Wednesday, 9 March 2011

30 Day Shred - First Review

I have been neglecting this blog. And sadly my diet.

Or rather my diet has been neglecting me. Despite sticking to my allowed Weightwatcher's points allowance (or pretty much), I have not lost much weight. We all know how annoying and demotivating that is.

It was clear that if I were to achieve my aim, I would have to do more exercise. Just the dog walking was obviously not enough, neither is the once a week on the crosstrainer.

This weekend I finally unwrapped the DVD that I have had for several weeks. Twitter friends recommended Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred . It is an exercise video that takes 20 minutes a day. The advantage is that finding that half-hour every day is doable, even if you have a tight schedule. It is based on the program that Jillian developed for the NBC reality show "The Biggest Loser".

It is a 20 minute intense workout, with three six minute circuits broken down into:

3 minutes of cardio training (jumping jacks, butt kicks, boxing...)
3 minutes strength (push ups, squats with arm presses..)
1 minute abs (crunches, reverse crunches...)

in Level One. You can follow either of the two assistants, one of whom does a slightly easier version, eg. the squats are not so deep so better suited for absolute beginners.

I am on Day 4 today and so far can report:

- Day 1 was HARD but doable
- Day 2 was slightly easier, but I was working through the muscle pain of the day before
- Day 3 I woke up feeling really sore and had to force myself to Shred but it was great.

I did some extra stretching/cool-down exercises on Day 3 and found that I had much less muscle pain afterwards.

The other things that I have noticed is that my appetite is reduced, I have been having a yogurt and fruit for lunch and have completely cut out snacking.

I am also sleeping better. By 11pm, I am really tired and off to bed. Normally I don't sleep until 1am. Today, I woke at 6.45am when my husband left for work, and bounced out of bed. Well, bounced is not quite accurate, but I didn't have to be dragged kicking and screaming, as is the norm.

My back pain is less than it was - which is surprising considering the crunches sometimes hurt my back. I guess that strengthening the tummy muscles is helping there.

Updates on this coming in the next weeks, as I hope that there will soon be a noticeable difference in my shape - from what I have read many don't notice a big drop on the scales, but their clothes fit better and they look slimmer. I have lost 1kg since Sunday, so that is promising.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Breakfast Ideas

Last week I blogged about my Special K experience, so this week I am exploring different ideas for healthy and filling breakfasts.

Like many people, I function better on a full stomach in the morning. Eating breakfast sets me up for the day and avoids the 10am I-will-just-nip-into-a-cafe-and-have-a-cup-of-coffee that invariably ends with coffee and a croissant.

Saying that, in comparison with a big bowl of Special K, there is no need to avoid the yummy croissant if that is what you really want since it has 6 points in comparison to 10 points for Special K.

My idea of a diet - or a healthy eating plan - is to have no absolute bans. If I want a croissant, I will  have one - but then I have to work around that the rest of the day. Which is why the Weightwatchers plan works well for me.

I avoid low fat food, as I am not convinced that they help with weightloss. A normal yogurt with some fresh fruit is still low in points enough and fills me up longer than a tasteless low fat yogurt. In the book In Defense of Food Micheal Pollan describes the way in which we are fooled into thinking that low fat = good. I can highly recommend the book, it made me look more closely at my eating habits and the way in which I view food.

I love baking, and there is nothing better than homemade bread. I use this recipe,  to make about 18 slices of bread, just over 2 weightwatchers points per slice. Spread with cream cheese or quark and jam or marmalade, it is a delicious breakfast that keeps me going until lunchtime. I bake bread a couple of times a week, it can be sliced and frozen if need be.

As an alternative to Special K, I put forward the humble - or not so humble muesli. Occasionally I treat myself to a muesli from This is a fantastic idea. I love muesli but don't like nuts so that severely limits my choice of products. On the website you can chose your base muesli - be it Tropicana with barley flakes, oat flakes, wheat honey pops and coconut flakes, or the more traditional Damn Nutritious with barley, spelt and oat flakes or one of the eleven other mixes. Then customise your muesli by adding other ingredients, such as sesame seeds, rice flakes, quinoa or linseed. Now comes the really fun bit.

