Here is my original unedited version of the piece that appeared in this months Company magazine.
I was asked to write why I started my blog, why I thought documenting my diet would help, how much nutrition research I'd done, interesting facts/things discovered writing the food diary/blog, how much weight I'd lost.
Initially I started my blog to monitor my weight loss and help me stay on track. I realised I was falling into some bad habits and gradually my weight was creeping up and my clothes were getting tighter. I decided that it was time I did something about it - I had to go on a diet. Unfortunately, as soon as I got to my goal weight or size I fell back into old habits and ended up right back where I started.
Clearly, I was doing something wrong. I had to accept that Diets. Do. Not. Work.
I had learned a little about fitness and nutrition from my university flatmate, who was studying Sports Science and was a competitive swimmer – she was in great shape and had a brilliant attitude towards food and exercise. I spent some time reading up on fitness and nutrition I decided it was time to ditch the fad diets and make some permanent changes.
The first change I made was to start paying attention to portion sizes – I followed a weightloss plan which was based on having 3 meals a day with small snacks in between. The book had meals calorie counted, you just picked one of each and made sure your portions were right. The meals all contained good, wholesome ingredients but I did find the plan rather restrictive, and once I started exercising properly the calories were just too low.
I had a rough idea about what was good to eat, I knew some good fats were good for you, I knew a balanced diet was important, I knew I wasn’t going to bulk up like Arnie if I lifted some weights in the gym. So I thought I’d have a go at putting all these things into practice. I thought that keeping a record of what I was doing would help keep my focus and enable me to see where I was going wrong. Keeping track publicly also meant that if I slipped up, people would know about it – this made me think twice about the chocolate bars and sweeties by the till, the family-size pack of crisps in the cupboard or the tub of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer! Iy helped that I wasn’t alone, a few of my friends also started food diary blogs around the same time so we had each other for support, as well as the support from others who happened to stumble across our blogs.
In addition to keeping a food diary on the blog I also used a site that would calculate all my calories Weight Loss Resources – it’s amazing how easy it is to pile up the pasta and load up on sauce without realising just how much you are actually eating. It’s also interesting to see the nutritional value (or lack of) of the foods you are eating and I found this encouraged me to make healthy choices.
After a couple of months I decided that I actually hate the thought of what goes into junk food and diet products and that really I should be fueling my body with some decent nutritious foods, of course I still wanted it to be tasty and I do enjoy the occasional treat! I figured if I wanted a healthy body I was going to have start putting the right stuff in.
I have learned a lot through keeping a blog, both from reading other peoples blogs and from my own, I realised that I had a bad habit of emotional eating or eating what I thought I should, rather than paying attention to what my body needed. I learned how to understand my cravings and what to do about them, for example I was frequently finding myself craving salty foods – crisps, pizza, Marmite, nut butters, cravings for salt are apparently linked to stress and depletion of our brains natural calming chemical (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which can be restored through eating more essential fatty acids, I now know that when I’m constantly craving crisps a few meals containg oily fish will quickly put an end to the salt cravings. I also discovered loads of new foods that I had either never heard of or never known what to do with, I discovered exercise and was surprised to realise I actually really enjoy it – I just had to find something I wanted to do and get a couple of good playlists on my iPod! I have even gone from not being able to run to the end of my path, nor wanting to, to entering a 5K run in April and considering a half marathon in September!
I don’t’ consider myself to be “on a diet” anymore and I plan to never be “on a diet” again. I’m eating good, wholesome, nutritious foods and getting plenty of exercise and, most importantly, I love it!!
Sure, I have my blips – sometimes a day, sometimes weeks, or even a month, but I always make sure I get myself right back on track. I am more aware – having the blog to look back on helps see where I’ve gone wrong and reminds me why I got healthy and motivates me to get back on track.
Currently I am still calorie counting using Weight Loss Resources, although I do not think that counting calories in this way is good for the long term, it has been essential for me in helping me to learn more about the nutritional content of foods and portion control, I hope that these things will soon become habit/second nature but until then I will still refer to the food diary to keep me on the right track.
For weight lost see here
I was then asked to provide a weeks food diary with some comments on the things I'd eaten. The weeks diary is not all from one week, just an example of the sort of things I have.
Breakfast: 1 scoop protein shake (cookies and cream flavoured whey) with water then 20g oats with skimmed milk, banana and some mixed seeds and dried goji berries
Snack: 2 medium Satsuma’s
Lunch: Bagel with light soft cheese and chives with smoked salmon
Snack: Natural yogurt with blackberries, blueberries and vanilla whey – if it’s an exercise day I need more calories to get me through the workout – whey adds a bit more texture and sweetness to the yogurt so this is a great way to have it.
Post Workout Snack: 1 scoop protein shake with water – mixing the protein powder with water means it is more easily absorbed by your body – ideal after a tough workout!
Dinner: Tilapia with new potatoes and some grilled broccoli, sweet corn and carrot – I like grilling my veg on the ‘health grill’ as they stay nice and crunchy.
