Thursday 11 October 2018

Is It Just Me Or Are Fad Diets a Waste of Time and Money?

I had lunch with a friend the other day. While I tucked into a substantial salad she sipped a sad black tea and boasted that she had lost 9lbs on the Cambridge Diet, sticking to protein drinks - it sounded as though she was eating less than my small dog.

A fifth of British women are permanently dieting and many resort to ‘Fad’ diets, which work well in the short term, but when they finish most people regain the weight within six months.

I stopped fad dieting about two years ago, but I still am fascinated by the number of diets out there, including the Cotton Ball Diet the trick is to survive on cotton wool dipped in juice to make you feel full. Extreme or what? All these diets work in the short term, but the downfall is that they can ruin your natural metabolism. The body will get used to the extremely low caloric intake and eventually the speed of the metabolism slows down.

Unbelievably I was on the low carb Dukan Diet for 12 months and survived on expensive slithers of steak and prawns. I suffered bad breath and constipation but lost 5 kilos. However, every time I swapped the grilled steak for a Sunday roast, I put on a kilo or two so never dared progress to the maintenance diet. After a year I gave up completely, mostly out of boredom, and slowly the pounds piled back.

I tried the 5/2 Fast diet (you can eat normally for five days out of seven and ‘fast’ on 500 calories a day on the remaining two non-consecutive days) a few summers ago and discovered that it’s very hard to function normally on 500 calories a day. I survived on miso soup and diet coke, which seems unbelievable now. I know there are benefits to fasting, and particularly as we get older, but I think a monitored fast would be a better idea. Being allowed to scrabble around to find 500 calories seems too wayward an idea and it’s ongoing, weekly, rather than a fast that has a beginning and an end. A friend on the same diet told me she was so ravenous, “she could eat her children”. Yes quite, I really did relate.

I am now mostly vegetarian and so it would be almost impossible to do the Dukan very easily, but I have to say I’m searching around for something, I’m not sure what? I do need to lose a few pounds and can feel my resolve slipping quite fast. Anyone tried the Lemonade or the Blood Type Diet?


Thursday 3 August 2017


I have been a novelist and journalist all my working life, with some success –columns in The Times, Tatler and Easy Living, and three novels published – but with my children now at secondary school and more time to spare, I need another hook to add to my monthly earnings. During the last few years I have grown  my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook platforms and idly thought about managing platforms for others.

I offered my services to a local gift shop who were not going far on Instagram, but soon realised I had no clue how do manage platforms professionally. I kept hearing about Digital Mums, (they are very good at getting themselves in front of their target audience) and finally made the decision to bombard a kind woman in admissions with loads of questions.  I chose the programme partner course, which is open to people with a background in journalism or marketing, because I was drawn to the challenge of being set to work with a client straight away.

Ekwy and her Girls

When I discovered who my programme partner was, I panicked and rang Digital Mums, to say that my PP's business was way out of my comfort zone - botanical products specifically for Black hair. I worried that  I had no knowledge  how to care for black hair. I was offered another client, but I decided I was, in fact, more in tune with Equi Botanics.  I liked the idea that the products are #natural #crueltyfree and #vegan and that they are for women who are transitioning from weaves and wigs to keeping their hair natural. The political message interested me, it seemed outrageous that black women’s natural hair, was sometimes frowned upon in the work place or at school as being too messy and not conforming to white people’s standards. There were a few bumps at first, as we tried to understand where we were respectively coming from - as a white woman I got a few things wrong at first - but I began to feel passionate about the products and respect the founder, Ekwy enormously.

We were focusing on Brand Awareness, but the products had not yet launched, and that proved quite challenging. We had to work towards a competition and when we realised that products were not going to be ready as prizes, Ekwy agreed to make up ten bottles in her kitchen. I then literally forced her to film the procedure so that we could use it on Facebook and Twitter. She was very reluctant at first, but bravely went ahead. The short film was a huge success in terms of reach and engagement. 

I have always worked at home, so that was easy, but it was more difficult to embrace the business world with tools like Excel, spread sheets, figures and analytics that the course demands, (I have never been good at maths). Also at times, it seemed that every waking hour was taken up managing Equi Botanics’ campaign, and there were weeks when it all seemed exhausting and I had some sleepless nights worrying that it was all going to come crashing down.

