Monday, 31 December 2012


What has 2012 given me?  It’s been a bit of a mixed bag of a year. 

In January I joined weight watchers.  That was extremely short-lived albeit successful during that brief period.  January also gave me food poisoning and a fear of oysters which lasted for most of the rest of the year.

In February I waved goodbye to my sister and her children who moved to Australia, permanently.  A low point for me, a huge adventure and a potential for amazing lives for them.  February also found me getting very drunk in Quo Vadis with my friend Andrew and spotting Gary Barlow.  He’s very handsome...and very short.  I also visited friends in Broadstairs and wished momentarily that I could leave London for a better kind of life.

March saw me drunkenly kiss a friend’s flatmate.  That was a mistake.

April saw me head off to Australia for three weeks – good and bad times there but I was happy to find that I could understand why my sister needs to live in Melbourne even if she is so far away from the rest of us.  I also got to see Little Penguins parade out of the sea, over the beach and up to their sand-dune beds.  Pretty magical.  I was also able to visit my oldest friend and my godson who I haven’t seen for years and meet her (at that point) latest addition to her family.  I haven’t been lucky enough to meet her actual latest addition who was born a couple of months later.

In May, I did a lot of socialising.  I discovered Little Lamb on Shaftesbury Avenue for hot pot.  Go.  I worried about my finances.  I probably did that in every other month too.

June was a bad month.  It saw the worst depressive dip I have ever experienced.  I hunkered down, cancelled all my plans and did everything I could to keep my head above water and I got through it.  I was, however, lucky enough to meet two brand new babies for the first time in June, so even this terrible month had its moments.

I hate July.  It’s my birthday month.  I’ve never understood why people like their birthdays – I never have, even as a child.  At my age, all a birthday does is make me older and less likely to meet someone and have children before it’s too late.  I hate July.  Despite that, I went to Burgundy with my friend Andrew and it was great.  We saw the Tour de France fly past us in approximately 10 seconds, ate some terrible food (what is it with the French and their obsession with tinned vegetables?) and drank some pretty rough wine, but it was fun. 

August saw me crash a moped and injure myself and vow never to get on a bike ever again.

In September I went and drank alone in a crowded pub for the first time and found that I didn’t care what people thought of me.  In September I also realised that a particular friendship in my life was unhealthy and causing me unhappiness and huge amounts of stress.  I needed to limit it and I have. 

In October my mum visited twice.  My mum visiting is one of my most favourite things.  We did culture (Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic, Uncle Vanya, the bronzes at the Royal Academy) and did good food (Alyn Williams at the Westbury, Jose, Inside in Greenwich, dim sum).  In fact it was a good month for food as I also went to Duck & Waffle and Zoilo.  It was a fat month.

November saw me start Dukan in my desperation over how fat I had become.  I stuck it out for a mere three weeks...three horrible weeks.  I felt stressed, depressed and didn’t like myself very much. 

In December I gave up Dukan and accepted that I am going to see out 2012 significantly fatter than I saw it in.  I ceased caring about dieting for the rest of this year and ate and ate.  My parents left for a long visit to Australia and I had my first ever Christmas without my family around me.  The year has ended on a spectacular low where I feel unhappy and ill-at-ease in my previously much-loved flat since Ralphie brought a mouse into the sitting room and promptly lost it, but where I am at such a low ebb that I don’t want to see people at all.  I also discovered that some friends go above and beyond the call of duty and will literally pick you up when you are on your knees.  Those ones are definitely keepers. 

Overall, it hasn’t been the best year.  I’m not sure whether it’s been the worst either, but I don’t remember there being a lot of happiness in 2012.  Looking back at it, I feel empty.

And now we’re on the corner of 2013.  Ordinarily, I feel quite positive at New Year, feeling that the next year HAS to be better than the preceding year.  This year, I’m limiting my expectations.  I’m just going to hope that it isn't worse.  My resolutions:

  • Deal with the mouse phobia (I’m already On This and have some NLP lined up)
  • Be less self-destructive (I don’t have high hopes, but we can try...)
  • Lose enough weight to not have another Fat Summer
  • Stay at home more and learn to live alone contentedly
  • Take lunch to work at least twice a week
  • Look into evening courses – pottery? Wine?
  • De-clutter the flat (fewer hiding places for mice)
  • Paint stuff – doors, walls, windows
  • Once ready (i.e. thinner!) consider trying internet dating again 
  • Learn to meditate/relax (been on my list for years – I never manage this) 
  • Spend less.  New buying mantra: do I need it? Can I live without it?

