Disqus for Where Are My Knees

Super Easy & Low ProPoint Fake Carbonara

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

It suddenly occurred to me to make this recipe the other day, and I was pleasantly surprised when I worked out the points. This has always been my go-to comfort food recipe, which my sister taught me. It's not really carbonara of course - real carbonara has cream and eggs and stuff in it but this is really yummy and creamy and comforting and tasty. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

What it is, is crazy easy and I'm sure we're not the first people to use mushroom soup as a sauce! Anyway, I don't really think of this as a diet recipe because it's so easy and so hearty - and, truthfully, the way I cooked until recently isn't particularly healthy! But by making it with your diet in mind, you don't lose any flavour but save a whole heap of calories.

This makes 4 servings, but if you upped the pasta it would probably stretch to 5. I like it saucy, though. :)

Super Easy Fake Carbonara
1 Can Bachelors or Campbells Low Fat Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup - 4PP
5 Bacon Medallions (Smoked or Unsmoked) - 3PP
8 tbsp semi skimmed milk (roughly) - 2PP
210g Pasta (uncooked weight) - 20PP
75g Low Fat Cheese, Grated - 6PP
8 mushrooms - 0PP
1 onion - 0PP
2 leeks - 0PP
=35PP (9PP per serving)

To reduce points: Reduce or leave out the cheese, use skimmed milk, use smaller pasta portions, stretch the sauce over more portions of pasta, use less bacon

1 - Prepare the pasta as per the packet instructions.
2 - Chop up your bacon and fry in a non-stick frying pan or wok.
3 - Whilst that's cooking, chop up your onion and mushrooms (and any other vegetables you fancy - this time I added leek which was SO good) and then throw in with the bacon. I usually add a clove of garlic at this point too.
4 - Let the bacon and vegetables cook for 10 minutes or so or until the onions are soft.
5 - Throw in the can of soup and add your milk, stirring until well combined with the meat and veg. Add any seasoning you fancy - a pinch of rosemary and of thyme is pretty tasty.
6 - Add the cheese to your pan and stir into the sauce.
7 - When your pasta is cooked, add that to the pan and stir in. And that's it! Eat it up. It also freezes really well, so make it in bulk and pop a few portions in the freezer.

This is only 9PP a portion, unbelievably! It's super tasty without it but you can add extra cheese on top if you have points to use up. I've also upped the pasta portions from the standard 40g per person to 52g a person (which I now realise is a weird number but I was trying to up it by 1 point per person) which to be honest with you was the perfect amount - not too much or not too little. Or, keep the points low and then have pudding. :)

Sunday Summary

Sunday, 24 February 2013

We have a sad little update to share with you this week...

Lauren - Unfortunately due to work/life commitments, this will be my last Sunday Summary as part of Team Where Are My Knees?. I'm extremely sad to be going and I've loved my time as a part of the team, but unfortunately I can't commit to it fully at the moment (as I'm sure you've noticed from my absence over the last few weeks) and it's not fair on you guys or the rest of the team. Even though I seem to be on an extended weight loss hiatus at the moment, I haven't given up and I will continue to document my progress over on A Little Less Of Lauren, as and when I actually have any progress or any time to update about it, that is. I would like to say a massive thank you to all of Team WAMK for being so wonderful, and particularly to Sarah and Gemma for bringing me on board. The guys have already agreed to have me guest post from time to time, so you haven't seen the last of me yet! All my love and good luck to you all with your weight loss and fitness endeavors!

Sarah V - So sad to lose Lauren as part of the team. :( On personal news I have had a really good week, I've lost 2.5lbs which brings me just 0.5lbs away from a stone! I had a sneak peek at the scales last night and I THINK I've done it but I'll know for sure at my weigh-in tomorrow. My WW buddy and I have been trying to spend our time kickstarting our weightloss - we went on a 6 mile walk yesterday (I clocked over 20,000 steps on my pedometer!) and then made WW pork burgers for tea. I also had a booze-free weekend which I'm hoping will help. I do love a glass (or three) of red wine but alcohol is so calorific, and it makes me so snackish!

