I’ve always loved food – both making it and eating it. “Your eyes are bigger than your belly,” was often Mom’s refrain. It was never a problem when I went to school and sixth form, or even when I started working at the local supermarket while I was at university, because I walked everywhere and caught the bus.
Of course, the minute I got a real job, my appetite remained the same, but my arse would be mostly sat on an office chair and, physically, I’d be rather more sedate than I had been previously. And, of course, the minute I got a car instead of walking to and from the bus stop, well that’s when my portion control – or, rather, lack thereof – turned into a bit more of a problem.
For a good few years, my exercise regime included going to karate classes at least twice a week, and teaching at least once a week. In the run up to getting my black belt and taking part in the club’s “world cup” event in Australia, I was training four times a week, and yet still, I wasn’t losing weight, but rather maintaining it1.
Even when I got my black belt, I was 16st 2lb (226lb or 102.5kg), and it wasn’t going anywhere. When I cook, especially when it comes to rice, noodles, pasta or potatoes, I will often cook a little more than I need to, because while 2½oz of pasta is probably enough for me, it never looks like it’s enough.
There go those bloody eyes again.
It’s been nearly 5 years since I put my Gi on with intent, and so my exercise in the last few years has mostly been restricted to walking and the (very) occasional run. In reality, I haven’t run in anger for nearly 6 months.
My weight peaked at around 16½ stone (105kg) throughout the course of the last 18 months, so it was fairly clear that I needed to do something about all the food I was eating. So I started trying a couple of the food delivery services that are available.
The fixed portion sizes meant that I was actually doing a better job of watching portion sizes, but also meant that I was taking lunch to work and remembering to actually eat.
Given recent events, it’s probably not a surprise that my weight has been falling since around this time last year. Some of that was down to me watching my diet, but the majority was down to the stress and the fact that I was often simply forgetting to eat.
In the vast majority of cases, I would try and make sure that the boys ate as soon as they got in, which would often mean they’d eat differently to me. By the time I’d got them fed, bathed, read them stories, put them to bed and finished doing the various chores around the house, it would often be after 9pm, and the last thing I wanted to do was think about what I was cooking.
This is where HelloFresh and Gousto really came in handy. Both of the services featured good food, with recipes that were relatively easy to follow and with ingredients that, for the most part2, were pre-portioned and ready to simply throw in a pan and cook. Both services are very, very similar in terms of the amount of recipes available, the quality of the food and ingredients and the results you can expect.
It’s worth noting that I enjoy cooking and eating new things, so it was also a way to get me out of my comfort zone to try cooking new things. Granted, it’s not going to inspire me to craft new masterpieces3 but it has definitely been a way to help me drown out the repetitive and often boring meal choice rut I’d managed to get myself into.
Dinner for two
Over the last few months, the second portion that would ordinarily become my lunch for the following day has started to end up on another plate, and with my life being in a far better place these days, I’m happy to say that there aren’t many nights when I’m cooking for one any more.
So now I have a bunch of new recipes and, more importantly, a shopping list of ingredients that I can use to prepare dinners and lunches. Combining it with trips to the local butcher instead of the local supermarket for my meats, it can make it pretty cost effective too, and on the occasions when I’m cooking for more than just me and the girlfriend, it’s bringing a whole new bunch of things for the kids to try.
Other boxes are available
Over the years, I’ve personally tried HelloFresh, Gousto and Riverford Organic’s boxes. I quickly became bored with Riverford’s offering after a particularly lengthy spell of kale-based recipes grated on me, and their recipes were downright difficult to follow.
I’ve also heard of boxes from The Mindful Chef and Marley Spoon, but haven’t had a chance to try them out just yet. We’re giving Gousto another try at the moment – you try turning down an offer of a free bottle of Prosecco – but we’re planning to give the others a go in the future.
- Now it’s entirely possible that I was losing fat and building muscle, but the weight meant I wasn’t as light as I wanted to be, which meant I wasn’t as quick as I wanted to be. ↩
- I may have put too much chilli in on more than one occasion, but that’s mostly down to me liking spicy food and not reading the recipes properly rather than poor portion sizes from the meal box providers. ↩
- Speaking of which, I made the Beef Wellington again at Christmas, and I’ll probably be making it again in the next few months. I’ll be sure to write that up properly this time. ↩