Amateur Hour tips for Weight Loss

If you’re feeling the need to lose a few pounds for the new year, you have my sympathies. I am very amateur at this process, but have found a few useful hints along the way. I am not a medical doctor nor qualified to be a weight loss counsellor – any weight loss programme should only be undertaken through consultation with your doctor – these are just things I’ve found personally helpful.


  1. I decide that I’m in it for the long haul – I’m thinking of it as a year’s project to eat more healthily
  2. I decide what I aim/need to lose and then break it down into smaller goals
  3. I expect to be more energetic as I lose weight
  4. I realise that I may get support from friends, but I myself am my best encourager and coach
  5. I am aiming to do a Personal Best, not be the Slimmer of the Year
  6. As I’m overweight, I owe it to my body to decrease the load on it, especially as I get older
  7. A trusted friend read in a science report that every one pound of weight you lose, takes 4 lbs of pressure off your knees. So when I have a time when I ‘only’ lose one pound, I remember that my knees are happy
  8. I will have a more exciting choice of clothing in shops and look better in them
  9. I’ll look younger



I’m not going to obssess about food but instead make it a small part of my life

I get unhelpful foods out of my sight and have helpful foods to hand

I get rid of thinking about food as much as possible by having a week’s list of what I’ll eat each day for breakfast, lunch and tea. Also, a matching food list, so I buy all the ingredients ahead of time. This takes a lot of time to work out at the start.  But once I’ve done it for a few weeks, I then reuse the weeks’ menu plans and shopping lists.  If I have 3 weeks of such, I will have enough variety to not be bored.

Helpful things I do:

  1. I find someone who has lost weight successfully, gradually and kept it off, on a well-known, sensible weight loss programme which is medically unquestioned. I join that programme. Having that person’s success before me is a role model and encouragement to keep going.
  2. I weigh myself only once weekly.  My health programme has scales more accurate than home scales: digital and to the half-lb.  Also, the weight doesn’t wobble as you lean over to see the result.  However, I have a friend with enough iron self will to not join a class but lose it alone, and weigh herself (works for her).
  3. I try to drink 2 litres of water a day. I find it helps having a bottle of water beside me as I work, especially when at a computer, where I’m not really aware of what I’m eating and drinking as I’m looking at the screen.  The week when I don’t keep up my water intake, my body panics and tries to hold onto liquid = liquid weight gain on the scales
  4. For maximum healthy intake, in hot weather I can eat salads, in cold weather, I rely on soups.  But they have to be exciting and with a huge variety of ingredients.
  5. When I cook a healthy diet meal, I freeze extra. That way, on a day when I’m too time-squeezed or uninspired to cook, there’s a slimmer meal ready to defrost and reheat in minutes
  6. I get a wineglass with the measures marked on it, so I can have my favourite tipple as an occasional treat, but measured accurately
  7. I only cook healthy meals – if other people sharing the house with me want to eat something unhealthy, they have to cook it themselves. Usually, for simplicity, everyone in the house then eats healthily (and eats unhealthy snacks privately)
  8. I get a life apart from food! I refuse to think about it as much as possible
  9. I brace my wallet – buying more fruit and vegetables definitely increases my food bill – but it’s a payoff to get better health
  10. I find a healthy but genuinely enjoyable in between meals treat – e.g. I have found a fat-free yoghurt in a flavour I absolutely love

How NOT to lose weight

Now, in this area, I am an expert, sadly. Here is how to fail to lose weight:

  • Think wistfully about it but do nothing
  • Compare yourself to someone else and give up.  One programme I crashed out of was when I joined a programme with a co-worker, who had only a little weight to lose. Result: she achieved her target loss, celebrated and I was still slogging along, hungry, discouraged and with more to lose.  I gave up.
  • Decide that weight programmes work for everyone else but not you
  • When you do lose weight, ‘reward’ yourself with food
  • Eat a meal later than usual, when you’re almost fainting with hunger – your plummeting body sugar means your body sends emergency messages to your brain to eat lots of anything, so you find yourself eating vast quantities of unhealthy stuff
  • Run out of healthy food options in the fridge
  • Talk about food all the time with other people
  • Become a diet bore – you will, eventually, bore yourself

Guest Post: 15 tips for a successful long distance relationship

Today’s guest post is used with permission from Monte Celia Parker – Caio, Monte! – who wrote this post for her personal blog, while studying Italian in Bologna, 4,000 miles from her boyfriend.  What she recommends for maintaining a good relationship longdistance is personal, but I thought there were enough great ideas to be worth repeating, to inspire others to personalise and adjust to the significant other in their life.  Also, I think a few of these ideas are superb for keeping in vital touch with close friends who don’t live nearby.  (That sounds a contradiction: close but far away!)

