The Unlikely Yogi: A week on my Balinese Yoga Retreat

One World Retreats, Kumara: Escape the World

The gentle tinkle of a brass bell rouses me from a deep and pleasant sleep. I’m awoken to the scent of burning incense simmering to my room from the open-plan yoga studio below, and upon sleepily opening my heavy-set, wooden sliding doors, I’m greeted pleasantly by a simple porcelain tea-for-one, hand-brewed lemon juice, ginger and honey dwelling inside. This is just one of the many humbling gestures offered unconditionally on a day to day basis by the creators of One World Retreats – whole-heartedly inviting you to Escape the World.

When I saw a tarot reader back in September 2016, in the not-so-luxurious shopping centre complex of Warringah Mall, I hardly expected that my so-called “spiritual awakening” as the psychic described it, would come to fruition on an Indonesian holiday, booked on a whim to coincide with my mandatory annual leave dates. Primarily found at the weights rack, I didn’t consider myself the ideal candidate for a week-long Yoga retreat, particularly given my typical-Cancerian impatience and aversion to 5+ minutes of stationary silence. Despite these qualities, I am a seeker of challenges, regardless of the level of difficulty I might encounter. One World Retreats Kumara had a strongly reviewed, extensive list of programs, the Escape the World retreat intriguing me with its renowned benefits. The psychic’s voice rang in my head as I hesitated on the 6th tab of the 14 open on my desktop – could this be the trigger he was referring to?

As it turns out, it was.

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For myself and 17 others on the retreat, Yoga was a blissful pastime that many of us didn’t have the privilege of getting to as often as we would like. Most considered themselves beginners, one or two intermediate, and one incredibly-talented expert – a 68-year old Washington-reigning sassy lady who had been practicing yoga daily for over ten years. I wasn’t sure what to expect on meeting my fellow participants, but I was relieved at the grounded level of expertise across the group, and relished the fact I was only one of four Australians (Bali tends to attract Aussies like mosquitos to a UV lamp). The group of equally ambivalent Yogi’s reigned from all over the world – America, Africa, Germany, Holland and New Zealand to name a few. And as I learnt further on in our journey, despite the drastic stretch in mileage between the places we each called home – we shared an identical yearning for inner peace. And whilst I asserted to the men and women that it was ‘our group’ that made the retreat the special experience that it was – more pointedly, it was not without the guidance and leadership of Iyan and his team that we could have achieved such an incredible energetic connection.

Three and a half to four hours of yoga are divided into a morning and evening session – combining the methods of Pranayama, meditation, Vinyasa flow, Hatha, Savasana and Asana to improve both our spiritual awareness and physical strength. A challenge for both the beginner and the expert Yogi, Iyan – Yoga Master (my word, not his) and assistant, Wayan – offer movements to suit all levels of experience. It is rare to receive such focused physical attention from an instructor of any class, particularly those found in gyms or designed only for aesthetic improvement. Iyan gently guides his students into understanding and practising the link between calmness of mind and folding into each pose. He and Wayan physically and mentally guide the class to develop patience and balance – and will even indulge the participants by taking a few snaps at the critical moment of heightened shoulder stand. But Iyan’s powerful lesson that the class collectively understood by the close of our retreat, was that the achievement of a head or shoulder-stand was simply a bonus by-product of reaching the timeless reward of inner balance and peace.

The program is well-designed and allows for relevant immersion in cultural experiences, without overloading the participants in hour-by-hour planned agendas. From trekking through long-stretching rice fields to sun-saluting a sunrise emerging over the active Batur Volcano – the integration of Balinese lifestyle and culture adds to the experience’s authenticity. Iyan asserts a representation of yoga in it’s traditional sense – the connection of one’s mind with the body, and its connection to a higher power, offering daily thanks for the simple privilege of life. While my Mum was always one to parrot on and say, “Samantha, some people don’t even have feet”, should I complain about cold toes in Winter – I never truly understood true gratitude until this week-long escape. Perhaps it was the energy of the open room, or the ambiance created by trilling gecko each yoga session. Maybe it was the hot, sticky Balinese air, resting heavily on my chest, creating the need to breathe with slow, deliberate purpose, counting to five the way we’d been instructed. Or perhaps it was the combination of everything, down to the finest detail to ensure we felt loved, nourished, unique – that changed each of us so emphatically. This wasn’t done by accident, these details have been finessed with love and effort – and the appreciation goes beyond any words we could muster at the close of the retreat.

One of the most challenging, yet critical items on our agenda, was the Day of Silence. The ‘Art of Nothing’  is said to aid in the contemplation of self and provide meditative reflection on the things we really want in our lives. Our silence commenced from the waking moment of Day 3 – friendships only barely formed and conversations still bobbing on the surface of small-talk. Confrontingly, we each sat in the privacy of our villas consuming breakfast, lunch and dinner in the deafening quietness of a theoretically pleasant empty space. Suggestions were offered to fill time, like jotting down our goals, fears, and the things we wanted to let go of, to be burnt in a traditional ritualistic ceremony on our final day. While the tropical stormy rain dripped heavily over my patio – every minute seemed to move like an hour; my thoughts overcrowding, each individual consideration fighting for attention to be heard, like seagulls squawking over a plate of fish and chips. I couldn’t tell whether my anxiety (ironically, it seemed, the key catalyst for booking said trip) was throwing only me into a frenzy or whether the experience was affecting others in the same way. It was only as seconds progressed into hours, and hours into evening, the silence became friend over foe. I began to clear the clouds of negativity using Iyan’s method of meditation, breathing and stretching. I sat down to eat my final meal of the day after sunset yoga and picked up my pen for the first time that day. 24 hours with myself in repetitive soliloquies and I was finally, with confidence and authority, able to write.

It wasn’t until 8am we were able to speak again, over breakfast – and the group chattered excitedly about the day’s forthcoming activities. It was clear that the connections made between one another were fuelled by this collective intuition for what each of us had experienced. Without saying anything for 24 hours, the silence spoke for us. We knew each other on a deeper level now, and by default, we knew ourselves in a way we hadn’t been enlightened to before.

No Balinese holiday is complete without ritualistic pampering. Complete with two spa treatments, Escape the World leaves no opportunity of detail untouched. Their signature spa treatment, the Ayurvedic Chakra Dhara Massage is a two and a half hour experience, with hot oil kneaded deeply into the muscles, and the dripping of oil onto key energy points (or chakras) to balance energy flow and purify the body. Aruveya is said to be one of the oldest holistic therapies focusing on health prevention longevity and healing of life, according to Kumara’s Spa description. I can only say that whilst I may not feel ‘healed of life’, the method of massage certainly was enough to make half of the group go back for round two, and leave me fighting in desperation for a second session amidst the other participants. I would have gotten in as well, except Kumara’s Spa is so unbelievably good that the word spreads far and wide, and getting into a treatment last minute is competitive to say the least.

