Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good-Bye 2014

This year has been filled with many, many big changes. I still haven't fully processed the fact that I now live in England ... I keep thinking I'm on vacation and that I'll be heading back to Kuwait soon, but I know that's not the case.

I think for such a big move, I've done quite well adjusting to life here. It hasn't been easy, and I still have to figure out a good routine for me - particularly since I'm not doing any academic teaching at the moment - but besides that, I'm happy with how things have gone.

The end of the year in terms of food and fitness did not go as planned -- I was way too distracted with the onslaught of social events and treats that entered the house ... it has not been good!! I know better than that! It has been very apparent that the main thing I'll need to work on in 2015 is my will power!

In terms of my own life, I'm happy with how my year has gone. The only thing that still weighs heavy on my heart is my brother's health. He is not out of the woods yet in terms of his recovery and treatment ... and it looks like there will be a long road ahead ... still the most we can do is take it one day at a time and remain optimistic and strong.

Happy New Year everyone! Hope 2015 brings you good health and happiness!

Resolutions will be up tomorrow! 

Christmas 2014 - London

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tough Weeks

Last week was a really tough week for me - one of the toughest I've have since I moved to London. Very little went according to plan. A huge part of what was me working to finish my writing for a deadline. Writing is such a big struggle for me. More than anything, the thing that really throws me off with writing is that you can't plan when the ideas are going to start flowing. Even if I schedule 4 hours at my desk, there is no guarantee that my thoughts will come together in the way I want them to within those 4 hours ... and more often than not, after 4 hours at my desk, I'm just getting warmed up.

Since I had a deadline to meet, I had to make my writing a priority this week -- this meant everything else took a back seat.

That alone was annoying.

Add to that the fact that I wasn't feeling well at all - terrible symptoms as a result of iron-deficiency anemia which is all linked to my health history. It has been a terrible week -- pain, dizziness, and nausea topped the list of my symptoms ... and believe me, they were enough to make me just want to stay in bed and not come out at all.

I didn't hide away, but I definitely wasn't as active as I wanted to be -- when simply moving from a seated position to standing practically had me passing out, I knew that it would not be smart to push myself. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body! So, last week was very calm in terms of training -- I made it it a few Jiu-Jitsu sessions, but even then, I spent most of my time on the mats doing light drills and observing -- no sparring at all.

I started this week feeling better. I was taking an iron supplement and making sure to eat properly and drink lots of water ... I was back at the gym and everything was fine ... until Wednesday night when all of a sudden I had extreme chills - was shaking uncontrollably, was feeling nauseous and extremely ill ... it was terrible. It was shocking at how I went from feeling absolutely fine to incredibly ill.

I was in bed for the next 33 hours. I couldn't move. I had no energy whatsoever. I got up once and took a shower and made something to eat -- I thought that maybe if I tried to move about a bit and get some food in my system I would feel better, but no ... I had half a bowl of oatmeal which gave me just enough energy to crawl back to bed and that's where I stayed until Friday morning.

Today, physically I'm feeling a lot better -- it's just my head that's feeling a bit fuzzy, not really sure how to describe it. I'm going to try and make it as much of a normal day as possible and hope that whatever it was that affected me (I suspect it was a side effect of the iron supplements which I don't normally take because I've had bad side effects from them before) is no longer an issue.

So, lots of obstacles lately, but I know I've just got to keep pushing along and do the best I can.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Don't Touch

When my little brother was almost 2 years old, he was incredibly curious. He wanted to get his hands on everything - and more than that, he wanted to put everything in his mouth! My mother was constantly running after him saying, 'Don't touch. Don't touch.'

One day, we saw my brother standing in front of my mom's dressing table, eyeing her glittering bottles of perfumes and clasping his little hands to his chest, shaking his head left to right muttering to himself, 'Don't touch. Don't touch.'

It was the cutest thing.

Those shiny bottles looked so tempting, but he knew better -- and all he could do was keep repeating to himself - 'Don't touch. Don't touch.'

It is with that mentality that I will be approaching this coming week. I've got a bit social weekend coming up ... and while I don't plan on 'going crazy' when it comes to the food, I know that there will be temptations. The best thing I can do is tell myself 'Don't touch' throughout the week so that maybe, if I feel like it, I can relax that discipline over the weekend.

