Gude ale keeps my heart aboon!


Last year, 2012, was all about change in our house. The goal of that change was losing weight, and although I’ve achieved what I was hoping to, I’m determined not so slip back into old habits and undo all that hard work. That’s made easier, of course, by the fact that Gem still has weight she wants to lose, but we’re both viewing the changes we made last year as being a permanent, rather than temporary, state of affairs. This was never so much about a “diet” as it was a lifestyle change.

One of the changes we made was to drink less alcohol. Not that we were ever heavy drinkers, you understand, although I bet everyone says that. But a cheeky couple of beers on a Tuesday night here, and few glasses of wine there soon adds up. I suspect many people, like us, consumes more than they’d like to admit. And the calories in those drinks tend to go uncounted, making it all too easy to pile on the pounds while maintaining a pretty healthy fruit and veg laden diet. I speak from experience.

Beer is a particularly bad offender, so it was definitely something that required a change. Step one was stopping buying boxes of whatever American or European lager was on offer in the supermarket – those beers are just too easy to drink, because not only are they relatively inexpensive, but because they don’t really taste of much. Rather than denying myself altogether, though, I decided to indulge my taste for better quality craft beers and real ales, but in more limited amounts.

Essentially I swapped quantity for quality, and I have to say it wasn’t that difficult a change to make. Not when the range of quality beers available these days is pretty good. And it’s getting better all the time, with new craft breweries, craft beer pubs and specialist beer shops springing up all the time.

Of course it’s always tempting to stick with the things you love. Once you find a beer, or a brewery, you love, it’s easy to stop trying new things. And so, at the start of the year, I made it my aim to try as many new beers as possible. So far, this year, I’ve drunk 22 beers that I’d never had before. They’re listed here, if you’re interested. Most have been decent, a few outstanding, and only one or two being a disappointment. However…

Whilst I’ve kept a record of which new beers I’ve tried, and for reasons unknown even to myself have taken photos of pretty much all of them, I’ve not kept a note of what they were like.

I think this needs to change, so beginning very soon, probably next week, I’m going to try my hand at reviewing beers here on the blog. This is something I might be absolutely rubbish at – I know I’m not very good at writing about music, something else that I love. but I’m going to give it a go anyway. How bad can it be?


Incidentally, the beer pictures at the top of this post was one I had at the weekend, and was one of the aforementioned disappointments. Alba Scots Pine Ale by Williams Bros is one I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Maybe it was a bad bottle, but it didn’t pour well at all and lost any head it might have started off with very quickly. The beer was syrupy tasting, pretty flat beer with only very slight hints of the pine and spruce that had been used in its brewing. I’d give it another go, right enough, because the rest of the internet seems to love it. But I won’t be rushing to do so. Which is a shame, because I’ve loved everything else I’ve had from Williams Bros.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

I’m a road runner baby

Road Runner - meep meep!This year has been all about the health and the fitness in our household, appropriate in an Olympic year, non? I’ve written before about The Diet, and I’m pleased to say that my journey there is almost complete – just a couple of pounds to go and I’ll be a happy man. (Note: I could maybe be tempted to go further, but people are starting to tell me I’m looking a bit thin, so I’m going to draw a line. For now, at least…)

As well as being more careful about what we eat, both me and Gem have got off the couch and started exercising on a regular basis, something neither of us have done for aaaaaages.

Back in January, we started out on Wii Fit, which was a fantastic starting point – nice, easy, gentle exercise to start using muscles that haven’t been used in a very long time. Focusing on the aerobic exercises, it wasn’t long before we could see a difference, on the scales, on the measuring tape, and, perhaps more importantly, in how out of breath and sweaty we were at the end of a workout.

One of the great things about Wii Fit is that the more you use it the more exercises and levels you unlock – something that keeps you coming back for more. To an extent, it also stops you trying to do too much too soon, something that’s liable to result in an injury and put you off entirely.

We both knew, though, that Wii Fit wasn’t going to be the be all and end all of our new lifestyle, and that sooner or later we’d more on to other things. We’ve now replaced Wii Fit with Zumba Fitness 2 two times a week, and are working our way through the various levels that offers. Again, it’s a really nice feeling when you start to find the routines less taxing than when you started, and can start to add in more challenging ones. Still plenty of mileage left there.

I’ve also started running, and am pleased to say that I’ve just signed up for my first ever 10k race, at this year’s Great Scottish Run. Half a lifetime ago, when I was young and took my fitness for granted, I ran the GSR half marathon, and maybe one day I’ll manage that again, but one step at a time, right? Let’s see how I get on with the 10k first.

Currently I’m running two or three times a week, and trying to add distance each week. At the moment, the furthest I’ve run is 6.4km, which is almost two thirds of the distance I’m aiming to cover in 4 weeks time. I’m slightly ahead of the training schedule I devised for myself though, so I’m confident I’ll be able to complete the race and get my first (well second, if you count the one from 18 years ago) medal.

After that, who knows? I’m getting a real buzz out of running at the moment, and I hope that doesn’t disappear once the challenge of completing the race has gone and I’ve got nothing to aim for. I don’t think it will, but if it does, there are plenty of other races out there to be entered, right?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Does my bum look big in this?

Mr Greedy

BANNED: Mr Greedy

It’s no secret that 2012 has been the year of The Diet for me and Gem, something she’s been far better at chronicling than me. So far, between us we’ve lost just over 6 stone (that’s 84lb, or 38kg if you prefer) which is a fantastic achievement, and one we’re both more than happy with. I’m now lighter – and fitter – than I’ve been in about 15 years, and reaching the end of my weight loss journey. Gem has a bit further to go, though, but I’ll be supporting her every step of the way.

