Tag Archives: weight

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

Spring Fever

The daffodils and crocuses are blooming.

Peoples’ arms have crept out, virgin white and raw from beneath their winter coats.

The parks are full of children and couples and families and old people taking strolls.

I have adamantly banished my own winter coat to the back of my wardrobe in favour of my pea-green, collared, A-line jacket, which does not keep me warm and is purely a fashion item. Which is what you’re supposed to wear in Spring.

It is officially too hot to run in leggings. Bring on the shorts. Bring on my pasty legs. If they had eyes, they would have been squinting like newborn kittens when I got them out today.

I have a constant urge to drape myself across our front steps with a flamboyant cocktail and throw my head back to the sun (if we had a garden I would do this in it, instead of on our front door step).

The sun makes everything better. Music sounds better. Food and drink tastes better. Everything looks more appealing in the sun.

Since when did it become freakin’ March ?!

Last week I downloaded the calorie counter app for my phone again, after forcing myself to get rid of it last Christmas. Two days ago I deleted it for the second time. It’s like I’m on the end of a piece of elastic bouncing between two poles; sometimes I am stretched towards self-assurance and calm, unhindered normality, but am ultimately pulled back to obsessive eating and exercise patterns on which I dwell for a period of time before becoming angry and frustrated. Sick of calorie counting, I resolve to be more relaxed about eating, and I carry this out for a week or so before feeling so overwhelmed by the thought of how much I must have consumed during this period of “guilt-free” living that I am flung straight back to disorder.

When I wrote my last post I was feeling good. Normal. I feel good about it now, sort of. The calorie counter has gone but I still feel its hold on my mind. Just let yourself go, I say. Between then and now I have been to freak-out territory and back, in the space of two weeks. It can be somewhat exhausting. I don’t really have much more to say except that I am truly growing sick of myself.

Anyway here’s what I made for dinner tonight. I combined a few similar recipes, one of which I followed when I made it for the first time last night, which called for natural yoghurt which did not work. So I ditched the yoghurt in favour of some chopped tomatoes which gave the dish a bit more substance, and a bit less curdled yoghurt.

The first recipe I tried was a curry. I do not make curry often, and I do not like spicy foods. They make me sweat. I know, it’s awful for a foodie but what I really love is a good, mild, anglicised curry. I used about half a teaspoon of cumin and curry powder at first but even for me it was too bland, so what with the yoghurt-y disaster and all I gave up on curry because I don’t think it’s my thing. So here’s a recipe for casserole instead, which I’m much better at. And it tasted really yummy ! The cinnamon is truly an awesome addition, although next time I might stir through a bit of cumin or cayenne pepper to add a spicy edge to the sweetness.

Aubergine and Chickpea Casserole 

Serves 4

You need:
1 aubergine
1 onion
1 can of cooked chickpeas, drained
1 carton chopped tomatoes
2 tbsps tomato puree
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Cinnamon
Basil
Sugar
Salt

Method:
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C. Cut the aubergine into thin slices and place on a foiled and oiled baking tray. Sprinkle the aubergine with salt and brush top with oil, then bake it for 15 minutes until lightly browned. When you take it out of the oven, fold the foil over the aubergine and crimp the edges and leave aside in the foil.

Heat oil in a pan and add the onion, finely chopped. Cook for a few minutes before adding the garlic and a pinch of salt. Then add the tomatoes and the tomato puree, cinnamon, sugar and another pinch of salt.

Simmer uncovered, stirring often, for 20-25 minutes. Add the chickpeas.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Brush a baking dish with oil and layer the bottom with the tomato sauce.

Layer over the aubergine. Repeat until everything is in the dish !

Bake for 30 minutes.

Eat with some tasty rice or bread !

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

Little Update

I just want to make a brief reference to the weekend’s vlog experiment. My friend, Ellie (whose ever-eloquent, intelligent and insightful blog you can read here) said to me on Saturday night: “I watched the videos on your blog. It was kind of like just watching someone go completely insane,” which, I think sums it all up perfectly. I also take this entirely as a compliment.

