Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sydney's bike lanes - angels or demons?

Hot off the press is the latest from the City of Sydney about cycling in Sydney's CBD and inner suburbs:

"City takes action on sharing Sydney streets

29 November 2010
As new bike counts show significant increases in riders in central Sydney from March to October this year, the City of Sydney is implementing an education program to help bike riders, pedestrians and motorists interact more safely and respectfully.

Bike counts at 94 intersections in March and October 2010 showed an average 40 per cent increase in the morning (6am-9am), with 29 per cent in the afternoon (4pm-7pm). Growth in areas with dedicated cycle facilities nearly tripling: 124% increase on Kent Street in the CBD; 167 per cent near the Anzac Bridge; and 173% on Bourke Road, Alexandria.

"Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers coexist in major cities across the globe. We want that spirit of cooperation here so that cycling provides a practical, safe and healthy alternative to reduce congestion," Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP said.

"Through our new Street Share Program, we aim to help everyone who uses our streets-whether by car, bike or foot-to share respectfully, and have a safe and enjoyable trip."

"Bike riders, like everyone else, must obey road rules. We want responsible riders who are aware of drivers and pedestrians, slow down on shared paths, and adhere to road rules."

The City of Sydney's Street Share Program will deliver information for bike riders, pedestrians and motorists. The integrated program of strategies include a shared paths safety campaign; "Explore Your City" group rides; grants for community cycling initiatives; a Sydney Loop Ride taking in the harbour foreshore; free bike maintenance; and riding classes.

The City of Sydney uses social media, advertising, newsletters, events and cycling courses to educate road users and promote safety. More than 600 people (70% women) have completed the free Cycling Confidence course and 450 have completed the free bicycle maintenance course. In the past three months, more than 10,000 cycling maps with safety information have been distributed and the City's SydneyCycleways Facebook page has 1500 fans.

The Street Share Program report to Council also prioritises nine planed bike corridors to target safe connections to useful destinations. These make up 53 kilometres of the City's endorsed 200 km bike network, and connect to destinations such as workplaces, schools, universities and parks for both commuting and recreation.

The routes will have the best mix of separated cycleways, bike lanes, contra-flow lanes (which allow bike riders to travel along a one way street), mixed traffic and shared paths. 

Final routes and treatments will be assessed and communities will be consulted to determine the best possible outcome for bike riders, pedestrians, business, residents and motorists.

Ms Moore said; "The City's promotion of safe bike riding and the building of a connected network will benefit everyone. More people riding bikes will improve public health, ease congestion and keep Sydney moving.""

The City of Sydney has installed bike lanes over the last twelve months which have come in for their fair share of controversy. While the plan has been a great idea per se, implementing it hasn't been as well thought out as it could be despite this cheerful media release. There are some horror intersections for cyclists using the paths with high risks for casualties caused by unwary motorists. Many commuting cyclists are shunning the bike lanes and going by their regular routes. Read the full story here in The Australian.

Additionally, shopkeepers are now losing business, particularly along Bourke Road Alexandria because of the bike lanes in front of their shops. Cars can't park in the bike lanes and realistically there's nowhere else to park on Bourke Road. Cyclists aren't using the bike lanes as heavily as the City hoped, either, adding insult to the shopkeepers' injury.

All in all the plan has, in some ways, been a bit of a disaster for both retailers and cyclists in certain parts of Sydney. 

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has hoped to engender an urban village atmosphere, with fewer cars and more cycles, and I applaud her for that. Visions of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna were all undoubtedly in her mind but I think Sydney's urban sprawl, our less than great public transport system and the subsequent reliance on cars has impacted negatively on the urban village ideal.

It's hard to build cycling infrastructure into a city that's been growing in an ad hoc manner for 200 years. Planning new infrastructure for new suburbs and developments has worked well. There are cycleways parallel to the M7 motorway, and a cycleway parallel to the T-Way public transport road running from Blacktown to Richmond and Windsor; both of these are huge new paths which provide cyclists with a safe road, and they are only two examples of good offroad cycleways.

