Killing Bad Habits, Creating New Ones

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Part of achieving a lifestyle change and making it stick is killing old habits and creating new ones. When I began my weight loss journey a few years ago, I had to break some bad habits and adopt some new healthy ones. Everyone made it sound easy, like I could just flip a switch, but it was really hard. Along the way, I found some tricks and short-cuts that really helped me reinforce my behaviour changes. For anyone who has just started their weight-loss journey or is struggling to break bad habits, this post is for you.

Stop Snacking.

A lot of people who are overweight struggle to lose the weight because they are constantly eating, snacking, picking, grazing and consuming a few hundred extra calories on top of their regular meals. Food is a drug, it releases feel-good chemicals in our brain and our senses are heightened. Snacking is a bad habit when it is preventing you from losing weight or causing you to gain weight. But there are a few habits you can introduce that will help you stop your snacking habit. The most effective for me is chewing gum. I go through about 50 pieces of gum every 1-2 weeks. Yes, that’s a lot of gum. I also have very healthy teeth, according to my dentist, so maybe this gum-chewing habit is doing more good than I even realise. The second best habit to introduce is drinking more water. Every time you feel like a snack, drink a bottle of water. You will pee a lot more often so prepare for that, but your body will thank you for an increased intake of H2O. The third best habit to combat a bad snacking habit is introduce more physical activity. Change your routine. Are you snacking while watching Netflix in bed? Go to a class at the gym instead. Go for a walk and listen to a Podcast. Go walk to Starbuck’s and grab a decaf Americano. Replace your snacking with a different activity that will make you feel just as good, if not better, than that shitty kit-kat.

Drink less alcohol. 

Alcohol messes your body up. It sends your blood sugar levels sky-rocketing, only for them to crash and burn the next day. It is a depressant. It can change the composition of your gut bacteria. It increases your heart rate. So yes, it’s fun and it can make for a fantastic night out with friends, but it does not do the body good. If you struggle with your weight, alcohol may have an even greater impact on you than someone who doesn’t struggle with their weight. But there are a few new habits you can introduce to help kick the alcohol habit. Sign up for early morning gym classes on the weekend to avoid the temptation to go out boozing on a Friday night. Or sign up for a Friday evening gym class for the same effect. Alternate between champagne or red wine and water, so you consume half the amount of booze you normally would on a night out. If you’re going out for dinner, order a Diet Coke or sparkling water instead of boozing. You’ll still get a mental kick from the caffeine in the Diet Coke but without all the calories. Sounds boring, I know, but it will help you shed the pounds. Don’t stop socialising altogether, this isn’t good for your happiness, but find a way to cut down on booze while still being social.

Cut down (or out) refined sugar. 

When I was younger, I loved sugar. It was my drug. I drank it, in the form of Dr Pepper or Mountain Dew. I ate it, in the form of candy. I snacked on it, in the form of brownies, cookies and cakes. I had a terrible sugar habit and when my weight peaked at 210 lbs. in 2009, I knew I had to do something about it. It took years before I got to a place where I was consistently eating a low-sugar diet. I gradually cut down. Then I pretty much cut it out altogether. Then I got stuck in a restrict and binge cycle (e.g. no sugar for a week, followed by a big bag of Pic n’ Mix at the cinema on the weekend). Then I got to a place where I was having it semi-regularly but in extremely low amounts (e.g. a few squares of chocolate a couple of times a week). Refined sugar is the reason that most overweight people are overweight. So, how do you kick this habit when sugar is on pretty much every list of ingredients in the supermarket? Again, I go back to chewing gum (bubblegum flavour to be precise). Drink flavoured sparkling water (not too regularly though, it’s full of artificial sweeteners). Eat more berries or any other low-sugar fruit. Drink black coffee after large meals to help re-balance your blood sugar levels. Exercise more, to help maintain level blood-sugar levels. Eat complex carbohydrates like porridge or rye bread with breakfast for slow-release sugars and energy. Learn to think with your stomach and not your mind. Your stomach doesn’t want refined sugar, it will completely destroy the good bacteria in your gut. Your brain wants it because it’s a drug. My biggest piece of advice here is to not replace all sugar with artificial sweetener, because that’s not good for your body either. Also, don’t replace it with honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc. because those are all just different forms of sugar.

There is so much more I could write here. Instead, I’m giving you my perspective on the top three bad habits of overweight people and some top tips for creating and sustaining new healthy ones. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for a future post! For now, you can check out fitness and food tips on my Instagram and Facebook page. Thanks for reading and have a happy Sunday!

