Wednesday, 23 March 2016

My first week as a target member has been a success

Trying to think of a word to describe my first week as a target member has proved almost as tricky as keeping my hands out of the biscuit jar!  I was absolutely elated last week after reaching my target by the skin of my teeth.

If you read last week's post you'll know I celebrated with pizza and chips (not from the takeaway, but that doesn't make it any better!) and pick 'n' mix.

Thursday, the celebrations continued at work with a creme egg and cake.  Then I had a slice of bakewell tart at my mum and dad's after tea. As well as loads of crisps. I just couldn't stop.

Isn't it strange how celebrations are always marked with food?

I tried to get back on it a little bit throughout the rest of the week, but I just couldn't say no to things.  It's not helped that I've been hungry all the time.  I think Mother Nature is due her next visit.

The best (and, arguably, worst) thing about being at target is that I don't have to go and get weighed now.  So knowing I'd probably had a hefty gain this week, I could've dodged the scales and saved me knowing.  But all that would have done would have seen me carry on into next week - which includes Easter (aka chocolate weekend) - and just eat more and see an even bigger gain when I next stepped on the scales.  Trying to lose that would be hard.

So I faced the music (after a sweaty gym session hoping to shift some last minute pounds) and put on just one pound! I was over the moon. It was very undeserving, mind, given some of the crap I've put in my mouth this week (you'll see for yourself when you see my food diary!) but I'll take it nonetheless. And this week I will limit myself to just Easter eggs. Maybe.



Tonight I'm not having my usual 'it doesn't count after weigh day blowout' either and have the Syn free KFC chicken in the oven as I type.

I did initially want to lose a bit more weight this week, and drop to the bottom of my target range, so I could indulge in all the chocolate this weekend and have a gain whilst still remaining in target.

This is literally the best result, though. I can still enjoy Easter and everything that comes with it, I'll just get back on track and back on plan the following week and, if I do leave my target range, drop back in.

This week I've upped my exercise by walking to work (which is just over a mile) and walking to interviews/photo jobs whilst at work.  I initially started doing it because it's a nightmare to park at work, but now I actually really enjoy it.  I feel so much more awake when I get to work on a morning after the walk in than I do when I drive.

I've also (drum roll, please) finally bought some new clothes - woo hooo!  I can't wait for them to arrive - I'm sick of wearing stuff that doesn't fit me properly.  I've even resorted to wearing a pleather skirt to work because it's the only one that fits me now.

Food diary (week one as a target member)

Day One:

Breakfast: Overnight oats with raspberries
Snack: Apple
Snack: Cadbury Creme egg (9 syns)
Lunch: Speed vegetable soup
Snack: One pack of Hula Hoop Puft crisps (3.5 syns)
Snack: Slice of cake (25 syns)
Snack: Apple
Snack: Walkers French Fries (3.5 syns)
Tea: Pork meatloaf with courgetti and spaghetti and a fruit salad and small slice of bakewell tart (7 syns)
Syns for the day: 48 

Day Two:

Breakfast: Melon
Snack: Strawberries
Dinner: Chicken breast with carrot, peppers and lettuce
Snack: Apple and orange
Tea: Diet Coke chicken with cauliflower rice
Snack: Sweets (20 syns)
Syns for the day: 20

Day Three:

Breakfast: Strawberries
Dinner: Chicken and bacon Caesar sandwich (approx 20 syns) with salad
Snack: Chocolate cake (30 syns)
Tea: Chicken salad
Syns for the day: 50

Day Four:

Breakfast: Strawberries
Dinner: Spaghetti with meatballs (10 syns) and a couple of slices of pizza (15 syns) with chips (10 syns)
Tea: Chicken in oyster sauce with loads of vegetables
Syns for the day: 35

Day Five:

Breakfast: Bacon, two hard boiled eggs and spinach
Snack: Apple and pear
Dinner: Ham salad (lettuce, carrot, peppers and red cabbage) with two hard boiled eggs
Snack: Apple
Tea: SW chilli with cauliflower rice
Snack: Ten Cadbury Roses (20 syns)
Snack: Oreo ice-cream sandwich (5.5 syns)
Syns for the day: 25.5

Day Six:

Breakfast: Overnight oats with raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants and blueberries.
Dinner: Leftover chilli with cauliflower rice
Snack: Apple
Snack: Six Cadbury Roses (12 syns)
Tea: SW lasagne with salad
Syns for the day: 12

Day Seven:

Breakfast: Toasted teacake with butter (14 syns) with fresh strawberries and raspberries
Dinner: Homemade tomato and chilli soup
Snack: Apple and pear
*Had tea after I was weighed*
Syns for the day: 14

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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Just like Shakira, my hips don't lie

And my hips are seven inches smaller than when I started Slimming World - if that's not the proof you need to show that this plan works, I don't know what is.

Since starting Slimming World on 11th November last year, I have lost two inches from under my bust, eight inches from my waist and seven inches from my hips!!!

