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!


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!


The Joy of Frozen Vegetables and Warm Winter Food

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , — Sceptically Me @ 23:55

Last year, the UK experienced winter weather that would probably make those from North America snort in derision, but it was enough to grind the country to a halt. While news of road closures kept filling the broadcasts, I was influenced by a friends warning that supermarkets would not receive any more stock and panic-shopped a bunch of frozen vegetables including a kilo of frozen shredded spinach.

At the time I was horrified – what was I going to do with frozen spinach? I certainly didn’t seem to suit my style of cooking and unlike the traditional frozen peas and corn wasn’t going to be something I’d be happy cooking up in the microwave with a nice dollop of butter.

But what I’ve since realised is that its perfect for bulking up the veggie content of chillis and curries, casseroles and hotpots.

Frozen onion is wonderful – I’m not too lazy to chop – I’m just incredibly sensitive to whatever it is that makes your eyes water. My eyes will still be sore and red several hours later! But not with frozen onion.

Basic Beef Casserole:

  • approx 500grams of diced casserole steak
  • 300gm of frozen spinach (ie probably a 3rd of a bag)
  • large cup of frozen onion
  • large cup of frozen peas
  • beef stock
  • chicken stock
  • tablespoon of lard
  • tin of borlotti beans
  • tin of button mushrooms.
  • herbs – oregano and garlic

I put the beef, lard, spinach, onion and peas in a casserole dish. Added the beef stock (I used a knorr beef hot pot gel) and chicken stock (I used two units of my homemade stock) and topped up the dish with boiling water. Give it a good stir and put in the oven on 200C for about 30min. Then I turned it down to 180C for about an hour and a half. Add the beans and mushrooms, oregano and garlic – give a good mix and turn the heat down to 160C for approx another hour.

As a cold winters night comfort dish after a good weights workout at the gym – its a good hearty meal for two – or for one, and a delicious reheatable meal for later (that’s the great thing about hotpot style dishes – they reheat well). I think I might add another tablespoon or two of lard next time – need a bit more fat to balance all that protein and carbohydrates.

Approx per serve: 715 Calories, 33grams of Carbohydrates (17grams fibre – already deducted), 109grams of Protein and 16 grams of Fat


Weekly review

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 08:05

I’m reasonably happy with the last weeks progress.

Starting the week with a pretty clean low-carb diet seems to have had a pretty quick effect on getting me to feel a lot better – less bloated, digestion feeling better and more energy. I weighed myself three times during the week and have dropped 2kg which I’m guessing is water weight – no wonder I feel less bloated.

So when I’m at home, I can keep my diet under control – but I’m not so good outside. According to myfitnesspal my diet was 5246 calories over my weekly goal. Ratios aren’t too bad – 30/20/50 but with all that stress going on last week, I needed that pizza on Thurs!

So clearly still working on balancing emotional eating but feel like I’m getting somewhere on motivating myself exercise-wise.

Strength: managed two sessions this week. Maintaining the gains I pushed for last week but not ready to go up yet.

Running: a 8km run outdoors on Tuesday which went well and some treadmill hills on Saturday – hard the day after weights but I do feel like I’m getting the benefit

This week I’m going to aim for the same level of activity – have another run planned for Tuesday. Also working on not looking for food treats at work!


Months of Stress and Inaction

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 15:35

I’ve spent the last few months in a state of constant stress from several different sources. This is is not a good state to be in and its a state I want to change.

The stresses that I’m not going to detail aren’t going to go away immediately. In fact I see much of the stress staying at a similar level for quite a while even if the direct cause changes. But what has to change is how I’m coping with them.

I don’t expect it to change over night – this kind of thing never does. But I’m starting.

