Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Premeditated pig-out

I wouldn't be writing this blog if I didn't have issues with food. I like to eat. I have to be extremely unwell to not eat or god forbid forget to eat. I never forget to eat. My husband does it all the time. He'll come home and say, "I am so hungry!" as he rummages through the fridge looking for a snack. I say, "What did you have for lunch?" thinking it obviously wasn't filling enough. There will be a pause, then: "Lunch?"

But I digress. Suffice to say - I like to eat. I enjoy it - much, much more than your average 'slim' person. From the outside I look like just another slim person walking around. But on the inside, food is still a struggle for me. Even though I follow this nutrition programme, and I have kept my weight pretty much at a 20+ loss, there are still plenty of times when I am feeling tired or stressed and I pig out.

While the pig-out is still the same (I can consume quite a few calories in one sitting!), the thought process around pig-outs is different. I actually think about what I am going to do before I start instead of just mindlessly or defiantly raiding the cupboard and stuffing my face. This is what goes through my mind:

"Hmmm, I really feel like eating potato chips (or chocolate or ice cream or cake). So, if I eat this today that means on Saturday (my regular free meal day) I won't be having my free meal. Hmmm. Do I want still want to do this?" I have to say, 95% of the time when I am feeling like this the answer is YES! There are the times when that upcoming Saturday might be a party or event that I am looking forward to and there will be delicious food involved. I can actually reel myself in and think - no, I can wait and really enjoy my free meal then.

It is clear to me that this is emotional eating. I am trying to solve how I feel with food because it brings me enjoyment. It lifts my mood. I don't think it is a great solution - at all! But it is where I am at right now.

Thankfully, I understand the principles of my nutrition programme to know that one pig-out every so often is not going to saddle me with an extra five pounds. In the past, I would have pigged-out and got depressed about what a failure I was at sticking to a healthy diet. Then I would think, "Well, what the heck. I've wrecked it now, I might as well eat all the stuff I've been wanting." It was the slippery slope of packing on pounds. The premeditated pig-out is definitely an improvement!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How I enjoy holiday eating - and not gain weight

I love Christmas and New Year's and all the delicious treats that go with the holidays. Bring on the mince tarts, Christmas cakes, chocolate, turkey with stuffing, potatoes and gravy, pavlova and cream! The holidays are times for treats, special occasions with special food - lovingly prepared and thoroughly enjoyed.

In the past, Christmas and the ensuing weeks of being in holiday mode meant weight gain for me. When the first Christmas goodies started arriving - usually in the form of end-of-year parties, morning teas, and gift hampers - I would indulge. It's Christmas, after-all! Well, technically Christmas was probably at least two weeks away, but by golly, I was not going to miss out on all the delicious foods on offer. So, I would be munching my way through thousands of calories for days on end (but who was counting? Not me!). Christmas day would come, and I would still be feasting. Then there were all the leftovers and more foodie gifts to keep me going well into New Year's.

By the middle of January all my clothes would be tight and uncomfortable. I would have put on 10 pounds! The New Year's resolution was always: lose 20 pounds.

I am so glad those days are behind me. I don't gain weight over the holidays any more. But I still enjoy my holiday treat foods. Here's how I do it - and surprisingly it doesn't take much willpower to make it work:

I choose one day of the two holiday weeks - it's usually Christmas Day and New Year's Eve - and during the one day I thoroughly enjoy a sumptious array of holiday foods. I eat, drink and am very merry!

The next day, I am back on my regular nutrition programme, eating my normal healthy food. I don't pick at the leftovers in the fridge, I don't nibble at scorched almonds and I don't have 'just a little piece' of fruit cake after my lunch. It's like turning off a switch for me. I can see all the treat foods there but (amazingly) I've trained myself to just see them as being completely off-limits. I will admit sometimes I get annoyed that I can't have them, but really it's just an annoyance because I feel so much better being back on a clean, healthy programme; and I also love having my clothes fit!

My best wishes to everyone for a safe, happy and treat-filled Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Eat Fat Lose Fat ... maybe not

I haven't posted in quite some time (as I was reminded by a friend: "Posts for November. Zero!"). It has everything to do with this book: Eat Fat Lose Fat. It is co-written by one of the same authors as Nourishing Traditions which I have found to be an extremely informative and useful book.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Eat Fat Lose Fat. But first, this post isn't intended as a book review. Not at all. What happened was this ... I read Nourishing Traditions and thought it was great. I found that Sally Fallon co-authored EFLF and was very excited about the prospect of getting to eat LOTS OF FAT!!! Butter on toast? Ya, babeee! Cream on my porridge? Bring it on! Fat with breakfast, lunch and dinner? Yes, please! To some people that probably sounds disgusting, but to me it sounds delicious.

So, here's what happened. I read the book. I drooled. I couldn't wait to get started. But I was scared. Here was a book saying (with heaps of testimonials I read on different websites) you could add a lot of fat (mainly butter, coconut oil, cream, and olive oil) into your diet and actually have fat loss. This was a direct contradiction to my nutrition programme - I had to cut out fat to lose fat. It would be remiss of me not to mention that the EFLF nutrition guidelines are all about eating real foods - wholesome, organic foods that humans are designed to eat - get rid of the white flour, sugar and processed foods. This is my philosophy too.

Despite my fear of eating loads of fat ... I had a go at the programme anyway. (Even as I type this I am thinking: why, why, why did I ever think this was going to work for me when I have been successfully maintaining my weight on a low-fat diet for the past 5 years? Calories in/calories out - eat more than you burn and you're gonna gain weight. I'm either stupid or a chow hound. I'm a stupid chow-hound. Ha!)

However, my first stumbling block with EFLF is they recommend only eating 3 meals per day (I eat every 3 hours!). The idea is that your meals are loaded with enough fat to satiate you until the next meal and you actually eat less calories (than what, I don't know) by not having snacks in between meals. On the first morning I drank a cup of warm water with a tablespoon of coconut oil dissolved in it. The coconut oil is known to initiate fat loss. My first meal on EFLF consisted of oatmeal porridge with low fat yogurt and about one tablespoon of butter. It was tasty, I enjoyed it and felt full - like really full. I was feeling quite smug. Here it was 8am, I'm really, really full and I won't need to eat again for hours - realistically I needed to last until 1pm. By 11am I was starving. Hmmm, that's not how it's supposed to work. The fear set in again. I went back to eating my normal low-fat fare for the rest of the day.

On day two, had the coconut water again then breakfast which was oatmeal porridge, FULL fat yogurt and three tablespoons of butter. That should do it - I figured my problem the previous day was I had low-fat yogurt and not enough butter - just not enough fat to satiate me. Three hours later I was hungry. Nooooooo! This was so not working for me. How was I ever going to manage on just three meals per day when I was hungry every three hours?? I'd be having dinner by 2pm!

On day three I repeated the breakfast regime of day two with sinking hopes. Maybe something would be different on this day. Nope. Three hours later - hungry. My husband said perhaps it is because my body is just too well-trained with my three-hourly eating. Or perhaps this programme just doesn't work for every body.

