Chocolate Tart, what a beauty.

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I logged in to the blog yesterday after a really long act of disappearance. I come back with a few strands of white hair in my temples, I blame my job which is the same reason why I haven’t been around for a while. Loving what you do can make you overdo it at times. Taking advantage of the holiday period, I want to update you on what I have been up to in life and in the kitchen. I bring you, a delish chocolate tart that can be made in advance and it is perfect as desert for these busy holidays.

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Also I want to say hi to Simon, who sent me a super sweet hello yesterday after I had a look at what you guys had been up to. It is great to know that I have been missed a little bit 🙂

I have trying different photographic styles for my photography lately. If you have followed the blog until now it has mainly been a full of light, white background fest. I work with natural light, so getting moody, contrasted images is sometimes a bit of a challenge, so I hope you like these.

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For this cake, which can be made in advance and kept frozen, you need to make some choices before you start.

The base can be made in two different ways, either a pastry dough or with a mix of almond meal and coconut flour. The first one is a little bit more time consuming and the second one is a little bit more difficult to work with due to it being more crumbly but it is healthier. If you want the second version, you can use the base of the cheesecake i published a while ago, here today, i will leave the time consuming version which is a little different.

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Ingredients (serves 8)

85g unsalted butter or coconut oil

2 tbsp coconut sugar

1 medium free-range egg yolks

2 tbsp ice cold water

125g wholegrain spelt flour

For the filling

250g sugar free chocolate, broken into smaller pieces

2 free-range eggs

100ml non dairy milk

175ml double cream

Method

To make the pastry. Mix the butter and the flour in a food processor until it looks like a crumble. Beat up the egg with the sugar and water and add to the flour/butter mixture. Pour into a surface and work into a dough. Make a ball and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

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Place the cream and the milk in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Add the chocolate chunks and stir with a whisker until completely combined.

Take the dough and work it into a thin round shape, line the pastry case with the dough cover with aluminium foil and fill with ceramic beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and the beans and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Leave to cool in the tin.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Pour onto the chocolate mixture and quickly whisk together. Pass through a sieve while you pour into the cold pastry case.

Bake for 15 minutes in an oven at 180C and then leave in the over for a further 45  minutes. Then take out and cool.

If you prefer a shiny top layer, you can melt more sugar free chocolate and when the tart is cold, pour and spread. To decorate, make a circle with sliced pistachios and rose petals.

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Lean Sunday Roast

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One of the most important barriers when taking control of one’s diet, is the excuses to one self that come from absolutely rightful issues. My favourite of all times is the lack of time one.

Lack of time is actually a fallacy, we all have 24h in the day, the only difference is how do we make our use of them, which is generally according to our priorities.

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When you have kids, the time seems to disappear between your fingers and the things that suffer the most are generally your own wellbeing and more and more in our society, the home cooking.

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There is simply no time for it. This is a mistake because our children are learning what we are teaching them as parents, if we do not cook at home and we don’t take care of our diets, they will learn the same patterns and they will grow up to be individuals with really bad habits.

 

Today I want to share a recipe that will allow you to both, home cook and teach your children some good nutrition basics, and also will enable you to get easy access to a healthy lunches during the week, even if you don’t have kids, this is the foundation of food prepping.

It is as simple as cooking extra. Are 2 at home? 4?? Then cook twice as much and simply pack away the extra portions in neat Tupperware in the fridge. On Sunday I generally cook my lunch and breakfast for Monday to Thursday and on Thursday eve, I cook extra and make another portion for Friday.

 

Today’s super easy recipe is a Lean Sunday Roast.

The particularities of this roast versus the one served at the pub is that this one doesn’t contain simple carbs, so we will not have the traditional gravy, but a lower fat and carb alternative, and we will also be skipping the potatoes in favour of some celeriac root. With regards to the Yorkshire pudding, I skip them altogether, but you can bake your own using wholegrain spelt flour, however, if you have enough veggies and roast, you won’t actually need it, it will just make your digestion heavier and you will end up feeling bloated!

 

Ingredients:

1 lean cut of beef to roast (1.5 kg would feed 4 and 4 portions would be leftovers)

3 peppers of different colours

4 onions peeled and cut in rings

1 courgette/zucchini

1 aubergine

2 carrots

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ a celeriac root

Fresh rosemary

½ a glass of white wine

Salt & pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Pre heat the oven at 180C and in a big oven tray, set all the chopped vegetables. Chop them in medium chunks trying to end up with similar size pieces so they cook evenly. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary and sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and some water.

