January
31

The Road to Cambridge

Posted on Thursday 31st January, 2013

I surprised myself, as well as my friends and family, by opting to use the Cambridge Weight Plan to kick-start the weight reduction process.   For those unfamiliar with Cambridge, it consists of a number of meal replacements - in my case three per day - as well as a simple meal of white meat or fish with green vegetables or green salad.   There was to be nothing red on the plate, no oily fish and certainly no fruit.   This is a diet that involves almost no carbohydrates, no fat and no sugar.   The object of the exercise is to put your body into a state of ketosis - a posh word for starvation.   In so doing, the body learns to burn fat when it needs energy rather than reaching for a Mars bar - deep-fried or otherwise. 

Drastic therapy certainly, but what got me to this point? I must, here, name and thank a number of individuals who, knowingly or unknowingly, helped me on my journey. 

My fellow thalidomider, Björn Håkansson - someone with whom I had always had a friendly rivalry - suddenly began to take his health seriously.   Always hale and hearty, often with a drink in his hand, he was the very epitome of the swashbuckling Viking.   He is around 2m tall and uses his physical and psychological stature to lead the Swedish thalidomide group to success after success.   When I began to see the weight falling off Björn, I was dammed if he was going to succeed where I was failing. 

A former personal assistant of mine, Hannah, one day began a conversation by saying:

"Geoff, you know how you're always on a diet but you aren't really..."

In the gentlest of ways, I had been rumbled!

My sister, Heather, was in my mum's kitchen in 2011 just after our mother's 90th birthday party.   Having, as usual, overindulged during the festivities, I remarked to the effect that the next day I would have to start a serious diet, to which her response was:

"And how many times have I heard that?"

Clearly, I was a serial denier.   I was fooling no one but myself and I really did need to change something.   My own words of advice to someone else in this situation would have been to stop talking about it and do something. 

I'd heard about the Cambridge diet from a close friend a year before and I had pooh-poohed it.   But with typical generosity of spirit, my friend introduced me to a Polish lady who was a representative or consultant for the Cambridge company. 

Pani Ewa is a good-looking blonde woman, in her mid-40s I would guess.   What I liked about her approach was that she was not judgemental - she was there to help if you wanted to avail yourself of the assistance on offer.   I was given the choice of doing 'step one', which consists of three meal replacement products per day - and that's all.   Or 'step two' which was basically the same as step one with the addition of the light meal, consisting of fat-free meat (chicken or turkey for example) or fish accompanied by a green salad or green vegetables. 

I didn't much like the sound of either option, but step two at least sounded vaguely doable.   The products themselves come in a variety of 'tempting' flavours and are split between soups, powdered shakes and shakes already mixed in a carton with a little straw attached. 

Simply delicious - just add water
Simply delicious - just add water


Quite wisely, Pani Ewa pointed out the pitfalls.   There would be headaches, in the first few days - as my body went into ketosis - I would feel slightly strange, dizzy and weak.   My breath would smell bad because my body wouldn't be functioning normally.   This was not weight loss for the faint hearted!

I soon came to hate the taste of the pre-mixed shakes - handy though they were for slipping into a pocket or work bag during the day.   The shakes themselves - seductively named 'chocolate velvet' or 'strawberry silk' - tasted okay at the time.   But Pani Ewa was insistent that these products needed to be taken with at least the same volume of water because they were shipped as a concentrate.   Water or not, the aftertaste was foul, and no amount of teeth cleaning and mouthwash usage would get rid of it. 

Having gone through the various soup 'flavours', I got to the point where I could only bear the vegetable and chilli varieties.   The others bore no relation to the flavour they purported to represent.   Even the vegetable chilli flavours required the addition of Tabasco and Maggi to make them anywhere near palatable.   Strictly speaking this was discouraged by orthodox disciples of Cambridge but I reckoned that it was my body, my diet and so it was up to me whether I chose to accept the advice or not. 

The powdered shakes came in a variety of sweet flavours - some fruity, some masquerading as chocolate or cappuccino and some in the guise of nursery favourites like 'toffee and walnut', 'butterscotch' and so on.   The chocolate one was pretty hideous; certainly it was not - contrary to the suggestion of a woman who worked at my hairdresser's - miraculously transformed into ice cream simply by putting it in the freezer.   The trick with cappuccino was to add a couple of shots of real espresso coffee to the mix, thereby rendering it palatable as well as a much-needed energy booster. 

Pani Ewa was most insistent that the Cambridge products be accompanied by copious amounts of water throughout the day - two litres, preferably three.   This was one stricture with which I had no difficulty in complying: I'm something of a water bore - often jesting that I would one day write a book entitled, "Water - A Very Important Drink".   I will actually go out of my way to purchase bottles of obscure mineral waters whose taste I particularly enjoy.   My working space is never complete without a large glass of sparkling water with ice and lemon. 



COMMENTS

Sharyl
Sharyl
Monday 24th July, 2017 @ 11:47 am

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