In reality, I didn't give EFLF a true trial - I couldn't even stick to it past breakfast. But that sums up the fact it just wasn't working for me. I wasn't even trying to lose weight, I was just hoping to maintain my weight - and get to eat lots of fat in the process.

So, after this bizarre diversion from my successful nutrition programme and some soul-searching questions such as: 'what was I thinking???', I'm truly convinced I'm on the right track with my nutrition programme and keeping my fat rolls in check.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nourishing Traditions

I haven't been motivated to post lately as I have been trying to get my head around some contradictory nutritional information (contradictory to my eating programme!) I have been reading up on lately. Why would I bother reading and even considering this information when my programme works sooooo well for me?

All I can say is - it rings of truth for me. It all started when my son was diagnosed with a gluten and dairy intolerance a few months ago. Not all dairy though - yogurt is ok, even good for him - because it is a fermented milk product and thus easy to digest. My homeopath recommended a booked called, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which dedicates an entire chapter to fermented dairy products and why these are so beneficial to us - plus how to make them. I checked the book out of the library and read that section, and I started making some of the foods for my son. He liked them a lot, and his intolerance symptoms of diarrhea and exczema diasappeared.

But then I started reading the rest of the book - and let me tell you, it is a big book! Here's what it's about as outlined on Fallon's publishing website:

'Topics include the health benefits of traditional fats and oils (including butter and coconut oil); dangers of vegetarianism; problems with modern soy foods; health benefits of sauces and gravies; proper preparation of whole grain products; pros and cons of milk consumption; easy-to-prepare enzyme enriched condiments and beverages; and appropriate diets for babies and children."

This book is a combination of science-based explanation of why particular foods are good for us, factual anecdotes about traditional cultures that have eaten these foods for countless generations and detailed food preparation techniques and recipes. To me, it seems a complete handbook to how we should eat - it makes sense to me because these aren't 'new fangled' foods. They are foods that exist in nature for the consumption of human beings.

And how does this contradict my eating programme? Well, the biggest difference is with regard to FAT - the type of fat and the amount of fat recommended. I eat a very low fat diet but I still eat some good fats found in certain foods (even according to Nourishing Traditions) such as almonds, salmon and olive oil. But butter and coconut oil??? Those are pretty much swear-words in my eating programme. I will admit though ... I have added 1 tablespoon of organic coconut oil to my food each day. I am starting with that to see what it does to my weight over the next 4 weeks.

I will be making many more changes to what we eat in our household as per Nourishing Traditions. However, for me, I need to tread carefully with the fat. It is a dense form of energy and will still require metabolic effort on my part to burn it off - as I certainly don't want to be storing it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Recipe: baked fish with pesto & lemon

Serve this with pile of steamed vegetables and you've got a quick and easy low-fat, low/no carb dinner!

150 - 200g white firm fish fillets per person (I use tarakihi)
2 teaspoons basil pesto
1 lemon sliced
50-60cm baking paper

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees. On a baking tray, lay out the baking paper, there will be excess on the sides. Lay each serving of fish on the tray, spread a teaspoon of pesto thinly across each portion. Layer lemon slices on top of fish. Fold up the paper around the fish, tucking the paper under the fish to make a parcel. If it's easier you can make separate parcels for each serving. Bake for 10-15 minutes, check for done-ness by carefully pulling back the paper and slicing the fish with a knife. When it comes away easily from the knife it is done.
Serves 2.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back in maintenance mode - yeee haaa!

Ah yes, so I am indeed back in maintenance mode. For me that means I've got back down to my I-feel-good-at-this-weight weight. My jeans are comfortable and I feel leaner. It also means that to maintain this weight I stick to a clean programme every day except Saturdays ... those are my 'free days'. I can eat whatever I want. This works for me.

It works on the physical level - I maintain this weight. And the food that forms the bulk of my diet is tasty, satisfying and nourishing to my body.

This maintenance mode also works for me on a psychological level - I know that come Saturday I can enjoy all the treat foods without guilt. I like to plan ahead ... if we're going to be at home I think about what new recipe I could try cooking. Or if we're going to be out, what restaurant fare sounds appealing. There is also plenty of leeway if we're invited to friends' place for say a barbecue. I get to partake in all the delicious foods on offer and enjoy the great company of friends! Can't get much better than that.

I guess what I really want to say is that I need this 'system' (for want of a better word) to maintain my weight. If I didn't follow this system I would be 20 pounds or more overweight. I am not naturally thin, I am not naturally inclined to eat healthy and really, I have to make myself exercise. I know in my heart that eating healthy and exercise is good for me, but it still requires effort and consistency.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Recipe: beef, mushroom & spinach 'stroganoff'

This is a low-fat, low/no-carb recipe I created to use some lean beef schnitzel I had on hand (it came in my trial order from the winners of the 2009 Steak of Origin Competition). This recipe is sort-of like a stroganoff but without the fattening gravy base.

300g lean steak or schnitzel, sliced thin and into large bite-sized pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups water
3 heaped teaspoons cornflour
2 cups chopped spinach
low fat plain yogurt

In large saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. Saute onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft. In a separate bowl, mix tamari, wine, water and corn flour together. Add liquid mixture to saucepan and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron or non-stick pan on medium-high and sear beef so it is brown on both sides but not cooked through or well-done. Cook in batches to avoid the beef stewing in its own juices. Set beef aside. Once the sauce has thickened up in the saucepan, stir in chopped spinach and let simmer on low for a few minutes until spinach is soft. Add in beef and stir through. Serve immediately. Ladle into bowls and top with a large dollop of yogurt. Serves two.

This is also great as leftovers for lunch, reheated and served over brown rice.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I've got the 'last two kilos' blues

About six weeks ago, I headed off for a check-up with Ginny. I posted about it here, but just to recap ... my jeans were feeling tight and my 'fat-roll-ometer' was registering "warning! warning!" (if that fat roll came with a red light, it would have been flashing). The outcome of that visit was that I needed to take off 3.5kg of fat that had slowly crept up on me while gleefully enjoying free meals and ignoring the fact that my exercise was, well, lacking.

After that Ginny visit, I cleaned up my act; I got back into a regular exercise routine and, as per Ginny's recommendation, cut back my free meals to just one a week rather than an entire weekend of free-wheelin' free meals. And then I went to see her again a couple weeks ago.

My weigh-in and caliper measurements registered a mere 1kg of fat loss; we were expecting about 2.4kg of loss. Sigh. I had been sick and missed about a week of exercise thus slowing down my metabolism - our bodies are designed to hang on to fat during such emergencies. "Plus," Ginny explained, "you only have about 2kg left to lose, that is not much at all and your body is hanging on to that last bit." My body is trying to outsmart me!

So, right now I've got the 'last two kilos blues'. It's like, I am so close to going back to maintenance mode (which will mean a whole day of free meals) that I can almost taste the butter and cherry jam on my toast, mayo on my roast beef sandwich and the last of the lemon slice that I stowed away in the freezer. I have to admit, this morning I stole a bite of my son's crunchy rice toast on which I'd spread butter and Marmite. It just smelled sooooo good, so savoury and irresistible. I was feeling weak and defiant; I was feeling the 'last two kilos blues'. I am just going to have that bite, I thought. So I did.