Throughout greater Sydney I see many cyclists riding on the footpath alongside main roads. It's illegal unless you're under 12 years of age, but adults do it because the alternative of riding with Sydney traffic is appalling. Serious commuters do ride on the roads and most of them have mapped back ways that keep their time on main roads to a minimum. Seeing all these cyclists on the footpath tells me that offroad bike paths, rather than bike lanes on the road, may be the solution to get people riding more. Shared footpaths alongside main roads? I'm sure the Pedestrian Council's Harold Scruby (a self-seeking, publicity-greedy megaphone on legs) would foam at the mouth. But it might just be the answer.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Affordable cashmere and silk/cotton cardis

Earlier this month I mentioned that in my Great Wardrobe Cleanout I was replacing some awful synthetic stuff (that didn't even fit nicely if the truth be known) with cashmere and silk blend cardigans from a company called Woolovers. I did promise to post a review when the goodies arrived. I'm still waiting on one which is on backorder and should be here next week, but can happily say that the cashmere/mrerino blend and silk/cotton blend cardigans are just lovely.

When the parcel arrived - only a week to come from the UK with a very reasonable postage cost to Oz of 14 quid/$20 - my husband was home and asked me what it was.

"Cardigans," I replied happily, impatience almost making me rip the plastic postpak with my teeth.

"Of course it is. It's coming on summer." He shook his head. This is a man who owns four pairs of shoes. He doesn't understand the female clothing gene. Which is probably lucky or we'd really be fighting for wardrobe space.

These lovely cardigans are transeasonal, however. Certainly the cashmere/merino is too hot for summer, except for those nights when the cool change has come and you're sitting outside actually getting cold when the temperature suddenly drops from 35 to 22.

So... the cashmere/merino blend cardi, which is pictured at left:  I ordered this in lilac and black. Unfortunately because the site uses Flash to let you have a look at selected colours I can't show you it in the colours I chose. I wear quite a lot of purple and lilac shades, and had an awful hand me down puce-ish cardigan which did transeasonal duty for my purples. It's now gone to charity and the lovely lilac one will take its place. And as for black - a girl can't have too many black cardigans. This one replaces another cheapie.

The fabric is soft, and has a reasonable cashmere feel but not as soft as 100% (and unaffordable) cashmere: it's 30% cashmere and 70% merino, and machine washable on a gentle cycle.

The fit is gorgeous. It's a fitted cardigan so if you have a waist, it shows it off. I chose the v-neck version rather than the round neck as it does a bit more for my body shape; I have big boobs, to my despair. If you've got 'em, flaunt 'em I suppose. The v-neck at least makes me look like I have two separate boobs whereas roundneck cardigans can give one that 'monoboob' look.

The sleeves aren't TOO long, either. I hate sleeves around my wrists unless it's perishing cold. 3/4 sleeves are my friends for a lot of the year and while this isn't a 3/4 sleeve it's not a nuisance length either.

On to the silk/cotton cardigan now. I ordered this in black (again? you ask) and blueberry which is a deep purple. This fabric is much finer and lighter. It's the perfect summer cardi, and the attention to detail with the frilly edges and faux pearl buttons is a delight. Sadly it's not a v-neck but the neck is low enough that it highlights your assets :-).

Once again a superb fit. I've worn this one already to a business meeting and it accentuates my waist without pulling at the buttons and causing gaps. The sleeves in the pic look a little long, and perhaps they are, but they push back and stay back readily.

The fabric is machine washable on a gentle cycle - although I'll be putting this delicate little cardigan into a lingerie bag if I machine wash it. I tend to do my wools by hand but modern woollens are more able to be gently machine washed I've found.

Both cardigan styles come with extra buttons and on the silk/cotton one extra matching thread, which is a nice touch.

The Woolovers site claims it uses British wool but only has one line called British Wool. I suspect that despite badging itself as fine British knitwear the garments themselves are made in China. Nowhere on the garments does it state the country of manufacture but there's a little inspection tag on the inside with Chinese characters, so you can make up your own mind about that. It would explain the affordability of the cardigans. The quality, however, looks good. No loose threads, buttons sewed on tightly.

In short, I'm impressed. I've tried on several affordable/similarly priced cardigans here in chain stores, and haven't liked the fabric or the fit. To get the same blends of cashmere and silk I'd have to pay a lot more in a high street or department store. And the fit is perfect; fit is what I'm happy to pay for, and these cardigans make me feel like I look good.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The incredible shrinkin' woman

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm on a lose-weight kick at the moment. And, by gosh and by golly, it's working.

It helps that the workload is winding down a bit near the end of the year, and I'm not waking up through the night worrying about work.

