Yearly Archives: 2011

Like eating a lot but keeping weight off? Just go for fat burning foods


There were reasons why I used to be a size 22 and according to the doctors ‘morbidly obese’. The main one was that I like eating. And I like to eat big large portion sizes. That will never change. After losing weight I had to find a way I could still eat a lot and maintain my new size 10 weight. Aiming for maximum volume for minimum calories I started looking at what happens when you eat different kinds of foods. That’s when I discovered fat burning and calorie neutral foods.

Fat burning foods are foods that:

  • make the body work very hard and use up calories in the food when processing it, and/or
  • start a reaction or process which speeds up your metabolism and manages your blood sugar, and/or
  • fill you up more so you eat less, and/or
  • are not digested at all and just pass through the body.

Calorie neutral foods are those that use up more calories than there are in the foods in processing them so you actually lose weight by eating them.

Of course it’s a lot more complicated than that but you get the idea.

Calorie counting assumes all calories are equal; they are not.

One of my ’21 Keys to Keeping Weight Off’ is to remember that not all calories are equal.  This is why I do not believe that simple calorie counting is the best way to manage your weight when you are keeping weight off .

If you rely on calorie counting then, in theory, you could eat chocolate and crisps all day and so long as you don’t go over the recommended calories for your height, current weight and activity levels then you would keep weight off. But you wouldn’t be healthy and in the long term that will make keeping weight off neigh-on impossible for someone who has struggled with weight gain. (If you want to find out how many calories you need you can click here to check your BMR).

Brownies made with added fat burning ingredients

Keeping weight off requires you to have a healthy, balanced diet and to keep your metabolism as fast as possible. One easy way to do this is to eat lots of fat burning foods. There is a real variety of fat burning foods, something for everyone, and they are foods you can easily just make the staple of your day to day diet. Or, you can adapt recipes to include fat burning foods to make your favourite dishes more fat burning. It’s amazing how easy and routine ‘easy swaps’ can become with a bit of thought. And then, like me, you can eat loads and still keep weight off.

So, want to know what these wonder foods are? For a list of fat burning and calorie neutral foods click here.

Good luck, enjoy the foods. And let us know on here or on facebook about any fab recipes you have using fat burning foods.

Understanding Obesity – Why it’s essential to include those of us who have been obese in finding the solutions


Today’s news is dominated by the obesity debate. Researchers reporting in The Lancet are calling for Government action – including taxing junk food. About time – thank God we finally have some research which doesn’t think it’s just down to blaming people who struggle with their weight. This is a real opportunity to hear the voice of those of us who have ourselves been overweight and have found ways to overcome it.

I know all about this given I used to be a size 22 but have maintained at a size 10 for over 3 years now. I know that the biggest factor has been my own self determination and complete desire to not be over weight again. But since day one I have felt that society and our institutions have made it really hard for me:

  • Everywhere you turn there is food, and generally it’s high fat/high sugar comfort food. At work or get togethers you go to meeting and there are cakes and biscuits; rarely fruit, or something like veg sticks with healthy dips. We all need to change so we don’t think it’s a treat to offer people obesity causing food. Like many overweight people I cannot resist – so please, don’t tempt me all the time!
  • It’s an outrage that processed food and junk food, full of rubbish that our body cannot digest and therefore turns to fat quicker, is cheaper than organic food which is good for our bodies, less likely to turn to fat, and is better for our economy and land.
  • Over the years when I was fat the medics just used to tell me to lose weight. I didn’t get any real help from the NHS, just lectures – my doctors surgery even wanted to charge me to do a medical report to say I was OK to go on the Lighterlife diet! I was lucky and could afford to do Lighterlife and so had a year where I was supported to come to terms with my relationship with food through its counselling. One woman in my group had to drop out because she couldn’t afford it. This kind of counselling needs to be available to all and diets like this funded by the NHS. It’s far cheaper than the cost of treating obesity related diseases and far cheaper than weight loss surgery.
  • This is because obesity is not just about the food we eat. We have to get to grips with the psychological reasons why people put on weight. For so many of us, our weight is related to self esteem and how we feel about ourselves. When I was fat I was so overwhelmed by how let down I felt by life and my body if people had a go at me about it then that just made me feel worse – and then even less able to deal with it. We have to stop blaming and stigmatising people and start understanding more.
  • We don’t structure society to help us being able to eat well. How many people gobble a quick lunch whilst working, eating sugary snacks to get us through long working hours. How many families are able to sit down to eat a meal together each day? Life has become so busy we try to just fit in food in between everything else. How many people know how to cook? Basic life skills and yet we don’t have them. I’ve been looking at some cooking courses at local colleges yet they cost quite a bit of money….

I could go on …..

