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So, my 10-year-old has started drinking coffee.

9 Apr

I can think of worse things to give him.

Philip drinking coffee

My children have always been curious about coffee. To them, it is a magical drink that makes me instantly happy. They’ve grown accustomed to me gasping, “I need coffee”, like a hung-over-twenty-something. Except I’m not hung over. I’m tired and overwhelmed. Coffee has always been about comfort and community to me.

They’ve all tried it and it was pretty funny watching them spit it out and dramatically gag, as though they’d just had a mouthful of vinegar. I’ve been the only regular coffee drinker in my home for as long as I can remember (my husband only drinks it occasionally) and I’ve been pretty happy with that state of affairs.

Philip is ten and he has been a tea drinker for years. After I put the little ones to bed each night, Philip and I have a cup of tea (a weak one for him) and chat or play Scrabble for half an hour before he too goes to bed. He took me by surprise this week when he asked for coffee instead of tea.

“It smells nice to me now. I think I’ll like it.”

So we had the ‘coffee chat’, about how it keeps you awake and a couple a day is enough, preferably before lunchtime.

“Can I have coffee tomorrow morning then?”

“Okay, but just a weak one,” I said. He is turning 11 in a week. #growing too fast.

Coffee fixes everything

The next morning we were running late for Tennis Camp so we didn’t get a chance to even have breakfast let alone make coffee but after Tennis Camp I suggested we go to a cafe for a snack.

“And can I have coffee,” he asked.

“Sure.” I mean, why not? To me, coffee for kids is much better than, say, Fanta or Coke In fact coffee has been proven to have health benefits – as long as it isn’t covered in whipped cream and caramel sauce – and I’ve been drinking it all my life. Coming from an Italian background I was always free to have a sip of wine or a bit of milky coffee.

I ordered him a weak cappuccino and a skim one for myself. He really really enjoyed it.

Now, my 10-almost-11-year-old is a coffee drinker and I’m okay with that. I never really had a problem with him having a bit of coffee here and there. I think my momentary struggle with it had more to do with how fast he is growing up, how mature he is and how I can now say to him, “Want to grab a coffee?” like I do with my grown up friends.

I’m preparing myself for some startled looks when I order him a coffee from our local cafe. They are used to kids requesting hot chocolates, which in my view are way more unhealthy than coffee.

Do your kids drink coffee? Would you let them if they asked?

I’ve never worked regular hours

1 Jan


Trying to buy milk at 5am is quite a challenge. All the service stations go into lock-down and you have to use the ‘Night Pay’ window which is an anti-social metal slot designed to prevent robberies. I usually indulge in a bit of a diet at this time of the year mainly due to my birthday in three weeks (37 – yikes!) so I really need to buy skim milk.

There are two workers at the service station I choose. I ask for skim milk and am told they don’t stock it. They stock Paul’s so I can choose from 2% or no-fat. I ask for no -fat and the girl points out that the 2% tastes just like real milk without the fat and the other one is really watery. I asked for the watery one and am met with a look of disapproval. I am too tired to explain that because I want to drink it I prefer it to be watery and that I already have 2% at work for my coffee. I slip my coins into the slot and he lifts his side and puts the milk in a metal container which I can access from my side too. I was wondering how he was going to fit it through that little slot. I was picturing him opening the sliding doors quickly, leaving it on the ground and then ducking back inside. Everything about me says ‘robber’ because I am after all not wearing any makeup and my children assure me I look scary at this time of the day. “Mum, you look like a monster,” my son helpfully pointed out one morning.

“It’s just like America, isn’t it,” a man joined me at the window to buy cigarettes.

“No, if it were America we’d be allowed in but they’d have guns and so would we.” He chuckled.


“Are you working,” I asked.

“Just starting,” he confirmed.

“Me too.”

Clutching my skim milk I scampered back to the car and continued the drive to work.

