Friday, 13 January 2012

I smoke, therefore I...

I've smoked for 30 years. Admittedly there have been a few times that I've given up, though about three months is all I've ever managed, and the incentives to give up aren't all that persuasive. You want to tax them? Fine, I'll buy bootleg ones off the guy in the pub. You want to stop smoking in public? Fine, though I'll probably go out less, which means I'll save more money for...smoking.

Yes, the above was a bit flippant, but really, there's nothing that is going to make you quit until you decide it's time. In fact (and this might just be because I'm ornery) the more that people tell me to do something, the less likely I am to do it. This is especially true when the government are doing the telling.

Anyway, over the years I've tried gum, patches and even those old nicotine inhalers. While it's true that they probably d a good job of relieving the physical addiction to nicotine, they never fully address the other aspects of smoking. The act of drawing on a cigarette and feeling the smoke, blowing it out, all the little things we don't really think about, but which we miss once we've kicked the weed and nag at us when we sit with a coffee or a beer but sans ciggie.

The electronic cigarette people have claimed to address just these things and also provide the actual nicotine that we are addicted to for some time now, and I figured I may as well give it a shot. 
I did a few different searches to see what people were doing and decided to go for the "Electronic cigar" sold by The Electronic Cigarette Company
I went for this because the blurb says it gives more nicotine and vapour than the cigs, and, well, it just looks different. I like different.
Straight out of the box, you have to charge it up. This takes around 5 hours. After 1 day my battery was pretty flat, so I'd say charge it every night, regardless.
The nicotine cartridges cost £5 for 3, and that's a lot cheaper than actually smoking, even if you smoke one a day. I think as I get more used to it, that my usage will fall, but that remains to be seen.

So what's it like? Well, the most amazing thing is that once you draw on it, you get a big hit of smoke-like vapour which tickles just like proper smoke, it even billows around you as you breathe it out. (Though disperses very quickly, and doesn't smell, which is why it's allowed everywhere).
It really is amazing, it's totally conned my brain into believing I'm properly smoking. I used it all day, yesterday without a moment where I felt like I needed a proper cigarette.

Will it work long-term? I don't know, but you can get the cartridges in various strengths which I suppose will help your withdrawal. 
For now, though, I'm just happy to smoke something without having to step outside.

So, if you're one of the smokers who feels it may be time to quit, then have a look at these, they really are a very good substitute.

'till next time.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

You can have too much of a good thing.

This doesn't just apply to beer, curries and donuts. Even healthy choices can sometimes get too much. For instance, if you get so caught up in working out that you do it every day, your body wont have time to heal. And the resting time between workouts is what actually makes you fitter, stronger and faster. It's the period when the muscles that you have damaged during your workout,  begin the process of repair. You shouldn't exercise the same muscles on consecutive days for just this reason. It's the same with extremes of exercise, like marathon running. Endurance type events take a real toll on your body. So great are the demands that they should be annual feats, rather than monthly or (please no) weekly trials.

This really applies to going on a diet, also. When you start, it's all too tempting to go overboard and try and be some kind of super dieter. It's exactly the same with Paleo. If you jump right in, and try and be Mr or Ms Paleo-champ there's a good chance that you'll spend every waking hour daydreaming about the things you can't eat and consequently not enjoying the things you can eat.

For example, some days I really can't be bothered to cook something for breakfast as soon as I get up. My solution? A fruit smoothie with hemp protein. A high protein shake will do the same job as a breakfast, the protein speeds up your metabolism and sates your appetite. All the fruit provides everything your body needs until its time for lunch. It really is a good "cheat", however, taking it a stage further in order to speed up weight loss i.e. replacing a meal or two every day with a shake, like the more mainstream diets, only served to make the quality of my life take a nose dive. We need food, proper food, for the psychological effect as well as the physical.

If you can go for 80% of your days being paleo, that means that every fifth day you can have a donut or roast potatoes and gravy or whatever else you crave, (Obviously, if you crave a bathtub full of ice cream or 30 cheese burgers, then you'll have to think about it a bit more carefully). 

Lots of people that I've spoken to about the paleo diet have started out with "Wow! You look great! How did you lose so much so quickly?" Then, when I tell them, they inevitably say something along the lines of "Oh, I couldn't give up bread, or potatoes."
Why not? It's not as if the potato growers union is going to turn up at your house and pelt you with King Edwards, is it?
Just take a moment to think of 3 days worth of food that is paleo and make the effort to eat it. It's only 3 days, and your body will respond.
After 2 weeks your clothes will be a little looser, there will be a spring in your step and you may even decide "nah, don't want that double chocolate muffin, after all," when day 5 comes around, but if you do want it, knock yourself out, just make sure you enjoy it!

