The G Plan Diet

g_planBefore you get confused, I am not learning how to put together flat pack G plan furniture.  The G Plan Diet is the Gut Diet.   Written by Amanda Hamilton and Hannah Ebelthite, it’s a comprehensive look at our gut, the role it plays and what we can do to keep it healthy.  There are three phases which last a total of 21 days:

Phase 1: Rest – this lasts for 5 days and the idea is to give our gut a good rest from all the usual stuff we consume. You are not cutting out any food groups in any of the phases just eating with the gut in mind.

Phase 2: Re – wild – this lasts for 9 days and introduces food which can cause irritation in the gut, but these are foods that are known to the dieter.  If problems do occur, then the sensible thing is to remove them from the diet for a bit longer and try again in another few days or a week or so.

Phase 3: Re – balance – this phase lasts for 7 days and sets the tone for what the dieter could be eating to ensure good gut health.

Then comes ‘Moving Forward’ which gives the dieter more recipes to try and incorporate into their daily lifestyle.  The idea is not to return to processed foods, or high fat, high sugary foods which probably put the gut in disarray in the first place.

Having been on antibiotics almost continuously for the last 13 years and having to take an antibiotic for the rest of my life (ask me if you want to know about that), it stands to reason that my gut flora is not as healthy as it could be.  The past few months I’ve felt very unwell with a permanently bloated stomach, flatulence (the cats leave the room!), and gurgling and other weird sounds emanating from the belly region.

Recently, I happened to watch ‘Lose Weight, Save Money’ on television where The G Plan Diet was trialled, with some success by the dieter.  She continued to lose weight over the following couple of years and she’s lost a total of six stone (84lb). The authors of the book say it’s possible to lose 10lbs in the 21 days that you’re on the diet and I’m optimistic.

This morning, I began my Day 1 of Phase 1 with a Berry Banana Smoothie which was lovely and filling.  Lunch was Quinoa Salad with Pesto Dressing and Toasted Seeds.  Tonight, I can look forward to Warming Broth with a protein of my choice.

The good thing about this diet is that it’s not that expensive.  Each lunch and dinner recipe is given for 4 servings; you eat one, save one for the following day and freeze the other two portions for later in the 21 day period.

Each phase has a comprehensive list of foods that the dieter can get but depending on the choice of meals, you won’t have to get all the foods.  It lists store cupboard essentials that we’re all likely to have which also reduces the cost.

As most of the meals are frozen for another time, or kept in the fridge for the following day’s meals, I need to buy more storage containers of different sizes, so the next time I go shopping, I’ll get as many as I can find and then I can batch cook many of the meals.

The suggestion is to do the 21 day plan every few months just to regulate your gut health but if you’re feeling well, and symptoms of IBS and other digestive disorders have all but disappeared, then it makes sense to me to maintain the diet.  I will have to do it every time I’ve had to have a course of antibiotics after an infection, but as I have to take them all the time, eating the G Plan way, is a no-brainer.

This is only Day 1.  I’ll keep you posted how things progress.


Love is all around

St ValentineToday is the day, thanks to a bloke who lived in the 3rd century, where shops and restaurants make a killing; where hearts can be broken if the right words are not said or written in a special card or if flowers are sent (but are the wrong colour) or not sent.  Who am I talking about? We all know.  St Valentine, of course.

According to Wikipedia, Saint Valentine, officially St Valentine of Rome, was a widely recognised 3rd century Roman saint commemorated on February 14th.  Since the High Middle Ages, he has been associated with a tradition of courtly love.

Born in 226AD in Terni, Italy, he was a priest in Rome who ministered – against the orders of Claudius II – to Christians who were persecuted there.  Claudius II had decreed that couples should not marry because it would lessen the strength of his soldiers and any couple who defied his rulings were tortured and killed.  Valentine ministered to these couples and married them in secret.

One account from the 1400s described Valentine as a temple priest who was beheaded near Rome by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples to wed.

