Articles

Top Tips for Staying on Track

I recently issued a poll to ask people which aspect of healthy eating they found to be the most difficult.  A number of you guys contacted me directly to say that the thing you struggled the most with was staying on track and being consistent after the initial excitement had worn off.  In order to address this, I have put together a few top tips, which I have personally found to be very helpful over the past few years.  They are not in order of importance, as depending on where you are at, and the battles you face, some may stand out to you more than others.  None of these are the silver bullet, just ideas to help you get to where you are going a little easier.

Know your goal:  Everyone has a unique goal, but broadly speaking, if you have decided to start eating healthy, it’s because you want to look better, feel better or perform better. These things are not goals, they are fuzzy ideals.  Let’s take looking better as an example.  Saying “I want to look better,” doesn’t really mean anything.  It isn’t quantifiable and it doesn’t have a time frame attached to it.  Furthermore, you have no way of measuring to see if you are any closer to it.  A more concrete goal would be, for instance, if you are currently a size 18 and you set a goal for yourself to be a size 14 before your holiday in July.  This goal is quantifiable, you have set out what you want to achieve and by when.  As well as that, you will have clear indications along the way to tell you if you are on track to achieve it or not.  If, for instance in May you find yourself needing to buy a size 16 because all your clothes are too big, well that’s a good indication that you are on track.

All of this sounds simple, and it is.  But, believe me, changing your lifestyle is not always an easy things to do.  There will be times when you ask yourself “what the hell am I doing this for?” and when that question comes, you need to make sure you know the answer.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew:  When we embark on lifestyle change or any change, it is very tempting to jump in head first.  If you are anything like me, you will scouring the internet trying to garner as much information as possible, so that you can be sure you are doing everything “right!”  Often times we go from zero to sixty in 3 seconds only to find that half a mile down the road we are spinning out of control.  My advice, having taken numerous spins myself, is not to rush.

Successful lifestyle change is about implementing small, incremental changes and making them habitual.  I try to make two or three small changes each month.  Nothing too big or seemingly overwhelming.  Just little things like replacing my after dinner coffee with a peppermint tea, or having eggs for a mid morning snack instead of something sweet.  Once I feel confident that I have embedded these changes into my lifestyle, I start thinking about other possible changes I can make.  It is really important to remember that you are trying to make changes which will stay with you for the rest of your life.  They need to be sustainable.  If something you are doing feels like an epic struggle, forget about it.

Allow wiggle room:  If you are regular reader, you will have heard me say this before, and you will hear me say it again.  You need to have a degree of flexibility in your diet or it will never work.  If you have yourself so tightly controlled that you can’t enjoy a piece of birthday cake or take your kids out for a burger, you will never go the distance.  Having a 100% “clean” diet sounds wonderful in theory, but the reality of it is most people do not have the level of will power required to sustain this long term.  More importantly, you don’t need to.

As long you do things which support your goals 80-90% of the time, you really don’t need to worry about the occasional off plan moment.  Whether this is a missed workout, a meal out, a few drinks or whatever.  You need to be able to do these things without feeling like the wheels are coming off your wagon.  Flexibility is what will make your new lifestyle sustainable in the long run.

Be consistent:  Just as important as flexibility is consistency.  There is no point making changes that last a week or a month.  You need to continue to do these things consistently, long term in order to achieve results.  This might not be a popular stand point, but it is the truth.  The small, incremental changes I spoke about earlier, add up, and have the power to get you to your goal, and keep you there, only if do them on a continued basis.  As I said, there are no silver bullets or quick fixes.

Be realistic:  I am fairly active on social media, and every day I am awed by the flawless physiques of fitness models and professional athletes alike.  I find myself day dreaming, having thoughts like “maybe if I put in more hours at the gym, or ate a bit better I could look like that!”  Maybe not Arwen!  I have to remind myself that I am not a professional athlete.  I am an accountant, with a full time job, a house to run, a big furry daughter to look after and a million other responsibilities.  The people I look at so enviously look that way for a living.  They are operating at an elite level, only a very small percentage of people can ever reach that level.  Apart from which, they have the benefit of genetics, good lighting and airbrushing.  So comparing myself to them is completely unrealistic.  It undermines my progress and makes my goals seem insignificant.

