Losing Weight, the Quick and Easy Way

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In my quest for living well, in early March I decided to divest myself of the 15 odd kilos I’d been carrying around for the past 20 or so years. Up until then I’d not really thought it was an urgent issue, and while I knew the extra load was harder on my body and overall health, I’ve never presented with any blood pressure or cholesterol problems. And after all, my Rubenesque curves were sexy, and I have never felt anything but gorgeous or loved so it was not something I worried about. However, my recent and very surprising blood pressure blip gave me a big push. So I gave myself to the end of May to do it. While most of us don’t find it that easy with temptation around every corner, especially if you’re also cooking for others, when things get serious, that’s when the weight drops off. And I had never been more serious in my life!

There are four important things about losing weight ~ eating ‘real’ unprocessed food, eating what’s right for your body which of course is different for each one of us, staying as active as you can, and the most important ~ doing all of those things at the same time.

Generally speaking, my weight doesn’t fluctuate, but it is influenced by my lifestyle. I lead a fairly sedentary life due to injuries so what I eat has a bearing on my weight. Lots of exercise would be great of course ~ it keeps you healthy and strong, but here’s the thing. Exercise is not what losing weight is about. Exercise is about getting fit and toned. Losing weight is about what you eat. But the big win is, when the weight comes off, it’s so much easier to get moving.

Now, having said all of that, I am not a believer in denying myself foods that I really enjoy, however, the old adage, ‘moderation in all things’, goes a long way when it comes to what you put in your mouth. Most times when we eat that piece of chocolate cake or that bag of hot chips, a taste is all we really want. I know I never feel great after stuffing down a sweet dessert or a whole lot of fried potatoes. And as I would rather feel good I rarely do it. You have to listen to your body. And when you do, I can tell you, you will be choosing food your body loves, not food that you’ve been conditioned to eat from childhood. When you eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s right for your body, I guarantee you will rarely crave sugar, salt, or processed food.

So, my weight-loss journey is nearly over, and my goal is nearly reached. Just under 2 kilos to go and I’m done, and here’s how I did it.

Count Calories

As I am not active, counting calories is something I had to do. People will say it’s not important if you focus on eating the right kind of food and keep active, but the bottom line is this ~ if you put more calories in than you expend, you will not lose weight. It’s as simple as that. However, if you have been eating a diet high in processed, fatty, or sugary food, changing that will certainly do the trick and you will probably never have to count a calorie. I, however, rarely eat any of those things, so my only option was to limit my calorie intake. I know I have to eat 800 calories or less per day to drop weight so that’s what I did. I looked at what I was eating and tailored my diet to the lower calorie foods. For example, prawns and strawberries are both low in calories, so I chose those instead of the high-calorie cashews, walnuts and quinoa I was eating at almost every meal. Easy choice, and when you substitute food that you really enjoy eating, you have to ask yourself ~ how does it get better than that?

Keep A Food Diary

I found this invaluable. It kept me accountable with my calorie count as well as my sodium count, which I’m watching as well. When one has a goal one has to be accountable, or there is no serious commitment. And if that meant keeping a food diary while I was getting there, I was more than happy do it!

Eat the Right Kind of Calories

Now this is, and always will be, important for my body and my health. For instance, eating dairy and wheat on a regular basis doesn’t agree with me so I don’t do it. I eat a little occasionally if I feel like it, but not every day. If we consume foods we are sensitive to on a regular basis, it causes internal inflammation the result of which is flatulence, stomach pain, and bloating. This negatively affects both digestion and nutrient absorption, which in turn has an impact on metabolism, energy, and weight.

And if my 800 calories would be mainly made up of processed foods full of fat and sugar, or high carbohydrate foods such as starchy vegetables, pasta, bread or pizza, even if I wasn’t sensitive to any of those foods, I would not lose weight either. So I kept it low carb, low fat, and no sugar. Spreading an 800 calorie pizza over a day just wouldn’t cut it and I’d probably still be hungry. Eating the right kind of calories, however, kept me very satisfied and it worked very quickly.

Below is my basic food list. I made vegetable soups, steamed vegetables, stir fried vegetables, and salads, and to those I added protein, and if I was particularly hungry, I threw in some konjac noodles. Every meal included vegetables and a protein, even breakfast. My in-between snacks were fruit, or half a dozen almonds, or rice thins with either hummus, cucumber and tomato or cheese and sauerkraut.