Rosie -Boohoo, bye Lauren - sad face! This week my boyfriend was away all week so I filled the house with healthy foods and pre-prepared oatmeal pancakes for breakfast and made lunches the night before.  I was chuffed when I'd lost a lb on Friday however I have probably put it all back on this weekend as we had take-away pizza on Friday and then I went out for lunch at a blogging event on Saturday.  Lately I seem to be really good at eating well and eating clean through the week and then I treat myself over the whole weekend and undo all my hard work.  I need to get better at isolating treats to one meal a week or a couple of nice things on one day rather than over two or three days.

Sarah - I have struggled this week, I have been mostly on plan but had two off plan meals out and some of the sticky toffee pudding I baked yesterday (couldn't resist, it smelt SO good!) but boy did I feel rough for it today.  I thankfully stayed the same (I really expected a gain) and have come to the conclusion that I really shouldn't eat wheat.  I will never not bake and will always want to try at least a little of my sweet treats and have made the decision to move to wheat free flour, it's not worth the headaches or bloating for the real thing.   If you bake with Doves flour let know how you alter a standard recipe please!

Gemma - This week has been a struggle and I didn't stick to my no alcohol rule. I didn't manage to weigh on Tuesday but I'm hoping that I maintained. I don't have any plans next week and hope to stick to the WW plan ridgidly all week so I can treat myself on Saturday when I go for afternoon tea. I've done a shop and got lots of healthy soups and salads for lunch so no excuses!

Bye, bye Lauren!  Good luck with your journey, you always know where we are (You can't get rid of us lot that easily!) How has your week been?

How stay on track on special occasions

Thursday, 21 February 2013

I've been following the Weight Watchers plan for over two years now and I have come to the conclusion that you should never pass up a night of great food, wine and fun because you are afraid of going over your ProPoints allowance. I'm no stranger to a cocktail on the weekend and going for coffee and cake with friends but I still manage to stay within my budget. You can diet and have a social life, you just need to get the balance right.

Here are some of my top tips for eating out and staying on track:
  • Check the ProPoints values of what’s on offer before you eat out and make wise decisions. Plan this into your budget, order first so you aren't swayed by other peoples choices and you will see a good result at the scales. The Weight Watchers site has plenty of information about what foods have low points but you can also use an Eating Out guide (I keep a copy in my handbag) or you can use the app if your meal out is unplanned and want to know the ProPoints in a hurry.
  • If you think you are be in danger of going over your daily ProPoints budget you could have a light lunch, maybe a zero point vegetable soup or do some exercise to earn activity points.
  • Don’t eat the bread/olives/popadoms before the main course arrives – they’re just extra calories that you don’t need.

  • Don’t be afraid to tell the waiter or waitress that you would like your vegetables served without butter or your salad without dressing. Restaurant should be able to adapt meals to your requirements.

    Remember, if you are following the Weight Watchers plan then you have a weekly ProPoints budget of 49 so stop worrying, blow the lot on cocktails and enjoy yourself ;)

Low point Fajitas

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

It's so hard being good sometimes when you are with friends. We're a social bunch and when we're all together, there's a big emphasis on eating and drinking lots. Aaand lots. This would be why I am on Weight Watchers!

The other week a couple of my girl friends came round and I volunteered to cook. I wanted to do something really tasty, but not all like *jazz hands* 'Hey guys, I'm on a DIET!' So I decided to try out fajitas, but with Weight Watchers in mind. Fajitas are actually great for this kind of thing - the general filling is pretty low fat if you use chicken or fish (I don't eat seafood, so that sounds gross to me) - it's just the sauces and cheese etc that add calories! You can even still offer all those things to your friends, just avoid them yourself.

At 16PP it's not the lowest, but as always, I've listed some ways you can cut out points below. I normally have porridge for breakfast and soup for lunch, so I was able to eat this for dinner without going over my points allowance.

