Prescription vegetables?

Hi wonderlanders!

I recently read an article in the British media about a possible future type of food tax in the UK. There was also discussion within the article about GP surgeries “prescribing” fruit and vegetables to families who could maybe not afford them or just did not have them in their children’s diets (as children and people on low income get their prescriptions free in the UK). In recent years, a “fizzy drink tax” was introduced (I believe it is actually called something like “the sugar levy”?) whereby fizzy drinks that contain sugar would be more expensive as the sugar would be more highly taxed. The idea of this was to help with the obesity issue in the UK by making sugar-free or diet drinks more attractive as they are cheaper but also to encourage companies to develop alternative recipes to keep their manufacturing costs lower. The next step appears to be increasing taxes on sugar and salt sold wholesale to food manufacturers. Again, the idea is to encourage companies to change their food formulas to make them healthier as it would be cheaper for them, with the knock-on effect that consumers will be eating healthier food.

Currently in the UK, processed and unhealthy foods (such as crisps, chocolate, chips, chicken nuggets, etc.) are cheaper than buying fresh fruit and vegetables (apparently). I must say, since I started eating healthily, my food bills have been higher than when I was just eating junk food all the time, even when I used to eat a higher volume of food than I do now. There are some ways around this, and that’s something I wanted to talk about in this post. I think that due to general education in the UK, although people may be taught about the virtues of fruit and vegetables, you aren’t really taught about how to incorporate them into your meals and daily life. So for those who are in lower-income environments, are very busy or who maybe didn’t benefit from being educated about this themselves, fruit and vegetables may not feature so highly in their meals.

Since my meals have started to feature higher amounts of fruit and vegetables (as I used to dodge them quite frequently as an adult!), I have thought about ways to both incorporate more veg but also to get fruit and vegetables more cheaply to help reduce my shopping bills.

Saving money on fruit and veg

There are a few ways to get fruit and veg more cheaply. One of the most general and probably obvious tips is to shop in cheaper places. Discounter supermarkets are good (e.g. Aldi and Lidl), but fruit and veg markets are also good for buying fruit and veg cheaply. Some towns/cities also have a “social food shop” whereby foods that are surplus from supermarkets are donated and you can buy these at heavily discounted prices. Its always worth a search online in case you have one in your area that you just hadn’t heard about. If you don’t have any of these options nearby, working out when supermarkets do their yellow-stickering (discounting foods that have a short-remaining life span) can be a good move. Some shops also have a “fruit and veg box” that has multiple items in for around £1.50 that have a short life-span. You may not be able to buy multiple days-worth of fruit and veg using this method, but it should be good for a day or two. It can also be a fun challenge to work out what you’ll eat based on what is available and encourages you to try different fruit and veg that you might not otherwise try. I’d also recommend becoming familiar with how fruit and veg looks when its “gone off” or “no longer edible”. I will generally use that as a marker of when to not eat it rather than it being after the “best before” or “use by” date.

If you want a bit more predictability and worry about fruit and veg going off too quickly, frozen and tinned veg are another cheap and good option. Usually, if you buy a bag of frozen veg, it will last a long time because you’ll generally have a larger quantity of it than if you’d bought it fresh. You also aren’t obliged to eat it within a set period of time so you can use it a bit more sensibly. After I recently bought fresh spinach to use in a recipe and then had a large quantity left to use up before it went off, I quickly got fed up of spinach! I now buy frozen spinach and just get blocks out of the freezer, as and when I need some spinach.

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, have even a tiny outdoor space and have a little cash to be able to pay for the initial outlay, growing some of your own could also be an option. Some fruits/veg (like strawberries or tomatoes) are easy to grow, you can grow in pots and they will also spread themselves, so even if you start with a small strawberry plant, it will soon multiply and spread so you’ll have lots of strawberry plants! It may be that you can only grow one or two things, and that’s fine, but if you have a small group of you (either friends or family), each of you could grow one or two different fruits/veg depending on your available space and available time commitment. You could then give each other your surplus that you’ve grown. Before you know it, you have a small community of people sharing fruit and veg that is sustainable and requires little/no ongoing costs once all set up.

There may not always be a community of people that are able to do this that you personally know, so an already-made version of this would be apps such as Olio. This is an app where people in your local area advertise their surplus food for free. It could be they accidentally bought more than they needed of something, but the idea overall is to reduce food waste by it going to someone who could use it. Similarly, community Facebook groups also often have similar features where someone will post that they have an excess of something and offering it out “free to a good home”. This can be with food but also other items.

Eating More Fruit and Veg

So you’ve worked out how to acquire your fruit and veg, but then you need to actually eat it. There are a few ways I have found to add more veg into meals without having to eat something completely different. One of the easiest ways is if you are already having something like a spaghetti bolognese, just cut up some veg into small pieces and add it in. Even if you have particularly fussy people to feed, if you chop it up small enough, they notice it far less. If you use vegetables that take on the flavour of the sauce, even better. I recommend adding diced courgette, or diced mushrooms in. If you don’t want too much additional prep and want to use frozen veg, this works too! Just throw in a couple of handfuls of frozen mixed veg and job done. This also works with chilli, although I’d more recommend something such as bell peppers (like red or green) although courgette also works here as, again, it takes on the flavour of the sauce. Making a sweet and sour? Put some bell peppers and mushrooms in there.