I've lost two and a half stone, have dropped from a size 12-14 to a size 8-10 and feel fantastic!

It was touch and go as to whether I would reach target tonight. When I weighed in the scales told me I'd maintained. NOOOOO.

But, thanks to a fab fellow member and friend who marched me up to the gym, I lost the half a pound I needed in 15 minutes and reached my target! The target I set in November that I thought would be an age away.

I did have a bit of help to lose my pound. I took off my bra. And pants. My ring. My earrings. And even my socks. I swear, if I didn't lose that pesky half I'd have definitely lost it in tears!

So there we have it, I'm at target. And I'm sure the hard work is about to really begin now as I try and maintain it ready for our wedding next May.


I'm absolutely ecstatic to have reached my target and I'm determined not to put the weight back on. I'd ideally like to lose a little bit more this week, drop to the bottom of my target range, then have more pounds to play with over Easter and stuff my face with chocolate eggs. Mmmmm.

I suspect I'll probably have a gain this week, though, as I'm currently sat here waiting for a celebratory pizza & chips to cook in the oven. I am sharing it with Tom, and I will have a salad, but it's still naughty. I also won't lie, I have some pick n mix for afters.

I'm not going to fib, that's not what this is about. I like sharing every step of my journey on here and don't want to mislead anyone.

Slimming World is one of the best things that has happened to me (obviously aside from the obvious things like Tom and my best friend and amazing family etc). When I walked into that room on the first night I was shy, reserved and absolutely bloody terrified. Tonight, I was like a totally new person. I was myself. Confident, happy and outgoing.

I would not be where I am today without my amazing consultant, Beth, and the support of the group. I will definitely still go to group not just because it's free now and I want to stay where I am, but because I'll miss everyone if I don't go.

I also wouldn't have got here in this time without the support of my family and friends. They've stuck with it with me, understood when I couldn't have cake Friday's every week in the office, and pushed me to go to the gym and spinning even when I couldn't be arsed.

Anyway, enough soppy stuff. I'm happy, you've probably gathered.

About this week, though. I had a naughty Thursday and Friday after a couple of meals out but have been on plan since Saturday. I even went for a pigging run!!

Then did five hours of gardening which left me crippled. Muscles ached that I didn't even know could ache! I then did spinning on Tuesday followed by a pre- weigh in gym session tonight. I think the gardening and two hour long squat that I held increased my booty and was the reason that half a pound wasn't so forthcoming. But it's fine.

I've also tried some bloody amazing new recipes this week - the links for which are in the food diary. Mainly, the KFC style chicken which was like an actual foodgasm. By far my favourite Slimming World meal to date.

So there we have it, I'm two and a half stone lighter and 100 times happier, more body confident and content with myself.

I've tried all the fad diets out there - Bootea, Actiderm wraps and shakes and pills, weight loss tablets - but none of them ever had the sort of sustainable results that this does. And none of them meant I could enjoy food this much.

Thank you so much Slimming World, Beth, the group and my family and friends for giving me back my mojo!

I'd better wrap it up now, my pizza is ready hehe!

*probably better make that just six inches off my hips now haha!


Week 18 food diary


Day One:

Breakfast: Eggy bread (HEB) with bacon, poached eggs, beans and a stack of spinach on the side
Dinner: Homemade roasted tomato and chilli soup
Tea: *Meal out* Pate (7 syns), gammon and egg with broccoli, carrots and sugar snap peas, and sticky toffee pudding (20 syns).
Syns for the day: 27

Day Two:

Breakfast: Apple and two pears
Dinner: Tuna, pasta, red onion, rocket, lettuce and peppers
Snack: Two clementines
Snack: Two ginger biscuits (5 syns)
Tea: *Meal out* Pizza Express dough balls (16 syns) and a Legerra Pollo ad Astra pizza (21 syns)
Syns for the day: 42

Day Three:

Breakfast: Bacon and eggs sandwich on two slices of wholemeal bread (HEB) with baked beans and lots of spinach
Dinner: *None as I was busy gardening*
Tea: KFC-style chicken with homemade chips and a big salad
Snack: Three champagne truffles (7.5 syns)
Syns for the day: 7.5

Day Four:

Breakfast: Baked oats with raspberries and strawberries
Snack: Apple
Dinner: Homemade tomato and chill soup
Snack: Two clementines
Snack: Three ginger biscuits (7.5 syns)
Tea: SW syn-free lasagne (HEA) with lettuce, spinach and rocket on the side
Drink: A glass of prosecco (4.5 syns)
Syns for the day: 12

Day Five:

Breakfast: Melon
Snack: Strawberries
Dinner: Homemade speed vegetable soup
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: Spaghetti carbonara (HEA) with a side salad
Syns for the day: 0

Day Six:

Breakfast: Poached eggs with vegetable 'couscous' (carrot, beetroot, broccoli, and onion all blitzed in the food processor)
Snack: Apple and pear
Dinner: Homemade tomato and chilli soup
Tea: Swede-topped cottage pie with broccoli and green beans
Snack: Two rocky road Hi-Fi Light bars (HEB)
Syns for the day: 0

Day Seven:

Breakfast: Overnight oats with raspberries
Dinner: Homemade speed vegetable soup
Snack: Apple and orange
Tea: *Had tea after I was weighed*
Syns for the day:


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Monday, 14 March 2016

Is there a sexting crisis in Britain's primary schools? Unfortunately, probably yes.

