31 days – Habits created

One month has passed since I made the positive change to improving my health.  My intention was to be sugar free (apart from sugar in vegetables and dairy products) and be meat free).  I have however, taken it a step further and not eaten any fish, eggs and virtually cut out dairy products and so for the majority of the month I have eaten a vegan diet and the remainder of the time, vegetarian.  It wasn’t really a conscious decision…it just sort of happened.

Apart from the first week of sugar detox unpleasantness, I have enjoyed the month. I have found a few things out about myself – I do have will power and an inner voice that is looking out for me!! On the odd occasion when I have been hungry between meals (I actually haven’t wanted to snack between meals very much at all), I’ve opted for a savoury snack – new found passion for oatcakes and Marmite – rather than a sweet biscuit or two … or three! I have found myself having internal dialogue – acknowledging how much better I feel and do I really want to jeopardise that feeling?! In fact, there has been a bar of chocolate in the bottom of my handbag all month – I found it the other day. 31 days ago it would have ‘shouted’ at me and been snaffled and the wrapper probably hidden! There are also biscuits, homemade cakes and puddings for my husband – i’m not interested! Although I am focusing on how the food choices make me feel, an additional benefit is that I have lost 4kg over the month. Chemo weight is finally coming off  😁 yay!

I do think about food a great deal – not in a negative way though. Instead I enjoy planning and thinking about the day’s meals, enjoy reaching a mealtime hungry and therefore really enjoy what I am eating – every rainbow mouthful – rather than just seeing food as body fuel. I have settled in to a pattern of planning the week’s main meals on a Friday, collating the shopping list from this and therefore only buying what we need. An additional plus is that we don’t have any food going to waste and the weekly food bill is reduced!

Creative food swapping is becoming easier – my cheese sauce swap has really helped cut out a lot of dairy. I did think removing cheese from my diet would be hard – not helped by many vegan cheeses tasting, in my opinion, pretty vile. However, I have found a brand that tastes good and melts well – perfect for lasagne toppings etc.  Oat milk is very tasty in tea and coffee or I drink weak black tea (thanks HS for the tip 😊) although I have cut my consumption of these drinks significantly and prefer herbal teas.  Butter is the one food I haven’t found an alternative I enjoy. Toast and butter..mmm… I don’t have it very often but thoroughly enjoy it when I do. Any really tasty alternative options out there? From a purely health point of view I think butter is better for me than a vegetable spread with lots of additives.

I have been pleasantly surprised, when I have eaten out, about the number of vegetarian and increased number of vegan options on the menus. Foods with wonderful flavours and textures.

So many people have been supportive, which is lovely, but – here comes a negative – occasionally the odd person (occasional not strange!) passes a comment such as, ‘ Should you be eating that?’ or even, ‘You can’t eat that!’ For me, my diet choices are for my health – mine. My choice; my decisions.  At the moment, I can’t imagine eating meat / fish again but…if I want to…I will. I am not going to pigeon hole my dietary choices.

A taste (pardon the pun) of the rainbow of food eaten this month:

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My next steps:  eat cake, steak and fizzy drinks.  I very much doubt it.

I will however eat fruit if I feel like it.

I will continue to plan our weekly food and buy only what we need to keep wastage low.

I will continue to enjoy every mouthful.

 

 

Back on track

2018 was an eventful year! The stresses of selling our house, living in a caravan with 2 dogs, 2 cats and my husband during one of the hottest UK summers on record (many thanks to our wonderful friends for helping us) whilst we awaited the completion on the house we were buying seemed to stretch out endlessly.

This life turbulence completely tipped me upside down. As my kitchen disappeared so to my healthy food choices, love of cooking and exploration of flavours and blends disappeared. Instead, I trotted – no … galloped – in the direction of sugar laden comfort foods. Fast forward to the end of 2018 and I was a few pounds heavier, feeling very sluggish and lacking any momentum to change. I have spent the last few months mentally beating myself up for my lack of will power and weakness which has only lead to a downward spiral of self loathing followed quickly by a ‘what is the point?’ attitude as I devoured some more calorie dense / nutrient lacking morsel.

Thankfully, my inner voice has finally been heard. I am only human and to err is not a weakness. Self -care is paramount. Over the last few days, I have planned and prepared for overhauling my diet. So, as 2019 commences, the cookbooks cover my table once more, scraps of paper have ideas scribbled on them and sugar is off the menu.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year.

Sauerkraut

I love sauerkraut – not to be confused with vinegary pickled cabbage – fermented cabbage. Not only because I enjoy the taste, texture and flavour but also because of its nutritious qualities – rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and probiotics.

