2016 -A Review

As we rapidly approach 2017, I thought I’d take some time to review my significant moments of the past year and consider what I learned from them.

As many of you know, we relocated to North Norfolk in December 2015 so for us, 2016 promised to be an exciting year. We bought a house in March and moved in just after Easter. After living in south London for almost 20 years and inhaling relentless diesel fumes, encountering the ‘angry brigade’ with alarming regularity – you know, the road ragers, the commuter ragers, the supermarket queue moaners – and being bombarded by constant noise, it has been a joy to live in a small, quiet village in the country.

We wake up to glorious silence, only broken by the occasional squawk of the pheasants or the singing of the gentler dawn chorus. What a change from our previous house which being on a rat run meant traffic noises started early, drowning out the sounds of any wildlife which dared to rear its head. Our Norfolk neighbours are friendly and always stop for a chat. Very different from say, Croydon, where if you caught anyone’s eye they’d look at you as if you were an axe murderer. Or maybe they were afraid you’d identified them as one. We support local shops and farm producers where possible and I’m sure things like potatoes taste more ‘potato-ey’ than if you buy them in a supermarket. I’ve attended various Farmers’ Markets in the area and have made contact with small, local food producers, deli owners, cafe and restaurant owners and others who are putting Norfolk on the foodie map of Great Britain. While we’re not quite leading the ‘Good Life’ (no goat called Geraldine in our garden), it’s certainly a vast improvement on our previous one.

We’re fortunate that following the move and the down-sizing involved, I’m able to work on a part-time basis while my husband stays at home as the ‘Domestic, Garden and Cocker Spaniel Manager’. In our early 50s, we’ve finally discovered the meaning of ‘work-life balance’ and it’s an excellent feeling. We bring home less money but we’re so much happier. So many well-known people have passed away in 2016 with some not that much older than us. Who really wants to work until they drop or drop before they’ve even had a chance to enjoy life? Hubby and I both had near death experiences in the last few years: he had an undiagnosed heart problem in 2012 that was almost fatal and in 2013 I was involved in a road traffic accident that nearly polished me off. As a result we decided that the time was right to take life by the horns and enjoy whatever time we have left. That’s why we’re now in Norfolk and loving it.

Once we’d settled in to our new house, I thought I’d better find a job which wasn’t as easy as it would have been in London given that my area of HR is a bit specialised, but I persevered. After a couple of false starts in jobs that weren’t right for me (memo to self – never take the first offer or the second if it’s worse than the first), I found my ideal position working as an HR Manager for a local animal sanctuary. It’s a big change from my previous HR roles in corporate type organisations: I’m based in a shed on a farm, there’s a lot of mud, and I have to walk 200 yards to a portacabin loo which can be a challenge when it’s minus 4 degrees outside or bucketing down with rain! As I write this during my lunch break, I’m wearing a woolly hat, fingerless gloves, a thermal vest, a thin fleece, a thicker fleece over the top, tights under my trousers, thick socks and walking boots. This is ‘office chic’ Norfolk country style. No more early morning decisions about what shirt to wear or whether I need to iron a suit for meetings. I may look like a bag lady – the grey hair probably doesn’t help – but I’m warm (mostly) and still getting the work done. And, even better, I have an outstanding view across the fields: I see happy cows; horses; sheep; pigs; goats and I get frequent cuddles and licks from puppies in the dog rescue centre. Unlike when I worked for a well-known telecommunications company or an equally prominent clothes, food and home goods retailer (not just any retailer, you know the one), I feel I’m doing something worthwhile and not just increasing share-holders’ profits.

The other significant change in my life is ending 2016 almost 5 ½ stone lighter than I was in January. After 30 years of yoyo dieting, the odd cranky eating regime (I don’t recommend the grapefruit and hardboiled egg diet) and even the very low calorie liquid diet that knocked off 7 stone in 6 months (regained within 18 months), I found Slimming World and it has completely changed my life.

People who have never been overweight, fat, morbidly obese, or even slightly porky will never be able to understand quite how it affects the lives of people who are. I’m generally seen as an outgoing, lively person but underneath the formerly fat, seemingly jolly exterior was a desperately unhappy individual with low self-esteem and a high level of self-loathing. If I couldn’t love myself, how could I expect anyone else to? I was very fat, extremely miserable and a compulsive eater. All this psychobabble about ‘comfort eating’ is a load of tripe in my experience. I’d eat when I was happy (to ‘celebrate’), upset (to ‘compensate’) or stressed (to ‘calm down’). I’d eat when I was hungry and when I wasn’t. Eating didn’t cheer me up or comfort me – it made me feel even worse but I was caught in a never-ending cycle and genuinely believed it would never change. While I did lose weight on the ‘good’ diets I tried such as WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley, I was always hungry. Calculating ‘points’ was time-consuming and you had to buy all the WeightWatchers paraphernalia in order to do it. I lost a stone in 2015 having attended WW for about 8 weeks but lost the will to live at that point and gave up.