My main goals for this work week are:

1) Eat clean - All meals should follow the whole life challenge guidelines and/or the Gracie Diet guidelines.
2) Eat every 4 1/2 - 5 hours -- no snacking in between.
3) Drink 3-4 L of water each day.
4) Exercise a minimum of 1 hour each day (3 lifting sessions, 2 HIIT sessions, 2 Jiu-Jitsu sessions this week)
5) Stretch daily
6) Track daily
7) Most importantly: Saying 'Don't touch. Don't touch. Don't touch.' to all those oh-so-tempting foods!

In addition to these tasks, I will try to do as many of my 'additional 50 Day Goals' as possible. The complete list is here. Let's see how many I can get done!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hello December!

Here we are ... the last 31 days of the year. I can't believe it! When I look back on the past 11 months, a lot has happened. It's actually overwhelming to me to think of everything that has happened this past year ... but I am feeling truly blessed and happy.

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the leftover food is either packed up, given away, or thrown out, I am focusing on getting staying focused over the next few weeks. It will definitely be a challenge as there are many social events, in fact more social events over the next month than there have been in the entire time that I've been in London!! My focus on those occasions will definitely be on the company vs. the food. I've eaten enough good food. I have no cravings for anything ... and I think that's a great way to approach this food-focused festive season!

My goals for the month:
- Not gain any weight!!
- Continue to follow the basic guidelines of my 50 Day challenge -- I've been ok with most things but my tracking has been terrible. I need to refocus on that.
- I'm putting my muay thai on hold for the next 2 months while I focus on building a bit more muscle and improving my Jiu-Jitsu techniques.
- Blog and comment on blogs regularly.
- Work on my flexibility daily.

I'm starting the month eager and optimistic -- and I hope I end the month (and year) successfully!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Five - Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been another busy, busy week.

I spent 4 days down in central London. Even though I live in London, staying central as a bit of a holiday treat was lovely -- not having to worry about taking the tube back home and lugging all the shopping at the end of a day of endless walking! I had a blast - a reunion with some friends I hadn't seen in 4 years, lovely dinners out, enjoying the Christmas lights (though I really didn't want to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving), and just the general vibe of the city. Despite being gone for such a short time and to such a short distance away, the disruption to my routine had an impact ... and it was a struggle to find my footing after getting home.

1. Celebrating with D at Fortnum & Mason

2. I loved this hat from Hunter -- though I was advised against it, particularly near banks

3. I can be such a tourist! I spotted a couple of Paddington bears around London -- and of course I had to get a photo!

4. Reunited with friends -- had a fab night and terrific meal at Kettner's -- I highly recommend the restaurant - everything was delicious!! 

5. After being off my game for the 4 days in London, I was more than happy to create a clean Thanksgiving meal -- cajun crusted turkey breast over parsnip puree along with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed string beans and carrots. It was filling and delicious (and I woke up the next morning weighing 1/2 a pound less!! I was thankful for having eaten a light meal!) :) 

I've actually got a big Thanksgiving feast planned for this coming weekend ... I'm hoping I can be just as disciplined, particularly around the desserts. Will try to focus on the company and not the food! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Five

I can't believe a whole week went by without me posting. That was not my intention -- but this week didn't coincide that well with my good intentions. I felt rather off sync throughout the week. It's amazing how one or two out of the ordinary events can throw me off my groove. I really do need to learn how to be less reliant on having a set schedule.

Here are the top 5 things that got me off my A game this week -- Although the week didn't go according to plan, it wasn't all a failure. I tried my best to learn from each incident - and I hope that the lessons will keep me moving forward.

Last week I found myself spiraling downward into a really dark head-space. I let one little incident consume me and fill me without doubt -- doubt of things I've accomplished and doubt of what lies ahead in my future. It was not good. The scariest part for me was that I could feel myself sinking into the quicksand of negative thoughts. In the past, not only would I not have control over these thoughts, but I would also fully believe in them and allow myself to get pulled down. This time, it was different. I knew better. It was a true struggle within. On the one hand, I felt suffocated. On the other, I was trying to coax myself out of the funk. I was 'happy' that I could recognize what was happening and that I really didn't want to go there. I knew that I could pull out of this and that it was foolish to allow one little thing - that really didn't have anything directly to do with me - to throw me off my course.

I had one day of pure darkness, but I didn't allow myself to to remain there. I kept rallying, and that's what led me to reassess a few things.