So what’s the answer to this?  Just stop doing it.  Stop comparing yourself to other people full stop.  Stop looking for Fitspiration or Thinspiration.  Be your own inspiration.  Focus on your own, realistic goals and keep moving forward.  While moving forward, check that rear view mirror every once in a while.  Check in with where you were last month or last year.  Compare yourself with that person, and if the comparison is favourable, you know you are going in the right direction.

Don’t believe the hype:  There are many, many trainers and on line health gurus out there.  They portray a seemingly perfect lifestyle.  Nothing but organic, vegan food ever passes their lips, and they spend all their time either training or practicing yoga!  In my 34 years on this planet, one thing I have learned is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.  Just remember, when you come across these perfect specimens, that there is probably a large degree of filtering going on.  They are most likely not going to put up a post about the curry they had Friday night.  Neither will they take to social media to tell us about the days when they struggle to get to the gym.

Don’t get me wrong, some trainers do show the good with the bad, and that’s great.  Just bare in mind, if the trainers you follow are not showing you the difficult side, you probably aren’t getting the whole story.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you be.  I hope these tips will make your journey towards your goal a little easier.  Next week I will be offering some practical tips and small changes you can make to help you get big results.  Check back with me then xxx

 

 

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Recipes

D.I.Y. Protein Yogurt

Protein yogurt is delicious, and it is a great way to help you meet your daily protein requirements.  Shop bought versions can be a little expensive, so I am giving you a recipe for a great tasting homemade version.  It really couldn’t be easier.  Enjoy xxx

Serves 4

Ingredients:

500g fat free natural yogurt

250g of your favourite berries, I have used raspberries and blackberries

100g unflavoured protein powder

1 orange

Method:

  1. Put your berries into a small sauce pan
  2. Squeeze half the orange into the pan. You are looking for about 4 tablespoons of juice
  3. Heat the berries over a medium heat until they are mostly liquid and soft
  4. Remove your berries from the heat and allow to cool well
  5. In a large bowl combine your yogurt and protein powder.  Make sure you stir this together very well to ensure there are no lumps
  6. Once the berries are nice and cool, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into the bottom of a glass or bowl
  7. Top with a quarter of the yogurt mixture
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Nutritional Information per serving:

Kcal:  195

Protein:  27.5g

Fat:  2.4g

Carbohydrate:  17.9g

Recipes

Sweet Shepherd’s Pie

Nothing says comfort food quite like a Shepherd’s pie.  This classic dish is given a modern twist with the addition of sweet potato, one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat!  This dish freezes and reheats like a dream, so it’s a definitely batch cooking essential. Winter doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but on the upside, it gives us more opportunity to make delicious, warming dishes like this one.   Enjoy xxx

Serves 4

Ingredients:

450g lamb mince

2 large sweet potatoes

1 large onion

4 carrots

A cup full of frozen peas

Mixed herbs

Beef stock cube (I love the Knorr Rich Beef stock pot)

Cost per portion:  €3.25

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and boil a full kettle of water
  2. Peel your sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks
  3. Put the sweet potato into a pot of boiling water to boil.  They will take about 25 minutes
  4. Peel and slice your carrots.  You are looking to end up with little disks
  5. Dice your onion quite finely
  6. Put a large pan or wok on to heat
  7. Place your lamb and diced onion into the pan and cook until the mince is browned and the onion is softened
  8. Dissolve your stock in about 100ml of boiling water.  Most of your gravy will come from your meat and vegetable juices, so you are just looking to get the stock into liquid form
  9. Once the lamb is browned, add your stock, a good shake of mixed herbs, your carrots and your peas.  Give it a good stir and take it off the heat
  10. Transfer your meat mixture into a Pyrex dish.  The one I use is a square one, about 25cm
  11. Once your sweet potato is nice and soft (it should nearly be falling apart) drain it and mash it
  12. Top the meat mixture with a layer of the sweet potato
  13. Pop the dish into the over for about 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and delicious
  14. Serve on warm plates and enjoy.

Nutritional information per portion:

Calories:  458

Protein:  28.2g

Fat:  14.8g

Carbohydrate:  54.3g

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Articles

Food Shaming and Secret Eating

It seems an unfortunate by-product of living in the technical age that we unwittingly expose ourselves to the opinions of others on a daily basis.  Every time we post something on social media, we are opening the door to judgement and comment from others.  This can be about just about anything, from our clothes to our cars, our bodies types to our food choices.  It is the judgment around what people are eating that I am finding particularly unsettling.  We seem to have allowed the practice of food shaming to have become a social norm.  When I was growing up we were told it was impolite to comment on other peoples’ food, and that unless you were going to say “that looks delicious,” you should keep your mouth shut.  Well, I for one think it’s about time we brought this principle back.

