A change of gears required…

When I say I ‘over-consumed’ over the Christmas holidays, it’s no exaggeration. I consistently ate whatever was put in front of me. When I wasn’t eating, I was waiting on new food being prepared, or taking a short break after finishing my last meal. Or I was asleep. 

Breaks between meals were short and sweet, usually more so the latter. A dip into some chocolate here, demolishing a packet of biscuits there. Constant grazing, like a particularly greedy piece of livestock. 

Time for a change

I know many people the world over are looking at themselves in the mirror today and making all kinds of promises about their weight, their diet and their exercise regime. 

I’m not. It doesn’t work. 

But I was given an alarming piece of feedback by my own body the other evening. While lowering myself into a hotel bath (I’m usually a shower man), I was perplexed by the gathering of flesh around my waist. Flesh that’s not obvious when standing upright. Flesh that resembled the dreaded ‘spare tyre’ that the fitness magazines I buy but don’t read describe on their covers. 

Jesus. 

Now, I’m not talking ‘Peter-Griffin-fat’ or ‘Oh-my-God-where-are-my-genitals?’ fat. But it was enough to remind me that I’ve been eating like an unsupervised toddler for over a month and I need to dial it back a bit. Perhaps more than a bit. 

What to do? 

I’m not one for crash diets. Or rather, I am, but they tend to last only until about lunch time. So rather than make a massive commitment to becoming a healthier eater overnight, I’m simply going to move out of Christmas eating into New Year eating and leave a few things behind. Mince pies, Christmas pudding, sly glasses of Prosecco throughout the day. And the easiest way to do all this is simply not to have them in the house in the first place. 

So fewer ’empty’ calories and more in the form of something nutritious, such as Huel

I’ve also not been running, due to a shoulder injury. (Yes, smart-arse, you use your shoulder when running). But I’m getting an MRI of that on Wednesday morning, so should have a plan for what to do about that by the end of the week. But it’s really shown me the lethal combination of being sedentary and having zero willpower. 

Onwards and upwards. I don’t expect stunning changes this month, but it should pay over over the next couple of months, especially if I can get back into regular exercise. And no, the sauna doesn’t really count. 

There’s no excuse

Dodgy shoulder aside, there’s nothing stopping me from making this change today. I have all the tools I need, including the fitness tracking capabilities of my iPhone and its many apps, a digital weighing scale (the treacherous bastard!) and plenty of space around me to go for walks and runs. I even have a gym in my apartment building. 

I just need to get going. 

I’m actually writing this in the BA Lounge at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. We’re flying home from our New Year’s Even trip to the Netherlands and I was immediately exposed to the free buffet here. But I persevered and had the healthiest thing for lunch that I could find. Some Edam cheese and a whole meal roll to put it in. A bottle of a water and a coffee. No chocolate, no Prosecco, no biscuits. 

I’m not looking for a pat on the back or praise. But I do know that accountability helps with this sort of thing. So next time I post an epic description of my meal at Bodeans, or a similar BBQ joint, feel free to come down on me like a ton of bricks. 

Christmas closedown…

Out-of-office notification is on. Bags are backed. Travel booked. I’m officially on Christmas holidays and not a moment too soon.

Gorgeous Christmas lights earlier this evening on Regent Street. #London #RegentStreet #Christmas

A post shared by Richard A. MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

This time tomorrow, I’ll at my parents’ place in Scotland, busy eating them out of house and home, lying around on the couch and other soft furnishings and enjoying an open fire. It’ll be wall-to-wall seasonal food and drink, long lie-ins in the morning and at least twice my recommended calorie intake until I fly back to London.

I can’t wait.

Plus the fun of watching the kids open their Christmas presents, which @FrankDJS so carefully wrapped for me. (I did minimal wrapping this year – it’s my kryptonite. I’m completely useless at it and at this stage of my life, I’m admitting defeat and letting someone with more skill look after it).

So here’s hoping you have an enjoyable holiday, whatever form it takes where you live. And if your country or culture doesn’t celebrate Christmas, then please don’t be jealous of the thought of me lying down and eating chocolate for four solid days.

A checklist for Christmas Day

I think we have all the ingredients again this year…

  • Children
  • Children’s toys that require assembly 
  • Children that require the toys to be assembled faster than is humanly possible
  • A mystery gift with nobody’s name on it
  • Tears
  • Laughter
  • More tears
  • New toys, piled up and ignored in the corner
  • Sausage rolls
  • Multiple sources of music playing at the same time
  • Shouting
  • A Nintendo device nobody knows how to use
  • Lots of devices that need charging
  • More sausage rolls 
  • Chocolate

And we haven’t even had lunch yet. And they say time flies when you’re having fun…

Christmas is almost here

After the appearance of Christmas food on the shelves about six months ago, the run-up to this Christmas seem to have lasted far too long. And then yesterday, all of a sudden, it hit me: Christmas is this Friday.

Why does this always happen?

I’m not unprepared. All gifts have been bought, travel arrangements made and the work-related to-do list has been ticked into oblivion. It’s just that the last few weeks of December seemed to have evaporated somehow.

