Exercise won’t make you slim

At least not if you are fat, obese, very overweight or whatever. It may tone, sculpt and shape, increase flexibility, endurance and strength, improve cardio vascular performance and release wonderful things in your brain that make you feel amazing… happy, lively, sexy, alert and it will increase the number of calories you use… physics tells us that but it won’t make you slim.

Gratuitous photo of ripped guy

This article in the Guardian based on some medical study or other (I’m not a technical blogger academics was my job I can’t make it my fun) states that exercise will not make you lose weight or stop being obese. Lack of exercise is not the cause of obesity, too much sugar and the wrong types of fat are to blame for that and it accuses governments and health bodies of over emphasising the need to exercise in order to reduce obesity and not putting enough emphasis on the need to have a healthy diet.

Well who would have thought it?

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I don’t know about you but every time I use one of these balls I near break my face

I know personally from my own efforts that exercise of one type or another has had various effects on my body, inch loss is more of a feature than weight loss when I step up certain types of exercise such as strength training, a more toned appearance is more of a feature with the stretchy types of exercise such as pilates, increased stamina is more a feature of cardio such as walking or cycling, a greater sense of well being, tone and improved posture (which can show as inch loss) are more evident from exercise such as Tai Chi and Yoga, with all types of exercise, my sense of mental well being is enhanced as it reduces stress levels, makes me feel happier and energises me… the more fun exercise like swimming, playing tennis, really has an even more enhanced effect on me mentally.

Does my exercise make me lose masses of weight? I don’t think so, I know that dietary changes have massive impacts on my weight loss but without the feel good of exercise I would not have the mental wherewithal to fend off stress and misery and the associated lack of resistance to bad food temptations. Exercise helps me work off my frustrations, my anxieties and at times I punch out my sadness and residual effects of bad life experiences.

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Posture matters if you want to feel fabulous

Exercise also makes the impact of my weight loss more visibly obvious as my posture improves, my muscle and skin tone, my strength, my awareness of my physiology, it all helps to make me look slimmer and that makes me feel slimmer and that inspires me to not eat crap and continue to lose weight. Take a fat person sit them slouched on a stool, hunched back, spread legs, belly flopping between and then sit that person up straight, put their legs together (or as close together as you can), straighten the back, pull in the tummy, open and press the shoulders down, extend the neck and they’ve lost 10 pounds…. well they haven’t but you know they look like they have.

Do you know I’ve got an inch taller since I started this journey of mine? I’ve regained the inch I lost during my late 30s and that is purely due to having pulled my body back into a posture more befitting a lady and less that of a potato.

So yes I believe that exercise alone is not enough and diet really is the big magic key to weight loss and the better the diet, the more it suits you and the more healthy it is (depending on what you believe, organic ultra low carb has by far had the biggest impact on weight loss for me and my family AND best equips us with energy for our active lifestyles) then the more effective it will be in terms of helping you lose weight more quickly. BUT do not abandon the thought of exercise because it has its place in your success and is important.

And please don’t let that word exercise put you off, think of it just as moving more. To exercise you really do not have to don a lycra one piece and leg warmers and contort your body into strange shapes and lie gasping for breath by the end of the first half of a step class warm up. It doesn’t mean buying expensive equipment and paying for personal trainers. It doesn’t mean sweating your fat ass off in a gym infront of perfect bodies. It just means moving more today than you did yesterday and getting a groove on with that. That can mean cleaning out a spare room or the kitchen cupboards,   it can mean using your upstairs loo rather than your downstairs one, it can mean walking to a bus stop or train station and taking public transport rather than your car, it can mean strolling around a park during your lunch hour rather than sitting in the

Even this is better than total immobility
Even this is better than total immobility

canteen, taking the stairs rather than the lift even if for just one floor, it can mean walking the kids to school rather than driving them, it can mean you taking the dog for a walk with the kids rather than leaving it to them, it can mean standing up in your living room and stepping from one foot to the other during your favourite soap opera, or going for a five minute walk around your neighbourhood at 11pm when it’s dark and no one can see you. People exercise in chairs and in beds, there are videos to follow on You Tube of exercising lying down and sitting down, there is no excuse not to move more. Trust me you will be AMAZED by how fast your fitness levels increase, it happens in a matter of days and your capacity to exercise only increases the more you do it.