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Four reasons to try plant-based eating

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Two years ago, if someone had told me to go vegan or have meals without meat or fish, I would have laughed in their face. Then I suffered months of health issues, which wreaked havoc on my hormones, digestion, mood and life. So I decided in January 2018 to do a trial period of eating less meat and more plant-based foods. I wasn’t quite sure how it would go… would I be hungry all the time? Would I become morbidly obese? Would I have enough energy to exercise and lift heavy things? Would I waste away? Would my digestive system love me or hate me for it? Would I spend more money on food or less money on food? So many questions.

A few things happened, some positive and some negative, and I’m going to share the main benefits and drawbacks of plant-based eating, from my experience, with you today.

Five a Day

If you struggle to get your five-a-day, then go plant-based for a while. Making sure you get enough vitamins, protein and fibre in a diet that is mostly made up of vegetables, fruit grains and a few dairy products is not easy. I found myself making lunches with things like eggplant, butternut squash, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes, courgettes, broccoli and brown rice. My snacks were apples and bananas on a good day, and dark chocolate covered almonds on a bad day. I drink almond milk and apple juice pretty regularly anyway, so I kept these in. Yum.

Digestion

Eating vegetables does not give you the same bloat as eating meat. And if you suffer from any form of IBS or IBD, you’ll know that digesting meat can sometimes be painful and difficult. After six weeks of plant-based lunches, I can honestly say that I felt the difference. My meals didn’t sit like heavy rocks in my stomach. And I didn’t suffer from any uncomfortable gas either. My body liked them and digested them well. Sometimes I felt a little bloated after a carb-heavy meal but green tea and black coffee helped ease that symptom. My body struggled with some foods like broccoli and cauliflower, which are extremely fibrous, but as with any dietary adjustment, it just needed time and patience.

Satiety 

It is possible to feel full on this diet but you need to really pay attention to your protein and fibre intake. This was the only problem for me. I wasn’t always full after a plant-based meal. Sometimes I found myself hungry a couple of hours after lunch and honestly, I hate snacking during the day. It messes with my metabolism and messes with my mealtimes. If I don’t pick the right snack, it also sends my blood sugar levels all over the place resulting in crashes and mood swings and all sorts of horrors (yes, I’m human and sometimes I make bad choices.) I played around with meals including more chickpeas sometimes or lentils or quinoa. I don’t know if I ever nailed it but again, it takes time, patience and tweaks before you get it right and find your flow.

Carbs

Plant-based eating means that you get to eat more carbs, which is great. Bananas, sweet potato, squash, carrots, berries, apples, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc. More carbs means more energy, and fuel to thrive. If you’re a runner, you are probably used to eating a high-carb diet anyway. And if you’re not, then you’ll find you have more energy to burn in your workouts and cardio sessions. The only down-side to this way of eating? Sometimes, I did find myself over-eating or going too carb-heavy or too fat-heavy. It’s easy to fill up on bread and starchy carbs, but if you’re not using those to fuel yourself physically, the weight will start to creep back on.  And on the flip side, it’s easy to go too fat-heavy and gorge yourself on nuts and avocados. But if you’re not burning fat in HIIT-based workouts or balancing that out with a lower carb intake, your body will turn that fat straight into fat. DISCLAIMER: Every body is different. My housemate can eat an entire baguette every day and still stay a size UK 6. If I even look at a baguette, my hips and arms grow by like six inches.

Plant-based eating is great for getting your five a day and your stomach and bowels will thank you for it. But beware of over-eating, under-eating and eating too many calorie-dense foods. It’s easy to eat a banana peanut butter sandwich and think, “this is plant-based so I’m a beacon of health.” But you should probably be having raw carrots and homemade avocado dip instead — unless you’ve just run a 10K of course. If you’re strength-training, you’ll need to load up on protein like chickpeas, beans, tofu and peanuts. In fact, my body craved yoghurt after gym sessions, which told me that I needed more protein. If there are two key reasons to really try this, it’s: (1) to challenge yourself to eat more fruit and veg and (2) to find a way of eating that is good for your body and good for the environment.

Look… just try it. Give it a few weeks and then let me know how you get on. You can find me on Instagram or Facebook.

