Monday, 15 December 2014

Preparing for Christmas

Not long to go.  Presents all purchased and wrapped, just the nice curly ribbon to add (need a hand with that!)

The Christmas decorations are due to go up on Thursday.  My weight loss in the lead up to Christmas is going well.  

The Personal Trainer (Matt) came to visit last Tuesday.  I was all warmed up in the freezing cold garage gym ready to impress him with my progress.  Thankfully the cold weather is an incentive to keep moving when I'm in the home gym.

And impress him I did!  I showed him that I can RUN!  

Ok, ok, I'm holding on for dear life to the bar on my treadmill, but my new HIIT training session now incorporates running for 2 minutes at 5mph!  

I plan to get this exciting event videoed to share with everyone (and to prove it does happen!).

This is interspersed with walking at 3mph.  I love this sort of training, as you know that you've only got to "push" yourself for a short space of time, and it's perfectly achievable.  Slowing down to the walk feels so wonderful after I've been running my little cotton socks off.

Best of all, this style of training is designed to prolong calorie burning after the exercise session has been completed.  When I am sat at my computer entering my training results, I am still burning the calories.

Of course, he paid me lots of compliments about my progress, but has set me some new targets to work on before he nest visits in January 2015.

I have continued to use 5:2 fasting in the lead up to Christmas.  I have even gone so far to plan a fast day for Christmas week and another for News Years week.  Uncertain how that will go, but the days are pencilled into my diary, so that's good for a starter.

Finally, my "Success Story" has been published on the Weight Loss website I have used to help me achieve my new sylph life figure:

Sadly you can only read it by signing up - so maybe now is the time to do something about that expanding waistline....?

I have received so many compliments via the Forum that I have been quite overwhelmed!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Still here!!

I know, I know.... it's been too long!  I'm still hanging on here and I have to admit that blog up-dates have taken somewhat of a back seat and that planning for Christmas seems to have come to the fore.  I'm still logging food and cooking!  

I've managed to lose half a stone during the month of November, but unfortunately most of these were pounds that I seem to have acquired over September and October!  Such is weight loss, I'm afraid.  Sometimes life conspires against you....

HOWEVER, I happened upon a really excellent Blog today which inspired me to up-date my own!

Growing vegetables, discussing and cooking food.... this is MY kind of blog!!!

Fast days are a bit more of a struggle during the Winter months than they are when the weather is warmer.  Not fuelling the body sometime leaves me feeling chilled to the bone.  I'm fine up until midday and then I seem to just feel cold all over.  This is a weird and alien feeling for me, as I am usually always far too hot!  Winter days and nights seem much longer and I am certainly spending more time sat inside... this time of years thinking about and planning for Christmas, which also involves what we will eat over the festive season!  I do have to remind myself that Christmas is just ONE day and of the weight I have lost.  So much hard work could easily be undone in just four or five days of eating "differently" (I won't call it "normally" as I will never return to my old ways!)

Todays Fast was broken with an unusual but delicious meal. 120g Tesco frozen "sweet chilli marinated basa fillet" (only 125 cals!), 250g each of butternut squash and aubergine with 75g of red onion roasted in the oven for 45 mins with 10 squirts of spray oil, 30g of feta cheese and 15ml of sweet chilli sauce.... 382 calories. Lush on a plate!! Enough calories for some satsumas and a coffee before bedtime...

Aubergine and butternut squash have become two of my staple vegetables.  I love the flavour and they are so low in calories.  100g of butternut squash is just 30 calories, 100g of aubergine just 14 calories!  These two vegetables really lend themselves to one another when it comes to visual appearance and taste.  But an absolute MUST for me is that they be ROASTED!  I use a low calorie spray oil, which does the trick at a fraction of the calories.

