Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Secret to Permanent Slimness?

Breakfast bowl

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany with my food choices lately, and some helpful resources I came across at just the right time have been the catalyst.

From my mid-twenties I’ve joined Weight Watchers a few times and followed their very sensible diet but always fell off eventually, then went back to how I ate before and put the weight back on.

We’re not talking about dozens of kilos here but the same 5-10kg (11-22 pounds) which were quite inconvenient when it came to feeling chic and healthy and looking good.

I’ve always considered myself to have a sweet tooth and I’d tell myself it was harmless really to have sweet treats and if they were low-fat then what was the harm.  That’s the low-fat/high-carb old dietary way of thinking that has had me brainwashed from back in the nineties (or was it eighties?).

The ‘diets don’t work’ message we’ve all heard before confused me too.  If I said to myself ‘right, I’m not going to follow a diet, I’m going to eat what I want’, I would eat what I wanted, regardless of if it was healthy or not.  And of course I put on weight.  So if I’m not going to go on a diet, and I’m going to not go on a diet, what do I do?

One day several months ago I searched for a link between sugar consumption and sinus headaches.  I realised that I would invariably wake up with one after a ‘treat’ night of sugary crap.  I came upon this link here which horrified me.  It made such disgusting reading that I gave up eating sugar for the most part from then on.

I’m not totally 100% strict, I’ll always join in something when we’re out for dinner etc.  But I just don’t, for the most part, buy sweet things for myself at home.  I keep myself from feeling deprived by saying I can have anything I like, as long as it’s not sugary.

But from eliminating the bulk of sugar from my diet, everything started falling into place.  I naturally wanted more nutritious food, I felt better and had more energy, I slept better and my weight started dropping.  From a stable weight in the late sixties (kg that is, or 148-149 pounds), I am now around 64kg (141 pounds) and I know there is a little bit still to come off (I’m 5 foot 7 or 170cm so 135 pounds/61kg is meant to be ideal for my height).

The Giant Salad for lunch

When the weight stops coming off then that will be my natural weight.  I am not measuring portions because you don’t really need to when it’s real food you’re eating.  I know that 1-2 pieces of fruit is a good amount to eat, or half a chicken breast is right for me etc.

After starting on my non-sugar thing, I came across a book at the Red Cross shop for $2 which I almost left on the shelf.  I opened it up though and read a few pages, and it was talking about cutting out sugar and how this was the key to being slim and healthy.  I thought ‘we’re on the same wave-length’, so I bought the book and I have to say it’s the best $2 I’ve ever spent.  The book is by Lee Janogly and called ‘Only Fat People Skip Breakfast’.  Lee is an English author who is a diet counsellor and every page is filled with common sense, humour and good ideas. 

This book did for me with food what Alan Carr’s book did for me with alcohol.  It really changed my mindset towards the foods I chose and makes me feel happy with those choices.  Coincidentally I think the reason why I am so happy being a non-drinker is the same reason I feel so well not taking in much sugar, as alcohol has tons of sugar in it.

Two other books which I have also gained lots of good information and inspiration from are:

Peter Walsh – ‘Does This Clutter Make MyButt Look Fat’.  I love Peter for his decluttering motivation, but this book is even better – decluttering with weight loss in mind.  As with his other books Peter has lots of common sense and good practical ideas you can immediately put into practice.

Gary Taubes -  'Why We Get Fat (And What To Do About It)'.  Gary explains the scientific background on why we are getting fatter and I find that really helps make habit changes that stick.  It’s one thing to be told what to do, but it’s quite another to understand why it is good for you to eat something and not another.  This book sounds boring but it's really not!

A roast of beef ready to go into the oven.  Extra veges are done to add to the next day's lunch salad.

Here is what a typical day of food looks like for me now.

1-2 pieces fresh fruit, washed and sliced – I eat whatever is in season/on special/what looks good at the supermarket or fruit shop.
Small handful of mixed raw nuts (about 16-20) – sometimes I buy a mixed bag and sometimes I buy bags of a single type and mix my own.  If I do this I might have 2 brazils, 6 almonds, 4 cashews, 2 hazels, 2 macadamias, 2 pecans for example
A couple of dessert-spoons of yoghurt on top (mostly but not always) – my favoured yoghurt is full-fat with the only ingredients being milk and culture.

This gets me through to mid-morning when I have a soy or milk café latte.

