It Must Suck To Be A Vegetarian At Christmas

I never thought I’d say this, but for once I find myself in total agreement with my father’s view that political correctness has gone mad.

According to The Independent newspaper in the UK, a researcher has proposed that idioms such as “bringing home the bacon” and “flogging a dead horse” should be removed from the English language because the imagery they create is offensive and upsetting to vegans and vegetarians.

Veganism is on the increase, and at a time when some celebrate Veganuary and it’s just as easy to buy veggie burgers and sausages in supermarkets as the genuine dead animal, while I agree that an awareness of the sensitivities of others is important, where does it end?

The next step will be to stop insulting plant life as well, because surely, “as thin as a twig” has to be body shaming to the twig in the same way that the accusation of being “as red as a beetroot” is typically used as a derogatory observation.

It’s never easy to make a stand for your beliefs – particularly when it comes to food choices and intolerances – in the face of, (shall we say), old-fashioned principles. However, sometimes Karma has a funny way of evening the score. And one of those times took place during my recent holiday as my father reached into the fridge for a swig of orange juice one morning and grabbed at my carton of almond milk instead.

A smile may have crossed my lips as I watched him spit the offensive liquid over the kitchen floor after the barrage of insults inflicted on both NC and myself in relation to our dietary choices – hers vegetarian, and mine dairy-free.

For this is a man who prides himself on being a “war baby,” and hence, eats everything – a fact that was rammed down my throat as a child every time I refused to clear my plate of food – which was often because there is NOTHING (shudder) the man will not eat.

“Sell-by” and “best before” dates are ridiculed in his house. Indeed, the more moldy and unappealing a piece of food appears, the more gusto the man demonstrates in its consumption.

That was why I was careful to remind him about NC’s vegetarianism prior to our arrival – she only eats fish when she feels like it is pushed – a warning that was met by the usual muffled grumblings of disgust. And when I went on to inform him that I was currently dairy-free – for health reasons – I’m certain that his derogatory whoop of disgust traveled from the northern to the southern hemisphere with the speed of light.

If I’m honest, I knew that I was pushing my luck when I requested vegan cheese and almond milk – although anyone would think my request was that he smuggle a stash of heroin through Bali rather than be seen buying vegan cheese from Waitrose.

For, as I suspected, it is still not deemed fully socially acceptable in some circles of the UK to be vegetarian or lactose intolerant, which makes it tricky to eat out. Added to which, the British diet is influenced by the climate and is heavily laden with meat. But while the word tofu may still be met with some confusion, I did manage to find a decent coffee with rice-coconut milk as a substitute and we were also introduced to a fabulous veggo restaurant near Oxford Circus called Ethos. And trust me, there’s no danger of getting fat there either because they charge you by the weight of your plate.

I pity vegans, particularly at this time of the year.

A roast without meat, (or in Australia, shellfish and salads, but without the shellfish), is nothing to get excited about at Christmas lunch, and neither is Mum’s nut roast substitute that everyone knows is little more than reconstituted stuffing.

But, each to their own.

Poor NC remained admirably stoic as her Grandad ranted off a list of sustainable fish to her every mealtime while we stayed with him – a list he had learned by heart in an attempt to either understand or ridicule her beliefs – I’m not sure which. And as I watched him force-feed her prawns and mussels, he made me swear to consume every last morsel of vegan cheese from the fridge prior to my departure, just in case it contaminated the dead animals.

The Hidden Link Between Muscle Tone And Weight Gain In Middle Age

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I know I drone on about the unfairness of weight gain in middle age a lot. I don’t want to sound like some narcissistic bitch bemoaning the first-world problem of the loss of my youth, beauty, and self-esteem, (which I am…obviously), but we women of a certain age have a lot to come to terms with.

Almost a year ago, as I began to watch the weight creep on, I decided to try something new. I took up exercise again. I suppose I got caught up in the hype of wanting to look young again – thank you Revitalift – and so I’ve been secretly beavering away at some fitness stuff in an attempt to shed the kilos and keep the old ticker working as it should.

I suppose I thought I’d surprise you. If women’s magazines are anything to go by, many of us struggle with our weight at this age and I thought that one day I would put up my before and after photos and my secret to losing weight on this site and you’d all hate me. I’d sell my story about how I did it, and how simple it really was, because all it really involves is loving yourself, drinking lots of red wine (not white) and walking to the pub instead of catching an Uber. I thought I’d be one of those unrealistic representations of health that you see in photos of beautiful, young people in the gym. Only I’m no longer young and beautiful.

But then, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided to get on the scales – something I haven’t done since the last time I couldn’t do up my jeans – and to my horror, I discovered that I’d gained six kilos. This, after almost killing myself for a year.

And the problem with that is that I’m not the sort that sees the unfairness of life as a challenge. I see the world in black and white – as in I’m the type that receives that kind of devastating news and heads straight to the pantry for a six-pack of Kettle Chips and a bottle of Baileys, in spite of everything I write about accepting myself for who I am.

To be honest, I’m feeling kind of cheated right now about all that time I spent gritting my teeth through the pain in my lungs and the swelling in my knees, and my disappointment isn’t entirely linked to vanity. It’s linked to the unfairness of working so damned hard for fuck-all results. It is linked to the sacrifice and unfairness of losing not only my looks, my hair, and my memory, but of also having to come to terms with how my clothes sit on my new size 14 frame.

We’ve all heard overweight friends say things like, ‘I don’t know why I can’t lose the weight,’ and then we watch them eat and become smugly judgmental. And I will admit to enjoying my food as well. On occasion, I have been known to give in to my body’s natural bent for eating MOST of the pies, and yet, in general, I eat healthily at least five days a week.

And yes, (before The Alcohol Police remind me), I am fully aware of those naughty wine calories, which I had hoped would be compensated by my hour of exercise each day. Two glasses of wine equate to 160 calories, which by my calculations, equates to an hour’s walk. Added to which, I must lose the equivalent amount of liquid in sweat during my jogs around the park.

Cortisol can be another cause of weight gain at this age, and I admit that I have been content in the past to latch onto the excuse of stress as a result of Kurt’s antics and living with the old man. And yet I can’t even blame the boy at the moment, who has been suspiciously tame for a while now.

