Monday, 24 February 2014

Kale chips

I am very slightly ashamed of how obsessive I was about weight gain and loss during and after both my pregnancies.

When I say obsessive during my pregnancy, I mean I just fretted in my head a lot about how fat I was - I didn't NOT eat just exactly whatever the hell I fancied. I mean, there was nothing I wouldn't eat. The second time round I made concessions to not putting on three stone by switching to Diet Coke and not having pudding with every meal … but I still put on three stone.

And when I say obsessive about my weight after pregnancy I mean obsessed with regaining some approximation of my pre-pregnancy state. And if possible, beyond that, plummeting to under nine stone in weight (this is an impossible dream). Obsessed, I ought to say, up to the point of actually doing any exercise.

Having said that, it's an easy trap to fall into, once you reckon you are done with babies, to go a bit scrawny. To go Full Thin. So traumatising is it being so fat and ungainly that you almost attempt to scrub out the very memory of the fatness by getting far too thin, only for your husband to leave you for a chubby barmaid just at the point that you look genuinely terrific in a pair of leather trousers. (Which by now you must wear all the time, even in June, because you are stick-like and freezing.)

I say I feel ashamed because it all basically comes off in the end - unless you are really bloody unlucky, or just really not trying at all - but I feel like rather than obsessing about getting back into a - any! - pair of jeans I ought to have been bonding like crazy with  my babies. We did bond, I think. Kitty vaguely knows who I am and Sam says "Mumum" when he sees me. Fine. But still, my impatience is a bit embarrassing. It's just a bit vain.

Anyway I can relax now and spend the next forever getting even thinner being totally focused on my children because I am back within a whisker of my pre-baby weight, although not quite my pre-baby shape.

There is a ghastly thing that happens when you have a baby where your hips widen - literally the bones actually widen - and take a while to settle back to their normal circumference, so you can be back to your old weight but still not fit into your old jeans.

But I have achieved a sudden accelerated weight loss by hitting on the importance of lunch in my day. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have had to eat in order to lose weight.

I hate lunch. I always have. I find it tedious and boring and I don't like lunch options. So normally I skip it, but then come 3.30pm I am so starving I can't concentrate and then I start snacking heavily on very sugary stuff, which isn't going to make anyone a supermodel, you feel me?

But lunch is a bore. And it makes a bloody great mess, which I always want to avoid as it feels like I cook and clear up about 15 meals a day as it is. I have all this food and this enormous, stacked kitchen, and yet I'm just not eating lunch. It wasn't happening.

So I thought to myself "What would Anna Bateson do?" Anna Bateson is a very successful friend, initially of my husband's but I suppose also of mine, now - how do those things work? - who does something important at YouTube and has two children very close in age and everyone goes round going "OMG Anna Bateson".

When she is in this country, (which isn't often), I openly mine her for information and go "What kind of handbag do you have? Who is your nanny? Where are you going on holiday this year? How did you potty-train D-? Which internet shopping outlet do you favour? Where are those jeans from?" just because I think she has the answers. She quite often does, it's totally apt that she works at an internet company. She's a one-woman search engine.

Anyway so I thought to myself "What would Anna Bateson do?" and the answer was: OUTSOURCE. Anna would outsource lunch. She would go "Yes, buying a healthy, delicious lunch every day is more expensive than making it at home, but if it will persuade you to eat lunch, which in turn will make you thinner, it is cheaper than a gym membership." She would calmly show you a brief PowerPoint presentation about it and then leave to catch a plane.

So now I either go early to fetch Kitty from nursery and stop at a Vietnamese cafe on the way for some grilled chicken and cous cous or I buy myself a salad from Pret in the morning if running errands. Failing that I FORCE myself to eat baked beans on sourdough. Then I have a cup of tea and 1 (one) biscuit and that's it until dinner.

It still being winter-ish and both my husband and I on our eternal, possibly terminal, quest to weigh 3 stone apiece, we are always looking for new things to do with wretched kale and someone suggested kale chips, which turn out to be very easy and very delicious (when covered with a lot of salt and brown sugar). They taste a lot like what we always used to call crispy seaweed in Chinese restaurants and it is basically the only thing approaching "tasty" that you can do with kale.

It's very simple, what you do is pre-heat your oven to 180C and shake out some kale on a large baking sheet. Snip up the bigger pieces with scissors and then sprinkle with brown soft sugar and some sea salt. Bake for about 25 mins checking occasionally to make sure they're not burnt.

Eat as a pre-dinner snack with, err, sherry? Or a Diet Coke if you really mean this.


