A look back at 2014

**Warning. Honest and confronting disclosures to follow** 

In case it escaped your notice, today is the second last day of the year ! A lot of people use this time to think back on their year, to set goals for the coming year, and generally reflect on life in general. I used to avoid doing that like the plague. I didn’t want to look back over my year, and tally up the failures, which ALWAYS revolved around my weight, my smoking, and my health.

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This year, finally, it’s different.

I started my year the same as every other year. I promised myself that THIS YEAR would be different. I started a ‘healthy’ eating plan that included supermarket bought meal replacements that had barely any calories in them, and set myself up on a road to failure by trying to exist on a calorie limit that wouldn’t sustain a fruit fly.  And then I failed. And then I got upset at my failure. And then I used that upset feeling as an excuse to pacify myself with food. I joined a gym, but never went. I made excuse after excuse. And I kept smoking. Because you can’t quit smoking and go on a diet at the same time, can you?

Does any of this sound familiar?

I repeated that cycle about 3 times before I gave up any further thought of getting healthy, and at the age of 43 I resigned myself to the fact that I was just meant to be fat. I was just meant to be the ‘funny friend’.

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43 years old and I was going to give up on my health, and basically my life. I had already shut myself off from most of my friends. I made excuses to decline social invitations because I was embarrassed about how I looked, and embarrassed that I had no clothes that fit me, and the ones that did looked like they were more suited to an 80 year old. I used to joke about the fact that all I owned was scrubs or pyjamas. In truth, I was mortified at the clothes I had to wear. So I used to go to work, come home, put on pyjamas, stuff my face with unhealthy food, and smoke a packet of cigarettes a day. On the weekends when my kids went to their Dad, I would only get out of bed to drive to a take away food shop. I would spend the whole weekend laying in bed and eating crap.

I made excuse after excuse about my weight. From “shift work screws up your metabolism” to “it runs in my family” to “I’m too old to change now” and even a bit of “I don’t have time to look after myself”.

The cold hard truth was a lot more simple. I lacked the willpower and the drive to change my habits. I valued a 3 piece feed more than I valued my health. I valued a large latte over nice clothes and better sleep. I didn’t have the courage to change my bad habits, even knowing, as an ICU nurse, that they were literally killing me. I would routinely nurse patients with end stage respiratory issues secondary to smoking. I could actually see the future I was heading towards. And then I would go home, eat crap, and smoke.

I was lazy, I was beaten down, and after so many failures I was scared to try again, because trying again meant failing again.

And then one day I got introduced to an amazing program that has changed my life. No other way to put it really. I was finally able to be honest with myself about the state of my health, what it was doing to me and my life. And also what it was doing to my children ! I knew that they were worried about my health, but not how much. I knew that I was setting a bad example for them, but the reality was too hard to confront, so I ignored it.

Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away… we all know that. What it did was make me feel even more guilty, and even more sorry for myself, when in fact, I only had myself to blame for poor choices. Because if we get real, no one forces you to make bad food choices. No one forces you to drink all the soft drink or all that coffee. No one forces you to sneak the food that no one but you knows about. The choices are yours and the consequences are yours.

You just have to choose to make a change, and commit to it. Not be lazy, not make excuses and not blame things that have nothing to do with your situation.

YOU have to make the choice.

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One of the biggest misnomers about changing your habits and your lifestyle is that “I can’t go out, I can’t socialise, I can’t go out to dinner with my friends”. Of course you can. You just need to make different choices for a while. If you want to make a change to your health and weight, then you have to make a change with your choices.

If you stay the same…. you stay the same.

Some of my results so far:

  • 4.5kgs lost in the first 11 days
  • 9.6kgs lost by day 30
  • 15kgs lost by day 60
  • Total kgs lost now is 25 !!
  • Given up smoking – 5 1/2 months now smoke free
  • Gave up coffee for 4 months, and now only have one occasionally
  • Gave up my 4-5 can a day coke habit

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So many things have changed in the past 5 months. I’m so very grateful for the fact that this year, my resolutions can be about something other than getting fit, losing weight, and stopping smoking.

 I am no longer the same person I was at the start of the year. I am no longer the reclusive fat girl who accepted poor treatment from others because I had such a low sense of self worth.

I am fit

I am strong

I am healthy

I am a hell of a lot happier than I was 5 months ago

And for the first time in YEARS, I’m looking forward to the new year.