Which leaves only a couple of possible excuses reasons for this weight gain. 1. The first is that biologically-speaking, many middle-aged women gain weight during menopause – something to do with an extra padding of fat to protect our crumbling bones, which is vital if we want to continue to outlive men and lead the human race. Because seriously…who wants to leave this world on something boring like a fall, unless it’s in a bar, of course? But as I’m not officially in menopause yet, it has to be the second reason.

2. Muscle tone.

There’s A Sandwich Shortage In Australia

Far be it for me to take the spotlight away from Barnaby Joyce’s affair, however, Australia has a far bigger problem than a defunct political role model.

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It has a sandwich shortage.

 

When you drive through the state of NSW – that bit around Sydney and up to the Gold Coast – you will notice that the country is nothing like the way it is depicted in movies such as Mad Max ie. barren, soul-less, with kilometers of dirt, dust and cattle farms and serial killers that wait to hijack your combi the minute you step out of it for a pee. No, NSW is lush and green with beautiful beaches that must compete with some of the best in the world,

 

But long journeys are as boring AF, and what most of us tend to do when we’re bored is think about food.

 

In the UK, motorway cafes and petrol stations have remarketed themselves as fully stocked supermarkets that offer a variety of lunch options and snacks – they even sell wine. Whole aisles are dedicated to the sandwich, from the traditional egg and cress or chicken and mayo – my personal favorites – to the more exotic gourmet flavors handed down by their immigrant population. Even quinoa must have infiltrated the sandwich market at some level by now.

 

I bet that even Dean Moriarty, Jack Kerouac’s character in On The Road, found somewhere that made a decent sandwich, but in regional Australian, similar quests always seem to end in a hot pie with sauce (or “poie” as we pronounce it here) or a Maccas heart-attack fest. Mention a sandwich and the eyes of the locals glaze over – as though you just landed in one of North Korea’s practice missiles – which is kind of depressing when you think about the progress that has been made in diet and nutrition.

 

Far be it for me to knock the staple comfort food of my adopted country – I imagine that the steak pie has far more goodness in it than a super-sized Big Mac meal with a side of a chicken and cheeseburger and an Oreo sundae, which is Kurt’s lunch of choice after years of enforced healthy eating, but even with the dietary tweaks one makes on holiday, it is difficult to find anything healthy and tasty on the road.

 

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Admit it, you thought I was joking.

 

Sure, there are plenty of lollies, the sugar-fix of choice (if you can agree on whether to go sweet or sour) with six hours of barren landscape ahead of you, fights over playlists, bitching about the speed limit and which toilets to stop at. And there are plenty of (frankly) weird places to stop at in this vast country – Big Bananas, and cafes shaped like rocks where you sense that no one has ever heard of Netflix, (let alone dedicated their life to the sport of watching it), waxing or customer service, and where coffee is served via machines that all function slightly differently making you wish that IT was on the curriculum when you were at school – which all take on a heightened significance when you need to lift the tedium and pretense that there is any conversation left after twenty-five years of marriage.

 

We settled for a burger in the end. I couldn’t repeat the experience of last year when (finally) we found a café that was open and had a friendly staffer who had actually heard of the word “sandwich”, hadn’t run out of bread or only took cash. And it was only when I said the word “mayo” three times without a single glimmer of recognition of the abbreviated condiment, that all hope crumbled. When they (obviously) fertilized the egg, reared the bird and cooked it as we waited, my anxiety went into “abort mission” mode and the sandwich ended up in a bin down the street.

 

So we ended up at Maccas, again, and shared a portion of chips, one of those boring concessions to the aging process, where you allow yourself to stand on the edge of the pool of holiday-brazen-ness, but you only go in up to your waist. It’s a bitch getting old and realizing that you can’t ingest or imbibe whatever the fuck you want and that mental point system of calories in your head booms at you through a megaphone with “what the fuck are you thinking, you fat bitch?” every time you contemplate anything naughty but nice.

 

A full portion of chips is three glasses of wine to the muffin-top-challenged, so it’s a no-brainer, really.

Eating And Drinking Healthily In Middle Age To Maintain Your Body Weight

I’ve written a lot of posts about this topic in the past because let’s face it, girls, on a scale of stuff that still turns us on in middle age, (where sex with our husbands/partners is at one), food has to be at least a ten. The struggle is real. And to my horror, I recently discovered that there is sugar in fruit and wine – which is a bit rude, frankly – and a fact that has made rather a mockery of just about everything I have aspired to achieve over the past few years in my war on the muffin top.

 

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Sugar in fruit? Like, WTF!

 

The good news (this week) is that two glasses of red wine before bedtime is now good for us, according to the fat-busting scientists, which must mean that for those that are partial to a few more than two (due to mental health issues, say), that makes them virtually Roger Federer.

 

I gave up on traditional diets a long time ago, mainly because they don’t work, I can’t stick to them and they make me very dull and bad-tempered with a hunger only seen in Labradors and an irrational fixation on the breadbasket.

 

Fortunately, I am a moderation kind of girl, (Kettle Chips and cheese excluded – OBVS) and although I don’t deny myself any food groups really – except octopus because WTF and legs – I like to think that I choose wisely and healthily. I also try to balance my out my diet using a cutting-edge, self-developed point system that I stole from Weightwatchers designed for myself, that seems to work for me… sometimes – as in I don’t get the kind of hunger where all I can think about is eating other people’s leftovers in cafes and I can maintain focus on a sensible health target at this stage of my life – to maintain my drinking goals and weight at the same time.

 

Here are some of my tips:

 

If I have yogurt for brekkie, I won’t touch dairy for the rest of the day until my Snickers smoothie at bedtime.

 

If I blow out seriously on carbs, I limit myself to less than a bottle of wine that evening.

 

If I’ve starved myself with a steak and blue cheese salad for lunch, denied myself my morning tea toast and my afternoon snack of crackers and hummus, I allow myself an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink week.

 

I only eat carbs when I’m hormonal, pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal, feeling fat, feeling unloved, feeling hungry, the kids hate me, or with wine.

 

You see – all pretty straightforward really. But let’s be honest, we all have those really shitty years when there’s been nothing on telly but sport for months, you’re fifty-two and still getting acne or your local restaurants decide to allow babies, and it’s hard to be virtuous all the time. Those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed with Pods on toast and an Amaretto on ice. And on those occasions – because remember, I said it’s about balance – I increase my exercise by searching out the furthest pub on Google maps and walking there AND BACK.