You can add fruit to your muesli - bananas, apples, mango, pineapple, strawberries - nuts and seeds and "extras". Extras are ingredients such as white choc covered cranberries/bananas/corn crispers, chocolate crunchies, choc raisins, even gummibears! Not sure I would want gummibears in my muesli, but to each their own. Each ingredient that you add makes the muesli slightly more expensive, so you do have to be careful not to fill your box too full.

You can of course go for a pre-mixed box such as the Copacabana Days - I worked this out as 4 points for 45g - which is this much. It doesn't look like much but is very filling. Add milk and perhaps a spoonful of yogurt.

At the weekend, when breakfast is a meal to be lingered over and enjoyed, there is no reason to go without a cooked breakfast - within reason. Two rashers of bacon, a poached egg, beans and a grilled tomato for 6 points - for another two points add a hashbrown or slice of bread and you are still eating less than a large bowl of Special K.

Last week I made a fruit milkshake - so much better than one of those horrible Slimfast drinks, both for your health and your taste buds. My son had asked for a strawberry milkshake, but buying summer fruit in January is a no no in this house. I bought a packet of frozen raspberries/blueberries and popped them in the blender with a 1/2 litre of milk - shared between the three of us. It was almost an ice cream as the fruit was not fully defrosted.

There is nothing worse than getting up in the morning and facing a depressing diet breakfast of half a grapefruit and a ryvita cracker. We need to be inventive and unafraid to eat normally. Particularly those of us with a lot to lose are going to find it hard to stick to a strict diet of salad and fruit for long. I find if I have had a delicious, filling breakfast that I am much more likely to avoid the temptations of the bakery midmorning.

Here are my top 5 breakfasts - with Weightwatchers Points. Remember, I am on 29 points a day, so I am aiming for a breakfast of between 6 and 8 points.

Bread with Quark and Jam
Homemade bread  2 slices  5 points
Quark/Cheese       2 tsp      1 point
Jam                       1 tsp      1 point
Total                                  7 POINTS 

Great British Breakfast 
Bacon               2 rashers  3 points
Egg, poached                    1 point
Tomato, grilled                  0 points
Baked beans, 2tbsp          2 points
Total                                6 POINTS

Fruit Milkshake
Frozen fruit                        0 points
Semi-skimmed milk            2 points
TOTAL                            2 POINTS

Bread with Poached Egg
Homemade bread             5 points
Poached egg                     1 point
Butter, 2 tsp                      2 point
TOTAL                            7 points  

Muesli                               4 points
Milk                                  2 points
Yogurt                               1 point
TOTAL                            7 POINTS 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Kellogs Special K Challenge

Special K - they brand of cereal that advises us to eat a bowl of cereal twice a day, to lose a jeans size in two weeks. Their advert suggests that it is so easy, so effortless.

I admit that I have always eaten Special K since I started trying to lose weight. For many years, I would feel virtuous and "good" (how I hate that, but that is a topic for another blog post, good and bad food) when I ate Special K for breakfast instead of my preferred bread with ham, or bread with jam.

On the Special K website, you can chose which program you wish to follow and are given a list of meals suggestions. These plans are from the US website requires no registration. It was not really clear when searching for the Special K diet that I was on the US website, it was the "cup" portion sizes that finally alerted me to this mistake.

These are two different plans, one Classic and one Mix it Up - for foodies and those who want variety.

Variety is not something that there is a lot of on either of these plans. Special K features heavily, of course, but the suggestion of replacing meals with a French Vanilla Protein shake, or a cereal bar - all from Kellogs of course does not seem like a healthy diet to me. Even just for two weeks. Some days there is the option of eating a salad or a light meal but other days are complete cereal / cereal products days. I don't know about you, but I think after a couple of days I would be heartily fed up of that.