The food provided is fresh, healthy, and artfully constructed. Taking each individual’s dietary requirement very seriously (this is a Yoga retreat after all – Vegans, Vegetarians and Cavemen run far and wild) the skill of the chefs is certainly to be applauded. Integrating the elements of both traditional Indonesian cuisine and Western-inspired favourites, each meal is a buffet of guilt-free delight – even luxurious desserts like decadent chocolate/avocado mouse can’t be faulted. Diabetics needn’t run for the hills with all meals promising fresh, organic ingredients – sugar-free unless specifically noted otherwise. Fresh fruit, tea and coffee are provided at the incredibly prompt attention of staff, or a quick visit to the dining room where Wifi can also be found (not that you’re supposed to be using it). Food is often shared across the length of a Last Supper style-table – brunches and lunch in buffet-style, by default encouraging conversation and lively interaction. The dining room is a place we all associated with positivity and happiness. It wasn’t long after the day of meditative silence that we began to open up about our journeys to Bali – what brought each of us here to this moment together. Time, a western-developed cognition, played no factor in how long we stayed to hear these stories out, yearning for more, learning from each other’s insecurities, vulnerabilities and fears – and reflecting upon our own. We found comfort in each other’s tales – cried, laughed and shared energy and pain. It was a beauty invisible to the naked eye, and indescribable to the impartial observer. But it’s a sacred moment of many that I’ll cherish from this life-changing trip.

The Escape the World Retreat was a once in a lifetime opportunity that genuinely changed me. I am hardly the gullible consumer – I prefer strategy over ideology, I prefer action over words. But for those 6 days, I paused, and took a second to open my eyes for what seemed like the first time in 20 years. These were real world strategies that catered to the most unlikely yogi.

One World made me grateful for life at the very ground-level level, from the earth we walk on to the air we breathe. It made me realise, once stepping away, Western society has implanted a subconscious need to rush through life, often leaving us wondering where each day escaped to. Not just a retreat, but a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, I truly seized this profound opportunity to Escape the World.

Finally, I invite you to escape too, but advise getting in quick – I know 18 eager and seasoned attendees already signing up for round two.

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– images courtesy of the various participants attending this retreat

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Why do you hate exercise?

Why do you hate exercise?

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Do you hate cardio like Taylor does? Then maybe this article was written especially for you.

If there’s one consistency I’ve found in listening to people’s questions around exercise and health over the past few years, it’s an abundant and over-resounding “How do you have so much motivation?” It’s something I often get asked about and it’s a hard one to answer, because (she says seemingly smugly) I have never had a problem with getting motivated to exercise.

Now, you might be sitting there reading this, thinking, “Well, geez – if I knew this was going to be a preachy article about how easy exercise is for one woman and how it’s hardly applicable to 200,000 others; and why the fuck did I waste my precious mouse clicks on this random girl’s blog?”, but hear me out. I certainly never had a problem becoming motivated to exercise once I became educated about it. And you don’t need a heavy textbook, personal trainer or nutrition coach to teach you a few simple things about pumping blood a little faster around your body.

Why we’re hardwired to hate exercise

Before my 17kg weight loss journey in 2013 – I really, really thought that I hated exercise. I had a pure loathing of the thought of putting myself through torturous programs that left my sweaty, writhing body in a completely deflated state for up to a week after. I had no desire to go out jogging, or to stand in front of a fogged up mirror in a large room full of smelly men grunting viciously as their forehead veins squeezed to pop out of their tight, cling-wrap like skin. I desperately wanted to be thin but truly believed the output of my efforts during exercise were not worth the pain I was certain to go through to reach ultimate goal.

So I had to really reassess why I hated exercise, so I could find a way to love it.

Negative Reinforcement

Hating exercise has been hardwired into our brain. Negative reinforcement has proven through countless scientific studies that its impact is largely ineffectual when it comes to exercise. Let’s take this example of Jillian Michaels, coach on the Biggest Loser US.

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Jillian is known for her army-style, get-down-and-give-me-twenty type training. She yells at her clients and is famous for coining herself as the ‘toughest trainer ever’, pushing some clients to very public breakdowns mid their last set of treadmill sprints.

Exhibit A: 

Jillian

 

“Watching Jillian Michaels be a badass trainer and wiping the floor with her overweight ragdolls really makes me want to go and get me some of that.”

SAID NO ONE EVER.

A study in the American Journal of Health Behaviour depicted just this, with an assessment of those who watched the Biggest Loser and how their motivation to perform exercise either increased or decreased. You might have guessed it, the study revealed that participants who watched The Biggest Loser may result in lower motivation to participate [in exercise] because of the anticipation of an unpleasant experience“.* I don’t blame them. Check out Exhibit B to see this poor soul being dragged through the pool that is negative reinforcement.

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It’s not just the impact of the entertainment industry that’s having a negative correlation with exercise – it’s the type of vigorous, sweat-drenching exercise endorsed by personal trainers everywhere and as a result, perpetuated in mediums we can’t escape. Magazines, radio, gyms and of course, television. These types of exercises (and I’m talking, the hours on a treadmill, jumping, boxing, sweating profusely, etc.) are coined the most effective because of the counteractive effect it has against how much food we consume in regular, 21st century life. It’s ironic considering what we know about health and exercise is that you can’t outrun a bad diet, and if we all just ate a little less and a lot better, our training efforts wouldn’t have to be so ridiculously un-enjoyable.

Realistically, if we ignore the media’s clever play on us gullible, info-hungry humans, the things we know about exercise with absolute certainty are this:

  • Consistency and progressive-overload are the keys to long-term success
  • Enjoyment of exercise leads to consistency with exercise
  • The two points above are equivalent to the chicken and the egg, and the best kind of lists come in threes

 

So when I see Jillian Michaels screaming to her client that “it’s damn-well gonna hurt” in that fist-clenching, cringe-inducing American accent, it is no surprise to me that people hate what they perceive to be the only form of effective exercise, and additionally, why nearly 65 percent of dieters return to their pre-dieting weight within three years**. There’s no enjoyment. And you can only dis-enjoy life for so long without,

  1. Becoming a grumpy old maid with no friends and lots of cats
  2. Reaching an unhealthy point of dissatisfaction with yourself, and only finding love amongst your many cats
  3. Falling off the bandwagon and driving right past the pet store and instead, to McDonalds***

And this accumulation of statistics brings me to my main point (if you thought I was never going to reach it). Exercise needs to be enjoyable to be effective. Ultimately the right kind of exercise for you will be the one that reaps the most positive effects, both physically, and mentally.

At the start of my journey, I assessed the times when I really enjoyed exercise – which was mainly in primary and high school, being involved in every sport known to man. I really enjoyed the competition, the drive, strategy and the feeling of the sun on my back. The exhaustion and satisfaction after a hard soccer game. The positivity I felt in reaching new goals, showing improvement and feeling my body growing stronger with each training session. This is the kind of positive reinforcement I was seeking now.

Lucky for me (and you) the health and fitness industry is one of the fastest growing in Australia, with the sector’s profits spilling into the billions when 2014 ticked around. Come 2016 and Health and Fitness is in the top 5 fastest growing industries worldwide. That means whilst you might not know where to start, you’re at least spoiled for choice when picking which routine you decide to go with, and because you’re reading this – you have the resources to find it. 

Pride

Many people (women, mainly) suffer from being faced with gorgeous people around us all the time. Not in real life, obviously – if that were the case there’d be a whole lot less on-looking and a whole lot more shagging. No, I’m referring to unreachable standards that exist on every single media platform, and the infiltration of these images into our gyms – a horrible, fluorescent room full of mirrors watching your body twist and writhe in the most unflattering of positions. Not only that, but those around you always seem to be well-versed with the bulky machinery and it’s the all-too intimidating combination of these factors that discourage people from exercising. And in complete fairness, how horrible is it watching yourself fail at something (very literally watching – all those damn mirrors) on a regular basis, and knowing you potentially won’t see results for at least another 6-8 weeks? Sounds to me like the equivalent of walking into work in nothing but my laundry-day undies. Which brings me to my next point…

Uneducation

Feeling uneducated about exercise can often lead to a sense of that you dislike the activity – it comes down to the same principle as pride. When we don’t know what we’re doing and we’re being watched by seemingly, hundreds of others performing admirably better than us, it’s an incredibly off-putting feeling. Exercising for the first time, or committing to a new type of exercise can be daunting and make us feel like we hate it, but once you self-educate on the type of exercise you’re in for before you even begin, you can offset this and start to love the effects that exercise brings. Which is really the point of the whole thing in the first place.

