The 7-Eleven guide to eating out when you are weight training (because temptation never closes)

NB. I actually wrote this post on 3 March 2014. It was sitting in my drafts folder, so now I am setting it free.

 

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

It’s seems incredibly ironic that the day I scheduled to write this post on making good food choices when you are eating out, (whilst adhering to a weight training\nutrition program) I’d just been to a yum cha lunch and high tea the day before. Hmmm. But, this is life right? We are going to be asked to attend events (especially when you are a food writer), have well meaning family and friends try to steer you off course at great restaurants or just be super tired and find it easier to pit stop at [insert fast food joint name here] on the way home.

It happens. All the time. Every day.

Temptation.

Like a 7-Eleven, it dazzles us with it’s shiny packaging, accessibility, wide variety and offerings of things we wouldn’t of even contemplated. It’s super easy to go in and then come out with a myriad of things you don’t need (or want to eat) because it is just there. The trick is, to have a purpose. You can outwit the bright lights and still indulge, while keeping elements of guilt and nutrition in order. And we all know what that annoying, aching guilt trip we put ourselves on feels like:

Urgh, why did I eat that bucketful of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream? I thought I could just have a small bowl, but now I’m staring at an empty container and feeling sick. Man, I’ve got no self-control.

Don't Quit

Don’t Quit

OR

I’ll just have a handful of crisps.

[5 mins later…]

Okay, maybe another handful – just gotta round this one out with some even numbers.

[2 mins later]

Maybe I will just eat half the large packet, because I went to the gym three times this week and I’ll go again tomorrow to make it up.

[1 min later]

Packet gone.

Crisps= 100 points

You = 0 points

And we all know this scenario:

Waiter: Would you like to see the dessert menu?

Us: No, that’s okay. Oh, actually… I’ll just have a look.

15 mins and one Creme Brûlée later, we are bloated – cursing ourselves and working out how to work it off.

I know some of these examples are home-centric, but I really want to highlight the ease of relenting to desire and eating high sugar\processed\low nutritional value food. It’s incredibly seamless how we can shift into mindless eating mode, once our tastebuds get that hit of sweetness or salty potato chips – it is all over. A lot of times these foods are not designed to satiate us and we just keep consuming, consuming and increasing our addictive quota to them.

So how the hell do we win the 7-Eleven game? I’ve got seven tips I use to always help me make a relatively good decision, alleviate the guilt monster and ensure I enjoy what I consume. Because you know what? As I mentioned in last weeks post, I do love good food and I am all for eating delectable treats. BUT, when your goal (like mine) is to gain muscle, increase your fitness and overall health a bit of fancy sidestepping never goes astray.

