We had a spectacular sky this afternoon.
We had a spectacular sky this afternoon.
To bant or not to bant, that is the question. I have never had any faith in the long term success of diets. All evidence seems to show that, unless you can sustain a diet, very few people manage to maintain their initial weight loss and worse than this, many dieters end up fatter than they were before they started dieting. So when, at the beginning of the year, I decided I needed to lose weight, I considered all the pros and cons of dieting. After much consideration I decided that banting (eating low carb, high fat) was the way to go. It is punted as a lifestyle, not a diet, which was a plus in its favour and the idea of eating lots of bacon appealed to me.
I bought a copy of The Real Meal Revolution (RMR) by Tim Noakes et al and started my banting journey. I joined a banting group on Facebook and began reading online articles disputing the notions that food fat causes cholesterol, that cholesterol causes heart disease, that diabetics should eat carbohydrates and that fruit is good for you. Essentially the banting lifestyle challenges the validity of the food pyramid, the nutritional guide to eating that we have all used for the past 20 years or so. The more I read, the less convinced I became in the empirical value of any nutrition research. There are equally convincing arguments to be found for and against most food groups and their health benefits and many conclusions are more subjective conjecture than objective facts. However I decided to give banting a bash, after all what did I have to lose? Well, 8 kgs actually.
The first 3 months were easyish. I followed the banting guidelines and cut out all foods that are classified as TOXIC (such as seed oils and BEER!!!) and HIGH-CARBOHYDRATE (such as all grains and flours from grains, starchy veggies and sugar) and increased my intake of fat. However I also changed my eating habits. I tried to eat a hearty breakfast, which kept me going throughout the day, and reduced the amount I was eating in the evening. I also stopped snacking – a major bad habit broken I’m pleased to say. I simply stopped eating when I was bored and played online bridge instead!
For many the main aim of banting is to encourage ketosis, the body’s fat burning mode. Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body is deprived of glucose for energy. Unwanted stored fats are burned off instead because the body is forced to rely on burning fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates. In order to go into ketosis one has to (a) increase the amount of good fat one eats – for energy and (b) eat according to the RMR food lists – Green (eat what you like), Orange (low carbs to be eaten in occasionally and in small quantities) and Red (to be avoided totally if one is aiming for ketosis).
When I started banting I aimed for ketosis and, after 3 months in and out of it, I lost weight and centimetres quite easily. However I also lost the will to persevere with ketosis and weight loss. My Facebook banting group posts recipes for all sorts of banting-friendly alternatives to bread, cakes, biscuits and pizza – most of which I found quite unpalatable and very expensive. In fact, after a while I went off food. I became bored with salads, 101 of ways of eating cauliflower and anything made with almond flour. And I was repulsed by just about everything else. If I couldn’t eat LCHF, I didn’t want to eat at all. Despite a hugely reduced appetite, I didn’t lose any more weight. I did, however, feel the need to put my feet up quite often and watch hours of mindless telly. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that banting is just like any other diet, in that it focuses mainly on changing nutritional habits but doesn’t address the emotional aspect of eating. Many banters become quite preoccupied with finding banting-friendly substitutes for their favourite snacks – like cakes and biscuits. Why? – Because they haven’t dealt with their eating issues.
Like most people on diets, when I was banting I became preoccupied with food – always worrying about what I could and couldn’t eat and feeling bad when I “cheated”. I realised that this could not be a sustainable lifestyle for me, especially since Noakes commented recently that banting is an “all or nothing” lifestyle. That, in my opinion, is not only very hard to maintain but not really very desirable. I have since decided to stop banting and pursuing the whole ketosis thing. Although I still have a couple of kgs to lose, I don’t think that, for me, ketosis is the way to go. So I’m afraid that is the end of my banting journey.
At the beginning of the year I was dettermined to lose weight and now I am dettermined to continue with a healthier lifestyle, finding a happy balance between nourishing and non-fattening meals and continuing to replace bad eating habits with good. I’m still going to use the RMR Green, Orange and Red lists as guidelines for meal plans but if occasionally I fancy something that is on the Red List I am jolly well going to have it and not some half-arsed alternative. Never again do I want to eat something that is pretending to be something else – if I want a slice of cake or bread now and again, I am bloody well going to have it and not something made out of almond / coconut flour and cooked in a mug in the microwave. And for that matter, who in their right mind thinks that one can substitute 85% Cocoa for a decent slab of chocolate? Yuk – has anyone really tried eating that when you are all cosy, tucked up in bed, watching telly and looking for a nice piece of choccy?
