Eye-opening thanks to technology

As part of my quest to be healthy again, I’ve decided to start using every single one of my resources. I joined a gym (tick!), looked up swing dancing classes (they’re on Wednesdays TICK!) and looked at the millions of apps my Boy has downloaded from the App Store (okay, not millions. Maybe 500? Yes, he’s an addict) to find something useful. And find something I did.

First there’s Runkeeper, which uses GPS to track how far I’m running walking. I’ve only got the free version but it’s good for me now. I do also have a Couch to 5K app which I did use for a bit in Melbourne and then got off track. Must use that again. It’s great. You can play your own music behind it and it gives you audio cues when to walk and when to run with a loud beep in between, so you definitely can’t miss it over your music. No more thinking about when to do what and for how long. You just go and listen to the lovely voice telling you exactly what to do. Brilliant!

On the food front, the Boy has a number of apps and the one I’ve chosen to use is Lose it! which functions as a food log and weight-loss goal tracker. It’s super easy to use, although I do think that it’s a little on the conservative side with my projected weightloss – I have 10 lbs to lose and it’s telling me that it’ll take me 6 months. I’m really hoping I can drop 10lbs before then. But on the other hand, I’d prefer something conservative than something promising me 10lbs lost in a week! I only started using it yesterday and there were a few foods not in their database that I had to add but that’s par for the course. One bit of feedback I may give them is to have the option to download international food databases, as I think the only one in their is American and there are tons of brands and foods available elsewhere. But that’s minor.

In one day of tracking, what I’ve found eye-opening is the level of my sodium consumption! I thought I had a fairly average or low consumption when it came to salt and sodium levels but apparently not! The daily recommended value for sodium intake is approximately 2300mg, which sounds really high but when you think about how much sodium can be in everyday food items, even those that aren’t particularly salty, it’s actually fairly low. My consumption yesterday? 3200mg. 900mg higher than the daily recommended value. That’s not something I like. Entering all the nutrients from food labels and adding all the items to my tracker was definitely an experience.

I also learnt that even though I think I don’t eat too many carbs, my carb intake was through the roof – 66% of my calories came from carbs yesterday. True, I had a piece of wholegrain toast as part of my breakfast but a lot of the other carbs were simple carbs sadly and that needs to change. While I’m technically staying within my calorie range, the makeup of those calories could definitely be better. More protein, fewer simple carbs (no, I’m not a low-carb fanatic) and definitely less sodium.

Today is a new day. How are you going?


I don’t want to say I told you so, but …

Fad diets don’t work.

There. I said it.

I’m only 29 years old and yet I’ve known this since I was a little girl skipping down the driveway (and back up again since I wasn’t allowed to leave the house alone). How is it possible that I’m in possession of this AMAZING information that so many people never seem to learn?

I watched my mother then and I watch her now. And while she never seems to learn, I am taught this lesson over and over again.

A few weeks ago, when I flew into Melbourne from Toronto, my mother enthusiastically told me all about this new diet that was going to help her shed all her excess weight. All 6lbs of excess weight. What was this AMAZING eating plan? It was a 7 day extreme detox/weight loss plan devised for obese heart patients who needed to lose weight before surgery. It involved eating vegetable soup all day and then different foods every day for 7 days. No protein until Day 5 when you were allowed 3 pieces of chicken over the whole day. Day 4 involved soup and 6 bananas. Day 3 involved packets of tomatoes. Day 6 involved tons of steak. And always the soup.

As soon as she told me about this GREAT plan, I rolled my eyes. She quickly told me about all her friends who had lost TONS of weight. It helped that they had tons to lose. She wasn’t stupid – she wasn’t going to do this for more than a week … at a time. I got so frustrated – could she not see how ridiculous this was? How nutritionally devoid of anything healthy this was? How does a woman reach her 60s without realising that your body needs nutrients and depriving it is not going to achieve results?

I told her what I thought and then I spent the week biting my tongue as she told me that she’d lost a pound. Then, on the last day, she came home from playing bridge and her face was white. She’d almost fainted and had to eat something OFF DIET while she was there. She was genuinely surprised (it seemed) that this diet had not been good for her body. And the next day, when she weighed in and discovered that she’d lost absolutely nothing in the week, she again seemed really surprised.

I held back on the famous foud words I was dying to say … I.Told.You.So.

I’ve watched her try every single diet out there (even the ones she’s forgotten about): SlimFast, cabbage soup, green soup, detox, WW, Jenny Craig, SureSlim, you name it. Every diet was designed to help her shed those lost pesky 10lbs and every diet was abandoned when it didn’t work overnight.