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Animal fat… do your research

But yes, I agree for real results and weight loss, to change from obese to normal you really do need to address that diet first and foremost. Read about food and what it does to your body, read about how your body deals with food, how it processes it and how it gets the best out of it and what it does with the rest and develop an eating plan to suit you. Include what you like to eat (the healthy things that is), find ways to adapt what you like into a healthier version so you do not feel deprived, treat yourself now and then, cut right back on sugar including the naturally occurring kind, cut out unhealthy fats (research animal and dairy fats before you make assumptions about them), think organic, think green and leafy, think minimal cooking, think naturally occurring, research your health issues and your health concerns ie hereditary conditions you want to fend off and see which nutrients and foods might help with that, read the pros and the cons and youno-matter-how-slow-you-go won’t go far wrong. Also, if you know your over eating or eating of the wrong foods is linked to something else and has become a habit or a boredom fix or something to do with your hands (ex smokers take heed) then change those habits. This should be a lifestyle change not just diet and not just exercise but often the thing that prevents us from getting in shape is a really bad habit.

Don’t think that if you can’t exercise you can’t lose weight because if that was the case how do we explain people in comas or incarcerated getting real thin and we all know that being bed bound with an illness and unable to eat results in dramatic weight loss… so whilst I wouldn’t advocate any of those methods of losing weight they prove that you can lose weight without moving much, but moving much makes losing weight so much more fun and you won’t run the risk of ending up a skinny weak saggy miserable mess at the end of your efforts.

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Do It Like a Marine – Ready made fitness plan

One of my son’s friends wants to go into the Royal Navy when he is 18 and they were chatting today about what the fitness requirements may be, so I went online and did a bit of research and we found out. Not only did we find all of the info we needed we found this fab Get Fit To Join The Royal Navy booklet with a fab fitness plan all laid out.

So the boys have decided to make this their ‘get buff for summer’ approach starting tomorrow. I’m hoping they take it beyond the summer and either use this as their fitness benchmark or they continue to develop their fitness in a healthy and purposeful way after completing this. I’m sure it will do the boy who wants to go into the forces good to have a few friends on the programme with him and the team spiritedness of the approach and no doubt a bit of competition won’t do any harm in helping him achieve his fitness goals. We’ve suggested they get sponsors and raise a bit of money for a forces related charity like Help the Heroes or such while they are at it as that may ensure that they endure to the end.  They’re going to get on with sorting that out tomorrow too.

I’m tempted to have a go myself and join them even if not actually with them as such but alongside them hidden away somewhere at different times of the day. I just thought this is a good idea for anyone who is trying to energise a teen or get them fitter and taking more care of themselves or as a family project even and especially for someone who wants to or may want to join a profession where physical fitness is going to be an assessed must.

It’s also a fun way to just build fitness and stamina, strength and ability really and if you’re lost as to where to start, or looking for a progressive programme which takes in cardio and strength, fitness and endurance and a range of exercise including swimming, running/walking, resistance training then this might be an idea for you, or an adaptation of this maybe.

Sometimes Always I find that making exercise fun, making it a social activity, making it just for fun competitive, making it about improvement and progression, giving it a goal, time limiting it, making it about raising money or awareness for a good cause… all of those things make it more fun and the more fun it is the more likely we are to do it.

Walking Back to Happiness

A good walk is really under-estimated. Sometimes we get so caught up in fashionable trends that we forget the simplest of things. Forget all this fancy exercise, just get up and take a walk. It gives you a moderate workout, most people can do it, it lightens your imood, it pumps some fresh air into your lungs and circulates lots of rich oxygen around your body, you see things and meet people if you’re lucky. It’s free,  you don’t need equipment and you can do it in all weathers.

