Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Long Dog Cafe, Aberdeen

It's official, I have found THE BEST cafe in the whole of Aberdeen...

I met some blogger chums on Sunday for coffee and a catch up at The Long Dog Cafe. We had a good gossip and it was nice to see some new faces in amongst the familiar ones. There was lots of toasted scones, ultimate brownies and sticky toffee cake devoured by our group and I really enjoyed my minestrone soup for lunch! They also serve paninis, waffles, ice cream and an epic looking hot chocolate! All the staff were super friendly (and good looking!?) and made us feel at home, even when we pretty much took over the whole seating area. The cafe has only been open for a few months in the west end of Aberdeen but it seems to be popular with the locals, who brought their best friends along with them! Dogs are well catered for at The Long Dog Cafe. There's water bowls ready for them and they even got a few sneaky treats! You can actually buy locally made Wow Dog Bakery treats and pretty collars. We even got to meet Gavin the resident Dachshund in his little grey jumper, what a cutie!

Shout out to the Aberdeen blogger girls - AnastasiaAmeySarahSteffSarahJuliaIonaKaren, HannahKarlie and Ani! - Thanks for the company! :)

Friday, 15 January 2016

#IIFYM - What is flexible dieting?

#IIFYM = If it fits your macros.

You've probably seen the hashtag being pushed around instagram (guilty!) and maybe wondered what it's all about? It's a term made popular by the "flexible dieting" trend. For most people, the word diet conjures up images of sad women pushing a lonely lettuce leaf around a plate. Flexible dieting is the exact opposite of this! It's a phrase used to describe the process of losing weight (fat) by tracking macros and eating well, with no restrictions. No food is off limits, as long as it fits your macros! You can still enjoy all your favourite foods and a treat or two. Despite what some believe, it's not all peanut butter and donuts every single day! You can only get away with the peanut butter and the odd donut if you fill the majority of your macros with healthy, nutritious foods!

What are macros?

Macros = macronutrients. So protein, carbs and fats. All three are essential nutrients for the human body.

Protein - helps to repair damaged cells. Everything from your hard worked muscles to your skin, hair and fingernails! Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and pulses are all good sources.

Carbs - your body's main source of energy. Carbs have got a bad rep over the years but you really don't need to cut them out. Especially if you are active! Carbs are essential to fuel and refuel your body, just make sure you choose the right ones. Fruit and veg come under the carb bracket. Fill your plate with these first but some starchy carbs are good too - oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes are my favourite, and are obviously better options than white bread or pasta.

Fats - Also a source of energy, insulates our organs and helps keep everything ticking along nicely. Fat is also quite satiating, so including it in your diet should hopefully help reduce hunger pangs too! Nuts, cheese and avocado are just a few healthier choices.

Most foods are not 100% one macro. For example, one medium egg has 4.6g fat and 6.4g protein.

So, how do you work out your macros?

The amount of each nutrient you need will be different for each individual. It depends on your height, weight, activity levels and goals! There are varying opinions on how you should split your macros, but ultimately it's down to the individual, and a bit of trial and error. I'm not a fan of a low carb approach but some people swear by it. (Those people are wrong.)
You could do a load of sums to calculate your BMR and TDEE etc... Or save yourself the hassle and use Bodybuilding.com's Macro Calculator! Handy or what?

Every person is unique and the Bodybuilding calculator might not be absolutely perfect for everyone but it's a good starting point. For weight loss it tends to give a split of 40% carbs / 40% protein / 20% fat - try it out and readjust the numbers a bit if you hit a plateau, find what works best for you.

For my height, weight and activity level, the Bodybuilding.com calculator gives me 164g carbs, 164g protein and 36g fat per day to lose weight. To calculate how much calories that is, multiply the carb & protein amounts by 4 (there are 4 calories per 1g of these) and multiply the fat by 9 (9 calories per 1g fat).

For example, (164x4) + (164x4) + (36x9) = 1636 calories per day.

How do you track your macros?

The easiest and probably most popular way is to use My Fitness Pal. Go to Settings -> Goals -> Calorie & Macronutrient Goals. Update your calorie goal based on your results from the Bodybuilding Macro Calculator and the sum above! Then edit the percentages for each of the macronutrient goals. Your percentages obviously must add up to 100%. Logging into MFP on a computer actually gives you more options for editing your goals, so do this if it isn't working on the app!

Then just track everything you eat! And I mean everything. For best results, weigh everything and scan the barcodes to get the most accurate nutritional information for your food. You will soon find that choosing lots of healthier options will allow you to eat more, meet your macro targets and help you to reach your weight loss goals much faster! To check how well you're hitting those macros, scroll to the bottom of your diary and select the "Nutrition" button. It will show you your targets and actual amounts of each macro you've eaten and a handy pie chart version!

