Courgetti and Cauliflower Rice

Sweet potato, aubergine and azuki bean curry
with cauliflower rice, half a nan bread and natural yoghurt

Two of the vegetables that have really proved invaluable to me on my weight loss journey….. Cauliflower and courgette.

Not two vegetables that may immediately strike you as being particularly exciting or tasty… but WAIT!!!

I first discovered cauliflower rice in the Summer of 2012.  I read a post somewhere on line about it and decided to have a go at making a batch and trying it in place of regular rice.

So the method is:  Approx 150g of cauliflower.  Wash, break into florets and place into a food processor with a metal cutting blade.  Use the “pulse” setting on the machine to chop the cauliflower until it resembles rice grains.

Place cauliflower rice into a microwave dish and cover.  Cook on full power in a microwave for about 2½ minutes.  Serve in place of rice with curry, chilli, chicken supreme, etc.

The calorie saving is phenomenal!  150g of cauliflower rice = 46 calories.  150g of dry rice = 523 calories!  In reality, you are likely to eat about 80g of rice, but even that would be 280 calories, so six times more calories for a portion.

Unbelieveable as it may seem, the “rice” doesn’t actually taste too much like cauliflower.  Served with something with a strong flavour and a sauce, it instead absorbs the flavours and works very well as a substitute.  Excellent too for anyone following a gluten free diet.

“Courgetti” cooking in the wok

The second discovery was even better!  Courgette, cut into fine strips using a Julienne peeler and then stir fried for about three minutes in a wok to provide an excellent alternative to spaghetti!  Such a great alternative that I actually PREFER the texture (slightly crunchy) as well as the fact that after a meal I’m not left with that “bloated” feeling that rice and pasta sometimes leave me with.

So calorie savings here?  200g of courgette, julienned and cooked with ½ tbsp of olive oil = 86 calories.  Compared to 200g of cooked spaghetti = 238 calories.  So two and-a-half times more calories.

My Julienne peeler is a handheld device, dirt cheap (from Amazon) and can be stuck in the dishwasher following use.  It has a deadly blade, so I always use a fork to pin the courgette down to a chopping board whilst I slice away.

The “OXO” Julienne Peeler

The great thing about courgette spaghetti is being able to add things like prawns, strips of ham, low fat flavoured cheese (such as Philadelphia with garlic and herbs) and “hey presto” you have a very quick, tasty and nutritional low calorie dinner ready in minutes!

I use these two versatile vegetables again and again, especially on a “Fasting” day when I need to be really economical with my calories.

Try them and see what you think!


Cinema Snacking


When did snacking at the cinema become compulsory?  

A post on a discussion board today has prompted me to give this a little thought.  The post asked readers which low calorie snacks they could enjoy whilst taking their children to the cinema.

The truth is, if you are going to buy your snacks there, there are no low calorie snacks.  The following nutritional information is taken from the Cineworld website:

Large sweet popcorn                                  1,005 calories
Small sweet popcorn                                     458 calories
Regular rollover nachos                                 539 calories
Large hotdog                                                 406 calories
Large Nachos                                                 808 calories
Large Coke/Sprite/Fanta                                407 calories 
Large Tango Ice Blast Bubblegum (blue)          900 calories

I am pleased to say that I have broken this “habit” as I realised that was all it was for me.  I now sit smugly at the back of the cinema watching people juggle their large buckets of popcorn, their flimsy gallon paper cup of pop and do my very best to enjoy the film above the rustle of thousands of collective calories being consumed.

Many of those consuming these “treats” will return home to dinner, a take-away or possibly travel on to a pizza restaurant and eat twice as many calories again!

Breaking the “movie = snacking” cycle was not a difficult one for me.

BBC News Website – Front page!!

I appeared on the front page of the BBC News website today:

This sparked a flurry of messages to my FaceBook account.  Mostly quite complimentary, but one from someone who was complimenting my…. physique… shall we say!Still, a compliment is a compliment!!

Embedded image permalink

There clearly are lots of people out there, both disabled and non-disabled, who have been inspired by the fact that I have been able to achieve what I have done.  I hope that I got across that it has been jolly hard work.  It’s not all be plain sailing!

My only fear now is that in the way the story was reported, the folks from the Disability Living Allowance Department are going to be getting in touch, as the article makes it sound as though I have no mobility issues at all!

If you saw me walking on my treadmill, I can assure you that it bears no resemblance to the way I walk.  I am always hanging on to one or t’other side of the handrail on the treadmill, virtually leaning on it to steady myself and stay on board!  My exercise initially was about earning more calories to eat.  But I quickly realised that by regularly stretching, bending, twisting and MOVING… my body feels so much better!  My pain is reduced, my movements are easier and there is no doubt that I am able to manage much of my self care with less pain, discomfort and breathlessness!

