Tea Time

Ok, I’m starting a campaign to reinstate traditional afternoon tea. Who will join me? I’m not talking about a mug of coffee and a measly digestive biscuit, either. I’m talking good old fashioned teatime treats: crumpets, muffins, scones, buttered toast, fruit cake, and PROPER TEA (preferably brewed in a pot with a cosy!). Any time between 3 and 4pm, I’d say. Spread the word! Tell your friends! Autumn is the best possible time to reintroduce this cheering tradition. Extra brownie points if you have something really old fashioned, like gentleman’s relish sandwiches!!

(for those who want to know, here is a brief clarification of the difference between afternoon tea, and high tea)

Who Moved My Cheese?

I have a confession to make. Don’t hate me! I started eating cheese again. I’m no longer vegan.

I’ve been craving cheese for about three months now, and I mean really craving, as in can’t get to sleep at night for thinking of it. At first I shrugged my shoulders and waited for it to pass. Then I began to think, maybe my body is trying to tell me something. What, I don’t know, because I still believe that a vegan diet is the healthiest way to be, and that dairy isn’t that great for you.

But there’s no getting around it, I WANT CHEESE.

So, I have taken a step back, and gone back to being vegetarian. I still don’t eat eggs (allergy), and the thought of milk and cream make me quite nauseous. There is no way on earth that I will ever go back to eating flesh (blech). I love the foods I eat now, the pulse and veggie based meals. I’m still going to eat a 99% plant based diet.

With the addition of cheese. 

Just a leeeeetle bit of cheese. 

Good Food

So, as you know, I’ve been eating a vegan diet for the last year or so. And I think I’ve mentioned before that I am gluten intolerant, and don’t get on well with soy either. So, no soy, gluten, meat, fish, eggs, or dairy. And minimal sugar, because I have temperamental blood sugar levels. Minimal caffeine (one cup of Lady Grey tea a day) and minimal alcohol (maybe once or twice a month I’ll have a glass of wine) too.

Does it remind you of that Adam & The Ants song, “you don’t smoke, don’t drink, what do you do?”….!!

Actually, I hate telling people the list of things I don’t eat, because I feel it gives the wrong impression. It makes me look hard done by and restricted, when actually I think I’ve widened my food choices by giving up the more traditional ones. I absolutely love food, and I’m more excited about it now that I have ever been before. There’s something deeply satisfying about making, and eating, a meal that you know is the most nutritious that it could be, something that makes your body feel fantastic after, not just during, the meal.

I get far more excited about my meals now than I ever did as a meat eater. Centering a meal around vegetables makes you really think outside the box, and try to do the produce justice. And I’ve tried lots more new ingredients and cuisines and cooking methods too, rather than just relying on old favourites. Another thing I love about vegan food, even when you pig out, and feel absolutely stuffed, after 10 minutes you feel fine again, not all bloated and congested (sorry, but its true!) like you do after a meat/fish meal.

We’ve been trying to eat more raw lately as well. I finally cracked the smoothie problem by adding nuts or nut butter to the blend. Now a smoothie lasts us all morning, and in the hot weather has been a lovely treat. I freeze chopped bananas, so the smoothie consists of a handful of frozen banana, a couple of handfuls of leaves (spinach, watercress, something like that), some frozen berries, rice milk, and a handful of nuts. Delicious, quick, and nutritious.

Tony’s vegetable garden is beginning to come into season, so we’ve been eating rocket and lettuce from the garden every day, as part of a big salad lunch (to which I usually add an avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, and chick peas for protein).

And I’ve started making my own raw ice cream. Its ridiculously easy, and utterly delicious. I tried a coconut milk base first, but found that the flavour tended to dominate, and we weren’t keen. So I tried a cashew nut base (equal amounts raw cashews and water, which I left to soak overnight), and that came out fabulously. The first batch I did was chocolate peanut butter – 2 cups cashews, 2 cups water, a slug of rice milk, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup agave syrup, blended within an inch of its life, then put through the ice cream maker. Then right before I put it in the freezer, I swirled through 1/2 cup of softened peanut butter, for that lovely salty/sweet flavour combo. Delish. I didnt find it spike my blood sugar either. I’m going to try a maple syrup pecan vanilla one next.