Conclusions

Find what works for you, which may not be what works for Sam, Kate, or Claire. It’s your body, and your prerogative. Once you begin to disassociate exercise and weight loss, and begin moving your body for the benefits that it brings in terms of strength, mental clarity and cardiovascular health, then you can begin to enjoy it. 

Nutrition should NOT be a compensation of the calories you’ve just ‘burned’. Eat well to fuel your body – for energy, for micronutrients and brain power. Eat to fuel your exercise and not to reward yourself for performing exercise; the reward is in the exercise.

Educate yourself about the kind of exercise you want to try. If something like barre sounds appealing to you, research the methods before you head into your first class. You want to avoid feeling that sense of negative reinforcement before you it attempts to creep in, so the exercise is a pleasant experience.

Find the things you love, and utilise that in your training. I love the feeling of competition, for example – but I also find that as someone who has been independent for a long time, I like working out alone. I like the feeling of loud music fuelling my workout. I like the feeling of smashing a new PB. I love feeling proud of myself for new accomplishments and I’ve implemented that with a weekly checkpoint system. It’s what works for me, but maybe it won’t work for you.

I have a friend who was paying a hefty weekly gym membership, but she hardly went, and when she did, she walked briskly on the treadmill in sheer lack of motivation to try anything new. Under the influence of her PT boyfriend, she joined F45 – and that high-fiving, teamwork, spirit-fingers kind of workout is exactly the kind of community-based exercise she needed to get her mojo back.

Maybe what you need is a group of supportive new-starters. Maybe you need to download Kayla’s guide and try it in your living room with only your cat watching you**** before you have the confidence to hit the gym. Maybe you can just start by going for a walk around the block, feeling like a king because you’re lapping those suckers on the couch.

So go on, write a list. What do you love doing? What makes you feel good? How can you achieve feeling that with regular exercise?

Take that list and your swift little fingers and do some research and give it a go. Better yet, give me a buzz, and I’ll give it a go with you.

*Source: American Journal of Health Behavior, Volume 37, Number 1, January 2013, pp. 96-103(8) http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/png/ajhb/2013/00000037/00000001/art00011

**Source: Foster, G. http://www.livestrong.com/article/438395-the-percentage-of-people-who-regain-weight-after-rapid-weight-loss-risks/

***Source: Primary evidence. I’d like to point out here that I actually own a cat, so if anyone has valuable insight into latching onto their felines for love, it’s me. Cat owners need not be offended.

****Source: Primary evidence. My cat actually does this.

The Working Week Meal Prep Budget Challenge

The Working Week Meal Prep Budget Challenge

Based on a 5 day working week, 3 days a week strength training and 2 days a week cardio training.

Personal Trainers and Health Coaches collectively assert that the best method of progressive strength gains whilst losing fat is done through moderate carb cycling – that is, lower carbs and higher fats on days when you’re performing cardiovascular training (i.e. HIIT, brisk walking or jogging) and higher carbs, lower fats on days when you’re performing strength training. Protein intake should remain relatively the same throughout the week.

Step 1:

Choose your high carb lunch meal – this will be your meal for 3 days of lunches (ideally Monday, Wednesday, Friday – but it’s up to you and your workout schedule. I find working in alternative low carb days followed by a high carb day keeps me satisfied for longer and doesn’t have me excessively craving food or being super hungry).

High Carb Lunch Options:

  • Stuffed Capsicums with Steamed Veg
  • Coconut Tumeric Curry
  • Chili Con Carne
  • Stuffed Sweet Potato (vegetarian)
  • Open Grill Avocado, Chicken and Cottage Cheese Sandwich

Low Carb Lunch Options:

  • Chicken and Zoodles with Homemade Pesto
  • Tuna Zucchini Fritters
  • Deconstructed Sushi Bowl
  • Asian Chicken Salad
  • Spicy Peanut Tofu with Steamed Veg (Vegetarian)

Step 2:

Choose your high carb dinners – note that on these strength training days you can alternate your lunch or your dinner option depending on what you feel like. I do try and keep it simpler for the dinner front – mostly because dinner is a time for relaxing and spending with family and friends and a lot of people have time in the evenings to make these meals fresh. I personally like to prepare dinner each evening fresh, but if you don’t have the time for this you can certainly do it in advance.

High Carb Dinner Options:

  • Lean Beef Stir Fry with Brown Rice
  • Mexican Rice Salad (vegetarian)
  • Lean White Fish Fillet with Vegetables and Brown rice
  • Kanga Bangas with Sweet Potato Mash and Steamed Green Veg
  • Chicken Quinoa/Rice Burrito Bowl

Low Carb Dinner Options:

  • Poached Chicken with salad
  • Lamb and Beetroot Salad
  • Atlantic Salmon with Brussel Sprouts and Green Veg
  • Chicken Waldorf Salad
  • Portobello Mushroom Bun Burgers (Vegetarian)

Step 3:

Once you’ve picked your combination, you can go shopping! Keep in mind you can actually mix up these meals and purchase more ingredients if you like, but that will obviously cost more accordingly.

Breakfasts will be interchangeable between eggs on low carb days, and oats or toast on high carb days. This is for the purpose of convenience, and ultimately, money saving!

If you happen to not like eggs or are vegan, perhaps consider protein bread by the Protein Bread Co.; it’s a great alternative to toast on low carb days. You can also try some low-carb fruits like berries with Coconut Yogurt or Cottage Cheese. Keep in mind fruit is still a carbohydrate (and berries are expensive unless frozen in Australia!) so stick to eggs unless you’re particularly averse to them.

Snacks are also interchangeable due to convenience and budget. They will alter between Fruit and Rice Cakes on High Carb Days, and Protein Shakes, Berries or Cottage Cheese on low carb days.

Construct your sample meal plan and grocery list:

Sample 1: Meat Eaters

Monday – High Carb Day Tuesday – Low Carb Day Wednesday – High Carb Day Thursday – Low Carb Day Friday – High Carb Day
Breakfast 40g Oats with boiling water and 10g honey 2 whole eggs cooked to your liking (Veggie Omelette Optional) 40g Oats with boiling water and 10g honey 2 eggs cooked to your liking (Veggie Omelette optional) 40g Oats with boiling water and 10g honey
Morning Snack 1 Medium Apple 1 scoop protein shake with 250ml skim milk/low carb protein bar 1 banana 1 scoop protein shake with 250ml skim milk/low carb protein bar 1 Medium Apple
Lunch Stuffed Capsicums with Steamed Veg Tuna Zucchini Fritters Stuffed Capsicums with Steamed Veg Tuna Zucchini Fritters Stuffed Capsicums with Steamed Veg
Afternoon Snack 4 Thin Rice Cakes (25g) with tomato and cucumber 100g cottage cheese with 50g blueberries 4 Thin Rice Cakes (25g) with tomato and cucumber 100g cottage cheese with 50g blueberries 4 Thin Rice Cakes (25g) with tomato and cucumber
Dinner Lean White Fish Fillet with Vegetables and Brown rice Poached Chicken with salad Lean White Fish Fillet with Vegetables and cooked brown rice Poached Chicken with salad Lean White Fish Fillet with Vegetables and Brown rice

