Thursday, 28 April 2011

Morning Salads

I have recovered from my chocolate binge, with a little help from these beauties- morning salads (breakfast doesn't sound right?):

Turkey, walnut, green pepper and apple salad with a delicious drizzle of evoo. Nothing like protein+veggies to keep nasty carb cravings at bay.

Trout, leek and cheddar salad

Soft boiled egg and walnut salad- super hot sauce to boot, love it in the morning.

And a non salad morning meal of leftover roast beef in spinach 'flatbread' (steamed spinach blended with 2 eggs and herbes de provence and sauteed in coconut oil, then put in the oven)

Two fish suppers (in the UK, a fish supper is deep fried fish and chips, yuk);

Trout, tarragon and leeks (put in a foil parcel and baked in the oven for 25 mins), tomato passata, turnip mashed with rehydrated dessicated coconut, thai spice mix, cabbage, leek and smoked paprika.

Foil parcel cooked salmon with leek and tarragon, big pile of broccoli and a rooster potato. Mmm, love salmon. I cooked four salmon fillets so there was leftovers enough for the both of us for lunch today.

Evening treat- tablespoon of coconut cream (like super thick coconut milk) blended with a teaspoon of cocoa and a cup of hot water. 'Paleo' cocoa!

And a supper salad:

Chicken thigh fillets, orange, a little splodge of hummus (first bit in *months*), salad leaves (and a few carrot sticks)
The other two chicken thigh fillets will be brunch tomorrow with an avocado and an orange, I'm planning on one decent sized mid morning meal rather than breakfast and lunch to get myself really hungry for a big feast tomorrow night- I'm going away for the weekend with my family! So excited:)

Then my strict paleo challenge starts- in May I'll be completely cutting sugar (for me this will really mean no chocolate and ice-cream, as they're the only things I currently eat with sugar in 'em), salt, alcohol, dairy, grains and legumes. Grains and legumes won't be a challenge, at the moment I eat something with grain and pulses maybe once a month. I suppose the only real change I'll see there is making up my own hot sauce as the current one contains corn starch. Dairy might be tough, I currently eat yogurt and cheese a few times of week, but I intend to sub with coconut and avocado when I want something creamy. At the moment I'm looking forward to the month ahead as much as the weekend, but I'm sure there will be hard parts! Still, I need to break my attachment to the last unhealthy bits of my diet, with the intention of continuing to enjoy them in the future, but less frequently.

Monday, 25 April 2011


What an earth would make me want to inflict a month of strict paleo on myself?

Possibly eating one of those in one day, right? (last year's pic, I ate this year's bunny before I had a chance to snap him..)

Really ever since the 10k two weeks ago, my 'treats' have gotten a little out of control, with ice-cream or chocolate almost every day. I'm going away next weekend, so strict paleo (no sugar, dairy etc) would be tricky. For that reason, I won't be doing anything drastic until 2nd May. I need a wee bit of a recalibration but I haven't decided yet how far this is going to go. Certainly it will mean no grains, legumes, no sugar, no alcohol, no chocolate, and while my dairy consumption has been going down since earlier in the year, I'm not sure yet how much I'm going to restrict it. If I cut it completely for a month, then I'll be doing Whole30. However, I'm clinging on to cheese at the moment. It is only 30 days though, it's not like I'd suffer that much, there are people out there with a lot more pressing concerns. So, I will think about it a few days and then blog next sunday about what I'm going to be giving up food wise.

What I did see on the Whole9 site that I loved and thought I need to do, is the 30 day no TV challenge. I waste way too much time watching TV in the evenings, and May is such a nice month here, so I'm going to forego TV, cut way back on my internet time and spend the month of evenings outside reading in the park, getting to bed at a more reasonable hour, and keeping on top of the housework during the week. It probably means I won't be blogging much, but I will check in on my favourite blogs and sites (Bodyrock of course) and do essential stuff (online banking), restricting my total online time to no more than half an hour a day. I'm going to keep an offline diary and will blog the 'highlights' when the month is up.

