Become a Butterfly

Have I mentioned my love of penguins? Well, ever since I was a child I have adored these comical black and white waddling birds so when Mr O suggested a trip to Artis Zoo in Amsterdam on Saturday I was very excited. I’m always thrilled to see penguins and I thought they would be the highlight of the afternoon but I have to admit that at 30 years old I loved every minute of our visit! I don’t think I’ve been to such a beautiful looking zoo! There were flower beds in bloom everywhere and you are so close to the animals. We saw lions, jaguars, tapirs, llamas, flamingos, gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, sea lions, snakes, lizards, an array of tropical fish and butterflies. I will write a blog to tell you more about my penguin obsession but today I want to tell you about how wondering in the tropical gardens in the hot house and watching the butterflies fluttering got me thinking. They got me thinking about making changes.

The saying goes that if nothing changed there wouldn’t be any butterflies and we would stay a caterpillar wiggling through life. Change no matter what form it takes can be very daunting and can be mixed with emotions but I want to focus with you now on making changes with a view to improving wellness, fitness and health. Over the past three years I have made a huge change. I’ve lost 15 stone which is a whole person. To put it into perspective that’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger! Loosing that weight didn’t just happen by accident. I knew that I had to make some changes in order to turn my wiggling into wings.

Looking at my lifestyle now which includes daily visits to the gym and cooking from scratch you would think that the change was radical but it wasn’t. When I decided that I wanted to lose some weight I didn’t set out to lose 15 stone. I paved a way of stepping stones and hopped to the next level once I was ready. I think setting goals is great, it gives us something to aim for but I think that when I was just starting out, saying that I was aiming to lose 15 stone would have been overwhelming and I don’t think it would have helped me on my journey. Instead I focused on making small steps to bring about positive change. Small changes are just that. Small steps in the right direction such as parking the car in the furthest spot in the car park to get to where you need to get to, making your own lunch to take into work, avoiding the chocolate temptation by the check out and treating yourself to a relaxing bath or facial instead of treating yourself with chocolate!   

I think this is how a lot of people fall down and struggle to get up again because we are putting too much focus on the end goal rather than putting the steps in place to make it happen. If you want to live in the penthouse you have to build the foundations first otherwise your swanky pad will end up in a pile of rubble! We are bombarded with messages from magazines, newspapers and social media about the latest fad or quick fix suggesting we should buy some kind of “slimming” tea which is basically some murky, dirty water in a mug that you struggle to swallow in order to get your body “beach” ready. Guess what folks?! You have a body! If you have a body, you are ready for the beach if that’s where you want to be! You do NOT have to look like one of the models on the Victoria Secret catwalk or on the front cover of a magazine to be beach ready – they look like that because they’ve been photographed at the right angle with the most flattering lighting, they’ve been photo shopped to remove any flaw or area of cellulite, had their hair coiffured and back combed within an inch of its life and the makeup artist has contoured their cheeks as if their Kim and Kayne’s life depended on it. What is more positive is getting your beach ready body to the beach, allowing the sun to make your skin glow and drink up the vitamin D, gently exercising in the form of a stroll taking in the sea breeze and the sand between your toes and then immersing yourself in the warm waters and having a swim.

I’m not preaching to the choir here as I still have insecurities over my body after all of the positive changes I’ve made. By making the positive changes in the form of healthy eating and exercise leading to the weight loss I have been left with a lot of loose skin which just hangs and can be a little problematic to contain. I chose to have the apron of skin that draped from my tummy removed just over a year ago and I’m considering some further skin removal and reconstruction. The loose skin on my arms and breasts are so proud of my weight loss that when I’m jumping around in the gym they give me a little clap, like a round of applause….or like Miranda Hart says, a bit like the breast clap when rolling over in bed! I do laugh at it but it really does affect me particularly when I’m with the lovely ladies in Bravisimo who have the patience of saints trying to find a bra to fit my small back size whilst containing my saggy boob skin. Therefore soon I’m off again for a consultation with Mr Ng, my surgeon from last time to talk about another operation. For me that is a daunting step but a change to be made which ultimately will make me feel better and more confident.

