Diets that work

For far too long we have been influenced by weight loss and diet regimes that profligate the idea that we should prohibit foods we love. First fat was bad, then sugar, now we are being overloaded with messages that tell us we should be eating mainly fruit and vegetables and juicing everything to lose weight! These diets seem almost to be a fad, leaving us with the question are there even any diets that work? Every aisle of the supermarket is filled with all sorts of diet foods, and diet versions of our favourite foods. They have even now developed a 'low-fat cream' - isn't this an oxymoron?!

I love living and eating in Dublin, Ireland. However, while I was on holiday last year- a two week cruise around the Adriatic- I discovered that unwittingly I had ended up in a pseudo-science experiment for the taste buds. We were travelling on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, a cruise with an illustrious past, favoured by the British Royalty no less- five star all the way! There was fancy fine dining with silver service and we were required to get all dressed up in our glad rags for the evening meal. It was truly magical.

DIETS THAT WORK

A DIET FILLED WITH QUALITY FOOD

However very quickly I noticed something inescapable, the food on-board- which was beautifully prepared and presented- couldn't hold a candle to the simple fare we were eating on the islands and inlets we stopped into each day. The fresh food simply **TASTED BETTER**.  It was fresh, less salty, bursting with flavour, simple, uncomplicated and so fabulously filling.

While this is something I have been an advocate of for a long time- good quality ingredients and fresh produce (the ultimate key to achieve weight loss) - the contrast in our daily fare was so striking that it left a lasting impression. I still remember the mouth-watering simple Greek salad we enjoyed in a tiny little restaurant in Crete (see the recipe below).

Now I am not suggesting that we all hop on the first plane to Greece, considering the country's financial climate it's probably not the best idea right now. However the message is simple:

EAT WELL- AND YOU WILL EAT LESS!

Do your very best to eat good quality ingredients- you will taste the difference and as a result YOU WILL EAT LESS because tasty food is packed with flavour! Weight loss will be a joyous consequence.

I think this really counts with vegetables and fruit. Always, where you can, buy organic. I order from the organic supermarket and they deliver to my door. I get a MASSIVE box of fruit and vegetables which are in season and so taste delicious! This box costs 20 euro (including delivery) and consists of the bulk of my food shop for the week! Buying organic doesn't have to cost the earth. We should aim to eat less, waste less and eat well. 

ENJOYING OUR FOOD IS THE KEY TO DEVELOPING A HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD.

This goes for sweet things too- you are MUCH BETTER OFF spending 3 euro on a 100 gram bar of delicious, organic fair-trade chocolate than you are buying a mars bar or a multi-pack of bars for the same price. You will eat less and savour the delicious flavour- win win- right?

  1. Know your food budget and make it count.
  2. Remember if it tastes amazing you will need less of it to feel full as you savour each mouthful!!

Time and again it is recognised that the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest for us- those who eat this diet, on average live longer and are healthier. The bonus is that the Mediterranean diet is so yummy!

I’ve included an amazing recipe below. Check it out, eat it, savour it, and enjoy every bite! If you are looking for more support in your weight loss journey- drop me a line at karina@artful-eating.com I'd love to hear from you! 

 

Mouth-Watering Greek Salad:

  • Roughly slice a couple of deliciously ripe tomatoes per person.
  • Roughly chop half a cucumber.
  • Peel and thinly slice a red onion.
  • Add Kalamata (black) olives.
  • 200g of feta cheese- cut into thick slices or go authentic and leave it as one big slab on top of  the salad!
  • Add half a thinly sliced green pepper.  
  • Most people use dried oregano, but it is much better with fresh- Scatter either over the salad.
  • Add a splash of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
  • Optional- add a squeeze of lemon.
  • Sprinkle with some sea salt flakes.
  • Toss together and pile on to a small dish and ENJOY!!!

Serving suggestion:

Make sure the tomatoes are really ripe and juicy- this is key! Also the cucumber should be chilled and from the fridge, resist the desire to peel it.  This salad must be served cold to be truly refreshing. 

If you want to achieve your dream body without the pain of dieting check out my Artful Eating mini course. This is a free training where I will show you how to lose weight without any drastic diet or fitness regime. I have helped so many fantastic people fall in love with food and their body- weight loss is a joyous consequence!

Thanks so much for reading, if you like this post or feel someone you know could benefit for the message please share!

Why prepare meals in advance? My top tips...

At a meeting this week I was asked how I get so much done. I was a bit taken aback by the question, because I don't really think about it consciously. So I gave a very tangental answer. But the question was sitting with me later in the week when a client spoke about how they found being prepared and organised for the week ahead quite challenging.

The question persisted.

We headed West late last night to visit my in-laws, they live between Manchester in England and Louisburgh, a tiny little village on the west coast of Ireland. When you walk up the little lane to the beach, you really feel like you are at the edge of the world, staring off into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. I live on the seafront looking out at the Irish Sea, and this has a completely different feel altogether. It's comforting and cosy and contained. So last night, after a very busy week, we drove from one edge of this little island to the other.

I woke this morning and was struck by something I had actually long forgotten. Waking up to complete silence. No noise, no cars, just silence. It was surprising to actually notice it. And with that realisation, something else struck me. Time seemed to have completely slowed down. If I were at home right now, I would have plenty to be getting on with. But here it's quiet, peaceful and very relaxed.

This reminded me of a motto of sorts I've acquired recently enough which has really helped me to carve out the time required to do the things I need and want.