I've been using the Shape Up Club online membership and app for about a month, and have lost 4 kgs. Or around 9lbs. More than half a stone. It might not sound much, but the app recommends not trying to lose more than 500gms/1 lb per week based on my height, my current weight, and how much I want to lose. I started out at 69kg/152 lbs, and am now 65/143 lbs. Given that I'm 158cm/5'2" that's still way too heavy (or weigh too heavy). I want to get down to about 60kg/132 lbs. Under that would be nice but I haven't been under 60 kgs since 1991! At my worst I was 72kg a couple of years ago, and I'm not going to translate THAT into pounds...far too depressing!

This pic, lousy as it is, is one I took today. I tried to upload one of me at a chunky 72kg but the server rejected it. Truly. The server obviously has good taste.

I'm currently allocated about 4,500kJs a day to eat, and I try to come in under that if I can. From having a row of Lindt dark chocolate every night, I'm now only having it about once a week and not really missing it. I don't do biscuits any more, or cake. Although I suspect I'll add the occasional one back in when I've reached my goal. Everything in moderation :-).

I haven't had to make too many dietary changes as we eat pretty good food in general; minimal fast food (emergencies only), not many cakes or biscuits, no soft drinks or sodas, very few snacks such as crisps. Chocolate and wine are the main weaknesses so I've cut down on the chocs and now have a glass of low alcohol wine with a few ice cubes in it at night. Wine is civilised. I refuse to give it up. I had, like many of us, blown out on the portion sizes for protein such as chicken and meat so had to reeducate myself there. To help things along I minimise the carbs I have in the evening, as they don't get burned off as easily.

Because I'm not stressing my butt off and tying myself to the desk from early in the morning until dinner time, I'm making time to get out and get physical. I'm walking a minimum of 30 minutes a day (and that's brisk walking... sometimes my husband has to puff to keep up on the hills). I'm cycling again, to the shops and for leisure around the streets and parks at weekends. Housework, cleaning and gardening all burn kJs very nicely - something I've always done anyway. I've been to the gym once, but slogging along for half an hour on a treadmill or stationary bike is boring as hell compared to being out in the fresh air on a real bike, smelling peoples' gardens and having the sun on my skin. I've started using my husband's hand weights at home and doing pushups and other resistance exercises.

A bonus is my skin is looking brighter - I got a fantastic compliment from a client yesterday who thought I'd had some kind of surgery or expensive facial treatments.

And oh, bliss, my jeans are loose. The Fat Person jeans I bought last year. They're just about sliding off my hips. I also had a pair of low-slung cargo jeans which I hate but hadn't got around to replacing. I had to replace them this week as I got so sick of hitching them up. I don't wear belts with low slung jeans as they draw attention to my hips and increase the risk of the dreaded muffin top :-). And I replaced them with a size smaller (and slightly higher rise too so they don't fall down as easily).

Keeping the diet under control as we head into Silly Season will be a challenge; those canapes at cocktail parties are killers, and I have a few parties I have to attend on behalf of my work. But now I've seen a result I'm determined to keep up the good work.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Places I love to shop at for merino and other woollen garments

I mentioned my love of Icebreaker clothing in a post a few days ago.

Icebreaker is lovely; you can wear it cycling or on other outdoor excursions, and it's equally smart under a jacket for work. In summer the superfine wool is cooler than a cotton t-shirt and much cooler than anything synthetic. It's great for holidays as it really doesn't pick up odours. I confess to trying this out last summer, wearing the same tshirt for a week. Before you recoil in horror, it didn't pong after seven days. It felt fresh each day when I put it on.

The price of all this perfection and adaptability is...the price. Icebreaker is expensive in anyone's language; you'll rarely find it on sale if you walk into adventure, ski or outdoor shops. At least any items you might actually like won't be on sale.

But I've never bought Icebreaker from a retail high street shop, shopping in person. I've bought my pieces online.

For Aussies, the best Icebreaker bargains are at bivouac.co.nz.  The Aussie dollar is strong against the Kiwi dollar, and this shop always has a wide range of Icebreaker and usually has something nice on special.

When international postage was somewhat cheaper last year and before I picked up a couple of Icebreaker pieces cheaply from BackCountry. Now, however, postage from North America has skyrocketed in cost. It's no longer a bargain and I'm better off buying from the Kiwis.

