31 December 2014

What's This Diet You Keep Going On About...

Happy New Year Everyone!

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing this diet & weight loss post. I’ve had it on my 'to do' list for some time. The reasons I haven’t done it until now are:

1) I thought New Year would be the most relevant time to do it, and; 

2) I wanted to have achieved results first in order to show you that this way of adapting your diet and lifestyle really does work.

Of course I don’t expect everyone who reads this to want to follow it; au contraire. I know that changing lifestyle habits can be tough and there are so many factors that affect how easy or difficult it is – job, money, food allergies etc.  Also, there is so much conflicting advice out there and at the end of the day you have to do what you think suits you and your well-being.  I can just give you advice, ideas and information about what worked for me.

That said, if you feel you have tried every diet under the sun without success and finally want to achieve results, it’s probably worth reading on. 

I don't think of this as a 'diet'. It's much more of a lifestyle change.  It's not 'all or nothing' either. Even if you just adapt the way you eat a little bit in this direction, you will notice the changes. I have no plans to stop eating and exercising this way because for me the benefits are boundless and most importantly, I enjoy it! 



So What's It All About?

In September, I decided to get my arse in gear and actually make a change. I’d been talking for ages about how I wanted toned abs, to feel strong and to be able to wear my new low-rise jeans in time for my trip to Vegas in December. It's all about goals! 

My personal trainer suggested to me something called the Ketogenic Diet. In a nutshell, it's adapting your diet in order to train your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Normally your body burns carbs for fuel and when it runs out, it starts converting fat to glycerol for energy. The liver produces ketones as a by-product and ketosis is a state your body enters when you have a lot of ketones in your blood and you're burning additional fat. Winning! The diet is high in fats and protein, low in carbs and sugar. You eat more fat in order to get slimmer – and it works!
 
I’ve never been overweight but have always struggled to lose those bits of me that were a little more round than I’d like. I’ve tried low fat food, smaller portions, working out every day; it didn't work for me long term. So I read a lot online, bought some books and made changes. Up went the fat and protein, down went the sugar and carbs and calorie counting ceased. Then sure enough, off came those inches! 
One of the main reasons people fail on so many diets is that they feel like they’re being tortured and simply give up and go back to eating the food they actually enjoy. With the ketogenic way of eating, you can eat big portions of delicious, filling foods that are nutritious, load you with energy and curb your appetite thus stopping the snacking. Snacking was my nemesis; now I barely think about food between meals.

What Did I Achieve?

After 3 months:

         I’d lost 3” off both my waist and hips

         I’d gained muscle tone throughout my body

         I had increased energy and focus

         My hair felt in better condition and nails were stronger – nice little extra benefits!

I have to admit, I feel so much better in myself. It’s given me added confidence in many areas of my life and I was able to wear those jeans in Vegas! It felt great! In addition, getting through my Vegas holiday and Christmas without putting any of the weight back on felt like another happy achievement. 
You can find some more progression pictures on my Instagram.
By the way, don't pay much attention to scale weight. Despite losing those inches and a dress size, my weight has barely changed. However, my body fat percentage has. I've gained lean muscle mass in place of the fat. 

The Diet

Doesn’t Fat Make You Fat & Unhealthy?

The first thing to understand is that saturated fat is not the enemy. It’s been vilified since a scientist in the 1950’s used faulty research to back his claim that it lead to heart disease. Since then, an exhaustive analysis of 76 academic studies involving more than 600,000 participants found that saturated fat consumption is not associated with heart disease in any way. Unfortunately though - because of the bad press – low fat (and big money-making) foods which remove fats and replace it with sugar and chemicals have flooded the market.

Fat alone doesn't make you overweight; a combination of fat with too much sugar and too many carbohydrates do. Fats are rich in vitamins, minerals & antioxidants and essential for life. Our cells, organs and brains are all made of fat and need high-quality fat to function optimally. On hearing this, many will naturally start to worry about cholesterol but cholesterol is so vital that your liver manufactures it according to your body’s needs. Even if you managed to consume no cholesterol through your diet, your body would still produce the amount of cholesterol it requires for many basic functions. Fat containing cholesterol helps build the outer coating of your cells, helps you digest food and provides the building blocks for your hormones.

There are still good fats and bad fats…

Good Fats
Grass-fed butter
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Fish oil
Avocados
Ghee
Nuts

Bad Fats
Vegetable oil
Sunflower oil
Heated nut oils
Canola
Margarine
Lard

My Shopping List

You may have seen me banding around my Instagram account Low Carb Caz. I started it close to the beginning of my diet and on this page I publish pictures of my meals each day as well as my progress. I’ve had such an amazing response to it and get asked questions about my diet daily – another reason I decided to write this post!
I guess I’m lucky in that I enjoy simple food. A lot of low carbers out there spend a lot of their time making ‘low carb’ pizzas, pies, sauces, cakes and the like. That’s great and there are some amazing recipes to be found but I can’t be bothered with all that, especially as I cook for a living! Give me a lovely fillet of fish with fresh vegetables and cauliflower mash* and I’m a happy girl! It takes me ten minutes!

