Slimming World

I’ve had a little bit of writer’s block lately which has led to me being less present on my blog. Or is it just that I’m leading a dull life lately and have nothing of interest to say? There’s been a couple of times when I’ve been tempted to write a negative post because I’ve had a few blues days recently, but I’ve decided against it because I don’t want to have blue days recorded in writing to haunt me forever and a day. I’m sure you guys don’t to read gloom and doom either. Anyway, I’m working through the main thing on my mind and hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

I did do one definitely not dull thing last week.

I went to Birmingham uni with one of my very best friends (was supposed to be two of my very best friends but the dreaded lurgy struck!) to Birmingham Literature Festival where we saw Adam Kay. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, he wrote (as the photo shows) This is Going to Hurt. It’s a fantastic book written from diaries he kept during his days working in the NHS and it really gives an insight into the life of a doctor. It is, in pretty equal parts (if we’re judging by emotional response rather than actual work count), funny and heartbreaking.

His performance last week was brilliant and well worth venturing out on a drizzly Thursday evening for, and, just like the book, very funny but ultimately heart rending. Turns out he’s a pretty good musician as well as a writer, and a portion of the show was based on him singing and playing the piano when he also got the audience involved. I’d highly recommend going to see him if you can.

Another exciting thing that happened is that my company car finally arrived.

Isn’t she beautiful? I was a bit confused by the colour at first. When I built her on the configurator on line she was very green, like the old Rover colour British Racing Green. In the flesh, so to speak, she looks almost black. I’ve got used to it now though and she is definitely green. Look!

Anyway, on to the topic in hand. I’ve been following the Slimming World plan since the end of May, and it’s been going pretty well. I’ve lost over a stone, all my clothes fit again and I’m starting to feel a bit happier with myself. However, this last couple of weeks have been tough and, I admit, I’ve cheated a little bit which means I’m not seeing movement on the scales (or not in a downwards trajectory anyway) and I’m getting a little despondent.

The problem is, I’ve got back down to the weight that I’ve got to so many times before where it starts to get harder. It’s like my body doesn’t want me to get any lighter and my brain starts playing tricks on me.

It should be an oxymoron for your own brain to trick you into sabotaging yourself, but mine does! It starts seemingly independently thinking things like, you may as well stop because you never get any further than this, or, oh go on, have crispy chicken with pineapple – you deserve it, and most of it’s free (never mind the fact that it’s deep fried!) or if you stop now you won’t have to spend a fortune on a new wardrobe or everyone’s expecting you to fail so you may as well stop trying (rationally I know this isn’t true but it seems so real when faced with the choice of either an apple or a chocolate bar!) or you won’t be able to maintain it if you go any lower so you may as well eat cake! It’s really hard to fight with yourself and retrain your brain.

I’ve only got half a stone to go to get to the initial target that I set myself and I really want to get there to see if I’m happy with myself at that weight so I’m going to share some of my favourite meals that have got me this far in the hopes that I might find my diet mojo again.

I’ll start with that most British of meals – a chicken roast dinner.

Here we have chicken cooked in the slow cooker (tastiest and most convenient way to cook a whole chicken in my humble opinion) served with potatoes parboiled and roasted in frylight, potatoes mashed with milk and a bit of grated cheese from my healthy extra a allowance, broccoli, petit pois and roasted carrot batons and the only items with any syns, an Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire pudding (4 1/2 syns because they were fancy ones left over from Christmas) and gravy made with Ah Bisto (showing my age there – 1 syn). Such a yummy meal and doesn’t taste ‘diet’ at all.

Also very British whilst not being British at all!

Chinese chicken curry made with Mayflower extra hot curry powder. I got the tip off for this delight from the Pinch of Nom Facebook group and it’s become a firm favourite in our household. You can get it in B&M Bargains or Iceland and it tastes as good as from the Chinese takeaway. 4 syns for the sauce and the rest of it’s free.

I’m switching to breakfast now (probably should’ve done that first, eh?)

This is a slightly modified Pinch of Nom recipe – Bakewell Baked Oats. I make them into muffins rather than in one big dish. They have almond essence in them which really makes them taste like Bakewell Tart and I top them with berries and a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt. It’s like having cake for breakfast and the combination of egg and oats keeps you full till lunch.