Paleo seems a big leap at first, but take small steps. It's going to amaze you just how far you can travel if you only think about the next meal, next walk, next day.
Whatever you do, don't think "It's going to take ages to shift all this weight." It may take a while, but the benefits aren't just weight loss, there's a whole ton of well-being to be had too.

And if you "fall off the wagon" and eat things you shouldn't some day, don't worry, cos 80% of your diet is going to be top notch fuel for your body, it can cope with the odd slip up. Just try not to be "bad" on consecutive days, give yourself time to get over the naughty foods.

That's all for now.
But come back tomorrow, when I post the review for my new e-cigar! (Yes, I'm giving up smoking).


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Don't you just hate all that bland "healthy" food?

Beef shin in chilli and ginger with stir fried veg.
When I first found out about the Paleo way of eating, I was a little perturbed as well. I thought that it would be all raw veg and charred meat...I like charred meat, don't get me wrong, there are just some times when what you really want is something that just explodes with flavours and textures, that makes you happy, as well as full.

  Today's picture is an amazing dish of fantastic beef shin, cooked for 3 hours in apple juice, chillis, garlic, honey and ginger. The slow cooking means it practically evaporates in your mouth, leaving behind the flavour of the spices. It's just the thing to come home to when you've been out in the cold, and the cut of beef, while cheap, is extraordinarily tasty.

  The vegetables I usually stir fry are carrot and courgette noodles (If you don't have a julienne peeler, I strongly advise you to get one, they are amazing for providing you with the paleo alternative to flour or rice noodles in your stir fries). Here's one!

Beef Shin with Chilli and Ginger


  • 2 Lbs of Beef shin.
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced into rounds.
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly.
  • 2 medium chillies, de-seeded and sliced thin.
  • 500ml of apple juice.
  • 3 tablespoons of honey.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
  • 5 tablespoons of fish sauce.
  • Coconut oil for frying. (Use duck fat or similar if you haven't any)


Cube and season the beef well, and fry in small batches until well browned, with lots of lovely caramelised bits all over. Then remove from the pan and turn the heat right down.

In the same pot, gently fry the ginger, garlic and chilli for a minute or so, then de-glase the pan by pouring in half the apple juice. Give it a really good scrub with a wooden spoon to get all those lovely beefy bits off the bottom.
Add the rest of the juice, the honey, the fish sauce, the vinegar and a good twist of salt and pepper, then throw the beef back in and make sure it's only just covered (add a little water if necessary).
Put a lid on and stick it in the oven at 120C for 3 hours. Don't stir it or you'll have shredded beef, just leave it cooking gently until the magic is complete.

For the veg, it's all your choice, I find carrot, courgette, shredded cabbage, mushrooms, broccoli, onion, kale and spinach work well. I leave the kale and spinach until everything else is just about cooked as they only take seconds to turn a beautiful, verdant green. Any more cooking just spoils them.

As you can see, it's a big old recipe, but most of the cooking is done while you're out living your life, so it's not that hard...And it tastes far better than the amount of effort you put in actually deserves.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Allez les Bleus!

Ever since I was a little kid, this was the time of year that all the talk turned to rugby. More specifically the Five Nations Tournament (As it was then. Italy joined in so it's Six Nations now).
And when I think back, there are a few things that still stick in my mind. Dusty Hare rescuing England with an improbable kick from the touch line, Gareth Edwards or JPR Williams setting the field on fire with their sublime running style of Welsh Rugby and most clearly, the annual display of Gallic fury that was the French pack in full rage. Trust me, back then, these blokes were monsters! They'd grind and growl their way inexorably down the pitch, frequently turning a ruck or maul into a frenzy of fists and boots. At times they seemed unstoppable, they really did.

   Their secret? I once heard that the team meal was always Cassoulet. A legendary dish from the South of France, usually associated with Castelnaudary, near Toulouse. Try as you might, though, the actual derivation of the dish is as hard to pin down as a Welsh winger from the seventies.  A real monster of a stew, this one and I can well believe that French forwards were weaned on the stuff.
   What I do know is, it's a great big blockbuster of a meal. Containing (in it's most usual form) haricot beans, onions, carrots, celery, pork belly, Toulouse sausage and fatty confit duck. Cooked slowly in a shallow ceramic dish (called a cassoulet). It's the ultimate French peasant dish, with as many admirers, afficionados and arguments as Bouillabaisse.

   When the weather's cold, you're tired and the darkness of winter is closing in, there is nothing like a big bowl of cassoulet to fire up the blood and chase those chills away.

   My recipe dispenses with the beans (because I'm Paleo), but loses none of it's punch and believe me, when you've eaten this, fifteen men of any nation are not going to stop you fighting your way over the try line.

That's all for now, I'm off to finish my dinner.

Bon appetit!


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Breakfast in the cave.