But if I really want my jeans to be comfortable again and get that mid-section fat roll under control, I need to buckle down and stay on my programme. And, most importantly and somewhat ironically, if I just stay on the programme I *will* get that free day once again!

That was my pep talk to myself to banish these 'last two kilo blues'.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Addicted to the 'sugar rush'

On the weekend, I had the opportunity to read the September '09 issue of North & South magazine. The cover story is about 'pioneering New Zealand science reveals there's much more to getting fat than laziness and lack of willpower'.

The headline of the article refers to 'gene switches' within our DNA - how they are activated before birth causing the baby to develop in a certain way. According to their research, mothers can predestine their children to obesity by what the mother eats during pregnancy and even before conception. This article, written by Joanna Wane, is very interesting and covers a number of different aspects regarding weight gain and loss.

One particular part of the article which grabbed my attention was an interview with Dr Simon Thornley, an assistant research fellow at the University of Auckland. According to Thornley, 'heavily processed carbohydrates create a "sugar rush" that stimulates the same areas of the brain associated with drug dependency. And like any addicts who develop tolerance to their drug of choice, they need more of it to get the same fix - which might explain why overweight people need to constantly upsize their portions.'

To me, this also explains why having just a small portion of some sugary, sweet food is a trigger for me to want to eat much, much more as per my previous post on triggers.

The article went on to say that Thornley 'suspects mood swings and physical discomfort caused by cutting out high-GI foods and sugar are key factors in sabotaging long-term weight loss'.

That certainly has been the truth for me in the past ... I can recall many a late evening run to the petrol station or grocery store for an ice cream and chocolate fix (better throw in a few bags of chips too) after a 'good' day of dieting.

I think the only real way out of this vicious circle is to fuel the body correctly with the right amount of slow-release carbs, high quality protein and plenty of fruit and fibrous vegetables.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The trigger effect of sweet foods

This afternoon I made one of my favourite free-meal treats to enjoy on the weekend: lemon slice (I'll post the recipe here, it is too delicious not to try!) and I was oh-so-tempted to lick the spatula after pouring the batter into the cake tin. The fresh lemon zest mingled with the aroma of the sugary base already baking in the oven smelled delicious. But I resisted. I knew once the licking started, I wouldn't be able to stop. This has happened to me before - many times. I would have cleaned that mixing bowl the way my cats clean up canned tuna water in their dish - not a speck would be left.

If I were just counting calories maybe cleaning up the bowl wouldn't be too damaging to the ol' waistline. But a few slurps of that batter would not be the end. I'm not talking about cravings here, which I posted about recently. I am talking about triggers. Even one lick of that batter would be a trigger for me. I would want more sweet foods - lots more. It actually reminds me of one of my son's books titled, "If you give a moose a muffin". The first few lines go something like this, "If you give a moose a muffin, he'll want another. And another. And another. And when they are all gone, he'll ask you to make more."

I wonder, is the moose really hungry or are those sweet muffins (he did ask for blackberry jam to go with them, by the way) triggering his need for even more muffins. Maybe he was just hungry. For me, however, sugary-sweet foods act as triggers to eat more sweet foods. This is not psychological, it is physical.

Every Wednesday my son and I go to our 'coffee group'. It is a group of other mom's who have the same aged kids who live in the neighbourhood. We get to have a chatty catch-up over a coffee, and the kids get to play. There is also fabulous home-baking involved. For some reason we all enjoy baking! I rarely eat the treats on offer. If I don't want the rest of my day to turn into an eat-fest, I have to stick with my own snacks. My friends understand I watch what I eat, and they respect my choices. Most of the time they don't even bother offering me a piece of cake or a cookie off the serving tray - they know my answer! But I am not sure they really get the fact that it's not just their one lovely cookie, which I would like to try (!) ... it would be the entire cupboard cleaned out once I got home.

So, I just have to be mindful of the triggering effect of sweet foods - it has saved me from many binge-eating sessions.

Recipe: lemon slice

This is one of my favourite free-meal treats ... a simple and delicious use of organic lemons and free-range eggs. I found this recipe in Taste magazine a few years ago.

1½ cups flour
¾ cup caster sugar
150g butter, cubed

4 eggs
1¾ cups caster sugar
zest 3 lemons
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
    1/3 cup plain flour
  • Method

For the base, preheat oven to 180ºC. Pulse flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Press into the base of a lined 20 x 35cm tin. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

For the topping, whisk eggs, sugar and zest together until quite thick; the more the eggs are beaten the more meringue-like the topping. Stir in lemon juice and flour.

Pour topping over base and bake for 40 minutes, or until the centre is set when tested with a skewer. If it browns too quickly, cover with baking paper. Cool, slice and sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Taking the 'kaizen' approach to eating healthy

Wikipedia defines kaizen as: 'a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life'. Often this improvement is by making small but regular changes. When I look back over the past ten years, I can see I've taken the 'kaizen' approach to eating healthy (and having a healthy lifestyle overall).

This certainly wasn't intentional. In fact, I operated in exactly the opposite way! I remember a time when I saw an article on television about the health benefits of garlic. So, I started incorporating more garlic into our foods. But instead of making just a small adjustment with garlic, I put it in every meal I prepared, whether it called for it or not! My husband does not do well with garlic (it gives him headaches), and he finally had to voice his complaints when he found entire cloves floating in his vegetable soup one evening.

That is just one example of my 'more is better' attitude when it comes to dietary improvement. So, how does this qualify as a 'kaizen' approach? Well, even though I would throw myself into making radical changes to eating (or exercising), only some of it would really stick. The stuff that 'stuck' were things made me feel better and were sustainable. Garlic in every meal did not make my husband feel better and thus was not sustainable - for either of us. :-)

I'm not sure if it is delusion or optimism, but I always think I've found the magic bullet of health or weight-loss so I throw myself into whatever it is whole-heartedly. I can see so many of the 'small changes' I've incorporated into my diet and lifestyle over the years started out as massive undertakings (check out my post on doing triathlons!).

What I have finally realized is that the most sustainable way to eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle is to make gradual changes - and build on them. Make the changes when you feel ready, when the time is right for you.

If I add up all these little changes I've made in the past ten years, I can see how my diet and lifestyle have become more healthy. Some of these changes were harder than others. In fact, most of them were not that easy for me. But they felt right to do, and I've managed to incorporate them into my everyday life. Now they are second-nature. Here are some of them:
  • Exercise regularly four to five times each week
  • Stop eating foods that list numbers as ingredients (I call them fake foods)
  • Eat foods such as cake, ice cream, cookies, pies, potato chips, french fries, burgers (I could go on for a while here!) only as treats - for me that means only at a free meal
  • Use skim milk in my tea or coffee instead of full fat milk
  • Eat organic fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy whenever possible
  • Eat only free-range eggs
  • Drink at least 8 tall glasses of water every day
  • Grow some of our own vegies (save money on those organics!)
  • Replace wheat-based carbohydrates with more variety such as brown rice, oats and kumara
  • Eat fish at least once a week
  • Eat red meat at dinner only three times a week
  • Make our own ice cream (my, there are some strange ingredients in supermarket ice creams!)
  • Eat nitrate-laden deli meats such as salami, ham or corned beef only rarely
  • Zero consumption of fizzy, soda pop drinks
  • Always read labels (recently I was stunned to find MSG - flavour enhancer 621 - listed in the ingredients of my favourite 'Italian herbs' cottage cheese)
And that's not the end! I know there will be more changes in the future. I get to junctures where I think: I can't do it this way anymore. And then I need to change it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Recipe: Baked salmon with Mexican rub

This is one of my favourite ways to eat our locally-farmed fresh salmon. Baking the salmon at a high temperature seems to seal the meat and keep the moisture in. This Mexican rub is actually a taco seasoning recipe a friend gave to me - so it is handy mixture to have in the cupboard and use with minced beef or beans.