I think we can learn a lot from those fluttering butterflies. In order to get our wings we need to make small steps from being that caterpillar wiggling away. We need to realise that the quick fixes that promise instant results are not practical or sustainable. Metamorphosis does not happen overnight. It takes time, patience, cocooning and taking small positive steps will make a great difference. Just like us humans, those fluttering butterflies are all unique, have different colourings and patterns, no two being the same. I am me and you are you. I took a photograph of a butterfly in the hot house which had just landed on a palm leaf. Its outer wings had an eye catching pattern but then a few moments later it opened its wings to reveal the most gorgeous blue. This reminded me that no matter what we show the world on the outside, its what’s on the inside that counts. Let’s focus on us being healthy, happy, fit and well and let our true colours shine through.

My outer shell is not the most beautiful and it’s certainly not perfect but it’s been through one hell of a journey. I was a wiggly caterpillar and I’m glad to say that I’ve found my wings. Sometimes our wings have a bit of a wobble but every butterfly has to have a rest on a palm leaf. If anyone has an issue with my outer wings then I can tell them this. I may float like a butterfly but I can sting like a bee!


Ten Commandments – Part 2

6. COFFEE AND CAKE – you’ve said no thank you to the cake but coffee shops are guilty of concocting delicious coffee based drinks which are laced with sugar. Be smart and think about how much milk you are having. I worked out quickly that I still wanted to enjoy my cappuccinos and the way around this is by swapping to skimmed milk but asking for the cappuccino be skinny and dry. A good barrista will know what a dry cap is but it’s basically more foam rather than steamed milk. Less milk equals less calories! A dry skinny cap should weigh very little – it’s like a cloud in a cup.

7. GET RID OF THE TENTS – Once your clothing is too big get it out of your wardrobe. Whether you send it to the charity shop, sell it on ebay or swap with friends just get it out of your wardrobe because one you don’t want to get back to that size and two you need to make room for a new outfit to celebrate your process and the new you.

8. PAMPER YOURSELF – make time to look after you! Have a facial, go for a manicure or just have a nice long soak in the bath.

9. GOALS – set a goal. Not necessarily a weight goal  – for me it was getting to a size where I could buy a Burberry trench coat. The day I went into Burberry was a special day. I had to take my stylists, KB and PM with me.

10. LIVE – life is too short not to enjoy the special occasions. When it is your birthday, absolutely have the cake. Celebrate you another year of you!


Ten Commandments – Part 1

1. PLANNING – they say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. They also say that a goal without a plan is just a wish. I don’t know about you but I’m always thinking in advance about what I’m wearing throughout the week and for events so why not think about what we will be doing during the week or month ahead when it comes to scheduling nutrition and work outs. I make an online grocery delivery to ensure that I cannot be tempted to sneak treats into my trolley whilst I’m hungry and more liable to cave (as I’d normally have to go to the supermarket after work when I’m hungry). Make sure you have food available which you know is good for you and you can reach for quickly that will actually fill you up – think protein like some cooked chicken or a rice cake. If you allow tempting treats cross your threshold you will end up eating them!!!

2. RECORD – I don’t know about you but I LOVE stationary. Every September I had to have a new pencil case, the latest smelly gel pens and at university I became obsessed with highlighters. These days as a busy barrister it’s all about the sticky tabs to flag things in documents, Mont Blanc pens and a leather bound Smythson notebook. Why not treat yourself to a pretty food diary. I have a food planner from Princess Planning. It’s pink, it has a pen holder, there are meal planners each week, shopping lists that you can write out, each day you can record exactly what you have eaten, how hydrated you are, your mood and your exercise. It is very easy to forget that biscuit you had at 11am when you reach for another one at 3pm so record everything and you’ll soon see results.

