Protein packed recipes for people on the run (to the gym)

It’s quite simple. I like things that taste good. 

I’m also conscious in this day and age we’re in a circus. We’re master jugglers who are continually throwing work, children, sport, social life, our own businesses and downtime around in the air trying to skilfully catch each one and make room for the next. It’s quite exhilarating to watch a talented performer throw more and more balls in the air. As an audience we sit perched on the edge of our seats, waiting for one to drop – hypnotised by the rhythmic flow. We applaud gleefully once it is finished and turn to each other and say, “wow, that was so cool. I wish I knew how to juggle”.

But the thing is, we do.

We do it everyday. And, it is not sustainable.

If there’s one thing I am big on, it is good food. Quality produce that fuels your mind, muscles and is enjoyable to eat. I recently interviewed Australian food legend and chef Stephanie Alexander and we had an insightful conversation about the ‘family table’, or lack thereof. Society now is geared to eat in front of the television, packaged food and often unconscious of it’s nutritional value or origin. While we are ‘busy’ focused on our work commitments, setting up businesses and tending to our children’s needs we can and do neglect the beautiful ritual of creating food.

Cooking need not be daunting. You also don’t need to create masterpieces that are worthy of photographing and putting on Instagram, but great if you do! If you look through people’s posts on Instagram it’s possibly the world’s biggest digital recipe book. We freakin’ love to photograph our food and share it. It’s like a virtual dinner table with lots of strangers, a communal habit that unites us all.

I’m not a puritan and will indulge now and then. As I come from a Eurasian culture, food is an integral part of family life. My growing up years are filled with memories of big family dinners, parties, gatherings and all of them centred around eating. Even now, when I go to visit my mum who lives interstate  – she’ll ask me a month in advance what I want to eat! I totally love that. Her love of cooking stemmed from a very young age and she has finessed the art, no doubt it’s passed onto me.

But in the interest of keeping things simple, I’ve plucked out a few recipes I’ve been making regularly while on this weight training program. For most people, the concept of making food can be overwhelming. For others, it can be an exciting time to try new things and be rewarded with an end result. These few recipes are great staples you can fall back on, add to and modify – which are very important principles for me in cooking. To be able to experiment and see what else a basic recipe can produce.

So, let’s get stuck in.

The first one is a Protein Cheesecake. I’m starting with this one, as I genuinely love it. A friend in my training program who lives in the States emailed it through to me and I have made it four times in the last 7 weeks. As I was not hitting my protein levels everyday, I was eager to find ways to increase it. This was like finding a treasure map to protein gold!

Macro’s: 834 calories; 123g Protein, 63g Carbs, 10g Fat

cheesecake, healthy desserts

This is a ‘protein cheesecake’ – classic NY style and delicious.

Protein Cheesecake

12oz – Fat Free Philadelphia Cream Cheese (340g)

10oz – Fat Free Greek Yogurt (285g)

2 whole eggs

3/4 Cup – Granulated Splenda (or powdered Stevia)

1/4 Cup – Milk

Scoop –  Vanilla Protein Powder (42.5g)

1 tsp – Vanilla Extract

1/4 tsp – Kosher salt

Directions: All ingredients at room temperature.

1. Preheat Oven to 160C (325F) – Prepare 6″ round cake pan with non-stick spray and baking paper in the bottom.

2. Cream Cheese in mixer – mix on medium until creamy – scrape sides of bowl down.

3. Add splenda – mix on medium until incorporated – scrape sides of bowl down.

4. Add eggs one at a time while on medium. Again…scrape.

5. Add the rest of the ingredients – mix on medium for 3 minutes.

6. Pour in pan

7. Bake at 160C (325F) for 30 minutes. Turn oven to 95C (200F) for 50min – 1 hour. Remove and let cool on the counter. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

protein cheesecake

Straight outta the oven.

Now, with this recipe I will talk you through some of my variations that are tried and tested: I have cranked the oven a bit higher (to about 180C) and baked it for around 40-45 mins and it has been great. It cooks through, holds form and is slightly moist still. This could be handy if you are pressed for time (or hungry!) To make a chocolate variation, I’ve added 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. I’ve also substituted the Vanilla Protein Powder for plain protein powder if I’ve added cocoa in that has stevia or a natural sweetener in. You can serve the cheesecake with fresh or frozen (thawed berries), peanut butter (trust me, this is delicious!) and also add a crust if you want to smash up some biscuits (remove the baking paper if you do this) – please note the macros will change if you add a crust.

Chocolate Protein cheesecake

Chocolate Protein cheesecake

You can also substitute the milk for freshly brewed coffee which is also a great way to enhance the flavour. Okay, onto something savoury now. Quick and easy Chilli.