We need to walk more.

When my dad died he had the heart and lungs of an ox, the doctors said they would have kept him going another fifty years and he’d been a smoker and a drinker and a consumer of much fat at times in his life BUT he always took a daily walk. Even when it was bitterly cold outside he would go for a walk to buy his morning newspaper rather than have it delivered and rather than take the car. Mum used to moan that he was gone too long because he used to stop and talk to all of his admirers along the way (he was always a hit with the ladies) and in bad weather everyone in the  neighbourhood knew his clockwork like routine and so they might flag him down and ask him to bring them something they needed so they didn’t have to step out, he was even known to push the odd baby or two in their prams to the shop and back to get them to take a nap for stressed mothers. Old ladies worried about a slip and a hip fracture and young ladies with snuggled up babies alike would make the most of his happy to help approach to life. His walk kept him in touch with the community, gave him a ton of people to cheer up every day and kept at least some parts of his physiology in good shape. Even the undertaker commented on how good his muscle tone was for a guy of his age.

Nick and I biked down to the sea front today after my ‘proper’ work out and we met up with old Charlie and we took a walk with him and we asked him the secret to being so sprightly and alert at 91 and he told us it was his daily walk. “No matter where I am in the world, no matter the weather, no matter how I’m feeling, I get myself up and get myself out for my walk, I think that’s the secret to this living longer lark, exercise and fresh air” he told us.  Nick didn’t mind that I chose to snuggle up to my surrogate grandad rather than him. I just love the smell of him and I never had a grandad so I’m making the most of Charlie’s offer to be anything I want as long as I have a walk with him now and again. And joy of joys, when he got home the other day several of his children and grandchildren rang to see he was OK and to chat about his wife. He was glowing when he told me.

Little things mean a lot folks. They really do. In this complex world it can be easy to forget that.

Weight Loss Up Date… 124 pounds of fat naturally shed for good

I’ve finally managed to get to a point where I really do let weeks and weeks go by without getting on the scale. This has been a goal for a couple of reasons:

1. I know my weight loss is slowing and I don’t want anything to dishearten me so the longer I leave it the bigger surprise I get which spurs me on. This will only work if you are 100% honest with yourself and as a person who struggles with obesity and over eating I can own up and say that I know I was always lying to myself about what I ate so don’t think you’re alone, I’m sure we all do it. If you know that you are going off the rails then get weighed more often maybe to give yourself the shock to get back on track. I know I’m eating super healthily and exercising lots 99% of the time so I know I’m not going to be gaining fat so I’m happy to leave the scale alone.

2. I don’t want to be a slave to the scales. I want my journey primarily to be about how I feel, my lifestyle improvements and how healthy and fit I am and not focusing on my size or weight alone. So weight isn’t something I need to check constantly although it is of course the indicator which will show progress and which will get you into the desired blasted BMI bracket which your doctor, insurance company, company nurse will use to assess your ‘health’ in terms of your weight to height ratio. Like it or not and I don’t, that BMI figure is used to judge us and so we may as well try to comply, it’s a measure if nothing else.

I envy people who can totally set themselves free from the scales and use measurements of body parts instead as a guide, or clothes sizes or whatever but I do need to see those numbers I’ll admit it but I’m able to prioritise it less and less in terms of importance to me. But having said that I do like to be able to visualise my progress statistically and mounting numbers is a good way to do that.