Stand up for three hours a day

Today’s Telegraph Health Section really bring homes just what an uphill battle “we disableds” have in keeping ourselves trim:

time management skills, business success

Dr Loosemore, a leading sport medicine consultant states that government guidelines, which advise people to do 30 minutes of ‘moderate’ exercise five days a week, discourage people from becoming active by setting targets which appear too daunting.

Dr Loosemore states that we should be “simply avoiding the sort of sedentary behaviour that sees us spending hours of our day sat in front of a computer, at the wheel of car or watching the gogglebox.”

“It’s time to stand up for yourself. Literally.”

“There is now enormous evidence that simply standing makes huge differences to your health.”

Dr Loosemore is working with the Thalidomide Trust on a project to assist with enabling Trust beneficiaries to obtain a more accurate blood pressure reading.  Obtaining the blood pressure in somebody who has either very short or absent arms or legs can present quite a challenge, and even when the reading is obtained, there are some concerns about just how accurate it is.

Blood pressure readings provide a lot of useful information about the heart and the pressure of the blood in the arteries and the condition of blood vessels.  It can therefore be a useful tool in identifying potential serious health conditions.

The Ouch Podcast

Rob Crossan, Simon Minty, Simone Illger and Kate Monaghan
(picture courtesy of BBC’s Ouch)

So today was the big trip up to London.  On my own.  Travelling by wheelchair.

It’s a scary adventure, with even the best laid plans sometimes going a little wrong.

I’m off to BBC Broadcasting House to record a Podcast for Ouch.  I’m a Podcast virgin!  But Damon Rose was very reassuring.  It will be informal and it will be fun.  He convinced me….  in fact, he couldn’t shut me up once we started to talk about weight loss!

I needn’t have worried.  At all.  It seemed that all the helpful people in the UK were accompanying me on my journey to London.  Wherever I was, so were those wonderful helpful people.  And I’m not being sarcastic either!  Firstly a lovely passer by at Reading Station noticed me lurking by the self-service ticket machine and offered to help me get my ticket.  Fantastic, as the area covered by a vicious plastic flap where the tickets are dispensed to is about the same depth as my arm.  In fact anyone seeing me trying to get my ticket out of the machine probably thinks my arm has been amputated by the flap in the process as I dip into the recess to shoulder level.

As I’d been stuck on an earlier train to the one I’d booked assistance for, I arrived earlier into Paddington.  There was no ramp waiting.  Two or three very helpful people (passengers on the train) went off to search for platform personnel.  One thing I notice when I am stuck on a train with no means of alighting to the platform some four foot below is that other passengers tend to get a lot more panicked than I do.  After all, I’m at Paddington, the end of the track with no where else to go.

Having said that, I was almost returned to the depot once with the train, but luckily the train driver spotted me as he exited the train.

Another helpful lady offered to help me as I juggled a rather large banana, a bottle of water and my purse.  The aim was to end up with them all inside my bag, but I rather fear it looked as though I was struggling!  A lot!!

I leave the station, pleased to be travelling by wheel, as the tannoy announces that the gates to the underground have been closed for Health and Safety purposes.  There are too many people in the station below us.

The journey to BBC Broadcasting House takes me about 35 minutes.  I had thought it would take me about 15 minutes, travelling at top whack of 6mph.  But I didn’t take footpath hoggers walking three abreast and dragging trolley suitcases into account.  Or the lack of dropped kerbs.  Very frustrating when you have to tail back on yourself having reached the end of a pavement that is lacking one!

The people are great.  I’ve not met Simon Minty before, although I recognise his name.  Damon Rose, Rob Crossan and Kate Monaghan are welcoming.  The recording starts and it’s as if we are all just sat around a table in a pub chatting.

Afterwards I head to my next meeting, down Regent Street, across Piccadilly, through Green Park, across the Mall (where I time my crossing perfectly to witness the Trooping of the Colour) and then into St James’ Park.

I don’t need any more helpful people, I’m fine – just me on my tod, whizzing along the cobbled streets.

The barriers in our heads



Sometimes….. our biggest barriers to doing something we really need to do (but perhaps aren’t keen to do) are the excuses we find as to why we can’t do them, rather than finding the solutions to overcoming those barriers so that we can succeed.

Because of my disability, this is something I’ve had to do all my life – attending mainstream school, training as a secretary, working, getting married, living on my own, having a baby, etc, etc. So you would have thought that I would have this skill mastered by now!!

But on this particular issue (reducing the amount I ate and increasing my exercise) the barrier was somehow bigger than anything else I had had to deal with before. It had developed over many, many years to become the size of a small skyscraper.

