Food and Drink

Weight Loss Tips

Weight
 
I'm not a doctor nor am I an expert on weight loss, by any means. However, I do know what it is to be skinny and I do know what it is to be overweight. I definitely prefer the former to the latter.
 
I'll never forget one day when I was carrying in a bag of oranges from the car after a grocery shop with my wife, Nicole. She noted that that one bag of oranges weighed 3 kilograms. Being overweight just 3 kgs is like carrying that bag of oranges around ... all the time. It saps your energy and makes you feel more tired. Of course, if you are overweight by 6 kgs or 9 kgs, well that's just a lot more oranges you're taking for a ride ... everywhere you go.
 
I know the challenges of trying to lose weight. Sometimes I feel like I almost need to starve myself in order to lose weight and even when I do, one bad day puts me right back to where I was again. It can be so frustrating and so discouraging. I feel terrible being overweight and I don't like the flab around my stomach, which looks bad and is a health hazard for me. I really want to change but I often struggle to find the discipline to do so.
 
Losing weight takes much more than jumping into some new fad diet. After all, diets only work while you are on the actual diet. We need more holistic lifestyle changes. Shedding those extra kilos takes more than regularly repeating a few motivational mantras such as, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!". It also takes a lot more than mere willpower, something we all have in limited supply. That's why our discipline often slackens by day's end due to something called 'self-control depletion' (our use of will power to resist temptation). 
 
For me, it is all about habits - developing small healthy habits every day. This creates progress over time and assists me in reducing my weight level and then keeping it off. Some form of structure or a set of daily routines helps to eliminate the need for recurring decisions.
 
Here are my TOP 10 habits of behavior and/or thinking for successful weight loss:
  1. Think ahead about your meals for any given day. Where are you eating and with who and what? As you get older you don't need as much food. So plan your meals and food quantities ahead of time. Three bigs meals a day aren't going to help you lose weight. Choose to eat smaller portions of food. Select an appetizer or entree rather than a main. Yes, smaller plates do help you to eat less food.
  2. Eat more slowly. Be the last person to start eating and the last to finish. That way your body gets a chance to know it's full. You probably won't go back for seconds! Eat only until you are 80% full. This slows down the body's metabolism.
  3. Have more home-cooked meals from fresh ingredients. Re-discover the joy of cooking. Learn to eat different types of food too. Prepare big batches and freeze the leftovers. 
  4. Eat as much natural food as possible - fruit and vegetables (prevents over-eating), seeds and nuts, beans and legumes, etc. It's the easiest way to lose weight. It is often neither laziness nor over-eating that makes us fat: it is what we eat. That's why exercising more and eating less will not necessarily prevent us from being overweight.
  5. Avoid processed foods as much as possible (which are full of sugar, salt, and fat). The fast-food industry has a dark side. Learn to not trust your taste buds. Beware of artificial flavoring.
  6. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates. This includes pasta, potatoes, noodles, rice, bread, desserts, and sweets or chocolates. Too many carbs make us fat ... and sick.
  7. Beware of sugar, which is a real killer, working like a drug that leads to addiction.
  8. Drink lots of water - at least 4 glasses a day.
  9. Be physically active - walk, swim, hike. Get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. 
  10. Fast occasionally. It's good for your metabolism. See this excellent article on the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Make modest, incremental changes rather than big, sweeping ones. Make tradeoffs. Remember, the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady always wins the race. The heavier you are, the more difficult it is to lose weight because you always feel much hungrier. Become aware of the triggers that influence your behavioral goals. Consider the people and situations that influence whether you achieve your goals or not. Feedback teaches us to see our environment as a triggering mechanism. Review every day and implement your learnings the following day. When you drift, simply get back on track. Get some help if you need too. See a doctor, join a gym or find a coach. Accountability and support from others are extremely helpful.
 
If you are keen to do a little extra homework, I have also found these resources very helpful:
Here's to long life and a healthier you!
 
P.S. See also yesterday's BLOG post Weight Loss Musings.

