Monday, May 20, 2013

Healthy Girl Project: Check It Out!

Have you got a niggling issue that you keep meaning to get checked, but just never get around to it? Maybe you have a sore tooth, or a bad knee, or a weird bump that you're monitoring but not committing to seeking medical advice for yet? Oh, my friend, you are in fine company. This is a thing. People just don't make the time to check things out. Here's my story. Two and a half years ago, while doing data entry at work, I started noticing that I needed to squint my left eye every now and then. A few months later, I was needing to close my left eye when reading small writing below me on the desk. Not longer after that, I realised that anything that wasn't a few feet in front of me was blurry because my left eye just couldn't focus on it. My once-perfect vision was no more. But do you think I did anything about it? Nope. I battled on through the data entry, squinted at the screens at Church when I sang, and kept telling myself "next week I'll book that eye test". I can't even use money as an excuse because we have health insurance, and I knew that I was entitled to a free pair of glasses every year.

Well, finally, as you can see in my stylish photo above, I did it. I booked a test at my local spec savers (bulk-billed, FYI) and within minutes I was told I have an astigmatism and... what do you know... I needed glasses! A couple of weeks later my glasses arrived, and my life changed for the better. Just like that. Because I took 20 minutes out of my life and finally got an eye test.

The moral of the story is - go to the doctor/dentist/optometrist/allergist. My tale is fairly harmless, but there are some pretty devastating stories out there of people with serious illnesses who put off going to the doctor until it was too late. This one caught my attention just this evening, and after a quick Google search there are too many accounts just like it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Healthy Girl Project: Keeping It Clean

Well, today I accepted the fact that I am not going to keep counting Weight Watchers points. Before the Weight Watchers haters out there roll their eyes and say "Took you long enough to work that out" I want you to know that I believe in Weight Watchers as a program. It is sustainable to people who are disciplined enough to keep counting their points, and it's an amazing program which allows you to eat anything without 'breaking the rules' provided you track it - to me, that's a healthy outlook on living a healthy life-style, because it's realistic. Even the healthiest, fittest people I know want to have a piece of cake every now and then, and Weight Watchers says "That's totes fine!"

Anyway, the point of this post isn't to talk about Weight Watchers, but rather to let you know what I'm trying next - Clean Eating! Like Weight Watchers, Clean Eating is a lifestyle rather than a diet/strict program. Without going into too much detail (my knowledge is a bit limited at the moment), Clean Eating embraces whole, non-processed foods, lean meats, less dairy, etc - basically eating foods that are as close as possible to their natural state.

I've been following the Clean Eating Recipes page on Facebook for ages now, and decided to download their app this morning. The app offers recipes, helps you understand the concept of clean eating, and provides a list of suggested things to keep in your pantry to get you started. As I was planning a shopping trip today, I decided to check this list first so I could start stocking up. Scrolling through, overwhelmed-ness hit me. Items like spelt flour, quinoa flakes, almond milk, grape seed oil, cauliflower rice and coconut sugar smacked me in the face as I scrolled through, and I decided right then to give up because there was no way I would be able to find all this stuff at the store and make all these crazy substitutions! So I promptly closed the app and made my usual weekly meal plan.

Going through the recipes for my meal plan, I realised something. Most things that I was planning on cooking with were actually already clean - things like chicken breast, chick peas, fresh vegetables and greek yoghurt. Curious, I re-opened the app and realised I would only need a couple of extra things to keep my already-planned meals completely clean. Hallelujah! Of course, I wasn't necessarily sure I would find those things, but I noted them on my list anyway. And you know what? My shopping trip went better than I expected! I'm so used to picking up the products that I am familiar with, that I haven't even noticed the clean/healthier alternatives sitting right there next to them! Things like wholemeal cous cous, spelt pasta, grape seed oil, buckwheat - right there on the same shelves I've been shopping from for years!

So as you can see in the photo above, today I bought some clean things. I have to issue a disclaimer right now and let you know that I'm not completely 100% eating clean yet - there are some products that I won't be able to get without visiting a health food store, and I still need to put in some solid research before I know enough to do it completely. But I'm happy to do it a few small changes at a time.

Amazingly, this blog post isn't intended to pull you onto the Clean Eating band wagon with me! But if what you're doing right now isn't working, I do want you to broaden your scope and try something new. It might be something small, like a new exercise DVD, or like me it might be something big like a complete overhaul of your eating. But don't stay stuck in a rut! There's just no reason to be unhappy with yourself in an area that you have the complete power to change.

If you are interested in checking out Clean Eating, these are some resources that I'm going to be burying myself in over the next few days:
- The Complete Idiot's Guide To Clean Eating
- Clean Eating Magazine
- Ashy Bines (if you haven't seen her ads pop up on Facebook, you're living under a rock)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Healthy Girl Project: Let's Go Nuts!

Recently I've started adding raw nuts and seeds to my diet... admittedly, I wasn't super keen on consuming them in their raw form when I've grown up snacking on their tasty salted & roasted cousins! But knowing they were good for me (I'll explain in a sec!) I resolved to make myself eat a handful now and then... and amazingly within only a couple of days I started enjoying them. Heck, I'm craving them right now just writing about them!
So here's what I've been learning about nuts and seeds (the following info is from this website - visit it for a more detailed description):

- They're the NUMBER 1 source of plant protein!
- They are high in fat - but it's the good kind. While they can contribute to weight gain and should be carefully portion controlled if you're trying to lose weight, they're great for your heart. A study showed that people who consumed a serve of nuts just 5 times per week reduced their risk of heart disease by 35%! What!?
- They're an amazing source of energy (hence why you should be careful if you're trying to lose weight)
- They're filled with a whole bunch of minerals and even a couple of vitamins!

