Huel keeping hunger at bay

Two days into my reformed ways for 2017 and food is never far from my mind. I’m back using Huel as a meal replacement and valuable source of vitamins and minerals. It makes for a great start to the day and keeps me really, really full.

Which in turn makes it super-easy to avoid snacking or binging. Which, to be fair, were my two favourite activities throughout December.

The photos above show the delicious smoothie I made yesterday, which included a banana, some Huel, almond milk and flavoured with Matcha green tea I brought back from Tokyo. It was the perfect post-run meal, especially as I can’t consume anything bar coffee before I go on a long run.

I’ve been thinking about traveling with Huel – as I travel a lot for work – and while bringing this powder along with me within the UK is easy enough, taking it on a plane is a potential headache I could do without. So I was pleased to read that they’ve launched Huel bars and have ordered a sample pack of 5 to give it a go.

I see them as the perfect alternative to unhealthy hotel breakfasts where all they have on offer are sugary cereals and buttery pastries. Each Huel bar contains 250 calories, which when combined with a couple of pieces of fruit and some coffee, will make for an excellent on-the-go breakfast for me.

But for the next couple of weeks at home, it’ll be Huel for breakfast and/or lunch and something normal but healthy for dinner. I’m tracking my eating in ‘My Fitness Pal’ to help me be more mindful and aware of what I’m consuming. It definitely helps me understand how those calories add up, but also makes it hard to avoid any accidents. Accidental Snickers bar? Yes, i’ve been known to in the past. As if it just fell into my mouth!

I’ll report back once I’ve experimented with the Huel bars. And no, before you ask, this isn’t the onset of an eating disorder. I’m going to have a perfectly normal chicken salad for dinner tonight. But unlike Christmas, it won’t come with stuffing, cake or Prosecco.

Baby steps…

A change of gears required…

When I say I ‘over-consumed’ over the Christmas holidays, it’s no exaggeration. I consistently ate whatever was put in front of me. When I wasn’t eating, I was waiting on new food being prepared, or taking a short break after finishing my last meal. Or I was asleep. 

Breaks between meals were short and sweet, usually more so the latter. A dip into some chocolate here, demolishing a packet of biscuits there. Constant grazing, like a particularly greedy piece of livestock. 

Time for a change

I know many people the world over are looking at themselves in the mirror today and making all kinds of promises about their weight, their diet and their exercise regime. 

I’m not. It doesn’t work. 

But I was given an alarming piece of feedback by my own body the other evening. While lowering myself into a hotel bath (I’m usually a shower man), I was perplexed by the gathering of flesh around my waist. Flesh that’s not obvious when standing upright. Flesh that resembled the dreaded ‘spare tyre’ that the fitness magazines I buy but don’t read describe on their covers. 

Jesus. 

Now, I’m not talking ‘Peter-Griffin-fat’ or ‘Oh-my-God-where-are-my-genitals?’ fat. But it was enough to remind me that I’ve been eating like an unsupervised toddler for over a month and I need to dial it back a bit. Perhaps more than a bit. 

What to do? 

I’m not one for crash diets. Or rather, I am, but they tend to last only until about lunch time. So rather than make a massive commitment to becoming a healthier eater overnight, I’m simply going to move out of Christmas eating into New Year eating and leave a few things behind. Mince pies, Christmas pudding, sly glasses of Prosecco throughout the day. And the easiest way to do all this is simply not to have them in the house in the first place. 

So fewer ’empty’ calories and more in the form of something nutritious, such as Huel

I’ve also not been running, due to a shoulder injury. (Yes, smart-arse, you use your shoulder when running). But I’m getting an MRI of that on Wednesday morning, so should have a plan for what to do about that by the end of the week. But it’s really shown me the lethal combination of being sedentary and having zero willpower. 

Onwards and upwards. I don’t expect stunning changes this month, but it should pay over over the next couple of months, especially if I can get back into regular exercise. And no, the sauna doesn’t really count. 

There’s no excuse

Dodgy shoulder aside, there’s nothing stopping me from making this change today. I have all the tools I need, including the fitness tracking capabilities of my iPhone and its many apps, a digital weighing scale (the treacherous bastard!) and plenty of space around me to go for walks and runs. I even have a gym in my apartment building. 

I just need to get going. 

I’m actually writing this in the BA Lounge at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. We’re flying home from our New Year’s Even trip to the Netherlands and I was immediately exposed to the free buffet here. But I persevered and had the healthiest thing for lunch that I could find. Some Edam cheese and a whole meal roll to put it in. A bottle of a water and a coffee. No chocolate, no Prosecco, no biscuits. 

I’m not looking for a pat on the back or praise. But I do know that accountability helps with this sort of thing. So next time I post an epic description of my meal at Bodeans, or a similar BBQ joint, feel free to come down on me like a ton of bricks. 

Christmas closedown…

Out-of-office notification is on. Bags are backed. Travel booked. I’m officially on Christmas holidays and not a moment too soon.

Gorgeous Christmas lights earlier this evening on Regent Street. #London #RegentStreet #Christmas

A post shared by Richard A. MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

This time tomorrow, I’ll at my parents’ place in Scotland, busy eating them out of house and home, lying around on the couch and other soft furnishings and enjoying an open fire. It’ll be wall-to-wall seasonal food and drink, long lie-ins in the morning and at least twice my recommended calorie intake until I fly back to London.

I can’t wait.

Plus the fun of watching the kids open their Christmas presents, which @FrankDJS so carefully wrapped for me. (I did minimal wrapping this year – it’s my kryptonite. I’m completely useless at it and at this stage of my life, I’m admitting defeat and letting someone with more skill look after it).

So here’s hoping you have an enjoyable holiday, whatever form it takes where you live. And if your country or culture doesn’t celebrate Christmas, then please don’t be jealous of the thought of me lying down and eating chocolate for four solid days.

Beating the meat sweats

I’m really not proud of myself this evening. I’ve done absolutely nothing except eat far too much and then regret my actions. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Yesterday evening, @FrankDJS booked us brunch at the local ‘Big Easy‘, kicking off at 11:30am. My plan was therefore simple: get up early, go for a run, then reward myself with an all-you-can-eat brunch of various meats. It’s worked well in the past. 

It worked out beautifully. Except I spent an extra hour in bed instead of a run and I consumed enough meat to feed a small family. The BigEasy’s ‘Big Pig Gig’, outlined below, gives unlimited food and prosecco for the extremely reasonable price of £29.50. My deeply unscientific estimate is that I consumed about three time’s that amount in meat alone. Not counting the few glasses of prosecco. 


I’m not critiquing the staff at the Big Easy – the service was great, they were attentive and generous with the food and drink, and had no way of knowing that my stomach resembles a black hole when it comes to buffet or all-you-can-eat situations. Rather than a marketing gimmick, I see this phrase as a challenge and almost always rise to it. 

We finished eating at just after 1:30pm. Two solid hours of pulled pork, BBQ beans, ribs, chicken, corn bread and Prosecco. I’ll admit there was some conversation thrown in too, but not much. We two became a meat processing team. And the team at Big Easy refilled our plates regularly and with glee. Our glasses too. 

Despite finishing our meal-slash-pork-orgy so early in the day, I haven’t touched food since. No mid-afternoon snack, no coffee, no dinner. Only water. I was hit with big-time meat sweats and @FrankDJS had to have a lie down. I managed to stay awake and then spent an hour in the sauna to expedite the sweating. I think it actually worked, as I feel a lot more human now. 

But still, there’s no chance of me eating anything this evening. I’d like to say I’ve learnt my lesson, but I think we all know I’ll be back at the Big Easy again soon. It’s too tempting an offer and too good a meal to pass up. 

I’ll just need to clear my calendar for the rest of the day.

A healthy salad

I travel for work. A lot.

And one of the hardest parts of business travel (believe me) is eating healthily. I’m constantly presented with deeply delicious and dangerously unhealthy food on room service menus.

And my will-power is virtually non-existent.

Continue reading “A healthy salad”

Some random Seoul reflections

We’re now in Osaka, having flown out of Seoul yesterday morning. This required an immensely early start, as our flight was at 8am. We left plenty of time, but unfortunately, our taxi driver somehow believed that Seoul was about to be hit by a nuclear missile and so drove to the airport like he was risking his life. And ours. At one point, he was driving down the motorway at 133kph – believe me, I had an eye on the speedometer – while simultaneously responding to a text message on his ginormous Samsung mobile.

I suppose our only saving grace is that it wasn’t a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and didn’t blow up while we were weaving through the traffic like something out of a badly-edited sci-fi movie. The journey is usually between 50mins and an hour. We made it to the airport in 19mins.

Stepping out onto the departures drop-off area, I thanked both the old gods and the new that we were in one piece and began to think about how I cold get my hands on some coffee…

All in all, we had a great few days in Seoul, but all the same I don’t think we did everything we could have. We were both hit hard by jet-lag, which led to afternoon naps and lots of foot-dragging while walking around. Seoul is really massive and I think if we’d been better prepped (remember, we adding this leg to our Japan visit just a couple of weeks ago!) we might have done things differently. So what did we do?

We spent an enjoyable morning at the Korean War memorial and museum. The walk around the fighter jets, tanks and other assorted leftover weapons from the war was very thought provoking. As was the main memorial, including lots of references to the international UN soldiers and other peacekeepers who contributed to the effort.

Our hotel had the most amazing traditional spa, including three hot spring baths and three saunas. I took advantage of the facilities several times – my familiarity with Japanese onsens helped avoid any awkwardness and I wasn’t started at by the other customers.

As I managed to overdo it in the hotel gym one morning, I spent the rest of our visit limping and in pain. I’m convinced I’ve torn something in my left knee (the “good” one, the one I haven’t had surgery on), so I’ve not used to the gym since and walked with a lot of difficulty all during our time in Seoul. Doh! All my own fault, of course…

The Gyeongbokgung Palace, while a replica of one destroyed earlier, was impressive. I found it hard to navigate the whordes of noisy and rude Chinese tourists though. They travelled in packs and made it a challenge to get near anything up close or take uninterrupted photos.

On the cuisine front, we actually ended up eating a LOT in our hotel, something we never do. But the hotel (the best I’ve stayed in for quite some time) had a happy hour at the executive lounge we had access to. This included a free bar and an excellent buffet which included lovely Korean food. I had some great curries, some exceedingly spicy kimchee and assorted steamed gyoza-type parcels. All mouth-damagingly hot and delicious. And the fact that the bar had unlimited champagne made it quite difficult to go out again each evening…

Our most fun evening was spent in Gangnam (as per the eponymous song!), which was a mix of high-end western brand shops and lots of back streets with cool hipster-ish cafes and shops. The atmosphere was fun and I wished we’d had more time to explore, but we needed to pack and get to bed, ready for a 4am start to fly to Tokyo, then Osaka.

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In summary, I found Seoul to be a very fun and accessible city. People were constantly friendly and helpful (except for the legendary Seoul grannies who push their way everywhere and ignore any sense of a queue – especially on the metro). It’s massive, so getting comfortable with exploring using the Metro is a must.

Seoul was much noisier and brasher than any of the Japanese cities we’ve visited. People speak a lot more and a lot more loudly in public, and it seems a lot more relaxed in terms of public behaviour. I described it to a friend as ‘Tokyo after it’s had a few pints’. It’s grimier and smellier than Tokyo, a bit more chaotic and not always as chilled out. But it represented a lovely change and I saw enough to convince me it’s somewhere I’d like to revisit in the future.

Some initial reflections, there – I’ll write more about the trip to Seoul when time permits. Right now, it’s 0700 in Osaka and it’s time to launch a strategic assault on the breakfast buffet here in our hotel.

More meaty goodness at Boisdale

@FrankDJS and I had an early dinner at Boisdale, Canary Wharf last night. I won’t beat around the bush – it was superb. I’d completed a bit of a run earlier that day and had worked up quite the appetite.

Dinner at Boisdale. Won't say no to some top quality haggis while I'm here! #canarywharf #food #Boisdale #haggis #hankmarvin

A post shared by Richard A. MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

I began with a super starter portion of haggis, neeps and tatties and a glass of very tasty prosecco. Every mouthful was a delight. It’s something I don’t think I could be bothered to cook for myself, with all that potato-peeling and turnip-wrestling. So I always order it when I see it on the menu. Vegetarians look away now. Oh, and don’t click on that link explaining what’s in haggis.

Haggis, neeps and tatties! Delicious. #Boisdale #haggis #canarywharf #food #london

A post shared by Richard A. MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

This was followed by a wagyu beef burger and the most amazing chips. The burger came topped with a fried egg, perfectly cooked with a liquid yoke – which is how I like it. Seriously, there are few things that can’t be improved with the addition of an egg or two. Preferably with a runny yoke.

The chips were definitely fried it something in something a little special – my guess is duck fat – and came cut thickly and perfectly salted. I had a hard time finishing all of this, but like the gastronomic hero that I am, I just about managed it.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of the burger. I tucked into it with gusto (and a knife and fork – I’m not an animal) and was almost finished before I realised my mistake. Take it from me – it was large, tasty and filling.

There is no real story to tell here, except that I’ll gladly sit down to some haggis at the drop of a hat and there’s something wonderful about being able to walk home after a nice meal out. Night Tube or not, a trip on the Underground takes the sheen off a nice meal. Oh, and I’d recommend Boisdale to anyone looking for a nice meal in Canary Wharf.

It’s not all banks and bankers, you know…

 

Overdoing it on the BBQ front

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A snap from my *last* visit to the Big Easy – note the pre-meal smile and confidence…

We went for brunch with friends to the local ‘Big Easy‘ here in Canary Wharf yesterday. And, true to form, I was attracted to the unlimited BBQ deal they offer. Unlimited puled pork, ribs, BBQ beans and roast chicken, plus drinks, for £30.

Hard to say no to that, really.

But this time, I was sharing the table with even more of a professional eater and I’m afraid that competition got the better of me. I ate more for that branch than I ever have before. Talking somehow didn’t get in the way – and we had a lot to catch up on. I didn’t even pause to take any photos of the food. Amazing, I know.

The result?

Well, an agonising walk home, a total collapse into my arm chair and straight to sleep. A food coma, if you will. I had the meat sweats. I felt like I was jet-lagged, far too full of food and really unable to do anything. It was like Christmas all over again…

A few hours later, I managed a walk around the neighbourhood in the evening sun. But even though we stopped eating at 1pm, I didn’t have any dinner. Still full.

Normally, @FrankDJS is my cue to stop eating. He’s not a fan of the unlimited deals, really. But I got stuck in a ‘re-order some pork!’ mode and the staff were only too happy to oblige.

Don’t get me wrong: it was a delicious meal and the service was great. I just had the equivalent of two and a half meals in one sitting. Normal service almost resumed today, but it seemed my body needed more time to come to terms with the calorific intake. I slept until 0930 this morning!

Now I’m itching for a run…

HyperJapan 2016: cosplay and food galore!

We spent a few delightful hours at HyperJapan in London this afternoon. A flurry of cosplay, Japanese music, Japanese food, more cosplay and some more food. Pretty much like every visit to HyperJapan ever.

Highlights for me were the delicious Takoyaki (octopus balls), despite almost burning my mouth off when trying to stuff them down my throat. Punishment for my gluttony, no doubt. This was followed in short order by a half-gallon (or so it seemed) of matcha tea latte with tapioca pearls and then a superb portion of matcha ice-cream.

The latter came from Softserve Society, who I was delighted to find out are opening an outlet at BoxPark in Shoreditch. I’ll definitely be paying them a visit in the near future – the ice-cream was fantastic.

Here’s a short video walk-through I took while wandering about. Apologies in advance for the quality – I was walking, while trying to avoid tripping over the many cosplayers who were lying around on the floor.