My husband is a Rolling Stones fan ( though who isn't when all is said and done!). A few months ago I was overwhelmed, juggling a fair few plates and I was feeling frazzled to say the least! One evening, seeing how overwhelmed I was, he put this record on:

Now I've heard this song so many times, I'm sure we all have! But listening to it in that moment, late one night while I was desperately trying to multitask, something happened. Looking at Liam relaxing on the couch, I actually started to hear the lyrics, it felt as if Mick Jagger was trying to tell me something...

"Time is on my side..."

I love this sentiment and I carry it with me everywhere now. Its as if recognising this fact had altered time, I now feel like I can squeeze more out of my day without feeling squeezed. As I often say, it's all about the mind set!

I'm sharing this with you because I think it's the secret to my ability to be an organised person and get the things I need to do, done and I think this is especially important if you have little ones. In fact I would say it is a necessary rather than something to strive for.

I'm talking about this with you because our ability to plan and prepare when it comes to weight loss is an essential tool which will really help you move towards your weight loss goal. So today I want to share the strategies which I find really effective because I fundamentally believe it is key to prepare meals in advance.  But first let's look at what happens when we aren't prepared:

If you don't have the right foods preprepared in your cupboard or freezer, you will reach for something you think is convenient, but may not actually be the best thing for you to eat. This leads to the inevitable feeling of guilt and frustration. So preparing meals in advance and always having what you need on hand will prevent any unhelpful snap decisions.

How to prepare meals in advance:

1. Your freezer is definitely your friend, so start by clearing it out and assessing what you have and what you actually will use in there. It can become a dumping ground for things you think you'll use at a later time, but you forgot about. So throw out anything thats been lingering in there too long and doesn't seem enticing to you.

2. Once you have space, it's time to get organised. Every week I block off about two hours to prepare meals in advance for us to eat during the week. This may sound like a lot, but think about it. It means you'll make a big mess only once, and you will have everything you need conveniently available for the week ahead.

We take time out to clean the house, do the washing or watch our favourite tv show, so carving out time so that you and your family can eat healthily seems like a good idea to me!

3. Ordering your food online is an excellent idea. It saves oodles of time and means you only purchase exactly what you need. You can organise when to have it delivered so that it can coincide with your weekly food prep time.  If ordering online isn't an option for you, then make a list before you go to the shop. Decide what you want to make for the week ahead and only buy what you need. Try to use what's in season.

4. I usually cook up a large batch of about three different dishes and freeze them in individual portions, that way they are easy to reheat.  One I'll do in the slow cooker. A favourite in my house is bean chilli, the recipe for which I'll add below. And then I'll have something going in the oven and a few things on the hob. I also make a large batch of soup as part of preparing meals in advance for the week. At the moment with the occasional sunny day, I'm loving the opportunity to make gazpacho (recipe below), which I find freezes really well.

I love listening to some music or a podcast and relaxing as I cook. This is time that slows down as I enjoy creating and tasting. It most certainly isn't a chore. I feel this way because I know that we will have delicious food for the week.

 

5. During my prep time I also pick and wash the salad as this can be quite a time consuming job, and it lasts a good few days in the fridge. I encourage you not to buy the pre washed stuff from bags, it doesn't taste as good and its covered in chlorine and chemicals to keep it looking fresh, not very healthy!

6. I'll typically make some hummus and maybe roast some peppers and preserve them in sunflower oil, both of which easily jazz up a salad, or open sandwich.

7. I also prep my green smoothie ingredients by chopping everything up and freezing them in individual portions, so they are ready to whip out in the morning in no time.

So I have thought about and prepared easy dinners, soups, lunch accoutrements, my breakfast green smoothie, but perhaps the most important piece is always having something delicious and good to snack on!!

8. To that end, I also bake a lemon or courgette (zucchini) cake or some scones which freeze really well. I first slice the cake into individual slices so that I can pop it in the toaster if it takes my fancy. This also works with a scone.

9. My fridge always has natural yogurt, as I adore a little tea cup of this with honey, crushed pralines and a tablespoon of oats. This is a quick snack which works for me any time of the day (though it is typically my breakfast staple). I suppose it replaces the bowl of cereal which I would have snacked on in my youth! Having hummus in the fridge is another staple which will come in handy should you feel a bit hungry, with carrot sticks, it's just delicious!

10. Finally, always have your favourite fruit in a bowl somewhere visible. If you make a habit of reaching for a piece of fruit to snack on as opposed to a slice of toast or a biscuit, you will quickly start to notice the difference. I always have pink ladies as they are my absolute favourite. I think it's really worth buying the best quality fruit you can, as here you really will taste the difference. We are now very used to having our fruit in juice or smoothie form, but nothing beats the smell of peeling an orange.  Eating fruit in its natural state, takes time, tastes delicious and will really fill you up. Make sure the fruit is visible as studies have shown that people who have fruit somewhere visible in their home are on average likely to weight a significant amount less than people who have a toaster or breakfast cereal on view!  

The idea here is that you should always have what you need to hand, that this should become an enjoyable part of the fabric of your week. Remember, time is on your side and you will be surprised at how easy it is to prepare meals in advance. Once you commit to incorporating an activity into your life there will always be time for it. Carve out a time that suits you, get prepping and the following week you will not miss a step as you have an abundance of the right foods to nourish you as you move towards your goal weight.

What do you find most challenging about being prepared?  Or do you have some helpful tips you'd like to share?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences so email me karina@artful-eating.com I respond to every email I receive!

