And so, the IQS 8-week program has officially come to an end. :'( *blub blub*
It hasn’t stopped me from whipping up Easy Gado Gado for dinner tonight, nor treating myself to a Zucchini Brownie for afternoon tea. Yes, it seems that 48 hours post-program, I have stuck with sugar-free, despite being technically “off the hook” now.
And why is that? Well, I can promise you that it’s not out of a sense of guilt or emotionally driven obligation to continue.
It’s simply because the food tastes good, is good for me and makes me feel good.
WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING
Week 7 was amazing! Feeling overjoyed to be settled back at home with access to my kitchen and fresh produce, I got off to an enthusiastic start, going so far as to do my Sunday Cook-Up on Saturday. I began with Breakfast Beans. Well, let’s just say it’ll be hard to go back to the tinned variety should it come to that, some sad day! I had to substitute sweet potato for out-of-season pumpkin, but the results were still lovely.
I had some IQS Sugar-Free ANZAC Biscuits leftover from a fun run picnic we attended, so came up with Mini IQS-style Parfaits, using layers of crushed biscuits, Greek yogurt, berries, raw cacao nibs and the teensiest shaving of 85% dark chocolate.
I was curious about Almond Butter Bark, which is said to be so good that “… even hardened critics will be surprised”. I made some. It was super-easy. It was, indeed, as good as they say. The downside? It is supposed to last a week. No freakin’ way that’s happening in my world. I may have recalibrated, but I haven’t recalibrated that much ;) !
The Vegetarian Laksa wasn’t really laksa in my case, as I could only come across sugar-free red curry paste in our supermarket’s limited Asian section. Surprisingly, the resulting dish was still yummy. In fact, it was one of my husband’s favourite meals of the week.
Somewhere midweek, I invented a sugar-free drink to accompany the yummy IQS dishes; Sparkling Green Iced Tea infused with Mint, Lime and Blueberries and I revisited an old favourite, using leftovers to make Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas. Rather naughtily, I experimented with the Almond Butter Bark recipe, had a few measurement and ingredient mishaps and, by happy accident, came up with a batch of fructose-free Snickers Bites.
Who doesn’t love a pizza to kick off the weekend? The IQS8WP Roasted Vegetable Cauliflower Pizza is clever, surprising and delicious. Roasted vegetable anything is likely to get my vote, but the IQS cauliflower pizza base is a gluten-free, grain-free, Paleo-inspired, nutrition-packed winner.
Week 8 was just as good! Zucchini Brownie baking kick-started the week, and what a way to begin the final chapter of the program! Try these brownies and you’ll be hard pressed to taste the zucchini or note the absence of flour. A remarkable recipe.
Easy Gado Gado lived up to its name and was a quick and simple meal to make. Hard to believe that veggies can pack such a punch flavour wise (though I added some sautéed spring onions, fresh red chilli and extra dressing to mine).
And around this point is where I lost the plot a bit and made a batch of IQS Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I don’t know what I was thinking (well, I was thinking about chocolate, if I am honest!), but this was a weird baking-frenzy induced tangent and NOT an official part of the program.
I finally had the opportunity to make the Kale, Sweet Potato and Feta Frittata that my fellow program participants have been raving about and, yes, this recipe is rave worthy. Seriously a stellar dish and truly one of my favourites of the entire program.
As the weekend approached, the Coconut Fluff Pancake recipe was speaking to me. So I made them a day early, in mini form (so that I could justify making a stack), and topped them with a super-easy version of IQS-style berry jam, fresh raspberries and shaved organic coconut. That sounds pretty delish, no? Well, it certainly was!
Starting to feel genuinely sad about the program ending, I threw myself into making a massive double batch of Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille, which I introduced to L and Cupcake by presenting it on their saturday night “tasting plates”. They were introduced simultaneously to Ratatouille the movie, which was as fascinating to 3 year-old aspiring chef, L, as I predicted it would be :) .
Leftover Coconut Fluff Pancakes called for a new and exciting topping. I spied a frying pan, some nuts and a jar of rice malt syrup within centimetres of each other and 5 minutes later, my Toffee-Nut Clusters were born. Coconut Greek Yogurt was the perfect accompaniment. And on Sunday night, leftover Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille became Ratatouille Toasties with feta. O. M. G. Hashtag getinmybelly.
… And thus, the fabulous program ended on a fittingly high note, food wise.
HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING
Week 7 came and I continued to ride the wave of enthusiasm I caught in Week 6. I felt energised, not only by the food I was eating and my renewed commitment, but also the physical exercise I did each day (except for Sunday, which I “took off”). My skin was still crazy from the wagon fall of Week 6, but water, exercise and clean eating were “fixing me”… I could feel it. The food I was eating was keeping me full, energised and satisfied, despite me upping the amount/intensity of physical exercise in my day. I was sleeping better and not relying on coffee the way I was while traveling.
I tried both levels 1 and 2 of the 30 Day Shred and continued to Gabby Berstein‘s 40-day, 9 minute Liberation Kriya challenge. Still wasn’t sure what the Liberation Kriya experience was supposed to feel like or even supposed to achieve, but continued to be “called” to keep going. Felt like I was well and truly back on track in terms of the IQS8WP, and in general.
Week 8 began with my husband taking a day off work so that we could enjoy a “date day” at a day spa together (this hasn’t happened since I-don’t-know-when). I have to give Sturebadet Haga a little plug here. Could there be a more idyllic yet convenient setting for a day spa than the green oasis on the edge of Stockholm that is Haga Parken? We signed up for the “run in the park” with a personal trainer and, wow, it kicked my butt (in a good way). The PT seemed to think that I’d manage the Stockholm Half-Marathon (that’s the one I am signed up for in September that I have been NOT training for :P ). We ate a picnic lunch by the lake of Easy Gado Gado and Zuchini Brownies, swam in the lovely indoor pool, used the sauna and showered off with the gorgeous Maria Åkerberg*** organic spa products that are available to use there at no charge.
