Thursday, June 17, 2010


Day One

Weigh-in: 15 stone 5 pounds (215 lbs)

According to Dukan’s book, most people stay on the “Attack Phase” for 5 days. Eat as much as you want, it says, of 72 protein-rich foods. And nothing else. Your body goes into shock. No time to start like the present. I’m going to attack till Tuesday.

This morning I had to drive to Leeds to chair the Skillset North Media Industry Panel: a committee of all the top media executives, screen agencies and universities in the North of England. We discuss the training needs of our various media sectors. It’s a three hour slog and, having arrived home from LA late yesterday evening, I’m not sure how my jetlag will react. What I’d normally do is stock up with a nice bacon sandwich and have a real Coke by my side for emergency caffeine and sugar hits. Not today.

I’ve weighed myself in the morning: 215 pounds. I’m disappointed. I have been as heavy as 219, and I average around 217, so I thought that after all the overeating in LA for the last week (not to mention the flagons of good red wine at my brother-in-law’s house), I’d at least be somewhat overinflated to begin this diet. This is going to make the weight loss less dramatic. I drink a black coffee (no more cappuccino for me) and hit the road to Leeds.

At noon I pull off the freeway at a motorway service area and go to Marks and Spencer’s food market. I’m looking for some of those 72 protein-rich foods. They have sliced roast chicken and large cooked prawns. That’s it. The yoghurt is full fat and fruity. And forbidden.

Rows and rows of tempting snacks are out of bounds. I make my way past two entire aisles of chocolate bars to the checkout, stopping only to pick up a large bottle of water. Once back in the car, it takes me less than two minutes to devour the chicken and prawns. I’m ravenous.

They’re serving lunch before the meeting: quiches and sandwiches with scores of mayonnaisy fillings, little sausage rolls, chocolate muffins and orange juice. Thankfully the chicken and prawns have filled me up. I turn my back on the buffet and pretend not to notice. I drink water throughout the meeting, so much so that I’m rather desperate for the loo halfway through. But the chairman can’t leave – we’re having quite a spirited debate, so I have to survive to the end.

On the way back, just as I’m approaching the very same service station, hunger strikes again. Back to M&S and I scour the aisles in case I missed something tasty. Sure enough, a different type of roast chicken, and some packaged slices of roast beef. Back in the car, I open the beef and nearly wretch. They’ve coated it with something beefy. Too beefy. It’s probably fresh, but it makes me nauseous. I have a real problem with packaged cooked food, but today I have no option. The chicken does its stuffing - again.

Back home, Jo tells me we have fillets of sea bass for supper and a variety of exotic vegetables for a stir fry. I slowly explain the concept of the diet. “That’s absurd”, she says. “You can’t just eat fish – you need vegetables”. We discuss eggs and yoghurt. How about an omelette? Oil-free, with no more than two yolks per person (you can add as many whites as you like). She rustles up a starter of chicken breasts with a wonderful mustardy-yoghurty dressing. No oil at all, and quite delicious.

Then I open Dukan’s book again. Yes, I’m allowed herbs. I race out to the vegetable garden where I have every herb known to man. I pick some chives and a few rocket leaves – yes, it’s really a herb – and some tiny mustard greens I’ve grown from seeds I picked up in California. They’re peppery and delicious and turn the omelette into a gourmet feast. I steam the fish lightly with fresh dill to infuse the atmosphere in the pan. It’s not quite the hamburger I had in the airport at LAX, but it’s filling, different, and, with a fat free peach yoghurt for dessert, I’ve survived my first day.

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