Losing the last 3kg

Veg, fish, no oil, going into the oven

Veg, fish, no oil, going into the oven

September programme – losing 2-3kg


I suspect weight loss is rather more about diet than exercise.

Let me illustrate.

The recommended daily calorie intake for men is around 2500 and for women 2000 (obviously this does not take account of bodyweight).

Running at 6mph (about 10kmh) for 30 minutes burns around 360 Kcal if you weigh 72Kg, 275Kcal if you weigh 55Kg. The brain on its own consumes roughly 240Kcal every 24 hours

A two day a week ‘fast’ whereby men consume under 600Kcal each fasting day and women 500Kcal saves 3800Kcal and 3000Kcal respectively.

The average Briton consumes around 700g of sugar per week (100g per day – or 387 calories). In Germany that figure is around 95g per day – roughly the European average of 368Kcal per day.

400g sugar, 400g chocolate, 200g butter, 300ml double cream, 170g flour. Cake is not your friend if you're trying to lose the last 3 kilos

400g sugar, 400g chocolate, 200g butter, 300ml double cream, 170g flour. Cake is not your friend if you’re trying to lose the last 3 kilos

Cutting out sugar from one’s diet for four weeks removes a ridiculous 2.8kg of sugar from one’s diet but for my purposes I’ll calculate that as 2kg or 7,740KCal (so I’m counting sugar reduction for 5 days per week because it’s implicit in the fast and I’ll avoid double counting) .

Add in 3800 x 4 from fasting and you have a grand total of 22,940 calories cut. That’s the equivalent of jogging for 31.86 hours or 1 hour 8 minutes per day every day for 4 weeks if you’re a 72kg man. If you’re a 55kg woman and cut out sugar at 100g per day plus fasting you cut 19,740Kcal from your intake or the equivalent of 35 hours jogging at 6mph or just over 1 hour 15 minutes per day.

So my plan is to build exercise around sensible eating rather than vice versa.

Fasting days are fairly simple for me. I have porridge (25-30g porridge oats) with fruit in the morning. Blackberries are plentiful this time of year.

Lunch is a pile of steamed broccoli and carrots, plus peppers, onion, tomatoes and a piece of fish roasted in the over without fats.

Dinner is typically soup.

The point is that a whole head of broccoli (one I bought from the supermarket weighed in at around 350g) might only account for 80-85Kcal. You can eat a lot of veg if you pick the right stuff – ideally not potatoes for instance.

On non fasting days I’m planning to go for more proteinacious breakfasts; so eggs, beans etc rather than too much bread. I’m hoping to go to Billingsgate fish market in the next week or so to stock up. One meal a day (probably dinner in the evening) will be fish and a range of vegetables, but no potatoes. Lunch will be the one meal where I’m not going to worry too much about eating pasta or rice or bread. An alternative to fish would be chicken or a little fairly lean red meat – not for me though. Chickenses are my friends.

Exercise-wise I’ll join the gym for the month. That should allow me to expand the range of what I’m doing. However I don’t do cardiovascular workouts on fasting days because my norm is to do a Tabata high intensity routine on the rowing machine and if I have eaten lightly I get light headed. So I generally stick to planking, weights and crunches.

Good for dragons, bad for people...

Good for dragons, bad for people…

So I’m going to post my starting weight on September 1st and take it from there. A month without cake? I know, but I’ve done it before.

However there is a more profound point to this exercise. The way men are increasingly under pressure to look (and boy do we have it easy compared with women), with very low body fat of 10-12% so you get the sort of muscle definition beloved of Men’s Health models, strikes me as unsustainable.

I reckon I should be able to cut my body fat percentage fairly sharply if I stick to this routine. The point is however that I wouldn’t want to do this permanently. It’s just too much like hard work. I like food, I like the occasional bit of cake, I like the odd drink (I may have a glass or two of red wine per week but no beer)

Being healthy is about devising a way of life you can enjoy and stick with. If you find it all too much you’ll give up.

