Sunday, 8 September 2013

Week 6 and Feeling Good

You know what I haven’t really reflected on much during this rather epic journey? How amazing I feel. Seriously, I feel AMAZING. Inside and out. I have boundless energy, my moods have stopped swinging like a pendulum, I’ve grown in confidence and self-belief, and my sugar cravings have GONE. Well and truly. Not to mention my skin clearing up and my belly bloat vanished. Now I know this sounds a little house on the prairie, but I am on a bit of a high. My appetite settled down this week and I continued with the delicious sugar-free recipes and treats from Sarah Wilson’s Program, feeling free again. It’s taken me 6 weeks to get to this point, but my God it was worth it.

Now this week hasn’t been perfect. I succumbed to the evil corn chip once again (actually twice again) and had a late night fat binge (yoghurt and cheese). But the big difference – I didn’t beat myself up like I used to. I accepted that I faltered, had a few weak moments, and moved on. I took heed to Sarah Wilson’s advice when this happens – I got moving. I went to the gym, took my dog for a walk, or made a cup of tea. It allowed me to free myself from the guilt.

 Here is a fairly typical dinner for me... Zucchetti (looks and feels like you're eating pasta but just peeled Zucchnini!) with steamed veggies, tofu and a sprinkle of goats cheese (big sprinkle last night!). This food makes me feel good. 

 We’ve hosted a few BBQ’s this week and again, I’ve been able to see how the choices I’m making don’t need to be temporary. This is a lifestyle change, and a very achievable one. As I’ve said before, people don’t notice what you’re eating and drinking when there’s food on the table and I am so happy to quietly go about my sugar-free business without getting in anyone’s face. So while the boys spurted huge mountains of BBQ and tomato sauce over their big fat steaks, I took an extra serve of salad greens to have with mine. While they scoffed down the store-bought mayonnaise–laden potato salad, I gobbled up some delicious grilled Haloumi (so good one the BBQ!). So, I’m continuing my mindful eating by making choices that are going to make me feel great. And it’s seriously getting easier every day.

I was at a work function mid week (a riveting 6 hours of investigating the Catholic Church in Australia) where the school put on morning tea for all staff. Now this time around I knew what to expect, so came prepared with some home made snacks (although you’d think I’d brought a home made bomb based on the reactions from my peers). I walked into the room and watched everyone shovelling in jellybeans, cakes, chocolate truffles and Cadbury favourites. In the corner, hidden behind a vase, was a very small ‘healthy’ platter of a few carrot sticks, a big knob of cheese and some French onion dip. And of course, it hadn’t been touched. It was really interesting just sitting back and watching my colleagues. I could see people wanting to stop at one chocolate truffle, but their eyes would be darting back and forth from the plate and they would inevitably, and then regrettably,  dive in for another. There it was – the sugar taking control. In this situation it was difficult to go unnoticed – I was literally the ONLY person who wasn’t eating any sugar. Initially I was bombarded with, “You’re being so good!” and “I wish I had your willpower!” Then came, “Come on, just one won’t hurt”. “You must feed the soul too, you know”. “I would never deprive myself of the joys of food”. And bang – I was the one in the wrong. At one stage I felt like I was being attacked, and had to justify my choices to all of those around me. They felt like I was judging them for eating the sugar (which I would never do), when all I wanted to do was make my own choice and quietly continue about my day. But, life isn’t meant to be that easy.   

The old me would have probably filled my pockets with chocolates once I’d stuffed my face with one of everything, and then found an excuse to sit in my car to gorge. But now, it was so easy to say no. I happily munched away on my broccoli without even a pang of a craving – and it still blows my mind, every single day.

Commando is still continuing to kill me in our sessions, but I am noticing that I am getting stronger. My body shape still isn’t budging, which I must admit is pretty frustrating. I still have my ‘apple’ waistline and tuck shop lady arms, but I know that this sort of thing takes time. And I can be patient. Commando still continues to be a jerk, but I continue to take his (very bad) advice with a grain of salt. No, I will not count every calorie I ingest and stick to 900 a day (apparently the only way I could possibly lose weight as my Basal Metabolic Rate is so low). No, I will not cut down on fats like avocado and nut butters – because apparently ‘if you eat fat, you get fat’. And no, I will not eat red meat 4 times a week, because I don’t like it. I love his training sessions, I just wish he would stop trying to talk to me about nutrition. So I put in my imaginary ear-phones and nod and say ‘yes, ah-huh, hmm’, as I’ve learnt that you can’t win an argument with the Commando. Trust me I’ve tried, and he just won’t budge.   

