Why you should have your cake and eat it…. For breakfast.

What if I told you that not only is it perfectly acceptable to eat cake for breakfast but it may just help you lose weight?

Don’t be fooled by these Instagram goddesses with their deliciously pretentious chia seeds, healthier-than-thou greek yoghurt, a scintillating sprinkle of seeds and the most super of foods blueberries. A good old-fashioned slice of delicious cake in the morning could very well be the key to a healthier & happier you.

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Fortunately you don’t just have to take my word for it. Despite the fact that I came to this pleasant conclusion all on my own, it’s common sense really, it turns out scientists and dieticians alike have been saying the same thing for years.

In fact they’ve actually done test with real life groups of clinically obese, non-diabetic adults. In 2012 researchers split participants into two groups, one consuming a low-calorie breakfast the other consuming twice the amount of calories including cake for their morning meal. They would then go on to consume the same total amount of calories during the day, 1600 for the men and 1400 for the women. After the 32 week study had finished not only had the cake consumers lost weight, they had, on average, lost 40 pounds more than the non cake eaters!

Now there are multiple reasons why eating cake for breakfast might help you lose weight. The most compelling reason would seem to point to our metabolism being the most active in the morning. Let’s think of our metabolism like a miniature sun. At sunrise it’s rising, it gathers momentum and is at its peak at midday, then it glides gently into sunset slowing down and resting. By having a calorific breakfast there’s plenty of fuel inside you to be burnt at that midday peak, this gets turned into energy for you to put towards having a productive and active day. By eating cake later in the day, as the sun and your metabolism are setting, your body is less prepared to burn off the calorie intake and it is more likely to be stored as fat.

Satisfying your cake lust first thing in the morning will also make you far less likely to need to snack on sweets and treats during the day indeed “the group that consumed a bigger breakfast, including dessert, experienced few if any cravings for these foods later in the day.”

Part of the reason why the participants that ate the calorie restricted breakfast failed to lose as much is weight is the fact that they simply cheated on their diet plan. Not having had their sugar fix in the morning they were far more likely to snack in addition to their daily allowance resulting in them eventually regaining previously lost weight.

I put it to you that the trend these days of having a super healthy breakfast is to blame for many people’s inability to shift unwanted pounds. let’s say you start your day with some chia seeds, that have been diligently soaked over night, mixed with a little low-fat yoghurt, maybe a bit of granola thrown in for that crunch factor and it’s not going to get any likes on Instagram without some lovely colourful mixed berries on top. No doubt it will be delicious and leave you feeling healthy, content and emitting that all important smug glow of someone for whom their body is a temple. However, a few hours pass and its time for the first tea break of the day. The biscuit box sits there, oh so tempting, and hey if any one there deserves a chocolate hob nob it’s you, especially after your pre work spin class, you’re starving and lunch isn’t for another two hours yet, you need the energy, go on take two.

Maybe you’re feeling guilty after your mid morning biscuit binge so opt for a healthy salad for lunch, well done you. When you get home you’re understandably famished. Chia seeds, granola, a bit of chicken salad and four Chocolate Hobnobs (you had another two with the afternoon break didn’t you?) were never going to be enough to keep you sustained for the day. You’ve all the good intentions of whipping up a super healthy stir fry, using coconut oil of course, you’re no sunflower oil using fool. Then again there’s all the veg prep to do and your flat mate’s suggesting pizza. You reflect on what you’ve eaten today, you’ve been so well-behaved, you can allow yourself this one bad decision at the end of a long day. So with your belly full of delicious fat and carbs you put your chia seeds back on to soak ready for tomorrows breakfast and go to bed safe in the knowledge that according to social media you’re smashing this healthy eating game, you’ll be ripped in no time!

Compare this to if you’d had a slab of chocolate cake for breakfast. Just imagine the guilt! Are you reaching for the biscuit tin? Heck no, in fact you’d better go without sugar in your tea today. Theres no way you’re having pizza for dinner, not with the rest of the chocolate cake, that you know you’ll be devouring for breakfast, eyeing you from sideboard. You’re going to bed after a healthy evening meal of protein and vegetables. The clear winner.

I should add that if you already eat a healthy balanced diet and manage to avoid unhealthy foods altogether, gorging yourself on cake every morning might not be of benefit to you, but you’re a clean eating genius so you already know that.

The main point is, if you must have your cake and eat it then it’s best saved for the morning. You might get some odd looks at the dinner table when your turn down that sweet spongy goodness but then you get to savour their envious looks over the breakfast table the next morning, you’re welcome.tina-fey-cake-snl-CONTENT-2017-840x460

The Pineapple House

The Pineapple House in Antigua is to youth hostels what a Rolex is to wrist bands, it covers all the same area whilst achieving something altogether more spectacular.

