Lucy’s November Challenge – Week 1 summary

Week 1 of my health-kick challenge is over, and I honestly feel better than ever. It’s time for a few very appropriate and very true Memes.

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My 3-day detox start to the week was a winner – I felt brilliant and it definitely rebooted my brain into a healthier mind-set. Then I managed to get through the weekend, attending birthday buffets and hosting dinner parties, with restraint but also enjoyment. I am enormously proud of myself, and it just proves how we can all overcome habits we feel are impossible burdens. You just need to break the cycle, and break it now.

Also, following an exercise plan worked amazingly for me. Yesterday I was in agony, but it was a great agony! My muscles were aching like crazy, which just proves how much more I was pushing myself this week than ever before.

I cannot wait to see the results if I carry on like this. Follow along with me, and see the change in yourself!

Compromises

Last weekend it was my mother’s 60th birthday and she threw a party where the spread was basically cheese, cheese and more cheese. She bought about 12 different delicious cheeses and laid on loads of crackers and chutneys and gourmet loaves of bread, and then of course there was cake and chocolates. I decided before the evening begun that I would go out and buy some rice-cakes and the one compromise I would make to the evening is that I wouldn’t lift a cracker or a piece of bread to my mouth. I still had cheese, I still drunk and I had a delicious evening. But I felt ok in the morning. I made that choice because I knew that if I had a bit of everything on offer, I would feel bloated and a bit sick the next day. However, if I just at least decided not to eat any bread, I could have a bit of cake, and have some cheese, and feel alright in the morning. I love bread, but on that particular night it wasn’t the highlight, so I was happy to forgo it.

A couple of days later I remarked to my mother that my nails were weak, which is odd because that implies a calcium deficiency and I definitely get enough calcium (I eat plenty of yogurt, leafy greens and almonds). But it created an opportunity for my mother to tell me how she was a little worried about my diet, that I’d gone a bit “OTT with the food choices” I was making (according to her). I, of course, got incredibly defensive. The changes I have made to my diet in the last year or so have shocked my family a little I think – but they are just well chosen compromises here and there, and in most ways I still lead an indulgent, enjoyable foody life. The fact that I went out and bought rice cakes before her party and then refused to eat bread seemed to have disturbed her! But for me, it was a choice made so that I could then have cake and crisps! And it meant I felt happy and perky the next day.

I then read an absolutely brilliant blog post by somebody talking about nutrition compromises – the idea that there are certain tips and tricks for leading a healthier life-style, but if you do them all you will have a very boring and miserable life. So, it’s about picking which of those compromises you can inject into your lifestyle, and knowing which ones are not worth it. That is what I do.This is the original article here.

It made me want to compile my own list of compromises, so here they are!

Compromises I approve of:

1. Go T-total unless you really want it – I love a glass of wine as much as the next girl, but I don’t need a drink all the time. I’m quite happy during the week to just have a diet coke, or a cup of tea with dinner out, rather than tucking into a bottle of wine or a G&T unless I’m properly in the party mood.

2. No eating late at night – This is a wonderful way of staying healthy and happy. Eating just before bed isn’t kind to your digestive system or your body. I often find that once I’ve brushed my teeth or just walked away from the kitchen, I consider my day’s eating done! So I’m quite happy to do that at about 9:00 and tell myself “no more”.

3. Eat healthy when you eat out – I remember my fitness instructor friend once telling me “Whenever you eat out, it’s a treat, because the food is almost always cooked with twice the amount of butter, salt and oil than you would usually use at home. Everything will taste richer and more delicious, and will probably be slightly less good for you. So you don’t need to go wild on what you order as well. Enjoy the delicious piece of salmon and the buttery bits of brocolli. You don’t have to have the triple-patty burger with extra cheese and chilli fries on the side!” Obviously there are times this is not true – if you’re taking a trip to Meat Liquor, or going out for Pizza, just enjoy the indulgence. But if it’s just dinner out for the sake of it, I’m quite happy to stay relatively well behaved with my choice. (I will soon do a post recommending my top tips for delicious, healthy meals at the more popular chain restaurants in the UK.)

4. Porridge half water – I spark up my porridge by adding delicious spices like cinnamon or ginger, drizzle a bit of honey on top, or add fruit and raisins. Check out my carrot cake oatmeal recipe. But I don’t need to make it with full-fat milk!

5. Glass of water trick – If you’re feeling a craving to grab something to snack on, have a glass of water first. Research shows that cravings only usually last about 5 minutes, and by the time I’ve finished my drink I often find that I’m not even that hungry. Also, it has been proven that when we think we are hungry, we are often just thirsty – we are dehydrated. So having an extra glass of water here or there is never ever a bad thing.