Geoffrey Chaucer, the medieval English poet, may have accidentally invented Valentine’s Day.  He wrote a poem in 1375, where he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St Valentine’s feast day – an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention.

St Valentine’s feast day falls on February 14th, which is believed to be the date of his death in 269/270AD.  Another historical account suggests that his feast day was created to replace the pagan holiday, Lupercalia, where young boys and girls are romantically paired in a festival that honours the Roman god, Lupercus.

As well as being the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages, he is also the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy and the plague, fainting and travelling.

Valentine's_skullSt Valentine’s remains have been scattered throughout the world.  His skull, adorned by flowers, is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.  In the early 1800s, the excavation of a catacomb near Rome yielded skeletal remains and other relics now associated with St Valentine.  As is the custom, these bits and pieces of St Valentine’s body have subsequently been distributed to reliquaries in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, England and France.

However you’re spending St Valentine’s Day today, whether with a loved one (and that includes your cat, dog, horse, budgie, hamster, gerbil, rabbit or whatever), or whether you’re on your own, have a happy day and don’t try to be a saint; you’ll be scattered all over the world and bits of you will be displayed for centuries to come!





christmascake 1st January

Weighed myself today – am starting the year a stone heavier than last year. Feel upset. Mind you, I feel I was dealt a cruel hand in the height department – I should be at least 7′ 2″ tall for my weight instead of the petite 5’4″ which is why it looks as if there is more of me than there actually is. If I was 7′ 2″ tall the body parts would be spread out considerably and there would be no need to feel like a Sumo wrestler’s ideal partner.

Looked lovingly at the remainder of the Christmas cake I made and tearfully and apologetically threw it in the bin, hoping it wouldn’t need counselling as a result of being so heartlessly rejected on New Year’s Day.

Knowing how low my resistance is to temptation and knowing that my will power is usually ‘won’t’ power, I put the bin bag straight into a black sack, which I then take up to the shed. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.

Felt slightly better with myself.

Decided to measure my body parts – prepared myself for another shock. Even Ruben’s voluptuous models look positively anorexic up against the boulder like proportions of my body parts. Feel upset.

Looked Lettuce in the eye for lunch. Lettuce gave a cheeky wink – feel hopeful. I celebrate my curvaceous body parts with Lettuce. Lettuce throws up – ‘Hey!’ he said, ‘let’s not overdo the swirling breasts routine!’

Put Cher’s fitness DVD on to watch. Cher is wearing a Band-Aid and dental floss and not much else. Feel upset. Cats walk into room and settle down to watch as I try to synchronise body parts to move in same direction and to stop moving when the music stops.

Garfield smiles his encouragement. Pats the sofa and beckons me to sit down and rest. All that exertion putting the DVD into the player has worn me out. Sit down and rest for a while.

Decide Lettuce was right and go back to fridge. Holding body parts in check as I bend over (so not to frighten other occupants of fridge) I tell Lettuce that he has a lunch date.  Lettuce winks and alerts the tomatoes.

1st February

fartingwomanWeighed myself today. Have lost one whole pound. Wondered if it was because I plucked my eyebrows the night before or passed wind just before getting on the scales that helped. Felt slightly despondent at not having lost more than that.

Decide to begin exercises and look for trainers to show that I mean business.

Look in cupboard under stairs for step machine. It has one pink platform and one blue platform. Not sure why. Put it next to trainers and look at them for a couple of days psyching myself up to begin mindless exercises.

Wake up three days later and decide ‘today is the day’ and put on trainers and step onto pink and blue platforms with care. Made pact with myself to ‘step’ for 5 minutes. Think that should be enough for one day.

Look at clock – ten seconds have passed and having trouble motivating myself to continue. Only another 4 minutes and 50 seconds to go. Close eyes and think of holiday. Think of myself running through the edge of the sea, long slim legs and firm lithe torso. Nearly fall off step machine in excitement. Open eyes and look at clock. Another ten seconds have passed. Only another 4 minutes and 40 seconds to go.