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Are you?

Nikki xx

If Christmas cards and B grade holiday movies are to be believed, Christmas is a time of family togetherness, good wishes towards everyone and a time to spend bathed in the love of your relatives. The reality, as we all know, is FAR different.

Everyone has that Uncle that tells smutty jokes and makes everyone uncomfortable. We all have the Aunty that wears too much make up, rocks the “can I speak to the manager” haircut (thank you Josh), and insists on kissing you on the lips with jammy lipstick, or worse, gives you stubble rash from her unwaxed upper lip.

Grandma is always good for an inappropriate comment or two, because as a rule old people have no filter, and basically no conscience, and as a result will say whatever they please.

Originally this blog was was going to be about ways to deal with this kind of behaviour, but then I came across this gem from Good Housekeeping:

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Firstly, if you’re wearing an outfit like that at Christmas, you have bigger worries than your mother insulting your cooking. And secondly, that is the most boring advice I have ever heard.

So, given that the boring ways of dealing with insulting and rude relatives has been covered by Good Housekeeping, I’ve decided to go with Plan B

The Christmas Drinking Game

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This game is very simple. When someone says any of the following, or any of the following things happen to you… take a drink.

You’ve put on weight

Do you really need a second piece and Pavlova?

So, when are you going to settle down?

When are you going to give me Grandkids?

How exciting, you’re pregnant ( and you’re not pregnant)

A child gets “packaging rage” because he can’t get his present open

When are you going to ask this lovely young lady to marry you (and she’s standing right next to you)

The following conversation occurs

You: I like potato
Grandma: We can tell! But we love you anyway

Your creepy Uncle makes an even creepier reference to being “Naughty or Nice”

Someone is wearing a Christmas themed piece of clothing

Someone tries to save wrapping paper

You get accidently stabbed in the eye by an antler headband

Someone plays a Mariah Carey Christmas song (3 shots, due to badness of Mariah Carey music)

A relative gets drunk and tries to dance

You’re seated at the childrens table because you are either short, or immature (this one could just be me)

Someone makes a Ho Ho Ho joke about actual Ho’s

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So there you have it ! My Christmas Drinking Game. Not exactly healthy, but neither is murdering your entire family in a fit of holiday rage… It’s all about balance !!

Merry Christmas xx

I got the Hippy Hippy Shake…

Firstly, if you get the reference in the title, you are an awesome person with impeccable taste in movies !

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Down to business. It’s only 2 more sleeps till the fat man comes, and the festive season is in full swing. Christmas parties usually mean one thing. Drinking. And drinking, while fun and delicious, is one of the easiest ways to add empty calories to your diet. It also makes you an epic dancer, but let’s just deal with the calorie issue today.

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Alcohol not only adds to your calorie intake, it also does some other stuff to your body that will interfere with either weight loss or the avoidance of weight gain. For example. Unless you’re a hardcore alcoholic (no judgement) and you just pound shots all night, you probably mix your drinks with soft drink. BAM! Massive amounts of calories, right there. So that’s the first thing to tackle.

Let’s take a quick look at vodka. Not only my favorite, because it’s just so tasty and fun, but it’s also impressively low in calories, if you know how to mix it. Vodka lime and soda is only about 70 calories, while a Vodka lime and lemonade is around 150 calories. If you do you’re drunken alcohol maths correctly, you can have TWICE AS MANY drinks for the same calories. That’s 100% more Vodka. Top stuff !

So in the spirit (ha, see what I did there?) of being healthy, let’s just pretend that you’ve decided not to indulge in alcohol at all over Christmas. What are your alternatives?

Mocktails are the alternative !! They are fruity, festive and flavourful !

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The Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie (An alternative to a Strawberry Margarita)

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Vegan, serves 2

2 cups lemonade
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 large frozen banana
2 Tbsp raw cashews
1 cup coconut water (or regular) ice cubes
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
lemon slices and/or mint leaves for garnish
optional: fresh strawberries blended in

Blend and Serve!

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Summer Fruit Punch

2 cups diced stone fruit, (apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines)

2 cups apricot juice

2 cups sparkling water

1 cup seltzer

Combine diced fruit, apricot juice, sparkling wine and seltzer. Divide among 4 ice-filled glasses.