Sunday Musings - Losing Weight

*These were very ‘occasional’ foods when I felt like it. As I say below, I didn’t deny myself, but I did keep a tight control of what I ate.

**Konjac is a vegetable based noodle. The product is called ‘Slendier’ and is available in supermarkets. It has almost no calories and can be added to soups, stir fries etc.

Don’t Deny Yourself

I organised my diet around my favourite foods. Being almost vegetarian there wasn’t much to change, but there were a few high-calorie foods and starches I could easily take out for a few months. Then I looked around at what else I could include for variety. I found a brand of low-calorie frozen dumplings and battered Hoki fish which I really like, plus two brands of tinned tuna which I enjoy as well. This mixed it up a bit and made my meals more interesting. As for condiments, I didn’t deny myself there either. I included sauerkraut and balsamic vinegar plus my favourite dressing and seasoning but was less liberal with the good oils and fats using only olive oil spray, and a scrape of butter when I felt like it. For added flavour, I used more herbs in my cooking but cut out added salt altogether, which turned out to be a blessing because I began to taste the food I was eating rather than the salt I was putting on it. And as you can see it was all delicious.

Sunday Musings - Losing WeightSunday Musings - Losing WeightSunday Musings - Losing Weight

Size is Important

The size of my meals was really important. On the days I ate bigger meals, even if they were within my calorie limit, my weight loss was less. When I ate carbs was also important. For example, if I ate carbs I had them earlier in the day rather than for dinner as heavier meals in the evening tend to bog down my digestive system. Overall, I found it was best to keep my meals small and light, and if I felt hungry, I had a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack. The bottom line is the lighter I kept it, the better I felt and the lighter I got.

Celebrate Your Food

Every meal I make I salivate over. I really do. Celebrating food is what my family has always done. It makes the most ordinary meal so much more special. I always make time to serve my food beautifully on a nice plate and I do the ‘doesn’t this look wonderful ~ aren’t I lucky’ thing before I tuck in. My appreciation and thankfulness are boundless when it comes to the abundance on my daily plate. I feel so fortunate. To enjoy our food with gratitude and all of our senses bursting with joy is the added bonus to a good meal don’t you think?

Cook Ahead

My last tip is to cook ahead. It makes life so much easier and you won’t be tempted to go to the freezer and get out something, which later, you may be sorry you ate. I fill my fridge with bowls of luscious salads, rosy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, perfectly cooked vegetables and my favourite proteins. And then when it’s time to eat, it’s like a smorgasbord ~ inviting, appealing, and most of all easy. Nothing like delicious anticipation is there?

So, that’s my weight-loss story and I’m stickin’ to it because it worked for me. If you want to drop a few kilos quickly, give it a try. My way turned out to be very easy. But remember, whether you do or you don’t, love yourself and love that bod of yours. It’s the only one you have.

Happy eating!
Inara Hawley © 2016

Raw Sauerkraut ~ Probiotic Heaven!

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Being European I grew up eating sauerkraut. My grandmother, bless her heart, was the one who supplied us with raw fermented cabbage. She made all manner of interesting pickles, including sauerkraut. We mostly ate it cooked, as a soup garnished with sour cream or as a side dish with pork. Both absolutely delicious, and while there is nutrition in cooked sauerkraut, as we all know, eating raw fermented cabbage is far better for one’s health, which is why I’ve decided to make it.

Health Benefits of Sauerkraut

A single serving of naturally fermented sauerkraut will not only restore your gut flora, it will give your body a bigger health boost than any probiotic drink or store-bought supplement. Being so probiotic rich, fermented foods are more easily digested. The fermentation process also increases certain nutrients, for example, sauerkraut has twenty times the bio-available amount of Vitamin C of raw cabbage. While fermented foods contain a high level of salt, therefore, best eaten as a condiment, the fermentation process cuts the sugar content of the food dramatically. All good news! Overall, fermented foods are a great support to immune function as they increase digestive enzymes, lactic acid, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which aid in fighting off harmful bacteria in the body. For more specific health benefits of sauerkraut, you may like to visit Organic Facts.

What About Goitrogens?

In my reading about raw sauerkraut the only point to be aware of is that cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, contain high levels of goitrogens. These are substances that inhibit the uptake of iodine in the thyroid gland. This effect can be overcome by an increased dietary intake of iodine if the quantity consumed is only small. You can find a list of 22 iodine rich foods here. Cooking cabbage reduces the effect considerably, but as sauerkraut is a raw food it is not advisable to consume large amounts, particularly if your thyroid is compromised. If this is the case for you, you can add iodine based foods such as wakame or kelp to your sauerkraut recipe.

