Tag Archives: Food

Beyond Japan… Cooking Edition

Since my trip to Japan (See part one, two, three, four, five)I have really upped my game when it comes to Japanese cooking at home. I used to think it was not possible to cook a lot of Japanese food because I either could not get the ingredients or did not have access to the right cooking equipment. But that is not true and now I really enjoy cooking several things and want to learn how to cook even more!

One thing that helped enormously was finding the Japan Centre (www.japancentre.com). I’ve now both been to the shop and ordered online and it’s fantastic. I try hard to get the Japanese versions of things, rather than English or America versions as I want to be authentic.  Plus the do fun fresh food such as this Hello Kitty bun!

There are two main dishes I feel really good about making and also switching things up with them easily (without a recipe) and they are ramen and okonomiyaki! From the Japan Centre I’ve bought a stock of all the basic ingredients, such as the ramen noodles with stock, the okonomiyaki flour and sauce, mayo, tempura flakes, seaweed, pickled ginger and a few other things that have made it so easy to cook great food.

This is an example of the miso chicken ramen I’ve made. I’ve also made a version with salt stock and soya stock. All are slightly different and worth experimenting with. I’ve also mixed things up using chicken, fish, pork and chorizo. I feel good about whipping a ramen up that I could use up things I have in the fridge and create something yummy.

This is an example of the okonomiyaki I’ve been cooking and it is amazing! I’ve used bacon lardons, porks fillet strips, chorizo and smoked salmon. All of which have been amazing even if not fully authentic, but making it yum was my priority as well as not wasting food.

I have also tried to make noodle soup and yaki soba, but these haven’t turned out quite as I would like so I need a bit more practice.

I am on the search for a Japanese cookbook as I would like to learn how to make other things. I’m not sure which one to get yet though and will continue to look, but if anyone has any recommendations let me know!

Challenging my rules

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I’ve been working through Intuitive Eating for the last 6 months or so and it is making a huge difference in how I think about myself and food. Therapy is also helping a great deal as I am actually talking about what I really think and not being distracted by other people’s opinions. I am finding I am beginning to listen to myself first. I am starting to ignore the media and supposedly well-intentioned people who just want to help. I am doing the research and listening to what my gut, heart and head are telling me. It’s hard work, but I feel so much freedom at the same time.

I have been working hard on noticing and trying to ditch the diet mentality. It still rears it’s ugly head with automatic thoughts, but I don’t let it control me. I’ve also been working on honouring my hunger, which again is a work in progress as I have used food as a coping mechanism for so long that it won’t change overnight, so each step is important. The next two principles about Making peace with Food and Challenging the Food Police is where I have been concentrating lately.

Through therapy I have begun to notice, understand and challenge the rules I live by that are not my own. They have been embedded within in throughout my life and no longer serve a purpose and actually cause me more harm then good. Many of my rules are from my parents and this isn’t about blaming them, it is about understanding that those were their rules, but they do not have to be mine. They grew up in a different time and are not going to change, but I don’t have to live by them anymore, I can find my own or throw them all out the window.

In my work I have found a couple of things that have really had an impact on my binge eating behaviour and my lack of trust in myself around food – the idea of waste and the rule of not having it in the house. Both of these enable binge eating behaviour and eat into my self-esteem by encouraging negative thinking about food and myself, both diet and behaviours. I have completely lost the ability to trust myself around food as I have lived by rules that have reinforced that I cannot be trusted around food. At the same time I have been living by rules that mean I cannot waste food and so I have been eating it all in order not to waste it or have it in the house. So confusing!

 

So I have been challenging these rules, but buying things in large amount and keeping them in the house. This has been my list so far:

  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream
  • Fresh bread
  • Full fat yogurt and milk
  • Biscuits
  • Alcohol

I have binged, but the majority of time I forget they are there until I fancy something. I have given myself permission to break those rules and prove to myself I can trust myself. I taken them off the banned list and therefore reduced their appeal. It’s been liberating!