Rub the piece of meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, set in a tray or directly on top of the vegetables and roast for about 45 minutes depending on the size of the piece.

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Bear in mind that all the juices of the vegetables and the meat will be in the tray so you can recover them from the parchment. In order to make the gravy, take a piece of the roasted courgette and a piece of the celeriac and mash them with the sauce so it becomes a bit thicker. Add more salt to it if needed and serve with the meat.

 

Serve a good portion of roasted vegetables and 2 or 3 thin slices of meat.

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For the rest of the week: boil some lentils and in a Tupperware divide the remaining meat and vegetables and complement with one or two tablespoons of boiled lentils and you will have a full size meal, with lots of protein, low in fat and in simple carbs that will keep you up all afternoon.

Happy week dieters.

Chicken & Quinoa Superfood Stir Fry

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Today I would like to talk about “food prep” which is a widely known concept in the bodybuilding community and it is not a new concept at all, but a modern way of calling the good “lunch box” that most have taken to school at some point or another.

It does take a bit of planning and effort to start doing it, but the benefits are many.

I know that there is an endless supply of possibilities to grab lunch for most of us, since canteens, take always and local delis abound and it is just too tempting to skip the hassle and just buy something off the shelves. While this is all well and good, eating like that every single way of the week can be taxing. Even if you are the person with the best intentions in the world, there are only so many healthy alternatives one can choose from, and the chances of ending up having a white bread sandwich or a BTL are just too big.

Even if you think you are going for a healthy alternative, you might be stepping into the dangers of not knowing how this particular food has been cooked.

For example, if a salad get added a sugary dressing, all the goodness of it might be compromised, and believe me, do yourselves a favour and read the ingredients of the labels to really be aware of what they are selling you as a “light” alternative, because most of the time, the reduced fat alternatives are loaded with sugars that are actually worse than the original oil content.

A simple olive oil, vinegar and salt dressing, is the best alternative if you can find it.

Same thing can be said for the fat content in two ways, the first one and more obvious is the sauces. A Thai curry sauce adds a huge amount of fat and carbohydrates to a meal and you may be thinking that what you are eating is “rice and chicken” when effectively there are about 300 calories of sugar and fat that you hadn’t taken into consideration, same goes for sweet wine reductions, caramelized things and satay sauces, but the list is truly long. The second is the way in which foods are cooked. Anything that has a coating, and has been fried is an obvious no go, doesn’t matter how light the coating may look to you, it adds a few undesirable grams of fat to your meal. Even if you are trying to control your weight, this additional fat constitutes a risk because in most cases, restaurants do not use extra virgin olive oil or other healthy fats, but cheaper alternatives that can affect your cholesterol and jeopardize your arteries and heart.

In a nutshell, whether or not you are trying to lose weight, a homemade meal is almost always a better alternative to a store bought one.

Later on this week I will be giving tips on what and how to prepare your food without too much hassle at all, with just a few easy tricks you will be able to improve the quality of your nutrition, save some money and maybe even loose a few pounds.

Today I would like to share with you a Chicken and Quinoa Stir fry, it is one of my favorite options to bring to the office because it contains everything that my body requires, it fills you up with slow releasing energy, with healthy fats, tons of protein and low GI carbs. Low fat, low carb, high protein, unprocessed and very high in fiber. What is there not to love!

Ingredients (serves 3)

450 grams of chicken breast

120 gr. Of quinoa

½ red pepper

½ green pepper

½ yellow pepper

1 red onion

3 mini bok choy

A bunch of green asparagus

A handful of snow peas

2 handfuls of Kale

5 fresh coriander stalks

1 red chili

1 green chili

1 tsp. of mustard seeds

1 tbs. crushed garlic

A little sesame oil

I have prepared a visual guide on how to add the ingredients but it is so easy that you may not actually need it.

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First boil the quinoa in water with a touch of salt, follow the packaging instructions but it should normally take 16 minutes at low heat (to keep simmering).

Once the quinoa is ready, chop all the ingredients (check picture) and heat up a little bit of sesame oil in a wok. Add fist the garlic, then the seeded mustard and then the chicken. Allow the chicken to get a bit golden and then add the rest of the vegetables except the bok choy and kale, that will be added at the end.