3. DO NOT BE A SLAVE TO THE SCALES – scales have their point but what are you going to gain from stepping on the scales first thing in the morning, after you’ve been to the loo, at the end of the day. You will just make yourself miserable. Weight fluctuates during the day depending on a variety of factors including where us ladies are at in our cycle. If you must have scales in your house be strict. Once a week is fine but why not take measurements. If you are exercising you may be losing inches but putting on weight in muscle. Muscle weights more than fat!  

A victory in Burberry

4. HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE – watching what you eat does not mean you turn from a social butterfly to a hermit under a rock. Going out for dinner? Look ahead at the menu online so you can decide in advance what you’d like to eat. Remember that you are the customer so restaurants will want to cater for you! Ask for no oil (be like me and take fry light and ask the chef to cook your food in that oil), ask for veggies to be steamed, salad without the dressing, sauce on the side, swap chips for a jacket potato. Don’t be embarrassed. You are taking control by enjoying life and getting results.

5. CHEERS – yes you can still enjoy a glass of something. I’ll just leave this one here for you….champagne and prosecco has less sugar than wine! You can even buy skinny prosecco.


No Slip Ups at Breakfast

I’d like to introduce you to someone who is a total wonder woman and I’m so lucky that she’s my mum. Let’s call her Mama Wheels! Mama Wheels has also been on a journey and has lost over 6 stone. I’m very proud of her and together we keep each other on track and like to swap recipes. I’ve always loved going home (it’s certainly where my heart it) and I know it will be on plan as Mama Wheels is too (as long as we stay away from Papa Wheels’ biscuit and chocolate stash which he keeps hidden anyway!) Over to you Mama Wheels….

Today I’m on the road going to visit an old school friend in Bath but before getting in the car it was my usual morning walk along the canal and disused railway line. Sometimes the holidaymakers are cooking breakfast and the smell of bacon keeps me going the last bit of my walk . One of the ways I’ve found to keep me on track is a good breakfast, before I’d probably have just had a yogurt at the most .

Today I made some delicious and easy banana pancakes. With Shrove Tuesday coming up maybe you could give these a try!

Ingredients:

  • 1 x banana (mashed)
  • 2 x whisked eggs
  • Selection of fruit of your choice
  • Quark (as many spoonful’s as you like)

Method:

  • Mix together the mashed banana and whisked eggs
  • Put small spoonful’s of the mixture into a pan sprayed with frylight. Flip onto the other side after a few minutes.
  • Serve with quark and fruit.

TOP TIP: You can buy a metal or silicon pancake skillet from amazon so you can get perfectly shaped pancake*



Nanny’s Pasta

This for me is like a cuddle in a bowl. This is exactly what I crave after a pants day at work and reminds me of Nanny Wheels. This recipe has absolutely no finesse at all but it’s pure goodness and is a chuck anything you like in a saucepan and let it bubble away kind of dish. Pasta for my nanny and gramps was exotic, which when you’ve experienced rationing it would be. Nanny used to boil the pasta so it was mushy rather than al-dente and my gramps for some reason would eat leftovers with jam.


Ingredients

  • 1 x packet of 5% fat minced beef
  • 1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Tomato puree (as much or as little as you like)
  • 1 x onion diced
  • 3 x sliced or diced carrots
  • A couple of handfuls of peas
  • 1 x teaspoon garlic
  • 1 x beef stock pot

Method:

  • Fry off the onions in fry light in a heavy based frying pan or saucepan. Once the onions are softened add in the mince and cook through.
  • Pour in the chopped tomatoes, beef stock pot and tomato puree and mix so that the mince is incorporated into the tomatoes.
  • Add in the carrots, peas and some water and allow to bubble away until the liquid has reduced to make it more like a ragu.
  • Cook your pasta and then mix into the sauce. Serve with some parmesan on the top. The sauce freezes well and tastes even better the next day. Perfect to heat up and tastes yummy on a jacket potato.