While I was trying to figure out how to get out of my funk, one thing became clear to me -- If I was doubting my abilities/potential/skill, then I obviously wasn't working hard enough. I know that may seem like I'm being hard on myself, but if I'm 100% honest with myself, I know I can do better. There are little things here and there that I let slide. In the desire and attempt to try and do it all, I can't always give 100% of myself to each thing that I try.

My biggest priority at the moment is to fine tune my Jiu-Jitsu training so that I'm ready for LA in January (assuming I get accepted -- I haven't found out yet; regardless, it's best I start my training now so that I'm not caught off guard later on). That means extra time on the mat, extra time studying my moves, and extra time drilling. The last thing I want, as I mentioned before, is to feel unprepared or unsure of myself because I didn't give all my efforts into my training. It's important to me, so it has to be a priority.

With that as my main goal at the moment, I've had to sacrifice other things, namely my Muay Thai training at the moment. It really, really makes me sad to not pursue this line of training at the moment, but it is just for the moment. Hopefully once I know more about what's happening in January, I'll be able to work Muay Thai back into my schedule. Right now, all roads lead to Jiu-Jitsu -- and that means working on my endurance, strength, and flexibility through specific Jiu-Jitsu related drills and more mat time.

In addition to training, of course my food has to be looked at. Coming off the Whole Life Challenge has been tricky. It's amazing - I can be SO disciplined on the challenge - not even think of things on the forbidden list, but once I'm off, things change. I haven't gone totally out of control, but I have probably eaten a bit more than I should have and I've definitely given in to my sweet tooth. Another thing that set it off was having people over during the weekend -- although the main meal was clean (and whole life challenge friendly), there were desserts ... and instead of throwing them out (which I totally should have done), they were eaten ... in addition to that, some other changes in my week's schedule meant that my weekly food prep didn't get done ... and that has had an impact. Again, it's not that the foods have been horrible -- but I think that being on the Whole Life Challenge and totally cutting out all sugars, preservatives, etc. etc. changed my body chemistry. I feel the difference between my homemade granola and the one bought in the store - obviously the store bought one, no matter how organic and how 'clean' still has other stuff in it. All these little things add up -- and now they need to be subtracted. It's just not worth it. Food prep has to be a top priority -- even before my training actually, coz' I can't train right if I don't eat right.

For the past 5 days my sleep has been breaking around 2 a.m. Last night/this morning I couldn't get back to sleep. What's ironic is that normally my mind is crammed with thoughts and stresses and worries ... but my mind was actually blank. I was even trying to come up with soothing, relaxing thoughts but it just didn't work. I thought that I'd have a good night's sleep coz' I had had such a good workout that day (weights, MetaFit, and Jiu-Jitsu), but I just couldn't relax and sleep. I think it has to do with all these extra chemicals in me. It's the only thing significant thing that I can think of. I'm hoping that cleaning up my food will sort my sleep out.

Rest and Reset 
This weekend, I'm hoping to catch up on my sleep, to solidify my plan for the upcoming week - particularly how to navigate through Thanksgiving!! - and enjoy a reunion with some friends I haven't seen in a few years.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Five

First of all -- the 50 Day Challenge is still open. It is not a weight loss challenge -- it is just to provide some motivation to help stay on track through the holiday season. More details are up here. If you'd like to join along, please do -- it's not too late. You can join the Facebook page through this link:

On the page I'll have links to relevant blog posts as well as other notes and motivational posts. Every week on my blog I'll have a general post open for people to comment about how the challenge is going for them (particularly for those who are not on Facebook).

Here's a quick roundup of my week:

I tried renegade rows for the first time this week. They're part of my new routine. It's basically a push up but then when you push up, you also bring one arm up to do a row (hence the weights). They were not easy. I did 4 sets of 10 reps, but not all of the push ups were on my toes. 

I'm trying to take my Gracie Diet to the next level of trying only specific food combinations. This was my breakfast of chopped pears, cottage cheese, and a bit of honey plus some green tea. It was delicious and quite filling -- though I was hungry again after 2 hours! 

We had a great no-gi Jiu-Jitsu session last Sunday. I wore my new purple rashguard which I absolutely loved! A playful group pic at the end of our session :) 

One of my deal friends was visiting from Kuwait. We had a great time walking around London, browsing through Spitafield Market, and just laughing. It was a much needed break from my usual routine. Laughter is definitely good medicine! 