When I was at primary school, it was rare that anyone had a mobile phone at all.  But a mobile phone with a camera on it?  That was unheard of.

Nowadays, children are walking around with more up to date smart phones than me; using Snapchat and a whole host of other messaging apps to keep in touch with their friends, sharing minute-by-minute updates and pictures from their everyday lives.

Given the advances in technology, the ease of communication, and the age at which children are exposed to social media there is no wonder that there is a sexting crisis.  What shocks me, though, is how young kids are starting swapping sexts.

A recent Freedom of Information request by The Times found that children as young as 12 were swapping explicit images with each other at primary schools across the country.  Whilst This Morning spoke to a 21-year-old today who admitted doing the same as a youngster.

Sexting amongst teenagers isn't a new trend.

When I was at high school, it was all about MSN.  Boys would regularly whack their willy out on webcam whilst girls would flash their bras as they "accidentally" got changed in view of the webcam.  Exchanging images of that nature isn't a new trend, but the ease at which it can be done is.  As is how young those are doing it.

When I was a teenager you couldn't get the internet on your phone without paying extra, so your 'social media' experience was restricted to the computer when you got home.  Now, thanks to technological advances, you can take a photo and send it to anyone in the world within seconds.  Whether it be on Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook, iMessage or any of the other instant messaging apps out there.

Everyone, at some point in their lives, has sent a risqué picture to someone.  The savvy will cover their tracks and make sure their face/any recognisable aspects are out of shot, but many won't take such precautions and often see their images end up in the wrong hands.  That's why revenge porn has become such a big deal after exes clung onto the images to use as a bargaining chip or a way of hurting a former flame.

Even though there is apparently a law which makes sending explicit pictures under the age of 18 illegal, I don't think this will eradicate the problem.  There will always be easy ways that kids can do it.

I'm shocked that kids as young as 12 are swapping naughty photos, though.  The fact that children - actual children - have phones and the ability to do it in the first place just shocks me.  I know parents will say it's hard not to give their child a phone because all their friends have them, but surely you're just opening them up to this world which is far more advanced and mature than their years.

With a smart phone, children can have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... every form of social media under the sun!  They are then put in an incredibly vulnerable position, being thrust into a world that is not aimed at their age bracket.  They'll see videos, pictures, links, jokes and much more all of which is aimed at those much more mature and grown up.

When I was a child, and a teenager, I always felt so wise beyond my years and so, so grown up.  I thought I could handle anything and everything that was out there.  When I first got MSN my mum and dad gave me the whole 'don't accept anyone you don't know' speech, but that soon went out the window.  The same when I got MySpace.  Then it was Bebo and Piczo and finally Facebook came into the equation.  I always wanted to do 'grown up things' and hated being told I was too young.

I was always careful when using the old school social media not to give personal details out or arrange to meet anyone that you don't know - all the rules that are drilled into you when you are first given that bit of freedom.  Now, I feel that social media is such an 'everyday' part of life, that the same warnings are not there.

The programme 'Catfish' has been made into an entertainment show, when really the risk is real and should not be trivialised.  For each person that Catfish has identified as a fake, there will be 100s more out there preying on the young, the vulnerable and the unaware.

This 'sexting crisis' might be nothing new, but the age at which kids are taking part in it really is and should be of a huge concern to parents who allow their kids to surf so freely around the worldwide web and all its nooks and crannies. I dread to think how advanced technology will be and how easily accessible the scary world will be by the time I have kids who are approaching their teenage years. Who knows what the problem will be then?

Syn free beef lasagne

Just like the spaghetti carbonara, I would never have believed this meal was Syn free if you'd put it in front of me in a restaurant. It's hard to imagine from looking at some of these meals that they can help you lose weight. But that's the magic of Slimming World.

This was made Syn free by using the 30g Parmesan as my healthy extra A.

This is a Slimming World recipe, taken from the website to serve four.

Ingredients

  • 500g lean beef mince (5% fat or less)
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 courgette, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 400g passata
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • Low calorie cooking spray
  • 500g fat free natural yogurt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 dried lasagne sheets
  • 160g reduced-fat cheddar cheese 

To serve

  • Mixed Salad

Method

  1. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the beef mince, red pepper, courgettes, onion and garlic and stir-fry for 6-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, passata and dried herbs, season well and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Meanwhile mix together the yogurt, eggs and nutmeg until smooth. Season well.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas 6. Spray a medium-sized lasagne dish with low calorie cooking spray. Spoon half the mince mixture into the base and top with half of the lasagne sheets. Spread over half of the yogurt mixture and top with the remaining mince mixture. Top with the remaining lasagne sheets, spread over the remaining yogurt mixture
    and sprinkle over the cheese.
  4. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with the mixed salad.
I made it to the recipe, split it between four dishes and stuck two in the freezer for another night's tea. Winning!

