Saturday, 30 June 2012

Show Some Blogger Lovin'...

....to my girl Nikki!

Me and Nikki at Summer Ball, June 2nd 2012

Nicole joined Weight Watchers back in January and has done incredibly well since then, with a little under a stone to go to reach her goal weight. We met at university through our mutual friends Emma and Liz, and she's quickly become one of my closest friends and my go-to girl for all things Weight Watchers! She just started her blog - the fantastically named cheesecakedemons.blogspot.co.uk - so head on over and show her some love. She's graduating next week with a First Class Honours in English Literature and Creative Writing, so you know its gunna be good!

Hope everyone is having a glorious weekend!

Love,
Lauren xxx

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Recipe: Thai Prawns and Pasta

My mum found this recipe in one of her (many) recipe books a few weeks ago and its become a firm family favourite. Its really easy to make and makes a nice change from regular tomato based pasta sauces.

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

400g king prawns, raw
75g thai red curry paste (works out to be about 1/3 of a jar)
Juice and zest of one lime
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
200g tinned chopped tomatoes
200ml vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander
Low fat cooking spray



  1. Clean and de-vein the prawns. Coat in the curry paste and leave in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours.
  2. Spray a large frying pan or wok with the cooking spray and place over a medium heat. Fry the garlic and onion for about 5 or 6 minutes, or until cooked through. Pour over the tomatoes and stir in the lime juice and zest. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the stock to. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and add the prawns in the curry pasta. Stir thoroughly until well mixed and allow to cook for a few minutes, until the prawns are pink and cooked all the way through. Be careful not to leave them for too long - overcooked prawns are a disaster of the highest level. When the prawns are almost done, add the coriander.
  4. Serve with 150g of cooked pasta or spaghetti per person.
I worked this out as 7 ProPoints per serving, including 4 ProPoints for the pasta. We served ours with Weight Watchers Garlic Petits Pains (and normal garlic bread for my brother and stepdad!)

Let me know if any of you decide to make this, I'd love to know how it turns out for you guys! :)

Love, 
Lauren xxx

Saturday, 23 June 2012

You Only Live Once, So Make Sure You Live Well.

I honestly think that if I never had to spend time with other people, I'd probably weigh around 90lbs by now. With a 'new' body has come a new-found confidence and enjoyment of socialising, which for the majority of the time involves some sort of food or alcohol consumption. Even meeting a friend in town for a coffee comes with a ProPoints price-tag of 3+ most of the time (based on my signature drink of a tall skinny latte from Starbucks). Unless you have tea, and lets face, who wants to spend £1.70 on a tea bag and some hot water that you could have made yourself at home for about 0.06p instead!? Not me. No sir. If its not 3 ProPoints on a coffee, its 15+ on a meal out (if you are very restrained - which I rarely am), or Lord knows how many on drinks in a pub/bar/club. (Yes, I know that drinks are easy to point...its not my fault if I get a little bit out of control sometimes, ok!? I've got Irish blood in me somewhere, and we all know that the Paddies love a tipple. That is my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.) And that is without even talking about the minefield that are family gatherings and BBQs, where the only green stuff visible is a limp salad in the top right corner of a table that is buckling under the weight of 800 sausages, 250 burgers, 4000 bread rolls in various shapes and sizes, Pork Pies, a cheese selection, crisps (or chips to my American pals), numerous pizzas, garlic bread, about 40 chickens (which admittedly wouldn't be so bad if they weren't marinated in BBQ sauce that is approximately 90% sugar), plus the inevitable cakes and desserts that make their way out afterwards.

...and breathe.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not begrudging the times spent socialising with friends and family. But I don't care how many times the Weight Watchers magazine or the Your Weekly mag or my Leader tells me to find 'alternative' places to socialise with my nearest and dearest - no way is my arthritic old grandmother going to come out on a bike ride or go to play tennis with me. Her idea of 'catching up' if to lay on a spread worthy of HRH Liz and have us all tuck in. Which would be fine - if I had any sort of self-control or restraint at all when it came to food.