Weight Loss Musings

Weight
 
As a teenager, I was as skinny as a rake. Even my bones stuck out of my shoulders. This often led to questions or laughs from both friends and strangers anytime I took my shirt off, like when swimming.
 
I could also eat like a horse. My dad used to jokingly say that if you were looking for the 'bottomless pit', I was it. I remember never being full. I could eat and eat endlessly. And did I mention that I was skinny?
 
We lived in Portland, Oregon at the time and there was this restaurant called Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor that everyone loved to go to. The biggest item on the menu was 'The Pig Trough'. It was a huge ice cream sundae with too many scoops of ice cream to count, covered with all the sugary goodies - whipped cream, flavored syrup, nuts, etc, etc. It was so big that IF you could eat it all, the restaurant staff would come around with a microphone and a pounding bass drum (the marching band type) and announce your achievement to the entire restaurant, culminated by pinning a big prize ribbon on you that said, "I made a pig of myself at Farrell's." Good fun.
 
Well, after my high school graduation, a bunch of friends and I went to Farrell's. I am a bit ashamed to admit this ... but my friend, Steve, and I, actually finished off TWO pig troughs that night ... each! Needless to say, my stomach was a little queasy night, but I slept it off and life went on. And did I mention that I was skinny?
 
Fast forward to age 40 - my appetite hadn't changed much but I could eat and actually be full. And I wasn't skinny anymore. Since that time, shock horror, I have struggled off and on with this thing called weight loss. At age 55, I weigh myself pretty much every day and there are often groans as I realise I've put on another few kilos. How annoying!
 
I am currently reading the best-selling book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harai. I was shocked to learn the following:
  • Overeating is now a worse problem than famine in our world. Half of humankind is expected to be overweight by 2030. In 2010, famine and malnutrition combined killed about 1 million people, whereas obesity killed 3 million.
  • Whereas in 2010 obesity and related illnesses killed about 3 million people, terrorists killed a total of 7,697 people across the globe, most of them in developing countries. For the average American or European, Coca-Cola poses a far deadlier threat than al-Qaeda.
  • In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes. Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder.
These facts are quite alarming and should definitely grab our attention. After all, the best gift you can give your family and loved ones is living a long life - staying around as long as you can. None of us can guarantee a long life but we can choose to develop some healthy habits that at least make that a greater possibility.
 

The Supper

Passover-unleavened-bread-and-wine

As we move towards Easter, let's take a look at the supper from Mark 14:12-26.

Part of our God-given humanity is the instinct to celebrate significant moments with significant meals (e.g. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries). Sharing a meal bonds a family, a group of friends, a team, a collection of colleagues together. The meal says more than words - about who we are, how we feel about one another, and the hopes and joys we share together. It’s not just about the food; the meal says something, it does something. We become a people who shared that meal together, with all that it meant to us.

The Jewish Passover celebration was such a meal, linking together generations of families around the story that told them who they were - God's people rescued from Egypt. Jesus takes this story and infuses it with new meaning, changing the script to point it towards the work he would do through his death and resurrection. He instituted a new meal - a new supper - for us to connect deeply with him and each other. 

This sacred meal is known by a number of terms including breaking bread, the table of the Lord, communion, and the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving).  Jesus instituted this practice when eating with his disciples just before his death (see Matt.26:26-29. Mark 14:22-25. Luke 22:15-20). Luke shows how the first disciples carried out the instructions of Jesus as they broke bread together regularly (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11. Luke 24:19, 30). This practice was originally associated with a meal (Luke 22:20. 1 Cor.11:25) but later became a separate celebration. Paul also commented on the Lord’s Supper when writing to the church at Corinth (1 Cor.11:23-26).

Six Dimensions of the Sacred Meal

Partaking in communion is not merely a religious exercise or tradition. It is intended to be a meaningful experience of God and His will for our lives, both personally and as a community of Christ-followers. We must not allow the routine of partaking of communion regularly turn it into a ritual rather than the significant celebration that Jesus intended for it to be. One helpful way to ensure that we retain the meaning of this sacred meal is to explore the breadth of its meaning. As we partake, we should look in at least six directions.

