Thai Coconut Cod Curry

Thai curries are always so fragrant; this recipe makes use of homegrown, fresh and aromatic herbs and, combined with the creamy indulgence of the coconut milk, makes for a delicious curry. Paired with jasmine rice or noodles (or broccoli/cauliflower rice for a lower carb option), it will definitely be a meal that satsfies the whole family, or a meal that makes everyone jealous in the office when it is reheated!

Macros per portion (based on 3 servings): 286kcal; 31.4g protein, 20.1g carbs, 9.9g fat

cod and coconut curry

Ingredients

  • 1 large red bell pepper (approximately 200g), roughly chopped
  • 75g red onion, diced
  • 3 large zucchinis, sliced (approximately 650g)
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can lite coconut milk
  • 1lb cod (I used Trader Joes frozen wild Alaskan cod pieces which I had defrosted the night before)
  • 8 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 stalks of fresh lemongrass, chopped
  • 2 tsp Sriracha

Method

  1. Place a large, non-stick pan over a medium heat and add the red onion and garlic. Cook until soft and then add the zucchini and red bell pepper. Reduce the heat and cook for about 10 mins, stirring frequently to ensure all the vegetables are cooked.
  2. Once the vegetables are soft, but still holding their shape, remove from the heat and set the vegetables aside.
  3. In the same pan, add the cod to and cook over a low/medium heat until the fish is white and cooked through.
  4. Add the curry paste, basil, lemongrass and Sriracha and combine with the cod.
  5. Add the vegetables back to the pan with the curry paste and cod and pour in the can of coconut milk. Bring the pan to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook for between 20 and 25 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the sauce is well-combined, thickening and none of the vegetables are sticking.
  7. Remove from the heat and enjoy!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Who Are You Now? Dealing with Post Show and Progression from Suicide to Strength

Post show blues is a real ‘thing’. I would class competing as life changing. As with anything that requires extensive preparation and ‘hype’ – a wedding, a holiday, a marathon etc. – SO much time, effort and money goes into it and then all of a sudden, it’s over. If you are not careful, you can be left feeling extremely ‘lost’. For a lot of competitors, competing is their entire identity. It is their sole structure for their day; it is everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, I gave prep my all, but it never was my ‘everything’.

Two years ago, my photoshoot preparation WAS my entire identity. It came at a point in my life that I will be forever grateful for. I was at a very low point in my life; I had zero confidence, was struggling to adjust to a trans-atlantic move, miserable at work and felt I had nothing to live for. The gym and the rigid diet gave me two elements I could both control and progress in. After the photoshoot was over, I felt like this control and reward was gone. My body was gaining fat and I was repeatedly fainting; this is when I hated myself the most. I had no post-photoshoot goals in any aspect of my life, I was purely ‘existing’ day to day. I was never diagnosed, but I was depressed. I can pinpoint my lowest ever point and it was then that I decided there were two options, one – to end my life, and two; to get better. I chose the latter.

It has not been linear progress, and it hasn’t been easy, but I am probably the most self-confident and happiest I have been in a good few years. I have learnt to never make my entire identity comprise of ANY one thing. I try and live my life by building up my back pocket – that is to say, adding experiences and skills to my repetoire. Not only does it make me more educated, more self-aware and more well-rounded; it also gives me assets that permanently shape my identity. No-one can ever take these away from me.

Over the past year is probably where I have made the most mental, and physical, progress. I have gone from fearing food, to starving myself to binge eating to having a healthy relationship with food. I don’t suffer with cravings and I don’t binge eat ever. I have weighed my food for about 18 months. I used to try and conceal this, or pretend I didn’t for fear of what others may think of me. Over the past few months, I have stopped caring what people think. I may get laughed at for bringing my lunch to work, I may get teased for weighing out lettuce, but I have realized this is mainly from a mixture of ignorance and surprise. Outside of the fitness bubble, people don’t weigh food unless they bake a cake. It is not something they are accustomed to and, as with anything like that (think how prejudice and stereotypes form), ignorance leads to teasing.

While I would say my relationship with myself and with food is far from perfect, (I question whether anyone’s relationship wth food IS perfect), I do feel, for me, I have come an awfully long way to achieving a balanced approach to both. Gone are the days where I pop multiple vitamin supplements prior to eating any meal with carbs; gone are the days where I feared chocolate and bagels would go straight to my hips and gone are the days where I would get dressed for the day and instead of meeting friends, cry and hide. I have learnt, through education, reassurance and experience about food and health. This, in turn, has enabled me mentally to progress to a state where I am confident in myself and my abilities.

So, who am I now?