Who Knew That There IS Actually A Link Between Iron And Energy?

So it turns out that you actually need iron in your body, whereas I always thought that iron was naturally in your blood – one of those minerals that you didn’t really have to worry about apart from during pregnancy, because it had no real function like your appendix, and your clitoris, according to the old man. I also thought when you became deficient (AKA anemic), and your gums and your eyelids turned that scary shade of white, a few dead animals in your diet or some iron tablets and associated constipation, would cure it. Who remembers the black stools of pregnancy? Sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it?

 

‘The black stools are coming…’ said in Vincent Price voice.

 

The thing is, I don’t really eat a lot of animals anymore, mainly because my daughter – one of those anal, in-your-face vegetarians who refuses to sit quietly and munch on her Tofu, won’t let me. And as you know, she’s very scary. Added to which, I’m in that stage of perimenopause where each month is like a scene from The Texan Chainsaw Massacre because I’m losing a lot of iron DURING MY PERIOD as well.

 

In fact, iron has a more serious function that merely being proof of how many kale smoothies you consume to brag about in book club – and as an interesting side note, you’d have to eat a ton of spinach to see any real change to your results – thank fuck!. You see, it actually carries oxygen around the blood which gives you more energy and means you are less listless – something that has been an issue for me for most of my life, and may, in fact, be genetic which is why Kurt’s iron levels will also be checked out asap. In my case, the symptoms only became really noticeable recently when I struggled to lift a wine bottle to my mouth one Friday night.

 

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How I think I look in my deficient state.

 

Anyway, the idea that I might beat that old bitch at the pool who keeps overtaking me in the fast lane was appealing, and as recent research suggests that there is a link between cancer and low oxygen levels, I decided to take my deficiency seriously. So when my doctor mentioned an iron infusion –  because my gut struggles to absorb iron in the same way it can alcohol – and I learned that the treatment requires a REAL drip from a REAL nurse that delivers the iron intravenously while you lie in a treatment room and look like there is genuinely something wrong with you – frankly, it sounded too good to be true. Disappointingly, though, you don’t get tea and biscuits afterwards like you do for a blood donation.

 

The health system is fantastic in Australia because we pay for it and unlike countries like the UK where you have to wait a year for an appointment and only get to see a specialist once you can prove you’ve ordered your coffin, here the GPs are lavish with referrals and scans. They are the Father Christmas’ of the medical world and a veritable lifesaver for those of the hypochondriac persuasion among us.

 

Even better, there are some minor risks to getting an iron infusion, so when you tell people about it, you can use that low voice that sounds like the treatment is REALLY FUCKING SERIOUS. There’s the possibility of headaches, fever, nausea etc – pretty much a typical Sunday morning hangover – plus an interesting new one where staining of the skin can occur at the injection site. When my doctor described this low-risk side effect, it sounded rather like a free tattoo to me – something that is definitely on my bucket list – so it seemed like a no-brainer.

 

Evidently, I didn’t do my research properly because I thought I would exit the surgery…I mean, injection, rather like those women in sanitary towel adverts, with enough energy to roller blade around the supermarket, surf in the middle of winter or even cook dinner, but alas, it can take up to two weeks for the effects to kick in. So, two more weeks of bed rest and the excuse to raise barely more than a weak eyelid when the old man suggests cleaning of any description…because deficiencies need to be taken seriously...but I’ll keep you updated. If I manage to knock out more than two blog posts this week, you’ll know I’m in recovery.

 

Whatever Floats Off Your Boat

Like many people I suspect, whenever I’m under pressure to perform or create an impression, I fuck up badly. tree-trunk-in-the-water-1254566_1280

 

Last weekend we were invited onto the boat of some of the old man’s work friends. For normal people, the idea of jet-setting around on a yacht in the clear, emerald-green waters of the Hawkesbury on what was forecast to be a beautiful Saturday night, with dinner in a stunning restaurant at the water’s edge afterwards, is a dream come true. I was naturally fearful.

 

Boating and skiing fall into the same category of “extreme sports” in my world, which is shaped by anxiety, and means that I see anything and everything as out to get me. For this reason, I only dip my toe into risky activities when I have to, even though there are elements of faking the life of the rich and famous that I could become rather accustomed to.

 

Unfortunately, work commitments meant that the old man and I couldn’t sail into the bay with the rest of our party that afternoon and so we were whisked onto our floating bedroom for the night just prior to appetisers and pre-dinner drinks. The setting and forecast couldn’t have been better as I tripped over a guide wire upon embarkation, which I managed to laugh off in spite of my insides doing a reverse dive with a half somersault and we spent a gloriously magical evening with extremely generous hosts and new friends.

 

One aspect of boating life that has always terrified me is the toilet arrangements. In fact, sod tweezers, food and music, top of my list of desert island must-haves would be a WC. ‘Pee off the side’, had been the old man’s helpful suggestion when I voiced my concerns before we left civilisation, which did little to sway my fear, but luckily we struck gold on this occasion when we found that our cabin was within spitting distance of the boat’s manual toilet. And in spite of the Titanic theme tune that refused to stop playing over and over again in my head, I relaxed after dinner and slept like a baby.

 

However, come the morning and after a night where I probably consumed more food than I would typically in a whole week, I had to go number twos.

 

Now some might find that situation awkward but I wasn’t concerned, because by now I was a pro at the process of filling and emptying the manual toilet. So it was with a new-found confidence that I slipped discreetly into the tiny cubicle while the rest of my new boating friends enjoyed their coffee in the morning sun, and careful not to over-use the paper, be efficient and quick, I was satisfied that no-one would ever know that I had dumped my load.

 

When I first pulled on the pump and nothing happened my anxiety meds kicked in reliably with their reassuring ‘it’ll be fine’ fervour, common in the first few seconds of one of my crises, even though the sight of the bulging culprit smirking evilly at me from the bottom of the bowl did little to assuage my sense of impending doom.

 

‘Breathe,’ I reminded myself as I tried to remain calm and began to pump furiously.

