Just add self control

There’s this thing I do whenever I’m trying to gain a little control over my diet. I suddenly start finding new recipes, and then I fixate on said recipes. I daydream about going home and whipping up that decadent tart or tasty biscuit. I’d love to say I hold strong and resist temptation, but often, I don’t. I’ll suddenly catch myself in the kitchen rolling out pastry, creaming butter, sprinkling icing sugar. And doing it all with a smile – because baking makes me happy. It really really does.


But realising that I’ve undone all my hard work (health-wise) of the past year, does not. This time around, my temptation is a recipe for Snickerdoodles I came across completely by mistake (okay, fine, I went looking for it. But only because I’d always assumed it was some kind of pie. It’s not, it’s basically cinnamon sugar biscuits, and the recipe is so so easy, and I have most of the things I need for them already…. And that, folks, is how it happens. EVERY. TIME.)

I don’t want to give up baking, but I do need to set some ground rules. So, here goes:

  1. No more baking, just because I feel like making something yum. Baking needs to be done for a specific reason. And I’m sad/ I cleaned the kitchen/ I didn’t punch anyone in the face today/ I need to check if the oven still works do not count as valid reasons. Acceptable reasons are: I’m going to a party and need to take snacks/ I’m giving someone an edible gift/ Someone has ordered a cake from me and is paying me.

Actually, I think rule number one will suffice. For now. On the plus side… I have a get together coming up on Sunday, for which I need to make some snacks, so hooray for Snickerdoodles! Although, I’ve also been wanting to make shortbread…. and fudge… oooo, and mince pies…


PS. If any of you are thinking of throwing a party anytime soon, and you need, you know, like, extra numbers… feel free to send an invite my way. I saw this GREAT recipe for key lime pie the other day…


One, two, wobble, wobble, bounce

Was I ready to join the party? As ready as I was ever going to be. Especially since a few hours before my first class I had surreptitiously Googled “What to expect at your first Zumba class”. The internet told me a few things, most importantly: no one was going to be looking at me, let alone laughing at me. It also told me I would be completely and utterly confused, and that it was all going to be okay. Which was great, because I am generally not a dancer, so the idea of jumping into the world of dance fitness was rather daunting.

Nervousness and embarrassment aside, can I just take a moment to talk about one of the most significant things I have realised, after just two classes (although, to be fair, I kind of knew this was going to be an issue when I packed my bag for week one) – shoes are important. These, ladies and gents, are NOT suitable Zumba shoes.

The shoes of shame.

The shoes of shame.

They were like this before Zumba. I have nothing to say for myself except that I tend to wear things until they break, and then wear them a little more. (This is why, if you’ve ever invited me to a clothes swap, you’ll have noticed I never come. It’s not because I’m snooty, or even because I don’t think anyone else’s loved-before stuff will fit me, it’s because all my clothes are, well, take a look at the above picture again.)

So yes, I need new shoes. I realised this two weeks ago when I tried to jump around doing a clumsy version of a cha cha, soles flapping. Did I go out before the next class and buy new shoes? No, of course not. Instead, I completely forgot, and then literally 5 minutes before I had to head out of the house, rushed around like a mad thing looking for glue. There was none. So I did what anyone else would have done (let me have this, please) and I used double-sided tape. Ingenious, I thought. I cut a bunch of strips and slotted them between the escaping soles and the shoe. No, of course it didn’t work, but it did make a cheerful little tearing noise with every step, which I thought worked quite well with the Zumba music.

Back to that first class… No one laughed at me (everyone was fantastic), and even I didn’t fall about laughing at myself like I expected to. The hour-long class was fun and fast paced and massively confusing in places – especially when it came to the faster routines. And by the time I left I just knew the next day was going to be a bad one when it came to stiff calves. The instructors are really encouraging, and not just because one of them is my neighbour – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. (Hi Juanita!)

I think I managed most of the foot work passably. But where I did fall apart a bit was with the arms… I’ve never been one for waving my arms about theatrically, never mind seductively. I’m awkward and silly and a little bit robotic (and not in a groovy 80s way either). So, I didn’t really try in week one. I was mostly focusing on keeping up.