Anyway I’ve gone over a month again without stepping on a scale and weighed in today after my training session. Before I do the reveal, I have to tell you it was a really tough session – gruelling, sweat tears and almost blood as we stepped outside onto the beach today and I ran up and down the sea defence wall 4 times [remember when my goal was to be able to walk to the top??] and I lost my footing on the final descent and tumbled to the bottom… fortunately only from two steps up. I’m fine though, fortunately I was so wrapped up against the winter chill that I think I bounced on layers of fleece and wool. Darren my PT laughed when I turned up and insisted that I went through my layers to show him what I was wearing. I unzipped the first fleece top and revealed a big chunky knit bobble hat under the hood after I’d unwound ten layers of self crocheted scarf and two pairs of gloves. Under that I had two sweat shirts and two pairs of sweat pants, 2 pairs of socks, a tee shirt and leggings and a base layer over my thermal underwear which was over my control pants and sports bra. I kid you not, this is the North Sea we’re talking about, it’s February, the sun wasn’t even up, I was taking no chances even though movement was slightly inhibited. I had to shift some rocks today… that’s what Darren does to me he has me rearranging whatever nature deposited on the beach often.

I weighed when I got back to the gym with Darren (who incidentally wants to see my weight loss in pounds periodically for his records) and found I have lost a total of 124lbs almost 9 stones now with a loss since last weigh in at the beginning of January of 7lbs. That translates internationally to give me a current weight of:

15 stones 13 pounds  OR     223 lbs    OR     101.15 kgs

I am close to some goals here – next weigh in should see me through that 9 stone mark and under 100 kgs. I am at my lowest weight now for over 15 years which is the most important thing to me.

Tracey has now lost 17 chunks and next weigh in should be another piece gone, leaving just two before I can wave goodbye to her forever. If you don’t know Tracey she’s my visual goal of ten stones which I set when I started this journey in April 2014. There is not much of her left now unfortunately, she’s been like a buddy through this, a buddy I wanted to shake off but will miss dreadfully. I might have to create a mini Tracey to carry in my wallet just to remind me of her. When Tracey has gone of course I will also no longer be obese in terms of BMI so she is a hugely significant goal for me. When she’s gone I’ll just be over weight with a nice steady paced journey ahead to become ‘normal’ and then a long, steady road always taking me away from being a fat person. I can’t wait to be able to start that journey of maintenance although really, if you’re doing this with healthy diet and exercise and making real lifestyle changes you are already on that journey anyway.

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Tracey as she was
Tracey now
Tracey now

Sharing a PT – training on a budget

I started to share one of my personal training sessions each week with a friend who has been inspired by my development. It’s a very recent thing and something I would recommend for a few reasons (pros and cons listed below please comment if you can think of any more). I find it flattering that I’ve inspired someone to make a change in their life and so I welcomed the request to share a session but secretly wasn’t flattered enough to want to share them all so I’m hoping that awkward ask never materialises. More than being flattered though I’m happy for my friend, she has made excuses about a thyroid problem for so many years and we all know that there are very few true medical problems which make us fat and leave us with no way of addressing the issue. It can be a relief to have a medical condition diagnosed so that we can hide behind it, I’ve often wished for a thyroid problem myself and actually been disappointed when my bloods have come back normal. That’s so sad and I can’t believe I’m admitting it but it’s true and admitting it shows how much I’m winning with this whole obesity nightmare.

So I’m pleased for her, she’s already lost a lot of weight by making dietary changes and moving more so for her to be ready for a beasting at Darren’s hands is great as I know that it will have a huge impact on her progress.

So the pros of sharing your a personal trainer:

1. It makes it more affordable for both of you as most trainers will give you a reduced rate if you are sharing a session or introducing a new client

2. It’s a good way of trying out trainers before fully committing to a long contract with one. I sign a 6 monthly contract with Darren but he was happy to let my friend join in contract free for 8 weeks which is great for her as not every trainer is right for every person. We’re all different which is why one size fits all approaches to diet and exercise are not right for everyone.

3. You can add in the competitive factor to your work outs which makes you give that extra push and work that little bit harder

4. Your trainer can get you working out using one another’s weight and resistance to enhance your exercise… my friend had to drag me on a kids plastic sled around the big classroom in the gym the other day, tied to her waist on a harness. It was a really good laugh and she did so well, so much better with me giggling and cheering her on than if it has been sandbags.