So instead of my weekly visual food diary – which I haven’t done for reasons that will later be outlined – I thought that I’d just post a few little updates as to the culinary treats I’ve been keeping myself busy with in addition to the ones documented in the videos.

On Monday night I made pizza with spinach and caramelised onion. Which I’ve eaten now so uh, no pictures. Also, Tommy left his camera at home so now I will have to make do with borrowing his iPhone instead of his swanky camera… like that’s a hardship compared to my total lack of camera/smartphone…

I made way too much dough. So then I made garlic flatbread and a few dough-balls with the aforementioned garlic butter to keep in the fridge until I fancy them. Had the dough balls with an avocado salad, with enough dough left for garlic bread to have with some baked cod tomorrow night ! Divine.

I used Jamie Oliver’s dough recipe, subbed the white flour for wholemeal and with all quantities halved… then halved again. This was still a COLOSSAL amount of dough. I recommend halving again ! Although his recipe was for 6… maybe I should get some more friends…

I also made oat cookies (with cinnamon, figs and dark chocolate) which I ended up taking to an impromptu Christmas gathering at my friends’ house (the ones who own the guinea pig !).

What was freaky about this was that in the space of about an hour I got the spontaneous urge to bake, stumbled almost immediately across a low-cal oat cookie recipe for which I already had all the ingredients (whose link I have already lost), and no sooner had I put the cookies in the oven did Will from over the road call to invite us over later for sherry and mulled wine. Great, because it means I won’t eat them ALL (despite having a cold and not being able to taste one lousy bite when I had a sneaky sample. Ultimate disappointment. Tommy and Priya said they were good, but they can hardly say otherwise, can they … ?).

In other news, I’m trying so very hard to stop calorie-counting. I know in the long run it makes me miserable, but not knowing exactly how much I’ve ingested each day makes me incredibly nervous. In a horrible way that I’ve never before experienced, I’m sort of dreading the Christmas period and how I choose to handle it; will I gorge myself and feel insanely guilty and depressed for a long time afterwards ? Or will I restrict and deny myself throughout and end up ruining my and everybody else’s good time ? I can already feel the temptation, nay, expectation for me to stuff my face “because it’s Christmas” creeping closer and closer; my mother posted my chocolate advent calendar to me the other day, parties and meals are being planned, all the shelves in all the shops are full to bursting with chocolate and everywhere I look there are adverts for low-price festive food and drink.

I know a lot of people gain weight over the holiday and that’s fine. But I just don’t know if I can handle the guilt and self-loathing that will inevitably come when I step on that scale on January 1st 2012. Just don’t weigh yourself ? you say. But I will.

I am a total hypocrite, I know (see Alarming Thoughts and Love and Advice) but it’s just the way I think and I can’t help that. Giving other people the nutritional advice that I have stumbled across during my rocky relationship with food makes me feel good, but it clearly doesn’t mean that I’ll necessarily follow it myself. It is certainly very tricky, although hopefully if I deal with the obsession in the right way, it will gradually get better with time and positive thinking, and ultimately I will learn to not be so uptight…

This is why I haven’t drawn a food diary. I think, whilst cute and fun in small doses, that my keeping such a close eye on what I’m eating is becoming just a little bit damaging. So I deleted my food diary/calorie counts from my computer so that I couldn’t look at them and made myself forget exactly what I did eat last week, so therefore am unable to draw a food diary today. I hope to be able to do one next week though !

So plans for this week:

1. I bought a bit of goat’s cheese to have in a bagel with my fig jam… I do hope this cold clears up so that I can taste by the time I decide to dig in !
2. I may have to make some kind of potato gratin-esque dish (although I will obviously have to substitute something for the cream… no no no) because I have leftover mozz from the pizza I made and some potatoes that are about to spoil. I’m sure I’ll make something up.
3. For my birthday in October, Tommy bought me a set of posh jams, of which I have polished off the raspberry. This week, I start the marmalade. I am excited.