Plus, there is virtually no information dedicated solely to how you keep weight off. I had to find it out for myself. That’s why I’m now sharing what I know.

Joining the debate – where are our voices?
This morning I was lucky to get on the Radio 5 Live ‘Your Call’ phone in.

Someone asked me why overweight people simply just don’t eat so much. I know that sounds easy and straightforward to people who have never struggled with their weight but I can tell you as someone who has it’s not that straight forward. I don’t have a ‘off switch’ from food I like. I wish I did, but I don’t.

You see this is just one really good illustration why I believe people like me have to be at the heart of the debate about how we deal with obesity. I know what it’s like, and I know what took me there. I don’t judge people who are overweight but I know it’s possible to change and to keep weight off.

I hope that as well as listening to The Lancet, policy makers start listening to people like me to see if together we can find the solutions to this very complex problem.

Need to get rid of those post holiday pounds? Get soupy!

Many people will have lost weight doing bikini diets in time for their summer holidays. Not me! I’ve had a great summer so far – loads of parties, events, meals out, a long weekend in Norway in June and a brilliant week in Barcelona last week. So as you might imagine, it has told on me and I’m now at the maximum size I want to be. Time to get rid of those post summer pounds!!

As followers of my Facebook page and those who have read my 21 Keys to Keeping Weight Off  know, I believe that putting on some weight is inevitable. The challenge when keeping weight off is not to worry about putting on some weight, but it’s about how much you let yourself put on and what you do about it when you do.

Believing it’s inevitable you’ll put some back on takes the pressure off, believe me. Because I don’t feel I’ve failed, I don’t berate myself. I just accept this is how it is. So now that my best dress is too tight for me to wear I’m sorting it out!

It’s not hard and it needn’t be a big thing when all you need to do is to re-balance a bit. So for a few weeks I’ll be doing Slimming World Max to Success and I’m just cutting out the ice-creams and cakes I’ve been enjoying. I know that by Sept my size 10s will be that bit looser again.

Get soupy!!
Soup is my best friend when I need to cut back a bit. It’s brilliant. You can make whatever flavour you like and you can make it fat free. So long as you only put in veg and lean protein it’s totally fat burning. And you can get a meal in minutes.

I didn’t mess around after my hols – I got home on Friday morning, by Friday teatime I’d made 2 large pans of soup, both very quick ‘cheating’ recipes. I made carrot and coriander using frozen carrots and ground coriander and spicy tomato using red peppers and celery and good quality passata.

Its very simple. Just fry your onions in fry light or water, add some other veg you want. Cook till softened and starting to brown. Add flavouring – coriander for the carrot; garlic, bay leaves, Italian herbs and a bit of balsamic vinegar in the tomato. I then added some stock made with ‘bouillon’ to both and also some red lentils for added protein and bulk. I also added some chilli to the tomato as chilli makes food even more fat burning. You can use chilli powder but if using fresh remember not to ‘fry’ it as this will make your eyes water but to add to the liquid. 20-25 minutes later and a quick whizz and they were ready to go.

So get soupy and fill up, eating as much as you want. And any post holiday pounds will soon start to drop off.


A flat stomach with little effort? Trying out Slendertone

Is it possible to get a flat tummy without doing loads of exercises and starving yourself? In my endless quest for an easy answer to the lump that is my belly and midriff, I decided to try out a Slendertone machine.

So as we moved into summer, I started putting a very strange machine around my middle for between 20 and 30 mins a day to see if I could lose any inches and feel a bit better about my stomach.

The model I tried was the Slendertone Flex Abdominal Toner which is a small belt and cost me around £40.

Before my first session I took my measurements:
Midriff – 84cm; Waist – 79cm; Hips – 97cm.
I’d just come back from a short holiday so was hoping it might stop any post holiday tum showing on me.

What was it like?
It’s a strange machine. For a start it was a lot shorter than my tummy and midriff so I wondered if it would have enough ‘stretch’. But when turned it on, the movement could be so strong if I was brave enough to turn it up high that I’m sure the effects moved beyond the size of the belt itself. It’s certainly strong and you can definitely feel it; indeed if I turned it up too high it would, at times, feel very uncomfortable and occasionally verging on painful.

You are supposed to use it every day for at least 2 months, starting with 20 minute and sessions, moving to a maximum length of 30 minutes. Some marketing says you start to see results in 6 weeks if you do. I have to be honest and admit that I struggled to use it every day.

My habit was to use it when watching TV at night but I don’t get to sit down and watch a programme of over 30 minutes every night. So I probably managed every other day.

It’s also not very pleasant when you put the belt on. It sticks to your skin and is cold and feels wet at first. You also have to replace the pads; I’ve bought one set of replacements at a cost of around £10.

