Sweet Craving? Try a Banana Date Muffin (Whole Wheat and Vegan)

I woke up craving a muffin.  I wanted something that was healthy and wholesome using ingredients I had on hand.  The other criteria this batch of muffins had to meet were that they must be dairy free (am still avoiding dairy) and most importantly Mr Fabulous had to enjoy them (he’s not a huge fan of my healthy baking).

I love how simple it was to whip up a batch.  The bananas added the perfect amount of sweetness and moisture to the muffins and the dates are a perfect sweet addition, which just add to the taste. Next time round though I would add some chopped almonds to the mix.

Mr. Fabulous had one for breakfast this morning and when he asked for a second I knew these muffins were a winner!  If you’re trying to watch your diet these will help satisfy your sweet tooth without throwing you off track.  For a baked good that contains NO butter, sugar, oil, or dairy these are seriously good. I recommend you make them right away.

Banana Date Muffins

Makes 8 mini muffins

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup mashed bananas (approx 2 1/2 bananas)

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ cup dates

1 tbsp flax meal + 3 tbsp water

Directions

Pre-heat the oven at 150 degree Celsius

Mix flax meal with water, stir well and leave it aside till gooey.

Mash the bananas well.

In a big bowl add the flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and mix well. Now add the chopped dates and stir together. Add the mashed banana and flax meal mixed with water and stir till it’s combined. The dough will be hard but don’t be tempted to add more water.

Spoon the batter in to muffin tin, distributing evenly.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes till it’s well risen, crusty and golden on the outside. A toothpick inserted right in the center has to come out clean and that’s when the muffins are ready.

Take the muffins out and let them cool completely. Store in an airtight container and eat for breakfast, snack and dessert.

 

 

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Too Fat! To Thin! Everyone’s got an opinion.

I work hard at maintaining my figure and it annoys the hell out of me that people can say to me “you’re way to skinny” but it’s considered rude and nasty to tell someone “you’re too fat”. It drives me insane. I am a healthy BMI, it’s unheard of for me to ever skip a meal (breakfast is my only motivation to get out of bed!) and I workout to keep myself healthy. Yet, people always feel its acceptable to comment on my eating and working out habits.  It also frustrates me that because I am conscious eater people feel its ok to stereotype me:

“You’d never eat a french fry” – YESSS! I do eat french fries but I choose not to indulge on them regularly. There are no foods off-limits to me (except dairy, but that’s for a totally different reason) but I genuinely prefer eating fresh produce, nuts, whole grains, lean meats and green smoothies over burgers, fries, donuts and other processed foods.

“You must never eat pasta or rice, its carbs” – Carbs are NOT the enemy!!! Why do over weight people think carbs and healthy fats make you fat? Excess calories make you fat not a certain food group. I love all forms and varieties of carbs. FYI, I DO eat bread, cereal, potatoes, rice, quinoa, etc. There is no need to tell me “it’s ok to eat rice today and start dieting again from tomorrow”. I am not dieting and I eat carbs daily, not as a ‘treat’ and shock horror even at night!

It just baffles be why people can freely comment about a slim persons habits but its taboo to comment about an overweight persons habits.

Why is it okay for someone to say to me: You’re too skinny.

Yet, I could never say back to them: You’re too fat.

 

Why is it okay for someone to say to me: You don’t eat anything.

Yet, I could never say back to them: You eat too much.

Why is it okay for someone to say to me: Maybe if you gained weight, you’d have boobs.

Yet, I could never say back to them: Maybe if you lost weight, you’d have a waist.

Why is it okay for someone to say to me: You’re so slim your jeans are falling off of you.

Yet, I could never say back to them: You’re so fat your pants almost rip at the seams.

 

Why is it okay for someone to say to me: You’re so slim you shouldn’t exercise so much.

Yet, I could never say back to them: You’re so fat you should start exercising ASAP.

 

Maybe it’s time I start replying with these comments. It is really as inappropriate to call someone skinny, as it is call someone fat. The moral of the story is, if you would not say something to an overweight person, you shouldn’t think of saying the opposite to a slim person. Why should you ever be allowed an opinion on someone else’s body or way of life? You can think it in your head, but the minute you open your mouth it becomes very dangerous, that is of course unless you are opening your mouth to give a compliment, then by all means do this.  As long as people are happy with themselves there is no need to comment.  There is beauty behind each person and we do not have the right to make them feel any less of themselves!