At lunch-time, I have a Giant Salad.  My lunch salad deserves capital letters!  I use a pasta dish (not the family dish, the individual dish) and I pile in fresh salad ingredients, add some protein (half a cooked chicken breast, tuna in springwater or any leftover roast meat from dinner, diced on top) and my favourite treat – creamy dressing.  Currently my favourites are Paul Newman – Ranch or Creamy Caesar.  I don’t have any bread or carbs with my lunch salad and I don’t really miss it.

Mid- to late-afternoon I will have a small snack, maybe a few slices of cheese on crackers, but more often than not I will steal some of my husband’s protein powder and have a quick protein drink.  That stops me coming home starving and looking for pre-dinner snacks.

Then dinner is usually meat and three veg, the old-fashioned way.  A roast or mini-roast in the oven with roast pumpkin and carrot (with potato maybe twice a week) and steamed veges dressed with olive oil (such as broccoli, cauliflower etc).  And some packet or home-made gravy.  Sometimes we have a stir-fry.  Two or three times a month we’ll have a pasta dish.

My father-in-law is from England, and he went through sugar rationing during the second-world war.  To this day he doesn’t have a sweet tooth and couldn’t care less about dessert, chocolate or anything like that.  And he’s pretty lean and healthy for his age of 79.

Better late than never I say, and my ‘sweet enough without sugar’ chic and slender lifestyle starts now!  Come with me – are you brave enough to try?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I’ve been reading more than I’ve been writing lately.  Sometimes thoughts and writing flow easily, and other times they don’t.  Right now, my greatest pleasure is continuing with a book I’m enjoying, fiction or not.  When I’m somewhere, at work, out supermarketing or whatever, I think to myself how excited I will be to climb into bed later on that night with my book!  It’s the simple pleasures don't you think?

The title I ordered from Abe Books after my no-spend February was 1985 published Estee:  A Success Story by Estee Lauder.  I’ve borrowed it a number of times from various libraries over the years, and the most recent time I borrowed it realised I would love it for my home library.

I could read about cosmetics, fragrance and living beautifully all day, and this book has all of that, but it also has a business angle showing Mrs Lauder’s tenacious ways to get ahead socially and financially.

I might not be as hungry as her but I find her relentless self-propulsion very motivating to be organised at work and shape my lifestyle to be the best and loveliest it can be.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from her book.


Rose Kennedy once told me that good luck is something you make and bad luck is something you endure, a very wise observation indeed.


There wasn’t a minute of any day when I didn’t look as pretty as I knew how to make myself.  It was a matter of pride to me; it was a matter of self-respect.  There is no reason every to look sloppy because it takes so little time to look wonderful.


I dressed as the wealthy women did, as elegantly as I knew how.  In my day there were no courses on dressing for success, but I knew I had to look my best to sell my best.


Packaging requires special thought.  You can make a thing wonderful by its outward appearance.


Being a perfectionist and providing quality is the only way to do business.


I needed a special kind of salesperson.  She had to look wonderful herself.  She had to use my products and sell their effectiveness by example.  I was not out to fool the customer.  No-one could tell her, and make her believe, that a certain cream could make her sexy, brilliant or rich.  What a cream could do was to make her clean, pretty and confident.  That was the truth.  Confidence breeds beauty.

The spokespeople for my products would always have to be smiling, pretty and confident; very elegant, very soft and very fine.  I needed my counter attended by alert, interested, eager young women.  She has to be a walking advertisement.  She can’t oversell – no women ever appreciates being sold more than she needs.

Actually, the saleswoman’s job was not to sell, but to let women buy.  She had to respect the customer.  She had to know the product and believe in it.  She had to know how to use it and what one could realistically expect from it.  Most of all, she had to convince the customer to try it on, as she would a dress or hat.  Then, and only then, would she make her sale.

( I adore this description of her ideal saleswoman.  I want to be 'very elegant, very soft and very fine'.  That sounds like a wonderful way to be to me!)


I always spent my money on one or two elegant outfits, which I wore everywhere, rather than on a whole wardrobe of mediocre clothes.  One had to look finished to sell a fine product.


When speaking with customers, use your imagination, use your nicest manner.  Tell the truth always.  Never sell what a customer doesn’t want or need.