Personally I find it much easier to stay within my macros if I plan ahead. Every night I'll input any meals that I know for a fact I'll be eating, check what macros I have left and then pick my other meals and snacks based on that. Eg, tomorrow's lunch is turkey chilli with green beans and my tea will be salmon and sweet potato. That leaves me with 112g carbs, 97g protein and 16g fat. I'd fill that up with a breakfast of turkey bacon, tomatoes, spinach and baked beans, plus melon, grapes, a banana and a protein cookie for snacks! I adjust the amount of each food until I meet my macro goals as closely as I can. Then the next day all I have to do is weigh it out, cook it up and go!

Do you track your macros? Any tips you'd like to share? 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Lunch at Jamie's Italian, Aberdeen

The first week after New Year is always the hardest. It's long and boring, with no half days or exciting plans to look forward to. Everyone is detoxing. The weather is miserable. I'm pretty sure we only had about 2 hours of daylight in the whole week. When Saturday finally rolled around I was so excited for my day off and a lunch date with Gordon that even the Aberdeenshire floods couldn't stop me!

Jamie's Italian opened on Union Street in Aberdeen just a few years ago. They transformed two floors of the former Esslemont & Mackintosh department store into a bright and bustling restaurant, still retaining the original E&M branding and serving up lots of rustic Italian dishes - think anti pasti, meat platters, bruschetta and ALL of the pasta! I've been once before, with a group of bloggers when it first opened and really enjoyed my meal, but for some reason me and Gordon never really choose Italians when we go out for food so this was his first visit!

We're having a dry January so it was mocktail o'clock for me! The lychee spritzer was a perfect balance of sweet and bitter flavours. I might recreate it with vodka when January is over! Our waitress talked us through the ingredients and flavours of the specials while we browsed the menu and eventually decided what to go for. Our starters were served quickly and we wolfed them down in a flash. I had the spinach and ricotta croquettes with spicy arrabbiata sauce and Gordon had the crispy squid. Both dishes were really good and the presentation was impressive. Gordon was way too over excited about his squid having tentacles and everything! The lemon mayo helped to cool his mouth down after eating all the chillies in one go!

The service was a little slow between courses but our mains were worth the wait. He enjoyed the Italian steak frites with rainbow slaw, while I had "Jamie's favourite" - chicken cacciatore. I love that the nutritional information of each dish is easily accessible on the website. You can even select your dietery requirements and it'll show you your options! I was able to look ahead and find a healthy dish to fit my macros. Chicken cacciatore is basically chicken, veg and olives in a tomato sauce with a delicious slice of garlicky ciabatta and Parmesan. It comes in at only 378 calories, 41.8g protein, 17g carbs and 15.5g fat and tastes amazing! It's my new go to for eating out on plan that's for sure! 

(I'm hoping the recipe is in Jamie's new Everyday Super Food book that I just ordered too...)

Despite all that healthy eating and macro planning, we couldn't resist dessert. Molten chocolate praline pudding anyone? Yummy soft chocolate cake with an oozing praline centre, and salted caramel ice cream melting into it... oh my God. It didn't last two minutes between us!

We really enjoyed our lunch at Jamie's Italian in Aberdeen. Although the service was quite slow at times the staff were friendly and helpful, and the food more than made up for it. At least we weren't being rushed. It's not a problem if you're just out for a leisurely lunch like us but it could be an issue if you have somewhere to be. There are over 40 Jamie's Italians across the country and I'd highly recommend a visit. We'll probably head to the Glasgow restaurant when we're down next month!

Buon appetito!

*I was invited to dine at Jamie's Italian in exchange for an honest review. As always, all views are my own and 100% genuine.*

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Dear dieters...

Tomorrow is the first Monday of 2016. A new year usually signals the start of the health and fitness resolutionists - new year, new me and all that. As much as I moan about newbies hogging the lat pull down or standing in my spot at kettlebells, I actually don't mind. My own health and fitness journey started out as a New Year's resolution way back in 2010. Back then I couldn't imagine ever stepping foot in a gym, and even when I did I needed Gordon to hold my hand! Gyms can be a scary place. I try to remember and smile at newcomers, to make people feel welcome and comfortable and definitely not judged by my angry bitch face in the corner! I'm glad people are using the new year as an opportunity for positive change - a chance to create a healthier, happier version of themselves. 

