So I don't know about you, but I have steadily put on weight during the pandemic and have struggled to get it back down.
I am blaming this on several factors, excessive stress being the first, boredom and snacking during lockdown being the second, and finally, staying stationary! Initially, stress caused a rise in cortisol levels, which, if you know how that goes, you have a struggle losing weight and you gain weight even while eating very little. I went through that when I was first opening the restaurant. I think I gained something like 12lbs (about 6kgs) when I was in the 4 months planning phase for opening the restaurant. I was barely eating, but I was drinking a tonne of coffees while having meetings everywhere, so occasionally I would cave and have a cake or a pastry along with my coffee as that was likely to be the only food I would have time for.
Once I opened the restaurant and began working 15 hour days, sometimes longer, I was able to drop the weight in record time. You'd be surprised how much exercise you get when working in a restaurant, and ours has a mezzanine floor storage space, so we have a flight of stairs to contend with several times a day. I can do nearly 14,000 steps in one day without even planning it, all purely from working one day at Confusion. That and the unplanned intermittent fasting that our workday naturally is, its easy to keep the weight under control.
But as the pandemic slowed business and our periods of standing around waiting became longer, it became a problem for me to avoid the unhealthy eating habits that come with boredom. As the gyms got shut down, it became even more complicated for someone who isn't great at home workouts and motivation!
So here I am, after nearly a year of Pandemic, still trying to lose the 10lbs I gained, which was already from a starting point some 5lbs away from my goal!
I recently signed up for an at home workout plan through Centrfit, which is some app run by a team put together by Thor (Chris Hemsworth)! I know, I am a sucker for shit like that! But I have to say, after checking their insta out from a distance, for many months saying I was not really ready to bother with something like that, I finally had a moment, Well, it wasn't so much a "moment" as it was severe insomnia brought on by perimemopause!
So there I am, its 2am in the morning, I am wide awake all of a sudden, my tinnitus is like this fire alarm in my ears, I can hear the radiator kick in as it goes through the job of heating our home in the Netherlands while the outside temperature dips below zero, and it sounds like a washing machine on spin cycle. Of course its not that loud, but at 2am, while struggling with a bout of insomnia, it does sound that loud!
I do what everyone knows you shouldn't do at that hour, I look to my screen, and then I begin scrolling through Instagram because I don't do Facebook (trying to limit the brain rot, not sure how well I am succeeding!) and up pops the Centr promo! I already follow them, so this was likely on their actual feed, or maybe it was sponsored, who knows, who cares...it was for a 6 week promo, free use of their app, before committing to a year at USD119.
That...isn't bad at all. Six free weeks of access is long enough to make a decision on whether or not you are capable of handling the program, and to check out the many features on offer. I had read good things about their app, even Taika Waititi mentioned that his kids love the meditation part of the app, coz they have meditation for kids! So I figured, if its good enough for Jojo Rabbit dude, I am sure I can hack a free six week trial, amirite?
So I have started. I also downloaded the dreaded My Fitness Pal app, I only say I dread it because it shows me exactly how much I have been overeating with wild abandon! I don't gain weight from making good choices, I gain weight from not caring what I eat and then avoiding thinking about it. That is the reality of how I am. So when you have to log everything you eat, including the oil you throw in a pan before you begin a stirfry, you reconsider your choices and consider new ones with care.
These kinds of tools are helpful if you have no idea what a portion looks like. I used to have a friend who was always complaining how she couldn't lose weight despite eating "really healthy stuff". And when I asked her what it was she is eating, she mentioned things like Pomegranate, nuts, seeds, avocado, fresh fruit juices, and the more she shared the more she became aware that many of the things she was enjoying, including dried fruit such as Medjool dates, are very calorie dense and although packed with nutrition, can also pack a high caloric load, which is fine for someone extremely active, but its not great for someone sedentary.
When you hear complaints from Vegans who say they gained weight since becoming Vegan, its because simply being vegan doesn't mean being healthy. You can eat a lot of processed goods that are vegan, and if that is all you eat, then you will find it a struggle if you are someone with a sedentary lifestyle. You can be an elite athlete and eat only Beyond Burgers and have no ill consequence to your waistline, but its not the most healthy daily choice either.
The truth is, the idea that being loosely "plant-based" is guaranteed to be healthy is not a given. Within the plant-based community, being Whole Foods Plant Based is the gold standard, if you want shiny eyes and glowing complexion while you age slower and live longer, your best bet is a Whole Foods Plant Based diet that eschews animal products, processed items and any oil made in a machine (yeah, this includes olive oil, regardless of how much of a virgin they claim it is!)
I'll be honest with you, for me, that choice isn't necessarily that easy. I have tried and failed several times. The biggest barrier to success for me has been convenience. I simply don't have the commitment to eating that clean daily, and its not a failure, its just how I am at this stage in my life. I will one day get there, but for now, I look at avoiding dairy, meat and animal products as already being a big win. I try to keep the processed food to a minimum as an occasional indulgence, but in the end it boils down to just plain time management and my inability to set aside that time to commit to myself on a daily basis.
I cook for my kids, I cook for my husband, and my husband doesn't need to be losing weight, he needs to gain it, my problem is my ability to put away the same or more of a portion that my husband does! He's a whole foot taller than me and another 20kgs to boot! So its really not him, its me, lol. I need to portion control, I need to practice mindfulness, I need to avoid congratulating myself for managing to eat right for a day. I am human afterall, and I grew up with food as an expression of love. My mother wasn't much for hugging or even vocalizing her love for us, but she showed it through her food. When we ate her food, we knew we were loved, you could taste the love in there.
In many ways, its why I opened Confusion, and its what I intended for my culinary efforts, to infuse them with love. Its what I trained my team to prioritize, to actually care about the food you cook, to care about who eats the dish you plate and to care about your place in the food chain.
In Japanese we say one word before we eat and another once we are done eating, and these words are an expression of gratitude for all the people who had a part in bringing our food to the table so it could sustain life. Itadakimasu & Gochisousama. I am not sure I am spelling that phonetically correct, but I think I am getting the basic spelling right. Its thanking the farmer, thanking the rain, thanking the soil, thanking the harvesting process, thanking the grocery store, thanking the hands that prepped the meal and then cooked it. Gratitude practice deepens with mindfulness.
This is what is missing when you are bored and snacky. I know this because I am certain sitting with a pack of store bought flaxseed crackers isn't exactly part of that, and I certainly had no idea that 100g of that stuff had nearly 400kcal in it! 22 mins of High Intensity Interval Training burns just 122kcal! Someone needs to just drop that truth bomb out there.
Willpower is like a muscle, if you don't use it, it will never get strong, and if you do use it, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
I used to have willpower like The Rock! And now, I am like...water, just ebbing and flowing and willing to change shape depending on the receptacle! Lol.
So I am trying to be better with my choices now, to rejoice in the small wins, and to motivate myself by sharing recipes on the company Instagram because I don't have new content to share on there as I am not in Hong Kong taking photos of the food we prep. You may wonder why I haven't passed that responsibility on to someone else, and I am gonna tell you that I did, I suggested that the team take photos of the food, to emulate the very basic style I use, but the photos they send me are not brilliant, not for any fault of theirs, its just about the love for photographing food.
I love photography, I love the still capture, and I love food, so its not hard for me to take photos of food to express my love for whats on the plate! Everything in life, if done with love, is just better. Its why it makes a difference if you are happy where you work, you can bring that happiness and joy into your workspace and its contagious. It was so important for me to create that space for my team and for myself. When we had an individual that was constantly unhappy, angry or ungrateful about life in general, they were let go, and this was purely because it is infectious. When you have a team, its important you function as one unit. Much like a body functions with arms, legs, eyes, nose, ears...without one, there is a struggle to cope, you can cope, but its not an ideal situation.
We've had to learn to live with each other, we've grown to love each other, and its going to be quite a hard pill to swallow when we disband as a company and to see how we stay in touch as family. I am not sure if I am ready for it, honestly, I know I am tired and am ready for the company to end, after such a long period of financial battering and challenges, but I am not ready to say goodbye to Peter, Shan, Maggie, Swati, Anh and Jake. Jake will always be my son, but its going to be hard to not see him often. At this stage it just feels like I am on a holiday I will return from, its not the first time I have taken a break this long, but it will certainly be the last. When I leave Hong Kong the next time, it will be for good.
My husband and I talked about the "maintaining permanent residency" issue. We are both permanent residents of Hong Kong, and I believe you have to return at least once every three years if you wish to keep that status, and I suppose we will have to see what the political situation looks like as we drift past the next three years, because if it goes from bad to worse, what would the privilege be worth in the end?
For now, I just stick to controlling what I can. I have been able to come to a place of contentment purely watching the wind in the trees and the ducks swimming on the pond outside my window. Holland remains in full lockdown, so there is nothing out there to do besides grocery shop, and since I have now started keeping proper accounts of what we are spending on food, I am hell bent on ensuring we don't go over budget.
When you have no income and everything you are spending is coming from savings, its kinda super important you keep an eye on your expenses. When my husband had a job and I had access to staff meals at Confusion, it wasn't an issue, but now, I gotto pay close attention to our outgoings.
We have had to spend more than we planned because we are now paying rent, we have had to buy a car, and even though it was cheapish and second hand, it still needs a clutch replacement as that hasn't been replaced in 12 years, and we have to pay for mobile phone contracts and internet so the kids don't kill us. It all adds up. Its still a fraction of what we would have spent in Hong Kong, but its a fraction we have to be extra mindful about now that our future is quite uncertain for how we will attain income.
Don't worry about us though, money is the least of our concerns. As I have said before, we live a very frugal life, and we are confident we will take up jobs wherever we choose to stay longer, any jobs will do, but likely I would happily take up a job in the service sector, be it in a kitchen, or in house keeping or anything along those lines, I just like cleaning up and cooking, its what I am good at and I take pride in it. I could teach cooking, sure, but its not necessarily where my passion lies, but if it was a means to make money and support out continued adventures on the ocean, I would do it. My husband is trained as a Pilot, hes been flying since his early 20's, pretty much his entire career, and although initially we sat there quite glum about a future in aviation at a time where planes are flying with half the passengers and airlines are shutting left, right and center, its not like he is hell bent on aviation being his niche.
My husband knows everything there is to know about maintaining a sailing vessel, he knows a lot about engines and he's also very capable at building things and fixing things, he's cool with any job from construction to plumbing, sailing someone else's yacht from one location to another (yes, people pay for that) is also an option as he's got a license to do that. Education in Holland is bordering on free, so as our kids start next week, Dutch immersion, not only will we get a break from constant fighting between the two, we will also have the added benefit of them learning to speak fluent Dutch in the upcoming months.
I am excited for them, and once five months is up, we will leave for the Med. The goal is to set sail by first week of June. My husband has been designing the frame that we will attach to the boat so we can mount the solar panels we are purchasing. He will install the water maker we bought, which will filter sea water and make it drinkable! It will save us money for sure. Hell, my husband bought a Soda Stream, which is a machine that can make sodas! I don't care much for missing out on Cola or Orange soda, but with this machine and our water maker, technically we will be saving storage space as well as money. Anyway, besides these creature comforts and attempts at being eco conscious, we are also installing lithium batteries that can last a decade plus, to store the energy we harvest from the solar. I forgot to mention we are also mounting two wind turbines, to harvest the wind in places where solar may be difficult, like for instance if there happens to be four days of rain and shit weather.
Basically once we set sail, our expenditure will drop drastically.
We will be living mortgage free, so our biggest expenses will be on food, fuel & maintaining the boat. Fuel cost we can keep down by avoiding motoring, using only the power of the wind in our sails. We already know this is possible because with our catamaran we would refuel about once a year. The cost of that refuel was about HKD8000, not a small amount, but the reality of it is, one refuel a year is pretty conservative as we sailed a lot. Of course, we will sail much more than we did in Hong Kong, but there is this misconception that if we are setting sail we will be like pirates who never see land, but in reality, according to my husbands reassurance, we will spend 90% of our time within reach of land and just 10% (or less) of our time on the open ocean.
An Atlantic Crossing can take 3-4 weeks if you struggle with a week of no wind, but if you take short cuts and have the wind in your favor, you got it through in 2 weeks. So yeah, we are talking 17 days on the ocean or 21 days, or if unlucky, more than 30 days, but the reality is, you ensure you stock for such eventualities.
I am going to enjoy learning to be even more creative with my culinary journey as we sail around the world and get to experiment with local ingredients.
So much to look forward to, and right now what I am focused on is cooking food inspired by the team at Centrfit, its great they have options for vegans and vegetarians. I will keep sharing my journey, I have lost about 1lb since starting a day ago, mostly water weight, no doubt. So I am going to avoid weighing myself except once every week. Lets see how I go with avoiding obsessing about the numbers and just enjoying the experience of getting back into the game of fitness and healthy eating.
Wish me willpower! :)
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.