I've not bought bread since early December and I seem to be losing weight!
I've not been well. Not quite Jeffrey Bernard unwell, but all my sins have caught up with me, and I have Type 2 Diabetes, Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure. I'm sure there is a name for this common mid life condition, but I haven't got the heart to look it up. Chuck in the depression, the arthritis and the inability to drink alcohol (more of which later), and I was close to heading off to the knackers yard.
Was discussing treatment of my poor old arthritic joints with a nice female friend of my Smart Ass Son (hereinafter known as SAS) - his friend, a graduate in something equine, recommended keeping my joints warm and avoiding damp weather when SAS piped up and asked said horse expert if the advice came with a tent and a shotgun? He had a point, my days of jumping high fences are well and truly over, but are they? Before my sons get me incarcerated for my own good (they only need one more signature) or call in an armed vet, I have decided to re-enter the arena with Chumba Wumba singing 'I get knocked down, but I get up again' as my theme tune.
Plan A is stop eating processed food and Plan B is go running. As my fear of Plan B is so great, Plan A is thus far staying on track.
I know that being overweight is probably one of the worst things for arthritic joints, BP and cholesterol and I have a fairly in depth knowledge of nutrition and healthy eating, so I've no excuse. Like most of the women I worked with in years gone by, I could name the calorie count and fat content of a strawberry at the drop of a hat (4 and 0) and I carried pocket book guides to calories and fibre content in my handbag. Unfortunately, the knowledge I had, never prevented me from having undignified skuffles with the lettuce eating tupperware queens, when birthday cakes were brought into the office. On those occasions it was every man/woman for themselves.
The problem that I have, and I believe this may be universal, is that I don't actually want to give anything up. This is a conundrum that has troubled me often over the years. I'm always looking for a short cut, or an easy option so I've only myself to blame. However, after much navel gazing and contemplation, I've finally found a way to eat whatever I want, and hopefully lose weight, the only proviso being that whatever I have, I must make myself. Doing it this way, I have been able to eat my favourite things - profiteroles, bear claws and chocolate cake. At first reading this sounds like a completely insane idea, but bizarrely it seems to be working. There is something frankly ludicrous about making whipped cream and ganache in the wee small hours (yes I have done it, and no I don't advise it). In my case its mostly because my OCD dictates that I must wash up and put away everything before I go to bed. The thought of washing up all those bowls, spoons and saucepans is often enough to put off those little bites of choux deliciousness until the next day.
The biggest change I have made is the abandonment of shop bought bread. I have not yet achieved what I would call a perfect loaf, but my failures are enjoyed as much as my successes, and the next day they are toast. Its been many years since I last attempted bread making, and I had forgotten how easy it is. There is no mystery at all, quite literally anyone can do it. I don't have a bread machine as kneading is good exercise for my my misshappen 'Shrek hands' (again, SmartAssSon) - 10 minutes bashing the daylights out of a ball of dough is a great stress reliever and saves clipping SAS around the ear. In my experimenting, I have a cupboard of assorted flours and yeasts and in the event of a nuclear war (one of my OCD fears), I have enough ingredients to carry on making fresh bread daily for the foreseeable future.
Giving up processed food has not been difficult, I was never fond of it anyway and I hated myself for buying transfat laden cheap treats from our fastest growing chain stores. I ate them because they looked so appealing on the shelves, and they were a quick sugar fix but they are nowhere near as satisfying as the fresh fruit based deserts I am making now. My theory is that anything fruit based must be good, but thats just pure optimism, the scales and the blood sugar levels will tell. Thus far, my sugar test strips, remain glucose free and I have lost one and half stone since I last weighed myself. However I am not claiming this is down to my recent lifestyle change just yet, as I have avoided weighing scales for quite some time!
As for ready meals, take aways and the like, I'm a bit of a food snob, to be honest. I won't eat factory raised chicken, or buy mass produced eggs, on humane grounds. Ditto, intensively reared beef and other meat products, which keeps my meat consumption low. Fresh vegetables are something I have always enjoyed, so increasing them is no hardship and I have been able to use them up in interesting and creative ways.
Cakes and sweets however are usually my downfall, but strangely I am not missing them either. I am finding homemade treats far superior and I am convinced the work involved in creating such delights and the washing up that goes with it, cancels out the calories involved in eating them. Pathetic I know, but I am not above lying to myself if it gets at least one of my feet back onto the healthy eating straight and narrow.
I am toying with the idea of putting up pictures of my cooking triumphs and disasters - partly for their comic value, and to give a true idea of what these masterpiece recipes look like when made by an inept amateur. One particular cake had the consistency of a breeze block and SMS had several suggestions for its use in the building industry, though I am delighted to say that my sponges are now divine.
I have also now successfully managed to make a crusty white loaf using a combination of advice from Delia and Paul Hollywood. Putting a splash of water in a tin tray at the bottom, does indeed make for a hard crust, and Delia's wonderful tip about warming the flour first, gave me my 'first', truly warm pliable dough that actually looked like the one she had on the video and took less than half the kneading time of the previous recipes! Top tip: warm flour before you begin. The result unfortunately would not have won any Bake Off contests, it was a beast that outgrew its tin with a crust was that was virtually impenetrable. However, once in, it was delicious.
My next challenge will be crusty white rolls, but I may postpone them to make a wholemeal walnut loaf to have with the fresh lemon curd I made last night. I am not entirely certain this new lifestyle will result in health benefits and weight loss, but it will certainly be interesting and not entirely unpleasant finding out.