The portions are big, the melted butter on the vegetables keeps me full and knowing how good the food is for me makes me feel good. If it's before my 8pm cut-off (I don't eat after 8pm) and I still feel hungry, I eat more! I stop when I'm nicely full and satisfied. Remember, we're not counting calories here.

* You have to try cauliflower mash – just cauliflower blended with a little olive oil then cooked in butter. Surprisingly tasty!

Low-carb Vegetables 
Spinach
Rocket
Watercress
 Lettuce
Tomatoes (yes, I know it's a fruit!)
 Cucumber
 Celery
 Asparagus
 Broccoli
Cauliflower
 Kale
Peppers
Brussels Sprouts
 Cabbage
Avocado (it's a nut, I know...)
 Courgette
 Olives
 Pak Choi
 Mushrooms
Onion

Meat
Fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna, kippers, trout, sardines
 Chicken – free range and with skin on (yum!)
Grass-fed red meat - beef, lamb, pork
Game
Liver
Lamb & Chicken Burgers - grass-fed/free range
Pastured bacon - some people on the ketogenic diet eat A LOT of bacon. I choose not to eat it often…it’s still processed food in my eyes!

NB. I get most of my meat from Green Pasture Farms

Fats
Grass-fed butter - Smother it on your vegetables. Kerrygold is great – you can get it in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose
Extra virgin olive oil - my truffle infused one from Harrods is amazing
Coconut oil
Avocado oil

Dairy
Eggs - two or three a day
Cheese – in moderation
Soured cream, cream and full-fat yoghurt – in moderation

Snacks (all in moderation)
Kale chips - recipe here or Marks & Spencer have started doing some tasty ones
Almonds, pistachios, macadamia, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews
Almond butter
Bulletproof ice-cream - made from eggs, butter, MCT oil, coconut oil, vanilla, lime juice and a little sweetener (let me know if you'd like the recipe)
Quail’s eggs
90% cocoa chocolate
Pork scratchings 

And lastly, sparkling water.  I know it sounds silly but I look forward to a nice wine glass or three of sparkling water with ice and lemon each evening. Perhaps it’s the placebo effect of it being in the wine glass that makes me feel I am sipping on a zesty Sauvignon but it helps to stop me wanting snacks and fills me up too! Honest!


Carbohydrates

Firstly, I don’t eliminate carbs completely – it’s not necessary. I get daily carbs from the large amount of vegetables I eat.

I have one (sometimes two) days a week where I go out to a restaurant and eat or drink whatever the heck I like - known as my ‘carb load day’. It’s good to keep the body guessing and shake things up a bit.  It will then take me a few days to get back into ketosis but that’s fine; it helps to avoid a plateau and stops me feeling deprived!

On an authentic carb load day you're supposed to eat the 'right' carbohydrates; sweet potato, white rice, butternut squash. However, I do have a social life and therefore I don't want to stick to it all that stringently! I really don't know how people do!

We don’t need carbohydrates for energy. During the first week or two, as the body adapts, it's normal to feel very tired – known as ‘keto flu’ – but this soon wears off. I’ve never had as much energy as I've had since eating this way. We also don’t need carbs for muscle growth either, just fat and protein. Ok, carbs may speed up the process of gaining muscle but they also hinder the loss of fat!


Aren’t Cereals And Grains Highly Nutritious?

Grains are seeds of plants in the grass family. The sole purpose of the seed is for reproduction of the plant (plants do not grow their babies just for us to eat!).  There are two types of grain. Refined grains which include white pasta, white bread, white rice and other products made with white flour (cakes, biscuits, snacks etc) and whole grains which contain three parts: the bran, endosperm and germ. The bran and germ are the most nutritious parts but during the refining process, these parts are stripped away and the refined grain is left low in nutrients. So “boo” to refined grains.

 Whole grains are good then?  They're certainly not bad but as well as being high-carb they are not nutrient-dense when compared with vegetables. A diet built around “healthy” whole grains still provided more than three times the sugar and sodium as a diet featuring vegetables.


Sugar

By lowering your carbohydrates, you’re automatically lowering the amount of sugar you consume. There is hidden sugar in so many processed foods – cereals, snack bars, yoghurts - as well as in fruit, fruit juices and alcohol.  

