Modifying behaviour around food and its consumption

Screenshot 2020-01-09 at 16.54.08I realised quite a few years into my journey to think about lifestyle changes rather than “being on a diet”.

That lifestyle change will need to happen a bit at a time and will involve many things : changing your behaviour around food, portion control, identifying emotional eating triggers, increasing your activity levels, trying new foods, making healthy food swaps, etc.

Commitment to diet/lifestyle change and resistance to temptation doesn’t just happen! It has to be worked at.

The only way I have succeeded this time is to change how I approach food and eating it. I have learned to resist temptation! BUT please believe that this has taken a LOT of hard work and practice.

It’s about “normalising” or “modifying” behaviour around food… and I think that with enough “practice” it becomes more and more easy until you get to the point where a behaviour is modified to the point of it becoming the only way.

I am sure that even some people who are not over weight do sometimes over indulge – but the fact is they don’t do it very often…

Those of us who are over weight have been used to “treating” ourselves, eating portions that are too large, eating the things that we know are calorific because we can.

It’s been a combination of changing all of those aspects of how I behave around food that has meant I have been successful this time.Screenshot 2020-01-09 at 16.54.37

I have developed a respect for the food I eat. Not everyone has the ability to eat as well as we in the western world eat. We should not abuse the privilege.

I rarely eat “on the hoof” any more, I rarely eat between meals. I take time to sit at a table and present my meals nicely. I take a moment or two to really look at my plate of food before I pick up my knife and fork.

Almost daily I say to myself “Aren’t we lucky to be able to enjoy such lovely food”. I really mean that too, I am not saying it for anyones benefit, but acknowledging how priviledgedwe are in a country where food and food choices are a plenty. We should never take for granted having easy access to delicious food stuffs and our ability and love of cooking.

Logging food – keeping track of how many calories some favourite “treats” contain means that after a while they stay in your head (medium egg = 70 cals, slice of white bread 100 cals, meringue nest 57 cals, 30g/matchbox size of Cheddar, 122 cals)

I do have sweet treats/chocolate, but I buy my own choice, so things like 2 finger Kitkat, single finger Twix, Club biscuit… these are all around 100 calories. I keep them in a tin and I can have one whenever I want to, but they are occasional treats – and they are always logged into my diary.

Without keeping a log of what you are eating and the calories foods contain, then it’s a bit like trying to travel from one place to another without a map. You may get there eventually BUT it’s likely to take you much longer than if you planned the route and used a map PLUS you might take a few wrong turnings and end up going back on yourself or even getting completely lost.

I have also learned not to plan each trip out of the house to include food. Once upon a time, I’d have included lunch with a trip into town, coffee and cake with a visit to the garden centre.

I now plan or even prepare a meal BEFORE I go out (usually a salad) so that I know exactly what I can eat as soon as I walk into the door… and don’t turn to “what I fancy” (usually high calorie carbs that don’t keep you full for very long…)

Make a list of the reasons WHY you want to lose weight. Keep it somewhere safe (stuck to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door?) and look at it from time to time, especially when you are raiding the kitchen for treats!

I always ask myself before eating something really calorific “Do I really want to eat this thing more than I want to lose weight this week?”. It’s called “mindful eating” – being aware of why you are considering eating – real hunger? Boredom? Temptation? Feeling fed up?

Have a glass of water, wait 5 minutes and consider whether you still want the food. Once it’s been snaffled down, it’s too late and you may end up feeling cross and angry with yourself….

….and that feeling (guilt, failure) lasts for a long time, much longer than the temporary enjoyment of whatever treat you ate….

Oh, and I always remind myself how good the feeling is of seeing a loss on the scales at my weekly weigh in! That wonderful feeling lasts for days! Don’t forget how that feels – you need to remind yourself of that feeling next time temptation strikes!

I’m healthier and fitter now at the age of 57 than I was 20 years ago…..

