Free at Last! September 9th 2016.

I finally managed to get back to where I was in April – those ten pounds that have dogged me forever finally gave up the ghost and as the scales began their final glorious inexorable descent, I dared to believe that this time my journey really is a different one.

In fact I am now down three stone and a quarter of a pound – that’s a very important quarter – it suggests the descent is not yet over.

Before this I have often lost weight successfully for several months – the story every dieter can tell you – you get a burst of enthusiasm, diet madly and lose maybe a couple of stone – that’s quite easy to do if you have seven or eight to lose. And then you have a bad week and the scales go in the opposite direction. And again. And again. And slowly but surely you watch helplessly as those dreaded scales remind you of the failure you feel inside – that you are just fat and nothing you can do will change that.

It’s not true though! I can tell you – this time it’s not true! I have managed to hold the gain at ten pounds forever it seemed – without giving up the ghost altogether – and there’s a very good reason for that – the food I am eating. The reduction of carbs is significant – but the complete removal of sugar is empowering. It has even resulted in a clean bill of health at the dentist’s yesterday – no decay since last year – I told her and she was impressed – living proof of yet another benefit of giving up sugar.

If you had said to me a year ago that I would be quite happy to have lost only half a pound from April to September I would have laughed. I have always set great big goals for myself – projecting big losses into the very near future – planning a stone or two in a month. Now I have no such expectations. I would like to lose six and a half pounds between now and September 30th but I’m okay if that doesn’t happen – that will get me into a new stone – one I haven’t seen for a very long time. I hit a plateau – and boy it was a big one – it stretched forever – but it’s gone and new adventures lie ahead.

If even one person seeing my story gets to change their story then I will be happy – the weight loss journey is as unique to each one of us as our DNA – and yet each is made of the same ingredients – a mixture of hope and despair – the trick is to make sure the hope hides the taste of despair long enough for you to believe in yourself – you can do this! I can do this!

Bant!

I had a friend at work bring me some freshly pulled rhubarb this week – and I was delighted to see that it is very low carb so fine for me to eat.  I love rhubarb and I love crumble so I went on the hunt to find a crumble recipe – and came across a link somewhere for a crumble topping that included flax seeds – I didn’t have any so I just made my own version of the recipe and it was lovely.

 

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Banting rhubarb crumble

Heat oven to 160 fan.

Ingredients

  • rhubarb – eight stalks approx
  • 25 gms xylitol – or more to taste
  • 1.5 tblsp ground chia seed

Mix these three together – chop the rhubarb and place in pot with the xylitol and  ground chia, and coo on a medium hob until melted and soft through. Set aside.

  • 100gms ground almond
  • 35 gms dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp each of all spice and mixed spice
  • 10 chopped pecans – optional really – I added them one day, not the next

Mix all dry ingredients together

  • 50gms melted butter
  • tsp vanilla extract

Add the vanilla to the butter then mix into the dry ingredients and keep mixing until the butter is fully absorbed into the dry mix. Pour the mixture out onto a parchment sheet on an oven tray and pat down so it is flat.

Cook for about 16 minutes and then check – remove from the oven when the sides start to crisp.

Leave to cool then put some rhubarb into a bowl and crack off a piece of the topping and crack it over the fruit. Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Truly divine!

I made it again this evening and accidentally put xylitol into the topping as well – it tastes so sweet! Not a good addition! You could add hazelnuts or buttered nuts – think I mentioned those before – I heat some butter in the pan and throw in the packet of Lidl nuts with some spices – they would be lovely with it I’d imagine too. Macadamia are too soft and would burn easily – hazelnuts might be a bit too hard – play about and see what works for you.

 

 

If I can do this anyone can – you owe it to yourself to banish sugar from your life – try it for a month – you will be amazed.

Orla

 

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On again, off again – the cycle continues. August 1st 2016.

I took July off – from the blog that is, as other things were occupying my head. I corrected for the whole month and had no time hardly to breathe let alone blog.