As determined as I am to achieve things in life, I can also be as determined to IGNORE things that I don’t want to do or tackle…. or face. Fear of the unknown perhaps, and a real belief that I might fail.

So here is my message to all of you struggling out there.

You have to know from those of us who have lost weight successfully that it works. It really does. But you have to want it to work and you have to make it work. For this journey to succeed, you have to give it your all. Give it your all and you will be rewarded.

My WLR journey has so far lasted two years and three months. I started by logging and weighing food religiously. Just as the site prescribes. Slowly and surely I realised that I had been eating way too many calories and that my portion sizes were far too large for a small person of 4ft 9 inches who doesn’t move much at all.

Once this realisation had dawned on me and the weight started to drop, I was determined to complete this journey.

I lost 2 stone in a year. I then started (slowly and begrudgingly) to exercise. First swimming for an hour a week, and then kitting out my garage with some cheap bits of equipment and using them. My routine consists of treadmill walking, using a stepper, using the gym ball to do stretches and twists. Nothing that is too strenuous, but it gets my heart rate up, it gets me sweating and I am MOVING MORE whilst I am doing it. I started with 30 minutes (including warm up). Now I sometimes exercise for 2 hours three or four times a week.

I have just been speaking to a journalist and am going to be recording a Podcast for the BBC’s Disability “Ouch” website in London tomorrow: t.shtml

I am being asked to talk about disabled people and diet/exercise. Because us disabled people find it hard to lose weight and exercise, don’t we??? Grin

I was telling him about my journey and the various tools I have used to make it a successful journey (this website, logging food, portion control, calorie counting, 5:2 fasting, exercising, support from other people, recipe database, forum). These tools combine to help me along the way. But it is I who make them work for me and there is a little more to add into the mix.

But I realised that my best tool by far has been my willpower, which has slowly and steadily improved and increased. I have stopped finding excuses as to why I am overweight and why I can’t lose weight. I’m disabled aren’t I? I can’t exercise can I? I’m in too much pain, I haven’t the time, getting washed and dressed is exhausting enough.

ENOUGH!!! Enough of those excuses, enough of the pain. I have broken through the barrier of allowing these excuses from stopping me. Because they were just that. They were excuses.

It is harder for some of us for whatever reason. We’re busy, old, in pain, unable to exercise, have children, too short, have an illness, work too many hours……. BUT in fact if we have additional barriers, we just have to work at it harder than most.

It’s not impossible. I have proved that to myself. People who have known me for years have no choice but to believe it too. They’ve seen me go from 14 stone to under 10 stone. Reduce from a size 24 to a size 16.

It works.

BUT you have to work too. You just have to keep on working, keep on plodding along, not let one bad day or one calorific meal stop you in your tracks. Pick yourself up and just keep on plodding along.

You will get there. It will take months, it may take years. You may fall off the wagon completely for a time. And you will realise one day that this is a never ending journey. You will need to do what you learn to do on here FOREVER.

It will get easier. You will experience changes in the way you think about food, the way you deal with food. Food is a temptation and it will always be EVERYWHERE. You will need to learn a different way to act around food and a different way to think about the food you eat. You need to learn about mindful eating.

Stop making excuses for why you can’t do this. You can do it if you really want to. But you need to overcome those barriers that are inside your head.


Is obesity a disability?

The BBC today reports on the case of Karsten Kaltoft who weighs about 160kg (25 stone; 350 pounds) – a Danish childminder who says he was sacked for being too fat.

So now, the EU’s top court is considering a test case which could oblige employers to treat obesity as a disability.

As a disabled person who has managed to lose four stone and is reaping the benefits – the reduction in pain, the improved mobility, the improved level of fitness I find this a difficult case to have a particular view on.

But I know from the Forums on the website I use to assist me in my journey ( I know that for many, over eating is often to combat depression, anxiety and a number of other psychological conditions.

I am blessed with huge amounts of determination, as are both of my sisters.  So it is in my genes rather than being a “disabled” thing.

There is so much support for those people who want to stop smoking – smoking cessation programmes, medication, etc. 

We are seeing a huge increase in the number of clinically obese individuals.  In fact in May 2014, the BBC reported that international groups Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation are calling for the food industry to be regulated like the tobacco industry as obesity poses a greater global health risk than cigarettes.  This include things like pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity, similar to those on cigarette packets.

The National Obesity Forum believes there is a “serious risk” the current projection – that half of adults will be obese by 2050 – could be exceeded.

Something has to be done about the obesity crisis, but I’m not so sure that encouraging people to view being overweight as a “disability” is going to help those affected by obesity.

Chart showing rise in obesity and morbid obesity among adults