Wednesday, 24 March 2010

DIARY: Eating Out Doesn't Have To Mean Overeating

This past week, I've been completely rushed off my feet with work, hospital appointments with the granny and travelling to visit friends. As the old saying goes 'fail to plan, plan to fail' - it's resulted in me eating out a lot and generally just eating far too much. Unfortunately even for the most disciplined dieters amongst us, eating out often means making the wrong food choices.

A visit to see my cousins this weekend (evidence to the left) resulted in a two day long carb, cocktail and wine fest, although very enjoyable - not very wise. I'm dreading hitting the scales! So this has got me thinking about the relevance of making informed choices when eating out; visiting a restaurant doesn't have to be a diet sabotaging event. I find it so difficult to avoid the dessert menu temptations and extra sides but these choices always replace my ravenous previous self with a guilt-ridden sluggish feeling. Below I've formed a list of choices I've concocted from nutritional information on the internet. The lack of nutritional information freely available for restaurants in the UK is quite worrying - why won't these chains supply us with nutritional information? Maybe the results would be too shocking to publish. I've been told that the Food Standards Agency are working on this problem. Hopefully like our neighbours across the pond, we'll soon be able to know the exact calorie contents of all of the foods we eat. For now, here's what I've come up with for large high street restaurant chains. Some of the restaurant choices may seem a bit daft from a dieter's perspective, but let's face it - we all have a social life. Whether it be taking your kids to McDonald's or having a girly night in with a bottle of wine and a pizza - dieting's about making healthy choices, and there's nothing wrong with an occasional treat. The list includes a couple of the lowest calorie meals available (one rabbit food, one human food):

Pizza Hut

Classic Caesar Salad 366cals
Individual Italian Margarita Pizza 176cals per slice, 4 slices per pizza

Pizza Express
Pollo Salad (no dough sticks, no dressing) 295cals
Four Seasons Pizza 677cals

Chicken Breast Sandwich no mayo 458cals

Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad 182cal
Roasted Chicken and Tomato Panini 321cals

Pret a Manger
Pole & Line Caught Tuna Niciose Salad 205 cals
Slim Pret Chicken Avocado 231cals

Caffe Nero
Tuna with Herbed Potato Salad 254cals
Tuna Salad Sandwich 254cals

Chicken Salad (no bacon) 115cals
Hamburger 250cals
Chicken McNuggets 250cals

Burger King
Flame Grilled Chicken Salad 128cals
Hamburger 275cals

…and that is all the nutritional information I could find. Frankie & Benny's, TGI Friday's, Chiquitos etc etc haven't opted to provide us with our much needed nutritional information - lets hope that soon changes. But eating out is supposed to be fun, right? So I've decided to pop together a few little tips for making informed choices when hitting our favourite eateries when there's no nutritional information going handy. Now all I need to do is convince myself to follow these rules...
  • Check out the menu online before you go you're less likely to be tempted by the yummy descriptions when you arrive!
  • Never arrive STARVING; you'll be overwhelmed by your cravings as soon as you arrive. Have a little snack if you can, a banana or apple will do.
  • Try to avoid anything with lots of cheese, creamy sauces (I know, I love carbonara too!), anything fried and also try to cut down on your carbs!
  • If you're given a choice of sides avoid chips and roasties, go for rice or boiled potatoes instead, although still carbalicious, they're a much healthier choice.
  • Don't be fooled by salads! More often than not, the creamy dressings they're drowning in provide you with more calories than a delicious alternative! Ask them to go easy on the dressings or serve them separately to be safe.
  • Remember steamed, boiled and grilled are our friends. Fried and crispy are not!
  • Try and stick to chicken, lean meats and fish based meals, served with veggies or salads. These can be equally as delicious as your regular choices and save you over-doing it on the calorie front. (Also, the less carbs you eat, the less you'll crave - bonus!!)
  • Desserts can be the killer. If you do have the overwhelming urge to feed your sweet tooth, go for something light like sorbet, meringue or even ice cream. These will still be loaded with sugar but if its a one off, we can let it slip!
  • Lastly, don't eat too quickly (I swear I could speed eat for England). If you slow down a little, you can give your body time to digest your food, meaning you'll probably feel the full feeling a little quicker.
  • And remember, the worst choices are likely to be the most tempting on the menu.
Don't sweat it if you over-do it a little. Have fun and get straight back on it tomorrow!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

DIARY: Girl, Step Away From The Scales!

So, what exactly is the best way to measure weight loss? I must confess, I'm a complete scale-addict. I tend to hop on 2-3 times a day - completely unnecessary and very unhealthy, I know, especially considering the vast power it has over my mood. If I've shifted a pound, I'm ecstatic, but what happens if I gain one? Or TWO?!