I’ve never worked regular hours. All my jobs have required early morning or late night shifts. My first step towards my chosen profession of radio was volunteering to do the breakfast shift at my local community radio station. My first paid job in radio was a late night show. Then breakfast again which lasted almost a decade and required me to wake up at 3.30am.

“At least you have the rest of the day free,” my 9-5 colleagues would comment.

“Except I’m in a coma and feel constantly jet lagged.”

“Oh,” they’d look at me skeptically, as though I was exaggerating. Don’t they know that by about 3pm I’ll be feeling like someone has microwaved my brain. Naps just made it worse.

In my current job they have something charmingly referred to as a ‘split shift’ where you work four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon so you are faced with the choice of staying at work like a loser waiting for your next shift to begin or going home for 1-2 hours before turning around and heading back to work. In the morning everyone is pretty energetic but by the afternoon all the office doors are closed and socialising is kept to a minimum. A lot of carbs are consumed in the form of noodles, chocolate and biscuits and we’re too tired to even wash our coffee mugs. It’s pretty sad.

Sometimes I watch movies and imagine myself working regular hours in a job where I have to wear special clothes. In most of my jobs I could have turned up in a track suit and no-one would have batted an eyelid. Often I’ve been tempted to turn up in my PJs…at least the pants because they are so comfy and it would be great when I power napped at my desk during a ‘double shift’ which is a horrible as it sounds but great on pay day.

Structuring your meals is also a challenge when you work irregular hours. My husband has been doing shift work for the past four years after decades of 9-5 jobs. I’d pack his food for the day or night depending on the shift he was working and he’d always eat his dinner for breakfast and end the day with cereal.

My colleagues and I are split into two groups – there are those of us who eat as soon as we wake up and those us who hold out until at least the sun is up. Those who eat breakfast before 6am have a problem later in the day where they want lunch at 9am and usually end up eating either two lunches or two dinners. Those of us who hold out usually manage a more regular eating pattern and a milky coffee first thing is an excellent stalling mechanism. But we all hit that wall somewhere between 3 and 4pm where fatigue segues into sugar cravings and MUST BE RESISTED, or not. Have you tried Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Brittle ice-cream yet? They sell it at the video shop near my house.

The closest I have come to a normal life is when I’m off work and strangely enough I have trouble getting to sleep and trouble waking up. For some reason I find it easier to wake up at 4am rather than 6am. When I sleep normally with no alarm and no schedule I wake up naturally at around 7.15 but this leaves only 45 minutes to get three children ready for school and various activities, pack lunches, shower, brush teeth…it’s just not enough time and I prefer not to start the day yelling at my children.

So spare a thought for shift workers or those who are working while you are tucked into bed. There are plenty of them keeping the wheels churning and when you’re at work going about your day they’re trying to stay awake to enjoy at least part of their day, eating lunch at 9am or napping in awkward places in awkward positions.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

Chocolate makes you fat…and other stupid surveys…

7 Dec

Pepp Crisp

I laughed my wobbly arse off when I read research that revealed women eat more chocolate when reminded that it’s unhealthy. By warning women about the fattening nature of eating chocolate , we are actually driven to eat more of it. This, according to research from the University of Western Australia. Other studies they are involved in include “Cinnamon Donut Eaters Are More Sensible than Iced-Donut Eaters” and “Excessive Alcohol Leads to Increased Peanut Consumption”…

Chocolate is my ‘dark passenger’ and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love eating it and I hate it when I have to share.

I often buy chocolates for my family only to hide it in the cupboard under the cous cous and forget to share it with my loved ones. I justify it to myself…”They don’t love it as much as I do”, “It doesn’t mean as much to them”, “They’ll be just as happy with popcorn”, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

If there is chocolate in the house it doesn’t last the day. I’ve never been a couple-of-squares-each-afternoon kinda gal. I’m more the eat-the-block-then-skip-dinner type.