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Once all the veggies have been incorporated add the soy sauce, mix well to allow the flavours to mix and add the quinoa. Finally sprinkle with the juice of a lime.

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Enjoy!

The Perfect Roast Chicken (For dummies)

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It is funny how the most basic recipes are the ones that have a million variations and everyone considers theirs the best, still, it is rare to be served a perfectly roast chicken. One that is golden and crunchy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.

Whole roast chicken is easy to undercook and be raw inside (disgusting and unsafe, since chicken meat has to be cooked, it is not like red meat) or overcooked, in which case it is dry a day in the dessert with no water.

It is flavorful on its own, but it does greatly improve if seasoned properly. It accepts many types of marinade, from indian curries to piri piri but the one that bring out the best of it without masking its flavour, is the one I am sharing today.

It’s my mother’s recipe, in the years of my life, I have never ever seen anybody eat this dish and not love it, want to have a second serving, asking for the recipe, or all of the above.

From a nutritional point of view, chicken is one of the leanest meats that exist, but chicken skin is very high in fat. For this reason, I would recommend not eating the skin if you are trying to lose weight. If you are not, enjoy it by all means, but bear in mind this is the part of the chicken that has the highest amount of toxins so enjoy with great moderation.

On the other hand it is low carb, as opposed to the traditional gravy, this recipe has a sauce made of white wine so it makes it low GI, and also gluten free.

Before going on to the recipe, bear in mind that the cooking time varies depending on the SIZE of the piece that you are trying to roast and the temperature. I find that the perfect temperature in my oven is 180 degrees but it depends on the machine since it can change from one manufacturer to another, but round around that should be to avoid the chicken from burning and still cook it appropriately.

To give an easy cooking time guide:

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Around 800-900 grams : 1 hour

From 1kg to 1.2 kg : 1 hour and 15 minutes

From 1.3kg to 1.5 kg: 1:30 to 1:40 h

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Ingredients (serves 4)

1 chicken

2 tbsp. of garlic powder or 3 cloves of garlic mashed

1 tbsp. Rosemary

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tbsp. salt

250 ml. of cooking wine (white)

Optional : you can add small baking potatoes if you are cooking for your friends (avoid if you are trying to lose weight, potatoes are pure starch which works like sugar in your blood and will sabotage your efforts by creating a high sugar blood pike and turning your energy to fat to be stored, probably in your hips, tights or wherever you want it less)

Ok so it is time to get our hands dirty! Quite literally as well. Pre heat the over at 180C degrees.

Mix in a little bowl all the dry spices, add the oil and rub your little winged friend until he is completely covered in the mixture. With the rest and if you have decided to add potatoes , you can rub the potatoes, don’t worry about making more for them, the sauce will cover them and they will have plenty of flavour.

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Set the chicken in an oven proof baking tray (with some depth so the wine doesn’t spread and/or fall later on.

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Place the chicken in the middle of the oven with the fan on so the air keeps circulating and let it cook for 30 to 40 minutes and when that side is turning nice and golden turn it around with the help of two spatulas (depending on how much time you have to cook it for, if it’s a small bird turn around after half an hour).

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20 minutes before the time is up, open the over and pour the wine on top of the chicken, let it finish and have a look at it. If you like it really brown and it is not there yet, turn on the grill and give it a 5 minute notch. Bear in mind it is very easy to overdo it with the grill and burn it, so keep an eye on it while you do it.

Serve with salad, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts…

Tip: if you want a lower fat version, pour all the sauce in a bowl, let it cool down in the fridge and remove the drops of fat at the top, then reheat and incorporate.

Gluten Free Wholegrain Lemon Drizzle Cake

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Today post is a bonus post, just like the recipe that I am going to share is a bonus food. You might or might not be familiar with the concept “cheat meal” but this recipe falls under this category.

A cheat meal is one meal a week where you eat whatever you feel like. And I mean whatever, a treat of your choice, a cheeseburger with white bread and bacon and fries with mayo. A pint of Ben & jerry’s ice cream, a bit of both… doesn’t matter. The role of this meal is to “cheat” your body to avoid it from getting used to a) too low calories b) too low fat c) too controlled food intake (as in clean)

It is particularly important in the context of a body building or fitness diet, when the athlete or amateur has a strict calorie or macronutrient diet and eats clean and lean on a constant basis.

