Saturday, 29 March 2014

Good news

Keeping it brief, but hear this...

5cm lost from my waist in 3 weeks.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Oatmeal and sunflower cookies...oh my!

Right, cracked it. Here goes:

Mrs Baker's sugar free oatmeal and sunflower seed cookies

100g butter
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups porrage oats
3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, hulled
2tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 150oC and prepare 2 trays with baking parchment.

Melt the butter and coconut milk together in a large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil for a minute, then remove from the heat.

Stir in the oats, rice flour, seeds and vanilla and mix until it becomes doughy. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Take small handfuls, say 2 teaspoons, and roll into a ball. Flatten into the tray with your fingers. I made 18.

Bake for 35 - 45 minutes until lightly browned and crisped.

Try to avoid burning your fingers and lips whilst shovelling the tester into your mouth... Enjoy!

Good grief, I could really go for a biscuit...

So, week 5 draws on, and it is weigh day again today. Let me just underline though, this is not just about weight, but about health and food addiction, so it is ok if I don't lose weight every week.

I have stuck to my objectives for this week so far - trying to add more fresh veg to make up for the lack of fruit, generally trying to add a bit more variety, and trying to incorporate a bit more exercise. I am still having the wee niggling voices question whether this is all correct (20 years of "don't eat fat" is tough to shake!) and right on time as per Sarah's wise book, this week has been entirely sponsored by the sugar pangs. Eeshk.

Starting to snack on veg more, in the way that I would normally snack on fruit is helping, and actually biting into a half a pepper is a good substitute for apples. I have enjoyed avocados, cucumber and tomatoes in this way, and it has helped add variety, colour and crunch.

I have also tried my hand at baking some sugar free baked treats, although this is proving to be a little experimental and so far not entirely successful! My oat cookies were a little slippery on day one, marginally more crunchy by day two, but still lacking something. Not sugar as such, although that would help bind and combine, but actually I think a cup of wholemeal flour would help. I will try another batch later and come back to you on that one.

The cheese question is interesting me as well. As someone who has basically been on a diet for 20 years, and interesting is quite a lot heavier than I was at the beginning, I have always been told that cheese is the Salty Dairy Devil, perched on your shoulder ready to sabotage your efforts at the slightest whiff. Indeed, if you diet with the big clubs, a day's allocation of the delicious devil is a mere 30g, about the size of a matchbox, and in my experience, just enough to remind you of what you have been missing, thus leading you into a cheese fuelled mindwarp where you would cheerfully give up your job purely to stand with the fridge light on your face inhaling its forbidden fumes.

And yet, now I find myself in this strange new world where oranges are off and snacking on a piece of cheese is on. It is true that a cheese snack curbs my mid afternoon appetite far better than fruit ever would, but the doubting voice does still question whether this will have the right effect on the scales, the measurements and the overall fitness. I guess I need to keep believing and trying, and reflect as the weeks proceed. I'm not a religious person, in fact I am so inside my head that I drive myself sick with confusion when faced with thinking a philosophical issue through, so I do find it rather difficult to stomach the concept of blind faith. But this is cheese not creationism, so perhaps I should relax.

Back to the cookies. It is interesting, veering on evangelical in fact, that every week's chapter of Sarah's book is so right on the money with how I feel. I said to Mr B on Sunday, I'm struggling with the cravings today, and flipped open the chapter to read the words, "Cravings - they're ugly and dispiriting. But they're normal so its important to keep going." It's like she's watching from the corner of the kitchen...

So, the current mission:
- suss out these cookie recipes
- in fact suss out sugar free treats in general. Woman cannot live on yogurt alone.
- keep eating veggies as fruit. Substifruit if you will.
- keep seeking out new ideas to add variety
- keep reading the book

I don't really care about the weight loss issue, if I'm honest. Its more that it is the only gauge of food and diet I have ever known. I suppose, if the plan works and I am not addicted to sugar, and ultimately gain a better control of my appetite, nutrition and food urges, then weight will hopefully fall into place anyway. Also, provided the addition of fat into my diet doesn't result in weight going on, it doesn't really matter if I don't lose any weight, because in a couple of months when the addiction is curbed, I can then systematically reduce fat intake too.

