29 October 2012

New Ventures

I think everyone reacts differently to adversity, but when faced with life altering news - I have to be proactive and start a new venture.


When I broke up with my first serious boyfriend I took up swing dancing, earned a bartending mixology certification, went backpacking around Europe for three months and then immigrated to the UK. When I spilt up with my ex-husband I took up ballroom dancing lessons and became a cleaning fanatic.


So it’s no surprise that recently I started looking to make changes to my life. One conveniently appeared in my twitter feed. A member of our WI, the lovely @Deb_Conner, suggested starting a weekly exercise group. She even found a local fitness instructor willing to run a weight training session, so all we needed to do was turn up!

After weeks of stress eating, burning a few pounds off in an exercise class seemed like a good idea. We’ve now been to eight of these classes and though it has caused my pain levels to increase, I’ve had a lot more energy and motivation!

I’m still struggling to find a balance between protecting my hypermobile joints and using more challenging weights. As my pain levels have gone up, I’ve had to resign myself to using the very light weights. It feels ridiculous when I can see others in the group progressing, but I’m trying to suppress my feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment. I’m hoping even these light weights may help to stabilise my joints and prevent them from slipping so often.

In addition to exercise, I’ve also changed my diet. Several years ago an NHS dietician recommended I try an exclusion diet to identify any food intolerances. After a few months of testing we discovered several culprits: gluten, rye, oats, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine, peppers, dairy, Quorn, hydrogenated fats/oils and artificial sugars. When added to being vegetarian, it is rather challenging - and boring.

I’ve stuck to this diet with varying degrees of success over the years, but gave in to convenience and temptation as we’ve been fighting our way through the NHS. After two years of cheating, I’m certainly feeling the effects, so a return to the diet is in order.

The first few weeks are always the hardest, as you give up the lasting comfort of bread and potatoes. I’ve found the best way to resist is to always have a suitable snack in your handbag. My favourite is home-made Peanut Rice Krispie Squares. I’m not a fan of sweet treats, and these temper the marshmallows with extra cereal and the salted peanuts. (Though obviously the marshmallow means they aren’t actually vegetarian.)


Rice Krispie Squares

4 tablespoons margarine (Dairy-free, hydrogenated fat-free)
300 g marshmallows
7 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup salted peanuts (optional)
  1. In a large pan melt the margarine over a low heat.
  2. Grease a tray that's about 9 x 11 inches and 2 inches deep. Also grease the spoon you'll use for stirring and something like a cake slice.
  3. Add the marshmallows to the butter and stir till melted. Once melted continue to cook for the marshmallows for 3 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add rice cereal and any additional ingredients (e.g. peanuts). Mix till all the cereal is coated in marshmallow.
  5. With the spoon pour the mix out into the greased tray and use the cake slice to press the mixture into the tray.
  6. If the mix starts to stick to the cake slice you can grease it over top of the marshmallow already stuck on and continue.
  7. Any mixture left over can be put into greased ramekins.
  8. Allow to cool (they will stop being as sticky). This can be sped up in the fridge. I cut my squares apart with a large pizza cutter, but any knife will do.
  9. Squares can then be stored in a Tupperware container for around 2 weeks.

You can also try adding 1 cup of crunchy peanut butter after you've cooked the marshmallow for 3 minutes, and then continue as normal. These tend to come out very crumbly though still nice. Or you can replace the peanuts with a cup of any of the following for variety: raisins, glacier cherries, cashews, or dried cranberries.

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While exercise and diet aren't huge life changes, it is at least a start - and I suppose it gives me an illusion of control in a situation when I have none.

What tricks do you have to help cope with life's disappointments?