Tag Archives: diet

The festive season is over and your pants are tighter than your wallet. What went wrong? AGAIN?

3 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

The feasting , I mean *festive* season has come to a close.

Did you feast?

To be more accurate, despite promising yourself to take it easy this year, did you feast like there was no tomorrow, while promising yourself you would start your diet in January?

Now that January is here, are you still reaching for the pies because you are depressed about the enormity of the task ahead and too broke to afford a gym membership/buy healthy food anyway?

What went wrong?


For most of my adult life I have resented the festive season.  I feel out of control, as though the world is trying to force feed me, like a Christmas goose being fattened up for slaughter.

Despite what  glossy magazines tell you about how to ‘choose this instead of that’,  I have yet to find a non offensive way to insist on getting a blob of cottage cheese on a crispbread (‘cut the crispbread into small squares and layer them between the cheese! It will still feel decadent!” they promise) when the host of the third party in as many days, offers me a tray of mini pork sausages stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, while shoving a fruity sugary alcoholic drink into my other hand.

Oh alright then, I will eat it all...

Perhaps there has been a magazine article written on how to artfully offend your friends, I have yet to read it.  If I was to demand a low fat snack at a party while rejecting the proffered offerings, I am quite certain I would not be regarded as sensible and empowered – I think it’s far more likely I would be called, smug, fussy and downright ungrateful.  To my face.  Possibly followed by that fruity drink and a dollop of spittle.

The trouble with asking for a paper towel on which to dab the excess fat off a double fried chocolate fat nugget, or eating half the food you have been served and piously pushing your plate away, or pouring half your cocktail down the sink and topping up your glass with water – if this is not obvious – is that it is RUDE.  Your host has spent hours preparing the feast and probably a fair amount of cash on the ingredients.  In addition to this, the meal, if it is a small party or family get together, was probably prepared with your tastes and preferences in mind.  Your sister saw how much you enjoyed the fat nuggets last year.. you asked for seconds!  That’s why she made them again this year… specially for you… how easy then, is it to push them away when they are proudly offered?

Not easy at all, you admit, unbuttoning another button of your jeans.

Imagine a world in which you could feel safe going to dinner parties in December knowing you would not have to eat anything which fell outside of your healthy eating plan.  Imagine not even being offered these things at all, not because you have been excluded, but because these things were not even prepared, based on your attendance.  Imagine a world where not preparing these items did not make your host feel resentful, but instead made them feel considerate and open-minded.

Welcome to the world of the belief system motivated vegetarian.

Think back on the last time you hosted a vegetarian.  When you decided to include this person on your guest list you already knew a few things about them.  You knew they did not eat meat for religious or other personal reasons.  You knew with certainty this was not a point for compromise or negotiation.  Did you then, insist on serving only meatballs, even when this guest was the only vegetarian at the table?  No you did not.  Instead you created some fancy sundried tomato-balanced on a soya bean starter (which everyone, seeking to appear evolved and tolerant of the veggie eating guest, raved about) and also probably served a vegetarian lasagna which it took you twice as long to make as a steak pie would have, necessitating a trip to three different stores just to find aubergines.

On top of that, I bet you felt rather smug about it.  It was probably easy to say to your brother Peter (known for only eating meat and potatoes) – “It will be a meat free evening tonight Pete”.

As the host you felt splendid about it – what a great chance to show how liberal and cosmopolitan you are.  Meat free?  Oh.. that’s easy!  That is just the type of flexible and inclusive host I am!

The same accommodations are made for diabetics and alcoholics and they are made just as happily.

So why then can a dinner party menu not be planned around the guest (or guests, which is more likely) who are trying to slim down or manage their weight over the festive season?

Here are a couple of reasons :

*We don’t declare our dietary requirements upfront.

*If we do declare our dietary requirements, we do it WRONG.

*We don’t follow through.

*We are secretly pleased we didn’t have to follow through.

Everyone knows who the vegans, vegetarians and diabetics are.  People who have specific dietary requirements have learnt that it does not serve them to stay silent.  It is not uncommon to meet a new colleague in the workplace and to have them introduce themselves as, “Hi, I am Johno, the new Accountant and I am a vegan”.   If you didn’t already know and you invite one of these people to a party, they will not mind reminding you either, several times if necessary.

People who are on a healthy eating plan are less eager to declare their requirements so blatantly for fear of scorn and derision.  If we are completely honest we must also concede that we sometimes do not describe out dietary requirements because we already plan to fail them and do not want to have to explain ourselves when the person who we outlined our carb free eating choices to in detail sees us grazing a family size box of doughnuts at the office a few days later.. but that is another blog altogether.

hmmm... I think I will pretend I want the carrots and then allow myself to be 'forced' to eat the pie...