 

I pumped some more, aware that by now the Skipper must realize that we had a problem, but some guffaws from the cockpit reassured me that no-one knew, then I heard the engine go on and felt the boat begin to move, so I took full advantage of the noise and pumped with renewed vigour, silently praying that my nightmare hadn’t been detected.

 

But it was no use. The meanest-looking turd eventually went down with a helping hand, but that still left some persistent little critters floating around the surface, and finally I made the decision that breaking the toilet outweighed my shame and went and had a quiet word with the Skipper’s wife.

 

It was only when the old man told me that the whole boat had witnessed the product of my healthy bowel movements float past them over breakfast that it sunk in what a truly wonderful first impression I’d made with this new group of friends. There was no prize for the healthy buoyancy of my excrement, which the kayakers amongst our group were forced to dodge as they entered the water.

 

And I thought it was only me who considered “boating” such an extreme sport.

 

On a scale of “funny to the deepest shame”, the experience was more awkward than when my chicken fillet flew out of my bra and directly  into the face of my best friend’s husband when ‘Dancing Queen” came on at a party once, and slightly less shameful than when I was interviewed by Sydney University and was asked what I thought NC would gain from her time there and I responded ‘a high tolerance to alcohol.’

 

 

The Curse Of The Middle-Aged Baby Belly: Can Women Have It All – Both Wine And Food?

A common thread of conversation among my middle-aged friends is “weight gain”. We usually begin to moan about how little we can eat these days somewhere between dessert and cheese and then wash away our concerns with wine. maternity-830683_1280

 

I have to admit that having never suffered from serious weight gain issues before – apart from when I first discovered pints of lager at university – I used to think that they were linked to poor self-control and that if you pretended to exercise and ate in moderation, it was possible to maintain your weight. But it turns out that there is some science behind the middle-aged tyre, something about protecting our bones from breaking – although which bones my layer of lard is shielding around my navel, I have yet to learn.

 

One of the biggest priorities when we were looking for our new home recently was that it should be walking distance to a local pool, because the crazy machinations of the way my brain works got used to that luxury at our old place. I’ve been swimming for a while now and I can definitely see the benefits, although up until now it was more about maintaining my mental health than trying to disperse unwanted fat. Sadly, it seems I may have to change my focus now.

 

My body has never conformed to what Dr Google says it should be doing at any given time, most recently proven when I went through one of the biggest stresses in life – moving house – and gained weight.

 

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve reneged on the one deal I had with my body which was never to go up a dress size. Again. That might be because I’m more comfortable in myself, (although more likely to be because I love my food), but I now realise that I’ve been kidding myself for a while about my weight, aided by a combination of cheats such as changing clothing brands, choosing between wine and food , in other words, pretending that I can have it all. I also stopped weighing myself.

 

But those days are gone because my clothes have become so tight that even my support pants are struggling to hold me in and sadly, I look shocking in kaftans. I’m not vain, but a wibbly-wobbly tyre around what used to be my waist is not an attractive accessory, and typically all my extra weight has accumulated in the area between my breasts and pelvis so I look like I’m in the early stages of my second trimester. Why some of those fat deposits couldn’t have ended up on my wide, boney ass or in my lips is another of life’s unfair fuckeries.

 

I repeat, it’s not so much about the aesthetics, as proven by my recent descent into wearying pyjama bottoms as late into the day as possible (a benefit of working from home) and the fact that I didn’t complain or go back when a new, more economically-priced hairdresser gave me hi-vis, zebra highlights last week. My problem is that I’m very partial to retail therapy – particularly clothes – and my stomach is compromising that pleasure. Clothing manufacturers for young women do not incorporate the sort of elasticated, room-for- growth pouch you get in maternity clothes and I don’t know how I’m supposed to maintain my youth in slacks and smock dresses.

 

So what else can I do? Obviously I’m not going to become some aerobic psycho that takes up ‘boot camp’ and risk a premature heart attack or stroke and I fear that if I give up wine I might end up like those smokers who give up and then get lung cancer.

 

Calorie-counting doesn’t work either because my adding up becomes distinctly shady after the first thousand calories of Chardonnay.

 

And I do eat healthily most of the time. Although the kebab shop at the end of the road in our new neighbourhood was an unfortunate discovery.

 

Help!

 

 

The Idiot’s Guide To Homemade Muesli

Who’d have thought that one day I would be smug enough to make my own Muesli? And brave enough to brag about it? But in these days of health madness, it’s not just Pete Evans who can be radical in the kitchen; you can be too. You might even get a modicum of respect for your domestic prowess when you pour this amount of wholesomeness into the kids bowls each morning. 

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Process the nuts unless you know someone who can do the Heimlich Manoeuvre

Not if your kids are anything like mine, admittedly. There was a united ‘eugghhh’, followed by a collective sigh as they watched me throw my Muesli all together and then begged the old man to buy the boxed Sanitarium version from Aldi instead.

 

But at least you’ll know you tried.

 

I find breakfast very uninspiring typically, mainly because I’m not a morning person and frankly the last thing I want to do (other than sex) is eat at 7am, unless it’s a hot “all you can eat” English breakfast buffet in Scotland; secondly, I can’t actually coordinate my limbs before my coffee, which makes breakfast complicated.

 

I’ve stuck faithfully to porridge with some sliced banana since winter set in here in Sydney a month or so ago, for comfort really, but it’s getting a bit monotonous now and I can’t seem to prevent those fears creeping in about what we don’t know about microwaves….

 

Then, when we were on our mini break recently in the Hunter, what should I find in the kitchen cupboard but Alpen sachets; the type that we used to get in English B and Bs, and I got all excited and melancholy.

 

Because Muesli always did have a certain class about it, didn’t it? It recaptures Switzerland perfectly and all the really good stuff about it like its freshness and chocolate and Roger Federer and snow-capped mountains, and chocolate, and Heidi… and definitely not skiing, because we all secretly hate skiing.IMG_2626

 

Just me?

 

Anyway, according to www.mindbodygreen.com, the benefits of Muesli are:

 

  • Muesli typically has less sugar and calories than most breakfast cereals on supermarket shelves.
  • It is high in fiber and whole grains, which regulate the digestive system, are filling and can aid in weight control.
  • Muesli is a potent source of antioxidants.
  • The addition of nuts provides a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids (especially walnuts).
  • Milk or dairy alternatives that usually accompany muesli is a source of dairy and protein.

