Dawn Nelson

Dawn Nelson

Dawn is 38 and lives in London with her partner and two children. She is just 5’1” but weighs in at 16 stone. Dawn loves her food and is addicted to full fat coke. Her diet consists of lots of coffee, takeouts, lunches on the go and kebabs! Not ideal if you want to shed the pounds. She said,

‘I’m definitely probably obese, maybe stepping up to the next level now.’

Dawn’s problem is that when she eats, she likes it quick, easy and piled high – she doesn’t go for the healthy option! She even calls herself the Fast Food Queen. She said,

‘I have a kebab one day and a burger another day and fries another day, some fried chicken another day and then I normally go back for my tuna and cheese toasted ciabatta.’

She has the tuna and cheese ciabatta twice a week because that’s her favourite. But she does she says it’s probably the healthiest option that she has throughout the week. At 36 grams of fat per portion, this is NOT a healthy option so, DON’T try this at home!

When she does enter the kitchen to cook, it has to be very simple and easy. Like her favourite spare ribs with mash and buttered sweet corn. She said,

‘I think it’s easy because it goes into the oven. Mashed potatoes cos it’s just easy and convenient and some sweet corn on the side. Easy to cook really. It’s probably just my portion size that lets me down.’

Gizzi Meets Dawn

Gizzi arrived at Dawn’s house and said that she wanted to get a bit of an idea about how Dawn felt about her weight. She asked Dawn about her eating habits.

Dawn said that she thought it was the portion sizes that were her biggest problem. She said there was probably more likely enough for two people on her plate rather than one. She said,

‘I need to feel full. I need to feel full, I can’t just be content and I don’t know when to stop. I don’t normally have a pudding, I don’t have a sweet tooth.’

Gizzi listened and then said,

‘I’m really clear about what I want to do for you. I think with you it’s just being a bit stuck in a rut. Maybe teaching you a slightly new way to cook, cos I think you probably know and understand flavours. Portion size, definitely. We’re going to have to cross that. And I think I’m going to get you cooking your own lunches cos it’s a fact that people who cook and eat fresh food are thinner.’

What’s In Your Fridge?

To help Gizzi understand Dawn’s eating habits more, she went to rummage around in the kitchen cupboards and the fridge. The first thing Gizzi noticed was the gallons of fizzy pop. She mentioned that to Dawn who admitted that when it came to liquids, she did like sweet things. Then Gizzi discovered the tuna cheese melts that Dawn loves so much. Gizzi asked if she would have one or two of these and Dawn said that sometimes she would have two! Gizzi opened one and said,

‘Look how stuck together that is.’

Dawn said,

‘That’s cos I have extra cheese and mayo!’

In the freezer was ice cream, lollies and more ice cream! Gizzi reminded Dawn that she had said she didn’t have a sweet tooth! It wasn’t just Dawn’s secret sweet tooth that was bothering Gizzi though. She said,

‘The thing that terrifies me is her portion control. I’m certain that she is going to look at the portion size that I’m going to give and be like, you’ve got to be kidding? If you want to lose weight you have to control what you put in your body.’

Gizzi had definitely got a challenge on her hands if she wanted to get Dawn away from the loaded fast food that she was used to eating! She was going to have to give her a real flavour hit to satisfy her appetite.

Snack Attack

First up was the cheese and tuna melt. (Or melts!) Gizzi told Dawn the tuna was the thing that gave her the inspiration for the recipe she was going to show her. She said,

‘Cos I love fish. I love fish in my sandwiches as well.’

Gizzi had decided to show Dawn a smoked trout pitta with beetroot, new potatoes and watercress. But would it suit the Fast Food Queen? It should do because it can be knocked together in minutes! Gizzi asked Dawn if she had ever got up in the morning and made a lunch to take to work with her. Dawn laughed and said,

‘Not really. No.’

Gizzi used low fat crème fraiche and creamed horseradish sauce in with the beetroot, trout and potatoes. Dawn said she had only ever associated horseradish with beef. You’re not alone there Dawn! Gizzi said,

‘Loads of people do but it goes with anything smoked. Smoked salmon, smoked trout.’