1. Look Backward. In the Lord’s Supper we look backwards to the redemptive work that Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross. His death was not an accident or that of a martyr. His death was a substitutionary one in that he took our place and paid the price for our sins once and for all so that we could be forgiven. This was a complete act of grace and not because of any goodness or merit on our behalf. We can now rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross knowing that he has done everything that needs to be done for us to be right with God. He suffered for us. His body was broken and His blood was split for our salvation. Communion is a powerful reminder of this foundation of our faith, which is in the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is central to the Christian faith (Gal.6:14. Col.1:20). It may seem foolishness to those who do not believe but may it never be foolishness to the contemporary church (1 Cor.1:18). May we never forget the sacrificial gift of Christ’s life for us!

2. Look Forward. Communion is much more than a morbid recalling of the passion.  Believers “proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes (1 Cor.11:26).” In the Lord’s Supper we look forward to the time when the kingdom will come in full and we will enjoy personal fellowship with Jesus in a celebration meal together. We look forward with confidence each day knowing that our future is secure, whether we live or die. We look forward with joy at his return to earth to right all wrongs and to deliver us from sin and death. We also understand that there will be a day of account where we will be rewarded for the works we have done in this life. Finally, we look forward to a new heavens and a new earth – whether there will be no more sorrow, crying, pain or death (Rev.21:1-4). This accounts for the joy and gladness of heart in which the communion was celebrated (Acts 2:46).

3. Look Inward. Paul reminds us that the celebration of communion is also an important time of self-examination. Those who live in blatant sin when approaching the table are guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor.11:27-28). Communion times can be important occasions of looking inward at one’s heart and holding oneself personally accountable before God. The original Lord’s Supper was partaken of in the context of betrayal and denial. This should serve as a warning to us and a sober reminder to take heed lest we fall. Paul says that some become weak, sick and even die because of not handling this dimension of communion properly (1 Cor.11: 29-30). No doubt, Jesus’ teaching about reconciliation applies here (Matt.5:23-24).

4. Look Upward. The Lord’s Supper also looks upward as we remember that Jesus’ death on the cross and burial in the tomb was not the end of the story. His resurrection seals the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and that his death accomplished our full salvation. We now look up with conviction and joy knowing that the Savior lives and that He is seated at the right hand with the Father interceding for us (Heb.7:25). Jesus is alive! His resurrection is the foundation of our faith and the assurance that we too have been raised from the dead with him to walk in the power of a new life. We are citizens of a new kingdom. We seek for his will to be done and for his kingdom to come in all its fullness.

5. Look Around. Communion is also a time to reinforce the communal nature of this sacred meal. In John’s description of this time in Jesus’ life he includes the well-known story of Jesus taking on the role of a servant by washing the disciples feet (John 13:3-16). It was a powerful reminder of the calling we have to serve one another (Matt.20:20-28). That same evening Peter boastfully declared that he would never deny Jesus, even if the others did. This self-deceptive pride set him up for certain failure. Without others we can so easily fall away. We need each other’s friendship, encouragement, and accountability to stay faithful as we follow Jesus together. Communion is a time to look around and remind ourselves that we need each other. We are one body in Christ, regardless of differences.

6. Look Outward. Finally, there is an outward dimension to the Lord’s Supper. As Paul reflects on the communion, he reminds us that as we partake we “proclaim the Lord’s death” until he comes (1 Cor.11:26). We live in a world where people need to know the good news that Jesus has provided salvation from our sins through his death on the cross. Communion is a time to remind ourselves of those who haven’t heard or responded to this message. As we go from the table, we go with renewed commitment to pray, to love, and to share the good news of Jesus with others as we have opportunity.

As we can see, there is rich and deep meaning to this ancient practice. At communion we are to look backward (to Christ’s death), look forward (to Christ’s return), look inward (in self-examination), look upward (fellowship with God), look around (fellowship with each other), and look outward (to proclaim God’s word to others). May we all experience more and more of God’s amazing love for us as we celebrate communion together.