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This is a jar of beetroot sauerkraut just starting the fermenting process.

I advise you to wear rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands.

Ingredients:

300 g red cabbage – shredded

200 g beetroot – peeled and finely chopped

1/2 small apple – peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp salt

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Method:

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix them well until the vegetables start to release water. Then crush the vegetables with your hands – or use a pestle / end of rolling-pin.

Put the mixture into a sterilised and resealable glass jar – 500 ml capacity – leaving sufficient space at the top to allow for the fizz!

The vegetables need to be submerged in their juices so a cabbage leaf with a weight on top works well.

Leave the sauerkraut at room temperature for anything up to 3 weeks. It needs to be left for at least 3 days..

Kefir – an acquired taste

My friends are probably tired of me ‘banging on’ about the wonderful benefits of kefir … but I won’t stop because more and more research is highlighting the health benefits of eating / drinking fermented foods. Dr Michael Mosley has been in the press recently talking about the importance of a healthy gut and the links with depression and anxiety . Kefir and Kombucha (future post) may be a recent health craze but have been drunk for a very long time…before trendy was even a word!

I have passed both milk and water kefir grains to many of my friends for them to start fermenting their own kefir.

Milk kefir is definitely an acquired taste and I recommend to all of my friends that they will drink it much more easily if they increase its palatability (not sure if that is a word but I like it!).  In fact people’s comments have ranged from hmmm…? to yuk! and…how do you drink that?!

So to ensure that they do benefit from the wonderful bacterial cultures I do say, ‘Disguise it!’  My husband is my barometer. I can drink it neat but I have to completely disguise it for him. So, for him, when each batch is strained I add coconut milk and a generous dollop / or two of a flavoured organic yoghurt / coconut yoghurt / soya based yoghurt. This ensures that he has a glass every day 🙂  The adult equivalent tactic to hiding vegetables in food for fussy children!

If you really cannot enjoy the milk kefir then water kefir is a really good runner up. Not as diverse a range of beneficial bacteria but still very good for you.

How do you flavour your kefirs?

Health Esteem Queen for the month of May

On May 20 2017 the wonderful Sara of mshealthesteem.com   posted her interview with me as she had nominated me Health Esteem Queen for that month.

I urge you to take a look at her wonderful blog and health and wellness website.

I have posted the interview here as well:

Tell us about your health philosophy.

I believe we are what we eat. With this in mind I cook all my food from scratch where possible, and use the best ingredients to ensure the outcome is a balanced and nutrient dense meal. I also believe in ‘simple is good’ and very rarely produce food that has taken hours to prepare. I cook gluten-free and fructose free / minimum fructose food.  (I am no means perfect and do occasionally succumb to chocolate or cake – when I do I don’t ‘beat myself up’.)

Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and now on drug therapy for many years, this has heightened my awareness of and the importance of, treating our bodies well. I not only try to ensure nutritious food goes in to my body but I also am careful of the products I put on my skin – e.g. paraben free products, paraben and aluminium free deodorant.

I exercise daily – walking my dogs and spending time with my horse. I also try to meditate daily for at least 10 minutes.

What’s your favourite part of your health-esteem journey so far?

As a result of the changes to my diet, I never feel bloated, my skin texture has improved and I have lost weight. I no longer count calories, I eat fats – coconut milk, avocados etc, I don’t snack between meals and most importantly of all, the bathroom scales do not rule my life which they did for as many years as I can remember. I now have a sustainable positive mindset about choosing the foods I eat and the amounts of food my body wants. I actively listen out for the feelings of satiety and most importantly and totally amazingly for someone for whom bulimia has been a constant companion for so, so many years I am eating guilt free. It has been such a liberating experience – I am now free from my bingeing habits and the suffocating feeling that food is controlling me.

Why do you think self-love is an important aspect of someone’s health?

I think self love is all about owning our own power and acting from a place of kindness toward ourselves.  What matters is how we feel about ourselves; that we accept ourselves; we become responsible for our own lives and we stop trying to prove something. Self-love isn’t about being narcissistic it is about looking after ourselves. We have one ribbon of life and should value it – our health being one of the most important facets of our lives and one which we can have significant control over.

What changes were necessary in order to achieve your state of self-love?

