Sunday, 31 May 2015

changing pace


Never a truer word said. 

I spent most of my early twenties asking myself the same questions.
"Why can't I lose weight?", "why can't I get fit", "why can't I stick at the gym?". 
When in truth, these were all just dreams. And they weren't going to come true until I really worked for them. When you eat rubbish, don't take care of yourself and spend more time on the sofa than you do on your feet, those goals become even harder to reach. 

I'm being a little harsh on myself - I don't, and never have, eaten badly for sustained periods of time. But I do struggle to say no, and see food as a reward. Of course, that's no bad thing and I firmly believe you shouldn't completely deny yourself of the things you love. That's miserable, and life is for living. That said, since leaving university eight years ago I have found myself caught in the age-old trap of 'I'll worry about it later'. Food, fitness, health. 

I don't want to be out of shape. I want to be comfortable in my skin. 

You may have read my post about Slimming World and how I've been shifting the pounds since Christmas. I'm now (finally!) down to 9.5st and am so happy with my progress! Changing my eating habits has been a big thing for me and I have completely seen my body change in response to it. Saying no has become easier. I still struggle with will-power and the desire to eat all the cake, but I'm slowly starting to eat in a way that helps me feel comfortable and confident. Who doesn't want to feel like that?

Alongside Slimming World I have made an attempt to amp-up my fitness regime. I've always been a gym-goer but find myself battling with motivation in the colder months and the heavy teacher workload September-May. This time of year is when I re-discover my love for all things fitness, am actually able to maintain thrice-weekly gym visits and start to reap the rewards.


So, where is this all leading? Myself and the ever-inspiring Hannah of Core Kitchen have set ourselves a fitness challenge. We want to run. In fact, we are so keen to run we have signed up for Cancer Research UK's Race for Life 10k with Scottish Power*. We have completely different fitness regimes and goals - Hannah puts me to shame with her impressive knowledge of all things health and fitness - but we are loving training together and helping motivate each other towards the finish line.

Seriously, our runs are like some sort of motivational lecture. We're offering almost constant praise for each other's effort and our combined success it's almost embarrassing! Each run ends with an over-excited and slightly off-target high-five. Naturally.

Our journey has just begun. So far we're running weekly together after work but are hoping to push that to twice-weekly now in the lead up to the race at the start of July. Check back here for progress updates and our beginners guide to running. Because we really are just that - beginners. If you have any tips for us in helping us reach that 10k target we'd love to hear from you! Help a sister (or two) out.

My social media links: twitter, instagram, pinterest.
Hannah's social media links: twitter, instagram, blog.



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Friday, 29 May 2015

a lotta love


I would never have predicted that at age twenty-seven I would be coveting a clog. That's right - I am a woman in love. Never one to shy away from something a little eccentric or slightly left of centre, Lotta From Stockholm has got my back. I bought my first pair back in 2013 after spotting the Moheda Betty's (far right) on a friend at a baby shower, and as they say - the rest is history. Lotta delivers every time in terms of aesthetics, quality and comfort. With brands like Swedish Hasbeens retailing at £100+ (and if I'm honest not quite hitting the mark style-wise for me), Lotta From Stockholm has got it covered. 

As a teacher I spend a lot of time on my feet and a wooden heel hardly sounds like the most comfortable option, right? Wrong! (I've always wanted to do that). I don't know what it is about these wooden heels, but they just work. 


Choose between a high or low heel (mine are all high, 7cm), an endless selection of styles. fabrics and colours. Dreamy! The brown closed toe (Highwood, far left) are my latest addition - I love the effortless Scandinavian style, buttery soft suede and chunky wooden heel. Styled with a denim smock dress or black skinny jeans, they are super versatile and make the perfect go-to shoe for this in-betweeny weather. 

So this is just a teaser - if you follow me on instagram you may have seen these make an appearance already. I'm hoping to get some snaps taken over the weekend to pop on here and show you them doing their thing, in action as it were. Me and Lotta, we're made for each other, ya see. 