Vegetarians and Vegans are not immune to scorn and derision.  They will tell you that when they first come out the soya closet into the meat locker which is the world in which we live, they are interrogated and questioned like criminals.  It only hurts the first couple of times though, and people do then eventually get over it and accept it.  Vegetarians and Vegans feel strongly enough about their choices and are prepared to face this sort of pain in order to reap the rewards waiting on the other side – evenings of dining without awkward moments or social pressure, without compromise or confrontation.

When followers of a healthy eating plan do manage to find the courage to come clean upfront they often hamstring themselves by apologizing or sounding ashamed about it.  The knee-jerk reaction of the person on the receiving end, when they hear ; “I would LOVE to enjoy your delicious lemon meringue pie again this season, but sadly, I am on a diet”… is to respond with, “you don’t need to diet darling! We all love you just the way you are.. don’t be silly.. one piece of pie won’t hurt you!”.  Both host and hosted disempowered… and you have only yourself to blame.  Listen to how different this sounds : “You are such a wonderful host so I thought I better let you know as soon as possible so you understand and are aware that I wont be having any of your lemon meringue pie this year; I don’t eat sugar”.

Case closed.

When a vegan gets to a dinner party and a bleeding slice of meat is served up to them, they don’t eat it.  They don’t guzzle it down while whispering to their partner that they ‘don’t want to make a fuss’.  They don’t eat it, even if it causes an awkward moment.  They know their abstinence is a sure fire way of underlining their dietary preferences to ensure it won’t happen again, and the hostess will probably be mortified when realizing the mistake and knowing the guest will go hungry.  They don’t feel bad in the slightest because they know they have explained their choices several times. They feel quite comfortable pushing that plate away.

The difference, the very big difference, is that the vegan was not secretly hoping they would get the hard choice taken away from them and get ‘forced’ to eat the meat.  The vegan is truly comfortable and satisfied with their eating plan.  They own it.  They are fully in, not balancing on a knife edge, hoping for a push to topple them and give them an excuse to abdicate from the choice and responsibility of eating too much of the things they said they did not want to eat this season.

So there it is.  Nobody force fed me this festive season, or any other festive season.  If I feel I have been fattened like a goose for slaughter, I need to acknowledge it is I that am holding the feeding tube.

Is it not time healthy eaters took on an empowering term of their own?  I am a….”X”… sorry.. I cannot eat that.   A friend suggested the term “Spartan”, or I suppose we could stick with “dieter”.  I am not satisfied with either as I would prefer to move away from anything which references deprivation or self pity.  We need something which spells it out in the same way Vegan spells it out.

I need to think more on it.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear from you.


Bands and Ties and Other Things Which Bind

24 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

At the end of last year, my big sister (in all the ways that count, and some that don’t) underwent a surgical procedure, and had a weight loss device – a lap band – inserted.  She now has a teeny little inner tube circling her stomach, which when inflated will squeeze tighter and more efficiently than any iron-fisted willpower she has been able to summon to date and limit the amount of food she can comfortably eat in one sitting.

Inside my 15 year-old sister (pictured here) was always a fat person, fighting her way out. Slim and pretty, but in her mind fat and clumsy. Hiding under bulky shorts, arms covering a belly she didn't have. Eating until years later, her outside matched her inside.

Two earth-shattering, conscience jarring, where-the-hell-do-you-stand-on-anything-actually parcels of life found their way to my door step at the end of last year.  Both of them, in terms of my contribution to this blog, struck me dumb.

Continue reading

If I had the money, I would have weight-loss surgery TOMORROW!

20 Oct

Heather’s Perspective (obviously).

There’s only a measure of time that a soldier is able to fight the fight until he is spent and bleeding and unable to fight any more.  There is only a certain length of distance that any runner can run, until his legs give way in exhaustion and he’s unable to run any longer.  No human being, no matter how strong or resolute – has the capacity to wage an infinite war against a force so powerful that it crushes him, again… and again.

Eventually, the crushing takes its toll.  Eventually, the resolve weakens and he begins to question his purpose and his position in the fight.  His will and his body are systematically broken.  His strength and energy gradually melts away, and one day, he wakes up and no longer has the strength to stand… much less fight.

I have been fighting and struggling and waging war against my addiction for over thirty years.  For over three decades it has haunted me.  Taunted me.  It’s ominous presence always lurking, crouched in the shadows, whispering my name.

Whether happy or sad… and through all the successes and failures of life, food has been close at hand to comfort, cheer, console or celebrate with me.  For thirty years, it has consumed my thoughts, dominated my decisions and rendered me incapacitated by its influence.

This may disgust you.  No matter, it disgusts me too.  I’m revolted by my own gluttony.  Sickened by my weak and pallid response to food.  Mortified that my addiction has controlled my life to such a degree that I don’t even know where… or how… to find myself again.