If you are having something you’d usually put with rice, spaghetti or noodles, there are veg alternatives. Now I’m not saying you should necessarily fully replace the carbs, but you could mix in some of the veg alternatives with the rice, spaghetti or noodles. This would also help the veg versions to go further, which means spending less 😉 What I’m talking about here, are things such as “Rainbow rice” (found in the veg section in Aldi or Asda) or “cauliflower rice” (found in Sainsburys. Often discounted if you’re buying it on the day), “courgetti” (spiralised courgette) or “boodles” (noodles made from butternut squash). If you don’t want to buy them ready-prepared, you could invest in a cheap spiraliser and make your own out of fresh courgette or butternut squash. There are also recipes out there for cauliflower rice. These all sound a bit outlandish, but if you mix them in with real spaghetti, rice or noodles, and eat them with something that has a flavourful sauce, they’re still good and have stealthily added veg to your diet! Going back to the frozen spinach, I’ve found it helpful to defrost a small block of it and add it in to my omelette mix. The flavour doesn’t really change, but it adds some veg in without any really extra effort and without changing the flavour.

Adding in fruit is more simple, I find. Putting your fruit in easier reach than your less healthy snacks is a good start, but also, you could be adding fruit to less healthy treats that you have already. If you’re a lover of ice-cream, a good one is to put less ice cream in your bowl than you would usually, and then top up the rest of the bowl with fruit. Its tasty, its more filling and its healthier. When I first started trying to eat more fruit, it was mainly by adding it to unhealthy foods. I’d have ice cream with chocolate and aerosol cream, but then I’d add banana to it. Now, for me, its a treat to have a large bowl of bananas and strawberries, with some light aerosol cream and a drizzle of skinny chocolate syrup on top. Its tasty and filling and feels like a treat. You can add fruit to your breakfast as well in a simple way. For example, if you usually eat porridge, add a banana or some defrosted frozen berries. You can also add these to Wheatabix, or have yoghurt, granola and fruit as a breakfast.

There are no doubt loads of other ways to add more fruit and veg in, but those were just some of my suggestions. For a lot of people, its about changing habits and the reason habits often don’t change is because it feels like a lot of effort, or people just don’t know where to start. Its often easier to just carry on as you’ve always done. I totally understand that as I’ve been there myself. It also can feel like too much if you’re on a tight budget and fruit and veg appears to be considerably more expensive than a bag of frozen chips. I’m not saying that the country needs to completely change its ways when it comes to preparing food at home, and I understand that everyone has their own challenges, but hopefully these ideas might help someone who is struggling for one reason or another just to make a small change. Well this has been a long entry! Woops! Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Product Review: Foamie Conditioner Bar

Brand: Foamie

Product type: Conditioner Bar

Variety: Dry Hair

Price: £6.99

About the Product: This is a bar that is supposed to take the place of liquid conditioner for your hair, which would usually be in a plastic bottle. The idea is that it should be more environmentally friendly as it reduces plastic waste and is smaller to transport, which reduces the impact of requiring as much fuel to transport them in bulk. As the bar is concentrated, it should last a long time and for many washes. It is also vegan and cruelty free.

My experience of using the product:

When I first removed the product from the box, it didn’t have an overpowering strong scent, but it was a pleasant one. The bar itself is curved in shape in order to better fit your hand and the shape of your head when using it. It also has a fabric loop on it so you can hang it to dry after using it, which is a handy feature, although I personally use either a soap dish or an old plastic tub to put my cosmetic bars on/in.

When you use the product, it certainly lives up to its name as it produces alot of foam, so I thought that it would probably do a decent job. Usually, I try to leave conditioners on for a while during my shower to allow them to work, however the instructions say to wash it straight off, which is what I did on the first use. I have to say that when I tried to finger-comb my hair in the shower afterwards (as I usually do after conditioning), I could not get my hand through my hair. There was a little bit of fall-out, as usually expected when I wash my hair (as it is thick and dense), but generally it was just hard to get my hand through it and it felt quite coarse. After my shower, I used a hair brush to try and de-tangle. This process was horrendous and painful. My brush was thick with hair that had been pulled out because the conditioner had left it very tangled. Generally after conditioning my hair, I still get some fall out on the brush, but nowhere near this much!

I expect that as a minimum, my conditioner should de-tangle my hair and make it manageable, as well as soft and hydrated. This was, by far, the worst conditioner I have ever used. To give it a fair trial, I tried it on 3 separate occasions and on the second 2, I tried leaving it in my hair for longer to see if this helped. It did not help, at all! My hair has been left drier than when I first started using it (which is quite something, considering this is supposed to be for dry hair!), more brittle, in horrible condition, un-manageable, and just plain awful. This bar will be relegated to a shave-bar instead as I think it will work reasonably well for that, considering how foamy it gets. I definitely would not recommend this product, its just awful. Perhaps it is just because of the thick and dense hair that I have that it didn’t work well on, but if it tangles my hair that badly and dries it out, I would dread to see what it does to thin hair.

