June in a Nutshell

Its almost halfway through the year!  How insanely fast has this year gone?! I say that every year, but one thing I’ve noticed is it just gets faster every year. Today is the 2nd to last day of June and it’s been a pretty exciting month for me.  I’ve managed to stick to all 3 of my June challenges and I’ve had a few opportunities thrown my way which is really exciting! I’ve had a really sore lower half of my body for most of the month from my squat challenge, a very positive outlook from my yoga challenge and a constant chocolate craving from Junk Free June.

Further Food has asked me to submit a feature and the best part, they found me through my Instagram page! I’d never actually heard of them before, but they are a website designed for people who want to try nutrition as a healer for their every day problems.  I need to write an article about my journey with food and wellness and also submit 6 recipes for them to select from.  It’s going to be a lot of work, but pretty exciting at the same time.

My work asked me if I would like to write an article about my mental and physical health changes using nutrition and fitness for the quarterly magazine that they put out for us which was really awesome.  I wrote a few paragraphs about my journey for them and it will soon be available for all my workmates, nationwide and their families to see.  This was a little nerve wracking, having it all out in the open, but I figured that’s what my blog is about and who knows, maybe I will inspire someone.  The big boss has already told me he was very impressed by my article.

I won a couple of contests on Instagram too which was pretty awesome.  A yoga bracelet/Mala pictured below and some Kombucha from Good Buzz Brewing which I had been wanting to try for a while.  It’s pretty good!

image

I also had a couple of disappointments towards the end of the month, which I feel I didn’t handle too well.  I was upset.  Justifiably, but it started the anxiety wheels turning in my head which made me think I was heading for a downslide.  But as Zombie pointed out, I’ve had a lot thrown at me this year and I’ve handled the majority of it really well.  I just have to remember to remind myself that it is possible to feel sad or upset and not have it be a result of failing mental health.  I think my mental health radar might be switched on a little too high, but I figure this is something I will learn to fine tune over time.

In just one more day, Junk Free June will be all done and dusted for the year and I will be able to eat chocolate again, which I am looking forward to.  I’m really glad that I participated this  year.  I hit my $200 fundraising goal within the first week and I’m still getting donations now which is just amazing.  I’ve also branched out quite a bit and made some sugar free treats that don’t rely on chocolate for the flavour, such as my No Bake Coconut Lemon Slice which has proved to be quite a hit on here.  I can honestly say that a few years ago I would not have been able to go an entire month without chocolate, junk food or the like, it just goes to show how much I’ve grown, that I can put my mind to something and stick with it.  It makes me really proud of myself.

It’s not too late to support Junk Free June, if you would like to sponsor me, you can do so here.  100% of the money raised goes to The Cancer Society of New Zealand, which is a fantastic cause.  Unfortunately we have all been affected by cancer in our lives, whether it be ourselves, a loved one or a friend and it’s a devastating thing to have to go through.  Hopefully with all the support and awareness that is going on for Cancer research lately it will eventually become a thing of the past.

I’m really looking forward to see what July brings now.  I haven’t set myself too many challenges, I feel I may have taken on a little too much this month, so I’m just going to stick to one yoga challenge, continued healthy eating and exercise and keeping a positive outlook.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Advertisements

No Bake Coconut Lemon Slice

Last week I reintroduced butter into my diet.  I don’t eat bread anymore so there hasn’t been a lot of need for me to have butter this year, but I do like to use it in some of my cooking as I find it adds a nice flavour.  After a few days of having a little bit of butter each day with no reactions, I decided that it was time to do some baking with it!

When I was little mum did a lot of baking.  She made all sorts of goodies, my favourite being ‘nanas chocolate fudge’ but she also made some that I wasn’t so keen on, like Citrus Slice.  I just couldn’t for the life of me work out why anyone would want to eat a biscuit that didn’t have chocolate in it.  Honestly, I thought she was crazy.  Sorry mum!

I’ve grown up a bit since then.  To be honest, I would have turned my nose up at a citrus slice even a few years ago, but since being on my elimination diet and with Junk Free June this month, I’ve had to branch out a little bit.  And it’s been good for me, my treats are no longer solely chocolate based! So with mums slice in mind I decided to see what I could do and I have to say I’m really happy with the result.

