I’ve tried several eating regimes in my time, from Atkins (yeuch) to the Mars Bar (yum) diet, but few have been more effective in shaving inches from my flabby figure than becoming a mum. Of course, what follows applies to dads too, and if you’re one of the lucky ones who has one or more small people who sit up at the table, eat everything that’s put in front of them and never make a spot of mess, well, take my advice – keep quiet about it…
The Mum’s Diet
To be followed as often as possible when exhaustion allows. Medical visit advised before beginning, but if you’ve given birth, then chances are you’ve already seen enough of doctors and nurses to last a lifetime.
Breakfast: Cereal. Can be either picked from face or – for preference – thrown at you from across the room, accompanied by the screams of your toddler (definition: rampant, almost permanently pissed-off small person under the age of about four) who has informed you at the top of his/her voice that he didn’t want this, he/she wanted THAT and how could you not know, even though you asked?
If serving toast DO NOT offer jam, unless you plan to have your small person stick to everything he/she touches for the next 12 hours – including you.
Ideally serve with fresh fruit, but seeing as you never have the time to eat what’s in the fruit bowl, it’s all gone manky anyway, alongside coffee that has been reheated four times but is still cold.
Mid-morning snack: Experts recommend something that can be grabbed while on the go. Most parents will happily offer their small person a cereal bar (preferably one which has been used as a hairbrush/shoe/dog toy before being smooshed into your face), while mum opts for a sneaky square (the size of the car) of chocolate. Definitely still avoiding the fruitbowl.
Lunch: Are you kidding? Lunch is something elegant that happens to other people. For mums, this is dinner – more commonly known as war round #1. Could be pasta, rice or potatoes. Either way, it’s ending up on the wall, so carbs are covered. Or you’re covered in carbs. Salad? Forget it. Any vegetables at all? Well, you might just be able to squeeze in a carrot stick or two, but watch out for them coming back to haunt you in the form of half-chewed presents spat down the front of your second-best top… Is there a pudding? Hell yes, don’t you dare deny any small person their yoghurt or custard. All you can do is watch and hope they let you lick out the pot.
Afternoon snack: Can be anything, absolutely anything as long as it gives you 30 seconds of peace and quiet. Usually biscuits/cake. To be consumed in front of the telly for toddlers, any mums lucky enough to get their hands on something sugar-coated needs to hide it quickly and scurry off to the loo, where they can devour it in private. Amateurish attempts to eat ‘sweeties’ together will neither be forgiven nor forgotten.
Tea: Also called dinner by confused posh people, and exhausted parents will know there’s absolutely no point in dressing for it, unless it’s to don protective outerwear. Also known as war round #2. Could involve meat, which means the average small person a) suddenly evolves into a champion thrower as slices of beef/pork/chicken/lamb ping off the designer light fittings or b) develops a terrifying inability to swallow and almost chokes on every other mouthful. Either way, you’re on your toes.
Accompanied by vegetables (foolish mummy – didn’t you pay attention at dinner time? Vegetables are either TOYS or EVIL. And you’ll never know which), and a cup of water. Ah, yes, water. Pure, simple and BORING. But wet…
Dessert: more yoghurty custardy goodness for THEM, not YOU. Accompanied by the sound of your stomach growling. Or teeth grinding. Probably both.
Supper: Final attempt to crow-bar fruit into small person’s mouth results in tears before bedtime.
Thankfully, once any remaining small people have been packed off to bed (that’s another battle entirely), it’s the perfect opportunity to settle down on the sofa with a glass of something lightly alcoholic – or lighter fluid, whichever is to hand – kick off your shoes and raise a glass to another day survived – and another inch around the waistline lost.
And if your stomach is still making a fuss, just remind yourself that, while these may be the difficult early years, when little Tarquin or Jocasta become sulky-bugger teenagers, they won’t want to be within 40 miles of you – and then you can eat what the hell you like.