Snack: Apple spread with hazelnut butter and a square of dark chocolate – a square of dark chocolate is an excellent alternative to a whole bar of milk chocolate – because the cocoa % is much higher you don’t need nearly as much to get your chocolate fix!
Drinks: Espresso, fruit tea and water (total 2.3L including the water in the fruit teas – I try to aim for around 2L per day, more if I am exercising. I don’t know if I can really give credit to the water but my diet and weight loss always goes better when I make sure I get plenty of water)
Breakfast: Porridge with almond & hazelnut rice milk and a drizzle of agave nectar for extra sweetness, topped with 2 large teaspoons of mixed seeds and dried goji berries. I like to use the almond and hazelnut rice milk in my porridge as it adds a nice subtle flavour and a bit of sweetness and is cheaper than buying/easier than making almond milk and add a bit more variety to porridge since I eat it so often!
Lunch: Omelette with 2 eggs, a splash of milk, salt & pepper and filled with goat’s cheese, asparagus, courgette, yellow pepper and a slice of peppered ham. Omelette makes a great lunch - low cal, high protein, low carb and keeps me full for ages!
Snack: Greek yogurt and raspberries – I used frozen ones as they go mushy and mix in well (plus they are cheaper and don’t go mouldy!)
Dinner: Whole meal pita with a grilled Portobello mushroom and some haloumi cheese marinated in Nando’s sauce then warmed under the grill – this was fantastic! I will be having this again and again and again! So simple and literally took 5 minutes to make!
Snack: Glass of milk and a Skinny Cow mint hot chocolate to fight off those chocolate cravings!
Breakfast: Green Monster shake – homemade almond milk, banana, spinach and spirulina. Almond milk is so easy to make! Soak some almonds in water over night, then add some vanilla and agave nectar of dried dates, blend it all up and strain into an airtight container through some muslin cloth. Almond milk works well in porridge, smoothies and with granola/muesli type cereals.
Snack: 2 Satsuma’s
Lunch: Vegetable Soup with a slice of sprouted wheat bread – this is something I had seen mentioned on a few American blogs so when I saw some in a local health food shop I just had to try it! I love that it only has one ingredient and is still incredibly tasty! It has quite a thick, sticky texture and reminded me of a sticky date cake. Sprouted grains are a great addition to a healthy diet – easy to digest, high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Snack: 1 carrot chopped into sticks dipped in salsa
Dinner: Healthy, homemade ‘Skinny’ Keema curry with home-grown potatoes
Snack: Apple spread with hazelnut butter and a fudge baby – these are like a homemade version of the Nakd or Larabars, I got the recipe from another blogger – Chocolate Covered Katie. They really are heavenly and they taste so naughty! So easy to make too and much cheaper than pre-made bars – you just blend up 1 part plain nuts to 2 parts unsweetened dried dates with 1tbsp cocoa powder and ¼ tsp vanilla extract. Roll the mixture into balls and put in the fridge to firm up a bit. Also good crumbled on top of porridge! Katie has lots of different flavour variations on her site too.
Drinks: Milky coffee, few green teas and some water
Breakfast: Green Monster – banana, spinach, homemade almond milk and 1/2 tsp spirulina – Spirulina is a microscopic blue-green alga and is said to be an excellent source of complete protein containing all amino acids and is rich in several of vitamins and minerals....followed by 3 juiced carrots with 3 juiced apples – also makes a fantastic hangover cure!
Lunch: Wholemeal wrap with light cream cheese, spring onion and smoked salmon
Snack: Large Apple Pie Nakd bar and another Green Monster before the gym and a slice of sprouted wheat bread with light cream cheese after the gym – although I do love some light cream cheese from time to time I much prefer to have a soft goats cheese, it has a lot more flavour and is easier to digest than cow’s milk products making it ideal for pre/post workout snacking.
Dinner: ‘Skinny’ chicken Chow Mein with noodles – this came from the cook yourself thin TV series, I frequently use the website for healthy recipes. Skinny chow Mein is one of my favourites and I cook it most weeks.
Snack: 10g organic dark chocolate with orange
Drinks: Milky coffee, green tea, peppermint tea, lots of water
Breakfast: Protein shake with 1 scoop chocolate whey, 100ml skimmed milk and 100ml water with ice. Followed by 20g oats with 150ml skimmed milk and a pot of apple, banana and plum fruit puree – OK so this puree is actually a jar of baby food! It’s all natural and organic and the only ingredients are apple, banana and plum, perfect for adding to porridge and getting some of your 5 a day!
Snack: 1 Satsuma and 1 apricot
Lunch: Tuna mixed with grated courgette, spring onion, paprika, black pepper Tabasco sauce and a sprinkle of Salad Boost toasted chopped nuts and seeds, wrapped in little gem lettuce leaves
Snack: Handful of cherries, Greek yogurt with strawberries and half a scoop of cookies & cream whey. 1 passion fruit
Pre-Workout: small banana sliced down the middle and filled with almond butter – this is one of my all time favourite snacks! Banana and almond butter are the perfect combination! Nut butters are definitely worth trying – just keep them simple, there really is no need for added ingredients other than a little salt or oil. Nut butters are high in fibre, protein and essential fatty acids. They go well with so many foods – porridge, smoothies, curries, soups, on bread/oatcakes, on fruit, with dark chocolate, or just a teaspoon straight out the jar! Don’t be afraid of the high fat and calorie content of nut butters – they are still healthy and fats are an important part of our diets – just don’t eat too much!
