Monthly Archives: March 2011

Just Not The Man I Used To Be

For the last few weeks Monday morning has been a time of great trepidation. I’ve been weighing myself.

I’ve had an odd history when it comes to trying to loose weight. I started my meteoric rise to obesity when I was still in juniour school and so, by the age of 9 I had already gone on my first diet. So young was I when the weight started to pile on that I can no longer remember what being thin was like. Somewhere in the back of my mind I can remeber running around and having energy but I just thought I had lost that by growing out of it. My parents certainly didn’t mind it when I slowed down. You have to remember that my dad was 55 at this time and he just couldn’t run around after me, even though he probably wanted to.

It’s very easy to blame my parents for gaining weight. Did they over-feed me, did they not make me excercise? For years these thoughts ran through my mind and somewhere in the back of my head I had always wondered what my life would be like had I not gained weight at an early age. I have since learned that it’s not their fault but more on that later.

I have always been one to buck trends. You say that the obese are lazy and eat too much. Well, I never did. Many times over the years I’ve eaten with friends who have asked if I was all right because I was seemingly eating very little. As a child, and right in to my 20s I was always active. I wasn’t obsessed with excercise like the youth of today (trist me, they are, I’ve met them) but we were always going out for walks on the hills or around the local countryside when I was young and at college I was dancing at least once a week. I didn’t take on a completely sedentory lifestyle until I started making websites tor a living but I was twenty stone by the time I left college.

My eating habbits haven’t changed much since I left school. I have been on a string of diets and excercise programs, each one promising to make me thin, each one failing horribly. You start a diet well. You put the work in but the fact is, to loose weight you have to eat so little and excertcise so much. As you get fatter this becomes more difficult. So you give up because it’s just too hard. Don’t take that to mean I was being lazy.

Christmas and Easter were the worst as you can probably imagine. If you’ve never been on a diet then you have no idea of the pain involved. There is the pain of being hungy, the pain of not reaching your target, the pain of seeing your friends enjoying themselves whilst all you can think about is your next meal. More important is the pain of your own weakness when you inevitably fail to keep up with the regiem you have set for yourself. Oh and the cravings, those bloody cravings that eat away at you day and night. You loose sleep, all for want of a bar of chocolate or packet of chrisps. I wanted to eat more when I was on diets than I wanted to eat between times. Food is like a drug. If you don’t eat what your body is telling you then you will start to experiance symptoms of withdrawl and that is exactly what I went through on these diets. The problem with obesity is that you can’t suddenly give up food.

So you start to begin every diet with the knowledge that you will eventually fail. You are expected to keep up with this diet for life. Forget about the government guidelines about taking in 2000 calories a day because I was eating less and I still put on weight. If that is the case then what am I expected to eat on these things? Certainly les than is recommened, which is already starving yourself.

As you can imagine, I have been pretty down on diets and diet books for some time, I don’t read them because experiance had taught me that they all contain the same matrial. When I first heard about Gary Taubes’ book “Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It” I was more than sceptical. After all, the book promised a way of looking at my condition that no one has done before. How many tmes have we heard that? But I bought the audiobook version anyway as there was nothing else on audible that month I wanted to listen to.

I listened to the book in a day. It wasn’t what I expected, it referenced proper, peer reviewed studies. For the first time, I was reading a book that looked at the physiological reasons for weight gain and only touched on the psychological conditions to decry the use of them.

Taubes tells us that we have been looking at dieting the wrong way since the 1950s and that we wrongly attribute obesity to over-eating or lazyness. It is, he claims, not the cause of the disease but rather a symptom. People are overweight because the insulin level in there bodies is too high. This increase in insulin forces the body to store all foods as fat and only use certain sugars to power the muscles. These sugars are used fairly quickly but instead of the body burning up the reserve of food, it sends signals to the brain telling it that it needs more food to survive. So the obese patiant feels hungry again, even though they have just eaten.

This behaviour also explains the lazyness caused by being over-weight. A body starved of food (or at least not processing food properly) is less caipable of doing anything. As the individual’s size increases the more energy they have to expend in order to move around. This makes them more sluggish and hungrier at the same time.

For me this was a bit of a revelation, something I always knew was out of my control but the only medical opinions I could find suggested that I was wrong and it was something that I should be in control of. But, one of the things the book insists on is that you don’t take it at face value. So, I didn’t. I looked in to the papers listed in the Book and sought out current research on the subject. What Garry Taubes was saying seemed to be backed up by all of the available evidence.

Basically what was being suggested was a low Carb diet. Much like the Atkins programs Taubes claims this is the best and safest way to loose weight. I was sceptical at first as I had tried Atkins before and it didn’t work for me. But the advice in the book was slightly different to that of the more popular counterpart.

I resolved to try the steps in the book, taken from a study at Duke university. This was about five weeks ago and since then I have been loosing weight.

