Saturday, June 29, 2013

A decade of healthy living

Sometime this month, I had an anniversary. I don't know the exact date, but it was in June 2003 that I made a serious commitment to myself to improve my health by losing weight, overhauling the way I ate and starting to exercise.

Happy anniversary to me!

That means that it's been ten years that I've been doing this healthy lifestyle thing in one form or another. There should be a medal for that. Or a telegram from the queen or something, surely?

I've come a long way since I started.

I don't have any full length photos from 2003, hence the slightly earlier "before" pic. Meh. Close enough.

The external changes are pretty striking, sure - but I've achieved a lot more than a 30-odd kg weight loss. I've completed eight fun runs and two bike events, stood on stage wearing not very much at all for two figure bodybuilding competitions, won a prize in a national body transformation contest, survived five Phat Camps, completed two TAFE certificates and countless short courses as part of my fitness professional qualifications, and learned to do a lot of things I never believed I could do.

I've created and sustained two blogs, made a lot of friends in the fitness and blogging communities and continue to learn new things almost daily about nutrition and living well. I've overcome a lot of fears - of looking ridiculous, of failing, of riding a bike (nope, I never had one as a kid), of my bum looking big in tight pants. I pretty much don't give a rat's arse about looking ridiculous any least when it comes to training. Pop squats at the gym? Spiderman pushups in the park? Wearing lycra in public? Hehe.

I wonder what 40-year-old me up there in that birthday photo would have thought, if she'd been able to see into the future and get a glimpse of 52-year-old me? She'd probably have had a heart attack at the thought of getting out of bed at 5:30am, let alone going to the gym and lifting heavy things or pedalling a bike around bush tracks.

I don't really know what's in store for the next ten years, but I do know that it's sure to be challenging, fun, and no doubt full of surprises. Whatever's in store, I'm ready for it.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beating the winter blues

I'm having another one of "those" weeks where it seems impossible to achieve anything much at all. I get up stupidly early, train, pack my food for the day, run the gauntlet of Melbourne freeway traffic on my drive to the office, spend all day struggling to get any actual work done because ridiculous administrative tasks keep being dumped on me (or pointless meetings called at zero notice), run to the supermarket and/or chemist in my lunch break, spend another hour of hell getting home, get dinner over with, clean up, organise things for the next day's training and meals and then collapse onto the couch for maybe an hour before bed beckons. Aargh.

In summer it never seems as bad. There's daylight. And sunshine. And we can throw something on the BBQ and who cares if we don't eat till 8:00pm? I get to potter around in the garden or go for a walk in the morning or evening - or both if I feel like it. But everything seems like more of a grind in winter, with its short days, cold temperatures, rain and fog and ice.


I don't want to be beset by an attack of winter SAD though, which I am prone to. So it's even more important for me to eat well, exercise daily, take my Vitamin D supplements, get enough sleep and try not to allow stress to tip me over the edge. I also have to make an effort to schedule in fun activities, to counteract my natural tendency to hibernate. So as well as the usual bike rides and walks that I really do enjoy in spite of the cold, I'm planning a few other things too...

Music: I have tickets to one of Pink's concerts in a couple of weeks, so yay! I'm going with a friend and really looking forward to it, especially since I've missed every other tour she's done here.

Bike Boy and I also have tickets to see the Grigoryan Brothers perform, but that's not until September. They're a little different to Pink. ;o) If you're not familiar with them, they're brilliant classical guitarists, a couple of local boys from Melbourne who are internationally acclaimed. Bike Boy has followed them for years; we've seen them a number of times and they're always fabulous.

Art: We've already seen the Monet's Garden exhibition at NGV, but I'm thinking that the Australian Impressionists in France would be worth a look too. There's also the Hollywood Costume exhibition on at ACMI, and I'm off to see that one in August.

Food: I have a date coming up with my god-daughter for a posh afternoon tea at the Windsor to celebrate her birthday. That's always fun. Traditional, fancy-pants silver tiered stands full of tiny sandwiches, pastries and cakes, endless cups of tea (and possibly some bubbly) served on starched white linen in the grand dining room. What could be better?