The irony is this:  in every other area of my life, I’m a strong and capable woman.  I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in life, the risks I have taken, the dreams I’ve chased, the mountains I’ve conquered.  I like the person I am – and I’m confident in my talents, my abilities and what I can do.  I like the fact that I’m a doer – not just a talker.  Another irony is that I’m a happy, optimistic person.  In every other way, I live a full and interesting life.  I’m married to a wonderful man who supports me, encourages me, makes me laugh – and loves me in spite of myself.  I have two gorgeous, healthy children who give me reason to live my life as an example for them to follow.  I’m content and fulfilled in my work and purpose.  I have a team of supportive friends, always cheering me on from the grandstands of life.

I have so much… and don’t get me wrong… I am so very grateful for my blessed life and for everything I have.

But… for a reason that escapes me completely – I remain hopelessly addicted to food, in spite of everything.  Throughout my life, and no matter the circumstances, my eating disorder, my utter obsession with food… has defined me in some way.  It has cast a looming shadow over everything beautiful and precious in my life.  Every beautiful moment, every lovely thing about my life is smeared… tainted… by this thing… this eating disorder… this addiction… this obsession.

It has already smeared the corners of my otherwise wonderful marriage.  Nick keeps telling me that it’s not the fat and the food that grates him as much as my obsession with the fat and the food.  Nevertheless, the obsession and the ‘stuff’ are intertwined and I cannot rid myself of either.

It’s only a matter of time until my daughters’ friends start teasing her about her fat mommy.  She has already asked me, with such childhood innocence that I could never be annoyed with her, why my bum is so big and fat.  How do I answer her honestly?  Almost every day, I fear that Morgan will follow in my footsteps and will somehow inherit the obsession that has plagued me for most of my life.  God forbid that she also starts criticizing her body from a young age and feeling ‘not enough’ – as I did – all those years ago… as I still do, even now.

People usually respond to my obesity in a few, predictable ways.  Many are appalled by my lack of self-control around food.  They can’t see why I just don’t follow their example by eating in moderation.  You know, eat when hungry and stop when satisfied – like other normal human beings.  They believe that there’s a simple solution to the state I’m in and that I’m not trying hard enough… or that I just don’t want to get better.

I’m too greedy and gluttonous, they believe, to want a solution.  They’re the people who say: “Just eat less and exercise more!”.  They’re the people that say:  “I don’t see what the problem is – just stop stuffing your pie hole, and you’ll lose weight!”.  They’re the self-congratulatory folk who feel that they’re somehow ‘better’ than me… because they’re thinner.  They feel superior to me… on every level.

Others don’t see me at all.  It’s as though my layer of fat has made me completely invisible to them.  They don’t even hear me when I talk.  They’ve relegated me to the ranks of loser… failure… or worse:  stupid.

The thing I hate most about my addiction is that it’s on display for the whole world to see and laugh at and comment on… and judge.  Unlike the smoker, the alcoholic, the cocaine addict, the sexual predator, the obsessive gambler, the person addicted to prescriptive meds, the compulsive liar or even the bullimic (who regurgitates the fat after every binge)… the Binge Eater stands alone in her shame because her weakness is on display for the world to see!

Other addictions can be easily covered up, disguised, lied about or veiled with a smile and a breath mint.  Mine cannot.

Right now, I feel as though I’m teetering on the edge of lunacy.  If one more person makes one more flippant and utterly stupid remark of how I should ‘just’ eat less and exercise more – I feel as though I’m going to lose complete control of my carefully restrained demeanor.  I almost want to don a loud, flashing sign which warns well-meaning people with their well-meaning solutions to stay far… far away from me.

Don’t you dare bring your latest, greatest program as a solution to my lifelong, sweat-drenched, tear-flooded, bloodied, devastating struggle!  Don’t you dare offer me your 5-Step-Plan… your latest diet… your ‘easy’ formula… your ‘expert’ opinion… your ‘special’ system… your ‘revolutionary’ recipe!  Don’t you dare treat me in a condescending, patronizing, insulting manner that does not assume that I have tried everything… and I mean everything… in my power, over the past 30 years, to be cured, to get better, to heal, to win this fight – all to no avail.

The hundreds of different diets, eating plans, lifestyle strategies and weight-loss solutions I have embarked upon… the countless so-called experts that I have consulted over the years; doctors, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, dietitians, counsellors, pastors, personal trainers, motivational speakers, life coaches, beauty therapists and many more… the fads I have experimented with… laxatives, appetite suppressants of all brands, meal replacement pills and shakes, fat blocker tablets and special blood analysis diets.  The groups I have joined…. Weigh-Less (on 4 separate occasions), Weight-Watchers (on 2 separate occasions), Slim-U-Slim, Diet Enders, Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Winners and regular small group sessions at the offices of the local shrink.  Let’s not even discuss the courses… the workshops… the therapists… the many books I’ve read… the countless “Solutions” offered which never worked or, at least, never worked longer than a couple of weeks or months – before my addiction overpowered everything, as it always has… as it always does.

And, in the midst of this craziness – amidst the hundreds of diets and plans and schemes and support groups and solutions and everything else that makes up the multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry around the world… there is only one solution that I have come across that consistently works in helping obese, addicted people like myself finally lose weight on a permanent basis – and that is weight loss surgery.