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

bookclub #1


Well hello there - welcome to the first new feature I've introduced in a little while; the book club. Technically the bloggers book club, but I'm going to go keep it simple. Myself, Lorna and Leanne decided to expand our love of all things literary and get the chance to roam a little outside of our comfort zones book-wise each month. Some of you may have followed my bookworm feature which I will of course be continuing - never fear. And as ever, I can guarantee there will be no spoilers on my page... I'm not that mean. 

Secret: my biggest fear about joining a book club? That I wont read fast enough. I'm such a slow reader!

#1: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

The first read was chosen by yours truly after I'd seen lots of praise online and from others. Elizabeth is Missing is about Maud who suffers from dementia, or impaired memory. The story flicks between her current life of memory loss and confusion, with her childhood and her accounts of her sister Sukey's disappearance. The author manages to help you completely empathise with Maud's confused state of mind, making you feel frustrated, confused and sympathetic all at once. Elizabeth is missing - why doesn't anyone seem to care? She needs to buy peach slices, wonders how best to grow marrows and doesn't understand why she isn't allowed to eat toast. After the umpteenth time Maud voiced each of these concerns, my head was spinning. 

I love stories that weave together the past and present, but when you add memory loss to the mix it all just became... confusing. I guess in that sense the author has totally helped you feel Maud's plight, but for me it just didn't work as smoothly as I'd have liked. I finished the book with a 'meh' and although I didn't dislike it, its not something I'd go out of my way to recommend. I did like that it wasn't too long though, so many books are huge tomes it was refreshing to read something of suitable length!

See what Lorna said here, and Leanne here. Want to join in? Get in touch!

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Slimming World: shopping list



In the spirit of demystifying Slimming World and sharing with you how it works for me, I wanted to share my next post; how to shop SW-smart. Last week I ran through the SW basics and my story so far. Since last Sunday I have lost a further 3lbs and have had a few 'this is worth it moments'. First, two colleagues on two separate occasions commenting on my weight loss 'transformation'... their words not mine. Second, buying size 8 jeans. Yes, they may be weird Primark sizing but I'll go with that! So I'm feeling good, and motivated to keep shedding the weight. 

To get SW right, you have to prepare. Unfortunately lots of snacks and shop bought lunches are high in syns, but with a little forward thinking you can keep on-plan fairly easily. These are my go-to shopping list items - they make cooking easier, keep the syn count down and help keep me full all day. 

Fry Light: using oil is a bit of a no-no on Slimming World. Of course, olive oil has numerous health benefits - a little internet search has informed me that it's high in monounsaturated fatty acids and can help prevent cardoivascular problems such as high blood pressure and strokes. You only need to look at those beautiful Spaniards and Italians to see why olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet. Now you can have 1 tablespoon of olive oil as your Healthy Extra B - but to me that doesn't seem like a good use of a HexB... one tablespoon! Insert shocked face here. Fry Light is a spray cooking oil which comes in at just 1 calorie per spray and is completely free on SW. There are several varieties; sunflower oil, olive oil and butter flavour. I used to be a bit of an oil snob but can honestly say I taste no difference when using Fry Light and it means my meals start off as 'free', without using any oil.

Muller Light Yoghurt: the toffee, vanilla and cappuccino are my favourite flavours and are all free! I especially like the vanilla with dark choc sprinkles - also free - and are a great sweet treat. 

Diet coke: completely free!

KitKats: only 5.5 syns for two finger Kit Kats, I have one every day! They are great for satisfying a sweet tooth without major guilt. In Lidl they often sell multi-packs of mini two finger Kit Kats (like treat-size almost) which have an even lower syn value - I think they're 4.5 syns. You get 20 in a pack for £2 so they're a bargain. Tip: they're usually in the biscuit aisle in supermarkets rather than the choccie aisle.

Pasta, rice and potatoes: probably the #1 reason why SW appeals to me; you can eat as much of these as you want. We know whole-wheat pasta and brown rice are better for you - they're less processed and refined, pack more nutrients, digest more slowly and therefore give you lasting energy levels - but on SW you don't have to just eat brown rice/pasta if you prefer white. I'm starting to re-assess my eating on SW and am starting to switch white pasta and rice for brown; but you don't have to if you don't want to!

