Last week was my second week in Marrakech and while I really enjoyed the food there, there is no doubt that sticking to healthy eating habits in a foreign country is always a bit more challenging (at least it is for me!).
For those who asked me if I had any gluten-free places to recommend in Marrakech, I’m afraid I don’t but to be honest, moroccan food is very vegetables based so if you stay away from those delicious pancakes, bread and pastry, you can have some deliciously tasty tajines and salads.
I’m not big on pastry so I stayed away from those and Morocco being a muslim country, drinking wine was a very rare occasion. However, sugar was a bit of an issue…
At first, I really enjoyed drinking mint tea in the souk with the various vendors I was chatting to, then I realised that they were adding quite a lot of sugars in it. By the second week, my body was really struggling to process all this sugar and I finish the week back on black Earl Grey tea.
I had pancakes every morning for breakfast and a few slices of bread at lunch now and then (similar to pitta bread) but I didn’t get bloated a single time. I did feel full-up though and very often, we all felt like not eating in the evening.
I start the day with two glasses of lukewarm water, a yaourt, some grapes and two pancakes with honey. Mint tea is served with added sugar.
Lunch is a chicken burger in pitta bread mixed with guacamole and curry at the Café des Epices+ water. It was delicious and filing.
Diner: I’m not really hungry have just 3 pieces of coconut we bought from the market.
I start the day with 3 glasses of lukewarm water to get my system going and then have a yaourt, a small banana and two pancakes with honey. Mint tea is served with sugar
Lunch takes place at La Famille, a vegetarian restaurant that is fast-becoming my canteen. I have a delicious salad with bulgur, avocado, peanuts, cottage cheese, mandarines and Mila and I had un fondant au chocolat. I feel I have eaten too much and napped for two hours afterwards. My body doesn’t seem to agree with the bulgur.
Breakfast is the same: yogurt, grapes and a couple of pancakes with mint tea
At lunch time, we go to see my friend Lau who makes a delicious, fresh salad with tomatoes, avocados, nuts and rice + grilled marinated turkey and a bit of Moroccan bread.
I still feel too full at diner time and have just a few grilled almond nuts.
Breakfast is 2 French pancakes, a yogurt and an Earl Grey tea instead of mint (I can’t really feel that my body can no longer cope with the amount of sugar there is in min tea wherever I go).
We go to the house of Designer Valerie Barkowski for lunch who makes us a feast out of vegetables from her garden. Starters is made of aubergine cavia (which I promise myself to make once back at home), tomatoes, green salad and roasted pepppers. Then she serves us the most amazing tajine of chicken with quinces and apple tart for desert.
Diner: none of us feel really angry in the evening and we have just a few grilled almonds bought from the market.
Breakfast was a couple of Moroccan pancakes, 1 yaourt, some fruits and an Earl grey tea before setting off for a day in the desert to ride camels (which was awesome!).
At lunch time, we have grilled turkey with lots of vegetables: carrots, aubergines, tomatoes and a fruit salad (that I don’t eat).
Diner time is a nice tajines of beef with dried prunes and a few peanuts (no bread).
I go to the Souk early to pay for the two benches I ordered and then have 1 French pancake, 1 prune and some Earl Grey for breakfast.
As this is our last day in Marrakech, we go back to La Famille where I have fresh raviolis filled with with pea mash and cheese (amazing!). I’ll try to do a gluten-free version at home.
Diner in the plane is a box of mezze with houmous and a few crackers.
Back in France with an empty fridge and shops closed, I have some old brioche full of gluten and sugar.
Lunch is a bacon & egg pie made by Steve and diner is two bowls of vegetable soup my mum made for us and some basmati rice.
I start the day with a glass of lukewarm water and thank my chicken for providing me with fresh eggs so I can have two poached eggs with basmati rice.
At lunch, I have grilled duck with potatoes and have again a bowl of basmati rice and vegetables soup in the evening.
CONCLUSIONS: If I wasn’t too sure before, now I’m absolutely convinced that whatever I eat, has a positive or negative impact on my mood but also my energy level. I feel really tired and considering I slept 8 hours each night, this tiredness can only be the result of what I fuelled my body with while on holidays. The good thing is that I go back to my normal, healthy habits very quickly and find that drinking a glass of lukewarm water in the morning and ending the day with plain basmati rice helps me to recover quickly from the excess sugar I drank.
Last week, I forgot to mention that the reason why I had basmati rice most days is because I make a big batch on Monday for the whole week. This saves me a lot of time. Same with eggs… if I boil 2 poached eggs (3 min), I will add 2 extra eggs to hard boil (10 min) to have later on as snack.