By the way, I’m calling my new lifestyle the real deal resolution!
Recently Njabulo turned 23 and we had a little celebration.
At the beginning of the year I started dieting in an attempt to lose 8 kgs. I have managed to lose 6 kgs fairly effortlessly and at least 10 cm around my waist. What a pleasure to have my entire wardrobe at my disposal again and not have to worry about whether the clothes are too tight.
I based my diet on Tim Noakes’ Banting guidelines, that is low carb, high fat. However, instead of cutting some carbs out totally, I have simply reduced my intake of them (especially sugar, wheat, fruit and most starches). Carbs like potatoes and bread have become something we regard as a treat, every now and again, rather than a daily staple. And I feel so much better for it.
Sometimes for breakfast I miss having a slice of toast to put my egg on. These Oopsies are more like a thick pancake than bread but they are easy to make and very tasty as an accompaniment to egg and bacon.
Preheat your oven to 150ºC.
Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites together with the salt until very stiff. Blend the egg yolks and cream cheese together until smooth and stir in the psyllium husk and baking powder. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk and cream cheese mix.
Use a large spoon to scoop out your mixture into rounds on a greased baking pan. You should be able to make approximately six. You can also bake them in mini loaf pans.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
When Alex was home for Christmas I made a calamari and chorizo dish which we all thoroughly enjoyed. It was based on a recipe from A Life Digested by Pete Goffe-Wood. When I was in Cape Town recently, Alex and I had a fantastic breakfast (dim sum washed down with artisan beer) at the Saturday morning market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. Before we left I bought him some chorizo from a very charming stallholder who made my day with his greeting of “Hello young lady.” Alex then asked me for this recipe – the butter beans are carbs but I would regard them as a treat, much like a slice of cake. Of course, to make the dish Banting friendly they could be left out.
Put the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Blanch for 30 seconds, drain, remove the skins and roughly chop the flesh. Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Fry the chorizo until it begins to take on some colour, then add the calamari / squid followed by the tomatoes. As the tomato starts to break down, add the beans, garlic, parsley, butter and lemon juice. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and season to taste before serving.
And finally, something for Kiera who, like me, thinks that life would be unbearable without potatoes! Fortunately for her she doesn’t have any weight issues.
Serves 4 – 6
Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Thoroughly grease a 1-litre gratin dish and arrange a layer of overlapping potato slices in the base of the dish. Add a little of the crushed garlic, a layer of onion rings and season. Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of potatoes. Pour the stock over the potatoes, dot with some butter and bake for 1 hour, uncovered, or until the potato is tender and the top crisp and brown.
My blog has taken a bit of a backseat this past month because I’ve been kept gloriously busy on a number of other fronts and very preoccupied with the latest addition to our family, a puppy called Buddy.
After Milo died, Layla became quite morose so we have known for some time that we had to get her another companion. Last month I visited the SPCA in Howick hoping to find a young dog, already house-trained and in need of a home. However, when I got there a litter of 7 week-old puppies had just been brought in. The mother was a “township” dog, who I met and was very sweet but the father was unknown. As I walked into the pen one of the puppies came to investigate. I picked him up and he nuzzled me and when I crouched down to put him back, he tried to climb onto my lap. It was mutual love at first sight. A few days later, we brought Buddy home and Layla was not impressed. She sniffed him and then tried to get as far away as possible from the rambunctious little tyke that we had presented her with. However it only took a couple of days before he managed to worm his way into her affections and now they are the best of friends; they play all day and snuggle up together at night. He has given Layla a new lease of life and has totally enchanted all of us, including my mother, who adores him. She calls him Goody because she can’t, for some obscure reason, get her tongue around Buddy but I must admit he does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Thin Blue Line’s Constable Goody.
I don’t actually know where the name Buddy came from – I would like to say that he was named after my favourite Salinger character, Buddy Glass, but that would be a tad pretentious and simply not true. From the moment I clapped eyes on him, Buddy just seemed appropriate.
