So I’ve got this friend, I tell Zoe Stirling , the nutritionist behind Project Bikini. This friend mostly sticks to her meal plan during the day but then she’ll usually have a bit of dark chocolate after dinner. That’s no big deal, right? “Well, if you’re having a piece of chocolate after every meal, that means that every week you’re having an extra chocolate bar,” says Zoe. “That’s 52 chocolate bars a year. It’s not as bad if you’re having it with meals, but it’s not the best thing for you.”
Not really the answer I was looking for... One month into Get The Gloss’s 12-week healthy eating and exercise plan , I’m still struggling to knuckle down ( read my first diary entry here ). I’m sticking to three meals a day (no snacks), cooking with coconut oil, putting chia seeds on my porridge, and exercising multiple times a week. But I’m also cheating like hell: chocolate most nights, the toddler’s toast if she doesn’t finish it, wine when I feel like it.
Basically, I’m stuck in the sulky teenager mode I sometimes go into at exercise classes: “I don’t WANT to do this, why do I HAVE to, you can’t MAKE me”. When I call Zoe, I’m really hoping to catch her out - to get her to admit that it can’t possibly matter whether I sprinkle cinnamon on to my food, or offer me a shortcut of some kind. That plan doesn’t really come off.
How about portion sizes, I ask? Is it basically OK to eat as much as you like as long as it’s healthy? “Portion control is really hard,” says Zoe. “This is partly my issue with a lot of health blogs - they put together seemingly healthy meals but if you break down the macronutrients the balance isn’t quite there. If you want to lose weight you’ve got to keep burning what you’re putting in. If you put too much food in, you’re not going into fat-burning mode. Everyone’s slightly different but if you’re not losing any weight after 3-4 weeks, you’re probably eating too much.”
As it happens, I have lost a little weight on Project Bikini. There’s not a huge difference on the scales (I’ve lost maybe two or three pounds) but GTG reckon weighing yourself is a pretty crappy measure of what’s going on, what with muscle weighing more than fat, and all. Instead, their tip is to pick an item of clothing and see how it fits. I chose my straight-leg jeans, which fit perfectly when I first got them but have become a bit snug, and they’re definitely more comfortable.
Talking to Zoe, though, has shamed me. Her message is clear and consistent: everything adds up. Drinking every once in a while is fine, but do it every night and you’ll struggle to lose weight. A teaspoon of cinnamon or cayenne pepper won’t change your body shape, but eating them several times a week could boost your metabolism. The penny drops: if I want to look good in my After pictures in eight weeks’ time, I’ve really got to do this properly. Bravely, I eat the last piece of chocolate in the house. Can I cope without it? Stay tuned.
MY PROJECT BIKINI DIARY, WEEKS 3-4
Make GTG’s buckwheat pancake recipe, using buttermilk instead of the recommended almond milk. This is what I have in the fridge, and I figure it’ll make them nicer. I’m wrong. The pancakes look amazing but their actual consistency closely is closer to “Spontex” than “pancake”. Possibly the buttermilk was a bad idea. I eat three, of course, with plenty of yoghurt and blueberries to add moisture. Spinning class (virtuous), soup for lunch (though not a home-made Project Bikini one), then PB’s pesto chicken with chickpea cannellini rosemary stew for dinner. Chocolate - oops.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday
What happens on a Bank Holiday stays on a Bank Holiday, people. *Pulls jeans up over fat roll*
Do exercises. Realise I should probably be doing exercises for Weeks 3-4 by now. Shit, it turns out I need weights for those. Buy weights online. Eat well, finishing with filling dinner of salmon and brown rice. Ruin it with chocolate. Weight now settling around 67kg (I started at 68kg so I’ve lost… two pounds. And yes I did just switch to pounds to make it sound like more.)
Take a rest day from exercise as I’m in the office. Hope my stressed-out march to and from the Tube counts as the “long walk, preferably in a green space” I am meant to do on rest days. Porridge with grated apple and (super spice) cinnamon, salad lunch, roasted veg dinner, glass of wine (oops).
Eat porridge, then dress in sport gear to go for run after dropping child at childminder. Nip home to check email. Lose four hours. Finally manage to do one round of the indoor circuit before I have to pick her up again. Probably burned more calories putting my kit on and taking it off. Miss lunch due to stupidly busy work day. Go to friend’s house in the evening and accidentally eat 28 home-made cheese straws before dinner (salad at least).
Try new cardio plan for first time. You do four minutes at a steady pace, then one minute at a fast pace. I choose a spinning bike so I can sit down. The empty spin studio at my gym lacks the loud music, fellow spinners and shout instructors I normally rely on for motivation, but I keep going, focused on my future career as a swimwear model.
Yeah… not a good day. Picnic in the park involving 2/3 bottle of prosecco and my friend Nicola’s sausage rolls (now that I type this out it sounds like a euphemism: to be clear I consumed a great deal of pastry and the bad kind of meat fats). “Postpone” exercise all day. Never get round to it.
Make buckwheat pancakes with almond milk this time. Still a bit foamy, but filling - my notes seem to indicate that I don’t eat lunch, which doesn’t sound like me but could be true I guess. Dinner of chicken with butternut squash roasted in coconut oil, plus broccoli and cauliflower. Run (not in intervals, but at least for half an hour).
To be remembered as the day when I spent SIX POUNDS TWENTY on a Joe & The Juice smoothie, because I asked them about smoothies and didn’t look at the price. Project Bikini recommends smoothies, but I haven’t had any yet, having been suspicious of them ever since I did the Six Weeks to OMG diet (“no liquid carbs”). And at these prices, I won’t be having any more.
Do weeks 3-4 exercises for first time. They are SO MUCH easier than weeks 1-2 exercises! Possibly because I am using 400g tins of beans instead of 2 kg weights. Porridge for breakfast, leftover quinoa for lunch, venison for dinner. Bought venison in moment of wackiness at local farmer’s market thinking it could be a good, healthy meat but frankly it smells a lot like dog food.
Buckwheat pancakes with yoghurt and fresh blueberries. Not hungry until lunchtime. (Get a latte anyway.) Go to gym to do interval training on treadmill. If your steady pace is 10kph, is 11kph an acceptable “fast pace”? I hate running. Lunch: salad pots from M&S with beans and quinoa and things. Pick up child at 5.30pm. Decide child must be hungry, find child oatcakes and houmous. Eat oatcakes and houmous. Does child want leftover banana cake? Eat leftover banana cake. Dinner of salmon, roasted veg (in coconut oil) and salad. OK and chocolate.
Porridge with berries and chia. Interview Zoe Stirling for above. Hang up phone and immediately go downstairs to sprinkle cinnamon on to latte. Lunch of green soup, dinner of avocado and cannellini bean sandwich on rye - my own recipe - with a ton of cayenne pepper. Rid house of chocolate, admittedly by eating it. Collect weights from neighbour who finally took delivery. Renewed sense of purpose.
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