Saturday, 19 May 2012

"Weekly" Weigh In 18: On A Plain

Weight after fifteen weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

21stones 12lbs/305lbs/138kg



Weight after sixteen weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

21stones 10lbs/305lbs/138kg



Weight after seventeen weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

21stones 11lbs/305lbs/138kg



I have had a hectic few weeks so time for blogging has been at a premium. Today I have eaten about an hour ago so this weight point may not be the most accurate, but you get the idea. Contributory factors to this include: Bike still broken, body still in shock from dropping three stones in five months, exercise still going up with two to four forty minute swims a week.

Essentially the whole diet business has kind of levelled out I am still eating the required amount although I tend to come significantly under on one day a week and a little over 100 cals over on one day as a rule. At the moment I am more concerned about exercise than about food. Since taking control of my diet I have learned (as I predicted all those months ago) what a sensible amount to eat in a day is and I feel I am managing my intake sensibly. To crack the next period of sustained loss I think I need my bike back and otherwise just to continue eating as I have been.

One thing I would like to catch up with is the salad consumption, We're now having one main salad every two weeks, although we are keeping up with the side salads on two to three occasions a week.

One day this week, just to see, I weighed myself in the morning. My weight point at around seven thirty a.m. was 21st 6lbs. I was interested to see this but as my weight points are gathered at 6pm-ish every day it did not count as an official weight point.

Keep tuning in and I'm sure that some serious downward motion will resume at some point soon... I hope.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 17: Ups And Downs

Weight after fourteen weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

21stones 11lbs/305lbs/138kg



As you can see my weight is kind of stalking around at the upper end of 22 stones at the moment. I think the reasons for this are many. For example, people are remarking now that I look significantly thinner, I am still doing exercise and finding myself able to do more. I am pegging this currently as a period of adjustment where my body is catching up to where I currently am weight wise. When it has caught up I imagine I will lose some more weight.  At least I sincerely hope so...

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 16: Swings and Roundabouts

Weight after thirteen weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:




Probably my metabolism having a small turn about the sudden requirement for extra muscle mass and more activity. I expect to see a reduction, possibly significant, next week.

Until then, keep moving. The chair is death.

Diet Report 11: Easy Rider

This week I managed  to get into work and back twice on my new bicycle. The round trip distance to work and back according to Google is 14.2 miles. Once I had the full electric boost of the battery and that day was pretty good. The other occasion, my maiden voyage in "combat conditions" i.e. when I was actually going to work as opposed to just seeing if I could get there and back without dying, I was still testing out how far I could get on a single charge. The bike boasts a 20 mile approx charge so the answer, it will surprise no one to learn, is there and back and about there again. I learned the pain, that day, of trying to cycle 7 miles on a slightly clunky bike with about three kilos of lithium battery attached to the back of it. Not an experience I am keen to repeat.

The amount of calories you burn cycling 7 miles (even when you have electrical assistance and hence record the cycling as 10-11 mph moderate, when you're clocking an actual speed of more like 14 mph, hard) is quite remarkable. What's also remarkable is how you just naturally end up eating more to make up for it.

It has been a bit of a shock to my poor old metabolism which has lead to an interesting week weight recordings wise. I'm bearing down and getting a sweat on and then expecting my metabolism to replace all the stuff I've just burned and convert some protein to new muscle to help out in future endeavours. For this reason my weight has wobbled significantly. Overall, however, I feel terrific.

I would have got out and about more often this week were it not for buckets of torrential rain forcing me back to the car on three out of five working days. As such I got quite a schooling in the contrast between the two modes of transport. It turns out that the pros of cycling go far beyond the simple increase in exercise.

The main thing I would note is the feeling of liberation the cycle commute delivers. You are open, in the air breathing oxygen (well, most of the time you're not behind some diesel exhaust or other), liberated, clipping along at a fair old rate, completely in control. You never have to stop moving if worst comes to worst dismount and walk the cycle to a less busy location to resume cycling. You are always going forward the only thing you stop for is red lights when you are using the road, and even then in cycle friendly Nottingham they have a little area marked out at the front to be a cyclist in while you're waiting.

In a car there are times when you're just listening to the stereo, waiting for the traffic to move and feeling your life end one second at a time. No wonder most motorists are aggressive idiots (I have had my own moments). I think I must be doing one of the most unpleasant commutes possible on a bicycle, a couple of nasty hills, crossing a canal, railway lines and a river on my way to work. The electric bike gets me through.

I am actually looking forward to the day that petrol is £2.50 a thimbleful and everyone has to get on their bikes. There are a few jobs that I know require an actual motor vehicle but the people who do them should be looking forward to having less people on the roads. In fact electric cars are actually beginning to exist now which are ideal for the more lengthy commute. No doubt the charge and range of their battery packs can only increase in efficiency.

I can actually see a point coming up in which we won't miss the old cars, the big cars, the dirty cars or our old ways of getting about. We won't have just one vehicle we'll have a selection of electric wagons to take us which ever is the most appropriate range.

We'll be healthier too. Welcome to the future.

Anyhow the point is, and this is particularly true at home time, the feeling of being really in control is far accentuated on the bike. You can always get off and walk if you need to and there are a couple of junctions on the way home where I currently need to. Even so you're never just stuck in a long metallic queue watching the motor temperature climb with frustration and seeing people nose their own jalopies out of side roads shoving their way into already crowded lines of traffic.

There are sections of my new route home where there is grass and trees and long stretches of calm water. Much less cooped up.

Also, as the exercise is partly the point but mostly a by-product of needing to get back and forth to my place of employment I can think about it in different terms to a trip to the gym. It's much easier to pace yourself when you know you need to arrive at your destination in a reasonable condition to continue with your day. There will be no shower and lounging session afterwards so you don't tend to push yourself flat out. For this reason you get an unusual (or at least to me) fringe benefit you come off the bike feeling more alert and ready to deal with life.

It becomes plain that human beings were not designed to sit around on their rear end all day every day passively watching stuff or (heh) bashing a keyboard. You are meant to be doing things actively, if you don't you actually feel worse. Not saying that relaxation doesn't have its place but you need to be doing some activity to get the most out of the rest of life.

My stepfather is a builder and I have long marvelled at how he seems quite comfortable with rising at 6am and continuing on until 11pm at night (occasionally later). Previously if I rose at 7.30am I would be ready for bed by 10.45 that evening. The secret is a period of activity during the day. It's something I have done before in life without ever really noting it. When I was doing theatre things they always used to make us do a "warm up" session in the morning which was general keep fit stuff but nothing too taxing. Those days were always quite long as well.