200g Lean beef steak mince = 40g protein, 23.6g Fat

110g Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese (shredded) = 30g protein, 20g fat

2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil = 9g fat

Half an onion (finely chopped)

100 grams Chopped peppers

200/300 ml of water

4 tomatoes (chopped)

1 chilli (chopped)

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 garlic cloves (peeled and finely sliced)

Protein: 70g

Fat: 52.9 g

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add the onion, peppers and garlic. Sautee for about five minutes on a medium heat.
  3. Add the spices and chopped chilli, fry through for a few minutes.
  4. Next, add the mince and cook until just browned through.
  5. Add the water and tomatoes and simmer for about 15-20 minutes on a low heat.
  6. Serve with grated cheese on top.

With this recipe I have made many, many additions. You can add broccoli, broccolini, mushrooms, extra chilli and spices for more heat. I add these in when the water goes in, because I like them to hold a bit of crispness still (the vegetables). If you are vegetarian you could use red kidney beans instead. The cooking time would be halved for this. I’ve also added grated zucchini with the grated cheese and that is a great way to include extra vegetables as well.

Quick and easy Chilli

Quick and easy Chilli

Back to something slightly sweeter… pancakes, but made with Lupin flour. For those that are not in the know, lupin flour is quite high in protein (up to 40%), is gluten free and has incredibly strong health properties – including: controlling blood sugar levels, high source of fibre and is one of the best natural sources of the amino acid arginine which is beneficial for blood performance. It’s slightly salty in taste and the texture is like cornmeal. It is used widely in Australia, but not so much in the States. Lupin Flour pancakes

  • 1 cup flour (substitute a half cup of white flour for lupin flour, I also substitute the white flour for buckwheat flour)

  • 2 tablespoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit when using lupin flour)

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • (you might consider adding a big squeeze of honey or an additional tablespoon of sugar)

Mix above ingredients, then add:

  • 1 egg

  • 1 cup milk

  • 2 tablespoons oil (I use olive)

  • To help the lupin stick together, add a heaped tablespoon of plain yogurt (or mashed bananas)

Mix this, let sit while your pan warms up. The baking powder will make the mix rise considerably; add more milk if the batter looks too thick. I drop tablespoons of this into the frying pan, as I like to eat them as small pikelets. Cook until golden brown on both sides. The serving options are endless. I put desiccated coconut, a bit of coconut sugar and peanut butter (!) on them. Honey is a lovely sweet addition with fresh berries or sliced banana and cinnamon.

Lupin flour pancakes

Lupin flour pancakes

These three recipes tend not take me more than 15 mins or so in preparation time. The cooking time varies, with the pancakes being the one you’ll need to factor in around 15-20 minutes of you cooking them. All these dishes can be served into portions, put into containers and help you during the week in terms of having food ready to eat. Having food ready to go is a good feeling and simple recipes are fun to make, I play music and really enjoy the experience of knowing I am setting myself up for some great nutrition.

Next week I’ll be chatting about the perils of eating out and what to do when choosing food (and not caving in!). I hope these few recipes help you reduce the juggling act of preparing food. It’s only a small window, but incremental steps are always a good starting point. Let’s leave the art of throwing multiple balls up in the air to the true circus performers.

For now, enjoy cooking and please drop me a comment and let me know how you go. What challenges do you face when it comes to cooking high protein food and what recipes do you have that you love cooking up a storm with?

5 Tips on how to beat getting down about weight training.

As an optimistic person, I live to find the relative best in situations. Being a part-realist means I’m also highly conscious some things are going to suck. Big time. It’s this suckage element that inspires me to share my downsides on weight training with you. Weight training isn’t all about going to the gym and praying a great, functional and aesthetically pleasing body is going to result. It’s part grit, determination, sacrifice and pain.

But…

The end results are totally, totally achievable. And you can do it. I’ve taken the five downsides and stepped them out into flipsides – how they are beneficial for you. We can swim around like Nemo being naively optimistic and hoping for good outcomes or, we can be conscious of pitfalls and create pathways to reduce us falling into them.

I saw Michelle Bridges speak at a Business Chicks event this week, on Valentine’s Day. What a great way to start the day. Loving yourself and your body first and foremost. She spoke about putting your desires into action plans. Otherwise it is just an idea right? An image in your head of how you may look… one day. The part that resonated with me the most was JFDI (Just freaking do it! Although I far prefer the uncensored version Just f**king do it!)

Quotes

JFDI

Michelle doesn’t bounce out of bed at 5am to go for a 10km run or train. Her entry into the world is more sedate and grumpy. At 5am she is a robot, crawls out of bed, puts clothes on (laid out the night before) and just… goes. JFDI. If you are clear on your end result, and want it bad – you do the steps to get there. Yes, there is suckage and if celebrities like Michelle aren’t enthused about it either (the getting up and doing it bit), that’s kinda good to know. It’s a common problem.