Well, Week 6 was a positive one. Let’s hope this flows through for the remainder of the journey.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

It's Week 5 and I'm hungry!

Week 5 finished… we’re getting close!

Now I wouldn’t necessarily call this week a huge step backwards, as I did manage to avoid the sugar all week and ate pretty clean. But… I did eat enough of this ‘clean’ food to feed a small army… every single day. So while I ate the right things, I’m very aware that I ate waaaaay too much of it. So it’s not so great for my weight-loss goals, but it did remind me how careful I need to be and made me aware of how much I still mindlessly nibble.

As I showed my very precise and super-detailed food diary to Commando (my slightly insane PT) he really let me know that I overdid it. Now this tough-love approach isn’t for everyone, you need thick skin. I’m not sure mine is thick enough. “That 300grams of Greek yoghurt you had at 10pm is going straight to your ass”.  That one hurt. “Where has your self control gone? You are going to undo all of the work from our sessions” Yep that hit a nerve too. “There’s no way you’ll lose any weight if you keep eating like this”. All I wanted at this stage was a cuddle and a big ‘congratulations’ for avoiding sugar when I was so hungry. But Commando offers no such love. Yes, he is a bit of a jerk and I don’t like him. But he is a bloody good trainer (I think I might finally get some ‘guns’) and for now, will keep me accountable.

So apart from upping my portion sizes for main meals, I also snacked like a food-deprived maniac. I was just so damn hungry! I was having toast with peanut butter mid-morning, veggie sticks with hommus in the arvo, nuts, seeds and shaved meat before dinner, nuts and yoghurt after dinner. MENTAL! I was also a grazer… constantly milling about the kitchen and nibbling on this and that. Due to the increase in my training over the last 2 weeks (I was doing something, weights, classes or cardio, every day), my metabolism got a huge kick up the butt and as a result my hunger was INSANE. Commando is telling me that this is a great place to be for weight loss as my metabolism is working over-time, as long as I find ways to avoid eating so much! So this week I‘m going to opt for better snacks (peanut butter on celery sticks is a winner) and attempt to stop eating like a large hungry hippo (so I don’t end up resembling one).

I also had a cheat… I made delicious chocolate coconut rough balls for a friend who was going through a tough time. And of course I ate some while preparing them, and then devoured a few more as we sat on her couch and had a cry together. These little delightful balls of goodness are very simply coconut butter, cacao and… rice malt syrup. Now we’re not supposed to have any sort of sweetener in weeks 3-5, and I haven’t been following this 100%. I never go over the top, but I have realised I’m yet to have a completely sweetness-free week. So, this is the week to start. It might mean I push back the reintroduction of fruit and natural sweeteners to Week 8 instead, which I think I can hack. 

Now, I had some fun in the kitchen this week, and thought I’d share my fave new recipe. It is super simple, fast, and great for taking to lunch the next day. As this was during my gigantic eating-week, I also had a small piece of steak with this meal and it was delicious – although you probably don’t need it.  


This is a super simple meal I prepare when I’m craving carbs for dinner but don’t want the bloat. The cauliflower feels like your eating fried rice and satisfies that need. And the parsnips… wow. Amazing. That’s all I can say… super sweet and feels like such a treat!


Preheat oven to 200 degrees and prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Peel 3 large parsnips and cut into large ‘chips’ – don’t make them too thin as sometimes they burn and shrivel at the ends. In a bowl combine 1 tbs olive oil, pinch of salt and 2-3 tbs peanut butter (natural and organic), then toss in the parsnips until fully covered. In a separate bowl toss 1 head of broccoli (cut into florets) in 1 tbs olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place veggies in a single layer on the baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

These peanut butter parsnips don't look pretty...