According to researchers the fact it isn’t good for us increases the pleasure when we eat it and I TOTALLY get that. Just as we’ve all dated a ‘bad boy’ who we knew was trouble and delighted in secret trysts in cars in random parking lots, knowing chocolate is bad for us makes it taste all the more delicious.

I googled “Why women eat more chocolate than men” and it was blamed on hormones and blood sugar. Also research shows women are more likely to eat chocolate if the product is advertised by thin women. I remember this being discussed when a larger woman was cast in the Terry’s Chocolate Orange ad. I’m happy to say that happily consumed chocolate products featuring all sized women – because that’s just the kind of person I am.

When I run out of chocolate I usually get started on the choc bits or the cooking chocolate, both of which taste pretty good when cravings hit.

I don’t have any friends who don’t love chocolate and to be honest, if I found out a friend of mine didn’t like chocolate the friendship would be over. “What kind of person are you? Get away from me strange alien-like-creature and take your savoury snacks with you.”

To be honest, if someone tells me they don’t like chocolate I pretty much assume they are lying. They obviously have issues because everyone loves chocolate. I mean, it’s chocolate.

I find it comforting that money is being spent researching the reasoning behind excessive chocolate consumption (it’s sugary and delicious and tastes amazing – study complete). Because life is all about the little things…the big things can wait.

Now shut up and pass me the dairy milk…hey, your piece is bigger than mine!

‘Fat Talk Free Week’ (3-9 December 2012)

7 Dec


I can’t remember a single day in my adult life where I or someone I know hasn’t indulged in ‘fat talk’.

What is ‘fat talk’? The Butterfly Foundation explains…


Fat talk is language and dialogue that reinforces the “thin ideal” and increases body dissatisfaction.

“Do I look fat in this?”, “I’m so fat”, “She should not be wearing those pants”….this is Fat Talk.


It IS time to change the conversation, at least for a week, which is why the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders has launched ‘Fat Talk Free Week’ from 3 – 9 December.

I really want to do this. I would love an entire week of no fat talk both internally and externally. Imagine how peaceful that week would be? Imagine how much more TIME you’d have to think about other, more important things or at least to talk about your weight in a different way.

Imagine changing the conversation to something positive. For example, I have a new mantra that I repeat to myself almost daily when I find myself sinking into the ‘my life would be so much better if I were thinner’ frame of mind. I tell myself…

‘I have my health, my arms, my legs, people who love me. What I weigh doesn’t matter. I’m fine just the way I am.’

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to last an entire week without any fat talk but I could definitely do a day. It will have to involve all of my loved ones so a group email or specifically-shared social media message should do the trick.

The Butterfly Foundation also suggests one of the following events:


  • Have a themed day ~ “Embrace YOU” or “Empowerment Day” or “Just as I am”;
  • Hold a cup cake or Butterfly cake stall;
  • Conduct a fun run or walkathon;
  • Collect money in a “swear jar” every time someone uses Fat Talk!


A themed day or swear jar would be the top picks for me or even a combination of the two. A cupcake or cake stall day will just make me think about calories and if I do a fun run or walkathon I will be hoping to burn calories. But imagine your friends and family having to actually embrace themselves for an entire day or to call each other to task each time they use fat talk. How uplifting. How empowering. And how well timed as the panic sets in over what we will and won’t eat over Christmas.

The Butterfly Foundation is a lovely soft place to land for those of us who continue our struggle against fat talk. You can read more about Fat Talk Free week at

The foundation tells us to SHUT DOWN THE FAT TALK. Another ‘f’ word for us to put on the banned list.

This will certainly be a challenge but it’s definitely a better idea than a pre-Christmas detox or another diet. I have friends who don’t even order skim cappuccinos because of the chocolate powder on the top. I was with a close friend recently at Yum Cha and she spent the entire time eating from a plate of green vegetable. She wouldn’t even have one steamed dumpling. Another friend weighs herself every time she has stomach flu. A little boy in my life called himself fat recently and I almost started crying because while he isn’t skinny he certainly isn’t fat.

