Monday, November 23, 2015

Liven up that Liver!

A two week liver cleanse. How hard could it really be? I have to admit I went into it feeling more than a little smug. After all, I have been an avid disciple of the 80/20 style of eating for four years now on the advice of my London nutritionist. Eating this way and avoiding too much gluten, dairy, refined sugar, alcohol and bad fats has become a way of life for me. Liver, schmiver. I was going to kill this.

How wrong I was. Speaking from the comfort of reaching day 10 (and on my third and, hallelujah, ye gods alive, last day of liquids only) I had no idea just how tough it would be. Or how good I could actually feel depriving myself of many of the foods that I usually really enjoy.

It helps when two of you are doing it together and I don't have to look longingly across the table at hubby tucking into fish and chips with a glass of Chablis while I demolish my falafel, lentil and squash salad (delicious though it is) accompanied by a glass of eau plat.

It doesn't help when your 16 year old daughter - who could walk The Great British Bake Off - decides to turn into Cooking Mama in the absence of any solid food on offer and start baking Millionaire's Shortbread and making her own spicy chicken goujons and home made fries (I don't even eat chicken but still found myself drooling.) The shortbreads are stacked enticingly in the fridge, silently mouthing 'eat me, eat me' every time I open the fridge door. I have insisted we freeze a few down so I don't lose the plot.

But I digress. Back to the benefits. Within four days, I noticed that I was sleeping longer and more deeply right through the night (instead of waking at 2 or 3am and lying there fidgeting for an hour or two.) I'm guessing this is due to the lack of stimulants (alcohol, caffeine, gluten) washing around my body. I feel refreshed every morning and ready for the day as soon as I wake (this is not my usual state, I assure you).

And, shallow I know, but the cosy little muffin top that has been keeping my midriff warm for the last two years is gone. Yup, gone. Today I tried on a ridiculously small pair of Zara Capri pants that I bought on a mad whim two years ago and have barely worn due to the fact that I couldn't sit/eat/breathe out while wearing them. They fitted - snugly, yes - but comfortably enough to be requisitioned back from my daughter's closet and into my own.

We all have our reasons for doing the liver cleanse. Mine was to give my body a recharge after a particularly manic and social summer/autumn before the onslaught of Christmas party excess. It has forced me to keep my diary freer than it has been for many months - definitely no bad thing - and even make some time for the odd decadent essential oil filled bath, complete with detoxifying Epsom Salts, which is something I am always too busy to do.

It also encouraged me to think about my goals (thanks Emma) and be proactive about the future. A healthy body and mind have always been top of my list but if a by-product is fitting comfortably into my gorgeous Roksanda Ilincic figure hugging dress for a glamorous Christmas party, then I'll take that too, thanks!

In the interests of balance, there have been a few downsides aside from my kitchen turning into the Cote d'Azur offshoot of The Hummingbird Bakery. I have been hungry since the day I started, despite copious Nourishing Protein shakes, super green smoothies and many an afternoon spent concocting new dishes from the recipes Christine and Jess have kindly supplied. Maybe I'm not eating enough I thought, until hubby accused me of sabotaging his weight loss programme by putting too MUCH on the plate (that's what cooking while ravenous does to you). He reckons it was easier when he was doing it by himself!

I have discovered that I miss tomatoes, aubergines and my beloved bananas on rye more than I miss alcohol. Also, that chewing is underrated. I am peeing about three times more than usual (that is the toxins rushing for the door according to Christine, so all good despite the inconvenience of needing a convenience every half an hour.)

On the plus side, I have really enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone to create a few extra healthy breakfast, lunch and supper dishes that mix it up a little and make it less boring for the folks. The support from the rest of the group has been amazing and I haven't suffered the headaches and other niggles that a few of my cleanse friends have experienced.

With just a few days left to go and the prospect of a delicious Sunday lunch out to celebrate that fact, the 64 million dollar question is, would I do it again? Hell yes. Sign me up for March!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Clooney and me

This week I went to see my consultant Clooney, aka Dr Lanvin, for the dreaded six monthly check up to make sure tout va bien. Much as I like him, it’s not a rendezvous I look forward to but I had been so stressed about whether or not my Indian visa would arrive in time for my trip to Kerala that I didn’t have the time or energy to get as worked up about the appointment as I usually do.

I’ve had amazing feedback for Breathing Out since it launched last spring, from friends and family but perhaps more importantly, from perfect strangers, cancer patients and the medical profession. So it was wonderful to hear that Clooney is sending copies out to his fellow oncologist colleagues in Canada, where he worked before arriving at the Tzanck. He told me it is the perfect tool not only for sufferers who don’t know where to turn but also for doctors as a window on the world of their patients. High praise indeed. I think I blushed.

With a snazzy new reprint just out thanks to Urbane Publications, the promotional wheels are rolling once again and my publisher Matthew and I have grand plans in mind for how to achieve world domination so watch this space.

In other news, I got the thumbs up after all my tests (corks popping) so that’s three and a half years down and 18 months to go until the magic five year remission wand can be waved. Following the arrival of my passport and visa JUST THREE DAYS AGO, today’s blog needs to be short and sweet so I can finish packing and get on that plane. Shanti.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Over 40s Guide to Surviving Teens

Yesterday morning, I was rolling up in bed reading the funniest myths on new baby motherhood busted by the very talented and acerbic witted Zeena Moolla.