So has it worked?
Well I’m afraid to say it hasn’t worked for me. I did my measurements again this morning and there’s no much change; my midriff is a couple of cm smaller but my waist the same and I’ve put 1cm on my hips!!

I think the fact that I struggled to do it every day means it probably hasn’t had enough time to do its work and it’s more of a hassle than I thought it would be. However I also think I probably have too much spare belly for this work anyway. Given I used to be a size 22 and am now a size 10 there is no getting away from the fact that my tum is not flat and I don’t think, actually, without surgery I’ll ever get a flat tummy now. (Surgery is not something I am even willing to think about for a minute by the way). I’m sure the belt was stimulating muscles under my flab, and maybe if you are fairly slim to start with and you just need to tone up it could do the trick nicely. But not for me I’m afraid.

Maybe it’s just me and the fact I didn’t do it properly. Certainly other reviews on the net are positive. So let me know if you’ve tried one and how you got on. And if its worked, your tips for getting the most from it so I can maybe try again but properly this time…..


A brilliant summer salad – Oriental Rice Salad

Its time for some recipes on here I think. Here’s one of my favourite summer dishes; Oriental Rice Salad.

Oriental Rice SaladThis dish is not only really tasty, but its easy to make, 100% fat free and keeps in the fridge for a couple of days. Plus, with the exception of a handful of raisins and a spoon of sherry, it only contains foods which are brilliant for keeping weight off. All the other ingredients are fat burning, and almost all are low GI (pineapple, though is medium GI). The ginger adds a bit of heat which also helps boost metabolism.

So tuck in and enjoy, eating as much as you want! As you know I like eating LOADS so I reckon the recipe below will serve 3 decent portions or 4 smaller portions.


8oz / 225g brown rice

For the sauce:

4 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 clove garlic minced

½ tsp grated ginger

1 dsp sherry

For the salad:

6 radishes, sliced

2oz / 60g bean sprouts

2oz / 60g raisins

1 orange

2oz / 60g toasted or dry fried cashew nuts

2 sticks celery

4oz / 120g pineapple


1.  Cook the rice following the instructions  on the packet. Make sure you rinse well in cold water first to remove dried starch. Make sure your water is boiling when you put the rice in the pan. This helps stop the rice getting sticky.

2. Mix together the dressing of fresh orange juice, soy sauce, minced garlic, grated ginger and sherry. Add some salt and pepper.

3. When the rice is cooked, drain and season with salt and pepper. Then pour over the dressing whilst still warm so it will soak up some of the dressing into the rice. Leave to cool.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the salad. To toast the cashew nuts I recommend dry frying in a non-stick pan for a few minutes.

5. When the rice is cool mix together and enjoy!



Wandering around …. and feeling great

I believe that feeling good inside is as important to keep weight off as watching what you eat and being active. I know for me that when I feel good inside, and appreciate and admire my body, I treat it better and feel more able to make good choices with food. At its’ most basic level, when I feel good I don’t comfort eat!

Iphone Maps App brill for wanderingOver recent months my maps app on my phone as been really helping. Because I walk everywhere I’ve started just wandering up roads, paths and lanes that look nice; knowing if I get lost my app will help me out, or if worst comes to the worst, I just turn round.

It’s been brilliant. I’ve found so many nice places near where I live; lovely streets, parks and open spaces, guinels and alleyways leading to old farm houses or quaint streets. I’ve met people with lovely dogs and had brief chats I wouldn’t have had. I’ve spotted gorgeous plants and trees and views; simple things bringing real pleasure as I go about my business. And I’ve found shortcuts so I can get around more quickly.

Even in a strange place…..

The other day I was in a strange town headed to the train station. Even then I couldn’t help following a couple of people down this beautiful rose lined path. It took me into this beautiful Georgian courtyard, with gardens full of bright colours and people enjoying the sun. It was a dead end in terms of getting to the station, but a lovely sight and it put a huge smile on my face.

That’s the brill thing about just wandering around on little adventures. If you go wrong, just turLovely hidden back streetsn round and get back on track. And you will probably have learned or seen something that enriches your life along the way.

I had another win in my little detour the other morning. It made me a bit late so I had to really step on it for the rest of my walk. Good thing as walking fast with 3 large bags and a suitcase helped me walk off the 2 glasses of wine I had the night before. A win/win situation in every way. And I still made my train.

Going calorific – do it on your terms!!

Birthday Cake

Thanks to D Sharon Pruitt for the photo

Yesterday on my Facebook page where I post (almost) daily hints and tips about how to keep weight off and end yoyo dieting for ever, I shared that I was going to a party. I knew there was likely to be party food (nibbles, pizza, cake etc) so my hint was to offer to contribute to the food and take low fat/sugar healthy food with you that you are happy to eat. That way you’re adding to the party and managing your food. And everyone’s a winner!