Sticking with breakie.

Overnight oats. I’m not sure I could get through the week without my overnight oats. I LOVE them! I usually make a few portions on Sunday night and they keep for a week in the fridge, in fact, they get better as the week goes on and the juices from the frozen fruit seep through into the oats. Yum! I normally do them in takeaway containers, but I treated myself to a Kilner jar so I can have posh overnight oats once a week.

Next up, the great British fry up (Slimming World style!) Good for breakfast, lunch or tea.

Egg and mushrooms fried in frylight, baked beans (has to be …… erm, Branston for me), bacon medallions, a slice of wholemeal toast for half my healthy extra b, a Quorn sausage for 1 syn and a tablespoon of ketchup (which does have to be Heinz – ketchup of kings) for 1 syn.

Back to the first meal of the day.

Third attempt at making a sweet omelette and I finally cracked it (no pun intended). Two eggs with sweetener, almond essence and vanilla essence fried in frylight till it’s golden filled with berries and yoghurt (raspberry doughnut mullerlight in this case).

Back to teatime.

Pizza and chips. This uses my healthy extra b which is usually done and dusted by the time I’ve had breakfast, so I don’t have it often but it’s lovely. It’s a Weightwatchers wrap topped with tomato purée and bbq sauce and then whatever pizza topping you want. This one was leftover chicken, peppers and mushrooms with my healthy extra a of cheddar grated on top and then shoved in the oven for five minutes. It’s nice with blue cheese, onion, sweetcorn and peppers too. The chips are made from Maris Piper potatoes (any decent potato works well, Charlotte ones are nice too). I chop them, soak them in cold water to remove some of the starch, drain and pat dry and then spray with frylight and cook in the air fryer for fifteen minutes. We have these a lot – they’re really nice and they’re free. They’re nice reheated for lunch.

Speaking of lunch, do you notice a distinct lack of lunch recipes? This is where I struggle most. Can’t have a sandwich because I’ve usually had my healthy extra for breakfast so would have to use syns for bread, soup doesn’t satisfy me – I find myself craving something nice like chocolate, not because I’m hungry but because I’m not satisfied. I normally end up with leftovers from the night before or a Mugshot which is low syn. Today I did better. I bunged four potatoes in the slow cooker yesterday so all I had to do was heat one up in he microwave at work. I weighed out my healthy extra a of cheese and walked round to Tesco and got some beans (Branston, of course). I’ve got the same tomorrow. There are a couple of good options for eating lunch out. Most Subway salads are free as long as you don’t have cheese, dressing or olives, and they’re really nice. If I have some spare syns I have Subway tuna salad – it has mayo in hence the syns. Nandos is good too, my go to is butterfly chicken breast with the skin removed with spicy rice and macho peas. It’s a huge meal for 4 syns.

One thing that I’ve found invaluable on my weight loss journey (ugh, I hate that phrase) is the Pinch of Nom recipe book.

Somehow (through lots of experimentation I think) they’ve managed to make low/no syn alternatives to lots of classics and original recipes, that actually taste great. Dare I say it, much better than the official Slimming World versions. Their chip shop curry sauce is amazing and tastes just like the real thing. Diet Coke chicken has become a regular feature of our week night kitchen, as well as creamy garlic chicken.

Well, you know what, I think writing this out has actually helped. I feel ready to attack it again with gusto. I’m going to look back through the book to refamiliarise myself and I’m going to check out the syns in my favourite Gousto and Hello Fresh recipes. I may get a small gain this Wednesday on weigh day, but ….. tomorrow’s another day and I can and will do this.

Happy Birthday To me

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Green Girl Gardener is a whole one year old today! Where has that year gone? I knew it was coming up because about a month ago my iPhone calendar reminded me to ‘cancel WordPress if not using’. I just swiped it away, and that made me happy because it meant I’d been successful in my venture.

After I published my first post, hubby turned all Del Boy and declared that ‘this time next year we’ll be millionaires!’ Well I haven’t been successful in that way  (not that the intention was ever for that to happen), and I don’t even have that many followers/regular readers, but it still feels like an eminently successful year to me because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second of blogging. I’ve always been a closet writer (I still think there’s a novel in me somewhere) and this is a fabulous way for me to express myself creatively. It makes me happy to play with words, find the most amusing way to express myself, to conjugate to my heart’s content.