150g fresh salmon per person (steak or fillet cut are both fine)

Rub ingredients:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix up all ingredients and store in airtight container. Adjust spices to your liking.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius (400F). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place salmon pieces skin-side down on paper. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of seasoning mix onto each piece of salmon and rub it in gently. Place tray in hot oven on middle rack and bake approximately 10-15 minutes depending on thickness of fish. You can check for done-ness by inserting a knife into the middle of one piece, if the flesh comes away easily it is done.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Losing weight isn't about willpower

I used to think losing weight was all about willpower. I figured if I had enough willpower, I would be able to stick to a diet, resist fattening foods and eventually slim down.

But time and again I didn't have the willpower, and I did eat the foods I wasn't supposed to. It didn't matter what diet I was on, if it was just one of my own creations or something I was following out of a book.

It was pretty demoralizing. I would make a new starts at losing weight with a strict resolutions of no 'cheating'. Then when I would break my diet and splurge on foods that were off-limits I would feel guilty and a complete failure. I would mentally beat myself up about my pathetic lack of self-control. That sort of thinking doesn't exactly empower one's self esteem! I would end up in thinking place of: I am fat (therefore ugly) and useless.

All I can say is, thank goodness I didn't give up. Because eventually I found this way of losing weight (and actually maintaining!) where willpower just didn't come into it. It was only recently that it dawned on me of why this is.

Previous to this way of eating, it was quite common for me to really crave something sweet after lunch and dinner - chocolate, cookies, and cake were top of the list (potato chips weren't too far behind!)

The nutrition programme set out for me is one that feeds my body - it gives my body the fuel and nutrients it requires to function properly. In really basic terms: I eat the right food at the right time. Because my body is always fueled-up, I don't get cravings. When it is getting close to a meal or snack time, I am looking forward to my healthy food. And after I've had a meal, I feel satisfied and full. I don't feel like having anything sweet or munching on anything else. I can keep chocolate and cookies in the house and I don't feel like eating them - in fact, I don't even think about them.

I always thought that trying to eat this healthy all of the time would make me really want to eat treat foods. I thought I would feel so deprived that I would never last a week eating this way let alone 5 years! I can see the irony now that eating healthy actually makes me want to eat healthy! Losing weight is not about willpower at all - it is about fueling the body with the right food at the right time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sickness + no exercise = no free meal

This past week my son and I were struck down by the nasty Rotavirus. While my son copped the worst of it with vomiting and diarrhea, I only spent a day in bed achy muscles, zero appetite and no energy. Unfortunately with viruses, they take their toll on the body and it does require recovery time.

That means I haven't exercised in about a week. I am not worried about that, I prefer to rest and recover properly than leaping back into exercise too soon and weakening my system.

However, it is this very situation that caused me to gain weight over the past 8 months. I would get a flu or cold, stop exercising BUT keep eating my free meal (actually I was enjoying free weekends back then). As my nutritionist says, 'you have to earn your free meals' ... and that is done through exercising.

So, no free meals for me until I start exercising again. This is very motivating! I am feeling better already! Truly. It is actually quite easy to lie in bed in the morning and think, 'hmmm, I should really give this thing one more day of rest to really get it out of my system.'

I was recently given some lovely organic lemons, this brought on a hankering for my favourite lemon slice recipe. I think tomorrow will be a great day to start walking again especially if I want to be eating that lemon slice this weekend!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The scale does my head in

I don't get on a scale at home. We do own a scale, but it is presently gathering dust behind our bathroom sink.

Getting on a scale completely does my head in. I get that 'ugh' feeling before I step on it ... what is that number going to be? Then I do step on it, and if it isn't the number I am expecting, it completely throws me off.

If the number is too high - above the weight I should be - then I go into semi-panic mode. Whhhhhy have I gained weight? And then I think back to every morsel I have put in my mouth, every lick of exercise I've managed since the last time on the scale, and still I struggle with why that number has increased. Then because there has been an increase, no matter how slight, I have to start working on a plan to get that number back down.

On the other hand, if the number is lower than I was expecting. Well, it is celebration time! I am looooosing weight! Therefore I can eat MORE. I can have treats. In fact, I shall go have a cookie right now because I am obviously just skinny by nature.

See what I mean? The scale does my head in - I have crazed thoughts.

So, the only time I get on a scale is when I visit my nutritionist for a check-in. There is still some trepidation when I go to stand on it, but I know I'm in good hands and she can deal with whatever number pops up. Sometimes the number on the scale is more than my previous visit, but amazingly I have lost some fat. That always gets me. Usually it means my lean body mass is up a bit or I am retaining fluid. I am grateful I have her to explain this to me. If I was at home, it would be tail-spin city - and for no reason!

While I am fairly level-headed with most aspects of maintaining my weight, I think the scale is just too ingrained as the enemy. I try to keep as far away from the things as possible. I don't actually take a lot of notice of what my weight might be at any one time. I go by how my clothes are fitting. My jeans are a great indicator! As soon as they start feeling a bit tight or that fat roll above my waist band starts hanging over a bit too much, I know I need to change a few things with my eating and exercise.

So, while the scale is a handy instrument at the nutritionist's, I prefer not to be a slave to one at home, and this works pretty well for me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"I want to eat whatever I want and still be skinny"

"I want to eat whatever I want and still be skinny." I remember saying that. I was convinced it was possible. I see skinny people eating ice cream, chips, french fries, chocolate, meat pies, doughnuts, hamburgers all the time! Surely it is just mind over matter?? Like, if I think I am skinny then I will be skinny.

Well, it has taken me about 20 years to work out that I am just not naturally skinny. My metabolism isn't geared that way. If I don't want to carry an extra 20+ pounds around, then I have to eat a certain way. I have been through much pain to find this out: countless diets, rigorous exercise regimes and many pairs of jeans - fat, then skinny, fat, then skinny.

It wasn't until I started on this nutrition programme that I really realised what it takes to keep my body at this weight. It was like a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious). I have to eat this way every day - day in day out - to stay this weight. I am NOT like other skinny people who can just chow down on a hamburger and french fries whenever I want. I can't just grab a chocolate bar and a soda for lunch. I can't eat pizza for dinner three nights a week. I can't even have fatty salad dressing or butter with my vegetables at dinner. I just can't do that and maintain this weight.