So, have a great week butterflies and remember, no fat talk. Put a poster up at work, set up the swear jar and for at least seven days cut yourself some slack. Because you rock. Fat talk be-gone!

Getting better with age

27 Nov

Have you even stopped and thought, “Gosh I love my life?” That’s how I feel today. I am having one of those days (weeks in fact) where I am experiencing the perfect balance of work, family and weight-loss. I’m 58 once again (it’s not my goal weight but it will do for over Christmas/New Years), I am doing some amazingly fun and fulfilling writing work from home while my little girl plays with her new playdough in the next room and I just received a phone call about another work opportunity – and next week I get to sit in and observe one of my radio idols doing his thing. 

And tonight I have family coming over for dinner (I haven’t seen them in AGES). It’s absolute perfection.

Now…how to hang on to this feeling and enjoy every part of it without psyching myself out. I want to enjoy all of this and make the most of it. I don’t want to self-destruct, second-guess myself or sabotage myself as I sometimes do when I feel overwhelmed or un-deserving. I want to live it and love it. How????

When I was in my twenties I was overweight, then I wasn’t but I was too naive and aggressive in how I pursued my dreams and I didn’t quite know who I was yet so I came across as inauthentic.

Now I know exactly who I am, I love life but I’m at an age where most women feel like the clock is ticking on fulfilling their dreams. And even before I secure myself my dream job I am already worried about the impact my goals will have on my family. But I deserve to be happy too, don’t I? I just want a great job and plenty of time with my kids. I don’t want to have to choose one or the other.

The difficult choice is turning out to be which career to pursue – the one that pays the most, the one that requires the least hours or the one I enjoy the most?


All I know that now that I am in my late thirties I am more than willing to fight for the life I want and I won’t let anyone (even myself) guilt me into not having it. I love my life, my family and my work and I want it all. Yes there will be days when it will be difficult but it will be worth it. Because by fighting for the life I want I am teaching my children to fight for the life they want and if I’m happy, I’m a much better mother.

Thanks to Lite n Easy I am now a reasonable weight again and my goal now is to maintain the weight over Christmas and New Years. I have put in a massive order for soups (Pumpkin and Chicken) because they are so healthy and filling and I will navigate family functions (of which there are many) to the best of my ability.

In my experience, there’s nothing a Lite n Easy soup dinner can’t fix. If I’ve over-eaten that day I have a soup for lunch or dinner and I pretty much get through the day without a total disaster (like not fitting into my clothes!).

Ahh, the possibilites are endless, the food is plenty and the challenges are ongoing but I’m ready.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

An Ode to Lite n Easy Chicken Caesar Salad (and double layer chocolate cake)

23 Nov

Two kilos gone. Not only am I sticking to the new summer menu, but I have increased my water intake, I’ve decreased my coffee consumption and I’ve been doing 20 minutes of pushups, situps etc each day. I think I had a lot of water retention because I first noticed the weight loss on my face each morning. I’m normally puffy after I’ve first rolled out of bed. Not so much anymore. I am hoping and praying that I’ll also see a signifant improvement to the cellulite on the back of my thighs.

I tried on a pair of short-shorts a few weeks back and thought I looked pretty good. My legs stay on the slim side (my stomach and hips not so much). I admired myself for a while and then made the mistake of turning around and looking at myself from the back. Massive orange peel…please please please go away!

This week I’ve been delighted by the chicken caesar salad and the double layer chocolate cake. I can’t even tell you how amazing they both were. I actually groaned as I ate them and my daughter said, “Yummy Mum?” I said, “No, very yuck” so she wouldn’t want any.

