Butternut squash and heavy heavy thoughts

Phew.

I’m pooped.

If you want to visualise me at this exact moment then close your eyes, and imagine a pair of baggy Star Wars pyjama bottoms, a nerd teeshirt and Christmas slippers draped loosely over my near completely prostrate form on the sofa.

Im slumping and loving it.

The damned scales haven’t shown a loss so far – which I suppose I shouldn’t expect yet. It’s only been a couple of days since weigh in and it’s not really a good thing to be standing on the scales – but I can’t help it.

It would be rather nice (given all the effort I’m putting in at the moment) to get a generous loss next week and I’m doing all I can to be good.

My helpful assistant lately has been butternut squash.

It’s a fabulous speed food and I find it’s really versatile when it comes to preparing the ingredients for multiple meals in one go.

I’ve slipped into something of a routine lately because of this – and a cottage pie is always followed by a slow cooker stew – and then by butternut squash chips.

If you find a LONG squash it’s ideal. You cut it in half just where the bulbous curve ends at the base and peel both halves, putting the long straight bit aside.

Then cut the bulbous end in half again so that you expose the seeds and scoop those out of both.

Chop one half up into very small 1cm square (approx) cubes and the other half into 2 cm chunks.

Put the lager ones in a sealable LARGE Tupperware tub with plenty of space in it.

Then cut the large seedless upper portion in half lengthwise, and put both halves down on their flat sides before cutting them into 1cm semi circles.

When you’ve done that (I do this in piles of three at a time) cut those into 1cm sq chips.

It doesn’t matter how long they are – only that they’re no thicker in the body than 1cm.

Place all of these in a tub and put them in the fridge for tomorrow.

The first order of the day is a cottage pie.

The ingredients for this are

  • 500g 5% fat pork mince
  • All of the 1cm cubes of squash
  • 2/3 large swede (1cm diced – put the rest of the swede aside next to the tub of 2cm squash)
  • Several carrots (1cm diced)
  • Chopped onion x2
  • Chopped courgette
  • 2 diced sweet potatoes
  • 2 diced medium potatoes
  • Grated cheddar (if you want to use you healthy extra on this)
  • 250ml boiling beef stock

Brown off the mince in a very deep frying pan or wok then throw in the carrots, half of the 2/3rds of chopped swede, the courgette and the onions and then pour over the stock.

Boil this down until there’s practically no moisture left in the mix and put it to one side.

While the contents of the frying pan are reducing boil the potatoes, the remaining chopped swede and the sweet potatoes in a saucepan, and when they’re soft mash them into a paste.

Put the contents of the frying pan into the bottom of a large flat based oven proof dish and then flatten it down before covering it with the mash, scoring the top with a fork and spreading your cheese HE sparingly on the top.

Cook in the oven until the cheese is golden brown

That’s meal number one (serve with the veg of your choice or eat it on its own – it’s full of speed!) and there’s more than enough of it to pop into some containers for you and your partner to take to work for lunch the next day.

Tomorrow you’re having a slow cooked stew! So before you go to bed full the rest of the 2cm squash Tupperware with a chopped sweet potato, chopped carrots, chopped onion, garlic and the other 1/3 of the swede

You need

  • 400g of chopped beef
  • Can of chopped tomatoes
  • Cloves of garlic
  • The 2cm square squash you prepared
  • The other 1/3 of the swede (roughly chopped)
  • A sweet potato (finely chopped)
  • Carrots, diced
  • Mushrooms
  • A chopped courgette
  • A finely chopped leek
  • Cannelini beans
  • Small can of sweetcorn
  • Some dry lentils
  • Bay leaves
  • A knor rich beef stock pot

Before you go to work put the canned tomatoes in the slow cooker, then the beef, then the garlic and the stock pot along with the bay leaves. Put all of the rest (apart from the beans and the sweetcorn) on top in any order you want and force the lid down. If it doesn’t fit don’t worry – it will by the time you get home.

Put it on ‘high’.

When you arrive home after work lift the slow cooker lid and quickly pop in the beans and sweetcorn. Let them warm up for ten minutes or so before stirring it all together.

Meal three – butternut squash chip butties.

While you’re eating a bowl of stew (and popping some in Tupperware for lunch tomorrow) put the chips in the oven for 45 mins with some spray oil, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning.

When they come out then sprinkle with salt and balsamic vinegar.

If you want to use bread by all means do – but a chip butty is far more on plan if you use a weight watchers wrap. One is a HE and if you have two then it’s six Syns a wrap.

Just pop the hot squash chips into the wrap, squeeze it up so they mush up a bit and then bite into it!

Nom nom nom!!!

All in all this squash strategy nets two or three meals (I like big portions so for me it’s two) along with a bunch of carrots, a swede and a small bag of sweet potatoes.

The ingredients are cheap, on plan and filling as hell – plus when it’s freezing outside are awesome comfort food.

It’s worth noting that if you don’t want to use cheese on the cottage pie you can also mix in a tub of onion and chive cottage cheese with the mash.

It won’t brown as well but it tastes lush!

On top of all this cooking I’ve been smashing my swimming lately and have 25 straight days of hitting the pool (except on bank holidays) in the bank.

This means that so far January looks flipping amazing for calories burned per day!!!

I have to say that all of this is particularly awesome because at the moment (whilst I’d love to be in in target) I’m just revelling in being fit and healthy as well as seriously motivated.

However there’s also something a lot more serious on my mind – because today (after seeing a fellow SW man posting on Instagram) I watched part of a programme on iPlayer called plastic surgery undressed (episode four if you want to look).

This episode is all about tummy tucks and aims to make people face up to the visceral reality of an operation that can cost anything from 4-10k and require extensive convalescence (three months plus in some cases from what I’ve read) as well as having much potential for complications and dramatic scarring.

The chap taking part from SW is not someone that I want to vilify or shame.

He’s worked hard and I genuinely respect him as well as understand more than most people would what his thought processes are.

I want to be clear about this.

I’m not in the business of saying what people can, can’t or should not do with their bodies.

Particularly not him. He should be applauded for what he’s achieved.

However I have come to my own opinion on the matter and although I reached it well before watching this tonight it’s exemplified by the welsh lady in a red top above.

In the show she’s crying early on and talking about about how an ex partner had made her feel worthless.

She couldn’t go out, couldn’t go swimming, and after giving birth to three children had convinced herself that she was unlovable and ugly.

She wouldn’t wear a swimming costume to go to the pool with her children and still refused (at the time this was filmed) to step into a pair of jeans.

All because an arsehole had made her feel that she wasn’t good enough.

I get that.

It’s not just women this affects and I’m sick to death of hearing that men don’t suffer in the same way that women do when it comes to body confidence.

Once an ex said to me in a moment of unfiltered weakness after we’d made love that I’d made her feel wonderful.

She then concluded that if I had a body like one of my best mates it would have been perfect.

That’s never left me – so I had a lump in my throat as I watched the tears roll down this lady’s cheeks.

All she wanted was to feel better, to cut away the pain and to throw it into a bin.

She was so desperate to escape this emotional turmoil that she was willing to mutilate herself instead of learning to accept it – and in so doing attract someone with her inner confidence and winning personality.

She was on TV considering being butchered instead of coming to terms with the fact that her partner never truly loved her.

None of this is easy though and god knows I struggle with what’s physically left behind after losing the immense amount of weight that I did.

I never thought I’d find someone that would love what remained but find her I did – and love (as well as intimacy) is about far more than looking like a catalogue model.

It’s about honesty, compassion and a deep connection to the person in your arms.

I’m luckier than other people I know who haven’t managed to find a relationship like this – but I’m also not alone.

Through slimming world I’ve met many men (and women) who now have great lives and wonderful people to share it with – and share it intimately.

There is more to all of us than superficial extra or droopy skin.

We’re worth more than a surgeons knife and there should be far more emphasis placed upon coming to terms with being real and authentic versions of ourselves rather than chasing impossible dreams of perfection.

I will never have washbord abs.

I won’t get rid of my bingo wings.

My thighs will always sag.

My head however will always remain high – because it’s about more than that.

I’m confident that I represent an ideal that many should aspire to – and that to make the most of what you have – WHATEVER THAT IS – and own it.

Confidence and a smile are the most attractive feature in all of us – and as time scrapes away all that we pointlessly hold onto they will remain – and when they do they’ll keep the person that loves seeing them on you coming back for more and more.

Whilst your choices are your own I urge anyone considering this to think long and hard about why you want it and who you really want it for.

Watch the programme and make up your own minds.

I know what I think.

Davey

Shared flamboyance

(Author sips coffee and sighs…)

February so far appears to be going pretty well.

Life is coming together very nicely – and with the possible exception of employment still being AWOL I have to say I’ve rarely been happier. This is more than mildly surprising because it’s fair to say that there was a time when I felt I’d never truly be accepted by the world or fit into it.

The truth is that I now feel a part of my surroundings and community in a way that I honestly never have before.

It’s never completely plain sailing mind you.

I guess it’s a feature of life (if it goes on long enough) that just when you think you’re sorted, on an even keel and have dealt with all of your demons that you find more of them popping out of the closet completely unannounced.

Amazingly – as painful (and deeply personal) as some of these can be to face up to – this time there is a significant difference. Now I’m not only, fitter, stronger, and more resilient – but I’m no longer dealing with them alone.

With a new relationship has come a gradual realisation that I no longer have to be the sole guardian of my self worth and belief – and that (in the same way as I hope I am in return) someone else now has a spare set of keys to my emotional vault.

That doesn’t mean they’re controlling of that element of me – it means that they are demonstrating again and again that they’re capable of not only enhancing but supporting me too.

Already I’m acutely aware that this is regularly making me think in ways that otherwise I would not have if I’d been left in splendid isolation.

It’s a pleasure (although sometimes also challenging) to see parts of myself that have been dormant for so long slowly whir back into life as I explore what it’s like to become ‘us’ rather than just ‘me’. Furthermore it’s great to have someone with many of the same – but also a continually surprising and divergent range of interests.

Again and again though I’m confronted with a pleasingly similar set of likes and dislikes.

I’d always thought in the back of my head that my taste in clothes (which is developing into a more colourful and flamboyant one all the time) would be a tough sell for a person that liked a more ‘buttoned down’ mode of dress.

All the designs I covet in shops however seem to not only meet with approval – but are greeted with enthusiasm – which is something I’m completely unused to.

Furthermore I’ve been introduced to a new set of clothing passions – which are (in some cases) things that I would never have previously considered – but now I find that I’m an ardent fan of as well.

Whilst I’ve never been particularly keen on high heels (the potential damage they can do to feet has always scared the living heck out of me) if they’re worn occasionally and they’re both unique and beautiful I find that I am inexplicably drawn to them.

At the weekend I was introduced to ‘Irregular Choice‘.

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Oddly a regular twalking buddy had mentioned the online version of this shop before – but until I’d walked through the physical door of its premises in Brighton I’d not connected the dots and realised that it was the same place.

As regular readers will know I’m a seriously thrifty person.

My charity shopping habits are a matter of public record and I don’t like paying high street prices. Something has to either be heavily discounted in a sale or ‘pre-loved’ for me to consider buying it.

This has enabled a lot of experimentation – and I’m still going through a ‘developmental’ period in this respect.

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However – there are some things that are so individual and beautiful that their cost is offset in my mind.

Sure – very little has changed in the ‘can Davey afford this kind of thing’ stakes (the answer is I cannot) but honestly there are some items that with the benefit of a regular income I’d definitely consider worthwhile.

Although I can wear nothing in this store (I saw no shoes at all for guys) it represents taste choices that I’ve never really considered – but that I suddenly love to bits. These shoes are the kinds of truly wonderful little pieces of art that I’d happily mount on my living room wall and admire from afar – yet they’re not much different in price from a pair of Clarkes or a mass produced pair of brand name trainers.

It blows my mind that I not only think this way – but that my opinions are shared. Not only is my experimental side okay but it’s suddenly something that’s being embraced with gusto.

Furthermore the nerdy geek in me (which represents a HUGE part of my personality) no longer feels the need to lurk in the background – which if I’m honest has not always been the case in the past.

Now when I linger peering excitedly into cabinets such as this there’s a murmer of approval nearby – and it’s nice to not feel like there’s any element of my personality that appears to need muting or modifying. The newly collaborative element in my life is also compatible when it comes other things too too – and thats great because something that I cannot do without is twalking.

This is so fundamental to who I am that without it I immediately feel like things are sliding in my life – or that I’m somehow heading for failure. It’s been so instrumental in my recent success that it’s forever going to dominate who I am as a person – and to know that I don’t have to hammer someone else’s square peg into my round hole is a joy that’s next to impossible to explain in words.

To know that when I’m navigating through a rainswept, muddy, miserable landscape framed by a grey sky with someone by my side that really doesn’t care what the weather is like as long as they’re outdoors is fantastic.

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It’s much better though when the weather is just right and you can enjoy a cloudless blue sky while you sit down to look at the view whilst you sip your respective flasks of coffee and tea.

This weekend I’ve been exploring Birling Gap and the Seven sisters a little more.

However on Sunday I started at the other end of their span (last time I began my walk in Seaford – link) and I’ve decided that not only is it a really pretty little part of the world, but that I’m rather falling in love with it.