It sounds like a foodie's worst nightmare - a lifetime of diet food. But, thank goodness, there is a beacon of light to this food programme: My Free Meal! I can eat all of the above-mentioned foods ... I just have to be a bit patient and have my free meal at the right time. It is not difficult. It just requires some discipline. I would say just about everyone is capable of it because we all practice discipline in different areas of our lives such as setting the alarm clock and getting out of bed to go to work, loading the dishwasher after dinner, or mowing the lawn on the weekend. All that stuff takes discipline. Unless you are one of the few people who loooove doing dishes, you kinda have to make yourself do those things.

Well, that's how I feel about my food programme. I have to make myself to do it. Which means, eat clean all week - Monday through Friday. Certainly I am not starving! Far from it. I eat healthy, tasty, wholesome foods all week. Then on Saturday evening I can eat whatever I want. Yep, I can finally say those words and have them be true for me! I can eat whatever I want and still be skinny.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recipe: sweet and sour fish

This is a delicious, low/no-fat, low-carb way to enjoy fish!

Sweet & Sour Fish (serves 2)

300g white flesh fish
1/4c flour
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of one lemon
1/4 c warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 plates full of your favourite steamed vegies in bite-size pieces

Cut fish into large bite-size pieces, check for bones. Coat fish in flour. In a small bowl mix all other ingredients (except vegies), making sure the sugar dissolves. Heat large fry pan on medium, dry-fry fish pieces until they are almost cooked through. Pour sauce mixture over fish and remove from heat. Let stand only 15-20 seconds, serve immediately by spooning over plates of steamed vegetables. Note: the sauce mixture ingredients can be adjusted to suit your tastes.

Unexpected benefits of exercise

I'm not really a huge fan of exercising. I'd much rather sit in my comfy recliner, drink tea and read a book than exercise. But I do enjoy walking. And if the sea water in Auckland was as warm as in Hawaii, I'd probably enjoy swimming too.

But this winter I discovered some additional benefits to exercising (besides just keeping the metabolism up and running):

1. I stay warmer. Earlier this winter I really felt the cold and often had cold hands and feet. Now that I am exercising regularly 4-5 days each week, I don't seem to get cold.

2. I fall asleep easier. I think this is due not only to the physical exercise but also because I am getting up an hour earlier than I was previously. So, when I finally hit the sack at 10 or 10:3opm I fall asleep pretty fast. Prior to this, I was really struggling with falling asleep. Probably 3-4 nights a week I'd lay in bed for 2 hours before finally nodding off.

These additional benefits give me the extra motivation I need to get out of my warm, cosy bed when it is still dark outside and get out into the chilly weather for my walk.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

5 months' triathlon training & not an ounce lost!

Back in 2004 I had an epiphany ... I would do triathlons and those 20 pounds of fat would just fall off of me. My proof and shining example of this realistic thought was a woman I met through my business referral group. Her name was also Lisa ... she was super-fit and had a gorgeous, lean body. Her secret, I knew, was that she trained hard and competed in triathlons.

So, with this goal set, off I went. I trained by myself for a couple months, but I didn't really know what I was doing and didn't seem to make any progress (or lose any weight, ha!) So I paid Lisa's partner, Roger, who trained reasonably normal people to compete in ironmans, to coach me.

I started my training regime set out by Roger in July 2004. He had me exercising every day of the week. I swam and ran Mondays and Wednesdays, biked on Tuesdays and Sundays and swam and biked on Fridays. Thursdays were not a day off ... I tramped for four hours with my club on those days.

I worked hard with my training. I think I did my first event - a sprint triathlon after 3 months of training. This was 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. It was tough for me although the swimming was a breeze (my strong point), biking and running not so great.

Anyway, while I had accomplished much with my training in terms of fitness and actually competing in my first event ... I had not lost a single ounce. I was working my butt off but my butt was still all there!

By November, when my friend told me about her nutritionist, I was desperate and totally motivated to have her help.

The reason I wasn't losing any weight, she told me, even though I was training so hard was because I was not eating enough food or the right kinds of foods to feed my body. It had gone into 'emergency mode' with all that exercise and was hanging on to every bit of fat for its dear life.

When I followed Ginny's programme, the weight fell off effortlessly. Now I know that simply walking several times a week is enough to keep my metabolism working - no need for that hard slog! I don't miss it a bit!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recipe: minced beef & vegies with sweet Thai chili

One of my favourite EASY dinners: Minced beef and vegies with sweet Thai chili sauce:

150g lean minced beef per person
1 onion, chopped
2 handfuls per person of your favourite vegies (chopped)
sweet Thai chili sauce
soy or tamari sauce
fish sauce (optional)

Chop vegies into bite-sized pieces. Some of my favourites to use in this recipe are carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and beans. Place a large frying pan on medium heat and add minced beef and chopped onion. Brown the mince. When mince is nearly cooked through, pour the soy or tamari sauce over the top (about 1 tablespoon per person) and a tablespoon of fish sauce then drizzle the sweet Thai chili (to taste, I use quite a lot) over the top and mix through. Turn down the heat to low and let the mince simmer in the sauce for about 10 minutes until the meat gets a nice, sticky, carmelised appearance. At the same time, place the vegies in a steamer and cook so that they are finished when the beef is carmelised.

Place about 2 cups of steamed vegies per person in large bowls then ladle the beef and sauce mixture over the top.

My favourite slow-release carbs

Through much trial and error, I have come to realise that slow-release carbohydrates are fantastic things!! When I have slow-release carbs at breakfast and lunch, I stay 'fuller' or more satiated for much, much longer than if I cheat and have foods with a quicker sugar release (such as wholemeal bread). Eating slow-release carbs at breakfast and lunch not only keeps me feeling 'full' between these early meals, but right to the end of the day. I don't get that feeling of being super hungry at dinner time or feeling like I need to snack after dinner. I just feel, well, totally satisfied.

My favourite slow-release carb at breakfast is rolled oats. Specifically: Harraways Organic rolled oats. Yum! I like to take my 1/2 cup of oats and pour boiling water over them. I let them sit for 2-3 minutes until they've soaked up the water, then I mix in about 200ml of low-fat yogurt and slice a banana on top. Delicious! And so satisfying. I don't get hungry again for 3 hours.

My favourite slow-release carbs at lunch are: kumara (or sweet potato) or brown rice. An oven-baked kumara is just beautiful - it is super sweet and almost creamy. It is a wonderful way to eat kumara. However, I am usually not organised enough to bake kumara as it takes about an hour ... and it's not very eco-thoughtful to turn the oven on just for a couple of kumaras! I usually pop a few in the oven when I'm cooking a roast. So, the quicker way I deal to kumara is cube them - skin and all - and steam them. They are quite tasty this way - hot or cold.

I've found the best way to cook brown rice is on the stovetop. I have tried the microwave and no matter how I adjust the cooking time and water quantity, my rice always turns out hard and dry. Cooking rice on the stovetop is no-fail for me. One cup of rice, two cups of cold water, lid on top, bring to a boil, reduce to low and hey presto - I've got soft, fluffy rice in about 30 minutes.