Over the past few months we’ve obviously discussed The Diet a fair amount, but have tried to be careful with how much the girls are exposed to it – for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because we don’t want to instill any unhealthy fears in them about their size.

Imagine my absolute horror, then, when the following incident occurred last week.

It was my turn to put Heather to bed, and as ever I let her pick which bedtime story she wanted. She chose Mr Greedy, a book which had been mine as a child. I know this, because over 30 years ago I’d written my name, address and age (5 1/2) on the title page.

Heather interrupted me on the first page, when as I read about Mr Greedy’s eating habits, and how they made him fatter. “You mustn’t say that Daddy, you mustn’t call someone fat” she said. This goes back to an incident a while back, when she described her Uncle Ian as a fatty. We told her it wasn’t nice to call people names, and that it wasn’t nice to call someone fat or a fatty. (Only later did we discover that Uncle Ian had described himself as a fatty to Heather – he got a telling off too!)

At this stage all was OK. It was at the end of the book, after Mr Greedy has learnt the error of his ways, that it all went horribly wrong. That was when Heather stood up, declared herself fat, pulled up her pyjama top and started pinching her sides to illustrate this. “See, Daddy? See?”

Of course I did my best to reassure her that she’s not fat (her height and weight are perfectly in proportion according to medical charts) and that she shouldn’t worry about things like that, but I was left feeling uneasy – was this something we’d caused? Has casual talk of smaller tummies and openly weighing ourselves in the bathroom created an unintentional monster?

And the most horrible question of all – if she’s already thinking about this stuff at 3, what problems are we going to face in the future?

Gem had a similar experience the following night, and again made the same reassuring noises I had. So it wasn’t an isolated incident. Oh dear.

We’re hoping it’s something that will disappear on its own. We’re being extra careful when we talk about weight/diets, and have taken the short-term step of removing Mr Greedy from Heather’s bookshelf. So far there has been no more mention of fatness from our eldest, which is a good thing. Long may it continue!

By complete coincidence, Gem came across this story (sorry, it’s on the D**ly M**l website!) about a new information pack about body image, which was published last week. Seemingly (I haven’t actually read the pack yet) it contains all manner of advice to educate kids about airbrushing, and not discuss diets or your own body concerns in front of them. It’s always easy to dismiss these things as nanny state meddling, and I’m sure there will be some advice in there that will seem ludicrous, but after last week’s incident I’m interested to read what the pack has to say. To that end I’ve searched and found the pack online, and am about to download it for myself. Maybe I’ll write a follow up piece when I have.

One thing I’ve already noticed, though, is that the pack is aimed at dealing with children a good bit older than Heather. And maybe that’s right, but based on my experiences I think body image should be added to the list of things us parents worry about from day one.


This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Drinking water to stay thin

Or, in my case, to get thin. Well, not exactly thin, just… less un-thin. Yes, I’m on a diet.

I’ve been resisting writing about The Diet until I had hit some kind of major milestone. To be honest I have no idea why that was the case, but it was. Maybe I was scared that by talking about it I might somehow jinx things. But now I am writing about it, so I must have hit that milestone, right? Right!

Since The Diet began, just over six weeks ago, I have lost…… insert drumroll here….. just over a stone! That’s 14lb if you’re American, or 6.35kg if you’re from just about anywhere else. Whichever way you measure it, it’s a significant weight loss, and I’m pretty pleased with myself for achieving it.

But there’s still a fair old way to go. Believe it or not, the weight I’ve lost thus far only just nudges me from obese into overweight, according to the Body Mass Index (BMI). Now, I know BMI isn’t the be-all and end-all, and that various medical folk disagree with various aspects of it, but it’s probably as good an indication as anything of where I should be aiming for.

My ultimate goal isn’t to be in the “normal range” (BMI between 20 and 24.9) – I reckon I’d be a bit too skinny for my liking, and anyway, Wikipedia tells me that health-wise, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Instead, I’m aiming for somewhere in the bottom half of “overweight”. Of course, once I get there I might change my mind, but that’s my long-term goal at the moment.

So what’s my secret? What have I changed? Well, actually not very much. In fact, I think the changes could be boiled down to three things:

  • More Exercise We’ve cracked out the Wii Fit again, and mostly been good at sticking to a reasonable exercise programme. I know it doesn’t burn a huge amount of calories, but something is better than nothing, and it’s cheaper and easier (with 2 small people to think about) than going to the gym!
  • Less beer No more cheeky wee beer(s) with midweek dinner is helping a lot, and at the weekends I’m being much more selective in what I drink – if I’m going to limit myself, I might as well drink something better than whatever is on offer in the supermarket, right?
  • Diet meals Gemma has joined Slimming World, and as a result has learned a lot of ways to make the food we already eat friendly enough to eat on The Diet. And the best part is everything still tastes great, and there’s plenty of it. What more could you ask for?

My next target is a nice round number which modesty prevents me from sharing, but I’m hoping to get there some time in mid to late April. If I keep losing weight at the rate I am currently, I could get there even sooner. Who knows, I might even need a new summer wardrobe!

I should also mention that Gemma, who’s doing even better than me, is documenting our diet journey in much greater detail, over at Greetings from Dietville. Why not head over there, and leave her some encouraging words?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!