If I ever crack this cookie recipe I will post it on here. Until then, may the cheese be with you xx

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Week 4

A bit tardy on the update, but hey, it's been sunny and I've been busy...

So, weigh in - 1/2lb off. Not bad. Extraordinary considering that I have been snacking in cheese, nuts and ful fat yogurt.

Standing in the queue and listening to the other members did give me food for thought, in particular the "eat as much free food as you can" mentalitity. I have not had any sugar, but I probably haven't had as much fresh veg this week as last week. I also haven't done as much exercise as a person trying to lose weight perhaps should.

So, target for this week - more of that super fresh stuff, and in the absence of fruit, cucumbers and peppers can fill that gap. And exercise - as well as twice weekly yoga, aim to increase to four exercise sessions by adding a couple of gym visits.

See how it goes - still smiling.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Do you want to know a secret?

I feel like I have discovered a secret.

I hope I'm not turning into one of Those Women, but I feel compelled to tell people, to pass the message on.

It's a strange experience, to find a solution to a problem I've had all my life, and it still is rather early days to draw any radical conclusions, but nearly 4 weeks in, I love it.

I thought I'd miss the sugar more than I do. In actual fact, I've hardly even thought about it. Yes, a quick flash of remorse crossed my mind when I realised there would be no Easter egg, and when I encountered a piece of Dairy Milk earlier, for a second I forgot I don't eat it, and there was a twinkle of disappointment when I remembered. But, on the whole, it's been plain sailing on calm seas.

Where I used to run in from work, and attack everything I could get my hands on, now I generally just want a drink. (Tea, cheeky.) If I want a snack I have a little piece of cheese, some olives or nuts, or maybe a piece of toast with butter.

Breakfast is no longer a bowl of cereal at school, and is instead usually an egg, poached, gently fried in a little butter or maybe scrambled with some spinach. Oh, and it is now served at home, with a proper coffee and a side order of cats, rather than wolfed down in five minutes in the company of squawking children. Lunch is a cous cous salad with halloumi, quinoa with chickpeas and spinach, maybe rice with vegatables. I have shunned the school stodge - no more pizza and garlic bread, no lasagne or fajitas. I do still enjoy the proper Indian dishes though - palek paneer, aloo saag with chickpea dahl - which rather goes to show that this sugar problem is new.

It's weigh day again tomorrow, and I really hope that I have lost some weight. If I have, it means it's working. If I have, it's worth keeping on with it, which I hope is the case because I feel brilliant. I'm less tired at the end of the day, more ready to sleep at bed time, more able to read in bed without nodding off. I do still struggle to get up, but I think that's a work thing - I work 70 hours a week so the time between finishing and sleeping is too short to really relax (maybe there's another blog in that!) but even so, I'm not as hungry by break time nor as tired by afternoon.

What I'm really looking forward to is taking measurements, but I think it's too soon - weight update tomorrow.

Nighty night xx

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Weigh Day

I can't argue with the fact I feel much healthier, and I certainly feel energised and less tired at the end of the day, but remember the reason I started all was in a bid to lose weight. Well, no not exactly, but I started going to a slimming club to lose weight, realised it was a psychotic form of torture, and found myself in the book aisle of my local supermarket.

I went to slimming last night to get weighed. I was slightly anxious, because despite all the positives, I'd have been plenty peeved if I had gained weight. I stood in the queue, thumbing through the book trying to look like I'd read it, secretly checking the naughty-values of all the things I've been eating for the last 3 weeks.

Without wanting to give away which club, it transpires that an ounce of cheese is 4 times as naughty as an ounce of canned black cherry pie filling, a tablespoon of butter is considered 11 times as bad for you as the fat free yogurts that contain 7 teaspoons of sugar, and an avocado is equal to 5 rich tea biscuits. I stood in the queue, listening to the other members... "I was doing alright  until the weekend", someone put on 3lb in a week, all the while listening to the leader give the introductory talk to the new members.