This brings me back to my trepidation at weighing myself. The last weigh-in saw me hit 22 stone 10 lbs. When I started, I was 24 stone, so I’ve done well so far although I didn’t loose any weight last week because of the comic relief event. It has actually changed my life doing this. I have more energy now, I have been told by friends that I am looking better but the real change has come from my attitude towards food.

Remember me telling you about the cravings that I used to get for food? Well, they’re gone. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made. It’s the main reason that diets have failed in the past for me. My energy levels have shot up as well and I am actually sleeping better. That’s a big claim for something so simple as changing the type of food I’ve been eating. I’m not even eating less, if anything I am eating more but I am eating what I am now told is the right thing. This time, however, I am seeing results so quickly that I think they’re right. I’m not even talking about the weight loss. I had extra energy and felt more awake from about the third day in.

So, imagine the scene. Monday morning. I’m in the bathroom ready to weigh myself… OK you don’t have to imagine it that closely. I step on the scales and all of this flashes before me. This is the moment of truth. So many diets have failed on similar Monday mornings when my weight has yet to move for a second or third week. I’m not asking for much, just a little movement down. Just a pound. And, there it is. 22 Stone 4 lbs. That’s six pounds over the last few weeks. On average, I have been loosing three pounds a week. That’s exactly what the researchers at Duke university said I should be loosing.

For the first time in 32 years I truly believe I have found an eating plan that is good for me, easy to stick to and actually shows some results. I will be interested to keep track of my progress and I’m sure this won’t be the last post I make on the subject. Until then, happy eating.

Definitely Deficient

After the protests over the deficits, the government has said that it has no plans to alter it’s tactics and is planning more cuts. We all seem to decry this. I have done so myself. I do sometimes wonder, however, if they haven’t got the right idea.

The basics of the plan is simple. We have, for some time, been spending more money than the country earns. We have been doing this by borrowing money. We need to pay this money back and the only way to do that is to re-appropriate the money we already have. So, the government has been cutting the money it spends on things in order to re-pay some of the money we owe.

It should be pounted out that we are not paying back the whole deficite in one go, like a mastercard bill. Most countries have a manageable deficite so the chances are we will be keeping that expendature at some level. What we shall be doing is removing a good portion of the debt to reduce the interest we have to pay. In the lonug run, this is something thay will give the country more money to play with, without having to put up tax… or at least, not at the rate it would have had to increase otherwise. Ultimately, that is a good thing. It’s actually something that I had been worried about for some time under Labour so for me, this is a good change.

I completely understand why people are worried about cutting too much. It is a natural reaction to have when we start to see some of our services suffer. The thing is, I can’t see another way out of the debt that Labour left us in.

The one good thing that has come out of this is the proof that we are willing to take to the streets for something that we believe in, even if our reasons are less than altruistic. Let’s make no bones about it, people are only protesting because they think they are loosing something.

I’m not sure we will be loosing as much as is claimed. The government doesn’t seem to think we shall be loosing anything and the protesters do. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between those two viewpoints. Actually most people agree that the cuts are needed and the only difference is the gornment want to make the cuts quickly and the public want some of thtle burden of cuts to be spread accross seberal years. To me, it doesn’t marter how these cuts happen, they are likely to happen anyway.

Please don’t take this as a comment that I am for the government in this topic. I am meerly saying that the cuts do seem to be giving us a benefit at the moment, all be it one that we won’t see for some time. Yes, some people are loosing their jobs because of this and that is a tragic thing at a time of resession. At the same time, it is not the job of government to employ the populous. Of course they will employ some people but employment should be coming from the private sector. We can’t pay for things that we can’t afford, surely?

Ultimately, if the government won’t back down then we shall have to wait and see what their policies do to the country. I hope that, in the long run, we shall all be better of. I’m sure we shal, unless big business gets too much of their own way, but thay is a subject for a new post.

The State of British Film

I am currently sitting and watching Harry Brown. I am enjoying it and will probably keep enjoying it until it’s over. This is a British film, some of the money for it having come from the, now sadly defunct, British Film Council.

Wanting to get in to film myself, I have looked at the different options that are available for funding. There are some funds out there but the more promising ones are taken up with the larger budget films or for encouraging young film makers. Perhaps that is how it should be. It definately seemed to work in ‘Film Council Britain’. What I feel there should be more of is funds for first time direcors. Take it away from the young. Not that I think the young should not get the chance but let them compete for it on a level playing field with people of all ages. After all, we might find that the best time for starting out in film is in your 30s or 40s.

I am heartened by films like Harry Brown and The King’s Speach because it proves that Britain still has something to say to the world and thay the world still wants to listen. It may be sceptical but I do sometimes wonder if we are universally hated by our cousins overseas, despite the quality of the output. The only problem with British film at the moment seems to be content.

The British seem to be able to make one of three types of film. Gritty gangster type films, Costume dramas or romantic comedy. Can you think of a recent British film that doesn’t fall in to one of those categories? They are around but you have to search to find them.