Grocery List based on above sample:

Dairy and Eggs:

  • Australian Shredded Light Mozzarella $4.00
  • Cage X Large Eggs 12 pack $2.99
  • Lite Creamed Cottage Cheese $2.90

Frozen Food:

  • Frozen Blueberries $4.00

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Australian Brocolli Florets x 2 $4.00
  • Banana x 1 $0.27
  • Brown Onion x 1 $0.54
  • Carrot x 1 $0.43
  • Kale x 1 bag $3.00
  • Continental Cucumber x 2 $3.80
  • Coriander x 1 bunch $2.98
  • Apples x 2 $1.50
  • Zuchinni x 3 $4.35
  • Red Capsicum x 3 $7.20
  • Roma Tomatoes x 2 $1.38
  • Sliced Green Beans approx 410g. x 3 $3.30

Meat, Seafood and Deli:

  • Chicken Breast Fillets, approx. 310g $3.72
  • Chicken Mince approx. 500g $5.50
  • Thawed Barramundi Fillets approx. 350g $5.60

Pantry:

  • Chicken Style Stock Cubes $3.30
  • Lo Carb Honey Almond Crunch Protein Bar x 2 $6.14
  • Ground Cumin Seeds $2.10
  • Medium Grain Brown Rice 2kg $5.00
  • Natural Thin Rice Cakes $1.65
  • Pure Australian Honey $4.62
  • Quick Oats $1.45
  • Tomato Paste $1.30
  • Tuna Chunks in Olive Oil 95g Can x 2 $1.60

TOTAL = $88.62

Sample 2: Vegetarian

Monday – High Carb Day Tuesday – Low Carb Day Wednesday – High Carb Day Thursday – Low Carb Day Friday – High Carb Day
Breakfast 40g Oats with boiling water and 10g honey 2 whole eggs cooked to your liking (Veggie Omelette Optional) 40g Oats with boiling water and 10g honey 2 eggs cooked to your liking (Veggie Omelette optional) 40g Oats with boiling water and 10g honey
Morning Snack 1 Medium Apple 1 scoop protein shake with 250ml skim milk/low carb protein bar 1 banana 1 scoop protein shake with 250ml skim milk/low carb protein bar 1 Medium Apple
Lunch Stuffed Sweet Potato Spicy Peanut Tofu with Steamed Veg and Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Sweet Potato Spicy Peanut Tofu with Steamed Veg and Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Sweet Potato
Afternoon Snack 4 Thin Rice Cakes (25g) with tomato and cucumber 100g cottage cheese with 50g blueberries 4 Thin Rice Cakes (25g) with tomato and cucumber 100g cottage cheese with 50g blueberries 4 Thin Rice Cakes (25g) with tomato and cucumber
Dinner Mexican Rice Salad Portobello Mushroom Bun Burgers Mexican Rice Salad Portobello Mushroom Bun Burgers Mexican Rice Salad

Grocery List based on above sample:

Dairy and Eggs:

  • Cage X Large Eggs 12 pack $2.99
  • Lite Creamed Cottage Cheese x 2 $5.80
  • Firm Tofu 300g $3.19
  • Vegetarian Lentil Burger (2 pack) $3.51

Frozen Food:

  • Frozen Blueberries $4.00

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Asian Pak Choy $2.50
  • Australian Broccoli Florets x 3 $6.00
  • Banana x 1 $0.27
  • Brown Onion x 1 $0.54
  • Portobello Mushrooms approx 200g (enough for two burgers) $2.40
  • Cauliflower Whole x 1 $3.00
  • Continental Cucumber x 1 $1.90
  • Coriander x 1 bunch $2.98
  • Gold Sweet Potatoes x 2 $2.80
  • Garlic x 1 $1.20
  • Apples x 2 $1.50
  • Zuchinni x 2 $2.90
  • Red Capsicum x 1 $2.40
  • Roma Tomatoes x 2 $1.38
  • Hass Avocado x 2 $5.96
  • Lemon x 1 $1.20

Pantry:

  • Lo Carb Honey Almond Crunch Protein Bar x 2 $6.14
  • Ground Cumin Seeds $2.10
  • Medium Grain Brown Rice 2kg $5.00
  • Natural Thin Rice Cakes $1.65
  • Pure Australian Honey $4.62
  • Quick Oats $1.45
  • Olive Oil $3.00
  • Smooth Peanut Butter $2.95

TOTAL = $86.52

Sample 3 – Supersaver:

This meal plan is based on the assumption you’re perhaps at the end of the month, or you just need to save a little extra this month! As a result, you’ll be using primarily the same ingredients for most meals in order to maximize your budget.

Monday – High Carb Day Tuesday – Low Carb Day Wednesday – High Carb Day Thursday – Low Carb Day Friday – High Carb Day
Breakfast 1 egg with 2 slices Rye Toast 2 whole eggs cooked to your liking (Veggie Omelette Optional) 1 egg with 2 slices Rye Toast 2 eggs cooked to your liking (Veggie Omelette optional) 1 egg with 2 slices Rye Toast
Morning Snack 1 Medium Apple 1 scoop protein shake with 250ml skim milk/low carb protein bar 1 Medium Apple 1 scoop protein shake with 250ml skim milk/low carb protein bar 1 Medium Apple
Lunch Open Grill Avocado, Cheese Sandwich Chicken and Zoodles with Pesto Open Grill Avocado, Cheese Sandwich Chicken and Zoodles with Pesto Open Grill Avocado, Cheese Sandwich
Afternoon Snack 4 Rice Cakes w/Peanut Butter 100g cottage cheese with 50g blueberries 4 Rice Cakes w/Peanut Butter 100g cottage cheese with 50g blueberries 4 Rice Cakes w/Peanut Butter
Dinner Chicken Rice Burrito Bowl Poached Chicken with salad Chicken Rice Burrito Bowl Poached Chicken with salad Chicken Rice Burrito Bowl

Grocery List based on above sample:

Breads and Bakery:

  • Light Rye Bread x 1 $3.40

Dairy and Eggs:

  • Cage X Large Eggs 12 pack $2.99
  • Lite Creamed Cottage Cheese x 2 $5.80

Frozen Food:

  • Frozen Blueberries $4.00

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Australian Broccoli Florets x 2 $4.00
  • Continental Cucumber x 1 $1.90
  • Carrot x 2 $0.85
  • Coriander x 1 bunch $2.98
  • Garlic x 1 $1.20
  • Apples x 3 $2.25
  • Zuchinni x 2 $2.90
  • Red Capsicum x 1 $2.40
  • Roma Tomatoes x 2 $1.38
  • Hass Avocado x 2 $5.96
  • Capsicum x 2 $4.80
  • Kale x 1 bag $3.00

Pantry:

  • Lo Carb Honey Almond Crunch Protein Bar x 2 $6.14
  • Ground Cumin Seeds $2.10
  • Paprika $2.15
  • Medium Grain Brown Rice 2kg $5.00
  • Natural Thin Rice Cakes $1.65
  • Olive Oil $3.00
  • Smooth Peanut Butter $2.95
  • Pine Nuts $2.95

TOTAL = $70.67

These are simply guidelines for the average woman who is seeking to maintain strength but lose bodyfat. Long-term moderate carb cycling in the above fashion means you can enjoy what you love and fight off cravings with the continuous interchange of macronutrients.