So before we went to the party I took a pic of the large bowl of couscous salad and a no fat roast veg chilli pasta dish I’d made and the strawberries and yoghurt I’d packed.

Talk about words coming back to bite you on the bum! Later on at the party, my friend Sarah who subscribes to the page, gave me a right telling off as she spotted me eating a slice of Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake. ‘How can you’, she said. ‘You’re supposed to be eating the food you’ve bought not cake!’. I gathered from the chat that she thinks I never eat cake and the like and I’m always ‘good’.

How wrong! I actually do eat cake, chocolate, meals out (Friday night we want for a curry). But I always plan so that I am in total control when it comes to eating high calorie food.

Keeping weight off isn’t about depriving yourself for ever, but it is about being in control of your food. Putting it bluntly, if I am going to eat high calorie food I want it to be food I love and I really want to eat and is nice, not high calorie stuff that other people want me to eat or just because it’s the only food that’s there.

Taking food like a fat free couscous or pasta dish to a party serves two purposes for my weight. I can eat loads of it and love it, and I can still allow myself to eat small amounts of the other food that I want to eat, on my terms.

So be in control – when you do eat high stodge, sugar and fried food, make sure its food you really love. Enjoy it knowing you are in control and balancing out with other food and activity.

Love food, love life!

‘Emergency’ yoghurt

Fat Free YoghurtIn last weeks Apprentice, the lovely Tom came up with the idea of ’emergency biscuits’. I’ve gone one better; emergency yoghurt!!

This weekend I’ve been at a conference for writers – having some great conversations about my forthcoming book. As always with these kind of events, I never leave the food to chance as normally the food isn’t good for someone who is keeping weight off (and actually generally isn’t good full stop). So when I arrived at my destination I nipped into M&S and got my lunch knowing I would be eating a big sit down meal in the evening.

I also did another of my tricks – I say I’m vegan. That way I avoid creamy, cheesy food or meals covered in calorific sauces and veg smothered in butter and what you get tends to be healthier and less fried. Worked a treat last night as I had a lovely meal.

The only flaw (or depending on how you see it the icing on the cake) with this rouse is you then get a different pudding – normally fruit salad. But worry not – perfect opportunity for some ’emergency yoghurt’!

Because it’s fat free, ff yoghurt keeps for ages so you can just carry it around with you and whip out whenever needed!


Emergency Biscuit Indeed!

Thanks Tom for the idea. Brains, charm and good looks. Let’s hope he can go on and win.

Can you make your own low calorie chocolate?

With a strangely naive approach, last Saturday found me attending a chocolate making course. My aim? To find out more about why chocolate is so calorific and to find out if it would be possible to create chocolate and chocolate recipes at home with loads less calories.

When we arrived at the course which was held in a hotel in Leeds City Centre, I realised my self control would go out of the window pretty quickly! The smell of chocolate was all pervasive and wafted through the hotel. Mmmm. And the amount of chocolate which was all around was just too much for bear for someone who doesn’t have an ‘off-switch’ when it comes to cakes and choc-ies.


The process itself was quite easy. The choc company gave us lots of 60% cocoa solid chocoate which looked like huge buttons. This was melted in a microwave and then we added a tub of double cream and some essential oil as flavouring. My brains ability to compartmentalise is brilliant. I was able to express horror at how many calories are in a normal sized tub of cream (about 1300) whilst stuffing chocolate in my mouth!! The shaped chocs were then coated either in almonds or cocoa powder, or tempered in other melted chocolate.

So can you make low calorie chocolate at home?

Sadly, the answer seems to be not. However there are still some good ways to use chocolate in cooking when you’re keeping weight off. Firstly, use good quality cocoa powder. From what I could gather, cocoa powder has all the cocoa butter removed from the cocoa bean so should save some calorites. The problme is how much you have to use to get a good flavour.

Another option is to use raw cocoa niblets which are the raw cocoa bean. They have some fat in so you can use in recepies without fat and sweeten using artifician sweetners.

And of course, if you do need to satisfy a chocoholic tendancy, then you should always try and eat as high as possible cocoa content. When the cocoa content is higher then the amount of sugar and added fat is less, and the taste is more powerful. Most shops will sell 80% bars and I’m aware that Lindor even do a 90% bar.

Over the summer I’ll also be trying out receipes using cocoa and niblets so I’ll keep you updated.

I’m not disheartened though that I didn’t find an easy solution. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surpirsed. If it was possible I’m sure that someone would have done it by now!!! And I did get to eat loads of chocoate with a good mate.