  1. Protein rules: If you are looking at a menu and the allure of a carbonara pasta dish or toasted sandwich with hot chips is making your mouth water, think about protein. Protein is the key element that will fill you up, ensure you are hitting your protein totals for the day and help with blood sugar stabilisation. Carbohydrate laden dishes like these, are  packed with excess calories and may make you feel more bloated than full. If you really want the pasta – go for one with chicken, meat, lots of vegetables or seafood. Choose an entree size and have a salad as well. With the toasted sandwich, I would do the same and perhaps hold off the chips or share with a friend.
  2. Choose – booze is a rouse: Yesterday, at both the yum cha lunch and high tea I went to – champagne was literally on tap. It requires no effort to say yes and those dang champagne glasses are so small, I always lost count of how many I had. Because I knew I was going to be eating great quality and rich food, I bypassed drinking and had sparkling water\plain water instead. For me it’s about the calories. Yes, I had been to the gym that morning and did a weights session, but I would’ve easily had four glasses at the lunch and at approx 90 calories a glass that is 360 calories already. So you can choose, if you booze – opt to eat less of the ‘good stuff’ as alcohol is a the little known fourth macronutrient.
  3. Small servings: When there is a lot to choose from and\or you are keen to try different foods, I would encourage choosing entree sizes and sharing with friends or splitting a couple of main meals. This way you can enjoy your dining out experience and not blow out your calorie totals for the day. As with point #1 always add vegetables, a salad, good protein sources and if having entrees opt out of dessert. If having dessert opt out of entrees.
  4. Green tea: Yum cha fans will know that jasmine\chinese\green tea is typically always served. This is to aid digestion and assist in breaking down the food you are eating. I adopt this same principle when I am eating dessert. I always order a green tea, even though I love black coffee – I save this for the mornings and think more about how to aid the process of breaking down the fats and sugars. Even though it has caffeine, the tea is a rich source of antioxidants as well. If you are sensitive to caffeine and are eating out at night – even a herbal tea like peppermint is a good substitute.
  5. Eat clean at other meals in the day: I practise IF [Intermittent Fasting] everyday, so tend not to eat until 1pm each day. For dinner yesterday, even thought I was tempted to eat some chilli con carne I’d made and put lots of mozzarella cheese on it – I opted for a less caloric dense meal. Instead, I’d roasted a chicken the night before – so I warmed that up, shredded it and added diced cucumber, fresh tomato, a small bit of goats fetta, lots of lemon juice, splash of balsamic and seasoning and some inca incha oil. Pretty simple dinner. With eating out, ensure the other meals in your day are protein rich and filled with good fresh produce.
  6. Say no if you are full, 80% is the new 100%: Yesterday at the high tea, little vanilla macaroons came around after we’d consumed: tempura vegetables with miso and soba noodles, fried calamari with crisp vegetables, vol au vents peanut butter, raspberry and hazelnut mousse cake, green tea cake and choux pastry with custard and passionfruit fondant (you get my drift right?). I am more of a savoury than sweet person and I did sample a few of the sweet desserts, but when the macaroons came around I politely declined. I’d hit saturation, my sweet quota was maxed out and I was good. Previously I would’ve demolished everything in sight, been on a crazy sugar high and then crashed and burned and felt bleurgh. It truly is about fighting FOMO (fear of missing out), sitting at 80% full is great. Once your stomach catches up with your brain, you’ll feel satiated – especially when the food we ate was made out of great produce. I understand for those sweet tooths this is HARD. I get it. I used to be the same when it came to cheese. This is where sharing is good. Split treats with your friends and then drink water, fill up on it!
  7. Quality versus quantity: Ensure you choose food that comes from a great source. Junk food on the run will be your worst option here. You’ll now if the produce isn’t great, as you’ll still be hungry. Great food like local cheeses, desserts made with quality produce, fresh fruits and cream and also seasonal vegetables and market seafood or protein from good farms are really good options. If you are not eating out and need to grab something on the run – a kebab sans the bread is a good choice (opt for fresh cut meat), burgers with chicken (real chicken breast if you can) and salad boxes with protein are good too. Bypass the chips, soft drinks and other sugar filled add ons. If you are hanging for a sweet hit – try dark chocolate, yoghurt with stewed fruit, lsa, coconut sugar, banana protein smoothie or good old peanut butter!

calamarisalad

Eating out doesn’t need to be an experience where you are trying to dodge traps or announce that you are on a ‘diet’, deprive yourself or modify the meal to the point the waiter has a quizzical eyebrow raised at you. Treat yourself. It’s great to enjoy the experience of great venues and food really unites people – I truly believe it is a great element of society.

But just remember the 7-Eleven guide, remember what you came to buy. If you do get tempted by the bright, shiny lights – modify your intake for the rest of your day and always know temptation never, never closes. It’s you who becomes a conscious consumer and taking back control is an incredibly rewarding feeling. Also, once you see the muscle gains from adherence to your nutrition program – man it does something to your overall mindset. For me, seeing clear changes in my physique and lifting strength propels me forward and keeps me from wanting to eat low nutrition food. I just want to keep fuelling it with great produce as the results are SO motivating. I feel focused, disciplined and like optimum health is achievable.

Sparkling water makes everything a bit fancy.

Sparkling water makes everything a bit fancy.

Also, as a side note on alcohol I recently did Febfast and didn’t drink for 28 days. It was an interesting experience to be surrounded by so much alcohol at both events (I used to LOVE being intoxicated), but after absorbing research that confirms alcohol inhibits muscle gain, I found my why. And that is what this journey is about, finding the one thing that is enough to keep you focused on your individual goal. Next week, I’m chatting to some peeps on the program and finding out how the last 8 weeks has impacted their lives on this program – both good and bad. Till then, lift strong!