The sweetest of all naturally occurring carbohydrates, fructose, is consumed in a variety of sources including table sugar, sweetened drinks, honey, fruits, some vegetables and processed foods. The effects of a diet too high in fructose is not good and can lead liver damage, inflammation, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and obesity.

Fruit contains natural sugars (glucose and fructose) and starches in various proportions and amounts. As fruit ripens, the starch in the fleshy part of it is converted to sugar. With the exception of blueberries and raspberries which I have now and again, I no longer eat fruit or drink fruit juices. Of course fruit can be healthy as part of a low sugar diet but as I wasn’t much of a fan in the first place, I’m happy to give it a miss and stock up on my veg instead!

On my carb load days, I often still have sugar - I love desserts and chocolate! I think most people would feel grumpy if they cut it out of their lives entirely.
Eating Out & Alcohol

I've found it’s pretty easy to go out on the town and stay in ketosis. I can choose many of the options from most restaurant menus – meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, cheese.  You can stretch the rules a bit too; I’ve never found that having a sauce or gravy has affected anything.

Even better news is that I can drink alcohol and stay in ketosis! Hurrah! Low-carb drinks such as Prosecco, champagne, vodka, gin, tequila and rum are all options. Keep an eye on the mixers you use for the spirits though – sugar free is a must so that includes shunning the fruit juices! Sparkling water, slimline tonic and diet coke are ok. 

On carb load days, disregard the above! The cocktails return!

I've read books that insist you shouldn't drink alcohol at all if you're trying to lose weight. I just don't believe that's true. Sure, it's best to cut down as much as you can for the first month at least but you can still afford to have a few drinks and not mess everything up. You still have to enjoy life!


Exercise

How your body looks is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. So get the food bit sorted first!

But of course working out does encourages the metabolism to burn fat, tones the body and makes you feel great! I don’t do the hour long, boring slogs at the gym any more. I can’t remember the last time I just ran for ages on a treadmill – I’d prefer to be nice to my knees! My body reacts much better to shorter, high intensity workouts combined with weights two to four times per week. I do lots of ab work and walking the dog for 45 minutes most days helps too!

If you’re a member of a gym, get a trainer to teach you how to lift weights. It won’t make you all muscly and manly-looking. The more muscle you have the faster you burn fat, the leaner you look and the longer you can go on holiday, eat crap and not put on weight! (I found this after Vegas!)  Basically, it gives you more leeway for fun! 

HIIT (high intensity interval training) is also fantastic for getting the heart rate up and burning fat in a short amount of time. Doing just a 15 minute workout a few times a week would keep you in good nick and you don’t need lots of equipment either. There are some great ones on YouTube.  I recommend Fitness Blender and XHit Daily.

Do remember though, your body shape is also down to genetics. Many people can work and diet as hard as they possibly can and still not achieve Rihanna’s abs or a J-Lo bum.  I know I will never have the skinny, toned arms I would love or a completely flat tummy; I would have to drop a few stone of weight to achieve it and that would be hideous! Many of the pictures you see of skinny, toned women on Instagram are airbrushed and let’s not forget that a lot of the celebrities who suddenly lose weight and get a perfect body for a workout DVD have probably made a complimentary visit to their friendly fat-zapping plastic surgeon. Cynical? Maybe. But most likely true!

My Sacrifices

I don’t feel there have been very many sacrifices when it comes to food. I sometimes miss my blueberries, yoghurt and honey with pistachio nuts sprinkled on top. I also have to stop myself ordering the naughty snacks when I go to the cinema! I usually sneak in my dinner in a plastic container...as long as I've got something to eat during the movie, I'm all good!

That said, I did have to slow down my social calendar considerably which meant turning down almost all PR food and drink invitations I received for this blog.  I just couldn't go along to them all, still manage to see my friends and expect to reach my goals! So I suppose my blog took a bit of a hit but I still try to write it regularly and I hope you still enjoy reading it.


Vitamins and Supplements

Here is a list of supplements I take each day:

·         Multivitamin - general health
·         Cod Liver Oil – immune system, skin, muscles and bones
·         Calcium with Magnesium – bones, teeth, muscles & nervous system
·         Vitamin D3 - immune system
·         Vitamin K2 - bones, teeth
·         Digestive Enzymes - Digestion
·         Probiotic - gut health


Further Reading

The Bulletproof Diet – Dave Asprey (AmazonWebsite Link
It Starts With Food – Dallas & Melissa Hartwig (AmazonWebsite Link
No Fail Fat Burning For Women - Skye St John (Amazon)
Marks Daily Apple - Website Link
Ruled Me - Website Link

_________________________________________

I hope this post was helpful and has given you some inspiration. 