I know that I have 6lbs to lose to get back to my best weight – my healthiest, happiest weight. I know that those last few pounds will take me time to lose. I’ve done it before and I know what to do but I also know that it’s a tough process, without immediate gratification which makes it so demoralising sometimes. But I know it’s doable.

I just wish my mother would learn that too.

Tuesday Tucker

A possibly new feature if I can be bothered!

As I mentioned in my last post, I christened a new slow cooker yesterday and I did it with a new recipe. Which I love and therefore feel the need to share.

Salsa Chicken

4 chicken breasts
2 jars of medium or hot salsa (I used medium but next time I might use 1 hot and 1 medium)
1 can of black beans
1 can of sweet corn

Pour the salsa, beans and corn into the slow cooker. Mix well.

Add the chicken breasts and make sure they’re completely covered with the liquid.

Set to cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

Voila – come home to a tasty, healthy dish that you can eat as is or serve over rice or with tortillas. So yummy and so easy. It’s a pretty clean-eating meal, depending on how you serve it.

I now have lunch today and 2 servings in the freezer. I’m also cooking a beef stew in the slow-cooker today which should give me plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.

Taking time and making time pt 1

Wow, what a cryptic title. What on EARTH could I be talking about? Have I found a way to MAKE time?

Well, no. But hear me out.

We live in a world where time is precious. We never have enough and we want everything to happen quicker and sooner and faster and NOW because we don’t have time to waste. Which means we put off things like going to the gym or cooking a big meal when it’s only for ourselves, or dressing well, or looking after ourselves because, well, there are more urgent things to do.

But this is wrong. This is bad.

Because if we don’t take the time for ourselves, if we don’t make the time for ourselves, then we’re really no good for anyone else.  Our work is not productive, our social lives suffer because we have no energy and no zest, and everything else that seems so important suffers. All because we think we have no time.

The thing is that we do have time for ourselves – we just need to find it, and take it. Yes, our days are busy with work, with family, with STUFF, but there are minutes and hours that are there for the taking.

Food is often one aspect that falls by the wayside when time is crunched. It seems easier to order in or buy convenience foods instead of eating well. But food is fuel and with crappy fuel, you have less energy and all that jazz. There are tons of ways of making time work for you when it comes to food:

  • Invest in a slow-cooker. I have a new one being christened today and I love it. I throw in the ingredients in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, program it to cook all day and dinner is ready when I get home. No effort required – no thought at the end of a long day. And the bonus is that I’ve got enough cooked for a few meals – bringing me to point #2
  • Cook in bulk and freeze ready-made meals. These are SO much better than the ones you buy at the grocery store and tons cheaper too. You control the ingredients and the sodium and the chemicals so they’re so healthy. Cook a big meal and then freeze separate portions so they’re easy to grab from the freezer when you have no food in the pantry or time to prepare a new meal.
  • Separate food into ziploc bags when you first put them away. Things like veggies you plan to use for salads or meals or snacks. It may take a little more time than simply stashing them away, but it makes it super easy to grab on the go – for lunches or snacks or whatnot. It takes away the thought and effort when you’re in a rush. It also means you’re less likely to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting and ignore your dinner – it takes more effort to keep getting up for another little ziploc bag of snacks!
  • Menu plan and shop mindfully. Again, putting in a little more effort at the beginning saves time down the track. If you sit down before you grocery shop and plan your meals for the week (it doesn’t need to be a hard-and-fast every item plan), it can save you time and money at the store and mean that you’re less likely to wander aimlessly and throw out food at the end of the week. I’ll admit that I don’t follow this all the time, but I notice when I don’t. For example, this week, I planned my slow-cooker meal tonight, which will last for lunch and possibly dinner tomorrow night. I’m out Wednesday and Thursday night so no meals then. I have some tuna for tuna salad for lunches and then I bought some stewing meat for another slow cooker meal for Friday night.  Not expensive and not time-consuming at all.
  • Buy frozen veggies and use them liberally. Frozen veggies are not the devil’s invention but rather, an amazing time saver! Frozen chopped onions, chopped spinach, mixed veggies – they all make life easier.  Again, this is simply about not trying to re-invent the wheel – if you have the time to buy fresh, great, but if not, it’s super easy to throw some veggies in with some chicken strips and sauce and voila, you have a stirfry.

Some simple hints and tips that can make life easier and show you that time is there for the taking when it comes to easy meals. I hear too many people say that they have Kraft Dinner in their pantry because it takes too long to make a good meal and it’s only for one person and it’s expensive. It’s really not any of those things!

