Cherry Healey is a presenter and producer, making documentaries for BBC1 and BBC3, and is also mother to feisty three-year-old, Coco. From how we balance working with parenting, to social taboos, Cherry loves to ask questions, preferably with a cup of tea in hand....
A diet too far?
You know a diet isn't doing you any psychological good when you find yourself in a car, parked somewhere covert, secretly scoffing a packet of ham and calling it lunch. When a grape is a super duper treat you know it's time for a rethink.
A year ago I read about the Dukan diet in a newspaper and had to try it. For those that haven't heard of it, the very basic breakdown is that you only eat lean protein for a set period of time and then follow a strict food plan to slowly incorporate selected carboydrates back into your diet. Sounds simple, yar? Non.
It's easy to see when researching this diet that for many it's fabulous. It enables people to lose a huge amount of weight quickly which can be a fantastic motivation. I think if there is a lot of weight to lose this can be an amazing method, and anyone who has experienced how hard it is to lose more than a stone (*waves hand*) knows how hard it is to find the energy to stay on track. And, unlike the Atkins, which I have also tried (natch), there is an emphasis on lean protein so your arteries are safe. Anyone thinking of doing the Atkins, don’t. It is heinous.
But I am a vexing person - I don’t read the instructions and I skim read recipes. As a result I have some very weird looking Ikea furniture, have made some amazing experimental dishes but also have a good supply of take-away menus in the kitchen. So a diet that is to be followed to the letter was always going to be tricky for me. I did buy the book and read it from cover to cover. And at the end I thought ‘flipping nora this is a total bore, but I’ll give it a go’. And so my ham annihilation began.
Carbs are everywhere and, almost, everything. They are toast, rice, pasta, apples, grapes, raisins, cereals, corn on the cob, peas, wine, juice....and - I should have seen the signs of failure - ketchup. So my diet changed dramatically. For breakfast I had scrambled eggs, for lunch chicken salad with cottage cheese and for supper fish or steak with lots of lettuce (many vegetables are restricted as they also have carbs, I KNOW I KNOW) and a low fat yoghurt.
Anyway, I did this strictly for two weeks and found that it did really work. I did lose weight. Which felt great. So I decided to do it for a little longer but incorporate more vegetables. This is where my vexing character kicked in and I went off script. And hence forth, I started to feel unwell. My skin gradually turned grey, I developed two spotty patches on my face and I was insatiably thirsty. I started taking multivitamins but this didn’t really help. I also started to hate the artificial sweetener taste in my mouth - I felt like I was turning radio active.
And then of course, like with all diets, I broke. I started to mix and match ‘normal’ eating with the Dukan plan and I put on the weight I’d lost and a little bit more for a special Brucey bonus. Grrrreat. And, of course, once again I remembered that, for me, healthy eating and exercise is the only sure, non-crazy, ham scoffing, chemical seeping eating plan for me.
I am just not controlled enough to follow athat requires me to refer to a book for 6 months. But I have learnt a few good lessons from the Dukan diet. I function much better with a protein breakfast and now have some form of eggs most mornings, and have realised that a carby meal at lunch makes me pretty sleepy during the afternoon. That’s all great but I am not sad to see the back of those packets of ham.
At 32 I thought I’d be wise enough to read about new diets with mild-to-no interest. But when it comes to diets I am not wise, I am weak. I am a leaf blowing in the wind, I a gold fish that swims about all day, constantly banging its head against the glass, only to forget it's there on the return lap. It takes less than a paragraph describing a 'new, miracle diet' to get me hooked. My eyes become spinning infinity pools of hypnotic fascination.
I know this is far from cool; in the presence of a wonderful new wave of modern feminism led by Caitlin Moran, Girls and a million exciting voices, it feels completely fatuous to be reading and then believing and then implementing these ridiculous, time wasting, moronic diets. But I am like an addict. A therapist friend described 'addiction' as when a person does or consumes something (gambling, drugs, alcohol, spending) even when they consciously don't want to. The item or action takes over and choice is no longer part of the equation.
OK, my diet habit isn't anywhere near as severe as many other addictions but I do wonder if it’s something I will always mentally battle with. I hope not. I hope that ridiculous side of myself will become exhausted and leave for LA where it can be with it’s people. But for now it remains and I will just have to try and keep it locked in a cupboard as much as possible.
Really trying not to Google the Alkaline diet....*kicks ones self*