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Castle Mud Pie – re:ducks

IMG_5539Almost exactly two years ago I went to stay with my friend Alex, his wife Siobhan and their three children. They were building their own home from recycled materials and I spent three days throwing balls of cob (a mixture of sand, straw, peat, clay and water) up a ladder so Alex could top out the walls.

Two years on I returned to find that five have become six and a house that has become a home.

IMG_5572It’s still a project. The outside walls need a lime render. The inside walls need plastering. The partition walls upstairs haven’t been finished yet. The loo, such as it is, is just a bucket. We started work on a lean-to out the back that will provide space for a compost loo and a tool shed.

But there’s so much to love about this house.

IMG_5535Power comes from solar panels, a huge diesel genie, a big bank of retired fork-lift-truck batteries and an inverter. Water has to be conserved, but since when has that been such a bad idea?

IMG_5546The thing that struck me as most overwhelmingly right was that by building the walls from cob the house had a sense of having been there forever. There are no straight lines with the walls; they’re organic, and as such they echo the buildings our ancestors built where straight lines were very much secondary to throwing up a building that would provide shelter and stand both weather and the test of time.

IMG_5549But unlike historic cob-built houses this place takes the best of the modern world by incorporating large (reclaimed) doubled glazed windows that let in great splashes of light. It makes for a wonderfully human and uplifting living space.

IMG_5550What’s more is that the guys stuck to their budget. The whole place cost no more than £15K (That may even be €15K – I need to check).

It should give us all pause for thought – when so many of us are slaves to mortgages and terrified by ever rising property prices, the idea of breaking our chains and putting a roof over our heads to live free is compelling.

And that sense of freedom is pervasive. There are very few places where I feel able to relax so comprehensively. I could feel the tension start to drain out of me almost the moment I arrived. It’s incredibly quiet. The air is clear. The food was great – both tasty and energising (thanks Siobhan).

IMG_5775The other really striking thing was how well their children are doing. Having been home schooled and then sent to a local primary, both the older kids (ten and eight and a half) are back learning at home. However they seem to need very little guidance. Half the time they were buried in books, discovering the world for themselves. They simply find learning exciting. They were also busy turning out Harry Potter comics. It really made me question whether the glorified holding pens for children we call schools are more of a hindrance to learning than a help. Even with the distractions of videos and computer games (both regulated by their parents) the children seemed really self-motivated when it came to learning.

I think the key thing is that both parents have to be committed to this sort of choice. It’s not the easiest but, given the choice and the benefit of hindsight, it’s one I might have considered for Luca.


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A Post-Privacy Age?

Philip Zimmermann

Philip Zimmermann

One of the reasons I like going to the Hack in the Box conference is that I meet some phenomenally interesting people there.

This year was no exception with the conference being staged in Amsterdam’s old Bourse.

Some people doubtless see issues surrounding digital security as existing in something of a bubble, a bubble that perhaps pops when bank details or personal information gets taken from a corporate server.

However as the Snowden revelations demonstrated very clearly so much of our lives are now lived online that there is no clear divide between digital and physical security. Moreover while nation states and private organisations don’t have the capacity to break into a million homes or steam open the letters of a million people they’ve managed too automate snooping to an alarming degree so they can sift through emails, texts and calls and build up a picture of who we are, who our friends are and what our beliefs might be.

In defence of this outright mass violation of privacy we’re often presented with the notion that it’s for our own safety. Safety has been the stock explanation of many a totalitarian regime. It’s increasingly being deployed by democratic states as well.

But what can people do?

For a start they can se better encryption. Few people have a better perspective on the subject than Philip Zimmerman. Philip was responsible for PGP – Pretty Good Privacy launched in the early 90s and is now focused on voice privacy with his company Silent Circle.

I recorded two interviews with him while covering HitB for the BBC’s Click! programme. It didn’t fit into the pieces I’d been commissioned to do however he’s way too interesting a guy for these to go to waste.

Phil Zimmerman Part 1 by Jonathan Kent on Mixcloud

Phil Zimmerman Part 2 by Jonathan Kent on Mixcloud

Make of them what you will.

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Charity Begins in the Back Garden

IMG_2471One of the nice things about reporting is that it takes you places and introduces you to people that you might not otherwise meet.

So the other day I was down in Seaford on the Sussex coast West of Eastbourne to grab some audio for a piece I’m doing for Click! on the BBC World Service. It’s going to be about how social media is changing charitable giving.

It’s an interesting topic.

Geoff Stonebanks by Jonathan Kent on Mixcloud

Once upon a time giving to charity pretty much meant putting a cheque in the post, dropping a coin in a bucket or baking a cake for a sale at a local hall.

IMG_2472These days the nature of engagement with charities is changing.

This is probably most apparent with the under 35s. People are increasingly avoiding getting caught up with very hierarchical organisations in terms of joining up and being organised into things. Instead they’re far more focused on organising their own events, on ad hoc participation, or on the social aspect of fundraising; they want to have fun while raising money, they want to make new friends and they want subtly to enhance their standing with their own social circle. Call it personal brand building.

IMG_2476But it’s not just the under 35s who are picking up on these trends. Geoff Stonebanks has an award winning small garden behind his Seaford bungalow and he raises thousands of pounds every year for the cancer charity Macmillan. His garden is amazing; an example of just how much variety and colour you can squeeze into a small space. It wouldn’t work out here in my corner of the Weald. I go with wild and unkempt both from preference and because it’s the only way to handle this sort of environment. But Geoff’s garden is a labour of love and a reflection of his generosity.

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Women in Digital Security

katie jaya jenniferEvery once in a while I take time out to go to a hackers’ conference. You say hackers and people picture the cliché of the guy (and people do picture guys) dressed in black probably in their bedrooms and probably wearing a V for Vendetta mask.

There was a time when a hack was simply a work around. Hackers were people who experimented and tested and innovated, often on a kitchen-table level. It’s only more recently that the term has become synonymous in the popular mind with cyber vandalism.

I go because hackers are some of the most interesting, stimulating and thought provoking people I know.

The highlight this year was definitely getting three of the keynote speakers around a mic. Katie Moussouris was, until the day before I interviewed her, lead at Microsoft’s security response centre (she’s now joined HackerOne), Jennifer Steffens, CEO of IO Active and Jaya Baloo, CISO at KP telecom in the Netherlands.

The great thing about the show was that all the keynoters were women – a really good milestone in digital security and a great message not just for women in tech but for everybody.

And it was such fun interviewing them. There’s nothing I like better than the company of really smart people and these three are really good people to play catch-up with.

A cut down version of this appeared on Click! on the BBC World Service. I thought it would be fun to post the whole thing.

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Many Views From Here

When I was in South East Asia I missed the changing of the seasons. The undying equatorial summer somehow allows time to slip by unmarked. Each day is much the same. One year becomes another. The seasons give us wayposts on our journey through.

Jan dawn panoramaI like the idea of photographing the same scene over and over at different times of year. I was quite taken by Mark Hirsch’s project ‘That Tree’, a collection of iPhone photographs of a burr oak taken every day for a year.

dawn march 14

I haven’t photographed this scene every day. Far from it. When it’s grey and dull I can’t say I feel particularly inspired. However I do look out at it all the time and when it’s particularly evocative I point my camera at it. I think the thing that I enjoy most is the way that light plays on the landscape.

dawn 26 marchThese are all panoramas; series of stills stitched together using Microsoft’s own panorama editing software included in Windows live photo gallery. It’s the best of those I’ve tried so far.

Dawn spring aprilSo now we’re in June. Perhaps I’ll post another set for high summer and autumn. Let me know if you enjoy these.

sunset june 8

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I Get Thrown Out Of All The Best Places

bowlplexIt is the quintessentially English dilemma; do you let an annoyance slide or do you take a stand or even make a fuss?

Sometimes I wish I was better at letting things slide. I’m definitely better than I was but there are times when I simply feel that not saying anything is tantamount to complicity.

But have I ever been thrown out of somewhere as execrable as Bowlplex? Almost certainly not. ‘You got thrown out of Bowlplex?’ I hear you say… How does anyone get thrown out of a place that is all neon lights and having to wear other people’s shoes? The answer is ‘I complained’.

Bowlplex in Tunbridge Wells is something of a favourite for birthday parties with Luca and his friends. They go bowling and then they go next door for burgers and pizza at Frankie and Bennies. It’s all pretty easy. One game of bowling and they’re ready to eat. Bowlplex is open plan and there’s not much that can get wrecked so it’s OK to let a group of six and seven year olds run around without having to worry too much.

So far so good. But for reasons beyond my ken this morning the management decided to have the music on so loud that it was well over the borderline into painful.

Don’t get me wrong – I can do loud. I saw Motorhead’s 10th anniversary bash at the Hammersmith Odeon. Sure, the hearing in my left ear has never quite recovered, but noise in a good cause? Nil problemo. And Lemmy and chums were but one of many loud rock bands I’ve enjoyed seeing over the years.

But this was simply extraneous, aural wallpaper, except the wallpaper4had decided it was the main attraction. It wasn’t just me at ten thirty on a Sunday morning. The other parents were uncomfortable. It wasn’t possible to hold a conversation.

But the acid test was that Luca and friends were walking round with their fingers in their ears. It was that bad. All they wanted to do was bowl and celebrate their friend’s birthday. And if it was bad for Luca it was worse for one of his friends and classmates who has Down’s Syndrome. She was positively distressed.

So I simply asked if they could turn the music down. Surely not too much of a problem? Except it was. A McJobsworth by the name of Susie didn’t even bother to check. She simply declared that because another group had a birthday party booked they’d get complaints if they turned it down. I asked for the manager. She didn’t call him but just sent me to the other end of the complex. He wasn’t there but I did ask the DJ to turn the noise down which he did happily. So far, so fine, except then they simply shoved it back up again.

This time other parents started complaining. Then the manager turned up and refused to turn the noise down. I suggested that it was so loud that it would probably contravene environmental health rules. If it was a workplace and sound levels were such you couldn’t hear colleagues talk over the noise you’d probably be issued with ear defenders. He was adamant that the place had been checked and approved. I said that perhaps I should call the local environmental health department and get their opinion. This, I was told, was a threat and he didn’t like being threatened. In my understanding when businesses ask you not to threaten their staff they mean threats of violence or abusive language, rather than exercising one’s right to report them for possibly breaking the law. Of course environmental health officers rarely work at times when people are doing stupidly loud things – such as when you’re trying to sleep through a party next door at 2am on a Saturday.

So instead I decided to ask the parents at the other party, who would apparently complain if the volume was dropped, if they wanted the music so loud.

The party group (apparently there may have been three parties mixed together) were all younger than Luca. So the deafening music was for the benefit of five and six year olds. Except when I asked it transpired than the parents I spoke to there also found the music uncomfortably loud and didn’t mind our asking for it to be turned down at all. Moreover they mentioned that among the party guests were a number of deaf children who wore hearing aids (and by implication that it was uncomfortably loud for them too).

But when I explained this to the manager he told me that it wasn’t my job to talk to other patrons. True – it was his job. He was simply too arrogant and stubborn to do it. But then he simply ordered me off the premises. The other parents later told me I’ve been banned for life.

So there you have it. You complain about being treated with contempt by the lazy and rude staff at a pit like Bowlplex and you get a lifetime ban.

I’m tempted to see the upside and be relieved I have a good reason never to go back. On the other hand I’m pretty damned unimpressed because I don’t go there for me. Believe me I can think of a million less awful places. I go there because my seven year old son has fun bowling occasionally. So they’ve punished him rather than me. And all I did was complain. I didn’t even tell the boorish wombat of a manager what I thought of him. Perhaps he’ll read this and find out.

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