Thursday, 31 January 2013

Lets get naked in the snow, for charity!

These last two weeks, amazing things have been going down in the little county of Wiltshire. Firstly, it's been snowing! I went to bed late one night and woke up in the morning to a winter wonderland! Best thing was I had no idea it was due to snow, so it was a complete surprise to me (all the snow has gone now though..). And secondly, a local woman, Leanne Myers, took the snowy weather and put it to some seriously good use. Simply by getting tastefully nude in the snow, for fun, and creating a Facebook page to post it on (click here for the Facebook page, or search " Wiltshire Lets get naked in the snow " on Facebook), she has created craze that everyone's taking part in. As it's got more and more popular, she decided to use it's popularity to raise money for an amazing local charity, 'Salisbury District Hospital Stars Appeal' (the charity helps local people around all of the wards and departments in the hospital, with particular focus on cancer, cardiac care and children/babies). The craze has taken the nation by storm and articles about it have been published in many different newspapers and it's been mentioned on websites from around the world. Leanne Myers has even been Skype interviewed by the US television show, 'Right This Minute' (click here to watch the interview). A website has also been created (click here for the website)!

As I love helping out great causes (my skydive for charity back in May 2012, for example), I just felt I had to take part. As well as helping to raise money for an amazing charity, it has really helped boost my self confidence. I have had lots of positive feedback from my family, my friends and even a few people I don't even know. My photo is featured on the official website's layout, which I was shocked to find out, but it was also another little confidence booster for me. I am so glad I took part in it and I'm very proud of myself. I would have never been able to have done something like this when I was bigger.

If you can, please dig deep and donate to help this amazing cause - no matter how big or small the donation is, every penny helps! Just go to the JustGiving page (click here for the page) and click 'Donate'. Since setting up the Facebook page, they have raised over £3,500 so far, which is incredible!

Soon they will be bringing out a calender, full of photos people have posted on the Facebook page, which will help raise even more money for the Stars Appeal! Once the calenders are available, I will edit this post and include a link to where they can be purchased from. :)

Friday, 18 January 2013

Diet-friendly chocolate macaroons.

(Second batch on the left. First batch on the right).

 As I'm try to eat as clean as I possible, I often get little cravings, every now and again, for chocolate and pastries and just sweet little treats in general. So I was really happy when I came across this low-kcal chocolate macaroon recipe in my 'Eat Smart Stay Slim' magazine (volume 1, page 126) - the second recipe I've tried from this magazine now, and I'm sure I'll try many more from it. I have never had a macaroon before, but have heard lots of good, yummy things about them, so I was eager to try it. And I'm glad I did because they were delicious! My boyfriend and I made them together as a little treat to enjoy after our Sunday family dinner. Everybody loved them - even the burnt batch went down well (I personally thought the burnt ones tasted nicer anyway). We burnt the first batch because we forgot to leave the oven door open.. So instead of taking 15 to 18 minutes to cook, they took about 5 and then lost they're fluffiness and burnt. But we learnt from the first batch and the second batch came out much nicer. Although most of them ended up being hollow because we didn't give them enough time to cool down before peeling them off of the parchment paper - oops! But they were still delicious and I will be making them again in the future, for sure.

This recipe makes 12 macaroons according to the magazine, but we only managed to make 9. If you make 9, it's approx. 127kcal per macaroon. If you make 12, it's approx. 95kcal per macaroon. If you make a different amount completely, just divide 1142 by however many macaroons you make and that will be an approx. calorie content per macaroon.