I guess the idea is that you do stuff that makes you move a bit more than usual but not so much that you're sweating buckets and want nothing more afterwards than to curl up in a corner and die. Unfortunately getting the balance right is tricky and exercise gurus since the era of "feel the burn" will tend to label you a weakling if you're not "pushing the limit".

The problem is that pushing the limit associates exercise with the pain of pushing yourself too far and the inconvenience of being pretty useless afterwards. The gentle sustainable activity, on the other hand, introduces you to the benefits of moving about and means you're more likely to notice the lethargy of sitting about for days on end doing nothing. All of this probably indicates why I always have such a cracking time at center parcs, where gentle activity throughout the day is the name of the game.

Anyhow. I have already done the weekly weigh in and it is a little disappointing for fans of constant weight reduction, but it is no disaster. So, you have been warned. Time to get on your bikes now and go to see the Cabin in the Woods, if you have not done so already.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 15: Normal Week

Weight after twelve weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

21stones 13lbs/307lbs/139kg



Looks a lot better than it is. One thing that's striking is that if you have an "off" week your body seems quite keen to get you back on track. I think there's a certain amount of metabolic inertia in play. It's easy to start losing weight but once you're on the track your body kicks back a bit. However, the good news is that if you fall off the wagon temporarily it seems your body is quite keen to get you back on the straight and narrow again.

So to see 21 stones at last is a great thing, especially as it means I'm circa 8lbs away from another peanut kitkat milestone. Next week I will finally be looking to e-bike to work at least two days out of five. I have a new seat cover, some cycling gloves (essential in this weather) and reflective armbands (at the behest of Mrs Monkey). We shall see how that goes.

For now, happy slimming!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 14: Not So Bad

Weight after eleven weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

22stones 3lbs/311lbs/142kg



I have just spent two hours recording all the food I have eaten in the last week. Notable highs include 8 hours of walking and my birthday calorie count of 4000 (in one day!). If I had any advice for anyone planning a birthday during a diet it is this: Make sure you do a lot of walking or similar activities to balance out the blow out day. Hey, you might even lose a pound. (Disclaimer: The pound I lost is one of the same pounds I have previously lost. Your Mileage May Vary).

Anyway. I am computered out now so I will catch you all another time.

Weekly Weigh In 13?

Er, some how I managed to delete this...

For the record I recorded a weight of 22 stones and 4lbs a gain of 1lb, probably due to tapas consumption earlier that day. Please drive through, nothing to see here.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Diet Report 10: A Couple Of Messages And Some Nervousness

Core (huh), What Is It Good For?

Quite a lot as it goes. I am, of course, referring to the core muscle groups, the infamous abdominals. As you know I have been engaging in a fight against loose skin by working out my core muscles. It's not something I've really done before for many reasons. I've never been one to want to quest for a six pack. I heard somewhere that exercising stomach muscles did nothing in particular for stomach fat. I have engaged in exercise in the past but never had that area in my sights as an essential one to strengthen or pay particular attention to.

This turns out to have been something of an error on my part. First of all I have discovered something rather strange about the abdominal and oblique groups. It's probably something that athletes and other sporting professionals are well aware of but I had never realised it. So I share it here in case you should need to know it.

I have always been a fellow broad of shoulder, I'm near enough two feet wide at the top. I've always had natural upper body power, never even needed to exercise. (I have never played rugby, much to many rugby enthusiast's chagrin.) What I never understood was that if you're naturally ox-like of aspect your core muscles often get the shoddy end of the deal.

Since engaging in a programme of belly tightening (the shrinking being aided by aerobic conditioning and diet of course) I have become aware of a number of fringe benefits. I am suddenly much more flexible. The idea that having stronger abdominals would make you more able to touch your toes, or bend deeper, or aid in sitting cross-legged is possibly obvious to others, but it never seemed so to me. I just thought I was too big to sit cross legged. In fact my stomach muscles were just too weak to keep me bent at the appropriate angle.

I'm also noting that I can lift my legs higher and I just feel more... er... bendy. It is definitely news to me that being of the stature to be compared to a brick outhouse could have put me at a natural disadvantage when it came to the core muscles but it's the only explanation. Those with slimmer shoulders obviously have to use their abdominals more to just do stuff, I've been brute-forcing my way through strength tasks and putting my back and shoulders to more use. I have had a history of some back pain possibly because my back had been put to work when my abdominals couldn't help out. Nobody ever suggested this.

So I am a sudden convert to core strength. The benefits of healthy, well-maintained abdominal muscles (even if they are prevented from six-pack-hood by the intervention of seven or eight stone of remaining flab) are not to be sniffed at. You have a strong arm what do you have? Well, a gun show to offer tickets to. But if you have a strong core you become bendier, more graceful and your back hurts less.

The message: Don't neglect your core, you don't need to aim for a rippling stomach to benefit from having some strength in what is surely one of the key areas of the body.

The 500 Calorie Question

So, last week I asked the question why do both men and women have to eliminate 500 calories a day to lose a pound a week? Well, the answer is actually really simple and comes to us courtesy of this article from The Independent. The article is all about how the science of dieting evolved.

In a nutshell all of this stuff about calories was the result of work for the US Army. The research was intended to establish what was the most economic foodstuff to give to troops to keep them energised and working well. The economy aspect was to make the foods cheap and also compact to make the logistics simple.

Obviously carbs came out the winner in this battle of the foods-as-fuel. The research made its way into the public domain and was used as the basis for slimming plans the world over. The problem being that when you flip research designed to find out how to keep a man going on its head and use it to determine how to lose weight via controlled starvation the results come out... a little hinky.

Let's return to the calorie question. A pound of soft tissue holds 3500 calories within its mass. So you cut 500 calories a day, that's 3500 cals a week, that's a pound a week, right?

Well. Not quite. The article above is quite vague but the thrust is that part of the calorie research determined how calorific a food was based upon how easy it was to metabolise those calories. So, for example, sugar metabolises like greased lightning, a little too fast for most people to actually make use of the energy released in the normal course of things. On the other hand oats are similarly calorie rich but the calories are much harder to metabolise. This is why people bang on about oats having "slow release energy" and that.

Protein and, indeed, fat are also actually harder to metabolise in the body than carbs (obviously some carbs are harder to metabolise than some fats, proteins seem to be a chore to metabolise one and all). The article concludes that it's "not as simple" as juggling raw calories, it points out that eating protein makes you feel fuller for longer because the body is spending so much time breaking it down. There are other factors, as you know from the weekly tidbits here.