So, onto the scales, and thank goodness, 3.5lbs off. Good.

It doesn't matter, because I'm not following the plan, and if I hadn't lost weight I could still have cut back some fat to help that along, but I'm so pleased I had. It validates the whole process, and I know that it works. Basically, it means it's ok to carry on, and if I stick to it, my weight should adjust positively and stay that way.

Eventually, I might come out and say that I haven't been sticking to their rules, or that I've eaten as much butter and cheese as I've lost in pounds (!) but for now, I will politely just slip away.

"Keep smiling" said the woman manning the scales.

I certainly will.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Three Chias for Chia!

Chia, cashew and cacao puddings

Adapted from a recipe of Sarah Wilson's

1/2 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup cacao nibs
375ml milk
Sprinkle of grind cinnamon

Place the chia seeds in a large bowl. Finely chop the cacao and cashews with a mezzaluna and add to the chia. Pour over the milk and add the cinnamon. Give a stir and leave to thicken for 10 minutes or so. Divide into 4 ramekins and refrigerate until set.

It has an interesting texture, a bit like tapioca, but if the slightly granular feel isn't for you, I think you could blend it with a stick blender to make it smooth. I serve mine with a tablespoon of greek yogurt on the top.

I winced slightly at the price, about £6 per pack of both chia and nibs, but if you buy in bulk, or better still, catch a Holland and Barrett buy one get one half price offer and it's not too bad. Worth trying if you miss a sweet treat at the end of the day.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Week three looms

This is harder than I thought. The last few days have been really difficult. Not insummountable, but challenging, and physically hard. I guess that's because is working but it's a trial this week.

It made me think about why, and give myself a break.

- saying no - this week has presented several occasions where I had to say no to offers of the wrong food, when I was tired and emotional. Pizza at patents evening, a sandwich out in town, and yet I stick it out.

- workload - patents evening x end of project marking or 6 groups x department strategy presentation = knackered and emotional. Normally the answer is Ben x Jerry...

- Mother Nature - end of pill packet =  3 days of dropping things, breaking things, and reaching for the wrong things. So far self medicating with butter and wine.

- In need of a benchmark - it's been over 2 weeks, and I haven't weighed myself to see how it's going. I'm ok with not losing weight (if the sugar quitting works to make me feel better but I don't lose, I can always diet sugar free then) but I would be really disappointed if I put weight on. To which end, today I have taken measurements so that in a couple of weeks I can check against this.

- it's time to go cold turkey

It's hard but it is ok. I've been shopping for supplies today to try some new recipes - cacao nibs, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds - and have some new things to try. They say the third week is tough with lots of addictions, it certainly was with smoking, and the only way is to grip on, and keep persevering, and celebrate the small victories.

On the plus side, I'm really enjoying the food and I am noticing a big difference in how much I want to eat and snack. A few slices of halloumi and red pepper this afternoon staved off dinner, so instead of roast chicken I made a delicious cous cous salad with basil, spinach, tomato, cucumber, and mackerel.

It is difficult, but it is good. Keep on keeping on.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Apparently the world is doing it.

Interesting article from the Beeb...

And the Express...

In other news I declined free Dominos yesterday. That's dedication!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

What not to eat

I have just discovered that there are 23.2g of sugar in a tin of baked beans. Eek!! So apparently I no longer eat beans.

This is such a life reforming plan - so many "rules" I have been following on (let's be honest, unsuccessful) diets for the last 15 years have been completely overturned. Slimming clubs purporting baked beans and fruit will help you control your eating, fat is always bad, and low fat is always good. It's been quite illuminating.

I have only been at this for 10 days, but so far I have omitted:

- low fat yogurt
- cereal bars
- ketchup
- gravy granules
- breakfast cereals
- fruit (this will come back in a few weeks)
- baked beans
- jam
- all desserts
- diet pop (I never liked sugary pop anyway)
- biscuits / chocolate (obviously!)
- white bread
- savoury sauces
- tinned soups

In fact, absolutely loads of things that the slimming clubs suggest you eat in small amounts to keep you on track. Hmmm ....

