Leaning against the railings on the South Bank shovelling it in to my mouth between meetings I attract a few odd looks. Some women nearby are actually nudging each other and giggling. I spoon the last mouthful in defiantly, and look around for a bin to dump the jar in. Yes, the jar. My alfresco-middle-class-poncy-cafe-sounding lunch is actually a jar of Organix baby food. 250G of mashed gloop in exchange for 128 calories and 2.8 grams of fat. And it is surprisingly tasty.
And why am I knocking back a lunch that has the consistency of congealed snot and all the plate appeal of a slightly loose-bowelled dog poo? I'll tell you: I'm spending a week on the baby food diet, the latest craze sweeping Hollywood (Jennifer Aniston, Lady Gaga) and, er, Newcastle (Cheryl Cole).
Although actually, it's nothing new. I can remember something similar doing the rounds in the early 90s; the only difference between now and then are the recipes. Back in the day the choice was either mushed veg with chicken or stewed and pureed apple, nowadays, jars of baby food are like a celebrity chef's tasting menu (and probably much the same portion size wise).
Over the past few days, I've had such culinary delights as cheesy pasta with tomato and basil, baby size falafel in a tomato sauce, and an abundance of fruit compotes – oh OK, PUREES. And you know what? It's actually NICE. I LIKE it. I'm starving by the time each 'feed' rolls round, but unlike most diets, the food is actually palatable and non-rabbity. There are puddings! And snacks! And, hell, you don't even have to CHEW half the time. It couldn't be easier.
The 'official' version of this diet, created by some La La Land diet guru, has you eating purées all day, and then a proper meal in the evening. Because I cannot cope in the morning without my tea and toast ritual, I stick to my usual breakfast and then have my baby chow throughout the day instead, so after two slices of seeded batch, it's then tot's tucker for lunch and dinner.
Oh, and I snack in abundance. Baby snacks are a revelation – who knew there were things out there that are like SWEETS but are actually HEALTHY BITS OF FRUIT! Honestly, my dependence on Babylicious Wriggles and Fruit Crisps has become ridiculous – if Dot Cotton was my mother, she and Pete Beale would be barricading me in my room to stop me getting at them.
The ready-prepared nature of the meals also makes the diet a doddle. Or should that be a toddle? I don't even bother heating the jarred stuff up, and my frozen meals are ready in minutes thanks to their teeny size. It's all a cinch, although as my week long experiment continues, social events prove a little challenging: at one function a pal tells me she was tempted to bring me rusks to eat. She eyes my glass of fizzy pop (er, champagne) sceptically and mutters about not often seeing THAT in a babies' bottle. She decrees I can have a mashed avocado blini however, as the topping is actually a purée...
I tweet my lunch menus each day to a volley of 'ewwws' and 'yucks'. Facebook friends tell me I am 'insane' and 'surely starving?'. A male friend looks scathing and says 'Why can't women ever just eat properly?' (ah, good question, but that's a whole different article...)
But the burning question is of course, have I lost any weight? Well after a week on the plan, I have lost a couple of pounds and it would have been more if I hadn't fallen off the wagon (pram?) at the weekend and carb-loaded to the hilt. Plus various work events and meetings have involved alcohol rather than baby fruit juices, buy hey, a girl's got to live.
BUT I have learned two valuable lessons: one, babies' get darn good food these days - honestly, I am really enjoying what I am eating, and two: this diet may be faddy and silly and unsustainable (and prob not good for an adult's health long term) but it does teach you portion control. And portion control really is the only way to eat well and stay slim, isn't it? Having a sensible diet and a little bit of what you fancy rather than a trough load of what you love (a concept I struggle with).
So will I stick with it? I am going to keep on it until my supplies run out, and will hopefully shift another couple of pounds in the process. And I hope that the toddler-sized servings will become a 'habit' and train me to eat less long term.
And call me mad, but I can actually see myself replacing my late-night-train-journey-home crisp fests with a sly nip to Boots for a jar of Cow & Gate veggie lasagne instead: I might look like a freak spooning it in on the way home, but calorie wise, it makes perfect sense...
Would you ever consider the baby food diet?
Or is pretending it's yummy for your baby enough of a taste test for you?