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.

 

 

A long week

So … last Monday at midnight I said goodbye to sugar. I also decided to switch back to a  solely vegetarian diet (during the festive period I seemed to eat more meat than I had done in the whole year) and reduce my dairy food intake.

I would like to say this week has been plain sailing for me. It hasn’t. Not eating meat / fish has not been an issue at all. However, the sugar withdrawal has been a different story. The first day was easy and lulled me in to a false sense of security. Days 2 and 3 delivered a constant headache – initially eased by increasing my water intake but this relief was only short lived. I awoke on day 4 headache free, ‘Yay!’  As the day progressed, I presumed all toxins were flushed out and sugar impact gone. Wrong. With the evening came a migraine that sent me to my bed. Day 5 – the cravings really hit. Sugar laden goodies were calling , no, shouting to me. Two choices – give in and then be cross with myself – or, distract myself and keep going.  I chose the second option.  Day 6 – no headaches and no cravings. Day 7 – all good.

Was the week worth it?

Definitely.

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am not waking up with heartburn
  • I’m eating nutrition dense not calorie dense food
  • no more sugar lows and sugar highs
  • I’m enjoying creating different flavours and cooking again – feel I have my mojo back
  • I feel full after I have eaten
  • I don’t want any of the chocolates, biscuits and cake that are in the house – not being smug- just not interested in them
  • perfected a speedy cashew Bechamel sauce! One step closer to a vegan diet.
  • (… I’ve lost 2 kg)

Onward …

 

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.

I am a biscuit

Last year, on Apr 9th I wrote my ‘Mrs Impatient’ blog post. 10 months ago I thought I was feeling better after all my treatment. But…it is only now that I really feel like my body has recovered from the battering it had. When I mentioned this to a friend recently, they reminded me that the cancer nurses had told me it would take 18 months to 2 years for my body to recover. Clearly, they knew best!

Over the last few months I have got cross with my self regularly when I have strayed from good diet choices and not exercised on a regular basis. I now realise, I really wasn’t ready.  I see the signs that my body’s health and returning strength has turned a corner: my nails and hair are now strong and healthy and if I cut myself (or fall – as I did very ungracefully last week. I do not recommend ‘splatting’ / tarmac surfing on the road!) then the scrapes and bruises heal much more quickly once again.

So, and this is where ‘I am a digestive biscuit’ comes in, I do now feel strong enough to take back the control. I lost a bit of my chemo weight but have been eating biscuits and cake over the last year so cannot question why I have not lost more! Since the New Year, I have made positive choices about the food I put in my body and I have sufficient energy to go for walk everyday. So I know, my body will recalibrate.

 

 

Food is not the enemy…?

This ditty has been rattling around my head for the last few days. This and, ‘love your body – don’t hate it.’  Two things very easy to say but, for me, not at all easy to accept.

Although I am no longer a slave to scales, food still exerts a fair amount of control over me. I plan our weekly meals ahead of shopping and know exactly what I am going to eat the following day. This structure keeps me sane and on track…until an additional factor in my life rears its head. Then, all my plans, good intentions, dietary knowledge and sense seem to go out of the window. The sense of ‘me’ and the importance of looking after me disappears. The first thing that happens is food becomes my enemy and very quickly I start on a negative spiral. Sugary foods become really palatable, comforting and of course addictive. I forget to drink enough fluids and eat when I know I am actually thirsty etc.

My life has been hectic and somewhat stressful over the last couple of months (hence no blogging). I have never loved my body but have over the years come to accept it and wanted to look after it. But, as soon as there is imbalance and disharmony in my life the very first thing to suffer is me.  I know, from talking with others, that this is not just something that happens to me.

Why? Is it because being kind to ourselves is not a natural human trait?  We spend our lives looking and caring for others so why can we not treat ourselves in the same way regardless of external factors?

Would love to hear your thoughts…

 

Kombucha

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I was given my first SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) the other week and have today put my first batch of raspberry flavoured kombucha in to the fridge for a ready supply of chilled homemade goodness. I have, up until now, only fermented milk and water kefir. If I had appreciated how incredibly easy it was to make kombucha I would have done this ages ago!

Step 1:  get a SCOBY – any one who makes their own kombucha will have baby SCOBY being produced all the time. This one cycle has started the growth of a new SCOBY

Step 2:  I boiled about 2 litres of water and added this to a pan of 6 green tea bags and 170 g granulated sugar.

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I left this in the pan to cool to room temperature.

Step 3: Add the sweet green tea to the kilner jar that has the SCOBY + liquid it came in

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It is important that no metal utensils come in to contact with the SCOBY  or liquid it is in. Because it is a living organism, it needs to ‘breathe’ so cover the top with muslin.

Step 4: Leave it to brew for 7 – 28 days. The longer you leave it the more acidic the ferment will become. I was advised to taste it every day and when it no longer tasted like tea but was fruity, it was ready. I could then choose to let it brew longer for a stronger flavour. By day 4 the tea taste had gone. I left it to brew for 8 days  – I will probably leave it longer as I, and my gut, become accustomed to it.

Step 5: Using plastic utensils drain the majority of the liquid into a glass container that has a grolsh type top – i.e. creates a good seal. The SCOBY and its liquid is now ready for the process to start again i.e. Steps 2-4

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Step 6: The decanted kombucha can now be put in the fridge and be drunk  – the longer it is left…the fizzier it will get. This is the point at which I decided to flavour it. I popped a handful of fresh raspberries in to the bottle and sealed the lid. Every day I ‘burped’ the liquid i.e. opened the lid to let the pressure of the building gas be released.

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I left this on a kitchen work top for 4 days.  I have tasted it today and it has a mild fizz and is now in the fridge to drink.

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Raspberry kombucha

 

My next step is to experiment with longer period of brewing the SCOBY  in the liquid before I remove ii and experiment with flavours – the tea i use and the flavours I add.

What flavours have you tried? What would you recommend? What didn’t work so well?

 

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.

 

Mrs Impatient

On the 28th of December, I wrote that I had finished chemotherapy and was at last starting on the road to recovery…followed by a post on the 26th February about the start of a new healthy me.

I think I was both naive and deluded! My doctors told me the chemotherapy would impact on my system for several months and  this compounded by the 5 weeks of daily radiotherapy would mean that the side effects would be long reaching. But …oh no…not me I thought! Well – they were right. I have been  / am really frustrated by the very slow process of recovery.

I understand that my body has taken a battering but I truly thought I would bounce back more quickly. I am struggling with accepting this – although I have no choice and am trying to turn my, ‘But I’ve only managed to do this,’ into, ‘Today I have done this!’ I have accepted (I think) that I won’t be the same as before diagnosis – and that isn’t a bad thing, I had already recognised that things needed to change – hence handing my notice in at work. I am accepting that this is a blip, a haitus in my plans and future goals and only that. I would like to have heard the words, ‘You are clear.’ but know that with the ‘high risk cancer’ (oncologist’s words not mine) it is all about doing things to increase my survival rate and chance of being around in 10 years. This is taking a bit to process…but I will 🙂

On a very positive note I now have a complete covering of baby soft hair on my head (albeit a different colour and flecks of grey – lovingly pointed out by one of my daughters!!), a full set of lashes and eyebrows and I do now feel in the right place mentally to tackle the few pounds that I put on during chemo and am fully embracing the diets choices  I used to make prior to treatment.  Of this part of my life, I can be in full control.

Would love to read the thoughts and words of wisdom from those of you who are at the same point as me,  ahead of me or just interested in my ramblings 🙂

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.