Sceptically Fit


Reasons to have a smartphone

Filed under: Personal, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 07:26

Instant recipe search!

So after an evening in the pub, SO attempted to be supportive of my healthy eating thing (Can’t you just eat around the pie crust? Lasagne is out too? Well, you have to pick something) and we headed to the late night mini-supermarket to pick up some meat to cook (my post-pub concession was we can have some oven chips to go with it).

The supermarket was out of lamb chops but had some nice looking Irish rump steaks. Which SO looked at and shrugged and revealed without peppercorn sauce what’s the point of steak. Imagine the wonder when I quickly looked up a recipe on my phone so we could a) determine it was easily made and b) grab the ingredients.

Went a little heavy on the pepper (SO thought the recipe didn’t look peppery enough) but tasty. And while I can’t consider it a truly healthy meal, and the beef stock cubes weren’t gluten-free,  it did show better options aren’t always more time consuming. In the time it took the chips to bake (ie same amount of time a pizza would take and half the time for a lasagne) I cooked the steak and made the sauce. And besides, four tequilas on an empty stomach, how healthy can you expect someone to be.

Learning points:

  • its just as easy and tastier to cook up something than to heat a pizza
  • Despite seeming to have normal or greater competence in life, SO continues to be amazed at the concept that food you buy can also be made at home
  • I can be motivated enough to stick to my healthyish diet even after a night out.

Also – more success on the resolution front. That’s two new recipes this year and I’m only in the third week!


How to manage the Xmas Binge

Filed under: Health and Nutrition, Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 18:48

A timely post from Charlotte: Cookie Detox on how to manage the sugar cravings and crashes that come with Christmas treats.

I’m feeling a little strange approaching the Christmas break. I’ve not had the most healthy diet by any standard over the last few months but I have been trying to pay attention to how the different foods feel. Not as aware as proper intuitive eating but getting there. Will I manage not to binge? probably not. But I do know from experience eating sugar with fat and protein helps me feel better.


Comfort Food – Doing it Right

Filed under: Personal, Recipes — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 20:20

Taking time to relax on my approach to food does feel like its working for me. I think my diet is settling into a more natural pattern – being aware of when I’m hungry as opposed to needy. Trying to keep wheat out of my diet as much as possible – my food journalling has made pretty clear that wheat has an unpleasant effect on how I feel physically and has suggested quite strongly a negative effect on how I feel emotionally. It seems there might be something to the intuitive eating theory that becoming aware of how something affects you will change your interest in eating it. I’m not trying to deny myself although I do need to ‘fight’ the urge for some wheat products. And fail at time although I the donut I ate at work was so unsatisfying I don’t think I’ll be tempted again for a while. I’m not trying to ‘diet’ or lose weight, but I am trying to feel good. So that means working towards a healthier diet, one that meets my emotional and physical needs.

A long day at work, and still nursing a badly sprained ankle, I was hungry and in need of something particularly comforting today. Part of me wanted to stop off at the shops and grab something – a big bag of crisps or something else equally snacky, a nice easy fix to the desire. But it wouldn’t really. Somehow, for the first time in a while, I was able to recognise that. Instead, I made myself sweet potato fries. And they were tasty:


Sweet Potato Fries:

  • pre-heat oven to 200C
  • cut up a large sweet potato into sticks
  • melt a tablespoon of coconut oil
    on a tray
  • mix a generous amount of paprika, a little sprinkling of cayenne pepper to taste, and a little ground black pepper into the oil
  • roll the sweet potato in the oil and bake for approx 20min turning once.
  • sit down with a good book and enjoy


Should you listen to your body?

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 21:19

Its idea I struggle with as I don’t really believe that I can trust my body.  And maybe its because I had labradors as the family pet, but I don’t really buy the argument that animals naturally know how much to eat either. That said, I’m intrigued and hopeful for the ideas of the paleo diet and intuitive eating. The question is, how to get there?
If I was a more egotistocal sort, I’d be thinking the universe is answering my questions. But for whatever reason, the blogging world has been helpfully dealing with these very questions.


Food is so much more than Nutrition

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 23:20

Food is fuel, but food is so much more. Food is pleasure and comfort, punishment, resignation and despair. Food is sensual and a subsitute. Food is a treat, a gift to oneself and one’s loved ones. Food is a symbol of morality, self-control, indulgence and lack of discipline. Food wears the coat of many many colours.