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 – 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 #40 of The Amazing Weight

2 days left to go. 48 hours. Countdown begins. To what exactly? Will there be a momentous gorging of sweet treats and unbridled passion for all things sugary, starchy and stodgy? I think not. When I embarked on this ‘bet’ I was purely thinking of making a quick $600. I’ll admit it. It was going to be a long wait for said money, but I was confident I would not be conceding defeat. So I surreptitiously went to the Adicentre and spent a luxurious sum of $591. My savings. Because I thought I’ve got this in the bag. And I sure did. A heap of exercise gear to wear. Where? To the gym in my dreams?

My brain might be fried, but my eggs are scrambled.

My brain might be fried, but my eggs are scrambled. Thanks to my local cafe ‘Spoonful’ for this great brunch. Scrambled eggs with dukkah. Must remember to order sans bread next time.

From an exercise perspective, I’ve definitely stuck to the quota of 6 sessions a week. I’ve been loving the Cardio Tennis classes I do and walking has now become a favourite pastime. I used to be averse to walking and would much rather jump in the car and go down the street (really). Now with Autumn in full spring(!), it’s a real luxury to walk through explosions of colour. From stacking my diary with a stupendous amount of activities, I’ve stripped it back to doing something every day that I enjoy. It’s a far kinder way to move I find. As a freelance writer, I’ve been immersing myself into the local community to really understand what the demographic is like (of the area I live in). I’ve found a penchant for walking to the local cafes now and then to have a spot of brunch and think. And people watch. Because we all love doing that right?

no burger burger

no burger burger

I mentioned a few posts ago, I also wander north of the river to a great organic store. It’s become my new drop-in for great organic food. Here I’ve discovered great chocolate sans sugar, a plethora of organic cheeses, the most colourful fruit and veg and my new mushroom burgers. I made the burger last week and it was a hit. Jammed with fresh shredded beetroot, carrot, cucumber, cherry black tomatoes, fried egg, onion and japanese mayo – it didn’t disappoint. My days of dropping into McDonalds to grab a burger, chips and nuggets have diminished. As Jamie Oliver advocates in his 15 minute meals – it really doesn’t take long to knock something up.

Quinoa pancakes. A nice little indulgence on a cold night. Go a warm almond milk with pure cacao to top it off.

Quinoa pancakes. A nice little indulgence on a cold night. Go a warm almond milk with pure cacao to top it off.

Experimenting with food has become a real pleasure and almost like putting on a show. There’s no dress rehearsal. It’s improvisation class all the way. I find that has yielded the best results. It’s cooking like my mum. Having a staple repertoire in your mind and expanding, trying and inventing all whilst using beautiful produce. It’s a real treat.

My wrap up comes in a few days. I’m super keen to sit and reflect on the Top 10 things I have learned and really grateful for the comments, support, advice and laughter along the way. My new ‘social experiment’ will be to try the I Quit Sugar e-book by Sarah Wilson I mentioned in a previous post. I’m keen to do a once weekly review and see how that tracks as a conclusion to this.

People’s online media habits are of great fascination to me. Your habits are of great value to me and would love your insights in this super quick 6 question survey on what you love reading (blog wise\social media wise):

http://freeonlinesurveys.com/app/rendersurvey.asp?sid=d2pndyjou3ppgb8260116&refer=www%2Efacebook%2Ecom

Much gratitude! x

Day #9 of The Amazing Weight

9 is my lucky number. Purely because I was born on the 9th of the 9th month and that kinda seems fortuitous right? Well as luck would have it, today got designated cheat meal day and I managed to devour a fairly decent sized burger and chips. Not just any ol’ burger, but a whopping ‘country-style-bought-from-a-diner-type-burger’. Well. Now we wait another week to absolve my guilt and do it again. This deprivation & satiation pendulum is starting to eat at me. (pun intended. please groan and laugh accordingly)

Leaning Tower of Burger

Leaning Tower of Burger

Chips. For those savvy readers and now regular followers, you will have come to understand and sympathise with my unbridled passion for the potato. Affectionately known as spud, dirt candy or ‘the vegetable that tastes bloody brilliant any way you cook it‘. 9 days in and I have noticed, and not subtly either, that I have an unwavering hankering to eat chips. I don’t actively seek them out, but somehow, just somehow they have worked their way into  4 of my dinners over the last 5 days.

