Tag Archives: exercise

Carrot Flax-bread

Well, this is certainly not what I had in mind in terms of making an impressive return to the blog scene, but since it happens to have been the first time camera and kitchen have met since, well, Pizzaphilia, I suppose it will have to do.

Let me preface this by saying that I made a quite frankly disappointing batch of flapjacks this week, friends.

Disappointing flapjack…

They contained shredded coconut, ginger and dark chocolate. Which should be yummy in itself, and I don’t think it was this flavour combination that ruined these would-be treats. No, I blame the absence of taste and feelings of OMG-give-me-more before you even swallow your first bite that flapjacks usually nail, on the total lack of butter and sugar (I’m still afraid of these things, you know) in these babies. Flapjacks should be golden and sticky. This one looks, well, anaemic, soggy, sad, and it was nowhere near sweet enough.

I’ve been doing a TON of exercise to get this summer weight OFF me, Christ, I want to SCOOP OUT the contents of my disgusting sagging pot-belly but sadly, that’s not possible, so it’s off to kickboxing/gym/circuit training for me until I have sufficiently reduced in size. Oh, and tomorrow I start swing dancing classes, which, along with melting some of this disgusting fat, should provide some hilarity as I am the least co-ordinated person ever; having kickboxing in the dance studio in which one wall is entirely mirror has well and truly confirmed this for me… sigh.

I recently returned from spending five days with the love of my life in Naples – the land of fat, carbs and alcohol. I ate the most delicious food on the planet and I left no stone unturned when it came to sampling the delights of Italian cuisine; let me tell you, the mozzarella is to DIE for; the gelato, the coffee and the red wine, utter perfection. I ate pizza upon pasta upon gnocchi upon ice-cream, upon more pizza and more ice-cream, drizzled with olive oil and washed down with countless espressi, cappuccini and bicchieri di vino rosso. Half-board at the hotel meant we were treated to a buffet breakfast every day of cornetti, little biscuits and pastries, even cake, for goodness’ sake, as well as the best scrambled eggs I think I have ever tasted. And with marinaras and margheritas for €3 a pop, well, we could afford to eat a pizza a day, and we did. I totally forgot what it was to even be aware of what I had eaten in a day, let alone count calories or worry about things like double-carbs or fat content.

But the sheer gluttony didn’t end there. When we got back it was our three-year anniversary as a couple, and the day saw us polish off burger and fries and iced coffee that for some reason had ice-cream in it at Brighton’s infamous American diner; a large chocolate milkshake tided us over to red wine, calamari, bread, and yet another pizza in the evening at our favourite Italian restaurant. Needless to say, this summer has left me feeling somewhat… squishy.

I have had enough junk to make up for all the sugar and fat and carbs that I have not allowed myself to eat over the course of the last few years, and should probably see me through the next lot of neuroses to come as a result of gaining I don’t know how much weight from the careless, foolish but oh-so-much-sinful-FUN of Summer 2012. (Well, my BMI said I could have done with gaining a few lbs but of course, that does nothing to comfort me. Oh well, roll on next week’s kickboxing session). The good news is, despite feeling incredibly anxious at the concept of actually having gained real proper mass, I feel wholly more relaxed around junk. It’s not going to kill me. And actually, I feel much happier and can exercise a lot harder when I eat. I know now where I’d rather be.

Anyway, here’s a healthy thing that I made tonight that shouldn’t be marred by the absence of butter and sugar (seriously, what was I thinking? Flapjacks should be made with these things or not at all). It all started with a carrot glut and a recipe for Jamaican Carrot Juice (more on that later). I call it, Carrot Flax-bread.

You see, when you make carrot juice (I freakin’ LOVE carrot juice), you end up with a lot of pulp. It takes like, ten carrots to get one tall glass of juice. Then you take the lid off your juicer and you’ve got the semi-dried out remains of ten carrots, and dumping it all in the bin just makes me feel like a huge wasteful cow.

So here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Take the contents of your juicer after you’ve made your delicious carrot juice.
Scoop them into a bowl.
Add a few tablespoons of flaxseed, a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Mix with a spoon.
Roll it together to form a ball with your hands. If it doesn’t stick, add more flax and keep stirring.
Flatten out mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment.
Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy and sort of solid.