I'm going to make an effort to go out for a meal at least once a month too. We tend to be boring old farts who stay at home in winter, but this year I plan to get out more. We have a great restaurant within walking distance that serves a Basque-influenced menu, so no excuse for not stepping out on a Friday or Saturday night for a warming meal that we don't have to prepare ourselves. Mmm, Pintxos and a glass of tempranillo...

I also have a long list of recipes I want to try, so that should keep me busy. I made these Snickers protein cookies from Chocolate Chilli Mango last night and they are GOOD.

You have to try these! Bike Boy loved them so much, he had two.
Plus, I'll be inventing some more recipes myself. I've already started with this orange & cranberry oatmeal bake, which was this morning's breakfast. I wasn't a hundred percent happy with my original effort at an orange porridge, but done as a bake, it's sensational. Give it a'll love it.

That's my combat winter plan. How about you? How do you get through the cold and dark days with your sanity intact?


Monday, June 24, 2013

Show your heart some love - Go Red for Women

Sponsored post for the Heart Foundation

I may have mentioned before that whilst I'm super-conscientious about some health-related responsibilities, I have a bad habit of neglecting others.

For instance: I never miss my six-monthly dental checkups. My attendance record would score an A+ when it comes to physiotherapy for any injuries I may have at any given time. And then there's my Osler's disease - which is really hard to ignore because it's kind of in-your-face (Get it? Nosebleeds? ...your nose is IN your face? Yeah, OK; not really funny... As you were). Anyhoo... I never miss my multiple specialist appointments, regular blood tests, CT scans OR my occasional surgeries to keep that lovely little family heirloom in check.

But, like many other women, I can fall victim to "busy mum" syndrome when it comes to other health checks which don't wave their symptoms at me like a giant red flag. I know that I probably should get certain things checked, but I'm fine, right? So it won't really matter if I don't get around to it.

Um, WRONG. So, so wrong when it comes to heart disease.

Let's back up a bit. You might remember that I wrote about an evening I attended a couple of months ago, courtesy of the Heart Foundation. Apart from cooking and enjoying some delicious healthy food, we heard some sobering messages regarding women's heart health. One of the points that particularly caught my attention was this: Heart disease kills three times as many women as breast cancer. It's not a disease confined to middle-aged men. In fact, heart disease causes the deaths of twenty-seven women every day.

Go Red for Women is the Heart Foundation's campaign to raise awareness of the facts about women and heart disease and to help us all to make healthier choices to reduce our risk. This is the fifth year of the Go Red for Women campaign and the Heart Foundation is celebrating during June. So right now is the perfect opportunity to find out what the risks are and what steps you can take to improve your heart health.

Given that 90% of Australian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, we all have a pretty high chance of scoring one or more of these - whether we know about them or not. And acting like an ostrich is not going to help at all. You might think that you would know if you had a serious problem. But you can't feel things like high blood pressure or high cholesterol - and the first thing you may feel is a heart attack. In this case, what you don't know really CAN hurt you. So the absence of any symptoms is not a reason to avoid checkups.

What are the important things to know? Probably the most important thing I learned from the Heart Foundation blogger function and from their website is this: Heart disease is largely preventable. There is so much helpful information on the Heart Foundation's website, but here are just a few things that increase the risk:
  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Smoking
  • Having a family history of heart disease
  • Age - with the risk increasing significantly at and after menopause
  • Taking oral contraceptives
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
I'm OK on most of those: I'm a healthy weight, I've never smoked, I'm physically active, no diabetes, blood pressure is on the low side, and contraceptives are an annoyance of the past. BUT... I do have high cholesterol and I am at "that" age where my risk steeply increases, thanks to hormonal changes.

The good news for most of us is that many of the risk factors ar modifiable. Which means that you can reduce or eliminate them by making some lifestyle changes. Healthier food choices, starting (or increasing) an exercise program, quitting smoking, losing weight - all stuff you can control. Even high blood pressure and high cholesterol are modifiable in many cases by doing exactly those same things.