  1. I hate kale – interminably chewy yet ubiquitous gastropub / Modern British restaurant menu cattle fodder – so if this is the only thing approaching "tasty" you can do with it, then thank you. Lorraine Pascale tweeted that you can toss potato peelings in a bit of oil and salt, spread them on a baking tray and roast them for about 13 minutes (or something), let them cool slightly and crisp up, and they end up somewhere between jacket potato skins and Kettle Chips, which is nice.

  2. This is all very well but the key question is, really and truly Esther, how did you lose the weight so quickly ? Was it beans on toast and otherwise carb dodging? 5:2??, SFD (shitty food diet)?? The latter more of a lifestyle choice probably not compatible with two babies. This is a sincere enquiry....I still have 12lbs to go and my youngest just turned two. Either way ....congratulations (she says through gritted teeth!!) X

    1. you have to fucking starve yourself, quite often. 5:2 if you like. but the less you eat, the thinner you will be. and no drinking during the week. ABSOLUTELY NO CARBS AFTER 6PM

  3. It's so sad but true, the less you eat, the thinner you will be. The thought of it is grim, but once you've nailed the starving elements of your day, the thinness feels gooood - irresponsible advice, but true! Exercise helps as well a bit, but for pure thinness, just eat less, a lot less!

  4. My daughter has just come home after 5 weeks of hospital treatment for anorexia nervosa. She was so underweight, she nearly died. This post makes me feel sick. Anyone can end up with an eating disorder, all it takes is a period of insufficient nutrition to trigger a change in your brain.
    How about women learn to accept their bodies and focus on being healthy.

    1. Emma. I understand that it is almost impossible to view the world other than through the prism of one's own personal trauma and I am sorry that your family has suffered - but your comment was uncalled-for.

      The post is really not advocating wild weight-loss - if you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that my son was born 10 months ago - taking almost a year to lose your baby weight is not exactly a crash diet.

      And, this blog is written in a slightly wild, unhinged, exaggerated way - Zadie Smith sometimes refers to this style as "hysterical realism" - and it is often over-written and screechy for effect, to make people laugh.

      So obviously my husband and I are not on an "eternal, possibly terminal quest to weigh three stone apiece" - of COURSE not. I am simply exaggerating and making fun of the fact that we try hard not to be overweight. Trying hard not to be overweight is, by the way, not the same as having an eating disorder.

      If you can't get to grips with this then perhaps you might mistake me for some sort of creepy Anorexia Pied Piper, but there's not much I can do about that - this blog was never supposed to have that many readers, especially all the way from Australia.


    2. I love your writing style Esther and I love reading your posts. I do understand it's exaggerated realism. I'm sorry if I offended you. All I was trying to say, not so much to you, but to those reading who may take dieting too seriously, was please be careful.

  5. I agree - I LOATHE weekday lunches. Can't be bothered to shop, cook and clean up for one (or even think of something to make in the first place) and then I'm fainting with hunger mid afternoon and eat ANYTHING. Trouble is, in Hong Kong "outsourcing" means that I'm eating dumplings or noodles every day and I'm turning into a bloody dumpling.

  6. Another good thing to do with Kale
    PS. I love your blog, please do still keep at it even though you're now working on other stuff

  7. A good thing to do with kale is throwing it in the bin.

    1. An even better thing to do is leave it in the shop.

  8. I FUCKING LOVE kale (but I would say that I'm a vegetarian-I know don't judge) but I wouldn't ruin it with salt and sugar (yuck!). Sauté it with thin ginger strips, spring onions, add Swiss/rainbow Chard (even more delicious) and also Calvo Nero (my latest discovery, you've got to try it!). Add 1/4 spoonful of Cayenne Pepper, cover on a v low heat for five mins add a tiny bit of salt and pepper to taste and that's it. I usually serve with a poached egg. It really is very delicious. Sugar indeed.

    I'm a size 6-8. But that's more genetic than anything else I think. Odd treat is fine but to me healthy food is much more delicious . Helps that I don't have a sweat tooth though.

  9. I love that the "You might also like:" bit underneath your post has come up randomly today with "Dumplings" and "Pate de canard en croute". Unless you did that on purpose, it must be an indication of your computer's views on kale. As in, just don't, eat dumplings and/or very rich duck pate instead... Spooky.

  10. Kale breath! WOW.

  11. A friend introduced me to your blog, and now I want to marry both her and you.

  12. Tried Kale chips today...Loved them and didn't feel a bit guilty! :)