Still enjoying much more energy, and still not having the 4pm crash (excellent when you teach til 4.15). Still sleeping better, and waking better.

I keep meaning to take measurements so I can keep track of inch loss, but haven't got round to it yet, and I can't go to get weighed this week because it's parents evening, so I'm having to just have faith and keep on keeping on. I do hope it is at least letting me maintain weight not gain, because I feel brilliant and I don't want to stop.

Must drop those 4 tins of baked beans in at the food bank...

Monday, 3 March 2014

A few observations...

It's Monday night and I have only just finished work, so I will keep it brief. A few observations...

- I no longer always clear my plate
- I came in from a 13 hour day and didn't need a snack
- I feel slimmer
- I wasn't nearly so tired after yoga yesterday
- I'm nowhere near as tired as I usually am at this time of day

Happy days.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Week one done :)

I didn't intend to quit sugar.

I asked the doctor for free membership to a slimming club, and went along. I have to say, I was shocked and horrified at the attitudes of the 20 or so women there. Purporting emulsified fat sprays, low fat yogurts and instant noodles, they seemed to be looking for a miracle - a way to somehow fool their lumpy bodies into losing weight whilst still eating all the foods they love and washing it down with weekly boozy nights out. Cheese is the enemy, vodka is the saviour, and putting on weight after a week's dieting warranted a round of applause.

I knew in my bones it wouldn't work... And I had 11 more weeks to go!

Then the weekend - not the ideal way to start a diet. Thursday was dinner and a night out with an old friend, Friday was a family meal out for a curry, and Saturday was our anniversary, so hardly the best start.

Then I bought this book... Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar. I stood in the book aisle and skimmed the process. It made sense, it seemed like it could work. It certainly made me think. 4 days after the slimming club fiasco, I decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly, the first day was not hard. I kept reading and rereading the book, because it seemed a little too simple. I stated taking lunch to work, instead of having the canteen food. I started checking labels and realised just how ridiculously high in sugar my diet had been, and this is coming from a person who doesn't take sugar in tea, and generally thought I was quite healthy.

The basic gist of the plan is to remove all fructose from the diet, and replace it with quality fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It was new to me to snack in cheese and switch to full fat dairy, but as much as I didn't fully believe it, having the fat did help omit the sugar.

The headaches were something else though! I wasn't prepared for the withdrawal symptoms, which really were comparable with a spectacular hangover. But they only latest for a few days, and by Wednesday night's slimming meeting I actually felt ok.

Anxiously I stepped on the scales, not expecting miracles (or anything really) but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had put on half a pound. Doesn't sound like a reason to be cheerful, but given my weekend, I could easily have put a pound or more on, so the fact that all the extra fat and cheese had not really had an impact, I thought I'm ok to keep at it, and see how it pans out.

Then came the miracle. Now the headaches had eased off, and I'd settled in a bit, I found energy I haven't had in years. As a teacher I work 70 hour weeks, but suddenly I was catching myself dancing in the kitchen while I cooked the dinner, and leaving work feeling full of energy, bit desperate to sleep. As the days went on, I kept it up, checking labels and continuing to be shocked at just how much sugar I had been eating without even realising. 28g in a low fat yogurt, 20g in a cereal bar - just making those 2 small changes has cut out 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, or 60 in a working week. And that is without the cereal, dessert, sauces, and all those other hidden teaspoons.

The weekend has been tricky in places - lunch with the girls at a city centre pub left me a little short of options, chicken and avocado salad to eat but only spring water to drink, then a night out with him indoors where I had a steak and chips, feeling a little uncertain about the rules. Actually, having checked the book, the meal was fine, but a couple of pints of real ale left me with a killer headache this morning. (Not a hangover, but the same sugar head from the beginning if the week.) Still, live and learn.

So now it's been a week. It's weird, because in many ways it feels like much longer, but no, 7 days exactly. But how do I feel? Like a new person.

Honestly, it's like rocket fuel. Looking forward to week 2.