But my goodness they taste amazing! I had to limit myself to just a few 'chips' as I could have easily demolished the whole tray. Sarah Wilson also suggests you use almond butter, but I've been going nuts (pardon the pun) for peanut butter lately so thought I'd indulge. While the chips are in the oven, prepare the 'rice'. 


Grate a head of cauliflower and dry-fry it for a few minutes to crisp it up, then put it aside. In the same pan, pop in 1-2 cubes of homemade chicken stock with 1/2 red onion, 1 small red capsicum, 1 small zucchini, and 1 clove garlic. Toss it around until veggies soften a bit, then add back in the cauliflower along with 1-2 tbs of Tamari and the juice of 1 lemon ( I love everything lemon - 1/2 may do if you're not a sour-sucker like me). 

This 'rice' is so very satisfying... reminds me of eating a big bowl of salty fired rice without the guilt!

Then put it all together to make a beautifully filling and satisfying meal. Now... I was going through my crazy hunger stage last week so I added some rare steak to this dish (maybe 100g) - although you probably don't need it. It was a nice combination; the sweetness of the parsnips works so well with the saltiness of the peanut butter and broccoli. This one certainly curbed my salty cravings!

Now, back to the kitchen to make more zucchini pasta with my new spirooli. I've got another new 'zucchetti' recipe that I'll share next week that is packed full of delicious veggies. Zucchini is my new obsession! 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Week Four - Take Two!

Well, after a pretty disastrous diet last week it seems all hope is not lost... Week four, take two was a success!

It was a tough one, and I did slip up once and have a deliciously crystallised date at a middle-eastern themed dinner, which was almost too sweet with my new reinvented tastebuds. There were about 15 shiny golden bulbs sitting there on the plate, and as I was watching my dear friends demolish them one by one I just couldn't resist. Interestingly, it didn't really excite me that much and I immediately bloated up like a balloon (lucky I had on my giant aladdin pants to hide my pooch belly). That helped me to later refuse the semolina and chocolate pudding and baklava - but it was still REALLY hard. Having each and every person screaming over these tasty little puddings telling me they were the best thing they had ever eaten, yeah, that was a struggle. A gigantic epic struggle in fact. But, I know what's waiting for me at the end of this detox so it kept me strong. I will find a sugar free version out there one day...

Over the case of this week, I managed to rediscover those lovely eating habits from the beginning of the detox. I went straight back to my trusty green smoothie for breakfast, which it seriously satisfying - I'm full of energy and not hungry until lunch when I start with one of these green bad boys. I've been sticking with Sarah Wilson's meals for lunch and dinner; always super fresh and packed with veggies, protein and flavour. I've been snacking on natural peanut butter on celery, an occasional piece of Halmoumi cheese or some homemade hommus with veggie sticks. Oh, and nuts. Lots of nuts. Maybe I've been going a bit crazy with the cashews and almonds, something i'm going to have to ease up on if I want to really trim up.

You know it's funny; this doesn't feel like a detox anymore. This is simply my new, sugar-free life.

I became really disheartened last week when I slipped back into old habits; I slipped those 2 kgs back on, and couldn't slip into my jeans. I found myself questioning why I was doing this, if it was worth it, and at one stage was ready to throw it all in. I was getting so swept up with those pesky numbers on the scales. But then I stopped and thought about why I bought Sarah Wilson's book in the first place. I remembered those awful feelings of guilt and shame after a binging session; the feeling of losing control; the feeling when standing in front of the mirror when I outgrew yet another favourite dress. I don't want to get back there; it's not a nice place.

I'm sure Commando, my new slightly crazed ex-army personal trainer, will help me shed the extra pounds when the time is right. It's still a struggle to walk after our completely mental Saturday session - he shows no mercy! Although in saying that, once I decided I didn't care about the scales and was just going to focus on being healthy and happy, I had a weigh-in with Commando and had lost that extra weight i'd put on. Woooo! So there's the secret - just don't think about it! As soon as I looked at the bigger picture and stopped fretting about my body, everything made sense again. So here's to clarity and wobbly post-gym legs.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Week Four - Can we start again?

You know how you have those bad days? The ones where all of your good eating and exercising intentions go out the window, and you just wish that you could start again? Well, I just had one of those days… times 7… ok it was one of those weeks.