I haven’t stopped banting but I have had a bad month of it. I have actually lost twenty pounds – but unfortunately they are the same ten pounds that I gained and lost twice – and have back on again for the third time. Every summer I think that I will get to lose weight and organise my life. Instead when the school term is out so are my good intentions. I haven’t stopped banting – I have just slipped off the wagon more than I should have.

What’s the secret to getting back on?

Reading, organising the pantry and not beating myself up. I was doing really well then had my parents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary party. I didn’t break out at that – I waited till I went home then broke out. That is part of the addictive nature of my habits – I don’t cheat with good stuff – I deprive myself then go home and gorge to satisfy the girl who didn’t eat the cake at the party!

I spent a couple of days in Cork in a most divine part of the world – Glengarriff – and managed for the first two days to stay on banting track. Then I decided to break out. Therein lies the problem. I am back to my binging ways when I break out – I really break out and eat all I can find. So that is the task for August – how to stay on track and if not, how to break out without actually killing myself by overindulgence!

I haven’t been reading the Realmealrevolution.com pages, so I am back to that. Yesterday I made crackers and banting bread, and some banting brownie – all to remind myself that I can eat lots of lovely things while banting. It’s a question of retraining those tastebuds again. I tried twice before to get back on track by intermittent fasting – I think maybe I need to give the fasting a break until my body releases me from the old addiction to sugar. It is very scary how quickly that heroin gets back in – and like heroin you cannot stop the binging. It is all consuming. They say knowing the problem is half the battle. Now I need to up my game on the other half of the fight!

I’ll keep you posted. One pound gone – nine more to go! Maybe my problem is I keep thinking I’m a sprinter when in fact I’m more of a long distance cross country type!

 

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falling

Standing still, but still standing. May 19th 2016.

I teach. In Ireland. In a secondary school. Look away now if that is going to upset you because it does cause quite a lot of heartache for lots of people at this time of year. We are about to get our summer holidays. Suddenly everyone wants to be a teacher – feel free! It is a wonderful job, but not as cushy as many would lead you to believe, at least not if you do it well. Hence I have not been blogging for a while – other priorities. It is an interesting way to live. While everyone else celebrates beginnings and endings in December and January, we do so in June and August as well. It is a time to take stock of our professional lives, but also our own lives and reflect on what changes have happened for us.

I have had a simple existence for many years now, always following the same pattern. I start the year in September with great plans to get healthy, lose weight and get fit. I do. I bring lunch from home, walk with friends and am careful with food. I follow different food plans depending on the year. I have done Weight Watchers, Slimming world, hypnosis, self planned diets. I have successfully lost a stone, sometimes two, and then Christmas has hit. Like a lead weight. Literally. I then eat my way through the two weeks and never get back on track. I rally a little in February and rouse myself to try again.

And yet. And yet. As June approaches I feel sad. I am never lighter on the last day of school than I am on the first day. I look at the staff picture taken in September and sigh. I always look worse in June.

Up until now. That’s what all the self help gurus tell us – up until now is an empowering phrase. It is. Up until now I’ve always been heavier at the end of the year. Up until now I’ve been a size in the twenties.

Now I’m a teenager again – a size 18 and maintaining. I’m three stone lighter than when I started the school year. I feel like a different person.

I have a way to go. I would still like to lose another five or six stone – and I will. I have managed to maintain this weight now for a couple of very difficult months when I usually just give in and gorge. I promise myself I’ll “be good in the summer”. Instead this summer I’m promising I will finally get going properly on my running – I have a target of August for a fully run five k and a target for next year’s Pieta House Darkness into Light five k of a 30 minute time. That’s the plan.

It’s been a good year.

I have eaten carbs when I felt like I needed to. I have eaten sugar when I wanted it. And then my body has said enough and I have stopped.

I have eaten out and enjoyed myself. I have been away with friends and my husband and had wonderful meals. I have changed my taste buds – something I never would have believed was possible at the beginning of this year. I have introduced sugar-free living to my children. They still eat carbs – and lots of sugar sometimes too – but they can see we can actually live without sugar – and we can enjoy beautiful tasty food nonetheless.