Rating: 1/5

Link to the product:

FOAMIE Conditioner Bar, Aloe for Dry Hair, Plastic-Free, pH-Balanced, Soap-Free, No Sulphates or Parabens. Made in the UK. : Beauty

Its been a while…again…

Hi Wonderlanders, I don’t think I have blogged since about February maybe? I’m afraid that there’s no exciting explanation as to where I’ve been to be honest. In this time, I have sat down and tried to write on more than one occasion, but I haven’t actually finished any of the posts I’ve started writing. The reasons for that, I can’t really say. I just kind of got a bit deflated with it all and kind of started questioning why I was doing it. I decided to take a bit of time out from writing and have a think about if I wanted to continue blogging and if so, where I wanted to go with the blog. I have also been busy with my personal life and really got stuck in to the wildlife crafting. I’m not sure if its because we’ve been in lockdown so I’ve just sort of doubled down in my hermit-ing or if I would have been this quiet if there hadn’t been a lockdown. I’ve always been quite the anti-social hermit and enjoyed many activities that can be done solo, so I suppose its not that surprising that it was easy to just slip back into that. That’s not to say I have seen it as a negative, I have quite enjoyed getting stuck in with my crafting and whatnot, but its hard to say if my activity would have been the same if lockdown hadn’t happened.

Since I’ve been away, I’ve had many times where I’ve had ideas of what to blog about, and that has kind of nudged me back towards wanting to continue to blog. I think, as well, because life has changed so much over the past year or so, this has led to me changing and also changed how I think about things. The whole process of the pandemic itself and having been quite poorly during it have changed my mindset to an extent, but it probably also has something to do with me starting to advance through my early 30s. I’ve therefore considered what I might blog about, and this is something that I will be doing more in the future and trying to make these a bit more organised. I do have some ideas in mind for some new posts to write and these will be coming up soon, but I basically wanted to first explain my absence and the plan going forwards. Overall, I think there will mostly be lifestyle bits on this blog such as trying to complete more craft projects, upcycling and working on my environmental goals, as well as more around weight loss, general life events, and of course, adventures. I do still have my other blog on the go: The Unconventional Bride, which is about the wedding planning process if you are an alternative bride. There is another side blog I am considering, but if I decide to go ahead with that, I’ll post on here about it.

I think alot of bloggers or vloggers go through various stages of their process where they re-consider their content, refine their direction and have thoughts about if they want to continue with their content or not. For some, it happens sooner than others. I’ve had this blog for a few years now, so I think it was only natural. Anyway, this was a bit of a rambley post with no real content, but there will be some soon, which I am currently working on! Until then, stay wonderful 😉

Environmental goals

Hi wonderlanders!

I mentioned in my end of 2020 post that I have some goals around changes I’d like to make for 2021 in order to start reducing my waste and living more sustainably. Being totally honest, I am still very much learning about this and its something I became more conscious of over the last year. I’d like to consider the impact I have and to start making some basic changes to reduce this. I know that it will only have a small impact but any improvement is an improvement, that’s something that I have learnt. Over the last year, I already started to try and make changes so some of these have been done for a while. I started writing this post at the start of January but hadn’t got round to finishing it off and posting it, so in that time I have been able to add even more things that I’ve done! So, into the changes!