I love challenging myself- I need to feel like I'm improving myself. And I just started to feel a bit uncomfortable with the amount of time I was wasting and the amount of sugar I'm eating again- I felt so horrible after eating that entire bunny over the course of the day. I think this coming month is going to have its tough moments, but I've chosen a pretty easy time of year to do it.

Do you like challenging yourself and making lots of resolutions? Do you periodically go 'cold turkey' on certain things?
Or do you prefer to implement changes gradually?
Should I do Whole30 properly or be a bit less strict with dairy (i.e., yogurt and cheese twice a week at most or something similar)?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

How I Overcame IBS

Finding a way to manage IBS was actually the reason I started this blog. And over the last few months I've more or less got there. I know there are a lot of people our there who struggle terribly with IBS, so I thought I'd just put it out there what has worked for me, but will just say now that the main thing that worked for me was experimenting, and that what I found that worked mightn't necessarily work for you, but it might be worth trying. Only you can decide that.

The Golden Three

1. First and foremost- get your stress levels sorted. Last year, I didn't really think emotions and stress were involved in my IBS, when any doctor suggested it, I was offended, thinking he/she was suggesting I was a bit flaky, or that it was all in my mind, and I was just making a fus. But I've come to terms with the fact I'm a sensitive soul, and stress does affect my guts. So in the last few months I've made a really conscious effort to get less stressed at work, I don't succeed all the time, but it's a lot better and I'm sure it's made as big a difference as the dietary changes.

2. Don't overeat- especially things like breakfast cereals, chocolate, nut butter, trail mix, or anything beany, like hummus. These foods are often 'moreish' but aren't very nutrient dense, but fairly high in fat and/or carbs and refined at that. If you can't go easy on them, keep them out of the house. For me, the foods I could eat until the cows come home were ice-cream and breakfast cereals. I completely avoid breakfast cereals, and don't even eat sugar free muesli these days, but I do have ice-cream. I avoid overeating it by only buying it by the portion rather than by the pint (or more). Although I adore chocolate, I find it quite easy to limit myself. Instead, have plenty of fruit, vegetables and lean protein- these foods are hard to overeat, you simply get too full. Oh, and don't undereat- it'll probably make you overeat later on anyway, and you're depriving yourself of important vitamins and minerals.

3. Eat slowly. Slow waaay down and chew thoroughly. Nothing is as guaranteed to cause me major discomfort as a rushed meal. If you don't have time to eat slowly, you might need to look at squeezing other constraints on your time instead, because while a skipped meal isn't the end of the world, making time for proper meals will save you so much grief because your IBS will improve drastically. Eat slowly is not just good because your digestive system has less breaking down to do, slower eating also means your stomach has time to tell your head it's full, so you're less likely to overeat as well, which only makes it worse.

And now for the finer points, and the stuff that mightn't necessarily work for you:

Have a good look at the type of carbs you eat- I think this holds the answer to a lot of IBS issues. Personally, I found the idea of cutting out large groups of these sorts of foods too daunting, and it was only really in the last few months that I started to implement all the stuff I'd read about SCD, paleo diet and FODMAP diet, even though I'd known about them for nearly a year. It's so worth it- my symptoms are non existent when I'm strict and the little bit on inconvenience and expense is worth it to rid yourself of the bloat, discomfort, gas, constipation and/or diarrhoea. I think these diets are all fairly similar, although I now follow a paleo/primal diet, most of what I eat conforms to the SCD and low FODMAP diet too. I believe we all eat too much sugar, even natural sugar, and far too much starch from grains, and everyone, not just IBS sufferers, should go easy on starchy things. Going primal/paleo is basically the dietary solution I found that keeps me IBS free, but it's not for everyone- it's very reliant on animal protein (basically half animal protein, half plants). That said, I think if you're serious about getting your IBS under control, you need to take low FODMAP/SCD seriously. Cutting out grains, pulses and sugar and uncultured dairy worked for me, but you *will* need to experiment with these things. Even if this all sounds just a bit too much- here's a list of things you should try eliminating (one at a time) for a while to see if it helps- pulses, sugar, grains, dairy.