And lastly, prepare for a spot of relief from my greasy-haired, baggy-trouser-ed hippie vegetarian culinary escapades in the form of my bouncy blonde, full-face-o-makeup, clean-shaven nubile sister, Meg. She is also a wise cooking owl and has been baking for many years; she will be making Christmas cupcakes as an Amy Eats guest. Watch this space !

Ciao for now, my pets.

Amy x

When the Snack Monster rears its ugly head…

… snack !

I’ve been asked to write a post about snacking, because what happens when you skip breakfast ahead of a day at work or school, run around like a mad thing all day and eat lunch on the go without really thinking about it ? You get hungry at 3pm. It’s not lunchtime anymore. It is not yet dinnertime. Your mind wanders dangerously close to the biscuit tin, and 9 times out of 10 your hand follows.

This is an example of an eating pattern that I am WHOLLY AND UTTERLY against.

So before I begin my righteous healthy snack post, I will say this, please, just indulge me…

How to snack less in the first place

1. Eat a proper breakfast before you start your day. I’ve always been brought up to understand that breakfast is important, so much so that it slots into my morning routine as easily as cleaning my teeth; the same as most people would never consider leaving the house without doing so, I will NEVER consider doing ANYTHING except shower before I have my breakfast. I am hungry in the morning, and who can blame me, I haven’t eaten for 7 hours ! I don’t understand people who say they can’t stomach food in the morning (although there is rarely a time when I can’t stomach food; if there is, you know the hangover is bad and should probably leave me alone for at least a day). So try and eat something before you start your busy, busy day; get up 15 minutes earlier, that’s all it takes. It won’t take long before your metabolism adapts to the change and your body will begin to reward you by actually wanting breakfast when you wake up ! (Life hacking, I’m a pro.)

Incorporate some protein (eggs, bacon, nuts, yoghurt) as well as some fruit and a little slow-release carbohydrate; this should keep your change in your pocket and out of the vending machine until at least lunch. “Slow-release” carbs (bananas, porridge, Weetabix are good examples) release their energies into your body slowly, so you retain your full feeling for longer. The opposite – too sugary a breakfast – will cause an insulin spike and subsequent blood sugar dip, which causes sugar cravings (vicious cycle, hey ?) and ultimately pre-lunch cake.

2. Savour your lunch. Continue in much the same manner as breakfast – wholewheat carbohydrates, protein; fill up on vegetables and fruit if you’re still hungry. Often I find grabbing lunch in the midst of a hectic schedule can mean you don’t spend enough time making sure your brain has actually registered that you’ve fed yourself, leading to mindless snacking later on in the day because your mind has tricked your stomach into not believing it is full, even if it is. So take your time and choose wisely (not being starving because you skipped breakfast will help you make informed choices, instead of rushing headlong into a giant plate of chips).

3. Eat enough in your meals. I’m guilty of this when I’m trying to lose weight (a few Christmas/Birthday pounds here and there, for example); in that I purposefully cut back my meal portions because I think this will cut back on calories. Obviously it does, but it just leaves me feeling unfulfilled, hungry, and I (or a combination of my ultimately under-fed brain and stomach) end up making up the calories I saved skipping the second slice of toast by gorging later on in the day.

4. Know how to tell the difference between being bored and being hungry. I am SUCH a sucker for eating when I’m bored. I think it’s because a second rarely passes when I’m not thinking about eating, so when my mind wanders from the task at hand, it immediately jumps to its background runner: food. If you feel the urge to snack, have some water or a cup of tea. Failing that, go for a walk. If you still want to eat, chances are you’re probably genuinely hungry and should eat one of the delicious but nutritious snacks outlined below. Plus you’ve had a walk, so it’s fine !

Healthy snacks

If you get a combination of good carbohydrates (that’s wholewheat starch, fruit or veg) and protein the snack will serve to tide your energy and hunger levels over until the next meal. I tend to follow this daily pattern: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack, where the main meals are not big and the snacks are not small. This keeps your energy levels up throughout the day, as opposed to your blood sugar spiking and dipping (this not only leads to sugar cravings, but can also cause mood swings, and nobody wants that).