Despite my amorous inclinations though it’s also rapidly becoming the place in the world that I’m most likely to fall on my ass.

Although I never mentioned it in my previous posts this is the second time when I’ve unceremoniously felt my legs slip out from under me in the chalky mud around these parts. This glue like covering on the cliffs and in the nearby estuary has the habit of gumming up the tread on your boots and making it much harder to maintain a reliable grip.

When it’s combined with ice (as it was in the shaded parts of the seven sisters on Sunday) then it can result in a sore posterior and wrists – both of which invariably take the brunt of any sudden downward trajectory.

Thankfully it seems that another major benefit of me being a lot smaller these days is that my arms and ass remain unbroken when this occurs. All that gets damaged is my pride or the material in the rear of my trousers.

I don’t care though.

Muddy pants and boots are badges of pride – and I actually find it quite amusing that recently I’m slipping and sliding more than usual. As I headed home with the sun slowly going down over Cuckmere Haven the event barely even registered in my memory of the day.

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My train of thought only moved on from the wonderful light and reflections when I started to think about what I was going to cook for dinner – which in this case was going to be for two.

This is a really positive new element in my life – because when I am preparing meals for someone other than just myself I eat noticeably less than I normally would when I’m on my own.

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Not only am I more likely to keep to plan when I’m in company but during such evenings I typically spend much less time trying to modify or deal with the inevitable impact of solitary ‘boredom eating‘ – which if I’m honest has always been a big problem for me. It’s something that’s never really changed in all the time I’ve been attending Slimming World – or since I reached target.

My evenings have at times been a wasteland of cottage cheese pots, Aldi Benefit Bar wrappers and plum seeds or apple cores. I’m no different to anyone else with dietary demons in this respect.

It’s never really been a case of whether or not I will go off the rails – but how much I can limit the damage when I do.

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Replacing this is a new push into making lovely meals that someone else can enjoy too – and thanks to many Slimming World food tasting sessions (and a willingness to experiment a little when they come around) I have a number of easy to make but delicious healthy meals in my cooking lexicon.

This ‘baked stuffed peppers’ example is something I first cooked (following guidance in a SW magazine) back in June 2016 (link) and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone that likes its ingredients.

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I can confirm that it went down very well with its intended audience – and it’s so nice that this recipe is actually the reason that I started using 5% fat pork instead of beef mince in my chilli con carne.

It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt at the time that not only was it a significant upgrade from beef (I find that it’s far less chewy for one thing and almost identical in terms of calorie content) but the resulting taste was way better.

Furthermore its value (usually around £1 less than beef per 500g) seemed far more appealing because – since I cook a chilli every week without fail – this represented a saving of £52 per year – which for me is an entire week’s shopping in Aldi.

With all this good behaviour I’m well on track to being in target for my diamond member award – and last night when I attended one of Angie’s groups locally in Warwick I hit the weigh in nail squarely on the head.

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After nearly a month out of group gallivanting around the country I managed a maintain – meaning I’m still smack bang on my target weight. 

I’m still squarely in the middle of my target range – and this also means that the last entry in my book will hopefully be when I secure my diamond target member status.

I’m not sure I could have planned that if I’d tried – but when I do my Slimming World book will contain an entire and complete record of my journey from my first weigh in to this very significant milestone.

If you want to see the entire history of my losses (and occasional mis-steps) you can find them here (link) or have a look in my homepage menu.

If you’re on your own journey then I can’t overstate how important it is to keep a log of what you’ve done right (and wrong). If you’re following Slimming World I also urge you to take the time to update your progress online in the app or on their web page.

Their graphing tools have kept me on the straight and narrow throughout my time following the plan – and it never fails to fill me with a sense of pride when I see its variations slowly smoothing out into one long gentle curve downwards – followed by a (relatively) straight line.

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Looking at a history of where you’ve come from and where you’ve ended up – as well as recognising that sometimes things will go a little topsy turvey and that if they do it’s totally normal is a real help in times when you really don’t feel like you can be strong or focused.

Anyway – my day is ebbing away internet and I need to get walking. I can’t sit here talking to you all day long, regardless of how nice it is to catch up.

Let’s do coffee again later in the week x

Davey

 

Very damp

Despite the absolutely awful weather today I’ve still been out and about putting in the miles.

The inclement skies have tested my recent statements about there being ‘no bad weather just bad clothes’ to the absolute limit, because it seems that not all of my clothes are… good.

I’m very damp.

In no particular order…

  • My trusty Berghaus walking boots seem to be leaking thanks to some epically deep puddles today and my feet are soaking wet
  • My ‘waterproof’ Peter Storm gloves (that I bought full price from Millets last year) needed around an eggcup of water (I’m not kidding) wrung out of each one of them when I sat down.
  • My Mountain Warehouse supercoat has (to be completely fair to it) kept water out of everywhere… Except its pockets
  • My waterproof Regatta overtrousers in contrast have been doing a grand job but the perspiration they cause when I wear them on longer walks undermines any upsides they might have regarding keeping rain at bay

When I started writing this post drinking whilst coffee in a pub (hiding from the rain with my overtrousers taken off and turned inside out) my outer clothing was all drip drying nearby.

By the time I reached home later in the afternoon the situation hadn’t really improved much and my feet were totally sodden and ‘pruney’ when my boots and socks came off.

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For the first time since maybe January I unclenched my wallet’s sphincter muscle and turned on the (cue drum roll) central heating…

Still – I may be wet and cold – but one thing I’n NOT is outrageously hungry after my 9 miles in the pouring rain. I’m not in the mood for food probably because I did a little bit of experimental cookery last night and the outcome was extremely satisfying.

To be honest it wasn’t really fine dining – but it did taste flipping delicious.

It consisted of a couple of packs of Aldi’s fajita chicken stir fry mix (which are admittedly 8 syns a pack according to the SW app – but they were half price – yay!) a punnet of mushrooms and a pack of Aldi sundried tomato and garlic flavour cous cous (0.5 syns a pack).

The whole meal came to around £3.50!

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I cooked the mushrooms, pre-marinaded chicken and stir fry veg (peppers and onions) for about 20 minutes, chucked in the sachets of sauce, stirred those in for 5 minutes – then sprinkled in the couscous and reduced the whole lot down for another five minutes until the couscous was swollen with flavour – then served it up.

Honestly this ended up being rather spicy but also felt like really comforting food for a cold and dark evening. Although it was definitely a bit higher in syns than meals that I’d usually cook frankly it made up for it by being so tasty that my tastebuds were practically ready to crown me emperor of the known universe for cooking it in the first place.

If there was ever a way to intelligently use syns with Slimming World then this is it in my view – because at least this way they’re filling you up rather than just hiding in empty calories like crisps or chocolate.

The truth is though that although I really enjoyed eating this I’m not really a fan of pre-prepared pack in sauces.

If you look closely at the ingredients for both the marinade that’s already on the chicken and it’s additional (admittedly optional) sachet of stir in sauce both have sugar in them.

The reason why this is included in any savoury food continually baffles me.

Why on earth does a fajita kit need sugar in it?

If I cooked this from scratch there’s not a recipe in the world that would say ‘and now grab a bag of silver spoon and start pouring‘.

Sometimes (like last night) I turn a blind eye to this kind of thing purely for cost and convenience’s sake as they’re usually one off’s – but honestly the presence of sugar in cook in sauces irritates the s&&t out of me. It’s no wonder the whole western world is lurching toward a diabetic and obesity armageddon when sugar is added to everything.

You may have seen my previous rants about this (and other similar food crimes) on Instagram…

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In many respects I don’t blame Aldi or it’s competitors for doing this though. Human beings are their own worst enemies.

Supermarkets taste test their products with consumers and then base their decisions on the feedback about what people prefer to eat. Sadly human beings seem to want more and more sugar. It’s just a fact of life I guess and I suppose that every now and then it doesn’t hurt to treat yourself.

Anyway – I’m very focused at the moment on eating the right kinds of things and accounting for all of it not just because of hidden sugar – but also because the Slimming World ball is coming up soon.

In early November I’m going to be up on stage to be presented with my Man of the Year award, and when I have everyone and their dog looking at me I want to feel (and look) my best.

I’m still not sure yet what ‘look my best’ will mean though…

Whilst I’ve been out today I’ve taken the opportunity to drip on the floor of some clothes shops and search for inspiration regarding colour and pattern combinations. I’m still no further forward with my decision – although I DO know that I’m almost certainly not going to pay the prices that high street shops are willing to charge me to do this.

I want to be frugally creative if at all possible and see what kind of an outfit I can pull together from ‘pre-loved’ sources.

This is considerably more stressful than just throwing money at a cashier when I find something nice – but on the plus side if I manage to pull it off I reckon I’ll be able to get a whole outfit for a similar or lower price than the (admittedly very nice) tie from Moss Bros (paired with the grey jacket in the last shot)…

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Either way – I find this kind of thing a fun challenge. Seeing individual items randomly in different places and then trying to mentally combine it with something else is a strangely addictive pastime…

Only time will tell whether I will be able to pull it off!

Watch this space internet!!!

Davey

#onplanoctober revisited

As soon as I entered the public toilet in the deserted changing room I knew I was in trouble. The walls were unbearably close, and covered in a thin later of fine soil.

The black plastic seat in front of me was cold and also covered in the same sprinkling of earth.

I could barely turn around, let alone undo my trousers – but the need was pressing, so (with great difficulty) I did – and once I was unbuttoned I attempted to sit down.

At this point the walls (which were already touching my shoulders) closed in a little more, and I realised I was wedged.

As I was assessing how to get out of this predicament I heard movement outside in the cold and echoey room.

There were many cubicles – but it seemed that the anonymous person joining me had decided (against all unspoken but universally understood toilet etiquette) to choose the one immediately next to me.

To add insult to injury he also started talking to himself and then (through the wooden cubicle wall) asked me a question.

For the life of me though I can’t remember any of the things he asked me about.

When I responded however he immediately parroted my answer back to me, reflecting everything that I’d said to him in my own voice.

Freaky.

Could this be the worst public toilet experience in the world?

Actually no – because at this point I woke up – wondering what the heck this dream meant.

Checking Google in the cold light of day suggests a variety of things relating to different bathroom dreams – such as me needing to release emotions or feeling like I’m unable to get any personal space.

None of them ring true – and universally fail to provide any suggestions about what the mirroring of my answers means – or why the man in the next cubicle appeared to have my own voice.

The simple explanation for the bathroom dream is that I actually needed the loo – which in this case was absolutely bang on the money.

After making a note of the dream I hurriedly headed to the smallest room of the house and engaged my sprinkler system.

Once finished I went straight back to bed and immediately nodded off.

As with many odd dreams though I find that now I’m awake again I’m mildly preoccupied with it.

I’m not worried or obsessing over it’s meaning mind you. I think I know what it relates to.

Control or a perception that I’ve not had any in certain areas of my life.

For a while I’ve felt that events have been controlling me rather than the other way around.

Over the last few days however I’ve turned something of a mental corner – and amongst other things I’m once again filling in regular food diaries.

Before the end of September I looked back on some of my old posts from around the same time in 2017. In these was following #onplanoctober (link) and decided I’d resurrect the practice again for a month.

Last time I did this the results were undeniably positive (link) and over the course of few weeks the extra focus showed some really positive progress towards my target weight.

Although I was a heavier back then and my goal now is maintenance rather than significant losses it makes sense to do it again.

I dutifully started on the 1st and am keeping a notepad file of all my exercise and what I consume on my phone.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done this.

For a long time I honestly felt that I’d ‘cracked it’ – and didn’t really need to write anything down anymore because food diaries were for people still trying to get to target.

However I’m also really aware that I’m not yet back in target.

Furthermore – due to being ill (I’m still not at my best but much improved in case you wondered) I didn’t weigh in last Saturday.

I’ve also booked a holiday with Angie for this coming week because I’ve had exciting plans on that day for months

The problem with this is that knowing I’m not going to stand on scales for a couple of weeks will almost certainly invoke my natural tendency to mentally relax and indulge a little.

It’s a slippery slope though – and regardless of how far you’ve come, whatever awards you’ve been given or whether or not you’ve appeared in the media being touted as someone that’s ‘succeeded’ YOU’RE ONLY HUMAN.

A little can soon become a lot and I’m only too aware of my proclivities in this area.

I’m not just a high achiever in the field of weight loss – I’m a flipping guru in the field of weight gain as well.

A few years ago I managed to lose ten stone (this isn’t my first journey on the tubby train) and then put it all back on at the rate of over a stone a month.

If my ability to gain weight was transposed into the field of martial arts I’d basically be Bruce Lee.

I’m that good.

The truth is that I really don’t want to write anything down.

In fact it’s the absolute last thing I want to do – and this tells me something really important.

If I don’t want to do it it’s because I’m hiding from the reality of what I’m capable of eating when I’m not 100% on plan.

Deep down I not only know that I want to over eat – but that given half a chance I will.

I also know what I need to eat in order to maintain my target weight – and I’m writing a diary to make 100% sure I’m consuming it and no more.

Since doing the same old things often results in bad behaviour I’m also switching up my routines and changing my meal times so that I stand a better chance of avoiding danger periods (usually in the evening) where I’m more likely to over indulge.