Diet: I’ve been binging terribly on carbs over the summer and I’ve definitely lost muscle and gained fat.  I’ve started trying to track my diet. I’m going to try and keep my carbohydrates under about 100grams a day. And based on a lot of what I’ve read, a woman who exercises a lot needs approximately 1.3 grams of protein per kg. So basically my plan is to aim for a ratio of 20/20/60 (carbs/protein/fat). With that I’m trying to cut back on my refined carbohydrates (specifically grains). The party season is about the start, and rather than bring a sense of guilt or  asceticism and denial into my lifestyle I’m going to ease myself into it. I’d like to try and tidy up now, and in the new year try the 30 day primal challenge to see how that goes.

I’ve been coming across a lot of tasty sounding recipes but haven’t tried them. I’ve not really explored cooking and creating anything myself. Once again – things I want to work at.

Exercise: Over summer, I haven’t completely dropped this, even through Autumn I managed to keep up enough running and weights to not completely set myself back. But its been directionless, and probably contributing to the stress at times. In the last month I’ve started feeling like I can’t neglect myself any long (so a big tick there). I’ve started building up my weight training again – and I’d say I’m back a little bit ahead of where I was before it all went to head. My squat, deadlift and overhead press have increased. My bench hasn’t but I do that after the other three so that could be why. I’ve also decided to concentrate on my pullup over winter – as in to be able to do one. So I pushed a bit, and now I’m down to a 12kg counterweight on the assisted pullup machine (ie 5kg less than previously).

I’m now feeling more ready to start up my running again. I’ve decided I do want to do a half marathon again next year. But I want to build up to it more slowly. Spread the training over the week a bit more and increase mileage slowly enough to match an increase in carbohydrate consumption so I don’t get two weeks before the race and am ravenously eating everything in sight. I managed to turn up at a running club and keep up with them for the 8km run – though I’m going to have to work at being able to chat while running.

Sleep – get some! I bought one of those sun alarm clocks about two months ago and I’d recommend it. I only bought the cheap one which increases brightness every five minutes for twenty minutes instead of a gradual increase over twenty minutes/hour as some do. I’m very sensitive to light so usually wake up within the first five minutes. Even though its not the gradual adjustment of dawn, its better than a sudden alarm. The other side of things – going to sleep – has to improve. I need to go to bed earlier, and I need to be less stressed so I do.

Mental Health – working on making time for non-exercise related activities. I’m planning on going back to dance classes in the new year. I’m trying to make time for creative outlets, and cut back on the web surfing (oh the irony of saying that on a blog). I’m also seriously looking at exploring meditation/mindfulness as a path to helping my mental state.




Filed under: Personal, Recipes — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:10


In an effort to broaden my options, take advantage of cheap meat sources (eg mince) and come up with something that makes easy breakfasting leftover options to eat at work; I decided to try a meatza.

The idea is to use beef mince as the pizza base. Gets your protein count up, leaves your carb (with no need for wheat!) low and still tastes like pizza. Well that’s the theory…

I use the paleo pizza recipe from spark people but modified it based on my cupboard contents. So not having any caraway seeds may have been the problem.

Make up a bowl of herbs with a generous (ie more than the teaspoon specified) of oregano, black pepper, garlic salt and red pepper. Mix with 500g of beef mince. Mix in with a raw egg. Didn’t have any Parmesan so that didn’t get mixed into the pan

Spread on a tray and bake for about 15mins on 200c.

Once it was done I poured off the fat and made my pizza. Tomato paste, cheese, onions, olives and mushrooms. I’d precooked the onions and mushrooms so the pizza only needed another five mins.

Let it sit for about five mins.

Verdict – I got three meals out of it. Half for dinner, and two breakfasts. The main problem was how dry the meat was – draining off the fat is the only option to get the pizza effect but it’s left so dry. Maybe the Parmesan cheese would have made all the difference but even with the extra allocation of herbs the base was very bland. It also didn’t hold together well at all, so no pizza effect in terms of ‘slice of pizza’. Though i think i may have made it slightly too thick. Need a bigger pan to try again. The topping was delicious so clearly I need to incorporate more tomato sauce type dishes into my diet.