The New Year is a time when resolutions are made and many a goal is set. If one of your aims is to get healthy, lose weight, tone up and feel great then I can’t recommend this way of eating enough.

If you have any questions, please do ask in the comments below, tweet me or email me at cocktailsandcaroline@yahoo.co.uk.  I’m no expert in nutrition but I can advise you on what worked for me. I'm confident it would work for you too. 

xxx
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26 December 2014

My Christmas Day


I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and have enjoyed recovering this Boxing Day with the yummy leftovers. I had a wonderful day yesterday. Following a couple of somewhat disappointing Christmas lunches at a local pub, I decided to take the reigns and cook myself this year. I made goat's cheese & balsamic red onion tarts with homemade cranberry sauce to start followed by the full works - roast turkey, honey-glazed gammon and all the trimmings. Then there was dessert which was a choice of Christmas pudding (courtesy of Harrods this year!), chocolate brownies or cheesecake. It was inevitably very busy but it all went to plan and I had one very happy family by the end of it! 

I took a few few photos along the way for you to see.


Merry Christmas & Happy New Year everyone!

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21 December 2014

Christmas Afternoon Tea at The Ritz


The Ritz. A quintessentially British national treasure. An icon of luxury and grandiosity often described as one of the world's greatest hotels. You can sleep, drink, dine or even get married there (if you have a few hundred thousand pounds to spend on a wedding). Somehow, despite living in London for twelve years now, I'd never been. I'd walked past it loads of times - usually on the way to Mahiki round the corner - but never once had my feet passed the threshold of this magnificent site.

Until last Friday! Jen and I had an afternoon tea reservation!

Talking of Mahiki, where could be better to catch a cocktail or two before the sandwiches and cakes?


They do a mean margarita.

As you might expect, The Ritz gets an 'A' for effort at the Christmas festivities. Two beautiful trees adorn the entrance, red and gold garland and sparkling lights are everywhere as well as the most impressive tree I've seen thus far this season. The ribbons on it were bigger than my head! We could hear a jazz band playing Christmas tunes as we walked through the glamorous lobby. If you can't get into the festive spirit here, I'm pretty sure you've got no chance.


Afternoon tea is held in the exceedingly elegant Palm Court. Everyone was dressed in their best but the atmosphere was relaxed and unintimidating. I'd arrived prepared to have to take some sneaky photographs as I'd heard pictures weren't allowed inside the building. To my delight, this turned out not to be true!


The carol singing by The Ritz Choir was one of the key reasons I wanted to visit the Ritz this Christmas time. I actually made my reservation back in the summer as I'd remembered how quickly it had got booked up the year prior.  They sounded wonderful and added so much to the uplifting atmosphere.


Our sandwiches and cakes arrived not long after our glasses of champagne had been poured. The dainty finger sandwiches came with the traditional fillings; smoked salmon, chicken & horseradish, Cheddar cheese & pickle, egg mayonnaise, ham & mustard and cucumber & cream cheese.

Up at the top of the stand there were layered chocolate cakes, a mini fruit tart, a chocolate mocha dome and ginger macarons. A plate of scones and mince pies turned up soon afterwards. Finally, from a waiter wheeling a trolley you could choose between a slice of Christmas cake or a raspberry tart topped with creme fraiche. We certainly weren't going to go hungry!


Although the sandwiches were very nice, it was the sweets that stole the show. That chocolate cake was incredible and the slice of tart from the trolley was superb. 

The sugar-topped shortcrust pastry mince pies were marvelous and my very first of the year!


Having said all that, if you've read any of my past afternoon tea posts you won't be surprised to know that it was the scones that topped the leaderboard for me. I bloody love the things and The Ritz have got their scone baking down to a tee.

Clotted cream on first, people!


I ate so much sugar. Just so many cakes. I must have had at least three scones and two mince pies on top of the sandwiches and cakes on the stand. It's almost impossible to stop when they're just sat there in front of you and they taste so damn good! But hey, it's Christmas and the post-afternoon tea bloat was definitely worth it!

I've just realised; I got so caught up in the excitement of the cakes that I forgot to mention the crucial tea! I had the Ritz Christmas Spice - a china black tea infused with orange peel, apple, Christmas spices and a touch of cinnamon. It had a lovely festive aroma and a light, refreshing accompaniment to the food.

I asked the friendly waiter (the service was amazing throughout) if we could take away our remaining scones. "Of course!" he replied and soon returned with a doggy bag full of so many more scones than we'd been expecting as well as a few mince pies! Now that's Christmas spirit! How generous!


Look how happy I am with my big box of goodies!


A shame I left it in the cab on the way home.

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