I took all of this on board and made an appointment to see my GP. I read up on all the info beforehand and printed off the "Questions to ask your GP" document. My family doctor is great. I've been a patient at the clinic for over thirty years, and she's been my doctor now for twelve years or so. She's seen me transform from an obese and unfit woman who ate too much of the wrong things and liked a drink a little bit too much into the healthy, fit person I am today. She knows how important fitness and health are to me, and encourages me all the way.

So I rocked up to my appointment and we went through the Heart Health Check. I got a gold star for almost everything. I don't smoke, have barely had a drink since January, I eat better than 90% of the population and exercise vigorously 5-6 days per week. I don't have diabetes, a family history of heart disease, and whilst I'm peri-menopausal, that in itself isn't a big deal given the lack of other problems.

Then it was onto some simple tests:
- Blood pressure: a very satisfactory 110/70
- BMI is a healthy 20.9
- Waist circumference is 66. Well under the 80cm risk zone for women.

A+ for awesome blood pressure. 
The doc didn't want to order an ECG for me, partly because she didn't feel it was warranted and partly because I've had a number of heart-related tests in recent years due to other medical issues (including an ECG and a fancy-pants echo-doppler imaging thingie) and my heart was in tip-top condition. So, all good, right?

Not quite.

My most recent cholesterol test results were not what I was expecting. My cholesterol has gone UP. Significantly. My doctor read out the numbers and we sat there looking at each other, stupefied. It makes no sense, given the fact that over the past three months I've been consistently spot-on with nutrition, exercised my butt off (literally) and have dropped five kilograms. I rarely eat processed food, and whilst I do eat coconut oil and butter, I eat them in small amounts and I also eat mainly "good" fats like olive oil, walnuts and salmon.

We had a bit of a discussion about what to do about it and agreed that for now, we'd do nothing. Considering my absence of any other risk factors - apart from age - the doc isn't particularly concerned. She doesn't even want to re-run the test for twelve months, so that's confirmation that she isn't worried. Me, I'm going to do some research and see what I can find out about factors that can adversely affect test results. I followed instructions, but it's possible that there's something I was unaware of that may have had an impact on my cholesterol levels on the day. And meanwhile, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing - hitting the weights, riding my bike, eating my veggies and mostly staying off the grog.

I did walk out of the clinic feeling as though I'd got an exam paper back with a big, red "F" on it. It was like a personal affront - I do everything right, and I get THIS? But I've calmed down now and am looking at it a different way. It's just one risk factor out of many, and not the end of the world. There is a family history of high cholesterol, which can be a contributing cause - so I can blame it on my genes, to a degree. That doesn't mean that it's pointless living a healthy lifestyle, of course. I can only imagine what the numbers might be if I sat around on the couch eating crap all day.

The outcome may not have been exactly what I expected, but that's the whole point, right? The things that you don't know that can hurt you, as I mentioned before... I'd rather know and do everything I can to combat the risk, than not know and blindly go about my business, potentially making choices that would increase my risk.

To find out more about taking charge of your own heart health, start here, with the Heart Foundation's page on women and heart disease. You can also find out about healthy eating, active living and all sorts of helpful info. Arm yourself with all the information and if you're over 45 OR you have several risk factors, make an appointment to see your GP for a heart health check. Don't let the first warning of heart disease be a heart attack.

Got a question or concern? Call the Heart Foundation's Free Health Information Service 
on 1300 36 27 87 during business hours. Their qualified medical staff are happy to help 
- and no question is ever too silly to ask.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by the Heart Foundation, who asked me to share my thoughts on the process of consulting my GP for a Heart Health Check. I did receive payment for this post, however it's an honest account of my personal experience. 


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Super Saturday

Today has been jammed full of awesome.

I went for a bike ride. In winter. It may have been frosty, but the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous morning.

Ice, ice, baby...

Don't let that blue sky fool you. There was ice on the puddles and I was wearing four layers of clothing.

I did 12 pushups. On my knees sure, but that's 12 more than I could do a few months ago. Shoulder rehab might be slow, but it's working. My upper body strength WILL be back soonish.

I decided it was time for some photos to document my progress this year. If I'd had Supergirl undies, I'd have worn them on the outside. Alas, my LJ slogan tank had to suffice.