On the downside:

1. It can be difficult to find someone who needs exactly what you need or who is at the same level of fitness you are although a good trainer will manage this well (mine does) without either of you feeling left out or unchallenged.

2. I found that grueling sessions with my trainer brought out a lot of emotional pain and he was often more of a counselor for me in the early days. He got behind my mental barriers and broke them down, he understood that I’d had a lifetime of never believing that I could or that I was worthy and he pushed me to the edge and picked me up when the tears started to pour and the anger locked away in me started to show itself. It may be difficult to do that with a witness so you could miss out on that element of personal training which to me was invaluable. That physical expulsion of years of emotional hurt was a major turning point in my attitude towards food, life, exercise, self image, self esteem, confidence for me and I would not have achieved what I have so far without it.

3. You will have another person’s schedule to work around so there may have to be some give and take with timing of sessions. I know that routine is of huge importance to my success so far and I also know that in the past when I’ve lost weight and been a gym regular, deviations from my usual routine have often been the first step on the road back to hell. So if you do share a session with a friend try to agree a schedule weeks in advance… planning again as I always say, is so important to staying on the right path.

4. Whilst I agree that some healthy competition can be an incentive when working out, sharing a trainer could find you and your friend competing in a less healthy way. I hate competitive weight loss I really don’t think it works, at least not for me. It’s great to get those awards and to be announced slimmer of the week but those weeks when it isn’t you can be really hard and damaging to your progress and also not a true reflection of your efforts. So I would avoid at all costs going into a weight loss comparison with a training partner even thought it could be tempting to do so. Congratulate yourself on your losses, be proud about them and shout about them but don’t compare them with anyone who is doing better or worse than you are.

To end on a positive… the more people you have in your life who get what you are doing, who are trying to do the same, the more support you have and the more people you have to invite round, visit or go out with for healthy lunches and dinners where you can discuss fat content and nutrition to your hearts’ content without anyone getting bored or mocking you is a bonus. Sad but true, people do mock fat people and our enthusiasm for healthy lifestyles, even those who love us the most. I guess some of that comes from us never having succeeded before but each time they should believe and hope and pray that this is the time that it will work and we do deserve their support. In the absence of that, a friend who is going to get as excited about sharing your latest wheat grass harvest with you as you are or who is happy to talk you you through a raging craving to consume your former body weight in chocolate is a real ally in the many battles we fight as we try to win this war.

Doubling up…music is an important part of this journey

I have my other blog which focuses on music and songs that I love but sometimes I feel the need to double up and share posts from there on here too, especially if they relate to my journey to the new me and refinding myself.

Today’s post there definitely does relate to this journey. Have a read, it’s a short one as most of my music blog posts are Sound Of LIfe Love And Everything Link

Music helps me so much, it’s been a major part of my life and since I’ve been on this path it’s helped me  to relax, to energise myself and keep on going with exercise, it’s helped me to analyse myself, to admit things to myself and to allow myself to let go and release emotions I’ve kept bottled for too long.  It was music that made me make those first steps that were ‘exercise’ for me back last year when I shuffled my morbidly obese self from one foot to another to some of my favourite tunes and music which brings me so much joy when I get to sing and jam with my little family or when we get to take a live concert in together.

I’ve learned that finding out what gives you pleasure besides food and eating is very important to success. For me music is one of those things. If I’m struggling and want to eat crap or have a binge I can stick on some nice music and relax for a few minutes, have a mini-meditation and the urge passes or I can stick on some lively music and dance around for a few minutes and I’m energised and the urge passes or I can put on an emotional song and bawl for the loss of the person or time in my life that it reminds me of.

A lot of how I manage my addiction to food is to divert my attention away from the craving, it is not hunger, I eat enough, often enough and well enough for my body to not need more, the craving is something else, it is my addiction telling me to self destruct and I can’t stop it happening altogether, maybe I’ll never stop it happening but I can  head it off and take my mind off it until it goes away.

