Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Christina Hollis: Food, Glorious Food...
Venus of Willendorf, by Matthias Kabel
Poet Philip Larkin had strong views on parenting. If you don't know This Be The Verse you can read it here, but be warned. There's strong language right from the start, as they say on the BBC.

I knew I was in trouble from the moment I could tell Mama from Dada. They were both healthy, active people but while my mother was permanently on a diet she was never anything less In contrast, my father ate like a horse, yet was built like a greyhound. You can guess which traits I inherited from each parent. I love my food. It adores me in return, so I'm in constant danger of turning into the Venus of Willendorf.  I'd love to excuse my weight problem by blaming it on my family, but there comes a time when everyone has to excuse their genes and accept responsibility. But cake is so delicious, and celery's not a comfort food–no matter how you dress it up.

Writing all day doesn't help me. Sitting is fast becoming the new smoking here in England, where we have a real obesity crisis. Strapping my keyboard to the treadmill to make a standing (or walking) desk hasn't been too successful. So what's the answer? In my case, there's no substitute for eating less and moving more. Reducing portion size is horrible.  Using a smaller plate and chewing every mouthful forty times is no substitute for that lovely  "full-up feeling", to quote Lionel Bart's Oliver! again. Driving ten miles to the gym and back eats into writing time, so I had to find a different exercise regime, that fitted in with my lifestyle. In theory I use my non-electric treadmill to jog for twenty minutes every other day, but sometimes that's just too much like hard work.

Wearing a pedometer helps, as I have a competitive streak. During an uninterrupted writing day, I'm lucky to clock up 2,000 steps. That only burns about 24 calories, according to my pedometer. On the bright side, that would earn me all the celery I could eat. Knowing how hard it is to "earn" treats is a powerful incentive to keep my step-count going.

Venue-The School Run
The school run is a non-negotiable part of my day, so I've tried adding exercise into it. Every morning in term-time, I have a quick walk by the river after dropping Son Number One and his huge haul of books at the bus stop. Then in the evenings, I power-walk the two miles from home to the bus stop (4,100 steps, btw)  and meet up with OH. He drives there after finishing work in the city, to give both me and Son Number One a lift back to the house. It's a lovely area for walking when the weather's good, and the view from the bus stop is pretty stunning, don't you think?

Smaller portions and more exercise has kept my weight stable for several months now. To actually lose weight, I'd have to cut down on food still more and run harder, too. The trouble is, exercise makes me hungry and fills me with a gnawing sense of entitlement ("I got up in the dark and did all that running in the cold. I'm entitled to another slice/chunk/handful!") Increasing it can only make things worse,  which means temptation will be ten times harder to resist. All things in moderation–including moderation!

And my children cook like this...
I love cooking as well as eating, and include recipes in my occasional newsletters. Taste and satisfaction feature more often than low-calorie this, or fat-free that. As long as you watch the size of your portions and go easy on other treats for a while, what's not to love? My next newsletter's going to feature Roasted Pumpkin Soup, which went down a storm at our local Harvest Festival. To find out how to make it, you can sign up here. What's your favorite tip for healthy living?

Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into over a dozen different languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at,on Twitter and Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at


Mary Preston said...

I have had times when I could have modelled for Venus. (She is gorgeous in her ample-ness. Not a word, but it fits.) Right now I am spring cleaning. Kind of a win/win situation. I'm losing weight & the house will be ready for Christmas.

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Mary, thanks for commenting. A great idea–wish I'd thought of that! It's an answer to the sated slump: "the evening meal's cleared away, so I'll just have five minutes in front of the TV..." which often turns into an hour ;(

Elanor said...

I think the site ate my first comment, so here's a potted precis:
- Be a student (it's hard to buy unhealthy food on a student budget!)
- Make healthy snacking easy by prepreparing and keeping them close at hand
- Give unhealthy snacks away to your worst enemy :D

dstoutholcomb said...

I need to start walking again

Christina Hollis said...

Haha, Elanor-being a student *and* giving snacks away ? Generosity above and beyond the call of duty, surely! I like the idea of preparing ahead. Bulk-cooking brown rice or oat groats is definitely a good idea. Thanks for posting.

Christina Hollis said...

Walking is my favourite exercise (I don't count gardening as "real" exercise), dstoutholcomb. You don't need any special equipment, it fits in nicely to whatever time you've got available and there's always lots of lovely inspiration to be absorbed along the way. You get the chance to meet people, too. Thanks for commenting!