Taken at 5:30 this morning as I got ready to head out for my early morning Muay Thai session followed by yoga. It's never easy to get ready at that time of morning - particularly when it's cold, dark, and rainy outside -- but loving the sport really helps motivate me to get out that door!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Working without Numbers - Part 2

Calories in vs. calories out.

We've all heard it before, right? The numbers have to work in a certain way -- you need to burn more than you eat in order to lose weight …

Do you agree?

I definitely agree with the basic principle, but for me, it doesn't work that simply.

I feel like I've been experimenting with my food for years now. I workout regularly, I eat clean, but if it all came down to calculations of calories in vs. calories out and the number on the scale, it doesn't add up.

I sometimes wonder if there's a particular ingredient that I'm eating that may be healthy but still doesn't agree with me? I'm not feeling ill or bloated or anything. I'm not even feeling lethargic or fatigued. I'm just not dropping weight like I feel I should be. It's not about muscle vs. fat. I mean, I know I've put on muscle, but it's still not enough to justify the weight.

It's frustrating. I know that I need to keep tweaking my eating and my workouts until I find the right formula -- the one that works for my body chemistry and my activity level.

The important thing is to keep going.

I know that years ago I would have thought to myself - Forget this! If I'm putting in all this effort and not seeing any results, why should I go on?

This attitude is not helpful at all. Seriously. Who will you help/hurt by eating junk food and throwing healthy habits out the window just because the numbers don't always add up? This is why it's important to keep on Working without the Numbers -- it's the effort that matters.

Daily exercise is good for you.
Eating healthy is good for you.

The reason why the numbers on the scale may not be adding up is not because you're being healthy. It's going to be because of something else. However, there should be no doubt that exercise and clean eating are healthy habits that have long term benefits.

I know it's easy to get hung up on the numbers and feel frustrated. Trust me, I feel it more often than I care to admit ... but the important thing is to not give up. Keep going. Keep trying. Take comfort in knowing you're putting forth your best effort and the results will come. Suddenly you'll find that you've got a bit more pep to your step, you can finish that extra rep with better form, and those jeans suddenly have a bit more room in them. Success comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Stay positive and keep trying. Don't get distracted by the numbers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Importance of Tracking

As part of the 50-Day Lifestyle challenge, one of the daily tasks is to track what/how much/when you eat and move. Although the physical task itself is simple - really, how tough is it to type in a note on your phone saying that you've had 1 apple and a tuna sandwich at 1 pm - the discipline of it is more challenging.

I, myself, have started tracking on many occasions - kept it up for months and then just stopped doing it. Part of it was that I just didn't feel like doing it, but the other part was that I felt confident in the routine choices I was making. If I'm having the same breakfast/lunch/dinners week after week, why keep on tracking?

Well, the thing is, when things become routine, you can also become a bit complacent and not notice the little extras that creep in to your daily diet. Sure over a period of a week or a month 1 or 2 cookies won't hurt -- but tracking makes you fully aware of whether you really are having a 'treat' once in a while or if it's more regular than that. Even things such as measuring your serving size once in a while will help confirm just how much you are consuming. I remember that when I weighed my portion of protein - believe I really was only eating 3 oz. I was shocked to find that I was eating 6 oz -- double my portion!

A reality check once in a while is a good thing. If you're putting in the effort, you might as well do it right.

Here's a good article that outlines the benefits of tracking your eating and your exercise. The listed reasons definitely help motivate me to write it all down!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Challenge Yourself

The 50 Day Challenge starts on Wednesday November 12th.

The basic challenge is simple -- you can read the details here. If you're interested, please join the Facebook page via this link:

In addition to these basic guidelines, I've decided to add another layer ...

When it comes to making lifestyle changes, there are many different ways you can go about it – go in headfirst and give it 100% from the very beginning, make 2-3 major changes and stick with just those, make small changes over a long period of time … it varies and it all depends on you.

The main thing is you need to find out what works for you – in terms of what you like, what your schedule allows, what you can sustain long-term, what works best for your body … Figuring this out isn’t always easy. It takes time and, as I’ve discovered for myself, a lot of trial and error.

To accompany the 50 day challenge, I’ve come up with 50 mini challenges – which are more like things to consider/try over the next 50 days. I know that sounds like a lot, but these are 50 simple things that you can do – without too much extra time, working within whatever budget you have, and without any extra equipment or materials necessary. It’s really important to focus on the small changes you CAN do instead of focusing on things you can’t.