And so I come to the point of my post - If I didn't have to socialise, I can more or less guarantee that I would be able to lose 2+lbs a week, every week, without a problem. Not that I have to socialise, I could always stay home, but then I didn't work like a dog for the last two and half years to lose all this weight just so I could hide away in my room. The great irony of this whole situation of course, is that before Weight Watchers, when the caloric value and fat content of food and alcohol might as well have been written in Swahili for all I cared, you couldn't get my fat arse to a social occasion. I used any and every excuse I could come up with not to go out and see people. I basically spent the first year of university hiding in my room and only leaving for classes. Or to go buy food.

The point I'm trying to make here, very indirectly, is not a loud and long-winded condemnation of the food-and-drink-centric social traditions of this and (I'm guessing) many other countries - although I appreciate that that is how its coming off. Its more to do with my own issues when it comes to having food placed in front of me. The thing is - if its there, I'll eat it. Even if I'm full, even if I don't want it, even if I don't particularly like it. I spent last night and most of today at my grandmother's house, and she laid out a little lunchtime spread for us - including pork pies. I don't even like pork pies! But did I eat one anyway, just because it was there? You can bet your backside I did! I know that when I go to a restaurant that I don't need to eat four slices of bread from the basket that is so considerately placed there by the waiter, but I do it anyway. I know that when my stomach is full to bursting I need to stop eating whats in front of me, and that its ok to leave a few forkfuls of food on my plate. But I still finish it off. If there is food in front of me, I will eat it. This doesn't present a problem when the food is prepared by my own fair hands, and I can point and track whats on my plate without any difficulty. Its just all those other times that its a bit of a problem. And now that I'm so close to goal and am looking down the barrel of the rest of my life, its getting to be a big problem. My weight loss has stopped in its tracks and then reversed over the last month or so, and I can't quite seem to get it reined in again. I've come too far and worked too hard for too long to let it all go to waste now, and I know that it is this lack of self-control that is sabotaging all my efforts to drop this last stone and get to goal. In an ideal world I would be able to control all the food and drink that I come into contact with - but realistically this isn't going to happen. I am fully aware that when I enter the world of work there will be social occasions and food in the office and I know that it will be the little voice in my head that says 'you only live once' that will be my undoing. And yes - you do only live once. But it just so happens that I want to live once as a healthy and happy woman who is comfortable in her own skin and has the confidence to go out in the world, meet people, make friends, and live her life to the fullest that she possibly can. I don't want to live my life the way I used to be - overweight, unhappy and lonely. I've been there and done that, and its no way to live.

It has taken me a hell of a long time to overcome many of the issues that I had (or have? I may have overcome them, but I don't think they'll ever really go away) with food, but this is one that I haven't conquered just yet. I think a lot of it comes down to the attitude that I tend to have towards overeating on 'special' occasions - 'it won't hurt, just this once', 'weekends are for indulging', or 'its a special occasion, I won't point today.' But more and more things are passing as 'special' occasions in my book recently, meaning that 'just this once' is happening two or three times a week. And it has got to stop, before I undo everything that I've worked so hard for since I was 19. So as I sit here in my dad's study, after gorging myself on 'buffet food' and an (admittedly delicious) extremely hearty portion of lasagne and garlic bread laid on by my step-mum, feeling bloated, uncomfortable and disgusted with myself, I make a solemn promise - no more 'you only live once'. No more 'one more won't hurt'. No more 'its a special occasion.' From somewhere deep down in my reserve tank - the one that is pretty much running on empty after a draining last few weeks at uni, worrying myself ill over my finances and being painfully love-sick to boot - I need to find the will power to say NO, and to walk away. To leave food on my plate if I don't want it. To not open the biscuit tin 'just to look', because I know full well that I'll come away with a fistful of chocolate hobnobs. I need to master the art of will power and self-control, before its too late. I never, ever want to be that girl again. I never want to feel ashamed of my body or too shy to go out with my friends or family. I like the new me - sociable, bubbly, happy. Content. I have a long way to go and my body and mind are far from perfect, but I'm working on it. And learning to say no is just part of that learning curve.

And as of now - right now - I am back on track. Not tomorrow, not 'after the weekend' - now. Its been a long hard slog, especially for those readers who've been with me since the beginning, but I promise you with everything that I am that am going to get there. Eventually. 

With love, and eternal gratitude for all your wonderful support

Lauren xxx

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

'Education has for its object the formation of character.'

Today - or technically yesterday - I got my degree results. I will be graduating on Tuesday the 10th of July 2012 with 2:1 in English and American Literature. I will officially be Lauren Elizabeth Jones BA. 