You know that old saying about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? Well, it turns out there is something to that.
Eating a nice amount of protein first thing in the morning can help normalise your body's insulin production for the day. Notice I said protein? That's the important bit. If you start your day with "healthy" cereal or toast, then your insulin will spike leaving you ravenous for more food within about two hours...And have you ever read the recommended serving on a cereal packet? Its about 30 grammes! Seriously! My budgie would want more than that. How can you as a big mammal, weighing a couple of thousand times more than a budgie survive on 30 grammes of cereal for a third of a day?

The fact is, you shouldn't be eating any cereal, cos it spikes your insulin, causing your body to convert the blood sugar to glycogen and stuff it under your skin as fat...leaving you hungry for more. What's worse, is that many of the chemicals that make up the average cereal inhibit your body's uptake of essential vitamins and minerals. They just clog up your gut and won't let any of the good stuff in.

   So what should you eat? Eggs, lean meat, fresh fruit, nuts (not peanuts, though, they are legumes). Some mornings I love kippers and scrambled egg, or 100% meat sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes . A proper "unhealthy" fry up that has left me several stone lighter and my body free of the transfats and other poisons that you get in cereals, bread, pastries and waffles.

  I know from experience that it's not every morning that you feel like cooking, so sometimes I make a fruit smoothy in the blender. I then add a scoop of hemp protein and voila! I'm good until lunch. It's the protein that's the important thing. It sates your hunger, raises your metabolism and fuels your body with the highest grade energy it's possible to get. It is also absolutely impossible to eat so much pure protein that you get fat. Your body will only process a certain amount and will never convert it to glycogen and stuff it in your fat cells.

   Here's a recipe for a quick fix breakfast (or lunch) that will really get your motor running in the mornings and not leave you bloated, gassy or feeling down like so many modern foods.

  Curried Turkey and Bacon Salad


  • A slice of raw turkey breast per person.
  • 2 slices of bacon per person.
  • A tomato per person.
  • A handful of your fave salad leaves per person.
  • A handful of sliced cucumber per person.
  • A curry powder that has no soy or wheat or starch in it.
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive or coconut oil

Chop the cucumber and tomato as small as you like.
Throw into a bowl with the leaves and toss in some oil and lemon juice.

Next, thinly slice the bacon and turkey (So it cooks quicker). and throw into a very hot pan. (I prefer coconut oil for this as veg oil has a tendency to go trans-fatty at high temps).
Sprinkle a good amount of the curry powder over the meat and stir fry until it's all cooked. (If a wooden spoon will cut the turkey slices cleanly, then it's a safe bet they are cooked through).

Tip over the salad, stir in and enjoy!
If it's a cold day, top off with a poached egg and you'll be ready to take on the world!

Seriously, try eating properly first thing in the morning and see how you feel by 10 or 11 O'clock. I guarantee that while your mates are flagging and waiting for the sandwich van to call round, you'll be fine!

Till next time!


Monday, 2 January 2012

You fat B@st@rd

Yeah, you heard that many times while watching a footy match, didn't you?
So did I, and to be fair, though it's usually directed at the ref or a chunky left back...I always thought, hmm, maybe I should n't have ate all the pies. (As another song goes).
Anyhow, at 6 foot tall, with a 42" waist and 54" chest I was feeling kinda blubberry. Don't get me wrong, I was active, fairly active and anyway, no one rushes up to you to say "Gosh, aren't you fat?" When you're wrapped in your leathers and just stepping off your Harley, do they?
Truth is though, I'd not weighed myself since the scales creaked past the 20 stone mark some months previously, and I knew I had to change, a stone is 14 pounds for those of you who don't know.
I'd tried eating "properly" lotsa good carbs, exercise etc. but I always fell off that wagon. I was starving! I felt rough and listless, would have a cold at least once a month, just couldn't be bothered with anything...oh, and I ached all the time. My joints, my muscles, hell everything. I'd also get these "sugar crashes" where I'd go all trembly and get headaches and be really grouchy with everyone. The only solution was a quick fix of a choccy bar, a pasty or sausage roll and a full sugar cola.
What happened? I was surfing the net looking at random stuff, like workouts, diets etc. Trying to find some inspiration to have another go. When I stumbled across the Paleo diet, in particular, a blog devoted to the lifestyle. I started reading and reading and reading, I couldn't stop. This was some kind of revelation. It seemed that all the times I'd failed when trying to eat properly were not because I'm useless, but because my body, my genetic make up was just not suited to eating that way.
In short, I gave up grains, starchy tubers and legumes. In five months my BMI dropped from seriously Obese to Overweight, my waist went from 42" to 36". My weight from over 20 stone to 16 stone 3lbs and I started running again.
Now, even though I eat more than ever, the fat keeps vanishing, my energy keeps climbing and I never suffer those old crashes anymore...even if I skip a meal.
Stick with me and I'll share some recipes. It's absolutely the most fantastic way to eat and to Live!