The Unlardy Project: end of week 2

Weight change this week: 1/2 lb off (total 3 lbs loss)

Exercise this week: daily dog-walk; Wednesday cardio and CV circuits; (knee hurting Thursday and off to London Friday – walked a *lot* in London); Monday ‘chipper’ circuit and step circuit;

What worked well/tip of the week: Went through M&S with the barcode reader for the app – very interesting! Mostly I cook from scratch, but for days when we’re pushed for time then M&S ‘balanced for you’ meals are lower in points than the ‘count on us’ range 🙂

Bits where I had to think: in London on Fri and Sat, so used my weekly points to budget for it, had plain Skyr and fruit for breakfast, and thought about what I chose to eat while we were out. Home late on Saturday so we had a Chinese takeaway – I did manage to find something within my points ‘budget’ but I think in future it’ll be a ready meal in that situation (or frankly a grilled steak and salad would do!)

What needs to change next week: definiutely need to increase my steps on non-gym days

Mindset: I am trying very hard not to focus on numbers – I’ve focused well this week and am a bit disappointed that I didn’t lose a little bit more. But I did make myself go to the gym on a day when I really didn’t feel like it (last week’s skip was sensible because my knee was grumbling – is better this week). Struggling a little with work but didn’t resort to baking!

Favourite/new recipe this week: mushroom, spinach and chickpea curry (based on a WW recipe) – serves 2



  • oil spray, to mist
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 a medium courgette, diced
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 400g tin of chickpeas in water, drained
  • 160g baby leaf spinach


Mist a large pan with cooking spray, add onion and garlic and cook until softened, then add ginger, spices and tomato purée and cook for 2 mins.

Add the mushrooms and saute for 3 mins.

Add the chickpeas and tomatoes, simmer for 20 mins.

Add the spinach and stir through until wilted.

Serve with rice or naan bread.

[This was a hit with the house carnivore as well as the house vegan!]


The Unlardy Project: end of week 1

Weight change this week: 2.5lbs down (total loss 2.5 lbs)

Exercise this week: daily dog-walk; Wednesday, ‘chipper’ circuit and step circuit; Friday, weights/CV circuit; Monday, ‘chipper’ and step circuits;

Chipper circuit: 5-min rowing machine, 40 kettlebell swings, 30 dumbbell snatches, 20 crunches, 10 thrusters, 5 burpees, 10 thrusters, 20 crunches, 30 dumbbell snatches, 40 kettlebell swings, 5-min cross-trainer ‘pyramid’ (that’s starting at level 1, increase a level every 10-15 seconds to the highest level, then back down again)

Step circuit: (all 30 seconds, no rest until the end of circuit, repeat circuit three times)  walking step ups; fast step ups; jog in front of step; 4 star jumps and a burpee; knee driver (step between); repeater knee-driver (15 seconds each leg); step over; straddle jump

Weights/CV circuit: (45 secs per exercise, no rest until end of set) – circuit 1 skipping (jump rope), upright row, step-ups, overhead press, burpees, bent over row, star jumps, deadlift, up-and-overs, chest press, kettlebell swing (full);  circuit 2 kettlebell swing (alternate arm), lunge with front raise, kettlebell swing (half), lunge with lat raise, step-up knee drivers, wide kettlebell squat, knee driver repeaters (swap legs halfway), straight leg deadlift, Russian twist with star jump (ball in front when legs together, at side when ‘star’), hammer curl.

What worked well/tip of the week: spaghetti bolognese – grate the cheese on the fine side of the grater and it looks more (!); and buying individual (30g) portions of cheese so I can enjoy cheese and crackers without overdoingthings

Bits where I had to think: dinner out on Thursday before the theatre (I was sensible and chose steak and salad with no dressing); afternoon tea on Saturday (I planned for this in advance and used my ‘weekly’ points allowance for it, plus had low-point breakfast and dinner to make sure I stayed on track)

What needs to change next week: need to increase my steps on non-gym days

Mindset: pleased with the results so am keeping going

Favourite/new recipe this week: Moroccan-style veggie shepherd’s pie (based on a WW recipe) – serves 4


  • 1 kg prepared butternut squash
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • small glug of pomegranate molasses
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 400g tin of green lentils in water
  • 250ml veg stock
  • oil spray, to mist


Place the squash on a tray, mist with oil and roast at 180 degrees C (fan oven) for 30 mins; cool slightly and mash until smooth.

Meanwhile mist a large saucepan with oil spray, add the spices and garlic and onion and toast for 30 seconds then add all the other ingredients except the lentils and simmer for 20 mins; add the lentils and simmer for another 10 mins.

Put the lentil mixture into a casserole dish, spoon over the mash, and bake at 180 degrees C for 25 mins.