I’ll leave you with some wise words from one of my cinematic idols, Brian Flanagan

Cocktails & Dreams

I am the last barman poet

I see America drinking, the fabulous cocktails I make

Americans getting stinky, on something I stir or shake

The sex on the beach

The schnapps made from peach

The velvet hammer

The Alabama slammer

I make things with juice and froth

The pink squirrel

The three-toed sloth

I make drinks so sweet and snazzy

The iced tea

The kamikaze

The orgasm

The death spasm

The Singapore sling

The dingaling

America you’ve just been devoted to every flavor I got

But if you want to got loaded

Why don’t you just order a shot?

Let’s Get Physical

What if I told you that you could eat whatever you want to over the Christmas period, and not gain any weight? Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s totally possible! With Exercise !

It’s a magical activity that lets you eat more over Christmas. Oh, and it also gives you a healthy mind, healthy body, heaps more energy and awesome feel good endorphins. But back to the Christmas part…

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The average weight gain for adults over the Christmas period is 2-3kgs. Doesn’t seem like much, does it? Now factor in that most adults do NOT lose holiday weight for an average of 6 months. Let that sink in for a minute. Gain 2-3kgs and then have it hanging off you for the next 6 months. Don’t forget, 3 of those months will be SUMMER ! I’ll pass on that.

So what are the alternatives? You can eat clean, scoff at family and friends as they eat yummy food and drink yummy drinks, all the while dying inside….. or you could hit the gym, the road, the treadmill, the bike, or whatever else you do to exercise, and spend Christmas enjoying the same things as your family, instead of sneakily sniffing the empty shortbread tin like it’s a line of coke and you’re Robert Downey Jnr circa 1987, 1994 and possibly 2007.

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Exercise is good. It really is. It’s helped me drop 25kgs so far, and I have no plans on stopping until I have a banging bod that looks good in exercise gear ( ironic, isn’t it?) if you really want to see the magic of exercise and how it can help you over the holidays, just download an app called My Fitness Pal. I really love that app. One minute, you have 300 calories left for dinner… then you log your exercise for the day and BAM! just like magic, you have 650 !!

So this Christmas, instead of either being a total kill joy at the dinner table and snacking on Kale (ugh) while giving douchy looks to your family, or pigging out and putting on 2-3kgs that will be your friend for the next 6 months, head to the gym, work up a sweat and then get on with your day !

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Even Santa loves making gains !

How to survive the “Silly Season” without going completely silly.

This time of year can be a test of willpower for those of us who are either trying to lose weight, or trying to maintain a healthy weight. With Christmas fast approaching ( really, thanks again for the Facebook posts counting down the days, I really enjoy seeing how little time I have left to get organised) I got to thinking about how I can stay in control this year and not undo all the hard work of the past few months.

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There’s a few things I want to focus on in the coming days. Firstly, today we will be looking at some healthy alternatives for Christmas treats. In the lead up to Christmas, we’ll be looking at how to stay focused on goals when everyone around you is stuffing their faces full of shortbread and other delicious high calorie treats. I’ll be talking about exercise and how it can help you through the minefield of family dinners without completely destroying all your hard work.  We’ll also look at some alternatives to alcohol (if that’s how you want to roll). And for something mental health related we will practice some diversionary tactics to employ when being asked the awkward questions about why you’re still single, and what ever happened to that nice young man…

Number one priority this Christmas is going to be how you choose to handle it. And there are a few ways.

You can decide to just go hard on the food and booze and deal with the consequences later ( not a fan of this one, but if you are, then enjoy!)

You can do the whole ‘I’ll just ease up for a few days over Christmas’ thing, starting Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and then before you know it all the way through to New Years Day become cheat days. Also, not a fan of this one for the record.

Or you can give yourself a pass on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, eat what you like and get back into the healthy groove the day after. For those of you playing at home, this is what I have chosen as my Christmas game plan ! Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be having my superfood smoothies for breakfast, because my body actually craves them when I don’t have one, and I still plan on hitting the gym on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (Anytime Fitness, Caroline Springs) because my gym is awesome and open 24/7 I can pop down there anytime !!

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*Gratuitous image of sexy santa with awesome abs*

So lets look at some healthy recipe alternatives to minimise the Christmas damage. Luckily we live in a hot climate, so the first tip is to swap out the fat laden roasts for cold meat, seafood and salads.