I had a massive headache on Monday afternoon from 3pm until 7pm when I eventually took a pain killer. I looked again at what I ate that day and it was just unprocessed, whole foods, fruits & vegetable and proteins. I also drank my daily 1.5Lt water so the headache could not have come from dehydration. However, it’s interesting to know that signs and symptoms of food intolerance can occur up to 72 hours after a trigger food.
So I will need to watch this out to see if this is a recurrent symptom or a one-off.
I make a small batch of quinoa to cover my meal for the next couple of days as I’m off to Spain. Headache is gone. I start the day with a glass of lukewarm water and my body asks for a second one.
My sister calls me and tells me that a very good friend of us died in a car accident. I fall apart and cry all day.
I wake up feeling really sad and know that I’m going to have be extremely gentle to myself to go through this. I drink 2 glasses of lukewarm water and make a pot of organic detox green tea.
I have a shower, gently massage my body with oil and have green beans, quinoa, poached eggs and linseed for breakfast and then head to my appointment with the Nutritionist.
Lunch: as I’m off to Barcelona this afternoon, I pick up Mila from school and we go for a girls’ lunch. I have thai rice with beef but I can count the pieces of beef on one hand. Rice is filling.
Diner: at the hotel, I ordered a vegetable creamy soup (fibers) and a tuna tartare (proteins). Both are delicious.
Rough night. I start the day gently with 2 cups of lukewarm water, probiotics and order breakfast: cheese & ham omelette, natural yogurt, fruits and gluten-free bread. I eat the omelette, the yogurt and some grapes and feel full enough to keep the rest of the fruits for later on today. Not remotely interested in the bread (which is a first). My stomach is doing fine.
Breakfast: I ordered grapes, 2 poached eggs & a piece of GF bread and ham. I only have time to eat the ham and take the grapes with me in the bus on my way to the conference. At the next break, I have 2 mini chocolate croissants hoping I can get away with it.
NOPE! My gut reacts badly to it, bloating, breathing issues, stomachache, the whole lot…I try to remain calm to avoid getting more stressed out about it.
At lunch, I have a bit of risotto and head to the airport at 4pm.
Diner is a bit of a fiasco. I only have time to eat a small sandwich in the plane which I know won’t go down well and ordered a small bottle of wine, drink 2 glasses of wine and fall asleep. The flight is delayed and I finally reach home at 1am totally exhausted.
After sleeping 7 hours, I woke feeling still very tired and spaced out. I take all my vitamins, magnesium etc and start the day with a good healthy breakfast: 70g mache + 2 poached eggs + 50g quinoa + 1 large spoon of colza oil.
At lunch I have organic minced meat and 200g cream spinach and then head to the airport.
I arrive in Marrakech at 8pm and have 2 boiled eggs and some basmati rice which I had packed and a chocolate soja desert.
First breakfast in Marrakech. I start the day with a glass of lukewarm water and then have a banana. I tried one of their pancakes with a bit of honey, which is very nice but leave the rest to my mum and have instead her banana. Two small bananas for breakfast is not ideal but still better than bread or pancakes GF wise.
Lunch: After an enjoyable morning in the Souk, I have a vegetable tajine (courgettes, carrots, potatoes and chicken) which is very nice. I’m not drinking my usual 1.5 Lt of water.
Diner is a delicious chicken burger in pitta bread mixed with guacamole and curry. I don’t feel bloated but it felt like a big meal. I’m happily surprised how good the food is here. Will aim to have less bread and more fruits and vege next week.
My friend’s funerals are today which ironically is also the day dad died. Mum keeps talking to me, I want to be quiet.
Breakfast: I have some yogurt, some pitta bread with honey
Lunch is a burger with half a bun and a pancake with honey
I meet my friends for diner and I have one Mojito, some beef tajines with figs and vegetables (delicious)
CONCLUSIONS:A really strange week spent in 3 different countries with highs and lows. I can’t even say if it has been good or bad, I feel I just went through it on autopilot.
I have decided to reduce my consumption of refined sugars* (biscuits, brown/white sugar, cakes, sweets) and gluten and will share my food plan for a month. However, I’m not cutting sugars or carbs out of my diet. I will get sugar from natural sources like fruits and I will replace pasta and bread by rice, quinoa and occasionally gluten-free pasta. I’m not eating sugar-free, low-calorie food either which are packed with chemicals and salt.
As you may know, I have made several lifestyle changes over the years. I stopped eating ready meals packed with hidden sugars years ago, given up drinking my daily coke zero in 2013 and replaced processed food by whole foods (80% being organic).
All these changes had a positive impact on my skin and well-being.
Refined sugar are known to cause inflammation in our body which in turn leads to depression. Reducing my refined sugar intake means that I haven’t suffered from seasonal affective disorder for the past three years and I have moved on from the depression that hit me in 2013.
