Clean eating, fasting and fear

Maybe it’s just the January effect but I really have been making more of an effort to eat clean. By that I mean, real, whole food and ingredients and eating less processed products.

The scary headlines around sugar have contributed to me wanting to consume less processed goods too. I knew sugar was in everything but I hadn’t realised just how bad for me it was.

The right thing to do…eat clean

Ultimately, I know eating cleaner is the right thing to do. Of course it’s best for my body
and my health to be eating natural products rather than foods with crazy ingredients that have been through all kinds or processes to make them low fat or ‘healthy’. I actually quite enjoy clean eating too. Plus, working from home means it’s not too difficult for me to adopt either, as I don’t need to eat ‘on the go’ and always have a fridge full of fresh ingredients nearby. So, why I haven’t I fully embraced clean eating? Why do I struggle to do it when it should be so straightforward for me? Why am I still reaching for the diet snacks on a regular basis?

I’ll tell you why. It’s the calories – which I know is a ridiculous thing to say but I’ll try to explain how I feel. Many of you will know I’m a 5:2 diet convert (perhaps evangelist might be a better word!), it’s flexible, it fits my lifestyle and I have had great results with it.  5:2 is way of life rather than a diet, it’s something you stick to for life (where possible) and I certainly see it that way…My Fitness Pal is probably the most used app on my phone. This means that calorie counting is frequently at the forefront of my mind.

Calories, health and fear…

Essentially after doing 5:2 for more than a year, I equate being ‘healthy’ with not going over 500ww calories in a day. I feel positive, pleased and even proud when I do a 500 calorie day successfully – knowing I’m keeping my body balanced for when I go out at the weekend for dinner and wine. And the truth is, until recently, I haven’t much cared how I got my 500 calories – as long as I didn’t go over this number. So a typical fast day would involve foods such as Weight Watchers chocolate wafers, fat free yoghurt, sandwich thins, reduced fat cheese, Birds Eye vegetable fingers or fish fingers…and other processed foods that offer a low calorific value.

So imagine how disheartening and hard I find it when a homemade smoothie of fresh fruits and greens has 250+ calories in it! On a fast day that would be a massive indulgence and half my calorific food allowance. Likewise with snacking on nuts and seeds – they pack a whole load of calories. So often I end up opting for a diet cereal bar instead because it’s easy, it tastes good and has less calories – and what’s not to like about that?! You see my problem with clean eating now…for a calorie counter it’s hard to get your head around how eating more calories could be good for you. Quite frankly, it scares me and makes me feel like I’ll put weight on because I’m consuming more calories. Is this just me? I don’t think I can be alone in this fear can I?

Can I re-train myself?

Seeing those calories tot up on My Fitness Pal is very off-putting – even if the calories come from healthy, clean choices. For so long, weight loss and maintaining this was my goal, soMFP all I cared about was cutting calories, without a thinking about nutrition. I have ignored how much sugar or sweetner is in my diet snacks or what the effect on my mood or performance might be of eating processed foods. I really need to address this – but how do I re-train my mind and the way I think about food and health? Perhaps if I really gave clean eating ago and felt the health and wellbeing benefits of this, I’d be converted? It’s a good idea but the truth is, it’s a big step I’m too scared about putting weight on to embrace this wholeheartedly, which is awful to admit. It’s just hard to change when I know the low fat, processed, diet snacks route has worked for me from a weight loss point of view.

So for now, I’m trying to be a bit more balanced and go for a gradual approach. My fast days will still inevitably feature some diet snacks to help me stick to my target calorie allowance – but I will try to incorporate ‘cleaner’ snacks and on my more relaxed days I’ll try and fully embrace clean eating without thinking about the calories.

At least, that’s the plan. Does anyone share my thoughts and fears? I’d love to hear from anyone with an opinion on cleaning eating, fasting or any of the issues above!