For a few months I’ve also been (mostly unconsciously) avoiding carbohydrate rich ingredients too – and I’m re-introducing some of these free foods to my meals purely for the sake of variety.

I don’t post pictures of food very often because I feel that this is something that the internet (and particularly Instagram) is already overwhelmed with.

The world really doesn’t need another guy like me posting pictures of his dinner every day.

In this case though I think it’s relevant – if for no other reason but to illustrate that I’ve used noodles in my stir fry for the first time in absolutely ages and I really enjoyed it.

In this case I used a couple of pre prepared stir fry vegetable and mushroom packs from Aldi, a few chicken breast strips, a load more mushrooms, a ‘cake’ of Sainsburys dried egg noodles (these have been in my cupboard for around two years!) garlic, a chicken stock cube and Worcestershire sauce to create something absolutely delicious.

But that’s not all…

It may sound nuts but I’ve only just realised that when making a stir fry (at least the way I usually do it) there’s a lot of water generated by the veg.

I’m sure I’m just not cooking it fast enough – but I don’t have a wok – and getting things REALLY HOT with spray oil never works out well in my experience.

So, rather than trying to cook the liquid off (your stir fry just gets mushy and overcooked if you do) or pour it away (meaning all that lovely flavour is suddenly lost) putting dried noodles in the middle of it neatly absorbs all of the excess fluid – and also has the added benefit of infusing the noodles with wonderful flavour.

Previously I’d always cooked the noodles separately – so this discovery is something of a revelation to me.

The taste difference is genuinely noticeable – and if you’ve never tried this then I recommend giving it a go!

Anyway – as you might expect I’ve been out and about walking since quite early – and have just stopped for fuel.

Since I’ve posted one picture of my dinner I may as well give you one of my lunch.

Sharing is caring after all…

In my case lunch happens to be another concession to carbs and is a chicken enchilada from La Tasca.

Thanks to my Wuntu app (which gives you lots of lovely deals and free things if you’re a 3 mobile customer) this meal set me back a wonderfully frugal £3.

Since the price is usually around £12 (which I consider too steep) and my mobile bill is £9 a month (from which I typically also get a couple of free coffees at Costa and Greggs) I can’t fault this particular indulgence.

On the plus side I also know that La Tasca’s toilet walls will NOT close in on me and the loo seat will not be covered in soil.

As far as I’m concerned internet that’s a win win win situation .

Davey

Under fourteen

Sometimes I have a really distorted view of what I do well and what I’ve not done so well at.

Often I find myself wracked with guilt over daft things such as a feeling that I haven’t walked far enough or a perception that I’ve overeaten when I should have just nibbled a carrot – but then I realise that the opposite is actually true.

I am (like I’m sure many other people are) clearly my own worst critic.

Yesterday for instance I had a business trip to go on and because of this I got up extra early to spend time on my exercise bike. I was fully aware that if I didn’t then I probably wouldn’t have any time to go walking or doing anything fitness related.

It bothered me so much that at 5am I was already pedalling away like a hamster on a wheel. To be clear this didn’t fill me with joy one little bit – but I did it anyway.

Maintaining my current weight is that important.

As it turned out I was right to worry. I spent most of yesterday sat in a car moving (at times) 10mph through heavy traffic. When I wasn’t trapped in the (heated) leather seated opulence of my boss’s Lexus I was stuck in a meeting room.

Although I view a day like this where I can’t do much as a personal failure (I feel the same when it snows) the reality is that it often forces me to give myself a rest.

I probably don’t do this as much as I should and it’s daft because my body needs to from time to time.

It was clearly pining for a rest too because last night (helped by the miracle of my new electric blanket which I bought on a whim in Aldi yesterday for £17.99) I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in flippingages.

When my eyes opened at 5.30am this morning I felt great!!!

As I stepped out of the house I was practically bouncing along – still feeling absolutely tip top – and it soon showed how much difference this rest and sleep had made.

Today, whilst on my way to work on mile 3 I managed to crack the 14 minutes a mile walking speed!!!

Back in January I was absolutely amazed that I’d broken the fifteen minute barrier (link).

Since then I’ve lost almost a whole stone and it’s clearly made activity a lot easier because whilst wiping more than two whole minutes off my personal best walk to work time today I barely managed to get out of breath.

My average heart rate was 89bpm.

Back in Jan it was 95!

This in itself is absolutely fantastic news – but it doesn’t stand in isolation, because I’d also been beating myself up about (what in my mind) was a weekend where I felt that I’d eaten too much.

When I stepped on the scales in the end the reality was quite different. I was pretty much exactly the same weight that I was last Saturday – and once again I’m reminded that even in instances where I do overeat a bit I’m still food optimising.

When I reach for more food (that I don’t need but wantwhich is still a problem at times) crucially the choices that I’m making are good ones.

When I remember the reality of my situation (that I’m doing really well and that I shouldn’t be self critical) I take a photo of my current self and place it side by side with one from the past – because even now I need to be reminded of the positive changes that I’ve made and compare the new vs the old me.

Images like this keep me on point and focused on maintenance because they represent moments of failure vs moments of success.

Believe it or not on the right I was at a wedding – and although I’d have loved to be able to wear a suit and not stand out like a sore thumb in my casual 8XL shirt and 66in waisted black jeans I couldn’t.

On the left I’m just throwing on one of several jackets I now own for work not because I have to – but because I can.

If you’re on the same path as I was I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to take photos of yourself throughout your journey even if you hate what you see.

I’d go so far as to say as it’s the difference between failure and success. When you have a dark moment it’s really crucial that you can remind yourself of where you came from and where you are.

I highly recommend that if you do nothing else on your weight loss journey that you consider doing this.

Well. Maybe not just that.

Get a slow cooker too.

I filled mine today. Absolutely stuffed it actually.

First I tossed in a can of chopped tomatoes, 400g of diced beef, a stock cube, 50g of chopped chorizo (6 syns) 2 bay leaves, chilli flakes, 3 cloves of garlic, some mushrooms, a sprinkle of lentils, a red onion and a courgette.

Then I added some sweet potato and butternut squash.

Then topped it off with potato and carrots.

Only when it looks like the lid will never go on do I actually try and force it on. Usually I pack it all down by hand and then pop it on high before leaving the house.

When I arrived home later in the day this is what greeted me.

So internet – even though I’m at target it seems that there are still mental battles to be fought and victories to be won.

Each day is still a little adventure in understanding who I am and what I can become!

I’m honestly loving my life right now!!!

Davey

Snowdrops in Hatton

I’m a little achey after the up and downhill of the end to end walk in Malvern on Sunday.

It’s currently precisely midnight on either Monday evening or Tuesday morning (depending on how you view it) and I’m lying in a warm bed within an unusually warm house whilst the world outside turns into an icicle.

On days like today I don’t care about the cost of heating. It’s worth it.

Monday was a day I had decided to a while back to just take off work and had no plans in particular other than chill out and recover after Malvern.

I suppose that I could have done that – but where’s the fun in sitting down?

It would have been super easy to melt into an armchair and just veg out – but nature (at least in my case) seems to abhor a vacuum and events rushed in to fill the spare time.

I’m not complaining mind you. I couldn’t sit still if my life depended on it these days – and my first hook up of the day was meeting a friend in the local Mecca of consumerism -Touchwood in Solihull.

Oddly – as small as this place seems now, a while back it felt like it was almost more than I could deal with. Despite having convenient parking right underneath the Apple shop that I used to visit from time to time I really struggled with moving around the place.

Typically I parked up and waddled to my destination and then back to my car before collapsing wheezing in the front seat while I struggled to get my seatbelt on.

Once I even moved my car from the Touchwood car park after going to Apple and then re-parked in another nearby car park to go to another shop less than 500 metres away.

Sigh.

Those were the bad old days…

In contrast this morning I was there extra early to meet a friend for coffee in Starbucks and idly wandered up and down the length of the Mall as I passed the time by calling my Dad and window shopping.

As I strolled I couldn’t help but notice a relief motto on the ceiling.

Maybe the designers had a sarcastic side – or the builders were feeling whimsical as they bolted these words of wisdom to the wall in one of the richest boroughs of the county (outside of the M25 area).

I’m sure there’s more than a spoonful of irony that this is hanging above the nearby Nespresso, Apple and Tesla shops – however far be it from me to judge.

If I did I’d be throwing stones whilst standing in a glass house.

Whilst I’m generally very frugal I do like Apple products (despite their usually ridiculous price tag) and sadly (although many may disagree) I think quite a bit of what they sell is actually worth the extra money.

Apple Watch for instance has been instrumental in changing my life. I wouldn’t be without it – or my iPhone.

I can’t help but buy things from there when I’m in the mood to treat myself and today my credit card stepped in to perform the heavy lifting as I left the shop with a pair of Apple AirPods.

The assistant knew she had a sale after I had inserted a test pair and jumped up and down for five minutes like an idiot as well as shaking my head like I was at a heavy metal concert whilst I tried (unsuccessfully) to dislodge them.

Annoyingly they refused to fall out and appeared to defy gravity with each lurching movement whilst still sounding totally awesome. You can barely feel them in your ears – which is seriously disconcerting.

They’re just… there – like little earbud ghosts…

Amazingly once you pair them to your phone (all you have to do is open the case and a prompt appears on your phone) they’re also paired to everything else in your Apple eco-system.

Later in the evening I was playing music on my watch, iPad and MacBook just as seamlessly as I had on my iPhone. When I opened my iPad it too paired with my buds and immediately gave me to option of using them. I didn’t have to unpair anything on my iPhone or faff about in any way.

In contrast my other (largely unused) Bluetooth headphones are a pairing nightmare.

The playback is also capable of shifting almost immediately between the player on my Apple Watch and my iPhone without any re-pairing or faffing about. Just press play on one in the middle of the other playing and the AirPods switch over.

Press play on the other device and it swaps back.

They’re irritatingly good.

I say irritatingly because I’m supremely aware that cost wise there are other (possibly more capable from an audiophile perspective) wireless headphones out there with lower price tags – but the heart wants what the heart wants and today these were my birthday gift to myself in the absence of alcohol or food.

These will accompany me on many many walks and get a lot of use on the way to and from work.

There are times however when I’m never going to use them and those are when I have real live twalking buddies to spend time with.

Today I had filled the rest of my free time vacuum by arranging a walk to Hatton with a friend – and it turned out to be during a rather nice (if flipping cold) afternoon with hints of sunshine and occasional blue skies.

The weather was not like this the whole way though – and temperatures were definitely not shifting above zero.

Several times snow threatened to arrive and stick around – but thankfully (the news suggests bad things are on the horizon) it disappeared as soon as it had arrived – but for the brief time it was in residence proved to be very pretty!

There’s sometimes a trade off with inclement weather however – because while it’s chilly and uncomfortable it can also produce some incidental beauty in the hedgerows and roadsides.

I haven’t seen icicles in ages – but today they were in abundance.

Also – everywhere along the edges of our route were the most delightful little snowdrops, framed perfectly amongst a sea of brown leaves under a completely absent canopy.

By the time we reached the Hatton Arms I was most definitely ready for the loo and a coffee though.

I think I need some thermal pants because I think I now know where the engineering inspiration came from for Newton’s Cradle.

However although elements of my anatomy and the outside world may have been freezing this pub never seems less than warm and inviting.

I do rather like their approach to hanging mirrors as well. I think there motto is ‘you can never have too many’ and I definitely agree.

Their wall looks funky.

After a coffee and a quick natter we headed back to our respective homes and into the waiting arms of central heating heaven.

Upon returning to my man cave the only thing to do was make something warming and hearty – so I decided upon a chicken and baked bean soup.

Since I rarely follow recipes this was just thrown together at the last minute and contained

  • 500g chicken breast
  • 1 drained (but not rinsed – they still had some sauce in) can of baked beans
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 diced potatoes
  • 500g Carrots
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 2x chicken stock cubes
  • A generous ‘glugging’ of Worcestershire sauce
  • A large Courgette
  • 500g of sprouts

Let me tell you right now that this was darned nice and it’s also going to supply me with a very hearty lunch at work (today – it’s now 1.30am!) too.

So – on that note I’m going to sign off internet.

Hopefully it won’t snow as badly as the forecast suggests – but if it does fear not. I’m prepared dear reader. It’s going to take a lot to stop me walking.

Aches and pains and complaints about crappy weather are for the weak. Slimming World target members (and those that want to become one) walk to work regardless!!!

Davey

Considering targets

As a few people pointed out both in person and in the comments on my last blog it’s not my usual behaviour to happily take things easy and rest if I get ill or injure myself.

However – after hurting the plantar tendon in my right foot last Sunday I’ve chosen a different course of action to the one I normally would.

Instead of getting up early and walking to work I’ve been getting up early and spending time on my exercise bike before (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) driving to work.

The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I wrote that sentence – but there it is. I’ve driven to work for the last few days.

I have the be honest – it’s got it’s upsides and downsides.

  • Firstly – I get to sit in a warm, air conditioned car and my hands aren’t perpetually  freezing.
  • Secondly I arrive home really early (at least compared to the time I did before) and there’s still daylight.
  • Thirdly – I can do more with the day (I’ve been able to go shopping on the way home and quickly nip to an appointment in my lunch hour.)

There are obvious (and dare I say addictive) benefits to using my car – and I’m hyper aware that they all have a pull. They’re nice things.

