A year in review. A tale of two parts.

Part 1: Sciencey science science
So it’s been a while, eh? Many things have happened in the past year. My research took a new direction, and so far so good! A review paper was accepted, and I’ll be starting an internship with a leader in my field in the coming months.
With my focus back onto science; chemistry is awesome. My results to date are pretty interesting as far as monolith productions go. This year I will need at least 3 papers; 1 from July 2013 to now, 1 for my internship, and 1 before the year is out. Then we welcome 2015. Then we leave and move to a new adventure somewhere out there. Somewhere, the perfect place is waiting to be discovered. And the perfect separation column! ūüôā

Part 2: The eternal battle
In the past year my relationship with food has changed. For the better. I think. After finishing with Atkins, I just eat better food, and I eat smarter. In total I lost 15 kg, and I have kept it off (except for the Christmas trip home). The relationship I had with food before was that anything goes. I’ll fix it later. Now however, with pretty good blood chemistry, I eat much healthier food, and everything is made from scratch.
I returned home for 2 weeks over the Christmas period. I was quite shocked at how easy I fell into bad habits. Again, everything went. I did try, but the binge period was here. I WANT BREAD. I still eat bread, but only when I know I’ll be exercising. I didn’t exercise, so I gained about 3.5 kg. I’m still under 65 kg (10 stone), which is brilliant for me.
My new challenge, to get back running, and improve my fitness level. I plan 3 trips per week. Then more bread. And fresh Pizza. With proper Italian flour. And Cheese.

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No, not again

So after my fun experience with Atkins, it’s starting to happen again. I have put on fat. Ew. Gross. I had a super busy schedule, which left me high and dry in stress land, which naturally led to a lot of muffin making, and eating whatever I wanted to feel better. I also stopped going out, and isolated myself trying to bring down ¬†my stress levels. This has been another downfall. I think I join the ranks of millions who have a toxic relationship with food, and not with exercise.

So what will I do. Is dieting the answer? No, not alone. Dieting trains you to eat a certain way, and since the delicate balance of life within your body can be affected, chose a diet wisely. Currently I am starting weight watchers, using the new propoints system, which I have heard so much about. I am also doing to work outs at home for muscle toning, but this is not enough. So, my next step is to increase my cardio. After my last trip home, I brought my workout gear with me. I am still no expert at the Czech language, so I will probably avoid classes. The weather is improving, and there are some nice woods nearby, and a park. My next adventure will be running. Oh god no. Not that, anything but that. This is screaming in my head. But I have had enough. I just want to be back to my old happy, non-wobbly self.

Along with running, I will swim. I love swimming, and its super relaxing. My local pool also has a gym, so I may use this also. My new aim is to keep track of my exercise, and update my weight/measurements every week. I really need to see progress to commit myself to this for the long term.

Breaking Stereotypes

In my new life in Czech, the first St. Patrick’s Day would be very special. We had been looking forward to the weekend for weeks. We had the Ireland shirts, the silly hair ribbons, and the flashing dickie bow. And then…. the flu hit. Talk about a disaster, it was not the elated festive atmosphere in our flat, but a negative depressing black hole.

A few days before Paddy’s day (not Pattie’s day, that’s a girls name), we had the pleasure of a home cooked mexican feast in a local restaurant. It was beautiful and tasty, and the company was varied. We dined with English, Irish, American, and Czech. We were chatting about our common¬†interests¬†– living away from home. Of course this led to stories about our home towns, the good the bad and the ugly.

Drinking is a huge part of modern Irish society, and Czech :)

Drinking is a huge part of Irish society, and Czech ūüôā

I am from North Dublin, the suburbs, neighboured by slightly rough areas. My accent is probably not typical of the area, but I think I would still be identified as a Dubliner (especially when pronouncing some words). During a conversation with a lovely American girl, I was told my accent was not very strong. This was not the first time, in Vancouver 4 years ago I was asked what part of Canada I was from.

I began to question what the projected image of Ireland was to our international friends. Looking back at Hollywood classics such as “The Quiet Man” and “Darby O’ Gill and the Little People” I began to see why. The lyrical begod’s and begarra’s¬†rhythmically¬†jumping through the script was hilarious to me before. It gave the impression that Irish people were folksy and quaint. I suppose in some ways, they are, or at last were. As nice as this fantastical image was, it also led people to believe that Irish people live in a third world country with leprechauns as neighbours.

On a trip to Boston in 1994, my brother and his friends stayed with local families for a couple of weeks. They were in a marching band. They were asked some very strange questions, like how long did the boat take (i.e. famine ships 1840’s, 6 week journey). A mother from one of the families “explained” what an orange was, and that you don’t eat the skin, the poor guy she was talking to, trying not to laugh and playing along (now a graduate of Trinity College). With being Irish, you have to expect some weird questions, such as do you hate the English, are you in the IRA? It’s quite bizzare. I think people forget that Ireland has now become a multi-cultural society in the modern age, whose economy was one of the strongest in the world for 10 years (thereabouts).