10 Things you’ll relate to if you’re on the Fast Diet

Many of you will know I’m an advocate of the fast diet, it works for me – I’ve lost weight and easily maintained this without much of a compromise on my lifestyle. I can still eat out a lot and eat what I fancy in restaurants but with two low-calorie days I keep the weight off. That said, there a few common feelings which I think anyone on a fast day can relate to…

1) Fast days = early nights

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On a fast day I do feel a little weary by 8pm and don’t want to risk an evening nibble or trip to the biscuit tin, so it usually means an early night! Luckily I love my bed and falling asleep isn’t usually a problem for me.

2) You plan/dream about things you’re going to eat on non-fast days!

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I can usually stick to my fast days pretty well but I do definitely day dream about what I’ll eat the next day when I’m not fasting! A croissant, a full fat latte, even just a couple of slices of buttered toast are delicious treats to look forward to.

3) You’ll never look at certain high calorie foods the same way

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I don’t mean you won’t eat them but you’re just more aware of what you’re putting into your body. 250 calories for just a slice of Dominoes! Half my daily fast day allowance in one little pizza slice – I still get a takeaway pizza on occasion but I do it knowing it’s really not good for me and a fast day needs to follow!

4) MyFitness Pal is everything

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Where would I be without this calorie counting app? Almost all foods are already listed in there and there’s a handy barcode scanner to let me add anything I’ve just snacked on. It’s so satisfying to complete a fast day and feel saintly as you see your 500 calories on the display before bed time! I don’t use it much on my non fast days but I still find myself mentally trying to work out the calories.

5) Weighing yourself after a fast day is the best

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You’re never lighter than first thing in the morning after a fast day – so that’s the only time I ever weigh myself! It’s encouraging to see the slightly lighter weight (or that you’ve not gained despite a heavy weekend, which may have included the aforementioned takeaway pizza). I find it motivates me to keep up with the 5:2 lifestyle.

6) You REALLY look forward to meals out (and indulging guilt free!)

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Everyone loves dinner out but when you’re on the fast diet it’s especially exciting. You’re obviously not going to do a fast day when you’ve got dinner out so the possibilities of what you can eat seem extra delicious and exciting…chips, steak, cheese, dessert – I enjoy a meal out without feeling guilty at the indulgence.

7) You know the calorific content of almost everything (and it bothers you if there’s something you can’t instantly recall the calorie content of)

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That’s me, an encyclopaedia of calorie knowledge! I’m like the rain man of calories! Partly through My Fitness Pal, partly through my own obsessiveness – I know roughly how many calories most things have…I think most serious fast dieters do too.

8) You know which processed and on-shelf snacks are healthiest/have the least calories

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This one’s closely related to number seven – but if you’re on the move and not someone who’s batch cooked healthy fast day treats then you will reach for the convenient on-shelf snacks that are readily available and incorporate them into your daily allowance. A few of my favourites that don’t get me into too much trouble with calorie counting are Wotsits (90 calories), Weight Watchers Caramel Wafers (79 calories), Proper Corn Sea Salted Popcorn (84 calories) and very occasionally a Club chocolate biscuit (115 calories).  I know I should eliminate some of these things from my diet all together – but snacks are everywhere and realistically many fast dieters will reach for them like I sometimes do.

9) It’s easier to go meat free on a fast day

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Works well if you’re doing Meat Free Monday! It’s much easier to stay within 500/600 calories if you cut out the the meat and go veggie instead. There are some reasonable veggie sausages out there for as little as 64 calories each, much easier to make a meal out of! Bacon medallions are the only meat which does sometimes fit into a fast day.

10) You miss lattes and cappuccinos 

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I know I’m all about tea, I really am but I do love a good takeaway coffee during the working day. It’s a no-no on a fast day though, even a lovely skinny latte can still have going on for 100 calories in and they aren’t calories that will keep you full. So fast days are often coffee-free – lucky I love tea so much really!

11) It can be really hard to avoid alcohol

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Have you ever tried doing a fast day on a Friday? It’s really hard not to crack at the end of the working week, just for glass of wine while watching Graham Norton…but unless you’ve eaten nothing else that day – you cannot fit the wine-time calories in. And if you’ve eaten nothing, there’s not much point in having wine as one glass will go to your head! I generally avoid fasting around the weekends – what’s the point? Weekends are for wine and cocktails!