I think when I finally chose a scheduling tool (I don’t think it was a co incidence that all my cohort chose the same one – Buffer – as I think we wanted to help each other along) and learnt how to use it,  that I relaxed a little and decided that maybe it was all going to be all right. I don’t think the course would have been possible without the other four women in our cohort. Although I have still not met them face-to-face, without their support on  What’s App and  Google hangouts, where we could moan and support each other, it would have been very difficult.

I was exceptionally pleased when the first Facebook Live of Ekwy and her children discussing their hair journeys, did fantastically well on Facebook, with a little help from a Facebook Ad boost. I was also thrilled when three key influencers on Twitter Retweeted our competition post after I sent them a Direct Message on Twitter.

I have just handed in my final report to Digital Mums and it's now August and I am about to go away. I want to find clients in the beauty or health industry, and I am also interested in supporting authors with their book campaigns, actors, musicians, film and theatre releases.  At this stage though I am open to everything that comes my way. Bring it ON!

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Ava our Rescue Dog from Cyprus

It's been a while since I last wrote a blog post, and during that time, I have become a woman who lives and sleeps and walks with a dog. My daughter campaigned for several years (about six) to get a dog and we finally succumbed last August when we saw Ava's photo on the Instagram account of Cyprus Dogs, an arm of the #Wildatheartfoundation.  I had looked for a rescue dog, filled with the mantra, "Adopt Don't Shop" Belle was 12 at the time; she turns 13 this week - a teenager - wish me luck. Our 15-year-old son was adamant that he would never walk the dog and made that clear before we even got her. Ava was two months old when we first saw her cute little puppy face on the Rescue Dog Instagram Account, and four months when she came to us. We had to fight off the competition to be her owner, as lots of people fell for her charms.

As she grew older our daughter had become increasingly desperate about the business of owning a dog.There were weeks when she would ask for a dog on a daily basis, the sense of urgency getting stronger. At one point, she claimed that her childhood would be ruined without a dog. A dog? I had always been a cat person. We have two cats, one large and tabby-like and one small and dark who came from #Batterseadogshome. I worried about how a dog would  fit into our lives? (I still haven't figured out exactly what will happen when we go away)I knew as we all knew that I would become the leader of the pack, the picker upper of dog poo, the one who walks twice a day, even though my daughter, promised passionately that she would be the one to be the official dog-walker. She is here in the photograph hugging Ava and she has set up an Instagram Account called #Avathelittledog.

I am surrounded by dog people: I have friends who are besotted with their dogs, and treat them like partners. My Dad keeps about four or five dogs, and they sleep in a 'boot room' and sometimes I worry that they are cold.  I used to feel sorry for the owners who scooped up dog poo whenever they went for a walk, but no longer.  I am no longer scornful when I see perfectly sane adult throwing a ball for their dog over and over again. I am now that woman who throws a rubber ball about twenty times while walking in the park. 

It's the people you meet who are so entertaining. The other dog owners. Of course you only know the names of their dogs initially, but soon you find out who they are. There are gilders, and musicians, and actors and set designers, yoga teachers and magazine website editors, all people I have met and talked to in my local park. I have watched Ava turn from a very shy puppy into a happy and confident dog. I have walked all through the winter and felt better for forcing myself outside. 

I love our dog, passionately. I have become one of those people, those crazy dog people!

Monday 7 March 2016

Going Grey Or Not? That Is The Question.

Marvellous Mary Beard is courageous for keeping her hair white particularly as she is in the public eye. I don't object to her full white head of hair, but if I was her stylist (not that she would ever agree to a stylist) I would ask her to cut it. I am obsessed with the white and grey hairs along my parting, which are gathering pace. I ignore it for a few days/weeks until the idea of it begins to loom larger than life. It gets to a point when I am talking to people and I'm wondering if they are noticing it; I become more and more conscious of the shadow of wiry white hair on the top of my head and wonder if that  is it all they can see when they look at me?  I say this knowing that most people won't notice too much, but there was a childish man at a party a few weeks ago, who mentioned "the white streak," on my head. (He also calls me "Keith" instead of Kate, going far back to some kind of in joke when he thought I looked like a man in a photograph - as you can see, he's quite a wind-up.)

I used to attend to the diminishing colour in my hair every few months, but I have noticed recently that the white/grey is sprouting more aggressively. When it becomes too obvious, I have a desperate need to cover it up, whether it’s by dashing to the hairdresser, using spay colour, Wow powder (see you tube video below)  or Daniel Field dye at home.  My wiry white and grey hairs appear around my parting. The bold white hairs look messy and let’s face it, ageing.  I wonder what do other women do? As their hair becomes whiter  more quickly do the majority dye it or accept it? I'm sure it must get to a point when it becomes overwhelming. Do dark-haired women use lighter streaks to make the white blend more easily? Do they become blond? How does it work? Do they dye once a week? Surely it would become too expensive to rush to the hairdresser every 10 days or so.