Michelle Bridges

Michelle Bridges source credit http://www.glamour.com

So, let’s JFDI. In my last post, I promised I would break down these five areas:

  1. Macronutrients. Counting them. All of them damn things.

  2. Logging your work outs (more admin really?).

  3. Keeping up to date with all the online group posts. Argh! It’s hard enough with social media.

  4. DOMS. Pain. Why am I doing this again?

  5. Intermittent Fasting.

Macronutrients. Counting them. All of them damn things.

When I found out I HAD to count them, I was so overwhelmed. ADMIN. I am not wired to love ADMIN. Numbers. Weighing food. It seemed like the biggest hassle in the world. I sat back and started researching. This is my default when I don’t want to do something. I find out how other people are doing it, what the great ‘shortcuts’ are (tools and resources) and how I can do the same thing.

For those wondering what the hell Macronutrients are, it is the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fat in a food. For example according to My Fitness Pal, 100g of raw coconut meat has 15g of carbs, 34g of fat and 3g of protein. As my program has a nutritional guide, I need to ensure I am hitting the right ratios each day to complement my strength training, ensure adequate protein consumption and main good nutrition.

This article by one of my trainers Mike Vacanti helps debunk the dystopian world of calorie counting. I started getting it and more importantly seeing the value in it. Signing up to My Fitness Pal was the next step. Since then, I’ve been advised there are some other great tools:

Fitocracy Macros

My Net Diary

My Fitness Pal

You log in each day (or every few days if you have a good memory) and record what you eat. It then converts the information into calories and macronutrients. On my weight training days I have 2140 calories (of protein, fat and carbs), on non-training days 1444 calories. Before this program I  was eating well, but with no idea of volumes. I had a predisposition for carbs and was not eating nearly enough protein. Now, I have clear exposure to how to fuel my body and the amounts I need to eat.

By no means do you HAVE to do this, it would be a good experiment even for one month – just to see if you are conscious of your caloric intake. For example I love peanut butter and a good tablespoon of that has 10g of fat in it! I could probably eat half a jar. Now I know the ratios, enjoying it in measured amounts is better.

Logging your work outs (more admin really?)

Fitocracy is a great gamified platform to record your training sessions. It’s free (you can pay to have extra features) and similar to logging your macros, you go in each time or, when you can and note down all the reps\sets\exercises you do. Your workout is awarded points and it is SUPER motivating (if you like getting recognition, I do!). As it is a global community, other people will give you ‘props’ and can comment or encourage you.

As your points accumulate you move up to different levels and receive ‘awards’. It’s simple to use and the bonus is it houses all your workout information and you can track your progress. This is crucial to having clear exposure on your strength outcomes. All the hard work has been done for you with this program. There is an extensive database of exercises you can search and, once you’ve created programs you can duplicate them and just change the numbers. ADMIN made fun. My kinda thang.

Dog

Not more admin

Keeping up to date with all the online group posts. Argh! It’s hard enough with social media.

At last count I am part of 20 closed Facebook groups and two Google+ closed groups. Not to mention other website communities I am involved in. WHEW. Social media is all pervasive. Now, I don’t spend a lot of time on the socials. Through extensive trial and errors (including deleting the socials off my mobile) I now dive into the groups at particular times, on my laptop. My point is, online communities are incredibly valuable – but pick your community and your purpose. What benefit are you deriving, what you are contributing and how much time do you want to spend there?

With Roman Fitness Systems, I am part of a group of around 65 community members (around the world) and it is super helpful. At times when I have lacked motivation to go to the gym, was in pain, had food questions, or just confused about how the hell to do a Pallof Press, I jumped into the group and hey presto – question answered. I typically dive in around 2-3 times a week and do get notifications on my mobile. This is the only group I get notifications for as my most important priority right now is my HEALTH. 

I don’t answer or comment on everything (I used to have this weird habit where I HAD to – anyone else had that?), now I just scan what is happening. When Q&A sessions are coming up I check what pertinent info I need to know and if others struggling with the same problems I have. The socials can be a massive TIME SUCK otherwise. Allocate a set time period and then back out. It’s like pokie machines. Don’t get caught staying put – cash out!

DOMS. Pain. Why am I doing this again?

This is a stark reality of any strength training program. Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness. In my post I touched on a good article that clarifies what this means. You start to become one with PAIN. It’s not always fun, but there is a big difference between pain and strain. Pain is muscle soreness from microtears to your muscle fibres and the resulting growth and repair from that. Strain can be from poor technique, not warming up or cooling down and or any aggravated injuries.

It’s not about lifting heavy, technique is the critical factor. Form will always surpass amount. 

Good ways to alleviate DOMS include:

Icebaths – or if you can stand in water. I head to the beach 2-3 times a week and the cool, salt water is fantastic.

Magnesium – will help you sleep and also help with muscle recovery.

Foam rollers – a friend of mine calls this “the poor man’s massage.” A good roll out can really help iron out tension. It does hurt at times! Breathe through it, take your time and do some stretching as well.

Stretching – I am a big fan of this and will stretch out after every session. Yoga stretches are also ideal.