Can’t see myself with long slim legs or firm lithe torso at this rate. Can’t see myself managing to stay on step machine for much longer than 30 seconds.  Decide to practise some Spanish while on step machine. Lose balance, and nearly fall off again.

Two of my cats, Timmy and Billy, are sitting under the little sofa watching intently. I saw money change paws and think there is a bet on to see if I do manage to fall off. Either that or it’s to see if I actually manage to complete 5 minutes. Decide to call their bluff and continue even though legs hurt like crazy.

Finally, the five minutes are up.  I’ve counted every second for the last 3 minutes. Legs are just about to give up. Wobble off the step machine and fall on floor. Give Timmy a high five!  Billy skulks off having lost his bet.

The top half of body feels great, zingy and gorgeous. Legs feel like lead weights have been attached to them and won’t work. Have to sit down for an hour to recover.  Later on that day, legs seize up completely and have to lie in bath massaging them. Decide to put step machine back in cupboard under stairs.

1st March

Weighed myself today. Have lost another pound! Not sure if it is because I shaved my legs or had my hair cut that helped. Feel disappointed not to have lost more.

Came across an old exercise LP. Put it on the player and listen to the instructions. Hold back of chair in dining room and start bouncing in time to the music. Have to stand with legs slightly apart and just do gentle bounces keeping upper body fairly erect.

Getting into the swing of it when there is a knock at the door. Find that I can’t straighten up properly. Walk up hallway like four feet five demented frog with haemorrhoids to greet bewildered postman clutching parcel for me.

‘Are you alright?’ he asks kindly, noting the new demented frog with haemorrhoids stature. Raising myself up as far as new demented frog with haemorrhoids stature will allow, I reply haughtily: ‘of course I’m alright, thank you for asking.’

Bewildered postman hands me the parcel. I back down hallway wondering if old me will be returning soon as have to go to shopping shortly. Don’t want to walk round Asda like a frog.

Decide to open parcel. Discover it’s a box of chocolates from friend to cheer me up. Switch off LP on player and open chocolates instead. Start to eat chocolates.

Not able to go to shopping later as I feel very sick.

Demented frog with haemorrhoids stature disappears as legs return to normal after frequent visits to the bathroom emptying stomach of chocolates. Strange how the contents of a reasonably small box can multiply and take forever to vacate the premises.

Decide never to eat chocolates again.

Decide not to do formal exercises again as they have adverse reaction on body parts. Decide, instead, to just make up own exercises as I go along to music.

highkicksGet out dance CD. Start doing high kicks. Foolishly, it turns out. The cats, all six of them, and little female cat from down the road, who is just visiting for her breakfast, are all sitting along the little sofa with saucepans on their heads for protection.

High kicks are getting out of hand. Discover a part of anatomy unknown to myself before – only discover it because it now hurts like crazy. Not sure whether to take myself to hospital for examination. Am put off by the explanation of what I was doing to receive such an injury in such an unknown place before. How would they x-ray such a place?

Decide doing high kicks or low kicks is not for me.  Replace saucepans in rack and cats applaud wholeheartedly. They love me as I am – not bothered if I’m large or small – so maybe I shouldn’t worry about myself either.

1st April

 Weighed myself today. Have lost one whole pound. Can’t decide if it’s because I cut my toe nails or trimmed my pubes that helped. Disappointed not to have lost more.

tinsDecide on a new tactic. Got all the tins of food out of larder. Got scales out of bathroom. Placed the exact number of tins on scales to reflect excess body weight: 31 tins of cat food, 1 tin red kidney beans, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 3 small tins butter beans, 2 tins soup (for 1), 5 tins of pink salmon, 1 small tin of pineapple rings and 2 tins of tuna flakes.  47 tins = 3 stones.

Tower of tins stands 22″ from floor to highest tin – confirming what I’ve known all along. I am vertically challenged. If I were 7’ 2″ I would be perfect!

Decide to fill 3 shopping bags with tins each representing 1 stone to lose. I could hardly lift all three bags. Then I could hardly hold the bags for more than a minute.