I remember starting out on my journey toward well being and being made to feel extremely self conscious when anyone would mention the change in my diet.  I was a bigger girl than most of my friends, and I was trying something completely new and unfamiliar.  At lunch with the girls, their comments, no matter how well meaning made me feel like I was somehow getting it all wrong.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed.  What was wrong with me that I couldn’t get it right?  Why was something which was so effortless for my peers such a struggle for me?

Over the years I have learned one universal truth.  Everyone struggles.  Everyone has times when they feel like they have no idea what they are doing.  Everyone will experience times of trial and error, in all aspects of their lives, not least with their nutrition.  Sometimes we may decide to try a new diet approach on, just to see how it fits.  These are times when we will be particularly sensitive to the insensitivity of our family and friends.  In other words, these are times when we need everyone to mind their own business and shut the hell up!

Food shaming can have serious and severe consequences for some people.  It can serve to exacerbate already unhealthy relationships with food.  It can lead to feelings of guilt around food, which are always to be avoided.  Furthermore it can be extremely isolating, with people resorting to eating in secret or at least not eating in public.   Eating should be a pleasurable experience, not something which causes stress and anxiety.  Each individual’s journey is different.  If you know where you are going and you’re happy with the road you have taken, ignore everyone.  Don’t let them get inside your head and undermine your confidence.  Because the thing about judging other people is that you do it without knowing the whole story.  Now, I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t support each other, and offer advice if asked for it.  What I am saying is comments like “wow, that’s a lot of food,” or “should you be eating that on your diet?” are as unhelpful as they are hurtful.

A wiser woman than I says “Do your best, until you know better and when you know better, do better.”  Maya Angelou.  This really resonates with me.  For about two years I followed a fairly strict Paleo diet, eliminating or restricting lots of food groups like grains, dairy, refined sugars and legumes.  I was fully convinced that this was the ideal way to be eating and extolled the virtues to of it to anyone who would listen.  It didn’t matter to me that my hair was severely thinning, I had no energy to train and I was completely cut off from my social life due to my inflexible attitude towards food.  I was completely deaf to the please of my family friends when they were trying to tell me that I was in trouble.  Part of me wishes that I had listened to them, but a bigger part of me knows that it was something I had to come through on my own.  I alone had to come to the realisation that my behaviour was not in alignment with my goals.  I wanted to get fitter and stronger as well as getting leaner, and none of this could happen because I was starving myself of essential nutrients.  A classic example of trial and error.

I have often said that one of the most difficult things about trying to make lifestyle changes is dealing with the opinions, comments and unsolicited advice of other people.  For me the training has always been the fun part, the nutrition side is a manageable challenge, but these barbs and back handed jibes are enough to push me over the edge.  I am at the stage now where I maintain a fairly balanced and healthy diet.  This involves eating quite a lot of actual food and very little “junk” food.  People are often amazed by how much I eat and believe me when I tell you, they are not shy about letting this be known.  I do what I do in consultation with my coaches and I careful monitor and track my progress.  In short, I am confident enough in my dietary approach to brush off the negative comments.  However, I am well aware that this is not the case for everyone, especially those for whom this is a new thing.

Recipes

Pan Fried Ray Wings

Growing up in Ireland in the 80’s, few things were as sacrosanct as the tradition of eating fish on Friday.  Each week my mother would take the bus into St. Thomas Street to buy fresh fish from the markets.  Each one of us had our own particular favourite, mine was always ray.  To this day, I still adore it.  It is this love coupled with nostalgia, which makes it almost impossible for me to resist it when I find it available in my local butchers.  Over the past few years, I have done a lot of experimenting with food.  Ray, however, is one thing I still cook exactly as my mother did.  Enjoy xxx

For this recipe you will need a two tier steamer and a good non-stick frying pan.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • About 800g of ray wing.  This was one large wing, I asked my butcher to cut it in half for me
  • About 10-12 baby new potatoes
  • A head of broccoli
  • A butternut squash
  • A packet of sugar snap peas
  • A cup of plain flour
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Cooking oil