- 100g icing sugar
- 50g ground almonds
- 15g good-quality cocoa powder
- 2 medium egg whites
- 40g caster sugar
- 100ml 3% creme fraiche
- 4 squares of 70% dark chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180°c/350°f/gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and get an icing bag with a plain tip (about 2cm) ready.
2. In a food processor, whizz the icing sugar, ground almond and cocoa into a fine powder with no lumps. In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they start to hold their shape. Continue whisking and slowly add the caster sugar until stiff and firm.
3. Fold half the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Once it's incorporated, add the rest and continue to fold. When it's smooth stop folding and spoon the batter into the icing bag (stand the bag in a tall glass).
4. Pipe the batter onto the parchment-lined baking sheet in circles about 3cm across and spaced 3cm apart. Tap the baking sheet a few times to flatten the macaroons, then bake for 15 to 18 minutes, with the over door slightly ajar. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
5. Meanwhile, gently heat the creme fraiche in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and drop in the pieces of chocolate, stirring until it has melted and the two are combined. Set aside to cool.
6. Once the macaroons and chocolate creme fraiche have cooled, sandwich two macaroons together with a small dollop of the mixture. Arrange on a plate.

I've joined a gym! Plus an update on me.

On the 9th January, this year, I joined a local gym. I was a bit hesitant at first, because the last time I joined a gym, I lost interest pretty quickly, wanted to quit, but ended up having to pay £26+ once a month for a whole year as it was a yearly contract.. But this gym is very different. It's only a 5 minute walk from where I work, so pretty convenient for me really. It's a rolling contract, rather than a yearly one - at any time I no longer want to go, for whatever reason, I can give one months notice and leave, with no further payments! Also it's the cheapest gym in town - £15 per month, plus two one-off payments of £20 - can't go wrong with that really. It's not too big or two small, it's well equipped, it's open 7 days a week, and the staff are incredibly welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable. It's a very laid back atmosphere, which I really like. It also offers lots of different classes per day (such as spin, pilates, zumba, self defence, boxing, etc.), which are free to MyGym members - so I've been taking full advantage of those since joining. On the whole it's one amazing gym that's great value for money (an absolute bargain in my eyes).

Since joining I have been to the gym about 4 times and I have really enjoyed myself. So far, I have tried classes such as spin, LBT (legs, bums & tums) and boxing basics - I enjoyed them all but my favourite is definitely spin! It's hard work but makes me feel really great afterwards. I spend a lot of my time in the gym on the crosstrainer, the treadclimber, the exercise bike, the rowing machine and sometimes the stepping machine. I went to lunch with my friend, Tom, and he helped me decide on some kind of routine to stick to, to begin with. He has also advised me on good foods to eat before/after workouts. Tom, along with my boyfriend and family, are supporting my decision to do this all the way, which is great and helps to keep me going! :)

Starting weight/measurements:

My starting weight for the gym is: 8 stone, 13 lbs.

I put on weight after my first week at the gym - I was NOT a happy bunny. But I didn't let it get to me too much and I've already lost all of the weight I'd put on! :)

My starting measurements for the gym are (in inches / cms):

Bust = 30" / 76.2cm

Waist = 28" / 71.1cm

Hips = 32" / 81.3cm

Neck = 13" / 33cm

Left bingo-wing = 9.7"/ 24.6cm

Right bingo-wing = 9.7" / 24.6cm

Left thunder-thigh = 21.5" / 54.6cm

Right thunder-thigh = 21.8" / 55.4cm

The majority of these measurements have improved ever so slightly since my last measurements (click here for post), but one has actually increased and one has stayed exactly the same. Finding this out was a little heart breaking as I worked so hard all year to get these measurements down.. But oh well. I will measure up again soon and update you all on any changes.

Starting/"before" photo:

I want to lose the bit of fat at the bottom of my tummy and I want my thighs to be a lot smaller, as they are a part of my body that I particularly dislike. I then want to tone up absolutely everything. I WILL acheive that bikini body this year! I've got this far with next-to-no exercise, so imagine what I can do if I introduce it into my healthy lifestyle (this thought is my main motivation)! I will post updates on how my body changes after a while of going.