Yes, and then I’ve been teaching a class of Zulu-speaking 4 year olds, which has been “interesting” to say the least. Actually I love it but it is a challenge from the communication point of view. So last week I took Thandi (our domestic worker) with me to help with translating and we had a lot of fun. But I also learned some hard facts. I’ve created a really nice classroom with equipment that the school had stashed away in a storeroom and in the classroom I’ve made a small book corner, using some cushions from home. To encourage the children to come and look at the books, I sat on one of the cushions and took out a copy of one of my all-time favourite children’s books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Slowly but surely, some of the children came and sat on the cushions next to me. I started reading to them, with Thandi translating. Now, for those of you who do not know the story, it’s essentially about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly – a simple story with a great message; obviously it’s educational but what I love is that it is a wonderful metaphor for all transformation. So we get to the end of the story where the caterpillar eats its way out of its cocoon and turns into a beautiful butterfly, and Thandi, who left school after grade 10, turned to me and said, “Hawu, is that true?” She had absolutely no idea that caterpillars turn into a butterflies. I am greatly saddened by this revelation and have decided that, if nothing else, my four year olds will know, by the end of this year, all there is to know about metamorphosis.
So, other than looking after my puppy and teaching, I have also been fundraising for the school. A couple of months ago I submitted an application for funding to establish a science centre at the Curry’s Post Primary School (my first fundraising effort in a very long time). I wasn’t that confident about the proposal since this is a very small farm school that we’re talking about. However recently I was informed that the funding had been approved and naturally, I was cock-a-hoop. A few hours later I discovered that my music idol, Paolo Nutini, was going to be playing at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town the next week. I was still quite euphoric about my funding success and after a few yelps and shrieks, I convinced myself that this was the universe’s way of rewarding me. I was on a roll when I called Alex to plan a trip to Cape Town that combined seeing him as well as Paolo. And that’s when I learned a life lesson. Our kids are not always as eager to see us as we are to see them.
Alex mumbled something about not being such a great fan of Paolo and I literally had to beg him to accompany me to the concert. I was mightily pissed off. However after my initial disappointment with my son’s lack of enthusiasm about my visit, I began to feel strangely reassured. It is good to know that he’s got a life of his own and sometimes I need to be reminded that so have I! I booked in to a guesthouse in Woodstock and proceeded to make my own arrangements for my stay in Cape Town. I had a ball, while Peter very kindly held the fort. And just so you know, Alex really enjoyed the concert. Paolo was amazing; I can now tick that one off the bucket list.
This one is for Al – will always remind me of being stuck in Cape Town rush hour traffic with you.
(Two for the price of one!)
Since starting my “dettermined” effort to lose weight in January, I have been introduced to the many varied uses of the unassuming cauliflower. Who would have thought that it could be a reasonable substitute for mash, rice and pizza bases? I heard a rumour that cauliflowers have been sold out countrywide as the Banting “lifestyle” (it’s not a diet, right?) has taken off in South Africa. Well, here on the farm we have no such shortages, in fact we have them coming out of our ears!
The mash is good, as is cauliflower rice (from The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes et al) but the recipe that I would like to share is one for Cauliflower and Mustard Seed Soup from the Low Carb Revolution – Comfort Eating for Good Health – by Annie Bell. I first came across Annie Bell when she used to write food articles for Country Living (UK) magazine. Her food has always erred on the side of wholesome. (I have adapted the recipe ever so slightly.)
Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add the cauliflower for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, lemon zest and salt, bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes.
Discard the strips of lemon zest, then puree in batches in a liquidiser. Pour back into the saucepan and stir in the mustard. Taste and season with more salt (and pepper) if necessary.
Since I’m trying to avoid bread, I serve it sprinkled with crispy fried, diced pancetta for crunch instead of croutons. It is quite moreish and indeed very comforting.
Another recipe for those of us avoiding wheat is Bread in a Cup . I read an article recently in which the writer claims that “common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as the practice allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest”. How true this is and whether this is practised here in SA I do not know, but nothing would surprise me. I think that the food industry has a lot to answer for.
3 Tbs almond flour
1 Tbs coconut flour
½ tsp baking powder
2½ Tbs melted butter/olive oil
2 Tbs water
Optional: 50 g grated cheddar cheese / crumbled feta
Beat egg well. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Put in well buttered cup/mug (I use a Consol jar) and microwave for 1 minute 20 secs. Slice into 4 slices.