Firstly, looking inward: I needed to identify my own individual appetite drivers and my food choices. Once I understood my triggers to eat, triggers not to eat I then became able to manage my weight. Fructose was a trigger for me – so I removed it. Snacking and being unaware was another trigger. For a long time I, like many others I have talked to, seem to have been in the pursuit of the perfect diet – the key few ‘must have’ ingredients or ‘must do’ approaches to eating. I have followed the latest hot topic dietary approaches and listened to all the ‘experts’ wanting to share their ‘dietary magic’. At times I have been lulled in to the promises of quick fix approaches – which have ‘worked’ – but of course any weight loss has slowly returned or different diet approaches have not be sustainable. If I have followed a restrictive diet my emotional reaction has always ended in rebellion.

Then, I recognised and accepted that my working environment was harming my health. Continual pressure and stresses were taking their toll. So a change of direction was in order. (That is partly on hold due to diagnosis but I do have a plan!)

Finally – acceptance of who I am, who I will never be and most importantly…the person I no longer want to be.

What inspired you to become the Healthy Foodie you are today?

The pursuit of a sustainable way of life. I have always thought myself to be quite savvy about food. I have however, at different times in my life be ruled by it; controlled by it even. For a large proportion of my life I have awoken in the morning determined to be in control and not worried about what I was going to eat during the day. Invariably after my first of several weigh ins the feelings of guilt/ self loathing etc. would raise their ugly heads. I have tried many diets over the years – never needing to lose too much but never satisfied with how I looked or felt.

2 years ago, I was given a copy of ‘Simplicious’ by Sarah Wilson. That was it…my turning point:)

Why did you choose to switch to a plant based diet?

For my health.

Every year, following the rich and meat laden excesses of the Christmas period, I would serve only vegetarian meals for my husband and I for the month of February and then try to limit the amount of meat/poultry based meals we ate afterwards.

Last year, I decided to extend the month and I ate a vegetarian based diet for several months. I do now eat meat occasionally – could I do without it …yes. Could I do without my vegetables, pulses, grains etc…absolutely not!  .

Being on a plant based diet ensures that I feel fuller for longer; don’t suffer with bloating and feel generally more energised.

Any tips for those wishing to add more plants to their plates?

Variety – explore the multitude of textures and colours available.

Seasoning – learn to use herbs and spices to enhance and enliven dishes

Describe a typical day on your foodie plate.

Breakfast –  oat, chia and teff porridge served with coconut milk and a milk kefir smoothie – acai, baobab or maca flavoured

Lunch – buddha / abundance bowl with something green e.g. watercress, something red – peppers / tomatoes / beetroot; something yellow  – peppers / sweetcorn and some protein – pulses / fish / egg

Dinner – easy to prepare meal and often one pot e.g. a cauliflower , chickpea and quinoa bake

What is a daily health ritual must?

Drinking plenty of fluids

What advice would you give for someone wishing to make some health invoking changes?

Identify why you want to change and the positive impact this will have. Then break it down in to small and manageable chunks. Don’t view it as failure if it doesn’t always go to plan. Each day is a new opportunity to start again.

What’s your biggest health misconception pet peeve?

Fats are bad for you

What is your favourite health food staple?

Chia seeds – so versatile and nutritional powerhouses

What’s your go to healthy snack?

Brazil nuts – brain food!

What does Health-Esteem mean to you?

Possessing self regard for your health. Valuing yourself enough to want to look after yourself on the inside. As well as the outside.

 

A new way of thinking

Having spent the last few weeks immersed in studying nutrition I have done a great deal of thinking about food… even more so than normal! This combined with my slowly changing relationship with food has made me come to some conclusions…I am no longer dieting – hoorah but instead I am eating mindfully. It is different!

I am no longer driven by the all consuming need / desire to lose weight or a quick fix but instead I eat to enhance my health and improve my lifestyle.

I have stopped counting calories and now eat quality calories.

I’m giving myself permission to eat the good foods until I am satisfied not depriving myself or denying myself.

I eat when I am hungry and listen to my internal cues rather than being driven by external cues.

and…finally, food is no longer my enemy / nemesis or a trap but to my absolute astonishment it is my ally and liberator.  Two words I never ever thought would be written by me about food!

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Power of the mind

This week has been a hard one for me…I have really struggled with both sleeping and staying positive. What I have found interesting, now I can reflect back, is the speed at which both these factors impacted on my dietary desires and motivations.

I have been virtually sugar-free for months now yet this week the craving for sugar was really strong – I succumbed to cake a couple of times and even though it tasted hideously sweet, I persevered! It would have been so easy to fall back in to old habits – shockingly easy in fact – the addictive power of sugar is so scary. With a supreme conscious effort I have had a good talking to myself and ignored the voice of sugar whispering to me.

Once upon a time I would have chastised myself for this ‘slip’…but instead I am celebrating my strength and the overwhelming desire to be healthy.