How is your journey going for you?

Getting there! April 13th 2016.

I said I’d post when I had news! Well today I reached my first tangible goal – three stone off. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot but believe me it is. It is 42 pounds or 19 kilos. The difference is enormous. I have reduced my BMI from 43.64 to 36.55. I have dropped from a size 24 to a size 18 – I’m a teenager again! That is so significant – that means I can now go shopping in regular shops again instead of having to search out shops for larger sizes only.

It has been slow but so worth it. I had a small blip over Easter and then decided to really try to go with the intermittent fasting. I have no food until about 1.00pm any day – honestly that is no hardship as I was never a breakfast person anyway – and then I eat a second time at about 7.00pm and I eat a hearty feed I promise – and that’s me done until the next day again. It means I eat a very big meal both times and I make sure to have lots of fat. I also keep a tin of nuts on my desk at work so that if I don’t get my lunch for any reason I have something banting friendly to fall back on. I am not evangelical. I am trying to make this lifestyle work for me. I have started buying the Lidl Almonds with chilli – they are not perfect – but God they taste great and I feel like a sinner when I eat them! So much tastier than crisps and so much more banting suitable! I think I’ve bought most of the stock in the three local shops I can get to! I got five tins today – the joy of it is my children love them – and if they will reach for those instead of crisps or buns I’m very happy.

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They are so spicy – and that’s what I realise is missing in my food when I want to go off course. I need strong flavours. So of course I went back to cooking – we have two hectic weeks in our house so I spent Saturday cooking so that when we arrive home from work there is something banting friendly to eat even if we only have half an hour to eat and go. I never managed to empty my third freezer – I will over the summer but I’m glad to have it this week.

I cooked a double batch of my Thai Green curry and of my normal curry and the pesto and white wine chicken – notice the theme running through all three?! They were great to have and so everyone got to choose their favourite one for tea on Saturday while I headed out with my buddies for steak and red wine.

I made a new recipe. The Late Late show here in Ireland – an institution of a Friday night programme – ran an item on what goes into sausages – I’d still eat them anyway – reminds me of the horsemeat scandal – my children were horrified to find that Burger King burgers contained horse – they said they’d happily eat them anyway  – but I decided to try again to make a sausage replacement with no wheat.

This is what I came up with – and they are so delicious that I had one for my tea this evening sliced and fried in butter and scramble thrown in on top. It is not a sausage – it is technically a pork burger but next time I may make sausage shaped ones – or even invest in a sausage maker…

Pork burgers

  • 1lb pork chops minced – ask your butcher to do that for you.
  • 1 egg
  • a dash of tabasco – adjust to your own tastes – I like spice!
  • salt and pepper
  • spices – I used my current favourite – the chip one – see below.

 

Simple as that. Mix all together and shape into either patties or little sausages. I baked mine in the oven at 180 degrees celsius in a fan oven for twenty minutes. Yo could leave them in longer if you wanted them to be browner but I did them for the freezer so I left them a little lighter. Gorgeous. I would say they’d be even nicer on the pan in a bit of coconut oil and a dollop of butter. Not that these got to the freezer – I did about double the batch and got to put away four only. My gang don’t like cheese put in anything but these would be delicious with real mozarella torn into them as well I think – but then they are moving from the realm of sausage flavour to burger.

I had this for lunch on Saturday with a slice of mature red cheddar melted over the top and Paddy had Bellingham Blue cheese over his – they were voted a success by all five tasters.

I found a great recipe for an alternative to fajitas the other day – have a look – this is the link – I’m definitely trying this one out next weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rowing back and reining in…. April 2nd 2016

Easter is a long holiday in Ireland – this year more so than most years as our Saint’s Day linked with it so we had two weeks and two days off for the holidays – they still didn’t go any slower but it was a great break – and suddenly it’s all over again!