I posted a picture of these yesterday on my Instagram and Facebook pages and I have to say I’ve never had so many requests for a recipe, so I’m sharing due to popular demand. So excited that I can actually say that!

This is a gluten free and sugar free no bake slice reminiscent of mums Citrus Slice that I never used to like as a child.  I think I may finally be a grown up!

No Bake Coconut and Lemon Slice

image

For the base:

10 dates, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
50 gm melted butter
½ cup almond meal
¼ cup coconut flour
A few drops of liquid stevia (to taste)
Juice of 1 lemon

For the icing/curd:

Juice of 1-2 lemons (depends how strong you want the lemon taste)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
50 gm butter, cubed
3-4 drops of liquid Stevia (to taste)

Coconut flakes and/or lemon zest to garnish

 
Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Whisk the lemon and egg and stevia for the icing together in a small saucepan.

Turn the heat onto low and add in the butter.

Stir until butter is melted.

Turn heat up to medium and stir continuously until the mix thickens, it should be quite thick and not too runny.

Push the mixture through a sieve to remove any eggy bits and set aside.

In a food processor or blender mix all base ingredients well. If the mixture is too wet a little more coconut flour.

Press dough into the lined loaf tin.

Spread icing evenly over.

Top with coconut flakes and/or lemon zest.

Put in the freezer for 2 hours to set before cutting.

 

This slice can be stored in the fridge as it gets a little soft at room temperature. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do and as always would love to know what you think of it.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

 

 

Facing Fears

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I work for an amazing company with an amazing bunch of people and last night was proof of this.

Like a lot of workplaces, we have a social club, but I like to think that ours is a little better than most. In the almost four years that I’ve had the job we’ve done some amazing activities, including white water rafting, clay bird shooting, jet boating and also my first fishing trip, pictured below. The activities are suggested by the staff and sometimes we vote to choose what happens next outing. They’re also reasonably regular, but not too often which is perfect.

image

I love the activities. It’s usually a little out of my comfort zone, like the white water rafting, but it’s a chance for me to socialize with my workmates without having to freak out too much about small talk, because we’re all occupied. It’s almost like being at work, but with different tasks for the day. And of course a lot of fun.

About a month ago the next event was scheduled. A Midwinters Christmas Party, which is something we hadn’t done before. A conference room at a bar was hired, along with a DJ and drinks and nibbles would be provided. People were very keen and back in my drinking days, I would have been too.

I used to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. I was absolutely fine in small groups (2-3 people) whilst sober, but as soon as the numbers got too high, I couldn’t do it. The really odd thing was, even if it was still only a small group, if we were at a bar or somewhere loud, I had the same social phobia issues. I think maybe because it’s harder to hear.

Alcohol gave me confidence. I wasn’t an alcoholic, I didn’t crave alcohol on a daily or even weekly basis, I just couldn’t socialize without it. I’m not even sure how it got to that point. I wasn’t overly social growing up but it seemed to change when I discovered drinking. I never made the connection until recent years tho.

I thought a lot about attending the party and a few days beforehand decided that I needed to. I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone otherwise it will always be this way. This year has been about no longer taking the easy way out so social situations should be no different. So I said I’d go. Due to my elimination diet and junk free June, there was obviously no drinking or nibbling for me, so it really was the perfect opportunity for me to face my fear.

Of course as soon as I said I’d go I started freaking out about it.

Yesterday was a very busy day, so I was running late. Because I had to go out and face my fears, I was ok with this. And I deliberately took longer than usual getting ready. Procrastinating is very common for people with anxiety, it’s almost like we think if we delay the inevitable long enough that maybe it won’t happen?

I did get a confidence boost just before I left, when I discovered that the dress I wanted to wear fit! It used to be really tight but last night it was almost baggy!

I arrived just over an hour late and sat in the car for a few minutes preparing myself then decided it’s now or never and made my way inside.