Park Chinois

I don’t know about you but sometimes you just fancy a chinese! What is it about electric orange sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice that is just so yummy? With Mr O in town I decided that we would have a chinese as a treat for our valentines date. In London there are so many places you could go and we both love China town in Soho but I decided that we would try somewhere a bit special so I booked a spot at Park Chinois in Berkeley Street in Mayfair.

My colleague and total right hand woman CGG at work had told me that this place is the place for chinese so I spent my week looking forward to indulging. The menu looked amazing as did the cocktail list! As soon as we arrived I knew we were in for a treat. I loved the lanterns at the entrance and the red velvet opulent reception area with an open fire. We arrived early but the Maitre D’ was happy to send us straight to the table. We were sat at a table near the cabaret which I was also excited to listen to. I adore listening to live music, particularly if it’s jazzy and there’s a piano. A piano playing away always take me back to my childhood when my parents used to take me to the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods. I would stare at the piano which would play itself when the pianist took their break.

Once we had settled into our surroundings at Park Chinois, the first difficult choice to make was which cocktail to have. I went for the Spritz Chinois. It was bubbly and had a hint of sweetness but it wasn’t sickly. It tasted botanical with bergamot and rosemary. It was so delicious and pink that I had to have another one. Mr O went for a Trois Garçon which was gin based. I’m not a huge fan of gin but I could quite have easily sipped on those!

Next choice was the food. I had to try the Dim Sum as I was told it was exceptional. I asked the waiter for his advice and he recommended the Waygu Beef Gyoza. Mr O went for the King Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. Both were delicious and we both tasted each other’s. For our main course we of course had to try the sweet and sour Iberico pork loin but it was like no other. The panko breadcrumbs were so light but crunchy and the sauce was tangy. I saw champagne sauce on the menu which happened to accompany the Cantonese duck à l’orange and I thought that was a bit of me so we went for that too. The duck fried rice which we had as a side along with some crunchy Pak Choi was equally as delicious.

Normally after chinese I’m full to bursting but seeing as Park Chinois is so spectacular I thought we really should give the dessert menu a peruse. Chocolate fondant and gold leaf it was….with two spoons of course! Which we all know really means it’s mostly mine and Mr O can take a few bites! Poor Mr O!

Before we left I had to pay a visit to the ladies. It really is such a beautiful bathroom. Think dark and mysterious, lots of mirrors and ornate gold taps. Now this place is spectacular but it does come with a price tag but for a treat it’s totally worth it. In order to get over the bill we decided to go for a drink. Off to the Rivoli Bar at The Ritz as it is within staggering distance of Park Chinois. We only stayed for one (I chose the cocktail of the month called Seduction in honour of Valentines Day) as if I had any more I think I’d topple over. This loosing weight thing makes me an awfully cheap date!! Although Mr O did remind me that my one post dinner drink was at The Ritz…..maybe not such a cheap one after all!


Fall in Love with you <3

Oh wow, are they for me?!? Many a February 14th I’ve heard smug squeals of joy coming from down the corridor in the office over a delivery of red roses. It has the ability to fill singletons with dread and that used to be me and I felt pangs of jealousy that I didn’t have someone to send me flowers. Why should one day out of 365 in the calendar make those who haven’t yet found a partner or are happily single feel that they are alone or not loveable. We all know that V Day is a commercial exercise for card shops and the likes of M&S and restaurants to sell cards, chocolates, flowers, champagne and meals at an inflated price to keep them going after the post-Christmas slump….yet we still crave acknowledgment that we are loved.

I was often asked why I was single. After all I had a great job, my own flat and loads of friends and a loving family. Apparently I had a pretty face. If only I had a pound for every time someone said that to me.

