad and the cheesy

I would guess that one of the biggest mistakes that I make is that I have a tendency to get into “diet” mode. That is, when I start to deny myself certain foodstuffs because they do not fit into the traditional idea of “being on a diet”. When you’ve been worrying about your weight pretty much your entire adult life – actually, throughout much of your pre-adult life as well – you do get trapped into a certain way of thinking.

There are no good foods and bad foods. There are foods that are have more nutritional value than others. There are foods that should only be consumed in moderation. But to call a food “good” or “bad” is to somehow make a moral issue out of it. It’s a hard habit to break. Foods for me have been labelled “good” or “bad” for ooooh…probably going on fifteen years. And this is why, I guess, that certain, perfectly innocuous items – a lump of cheese, for example, becomes imbued with all this daft meaning.

(In loud booming voice) “I am CHEESE! I am EVIL! I will break your diet and make you FAT!”

So, as a result you avoid cheese like the plague and then you start craving it. But you can’t eat it, because it is evil and will make you fat. But you really, really want some. So you end up eating an entire block, probably on top of some well buttered bread for good measure (if you’re going to “break your diet” you may as well really smash it to pieces).

So one of my challenges for myself is to find ways of incorporating these foods into my meals without making a massive issue out of it. Cheese is the biggie for me. I adore it. Really, really love it, all of it, from soapy fake cheddar to full on, smells-like-socks blue cheese. I need to search out some recipes that deliver on cheesy taste without too much of a points hit. Stay tuned!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Recipe corner - Lemon Couscous

I mentioned here that during asparagus season one of our favourite simple meals is a chicken breast from the local farm shop accompanied by asparagus and couscous.

Well, yesterday I returned home after a weekend away and was in need of something delicious after a painfully long bus journey, so this was dinner. D tinkered slightly with the couscous and it was absolutely delicious so I though I would post his method here – it’s simple to do but worked fantastically with just the plain chicken and asparagus that was tossed in olive oil and then griddled. I suspect it would be equally lovely with other meats or fish or even some sort of tagine as it has a bit of a Moroccan feel to it.


100g couscous
Chicken stock cube
4 cardamom pods
Tsp ground coriander
25g raisins
Zest and juice of half a small lemon
Tsp butter

Serves 2, 3.5 points per person

Lightly crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar.

Add the cardamom to the couscous, along with the chicken stock cube (D actually used a Knur chicken stock pot but a cube would probably do just as well), the coriander and the raisins. Add boiling water to just submerge the couscous and cover (a clean tea towel will do for this – or you could use clingfilm).

After about five minutes the couscous should have absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork and then stir through the lemon zest and juice and the butter. Check the seasoning before serving – you shouldn’t need to add salt because of the stock.

You could add some fresh coriander to this just before serving.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Stop press!

From the BBC website:

Tea is "healthier" drink than water!

Now that kind of thing makes this true-blue Brit tea drinking obsessive very happy.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Every dieter knows…

…That Monday morning is a magical time.

No, really. Something strange happens between going to bed on Sunday evening and waking up on Monday morning. Something resets. All past sins are forgiven (with regards to food and drink in any case), all mistakes forgotten. A page is turned in a (metaphorical or otherwise) diary and the new week stretches ahead, all clean and white, just waiting to be filled with details of delicious, yet healthy, food and plenty of exercise. It is a mini version of what happens every New Year’s Eve.

So it was for me yesterday. Monday morning I was full of optimism (insofar as I can ever be optimistic on a Monday morning when a new week of work is ahead of me). I enjoyed my current favourite on-plan breakfast: low fat fromage frais, blueberries and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, and snacked virtuously on fruit. Up until about twelve o clock it was all going swimmingly.

And then it happened. A well meaning friend took me for a lunch time coffee and bought me a….brownie.

There it sat, in the middle of the table, and I swear the little bugger was laughing at me. I entered DPM (Diet Panic Mode) and started mentally weighing up the excuses to get out of eating the brownie versus the excuses to allow myself to eat it (no easy task when you’re trying to carry out a conversation at the same time). At the forefront of my mind I could see that diary page, radiant with newness. And then I saw it - that great, big, chocolatey smudge across the middle of Monday, ruining everything.

I ate the brownie.

It was good.