I wanted to get a book on raw eating, but they all seemed a bit evangelical and OTT. There’s no way I would ever go 100% raw, and I don’t necessarily agree that that is the only healthy way to eat. It seems unbalanced. But I found this book, Reasonably Raw, and I like the fact that the author encourages you to add more raw foods to your existing diet, rather than taking away cooked foods and replacing them with raw. Very reasonable. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I’ve read through it. 

One Year

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my resolve to do something about my weight, my health, my fitness, my wellbeing. One year. On the one hand it seems to have gone by in a flash, and on the other, it feels like so much longer than a year. In that time I have lost 45 pounds, gone down 3 dress sizes (from a UK 18 to a UK 12), and reduced my dimensions by many, many inches. But those all feel like secondary benefits to the real achievements the last year has brought me.

  • I have gone from a life long couch potato to a pretty obsessed runner. I may not be the thinnest I have ever been, but I am certainly the fittest. I’ve had to battle my own demons to do this, those voices that shouted that I would NEVER be able to do it. When I first started I couldn’t even run for 60 seconds, and I wanted to give up, over and over and over. Now I can comfortably run for 60 minutes, and am hoping that by next Spring, my fitness will have gradually built up to the point of being able to run a half marathon.
  • I have completely changed my relationship to food. I was, and probably always will be, a comfort eater. But I’ve learned that if you give your body sufficient quantities of highly nutritious food, and take care of it in other ways besides eating, your tastes gradually change, your cravings calm down, and your body begins to respond in a positive way. I went vegetarian 1 year ago, and vegan a month after that, and every day that passes makes me love food more, more excited to try new things, more determined to give my body the best food I can manage, the cleanest diet, the freshest produce. I’m utterly convinced that this way of eating is the very best for me. And I love it. I never feel deprived or tempted to ‘cheat’. And I never feel like I am on a diet, thank goodness.
  • I’ve managed to maintain a good state of mental health, with no major dip over the winter, for the first time in many years. I’m absolutely convinced that that is due to both my eating and my exercise, and mainly to the latter. This feels like an incredible achievement, and a great weight off me as well. Every winter for the last few years I’ve had to increase my antidepressant dosage just to survive, and last year I was on the highest dose. If the winter brought another downwards plummet, there was nowhere to go, medication wise. Even my doctor was concerned about this. But taking care of my body effectively took care of my mind as well, and I no longer fear the winter months. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.

I’ve had a great deal of support over the last year, from family, friends, and my posh pals on Ravelry and here on the blog. I’m more grateful for that than I can tell you. I feel like everyone had a little part to play in my success. It makes me feel humbled when people say that my story is an inspiration to them, but my story is very much ongoing. I hope to achieve much more in the next year. My focus is not weight loss, or getting to a certain size. It’s about increasing my fitness, understanding my body’s needs and filling them, improving my health and wellbeing. Building on the foundation that the last year has laid. I turn 35 at the end of this year, and I’m sad that it’s taken me so long to start enjoying the body I have been given. But excited too, at all I have ahead of me.

Edited to add:

Tony has persuaded me that this one year celebration would be much more significant if I actually posted a photo of myself to go along with it. Well, here’s a quick one I snapped when trying on some new summer clothes yesterday. Its a VERY quick snap, just so that I could see how the outfit looked (I still cant quite bear having a full length mirror in the house), so do excuse the poor backdrop, headlessness, weird pose, and white legs with sock line. Oh gulp. Here’s a photo of me last year, and here’s another that’s slightly earlier, for comparison.

Daily Bread

I’ve been on a baking jag lately. It doesnt bother me that I can’t eat the fruits of my labour, I enjoy baking for Tony and for friends. I’ve mastered the art of the muffin (apple and blackberry is the favourite one so far), I made a very successful monkey bread for friends last night, but I’ve yet to bake a really good loaf of bread.

I think the trouble is, I want to bake healthy bread, wholemeal, grainy, old fashioned bread. I’ve tried various permutations, including oats, seeds, and a half/half blend of white flour and wholemeal flour, but my loaves are coming out very dense and heavy, not at all what I want. At some point I’m going to give sourdough bread a try, but until then, does anyone have any foolproof bread recipe or bread baking tip they can share? Tony’s tummy will thank you!