Ignoring people is the harder part for me and in the past comments about food or weight have knocked my self-esteem out the park. But now I am trying to give less of shit about other people. I listen to myself and make my own choices, then bat other people’s opinions away. I’m keeping it simple and having a few prepared lines to respond to people with such as ‘and I’m really looking forward to eating it’ in a sweetly innocent tone or being a bit stronger and challenging them by asking ‘why does it matter to you what I eat?’. It’s an interesting process at the moment and does depend on how I feel about myself at the time. Sometimes though I am just choosing not to acknowledge the matter at all – such as my rant on twitter about the random old man in the supermarket who tried to encourage me to ignore the chocolate aisle – and for me that is re-enforcing within myself that I do not have to conform or agree with societal standard or stereotypes, and instead I can say fuck off!

It’s a long journey, but I feel in a really good place with it all. It will take time and I am so glad I have taken the focus off weight loss and just focusing on being the best me I can be and loving myself exactly as I am so much so that I threw the scales out! I’ve also been buying clothes that fit and throwing out the ones that don’t. I want to feel good and that is what I am going to do and anyone who doesn’t want me to feel good can go on their way and stay out of my life. Simple.

Hitting diet bottom

I hit diet rock bottom a while ago. It came on gradually. Each new attempt to diet started with one last supper, which got bigger each time. The cycle of diet and binge escalated to a point I was not happy with at all. I found myself slipping into a new depressive low and hated every minute of it. I found  excuse after excuse – busy at work, not feeling well, not training for anything – basically anything where I could blame my own willpower.

However I have since realised it was not my willpower that wasn’t working, but rather the diets themselves. Each diet was harming my body, biology and self-worth. So I needed to find something different and though a number of blogs found Intuitive Eating.

This book has been an eye opener so far and I’m not all the way through. I have found something that resonates with me on a deep level. Everything the diet industry is telling us is designed to impact our self-worth and self-esteem. We keep being told that failing a diet is our fault, not the diets. Even my doctor has told me this. I no longer believe it. I believe that the diets I have tried have all been about deprivation and that does not suit me. Now I am not suggesting I am going about to eat everything and gain as much weight as possible, but rather I need a lifestyle diet where my relationship with food is not based on what is considered good or bad. I don’t want this any more and I refuse to adhere to the societal norm that is:

“Good behaviour, in our society, means starting a new diet, or having good intentions to diet”

This has led to a no-win situation in my life where I no longer feel in control or trust myself around food and this is no way to live:

“Every diet violation, every eating situation that feels out of control lays the foundation for the diet mentality”

So I am breaking up with diets…

I am going on a journey with this book and I’m not going to say it’s easy. It’s bloody hard to change from an ingrained sense of self and rules that come from family and society. But I am going to keep working on this. I am taking the shift off losing weight and focusing on how my body and mind connect. Already I feel less stressed about food and am becoming more self-aware that I ever thought would be possible.

First up I’ve been Ditching the Diet Mentality“dieting has been a way to cope with life” – I’ve been doing this through widening my reading to be aware of the damage diets cause to the body and mind. This has been fascinating and scary, but worthwhile. I’ve also been starting the journey of self-awareness by tuning into my thinking habits and behaviours traits that support the diet mentality. This has been interesting to observe, but not easy to change as these have been ingrained into my way of life over years they have become automatic. I’ve also gotten rid of all the diet tools in my home. I’ve cleared out my twitter, instagram and blog feeds of weight loss inspiration and instead focused on positive people who share things that really matter or that are fun and inspire me to enjoy life.

Secondly I’ve been trying to Honour My Hunger. This has simply been about listening to my body, thoughts and feelings when I’m around food. I’ve been trying to eat when I feel hungry, rather than give into the to the rules I’ve made around timing of meals or snacks. I am asking myself two simple questions – “am I hungry? and what do I fancy to eat?” – these have been easy (ish) to implement and are really about checking in myself and noticing the times when I want to eat when I am not hungry, but I am still working on why that is. One step at a time.

The third aspect I’ve been introducing is all about Making Peace with Food “the forbidden object is elevated to an overvalued level of specialness” – This is an area that is very important for me as I have so many rules around specific food and so much guilt and shame associated with meals and people who make food very negative. The main aspect of this is to give yourself permission to eat and that is exactly what I am trying to do. I’ve bought chocolate and snacks that I used to think of as bad and keep as much as possible in the fridge so that I do not run out. I’ve challenged food I think of as bad and added them into my meals to see if I really like them. I’ve found I don’t need as much of things as I know I can have more of them if I want. This is something that I never thought would happen. I still over eat on chocolate, but it’s definitely emotional eating.