Since Tom isn't sticking to Slimming Worls religiously, he had his with chips. So if you're cooking for a family or a partner, it's easy to serve theirs with chips and/or garlic bread and you still enjoy your salad. There's nothing worse than having to cook separate meals for everyone when you're trying to eat well, and this way you don't have to!

If you're not using reduced fat cheddar as your HEA you'd need to count it as six syns.



Syn free spaghetti carbonara

Using Parmesan as my healthy extra A, this deliciously creamy dish was totally Syn free on Slimming World. If you'd have given me it in a restaurant I'd have thought it was laden with syns - it was so creamy and tasted just like the real thing!! Just what you want from these recipes - for it to not feel like you're 'on a diet'.

Because, let's be honest, how many diets let you eat spaghetti carbonara with no guilt attached?

This recipe is to serve one person (obviously easy to adapt to feed more)

Ingredients:

- Two rashers of lean bacon with all the fat cut off (I used more than this because I LOVE bacon) chopped into pieces
- One egg
- Salt and pepper
- Two tablespoons of fat free natural yoghurt
- 30g Parmesan cheese grated
- One clove of garlic peeled and crushed
- 100g dried spaghetti

Method:

- Cook the spaghetti, drain well and return to the pan
- Spray a non-stick frying pan with Frylight and fry the bacon for 2 to 3 minutes then turn off the heat
- Lightly beat the egg, season to taste and stir in the natural yoghurt along with 15g of the grated Parmesan
- Add the bacon to the cooked spaghetti and mix together well over a low heat
- Stir in the egg mixture and mix it all together coating the spaghetti
- Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over and serve

Then enjoy!!

This is totally Syn free thanks to using my 30g of Parmesan as my HEA - yippee! If you've used your HEA for the day, 30g Parmesan is six syns.

Here's a photo of my creation (excuse the pasta twists, we didn't have enough spaghetti!!)


Saturday, 12 March 2016

KFC-style chicken - a revelation and taste sensation!

I know some of the recipes I post won't be everybody's cup of tea, but I'm pretty certain this will appeal to the majority of you - KFC-style chicken.

Honest to god, it was amazing. I haven't had KFC in years but from what I remember, the taste wasn't too far away in this SW-friendly version. Which, if you're following Slimming World, is also syn free by the way - I should mention that.

Here's the beauty in all its glory:


Made a bit more boring when I added salad and homemade chips:


Have I got your attention now?

I thought so. Can you believe it's syn free?!

Here's the recipe...

(Now, we probably had what could serve four but we were hungry and are greedy. But the mixture can easily be made up again if you run out. I used chicken fillets but if you like thighs or drumsticks they would work just as well.)

Ingredients:

- Chicken fillets/drumsticks/thighs
- 1 oxo cube (crumbled in the foil, Incase you've not yet seen that's the way to do it)
- 80g Smash powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of garlic granules
- 1/2 teaspoon of oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of jerk seasoning
- 2 eggs

Method:

- Beat the egg in a bowl
- Mix the smash, herbs, spices, oxo cube and seasoning in a separate bowl
- Dip the chicken in the egg, then in the seasoning mixture, then back in the egg, and once more into the seasoning
- Spray a baking tray with fry light and arrange the chicken on the tray
- Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes, turning half way through
- Serve with whatever takes your fancy

Enjoy kids, I can't wait to have it again for tea already!!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Just HALF A POUND away from my target after a surprisingly good weight loss week

I'm just half a pound away from my target weight after a 4lb weight loss this week!! *happy dance*

What makes a good loss like that even an even happier occasion is because I didn't expect it. As you'll see if you scroll down to my food diary, I've indulged a bit a couple of times this week. It's not been like other weeks where I have had lots of little naughty treats every day, I had a blow out on Friday with a big ass takeaway (which was absolutely amazing!) and lots of wine. Then it was Mother's Day and we had lunch out followed by sticky toffee pudding. Well, it would be rude not to. 

Even though all my other meals have been Slimming World friendly I still thought I'd have maintained or only lost a little bit this week. 

What has probably helped is all the walking me and Tom have been doing. Monday we walked 4 miles round a reservoir and Tuesday we did between 8 and 9 miles of walking/climbing hills. So I think all that extra exercise was a definite help. 

I wish, however, I'd gone for a wee or taken my trousers off or something to get that extra half a pound this week and reach target, but I CAN get it for next week. No excuses. 

The daft thing is, once I'm at target the weight I am now will be more than comfortably in that target range - I've just got to get there first. 