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Why Me?

When I decided to start this blog I intended it as a way to talk about things that interest me and also as a medium to discuss how I am coping moving to a new place.  Today I am going to discuss something very personal that I normally would not on such a public forum; however, after much contemplation I decided to bring it up.

Yesterday for the first time in 6 months I found myself wallowing in self-pity questioning why me?  Why am in China and not Dubai?  Why am I so far away from all my friends and family? What have I done to end up here?  As I sat on my bed going over these questions in my head and making myself more upset something just happened and I remembered an excerpt my Mum made me listen to many years ago when I was going through a difficult time and just generally angry with life (my Granddad had just past away and I had to have an operation, which had a very painful recovery period and resulted in me having to miss ½ a semester of school in my final year).  It was a discourse given by Swami Swaroopananda of Chinmaya Mission.

Below is a few fragments of the discourse which were the main points that changed my outlook and for the first time made me understand why I am dealing with my situation in the wrong way.  If you are interested in reading the whole discourse you can find it on http://vnsgkhitesh.blogspot.com/

“When sorrows come, most people will sit back and ask Why this to me? People sit and question Asking Why? Why? Why? For scientific discoveries Why is necessary. But to live your life, it is not the question Why but How?. This is the science of higher management…  Life brings in so many different situations. Rather than sitting and crying Why this to Me, the one question we should ask is how I can solve this problem or how I can reach the goal… Life only brings situations. Never problems. It is only when you think you are incapable of handling the situation, it becomes a problem. So always call a situation as a situation and do not call it as a problem. It is a problem only when you do not know how to handle it. Secondly, if any problem or difficulty comes, do not sit and say Why Me?. Instead ask How? Thirdly, when any sorrow comes into your life, do not blame others for it.  If you blame somebody else for your sorrow, then you cannot do anything about it. The moment you give somebody the blame of your sorrow, which means you are not responsible or you are not in charge… Understand at that moment that God is giving you something which is good for you. Joyfully take it with the attitude – it is for the best. For those who don’t believe in God, nature has given us everything. What we do with it is our give back to society, to the parents, to nature, to God… What ever you have is God’s gift to you and whatever you do with it is your gift to HIM. Whatever you get in the course of your life is the BEST for you.

 After rereading the discourse I realized how silly I was to cry and get depressed when I instead should be trying to make the most of this opportunity.  Today this may not be my ideal place in the world to live but there is a greater reason Mr. Fabulous and I have moved here.  I may not know what that is today but I am pretty sure in the future the answer will be clear.

A little exercise I sometimes do when I am feeling sad or upset is that I try to make a list of things I am grateful for and this immediately changes my mood for the better.  Now I am going to leave you with my top 10 reasons I am lucky to be in China:

  1. I am happily married and living with the love of my life who really does everything possible to make sure I am happy and comfortable here.
  2. Hong Kong and Macau are 2 hours away – since both places are so nearby we always have weekend get aways which we never did before.
  3. Spa Heaven – Seriously!  It’s the land of pampering. Acupuncture, body massages, foot reflexology with warm herbal bath, blow-drys, facials and mani-pedis for the cheapest price.  There’s this one massage place that I frequently visit to get reflexology where the therapist spends the first 30mins focusing on the point pressures on shoulders, relieving all the tensions. It’s just blissfully relaxing!
  4. I am actually living a healthier lifestyle here.  Since most things are imported they are super expensive so I decided to try and make many things fresh at home.  Everything tastes so much better when it’s fresh and you get to monitor your sodium and fat intake.
  5. It’s safe – no matter where I am and if I am alone, I always feel safe here.  No one bothers you
  6. Multitude of markets – there is so much to see here whether you want clothes, teas, hardware, electronics, textiles or much much more.  A market exists for each item.  Each time I venture out and explore a new market (by market I mean large malls) I am just so amazed how much originates from China and what quantities is produced here.
  7. The Fruit Shop – five minutes away from my apartment there is a fruit store opened 24/7.  All the freshest fruit and accessible at anytime.
  8. Walking – growing up in London I was so accustomed to walking everywhere, which I really missed when I moved to Dubai.  In China its safe and clean so I love being able to leave my house and walk everywhere.
  9. There is absolutely no reason to drink or drive.  I’ve surely been taking advantage of being able to drink and not worrying about driving home at the end of the night.
  10. If I can make it here, I know I’ll be able to make it anywhere!!