I think the blog has had its main focus on my gardening adventure, but I’ve also managed to bring other passions into it – crochet, cats, holidays, teddy bears, tennis. Hopefully I’ve provided some light entertainment on otherwise dreary days, and maybe I’ve even provided a little bit of education along the way (although probably not in gardening because I’m still right down the bottom of that particular learning curve).

I’ve found lots of fellow bloggers who blog on all sorts of subjects from crochet to mental health to cooking to travel, but most of all I’ve found fellow gardeners. Luckily (for me) most of them are far more experienced than yours truly and they’ve helped me identify mystery plants, they’ve offered tips and tricks either directly or through their own writing and they’ve opened my eyes to different kinds of gardening. I can honestly say that starting my little bloggy venture was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve complemented by space here with a Green Girl Gardener account on Instagram (@greengirlgardener if anyone’s interested) which allows me, when I don’t have time to blog, to share those random photos that I take when I pop out to check the garden before work, or when I spot a beautiful plant while I’m out and about or when I’ve created something scrummy with my own homegrown goodness.

I’m going to celebrate my first birthday by sharing some of my favourite photos from the past year.

I’ve tried to pick one photo from each month, but I’ve got so many photos that I love that I think I’m going to have to do another montage!

Above we have for July my Eupatorium (that had to be in there, didn’t it), Olive and Tink, our furry girls for August and my birthday planter for September. Then there’s the fox cushion I made for my mother in law in October and hubby and I in a cenote in Mexico during our November holiday. Next row shows my Hellebore flowering in December and my Christmas present greenhouse housing a hubby (a husband hut as my friend on Facebook quipped) in early January. Penultimate row is us with a friendly falcon in Malta in February and the Palace of Holyroodhouse during my trip to Edinburgh (which was also in February but I must’ve written my post in early March) and finally one of my raised beds all planted and netted in April, the iconic Universal globe on our fantastic holiday to Orlando in May and last but not least, the Confetti Fields that I visited in June.

Here we go again. Top row shows a Gazania which was the first sale table find that I blogged about back in July 2018 and an Eeyore house at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens which we discovered in August. Jump down a row to a wild pony in Sutton Park which we came across in September, I still remember how happy I was to have seen one because I was starting to think they were a myth, and my set of Clover hooks which revolutionised my crocheting life in October. Next up is a white feather in November which I think is my gardening expert Grandad popping down from heaven to check I’m not messing up the garden, followed by our yummy Christmas dinner in December, our furry girls keeping warm in January and me meeting my new baby niece in February. Fourth row shows a mountain of bears in March (that’s been added to since then!) and an elephant that I crocheted as a leaving gift for my boss when he retired in April so he doesn’t forget me and lastly a Gringotts vault at the Harry Potter studios in May and the start of my love affair with overnight oats as I started Slimming World in June.

It’s so nice to look back at these photos – yet another benefit to my blog. I also take more random photos when I get an inkling of an idea for a blog post and I find that quite often they evoke the strongest memories.

I’ll finish with a thank you. To all you lovely readers – friends, family, colleagues and fellow bloggers – thank you so much for reading, liking, commenting, complimenting and educating me for the last year. I really do appreciate it every time someone takes time out of their busy day to read my musings and ramblings, and I hope I can continue to entertain and perhaps amuse for a long time to come.

Our first harvest!

Oh botheration! It’s raining! This is, of course, well needed and good for the garden, but why does it have to come at the weekend and not while I’m stuck inside an office?  I managed approximately ten minutes in the garden this morning before it started coming down too heavily to contemplate staying out there. Let’s hope tomorrow is better.

I did manage to get my first haul (haul may be a slight exaggeration but I’m sticking with it) of produce from the garden in those ten minutes.

Whoop! Homegrown goodness! The strawberries are from my three plants that I’ve had in a pot for a couple of years now. I’m still having no luck with the new plants in the raised bed. I’m going to put straw underneath them to see if that’ll deter the slugs, or whatever it is that’s eating them.

The potatoes are Maris Peers. I have three different types of potatoes in three bags up by the greenhouse, and while all three have (or had, in the case of the Maris Peers) humongous stems and leaves sprouting out of the top, the Maris Peers are the only ones which have flowered. They all got really battered in the heavy rain we had a couple of weeks ago so now I don’t really know what to expect from the other two bags.