I had a very enlightening chat with my friend about this processed sugar incarceration and I learned about some  research done into the artificial sweetener domain as well. Our clever little addictive brains and body, will find the calories\sugar any way they can. ie I’ve reduced my processed sugar intake, now my desire to eat potatoes has skyrocketed. 

So, I’m facing a conundrum. Cave in to my highly addictive personality and marry a potato farmer? Or introduce a new rule into the remaining 33 days and cut out potatoes? I’m leaning towards the latter. I mean, why the hell not? What’s another little challenge within a challenge. I’m finding it really interesting that my desire to eat them so often is becoming paramount. Massive exaggeration I know, but relative to this social experiment. As of tomorrow, good-bye my favourite vegetable and hello it’s cousin sweet potato. Now there’s an irony in titles.

Mexican Tortilla Stack. The higher the better. Bean me up Scotty!

Mexican Tortilla Stack. The higher the better. Bean me up Scotty!

My other cheat meal (last week, woah… steady on folks, I ain’t givin’ up a hundred that easily, didn’t cave twice in 1 week) was the delightful stack pictured above. The easiest meal to make when you have no time and want something delicious. This shopping experience was insightful too. Not only did I learn that the gluten free wraps I checked out ranked sugar as their 5th ingredient, but the wholewheat ones had them down as 11th! No guesses as to which version I went with there.

Burgerless Turkey burgers

Burgerless Turkey burgers

It hasn’t been all food and gloom though. One of my friends kindly introduced me to her Turkey Burgers. Well, when I say introduced:

She made them

I ate them

I loved them

When I get the recipe off her I will post that as well, because you can’t go wrong with a burger right? Well, let’s just be fancy and call it a patty because that seems to have a healthier tone to it. Far less formidable sight than the burger I inhaled tonight. I will concede defeat and admit that I backed the turkey burger meal on friday night with chips after. Maybe it was the vodka, sparkling water and fresh limes I had been consuming.

The wah? No, I haven’t gone all poshie mctoshie in the drinks stakes, just experimenting again. I have to say I felt bloody brilliant the next day with no hangover. Great way to hydrate whilst you are dehydrating at the same time. Up there in the thinking stakes right? Wait till I start depraving my brain of sugar. It’ll be a false sugar economy for my brain and far less verbose blog posts.

All this talk of food, sugar, good meals, bad meals leads me into my new found love. 2 words. Cardio Tennis.I mean a girl’s gotta move it, move it right?

The court at sunset. Beautiful backdrop and clean court, devoid of tennis balls that I manage to scatter in every direction bar the one I want it to go in.

The court at sunset. Beautiful backdrop and clean court, devoid of tennis balls that I manage to scatter in every direction bar the one I want it to go in.

Part of my challenge was to get moving more and I decided to not restrict myself to doing the staple things I love (weights, swimming and yoga – let’s get real here, I don’t exactly love yoga, I love the concept of doing it and the feeling afterwards). My friend manages a tennis centre and has been instrumental in getting me to get moving. I’ve had such a battle mentally to be active. I’ve seen it as a chore and not a good time. (Anyone watch Deena in Jersey Shore? This is not a good TIME!)

Cardio tennis has really, really put me in an uncomfortable place. Lack of hand eye co-ordination, stop\start running – often into the net or almost other people, trying to hit the ball, hitting the ball over the net (into the other court – HUGE talent I know), almost hitting the ball……. then spinning around and totally missing it and my favourite hitting it UP UP and AWAY……………

So why am I persisting? 3 things:

  1. Even though I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest and I breathe like a goldfish flapping about out of water – my cardiovascular fitness is slowly, slowly getting better.
  2. I love the feeling of hitting the ball, in the right direction and having the instructor go ‘great shot’. It was few and far between at first and with that surprised tone of  ‘wow, she actually hit it that time’ to now being more like ‘yes! you got it’.
  3. The variety of the drills is brilliant for me as I like constant variety when I exercise.

I would highly recommend giving it a shot. Again with the puns.

**Next post, I’m updating you with my housemates journey so far.**