Anyway. Given the logic of the 500 cals a day thing it means that you can aim for losing 3500 cals a week and have monk like days and blow out days and stuff, it should have the same effect.

The message is: Calories aren't the be all and end all of weight loss. But we knew that right?

Back In The Saddle

A short one. I took my new bike out today, 80 minutes of cycling records a massive burn on my calorie chart. As I went out for a bit of a birthday blow out at a well known tapas chain last night we shall see if that has been enough to make a  positive weight change by the weigh in about sixish.

Off The Reservation

Next week I will not be doing my daily recording to its usual degree as I am on holiday. We shall see how I master portion control without the benefit of online calculators as I shall retroactively add all of my foods into the diary when I get back. It is fair to say that I am nervous about this.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 12: Pretty Good

Weight after eleven weeks of dieting:

22stones 3lbs/311lbs/142kg



I should point out that the data point yesterday evening at about 8:30pm was a new lowest weight. So I am expecting to be a couple of pounds heavier today.

Steady as she goes I guess. Let's see where I can get to by next week in preparation for the birthday-ocalypse...

Diet Report 9: Food For Thought

He Diets, She Suffers

So Mrs Monkey has joined me in using the CRON-O-Meter for two weeks now. This has lead to the first major argument with its computerised wonder.

As you know I have been more than happy with the CRON-O-Meter's help in my own diet. I have found the daily goal a challenge but never a chore. I am happily able to manage my eating to work around the calculator's limits. My daily calorie limit is currently 2076 kcal, that's the setting for losing 1lb a week for someone of normal weight. The thing is, as we know, I wasn't at anything like what would be considered "normal" weight when I started all this.

In fact if you fed my original starting weight of 348lbs (I scrape 6 feet in height in case you want to deepen the simulation otherwise just use your own favourite height mine is twelve foot seven) into a readily available online calorie calculator. You will find that the projected needs of my diet at that time were much higher than 2076 calories a day. If you're uncertain about the veracity of using a random online calculator to issue such advice why not look at another one for comparison? There are dozens of the things littering the internet. I haven't checked extensively but I'll bet you they all do their maths slightly differently just like those two do.

The point I'm trying to make there is that how many calories an individual needs on a daily basis is way different to how many the average person needs. Why the average person would need to calorie restrict if they were at ideal average weight is never discussed, but ours is not to reason why ours is just to avoid the dessert trolley.

If I look back at my week one food diary I went over my limit about four days out of seven that week, and on two other occasions only came under because I did extra exercise to burn some calories. Fast forward to week two and I didn't even need the exercise (which I did anyhow) because I found it a breeze to restrict to the 2076 recommendation. I was still north of a distictly chubby 320lbs at that time but I could survive and even be jolly on less than the recommended average restriction for 1lb a week weight loss. Curiouser and curiouser...

Obviously your own mileage may vary. I find 2076 to be a small pinch in calories but not super onerous. I can have Mc-frickin'-D's once a week as long as I budget correctly. Don't get me wrong my salt intake is too high, I don't take in the recommended amount of Hydrogen Dioxide, my vitamins are never all filled in (although this is probably contributed to by not having vitamin breakdowns on my custom foods as I chow down on a shed ton of veg, fruit and wholefoods), but I can live with the calorie restriction. To a certain extent I relish it.

According to the online calculators I should be properly starving. Probably I am but in order to keep me going my body is, oh yes, digesting my excess fat. That's called dieting folks.

So far so much a recap up to date. Now we come to the bit that I'm not so enamoured with. This article most accurately condenses the problem area towards the bottom. It states:
"To lose 1lb per week you need to reduce your usual calorie intake by approximately 500 calories per day "
Okay, well, that's what I've done. And it works for me. Actually, I've gone beyond that according to all the calorie calculators and it's worked for me. But the article also recounts the popular wisdom that men need 2500 calories a day and women 2000. I'm not sure where these numbers were first decided but they are seen almost universally as the guideline, although some sources actually set the requirements lower for men and for women. Harvard university parrots advice for women but is more generous to men. Similarly vital health zone seems to be robbing 50 calories from women and bestows it upon the men.

So, everyone's in agreement about one thing. Women need fewer calories, on average, than men to make their way in the world. Where they differ is that whereas men are seemingly allowed to go over and still be okay women's requirements only ever go down from 2000.

Far be it from me to question all of this, no doubt, sound and thoroughly tested dietary advice but...

Oh no, wait, that's exactly what I'm doing.

Apparently we're all reducing our calorie intake by 500 calories. As I said for men this seems doable. By reducing my calorie intake to around that of the average woman I am living comfortably. Of course Mrs Monkey is a woman and so taking the average she must lose 500 to come to around 1500. Now, in my case I have sliced a not insignificant 20% off the intake of an average fella on a day-to-day basis. Mrs Monkey is being asked to cut 25% of the average for a lady to lose the same amount of weight.

The mumbled reason for this is that men naturally have more muscles so burn fat faster or better or something. That's fine to a degree but I have to ask if women are already eating less, why is it presumed they also have to restrict a greater proportion of their calories to make a loss? Let's not even start on why diet calculators use these average limits instead of one of the more generous calculation algorithms detailed at the start of this post.

I'm not trying to say that all accepted dietary advice is nonsense. Clearly in my case using one of the more generous algorithms would have been a waste of time as I'm quite happy on the relatively harsh regimen I have adopted. Somewhere in all that advice I am a winner.

Mrs Monkey, on the other hand, is starving hungry after a week on the equivalent recommended restriction for a woman and I'm not at all surprised. Out of curiosity when I started CRON-O-Meter I looked at the male's 2lbs a week settings and quickly forgot them as they put a restriction of just under 1750kcals a day on me which I felt was excessive for me. I was later proven to be right because I'm dropping weight above expectation with the normal restriction.

Even so, I am starting to think that between 1700 and 2200 is a sort of golden area of ideal consumption for an average man. Some days I am happier eating around 1700 calories others I feel the need to stuff a bit more down my gob hole. All the while I am happy and not missing the real gluttonous excesses of my former life.

I find it very suspicious that the dietary advice doled out to the more diet obsessed gender (I am bucking the trend being obsessed with mine, I understand most men just diet they don't think about it as well) seems to be of the more hair shirt and birch twigs variety. The world of dietary advice seems to tell men that if they fancy a bag of nuts or the odd cream bun it won't kill them but if a woman looks the wrong way at 40g of cheddar she'll burn in the fires of diet hell.