Eat as a snack, for breakfast, with soup, salad, with jam, peanut butter, hummus. Whatever. Gluten-free, protein-rich flat bread for you, courtesy of leftover carrots.

I think it would be equally nice as a savoury with a bit of minced garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and lemon juice, maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on top before you bake it to make it extra crispy. You could use it as a cheeky no-rise, lowest-of-the-low-carb gluten-free pizza base. Wow. Who knew carrot-pulp could be so versatile ?

Well, now you do.

Hope everybody had a wonderful summer.

See you at circuit training.

Amy x

A Message from my Coma

Posted on

Monday: 8am: wake up. Tea. 1 hour of yoga. 50g of porridge made with water; mixed seeds; agave syrup. Essay. 1pm: cycle in to town for 3 hours of health and safety training for volunteering at Boomtown Fair festival with Oxfam this summer. 5pm: cycle home. Apple. Banana. Hot chocolate. 1/2 a homemade pizza. The Emperor’s New Groove. Bed.

Tuesday: 8am: wake up. 50g of porridge made with water; banana; agave syrup. 10 mile run. 3 medjool dates, hot chocolate. 80g of green lentils; 1/2 an avocado; watercress; roasted red onion/cherry tomatoes. Cycle to uni. Apple. Essay. Composition. Lecture. Cycle home. Tea. Make/eat tofu lasagne. Pub. Glass of red. Home. The Nightmare Before Christmas. Bed.

Wednesday: 9am: wake up. Pillow talk. 1/2 an avocado, chocolate soy smoothie. Leftover lasagne. Apple. Walk into town. Shopping. Cinema. Walk home. Banana. Vegan linguine carbonara. TV. Bed.

Thursday: 8am: wake up. 35 minute run. 3 medjool dates. Soy yoghurt; banana; agave syrup. Cycle to uni. Lecture. Cycle to supermarket. Cycle home. Tea. 1 1/2 hours of yoga. Lasagne. Cello. Tea. Apple. Extended sleep. Linguine carbonara; steamed spinach. Cello. Banana sorbet; dark chocolate chips; agave syrup.

Which brings us to now.

I’ve spent the latter part of today lying on my bed, watching sitcoms online that I’ve seen a hundred times, too tired to move. Falling in and out of sleep with my music on. It’s been quite nice, except for I’m cross. For no apparent reason.

I’m exhausted. I’m irritable. I haven’t eaten a dairy product in 11 days. I’m simultaneously starving and have lost my appetite entirely.

I’ve been Facebook-stalking myself (does anyone else ever do this ?). A particular set of pictures from August last year has caught my attention. Being in the state in which I find myself recently, I find the fact that I have even noticed this at all rather distressing.

I look so happy…

… and yet I was at least a stone heavier last August, than I am now.

Looking through the series of pictures and seeing my laughing face in each one just sends an entirely surreal feeling through me. Like it’s starkly obvious how miserable I’ve become, comparing my current mood to how carefree I seem in these pictures. And I remember that day; we drank gin and lemonade out of a plastic bottle and ate chips on the beach – I wasn’t demon-free then but I did these things nonetheless, and I obviously enjoyed myself.

I saw a skinny girl in the cinema eating popcorn and it troubled me for at least 5 minutes how she could possibly allow herself to eat that and still be so slim, when I myself had just passed on a soy cappuccino because I just could not be bothered with the calories. Even though I’ve not been counting, and I feel okay with that. But I got ratty because I had to rearrange my running schedule. Then I got sad that I was ratty about something so ridiculous. I cried on my boyfriend about the same old thing; I’m scared of eating. I make stupid food rules for myself that I cannot allow myself to break. It’s turning me into a bitch.

The counsellor that I saw a few months ago (and who was the reason I decided to quit voluntary counselling after one session because he was so irritating) stopped me as I traversed campus and offered me a promotional stress ball with the university counselling services contact information on it. I wonder if he recognised me. Probably not.

I had this weird dream where I was doing my A levels (I already did them 3 years ago and got all Bs…) but I didn’t know when any of my exams were except that they were definitely all that day, and everyone was naked, and they told me to get naked so I did but then suddenly no one was naked anymore and I was the only one who was naked, and then I got my exam timetable and my performance recital was in 10 minutes and I hadn’t practiced with my duet partner. Running my hands over my body all I could feel was skin and bones and it was terrifying and I was disgusted. Then I was running around my neighbourhood but the floor wouldn’t stay still.