 

And if that isn’t enough, it probably helps you poo daily which can be a concern at our age, because all that healthy stuff does that. The moment I tore open my first sachet it reminded me how partial I am to the odd bowl of Muesli, especially when I’m in a healthy phase because I need to get back in my swimming costume soon.

 

The only problem with Muesli is that it can be a bit harsh on the budget, having to be carried down mountains by goats herded by Heidi and Peter, and the old man does have a newly revised and very tight food shopping budget.

 

So I did some research and realised quickly that a) muesli does not require a degree in cooking or really any cooking techniques whatsoever, and b) it uses up all those dredges of nuts, raisons and seeds that have floated around in your kitchen cupboards for decades sending out mating calls to moths since that time you made protein balls in 1902.

 

So here’s my recipe… stolen from generations of online Swiss Museli-Makers and then adapted to suit what I had in the cupboard:

 

Ingredients:

 

1 cup Almonds or walnuts

4 cups of rolled oats

1 cup coconut flakes

3 tbsp of Chia

1 tsp of cinnamon

2 cups of dried fruit (I used dried cranberries and dates)

1 cup of bran

1 cup of sunflower seeds

1 cup of pumpkin seeds

½ tsp salt

 

NB. Process the nuts unless you know someone who can do the Heimlich Manoeuvre, then mix it all together and feel the smugness wash over you. Add milk, or yoghurt if you’re a little bit fancy.

Dining Out When You’re Trying To Eat Healthily

I’ve learned a lot about those sneaky hidden calories with my latest healthy-eating plan, and while I can manage to restrain myself – most of the time – on home territory, (apart from when it comes to homemade banana bread, which tests me on every level), it can be a very different story, when I eat out.

 

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Fig and Gorgonzola Starter

A perfect example was Saturday night, when this fig and Gorgonzola starter, followed by Italian Bread and Butter Pudding were the latest nails in the coffin of my current healthy eating plan – crazy bitch behaviour, because I really only fell at the last hurdle, having gritted my teeth through my fish and salad main course while I watched my friends devour what was basically an overdose of cheese on a pizza base in front of me.

 

It’s easily done, and SHOULD be done now and then, just not every weekend, otherwise you become caught up in that vicious circle of losing weight during the week and piling it all back on (and more) at the weekend. 

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Bread and Butter Pudding

 

But self-discipline is really tricky when you eat out because you don’t want to be the party pooper on salad and then you have to watch your friends gorge on the yummy stuff as well as contend with the psychological warfare that tries to convince you that there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself now and again, even though you know that healthy eating has to be a permanent lifestyle change to work.

 

And this is where that knowledge/obsession with the hidden calories in food really comes in useful, because BEWARE, fellow foodies, there are ingredient faux amis out there, just waiting to help you fail.

 

I’m talking about you, boiled rice!

 

It’s fairly obvious that foods like pizza aren’t the best choice, but I’d always assumed that Asian food was a safer bet. Unfortunately, it all depends on the dish you choose, because when it comes to ingredients dressed up to sound healthy, Asian food has a ton of hidden wickedness.

 

For a start, forget any dish with rice in it, bread on the side, coconut milk in the sauce or if it has been deep-fried. A cup of boring, boiled rice has 250 calories, so you can imagine the additional calorie wastage when it’s fried – especially when those extra, precious calories could give you two glasses of wine, a light starter, or my personal favourite, a scoop of Green Tea ice cream at my local Japanese.

 

The safest bet if you like Indian food is to go with the vegetarian options or a Tandoori chicken and salad. A simple chicken or veggie stir-fry is the safest option with Thai.

 

So much of Asian food is deep-fried – which means goodbye to old friends such as spring rolls, money-bags and tempura. Even dumplings and Gyoza can be quite deceptive unless you can stick to four as your main course…which is obviously humanly impossible.

 

Vietnamese food, on the other hand, which is vegetable and herb based is a much healthier choice, although you still need to watch out for those sneaky little peanuts and sticky sauces.

 

Italian is obviously not the best, but if you can stick to one course, avoid the bread and order either a traditional meat or fish (unbreaded) dish or vegetarian dish such as a tomato-based pasta with the teeniest teaser of Parmesan on the top, it’s not so bad.

 

And thankfully, pub food is moving with the times and gone are the days when there is only a pie (my ultimate hangover food) on offer.

 

This is the pie they serve at our local, so you can see my problem.

 

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Yes, that is a pastry crust and tender beef nesting on top of a bed of mashed potatoes!

 

These days, my healthy choice at the pub has to be more along the lines of a Caesar Salad (sob!) with grilled chicken (if I’ve got any chance of getting into a cocktail dress in May) – WITH DRESSING ON THE SIDE AND IGNORE THE CROUTONS… ONCE YOU’VE CHECKED THEY’RE OK, OBVIOUSLY – maybe a salmon and salad or a stuffed chicken dish.

I’ve even spotted Quinoa at our local, which must seriously piss off the Parmi Army.

When You Can’t Be Fucked To Cook Quinoa…Keep It Simple

I giggled evilly behind my laptop screen last night as I listened to the old man have a domestic melt down in the kitchen over cooking. weight-loss-850601_1280

 

Apparently, he finds cooking stressful. I’ve already got that tee-shirt, so felt little empathy.

 

Admittedly, we’re not the easiest family to plan meals for. I’m always on the latest ‘get-thin-quick’ diet, Kurt doesn’t eat, NC is fussy, and in spite of every medical journal telling him that meat is bad for him, the old man needs animal fat on his plate. He’s still grieving for sausages.

 

I admit to being pathetically influenced by the minimum of ten articles I ingest a day that pertain to know the secret of how to lose weight. And before you judge me, I don’t want to lose weight because I’ve been subliminally influenced by women’s magazines or the Kardashians to feel that I need to be thin or look like Elle McPherson to be successful of feel fulfilled; it’s for the sake of my health, and because I hate it when my clothes are tight.

 

And even though I know that most of what I read is a load of cock and bull, and that weight loss is not exactly rocket science, I still get sucked in.