So you can imagine how anxious I'm feeling - it's the end of week 1 of the "15 weeks until jollys" challenge and my scales have been out of action all week. Due to being female, I am completely incapable of changing the battery, so I haven't managed to weigh myself since Monday, eek! (Must buy weird flat coin-shaped battery tomorrow!)

It has got me thinking though, about the importance and relevance of weight. I know almost everyone has a goal weight in their head, whether it be a milestone they've never reached before, or an idealistic figure based on someone else's figure or weight, but how relevant and realistic are these goals?

I've been mulling over this idea all day and imagine my surprise when I hopped in the bath this evening with this month's issue of Cosmo and discovered an entire (and very informative) article dedicated to the relevance of weight (thank you Cosmo!). The article features 5 girlies who all weigh 9st 7lbs, yet have completely different, equally fabulous figures. I know that given the option I definitely wouldn't have labelled them all with the same weight. They're all different heights, dress sizes and body shapes, demonstrating to all us weight-obsessives that weight really isn't everything.

So girls (and boys!), I've decided that our new weight loss friend shall be, wait for it, the almighty tape measure! We're starting our relationship off slowly - we'll see how things progress. Taking measurements can be a really useful and relevant way of keeping an eye on weight loss and your changing body shape, so today I enlisted the help of my sister (thanks Em!) in creating a silhouette of my body, and to the left is what she produced.

We took a quick photo of me and cleverly edited it into a lovely silhouette (a little easier on the eye than my underwear shot, although a little less flattering without the contours!). The purple lines show where you should measure yourself. But for the record here's a few handy hints:
  1. Bust: As tempting as it is, don't squash yourself -- measure all the way around your boobs and back right at your nipple (ugh, hate that awful word) line.
  2. Chest: Measure under your boobs but as high up as you can go, keeping the tape measure parallel to this line when you reach it around your back.
  3. Waist: Measure wherever it is the smallest (mine wasn't much lower than my chest measurement). If you have "no waist" go around yourself right at the bellybutton line.
  4. Hips: Measure at the very widest part .
  5. Thighs: Measure wherever they are the biggest.
  6. Knees: Measure just above the knee.
  7. Calves: Measure at the biggest point.
  8. Upper arm: Measure wherever they are largest above your elbows.
  9. Forearms: Measure wherever they are biggest below your elbows.

It's not the most elating of images compared to my fully clothed wearing-sucky-in-body-shaper photos, but it's definitely a good way of monitoring my progress. I'm going to take another shot in 14 weeks time to compare - we should get a little comparison collage going, what d'ya reckon?

This is what I need to get into my head - weight and measurements are just a way of comparing your current self to your previous self, a way of monitoring your progress, not a way of comparing yourself to your friends, that jealous-inducing girl on the high street or Beyonce. Weight can't tell us whether we have a big bum, tiny waist or bingo wings. It's just a number, and it means bugger all.

Don't forget to check out this month's Cosmopolitan magazine for the confidence boosting 'Guess what we all share?' article - it really is an eye opener.

Much Love, Lady Gluttony xx

Friday, 12 March 2010

FOOD: Healthy Burger and Chips - Mexican Burger with Sweet Potato Wedges

If I'm honest, I'm not much of a chef. Oh, how I envy Nigella - my culinary skills usually don't extend much further than fish fingers and chips, and to top that, diet food can be so boring. I'm attempting to spice up my food and make it enjoyable, hopefully I'll pick up a few skills along the way. After all, my diet should really be a change of lifestyle rather than short term suffering.

There's always something a little exciting about eating "naughty" food, so I've been channelling my inner Gino de Campo and attempted to create a meal that tastes yummy, feels naughty but is kind to the (hopefully shrinking) waistline. And you can't get much kinder than a tiny 360 calories.

I do love a good burger. I must admit, it's usually the take-away variety after one too many vinos. But as we know, diets don't really bode well with post-pub greases so I managed to create some rather splendid (if i do say so myself!) and healthy Mexican burgers, plus some lower carb, high fibre spiced sweet potato wedges.


Here's what you'll need:

Makes 8 small burgers (save some for tomorrow?) or 4 whoppers

450g lean beef mince
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 egg, beaten
2 slices of bread, crumbed without crusts
salt and pepper

Makes enough wedges to serve 4

3-4 sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise into quarters (i went for the rustic stabbed look - they're so hard to slice!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
jar of salsa (or you could make your own, but nothing beats M&S)
shredded lettuce

...and this is how I did it:
  • Preheat the oven to 200c ready for your wedges.
  • Mix together your oil, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder.
  • Dip each sweet potato slice into the mixture and lay on a baking tray.
  • Pop in the oven and bake for 40mins.