When Gizzi was mixing the filling together, everything went pink because of the beetroot. It made it look really pretty, especially with the pale pink of the trout and the green of the watercress.

The whole pitta was made in the time it would take Dawn to walk to the Deli but with a fraction of the calories Dawn would normally consume for lunch.

Gizzi's Smoked Trout, Beetroot, New Potato and Watercress Pitta

Just one of Dawn’s Cheese and Tuna Melts comes in at a huge 855 calories per portion so, on the days she has two, she is having a massive 1710 calories – more than a whole day’s worth of calories in one go!

Gizzi’s Smoked Trout, Beetroot, New Potato and Watercress Pitta comes in at a very respectable 375 calories per portion. Less than half the calories in just one of the melts!

Dawn got stuck in and was really impressed with the taste of Gizzi’s pitta. She said,

‘The horseradish tastes really nice with the beetroot. I’m really surprised at the beetroot. I would never have picked that up.’

Move It . . . Just a Little Bit

At 16 stone, Dawn is the heaviest she has ever been. For her height, she should be around 9½ stone. She said,

‘My weight affects me. Especially when I’m shopping because I love to buy clothes! I like to wear skinny jeans and leggings just like everybody else.’

It’s not just the clothes issue that’s bothering Dawn though. She went on to say,

‘I want to be there for my children. And getting bigger is not good on my heart.’

But part of the problem might be Dawn’s lethargy. Her partner, Wayne said,

‘She absolutely does no exercise whatsoever.’

She said she didn’t want to learn to ride a bike because it seemed too energetic. She doesn’t want to go for a walk around the park cos it’s just too far. Wayne said,

‘She wouldn’t walk just ten minutes up the road and back!’

Dawn says it’s all too much hard work for her. That has got to change! America has gone mad for the hula hoop! But, it’s an easy workout that can burn the same amount of calories as an eight mile run.

There are three easy exercises that Dawn could do with a hula hoops.

  • Squats
  • Arm Twirls
  • Traditional Hula (Although that’s sometimes not quite as easy as it seems but, still a real giggle!)

While she is mastering the skill, she can still burn 100 calories in just ten minutes and keep her children, not to mention the whole park, entertained!

Calorie Swap

The next dish for Gizzi to tackle was Dawn’s sticky spare ribs, mountain of mash and buttered sweet corn. Dawn said, grinning,

‘I love pork and I love spare ribs. It’s the closest I can get to cooking Chinese myself.’

Gizzi said,

‘I want to show her another way she can eat pork, and pork tends to be quite a taboo thing when dieting because it’s obviously quite a fatty meat. There are certain cuts which are really, really lean.’

Gizzi told Dawn she was going to show her a Char Siu Pork recipe which Dawn was really happy with because she’d had it before at the Chinese. The cut that Gizzi was using was pork fillet because that it the leanest cut. Good tip for anyone out there who loves pork!

Char Siu is a marinated meat that is then roasted. The marinade Gizzi used included ginger, garlic and spring onions as the base, along with an old favourite of Gizzi’s – Agave Nectar. Agave Nectar is the same sort of thing as honey or maple syrup and comes from the same plant as Tequila. It tastes sweet like sugar but with less calories. She also included Hoi Sin sauce (the Chinese version of BBQ sauce), a tiny bit of oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar (for a lovely toffee taste), yellow bean sauce, white pepper and salt – mmmmmmmm sounds yummy!

To go with the Char Siu Pork, Gizzi said she was going to do some veggies and rice but, not the sweet corn that Dawn is used to because it has ‘tons of sugar in it’. She used Choi Sum, similar to Pak Choi and looks a bit like broccoli.

Gizzi's Char Siu Pork with Choi Sum and Rice

Dawn’s Spare Ribs with Mashed Potato and sweet corn had a massive 1208 calories per portion!

Gizzi’s Char Siu Pork with Choi Sum and Rice had a mere 566 calories per portion. A lot less than half!

Dawn tucked in to the delicious looking dish and said,

‘That’s nice. The ginger really comes out.’