When I joined Slimming World in Norfolk on 5th January 2016, I didn’t expect to have the success I’ve achieved. I thought I’d probably last a couple of months and then it would go the way of other fruitless weight loss attempts. How wrong I was. Once I’d got to grips with the plan I was off – and so were the unwanted pounds. I attended the group every week and made lots of new friends, all fighting the same battle as me. With Slimming World, there is minimal weighing and measuring of food and you can eat satisfyingly large amounts and still lose weight. Of course, over 30 years of bad habits don’t disappear overnight and I’ve had the occasional wobble when chocolate or cake has called to me very loudly but I’ve always got back on track very quickly and continued to lose weight. At the time of writing this, I’ve lost a total of 6 stone 4 ½ lbs since March 2015. By the end of March 2017, I’m certain I will have reached my target (1 and a half stone to go) and I know that I won’t ever be the fat, fiftyish, frumpy friend again because I have changed my eating habits for life thanks to Slimming World. If I can do it, anybody can. My only regret is that I wasted time and money on all those other diets over many years and ended up chunkier than ever.

One thing I’m disappointed about was not keeping up with my blog in 2016 as much as I’d planned. The house move, job hunting and the diet took up most of my time and the blog – which largely featured cakes and baking when I started it – took a back seat. I’m hoping to change that for 2017 as I enjoy writing and have quite a few ideas for new posts. I need to learn a few more technical things about WordPress and may need to upgrade so that I can do things with widgets and plug-ins (finding out what they are will be my first priority!). The focus will still be food – obviously – but geared towards healthier eating while not compromising on flavour. I plan to continue interviewing local Norfolk food producers for the blog and a Norfolk travel website, undertake product reviews and lots more.

So what did I learn in 2016? Firstly, that there is life after London and that moving to the country has benefitted my health, well-being and self-esteem enormously. Secondly, looking for a job can be challenging especially when one is over 50 (ahem!) but with some positive thinking and creative approaches, the right job is out there so never lose heart. Finally, you can change your life for the better, whether it’s a new house, a new job or a new body. In one short year, my life has improved beyond my expectations and I will be eternally grateful to every single person who has helped me along the way.

I wish you all an adventurous 2017 and hope that you achieve your dreams – they are within reach. They really are.

 

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Review: Purition Wholefood Shakes

I’m definitely not a ‘gym bunny’ and exercise – apart from occasional bracing walks with the dog – has never played a major part in my life despite having a husband and son who rave about the joys of keeping fit. You may therefore be surprised to hear that I was recently sent some samples of ‘wholefood protein shakes’ to try by the people behind the “Purition” brand.

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Purition claims three uses for its wholefood shakes: 1) for gym, cardio & training support; 2) for healthy eating purposes and 3) for diet & fat loss. Well, that last category is what interested me as when I reflect on my past, I seem to have been one of life’s permanent dieters. And yes, I’m aware that being on a ‘permanent’ diet means that whatever I’ve been doing for the last few years hasn’t been working. I’ve tried a lot of ‘weight reduction’ programmes in my time including WeightWatchers (all those points to calculate and I was still hungry), Atkins (who wouldn’t love a diet where you could eat bacon every day?) and LighterLife (I lost almost 7 stone in 6 months but then went back to my poor eating habits and piled it back on within 2 years).

I’m currently attending a well-known diet club and I’m doing well on it (almost 4 stone gone since January) but I’m finding that sometimes my meal planning goes a bit haywire or I have to dash off to a job interview and don’t have time for breakfast or lunch. Now when you are easily tempted by food that tastes nice (usually involving fat, carbs and lots of sugar) but has absolutely no nutritional value, missing a meal is not the way to go. So what to do?

That’s where I’ve found Purition shakes invaluable. Unlike some brands that contain fillers and things with unpronounceable names (acetylated oxidised starch anyone?), Purition contains ‘real’ ingredients such as nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast and vanilla. Because the shakes contain fibre, you stay full for at least 4 hours which meant that once I’d had a shake for breakfast, I didn’t experience any  “mid-morning munchie moments”. This is a very significant thing for someone like me as feeling hungry when on a diet is usually what derails me.