Now for the burgers!

  • In a large bowl mix together all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
  • Divide the mixture into 8 and shape into burgers with your hands. Brush each burger with a little oil (a little tip to reduce oil and fat).
  • Cook on a very hot griddle pan for 4 mins on each side.
  • Dress the burger with a lovely dollop of salsa, lay on a bed of lettuce (that sounded posh) and voilla!
Enjoy! xx

Sweet potatoes are a brilliant source of dietry fibre and are much lower GI than normal potatoes - basically their energy is released slower, so you feel fuller for longer. Woohoo! Did I forget to mention that they're also delicious?! Lovely and soft inside but crisp on the outside. Like a perfect roast potato, but so much easier. I was so surprised how quickly they cooked after I just about needed a hack saw to chop them up!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

REVIEW: My First Fitball Class at Bannatynes

I ache so much, my legs were like jelly trying to get down the stairs at the gym. I suppose that means I've been working hard?!

I'm a member of Bannatynes Gym but I'm not a regular attender to say the least. But as you know, 15 weeks until holidays so I'm forcing myself there as often as possible.

Yesterday I got up extra early and went to the 9am Fitball class, check me out! Fitball according to Bannatynes is - 'an intense workout using a stability ball'. The aim of the class is to improve core stability, in turn improving your strength, coordination, stability and balance. I obviously have non of these attributes! I was wobbling all over the place - never realised how unstable I am. Maybe thats why I fall over so often? Anyway, being on the ball means your body has to respond to the natural movement of the ball whilst doing the usual gym movements (abdominal crunches, bicep curls, squats etc) making your muscles work extra hard. Does this mean I'll be more toned extra quick? Lets hope so!

We got there early to try and get a few snaps but unfortunately we weren't the only early birds! I couldn't be bothered explaining to everyone why I wanted photos so I've taken a few at home in my garden to show you a handful of the moves.

The workout lasted 45 mins and involved using the swiss ball, small hand weights and a yoga mat. There were 8 women of mixed ability in my class, it's amazing how fit some of the women are, it puts me to shame (especially seeing as most of them were twice my age!).

We started with a warm up, then moving onto some back, shoulder, and arm exercises, finishing with some ab work, squats against the wall (ouch that hurts!!) plus a little stability game involving everyone. It was really fun, i feel sorry for the lady next to me she got stuck with the wobbliest girl in the world!

Dumbbell Kickbacks: these help banish bingo wings, but by being sat on the ball, you're working your core too. The closer your feet are together, the harder you work. My dog decided to poke his head in on this one, he then proceeded to take my weight off me and chew it!

Squats: much more comfortable with the ball than without, also the ball makes sure your posture is correct. Works your bum and thighs, for legs like Beyonce's!

Dumbbell Flys: works your pectorals (muscles that keep your boobs in the right place) and your arms. Again being on the ball is improving your stability - try to keep your body as straight as possible with your pelvis right up.

I'd advise you get a better fit ball than this (I picked it up from Tesco for a fiver), I'm 5ft 7 and this is a 65cm ball - it's a bit too small, your legs are supposed to be at right angles when you sit on it. Also, I can't inflate it anymore than it is, its a bit saggy, poor ball. I don't know if it's just poor quality as most fitballs advertised on Argos etc are 65cm. The one below is from Argos for a bargainous £6.99. I also managed to get some little 1kg hand weights from Tesco, they were only £3.97 each and are ideal for some at-home toning!

The class was surprisingly enjoyable (in terms of fitness classes, that its). I'm not a lover of cardio or getting a sweat on so this low impact (making it good for people with injuries) but intense workout was really quite good. I could definitely feel the burn! I know gym memberships are expensive, and you can do fitball work from home but I find the motivation of the instructor is what I need to keep me going.

I am going to practice my moves at home though. The fitball is a complete bargain and it's so useful, not just an expensive clothes hanger which a lot of home gym equipment often proves to be! Apparently just sitting on the ball improves core stability and gets those abs working! Maybe I'll write my next blog entry whilst perched on it. I'll let you know if I think it's working - judging from the aches in my shoulders, legs… everywhere! it is working. No pain, no gain ey?! I'll definitely be attending next week!

Monday, 8 March 2010

DIARY: How I Did It... LighterLife

This is me:
18 months ago, I looked like this:

It makes me really sad and embarrassed to think that I looked like that for so long. I know I should be proud of what I've achieved but that's far easier said than done. I'm now attempting to shift another 21lbs, to reach 9stone before my summer holiday, but this raises the issue - will I ever be happy with how I look?

