My weight loss journey series: vol 5 – What about festive periods / holidays?

Holidays and festive periods are a challenge to any dieter. The last thing you want to do is watch what you eat, when everyone else is gorging around you. I believe that if you deny being able to eat normal during special times from yourself, you will be more likely to give up altogether.

My weight loss was going very well when Christmas was approaching. I decided that I wanted to eat whatever I wanted during the festive period, so it was a conscious decision to take a break from my diet. I was completely expecting for the weight to momentarily go up, and I thought it was ok. As long as you know to expect it, it’s fine. The plan was to go back on the diet afterwards. The bigger challenge for me was to reach my pre-Christmas weight before my holiday, only two-and-a half weeks after the Christmas period.

As expected, the weight went up, but it also came down pretty easily. The main thing is to get back on the diet. The risk is that once you’ve given yourself some freedom, you carry on, rather than go back on the diet. I managed to get back to my pre-Christmas weight before my holiday, and in fact even a little bit lower.

Again, on holiday I completely eased off the diet, and once back, and back on the diet, I’ve gone back to the weight I was before the holiday, and now even lower than that, so everything is back on track.

Like I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, sometimes it’s actually good to give your body a ‘shock to the system’, so that it doesn’t get used to the low calorie intake and slow your metabolism down trying to adjust to it.

I would probably say don’t sweat and stress too much about sometimes having a break, and even your weight going up because of it. As long as you expect it, and have a plan how to carry on (and get back on it), you’re all good.

My weight loss currently stands at about 10kg (22lbs) since starting in September 2018, even with Christmas and another holiday during this period. My plan is to lose the weight the way and speed that works for me, and will more likely stay away once target is reached too. I’m planning for the whole journey to probably take over a year.

 

Crêpes

Crêpes are a good, easy choice when you feel like you would like to treat yourself (or your family) to a sweet breakfast. All ingredients are part of most households’ basic cupboard, so this doesn’t require much pre-planning. And why not make a big enough batter to have some left over, to use for savoury galettes later?

makes 8 large crêpes
2 eggs
600 ml milk
250 ml basic wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
~ tbsp butter, melted, + extra for frying

1. Slightly whisk the eggs so that the yolks and the whites are combined together. Whisk in half of the milk. Then add the flour little by little, whisking in until all the flour has been added and the mixture is slightly thick batter. Mix rest of the milk into the batter, then add salt, sugar and melted butter, and whisk just to mix everything together.

2. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Give the batter a slight stir. For each crêpe, use a small piece of butter for frying. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and add a ladle (about 100ml) of batter into the pan. I have a large frying pan, and this amount works well. If your pan is smaller, less might be better.

4. The first crêpe tends to take slightly longer to fry, than the rest of them, but generally it will take around 3-4 minutes to cook the first side, and around one minute for the second side, depending on heat. I use medium heat, and fry the first side one setting higher than the second side. When cooking the first side, when the batter has become firm on top, and the crêpe has normally gotten holes in the batter, you can start checking the underside to see whether it’s browned enough. Once the underside is nice golden colour, flip the crêpe over and fry the other side until nice colour.

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5. Serve with your choice of topping and enjoy!

 

Ultimate roast beef

I’ve been on a quest to find that perfect way to cook roast beef, so that it’s very tender, pink and juicy. I’ve been combining tips and tricks from different recipes, and I believe I have now gotten to where I want to be. This is how I will from now on always cook my roast beef. It will take time to cook, however roasting it at such low temperatures should guarantee a perfect result every time. It will really help to use a meat thermometer.

1.6 kg beef roasting joint (I use rump)
2 litres of Pepsi or Coca Cola (I use Pepsi Max)
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1 tbsp coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Cover the beef with the cola, then cover with cling film and put in the fridge over night.

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2. Remove the beef from the cola, and dry with kitchen tissue. Mix the coarsely ground peppercorns, salt, oil and thyme leaves together, then massage the mixture onto the beef. Keep in the room temperature for few hours.

3. Preheat oven to 80°C / 176°F. Place the meat thermometer in a way that the tip is right at the centre of the meat. Put the beef in the oven, and roast until the inside temperature reaches 60°C / 140°F. For this size roasting joint it will take around 3.5 hours.

4. Remove from the oven, and wrap in few layers of foil and a cloth, then rest for 15 minutes, before carving.

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My weight loss journey series: vol 4 – The first sweet rewards

Because I lost so much weight at the beginning, I pretty quickly noticed and felt the weight loss. It really was amazing when you’re in the shower, and can actually feel your arms and waist being smaller! It gives extra motivation, when you can notice that what you’re doing is actually working.

My clothes have been fitting better too. Not to mention, I was recently able to wear a blouse I hadn’t worn for quite a while, and also a top I had bought two years prior, but which was always too tight. I have now worn it when going out for dinner. This is so fantastic.