Aubergine and Butternut Squash Bake, 153 calories a portion

Aubergine and Butternut Squash Bake

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Serves: 3
Calories per serving:152.9

Onions, Red, Raw, Average                                        -   203g
Butternut Squash, Raw                                               -   796g
Aubergine, Raw                                                          -   794g
Oil, Olive, Extra Virgin, Only 1 Cal, Spray, Fry Light  -   35 Sprays/7ml


Put the oven on to pre-heat at 200 degrees. Peel, de-seed and cut butternut squash into 2cm chunks. Peel and finely dice red onion. Take stalk off aubergine and cut into 1cm chunks. 


Squirt 15 sprays of spray oil into a roasting dish and add all the vegetables. Spray another 20 sprays pf spray oil over the vegetables and place roasting dish in oven.

Roast for around 45 - 50 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 20 minutes until the vegetables are softened and starting to brown.

This is a really versatile low calorie and filling recipe! Use alongside meat or fish, or serve with pasta and some grated cheese.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Roast Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Pasta Bake

Goats Cheese & Butternut Squash Pasta Bake
Preparation Time:
30 mins
Cooking Time:
30 mins
Calories per serving:

Squash, Butternut, Raw              -       300g
Fusilli                                           -       40g
Onions, Red                                -       100g
Cabbage, Savoy                         -       121g
Asparagus, Trimmed                  -       86g
Buffalo Wings Sauce, Franks     -       ½ Tbsp/7.5ml
Oil, Sunflower, Flora                   -       1 Tbsp/15ml
Oil, Olive, 1 Cal, Spray               -       20 Sprays
Cheese, Goats, Welsh               -       100g



Peel and finely slice onion. Finely slice cabbage. Peel, de-seed and cut butternut squash into 2cm chunks. Cut the asparagus into 2cm lengths.


Heat oven to 200 degrees. Spray a roasting tin with half of the olive oil spray (10 sprays), add the butternut squash chunks and then spray with the remaining 10 sprays. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, turning half way through. Once cooked, leave oven on for final stage.

Meanwhile, Place the fusilli into a pan, cover with boiling water, and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the Flora oil n a wok. Add the onion and cabbage. Stir fry over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue to cook for a further 10 - 15 minutes until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked and fairly soft.

Once all these various stages are complete, combine all the ingredients, not forgetting the Buffalo Wings Sauce (if you like a little added spice!) and place into an oven proof shallow dice.

Slice the goats cheese and arrange over the top of the pasta mixture. Place the dish into the hot oven, and cook for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Friday, 24 October 2014

High-intensity interval training

Wowweeee!!!  I have learned all about High-intensity interval training today!

I am not a gym bunny - in fact I haven't been into a gym ever!  But this is exciting and interesting stuff....

Read on....

Those of you who know me will have been part of my journey from a size 24, 14 stone couch potato (two and a half years ago) to where I am now, a size 16, 9 stone 10lb much more "energetic" person.

My exercise journey started in February 2013 with a free assessment from a personal trainer at the Physio I attend on a regular basis.  I didn't do any exercise at all then, and because of my disability, was very sedentary.  I kitted out my garage with some bits of equipment ("borrowed" treadmill, wobble board, stepper, elastic resistance bands, floor matting) bought myself a heart rate monitor and began to slowly but surely build up a little exercise regime for myself.  

Back in the early days, exercise was really hard work.  I puffed and panted after 5 minutes of slow walking on the treadmill and needed to rest often.  But as time wore on, I worked up the amount of exercise I was doing, the walking speed got quicker and I can now walk for 3 x 15 minutes at a time, 2.7mph (for me, with short legs, that's power walking speed!)

There is no doubt that my fitness levels have improved and my physical capabilities have grown.  Alongside this, so has my confidence in myself to exercise and move.   This has had a massive impact on many other aspects of my life and I now enjoy some of the physical activities that were previously denied to me.  I now enjoy gardening in the Summer (and lots of leaf raking in the Winter!).

But recently I felt the need to re-energize my exercise routine - which had kind of fallen by the wayside over the Summer, due to the heat and having caring responsibilities.  Having said that, I was spending a lot of time doing things in the garden, many of which I wore my Heart Rate Monitor for.

