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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.

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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.

Step 2: Where to start?

The weekend in Prague I had always dreamed of, but not with THAT suitcase. Talk about a nightmare, 24 kg and a broken wheel on cobble stones. We checked into Jury’s in Karlin, just north of the old town (astronomical clock). We were straight back outside to walk around the city. With James’s first time in Prague, I knew he would be astounded by the beauty of the architecture. His facial expressions didn’t disappoint! On the back of my mind I knew, once this trip is over its out to our new home in Pardubice, and I didn’t know what to expect. We had dinner in Pizza Colleseum (chain of retaurants), and they do really good pizza, fyi. Stopped in Billa on the way and picked up some beers and snacks. Sipping beer and nibbling on paprika snacks we snuggled watching tv, it was bliss.

So then came Monday morning. To the train station, with the dodgy suitcase. We bought our one way tickets and popped on the train, amidst the screams of the local weirdo. We chugged out of Prague towards Pardubice. Along this train line (towards Budapest), outside Kolín, there’s a massive facility which is home to thousands of old army tanks, trucks, migs, you name it! One of my favourite sights here. We were met at the station by a colleague and brought to check in at our new home, a dormitory studio apartment. First impressions? OMG what have I done?! We had stepped into the time warp and arrived in the 1970’s. Home sweet bleugh. Luckily I picked up a few homey bits when I was packing, some things from our old place, and as gifts at Christmas. Now, 2 weeks on, its home sweet home. It really grew on us, and its very comfortable.

With the move out of the way, I plan to focus on my work (obviously), but I also want to change my lifestyle, and my attitude to life.

Step 3: What’s the first big change?

Step 1: getting out of dodge

We left our lovely apartment, which we had called home for 2 years. Many parties were had, as well as movie nights, and after pub sessions. After leaving home for a number of years, you tend to collect a lot of stuff, mostly crap, but some of it you’re attached to. We packed our stuff up over a week, with about 6 hours sleep during the final weekend. I had my very first McDonalds breakfast, it was alright, definitely an experience!

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Bye bye awesome apartment 😦 

So we moved home, and spent the entire month of December with our families. Christmas was extra special that year. Decorating the family tree for the first time in years, and baking with my mother. It was the picture of Christmas. On Christmas day all the family were over for Kris Kindle, and we had a whopper of a day!

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The clan, having a banter and some snacks. 

The time spent at home made leaving so much more difficult. I knew at the airport it would be hard, I didn’t think it would affect me so much.

Tears and hugs were had, as the time passed in front of that stupid gigantic horse painting in terminal 2! God, I hate that horse. Walking away we looked back just before we entered the door to security, and waved one last time.

So what did we do then? We went to the champagne bar in T2, with the aim to calm our nerves. Then I started to cry again, then he started to cry again. This was the biggest challenge we had undertaken, of course it was going to affect us.

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 Jim at the airport with our champagne. Twas yummy! 

So we were on our way, and we had no idea what to expect when we got there. We took a weekend in Prague to get used to the Czech way, and of course to sight-see in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Let’s start at the beginning…

It was a very busy final year of my bachelors degree.  I almost tore the meniscus of my knee a month before my final exams, lucky in a way, as I couldn’t run out the door and avoid studying. So we went through the motions, I did my research project, and finished with my ideal result. I was approached during my undergrad research project by an older colleague, apparently funding had come through for a 3 year PhD. Sweet, this could be my way in.

I was offered a masters position at the beginning but within the month my supervisor changed his mind. Luckily for me, I was in. Eighteen months later I had my first publication, which was just pure elation for me.

During my time as a post grad I met some amazing, and not so amazing people. I traveled to some amazing places for conferences and meetings of different sorts.

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Boston, HPLC 2010. Such an awesome place!

innsbruck

Euroanalysis, Innsbruck 2009

Doing a PhD is like when you get a puppy for Christmas, its a long commitment and it will change your life, not always for the better (the latter is mostly in short term). For three or four years your life is turned upside down, you will find inventive ways of keeping up with results (all nighters), and you will definately have in your desk drawer tea/coffee, UHT milk and a pack of low calorie soups or noodles by the end.

Even a bad result is a result…

Aah the mantra of research postgrads everywhere. Hi. I have just had the honour of finishing my doctorate in chemistry. I am 26 and from Ireland. In 3 years of experiments I completed all the work, and in the subsequent 3 months my thesis was borne. During the 3 years, my life went through an upheaval, and now after finding work and my first post doc, I am trying to get my life back on track. From the anxiety attacks last summer to moving to the Czech Republic, I want to map my progress. Maybe this may be helpful to those who are currently beginning the post graduate life, as I’m sure it will offer many cringeworthy lessons. Image

The monolith snake. This was not a good result, but it changed my method of approach.

I promise, this blog will NOT be science heavy.