I guess we all go through times in life when we wonder why we’re in a certain situation, but I truly believe there is a reason for everything and if we just have a little faith it will eventually become clear.

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Survived the Insanity

I made it!  On Monday I finished Insanity and I have such mixed emotions.  As much as I loved it, I am happy its over.  Towards the start of month 2 I began experiencing a lot of back pain and was getting really fed up with repetition of the program and not being able to listen to what my body was in the mood for.  Hurting my back put me in a difficult situation.  Part of me just wanted to give up and the other part of me felt that I’d come so far along that I should just keep going till the end.  I decided to go with the latter however I had to modify some of the press-ups with ‘girly’ ones so I wouldn’t aggravate my back.  I also had to take an extra rest day in the last week, which really made a difference to the amount I could push myself for the last few workouts.

I am going to do a Q + A session to go through my thoughts on Insanity and how it affected me.

1.    Did my diet change through Insanity?

I have truly come to believe what you fuel yourself with is much more important that the workout you do.  If your nutrition is on track the result you see through your workout will increase dramatically.

I did not follow the Elite Nutrition plan for the full duration of Insanity.  I did however follow it for few weeks and then something would always come up, either my hormones would be all over the place and I’d given in to the chocolate / dessert cravings, I was just unprepared with my meals and end up eating out and sometimes life just happened.  As much as I wanted to dedicate the 10weeks to Insanity there has to be a line between enjoying life and being a slave to my fitness regime.  Over all though I do try to stick to 3 meals a day and 2 snacks.  I also incorporate protein in all my meals and snacks to keep me fuller for longer and as recommended in the nutrition plan.

I think if I had been more stringent with my diet and followed the recommend plan I would have seen better results.  Next time I do Insanity I will follow the nutrition plan more closely so I get the most out of the workouts.

2.    Is there a difference in my body measurements?

I wish I could answer this saying ‘I lost five pounds and five inches all over’ but I didn’t get even close.  To be fair I didn’t have a ton of weight to lose prior to starting so I cannot be too upset.

After moving to China I made a decision to give up the weighing scale.  Hence, I am not sure if I lost any weight with Insanity.  I did take my body measurements and I lost 2cm’s on my hips.  I know it’s not a lot but I was thrilled with this because it is my biggest problem area and nothing I have done has helped my hips become smaller until Insanity.

My main goals when starting Insanity was to get more toned and feel comfortable in my own skin.  I can proudly say I did achieve both these goals.  For the first time in my life I feel secure in my own skin and am happy with the reflection I see in the mirror.  I am also more toned over-all and have been getting compliments about it from Mr. Fabulous, which makes the 10 weeks all the more worthwhile.

3.    Has my fitness level changed as a result of completing Insanity?

I’ll let the fit test results speak for itself here.  I improved in every category except one (switch kicks – my absolutely worst move of them all).  I was shocked to see how many more push up jacks I could do in a minute – 22 more!  This was huge for me since this time last year I could not even bust out one full push up.

The fit test was as hard the first week as it was the last week since you’re able to push yourself harder to do more reps within the minute.  As the weeks progressed I found I was taking less breaks throughout the workouts and able to keep up with them in the video.

I am sure my endurance will be higher once I get back to my other workouts and my stamina will also have increased.  Not sure how my body is going to react to weight training though since its been over three months since I’ve lifted.  Will have to wait and see after tonights body pump session.