It wasn’t youth that make me so energetic, it was enthusiasm.  That’s why I know a woman of any age has it within her to begin a business or a life’s worth of any sort.  It’s a fresh outlook that makes youth so attractive anyway, that quality of ‘anything’s possible’.  That spirit is not only owned by those under thirty.  Selling, especially, is an art form that depends on spirit – and honesty.  The customer can always tell when you’re being less than candid.


If you don’t do important things when you think of them, you probably never will and may lose out.


If Elizabeth Arden’s claim to fame was pink and Revlon’s was sexiness, mine was, I hoped, elegance.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Small Space Organizing

I received an exciting postal item from the United States recently. Author Kathryn Bechen, after reading my blog, wrote and offered to send me a copy of her book ‘Small Space Organizing’ for review. Aside from the fact that I was thrilled that someone would consider me worthy of reviewing their book, the title sounded fabulous and totally something I would love to read.

A week after the email my copy arrived and I couldn’t wait to get into it. Kathryn’s style is that of an approachable and supportive friend, and the personal and pretty way in which her book is written reminds me a little of Alexandra Stoddard.

There are two ways to read this book. The first is to start at the beginning – Kathryn’s introduction immediately is warm and friendly and fun to read, it makes you want to carry on. The other way is to look up an area you need help with, for example the laundry or the master wardrobe.

I know I need to do something about my wardrobe but it seems overwhelming right now. Starting on the wardrobe chapter it is like Kathryn is there with me and helping me see where to start. I love that!

In fact, straight away I thought of an answer to a problem my husband was having with the belts he wore on a regular basis. We have a shared belt hanger that was rather full. And with us both using it, he would get frustrated at having to unearth a belt he wanted to use. Over the past months I noticed he was leaving his belts out on a chair to have easy access to. They looked messy but the other way wasn’t working.

It seems like such common sense now, but after reading some of the wardrobe chapter I thought about using hooks in the wardrobe for his belts. He has five belts so I bought two large-size 3M hooks from the supermarket and stuck them up inside his side of the wardrobe. They were an instant hit and the belts are always hanging there. It’s little things like this that make your life easier. My goal is to find all those spots in our house!

And of course I decluttered quite a few belts from both of us at the same time, so my belt hanger is looking rather swish too.

As you might have guessed, Small Space Organizing is very motivating. I can’t finish reading a chapter without getting up to go and put an idea into practice.

I decluttered more books and magazines, so that a tall and skinny cube shelving unit could be repurposed from my sewing room into our ensuite bathroom. It looks fabulous there and now I have towels, hand-towels, flannels and body products handy, rather than running downstairs. It looks so at home in its new spot that I can’t believe I didn’t do it before, but it was something in one of the chapters that made me start thinking about moving things around.

There are so many good, useable tips are in this book. It’s clear that either Kathryn has done A LOT of research or perhaps is passionate about this topic, or maybe both!

Thanks to this book I have finally gone through my sewing room and decided what crafts I really love. I’ve never thought of decluttering actual craft categories before, but whenever I went into my sewing room I felt overwhelmed at all the possibilities, and also guilt at not want to get stuck into any of them (when they used to be my greatest joy and comfort).

I chose to keep knitting and sewing, and decluttered all my embroidery goodies which my two young nieces are looking through. The eldest is seven, and is only a little younger than I am when I first started playing around with hand-sewing and embroidery.

My sewing room is now more streamlined and I actually want to go in there to potter which I am very happy about.

One thing I love about Small Space Organizing is that it has no pictures. Words always let me think about my house, my situation and my life. I can more easily visualize my solutions when there aren’t other (perfect) houses making me feel dissatisfied. And of course pictures date over time, whereas a book like this is timeless, because the ideas and principles are.

With any possible book purchase, I like to test-drive them first. If you think you would enjoy this book, you can either ‘have a look inside’ on Amazon, or order it from your library. If your library doesn’t have this title, request that they order it in.

Our library offers this service online, but if yours doesn’t, speak to a librarian next time you’re in. It’s a great way to preview a book and see if it would be helpful to you, and it introduces the book to other readers as well. One of our librarians told me they have a certain budget they have to spend on books each year and that they love it when people request titles be purchased.

So thank you to Kathryn Bechen for sending me your book, I know it will be well-used. In fact it is already looking a little 'ruffled' from frequent reference. I’m sure my chic readers will get plenty of inspiration and loads of ideas from it too.
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