I have managed to maintain my weight loss – almost – I have two pounds on but that isn’t bad considering I’ve entertained several times and been out and about too – and of course my niece bought me a caramel flavoured chocolate egg – I didn’t completely resist – I shared it between four of us –  I still ended up having about 50 gms of sugar in my portion!

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So I did a bit of reading, and a bit of cooking, and a little shopping too to get myself re-energised for my banting journey – I still haven’t managed to start my couch to 5k – I’m scared of the notion of running if truth be told but I will have to bite that bullet now that the longer evenings are here. I did get out for a few walks over the break but not enough. What is interesting is that although I have now really been in plateau for about three months – well – I have four pounds off in that time – I have managed to maintain that weight loss and not do my usual mad hike back into bad habits and weight gain.

I read a really good article on the Realmealrevolution.com website last week about banting and food lists and what should be or not be on the green list – it was reassuring to know that this is not an exact science – Jonno wrote that the bottom line is that you make good food choices to suit your lifestyle, and sometimes that means cutting corners – not always but to focus on the most important aspect of banting for you – and for me that is following a lifestyle that I can live with while not feeling deprived or isolated from the rest of society!

In a nutshell this is the most important section of that article –

“What is Banting?

  • It is learning you are right to challenge your existing beliefs
  • It is taking control of your life and living on your terms
  • It is refusing to accept the status quo
  • It is making healthy choices and knowing why
  • It is being empowered, not overpowered, by what you eat
  • It is digging in. Not passing up
  • Not depriving
  • Not abstaining
  • It is indulging in delicious meals you used to think were harmful
  • It’s avoiding other meals you believed to be good
  • It is overcoming your body’s harmful addiction to sugar and carbs
  • It is saying ‘yes’ to real fats and real foods, and ‘no’ to refined grains and processed goods
  • It is challenging the not-so-supermarket machine
  • It is voting against the foods you don’t want by choosing the ones you do

Each of us has our own food journey and our own health story to tell and how we interpret what Banting is depends on our own life experiences.

The number one rule when Banting is to eat real food – no sugar, no refined carbs, no processed foods. This is not a diet; it is a lifestyle, and it is your lifestyle. The rest is up to you.”

– http://realmealrevolution.com/real-thinking/the-lists-keep-changing-but-do-they

I haven’t managed to stay off the dread sugar for the two weeks – but that was partly by choice – I felt like indulging so I did and decided to accept the consequences which were minimal – I also managed to reign in my mad cravings – I had no night like my Christmas binge night so that was a positive. I had fish and chips one day – and on that same day I gave in to a craving for some white bread – an Italian roll from Lidl – God it was gorgeous but I had the hangover from hell the next day – and no desire for bread or potato since! It really is amazing how awful I feel when I eat too much carb now – so that is incentive to stay away.

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I was at Mc Nean’s Restaurant in Blacklion today for a parent and child cookery course with my middle child – a Christmas gift for her – and I tasted all she made – including the chocolate brownie – and have no regrets – I didn’t taste the nibbles left out for us when we arrived – I took my chia porridge with me instead – and so I am learning moderation in all things. However that same child will be confirmed in five weeks today so there is some pressure on now to make the dress I am going to wear just a little more comfortable than it is already….

Here are a few new things I have discovered in my banting journey to make it a bit more interesting for us all….

I made my first ever chia porridge yesterday – and tasted it with a lot of trepidation – I bought chia seeds way back in August in my first flush of banting and then put them in the back of the cupboard terrified of them – I’m not sure why really – turns out they are pretty gorgeous if you know what to do with them.