It’s great to be able to order the mini meals and bowl meals. My daughter always joins me in chicken soup, pumpkin soup and the pasta alfredo. They are her favourites while my husband keeps taking my macaroni cheese dinners (I have once again threatened him with divorce if he does this again). I’ve also threatened to cut his hand off if he touches them and I’ve attempted to hide them behind the frozen vegetables – ordering extras was the only way to achieve peace in my house.

I have a pair of jeans that don’t forgive even a half a kilo weight gain. Stubbornly I continued to wear them, struggling to eat and breathe. I wore them yesterday and it’s the first time in weeks that they’ve been comfortable. Yay, yay, yay.

Once you get through the first few days you really do feel your appetite shrink as your body shrinks and it does feel like you can keep it up forever.

I almost had a set back today. I was at home with my son, daughter and nephew and the power was turned off. I vaguely remembered I’d received a letter warning me of scheduled work…so we relocated to Lollipops Playland Cafe and as I sat down, I realised I was stuffed. I had no way to prepare my lunch (thank goodness I’d eaten all of my breakfast). So I had to make a lunch choice and I was quite proud of myself. I tried to choose something that was as close to a Lite n Easy lunch as possible.

I chose a chicken salad which thankfully used chicken breast. I asked for no tomato but extra beetroot. It was AWESOME. Lite n Easy has reawakened my appreciation for a good salad for lunch. An apple and a skim latte and I was set. I brought my muesli cookie pack with me.

I can’t even tell you how great it is to be getting back to my goal weight before Christmas. Over the holidays I plan to maintain…maintainence is challenging. Just because you get to your goal weight, doesn’t mean your weight problems are solved. It’s ongoing. It’s a total lifestyle overhaul.

I can’t wait to get the caesar salad and chocolate cake again!

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

My bumps, my bumps, my lovely lady lumps

20 Nov

I feel amazing. I woke up this morning feeling all sorts of fabulous which is very rare for a school day.

I’ve been on the full Lite n Easy program now for six days and I am waking up faster, I’m less hungry and I just feel great. I feel like I’m in control.

We underestimate the effect our health has on all parts of our lives. Everything from taking the kids to their activities, to grocery shopping, to cleaning the house, to working is easier because I feel like the responsibility for my health isn’t all down to me. I have some help and all I have to do is open up the packages and eat the food. And the food is so delicious that sometimes I wonder if it is a real diet. Then I weigh myself and it is confirmed. Lite n Easy works as well as it always has, even now that I am almost fifteen years older than when I first used the full program.

I was feeling so virtuous today that I decided to give up coffee too. I am so healthy, I am eating so well, I am lighter, my jeans are fitting better. I thought I’d tackle my only vice – coffee. I don’t drink or smoke so my life revolves around coffee and I structue my day around it. But I am in control of the rest of my diet. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like I could take or leave coffee and release the strangle-hold it has over me.

I lasted until 2pm. To my credit that’s two hours longer than I usually last when I try and give up coffee (I usually crack at noon but often give it up when I wake up, only to stop the attempt within thirty minutes). Coffee doesn’t have to be fattening (thank you Splenda) and it has been shown to prevent alzheimer’s. I don’t want alzheimer’s disease now do I. And coffee has also been shown to speed up your metabolism. Yay.

So bring on the coffee. A skim latte is DA BOMB! And I’d really be doing a dis-service to my favourite cafe if I stop going. I’m nothing if not loyal. I don’t want to offend them. Chai what?

My health is improving, I’ve accepted my coffee addiction and my excerise is progressing (most days I’m struggle to get out of bed with sore muscles but that’s the price we pay).

And pulling my once tight jeans on and being able to breathe is a luxury.

My weekly delivery arrives tomorrow and I’ve just been through the menu. THE DOUBLE CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE is on my menu for the week. I’m yet to sample this because it usually comes with a beef lunch and I don’t eat beef. I am dying already. A diet that involves cake is not a diet – it is a gift from the Lord above.

I would sing a hymn but I really can’t sing. I’ll just moan instead. Mmmm, mmmmm, chocolate cake.

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