Sunday Fun-day: Golden Milk and Meal Prep

Some of you may be reading the title of this post and thinking, “Hmmm… what the hell is Golden Milk and meal prepping is the last thing I would label as Fun.” Today was not a typical Sunday, it ticked a lot of little happiness boxes for me. And Golden Milk was something I had been wanting to try for a while after putting turmeric in my tea and chugging it with my nose closed. Turmeric in hot tea alone isn’t great… but Golden Milk was actually quite drinkable. What makes me happy/content in life? My family, my friends, good coffee, a nice morning run, a super training session, dark chocolate covered rice cakes, a great vintage find, a successful meal prep… to name a few. Today, I had all of the above.

What is Golden Milk? This is a concoction of Turmeric, Ginger, Cinnamon, Honey, Chilli Flakes and Almond Milk. From browsing online, there are so many variations you can make; some people choose to use coconut milk and some people use black pepper rather than chilli flakes. I used what I had in my cupboard. Then I heated it on a hob for 7-10 minutes on a medium heat so that it simmered. It was then somewhat of ‘Golden Tea’ as I consumed it whilst hot. The key benefit of turmeric is that it’s an anti-inflammatory. This article explains some of the other health benefits really well.

Meal Prep this week was simple, clean and healthy. Turkey breast seasoned with cumin and cayenne pepper, raw kale, boiled broccoli, roasted courgettes and parsnips seasoned with coconut oil, salt and pepper. My carbohydrates will be incorporated into breakfast (Winter is now going to be known as “Porridge Season”), snacks (Rice Cakes: the basic bitch’s snack) and dinner (ALL the veggies). Last week, I met with a nutritional therapist who recommended I try Rye Bread so that may work it’s way into my diet this week too. More to come on the Nutritional Therapist meeting in a future post so stay tuned!

Now I shall leave you with my Sunday routine and my workout for all of you who want to try training GFARS style.

8:00am – Woke up and felt overjoyed that I had gained an extra hour of sleep

8:45am – Ran just over 6K through foggy Gladstone Park for some #fastingcardio with my sister

9:30am – Made some Avocado on rice cakes for breakfast with a side of banana, coconut and yoghurt… and a side of dark chocolate rice cakes with peanut butter. Oops, that’s a feast.

10:30am – Said Goodbye to my sister 😦

12:00pm – Hit the Puregym in Victoria and trained legs

1:45pm – Post-workout Phd Diet Whey Protein Shake for recovery

2:00pm – Walked down to some Vintage shops in Pimlico / Victoria area and had a browse… OK fine, I bought a cashmere Reiss sweater in a Vintage store (£15 = Bargain).

4:15pm – Bought 4 Sainsbury’s chicken drumsticks and demolished them (#PROTEIN)

4:30pm – Took the Underground home

5:00pm – Went to Sainsbury’s, bought food for the week and meal prepped

6:15pm – Made Golden Milk for the first time

6:30pm – Laundry, organisation for the week, email, etc.

7:00pm – Sat down and realised I still had a couple of hours to #NetflixAndChill but instead I’m blogging and reading because I have zero attention span for TV

 

Sunday “Fun-Day” Workout: 

Split Squats – 12kg (10 reps), 10kg (14 reps), 8kg (18 reps), Bodyweight (25 reps)

Step-Ups on a bench – 20 Reps X3

Jumping Squats – 15 Reps X3

Full-Body Clean and Press – 20kg // 15 Reps X3

Curtsey Squats – 20kg // 15 Reps each leg, X3

Leg Extension – 32kg // 10 Reps X4

Dumbbell Swings – 10kg // 20 Reps each arm, X3

Mountain Climbers – 40 Reps X3

Sit-Ups – 100 Reps

Russian Twists – 6kg // 30 Reps, X3

Leg Raises – 15 Reps // X3

Stretch and Foam Roller !

Meal Prepping: Staying on Track

 

Meal-prepping is the best way to get started with a new diet or eating plan. After a couple of weeks, you will become a pro and will be delighted at the time and money it saves. If you are a food-lover, sugar-addict, snack-muncher like me then you will know that staying on track with your diet and healthy eating is VERY difficult if you do not have a packed lunch or pre-prepared meals and snacks ready to go. It is a very simple concept. When you are hungry, you think with your stomach rather than your brain. When you meal prep, you are putting more thought into the food that you are preparing and the nutrients that you need to feel great and keep your energy levels up. It may take a couple of hours on a Sunday evening or a Monday night but you will thank yourself for it during the week when you save money and time during those weekday lunches. Just make sure you have snacks prepared too and don’t make the same mistake I have in the past, which is buying $10 worth of snacks on the way home because you haven’t eaten since lunch! Oops!

