Sunday, December 21, 2008
In exactly four weeks time my world must change forever. I’ve been anticipating this moment for eight months or, to be precise, for the last 36 weeks. Yes, Izzy is about to arrive, so the waistline has to go.
I don’t mean Joanna’s: she has remained petite and trim with nothing to show but the most spectacular orb of a bump. From the front and rear she looks the same; turn her sideways and it’s as if someone has stitched a giant beach ball onto her tummy. I know that as soon as Izzy emerges, the beach ball will disappear – it’s my waistline that’s the problem.
I think I’ve developed male pregnancy by proxy. I don’t know if it’s a recognized medical condition, but I can assure you it’s entirely authentic. As Jo’s bump has grown, I’ve developed a sympathetic clone. Now it hangs below my chest, an entirely unwelcome addition to the family.
Regular readers may sigh that they’ve seen it all before. I know it’s less than a year since I was beaten in a weight loss contest by the dieting equivalent of an innings defeat. A failure so embarrassing I’ve had to eat humble pie all year, along with apple, rhubarb, steak and ale and any other variety on offer.
The problem is, Joanna’s food cravings are too enticing. It’s not just her passion for chocolate ice cream: we have 7 different varieties in the freezer; nor her desire for mustard mash at midnight (made with a gallon of double cream and a cowsworth of butter). It’s the reassuring argument that it’s OK to binge because we’re eating for two. Which, in my case, is a lie: I’m eating for me. By this date next month, Jo’s waistline will have become a person, so mine has to become history. But how?
After last year’s debacle, I can’t risk the ignominy of another failure. I’ve tried all sorts of diets in the past, and none of them have had the slightest impact. Except one.
It was in 1980, and this diet was unplanned, but incredibly effective. At the end of our year in India, my first wife and I decided to explore Nepal. A new route around the Annapurnas was just being opened over the Thorung La Pass, which rises to nearly 18,000 feet, and we wanted to be amongst the first to try it. We set off from Pokhara with laden rucksacks and a Sherpa guide called Bim. The problem was, that unlike the common tourist route through the Kali Gandaki valley, this trek wasn’t accustomed to visitors. There were no teahouses or hippy inns; no Tibetans lined the route offering snacks and turquoise souvenirs. In fact there was nothing at all, except the most spectacular scenery and a constantly uphill horizon. The path was so steep that Jilly had to tie her rucksack on top of mine. Occasionally we came across a little village and Bim managed to persuade a local to sell us an egg or some fermented vegetable soup. Meat was out of the question.
The only provisions we’d packed were several catering sized packets of dried beef stroganoff that had somehow survived a year in the back of our van. Sherpas and stroganoff don’t go terribly well together – especially beef, which is against their religion. But at 14,000 feet after 12 days of starvation, Bim was ravenous. The following day he turned green and developed altitude sickness. So it was that I ended up carrying all three rucksacks over the pass. It was the best view I have ever seen, and by far the best diet. I lost 30 pounds.
Somehow I don’t think a walk up Cheviot is going to have quite the same effect, even if I lived on dried beef stroganoff for a month. But I guess it’s worth a try. Any better suggestions gratefully received.