Of course this is entirely optional. I just thought I’d share a list of some things that have worked for me in the past as well as some things that I definitely want to try to incorporate into my daily routine. Sometimes, unless you try something new, you’ll never know whether or not it’ll work for you …

To help you track your progress through the challenges, should you choose to do them, I’ve made a checklist. It’s available on the group’s Facebook. 

Here's the list: 

50 Mini Challenges

Try Daily

1)        Drink your minimum requirement of water
2)        Be smart about your food choices – don’t eat what you’ll regret; don’t refrain from what you enjoy – find the balance
3)        Track and reflect on your day
4)        Stretch for 5 minutes a day

Try Once each Week

5)        Move for a minimum of 200 minutes
6)        When sitting at your desk/the table, check your posture – shoulders rounded and back, back straight, tummy in
7)        Meditate/sit in silence for 10 minutes at least 1 day a week
8)        Drink an extra glass of water today
9)        Cut your soda/caffeinated drink intake by half. If you only have 1 of these types of beverages, then try to eliminate it one day a week
10)      Up the intensity with your workout – whether it is adding a 20 second jog, increasing the weight you lift by 1 kg, going a bit lower on your push-ups or squats, holding your plank for 10 seconds longer – whatever it is you’re doing, try to take it one step further
11)      Do 1 thing a week that is just for you – a bit of ‘me’ time – whether having a long chat with your best friend, taking a bubble bath, or just sleeping in for another 30 minutes – making yourself a priority is important
12)      Set aside 2 hours on a Sunday (or one day that works for you) to plan and organize your week
13)      Eat 1 meal a week at the table and be TV/gadget-free
14)      Eat only 1 starch per meal (e.g. either bread or potato or rice – not more than 1 per meal)

Try Twice each Week

15)      Eat something raw with dinner at least 2x a week
16)      Wake up 15 minutes earlier
17)      Get your workout gear/bag ready the day before at least 2x a week
18)      Skip having anything sweet 2 days a week

Try at least once during this challenge

19)      Set a specific, realistic, achievable health/fitness-related goal for yourself (at least 1; it doesn’t have to be a goal you want to achieve by December 31st – just something that you want to work towards)
20)      Write down your biggest obstacles and 1-2 realistic ways you can overcome them
21)      Have a plan B – if you can’t do the outdoor run you wanted to, for whatever reason, have a backup plan that you can implement
22)      Cut your dinner portion in half – if you’re hungry later, then have the rest of it later, otherwise have it the next day for lunch
23)      Hold your spoon or fork in your non-dominant hand to slow down your eating for at least 1 meal
24)      Don’t buy one of your usual ‘treats’ – go without for 1 week
25)      Eat a homemade 1 more time this week than you usual – whether it’s a packed lunch or dinner at home
26)      Try 1 thing you’ve never done before – it can be an activity, a recipe, a new route to work … 
27)      Eat with a 4 ½ hour interval between each meal
28)      Try 1 vegetable you’ve never had before

Try at least twice during this challenge

29)      Make vegan meals (total 2 vegan meals)
30)      Try new healthy recipes (total 2 new recipes)

General challenges

31)      Eat at set times each day
32)      Eat on smaller plates
33)      Half of each meal should be veggies – eat the veggies first
34)      On long busy days, carry a healthy snack and a bottle of water in your bag
35)      Plan your menu and grocery shop accordingly
36)      Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry
37)      At the grocery store, keep your cart at one end of the aisle and then walk up and down to select the items you want
38)      Learn to read the ingredients of the foods you frequently purchase and eat – try to choose the ones with the least number of ingredients and preservatives/artificial flavors – you’ll be surprised at how many natural, unaltered foods there are out there
39)      At restaurants, skip the bread
40)      At restaurants, first drink a glass of water and then alternate between water and whatever other beverage you’re having throughout the meal – sip all beverages slowly
41)      At restaurants, box away half your main meal before starting – or just ask for a half portion to begin with
42)      At restaurants, avoid creamy, white sauces and foods that are fried or covered in cheese
43)      Wash your hands after coming in from outside and before/after you eat
44)      If you sit for a long time, set your timer to go off after 75 minutes, stand up, stretch, take a short walk or do some movement
45)      Think and write down when’s a good time for you to exercise and start working towards it
46)      Find a fitness buddy to support you – someone you can text or call or email when you’re feeling lazy, unmotivated, tempted by something unhealthy – if you don’t have one, drop me a line J
47)      Take the stairs when you can
48)      Park further/get off 1-2 stops earlier and walk
49)      See how long you can hold a plank position
50)      See if you can increase your plank hold by 5 seconds each week

Saturday, November 8, 2014

50 Day Challenge Facebook Page

It seems like not everyone can find the Facebook page. If you're having trouble finding it or signing up, then please email me at with your email address and I'll add you to the list. Sorry about the confusion -- hopefully we'll get everyone on board without any further problems.