Sample Reflection Questions

  1. Which direction do you find most meaningful or easiest to look when taking communion?
  2. Which direction is new to you or something you haven’t thought much about?
  3. Discuss the symbolic meaning of the bread and the cup in communion.
  4. In the Old Testament, the entire family partook of the Passover meal together, including the children. What implication does this have for whether children should partake of communion or not today?
  5. Share with your family, friends or small group about what communion means to you. Pray for each other and then partake of communion together. 

Sugar - Why We Can't Resist It

SugarA recent National Geographic article by Rich Cohen entitled Sugar Love - a Not So Sweet Story reveals that the average can of soda (everything from cola to ginger ale) contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar. Not only that, the average American eats around 22.7 teaspoons of sugar a day - without even dipping into the sugar bowl, due to the amount of sugar in processed foods.

Excessive sugar isn't just extra calories, it's toxic. The article goes on to say that most Westerners are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little. But they eat too much and exercise too little because they are addicted to sugar, which not only makes them fatter but, after the initial sugar rush, also saps their energy, beaching them on the couch. The reason most people watch TV is not because TV is so good but because we have no energy to exercise, because we are eating too much sugar.

An injection of sugar into the bloodstream stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain that respond to heroin and cocaine. In this sense, sugar is literally an addictive drug.

Ouch!

A good reason to fast ... and pray.


The Wonder of Cucumbers

CucAccording to the word on the street (yet to be confirmed by www.snopes.com), cucumbers are more than meets the eye (or taste buds)!
   
1.  Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day. Just one cucumber contains vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin  B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C,  Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a  good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that  can last for hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and  provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few  slices in a small pie tin and your garden  will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the  aluminium to give off a scent undetectable to  humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

5  Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B Vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by european trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart starvation.

8. Have an important  meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick  and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9.  Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce etress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11. Just  finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad  breath.

12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but it won't leave streaks and won't harm your fingers or fingernails while you clean.

13.  Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!

Pass this along to everybody you know who is looking for better and safer ways to solve life's everyday problems.

My Favourite Meals to Cook (Pt.3)

LambHere is one last BLOG post of my favourite recipes to cook.

1. Bircher Muesli. This is a terrific way to start the morning and you can vary the fruit. I like bananas or berries with my muesli.  

2. Pasta dishes are a tasty way to warm up any winter's evening dinner table. Here are some good easy recipes for pumpkin and bacon pasta, bolognese and chicken lasagna.

3. Salads are a healthy and delicious supplement to any meal, and even make a good meal all by themselves. Some of my favourites are a rocket, cherry tomato and pine nuts, tomato and cucumber, and the classic waldorf salad (a step up on Fawlty Towers!). 

4. Pizzas are easy to make, especially if you buy the base. My two  favourite toppings are chicken, bacon and avocado, as well as spinach, feta and pine nuts. If you want to make your own base, click here for a good recipe and here for some great ideas for vegetarian toppings.

5. Finally, I love roasts - mainly chicken but also lamb. Here is a terrific recipe for a roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary. Don't forget the roasted vegetables.

Okay, enough now. Enjoy!

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." NLT [Jesus - Rev.3:20]


My Favourite Meals to Cook (Pt.2)

ChowYes, cooking is a bit of a hobby for me now. I find it really enjoyable and it's a great way to unwind after a busy day of work or ministry. Plus, it is a big help to my wife, Nicole, who has been doing most of the cooking for our 25 years of married life! 

Here are another 5 recipes that I really like:

1. We love Japanese food. Why not start with some miso soup and a cabbage salad, then finish with some fresh sashimi.  

2. Be sure to try some chicken quesadillas. Great Mexican food!  

3. I love seafood chowder and this is a simple recipe for it (picture above). Vary the amount of cream you include to alter how creamy it is. Go for good quality fresh seafood.