FIT TEST RESULTS

                                                FIT TEST 1                        FIT TEST 5

SWITCH KICKS                        69                                    67

POWER JACKS                         53                                    57

POWER KNEES                        80                                   94           

POWER JUMPS                        31                                    42

GLOBE JUMPS                           9                                    12

SUICIDE JUMPS                       15                                    18

PUSH UP JACKS                       19                                    41

LOW PLANK OBLIQUE           37                                    55

 

4.    Where do I go now with my exercise routine and will Insanity feature?

YES! Insanity will definitely make a weekly feature in my workout routine, however; for the time being I want to take it a bit easier and do whatever my body craves.  My body needs a little break after pounding it for 10 weeks straight but that doesn’t mean I wont be working out.  I have missed weight training so I will be adding 2-3 weight sessions back mostly in the form of body pump.  I will also be doing some sort of cardio 2-3 times a week either in the form of HIIT runs or a workout DVD.

I don’t have a plan yet what I am going to be doing next.  I am contemplating Body For Life or 10 pound Slimdown Xtreme but I don’t want to make the commitment just as yet.  I’ve heard such great things about both these programs so I know both will be a good choice but for the next few weeks I am going with the flow and do whatever feels right.

5.    What have I gained from Insanity

  • I CAN DO ANYTHING!  Quick background – 16 years ago when I joint my first boarding school in England I had to participate in a race, ‘the Carson Cup’ on Sports Day.  All students between the ages of 11-13 participated and it took place in front of the whole student body, all our parents and staff.  To my embarrassment I came last.  Yes, I was that chubby girl who came last.  As I crossed the finish line I remember the tears of shame that started rolling down my cheeks.  I knew I was not a sporty kid but to finish last in front of my elder brother was the most embarrassing thing I could ever experience.  Today, 16 years later I am proud to say I have completed ‘the hardest fitness program to be put on DVD’.  Did I ever think I could or even would want to do such a thing? No chance!  Just shows anyone can achieve anything they put their mind to.
  • ALL YOU NEED IS 60 MINUTES for a great workout.  Insanity showed me that there are really no excuses not to workout.  In less than 60 minutes I was able to complete a full body workout and all I needed were my laptop, DVD and trainers.  Even during the 10-week program when I was away for the weekend I could complete the workouts in my hotel room.  Another reason I love Insanity, you need no equipment just yourself and the DVD.

So there you go, that’s my 10 week Insanity re-cap.  It was an amazing experience for me to prove just how far I can push myself and what I can achieve if I am determined.   As much as I am glad it is over I already miss having a pre-defined workout schedule where I can just put the DVD on and get going.  I will surely repeat this program within the year but for now I am looking forward to re-introducing old favorites like Body Pump.

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Getting Older

I hope everyone is doing fantastic!  I know, I’ve been terrible at sticking to my new year’s resolution for posting more often but I am going to try to change that from now.

Three weeks ago, during Chinese New Year, I decided to make a quick trip to Mumbai to spend ten days with my mum and sister.  While I was there it dawned on me I’m going to be 28 this year.  Tweeennnttyyy-eeeeightttt. That’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from 30.  I remember when 30 might as well have been 50; it just felt so far away.  And now, here it is right around the corner.

Ok, I know, I am not old.  I’m not necessarily saying that.  Ever since 25, I’ve noticed I don’t bounce back the way I used to.  It’s incredible how much you start to feel yourself aging, even at the young age of 25.  For instance…

Drinking?  Forget it.  Half as much alcohol will now give me twice the hangover that I remember getting six years ago.  And, gone are the days when I can get drunk on a Friday and Saturday night and still be full of energy to have a productive Sunday.  If I want to get drunk, I need to know that I am going to have zero plans the next day and can be completely unproductive in my pj’s on the couch.  This is not to say that I get wasted all the time, or that I even want to.  I just don’t understand the thrill of going out with the purpose to get drunk.  I love enjoying a drink after a long day or when I’m out with the girls or Mr. Fabulous, but ‘drinking to drink’ a concept I cannot understand.  Or, maybe I’m just old!

It’s not just alcohol that my body reacts to differently, it’s life in general.  I cannot function on four hours sleep or survive on a diet of coffee and yogurt like I did in university.  My body needs proper rest and real food.  I get sudden shoulder aches now and struggling to stay up past 11pm just because it’s Friday night no longer seems worth it.