I’d been waiting for some of our own potatoes before trying a recipe from my Pinch of Nom cookbook that I’ve been drawling over for a while. Pinch of Nom is amazing and is helping me immeasurably with Slimming World. It’s not strictly aimed at followers of any particular diet plan but is full of lower fat/calorie dishes and alternatives for people who are watching their weight.

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Bacon, onion and potato bake. Doesn’t it look yummy? It’s completely Syn free on Slimming World as long as you use bacon medallions (or cut any excess fat off) and count the cheese on top as part of your healthy extra A.

My version looked a bit different!

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Not a million miles off though, and it tasted delicious!

I had some potatoes left over, and certainly didn’t want to waste any after growing them myself, so I made my own version of the bacon and onion frittata from the cookbook.

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We can have this cold for lunch tomorrow. I’m supposed to fill one third of my plate with speed food (most fruit and veg) so I could do with serving this with some salad but unfortunately we don’t have any in! Maybe I’ll have some carrot sticks.

I whipped up some dessert so we could have our massive crop of five strawberries! I’d seen people talk about this in the Pinch of Nom Facebook group and decided to give it a go.

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Game changer! It’s so simple, yet tastes like a proper indulgent pudding. It’s just a couple of spoonfuls of quark mixed with an Options mint hot chocolate sachet (one Syn for half) and put in the fridge for a while. Obviously the strawberries made it!

Speaking of food, we had our first barbecue of the season last night. Slimming World friendly for me, obviously!

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We have the smallest barbecue in the world! It does for us though. I am quite tempted to invest in a gas one but can’t decide if it’s worth it.

My burgers were the anaemic looking ones at the back. I went to Tesco to get their meat free burgers because they have no Syns. Quorn burgers are two and a half Syns for some reason. I’m not vegetarian (obviously, given the bacon in my lunch) but I’m not a meat lover, especially red meat, so I’m more than happy to have veggie burgers, and it’s a bonus that they’re less Syns.

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Look at that! Double decker burger! On a diet! Look at Minnie sneakily eying it up!

I added cheese from my healthy extra A and I made a Syn free sauce with fat free natural yoghurt, mint and garlic. The barbecue was an impromptu decision so I’d already had my healthy extra B for breakfast, which meant I had to count the Syns in the bread roll but if I’d been more organised I could’ve had a wholemeal roll and counted it as my B option which would mean the whole thing was free!

I made some pasta salad to have with my sausages so I didn’t have to use more Syns on bread.

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The sausages are Linda McCartney veggie ones which are yummy. Much nicer than Quorn ones. I would’ve loved to have a couple of hubby’s real sausages but it’s a small sacrifice to make if I continue to lose weight. I tried to keep the Syns down by mixing the pasta with quark and fat free natural yoghurt instead of mayo, but I think next time I’ll use lighter than light mayo and Syn it.

I’m not losing weight super fast, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s hope so. Having switched from WW to Slimming World this time around, I feel like Slimming World is more sustainable. The diet gurus all say that you need to change your habits forever to keep the weight off and with WW that seems really restrictive and life altering to maintain forever because of the nature of the plan, whereas Slimming World is more flexible. We’ve had some really delicious meals which I would be happy to eat over and over again so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to stay on plan and that maintaining will be possible once I get to goal.

Support is crucial to anyone trying to lose weight. My hubby has no issue with weight, and he doesn’t put any pressure on me to change the way I look, but he knows it’s important to me so he tries to help as much as he can.

It used to be that you had to go to a diet group once a week to get external support, but these days social media plays a huge role. Writing about my weight loss journey (gosh that’s cliched!) on my blog and posting on Instagram is helpful to me, but there are millions of people on Instagram who post every meal they eat and give the recipes which helps to inspire me and give me new ideas. As I mentioned above, there’s a Pinch of Nom group on Facebook and most members seem to be following Slimming World so it’s a great community of like minded people sharing tips and tricks which are really helpful.

Let’s hope in a few months I’ll be able to report that I’m at target and planning to stay there forever! Right now, it’s nearly time for a takeaway – all counted and within plan, obviously!