Shedding the mum-tum (it's been fun)

Sayonara mum-tum: the cheat’s guide to cutting the calories

By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

I’m just coming into week 6 of my Diet Chef diet and I’m pleased to say I look and feel better. Friends and family have been kind enough to say I look “nice” (as opposed to looking “well“, which we all know is nice-person-code for “chubby“).  I think I have also lost one of my chins.

I have to say, as a diet, this really is an easy option. They say on the Diet Chef website that you actually don’t HAVE to exercise any more than normal, so, unlike other diets, you’re not dragging your rumbling stomach out of bed to run around the block whist being laughed at by the Postman. Doing an extra few star jumps and long walks though does help to speed up the weight loss, but at least you’re not being forced. (Being forced to exercise immediately makes me want to phone my mum to ask her for a note, or feign a dodgy toe in GCSE-style P.E. escape plans. The horror.)

Now I’m three-quarters of the way through my 8-week plan, I have actually learned a few tips that I thought I’d share:

  1. Give yourself time to adjust. This one is key. When starting any diet it is likely you will be consuming less than you were before. Your meals will be smaller (hopefully), and you will be functioning on fewer calories. Don’t rush into a mad exercise regime the moment you start or it is likely you’ll feel a bit unwell (or want to stop the diet). By day 5 your body will have adjusted, I found, so after that point you can start to exercise more.
  2. Make some cheeky swaps. Instead of wolfing down pasta at dinner time, try cous cous (I’ve grown to really like those tiny kernels of semolina that resemble suspiciously damp play sand) or brown rice. You’ll feel full yet they are less calorific. Jamie Oliver also came up with an ingenious carb swap: cauliflower. Put the cauliflower heads into a blender for a few seconds to grind into a ricey-looking faux carb. Then simply boil or steam for a few minutes. It’s surprisingly tasty yet pretty damn good for you. Apparently you can also cut aubergine finely and bake it, to create a noodle replacement (though after my recent nightmare about zombie eels I’m going to leave this one for a few weeks).
  3. Ditch the large plates. This is an old one but some say feeling full has a lot to do with the size of the plate. I found eating from a bowl or small plate really helps, as it still feels like I am eating a significant meal just like all the other grown-ups around the table.
  4. If you cheat, don’t go over-board. It’s tempting to say “stuff the diet – it’s Friday!” but in real life there is always an excuse. If you go out for dinner, or someone cooks for you, it’s OK to stray occasionally. Just remember how hard you’ve worked and compromise with a small portion of something yummy. You’ll still enjoy the taste and your host won’t be offended (and you can always give the pudding away to your nearest willing volunteer).
  5. Eat with a toddler. This worked well for me. Not only does it incorporate the equivalent of a cardio class (jumping up and down, making a dive for the baby wipes and fighting off balloons that may have been stuck into your face) but they also tend to want what’s on YOUR plate. Sharing your meal with a cheeky toddler certainly does cut down the calories.
  6. Eat LIKE a toddler. Upon observing my little one, he eats small amounts and certainly goes along with the idea of little and often. He takes ages to chew, and rarely fully finishes his portion (after ten minutes he gets bored and runs off to find his truck). When I tried limiting my own portions, not feeling like I had to finish everything in front of me, and hoofing about the house in between courses this certainly helped my weight loss that week. (I skipped the half-sucked rusks and worms from the garden though. Bleugh.)


    Ranging around between meals: burns a few extra cals

  7. Give chocolate away. Not only does it help hugely with weight-loss, by not having any temptation in the house, but it also makes you one of the most popular people on the street. Hooray!
  8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. There really are no safe ‘quick fix’ diets that are truly sustainable. It takes work, and it isn’t always easy, but if you stick with it you WILL see results. Don’t compare yourself to that woman at the gym with perfect abs – try to remember that you have lost SOMETHING. Your bingo wings* may not be totally gone but they are smaller than they were before. (*A quick note on bingo wings – I saw Posh Spice waving on TV last week and even SHE had them – so I’m choosing to embrace them and be thankful that my underarms won’t be cold in winter.)