Common research shows that the average individual under 35, single and living alone pays up to $104 per week on food drink – not including meals and entertainment eaten outside the house. By eliminating meals eaten out during the week, you can ensure you save at least $20-30/per week and reserve one or two meals out of home on the weekend (note; eating out comes under the recreation tab in moneysmart.gov.au – a hefty $106/week spent on average by the under 35 year old single Aussie.

The above calculations are based on Coles Online Shopping – and whilst I can certainly vouch for the quality of product that emerges from the supermarket chain, Aldi is a fantastic alternative for those concentrating closely on their budget. I have been able to slash nearly $20 from the SuperSaver menu as depicted above when shopping at Aldi as opposed to Coles – which is something to consider when nearing the end of the month grocery crisis!

Good luck with the groceries and as always, comment with your experience and suggestions! 

Time, Struggles, and Other Musings

For those of you who follow me regularly, you’ll notice that I’ve hardly been present lately – both in mind, and on social media. I was lucky enough to land a fantastic job in a project management company, and it’s been keeping me incredibly busy for the past few months since I started at the beginning of May. For a while, I was trying to keep up my blog posts as regularly as I was when I was working part time – several posts a day, always running from room to room to grab the right lighting, spending hours consumed by ideas of what to cook next or how to get the best out of my health and workouts. It was becoming such an intense task to keep up with life, I eventually stopped enjoying it. No matter how much I love fitness and health – I was becoming exhausted. And that’s when I recognised that a change was needed.

It’s been proven that the number one reason most people will refer to as to why they don’t exercise is time. Time is a massive factor for most people, particularly those working a 9-5 day job. And whilst getting up each morning, bracing the cold winter chill at 5:45 every day isn’t the most pleasant time for me, especially of late, I recognised that if I were to get up and spend at least an hour of my time with other miserable, sweaty people each day – I better enjoy my time there.

I really, really didn’t want to become one of those people who stopped enjoying exercise, or felt like it was a chore. There was certainly a time in my life, pre-2014 trip to London, where I was overweight, unhappy and never exercised. I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted and had no consideration for my health whatsoever. I finally realised I needed to change my lifestyle and the first place I started was taking control with clean, healthy food – cooking my meals, drinking in moderation, and running for a short periods once a day. I took my time, I kept my challenge to myself and genuinely enjoyed waking up each day and feeling the wind whipping through my hair as I ran around Lavender Bay. The weight fell off and eventually, as my love for health and fitness grew, my understanding of how to be my best self through health and exercise rose to a new level.

I had to remind myself of this time in my life to really recognise how to move forward from here.

The Key?

Well let’s dive in.

Making time for yourself

Everyday, without fail, I will leave my office and walk around the area I walk in. It might be cold or unpleasant outside, but finding the time to re-coup in this way is paramount to keeping my head on my shoulders.

I have anxiety, depression and have experienced these problems for nearly 10 years. As a result, I’ve had to learn to control and manage it. Fitness and health should be a reprieve from the symptoms you experience if you’re also suffering from mental health problems (although realistically, anyone will benefit from a smidge of Vitamin D!). For me, this time away from my desk gives me time to enjoy the things I really like – being around nature, or sitting down and reading a book, listening to a podcast (my favourite at the moment being ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’) or just having a good old people-watch! You don’t have to go to the shops and spend money, or achieve something if you go out on these breaks – if anything, feel rewarded with the benefits of your break when you come back and find everyone else having not moved from their chairs.

Just remember, you’re not a hero for staying at your desk when everyone else does. An hour outside a day is something you’re completely entitled to, and if you assert the emphasis on health to your colleagues, you might just find them doing the same thing sometimes!

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Finding the nutrition and lifestyle that works for you

There is certainly something to learn from programs designed by personal trainers, especially for beginners who might not have even an inkling of a starting point. Hell, when I started, my program was as simple as a 20 minute jog and 3 sets of bodyweight exercises that I found on Pinterest entitled ‘Every Day Workout’. I had no concept of split days, macros, rest times, nutrition or energy. All I knew is that when I stopped eating sourdough drenched in olive oil of an evening, I lost weight. Seemed fairly simple. But those Kayla Itsines, Emily Skye, Ashy Bines nutrition guides? They have some legitimate value in offering a starting point to any girl wanting to get in shape.

The key words there being ‘starting point’

I was lucky enough to recently interview the lovely Lyndi Cohen who discussed the value in following a PT, generically-created guide for ‘the average Aussie girl’. She says that the regimented nature of a meal plan restricts its consumer and makes them feel physically deprived of the ‘banned’ foods, and the timing between each meal. Kayla’s plan, for example, only allows 10 almonds for a snack between breakfast and lunch, and I don’t know about you, but I’d hardly feel satisfied with a palmful of measly nuts, no matter how nutritious Women’s Health tells me they are (Lyndi happened to agree, mind you).

“I’d argue at times it’s even harmful to be told when to eat, what to eat. I wouldn’t say for anyone that it’s a good idea to try those programs, that they’re counterintuitive and they do more harm than good. My push is to focus on what we can eat”

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Lyndi managed to lose 25kg through ‘intuitive eating’

What Lyndi’s holistic view here is proving is that we need to get in touch with our own hunger; own that feeling and enjoy consuming the things our bodies physically need. No one program is going to work for you just because it works for another – our bodies are completely different and the range of hormones, our height, weight, likes and dislikes, mood even – dictates the amount of energy we need each day. Listen to those cues and determine your own nutritional needs.

Don’t compare yourself to others

That girl? The one on the gym pounding the treadmill sporting a tight crop top and proudly protruding abs? You’re not her*. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, even if you’ve just made it to the gym, you are well and truly lapping those people in bed. Congratulate yourself for achieving your own goals and just enjoy the fact you have an extra hour, just to yourself, to smash out some sweat – to feel strong, independent**, knowing you’re feeding what your body needs.

*She also doesn’t care what you’re doing. Neither does anybody else. Stop worrying about it.

**This independence can be encroached on by other fit women, obviously. Preferably in your ears, and preferably Beyonce.

Enjoy your exercise

This is a key point, and it ties in with not comparing yourself to others. Recently I needed to change my exercise program, so I went back to basics. After looking through the old routines my PT gave me, I threw caution to the wind and simply googled ‘Lean Women Body Workouts’. I ended up finding a program encouraging me to perform 20 minutes of treadmill HIIT 4 times a week, after strength training.

I’m not a personal trainer, but I know what my body can and can’t take. And for me, my body certainly couldn’t take it. I didn’t enjoy the gym, I felt so exhausted I couldn’t function at work. I even injured my ankle and knee within two weeks of being on a program that was too hard on my body. And being that exhausted is not the reason we got into this.

In fairness, I imagine a lot of people probably got into fitness and health for vanity, and that’s fine. But there’s feeling good about the way you look and feeling good about yourself. And for me, finding that balance is key.

I decided to find and remember the things I really enjoy about exercise: feeling strong, feeling toned and crushing goals. Occasionally feeling the wind blast my hair back. Enjoying a good sweat session once or twice a week. And that thing I mentioned before, the long-awaited reprieve.