I have a number of friends and a handful of relatives who, like myself, have been struggling to overcome obesity and an addiction to food for many, many years.  I’m not talking about slightly plump people here, or those who have a big of extra baggage on the bum area, or those who aren’t as thin as they would like to be.  I’m talking about bona fide, life-long food addicts who cannot control themselves around food on a long-term basis.  They’ve all yo-yo’d up and down over the decades we’ve known one another – but none of them has managed to permanently conquer this battle… and they’re all still fat.

Some, like me, are currently at their heaviest-ever weight.  Others are in the process of piling the pounds back on after embarking upon (and later quitting) another ridiculous, restrictive diet.  Others are at the lower end of the yo-yo… still overweight, but not as fat as they used to be, and living in dread of putting on weight again – which, if the statistics are to be believed, they probably will.

Of all my friends and relatives who have struggled with a food addiction over the years – only one of them has managed to overcome obesity on a permanent basis.  Only one of them has lost every last kilogram of her excess weight – and kept it off. Only one of them is relieved and satisfied that her life-long struggle with obesity is finally over.  And that friend is Sanchia.  And Sanchia had Lapband surgery.

I was very anti Weight-Loss-Surgery for a number of years, although, as I type this, I can’t come up with any fair or plausible reasons why.  I think that it was more a personal issue.  If I had to struggle and fight with my weight… if I had to force myself to exercise and diet and ‘suffer’ to get the weight off, it just didn’t seem… fair… that somebody else could just waltz into a hospital, pay for some fancy surgery and have the weight fall off – just like that.

For me, those who opted for weight-loss-surgery were those who had ‘given up’ – or worse, those who wanted ‘the easy way out’.

I guess I yearned for some kind of moral high ground, especially compared to ‘those’ people… the ones who went for gastric bypass operations.  In the same way that promoters of natural childbirth scorn mothers who chose elective caesarians, deeming them ‘too posh to push’ and other such nonsense, I had similarly judged those who had chosen weight loss surgery.  I had judged them in the same way that people judge me – all the time:  “They should just stop eating, and then they wouldn’t have to go for weight-loss surgery!”  (there’s that word “just” again).

I started looking at weight loss surgery differently, only after Sanchia had her Lapband installed.

I have known Sanchia since we were teenagers.  She was always the sweet, friendly, fat friend.  She wasn’t viewed as a threat… or as competition – and that’s possibly why she had so many female friends (nobody was scared that she might steal their boyfriends).  I kind of assumed that Sanchia would always be overweight.  On the sporadic occasions when our paths crossed over the years, she was always fat, always dieting, always struggling with her addiction to food.  I, like so many others, couldn’t even picture Sanch as thin.  It’s like trying to imagine Kate Moss as obese.

When Sanchia first mentioned that she was pursuing Lapband surgery, I thought:  “Surely there’s a better way.  That sounds a bit drastic!”.  I guess, there was a part of me that felt a bit uncomfortable at the idea of Sanchia getting thin – and especially getting thin before me.  I guess I felt as though it left me with one less fat comrade in a culture so saturated with discrimination against the obese.

Sanchia’s medical aid refused to pay for the procedure, so she had to persuade her husband to take out a second bond on their home.  At the time, the surgery costed R65 000 (it’s now R75 000).

I started sitting up and taking notice only after Sanchia’s surgery.  It took her about 20 months to lose 45 kilograms and 10 dress sizes… without dieting.  That’s every last kilogram of excess weight that she has carried for most of her life.  And more astonishing: she has kept it off! (She’s coming up for her 3rd year ‘anniversary’ of having the band installed).

That’s when I sat up and began to take notice.

When I quizzed Sanchia about the surgery, she told me that it was the best money she had ever spent in her life and the best decision she had ever made regarding her body and her self-esteem.  Her only regret?  That she hadn’t done it sooner!

I asked her about those feelings of having, perhaps, ‘cheated’ the system – instead of losing weight the ‘real’ way… the ‘hard’ way.  “Absolutely not!”, she said, “I have paid my dues!  I have been on diets for my whole life!”.

It occurred to me then that Sanchia and I (and many others who have endured this hideous merry-go-round) have lost hundreds of kilograms of weight over the years on various diets and weight-loss schemes.  Through my yo-yo antics alone, I estimate that I have easily lost well over 250 kilograms on diets over the course of my life.  Of course, I’ve also put it all back on – but the point is still clear.  It’s not as if Sanchia and I were unable to lose weight on diets.  The things we’ve done to ourselves and the extreme willpower we’ve exerted over the years, would surely be enough to impress an Everest Mountaineer!  I’m not sure how many of my thin friends have refused food entirely for over a month (on three separate occasions).  And I’m pretty sure that the smug, thin people – those who judge me for being fat – have never dieted off 250 kilograms in their lifetimes!

