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Island Life, Word Birds & Process

Not writing related? Well, if a week spent obsessing about food curtails my writing time then, yes, this post is about writing, or the lack thereof.

Like many women of a certain age, I’m overweight. Not excessively so – about a stone & a half lodged round my middle. I don’t like it, it makes me feel sluggish & I’d like to shift it. This week, on a whim, I went to a Slimming World session with a friend. I’ve heard good things about SW & the evidence is irrefutable. Some of my close friends have lost impressive amounts of weight & they all say they feel better.

The ethos is simple – no food is forbidden, a great deal of healthy food is ‘free’ meaning you can eat as much as you like. The foods one is encouraged to eat less of (essentially sugar & fat) come with a SYN value. Syn is a derivative of synergy & assumes an interaction of food groups aimed at weight loss. So far, so far, but syn is also a play on the word ‘sin’ which I find troubling. Food is not sinful. It may, for some people, be made of dubious choices, involve restrictions due to allergies or physical conditions, but telling the average person already struggling with self-worth issues that a small bar of chocolate is ‘sinful’ (whichever way you spell it) immediately points the finger.

Beautiful Woman Eating Cheesecake Dessert. Image shot 1910. Exact date unknown.

This is where it becomes deeply problematic for me. The so-called ‘naughty’ foods: cheese, olive oil & butter; chocolate, cake, biscuits & puddings are heavily restricted. Even porridge, or muesli with dried fruit, becomes an issue of syn ‘choice.’ Other than sugar which I admit is pretty evil, in moderation, none of these foods are ‘bad’ for us but the Slimming World syn constraints on even some perfectly healthy food mean the amounts one is allowed make it barely worth bothering. The alternatives are largely (for me at any rate) disgusting. Imitation butter is vile & not even food; in my world it’s the ultimate gastronomic sin. And a Slimming World homemade chocolate cookie recipe using Nutella chocolate spread is, frankly, a political issue. Nutella contains loads of sugar & palm oil. Hello? Palm oil? (Look it up!)

There’s a cheerful note in the welcome booklet: “Take a quiet therapeutic half-hour to meal-plan your next seven days…”

Are they kidding? Therapeutic? Half an hour? I’ve spent most of this week stressing about my meals. Me, who doesn’t do stress because it’s too damn stressful. And I’m the woman who has to take off her shoes to count to eleven. I can write a book, I can’t add up a short shopping list because I’m number blind. Counting syns & converting grams to ounces & vice versa is maths. Cross referencing a Healthy Eating Option against the relevant Syn Option is maths. And spending extra money on food I don’t really like is also maths…

So yes, I resent time away from my work, being too anxious to follow my pen. I’m tempted to kiss the joining fee goodbye, put it down to experience & forget it. I’m not sure losing a stone & a half is worth the misery of meals made of maths.

Ps: Some work did get done…