Any fruit, dried or fresh. My personal favourites include bananas, apples, plums and cherries. Or pick the hardest fruit to eat that you can find, for example, a pomegranate. Picking the seeds out will ensure you take your time over it and keep you entertained for a while.

Nuts. Our good friend, protein, to the rescue again ! Half a handful will do.

Peanut butter. Put it on a piece of wholewheat toast or dip some apple slices in 1-2 tablespoons.

Seeds. Work in much the same way as nuts.

Natural yoghurt. By which I mean unsweetened, unflavoured, plain yoghurt. It may seem a little sour at first if you’ve never had it before, but it’s absolutely perfect on a sliced banana with a little honey.

(This is a good one for boredom snacking; I find that it helps to make a meal, for want of a better phrase, of your snack. Not literally; I mean choose a snack that takes a little time to prepare. Chop up your fruit and make a fruit salad, for example. Do the baked apple, or the frozen banana thing. Taking time over any food allows your brain to feel satisfied, as well as your stomach.)

Invest in a weekly or bi-monthly Graze box. And use this code – 7N1PQH2 – on sign up for your first box free and your second half price ! (Graze should totally pay me for this, but sadly they don’t… but I get £1 off one of my boxes if you do this, so do it.) Their website speaks for itself…

Bake the apple oat bread-cake. But don’t eat it all at once.

Olives. For monounsaturated (healthy) fat (like the stuff in avocados !). Aim for about 10.

Hummus. Dip some carrot sticks, cucumber, pepper or a toasted wholemeal pitta in 1-2 tablespoons of the stuff. Beautiful.

Low-fat cream cheese. Again, dip vegetables or bread sticks, or spread on 2-3 oatcakes/ricecakes.

2 squares of dark chocolate. 70% cocoa and above. Satisfies your chocolate craving, but because it’s stronger than milk, you shouldn’t really feel like gorging on it.

A hard-boiled egg. Crack some black pepper on that bad boy.

Edamame beans. If you can get them in their pods, sprinkle a bit of sea salt over before literally popping them out into your mouth. They’re so fun and satisfying !

Glass of milk. Soy or semi-skimmed.

Wasabi peas. Low calorie but high flavour, so you won’t need to eat loads anyway. Great instead of crisps due to their salty-spiciness and crunchy texture.

Hope this helps. I’m off to bake an apple in the microwave…

Next time we speak I will have baked MUFFINS !

Amy x

(This is for Lizi x)

Love and Advice

Just a quick one while my man friend Gareth remains glued to his laptop screen watching numerous Modern Warfare 3 trailers in preparation for his big buy today.

I want to just clear up a few things, tackle a few nutritional and weight gremlins that have troubled my mind at some point during the past, and kind of just lay down how I’ve dealt with them in case anyone else is going through the same thing. This is something I care about a lot; I can’t stand it when people get depressed over diet myths and warped self-opinions that they’ve believed for so long it’s become the word of gospel for them. If your pre-conceived ideas about nutrition are getting you down, chances are you’ve exaggerated them or just been totally misinformed So here we go. Hope this helps:

“My over-eating is out of control.”

Humans need to eat to live. Just because you eat, it doesn’t make you a fat pig. You just need to eat the right things in the right amounts. I don’t think you should EVER ban ANY food, (even deep fried Mars Bars!) I would just recommend you go about eating like this: eat lots of certain foods, eat some of others, eat little of the rest, and avoid certain foods like the plague. But NEVER deny yourself anything if you really, really want it.