I realise the implication with startling clarity. I am carrying around the equivalent of small person daily. No wonder I’m always tired. I put all the tins away in larder again.  Decide small person will have to find another host to cart it around. Vow to try harder.

1st May

 Weighed myself today. Have lost TWO whole pounds. Wondered if it was the humongous fart I did five minutes earlier or because I held my boobs up in the air that helped. Disappointed not to have lost more.

weightlossbooksGo up to back bedroom where I have books on every subject under the sun. Look out all dieting books. Didn’t realise I had so many! Thirty-three books lie on floor. I sit on floor and look at each book. Feel tired.

Lie down and fall asleep. Wake up to couple of cats lying next to myself. Diet books still open at various pages of helpful tips and advice. I’m now starving. Go downstairs and decide to have slimming meal.

Look in larder. Don’t feel like anything. Do two slices of cheese and tomatoes on toast. Will start again tomorrow. Long slim legs and firm lithe torso can wait another day.


The Half Hour Rule

clock-face-half-past-hourI’m having personal coaching at the moment and on Wednesday, my coach made a suggestion which has completely changed my way of thinking. In short, it’s revolutionised my life! What is this amazing nugget, I hear you clamouring to know.  Well, hold your horses, for just one second or two, there people.  All in good time.

Have you got hot spots in your home (like the cupboard under the stairs, for example) which need to be tidied up, but you look in there, sigh deeply, then close the door quickly? Have you got a desk – like mine – which is full of ‘stuff’ which is overwhelming to such an extent that you’d rather leave it there than deal with it? Are your shelves bowing under the weight on unread books, or clothing (substitute whatever you like on your shelves) but rather than whittle through the books (or clothing or whatever) they’re left because it just seems like too big a job to deal with?

Then I have the perfect solution for you.  The Half Hour Rule.  What? You don’t believe me? Ok, let me explain this for you.

My entire house needs.  Each room has ‘hot spots’ of clutter which need to be sorted out and either put away in a cupboard or recycled – either to a charity shop or the recycling centres. This house is an old house and doesn’t have much built-in storage.  I do have shelves bowing under the weight of read and unread books and earlier this year I actually sent My Other Half to several different charity shops with dozens of bags of books that I was letting go of. 176 cat books.  I was amazed that I had that many, to be honest.  Many of them I had read; some were self-published and should never have been let loose on the world while others were ‘how to’ types, giving advice on looking after your kitten or cat once you’d acquired one.

I got a piece of paper and under the headings – Main Bedroom, Office, Dining Room, Living Room, Kitchen I then wrote a detailed list of what needed to be done in each room.  It was quite daunting, to be honest and I put the list on the dining room table – along with several lists of other things I wanted to do (I like lists) and sort of forgot about it. But then when I saw my coach this week, something he said reminded me of the list and I found it again.

Where does the Half Hour Rule fit in? Easy.  Take one area that you want to deal with – for me, it was a pile of papers on my office floor that needed to be shredded – and then, for 30 minutes only, you deal with it.  I was surprised at how much shredding I managed to achieve in just half an hour before my shredder became too hot and I had to stop to give it time to cool down.  I shredded papers for 20 minutes and with the remaining 10 minutes, I did some ironing.  I filled that 30 minutes with purpose and although I still have more shredding to do, it made a significant dent on what was there to be done.

Today I applied the Half Hour Rule to another task in the house and I was really pleased and happy with the results.  I don’t have to worry about cleaning the entire house in one go (which is hugely daunting and overwhelming) but doing it in bite sized chunks of 30 minutes at a time, means that daily I AM getting something done, and whittling my way through my ‘To Do’ list.  It will still take a few weeks at this rate, but what I don’t feel is guilty.

When I spend a good part of my day in my office, writing, I know there are all these other jobs that need to be sorted out and I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing them.  I wasn’t even trying to do them.  I made excuses that I couldn’t have a decluttered house AND write my books, my newspaper column, my blog, my website and any of the other writing projects that fill my days.  Just spending 30 minutes a day, tackling part of one job, means that I have the rest of the day to do what I prefer to do – in my case, writing – but in your case, it could be anything you want.