Allow me to continue the case for not having children, sorry I mean surviving the teenage years.

1. You will never be right again. Remember those dinner table discussions when they were going through that fairly irritating phase of asking why, why, why to everything? Well, you taught them so well to question the status quo and form an opinion that they can now whip you into knots of contradiction on any given subject from exam revision to Islamic State.

2. They are prolific liars. They will only be ill around 15% of the time they convince you to keep them off school. Don't try and cuddle them or fuss around them. Having royally duped you, all they want is to sleep til noon, Snapchat their mates, Instagram their mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows 15 different ways and catch up on back to back episodes of CSI and MIC under the covers on their iPad.

3. Your new name is Ladycabs. Pick-up time from a party (referred to as a gathering in order to lose the alcohol connotation) at 11pm is not cool, only post-midnight pick-ups are acceptable. Whatever you do, DO NOT get out of the car, speak to any of their friends or perish the thought, ring on the doorbell. Just sit in the car pressing redial until they finally deign to pick up. Bang goes your bottle of Gavi in front of Friday night telly but if you dare to complain, they will just ask for a Vespa instead.

4. Everything that goes wrong will always be your fault. Not to be confused with point 1. So if Jane makes you take a wrong turn on SatNav, someone crashes into the back of you in traffic, they need to start wearing a brace or Sainsbury’s runs out of chocolate coated Krispy Kremes, you will be to blame.

5. Imagine your wardrobe as a kind of free shopping experience where no money changes hands, no permission is asked and your most coveted pieces go missing for days, nay weeks at a time before resurfacing in a screwed up ball under the bed, covered in hot chocolate or the bottom reaches of their wardrobe along with old biscuit wrappers and dirty PE kit. If, however, you dare to borrow so much as one pair of bobbly tights, you will be branded the bitch from hell for not asking first.

6. Your precious little collection of make-up and skincare that has taken years to fine tune will start to go missing, a mascara or brow liner at a time, around the time they hit 13. It doesn't matter that you spent a fortune buying everything they needed from Rimmel London, they will still prefer your ancient old LancĂ´me Hypnose mascara and the brand new Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser that a PR has just sent you. Try not to lose the plot when they use your Creme de la Mer as aftersun.

7. When it comes to anything technical, accept that you are just a loser from another century while they became proficient on a PC before they knew the words to Pat a Cake. Expect a dramatic eye roll and a demand for hard cash if you ask them to a. Download photos from your phone, b. Make you a playlist or c. Make you a cup of tea while you try and fathom it out yourself.

8. Around 80% of the time, they will be hormonal, moody and have a face like a slapped arse. Smiles are index linked to being paid to walk the dog they begged and pleaded for, a trip to New York and getting everything on their Christmas list (even though they stopped believing in Santa at least five years ago).

9. Do not leave loose change or chocolate on any surface. The bottom salad drawer below a large stockpile of kale, broccoli and celery should work as a hiding place. They don't touch or eat vegetables in any form.

10. That 30 minute run they have suddenly started going out for on freezing cold dark winter evenings is a sneaky smoking break, snog/flirt or both with their latest crush up the road. Note the lack of sweat/red cheeks when they return, although in truth you will be grateful for the lack of sweat/red cheeks.

The Upside? Just as you have gotten used to being public enemy number one, at around 16, they suddenly realise that you're actually not that bad after all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je suis Charlie

It’s hard to put into words the devastation and sickening fear I felt watching Sky news this afternoon as they showed footage of the extremists who massacred a newsroom of journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

War correspondent friends of mine have talked before of the deep dread and impending sense of doom that they feel 24 hours a day when they are on assignment in dangerous places around the world, notably the Middle East. They get used to expecting something bad to happen but nothing can prepare you for the war coming to your own front door. As a journalist in a Western capital, the idea that you might be shot dead during morning conference while discussing ideas for an upcoming magazine issue is simply beyond belief.

Observing the two gunmen as they fired rounds of ammunition in a deathly quiet Parisian street before virtually ambling back to their car as they gloated loudly at the bloodshed they had caused, I was struck first by their almost comic insouciance. No sense of urgency, they looked bungling and one even paused to pick up a shoe and throw it into the back of the car before they headed off at a relaxed rather than breakneck pace into the anonymous city traffic. I guess it’s easy to be brave with a Kalashnikov in your hands.

It’s a sad day for journalism, freedom of speech and the right to an uncensored press when a group of talented professionals is gunned down in cold blood in their place of work for daring to have a sense of irreverence. Will we now see armed guards stationed at the entrances of PA, Reuters and the BBC?

I remember feeling a sense of excitement when I started training as a journalist, almost 30 years ago. Whether doing the bacon sandwich run at 6.30am for the rest of my office, taking copy (long before PCs and email) or being sent to cover my first major trial at the Old Bailey, the pure adrenaline buzz of starting my longed for career in newspapers was unforgettable. Would I advise my daughters to embark on a career in journalism now? I'm not sure, much as I still love the job I do.

Writing a blog to stand up and be counted and say this is unacceptable is a small thing to do. What we all need to show now is solidarity in the face of such unimaginable tragedy. Anger, yes, action, yes, acceptance, never.