I ate choc-chip Belgian waffles with two kinds of ice cream. For lunch.

L: Connoisseur Murray River salted caramel. R: Maggie Beer burnt fig jam, honeycomb & caramel
And tonight, I get to sit and study these little beauties, to help us decide on our itinerary for next year's planned European holiday.
Travel planning, YAY!
How much better can my Saturday get?


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Discomfort - not always a bad thing

I've achieved a lot in the first half of this year and I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. Improved fitness, strength slowly increasing, the rehabbing of my injuries actually showing marked progress, some excess "fluff" removed. Of course there's still more work to do on the rehab, strength and fitness fronts, and I shall continue on with my efforts there.

It's dawned on me over the past week that I'm feeling a wee bit too comfortable with my training. Uh-oh. Suddenly I have the urge to do something new and different. And as usual, I don't really know precisely what it is I want to do. But rather than spend too much time thinking about it, which usually ends in me doing nothing, I'm going to set myself some small challenges to start with and see where those take me.

I don't want to take on anything huge, just some things that will stretch my mind and/or body a little and nudge me out of my comfort zone once more. So here's what I've come up with:

1. First up is a pretty easy one. Well, perhaps not easy in the execution, but easy in terms of the planning and organisation required. I've always intended to have a go at the 1,000 steps, which is part of the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk  in the Dandenongs, but have never managed to actually do it. It's a popular spot for fitness-inclined Melburnians to head to on weekends, but it's not exactly close to my part of town.

Today, a Facebook acquaintance threw out a general invitation to join her at "the steps" in a couple of weeks. My reply? Perfect timing; count me in. As long as there's hot coffee afterwards.

If I enjoy it, this might become a semi-regular event on my training calendar - especially once winter buggers off and the weather warms up. It's cool up in those hills.


2. My second challenge was precipitated by my need to renew my fitness professional registration in early September. I still have to earn some more CECs to meet the requirements, so I'm looking at some weekend hands-on training sessions to accrue those. First up: suspension training.

I've been dying to have a go at this for years, but there never seems to have been the right opportunity. So today, when I received an email about an upcoming course which is scheduled soon on a day when I happen to be free, it seemed like an omen. Sign me up!

That should spark up my own training a bit, as well as give me some new fun stuff to torture thrill my clients.


3. I have one more, but I'm working up to this one: Getting back on my road bike, on an actual road. A nice, quiet, early weekend morning would be good - and preferably when it's not pelting with rain. I'll consult with Bike Boy and discuss a timeframe to aim for and a route that doesn't pose too many difficulties for a cyclist who's terrified of traffic....

I don't really care if it doesn't happen for several months, as long as I come up with a plan to tackle it. It's something that's been bugging me for a long time and I have something to prove to myself.


I figure that lot should cause enough discomfort to shake things up for me and prevent any kind of boredom setting in for now. I'll add to my list as I think of new ideas. :)

When it comes to exercise, do you make an effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone every so often? How do you recognise when it's time?


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fejioa joy - and a recipe alert!

Fejioas. It seems that this fruit has a very low profile amongst Australians in general. Many people have never heard of it and look puzzled when I mention that I've harvested a nice little crop this year from our four backyard trees.

They're much bigger than this now, but it's cold and wet out there so I'm not going out to take photos.

Ask a Kiwi about fejioas though, and they'll get VERY excited. It's a common backyard fruit across the Tasman, and I've lost count of the number of ex-pat New Zealanders who ask me where I got my trees, because they miss fejioas SO MUCH and would love to grow their own.

I occasionally see them in greengrocers, but they're definitely not a popular item here. I don't know why - the flavour is awesome. It's a tangy, tropical kind of taste. A bit banana, a bit kiwifruit, a bit pineapple... hard to describe, really.  I like to cut them in half and just scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon, but I've been keen to try some recipes too.

Half the reason I planted them: gorgeous flowers!

I planted the trees in 2010, and got a couple of fruit the next year. Last year I scored enough to give away a handful to my Mum, who loves them. This year, two of the trees produced nothing at all in spite of a beautiful display of flowers. It was a very dry summer, and I didn't really pay much attention to watering anything, so I guess survival was more of a priority than producing fruit... But the other two gave me a nice little bowl full of funny green fruit - enough to actually make something with; hurrah!