Moving on from Icebreaker, Australian and NZ catalogue shop Ezibuy carries a range of outdoor merino wear - Isobar. I 've bought two tops from them when they've been on sale. The first was of equal quality to Icebreaker, the second was *almost* there but not quite. The second item I bought was a heavyweight merino - ie 260gm - zip front sweater, and I picked up a similar item in Icebreaker in a different colour last summer and noticed the weave was not as tight nor the merino as fine in the Isobar. Isobar's base layer long-sleeved top, which was my first purchase, is excellent however.

Ezibuy also carries fine merino clothing for everyday wear. Admittedly the knit isn't as tight as the outdoor wear, and the $30 tunic I bought nearly two years ago has not held its shape as well as I thought. However, at least it's wool, and merino at that, and it's very reasonably priced on the whole. I also bought a couple of normal wear merino waist-length tops from Ezibuy and they have held their shape just fine.

Kathmandu outdoor clothing store had a sale on last month and I scored a pale mauve long-sleeved merino top for $60, down from an astonishing $149. The quality is there at first glance; I haven't worn the top yet but am saving it for next autumn or a really cool day (unlikely now before next autumn).

Piece by piece I'm getting rid of synthetic tops and where possible bottoms from my wardrobe and replacing them with natural products such as wool and cotton. Hence I troll the net for specials on merino and other wool.

Pure cashmere is out of my reach unless it's made in China and I do try and avoid clothes made in China if I can. (Sadly Icebreaker is now made in China as its sales have skyrocketed and the cost of producing the clothes in lovely NZ is now prohibitive.) There have been health scares with chemicals used in the production of cheap Chinese clothing - typically polycotton blend tops of the cheapest variety - with formaldehyde the main chemical culprit. It makes the clothes nice and crisp looking when they're on the rack but can cause severe reactions in the wearer.

But... I've now found an affordable site for Cashmere blends - Woolovers. The link is to the Aussie version of the site but it IS international with sites pertinent to the UK, US, Canada and NZ, and the prices are amazing. I've ordered a Cashmere/Merino cardigan from these guys and it's on the way to me as I write. Expect an update when I've received my cardigan - affordable cashmere! Oh joy! I can't find anywhere on the site saying the garments are made in China, so I do have some high hopes here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nutcase helmet review - Nutcase gets the thumbs up

As I mentioned earlier this year, I was given a Nutcase helmet for my birthday. Now I've had the opportunity to use it for several hours in both cool and rather warm conditions, it deserves some praise.

I love it.

Helmets are vile and enable you to look totally naff whilst wearing nice clothes when cycling. But in defence of the Nutcase it's less naff than most and it is comfortable. In all honesty once I'd had it on for a bit the first time I rode it, I forgot I was wearing it. It's a superb fit.

Given that all the riding I've done so far has been in spring, and this spring in Sydney has been cooler than average, the air vents have provided sufficient cooling. Go fast enough and the air just whizzes into them. Once I've had some summer rides I'll revisit that topic and see how it stacks up against a more open helmet.

I had concerns about the lack of sunvisor and still do to a degree; I've found myself squinting even with sunnies on, but the comfort of the fit makes up for it.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Nutcase helmets to cyclists who don't want to look like an alien has landed on their head. Until cycling laws change (ha!) and we can go back to riding around parks and quiet streets without bloody helmets should we wish to do so, Nutcase is my choice.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Musings on a wardrobe

Twice a year I go through my wardrobe, ready for the change of seasons. It's a mysterious fact that once I've done this there are never enough coathangers available yet there were before I started and apparently a similar number of items get taken out and replaced with the next season's! :-)

I usually do the ready-for-summer gig on the first weekend in October, as it's typically warm enough by then to put the big woolies away. But this October was unseasonally wet and cool. I wore a heavy winter jumper a couple of days and we had the heater on at night - and even during the day last week. Bizarre. This is Sydney. October is usually in the mid 20s.

However the cool weather has gone for good I think, so, tempting fate and daring her to send another cold snap, I sorted my clothes this morning. A charity bag (which isn't really full enough), a washing/ironing pile and a hangup pile.

I'm a dreadful hoarder. What annoys me about me is that I can't even get rid of clothes I don't like any more. Take a camel-coloured pullover tunic I have. It looks like a sack of potatoes on me. I rarely wear it. But...the colour is good especially with black and cream, and it's pure new wool rather than an acrylic blend. So after much humming and hahhing I tossed it into the Wash and Keep pile. Don't worry, the charity bag hasn't left the house yet, I may still decide to chuck it in there at the last minute.