Are women more likely to take refuge in food as both a pleasure and a punishment? It does seem that way. Is that the manifestation of the specific cultural pressures women face, hormones or a combination of both? Does one play off the other – cultural pressures influence towards dietary restrictions and indulgences that have their own effect on the body’s hormones which then have their own effect again on appetite, weight and mood?

Sometimes it seems that there’s truth in the saying: when the student is ready the teacher will appear.  Paleo for Women’s Stefani Ruper had a very timely post on binging that really resonated with the place that I’ve been for a couple of months now.

The psychological deprivation may be worse. It puts us in a state of hyper-awareness about food.   The decision to restrict induces a constant struggle to eat less and exercise more, and it makes it nearly crucial for a woman to constantly check herself against her desires, lest her stock-piled hunger pick her up and shove her head-first into the overeating rabbit hole.  The more a person thinks about food, the more he doesn’t want to think about food, but the more he ends up emphasizing it in his brain and thinking about it anyway.   Then the more he messes up, and the more guilt he has, and the more negative he feels, the more strongly he needs to eat.    So deprivation is one huge psychological factor.  And so is the need to medicate against negative self-talk.  Food is a powerful, powerful drug.   And this whole process, a vicious, vicious cycle.

I have been very distrustful towards the idea of intuitive eating. Several of the  blogs I read encourage it as a healthy (mind and body) approach to diet. However, I have had a lot of trouble with the idea that we should trust our bodies. Why? Have you looked around, our bodies have no idea what they are doing?  I would be ashamed to let some of my nearest and dearest see how much I can eat in one go. My mind might know its a problem but my body doesn’t. I know that if I eat a certain way – lots of refined carbs – I just get hungrier and hungrier. I always have a dessert stomach! So how can I trust my body?

But maybe my body needs to trust my mind. Pushing your emotional concerns down doesn’t get rid of them. And, maybe there’s a certain pre-deposed aspect to it, eventually there’s an escape. Willpower is a finite resource. In some ways it acts like a muscle – you can develop it – but it also fatigues. If you are using up your willpower on the unaddressed or unadressable emotional issues, you have none left to control your diet. All the comfort that food can offer can no longer be refused. Consuming enough food to cause real physical discomfort can be a manifestation of the emotional turmoil you aren’t ready to deal with. The exhaustion of a busy and stressful situation that doesn’t seem to end can be overcome through high energy foods that offer brief dopamine boosts to help you rise above it temporarily.

Stefani’s comments on the role of food hyper-awareness on over-eating resonated me. I decided that I would no longer track my food. I wouldn’t monitor how many calories or carbs I was eating. I wouldn’t pay attention to how paleo my food is. Instead I would attempt to journal, paying attention to how I felt about my food intake, but really just about how I feel.

Charlotte ( has also recently posted on using a food journal to examine the interaction between food and emotions.

In the past when someone has asked me if I am an “emotional eater” my response has always been “Duh, yes! Isn’t everyone?!” I know there are some people out there who see food purely as fuel and nothing more but for the majority of us, food is intimately connected with our emotions. This isn’t a bad thing (survival 101?) but understanding the interaction would be very helpful. So that’s why I’m doing this. And, one of the great things about keeping a mindful journal is that I still get to write other stuff not just about food.

Its far from a success yet. But I’m working on eating what I want – but trying to pay attention to what I actually want – not just eating junk because its comfort food. That’s an important distinction for me. I realise I’ve come to associate certain types of unhealthy food as the tasty food. Even when they often aren’t as tasty as I imagine. I’m working on exercising enough to make me feel good – no half-marathons for a while, and some good solid strength training because I like the way it feels to do, and the way it makes me feel having done it.  Getting enough sleep – definitely still a work in progress. And I’ve managed to resume enough enthusiasm to post again.


Everyone hates bananas!

Filed under: Exercise, Personal — Tags: , — Sceptically Me @ 12:50

Ok that’s not entirely true but I was interested in the comments on this post on the merits of bananas over sports drinks. I hated bananas with a passion. I still don’t like the smell of them, although I’ve become largely indifferent to the taste. I still don’t like them. I’m aware of how good they are for  me – and their usefulness in fueling exercise.

