Iain Gray Freelance Writer

Changing a lifetime’s eating habits - Week 2

Do seven days without comfort food make one weak? Iain Gray is one of four Telegraph journalists one week through a challenge to reduce their cholesterol levels.

OK, so now the hard work could really begin. My cholesterol was high, too high. The years had finally caught up with me, like an über-healthy Tommy Lee Jones facing down an obese Harrison Ford. “But I drink Innocent smoothies...” no longer cut it as a get-out clause.

Action was needed to be taken to get it down to an acceptable level. However, I was slightly wary as to what that action would be. Daily 6.30am runs? Trips to the gym every evening for a “cardio” workout (I wasn’t even sure what that was except that it might be Italian)? Eschewing alcohol for camomile tea? Vegetarianism?

Thankfully, I was almost immediately disavowed of any ridiculous notions about punishing workouts and stuffed red peppers by being presented with a strawberry mini drink. I was told by the nice lady from Flora that if I drank one of these every morning, it would help my cholesterol drop to a healthy level within one month.

My left eyebrow was raised by suspicion – it all sounded far too easy. “The mini drink contains plant sterols which help your body to change bad cholesterol (LDL) into good cholesterol (HDL),” explained the Flora lady. Hmmm. And I could carry on with my self-indulgent lifestyle as it was? “Well, there are things you could do to help,” she proffered.

And there it was. I could see any future prospect of sausages and bacon flying out of the window, oinking happily. I would be reduced to murdering leeks, spinach and ­– horror of horrors – sweet potatoes. Chips are meant to be golden brown, not with pink like an obese tourist on the beaches of Rio. Please don’t take away my morning meat extravaganza…

“Have one less fry-up a week, for example,” she suggested helpfully. One less? So that would mean si… err, two a week? Hmmm, I could live with that, especially if it helped to stop me dying. I left the room with 30 mini drinks and the niggling thought that I really wasn’t taking care of myself properly. However, that thought was quickly erased by pondering which animal to consume for lunch.

My new, healthy regime started the next day, and I didn’t even break a sweat. Every morning I would get up, potter to the fridge, and swallow a mini drink. Done. I was helping to lower my cholesterol level, and I could still act like an emperor in the final decadent days of the Roman Empire. Remarkably, they tasted fine, and I began to look forward to my morning health boost, before heading into work for a lovely plate of greasy joy.

And therein lay the problem – it was all far too easy, as I had feared. My bad health was due to my poor diet, complete lack of exercise and relaxed attitude towards alcohol consumption. All these remained unaffected: my debauched and messy approach was, frankly, a little tiring.

I’ll be honest, although many (OK, some) would say that I am in the prime of life, I am starting to feel a little past it: parts of me don’t work as well as they once did, and normal things such as walking up stairs (and breathing) were taking far more effort than they used to.

If I wanted to improve my health permanently, I realised I would have to make some changes to my lifestyle other than just having a mini drink. But what? As if Providence herself were listening, a solution almost immediately blinked into my inbox. A 10-day walking holiday around (but thankfully not up) Mont Blanc – plenty of exercise, freshly-cooked food and my father’s remarkable ability to drink just one glass of wine with dinner to keep me on track.

What could possibly go wrong?


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