Music really helps do that as music can instantly lift us onto another plane, as I say it can drop us down to our knees in grief or gratitude, it can slump us to our backs in relaxation or it can raise us to our feet and make us dance and rejoice. Just that shift in mood, pace, tempo or whatever can distract me away from my craving, it works. If you struggle with cravings try making music your friend and using it to help you. It’s 100% calorie free and we all have some music hanging around. Use it to burn off some energy, confront a sorrow or cheer you up with happy memories or to just take a moment away from the world to relax and think.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 6

We’re rattling through these now. I asked my kids and Nick to give me a word each for the next three letters and I promised to find a way to link that to healthy eating or healthy living somehow. So here goes with the latest in the A-Z of things to help me keep on track this Christmas and things I’ve used in the past to help me cope and see a weight loss over the festive period.

L is for Love

Well I only need refer you to my last post for you to know that love is a big feature of Christmas this year. Nick gave me this one, I think he’s as soppy as I am right now.

I thought about this and love is the reason I started out on this healthy lifestyle journey. I love my kids and I didn’t want to die and leave them too soon. Simple as that. Love is a strong motivator and if you download (6)are trying to find a reason to start a healthy lifestyle then you could do worse than to find some love to motivate you. Your kids, your family, your job, your love for yourself, your love of the outdoors … anything. Try to find a motivator which will give you more time to love, more ability to love, more likelihood of loving… anything, love really does help.

Love for yourself came to my mind and I thought about how I hated myself before I started this and when I started this and how that has changed and how much I love and respect myself and my body now and how I don’t want to let that change, I don’t want to hate me again. So just being mindful of the love I have for myself now and all of the blessings that has brought will help me to say no to over indulging or skipping exercise.

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Love Christmas Reading

Also having people you love to do things with that distract you from food cravings will also help you anytime of year but at this time why not identify when your weak spots are likely to be, for me at night when we’re sitting as a family preparing to a watch a movie, and do something else together. We do family reading every week so try that, get out a book of festive poems or an old favourite Christmas children’s story, read a chunk of Dicken’s Christmas Carol or get the bible out. Reading makes you less likely to pursue a food craving especially if you are the one who is doing the reading. It’s also lovely quality family time to sit cosied up having a story together no matter how old you or your loved ones are.

I also thought about love gainers and love losers. When I’m in a relationship, especially a new one I tend to lose weight because I have other things to comfort my stresses and I am orally fixated (I fit right into the Freudian stereotype) and so I get to talk more and kiss more and stuff like that which stops me from needing to cram food in my mouth.  But I know some are love gainers, they get into a relationship and BAM! 21lbs piles on from nowhere.

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Weight Watchers worked for me in the past but I don’t do break up diets I do break up face stuffing

I think for some of my friends this has been the start of a yo-yo, where they do the break up diet, then they have the relationship gain, then the break up diet, the relationship gain and each time they gain more and more and their dependence on relationships becomes less and less healthy and they become less and less choosey and the partners become less and less desirable and the break ups become more and more harsh and the weight gain becomes heavier and heavier and the break up diets become less and less successful. I could point out at least 3 friends right now who fall into this pattern. It’s sad and I try to advise them to spend some time alone, try to get the break up diet into full swing, let it start to build good habits, let it get them to slim rather than lose a few pounds, build a little confidence and dive on the first man who looks your way, move him in within ten days and then wonder why things aren’t working after four weeks and you’re breaking up again. But they’re in as bad a cycle as obesity can bring about and it’s truly awful when that cycle adds obesity to their problems. They need to find strength to get out of it, advice isn’t going to make a difference.

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Sure but don’t let your partner know that

So… love (TMI alert now)… if you’re in it, keep an eye on the waistline, spend time doing more fun things like using up some calories in the bedroom, yeeee ha! You know what I’m saying, but please don’t do like me and stop thinking about the emotional activity and start trying to isolate muscles and consider how they must be working right now and switch positions to get a more even work out on the corresponding set of muscles (Yep I do that… am I alone? I don’t think so, I hope not anyway). But yeah, get some loving going on, get the pulse rate up and a sweat happening.

