If only I could put on a few pounds

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I started calorie counting a couple of days ago. It was the sandwiches in the Independent's smart new canteen that did it. I noticed that while a standard ham and tomato contained a pretty meagre 265 calories, something called a "Brie feast" - brie, leaves and basil on granary bread - delivered a hefty 450 calories. Nearly twice the punch for only 20 pence extra.

I started calorie counting a couple of days ago. It was the sandwiches in the Independent's smart new canteen that did it. I noticed that while a standard ham and tomato contained a pretty meagre 265 calories, something called a "Brie feast" - brie, leaves and basil on granary bread - delivered a hefty 450 calories. Nearly twice the punch for only 20 pence extra.

The following day I found an even better bargain - a club bloomer with chicken breast, bacon and mayonnaise providing a whopping 515 calories - and all for £1.80.

I began to do those calculations you sometimes find on the travel pages which tell you that the tube is the most expensive form of travel on the planet and to take it from London to New York would cost a sum not unadjacent to £6,882.

How much bang for your buck can you get in the calorie department? I know at this time of year most people are concerned with having too much bang and would be happy to pay bucks to reduce it but that is not my problem. As you can see from the picture on this page, I am distinctly peaky and undernourished looking. Periodically friends and family remind me of this fact and I valiantly resolve to do something about it. Hence the new interest in calories.

Just how do you go about putting on weight? Robert De Niro achieved it triumphantly in Raging Bull, the 1980 boxing movie, in which he portrayed the fighter Jake La Motta, who transformed from lean and mean fighting machine into fat slob and has-been. De Niro put on 50lbs for the part by stuffing his face with carbohydrates, although apparently his liver suffered under the strain. And the actress Renée Zellweger had to down pints of Guinness and stuff whole pizzas in order to play the part of weight-obsessed Bridget Jones.

I am a bit of a wimp in the carbohydrate-stuffing department - more than three Weetabixes and I feel sick. I also eat slowly, a characteristic shared with my grandmother who took all morning to get through half a piece of toast. Slow eaters consume less by default, because the food has been cleared before they have finished. My son - there is obviously a genetic link here - complains he doesn't get enough to eat at university because his friends are sharing out the pudding while he is still on the soup.

A colleague whose stick-thin frame would grace any catwalk is constantly on the look out for extra calories to take on board and can regularly be found scooping up large helpings of crumble and custard. The worst time, she says, was when she was breast-feeding. "It was desperate. I was the incredible shrinking woman," she said. She filled the fridge with full fat yogurts and cream, but despite downing hundreds of extra calories none succeeded in attaching themselves to her.

There must be others out there in the same position, but how often do you read about diets designed to help put on weight? For help I turned to Chris Ryan's SAS Fitness Book, a copy of which has just landed on my desk, which has a picture on its cover of a well-nourished chap - presumably it is Chris Ryan - raising a bar bell and flexing his pecs. I opened the chapter on diet but the only advice it offers is this: "If you are trying to bulk up, the key is to base your meals around good quality protein - egg white, chicken, meat and fish." Sound advice, I am sure, but no guidance is offered on how to get the extra on board.

Oh well, maybe Christmas will help.

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