However, I still get inflammation. I don’t get bloated as much as I used to looking like a 9-month pregnant woman but it is still very distressful and probably why I’m not losing weight.
I no longer read magazines filled with articles about the latest weight loss program. It depresses me…
At 47, my body is not responding to all these promises of losing 3 to 5 kgs in two weeks no matter what I eat and I can’t bring myself to have rice cakes and a bowl of fromage frais every morning often recommended in those diets.
I don’t want to diet. I want to fine tune what I eat so I understand what is right for me and eventually lose weight.
So this month is about learning to understand and listen to my body. To monitor how it reacts each time I eat something and work out the right quantity for me. This month is about reducing inflammation and heal my gut the gentle way.
Two important things to remember: First, what works for me may not work for you. What is healthy for someone can make things worse for someone with a poor digestive system so this is just a way to share my experience, I’m not giving advices or telling you what to do. Second, I strongly recommend to consult a Nutritionist like I do to ensure you don’t put yourself and your health at risk. So here we go, I hope you will find it interesting and useful…
After being totally wiped out last weekend in Paris, it turns out that my blood pressure is 9 which clearly is too low. It may be the change of season and a lack in iron but whatever it is, I decide to heal myself and get my energy back through food and health supplements.
MONDAY: I’m in the train travelling back from Paris so I plan all my weekly meals in a spreadsheet to make sure I have proteins at each meal, 5 vegetables and fruits/day including greens rich in iron, red meat twice a week, fish or seafood 4 times/week (Omega 3).
I kick off the day with a big breakfast: 65g basmati rice, 2 poached eggs, olive oil, turmeric (which is anti-inflammatory) and lamb salad and wash down the whole thing with a teapot of green tea. I feel a bit bloated but nothing major.
At lunch, I get organic minced beef + cooked spinach with cream (from frozen) + turmeric. Everything tastes delicious. I make sure I also eat very slowly (20 min) to ensure my brain register that I have eaten enough.
Portions control is really one thing I need to master since I have been eating for 3 since I got pregnant. After 20 boring, tedious minutes I have finished my meal and don’t feel like eating more (job done!)
I feel tired in the afternoon and snacked on grapes (161g) and a piece of gruyere (30g). Once thing I got from my consultation with the FODMAP Nutritionist is that I’m allowed fruits but small amounts each time to enable my system to digest sugar easily. 161g is already too much…
Tuesday is date night so Steve and I go for oysters (super low in calories and very rich in iron). I resist the glass of wine and have a small slice of bread (improvement on the usual half a baguette).
Keen to pack up on the omega 3, I decide to start breakfast with a tin of cod liver on rice cakes. Just the thought of eating this for breakfast makes me queasy but I press forward. Talking of gut feelings, my stomach doesn’t like this at all. Cod liver in the afternoon as a snack is fine but for breakfast, it’s not an experience to repeat (lesson learnt!)
My stomach makes a lot of noise, he is not happy!
In order to settle it, I have a bowl of basmati rice (80g) and a slice of ham at lunch time and snack later on grapes (this time 136g) and 2 pieces of gruyere.
My sister has been eating light dinners for month (either a soup or a bowl of rice) and keep praising the positive changes to her gut so I decide to give it a go.
In the evening, I have a bowl of homemade soup I made earlier with a bit of Spirulina then a slice of ham. I hate the taste of Spirulina but in the soup, it’s OK. I go to bed feeling like I have been punished and I’m going to starve which is hardly the case!
After postponing 4 days in a row, I have finally enough energy to go for a 5K run with Steve (energy level is going up!). I treat myself to a big breakfast with 100g basmati rice, 2 poached eggs, 1 slice of ham and just 14g of avocado because my gut can’t process more than 1/4 at each time. I feel very bloated (and frustrated) afterwards given I ate slowly in 20 minutes!
Ok I ate while reading which I shouldn’t have done so another lesson learnt, I really can’t cut any flipping corners! I also think that drinking a teapot of green tea at breakfast is not helping and decide on a different strategy for the next day.
At lunch, I make myself a courgette with grated cheese cooked in coconut olive oil and turmeric. It’s incredibly delicious, healthy, takes 5 min and makes me happy. Need more of these short, yummy recipes.
Snack: I steal a pack of Mila’s chocolate biscuits (twice!) and add them to my spreadsheet in red. Cheat days are allowed and this is one of them. I’m not going to beat myself up. I will just be accountable.
To calm down my stomach, I have a bowl of homemade soup and some basmati rice in the evening. I’m starting to make peace with my bowl of rice and looking at it as a good thing rather than a punition (a positive outlook is key).