After I posted my 'before and after' pictures last week I've had loads of people say how much weight I've lost. Some people haven't noticed because I've still been wearing baggy clothes or others simply haven't seen me. But everyone has said the same - "we didn't think you needed to lose weight when we looked at you before but you look amazing now!"

To a lot of people, I probably didn't need to lose weight before. But to me, I did. 

My BMI said I was overweight, my clothes didn't fit, I felt sluggish, I just felt uncomfortable. I'd look at photos of me from uni and look at how confident I felt and wished I could feel that way again. And, thanks to my amazing SW consultant and group, I do. Now, my clothes don't fit but not because they're too small - they're too big! My BMI is slap bang in the middle of healthy and I feel comfortable and confident in my own skin again.


This week should be fine for getting that half a pound loss. We are out for a meal tomorrow night using a voucher we got given and are out with my mum & dad on Friday. But, as last week proved, you can still out and get a good weight loss. 

I've got this! 


Week 17 food diary

Day one:

Breakfast: Bacon and two fried eggs and vegetable cous cous
Dinner: jacket potato with beans and a small salad
Snack: Apple
Tea: Swede-topped and speed-filled cottage pie with green beans 
Snack: Apple 
Syns for the day: 0

Day two:

Breakfast: Strawberries
Snack: Apple and pear
Dinner: Tuna with vegetable cous cous
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: Indian takeaway: chicken balti (17 syns) with plain boiled rice, two poppadoms (8 syns) and some naan bread (8 syns)
Drink: 2 glasses of prosecco (9 syns), a large glass of red wine (6 syns) and a large glass of rose (6 syns)
Syns for the day: 54

Day three:

Breakfast: 2 apples
Dinner: Homemade speedy vegetable soup (carrot, swede, leeks, celery, and onion)
Tea: Pizza-topped chicken with a big salad
Snack: Oreo ice cream sandwich (5.5 syns)
Syns for the day: 5.5

Day four:

Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled mixed with peppers, onions and 1/3 tin of chopped tomatoes
Dinner: Mother's Day lunch out: pate (10 syns), turkey with carrots, cabbage and cauliflower with a Yorkshire pudding (5 syns) and sticky toffee pudding (20 syns)
Tea: Melon and strawberries
Syns for the day: 35

Day five:

Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled mixed with peppers, onions and 1/3 tin of chopped tomatoes
Snack: Melon and strawberries
Dinner: Ham salad (peppers, lettuce, spinach and rocket)
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: SW Beef in red onion gravy with carrot and swede mash and broccoli
Syns for the day: 0

Day six:

Breakfast: Bacon and egg sandwich with a stack of spinach
Dinner: Ham salad (peppers, lettuce, spinach and rocket)
Snack: Strawberries and a pear
Tea: SW sweet and sour chicken with cauliflower rice and spinach
Syns for the day: 0

Day seven:

Breakfast: Baked oats with raspberries
Dinner: Poached salmon with garlic prawns, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower
*Had tea after weigh-in*
Syns for the day: 0

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Another Chinese fakeaway and a tasty casserole all Slimming World friendly

Slimming World sweet and sour chicken and beef in red onion gravy were two new recipes I tried this week.

The sweet and sour chicken I did with cauliflower rice which, for the first time, I made myself thanks to my brand new spanking food processor. It was very quick and very easy and very tasty. Just what you want after you've been out walking in the countryside all day!!

Sweet and sour chicken:


Here's the SW recipe: (to serve four)

Ingredients

  • 6 skinless chicken breast fillets, very thinly sliced
  • 6 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Low calorie cooking spray
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sweetener
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 100ml passata
  • Spring onion slivers and lime wedges, to garnish

Method

  1. Place the chicken in a shallow ceramic dish. Sprinkle over the spring onions and garlic, season well and pour over the light soy sauce. Toss to mix well, cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Spray a large non-stick frying pan with low calorie cooking spray and place over a high heat. Add the chicken mixture and cook for 5-6 minutes and then add the dark soy sauce, sweetener, vinegar, paprika, 5-spice powder and passata. Stir to mix well and bring the mixture to the boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and cook gently for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Check the seasoning before serving garnished with spring onion sliver and lime wedges to squeeze over.

I also did a beef in red onion gravy which was really good. I've never made my own gravy before so I was a bit worried about how this would turn out but it was beautiful! It took a while to make but it was worth it! 