Here are the ingredients found in Purition shakes:

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And here are the ingredients found in one range of ‘diet’ shakes (where you have 3 shakes a day, tons of water and no other food at all):

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I think you’ll agree there’s quite a difference in the respective contents and from a nutritional point of view, Purition definitely has the edge!  (Apologies for the poor photographs.)

I liked all the Purition varieties I tried especially the macadamia and vanilla. The flavours are subtle and the shakes are made from genuine ingredients and don’t contain cheap fillers and artificial flavourings. The texture is somewhat coarser than a basic protein powder and for some people this may take a little getting used to but it’s good because once you’ve blended it – I used my Nutribullet – with the milk of your choice (cow / soya /almond etc), it thickens up due to the fibre content so each shake is really substantial. If you leave the shake for a while, you may need to eat it with a spoon as it will continue to thicken but that’s not a bad thing.

For anyone wanting to try out Purition for weight loss, on the website there is a 7 day meal plan whereby you’d have two shakes a day plus a snack as well as an evening meal. Information about the shakes for people who exercise is also on the website, of course.

For more information and how to acquire a sample pack of the protein shakes, have a look at the website: www.purition.co.uk

 

 

Disclaimer: I received some free samples of Purition shakes in return for an honest review. This post reflects my genuine opinion of the Purition products and I would definitely recommend them to anyone who, like me, has struggled with their weight. Purition offers a healthy and convenient meal replacement option and a website that gives lots of advice and support.

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning Our New Life In Norfolk!

I’m back! After taking the plunge and leaving London in December 2015 to move to the country, we’re now living in our new permanent house in a North Norfolk village. “We” means my husband, Millie the cocker spaniel and me. Our adult children remain living down south, our son in Surrey and our daughter in Hampshire.

And I have to tell you that I’m not the same person that I was in December. Not only do I feel more relaxed and much happier being out of London but I’m currently almost 3 stone lighter than I was when we moved. This is mostly due to the fact that I joined a local Slimming World group in January but also because I haven’t done any baking ‘for pleasure’ at all since we’ve been Norfolk residents. This wasn’t a conscious choice – our temporary accommodation before we moved had a very tiny kitchen and all our possessions were in storage – but it has certainly helped my waistline! However I also don’t have anyone to bake for as most of my cakes were previously eaten by work colleagues and at the moment I don’t have any of those!

There was however some baking that needed to be done. The village where we were living between leaving London and moving to Norfolk held a street party on Sunday 15th May in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The date was mid way between her actual birthday in April and her official one in June and fortunately the weather was good. I ended up making a celebration cake for the event as the organisers thought they had been let down by the person who had promised to make one. On the day, the other person did in fact produce a cake which I have to say, wasn’t quite the all singing, all dancing, ‘showstopper’ they had promised as you can see from this photo.

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My cake was small but perfectly formed which was lucky as I only had a day’s notice to make it. I wanted to make it fit the theme so hence the red, white and blue colour scheme. I even made a little plaque by hand which I was quite chuffed with. Here it is – what do you think?

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The street party was attended by the local MP Norman Lamb who was very friendly and entered into the spirit of the event as you can see from these pictures:

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Norman is obviously a man of good taste as he thought my cake was delightful – I noticed he scoffed a large chunk once it had been cut up!

Anyway, between sorting out the house, baking for the street party and finding employment  (I’ve just got a job with a local hotel chain which will be very different to my previous HR roles) I’m focusing on losing some more weight and getting into shape while not neglecting my blog any more. I have to say that I’ve tried pretty much every diet going and if you love food, I can honestly say that Slimming World is excellent. Decent portions, nothing forbidden and no wretched points to count – what’s not to like?

I’ve really missed writing this blog and I’m glad I can now focus on it again. Watch this space for some tasty recipes, various reviews and of course, some random thoughts.

I’ve set up another blog where I’ll be posting things that are relevant to Norfolk such as local events, local foodie producers and so on. This will be at: www.midlifenorfolkwife.com – have a look in the next few days when it’s up and running.

If you press a button you can ‘follow’ my blog and you’ll receive an email as soon as I’ve posted a new article.

Tracy x

 

 

Never Say Diet!

My foodie interests are quite wide-ranging and in my time I have tried all sorts of eating regimes including vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, high protein and everything in between. Over the last 30 years I’ve been slim (ish) and I’ve been overweight. In fact, I’m on the rather generous side of the “Rubenesque” scale at the moment with the genuine intention of doing something about it this year. As I do every year (oh dear). In 2015 I managed to lose just over 2 stone (30lbs) and to date only 1 of those (stones) has gone back on. So, somewhat unusually, I start a new year lighter than I was at this point 365 days ago. Which is a good thing. But I want to do better.