Fajitas Points Values
Old El Paso Fajita Kit:
2 x tortillas per person - 8PP
1/3 packet seasoning mix - 1PP (tbh I usually only use 1/2 packet for everyone)

1 chicken breast 4PP
1/3 Tesco mini tex mex dips (70g each) 3PP
Tesco Fresh Salsa 0PP
Lots of salad & vegetables!
=16PP per Person

To reduce points - Just use salsa as a dip, use less of the seasoning mix or create your own, use Weight Watchers tortilla wraps (3PP a wrap and they are about the same size as the 4PP Old El Paso ones), use less chicken and more vegetables

1 - Cook the chicken in the fajita mix and then add the chopped veg (onions, mushrooms, peppers)
2 - When 1 is complete, microwave the tortilla wraps for 30 secs
3 - Pile all the stuff in the wrap and eat, served with lots of salad, whilst getting it all over your face, inevitably.

Another way to bulk this out would be to add butternut squash wedges which are free!

PS - I'm on the hunt for more UK Weight Watchers blogs as I'm always wanting more recipes to try out! Please let me know your recommendations, or if you have one yourself! :)

Sunday Summary 87

Monday, 18 February 2013

Another week down, how did you get on this week?

Sarah - I had a bit of a wobble this week albeit a semi planned wobble.  I baked a cake for Gray for Valentines and after some mean period pains last night I decided to indulge in a slice.  It was really good and made me feel a whole lot better, sometimes you need a bit of comfort food!  I have stayed the same this week so still on -14lbs this year.  I am planning on a few evening walks this week so weather please be kind, I'm not dedicated enough to go out in the rain!

Gemma - Another 1/2lb off this week which is great considering the amount of vodka and rum I had on the weekend, pancakes and other naughty things I have indulged in. I've got a few dresses that I bought before Christmas that are too tight at the moment which are providing my inspiration to start shifting some weight. I don't have much planned this week and will be saying no to alcohol until a party on the 9th so hopefully I will be 4lbs lighter by then and able to wear my lovely polka dot Topshop dress.

Sarah V - I was gutted to find out that I gained this week! Only 0.5lbs but it was a surprise. Although I was good all week, there are potential reasons so I'm trying not to beat myself up about it! But it was still a bit of a blow after such a good run. I'm back on it this week though - and as well as eating right, I've also done loads of exercise this weekend - so I'm really hoping to have lost in my weigh-in tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Rosie - I usually weigh myself on a Saturday but after a Valentine's meal in, a Valentine's meal out (I don't have two boyfriends, we just celebrated twice!) and then having brunch with a friend on Saturday I can't quite bring myself to step on the scales.  Knowing I'd already done damage to my week of being good I then gave in to ice cream and chocolate last night and polished off a packet of chocolate fingers today.  Onwards and upwards though and I've done a super healthy food shop for this week and will be walking the dog and doing an exercise DVD every morning and going swimming in the evenings so I can blast away those cheeky lbs I will have gained this weekend.

Be sure to update us on your progress!

Spaghetti Bolognese

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

It's a little embarrassing to put Spaghetti Bolognaise on here because it's such a classic recipe, I'm sure if you've cooked before, you've made it! Low-fatting it up is really simple though - it's all about using lean mince or adding massive amounts of vegetables! Again this is from the app, but I've doctored it quite a lot...

This allegedly serves 4 but mine was so huge with the amount of veg I added, it could have stretched to 5 portions, easily.

Spaghetti Bolognese
4 sprays Frylight - 0PP
500g Extra Lean (5% fat) Beef Mince - 16PP
160g Spaghetti (uncooked) - 16PP
1 Stock Cube (Veg, Beef or Chicken) made with 200ml hot water - 1PP
1 carton Passata - 0PP
1 can chopped Tomatoes - 0PP
= 33PP (9PP per serving)

Whatever vegetables you like - go nuts! I used:
1 large Onion, chopped
1/2 large Courgette, chopped
4 small Carrots, chopped
1 red Pepper, chopped
7 mushrooms, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped

Seasoning - again, go nuts! I used:
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp smoked Paprika
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of oregano, rosemary, basil
1/2 tsp chilli
Salt & Pepper

To reduce points - use less spaghetti or less (or no) mince, but the quantities are not huge to start with.