Beef in red onion gravy: (excuse the messy plate)


Here's the SW recipe: (to serve four)

Ingredients

  • Low calorie cooking spray
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 750g very lean braising steak, visible fat removed, cut into 2½ cm cubes
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500g peeled carrots, roughly chopped
  • 500g peeled swede, roughly chopped
  • Finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, to garnish 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan140°C/Gas 3
  2. Spray an ovenproof casserole pan with low calorie cooking spray and fry the red onions for 10 minutes until slightly caramelised, adding a little water if needed. Remove from the pan then spray the pan again with low calorie spray and brown the meat in batches. 
  3. Meanwhile place the white onion and garlic in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. 
  4. Stir the cooked red onions back into the meat with the puréed onion and garlic, stock cube, tomato purée, balsamic vinegar and 500ml of water. Season and bring to the boil. 
  5. Cover and cook in the oven for around 2 hours or until the meat is really tender. 
  6. About 30 minutes before the meat is cooked, cook the carrots and swede in lightly salted boiling water for 25-30 minutes or until soft. Drain, mash together and season.
  7. Check the seasoning of the meat, scatter over the thyme and serve with the vegetable crush. Enjoy!

How Yorkshire Rows have become even more inspiring this International Women's Day

Earlier this month two ladies from my hometown of Selby were part of a record-breaking quartet who became the oldest women to ever row the Atlantic. Helen Butters and Janette Benaddi were half of the Yorkshire Rows team who sailed into the record books for the second time in 12 months as part of the oarsome foursome.

Since returning from their epic challenge their feet haven't touched the ground. The ladies have been everywhere - local news, national news, press conferences, This Morning, Saturday Night Takeaway... And rightly so. Their achievement shows that not only is age no barrier when pursuing your dreams, but that girl power is still going strong.

Their return, and subsequent press tour, timed ever so perfectly with International Women's Day and saw these women propelled even further onto a national platform as some of the most inspirational British women of today.



But, in the true style of the British media, their incredible, record-breaking successes were overlooked after an unfortunate mishap on BBC Breakfast which saw a clip of Helen in the nude shown in full.

It was part of a segment with the ladies where they discussed how they ended up rowing naked much of the time due to their clothes taking too long to dry - something they touched upon regularly in their updates on Facebook.

True to form, the tabloids picked up on this truly unfortunate and, I imagine for Helen, highly embarrassing incident and dedicated more colum inches and space on their website to this, rather than the fact these supermums had just rowed 3,000 nautical miles across the bloody Atlantic Ocean!!! Because, of course, having your bits out on breakfast television is far more newsworthy than their actual world record.

Even something as extraordinary, special and unique as Yorkshire Rows' achievement has been belittled by some corners of the press who have completely glossed over the fact that these four women just completed a challenge so rare that more people have been into space than taken part.

It's billed as the toughest rowing race on the planet for a reason - it's no walk in the park. And it wasn't plain sailing for the team as they faced adversity and difficulty but overcame it all.

It does sadden me that their achievements were a footnote in the national press coverage of the BBC Breakfast incident this week. Had that not happened, would the tabloids have picked up on the story at all? Most probably not. Which I find even more sad. In what is a truly magnificent display of professionalism and decorum the ladies have remained dignified and have not risen to the ridiculous coverage about, what is quite honestly, a shameful news angle.

Helen, Janette, Niki and Frances are the people who should be filling newspaper pages both in print and online and inspiring young girls and women to pursue their dreams and to aim higher. Great, Kim Kardashian posted yet another naked selfie, but who really gives a damn?! Is Kim Kardashian really the example we want to set young girls?

No.

I hope Yorkshire Rows continue to ride this wave of success and their achievements continue to be recognised for their magnitude in all the right ways. They're the kind of women young girls should aspire to be like - brave, courageous, determined, strong and defiant.

I suspect, though, it's going to take some time for women's achievements to stop taking a backseat to commentary on our appearance, image, bodies etc first. Hopefully Yorkshire Rows have inspired more women to tackle their dreams and realise that nothing is impossible if you want it hard enough.

Well done ladies!! You're oarsome!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Having to buy smaller clothes is the best feeling

After last week's blip I've been more focused and have had far fewer cravings.  I've upped my speed fruit intake as snacks so have felt fuller for longer and less of a desire for sugary treats.

I've still had some sweet treats this week, but I've done so by remaining (just) in my syns - or going a teeny bit over.

This week I maintained.

At first I was quite happy, then I was a bit miffed, then I was ok. But no need to dwell. I've had a great week full of off-scale victories. 

I exercised some brilliant self-control on Sunday when I went to my friend's little boy's 5th birthday party.  It was crisps, pizza, sweets, chocolate, jelly and cake galore!!!  If it had been a week earlier I would have been diving headfirst into the food devouring everything.  But I didn't.  

I restrained myself to just one slice of pizza and took a cupcake home for after tea.  

On Saturday I went out with my best friend for a few drinks. I literally had nothing to wear that fit me that was suitable for going out. So I made a last minute purchase of clothing that was a size 8 to 10 *chorus of angels singing hallelujah*

I felt fantastic. People were noticing and even my best friend, who I see all the time, noticed this weekend my weight loss. She looked at me like my trousers were split or something when I walked into her house on Sunday!

A lady at my group said tonight she'd found an old paper from early November and there was a picture of me presenting a competing prize to someone. She said the difference in me in such a short space of time was amazing.