The trouble is that us wheat-flour avoiders are now all rushing out and spending an absolute fortune on almond flour as an alternative. I bought almonds recently at the Karkloof Market and when I asked where they were from I was told California. Can you not buy a fucking almond grown locally? I watched a movie last year about bees and in it were scenes of almond monocropping for miles on end in California, contributing to the demise of the bee. So I wonder if almond flour is such a good alternative. Can one ever win?
We are so lucky to be able to grow our own veg and get our eggs and meat from reliable sources but where most of everything else is concerned, we have absolutely no idea of the farming practices involved. I have for many years been a stickler for free-range / organic / pasture-fed food. Not only because I think it is more healthy or that it tastes better, but also because I think it is kinder to the animal and better for the earth.
Woolworths has a range of fruit and veg that it markets as Farming for the Future. The blurb is “Farming for the future is a plan for growing food sustainably, ethically and responsibly without compromising quality and price. This approach to farming aims to keep soil and plants healthy, to preserve biodiversity and water resources.” It’s a pity that this doesn’t apply to nonperishable food as well.
Peter and his good friend, David, were both born on the same day (the 10th of February) two years apart and in the same hospital (the Mater Dei in East London). David turned 70 this year so last weekend we drove up to Johannesburg, where David lives with his lovely partner, Julie, to celebrate this milestone birthday with him. Oh I do love the country and the simple, frugal life here but there is a part of me that also loves the bright city lights and the sassiness of city folk – just in smaller doses. It was very pleasant shopping at Woolworths in Rosebank. The last time I was there was with Kiera when she flew out to Zim via Jo’burg unexpectedly and we did a bit of shopping together. Oh I missed you Kiks, you are my favourite shopping companion!
David had invited a few friends and family to Sunday lunch under the trees in their beautiful back garden. Some mutual friends we had not seen for many years were there so it was a wonderful time of catching up and reminiscing. And it wasn’t long before we were all taking the piss out of each other, just like the good old days. It made us realise that there is just no substitute for history when it comes to friendship. One of our friends, like me, is also trying to lose weight and has been on the LCHF (Banting) diet. I was telling her how much weight I had lost and not only that but centimetres around my waist. As if to back me up Peter announced to all at the table “her waist used to measure the same as her boobs”. Of course, everyone packed up laughing at my expense as Sol explained to the family members present that it was okay, we are used to being rude to each other.
We returned home on Monday afternoon, a little worse for wear, and it seemed like there was no time at all to recuperate. I’ve been busy, busy, busy ever since and absolutely delighted to be so.
Ever since my youngest, Alex, flew the nest making me redundant, I have been searching for purpose. At first I decided that my goal was to create a beautiful and productive garden and I immersed myself in that. Then I turned my attention to making the farmhouse into a comfortable home for the two of us. After that, I had a wedding reception to plan and plenty of distractions like trips to Stellenbosch, Cape Town and America to visit my children. But all the time I felt like something was missing and I kept hoping that whatever it was, given time, it would find me. And it did.
Last year I took Judy to a nearby leather shop, Groundcover, to buy shoes. While she was trying them on, I bumped into the owner, Amanda, who I know from years ago when I worked in the NGO sector. She asked how I was enjoying my “retirement” and I replied that I really needed to get my teeth into something. A few days later Amanda contacted me and asked if I would like to attend a meeting of the Curry’s Post Educational Trust, an initiative that helped to establish, and now supports and raises funds for the Curry’s Post Primary School, a local farm school. To cut a long story short, I did. A few months later I became a trustee, joining Amanda and 6 others. Not long after that I agreed to take over the fundraising portfolio from one of the trustees who was leaving the Trust.
In order to fund-raise effectively I felt that I needed to get to know the school, the staff, the children and the community. And the best way to do this I reckoned, with a great deal of trepidation, was to volunteer as an assistant, once a week, to the Grade R teacher, seeing as I’m a preschool teacher by profession. I must admit I had a lot of misgivings about this: I wasn’t sure if I could commit my time (I’m so used to being a free agent), if I had the energy to work with kids again, if the children would like me or if the staff would accept me. I didn’t need to be scared, I didn’t need a plan, I just needed to listen to what my heart was telling me. All I can say is what I wrote in my first blog (Lost for Words) almost 4 years ago, leap and the net will appear.
I’m loving what I’m doing and feel like I’m finally back in the saddle.
