Reclaim your Va Va Voom

I was talking to a friend today who is going through the menopause. Apart from random feelings of rage and despair, she also feels totally unattractive, even though she is beautiful.  I have a lot of empathy with her. It is very difficult to feel attractive as you age and succumb to middle aged spread. Your body changes. Skin starts to hang rather than spring back and a flat stomach is a distant memory. The interesting thing is though, that I see women far bigger than me, who obviously feel attractive regardless of the love handles. Somehow, despite not conforming to the standard media images of women that we see in magazines, they feel attractive and this somehow radiates from them. So how is it possible to overlook our flaws and feel sexy again?

Esther Perel From Psychologies magazine tells us that attractiveness is a state of mind rather than a set of physical attributes..
“Beauty is a state of mind, feeling sexual is a permission you grant yourself”
So how do we change our state of mind?

It is impossible to feel sexy without feeling confident. So identify all the areas of your life where your confidence is low. The most obvious might be your body, so dedicate some time each week to how you look. This is time for you. Look at yourself in a mirror from top to toe. Which areas need some attention? Hair? When did you last have a new style or colour? Face. When did you last update your make up routine. Can you book a makeup lesson at a department store? How about a facial? What about your body? Freshen it up with a salt scrub and some new body lotion. Remove all surplus body- we are going for siren not cave woman. Hands and feet. Get a manicure and pedicure-at home or in a salon. If you’re still wearing clothes that you have had for over 5 years, get rid of them. Styles change and old clothes look dated. All black trousers are not the me-if they are from the 90s, they look like they are from the 90s! All this is going to be an investment, but it is important. Budget for an overhaul every year. Do an audit and keep your look fresh. Madonna was the master of re-invention and we can all take a leaf from her book! This year I booked a styling session at John Lewis and it was fantastic. I got a new set of clothes and, yes it was expensive, but I have had so many compliments since and I came away with outfits that I would never have been able to choose my self. Investing in yourself will give you a real lift and everyone around you will benefit from that too. Tone up your body by scheduling regular exercise. Give it priority in your diary: walking, running, Zumba…find something and do it! You will feel more toned and energetic. I really recommend a book by Lori Bryant-Woolridge called “The Power of Wow-a guide to unleashing a confident, sexy you”. It is packed full of top tips including having your own signature scent, wearing jewellery, beautiful underwear and being more aware of sensuality all around you.
The other main area where women lose confidence is in their sense of achievement. Women can often lose themselves after years of childcare or putting others’ needs first. Menopause is time for re-invention and feeling successful and valued is an important part of this. It is a great time to re-launch your career or investigate new income streams. This can be a very exciting time. A time to rediscover ourselves. There is nothing sexier than feeling successful and being noticed. Don’t become invisible- reclaim your VaVaVoom, starting right now!


Ginger, carrot and apple cake


I have been experimenting with kamut (or khorasan) flour in baking. It has a higher protein content than standard white self raising flour ( 15% against 9%) and is also rich in selenium and manganese. I have used wholemeal kamut from Doves which is very fine.

I am aiming for a healthier cake which is a pleasure to eat, a treat with a cup of tea, not a sawdusty ‘health’ cake. It needs to be a cake that all the family will enjoy. This one has been well received by husband and one teenage son (the other one hates everything!) I hope you enjoy it!


50g butter softened
50g sunflower oil
100g sugar (soft brown would work well, but I used caster this time)
1teaspoon ginger powder

Stir in

2 beaten eggs

Stir in

75g Self Raising flour
75g kamut flour

Stir in

1 medium carrot grated (about 100g)
1 medium apple grated (about 100g)
50g sultanas
Dessert spoon of grated fresh ginger root (or two finely chopped stem ginger)
Spoon into lined loaf tin
Bake at 170C for 45 mins and test with a skewer

The rise of herbal tea

Herbal tea has had an image makeover during the last 10 years. It used to be the preserve of revolutionaries and earth mothers, which is why I have been very late to this particular party. I am here now and really enjoying the range of high quality teas available. This one was a gift from my boss. Should I read into the fact that she selected detox tea? I am choosing not to and am sure it was chosen with love and appreciation. It is delicious with aniseed, fennel and cardamom. Don’t worry, the aniseed is very subtle. Each bag is in its own little pouch, which is luxurious and practical for the handbag. I love the packaging design for Pukka teas- it reminds me of fairies at the end of the garden. Magical.


Courgette, coconut & lime cake

I am doing my best to cut back the calories, but I do love a slice of cake. I am looking for something that feels like an indulgent treat, but doesn’t pile on the pounds. It needs to be quick and easy to make- not a fussy cake.  Also, it has to pass the husband and teenagers test. Do hungry non-dieters like it too? This seems to fit the bill in our household. It is moist and tasty. More of a homely cake than an elegant one.

Beat together:(give the coconut fat 30 seconds in the microwave first to soften it)

100g creamed coconut block
120g caster sugar
1tbs sunflower oil
Zest of a lime

Mix in:

2 tbs almond milk

Stir in:

200g grated courgette (about 1 medium courgette, washed, but leave peel on)
200g SR flour
1teaspoon baking powder

Bake in lined circular tin (7inch) at 170c for 55 mins. Test with skewer

Remove from oven and pour over lime juice and icing sugar mix, whilst warm

80g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lime

Allow cake to cool before removing from tin

Curiously sweet

I love Teapigs tea because they use high quality tea leaves that you can see. Expensive, but worth it. These liquorice and peppermint ones are curiously sweet and are a welcome treat if you are trying to cut down on the sugary snacks. Ingredients are just liquorice root and peppermint leaves, but you’ll be convinced that there is some kind of sweetener in there. There isn’t.

100 Calorie Snacks


In my new diet plan of 1400 calories per day (weekday) and 1600 calories per day (weekends), I am allowed two 100 calorie snacks a day. So I have been scouring the supermarket shelves for new ideas. These are the ones I am trying at the moment.

Nairns Super Seeded Organic oatcakes with flaxseed, sunflower and chia seeds
These are very tasty with a generous serving of seeds. I love Nairns products- always tasty and nutritious. One oatcake is 44 calories with 1.3g of protein ( 13.4%). Delicious with a little hummus: easy, low calorie hummus coming soon. Available in Waitrose £1.39.

Kettle Bites mozzarella and pesto Lentil Curls. Very tasty and only 97 calories- more like a treat than a diet snack. The good thing about these is that they are made with 41% lentil flour, so have a better protein content than normal crisps. The protein is 12.9% which is 2.8g per 22g pack. Normal potato crisps, such as Walkers, are 6.1% protein (1.5g per 25g pack). Tesco £1.89

Marks and Spencer have a great range of healthy snacks. I haven’t tried them all yet, but their sour cream & chilli lentil curls are good. Again made with lentil flour (43%) giving 3g protein per 22g packet (13.6%). I have just bought a packet of their Pea Snaps (green chilli, lime and coriander), another crisp alternative, but I am not allowed to try these until my snack time tomorrow! They have a good protein content 3.8g per pack (18.1%). About 60p per bag.

Chocolate. I am not prepared to live without chocolate and it was something that had to be built into my programme. The problem is that most chocolate bars are way over the calorie limit. A small Cadbury’s Dairy Milk is 191 calories. So my solution is to buy a big bar of chocolate and break it into portions. This usually works out at 6 portions from 100g bar (about 4 small squares.) I break the bar up and wrap each in some silver foil, so I am not tempted to eat the whole bar. Lindt 70% 100g, £1.89 Waitrose

Aldi has a range of healthier snacks called ‘ The Foodie Market’ nicely packaged in kraft-style cardboard boxes. The “Properly Plump Pumpkin and Cinnamon” fruit and veg bars are good for a sweet snack. I know fruit bars can be a bit joyless-they will never be a chocolate bar- but I am quite enjoying them now when I fancy something sweet. Obviously you need to be a fan of cinnamon to enjoy these, and. Happily I am. Each bar is just 89 calories and they contain apple, pumpkin, oat flakes and hemp seed. However, a bar does not count as one of your 5 per day, unlike Naked Bars (which are sadly over my 100 calorie limit). 2.6g of protein per bar (8.5%) Pack of 5 £1.99 Aldi

I have also bought a box of ‘Gloriously Fruity Flapjacks’ which are 106 calories. They are small and chewy. Not the best flapjack I have tasted, but sweet and comforting. I think children would eat these and they would work well for lunch boxes. Mainly sweetened with honey, they also contain oats, sultanas, apricots, papaya and seeds (sunflower and linseeds). The percentage of fruit is very low. There are no obvious fruit pieces and they are soft and chewy. 2.6g protein per bar (8.5%). The protein content is apparently identical in the two different types of bar. Curious.
Available in Aldi.

So I’ve got the snacks sorted, next thing to work on is the 250 calorie breakfast. Until next time x

Stealth Fat

In my twenties I weighed about eight and a half stone, not that I bothered weighing myself as I ate what I liked and never got fat. I should have appreciated it more at the time- slimness is wasted on youth! Since then I have gradually gained 17 pounds in the form of ‘stealth fat ‘. This is the kind of fat that doesn’t make you look obviously overweight, but settles around your middle like a waistcoat. Easy to gain and very difficult to lose. The truth is we are all busy and over-stretched and food becomes a way to treat ourselves and give us a much needed energy boost. I have bought countless diet books over the years and tried various different approaches. I have given up with them all (as most people seem to do). This time I have really thought about why I give up and what would be a more sustainable approach. Well, like most women I am rushing from pillar to post: working, running my boys around, shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening etc etc. I am tired and that does not put me in the mood for a kale smoothie. If a diet involves giving up tea, coffee, sugar, wine, dairy, gluten and all carbs then it’s just not going to happen. Well not for more than about 4 hours anyway. I have come up with a more realistic approach which builds in the things I can’t ( or won’t ) do without. To lose some weight I need to cut my calories to 1400 a day for weekdays and 1600 a day for weekends (I look forward to nice breakfast at the weekends, so I have upped the allowance) I want to build in 2 cups of coffee, 2 cups of tea, 2 snacks a day and 4 glasses of wine throughout the week. I will have to forego the buttered toast and evening cheese and biscuits. Something had to go.

My Essentials:
2x Cups of coffee with milk 50 calories =100 calories
2x Cups of tea with milk 20 calories = 40 calories
2x Snack 100 calories = 200 calories
Glass of wine 160 calories= average 90 calories per day

Snacks and drinks = 430 calories per day
Meals = 970 calories per day
Total 1400 calories per day

So a typical day should look like:

Breakfast 250 calories
Snack 100 calories
Lunch 320 calories
Snack 100 calories

Dinner 400 calories
Drinks 230 calories

Total 1400 calories (weekdays)

An extra 200 calories per day at weekends to account for a bigger breakfast. If I am eating out then I will have to sacrifice the snacks and choose wisely from the menu.

On the first week of this new plan I have lost 2 pounds which, whilst not dramatic, is steady and sustainable. I have not felt hungry or deprived and have managed to make it work in a household with other family members who are all skinny and hungry and definitely don’t need to cut calories. Lucky them!

Let’s see if I can stick to it. I do hope so, as I am going to a wedding in two weeks and need to be able to squeeze into the dress I am planning to wear. That should focus the mind.
Next time: my favourite 100 calorie snacks. X