So, I tried to find an old photo to do a comparison to make myself realise that, just because the numbers on the scales aren't saying I'm at 'target', I actually have more than surpassed my target appearance.

I can't stress too much about the numbers on the scales because our bodies naturally fluctuate. I feel fabulous how I am now. I'd be happy staying like this forever!! So whilst I am a bit 'men' about a maintain, I have to remember how good I've felt this week.

So here we go...



The picture on the left was in September, whilst the picture on the right was Saturday night. 

I'm still just 5lbs away from my target weight on the scales and I'd still love to get there before Easter. This week I'm going to work at increasing my speeds in my meals and making better choices when it comes to my snacks. 

That's my plan for this week. It'll be a bit challenging with a couple of meals out its two meals out of 21 - I can do this. 

And even if I maintain again, I'm still 2st 2.5lbs lighter than I was when I walked into that room in 11 November last year. 


Week 16 food diary

Day One:

Breakfast: Fresh strawberries and raspberries with a raspberry and cranberry Muller light
Dinner: Egg and beans on wholemeal toast (HEB)
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: SW speedy chicken jambalaya with spinach and lettuce
Snack: Caramel iced ring Krispy Kreme (15.5 syns)
Syns for the day: 15.5

Day Two:

Breakfast: Fresh strawberries and raspberries with a raspberry and cranberry Muller light
Dinner: Leftover jambalaya with lettuce and spinach
Snack: A bag of Quavers (4.5 syns)
Snack: Melon
Syns for the day: 4.5

Day Three:

Breakfast: Strawberries and a strawberry Muller light
Snack: Raspberries
Dinner: Bacon and egg sandwich on wholemeal bread (HEB)
Tea: Chicken tikka skewers with salad and plain rice.
Drink: Three vodka diet cokes (3 syns per 25ml vodka)
Syns for the day: 9

Day Four:

Breakfast: Bacon and egg sandwich on wholemeal bread (HEB)
Snack: Strawberries
Dinner: A slice of pepperoni pizza (8 syns)
Snack: Melon, strawberries and blueberries
Tea: Chilli salmon, salad and plain rice.
Snack: Vanilla cupcake (15 syns)
Syns for the day: 23

Day Five:

Breakfast: Melon
Snack: Apple and pear
Dinner: Tikka chicken with salad
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: SW five spice chicken (1/2 syn) with stir fry veg
Snack: 35g bar of Dairy Milk (9.5 syns)
Snack: Two rocky road hi-fi lights (HEB) with a vanilla Muller light
Syns for the day: 10

Day Six:

Breakfast: Fresh fruit salad
Dinner: Tikka chicken with vegetable cous cous
Snack: Apple and pear
Snack: Caramel shortbread (18 syns)
Tea: SW spiced pork chops with cauliflower rice and broccoli
Snack: Two rocky road hi-fi lights (HEB)
Syns for the day: 18

Day Seven:

Breakfast: Poached eggs and spinach on wholemeal toast (HEB)
Snack: Apple and pear
Dinner: Baked beans, turkey breast and peppers
Snack: Strawberries
Snack: Walkers French fries (4.5 syns)
*Had tea after I was weighed*
Syns for the day: 4.5

You may also like: Last week's unexpected 1lb loss

Ramblings of a bride-to-be

What have I learned so far since properly starting on the epic task that is wedding planning?

Well, apart from everything being so bloody expensive, it's how hard it is to make a decision.

I, like most girls, have had my wedding planned on Pinterest for years.  I knew the type of dress, the style of cake, the colour scheme, the flowers, and even down to the favours - I had it sussed.

Unfortunately, real life wedding planning isn't as easy as Pinterest - everything is so damn expensive and there are like 100s of companies and suppliers to sift through before you find the one.  There are things you expect to be expensive - your venue, the wedding dress etc - but other things have totally taken me aback.

A cake, for example.  If I was getting a nice, two-tiered sponge cake nicely decorated to a theme for a birthday, it would be somewhere between £50 and £100.  Mention it's for a wedding, and the cost is instantly tripled.

UHM, WHY?

If we hadn't already decided on our cake and were still in limbo, I'd be tempted to tell the cake maker it was for a birthday just to save money.

The wedding industry is a crazy place, I'm quickly learning that.

There's so much choice for everything and so much to take into account before making a decision.  Thankfully, we already knew who we wanted to do/supply a lot of things whether it be from recommendations or personal experience, but other things we are totally stumped.

We're also stuck on whether to try and make some bits ourselves to try and cut costs.  Favours is something we have decided to do ourselves because they're so easy to do.  I'd rather just give everyone a bag of pick 'n' mix sweets wrapped in cellophane and a cute bow and be done with it.

We're also designing/making our own stationery with the help of Tom's super talented cousin.  Apart from that, we're struggling with what we can make ourselves.  My mum is making us a cake (wouldn't be a family occasion without a Janey Babes special!) but there's nothing else I could physically think to do myself.