Peter also attends Trust meetings when he can and has been an amazing help with fundraising. Last week one of his colleagues from SANRAL visited our school to hand out backpacks for all the kids and give them a talk on road safety. It was humbling to see rural kids, who get so little, so appreciative of their gifts. What made my heart sing was that I know there will be more to come.
January is the cruellest month – full of good intentions gone bad and littered with dust covered New Year’s resolutions lists. A hundred and one packets of seeds that I was going to sort out still lie scattered across the veranda table; my spice cupboard still contains bottles of herbs with best before dates going back to 19-voetsek (a few taken out to remind me to throw them away are dotted around the kitchen not having quite made it into the bin); all the crap taken out of Alex’s room to make way for his visit over Christmas has been returned to his room and is awaiting for some sort of action by me; and herb seedlings languish in their trays, bought in early January when I still had the desire to replenish plant pots in the courtyard. And after resolving to do away with them, on-line card games have reasserted themselves in an attempt to distract me from doing whatever it is that I should be doing.
However, not all is doom and gloom. I have been exercising every morning now for about 2 months and eating (and drinking) more healthily since Christmas. I’m enjoying the benefits of both so I think it is safe to say that these are new good habits that I have managed to introduce into my daily routine. I just have to sort out the rest of the day.
The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience…not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.
I suppose, in a way, it has become impossible for me to continue to live with procrastination and a lack of focus. It’s making me disgruntled and the need to change has become stronger than the desire to remain the same. However the problem lies not so much in the doing, but in knowing what to do.
In response to my previous post, Judy’s sister, Wendy, sent us some links to a series of Daily Mail online articles written by Sir Muir Gray, Former Chief of Knowledge for the NHS on how older people can live healthy lifestyles. I have no idea what a chief of knowledge is but the articles are quite informative.
In one he offers some insights into how to get on well with life in your later years and proclaims A BUSY LIFE IS A HAPPY LIFE.
He points out that adjusting to retirement can be rather difficult for some (no shit Sherlock on that).
“Yes, part of the time should certainly be filled doing the things you have always wanted to do but have not had the time to do when working. But research has proven that continuing to interact and work with others is very good for you as well as for them — maintaining and improving your intellectual functioning. The way it does this is not clear, but it may stem from the need to argue and defend your point of view as well as the need to organise your thoughts.
It may also be the interaction with other people that stimulates the mind, and that the increased motivation and morale which results from this improves how you think and how you feel. Working to boost the wellbeing of others is particularly rewarding”.
He suggests a few things we might want to do, such as:
I can’t argue with that but I would prefer to use the term “engaged” rather than busy. Busy implies “on-the-go” whereas engaged is more about giving something your full attention. Ideally I would like to find something that I can commit to wholeheartedly, that would make me a better person and allow me to grow old not only with a sense of purpose but a sense of fun as well. As Michele commented on my last blog post “now is the time to care for ourselves, make a difference and enjoy all opportunities and celebrations”.
When I was a teenager my father used to drive me crazy when he would tell me not to get so worked up about all the inequalities and injustices in the world because there was nothing I could do about them. Fortunately that was one piece of advice that I never paid much heed to. I like to think that I was a person who gave a damn when something was wrong. And I like to think I can be that person again. I’ll keep you posted.
And Michele, with regard to celebrations, bring on the wine or champagne. I love this description of intoxication in Michael Pollan’s book Cooked:
“By the time I got down to the bottom of the glass …… I could feel the warm, suffusing glow of alcohol wash over me. There’s really nothing quite like that first soft spring breeze of intoxication. Keep drinking all you want, but you will never get it back. Nothing has changed, you’re still the same guy sitting at the same kitchen table, and yet everything feels just a little different: Several degrees less literal. Leavened. And whether or not this angle of mental refreshment offers anything of genuine value, anything worth saving for the consideration of more ordinary hours, it does seem to open up, however briefly, a slightly less earthbound and more generous perspective on life”.
It’s all about balance, I suppose, and for a while now my life has been a bit out of kilter – too much spent faffing around the house and the garden, and grocery shopping – dealing with trivia and playing online card games because that’s what you do when there are weightier issues to be dealt with, like what should I be doing with the rest of my life.
And by the way, today was a day just like this – I wasn’t at all busy, but I was engaged!
Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.