So the ‘lots’ category: water, tea, fruit, vegetables in absolute abundance, wholegrain (brown) carbohydrates (each serving should fit in the space when you cup both your hands and put them together), lean protein like fish, chicken and beans

The ‘some’ category: slightly less lean proteins like eggs, tofu and nuts, and healthy fats like avocado, pesto, olives and olive oil, butter, cheese and milk

The ‘little’ category: dark chocolate, the odd tipple, fruit juice (lots of sugar and no fibre in this = unsatisfying, “empty” calories), muesli (again, thought to be a health food but often quite high in sugar = insulin spikes = sugar cravings later), cake, jam, cream, cookies (Gaz is convinced that bakery cookies help him avoid the Common Cold, following an incident in which he decided, righteously, to forgo cookies and came down with one. He now swears by them as “medicinal”…)

The ‘avoid like plague’ category (but occasional indulgence is encouraged !): white carbs, takeaway, sugary sweets, high sugar fizzy drinks, cheap chocolate, pastry items (sorry, it’s so fatty)

Okay so I said never deny yourself anything. But these are a few things you will NEVER see me consume (although probably have at some point in my life): energy drink (went through a phase of drinking this every night I went out, mixed with vodka. Death cocktail, literally), KFC chicken (hydrogenated fat CITY), deep fried Mars Bar (’nuff said…).

Just remember this: if you’re going to allow yourself a treat, make it a good one. Homemade farmer’s market carrot cake, for example, as opposed to deflated coffee shop muffin.

“If I eat junk I’ll gain weight.” 

Yes, you will. But you need to consume an excess, EXCESS – that’s on top of the 1,800 – 2000 daily recommendation for women – of 3,500 calories in a week in order to gain 1 pound of fat in that week. That’s 500 calories a day. If you allow even 500 calories for a really indulgent piece of cake once or even twice a week, you won’t even gain a pound.

So the same goes for losing weight. Whatever you weigh now, make a food diary for a week, add up total calories for each day (for women it should be under 2000, unless you’re an athlete or something) and then the next week make sure you consume 500 calories less than what you consumed for each day last week. Also, calories burned during exercise counts towards deficit, so, for example, even if you go off the rails a bit and eat 2,250 calories in a day, go for an hour’s swim; even breaststroke burns 544 calories in an hour. Your daily calorie intake will be 1706.

This is a great website for calorie counting.

“I need to starve myself in order to lose weight.”

Restricting too many calories is likely to cause your body to go into starvation mode, wherein it saves up all the fat it can get its grubby mits on, slowing your metabolism to pitiful levels because it thinks you’re dying. Great, if we’re cavemen and dying of starvation is a very real threat. Not so great when thin is in but cake is delicious.

Try not to dip below 1,800 calories a day (for women). Too long at below this level and you’re likely to end up mental, hungry and inevitably in Binge Country.

“I’ve been dieting and exercising all week but I gained 2 pounds, I might as well just give up.”

Women’s ‘scale weight’ fluctuates from week to week because they have a tendency to retain water, especially before you get your period. I’ve gained half a stone of a week in what I thought was weight but turned out to literally be water retention. I was angry and depressed that whole week, until I got back on the scales the next week and it had all gone, and then some.

Maybe don’t weigh yourself for a bit ? Look in the mirror instead. Put on some trousers that are tight, and try them on every week when you wake up in the morning (this is when I tend to feel the least bloated) and see how long it takes for them to get loose. Then after a month they are, weigh yourself. You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised.

Also, weight loss is a slow thing. Quick-fix weight loss does not exist; the faster you lose the weight, the quicker you’ll regain it, as crash diets often resort to radical lifestyle changes that are impossible to sustain in the long term. Be patient. Slow and steady wins the race.

“I don’t enjoy exercise.”

Start by just watching your eating and just walk briskly. For half an hour to an hour, 5 times a week. Window shop. An hour of brisk walking burns 206 calories. Combine with swimming, which is fun and won’t make you feel like a great sweaty walrus as you drag yourself in a half-jog, half-limp past all the nubile school children than insist on walking every day past your house when you’re trying to get in shape…

Take a yoga or pilates class for strength and muscle tone, or add a few resistance exercises (squats, lunges, bicep curls with 2kg weights, lady-push-ups, crunches, about 3 sets of 10 repetitions) a few times a week (having muscle means your resting calorie burn is more) until you build up enough strength and confidence to blast a short 15-20 minute run. Then you can start building your run time up. Easy !