Just before Christmas I decided to buy some clothes, with a thinking that I’ll already start buying some smaller ones, size I don’t have much at all waiting for me in my wardrobe, and once I’ve lost perhaps another 6kg (13lbs) I can wear them. Out of the 8 items I bought, I’m already able to wear 5 of them! Now, I was not expecting that. Perhaps with these particular retailers the sizes come big (?), however this was still hugely rewarding. And the way these clothes fit really showcase my weight loss.

Couple of days ago, I took out a pair of trousers (one of my favourites) that have been at the bottom of the pile for probably a few years, waiting for the day they fit again. I wanted to see how close I am to wearing them. They fit! I’ve already worn them twice since.

The two pictures below have been taken by my husband on two separate holidays. The weight difference between the pictures is about 9kg (19.8lbs). I can clearly see differences, and even my husband, who admits isn’t very good at noticing them, can see some differences. I’m in a good place to carry on.

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I hope everyone trying to lose weight will reach these kind of milestones.

Example of a low calorie bean cassoulet recipe, great winter warmer food, click here to view.

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Runeberg’s tart

The name for these mini cakes is slightly misleading, because they’re called tarts even though they are cakes. Direct translation between languages can sometimes be very difficult when you want to be true to the original name, but know at the same time it will give people a wrong impression. These delightful cakes are traditionally eaten once a year, in celebration of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, on 5th of February.

makes about 8
Batter
1 egg
25 ml caster sugar
1/2 dl light muscovado sugar
100g butter, melted and cooled
1/2 dl double cream
2 dl plain flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 dl finely chopped hazelnuts
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tbsp Amaretto
1tsp almond extract
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Sugar syrup
1 dl sugar
1/2 dl water
2 tbsp cognac
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rasberry jam
icing sugar
water
a dash of Amaretto

1. Beat the egg and sugars until fluffy. Whip the cream until soft peaks are starting to form. Add the butter, cream and Amaretto to the egg and sugar mixture, and mix together.

2. Mix all the remaining dry ingredients together, and fold into the wet mixture.

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3. To make the cakes the traditional shape I had to improvise, as I don’t have the molds (will have to try to remember next time is visit Findland to buy some). I used non stick baking paper to make cylinders, which do work pretty well.

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4. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 355° (fan). Bake the cakes for about 15-20 minutes.

5. While the cakes are cooking, prepare the syrup. Place the sugar, water and cognac in a pan, and bring to boil, cooking until all the sugar has dissolved.

6. Once the cakes have cooked, let cool for 5 minutes. Prick holes in them with a thin cocktail stick / needle. Then, brush the cakes with the syrup, using all of it. Let the cakes moisten for half an hour.

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7. Cut the tops of the cakes, to make them flat, and turn upside down. Place raspberry jam on top, leaving a space all around it. Mix the icing together, making a thick mixture, and finish the cakes with a ring of icing around the jam. Let the icing to harden, and the cakes are ready to be enjoyed!

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My weight loss journey series: vol 3 – The first hurdle

As I’m on a pretty low calorie diet, I knew that at some point by metabolism would shut down, so I was prepared for it when it happened. It’s a funny thing with our bodies. Those who do weights training at the gym for example, know that you need to change your exercise programme after a while, because the body has gotten used to the old programme. We have to break that routine to kick start things again. Now, this actually suits me very well. I like having the break weeks, where I can be on a normal diet and eat more, and things I don’t eat during my dieting weeks. Don’t get too discouraged when the weight loss stagnates. As my target per week is to lose 0.5kg (1.1lbs), and I lost more than double that within the first weeks, I tend to calculate where I should be at that stage, if I had lost only my target amount. Sometimes you lose more, sometimes less.

My metabolism shut down came after 5 weeks of dieting. For the next two weeks, I was off my strict diet. For breakfast I might’ve been having either the usual porridge, or perhaps some bread, omelette etc, more varied than during the diet. For lunch I still had my usual salad, and for dinner rice and potatoes were added. Here are a  couple of recipe ideas you could try: Squid and chorizo saladChicken paella

I think the key is firstly not to go completely crazy and overboard when you are on the break weeks, not counting calories, but still keep some sense to it. Secondly, the more difficult thing is to start the diet again after the couple-of-week-break. At this stage, you have now gotten comfortable with not counting calories, and the taste of your favourite foods. You really have to be disciplined to get back on the diet. I think this part is where some might fail and drop out.

People also tend to start slacking when they have achieved such a weight loss already, so it’s important that even if you’re feeling really great because of your achievements so far, there is still a way to go.

During your break week, do expect to gain some weight. My weight only went up by 0.7kg (1.5lbs) which I consider to be quite good. After going back on the diet, my weight went down to less than what it had been before the break within the first week.