There could be all sorts of reasons for this and none of them seem particularly scientific. Even on the Horizon about exercise the other week scientists are more keen on testing rates of glucose exchange in muscle mass than wondering if the accepted daily intake recommendations pass the lab coat and slide rule thumbs up award for strict empirical veracity. Maybe the average recommendations haven't been made up but the way that we repeat them definitely seems to indicate that we like to tell the boys they're okay and the girls they're evil. It's like the financials of playing poker, apparently it doesn't work properly unless it hurts a bit when a woman diets.

I also can't imagine that there are all that many scientists who rock up to work in the morning and say "I'd like to perform a very dull study questioning something that most people seem quite happy to just accept and which seems to at least be in the ball park region of being correct." Especially when the next sentence out of their mouths would have to be: "Further I'd like it to be a study concerning a topic that will not dramatically affect the scientific community even if the results turn out to be a bit different to my expectations."

Basically, there would be no scientific kudos in establishing the theory that either women's average daily intake need should be raised (I don't believe this) or that the restriction on calories should be proportional not fixed i.e. restrict 20% of your calorie intake to lose a lb a week so men go from 2500ish to 2000ish and women go from 2000ish to 1600ish. That extra 100 calories makes all the difference in establishing a "comfort zone". I happen to believe, having weighed up all the conflicting advice, that a lot of it has more to do with undermining women in a moral way than actually helping them to feel comfortable dieting.

I guess that Weight Watchers actually agreed with me. Their whole system is designed togive dieters an alternative to calorie restriction by the book with their simple points based system. It allows a dieter to eat to live without having to turn into an ascetic diet monk. Weight Watchers wanted to sell dieting, and they have succeeded by, you know, selling dieting, as opposed to selling self-imposed suffering in the name of some vague dietary moral authority.

I know it's not the CRON-O-Meter's fault, the default settings are just taken from the various sources available to the makers. However, I am firmly of the opinion at the moment that's what is good for this gander-monkey is not necessarily so good for the goose-monkey.

Tightening Our Belts

My trousers have definitely started to become ill-fitting in the right direction at this time. I have reached the last hole in the two belts I bought five months ago. As my friend pointed out to me, at least things are becoming ill-fitting in the direction where a belt is helpful. I am forced to agree.

Progress has been good, as regular followers of this journal will know. To engage "sense of perspective mode" for a moment though we may have one the battle of the first two and a half stone but the war on ten stones continues. Now is not a time for complacence.

Now, is however, nearly time for the Monkey to step from the friendly world of the mid-thirties into the choppier waters of the late thirties. Overall that doesn't concern me. What concerns me is that I am about to have a birthday and everyone knows what goes with birthday. That's right. Cake.

I feel that I would be doing myself a disservice not to have a piece of cake on my birthday, but it is just one of a myriad of ill-disciplined dining decisions that are to accompany the event. Let's not forget that I am having not one but two birthday meals, one with my friends in Notts and then at home in Wales week after next.

I am accompanying my birthday week with my first time "off the reservation" as far as dieting goes. At some point the training wheels will have to come off and the great experiment will be over. What better place to practice than 25% through? In short, although I will continue to diarise my food consumption week after next I will not feed the foods into CRON-O-Meter till I return from Wales. Essentially, for a week, I will be calorie blind.

We'll see how I get on.

Following shortly, this week's weight milestone. In fact, if you've read all of this it's probably up by now.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 11: Calm Down

Hectic day yesterday but I'm sure you are all dying to know how I've been doing so:

Weight after ten weeks of dieting:

22stones 6lbs/314lbs/143kg



I should point out that the data point yesterday evening at about 8:30pm was a new lowest weight. So I am expecting to be a couple of pounds heavier today.

The exercise regimen is going well and I have taken part in some kind of exercise every day for the last seven days. I went up a rung on my exercise ladder last thursday so am now doing more in my daily exercises.

Hopefully be able to write a bit more next week, particularly as we will be starting to have to think about a week where it may be difficult for me to keep track on a daily basis and also will be my birthday (of doom... cheesecake shaped doom...)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Just To Clarify

Mrs Monkey is no longer doing Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers does not work for Coeliacs as the points are hard to manage in addition to the gluten-free requirement. She has joined me on a calorie restriction CRON-O-Meter plan.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 10: Just A Little

Weight after nine weeks of dieting:

22stones 11lbs/319lbs/145kg



No surprises there then. Not really much to add. Hopefully I can shed a little bit more soon. I'm still 18lbs away from my next Peanut Kit Kat and nearly 3 stones away from the teens where I will feel I have cleared a kind of "weight backlog" and started in on a serious slimming zone within reality...

Until next time diet fans.

Diet Report 8: Exercise And No Gluten

Not for me, of course, I love gluten, gluten and I are the best of friends still. Mrs Monkey and gluten, however, have had a bit of a falling out.

It's a reason for healthy eating I had never considered but had it not been for this process the diagnosis may have taken a while still. Here's the central point. Mrs Monkey and I have been dieting for the same time. I have lost twice as much weight as her, which is possibly more of a difference, I now reflect, than our genders alone might furnish.

Whichever way you look at it I am bouncing with health and filled with the joys of spring, I feel better, I sleep better, I am better. She feels like rubbish. So we went to the doctor's and said "Look here, we're eating almost identically. Mr feels terrific, Mrs feels shady, what gives?"

So after a battery of blood tests it turns out that Mrs Monkey is almost certainly coeliac. Now, for those of you who may know a thing, or indeed two, about coeliac condition you might not expect the Mrs to be overweight. And yet she is. Because the same battery of blood tests also revealed that Mrs Monkey had an underactive thyroid.

The revealing of the results was a small comedy of errors. Part one of the meeting was a lecture about cutting down on her alochol intake. Mrs Monkey does not drink. "Oh," the doctor said, "but your liver...". So after this was sorted out part two of the meeting was a lecture about not eating enough greens. "My husband and I eat large salads three times a week at least," quoth Mrs Monkey. "Come now, really?" said the doctor, disbelieving. "Seriously," Mrs Monkey said. "Seriously?" the doctor asked weakly. Mrs Monkey nodded grimly. "But... but... you have no nutrients in your blood at all. It is as if you are starving to death!" the doctor said. Thus was the truth uncovered.

Mrs Monkey is now recovering nicely and we are discovering the joys of wheat-free produce. She had more blood tests this week to ascertain the exact level of the coeliac condition in her case.

Here's the thing. If we hadn't dieted, if we hadn't explored the tabulation of nutritional data and the compilation of these statistics the diagnosis might have been deferred some further time still. Occam's razor states that if an overweight person presents to a doctor complaining of pain, aching, lethargy, insomnia and freely admits to eating a diet of salty, sugary, greasy carbs and no vegetables to speak of there is a simple explanation for their condition even if that simple explanation happens to be dead wrong. But if you spend two months playing the game, counting, measuring, identifying the shortfall the easy explanation is no longer good enough.