4. Vegetarian dishes can taste great too. Check out parsnip fritters with honey and mustard dressing (delicious!) or a tasty mushroom pie.

5. For dessert, my favourites are chocolate ripple cake, eton mess, or the ever-popular pavlova.

Enjoy!

Part 3 ...


My Favourite Meals to Cook (Pt.1)

CurryIrish playright, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), once said, "There is no love sincerest than the love of food." Okay, a bit exaggerated, but let's face it, eating is one of the enjoyable pleasures God has given us in this life. The wise man Solomon said, "People should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God (Ecc.3:13)."

I have always enjoyed eating. When I was young, I could eat like a horse and never put on weight. At 50 years of age, it's a different story. I have to be more selective in what I eat and how much I eat. That's if I want to keep my weight at a level where I can feel good about myself and have adequate energy for each day.

Over the last few years I have started cooking some meals myself. I started slow but this year I have really picked up the pace, especially after a good friend gave me a Jamie Oliver cookbook for my 50th birthday. I now cook a few times a week for our family. I love it! It's fun to get the apron on, clear everyone out of the kitchen (except my beautiful daughter, Natasha, who loves to cook with me and is a joy to work with) and get cooking a delicious and nutritious meal for everyone.

Here are some of my favourite recipes (click on the link for the recipe):

1. Thai Chicken Green Curry (picture above). My family would have this every night if they had their way. It's that good. The inclusion of the eggplant and the baby corn really makes the dish, as does the kaffir lime leaves (we planted a tree in our garden just so that we would have the real deal).

2. Marinated Salmon. I made this dish for the first time earlier this week and it is already a new favourite for our family. Delicious! Add some steamed bok choy and broccolini. 

3. You can't go past a Jamie Oliver recipe for roast chicken. Add in some roast veggies - we love carrots, potatoes and parsnip.

4. One of my favourite steaks is a Scotch fillet. The key is to turn it only once and then to rest the steaks for 2-4 minutes before serving (loosely covered with foil). I love to eat this steak with sauteed mushrooms and some grilled asparagus on the side.

5. Finally, try this delicious spaghetti marinara recipe. I buy fresh marinara from the local fishmonger. 

If I can cook and delight everyone with these dishes, you can do. Bon appetit! 

Part 2 ...


A Healthy Drink ...

Tea Water is one of the most essential and healthy drinks that there is. Some nutritionists believe that it's good to drink around 8 glasses of water each day. Other people are into herbal teas of all sorts - green, peppermint, chamomile, to name a few. Still others say that a glass of red wine a day is good for your health, especially for your heart (though caution needs to be taken due to the potential damage caused by excessive alcohol).

Another drink developed recently by scientists at the University of Queensland is a tea called Spearole. Each cup contains the health value (antioxidants) of one glass of red wine, and three cups of tea (spearmint, olive and green). It's very tasty too. I can drink to that!


Cooking - from the Amateur Chef

Images-2 I grew up in a home where my mum did all the cooking. Dad and us kids did the dishes and not much else in the kitchen (other than toast, cereal, and the occasional milk shake). When I got married, Nicole did all the cooking and she's good at it too (only two not so good meals in 23 years - but that's a story for another day!). A few years ago I decided to venture into the kitchen and start doing some cooking.

I'm still an amateur but I've done a few Italian dishes, some Thai curries, and a few other odds and ends, including a delicious banana cake. Nicole loves it when I cook as it takes a lot of pressure off her and gives her a break too. I love to clear everyone out of the kitchen, grab a recipe and do my thing. Nicole is more of a free lance "make it up as you go" chef. I need guidelines :) 

Men, if you haven't already - why not give cooking a try! It's a lot of fun and worth the effort.

You'll find lots of good cookbooks in any bookshop, including books by Jamie Oliver and also the simple 4 Ingredients series. 

Cooking DVDs are another great idea, after all, a picture is still worth a thousand words:

There are also many online web sites with heaps of good recipes. Click here and here for two excellent sites.

For some more good ideas, why not check out a good Food and Wine show in your area.

Bon appetit!