My Kiwi pal Sara tells me fejioa wine is good... perhaps in a few years when the crop increases.

Today I hit fejioa recipe GOLD when I found this site by the New Zealand Fejioa Growers Association. The only problem is, I have maybe enough fruit to make a couple of things, but not all of them. I may have to go hunt down a fruit shop that has some in stock...

I'm actually going to have a go at a flourless cake today - I think I'll use half fejioas and half oranges and see what happens. Kitchen experiments, yay! :)  Edit: Experiment success! My recipe for flourless fejioa and orange cake is up now.

Have you ever tried fejioas? How about cooking with them? If so, I'd love you to share your favourite recipes... the way my crop has been quadrupling each year, by next year I may be looking for ways to use them all up.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

A poor excuse for a Saturday post

Today I'm breaking from my usual Saturday routine and will not be taking the mountain bike out for a spin. That's partly due to the almost constant deluges that we've been subjected to for more than a week now - the ground is so mushy it's just ridiculous, and our favourite paths are sure to be flooded in several places.

But it's also because I have a busy schedule this morning. I have to go get that cholesterol test I've been banging on about. That's annoying because: a) it's disrupting my routine; and b) I have to delay breakfast because it's a FASTING test. You might notice that "fast" is a four-letter word. Hmm?

So there will be no bike ride - I'll get a different kind of workout in after my late brekkie though, never fear. But no bike ride means no photos.... or does it?

Luckily (or unluckily?) for you, I happen to have a heap of pics from last Sunday's walk, so you don't have to miss out today. I wouldn't want you to feel deprived.

Chestnut teal - such pretty markings

Mrs Swan. How do I know she's a lady? She's the bigger of the pair who live on the billabong.

Nankeen kestrel - apparently wondering what on earth I'm looking at

Action shot

Coming in to land

Quick phone snap from a moving car on Monday night.
You gotta grab sunsets when they happen. :)


Friday, June 14, 2013

Recipe alert - Orange & raspberry layered parfait

My Grandma used to make the best parfaits in the whole world. She had the correct tall-bodied, short-stemmed parfait glasses and the special long spoons so you could dig right to the bottom and scoff every last morsel of the fruity, creamy, delicious dessert. She also did a mean trifle and her boiled chocolate cake was legendary.

This morning's dessert-masquerading-as-breakfast was not only inspired by the Go Orange challenge, but was also something of an homage to my grandmother, who sadly left us thirty years ago this year. Her legacy to me included mad crochet skills (not one of her children or other grandchildren ever learned. Can you say "favourite grandchild?"), an addiction to complicated jigsaw puzzles and crosswords, her boiled chocolate cake recipe, the refusal to admit that anything is beyond me, and a complete lack of tolerance for bullshit.

So, as tribute to Elsie, I give you my orange raspberry layered parfait. Not quite the way she would have made it, but I think she'd have approved anyway.


Go Orange - the final wrap-up

I completed my Go Orange ten day challenge yesterday and I have to say: this was one of the easier challenges I've ever participated in. Compared to, say.... my 1,000 squat challenge, eating an orange a day for ten days was a breeze.

Enjoying a sweet, tangy, delicious fruit every day wasn't really a challenge for me at all. I always eat between one and three pieces of fruit daily anyway; all I had to do was remember to grab an orange from the crate before heading out the door each morning.

I did manage to create a few new snacks and meals using oranges, which was fun - and I still have more up my sleeve; time constraints are the only thing hampering me from getting onto those. Patience...I'll get onto some kitchen experiments over the weekend.

Do I feel healthier or more energised after my daily dose of orangey goodness? Mmm, not especially. But then, given that I get through a small orchard's worth of fruit and an entire market garden of veggies every week, I'm generally topped-up on vitamins, mineral and antioxidants anyway.

I definitely did enjoy the change from my usual fruit choices though, and will be sure to include more oranges in my trolley at the greengrocer.