And those, folks, are my aims for 2013.  No “get happy”.  Nobody is happy 100% of the time.  No “lose 5 stone” – the huge figure is too overwhelming.  Just little changes, many of which I know already I won’t make.  I haven’t painted those doors for 6 ½ years – it’s not likely to happen in 2013.  But we can hope, right?

Friday, 21 December 2012

Mad, sad or bad?

I've thought hard about whether I should publish this blog post. The answer? Probably not, but fuck it.

I should start by saying that I know I don't have the worst life. Not by a long shot. Terrible things happen to good people: children die, people get ill, legs get blown off, people lose all their money and sink into a rotten mess.

None of this has happened to me. I'm incredibly fortunate - many would consider me lucky. I own my own flat. I have a secure (I think!) job in a terrible job market. I have the most wonderful family. My friends are astonishing - I regularly wonder how the hell I've managed to meet them and keep them and have them care for me in the way that they do which, in the main, seems fairly unconditional...which is more than I expect from anyone and I fear is more than I can give. So yes, in many ways I'm lucky.

Yet on the flip side I suffer, and I mean SUFFER, from this horrible thing called depression. What the hell is depression? I think that most people think that depression is merely a bit of sadness – they'd possibly think that I'm just a bit down and blue…but that's not right. Unfortunately I think that most people don't understand depression at all. Lucky them, frankly.

Depression...mad, sad or bad? I'm inclined to think it's somewhere between the first two. My madness makes me sad. I become overwhelmed by this feeling of complete emptiness and loss of hope - it's physical, like the bottom of my stomach has fallen out and my heart literally aches. The world feels like a vile place, filled with happy people being happy who just make me so angry at everything. And the anger just makes me hate myself. It's so very destructive. I'm not bad though. I try hard not to be bad and, despite feeling like crap, I drag myself up and out to work every day. It's a matter of pride to me that I won’t let depression defeat me and ruin my professional life and leave me in a heap on the floor. I have a strangely strong and stubborn sense of self-preservation. In this sense, I am genuinely lucky – so far I’ve managed to beat that side of it. Others aren’t so lucky and can’t get up from the sofa and get themselves out and let themselves live. I hope that that doesn’t happen to me.

However, despite every concerted effort I make, the misery does filter through occasionally and, as a result, after being diagnosed nearly 5 years ago, last week I finally told my managing partner that I have depression. It's safe to say that he was pretty stunned. He had no idea and I'm kind of proud of that fact - that I have functioned for five years, never taking a single day off sick with my depression...I feel like I've done something pretty exceptional. He said that knowing it meant that he could make concessions where necessary - NO. That’s not what I want and that isn't why I told him. I told him only because I know that sometimes I retreat into myself, become hard to engage with and I know it affects others. Quiet is my way of getting through the day. I'm not especially unpleasant, I'm not shouty or demanding...I'm just quiet and unreceptive. And I felt that finally it needed to be explained.

When things are bad, which they are at the moment, I don't have any coping mechanisms. Everything becomes my personal Everest and I'm easily defeated. Tonight I received a letter which kind of floored me and has just reinforced how much my life disappoints me in every way. The flat, the job, the friends and family...they cease to mean anything because I'm just fundamentally unhappy. I don't really know what you do with that.

I wish I could make my depression go away but, try as I might - and I have - I can't. So instead I carry on and occasionally I'll be lucky enough to stumble across a book like Matthew Johnstone's “I Had a Black Dog" (buy it) which reminds me that I'm absolutely not alone in this and I'll suddenly feel quite normal again.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A day in the life of a Dukan sufferer

I'm now nearly 3 weeks into Dukan. I've reintroduced alcohol although I'm not drinking every day by any means. I've stuck to the diet to the letter but I'm finding it incredibly hard and I've had many moments of misery.

Days when I can eat vegetables (PV days) are great - I can roast up some butternut squash and pretend it's carbs, I can get some flavour from tomatoes and spring onions and make stir fries full of crunchy vegetables. Pure protein (PP days) aren't so much fun. They start with yogurt, which I've learnt to love and am just damn grateful that it's not more meat. Lunch is where I struggle. I don't have any cooking or heating facilities at work so I just have a horrible pile of protein with nothing else - you wouldn't believe how unpleasant it can be to just eat a pile of ham or dry chicken breast stripped from the carcass with, at a push, a spoonful of plain yogurt or low fat cottage cheese to make it a little more palatable. There just isn't any way to make things taste nice on a PP day. I tried taking into work an oat bran wrap that I'd made the night before but it just wasn't nice; cold, soggy and a bit stale tasting. I want sauce like mayo or pesto or something creamy and lovely to have with the crappy dry protein. Even a tomato sauce would be good but I can't have that on a PP day. I can't have nice sauce ever. It kills me.