What really grinds my gears though, is the way the diet industry cashes in on this time of year. People have made the decision to lose weight and more often than not they will look for the easiest and fastest route to their goal. I actually saw a comment on Facebook today that said "Roll on the starvation and hunger pains!", or something along those lines. I think it was meant to be motivational to the other people in the conversation! 

Here's the thing... THERE IS NO MAGIC PILL AND YOU DO NOT NEED TO STARVE! Forget your juices and your shakes, your fat burners, your point counting and your carb banning. I can't understand why anyone would choose to punish themselves like that. Forget the diets! I've gone from a size 16 to a size 10 and never been on a "diet" in my life. You've probably gained a few lbs over the festive period, we all do. I have. The thing is, most people don't eat the same way in December as they do the rest of the year. First things first, get back into your usual routine. This will more than likely get you back down to your pre-Christmas weight! Maybe not straight away, but in a month or 2 - it's never going to happen overnight.

If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done!

If you're unhappy with the weight you were pre-Christmas, assess what you can do to make a difference. Back in 2010 the first thing I did was cut out alcohol for 6 weeks and I still to this day believe that's what made the biggest impact on my weight loss! So much so that Gordon and I have agreed to do it again for the first 6 weeks of 2016. Let's face it though - cutting out all your vices in one go is never going to be easy, or enjoyable. Chances are you'll feel so restricted that you'll eventually end up binging on all the things you've banned yourself from! Rather than banning ALL junk food FOREVER, try cutting out one thing at a time, or even just limiting it to the weekend or once a day. Or better still, put your focus on what you can eat. Set a goal that packs more nutritious foods into your diet - eat protein with every meal, eat more veg, make a healthy breakfast every day. Make things easier and more sustainable for yourself! The main thing to remember is you don't have to eat less*, you don't even have to eat perfectly - you just have to eat better. Use your common sense and cut the crap.

- 10% off SFN Expo tickets with the code SFNAM25!

Flexible dieting has been my savior these last few months and I'm getting right back into it this year. My wedding is 7 months away and I'll be tracking my macros to get in shape for it. Look out for a post on macros soon!

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
- Socrates.

*OK, you do need a calorie deficit but for most people that's 15-20% less than their current intake - NOT starvation!

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016 Goals

2015 has definitely had it's ups and downs. A few highlights were trips to Glasgow and Edinburgh, a family wedding in Essex, two trips to London and seeing Savage Beauty at the V&A, being chosen as an SFN ambassador and buying our first house! At the start of 2015 I set myself 6 goals. Here's how I got on...

  • Get more organised with my wedding planning!
    I  said yes to the dress! This year we've found the bridesmaid dresses, a cake supplier, stationary designer and I'm in the process of booking a make-up artist, so you could say I'm getting there.
  • Pass my driving test.
    I started lessons in August but with the way my days off are I only manage two or three a month. After my bank balance recovers from Christmas I'm going to go ahead and book my test.
  • Maintain my body fat at less than 20% - reach 18%!
    I did it! On 17th December the scales finally said 18.1%! This is a constant battle for me that I don't think will ever end. I put on about a stone in a month from comfort eating & had to start wearing my old size 12 work clothes and even they were tight! I'm ending the year on a high though - I'm seeing numbers on the scales that I haven't seen in years, but more importantly my size 10s are loose!
  • Keep lifting heavier weights. (12kg kettlebell, maybe?)
    I got a 12kg kettlebell from Gordon for my birthday. I've been struggling with lifting heavier lately but I'm putting it down to the massive drop in calories. My 12kg is used for swings, squats and big compound movements but I drop to an 8kg for things like single arm tricep extensions!
  • Run as many races as possible and beat my previous times.
    I took part in the Ythan Challenge and the Banchory Beast race - didn't beat my time but there's always next year!
  • Raise money for a worthy cause.
    I used the races as a way to raise money for SAMH - The Scottish Association for Mental Health. I raised £577 - as a team we raised £2607! You can read about our fundraising here.

I'm so excited for 2016 - we can finally say we get married THIS year! There's still so much planning to do but I'm looking forward to it. Here's a few things I intend to do over the next 366 days:
  1. Get married! 
  2. Pass my driving test.
  3. Survive Tough Mudder and complete every single obstacle.
  4. Reach Bronze ambassador status for SFN Expo. (Use SFNAM25 for 10% off tickets!)
  5. Master pull ups!
  6. Abs for Christmas!
I love hearing what everyone has planned for the year ahead, looking forward to lots of New Year's resolution posts! Whatever you intend on doing for the next year, I hope you have a happy and healthy 2016 full of love, laughter and carbs.
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