It's called "It's a Lifestyle"

You should be able to find it via this link:

This is what the page looks like:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Five

I thought I'd get back to my Friday Five posts as a quick recap of the week. Sunday is usually my prep day for the week, but this past Sunday, I was so busy with training and then helping out during the Gracie Game day for the kids that I was exhausted and didn't do nearly enough prep for the week. That kind of threw off my groove for the rest of the week ... but nevertheless, despite not being able to follow my usual schedule the way I wanted too, I had a pretty good week.

1) On Sunday I participated in my first ever Gracie Games Day. It's held for the kids at the Jiu-Jitsu school as a reward for doing a good job with their class attendance, participation, and general behavior outside of class (e.g. good manners, being helpful, etc.). I"m not used to being around kids so it was quite overwhelming for me, but it was also quite a bit of fun!

 a few shots of the kids during game day

2) In general I've been spending  lot of time on the mats. In fact, I head to the Jiu-Jitsu school everyday to either train or assist the head coach. It's good practice for me as I continue to prepare for my Instructor's Certification Program. Plus I'm thoroughly enjoying it!

with one of my training partner's after a session on the mats

3) I attended a Muay Thai seminar held at Watford Martial Arts Center where I do my Muay Thai and my yoga. It was given by fighter John Wayne Parr. The seminar was great -- high level of energy and enthusiasm, lots of techniques fit in ... overall really enjoyable and informative!

my training partner and I with 10x world champion in Muay Thai John Wayne Parr

John Wayne Parr doing a demo with me during the seminar

4) I started a new weight training program -- for the past 8 weeks I was focusing on fewer reps and heavier sets. It was definitely good, but I found that the recovery time took a lot longer than I would have liked. Now I'm back to a more normal routine - 4 sets of 10 reps - hoping to continue to get stronger and build muscle.

low rows - one of my favorites

5) The Whole Life Challenge ends tomorrow. I still want to make sure I stay on track through the holiday season until the end of the year so I've organized a new challenge. If you'd like to join, please connect through the group's Facebook page entitled: It's a Lifestyle. A brief outline of the challenge is listed below and more details are posted here.

It's a Lifestyle -- the Facebook page for the 50 Day Challenge

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Gracie Diet/Lifestyle

I really don't like the word 'diet.' It's so often linked to words like 'deprivation' and 'restriction.' Although what I'll be trying to follow now is called the Gracie Diet what it is really comprised of is a list of guidelines as to how to group your foods. Of course the focus is on eating clean, but there are additional parameters that focus on food combinations - what foods should be paired with others for optimal energy efficiency and digestion.

Here's a short excerpt from the book:
Realizing that different foods would cause different chemical reactions within the body, Carlos narrowed his focus on food combinations. His idea was to make sure that at each meal, the foods we ate would combine to cause healthy chemical reactions. The objective was to prevent blood acidity and avoid fermentation. This would then facilitate the digestive process, which is the most energy-consuming activity of the human body.

You can read more about it here. Plus there are more details on the Gracie Diet website.

There's a 3 Phase breaking in process.

Phase 1 is to space your meals at least 4 1/2 hours apart. This is to ensure that all the food in your stomach has been completely digested before consuming other foods that may interfere with the digestion process.

This phase was tough for me at first. I was one of those people who HAD to eat every 3-4 hours, and I often grazed between meals on tea and dates/raisins/fruit. In this first phase, however, you are not allowed to snack at all -- not even a cup of coffee or tea. Just water in between meals.

As I said, it was tough for me at first, but soon my body became used to it, and although at about the 3 1/2 hour mark and definitely by the 4 hour mark I do feel quite hungry, I've been pushing through and meeting the minimum 4 1/2 hour spacing between meals. How have I felt as a result? Well, I've definitely felt lighter. I have actually come to like that bit of hunger I feel just before having a meal. It's gone hand in hand with my 100 days of Awareness. Now I've bypassed #5 (wait 20 minutes before eating again) and I'm focusing on #7: chewing my food thoroughly. I've also become more thoughtful of what I'm eating. Since I know that the meal will have to last me for about 5 hours, I ensure that my food will be filling and will provide me with enough energy to do whatever needs to be done in that time frame. I know that stuffing myself and overeating with the thought that I won't be eating for the next few hours will be counterproductive. So, I choose my foods wisely. I chew thoroughly, and I enjoy what I'm eating. Drinking a glass or two of water before my meal and staying hydrated throughout the day helps keep the hunger at bay.