In fact, my declining dislike has corresponded with my increasing cardio exercise ie training for a half marathon. I’m aware that as much as it seems otherwise most of the time, sometimes your body does know what it needs. About ten years ago I suddenly got a craving for bananas. I think it corresponded with a new very physically active job. For about a week I needed to eat bananas daily – then suddenly halfway through a banana – I didn’t like them anymore. I’m assuming I was low on something and needed to address it. My body wanted bananas until it had addressed the imbalance, and then the dislike-override faded.  Now that I’m planning on reducing my running and just concentrating on weight lifting, sprints and fun sports, I wonder if I’ll lose start developing a dislike of bananas again.



Discovering a Weak Point

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 16:42

I finally moved to a new place on the weekend. Moving day is one of those times you really get an idea of your basic functional fitness level.

I moved from a flat on the second floor to a flat on the third floor. Both old Victorian tenements so stairs the whole way

I had two very kind friends who offered both assistance and vehicles. I didn’t have any furniture so just boxes and bags but a lot of them – and my packing Fu meant some of the clothes only bags were surprisingly heavy. In order to speed things up I got everything downstairs prior to their arrival so by the time we got to the new place I really appreciated the two extra bodies.

Being strong and fit enough meant I could keep going without taking a break up and down multiple flights of stairs. I could carry everything I packed rather than needing to leave any heavy boxes for the men folk. I still had energy to finish sorting though several hours later I was starting to fatigue and lifting a book filled packing box above my head to put on top of a cupboard was now beyond me (new place doesn’t have a bookcase).

The next day the muscle aches really started to kick on. To be expected my legs are quite sore – calves like after a half marathon and thighs, well I did an hour of weighted stairs…

Why surprised me a bit was that my upper arms and back feel fine – so seems my upper body training isn’t going to badly. The weak point – forearms! Oh they are aching. Sustained grip on heavy object is taxing!


Is Fitspo just as damaging…

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 19:48

Charlotte recently wrote about a subject that’s been increasingly bothering me since I joined Pinterest and that’s fitspiration (ie fit inspiration). Aside from the fact that I’ve had to unfollow several boards of friends if I wanted to open it up at work (hey some of us eat at our desk half the time!) and a lot of fitspo is a bit over the line nsfw-wise, but also because so much of it seems to be just another unattainable ideal with added shaming messages for not reaching it.

Charlotte writes:

Looking at rock-hard body after rock-hard body it occurred to me that fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra. After all, the problem with thinspo is that the images represent a mostly unattainable ideal that requires great sacrifices (both physical and mental) to achieve and I daresay that most of those “perfect” female bodies, albeit muscular instead of bony, are equally as problematic. Many people will say that while it’s rare to be born with skinny genes but that muscle can be built with hard work in the gym. And I agree. But in most of these pictures, we’re not looking at your average woman who does Bodypump twice a week and can now lift her children with ease. We’re looking at a very exclusive set of dedicated athletes that train very hard and eat a very particular diet to maintain extremely lean figures. A second argument would be that super skinny is unhealthy while exercise is very healthy. Again I agree. Except that for the majority of women to look like the girls in these fitspo pictures they’d have to be young, probably not have had kids and quite possibly have an unhealthy devotion to exercise and eating. And let’s remember that women need body fat not only for spawning but also for our own health. I’m not saying every fitness model has an eating disorder. I promise! I am saying though that compulsive over exercise can be just as deadly as other eating disorders and yet it so socially sanctioned that it’s often promoted as inspiring.


Going through my own pinterest fitspo board, I noticed that the only images I’ve pinned are ones where the woman is doing something not just looking fit.



Turning a Setback into a Success

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , — Sceptically Me @ 17:47

Saturdays are my long run day – a gentle non-gylcogen-depleating long run of about 19-22km. I had the house to myself this morning, and was feeling very much in need of a coffee first thing so I decided to take my time to breakfast and then head out for the run.

Sun streamed through my window while I had my coffee, a couple of eggs and some bananas and read the news, surfed a bit – you know weekend morning stuff. Got dressed, did my warm up and headed out. Into snow and hail!