To falling in love with food and flavours,

Karina xo

Both of these recipes freeze really well and so are great for making in batches....

Three Bean Chilli

1 tblsp veg oil

1 large carrot, chopped into small dice

1 large stick celery, chopped into small dice

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 red chilli (if using) finely chopped or 1/2-1tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tblsp tomato puree

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick, or piece of cassia bark

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp soy sauce

1 400g can of chopped tomatoes

1 pepper, small dice

100g each dried kidney beans, aduki beans and black eye beans, or a 400g can of each, drained

Handful of chopped coriander leaves and chopped scallions. 

  1. If using dried beans, soak and cook as recommended on the packaging prior to starting the chilli
  2. Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and fresh chilli if using to the oil in a large wide pan on a medium hot heat and sweat until onions are translucent, about 10 mins
  3. Add tomato puree and stir for 30 seconds, then add the cumin, coriander, bay and cinnamon, smoked paprika and dried chilli if using. Stir fry for a minute.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes, chopped pepper and soy sauce, bring to simmer, cover and leave on low heat for 10-20mins, stirring occasionally, until veg is cooked through. Adding pepper at this step leaves a bit of crunch. If you like it more cooked add with other veg at step one.
  5. Add all the beans, stir, bring to simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until beans are hot. Keep an eye on it, add a couple of tblsp of water if it is a bit dry.
  6. Add chopped coriander leaves, chopped scallions and serve with a dollop of sour cream or some chopped avocado. Delicious!

Gazpacho

About 2 pounds of ripe red tomatoes, roughly chopped into chunks

1 green pepper, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks

1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks

1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks

1 clove garlic

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste

Salt

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling

  1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
  2. With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
  3. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.

 

My tips: Lose weight without counting calories

I’ve been asked how one can maintain or lose weight without counting calories.

This is a great question, as the central tenet of most diets is to monitor our daily food intake, either through calorie counting or by some abbreviated from of this, created by the likes of Slimming World or Weight Watchers.  Yes, while we stick to the rigors of the numbers we do lose the weight, but once we emancipate ourselves (over give up) then we are in trouble! The weight piles back on without the structure and limitations telling us what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’... so how can we lose weight without counting calories or sticking rigidly to a diet?

Please permit me to digress a little in order to answer this question...

"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge." Copernicus, 1473-1543.

Copernicus' major work 'On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres' was finished by 1530. Its central theory was that the Earth rotates daily on its axis and revolves yearly around the sun. He also argued that the planets circled the Sun. This challenged the long held view that the Earth was stationary at the centre of the universe with all the planets, the Moon and the Sun rotating around it. This theory challenged convention that the earth was the centre of the universe and it took a long time for this fact to become accepted!

This is always the case with anything that differs from the consensus and our inclination to stick with what we know, is precisely why we struggle to move away from dieting and calorie counting.

Because it has been part of the fabric of human society for so long.

The idea of counting the number of calories in food took off after Doctor Lulu Hunt Peters published Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories, in 1918. It sold millions of copies throughout the 1920s, becoming the first diet bestseller. She urged women to view food as calories, and not to consume more than 1,200 a day.

We have spent almost a century counting calories and in that time our weight has steadily increased along with a general dissatisfaction with our weight.  Something is going terribly wrong.  

I hope by now you know that I’m passionate about helping you to stop dieting. In fact, it’s my mission!

I want everyone to feel freedom with food and to love their body.

Why?  

Because diets simply don’t work. Research has shown that the most likely outcome from dieting is to actually put on weight. So this should be incentive enough to throw out the rulebook, right?

I’ve a little story I want to share with you that I hope you find as fascinating as I did, about a woman called Emily who most definitely threw out the rule book...

Emily O’Mara is a 126-pound woman who was on a mission of her own. She wanted to find out who served the best cheeseburger in her hometown of Louisville. (Louisville is allegedly the home of the birth of the Cheeseburger). So Emily decided she was going to eat two burgers a week for a year, which roughly equated to 101 burgers!

 

cheeseburger.jpg

How can this woman's mission help advance mine? Her experience can teach us a lot about how we eat...

She wanted to find the best cheeseburger and fries in Louisville, keeping in mind that “the best” is a subjective measure. Emily is a self confessed fast-food foodie. As she says herself “I love it. I know it’s not good for me, and I did read that book Fast Food Nation. It made me very, very hungry. I watched the documentary Super Size Me. I thought it was the best commercial for McDonald’s I’d ever seen” (!).

Now when Emily first thought about eating two cheeseburgers a week for a year, she was beyond excited. But she hadn’t really thought it through. Her friends were concerned, wasn't she afraid that she would gain loads of weight and her cholesterol would go sky high?

She resolved to get a cholesterol test the first and last day of her study and she weighed herself about once a month and monitored her blood pressure.

Based on all her results, and calculations (she had a complex marking system), the best burger was from a little family-owned drive-in here in Louisville called Dizzy Whizz. They’ve been around since 1946.  They do not try to be old-school, they just are old-school. Serving up a very greasy burger with tasty French fries.

The winner: Dizzy Whizz was ranked No. 1 by Emily O’Mara for best cheeseburger and fries. 

Dramatic-Roller-Coaster-by-Erin-Smith-via-Flickr.jpg

After this year of two cheese burger meals a week, what do you think happened Emily?

How much weight do you think she gained?

Emily is about five-foot-five-and-a-half and her beginning weight was 126 pounds, with a total cholesterol of 160. Anything under 200 is good.