By week two I decided I may as well give it a go. And I did. I was still just as awkward and silly and robotic, but at least I didn’t look quite so much like a River Dancer anymore. I was making a little progress, but I discovered something else that is going to be a little bit of a hurdle. For the past, say, 23 years I’ve been doing everything I can to reduce the amount of boob wobble that happens in my day-to-day life. Anyone who is more generously “endowed” in the chest region will know the struggle. Just running for a bus can be a perilous endeavour – even when you’re wearing a sports bra over your normal bra. So, you develop ways to minimise the bounce. Now suddenly I find myself in a class where I’m encouraged to get my jiggle on. I’m talking full on, arms splayed, chest thrust forward and wobbling free for all the world (or at least for anyone unfortunate enough to glance my way). The problem is that I suddenly find myself having to unlearn two and a half decades of boob control – and I’m afraid I don’t know how. What exactly are the mechanics involved in a successful shimmy? I don’t know what’s supposed to move and what’s supposed to stay still, and as a result it’s all a bit of a dog’s breakfast. Let’s not even talk about the excessive hip rolling other routines require…

That’s a challenge for another day. For now I’ll work on swirling my arms above my head and not looking like I’m being attacked by a swarm of bees. Oh, and I’ll go invest in pair of shoes that aren’t doing their utmost to trip me up – for real though, promise.

Doing a Gordon in Caledon

There’s this thing Gordon Ramsay does on every episode of Hotel Hell – EVERY EPISODE… He strips down to either his speedo (usually bright blue), or a towel and struts around for a bit. Every episode.

So this past weekend, when Husband Person and I were invited to spend a night at The Caledon Hotel and Spa we stood with our fresh towel robes in our arms and eyed the steep pathway to the spa up the hill and asked ourselves: ‘What would Gordon do?’

But little Miss Priss here wasn’t about to schlep up a hill on a chilly late afternoon in her bather and a robe, while guests pulled up for a night with Lady Luck at the casino. So instead, I rammed our bathers in my handbag and changed at the spa – and then lugged my unwieldy, overflowing bag from pool to pool. Next time? Totally doing a Gordon.

We started at the Victorian Bath House, as one does.  Biting back the horror of having to leave my robe on a hook, I padded carefully to the cold shower, and a touch more hurriedly to the pool steps, where  I slid into the heavenly warm water. Our fellow wallowers lounged around the edges talking quietly, while we waded slowly to the centre of the pool, tendrils of steam curling up into the evening air. And what gem did I come up with, in the magical moment? ‘I feel like a Roman!’

Once we’d stewed a little, we decided to go exploring, so it was back into the ice cold shower and then, heavy bag in tow, we headed up a winding stone stairway. As we rounded a bend, surrounded by lush vegetation we found a bubbling, steaming pool, filled to the brim with kids, just bobbing around, going various shades of pink. I smiled hello at the watchful parents sprinkled among them and we headed on upwards. The next pool had notably fewer mini humans, but the allure of pushing still higher kept us moving (albeit a little slower – just about dragging the bloody handbag behind me by that stage).

Our perseverance was rewarded however when we reached the very top pool and clearly the source of the water that feeds all the rest. Each pool had an info board giving the depth, average temperature and recommended max time to spend in the water. This one suggested two to three minutes. Psssht, what kinda delicate flowers visit this place, I thought as I flung off my robe (there were no spectators this high up) and shimmied down the ladder.

Husband Person outlasted me in the hot pool

Husband Person outlasted me in the hot pool

Now, I like a hot bath. I like the kind that turns me instantly red and has me swearing as I lower myself slowly in. The kind that leaves a distinct line where the water first was up to an hour after I’m dry and in PJs. That pool was hot. And deep. But still I doggy paddled bravely over to the lip of the waterfall and gazed across the valley, admiring the view and the sheer beauty of the place. For all of 20 seconds, before I splashed clumsily back to the ladder and hauled my puce body into the cold air. Well, puce and orange because I managed to get the metal residue that had collected on the steps all over myself. I looked like an Oompa Loompa after tackling an aggressive giant squirrel. But I didn’t care. I just sat there on the stone wall and didn’t even fuss too much about my insubstantial towel when a couple of sightseers came into view.

We also stopped in at the Added Relaxation Area where we roasted in the sauna for a bit before Husband Person braved the Frigidarium pool… Me? I was getting reacquainted with my robe.

Then it was time to head back to our room to get ready for dinner, and well, we pulled a Gordon. Yes, I shuffled barefoot and be-robed down the drive, smiling at but not making eye contact with a couple of staff members near the hotel entrance. All the while repeating my temporary mantra silently in my head ‘Own it, own it, own it, for god’s sake own it.’