Wow.

I never, ever, ever thought that would happen. There have been so many times over the last three years when I've been on the verge of throwing in the towel and walking away. I pretty much hated the first year and a half of university with an absolute passion, and it was only in the latter half of my second year that I really started to enjoy university. One thing I know without a shadow of doubt is that I couldn't have made it through without all my wonderful friends - the ones who have been there since the first week, and the ones who have just recently come into my life. So to Emma, Katie, Sophie, Jack, James, Graham, Natalie, Liz, Nikki, the other Natalie, the other Sophie, Siobhan, Britta, Vikki, Sarah, Charlotte, Amy, Kev, and to anyone else I've forgotten - thank you for an amazing three years. And of course my wonderful, messy, infuriating, hilarious, frustrating, fantastic housemates have certainly played their role as well. It hasn't always been fun and there have been plenty of tantrums and 'flounce-outs' over the course of the year, but I couldn't have asked for four more incredible boys - sorry, men - to spend my last year of university with. Up the lads! 




So after three years and over £20,000 worth of student loans, what can I tell you about English and American Literature!? In truth, it doesn't feel like much. I know that I will never truly understand Shakespeare. I know that I will always secretly be a little bit envious of Emily Dickinson's reclusive lifestyle. I know that anyone who says that they understand Ulysses is lying through their teeth - ditto to anyone who found Middlemarch 'interesting'. I know that James Ellroy is one messed up SOB, but he is also one hell of a writer. I know that I absolutely and unequivocally want to write. I want to touch people's lives in the way these writers have touched mine. I may have hated some of the works that I've read over the course of my degree (Light In August springs to mind), but I have also fallen head-over-heels in love with others. I've laughed and cried and been crushed and inspired by the words of people from all over the world, from 400 years ago to present day. One day I would like to be able to look back on the things that I've achieved in my life and know that my words have affected people in the same way that those writers words have affected me.

What far surpasses my limited knowledge of literature, on the other hand, are the things that I've learned about myself. I don't think anyone can go to university and not learn a few things about the person that they are - and the person that they want to become. This isn't only restricted to Weight Watchers, but also applies to the relationships I form with those around me, my work ethic, my ambition and drive, and so many other things that I can't even put into words. I will be graduating on the 10th of July 2012 as a completely different person to the one who arrived on the 19th of September 2009. Not only will I be 7st lighter and 6 dress sizes smaller, I will also be healthier, happier, more comfortable and confident in my own skin, and will be graduating surrounded by friends that I want to keep with me forever.

£20,000 well spent, I'd say.

First Freshers Week at University of Kent, September 2009

University of Kent Summer Ball 2012, 2/6/2012.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Student Tricks and Tips

One reaction I get frequently when talking about my weight loss is shock that I have managed to achieve it while studying. There are a lot of (admittedly accurate) ideas out there about student living, and much of the student lifestyle does revolve around boozy nights out and convenience food. When I first came to university I took full advantage of this, and would regularly drink upwards of a bottle of wine before heading out for the night - where I'd go on to drink seven or eight vodka redbulls and countless shots of sugary drinks like Apple Sourz or Sidekick. Then I'd come home and top the whole lot off with a takeaway pizza or burger. Fast-forward to the next morning and all I could think about was the huge fried breakfast I was craving...and so it went on. Fortunately I reigned these habits in pretty quickly, and joined Weight Watchers in the beginning of my second term of university. As my long-term readers will know I've had plenty of blips and falls off the wagon over the last couple of years, but I've always got back up and carried on. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure how I managed to stick with it for so long. There have been plenty of times when I've fallen off the wagon and not felt like getting back on it, but as soon as I see a few lbs creep back on I know its time to get things in check. I won't pretend that its always been easy, and I won't pretend that I haven't looked at some of my naturally slim friends eating junk food and downing snakebites without a care in the world and thought 'I wish I could be like that.' But despite that I don't feel like I've missed out on the student life - if anything, Weight Watchers has enabled me to enjoy it much more fully than I ever could have done at 20st. I'm the first one onto the dance floor on nights out, I love getting dressed up in (far too short) dresses and skirts and flaunting my new figure. It may not be perfect, but hey - I've worked damn hard for this body, and if I want to wear a revealing outfit then I damn well will.