Is this too angst-ridden ? Yeah.

What have we learned ? That my friends and I have excellent taste in films. And that I need to sort my life out.

When the sun comes out I’m going to the seafront with the first person who will accompany me, and we’re going to buy a huge portion of chips and eat it on the beach and I’m not going to give a monkey’s how it may or may not affect my figure.

Who’s up for it ?

Amy x

Things I eat after a run

BECAUSE I RAN THE BRIGHTON MARATHON, BABY.

Free chocolate milk and getting a leg massage in my space blanket was totally worth running 26.2 miles for

It took me 4 hours, 56 minutes and 41 seconds. Not enviable, but I finished, and I finished running. And I’m going to do it again next year. Faster. Thank you to everyone who believed in and supported me with love and donations, you are all awesome.

I currently have the body of a 90-year-old. Stairs are my nemesis. But I feel amazing. Everyone should run a marathon, seriously.

So you know that post-workout feeling. Exhausted. Hot. Sweaty. Your legs feel like jelly, your hands are shaking like milk and all you can think about is getting that clammy running kit off and some good hydration and nutrition in.

…at least this is what exercise does to me.

Needless to say, a lot of energy is spent during cardiovascular exercise, which, if you’re training for fitness and endurance, needs to be replaced as quickly as possible after a workout to re-stock your glycogen levels and enable muscle repair.

To replenish your glycogen stores after a heavy workout (to avoid post-run head-rushes, headaches and lethargy) you need something with a high glycemic index. High GI foods – things like refined grains and sweets (see this post for more info) – are usually the ones to be avoided, as their quick sugar-release is more readily stored as fat if munched mindlessly. But in this instance, they are allowed, nay, encouraged, shock horror, because your body will be in desperate need of some energy !

In terms of GI, foods are allocated a sort of rating on a scale between 1 and 100 according to how quickly their carbohydrate energy is released into your system – the higher the number, the higher the glycemic index and the faster its energy is released when you eat them. Some exercise plans tell you to eat high GI foods post-workout such as jelly beans (80), sports drink (90 – 100), and white bread (70), but all of these make me feel sick and I prefer a more natural fix such as an over-ripe banana (50-70 depending on ripeness), a few slices of watermelon (80), or medjool dates (60) (which, if you’ve never eaten them, are DIVINE and I cannot get enough of them at the moment. The thought of them fuels my running).

(Find the GI numbers of your favourite foods here.)

Fruits or vegetables are important after a run, and not just to replace carbs. Along with the water you lose as you sweat, you also lose minerals, which you can find in fruit and veg. I also use these fizzy mineral replacement tabs dissolved in about a pint of water which have no calories, only super-hydration.

You also need protein to repair your muscles and help them to retain the strength you build into them by training. Yoghurt, peanut butter and milk are examples of quick protein fixes (ie. you don’t have to cook them). You see, after you finish training, you have a 15 minute window in which consuming these kinds of things is most beneficial for workout recovery – its when your body needs them most. But who can cook a meal in under 15 minutes after a 16 mile run ? As I said, I can barely spread peanut butter on a bagel.

So I decided that something easily made, consumed and digested was the way forward.

AND THUS WAS BORN THE MOST WONDROUS AND DELICIOUS SMOOTHIE THAT EVER EXISTED.

Okay, so I didn’t invent this, I’m sure. But you won’t care once you taste it.

Banana-Date-Peanut-Butter-Post-Workout-Smoothie

Get:
Half a banana (I’ve usually eaten the other half before the run) – for carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals such as potassium
3 medjool dates, chopped and pitted – high GI for quick sugar release
150ml of milk – for protein
A tablespoon of peanut butter – for protein, carbohydrate and a little salt – OR a few tablespoons of chocolate-flavoured yoghurt

Do:
Blend all ingredients.
Snarf.
Recover like a boss and be the sexiest mo-fo’ on the mo-f’in’ beach.

Another taste sensation across which I stumbled during my treacherous training regime is:

No-bake Vegan Oat Energy Bars

Get: 5 tablespoons of oats
3 tablespoons seed/dried fruit mix
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

Do:
Mix all ingredients together until all combined. If the mixture is too dry and isn’t sticking, add more honey/agave.
Pack tightly into some kind of dish lined with baking paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

These are great for protein, but as honey and especially agave nectar are in fact low GI, eat it along with 2 or 3 dates or a slice of watermelon if you’re consuming post-workout. The slow-release energy in every ingredient makes them a perfect pre-run snack.