What do you all do?  Please give me some tips!

I will be looking at women in the street (for research) just as I used to when I became pregnant (when suddenly pregnant women were everywhere) or when I had my first child and noticed all the women pushing prams or carrying babies - they too were ubiquitous, now not so much. Recently I have clapped internally when I see older women celebrated and becoming more vital and respected. Why should the older woman be invisible?  There is a new model agency  for women over 35 and  documentaries  featuring fashion-conscious women. There are stylish women over 70  becoming faces of fashion houses - Joan Didion at Celine for example and there is the wonderful Diana Athill, aged 98 and still writing memoirs of her life, giving talks and being interesting. There are plenty of other examples I just don’t have the time to gather them all together.

I was dying my hair at the weekend when my children (age 14 and 11) asked me why.  I did not really give them a satisfactory reply. My son said that if all us women got together and stopped dyeing our hair than none of would have to. I think that if we are to celebrate becoming older, and making the concept less shameful perhaps we should stop dying our hair and botoxing our wrinkles. It should be called the grey haired revolution. But I don’t want to jump first and that is why I admire Mary Beard. Maybe it is just because we have access to botox and fillers and dye that we do remain "youthful" and therefore "vital" and "visible." Sad but true.  I noticed when I went to hear the great iconic feminist Gloria Steinham talk the other night, she was still beautiful and vibrant at 83. Her hair was coloured and there were rumours that she had had "work done." If she is a feminist and dyes her hair and lifts her face, then maybe its not so bad after all. That is what I will tell my kids when they next ask me. I will say:  for the moment, women have a job to remain visible in society and if grey doesn't look youthful on them, dyeing is the way to go.

Wednesday 30 December 2015


Inviting Guests Over:

When I’m feeling robust, having friends over for dinner seems like such a good plan, but sometimes even the idea of giving a dinner can make me feel weak.  Who to ask? What to eat? I love finding a dish I can prepare before (hate the stress of actually cooking while guests are milling around watching.) My husband is braver; he doesn’t mind sizzling some Red Snapper as the guests are sipping their cocktails. Often, to avoid the cooking anxiety, we find a recipe that works and use it for the next twelve months. We must have presented the same dish to our favourite friends at least two or three times, but hopefully they haven’t noticed or cared.

Once the decision has been made to actually have a dinner, it is time to invite the guests. It is virtually impossible to secure an unattached available man for a single girlfriend. We have one single man friend who has been rolled out several times a year for the last few years, but no match yet. The last time I invited five girlfriends together for dinner at my house, it took at least twenty emails over four days to find a mutually good date and once found and typed into diaries,  it had to be cancelled and renegotiated, as one of the girls discovered she wouldn't even be in London on the original date.

Stress Points/Preparing

Shopping for the dinner in my experience takes more than one excursion (inevitably something will have been forgotten: the vital herb, the sparkling water or the mustard) Or we have to go and buy something for the person who rings up a few hours before to say they can’t eat meat/wheat/gluten/pulses. One woman (a friend of my husband’s) emailed to say she had become a vegan and couldn't even eat honey. We had to remake the salad dressing.

Next we have to push all the surplus mess into the coat cupboard and dump the rest on our bed and plump up the sofa cushions. There is always somebody who arrives exactly on time, just as we are shouting at the children or the cat has thrown up a hair-ball.

Once the guests have accepted, things can still go wrong: The couple you really wanted suddenly have to dropout. Then it’s too late to ask anyone else. Or worse, the girlfriend you really wanted to see is now ill, but she’s going to send her husband anyway.

The Men Who Only Talk About Themselves:

There are times that I’ve been invited to dinner and found myself sitting next to a man who’s more than happy to answer questions about his life, his job, and his career, but doesn’t reciprocate by finding out anything about me. This is boring, ill mannered, arrogant and socially inept. Women don’t do this or at least not in my experience. The last time this happened was at a buffet style dinner. The man in question talked about the time he was studying in France. I heard about his difficulties at work and his son’s new school. We went on chatting about his life. And on. I waited for him to enquire about mine, but that never happened. I made my excuses and slipped away.