I got about a km away from home before I decided to turn back and head to the gym instead. Now there’s no way I can cope with running on a treadmill for 2 hours. I hate treadmill running so much I don’t think missing one run is motivation to force myself there. Instead I decided to up my lifts – it had been an accidental rest week due to work so now was a good time to push myself. Squat, sumo deadlift, overhead press, bench press, hip thrust all upped. Increased reps on assisted chinups, assisted pullups and standard deadlifts. Even increased the number of sprints I did at the end of the workout (that’s what treadmills are for – sprint workouts!).

  • Barbell Squat – 5×3 35kg (up 5kg!)
  • Overhead Press – 5×4 25kg
  • Sumo Deadlift – 5×1 65kg
  • Deadlift – 5×1 60kg
  • Romanian Deadlift – 4×8 35kg
  • Bench Press – 5×4 32.5kg
  • Barbell Hip Thrust 4×10 50kg
  • Assisted chinup – 5 at -7.5kg
  • Assisted pullup 5 at -15.5kg
  • plank – 120secs
  • sprints – 7 at 14km/hr

Out of all that – the Romanian/Straight-leg deadlift if the only one I didn’t increase weight or rep/time. Strength-wise I think the sumo, deadlift and hip thrust cover what the Romanian/Straightleg deadlift covers without the same risk to my back when increasing the weight. If anything I tend to be using it more as a loosening up/cardio move after theproper deadlifts.


Primal Challenge / January Round Up

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:45

My 30 day Primal Challenge kind of petered out.  If anything, I really had a primal challenge of  about twenty days with about ten days of testing the 80/20 rule*. My biggest aim in the paleo challenge was to test a bit more of the grains are bad theory than my previous attempts had allowed.  What I wanted to find out is if the type of carbs really made a difference for me – and it does.

Goals Review:

Overall WellBeing

Get eight hours sleep most nights:

  • A complete fail. I have not been getting enough sleep most of the week and barely manage to catch up during the weekend.
  • I have been experimenting with taking vitamin d3 supplements and while its too early to tell I do seem to be sleeping falling asleep more quickly and sleeping better throughout the night

Complete a 30 day Paleo challenge

  • More of a 20 rather than 30 day challenge…
  • Excluding grains makes a difference. Because I’ve started training for a half-marathon, I’ve made sure I’ve been eating more carbs – I’m generally eating more carbohydrates than I did prior to starting this (mostly sweet potato). So its not the macro balance, its the absence of grains especially wheat. Trying rice made me feel more bloated but not as off as wheat. That’s good enough for me to assume I have an intolerance to gluten – although I’m happy to accept further evidence suggesting there’s something more complicated at play
  • I have more energy and despite some personal ups and downs – feel happier.
  • the advantage of failing at the challenge was seeing how well it would fit into my normal life without too much trouble.
  • Did I lose weight? No – I put on half a kilo. However, I did lose 3cm from my waistline and lost approximately 2% of body fat (I average a couple of different calculator results)

Keep my houseplants alive – I solved that one by throwing out my dead houseplants. You can’t fail to keep them alive if you don’t have any…

Fitness Goals

  • be able to do a full pull up – still working on this on. Down to a 7.5kg counterweight on the assisted pullup machine but really feel like I’ve stalled. Will be looking into more exercises to help strengthen up whatever stabilising muscles are underdeveloped.
  • run a half marathon in under two hours in May : This is coming along well. I ran 16.98 km in an 1:50 last weekend. Not fast, but that’s the point. I’m trying to do my long run at a gentle pace well below using up my glycogen reserves. Last year, I was pushing myself faster and was having a lot of trouble with recovery and a crazy appetite. This year, I’m doing pretty well – I’m keeping Friday and Sunday as a rest day (with Wed as a partial rest day), which gives my long run a nice preparation before and recovery after.

Creative/Lifestyle Goals

  • improve my paleo cooking – I’ve made a few things: butternut pumpkin soup and chocolate coconut pudding. More than that though I’ve been inspired by recipes. So that’s a good thing.
  • complete the beginners swing dancing course : three weeks and counting!
  • finish a book a month: do graphic novels count?
  • take the time to indulge my creative side at least once a week: does this count?



*Currently down for maintenance so in case the url’s change I’ll put links to Mark’s Daily Apple guide to the 80/20 principle here. Further 80/20, still further.

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