And some more ideas…

Yoghurt

Peanut butter and sliced banana on wholewheat toast

Tuna on rice-cakes

To put it simply, think protein and sugar. Bam.

Enjoy.

Amy x

13 weeks

I am sorry, Feet. Layer upon layer of your skin has been sent to battle against chafing socks and unsuitable trainers; the next wave of soldiers too young and raw to fight are sent out nonetheless.

You are welcome, Muscles. You have prospered and grown. It’s good to see you.

Belly, you are a few pounds shy of your former self, but don’t feel sad at the loss. I think you look better that way.

Toenails, you have crumbled in protest against the relentless pavement pounding through which I have put you. Left Big Toenail in particular, I am unsure as to why exactly at week 3 you decided to turn irreversibly purple; I hope one day to be able to reunite you and your peers with my good friends, Nail Polish and Summer Sandals.

I am forever in your debt, Peanut Butter, you are a god and a saviour, giver of life, protection and pleasure. And you, Bananas, Bagels and Porridge.

Calories, we’ve had a rocky relationship, we always have. But I feel we have grown closer over the last few months; you have not become a friend as such and I will continue to remain suspicious of you but, y’know. Thanks for all the energy.

Boobs, you lost a cup size (but let’s face it, you had enough to spare).

Bank balance, sorry about all that money I took out of you to pay for swanky support trainers and Powerade. When I’m a famous athlete I’ll pay you back.

Oxfam, you will shortly be £505 better equipped to do all that stuff in Africa that you do. So… keep doing that ‘n’ shit…

Running, I both unconditionally love and loathe you.

Thank you everyone for having been so supportive, I can’t say enough how good it is to know people have taken even the slightest interest in my training and donated whatever they could spare. That means a lot and I love you loads.

The big day is tomorrow, 9am, Preston Park, Brighton Marathon 2012. I say BRING IT ON. You can still sponsor me until May 15th !

A Watched Loaf

I’ve learned a few things this week.

One: standing with your face pressed eagerly against the oven while baking bread will do nothing to hurry the process.

Two: you can resist cookies. But why would you ?

Three: the world doesn’t end when you put your scales away. In fact, it actually gets a lot rosier.

So for starters; the carrot and walnut bread what I made:

Get: 150g plain flour
150g wholemeal bread flour
A teaspoon of salt
Two teaspoons of baking soda
150g grated carrot
A handful of chopped walnuts
300ml Greek yoghurt
125ml milk

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius.
Toast the walnuts by dry-frying them in a pan for about 3 minutes, then leave aside.
Sift and combine the dry ingredients, then mix in the carrots, walnuts, yoghurt and the milk.
The dough will be mega sticky, even after some considerable kneading which will result in glue-encrusted monster-fingers with which you will be able to touch nothing in your kitchen, including the tap that you need to turn on to remove said muck.
Roll into a ball onto a floured surface, slash top and bake on a baking tray for 30-45 minutes (the recipe said 30; I had to bake for 45. Go figure).

It’s really good.

Moving on. Earlier this week in a manner totally unlike my usual self, I made chewy chocolate chip cookies for the boyfriend as a sort of lame attempt at a both frugal and endearing Valentine’s Day gift. Because he likes cookies. And I’m poor.

I’m not going to bother putting up the recipe because it was full of entirely uninteresting, not to mention totally unhealthy ingredients and took little to no effort, poise or culinary subtlety to prepare. Not that it wasn’t fun. But the main reason I chose to blog this event was that throughout the process I was grappling with the two Amys that so dictate my constant food-related agonies. Disordered Amy was adamant; scolding: “This mixture is absolutely out of bounds. You saw how much butter/sugar/chocolate/refined flour went into it, it’s entirely out of the question.”

But sensible Amy just said, “What kind of a sad life are you living?”

So I licked the bowl. And the spoon. And when the cookies were ready (at about 11pm that night) I shared the biggest one with Gaz.

