Monday, 27 April 2015

Weigh-in day...

It'd be fair to say that I've not taken the best care of my body this week.  Five days at work, one job interview, and two gigs have combined to ensure that I've been too busy to worry so much about food, and a weekend away certainly did not help.  I also almost broke my kneecap on a concrete step, curtailing my movement somewhat, so my exercise and step count suffered too.

All in all, I'm not expecting another 3lb weight loss today.  I was good during the week though.  I never had more than 1200 calories and I was active throughout, but it was a pretty crazy weekend.  Thankfully, it's definitely getting easier to eat out on a diet.  More menus are either including a calorie count or have a set of 'lighter' options.  Some people grumble about this - it spoils the fun of eating out, or you should prepare your own food if you're worried about your health, blah - but their lives are obviously more organised and better managed than my own.  What's the problem with giving people information about what they're eating?  For me this weekend, it was the difference between me going over my calorie budget by a couple of hundred calories, rather than an extra thousand.  

Felicity Cloake's perfect puttanesca
Felicity Cloake's puttanesca (from The Guardian)
When I was eating well, the highlight was probably the Hairy Bikers' spicy pork mince (which I ate for two nights in a row), although I'll give a special mention to their pasta puttanesca (review to come - for now, find more about the delicious dish here).  Using olives, capers and anchovies to flavour the tomato base gives a lovely salty taste that also works as a great topping for pizza.  The sauce freezes really well, so it's a great bulk recipe.  

I still haven't made it home yet so I'm probably going to weigh myself before lunch.  They say you should weigh yourself at the same time each week but, again, my life never seems arranged for that kind of regularity.  If I'm down to 12 stone 1, I'll be happy.  It'll be a great springboard to get me under 12 stone next week.


Right, I've weighed in.  Hilariously, I've lost 4 pounds!  I can only think that it's thanks to going back to my usual work duties (trust me, working in a library does not allow for much sitting down).  I also must have been more careful with my food and exercise than I'd realised.  I don't see any difference yet, despite having lost half a stone, but I do feel better.  The focus of this week of the diet plan is to increase exercise, so perhaps greater attention to toning up will make the difference.

So, as of Monday 27th April, I weigh 11 stone 12 (75.3 kg).

Thursday, 23 April 2015

I've lost three blobs!

I lost three of these.  Gross, huh?
Three pounds, that is.  Not bad for a week which involved a Wetherspoon's brunch burger.  After a week of good eating, it was delightful, but my body appreciated the following day's salad.

How did I lose three pounds so quickly, I hear you cry. Diet and exercise.  Sorry.  It was always going to be a dull answer.  More specifically, I followed the Hairy Bikers' fast-track meal plan (making a couple of substitutions here and there), which allows up to 1200 calories a day, and tried to exercise four days out of the seven.  I did ok.

Admittedly, I did feel a bit ropey for the first few days.  There is an inevitable dip in energy when you first move onto a lower calorie diet (after all, the body needs to adapt) and I think I really felt the loss of high-sugar snacks.  It seemed unlikely that I would ever have the energy to exercise as well as diet.  Yet, by Saturday, I was confident in taking on my first spin class.  I didn't do great (my thighs went all wobbly and I had to modify the routine to prevent complete leg failure) but I did manage to keep going for the 45 minutes.  I can see this becoming a more regular part of my exercise regimen.

The most interesting aspect of the week was how I almost didn't want to eat badly on my designated cheat days.  I gave myself a free pass over the weekend as I was going to be out and about.  Frankly, I didn't want to spoil my good time with calorie counting.  But I found that I didn't want the really high-calorie, high-fat food that I used to crave.  I felt well satisfied after a slice of cake but had no desire to have more sugar.  On the Sunday, I had the super naughty burger and onion rings for lunch and really enjoyed it, but that was all that I ended up eating for the rest of the day and I felt keen to have a healthy salad the next lunchtime.  It feels like I've retrained my body within just one week, allowing myself to enjoy naughty foods as treats rather than as emotional crutches.  Was I eating before to satisfy hunger or because of boredom or stress, or even just habit?  It's a question worth asking next time you're elbow deep in the cookie jar.

I'm not stupid enough to think that I have all of the answers after one week.  Losing weight gets harder as you go along and I'm unlikely to get another big loss on the scales this week, particularly as I have another cheat weekend on the cards (working Saturday and Sunday with gigs both evenings – bad food is gonna happen).  But if I can use what I've learnt so far to keep my calorie input down during the week, I can enjoy my weekend guilt-free.