This morning, I snuck in one extra orange for a total of eleven days in a row (is there an over-achiever's prize?) and came up with this for breakfast:

Yum! Orange & raspberry layered parfait.

I'll get the recipe written up later on and will share it. Right  now, I have to make an emergency dash to the hairdresser to take care of a potentially terminal case of grey roots. I hope I don't run into anyone I know on the way... 

P.S. Hop over to Aussie Oranges facebook page for some more great recipe ideas from other bloggers.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I received free product for the purposes of taking part in and promoting this challenge, but no payment was provided. Opinions expressed here are my own.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Recipe alert: Go Orange truffles

I have one day to go in my Go Orange 10-day challenge and I'm loving my juicy, Vitamin C packed daily treat. But I have to admit that I haven't had time to do anything very creative with my oranges most days. I've been so busy that it's mostly just been a case of peel and eat. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

However, I did make a delicious breakfast on Monday of orange segments, craisins, ground cardamom, Greek yoghurt and chopped walnuts. That really hit the spot before braving the cold temperature for a bonus public holiday mountain bike ride.

No, you're not experiencing deja vu; you have seen this photo before. Yesterday, actually.

I also tossed a sliced orange into my lunchtime salad one day - something I've done often in the past, just not for a while.

Thinly sliced onion goes SO well with tangy orange.

I have a few new recipes in the works and plan to test them out over the next few days. Orange-blueberry pancakes... an orange infused porridge (yes, I'm having a bit of a breakfast thing at the moment) ...possibly a pudding. If they work, I'll share. :)

What I DID get around to making though, is a variation of my super chocolate truffles. They may not LOOK any different, but these babies taste like Jaffas. Only better. Jaffas for grown-ups.

Try to stop at one. Go on.
They're like little morsels of orangey, chocolatey heaven. The recipe is over here.

More delectable orange treats soon, I promise. :)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FODMAPs - not a navigational device

It's been great to see so much of modern nutrition advice focus on returning to the way our grandparents ate. (If you're much younger than me, your great-grandparents might be better examples.) You know - eat whole foods, real foods; foods that came from animals or plants with no or minimal processing; that kind of thing.

If we all ate that way, we'd be far better off. Some of the things that pass for food in our shops scare the crap out of me. Ingredient lists longer than your arm and things included that don't even have names...and that our grandparents certainly wouldn't have added to anything they cooked.

Luckily I love to cook meals from scratch and actually dislike the texture - and often the taste - of overly processed foods. Supermarket cakes? Ugh. Ready-made frozen meals? Blah. Fake "chicken" flavour? Kill me now.

So 90% (ish) of my food is made at home from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruit, veggies, nuts, whole grains, dairy, etc. I don't go so far as to press my own olive oil or ferment my own fish sauce. I don't want to LIVE like my great-grandparents, and die worn out at 55; I just want to eat like them. This IS the 21st century, after all and convenience is a wonderful thing - as long as you know what's in your food products.

Given my approach to healthy eating, you would think that I would enjoy nothing but robust good health, right? Well, not quite. Eating what's healthy is all very well, but it doesn't take into account how annoyingly individual human bodies are. Genetics, environmental factors, over-exposure to certain food components, past illnesses and all sorts of other things can upset the delicate balance of one or more of our systems. If only we were all identical clones, I reckon modern medicine would have nailed pretty much all of our problems by now.

Unfortunately, I have some dodgy genes that make me prone to digestive issues. My gut is apparently a sensitive little thing, with a whole heap of dislikes when it comes to food. I'm not talking about artificial colourings and flavourings or undesirable chemicals that might be added to manufactured food, either. I'm talking about actual, REAL food that humans generally eat.

I've dabbled in eliminating certain foods and am 90% certain that wheat is just nasty, nasty stuff in the opinion of my large intestine. I can tolerate a small amount, but on a regular basis? Nope. Alcohol isn't a great idea - and I'm not talking about overdoing it; just a glass or two sends my digestive system into overdrive the next day. But apart from those, I've come up against a dead end. I am absolutely certain that some of my problem foods are fruits and vegetables - but which ones?