In this way Mrs Monkey dodged a bullet. It is worth doing this for a couple of months even if you don't care how much weight you lose. Who knows what other useful advice you could pick up.

Here endeth the lesson.

For myself the flappy skin problem has started to manifest. I had believed that such a thing would come as little pinchy bits at the bottom of the belly. I believed they would deepen and flap and that would be the clue. I believed that I would just be able to eat more to compensate and slow the rate of change.

Actually what happens is that your belly fat just hangs more pendulously because of the slack weight of unused skin around it. When you are properly fat the skin is tight and taut like a drum skin. It holds up by itself because it has no real choice. When there's less fat it slouches and attempts to skulk around your waistline at the cut off of your fat store. Not only that but I fond myself eating quite adequately enough and do not wish to stuff my face arbitrarily.

The only solutions are targeted exercise and some moisturisation to make the skin supple. So in addition to walking this week and skipping when I could (the daylight fades too quickly and in the morning it is too loud and I have no desire to be obnoxious) I have instituted a regimen of stomach crunches, leg raises and step ups. I intend to increase sets and reps over the coming weeks and hope that targeting those areas will allow the skin to shrink back. I shall keep you updated.

My weight readings this week have been fairly stable, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this wasn't a second week of duck egg. Still, we shall see. Later.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 9: Duck Egg 2 - The Revenge of Howard

Weight after eight weeks of dieting:

22stones 12lbs/320lbs/145kg



Honestly, it could be a lot worse. Last week's 22 stone 12 was not the lowest of the week but it was a little lower than I was expecting at that time. It was also one of the two lowest for that week. So I guess in reality it was just a blip that happened to fall on a weigh in day. I was somewhat concerned that I might be in the unfortunate position of recording a slight gain as yesterday's weigh in pegged me at 23 1. So over the course of today my weight has sunk by a full three pounds. I'm hoping to see the first quarter of 22 disappear this week and I'm hoping that next week I might be able to log in something like 22 10 or lower. I guess we shall have to wait and see.

Diet Report 7: Heavy Week

Anatomy Of A Day's Food Intake

Maybe I should have called this "Calorific Week" but heavy is a vaguer word that has more connotation. To start in the obvious sense: this week I clocked possibly the most days high up to the calorie limit as I had since week one. Also I didn't get as much walking in because of crappy weather and wanting to get work done in my lunch hour.

I'm still on restricted calories even coming close to the ceiling but I noted that eating enough to come much closer to that ceiling did leave me with a feeling that perhaps I wasn't savouring the food I was eating to a greater degree. In other words I felt a little unappreciative. Probably the most notable example of this was Monday when I ate:

  • Porridge (206 kcal)
  • Banana and apple (forgot my daily yoghurt) (167 kcal)
  • Sainsbury's Frozen Red Thai Curry w/Coconut Rice (459 kcal)
  • Breaded pollock fillets on a hearty salad (804 kcal)
  • Nakd Cocoa Delight Bar (135 kcal)
  • Cheddar Cheese (40g) (161 kcal)

That looks like quite a lot of food. Along with drinks (coffee and a glass of milk) I recorded 2070 calories on Monday, 6 away from my daily limit. I didn't feel bloated, I didn't feel unhealthy, the Cheddar Cheese and glass of milk were, in particular, required to make up my fat quota which had not been otherwise satisfied. (NOTE: Most of the heaviness in the calories this week came from CARBS particularly sugar, not fat... no surprises there.)

The heart of the matter was that I felt if I was eating all of those things in a single day how much could I really be appreciating any of them? As worries go, it's a minor one; I mention it to illustrate the evolution of my attitude to and feelings about food as a  part of my life. When I was fat I would easily have eaten more than that and not worried at all about whether I was really enjoying any of it. I would assume I had been, which, in retrospect means, I guess, that I wasn't. Not to the extent that I am now.

Mrs Monkey said that Weight Watchers had advised her similarly that after a while on the scheme food would actually begin to taste better and she had dismissed it as hyperbole. But we both have noticed this trend and it's not a bad one.

Time For Action

We also enjoyed the excellent Horizon on the BBC this week (UK readers can watch the programme on iPlayer until Tuesday and I would heartily recommend that). In this programme we learned about NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), the tricks our brain plays on us when we begin exercising and that three minutes of HIT (High Impact Training) a week can deliver remarkable results.

We've both been dieting now for nearly two months and this is about the time that exercising should enter the arena. Not least because it will give our metabolisms (metaboli?) a kick at a time when our bodies are at risk of becoming used to the calorie restriction. Besides exercise delivers many benefits that are not to do with weight loss but compliment them nicely. In fact, the Horizon also reinforces a very important point. Exercise is a minor aid in weight loss but calorie restriction is the key component, without the diet the exercise alone is useless for weight loss.

One of the main problems therefore is how to maintain enthusiasm for something that is only of tertiary benefit to the situation in which we find ourselves? One of the most important features of any exercise programme is that it includes a daily component. The problem is that we have busy lives (I mean all of us in the world but myself and Mrs Monkey are included by default) and doing too little is just as bad as doing nothing, right?

Well, the Horizon programme states in no uncertain terms that this isn't necessarily true. For non UKers and lazy people I will summarise: NEAT is the concept of how much moving about you do on a daily basis, just walking around, doing menial tasks, that kind of thing. It is surprising what a high impact this has on our metabolism. Essentially the killer is staying still in one place for too long. Periods of inactivity should be interspersed with bursts of action or else we suffer all sorts of sleepy metabolism problems.

HIT is a phenomenon where we can improve the glucose exchange sugar-scrubbing function of our body by doing some incredibly active whole body exercise in three twenty second bursts three times a week. It's not a replacement for more dedicated exercise sessions but, amazingly it does help. As the Horizon disclaimer said: Consult your doctor before trying it. Although given the state of information flow through doctor's surgeries that we've experienced lately the doctor will probably just say: "Yeah, sure, give it a try, can't hurt".

My dear old grandmother always used to tell me that ten minutes a day would help and, if anything, she was overshooting some in that assessment. However, she wasn't at all wrong. I guess we should all listen to what our grandmothers say more often.

I myself am looking to participate in some HIT (I'm skipping the doctor's visit so if I drop dead I guess it's my own fault) the guy in Horizon was on an exercise cycle. I have gone for a less expensive solution. Skipping. An exercise skipping rope is about 3GBP, the exercise tones almost the whole of the body, is aerobic and improves coordination.