 

TV programs such as The Biggest Loser are proof that anyone can lose weight with the aid of a fierce and hot trainer to keep you on track, time to dedicate to the challenge and some guidance with nutrition. In other words, all you really need is bag-loads of discipline to enforce those smaller portions, to put the biscuit tin in the bin, to eliminate pasta late at night, to drink less alcohol and more water, to eat less red meat and sugar…and prayer; lots of prayer.

 

Simples.

 

The problem that none of these diets forewarn us about is that that life gets in the way of the very best intentions. Which is why you shouldn’t take it THAT seriously unless your problem is affecting your health or the quality of your life.

 

Life is for living.

 

And I don’t take it really seriously. I discipline myself when I can – like when I eat at home on week nights – but if I have to break the diet for a good reason, I will. On Saturday night I devoured a massive wedge of chocolate cake because it was my friend’s birthday, and last night I sank three glasses of wine during a mutual ‘my life is worse than yours’ therapy session with another friend.

 

We all know our weak points, where we’re prone to fail, and mine is stress.

 

And a lot of these faddish diets don’t make it easy; in fact they make a real dogs dinner by over-complicating what should be easy recipes. They suggest recipes with foreign-sounding ingredients, or sprouts and veggies that real people can only find in pricey organic shops or some market in Southern France. The sort of ingredients that are not going to be a priority for working people who get home late and all all they can think about is parking their bum on the sofa and pawing at the remote control.

 

I love healthy food but I can’t be fucked to prepare it most of the time, and I certainly don’t have the time to soak or activate, when I could be watching Netflix.

 

I believe you can follow a healthy diet using standard, supermarket ingredients. Admittedly, I’m still waiting for that magic moment when my scales light up with a definitive deficit, but hey, I’m also fighting the battle of menopause… which can be very cruel.

 

Here are a few new ideas I’m trying out:

 

  1. My biggest ‘fail’ time is that time at the end of the day between work and dinner. I don’t even like chips that much but if they’re in the cupboard they’ve got my name on them. Recently I’ve replaced them with a teaspoon of Hummus and either cucumber slices or carrot sticks. They take the edge off – I promise. But if you can’t get through witching hour without that salt fix, Popcorn is better than chips.

 

  1. I’ve replaced a couple of my Flat Whites with mint or green tea.

 

  1. Dinner is strictly protein (fish or chicken) and salad.

 

I still have a (smaller) glass of wine a night with a couple of cubes of dark chocolate and we still eat out at the weekend – I just try and choose healthier options, such as Japanese or a Thai stir fry without the rice.

 

If I can be fucked, and the idea of a limp green salad isn’t doing it for me anymore, I try to spice up my salads by adding exotic supermarket ingredients like beetroot, bocconcini, feta, nuts, lentils or chickpeas.

 

However, trying to get ‘girl food’ over the line with the old man is always problematic and he has been known to choke if I dare add anything as hipster as a fresh herb.

 

So imagine if I suggested quinoa?

 

 

 

 

 

If I Can’t Eat Cheese, Surely That Means That Life As I know It, Is Officially Over?

English: Avocado with its cross section. Pictu...
English: Avocado with its cross section. Pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. App 18 cm (7 inches) long. Français : Un Avocat entier et en coupe. Photo prise à Dar es Salaam, en Tanzanie. Longueur 18 cm environ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I admit that I may have ridiculed friends in the past who have been sucked in by fad diets, and for this I bow my head in shame.

Because I’m about to bore you again with the downhill progress of my middle-aged facial skin condition, Rosacea.

I’m also ashamed to admit that I never realized before just how much I took my looks for granted in my previous life.

Over the past ten years, I’ve been forced to come to terms with fading looks, ‘invisibility’ in public, out-of-control whiskers and general tubbiness, but it’s a real kick in the scrotum when what the ageing process has left of my face has become a red, blotchy horror show.

The old man’s empathetic words of “At least I don’t have to worry about you leaving me now,” have been far from comforting.

Even worse, is that after a lengthy hypochondria-fuelled research session with my best mate Dr Google and various international quacks of certain ill-repute, it appears that the diet I need to go on to make my face acceptable to the public again is bordering on inhumane.

I have always been a healthy eater, so I never considered that being forced to become more ‘clean’ with my food choices would be that difficult, but below are just some of the yummy foodstuffs I am supposed to eliminate:

Avocados – We all know that all gut street credibility goes back to zero these days unless you have at least one avocado crammed in your gob at every opportunity. Avocados have assumed super, super-food status now; let’s face it, they are bordering on becoming the God of the food kingdom.

They’ve also shown up quinoa to be the fad we all hoped it was.

So how exactly will I be able to show myself in my local café again if I can’t flaunt my superior healthiness with avocado on the side of every order? And the thought of the breakfast perfection that is smoked salmon, toast and poached egg, WITHOUT their perfect green sidekick, is already giving me sleepless nights.
Embed from Getty Images
Dairy – not so hard for me to relinquish, I thought, as I’ve never been a huge dairy fan due to scientific misconceptions about cholesterol that cemented an innate fear of premature mortality.

But then I remembered cheese.

I may need to take a moment….

I can’t pretend that giving up cheese, one of the major keys to happiness in life, will be easy. ‘Cheese’ deserves a proper grieving period, a moment to reflect on what it has done for me throughout my life. Hell! even scientists admitted that it is addictive this week, so it must be good.

How exactly are me and my mates supposed to survive PMT, women crises, man-bitching and The Bachelor without a Frisbee-sized slab of the fullest-fat Brie on the coffee table, to temper our white wine?

Everyone knows that cheese is comfort on toast

And let’s not forget all those traditional cheesy faves we were bought up on, before dairy and carbs were excommunicated: cauliflower cheese, macaroni cheese, lasagna, quiche…

The good old days… before we told that anything that tasted really good would give us cancer.

Allow me to welcome bacon, sausages, burgers and red meat into that group this week, too.

Spicy foods – I’ve served my time with hot food. I’ve earned my chili stripes. After two years of the roof being taken off my mouth, feeling as though my whole body was about to lift off, I’ve finally found an appreciation for the not-so-subtle thrill of wasabi. Sashimi without wasabi is like wine without cheese, Will without Kate, Kurt without….Hmmm…and let’s also remember the Thai green curry, Indian Dahl, and the piece de resistance of spice, Mexican food, which combines just about everything my Rosacea reacts so violently to.