Delicious home-made temptation that didn’t get the better of me: I gave my portion away to my niece (skipping the calorie gain in favour of gaining ‘aunty points’ is a winner)!

As someone probably quite inspirational once said “being fit and healthy isn’t easy, which is what makes it so special“. It isn’t always a walk in the park. Losing weight, too, can become a bit of an obsession – which is why I’ve found Diet Chef so good. It’s all done for you, you barely have to think about it and you really do notice results in as little as a few weeks. I’m hoping this diet will have changed my way of thinking: namely, in relation to portion control, so I’ll be able to carry it on after the hampers have stopped arriving. And, as my other half said, “don’t worry – if it all goes wrong you can just go back on Diet Chef again“. He may seem of little faith but he makes an excellent point.

End of week 5: 7kg lost so far. That’s the equivalent of around 8 boxes of Celebrations!

Shedding the mum-tum (it's been fun)

It’s the simplest of things yet the hardest of things: post-baby dieting dilemmas

By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

I think a post-baby diet is the simplest of things in principle yet pretty darn tricky in practicality. You get used to eating a (super-duper early) breakfast, having a snack before lunch to just blinking keep you going and quaffing some of your un-eaten (yet carefully cooked) toddler’s dinner when they ceremoniously reject it in favour of a Peppa Pig yoghurt. You go for coffee (and cake), you get invited to little ones’ parties (with cake) and your cupboards are stuffed full of tea (and cake, in case someone calls round unexpectedly). It’s a calorie minefield with a sugar coating on top.

I’ve just finished week three of my Diet Chef diet and it’s actually going fairly well so far. I have lost 10lbs (just over 5kg) in total as it really is pretty easy. Everything comes delivered, which is great for me. I stick my little one’s dinner on and then pop mine in the microwave for three minutes and Bob’s your uncle. I was peeking enviously at his cheesy pasta dish but – much to my delight – I have a version of that in my hamper! We sometimes have a little tussle over the oatcake snacks even (and if HE eats it is really IS nice)! I’m beginning to think I can’t go wrong, until….

diet chef biscuits

The snacks are so nice that even my little one likes them! (Note to reader: he doesn’t like beef burgers but is occasionally partial to sand pit sand, so maybe just take it from me that they are yummy.)

We have a week off. We decide to go to Wales to stay with friends. No problem, I think, I just pack all my meals with me in advance. I realise at this point I have actually saved lots of money on Diet Chef – I cannot remember the last time I went to the supermarket – and when I last popped to my local Co-Op I spent almost as little as I did when I was a student (though, this time, it was on fresh veg and some bread for the family rather than questionable looking frozen mince and garlic bread). So far so cheap.

Back in Wales, I martyrously* (*if that’s not a word it is now) leave the room as everyone tucks into sticky toffee pudding, and I avert my eyes when they all eat delicious home-made Italian and Korean dishes. BUT – at lunchtime – disaster strikes as we are forced to dine in a restaurant that only serves burgers. And chips. UH-OH. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought! I simply channeled my inner Diet Chef, worked out my daily calorie allowance and actually gave myself a bit of a break. I swapped dinner for lunch and shared a small burger with a handy nearby (and reasonably willing) child. I had only a few chips, I drank a diet drink, and then I left. Yes, left. I had my previously intended lunch for dinner instead, and all was well in the world again (you can’t, after all, easily ask someone in a restaurant to heat up your own soup for three minutes in their industrial microwave after only ordering a Diet Coke).