  1. Reducing food waste by doing things such as planning better to reduce my food waste. I’m still not great at this, but I’m trying to improve. Since being on Slimming World I was very much in the process of meal planning, but despite this, I still ended up with some wastage because I forgot about things. This is good for both sustainability but also for the budget! So I am now more conscious about planning around what I have in and what needs using up. To reduce food waste when shopping, I also try to shop for reduced veg that is at the end of its shelf-life to stop this from going to waste (again, it also helps the budget!)
  2. I’ve increased the amount I recycle, but I am also trying to reduce packaging too. One of the changes that I am making that will take some time is to reduce my single-use plastic by reducing and stopping my consumption of Pepsi Max (or the cheap supermarket equivalent I tend to drink). I used to go through a 2 litre bottle over the course of 1-2 days, and it would be pretty much the only thing I would drink, apart from some occasional water or green tea. In the past, I stopped drinking Pepsi Max cold-turkey and it was horrendous. I went through days of having headaches, being irritable and being unable to concentrate, so I decided to do it gradually this time. I started by cutting down to half a litre per day (usually a cup every morning). After I had used up the bottles I had in, I changed to drinking cans (1 can per day). Not only was this a slight reduction in quantity I was drinking, but it also meant changing to a more-recycled material as the container. I’m aware that the plastic wrap on the cans isn’t great either, but this was a start, and now the Aldi own brand version package in cardboard! My next stage of reduction was to try and only drink a can on alternating days and then gradually increase the days in between cans. To help with this, I also drink green tea (as this has caffeine) on days when I don’t drink Pepsi. I also increase the amount of water I have in the day to keep myself hydrated. I drink tap water, so that also means no single-use plastic.
  3. Reducing other plastics by using eco friendly laundry solutions. I switched to Smol laundry capsules. These are mail-order laundry capsules that come in a cardboard package. They are pretty reasonably priced and are delivered as part of your normal post, so using shipping routes already in existence. They work just as well as branded laundry capsules and are packaged in a way that takes up less space in the cupboard, bonus! I use Ecover fabric softener at the moment but I’m still early-days with looking in to this side of things. Ecover is really cheap, works just as well as any other fabric softener and smells great.
  4. Reusables! Now that I have used up pretty much all of the single-use food bags we had in, instead of buying more of these, I have invested in re-usable food bags. I have also invested in re-usable food covers and re-usable wax wrap. These can be used repeatedly so reduces the amount of single-use plastic I would be using. One of the main things to do when swapping to more sustainable methods (I have been told), is to use up what you already have first, and where possible, re-use things, so I ensured that when I finished with the items we had, I replaced them with reusables. There are loads of different brands that offer them and although you can’t always find them in supermarkets, you can buy them online or in places like Lakeland.
  5. Cosmetics in bar form. I’m currently using up the remains of my shampoo and conditioners (is it just me or does anyone else end up with little bits of left over shampoos and conditioners in bottles?!). I have so much more than I realised! Once I’ve finished with the current bits and pieces, I will swap to solid shampoo and conditioner bars. They come in cardboard packaging, which reduced the use of single-use plastic packaging. As they are smaller and easier to transport that also reduces the environmental impact of transport. I’ve already changed to a solid bar for my face wash. I’m trying out “Eco Warrior” and may do a review of it after I’ve used it for a while so that I can see if I get along with it. Some supermarkets now sell these in their cosmetic section, so they’re pretty accessible. I also have a couple of other bars to use (a shaving gel replacement and a body scrub) once I have used up the products I have (as they were on sale, so my thrifty self jumped on that one!)
  6. Reducing meat intake. To be honest, this is a very new one and a step I wasn’t sure I’d ever make if I’m being totally honest. Although I understand that it sounds very minor as a step, I am now only eating meat at tea time (or dinner time if that’s what you call your evening meal). In the past, I would always eat meat at lunchtime and it would be rare to not do this, so by not having this is actually a step in the direction of reduction and each small step is something, right? There is an environmental cost of raising livestock for food, which is something I am conscious of, and if I can reduce it a bit then that’s something. I’m not sure what direction this will take for the future, if it will reduce further etc., but its a start!
  7. Buying second hand as much as possible. This is something I have spoken about before, but where possible I buy clothes second hand either online or on charity shops. There’s a few reasons for this. One of the main ones was to make replacing my wardrobe cheaper through my weight loss journey, as I have to do this regularly while my body shape is changing and my clothes become too big. Another is that you are helping to raise money for some very worthwhile causes and of course, sustainability! By buying second hand you’re reducing clothes going to landfill and also reducing the amount of brand new clothes needing to be made (particularly with fast fashion brands). This doesn’t just have to stop at clothes, other things can also be bought second hand such as books, household items etc. which again, means less new items need to be made.

So those are the main changes I am making/have made to try to improve my sustainability. There are likely to be more over the course of the year and I will post some updates if there are any other big or interesting changes. I hope that’s given some ideas to others if they were looking for inspiration for their own goals for simple sustainability swaps/changes. Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Battling on

Hi Wonderlanders!

I decided to write a post about motivation as this time of year, people (myself included), start off the year with good intentions but the motivation quickly slips away. So I thought I’d write about staying motivated. I am writing about weight-loss because it is one of my biggest fights and has been for some time, and over the last year in particular, my motivation has been very up and down. Some of these can be adapted for other goals as well, and I have tried to do that to keep me motivated for the other things I want to achieve. So here we go…

  1. Don’t try to conquer the world in 1 day. It just doesn’t work. I took some time off from weight loss over Christmas and my eating habits reverted back to being fairly terrible for about a week or so. When I decided to draw the line and go back on plan, I had a few days that I could class as “false starts”, where I’d start the day with good intentions and on plan, but by the end of the day, I was back off plan again. When that happens, you can either look on yourself as having failed and being a bit rubbish, or you can think that “at least I was less terrible than yesterday”. I chose the latter. Having a couple of days with that mindset of “I’m not being perfect, but I’m better than I was yesterday” meant that I could have a few more days, guilt free, but still not binging, and I am now back to being 100% on plan.
  2. Why am I doing this? Having a few off-plan days actually helped me to remember this. I noticed that I felt physically rubbish when I was eating rubbish. I was bloated all the time, I felt uncomfortable and at the back of my mind, I was thinking about all the progress that I was undoing. On top of that, I noticed the return of the heartburn which I hadn’t really had for a long time. One of the reasons I wanted to lose weight was for my health but there were also aesthetic reasons. I hated the way I looked and how that made me feel, as well as the way clothes looked on me. This point will also link in with some of the others.
  3. Having goal clothes/wish lists. I have found this to be quite motivational for weight loss. While I am in the process of losing weight, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on nice clothes because I will just end up too thin for them (hopefully). As I have a goal weight in mind and that I still have a way to go, I know that I will be needing smaller clothes when I succeed. When I’m getting close to being the next size down and my current clothes are a bit too baggy, I buy the clothes in the next size down and use that as a means of measuring progress. When I fit in to the smaller clothes, it feels like an achievement. I use mainly trousers for this as I rarely buy tops at the moment as I like them baggy. This helps me to stay on plan, as I’m regularly achieving something that is not purely down to weight. I also have a whole list of clothes I want to buy when I reach my final target. Whenever I see something nice, I put it on a wish list to think that “I could pull this off once I reach my goal”.
  4. Having progress photos. Something I noticed when I started dieting was that I had very few “before” photos because I hated how I looked, but the few that I did are pretty unflattering. Once I started making some progress, I compared how I looked before to how I looked after making some progress. I found it very motivational because it showed how far I had come. I could see the difference, visibly and that I was actually making progress, even at times where I felt I was stuck. Although I haven’t had any events to have photos from, I have tried to take progress photos just in my own home every now and then. It gives me a bit of a boost.
  5. Thinking about all the positives of the changes. This is similar to thinking about why you are doing it, but this is all about what are the good things you’ve got from it so far. For me, its about feeling less bloated and uncomfortable, feeling gradually better about myself and having less heartburn. Like I said previously, just having a week off plan and then coming back on plan has made me feel better and reminded me of the positives.