Overall, seemed too much effort for something that doesn’t really form a decent substitute. But it did seem like a decent option for breakfast though could I be bothered with this just for breakfast? Maybe I’ll try again with the changes I’ve mentioned and see if that makes it worth it.


Gym Victory!

Filed under: Exercise, Personal — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 21:01

I have been struggling with problems with my squat for a while.

My original source of information on how to squat came from the wonderful Stumptuous, an excellent resource for weightlifting targeted at (but not limited to) women. But somehow over this last year it stopped working properly. Well, not somehow – I drastically changed my workout patterns. I stopped squatting and deadlifting much and did a lot of long distance running as I was training for the half-marathon. Clearly, I created a different balance of muscles. I was having trouble not rounding my back and not leaning forward.

Having a lot of flexibility but incredibly weak glutes, I’ve found that a lot of the information out there is tailored to men, and with that is a direction that a lot of the issues are going to be mobility ones but that’s not the case – I can drop into a squat easily. The reason I fall over isn’t because I don’t bend that way, its because I can’t hold myself there.

A lot of searching on different forums I’ve read a wide collection of advice, aside from Stumptuous, I recommend All about the squat for a guide. But still, I could reach the position, it just wasn’t right. Then I caught sight in the mirror and discovered – I have buttwink! But how could that be? Everything I’ve read has said that’s a flexibility issue, and I’m nothing (else) but flexible. More internet searching and I found this video – engage the hip flexors! And the butt wink was cured.

Unfortunately that wasn’t it. I was having trouble coming back up without leaning forward too much. I could feel my weight rolling onto the balls of my feet  as  I stood up. Reading through the guides: yes I’m looking to the middle foreground; yes, shoulders back; yes, my knees are in line with my toes; yes, I’m driving from the hips; yes, my core is engaged. What was wrong?

Shoulders! Yes my shoulders were back but once again too easily flexible becomes a hindrance. My shoulders were back but my shoulder blades weren’t pulled back – the muscles weren’t engaged. I went to the gym, focussed on the shoulders and what a difference. It was easy! Well not truly easy, but everything worked. As I stood up, I stood up – I didn’t have to try and balance my top half over my lower half, all one seamless entity. Who’d have thought it – doing an exercise properly is the best way to do the exercise.


Starting now…again

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 16:07

Over the last few years I really have turned my health and fitness around. I lost weight, started exercising regularly and started eating better. My approach was very haphazard, my only real goal was to be able to run for long enough to be able to run away from a serial killer/monster (yes, I decided to get fit after watching a horror movie) – initially 20 minutes then 60.

I’ve always played the psychological game against myself to ensure I could get somewhere. When I first joined the gym I promised myself I could eat as much as I wanted, and drink as much coffee as I felt like as long as I kept exercising. I was so new to it all my metabolism took off so much my daily bowl of brownies and ice cream had no effect on my weight loss.

But newbie gains eventually stop. Fitness levels stop increasing without direction and time is a limiting factor. This year I ran a half-marathon – but in the process of encouraging my ability I went crazy diet-wise and would spend most of my time eating garbage and remaining ravenously hungry which continued post-race.

In an attempt to get that under control, I decided to try a low-carb/paleo diet. I’ve done low-carb diets before and just like a lot of the literature says, I found them effective in regulating my appetite and steadying my blood sugar levels (the first time I tried Atkins after almost fainting on two occasions when heading out early without breakfast). It wasn’t quite the 30 day success that I’d originally intended and too nights out with friends nulled the avoid bread/pasta/pizza/cake thing when I was being good. But I’m edging towards my aim for a diet – heavy in non-starchy vegetables, high in protein and fat, low in starches/carbohydrates aiming to avoid wheat as much as possible. I think I’ve already given up on the the idea of avoiding dairy – as long as its not been poured over cereal, I’m inclined to think I’m adapted to digest it. Oh, and negatives of coffee are too inconsequential for how wonderful it is…

For future reference – I don’t intend to source any claim I make in a personal post.

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