On the downside…

  • It’s no fun whatsoever sitting for between 20-30 minutes in the morning (in sometimes stationary traffic) to travel tiny distances from one end of Warwick to the other.
  • It’s also more expensive – even though I’m still using a tank of petrol that’s been completely full since late December…
  • I’ve really missed the flush of energy that I get immediately as I step over the threshold at work when I’ve walked there. At that precise moment my brain is filled with energy and I’m stuffed with endorphins. I’m set for the day ahead.

So – it’s been swings and roundabouts – but all of it has been necessary. I needed to get better in the short term so I can get back to my old self in the long term. Next week things will hopefully be back to normal – which I’m looking forward to, because compared to walking frankly my exercise bike just doesn’t cut it.

Sure – I sit there and I do it because I need to do something but honestly it just seems like wasted time compared to walking from A to B. I’m just pedalling and remaining stationary.

Mostly because of this I’ve done less exercise minutes this week (according to Apple Watch) than I have for a long time. I’m sure that this will have a negative impact on my weigh in results today because I genuinely feel my food intake and exercise output have been quite finely balanced for a while now.

If I don’t do all of my walking I can’t enjoy my food with the same (ahem) enthusiasm that I may otherwise do from time to time.

Sigh.

I feel like I’m taking two steps forward and two steps back lately… However – rather than feeling down I actually feel really happy because something rather nice happened when I went to my Doctor’s surgery yesterday for a blood test.

Whilst waiting for the nurse to become available I sat reading on my phone with my legs crossed under a sky light.

The sun above was warming my head and arms and I felt good. I’d left my car a little way away and had a gentle walk in before the appointment. It was just a nice place to be – and I felt quite relaxed in the waiting room.

It then occurred to me that I hadn’t been there for a while. In fact I’d avoided the main practice in Warwick like the plague and scheduled all of my appointments instead at a branch surgery nearby.

The reason?

The branch surgery has a big bench in the waiting room whereas the main one has blue fabric seats with fixed metal armrests that were an absolute misery to sit in two years ago.

I used to wedge myself between them, perching on the edge of the chair and feeling the metal painfully pushing into my thighs as they were jammed together until I was called in for my appointment.

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Not these days.

New and improved Davey just crosses his legs, sits back, chillaxes, then admires the gaps either side of him and between his legs.

Space isn’t just the final frontier. It represents comfort and happiness – and I often find myself marvelling at the absence of me and the introduction of it.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now but I’m absolutely not. It still takes me aback when I walk through a previously tight door, sit in a smaller seat, run up some stairs, climb a slope or just stand in a stationary position without constant, crippling, ever present pain and embarrassment.

So it’s all good. Life is good. Everything is good. Davey is happy.

Although Davey also has some tasty morsels to prepare before Slimming World. It’s a free food tasting day and group starts in two and a half hours.

I’ve still not decided what to make yet!!! Eeek!

(author makes food, goes to group and comes home)

I decided in the end (after staring into the fridge abstractly for a while) to just make something up for food tasting – and went with a totally impromptu thrown together ‘pie’.

The filling consisted of

  • 5 chopped up bacon medallions (unsmoked)
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 leeks
  • small bunch of broccoli chopped
  • half a punnet of mushrooms
  • quarter of a savoy cabbage
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • a vegetable stock cube

The upper layer was made with

  • half a swede
  • a large baking potato (skin on)
  • 1 tub of Aldi cottage cheese with onion and chives
  • Salt to season

I fried all the first lot together until soft – patted it down into a frittata tray, then (when boiled) mashed the potato and swede into a paste and stirred in the cottage cheese before cooking it all in the oven for a further 25-30 minutes to brown the crust off.

I would have left it in the oven longer if I could but sadly ran out of time…

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Overall though it seemed to go down quite well with the people who tried it and there wasn’t much left at the end. Thankfully it was still warm and reeking of garlic when everyone tucked in which was just perfect!

I actually forgot to take my phone with me to group today – which meant that I couldn’t capture any pictures of the other lovely food that people brought in – but there were some particularly nice dishes – such as a (flipping lush) campfire stew, a chicken curry (ohmyfrikkingawd!) and a huge variety of crustless quiches!

The lady responsible for the curry even brought in some of her homemade garam masala spice for everyone to try (she would apparently have to kill us if she told us what the ingredients were – it’s a family secret!) and I brought back a little bag with me so that I could try and make my own version during the week.

These events are always very lively and a good opportunity to catch up with everyone- although I do tend to lose track of what I’e eaten in terms of syns. However I think today pretty much everything I had to eat (with the exception of one thing) was free or speed food – which I’m very happy about.

However – as I expected it wasn’t a great week in terms of the scales. I seem to be bouncing back and forth stubbornly around the same weight, and have been pretty much stuck there since early January.

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I have mixed feelings about this.

The truth of it is I’m happy with me at the moment for the most part – and I’m really beginning to wonder whether this is actually a problem at all – or whether I’m just going to decide that this is my ‘natural’ and comfortable size.

There’s nothing in my life that’s ‘broken’ at the moment any more. I’m fit, healthy, active, satisfied, employed and getting on with every day with energy and drive. I’m really not sure any more why I’m chasing a number when many people are telling me I don’t need to lose any more weight.

The aspirational corner of my mind wants something though – and thats a 20st certificate. The problem is that in the next mental breath I immediately think ‘what’s the point of forcing myself to achieve something only to then put another half a stone back on after I get it and ultimately ending up back to where I am now.

I have a bit of thinking to do on the subject – because in some ways I consider such an attitude to be failure, whereas another part of me is beginning to think it’s instead sensible.

Ultimately it’s up to me to make my mind up about whether I’m happy or not – but I don’t seem to be able to do this currently.

Either way there’s no rush. I aim to keep trying, keep focused and keep going every single week to weigh in and not backslide. Over time I think I’ll find out whether I have further to go or whether I’m right where I need to be…

On that note internet there appears to be an over abundance of blood in my caffeine stream. I’ve heard outlandish stories of a strange drink called coffee and I was planning to try it.

See you later!

Davey

I own red

It’s fair to say that whilst I’m very much enjoying my new job that there was a mild, almost barely detectable mood of happiness when I left the office last night to begin a week’s break over Christmas and new year.

Only those with a trained eye (possibly a seasoned police detective) would have spotted the signs though.

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I would no doubt make an excellent poker player.

This is the first time that I’ve ever had a job that does this for it’s staff. Previously all of my work around this time of year has been for operations centres that have a 24x7x365 presence.

Any such lengthy time off over the holiday season had to be bartered for with colleagues and agreed many months in advance.

I have no complaints that I have to use some of my (yet to be earned) holiday allowance to make it happen. It enables me to do a lot that I’d have otherwise struggled to do (such as be in for my new washing machine later in the week).

In the meantime though I’m now stressing again about weight loss. It’s been playing on my mind that last week (when I unexpectedly gained three pounds) I technically lost my 19 stone certificate (although it’s mine and Angie would have to fist fight me in a cage to get it back lol).

I’ve now been ill for two whole weeks with the flu. I feel that during this period my eating hasn’t been quite as regimented as it was back in October when I had such good progress (check old posts tagged as #onplanoctober). The more run down and crappy I’ve felt the more likely I’ve been to reach for the fruit or have a second bowl of stew.

The positives of periods like this however are that I’m reminded what a ‘bad’ week looks like these days. In reality it contains absolutely nothing really ‘bad’ and only has over consumption of salad, fruit, low fat natural yogurt, cottage cheese, pickles, lean meat and coffee.

I’ve avoided every last cake and sweet that’s been waved under my nose (on an almost daily basis) in the office for the whole of the run up to Christmas.

I haven’t touched a single one.

It’s still possible to put weight on eating ‘good’ food though and thats always on my mind.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on my exercise and despite being ill I’ve managed to keep my activity going throughout November and December.

My personal target has been (for a while now) to maintain a daily average of 10 miles walking distance.

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(It’s worth noting that I had some technical issues with Apple Watch in June and July – so the totals on my iPhone health app remain irritatingly incorrect. They should be a lot higher, which is why I also keep separate stats.)

Despite all of the snow and rain we’ve had lately since I started my job on the 6th November I’ve only had to use my car twice. I estimate that this means that I’ve already walked 180 miles backwards and forwards to my place of employment.

In practical terms this not only means that I keep fit – but also that I’ve saved around £45 in fuel costs. Depending on petrol prices I suspect this means I’d be around £350-£400 a year better off, on top of being lots healthier and happier.

I might even ring fence that money and use it for something significant (such as a little climbing holiday in the lake district or Scotland) because to me it represents one of many savings that can easily be made in pursuit of a better lifestyle.

I know that not everyone has the luxury of being able to walk to work – but often they can park further away when they get there. There’s always a way to turn £££’s spent into lbs lost.

However – back to weighing in stress.

I’m thinking about all of the above because I’m readying myself for a less than stellar result this morning (don’t I always though!) and this week it feels even more important than usual because of my radio appearance next Friday (link).

I don’t really want to rock up to the BBC and have to admit that I no longer have my 19st certificate that I’ve put a bunch of weight back on – so this is playing on my mind.

However – in some respects there’s maybe a benefit to not being perfect and showing my fluctuations – because no-one is. I’ve also noticed that traffic to my site has often spiked the most when I’m feeling down (although this thankfully doesn’t happen often) or going through difficulties rather than just when I post stories of continued progress.

Arguably however learning how to deal with ‘failure’ and not implode (and therefore eat all the pies) could also be considered progress as well…

I think what writing this blog has taught me over a prolonged period of time is that we often don’t look for ‘perfect’ in others. We look for someone that’s gone through the same doubt and worries that all of us do and then watch to see how they’ve navigated it’s choppy waters so that we too can try and find our own way through something similar.

So maybe the answer is not to worry about any kind of perceived ‘failure’ I may or may not have had – but to just remember that we all get sick, and we all struggle to control our impulses, no-matter how far we’ve come in life we all just work to succeed as best we can.

Maybe this is what ‘naturally slim’ looks like?

Anyway – I must get ready. It’s the final meeting at Slimming World before Christmas and there’s a food tasting event and I need to prepare my snacks.

I suspect it’s going to be a little quiet in group today – but hopefully there a few tasty things to try too!

(Author weighs in)

Well Slimming World was fun today! We played party games and ate all the lovely food that we’d prepared for eachother. I also won something in pass the parcel (second year running!) and got a voucher for a free week that will come in really useful!

I’d decided to take a shortcut of sorts and prepare some couscous dishes (roasted veg sachet sourced from Aldi) which were quick and easy to make. I combined them with some of the Tesco’s Finest range of salads and some onion and mushrooms fried in spray oil.

Although there were some syns involved (I didn’t use the sugary dressing that came in a pot with the beetroot salad) these are what I view as good ones.

They’re not empty calories – and instead of being crisps or chocolate they’re filling and wholesome. These are the types of things I’m taking to work for lunch (although I usually make my own salads) and they stop me from snacking.

This approach to syns and the aforementioned exercise must be working – because I had a good result on the scales.

Whatever got (metaphorically speaking 😏) ‘stuck in the pipes’ last week appears to have dislodged itself and I managed to lose five pounds!

This means that I’ve not only officially got my 19st certificate back but that I’ve also made a start towards my next one. I’m now 5lbs short of my nineteen and a half stone award and (mind bogglingly) twelve pounds away from my twenty stone certificate!!!

Anyway – that’s all of my news for the time being. I feel really Christmassy today – because one of my oldest friends is coming over and I can’t wait to hang out and catch up.

We’ve known eachother long enough for Christmas to feel absolutely incomplete if we don’t manage to get together – so this evening both of our seasonal itches get resoundingly scratched.

In the meantime I found a really ace (large) fleecy top in a charity shop for £3.75 yesterday and I’ve realised that I rather like wearing red now.

In the past I always avoided it because I felt it would draw attention to me – when I wanted to instead feel completely invisible outside the house.

People bullied me and called me names anyway without the need for me to paint a big red target on myself – and the inevitable comparisons to Santa Claus happened every time I wore something even vaguely similar to this colour.

Now I don’t care. I flipping love it in fact.

I own red now internet. It’s mine. I’ve planted my flag in it and you can’t have it back!

Davey

A truly wonderful thing

It’s 8am and as is customary for a Saturday morning I’ve not had much sleep. Today I’m doing another two motivational talks at Slimming World meetings – and rather nerve wrackingly one of them is my own group

I’m not entirely sure why this makes a difference – but it does, because whilst others see me as I am today, a lot of these people have seen me as I was back then. 

They know a lot of what I’ve been through and I like them a great deal. I feel like I mustn’t disappoint them. 

In common with all perpetually paranoid slimmers this morning I’ve dressed in nice light clothes and headed off to group early so that I can weigh in before the talk (that way I can drink coffee beforehand!) and see how my week of #onplanoctober eating has panned out. 

I’m also dressed smarter than usual in a shirt and trousers in an effort to give me confidence. 