Measuring spoons and scales: measuring is kinda important, but you don't need to be obsessive. I measure out my granola each morning (40g) and use measuring spoons to measure things like crème fraiche and sugar. This helps you work out syn values, especially in the early days. People seem to think this is a huge hassle or faff - its not, at all! That said, once you get your head round it and get an idea of what a tablespoon of mayo looks like you can ease up on the measuring front!

Tilda rice: makes life easy as it cooks in 2 minutes in the microwave and most varieties are low-syns. My favourite is the mushroom rice with is 3.5 syns for the entire pack! Yes, the whole pack. Pop a salmon fillet on top with some wilted spinach and it's a super quick, easy and tasty meal.

Skimmed milk: you can have 350ml a day as your Healthy Extra A, compared with 250ml of semi-skimmed or 175ml of whole milk. I never used to use or buy skimmed milk, but I'm a convert! Granted, I wouldn't like it in cereal but in my coffee I taste no difference and it means I can have more. Winner. 

Frozen chopped onions: not any 'healthier' or 'free' than fresh onions, but the ready prepped onions give me even fewer reasons not to cook fresh, healthy meals. I've also been known to buy frozen chopped peppers, garlic, coriander, chillis and spinach. Little short cuts like these mean you're less likely to turn to crappy dinners and going off-plan.

Frozen fruit: again, no better than fresh, but having it in the freezer means I have it to hand whenever I need it, without having to worry about it losing its freshness. I have fat-free natural yoghurt with raspberries and Special K granola for breakfast every morning; before bed I put yoghurt and frozen raspberries in a tupperware and leave in the fridge overnight to thaw. In the morning I throw in 30g of granola and eat at my desk when I get to work.

Lean meat: for most meat to be 'free' on SW it needs to be lean - usually 5% fat or less in the case of mince. Make sure you check the label to be sure!

Eggs: completely free on SW and so versatile. An omelette (as many eggs as you want) cooked with FryLight, mushrooms, ham, peppers and salad is completely free! Add 25g of reduced fat cheddar for 4 syns... or you can have 40g of it as your Healthy Extra A.

Crème fraiche: great for creamy sauces, without the guilt. Make sure you get half fat/light, which is approx 1 syn per level tablespoon. I get the Sainsburys Be Good To Yourself which is less than 3% fat... so I count it as 0.5 sysn per tablespoon! A dollop on chilli con carne or goulash is delish. I know others use quark which is usually 'free', more of a soft cheese.

I think that's all my brain can handle for the time being... but a fairly comprehensive list! Most of these items make it into my shopping bag each week, and have really helped me shift the lbs. Can you recommend anything else?

Make sure you're following me on instagram for more SW tips and ideas!
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Friday, 1 May 2015

strozzapreti


When it comes to eating out, I find myself in a pickle. I absolutely adore Italian food but struggle with the hugely calorific content of some of my favourite dishes. Given the choice I would choose carbonara every time - I flippin' love it! I blogged about my super simple carbonara recipe way back in 2012 and although I still love this recipe, I just can't cope with the kcals - it sure ain't Slimming World friendly! 

The good news is that on Slimming World you can eat pasta syn-free, which is one of the reasons it works so well with my greedy appetite. I'm trying to tailor my favourite recipes to be SW-friendly (check out my recipes tab) and here is another installation. I love Zizzi's strozzapreti pasta - this is my version. 

You will need (for 2)
1 pack chicken breast strips
2 handfuls spinach
1 lemon - juiced
2 tablespoons red pesto
3 tablespoons light crème fraiche
Pasta

Start by frying the chicken in a non-stick frying pan with a few sprays of Fry Light. Add some mixed herbs and season lightly, before adding the lemon juice to the pan. Leave the chicken to cook (I pop a lid on to retain some moisture) for 5-10 minutes. When the chicken is almost cooked, throw in the spinach and stir through, putting the lid back on and turning the heat off/right down. 

Cook your pasta according to packet instructions, and when ready stir in the pesto and crème fraiche. Plate up with the chicken and spinach on top of the pasta. A sprinkling of parmesan is delicious!

Slimming World - syn values
Pesto - approx 2 syns per tablespoon
Crème fraiche (half fat) - approx 1 syn per tablespoon.

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