Despite feeling like you’re nestled in the midst of a tropical rainforest the place is in fact just a minutes walk from the Super Yacht hub that is English harbour and a stones throw from the Caribbean sea.18083706_10158606207825055_1623539110_o (1)

I first stayed at The Pineapple house in 2013. I flew into Antigua on the 23rd of December, when my taxi driver asked me where I wanted to go I assumed “Take me to Pineapple House” would suffice, it did not, after suggesting that it must be somewhere near a lot of yachts we fortunately made our way to English Harbour.

The prospect of spending Christmas alone, away from all family and friends on the other side of an ocean is never going to be a good one. However no person could ask for a better surrogate family for the festive period, or indeed any other time of year, than the one I found at The Pineapple House.18159805_10158625620520055_147699917_o

The moment I knocked on the door the top half of a very pretty blonde girl (the likes of which are often found staying at The Pineapple) popped up on the main veranda “Just push the door and come up, it should be open” was the advice. So it was and so I did. I was given a brief tour, the main hall of the house offers four queen size four posters, two lounging areas, a communal bathroom and a kitchen. The rest of the Pineapple House is spread out over the hill behind the main house, with a selection of beds away from the hustle and bustle of the main house and a range of beautiful private cottages for those desiring a little more personal space.

I chose a bed at the far end of the main hall, boxed in by banana tree leaves on two sides and enclosed all round with mosquito netting, it was to be my home for the next week or so.
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I’d no sooner dropped my bag than a trio of fellow work seeking house mates invited me to join them for a run. We ran/ scrambled around the “Goat’s Trail”, swum across the mouth of English Harbour to Galleon beach, playing a quick game of water polo with a floating coconut on our return swim then ended the day with a few infamously strong rum punches up at Shirley Hights where a live band plays every Sunday.

Christmas at Pineapple was a fantastic experience. I made the obligatory Skype call with parents then it was up for a champagne breakfast with the new family. After filling a cooler with more champagne and, of course, rum, we marched down to Nelson’s Dockyard. We spent the day basking on the lawn or sprawled under the palm trees that grow there, occasionally dousing ourselves in the ocean before returning to the grassy dance floor to jam with reggae santa. I made friendships that day that will last a lifetime.
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The Pineapple could almost be considered more of a social club than a crew house. The heady mix of sailors, locals and holiday makers that gather most evenings in the main house is what really brings life to the cluster of buildings on a hill. A constant supply of rum punch is always to be relied on, drunk solely from left over jars of various shapes and sizes, people were drinking from mason jars at the Pineapple long before hipsters turned it into a cliché. If you do end up staying in one of the beds in the main house it is best to adopt an attitude of “If you can’t beat em, join em” as what can start as a few quite drinks on the balcony will often escalate into a full-scale, dancing on the bar, swinging from the chandeliers (don’t), crew party and indeed The Pineapple House boasts quite an impressive PA system.
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Over my three winters I spent in Antigua I would regularly pop up to see what was happening in the house, not to stay there as I had my own accommodation but to meet friends and usually just to check out how the party was. Without fail upon entering I would be embraced in an almighty bear hug from Libby. Libby is the owner, proprietor and designer of The Pineapple house. She is a fantastic woman who exudes love and compassion, she’s always the first to suggest a party and would be the first person I’d turn to if I got myself into any difficulties in Antigua.
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I recently stayed for a week in the “Rum Jungle” one of the private cottages, just below the main house, actually vacationing for the first time in over five years. It was just the perfect place for a solo traveler to stay and I loved my week there. I would make myself some eggs in the morning before walking the five minutes the beach, where I could spend most of the day just drinking banana coladas with my book. I ended up racing on the classic yacht “Adix” for two days, after two other Pineapple House residents suggested I should invite myself on board,  I even won the gig racing event in The Pineapple’s own little gaff rigged “Scruffy”.

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I found myself becoming quite emotional packing my bags on my last night, listening to José González probably didn’t help. Many great memories have blossomed at The Pineapple and I’m already counting the days, though I don’t know how many there may be, until I have reason to return.

As it’s written above the door “Heres to the nights that turn into mornings and friends that turned into family.”18175372_10158626616560055_1136906797_o

The Grecian Chronicles

It was literally the dream job for me. As a family we had been going on beach resort holidays every Summer or Autumn since I’d been 5 years old. I’d imagined myself working at these resorts from a very young age. So when the bus dropped my bulging suitcase and I in a remote village somewhere near my new home for the next 6 months on the west coast of Greece it would be fair to say I was very excited.