The problem isn’t losing weight inasmuch as keeping it off.  Telling a food addict to “just eat sensibly from now on” is tantamount to telling a junkie that he should manage the number of times he shoots heroin to, say, twice a day only.  Except, it’s worse.

If the alcoholic and the junkie chose to be free from their addictions, they could peaceably continue life without ever needing to be faced with a spliff or a stiff drink ever again.  Once has to seek out drugs and booze.  One has to visit dodgy street corners or phone the Nigerians.  One has to visit a pub, a club or a bottle store.  It’s not difficult avoiding drugs and alcohol.  Try avoiding food!

The junkie doesn’t need drugs as fuel for his body… to survive.  The alcoholic doesn’t have to endure the rest of his life with a scotch on the rocks placed on the table in front of him… every day… for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The druggie doesn’t have his mother-in-law offer him a plate of ecstasy tablets every time he visits her… or an office colleague who thrusts a stash of dagga in his face saying:  “C’mon – just one little joint… it’s not gonna hurt ya!”

The junkie and the wino don’t live in a culture where every single celebration of life… whether weddings, funerals, church services, office parties, holidays, children’s birthday parties centre around a stash of liquor and a mountain of syringes.

Food is my drug of choice.  And it’s everywhere! And I have to eat it – or else I die (I’ve often thought that it would be far easier to stop eating completely – than to have to carefully control myself around ‘legal’ food for the rest of my life).  Food confronts me when I watch the TV, when I read magazines.  It’s on billboards, it’s in restaurants… shopping malls… fast food joints… the supermarket… the side of the street – everywhere! It’s where my friends are.  It’s where my family is.  It’s where I celebrate.  It’s where I go on holiday.  It’s where I work.  It’s where I worship.  Everywhere I turn:  food, food, food!

People who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, prescription meds, gambling, sex, etc… do NOT have this problem!  The very thing I am addicted to is in my face… every single day!

No wonder food addicts have such a dismal success rate!  No wonder there is such a tiny percentage of obese people who manage to lose the weight through dieting – and keep it off!

Is it any wonder then, that obese people who are addicted to food… are turning to weight loss surgery?  The Lapband system, for example, simply makes overeating physically impossible.  For the food addict, this thought is extremely comforting.  Even if I desperately want to binge – my body simply won’t allow it (or rather, the band placed around my stomach won’t allow it).  What’s more – you don’t feel deprived or continually hungry (as one does on diets).  Instead – you feel continually full!  Even after a miniscule portion of food – you feel stuffed!

Now that is music to the ears of somebody like me!

And so… I have decided that I’m going to have the Lapband installed.  It’s a quick operation, involving one night in hospital.  If I could, if I had the financial means, I would book myself in for the surgery tomorrow!  Without the blink of an eye!  Without a millisecond of hesitation!

I’m a hundred-and-twenty-something kilograms right now.  I find it hard to move.  I can’t sleep on my back because I find it hard to breathe.  Clothes don’t fit me.  I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my reflection in the mirror.  I find it hard to fit into aeroplane seats, movie seats and through turnstiles.  I can’t walk for moderate distances without sharp pains shooting up my calves.  I suffer from aches and pains as my body groans and strains under the excess weight.  I can’t go rock climbing with my sister.  I can’t fit into robes at the spa.  My wedding ring doesn’t fit on my finger.  I don’t have the strength or energy to chase my children around the garden.  I feel constantly tired and exhausted.  I can’t cross my legs when sitting down on a chair.  I can’t paint my own toenails.

Such simple things – that so many people take for granted.

I so desperately want to live life as a normal sized person.


PS: A note: It was hard for me to post this… and it has taken me a lot of time, research and heart-searching… before I came to this decision (to have Lapband surgery).  I don’t take any kind of surgery lightly or flippantly – but feel that this is the best choice for me.  If you are reading this – I only have one request (if you intend on sending comments)…. please… please…. PLEASE... do not write something like:  “Weight Loss Surgery – bad idea!  Listen, I know a really great diet – I promise that THIS one really DOES work… my sister’s aunt’s cousin went on it, and she has lost all her weight!  I can give you the web details!   I promise, this is a much better choice for you…  don’t do weight loss surgery.  My nephew’s mother’s friend had weight loss surgery and she said it was the WORST decision, like, ever!”.

Diet Diaries : Part 2 : The Milkshake Diet and Soo’s Homemade “you can always eat it tomorrow” Plan

14 Oct

I measured myself after a week of adhering to the Atkins Diet (as described in my previous blog) and I did not lose a single centimeter.  Not one.  I cannot tell you whether or not I lost mass, as I don’t own a scale, but even if I had, it would be a misleading brain hump, as centimeters are what really count in this game.  So scrap that.  All that suffering for nada.

Well maybe it was good for something – my veggie friends would be delighted to know that I am currently repulsed by the texture and smell of red meat.