Her LDL — that’s the bad cholesterol —  was 93. Anything under 100 is good, and her HDL — that’s good cholesterol — was 49. It should be over 50 if you’re female, so she just at the break there of having good cholesterol.

Then she ate two cheeseburgers and fries a week for a year....

After this mission, she weighed  exactly126 pounds and her cholesterol was 179!

So her cholesterol rose a bit, but was still safe. In fact her good cholesterol actually improved. It went up to 56, which for a woman, again, it should be over 50. Her LDL, the bad cholesterol, was 107. That’s a little bit high, but not too bad.

What can Emily’s experience teach us?

In an effort to offset her bi-weekly indulgence, you might think that Emily stuck to a strict diet and counted every calorie. Surely that’s the only way she managed to stave off heavy weight gain.

NOT AT ALL!

How Emily Lost Weight Without Counting Calories

She did exactly what I encourage all of you Artful Eaters to do. And it clearly worked!

  1. First she made sure she got at least 10,000 steps or in that range everyday, by downloading a pedometer to her phone. She also increased her exercise by walking as many places as she could. She would make the effort to walk to the burger joints as opposed to driving, or if they were too far to walk, she would ride her bike.  
  2. Secondly, because she was so afraid of gaining weight from these burgers and fries, that she ate much more healthily than she normally did. She didn’t go to fast-food restaurants except the twice per week days. She avoided bakeries and fried food, pizza or pasta.

Without calorie counting or overly monitoring her food intake, she well compensated for the fact that she was eating burgers and fries twice a week. Her consciousness went up about her health on all those days when she wasn’t eating burgers and fries. She ate much healthier.

So a year of eating cheeseburgers and fries twice a week turned her into a healthier eater overall. “And I didn’t even realise it, because I was so focused on those burgers and fries,” Emily acknowledged.

Emily’s compensatory behaviours were simple, easy and effective. Much simpler than calorie counting, right?

Despite it being entirely possible to lose weight without counting calories, there is still a major push towards focusing on calories in and out and on intensive exercise regimes.

Yet all calories are not created equal. Now, this is a much larger discussion than we’re going to have now but, briefly, it’s worth remembering that a calorie is technically a unit of energy — in this case, the energy that fuels the human body. In that regard, a calorie isn’t a very precise proxy for what we think of as “nutrition.”

Two thousand calories in a day that are all carbohydrates will have a very different effect than 2,000 calories of proteins or fats. Also when we focus on the calorie count, we tend to eat more processed foods, which are less satisfying and higher in sugars. We also tend to be more hungry as we are constantly monitoring what we eat and are working from a position of deprivation which is not sustainable!

So, using calories as your only measure of nutrition can be a bit misleading. Like using speed — miles-per-hour — as your only measure of how good a driver you are. There are plenty of good fast drivers and plenty of lousy slow drivers; you also need to know how to steer, and hit the brakes.

It is entirely possible to lose weight without counting calories. Calorie counting is tedious, misleading and frankly unsustainable in the long term. I think Emily’s approach is much more enjoyable and manageable, don’t you?

In Emily’s own words, “what I realise now that I’m thinking back on it, and I didn’t realise it at the time, is that if you want to get on like a diet, or you want to be more healthy and you talk to a dietician or personal trainer, the first thing they’re going to say to you is “you need to count calories. You need to weigh your food. You need to have eight to 11 servings of whole grains. You need to have two to three servings of fruit everyday. Blah, blah, blah.” And instead of being obsessed with all that, I was obsessed with the burgers and the fries! I just feel like I inadvertently kinda just turned, turned the diet conventional wisdom on it’s head. And I disciplined the fun, which sounds like an oxymoron. But it really was fun, and it really was disciplined. And, like I said, I didn’t even worry about like, “Oh, today I’ve gotta have fruits and vegetables. I just ate ’em. I didn’t even think about it.”

Emily’s cheeseburger diet – if you even want to call it a diet – was based on what you might call compensatory behaviour. If you take on some extra risk in one area of your life, you might need to compensate by adding some precautionary behaviour in another area.

Some of us are certainly better at this than others, but it is a nice act of faith, isn’t it? Faith in ourselves, and our ability to self-regulate, as opposed to relying on some top-down guideline that may produce the behaviour you’re hoping for.

Emily’s experience can teach us a lot about balance.

What I am encouraging you to do, is be like Emily while she was on her Cheeseburger Mission!

Do enjoy indulgences, but balance them out (as you can see my husband joyously doing here!).

As much as I love cooking and enjoying the fruits of my labour, I also love going out to eat. And you can be sure I do not opt for the soup and the salad! I have a starter, main course and dessert thank you very much!

But the next day, I will naturally eat less, as I compensate for last nights indulgences.

This is easy to do, practically and psychologically as I don’t feel like I am depriving myself.  I naturally seek out lighter foods, as I’m not that hungry and still feel pleasantly satisfied from last night's indulgence. 

Isn’t this a much better way of being than constantly counting and limiting what you can eat?

You can enjoy the good things in life, but instead of focusing on calories in and calories out, eat a diet which comprises mainly of healthy non processed foods.

Lose weight without counting calories.

Be active and try and hit 10,000 steps per day. It’s not that hard!

Eat delicious foods you enjoy but balance it out.

I challenge you to stop calorie counting for one week.

Yes, to completely stop monitoring what you eat and to throw out the rule book. Instead eat try eating a varied diet of healthy non-processed foods with some delicious indulgences thrown in. I know you will be surprised to see what happens….