When I first got the rope I gave it a go and Mrs Monkey felt moved to step in. Unbelievable as it may sound it turns out that I was unaware how to skip. In case you are also living in a fool's paradise, believing you know how to skip when really you don't, here's Denny the Trainer to show you how (BTW what I thought was skipping is here termed the "Girly Jump"):

The problem is that learning to skip will take some time so the High Impact part of my Training will have to  wait until I can work up the rhythm that this guy has.

Anyway, the short of it is that doing a bit of skipping in the front garden seems like a do-able daily routine. I will keep you updated as to my progress. Myself and Mrs Monkey have also taken the plunge and joined my company's gym plan in association with the daily training we should be able to make exercise a part of our lives on a more permanent basis. We have managed about three months of sporadic training before but like the dieting now we need to make it stick.

The Park In Winter

It seems that spring is just around the corner, which is fine because it's better than a windy, cold and rainy March time and is really much appreciated. However, I have always had a small place in my heart for winter. The only weather I really can't stand is humid, sticky heat. In the spirit of remembering that winter can be quite beautiful despite the cold and the short days - and to remind you where the exercise concept began - here are some pictures from a walk in the park a couple of Saturdays ago, a day so cold that the park cafĂ©'s front entrance had frozen shut and they had to serve us hot drinks out of the side window:

Catch you all later for the weigh in.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Weekly Weigh In 8: Um, Wow

Weight after seven weeks of dieting:

22stones 12lbs/320lbs/145kg



Need I say more? Well, maybe. I could talk about how last week I got a fairly high Saturday reading and the rest of the week I was reading about 23 2 so this is only a real drop of fourish pounds in real terms but my tea (jackets with tuna sweetcorn, salad and cheese) is ready so I'll leave on a high.

See you all soon for more dieting antics.

Diet Report 6: Don't Screw Up The Data

I think since I achieved my first milestone weight of 23 stones and 7 lbs I've definitely found the going more of a challenge. The actual mechanics of the diet have been working out well. I'm eating enough to keep me happy, often staying below my threshold, getting at least two bouts of exercise a week and all is golden and rosy. The chemistry of my metabolic processes, however, are having a harder time.

I suppose that the clues are there in the fact that Weight Watchers and similar operate on a "monthly subscription" basis. People have to diet for a long time to see serious results. It's taken me about half my life to get this fat. Getting unfat was never going to be easy.

The problem is that after that initial "thank goodness" as your body dumps fat even it knows it didn't need the numbers spiral slowly down instead of showing an inexorable downward spike. It's like counting from 10 to 1 by going: 10 9 8 7 9 10 9 8 7 6 7 8 6 9 7 6 5 7 7 7 8 6 5 7 7 5 6 5 4 6 6 5 7 6 5 4 3 5 5 6 5 5 4 4 5 4 3 2 5 4 4 3 2 2 1.

The actual firm pieces of downward motion are fleeting and incremental, sometimes the numbers swoop back upwards alarmingly but there always comes a point at which you've left certain data points behind, the first time you see a new low is nice but it's no guarantee you're going to see it again for a while.

For example, at this stage I've left 23 7 behind. I haven't seen it in weeks. I've seen 23 0 once but mostly I've ping ponged around between the two with little seeming progress in either direction.

This, then is that plateau we've been warned about. Except, it's not a plateau, it's like the last few revolutions of a large ball bearing in a giant metal cone before it plops out of the hole in the centre. It's swooping up and down it looks like its stuck to the side of the cone but at some point it has to drop.

The hard part about this would have to be motivation. Recording a spiralling carousel of figures that dance up and down and round and round is somewhat bizarre and not very interesting. I will often say "bah" at my daily weigh in because the point is one I've seen before and not as low as I might have liked. This is the point at which a dieter needs something else to keep them in the game.

One of the things that will keep them at it, I suppose, is the weekly flag points. At that point the trend will out and it should never stay stable or increase two weeks on the trot (as long as we're being good). However, the problem with that is a week is a long time to wait for news.

In my case, and everyone else's mileage may vary, I am fascinated by the observational process of it all. And so I daren't say sod it and reach for the cream buns because I do not want to sully my data!

It's a strange motivation but what I guess I am saying is that everyone must have their own day-to-day reason for sticking with a programme of calorie-restricted weight loss. I have two, I love my data and I love my new foods.

I think having reasons like this are key. As I haven't mentioned it for a while I shall say now, go eat some cheese, or spread some butter on something. Fat is very important and 65g isn't going to magically appear in your daily food intake unless you take action now!

See you later for the weigh in.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Weekly Weigh in 7: Underwhelming

Weight after six weeks of dieting:

23stones 5lbs/327lbs/149kg



Actually I've been lower this week, but Saturday's weigh in is the only one that counts. I would write more but right now myself and the Mrs should be enjoying the end of "The Woman In Black" before watching "The Muppets". This has not happened because the people of Britain are inconsiderate ignorant idiots who talked and rustled and got up and walked around through the first twenty minutes of the movie. We are now considering cancelling the cinema cards we have owned for many years because we just find the business of visiting the cinema grotty and depressing.

Will stop now as this is supposed to be an upbeat dieting blog.

Cinema Day

Myself and the Mrs are going to the cinema today so the weekly weigh in will be late.

See you later.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Weekly Weigh In 6: Nice

Weight after five weeks of dieting:

23stones 6lbs/328lbs/149kg


If you have been paying close attention you will know that this is not as spectacular as it seems because most of the weight actually came off the day after the last weigh in so in the last 6 days I have actually only seen a loss of 1lb/0.5kg still I am not one to look a gift loss in the mouth.

Weekly Goals

Generally I did well and myself and the Mrs got a bonus walk in the park in today, pictures to follow. We didn't get to check out the gym but that was due to circumstances beyond and all that. As the weather up here is so terrible my goals next week are not to allow my focus to slip, at least one walk, try to keep my head down and keep on plugging. The Mrs is also having a tough time at the moment due to various natural factors.

The Man Diet

I once heard a "man diet" described as a man making the very tiniest of changes to their diet and walking an extra 100-200 yards every day all the while dropping weight like nobody's business. It has to be said I have found my weight loss process to be relatively stable and quite easy to map. I have never put weight back up more than two days in a row and the longest plateau I've had so far has been four days.