So what are the things that have kept me coming back for more over the last two and half years? Probably the most important thing is the sheer flexibility of the plan. I know for a fact that I could never live in a world in which chocolate, curry and alcohol were off-limits - I mean, what would be the point in life!? People never believe me when I say that I eat chocolate pretty much every day and still lose weight - but its true! When I first joined Weight Watchers the old points system was still in place and I loved the freedom it offered. And then along came ProPoints and changed everything! I can have a drink, have chocolate, have a sneaky post-weigh-in McDonalds with my fellow Weight Watchers and know that it won't derail me. Which is good news, because I am partial to a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a McFlurry on a Wednesday afternoon. 

Another thing I love about the plan is that it teaches healthy habits that are sustainable for life. Put someone on a shake diet or give them pre-prepared meals a la Slimfast, Cambridge Diet, Jenny Craig or Lighter Life and the weight will come off quickly - but for how long? Plans such as the above teach us nothing about nutrition or portion control. With Weight Watchers I have learned that I don't need two chicken breasts, half a bag of pasta and an entire jar of sauce for one meal. Through following the ProPoints plan I now know that I should be aiming to eat foods that are high in protein and fibre and low in carbs and fat - sounds basic, but I didn't even know what those things were before I joined! These are all things that will stay with me forever, and when the time comes to have a family (in about ten years!) I know that I'll be able to teach them healthy eating habits so they never have to deal with being overweight like I did. 

There are countless other things that I love about the plan, all of which I've espoused on this blog before - from the ready availability of products that make it easier to stay on plan, to the wonderful support offered by leaders and other members in the weekly meetings. I know a lot of my readers are already following Weight Watchers - in which case I'm preaching to the choir - or have found a different plan that works for them, but I wanted to share with you the things I love about the plan and the reasons it works for me. I think that there is still a certain amount of stigma or misunderstanding about Weight Watchers out there, and I wanted to express my personal (and admittedly slightly biased) opinion on it. 

I seem to have digressed from my original point into a bit of a Weight Watchers love-in - my bad. Back to what I was supposed to be writing about - my student tricks and tips for Weight Watchers!

  • Start cooking. A lot of students exist on a diet of pizzas and microwave meals. These are fine occasionally but not only are they high in ProPoints with next to no nutritional value, they can also actually work out more expensive than cooking meals from scratch. With a few substitutions meals like Chilli Con Carne, Spag Bol, Stew and lots of others can be made into much lower ProPoint value meals. Make a big batch, work out the value of each portion, and then freeze them for another time. Having dinner already made and waiting to go in the microwave is an absolute godsend when you're getting ready for a big night out. For those with monthly pass, there are thousands of recipes on eSource and it normally states whether or not they are suitable for freezing.
  • Keep an eye on your pre-drinks. In my house pre-drinking is often a bigger event than the night itself. Spirits are lower points than wine/beer/cider, but can be more difficult to keep track of if you're pouring your own measures. One way to get round that is to pour yourself a set amount before the night begins. Use a measuring jug to pour out 150ml (or more or less, depending on how drunk you're planning to get) and decant it into a separate bottle. Use a diet soft drink as a mixer for no extra ProPoints. That way you can keep track of how many ProPoints you've used before you leave the house.
  • Takeaways aren't always a no-go. Sometimes the word 'takeaway' is hard to say no to after you've had a few drinks and a hard night boogying on down. While there are plenty of Weight Watchers angels out there who will stick to a couple of slices of toast, not everyone has that amount of will-power. But instead of blowing out on a greasy (and disgusting) doner meat and chips or cheese pizza, why not go for a lamb or chicken shish kebab? Chicken is the lower in ProPoints of the two, but lamb shish is made from lean meat as well so it isn't too naughty. Ask for extra salad to bulk it out. If you fancy some chips try asking a friend to share a portion with you. That way you share both the cost and the ProPoints!
  • Build up your support network. While my friends have always been super-supportive of my weight loss, the majority of them are very slim and have never struggled with their size and so could not empathise with some of my struggles. Over the last year or so I've become close with three girls - all students - who are also following the plan and are either at goal or are well on their way. Having them on standby to text when I'm craving junk food or faced with a ProPoints problem is invaluable. If we go out for a meal we can choose somewhere that won't blow all our ProPoints, and we often go to the gym or exercise classes together. If there are no students in your area that are attending your meeting or in the same boat, then make use of the conversation boards on the Weight Watchers website. I met one of my closest friends on the boards, and I don't know what I'd do without her.
  • Make use of your leader. Its what they're there for! I am known to frequently text my leader with questions and confessions. They have seen, heard and done it all, and hearing the wise words of someone who's been through the same things can help get you back in the right frame of mind to try again after a slip.
  • Be prepared. Keep a healthy supply of low-ProPoint goodies in the cupboard and make sure you have a low ProPoint snack in your bag for when you're out and about. Weight Watchers soups are great for lunches or for a mid afternoon snack if you're feeling peckish - they're between 1 and 3 ProPoints, keep you full for longer and aren't too expensive. Weight Watchers do a great range of biscuits, cake bars, yogurts and desserts which are great for those times when you need something sweet but don't want to blow lots of ProPoints. You can also pick up some low ProPoint alternatives for slightly cheaper in the supermarket. Sugar Free Jelly is 0pp, 2-finger KitKats are 3pp, Wotsits and Walkers SunBites are 3pp and Pink 'n' White Wafers are 1pp. Having the cupboard well stocked will mean you're less likely to grab something higher in ProPoints when cravings hit.
  • Track Track Track! This one isn't student specific, but it is my number one tip for anyone following the Weight Watchers plan - or any Weight Loss plan for that matter. Keeping track of what you eat and drink will not only keep you accountable but will also help you to identify 'danger foods' - peanut butter is mine - and particular times of the day when you might get hit with cravings. If you know that you're likely to get the mid-morning munchies then you can make sure that you'll be prepared and won't end up buying chocolate or crisps just because its convenient and you're hungry.
There are loads of other tips and tricks to help keep you on track - these are just a few that immediately came to mind. Also big thanks to my lovely friend Liz, Nat and Nikki for chipping in with some of their tips too!