Here’s her post:

People have always told me that long distance relationships are hard–don’t do them. However, I found someone who I didn’t want to let go of even though I would be 4000 miles away, so lo and behold I would have to navigate the dreaded LDR (Long-Distance Relationship).

I’m going to say something right now that will shock you.

This long-distance relationship is incredibly EASY. That’s right, it’s not really a struggle for us.

Verona by Monte Celia Parker

Verona Photo: Monte Celia Parker

There are 2 reasons for this.


poetry editing

50 ways to improve your poems

The first version of your poem is a first draft.  It’s exciting to have written it – but how do you make it the best it can be?  How can you improve your chances of getting it published and read by others?    I’ve pulled together some great advice from poetry professionals.

Simon Armitage – much-published UK leading poet (see previous blog posts on career tips here and videopoem here) has drawn together a testing kit for poetry at the Guardian newspaper: “How to write Poetry, Checklist”

Grace Wells – editor of American and Irish poetry magazines and Literary Festival organiser – has written a very down-to-earth list of 11 editing points at Advice on Editing Poetry

Magma Poetry is a well-known and well-regarded UK poetry magazine, inundated by manuscripts from hopeful poets – but they’ve got their head above tidal waves of submissions long enough to write: “25 rules for editing poems”

Robert Lee Brewer over at Writers Digest has scribed, revised and polished:

“5 ways to revise poetry”


Vital Beginning Advice


poetry, writing, tips, Andrew Motion

Tips for writing good poetry – Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom for 10 years – and he’s come up with 10 tips to help you write good poetry.

You’ll find the full 10 in the original BBC article here.

Here are a few tips (in my words)

  • write from life, about real life as it’s lived now
  • what are you truly interested in? write about that
  • get skilled in the craft of poetry writing and use all those tools
  • read a lot, keep revising, keep writing
  • find your own best time of day to write

and a huge observation in Andrew Motion’s original language:

Reading your poetry out loud is crucial and absolutely indispensable because wherever we reckon the meaning of a poem might lie, we want to admit that it’s got as much to do with the noise it makes when we hear it aloud, as it has to do with what the words mean when we see them written down on the page.

In a really fundamental way, I think poetry is an acoustic form and we’ve slightly forgotten that in the last thousand years. Since the invention of the book, the aliveness of poetry has been perhaps slightly pushed to the edge of things.

For 5 minutes, he was interviewed with a string of questions – watch this for quick transfer of information:

In the short video above, he answers some big questions on (deep breath):

  • what is the difference between prose and poetry
  • how important is rhyme? does it have to be there in poetry?
  • what are you trying to achieve when you write a poem?
  • how did you come to writing poetry (answer: inspiring English teacher)

If someone isn’t ‘into poetry’ – where could they begin?

Andrew Motion: “I think they should buy a big fat anthology of poetry, and when they hit somebody that they like, they should persevere, go and get that person’s individual collection – and when they don’t like it, they should turn over the page and wait until they get to someone they feel is more sympathetic to them.”

Creative Takeaway

Expand your experience of poetry – read wider – by applying the same principle as for the beginner to poetry – get an anthology, and from it find new names/styles which fascinate you.  Then check out those individuals.

Try writing early in the morning – at one point, when Andrew Motion was writing a novel, he wrote from 5.30 am to 9.00 am.




Simon Armitage, poetry, writing, inspiration, tips

Getting Started Writing Poetry as a Career – Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage, a living writing poet, talks about his writing in 2010, and gives practical tips for writing poetry.

“I’ve always been interested in poetry because it’s so powerful: so few words, space on the page, and all around it.  So there’s an intensity there that I admire.”


Guest blog: Food Photography Tips

Have you ever cooked something rather wonderful – want to share the recipe with others – but found that when you took a photo, your glorious dish looked, well, underwhelming?

Professional photographer and food blogger “Cooking without Limits” has got it sorted out – I picked up some excellent tips from her blog – and she’s kindly agreed that I can share them.  Here’s how to deal with the nightmare of taking photos in poor light…..

Shooting in low-light is a challenge for all photographers. Late afternoons, rainy days, evenings or winter days are just a few situations when natural light is low. You could invest in artificial lights or flashes to deal with all this problems, but not all of us have money to spend on lighting studios. I have […]

via Tips for shooting low light food photography — Cooking Without Limits

Collage 101

If you’ve ever tried making collage but it disappointed you – looked jumbled, clumsy and like a 4 year old efforts – then this brief video shows you the beginning steps to more polished work.

Creative Takeaways

  • Collage is a great way to free up creativity when you’re feeling stuck – it brings in readymade elements so you don’t have to create everything from scratch.  The materials are cheap and ready to hand.
  • Make something for fun – a letter for a friend, a postcard, a gift card – and before you know it, you’ll have begun making associations, connections – and you can give it to someone to maintain real life connections, friendships