Immediately it became obvious that I had agonized over nothing. Everyone who saw me was pleased to see me and struck up conversations right away. It actually took me a while to get inside for all the chat!

Once inside I grabbed a water and was offered a chair. There was a bit of conversation going on but the music was really loud and pumping and I managed to get myself dragged onto the dance floor.

image

The next couple of hours are a blur but what I can tell you is I had a great time. We danced to all sorts of different music that the DJ was mixing, we laughed, took photos and I had an absolute ball. I was planning on leaving after half an hour but I ended up staying for about two and a half hours. I still wanted an early night, that’s become my thing in recent months, but I was reluctant to leave, which is the part that I’m still marveling over. It’s a good feeling.

I don’t know if my workmates knew I was scared of socializing with them, but it doesn’t matter. They gave me the best sober night out I’ve had in a really long time and for that I am truly grateful. And I’m really looking forward to the retelling of stories on Monday.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Sweet and Savoury Stuffed Crepes

It’s recipe time again and I’ve got another vegetarian dish for you today. I do actually eat quite a lot of meat but I’ve been experimenting so much lately for Meat Free Monday and I’ve had quite a bit of success which I like to share.

A couple of weeks ago I was a bit stumped for what to have for dinner that Monday.  I’d been really slack with my meal planning and had just been winging it for a while, which made for some lovely and interesting creations, but also for a lot of last minute thinking.  Often I would start cooking with no idea what I was making, just the ingredients.

This was one of those occasions and the result was just wonderful.  It’s a cross between enchiladas and cannelloni, at least that’s where the inspiration came from, but I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t justifiably call it either, so Sweet and Savoury Stuffed Crepes it is.  These are vegetarian, gluten free and have a dairy free option and are ridiculously tasty.

Sweet And Savoury Stuffed Crepes

image

For the crepes:

2 eggs
4 tbsp brown rice flour
5 tbsp water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

For the filling:

1 medium sized orange kumara (sweet potato)
6 button mushrooms, sliced
Small onion, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

3 tomatoes roughly chopped
½ small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Grated cheese for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 ℃.

Start by making the crepes.  Heat the oil in a small frying pan (I used 10inch) on medium heat.

Mix the remaining crepe ingredients well.  If mixture is too thick add a little more water.

Spoon a little mixture onto the frying pan to cover the base.  It should be a very thin layer, approximately 5 dessertspoons of mix.

Cook until the top has dried a little and the underside is lightly browned.  Carefully flip.

Cook until underside is lightly browned, set aside and repeat.  This should make 5-6 crepes.

While making crepes, peel and cube the kumara and boil in water until soft.

While kumara is boiling, heat 1 tsp of the oil in a pan on medium heat and gently sauté the mushrooms and onions.

In a separate frying pan, sauté all the sauce ingredients except cheese on medium heat until tomatoes soften. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl then blitz until smooth with a stick blender.

Mash the kumara well and add the remaining olive oil, mushrooms, onions, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir until creamy.

Spread the filling evenly across the crepes.  You want to do this in a line down the centre of the crepe.

Line a baking dish with baking paper.

Roll up crepes and place in the baking dish with the overlapped side facing down so that they don’t spring open.

Spoon sauce evenly across the middle of the crepes then sprinkle with cheese if desired.

Bake at 180 for 20 minutes before serving.

These can be served as a main over rice with vegetables or as a side themselves.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

How to Make a Meal Plan

A few weeks ago I posted Staying On Track With A Busy Schedule and I mentioned about how making a meal plan is absolute key.  Now it’s confession time, I have been slacking off in this area.  I’m still sticking to my elimination diet 100%, but most days I’m just winging it and deciding what to have moments before I start cooking.  I might know that I’m having chicken, but not how.  It has pros and cons.  I’ve been a lot more creative because of this, but it’s not so ideal because I’m less prepared and it makes meal times a little stressful.

So this week I’m back into my meal planning and I thought I’d share how to do it.  When I first started on my healthy journey a lot of advice I received was to meal plan, but no one really told me how.  My very first meal plan was quite a mess.  I wrote down what I was having for breakfast, lunch and tea each day, but I wasn’t very specific, I didn’t include snacks and I ended up spending most of the week struggling through each meal because I hadn’t really planned it at all.