I am writing this as someone who had struggled all of my life (since the age of 9) to lose weight.  I have a significant disability that affects my mobility – use a wheelchair outside of the house.  I am also very short (4ft 8”).  It wasn’t until the age of 49 when I started to log everything and kept track of the calories I was consuming that the truth hit me between the eyes.  I was eating FAR TOO MUCH for a short sedentary person.  I changed my whole approach to food and eating it that everything else clicked into place 🙂

Just wished I’d found what worked for me years ago.

Healthy dinner – 531 calories

IMG_3801After the excess snacking of Christmas, it’s nice to get back to “normal”

A 100g salmon fillet (196 cals), brushed with a little avocado oil (24 cals) and topped with cajun spice (9 cals).

A third of a rice/grains pouch – lime and herb (112 cals)

Shredded spring greens (9 cals)

Roasted butternut squash (94 cals)

Stir-fried yellow pepper, red onion and mushrooms (using 4ml of olive oil) – 87 cals

Protein (g) 31.6

Carbohydrate (g) 43.6

Fat (g) 26.2

Fruit & Veg 5.3

Fibre (g) 8.4

Cheese Scones – 106 calories each

FullSizeRenderI decided to make these today – baking isn’t usually my thing. But a friend makes them regularly and they make a great portable snack or meal if you’re on the go. The reason why there are three different cheeses is because I was using up scraps from the cheese dish! :-) But any sort of cheese will do, the stronger the better. A little of a strong flavoured strong cheese means you can get away with using less of it.

To avoid temptation, I tried one (buttered) whilst just warm and out of the oven but have frozen the remainder.

Cheese Scones – 106 calories each

Preparation Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 12-15 mins


Calories per serving:106


Baking Powder -15g

Self Raising Flour -220g

Salt, Average-2g

Extra Mature Cheddar

Cheese, Manchego-60g

Hard Goats Cheese -30g

Cayenne Pepper -¼ Tsp/0.5g

Milk, Semi Skimmed – 150ml

Butter -55g


1. Preheat oven with the lined baking tray inside to 200.C (slightly less for fan ovens). In a medium-large bowl sift together the flour, salt, cayenne pepper and baking powder. Sift again to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

2. Cut the butter into small cubes, place in the bowl with the sifted flour and then mix with your fingertips to make breadcrumbs.

3. Sprinkle the grated cheese (keeping back about 20g for sprinkling on top) into the breadcrumb mixture and mix gently until the cheese is evenly distributed.

4. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in enough milk to give a fairly soft but firm dough. Do not pour in all the milk at once as you may not need it all to get the right consistency.

5. Lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough to approximately 1.5-2cm thick. Cut out the scones with a medium cutter and then place on the hot oven tray. Glaze the tops with a little milk and sprinkle the remainder of the grated cheese on the top of each scone before putting in the oven.

6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 106.0

Protein (g) 3.5

Carbohydrate (g) 10.2

Fat (g) 5.7

Fibre (g) 0.4

Roast aubergines with soured cream & harissa – 141 calories

IMG_3788Roasted aubergines with soured cream & harissa

Preparation Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 45 mins

Serves: 2

Calories per serving: 141.5


1 x Raw Aubergine -355g

Avocado Oil -15ml

Butter -7g

Harissa Paste -5g

Sesame Seeds -½ Tsp/1g

Soured Cream – 25ml


Heat the oven to 200C/190C fan/gas 6.

Remove the stalk from the aubergine, cut in half lengthwise.

Score the flesh into small diamonds, being careful not to break through the ski.

Place the halves cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Brush with the Avocado oil.

Place dish into oven. Roast for about 40-45 mins, or until the aubergines are completely tender and golden brown.

Soften the butter in a small bowl, add the harissa paste and mash together.

When the aubergines are cooked, put them on a warm platter and season the inside of each one with the harissa/butter.

Spoon soured cream onto each aubergine half, then scatter over the sesame seeds to serve.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 141

Protein (g) 2.0

Carbohydrate (g) 4.5

Fat (g) 13

Fruit & Veg 2.3

Fibre (g)3.5

This was really tasty and filling! I enjoyed it with a portion of stir fried cabbage and leek (74 cals), a half portion of butternut squash roasted in olive oil with paprika (95 cals) and a tuna steak pan fried in 1 tsp of olive oil with a pinch of Greek fish seasoning (143 cals).