I get up and have a glass of lukewarm water, my probiotic, vitamins etc and a bit of green tea and wait for my body to wake up and be ready for breakfast. This takes me to the bathroom (I will spare you the details) but I feel like a weight has dropped off my stomach and at 9am, my body finally tells me he is hungry (yeah!!).
I go for my favourite breakfast: 2 poached eggs, olive oil, basmati rice, grounded linseed, eat slowly and halle-flipping-lullia! I don’t get bloated. Writing down what I eat, how I feel and listening to my body is paying off… (small dance victory)
At lunch, I don’t change a winning team and have organic beef and spinach.
I feel extremely tired in the afternoon with massive sugar cravings and have a nectarine, a piece of cheese, grapes (80g) and 2 homemade pancakes (which goes as cheat meal).
At dinner time, I have gluten-free pasta (180g which was too much), a slice of ham, a bit of creme fraiche and a bowl of vegetable soup.
If my gut could talk, they would say WTF woman!? Ok yes it was too much pasta…I go to bed at 7.30pm to watch Netflix and fall asleep at 9.30pm.
I woke up at 5.30am feeling lighter. Once again, I wait for my body to wake up before having breakfast and it pays off: I don’t get bloated (I’m onto something here!).
Steve and Mila eat lunch at twelve. I really don’t feel like eating but know I will be starving in an hour so I prepare something to take-away: some vegetable soup in a thermos, basmati rice (51g) and ham in a box and 2 boiled eggs. I eat my lunch very slowly looking at the waves while Mila is surfing. It’s a nice day and I really enjoy drinking my soup on the beach.
Back from surfing, I snack on grapes and for dinner, I have 4 rice cakes with hummus and strawberries I had bought from the market with vanilla yaourt. It feels like food porn….Everything tastes delicious and tasty.
Breakfast: I eat organic smoked salmon to achieve my 3rd fish intake of the week + 2 poached eggs + basmati rice + lamb salad. It was very nice.
We take Mila to her skate lesson and then head to the food market for lunch where I have prawns and a tuna tartare (4th intake: goals achieved) before heading to our surf lesson.
Surfing was great and I don’t feel weak or tired afterwards. However I do feel like eating a lot but settled for a bowl of strawberry and vanilla yogurt which was, once again, delicious. I was quite pleased with my healthy short-lived choice until Mila sits next to me to eat Oreo.
I resist a split second and take 2 of them from the pack…
For a good 5 minutes, I think about not including them on my spreadsheet but decide against it on the basis that 1) no-one excepts myself gives a damn about how many Oreo I eat, 2) I stopped at two instead of stuffing myself with the whole pack which is a major improvement, 3) my sugar intake has been a lot less this week than usually so I can only hope to get better at it next week.
Dinner: Steve starts making pasta carbonara but as I ran out of gluten-free pasta, I have a bowl of vegetable soup and rice basmati + ham. Steve adds a bit of bacon and creme fraiche to my bowl and suddenly it tastes like heaven!
Breakfast: following Friday’s success, I drink a glass of lukewarm of water, a teapot of green tea and wait for my internal engine to get going. After a visit to the bathroom, my body tells me it’s hungry. It’s 9am again and it looks like this is the right time for me to have breakfast rather than my usual 7am.
I eat my organic salmon very slowly enjoying each mouth because organic salmon is flipping expensive + basmati rice, + 2 poached eggs and lamb salad. After 18 minutes, I feel full and not bloated (I could cry of relief!).
Lunch: I use the last courgette in the fridge which I cook in a frying pan with coconut oil and add turmeric and grated cheese. No ham left so I have an organic frozen burger to stock up on iron and prepare my body for a run tomorrow am.
I snack on a nectarine, drink my usual 1.5Lt throughout the day and have grapes an hour later
Dinner: Unfortunately, I ran out of my homemade vegetable soup and won’t make another batch because I’m off to Barcelona on Wednesday and Marrakech on Saturday. Instead I have a bowl from pumpkin soup from Knorr without conservatives and a bowl of strawberries with vanilla yogurt (life tastes good!).
CONCLUSIONS: I think it was a good week as I found out that the best time for me to have breakfast is 9am and not 7am and eating slower has a positive impact on portion control. Not once I felt I was starving. I have enjoyed all the food I’ve eaten except the cod liver for breakfast and my energy level is up.
I had no alcohol this week which I didn’t miss and no major sugar cravings except on Friday so I will need to make sure I need enough sugar from fruits throughout the week. I failed to resist biscuits and pancakes three times this week but I’m still pleased with myself. I haven’t weighted myself but the two trousers I had in Paris last week, feel already looser. I decide to use my clothes as a way of monitoring my weight loss rather than the scales.