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?

The Beginner’s Guide to getting started on weight training

It seems only befitting that the week I decide to discuss how to get going with weight training, I have really bad DOMS in my upper back and shoulders, some weird bruise and an unrelenting desire to eat. Yes, welcome. Welcome to the way not to introduce people to a challenging task… with all the potential side effects!

cheesecake, healthy desserts

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

But hey, I am not going to sugar coat things. As you’ll read in points nine, ten and sixteen of my former post ‘20 things you didn’t know about me’, getting that sweet reward at the end, will result in some minor fractions along the way.

You may still be wondering what the hell DOMs is. It’s ‘Delayed onset muscle soreness’ and typically likes to linger 24 – 72 hours post exercise. For me the apex is normally 48 hours after. After a weight training session or even resistance training you can cause what is known as ‘microtraumas’ to your muscles. This damage results in soreness to the areas you exercise, but it does go away.

Sports Medicine has a good little article for those who’d like a more in-depth overview. For me, I always think of it in this equation:

Lift Heavy x New or Different (intensity\duration) = Sore tomorrow (and maybe more)

Sore tomorrow + Rest Days + Good treatment = Feel better

Sore tomorrow\Feel better = New, fit body!

I seriously just made that up then. Please do not quote me on it or take it as medical advice. But you get my drift right? I could throw in all those ra-ra sayings like:

“Short-term pain = long term gain” or “Go hard or go home”…

But I won’t. I mean I already did, but I think it’s about breaking it down and really thinking about what it is you desire\want\need from your training. That in turn, will motivate you to do the required movements to get to your personal goal. For me it’s really one word. STRONG. That is how I want to feel. Not only in my body, but in my mind and emotionally as well.

As a freelance writer, I am eternally interested in human behaviour and how we approach, communicate and motivate ourselves to do things. With the Sixteen Weeks ‘til Sexiness program I am in (through Roman Fitness Systems), my online coaching group consists of 70 members. We comprise all different walks of life, ages, occupations and even countries. Most are in the USA because it originated in NY, but there’s a fair few Aussies (yay) some hilarious UK folk and a smattering of residents from EU.

dumbells, weights, usa flag

Lifting the USA flag

We all do have one thing in common though. A burning desire to hit our own personal outcome (we are on a mix of three different programs: fat loss, muscle gain and recomp – for those are super duper into building muscle). I’m on the muscle gain. But we also share one other trait: we are fallible. Having 70 people to chat to about everything about is really fun. Things like:

  • I think I am going to slip up and eat something bad – help!

  • All these New year’s resolution people are taking up all the equipment at the gym – what alternative exercises can I do?

  • Macronutrients? How the hell do I count those?(more on that in my next post)

  • I really want a drink! (alcohol)

  • How do I get rid of DOMs? I am so sore, yeouch!

Funny quotes

That they are

And my personal favourite: all the recipes, I mean of course all the positive encouragement when you do a great gym session, hit your targets or just need a friendly ‘good on you!’

My first week, I had a series of false starts. The program was due to start on Monday 6 Jan, and I got it Tuesday 7 Jan (care of the time difference). My inherent desire to only read the good bits, somehow resulted in me mis-reading the initial emails and thinking it started on Thursday 9 Jan. Good one me.

Of course I had ceremoniously gone out to dinner at Il Bacaro Cucina e Bar on Monday night and outdone myself on prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella and figs, spaghettini with Moreton bay bugs and goats curd panna cotta with glazed strawberries and all the trimmings. Plus I washed this down with a very good hit of red wine. Anyone else done this? I can see most of you nodding your head, or waving a chicken drumstick around medieval king style.

The next couple of days I was still feeling worse for wear. My workout days were scheduled as Mon, Wed and Fri. I decided to not beat myself up (even though I desperately wanted to, why??)  and just do the first one on Friday. Instead, I read all the comments in the group, read through the program (very comprehensive), read the nutrition guide I was sent and the amount of calories to consume, read all about John Romaniello and all about Mike Vacanti – our incredibly knowledgeable and motivating moderator of the group. You got it in one – I read, read, read.

Mike Vacanti

Mike Vacanti our muscular moderator.