And check this out (from the same website):
"A study published in the April 2002 Journal of Nutrition had people replace half the fat in their daily diets with almonds for six weeks. Researchers found that the almond eaters’ bad cholesterol went down six percent, and good cholesterol went up six percent. In addition, blood fat dropped 14 percent." [source]

So what's a good portion size? According to a couple of websites I browsed through, a good daily serve is 1 ounce (30g) - I measured it out and it was a little less than a 1/4 cup. Nuts and seeds are super versatile - you can mix them through your muesli in the morning, snack on them at work, sprinkle them on a salad... get creative! The important thing to remember is that they're at their best in raw form.

I also found this site which has a list of nuts and seeds and an extensive look into each individual one... seriously each nut and seed has its very own page packed with information! Worth a look.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Healthy Girl Project - The Sheepish Face

Is this sheepish enough for you??? It's been a while since I blogged, and honestly, the reason why I'm dusting it off and jumping back in is because of the people who have (sometimes forcefully!) been suggesting I get back into it! I'm really sorry I got so slack... I think that making this project a 365 was a terrible idea! I started running out of ideas, losing motivation, putting way too much pressure on myself, and once I'd skipped blogging that first week I thought to myself "Well, I'll never catch up on that 365 now" so I stopped trying. For that reason, while I do plan to blog as regularly as possible, I'm taking the pressure right off, ditching the "365" and renaming this the "Healthy Girl Project". Now I can blog every day... but I don't have to. And probably won't.
Anyway! What have I been up to? Have I been sticking with it? No. No, I haven't. But you'll be pleased to know that I'm not completely off the band-wagon. Some of the things I've been keeping up:
- Eating more fruit
- Avoiding coffee. And it's amazing how well I've been sleeping!
- Eating avocado on an almost daily basis
- Drinking more water

Yay me! But, let's be real. I've also been travelling terribly in other ways, or I wouldn't have gone into cyber-hiding all these months. For one thing, KFC just opened up at our local shops. You know I love my KFC. Some nights I can smell it from my front yard. Resolve, I need you! But I can't pin the blame entirely on KFC either. I've been planning some pretty atrocious meals*, letting my portion sizes slide back up there, and don't even talk to me about exercise... But guys, from tomorrow it's back on. I'm crawling back asking for another chance. Have your good intentions slipped since the new year? Is the colder weather inspiring you to load up on carbs and plop down on the couch with little other plans than to watch My Kitchen Rules**? Make this your week to start fresh too!

*Example: tonight's dinner was chicken stuffed with bacon and cream cheese, wrapped in puff pastry. I think that roughly equates to 500g weight gain per bite!
** Seriously babes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Healthy Girl 365, Day 43 - Try Something New Tuesday!

No, I don't exactly intend to "try something new" every Tuesday but I guess the last two weeks have had me feeling particularly curious on Tuesdays. I've been meaning to try this baked grapefruit from A Beautiful Mess for a while now, and decided that today was the day. It's super simple - just cut your grapefruit in half, sprinkle some brown sugar on each half, rub it in, and bake for 15 minutes at 200C. I guess I was hoping that this would be the secret to enjoying grapefruit for me... I'm not a lover of grapefruit, it's just too bitter for me (though I love grapefruit juice!) and even baked with brown sugar it was just overwhelmingly bitter. Maybe some people are just genetically inclined to find grapefruit too bitter, as others are with celery and spinach? Hmmm! So I won't be making it again, but if you're a lover of the grapefruit, well, you may just enjoy it!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Healthy Girl 365, Day 42 - Pickle Goodness

Do you have any food fetishes that your friends and family judge you for? I do. Soda water, tinned mackerel fillets and pickles (specifically polski ogorki) spring to mind for me. They were all part of my childhood and I can't help but love them! I love pickles because they are 0 Weight Watchers points and they're crisp and yummy - perfect when I'm looking for a salty hit! I always have a jar in my fridge and I raid it pretty constantly. Tonight we're having dinner with Chris's family and I grabbed a pickle as a snack to tide me over until dinner time. Yum!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Healthy Girl 365, Days 38-41 - Oops...

I've been AWOL for the last few days, and though my 365 has been on my mind A LOT, I just haven't been able to think of things to take photos of. Why? Because I've kind of stumbled. The last couple of weeks have been difficult for some reason, and it will continue to be until my new healthy changes become habits, but for some reason my will power has just not been as strong. This weekend I've also been feeling under the weather which doesn't help with the motivation. So now I'm crawling back with lots of fresh ideas and ready for a new week to start tomorrow. I did consider scrounging together a few days worth of ideas and pretend that things were on track, but a very lovely friend convinced me to be honest with you all even if it sounds totally lame. As my support team you definitely deserve to know that I'm not always the pillar of strength I try to come across as! It's easy to blog about making healthy changes, it's another thing entirely to follow through all day, every day. Anyway, onward and upward!

I mentioned in my start-of-February post that I would be giving up soft drink this month and well, that day has come! I have been very much in the habit of cracking a can with dinner, buying fast food meal combos with 600mL bottles, stopping by the vending machine at work for a Diet Coke, ordering two soft drinks when I go out for dinner... and soft drinks can be pretty nasty! I know, it's not exactly breaking news that soft drinks are super high in sugar and have zero nutritional value, but studies are constantly coming out linking soft drink consumption with heart attack and stroke risk, obesity (duh), cancer, kidney damage, elevated blood pressure, tooth decay, increased risk of diabetes... the list goes on, depending on which study you're reading up on. Just google it! I found this article great as a starting point. And I'm sure we've all heard bits and pieces on the dangers of aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in diet soft drinks. So, these are my reasons behind my decision. I think I will probably still have a glass of soft drink on very rare occasions, but certainly not on a daily, weekly, or hopefully even monthly basis going forward.