So I'm calling in some expert help. My research suggests that FODMAPs is probably the key to solving all of my problems. If you haven't come across this acronym before, FODMAP stands for:


You can read more about it here, but essentially, some IBS sufferers cannot tolerate too much of one or more of the above substances. They can't be digested properly and so end up accumulating in the large intestine, where they sit around and then the natural gut bacteria goes crazy fermenting them - which results in an excess of gas, pain, bloating and other lovely symptoms. Yep, that sounds very familiar. I've spent countless evenings sipping peppermint tea or clutching a hot wheat pillow to my belly in an effort to ease the pain.

There's a whole lot of steps to arrive at a diagnosis - including hydrogen breath testing, blood tests, a detailed history and then an elimination diet. I'm frankly over the whole IBS thing, and am just not prepared to put up with it any more. Forty-odd years has been way too long.

So I have an appointment next month to see one of the dietitians at Shepherd Works and I cannot WAIT to get started on this. I'm eager to be free of the pain and other symptoms, but I'm also a little apprehensive about exactly what I might be reacting to. I can handle eating little or no wheat - I've been doing that for years and it doesn't really bother me. But some of the FODMAPs groups of foods include favourites of mine; things that feature daily in my meals. Like onions and garlic. Or apples and pears. Or broccoli, cabbage and asparagus. Or yoghurt.

Please don't let it be yoghurt. :( 

I know that there are alternatives to almost any food, and I've proven in the past that I'm pretty good at being creative with way more restrictive diets than any I'm likely to have to follow to deal with my health issues. But I have my fingers crossed that it's "just" something like galacto-oligosaccharides. Those include mainly beans, legumes etc, which are foods I rarely eat, don't really enjoy, and are definitely not something I'd miss.

I read somewhere recently that chocolate is potentially a FODMAPs food. O_O I'm pretending I didn't see that.

I guess I shall have to just trust the process and deal with whatever comes out of it. Anything has to be better than what I've experienced for most of my life.

I'm interested in hearing about the experiences of anyone who's been through the FODMAPs process - or anyone who has (or even suspects they have) a food intolerance. How do you handle it? What do you miss? I'd love to hear from you.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cholesterol-busting breakfast bliss!

Sponsored Series by Nuffnang Australia

HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks.  HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.

Cholesterol-lowering foods - yay!

I'm due to have my cholesterol checked again in a week or so and I'm very hopeful that the numbers will have moved downwards a little more since my last test. After all, I've been exercising my butt off, I've dropped a few more kgs, have (mostly) been taking my fish oil supplements, and have been pretty much the model of healthy eating.

When experts talk about reducing cholesterol, they always recommend following a cholesterol lowering diet - but what does that actually mean? The Heart Foundation gives these general recommendations:

Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables; wholegrains; lean meats; oily fish; fruit; low, reduced or no fat dairy; and vegetable and seed oils. Remember to also include nuts, seeds and legumes.

There are some specific foods that are known to have a positive effect on cholesterol, and according to the Harvard medical school, included in those are oats, apples, walnuts and plant-sterol fortified foods.

Reading that got me thinking about breakfast. Mmm, my favourite meal of the day. I've been a bit boring with my breakfast choices lately, and was ready for a change. So I trawled through some of the healthy breakfast recipe ideas on the Heart Active site for inspiration for something new. There are some yummy meals there (not just breakfast, by the way) but the hazelnut and cinnamon porridge with pink poached pears recipe caught my eye.

Of course, I had no pears on hand. And my hazelnuts need shelling and I can't find the nutcracker. Plus I like some protein with my breakfast. So I just used the recipe as inspiration and freestyled my own version. Ta-dah! I give you Kek's creamy apple and blueberry porridge.

Just the thing on a cold winter morning.

The key cholesterol lowering ingredients are oats, apples, walnuts and Heart Active milk, which has those beneficial plant sterols added. Health benefits aside, this is the best porridge I have ever made. And that's a big statement. It's rich, creamy and filling. Oh, and of course it tastes delicious. :) It was so filling that quarter of a cup of oats was enough for me - I cooked half a cup and ended up with two serves.

I may just have this for breakfast every day until winter is over. My cholesterol should be damn near perfect by then, right?

HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks. HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.