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.

8fb45f5b-6e0d-4275-aedb-24f31b687ce6

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.

img_4455

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
~~~~~
Sugar syrup
1 dl sugar
1/2 dl water
2 tbsp cognac
~~~~~
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.

img_2242

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.

img_2241

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.

img_2240

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!

img_2237

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.

Pan seared, oven roasted pheasant

Pheasant is smaller than chicken, however not as small as some other game birds are, so one should be enough for two people. It’s pretty simple to cook, and a portion of half the bird (breast and leg) will be about 300 kcal, which is around the same as a large chicken breast. Noticeably gamey flavour, so a nice change to the usual chicken.

1 whole pheasant
1 tbsp vegetable oil
100ml red wine (I used Pinot Noir)
50ml port wine
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 juniper berries
sea salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 355°F. Heat the oil in a ovenproof frying pan, and place the bird in the pan on it’s side, to fry the leg for 5 minutes. Turn to the other side, and repeat.

2. Turn the bird so that the breast side is facing down, and fry for another 3 minutes. Season withcouple of piches of sea salt, and some black pepper. Place in the preheated oven, and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the bird so that ast side is now up, season again and roast for another 15 minutes.

3. Take the pan out of the oven, and lift the bird out of the pan, on double layer of foil. Wrap the bird with the foil. I also tend to put a layer of kitchen towel around it while it’s resting, so that it doesn’t get cold whilst making the sauce.

4. Remove the fat from the pan. Add both of the wines, thyme sprigs and crushed juniper berries. I normally use fresh thyme, but as we recently came back home from abroad, and are going on another holiday very soon, I hadn’t bothered with buying fresh herbs. Bring to boil, and simmer until it’s reduced by about a third. Scrape the pan, to get all the flavours from the bird into the sauce. Strain through a sieve.

img_4999

My weight loss journey series: vol 1 – The introduction

In my weight loss journey series I’ll be writing about my progress with my attempt to lose a lot of weight. I will also still be posting my usual food posts, this is just an additional series. I will be sharing what is working for me, and if anyone else finds inspiration from how I’m doing it, I’m glad. The two pictures are about two and half months apart, and the weight difference is about 7kg / 15lbs.

Like probably for most, my weight over the years has quietly crept up. There have been a few attempts to get it down, but after a while I’ve found myself back to where I started from. I’m not exactly sure what has been my ‘wake-up’ call, but I feel I’m on a very good, successful path at the moment. It might have been because I bought clothes that were a size bigger than ever before, who knows. My initial target is to lose 30kg / 66lbs, with another 10kg / 22lbs depending on how I feel once at that stage. So far I’ve lost around 9kg / 19.8lbs in the last few months. I’m not looking for a quick fix, which has far greater danger of everything bouncing back really quickly too. I’m expecting it to take over a year to reach my target. My weekly target is 0.5 kg / 1.1lbs, which is a very healthy amount. During my diet weeks, I sometimes may lose a lot more, but during break weeks I won’t lose anything, still keeping the total weight loss to target.

Personally, I don’t like diets. I find various diet programmes too restricting to my lifestyle. I like cooking and eating nice food, and my husband and I also do a lot of fine dining as a hobby. Throw in occasional dinners with customers, and you’re in a hamster’s wheel that’s difficult to get out of.

This is why my past weight loss attempts focused on exercise rather than diet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those who would actually like to go and do some exercise, however due to busy and long working hours I’ve finally admitted to myself that this is not a sustainable option, and the reason I have failed in the past.

When I finally made my very determined decision to finally lose my extra weight, one of the first things I did was to actually cancel my gym membership! Having the membership, with very little time to go, has for a long time been ‘an excuse’ for not being able to lose weight.

Second step for me was some soul searching. I considered what I wanted to achieve, and my relationship to food. Once I’d had an honest look at myself, I was ready to start. I feel this is very important. At the beginning of my diet I was constantly feeling hungry, and had I not done the soul searching I think this could’ve been a first stumbling block that makes people quit. I accepted the fact I was hungry, with a realisation that it’s actually not going to kill me! I also couldn’t remember when the last time had been when I had properly been hungry. I’m first to put my hands up and admit that my eating habits have been luxurious and decadent, and it has been a very comfortable place to be in. Now, this is something I will never give up completely, and so far I’ve been able to lose weight and still eat nice things occasionally too.

I’ve completely created my own diet. I still go out to eat with my husband, or with work, and yet have still had a great start. This first post is an introduction to my journey, and as it’s already turning to be long enough, I won’t be adding samples of foods / recipes I eat on this particular post. I will, however, be including these in my future posts.

What works for me, might not work for someone else, or it could indeed be a great option, because it does give the freedom to occasionally forget that you’re on a diet. I count calories, and do a very strict 1000-1200 kcal on most days. I do restrict bread, potato, rice and pasta on most days, however if eating out, or I have lost so much weight in a week that I want to slow it down I might add some.

Kinkku (gammon)

Gammon is the main star of the whole show in the Finnish Christmas table (nothing of course is stopping anyone cooking it other times too). The original one would be gray in colour instead of the pink in the picture, but unfortunately I’ve not been successful in finding a gray salted one in the UK yet. For the pink version, nitrate is added. It acts as a preservative, and gives the pink colour, however it’s considered to be pretty unhealthy. In the gray version, nitrate isn’t added. The key to getting a juicy piece of meat, as anyone practicing slow cooking of roasts already knows, is to cook the gammon at a very low temperature, for a very long time. It then gets taken out of the oven and cooled, coated and put back for a very high temperature for a short period of time. Traditionally, on the Christmas table the gammon is served cold. I tend to cook it the day before, and on the day of cooking have it also for dinner served warm. It’s perfectly fine to serve it both ways, which ever you would prefer.

1. Take the gammon into room temperature. Dry with kitchen tissue. I would recommend putting it in a roasting bag. Cut a small hole at one corner. Put a roasting thermometer in the cold meat, so that the tip is at the thickest part. If your meat has a bone take care not to touch the bone with the thermometer. The ideal inside temperature of the meat for putting it in the oven is 10°C / 50°F.

img_1719

2. Place some water at the bottom of an oven pan. Heat the oven to 100°C (fan) / 210°F. The aim is to achieve inside temperature of the meat of 77°C – 80°C / 171°F – 176°F. I tend to try to get to the lower end, for juicier result.

img_1720

3. Remove from the oven. Cut the bag off, as well as any strings or net around the meat. Let cool on a rack for half an hour to an hour. After this, Remove the skin, and most of the fat.

img_1723

4. Coat with mustard, and breadcrumbs.

img_1727

5. Heat the oven to 250°C / 480°F, and cook the gammon for 10 minutes.

img_1726