Cost per portion:  €6.80

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade and boil a kettle of water
  2. Pop your potatoes in a pot of water to boil for about five minutes
  3. Drain them and place them into a Pyrex dish, drizzle a little olive oil over them, shake them and put them into your preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes
  4. Peel your squash.  I find the easiest way to do this is to cut off the narrow part.  The round part contains the seeds, so I normally don’t bother with this it.  Cut off the very top too and then you can stand it up and slice the skin off length-ways.
  5. Once your squash is peeled, chop it into bite sized cubes and put it into the bottom tier of your steamer.  The squash will take about 15 minutes
  6. Pour the plain flour onto a plate, and use it to coat the ray wings.  You just need a thin layer of flour on each side of the fish.
  7. Pour a little cooking oil onto your frying pan and get it good and hot.  To test the temperature, drop a tiny bit of the flour into the pan, if it sizzles the oil is hot enough
  8. Carefully place the fish into the hot pan.  This will take 8-9 minutes to fry, turn it about 4 times during cooking to ensure the skin isn’t burning and it is cooking evenly
  9. Chop up the broccoli and put it in the top tier of the steamer together with the sugar snap peas.  The greens will only take 5 minutes
  10. When the fish is ready, use some paper towel to soak up any excess oil
  11. Serve everything on warmed plates, garnish with wedges of lemon if desired, and enjoy!

Nutritional Information per serving:

Calories:  566

Protein:  71g

Fat:  3g

Carbohydrate:  49.3g

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Articles

Does Misery Love Company?

About eight years ago I gave up smoking.  It was undoubtedly one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but definitely one of the best things I could have done for my health.  I come from a family of smokers and I have a lot of friends who smoked, so I was still around people smoking quite a bit.  I remember being surprised by how often I would be sitting having a coffee with a smoker and when they would light up a cigarette, they would say something like “I won’t offer you one, because I know you’ve quit, but I’ll just leave the pack here, and sure if you want one, take one!”  People do the exact same thing with food.  It can often feel when you are trying to make lifestyle changes that other people are continually trying to tempt you.  Is it a case that misery loves company?  Well maybe, but I think there are some other reasons why this could also be happening.

Irish Mammy Syndrome:  We are all familiar with the character Mrs. Doyle in Father Ted.  I think the thing that makes her so funny and relatable, is that most of us know at least one woman who is exactly like her.  We all have that one Granny, or aunt or friend, that no sooner have we walked through their front door than they are foisting all sorts of tempting treats in our direction.  Maybe it’s a hangover from our famine days, but it really is an Irish thing that when someone comes to your home, you must feed them, whether they like it or not.

I have been known to be a bit of a feeder myself, so I can understand the urge people have to make sure their guests are well looked after.  The people who do this are generally well meaning and there usually isn’t any malice involved.  They are good people to keep around!  However, if you plan on steering clear of their dietary pitfalls, you may need to come up with a strategy.  Usually a polite “no, thank you” will not suffice.  My advice is to tell a white lie.  Anything from “I’ve just eaten,” to “my dentist says I should avoid sugar.”  DO NOT tell the person that you are trying to lose weight, or get healthy.  This will only open a Pandora’s box.  They will insist that their recipe is Weight Watchers approved, only 100 calories, baked by Peruvian virgins or whatever, and you will have to start lots of sentences with the words “I know, but…”  There’s a very real danger that you will end up eating the bloody thing just keep the peace.   If the Mrs. Doyle in your life is your husband’s granny and you see her twice a year, then maybe indulge the lady.  However, if she sits beside you in work, you are going to have to be firm.

Green Eyed Monsters:  It is an unfortunate fact of life that there are come people around you who categorically do not want to see you doing well.  Whether it is a new relationship, a new job or a new healthy regime, these people will always begrudge it.  They are fairly easy to identify.  They are the ones who won’t ask you any questions, won’t like your posts on social media and will never tell you they are happy for you.  Sometimes they are driven by their own insecurities, and sometimes it is just plain jealousy.  Whatever their motives, there is really only one way to deal with these people, avoidance.  Wherever possible remove them from your life.  You will never get acceptance from them and their negativity will suck the joy out of all your achievements.  If you have no choice but to be around them, limit the amount of information you give them.  Don’t allow them too much air time.

I thought about writing this blog for a number of years before I ever put pen to paper.  I am loath to admit it, but it was fear of the opinions of these types that kept me from pursuing something which I am deeply passionate about.  Eventually I came to the realisation that no matter what you do, they will find something negative to say, so you may as well go ahead and make yourself happy.  As the song says “Haters gonna hate!”