1 - Boil the spaghetti according to the package instructions
2 - Use a large saucepan or a wok and spray with FryLight, then add the mince and cook over a high heat. Don’t stir immediately, as you want the meat to really brown on the base, so give it a few moments – then turn to sear and brown on all sides.
3 - Add everything else and cook for 30 minutes with the lid on to enable the vegetables to soften.
4 - Add any further seasoning you fancy, stir it all up and then leave for 5-10 minutes with the lid off to bubble away and to reduce down
5 - All done? Drain the spaghetti, then split the spaghetti over 4 plates and then add the sauce on the top.
6 - Eat! You can even add 20g of low fat cheese on top of each portion for an extra 1PP.

NB: I made this again recently with the same amount of mince, but I upped the vegetables (2 onions, 2 peppers, 2 courgettes etc) and added another portion of pasta and it still made 5 massive portions. Because of that it ended up at only 7PP! So I added some olives and a glass of red wine and it was seriously delicious, and still worked out at just 8PP. So amazing if you want a low point dinner!

Sunday Summary 86

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Hi everyone, have you had a good week?

Sarah V - I really feel like I'm in the swing of Weight Watchers now and gratifyingly that's reflecting in the scales - I lost 4lbs this week which makes it 11.5lbs in total in a month! I am crossing my fingers that I will have done 2.5lbs in my weigh in tomorrow, marking my first stone, but I think that's probably wishful thinking - even though I've stayed on plan this week, I think the few glasses of wine I had last night might affect things a little. But as long as I keep seeing a loss, I'll be happy! :)

Gemma - I lost 1lb this week, hurrah! All my walking has been paying off and my trip to Paris didn't do the damage I thought it would. I had pastries but I also walked for about 8 hours a day around the city so it balanced out the bad food choices. This week is going to be tricky with pancakes, valentines and a night out but I'm going to try my best to be as good as I can. Do you have any good low fat pancake topping ideas?

Chris - The most exiting thing that happened to me this week was this:

That's right; I went and bought myself some new gym trainers. I'd been wearing a pair of Karrimor trainers, but in truth they weren't entirely suited to the heavy aerobics that comes with a Body Attack class. As such, every jump was uncomfortable and a little bit jarring - which is why I decided to go out and grab something new. I bought the shoes you can see above; a pair of Asics Cumulus 13s. They were pricey, but when it comes to making sure I don't smash my shins into a million pieces, I'd rather spend the money. So this week, I became a leading expert on gym shoes, is basically what I'm trying to say.

Sarah - Yay!! This week I have lost 1.5lbs bringing my total weight loss to a whole stone.  14lbs down and only 14-21lbs to go.  All without adding in any exercise yet!  I am loving this plan and feel so much better in myself - review on the plan to come soon!

Rosie - I lost 1lb this week, I feel slimmer though which I count as a more accurate and rewarding measure of whether the healthy eating and exercise is paying off.  I'm really enjoying swimming at the gym/spa I've joined and seeing myself in a swimsuit or bikini every couple of days is certainly motivation to tone up in time for when I'll be wearing swimwear in a beach in company rather than just in front of strangers at the gym!

How have you found this week?

Move More, Sit Less

Saturday, 9 February 2013

I find a certain aspect of my weight loss very tricky... exercise. I HATE IT. I have so many things to do when I get home from work like look at Dr Who gifs on tumblr and take photos of my dog and put them on instagram. Joking aside, I work long hours and commute for a couple of hours each day so the last thing I want to do in the evening is hit the gym. 

Our modern lifestyle is making us more sedentary than ever before and I sit at a desk for about 7 hours a day, sit on the sofa from about 7-10 when I get home, cook food, hang out with my family and then go to sleep. This is not good and the past couple of weeks I have been trying to make some changes and increase my activity levels.

I asked my self what small changes can I make to get more activity into my day? I thought the best way to start moving more would be to go for walks on my lunch break. Sitting down all day in the same stuffy building isn't much fun so I have really been enjoying these walks and getting some fresh air. I've been packing lunches like salads and wraps instead of soups and things that need to be warmed so I can eat them while I'm out in the park. Cathays park is such a lovely area with pretty university buildings so I wish I started these lunch time walks months ago. I've also started to wear my pedometer to work out if I'm achieving a healthy amount of activity. The pedometer tracks your steps and distance as well as calculating how many ProPoints you have earned so they are a really handy tool while losing weight.