Kumara and rice go great with boiled or fried eggs, canned salmon, tuna, lamb ... just about any type of lean protein. Even cottage cheese and kumara go well together.

The tenets of my nutrition programme

Here are the basic tenets of my nutrition programme:

- Cut out the fat (that means eating lean meats, low/non fat salad dressings, no butter etc on toast, trim milk in tea/coffee)

- Eat every 3 to 3.5 hours (this keeps the metabolism burning energy rather than storing it)

- Eat balanced meals (that means carbs and protein together rather than any carbs on their own)

- No heavy carbs at the evening meal (such as rice, pasta, sweet potato, bread etc)

- Drink plenty of water ('peeing clear' is a good indication that you are drinking the right amount of water)

- Exercise regularly (for me, that means a brisk 40-minute walk 4-5 times per week)

The Free Meal/Day/Weekend

Mmmmmm, one of my favourite parts of this nutrition programme is the free meal. Thee Free Meal. It is the one meal (or day or weekend - if my metabolism is up to it!) when I can eat whatever I want. Yep, anything - ice cream, cake, potato chips, cookies, buttered toast, pikelets, hamburgers, french fries, gelato, chocolate, mince & cheese pies, garlic bread, cheese sauce ... I never have any trouble thinking of tasty treats each week.

And I can eat this food and *still* lose weight! When I first started on this programme it was actually kinda scary getting to eat my first free meal. Ginny had me on a clean programme (as in well-balanced, low fat, nutritionally healthy) for about the first three weeks. When she established that my metabolism was burning the fat as it should, she said I was now not only allowed to have a free meal, but I needed to have it. "It will keep the weight loss from plateauing," she told me.

I needed to eat this surge of calories so that my body, which was getting used to its usual daily quota of calories, would think "Whoa! What's happening?? I need to get busy and get burning all this extra energy!"

While I trusted Ginny completely, I was still a bit nervous about eating 'anything I wanted'. I mean, here I was *losing* weight easily eating healthy food, and now I had to eat the very foods that made me FAT for so many years. Well, it only took one free meal and my next check-in to prove I had nothing to worry about. Eating one free meal each week - and let me tell you, I did not hold back - the weight was falling off at 500g per week.

When I lost all the weight I needed to lose, I got to have 1 free day - I got to eat whatever I wanted all day long and eventually I was able to have entire free weekends.

What I love about having a free meal (or day or weekend) is that I never feel deprived. All week-long while I am eating a low-fat, well-balanced diet that keeps me satiated and feeling good, if I start hankering after chocolate or spot some delicious-looking cookies in the cafe window, I know it is only a short time before I can happily indulge in those treat foods. Nothing is off-limits.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Even after 5 years, I am no expert!

I thought after this many years, I'd figured out how to manage my weight. Well, for the most part I have, but the reality is that for the past 8 months I have *chosen* to ignore various aspects and continue to enjoy eating whatever I wanted all weekend-long. So, it was a little bit of a shock this week to be told by Ginny, my nutritionist, that I've gained 5kg of fat since November!

Just to re-cap: back in November I checked in with Ginny and all was pretty fantastic. I weighed in at 63kg which was down by 600g from the previous visit 4 months ago and actually slightly under-weight for me. That showed Ginny that I was continuing to lose weight with one free day per week. She told me I could eat more - now I could have a two free days per week. Woo Hoo!

So I did. BUT when I got sick with the flu numerous times and didn't exercise for weeks on end ... I kept right on free-mealin' through the weekends.

I also incorporated some new foods into my diet and didn't check their energy levels. Hey, those corn wafters are pretty thin, I should have 4 instead of just 2. And that's a 'mini' wholemeal pita bread, so I should be able to have the whole thing rather than just half. Do that for many months in a row and that extra energy has to go somewhere ... for me it went on my bust, waist, hips and thighs! Ha!

Ginny told me that it's a fine line with weight maintenance. I took that as: if you're not exercising you can't just keep eating the same way - you aren't burning off the extra energy and it will get stored as fat.

The good news is that I can take this weight off pretty easily. This week I weighed in at 67.1kg and the goal is to be losing about 600g per week for a total of 3.5kg and a new weight of 64kg. I feel good at 64kg.

Following Ginny's recommendations, this how I am going to do it:

- Exercise regularly - a 40 minute walk, four-five times per week
- Eat cleanly throughout the week
- Cut back my 'free weekends' to just one 'free meal' per week

That's it. And that's what I love about this way of managing my weight. It is so simple. But I am still learning, I am no expert. I am grateful to have Ginny to remind me of what I do know and to continue to teach me what I don't know.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keeping the fires stoked - eating every 3 hours

Before I started on this nutrition programme, I never really thought about how much time elapsed between meals or snacks. I would eat my breakfast, and when I got hungry again I would have my lunch. Seemed simple enough.

However, I learned one very important aspect of keeping your metabolism running well is to keep the fires stoked and eat every three to three-and-a-half hours. By feeding the body this often, it is happy letting go of excess fat. Skipping meals encourages the body to 'think', "Hmmm, we're not getting fed. Better hang on to some fat just in case."

When I first started my nutrition programme, I wasn't hungry every three hours. Even for someone like me who looooves to eat, it seemed liked a chore to eat that often and when I didn't even have an appetite! But I stuck to it and not only did the weight easily drop off, but my body got into the swing of things and within a few weeks I *was* getting hungry every three hours. Now eating this often is a habit - it's easy to do at home or even if I'm on the run, I always take my snacks with me.

Eating on programme - a typical day

I remember when I had first lost all the weight, friends and acquaintances wanted to know: what exactly do you eat??

Here's a typical day for me:

All Bran (or rolled oats)
unsweetened, low fat yogurt

Morning tea
cottage cheese & rice crackers

2 boiled eggs or canned salmon
brown rice or a medium-sized baked kumara
apple (or some other piece of fruit)

Afternoon tea
mozzarella cheese
wholemeal pita bread or corn wafers

meat and vegetables (no carbs)

Milo with trim milk
yogurt and berries (if I am feeling a bit hungry)

Low-carb dinner challenges

One of the keys for me to lose fat and keep it off is to eat only a small amount of carbohydrates at my evening meal and for dessert. My body isn't using them for energy at this time of day and those carb calories just get stored as fat. So, that means no carb-dense foods for dinner such as sweet potato, rice, pasta, bread, or potatoes.

Eliminating these types of carbs is actually quite easy ... we just have evening meals of protein and vegetables. It's great in summer - we have plenty of steaks and lamb chops on the barbecue with a salad on the side. Even in winter it is simple - a lamb roast with steamed vegies, fish and vegies and even crustless quiche and vegies!

The challenge with low-carb dinners is when I'm looking for some new inspiration ... I leaf through cookbooks and my favourite cooking magazine, Taste. There are actually very, very few recipes that do not have carbs included. So, I adapt recipes to become no/low-carb. Sometimes a recipe just serves as inspiration; my version turns out completely different, but we get to try some new flavours in our meals.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food on the run

I learned early on that to be successful on this food programme I needed to eat the right food at the right time - no matter where I was (or am as I still do this!).