So here are my measurements, as promised, the week before, and the week after the Atkins Diet :

Chest 98 cm’s (38 ½  inches)

Waist 77 cm’s (30 ½ inches)

Hips 91 cm’s (36 inches)

Thigh 57 cm’s (22 ½ inches)

Calve 34 cm’s (13 ½ inches)

Upper Arm 27 cm’s (10 ½ inches)


hmmm.. I am not sure I have got a fair shake


For the first three days after abandoning the Atkins Diet, I followed a Milkshake Diet.  This was probably venturing a little too deeply into old territory for the sake of science, but I weighed up my decision for about 30 seconds and decided I could handle it.  I went to the Supermarket and picked up a can of Strawberry “SHAPE”.

Although Milkshake Diets may have become more sophisticated since the nineties and there a several more popular brands available these days, “SHAPE” will always hold a special place in my heart.  I lived off it for six weeks straight (and the occasionally cup of Black Forrest Tea) while taking part in Bikini Competitions when I was 21.

It is cheap (R85 buys you a tin good for 15 meals) and it always promises quick results, if you have the right sort of twisted willpower.  I wondered how I would fair on it now, all these years later.

Making a glass of “SHAPE” involves scooping 3 nuclear pink tablespoons of powder into a glass, and adding 200ml of milk.  This inadequate amount of milk makes for a very sad looking half glass of shake, so I always top it up with water, which also dilutes it down, as I find it a little thick for my taste.

I watch the powdery lumps circling round the top of my shake nostalgically.  When you use the chocolate flavor you will grow to love those lumps, and hungrily claw at your empty glass with your fingers to scratch out the last of them, but the strawberry flavor is quite a bit sweeter, and the lumps are just plain nasty.  I had forgotten about my trick of making a paste with a bit of hot water first to remove the lumps.

“SHAPE” is quite delicious, although you will tire of the strawberry flavor more quickly than you will of the chocolate (which is almost impossible to find at the shops).  You need to replace two out of three meals in the day with the shake, and then you need to ensure your evening meal is modest.  A pamphlet attached to the lid of your tin (containing a ridiculous weight to height chart seemingly designed to make overweight people feel better about themselves) helps you work it all out.  A good evening meal would be a skinless chicken breast and steamed vegetables.

I find a good evening meal to be another serving of “SHAPE”.

What you can expect on a milkshake diet :

  • You will be starving ALL the time, despite what the packaging says.  I am not joking or exaggerating.  If you have never been able to handle feeling starving without heading for the fridge, this is NOT the diet for you.
  • Although you will be starving, you will not feel shaky.  Not feeling shaky will help you to get over feeling starving.  You are not going to pass out.  You will not feel dizzy.  Certainly better than being garden variety starving, with all the other side effects normally associated with it.  Here’s the catch though… people often quit diets because “I was feeling dizzy and felt as though I would pass out, and I can’t be expected to live like that”.  Well if those excuses have been your free pass to quit this sort of extreme regimen in the past, you will be deprived of them here.  The milkshakes are giving your body just enough nutrients to not shut down, but not enough to avoid discomfort.
  • You will be constipated.
  • You will feel like a social freak, so work around this by using your allowed meal on occasions where you are dining out with friends.

Milkshake diets are fuss free, as you don’t need to agonize over planning your next meal, and you can stick to them while working at an office.  Milkshake diets are NOT easy to follow.  I can’t stress this enough.

After a day or two on a milkshake diet, if you are a certain sort of person, you will start to enjoy the deprivation.  You will feel virtuous, smug and light.  You might even feel highly energized.  If you are me, with a certain history and following the plan for the purposes of blogging about it, this is when it is time to stop.

I lost 4cm overall in 3 days.

After that exercise in stupidity, I followed what I would like to call the “you can always eat it tomorrow” plan, for what remained of the two weeks leading up to today.

The rules are simple.  Stick to universally recognized healthy eating guidelines.  Drink more water and less soft drinks.  Cut out sugar wherever possible including the fair chunk you have in coffee and tea every day.  Remove visible fat from meat.  Eat more vegetables.

And most importantly, when you need to eat something delicious, eat it, but don’t eat it all.  Eat half of it, and put the rest in the fridge, and tell yourself – “you can always eat it tomorrow”.  When tomorrow comes, see if you can trick yourself into delaying it by another day.  Or eat it.  Whatever.  If you keep delaying it, it will eventually get nasty in the fridge and you will rather choose to throw it away.  If you do eat it, it is only a half portion of the original, spread over two days.

Here are my measurement’s, as of this morning.

Chest 95 cm’s (37 ½  inches) – 3 cm’s lost (the boobs always the first to go… *sigh*)

Waist 75 cm’s (29 ½ inches) – 2 cm’s lost (the place I really want to lose it)

Hips 88 cm’s (34 ½ inches) – 3 cm’s lost (the place I really want to lose it)

Thigh 57 cm’s (22 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Calve 34 cm’s (13 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Upper Arm 27 cm’s (10 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Total lost in 2 weeks : 8cm’s (just over 3 inches)


there it is


I took these photographs this morning, and perhaps it is appropriate to admit a few things.