Whole meal was therefore 453 calories.

Harissa is a classic North African hot chilli, tomato and garlic based paste to mix-in, spread on or coat and cook. Traditionally used across Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco to add heat and flavour to stews, soups and tagines.

(You can make your own – but I buy mine ready-made and keep it in the fridge.  You don’t need very much for a fiery kick!)





Stir-fried cabbage and leek – 74 calories a portion

A good crop of Savoy cabbage

Today I ventured into the garden and decided that it was about time that I started to harvest our crop of Savoy cabbages. 

I realised that although stir fried cabbage and leek features often on my blog, I’ve never provided any information on it.

I use this combination often – at least once a week.  My stir-fried cabbage and leek replaces pasta or rice as an accompaniment to any meal that you’d usually eat with pasta, potato or rice.  Curry, bolognese, chilli-con carne – they all work well.

Much lower in calories and healthier.  Ideal if you are trying to reduce your consumption of processed carbohydrates.

Preparation Time:   20 mins

Cooking Time:  1 hr

Serves:  4 (generous portions)

Calories per serving:  74


Leeks, Raw, Trimmed – 230g

Savoy Cabbage – 400g

Olive Oil –  2 Tsps/10ml

Butter – 1 Thin Spread/7g


Trim, wash and finely slice the leek. I try to keep as much of the green leaf as I can.  I usually cut the leek along it’s length about 4/5 times and then slice along it’s length.  It you leave the root end on when doing this, it keeps everything much easier.

Finely slice the cabbage. Disregard the thick stalk, but any leaf stems provide a nice bit of additional crunch.

Melt the butter and oil in a large wok or frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced vegetables. Stir every few minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Don’t allow to brown.

Stir-fried cabbage and leek

Lower the heat (very low) and continue to cook for around a total of 40-60 minutes. If you want to, you can cover with a lid which will speed up the cooking process.

Cook slightly less if you prefer a crunchier texture.

You can replace the leek with onion – it works just as well.

This can be served in place of rice, pasta or noodles, as a vegetable side dish. I’ve also enjoyed it for breakfast with grilled bacon!  Lovely with shredded ham hock, loaded onto a warmed folded flatbread.  I’ve also had it with mussels!

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal)  74

Protein (g)  3.0

Carbohydrate (g)  5.5

Fat (g)  4.6

Fruit & Veg  2.1

Fibre (g)  4.2

Holiday exercise – worth the effort!

Just one of the magnificent sunsets

I’ve just returned from a very relaxing fortnight in Tenerife – somewhere that enjoys a warm sunny and dry climate virtually the whole year round.  It has a very obvious appeal to us at this time of year when the temperatures drop, the evenings draw in and the heavens open!

It is inevitable that I’ll eat more when I am away and move less.  When I am at home, I an stringent with logging all the food I eat and keeping tabs on my calories.  At home there is housework and daily chores.  I may not move far, but I move little and often.  At this time of year I’ll also spend hours at a time raking leaves in the back garden.  Our mature oak tree keeps me busy with my rake.

On holiday, I use my wheelchair more – the place we stay is at the top of a long hill.  I can be in my wheelchair for 2/3 hours a day, depending on what we are doing.  But I can also spend many hours sitting on a sun lounger and soaking up the rays whilst enjoying a good read.

I can usually expect to return home from this holiday having gained 7 – 10lbs.  This  year, I was determined to  try and minimise any gain, as I am determined to get to 9 stone at some point during the year.  My lowest weight was in 2014 when I saw 9st 3lbs on the scale.  Since then, I have bounced about a but with my weight, but never allowed it to creep above  around 10st 10lbs.

One of the things my sister (who accompanied me on the holiday) encouraged me to do was to take my gym ball, which can easily be inflated and deflated.  Of course, it also meant taking the foot pump.  I packed this non-essential item really not expecting to use it more than once or twice.