I switched back to the things I love: weights, running, a little HIIT and some damn hot yoga*

Those are the things that work for me, and just like that girl in the gym – what I do for me might not work for you. Even my lady, Lyndi, can back me up on that one:

“Exercise should be something we do to make ourselves feel strong, make ourselves feel happy, something we do to benefit ourselves. Anyway you want to move your body – is the right way to be moving your body. So if you want to dance, go dance. If you want to do yoga, do yoga. If all you want to do is stretch, then stretch. But the research shows that once people enjoy exercise, they do it more consistently – and when it comes to exercise, it’s all about consistency”.

I hear you, Lyndi. We can all learn a little from this lady, in fact in the Burpees and Balance next podcast you can hear from Lyndi direct, with her views on balance, intuitive eating and staying fully clothed despite her self-coined ‘nude nutritionist’ title.

*Not an analogy, actual 42 degree heat yoga.

 

 

Spicy Sprout and Silverbeet Buddha Bowl

Buddha bowls are literally the best thing I’ve ever discovered. They are delightfully nutritious, but by far the best part – they taste unbelievable and keep you incredibly full into those slow hours of the afternoon, normally when I’m counting down the hours until dinner. The thing about the buddha bowl is that it incorporates lots of fibrous vegetables and plant-based proteins to keep you full, with a base (dependent on your carbohydrate intake for the day) usually made of wholegrains like barley, millet, freekeh or quinoa. I also find that with these buddha bowls, eating with chopsticks can slow you down and allow your stomach to digest the food, meaning you get full quicker, and ultimately don’t feel unsatisfied or craving more at the end. Here’s one of my favourite buddha bowl combinations I’ve concocted so far – it’s got a hit of sweet coconut oil in the base complemented by spicy, roasted brussel sprouts and pan-fried cashews to add a delicious ‘crunch’. Can you feel your mouth watering yet?

Macros:

Serves 1

Calories: 231kcal/serving

Carbs: 21g/serving

Protein: 10g/serving

Fats: 12g/serving

 

Ingredients:

  • 20g shredded silverbeet
  • 2ml coconut oil
  • 100g brussel sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
  • 10g fresh alfalfa sprouts
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced radishes
  • 50g shredded carrot
  • 20g cashews
  • 20g fat free yogurt
  • 1 tsp morrocan spice
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp stevia
  • 1 tsp parsley

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. Spread your halved sprouts evenly across an oven-proof dish. Using oil spray, use a minimal amount on the sprouts and sprinkle with morrocan spice. Place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, monitoring until cooked through.
  2. Saute your silverbeet over low heat in a pan on the stove with coconut oil, for about 2 minutes or until slightly wilted. Transfer to the base of your bowl.
  3. Place in sectors around the bowl so you can visually see the segregation of ingredients: the carrot, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber and radishes.
  4. Once cooked, remove the sprouts from the oven and using the same pan to cook the silverbeet – with the leftover oil gently toss the sprouts until cooked through and slightly crunchy in texture. Remove once cooked to liking.
  5. Add sprouts to the buddha bowl.
  6. Top with your roasted cashews (either grilled or pan-fried)
  7. Create the dressing by combining the yogurt, lime, stevia and parsley in a small ramekin, then pour over the buddha bowl.
  8. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a tad of morrocan spice, take a delicious looking picture and consume until you fall into a deep food coma.

Starting from scratch – healthy advice for the average Aussie girl

Open up your nearest health magazine. What do you see?

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The average Aussie woman gracing the cover of Dove’s Choose Beautiful Campaign. Being realistic with who we are, and what we really want to achieve is crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Firstly, the cover is most likely plastered with the latest gorgeous cover girl: fit, feisty and blessed with a rock-hard six-pack. You eagerly flick through to page 56, the feature article about Miranda, Gwyneth or Kate to discover the secrets to their ‘hard-earned’ bodies, facing a different set of circuit recommendation every month. These celebrities spout nutritional wisdom – eating only organic, non-processed food – but careful to mention they also indulge in ice-cream, chocolate and chips if they’re craving something ‘naughty’. I can guarantee the sigh of relief exhaling across the country as Australian women everywhere read this line, excusing their ninth piece of dark chocolate because (and I hear this one too often), “But I’ve been good all day”.

It’s no secret that the media industry preys on its target demographic in order to increase sales. While most people are aware of this fact, it seems to only have relevance when we encounter a biased report in the Daily Telegraph, a clear political swing in a columnist’s current affairs article, or Tracy Grimshaw knocking on the home of an elderly who won’t cut down the tree encroaching on their neighbour’s property on A Current Affair. We name and shame these reporters for their biased word twisting and publicly humiliate them in forums like Media Watch to spread the word of their inconsistency and purporting. In the media-savvy country we live in it’s hard to understand why the same principles aren’t applicable to women and men’s health publications.

The reason why these magazines, bloggers and health professionals aren’t being openly shamed is for one very obvious reason: health is a broad spectrum, with many realms still being discovered. In fact, it’s so broad that with the new knowledge we gain everyday (an obvious example is the ‘superfood’ phenomenon and gut-healing discoveries) individuals have the power to share (ahem, shout) this information to the public – a body of people facing so much choice and conflicting material that it’s near impossible to sustain a healthy lifestyle. And so we give up, and have that ninth piece of chocolate because if Women’s Health says Miranda Kerr can do it, so can we.

Health professionals (and particularly self-proclaimed nutritionists) have the ability to word swindle and encourage with delight the body-reaping benefits of ‘good fats’, chia seeds and kale, because despite the necessity of moderation, it’s the clear cut statistics that are reported and misconstrued by our society: eat chia seeds, get a brain boost – because someone in a study in the University of Sweden discovered after consuming 1kg of chia seeds there was an alteration in his patient’s increased brain activity. Ergo, chia seeds = brain boosting. Now I don’t know about you, but if Tracey Grimshaw only had one secondary source for her evening reports, I certainly wouldn’t be tuning in. How about you?

So with the bombardment of health discoveries thrown our way each day, it’s no surprise women don’t know where to start when embarking on a healthy lifestyle. There are so many negative associations with the word ‘diet’ that many women feel as though they’re not working hard enough if they don’t feel undernourished and deprived; coined with our inherent human desire for immediate change – the ‘diet’ is scrapped altogether when the scales don’t bounce 5kg backwards after a week of unnecessary nutrient exclusion. So this article, at its core, is about advising women with the principles of long-term, health and weight maintenance. Warning: you may have to throw Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar out the window.

Being realistic

According to the latest statistical data taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average height of an Australian woman is 161cm, and her weight is 71.1kg. That means that the woman gracing the cover of this month’s Women’s Health is far from a realistic body shape and size in our society. Not that these statistics reflect what size we should be, it simply states what we are – tipping the BMI chart into the overweight territory. Embarking on a healthy lifestyle means gaining an accurate picture of our starting point – measuring correctly, and recognising that goals, (particularly those big ones) take time and patience. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but practiced by so many successful professionals out there. Patience is the key to achieving a balanced and healthy lifestyle long-term.

Being realistic doesn’t just pertain to our body image view, it means being realistic in what we are capable of long-term. Think about it – would you rather lose 5kg immediately, be deprived, malnourished and unhappy for the 3 weeks in the lead up to that one party – then to put it all back on within a few days of gorging yourself silly, or would you rather have a measured approach – a long-term lifestyle change meaning you could maintain your weight and health for life and treating yourself on a regular basis? Science dictates that our personalities are attracted immediately to the concept of forbidden fruit – those ‘dirty’ desires we’ve been told we’re not allowed to have if we’re dieting. Being realistic means that with long-term dietary balance we’re less likely to binge and consume a whopping 3 days net calories in one sitting, meaning we maintain our weight long-term (not to mention our sanity).