Modern times in Ireland has bred a dynamic coffee culture, hopefully allowing it to catch up with its European counterparts

Modern times in Ireland has bred a dynamic coffee culture, something the country was lacking in, when compared to its European counterparts.

In modern film (the most available Irish export), the accent of the Irish describes a lovable rogue or a vicious criminal. Unfortunately these characteristics ring most true, particularly in cities. People in Ireland always love to get one up on their fellow man. This is most evidenced by the current economical woes. The best way to describe the modern Irish is “ah sure once I’m sorted, who cares”. This is rather disturbing, and it leaves holes in our society. Who can say that they look after their elder neighbours, especially in times of extreme cold, or¬†loneliness¬†like Christmas time. How many people do you see on a bus or train not give up their seat to a pregnant woman or someone on crutches (this actually happened to me, I was furious).

The previous image of generous Irish is slowly fading, and the true colours of selfish, avaricous philanderers is more visible. It is safe to say that I will never again live in Ireland, or buy a house there unless there is a change. This saddens me, as my homeland which I am very proud of has been turned into a dark pit of cynicism and vulgarity, something I don’t want my future children to grow up in.

As long as we force feed tourists the diddly-i-bejesus Ireland, visitor numbers will go up and up, obviously this is a good thing, but at what cost to real people?

 

OH dear god what’s wrong with me??!

There’s one thing people don’t tell you about Atkins, and that is the effect it can have on your hormones. I’ve been on the pill for 10 years now, for medical reasons. I can count the amount of times on one hand, wherein something went wrong with timing. When you’re on Atkins, you put your body into ketosis, so you burn off the reserve fat you have. Estrogen (oestrogen) and body fat are linked directly. This hormone is also linked to the menstrual cycle. The Atkins farce can massively interfere with your cycle (EVEN ON THE PILL).

So the dilema I now face? After talking with my doctor, who gave out to me for going on this diet, I have to come off from it. What if I pile on the pounds again? Have I damaged myself in the long run? What will the long term effects be?

My plan: speed up the phase 3 (i.e. introduction of carbs back into the diet). I’ve managed to loose some inches at this stage, and I hope it hasn’t been in vain.

December 2012

Waist: 32″ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Hips: 42.5″ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Bust: 38″ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Thigh: 24″

Febuary 20th 2013

Waist: 28.5″ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Hips: 40″ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Bust: 36″ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Thigh: 22″

That’s an average loss of 2″ off each place!

Today, I made a pizza, from scratch. The base was made first, and then the toppings were added and it was cooked again. I have to say even though it was small, it was super filling.

For the Base:

Poppy seeds

Ground almond

2 Ryvita crackers

1 egg

2 tablespoons olive oil

Method:

Crush the ryvita crackers. Mix all the base ingredients together and mix until a stiff, tacky mixture is formed. Place the mixture into a mould, or, spread out on a piece of tin foil. Bake for 10 minutes (200 C), until the top begins to brown. Remove from oven, flip the base over, and add your favourite toppings. Bake for 10 minutes, and enjoy.

Home made base, home made passata, goats cheese, mozarella, onion, peppers, spinach, and salami, nom nom nom!

Home made base, home made passata, goats cheese, mozzarella  onion, peppers, spinach, and salami, nom nom nom!

I bought lots of nuts, berries, and baking ingredients such as coconut milk (dessicated coconut and fruit bar thingy??), poppy seeds, and almond flour. It should be interesting. To offset the change in diet, I’m skipping every night, and doing some muscle work outs. I’m also drinking 1.5 L of water every evening too.

Every project has to start somewhere, right? There are some really good¬†websites¬†out there where women are talking about the effects of Atkins on their body, I would highly recommend a read if you’re thinking about trying this diet. A good alternative is the¬†paleolithic¬†one, to forcefully put yourself into ketosis, you’re putting yourself at risk. IT is something that should be discussed with someone like your GP.

Atkins Pancake Tuesday

Well Pancake Tuesday has come and gone, with many people feeling the self loathing of an indulgence session. Not me, for once! Desperate not to miss one of my favourite days, I scoured the internet for Atkins friendly recipes. A lot of them have been written by those living in USA, and for the poor souls like me, who live in Eastern Europe, finding some of those highly engineered/modified foods is¬†extremely¬†difficult. So here’s my alternative pancakes for those of us who are counting the carbs. This recipe made about 12 pancakes. The net carb count is about, per pancake, 1.2 g (amounts used here, ground almond 12 g, sour cream 0.35 g, regular cream 1.6 g, total in batter 13.95 g).

Ingredients:

2 eggs

200 g ground almonds

1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon sour cream

1/2 tablespoon whipping cream

1/4 cup of sparkling water (puffs them up)

Method:

Mix everything together in a bowl to prepare the batter.

Pancake mix, and my feet!

Pancake mix, and my feet!