The Rude Host

Once we went to dinner with a girlfriend and her banker husband.  As the mint tea was being served, he yawned, looked at his watch and announced to the assembled guests that he was going to bed as he had to get up early. It was ten fifteen. He then turned to his wife and demanded that she should come too. It seemed awkward and odd to stay in the shiny kitchen without our hosts and after ten minutes we all left.

The Cooking Bore

I dread the cooking bore. There are a couple of men we know who fancy themselves as a bit of a Heston or Jamie. One perfectly nice divorced man used to ask us over for 8pm.  By nine we would wonder what was happening about the food, and at nine thirty, after enquiring politely about what we were going to eat, he would start cooking. We would stand around with glasses of wine, watching him beat and marinate the steak. We would be salivating, starving and drunk by the time the food was served at ten thirty, and ready for bed.  We tried turning up half an hour later the next time, but that just meant dinner was served at eleven.

Getting Out of The House

The thing about going out to dinner mid-week is that I am usually tired before we’ve left the house. My normal ideal is to eat with the children at six o clock, have a bath at six thirty, and pajamas on by seven. So when we are invited out to dinner and it’s time to get ready, I momentarily feel exhausted. How am I going to cope with eating so late? Drinking?  Toying with chocolate pudding that I know will keep me up? And who will I be sitting next to? That man who only talks about himself? What am I going to wear? How much makeup do I have to slap on to camouflage the grey bags under my eyes? Mostly my fears are unfounded. Once I’m there it’s all fantastic and fun and we leave feeling warm and glowing and happy. It's only the morning after that the one glass of wine and the chocolate pudding and the fact that I've been unable to sleep till two, that the slump hits.

The Couple Who Leave Early

In fact hosting a dinner party is more of a risk. Things could be going really well until the couple who have a “teenage babysitter leaving at eleven,” stand up and announce that
they have to go. When the kids were young, I was guilty of saying this exact same thing. Knowing you’d be up at six meant you really had to go to bed by midnight, or life the next day would not be worth living. But the problem is that when someone leaves prematurely, the party potentially breaks up. Then you are faced with a deluge of dirty dishes and the inevitable hangover. But when you’ve cooked something delicious, the wine is just right, the friends get on, everybody has laughed,  it’s late but not too late, the pile of plates just remind you of what a good time you all had.

Friday 19 June 2015

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Escape the City - The Park Club

My local health Club, The Park Club in Acton has been open for 15 years. None of us who go there regularly with our children can imagine life without it.  If that sounds spoilt and reminiscent of FIRST WORLD problem in a first world country please stay with me. What  I am trying to say is that life would not be so colourful and manageable without it.  It's an oasis in the City, a break from the sirens, crowds, and pollution. I had been thinking about joining when the club first opened, but the crunch came when I took my toddler daugther (she's now 11) swimming in my local West London Park. She didn't have  a swimsuit to paddle in the shallow concrete pool so she stripped off to her pants and tee-shirt. Half an hour later, a park policeman arrived, ordered her to put her clothes on, and arrested a shady man who was hiding behind a tree.

From then on we went swimming at the Park Club, mostly in the outdoor pool. It's a saviour for those of us who have miniature outdoor spaces.   We could potentially squeeze in a 10' trampoline, (which my daughter desperately wants) into our 'garden' but that's all it could fit.  My son once insisted on installing a football goal in our diminutive patio, and the kids were literally standing in one flower bed to kick the ball two metres into the net which rested precarioulsy against the fence on the other side. The goal lasted a few weeks before it collapsed. Both sets of neighbours were justly relieved that footballs were no longer being lobbed over our trellis into their superior, patios, bedecked not with goals or trampolines, but ferns, and potted plants.

My children have spent hours at the Club playing football, tennis, cricket, making dens and eating supper with friends.  I have spent many mornings working in the bar with my co-writer, or sunning myself on the terrace. I practice Pilates andYoga there, and have just been told by a physiotherapist to use a crosstrainer  to help my weak knee. The gym and I have never really got on that well, but I am glad to have some kind of incentive to get there.

The Club already already seems huge with a massive outdoor swimming pool and 27 acres of land (the only problem being that children literally disappear in the grounds and its not always possible to leave when you want to)  But there are plans to make it even bigger. It has submitted a Planning Application to increase the size by %35 and install new studios, a hydrotherapy pool, steam baths, upgraded restaurants, a new top floor with natural light and a 50 metre pool. Bring it on.

Is It Just Me Or Are Fad Diets a Waste of Time and Money?

I had lunch with a friend the other day. While I tucked into a substantial salad she sipped a sad black tea and boasted that she had lost 9...