Well, those are some of my motivational tools, I hope they help others with feeling more motivated and positive about their own goals when motivation starts to wither. Good luck with your goals and until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Obligatory end of year post

Good evening wonderlanders!

Its the end of 2020 and of course, its time to celebrate the fact that its over, because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? I generally do a “year in review” post anyway, not that there is much to review this year. Although I have shared some of my low points with you all, there are a large number that I haven’t shared due to them being far too personal (and that isn’t going to change, to be honest. I have my limits) Suffice to say, there have been more lows than highs this year. This post will also be relatively short, given the lack of interesting things that have occurred this year.

The year started out alright actually. We managed to get in a couple of gigs before the plague hit the UK properly. In February I saw Dir En Grey (I did start to write a post on the gig, but haven’t actually completed it. I may yet…), and also a joint gig with Apocalyptica and Sabaton (and discovered that I enjoy Amaranthe while I was at it as they were supporting). That was also my only trip to London this year (sadly) and I have dearly missed my friends in that part of the country. Despite not being able to see friends and family a lot of this year, we have done things such as online meet-ups and video calls and when get-togethers have been allowed, we have tried to do these at times. I was able to have a hen do, despite our wedding needing to be postponed to next year, and even if it proved we are all out of practice when it comes to socialising (as we all ended up tired very quickly), I think it was definitely needed.

Regular readers will know that I caught Covid at the start of April and was quite unwell. I also ended up with pneumonia and have since been enjoying (?) life with post-covid syndrome (I believe that’s what they’re referring to it as these days. Its also been known as “long Covid” and “post-covid fatigue”). Where I stand with it all at the moment is that I still experience fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, short-term memory loss, aphasia and muscle aches. I have had lung function testing recently and awaiting a chest CT, following which I will hopefully have my results from both sets of tests to see if there is any more permanent damage to my lungs, or if I just have to wait for post-covid syndrome to go away at some point by itself.

Despite all of the lockdowns and not being able to attend events and gigs, having to postpone the wedding and not being able to see friends and family, I haven’t minded it too much. As someone who is very introverted, I have been making the most of the time to read, play on my Switch and get some crafting in. Although I may not have lost as much weight as I was hoping to this year, I am still leaving the year about a stone lighter than I entered it. To me, that’s quite a positive, and I am very focused for next year.

I’m not so optimistic that I think 2021 will be amazing, and I’m fairly sure that the first 6 months will still be terrible, but I think that there are positives still to be had. I have goals and I am optimistic that they are achievable, such as hitting my target weight by June (which means about 1 pound per week, but with some wiggle room for no losses some weeks etc.). I’m also gradually trying to be more conscious of sustainability, using less plastics and less waste in general. Although I won’t be perfect, I am trying to make small changes to improve (which I might do a post about in the near future). I’m also trying to increase the time I spend on hobbies that I used to really enjoy but haven’t had the energy to do this year. I’m not going to set myself any huge goals because I don’t know how the year is going to pan out and setting myself up for potential failure isn’t very motivational.

Going in to 2021, I hope that everyone is kind to themselves and doesn’t class 2020 as a total write-off (there will be some positives somewhere if you look, even if its exceptionally difficult to see them). I hope that wherever you are, whatever you are doing that you have a happy and healthy 2021, and look for the positives in the year ahead. I will still continue to sporadically provide content, in the hopes that at least someone reads my ramblings and enjoys the experience. Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

My complicated relationship with food

Hi wonderlanders!

I know that I have talked alot about my weight loss journey on here and revelations that have come through this, but I don’t recall if I ever talked about how I got to this point in the first place, and at least not in any depth. I thought it may help others if they also have (or have had) a complicated/dodgy/terrible relationship with food. Not only that, when I have spoken to people around me about the types of food I used to eat and in what quantities, they have sometimes been entertained, shocked or in some cases, downright disturbed. So I thought I’d share with you lovely people too.