The view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

A hearty dinner at the Black Sheep Diner, of onion rings (with a gratuitous second portion, because yum), chicken schnitzel, and ribs, was followed by a glass of wine on our balcony, before we headed back downstairs to see Loukmaan Adams and his fabulous Take Note Band perform.

I can’t tell you if it was ‘taking the waters’, or the absolutely epic bed, but we slept better that night than we have in a while. There’s something so magical about luxuriously soft white linen and a firm mattress… Suffice it to say that at 6.05am our previous night’s plan of a 6am Gordon up to the spa was quickly shelved as we pulled the duvet up round our ears, just for ‘a couple more hours’.

Over an ample buffet breakfast later, we decided we’d definitely be back to visit again soon. I’m determined to beat my 20 second wallow in that top pool. And maybe next time we’ll take the 6am plunge, but I’m not making any promises…



Fed Up

Oh my gosh, you guys. I’m getting so annoyed by people who loudly and angrily complain about “Banting” and Tim Noakes and the whole eating plan – but they keep calling it “low carb/ high protein”. It’s low carb/ high FAT. And there’s a big difference. Really, it’s grates me.

And the worst part is that it’s mostly coming from “professionals” arguing in the name of science. If you can’t get the name right, then I honestly can’t even begin to consider the merits of your argument.

There’s a massive difference between protein and fat in terms of what each does or doesn’t do for your body. And people yelling about how high protein diets cause bowel cancer… well, that may be so… good thing THIS ISN’T A HIGH PROTEIN DIET.

It’s a moderate protein diet. And people like Noakes who advocate this way of eating all go to great lengths to explain to people that they shouldn’t be loading their plates with meat and dairy. It’s the fats you’re after.

I think I need to stop reading the letters page.

Hitting reset

From the (very little) reading I did yesterday I have deduced that the appestat is a very complex thing – BUT it is possible to reset it. I wasn’t about to get sucked into a whirlpool of links, but I glossed a couple of articles.

I think what I’m aiming for mostly is to put an end to the “I think I might be puckish, or wait, maybe I’m not, but man those chips smell good” cycle. I’ve heard it said so many times that sometimes when you think you’re hungry you’re actually thirsty. So I’m keeping the water close at hand and it seems to be working. I’m not actually hungry. I started the day with a bullet-proof coffee and later this afternoon I’ll probably try Kauai’s curry with cauli-rice. But other than that if I ate it would be because I felt I had to, not because I’m actually hungry.

That’s something Noakes mentioned at a function I was at last week. This business of eating three times a day is nonsense. Eat when you’re hungry. And if you’re doing this low carb/ high fat thing properly, you shouldn’t be hungry all the time – just when your body actually needs food.

The other thing I’ve heard before and have found to be true (even before trying this eating plan) is that it generally takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’ve eaten enough. And yesterday I discovered that’s part of what the appestat does as well. Most of the time we just keep wolfing down our food until we’re about to pop and feel sick (well some of us do – or did). But now I’m trying to eat my normal-sized portion of food and then wait at least 20 minutes before I decide if I really do need something more to nibble on. Every time I’ve done that, the report has come back that, no, thank you very much, tummy is full, no more food needed. Which is excellent.

I think that even if I don’t know all the technical terms and the science behind it, through implementing small things like the 20-minute wait and the water, I can reset my appestat.

We’re going away with friends in a little over three weeks time, and I’d love to be able to reach my next goal by then. Nah, it won’t mean I’ll be wallowing in the Jacuzzi in a bikini, but at least I’ll be beaming from ear to ear.

Ups and downs

I feel a bit like I’m on a see-saw. On an almost daily basis I find myself pivoting between thinking that losing weight is “the hardest thing in the world – I just caaaaan’t anymore”, and “psssht it’s easy man – watch me shrink”.

Sometimes I hit them both, several times, in one day. And it really doesn’t make the journey any easier. When doing the eating thing right is easy, it’s fantastic. I feel invincible, I grin at myself in the mirror and I bounce gleefully down the stairs. But when it’s hard, it’s really really hard. As in, all I want to do is give up. Lie in a miserable heap and pour all the bad food down my throat with a funnel, because what’s the point in trying anyway?

The big difference between me now, and me a few years back, however, is that at least now I’ve seen that I can succeed. So I can’t even con myself into believing “it wasn’t going to work anyway”. I know it’s going to work, because it has already – mere months ago. So I can’t even claim shifting planets or anything like that.