My downfall as far as diets go is that I absolutely love food and if I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about it, reading about it or writing about it. I love cooking and experimenting with new ingredients and baking makes me feel really good. Unfortunately, with cooking comes eating and that’s my downfall. As a result, I’ve joined various slimming groups over the years including WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley (RIP that company), and I’ve tried diets like Atkins (lost over 3 stone) and LighterLife (lost almost 7 stone). I’ve realised that all sorts of diets do work – when you stick to them. I get to the point when I feel I’ve done really well and decide I don’t need ‘the diet’ any more …… and I duly go back to my poor eating habits and pile the weight on again. Plus a little bit more for good measure.

In December 2015, I moved with my husband and our dog to North Norfolk to escape our busy, stressful, and traffic fume filled existence in south London and have a better quality of life in the country. We’re staying temporarily in my mum’s former holiday rental cottage on the coast – very “bijou” with a tiny kitchen – while we look for a house to buy. I’m also looking for a job. Lots of changes at one time so not ideal really.

I’ve decided to bite the diet bullet (here I go again) and join a local “Slimming World” group because their Jan/Feb 2016 magazine proudly claims that you can eat the food you love and therefore have decent meals. No sparrow sized portions. How great is that? Apparently, there are also “free foods” that you can eat in unlimited quantities which I’m curious about, seeing as eating food in unlimited quantities is what has made me fat in the first place! I’ll be toddling along to my first meeting on Tuesday 5th January 2016 – watch this space and I’ll report back on how it goes.

So, bearing in mind that I’ll be able to eat proper food while I’m on the Slimming World programme, I’m going to treat myself to some new cookbooks and write reviews of each one I buy. This will be an interesting project seeing as I seem to buy quite a lot (ooops) but I hope it will be helpful for other people who may be struggling with their weight as well as for people who just wonder what the XX cook book may be like.

I want to be able to eat the same food as my husband. I don’t want to be eating celery and lettuce or cutting out any major food groups while he tucks into a hearty chicken or beef dish. I’ll be looking for recipes that are immediately “diet friendly” as well as those I can tweak to make more suitable e.g. by reducing the fat or portion sizes. It has taken me a long time to appreciate that diets are only short-term fixes. If I’m ever going to conquer my 30 year history of yoyo dieting, I have to change my lifestyle once and for all. As we moved to Norfolk to improve our lives, this seems the ideal time to do it. Carpe diem, and all that.

When I buy books, I like to read reviews first but I’m never sure how reliable the ones are that you see on Amazon: there has been the occasional scandal of dodgy reviews posted by an author’s competitors or times when a writer’s friends and family post excessively positive reviews. People that know me appreciate that I’ll be honest and unbiased and also that I won’t be malicious or unkind.

The things I look for in any cook book are:

  1. Are the recipes “do-able” for the average home cook? Too much faffing or fancy / obscure ingredients put me off right away;
  2. Are there decent photographs? We may all know what a lasagne or chocolate cake should look like, but I’d like to know how the dish I’m making at any one time is expected to turn out. I tend not to buy recipe books with a lack of pictures;
  3. Are the instructions clear? Cook books are usually aimed at domestic cooks or people who wish to improve their skills in the kitchen. Too much jargon or vague explanations are not helpful nor are authors who patronise their readers;
  4. Do I want to eat the food or am I buying the book for another reason? This may seem to be a silly question but if you think about it, do we buy the recipe book or do we “buy” the person who’s written it? At the time of writing this piece, I’ve seen a couple of Sunday newspaper supplements and Davina McCall has a recipe book coming out and Bear Grylls – not usually known for his culinary skills – is also publishing a cook book. The extract from the book by Davina frequently refers to her “team of nutritionists” which does make me wonder who created the recipes that she’s selling. Sorry Bear and Davina, your books aren’t going to make my list of purchases this year.
  5. Nutritional information. This could be calories per portion or how much fat, protein or carbohydrate is in a dish. While Slimming World doesn’t work on the basis of calories, I find it helpful to know how much fat a recipe contains as this is something I can change when I make it.

During this year I’ll be reviewing newly published cookbooks by a diverse group of writers, including Anna Jones, Amelia Freer, Ella Woodward, Jamie Oliver, Fiona Uyema, Hemsley & Hemsley, Anya Ladra, and Natasha Corrett. Please be aware that these aren’t “diet books” as such but ones I happen to be interested in anyway that I hope will help me to lose weight while eating rather well.

 

Happy New Year!