“When you know the food will be there and allowed, day after day, it doesn’t become so important to have. Food loses its power.”

“This is not about knowledge of food, but rather rebuilding experiences with eating”

I feel these three principles are really important building blocks to create the relationship with food that I want. It takes time and I am going to allow myself all the time I need to work through these aspects of the book. Building trust takes times and care. I am not only rebuilding my relationship with food but also my relationship with myself.

I’ve just moving onto the fourth area which is all about Challenging the Food Police. This is all about continuing to build self-awareness. It suggest an intuitive eating journal. I struggle with this concept as it feels too close to tracking that diets ask for. However this is very similar to what I am trying to do with therapy so I am going to focus on emotions and noticing them and combine this with my therapy work using an emotion wheel and emotion wave that I plan to use to help understand and articulate what I feel.

Taking the pressure off needing to lose weight has been hard, but pivotal to this approach. So ingrained are these habits that I always automatically jump to needing to lose weight so go on a diet every day for some random reason – clothes, food, fitness, chairs, lifts, – pretty much anything can make me jump to this. However I am stopped reacting and just begun noticing. I haven’t quite gotten to the no judgement part, but I am working on it. This feels the right approach for me and combined with therapy it is the journey I need to go on. There are still a few more principles in the book I need to work through and I will keep re-reading the ones I am working on above as I need them to become normal for me in my new world.

It feels good right now!

#KeepTheSecrets

I’ve just had the most magical weekend and I can’t let it go, which is why I think it’s taken a few days back at home and work for me to sit down and want to write this post as it feels like it’s done then. I know it’s not really, I’m being over-dramatic, but that’s how it feels.

An upfront note – there will be no spoilers in this post. I will talk about how I felt, but no plot or character details will be shared #KeepTheSecrets

In reality this all started in October last year when the tickets went on sale for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and I managed to get in the queue with only around 1000 people in front of my. Compared to friends who got in the queue not long after and it was up in the 6000 range and even more I did really well. It only took about 25 minutes of waiting in the end and I got tickets for myself and my friend Ingrid to see one of the first Saturday double bill previews. I was so happy and so excited to have something new added to the stories I’ve been reading since I was 16! I’m not 31 so it’s been pretty much half my life! It felt exactly the same as a new book coming out – the unknown and the excitement and the trepidation around what could happen. It’s Harry Potter, anyone could die!

Side note – it’s also now totally okay to have a crush on the actors playing Harry, Ron and Draco and a girl crush on Hermione! Amazing actors all round.

I then booked a hotel in Covent Garden, just up the road from The Palace Theatre in Soho. It was a perfect location as it only meant getting the tube to the hotel and then we could wander everywhere. The first thing we did of course was go to the theatre to see it all set up. I took lots of photos of the posters as it was all helping build up the excitement even more than I thought I could contain. Make sure you go and see it during the day before a performance as once we were there for the show it was so busy it was impossible to get the photos I took.

Everything about the set up felt right. It was very much linked to the books, rather the films and I liked that a lot. It was continuing the story for those characters and for the fans who have been there from the beginning, or almost the beginning in my case.

Setting it nineteen years later felt exactly right too. I think this is because I am now an adult and so it would make it easier to relate to them now as adults as well. We grew up together and now we were getting the chance to see who they had become.

I also love that this is in a different format. As a play there is something completely different about it, but at the same time there is something completely familiar. It made it even more excitng for me. It was like the film experience when you are in the cinema with everyone, but with the theatre atmosphere where it’s totally okay to react out loud.

The Palace Theatre is also an amazing building. I recommend walking the whole way round and see the brick structure and take in the architecture that you can then compare to what you see on the inside. It’s like a Tardis!

As we arrived on the Friday we had a day to kill and made the most of it by totally immersing ourselves in our Harry Potter geekness. We went to the House of Minalima, who did all the graphic design work for the films. It is amazing! It’s a combined gallery and shop over multiple floors.

It is a beautiful space, full of colour and fun. It’s mainly Harry Potter, but it also contains other work by the designers, which is just as amazing.

There are some of the original props used in the films as well. The amount of detail and care that went into all this and continues to go into for the new movie is staggering. The love and commitment to the work and the world took my breath away and I could have stayed in there all day.

