My weight is now slowly going down. I've lost 3 pounds in the last two weeks, which isn't a lot, but it's a welcome reduction which encourages me to carry on. My method? Slightly smaller portions, a lot less snacking between meals, plenty of fluids throughout the day, such as tea and water, and walking around just a little more. Things I can make part of my ordinary life, and keep up indefinitely. After all, there is the sheer pleasure of eating to consider. I still want to enjoy one of life's greatest sensual pleasures. A pleasure one can rein in a bit, but surely not forego entirely.
It's no good rushing at weight loss. You need to get accustomed to a permanently better regime, so that after the initial zeal has worn off you can happily continue with it. You have to think in terms of months and years, and the health benefits that will gradually stack up in your favour. Crash diets (or unnatural abstinence from certain kinds of foods) may give impressive short-term results, but they are a pain, and very hard to stick to once some target is met. Apart from that, I'd worry about being deprived of a balanced diet.
I've crash-dieted on two occasions in recent years.
The first was from July to September 2008, at the very start of my transition, when I was frankly disgusted with my slob-like body and wanted to purge it of excess fat. But I didn't go about it very scientifically. I lost two stones all right, but my arm and leg muscle wasted away too much and I actually started to feel pain in my limbs, the remaining muscle protesting against the deadweight it needed to hold up. So I had to ease off. I stayed thin for months after, but gradually I fattened up again.
The second occasion was in the run-up to my surgery, during late 2010 and early 2011, when the surgeon-imposed weight loss target was one and half stone, and I tackled it with a proper calorie-controlled diet. It meant a lot of portion-weighing and record-keeping, and it left me a little peckish at times, but I had balanced and interesting meals to eat, and this approach was in no way fanatical. I could if necessary go back to it without trouble. However, I think my present less-demanding method will do, provided that I show a consistent weight loss of five pounds each month. In theory, that would be four stones over the next twelve months, which seems an unlikely loss to me: three stones will be quite sufficient, and I won't feel a failure if it's only two.
So what am I still eating? Ah, I have photos to show you - you don't have to rely on my unsupported word! I don't point the camera at every meal I cook, but I have been fairly assiduous recently. It's very nearly a complete record.
I usually have a very light breakfast, mainly cereal with cranberries or blueberries in it, and coffee.
Lunch is often (as today) just two lightly-buttered crackers with a little salami on top, accompanied by a small hunk of cheese, and followed by an apple. It depends on how active I'm going to be in the hours ahead. I cooked this mushroom-and-bacon lunch last week:
I generally cook an evening meal that is hot and filling, even though it's only for myself. I regard adequate nutrition as very important. I want to keep myself topped up with a broad range of foodstuffs, and all the vitamins required. So takeaways are a no-no. So are sugary snacks and soft drinks. I don't as a rule drink any alcohol at home, preferring water or elderflower cordial with the meal. I'll invariably have an apple for dessert, then coffee.
In the last two weeks or so, I've cooked these things at home in the evening. First up, a Chinese wok meal with marinated chicken (a whole day in the marinade), stir-fried vegetables and fresh stir-fried noodles. The following evening was a French meal at a friend's house, of pork, crushed potato gratin and salad, washed down with wine. But the next evening I had a simple meal of haddock, new potatoes, green beans and tinned tomatoes:
Then it was the beef-in-red-wine stew (featured in the post on Bosham) that I cooked up and shared with my friend R---. And the evening after that, sea bass with new potatoes and courgettes:
Next up, lamb chops, new potatoes, carrots and brussels sprouts, with a rich gravy. Then the following night, a lighter meal of black pudding, bacon, new potatoes and tinned tomatoes:
On the next two nights, sirloin steak, new potatoes, courgettes and mushrooms. Then a pizza from Waitrose (tomato, goat's cheese, onion and spinach) enhanced with tinned anchovies, pesto olives and a drizzle of olive oil:
Mmmm. That pizza was good. I ate both halves! Fancying fish again, it was then haddock with new potatoes and chopped spinach; and last night it was gammon with new potatoes, green beans and mushrooms:
Somewhere in between these home-cooked meals was a Waitrose (or was it a Sainsbury's?) curry with rice, and last Sunday evening I shared tapas at La Tasca in Brighton with the same R--- who came to Bosham with me.
I also eat eggs - I can do a good omlette, for instance, and lovely yellow, moist, flavoursome scrambled eggs - but eggs are something I eat rather less often. I've got to be in the right mood for eggs.
I think you'll grant that I like (and can churn out) tasty, colourful meals! But they are not artistic in the Masterchef fashion, even though I could achieve a better result if I applied the kind of skill and close attention to detail that the contestants do. In fact, my simple peasant meals are produced with only humble technique (read 'crude technique'), and are very much a dole-it-out-of-the-pot-and-slap-it-on-the-plate exercise. Well, hot and hearty doesn't have to mean sophisticated, and perhaps ought not to be. So it's all quick and easy, none of these plates (except the beef stew) taking more than half an hour to prepare and cook.
And despite eating them, I've lost three pounds in two weeks. This must demonstrate something.