I waited for the panic to set in. Because eating junk isn’t the stressful thing. It’s the anticipation, and subsequent experiencing of the massive, overwhelming food guilt which often results in running until I feel sick/my stomach feels empty again and always, ultimately, my old familiar friend, self-loathing. I felt strangely serene; like Food Guilt was looming but was being held back by something that I can only imagine was a combination of the fact that I knew I had to run 14 miles later that week, and that it was Valentine’s Day – I’d gone to the effort of buying and making the cookies; I had cava, we had plans to make pancakes in the morning and dinner reservations in the evening, and I really think it breaks Gaz’s heart a little bit when I leave him to indulge in treats on his own that should be shared by us as a couple. We used to pig out together all the time when we were younger and I miss it. So this time, thankfully, the ominous feeling never amounted to anything, and I ran the 14 training miles on Friday in 2:24:01, burning a total of 1167 calories – I mean, sometimes I eat that in a day ! I left the majority of the cookies to be consumed by Gaz and Tom, but I definitely had my fair share. And you know what ? That’s fucking fine.

Which leads me on to my third revelation of the week. I haven’t weighed myself one single time since last Sunday. And I’ve even forgotten what the scale then.

A watched loaf never bakes. And a watched scale never drops. So go and do something constructive. The oven will beep eventually, and whilst the scale may go up and down, knowing every inch of your body’s day to day mass fluctuations is not going to influence it in any way. The thing is, whether I am aware of it or not, my body is my body, my weight is just a number, water will be retained, glycogen will be stored and for the all the elation I feel when the number decreases there is always frustration and anger when for whatever reason it creeps up, but in the end, it should not define me. It means nothing.

Also bread is tasty.

Carbophobia I: What I Ate on Sunday

What Amy Ate Today: Sunday 29th January, 2012

BREAKFAST:
Vegan oat pancakes

15g wholemeal flour
10g oats
Pinch of salt
Pinch of baking soda
50ml soy milk
Squeeze of lemon juice
Drop of vanilla extract
Vegetable oil

First thing: add the lemon juice to the milk and leave to stand. Apparently this substitutes buttermilk (what is buttermilk ?)
Combine flour, oats, salt and baking soda
Add vanilla extract and a tiny amount of vegetable oil to milk and stir into dry ingredients
Heat a pan with a drop of vegetable oil
Pour in batter and cook 2-3 minutes on medium heat; flip with spatula when done and cook other side the same

150 cal for the lot; yields 1 large or 2 small pancakes (I find 2 small ones make me feel less ‘cheated’ than just having one pancake !)

Serve with fruit, honey, whatever ! I had two spoonfuls of natural yoghurt and a handful of blueberries. Also a coffee with skimmed milk.

Total: 225 calories

LUNCH:
Toasted butternut squash bread with goat’s cheese, pear-and-walnut chutney and rocket

½ a butternut squash
260g wholemeal flour
60ml water
120ml olive oil
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
90g brown sugar
Pinch or two each of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175 degrees
Brush squash with olive oil, sprinkle with a little cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper
Bake for 1 hour
Make an elaborate coffee to pass the time
Scoop out squash innards from skin and blast in food processor. Try not to confuse ‘food processor’ with ‘mouth’ while you do this.
Mix purée, eggs, oil, sugar and water
Mix flour, baking soda and spices separately
Combine wet and dry ingredients – be careful not to over-mix
Pour into lightly greased loaf tin and bake for 1 hour

Providing you can get 20 thin slices out of one loaf, each slice contains just under 130 calories, so you can have 2 per serving. If you can’t slice it thinly enough, make 10 and only have 1 for a serving.

Garnish with chopped walnuts in the rare absence of pear and walnut chutney...

Serve 2 small or 1 large slice toasted and spread with mild, creamy goat’s cheese and chutney of choice. Garnish with rocket, salt and pepper. The sweetness goes wonderfully with the peppery rocket, but because it’s almost cake-like, it can equally be served as a sweet treat with your afternoon tea.

Total: 380 calories

(Recipe courtesy of My Baking Addiction)

DINNER:
Spinach trottole alfredo with artichokes and grilled asparagus

For the alfredo sauce:
1 teaspoon olive oil
30g (Philadelphia Extra Light) cream cheese
50ml skimmed milk
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
Black pepper
Salt
(all this for 150 calories !)