As a sidenote – I have to say at this point: Are all guys from NY good looking? There must be something in the protein powder there.

2014-01-14 19.20.28 HDR-2

I fluxed between wanting to go to the gym and wanting to postpone it till the following week. I ended up going on Friday afternoon and then doing a little swim in the bay after, which was a great way to end the week and the session (muscles like cool water). I reflected on the week that was in the cool depths of Elwood beach.

2013-11-02 18.59.05

One stand out comment came from a guy in the group, after another member (there were a few of us) lamented about missing the first week. He said something along the lines of “You haven’t missed the first week, you’ve gained. You’ve gained more than any of us. You now know what to do and what not to do, so you can just start. That is a great position to be in.”

I really loved that. It helped shift my thinking and I admire when people can present situations back in an optimistic way. Total kudos to that guy.

From what  I observed of the others in my group and what I personally experienced as well here are my Top Five tips on getting started:

  1. Understand your why: It’s incredibly critical you know your intent for strength training. Even if it as simple as you want to fit those jeans you bought a year ago or you need to shed some body fat and build muscle tone – great! I say this, because your why is the elixir that will get you to the gym after a hard day at work, drive you out of bed at 6am if you train early, head off on your lunch break instead of eating at your desk and most importantly get you to your end goal. My why is STRONG. I’ve sustained a chronic shoulder injury, torn hamstring and long periods of sitting (ah, the by-product of writing) – so STRONG is a word I use to remind me why I doing this. I am determined to build a functionally fit body, strengthen my discipline and walk around in a crop top (just kidding, scrap that last bit).

  2. Get accountable: Whether you join an online group, form a pact with friends, engage your partner or kids – tell someone about your plan and get them involved. People that care about you will care about your health and dreams. Let them be part of your journey or better yet, maybe a buddy to train with. The only reason I was getting myself to the gym to start off with, was because I was accountable to so many people and I do not like letting people down. I’m a part of a team. Now in the third week, I’m actually excited about going to fling iron around. Well – not quite at that stage yet.

  3. Plan and schedule your time: It doesn’t have to be fancy or detailed or rigid. I make recurring appointments in Google Calendar (I use all the Google products) complete with a breakdown of the exercises I need to do. I do this because on that first day, I put what I thought was my program in my bag, turns out it was a blank piece of paper. I couldn’t get into Dropbox through my phone as the internet was down and I was finally able to retrieve my program through my email! I learnt a grave lesson – be prepared and have back ups. We typically always have our phone on us (I use it to listen to music at the gym), so products that sync with your phone are great. That way – you’ll be ready to train always.

  4. Wear your gym clothes: I know this sounds crazy, but some days if I plan to go at lunch, I will wear my gym clothes to work. Some of you may not be able to do this, but if you can, it is a great way to just go. It really frames your mindset and starts forming a positive habit of going.  If I come home still in my gear and didn’t go, I get a bit disappointed in myself. Trust me, there are plenty of times I think “oh, I have to do all this STUFF!” But it is at that moment I just get up and go. You will be far better for it. I also take a spare change of clothes, in case I get over hanging out in tights and a singlet in the afternoon.

  5. Remember you are you: Where you are at is where you are meant to be and that is great. Too often we get caught up in “oh, she is skinnier than me” “he’s got a better physique” “I can only lift 5kgs” STOP! Starting points are different for everyone and the sole fact you are standing in a gym, training at home, in a park or anywhere really is testament to the fact you are making positive change. I was told years ago by a naturopath to “be kind to yourself “ and to this day it is the best advice I’ve had. Sheesh, the amount of times I berated myself for not doing things, or not being good enough or not being at a point someone else is at is huge. Competitiveness is good, seeing others as competition is not. This is your journey and being present in each training moment is the best way to be. Resistance training and results comes over a period of time, so just chip away.

quotes, motivational quotes

Motivation

This was a long one… phew! But training is all mental (well, yeh it does make us go a bit mental at times too..) Next week will be a quick and easy one – love that. The Top five benefits of programs like these and the top five downsides…. or should that be Bottom five? Ah, someone can fill me in between now and next week. Till then, I’m here to chat if you wanna say hi about your training journey.

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

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.

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