Another thing that made me realize just how old I am – I had to repeatedly ask my younger sister to explain twitter lingo to me.  If people use “#” on twitter for easy browsing why does it also get used on facebook and blogs posts aswell?!?

When you first begin to notice these changes, it’s kind of scary.  You realize you’re not going to stay young forever no matter how much you thought you would.  Now you’re actually feeling you’re body begin its downward spiral of old-age. Kind of depressing, huh? However, physical effects aside, growing older isn’t all negative. It may actually be the best years of your life thus far!

Now, for the positives…

You hit your mid-twenties, and all-of-a-sudden life gets a little bit easier.  You now have the freedom to travel when you want without having to ask the ‘rents for permission.  You have the liberty to do, and buy, pretty much anything you want (to a limit, of course!). You develop a greater understanding of who you are and you suddenly gain a sense of independence.  Life is good.

 

So far, my mid-to-late-twenties have been some of the best years of my life. I have a strong feeling that life is like a bottle of fine wine – it just improves with age.  Each year has just been getting better.  I’m happy to trade in the late drunken nights for what I have now – security.

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Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Happy New Year! May some fire be breathed into your lives with good fortune, excitement and the acceptance of transition and change!

Today we celebrate Chinese New Year by ushering out 2011’s year of the rabbit and welcoming 2012’s year of the dragon.  Chinese New Year is a time to welcome long life, wealth, success, good fortune prosperity and eliminate all the evil spirits and negative energies from the previous year.

After 60 years it is the black water dragon year.  The oriental Dragon is a symbol of wealth, intense power, success and happiness and is considered unpredictable and untouchable.  Its mystery is never completely known and people cannot see its head and tail at the same time.  Dragon years are considered especially fortunate for new businesses, marriage and children.

Everything this year, good or bad, will seem bigger than life and larger in magnitude, like the epic size and magical powers of the mythical Dragon!  We all have lots of surprises in this Year of the Dragon – Happy New Year!

Fun Fact:  Celebrity dragons include:  Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, Shirley Temple, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Calista Flockhart, Courtney Cox

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Needle Therapy

It is true! The biggest needle phobia freely opted to get acupuncture.

Verdict? Love it – totally pro acupuncture! Having the needles inserted was by no means ‘pain free’; however, it was nowhere as painful as getting an injection or blood test.  Once the needles are inserted it is a very relaxing treatment and the results are AMAZING!

Few months ago when I told my facialist in Dubai I would be spending more time in China she suggested taking advantage of the situation and to start acupuncture for my acne.  I was always hesitant and skeptical of the idea of acupuncture.  At the start of the year it got to a point that I was willing to try anything, so  I booked my first appointment and hoped for the best.  Two weeks and 6 sessions later my acne has improved by 50% and I have stopped breaking out.  Thank God I took my facialists’ advice.

Through an international women’s group I found a recommended Chinese acupuncturist who could speak English.  This was so important to me – if I am going to let someone stick needles numerous needles all over me I needed  to freely discuss the treatment and issues without a translator.

Two weeks ago I had my first session.  Once I met with the acupuncturist she asked me for a brief history of how long I have had acne, what treatments I’ve tried, checked my pulse and my tongue.  Through this she also came to the conclusion I had a hormonal imbalance and guaranteed she would be able to control and treat my problem very quickly.

Each session begins with having numerous cups of rose tea or green tea so the body gets warmed up.  Then I was led to a room and was asked to lie on the bed.  After the needle insertion (I had 1 on each leg, 3 in my head and about 20 around my face) she put two duvets over me so I wouldn’t get cold and told me to inform her if I felt any pain or discomfort.  The treatment lasts for a relaxing 40 minutes.

I have 2 treatments a week and was prescribed some incredibly vile herbs to boil and drink twice a day for 10 days. Some people benefit from just acupuncture but for my condition the treatment apparently works better if I supplement the acupuncture with the herbs.

I cannot say enough good things about the treatment.  Having the breakouts stop and seeing my face get clearer each day has been the best feeling especially since the last dermatologist I saw told me my only option is Accutane or the pill.  I would definitely go back to acupuncture for any future issues.

Have you had any experiences with acupuncture?  Would you recommend acupuncture to someone?

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