Other ingredients:
85g spinach trottole (although it doesn’t have to be spinach, or trottole for that matter)
Artichokes in olive oil, 1 jar
5 stalks of asparagus

Preheat grill to medium heat
Put pasta on to cook (6-8 minutes)
Brush asparagus with a little oil from the artichokes and sprinkle with salt. Put under grill
Heat oil in pan
Cook garlic
Stir in cream cheese
Add milk a little at a time
Stir in parmesan
Season
Drain pasta
Stir in grilled asparagus and sauce, and about a quarter of the jar of artichokes, drained. (I like to keep the saucepan on a low heat to ensure pasta does not cool during this process. If you want you can season again with salt and black pepper before transferring to bowl.)

Total: 505 calories

= 1110 calories

+ snacks (1 apple, 1 tangerine, 1 carrot, handful of mange tout, 1 Graze punnet of peanuts: 360 calories)

Sunday grand total: 1470 calories

So I have somewhat upped my calorie intake since my first carbophobia post because I was just feeling so goddamn awful, and to be honest on the point of giving up. I ran 8 miles without stopping for the first time in my life on Friday. And I feel INCREDIBLE. Really it all came down to this: eat more or fail, and I’ve given up failure this year so I had no choice. Even when I don’t look it up I can still tot up a rough calorie total in my head because from years of obsessive counting I know pretty much the calorie content of everything I eat. And if I don’t, I just check the packet (my sad life…). This is a non-training day so I’m happy with 1500 cal; on the days where I run I’ve been consuming between 1700 and 1900. Before I started training I would have balked at these numbers, but I’ve never done this much exercise before so I kind of feel okay about it.

BUT there is just this one thing…

Apparently day for firsts, Friday was also the first time in a very long while that I did not feel hungry. Already having been for my run in the morning, I got in from a cello practice session assuming I was ravenous, as I usually am. I cut up an apple and half a mango and put the kettle on. The unfinished bowl of fruit sat next to me for the next few hours; the milky tea all but finished me off, I felt so full ! It scared me a little bit. Is this what it feels like to eat properly ? When the realisation occurred I immediately jumped to the conclusion that my body was too full and was therefore going to start STORING ENERGY AS FAT. But I decided that was as far as I was going to lament it. This is a good thing ! The 8-mile run (according to the Endomondo app on my phone) burned 700 calories – how could anyone possibly gain weight doing that of a day ?! Encouraging.

Eating more and running more definitely tops eating the bare minimum, burning out and ultimately feeling pants.

I feel happier.

Amy x

Carbophobia: An Introduction

In case you hadn’t already been made aware, I’m training for a marathon, and let me just say this:

The sheer amount of food that it is necessary to pile into my mouth in order to not collapse mid-run is TERRIFYING to me. I feel like I’m eating bucketfuls, but I don’t know how much is enough because everything that isn’t next-to-nothing feels like too much. Whilst I have been able to complete every session so far in my training programme, it is leaving me constantly fatigued; I am dizzy, my head aches, my muscles feel empty and stiff and I’ve been sleeping for extended periods of time during the day. And yet I cannot bring myself to up my calorie intake any more than I already have, never mind consider increasing my carbohydrates, despite having read to saturation point on the importance of carbohydrate for energy when training for a long bout of cardiovascular activity. I still genuinely believe that food = failure. Food = weight gain, regardless, and I cannot get this notion out of my head.

It’s been about 2 weeks and the scale has stayed more or less the same, but the fact remains is that l am very slightly up on when I started. Is it water ? Stored glycogen ? (apparently that makes you retain water). Is it muscle ? What if it’s FAT and I’m over-compensating ?

The thing is, I’m still paranoid that everybody secretly thinks I’m not capable of finishing this 26.2 mile monster of a physical feat, but whether or not they do, I guess I need something to push me harder than the food demons are pulling, so to speak. If I eat more, I may gain weight (the sensible side of me says, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, you’re clearly going to run it all off), but if I don’t start upping my intake I’ll burn out and won’t be able to train anymore, or worse, I’ll injure myself. And then everyone who said or thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because I’m unable to bring myself to eat properly will tut and say condescending things like “I told you so, poor, silly, mental girl.” I think I just about want to prove them wrong more than I am fearful of the pretty much non-existent possibility of gaining weight over the next few months.

(Obviously there are those friends and family members who have been nothing but supportive over the short time I’ve been training and I appreciate that, thank you.)