Partially because of this I didn’t have much of an appetite yesterday…

Friday 13th

  • Tub of cottage cheese with onion and chive 176
  • 6 small tomatoes 60
  • 350g celery hearts 35
  • 200g ham 238
  • 100g pickled onions 35
  • 500g grated carrot 210
  • Yellow pepper 30
  • Half iceberg lettuce 20
  • spoonful of mint sauce 5
  • Spoonful whole grain mustard 10
  • 15 pitted green olives 60 (1.5 syns)
  • Can of tuna in spring water 120
  • Can of mackerel in tomato sauce. 190
  • Half a cucumber 11
  • 2 x mor chicken tomato and basil sausages 86 (2 syns)

Total calories consumed 1269 (3.5 syns)

Activity

  • Active/total calories burned – 1252/3906
  • Cardio minutes – 106
  • Steps/miles walked 19,125/9.75

This means my seven day averages and totals for week two of #onplanoctober are

  • Average calories consumed daily – 1889
  • Average active/total calories burned – 1360/4100
  • Total/average cardio minutes – 634/91
  • Total/average steps walked 146,502/20,929
  • Total/average miles walked 73.73/10.53

Now – interestingly this is most probably the best week I’ve had in a LONG TIME with regard to being on plan yet I lost ‘only’ 2lbs – which is less than I did last week (that was 6lbs). 


However – whilst the old me might have taken this as a negative – new and improved Davey sees this as a win. 

A loss is a loss – and sticking on course will mean I’ll get where I want to be on averages – not massive weekly drops. 

I also have my seventeen and a half stone certificate baby!!! 

Although yesterday’s post was all about non-scale victories – this is still flipping fantastic!!!

(Author does his talks to the groups)

Today was also food tasting day. I usually cook mine early in the morning on these occasions – but yesterday evening I had to make something quick and easy that would keep overnight – so I fell back on a batch of the mini quiches I love so much.


In order to assuage my guilt for not making something new (which is what I always try to do) I decided to compliment them with ‘things on sticks’ and made some olive, cherry tomato and sausage cocktail nibbles to go with them. 


These tasty little chicken, sun dried tomato and basil chipolata sausages are one syn each (each stick is 1/3) and they go really nice with an olive (10 for one syn) and a cherry tomato. 


Sometimes the simple things are the best!

Everyone else’s food was (as always) delicious too, and I found myself going back for a second nibble at some rather nice turkey meatballs before I left for the day if I’m honest!

Talk wise this morning was probably the most emotional for me so far – but it’s been in a positive and life-affirming way. 

The whole experience of doing this has been extremely empowering and also very humbling. I may be standing out front today – but any one of the faces I’ve been looking at could have been me – and I them. 

The feedback they’ve volunteered has been both heartfelt and personal. At times it’s taken my breath away. People have laughed, cried, laughed again and then cried a bit more. 

I’m glad that one of my NSV’s from yesterday was that people could get their arms around me because I’ve also had lots of hugs!

I love hugs 🤗

Overall it’s been something of a rollercoaster day so far and truthfully I’m still processing a lot of the things people have said to me both in person and via social media. 

It’s nice to know in the case of all of us that we aren’t alone in the world. We all share the same fears, hopes and dreams – and I keep seeing this in the assembled faces of the rooms that I’ve talked to – which I guesstimate now total around a couple of hundred people. 

How amazing that we’re all so alike and that we all care so much about the person next to us in these groups. 

If I want anything to come out of this internet it’s for more people to treat themselves with the kindness and support that they give so freely in these sessions to me and everyone else. 

That would be a truly wonderful thing. 

Davey

Unexpected generosity 

My chariot awaits outside. 

Not in a ‘Cinders – you’re going to the ball!’ kind of way but instead in a ‘I’m really old car and you need to take me for an MOT‘ sense. 

At this time of year ownership of an elderly vehicle (she just turned 170,000) is less than worry free, and I’m hoping that there’s not much wrong – but at the same time simultaneously bracing myself for a financial kicking. 

However on the plus side it’s Saturday morning and I haven’t lost any sleep over whether I’ve dropped in weight or not. 

That would be silly. 

Instead I lost sleep thinking about all the things I need to remember for my new job and going over the training I’ve had so far in my head. 

Grrr

I think Friday nights and sleep just aren’t meant to go together for me. I’ve slipped into a routine over the last 16 months of being a crippled insomniac once every seven days and I really wish it would stop. 

Last night when I went to bed I was really tired too. I’d realised at the absolute last minute that it was a food tasting day in group and that I had no food in the house to make anything and no time to plan. 

If you’ve not been reading my blog since the beginning you’ll know I like these events and usually try to prepare something new (you can find recipies I’ve tried and previous events like this here) in the process probably putting more pressure on myself than there really needs to be. 

This resulted in me rushing around the supermarket late yesterday evening, agonising over what to cook that would fit in with my MOT at 9am (I have to walk two miles back after dropping the car off meaning less time to prepare) and finally ‘giving in’ a little and deciding on a simpler choice. 

Mini crustless quiches. 

I had finally prepared a batch by 11.30pm and went to bed, leaving them to cool overnight. These thankfully taste really nice chilled, are totally free on Slimming World and can be easily transported in Tupperware. 

When I cook these my fillings tend vary but this time they contained onion, spring onion, courgette, broccoli and chopped bacon medallions. These are all fried together on a low heat in spray oil for 10-15 minutes until soft but not quite brown. 

The ‘crusts’ of the quiches are two wafer thin slices of sandwich ham pushed into each muffin hole of the tray, whilst the filling is 6 eggs beaten together with half a tub of Aldi Quark. 

Pour the whisked mix into the ‘cups’ of ham in the tray (about 2/3rds depth) and then add a heaped dessert spoonful of the bacon and veg from your frying pan. 

Put the lot in the oven for 20 mins on a medium heat and then let them stand. Allowing the teeny quicheettes to cool overnight will result in a tray like this…

(Vegans please avert your eyes)


If readers haven’t tried these before then I heartily reccomend them. They keep for days in the fridge and they’re great for packed lunches or salads.

(Author pauses to agonise about the potential for progress on the scales)

So – how do I think I’ve done this week?

Well the answer as always is ‘I haven’t a clue’. 

I’ve not had any ‘bad’ days, stayed within my ‘syns’ (apart from being a little over on Saturday thanks to some hi-fi bars) or not had any at all on some days. I’ve also stuck to my usual daily 1700 – 2000 kcals. 

From an exercise perspective over the last 7 days I walked a total of 77 miles and 157,000 steps back and forth to work or around parks and fields. 

If anything my (smart and brand new) 42 inch work trousers already feel a bit looser around the waistband – so I think I’m still trimming up. 

But results on the scales? 

Hmmm I don’t know…

Anyway – it’s time for a shower and an MOT (for the car. I’m not having an MOT in the shower. That would be silly…)

(Drops car off and finds a short cut on the brisk walk home to save half a mile!)

Unexpectedly I’ve arrived back with time to make some potato wedges, so at least it looks like I’ve made an effort!


I like to season these with smokey paprika, roughly chopped garlic, and dust with salt and cracked black pepper. Then I liberally coat them with spray oil all over and bung them in the oven spread out on a tray as flat as possible. 

For the sake of cooking time these are actually closer to chips than wedges but they tasted niiiiiice!

(My chippy wedges took about 35-40 mins on high in my (gas) oven if you’re wondering… I used to par-boil them but I don’t do this any more.)

Well – group went well – and there were some lovely foods brought in by other people to much on!

Thankfully I could do so without guilt today because I managed to drop another 2.5lbs and also got slimmer of the week! 

Yay!


While we munched each other’s snacks we all voted for the woman of the year for our group – and I think it’s fair to say that although sadly only one could win they were ALL worthy recipients of praise for persistence and effort – and their stories about their weight loss efforts were both touching and heartfelt. 


One of them also wore some strikingly alluring footwear – which (despite her often saying otherwise) just reminded me how much her confidence and happy inner self have come to the surface since I first met her. She always makes me want to keep going and keep trying – and regardless of how she occasionally feels she should remember that inspiration is a two way street

My group is full of such nice people! They all get together every week and share the good and the bad without any judgement whatsoever and I love going there.

It really sets me up for the week ahead!

It seems that this week stories weren’t the only thing being shared however – and at the end of the group Angie gave me a carrier bag with a virtually brand new fleece in it from a really really generous guy in the 8.30 group that takes place before mine. 

He’s a regular reader of the blog on my Facebook page and always supportive with his comments, so I’d like to publicly thank him for his kindness.

It fits perfectly and came at just the right time!


He didn’t know this when he gave it to me but 5 minutes before my group started I’d been called by my garage and informed about my MOT failure. 

It wasn’t the apocalypse – but this is all relative. When you have no spare money and a while until your first pay cheque every penny counts. 


Bye bye £360 and hello new brake callipers and pads. Still – easy come easy go, and this is infinitely preferable to my brakes failing

Whilst I don’t have a paycheck NOW I will have one soon. 

Besides (although we all need it) over the last 18 months I’ve been reminded time and time again that money is irrelevant when you are surrounded by good people and you’re focused on putting good vibrations out into the world for everyone else. 

Of course, the best vibrations come from being caffeinated and at the moment internet I have waaaay too much blood in my coffee stream

While I attend to this emergency (with a four mile round trip into town to remedy the imbalance) I hope that you too are suffering an embarrassment of interpersonal riches in life – and that for every time you trip there’s a hand there to help you up and set you back on your way. 

Davey

Introducing friends

This morning I’ve been out with a couple of firm friends, who only met each other for the first time this today…

Initially they were quite wary – but in no time at all after some introductions they were getting on famously.

Probably bonded by their mutual love of bird watching Boris and Freckles seem to get along pretty well when they first met, and happily sniffed each other’s behinds for a while as their pet humans above greeted one another with (less socially developed) handshakes.

I doubt that Freckles and Boris would have minded me joining in – but I didn’t want to intrude and instead stuck to human pleasantries. Also – as fragrant as their behinds must be I was actually more interested in the other wildlife – of which there was quite a lot today at Arrow Valley.

The Pooches also seemed unusually willing to be photographed this morning.

Normally they refuse to stay still for the camera, yet today here they were allowing me to take snap after in focus snap.

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You might think that I’m a charming Dr Doolittle given how calm and collected they are, or what sweet little cherubs they have been to pose for my photo. However what you can’t see just behind me is the piraña like feeding frenzy going on.

A little girl was flinging giant lumps of bread to a growing collection of birds at the official ‘invigorate the ravenous little monsters with wings‘ baked goods slinging platform – and Boris and Freckles were both transfixed by the resulting commotion.

As I turned away from them to watch it struck me that some days what initially might seem like a great stroke of luck is actually the exact opposite.

Sometimes life isn’t what you expect when you’re the little duck that catches the golden crust.

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I think that the moral of the story today is ‘don’t **** with the seagulls‘…

As we left the beleaguered little quackers and continued around the park it was clear however that not all was well elsewhere. The strike by refuse collectors in Birmingham is having a pretty dramatic effect on this usually well kept space and the bins are currently overflowing at each and every corner.

(you don’t need photos of this – it was grim)

People have left carrier bags full of rubbish close to them and as you might expect with a lot of wildlife around these are quickly getting ripped open. Frankly the park is a mess today – and I really hope that this doesn’t hurt the birds – especially the fledglings.

On the main island there are a few nesting Herons – and from what I read on the visitor centre bird spotting chart they have some young with them. However when I looked I couldn’t see any – and only one of my full zoom photos of an adult came out clear enough to use.

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Apart from the overflowing bins and the skinhead-like seagulls though Arrow Valley was quite serene today. Whilst idly strolling we did around 3 miles around the reserve – all the time with Freckles and Boris sniffing away in the bushes and trotting back and forth to say hello to passers by and other dogs.

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As lovely as all this was though I must fill my green exercise ring on Apple Watch (which sedate strolls do not do sadly) otherwise my OCD will cause my head to explode. As lovely as my amble was I needed to do MORE!

Since I am still in need of a pair of black trousers, I headed out when I got home for a brisker walk into town to try and find some.

Sadly these are proving difficult to find – especially given that I have mentally budgeted only £5 for them. All in all I walked a further six miles trying to find my mythically cheap item of unicorn clothing and returned empty handed – but I will persevere!

(I have heard a rumour that there are some in a pot – just at the end of a rainbow!)

On the plus side every step I do is something toward the scales next week – and given that the theme of last Saturday’s image therapy session was step counting and ‘body magic’ (exercise with Slimming World counts to awards) I’ve been trying to keep my numbers up.

On Saturday I finished with 21,314 steps, Sunday was 13,057, and today is currently 22,110 – so I’m hopefully on track for an average of 20,000 a day (around 10 miles).

I’m also trying to ‘tweak’ my food a little bit to reduce calories and today swapped out kidney beans from my favourite chilli dish and replaced them with an aubergine and some chopped green and black beans (both of which came from a friend’s allotment and were delicious).

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The other ingredients were a courgette, broccoli, red pepper, leeks, mushrooms and 5% fat pork mince. The seasoning was cumin, smokey paprika, chilli powder, salt, a beef stock cube, some garlic – and finally to season some freshly chopped coriander was thrown in at the end.

Honesty this was so good that I may just forgo the kidney beans altogether from now on. A can of them has 280kcal in it – whereas an entire aubergine has 50Kcal – and 100g of green beans has 25kcal.

Thats over 200kcal saved today!

Finally – Rusty McBike is now back in the saddle!