6. Bulk up meals with veg – I am quite happy to make 90% of my plate vegetables. In fact I’m quite happy for the whole meal to be vegetables. I love meat, and I love rice and pasta. But that is one compromise I can deal with. I can push aside those things for the majority of my meals and just enjoy a mound of brocolli covered in chilli and garlic (for example). But that’s just me.

7. Avoid white foods – long ago I stopped buying “white carbs”. I just don’t have them in my flat and generally I don’t even eat them out at a restaurant. I will always pick the brown bread, the quinoa, the sweet potato fries, the oats and lentils over the pasta, white bread and potatoes.

8. Drink green tea like water – You know, when I first started drinking it about 2 years ago I wasn’t sure. Now I love it and drink it like it’s going out of fashion. And even if you think you don’t like green tea, remember china tea? Delicious jasmine tea is a kind of green tea. Indulge on that.

Compromises I don’t have time for:

1. Always eat breakfast – I personally don’t find that skipping breakfast makes me binge at lunchtime. In fact I have the total opposite. Once I start eating there’s often no stopping me! So if I have a large breakfast, I then want to keep eating and thinking about food every 5 minutes as the day progresses! But each to their own – it’s a very good tip for a lot of people.

2. Downsize portions – I love eating. I absolutely love it. I love the process of seeing the food, smelling the food, and biting down on the food. I love chewing and swallowing. I love eating more. I would far rather eat a giant’s portion of lettuce leaves, than one cornish pasty. See my Lucy Salad post to prove it.

3. Only put half a teaspoon of oil on your salad – I’m sorry but this is bullsh*t. If I’m putting oil on my salad it’s for flavouring, so I need to put enough on to be able to taste it! And anyway, olive oil is one of god’s gifts. It is wonderful for our health and I ain’t giving it up. See my post on well-behaved fats.

So generally, I’m happy to make compromises. But shoot me, tonight I went round my brothers and had 2 bowls of delicious oily spicey meatballs and a whole plateful of chocolate biscuits. I was tired and hungover. But tomorrow I’ll wake up, do some weights, go to yoga and be back on it.

Life is about compromises.

compromiseIf you wish for the fries, order the salad. And share 🙂

 

Well-Behaved Fats

So, let’s chat “good fats”. I going to break it down for you all, and make it mega simple first.

If you eat more more of the GOOD FATS, it could help you lose weight. It will CERTAINLY not make you gain weight, and it will DEFINITELY be doing all kinds of good things for your heart and brain (which, let’s be honest, are the two key players in our clever bodies).

Good fats are almost as important as eating lots of fruit and vegetables, and actually help you absorb more of the vitamins and minerals from those kind of foods. A nutritionist friend of mine once recommended that if I make a smoothie, I should just pop a few drops of olive oil in there, because it will help my body absorb all the goodness from the fruit.

It makes sense… my family are part Greek, and we go to Greece every year if at all possible. When I was younger we would go for a fortnight each trip, and we would eat like kings. Lots of healthy food, but also a vast amount of bread!

Here is a sample day:

BREAKFAST – Melon and full-fat Greek Yogurt. Bread.

LUNCH – Greek Salad (feta, tomato, cucumber, red onion) doused in olive oil and vinegar. Bread (we’re talking about a third of a loaf each).

TEA – Crisps or baclava. Bread dipped in olive oil. Wine.

DINNER – Large 2 course meal, involving lots of vegetables and meat, but also lots of bread, pasta, wine and, you guessed it… olive oil.

But I would always come home to England thinner than I went away. Now I admit, when I was younger my metabolism was crazy fast, but the Greeks are not a fat population, and the average Greek consumes 20 litres of olive oil a year. 20 litres! Olive oil is magic. And the Greeks have it absolutely right with the amount of fruit and vegetables they consume in their diet.

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Anyway, let’s move away from the Greeks and back to our homes. My favourite good fats to incorporate into life at home are olive oil, tuna, avocado, nuts and seeds. I cook everything in olive oil, I put it on my salads and I drizzle it on rye bread toast. I also have a huge tupaware tub that is full of almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, which I get out while I’m working in the afternoon, just to nibble on. But I’m going to end on a new recommendation.

I read an article the other day on coconut oil. The coconut is the new hot property of the nutritional world – coconut water has been proven to have all kinds of advantageous effects, and now coconut oil is getting the same attention. The main thing though is that it is damn tasty! Chop up some turkey, an onion and some spinach, and fry them in coconut oil, with some cranberries or raisins or chopped up plum. It’s a simple meal that tastes divine. And it’s guilt free.

