For my birthday last summer, my aunt bought me Tom’s Daily Plan, the first cookbook by English diver Tom Daley. Upon flipping through the pages there were already so many recipes I wanted to try. I spent a few weeks following the included workout plan and cooked up some amazing dishes.
One of my biggest struggles when it comes to food, like so many others, is cutting out sugar. I can eat the healthiest meals but I still get cravings for that sweet sweet nectar, whether it’s a piece of chocolate or a huge slice of cake or even just a yogurt after dinner. And no matter how much I tried to resist, there was always a part of me that said, “One little bite won’t hurt,” before taking three.
So, at the beginning of March I decided to do a bit of a reset. Since I don’t believe in dieting as a long-term solution to bad eating habits, I needed to think of something short and challenging and fun. That’s when a thought came to me – what if I ate like Tom Daley all the time? Would it make a difference in my energy levels? Would it help my sugar addiction? Would I get the perfect six-pack without even trying? (Okay, that last one was obviously a stretch.)
Thus Tom Daley Week was born. I planned a menu from Monday to Sunday for all meals and even snacks (Peanut Butter and Mango Power Balls and Almond and Chocolate Power Balls). There were no pre-packaged yogurts, no cookies from the secret stash at work. I committed to eating nothing but those recipes and some other natural snacks like fruit and nuts.
Most of the recipes I made serve two portions, so I always had leftovers to take to work the next day. I also indulged my sweet tooth a bit so that I wouldn’t cave into cravings. While I do love the workouts included in the cookbook, since I already bike almost 20 km as part of my commute, and had to cook every night despite getting home rather late, I only did a couple on the weekend.
So, how did it go? Well, get ready to read the word “delicious” so often that it no longer looks like a real word.
The day started off with a delicious Plum Yoghurt Pot.
I had just gotten over (for the most part) a brutal two-week cold and rode my bike to work for the first time again. Usually this morning exercise means my stomach is rumbling before 11 and I’m taking my lunch break around 12. Well, I did still get hungry early on, but one power ball and few slices of pear held me over until I headed to the kitchen for lunch at 1:30 pm.
For lunch I toasted some Rarebit on Rye. It was a bit messy, mainly because I didn’t let the oven preheat long enough, but still tasty.
Despite having just recovered from a cold, I had lots of energy on the bike ride home. I channelled that in to an amazing dinner: Baked Eggs in Peppers. So easy and fast to make, and so delicious! Things were going well.
The day before I’d made a Pear and Blackberry Crumble – meant to be two servings, I split it into four so I could still have a little bowl of something sweet at the end of the day. It was wonderful without being two sweet, AND most of the ingredients are actually good for you!
The next morning I was excited to try homemade cereal for the first time. I served up some Toast-in-the-Pan Granola with sliced bananas and Skyr.
As amazing as it was, I was just having one of those hungry days. When I couldn’t control my growling stomach at work, I had lunch much earlier than the day before. My co-workers were impressed with my Baked Eggs in Peppers.
Tuesday brought my first real test on this week-long quest. Someone at work was celebrating a birthday – with cheesecake! Everyone was raving about how good it was. As a cheesecake lover, this was hard to hear. But I fought through and resisted.
I struggled with my Healthy Crêpes with 5-Minute Filling that night, as I couldn’t get the hang of making the crêpes. I enjoyed the filling but didn’t feel completely full afterwards. Luckily there was another little bowl of crumble waiting for me.
Wednesday was windier than usual, so not even my Banana Yoghurt Pot could keep me full. I had a power ball within an hour of getting to work, which gave me a good burst of energy after an exhausting bike ride.
For once in my life I wasn’t starving as I cooked dinner. Unfortunately I burnt my Cauliflower and Egg Hash Browns. On the bright side, it was still a filling alternative to potatoes.
I set off on my bike on Thursday morning after another bowl of Toast-in-the-Pan Granola, still feeling positive even after ruining my dinner, until my legs felt like lead before I even made it out of town. I took a detour to the bus stop instead and opted to walk the last two kilometres to the office instead of taking the streetcar.