Women have several disadvantages in dieting as a frantic Google has told us this evening. Women have a monthly cycle, if women consume too much salt they have a tendency to retain water. Men do not have to put up with arbitrary "bloating". This is a shame because men like to diet in that it makes them feel better about life and improves their health. Maybe a thinner man does feel proud and more confident as a by-product but it's not more of a triumph than, for example, watching a favourite sports team win a convincing victory (so I have heard).

Women, on the other hand, do inherit a moral component with dieting, and being thinner and less heavy is seen as virtuous. It is not the healthiest relationship to have with bodily mass but it is entrenched. Why it is that to women the issue of dieting and weight loss is a carnival merry-go-round of judgement and disapproval dependent, in many cases, on a circuitous and confusing number of factors, many of which are hormonal, is one of the great mysteries of life.

Diet Report 5: The Everyday Diet

Thought I'd begin this week's main entry with an image of a delicious omelette, fries and side salad made in our very kitchen last Sunday brunch time. This truly is the brunch of champions containing every nutritious thing you need to go until tea time with no more than a couple of cups of coffee. You may think it looks appetising, hell I am craving that exact meal all over again right now but here's the thing. All the time I was piling on weight and eating crap I never felt motivated to take a photograph of any meal. The riot of colour and variety of texture on display in my meals of late means sometimes you have to pause to lay down some megapixels.

Moving on.

Flat Week

You may remember from last weekend's ups and downs, and my midweek mini-update that after apparently losing nothing in the fourth week of the diet the very next day I dropped a massive four pounds in my daily weigh in and then experienced no fluctuations at all by Wednesday. Well, on Thursday evening I recorded the shifting of another three pounds and then yesterday it all came back again. So what will tonight's recorded weight be?

I certainly hope it won't be more than 23 7, that would be rubbish, but I also think it's more than likely going to stick at 23 7 which will look like a loss on the official week by week chart but is actually six days of nothing. On the other hand if I come in any lighter than 23 7 it will look like I'm dropping weight at a massive rate when any change at this point will be a much smaller departure from 23 7 than it looks.

In other words if you are not measuring your weight daily, and there are many good reasons not to, then you may find in your milestone weighing session that things look bleak, or look worrying when the overall pattern would give you a much clearer indication of exactly when the body is dumping unnecessary fat reserves.

Coupled with the snowy conditions and cold weather over this week the freeze in my weight has reminded me of the Nordic Rune Isa:

Not the most exciting sigil ever but eerily the one that seems to resonate most when I encounter its symbol in action. Isa directly means ice and represents blockage, a literal freezing up of the things in your life. When it's too cold to go outside, it takes longer to drive to work and the weight you've been losing seems to stop dead it just appears as if someone's hit the pause button on the world.

On which note the one goal I really wanted to achieve this week, to visit the gym with a view to joining my company's gym programme went by the wall due to snow and freezing conditions. Which annoyed me a bit as well.

Hunger Pangs

This week was also the first time I've actually felt hungry during the diet. Not anything dramatic just a much clearer feeling of peckishness at meal times. Personally I think it's quite a healthy thing. In fact, in retrospect, it's a bit worrying that properly hungry isn't something I've felt for years. Mildly more interested in food, sure, but actually hungry, I can't say that it was familiar as feelings go.

The nice thing about hunger is when you do eat things taste better and the experience is just generally more rewarding. Eating when you've got plenty of your own fat to live on is just an altogether more compulsive action.

Son of Salad: Revenge of the Schooner

By request this week I will be providing a step-by step guide to building salads such as yours truly, the salad monster, likes to make for sustenance, tantalising tastes and rockin' good times. I was actually asked for a recipe but salad doesn't really have a recipe it's a "bung it in a bucket" kind of experience. So without further ado I present, the bucket:

Actually, I like to refer to it as a "schooner". It's really just a bowl. Like someone miniaturised a large salad server but not too miniature. It's bigger than a pasta bowl and shallower than a soup bowl. We bought these specially and I think it does provide an eye guide to the perfect salad size.

Next, just a gander at the ingredients. From left to right on the front row, we have sliced cucumbers, grated carrots (at this point I ran out of colour coded plastic hoppers), green pepper and red onion. On the back row gherkins, jalapenos, sweetcorn and olives (the gherkins are part of Mrs Monkey's salad and will feature no further part in this salad how to, you may like vinegary, wrinkly freak cucumber foetuses but I am not a fan). I have not included the lettuce in this line up because it's freakin' lettuce, you buy it in a plastic bag and just pop it into a bowl like this:

See, already we're looking like we've got some salad-y goodness going on and we've only done one ingredient. Don't diss the lettuce it is the foundation of the salad and who would build a house without solid foundations, only someone who enjoys living in rubble.

Cucumbers are where the salad begins to look like a real salad, cucumbers add a slight peppery nuance to the bowl but mostly they're there for the crunch. If you have some slices left over you could use them on your eyes because apparently that is a thing.

Really I should have used red pepper on this part for a dash of colour contrast but I didn't so far, so green salad, right?

And then BAM grated carrot haymaker right in the face, suddenly we have an explosion of exuberantly sweet orange to go with the slightly spiced flavours of the green vegetables added so far.

I am having red onion on my salad Mrs Monkey says it is horrible and shuns it in favour of alien pods coated in acid and then sliced into things that look like nose goblins. And she says I like disgusting foods because I like a smattering of fiery spicyness on my salad... bah.

Finally, on the proper vegetable front I add a nice yellow touch to the bowl delicious sweetcorn, another taste contrast.

I love olives and a couple of jalapenos are all but mandated by law. Enjoy this riot of colour and flavour because we're about to reach for the deli meats which does cover up the visually attractive vegetables so far assembled.

The joy of this is that as you slice through the meat you expose the colourful layers underneath. Plus sliced deli meats are delicious. I have plumped for chicken in this instance. The one thing I have found quite frustrating is that supermarkets don't really sell wafer thin turkey slices, and in fact the turkey selection as a whole is quite poor. I prefer turkey as a salad white meat it just seems to compliment the bowl better. Never mind let's skip to the cheese:

That's 50g of mature cheddar right there homeslices. It's the most fattening thing on the plate at 202 kcal but it tastes of pure cheesy goodness. As a final touch a quick swirl of dressing:

Today I have gone for mayonaisse with a hint of chilli the choice of dressing is key to the ultimate salad experience. In this case there was a pleasant extra heat to my salad which made myself and my tastebuds very happy indeed.

Hope that's helpful in pointing you in the direction of your own salad behemoth, now I am tending towards getting myself some eggs and tearing up a righteous omelette in the hizouse. I'll see all of you here after six for the weigh in. Have a good Saturday!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Two Interesting Things

  1. Since I have attained 23 7 I have not left 23 7 in either direction
  2. I have photographs for a step-by-step how to on the salads (by request) expect it later this week.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Is That A Kit Kat In Your Mouth Or...

