Monday, 27 September 2010


Ok, so I am a little disappointed by the New York week, as I did eat healthy, a lot of healthy. But it’s the first time the curve has dipped(1lb). I put it down to two factors:
time to cut the mash and honey sandwiches
  • Mash potato. I’ve recently learned this has a higher GI than honey or table sugar. Bugger. 
  • I frequented the hotel gym more than once, so am extremely confident that gross weight gained is lean muscle.


New York salad - just don't ask what's in the blue cheese dressing. Oh, hang on...

Given this new muscle will burn more cals, and given I’m not travelling for the next 2 weeks, the immediate future looks bright.

And it will have to be. I came across an old spreadsheet from a previous ‘push’, some 5 years ago.

See that last entry? Over the last 5 years (4 of which I’ve been a father – not that I’m looking for excuses), almost 20kgs have crept on. I won’t aim quite for that again – although the associated 20% loss in body weight is a nice round number – but recalibration is needed.

74kg seems like a good second target. That means:
  •     6 kg/1 stone beyond the 80kg target
  •     An additional 6.6% off the starting weight (18% in total)
  •     7.5% drop from the 80kg target

Pete, I’ve calculated that an additional 6.6% loss for you would mean a total drop of 40lb, bringing you down to bang on 200lb. With such tidy numbers, it was clearly meant to be. What do you say?

Once reaching 80kg, I'm thinking of take a week off to recharge, then give it 7 weeks. Time to shake off those stragglers at Brothers.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Big in the Big Apple

Visiting the States is always a learning experience. With the regime very much at the front of my mind - and how to possibly maintain it when spending a week in New York – I took particular interest in the country’s relationship with health.

America’s marketing machine is, of course, dominated by food and fitness. It has to be big and it has to be beautiful. Only here can I watch an advertisement for life-size cartwheel pizza (buy one, get the wagon free) followed by the latest pharmaceutical advances in slimming aids – complete with obligatory verbal small print (“side effects may include nausea, irritability...suicidal tendencies and even death. Please consult a physician if you experience any abnormal symptoms”).

The fitness industry is burgeoning. It employs over half a billion people, and its $24 billion in revenues last year surpassed the GDP of 96 nations. Growth in online fitness services is particularly strong, evidenced, for example by John Stone’s exponential rise from personal blog to mega forum. My Manhattan hotel tv was hard-pedalling this package, that comes complete with its own pig-latin by prefixing every noun with ‘insane’: insane workouts to ‘dig deeper’ for that insane body. Digging deep seems to be the mantra here, and the manic adrenalin-glares of the showcase 'winners' do challenge the office platitude ‘you don’t have to be insane to work here...’

I made my contribution to the industry via the hotel gym, a newly refurbished suite of rooms direct from the set of the Starship Enterprise. Each machine was accompanied with a personal tv so I could monitor Congress’ objections to Obama’s health reform bill, punctuated by advertisements for ice cream and Texas burgers, whilst biking up a virtual Mont Blanc. One news feature that particularly caught my interest followed a new salmon breeding technique that claimed to produce fish twice the size in half the time. Asked whether we should be concerned about eating creatures raised in a soup of growth hormones, a biochemist replied, “we all exist in a wash of growth hormones, it’s just the quantities that are different” – how reassuring. This method is yet to be approved by the US regulatory authorities, but if given the green light, producers would not be obligated to indicate how the fish was raised. If it’s big, be concerned.

With big food come big bodies. America’s obesity rates (second, by proportion of population, only to Mexico) are renowned. Some 70% of the population is overweight (defined by BMI), and the prevalence of obesity exceeds 30% across most age and sex groups. Interestingly, smoothed frequency distributions suggest that rapid increases in obesity rates are slowing. But they also show you're more likely to bump into someone with grade 3 obesity (BMI>40) than spy an underweight waif (BMI<18).   

Flagel et al 2010, Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008

But that also partly depends on where you are. Mississippi has topped the state obesity rankings for the last five years, with rates of over 35%. It’s also been the poorest state for the last 5 years. In fact, cross-referencing against per capita state incomes reveals some stark correlations between obesity and poverty: the 8 fattest states are among the 10 poorest, with the remaining two just outside. This all links closely with ethnicity – you’re much more likely to be obese if you’re non-white (particularly non-Hispanic black). Will the economic crisis reverse the observed obesity slow-down? If so, the human and economic consequences may reach far further than is currently being estimated.

These regional differences are perhaps understandable, driven by historical patterns of economic growth and politics of ethnicity. More disturbing is how such patterns are replicated in the microcosm of New York City. Walking around Manhattan everyone seemed in pretty good shape. This reflects recent research that finds the more affluent areas, such as Upper East Side, Chelsea and West Village, with low obesity rates – around 8%. By contrast, several poor neighbourhoods such as East Harlem and the Bronx suffer rates over 30%. Limited health and fitness facilities together with a narrow range of food outlets have been suggested as one reason for the difference – independent of age, race and education levels. But perhaps it’s more of a downward cycle: healthy food comes at a premium in the US, and such companies are going to follow the money. I wonder how the density of M&S food outlets in Glasgow compares with Chelsea?    

Monday, 20 September 2010

Great North Mum

A quick post to laud the achievement of “Runner Mum” (our blogspiration) who yesterday completed the Great North Run a bit over the 2 hour time she was aiming for, but:

1. did it injured (wit
h what medical experts are calling “hurty foot”)

2. had to face the murky moral decision at the start of the race of whether or not to hi-five one of “Ant and Dec”

Ant or Dec

3. was tripped up by a tit with headphones on not looking where he was going (she has not confirmed or denied that it was either Ant or Dec)

4. took a good 10 minutes to work out what they meant by “Won ya maaaaks; get settt; gwoooar!”