Phase 2 involves cutting out sodas and desserts. I don't drink soda, so the first one wasn't an issue for me. The desserts ... well, that's been interesting. First of all, dessert is counted as a separate meal, which means that if you want to have something sweet at night, it's got to be at least 4 1/2 hours after dinner. Even if it's fruit - unless you choose to have only fruit for your dinner. Second of all, I've cut out sugar from my diet as a result of the Whole Life Challenge. I have, however, been creating 'desserts' out of different ingredients, e.g. lemon cake made with almond flour and sweetened with dates.

Instead of trying to find some sort of 'loophole' and figuring out how to incorporate those natural desserts into my meals, I've decided to eliminate them. It hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been too difficult either.

I think a lot of it has to do with what I said before about my meals. When I've created a meal that I enjoy thoroughly and really savor, then I don't feel unfulfilled and have the desire to eat something else after the meal.

As I said, it hasn't been easy, but I'm trying my best.

Finally, Phase 3. This phase involves factoring the food combinations. You can read about them here. At first it looks complicated, but I'm sure as I keep practicing and experimenting, it'll get easier.

It really doesn't seem like any foods are prohibited. They say to avoid sweets, canned foods in syrup, and a few spices and to never eat pork, but other than that, pretty much everything is permissible as long as it's eaten in the right combination.

I think it'll be an interesting experiment. I've already started trying out the food combinations. I eat so much protein and veg that it has actually been quite easy so far. I don't eat dairy (at the moment) nor am I eating any grains, so I haven't had to worry too much about the other groups.

I'm currently in Phase 2 and have already started incorporating some of the food groupings of Phase 3. I'm not getting too caught up in it at the moment as completing the Whole Life Challenge is my main focus right now.

Here are a few of my latest meals:

Boiled eggs, tomato and cucumber salad, carrot sticks, and half an avocado - very filling!

Flaked salmon mixed with broccoli, peas, and slivers of sweet potatoes

Side Dish
This is one of my simplest bust most favorite sides - string beans and mushrooms cooked in a bit of sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. It goes with any type of protein. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The 50 Day Challenge Details

The focus of the 50 day challenge is to try to add good habits into our daily routine. The hope is that just by keeping healthy habits at the forefront of your mind, it will help minimize the temptation to overindulge during the holiday season.

The details of the challenge are below.

1)        Drink water.
For me, as the days get colder, it gets harder for me to drink water. You can use this calculator to figure out how much water you should be drinking each day.

You can use this link to help you out:

Although sodas and other sugary drinks (diet or otherwise) are not healthy beverages, this challenge is not about avoiding any other types of drinks. You can drink whatever else you want – the main focus is water. Regardless of whatever else you drink, the challenge is to drink your minimum requirement of water on a daily basis.

2)        Eat thoughtfully.
The main thing that works for me is to not have tempting foods in the house. Somehow, my discipline and focus really gets shaken when I know that there are sweets in the house. The easiest solution – don’t bring it in in the first place. If someone gifts it to me – I give it to someone else or just get rid of it. Having these extra foods just leads to mindless eating.

What I have found to be much more enjoyable is when I have been disciplined for a couple of weeks and then actively decide that I want to enjoy a piece of cake, then I really enjoy it. I eat it because I actually do want it and I enjoy every bite, guilt free. It’s not really about working for it – it’s just about being happy with the choice I made. I know that there have been many, many times when I’ve seen something I like, I’ve eaten it, and then immediately or soon after thought Why did I just eat that?!

The challenge is to be smart about your food choices and eat what you enjoy. Sit down, chew thoroughly, savor each bite, stop when (or just before) you’re full, and be happy with the choice you made. Don’t fall into the trap of eating something just because it’s there. It’s better to keep the piece of pie on the counter than lingering on your hips for the next month! You already know what’s healthy for you and what’s not (fried foods, refined flour and sugars, creamy sauces are obviously unhealthy). You don’t need to be told what the healthier choices are. You know. It’s your choice. You can say no. For now, it’s not about saying no to anything. It’s just about being sensible and accepting responsibility for your choices. Eat what you want, but make sure you really want it … and then enjoy your choice. The more important thing is to make sure you don’t eat things you don’t want.