I just don’t know how I’m going to sing along to the El Paso adverts anymore, without feeling a fraud? Is it even possible to make a taco without cheese, avocado, tomato or spicy fill?

And finally, to tomatoes…

Anyone ever nailed an appetising, tasty salad without tomatoes or cheese?

Thought not.

I’ve tried. In a moment of insanity, I went all out last night and added some fresh, sugar-snap peas to my pathetic-looking green salad.

It was a fucking riot.

Which leaves me with a choice of chicken, fish and lettuce.

So can you now understand that why I am destined to become that grieving, twisted, mad woman who hates everyone and mumbles curses under her breath to any innocent shopper in the supermarket who dares venture towards the deli counter.

My life is officially over. Goodbye world.

Too Fat To Party

Too Fat To Party
Cinderella by Nikki.Jane found on http://www.flickr.com

I am facing a first-world quandary of epic female proportions. It is every girl’s worst nightmare.

Alas, I am too fat to wear my party dress to my own birthday party.

This Cinderella may have to wear Spanx and an old dress to the ball. ‘Epic proportions’ being the key words here.

I have no-one to blame but myself and my insatiable appetite. I’ve eaten every fucking pie put under my nose over the past few months and now my dress refuses to compromise.

It’s annoying because this was supposed to be a magical moment in my life and my marriage where I proved to the old man that I can save money and am not as shallow as he thinks I am. Which is why I decided months ago that I would wear a previously-worn dress (*shudder*) to my birthday dinner in an effort to show him just how much I’ve grown up, now that I’m nearly fifty.

I’ll give you a few minutes to absorb that information, ladies.

It wasn’t THAT dire a decision in reality. I’d only worn it once before, during my recent trip to Europe – so it isn’t like any of my friends had seen it on me before and I was told it flattered my more delicate curves then, before I lost all self-restraint and respect and piled on several kilos because I thought it would make me feel better to add a packet of vege-chips each evening to my glasses of wine and to finish off Kurt’s Pods whenever he wasn’t looking.

(Who doesn’t finish a bag of Pods? How did I produce such a lightweight for a son.)

So, all in all, I think it was a pretty damn mature decision of mine to resist buying a new dress for such an epic event in my life. But I figured that this new-found 50-something wisdom that I’m supposed to have found, means that I understand now that it’s not the superficial stuff that counts.

Not the wrapper, but its contents.

So I sated my need to spend by buying some new shoes instead…which were in the sale…so effectively I actually saved us money.

But every time I try on the bloody dress, it gets tighter around the waist, pinches my boobs and exposes my bat wings. When did I forget that women of a certain age shouldn’t wear ‘sleeveless’ dresses? And I can’t help questioning if I really want to hold my breath in all evening so my muffin top doesn’t make an impromptu Kravitz-esque appearance.

And then there’s the galling fact that the Spanx cost me more that a new dress and yet they still struggle to contain my Pods baby.

So I have two options left: a frantic and disastrous last-minute expedition to the mall that I know will end in more self-loathing and tears, because the first law of being a woman is never to buy clothing when you feel fat, or option 2: to wear an even older dress from my wardrobe – preferably maternity – with ‘give’ in the waistband, but which everyone will have seen before.

THE SHAME!

What I have to avoid is the inevitable immaturity of the ‘I’ve got nothing to wear’ tantrum on the night, minutes before the guests arrive, because VERY deep down…SO deep down that I can’t really locate it, I know I SHOULD know that what I wear is not why people are coming.

My friends are coming for the wine.

 

The Scoop On Soup and How To Get Through Winter

I hate winter with a passion. In fact I hate winter more than sex.

The Scoop On Soup and How To Get Through Winter
Feel by Natalie Shuttleworth found on Flickr.com

Without wanting to sound too Monty Pythonesque, you have no idea how tough it was growing up in the UK climate, in the days before helicopter mums to drive us to school in their SUVs, or Uber at our disposal. In fact, I blame much of my current anxiety issues on the trials of surviving the UK winters.

We had ‘frost’, too.

Let me educate you southern hemisphere lucksters about ‘frost’. Jack Frost is a bitch to deal with in the morning when you’re already running late. I could never have coped with it myself as a mother. There’s that whole laborious process of scraping and pouring hot water on the windscreen – while keeping the engine running to avoid more frost forming – followed by that eery and potentially lethal drive to your destination, which is usually done blind due to the build-up of condensation on the inside of your window screen.

And that’s before you’ve even started your day.

I realize that perhaps it is the most embarrassing of first-world problems to moan about the Australian winter, when temperatures in Sydney only get as low as a finger-numbing eleven or twelve degrees in its depths, but it boils down to a question of acclimatisation. Twelve degrees with a chill breeze from the Harbour blowing right in your fucking face is probably akin to 3 degrees in the UK.

Whenever I’m asked if I’ll go back to the UK, my answer is a resounding ‘no,’ and I admit that my decision is based solely on the shallow reason of ‘climate’. Because although my family, my oldest friends, my heart and my history all still reside in Blighty, my body (and hence my mental well-being) like it here, in what is (save a few months) a beautifully temperate climate.

I’ve always despised the cold. At boarding school, groups of us girls would literally sit on the radiators while we listened to the radio and matron rant on and on about the risk of piles. I’d rather have piles than be cold, I remember thinking at the time… until I got piles when I was pregnant.

English: A carrot soup. Español: Una crema de ...
English: A carrot soup. Español: Una crema de zanahoria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I truly believe I am one of those SAD people because I open up and blossom in the heat and my world becomes full of endless possibilities with the sun on my skin. Whereas my body shuts down in the winter. I’m not some stupid sun-worshipper, though – I slip, slop and slap all over, and the old man and I have become THAT middle-aged couple among the beautiful people on the beach, to reside permanently under our umbrella. Like a cat in front of the fire, I crave warmth at all times.

And I suffer from Cabin Fever, too, as winter drawers closer. With that first chill in the air, I can feel the symptoms of my body withdrawing from life begin to twitch, feel unsettled and become tetchy about my loss of freedom.