Yep, Week 4 was a bit of a blow out. Now I still avoided the sugar – no treats, no chocolate or cake, no fruit, no honey… I really am happy with that - one month down! But… everything else I ate was pretty much disastrous, and I didn’t fit in ANY exercise until yesterday. So apart from putting 2 of the 3 kilos I had lost back on (DAMMIT!) I felt bloated, full, fat and grumpy all week (all of which had been happily avoided during this detox).

The fact that it was the School Production week and I am one of the drama teachers definitely contributed to this tornado of fried food and white bread (yup – it was bad).

Problem Number One: I was at the theatre all day Saturday and Sunday of last week, so lost my usual food prep days.
Lesson Learned: To eat well I MUST BE PREPARED!!

Problem Number Two: I had to work from 8am-4pm and then head straight to the theatre from 4pm-11pm each night for the whole week. I was tired and stressed putting in these 15-hour days for 5 days.
Lesson Learned: My emotions are still controlling my eating habits; I need to get a good night’s rest to find the strength that is needed to stay on track. And this week was just stupidly ridiculous, and should never be repeated.  

Each night at the theatre I ate what the cast and crew ate: fish and chips, party pies and cheese and bacon rolls. (A favourite of ours was potato cakes with chicken salt). Brekkie was something I could pick up on the run to work, usually cheesymite scrolls from Bakers Delight and a super strong soy latte. And lunch, if I had time to eat, was something I could grab and stuff my face with from the school canteen; hot chips, wedges or maybe a greasy chicken roll. Not to mention the corn chips, salted peanuts and savoys I snacked on while the kids were on stage. YIKES! Even writing this all down has me shaking my head in astonishment. I knew it was bad, but I was so tired that I just didn't care.

It was funny, amongst all of this obsessive eating of crap, I still managed to keep myself away from refined sugar. I’d be halfway through a giant packed of Doritos (maybe three-quarters), but when offered some sweet chilli philly to go with it I found myself replying with, “oh no, I don’t do sugar anymore”. I’d be met with a strange look as I would shove my hand back into the packet and finish off another handful of those delicious salty devils. Hmmm ironic? The weird thing - I didn’t even crave sugar, it was salt. And carbs. And white bread. And all the stuff that makes me blow up and get podgy.

It had me getting worried: am I replacing my sugar habit with a junk food habit? I was eating these things that I knew I shouldn’t, sometimes obsessively, and at the same time couldn’t stop. It was very confronting to have these feelings rise up again, but probably something that was necessary. Even though an extreme circumstance, I’m certainly not out of the woods yet.

So, I want to reverse this week and pretend that it never happened. Get my old headspace back, get my flat(ter) stomach back, give back the 2 extra kilos that stuck straight back onto my belly. But… that can’t happen. So I’ve decided I’m going to re-do week 4 instead. I don’t like what I became this week, who I became, and I don’t like what I was putting into my body. So I figure, my 8-week detox will become a 9-week detox. This makes me feel much better, and like I can move on from this mountain of salty regret. 

Some things that I’ve done this weekend to help my new (and hopefully improved) repeat of week 4:     

- I booked in with a personal trainer at the gym.
He has a 6-week challenge going on, so I thought PERFECT!! I’m paid, signed up, measured and weighed-in, and ready to roll through the program. I found out that my metabolic age is 36 and I have 33% body fat. For a 28 year old who was at 20% not that long ago, this completely floored me. And motivated me. And angered me that I’d let it get this far. I want those figures to change so badly! I want those 8 years back! And with the support of my bad-ass ex-army trainer, I have a feeling I will be kept accountable. I'm pretty sure he modeled himself on "Commando" from The Biggest Loser and he scares the crap out of me - but it's probably just what I need.

- I have spent the weekend preparing meals and food for the week.
This really is the key to my successful eating. I’ve written out a food plan and cooked up meals and snacks that I can take to work. I’ve got tonnes of par-cooked and frozen veggies, egg and bacon muffins (Sarah Wilson’s recipe), chilli turkey mince, chicken, tofu and steak in the fridge, and I’m stocked up on green-smoothie ingredients (I really missed them last week!)