And don’t forget, it’s so much more sexy feeding each other strawberries than slices of pie on the kitchen floor by fridge light at midnight too.

If you’re breaking up, keep on that break up plan and don’t stop when the first guy looks at you, get that healthy eating and exercise embedded for life and leave seriousness with guys until you’ve completely washed the last one out of your hair and you want a relationship with someone because you are ready to be with someone not because you can’t think of anything to fill the space your last habit left.

M is for Mince Pies

My daughter gave me this one. For anyone who doesn’t know a mince pie is something we eat traditionally at Christmas, it’s a shortcrust pastry filled with all of those fruits we would have

Mince Pies
Mince Pies

traditionally dried and preserved in the summer to see us through the winter. So they are filled with what we call mincemeat (not to be mistaken for minced meat which is animal flesh pressed through little holes). Mincemeat is made of things like sultanas and any other dried berries and cherries and citrus peel and suet. It used to contain little pieces of veal or beef hence it being called mincemeat but it no longer does. It is infused with those typical winter spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and often brandy. Christmas is not Christmas in the UK until the first mince pie has been baked or bought and consumed.

They are full of calories and fat. Suet (even though it’s a small amount), the fermented sugars in the fruit, the lard and butter in the pastry and then the custard or cream you dollop on top. I can’t avoid them at Christmas, I just can’t. It is such a tradition that I have to have some. Here’s what I do to make it less of a monster on the waist line:

I make a large tart, like an open pie in a tray bake pan. I use a very thin crisp pre-baked pastry case to minimise the amount of fat and calories coming from the pastry. So I make my pastry reducing the fat

Tray Bake Mince Pie Fingers
Tray Bake Mince Pie Fingers. These were made using a flaky patry and topped with little stars which still reduces the amount of pastry but gives a nice appearance and you could always take the star off your own.

from  half fat to flour to a third and blind bake it. This makes the pastry more crisp but who cares, it’s pastry.

Then I add my mincemeat and I tend to make my own without the suet and I mush it all together and stick it in a jar at the end of summer and fasten it up tight and leave it in a cupboard to do its thing. I add (to a big mason jar) two teaspoons of brown muscovado sugar and a tablespoon of brandy. If you buy it have a good read of the labels and check what is in it and the fat content.

This is not 100% healthy but it’s better than shop bought. I put a thin layer into my pastry case about a centimeter to a centimeter and half deep (1/2 – 3/4 of an inch) and then I pop in the oven again for about 10 minutes just to warm and let the mince spread out into all the nooks and crannies. Then I cut off the excess pastry sides so as to continue to minimise that pastry consumption and I serve it in small squares or thin fingers. For other

Less pastry on your mince pie, make a festive shape instead of a full lid
Less pastry on your mince pie, make a festive shape instead of a full lid

people I sprinkle with icing sugar. For myself I don’t. I might eat it on its own or I might have a tiny teaspoon of ice cream with it, or a teaspoon of cream drizzled on to it. You could also do like the picture on the left above and add some pastry stars or you could reduce the amount of pastry by sticking to the traditional bake and making a christmas shape on top instead of a full lid as in the picture on the right.

It gives me my fix and stops me feeling like I missed out. I’ll allow myself a couple of pieces, so I will make this on Tuesday and I’ll have a piece that same day and another maybe on Christmas evening.

Really the point of this part of the post is to say that you don’t have to go without what you enjoy at this time of year, you can either just throw caution to the wind and scoff them back, limit yourself to a regular one, or find an alternative way to enjoy the treat that isn’t going to do as much harm as a regular one or just stay clear of the things you know you have a problem with but don’t make yourself miserable or feel like you’re depriving yourself. In my experience if I’ve done that I’ve only let it eat away at me and ended up having a huge binge.

