My last post was back in December and I decided to take the simplest route possible to lose weight. Well it didn’t work too well and I have put on even more since then. My excuse is busyness! I did my 2nd IMAutomator release which meant that in January I was extremely busy with work. This extended into February as that release brought with it some performance problems. Then I had a short holiday and I feel like I’ve hardly had time to breathe since Christmas. When this happens I tend to neglect my health – I stop exercising and for food I just grab the quickest and simplest thing I can find. I did try the ready meals and they were certainly convenient but they tasted like crap! That would work better for someone who can’t cook but I can and I love my cooking :-)
The Slow-Carb Diet
Also since then, Tim Ferris launched his 4 Hour Body book which I have been looking forward to for some time. The fat loss method he recommends is ‘slow-carb’. He already talked about it at some length in a blog post from 2007 where he describes how he lost 20lbs of fat in 30 days on the slow carb diet. It’s quite similar to the popular low carb diets in that you remove sugar and ‘white’ products such as all bread, pasta, rice, grains, and potatoes from your diet but one major difference is the inclusion of all kinds of legumes (pulses) such as beans, chickpeas and lentils. Low carb dieters often suffer from low-energy, bad breath and other side effects but by including these legumes you avoid all of those as the carbs are still there – but they’re good carbs that don’t cause insulin spikes in the way that white carbs do.
Also, another feature of the diet, and the only reason I am even considering trying it is a cheat day once per week. Not one measly cheat meal – but an entire day to eat whatever I like. I’ve always found in the past that the minute I tell myself I can’t have something, I start to crave it so when dieting, I tend to crave chocolate, sweets, savoury snacks and all the things that I try to cut down on. However, with this diet it’s just postponed, and I can live with that! Well I hope so… today is the morning of day 1 so I have only just started!
I first decided to try the diet about 18 months ago after reading Tim’s post but I didn’t get any further than the planning stage. One of the reasons for that is that Tim mentions a handful of meals and then says to eat the same things every day. That just doesn’t work for me. I need variety. I don’t need it daily – I can eat the same meal every day for a few days, maybe a week, but I’d then need something different the following week and so on. I googled ‘slow carb’ and came up with nothing other than Tim’s post so I was really stuck on what to eat. However since the book has been released, a whole bunch of people are trying it and blogs and sites are starting to pop up over the Internet and people are posting their experiences and their recipes so now is a great time to try it.
Having a Pre-Breakfast Snack
I start my morning quite slowly. For years now I have been in the habit of making myself a cup of coffee and then reading a book for a while in bed before I get up properly. I’m a bit peckish when I wake up but I can’t face proper cooked food for a few hours so my habit over recent years has been to have a small ‘pre-breakfast snack’ as I call it while I’m reading my book in bed, and then have my proper breakfast much later in the morning – around 11-12, when some people would be having their lunch.
My usual snack was often a brioche roll with chocolate chips or a home made muffin of some kind. These are both out on the slow carb diet. I really don’t want to get up and cook at 8am or whatever so I had to find an alternative. Tim suggested a hard boiled egg. The thought of eating an egg first thing made my stomach churn at first… until I tried it. To make it more palatable I slice it up, season with a little salt, red pepper and asafoetida powder and this morning I also include a slice of salami for extra flavour. I put it in a little bowl and just nibble slowly over time whilst reading my book. What surprised me was how tasty it was with the seasoning and also how full it kept me. When I would have a bread-based snack which was around 95% of the time, I would be feeling ravenous within an hour or two but since swapping to the egg (I started trying this about a week or so ago in preparation for the real diet start today), I haven’t felt hungry for hours!
I can see myself getting bored of that though so I’m also going to try making myself some little bean fritters which I could cook up in a batch and keep in the fridge or freeze.
My Menu For Week 1
Breakfast – Cajun Chicken Frittata
A frittata is an egg-based dish that is basically a quiche without a crust. You cook it in a frying pan as you would an omelette but the main difference is that you fill your pan with the ingredients and add only enough egg to bind together, as opposed to adding a few sparse ingredients to eggs. Frittata’s are great because they are quick to cook and then once cool you can cut them into pieces and eat either hot or cold. They will keep for several days in the fridge and can also be frozen so its so easy to make one large one to last for several portions.