Making Raw Sauerkraut

Now, let’s get to how to make your sauerkraut. The short version is you shred the veg, add salt, squeeze the lot with your hands for five minutes to get a good puddle of brine, put it a sealed jar ensuring the contents are weighed down so the cabbage is completely immersed in the brine, pop it in a not-too-hot, not-too-cool spot, taste it occasionally, and wait from 1 week to 5 weeks depending on how tangy and crunchy you like your raw sauerkraut. Easy peasy! Now here’s the long version:

Naturally Fermented Sauerkraut

You Will Need:

  • 2 clean quart size wide-mouth glass jars with screw top lids
  • 2 clean small jars with no lids that will fit easily into the large jars
  • Baking paper

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head of green or red cabbage weighing 2½-3 lbs or 1-1½ kilos
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 red apples – makes it sweet
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of salt which contains no additives
  • Optional additions: a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, sprinkling of caraway seeds

Method:

  • Discard the outer limp leaves of the cabbage. Remove and keep the next good layer for later use, then remove the core and slice the cabbage into thin ribbons. Peel and grate the carrots and apples, and crush the garlic. You will need 1¾ pounds or 800 grams of shredded vegetable in total. This is important as it corresponds exactly to the amount of salt you will be using.
  • Place the vegetables in a large bowl adding any optional flavourings.

Sunday Musings - How to Make Raw Sauerkraut

  • Sprinkle the mix with salt then squeeze the vegetables really well with your hands for about 5 minutes until you see brine forming. Cover the bowl with a towel, leave it for a few hours and repeat the process. By this time, you should have a good pool of brine.

Sunday Musings - How to Make Raw Sauerkraut

  • Now it’s time to pack it into your jars. Push the mix down firmly with your fist so that the vegetables are fully submerged in the brine.
  • Fold the baking paper about four times to the size of the bottom of the jar, place it on top of the vegetables and then put in the small jar, bottom down. You want the small jar to stick out of the top a little so that when you screw down the lid it pushes the vegetables down even further and ensures they are completely covered with brine. If you don’t want to use the small jars, you can push the vegetables down by filling the large jar with the best outer leaves of the cabbage until the sauerkraut is packed tight and covered with juice.

Sunday Musings - How to Make Raw Sauerkraut

The Fermentation Process

  • While air is a no-no for the fermentation process as it allows bacteria and mould to grow, you may have to screw the lid on loosely if there is only a small space between the vegetables and the top of the jar to allow any gases to escape. You may even need to pour out some brine if it overflows. This didn’t happen to me as my jars were larger than the recommended quart size and I had plenty of room for bubbling and rise and fall of brine.
  • Next, put your jars on a tray to catch any overflow, and then place it all in a spot with a fairly even temperature. The ideal is between 18-23 degrees Celsius or 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. The brine will rise and fall with the temperature. Note that the higher the temperature, the quicker the fermentation.
  • If you’ve never done it before, watching it all is very exciting. During the first week is when the bubbling happens. After that, it settles down. Just make sure the cabbage mix is completely immersed in brine. If you notice the level of brine has fallen below the vegetables, dilute a tablespoon of salt in 2 cups of water and pour some over until the mixture is just covered.
  • If you see any mould, throw it all out immediately and start again. It’s never OK to scrape it out and keep going as many recipes recommend. There is more to mould than just what you see.
  • Start checking your fermentation for flavour after the first week. You can begin eating it anywhere from one week to four weeks. I decided to let mine go for five weeks. The longer it goes, of course, the more beneficial bacteria you will have. Once you are satisfied with the flavour, take the little jar and the paper out or the large cabbage leaves out, label it and put it in the fridge to stop the fermentation process. It keeps for a very long time, but it’s so delicious, it definitely won’t last for a very long time.

Raw Sauerkraut - Sunday Musings

  • Once you are comfortable making it you can begin to get a bit creative by adding different vegetables and flavours such as beetroot, ginger, fennel, hot peppers, onions, leeks, fresh herbs, raisins, currants, cinnamon, allspice, and lemon juice.

How to Eat Sauerkraut

And when it’s all done, it’s time to start eating it. The lovely tangy flavour goes with just about everything. It’s great in salads ~ really good if you add raisins as well. Also in hamburgers, hotdogs and sandwiches ~ goes very well with cheese, egg or tuna. It’s also delicious mixed with cooked vegetables, with an omelette as below, as a topping to soups, stews or pizzas, with sausages, added to Japanese nori roll fillings, or just as a condiment on your plate with a meal.