I am not going to pretend that I feel optimal right now – I am tired, de-motivated and generally feeling a bit sub-optimal. I still have remnants of my tan, (so I am also streakier than bacon), but in a state of flux with scrubbing it off as I know that being pale won’t exactly fill me with self-love either (anyone else?!) Despite this, I do not feel really low or annoyed, as I did after my first show. I learnt SO much from this experience; it added another card to my back pocket. It enabled me to come away from my second show wholly more satisfied and has also enabled me to look more objectively to the future. My sister commented to me that she associates me with being strong, not someone who is lean and sparkly. This comment filled me with pride – I aim to personify strong. As with most people who are 27, I have been through my fair share of shit. Without this life experience, I wouldn’t be ‘me’ as I am today. I definitely wouldn’t be as strong. I definitely wouldn’t be as driven. And I definitely wouldn’t be as ambitious. I know the next few weeks will be a challenge as I adjust to ‘non-prep’ life, but I feel confident that both being aware of this and being okay with this, will ease the journey.

So what are my health and fitness goals now?

My immediate goals focus around my health. I want to get my hormones functioning correctly again. I want to improve my digestive system. I want to ensure I am drinking enough water. I want to reduce the number of chemicals I ingest. I want to focus on limiting my soy intake. I want to make sure I am supplementing with apple cider vinegar twice daily.

My longer term goals are to increase my strength – I want to squat 200lbs, deadlift 300lbs and bench 135lbs by the end of 2017. I want to compete in a powerlifting competition. I want to add more muscle to my frame. I want my legs to be leaner. I want my core to be stronger. I want to spend more time on my recovery – foam rolling, stretching and yoga. I want to learn how to sprint.

I have a lot of goals – these are just my health and fitness ones; two portions of my life and my identity. So my best advice for dealing with any big event ‘ending’; focus on all aspects of YOU. What is your identity? What do you value? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to do?

Don’t let one aspect of you rule your entire life, because, when it is over, who are you now?

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

A Full Day of Eating; ‘Peak Week’ – 1 Week Out from the Bikini Stage

This isn’t going to be the prettiest diary of food, but all people are ever exposed to on the Internet or in magazine articles about ‘peak week’ are multiple versions of fundamentally the same diet. My macros aren’t high, but hopefully it shows you both an alternative to tilapia and asparagus 6 times a day as well as how you can make the best of poverty macros! Please remember, I am one week away from the bikini stage, this is not a sustainable diet!

Breakfast – 245kcal; 30p, 16c, 9f

1 pot of banana fosters Elli quark mixed with caramel Walden Farms syrup and 40g cookie dough favored G Butter, alongside a cup of black coffee, 2g salted caramel Slap! BCAAs, a multi-vitamin and a fish oil capsule.


Lunch – 120kcal; 22p, 10c, 2f * the 2g BCAAs I drank to facilitate protein synthesis as protein content was less than 25g

1 packet of Miracle Noodle fettucine, rinsed and sauted with 114g zucchini discs, 70g sliced mushrooms, 1 tsp ground cumin, 52g cooked chicken, 15g sugar free G Hughes maple brown BBQ sauce and 2g salted caramel Slap! BCAAs.


Pre-workout – 234kcal; 30p, 23c, 2f

1 Flatout original wrap with 40g iceberg lettuce, 80g arugula and 45g G Hughes sugar free hickory BBQ sauce, rolled into a wrap alongside 180ml vanilla Muscle Egg.


Pre/Intra workout – 16kcal; 4p

(4g Prosupps mixed berry BCAAs and 5g Musclepharm creatine monohydrate drunk pre/intra-workout).

Post workout – 279kcal; 31p, 30c, 4f

40g quick cook oatmeal cooked with 50g grated zucchini, 1/2tsp cinnamon and baking powder alongside a blended protein shake of 32g Dymatize whey isolate (chocolate coconut flavor) and 200ml refridgerated black coffee.


Pre-bed – 234kcal; 30p, 20c, 9f

180g non-fat greek yoghurt mixed with 100g blackberries, 2g unsweetened shredded coconut and strawberry Walden Farms syrup alongside 40g brownie batter G Butter.


I also drank 4 liters water, 2 cans Aquafina mango fizzy water, 1.5l Trader Joes lime fizzy water and 1 cup Teabella carrot cake flavored tea.

Total macros for the day – 1,172kcal; 146p, 99c, 25f. My prescribed macros for the day were 1,205kcal; 145p, 100c, 25f. Seeing as protein and carbohydrates are both 4kcal per gram, I left my macros as 1g over on protein and 1g under on carbs.

Next time I do one of these, it will be accounting for more calories than this!