But so what if I do gain weight ? I know the scale will go up, I know it’s likely to be muscle, I just hate seeing the numbers increase ! (Anyone wants to come round and confiscate my scales, that’d be great.) But ultimately I’ll be super-fit by the time April rolls around, and isn’t that how this whole thing started in the first place ? An obsession with healthy eating and healthy living that got a little bit out of control. I need this marathon to get my life back.

So whilst I’m on the subject of food, energy, glycogen, carbohydrates (let’s face it, when am I ever not ?), let’s do a post about CARBS. I put caps lock on because, for any diet-conscious person, CARBS are SCARY and are to be AVOIDED, and that’s how they say it. Nobody ever says “carbs,” with an equal ratio of emphasis on words that are “carbs” and words that are not; they always say “CARBS” as though the word had slept with their boyfriend and posted the pictures on Facebook, complete with a thumbs up to the camera. Carbohydrates have a bad rep due to the apparent success of diet programmes such as Atkins (it’s all lies – another rant altogether) but the truth is – and here’s where I get preachy again despite never ever following my own advice – even if you’re not doing a cripplingly high amount of exercise, carbohydrates are our bodies’ main source of energy. They are the easiest nutrient (as opposed to say, protein or fat) for your body to convert to glucose, which is essentially fuel. What happens when you don’t refuel your car ? It won’t go. It breaks. It feels sad and tired and gets a lot of headaches and snaps at its loved ones (okay, maybe I’m taking the analogy a bit too far but you get my point, right ?).

So this post is for everyone who has ever said “I’ve just been eating SO MANY CARBS lately,” and clutched at their bellies in an attempt to prove that this has caused them to gain soo much weight. It’s like complaining that your car is full of petrol ! So let’s just forget for a moment that I am a Freaky Eater, and listen to me as though I were a reputable nutritionist, because they’ll tell you the same thing:

CARBS DO NOT MAKE YOU FAT

Carbs.

Do NOT.

Make you.

Fat.

Say it ! Doesn’t it feel great ?!

There is a bit of a catch, as there is with anything. The reason people think that carbohydrates make you gain weight is that if you consume too many your body will have excess glycogen; when this fuel is not needed for energy it gets stored as fat. So the first thing is to make sure you monitor your portion sizes – check the packet for the recommendations.

The second part of The Catch is that there are two kinds of carbs: simple and complex. In order to make carbohydrates your friends, you need to munch more on the complex ones, and less so on the simple ones. Complex carbohydrates include:

Brown bread
Brown pasta
Brown rice
Anything wholemeal/wholegrain
Oats
Fruit/vegetables
Potatoes
Beans/pulses

These foods release their energy slowly, which allows you to feel fuller and more energised for longer, helping to boost mood and reduce sugar cravings throughout the day. Because the starch in these food items hasn’t been refined (to make it white), our body has to do it, which means you actually burn more energy just by digesting a slice of wholemeal bread than you would a white one – they do the exercise for you ! (Obviously you have to take a walk every once in a while too…)

In contrast, these foods containing simple carbohydrates will spike your insulin levels, resulting in a crash that can cause mood swing, fatigue and ultimately increased cake-desire. Try to steer clear of:

White bread
White pasta
White rice
Cakes
Biscuits
Sweets
Fruit juice
Fizzy drinks
Some cereals (check the sugar content: 7g or more per bowl, usually 30 – 50g, is too much !)

Obviously you don’t have to give up these things altogether. It’s hard sometimes – some restaurants don’t even have wholemeal pasta, bread or pizza options. One time isn’t going to result in weight gain – it’s constant consumption of simple carbs that leads to subconscious excess calorie consumption. So if you’re trying to lose weight, see what happens if you try just converting to wholemeal and cutting out fizz (even diet – the sugar-replacement chemicals work in exactly the same way as sugar, there’s no excuse !). It’s all about finding and maintaining balance, which is evidently what I’m going to have to learn, possibly with a bit of trial and error, during these next few months. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m even afraid of ‘good’ carbs, which needs to be remedied.

So tomorrow I’m going grocery shopping, stocking up on wholemeal flour and I will spend next week marathon-training my way through pizza, calzone, and some intriguing bread recipes I’ve managed to stumble across recently…

…watch this space.

Amy x