To really think about where my issues with food originated, I think we need to fully rewind to little Alice. As a child/teenager, I used to be able to eat anything I wanted and I never gained any weight. I think part of this was to do with me being such an active little sprog, but also I always enjoyed being busy. I think I was also just really lucky with my metabolism. At home, I was always fed hearty, good meals and easily devoured them, but we weren’t much of a household for having puddings (unless it was on a Sunday or special occasion). Fruit was always available and I was actively encouraged to eat it. My own choices with regards food and my large appetite probably did not bode well. At the time though, I never gained weight, and I think that is what lured me into a false sense of security. My food choices in school were along these lines: chocolate poptarts for breakfast (or sometimes leftover cheesecake or other pudding if it was a Monday morning), several chocolate bars and sweets throughout the day, 2 rib burgers or chips or pizza at lunch and more crisps and chocolate on top of that. Although salads were available to buy at school for lunch, they were never my “go to” because, I was a teenager, and pizza was available! This pretty much continued through my teens and in to college. For example, at college I would often buy a full cooked breakfast, several lots of chocolate, crisps and sweets throughout the day, cream cakes, a jacket potato covered in cheese and beans at lunch, hot chocolate with whipped cream etc. I had a part-time job in town on the weekends. My meals on a Saturday would consist of 2 pizza slices for breakfast, chocolate and/or sweets on my break (and sometimes during my shift if I could sneak them), McDonalds for lunch and then Chinese take-away for dinner. Again, I’d re-iterate, I WASN’T GAINING WEIGHT.

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That all changed when I hit 18 and it kind of all went downhill from there. I was still eating stupid amounts of unhealthy foods like when I was a child, but now the weight started to creep on. I went away to uni and my diet just kind of took a nose dive. I used to eat continuously through my lectures and that would mainly be chocolate and sweets. Of course I now also had the alcohol consumption that often accompanies student life. I lived within short walking distance of supermarkets so suddenly, at 10pm I could just walk down the road and buy cake if I craved it (and often did). When I say I would often buy late-night cake, I mean I would go and buy a victoria sponge, wouldn’t cut it up, just pick it up and bite into it and just eat the whole thing. I would do that several times per week. I didn’t eat loads of take away (as many would probably assume), I did actually cook for myself. The problem was, this was often quick frozen food because although I knew how to cook, it was easier and quicker to use frozen foods because I didn’t like being in the kitchen for long due to some of the housemates I lived with. There would be some nights where I’d make up entire pints of angel delight and just drink it.

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Around this time I started to acknowledge I should probably cut down on the unhealthy foods because I was starting to gain weight gradually, but all of these attempts were pretty half-arsed and short-lived. My terrible eating habits continued through my professional life when I started to work full-time. Although I would generally take sandwiches or soup (or something along those lines) for lunch, I would still be eating things like pastries for breakfast and snacking on chocolate and crisps (although fruit occasionally got a look-in). I would sometimes buy lunch from the canteen and you could almost guarantee that it would be chips, or a jacket potato, or some other full cooked meal with a pudding afterwards. I would also often have a sausage sandwich for breakfast from one of the cafes. During my shifts, I’d also make trips to the vending machines for yet more chocolate, and could often be found buying a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows from the on-site Costa. In the evenings, even when I was having a full cooked meal and a pudding at work, I would still then cook a full meal for dinner. There would be some days where I’d eat chips more than once in a day. When I stopped working in a location with a canteen or vending machines, I would simply just take a load of snacks with me. I did, again, continue to make half-arsed, short-lived efforts to lose some weight because I was becoming more and more upset with my body size and shape. In one of my jobs I also had night-shifts to contend with and would often find myself devouring large bars of dairy milk and a few cans of Monster or Relentless around 3 or 4am, just to get me through my shift.

During some of this time I was also contending with completing a Masters part-time (alongside a full-time job, 2 part-time jobs, and multiple types of volunteering. Yes, I’m not sure how I did it either). Healthy eating was nowhere near the forefront of my mind when I was staying up until 3am to finish an essay, knowing I had to get up in 3 hours to go and do a 12 hour shift at work, followed by 3 hours of volunteering. It was excuses such as this that often led me to eating extremely badly and justifying these choices.

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Fast-forward a few years in to my current career. My eating habits continued to be terrible. I was stress-eating whenever I had deadlines at work or I would reward myself with food sometimes. Then it just became standard practice to eat an entire pack of Wispa bars in an evening, or if I was making a cheesecake to take to work, or a Korma, I’d just drink whatever double cream was left. As a snack, I’d drink an entire can of custard, or eat a can of rice pudding. One of my favourite snacks of all time was to chop up a banana, cover it in custard, spray cream over the top and crumble a flake over it. Sometimes I’d swap the custard for ice-cream. I’d eat that several times per week. While at work, I soon found myself eating an entire pack of Maryland cookies in the morning (after breakfast), eating a cooked lunch with a pudding, then eating a share bag of magic stars in the afternoon, going home and eating a cooked dinner. There may also have been other snacks during the day. At this point my weight was racking up rather quickly and I hated myself more and more for it, but I just didn’t have it in me to stop at that point. In order to turn yourself around from weight-gain it takes some real love and care for your own body, and asking someone who hates their body to want to take care of it, is kind of asking a lot.

I still made some vague attempts at losing weight or limiting myself but it just wasn’t working and led to me giving up frequently. I knew I desperately needed to change as I was approaching 30 and classified as obese at this point. It was shortly after my 30th birthday and I was having a conversation with a colleague who’d successfully lost weight and she explained Slimming World to me. She answered my questions and during that conversation I made the decision to do it. I pushed down all my feelings about being anxious going to a group where I didn’t know anyone, how it would be, would people in my life make fun of me for going (as I’ve often been mocked in the past for things I’ve thought about doing)? etc. and decided enough was enough and I had to try. I found a group and joined, and the rest is history. I believe I’ve written about how I found the group experience before and what I had expected compared to how it was, so I’ll leave that there.