Intermittent Fasting

I’m going to do a blog series on my experience with IF (Intermittent Fasting) as it is a world onto itself.

As opposed to full fasting, IF can range from 12-16 hours. For example, I fast for around 14-16 hours everyday. On my program we eat within an eight hour period (mine is typically midday – 10pm, it fluctuates between those hours) and then fast from 10pm to midday onwards the next day. Now, it can look like I am just ‘skipping breakfast’ – but the actuality is, consumption of all my calories is in a set period.

Why would I want to do that? This article by John Romaniello is a good overview and the benefits of this practice. IF is a common method followed by people in the strength training world. It can be hard though (at first). I started around nine months ago after watching a documentary by Dr Michael Moseley, so I had some experience before I started this program. For me, the benefits have outweighed the initial resistance, hunger and struggle I had with it. And… I am a breakfast person! I freaking LOVE breakfast. It has all my favourite foods and meals. But, I persevered and it is doable. For the first month of this program though, I relied a bit on black coffee to to help stave off hunger.

Brunch

For any questions you may have, John has outlined a great FAQ – it’s lighthearted, informative and even has videos.

One of the main benefits of IF has to do with blood sugar, which Dr Moseley talks extensively about. How IF from a fat-burning perspective works to regulate insulin as you are not in a ‘fed state’, when your body producing insulin constantly to shuttle glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream over to muscles, liver or fat cells for storage.

Now I will put a disclaimer on this last one, as I am not a medical professional and am very hesitant to dispense advice (which is why I am not diving in too deep). I’m more than happy to talk anecdotally about my experiences, but would strongly recommend you read the suggested articles and also speak to your own health professionals pending your own fitness and health status.

Next week we get onto the fun stuff – recipes. One of my absolute favourite pastimes – cooking. I will be sharing my fallback secrets with you.

Till then, train well, eat well and JFDI!

Changing Habits, Changing Lives – the hard yards over #Day 28

lentil as anything eggs

You know, it wasn’t so long ago that this was one of my favourite meals (still love the venue, just not the amount of potatoes I was eating!). It seemingly looks harmless and does contain one of my favourite foods – eggs, but unbeknownst to me – the amount and type of food I was eating was not conducive to my overall health. I find it fascinating that we are drawn to food products that ultimately are not the most optimum choice for our wellbeing. On closer thought, you can apply this adage to a number of faculties in life. It’s harder to extricate yourself from that which appears great, to choose that which seems to be hard. But in the long run – becomes so incredibly energising that the misaligned choices (food, people, environments) are no longer in line with your personal health values and you can choose wisely. Great nutrition provides clarity and a clear head.

This is the cornerstone of what I have learned so far in my journey on Changing Habits, Changing Lives. I really got thinking about myself and others that ‘suffer’ from depression, lethargy and sluggish digestive systems. We harnessed the inability to lose weight and refuted the ability to lose it. I just couldn’t be that person anymore. I was tired of myself and of the societal adage’s around depression and nutrition. For me, there had to be an inroad into optimum health and as I much prefer the road less travelled (give me the longest, hardest way to get there and I’ll take it!) taking my health into my own hands appeared to be the most illogical, yet logical choice.

I cleared my 21 days in Phase 2 of this program on Tuesday. It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last post and I honestly felt fantastic. I still do. A few days after I thought, y’know what? I’m going to keep going! I will do longer than 21 days, perhaps I’ll shoot for 37 days, (the longest you do the Phase for is 40 days). I really wish I would’ve written at that point as I was seriously in jubilation mode. I’d gone from 66kg – frumpy, high body fat, bloated and erratic thought processes to a radical change. The picture below shows me in Santorini – tipping the holiday scales. Featured in the photo is my best friend Jess, she brings me great happiness, no matter what though (you need someone like that).

santorini red sea

Now at 60kg, I’m more joyful, clear thinking, focused and productive – totally kicking my own goals (that have been sitting on the back burner on low heat slowly disintegrating). I have to say a massive thanks to my awesome-foodiecure-friend for taking this snap. It was the first time I’d been out of the house (literally) to an event, worn make-up, a new dress and socialised in well over 4-5 months. From hibernation to celebration.

Me - happy at last.

This program of Cyndi’s really does create life-changing shifts in your habits and in turn your health. I had the great fortune of interviewing Cyndi this week for an article I am writing (due for release in December) in Latte Magazine. The topic is on healthy food movements like ‘Paleo’ ‘Raw Food’ ‘Gluten-Free’ and the like. I’ll be sure to post that up once it’s finished. The thing I was so sceptical about I now fully understand. When you are well – it is addictive. You want others to gain better health as the vitality and joy you experience is incredibly gratifying.