I booked for a personal trainer to come to visit me today for a 2 hour session.  Two days ago, I went back to the treadmill and garage gym just to reassure myself that I'd not embarrass myself when he came!

He's just left, and whilst most of the session was me demonstrating my previous warm up and exercise regime and planning the exercise I'll be building up to before his next visit (in a month) I am totally AMAZED with what I have achieved!

I have always worn an HRM (heart rate monitor), and realised that I was burning a lot of calories during my exercise sessions (about 1,500 in two hours, including 30 mins warm ups) but I do nothing more vigorously than the walking on my treadmill which doesn't even get me out of breath.  I was keen that he could advise me on just what I should be aiming for in terms of my heart rate.

Apparently, when I am walking at 2.7mph, my heart rate of around 120 - 130 bpm is working at 75% of it's maximum!  Therefore, as shown by the calorie burn, I am definitely giving myself a good workout.  The other great news is that I shouldn't need to exercise as long during each session (1.5 hours max) or as often (I was doing 4-5 times a week for 2-2.5 hours).

What I will now be aiming for is so give myself a 2-3  times a week HIIT session (High-intensity interval training) of only 15 minutes.  This is a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods.  So one minute of walking at 3.7mph which gets my heart working to 95% of it's capacity.  Now 3.7mph wouldn't get most peoples heart to that kind of level, but for because of my disability and body shape, the amount of energy I need to put in to moving clearly is over and above that of the "average" person.

So..... less time spent exercising, exercising less times a week - but changing the TYPE of exercise I do, which should all have positive consequences.

Best of all, I feel enthused, motivated and ready to go!  My mojo is back!

My message to anyone starting on their weight loss journey - especially those who have yet to discover the benefits and joys of regular exercise.....  ANYTHING is possible... moving even a little to start with is better than not moving at all.  Time spent exercising can replace the rime spent eating and thinking about food.  

It may take time, it most definitely takes effort, but the end result is just so worth it!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Walks by the river and raking leaves

Lately, this virtuous girlie has fallen by the wayside a little Sad 

About a year ago, mother in law came to live with us after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. 

We didn't expect her to be living with us for very long, but a year later, she's still here and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon Grin BUT, she has in the past four months been diagnosed with vascular dementia and her mental deterioration has been scary and rapid. 

A recent infection has also caused a steep decline in health and in memory, function, mobility, etc, etc. It's making life quite stressful here at home and we have learned to take each day as it comes.

Two and a half weeks ago, my step-dad had a stroke. He and my Mum live locally - about 12 miles away, and my Mum was already struggling a little because he has Alzheimer's.

Whilst his physical recovery has been pretty good, the stroke and subsequent two week hospital stay did nothing to help his mental state.  He became quite aggressive, confused, argumentative. Didn't like being in hospital and didn't understand why he was there. The effect on my Mum (79 years old) hasn't been good. She has her own health issues, a lot of pain, doesn't sleep well, etc. 

She's become a bit more forgetful and has been struggling emotionally with my step-dads variable state of mind and plans for his return home. He was discharged yesterday, and things seem to be ok (so far!)

Our wonderful oak tree, devoid
of its leaves in December last year.
I think I might be forgiven for having put my exercise regime a little to one side.....

So why the reference to walking by the river and sweeping leaves? 

We have a lovely garden here and one which we enjoy spending time in, both relaxing and working. We grow a few vegetables and we are both sun worshippers.  Over the summer months and because we've been denied a holiday this year, we've spent a lot of time outside.

The centrepiece of the garden is an enormous oak tree. It's beautiful, but this time of year, it's a full-time job to sweep the leaves that fall from its branches.

With my improved health and mobility, I have been enjoying working in the garden over the Summer. Now the weather is more autumnal, I enjoy going out there with a rake and raking leaves. I love being outside, I love seeing the results of my labour. I wear my HRM and I earn myself exercise calories. It's nicer than being inside the confines of the garage gym! AND I achieve something, as well as earning calories. I see the bags filled with all those leaves that I have swept. I know that tomorrow, there will be more leaves to sweep, but I don't mind! That's my exercise planned for tomorrow (as long as it's dry!)