Sadly, my lunch leftovers were still burnt. I ate almost an entire mango to make myself feel better about it.
Things took a turn for the better with my Chilli-Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach and Eggs that night. What can I say, I do love chickpeas!
I polished off the rest of the Pear and Blackberry Crumble and headed to bed for an early start the next day.
After I’d already committed to Tom Daley Week, I was invited to a work event on Friday where I wouldn’t be able to bring my own lunch. So, sadly, after four and a half days of nothing but Tom’s recipes, my perfect week was going to be ruined.
I tried to make the best of it. For breakfast I had Mushrooms on Toast, which was a big step for me. For one, I’ve always been more a sweet breakfast person (hangovers excepted). Secondly, just two years ago I was still picking the mushrooms out of dishes I was served, not voluntarily cooking them up and using them to top bread. But I was really keen to give salty breakfasts a try in my quest to cut back on sugar. Mushrooms on Toast was one of my favourite recipes of the week and I’ve had it plenty of times since then.
It turns out having a salty breakfast was a great idea that day, because my restaurant lunch was alarmingly sweet. I settled on a salad, even though I find German restaurants to put on about six times as much dressing as I’d like. This time the dressing was not only in abundance but also horribly sugary. I tried to at least save the boiled eggs from its evil grasp.
In the end, the lunch debacle was a blessing in disguise, because it showed what a difference the rest of the week had really been making. I was feeling hungry and unhealthy just a couple of hours after eating. Luckily my boss gave me an apple that helped tide me over until I got home.
Dinner was just leftovers from the rest of the week. I splurged on dessert instead – it was the end of the week, after all, when I usually indulge in a bit of chocolate. I made a healthier alternative this time: Not-so-Naughty Chocolate Brownies, wonderfully gooey brownies with blueberries. Amazing.
On Saturday I was starting to get tired of cooking. I love to cook, really, but usually I make myself a big meal and eat leftovers for most the week. Cooking daily is not something I’m used to. I didn’t feel any better about it after I used the wrong pan for my Blueberry, Banana, and Seed Pancakes. They looked horrible as a result, though at least the taste was spot-on.
I saved my most time-intensive meals for the weekend. For lunch I made Veggie Burgers that use Portobello mushrooms as the bun. With sweet potato fries and some dips, it was a proper weekend feast, and absolutely worth all the effort taken to make them.
Needless to say, the success of the burgers motivated me a bit more. And the Chicken and Mango Salad with Noodles for dinner turned out fantastically.
I also had a beer. No, it wasn’t in the cookbook. It’s also not all-natural like the fruits and nuts I’d been snacking on all week. But sometimes, you just need a beer.
I decided to try another salty breakfast: The Ultimate Bacon Butty. It’s like an avocado toast with bacon and tomato, although I think what really makes the sandwich is the toasted seeds. Seeing that in the recipe was a revelation. I regularly have this breakfast now, with or without bacon!
I had plenty of leftovers from Saturday which gave me a bit of a break from cooking. However, Sunday is always cake and coffee day for my German family. I knew there was no way I’d be able to sit at the table and resist eating something sweet for two hours, so I pre-emptively made my own cake. One of the things I love about Tom’s Daily Plan is that there are many single-portion desserts, so you don’t have to worry about getting rid of an entire tray or plate of something when you just want one little treat. This time I went for the Hot Cheesecakes with a Naughty Topping.
I had a lot of remaining brownies, so I set them out for my family when it was time for cake. My mom couldn’t believe how bitter they were. To me they were so sweet that I almost felt guilty for eating them.
Tom Daley Week was fun. I tried a bunch of delicious new recipes, I resisted tempations, and weighed 1.5 kg less at the end of the week than I had on the Sunday night before (albeit after eating a LOT of cake). I challenged myself to do something, as simple as it was, and succeeded. I embrace the occasional salty breakfast now. And I truly noticed a difference when I actually focused on eating healthily all the time.
That all being said, by the end of the week I was really looking forward to having a yogurt or a digestive every once in a while.
(PS: I’m not getting paid or sponsored or anything to write this. I just love this cookbook that much. Really.)