Red and White Salad

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups thinly sliced hearts of romaine
  • 2 heads Belgian endive, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 15-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 head radicchio, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 red apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • Champagne Vinaigrette, (recipe follows)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Toss romaine, endive, fennel, hearts of palm, radicchio, apple and radishes together in a large salad bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season with pepper.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare salad without dressing, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Toss with vinaigrette just before serving.

NUTRITION

Per serving: 111 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 3 gfiber; 424 mg sodium; 324 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (30% daily value).

Carbohydrate Servings: 1

Champagne Vinaigrette

Makes: 2/3 cup, for 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, or white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Whirring this champagne vinaigrette in the blender gives it a creamy consistency. If you don’t have a blender, just mince the shallots, then whisk the ingredients in a medium bowl.

 

Crunchy Pear & Celery Salad

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Crisp pears are tossed with Cheddar cheese and pecans in this delicious salad. For an Italian twist, try a good Parmesan with some toasted pine nuts or to go British use crumbled Stilton and toasted walnuts

Makes: 6 servings, 1 cup each

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons cider, pear, raspberry or other fruit vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe pears, preferably red Bartlett or Anjou, diced
  • 1 cup finely diced white Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (see Tip)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 large leaves butterhead or other lettuce

PREPARATION

  1. Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
  2. Whisk vinegar, honey and salt in a large bowl until blended. Add pears; gently stir to coat. Add the celery, cheese and pecans; stir to combine. Season with pepper. Divide the lettuce leaves among 6 plates and top with a portion of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare salad without pecans up to 2 hours ahead. Stir in pecans just before serving.
  • Tip: To toast chopped pecans, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

NUTRITION

Per serving: 215 calories; 13 g fat (5 g sat, 4 g mono); 20 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 4 g fiber; 240 mg sodium; 219 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (15% daily value)

Carbohydrate Servings: 1

 

Citrus Ginger Cake with Spiced Orange Compote

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated (see Tip)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange or Meyer lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange or Meyer lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger, divided
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Spiced Orange Compote, (recipe follows)

 PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil an 8-inch round cake pan (see Variation), line with parchment paper and oil the parchment.
  2. Stir together honey, oil, egg yolks, zest, juice and 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger in a medium bowl. Sift whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high in another medium bowl until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Stir the honey mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon. Gently fold in the egg whites with a rubber spatula until they are well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake and turn it out onto the rack. Let cool completely.
  5. Just before serving, sift sugar evenly over the top of the cake and garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons ginger. Serve with Spiced Orange Compote on the side.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 4, tightly wrap in plastic wrap and hold at room temperature for up to 1 day. | Equipment: 8-inch cake pan (see Variation), parchment paper
  • Tip: To bring an egg to room temperature, set it out on the counter for 15 minutes or submerge it (in the shell) in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for 5 minutes.
  • Variation: You can use a 9-inch cake pan for this recipe, but you will get a thinner cake. Reduce the baking time to 25 to 30 minutes. You can find 8-inch cake pans at well-stocked kitchenware stores or online at surlatable.com.

NUTRITION

Per serving: 280 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 42 mg cholesterol; 52 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 175 mg sodium; 189 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (80% daily value)

Carbohydrate Servings: 3.5

 

Spiced Orange Compote

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 small oranges, preferably seedless
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise

PREPARATION

  1. Use a 5-hole zester to remove zest from oranges into long, thin, spindly strips (see Variation). Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the zest to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a small strainer (reserve the cooking liquid). Rinse with cold water; separate and drain on a paper towel.
  2. Stir sugar into the reserved cooking liquid; bring to a simmer. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape the seeds into the sugar water and add the pod along with cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise. Continue to simmer until the sauce reduces to 1/2 cup and thickens slightly, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, slice off an end of each orange so they stand upright steadily. In careful sculpting slices, remove all the remaining peel and white pith from the oranges with a very sharp knife. Slice the peeled oranges into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Remove any extraneous pith or rind and any stray seeds.
  4. Discard the vanilla pod and whole spices. Stir the zest into the sauce. Layer the orange slices in a serving bowl, spooning the sauce between layers to distribute the zest evenly throughout.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  • Variation: If you don’t have a 5-hole zester, use a vegetable peeler to remove long strips of the outer skin (zest) of the orange. Cut the zest into thin slivers.

NUTRITION

Per serving: 61 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 2 gfiber; 1 mg sodium; 140 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (70% daily value)