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Pictures above: Tupaware of nuts, and turkey meal with cranberries.

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Further reading:

The “Lucy Salad”

Let’s kick things off in style, with a post on “Lucy Salads”, as they are known in my family.

A “Lucy Salad” is, in a word, enormous. For all those people who think a salad can’t be a meal, I say you’re being too shy with your portion size. If you put the right things in a salad, then there is no reason to hold back.

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First things first, select the right bowl. For a “Lucy Salad” I like to use the mixing bowl my mother got me for cake making (how ironic). If you don’t have something like that, just raid your kitchen for anything supersize – even if it’s just a large pot! Next area of focus is the leaves. This is where I really bulk up. There is not only nothing bad about leaves, but some lettuces are actively good for you. No ice-berg here please – Kale, Spinach, Watercress and Rocket are my favourites. For websites explaining a little more of their nutritional value see the bottom of this post.

Fill your bowl 3/4 full of leaves.

Next is the toppings: again don’t be shy. Here is an example of my basic quantities:

A third of a cucumber.

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes

2 stalks of celery

Half a pepper

1 small onion

If you don’t like any of the above, leave them out or replace them. Include carrot or courgette. Throw in some peas or raw mushroom? After putting in the salad basics, I select 2 luxury items – the extra-tasty, pretty looking ingredients that go right at the top of the salad mountain. My rule is generally to only allow one fatty topping at most. Here are some suggestions:

  • avocado and chick-peas
  • turkey breast and pear
  • tuna and pomegranate seeds
  • chicken and goats cheese

The icing on the metaphorical cake (un-cake) is to chop up heaps of herbs (basil, coriander, mint) to coat the top of the salad. Then sprinkle a few raisins on top and pour olive oil and balsamic over the top. Don’t skimp on the olive oil. It may be oil and seem calorific, but it is God’s gift to us!! I am part Greek and have been brought up on the stuff. It is so good for you. More on that another day though.

If anybody attempts a “Lucy Salad”, please take a picture and post it for me to see!

What is this?

You know those school kids who hang around the chippie on their lunch break stuffing their faces, while their legs and arms are like twigs; Who loiter outside the newsagents eating chocolate and sweets, but the bones of their clavicles still protrude violently from their necks; Who spend their weekends at sleepovers, eating pizza and drinking coke late into the night but show no food baby in the morning. God, the wonders of metabolism.

Growing up, I was one of those kids.

I used to claim it was because I did a lot of cross-country, but really I just had a magical metabolism. I was the girl who ate everything but stayed tiny. Then I turned 21…

I vividly recall an incident at drama school (where I went post university) in which I came in one morning wearing a pair of shorts, which I had bought aged 17, over some leggings. The cycle to school had already put me through some level of discomfort (I had already had to undo the top button), but when I arrived at my singing lesson (an activity which relies on having room to breathe) I lost patience. In an act of pure frustration, I whipped the shorts off and threw them on the floor. Fortunately within the walls of a drama school this kind of behaviour doesn’t attract much attention, but my classmate beside me asked if she could try my shorts on. She slipped into them and remarked “I love this pocket at the front for keeping things in”. The nature of the design was such that this was not a ridiculous thought, but I had to correct her: “That’s just where the shorts have stretched Kate. That’s where my tummy goes – it’s not meant to stick out there.”

Since that day I have been on a mission. It started as a mission to return to my previous weight, but when I realised that my genes were not going to allow for a return to “teenage-Lucy”, I changed the mission – I just promised myself to be more aware of what I was eating (something I had never been before) – to eat more of what’s good and less of what’s bad. What started off as the most basic understanding (fruit and veg tick, crisps and sweets cross) has progressed to a vastly in-depth knowledge of nutrition, and one that I try to live my life by as much as possible.

For a girl who grew up being able to love naughty foods guilt-free, this has been a challenge. But I have found a way to fall in love with the good food too. And the naughty food is still there when I need it. I have a wonderful grasp of what is good for me and why, but still understand when it’s time to crack out the entire bar of Dairy Milk occasionally. I wish when I first embarked on my mission I could have read something like this, so I want to pass on my thoughts and knowledge now – tips, facts and recipes.

This is not a guide to losing weight (although my advice will certainly have an effect on some people). It is a guide to feeling really bloody good and healthy! It is a guide to being able to eat and enjoy loads of food without feeling bloated or stodgy or sick, because you’re picking the right stuff to gorge on.

This is how my various fights with food have become one big food victory.

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