All the extra activity has payed off because I managed to lose 1/2 lb last week even though I went on holiday to Paris and had a few sneaky macarons and pastries. I printed off a map, and walked around Pairs instead of getting the metro and I did a walking tour of the Marais district. I was on my feet all day for the entire weekend.
I've enjoyed the walking so much that I've ordered a pair of trainers and want to earn some activity ProPoints for the weekend so I can enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty. I'm also thinking of going for a jog and talking my dog, she has a few too many dog treats and could do with a jog too.

Have you got any tips to help me move more and shift a bit more weight?

Turkey & Spinach Pasta Bake

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

This is another recipe from the Weight Watchers app - I'm working my way through them! I love the app, it's making tracking so simple and is a lifesaver in the supermarket. This dish was really easy and really tasty. Oooh, I love a bake! You can do all the washing up while they cook, too! I felt like this was under-salt, so if I made it again, I'd be sure to add salt to the pasta water and maybe the soup.

Again, I added vegetables - mushrooms, onions, courgette and peppers. You could add anything you want, really.

This makes 4 servings.

Turkey & Spinach Pasta Bake
500g Turkey breast - 12PP
200g spinach - OPP
160g pasta (white, uncooked) - 16PP
1 can Bachelors/Campbells mushroom or chicken condensed low fat soup - 4PP
125ml semi skimmed milk - 2PP
80g low fat cheese - 6PP
4 sprays Frylight - 0PP
1 onion - 0PP
1 pepper - 0PP
Few mushrooms - 0PP
1 courgette - 0PP
Seasoning - 0PP
= 40PP (10PP per serving)

To reduce points - use fresh pasta, cut out the cheese, use skimmed milk, use less (or no) turkey

1 - Start cooking your pasta as per the packet instructions.
2 - Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C. Heat a wok or large non stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Spray with the cooking spray and stir-fry the turkey for 6 minutes, until browned all over.
3 - When the turkey is cooked, add the vegetables until they are cooked. I threw in some garlic at this point too.
4 - Put the spinach in the wok with the meat and vegetables and steam with the lid on for 1 minute until it starts to wilt. It'll look like loads, but it reduces massively
5 - Pour the soup into a jug. Pour the milk into the empty can and top up with enough water to fill the can, then stir this into the soup.
6 - Pour the soup mixture into the wok and mix everything together
7 - Add the pasta to the wok and stir until the sauce covers it
8 - Put everything in an ovenproof dish and add any further seasoning, and the cheese if you're using it
9 - Cover the dish tightly with a lid or foil and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the lid or foil, spray with the cooking spray and cook for another 10 minutes until the top begins to turn golden. Serve immediately.

Sunday Summary 85

Sunday, 3 February 2013

How have you all been getting on this week?

Sarah - Yesterday marked 31 days following the Harcombe Diet and I am happy to say that whilst I didn't lose the 14lbs I was aiming for I got pretty close, I lost 12lbs and a total of 5" from my waist, tummy and hips.  Blooming brilliant!  As someone who struggles to lose weight consistently this change of lifestyle has amazed me and even though it is restrictive I have had no problems sticking to it other than for planned occasions such as my birthday, that in itself is a miracle!  I feel so much healthier, more alert and awake and am actually looking forward to introducing some exercise soon to see what that does to my results.  I have lost another 0.5lb this morning bringing my total loss for this week to 3.5lbs.

Gemma - Is living it up in Paris this weekend, ooh la la!

Sarah V - I've had another really good week on Weight Watchers. I feel a bit like I'm part of a cult because I cannot stop singing its praises but I can't get over how easy I'm finding it! At my weigh-in on Monday, I lost another 1.5lbs, meaning I've now lost 7.5lbs in three weeks. My next weigh-in is tomorrow and I'm pretty confident I've lost again. I've been on-plan for about a month now and I haven't slipped at all, thanks to the 49 weekly points which mean I don't feel guilty about a meal out or a cheeky few glasses of wine. I'm eating plenty (you should have SEEN the size of the lasagne I had on Friday, all for 11 points!) and I'm even having chocolate every day. I think the reason it's working for me is because it's encouraging me to have a little bit of what I fancy, rather than depriving myself of treats for weeks on end and ending up having a huge binge. Also, it's helped me to rediscover my love for cooking, which I will keep sharing with you all on Wednesdays!