Except table centrepiece, which I'm really stuck on.  I am not creative in the slightest.  Actually, that's not true, I'm creative when it comes to ideas but I can't then put them into practice.  We know exactly what we want for our table centrepieces but finding a way to make/buy/sort them ourselves is proving tricky.

All the examples either look really obviously like someone has made them (which, without sounding snobby, I don't want) or look way too complicated.  My cousin made her own invitations etc. for her wedding and until she told me, I had no clue.  I thought they were professionally made they looked amazing!  And that's what I'd want stuff to look like if I made it.  Not like a child's school project (which is likely).

I feel like I need to take a trip to Country Baskets or The Range or Hobbycraft to get some ideas.  All that will happen then, though, is me coming out with all the gear but still no idea.  I'll end up with pipe cleaners and those googly felt eyes stuck to some shiny card and covered in glitter glue as our centrepiece.

I keep looking on notonthehighstreet but then I get carried away putting loads of s**t in my basket that we don't need like lawn games and hanging glass tea lights and oil burning candles.  I also find a lot of the stuff on there to be very expensive, but that might just be me being tight.

There's so much to plan and organise for a wedding.  It makes me glad we've given ourselves so much time to do ours.  I have no idea how the men on Don't Tell the Bride do it all in just three weeks!!!  You could give me three years and I'd still find a way to have a mental breakdown.

I have lists of lists of lists on my phone and in various notebooks scattered around the house and my handbag which I keep adding things to when I think of them.  There's so much to consider and organise I break into a cold sweat just thinking about it.

I do feel we are quite organised at the moment, though, with everything we've done so far.  If we've not committed to booking something we have in mind who we want to book and are just waiting to do it.

One thing I have no clue about is wedding insurance - what's the deal with that?  What kind of cover do you need? How much does it usually cost? Where do you even look?

I've had a gander at compare the meerkat and it's not something they seem to have branched into yet so I'm still none the wiser.  I was talking to my best friend the other day and hadn't even thought about wedding insurance until something she said about a fire or something breaking out at the venue days before and it all being off.

If any brides reading this know anything about wedding insurance please give me some pointers on what to do.

I felt pretty chilled about the whole thing when I started writing this, now it's progressed into the ramblings of a semi-stressed out bride-to-be!

As stressed as all the planning/organising/decision-making has the potential to make me, I know that I'm going to miss it all when it is done.  At the moment, every spare moment is spent looking at wedding things and planning/making things.  I wonder what we'll do when it's all over?

Oh yeah, that's right, Tom's got my womb booked out for the next decade - we'll have no time to miss wedding planning then!

You may also like: I can't believe we are getting married NEXT YEAR

A Chinese fakeaway and some spicy pork chops the Slimming World way


Since I bought my little pot of five spice at the local farm shop I've been looking for all and any recipes that need it, so it was only a matter of time before I tried five spice chicken.

I did this on Monday night because it looked quick and easy - and it was.  It was really tasty too!

Five spice chicken with a bag of pepper stir fry veg


Here's the SW recipe (to serve four):

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 level tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 400g mixed stir-fry vegetables
  • Low calorie cooking spray

Method

  1. Mix the soy sauce, chilli sauce, wine vinegar, garlic and five-spice powder in a wide bowl. Add the chicken and toss to mix well.
  2. Spray a large non-stick wok or frying pan with low calorie cooking spray, add the chicken mixture and stir-fry over a high heat for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. Add the mixed vegetables and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, until piping hot. 
Tip: Serve hot with with plenty of stir-fried vegetables.

Each serving contains 1/2 a syn (for the sweet chilli sauce).


On Tuesday night we had Adrakhwala chops (aka spiced pork chops).

I can't believe I forgot to take a photo of them!!! 

They were marinated overnight with ginger, vinegar and chilli (honestly sounds vile but they were beaut) then slow cooked in the oven.

Here's the SW recipe (to serve four):

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp peeled and finely grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp peeled and finely grated garlic
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp mild or medium chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp artificial sweetener
  • 8 pork chops, all visible fat removed
  • Salt

Method

  1. Place the ginger, garlic, vinegar, chilli powder and sweetener in a small bowl and mix together.
  2. Place the pork chops in a single layer in an ovenproof casserole dish. Spread the ginger mixture evenly over the chops, season with salt, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4. Pour 200 ml of water around the pork, cover tightly, and place in the oven and cook for 1 hour or until cooked through and tender. Remove from the oven and serve with the pan juices spooned over.
I didn't pour the pan juices over as there looked to be quite a bit of fat in the juice, so I just had them as they were.  I think when I do this again I'll use pork fillet instead of pork chops and adjust the cooking time to reflect that.

The pork chops were too difficult to remove the fat and, even when I tried, it was all still in the juices which put me off ever so slightly.

Fat problems aside, they tasted delicious!! :)

You may also like: More Slimming World recipes