Post-workout: 1 scoop whey with water and Nakd cocoa orange bar. Nakd bars are great for snacking on, they are made from only nuts, fruits and natural flavourings. I’d happily swap a chocolate bar for the cocoa orange!
Dinner: Tilapia with garlic and pepper green beans and a berry Trek bar – like a healthy, high protein flapjack!
Snack: S: Frozen banana and some frozen blueberries put through the juicer to make “ice cream” – Oh. My. God. This is amazing! Whoever discovered this is a genius!! Can also be made in a blender/food processor – fantastic healthy desert!
Drinks: 1 coffee and lots of water
Breakfast: Oats with half water and half skimmed milk, cooked with a thinly sliced banana mixed in (on the hob for a change – works so much better this way than microwaved), topped with mixed plain nuts, blueberries, cinnamon and dark chocolate
Snack: Cocoa Molé Larabar – Chopped nuts and dates with chilli and chocolate!
Lunch: Selection of sushi
Dinner: Stir fry with Thai green sauce, wholegrain noodles and organic chicken breast
Snack: Fudge baby crumbled over some banana ‘ice cream’
Breakfast: Green Monster Smoothie – spinach, banana, almond milk, Spirulina and ground flax (for some healthy fats)
Lunch: Tuna with Cajun spice mix and low fat fromage frais (instead of mayonnaise) with salad of rocket, grated carrot and courgette and spring onion dressed with a simple mix of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, pinch of salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar
Snack: Half a box of fresh blueberries – not much in the way of snacks today, saving myself for a meal out with some lots of wine!
Dinner: Spiced Chicken and vegetable kebab with yogurt dressing on a flatbread, with a side salad…and a side order of chunky chips to share! And a bottle of rosé pinot grigio – also to share!
Finally I was asked for other sites that helped me.
Some of the sites that really helped me out with logging food, counting calories, weightloss, nutrition and fitness information, recipes and some inspiration...
Weight Loss Resources: http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk
My Fitness Pal: http://www.myfitnesspal.com
Both sites contain a food diary and huge database to help accurate record what you have eaten – broken down by calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, portions of fruit & vegetables, and many more. Both sites also contain excellent and supportive members forums for all things diet and exercise related, and some general support and chat. Both sites encourage gradual, healthy weight loss and discourage fad or crash diets. And My Fitness Pal also has a free iphone ap so there’s not excuse for slacking off!
Figure Athlete: http://figureathlete.tmuscle.com/
A bit more hardcore than the two above – I mostly go here for new workout ideas. It’s where I learned about the importance of interval training and weight training (and that woman just do not have the testosterone to bulk up like a man!) Has lots of interesting articles and good forums – though a lot of it is geared up for people who want to compete in competitions there is still a great deal of valuable information for the rest of us!
I also have a selection of blogs on my iPhone blog reader which I check in with most days. All of them are good fun and I get a lot of ideas for new foods and recipes from them all.
The name says it all really! The Fitnessista describes herself as “ a military wife, personal trainer, spin and zumba instructor, 100% girly girl, goat cheese and shrimp lover, shopaholic, dinner party fanatic, wine enthusiast and high raw pescatarian, who's lost 40 lbs and kept it off for 7 years. “
Her blog is loads of fun, open and honest and full of great ideas and things to think about.
Heather Eats Almond Butter: http://heathereatsalmondbutter.com
HEAB is responsible for my nut butter love! Her blog is full of healthy recipes and she has a wonderful healthy attitude to diet and fitness
Kath Eats Real Food: http://www.katheats.com/
Straight forward advice, fabulous food photos and recipes, her blog is all about healthy living and, well, real foods!
Chocolate Covered Katie: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/
Katie is a chocolate loving vegan – for anything healthy and chocolate covered, Katie’s your girl! There’s always something new and interesting on Katie’s blog, you have to try her Fudge Babies!
And my friends Jo, Jill and Edna who both started keeping blogs/food diaries around the same time as I did – having friends doing this at the same time as me was a fantastic source of motivation and inspiration. http://www.jagsfitnessblog.com http://planetjildo.blogspot.com and http://beforeandforever.wordpress.com
For recipes I mostly refer to books or pages I’ve cut out of magazines I love buying foody books and magazines and finding new ideas and now have quite a collection. I also use a few sites regularly for healthy recipes, mainly http://www.channel4.com/food/on-tv/cook-yourself-thin/ and http://www.channel4.com/programmes/my-big-fat-diet-show for well known recipes with simple changes to make them healthier. I also like to get some ideas from vegan sites as they tend to include ingredients I would never think of trying