All the resort staff had flown out together. What a fun journey that was, thirty odd odd twenty odds in a plane together, free booze and, as yet, not relationships to worry about. Followed by a five hour bus ride from Athens with plenty of time to get to know each other in the back of the bus.

Of course I wasn’t on the plane or the fun bus because of bloody Iceland. As I mentioned in my first blog post, Mount Eyjafjallajökull had erupted, halting all air traffic out of Northern Europe meaning that I ended up flying out to Greece three days after all the other staff had arrived in resort. I got to take the flight and ride the fun bus all on my lonesome (there were other people travelling alongside me but I didn’t consider them by travel companions). I had been told by whoever was responsible for me that I should ask the bus driver to drop me by the hospital, under no circumstance was I to get off at the school. Less than 48 hours prior to my boarding the bus in Athens I’d been running around Val d’Isere at three in the morning looking in every bar I’d been in that evening trying to find my missing ticket for the bus to take me to Geneva airport. I’d had time enough at home to chuck my salopettes and snowboard boots out of my bag to be replaced with board shorts and flip flops before being ushered into the Greece bound plane. My point is that I was tired. When the bus driver woke me up and told me that it was time for me to get off I rubbed my eyes, ambled down the isle and got off the bus like I was told to. Now I had done my best to explain to the driver where I was and was not supposed to get off but through a combination of his non existent english and my non existent greek, the message was clearly lost, so, as a result, was I.
I looked across the street at the school and thought something along the lines of “Bugger…” That’s how I found myself, at three in the morning, god knows where in Greece trundling my bag down a bumpy street wondering what on earth I was to do. This was before the days that we all carried smart phones with built in GPS and 4g internet so it really was starting to look like I was in a bit of a pickle. Amazingly after what felt like hours, but may have in reality been just 20 minutes, had passed a taxi rolled down the street with the name of the company I was supposed to be working for displayed in it’s front window. The driver spotted me with my long hair, bulging bag and bewildered expression, opened the door and merely gestured me inside. I was deposited with a key outside a newly constructed accommodation block and pointed in the direction of a door. On entering I discovered that three of the three beds were occupied, fortunately I was able to push all the clothes and windsurfing gear occupying bed number three onto the floor and catch a well earned three hours sleep.

Maybe it was me falling asleep during one of the first staff briefings I attended or maybe she just didn’t like my lovely pink hat but I think it would be fair to say the assistant beach manager took an instant and resolute disliking to me. In fact, although they may have helped, I don’t believe it was my impromptu nap or my floral chapeau that led to the wrath directed towards me.

We were out on the water in a safety boat, maybe eight of us and the assistant beach manager. She was teaching us the proper technique for towing another boat.
“Now, the most important thing is to make absolutely sure you do not get your tow line wrapped around your propellor”.
In hindsight I could have been a touch more tactful thirty seconds later when she did what you were absolutely not supposed to do.
“Oh! You just propped yourself.” Says I, with a look of glee in my eyes.
“No, Really?!” She looked a little panicked.
“I shit you not….. You just propped yourself.” That was the moment I lost my job, not literally, that would have been a tad excessive, but it definitely sewed the seed that became my eventual dismissal.

I was nicknamed “Disciplinary Dougal” after maybe week one of guests arriving. I don’t remember what that first one was for, maybe I was five minutes late for work or, heaven forbid, I was wearing a bracelet on the beach. I do know I got one for not shaving in the morning, I told one of the nannies about my latest disciplinary on our lunch break and she remarked “Well at least you’ve been back and shaved now.”
“No. This is what I’m getting in trouble for”  I said, pointing to the virtually non existent stubble clinging to my less than hirsute chin. When you consider that officially we were supposed to be dismissed after our third disciplinary (verbal warning, written warning, sacked being the order of play) it says something about the frivolous nature of my reprimands that it wasn’t until my ninth that they saw fit to let me go.

Despite my persecution, I did have a fantastic time working on that beach. Physically the work was very demanding, we’d be running up and down the beach all day, in over 30ºC heat, catching and launching boats, waving masts around our heads or speeding across the water in safety boats rescuing any capsized dinghies. All this activity, however, gave us no appetite for sleep. We would make our way back to our accommodation at the end of the day, jump into a cold shower, fortunately there was no need for hot water as we didn’t have any, then get straight on the beers (we convinced ourselves that pilsner tasted better warm as we certainly had no way of cooling it off) before heading out to party the night away in one of the few bars on offer. By three or four in the morning most of us would have made it to bed so that after three hours sleep and a bowl of Choco Balls we were ready to hit the beach once again.