  • I probably wasn’t fat 3 weeks ago.
  • I probably got hysterical when I laid eyes on a very unfortunate and unflattering photograph of myself (see below).
  • I probably went about this all the wrong way.
  • I am probably still going to try to lose a little more, but not by using Atkins, or drinking shakes.
  • I probably need to pay a little more attention to my state of mind when conducting “experiments”.
  • I am probably only human, and I would rather be real, than pretend to be perfect, either physically or emotionally.

Next time, I would like to talk about what all of this means.  Do you know any women who have a healthy relationship with food?  What IS a healthy relationship with food?  And other thoughts.

Thank you as always for your emails.  I do understand why you cannot comment here.


Diet Diaries Part 1 : Atkins

30 Sep

Suzanne’s Perspective

Let me start this post with a disclaimer.  I am doing my best to blog honestly.  I do not believe it is helpful to anyone for me to self edit through this process.  I do rant, I do get revolted with myself and I am not always a paragon of virtue, goodness and light.  Please read this blog as being personal to me and my journey.  I am not calling you, or anyone else any of the names I occasionally call myself.  I ask any reader to please not project, or feel persecuted by my rants.  The alternative to posting honestly is to bottle up and lie, and I am not going to do that.  Please deal.  Thanks in anticipation.

One week ago :

It is spring, and I find myself a size 34, instead of a 32 or a 30.  I have these great boobs at the moment, but after that, there is not much to recommend it.  My face is plain and moonish, the tops of my thighs rounded and lumpy and I have a little pasty paunch.  I am as close to chubby as I ever allow myself to get.  Size 36 would be unforgivable –  I would commit myself to the fat farm if it came to that, but this is close.. too darn close to being completely revolting and out of control.

I succeed at healthy eating, most of the time, but for the last couple of weeks I have not, and on top of the 3kgs I was carrying from earlier in winter, this has been enough to deliver me to my present circumstances.  You won’t hear any excuses from me.  There is nothing wrong with my metabolism.  I am not big boned.  I did not eat hardly anything and then just glanced at a pizza and gained weight.  I am the only one who raised my greedy paw to my mouth and who tucked into second helpings of pasta.  Me alone, my hand unguided by any malevolent chubby fairy.

I will also spare you all the boo-the-hoo-hoo’s about how I have been stressed and under pressure in various areas of my life, as well as occasionally lonely and housebound in the cold and miserable weather of previous months.

If chocolate is a friend, who needs enemies, right?

The pic from two weeks ago which tipped the scales : don't you want me baby? (in my defence, that was actually my first drink at a Fancy Dress party, and it was a dark garden, suddenly lit up by the flash of the camera, which revealed the true horror which is me)

I have rationalized to myself, how the 6kg’s  I need to lose presents me with a perfect opportunity to trial a couple of diets, and allow you, the audience, to suffer through them with me.  So here it goes.  You will get only honesty from me, so if you are not sure you are going to like it, stop reading now.

Perhaps I should have said that a few paragraphs ago?  (Don’t worry past week ago self, your future self added a helpful disclaimer, but you should still expect a little hate mail)

The Atkins Diet.

I am looking for fast results, and I don’t mind a bit of sacrifice.  Truth be told.. I NEED  a bit of sacrifice.

In case you have been locked in a trunk for the past 40 years, The Atkins diet is a high protein, low (as in NO) carb plan.  You are allowed to eat large quantities of meat, eggs and cheese and not much else.

I have had a run in with the Atkins Diet before and it worked out rather nicely for me.  I have never been able to sustain it for more than three weeks, and I am interested to see how I fair this time (ie. I am ready to do it again, because I have forgotten how nasty it is).

I start by emptying my fridge of all offending, forbidden items.  Out goes the low fat yoghurt I eat for breakfast.  Into the freezer go the bananas and strawberries I still have a stock of.  I leave the milk behind, as I will still need it for guests.  The cream also stays because I am allowed to use it as a milk substitute in coffee.

yup. there is is.

There wasn’t much else in my fridge, so I head for the shops.  I soon realize this is going to be an expensive little experiment as I fill my basket with bacon, steaks, full fat cheddar, pork chops, chicken breasts and Avo’s.  I spend R500 without even trying, and it’s probably not enough to last me more than three or four days.  I feel a little resentful.

I take my measurements on the first day as I don’t have a scale (which is why I judge myself based on clothing size not on weight).

I decide to refresh my memory about anything else I need to know about the pros and cons of the diet and hit the interwebs.  I am soon confronted with some sobering news.  No alcohol.

I thought I had remembered being allowed vodka and Coke Zero (which has been my staple for years), but apparently not.  I ponder how I am going to survive my date the same evening.  We had planned to “go for drinks”.  I mean it’s not like I am an alchie or anything, but I do have one or  two vodkas about twice a week on dates, and when I meet friends.

