Thanks to everyone who tuned in last week to my first episode of Excess Baggage. I love the conversation it started. It goes to show that different approaches work for different people.
I’m two weeks into my little lifestyle change and things are settling down. It’s not yet a habit, but isn’t yet boring. I suspect that’s because I’m trying to find that balance between repetition and variety and also because I have my breakout days on the weekend to look forward to.
I’ve found in the past that minimising sugar and limiting starchy or high GI foods works for my body.
Integral to this is plenty of fresh non-starchy veg, low – medium GI carbohydrates, a reasonable amount of quality protein, some healthy fats and dairy. For me, it’s all about balancing the blood sugars.
Boundaries and I have at best a loose relationship so that means that weighing and measuring is required – at least at this stage – to guard against calorie creep. It’s not so much my diet as my portions that are out of control. To that end, I’m (loosely) following the broad principles of CSIRO’s Low Carb plan and their Low GI Total Wellbeing Plan – along with recipes from my own collection of cookbooks and tips and hints from my foodie heroes. What can I say? I like to mix things up.
It looks a tad complicated at the start, but I quite like all of that planning and creating. As I’ve said before, I don’t regard food as my enemy. Nor am I coming at this from a point of self-loathing. I might not be happy about the way that I’ve treated my body, and I don’t think I’ve shown it the respect it deserves over the years, but I actually don’t dislike myself. As such I’m not of a mind to punish myself at all, and especially not through deprivation of flavour.
That’s why I quite like this plan – at the moment, anyway. It gives me the flexibility that I need to play around within the structure and the ability to pack flavour into evening meals that the three of us are happy to eat.
The basic principles:
Each day you can have:
- 1.5 serves of bread (I’m sticking to low GI sourdough, rye or spelt), cereals, legumes, quinoa, couscous or starchy veg
- 2.5 serves meat or eggs (one serve = 100g meat or 2 eggs)
- 10 serves of “healthy fats” such as olive oil, avocado, hummus, tahini, nuts (eg cashews, walnuts, almonds, pecans)
- 3 serves of dairy such as skim milk, Greek yoghurt, cheese
- Heaps of veg – other than starchy veg such as peas, corn, pumpkin, sweet potato etc which are included in the bread allocation
This should total up to about 1200 calories a day, but I’m not being too precious or too restrictive or counting calories – life’s too short and I’m way too easily bored.
Here’s how I’m doing it:
- Workday breakfasts, lunches and snacks are being kept uncomplicatingly the same each day. This works for my schedule and means I can have a walk at lunchtime and pop a soup in the microwave when I get back. As an aside, that’s a Nigella tip…
- Breakfast is either a boiled (or poached egg) or tomato and basil on a slice of sourdough toast, or a serve of porridge lovingly stirred by my husband.
- Lunch is whatever soup is in the freezer. Week 1 it was cauliflower soup, last week was chicken and vegetable, this week its a different chicken and veggie.
- Snacks are 20g nuts (which I’ve packaged into portions so I don’t eat the whole bag), a couple of cruskits (equivalent to 1/2 a serve of bread) with tahini and tomato or 100g of Greek yoghurt.
- I’m not really a coffee drinker but do have a small skim flat white at the beach each morning. The rest of the day I drink black tea, or hot water with fresh ginger and lemon.
- Dinner is varied each night but consists of protein and veg. This is where I get to be creative.
- If I want rice with my dinner, I swap out my cruskits for 1/4 cup rice. The same principle applies to quinoa, couscous or sweet potato.
- If I’m having an Asian soup for dinner with only 100g meat (like this Quick Beef Pho) I might have some tinned tuna as a snack during the day.
- Most importantly for me, I’m skipping the Monday-Thursday wines.
As I said, boundaries and I aren’t friends and I tend to rebel if things feel too restrictive. If we go out on Friday evenings, I’m trying to stick to a small steak and veg or salad but Saturday evening to Sunday lunchtime is pretty much whatever I feel like – even pasta – which slows down my weight loss but which I think keeps me on track for longer.
If you’re the type who likes to have a menu planned, the book certainly does that, but I like to have some freedom to move so I’m not following the plan itself.
How am I going?
On the plus side…
- Week two is done and I’m seeing some movements on the scale – in the right direction, just under 2 kgs so far. I’m expecting this to settle down to around 0.5kg a week.
- I haven’t felt hungry, but I do miss my midweek wines.
- The food I’m eating and cooking during the week is much the same as I usually do, but the portions are controlled and I’m not having the extra starchy carb at every meal.
- The balance between repetition and variety is okay at the moment and I’m not bored or feeling restricted…yet…
- I’m also moving more – and my body is complaining a tad about that.
I‘m not aiming for perfection, however I do need to work on the following:
- My weekends. As I said, my boundaries aren’t good so when they’re removed ie weekends and holidays, chaos tends to fill that vacuum. My worst-case scenario is spending the first half of each week undoing the damage from the weekend.
- Water – I’m not drinking enough of the stuff.
And finally, my recipe for this week…
Vietnamese Poached Chicken Salad with mint and coriander
This one comes to you from Rick Stein’s “French Odyssey” and is on the menu weekly in our house. Sometimes we add salad leaves, other times we make a coleslaw of sorts from Chinese cabbage or wombok with some shredded carrot and capsicum, beans or whatever.
For the chicken:
Bring a large shallow pan of water with a good hunk of sliced ginger (about the size of your thumb) to the boil. Add 4 small chicken breasts (work on about 150g chicken per serve) and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and leave them to go cold in the liquid.
For the salad:
Peel half a large cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and then chop it into matchsticks. Pop these in a large bowl with whatever salad leaves you’re using, some sliced spring onions, a good handful of torn mint leaves and coriander leaves. I happen to think that bean sprouts are the most pointless vegetables on earth, but if you like them, throw in a good big handful.
For the dressing:
Bring to the boil in a small saucepan 4 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1 tablespoon light soft brown sugar (yes, it’s sugar, but it’s 1 tablespoon people, for 4 serves). Mix ½ teaspoon cornflour with 1 teaspoon of water and stir this in too. Simmer gently and then take off the heat and allow it to go cold. Finally stir in 1 finely chopped (or grated) garlic clove and 1 de-seeded and finely chopped chilli – we use the small hot ones.
To put it together:
Toss the salad and pile it on the plates, slice the chicken and divide amongst the plates and drizzle over the dressing. If you want some crunch you can throw in some finely chopped roasted peanuts and a tablespoon of dry-roasted sesame seeds.