Gizzi asked how it compared to Dawn’s spare ribs and mash. Dawn said,

‘I think this will be just as filling. It’s filling up the gap with the rice and the veg and the pork, I love pork so, we could definitely have that.’

Gizzi asked Dawn if the dish tasted like health food or diet food and Dawn said it definitely didn’t because of all the different flavours. She said she wouldn’t notice that it didn’t have the butter that she would normally have. She said it was delicious. Success!

The Fat Buster

Dawn loves a large plate of fried chicken wings with garlic bread, corn on the cob and a pile of coleslaw – a real fat-fest. That was the next dish for Gizzi to take on! Dawn said,

‘It’s easy finger food. I’m hungry just thinking about it!’

Can Gizzi handle it? She had to come up with a recipe that would satisfy Dawn’s appetite for buttery foods. Gizzi said,

‘You want to lose weight you have to control what you put in your body and the fact is, she does overeat, she doesn’t need to eat as much as she does. She’s just gotta accept that unfortunately.’

To try and shock Dawn into giving up her chicken wings, Gizzi told Dawn that in her dish of wings, garlic bread, sweet corn and coleslaw there was the same amount of fat as 32 meatballs! 76.1 grams of fat in just one meal! To maintain her current weight, Dawn should only be having 70 grams of fat in one day and in just one meal, she is having more than that!

Gizzi told Dawn she was going to make her some Jerk which is a Jamaican style of spicy marinade. And, to save on calories, Gizzi was using chicken thighs without the skin. She said,

‘If you marinade something with enough flavour you won’t miss it.’

Once the meat had been marinated in the Jerk marinade, Gizzi took it out and wiped the marinade off it because she didn’t want it to be too sticky. Then, out came the trusty oil pump and she spritzed the meat with a fine mist of oil for cooking. Gizzi said that if you’re going to use a griddle you should oil the meat and not the pan. Good tip there!

To go with the chicken, Gizzi made a coconut salad. She asked Dawn if she ate a lot of salads at home and Dawn said, not really but, she did say that she liked them. Gizzi scooped out the seeds from the cucumber as she was preparing the salad and Dawn asked her why. She said,

‘It’s because they contain, look, loads of water there. It’s going to loosen the dressing too much and we want to keep that flavour in there.’

The dressing consisted chilli, salt, some pepper, lime juice and a little bit of coconut milk. So a little bit of fat there then. Gizzi also griddled some slices plantain to replace the mash. She served it all up and asked Dawn how she thought it looked. Dawn said it looked very pretty on the plate.

Gizzi's Caribbean Chicken Jerk with Coconut Salad and Griddled Plantain

Dawn’s Fried Chicken Wings, Garlic Bread, Corn on the Cob and Coleslaw stomped in at a massive 76 grams of fat per portion.

Gizzi’s Caribbean Chicken Jerk with Coconut Salad and Griddled Plantain pirouetted in at just 13.5 grams of fat per portion. Five and a half times healthier!

Dawn said she would never have put coconut in a salad but it tasted really nice and went well with the chicken and plantain. Gizzi asked how this compared with Dawn’s normal Chicken Wings dish. Dawn said,

‘I think I’ll need a bit more chicken.’

Gizzi told her it was a normal portion size and Dawn said,

‘I’d have more salad then!’

Gizzi asked her how she thought the day had gone. Dawn said,

‘I can eat the same types of food just prepared in different ways. Instead of looking at chicken wings I could just as easily buy chicken thighs and take the skin off. And the portion size that’s my main thing.’

Gizzi had a gift for Dawn to arm her in the ongoing battle with the bulge. She gave her a pestle and mortar. Dawn was really pleased with it. She said,

‘I’ve got no excuse now have I? I need flavour. I’ll definitely have those dishes on my weekly rotation and hopefully, the weight will come off with it.’

If Dawn swaps her dishes with Gizzi’s healthier options, and does 10 minutes of hula hooping everyday, she could lose two and a half stone in a year. Now that’s how you cook yourself thin!


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Cook Yourself Thin Episode Twelve Dawn Nelson

Last Updated Monday 21 June at 11:13 AM

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