 In the interest of research, I registered for the UK website, which bizarrely offers menu plans with very little Special K - just occasionally for breakfast. The "diet plans" on the UK website are similar to those on offer from Weightwatchers or from any other diet, so lots of fruit and veg, healthy options.

Recently, when I restarted my Weightwatchers program, I decided to be careful and weigh my portions to ensure that I am not mistakenly eating too much.

The serving size that we should be eating, according to the packaging of Special K is 30g. This is a normal sized cereal bowl, with 30g of Special K. Not a lot, is it?

I will give Kellogs the benefit of the doubt. Elsewhere I have read that the portion size for the Special K Challenge is "up to 45g".

Still, if I am being completely honest, that would not see me through a whole morning. This is more like my normal portion, 90g.

These photos were taken using average sized bowls - from Denby.

So, the next thing I did was to work out how many Weightwatcher points each bowl would have. Bearing in mind that my daily points allowance is 29 points:

30 g - 3 points

45 g - 4 points

90 g - 9 points

Add to that the points of the milk, then you are easily up to 10 or 11 points, depending on the size of the bowl and how much milk you use. A third of the allowed points in one bowl of cereal.

My husband was horrified, as he often peps up his Special K with a handful of CocoPops and some oat flakes.

When you realise that instead of a bowl of Special K, you could have a sandwich with ham and salad, or a bowl of chili con carne, then the "healthy option" becomes less effective.

So the result of my research:

  • If you don't want to spend the money on Weightwatchers Online, check out My Special K UK for a free diet plan.
  • Special K is not a weight loss product. I would rather have a bowl of spaghetti bolognese for dinner than a bowl of cereal, and I would still be within my daily points allowance.
  • Check the labels and your portion sizes. Don't guess it, weigh it!
  • If you think that you are likely to lose a dress size easily in a month, think again. 

Monday, 17 January 2011

Weight Loss Myths - Follow THIS diet and you will lose X kgs in Y weeks

To lose weight you have to follow a particular plan 

When I look back at the fads, the plans, the ultimate diets that the media present, I am struck by one thing. The only people benefiting from the constantly changing advice are the publishers of the magazines and books praising them.

First it was Low Fat and we all charged out to buy low fat food, which is often not only low in fat, but low in taste too. Then Low Carb, where we could eat as much bacon, egg and sausages as we could fit onto our plates, as long as we did not eat a slice of bread or some beans with it. At the moment it seems that High Protein is the new Low Carb, but I am sure that this will be disproven and a new wonderdiet will be proclaimed. Likely before the Spring, ready for the bikini season.

The best way to lose weight is to eat less and move more.

The reason we lose weight on any kind of restrictive diet is because we are more conscious of what we are eating. Be it low in fat or carb or high in protein. We are "on a diet" and when we announce this, if even to ourselves, we eat less.

I find that banning anything, makes me crave it even more. So if I say, "NO CHOCOLATE", then I will hold out all week then gorge on a chocolate cake at the weekend. If I say, "less chocolate" and allow myself a treat occasionally then I can take it or leave it.

For me, this means buying a box of expensive chocolates - I love Godiva chocs - and eating one or two pralines a week.

When I tried out Low Carb, I craved yogurt and fruit. And bread. God, did I crave bread. And when I fell off the wagon, I ate loads of it. Slightly defeats the purpose.

I like Weightwatchers as I can pick and chose what I want to eat and it is very flexible. I find it difficult to stick to a diet that tells me what I should be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ideally, I would be going to a meeting but since there are no English speaking ones in Geneva, and my French is not really good enough to enjoy a local one, I will stick to online Weightwatchers.

Breakfast today was two small slices of toast, with Le Petit Frais - a kind of soft/cottage cheese - and apricot jam. I use Le Petit Frais instead of butter, it is delicious with jam and much lighter. Getting used to eating smaller portions was difficult to begin with, but soon becomes easier as I get used to eating less.

I have lost 1.5kgs in the past week, 2kgs altogether since I started my journey on 3rd January. This week I shall start using my cross trainer to try and boost the weight loss.