But do you know what? The day wasn’t ruined, let alone the week. One poor decision, one bad meal – they won’t undo all my other efforts throughout the next six and a half days. I can choose to smear that brownie all over my diary, and maybe leave a red wine stain and a couple of crumbs of cheese on there for good measure, or I can move on.

For the record, that brownie was 7.5 points. Yep, I looked up the nutritional info as soon as I got back to my desk. Rather than veering off course I stuck to my preordained plan and had a delicious mussel paella for tea, and went to bed reminding myself that what every dieter thinks they know is actually rubbish. A new day, a new week, a new year – they would all come round again tomorrow.

And they did.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Memories of Barcelona

Last night, I was looking at some old photos. Well, I say old, they were taken nearly six years ago. Back in August 2004, D and I had been together about four months. Things were going well, so well that we decided to take our first holiday together. We went to Barcelona. I can’t remember why we picked that particular destination now, and I don’t suppose it matters.

It was a lovely city – no doubt, it still is. We had a wonderful time. Over lunch one day we overheard a conversation where a woman was saying, with a sorrowful shake of her head, that “Holidays are stressful times for couples.” D caught my eye and we started to laugh. There was nothing stressful about our holiday. We walked for miles in the heat of a Spanish August, we ate tapas and drank bottles of cool beer in pavement cafes, everything was perfect. I think that holiday was the time I realised that I was in an actual, serious relationship. It was certainly the time when I decided that I wanted to live with this man (and indeed, we moved in together less than six months after returning from Spain, a mere ten months after first meeting).

The point is that the memories of this holiday are very precious to me. But looking at the photos I felt sad.

The girl in the pictures was so pretty. And she had a gorgeous figure – slim without being skinny, curves in the right places.

I am not that girl now. I am about three stone away from being that girl. At my biggest I was nearly six stone away from her. Six stone. That’s….a ridiculous amount of weight. That’s a small person. A small person that I was carrying around on my back.

I would never, ever want to subscribe to the view that an aesthetic of beauty is dependant on conforming to a certain weight or a certain size or a certain colour. But looking at the girl in the pictures, I remember that she felt beautiful. She knew she was never going to be a supermodel, but she didn’t care because she was young and she was happy and she was perfectly healthy and she had the kind of glow that you get when you are in love for the first time in your life. And, (and I realise this sentence damns me as a superficial cow, but this is my aesthetic of beauty) she was a size ten.

I haven’t felt beautiful for a long time. And that makes me sad. But I have stuck one of those Barcelona pictures up in the kitchen to remind me, on the days when it seems tedious to count points, on the days when my chocolate cravings feel all-consuming, that I want to be that girl again.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Sticking to a budget

When I’m in a bad mood and feeling resentful of the Weight Watchers treadmill, the main stick-to-beat-it-with that I can come up with is that it tends to deprive your eating life of spontaneity. I mean, obviously you could choose to approach the day with a laissez-faire attitude, and hope that intuitively your food choices fall within your points allowance. Me, I tend to develop a condition known as “points-blindness” when I do that. The only way for me to succeed is to plan out meals and snacks to within an inch of my life.

This seems to take an inordinate amount of time and I sometimes wonder if I make the whole process too difficult for myself. For instance, I read somewhere recently that the majority of people have a standard repertoire of no more than twelve dishes that they eat in rotation. That would make meal planning very easy, but I suspect I might keel over with boredom. Of course, there are dishes that I cook regularly but I don’t think, in all the four and a bit years that I have lived with D, that a week has ever gone by where I haven’t tried out at least one new recipe. I may well be a little obsessed. As well as subscribing to three food magazines a month (well, one of them is the Weight Watchers magazine which would perhaps best be described as…lifestyle. But it has recipes in it) I am frequently to be found surfing the net and bookmarking recipe sites as well. Oh, and I adore recipe books. I can sit and read them cover to cover like a novel. With all those choices out there, how could I ever restrict myself to twelve – or even a hundred and twelve – dishes for the rest of my lifetime??!

And hey, meal planning has perks other than point related ones. I find I actually spend a lot less money at the supermarket now because I have a plan and a subsequent shopping list and I tend not to deviate. So I’m learning to budget my points as well as my pounds. Hence the post title. Yes, cheesy.

In other news – I took my first Body Combat class in aaaaages last night and survived! Of all the Les Mills classes this is my absolute favourite – it’s basically a cross between aerobics and martial arts all set to very loud, thumpy music. Nothing better for stress relief than punching at empty air to a persistent drum beat.