I got the porridge recipe from realmealrevolution.com – it’s very simple –  mix a tin of coconut milk – check that there is no added sugar in – with 1/3 of a cup measure of chia seeds and a good dollop of cinnamon. Leave it in the fridge overninght – it doesn’t look hugely attractive in the morning – but what happens is the chia seed takes in the liquid and takes on the consistency of tapioca – I love tapioca so I’m good with that! It doesn’t taste too coconutty either – and then I added just heated frozen raspberries yesterday – it was fine – not glorious but it tasted good enough. this morning I added the same raspberries – and some chopped almonds and a little dessicated coconut – and wow! It was so delicious – and it is incredibly filling – I had half the portion that I made yesterday – a third is really enough, and it also lasts in the fridge for up to three days so it can be made in advance for a quick lunch on the go – a new delight to intrigue my staff buddies with! Honestly – the pictures don’t do it justice – it really does tste lovely!

 

I also made my own fresh pesto this week – I was in the butchers and vegetable shop – I love that they are side by side and so easy to pop into – it kept me out of the supermarket – and I do think that you get better produce from craft butchers. I saw wild garlic in the vegetable shop – new to me – so I bought it along with some basil and made a batch of pesto which I smeared onto some chicken wings as an alternative to bbq sauce – they were very tasty – although next time I may just use a new product my children love on their potatoes – a spicy seasoning which is delicious

– I’ll try that next time and let you know how that one goes. We put it on along with the oil before cooking… okay – the recipe.

Homemade Basil and wild garlic pesto

Ingredients

  • a handful of basil
  • a handful of wild garlic
  • 60 gms pine nuts
  • 3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor and use for tomato sauces, or on wings as I did. The children loved it in some homemade burgers as well – that and some onion – gorgeous!

 

 

With the confirmation approaching I will be making food ahead and freezing – you know me and my freezer – so as I do I will post – today’s brownie by Neven was very adaptable for banting, and I have that Italian gateau that I can adapt too as a vegetarian side – I will get cooking and posting – oh and couch to 5 k-ing too!

 

Enjoy the weekend!

Orla

The dreaded plateau – and chicken delights. February 19th 2016

It’s been a lean few months in terms of weight loss. I have my 35 pounds off but since I reached that milestone I have stopped losing again. It’s frustrating to say the least of it. I have continued with the banting lifestyle – I just haven’t seen any improvement to my shape in recent times. I’m back to playing with the same three pounds up and down now for weeks.

I also stopped tracking. I broke out twice since Christmas – one major blowout involving wine, which is okay, but then crisps and chocolate biscuits too. Not a good evening – I got no sleep that night, and on a work night too! The second one was only little – I had a small piece of chocolate cake over the mid term – so not worth it. I didn’t particularly enjoy the flavour – it was very sweet, but I did it anyway. It didn’t set me back but I’m definitely not feeling the healthy lean feeling I had come to enjoy on the plan before this.

In an effort to get this whole thing moving again – I have a goal which is next May 2017 – my fiftieth birthday – I need to address a few issues. So here is my list of Not So New Year Resolutions – I’m hoping posting it here will help me to keep to it! I sat down this afternoon and watched the week four programme on the real meal page and it discussed plateaus and how to deal with them – so armed with that knowledge this is my plan.

  • First off I need to go back to tracking for a few weeks. I track on the real meal website – https://banting.realmealrevolution.com but there are apps out there that will track your food for you too if you don’t sign up for the course – there is a great one for iOS users – it’s from MyFitnessPal and it tracks your carbs, proteins and fats for you – it has more than 5 million foods in there so it should be pretty helpful! Ironically I went to download it and realised I had it from years ago – but never used it. Maybe I’ll start – it’s handy on the phone – and I do love my gadgets – it might be more fun that loading up the web page all the time.
  • I have gotten back into the habit of having about 40gms of Green and Black’s 85% Chocolate most evenings. It’s delicious and I love it. Now I’m thinking it’s maybe not such a great idea. I have definitely found I crave more food in general recently. I haven’t fallen off the banting wagon but I definitely snack more than I did before. I found Lindt 90% Chocolate in Sainsbury’s in Newry yesterday – and it is lovely – the carb content is much lower – have a look at the nutrient information.