I have heavy cotton sweaters from the late 80s/early 90s which I might wear once a year. They are white, and a pig to wash as one of them has red satin embroidery and dye on it and runs like Phar Lap at the first sign of water. Yet I keep them, year after year. Once a year I might wear them out to a friend's house, as the style of the sweaters doesn't scream about their era. The one with red satin I bought in Paris so that has sentimental value, and they were both quite expensive so I hesitate to give them away.

And there are the jumpers my mum knitted me in the 80s. Very much a labour of love and even though I don't wear them any more I can't get rid of them. I just can't. I feel guilty at the thought. Mum spent hours on them, particularly one with a checkerboard pattern, green leaves and knitted roses sewn on the jumper. So they take up space, mothballed but sacred.

Am I alone in this? How many of you out there are ruthless? How many can say, "Pah! I didn't wear that top at all last year, or the year before. Into the charity bag with it"? If that's you, I envy you.

I have, though, finally decided to sell on eBay some clothes that I...er...bought on eBay. These are a couple of vintage gowns from the 1960s. The cheong-sam is a bit tight and I HATE the high collar I've decided; it chokes me. The white one with flowers is too big. And it's nylon so I boil in it. I've worn it once and felt glamorous, but in a meriingue-like way.

And finally there's this one below, which I didn't buy on eBay but paid, in retrospect, too much for in a boutique nearly ten years ago. I adore the colours but it doesn't fit me any more and while I am losing weight, I doubt whether I'll wear it again. If it sells, it sells. If it doesn't it'll go back into the wardrobe and I'll try it on again when more weight comes off. It zips up OK right now but I look six months' pregnant. Not a good look. I do adore the colours though.

One thing I AM turfing out is the cheap t-shirts and knitted cotton tops which collect little balls of pill on them. Made in China, they stretch out of shape in the first season. I used to buy cheap t-shirts because they were, well, cheap. And I can't reason paying $50+ for a cotton t-shirt just 'cos it's made by Esprit or Gap or some other label.

I discovered Icebreaker clothing last year. Beautiful, beautiful fine merino wool. And it's spoiled me forever for cheap t-shirts. I bought one Icebreaker tshirt and was so impressed by it that when I have a good month financially and there's something suitable on special I buy another Icebreaker piece. They are well made, and well-designed enough to wear under business suits (I'm not a blouse or shirt person). I live in them. I buy mine from a website in NZ (which means they are relatively cheap as the NZ dollar is even weaker than ours, and postage over the Tasman is pretty cheap too). They are cooler in summer than cotton tees and dry much quicker on the line. They hold their shape. They don't pill. They don't need ironing, which is good 'cos I'm busy enough ironing kaftans in summer (see below).

Selling these frocks on eBay may give me the wherewithal for another Icebreaker t-shirt - well, that's the plan anyway. And there's an Icebreaker sale on right now at my usual Icebreaker website.

So while the charity bag isn't as full as it could be, there are plenty of tshirts in there. I have more in the wash pile to join them.

My other summer clothing love is kaftans. Not the full-on 1970s Demis Roussos versions, but lovely cotton hipskimmers from places like The Tie Rack, which has stores in Australia. Last summer was so abysmally hot and humid I ended up buying half a dozen cotton kaftans in beautiful colours and patterns. Rich purples, lime greens, cool aquas and whites. The long sleeves protect your arms from the harsh Aussie sun, and the loose fit allows air to circulate. They are brilliant for cycling in. 

And finally - I sorted out my makeup as well this morning. All those lipsticks, blushes, eye makeup and foundation I don't use anymore as the colour looks naff on me. The winner was a mauve lipstick from 1985. Yes, 1985. I'd kept it to wear with purple stuff in summer but realistically hadn't used it in ten years. Behold:

Wave it goodbye - the garbage collection is Wednesday morning. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Petunia is going Shimano

I've been pondering this for months and when I decided in early spring I'd convert Petunia to a 7 or 8 speed hub bike Shimano Nexus hubs were in very short supply. They still are. I've been keeping an eye on eBay and other sources and found one on Amazon. The hub was cheap enough but the postage is almost half the cost of the hub!