In a related vein, make sure you're not eating too many harsh fibres. The human gut can handle a fair bit of the stuff, but we don't have the guts of herbivores, so go easy. That doesn't mean you can't be vegetarian and IBS free. Just make sure you're not eating massive salads followed up with a couple of apples and lots of rye bread. I'd also suggest giving a low fibre diet a try for a short while (a month or two) and eating very plainly- mashed potato, cooked oats, skinned apples and pears (gently cooked would be even better), banana, yogurt if you can handle dairy, white rice and very little in the way of high fat foods, pulses, fibrous vegetables or whole grains. It's good way to give your gut a rest. I'm not saying it's a healthy diet, but it's only a temporary 'holiday' for your gut. If you get really constipated, try some ground linseeds, and if that doesn't work, then just start adding fibre back very slowly. I did this under the supervision of a dietician last autumn and it made a huge difference, although at the beginning I was really against it because it seemed so low in fibre and vitamins.

Avoid fried foods- I think trans fat is seriously bad, but it's also really harsh on your guts. Give it up completely- there are always better choices when eating out.

Better still, ditch processed food altogether. Clear your cupboards/larder or manufactured factory foods and keep plenty of whole foods instead. These type of foods require you to chew them more and they're very hard to overeat, they have far higher amounts of vitamin and minerals and you won't be hungry an hour later.

What my diet looks like:
I now eat mostly animal protein (meat, fish eggs), vegetables (either raw or lightly cooked), nuts, seeds, some fruit and fermented dairy. I avoid pulses, grains and most added sugar (I eat 85%+ dark chocolate and ice-cream once or twice a week and honey even less frequently). I eat yogurt, fresh goat's and hard cheese but don't drink milk. I do have a weakness for ice-cream, so treat myself once a week, but it does make me bloated. I'm working on this one- I want to get into the way of making my own frozen yogurt or coconut milk ice-cream.
Breakfast is usually eggs or leftover meat from dinner and some salad leaves, or maybe a spinach and pepper omelette. When I want something lighter I have fruit salad (mostly berries) and some plain yogurt.
I snack mostly on nuts- walnuts and almonds or the odd bit of fruit, but not everyday.
Lunch is a big salad- leaves, grated carrot, pepper, cucumber etc and some sort of protein, usually salmon, hard boiled eggs or cold roast chicken. Dressed with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Dinner almost always has cooked greens (collards, kale, broccoli or cabbage, that sort of thing) and some meat or fish or something like a prawn coconut curry with kale instead of rice. Every now and again I have something a bit starchier, like some mashed turnip or potato/sweet potato in the skin. A lot of primal/paleo/crossfit/bodyrock people have these sort of starches after a workout, and although I usually have these foods on a day I've worked out hard, I don't have them after every hard work out, and my recovery is always fine.
I used to have dessert every.single.evening but that's less frequent now. I might have some frozen berries, a little yogurt, maybe some cocoa powder on it and for a treat, a square of dark chocolate (once or twice a week).

To give you an idea of where I've come from, a typical day's food in my IBS days was more like:
porridge with berries or muesli and soya milk for breakfast, snack of cereal bar, apple or banana, hummus and salad sandwich for lunch, chickpea curry with brown rice for dinner, chocolate soya pudding or fruit crumble for dessert. All pretty 'healthy' food, but really uncomfortable for my gut.

I hope somewhere in this jungle of words there are a few things that will help. In summary I'd say: eat more mindfully, try to overcome comfort eating, sort out your stress levels, and try eliminating pulses, grains, sugar and dairy to see if that helps.
Best of luck!

Busy enjoying spring

At least that's my excuse for not posting for two weeks!
Last time, I was just about to do my first 10k, which was an absolute scorcher of a day. I did the race in 51:29 which I was pretty pleased with in that heat. We have no photos, sorry!

This week has been a bit crazy food wise, too much ice-cream and chocolate! I have had some tasty, healthy food in between.

