Imagine this. (Not the eggs, this:)
1. You are in a state of pudginess not far enough advanced to embrace your identity as an curvy moon goddess, but just enough to make you bulge out of all your clothes. You are tired. You are thirty. You wish to fit inside things without the constant risk of indecent exposure. You put aside the cold chicken nugget you are absentmindedly chewing and decide something MUST BE DONE.
2. You consider: cutting out sugar, cutting out carbs, cutting out dairy, cutting out potatoes, cutting out cold chicken nuggets. Every dieter you read about sounds taut and weary, like they have decided to give up joy and rainbows in return for lycra selfies and sadness. You will not do it. You will not. You decide to count calories instead.
Counting calories has several advantages: there are many apps that do the maths for you; you do not have to cut out anything, least of all potatoes; and you can bargain yourself more calories, Dr Faustus-style, by offering up exercise as a blood sweat sacrifice.
3. You set it all up. Your husband – who is not carrying so much as a spare teaspoon of fat and picks up exercise disciplines as casually as you pick up blocks of cheese – is enthusiastic about doing it with you. You discover, together, that calorie counting is boring. Instead of sitting down to lunch like a normal human being, you hover around the kitchen scanning barcodes and weighing individual olives. Compiling a basic salad is such a lengthy process that you come out in cold sweats. And that’s before you’ve even faced the idea of just eating salad for a meal, as though suddenly you’re a horse that doesn’t like bacon or something, like what is wrong with you, self-horse.
4. You spend a week furious about calories that are in things. Pastry has betrayed you. Salad dressing has betrayed you. One morning you make a bowl of porridge, log it and realise you can only eat half, because OATS, WHAT IS THIS. Margarine is so calorific you might’s well have better-tasting butter. And bagels. Do not even start on bagels. Is it really living, when you know the truth about bagels? Can you carry on?
5. You explain to everyone who asks – and you’re eating 3 Doritos instead of 27; they always ask – that you’re just doing it for a month, it’s easier than cutting out sugar, haha. You try not to sound like a weight loss fanatic. You don’t give a flying buttress about kale or clean eating. You like eating dirty, actually. You just want to fit in your jeans.
6. Low point: one day you eat at McDonalds for lunch. You don’t go mad. Medium meal, no apple pie. After totting it all up, you realise you can’t have any dinner. Approximately 23 minutes later, you are hungry again.
High point: the day you discover that crumpets are fewer calories than bagels. Quite slimline really. My Fitness Pal soon puts crumpets in your ‘Frequent Foods’.
7. It’s getting easier. The app remembers the stuff you eat most often, so there’s a lot less olive-weighing in your day-to-day. You’re starting to enjoy fitting in extra walks and bike rides – not just to earn yourself some ice cream after dinner, but for their own sake. You are having to ask yourself – all the blimming time – whether you are actually hungry or just fidgety and bored. It’s a useful exercise. You haven’t had to give anything up (except dinner that one time), and you still worship heartily at the Shrine of the Pie. It’s not half bad.
8. For the first two weeks you lose not a single pound, and you chalk it up to all the anger you’re carrying about the bagels. Then suddenly half a stone is gone. Then ten pounds. You’re starting to feel sick when you overeat. You’re starting to think this is probably a good thing.
9. You think you might be alright to carry this on long-term. You have discovered that food makes you happy – all of it, the bread and meat and croissants and carrot sticks and cheese blocks of life. You believe that happiness is good. You believe that moderation is good too, and good for you, and not a habit you were especially practising before, especially in the area of cheese blocks.
10. You still do not believe that salad is a meal. Bacon or bust, friends. BACON OR BUST.