So, if that means I am going to be out and about during the day, I take my food with me. Depending on the length of time I am going to be away from home that might mean I make my lunch and take it or just bring the right snacks.

I felt a bit silly the first few times I showed up at friends' houses with my chilly bin full of food, but you know what? Once I explained to them what I was doing they didn't care! And when it was time for me to eat, I'd just say, "Sorry, I have to eat my lunch now." And that was fine with them too.

Now it's a habit for me to take food with me just about every time I go out. I take notice of what time I had breakfast and figure out where I be in three hours when I need to eat again. Then I toss my snacks in my bag. It could be as simple as an apple and some almonds or it might mean I take a little container of cottage cheese and spoon and put it in a chilly pack. Because I do this all the time, I have my chilly packs ready to go.

If I have my food with me, I am guaranteed to stay on the programme.

Stevia - the natural sweetener

My favourite breakfast is natural, unflavoured yogurt with rolled oats and a banana. I pour boiling water over the oats so they get nice and soft and mix in my yogurt. Only problem is that I find the yogurt mouth-puckeringly sour!

During one of my check-ins with Ginny, she discovered I was using a teaspoon of sugar to sweeten my tart yogurt. A teaspoon of sugar is only 16 calories, she told me, but even that small amount of sugar is stopping the fat-burning process which is still carrying on from your night's sleep. (I just love it that I am burning fat while I am sleeping!) She said any kind of simple sugar will halt the morning's fat burning - honey, brown sugar, syrup etc.

She knows I don't like fake foods including artificial sweeteners, so she recommended Stevia, the natural sweetener derived from the Stevia plant. It has 300 times the sweetness of sugar, no calories and negligible effect on blood glucose - it does not stop the night's fat burning process.

I buy the liquid form. It only takes about 5 drops on my yogurt to transform it from tart to pleasantly palatable.

Keeping a food diary

When I first started the programme my nutritionist set out for me, she asked me to keep a food diary. I had to write down exactly what I ate for each meal and snack. This was a useful tool for her to compare what I was eating to the weight-loss results I was experiencing (or in some weeks, not experiencing!), and how I was feeling in terms of hunger. She was then able to tweak my programme so that I was eating to my body's requirements and continuing to lose weight.

I thought keeping a food diary would just be a temporary task ... once I'd lost the weight, I wouldn't bother writing everything down since she wouldn't be looking at it any more.

However, she told me something that really struck a chord: the most successful weight-loss maintainers are people who keep food diaries.

The reasons for this are:

1. Physical: if you write down everything you eat every day, and if the scale starts showing the pounds going up or if the jeans start to become a bit tight ... you can take a look back through the diary and find out where you're going wrong. I was on a great losing streak when I first started my food programme; I was consistently losing about 1 pound each week. However, when I next checked in I had not lost any weight after a 3 week period. Ginny was able to look back through my food diary and see that I had introduced a new salad dressing at lunch-time, and unbeknownst to be it was loaded with fat! This small addition was enough to stall my progress.

2. Psychological: it makes you accountable for everything you put in your mouth. It's so easy (for me!) to think, you know I'll just have that cookie and it won't matter. But it kills me if I have to write down that cookie on my food diary! Why? Because that cookie is not part of my food programme for the day, and it's like a black mark for the week.

I have my food diary set up in an excel template as a grid with the days of the week across the top and all meals and snacks down the left hand side. I also have a space to note exercise for each day. I print out one page for each week, and I keep my diary in a handy place where I can write down what I eat after I've had a meal. If I wait until the end of the day, I forget to do it. And then it is really hard for me to remember if I'm trying to write it down the next day.

Personally, I find it really satisfying to get to Friday and see what 'clean' eating I've done all week ... then I can thoroughly enjoy my 'free' eating on the weekend.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Before & After photos

Before - 160 +lbs, After - 140lbs

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Diets Don't Work and neither did the rest of them

Diets Don't Work ... this was the name of one of the 'diets' I followed and gee, it didn't work for me! LOL! But the saying is true. Diets do not work, I have tried enough of them to know!

I think it was around the age or seven or eight that I had started packing on the pounds. I have recently looked back at family photos and yep, I was chubby! I don't really know why I got fat, my mom says I liked to eat and not move which is still very true today. Ha! It was not pleasant being the 'fat kid' in class, I got called all sorts of names from the uninventive 'fatso' to the more creative 'Yank Tank' when our family lived in Australia. I also remember thinking, well, I can't go on a diet because my mom makes all the food! I thought, when I grow up, I will go on a diet.

So I did! In my teens my weight was up and down. Early teens I was overweight probably by 15-20 pounds but I didn't do anything to try and change this. In my later teens I was able to trim down by doing regular excercise in a good physical education programme at high school that featured aerobics and weight training. Being a typical teenage girl, however, I thought I still needed to lose 10 pounds so I tried my first diet recommended to me by a girl I worked with. "You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want as long as you are hungry," she told me as she helped herself to a candy bar from the shelves. It sounded great to me. So I bought the book, Diets Don't Work. The whole premise of this book was based on how thin people eat - they only eat when they are hungry. So, the author explains, if you eat like a thin person, you will be thin! I am sure there must of been more to that book but really, that was the only point I got. And it was very easy to convince myself that I was hungry and needed a candy bar, ice cream, chips, cake, nachos ... I ended up eating complete garbage food when I was actually hungry and missing out on the good, wholesome stuff I should have been having at mealtimes. My mother was not impressed, and when I started to put on weight I decided to give it up.

My weight was up and down a bit over the next five years, but I was eating healthily living at home and making sure I exercised regularly with either aerobics or jogging. In 1990, the year before I moved to New Zealand, I got on a real 'health kick' and ate a very low fat diet and jogged every morning (even in the snow!). I was down to 135 pounds when I moved to NZ in 1991.

It was a huge adjustment moving to New Zealand. I came here to be with my pen-pal, Steve. While we had a wonderful time, I think there was a lot of underlying stress of missing my family, adjusting to a new country, making new friends and not keeping up with my healthy eating and exercise programme.

Over the next 10 years I slowly put on weight. I started suffering from 'hayfever'. My nose would run constantly, and I'd have sneezing fits throughout the day. I went to a naturopath for a different problem and mentioned the 'hayfever'. She showed me a book: the Eat Right 4 Your Type Diet. It was all about eating foods suited to your blood type. One of the benefits of this was possible weight loss. I was intrigued, got my blood typed and started cutting out the 'avoid' foods and eating only the 'neutral' or 'highly beneficial' foods. One of the foods I cut out was wheat. Within a few weeks my 'hayfever' disappeared. Gone. Completely. No more sneezing or runny nose. This was fantastic! I was a convert and still eat to my blood type today. However, I didn't lose any weight.

Weight Watchers came along next in the form of a free points booklet loaned to me by my weight-loss buddy, Carol. Now, this is a system I could follow, I thought! Each food has a number of points allocated to it - the healthier the food, the lower the points. I think I was allowed 22 points per day. But somehow I still managed to eat a lot of garbage. Let's see, an ice cream sundae is only 10 points (I can't remember exactly the number) so that means I can survive on 12 points for the rest of the day. I think because I didn't sign up for the full programme to know how best to use the points system or to be accountable with a weekly weigh-in, this programme wasn't sustainable for me, and I had given it up within just a few weeks. No weight loss either. Surprise.