Now it’s your turn.

Are you consumed by calorie counting?

Do you feel out of control if you aren’t constantly monitoring what you eat?

Do you trust yourself enough to shift towards balance and away from control and deprivation?  

It may be that you need a little bit of help shifting towards a life where you are naturally balanced and feel freedom with food and flavours. If you feel this way, get in touch! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences so email me at karina@artful-eating.com. I respond to every email I receive.

To falling in love with food and flavours...

Karina xo

Eat guilt free

I was out with some dear friends at the weekend. We went to one of these quintessentially Irish pubs with lots of old men propped up at the bar drinking creamy pints of Guinness.

(In my opinion there are only two spots in the world that serve the best Guinness, The Cobblestone in Smithfield- a very old and authentic traditional music haunt in the heart of Dublin, and Murray’s on Inisbofin, a tiny Island off the west coast of Ireland. I don't know if it's the setting, and I’m not typically a fan of the black stuff, but from these taps it tastes like cream and  I LOVE cream! This reminds me... I also once had a pint of Guinness in an Irish bar on Gili Trawangan, which is another tiny Island, though off the coast of Lombok so much less windswept. Interestingly, both Inisbofin and Gigli Tarwangan have a lot in common; you can leisurely stroll around both Islands and they both have an Irish bar! Well on Boffin that's not so surprising...)

I’m open to challenge on the best pint of Guinness, so do send in your suggestions! But today I want to talk about something I observed during that lovely dinner and something I hear my clients talk about all the time, and that's GUILT. Now, I want you to eat guilt-free!

One of our dinner companions was really struggling to enjoy the meal out, as they were on a diet and desperately trying to lose weight. They found ordering really difficult, opting for the salad and skipping the starter, while the rest of us enjoyed the fabulous choice of fresh homegrown offers on the menu. By the time it came to dessert, our uncomfortable dinner companion seemed eager to leave, as they clearly couldn’t enjoy the meal and did not want to sit around and watch as we indulged in some seriously tasty Irish cheeses and homemade brown bread ice cream.

If you have never tried brown bread Ice cream then this is something I insist you remedy immediately! I still remember the first time my mother made it for us, I must have been about seven and I genuinely thought I was tasting a little bit of heaven. I always order it if it’s on the menu, but my mom's version is still my all time favourite (see my recipe below).

Our dinner companion did not enjoy the meal. In fact, speaking with them after, they told me how difficult it was to be ‘good’ and that it only seemed to work for them when they didn’t go out to socialise and when they avoided alcohol and banished all things ‘bad’ from the house. This included things like butter, cheese and bread by the way.

My dear friend was caught up in something I think we all can identify with. This oscillation between being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to food. What is more concerning is that their mood and sense of well being was tied to what they ate. So if they had a good day, they would feel happy with themselves and if they had a bad day they would feel absolutely rotten about themselves, which would generally lead to more bingeing on the ‘bad’ stuff.

I can actually identify with this myself, as in my first trimester, my cravings were so bizarre! For the first time in years I was desperately craving Monster Munch. If you’re not from Ireland or the UK then let me explain, these are a type of puffed up corn chip which are highly processed and full of all sorts of unnatural ingredients. Not what you want to be munching on when you’re growing a little one and yet they seemed to be the only thing that helped with my nausea! I would feel so guilty after eating them, indeed I could hardly enjoy them at all, even though they once were a childhood favourite. I would feel pretty guilty, especially since I am an advocate for good eating (which in my book is avoiding overly processed foods). So that guilty feeling is fresh in my mind. I hate it, and I hate that so many people deal with it on a daily basis and allow it to affect their mood. It doesn’t help, it doesn’t prevent you from flip flopping between being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ so what’s the point?

 

Stop feeling guilty! My top tips to help you eat guilt-free...

Here are the strategies which I share with my Artful Eaters to combat the unnecessary guilt that comes from trying to be ‘good’ but inevitably ending up being ‘bad’...

1. I have NO TIME for this good/bad business. Enjoying a love of food and your body is all about balance.

Not controlling and trying to constantly stave off foods you love. What I mean by this is listening to your body and eating what you want when you want. Allowing yourself freedom with food actually has the opposite result than what you would imagine. It is entirely possible to eat guilt-free! Once you know that you can have something if you want it, it removes the ‘badness’ and the reliance on willpower from the equation. This means you can enjoy the food without attaching all these negative thoughts and feelings to it. When you do this, you are MUCH LESS LIKELY to overindulge and binge; feeling freedom around food means you’re more likely to eat one cookie instead of the whole tin- try it and see!                    

2When you do overeat, or indulge then make sure to compensate the next day.  

This is a continuation from my first point on balance, is that when you do eat out, and enjoy a scrumptious three course meal like I did last weekend, then you should compensate the next day by having a lighter dinner and avoid the sweet treats for a day or so. To find out how to do this effortlessly check out last week's blog here.

3. Use the rule of halves: Halve anything you want to eat, especially sweet treats.

This will immediately help prevent any guilt from rearing its ugly head. If you want to eat a sweet treat or dessert, go ahead, but halve it before you even start to eat it. I have a very sweet tooth, I’ve always had and I love cakes and treats. Baking is as relaxing to me as a bubble bath and a glass of champagne, seriously! So in order to feel freedom with the good stuff (cakes, pastries, chocolates etc,) I halve everything and give away or put away, or if it's not salvageable, throw away, the other half. (Well if I’m honest if it doesn't have chocolate in it my dogs get it!). The rule of half is so simple and so powerful. All the flavour is in the first few bites anyway so eating slowly and consciously will allow you to eat less, enjoy more and stave off any guilt.