In saying that though, I hit Friday this week and decided the extra four days I did in Phase 2 would suffice. The other thing I learned, is not to push yourself to achieve, achieve, achieve. Incremental goals are imperative for future success and now my roadmap is about implementing my new learned behaviours into this healthier lifestyle I’ve created. I mentioned in my last post I wanted to do a shout out to a couple of friends of mine and that’s not the case anymore…

I’ve decided to disband that idea and instead do a massive HOLLER to my Top 10 friends and things that helped me along this journey. As I’m super grateful for their support and infinite wisdom. I’m also going to post some of my favourite ‘food creations’ that kept me sane and surprisingly satiated along the way. It’s incredible how inventive you can get when you need to! A fortuitous and somewhat serendipitous event occurred for me during this as well – I ended up freelance food writing! I’ve posted a number of reviews pre-this program (in case you’re wondering why I was eating strawberry eclairs and pork belly) But I will stand by one thing, I’ll continue to eat great food – now, my decisions are based on how is the produce sourced and made.

new fave salad - fennel

This little number shows one of my new faves…the humble fennel.

Till next time.

Stay well,

Leona xo

Changing Habits, Changing Lives – not even halfway #Day 15

mykonos

 

2.5 months ago, I was sprawled out on a day bed in Ftelia Beach enjoying the serene surrounds of Alemagou. Where and what you ask? Check it out. For those familiar with the North side beaches of Mykonos, this is a seductive heaven. Your own cozy cove complete with beach restaurant and bar to whet your appetite and refresh your palate. Or should that be the other way around? The half empty cocktail is getting me ‘virtually’ drunk.

This paradise provides two things I love – great food and an escape. If you’re getting to know my posts now, you’ll know what this meal represented – three things I loved more than life itself perhaps. Bread, booze and potatoes. I really indulged myself with this meal that day. I felt like this afterwards:

Taz

 

Meet Taz, the owner’s dog and a delightfully friendly fellow. I’m sure if I consumed the delectable dishes you’ll see on the link, I probably would’ve gone into a food coma. A good one, nonetheless. Why am I tormenting myself and you with distant memories of sunny Greek sojourns? To recount a time not so long ago, that I did not think twice about decadence. Cocktail? Great, I’ll have 10. Massive meal whilst laying on the beach doing nothing? Sounds grand. Sure, holidays are made for sedentary pursuits and trying the cuisine, but what about if your lifestyle is already sedentary and your home cooked meals are based on globe-trotting fare? An expanding waistline is the lucky prize.

So fast-forward to now, Day #15 of Changing Habits, Changing Lives and I’ve really started to rethink the 5 W’s.

What I ate?

Why I ate it?

When I ate it?

Where I ate it?

How I ate it?

Thinking long and hard about it, boiled down to one thing: mindless eating. I ate because I could, because it was there and because I was trying to fill the emptiness and not address it. Food carries such strong emotional ties for people. I know with things like depression the tendency to eat carbs skyrockets, food marketing makes us feel like we want it and the big trap that most everyone falls into: reminder, routine, reward. Have a read of this insightful post, it’ll help change any automatic triggers you may fall into when it comes to eating processed (junk) food.

The Changing Habits Facebook fan page is living proof what great nutrition and wholefoods can do. With over 24,800 fans – this community is an upward trajectory. Cyndi has made it her life’s mission to educate people and for that, I am in total admiration. It’s no mean feat to undo years of food marketing ‘brainwashing’. My friend summarised it really well today:

For so long we lived in a techno-food era, where everything was processed: low-fat, no sugar, manufactured and we bought into it because it was all we knew. We’d been educated to believe that by marketers and until recently the swing has gone to the other extreme – natural food. Now, we want to be healthy, because we know exactly what techno-food is doing to us. Not a lot of good that’s for sure.

So, how have I about faced in 15 days? Pretty dramatically to be honest. Sometimes life is a fortuitous blend of serendipitous people and moments, other times it’s you doing the hard yards to create space for these occurrences. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for lining up our fortune to be honest.

eggsHere’s my top 5 tips for how I survived the first two weeks:

  1. Made buying vegetables a priority and bypassed the need to add carbs to most meals. One of my favourite meals now is soft-boiled eggs with grilled asparagus. I grow my own herbs and add chopped flat leaf parsley, Cyndi’s all natural seaweed salt, lots of cracked black pepper and bob’s your uncle! I’ve created a few tasty salads I’ll post later and the key is preparation. If you can make enough to last for 2-4 meals it sure is a time-saver and you feel organised and less likely to ‘cheat’. It’s quite incredible how full you do get when you stuff yourself on good produce.
  2. Ate my fruit quota everyday. Papaya, berries and apples are allowed on the protocol. I’m embarrassed to admit, but prior to this I wasn’t eating a lot of fruit. Because I’d heard it was full of ‘sugar’. I didn’t compute it was a whole-food, because it gets such a bad wrap! I now realise how deluded I was and can not wait to start eating the full smorgasbord of nature’s goodness when this finishes. I also ate an orange for the first time in over 6 months last week. Yup. Crazy right?
  3. Created schedules and plans. For everything. Prior to this, I was leaving most things till last minute, operating in a semi-chaotic fashion and not really clear on my commitments to achieve personal and business goals. After about 10 days in – I felt super charged. I had complete visibility and focus on what I needed to do. I listened to a Wellness Guys podcast tonight (#42 + #43 if you wanna check it out) where they interviewed Cyndi and she talked about ‘clarity of mind’. I bolted upright when she said that – it’s how I’ve been feeling and exactly how I describe it to people. A splurge at Kikki K months ago came to fruition, as now I have huge monthly schedules in place for all my projects, freelance writing and study commitments. Who am I? Where did this organised person come from?
  4. Took advice. I credit two friends with this change Leah Nicol and Becki Milani. One is a driven, athletic and wellness advocate, the other an emerging chinese medicine practitioner and nutritionist. I’ll elaborate on them later too, the key thing with both – great minds that are nothing but encouraging and holistic. Challenges like these require people that will support not derail you.
  5. And lastly, me! I’ve believed in myself, kept thinking of the bigger picture and gaining optimal health. It’s not over yet and I can choose to be my own worst enemy or best friend. For the first time in a long time, I chose the latter.

me

Changing Habits, Changing Lives – A fortnight in Day #14

I’ve been dreaming a lot this last week. Namely of glorious junk food-esque type proportions. My subconscious has satiated itself with:

  • cheeseboards,
  • burgers,
  • chips,
  • pies,
  • mashed potato and gravy,
  • lasagna,
  • deep fried anything and
  • oddly enough bread.

Loaves of it. It’s not that my sleeping hours have been spent fervently indulging, it’s the last remnants of awareness that see me line all my little treats up and slowly take a bite here and there. Why? Nights have seen me filled with slight hunger pangs and the desire to perhaps keep the memories of decadence alive.

Until.

I had a breakthrough and I lost something.

I’m not sure where it went, but I am not intending to find it anytime soon.

Weight. Ya-huh. A couple of kilos of it.

martini

I celebrated by having a large martini.

Well, not really – alcohol is off the agenda for a while.  I think for at least another fortnight. But hey, whose counting?

I rejoiced by doing what most would. Finding that ‘thing’ that you kinda fitted into and kinda had a stomach hanging over the top of, but kinda wore a baggy top to hide it? Turns out that was not the case. I felt like it was a miracle! “How the hell did that happen” I asked myself? Prior to this program, I felt like progress was unattainable. Let me provide a brief back story.

I’m not one to be fuelled by the quest of rock hard abs, a ‘flat’ stomach, the need to look ‘ah-mazing’ wearing a dress to go to [insert nightclub, bar, venue of choice] or the desire to have every Tom, Dick and Harry comment on how ‘fah-bulous’ I look. I know people that are like that. I don’t get it. Anyways, my drive came from a few things:

  • My body-fat and weight was getting high, like too high for my frame. I did a body composition analysis and I was really surprised at the results. I was the heaviest, unfittest and unhappiest I’d been. Too many uns for one person.
  • The need to move went out the window. Along with a gym membership, yoga classes, swimming passes, sports groups and a slew of drawn up fitness schedules. You know the ones you do: On Monday I swim, on Tuesday I do weights, on Wednesday I run…etc. Mine turned into Every day I eat rubbish, watch TV and let as 3/4 of my wardrobe sit untouched as hey… let’s just live in a tracksuit.
  • Nutrition. My eating was based on mood, which was based on stress, which was based on an incredibly adrenalised and cortisol cosy environment.

buckwheat pancakes

For a long while, buckwheat pancakes were my saving grace. I mean, how could this toasted-coconut-walnuts-almonds-in-maple-syrup-pancake-fest-sandwiched-together-with-berry-yoghurt-fresh-berries-cocoa-almond-butter-spread not satisfy? The happy marriage of ‘healthy’ products deluded me into thinking that this was a good reward and a way to start converting to more nutritious lifestyle. Um, okay.

I would devour it whilst watching some mind-numbing show, which further propelled me into an abyss of depression and made that ‘get healthy’ goal, just that bit further away. We derive such comfort from supposed gratifying moments. The real gratification comes from the intensity of our commitment, focus and effort to make our lives better. In the lull periods, it’s so hard to recount how that feels, how it improved us and why we did it – becoming a work\home\binge\bed person is all we can muster.

brain food

How the freak did I get out of this rut? It’s taken a super long time. Perhaps on and off for years. The real breakthrough came this year, after I made a concerted effort to put myself first. My health, my body and my mind. Which meant sacrifice, working out what I needed and starting small. A chance holiday to the Greek Islands in August (first time, what a beautiful spot to skip Melbourne winter) enabled me to really reflect on how I was feeling, what I wanted to achieve and how I was going to do it. This meal of fresh grilled fish, rice and salad was kinda like a last supper and a celebratory dinner whilst there. I vowed to come back and make changes – no matter how hard or what it took. Plus grand visions always seem so much more romantic in a paradise like the Isles!