While in the book store one day, I read the description of a 'carbohydrate addict' on the back cover of the The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet book, it was very similar to their website's The Carbohydrate Addict's Quick Quiz which includes questions such as: After a full breakfast, do you get hungry before it's time for lunch? Do you have a difficult time stopping, once you start to eat starches, snack foods, junk food, or sweets? Do you get unexplainably tired and/or hungry in the afternoon? Have you at times continued eating even though you felt uncomfortably full?

Yes! My answer to all of those questions. I was a Carbohydrate Addict! I bought the book and followed the programme to the letter. That was about 10 years ago, so I am a little hazy on the details. But I just remember eating an extremely low/no-carb diet and having to eat a meal within one hour to keep insulin levels stable. I think I lost about five pounds within the first month or so. I perservered with the diet for almost a year. I had stopped losing weight but was still a good ten pounds overweight. And then I just couldn't do 'no carbs' any more, it wasn't sustainable for me. So I stopped.

I found a new book: The Schwarzbein Principle. It was not low carb. It was not counting points. Step One from their website outlines healthy nutrition:

Never skip a meal again
Eat real, unprocessed foods
Eat balanced meals
Choose a protein as the main nutrient in your meal
Add some healthy fats
Add real carbohydrates
Add nonstarchy vegetables
Eat snacks
Eat solid food
Drink enough water

This to me is a completely sensible and natural way to eat and it works well for many, many people. I changed my eating to follow the points above ... while at the same time, I started doing Body For Life - the exercise programme only.

I carried on meshing these two programmes together for 6 months. I did not lose a pound. I finally gave up on both.

It wasn't until I had my first consult with my nutritionist that I found out WHY these diets weren't working for me. Following The Schwarzbein Principle, I was eating too much fat. Albeit, healthy natural fats but far too much to stimulate weight loss. And no amount of exercise on the Body For Life programme was going to burn it all!

From all the published testimonials, I appreciate that there are plenty of people who have had wonderful success with some of the diets/programmes I've tried. While they weren't successful for me, trying them has been part of the journey, and I have learned a lot from the experiences. Looking back on them now is a reminder of what *really* does work for *me*.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Red meat in the minor

I am definitely a believer that improving health and lifestyle is a gradual process. Sure, some things you just got to go cold turkey with such as eating cake every day (for me, anyway!!).

So, over the years I have gradually changed our household's food. For example, we eat a lot of organics - fruit, vegies, grains, and milk. We also have changed from white rice to brown and I just can't bring myself to buy products that have numbers listed as ingredients.

One of the more recent changes is cutting down on the number of times we eat red meat in a week. This is kind-of a big deal in our household because my husband is a red meat lover. Give that man a steak, make sure it is rare, and he is one happy guy. So, we would end up having red meat for dinner probably five times a week. I knew this was too much, but not ready to make any changes. Earlier this year, after reviewing my food diary, I was prompted by Ginny, my nutritionist, to consider having meat just three times a week. But Steve loves red meat, I told her. She reminded me about saturated fat and how meat can sit in the colon for some time before being 'expelled'. A diet high in red meat is linked to colon cancer. Ok, ok, I said.

There were a few grumbles when I served up our first meal of Mexican beans and rice ... like, "Hmmm, looks like it's vegetarian night." But we have made the changes.

Now on non-red-meat nights we'll have a crustless egg & vegie quiche, Mexican beans & rice, or fish. On the 4th night, I make sure it is on a 'free' weekend evening we have a treat such as pizza or fish and chips. Even though this was a big change for us, it has been very easy to cope with. And we enjoy our bits of barbecued steak even more now!

My Nutritionist, Ginny McArthur

I clearly remember the day my dear friend Carol phoned me up and exclaimed: "I have found GOLD!"
She was talking about a nutritionist she had started seeing ... and as a result of following her programme she was losing weight - easily.

Hmmm, was my response. I was sceptical. It sounded too easy but something in me got excited. I mean this was Carol, my weight-loss buddy. We had been comparing fat rolls, diets and exercise for the past few years. And if Carol said she'd found GOLD, well then, this nutritionist might just be the real thing.

A few days later I visited Carol and she showed me her food programme written out by nutritionist, Ginny. I skimmed it over, still a bit dubious. Ah, some salad with your lunch, "I bet you don't get to have salad dressing," I pointed out. "Yes, I do. Low fat." Hmmm. I looked further, all the food seemed so sensible. She even got to have dessert! Fruit and yogurt, but still, it was dessert!

I made my appointment with the Food Guru, Ginny McArthur, of Outlook For Life in Pukekohe, Auckland.

Weight maintenance really is *maintenance*!

Ah, my first post to this blog, and if I am to be truly honest and accountable I have to say that I am currently about 6-8 pounds over my ideal weight. It doesn't sound like much, and it's not *really* (I can still fit into my jeans! But why is that rather large roll of fat hanging over my waistband when I sit down??) However, it is the actions and lack of action that has caused my weight to slowly creep up over the past 5 months.

In January this year I checked in with my nutritionist and was actually down a few pounds since seeing her three months prior which at that time I was at my ideal maintaining weight. Now I was slowly losing even more weight by just eating as per the programme she put together for me.

"You know what that means," she said with a smile and then whispered, "you can eat a bit more!"

"Yipee!!" I said. Not that I had been missing out, but if it meant I could eat more, well that was right up my alley.

"Instead of having just one 'free' day on the weekend, you can have a 'free' weekend, " she told me. "And if you feel your clothes getting a bit tight, well then go back to just one 'free' day" ('Free' meaning eat & drink whatever and how-much-ever you want).

I liked the sound of that! So for the past five months, every weekend I ate whatever I wanted, no holding back. Mmmmm, good times. However, I now realise I got a bit sloppy with the rest of my programme ... I slacked off with my walking, I ditched my food diary and I even convinced myself that I could sneak in a few mid-week treats because, surely, with my zippy metabolism it wouldn't make a difference.

Alas, fat roll hanging over waistband does not lie. And I'm not being hard on myself, I just know if I keep doing what I am doing right now that in 6 more months I will have put on another 6-8 pounds. So, I take stock now and get back on track.

That means:

1. Start the walking again - now I get up at 7am each morning and go for a 40 minute walk before my 2.5 year old wakes up.
2. Keep the food diary - it makes me accountable for what I am actually eating (no more sneaky mid-week treats) which leads on to the next point:
3. Make an appointment with my nutritionist for a check up (that's going to be on July 14). She will review my diary and see what areas need tweaking (which probably means one 'free' day on the weekend, not two!)

I have learned a lot about weight loss, maintenance and nutrition in the last five years. Certainly one of the most important things I've learned is that weight maintenance is *maintenance* you actually have to do some stuff in a regular, habitual way to not only stay a particular weight but to keep healthy. I am grateful to my jeans and be reminded of this right now!