I can see the frittata being a breakfast staple but I don’t want to get bored so I came up with several recipes that varied the meat, beans, veg and seasoning in each so they were all suitably different so as not to taste the same. This week’s Cajun chicken was pre-cooked chicken (I get these from the supermarket – saves time and mess!) with lots of cajun seasoning, onion (onion goes into just about everything I cook), canned corn, and it was supposed to be black beans. I actually forgot to prepare the beans (oops) so instead decided to use canned and even managed to forget to put them in the frittata so in the end I just fried some up in a pan with a little of the cajun seasoning and had those along side the beanless-frittata! Canned and frozen beans are another thing that make life so much easier!
Lunch – Chicken & Avocado Salad
I’m so glad that avocado is allowed on this diet as I absolutely LOVE them! Tim says to go easy though so I’ve just bought some baby ones and will have just one with my salad. I’m using the same pre-cooked chicken as I had for the frittata, with a small avocado, a bunch of spinach leaves and green pesto. Note that I had to search around to find a supermarket pesto that did not have sugar in it! Supermarket sauces can be a nightmare – sugar seems to creep into everything! It’s easy to make your own pesto as it is just basil, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil but it’s hassle and I only want a tiny amount. Note also that dairy is not allowed but I am including a small amount for flavour in some dishes.
Lunch – Spicy Lentil & Tomato Soup
I’m a fan of making my own soup – as long as I do it in a big enough batch. It doesn’t take too long and it’s a great way of getting extra veggies. I don’t like most vegetables and so I really struggle with a diet like this. I don’t want to be eating a ton of meat & eggs as I don’t think that would be wonderfully healthly. But if I blend vegetables into a soup I can get away with it so I’ve decided that I’m going to make one soup a week and have that with my lunch or dinner depending on which is lighter. This week, the lunch is light as there are no pulses so I’ll need to get those from the soup.
I have literally hundreds of soup recipes and there is so much variety that I think I could have a different soup every week for a year and never have the same one twice! This week I’ve started with a nice simple soup that I have cooked before – I just fry onions, carrots (one of the veggies I won’t eat unless blended into oblivion!) and garlic until softened, add a couple of cans of tinned tomatoes, top up with water and then add dried red lentils. The red ones don’t need pre-soaking and can just go in dry. I also like my food spicy so I added some chilli for extra kick. I made a bigger batch than I am used to and I didn’t modify the ingredients properly and the soup has turned out a little thinner than I would have liked. Next time I will increase the lentils to about 250g dry to make 6 large portions.
Dinner – Beef & Bean Stew
This is a recipe that I used to cook before but served with roast potatoes. I cooked this last week and froze it in batches but I wasn’t well prepared and made a few mistakes. I wanted to put some carrots in as I could mash those so I don’t taste them and I also wanted to put in some baby onions but I actually forgot to buy both of those! I also didn’t use enough beans. I put in two cans for 4 portions and that was with 1kg of beef but when I served it up the portion looked small. However, I’ve not eaten it yet so it might be perfectly adequate. Next time though, I will definitely try and pad out with more veggies.
Emergency Food & Snacks
If there is one thing almost guaranteed to make me fail on any kind of diet it’s hunger. When I lost 2 stones before, I did so by eating 4 proper meals every day. I am not someone who can survive on an apple and a milkshake all day and I don’t think that’s healthy anyway. I have my meals planned out but until I actually try them out, I won’t know if they will keep me full. I am most worried about dinner – is that stew going to satisfy me or am I going to be craving potatoes? I’ll find out tonight.
I figured that to reduce my chances of failure I should have emergency food and snacks available if I get hungry. First of all, I want storecupboard food – this is stuff I can just have in a cupboard for months until I need it, without going bad. Having veggies, meat sticks and hard boiled eggs in the fridge is fine but what when I don’t have those things in, or I am not at home? I’ve stocked up on some mini cans of tuna, packs of jerky, protein bars (these are technically not allowed so are for a real emergency!), and I’ve also found various snacks of dried beans and nuts. I often get the urge to snack in the evening if I am watching telly so I can still do so within the bounds of the diet but I am also aware that these could be ‘trigger’ foods and make me binge a bit so I’ll see how I go with those!
I’m planning to post on the progress of this diet fairly regularly. I’m really hoping that I can stick to it and it’ll work. Tim warned that for some women the results don’t show up for a few weeks so I’ll try and persist for at least a month even if it doesn’t look like it’s working at first. I took all my weights and measurements yesterday and entered them into the Bodyspace website which is free and creates nice pretty graphs for you. I’ve never lost more than 1lb a week on any diet and it’s usually been slower than that so I’m really hoping that this one will not only work but work faster than others have!