Wednesday, January 20, 2010

All diets work...

Tikka Mackerel on Salsa with Bombay Wedges

In this, my latest, attempt to lose weight, I am not following a particular diet plan. I am counting no points or calories, and I won't cut out any food groups. So, certainly no 'just eat xyz for a week'.
What am I going to do then? - you might well ask.

Well, I think: ALL DIETS WORK.

If you stick to them, that is. Some people claim that they did and still didn't lose weight. That's not my experience. I always did lose weight, although sometimes not as much as the diet promised.
I think what doesn't work is the maintenance. Once you've achieved your goal weight, the old bad habits creep back in, you lose the impetus to keep up the exercise, and before you know it, you're back to square one.

As I said before, one overweight person isn't like the next. I can only talk for myself, really. Even with the best intentions, there comes a point when I can't be bothered to count and weigh and add up. There comes a point when I just haven't got the time. There comes the point when I'm grateful when HE offers to cook...

After numerous attempts of losing it and putting it back on - I refuse to call it yo-yo - I have come to the conclusion that, basically, I need to stay on a diet for the rest of my life. That I have to see the whole thing as a handicap, as a dear friend of mine called it recently.

There are many, many reasons why this is difficult, one of them:

Healthy/Diet recipes are not suitable for the whole family

Of course, some of them claim to be - and maybe they are, somewhere in the universe - but they're usually not suitable for MY Family.

But if I want to keep this up indefinitely, and don't want to cook several meals, then they have to be not only suitable, but actually LIKED by my family. So, my very personal, tailor-made plan is:

  • I will draw on all the recipes that I have liked from any of the diets I have been on in the past
  • I will test out recipes that may fit in, i.e. suitable for all of us, and ideally, under 400 calories for the main meal
My men will give each main meal a rating of up to three stars.

no star = don't cook it again
1 star = we will eat it again
2 stars = we LIKE this one
3 stars = we LOVE this one

This is an adaptations from a recent Tesco magazine recipe:

(Serves 4)

4 mackerel, filleted (I bought just 3 fillets)
1 Tbsp Tikka curry paste (I used Pataks)
juice of 3 limes (I used half lime, half lemon)
1 red chilli, chopped
3 tbsp fresh coriander

For the Salsa:
1/4 cucumber, peeled and diced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 small red onion, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped

For the Bombay Wedges:
As many small new potatoes as you allow per person, scrubbed and cut into wedges
1 - 2 tsp Bombay spice
1 - 2 tsp olive oil

1. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes
2. Skewer the mackerel and place into a shallow dish
3. Spread with the tikka paste
4. Add chopped coriander chilli to lime juice and drizzle over the fillets, leave to marinate for 10 minutes
5. Boil water and blanch wedges for 2-3 minutes, then pat dry
6. Pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes to 2oo C
7. In a small plastic bag, combine olive oil, Bombay Mix and wedges, mix well
8. Spread wedges out on a non-stick baking tray and season. Bake for ca 20 minutes
9. Mix all the ingredients for the salsa and arrange on the middle of your plates
10. Pre-heat the grill for the mackerel, grill for 3 - 4 minutes

I served ours with Bok Choi, but Savoy Cabbage would have been equally nice. My men gave it 2 stars, so this will become one of my staple oily fish dishes. The original Tesco recipe had no extra stodge or veg but salad leaves added to the salsa and came - at 2 fillets per person - to 255 calories.
As you can imagine, my men cannot start to comprehend the idea of 'no stodge', so I added the potato wedges. Not sure what the exact calorie count would be for my version. I didn't have the wedges, and I was perfectly full and satisfied.

Tesco's were selling mackerel fillets which were already marinated, and although I did go through the trouble of following the recipe, my verdict is that you could use them straight away without the bother, especially as all that good marinade is tipped away.

At £1.77 for the three fillets, it was also incredibly cheap.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Losing it Again...

Water after blanching red cabbage

The first kilo has gone, and I'm already feeling:
  • lighter
  • brighter
  • more energetic
  • less moody
I still don't sleep soundly, mainly because of lots of aches and pains, and I still wake up with pins and needles.

I have started on some light exercise, but I haven't managed to drink any more water, really. I usually try and do this with herbal teas, as straight cold water isn't very appealing in the winter, but I don't think I've managed the required minimum of 2 litres. Maybe keeping the 2 l bottle at room temperature will help.