Detracting the negativity of ‘diet’

I’m so hesitant to use this word simply because of its negative connotations, but for the purpose of appealing to the masses, I’ll acquiesce. Moving into the routine of a healthy lifestyle is often used for the purpose of losing fat, with much panic and often immediacy in the lead up to an event. While I mentioned this earlier, I do think it’s necessary to reaffirm the importance of taking on a positive attitude towards an all-round lifestyle change, rather than an immediate fat loss goal. Positive reinforcement is proven to be an effective tool in the road to a healthier lifestyle, and seeing as you are the only companion you can 100% count on being by your side your entire life – you better start by being a good person to yourself. Start by setting small, reachable goals – like exercising 3 times a week, and eating a wholegrain breakfast of the same measured quantity everyday. Or you might choose to swap your afternoon daily Dorito fix for an apple, or a fruit salad. Whatever your first goal is, make it reasonable and reachable for yourself. Four weeks down the track, once you have developed that same habit, congratulate yourself. Just like Neil Armstrong – it’s one small step for man, but one big step for mankind. You’re on your road to success, just take your time. In the following weeks following your first goal, you might take on another small goal, like sticking to a calorie limit of 1800 per day (a vague estimate based on the body measurements above). You might start tracking your calorie intake in My Fitness Pal. Eventually, when you want to take on larger and more significant goals, extra help from a nutrition coach or personal trainer (ensure you find one who is equally qualified and with experience in food coaching) to assist you in making measured goals. But until then, your own assessment of where you are at and your own understanding of self is a great place to start.

Consistency – and ignoring the latest trend

Consistency in diet is absolutely key to achieving your goals, particularly those small ones at the beginning. And whilst it can be incredibly tempting to jump on the bandwagon of the latest health trend that Miranda, Gwyneth or Kate swears by – stick to your own guns, and find your own balance in what works for you. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a combination of eating wholesome unprocessed food in reasonable portions. If you’re having trouble with the concept of this, the best place to start is the government website – where you can find the healthy eating guidelines on serving sizes and macro/micronutrient recommendations intakes per day. Starting with this positive mindset and making smarter choices when eating (rather than complete deprivation) is key in making healthy living a long-term lifestyle choice. If your goal is weight loss, you may need to make some adjustments to these guidelines to fit your personal height and weight statistics – more of that can be read in my ‘Counting Macros for Beginners’ article.

Finding the right sources of information

This factor is absolutely pivotal. Misinformation drives obesity rates in Australia – and it’s hard to believe we’re beating the USA in our fat crisis considering the emphasis on health in our country. The rise of healthy products and trends like gluten-free, paleo, healthy fats, vegan and more have encouraged society to collapse into a subconscious gluttonous state – mainly because the core concept of health is misunderstood – and when we’re told something is ‘healthy’ it seems absurd that we need to take the meal’s portion size into consideration. An Acai Bowl for example – a widely praised superfood (I’m beginning to despise that term!) paleo-favourite breakfast can pack in 916 calories in a single serve. That’s more than a third of the recommended daily intake of calories for a woman of 161cm and 71kg. My point is to remain well-informed and unswayed by the latest health trends, and keep to the basics when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle change. Stick to the simple protein basics, a moderate consumption of carbohydrates, regular (and not overbearing) exercise sessions, and a moderate to low intake of fats. Understanding the principles of what constitutes each of these categories may seem basic, but many people aren’t aware of the different types of carbohydrates, fats and proteins – particularly the differentiation between what’s considered a ‘lean’ protein (that is, minimal fat) as opposed to fatty proteins. That information in detail will be reviewed in detail in next week’s article – ‘How to choose your macronutrients’.

Finding the right source of information can seem daunting when most of us might simply jump on the web and Google with much density ‘ How to lose weight’ (and by the way, save your time) – start by eradicating media bodies with statistics unsupported by research, and seeking proven, science-based reports with specific dietary advice. Particularly for fat loss (or what most would refer to as toning – a vague concept amongst gym goers suffering from misinformation) bodybuilding websites are a great place to start – even if that’s not your ultimate goal. Lyle McDonald of bodyrecomposition.com and Martin Berkhan of http://www.leangains.com offer some incredibly scientific research to support their advice with proven effects in their clients. Without a nutritional diploma it’s surprising how much you can learn from experts over the wonder of the internet.

Finally, for specific dietary goals (when many don’t know where to start) like significant fat loss, plowing through a weight loss plateau or exercise programs – don’t be afraid to contact a professional. Even when you think you might be able to learn it all through the internet, a bodybuilding website or even a nutrition blog like this one, you can never underestimate the importance of gaining a professional perspective and the support an objective person can offer is helping you meet your goals. From my personal experience and battle with weight management and finding a dietary lifestyle that works for me, I can always recommend that both mentally and physically, a professional who has gone through that tumultuous experience themselves will be able to offer the long-term support and specific dietary and fitness advice you seek, to suit your lifestyle. And long-term, you’ll reach your goals, with a smile on your face, and a (moderate) piece of dark chocolate in palm.

Homemade Coconutty Granola

I’ve experimented with a few granola recipes over the years, but this one is definitely my favourite. Creating my own granola has been one of the best things I’ve done; I use it as gifts for friends and family, but mainly the benefit of having a breakfast cereal with no artificial additives and having such control over what goes into your gob is liberating. I do get incredibly frustrated browsing the aisles of Woolworths, constantly seeking a cereal that will do the quick fix for the morning without causing a spike in insulin and provides me with a wholesome treat without the hidden nasties. While a lot of supermarkets have begun to broaden their horizons in the healthy eating department, it’s reflected in the price. Some cereals can cost up to $20 a box that only dispenses a measly 13 servings, whereas you can create this one yourself with plenty of ingredients you most likely have stashed away in the cupboard. Save your money and your belly a lot of ache and pain – bake away your worries with the original Burpees and Balance Coconutty Granola.

Macros:

Makes 12 serves per batch (46g per serving, without milk)

Calories: 259kcal/serving

Carbs: 14.51g/serving

Fats: 18.15g/serving

Protein: 8.32g/serving

Ingredients:

  • 300g Mixed Nuts (Cashews, Hazelnuts, Almonds etc. – I used the Mixed Nuts range from Aldi)
  • 100g Quick Oats
  • 15ml Coconut Oil
  • 20ml Chia Seeds (of whichever colour you prefer)
  • 40g Goji Berries
  • 30g Low Carb Seed Mix (I bought mine from Coles – the Nu-Vit range)
  • 30g Dessicated Coconut
  • 2 egg whites, whisked
  • 1 tbsp stevia
  • 4g Natural Vanilla Extract
  • 30g Australian Natural Runny Honey

Method:

  1. Mix together your nuts, seed mix, chia seeds and goji berries in a large bowl. Transfer to a pulse operated blender and pulse until the nuts have slightly crumbled. Don’t overpulse though – you still want some ‘chunky’ bits of nuts for crunch and texture.
  2. Add your quick oats to the blender and pulse one more time. Add your dessicated coconut to the mix and shake for the mix to thoroughly combine. Transfer to a large baking tray and lay evenly across the spread of the tray, ensuring the mix isn’t overcrowded.
  3. In a separate bowl, heat your coconut oil until it has just melted, then remove from microwave and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Add in your stevia, vanilla, honey and whisked egg whites and mix together until combined. Do ensure the coconut oil has well and truly cooled without setting before adding the eggs, otherwise they may cook in the oil!
  4. Coat your nut mix on the tray with your oil/honey mix. Using your hands, roll the oily coating in, massaging the granola so it becomes sticky and well-oiled. When you have exhausted your mixture, your granola should be sticky and visibly oily.
  5. Place in your oven at 160 degrees celsius. Monitor the granola for about 25 minutes – at this point you should begin to smell the coconut and nuts roasting, and it should be beginning to turn a golden-brown colour. At about half an hour, toss the granola around and allow the downside to cook for an extra half hour. Again, monitor it closely – as the oven gets hotter the granola will cook faster and potentially burn if not watched.
  6. Once your granola is golden-brown, turn off the oven, open the door and leave the granola inside to cool down. After ten minutes, remove from the oven tray and transfer to a bowl or cereal container. The granola needs to sit until COMPLETELY cool for consumption – as it won’t get it’s ‘crunch’ factor until settled.
  7. Serve the next morning or a few hours later with nut mylk, yogurt, or your favourite berries and fruit (or all toppings!)

