I WALK into work on Monday morning and my boss is almost jumping off her chair she’s that excited. ‘I’ve lost four-and-a-half pounds in my first week at fat club!’ she tells me, clapping her hands together and grinning.
‘That’s fantastic. Well done!’ I sit down, switch on my computer and wait for it to start. It’s Monday. It always takes a while for the computer and me to warm up.
‘I’ve never lost that much in a week before,’ she says. ‘It must be the speedy foods…I’m so pleased…It’s given me a boost.’ She carries on talking, then remembers me. ‘What about you?’ she asks.
‘Six pounds off in six weeks. It’s been slow. And I keep going back up for no reason.’
‘Oh,’ she says, slumping back on her chair. ‘Are you doing it right?’
I think about the six weeks of healthy eating that I’ve just put my body through. Six weeks without any chocolate, not even a square of dairy milk. I’ve been that dedicated. ‘Yes! I’ve not even had any syns!’
‘Strange.’ She shakes her head. ‘Maybe it’s because you’re thin already.’
‘I’ve put on a stone!’ This is because I’ve spent the first half of this year at my desk writing my master’s submission. Chocolate and computer time are not a winning weight loss combination.
‘Maybe it’s your age. You’re forty and weight loss is slower.’
‘I’m not forty.’
She looks at me. ‘As good as.’
‘I’m thirty-nine and three quarters,’ I say. And anyway, she’s older and she’s just had a massive weight loss.
She goes back to talking about herself. ‘I’m going to be very focused,’ she tells me. ‘Try to get it off quickly.’
At lunchtime, she stinks the office out with a cup of Bovril, (apparently you only have to look at Bovril and the pounds drop off) but by two o’clock, she’s starving. She walks out of the room and returns brandishing a digestive. ‘I’m hungry. I’m going to have a treat.’
I look at the digestive. I think of her happy smiling face this morning. ‘No! Don’t do it!’
She looks startled. ‘But I’m hungry.’
Someone from the office opposite hears the commotion and comes racing in. ‘Don’t do it,’ she says, almost wrestling the biscuit from my boss. ‘Have one of these instead.’ She hands my boss some kind of biscuit snack (only half a syn), then leaves. ‘I’ve got a supply of emergency food,’ she shouts over her shoulder.
I don’t need her emergency food. I’m prepared. My bag is full: strawberries, raspberries, apples, banana, pasta salad lunch, and two slices of bread, which on this diet I’m allowed. I take out the bread and start nibbling.
My boss inhales, like she’s sucking all the air out of the room. ‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m having my healthy B.’ I say, carrying on eating.
She shakes her head. ‘That’s not allowed!’
‘It is. Two slices of wholemeal bread.’
‘Noooooo. That’s not wholemeal.’
I look at the bread. ‘As good as.’ Is she really going to get so worked up about two slices of bread?
‘That’s got so many syns in. That’s what you’re doing wrong.’
I chew the rest of the bread. It is just bread. She’s being dramatic.
She pulls out her slimming app. ‘What make is it? I’ll tell you exactly how many syns.’
‘I’m not sure,’ I say. Chris does the shopping in our house. And up until six weeks ago, I’ve never been much of a bread eater.
‘Call him,’ she tells me. ‘You need to know.’
I do as she says. There’s no answer. My heart is racing and I’m starting to feel a bit sick. I call again. Still, no answer. Then the phone rings.
‘Liz,’ he says.
‘What bread do we have? It’s got syns in it!’
‘I’m in a meeting,’ Chris says. ‘I thought it was an emergency.’
‘It is an emergency.’
‘Asda multigrain,’ he says and hangs up.
I tell my boss and she frantically types into her app. ‘Five and a half syns! Each!’
‘No!!!!! I thought they were free.’ My voice has become a wail.
She shakes her head, looking sorry for me.
‘But I’ve not had any chocolate. And I don’t even eat bread usually.’ On this diet my two slices a week has become two a day.
She goes back to the app. ‘For eleven syns you could have had a bag of minstrels, two dairy milk or a full-sized Mars bar.’
Now it’s me sucking all the air out of the room. I’ve been eating the equivalent of a Mars bar a day for six weeks without eating any chocolate. The injustice of it!
‘I could have had a Mars bar.’ I think of the chocolate and gooey loveliness. ‘I could have had a Mars bar.’
‘The weight will drop off you now,’ my boss says, smiling, pleased that she’s found my weight loss solution.
I shake my head. If I’ve managed to lose six pounds eating the equivalent of a Mars bar, I might as well replace it with the real thing.
‘A Mars a day,’ I say.