I'm sure you'd all like to know my 'secret' as to how I managed to shift 29.1% of my body weight ;). It wasn't without difficulty, believe me! Like a lot of people I've always had an issue with my weight, the main issue being i weighed far too much for most of my life and three years at university added the extra tyre to my already over adequate collection. December 08 was, I suppose, the turning point in my long lasting weight battle. My auntie Kathryn came through for Christmas looking gorgeous - she'd been on the LighterLife diet and shed over four stone in 14 weeks. That was it, I needed to get me some of that!

For those of you who aren't clued up on the LighterLife programme, its a very low calorie diet (yes, believe it or not that is a medical term!) lasting a minimum of 14 weeks, during which you completely abstain from conventional food and rely on four food packs a day totalling around 500 calories (a quarter of a woman's recommended allowance). This probably seems absurd to most people, 500 calories a day is extreme dieting and is not to be taken lightly; even my own GP refused to give me permission to begin the programme and I had to travel 40 miles to a private GP surgery to get a medical check and get given the go head. To that Doc i am eternally grateful!

I abstained from food for 19 weeks and lost a total of 60lbs, along with quite a lot of my hair, taking me from 14st 10lbs to 10st 6lbs.

Many people don't advocate such extreme dieting but for me it was the only choice. I have a real issue with food and I still can't quite control my own appetite. For me, limiting my intake of food conventionally is virtually impossible, I have tendencies to binge and I have a real love/hate relationship with chocolate/cake/anything edible. By opting for such an extreme diet the temptation of food was completely removed and allowed me to focus on the issues surrounding my reason for over eating, something which LighterLife emphasise through the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (will post about this technique soon!).

As with any diet, there are negatives. Lighterlife seems like a quick fix solution but it is not without its side effects. As I mentioned, I lost a lot of my hair - I was gutted! I loved my hair. Looking back, it was only a small price to pay as I've managed to keep the weight off for 9 months and my hair did eventually grow back - I'll be explaining the reasons for the hair loss in another post and even be reviewing some products which aided my hair regrowth (thank god for science!) Another side effect to the diet was low blood pressure. I suffered terribly with postural hypotention (the posh term for going dizzy when you stand up!). I don't really know why this happened but I knew it was time to stop at this point! As with some other diets I suffered a lot with digestive discomfort, more often than not I ended up going to the toilet just once a fortnight! Probably the worst affected area was my social life but I'll save that for a whole other post.

Despite the negatives of the diet plus the hefty £70 per week cost I would certainly recommend LighterLife to anyone serious about losing weight. It wont be easy but believe me it's so worth it! I never thought I'd be any smaller than a size 16 (I'm now a size 10!)

Remember I'm always here to answer any questions you have about LighterLife or any other subjects I post about (or don't!). Just drop me a line at

much love, Lady Gluttony x

DIARY: Fads, Fitness and a Tiny Bit of Chocolate

Hello all, welcome to the land of Lady Gluttony, aka Jess!

I'm hoping that these musings are going to bring some kind of closure to my everlasting battle with weight loss, body image and obsessive calorie counting.

As you'll learn from the following posts I've recently lost 60lbs taking me from a size 16 to a size 10. Here I hope to share with you my wisdom, experiences and the trials and tribulations of weight loss, weight gain and torturous exercise. Hopefully I'll get some feedback from you guys - I love a good chat!

I'll be reviewing the latest diet and fitness fads (well, maybe fads is a bit strong but I'm a sucker for a quick fix), fitness ideas, recipes and anything else I feel is of any use! I also admit that the 'tiny bit of chocolate' tag line may have been a slight understatement; I'm a self confessed chocoholic/cakeoholic/anything-that-tastes-goodoholic.

One thing I want to make clear is that as a size 16 girl, I was very unhappy. All I hope to do with this blog is perhaps inspire anyone who is unhappy with their weight to do something about it. This is not to do with any specific weight, it's to do with how I felt and how I looked. Any weights I do mention are purely as a means of measuring my progress.

I'm off on my summer holidays in 15 weeks and want to lose 21lbs before I hit the beach (bikini season is almost upon us again, ARGH). I want to use this blog as a means of keeping me on track and in the meantime I hope to motivate other people who are unhappy with their bodies to join me in my quest for fulfilment.

I must let you know - I am not a gym bunny nor am I a health freak, I ordered Domino's Pizza last night and gorged myself. I need as much help and encouragement as the next person and this is where my blog comes in.

I really hope you enjoy my ramblings, reviews and general progress updates - wish me luck!

Lady Gluttony xx