Well – at the very least Rusty has a new (old) saddle (courtesy of a friend’s dusty garage contents) and although I’ve not yet had a chance to properly test her out on a long journey yet things currently seem very secure indeed.

She has even got a new donated strap-on gel butt cushion to alleviate the intensely bruised bottom that the previous saddle was immediately capable of giving me. It’s early days but I’m hopeful that this superb combo means that we’re going to be very happy together.

If worst comes to worst another friend has been a dumpster diving hero and secured yet another saddle clamp from the clutches of a nearby skip (in the right hand pic). As rough as it looks as long as I have a spare then I’m pretty happy.

It saves money on eBay and every little bit can go to my unicorn trousers!

As soon as I get a chance I’ll take her out for a spin and let you know how I get on. It’s most likely to be Wednesday however as I have even more planned for tomorrow! Time and tide waits for no man!

Anyway – I must get some sleep – nighty night internet.

Davey

What I eat now vs what I ate before

I do love a chilli. Probably too much actually.

I tend to eat more of it than I really should (it tastes soooooooo nice though!) and yesterday was unfortunately no exception.

The trick with chilli (I realised only within the last few months after a friend pointed it out) is to start cooking the spices immediately upon starting the dish. I hadn’t realised up until then just how different chilli powder, paprika and cumin taste when you fry them with the mince and onions for a while. Only after this do I add the chopped tomatoes and garlic – just before the spice mix starts to burn and the onions are softening.

Everything else after that can just be slung in randomly and left to simmer for a while.

We can probably all agree that maybe I’m a little obsessed this week with numbers. It will come as no surprise if we do that today I’ve also looked up the (as close as possible) calorie values of the speed food too to get a TRUE idea of what I ate yesterday afternoon.

I had two identical bowls of this chilli – which was frankly unbelievably delicious.

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Chilli con Carne

  • Kidney beans – (‘Free’ food – 128 kcal)
  • 500g 5% fat beef mince – (‘Free’ food – 610 kcal)
  • Can of chopped tomatoes (80kcal)
  • Half a tube of tomato purée (92kcal)
  • 1x red pepper (20kcal)
  • 1x green pepper (20kcal)
  • Mushrooms (15 kcal)
  • 1x red onion (40kcal)
  • Bunch of broccoli (50 kcal)
  • 2x cloves of garlic (8 kcal)
  • 1 beef stock cube, cumin, paprika, chilli powder, salt, fry light

In future I think I’m going to buy a smaller 250g pack of mince – or maybe halve the 500g one (which is probably cheaper) and freeze some when I buy it so that I’m not tempted to overdo things. If I’d done that last night then my evening meal would have been 300kcal less than it was.

This meal is a great example of how ingredients (even low fat and free foods) can quickly add up – and the total approximate value of it is 1063kcal – which comes to around 2/5ths of an adult male’s RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of calories.

I have to admit it’s been worthwhile totting all this up because it goes some way to explaining a couple of weeks where I’ve had slower than expected losses. On top of the above ingredients when I cooked this in previous weeks I’d also started adding chick peas (since they’re a free food) to the mix which I now realise added around 300 kcal!

As you can see I am re-thinking this choice and yesterday left them out…

Since I vowed to try something new every day this week I added a different ‘healthy extra’ to my usual evening treat.

Bran Fibre.

Although I’ve always liked this cereal I’ve not eaten it for well over a year – mostly because I stopped buying milk. It’s slightly higher in calories than oats but made a nice (filling) change –

Late evening dessert (475 kcal)

  • 1 banana (90kcal)
  • 250ml fat free yogurt (145 kcal)
  • 50g Sainsburys Bran Fibre (This is a SW HE or 7.5 syns – 170 kcal)
  • Frozen fruit (grapes & blackberries + a few small cherries) (50-70kcal approx)
  • 100ml cold water
  • Cinnamon

I also had 3x apples (188 kcal) as snacks during the day.

Daily total – 1726kcal (approx)

On the exercise front I was roughly around the same ballpark – with Apple Watch reporting around 100 active kcal less than I ate burned for the day. Overall though the total calories still seems more than enough.

I’m still not sure I believe these numbers however.

I walked 17,143 steps and 8.42 miles yesterday. Just under six of these miles were spread over ‘workouts’ where my average pace was around 19.4 minutes per mile over variable gradients. At every possible opportunity that presented itself I consciously chose a hill or a long route instead of a shorter or flatter way.

With this in mind does 4,696 kcal burned sound right to readers?

Are other people who exercise with a device like this getting similar results? I really don’t know whether to treat it as gospel or a rough guide. As the ‘normal’ level for a man is supposed to be 2500 this seems almost fictionally high sometimes.

(author stops, goes away, does other things, can’t stop thinking about this and then comes back some hours later with another thought)

Out of interest I just looked back at when I first put my Apple Watch on in mid September 2015. I was quite surprised to see that I appeared (when I was going to work in an office) to sometimes be burning around 7500 total calories per day with what I remember was minimal movement.

My watch didn’t know my exact weight at the time (neither did I until April 2016) but it did know what my heart was up to – suggesting that the extra 10 stone I carried everywhere back then made even simple tasks a big event.

Since I remember how exhausting and uncomfortable even sitting in an armchair could be back then (I’m deadly serious – this is no joke – sometimes it hurt to sit still and just breathe) maybe this is true…

(Author steps away once more for an hour or so – but can’t stop thinking about these numbers and past habits. Frankly they’re driving him mad. He starts typing again.)

It does beg the question however ‘How can I have been so overweight and yet be burning so many calories?’ After I looked back at this insane number I started to wonder exactly what I used to consume in a day.

I was burning THREE TIMES the adult male RDA back then, so why was I still fat?

I’ve occasionally added up the syns of certain items – but never the total calories of what might have been in a typical day in September 2015 – which was way before I gave up drinking and started Slimming World.

Although I can only do it from memory I decided to try and map out an average day from back then. I’m honestly not exaggerating for effect. I sat and thought about what I did all the time and wrote it down – removing some things that seemed out of place or that I didn’t regularly have.

It’s pretty gobsmacking – and if I’m honest more than a little upsetting. It makes me angry now to think back to what I was doing to my body all the time.

Way to work (1130kcal)

Sandwiches eaten at desk (1725kcal approx)

  • 6 thick slices of hand cut bread (usually this was half of an in-store supermarket bakery 800g wholemeal loaf) (952kcal)
  • Benecol light spread – I guesstimate approx 20g (64kcal) per slice (total 384kcal)
  • Two packs of 125g ham – 290kcal
  • 3x tomatoes (67kcal each) and cucumber slices (10kcal) – (201kcal)
  • Two packets of Mccoys crisps (multipack ones are 141kcal each) (282kcal)

Evening meal (1595kcal)

Snacks and drinks (3023kcal)

  • Sainsburys house Soave 2.25l (I would typically drink all of this – per 125ml Soave is approx 79kcal so it totals 1422kcal)
  • 200g ‘sharing’ bag of Doritos (894kcal)
  • Ginsters large Cornish pasty (707kcal)

Total (if I didn’t have an evening takeaway instead of a ready meal) – 7473kcal

So – maybe Apple Watch isn’t so off base after all.

For probably the first time I can see the reality of my daily intake back then, and compare it with how hard my body (particularly my heart) had to work with all that weight just to get into the car and drive to a job where I sat down all day long.

Thankfully internet project lettuce is my current fixation, not project sausage and egg Mcmuffins. I don’t ever want to eat another Mc anything again as long as I live.

Davey

Free food February

Well I think that yesterday’s bad mood has (mostly) dissipated. It’s probably blended into the background because today is my weekly weigh in – and also a Slimming World free food tasting day

(it’s part of #freefoodfebruary if you’re a Twitterer).

In the past I’ve tied myself in knots wondering what to make for these mornings in group (mostly because I’ve been a little paranoid about appearing like a ‘can’t cook man’ in a room full of ‘can cook ladies’) but this time around I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that sometimes simpler (and cheaper) is a better option.

Originally though I thought I’d try to be clever and do a twist on sushi by making little chilli con carne rice rolls (I make a great chilli even if I do say so myself).

I’d never made sushi before though – but how hard could it be?

It turns out if you’re doing it from scratch it’s a REAL faff. You need a sushi rolling mat (which I bought for £3.50), toasted seaweed strips (found these for £1.50), but most importantly you need the right rice for the job.

I didn’t expect that to be an issue – and after a bit of a hunt in several supermarkets I did manage to find it locally – but only in massive bags. The cheapest of these was an eye watering £15 – and that was before I’d even made the chilli, so my arty farty idea bit the dust then and there.

(Author has since discovered that irritatingly there’s an Oriental supermarket nearby to where he lives 😡 )

Instead I thought I’d go for a staple fallback of mine (which is something I ripped off from our group leader Angie in the summer) and make mini quiches. Since they cook on a lower heat in the oven than the other item I was planning to do as well I decided to cook a batch last night before I went to bed and serve them cold.

I think they actually look really nice after a night in a cool storage box!

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I won’t give the recipe again – it’s here in an old blog, although this time – due to a UK courgette shortage after flooding in Spain I’ve only used (lots of) broccoli, onion and mushroom as the vegetable elements of the filling.

My next plan was to do some syn free salsa – and after a bit of googling I elected to use a fellow blogger’s recipe – from here

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs (I used one and a half – two seemed a LOT)
  • ½ tsp ground chilli
  • 1 tsp garlic granules (I used two cloves of fresh garlic)

Method

  1. Put the onions and garlic into a pan and mix until the onions are soft
  2. Once soft, add the chopped tomatoes, herbs, Worcestershire sauce and chilli
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes, leave to cool and then refrigerate over night. (Best served chilled)

The blog picture in the link above looks strangely orange – but my one is a lot darker. I cant see how this wouldn’t be the case as the Worcestershire sauce changes the colour of the salsa considerably when you add it. Last night I wasn’t sure about the taste of this after simmering for the required time – but this morning it tastes really nice!

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The reason for the salsa was that after faffing about with sushi ideas I suddenly thought ‘no-one has ever done sweet potato wedges at a tasting session…’

So – this morning (they’re cooking now and smell awesome) I’ve been making potato and sweet potato paprika wedges.

These are dead simple to prepare.

Ingredients

  • Four sweet potatoes
  • Four medium potatoes
  • Salt, ground black pepper, paprika (smoky paprika is also really nice)
  • Spray oil (fry light in my case)

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Preparation

  1. Chop up the sweet and normal potatoes into a ‘chunky chip/wedge size’
  2. Spray the bottom of the baking tray with spray oil
  3. Fill the tray and toss them around to cover a bit with spray oil
  4. Sprinkle the seasoning on and then mix it all in with hands
  5. Space out the wedges and spray again with spray oil.
  6. Put in the oven for 45-50 minutes at 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6 for around 40-45 mins (my oven isn’t fan assisted so you may need less).

(Author goes to get ready for group and take the wedges out of the oven. They look pretty darn good even if he does say so himself!)

Well – the larger group size (lots of new people joined in January) meant that there was way more food than usual to try and there were some really nice things to choose from. There were lots of nibble foods and some rice dishes – even a home made roasted red pepper houmous which was lovely and garlicky! (I’m going to try and make this!)

One member made a kind of bread pudding from weetabix – which although not strictly a free food due to the raisins was undeniably awesome!

I sneakily had second helpings of that… 😄

Most people seemed to have had a trouble free cooking experience but I did feel sorry for the poor (but indomitably cheery) person who made a slow cooker full of butternut squash soup.

As nice as it was half of it had tipped out of the slow cooker in her car on the way to the meeting and there wasn’t much left in the bowl. I can only imagine the horror of getting that out of her upholstery!!!

I hope she’s a whizz with a sponge!

For my part – although my nibbles went down well I didn’t have such a great result on the scales. Although I held on to my ten stone loss, for some reason I put two and a half pounds back on this week.

It’s a bit unfair as I spent the whole week walking and exercising only to have something of an anger related blow out evening last night where I probably ate two and a half pounds of chilli con carne, and then had a big bowl of fruit and yogurt afterwards.

In truth I’d have probably maintained this week if it wasn’t for that but honestly I’m not particularly upset about it. Although I would definitely prefer that it hadn’t happened it’s nothing that hasn’t occurred before – and I’ve always pulled it back the next week.

This time will be no different. I refuse to add it to the list of things I’ve been needlessly worrying about over the last few days. Today is going to be a good mood day!

As is now usual my remedy to the blues has been exercise, and along with my brother I’ve just had a brisk walk into town for a coffee after I nipped home to drop off my Tupperware.

I’m not sure what the rest of the day holds but according to Apple Watch I need to make sure it contains another 14 minutes of cardio – which should hopefully be catered for by a brisk walk home.

After that I think I’m going to watch a film of some kind and chill out for the rest of the day.

I hope you can forgive me Internet but I’m going to tidy the kitchen and do the washing up tomorrow!!!

Davey

Moroccan meatballs & nine stone all gone!

Every time that I’ve followed a recipe lately it’s taken way more time to prepare than I expected. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m doing something for the first time and it takes practice to refine a technique – or (and this is my preferred answer) recipe books are lying ****s.

It’s taken me longer than expected this evening to prepare my food for the Slimming World meeting tomorrow – and I’m flipping glad I didn’t try to do it in the morning.