So, as of Monday 20th April, I weigh 12 stone 2 (77.1 kg).  Yay!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The OCD Dieter

I know, I know.  Dieting's a mug's game.  It won't be any fun.  I'll only put it back on once I've finished.  I might even put on more.  Gah.

Dieting is not something I've ever got on board with.  However, I need to face facts.  Right now, I'm the closest to fat that I've ever been.  BMI-wise, I'm hovering on the line between healthy and overweight.  Being tall means that I carry my weight quite well – my friends often say that I look slim – but I know I've put on a lot of extra pounds so far this year.  A high-stress ICT project will do that to you.  I want to get rid of some of it, and that's going to mean some kind of change to my diet.

Hairy Bikers Diet ClubMy main problem is that I really do enjoy food and there is no doubt that diet choices can be uninspiring.  With that in mind, I've actually taken the plunge and paid for a diet club: the Hairy Bikers' Diet Club.  I've spoken before about my love of the Hairy Bikers and how effective I find their recipes.  With this diet, I can eat their tasty food and explore a range of new recipes too.  This week, I've already had a tangy beef fillet, barbecue chicken and marinated lamb.  They have been sparser meals than I'm used to, but still full of flavour and satisfying as an evening dinner.

The program pushes the importance of exercise according to fitness levels, and there is an online diary in which to record calorie input versus output.  It even breaks down the nutritional information, which is useful considering how calorie restriction can result in sidelining important vitamins and minerals.  It feels like a good way to keep myself accountable for my eating.  At the very least, I should be more thoughtful about what I'm making and eating.

I've also put some wiggle room into my personal program.  This weekend, for instance, I'm going to be attending a wrestling show and it would be a downer for me to be chewing salad beforehand.  So Saturday is a cheat day.  I'll exercise in the morning (my first spin class, God help me) to give me some calorie leeway but if I want a burger or a slice of cake, so be it.  Factoring in a cheat day has also helped keep me on the straight and narrow this week.  Knowing I can relax a little in a few days makes it easier to turn down dessert the rest of the time.

I really feel like I've made a positive start but I need to keep myself focused.  My husband wouldn't notice if I put on or lost a couple of stone, so I guess I'll turn to the Internet for support.  Weekly online weigh-ins should do the trick.

On that basis, as of April 13th 2015, I weighed 12 stone 5 (about 78.5 kg).

Mondays will be weigh-in days and I shall post a quick update during the week to pass on the good or bad news as I go.  I'll still be cooking, eating and reviewing as normal, but let's see if I can do it all a bit more mindfully.  And let's see if a weekend of naughty eating can undo a week of good behaviour...

Friday, 10 April 2015

Hairy Bikers' Beef Madras

OCD Panic Rating: 3/5
Handwashes: at least 4

I love curry.  It's amazing.  However, I generally like to have it presented to me while I sit under a blanket watching TV.  I'm a bit lazy that way.

This week, though, I had a recipe that seemed doable, a husband that wasn't going to be home until late, and an unexpected afternoon off work, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to throw together some proper home cooking.  This was also my contribution to our week of homecooked dinners, so it wasn't all my husband's responsibility.

The recipe really is simple and comes from a really fab book by the Hairy Bikers.  You cook off some onion, garlic and chilli, chuck in a few spices, some tinned tomatoes and some meat, throw it in the oven and come back to tasty yumyums an hour or two later.


I alluded last time to what happened when my husband tried to make this:

What's wrong with this picture?

This is the result of putting a non-flameproof casserole dish on a gas hob.  Epic fail.  I genuinely thought that there was no way I could make a worse mess of it than he did.  I wasn't wrong, although I made a decent fist of it.

I bought 800g whole braising steak for this meal.  All I needed to do was trim the fat off it and cut it into good-sized chunks.

It took me six different knives to do this.

Maybe I'm stupid or maybe my knives are dull, I don't know, but I could not cut that fucking meat for the life of me.  I almost resorted to using the bread knife before discovering a mighty blade at the back of my knife rack which is about 5mm off being a full-on machete.  It cut through the meat like butter, but not before I'd tried ripping the fat off the beef with my bare hands.  Not a strong moment.

Bearing in mind that I'm an OCD sufferer, this was all quite distressing.  Hilarious, but distressing.  I felt like I was coated in cow for the next twelve hours and it is quite remarkable that four handwashes was sufficient for me to get through the evening.  Thankfully, the rest of the preparation was fine and the madras went into the oven looking pretty damned good.

At the allotted time, I took it out, expecting to find chunks of tender meat in a thick, spicy gravy.  I had soup.  The liquid did not seem to have boiled off at all and it took a good twenty minutes on the hob for the consistency to come out properly.  Pathetic cook alert: I did call in my husband at this point to make sure I was doing it right.  Apparently I was, and the food did eventually make it to the table, just a little bit later than planned.