I just have to stop with the complaining and get on with it. And honestly, it’s not like someone’s demanding I cut off my own toes – it’s just carbs for heaven’s sake. I still have a fantastic husband, a great family, and almost house and a collection of awesome friends helping to make my life cool. Carbs? Who needs ’em? And even when I have indulged recently it really hasn’t been mindblowing. So ja.

As you can tell, I’m kind of in an “easy” phase right now. Despite the fact that there are two bags full of cake perched on the couch a few metres from my desk. Someone’s birthday. But I’m really not curious about what exactly lurks there. Sure, my tummy is rumbling a little, but I know it’s not hungry. It’s just the idea of cake that’s setting it off. Which reminds me… I’ve been meaning to do some reading about the appestat – the regulation of appetite. If I can work it our I’ll share my findings here.

Still here and still at it

Between moving and celebrating my birthday I had a few weeks of relaxing a bit with the strict eating. I picked up a little (nothing to panic about, but up is never a good thing), but since I knuckled down again a few days ago I’ve returned to that happy place fairly easily and the scale is looking good again.

I contemplated doing another 30 Day Dash, but have decided against it. It was fun and all, but I kind of want to integrate it into my daily life and have weight goals as markers, rather than dates.

During my brief hiatus I ate a few burgers and some take-aways and didn’t really stress about limiting alcohol and snacks. And yes, I could feel it. Not like in a monstrously gross way, but I did feel a bit stuffed after eating and a bit blegh. It was a reminder that junk food, while awesome in the moment, isn’t all that great once it’s left your tongue. That enjoyment doesn’t really stretch beyond the chewing.

So when we went to our local the other night I was able to tuck into a Cajun chicken salad and enjoy every bite and not feel like I was really missing out by not ordering a burger (and their burgers are quite something). I was full and happy knowing that I’d chomped down on all the good stuff – greens, chicken, avo, cheese, bacon. Delicious.

Oh, and we were quite pleased to notice that one of our go-to “healthy bite” chains has added cauli-rice as an option to their winter curries. It’s nice to see that it’s not only the “up-market” restaurants making lchf adjustments. Not that we have heaps of money lying around to visit often, but at least I know the choice is there now. Here’s hoping this trend lasts so restaurants keep making an effort for those of us keen to stick to the plan.

On another note, here’s something I’ve been chewing on (again) for the past couple of days…

We all know that this eating plan, lchf, Banting, whatever you want to call it, has split people who care into two camps. Those (like me) who’ve seen that it really works for them and are super-happy with the results, and those who think the idea is ridiculous, a fad and completely against everything science tells them. Both sides are outspoken. And in places it’s turned into a bit of a flame war.

People are entitled to their own opinions. If you don’t like the idea of lchf, no problem, don’t do it. But I find myself increasingly disappointed with people I know, being outspoken about it when it’s really not affecting them in anyway. It’s like people running around with placards denouncing the life choices of others (insert issue here). If how that person chooses to live their life doesn’t affect you at all then it’s none of your business. You can disagree with their choices, but there’s no need to publicly shout about it. In this case, “shouting about it” mainly takes place on Facebook and Twitter. And so often it’s just blindly reposting just segments of the debate. If you really feel the need to weigh in (hur hur), at least include a variety of viewpoints. Especially when the article you’re linking to has already been responded to by a couple more professionals. And don’t just repost stuff without having done a little digging yourself.

Also, let’s be grown up about this. The other day I saw a friend post a link to an anti-Banting article, prefaced with her own “HA! Take that!” comment. It also irked me that said person is one of those “naturally skinny” types who eats whatever she likes. Yeah, okay, so carbs obviously aren’t an issue for you. But they are an issue for others, and this eating plan is working for them. Take what, exactly?

I really need to be unruffled by the naysayers, but when it’s people I know, who I figured to be a little more “together”, it’s difficult. No, I don’t expect you to jump on board and join me over a bowl of cauliflower. But I do expect you to keep your vociferous judgment to yourself. Let me decide how I want to live my life and get on with it. By all means, judge my choices, but do it quietly and out of earshot. I’d like to be able to quietly lose weight in a way that’s working for me and not have to feel like I’m constantly being challenged to explain myself.

And if science comes up with some new studies that prove that this way isn’t the best way, well then that’s something I’ll deal with if it happens.

For now, I’m feeling great, fitter than I’ve been in a long time, finding it easier to get going in the morning, not automatically reaching for the biggest clothes at the back of the rail, enjoying the challenge of finding new recipes and lingering in front of the mirror and actually smiling.

Take that!