I was originally going to do one of the ‘leftover’ meals from the Christmas cookbook that came with my 12 week countdown (a discounted block booking of SW meetings that usually has an incentive free gift such as this), and earlier today had settled on a spicy Keema Cottage Pie.

Then I started looking through the SW magazine and saw some Moroccan Turkey meatballs – which looked maybe a teeny bit more festive (IT’S TURKEY!) than my original idea. One of its main flavours comes from ras el hanout spice – which I’d never cooked with before. I decided to get some from Tesco and dig my blender out of the cupboard. It’s never ever been used for blending before.

After an unfortunate incident where I nearly chopped my toe off (true story – I had to have it all stitched back up) with this barely restrained instrument of razor sharp spinning death I’ve left it under lock and key – so this was not a decision taken lightly.

The ingredients are as follows… (note the ‘ready in about an hour’ bit)

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The first order of the day is making the meatballs with 2 tbsps of ras el hanout and half of the chopped parsley (I added some salt for seasoning too). You need to get stuck in with your hands here.

Secondly the onions, peppers, celery and garlic needed to be fried in spray oil. This was for around 10-15 minutes. At 14 minutes add a 1 tbsp of cinnamon and 1 of of ras el hanout, with a dash of water to stop it sticking. The mix should all be soft by then, and once it is transfer it to the blender and whizz it all up until it’s smooth.

I’ll be honest – although at this juncture I had no idea how it would taste – the spices SMELT AMAZING!!! 

However – it was here that I feel the recipe started to wander off into absurdity. The newly blended paste (it said) needed to be added to the two cans of tomatoes, the remaining parsley and two cans of water.

Personally I think this was the main issue with timings in the recipe. This volume of water wasn’t needed in my opinion – and the sauce immediately looked like it would take a long time to reduce.

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Well – it did. About an hour and a half as it turned out.

In the meantime I focused on the meatballs – and gently browned them off in a frying pan whilst the sauce bubbled away in a nearby saucepan.

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Eventually I ladled in about four big dollops of the still very watery sauce and started to cook the meatballs fully in it.

At this point I STILL had about half of the sauce left – and it would have completely overwhelmed the meatballs. So – in order not to waste anything and make the most out of the cooking effort I put some chicken breast strips into the saucepan and chopped some cherry tomatoes into both the frying and saucepan.

The meatballs would be for the group – and the chicken for dinner tomorrow!

As the meatballs are supposed to be served with cous cous and salad (I’ll do some salad in the morning). I fried an onion and soaked the grains in some chicken stock to give it a bit of character.

So – that’s it for the evening. It’s now all in tupperware and ready for the morning. It took me around THREE HOURS in the end, so I hope they like it! I did try one of the meatballs with some of the sauce and it tasted rather nice – so I’m hoping the flavour and scent won’t dissipate before people (and I) get to try it properly tomorrow.

Laters.

(Author hits the sack, hardly sleeps at all, gets up, potters about for a few hours, makes some salad to go with the cous cous, heats up half of the meatballs and then heads off to group.)

Well if there hadn’t been two new guys at the meeting there would have been almost no-one in group this morning! It seems a lot of people have been feeling the pressure of Christmas and had apparently decided to stay away until the new year.

Most of the usual hardcore mob were still in evidence today however, and amongst the girls there were some very Christmassy jumpers, an elf outfit (go Angie!) and a couple of pairs of eye catching sparkly (gold!) tights and baublesque and glittery earrings.

For my part I was in a Santa hat – so I was only 50% humbug today!

The meatballs seemed to go down very well – and people’s assorted nibbles all hit the spot (mmmmm humous and smoked salmon). This morning I was REALLY looking forward to eating – and I even allowed myself a mince pie. According to Angie it was 3 syns, but I’m unsure. It tasted WAY too nice to be so low in syns – but I guess stranger things have happened!!

But that wasn’t all…

I also got my nine stone certificate!

Yep – I’m officially 9st 1.5lbs lighter than I was on the 16th of April when I started. Yaaaay! go me! Whoop whoop!! (punches air with fist)

Honestly – although as usual I’ve had next to NO sleep I’m feeling energised and happy.

Sigh.

I’m in a good place internet. I can do this. Bring on the next milestone. Let’s see if I can get my nine and a half before the end of the year! I’ve got two weeks and 5.5lbs to go.

Davey

Food glorious food

I’ve been trying lately to vary things up a quite a bit with what I eat.

In the past variety has not been something that I’ve done so well and I have tended to find things I like, can cook well, and eat them until I can’t face them any more.

This is a really bad idea for staying on plan – because if you get to that state then you’re already in danger of failure.

So – as mentioned in my last post I took a cue last night from the kind soul who gave me a Spicentice curry kit in the slimmer of the week basket and made a Chicken Jalfrezi from scratch. The only thing I changed was the oil, as the recipe called for 3 tablespoons.

When it came down to it I just saw it as a waste of syns and munched a couple of Hi-fi bars (less than half the cost of the oil at 6 syns) while I prepared it instead. In the end some fry light spray did the job just fine and nothing ended up sticking to the frying pan.

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The instructions for this were pretty simple and were on the inside of the packet of spices – so I’m not claiming to be a champion chef!

Personally I felt I ended up with two filling portions rather than four – but I’m willing to concede that my judgement isn’t always the best in this area. I think I could probably have included more speed on the side to bulk it up – but I’m not sure it would have looked quite as cool on the plate!

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Although I’m not a typical man I do make one concession to masculine stereotypes and thats being the type of guy who doesn’t usually read instructions (another habit i’m trying to change). In this case however, they were nice and easy to follow, well laid out – and pretty hard to mess up.

I left the chicken marinading while I chopped up everything else and grated the ginger.

I decided to use half a tin of chopped tomatoes rather than one fresh one – which seemed to me to be more for show than flavour in the recipe.

Not so long ago I accidentally bought a miniature grater – wondering what the heck I would EVER use it for. Well it turns out it’s actually very good indeed for an inch of ginger.

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Once all the marinading was done, and the chicken cooked I added some microwave brown basmati rice (2 syns) and served with LOTS of freshly chopped coriander.

I absolutely adore the fragrance of finely chopped coriander stirred into a dish after the heat is turned off. It just fills the room with earthy pleasure!

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I have to say I REALLY liked this curry, although I’m not sure about the amount of salt the recipe states it requires. I put less than the amount it wanted me to in and felt there was still a slightly saltier taste than I would have preferred at the end of it.

It’s all personal taste however – and if you want to try it for yourself you can find the kits here. I think (from what was said in group when this was mentioned several weeks ago) Ocado also sell them, but they don’t seem to be in Tesco or Sainsburys.

Half of this was boxed up for a later meal and I went to bed pleasantly full and sleepy.

I awoke this morning with another culinary mission in mind and ended up quite literally shedding blood for Slimming World – but despite introducing the end of my thumb to the business end of a cheese grater my lunchtime meal of Pork and Apple Burgers (from the pages of the club magazine last month) turned out to be absolutely DELICIOUS.

This was completely syn free, and outrageously tasty. I haven’t eaten bread for a while and didn’t really fancy having the wholemeal bun just for the sake of it. It’s personal choice however – and I can see how some people would think it’s just not the same without it.

The recipe was also very simple to follow and relatively quick to prepare (I don’t have a food processor and doing it by hand slows me down a bit.)

The ingredients are things that are probably mostly in your cupboard anyway – and the instructions are also child’s play to follow (as long as you have thumb sized plasters close by to stem the resulting arterial spurts).

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I used Braeburn apples in my burgers, which next to Cox’s Pippins are my favourite supermarket variety due to the tangy flavour. I often bemoan the range of apples today and find it exasperating that we are reduced to 4-5 main varieties. However – these were very fresh and the sharp flavour really hit the mark with the pork.

I also only used two medium potatoes here as I’m cooking for one.

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I couldn’t help getting a shot of my magnetic measuring spoons in action. They stick together like magic!

They’re my favourite kitchen thing ever!

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After mixing in the parsley, onion, apple and garlic (I prefer my onion and parsley chopping a bit rustic – which can make the patties a bit less cohesive but the cooked texture is way nicer) I portioned the burgers into six rather than four as I don’t like the idea that something won’t thoroughly be cooked through when I eat it.

It was about 8 mins each side on a medium grill setting for me – but I also set off the smoke alarm somehow before turning them – despite them (in my view) not burning at all. Due to this on the second side I put some spray oil on top of them and this seemed to do this trick – enabling them to ‘sizzle’ a bit more, rather than dry grilling.

The potato wedges were seasoned only with salt in my case and spray oil. I had toyed with adding garlic – but as the burgers already contained it I thought I’d keep it simple.

In my oven 30 mins cooking time was more than enough.

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The accompanying salad was half an orange pepper, a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, 2 sticks of celery and 4 leaves of romaine lettuce. This was tossed in some cider vinegar, which went REALLY well with the salted wedges.

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So there you have it. This is the living hell that I am forced to endure with Slimming World.

Sometimes I don’t know how I cope.

Actually internet – I’ve just realised that I haven’t had my Sunday coffee or diabetic meds yet. I better get on with that immediately!!!

I hope you’re having a smashing weekend, and whatever you’re eating you’re enjoying it as much as I am!

Davey

Appetite disturbed

As is typical when it comes to the best laid plans of mice and men the only thing that can be considered a certainty in life is uncertainty.

I started Monday as I planned to go on for the week – positive and on plan, with a indomitable certainty that my mood would conquer all, which it did – until early evening when I began to feel unusually hungry.

I managed to annihilate an entire box of Slimming World Hi-Fi bars, nailing 18 syns in one sitting. Then immediately after I had a baked potato and some stir fry with two salmon steaks. Everything tasted unusual though. Not only was my appetite randomly out of control, but everything I was eating had a coppery tang to it.

Then I started to feel queasy. The fish was new – it couldn’t be out of date… Was it the types of food? Mixing hi-fi bars with a main meal maybe? Then my headache started, followed by shoulder aches and a scratchy throat.

Finally to complete the picture my nose started running. I realised that man flu had arrived.

So now – for the second night in a row I’m sitting upright because I can’t breathe properly lying down and I’m feeling grumpy.

On the positive side for the start of today my appetite has swung in the opposite direction to last night, and I’ve not felt particularly hungry. Maybe this will redress the ridiculousness of Monday’s out of character need to binge on something sweet.

As I can’t sleep tonight to pass the time I decided I would finally try to make the little mini quiches / egg nests that Angie brought to the food tasting session a few weeks ago. I absolutely loved them – and was reminded about them a couple of days ago while watching the Eh Bee Family make something similar on YouTube.

It just so happened I had all the ingredients in the fridge – all I needed on top of that was Lemsip and coffee.

Although Angie used leek in hers (and the Eh Bee’s used spinach) I decided to go with what I had to hand. Since there was half a courgette and half a large onion already waiting to be used up in the fridge these would have to be part of it.

Ingredients for my 12 Egg Nests:

  • 1 /2 tub Sainsbury’s Quark (Free) (I used approx half of a 250g tub)
  • Large Eggs x 8 (Free)
  • square sandwich ham (Free) (12 slices needed)
  • Half a large onion (Speed)
  • Half a large courgette (Speed)
  • 5 chestnut mushrooms (Speed)
  • 2 x cloves of garlic (Speed)
  • 4 x Sainsbury’s BGTY Bacon Medallions (Free)
  • 12 x muffin tray (although Angie used silicon ones I decided that this was less faff with washing up!)

Firstly, chop the onion, the courgette, the mushrooms, the garlic and the bacon finely. Then put it into a hot pan coated with spray oil and slowly fry this mix until the bacon is cooked and the onion is beginning to caramelise. Be careful not to burn the garlic – its usually a good idea to put this in last.

Make sure you stir this every few minutes.

While this is on the hob grease the muffin tray with more fry light and put a square of ham in each of the 12 holes.

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Next crack 8 eggs into a mixing jug (I used a plastic measuring jug with a spout – it makes filling the nests a lot easier) and add half of the quark to them. Whisk until it’s a constant light yellow colour and then pour it into the ham nests.

Roughly speaking you should have all of the 12 nests about 3/4 full by now, leaving a little room for the filling, which should now be cooked.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 204 degrees Centigrade / Gas Mark 6 (depending on where you live or what you use) or if you’re like me and someone scrubbed all the numbers off your dials then just guess and keep peeking every five minutes.

Now you can spoon the filling into the nests individually (the ingredients above roughly gave about two teaspoon’s worth per serving) and pat them down before popping the tray into the oven.

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After about 20 minutes your nests should look a bit like this. Leave them to stand for 5-10 mins and they will be easily lifted out of the tray and sliced open.

Although my taste buds are wrecked and my nose is blocked these tasted REALLY nice.

From a Slimming world perspective I had mine with a load of cherry tomatoes to keep the ‘speed’ ratio up for the meal – but there isn’t a Syn in sight here – so you can go right ahead and enjoy yourself.

This was a top recipe from Angie – so kudos goes to her for the inspiration! I have a tupperware box full of these in the fridge for tomorrow, and I think I’ll do them again in the future so I can take a few to work occasionally.

They’re PRETTY FILLING as well!!

Anyway internet. Its now 3am, and I’m still awake talking to you. I need another Lemsip.