The Fear Factor:  If you have unhealthy habits, chances are you have friends with whom you engage in them.  Whether it be gambling to excess, drinking to excess or eating to excess, if you are doing it, you are probably doing so with somebody else.  The problem arises when you decide to make a change.  You decide you want to become a healthier person, so instead of going for a drink every night, you are going to limit it to weekends and special occasions.  But where does this leave your friend?  They are not ready to make the change you are making and now they have lost their drinking buddy.  Furthermore, they might worry about how they will fit in to your new healthy lifestyle, if at all.  All of this fear and doubt may lead them to consciously or otherwise try to derail your efforts.

Just as with the Irish Mammy, these folks will come up with myriad reasons why you really should go to the pub on a Tuesday night.  There will be matches to be watched, important conversations to be had etc.  Also similarly to the Irish Mammy type, this may need to be handled with a degree of sensitivity.  If you still want the person in your life, you may need to reassure them of this.  Coming up with a new activity for you both to do together might be a good way around this.  Plus that will have the added benefit of getting your friend healthier by proxy!

Supersized Sabotage:  We all love to get a bargain.  You just have to look at the Black Friday phenomenon to know that this is true.  I love special offers as much as the next girl, and I have been guilty of ending up with a year’s supply of toiletries because they were buy one get one free.  Where we get into trouble with this is with food.

So it’s Friday night, you have decided you are going to have your off plan meal.  You and your partner pour over the take away menus and after much debate settle on pizza.  You have decided exactly what to order before you pick up the phone.  Say you decide to order a large pizza and it’s going to cost you €15.  You call the restaurant and they tell you that for €20 you can have 2 large pizzas.  Wow, that’s a great deal, right?  WRONG!  The one pizza that you wanted, had planned for and had been looking forward to is one thing.  However if you get a second one, that’s a whole different ball game.  If you decide to take them up on their amazing offer, one of three things will happen.  You will eat twice the amount you had intended to for dinner, you will eat the second pizza for breakfast (no judgement, I have done this many times) or you will end up throwing it in the bin.  Whatever the outcome it is a complete waste of money and or calories.

The same thing happens in supermarkets and convenience stores.  We know we are being sold to, but the allure of an offer can be too much to resist.  I am by no means telling you not to buy the bar of chocolate or packet of crisps that you have been craving.  I am telling you, however, not to buy more of them than you will feel good about eating.  We all have trigger foods, things that we can’t have around us or we will eat.  Multi-packs of these items should be avoided at all costs.  You don’t need to put your will power to the test like that.  Scientists say that we make an average of 200 food choices everyday.  So make it easy for yourself to make the right ones.  Just order one damn pizza!

As always, any questions you have you can ask through my Fadebook page.  Also if you have any topics that you would like me to discuss, let me know xxx

 

Recipes

Italian Style Baked Cod

Fish is one thing that I have always loved.  But I was mistakenly under the impression that it was difficult and complicated to cook.  Fearing failure, I limited myself to ordering it in restaurants.  Last year, my husband started working nights, and so with just myself to cook for most evenings, I felt ready to try new things.  Besides, with a big German Shepherd in the house, even burnt offerings don’t go to waste.  This recipe is one of my favourite new discoveries.  Enjoy xxx

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • Two fillets of cod (approximately 200g each)
  • 120g of Easy Cook brown rice (check the packet for cooking times, the one I use takes 25 minutes, so adjust accordingly)
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of pesto
  • a drizzle of olive oil

Cost per serving:  €5.50

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade and boil a full kettle of water
  2. Peel the squash and chop it into cubes
  3. Cut the top off the peppers, pull out the seeds and chop them into large bite size pieces
  4. Peel the onion and cut in into quarters.
  5. Put all the chopped veg into a Pyrex dish and drizzle a little olive oil over them, shake them and pop them into the over
  6. Put the rice into a pot of boiling water, the rice should take about 25 minutes to cook
  7. Slice your tomatoes
  8. Put the fish into a Pyrex dish, skin side down, season with salt and pepper
  9. Lay the sliced tomatoes out on top of the fish and top it with about a tablespoon of pesto on each piece of fish
  10. When the rice has about 15 minutes left, pop the fish into the oven
  11. Serve and enjoy

Nutritional Information per serving:

Calories:  553

Protein:  39.5g

Fat:  15.2g

Carbohydrate:  64.6g

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