Prepare you pan with a little butter, add a dollop of batter into the centre of the pan, and spread it out by swirling the pan.

It's simmering away nicely!

It’s simmering away nicely!

Two minutes later, tada! It’s a pancake.

Nom nom nom nom, whipped unsweetened cream, fresh raspberries and melted diabetic chocolate.

Nom nom nom nom, whipped unsweetened cream, fresh raspberries and melted diabetic chocolate.

As with all sugar alcohols (like those in the diabetic chocolate)  I will be feeling this in the morning. For those unaware, these compounds cause severe cramping and can give you the runs. The upside? Short-lived taste of chocolate, smothering some tangy raspberries with the smoothness of freshly whipped cream. The sparkling water makes them lacy, just like the pancakes at home. Most people recommended that a sweetener be added to the batter. I would definitely agree, maybe use vanilla essence, or stevia; try to stay away from aspartame. Alternatively you could add ginger and cinnamon. The texture is a little dry, so adding some lemon juice or fruit and cream makes it  more moist.

So the Atkins is going well. Still losing weight, with just under a month to my friends wedding, I’m looking forward to trying on my old red pencil dress (ala 1940’s). I need to get my ass moving on the required exercise though as I am falling behind there.

With the diet going well, the next avenue of my transformation is changing the inside.

Phase 2, finally!

I have had my 2 week induction on Atkins. All I can say is thank you to those people who have posted ingenious recipes online (as per my last post). Phase 1 is the scariest thing I think I have ever read. It was so challenging especially in the first few days, where the change to fat burning happens. But I did it! And celebrated with some new clothes at the weekend. So, now I am ready for you phase 2!

What delights await me? Yogurts, berries, and nuts. I had my first yogurt yesterday, boy oh boy, did it taste good. It was just a plain one, but, wow, delightful. For dinner then I had a delicious steak in a beer house, like Porterhouse bars at home. The restaurant from last night had the most delicious flap steak, and most importantly, had an egg with it- no sides of potatoes of fries offered, it was mouth watering!

One challenge most Atkins participants endure, is the sheer lack of Atkins friendly menu’s, especially in obscure parts of Eastern Europe. The local Indian was a great choice last week, with lamb kebab, and cheesed spinach. I would love to explore more Czech restaurants, but the diet consists mostly of meat and bread.

On Atkins the upcoming Shrove Tuesday (pancake Tuesday) will be difficult. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a pancake Tuesday! Browsing through the¬†Atkins carb counter, I spotted I can have nuts and meals (flours), which opens the possibility of pancakes made from almond flour! I have never made them before (jump in if you have, would love some advice), but I am looking forward to it. Just in time phase 2, as I can also have lemon juice! I may even attempt to make cocoa cream (cream and un-sweetened cocoa powder) for my almond pancakes, or¬†melted¬†diabetic chocolate! I’m salivating already!

So phase 2 continues for about 5 weeks. So far (in just 2 weeks) my skinny jeans are baggy, and my t-shirts aren’t clingy! In figures, -2″ from waist, -2″ from thighs. These are my weight loss indicators, I haven’t measured the rest just yet. Nonetheless, this is a great start for me! Sometimes what’s on the outside affects us on the inside, now I know that shouldn’t happen in an ideal world, but in a world where body image is something that can make or break you (as pounded into our faces daily, by the media) it happens. We as humans can be very silly.

Oh carbs, how I miss thee…

So it’s been a grueling start to the week. I was knocked for six by a stupid head cold over the weekend. The last thing I wanted to eat was more friggin lettuce!! I got a bit frustrated with the lack of variety in my diet, which for the past week had been cheese, meat, salad (sleep, repeat). For a foodie such as myself, this is a nightmare. But nonetheless, I can see the results already, the upside.

So I looked into the allowed food for the induction phase, and the internet saved me. I found amazing recipes online from other Atkins suffragettes, such as pizza (dough made from ground pork rinds and eggs) and mashed fauxtatoes (awesome recipes). I also discovered such a thing as spaghetti squash, which I am really looking forward to, once I can get my hands onto it!

spag squash

 

Spaghetti squash (this is not my image)

I took a trip to the local giant supermarket with the hopes of finding some awesome new things. They don’t sell pork rinds, this made me sad. However, I did find diabetic sweets which are made with sugar alcohols rather than suger, and so have lower net carb counts (carbs-fibre). I have also tasted diabetic dark chocolate, and my faith has been renewed!

So what’s next? Phase 2. In this phase I can increase my daily carb intake by 5g per week. So I will be working from 25 g of net carbs, to 45 g of net carbs. I see a long and¬†arduous¬†ladder but, I have lost blubber, so I can’t really complain. I look forward to nuts, berries and yogurts, especially since I can make atkins friendly cheesecake (nom nom). Maybe toasted nuts could be a healthier alternative for the pork rinds in the pizza base. We shall see. I can say now, this week will be the hardest, although the though of potato like sides to food is just mouth watering! Happy eating folks ūüôā