Another winner from Joe Wicks


I have all three of Joe’s Lean in 15 books and have cooked many of the great recipes dozens of times over.  Recently, I bought his latest book: ‘Joe’s 30-minute meals’ which came out earlier this month.  There are 100 quick and healthy recipes, a delectable feast for anyone embarking – or continuing – on their weight loss and exercise plan.  Realising that some recipes do take longer than 15 minutes to cook, he decided to write a comprehensive book where recipes take a bit more time.

After a friendly welcome by Joe, he sets out how the book will work for you, by organising the book by main ingredients: All-Day Breakfast, Chicken, Beef and Pork and so on. After the introduction, he helpfully lists the ingredients you’ll need for your store-cupboard so that you can just choose any recipe and not have to rush out to buy the main ingredients for it.  He also lists extras that he loves which just add that little bit more to a recipe.

Then you start with All-Day Breakfasts and written in Joe’s usual style of banter, you’re in for a real feast – not only for the eyes with the amazing colour photographs of what your dish should look like – but also with what you’ve prepared.

There are some recipes which have vegetarian alternatives, but it is not a vegetarian cook book – you’ll have to wait for December for his vegetarian recipe book to come out. All the meals look fabulous; and if you’re familiar with Joe’s other books, you’ll know that you’re in for a treat when the Master of the Midget Trees puts a meal together.

Unlike the Lean in 15 books, there are no work-outs but each recipe is labelled ‘reduced-carb’ or ‘carb-refuel’ so you’ll know which days to eat them on, depending if you’re doing a work out or not.

This is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly.  It’s a really great book.

Published by Bluebird, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, it’s available in hardback. The ISBN number is:



Three wishes


“The three wishes of everyone: to be healthy, to be rich by honest means, and to be beautiful.”

Plato (427/428 – 348/347 BCE)


aladin's lampIf Brad Pitt (or your Man of the Moment) came to you and said: ‘Here are three wishes to do with as you please and they will all be granted,’ what would you wish for?  I’m not talking about generalisations here; no ‘World Peace’, ‘End Poverty’, or ‘No more famine’ etc. Or wishing that your children or siblings could have a good job, a great life, with a nice house – although all those things are what we would love for our children and siblings anyway.

No, I’m talking about what would YOU ask for YOURSELF?  I’m not in your shoes so I can’t answer this question on your behalf.  For myself, I could ask that I could lose weight, not effortlessly, (because if weight-loss was that easy, we wouldn’t learn how NOT to eat to gain the weight in the first place) but perhaps with less angst on my part.  I could ask for a better grasp of what’s important in my day so that I get that done first and not while away my day playing word games or doing online jigsaw puzzles, especially as I do have a lot of writing projects on the go.  Or I could ask that I have enough time to write letters to friends who live alone and for whom, a letter out of the blue might brighten an otherwise solitary day.

None of my wishes (just plucked from the air, by the way.  I haven’t spent any time in seriously thinking about this) would change me much as a person, but instead of stressing about losing weight (going with my supposed three wishes), I might accept myself as I am. Sometimes, when we stop trying to force the issue, and just let it be, miracles DO happen – and maybe I’ll find myself losing weight.

And instead of playing games I would get on with my writing projects:  this blog; my newspaper column on cat care; articles for my website on cats (; competition entries and guest writing on other people’s blogs.

And finally, because of the second wish, I don’t have lots of time and letter-writing was something I loved doing and everyone loves receiving letters, don’t they?  Receiving a letter tells the recipient that the sender was thinking about them; that they are a much-loved family member, friend or ex-work colleague and we’re enquiring after their health, their family, while exchanging some newsy anecdotes about our lives.  With texts and emails the art of letter-writing is all but dead.

Now back to the three wishes.  You’ve chosen your three – all for yourself as I said. Now, narrow that down to just one.  Which one would you choose – and why?  Now write and tell me and, together, we’ll see if we can work through it so that you can achieve that wish.


Weighty matters

“Whenever I feel sad, I go to my happy place.  The fridge!”

chocolateThis 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 width-ways 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!

To sleep, perchance to dream …

“Your life is a reflection of how you sleep, and how you sleep is a reflection of your life.”  Dr Rafael Pelayo

“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.”  These words were spoken by Prince Hamlet as he contemplated suicide and death.  I’m not contemplating either of those things, but I would love to be able to sleep each night and feel refreshed when I wake up.

biscuit_tin (2)There is a link, so the health bods say, between sleep deprivation and weight gain.  I don’t know whether it’s because of the fact that you’re awake for more hours and therefore prone to straying into the biscuit tin, or if there’s other reasons why.  If you Google ‘sleep deprivation and weight gain’ a whole raft of links turns up, some realistic and factual, others more silly and unbelievable.

I have to say, though, that I do believe this to be true.  I’ve found, weirdly, on nights when I have had a decent night’s sleep – and by decent, I mean actually sleeping from the time I drift off to sleep to the time I wake up, without having to get up to go to the loo several times in the night – I actually weigh less.  It might only be a pound but if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, very often I’ve put on a pound, sometimes two.