Although I had every intention of doing the 30 Day Shred, my intuition kept telling me to do yoga. So I listened and did different yoga programs (all between 20-40 minutes only per day) throughout the week. Then on Sunday I had the crazy notion to attempt a 16 kilometre run, something I have never done before. It turns out that the voice of intuition whispering “yoga” to me, was doing so for a reason. Pulled. Thigh. Muscle. Ouch. Sensibly walked home after 5km. It was a gorgeous walk, and worth the run if only for the experience of rediscovering a couple of outdoor gyms along the trail and seeing the
South best side of Stockholm in the gorgeous morning light… the lake perfectly calm and still, a hare sitting on the path in front of me, a family of ducks sleeping on a tiny beach…
I arrived home. And did yoga :P .
My skin will probably not completely recover fully during this cycle from the rush of sugar and crazy post-nursing hormones experienced back when it began in Week 6. Knowing how my hormones operate, it’s downhill again from here until next cycle. At least I know to avoid sugar at all costs this time around. And I am thinking of cutting out dairy too to see if it helps (which shouldn’t be too challenging as coconut and almond milk are my staples). Other than that minor issue, I feel pretty darn great right now!
WHAT I LOVED
All the things mentioned in my previous posts still stand, but my feelings have amplified.
In short, I have adored…
- the routine
- the interaction with other IQS-ers
- the cooking and experimenting
- feeling connected to my body and what it needs more intensely than at any other time in my life (except when I have been pregnant)
- being clear enough to be able to hear/recognise/act upon the wisdom of my inner voice
- dreaming (literally) about creating food… I am a kitchen dork, so this is fun for me ;)
- the intense inspiration to create (both inside and outside of the kitchen)
- feeling better and generally unbloated
- treating myself with kindness and giving my body what it deserves
- being naturally drawn to the things and people who I know I am meant to encounter right now… and recognising it!
- the knock-on effects of all the positive change that comes about through committing to an act of self-love, such as this
- having the energy to get back into regular exercise
- feeling creative and having the motivation to act on the impulses of inspiration
- meeting some pretty awesome and inspiring people on this journey
- the food, the food, the food
As I entered the home stretch of the IQS 8-week program, I became rather reflective. I thought about this blog and how it has evolved into some kid of haphazardly organic chronicle of reviews and results of various challenges** and projects*** I have taken up since its inception, all of which have enriched and bettered my life in some way.
I am continually spurred on by generous support/inspiration from others and by the surprisingly lovely results, insights, memories and occasions that have resulted from 3 years of just saying “yes” to new things, trusting my intuition and following through with commitments to myself (big and small). I feel inspired to continue exploring, keep connecting with like-minded individuals and to go on enjoying the journey, no matter where it takes me.
Anyhoo, at the tail end of the program, I felt a little lost without a Sunday Cook-Up agenda to refer to. Then realised I had all the ingredients necessary to knock-up a quick Gado Gado for dinner the following day… plus leftover Coconut Fluff Pancakes, Ratatouille and Zucchini Brownies in the fridge… and a large stash of cooked quinoa, black beans and sweet potato in the freezer. Yes, eating real food requires lots of preparation, but doing it IQS-style in an organised, orderly manner, means you’ll always have good food ready to go at home.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this latest health and wellbeing journey; bloggers, fellow program participants, Sarah Wilson and the fab IQS team, and anyone who has stopped by here or my Instagram account and left lovely comments.
I am sorry I have been so slack staying in touch recently. The kiddies have started at nursery school this week (wah! My little Cupcake is growing up so fast!) and I can now attempt to be around here more often.
<3 MM xx
** UPDATE! I have some pretty exciting news to share in my next post and, yes, it is IQS-related :D **
*The same brand I used when I was pregnant with L <3 . The smell of lavender oil can still make me teary to this day!
**SOME OF THE CHALLENGES I HAVE COMPLETED:
- NEW YEAR = NEW HOME (clearing clutter & creating lovely spaces DIY-style)
- NEW YEAR = NEW HOME, PART 2 (clearing clutter & creating lovely spaces DIY-style)
- OPRAH & DEEPAK 21-DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE (Perfect Health- my experiences)
- OPRAH & DEEPAK 21-DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE (Perfect Health- my experiences, part 2)
- THE CHOPRA CENTER 21-DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE (Creating Abundance- my experiences)
- THE CHOPRA CENTER 21-DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE (Creating Abundance- my experiences, part 2)
- THE CHOPRA CENTER 21-DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE (Creating Abundance- my experiences, part 3)
- A VIRTUAL DINNER PARTY (AKA just for the fun of it!)
AND, OF COURSE:
- I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PROGRAM (weeks 1 & 2 in review)
- I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PROGRAM (weeks 3 to 6 in review)
***SOME OF THE PROJECTS I HAVE UNDERTAKEN:
- CUPCAKE FOR CHARITY (AKA an exercise in gratitude & giving)
- CUPCAKE FOR CHARITY, PART 3 (AKA a time for giving)
- DIY VISUALISATION MOOD BOARD JUST IN TIME FOR 2013 (AKA visualise your way to a wonderful year!)
- PROJECT PINTEREST (2 editions in 1!)
- POSSIBLY THE EASIEST PUMPKIN CARVING TEMPLATE IN THE WORLD (FREE for download here!)