Fitness athletes and sports people that compete in body categories follow processes of “bulking” or “cutting” these are first a phase in which you over nourish your body so it creates lean muscle (with specific training for it) and then a “cutting” phase in which you reduce your calorie intake to be at a deficit and reduce your body fat percentage to the desired level (normally between 12 and 16% for women and 4 and 7% for men).

This principle also applies to people on a weight loss journey specially if they have been on a diet or on a calorie restriction for long period of time and their body could simply “adjust” and their weight loss could stop, what is called hitting a plateau.

Having one cheat meal a week will shock your metabolism giving your body the message that he will get big portions, high fat, simple carbs again, and therefore it is absolutely ok to burn some more fat, because there is more food where that came from! It will also impact your mentally, allowing you to have a social life a date, a celebratory meal and not feel like the journey doesn’t allow you to eat anything you crave. Also it can be a great way to replenish the glycogen (what fuels your muscles) on your body in low or extremely low carb diets, and you will work out with a lot of extra strength after it.

If I go out for my cheat meal, I will eat whatever I feel like in the menu, and it is fine, but if I am cooking it at home, I try to add something extra to it, in this case, I tried a new recipe for a Lemon Drizzle cake, which turned out to be delicious. It is a gluten free alternative, not because it is less fattening, because it’s not, but because I used wholegrain rice flour and almond flour, both full of fiber, which is great for your digestive system. The almonds bring a good amount of healthy fat to the mix as well, and I have observed that gluten free cakes usually have a moist and texture that makes them better than their traditional counterparts! I think it’s because of their higher fat content.

So please feel free to enjoy this cake but do it knowing that it is a treat.

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Ingredients:

200 gr. Butter (room temperature)

200 gr. Almond Flour

200 gr. Raw Moscovado Sugar (cane unrefined sugar)

100 gr. Wholegrain Rice Flour

½ tsp. Vanilla extract

1 tsp. Baking powder

3 Eggs

3 lemons

75 gr icing sugar (and 3 tbsp of water)

How to…

Heat up the over to 180C, beat up the sugar with the butter and add the vanilla extract and the eggs. Once this mixture is creamy and uniform, add the rice flour, the baking powder and the almond flour. Add the juice and the zest of one of the lemons and keep the zest and the juice of other two for the drizzle. Pour the mixture into a cake tin (18 to 13 cm diameter), mine is made of silicon so it doesn’t need to be greased but if your is metallic you will need to grease it to avoid it from sticking.

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Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. This cake takes a bit longer than others due to the consistency of the ingredients.

In the meantime, heat up the lemon juice in a saucepan with the water and the icing sugar and let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until it has the consistency of a light syrup.

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Once the cake is ready, let it cool down for 10 minutes and then pinch the surface with a toothpick all over the surface, pour the syrup on to the cake with the help of a spoon so it spreads out evenly. Let the cake sit for around 30 minutes to let the lemon drizzle set through the cake.

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So this cake is a reasonably healthier alternative than the classic version due to the higher fiber, higher protein and good fats (almond) and raw sugar, but it is still a cake, and it is still a treat, so enjoy in moderation as part of a healthy, well balanced diet.

Easy & Light Comfort food Beer Chicken Casserole

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As we slowly but surely approach winter, the days are getting colder and the coats thicker. Covering ourselves a bit more is a tempting occasion to overindulge and let the kilos pile up until next May, when we will peel off the layers and cry. Cry for help! A personal trainer, a fad diet, a electro stimulation machine… ANYTHING will do when the bikini is coming back.

Well this might sound revolutionary to you, but what about instead of pigging out on pumpkin spice lattes and cheese all the way to xmas only to pig out on sweets & treats all the way into new year, we practice a bit of mindful eating? This is as simple as moderating your food on a constant basis. Choose good foods as soon as possible, and have the odd treat when you really feel like it. If 80% of your diet is clean and nutritious the 20% that you let yourself enjoy a few sugary and fatty foods, will have little to none effect on your body!

Of course you want to enjoy delicious food not once or twice a week but all the time! So do I, and so does everybody else! Being nice to yourself and nice to your body means making the right choices but not torturing yourself by denying yourself pleasures and living in misery, but learning to enjoy what healthy food has to offer. I can promise you that there is very little difference in you cook things right.