It might be worth keeping a food/sleep diary for a week or so.  You can add to this how you’re feeling on the day as well as our moods often affect what we eat during the day, and also, what we eat can affect how we sleep.  I’ve found, for example, that if I eat strawberries too late in the evening, that I have stomach problems and that keeps me awake.  Strawberries – and most other berries, although I’ve only experienced it with strawbs – ferment in the gut, and the churning feeling that goes on can cause a lot of discomfort.  If you’re going to eat berries, either have them at lunch time or as a mid-afternoon snack and just have a yoghurt after your evening meal.

Having kept the diary for a week or two, look back over it and see if your mood affected what you ate, and if that in turn affected how you slept.  If you’re not an emotional eater, it could be your choice of foods at certain times of the day that play havoc with your sleeping patterns.  There is the food combination diet which suggests you shouldn’t eat proteins and starchy foods at the same time. Starchy foods include, rice, wheat, even potatoes.  It suggests having non-starchy vegetables with ocean vegetables for a healthier option.

I’ve never tried this diet so can’t say if it really works.  I’m sure there are people out there that would swear by it and you can always give it a go for a week or two and see if your sleeping patterns are improved.

Dieting is all about trial and error. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another and it pays to not give up after a day because that’s not long enough to see if it would work.

cute-cats-sleeping-8 (2)Sleeping, however, is important to your well-being and how you’re able to function the next day.  I know if I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for a few days in a row I always feel sluggish and unwell.  That, in itself, can be a potential for disaster right there: because when you’re not feeling well, or if you’re feeling tired, the temptation to eat ‘naughty’ things goes up another couple of notches.

Believe or not, going out for a brisk walk, out in the fresh air (with or without the pretend dog at the end of a pretend lead) is often all that’s needed to give you that much needed boost.  And you never know, that little bit of exercise might help you to sleep better.

Dogged determination

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”  Colin Powell

catIt crossed my mind that dog walkers are supposed to be fit; they have to take their dog out in all weathers so that he can relieve himself, and read the lampposts, tree trunks and any other vertical surface to see who, of their mates, has been by recently and what messages they’ve left.

Having cats, I can’t see Casey and Gibbs agreeing to go for a walk each day. They are bone idle in the autumn/winter months, lying around all day, peering at you through half-closed lids.  The summer months were very different though; up and outside after breakfast each morning, all day long, barely saw anything of them. They were just being bone idle in the garden – under the patio table, or wedged under one of the shrubs for shade.

It’s funny though, because some years ago, when I had a whole batch of other cats – 6 in total – one of them hadn’t come home so I went up the back alley behind my back garden and began calling the missing feline.  I stopped every few steps to listen and I turned around to see my other five cats all in single file behind me.  All stopped, waiting, and then when I set off again, they did too.  I had no idea cats would go for a walk.

A friend had a Jack Russell dog and five cats, and she said every night when they took Jack – the dog – (unsurprisingly) for a walk, all their cats came too.

In the absence of a dog, however, I could pretend that I’m actually walking one, as I go out for my walks each day.  I could hold my arm outstretched and lean backward as if the dog is taking me for a walk. Of course, this might alert people to the fact that there is a crazy person out on the loose, and the authorities would be notified.  Is it a criminal offence to impersonate someone out walking their dog? I hope not or I’m guilty as charged.

I’m in the groove …

“The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word.”  Mata Hari

hulahoopSo I was stirring my porridge for breakfast and I decided I would use the time (while stirring) to do some exercises.  There are limits (and safety issues) when cooking so I wasn’t intending to do star jumps or anything too risky.  No, I thought I’d do some hip rotations pretending I had a hula hoop and I had to keep it from falling.  I kept stirring the porridge while gyrating my hips with my invisible hula hoop and I had a little tune going round in my head to keep me motivated.

Other than hip gyrations I also pretend that I’m pole dancing in a seedy nightclub somewhere.  I do a sort of squat movement where I crouch down a little bit – I can’t go too low because I’ll end up with a pan full of porridge over me – but I try to do squats.  I have to confess to never having danced with a pole before unless you count that one time I danced with Piotr Stanislav in a dodgy club in Ibiza back in the 80s.

Casey and Gibbs – my cats – came in from wherever they’d been outside and glanced at me as they walked past the cooker to their food bowls and began eating their breakfast. I continued gyrating and they both looked a bit perplexed.  They haven’t actually seen me do this before. Sometimes on the Wii Fit I do the hula hoop exercise but I’m not usually stirring porridge at the same time.

I do, actually, have a hula hoop and I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, on many occasions to master it. One of the reasons I have trouble with it is that my rooms are quite small and I probably have, although quite unintentionally, the largest hula hoop in the world.  You see, I live in a Victorian cottage, built in 1901 for the workers in the orchards in my area of Kent.  The Earl Haig, Lord Raglan and Lord Eardley, (all pubs as well as proper people!) and a few other noble bods had orchards and farms and they built workers’ cottages on their land so that their employees all had somewhere to live as well as somewhere to work.