As great European holidays go, I came back stodgy and relaxed – but filled with steely reserve.

After a fortnight of slothing about, I pulled myself together and started to cut back. Sugar, processed wheat and alcohol were my first ports of call. I followed the 80/20 rule and was very kind to myself. Just really concentrated on buying better produce. After four weeks I shifted a few kilos and then decided to do this current protocol to really kick myself into gear.

And that it’s done.

Those extra two kilos I’ve lost in the last fortnight have a lot of meaning. Normally, I never really followed through on things. This time round – I’m committed the whole way. I guess it’s all about patience and persistence. How bad do you want it?

I appreciate you following the journey. Tomorrow I’ll elaborate on the changes I’ve made that have created the difference. In the last 14 days I’ve gone from sceptic to living proof.

Yours in wellness,

Leona

growing things

Changing Habits, Changing Lives – The week that was was Day #8

Most of us are in the pursuit of optimal health. We get sidelined by the odd chocolate bar, bag of chips and hamburger – but I do believe the quest for health is a noble enterprise. That being said, there are many different ways to obtain this ‘utopian’ lifestyle. I’m not a fan of radicalising your nutritional intake – especially where green smoothies, fad diets, caloric wars and restrictive food practices are concerned. Food is meant to be enjoyed right?

Well.

That being said, I decided to go forgo three of my favourite foods to partake in Changing Habits, Changing Lives program. Why? Because I am a fan of Cyndi O’Meara that’s why. Cyndi is a prolific Australian nutritionist and a staunch supporter of leading a health-first lifestyle. Her advocacy of nutrition is as long as her academic qualifications. The passion she has for people to gain inroads into their eating habits, sees her wading knee deep in research. And, for that – I am impressed. Anyone can espouse the merits of why we should eat better. But, to explain the science behind it, that’s worth it’s weight in peer-reviewed essays.

The Wellness Summit took to the stage in Melbourne two months ago and a dear friend of mine ‘suggested’ we go. Two-for-one tickets are good like that. When Cyndi started talking about my once favourite food (chocolate eclairs), I was hooked. Not only did she articulate why particular dis-eases are occurring, but explained what we can do to start taking the control back. If we don’t look after our bodies, who else is gonna do that?

On a health high, I signed up, paid for the program and let it sit for 2 months. After all, I’d just come back from Singapore and ate indulged my way through the delicacies below.

  1. Mashed potato with mushroom sauce (side dish) served with Macaroni cheese and mushroom. Think of the dishes like your favourite band. I’m thinking of The Cure, well maybe more uplifting than that. Royksopp. The green salad was like a back-up singer.
  2. Toasted sandwich with mashed potato, smoked cod and greens (from this great cafe)
  3. Sago, glorious iridescent sago with fresh mango and shaved coconut ice.
Mash Macaroni Mayhem

Mash Macaroni Mayhem

Toasted

Toasted

Let's go Sago

Let’s go Sago

2 weeks ago, I sat down listened to the 1.5 hour webinar, read the 128 page PDF book and decided to embark on the journey. Yes, it’s comprehensive because it’s not ‘gimmicky’. It’s not a ‘buy this juicer’ or ‘drink this protein shake for seven days straight’. It’s about eating whole foods.

Besides, It’s less than 50 days of my life and from the testimonials and methodology behind it – it works. People are saying exactly what the program states “it’s changed my life and created new habits”. That’s gotta be a good thing. One can only intake a high sugar, simple carbohydrate diet for so long right? At what point do you turn into walking glycogen factory? Not for me thanks.

Now, I’m not going to be a puritan here and this is where I like Cyndi’s approach. This protocol is about gaining long-term results. You can have food, great food – it’s about educating yourself to make better choices and understand the impact certain processed foods (and how they are made) have on your body – your personal body, no-one else’s. The program itself requires discipline. But if you focus on what you can, rather than can’t have – that’s a start. I personally had to freeze things and eradicate them from the cupboards. A spring clean of sorts.

So, how have I coped? How will you cope if you try it? Here’s me so far:

  • I feel light. Not like trip-the-light-fantastic light, but I don’t have that heavy, overly satiated feeling that comes when I get stuck into bread, pasta, rice, rich food and potatoes. It’s a great feeling, although looking at photos of bread makes me feel like I am looking at a family album of long-lost cousins. Where did you go?
  • You do actually feel full. Initially I thought, 100gm of protein twice a day with loads of veggies? What the? Surprisingly, I’ve been okay. I thought I would be ravenous like I normally am. But nada, not the case.
  • I enjoy the ritual – drinking sea salt (yes!), probiotics, minerals – feels cleansing and beats hitting sugar laden drinks for energy.
  • Range of food – I thought it would be restrictive, but having a set list of what you can eat from makes life easy. My cooking time has reduced and it’s a pretty efficient program.
  • My fruit and vegetable intake has increased dramatically. I was eating nowhere near what I should’ve been.