I suppose the moral of the story is, everyone who decides to make a change is at a different point when they decide that they need to change their eating habits (if they do) and its not an easy change to make. Everyone has different motives and some people never break the cycle, simply because its easier to just keep going as we are, even if we know its bad and we may hate ourselves for it. Not everyone will feel they need to change and that’s fine too. What I’m saying is, if you reach your breaking point with food, whatever it is, even if you’ve tried so many times before, its still possible. Even if its scary and a lifelong habit, it can still be done. Being totally honest, I got pretty emotional at parts of this post because it was quite difficult to see all of my old habits and realise just how self-destructive I was being. It was also hard to think about my turning point and making that leap to join a group. I felt alot of mixed emotions writing this post. Although its positive to feel that I have come a long way and made so much progress in my weight loss journey (that for a long time, I thought I’d never manage), its still hard to think about the point I got to and how I got myself there. But, things are looking up and to end on a positive, I am still on track and pushing myself to keep going towards my goal. I hope this has helped others who may have had similar struggles. Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Skinny Bakery

No clever or witty title required here. Skinny Bakery, deserves its own unadulterated title.

Hi wonderlanders! I have an amazing discovery to share with you all, particularly those trying to trim down just in time to pile it back on for Christmas (or not, if you are particularly well-disciplined!). For a long time, I have seen Skinny Bakery advertised to me on Facebook and I have been mulling over for some time if I should bite the bullet (and the cake) and give them a go. All I can say is: “why did I wait???!!!!”

Skinny Bakery are a baked goods company that freshly bake and deliver to your door, small pots of cake “pearls” (although they also do donuts). When you check the Slimming World app, they give you the syn value PER POT, not per cake. Most of these pots are about 10 or 10.5 syns (or in the region of 40-50 calories or 2 syns per pearl, I believe). Now, I don’t have to tell anyone who’a been on a weight-loss journey that generally, low fat cake tends to be a bit….well….not cake…. These cake pearls on the other hand, actually taste and feel like actual cake!!! I ordered 6 flavours to try (one of them was for my partner. Sharing is caring); black forest (limited edition), chocolate, cookies and cream, cherry bakewell, chocolate and caramel and victoria. They have a wide range of flavours and also do seasonal flavours (they have gingerbread flavour at the moment). My top 3 flavours by far are definitely cherry bakewell (they taste just like a bakewell tart!), black forest and cookies and cream, but the other flavours are still pretty amazing.

The products are baked to order and delivered to you on a day of your choosing. They can keep for a few days either in the fridge or cupboard but are also freezable for up to 2 months (so you can buy in bulk ;)). There is a mininum spend and the pots are £2.99 per pot, but to be honest, for a treat that is low syn and tastes this good, I am more than willing to pay it! They do also offer a subscription box, selection boxes, hampers and gift vouchers.

Since I have tried these cakes, I have been preaching the good word of the Skinny Bakery to literally anyone that will listen (and several that probably were just too polite to back away slowly). I did, however, also encounter several people that had seen them advertised and not been too sure about ordering and are now considering it after my feverish ramblings. So maybe some good has come of this.

Long story short, Skinny Bakery now has at least one extra customer who will certainly be returning to bankrupt themelves buying all of the delicious little cakes, and hoarding them in some strange cake-dragon-type fashion.

Find them here and until next time, stay wonderful 😉

More food swaps

Good day wonderlanders!

I hope everyone is doing ok and surviving this delightful global trauma. I’ve recently been gradually trying to get back on top of everything that fell by the wayside whilst I was particularly poorly, even if I’m not fully back up to speed yet.

One of the things I have re-focussed with is my weight loss. Although I have not lost a great deal of weight this year, I can be safe in the knowledge that I am on track to leave 2020 at least slightly lighter than I entered it.

On my journey recently, I have decided to try and be somewhat more strict and add in a few days that Slimming World refer to as “SP days”. What that basically means is that you are more limited as to the types of food you can have on those days in order to give your weight loss a boost. Some of the things you can’t have are: rice, pasta (including spaghetti), potatoes etc. On these days I needed to be a bit more creative as to how I could have nice, filling meals that included all the right elements that I’d still enjoy and wouldn’t make me curse the day I ever first picked up and drank half a litre of double cream (my eating habits before Slimming World were nothing short of terrible and there are many reasons I ended up as heavy as I did!) I decided to try vegetable alternatives to these things. Yes, you heard right, hear me out though. When I first found out that butternut squash noodles, courgetti and cauliflower rice existed, it sounded pretty horrific, but I decided, with enough of the rest of the meal with it, I’m sure it can’t be that bad. With grim determination, I warmed up the butternut squash noodles to accompany my spag bol and my daily rationed amount of cheese, served it up on my plate and took a hesitant nibble. Whilst I will admit, on their own, they aren’t too flavourful, with the rest of my meal, it actually was pretty palletable. I would even go so far as to say that I would eat it again. I would also imagine that you could make the noodles more flavourful by adding some seasoning, although I found that the meal all together was still pretty damn tasty and filling too!