Alright then, I will suggest we meet for coffee instead.  Perfectly reasonable, and most places serve cappuccinos with real cream if you ask for it.  I read further.  No caffeine.  Ok.. now that is going to be more of a problem.   “I didn’t sign up for this!”  I wail.

I keep reading.  “You can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms from caffeine if you are a regular coffee drinker, such as headaches and listlessness”.  No kidding.  I feel the immediate onset of a migraine.

Oh, but heres the kicker.  “No Aspartame.  Please choose a soda which does not contain aspartame”.  Well, I never realized this before now, but no such diet drink exists on the South African market (that I can find).  Which means I will have to sip water on my date as coffee and Coke Zero are forbidden.

I have eaten steak and chicken all day, but I decide before leaving the house that the options presented are just too humiliating for me and I allocate myself 2 x Coke Zeros WITH vodka for the evening.

First day diet fail.

I wake up feeling ashamed of myself the next day and decide to not leave the house for the duration of the diet, unless strictly necessary, as there is nothing I am allowed to consume at any restaurant or coffee house.  It was going to be a little easier as for the first 6 days of my diet I would be working from home, and only on the last day did I have a working day which took place outside of the home.  I would barricade myself in, with just bacon and steak for company.  So be it.  Great sacrifices and all that.

I took six aspirins on the second day to combat my caffeine withdrawal, which was severe.  I also noticed I had not been to the toilet.  Hit the net again and found “severe constipation” was to be expected, and combated by adding some husks or other to your food and drinking lots of water.  Yay.

The days pass and I am sticking to Atkins like a crazed zealot.  I have to wash my frying pan four times a day.  Everything is dripping with fat and I pretend it does not repulse me.  My drain blocks from all the fat getting washed down it from pan cleaning on day three and I have a sharp vision of the same gunky glue trying to work its way through my system.

I finally pass one small dry parcel on day four.

I am not sure if I am losing weight or not. I check myself out in the mirror each morning, waiting to see some sort of change (Atkins promises weight loss of between 2 and 5kg in the first two weeks).  My paunch seems bigger, probably because every pork chop and avo topped chicken breast is still churning within it.

Speaking of churning, my stomach is constantly groaning and mubbling like a cement mixer while I am on this diet.  It keeps me awake some nights.

Because it inspires me to remember why I am doing this, I sit around naked a lot while working, to not allow myself to forget about my belly and lumpy thighs.

I may be acting like a crazy person.

would you like a creamy de-caf coffee with your flesh madam?

I am exhausted.  I don’t manage to get through a single day without a nap, and I haven’t found time to exercise this week, which is not like me.

Everything on my plate is brown or yellow and equal parts crispy/greasy.  I am allowed a few handfuls of all the boring vegetables per day, which offer nothing in compensation.

On night four I dream of feasting on chocolate, fruit and cakes, and when I wake for a panicked moment I am not sure if I have or not.

Night five presents another challenge.  I have to leave the house.  It is my “Rumble in Pub” debating night, and I never miss it.  What to do about the beverage situation??? What to do???  I turn back to the net to try to find out why caffeine is the devil on this diet as I remember it never used to be in Dr Atkins first edition.  Apparently new discoveries show caffeine (and the dreaded aspartame) cause carb cravings.  Deciding I couldn’t possibly crave carbs any more than I am already, I make the decision to have three fully loaded cappuccinos at the pub.  They are DELICIOUS and as punishment I get about 3 minutes of sleep that night.

I have spent many hours this week scratching flesh out my teeth.  When you eat this much protein you realize how sinewy and stringy it actually is.  Even a well cooked steak or chicken breast is as easy to chew as a ball of string.  My gums are sore.  My breath stinks.

On day six I ponder how stupid I have been feeling all week.  I feel mildly brain damaged and can’t wrap my head around any of my daily chores or assignments.  I have procrastinated all important tasks, and even this blog, written on the last day of the week is a massive slog which I am plonking out with red eyes, my fingers feeling as heavy as lead on the keyboard.

Is there anything I have enjoyed about this diet? *stares blankly for 20 minutes into the middle distance*

I haven’t once had “that shaky feeling” which I get when I go too long between meals or eat too much sugar or carbs.  Atkins claims to balance your blood sugar levels, and maybe there is something in it.  But before I give them too much credit I was following their guideline of not going more than six waking hours between meals, which may have made the real difference, as I have been guilty in the past of going entire days without eating anything more than one large evening meal.

There have been a few moments where I feel manically energetic and my heart races, so its not entirely true to say I have been tired ALL the time.

One week on Atkins is enough for me, I suspect, and tonight I will take my measurements to determine if my pain and suffering to date has yielded any sort of result.

Don’t worry, I will post them, and we can all compare and stuff.  I would never deprive you of that.