This is liberating stuff people.  Feel free to adopt the Half Hour Rule for yourselves and see how much you can achieve in such a small amount of time.  Of course, if you have the time and the energy, the will and the drive, you can work longer than 30 minutes; that’s entirely up to you.  But the Half Hour Rule frees you up once you’ve done something you’ve been leaving, to do something else more pleasant.

Enjoy yourselves.  Have fun.  You’re welcome!

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

61eziwmSULL._AC_US218_When I finished reading this book today, I felt bereft.  I was leaving behind a group of characters that I’d grown to love, a group of new friends that I desperately wanted to keep in touch with. I don’t think I’ve read such a beautifully crafted book in a very long time and the story-line, and characters are still suspended in my mind – rather like remembering a dream just before you wake up properly.

Monica Wood’s storytelling – what a gift – is mesmerising. The story hinges on an 11-year-old boy who meets a Lithuanian immigrant of 104 years of age.  As a Scout, looking to increase his badges over a 10-week period, he visits each Saturday for 7 weeks, to carry out small tasks to help Ona Vitkus. Discovering her age, (and in part because of his love for lists) he encourages her to apply to the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest woman.  They both discover that she’s several years away from that record, so he sets about trying to get her in the Book of World Records as the World’s Oldest Driver,

When he doesn’t come for two Saturdays in a row, Ona thinks that he’s just like all the other scouts that have been before him, then the boy’s father turns up on the 10th Saturday to fulfil his obligations. Mistrusting at first, Ona comes to rely on Quinn, the boy’s father, and between them they set about trying to finish the boy’s quest of getting Ona in the Guinness Book of World Records.

What Ona doesn’t know, at first, but later reads in the Obituaries, is that the boy dies unexpectedly and the father, in a bid to get to know his son continues the jobs that he had started.  Gradually, a reluctant friendship begins, and Quinn’s ex-wife, Belle – a fragile woman so engulfed in grief that she can barely function – also gets involved with Ona, along with the scoutmaster, a widower with children, who is dating Belle.

Running alongside that main storyline is Quinn’s story.  A musician, a guitarist, good and well-thought of by his fellow musicians, he gigs where he can to get the money, and works in a mail distributing plant on a regular basis. Belle, a librarian, has been unable to return to work because of her fragile state of mind and health and is heavily influenced by a sister and her father to sue the doctor who accidentally caused the boy’s death.

The boy, who is not named at all in the book, is the catalyst for bringing together a disparate group of people all of whom have their own problems to work through, and working together, and through the forging of a new friendships, each one is able to free themselves of any burden or guilt they’ve felt before, Quinn for being an absent father, Ona for a mistake made when she was 14 years of age, and Belle for being in love with the scoutmaster, Ted Leadbetter.

Weaving words together in a magic potion this story will outlast time itself.  I can see it being made into a film and as long as the script writer remains faithful to the book, it will be an incredible film. I won’t forget this book in a long time and if I could write, half – or even a quarter – as good as Monica Wood does, I’ll be a very happy woman.

To tell, or not to tell, that is the question

‘Truth never damages a cause that is just.’ – Mahatma Gandhi

cakeThis is a tricky question – to tell or not to tell.  On the one hand you want to enlist the help and support of your family members, friends, and work colleagues but on the other hand, at the very moment when you’re stuffing a chocolate éclair widthways into your mouth, the boss and his entourage walk by to catch you in the act.  Busted.

So is it a good idea to tell the world and his wife that you are now dieting?  In a moment of weakness you can be sure that there will be more witnesses to the event than would be around if you did a charitable act of kindness to someone.

When I worked at a very busy office in London my colleague and friend, Yvonne, would regularly announce on a Monday morning at 10.00am when she arrived: ‘I am now on a diet.  Please don’t tempt me with cakes or sweets or biscuits.’  We all nodded.  We knew the drill.