Pre race dinner:

Salmon, kale, potatoes

Italian desserts made by our friends and sold at the farmer's market (flourless chocolate and rum for me, blueberry olive oil cake for him, plain yogurt)

Pre race brunch- organic sausages, leftover potatoes and kale

Dinner- organic ham hock soup

Roast lemony chicken, turnip mashed with kale and some coconut milk

Salmon and parsley en papillotte with roasty potatoes and steamed cabbage

Goat cheese duck egg omelette with roast broccoli

Homemade organic garlicky herby lamb burgers with collards in balsamic and soy sauce, lots of yummy black olives

Organic rump steak, onion and collard stirfry with the same balsamic+soy sauce combo

We have had lovely weather here, really very warm, like a summer's day in mainland Europe! Speaking of mainland Europe, we've organised our holiday, we're going to Andalucia in Spain for 11 days, but not until early September. Anyway, something to look forward to, and the weather's great here at the moment.
As well as walking, I've been doing lots of bodyrock, and this week I managed my first ever regular chin up! So happy:)

I'll be back later this weekend with a post about IBS and how I got around mine.
I'm away out for a walk in the sun!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Summer is here

We are having our summer here in Northern Ireland! Last year, April was lovely too (although more towards the end of the month). I took yesterday afternoon off work, and spent the entire afternoon out walking along the Lagan river valley. I detoured to pick up our race packs for sunday and to get a wee bit of coconut ice-cream, yum. It's about 20C/68F here from about 11am, so I went out in my running skirt and light technical shirt. Hopefully it will last a good few weeks, although our 'summer' is usually over by July, when the rain comes back!
Today, after an early bodyrock sess, a quick crab cake breakfast:

(tinned crab, an egg, a garlic clove, hot sauce, blitzed and sauteed, osmanthus tea on the side) and feeding our friends' cats (we're keeping an eye on them while they're away for birthday celebrations) we walked into town for the farmer's market, and a bought a beautiful bottle of newly harvested olive oil from Foggia in Italy, the guy told me the olives were still on the tree 8 weeks ago! It's grassy, herby and peppery but not a hint of bitterness (which is what normally makes me avoid grassy olive oils). It's far too good for cooking, but it's going to transform my salads and will make a lovely simple dressing for lightly steamed greens.
I also got some other treats, our friends make Italian desserts so we got a slice each- blueberry olive oil cake for the Mr, flourless chocolate run cake for me.
I also got some salmon fillets for tonight's dinner, a beautiful big bunch of flat leaf parsley,

duck eggs, chicken eggs and a meat deal from a rare breeds farm called Pheasant's Hill Farm out in Comber, Co. Down. They breed Dexters, little tiny cattle. I got a ham hock, dexter steak pieces, mince (ground beef) and natural Tamworth pork sausages all for £10. Let's not forget the veggies, I got a January King cabbage and a big bag of curly kale.

Weekday meals:

Kale, bell pepper and quorn in passata with some pesto and olives

Roast chicken breast on the bone with lots of herbs de provence, sweet potato, onion, carrot and steamed broccoli

Salmon, egg and goat cheese salad

Roast chicken salad (I got four meals out of the one roasting pot)

Fage yogurt with heated up raspberries

Today's lunch: mushroom, spinach and quorn-slices-that-needed-used-up three egg omelette. With oregano, fresh parsley, a little goat cheese and some leftover tomato passata.

It was a pretty huge (and messy once folded over) dish, just want I needed after yesterday's 12 mile walk and before tomorrow's race.
Today we are taking it easy before the race, in fact MrPeskyRunner is a big horse racing fan so we're going to be watching the Grand National. Then it's off to pick up a few groceries (read: carbs and Quorn for Mr, and a few householdy things) and a nice stroll in the sun to wake up an appetite for tonight's salmon and dessert.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

My ever evolving diet and workout routine...