Meals:

My meals are usually very simple. Tuna with brown rice, butternut squash and broccoli. Chicken with sweet potato and sprouts. Turkey breast with boiled carrots, asparagus and kale. Lean meats, eggs and plenty of veggies. Choose a green vegetable (broccoli, sprouts, kale, spinach, asparagus) and pair it with a starch (sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, brown rice, plantains) and a protein (turkey, chicken, lean beef, egg). For goodness sake, don’t eat Tofu. It’s a soy product and nutritionists are screaming out about the dangers of soy. It’s not digestion-friendly and in my opinion, you’d be better off eating something like chickpeas, quinoa, beans or another comparable high-protein carbohydrate. Also, in the colder seasons, my favourite thing to make is stew. Just throw in some stock, chopped tomatoes, a whole ton of veggies and some meat or fish. As for seasoning, cumin, coriander, paprika and chipotle chills for a Mexican flavour OR maybe ginger, garlic, coriander, lemongrass and lime for a Thai flavour. Bulk-cooking requires less time than cooking different meals every night. If you get bored easily, just pair your main course with a different side dish or use different sauces and seasonings. I am salivating at the thought of this right now…

Snacks:

Forget carrot sticks and hummus… this is such a boring snack and it’s been overdone. We are all bored of it! What about making your own granola out of oats, coconut oil, flaked almonds, peanut butter and chia seeds? What about taking a little pot of apple, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts and coconut strips? Make your own “cookies” using banana, oats, almond flour, butter and cacao nibs. Make a PBJ sandwich using Meridian peanut or almond butter, smashed berries and wholegrain rice cakes. Steam some edamame or sugar-snap peas and sprinkle them with salt. If you snack on chocolate, try to make sure it’s 70% dark or higher (major challenge for an addict like me…). When it comes to yoghurt, try and always buy Total 0% greek yoghurt since it’s one of the only brands which contains live bacteria. If you love picking at popcorn, try to pick the brand with the lowest sugar. If you fancy snacking on fruit, go for berries since they are lower in sugar. There are so many other options besides carrot sticks! Just get creative, check out Instagram and try to make healthy versions of your favourite snacks.

Tips:

  1. Invest in good tupperware.
  2. Meal-prep 3-4 days in advance so that food stays fresh.
  3. Plan your meals before you do your grocery shopping.
  4. Don’t meal-prep when you are hungry.
  5. Search for inspiration on Instagram!

To anyone who calls this behaviour obsessive, I say this: I would rather spend the rest of my life obsessively meal-prepping and macros-counting than going back to my old ways of eating shitty food and feeling shitty as a result of my diet. If you haven’t read my story before, at the age of nineteen I was in a place where I was smoking, eating junk food, drinking sugary soft drinks, consuming too much alcohol and as a result, feeling sluggish, getting headaches, having regular stomach issues, and feeling breathless after climbing a small hill. I was an overweight mess of a human being! Today, I feel strong and fit and I have healthier skin, hair, nails and never suffer from headaches or diarrhoea anymore (TMI). My health isn’t perfect but I am a million times better than I was before and I am constantly trying to make better choices whilst achieving balance in my life. I thrive with a little touch of routine and organisation; it’s part of my nature and something I have always found comfort in. Meal-prepping helps me stay on track and saves me a lot of time and energy during the week when I am busy working and living my life. Try it for a week and see how much time and money you save!

Recipe: Coconut Prawn Curry

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This creamy, coconut prawn curry was absolutely delicious and much lower in calories than the restaurant or takeaway equivalents. I feel so accomplished when I make healthy versions of my favourite not-so-healthy meals! 

The weekend has come to an end. It’s Sunday night and your weekend is a blur of cheap champagne, good friends and lots and lots of fun. Cooking is the last thing you want to do right now. In fact, all you want is one more wonderful evening before the dreaded Monday morning blues roll around! The takeaway menu is lying on your kitchen counter and it would just be so easy to dial that sh*tty Chinese down the street. Stop! Throw that menu away. Put your phone down. Takeaway meals are so easy to make at home. This weekend, Asian food was on my mind, but rather than go to ‘Yum Yum‘ down the road, I decided to make my own healthy version of what I was craving. A few basic ingredients and all of ten minutes later, and dinner was served… an absolutely delicious, fragrant prawn curry served over some fluffy brown rice.