Half an hour later she would walk out to the vending machine in the hallway.  She would try, surreptitiously, to eat a Mars bar but she was always found out because at the very second she bit into it, her phone would ring or her boss would come out of his office to ask her something.  She’d blush a deep crimson and because she’d blown it for that day, she carried on eating.

Does that sound familiar?

Or you’ve done so well with you dieting endeavours and you’ve shed pounds, maybe even stones, and you’re now in clothes one or two sizes smaller and you’re feeling – and looking – good.  What happens? Yes, that’s right.  A ‘friend’ turns up with a box of chocolates ‘because you’ve done so well on your diet!’ they say gleefully knowing that you’ll never abandon a box of chocolates.

What friend would do that? Only one who feels that you might outshine them now that you’re slimmer and more confident.  By keeping you fatter you are less of a threat.  Depending on your age and your marital status, as a fatter friend it means you are less likely to get the pick of the crop of single, eligible men (if you’re looking, that is).  Seriously?  A friend would do that? Yes, and they do.

Saboteurs.  That’s what they’re called because they try to sabotage your dieting efforts. ‘You don’t need to lose weight,’ they’ll try to kid you into believing, ‘you’re fine and fun as you are.’  You can be fun whether you weigh 8 stone or 18 stone.  You can be fine whether you’re 8 stone or 18 stone.  The difference is health.  Are you healthy at 8 stone?  Are you healthy at 18 stone?  What is going on inside your body that could come back and bite you in the bum in years to come?

So if you need to lose weight you need to decide whether telling someone else to have their support is the right thing to do.  If you go it alone and you succeed just think how great you will feel knowing you did it without anyone looking over your shoulder asking if you should be eating that cream cake.  And if you go it alone then you can fall off the wagon any number of times without someone saying ‘I knew you couldn’t do it.  You don’t have any will power.’

If you go it alone and succeed then the glow of knowing that you did it – you lost weight – whether it was a few pounds or a couple of stones – or more – and people start noticing a difference in you.  And you feel more confident.  And confidence begets more confidence until you find yourself doing things you’d never dreamed of doing before.  Whether that’s wearing a bikini on holiday for the first time – or even going topless – or whether you decide to do a bungee jump or wing walking or a parachute jump – the world is your oyster. Losing weight successfully is the most euphoric feeling in the world and what was holding you back – weighing you down – was, literally, yourself!  How awesome are you!

Cruising means losing …

elephantWhat if you woke up one morning and an inner voice told you that you had limited time left on this earth? What would you do?   The reason I ask is because that very thing happened to me this morning.  It was an ‘aha’ moment when I was suddenly aware that the procrastination I’ve been indulging in for the past goodness knows how long has to end and getting stuck in to the various projects must begin.

My ‘problem’, if it is, indeed, a problem, is that I have too many balls in the air that I’m trying to juggle.  As a result, I let them all fall and carry on with something else – usually online jigsaw patterns or word games.  As time goes on and the list of things/projects that I want to do mount up, I feel overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start.  So I don’t start; I continue with the jigsaws and word games.

If you cruise, you lose.

If you coast, you’re toast.

Fail to prepare – prepare to fail.

All these sprung to mind when I was fully into my ‘aha’ moment and I realised with fresh eyes that I’ve been coasting through the days, years even and all three of my books are still in the AF (Almost Finished) stage, and I have Book Four waiting in the wings. What should I do about it, I asked myself.

Well, I made a list of all the things that need to be done – it was impressive – and scary.  And straight away I could feel my resolve wavering a bit.  Then I remembered the saying: ‘How do you eat an elephant? The answer: One bite at a time.’  So I drew a very simplistic outline of an elephant with a bite out of his knee and I pinned the picture up on the shelf above the desk where I work (or more usually, play).  I have it there in my peripheral vision all the time and it keeps me on track.

The list is long and each item is not something that will be completed in a few hours, or even a day but if I work methodically on one particular item from the list until it’s finished, then that can be ticked off the list. It’s simplicity at its best and adopting it shouldn’t be a hard thing to do.

What have you been putting off for a while that you could start?  Use the elephant idea to get started.