My greatest test yet though was still to come. We went on a large family weekend trip away in a lovely country house that was stocked full of nice food, every drink you could possibly imagine and chocolate/biscuit galore. I am happy to say not one biscuit, piece of chocolate or slice of cake passed through my mouth (or anywhere else, just for the record). I ate my own food, heated up in the mansion’s microwave. (It felt all very Downton Abbey until that point, but, on the plus side, I could whip up MY meal in a matter of minutes in an emergency hunger situation.) I did slip up slightly by having a small amount of pulled pork in a bun (my favourite) during one evening meal. However, in the old days when I would have had two, I had just one. With a small amount of home-made coleslaw on the side, rather than a vat of it in its own right. And no pudding. A mini victory for me: I felt like I still enjoyed the food as much as everyone else but I only had a bit of it. Surprisingly, I was even calmer on curry night (curry is my favourite and I was worried I’d never be able to resist the silver boxes of joy)…


My lovely family rather smugly enjoying their take-away curry

diet chef curry

Me feeling saintlier-than-thou and enjoying my MSG-free version!

However, armed with my delicious Diet Chef Tikka Masala (by far my favourite of their meals) I triumphed with my own version, no delivery waiting time or awkward delivery-person-tipping-etiquette required.

I have concluded that this diet is all about a shift in thinking. It’s not about being obsessive, but by making it work for YOU. It has taught me portion control. It has taught me to be more aware. And it has taught me to stick to meal times to eat, rather than willy-nilly (willy-nilly, I now know, is the enemy of all post-baby dieters).

Most of all it has taught me how to curb sensible eating into what it means for me in the real world. After my eight weeks is up and I no longer have the purple packaging to rely on I need to make sure it makes a long-term change to my life. And, by gum (literally – chewing gum is a real savour when the biscuit tin is beckoning) I think I may have cracked it.

End of week 3 = 5kg lost so far. That’s about the same weight as 14 portions of chicken tikka masala!


I’m glad that you were born a boy: a letter to my son

To my Son,

I’m glad that you were born a boy. Even though I was told by countless strangers, who scrutinised my pregnant figure and felt they were allowed to feel my stomach, that you would be a girl. It’s funny how things turn out.

I’m relieved that, at school, you’ll never have to have the first ever sanitary towel bin installed because you started your periods early. It’s nice that that the whole school will never have to know your menstrual cycle. I’m glad that you won’t be called a slut for developing too early, and have to hide your changing figure under baggy clothes.

I’m glad that if you ever have multiple partners you’ll be considered a hero, rather than a four letter slur. I’m glad that, simply by wearing the fashion that you choose, this won’t be considered a come-on by much older men. I hope that you won’t be rated out of ten, that you won’t be referred to as ‘fair game’ and that no-one will criticise your figure after you have had children of your own.

I’m pleased that you won’t have to give up breastfeeding to return to work; that you won’t have to express milk, hiding in toilets and cupboards, as the multi-national company you work for can’t offer you a proper space to do it. I’m glad that you won’t weep as much for missing your little baby as you do for yourself, after being asked by a male boss in an open-plan office why it is that you need somewhere to do that anyway.

I’m glad you won’t face a de-motion at work, after attempting to balance a career and family life by working part-time. I hope you’ll never be told that you won’t receive a promotion unless you choose work, meaning you’ll never see your child.

I’m glad that you’ll be referred to as a ‘silver fox’ as you age, rather than at best a ‘MILF’ and at worst ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. I’m glad that you won’t necessarily be judged by your hemlines, how much make-up you wear or whether your choice of accessories instantly brands you either elegant or trashy. Apparently you won’t ever appear on worst-dressed lists but will instead be called ‘eccentric’.

Statistically, you’ll earn more than your female friends ever will. You’re more likely to become a CEO, a Politician or a Lawyer than they are. You’ll be able to travel alone to places I never could, you’ll be able to drive in countries that I never can, and you probably won’t be laughed at if you ever suggest that you want to become a professional sportsman.

I hope that, if true equality ever does come, it won’t be to the detriment of your gender but the advancement of how your female counterparts are treated.

I’m glad you were born a boy; but I hope, in your lifetime, you’ll never need to understand why.


By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg