Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Cold Porridge

Well, if you managed to get to the end of my last two blogs, you're doing better than my wife who, after getting halfway through, gave up. Then she said: can't you write something shorter, like that blog you wrote about peculiar plugs in French sinks?

I must admit that after writing my first 65 blogs, that blog about French plugs was the first one to get a comment posted from a blog reader, so she may have a point. It was actually my intention to keep the blogs short, pithy and poetic up until a few weeks ago, but then ideas started taking over again and the blogs got longer and longer.

So here, at the risk of sounding like a metrosexual, is a short blog about the diet that I started today. The idea for this diet came from my Mum who sent me a little book explaining something called the 'GI diet' after she lost a lot of weight, at the same time inflicting the diet on my Dad, who had no need to lose weight in the first place and who now looks rather too thin.

The GI diet is not the 'General Infantry' diet or even the 'General Indigestion' diet but something called the 'Glycaemic Index' diet. The glycaemic index, apparently, is a scale used to measure the speed at which glucose is absorbed from food in the intestine into the blood stream. High GI food such as sugar and chocolate release glucose quickly and cause insulin to be released into the body. Constantly eating high GI food raises the level of insulin production and creates a sort of dependence on the insulin 'hit'. The excess insulin triggers the body to convert glucose into fat and you start to expand.

Low GI foods such as porridge, fruit and vegetables release glucose slowly and in a more stable way. If you eat them regularly throughout the day, they stop you feeling hungry, only low levels of insulin are produced and cells are encouraged to give up their fat, making you shrink. Starts to sound like Alice in Wonderland, doesn't it?

The key thing, according to Mum, is to eat porridge for breakfast. Being Scottish, I am quite happy to eat porridge for breakfast, but the idea of eating porridge on a diet is a bit counter-intuitive I must admit.

Once, my father told me a story about a Scottish friend from his student days who, when his university grant ran out through excessive drinking and eating of curries, bought a large sack of porridge oats with which he made pots and pots of porridge that he poured into the bottom draw of the wardrobe in his bedroom. The porridge, being porridge, set in the draw to an enormous hard lump measuring, I suppose, three feet by two feet by six inches deep. From this lump he proceeded to cut slices whenever he felt hungry for the rest of the year.

Nowadays, of course, he could have taken the lump of porridge into his local Arts Council office and got a grant to make a bigger lump of porridge that filled the whole house and would eventually be set on a plinth in Trafalgar Square, but that's another story.

When I heard this tale about porridge in draws it seemed to me a fairly extraordinary and desperate measure in order to survive, but I later learnt that this practice was actually commonplace in Scotland. In fact, among the crofters who lived in blackhouses (so-called because the smoke rises from a fire in the middle of the room and coats the straw ceiling in a layer of soot that helps keep the rain out) it was actually the norm.

And now, what's more, I discover that this is a healthy lifestyle!

So, living and learning, what I've decided to do is to cook twice the usual amount of porridge for breakfast every day and put half of it in a bowl in the fridge. That way when I get home from work in the evening, near fainting and ravenous for a snack, instead of eating half a packet of jaffa biscuits I can just get a plate of cold porridge out of the fridge and eat that instead. Brilliant eh?

And there is a photo of this evening's bowl of cold porridge at the top of the page. I'll let you know if I get scurvy.

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