I want them to come and decorate my house. The floors and stairs especially!

We then went to Cheeky Nails to get our nails turned into Hogwarts House colours ! I never get my nails done so this was exciting. It is attached to a bar as well so is perfect for a Friday night. They ladies there were so fantastic to us and fitted us in and did the details we wanted. I think we entertained them for the night too!

Of course then we had to make sure we got the most value from them by getting them in pretty much every single photo for the rest of the weekend.

We woke up Saturday and could not wait for 2pm. We went for a relaxing breakfast and then we wandered through some bookstores to keep ourselves calm, but get ready for what was coming. We got into the queue just before 1pm to give ourselves plenty of time to get merchandise, drinks and to find our seats. They check your bags on entry and even if the queue is long you’ll be fine as they are quick.

Then we were ready to see Part 1! I took some photos inside before and after the play, but that would give things away so they are just for me as memories. I can’t really say any more as I do not want to make JK Rowling angry by hinting at anything that happens.

All I will say is that I loved it!

We then went to a local sushi restuarant in between the parts. I woudl recommend booking to make sure you get somewhere close as it was super busy being a Saturday and also Pride. To save stress book someone and enjoy discussing (carefully) what happened in Part 1!

Then it was time to join the queue at 6:30pm for Part 2! Everyone was even more excited than before. We were also talking about our theories for what would happen and it was so much fun! Everyone was there as a fan and there was so much love and loyalty in the audience it was amazing. There was also some great discussions, not debates, but people being open for things to go where ever they might go.

Then is was over! It was exactly like finishing one of the books for the first time. Happiness that you now knew what happens and how the story and characters develop. At the same time sadness that it was over and you won’t get to experience it in the same way again. To sum up my reaction without any spoilers is basically me in this photo, taken in the ice cream place opposite right after the we came out of the theatre. It was magic in reality for me!

I am in awe of JK Rowling for creating this world and sharing in so many ways. I totally respect her call for everyone who has seen the play to #KeepTheSecrets to let others see as we had just done. I cannot wait for the script to come out as I will be able to read that while replaying the play in my head. I would say to anyone who has tickets to wait to watch the play first before reading the script as I can tell you it will not be the same and your patience will be worth it.

I treated myself to quite a bit of merchandise and love it all! I’m keeping hold of my tickets as memories too. It was an experience I will never forget and feel lucky to be one of the first people to have seen the play in full in one day. I don’t think I could have waited 24 hours for the second part to be absolutely honest!

I would also say to anyone who is a fan to keep trying to get tickets from the official website. I hope one day they will tour it or do a live showing broadcast to cinemas, but I also hope that will be a few years away to give as many people as possible the chance to see it as it is meant to be seen!

#KeepTheSecrets

Weekend Fun in London

I seem to be going quite a lot lately and I am quite enjoying it. I’ve been able to explore new parts I haven’t been to before. This last weekend I was there for a friend’s hen do and we had great fun. The weekend started with a treasure hunt that had us walking around London for a a few hours. I got to see Kensington Palace, which I don’t think I’ve been to before.

We then headed to have afternoon tea at a beautiful hotel new St James Park. The scones and cakes were absolutely amazing!

We then headed to the River Thames for a night cruise. This was amazing as I got to see the city late at night all lit up and it was beautiful.

Tower Bridge

The Greenwich Meridian laser

The Shard, Tower Bridge, and the walky talky

Closer up

Underneath

The Tower of London

The London Eye

It was a lovely nice that stayed warm into the early morning. The light reflecting on the river were  gave the water a glow that is does not have during the day.

The next day we headed towards Portobello Road and I found this tree that was growing and taking the wall with it. It made me smile and appreciate that nature in the city still thrives.

We went to an amazing place – The Electric Diner – for breakfast and I enjoyed a fantastic flat white and a Full English tat hit the spot nicely. I intend to go back here when I can.

When we had finished it was still waking up and the vintage market was set up as we wandered back up the road. I would very much like to come back for the food market during the week. It was beautiful and sunny and it would have been nice to stay a while longer, but I will plan that in for next time.

Overall a lovely day exploring and visiting some new places that I will be making the effort to go back to. The sun made it an extra special weekend.

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