Portion distortion

In all our gnashing our teeth (figuratively of course – dentists would hate us otherwise) about portion sizes in restaurants and fast food joints and how it would be SO much healthier to cook ourselves, we’ve missed something. Our recipe books. Have you looked at the serving sizes there lately?

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine recently, our recipe books are contributing to our growing waistlines and have been doing so for a lot longer than those sneaky restaurants. According to an article on The Age website, over the past 70 years serving sizes have increased by almost 80 calories per serving.

They compared recipe books, in particular, the classic cookbook, Joy of Cooking, and compared the same 18 recipes over the past 7 editions. Only one stayed the same. From the article:

Of the 18 recipes published in all seven editions, 17 increased in calories per serving. That can be attributed partly to a jump in total calories per recipe (about 567 calories), but also to larger portion sizes.

Only the chili con carne recipe remained unchanged through the years. The chicken gumbo, however, went from making 14 servings at 228 calories each in the 1936 edition, to making 10 servings at 576 calories each in the 2006 version.

This is not something I was even considering. How is it that something that made 14 servings 70 years ago can suddenly only satisfy 10 people now? Are we suddenly hungrier? Or are we so used to excess that anything less is not enough?

I try remember to pack a lunch in the morning but often I forget – either to take it with me or to cook enough the night before for leftovers. So I eat in the cafeteria at work and they pile my plate. I have to watch like a hawk when it comes to noodles or rice and yell out to stop after one pile (I yell nicely though). They look at me like I’m crazy because my plate is still “empty”. I know that I’ll eat it if it’s there and really, I don’t need it. But do we generally expect to fill our plates because we’re hungry or because it shows that we’re well off enough to be able to do so?

Was the Depression in 1936 the reason that the servings were smaller? As we’ve become “wealthier” have we become gluttonous? Will the current recession change that or, as The Guardian writes, is the recession ruining our health?


On the not-so-good side

  • I’ve been wearing my ‘big’ jeans the last few days – not because my smaller jeans don’t fit but because I like feeling skinnier.
  • I’ve been rewarding myself with dark chocolate and justifying it by saying that I’m working hard or working out.
  • I’ve been justifying chips and fries and crap because I’m stressed and I deserve it.
  • I’m eating because I’m bored not because I’m hungry.

On the good side:

  • I’ve been drinking TONS of water and green tea (the tea because it’s DAMN cold!).
  • I’ve been working out even when I’m tired and would rather crawl into bed and avoid the world.
  • I’m planning a party on Valentine’s Day (which could be a bad point with all the alchol etc) to be social and stop working such long hours.

I’m not allowing the not-so-good to outweigh the good because life is not black or white. It’s about getting balance and I’m working on it. I’m aware that my eating is not great right now and I’m struggling with making the healthy choice some of the time. I’m very aware of the angel and devil on my shoulders and the intense discussion that goes one whenever I crave a chocolate or whatnot – the justification, the bribery, the guilt. But I’m working through it.

And I’m also aware that I’m in danger of sinking into hermit-like behaviour which is another reason I’m throwing the party. I need to plan some socialising that I can’t make excuses for and bail on. Hell, if people are coming to MY place, I need to BE there, you know?

Anyway, confessions out of the way. Pizza for lunch (lunch meeting, boss has ordered pizza, no choice in the matter) but it’s all good. After all, I deserve it AND I’m working out tonight 😛

Taking a step towards the V word

It’s been happening slowly slowly – so slowly in fact, that I barely noticed it. At first it was simply a case of availability and ease. I’m really just lazy and this happened to be the easiest thing to do. But then, slowly, I realised that I didn’t miss anything and really, it made a lot of sense to make it official.

I’m cutting out red meat.

I’m not going completely vegetarian – still going to eat fish and probably chicken (although at the moment, after all the chicken breasts I ate last year, I’m slightly ill at the thought of cooking chicken) but definitely no red meat – no steak, no burgers, no lamb. Nada.

And really, I don’t think I’m going to even notice really. Why?

  1. I am, as mentioned above, inherently lazy. Cooking meat takes more effort than fish or chicken from my experience. It’s also usually more expensive and not always available in the cuts I like at the store, so I end up sticking with other options.
  2. It’s usually more expensive at restaurants too and, since we’re all on the money-saving kick, I end up bypassing the meat options. Unless it’s a burger but really, I could always choose the chicken burger instead.

But it’s a step. And I’m making it official. I could say that this is a step in being more religious and keeping the laws of kashrut; I could say that I’m appalled by the treatment of animals and am making a stand. But really, I’m just making my laziness official.