Now, sometimes your weight may momentarily go up regardless of your efforts. This happened to me four weeks after being back on the diet after the break. I just kept at it, and the following week the weight came crashing down, far lower than it had ever been since starting originally. Firstly, view it over a couple of weeks. If still not budging, do another break to kick start the metabolism again, or a booster with some exercise.

I haven’t included much exercise to my weight loss yet. I’m at the moment using it as a booster if things get stuck. I might do a brisk 30-60 minute walk once or twice a week when required or a jog around the block (this hasn’t been many times). This seems to have helped a few times.

Regardless of the hurdles my weight still keeps going down. Just keep going and don’t give up.

My weight loss journey series: vol 2 – The beginning

I became serious about my weight loss at the beginning – mid September 2018. As I mentioned in my introduction post of this series, I’ve gone on a strict calorie counting diet of 1000-1200 kcal a day, with occasional dinners out where I don’t count calories.

At the beginning, I was doing a lot of research into foods that are beneficial to dieters. Drinking a lot of water is for sure one of the main building blocks to being successful. Foods high in protein and fibre are vital, so I wrote these in my weight loss journal that I’m keeping. Every now and then I refer to this list to try to come up with new foods and recipes with ingredients I might not typically cook with very much.

To help with planning my food and count the calories, I started writing a list of common ingredients I would be using, with their calorie content. I keep adding to the list as I go along.

On the first week, I lost 2.5kg (5.5lbs). Now, I’m under no illusion that that would’ve all been fat, but nevertheless, the scale showed that much less at the end of the week, and it’s kept going down!

After five weeks, I had lost 6.2kg (13.7lbs), and my waist measurement had gone down by 4cm (1.6 inches).I also had a couple of planned work dinners, as well as went out for a meal or two with my husband. It was great to see that even when I did this, the weight didn’t get up, but instead kept going down. At the end of the day, you need to get calorie deficit over a period of time, and occasionally having a day where you don’t contribute to that deficit won’t do any harm. Also, don’t be too alarmed if after a fuller meal the scale has gone up, just carry on with the diet again and it will go back down. And don’t forget that even things like whether you’ve had a good sleep can affect on what the scale is showing. I go on the scale every morning, however only write down a weekly measurement every Sunday morning.

And this all came at a time where during the first couple of weeks I had about three work dinners, and two meals out with my husband. To be honest, I was amazed myself, too, that these had no negative effect!

This was more than double to where I was expecting my total weight loss to be at this stage. I was, however, conscious that my metabolism will shut down at some stage, with such a low calorie intake, once my body gets used to it (more of that in the next post).

I was extremely hungry all the time at the beginning, however after a few weeks your body will get used to it, and you won’t be hungry anymore, so just stick with it. Also, I was occasionally feeling very cold in the evenings. usually, when this happens, the weight has done a big jump down when measuring the next day.

But how did I do it?

My typical breakfast is 1dl (3.5 oz) uncooked porridge oats, cooked with 2.5 tbsp skimmed milk powder, pinch of salt and 2.5 dl (8.8 oz) water. I also have a cup of coffee with semi-skimmed milk. I get about 200 kcal from my breakfast.

My typical lunch is a salad, with always one hard boiled egg for protein. My standard salad ingredients are lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, pepper. I tend to have standard lettuce, mixture of other salad leaves, and I love pea shoots so they most of the time find their way into my lunchbox. I sometimes add radishes, cauliflower, spring onions etc. I get about 200-250 kcal from my lunch.

My typical dinner normally includes a large oven grilled chicken breast, handful of fresh tomatoes and / or a handful of cooked Brussels sprouts or other vegetables. Towards the end of the first week, as I had lost so much weight I added some boiled brown rice to my dinner. And I can make this same dinner for my husband, who isn’t trying to lose weight. I’ll just add some potatoes or rice on his plate. For variation, instead of chicken, I might have other meat or fish such as pork, turkey, beef, (lamb), salmon, mackerel etc, however chicken is the one I have the most. I have become very aware of calorie content of many things, and always count total calories when making something. Cooking oil is very high in calories, so I tend to mostly oven grill or steam my food.

I do of course make other foods too sometimes. One example is this super tasty vegetarian bake, which is very low in calories, click here to view.

Occasionally, I might have a handful of nuts between my lunch and dinner, but be aware, because even though they are healthy, they are quite high in calories, just like avocado. It’s ok to have these, as long as you count these calories towards your daily allowance.

Also, if very hungry in the evening, or I haven’t reached my daily calorie allowance, I might sometimes have a snack of 1dl (3.5oz) of natural yoghurt with a small banana or fresh berries. Other one of my occasional snacks might be 1-2 slices of rye bread, which is much healthier than wheat bread. Again, these will count to your total daily calorie intake. I might even have a cheeky piece of chocolate, however I do check the calorie content and then consider what my calorie intake from other food has been that day.