An update on me:

What I haven't mentioned is this last week or so I have been feeling extremely weak and over-exhausted on such a low amount of calories (1200 per day, plus slightly more with exercise), since getting back into my calorie counting super strictly again at New Years. Well I had to go to the hospital for blood tests because I was feeling so bad and looking so ill and very pale. But I found out that my blood tests came back perfectly fine, and it's probably being caused by anxiety.

But before receiving my results, I had a chat with my spin instructor about my health, what I'm eating, my calorie intake, my sleeping pattern and such alike.. He advised me to up my calorie intake to at least 1500 per day (well he actually said he'd prefer me not to count them at all any more, but I just can't break the habit). He also said to turn my TV off at night to help me sleep as I should be getting at least 6 hours of sleep per night to be able to go to the gym (I usually sleep with the TV on and only get around 4-7 hours sleep a night). He also said to eat 5 meals a day rather than my usual 2-3, as my body will start to starve itself otherwise and I need the energy if I want to go to the gym regularly (I've attempted this change but I'm only managing around 3-4 meals most days). I also need to eat a meal, full of protein, within 1 hour after finishing any work out (this is the one step I'm struggling most with).

Since I've tried applied these changes, as much as I can, I have been feeling slightly more energetic than usual and I no longer look really ill and pasty all the time. I feel my body has a bit more power, to push myself further, when I go to the gym. I'm still counting calories religiously, but I have upped my daily allowance by 300kcal, from 1200 to 1500 (this has been extremely hard to get used to)! So hopefully making all of these small changes will help me get bigger and better results from the hard work I put in at the gym.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Oatmeal pancakes with agave syrup.

I dragged myself out of bed at stupid o'clock this morning so I could make breakfast for myself and my family. I say stupid o'clock because my sister leaves for school before 8am and my Mum cycles to work every morning.. I work evenings, so I can usually have a long lie in. But I didn't mind too much, because I finally got to try out the recipe I have been eyeing up this past week - oatmeal pancakes! I found this recipe in a new magazine called "Eat Smart Stay Slim" (volume 1, page 50) (I'm not sure how long it'll be between each volume of this magazine, as I can't actually find a page saying when the next one's out.. It could be a one off? I'm not sure). On Instagram I follow some people who are all about fitness and eating clean, and a lot of them post pictures of their homemade "protein pancakes" and I've always wanted to try them, but of course I don't drink protein shakes of any kind, so I don't own the protein powder needed in their recipes.. So I'm really happy I've found this! I've tweaked the ingredients a little (as I often do) to make it a bit less calorific, and still taste amazing! Everybody loved them and thought they were delicious. I ate them over 3 hours ago now, and I'm still feeling relatively full, so I think they're a complete success! Here's what I did:

- 75g porridge oats
- 150g wholemeal flour
- 1.2tsp cinnamon
- 0.5tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 275ml almond milk (the original recipe used skimmed milk)
- low-kcal cooking spray (such as 'Fry Light')

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oats, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the egg and 2tbsp of the almond milk, then slowly add the remaining milk until the mixture becomes a smooth batter (like thick yoghurt). If it's still too thick, add a touch more milk.

2. Heat a large frying pan and spray with the low-kcal cooking spray. Spoon a heaped tablespoon of the batter into the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden.

3. Keep the pancakes warm in a low-heat oven until ready to serve.

You can serve these pancakes with whatever you fancy. We used agave nectar syrup on ours, but alternatively you could use: the traditional sugar and lemon juice; granulated sweetener; honey with fresh berries and fromage frais (as the magazine suggests); golden syrup with banana slices; maple syrup - the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Vegetarian sweet potato & Quorn dopiaza curry.

I do really love an Indian takeaway from time to time! My family are more keen of a Chinese but I much prefer a spicy Indian! But with the amount of grease and fat in it, I don't like to have them very often. For a very long time I have been meaning to create a healthier curry for me to enjoy, without feeling the guilt. And I have FINALLY got round to doing it! I've put together a vegetarian dopiaza curry (medium heat) and it's absolutely delicious! I picked to do a dopiaza curry because that's one of the ones I often order at my local Indian and I love it - it's a little hot, spicy and heart-warming. But, just so you all know: I have never ever made a curry before; I didn't look up a recipe; and I used a pre-made curry sauce (as I would have no idea where to start, without a recipe at hand to follow).