Health update and diet experimenting:
I started this blog to document my commitment to getting my health on track at the start of 2010. I had hormonal issues, IBS, dry, prone to breakout skin, poor circulation and stubborn fat around my butt and legs. I thought a vegan diet and running would be the answer, so I blogged about my commitment to this new way of life. About 8 months into this experiment, my health wasn't much better (I'd lost over 7lb though), and in fact, got worse, and I had to spend a few days in hospital because of pancreatitis. Since then, I've been experimenting. I went to see a dietician, and cut down big time of whole grain foods and pulses, and that helped the IBS for the most part, but I still had dry skin and amenorrhea. In January this year, I added yogurt, eggs and fish back and since then I've been reading a lot about paleo/primal diets and have been gradually aligning my diet along these lines. The thing is, apart from a spell of about a year when I was 19/20, I haven't eaten meat since I was 12. And meat is a big part of the primal/paleo diet...and when you give up rice, bread, wheat etc you need something to fill you up besides lots of veggies...and there's kind of only so much fish and eggs you can eat. So I'm toying with the idea of adding some organic meat in once a week, to mix things up and to up my iron intake, because despite eating brassicas every day, my intake is a little below the RDA and I had low serum ferritin diagnosed a few months back and refused to take the iron tablets. I still have amenorrhea and dry, pale skin so maybe a little iron boost might help. This is all still part of the experimenting to find something that works for me. I will say though that the most amazing transformation in my energy levels has been ditching sugar and grains. I have held on to things like brown rice and the occasional slice of bread but I haven't eaten any grain based foods for 2 weeks now and I now seem to be free of the post prandial bloat and discomfort I would get. I'm still a little constipated but I think that's because I need to ramp up my greens intake some more, but I've been doing this gradually because of my intolerance of some types of fibre. In fact, I eat more vegetables since I started eating eggs and fish than I did when I was vegan! I've also put weight back on on the scales (I'm now 125 lbs) but I'm two inches smaller around the butt than I was when I weiged 117lb!

Here are some of my recent meals:

Still eating yogurt most days: berries and quark for breakfast

Quorn pieces chilli with lots of bell peppers, topped with plain organic yogurt

Experimenting with protein powder: unflavoured whey, cocoa, peanut butter and plain yogurt, I ate some straight up, but the PB made it sickeningly rich, so I baked the rest for 20 mins and it was easier to eat:

Voila- chocolate PB protein cake. I actually find the unflavoured whey quite sweet.

After saturday's run, I breakfasted on a berry, banana and protein shake (just using water) and it was pretty good- not too sweet, thick and really voluminous! Half a banana, half a cup of berries, 30g scoop of powder and a cup of water made 3 cups of shake (that's only 2/3 of the batch in that glass)!
I had the shake because the rest of the week breakfast was usually eggs or fish: lovely but you do need to switch it up a bit.

Saturday lunch: panfried salmon, pesto and 1/2 a cabbage each(!)

So good, the salmon was a beautiful colour

For Mother' Day lunch, I made a provencale prawn stew (red onion, garlic, orange pepper, mushrooms, collards, smoked paprika, herbs de provence, tomato passata, lots of parsley and lemon juice) and fried some organic lamb steaks my Dad got half price. The prawns were a gift from one of my Dad's patients who is a fisherman. I cooked rice for my family too. I had half of one of the steaks, my
first taste of meat in four years(!)

The stew is a bit like paella without the rice.

Last night's dinner: veg omelette (an onion, 1/2 red cabbage, a huuuge courgette, 2 carrots, 6 eggs, smoked paprika and some mature goat's cheese), topped with super hot hot sauce and Quorn sausage.

Monday evening treat: glass of red wine and two squares of dark hazelnutty chocolate (plus some new paleo/primal reading).

Today's breakfast: canteloupe melon, yogurt, half a tin of salmon.

On the workout front:
I'm still a little jaded with running, but I did take MrPeskyRunner out on saturday morning for an easy prebreakfast 5k. He really struggles to have energy without a big dose of carbs so he found this tough but didn't feel too bad after it was over.
On sunday I went for a walk with my sister, and we did 10mins of on/off 30 sec hard running/walking near the end.
Other than that, I have been following Bodyrock, usually a day or two behind the schedule as I usually rest on mondays. I've been doing some weight lifting as well.

I'm off work today to go to the opticians and MrPeskyRunner is having dental work done (nothing serious). We're going to go for a nice long walk in the afternoon and then do a bodyrock workout. I did the Abs for Christmas this morning, ouch, lots of squats, but other than that, probably the 'easiest' bodyrock I've done so far (I don't know if you can really use 'easy' and 'bodyrock' in one sentence, haha). In any case, I'm up for yesterday's workout later this afternoon.
That's all for now, folks!