On to the second experiment, cauliflower rice. I paired this with some chilli (this wasn’t on an SP day, but I decided to experiment for future reference). I was somewhat dubious about this one as I had heard from fellow group members that it can be quite mushy. Also, cauliflower tends to not be particularly flavourful and I generally eat it with a healthy serving of gravy. Once more into the microwave (as both of these concoctions came in microwave bags), and the smell was certainly not particularly enticing. I pictured my poor gut dealing with a hearty helping of cauliflower AND chilli simultaneously and internally apologised to my digestive system. But, I was once again, pleasantly surprised. I feel that the chilli really did save the day with the flavouring (and of course, the cheese rations as I generally have cheese on my chilli) but I have also been given tips by someone in my group as to how to give it more flavour. Again, I would actually eat this again. It helped to make my meal more filling and although it wasn’t as firm as rice would be, it also wasn’t mushy.

I still very much want to try courgetti and another person in my group mentioned brocolli rice, which I’d also happily try. I’d say that although something may sound odd, until you give it a try, you never know. I wanted to be able to still eat meals I would enjoy on days when I am being more strict and this has given me the opportunity to do so. If you’re trying to get more veg into your diet, or trying to shave off a few pounds, these things could help, so just thought I’d share my experiences. Until next time, stay safe and always, stay wonderful 😉

I’ve been reading: Christina Henry

Hi Wonderlanders,

I decided to write a post about an author I have been reading a bit over the past couple of years. I may turn this into a bit of a series about authors if I find any others that I find myself reading regularly (hence the title, it may be called the “I’ve been reading” series). Yes, I do occasionally find time to read full novels in between all my manga reading, but I must say, I have a massively long reading list of books that are sat on my bookshelves waiting to be read (part of the problem with being a slow reader, having poor concentration and feeling as though hobbies need to be productive!). So without further a-waffle, Christina Henry!

I’m not going to start this with a bio or facts about the author, because this post is focused on the author’s works. I have read a number of Christina Henry’s novels and have found them to be very engaging. I was first drawn in by her book called “Alice” (yes, big surprise). It is a different take on Alice in Wonderland and follows Alice’s journey escaping from the asylum that is on fire, accompanied by “Hatcher”, another of the asylum’s patients. The story itself is a much darker re-imagining of the concept of Alice in Wonderland and although it doesn’t strictly follow the same story line, many of the characters are based on the originals but a version you may encounter in your worst nightmares. This is a gritty version of the story that is as far away from a “wonderland” as you can possibly imagine and the main story is set after Alice’s initial adventure to “wonderland”. There is gore a-plenty as Alice and Hatcher make their journey and this is definitely not a version of the tale that is suitable for children. There are two follow-up books in the Alice series, “Red Queen” and “Looking Glass”, which I’ve not yet read, but look forward to reading in the future.

Another of Henry’s tales is “The Mermaid” which takes on the story of P.T. Barnum’s Fiji Mermaid, following the mermaid’s life, first as a curious mermaid, becoming a fisherman’s wife when she ventured to the shore, to becoming a widow due to her unnaturally long life, becoming a museum exhibit and eventually escaping. There is a definite focus on a strong female character as “the mermaid” definitely doesn’t take shit from anyone. If she’s going to be an exhibit, she’d do so on her own terms, and make her own money. She eschewed all of the behaviours that were “proper” for a woman, including the expectation to wear lots of heavy and fancy clothes. This story includes such depth of character and excellent descriptions that make it easy to become lost in the story and the imagery, and I found myself progressing through the story at quite a pace.

“The Girl in Red” I was able to listen to as an audio book. I found this to be rather valuable when I was still quite ill with Covid, unable to sleep and couldn’t focus enough to read. Another very involving story based on Little Red Riding Hood. This was a thoroughly modernised version of a harrowing trip to get to grandma’s house in a world where some type of “virus” and “species” has been unleashed (yes, I saw the irony of the situation, especially as the “virus” started with a cough…). It even takes on the issue of racism with racist gangs wiping out certain parts of the population under the guise of controlling the outbreak. With the military trying to round up survivors to take them to camps, and gangs of survivors taking the law into their own hands, its a matter of knowing how to survive. The story focuses on Red, a young woman who was the only one in her family who had taken the precautions to prepare for the situation that she predicted unfolding and meeting other characters along the way. Definitely a very current and fitting story, as much as it was kind of topical, I still found it to be an enjoyable escape.

I’m currently working my way through “The Lost Boy”, which takes on Peter Pan and his lost boys from the perspective of one of his lost boys. Peter, who has his own island and abducts boys from the main land who are orphaned and would otherwise be living on the streets, with promises of adventure and living forever young. But what happens when you put a group of “lost boys” together with the promise of never having to grow up? Lets just say, it goes about as well as you can expect. I’m really enjoying this one and looking forward to seeing how it all concludes.

Henry has a number of other books with different types of story, but I have been enjoying the “re-imagining” style books that I have read so far and am looking forward to reading more of her works in the future. I thoroughly recommend checking out her work if you enjoy a somewhat twisted, gory and gritty take on so-called light-hearted stories, fantasy or fairy tales. Until next time, enjoy your reading, take care and of course, stay wonderful 😉