This time last year I decided I needed to make a few changes in my life. I (voluntarily) said goodbye to a career in financial services that had spanned 36 years. While I was mulling over what to do in the future I decided to try and get in shape now that I had the time and also because it was now or never! For the previous 2 years I had begun swimming 2/3 mornings a week in Belvedere College, Great Denmark St where great Masters training sessions open to the public are run every morning by Tony Morris. While I felt I was reasonably aerobically fit I wanted to try and see if I could become fitter and stronger (despite my age!) and lose some of that excess around my midriff!
I arranged a consultation with Personal Trainer, Eoghan Drumgoole in my local gym, TheEdge, Clontarf), and started doing personal training sessions twice a week with him in addition to my swimming. These sessions also included lots of nutritional advice and while I was a bit nervous and intimidated in the gym at first, this disappeared quickly after a few weeks when I started to see results. I learned that eating right was 98% of the battle and that protein and healthy fats were my friends. Weight training became my other best friend. I think many people, myself included (before I began this journey), equate someone going to a personal trainer as someone who is vain and has money to burn. It is actually the complete opposite. Investing in your health and a better you is time and money that is never wasted.
With lots of advice and encouragement from Eoghan, I made a number of changes to my diet. I was a bit sceptical at first as Eoghan was recommending that I eat more, particularly more protein and more fat!! Throughout this process I learned so much from him about the difference between good and bad fats and that fat is not something to be afraid of. As a result of these changes I have lost almost a stone in weight, gone from a size 12 to a size 10, and my body fat which was 27% when I started is now 15%. I feel great, fitter, stronger and am swimming faster in the pool as well.
If you are reading this article you will know that I absolutely love food and love cooking which is why I started this blog. I don’t do diets! I never really ate much processed food and / or fast food so eliminating this from my diet was no hardship. The changes I made were gradual which made them easy to incorporate into what is now a lifestyle rather than a diet. I am never hungry!! A number of people have been asking me about the kind of food I eat so I decided to put this article together on what has worked for me. Bear in mind when you are reading this that I follow the 80/20 rule so for example, I nearly always bake or make dessert at the weekend and I will always have some. I also love eating out and have whatever I fancy on the menu, the one trade-off I make however is that if I have wine I tend not to have dessert.
I have also used the App ‘My Fitness Pal’ to help keep me on track and understand the proportions of fat, carbs and protein I was eating on a daily basis. I also found Derval O’Rourke’s cookbook “Food for the Fast Lane” very useful and full of practical healthy recipes.
The main things that I did were:
- Cut out refined sugar i.e. no biscuits or sweets etc. I found this difficult at the start but it got much easier. If I feel I want something with a cup of tea or coffee I have 2 squares of dark chocolate(74% ). I use honey or agave syrup to sweeten things now if I need to.
- Cut out bread, pasta, rice and potatoes replacing them with sweet potatoes and lots more vegetables. This was much easier than I thought it would be and I feel so much better as a result. PS – If cook a roast dinner though I will definitely have some roast potatoes!
- Always eat a good breakfast – I nearly always have eggs in some shape or form. On the days that I swim I have 2 poached eggs and 2 grilled rashers afterwards. I thought I would miss bread at breakfast time but once I have eggs I feel full and I don’t miss it.
- Drink green tea at breakfast (kickstarts my metabolism)
- Eat some protein at every meal ( I feel fuller)
- Have a healthy snack mid morning and mid afternoon(stops me getting hungry)
- Eat much more fat i.e. healthy fats e.g. avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil and nut butters (where is the hardship in that!)
- Eat green veg or salad with lunch and dinner every day e.g. salad, kale, spinach, broccoli, green beans.
- Drink lots of water – a minimum 2 litres per day
- Cut down on wine – instead of 3 glasses per night at the weekend I now have 2 glasses on 2 nights (hard at first but feel so much better the next morning, so worth it, most of the time!)
Below are typical breakfasts, lunches & dinners.
Poached eggs and bacon
Poached eggs with smoked salmon and avocado
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
Scrambled eggs with baby spinach
Smoked Salmon, avocado plus few cashew nuts
Poached egg, parma ham and avocado
Porridge with cinnamon, no sugar
Quinoa salad incl greens / avocado / seeds
Tinned tuna / salmon with salad or kale salad
Tinned salmon salad incl greens / avocado / seeds
Cooked chicken salad, with quinoa
Omelette or frittata if haven’t had eggs for breakfast
Soup – spinach, kale, butternut squash
Mixed salad with cheese (goat’s cheese, halloumi or feta) or parma ham
Smoothie – kale and / or spinach with mango
2 rice cakes with nut butter
Smoked salmon & cucumber on rice cake
Sliced apple and a few almonds
Greek yogurt with berries / honey
Steak with salad or wilted spinach, sweet potato, onions sautéed in coconut oil
Beef burger (homemade with lean mince and egg), sautéed onions, sweet potato wedges Turkey burger*(homemade with herbs, onion and egg) with veg, sweet potato wedges/mash
Chicken breast with honey & mustard (oven baked), green beans, spinach and salad
Grilled salmon / other fish with green veg
Roast dinner, 1 or 2 small roast potatoes, veg, small portion stuffing and gravy
Chilli con carne using lean mince (no rice)
Chicken coconut milk curry(no rice)
Lamb chops, green veg, 1 new potato
Loin of Bacon(boiled) with cabbage and sweet potato
Stir Fry with chicken, peppers, onions, spinach, cashew nuts, mushrooms.