I remember falling asleep twice at work. On one occasion I was driving one of the safety boats out to the edge of the sailing area, which was about half a mile away, I woke up just soon enough to avoid crashing back into the beach from which I had departed two minutes earlier. Another time I managed to fall asleep mid way through teaching a sailing lesson. I had my students following me like an obedient little raft of ducklings, the idea of the lesson was for them to do as I did and this way cover all the points of sailing. When I woke up my dinghy was pointed into the wind with my sail flapping idly in the breeze. I quickly looked back to see my clever little ducklings doing just the same. “Excellent job everyone! And that is how you stop your boat.”  With a quick thumbs up we were off again, I don’t think anyone noticed….

Do you believe in a thing called luck?

“You’re so lucky Dougal! You get to work in such lovely places and meet such fascinating people. I wish I was as lucky as you and got to travel the world, sailing beautiful yachts and getting paid for the privilege”

I am incredibly lucky. To the extent that I was born with relatively few health deficiencies,  to two very supportive parents in probably the best country in the world. Really being from Scotland is like winning the lottery if you want to travel, no-one has any negative preconceptions about the Scottish, we are internationally blessed with popularity.

However me swanning around the Caribbean like a Ray-Bans clad Jack Sparrow has very little to do with luck so I resent the remarks I invented for the start of this post.  I believe I am where I am today not necessarily through lots of hard work but by making the right decisions. I chose to not go to university (after I got rejected), I chose to take a job on a boat in the Bahamas (after I got sacked from my summer job) and I chose to hitch a ride on a yacht sailing across the atlantic when everyone else was heading back to the mountains and the snow. I think you have to make your own luck, if you have at least some idea of what you want to do in life then do yourself a favour and throw yourself bodily in that direction.

Although there may be some exceptions. I often noticed whilst sailing on a previous yacht that, regardless of how miserable it seemed the conditions were going to be, when the owner (a very wealthy banker) showed up for his weekly yacht around The Hamptons the weather was invariably impeccable. It could be an all out storm, lashing rain with thunder and lightning thrown in to boot but by the time he stepped on board the grey clouds would have parted. The birds would set up a whistle like they were in on the joke, the sun would be bouncing off the startled wavelets and with a clap of his hands Mr Boss Man would say “Right what are you all standing around looking so soggy for? Let’s go for a sail!” Of course it would be perfect. We’d up anchor and a fresh breeze would take us up and down the sound for as long as the ladies could stand the gentle motion of the ocean. Then, as soon as the chauffeur driven car had disappeared around the corner, the first rain drops would start to fall. Our seven hour sail home would become ten ours with the cruel head wind that had blown up and we’d have to zip our heavy waterproofs right up to our eyeballs to keep the wet out.
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Another meteorological example occurred this morning. A different yacht and another ludicrously wealthy boat owner. This incredibly successful entrepreneur had organised the sinking of an old ship to become a diving attraction and ultimately a new living reef. They made a big wire Kraken and had it designed so it looked like it was consuming the back of the ship, I’m told they’re going to implant coral on it and there will be Go-Pros set up to capture the whole process with time lapse photos. It’s going to look pretty awesome. The day of the sinking arrives, I could hear the rain hammering on the hull when I woke up. Sitting on the aft deck having some breakfast it seemed like they wouldn’t need to put any effort into sinking the ship but merely wait for the thing to fill up with rain. At 10 o’clock we climbed into our tender, all of us bedecked in fowl weather gear, and headed off to watch the sinking. Before we got to the sight, about 10 minutes drive away, it had stopped raining. We now learnt how long it takes for a ship to sink and for those of us who happen to work on them it was a reassuringly long time. Had it been pouring with rain it would have been miserable, had the sun been out it would have been torturous (especially for me as I’d forgotten the aforementioned Ray-Bans) but it wasn’t. Of course the conditions were nothing short of ideal, the sky was almost entirely overcast for the three hours it took The Kodiac Queen to go down, which during the Caribbean summer is pretty darn pleasant. In the very last moments though disaster seems to have struck, the ship is going down on it’s side, it looks like it might even land upside down, completely crushing the intricate Kraken structure which has taken a team of men months to construct! Just imagine the sorry sight of the upturned hull with all the wee Kraken legs sticking out the side like a squashed Daddy longlegs. Of course it didn’t though. During the 60ft decent the remaining air in the hull righted the ship and she landed evenly, Kraken side up. That was lucky….
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I did intend to write about my time working in Greece and eventually get to how I came to be laying on a spinnaker on the bow of this 105′ yacht but I guess being british talking about the weather just comes all too naturally to me. Next time, I promise.