Don’t think you can start at the top. You’ll just hurt yourself, and your self-esteem.

“Everyone is skinnier than me.”

Some people are. Some people aren’t. Be safe in the knowledge that your eating is healthy, your exercise is abundant and your weight is healthy for you. Everyone is different. Everyone’s natural metabolism is different. I know girls who totally hate their skinny body and desperately try to put on weight because they hate their small breasts and boxy frame. I know it sucks that some girls can eat junk constantly and still be tiny, but here’s a little thing my Nan often says to me:

“I used to have a waist like this,” she coos when she hugs me. Needless to say, she doesn’t have it anymore. When you feel the jealousy set in, just say to yourself, “She’ll get fat when she hits 40 and her metabolism slows down.” Even if she doesn’t. Hey, it makes me feel better.

I also find this Regina Spektor quotation helps (the song title escapes me): “I’ve got a perfect body because my eyelashes catch my sweat.” Be thankful you’re alive, functional, and have the luxury of being able to choose what and when you eat. Perspective.

“I can’t believe I ate that whole pizza last night, I’m not having breakfast.”

At least eat some fruit and yoghurt. You’ll just end up starving by the end of the day and likely to eat another whole pizza. You don’t need to alter your calorie intake if you’ve splurged the day before. Just chalk it up to experience and carry on as usual. Expect to have to eat more than you planned sometimes – birthdays, Christmas, dates – if you know in advance you’re going to let yourself go a bit, you’re less likely to freak out about over-consuming every once in a while. Because really, it is completely okay to do so. We’re only human.

“I can’t say no when other people offer me junk food.”

Stop people tempting you by always having a healthy snack in your cupboard or your bag so that when someone starts dealing out the cake you don’t have to stand like a lemon while everyone else chows on down (unless you’re having some, which is fine). Bring a fruit salad, vegetables and hummus, a square or two of dark chocolate (this is good because then people don’t stare down your carrot stick and go, “Why on earth are you eating that, have some cake, let yourself go, live a little!” and other such feeder-cliches, and you’re like “NO !” That’s why I DON’T look like you, because I don’t let myself go ALL THE TIME.”).

Also make sure you drink your 1.5 litres of water a day, it actually apparently curbs hunger. Eat lots of the ‘lots’ foods, and space your eating throughout the day, eating a small meal every 3 hours or so. This will also help to satisfy your hunger much more effectively than you think.

If junk tempts you, just stop and think. Does your body need it ? The answer is no, not really. Does your soul need it ? If the answer is yes, eat it. But sometimes you realise that your brain has become conditioned to immediately think, on seeing a piece of cake or chocolate, “RARE TREAT, MUST EAT, SO TASTY.” When really, are your tastebuds going to remember eating it tomorrow ? Will you die if you don’t eat it ? Will you feel cheated tomorrow if you don’t have it ? No. Save yourself for the occasional treat, instead of consistently giving in.

And just to round off. This is a list of my absolute favourite foods in the whole world. They are all ‘lots’ or ‘somes’:

Artichokes
Asparagus
Avocados
Bagels
Balsamic vinegar
Bananas
Basil
Beans
Butternut squash
Cheese (particularly mature cheddar, feta, mozzarella, goat’s and wendsleydale)
Cherries
Courgettes
Eggs
Lentils
Mangoes
Olives
Peanut butter
Pesto
Red onions
Spinach
Sundried tomatoes

Okay I think that’s enough for now.

All this is stuff I’ve picked up from various sources. I’m not saying it’s all correct, but it works for me. Any questions or corrections that you have PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS and I’ll endeavour to answer. (I know there are more, but Modern Warfare videos on the internet seem to have become less of a necessary pursuit now, and I’ve been blogging for a lot longer than originally intended…)

love and happiness,

Amy x