    I was blissfully happy eating the 85% chocolate as it has only 14gms of sugar per 100 gms – so that is say 6gms of sugar a day – but look at the carb content! 22gms? That’s very high – too high for an everyday event. the interesting thing is that it is like a drug alright – you find the taste far too bitter to start and then you adjust and suddenly it tastes sweet and delicious and you’re getting that sugar rush all over again – no wonder I broke out twice in the last month! No more chocolate until Easter I think – that’s going to be hard but I want to get moving again so it has to be done! On a positive note I have no interest in any of the treats that appear with grim regularity at work – welcome as they are and generously given, I have no problem resisting as it is milk chocolate full of sugar – and to me at this stage it feels like I’d be ingesting poison. Result!

  • Having listened again to Prof Noakes about fasting I think this is something I need to try. he talks about our appestat all the time – the part of our brain that tells us when we have eaten enough – and suggests that when women plateau – and it is invariably women it happens to most – it is because our appestats are confused. We have spent so long too-ing and fro-ing  with every conceivable diet plan known to woman that it is difficult to teach it when we are genuinely full. SO fasting is a way to readjust the appestat. Mine is not happy at present. I am snacking all day – not eating a huge amount at any one time and so I’m not gaining any weight – but my body cannot tell me when I am hungry or when I am full. I need to pull back so I can experience genuine hunger again so that little part of my brain can get back into shape so I can too. I don’t think I could actually fast for days on end – people fast sometimes for up to five days – I’m not saying that I’ll do that but I will certainly try to snack less and fast more – have an eight hour window every day when I eat and then fast for the other 16 hours. That sounds drastic but it’s actually quite easy –                                             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DALqoZYWig8&feature=youtu.be –              this is the link for a very interesting talk by an Australian doctor on the subject – I think I posted it before.
  • Because I had a dodgy knee for a while after Christmas I stopped doing my 11,000 steps every day. The knee is mostly fine again – I still get a twinge when I come down the stairs sometimes, and if I wear one particular pair of boots – I never went back to the walking however. As a result I’m averaging only about 6,000 steps a day. so I need to get this back up to 10,000 or thereabouts I’m thinking. I’m loathe to try a 5km run but maybe this time I’ll just go for it – not sure if I could actually do that – I’m not a runner – never was – but maybe I need to up my game a bit! I watch my former colleague Siobhán’s amazing transformation into an Ironwoman with awe – maybe I need to follow very gingerly in her footsteps – in a very minor way of course!

 

That’s the plan from now until Easter anyway. We Irish have a history of famine conditions and are great at the Lenten campaigns – mine is kicking in a few days late but let’s see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

Finally – that chicken recipe. i found it over on a YouTube site called “proper tasty” and it’s one for chicken stuffed with ricotta and spinach then topped with cheddar and paprika and baked in the oven.

Here’s the link to the video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljklQ9VXBZ4 – it’ll take 41 seconds of your life and it’s worth it – I just had it for my tea – delicious and filling and satisfying. It’s amazing how much LCHF food is out there on so many different sites when you go looking.

Ingredients

  • chicken breasts
  • 50 gms spinach per breast
  • 50 gms ricotta per breast
  • cheddar for grating on top
  • salt, pepper and paprika

 

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius

Heat the spinach in a frying pan and when it has wilted add the ricotta and turn off the heat. Mix the two well together. Leave to cool unless you are planning to cook these straight away. Slice the chicken breasts almost through like hasselback potatoes – make sure not to cut straight through or you will end up with strips of chicken and not a breast.

Slot spoonfuls of the spinach mix into the gaps in the breasts then cover with cheddar and and a good dollop of paprika so they look red – as below, and season well with salt and lots of black pepper.

 

I cooked mine for about half an hour and served alone – you have veg and protein in the one portion here – serve with some broccoli if you feel it needs something on the side. It was a nice change but I’m not sure I’d make it a weekly addition – maybe once a month – they freeze really well so might be a good one for when there’s a busy time coming up. I am trying to empty my freezer not fill it at present so none went in mine today!

 

I’m away. New game plan starts tomorrow – wish me luck!

Orla