However, on the first morning of the holiday, I sat on the ball and carried out my regular routine of warm up stretches and then a 40-45 minute “bouncing” session, when I swing my arms wildly to music.  I can get my heart rate into my “peak” zone (above 140 bpm).  It was so lovely to be outside, watching the sun rise, listening to the birds and enjoying the idyllic surroundings.  I quickly realised that this was something that wasn’t a chore – I was on holiday with plenty of time to fit in my exercise and it really set me up for the day.  My stretches do help to limit my pain and keep everything flexible.  I concentrate on my neck and back.

I’ve just totted up the various numbers which I logged on my Fitbit:

I “bounced” 60,729 steps.  Earned 6,062 calories.  Spent a total of 17.5 hours of my holiday exercising.

What’s even better was that my weight gain for the fortnight was just 3.8lbs!  Incredible!

View out of the gym “window”
My “gym” for the week, getting myself warmed up

Spaghetti with spring greens, bacon and hazelnuts – 510 calories

IMG_3302I love using vegetables that are in season – cheap and at their very best! Spring greens all the way for me – I’ve washed, shredded and blanched three portions. This was how I used the remainder.

This could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon. It was delicious!

Spaghetti, spring greens with hazelnuts and bacon

Preparation Time:20 mins

Cooking Time:20 mins


Calories per serving:  510.7

How to toast and skin hazelnuts:   Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  In a baking pan toast hazelnuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly coloured and skins are blistered.

Wrap nuts in a clean tea towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that don’t come off) and cool completely.

To blanch the spring greens:   Remove ends and tough centre stems. Wash thoroughly in plenty of cold water.  Finely shred the leaves. Add to a saucepan of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes or until bright green. …

Transfer the vegetables to a bowl of iced water to refresh. This cools them quickly so they don’t continue to cook…. (I just place them in a colander and run under the cold water tap…)

Drain throughly. Don’t soak for more than 2-3 minutes or they may lose flavour.

and here is the recipe…..


Bacon, Lardons, Smoked – 25g

Cabbage, Spring Greens, blanched – 100g

Spaghetti, Whole Wheat, Dry Weight – 50g

Cheddar Cheese, Extra Mature, Average – 25g

Oil, Olive – 1 Tsp/5ml

Hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped – 15g


Wash and finely shred the spring greens. Cook the spaghetti as per the packet instructions and drain when cooked.

Bring a large pain of water to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and the greens to the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the chopped bacon/ lardons and fry for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring regularly, until the fat has melted and the bacon is crisp and golden-brown.

Add the cooked spring greens to the pan and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, or until wilted and coated in the fat. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped hazelnuts. Mix in the cooked spaghetti.

Sprinkle with the (grated) cheese and serve immediately.

Picture shows before the cheese was sprinkled on. If I were to change anything, I might suggest adding a spoonful of creme fraiche.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 510.7

Protein (g) 22.7

Carbohydrate (g) 33.8

Fat (g) 31.6

Fruit & Veg 1.3

Fibre (g) 8.2

Butternut squash, aubergine & barley salad with balsamic vinaigrette – 199 calories

IMG_3103 (1)Love, LOVE this salad. Eating it cold for a packed lunch tomorrow with some cubed Feta cheese!

Butternut squash, aubergine & barley salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Preparation Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 40 mins


Calories per serving: 199


Butternut Squash, raw – 550g

Olive Oil -13ml

Barley, Quick Cook – 100g

Tomatoes, Sun Dried (roughly chopped) – 65g

Pumpkin Seeds – 1 Tbsp/10g

Black pitted olives – 7 Olives/24.5g

Fresh Basil, chopped – 2 Tbsps/10g

Balsamic Vinegar – 2 Tbsps/30ml

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 15ml

Dijon Mustard – 1½ Tsps/7.5g

Garlic, Raw – 1 Clove/3g

Red Onions, Red – 148g

Capers, in Brine -1 Hpd Tsp/10g

Aubergine, Raw – 325g


Preparation: Peel and de-seed butternut squash and cut into 2cm cubes. Trim the top and bottom of the aubergine and cut into 2cm cubes. Peel and dice the red onion. Dice the sun dried tomatoes. Roughly chop the basil.