Let me know how you are doing, and what you are planning to do this week.

There is no "best diet" plan. There is just the one that works for you. Do share your experiences in the comments below so that we can learn from each other.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The journey continues

I am on my way...

This morning as I was drying my hair (with my fab Babyliss Big Hair which I reviewed on my main blog) I was thinking about weight loss and age.

It struck me that I am wasting the best years of my life. The years between 30 and 50 have the potential to be fabulous. We are less filled with angst than when we were teenagers or in our early 20s, but not yet facing the problems that advancing age brings.

I want to be fit, healthy and good looking. What am I waiting for?

When I was 19 I was slim, but a typical teenager. I was conflicted, unsure of myself. In my twenties I married and settled down, had my children in my late twenties and early thirties.

Now I am 38 years old and for the past 6 years I have struggled with my weight. I look at my mother, who has spent her entire life gaining 5lbs and then losing 5lbs, gaining 8lbs then losing again. She has been a member of Weightwatchers, or Scottish Slimmers for at least 10 years.

I want to enjoy life. I am more self-confident now than I was in my teens. I know my place in life, I have a fantastic husband, healthy and funny children, a cute little white dog. We live a good life in an area of great natural beauty. I want to enjoy that.

And yet, I am held back by my weight.

Last summer we went to the beach in the village and I hid my body under a voluminous cover-up. Enviously, I watched the other mothers splash and play with their children, free of self-loathing and shame.

It is time to stop hiding, time to start living.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

A New Beginning

Anyone who has followed my blog about my life in Switzerland may have read my post on New Years Resolutions earlier this month. 

One of my resolutions was to lose weight and get healthier. I have made lists (a talent of mine) and written down my goals. One of the important things when making NY resolutions is to be specific - not a general "I am going lose weight" but "I will lose X kg by <date>". 

I am well versed in the theory of weight loss. Some time after the birth of my son in 2004, I looked at myself in the mirror and did not like what I saw. The weight that I had put on before, during and after my pregnancy was making me unhappy, it was time to do something about it. 

When I look back at my "before" photos, I remember the feeling of dissatisfaction. Previously interested in fashion, it was getting more difficult to find clothes that fit and looked good. Shopping was no fun,  glaring lights in changing rooms which highlighted every bulge. It was time. 

This photo was taken in the Spring of 2005, shortly before I started with my weight loss plan. There are few photos of me at my heaviest, because I avoided the camera, preferring to be the photographer so as not to be captured on film.

Signing up with Weightwatchers made me get serious about losing weight. Not only did I have the support and information of the Weightwatchers program but going to be weighed every week certainly concentrates the mind. I joined a gym that I used three times a week. A friend wanted to lose weight so we encouraged each other, and allowed no slacking. It was not a crash diet, I lost quite a lot in the first few months the the weight loss slowed. 

By summer of 2006, I had lost over 20kg. I was not quite at goal, but close. 

Looking back at these photos, I am not quite sure how it happened. Slowly, kilo for kilo, I started to put on weight. This photo is from summer of 2008, shortly before when we moved to Geneva.

Spring of 2009

Autumn of 2009

Spring of 2010

Autumn 2010

Xmas 2010

That last photo - I was not sure if I should use it or not. But if that does not get me back on track, then nothing will. 

Enough looking back. Now to look forward.

I have signed up with Weightwatchers UK online, and am counting points again. The iPhone app from Weightwatchers UK was the reason I signed up there rather than on the Swiss or German site. 

Since I wrote the blog post about NY resolutions, I have lost 2kg, the first of many I hope. 

One of my goals (I will write about them in more detail in a later post) is to have lost 10kg before I go to Germany in April. When I have done this I would like to make an appointment with a local Style and Image Consultant. She will advise me on the best colours and styles to suit my new figure, and on the best hairstyle, along with a top hairstylist in Geneva. 

My final goal is to reach the elusive 65kg. 

The motto of my weightloss plan is LIVE MORE BRAVELY and this blog is my online diary of that journey to a new me.