Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lenten Fast. Otherwise known as Get Fit for California

My primary indulgence, the one I think about every single day, is food. I love cooking & eating. It’s my passion, my greatest pleasure, so my Lenten penance is to cut out some of the foods that I adore the most. I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but I love fried food and I adore Mexican cooking – which isn’t exactly known for its health benefits, so this Lent, (which starts today, Ash Wednesday), they are forbidden. The side effect: I am going to get healthy and lose some of my avoirdupois before I head to California at the beginning of April.

I will be following a low GI (glycaemic index) plan as well as co-opting a few other nutrition tricks. This means that I can eat some carbs, but they have to be good ones (generally not the white or over-processed ones as these convert into sugar more rapidly, affecting our blood glucose levels, & increasing hunger pangs). Low GI carbs don’t cause these sugar rushes and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

I’m apple-shaped, meaning I store fat around my middle, increasing substantially my exposure to these diseases, compared to women who store fat around their bottoms and hips (the traditional pear shape), and so this diet is aimed at shifting some of this dangerous fat for health as well as vanity reasons.

My plan is this: minimal carbs, (mainly mid GI basmati rice & no alcohol, potatoes, sugar, biscuits/cookies, cakes or doughnuts). A lot of protein (beans, whole eggs, tofu, a little cheese), soup, low fat yoghurt for calcium, and fruit & vegetables in such abundance that I may turn green. It’s been proved that hot liquids increase satiety or fullness, so I’m going to be adding vegetable stock based sauces to all cooked vegetables too. There will be a lot of chewing involved: not only this better for my digestion, but al dente & chunky vegetables are lower GI, as the more processed a food (whether pureed, mashed or over cooked), the quicker it breaks down into sugar in your bloodstream.

I’m not going to be calorie counting, but I will be keeping an eye on portion size. Doing Weightwatchers successfully a few years ago shows me just how small a sensible portion of food really is. No protein portions larger than a pack of playing cards, only a few tablespoons of rice, and as many vegetables as I can eat.

Fortunately my preference is for healthy foods – I never, ever buy processed ingredients, preferring to cook everything from scratch (bar baked beans obviously), I don’t drink sodas & fizzy drinks or that much alcohol, eat crisps, buy crap very often, or eat that unhealthily at home. My problems are with portion size, butter (oh god, butter I love you), take out & restaurants where I always eat exactly what I want, when I want (if you don't cook it, it doesn't count has always been my rule), & rewarding myself with snacks like doughnuts when I am feeling down.

NO more.