This recipe serves 4 people and contains approx. 218kcal per serving. So here's what I did:

- 1 jar of 'Tesco' dopiaza sauce (450g)
- 500g sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 whole small/medium brown onion, chopped largely
- 150g portobello mushrooms, cut into large pieces
- 85g frozen 'Quorn' chicken style pieces
- 1 packet of 'Just Add' one shot chilli (15g) (or 1-2tsp fresh finely chopped chilli)
- 'Fry Light' 1 kcal cooking spray

1. Firstly, fill a medium-large saucepan with water, put onto a hight heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling add in the sweet potato. Boil until the potato starts to turn soft (test with a knife - you should be able to just about push a knife through it, but no super easily). Once ready, take off the heat, drain the potato and leave to one side.
2. Now put the Quorn chicken pieces, along with the onion and mushrooms, into a medium-large wok and put it onto the high heat that the saucepan was on. Spray it all with Fry Light, stir regularly and cook until the Quorn has cooked through (taste a little or cut in half to check) and the onion and mushrooms have started to brown.
3. Now add all of the sauce into the wok and turn the heat down to medium (to help stop the sauce spitting). Stir occasionally. Now stir in all of the chilli. After 2 minutes, add in the sweet potato. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly, until all is pipping hot.
4. Share it all equally into 4 and serve immanently. Enjoy!

As no one else in my house likes mushrooms, sweet potatoes or chilli so I separated the curry into 4 containers - I've eaten one and froze the other 3, to enjoy another time.

TIP: meal prepping in advance is a great way of keeping your healthy eating on track! Whenever you are low on food in your cupboards, having a naughty day and are in need of a quick, healthy meal to give you a boost or are just craving an Indian takeaway, take it out of the freezer and heat it up - sorted!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My New Year's resolutions.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, as I did. I had some fantastic company and received lots of lovely presents! 2012 literally flew by.. Before we know it, it'll be Christmas again! Happy New Year! I hope 2013 brings you and your families happiness. :)

As it's the beginning of a whole new year, it's time to set myself a New Years resolution!

Last year, my resolution was to start and stick to My Fitness Pal (a calorie counting app) to help me lose weight. It makes a massive change to be able to say I stuck to my resolution all year long! I used My Fitness Pal every single day, no matter how good or bad my calorie intake was (apart from one week, in May, I went to Turkey on holiday.. I couldn't get the internet to work on my phone). Of course I'm going to continue to use it, but it's now kind-of a habit, so it's not going to be a resolution of mine this year.

My personal resolutions for 2013 are:

- MAKE THIS YEAR MY THINNEST, HEALTHIEST AND FITTEST YEAR YET. (Basically lose weight, eat clean, get thin/toned).


I have wasted no time and have thrown myself into my resolutions straight away! Today I stayed within my calories - (I know it's naughty, but I had no breakfast today.. I've been nursing a rather bad hangover from the celebrations the night before) noodles for lunch, smoked fish with boiled veg and sweet potato mash (all seasoned with lime juice) for tea and flavoured popcorn, one of my Graze punnets and some black grapes as little snacks throughout the day - all very delicious! Also I have written a letter to send to my Granny who lives abroad. We do contact each other, but not always very regularly. So I'm working on that already. :)

Good luck with any New Years resolutions you've set yourself. Feel free to share your resolutions - I'd love to hear some of them!

Oh, and just in case any one was wondering, I did gain a bit of weight over the festive season. In total, I gained 4 lbs. Not great, but nowhere near as horrendous as I was expecting, considering some of the foods I was eating (mainly chocolate)! It'll come back off easily, I'm sure. :)