Chris - The likelihood is, if you're reading this, you've seen my nipples. That feels a little bit odd, but I'm glad I wrote it - and the comments underneath the piece and in my Twitter feed were lovely and supportive as well. I'm thinking about chronicling my battle with my extra skin over the next twelve months, so look out for more photos of me in the (partial) nip in the next year. That's both a promise and a threat.

Meanwhile, I'm still hitting the gym for 6-7 classes a week; I'm really enjoying pushing my body; challenging myself to do things that 6 months ago I would have found impossible. I don't really monitor my weight too strictly anymore, as the weight training I do made me put on a stone in the last 4-5 months or so, but I've definitely shifted any Christmas excess now, and I'm determined to spend this year focusing more on toning and shaping the haggard old mess that is my body.

Rosie - My boyfriend was away this week so I took the opportunity to really put a lot of effort into exercising and eating healthily.  I got up at 6am every day, did 40 minutes of an exercise DVD and then took my dog for a half an hour walk.  I ate nothing but good, healthy foods (minus a dinner out when Tom came home on the Friday) and made healthy lunches every evening to take to work the next day.  So I was pretty shocked when I'd actually put on a lb when I weighed myself.  My biggest frustration is my belly - I actually got quite upset today when I looked in the mirror to see that my arms are looking slimmer but my stomach still looks like I'm about to pop out a baby! I guess I will just keep at it though I can't help feeling a little downhearted!  I've been to the gym and swimming twice this weekend so I'm hoping all my hard work will eventually pay off.

Lauren - I thought I'd finally found my mojo this week, even after having a 49 propoints 'desk dinner' of Papa Johns on Monday evening. Then Thursday hit and its been downhill since then! I'm sick of saying 'this week will be perfect' when I know it won't, so I'm not going to bother saying that. Instead I'm just going to try to make it 'better'. I think it might be time for me to step away from Weight Watchers for a while and figure out what I want and how I'm going to shift the last couple of stone, because I'm stuck in a serious rut and have been for months. If anyone has any tips or recommendations then let me know!!!


Friday, 1 February 2013

WARNING: There are a couple of things in this post that might put you off your tea. It's also not exactly NSFW, but you might get weird looks if you have this post open in somewhere like an office or an internet cafe. You have been warned.

There are two things about losing weight that many people don't talk about.

They're things that people sort of like to pretend don't exist; that they magically fix themselves, or that they just go away of their own accord, taken away by the fat fairies as they finally fly away as you reach the arbitrary goal weight you set yourself.

I'm talking, of course, about the two headed terror of stretch marks and loose skin.

Yeah. It's gonna be a difficult one this, I'm sorry.

As you might know, I lost 100lbs (about seven stone) between May and November 2011. Here's a comparison.

In case you don't fancy doing the maths, I lost that weight in six months, which means that on average I was losing more than a stone a month. I promise I didn't use any tricks other than following the Slimming World plan to the letter (no faddy pills, supplements or starvation techniques here, thanks), but the fact remains that I lost a shedload of weight in a fairly short amount of time - and as a result...

Well, as a result I sort of resembled the frame of a two man tent with the outer layer of a four man tent draped over the top of it, like the lazy, hypermetropic attempts of a Glastonbury victim who can't shake off the last of the Ket they got given by that bloke in the cider tent. The skin on my stomach hangs off my frame like an old sack full of mayonnaise.

I exaggerate a little of course, but the fact remains that before I essentially declared war on my loose skin at the start of 2013 and started doing a LOT of toning and conditioning exercises, I had a huge amount of loose skin on my stomach and under my arms - signs that my skin simply couldn't keep up with the rate my body had shrank back in 2011 while I was dieting in a pretty hardcore way. I'd put the work in to lose weight, I'd finally got my BMI down to what was considered 'healthy' (just), and I was the lightest and the healthiest I had been for a very long time, but was I happy with how I looked?