5. stopped at mile 12 to first give the Race Support Crew an in-depth prĂ©cis of the race so far (including Ant and Dec update), and then discuss in detail where we’d meet at the end (I think she’d given up the 2 hour thing by then!)

Chatty Mum - no wonder she didn’t beat 2 hours!

6. had to put up with the same Race Support Crew’s complete lack of any real support before and after the race... *sorry*

Well done Runner-Mum! Roll on a race nearer-by, with fewer people, supportive support and a faster time!


It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Britain this week, and lots of TV time has been given over to shots of Spitfires and Hurricanes, RAF folk young and old paying their respects, all of which I’ve found surprisingly moving. (As a complete aside, I was startled to discover, at a museum a couple of months ago, how many of the pilots were actually Polish). But the word “hero” has been used a lot this week on the coverage, and rightly so.

Spitfire. Does what it says on the tin casing.

Hurricane. Not actually a hurricane.

And so to balance that healthy “righly-so-ness” with a healthy dollop of “ah, no - wrongly-so”, I was pleased to find out this week that Dan, you and I are also heroes. Did you know that? Maybe only for a week, maybe only obliquely (and slightly patronisingly!) referred to as “hot, sweaty, [...] unfit overweight people” by podcasters known to literally tens of people, but have a listen at 1:13:38 to Episode 31 of Marathon Talk – we even get our own uplifting theme music! I just hope that later this year or some time next, when all this comes to an end, when the dudes (previously with moobs) soar triumphantly into the blue skies after the thrill of the dogfight with the evil Hun of obesity, old Winston might look down from his secret underground bunker in the sky and in that voice, say “Never... in the field of human weightloss,... has so much... been lost... by so few”.

Winston Churchill - Dude with Moobs

Monday, 13 September 2010

Oh brothers

Following on from the most uplifting post to date, here's another comic cause for celebration. My recent trip to Brussels was not a complete loss. It inspired Rob and his merry band of troglodyte chublings to start up a sister site.

Of course, they clearly reside in the amateur league. Their emphasis on pre-weigh-in excretions displays (i) an understandable absence of long-term vision (unless ever-increasing laxative doses form an integral part of the strategy), and (ii) a far less excusable lack of creativity (fasting the night before is far more effective and dispenses with any bathroom anxiety).

But we wish them well, and who knows, subsequent inter-blog competition may even ensue at a later date (should be a stroll in the park). You can monitor their sorry endeavours here.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Disappointment isn't...

Disclaimer: This post contains scenes of a cheerful and upbeat nature throughout.

A month in, there's a lot of good to count on too, despite contentment-puncturing clothing labels:

1. Firstly - and most importantly - we've both managed to actually get off our lardy arses and do something rather than just talking about it every time we meet up.
2. A month in, and we've both lost a fair amount of weight - the equivalent, between us, of something approaching the weight of this ordinary office shredder or a skinny 2-year-old. If the fat we've lost was converted, by weight, into a turkey, it'd take over 5 hours to cook. Check out what this guy is throwing - that ball-crushing projectile is about the weight we've lost between us! Cause to celebrate!
3. Dan has learnt the use of the "on" button for electronic machinery.
4. After the first few gasping runs, I ran on the Road Bridge today and felt more exhilirated - exercise-wise - than I think I have since games of school rugby. Dan - I'm sure it must be getting easier/more enjoyable for you too?
5. Ah... school rugby...

Spot the Bloggers competition

Now for balance of tone, Dan, please tell me that the "small, strained button" (I've named it "Benny") didn't make it? I'm imagining this...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

disappointment is...

...squeezing into a suit that was previously too small
and later realising it's a size larger than you always thought it was.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

hang on a minute...

8lb in 2 weeks? Bloody hell.

Milestone weigh in - Sept 5th - tense

It's pretty darn close, and is building to have all the tension of an Isle of Wight by-election.

My horrendous last two weeks saw me lose 2.5lb, at least moving in the right direction I suppose. Meanwhile, Pete's been creeping up with Seb Coe stealth, and dispensed with a tidy 8lb over the same period. I can only put it down to surgery - although if I was Pete, my stomach wouldn't be the first thing I'd address (fnar fnar).

Hopefully his new power job will initiate late night comfort eating. It's vital to remember to eat properly when maintaining a busy, stressful lifestyle. No matter how high the in-tray, you've always time for a pie.

Meanwhile, I've 3 days in Manchester this week, 3 days in Somerset the week after, and New York after that. How's a boy meant to maintain routine?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

crawling back onto the wagon

Well for starters, if I had to pick an '80s BBC theme tune to kick things off, it would have to be this funky little number. (Pete - you sure you're not related to David Hemery? There's something in the nose...)

Unfortunately, this doesn't reflect the reality of the last 10 days, which has been a little less intense. In fact, it's been bloody awful. The week lording it in Paris (never made it  past that one jog), was followed by another in Somerset (pasta, creme, chocolate), and rounded off with a 3 day Belgium beer bender in Brussels. I've checked, and unfortunately wheat beer does not require more energy to digest than it yields - I'm confusing beer with Rob's (our host) emaciating humour.

And having been looking at the bike each morning this week as an overly-stuffed vegan eyes a cold kebab, it was only yesterday that I managed to haul myself back into some exercise. Even if the bathroom scales were sprinkled in broken glass I wouldn't be stepping up with more trepidation this coming Sunday.

But as a one legged can crusher once said, with every challenge comes opportunity. In less than 14 days I'm going to be living in a suit for a week. I tried mine on this morning, a dangerously tight fit, with my dignity resting  on the strength of a rather small, strained button. So it's either get a body-shaping vest, or hit the exercise every day until then. That'll hopefully get me back on target, which has started to slip out of reach.

"I want my money back"