They would call me a ‘wuss’ in the UK if they knew how pathetic I’ve become. They build them tough over there and there is an endearing ‘we survived two wars’ approach to the harshness of the climate. When I visited at Easter, shoppers were drinking Champagne and eating Oysters in the streets around Chelsea Food Market, while I was trying to regain circulation in my fingers and toes. The Brits don’t understand the appeal of a warmer climate because they don’t know any different, and in fairness, there is nothing more beautiful than sitting in the garden of a British pub in the country on a sunny afternoon. The problem is, those blue-sky days are too few to count and when they do eventually turn up, no-one can cope.

So, the only great news about winter is ‘soup’.

Making and consuming vast quantities of soup gets me through these shorter, torturously grey days. I’m no cook, (as you know), but even I can knock up a decent soup, and what’s more, soup is not only a comforting tonic during the cooler evenings, but it’s healthy for all sorts of fascinating reasons: For starters, it’s a liquid, so you can eat lashings of it without feeling guilty or gaining weight because, being effectively a drink like water, it probably has no calories; you can also disguise all sorts of fugly, green veggie matter in soup, that you and the kids would probably never normally touch without gagging; and you can also make a week’s worth in one go, eliminating hours of brain-death family cooking time, too.

So as I leave Sydney for a week’s torture at the snow, (because the old man didn’t think that winter in the city was enough of an endurance test), here’s my winter gift to you – three wonderful soup recipes from Taste.com.au that I’ve tried, tested and successfully liquidized to near-perfection to get you through this most cursed of seasons.

Asian Chicken Soup

Broccoli and Potato Soup

(Tip from the Master Soup Maker: I add some celery and cheese for extra flavor)

Moroccan Sweet Potato, Carrot and Chickpea Soup

You’re welcome…

The Secrets Of Trade Off Dieting

There are certain topics that even I won’t discuss on this blog, and one of them is ‘poo’. An article was doing the rounds on Facebook the other day that contained images of different poo textures and what they symbolise in terms of your health and I found it absolutely no problem at all to ignore it.

Secrets Of The Trading Off Diet
Vintage Balance Scale by Joie de Cleve, found on Flickr.com

When it comes to ‘poo’, I’m a great believer in the adage that if it floats, everything is probably okay.

The only time I might take more than a glance at my poo is if it changes in any way, which happened last night, when I was struck down by a rare bout of diarrhoea in Byron. Inevitably, I was away from home, sleeping in the crisp-white, freshly laundered sheets of my guest house, but hell, it made a change from the usual holiday period to worry about!

Any change in my bowel habits is a pretty unusual occurrence so normally I might have felt some concern, but on this occasion I have to admit to experiencing an inordinate surge of pleasure as I rid most of the contents of my intestines.

You see, only hours beforehand I had consumed a whole bag of Pods on my own.

This was an extreme example of my approach to weight maintenance, which I like to call Trade Off dieting.

Now I realize that example probably sounds slightly radical to you, but when it comes to the balance between what goes in your mouth, and how much weight you gain, I know there’s no rocket science involved, and that if you like your food like me, balance has to be about careful trade offs – particularly once you reach middle age.

So the moral of last night is, that if you pig out on a whole bag of Pods and then are lucky enough for your gluttony to induce a bout of diarrhoea, the gods are obviously smiling down on you.

After thirty years of a roller-coaster when it comes to weight gain and loss, I GET calories now; I know how the psychology of those pesky little critters work and I know what I can and can’t eat. I know that if I want to knock back two glasses of wine in an evening, I need to eliminate carbs from dinner and forego any morning or afternoon tea snacks, no matter how healthy they are. It’s simple mathematics. I know now that I can NEVER eat dessert or cake because I have to counterbalance my other, preferred dietary transgressions.

My personal vice is chips. Some people think you’re lucky if you prefer ‘savoury’ food to ‘sweet’, but that’s a fallacy put out there by the cookie monsters who are always looking for excuses for their own bad habits. Whereas they might take their comfort from a packet of biscuits (or five), put a vat of humus or a plate of cheese in front of me and watch it disappear quicker than a bat out of hell.

And the bigger issue is that I don’t feel anywhere near the same level of shame as when I eat an entire bag of Pods, so it takes the brakes a lot longer to engage.

I’ve always felt an innate shame linked to sugar, probably because I was raised in the Medieval times when lollies were a Sunday treat. ‘Guilt’ means I don’t experience that ‘high’ or ‘rush’ you’re supposed to feel after sugar, although that may also be because, in general, my diet has had to become boringly healthy these days.

There is no doubt in my mind that last night’s diarrhoea was a Pod-induced drive by my body to purge my system.

However, I resort to much more comfort-eating these days, which I could blame on menopause, because I realize that my body is kindly layering a thicker foundation of fat around my bones to protect them – (thanks Meno)– but is more likely due to the stress of trying to cross the psychological bridge of ageing. Apparently, that journey is called the u-bend of middle age, and is responsible for all those male midlife crises, too.

It’s a strange phenomenon, because although I have always loved food, I have never used food as a comforting mechanism or particularly enjoyed over-indulgence in the past. I had far worst vices like cigarettes and wine to get me through the angsty periods of my younger years, so biscuits never really stood a chance.

And up until recently, the self-imposed regulations of my Trade Off dieting have worked quite successfully. Sure, I’ve slowly gained what appear to be a requisite number of middle-aged extra kilos each year over the past decade, but an increase in exercise and brutal self-denial have kept some of that potential weight-gain at bay.

But recently I have noticed that something has begun to tamper with my will power and the trade-offs are getting harder to balance. As the big 50 approaches, a revolutionary ‘fuck it’ attitude has begun to compromise my judgement when it comes to food, causing internal confusion. The confusion of happiness versus weight gain. Eating is much more fun now we have more income at our disposal to go to nice restaurants and can get out more easily. Eating out has become a hobby that both the old man and I enjoy and we can even enjoy it together. With the wisdom of middle age, I realise that it’s important to enjoy the excesses that my body will still allow me to enjoy because happiness is one of the main factors to contribute to long life and so I want to make the most of every day; and sometimes that might include new food experiences and over-indulgence.

That first glass of wine of the day just isn’t the same anymore without a bag of Veggie Chips and some beetroot dip; and I’ve grown equally partial to an intravenous-drip of homemade hummus while I work.

How do you control your weight?