10) Soup is your friend!

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Filling, healthy and often low-calorie…soup is a faster’s best friend. Covent Garden’s Carrot and Butternut Squash at 80-something calories per bowl is a particular fast day dinner win for me.

Would you agree? If you’re a fast dieter too I’d love to hear your experiences!

xXx

5:2 Favourites

Like many other people I’m following the 5:2 way of life, eating only 500 calories on two non-consecutive days each week. It’s flexible, achievable and seems to be working out well. You can actually feel relatively satisfied on 500 calories, you just need to pick the right things to eat – in fact it’s amazing how many pleasant things you can consume really. In this post I thought I’d share a few of my favourite things to eat on a fast day.

There are some mega low-cal recipes and meals you can prepare for dinner but for now I’m focusing on satisfying snacks and the type of things you might eat at your desk.

It’s no secret that I love popcorn, so a bag of sea-salted Proper Corn at 87 calories makes me so happy! It’s a decent sized bag too (not like those healthy crisps you get in tiny bags!)

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My love of cheese is also well documented, so these little Cathedral City Minis at 50 calories per piece are a deliciously creamy treat on a fast day.

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Okay, so it’s maybe not the freshest foodstuff but at 96 calories Ainsley Harriot’s Thai Chicken & Lemongrass soup is perfect for keeping in your desk drawer. I’ve tried many an instant soup and this definitely the most flavorful and tasty. Warm and fragrant, it really hits the spot sometimes.

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Fage Total strained 0% Greek Yoghurts are a yummy fast day win. They have about 140 calories, so a few more than some of the other fat free yoghurts out there – but the pot is bigger! The thick consistency makes me feel like I’m enjoying a full fat cream-like dessert. The plain variety is excellent with a few berries for breakfast.

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Jimmy’s Skinny Iced Coffee is a lovely fast day pick-me-up, it feels just like drinking some kind of full-fat frappe from a coffee shop but is only 36 calories per 100ml.

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Lastly, you can’t beat a boiled egg for simplicity and keeping you feeling full! If you can just bear to go without the soldiers, a boiled egg only sets you back about 70 calories.

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These are just a few of my go-to fast day foods that are quick to grab and enjoy during busy days and in the office. If you’re a 5:2 dieter I’d love to know what yours are…do tell.

I do have a few light and low calorie dinner suggestions to share as well but I’ll save these for a future post.

Right, time to get fasting after a bit of bank holiday excess! xXx

Super Snack Discovery

This post is dedicated to the discovery of an amazing new snack I’ve been enjoying lately, here it is:

Wild Trail Popcorn Bars

Yes that’s right, snacky-cereal-type bars made with popcorn! I absolutely love popcorn, so these bars made by Wild Trail Foods are just so RIGHT. There are three different bars to chose from – I’ve taste tested them all and can safely say, whilst they’re all very enjoyable, the fruit and double nut is my favourite.

My local village store sells them, but apparently the popcorn bars are such a hit they’re even stocked by Harvey Nichols and Selfridges!

If you see them I urge you to try them – they are so much better than some of the bland cereal bars out there – truly something different.

Okay, that’s all…just had share this awesome tasty snack news!

Party in my tummy

At the party in my tummy this weekend are nachos, chicken chassuer, mince pies, apple and cinnamon tart and good old fashion baked potatoes, washed down with mulled wine, Earl Grey and strawberry beer, elderflower wine and vodka sodas…Not all in one day I might add.

It’s been so crazy busy that I can’t even begin to tell you the stories surrounding the foodstuffs I’ve consumed this weekend, I’ll leave that to your imagination…

Have a good week and eat well!

After Work Snack

Few can resist the lure of a bit of post work, but pre-dinner snacking…and here’s my top choice….


Locally sourced cheese and pickle, amazing. The cheese pictured is somewhere between a cheddar and a parmesan and is perfect with soups – but right now I’m simply going to enjoy it with some lovely really ale chutney (no bread or biscuits to keep it carb free!)

What are you snacking on…?