I learned from this.  I learned that personally, I need to be OCD with my meal plan.  I need to have everything detailed so that I know exactly what food I need to buy, what I need to prepare ahead of time and ultimately this makes my life a lot easier.  Obviously you don’t have to go into as much detail as I do, but I think that for someone starting out with meal planning and a healthy lifestyle, it’s definitely helpful to be as specific as possible until you get into a routine.

I start my meal plan by making a grid in my planning book (yes, I have a book).  If you want something that’s done for you, try Googling: Meal and exercise plan template.  I found the one in my image here.  If you are printing a template off the web, try laminating it and using a removable marker, that way you can use it again, week after week.  You can also use a whiteboard and update it each week as well, the choice is yours.

Once my grid is ready and labelled with meal times and days, I like to make a few notes of what I want to eat in a week on a separate page that I can cross off as I go.  For example, I aim to eat fish and beef for two dinners each week, chicken and pork for one dinner each week and vegetarian all day Monday.  Some weeks I might mix it up, but having this plan takes some of the decision making away from the word go.

Now we get to the business end.  I start with breakfast.  Personally, I like to eat something different for breakfast each day.  Even if the base is the same, I’ll have it with different fruits or vegetables to make it more interesting.  Write down what you will eat for breakfast each day and be specific, for example if you are a porridge person, note what fruit you will have with it so you can plan your shopping better.

After breakfast I like to write down my snacks.  Snacks are pretty easy, but often overlooked and that’s when we can run into trouble.  My snacks are similar most days, but I like to mix them up a little and I also always take something extra each day, just in case I get struck by unexpected hunger.  It happens a lot.  My go to snacks are fruits, carrots and dip (peanut butter to be exact), homemade muffins, bliss balls, muesli bags and roasted chickpeas or raw nuts. Even if you’re having the exact same snacks almost every day it’s still important to write them down so that you know how much to get.

image

Next step dinners.  The reason I do this before lunch is so that I can plan for leftovers.  Leftovers take a lot of the work out of lunches, it’s as simple as making a little extra at dinner time which really doesn’t take any more effort.  I’ve noted down what proteins I want so now I just need to expand as to how I’ll have them and with what vegetables.

Working out lunches is easy from here.  If I’ve had steak for dinner, I’m not going to make an extra one for lunch because I like my steak freshly cooked.  But if I’ve had curry for dinner as you can see I plan to on Thursday, it’s nice to have leftovers the following day so that’s my lunch automatically sorted.  For the remaining days I’ll choose easy options that I can make ahead to also save time in the mornings.

I like to note down my planned exercise too.  This way I can make sure I’m allocating all the different exercises I want to do in a week like cardio, yoga, core work etc.  if you’re not ready to exercise or prefer to wing it, just skip this part.

After I’ve made my meal plan it’s easy to make a grocery list, I just go through each meal/snack and note down what I need.  No more struggling to make a list and forgetting half of what I need anymore. I also know exactly what I need to prepare ahead of time, for example in the week planned in the pictures I’ll need to make soup, pizza, bliss balls and muffins. Of course all of these will be elimination diet friendly and healthy too.

The best part about a meal plan is you can mix it up.  If you get to Wednesday and you don’t feel like fish for dinner like your plan states, then don’t have it, swap it with Thursday, there’s no harm in that.  It’s the planning that’s important and ultimately what will assist in sticking to a healthy diet. Happy planning!

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

 

 

Twenty-one Weeks On

I realized the other day that I haven’t posted about my elimination diet much lately. It’s been twenty one weeks now and it’s become a way of life for me, something that I don’t really think about anymore. It has been a little harder this month due to Junk Free June, chocolate was my only treat! But I have found ways around this too that mean I can still have a treat, without chocolate and still no sugars, such as these sugar free salted caramel bliss balls.

image

I’m still no closer to finding out what foods disagree with me. I’ve reintroduced eggs, cheese, gluten free oats, berries, nightshades, beef, nuts, chocolate (except for June), and pork. This means bacon! This was the most exciting reintroduction for sure!