[I liked the base but didn’t enjoy the squash topping as much, so I’d be tempted to swap the squash for mashed cauliflower and then (as this is zero points) add a little Parmesan cheese for flavour]


The Unlardy Project – the start

Like many middle-aged women, despite my daily dog-walk and my gym sessions (which I admit have been very slack this year), I’m suffering from spread. Well, no – I’ve always been on the chunky side. About the only time I was thin was the worst year of my life, when my mum died. And I don’t actually want to be *thin* – I want to be a healthy weight and shape.

I do eat healthily, most of the time (a lot of my talk about cake is teasing – unless it happens to be birthday celebrations which stretch a bit too far). But the weight’s been creeping up again this year (partly to do with not showing my face enough at the gym). And it’s time I took care of myself. It’s time to admit that I need the accountability of having someone else weigh me and look over what I eat. I do have a slow metabolism (not a weak excuse – the Fitbit backs me up because on a desk-day when I don’t move anywhere near enough, I don’t even get to the 2000 calories an average woman burns). So I need to factor that in. I’m probably in a food rut and switching away from calories to a different form of counting will make me more mindful about what I choose to eat instead of being so familiar with it that I’m not thinking or keeping an eye on portion-creep.

I’m a foodie, so any programme that makes me live off shakes/bars or eat tinned (canned) food is not OK by me. I can’t do 5:2 because I am HORRIBLE if I’m hungry (everyone else in the house says they’ll move out if I ever do that again). I love experimenting with recipes. So what I want is something flexible that will let me eat half the week with my vegan daughter and half the week with my omnivore husband (and son, when he’s home from uni). My lot are a bit fussy so I’ve always tweaked meals and served different things to different people at dinner (eg spaghetti bolognese was normal for husband, wedges instead of pasta for son, different sauce for daughter, and extra veggies in my sauce). I don’t mind tweaking things. What’s important is sitting down together for a meal (I am also the tech police, so it’s no tech at the table unless there is a *very* good reason).

Friends have had good success on WeightWatchers and Slimming World, so I looked at both programmes to see which would suit me best. I opted for WW as I think I need the discipline and accountability of weekly weigh-ins, and also it’s slightly more structured than SW (I have a problem with carbs – letting me eat as much pasta as I like will not end well, whereas measuring a portion means I won’t feel deprived but I also will see results). With the points system, I can go out for dinner and enjoy it – and plan it in so it doesn’t push me off target. It helps that one of my writer mates happens to be a WW coach; I know she’ll be firm and kind, which is a good combination, and she also won’t let me beat myself up when I slip.

I’m adding this into my blog in case it helps others who might be having the same kind of struggle. It isn’t a competition (I want slow, sustainable and maintainable weight loss, and I have sensible goals in mind). It’s about sharing ideas. So my weekly roundup is going to be basically what I’m eating, what exercise I’m doing, and sharing any new-to-me recipe that I’ve really enjoyed. (Anything I post should fit just about any diet, whether you’re counting carbs or calories or fat grams – just chuck it through MyFitnessPal to get the stats.) I’m not posting my actual weight or measurements, though my weekly roundup will include how I’ve done. But I guess I ought to start with Kate Lardy as I look this week (taken in a doorway so I can see the changes as the weeks go on, on the grounds that if I can see a change in shape even if the scales aren’t showing much of a change, that will keep me motivated).



I’ll start with my go-to soup recipe (serves 4) (and this isn’t an entire meal – I normally have a salad or a sandwich to go with it! But I really like soup for lunch in winter – this doesn’t really count as cooking because it is SO easy)


  • 400g tin of tomatoes (and fill it up again with water)
  • large peeled and chopped carrot
  • Peeled and chopped red onion
  • deseeded and chopped red (bell) pepper
  • Medium topped, tailed and chopped courgette (zucchini)
  • pinch of chili flakes


Put everything into a saucepan, simmer for 30 minutes or until all the veg are soft, whizz through a blender until smooth.

You can vary the veg, decide to have it chunky instead of smooth, add a glug of pomegranate molasses for depth, add in a handful of dried red lentils at the start to bulk it out… It’s all about being flexible 🙂


Writing life

Behind the Scenes: A Diamond in the Snow

Blickling Hall is a place that’s inspired me for years, and I’ve pinched it as a setting in a few books now (including RoNA Rose shortlisted book Sold to the Highest Bidder).

While I was writing it, they started opening in the winter and having curators there, and my friend Jo and I went for a research trip (including lunch and a wander round). The team was incredibly helpful with suggestions about death watch beetle and mould (so much better than my original idea of a roof that needed work). I was hugely inspired for the ballroom by the Peter the Great Room. And then there’s the gorgeous garden and the lake… (Have I mentioned the Great Wood, with its fantastic show of bluebells every year? Love, love, love this place. If we lived slightly nearer, I’d probably go there every day to write!)

Sadly, the format of the book changed so it no longer contains a ‘dear reader’ letter (which was where I’d thanked the team for their help), but I popped in today to take a copy of the book, a proper thank-you card and chocolates to show my appreciation.  The autumn colour was stunning. And I’ll let the pics show you just how wonderful the place is. (The front of the house, the library, the Peter the Great Room, the back of the house and the lake.)