Sunday Musings - How to Make Raw Sauerkraut

So enjoy, and if you try any fabulous new varieties, please let me know in the comments below!

♥ Inara Hawley © 2016

Living Well

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Hubby and I live very well. By that I mean we live a happy, contented, and easy going life, however recently we both got a big shock. He had a TIA. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a transient ischaemic attack, or in lay terms, a mini-stroke. He’d had his usual busy morning working outdoors, then rushed into town, and while at the hardware store had a temporary loss of vision and felt confused. He managed to get himself home, but it only took a few minutes to realise what was happening and I had him back in the car and at the local hospital within 15 minutes.

Four days later, all of which were spent in intensive care with every test imaginable, plus 18 ECG’s, he was released. Fortunately, there is no residual damage. He now has a handful of preventative medications, a big change in diet, and a quieter life. And thankfully, after a few medication adjustments, he is now doing well.

Now the purpose of this story is about living well, and what that really means. All too often, if everything is going along fine, we chug along happily without giving too much thought about the choices we make for our health. We even ignore small warnings like indigestion, a bad back, a sore neck, tiredness or grumpiness, until something goes wrong. Then everything changes.

And it’s certainly changed for Hubby. He needs to take his blood pressure every day now, and of course, I decided to check mine too. Well ~ what a shocker! It was sky high. Now that could be because I’d had a stressful few weeks, but even so, it was far too high … three days in a row! On the third night, I had what felt like a panic attack about my health. To say I am generally very healthy would be true, however, I’ve had a crook two years with ongoing trigeminal nerve neuralgia. While I am always in a place of appreciation and gratitude, it makes me feel generally unwell so I haven’t been bouncing off the walls with energy and exuberance for quite some time. It’s hard to be bright and perky when you don’t feel well. And of course, that has had me in a place where I haven’t really been looking after myself. What I needed was a wake-up call, and I got it.

The first thing I thought was: lose weight woman and do it quickly! I don’t eat a lot, and being almost vegetarian, nor do I eat rubbish, all of which keeps my weight stable, but I am a bit of a snacker. Even so, I didn’t think there was much room to make many changes. And since a car accident 23 years ago getting my nicely rounded frame into the Lycra and exercising is not an option. However, when I sat down and started working it out, there was actually a lot I could change and still be eating the food that I loved, but with a much lower calorie count. For a short few months, it was not going to be hard to follow a food plan which would do the job. And it was not hard to start walking around the house more either.

But … I was in for a big surprise. As Hubby now virtually has a salt-free diet, I decided to do the same. Salted savoury food, not sugar, is my guilty pleasure, so much so that I wasn’t even prepared to start counting up the sodium content of my diet. Having done the research for Hubby, we only need 2300mgs of sodium per day, which equates to 1 teaspoon of salt. Not much is it? And when you start adding up the sodium in pre-packaged foods, it starts to get a bit scary! But you know what? Within a few days of keeping it within 2300mgs, my blood pressure was normal again. What a relief, and so easy. And apart from the 3 stress-related kilos that dropped off while Hubby was in intensive care, the weight is coming off too ~ 2 kilograms (4½ pounds) in the first 5 days. What a triumph and that wasn’t hard either. It only took 3 days to stop craving my snack foods and now I am coasting along with ease.

Of course, not having to cook different food for Hubby anymore helps a great deal. He now eats my food with a bit extra on the side and all the cheesy toast, bacon buns, pasties, pies, sausages, biscuit and cake temptations are gone. Even though I rarely ate them, it’s a great support when there’s no rubbish food wafting past one’s nose. My goal is 15 kilograms by the end of May, and now that I’ve put it out there, I can only but succeed because I know the Universe has my back. I’m in the flow!

And to celebrate ~ one always needs to celebrate in times of triumph ~ I have started wearing dangly earrings again because they make me feel really cheerful. And I also bought a bangle as a symbol of my goal. It caught my eye while in town today because it summed up my philosophy of life. It was engraved with the words, ‘Live well, love much, laugh often’. When I put it on my wrist, Hubby quipped that it was the ‘bangle with an angle’, and so it is. Hubby and me … we love much, we laugh often, but to really live well we have to take good care of ourselves as well.     

♥ Inara Hawley © 2016