4. Whenever you begin to feel guilty about something you have eaten do this powerful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercise: an ABC work sheet.

My fourth and final tip is the most powerful one I can share, and I encourage you to use this if you find that you are feeling guilty about food, or if you are feeling overwhelming anxiety or dissatisfaction with your body. This is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy tool which my clients absolutely love. The key with this is that you must physically go through the exercise in written form. It will only take a couple of minutes and will help melt away any guilt you feel. So take a few minutes, sit down at your desk (that's mine below!) and do the worksheet. 

Below there is an example of an ‘ABC sheet’ to help you learn to eat guilt-free. The first row provides the headings and the second row tells you what to do. Finally the third row provides an example of how to use the sheet. Try it out whenever you feel yourself experiencing negative thoughts around your body, or what you have eaten. Going through the process of actually writing the thoughts out is really cathartic and will help reduce and often eliminate the bad feelings. 

Or click here to download the Guilt ABC sheet

Isn't it time you stopped beating yourself up about food and your body?

Ask yourself, how is this serving me? Is it helping me to achieve my dream size? Try these tools and strategies to help avoid feeling guilty and, if you do go all out and end up feeling guilty for it, do the work sheet. I know you'll love it!

Now I'd like to hear from you! If you tried the worksheet, how did you get on? If you really struggle with this issue, tell me about it. I'd like to hear your story. I read and respond to every email I receive and I LOVE hearing from you!

Let's eat guilt-free and enjoy freedom around food,

Karina xo 

 

This is a really easy ice cream recipe - you don't need an ice cream maker!

Guilt-Free Brown Bread Ice Cream

Serves 6-8.

100g (3½ oz) brown soda bread or brown yeast bread, in chunks

50g (2 oz) soft brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

150ml (5½ oz) cream

1 tablespoon rum (optional)

2 eggs, separated

125g (4½ oz) sugar

100ml (3½ oz)water

Pinch of cream of tartar

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6. Place the chunks of brown bread in a food processor and whiz for 30 seconds to a minute to form coarse breadcrumbs, then add the soft brown sugar and the ground cinnamon and pulse a few times to mix. Spread out the bread, cinnamon and sugar mixture on a baking tray and place in the oven. Toast for about 10 minutes until it is well browned. Then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Next, whisk the cream until soft peaks appear, then mix in the rum if you're using it, and the egg yolks, and set aside.

Place the sugar and the water in a saucepan and heat slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil fiercely for about 5 minutes until the mixture reaches the 'thread' stage. If you own a sugar thermometer, this is when it reads 106°C-113°C (223°F-236F). If you don't have a sugar thermometer, dip a metal spoon into the mixture; as you remove it, the last drops of sugar syrup will form thin threads if the correct temperature has been reached.

Meanwhile, using an electric whisk, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they are stiff. Still whisking, gradually pour in the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream, and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool, glossy and stiff (about 4-5 minutes).

Then add in the whipped-cream and egg-yolk mixture, along with the caramelised breadcrumbs, and fold until mixed through. Tip in to a container with a lid, cover and place in the freezer for a few hours until frozen through. The ice-cream can be scooped straight from the freezer.

I absolutely LOVE this recipe and it brings me right back to my childhood. I love brown bread ice cream so much I could eat a whole batch! But I NEVER feel guilty about it and, like I say, make sure I eat guilt-free! Remember, life is all about balance so a lot over here means that you can compensate with a little over there....

x

The importance of confidence in the kitchen

I have built up great confidence in the kitchen and now absolutely adore cooking. It’s my down time, when I’m at my most relaxed. I love nothing more than turning on some music, putting on an apron, opening the fridge and seeing what I can whip up. While I have lots of gorgeous recipe books, I now rarely stick to ingredients or directions, though I suppose I was never one to colour within the lines...

When I was in my early twenties, my friends would know to line their stomachs before coming to eat at mine, as inevitably my experimentation would fall short of my hopes. (Think Bridget Jones' inedible blue soup…). But I continued to try and fail many times. The problem was that I hadn’t mastered the basics and if I’m honest, I was too impatient. I didn't feel confident or happy in the kitchen. Learning how to bake has helped me with this immensely and I will certainly share more tips and strategies to help you become a more competent home cook at a later date.

But today I want to address the number one saboteur for the home cook and that is a lack of confidence in the kitchen.

Confidence in the kitchen

I now love entertaining and really do take any opportunity to have friends come together to share food, stories and music. Yet this is something that once seriously stressed me out. To overcome this fear I simply moved from frantic to relaxed and confident and now I love seeing people enjoy my food. It is just one of life's simple pleasures.  How did I make this transition? I gave up on trying to create perfect food, I stopped following complicated recipes with too many ingredients and I started mastering a couple of very simple, yet flavoursome dishes. These things combined certainly helped grow my confidence.

And so what I think is absolutely key for anyone trying to shift to a less processed diet, is having the confidence to cook from scratch. So many of my clients tell me that they don't have time and that they don’t feel confident in the kitchen. In addressing the issue of time, I suggest you check out my strategies and advice to address this here.

In an effort to address the second issue, confidence, this week I’m sharing a recipe that is fool proof and simply delicious. I love it because it’s an eye pleasing dish, it tastes amazing and it really only consists of three ingredients.