Whether it’s Fish n’ Chips, Pizza, Burgers, or Chinese Chicken, I will help you make your own healthy version! If you have any requests for healthy versions of your favourite takeaway meals, simply post on my Facebook or Instagram page. Until then, have a delicious night.

Ingredients: 

  • 180g Raw Jumbo King Prawns
  • 2 tbsp of coconut cream
  • 2-4 tbsp of boiling water
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 1″ of chopped Ginger
  • 1 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1/2 a tsp of honey
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil for cooking
  • 75g of Brown Rice (or basmati rice)
  • a sprinkle of desiccated coconut (for serving)

Method:

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a shallow frying pan on a medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and ginger.
  3. Add the prawns and let them cook halfway through (2-3 mins approx).
  4. Add the chilli flakes, soy sauce and honey.
  5. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the coconut cream, water and coriander.
  7. Cook for a further couple of minutes.
  8. Serve over the rice, add the coconut, and tuck in!

RECIPE: Banging Cilantro Turkey Burgers

There is nothing like a good burger, especially when it’s homemade. I like to know what ingredients are in my food and I like my meat nice and lean. There is nothing more repulsive that a grisly steak or a chewy fatty sausage. Please don’t misunderstand me- I LOVE beef mince and duck and bacon, but not if it is dripping with fat. Have you ever felt like you are wearing vaseline after eating meat? That is gross. Turkey mince is a great substitute for beef and it’s extremely lean. You don’t have to sacrifice flavour when munching on these juicy patties. They are packed with flavour from fragrant coriander, hot red chilli, and a few other herbs and spices. This week, I served mine with some low-sugar slaw because I was feeling lazy. But I would highly recommend serving these with avocado and a homemade mango pico de gallo or some cumin sweet potato fries. Wow, I’m salivating as I write this! Happy cooking and happy hump day.

Ingredients:

  • 500g lean Turkey Breast Mince
  • a handful of chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp of ground Cumin
  • 1 tbsp of ground Coriander
  • 1 tbsp of Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 Red Chilli (diced)
  • 1 medium Egg
  • 1/2 a Red Onion (diced)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Coconut Oil (for cooking)

Method (makes approximately 6-7 small patties):

  1. Place the turkey mince in a bowl.
  2. Add the egg, onion, chilli and coriander and mix it up with a fork!
  3. Add the spices and stir it up until the mixture is covered.
  4. Heat up the coconut oil in a frying pan or griddle on a medium heat.
  5. Get your hands dirty and form approximately six or seven patties from the mixture.
  6. Cook those burgers for approximately 5-7 minutes on each side or until cooked all the way through.
  7. Serve with whatever topping your heart desires!

 

*I recognise that the photos in this post are not high quality! Please rest assured that future recipe photos will be a lot better. Thanks!

Recipe: Moroccan-Style Chicken

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Moroccan-Style Chicken with Sweet Potato, Coriander and Almonds.

This dish happened by accident. As I was browsing the web for foodspiration, I stumbled across a couple of clean recipes for Tagine. After moving into a new apartment with minimal cooking equipment, I realised that I had to get creative. Also, I’m not a huge fan of raisins so I thought I would tailor the recipe to my own preferences. Little did I know that I would finish with one of THE best dinners I have ever cooked. Taste buds were delighted and I cannot wait to make this again. You can serve it with wholegrain rice if you want some extra carbs, or a spinach leaf salad if you don’t want any more starch.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2″ of Ginger
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Large Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup of Almonds
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Dates
  • a small bunch of fresh Coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground Ginger
  • 2 tbsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground Coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground Cumin
  • 500ml of Chicken Stock
  • 1 tbsp of Organic Honey
  • 1 large tbsp of Coconut Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

  1. Chop up the chicken breast into small bite-size chunks.
  2. Heat up the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  3. Divide the coconut oil between two medium-sized casserole dishes.
  4. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into small bite-size chunks.
  5. Finely chop the ginger, garlic and fresh coriander.
  6. Add the chicken, potatoes, ginger, garlic, and fresh coriander to the casserole dishes.
  7. Add the dry spices and herbs.
  8. Toss the mixture around with a fork so that the spices and herbs cover the chicken and potatoes.
  9. Gently pour the stock over the dishes.
  10. Drizzle the honey over the top and sprinkle on the almonds and dates.
  11. Season and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
  12. Take the dishes out of the oven and toss the mixture around with a spatula or fork.
  13. Place the dishes back in the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes.
  14. Serve and enjoy!