I had a bit of a meltdown yesterday. I lost a lot of weight in the first 6 days on Attack but, since then, I'd lost absolutely nothing. I went up and down around the weight I'd achieved at the end of Attack stage which, annoyingly, was bang on X stone (nooooooo, I'm not telling you how much I weigh!!) All I wanted was to lose a pound or half a pound to take me into a new stone bracket, to a smaller number. But the scales have defied and frustrated me and I've lost a lot of motivation and generally just feel hugely demoralised. Oh - except I got home from a night out last night, from eating many delicious skewers from Bincho Yakitori, drinking plenty of wine and sake and weighed myself...HELLO NEW STONE BRACKET!! Go figure.

So I'm thinking about ditching the PP days and making every day a PV day. In theory this should slow down my weight loss but I'm not losing any weight anyway, so why not try it? I think I'd find it easier and less stressful. And surely if I'm still eating protein and vegetables with virtually no fat and no carbs, that should work, shouldn't it? I'm desperate to lose weight and I am, at last, willing to do it and do it for the long haul, but I'm not sure it should make me quite this miserable. No other diet has made me this miserable.

Anyway, here's a day in the life of a happier Dukaner: a PV day.

Breakfast of scrambled Burford Brown eggs with fried mushrooms - so delicious and NOT MEAT! And not yogurt! An excellent change from the norm.

Lunch of an oat bran Dukan pancake with fried mushrooms and prosciutto.

To make one pancake, whisk together 2 tbsp oat bran, 1 tbsp wheat bran, 1 egg, a splash of skimmed milk and a pinch of salt. Heat up a very non-stick frying pan and wipe with a little oil and pour in the pancake. Reduce the heat so it's medium to low - these pancakes have to be cooked slowly so that they're cooked through and don't fall apart when you try to turn them. You may need a good 3-4 minutes before you can turn it and then let it cook for a couple of minutes on that side before serving.

These pancakes are genuinely delicious. They're great with eggs on or topped with some quark and ham and made into a wrap. Today's was the best though, spread with a touch of quark and topped with mushrooms and prosciutto. I had a very happy face after this.

Incidentally, you have to eat oat bran every day on Dukan to help keep you...ahem...regular. These pancakes are awesome and my favourite way of getting the oat bran into me. Trust me on this and make them.

Dinner was an Asian meatbally broth - this recipe was found by @supergolden on the BBC Food website (linky) but I adapted it a bit for a hungry Dukaner who didn't have all the right ingredients.


250g minced beef
2 spring onions, sliced finely
A good chunk of ginger, grated
2/3 of a red chilli, chopped finely
Very finely sliced coriander stalks
1/2 teaspoon of cornflour
A shake of sesame oil
Salt and pepper

Mix these ingredients together and form into bite size balls. Wipe a hot non-stick frying pan with oil and brown the meatballs.

1 beef stock cube
1 chicken stock cube
500 ml boiling water
1 star anise
Chunk of ginger, sliced
Juice of half a lime
Green beans or other green vegetable
1/2 red chilli, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced on a slant
A shake of sesame oil

Make up the stock (I didn't have any fresh so decided to make a mixture of chicken and beef) and simmer with the star anise and ginger for a few minutes. Pop in the browned meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes. Add your green vegetable - I used some halved green beans - and the lime juice and simmer for another 5 minutes, adding the red chilli 30 seconds before the end. Stir in the shake of sesame oil and serve with the spring onions sprinkled over and some coriander leaves if you have them (I didn't) and a wedge of lime if it's really salty. DO NOT ADD SALT. Stock cubes are salty sods and you definitely won't need any extra unless you have some weird deficiency.

Pudding: another oat bran pancake (I didn't have any oat bran yesterday) made as above, but replacing the pinch of salt with a tsp of granulated sweetener. Top with lemon juice and granulated sweetener.

So it's been a good day. I feel healthy and happier than I have in a while on this diet. I think I just need to plan, plan, plan and make sure that I don't just resort to chunks of protein on their own. It gets tired very very quickly. Can I do this until I've lost my 5 stone?? That's the big question.

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