Things changed for me when I had friends over for dinner to bring in the new year. One of my gay best friends Greg, not one to beat around the bush, asked me what I wanted to achieve in the coming year. I made some comment about achieving more at work. He then looked me in the eye and said Charlotte, what do YOU want to achieve this year. This was the first time I said it out loud and admitted that I wanted to try losing some weight. I’m the kind of person who when my mind is made up, I charge forward and I make things happen. I decided that 2016 was going to me my year and in that year I lost 10 stone.

I want to add a disclaimer to this. I am absolutely NOT advocating that losing weight solves all your issues. It totally doesn’t! It won’t make someone love you, it won’t bring you success and it won’t magic the perfect home/job/friends/family. Admitting out loud that I wanted to lose weight helped me achieve something much more which I think has ultimately led me to find Mr O. I learnt to love myself and helping myself by starting my weight loss journey was an act of self-love which then spring boarded me into a positive way of thinking. Never under estimate the power of positive mental attitude.

Keeping positive doesn’t just happen overnight and it’s something I have to work on and will need to continue working on. I have this inner voice who I like to call Nora Twatty who comes out occasionally (usually when I’m tired or a bit hormonal) and tells me that I’m not good enough, tells me that the baggy skin I’ve been left with as a result of a huge weight loss is ugly and that I should cover it up. Nora plays a part in my life and I don’t think she will ever fully go away and I think it’s good she comes to the table now and again if only to make me more determined to get back up and prove her wrong.

As I lost weight, my confidence grew and I learnt to love myself. I showed love to myself by fuelling my body with nutritional, wholesome food, I gave myself an endorphin high by going to the gym and building up the intensity gradually  and had a fortnightly manicure and pedicure instead of sitting on the sofa eating my feelings. People told me that the sparkle which had always been within me was showing on the outside in my eyes and smile. When I look back through my camera roll on my phone I can see over the weeks and months that I was coming into the spot light rather than trying to hide into the back ground of the photograph.

With this confidence and new found positivity I decided that I’d put myself out into the dating world. I had nothing to lose but potentially so much more to gain. I put my Simon Cowell hat on and was very choosy as to whom got a swipe right off me. I went on a lot of dates and for once in my life I went with zero expectations. I wasn’t imagining him being “the one” and me becoming Mrs What’s His Face. I just went along and enjoyed being present in the moment. There were a couple of bumps in the road, I was heartbroken once and it was at that point in March 2017 when I thought about jacking it all in. I sat in the Starbucks in Covent Garden as I was early for another date and I was very close to not going. Nora Twatty said what’s he going to like about you? You’re just wearing jeans and a jumper. Instead of thinking of what it might not be I focused on the might be’s. Even if I didn’t like him, I like rugby and steak (and yes in an age of female emancipation where we are all supposed to be equals I hoped that he’d buy me my fillet steak).

Self-love and positivity ultimately led me to meet Mr O. I feel so lucky to have met him in that pub one Saturday and the fun has continued until today however that would never have happened if I hadn’t learnt how to show myself love. Do I need him to buy me red roses to know that he loves me? I do love flowers (take note Mr O) but if I want flowers I walk to Colombia Road market on a Sunday and pick the ones that I want. Walking to Colombia Road is showing my body love as exercise helps not only my fitness (and I seriously wouldn’t have been able to have done that at 27 stone) but it gives me the peace and headspace in a busy, hectic city. I can just put my headphones in and listen to music and have the time out for me. Every week however I like to imagine that I’ve bought myself 21 red roses. These 21 roses represent every meal (breakfast/lunch/dinner) for the 7 days of the week. I do try to eat well but we only have life so if I do have a treat on one of those days it doesn’t mean that the rest of the week is wasted. If one of my 21 roses wilted i wouldn’t throw away the whole bunch.

So happy Valentine’s Day to YOU. Say it to yourself. Tell yourself that you love YOU. The relationship you have with yourself is the most significant, challenging and exciting and if you can find the person who loves the you that you love, then that is just fabulous.