My eczema, while not completely gone but drastically improved to the point that I consider it a non issue now, has only flared up during times of stress, which I am better at handling than I used to be. I’m starting to wonder if the main cause of my eczema was one of the myriad of strange ingredients in processed foods, maybe ‘flavour enhancer (621)’. I’m never going to be eating processed foods on a huge scale again like I used to though so I’m hoping that that’s the end of it.

My energy levels are insane! I am so much more productive than I used to be and I’m noticing that these levels just keep going up. I sometimes get more done in a day than I used to in a week! Maybe that’s not saying much, at the height of my depression sometimes showering might be the only thing I managed in a week, but it makes me feel so much more alive achieving so many things on a regular basis.

image

I am fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been and I’m at a stage in my life where I want to exercise, a lot. I hate rest days and I never imagined I would be that person. I understand the importance of them, I just don’t want to have them. Even six months ago I had to force myself to exercise but those days are gone.

I now sleep like a baby. Sleeping was something I had struggled with all my life. I was constantly tired, yawning, struggling to stay awake, but as soon as bedtime hit I would lie awake for hours. I never slept through the night and sometimes would manage 2-3 hours of broken sleep  a night for days in a row. Now I’m alert all day from the moment I wake up until bedtime. I fall asleep very quickly and stay asleep. I wake up refreshed and raring to go every day. I still yawn occasionally and have the odd motivation issue but I no longer spend my days wanting to sleep.

I am in control of my mental health. As far back as I can remember, my depression and constant anxiety controlled my life and daily decisions. Anxiety made me scared to do anything and depression made me think it was hopeless anyway. I spent my days thinking negative thoughts and then berating myself for it. It was a vicious cycle. Today is a completely different story. I am happy the majority of the time, I stress and worry less and I have a very positive outlook. I am not cured, I will always have depression and anxiety, but it no longer controls me and that is a damn good feeling.

I’m no longer doubling over in pain on a daily basis. Back in the day my stomach was constantly sore and cramping, sometimes to the point where I had to stop what I was doing and wait it out. Bathroom breaks were a horrible experience, far too regular and often painful and I often felt nauseated while I was experiencing cramps. In the twenty-one weeks I’ve been on the elimination diet I’ve had stomach pains 5 times, 3 of which were cycle related. This is a huge win in my books as I had accepted these pains as the norm, but no more.

Headaches are few and far between. I was guaranteed to get a headache at least 3 times a week as far back as I can remember and I practically lived on Panadol, even though it didn’t always help. I still have the occasional headache and I did have a really bad one a couple of weeks ago, but it’s no longer the norm and I’m ok with that.

My hair is softer and more manageable and seems to need washing less. My nails are stronger, no longer breaking on me left right and center. My skin is softer and I’m not having any annoying breakouts anymore. The dark circles under my eyes are the lightest they have ever been.

My attitude towards food has changed. I no longer sneak eat and I don’t feel guilty about how much I eat, which is a lot. I can quite happily turn down food that was irresistible to me in the past, such as potato chips and savouries. I eat three healthy square meals a day with lots of different meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains, no longer the same thing over and over again. I’m more adventurous, eating foods I used to turn my nose up at and I’ve started enjoying most of them!

image

I am happier, friendlier and overall more positive. I laugh more and can actually take a joke now instead of inwardly stressing that it was at my expense or that it was nasty. I am excited about the future and I have lots of plans that I can actually visualize happening and I have a plan to make them happen. I set myself goals and stick to them. I have self control, something I always struggled with. My temperament has improved greatly and I no longer look at other peoples success with jealousy. I am so much more confident than I was last year.

While I don’t yet have the answers I want, going on the elimination diet has been the best thing I have ever done. I appreciate my life and everything in it so much more. I am a completely different person, but in the best possible way and it can only go up from here.

I’m not suggesting that everyone goes out and trys an elimination diet. It’s a lot of work, can be very frustrating and it does take a lot of the fun out of life during the first stages, but I have absolutely no regrets for doing this for myself. Actually, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

My Thoughts on Calorie Counting

I saw a post on Instagram today that got me thinking. The author of the post had decided to stop counting calories. And I was excited to see this!