However, I don't care; I can cover it. The Aussie dollar and US dollar are on parity at the moment so it's still cheap enough to have this little chap below shipped to me:


It's a Nexus 8 speed Rollerbrake or Vbrake hub. Comes with all the accoutrements such as shifters so it's a pretty good deal I think.

I won't be doing the conversion myself as my bike maintenance and repair skills are limited to bolting on extras such as removable headlights, or at a pinch adjusting a derailleur. There's a bike shop down in Parramatta with experienced service staff with whom I've discussed this project. 

Converting Petunia is going to cost more than I originally paid for her - in fact at least double! - but the end result I believe will be a unique sweet mixte I'll be very happy with. 

Having discovered hub gears last year on my lovely Pashley last year I'm in love with them. They are such a boon in stop/start urban cycling. Have to stop? Just select the appropriate gear to set off again in while you're stopped. Now try doing that with a derailleur. You may find your chain departing from the chainring. I feel far more confident riding with hub gears; part of that is because my hands don't have to leave the grips to change gear.

Now I can go searching for a chaincase cover so I can ride Petunia without getting chain lube and dirt on my jeans; if anyone sees a pretty one let me know! I suspect I'll be getting one from overseas and will start my search at Velo Orange.

What will this elegant piece of engineering look like with hub gears? Maybe I'll know by the end of the month - it depends on shipping and how soon those bike shop lads can do the work. I suspect the chainring may have to be changed as well so will see what's out there and affordable and importantly, attractive. Any advice from anyone on chainrings and anything else I may have to do to make this conversion work?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Spring into action

I've been lax in posting to my blog the last few months. I've been too busy to get my head around leisure pursuits, and it's taken a toll on my health. My doctor tested my cholesterol last month and told me it was heading for the high side, and I needed to do more exercise and lose weight. The problem with working the way I've been is that you get into a rut: you go to bed at night with your brain still whirling around work stuff and wake in the wee hours still thinking about it. When you finally nod off again you've had a broken night's sleep, and if you've set the alarm for 6 to go for a walk you feel too tired to get up and hit the snooze button and finally get up an hour later, too late really to get a walk in before the work day starts. This, perversely, makes you even more tired and irritable throughout the day. It's a vicious circle.
With people pulling me this way and that to do projects for them I resorted using the car instead of the bike to go to the shops, when it was perfect cycling weather in late winter and early spring. I had maybe two weekends off all winter. I was heading for clinical depression too, I think. But that's another story.
Now it's nearly summer but thankfully it's still relatively cool. I've learned to say no to people and keep the workload to a manageable level most of the time. We set the alarm for 6.30 now and go for walks most mornings. The last two weekends we've headed out to Olympic Park with our bikes for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings. Neither of us had ridden since August (shame on us both) and I was surprised that my fitness level hadn't dropped too far below its usual mediocrity. Must be the walking, as we live in a hilly area and our morning walks include at least 3 hills.
So the exercise bit is happening, and I've finally found a solution to help me lose weight from an unexpected source - my iPhone. It's an app called ShapeUp Club, and is associated with a website, shapeupclub.com. The app is free, but it pays to join the website for $36 a year. It works on a similar principle to Weight Watchers, ie you are allowed eat a number of kilojoules/calories per day, but the beauty of it is the food database, where with a simple click you add an item into your daily allowance and it recalculates how many kJs you have left to eat that day. You add in any exercise taken and again it recalculates. You can also add in your own recipes and foods from your pantry. I've lost two kilograms in two and a bit weeks using ShapeUp Club to track my food intake and exercise.
Over the last year I've tried:

  • The Paleo Diet (very expensive as you eat a lot of meat/protein, and I started to feel guilty about eating so many dead animals. I did kickstart my weight loss though, but it plateaued because we broke the diet with chocolate and red wine)
  • The Gabriel Method (didn't lose a gram, but the hypnotic CD helped put me to sleep when I was stressed.)
  • The Dukan Diet (Echoes of the Paleo Diet, and for the first few weeks really restrictive. Too restrictive. Protein only. No fruit, very few veggies until the second month. Not balanced in my opinion)

but the ShapeUp one is the sensible option. I've likened it to Weight Watchers as it promotes a balanced diet rather than high-protein or no-carbs. While WW uses 'points' to calculate your food values, the points are undoubtedly based on a kJ or calorie count.
So now I'm having an action-packed spring, and loving it. Taking time to smell the roses. Destressing. And finally getting out on the bikes again :-)