Benchpressingbaubles, x

How to Maximize Minimal Calories

I am in no way advocating low calorie lifestyles. Just wanted to put that out there. Disclaimer down… let’s be honest, there are times for all of us that we want to drop a couple of pounds (and some of us decide to get as lean as possible and waltz about in a glittery bikini)! Unless you are consuming incredibly few calories, dieting does not have to be synonymous with bland, boring or monotonous. Being a foodie and, also, being in a calorie deficit for the past six months, I have developed a few tips on how to maximize minimal calories and am pretty well informed about low/no calorie flavoring options!

1. Think volume. I bulk up all my meals with tonnes of volume. I start most my savoury meals with a salad base and build from there. My favourite salad staples are different lettuces, cucumber, shredded cabbage, red peppers and celetry. It doesn’t have to be salad based either, I add mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli to a lot of meals too. You can grate/spiralize a lot of vegetables and either substitute your regular carbohydrate source for these, or reduce your regular carbohydrate and incorporate the veggies. For sweet dishes, I also add fruit or veggies to bulk out meals. Grated zucchini in oatmeal adds lots of volume, with minimal calories. Berries are low calorie fruit that can add bulk to a meal too. I also blend protein powder with ice and mix water into yoghurt to make it stretch that little bit further!

2. Think texture. Eating meal upon meal of ‘soft’ food only makes you crave the crunch of chocolate and pizza. Ensure your meals have different textures – even popping something under the grill gives your meal a crispier texture. I do this all the time with flatbreads and omlettes; even oatmeal!

3. Think herbs and spices. These have very minimal calories and spicing your food will make a world of difference. You don’t have to eat plain chicken if you don’t want to! My favourite herbs are fresh cilantro, mint and basil. Dried herbs, I tend to use an Italian herb seasoning. Spices; cumin, smoked paprika, BBQseasoning, fajita seasoning, nutmeg and cinnamon. There are an abundance of herbs and spices out there!

4. Think condiments.

I am a big fan of flavor. Here are my top 0 calorie sauce choices:

  • French’s yellow mustard
  • Fresh Market Sirarcha mustard
  • Frank’s red hot sauce
  • Frank’s buffalo sauce
  • Walden Farms dressings
  • Taco Bell mild sauce
  • Tabasco
  • Sicilia lime juice

Here are my top 10kcal and under sauce choices:

  • G Hughes sugar free BBQ sauce
  • Heinz reduced salt/sugar ketchup
  • Fresh salsa
  • Jardin’s street taco sauces

Here are my top sweet sauce choices:

  • Jordan’s Skinny Syrups
  • Walden Farms syrups
  • McCormick extracts
  • My Protein syrups
  • My Protein flav drops

5. Think flavored drinks. I brew herbal tea and refridgerate it. I also drink lots of sparkling water and green tea as well as decaf flavored coffee. I try not to drink too many diet sodas, but these can also be great to cure cravings.

6. Think adapatation, not deprivation. If you want a pizza, make a lower calorie version. Use a flatbread or a wrap, add your own sauce and toppings and you will easily cut the calories in half. I bet it tastes better too! Use the Internet to search for lower calorie alternatives or options. As I’ve said before, don’t focus on what you are missing, it will only leave you feeling like you are dieting.

The dieting world CAN have flavor and the dieting world CAN be pleasurable.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

The problem is offline, not online.

We are in a time where online, and specifically social media, are prevalent to everything. Youtubing can now be a profession and companies who are succeeding often attribute their success to winning online. In a society where you are always available and where opinions, photos and trends can spread in an instant, social media receives a lot of bad press. With people venturing online at a continuously younger age, I don’t think this concern is going anywhere. In fact, influential figures on social media often comment about how they feel a responsibility to promote health and longevity and ‘being real’ over simply promoting the glamour in their lives, so as not to promote a one-dimensional image to their followers. 

No question, social media often does glamourize everyday life. If you search the hashtag ‘IIFYM’, you will most likely find an abundance of pizza and pancakes, giving the impression that eating obscene quantities of this food is both the norm and something to strive for. Likewise, looking at fitness models online, you will likely find endless pictures of shredded abs. In reality, both the IIFYM hashtag and photos of fitness models show a very narrow window, a literal snapshot – millisecond even – of that person’s day. Or, equally as likely, the pictures could be falsely represented. The massive stack of pancakes may be made purely for the photo, or shared among a party of people. And ‘abs’ pictures could have been photoshopped or heavily filtered. You just don’t know. But, while I agree that these representations as the ‘norm’ should be properly presented, would you really search for IIFYM and be seduced by some celery? Would you really follow a fitness model who posted endless pictures of them in hoodies and jogging bottoms?! Sure, the odd picture of a garnish or of your favorite fitness model with no make up on may be a nice ‘reality check’, but you don’t seek celery and hoodies when you search online. So, while I understand what these influencers mean, (and I think it is a good thing they are conscious of how they present themselves and their message), the reality is that without those glamorous pictures, they wouldn’t be an influencer. 
The bigger concern for me is, actually, offline.