Let You Decide Soup

This is super quick and easy. To make it even more speedy (and to save yourself from tackling the peeling of and de-seeding of butternut squash and sweet potato) buy some ready prepared bags from the supermarket. I’ve found that using 2 bags of diced butternut squash and sweet potato weigh approximately 300g each and then I bulk it out with 200g of diced carrot. This seems to be the perfect veggie to stock ratio. I promise you that you will not be bored of this soup as it’s delicious and like a hug in a mug.

Ingredients
2 x 300g bag of ready prepared butternut squash and sweet potato
1 x diced onion (you can even buy this ready diced if it makes you cry
1 x teaspoon of garlic (I use lazy garlic)
1 x teaspoon of ginger (I use lazy ginger)
1 x litre of chicken or vegetable stock

Method:
Pop the veggies, onion, garlic and ginger into the soup maker
Top up with hot chicken or vegetable stock to the maximum line and press go on the soup maker. 20 minutes later you have the most gorgeous velvety soup which doesn’t have any cream or naughtiness in it. If you don’t have a soup maker:

Sweat off the onions in a large heavy based pan with the garlic and ginger in some fry light.

Add the veggies and top up with stock. Simmer for around 20 minutes until the veggies are soft enough.

Transfer to a processor and blend.

Butternut Squash Soup – I couldn’t come up with a name for this so you decide!

TOP TIP: I could eat SO much freshly baked sough dough with this soup, particularly if it’s made and baked fresh from The Bread Station (the amazing Danish bakery opposite where I live) but if you are looking for something to dip into your soup, full of fibre but not as calorific I suggest some Ryvita dark rye crispbreads.


Pizza My Heart

Mmmmmm pizza. Crispy thin dough base, smothered with tangy tomato sauce some salty ham and melting mozzarella. As glorious as this sounds it’s hardly what you would consider a sensible option when you are trying to watch what you eat. Now I’m all for treating yourself, remember life is about balance but if you want to try and make something as scrumptious but a more angelic option then try this. The secret is all in the base – a wholemeal tortilla base!

Ingredients:
1 x wholemeal tortilla base
Pasata
Tomato puree
Reduced fat grated mozzarella
Your toppings of choice (I like char-grilled chicken and Parma ham)

Method:

  1. Place the tortilla wrap on a baking tray
  2. Mix together some pasata and tomato puree and spread on the tortilla wrap just missing going right out to the edges.
  3. Put your toppings on your pizza and finish it off by sprinkling the mozzarella on top.
  4. Place in the oven at around 200F fan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the mozzarella has melted.
  5. Mama mia you have the best pizza!

T-Oat-ally Delicious

I remember making mug cakes for my university friends before we went to bed after a night out on Swansea’s Wind Street. If you are fancying cake but don’t want to go full on like the boy with the fudge cake in Mathilda (we’ve all been there especially ladies at that time of month) then this is for you. It feels so indulgent but isn’t too sinful.

Ingredients:
40g porridge oats
1 x egg whisked
1 x low fat yogurt of your choice (I used a mueller light)
A few drops of vanilla essence
1 x level teaspoon of Nutella

TOP TIP: In order to ensure that you do not over indulge, make sure that the tea spoon is a measured one! Believe me if I didn’t have a measuring spoon and level it off there would as much Nutella on that tea spoon as humanly possible. The Guinness world record book would be calling!

Method:

  • Mix all the oats, whisked egg, yogurt and vanilla essence in a bowl.
  • Put half the mixture in a mug and then dollop on the tea spoon of Nutella.
  • Pour the remaining mixture on top of your dollop of Nutella
  • Place the mug in the microwave and blast for 1 and a half minutes.
  • Remove from the microwave. You can eat out of the mug or you can run a palette knife around the cake and tip out onto a plate. To make it a bit more restauranty you can drizzle with a tea spoon of choc shot (a reduced sugar chocolate sauce). An alternative is to have a scoop of a low fat ice cream such as Halo Top. I love the mint chocolate one and a measured scoop of 100ml is only 68 calories.