 

Rainbow Pinwheels

(Vegetarian, low-fat, high in fibre and grainy goodness)

Makes 3 servings (1 serving is one uncut wrap)

Macros per serving:

Calories: 268kcal/serving

Carbs: 43g/serving

Fats: 5g/serving

Protein: 10g/serving

Ingredients:

1 medium red capsicum, de-seeded and sliced lengthways

1 medium yellow capsicum, de-seeded and sliced lengthways

1 large handful shredded purple cabbage

1 large handful baby spinach

3 Helga’s Mixed Grain Wrap

30g Jalna No-Fat Yogurt

5g Wholegrain Mustard

1 tsp parsley

1 tsp lemon juice

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Method:

  1. Start by combining the ingredients for the dressing. Combine your yogurt, wholegrain mustard, parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a small ramekin.
  2. Lay out your individual wraps, and spread an even amount of the dressing over the wrap, thinning out toward the edges.
  3. Evenly place your vegetables in rows, moving diagonally across the wrap, like the below picture:

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4. Start rolling tightly until it is completely rolled into a wrap. With the edges face down, using a sharp knife cut the wrap into small pieces, about 4-5 per wrap.

5. Serve immediately or preserve overnight.

Food Anxiety and Macro Counting

Food Anxiety and Macro Counting

Counting your macros can be a life-changing experience for most people – and it generally comes in one of two ways. Category A people may find flexibility and an improvement in their relationship with food when counting macros – particularly people who are inclined to binge when they cut out entire food groups to reach their goal. On the other end of the scale (pardon the pun) counting macros can become obsessive by nature, and result in a lacking social life and almost phobia of being caught in a situation where food might be served. This is particularly prevalent for those who are counting macros on a cut (that is, trying to lose fat) rather than those lucky bulkers out there. But the point of counting macros is actually to achieve a reasonable flexibility with dieting so you don’t have to cart your brown rice and chicken to a dinner party. There are a couple of key things you can do to continue hitting your grams on point whilst enjoying your time out of the house.

Prepare

This is probably the most commonly seen bullet point across health and fitness websites, and for good cause. Preparation is key in maintaining your physique, otherwise circumstances often arise leaving you in a situation where you have ‘no other choice’ but to eat unhealthily. Realistically, if you have a dinner date, you’re likely to know about it a few hours before the outing takes place, and this is where you can consciously prepare your other meals to leave space for the upcoming larger meal at the end of the day.

Firstly, investigate your options. If you’re heading out for dinner, lunch or breakfast, why not scope out the options on the menu in advance? Whenever I head out for a meal, I tend to take a look at the restaurants in the area and contribute to the decision of where we might go; I find that (surprisingly) pub food is often quite good as they will most likely feature at least one salad on the menu, or at least a deconstructed meal where you can easily identify macros. That’s tip number 2, particularly relevant if tip number 1 isn’t possible for you (i.e. surprise location, change of plans etc). Choose meals that are clearly set apart on the plate, like ‘Grilled Chicken with Side salad and Potatoes’ as opposed to ‘Beef and Guinness Pie’. It’s much easier to identify the individual ingredients of what you’re consuming when it’s all laid out individually for you on the plate, rather than thrown together (albeit deliciously) under the lid of a giant puff pastry.

Make Some Room

Realistically, we can’t count the exact macros in each of our consumed meals unless we create them ourselves, with the help of our trusty food scales. So when we go out to eat, it has to be a reasonable estimate. Now most people in the early stages of macro counting will underestimate the content of their food, simply because they’re not used to weighing everything up. But once you get a handle on it, you’ll begin to identify meals with higher fat and carb content. But until then, we need to overestimate the macronutrient content.

Most chefs will be adding hidden oils and butter to their meals because generally, it makes the meal taste better. For that reason alone, even with ‘dressing on the side’ your salad can sometimes still come out doused in olive oil because the chef doesn’t consider that to be part of the regular dressing. Now you can be a real pain, and send the meal back (potentially getting your next dish garnished with spit) or you can prepare for the occasion by leaving out 10-20g or so in fats, so the meal won’t overdo your macros. The same goes for carbohydrates, although these are generally easier to identify in meals, you’re unlikely to get the same wholegrain, sustainable carbs that you might prefer consuming at home. By making the adjustments in your macros earlier in the day (i.e. simply having a lighter, lean protein lunch) you can leave your remaining carbohydrates for the restaurant meal later on.

Speak to the Chefs

My experience with most chefs is that (in Australia) they’re quite happy to accommodate your dietary requirements. Realistically, they have to keep up with the ever-growing health trends if they want to maintain their reputation – just as vegetarianism is a personal lifestyle choice, the decision to eat only gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, or whatever food choice takes your fancy is on the rise. The health industry is one of the fastest growing worldwide and as a result, the world of hospitality has had to make some serious adjustments. Just like you can, if you speak to the guy putting your meal together.

Politely ask to speak to the chef at the restaurant, or ask the waiter about the nature of the food you’re eating. If you wish to specify on the type of meal you’re consuming and the nature of it, you’re completely entitled to it. Most restaurants are actually identifying gluten-free and dairy-free options on their menu’s now for the picky folks, and these types of restaurants are generally on the list of places who are more likely to be health conscious in their concoctions. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for meal adjustments or ‘things on the side’ – at the end of the day, it’s your body and your meal, and you’re entitled to know what’s going into your body.

Hit up a chain

This is probably one of the easier options, however it might not be preferable if you’re on a family birthday outing or seeking some finer dining! Some chain restaurants are required by law to list their nutrition guidelines online, complete with the macronutrient count. There can of course, be discrepancies between restaurants (i.e. the generous staff member of Mad Mex loading you up with an extra helping of guacamole) but you can generally identify that the meal will be in reasonably close range of the listed guidelines. Chipotle and Mad Mex are great examples of food chains with fairly accurate meal macronutrients, and even the new chain ‘Thrive’ only recently launched in Australia is particularly mindful of additional oils – providing macronutrient friendly meals for your lunch break. 

Relax 

Finally, try not to overanalyse on what you’re consuming when you’re heading out to eat. Macros are about setting a general guideline for what you should be aiming for when trying to reach your goal – you don’t need to hit the 0 every single day. And by saying relax I’m clearly not encouraging you to throw caution to the wind and down a double bacon burger (unless of course, your macros allow it) but simply choose wisely and make an educated guess on what your macros are on the plate. And enjoy it!