The cons (we need them, c’mon we all LOVE a bad guy)

  • There’s a gnawing feeling sometimes. No matter how much herbal tea I drink, it doesn’t dissipate sometimes. I’ve taken to the odd black coffee here and there (after five weeks without) and that helps it subside.
  • If you don’t prepare food and need to get something – you really have to think and be disciplined. It’s easy to get a sandwich and be done with it.
  • And lastly, I’d love to eat a banana and peanut butter. Perhaps some buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup and berries and a lasagna. That’s all.

Day #48 of The Amazing Weight (6 days after the end)

And so it ends. The 42-day no processed sugar extravaganza has come to a grinding halt.

I can honestly say from this experience that I have learnt so much. About myself, sugar and it’s many guises (and disguises), food marketing – and how I behave when I am exposed to it and motivation levels (or lack thereof).

The 4 main aims of this ‘experiment’ were centred about improving the quality of food eaten, increasing movement, reducing spending and hopefully as a positive consequence of all of that bodyfat levels go down as well.

Being a Virgo I love a list. Here’s my Top 10 take-outs in no particular order.

  1. The Greengrocers: I reduced my ‘random’ visits to major shops (who shall remain nameless) and started buying from fresh provision outlets again. I bought things haphazardly to reduce buying the usual favourites like spinach, tomatoes, broccoli etc. I ended up with colourful produce and became a lot more creative.
  2. Instead of packaged food, the cafe at my work creates displays with food. Like an edible art exhibition.

    Instead of packaged food, the cafe at my work creates displays with food. Like an edible art exhibition.

    The Kitchen: I started using it! I had a good 2 week stint where I was working at home and cooking became a really fun outlet. I didn’t use recipe books per se, really memorised some good staple dishes and added flourishes here and there. Being super cold weather- heartier fare came into play and even though I felt full afterwards, I didn’t feel that sense of stodge you get when you load up on heavily processed fare.

  3. Organic this and that: I am not going to bang on here. I supplemented my shopping with a trip to an organic store every now and then to load up on goodies. I’ve discovered a new favourite brand and they make a really delicious range of chocolates. Sweetened with coconut nectar! And…. you can order online + they deliver + they are based in Melbourne = winning!
  4. I like to spend it, spend it: I don’t think I was very successful on this front. I didn’t save anything on the eating out front. I do keep a ledger of all my expenses and prior to working part-time this was one of my biggest outlets. I did make better food choices and reduce potatoes, white processed foods, sugar, junk food and fast food. For me personally, this was a big win and I feel less sluggish in the digestion stakes.
  5. Cooking for the community and making food accessible to all.

    Cooking for the community and making food accessible to all.

    Community appeal: I eat at Lentil as Anything a couple of times a week now. Beautiful vegetarian food served near on 7 days a week – breakfast, lunch and dinner at a price you can afford. Literally. You pay what you feel is right and according to your circumstances. It’s a pretty cool philosophy and popularity indicated by how packed out it gets.

  6. Motivation to exercise: This was the area I struggled the most in. Like, I really battled. I did not go to the gym as much as planned, instead I did a lot of walking, tennis, the odd yoga class here and there and cycling. I felt like it was such a chore and this is an area I am going to explore more. I still hit the quota every week, but only because I ‘had’ to, not because I wanted to.
  7. Bodyfat: I lost about 3 kgs during this little experiment. I had no idea to be honest. Until I went to see my naturopath and then weighed myself. Clothes were a little looser and I felt like I lost a little bit – but not that much. Even though this is important, I feel like the learnings far outweighed the scales.
  8. Leaning tower of slaw.

    Leaning tower of slaw.

    Reduced portion sizes: Prior to this challenge, I was eating mindlessly. Strange food combinations and just sort of filling the void. Once I started eating better quality food, this reduced significantly and I didn’t feel the need to ’emotionally’ eat as so many of us do. I was a champion at that and food marketing really helped me along that journey. Once I reduced watching commercial tv and started watching more documentaries (no food ads!) a shift started.

  9. What food cravings increased: Cheese. (my naturopath told me it’s about the protein). Caffeine (energy). Chocolate (another energy one, but I found some good substitutes). Yoghurt. Soups – lots of veggies.
  10. Wellness experts: I also learnt there are a lot of people out there dishing out specific health advice. This was another massive eye opener, as I think it is pretty scary to specifically tell someone what to do. For me, as a freelance writer and journalist – it is super important to experience things, and now I have a small insight into what it feels like to undertake this.

My housemate made some terrific changes too. It certainly makes it more fun and helps when you have a buddy to support you in the ups and downs of change. That was a big thing for me. Food is such a social elixir and shared journeys are a great way to achieving positive outcomes for yourself and our society as a whole.