I lost twenty kilograms after the birth of my first child. People’s opinions were mixed while I lost the weight. Many expressed dismay and said that I was “fine”. My mother-in-law said that I was “big-boned.” Interestingly, my mother, who had been saying bluntly throughout my life, “You’re too fat.” went quiet.
When I came to Sydney in 2003, I went to my husband Justin’s general practitioner for an unrelated problem. He told me point blank that I was carrying too much weight. As a fat American, I was outraged. “How dare he comment on my weight when it wasn’t the problem?” Justin was in a bind of course. He agreed mildly with the GP and then he was in trouble.
I tried to lose some weight before our wedding in 2004. I lost two kilos. Big deal.
I still remember going to my first Weight Watchers meeting in 2010. I was in tears but I knew I needed to make a change. My BMI was in the obese range. I had always been active but I didn’t know how to eat properly and I was always hungry.
In 2006, I fell pregnant and the problems started with a hot chocolate. I slept for twelve hours afterwards. After eating something with sugar, I couldn’t function. Meanwhile, I was still working at my stressful job at the bank. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at the end of the second trimester. I started walking and injecting insulin four times a day.
I realised that I was in terrible shape as a thirty-six year old pregnant woman. After dinner when I measured my blood glucose and found it to be too high, I could be found walking the streets of Surry Hills. Bizarrely, the insulin seemed to feed my craving for sugar.
As a result, it was a complicated pregnancy. Despite this, Ofelia arrived healthy. I was relieved. Afterwards, I met my diabetes specialist. She told me that I would have a greater than 50% change of developing diabetes, if I didn’t lose weight and change my lifestyle. I understood.
When people ask me know how lost so much weight, I give them the abridged version of the above story. Even still, they seem to want a simple answer. “It must be all the cycling you do.” “It must be that thirty kilometre ride to violin lessons with your daughter every Friday.”
The answer is that I’ve drastically changed my diet and cycling has become an important part of my life as incidental exercise. There is no shortcut or magic pill unfortunately.
How did I learn to eat? I learned from Weight Watchers which augmented my dietician’s advice during both pregnancies. I eat a wide variety of vegetables and certain fruits, lean protein and a reasonable amount of low GI carbohydrates. Burgen bread, Vita-Wheat biscuits and legumes are my friends.
We eat breakfast at home every day, usually with eggs.
-Cheesy eggs (scrambled eggs made with a little milk and light cheese is cooked in the microwave without any oil) with toasted Burgen bread is one of my favourites.
-Egg soldiers are another (3 minute boiled eggs with fingers of toast).
-Poached eggs with avocado, tomato and toast are delicious.
-Savoury breakfast couscous. (Chop onion and celery in food processor, cook with a little olive oil. Add cumin. Add can of chickpeas. Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of couscous with 1 tsp of beef, chicken or vegetable broth. When couscous is finished, add to onions, celery and chickpeas. Stir in 3 eggs. Garnish with fresh coriander and harissa.)
-Sundays, I’ll make pancakes and bacon (centre cut). Two cups of flour for the four of us. I use a combination of flours which include: whole wheat, spelt, kamut, chickpea and others with a little self-raising powder. I don’t use white flour as its too high GI. A sprinkle of coriander spice and cinnamon, salt. I separate three eggs and whisk the whites to hard peaks. I mix the yolks with 2 1/2 cups of milk, and add a little olive oil. Add this to the flour mixture. Then add the whites to the mixture. Cook on hot pan.
Lunch is something substantial.
-A reasonable serve of pasta(150g cooked) in a tomato based sauce with vegetables and protein.
-Salad with a fistful of protein (chicken or fish), legumes and lots of fibre-rich vegetables (beetroot, carrots, broccoli, cabbage) in a non-creamy dressing,
-Bento boxes where I eat half the rice but enjoy the grilled fish, sashimi and salad.
I avoid sandwiches as I try to eat a different carbohydrate for each meal. I also avoid rice noodles as they are too high GI and I feel sleepy afterwards. Egg noodles are better but again 150g which is usually a third of what is served. I try to leave some noodles behind.
When cycling long distances, I eat (eg. GU, banana, Cliff Bar) and once an hour and drink lots of water during my rides to prevent an overeating frenzy at dinner.
At dinner, if I’ve eaten enough during the day, I am not very hungry. But some favourites include:
-Roast chicken (Jamie Oliver has a few fantastic recipes.) with roast baby potatoes (low GI) and salad.
-Lamb/beef/pork (ack!) shawarma (Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi) with toasted Lebanese bread. And always with a salad (without cheese, meat, or potatoes). Tomato, cucumber and a little red onion is delicious with this recipe.
-A substantial salad. Eight ingredients in a salad seems to tip the most staunch of salad haters into acquiescence. Protein and legumes are key. A little olive oil and plenty of balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper.
-Roasted sweet potatoes are a favourite as they are low GI.
-Some other great dinners include grilled fish with green beans and roasted carrots, vegetable or bean soups, roast vegetables with a steak (the size of my fist).
For my husband and kids, I will add more carbohydrates to their meals. Their toast includes butter while mine has canola spread. We drink water. Juice is a treat. Wine – a glass with dinner or after work. I try to emulate my French friends who tend to eat a smaller dinner. If I am hungry, I’ll have more vegetables and less protein and carbohydrates at dinner. In a nutshell, if I’m hungry, I eat more leafy or green vegetables.
Of course, I love a few squares of dark chocolate and dessert. I try to eat these as treats once or twice a week mindfully. What does that mean? I enjoy them with relish and slowly without a book, television or computer screen in front of me. If I’m going out for what will likely be a big dinner, I will have a lighter lunch and the next day eat more vegetables, fruit, water and go for a long and fast ride!
Today’s ensemble: Leona Edmiston dress, Geox heels, Dior sunglasses, Yakkay helmet, Swarovski earrings, Cartier Santos, Cartier bracelet, Linus Eleanor bag, eZee Sprint.