The cottages were very basic: usually two up, two down with an outside toilet (if they were lucky).  Over the years as people have bought them they’ve added bits to them, put the toilets inside, created a bathroom and kitchen and generally brought them up to habitable standards.  Only not accommodating enough to have a hula hoop.

As they’re Victorian cottages, built towards the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, I have mused that she would not probably have fitted into my front room – which other than the miniscule bathroom – is the smallest room in the house.  Her skirts would have swept the floors as she walked from room to room which would have been quite handy for housework purposes but I do think, had she tried to master the hula hoop, she would not have been amused.

Cats are pretty clever animals.  They nap a lot, conserving their energy for dawn and dusk which coincides with when their prey are most active so it’s no secret to anyone that cats will sleep probably for 18 – 20 hours in a day.  It’s what they do when they wake up that is of interest to me.  They stretch.  First the front half of them, then the back half.  I never think of stretching when I get up out of bed.  But it makes sense.  The spine compresses when we’re asleep which is why, when we first get up – or even while we’re still in bed – it is a sensible idea to stretch up and make ourselves as tall as possible.

On days when the weather has been too foul to go out (and I do draw the line at going out in torrential rain with thunder and lightning!) I put a CD on and pick out a track I like to dance to and I get in the groove.  I pretend I’m in a nightclub or at a party.  To make it authentic I put my handbag in the middle of the room and dance round it.  I don’t go as far as wearing white high heeled stilettos though – that WOULD be silly!

Casey and Gibbs sit on the sofa shaking their heads wondering how they can find somewhere else to live where the woman of the house isn’t quite as mad as this woman.  They weren’t around in the 70’s so don’t understand the concept of dancing round your handbag in a nightclub.  Gibbs gets up and despite the rain, heads for the catflap.  He’s had enough.  He doesn’t get the hip thrusts and bum wiggles and hands in the air as this middle-aged woman with a red face circumnavigates her handbag in the centre of a tiny living room.

Casey, loyal to a ‘t’, stays resolutely on the sofa. He is relieved, when eventually, said red-faced middle-aged woman finally stops making a fool of herself and plonks herself next to him on the sofa.  Face glistening she leans over to him: ‘that was good, Casey.  You should try it,’ she says as she flops back against the cushions clutching her chest.

Size isn’t everything – or is it?

“You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”  Yogi Berra

frightened_scaleOne of the best dieting aids I have is not the bathroom scales that shrink in fear each time I go into the bathroom, praying ‘Oh God, don’t let it be today, please God, not today!’  The best dieting aid I have is a plate.  Not just any plate – I hasten to add – but a ‘slimmer’s plate’.  My Other Half (who eats what he likes and is a very slim 6’ 2” hunk – whereas I try to eat healthily and I’m not slim and I’m a 5’ 4” chunk!) bought me a ‘slimmer’s plate’ from a boot fair recently.  Around the edges and in the middle are various items with their calorific values.  I don’t pay any attention to the calories, however, because I don’t count calories.

The special thing about this plate – and why it is the best dieting aid I have – is because it is SMALLER than the usual sized dinner plate.  Most dinner plates are about 10 inches in diameter – some are even larger – whereas this one is a bit smaller – probably about 8 inches.  The great thing about those 8 inches is that they have saved me thousands of calories (even though I don’t count them) since the Other Half gave me the plate.

I always thought I ate healthily.  Indeed, what I put on my plate WAS healthy but the amount I had on my plate possibly WASN’T healthy. It’s easy to think that the food you’ve just cooked and dished up is the perfect meal.  It might well be. BUT – and there’s a bit but (and I’m not referring to my derriere!) if you have the usual sized plate of 10 inches, there’s a tendency to fill the middle bit – to not leave any spaces, right?  Now, you may have a steak, salad, possibly a few sweet potato fries on this plate but if you’ve filled all the space, you might be eating over your calorie allowance for the day.

I have noticed that I do put less on my smaller plate and guess what? I’m not hungry either. What does this mean, I hear you ask?  I shall tell you forthwith.  The mind is easily tricked into thinking ‘huge white space on a plate must be filled at all costs or I’ll instruct the stomach to complain loudly until it gets more food.’

With the smaller space filled, the mind is tricked into thinking there IS enough food on the plate and the stomach IS NOT instructed to complain loudly because the stomach already knows its full.  I put less on this slimmer’s plate than I used to put on my other dinner plates and it’s because I save roughly 350 – 450 calories a day (although, don’t forget, I don’t count them) that I have let go of almost 2 stone (28lbs) since just before Christmas 2017.

If you’re looking to let go of some excess weight, maybe in time for a holiday, or maybe because you want to feel happier and healthier, then try putting your food on a slightly smaller plate. Weigh yourself on the day you decide to do this, then weigh yourself about 4 weeks later and see if you’ve managed to reduce those hips and thighs. And let me know if it worked for you as it does for me.

Perhaps this is one time when size might matter.slimmers plate2.JPG