Yes. Yes it is.

Today's weight point 23 7 on the nose.

Ithengyew see you next week.

Diet Report 4: Salad Days

I'm worried that this particular entry may come off as being a little underwhelming now after the news of my technical non-loss this week. Worse, it could even seem depressing. For which reason if I see my expected loss in tonight's weigh point I will say what it is so that you can see the trend of my weight loss in action.

The Gateway

It started, innocently enough, with a choice of meal that Mrs Monkey had learned the ways of during a brief stint working for a chain of popular high street sandwich merchants. These particular merchants like to boast of the different combinations of stuff you can have in your sandwich and by stuff I mean vegetables, cheese and dressings. They also like to boast about their 12 inches. Am I making myself plain?

Anyhow, in addition to their distinctly bread-heavy menu these chaps also offer their menu selection as a salad bowl. This option is not pushed much in their advertisements and is less popular than the offerings that don't require pi to quantify (mmm, pi).

While Mrs Monkey was engaged in their employ, however, she had a chance to switch from bread to bowl and found the experience to be a rewarding one. When we came to diet it was suggested we try out this option as an alternative to more calorific fast food offerings. The construction of the salad bowl differs only slightly from the construction of one of their sandwiches. The assistant starts, obviously with the vegetables and layers the cheese, dressings and other meatier refinements on top of those.

I have never been much for a salad meal. I think mostly because almost all commercially prepared salads are either incredibly leafy or come with mandatory tomatoes. Neither my self nor the Mrs really go for raw tomatoes. As such, watching the assistant assemble the vegetably treat was something of a revelation.

First, a layer of the leafy stuff, there are enough varieties of lettuce you can buy in the supermarkets these days, you don't need me to paint you a picture. On top of this a mixture, in my case cucumber, red onions and peppers. Then the little tasty bits, sweetcorn and olives. After that you're ready for a small but satisfying portion of cold cuts, sprinkle with grated cheese and top with a dressing (don't feel guilty, it will help towards your pure fat quota for the day). All done:

Let me tell you, that bad boy is a lot more filling than a large Big MacDaddy with fries on the side. Note also that I went for the most unhealthy meat option: the sliced porky fat monster from Hell.

One of the big problems of salad is that in this society it has been co-opted by the kind of weirdo who will tell you that taking a bucket of fresh, raw vegetables, layering them, and then slathering them with cheese, spicy mayo and pork death is an insult and not worthy of one who quests for health. Okay, we think, then it all seems too tedious. If adding a little of what I fancy is out of the question pass the Bacon Double Chee and put me some fresh BBQ sauce with those crispy fries, oh, yeah and onion rings too my good fellow.

That's right, in order to prevent you from eating a small amount of questionably nutritious pleasure food health nuts have actively driven people away from huge, healthy and satisfying bowls of healthy raw vegetables. Or at least, that's been my problem. In the last month I have discovered an amazing truth. Putting a small portion of unhealthy fat and meat on top of a large bowl of raw vegetables makes the whole thing taste delicious and has no perceivable effect on the healthiness of the raw veg whatsoever! That's right! The vegetables are completely unaffected by putting cheese, mayo and meat on top of them! I know, staggering.

Hardcore Salad Munching

The sandwich chain experience is good but it left me hungry for more (well, after I'd digested the current bowl, at the time it's incredibly filling). Not only that but watching the sandwich chain drone make the salad was like a green and leafy epiphany. It's not hard to make a tasty salad, I realised, in fact, it's dead easy. Quickly posh salad "schooners" were purchased  along with the necessary refinements and we were away.

The salad you're about to see featured not only all the ingredients found at the sandwich chain but also grated carrots, red cabbage and some jalapenos for bite. Yum.

I had to include this initial picture just to show you how good the vegetables look ungarnished. In the spirit of full salad disclosure the next thing I did was this:

After that I put two thin slices of corned beef (bully beef American friends) over the top that effectively obscured the whole thing from view, so I chose not to photograph what looks, essentially, like a bowl filled with meat. The red blobs are a tangy tomato relish, because although the raw tomato is not to our tastes the chopped up and essentially turned to jam version goes great with meat.

The salad schooner allows the containment of probably between 30% and 40% more raw vegetables and the overall experience was tasty but I think I maxed out Mrs Monkey who could not finish the vegetable behemoth. That bowl, incidentally, including two thin slices of corned beef comes to about 350 calories including a single buttered granary roll on the side. Not only that it's a taste sensation.

The Birth of a Salad Monster

Friends, I must confess, I have become obsessed with salad. Just having a delicious salad at least four times a week isn't enough for the likes of me. Oh no. I've taken to garnishing other meals with side salads that generally restaurants would probably serve up as main salads.

This leads to my final point. In the outside world salad, generally speaking, is seen as the poor man's choice. It is often presented and dismissed as such by the kitchen hands of popular restaurant chains. How can something that you basically throw at a plate and douse in creamy goodness be competition for a perfectly grilled tuna steak or a painstakingly prepared slice of beef Wellington? It's nature's blessing, honestly I believe culinary professionals are jealous of the salad.

This, people, is why side salads in the normal world consist of three slices of drying out cucumber, two wilting iceberg lettuce leaves, a tiny portion of raw white onion, two lonely cherry tomatoes and a few stalks of cress dismissively given a tiny ghetto in the corner of the plate (and that's a particularly good example of the genre). I ate an excellent omelette for brunch yesterday and I got one lettuce leaf two slices of cucumber,  a tomato wedge, all covered in something mayonaisse-y and a tomato relish that basically drowned the whole thing. This is most people's experience of the side salad.

This is the side salad I put with a meal of cheeseburger and fries grilled at home last week:

Note, particularly, that this melon-farmer takes up half of the plate. The only foodstuff that could be said to be given a food ghetto on that plate were the 100g of crispy fries which was sufficient to add a little je ne sais quois to the rest of the meal.

Let me tell you, alternating bites of grease-dripping meaty cheese burger with mouthfuls of red cabbage, pepper and cucumber makes both foods taste amazing, it's like a vivid chiaroscuro of taste sensation. These two bad boys were born to tag team your mouth with an elbow drop of soaring flavour.

Did I mention I've become kind of a salad zealot of late?

Anyhow, it's been grand but I have some tuna mayo to whip up because this lunchtime, guess what this monkey's chowing down on. Why don't you join me? You won't regret it.