Simple recipes are always the best in my opinion. They are usually easily adaptable, as you can often substitute one ingredient if you don't have it with something similar. They are quick to make, and, with good quality ingredients, the flavours speak for themselves. With that in mind, when you are starting off, favour simple over complicated and always buy the best ingredients you can afford. 

Simple recipes will definitely help grow your confidence and reinforce your resolve to cook more as you feel proud of your creations. Remember- positive associations breed repeated behaviours.

So when it comes to addressing confidence, try this dish. Think of it as that little black dress that you know you can throw on and you’re guaranteed to feel amazing! 

 

Butternut Squash & Ricotta

 

Butternut squash is such a versatile vegetable, I love to roast it and use it as a base for soups salads and this simple hearty dish. This recipe serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 Small Squash
  • 1–2 garlic cloves (unpeeled), lightly bashed
  • A few sprigs of thyme ( only if you have it
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil, plus extra to serve
  • 100g ricotta
  • 30–40g thinly sliced parma ham/bacon lardons
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 190 C /370 F/ gas 5. Peel and deseed the squash, then cut into chunks.
  • Put into a roasting dish with the garlic and a few thyme sprigs, if using. Trickle over the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin oil, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Roast for 40–50 minutes, or until the squash is tender and starting to caramelise, giving it a stir halfway through cooking. Discard the garlic and thyme and leave to cool completely.
  • Put the roasted squash on individual plates or a large platter.
  • Dot the ricotta over the top. Tear the ham into shreds and scatter over the squash and ricotta. Tear the leaves from the rest of the thyme sprigs, if you have them, and scatter over the dish.
  • Season with pepper, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Finish with a little squeeze of lemon juice, then serve.

How to love your body

For as long as I can remember, Autumn has always been my favourite time of year. I love the turning of the season from summer, which is very hit and miss here in Ireland, to Autumn, which you can really see and feel. The air turns crisp, but it's still bright and fresh. As a perennial student, I must love school! I can still remember my first day of school, skipping in the front gate holding hands with my best friend. We were completely fearless and I have enjoyed school (for the most part) ever since, which is probably why I love teaching so much. So September always feels like the beginning of my year, much more so than January.

 

Henry David Thoreau

Though last January I did something a little different. Instead of committing to a list of new years resolutions, or indeed even just one noble pursuit, I chose a word to inform my year. I did this because I do love new years resolutions and the magical idea of fresh beginnings, but I am completely hopeless at sticking to them. In my youth I really struggled with lent and I am ashamed to admit I never managed to keep it up. So instead of feeling like a bit of a failure, yet again, I chose a word to inform my actions and intentions as I thought this would be easier. Little did I know what I was getting myself into....

 

I planted this tree from a Lemon pip a couple of years ago and I love to see how much its grown from a tiny seed that we usually discard...

The word I chose for this year was 'grow', and magically (or not so magically) I became pregnant, started this mission of mine to help others learn to love their body and enjoy food, started writing a book, doing a phd and growing emotionally and spiritually. It has truly been quite a journey so far!

It seems like this one word has informed everything I've done and its been so enjoyable.

 

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

I'm sharing this with you because I believe there is always space to grow and learn and the best position to do this from is one of understanding that we don't know. I stumbled across Socrates' sentiment “Wisest is she who knows she does not know”, when I was about 13 and gifted the book Sophie's World, which is a marvellous book at any age. Many years later, during my training as a psychoanalyst, I came again to understand the importance of allowing space for not knowing, and privileging that position. I think this is what has fuelled my appetite to grow and to never stop learning.

With all this in mind,  I have two things I would like to share with you this week:

The first is this: don't think you know it all when it comes to losing weight.

When they first come to meet me, my weight loss clients always say the same thing: "I know it all. I've tried everything and I know exactly what I should be doing, I just need some help with motivation".

But a position of certainty doesn't allow any space for lasting change!

While I haven't come across this professionally, I'm sure you've all herd that trite adage:

'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!'

Well, doesn't this aptly fit with dieting?

So please, this week, let go of all the old inhibiting ideas you're holding on to about weight loss and diets. They haven't worked so far and they are not serving you.  Forget about the 'I have a slow metabolism...' or 'being overweight is in my genes...' or 'the only way to lose weight is to stick to some strict diet and deny myself the foods I love...'. What rubbish. The latest scientific research proves that biology is not destiny. There are plenty of people with the 'obesity gene' who are not overweight. Fact.

Isn't time you changed your story and thoughts around losing weight and allowed for the idea that you may not know it all?!

The second thing I'd like to share with you, I think perhaps is the most important lesson I've learned in my life so far, and it's one my wonderful clients have taught me as I opened my eyes this year to growing and not just in an academic fashion (which historically has been my predilection).

The second thing is to love yourself.

Love and treat yourself like you love and treat those special people in your life; your children, family, dearest friends, and pets if you happen to have the privilege of sharing your home with a furry friend!  Self love is not a narcissistic pursuit, is a necessary baseline for feeling good, enjoying life and enjoying others. Looking good is a happy consequence.

 

Luther & Pip

For some of you this may be more challenging than others, and it can take a bit of effort to begin with, but allowing yourself to look in the mirror and focus on the good bits, not the flaws is a lovely start. Instead of honing in on the thing you did wrong, focus for a couple of seconds on the thing you did right. When we love and respect ourselves we are much more inclined to do things that serve us, like eating well, minding our physical health and  believing we can achieve our goals.