For the dressing

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Place the squash on a baking tray and toss with olive oil. Roast for 20 mins. After 20 mins, add the aubergine and diced onion, stir thoroughly and continue to roast for a further 30 minutes, stirring gently half way through the cooking time.

Meanwhile, boil the barley for about 25 mins in salted water until tender, but al dente.

While this is happening, whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Drain the barley, then tip it into a bowl and pour over the dressing. Add the black olives (halved), the drained capers and pumpkin seeds. Mix well and allow to cool.

This will keep for 3 days in the fridge and is delicious warm or cold.

Shown here served with 2 x chilli and lime skewers (113 cals) and 40g of broccoli (14 cals). Whole meal 326 calories.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 199

Protein (g) 4.4

Carbohydrate (g) 25.8

Fat (g) 8.5

Fruit & Veg 2.2

Fibre (g) 5.4

Butternut squash & barley salad with balsamic vinaigrette – 248 calories per portion

img_3067.jpgMade this – super simple and very tasty. We’re having it with a pan fried sea bass fillet and tender stem broccoli later :-)

Preparation Time:30 mins

Cooking Time:40 mins

Serves: 4

Calories per serving:247.7


Butternut Squash, Raw, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes -500g

Oil, Olive -1 Tbsp/15ml

Barley -100g

Tomatoes, Sun Dried, chopped -50g

Pumpkin Seeds -1 Tbsp/10g

Black pitted olives, halved -7 Olives/24.5g

Basil, Fresh -2 Tbsps/10g

Balsamic Vinegar -2 Tbsps/30ml

Olive Oil, Extra Virgin -2 Tsps/10ml

Dijon Mustard -1½ Tsps/7.5g

Garlic, Raw -1 Clove/3g

Red Onions -50g

Capers, in Brine -1 Hpd Tsp/10g


Preparation: Peel and de-seed butternut squash and cut into 2cm cubes. Peel and dice the red onion. Slice the sun dried tomatoes. Roughly chop the basil. Peel and finely dice garlic.

For the dressing

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

Place the squash on a baking tray and toss with olive oil. Roast for 20 mins. After 20 mins, stir thoroughly and then add the chopped onion. Continue to roast for a further 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the barley for about 25 mins in salted water until tender, but al dente.

While this is happening, whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Drain the barley, then tip it into a bowl and pour over the dressing. Mix well and let it cool.

Add the remaining ingredients (olives, capers, chopped basil, seeds) to the barley and mix well.

This will keep for 3 days in the fridge and is delicious warm or cold.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 247.7

Protein (g) 5.0

Carbohydrate (g) 31.7

Fat (g) 10.8

Fruit & Veg 1.8

Fibre (g) 5.5


Salmon fillet with a Parmesan and lemon crust – 278 calories

IMG_3052This was so easy and quick and very, very delicious. We’ll definitely be making it again!

Preparation Time: 5 mins

Cooking Time: 18 mins

Serves: 2

Calories per serving: 278


Salmon, Fillets, Raw, Skin-On (2 x 90g) – 190g

Butter, Salted – 8g

Cheese, Parmesan, finely grated – 15g

Lemon, Zest – 2 Tsps/4g

Breadcrumbs, Panko – 15g

Mustard, Dijon, Average- 6g

Dill, Dried, Average- ½ Tsp/0.5g

Oil, Olive, Average- 3ml

Preparation: Melt butter in microwave. Finely grate parmesan cheese. Zest half a lemon.


1   Heat oven to 200 degrees. Use oil to brush bottom of a Pyrex baking dish. Pat salmon dry with paper towel. Place salmon, skin side down, in dish; spread with the Dijon mustard.

2   Mix panko bread crumbs, cheese, lemon zest and dill with the melted butter. Press bread crumb mixture evenly on salmon.

3   Bake uncovered 15 to 25 minutes (I cooked for 18 mins) or until salmon flakes easily with fork. Serve immediately.

I served mine with some stir-fried cabbage and leek and half a pouch of brown rice with roasted vegetables.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 278

Protein (g) 21.8

Carbohydrate (g) 6.6

Fat (g)18.4

Fruit & Veg 0.0

Fibre (g) 0.2