It’s not as if I didn’t have any warning. TV ads have trumpeted the urgency of seasonal shopping at me since about mid-August. Friends and family have talked about little else for about a month. Yet only this morning do I feel any way ‘Christmassy’.

With a half day of work to complete, I tore through tasks, completing three conference presentations, a project plan, some 2016 planning and some reading. All by lunchtime.

I also packed my suitcase for our Christmas in Holland, generously finished off the household supplies of both pastrami and mince pies (which were started at breakfast, incidentally – that’s how Christmassy I am today).

All that’s left is to get my arse over to Paddington to meet @FrankDJS, get the Heathrow Express out to the airport and fly (more accurately, be flown) to Amsterdam.

But in my head, Christmas is finally here. I’ve packed my iPad and Kindle full of entertainment, pressed pause on my work-brain and truly switched off.

Londonist tried them, so you don’t have to

Londonist has sampled the leading Christmas sandwiches and, like me, crowned Pret a Manger’s version the best.

As if there was any doubt!

And if you need convincing, TimeOut London has also placed Pret’s seasonal sanger at the top of its own list (of 28 options!).

I think you know what to do next…

Is nothing sacred?!

I write this tongue firmly in cheek, yet…

I popped into M&S this evening, to gather a hastily-assembled dinner. Plans to eat out were abandoned when @Frankdjs came come from work very ill earlier today. So, like the god husband I am, I gamely set off in search of sustenance to keep us going.

Bear in mind, I still hadn’t eaten all day, save for a Reese’s peanut butter cup earlier in the afternoon.

Aside from the folly of going into M&S on a (nearly) empty stomach on a Friday night, I was struck by their complete and utter disdain for the seasonal nature of some of my favourite foodstuffs.

Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves. For this evening, here in Canary Wharf, M&S are selling – at the same time – hot cross buns and mince pies.

It. Is. October.

Yes, I’ve already complained about mince pies appearing on the shelves too early. They’re for Christmas. And the weeks approaching it, natch. But hot cross buns are for Easter. Which is either quite a few months ago or quite a few months yet to come, depending on your chronological perspective.

Either way, this is the culinary equivalent of crossing the streams of Ghostbusters’ proton packs. It’s just not a good idea. It confuses people like me, for a start. Okay, so I didn’t think it was April (or March, or whenever the hell Easter is…) but I did quite literally stop in my tracks to look at the mince pies stacked so closely to the hot cross buns.

All I was missing was some nasty Halloween ‘treats’ and I would have had the trifecta of holiday food. (Yes, I’m aware there are other holidays). And here I sit, typing only slightly ironically about the whole thing, mentally kicking myself for buying neither hot cross buns nor mince pies.

What was I thinking?!

Never too early

I just popped out to my local M&S for some comfort food (I have to be up at 0430 tomorrow morning to catch a flight to Barcelona for work, so I thought I deserved it. Judge all you like) and was stopped in my tracks by a sight I really didn’t think I’d witness on Oct 1st. 

Mince pies.

M&S is selling Mince pies and it’s only turned October. I couldn’t even see any Halloween tat. You can normally spot the orange-coloured Halloween sweets and assorted rubbish before the Christmas stuff hits the shelves. 

Is this a record?

I’m actually quite conflicted, as there are few things more lovely in the world than an M&S mince pie. Especially when hot and sitting next to a big cup of coffee. I do not claim to be anything but a simple chap. And a hot mince pie (or two… or three) with coffee is as simple as it gets. 

But really, if I start buying mince pies this early in the year, I’ll be in need of stomach-stapling by the time Christmas actually rolls around. This awkward scenario requires willpower. An hour ago, I didn’t even consider mince pies as an option.    

Now? They’re all I can think about. And if I buy a box of six, I’ll be eating them all alone. And that’s verging on gluttony. 

But what is an acceptable date to start eating Christmas food…?

And is this obsession with the timing of Christmas food in the shops just another sign that I’m turning into a very old man?

Xmas laziness continues…

ciderToday my main achievements (and I use the term loosely) have been:

  • Getting out of bed – it was seriously comfortable in there, believe me.
  • Making it over to Canary Wharf (8 minute walk) and surviving the sale in Banana Republic
  • Spending most of the afternoon sitting down and eating
  • Finishing off the last of the turkey in a couple of epic sandwiches

The remainder of the day was spent watching TV (Dexter, Archer – thank you Netflix!) and working out how to fit new clothing purchases into the now limited space in my wardrobe.

(The Banana Republic sale was really excellent – especially with the large selection of clothes in ‘xs’, perfect for my smaller than average frame…)

I’ve yet to deal with the pressing problem of the unfinished mince pies and Christmas pudding.

I’m sure a solution will present itself in due course.

I could really get used to this pace of life. Unfortunately, that way lies obesity and being featured on either Embarrassing Bodies or The Biggest Loser. Or both.

I’m off work until Monday, after which we’ll return to more regular exercise (getting off the couch and walking) and fewer calories per day. Which won’t be too difficult. This week, I’ve had more calories before lunch each day than I normally have on any given day in total. Reflecting on this, I’m experiencing a strange mixture of pride and shame.

Mostly the latter.