Column for I News

Since the start of 2019 I have lost two stone (13kg) in weight.

Yeah, don't get too excited. According to my BMI I am still technically obese. There was a week or so when I thought I had got down to being simply overweight. I was over the moon.

Then I measured my height and found I was 2cm shorter than I thought I was and suddenly I was obese again. But what a fortnight of living the charmed life of the merely overweight. The things I saw.  

I am 52, which means when I meet someone I haven't seen for a while I sometimes see a flicker of concern – have I got some terrible debilitating illness? When I emphasise that I am feeling really well, they generally ask me, “You've lost so much weight! What's the secret?” As if science had been struggling for years to ascertain what it is that makes people's tummies get rounder of flatter. Don't they remember Euripedes' shouting Eureka when he was eating a Flake in the bath and realised that he was now wedged in? Or when Isaac Newton had his packet of Monster Munch knocked out of his hand by a falling apple, scattering them into the dirt and giving him no option but to eat the fruit? Or Einstein's Theory of Relativity, “A minute on the lips, a life-time on the hips”?

I don't want to give out any spoilers, but the secret is out. If you don't want to know the secret then look away now…

For me at least, the secret is that I have stopped drinking alcohol and eating chocolate and started taking the dog on longer walks…. Yeah.. Suddenly people aren't so keen to know the secret when I tell them what it is. What they want is to be allowed to live the exact same lifestyle, but also lose weight. Having their cake and eating it and then not having to go to the gym.

“You should write a diet book,” people tell me.

The problem is that the “secret” of losing weight is quite hard to stretch out to the length of a paperback. I am struggling to make it fill an 850-word newspaper column given the secret is four words long. “Eat less, move more.”

To be fair, that's not entirely it. It's possible to lose weight by eating a lot less and not bothering with the moving bit or eating more and moving much more. Basically the “secret” is if you burn up more calories than you consume you'll basically lose weight and if you consume more calories than you burn up you'll put on weight.

Still not a book though is it. Not unless I put in a lot of pictures.

No one needs a diet book. You already know how to lose weight, you just have to work out if you actually want to. It's totally fine if you don't. No diet book tells you that because making you feel bad about yourself is their whole chocolate-coated raison d'etre. Personally I decided that I'd like to give myself a better chance of seeing my young children reach adulthood. To me that seemed more important than the limited pleasure I was getting from pouring a family pack of Giant Chocolate Buttons down my neck every afternoon.

I didn't need a book. I just worked out what I still wanted (a Solero a day, it turns out) and what I didn't.

If you think about it, if diet books worked there wouldn't be any diet books. Maybe just one. The one that worked.

There are thousands of diet books and it doesn't seem like people are getting thinner. I am thinking that maybe the diet books are the problem.  In medieval times nearly everyone was skinny, apart from Henry VIII and looking at the amount of chicken legs he ate, I think he might have been on Atkins.

Diets make you think there is a secret, when there is only the bloody obvious. They make you think that they know what's good and bad for you, when only you know that. They want to make you feel like you should be unhappy and only they can make you happy. But only you can make you happy.

I am not saying that I won't slip back into the old ways – experience tells me that I will. Yet this time I have aimed to make changes for life, rather than a part time regime of dietary insanity. It's just about finding that balance in your eating and moving life and then maintaining it. That's actually the tricky bit.

It's something I plan to explore in my new diet book, “You Don't Need a Diet Book” which I confidently predict will destroy the diet book industry and become the only available diet book (because it's the only one that works). And then be unavailable because no one will need to diet anymore because they will have accepted who they are or what they need to do to be the person they want to be.

But what do I know? I'm obese (but happy).

This week I've been watching

“The Day Shall Come” Chris Morris' new film about the FBI funding and encouraging crackpot, though harmless, potential terrorists in order to further their careers. It's funny and depressing and weird in equal measure. That it is based on true stories would be jaw-dropping if the world hadn't clearly gone so crazy in recent years. Marchánt Davis is all too believable as Moses Al Shabaz, but most enjoyable is the wrestle with morality undertaken by Anna Kendrick's character. Does morality win? I mean it's 2019, so that might give you a clue.




I've been listening to


“The Irish Passport” podcast. With many UK citizens reclaiming their Irish roots and the citizenship of their grandparents, this podcast is a thorough, sobering and entertaining examination of Ireland past and present.  Perhaps if UK schools had taught us as much as Naomi O'Leary and Tim Mc Inerney do in every episode, then we might have been more prepared for the ramifications of that jolly referendum thing we had a few years back.


I've been doing

Park Run. I have always enjoyed running, but never fancied taking part in this weekly event where all kinds of people all round the UK, congregate in public spaces on Saturday mornings to run 5 kilometres. I started going back in June and now I am hooked. I recently attempted the deadly Woolacombe beach course which isn't in a park, is scarcely in Woolacombe and has bits so steep that you can't run. It was exhilarating.