So, at the end of the day I will have two pieces of this but even if I had two regular pies (they are small pies) that would not be anywhere near as bad as last year when I probably ate about twenty of them over the festive period. So even if I ate six it would be an improvement.

Make sure you get that perspective on your eating when you are making choices at this time of  year or any time of  year where food may be an unwelcome hurdle to overcome. If you’ve been living clean and healthy you will find that you make better choices without thinking about it and that you are more restrained than you realised anyway and as I’ve said elsewhere you will feel the bad effects of rubbish food very quickly and attune yourself to those. Your body sends you signals for a reason they are a warning sign and they can be a powerful motivator. You are no longer used to feeling bloated, to having gas emissions exploding out of both ends, you don’t know what indigestion or heart burn medication is anymore and your bowel function has probably been pretty uneventful, those nasty things coming back into your life can be a major shock telling you to get back on track fast.

N is for nuts

My son gave me this one. Nuts, shelled nuts, are a real British tradition too at this time of year. Many homes will have a big bowl of them on display when they don’t usually have so much as a peanut for the birds hanging around the garden.

download (8)Nuts are super good for you so eat them! Go for nuts rather than chocs and pies and cake when you are visiting friends BUT do not over indulge. Not only do nuts contain a lot of oil (fat, much of which is good fat) some of them can be quite toxic if consumed in high doses.

One year I munched my way through a ton of Brazil nuts (chocolate coated of course) and I ended up confined to my bed for three days with the most intense debilitating head ache, extreme lethargy and such a thirst for water that I nearly drank London dry. I put it down to stress or a virus but when I finally made it to my doctor and described my symptoms he asked if I’d eaten and nuts and when I told him which nut and how many he laughed and said I’d poisoned myself and I was lucky because I could have actually poisoned myself to death! Who’d have thought it? So please take care.

My Christmas Nemesis
My Christmas Nemesis

Here’s a great little item that contains all you need to know from Super Human Coach.

I love to eat nuts with cheese and grapes. I like to keep a strict eye on the amount of dairy I eat as that is where more or less all of my animal fat consumption comes from on a daily basis. At Christmas what has worked for me in the past is saving up my daily cheese allowance so that I can enjoy a little dabble on a cheese board but I do make my selection and take it away I never sit and chop and eat, that is dangerous for me. If I’m stuck at a table I will pass the board away from me once I’ve got what I want.

Fabulously attractive cheese board. This is one of my major temptations.
Fabulously attractive cheese board. This is one of my major temptations.

What I will do though is fill up with fruits, grapes, apple slices or whatever, a little cheese and a few nuts. Again as with other things I savour every morsel, I don’t bolt it down and I don’t put it onto crackers I just savour those flavours and thank God I’m alive.

If you are doing the entertaining or preparing a cheeseboard for your family include a variety of nuts in small bowls and go heavy on the fruits and be less indulgent with the cheeses, either use smaller pieces of more cheeses or use bigger pieces of fewer cheeses and include some fat free varieties if you can or reduced fat or mix up some zero fat cream cheese with some chopped chives, olives or gherkins. Keep the crackers minimal too and again look for zero fat and low calorie options, ryvita, rice cakes and crisp rolls for example.

Nuts and seeds are one of my daily essentials anyway but they are usually ground up in my morning

Make it more basic and add nuts and lots of chopped fruit
Make it more basic and add nuts and lots of chopped fruit

granola or sprinkled onto something or into something so it’s quite nice to have a few that are still whole and crunchy and I go for those which are harder to get out of the shell so that the whole process takes me longer to accomplish which allows my stomach to register that it maybe isn’t that empty after all, especially if the cheese board comes out as a dessert or a penultimate course before coffee.

So don’t avoid nuts, educate yourself about them and don’t over indulge on them either. They’re a festive treat not to be missed but not to kill yourself with either.

This was a big one, shorter tomorrow starting with O and running on to R.