I've got to say though, it was totally worth the wait.  The meat really was tender, flaking away as soon as the fork touched it.  The gravy did have the right consistency: wet enough to provide a satisfying sauce but also thick enough to coat the meat and rice well.  Considering the relative lack of spices in it, the flavour was very satisfying.  The use of red chillies flavoured the sauce and gave it a warm heat without overwhelming the taste.  And there was a load left to freeze as well.

Based on this experience, it'll be a little while yet before I'm ready to tackle my real food fears, especially chicken, but I'm really pleased that I was able to manage such a meaty dish.

Key Points:

  • Know your tools.  Picking out the right knife first time would have saved me a lot of angst and a load of extra washing-up.
  • Know your oven.  I've learnt to work around my oven's idiosyncrasies when baking but haven't yet mastered it with normal cooking.  In future, I'll reduce the amount of stock to maybe 600-650 mls rather than 750, which should stop it getting too thin.

Win rating: 4/5.  It was a 5/5 for flavour but I did come close to a full OCD tailspin, knocking it down a point.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Food challenge completed!

I always admitted that it was a modest challenge but I'll also admit that it was nice to see it through.  There was definitely a physical and psychological benefit to eating a homecooked meal each evening.  I ate out last night for the first time in about ten days and definitely felt more bloated afterwards.  Might mean a sea-change in how I view food treats from now on.

Here's a breakdown of what I ate:

Monday: Pork escalope – one of my personal favourites but not much of a success this time.  Guessing that the oil wasn't hot enough when the breaded pork was added so it soaked up the oil rather than becoming crispy.  Ended up being a bit soggy.  The meat was still tasty but it didn't have the satisfying crunch that I love.

Tuesday: Beef madras – I made this.  Review to come later. Spoiler alert: it was good.

Wednesday: Chipotle chicken – Back to husband cooking.  He flattened the chicken to make it cook quicker and coated it in a chipotle rub, which is the bee's knees.  Had it with broccoli and couscous and it was excellent. 

Trofie pasta macro.jpg
Trofie pasta
Thursday: Pesto pasta – We may have stretched the rules a little bit today as we ended up having a lunch out together, meaning we only needed a small meal in the evening.  Husband threw together pasta and pesto, using the yummy trofie pasta to give it a bit of bite.  Simple but effective.

Friday: Chicken bhuna – Thanks, OCD, for guaranteeing that everything I eat over the next few days will fill me with fear.  My husband isn't the most hygiene-minded in the kitchen so now EVERYTHING is covered with raw chicken, at least as far as my mind is concerned.  He also used the green chopping board for cutting the raw chicken, which is clearly not what the GREEN-COLOURED VEGETABLE CHOPPING BOARD is for.  I do actually hold him responsible for some of my forthcoming crazy because of this, but I am aware that I am probably overreacting a little (a lot) about the whole thing.  The bhuna itself was ok but I had premonitions of what was going to happen with the chicken and it made me prematurely sad.  The thought that I've challenged myself to cook chicken in December is really freaking me out now.

Saturday: Tilapia and prawns in spicy butter sauce – How good does this sound, right?  It's one of those dishes that sounds posh and difficult but barely takes any time to put together.  It's another special from Gizzi Erskine but we were forced to replace the plaice (replaice?) with tilapia, which is a tasty white fish that I've only previously encountered in curries.  It was delightful and fresh.  I'd had an horrendous day at work and was mentally prepared to give in and buy pizza but I'm so glad I didn't.  Mental health note: while it might feel like binge-eating some junk is going to make you feel better, it almost certainly won't.

Sunday: Bacon and clam pasta – This one's a Hairy Bikers' recipe.  The saltiness of the clams and bacon is complemented by some fresh parsley.  It doesn't have any egg or cream but the clam juice coats the pasta to keep it from feeling too dry.  Generally a favourite with me but there was half a garden's worth of parsley on mine, which started to completely overwhelm the flavour and affect the texture.

I'm glad that we managed to complete this mini-challenge.  I feel like I've eaten better this week because of it, although I've still been snacking much more than I should do.  I've a shocking inability to turn down sweet treats.  I'm blaming work stress but it may well just be a lack of food discipline. 

It's also been nice to know that I've not been spending quite so much on food as I was previously.  At the very least, I've not felt as guilty when I have eaten out at lunchtime or had a piece of cake.  That can only be a good thing as food guilt can be quite debilitating at its worst.  By generally eating well, I've taken the pressure off myself a little bit for when I can't (or just don't).  A useful lesson learnt.