Recent research within the field of Positive Psychology has a lot to contribute to this idea of being in a position of self love which actually facilitates feeling happy and achieving your goals.

Now if you ask someone why they are unhappy they will usually tell you something that is going on in their external world, or they'll say its because of their genes- that they have a family history of depression, or obesity or a neurochemical imbalance. If we were in a science class right now, this is exactly what we would be taught: You are a result of your genes and your environment.

But when positive psychologists studied happiness, they actually discovered a very different picture.  What they found was that if they knew everything about your external world; how much money you make, where in the world you live, what your education level is, whether your married or not, have kids or not.... with all this information combined, short term happiness is very easy to predict.

If you eat a chocolate bar, you feel happier and five minutes later you may think 'why did I do that?!'

But when looking at long term levels of happiness: your happiness, your joy and your meaning over days weeks, months and years, having all that external information combined, psychologists can only predict 10% of the variability of happiness amongst people! 90% of long term happiness is not about your external circumstances, its about how the human brain processes the world you find yourself in.

How you process the life you have, the size you are and most importantly, your relationship with yourself, is to do with the position you take up in the world, not your circumstances.  If you change the lens through which you view the world and your experience of it, you will actually dramatically increase your level of happiness, wellbeing and self love.

Unfortunately most people follow a formula for happiness and success that's actually scientifically broken and backwards, which actually limits both happiness and success. Most people think "if I can just work harder right now, then I'll be successful" or "as soon as I achieve my desired weight then I'll be much happier".

Think about how often we do that!  "As soon as I lose the weight I'll feel good about myself"...or "as soon as I fit into that outfit I'll like myself"... or "as soon as I meet the right partner I'll feel happier"...

In each one of those moments, happiness is on the opposite side of success.

The problem is, every time you achieve your goal your brain changes the goal posts of what your desire looks like. So if you achieve your desired weight, you suddenly feel you need to lose more!

So we need to turn the formula on its head.

What psychologists have found is that when the brain is in a position of feeling positive, our ability to achieve our goal or desired outcome improves dramatically. 

A lot of people think that happiness can be reduced to genes and their environment, but research proves that its absolutely not true.

You can deviate from your genes and your environment if you commit to just two minutes a day.

Positive psychologists conducted an experiment with a group of people who were potentially 'genetic pessimists'. People who had been practicing pessimism their whole lives and at the time of the experiment, were in the middle of the recession, so they had lots to feel down about! They were required to record three things that they were grateful for every morning for 21 days. By the end of the experiment they had 63 things that they were grateful for, which is robust, but not the point.

The point is happiness is a pattern within the brain and you can actually learn to be in a state of happiness. Not if you do isolated bursts of changes in your life, but by actually creating positive patterns in your daily experience.

As the pessimists started their day thinking of three things they were grateful for, their brain got 'stuck'. They started scanning the world, not just for the fires they need to put out, or what they feel they were lacking, but also for the things that provided meaning. They had begun to create a happiness advantage. This resulted in their health and well being improving, their relationships improving and their ability to achieve their goals improving.

So what the researchers found was that by getting people to think of three things they were grateful for over the course of 21 days, they literally trained their brains to become more optimistic. This shift dramatically changed their experience of their world and facilitated them to much more easily achieve their goals.

Would you believe that you can do this with 4 year old children, and 84 year old grumpy men! Whats truly amazing is, if you chose to do this,  your levels of happiness and optimism will rise above your genetic set point and indeed deviate from your environment. This is so powerful because people really believe that they cant move beyond their situation. But you absolutely can!

With this in mind, I want you to start by consciously shifting to a position of gratitude and happiness in order to allow for some self love. It's time to create some new thought patterns...

 

So for the next twenty one days I want you to commit to this experiment:

  1. Each morning wake up and before you get out of bed, I want you to count ten things that your thankful for, one on each finger. The key here is to really feel the good feelings of gratitude as you do this. I also want at least five of those things to pertain to you, what your thankful for about yourself, both physical and mental.

Ten is more than three, but I just know that you can find lots of things to feel thankful for!

This may be challenging at first, but go with it. Just by committing to this one simple, and I must say truly lovely, exercise you will begin to notice a shift in your thoughts as you start to move from being negative about yourself and your body, to being kinder and more respectful.

Good things will come from this, I promise you!

Give it a go and do get in touch and let me know how you get on, you may be surprised at what you discover about yourself.

If you're interested in the free Artful Eating mini course, sign up for it either at the top or bottom of this page, its packed with lots of actionable information to help you start to make the right changes and achieve the body you desire without dieting! 

To feeling good and embracing changes,

Karina xo 

One truly wonderful strategy to avoid piling on the pounds this Christmas...

Well Christmas is almost upon us!

It certainly didn't creep up on me this year, I’ve been anticipating the big day for many months as I am expecting on the big day! So this is a particularly precious Christmas for us.

As I sit here writing this, the smell from our Christmas tree is just glorious. The house feels so festive and cosy, the perfect space to welcome a new person into the world. So I am filled with joy and anticipation about the next few days, weeks and also in a very tangible way, the next few years that stretch out before us. I am so curious to know what our little one will be like and I can’t wait to meet her!

It is that time of year where we try to take stock and reflect on what has gone before and what the future will hold. The thought I’d like to share with you, and that I’d very much like you to hold on to, is that you are the one who determines the life you have, the size you are and how good you feel. In a way I think this has been the most important realisation I have made this year. It’s something I’ve probably always known, but it has become very clear to me this year.

Read More