Having lived in several places in the U.K., and, having lived in Florida for the past two years, I can only say I feel more strongly about this problem now. The way that some people behave in society is awful. And I am not even talking about crime, I am talking about their everyday behavior and the fact that they don’t question that is wrong. As a female in my late twenties, I feel strongly that I should be able to dress how I like without receiving lewd comments wherever I go. I am completely confused as to what these people think they are going to achieve from yelling out such comments, I mean, have you ever heard of a marriage starting from “yeah, he yelled nice tits at me as I walked into Walmart and the rest was history?!” (Side note, I have practically no chest whatsoever, so if that exact comment was shouted at me, I know they would be lying!) But, seriously, other than those people thinking that that is socially acceptable to declare, it is very intimidating to hear, and makes me fear for my safety. It both repulses me and simultaneously makes me feel indignant. Over the past year, I have had notes left on my car, people ask for my number while I am working and men offer to fill up my car with gas. Whenever I relay these stories later on, I am often surprised as to the reactions I receive. “You’re so lucky” or “Bet that made your day”. Well, no, no it didn’t. And lucky?! These comments disturb me as much as the perpetrators’! Since when did we live in a society where making people feel uncomfortable in both professional and recreational settings are not only normalized but envied?! It makes me feel marginalized. I don’t see that wearing shorts, or putting on make up should equate to an invitation of foul comments or suggestions that I am incapable of fulfilling a basic errand.

While I don’t have hundreds of thousands of online followers, to this day, I have received zero abuse, zero lewd comments and zero demeaning comments online. In fact, I have found my Instagram and my WordPress sites to be wholly positive. Apart from, the Dreaming Elegance people (who, let’s face it, irritate everyone), I have only ever had comments of support or questions about a post to find out more. Yet, in everyday ‘offline’ life, most weeks, I am the recipient of some suggestive or demeaning comment. Online, I post pictures of myself in bikinis. Offline, I walk around in business casual or workout clothes (I never even wear just a sports bra or shorts to the gym either). Online, I sometimes present myself in an overtly more provocative way, yet, offline is where I receive the embarrassingly uncomfortable comments. I am pretty strong-willed and pretty resilient, yet these endless comments affect my everyday life. I often choose not to wear make up on the weekends and don’t brush my hair as I just don’t want the comments from these people. 

Sure, online influences are only becoming more salient, yet, just as there is the constant reminder to live your life offline too, we also need to address how offline behaviors are just as, if not more, problematic than online. For someone to question their safety, and to feel uncomfortable wherever they go, is just ridiculous. We should have gone past this. After all, technology is evolving at an exponential speed, shouldn’t society be keeping pace?

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Spicy Maple Turkey Breast

I typically prefer chicken to turkey because I prefer the milder flavor of chicken, but I decided to change it up a bit and capitalize on the stronger flavor with a strong seasoning too. This is super simple to make, keeps the turkey breast moist and can be served with a multitude of veggies and other carb sources. It would make a great alternative to a family roast, and, best of all, is super easy to clean up!


Macros per portion (based on 7 servings): 105kcal; 23.5g protein, 0.3g carbs, 0.5g fat

Ingredients

1.5lbs skinless and boneless turkey breasts

3 tbsp Walden Farms pancake syrup

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried Italian herbs

Pinch of black pepper

2 tsp water



Method

  1. In a small bowl, measure out the pancake syrup, cumin, paprika, herbs, black pepper and water. Stir thoroughly.
  2. Line a medium baking pan with foil and add the turkey breasts.
  3. With a large spoon, cover the turkey breasts with half of the marinade, turning the breasts to ensure both sides are covered. Leave to marinade for approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat your oven to 450f.
  5. Cover the breasts with the remainder of the marinade and then cover with foil.
  6. Place in the center of your preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes, ensuring the breasts are cooked thoroughly through. By covering the turkey with foil, you will help to keep the breasts moist and also ensure the marinade stays on the turkey.
  7. Leave to rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve! I have teamed mine with pearled Fargo, pan fried zucchini discs and raw sugar snap peas. This would work really well with a host of roasted veggies and potatoes!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Counting Macros vs. Intuitive Eating: Aren’t we missing the bigger picture?