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe for a casserole, which normally has a questionable reputation as healthy, since traditionally it was cooked with too much oil and came accompanied by potatoes. This recipe is low fat and low carb, with only some veggies to accompany it, and a sauce made of beer.

Don’t be afraid of cooking with alcoholic beverages, once they boil most of their alcohol has evaporated and they have little to no impact on the caloric content on a meal.

Enjoy this lovely pot of comfort food in good company this weekend.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 carrot

1 chicken in pieces

1 beer (33 cl)

1 lemon

Salt & pepper

How to do it…

In a non sticky cooking pot (I keep using my Le Creuset like there is no tomorrow) fry the chicken pieces in no oil at all. Chicken is very high in protein and its meat is very lean, but it does contain a fair amount of fat in the skin. you can remove part or all of the skin before cooking or leave it on. Turn the chicken around so it doesn’t burn too much, basically allowing it toast a bit for 5 to 7 minutes. Take out of the pot and reserve. Bear in mind the chicken will probably have to be done in batches.

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On the same pot, cook the onions, carrot and garlic in medium heat and let them caramelize and become brown. I like to put the salt on them at this point too so they loose the water and cook better. Once this is done, incorporate the chicken back into the pot and mix well. Let it all heat up and then squeeze the juice of one lemon in the pot to deglaze (this means melt the burnt food at the bottom of the pot to incorporate back into the sauce). Stir a couple of times, add a beer and cover with the lid. Let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes on low heat. Open the lid and let cook for another 5 to 10 to reduce the sauce and give it consistency.

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I always recommend this dish the day after it has been prepared, since the flavours will be stronger and better integrated… this is if you can wait of course!

I have served mine here with some Brussels sprouts but any green leafy veggie will do, best with anything within the cabbage family (cauliflower, broccoli…)

Enjoy!

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The Miraculous Delicious Slimming Breakfast

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This is the ultimate slimming breakfast. Some might say that not having breakfast would be even more slimming, for those of you late to join the “how your metabolism works” wagon, this couldn’t be less accurate.

When fasted, your body naturally reduces your energy consumption, this is a survival technique that us humans have developed through evolution to make us as efficient as possible, if the fasting goes for too long, or if the caloric intake is too low for our needs, it also has the nasty habit of going into something called starvation mode which has a very serious way of messing with your weight loss, fat shredding or fitness goals.

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A healthy breakfast kick starts your day filling you up with long lasting energy and giving your body permission to burn energy on a continuous manner.

A breakfast should be composed of good fats, slow carbs (low GI) high in fiber as a good dose of protein.

This beauty today is a take on a traditional Spanish rice pudding but swapping the rice with oat bran, a much healthier and lighter alternative for those on a weight loss journey and all I have done is to substitute ingredients with their healthy counterpart in order to preserve the flavour as much as possible. I promise you, this breakfast is so delicious that you would feel like you are cheating, and it only has 180 calories.

If these were not reasons enough, it is dead easy to make and takes 5 minutes to make portions for a few days because I can be made and kept in the fridge for all week!

Ingredients (serves 3)

90 gr oat bran thick cut

600 ml. Alpro light soya milk (or an alternative of your choice)

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp sucralose sweetener (or your preferred non calorie sweetener)

1 Lemon rind

How to make it…

In a cooking pot, heat up the milk together with the cinnamon stick, the lemon rind and the ground cinnamon, on a kitchen scale, weigh the desired amount of oat bran, 30 gr is normally a good portion for ladies, so for 3 days, 90 gr.

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When the milk is hot, add the oat bran, stir well and bring to a boil, beware of the boiling milk since it is very treacherous. Turn off the heat and keep stirring for a couple of minutes. Remove the lemon rind and the cinnamon stick and add sweeter to taste together with a dash of cold milk if the mixture is too dense. Taste and correct the amount of sweetener.

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Sucralose loses the sweetening power when heated, that is why I prefer to add it a after boiling.

Distribute the mixture in individual containers and sprinkle with a bit of ground cinnamon for decoration and taste.

Cinnamon is also a fantastic spice for keeping your blood sugar levels under control so it helps control appetite and therefore maintain weight loss!

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I strongly recommend you change your breakfast for this for a couple of weeks if you are trying to lose weight and let me know how you go!