Today, I asked hubbie if he'd come down to the river with me and walk. We drove down to the banks of the Thames. I had donned my heart rate monitor and trainers. It was a bright sunny afternoon and the meadow alongside the river was full of people exercising. Men playing football, people walking dogs, people rowing and kayaking down the river, people walking, cycling.....

The River Thames, and a beautiful spot for a walk along the river bank
And me!!! I was walking! I was walking and enjoying it. There were benches dotted along the path, and I was impressing myself by pushing myself to walk past the next bench and to the one that followed. We walked up and back down the river bank, enjoying the sounds of the river, watching the ducks and geese, the dogs chasing balls and sticks.
THIS is what it has all been about and why this journey has so been worth it. It's not just about the thinner, smaller me who can now buy clothes in "regular" shops. It's about walking hand in hand with my hubbie along the riverbank. We are taking time out of our caring responsibilities and giving ourselves some "me" time. We are getting fresh air and exercise and I am earning myself some calories.

I am just loving these everyday things that so many people take for granted and which for so many, many years have been denied to me because I had allowed myself to become overweight and unfit.

Well watch this space!  This is just the beginning!!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cauliflower Steaks with crunchy black olive and sundried tomato relish and tomato sauce

Wow!  I feel I have to share this recipe with you.... Spotted it on a website a while back, saved it and have been dying to make it ever since!  Well, tonight was the night!!!  Served with roast lamb, but would be excellent as a starter or served with white fish.  I'm planning to use it again with fried Forestiere Mushrooms and a little hard goats cheese grated on the top for good measure!

Griddled cauliflower steaks with olive oil

Griddle tomatoes and chopped garlic

The salsa – chopped cauliflower, black olives, sun dried tomatoes,
fresh parsley, olive oil and fresh lemon juice

Continue roasting until brown in the oven

Cauliflower, Raw(one head)    - 650g
Olives, Black, Pitted               - 40g
Tomatoes, Sun Dried              - 3 Pieces/20g
Oil, Olive, One Cal Spray Oil   - 30 pumps 
Parsley, Fresh                        - 2 Tbsps/7.6g
Juice, Lemon, Fresh               - 1 Tsp/5ml
Garlic, Raw                            - 3 Cloves/9g
Tomatoes, Baby, Plum            - 250g
Oil, Olive, Extra Virgin            - 1 Tbsp/15ml

Preparation Time:       30 mins
Cooking Time:             45 mins
Serves:                         4
 Calories per serving:  130 

Preparation: Core tomatoes and cut into quarters. Peel and chop garlic cloves. Finely chop olives. Thinly slice sun-dried tomatoes, Chop parsley. Remove leaves and trim stem end of cauliflower, leaving core intact.

Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into four 1/2" 'steaks' from centre of cauliflower (some florets will break loose; reserve).

Finely chop enough loose florets to measure 1/2 cup. Transfer chopped florets to a small bowl and mix with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tbsp. oil, parsley, and lemon juice. Season relish with salt and pepper.  This mixture will be the crunchy garnish to the final dish.  I added a small dried chilli at this point (not listed in ingredients).

Preheat oven to 200°C. Heat ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, spray with 10 sprays of the olive oil spray. Working in 2 batches, cook cauliflower steaks until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, spraying pan with oil between batches.

Transfer steaks to a large rimmed baking sheet. Reserve skillet. Roast cauliflower until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, return skillet to medium-high heat and add garlic cloves and tomatoes, one cut side down. Cook until tomatoes are browned; turn tomatoes over and transfer skillet to oven with cauliflower. Continue roasting everything until tender, about 12 minutes.

Transfer garlic and tomato mixture to a blender; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Divide tomato sauce among plates.

Place a cauliflower steak on each plate; spoon tomato/garlic relish over and sprinkle with the crunchy chopped vegetable and olive topping.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  

As shown in the picture, I topped mine with a balsamic glaze - just a tiny drizzle really emphasised the flavours.