At the moment, I feel that the fitness world on Instagram is divided – there are those who count macros and there are those who eat intuitively. Both groups of people lull me into a false sense of security that everyone is more aware of food and nutrition than they actually are. I lose count of the amount of times people outside of my Instagram fitness bubble look at me stunned when I turn down a banana or an orange juice. ‘But it’s fruit?!’ Even at the gym, the discussion of specific nutrients leaves some people with confused looks on their faces. It is easy to forget how uninformed most people are about what they eat.

I dislike the nutrition labels on US foods and feel that some of the proposed FDA changes are for the better and some are for the worse. With the general population knowing as little as they do about nutrition, I feel that the simpler the nutrition labels can be, the more beneficial they will be in educating and informing the consumer. I obviously pay a great deal of attention to nutrition labels, but I only look at about a third of the information on there – the rest I don’t even glance at. All I am interested in is ingredients, calories, carbohydates, fat, fibre, protein and sodium. (I only pay attention to sodium because I dislike salty tastes, so if it is high in sodium, chances are, I won’t like it!) The rest of the information that is currently on there seems to be out-dated fad information. For example, the ‘calories from fat’ information probably stemmed from the time, about 10 years ago, that fat was the enemy and low fat diets were all the rage. One of the proposed FDA label changes now is to add ‘added sugars’ onto the label, co-inciding with the current anti-sugar hype. Give it 5 years and no-one will be interested and it will be another irrelevant aspect to the nutrition label.

I get asked a lot about my philosophies and protocols on nutrition, both on and offline. For me, I can’t imagine not tracking macros. It works for me, both mentally and physically. It enables me to pursue two of my passions (cooking and eating….yes, eating is definitely a passion) and it has enabled me to progress. It is as much of a part of my life as getting dressed. I don’t even consider not tracking macros. But, I do understand that it isn’t for everyone. I personally could not eat intuitively. I have a large appetite and would be forever worrying whether I had eaten too much. The ‘intuition’ would go out the window and I would let the unknown quantities of my food rule my head, filling me with obsession. For other people, I know they find intuitive eating liberating as they don’t have to weigh food or input/calculate anything. 

I have heard a lot recently that tracking macros is a diet, not a lifestyle. I think it can be both. As with any nutrition protocol, there are those people who are very familiar with it and there are loads who aren’t. To me, it is a lifestyle, but for a newbie, it may seem like a diet. Weighing food is exactly what you would do if you were baking a cake, it is not irrational, ludricrous behavior. Instead of the motive being achieving a perfect bake, weighing everything enables true flexible dieters to make progress and live sustainably. I am so familiar with it now, that it probably only adds an extra 15 minutes into my day. 15 minutes to enable me to live healthily and happily? I’d call that bang for my buck.

I have also heard a lot recently that there is a wealth more to nutrition than counting macros and I whole-heartedly agree. Flexible dieting is heavily glamorized online and perceptions seem to be that it is all about fitting in as much junk as possible and taking photos of it. For me, fitting in junk was a key step in my relationship with food. From struggling with binge eating for several years, the novelty that I could fit in junk and not gain weight was a key initial step in me achieving a more mentally balanced state. Now, I eat junk in small quantities but most of the time, I don’t want to eat it. I enjoy eating the fresh, crunchy textures of fruits and vegetables and there are few things that give me as much pleasure as cooking up delicious meals for the week. I love experimenting with flavors and different ingredients and am always happy (although teased for it!) bringing my Tupperware pots into work. Why would I want to pay multi-billion dollar companies for mediocre (at best) food, when I can do it better, cheaper and healthier myself?

I never claim to be a nutrition expert. I am not qualified and don’t pretend to be. I am always learning and feel my knowledge barely scratches the surface of all there is to know. I am also definitely not anti-intuitive eating, for some, it is the perfect approach for their lifestyle. But intuitive eating comes with the premise that you know both what you should be eating as well as understanding many complex aspects of nutrition. Forcing the idea that intuitive eating is the only ‘balanced’ way to approach living healthily is therefore very heavily skewed towards people submerged in the health and fitness industry. I think it is easy for online fitness communities to appear representative of society, but, they are very definitely representing only a very small minority of people. For most people, both counting macros and intuitive eating are completely redundant. So instead of throwing out blanket statements that one way of approaching nutrition is the only way of living, shouldn’t us folk who are passionate about nutrition understand that it is not a one size fits all? Shouldn’t we be spending less time trying to compartmentalize nutrition into boxes? And shouldn’t we be encouraging people who don’t live and breathe this to try new foods, cook more and understand exactly what they put in their mouth? 

-Benchpressingbaubles, x