I’m going to try and sleep in my armchair downstairs and hope that my head stops pounding and my nose stops running long enough to nod off.

Have fun cooking – and I hope you feel better than I do!

Davey

She speak a my language

Well the morning so far is going way better than expected. I woke up before my alarm at 8am and I’d decided what to cook for Slimming World.

Stuffed peppers.

The recipie in the Slimming World magazine looked easy enough – but I’d NEVER cooked stuffed peppers before – so it was a bit of a gamble.

It was time for a little challenge.

I’d double the ingredients and make enough for 8(ish) peppers – which chopped up should be enough for the group.

I started with the filling as directed – and two large onions went into the frying pan on a low heat to soften up. Before long the kitchen was filled with a warm caramel aroma.

These were joined before long with some garlic, and then a few moments later some mince (5% fat pork) and tomato puree.

Initially I started to measure the tomato puree with my spoons (I love my spoons) but then realised that it was a ‘free’ ingredient and guesstimated.

It looked about right.

Once the mince was browning off I added two cartons of chopped tomatoes with mixed herbs and two tablespoons of oregano (dried not fresh as I couldn’t find any in Sainsburys)

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While this simmered I topped and de-seeded the peppers. These had to be placed together tightly in a baking tray so that they they all stood upright while cooking. My battered old enamel one seemed to fit the bill, and they all looked really nice and summery when sitting together.

I was already thinking that I’d made the right choice – this would look way better than fishcakes.

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After 20 mins or so the mince and tomato mix had reduced down and was almost ready, so I turned off the heat and focused my attention on the feta cheese. This was not QUITE feta (but as near as dammit) as I decided to go for a healthier option.

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This was the one thing that needed weighing – as guessing this could result in my fellow slimmers getting sabotaged and that would NOT do.

I cut a chunk off the block that was just under the 90g I needed. It seemed surprisingly small – but I guess you don’t need much!

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So – since I was now cooking 7 peppers (it was all that would fit in the pan!) I was pretty careful about the amount that went into each. Instead of mixing it into the mince as the recipe suggested I portioned it up and put it individually into the peppers as I filled them.

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Once done they looked pretty cool and were ready to go in the oven.

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The recipe said 20-25 mins in the oven at gas mark thingy or electric heat whateveritwas.

I’m always a little unclear about cooking things in the oven for the first time at pre-set temperatures as I have no numbers on my dials.

My brother managed to scrub them all off years ago with a brillo pad when enthusiastically cleaning – so anything placed in my oven cooks at the speed of guesswork and finger crossing with a little bit of occasionally burned around the edges.

It wasn’t until they’d been in the oven for over 15 mins that I realised I had forgotten to add the Worcester sauce. It was just sitting on the work surface, unmolested with its plastic anti tamper wrapper intact.

Bollocks!!!

I opened the oven. The tops were already browning but I could totally save this. I individually lifted them off (HOT HOT HOT!!!) and with a teaspoon made a ‘sauce hole’.

Drip, drip drip. OK thats enough for all of them. Three shakes each. I put the pepper lids back on and popped it back in the oven.

(10 minutes pass.)

Ok – the tops of the peppers are cooked but the bottoms still look a bit crunchy.

I took the tops off and laid them out (in order) on another baking tray so that I knew which little hat went on which pepper. I then put the bottoms back in on the oven, set my timer for 10 mins and went to get changed.

I looked around for the lightest pants, tee-shirt and socks that I had, and my featherweight jogging bottoms. My top had a front print, but the combined weight wasn’t as heavy as my black tee-shirt which was made of thicker cotton.

Short of standing naked on the scales my outfit was the minimum I could possibly wear in polite company without them thinking my nipples were looking at them.

I wanted to lose weight this week more than anything and despite my clothes feeling loose it was the loss that meant the most to me. I wanted my two stone award so badly I could taste it – but I really really thought it had been a bad week. I wasn’t expecting anything but grief.

(note. There are two REGULAR readers who know who they are and will appreciate the bold type and extra special efforts on the last paragraph.)

My watch alarm pinged. It was now 10.20 and group started in 10 mins. Hopefully my peppers (which took way longer to prepare than the recipe said) would be done.

I padded downstairs in my lighter than air, spray on pants and opened the oven.

Phwoooar! Pepper porn….

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I’d cooked 7 but could only get 6 in my tupperware. That would have to do. I think each one accounted for 2 syns – so if they got halved it would be 1 syn per taste.

By the time I got to the meeting things were in full swing – and I popped my food on the table.

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There was quite a variety of food on the there already – and I was keen to try some of the things people had made. But first things first. NO FOOD UNTIL THE SCALES HAD BEEN STEPPED ON.

I took off my shoes, emptied my pockets and stepped on the scales.

I immediately found myself saying ‘I think its going to be bad. I think I’ve put on this week.’

I had to place it in context before the lady saw the horror and had to give me the bad news. I braced myself and waited for the machine to beep.

‘Four off.’ The lady whispered with a smile in her voice and looked at me with a grin.

IN YOUR FACE FAT!‘ I said (maybe a bit too loudly) and grinned from ear to ear. This takes me irritatingly close to the two stone mark.

Just 1/2lb away.

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But either way I’m edging ever closer! I also got slimmer of the week and got a basket of treats – which was a big boost, and gave me another little sticker for the back of my book (although now I have enough teabags to start a coffee shop lol!

While we waited for Angie to start her usual talk the group chatted and people started comparing notes about what they had cooked and how they did it. I took my chance to ask for some slow cooker tips as I’ve still not tried to make pulled pork.

Hopefully now I’ve been armed with enough info from the responses I will be able to give it a go!

Angie briefly then took centre stage, talked through what was on the table and how it was made – then it was time to eat!!!

My particular favourites were a loaf (which I need to get the recipe written down for as I’ve ALREADY forgotten it) made predominantly from beans and rice and Angie’s absolutely divine mini quiches (Ham base in a fairy cake case filled with bacon, leek, quark and eggs) and some little meringue thingies – which just melted in my mouth for (a totally worth it) two syns!

People seemed to like my peppers too (including me I’m ashamed to say!) and I think I’ll definitely make them again.

I have to say the meeting was brilliant – absolutely my favourite of all so far.

Some people had big losses after working REALLY hard for the week and most others kept moving toward their goals. Even the ones who’d struggled that week looked happy after Angie had finished with them!

She really is rather a good egg. 🙂

Everyone today seemed in a really good mood as they left, and while clearing the hateful little red chairs with the others I spent a while chatting to one of the ladies about blogs and weight loss in general, which was really really nice – and she pointed me at another blog which I’ll have a look at later.

I have to say it was totally worth getting up early and making the effort. 

I’m beginning to realise that Saturday mornings is now part of my routine. Although I approach it with mixed feelings (either hope or trepidation and it’s never a pleasant moment stepping on the scales) it’s a positive and life affirming start to the week. We all get together and try to make sure no-one falls off the wagon and if they do they’re helped back on again.

As I left one of the girls said:

‘Remember Dave – even if you think you’ve f**ked it up then f**k it. Come anyway and get on the f**king scales.’

Honestly internet I couldn’t have put it f**king better my f**king self.

She speak a my language.

Davey

Souvlaki in the garden

In the last few weeks I’ve been cooking a LOT more than I ever have before. Thats not to say I’ve never cooked, or that I just lived on ready meals previously.

I guess that the main aspect of cooking at the moment that’s changed is that for the first time in my life I am trying to embrace culinary variety. I’m also trying to take notice of the food that I eat on my plate, and how it is presented before I begin shovelling it into my face.

In order to heighten my awareness I’ve been photographing it and posting meals I make to Instagram and in my Slimming World Facebook group. I’m convinced they will eventually annoy people, but honestly (like my blog) I’m doing it purely for me. It helps my mindset, and if it works and motivates me then I’m going to carry on.

On paper my objective sounds really simple – do things differently and cook something new. In truth for me it’s anything but and requires a lot of mental effort.

Sure – I can follow a recipe and do what’s needed to make something I’ve never done before. Thats not the issue – I’m actually a pretty good cook when I get started. It’s just way easier not to try and to stick with the meals I’ve become good at making, because I know I like them and will enjoy them.

The danger though is that they eventually (no matter how much I enjoy them) become boring, and it becomes infinitely preferable to go and get a takeaway.

I don’t think I’m in any way unique – but I’m set in my ways, probably because I live alone and I do things the way that I want with no pressure from a partner. If I fancied cooking Chilli con Carne every day for a month, and I enjoyed it and can cook it who would stop me? I think I make a pretty mean Chilli actually!

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It sounds comical when I write it down but this is has actually been the reality of my existence until now. Variety and change has been something that happens to others. Not me. The meal I’ve cooked in this picture has actually in the past been eaten EVERY DAY for weeks before I got completely sick of it.

Now I’m trying to keep it as a treat.

So, I’ve been making small steps. Breakfast is a big one. I haven’t eaten breakfast regularly for many years – and food didn’t usually pass my lips until lunchtime.

I’m not sure why this was the case – but I’m sure It’s been damaging in the long term, and has meant that when I eventually do get hungry I over compensate and eat to excess. Now breakfasts are things I can enjoy again, and the simple pleasure of plating up a meal in the morning before work is a habit I’m slowly beginning to get into.

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I have to be careful here to not repeatedly eat what I like though, and if I’m honest its not hard to go for a Slimming World style English breakfast EVERY DAY. Like Chilli this needs to be limited – and because of that I’ve lately been trying to swap it out with ‘Overnight Oats’ (the overnight bit is the soaking of them in either milk or yogurt).

I have been a little afraid of fruit and the hidden sugars they contain since I became diabetic, but I’m bringing them back into my diet bit by bit, and mixing them with small amounts of oats so that carbs are released more slowly. Smothered with lashings of fat free natural yogurt and a sprinkling of Stevia they’re actually the highlight of my day sometimes.

So much that I have become somewhat obsessed with strawberries and blueberries from M&S – which are expensive, but compared to other supermarkets taste like I’ve just walked into food heaven…

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Surprisingly I have also discovered that apples (in an effort to work fruit into other meals) go together well with basil and tuna in salads, which was something I’d never tried before, and came at a moment where there was very little left in the fridge. As always I guess, necessity is the mother of invention!

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Another minor revelation to me has been taking place in my frying pan. I rarely cooked stir fry in the past – and ABSOLUTELY NEVER used noodles. I’ve done this a couple of times over the last few weeks and loved the results.

I wish I’d taken some pictures of the prawn version of this dish, but unfortunately at the time I wanted to eat it so damn much when I’d cooked it that my camera never came out of my pocket. The pork one was just as photogenic though and tasted almost as nice.

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In the spirit of change I also tried to make some homemade beef burgers yesterday morning – and found a nice little recipe on the SW website.

Chopped onions, garlic, fresh parsley and a pinch of salt combined together to make probably the nicest quarter pounders I’ve had in ages! Although next time I think that I’m going to grate a small amount of Stilton into them. I’ve got quite a bit in the fridge and as long as I’m careful I can introduce it as a healthy extra.

Believe it or not my burger lunch was all ‘free’ food on my plan and contained zero ‘syns’. I steamed some veg to go with it and used the remaining juices in the pan with some Soy sauce to sauté some courgette rings for a bit of variety. It was pretty damn delicious!

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If this wasn’t enough I went to visit a friend yesterday afternoon, and he’s someone that loves cooking. He’s into every aspect of food preparation, and quietly obsessed with making everything from scratch. I have a growing admiration for the way (unlike me) he butchers joints of meat into the cuts that he prefers to eat, spends ages marinading things before they’re cooked, and also uses an old fashioned steam kettle with a whistle.

Yesterday he was preparing Souvlaki when I went over and had tried really hard to make it in a way that would fit with Slimming World.

When I arrived the barbecue was already alight, and there was a wonderful aroma of burning coals in the garden and the kitchen. His dog, Boris was expectantly watching the proceedings and eventually took up residence on the nearby bench in the garden to get a better view of what was going on.

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This may surprise people – but I’ve never owned a barbecue.

I’ve eaten barbecued food before (I lived with an Australian for a while – it’s almost an insult to eat food prepared indoors when men like him are around) and very much enjoyed it, but never once tried to do it myself. I’ve not been the least bit interested in how it all works.

Yesterday was different though – I was really really focused on the process. At some point in the near future I may get some shady umbrellas for the garden and buy one myself to try it.

The Souvlaki was a triumph and really hit the spot. Without realising it I’d been craving a kebab for a while. Fat free yogurt, cucumber, minced garlic, lemon juice and fresh mint combined to make the ‘on the side’ Tzatziki, and the pork was just covered in garlic and herbs with olive oil before going on the barbie.

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A nice rustic salad with feta and a balsamic dressing topped it off, and before long it had moved from skewer to plate and from plate into toasted wholemeal pittas.

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It was an absolutely smashing high point in an ongoing hedonistic week of food variety and pleasure – all of which was incredibly simple and enjoyable to make.

Today I’m moving into slightly more scary territory. This afternoon/tonight will be my first Beef Randang. I have a bunch of ingredients that I have NEVER used before, so I’m hopeful that it won’t turn into a complete hash that needs to be parcelled up and sent to Boris 🙂

I have no idea how all of this will translate or not translate into weight loss but I’m sure I’ll soon find out!

Love and food porn internet

Davey