I suppose the most popular of these is Dog Soldiers. We do Horror terribly well too but we see so little of it since Hammer closed it’s doors in the 1980s. It seems quite clear to me that the production standards are there in this country to compete with any Hollywood movie. The one thing they have over there is the ability to fund it.

This brings me back to the first point really. Funding for films can not just come from the money made on the releases. Richard Curtis’ Working Title Productions might push some money back in to film production but they had to get that money in the first place. This is often done through private funding from people who are inaccessable to the likes of me, a just-starting-out nobody with no track record. Because of this, Working Title won’t see all of the money they would have made on production, the investor has to be paid first. This severely limits the amount of money they can push in to new productions. It’s the same for any other production company and this is the main problem. Unless there is some source for funding, new films can’t be made.

This brings me on to the final point I want to make. If there is no political will to fund popular culture then the film industry suffers. The closire of the film council is bound to have an effect on the working of the British film industry but we don’t know what that effect will be until we see it in action. Cameron is desperately trying to save money at the moment and that makes it difficult for him to spend money on popular culture, even if he wanted to. Perhaps when we have recouped some of the money that Labour borrowed we shall be able to spend on films again. Until then people like me will have to find there budgets elsewhere.

Big Red Hootenanny

About a week ago, I was involved in organising a party for Comic Relief. I was only a small cog in a big wheel, the bulk of the show organised by P. J. Montgomory. I hosted the show on the night (my first time doing standup in five years) and brought along equiptment for the bands who would be performing on the night. P. J sorted out some great prizes for an epic raffle held at the end of the night as well as the venu, the acts and everything connected with that. I’ve known about this since November and I have been writing since then to try and come up with material suitable for the show.

At the last minute I scrapped the Lot and decided to write something the night before the show. This is actually something I did a lot when I was performing before but something (I can only assume the onset of old age) meant that I can no longer remember things the way I used to. So it was an interesting night from my perspective.

I would have liked to have blogged about it at the time but it was a long night and I just can’t remember it anymore. Anyway, today I have been looking at the footage from the night and I have to say, it wasn’t half bad. I actually spent most of my time on stage performing comedy songs and I learned that the stuff I write by myself seems to go down better that the stuff that I had always thought was tried and tested. If you don’t know what I mean by that, I used to be in a comedy band performing other people’s material, loads of people wrote for us.

I suppose it is the onset of the same memory erasing old age that has made me look more closely at the material I write and perhaps the hootenanny will see me return to writing and performing stand-up. Certainly the few jokes I did went down well. These days, however, I just need to put it in to more of a rehearsed set.

All of this introspection is detracting from what I wanted to say in this blog. I really wanted to thank everyone who was involved in the night. Our headline act was the amazing Taylor Glenn. We also had acts from friends of ours Verity Smith and Andrew Davies.

In all, it was a good night where we raised over £500 for comic relief. We also released a single as well called Red on the Inside which is still available and I urge you to go and buy.

Thank you. To everyone who came, to everyone who laughed, to everyone who bought the single. You really did help us help comic relief make a difference.

Everybody needs good Androids

I might be blogging a little more from now on. I could make this a weekly thing or perhaps daily… OK I won’t go that far. If i can just find a little time to sit and concentrate, well that’s a start.

The reason for my extra bloggage is because of my new toy. It’s an Android tablet which is why I can…

Blog this bit from the privacy of my own loo. After all, what better place to sit and concentrate?

Now i could have done this with the iPhone as well and it’s true that I can’t take this tablet away from a wireless network and have the same benefits. Ipad owners among get you must be wondering why I prompted for such a device. Well the reason is simple really. I wanted an iPad but the damn things cost so much money. This Advent Vega from PC World cost me £250. That is around half the cost of the ipad and around a third less than the Galaxy Tab (which is a smaller device as well). After flashing the rom, I have access to all that the android has to offer with nearly as good a selection of apps as on the iPhone store. The major benefit for me is actually in the development.

When I first got my iPhone (actually it was when I got an iPod Touch) I loved the apps. I wanted to dig in to this world and make my own. So, I looked at how I might do that. If you are not a Mac owner then you are screwed. On top of the price of buying a computer you also have to buy a developer’s licence. I think the cost of that is around £100 per year. Expencive stuff if you are just a hobbyist.

Last year I thought all of my prayers were answered. Flash CS5 was released and with it the ability to write native iPhone applications. What happened? Apple decided that it didn’t like Adobe doing that and closed down there developer EULA so that you could only write apps in Objective C. What a waste of money for me and development time for Apple. With the android, I have none of those restrictions. I can make Alps to my heart’s content. Putting them on Marketplace is something I’ve not looked in to yet but (as I said before) I am a hobbyest first and foremost.

So, those are my reasons for going down the android route. It’s something I have yet to regret and I am looking forward to spending a lot of time working with the new tablet and making it my own. You should hear more from me as I can blog in the comfort of my sofa, bed, toilet or oven. It’s just like the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, and that makes me a very happy Steve.