Excuse my language, but was I balls. I was still wobbly and lumpy, and when I lay on my side the skin on my stomach and chest would sort of sag downwards and slump like half set jelly on whatever I was lying on. The pictures above represent a lot of work

In truth, I was gutted. Mortified that I had turned down so many sweets, stared at so many plates of greenery while my friends tucked into fried sausages in batter coated in cheese, wrapped in sugar then caramalised, turned into syrup and mixed with jelly babies and coca-cola (I may be lying here) and cycled so many miles in soaking rain and parching sun - and I still looked, to my mind at least, fat.

I certainly wasn't ready to go anywhere topless, for example (a large reason why I've not been on holiday abroad in ten years, and why I do absolutely everything at the gym except swim), and I still spent my days pulling t-shirts down constantly just in case someone caught sight of my knackered old stomach.

Furthermore, the stretchmarks I'm covered with hadn't vanished like I had deluded myself into thinking they would:- from the age of about 17 I have suffered terribly with the red little buggers, and as I both got taller and put on weight I was powerless to stop them snaking across my body, pretty much from my stomach to my shoulders, then down to just past my elbows - some of them centimetres wide and so deep they left noticable scars on my skin like I'd been hit by a hundred tiny asteroids. If you look at the photos above you can probably see them on my stomach and shoulders - once I started losing weight I told myself that they would at least get better, and that anyway, once I reached my target I wouldn't care so much about them because while I might not have washboard abs, my stomach would at least be the same shape as everybody else's.

Turns out I was wrong.

But here's the thing - I wasn't wrong in the way you might think I am. I was actually wrong about just how great other people look without their clothes on.

I know that's a weird sentence, but hear me out.

It wasn't until I started visiting the gym that I discovered that a lot of guys have imperfections just like me; and they're perfectly happy to wander round a changing room with them all out (in fact, some of them are happy to wander around with everything out:- my first experience of that changing room was walking into it and being greeted by a man in his mid sixties, fresh out of the shower and naked as the day he was born, bent double as he looked for a key he had just dropped), and it made me realise that almost nobody looks as good as you think they do without any clothes on - even the hatefully fantastic people you stare at enviously in the gym for daring to be so perfect probably have their fair share of lumps and wobbles. Almost nobody has absolutely nothing about their body they're not proud of, and while I still think it's admirable to want to get rid of those wibbles and wobbles where possible, realising that having them doesn't make you a disgusting freak of an outcast is a big step, and a very important one too.

So do I still hate my loose bits? Well, yes and no.

I hate them because I still worry about other people seeing them day-to-day: in work it's well known that I spend a lot of time at the gym, and one of my friends is insistent that I must have great abs by now, so the thought of having to admit that actually, even though I spend 7 hours or more in the gym every week and watch what I eat constantly, I still have a bigger, saggier stomach than those people who are complaining that they're getting fat as they get older, drinking and eating whatever the hell they like whenever they like. If you'll excuse my being childish for a second, it just doesn't seem fair, and it upsets me a tiny bit every single day.

However, the fact that I even have this problem means I can't properly hate them. This is a problem I have because I have lost seven stone in weight. I am the healthiest I have ever been right now. I lift weights and do aerobic workouts in the gym that two years ago I wouldn't even have believed my body was capable of doing. I go on twenty mile bike rides when 24 months ago 2 miles was an almost unattainable goal. I'm now of the opinion that when it comes to exercise, I can do anything I want to if I want to do it enough. Doing two classes at the gym used to seem like an impossible feat, but one day I decided I was going to do it - and I did. And the next week, and the next week.

This is so unlike the old me, I can barely remember what it was like being the old me. I hated the old me, so I can't hate the reminders that I'm not him any more. (God that sentence was convoluted. I'm sorry).

Don't get me wrong; I still want rid of my saggy stomach. I still want to tighten up the loose skin under my arms. I still wish I wasn't covered in stretch marks. I'm still going to do everything I can to get rid of all of these things, and as long as I'm still seeing improvements (which I currently am, if extremely slowly), then I'm going to keep doing everything I can to make these problems go away.

The difference is, from now on I'm going to try to see these little things as battlescars. Signs of my previous battles, souvenirs and reminders that I have achieved an awful lot - and while I still have a long way to go (and I might actually never win the war...), I should be damned proud of what I've done.

I'm really sorry if any of the pictures, words or mental imagery used in this post made you queasy, upset or blind. Sue me if you like, I've got no money anyway.