Lots of love,
Lauren xxx

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Social Butterfly.

Hi guys!

You will all be pleased to hear that with the exception of a family meal for my siblings' birthdays this weekend, I no longer have any excuse for neglecting you all. Exams are done, New York is done, Coldplay is done, Summer Ball is done, and the Jubilee Weekend in done. I am officially no longer a social butterfly and have returned to the real world with a bump. And when I say 'real world', I am including Weight Watchers. I've basically been on a Weight Watchers hiatus for the last month or so. Its come with the consequence of being back up to 13st 4lbs (as of my weigh-in yesterday morning) but I wouldn't change it for the world. When I arrived at university in September 2009 I was wearing a pair of UK size 22-24 jeggings (because real jeans didn't fit me), and I have finished my degree 7st lighter and with a wardrobe full of size 12-14 clothes - which I have made full use of my having fun, socialising, taking risks and generally just living life. As far as I can see, gaining a few lbs is a small price to pay for arguably the most incredible two weeks of my life.

It would probably take me another two weeks to write a post about everything thats happened over the last fortnight, and honestly I'm just too lazy to do it. So here are the cliff notes:

New York: Amazing.
Coldplay: Amazing.
Summer Ball: Amazing.
Jubilee Weekend: Amazing (and very hungover).

Its been a non-stop whirlwind of good food, good drink and good company - with the result that my body is now on strike and I have succumbed to an end-of-year bout of Freshers Flu. Two weeks of living the high life (ie a not very healthy life) has obviously left my immune system severely lacking! As you read this I am probably cuddled up in bed with a cup of tea and Dexter on watchseries.com (its my new obsession). Well, I have to make the most of my last few days of being a student - right!? If I'm honest, now that the excitement is over, I'm pretty bored of the whole student thing. I know that once I start full-time work over the summer I will 100% regret saying that, but at the moment it kind of feels like I'm waiting around for my life to start. If that makes any sense at all. I'm going to try to use these last few days as an opportunity to get my head back into the Weight Watchers game so that when I move home and start the dreaded 'grown-up' work I'll be back in the right mindset to balance the two. I think if I went home now I'd never get back on track and would end up regaining the weight. Which is not a road I ever want to go down!

Thats all from me for today, I just wanted to check in and let you all know that I'm alive and well and will be back to more regular posts soon!

Love,
Lauren xx