- I am going to be super conscious of getting a good sleep and watching my stress levels.
It was amazing to see how quickly I crumbled to the easy, unhealthy option when I was so exhausted. I know last week was extreme, but it was still a shock to see my will-power muscle wither away once more. Time to stay happy, energised and well rested (to the best of my ability when 25 Year 9 boys run rampant in the classroom).

So here we go… Week 4 take 2! One month without any sugar – complete! 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Week 3 was an interesting one...

I wrote this on Sunday but haven’t been able to upload until now… Damn internet!

I can't believe another week has gone by already... while it was a turbulent one, it certainly rushed passed with lightning pace. Some interesting things that happened this week...

- I didn't have any sugar, in any form, YAY! (I still give myself a high-five every day that goes by - I think it's important to celebrate the little things)

- I actually felt my body transitioning from one that burns energy from sugar, to burning energy from fat (I’m pretty sure I went into a state of Ketosis, which I will try to explain later)

- My sugar cravings were practically nonexistent (probably due to the above point, which did come at a cost)

- I found it so much easier to say 'no' in social situations (I am slowly becoming equipped with more facts to help me feel stronger in myself and in my decision)

- My friends are surprising me by being super supportive (while I love them dearly, they often don't like it when I'm in health-kick mode. As Sarah Wilson explains this, "When you bravely take the plunge and quit sugar, you hold a mirror up to others' fears".)

- I had a slip up, and accepted it without grief (no paralysing shame - hooray!! It wasn't a sugar-related slip up, but I did make some coconut rough chocolate using rice malt syrup when my coconut butter attempt failed miserably)

So, I can see the road ahead may not be as scary as I first thought. That is probably the biggest turn around from this week - I guess I am adjusting to this as a lifestyle, rather than just seeing it as a 'detox'. I just returned home from an Asian themed dinner party and, surprisingly, very easily refused the banana fritters with vanilla bean ice cream, the lychee cups with chocolate and even the fortune cookies (although I still received my words of wisdom... "Don't lose sight of the bigger picture" - crazy right??) And it made me realise - I can actually do this! Not just for these 8 weeks, but for good. I made my own sugar-free brown fried rice dish and veered away from the sweet curries and super-saucy meat dishes. There was so much food, so many people, no one even noticed what I was or wasn't eating and it was surprisingly easy! I think how much sugar I have avoided in just one night, and all by being a little conscious. 

I've found myself asking, but it's only been 3 weeks?? Where have the crazed craving monsters gone? And the strange little personality-sucking alien has not shown his face? I definitely wasn't expecting this. I also know that not every week will be like this, there will be tough times ahead. But I’m in a better headspace, ready to tackle these things head on. 

But it seems the sugar wasn't my biggest problem this week – it was my body going through some sort of change. According to my naturopath, it is learning to function by burning energy from fat, rather than sugar. I remember reading in Sarah's book that you might feel crappy for a few weeks as your body transitions into this phase, and it came at me hard this week. At the start of the week I was nauseous, unable to eat, ridiculously tired and unable to focus. I was absent minded, felt lost, and so very moody. One of my students told me that when he was talking to me, "it seemed like you were far, far away Miss, and it was scary". Each day this week got a little easier, until by Friday I was back to my old self, and have been feeling great all weekend. I think this was my body switching into a state of Ketosis.    

Ketosis, from what I understand, means that our bodies are using fat for energy, and comes about as a result of a low sugar and carbohydrate diet. Ketones are molecules generated during fat metabolism (when our bodies are breaking down fat for energy, rather than burning up the carbs and sugar that we usually have in excess). I like to see it as little Keto-men eating away at my various and plentiful excess fat stores around my body, and it makes me feel pretty good.

But these little Keto-men shook up my whole system. As I was previously eating sugar in such excess, I guess my body had a full on reaction. But it seems like I’m back to normal now (thank God) and definitely feel far better than I did prior to the detox.

Some meals from Sarah Wilson’s book I really enjoyed this week were the fennel soup (creamy and delicious) and the broccoli and cumin hash (what a flavor hit). I also am pretty proud of my zucchini pasta (made with my new favourite tool – a spirooli!). 


I am definitely spending a lot more time in the kitchen now, so that has been a bit of an adjustment, but one that I am so happy to make. Who would have known it could be so much fun? I can't believe the detox is nearly halfway complete... looking forward to more recipes for week 4.