So often when I told people I was trying to lose weight (the myriad of unsuccessful attempts), I would get the standard ‘calories in, calories out’ response the majority of the time. A lot of ads on TV, in magazines and the internet suggested this was the way to lose weight too.

So I downloaded MyFitnessPal app, a calorie counter and started using it daily. I chose the username Katietron777 (add me if you want) and recorded my weight, height, age and goal. It told me I should aim to eat 1200 calories a day. That’s not a lot. The average active woman in her late 20s (I was back then!) is ‘supposed’ to eat around 2000 calories a day, so I wasn’t being given a lot of room to move. The app works like a food diary so if something went in my mouth, I found it in the database and recorded it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. It also has a barcode scanner which is handy too.

image

I managed, but I was always hungry. I wasn’t exercising much because I didn’t want to but when I did according to the app I was ‘allowed’ to eat more. Over time I started to get used to not eating much so I stuck at it. I still didn’t like it and I wasn’t losing any weight. All I had done, was cut down my portion sizes. I was still eating junk food, just less of it. Don’t get me wrong, I ate healthy foods as well, but my ratios were way off and I wasn’t getting results. I think I knew I wasn’t eating right, because I didn’t want people to know what I was eating. MyFitnessPal gives you the option of having a public food diary that people can view, or a private one that only the account holder can see. Obviously I chose private.

Then I heard about clean eating. Clean eating is basically keeping it simple. Keeping packaged and processed foods to a minimum and mostly eating whole and fresh foods. Fresh meats including fish, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and oils such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil were all in, sugary canned and packaged foods were now considered treats.

So I gave it a go. I kept using MyFitnessPal and logging all my foods, but I wasn’t counting calories anymore. Most days I went over my calorie goal. For a while this bugged me, but I was losing weight. Not only that, I felt better. I started exercising more regularly and with more effort, which made me hungrier, so I ate more and I still lost weight.

A couple of times a week I would have a ‘cheat meal’. Anything goes, take out, potato chips, cakes, pizza, anything was allowed but it had gone back to being a treat. For a while there, these were foods I was eating every day but after I started clean eating I didn’t want them everyday anymore. It was a good feeling and also, cheaper! Sure my grocery bill was a little higher, but my takeout bill was cut drastically.

I ate this way from October last year until Christmas and I lost 10kgs. Over my Christmas break I continued to log my food diary on MyFitnessPal but I ate a lot of convenience foods. I was on holiday, I figured it was OK. And it was fine, but my weight started creeping back. Even though I was still exercising and because of what I was eating I chose to be under my calorie goal, my body didn’t like the regularity I was eating these foods in. I didn’t feel as energized or happy. But I was on holiday.

image

In the space of two weeks I gained back four kgs and my clothes started feeling tighter again. I was eating less, but the reality is, not all calories are created equal and they do different things to different people. I went back to my clean eating after I went back to work and it wasn’t long after that that I started my elimination diet which is ultimately how I lost most of the 26 kgs I’ve shed.

I eat a lot. Seriously, a lot. I eat every couple of hours and I don’t worry about portion sizes because I’m eating 100% clean at the moment. I still use MyFitnessPal, mostly out of habit, but I usually go way over my calorie goal and I don’t care. It is great as a food and exercise diary and it also keeps track of how much protein, fats, carbs and some vitamins that I’m eating, which is handy because we need to eat these every day. It also shares daily articles with recipes, exercise and healthy tips. I’ve made my diary public so that anyone can see it, which also keeps me on track so I don’t have to be embarrassed by what I’m eating.

image

I’m not saying that calorie counting doesn’t work, but it didn’t for me. Eating healthy and exercising is what worked for me. Everyone is different, for example Zombie eats as much or as little of whatever he feels like eating most days and he feels fine and has always been skinny, but this doesn’t work for me, so I eat clean. And I like eating this way. I get to eat as much as I want and I feel great. I know I’m onto a winner.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie