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Students and teachers alike look forward to the longest holiday of the year, ‘summer’.
In the past summers for me meant packing my bags with all that I would need and move down to Agami, a summer resort just outside of Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea, where my parents had a beach house. There I would spend my days in shorts, t-shirt, swimsuit and flip-flops with my beach bag ready for the beach. Two to three months of swimming, tanning, reading, playing volleyball, running a summer camp for children and catching up with old friends whom I hadn’t seen since the previous summer.
Times have changed and friends have moved on. I have not been back to Bianki since 2007. I miss the times, I had there during my teenage years. It is there where I made some of my most memorable memories and met some very interesting people and dear friends. To date, my summers are split between Alexandria and going abroad to various destinations to get away from the stress that the post revolution has left and the political roller coaster of electorial disappointments we have had to take part in, witness and accept the results of.
The beginning portion of my summer for the past two years has been spent in Alexandria with my parents. My mother and I have been motivating one another to get back in shape and eat healthy. (This as some of you may know has been an ongoing process for me. After 1.5 years of battling the bulge, I am 13Kg away from my target weight!) I would spend an hour working out at home, doing various crunches and sit-ups as well as using an elliptical bike and 3 hours of the day would be spent swimming laps and using various apparatus to help strengthen and tone my arms and legs. For a few weeks, I or we would go abroad.
To go abroad for me is a chance to recharge, re-evaluate, relax and look at things from a different perspective (the change in scenery and climate is also an added bonus). This year my mother and I ventured to London to visit briefly with my sister and to Ireland to attend a family wedding and strengthen family connection with our cousins, whom we had lost contact with over the past few years.
I am fascinated with our family genealogy, especially on the Irish side. I have found that not only do I look Irish, I have a lot of the Irish family traits in me and from listening to stories, I find I learn more and more about myself and why some of the members of our family are the way that they are.
As a young girl London never appealed to me, I had formed an image of it being a dark, grey and gloomy place, much like the Industrial time in England. My opinion changed quickly when I first visited 3 years ago. I look forward to my visits there now, not solely due to it’s undeniable allure but because I actually feel normal there. I don’t worry about what I’m wearing and if I’ll be harassed as I walk down the street or how long it will take me to get to my destination. When I am there the stress of constantly having to be aware of the people around me and looking for signs of possible sexual harassers trying to invade my personal space drops from 100 to 1.
Time spent with my sister, her husband and other members of our family are precious and they always take priority. I try to spend as much time with them as I can, to keep our family bond strong and because I simply love being in their company. There is never a dull moment when we congregate! On extended visits I like to walk around and take in the sights, museums, shows, take pictures and of course shop! (One has to make a contribution to the economy of the country one happens to visit, no?)
It was also exciting to have been there pre-Olympic ceremony. To see the city decorated with flags of the different nations taking part in the games. The excitment and pride of the nationals to host the games. My mum and I missed the ceremony but watched many of the highlights and events once we had made it back to our hotel room and back to Egypt after our trip. The athletes are phenominal in their dedication and inspring!
I have always been very proud and patriotic of my Irish heritage. When I visit I can’t help but be in awe of her beauty. Her beauty, in my opinion becomes more enhanced by her people, who have such a cheerful, friendly, helpful and funny disposition about them. I can’t help but find so many similarities in them and the ‘old’ Egyptian culture that I grew up knowing, ( it saddens me to think that what remains of the ‘old’ Egypt, might soon be lost, if things are not sorted out soon).
During this trip to Ireland, I made sure that I would not be rushing through like a forest fire, but I would actually have time to walk the streets, visit historical landmarks, eat in pubs, shop and talk with the locals, as well as visit with family.
I can not tell you how much I enjoyed touring the capital, learning about how Ireland earned its Independence, driving through the grounds of Phoenix Park, visiting Trinity College and sitting in its grand library of ancient manuscripts and books that were written and read by some of the greatest minds on earth and where some members of my family attended. Although my connection to the country itself isn’t strong, I think this journey has definitely strengthened it.
My cousin whom I had only reconnected with over the last three years and hadn’t seen in twenty, invited my family and I to attend his wedding. The place in which the nuptials took place and the ceremony itself was unlike any wedding that I have ever been to or seen before. It was a Humanist Wedding/Ceremony, filled with spirituality, tradition and love. It was held on a bridge on a beautiful summer’s day with beautiful landscape encompassing the couple and their families and friends. Nothing could have made it more magical, meaningful or beautiful in my opinion. The two-day event was packed with entertainment, food and great times. Most importantly it was shared with people who truly cared for the couple and genuinely wished them nothing but happiness in their future life together. It was at this event, where I made new connections and bonds with members of our family whom I had lost contact with and those I had never met before. (Now, I know where I get my energy, drive, motivation to succeed, love of learning, sense of humor and love of partying from, The McSorley Clan)
The third part of our trip was spent visiting the area of where my grandmother and generations before her had come from. In some strange way, Wexford, a small county by the sea reminded me of Alexandria. It is here where my mother attended boarding school as a young girl and where she spent many summers with her aunt, uncle and cousins at a nearby resort called Rosslare. As I walked the quay and breathed in the fresh Irish sea air and took in the scenic views, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the opportunity to have traveled to the land of my ancestors, to see where half of me is from and to be able to pass down the stories that have been told to me by my aunt, mother and cousins, so, that our history isn’t lost or forgotten.
In Wexford we strengthened existing ties with family we are in touch with. It was also a second opportunity for my mother to spend time her aged aunt of 97 years and to thank her for all the wonderful summers she had spent with them as a child and all the other things she and her late husband did for her growing up. (Moments like that should be seised, because they may never come again).
There is so much more for me to see and learn of Ireland but I have an itching desire to learn as much as I can about my family as I can. I hope to be able to go back there again soon in the near future.
Upon returning to Egypt I couldn’t help but feel depressed. Ireland might be in dire straits economically but the people have the drive to rebuild the country to get it back on its feet again. Egypt, a nation of great potential and historical as well as cultural wealth seems to be sinking before our eyes and very few seem willing to get their hands dirty. I have said it before and I will say it again. I fear for Egypt’s future and her children. I pray that I am wrong and that she will not suffer in the hands of men like Rasputin. Perhaps the Egyptian Olympians who preformed so well at the London 2012 games, might inspire their country men and women that hard work does pay off and that they can not only achieve great things but be recognised for them in the long run, if they pull together and move forward in rebuilding the country rather than pointing the finger of blame.
August 21st of 2011 was the 40 day memorial service for my sweet departed friend. In this part of the world, 40 days after a person has departed there is a memorial service held in their honor. I hopped on a train and headed down to Cairo especially to attend the service.
Fabienne, Nathalie Atalla’s sister had asked me to read the Irish bereavement poem that I had used at the end of my written tribute to her. No matter how many times I read those few sentences allowed or to myself, I couldn’t help but feel as though that I was choking on held back tears and my lip would disobey direct orders from my brain not to quiver.
When I reached Cairo I busied myself trying to put my closed apartment in order, while thinking about the upcoming service. The reason the service weighed so heavily on my mind was because, when I heard of Nathalie’s untimely departure I had just arrived in London. As much as I wanted to get back on a plane and turn around and go back to Cairo, I couldn’t. So, although I understood that Nathalie would no longer be walking among us in the flesh, my mind hadn’t fully come to terms with it.
As I sat in the church and was a few pews from the alter, where a beautiful picture of her smiling back at all of those who were in attendance, the reality of it all came crashing down. My eyes burned with restrained tears as did my throat, but I knew that she wouldn’t want more tears to be shed and especially not on her birthday. Yes, her memorial service coincided with her 32nd Birthday. A day where we would have all come together to rejoice and having a gay o’l time, but instead we were remembering her life and how she touched each and every one of us.
At the service I saw her two brave adorable girls, standing at the front of the church with their aunt and grandparents, behaving beautifully and comforting their grandmother in the midst of the service. Once the service was over, the two girls greeted the attendees at the entrance of the church with angelic smiles on their face, warm hugs and handed every single person a brioche (it’s like a hot cross bun). As I watched them, I couldn’t help but admire their innocence and how they have bounced back from having their mother tragically taken away from them at such a young age. I could see many of Nato’s qualities and she would have been very proud of them.
In the reception hall on the grounds of the church, friends and family went to pay their respects. A group of friends sat in the hall and sang ballads, two other close friends of Nathalie’s stood up and said a few words about her. Fabienne, gave a very moving speech that brought us all to tears and moved us deeply. I agree with Fabienne, Nathalie wouldn’t want us to continue to cry and be sad, she would want us to celebrate her life, remember her and smile and apply the lessons she taught us to our daily lives.
With the over flow of emotion, my little speech was over looked, but that is fine, what really mattered, was that we were there for her sister, her daughters, her parents and that we were remembering her and what she meant to us.
I finally had closure and came to terms with her passing, but although she in no longer with us in body, Nathalie is still here with us in spirit and she continues to inspire us every day!
Nathalie, you have inspired me to love myself and to take care of my health. I have returned to my favorite sport, swimming. I could barely finish two laps without gasping for air, when I started at the beginning of July but with daily practice and persistence, plus having your voice encouraging and cheering me on, as you have for the past few months. I have now made it to 110 laps. I look better, feel better about myself and I’m beginning to feel more like my old self. Nathalie, thank you for motivating and inspiring me!
As the famous song goes; every breath I take, every move I make, every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you…
http://www.nathalieatalla.com/ to leave your thoughts and comments.
I am going to be completely honest with myself and whoever else is reading. For the past few years I have been dealing with lots of changes, recovering from heart breaks, disappointments, injuries to both feet, physio therapy and lack of confidence in my appearance. So, I took to self-medicating myself by eating my way to almost 90KG!! For a person of my height (5’4’’) and build that is OBESE! I had always been fit and somewhere along the way I lost myself…
With my sister’s wedding in April, I didn’t want to be the frumpy maid of honor on the video or in pictures. So, my new year’s resolution to myself was to get back in shape and to drop the pounds. So, I purchased an elliptical bike and took all my Mum’s Slim Fast shakes and stuck to it for four months. I am proud to say I lost 10Kg (22Ibs)! I felt lighter, more energetic and for the first time in a long time I felt a bit attractive. I looked healthier and the best I had in years. I must confess that my Gillian self-made boot camp didn’t continue past the wedding. Why, you might ask? Well, in the months that followed I was not only working full-time, but I was studying for my Masters comprehensive exam and finishing the academic year and writing up report cards. However, I was still wise in my food choices but my exercising went to pot!
Now, that I am on summer vacation I have no reason or excuses for not exercising. So, I stepped up to the plate and got back in to swimming after decades of not training. I am not going to lie, it was far from being easy, I started swimming at the beginning of July and I could barely complete two laps without gasping for air! Panting after only swimming two laps scared me. There is a history of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems in my family and I didn’t want to fall victim to that if I could have a hand in preventing it. I went to a sports shop and bought two kinds of kicking boards to help me get back in shape, one to hold on to for just leg movements and the other one prevents me from using my legs and forces me to use just my arms. The first week was a killer and my shoulders and arms were killing me! It had been over a decade since I had actually used all the muscles in my arms. By the second week I could feel my strokes getting stronger and my stamina improving too. By the end of July I was able to swim 50 laps none stop!! I am so proud of myself for persevering!
I have gotten on the scale at home a few times and the scale hasn’t budged, which is very frustrating! I eat lots of fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and grilled meat. I have cut out juice and soft drinks but I do drink LOTS OF WATER! I do occasionally indulge in a bar of chocolate or ice cream.
With Ramadan being here I thought this would be a perfect time to get my healthy eating habits back on track and get back on the Slim Fast regiment as well as swimming! I can tell you that after swimming laps without having had breakfast, by the time I’m done, I am HUNGRY and could eat a horse! By Iftar time, (the meal we eat at sunset after a day of fasting) I am more thirsty than I am hungry and when I’m eating I try my very best to watch my portion control and not to eat too many carbs.
So, why Megan Fox? You can’t deny it; she does have a killer body! My target is to try to get myself back in to tip-top shape and looking as HOT as Megan Fox (not like Megan Fox, if that was my ultimate goal then I would have paid for cosmetic surgery) I need to fight my way back to bring ‘ME’ back. Justin Timberlake’s song ‘Bring Sexy Back’ is my theme song to keep going!
So, what’s my ultimate goal? I am presently stuck at 75 Kg I would love to lose between 10-15kg. I want to see my body toned, the flabby stomach reduced and my thighs slimmer. I have no set time for wanting to reach this but if I can reach it by December or by April! I am not going to rush the process, I want to do it at my bodies pace and healthily.
August 4th 2011- I was able to swim 70 laps none stop, alternating between different swimming boards and just swimming.
I will keep you posted on my progress over the coming weeks and months.
August 16th 2011- I finally was able to swim 80 laps, alternating between swimming boards. The scale is being discouraging and the needle isn’t pointing south, it’s actually stuck on 75Kg, which isn’t reflecting what I’m seeing in the mirror. However, I tried on a cocktail dress I bought 2 years ago and I FINALLY fit in to it! I don’t have to worry about a protruding tummy or love handles coming over the sides of the dress! I still have a stomach but it has shrunk a great deal and so have the unwanted ripples. I have till the 24th of August to reach my target of 100 laps, then I need to find a pool in the Heliopolis area of Cairo where I feel comfortable swimming for the next 3 months to keep on going with my efforts until the weather turns colder, then I may take up plates or yoga! If not that then back to Salsa dancing !
August 18th 2011, My goal was to increase my stamina and grow stronger, so that I could swim at least 100 laps before I head back to Cairo, to start the academic year of 2011/2012. There was an element of doubt in my mind, but I did as Dori in ‘Finding Nemo’ did and just kept on swimming. I am not going to lie, I use different swimming apparatus to help strengthen my arms and legs. I am proud to say that I didn’t’ just reach my target I exceeded it! I swam 110 laps in a 20 meter pool, none stop for 2 hours, alternating between swimming and using the different apparatus, without stopping once! I have to say, I feel lighter, fitter and toned. I can now look at myself in the mirror without having a deep cringe on my face! I just have to keep the momentum going once I’m back at work ! (fingers crossed)
Thursday, November 10th, 2011; It has been over 2 months since I last up dated you with my progress since I started work. I wish I could say that my exercise routine has been great, when the fact remains it has been none existent. Up on starting my new position at my place of employment I had hoped to be able to use the pool to keep up with my swimming but the building in which the pool is situated was declared unsafe and won’t be functional till January (fingers crossed), my work keeps me on my feet till 4pm and by the time I get home I am too tired to lift a finger. I have been trying my darndest to watch what I consume and I had been doing very well up until 2 weeks ago when I had a MAD CRAVING FOR CARBS and Chocolate!! The cravings are subsiding and I am getting back in to my healthy habits of eating and eating more fruit and vegetables. I have made a conscious decision to make more of an effort to stop working late every day and to go to an exercise or dance class at least twice a week.
Saturday, November 12th; I am ready to get back on track to reach my goal weight and shape! I know that the final 10-15Kg are going to be the hardest to lose and I am going to have days where I would threaten to throw in the towel and just indulge in calorie and sugary sin, but I am at an age now, where I really need to treat my body as a temple and look after it as best as I can, because although in my mind I’m still a wee lass, my body is reflecting a different image. So, I am going to bring this mission to a new level; It is now Operation Megan Mila Kunis Fox (2 HOT women, with attitude). When I posted my intentions on my status a friend of mine commented and said; “Call it operation N E. You will be a healthy weight that will make you look your best.” She does have a point, But I know I will never look like those two ladies, but I can be my own bombshell, which is what I am striving for… The real name of the mission is ‘Improve My Health’, but I think the one I go by sounds much cooler! I start exercising tomorrow morning… I’ll keep you posted on how I do this week, keep reading!
November 22nd 2011; So, almost 2 weeks after Eid, I feel a difference in my figure! I had started an exercise routine and was doing well but report cards completely messed that up! I have been so stressed about them that I hardly slept. I went 4 days without sleeping and I am still recovering from the effects. I started back on SlimFast, which seems to be a bit of a waste of formula considering that my appetite has shrunk to less than the normal calorie in take a person should take. I think the break up I recently went through also contributed to my disinterest in nourishment too… . The current situation in the country, has just added to my worries and stress level and I can’t think of exercising to be honest. I should use my elliptical bike to tear myself away from twitter, the net and TV just to keep the blood circulating! I’ll let you know if I am able to get myself out of this slump… stay safe, stay healthy.
March 3rd, 2011:
It has been almost 4 months since I last updated my blog or my progress on my mission to regain control of my life again and get healthy. The slump that I faced back in November passed thankfully and I am back on track. I signed up for Zumba classes twice a week and was getting really in to them. I just LOVE latin beats and moves, that’s the way I enjoy exercising and let me tell you I didn’t hold back! After each class I felt rejuvenated and PUMPED! I would leave happy and my endorphins would be KICK’N! Unfortunately the instructor suffered some health problems and was instructed to take to her bed. So, a colleague at work, suggest that we walk around the track on the days that we would have been taking Zumba classes just to keep in the spirit of exercising. After hearing what happened to the female UN employee a few weeks ago, along with people trying to kidnap children out of their mother’s arms in cars, I decided to add self-defence classes to my regiment! For 2 reasons, it’s not just about the grueling boot camp style work out, it’s also the knowledge and skill that I would need to defend myself that I am enjoying. The great thing about the walking and the self-defense classes is that they are all at where I work, so I can take my workout gear with me and not slack off, everything is right there and I don’t have the excuse of being too tired after a long day at work or having to endure a long ride home.
In addition to working out regularly I am also watching what I eat at home, at work and when I go out to restaurants. I try to make healthy choices! Lots of Vegetables/Fruit for fiber and vitamins, protein (mainly grilled chicken or fish, occasionally I’ll crave red meat) and I try to minimize my carb in take, but if I have a craving for it, it’s usually brown pasta! As for my love of sweets…I have been fairly good, but it isn’t easy to walk away from chocolate (cake, candy, ice-cream), so I allow myself some indulgence every once in a while.
In January at the school I work at, the idea of having a Biggest Loser challenge to help those drop the holiday pounds was brough up. I signed up for it. I weighed in at 77KG (12KG away from my goal weight), the second week of the way in I had dropped to 75.5KG!! (I have no idea how I did that!!) The weeks that followed were very discouraging I plateaued and lost nothing. 2 weeks ago I finally lost a quarter of KG! I am trying not to let this minor hiccup damped my spirit, but it is disheartening! I haven’t taken a picture of myself recently, but as soon as I do, I will post it!
June 28th, 2012 ; The Biggest Loser Competition was nowhere near as challenging as the TV series. I wish Bob or Gillian had been included in the package. It just wasn’t enough to motivate me and although I didn’t win, that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to eat healthy. I have to admit the last two months of work, I stopped exercising and that’s when I lost my will power and let myself go slightly. The stress of work and deadlines had gotten to me and I began to indulge in many guilty pleasures, (I just can’t resist Ice Cream and French Fries, just not served or eaten together). I got on the scale last week and I expected to read that I had put on a few Kg, but to my surprise, I had only put on 1Kg. That extra Kg, did feel like a lot more. It made me feel bloated, heavy and it really added extra strain on my joints. Now that School is out for the summer, I am seizing this opportunity to do what I did last summer and that is swim and work out daily. For the past 5 days (so far), I have been watching my daily in take and I am pleased to say that I haven’t had a single carbonated drink, juice box, or anything with refined sugar! I am feeling a lot lighter, healthier and energetic. I wake up early in the morning and use the Ab Master that my parents have been using as a laundry rack and the Elliptical Bike which is used as a towel drier. Later in the morning, if the club that I swim at isn’t being used as a venue for an event, I go and swim/exercise in the pool for 3-4 hours. Where I do laps, use different boards to strengthen my arms/legs and do some resistant exercises with my Mum. I had expected to be out of shape and back at square one again, where I could barly do 2 laps without gasping for air, but my exercising throughout the year, has helped. I was able to do 10 laps none stop, before I took a break. A big improvement from last year! I am hoping that by keeping this up for the next 3 weeks, I will be trimmer as well as toned before leaving to go on my summer holiday to England and Ireland to visit my family and attend a cousin’s wedding.
August 11th 2012; From June 23rd- July 16th I kissed soft drinks goodbye and took up drinking water like my life depended on it. I have only had 2 soft drinks since then because I had an upset stomach. I can honestly tell you that it does make a world of difference. I feel the difference in my skin as well as my body. For food, I would eat healthy and regularly and not eat passed 8pm. For exercise, I needed to intensify it to make up for the months I had fallen off the wagon, so I put myself through my own self inflicted boot camp. I would wake up early and do several sets of crunches, sit ups, jumping jacks and use the toning elasticized bands and get on the elliptical bike for at least one hour. Then I would go to the pool for 2-3 hours almost daily. I was pleased to see that I hadn’t lost all the strength and stamina I had gained the previous summer, but I wasn’t able to complete 100 laps at the get go either. I kept pushing myself like this until my mother and I were due to leave on vacation. By the time I left, I could see traces of the ‘old’ me in the mirror, my waist line was shrinking, my arms were getting toned and my stomach was getting flatter and my appetite for junk food and sweet treats was also diminishing. I have to admit that I was worried that I would pile it all back on again while I was away, but to my surprise I was quite sensible in my food choices. I made a conscience effort to make sure I drank water, ate decent sized portions of vegetables and fruit and I didn’t feel bloated when I got back. I didn’t ‘exercise’ but I did do a lot of walking in London and in Ireland. While I was away I summoned enough courage to get up on to a scale that tells you not only your weight but how much body fat you have. I am happy to say that i am now down to 40% body fat and I have 13 Kilos to lose to reach my ideal weight! (this will be the hardest to lose, but I will by hook or by crook, within this year or the next!)
Having returned, I can’t seem to get the momentum going, the temperature is not encouraging and they have heated the pool! (Don’t ask! I’m still trying to figure out why ANYONE would heat the pool in August in Egypt! It is a conundrum, that I can not fathom!) The heated pool makes me feel heavier and really knocks the breath out of me. I can’t do two laps without panting. The water is supposed to help cool your body down, but this does the complete opposite, it overheats it. The temperature outside of the pool is cooler than being in the water! I have 3 wedding to go to in the next 4 weeks, so I am being very tough on myself. I have come a long way from where I began and I don’t want to roll backwards. When I’m back at work, I think that I will go back to self-defense classes as well as re-learn how to Salsa and take up a form of Yoga, once I have been to an Orthapedic Surgeon to make sure the pains that I have been getting in my hip and feet are nothing to worry about. As always, I will keep you posted on my progress, till then; Drop it like it’s hot!
My before and after pictures thus far…
- October 21st 2011 dressed for a friend’s wedding