3)        Choose your celebrations.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could have it all and not have to worry about any consequences? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and enjoy ourselves. The key thought behind this point is that one indulgent meal should not spiral out of control into continuous indulgent days. The challenge is to choose which days you will be celebrating on and make sure to focus on eating cleaner and leaner on the days before and after that occasion so that you can enjoy whatever event you’re at.

My social calendar is filling up. I’m excited to spend time with my family and friends, but I am nervous about the food. There are some celebrations where it will definitely be more about the company than the food … and there are other occasions where the food will be the focus too. I’m keeping these days in mind and I know 2 things for sure – 1) I want to look and feel good when I get there, so I don’t want to consume any extra calories and I do want to make sure I get to the gym so I can walk in feeling confident and leave any trace of self-consciousness behind & 2) I want to enjoy myself when I’m there. This kind of works in conjunction with eating thoughtfully. I don’t want to arrive at the party with all the ‘I should have’ thoughts running through my head. Moreover, I don’t want to leave thinking ‘I shouldn’t have.’ It’s about finding the balance.

4)        Move regularly.
It’s no secret that exercise is good for you. If you can get around to exercising daily, that’s fantastic – but schedules and other circumstances don’t always make that possible. However, that doesn’t mean that exercise can’t be incorporated into your lifestyle – even if it means putting an extra spring in your step as you walk to the tube station for your daily commute or parking further when heading into a shopping mall or going to a restaurant, or waking up 15 minute earlier so you can stretch and get in some exercise at home … there are lots of options. If you’ve got kids, I know there’s a lot to juggle – but including them in your workouts and creating a sort of fun family challenge (e.g. how many jumping jacks can you do while I try to finish 20 squats) can be a great way for them to join you and make it a sort of competition. Will this always work? Maybe not, but it’s worth a try. The challenge is to get in 200 minutes of exercise per week (just under 30 min a day)– whatever activity you want at whatever intensity (but you should work up a bit of a sweat). You can do this all in one go, space it over the week, even space it out over the course of a day (10 minute chunks). The main thing is to be conscious of trying to exercise regularly.

5)        Track and Reflect Daily
I know this seems like a pain, but it really does make a difference. First of all, when you know you’ve got to write what you ate down, you really do start to think twice before you put that piece of chocolate in your mouth. It makes you stop and think – do I really need that? Tracking is also a chance for you to go back and reflect on the choices you made. Even if the changes don’t happen right now, you may be able to modify or change some of your choices later. Having a record means that whatever results you get in the end won’t be a surprise. Ate lots of chocolate and cake over the weekend – a gain shouldn’t be surprising; exercised regularly and ate in moderate portions – a loss on the scale should keep you motivated to keep that up. Sometimes (as is often the case with me), you do it all correctly and still the scale doesn’t reflect the change you want to see. It happens. You’ve just got to trust that you’re working for something greater – overall health … more energy … and hope that the numbers on the scale will catch up. Keeping track of what you’ve been doing also gives you the info you need to make the necessary changes. Perhaps try a gluten-free diet or exercise for a shorter time but at a higher intensity … with everything written down, at least you have a record that you can work with to try to create a program that works for you. The challenge is to write everything down for the next 50 days – what/when/how much you ate/drank/exercised/slept – and any other notes you want to make about your day (emotions, tasks that were accomplished, frustrations you felt).

Keep your notes simple and short. Tap it into your phone, scribble it in a notebook, write it on your blog. Whatever method you use is up to you – you don’t need to count calories, you just need to write down the basic info (e.g. Tuesday Nov. 4, morning: 2 cups of coffee with milk, 1 bowl of museli w/1/2 cup Greek yogurt, lunch: 2 scrambled eggs and spinach, snack: peach, ½ cup of cottage cheese with cucumber, dinner: 200 g baked salmon with a garden salad + 10 glasses of water + afternoon: 1 hour walk in the park – felt energetic). Keep it simple – don’t make the task any harder or more complicated than it has to be.

I’d like to have at least 10 people sign up for the challenge before I create a Facebook page where we can support each other and share our progress. For now I'm posting on my Plumpetals Fit Facebook page. Comment below if you’d like to join or send me an email at