Why is water so important? Apart from keeping our vital juices going (saliva, mucus, digestive), it regulates the body temperature, it "maintains blood-glucose levels by releasing sugar from the cells as needed" (Suzi Grant, 48 hours to a healthier life, penguin). Apparently, it even helps prevent allergic reactions, so really important for hay fever and asthma sufferers like me.

But fizzy water encourages cellulite, apparently!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snowdrops Keep Falling On My Head

January's birth flower, according to Wikipedia, is the carnation or the snowdrop. The little snowdrop fairy above is an approximation of what I must have looked like for Carnival. In several areas of Germany, dressing up for Carnival on Rose Monday (the Monday preceding Shrove, i.e. Pancake, Tuesday) is very popular (more about that in due time). My Mum made that costume for me when I was eight maybe, and my legs were never that thin, even then. Nonetheless, everyone was always on about what "a bad eater" I was, and on paper at least, I was always underweight.

They needn't have worried. Now, some 40 odd years later, with a BMI of 30 or 31, I'm considered obese. The struggle to get down to at least 25 has been going on for a long time, and while I managed to get even further down at some point, it has always crept back up. Whatever anybody comes up with in terms of explanations why some of us face this life-long battle, I usually just want to scream.
Why can't they see what is blindingly obvious to me? The overweight, the obese, the clinically obese are not one big group, all with the same problem(s) and the same underlying factors!!! Of course there are people who have the most outrageous diets, who totally gorge themselves on an epic scale. Of course there are people with a fully fledged eating disorder.
But anyone who was perfectly within the norm as a child and teenager (or even below, like me) may simply be a victim of a cluster of factors from within the unhealthy Western life-style. And yes, a predisposition to put on weight is another factor. Some people live that same life-style without putting weight on. Maybe some, but not anywhere near 3 stone in a year. They are, of course, the 3 stone I had lost before - as the saying goes: I keep losing weight, but it keeps finding me - and it is a sad truth that 90 % of people who lose weight put it back on!!! (No, I cannot tell you where I've got that figure from, I didn't record that.)

What makes it so much worse is:
When you lose weight, you lose weight and muscle, when it goes back on, it usually goes on in fat!

So, I'm all blubber now, and the only way to change that is the dreaded E-Word: EXERCISE.
It is the only way to increase muscle, after all. The good thing about it is:
The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate!! For every pound of muscle, your body uses around 50 extra calories per day.

But, luckily, snowdrops keep falling, which gives me the excuse for not getting into the car and to the gym...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

El Dia de los Tres Reyes

is what the Spanish speaking countries call Epiphany, and this is what we saw in Spain - the three kings entering the house, very much in the same fashion as Father Christmas/Santa (who could be seen alongside climbing the walls).

I have written about the feast of the three kings before when I made the French Kings' Cake. It was very nice but also very rich, so this time I'd like to make one which is more bread than cake. See here for an overview of kings' cakes from different countries.

The Spanish Rosca de Reyes and the Portuguese Bolo Rei both fall into this category, but it is the New Orleans version that takes my fancy. First of all because the King Cake has a complete season there - namely between Epiphany and Mardi Gras - and secondly because this connection is responsible for its Carnival colours, purple, gold and green.

See here and here for more information and recipes. I'm probably going to end up with a combination recipe.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Happy Twenty Ten!

I got this in card form for my birthday. I believe it's a Banksy. So fitting. A lot of the time, I don't manage beyond the above - and sometimes, even getting dressed lies well beyond my capabilities... No, I kid you not. Today is the first day of the new year that I have achieved as much, and apart from a handful of e-mails it has been my only form of action No, hang on, I've done a little clearing up in the front room, and I've emptied the dishwasher. My only other contribution has been in a consultancy role with regard to a painting in the style of Klimt. I even provided just the right sort of golden paint. I knew where that was, you see, as opposed to far more important things such as passport photograsphs for Ben's term time bus pass...
So, it seems this year has begun as so many others before, with me out of action due to a cold, and other members of the family as disorganised as usual...
BUT, as I am out of bed and dressed, I shall call today a successful day! Maybe, if I keep my expectations low, I can actually try and attack one or the other thing on my plate!!!