Food is always interesting, even (or especially) when you aim to eat no more than 800 calories a day. (Naturally I would never recommend such a thing to a teenager, a young woman or someone with a history of eating disorders.) Forbidding yourself refined sugar, wheat flour and prepared foods adds to the interest. For one thing, you stop and read the ingredients listed on every package, you read curious new cookbooks, and you buy new foodstuffs from health food shops. The top priority is packing as many nutrients into those 800 calories as possible.
Fortunately, breakfast is always easy as I am long used to making oatmeal porridge. Apparently oatmeal porridge is almost magical in its life-giving properties, and there is no reason to put sugar on it if you mix in blueberries or strawberries. It tastes more satisfying with a dollop of yogurt on top than with milk, which is a nice new discovery.
Then there are a number of delicious foods one can have for other meals, like eggs, herring, salmon, hummus, chicken, an ounce of cheese, a quarter-cup of nuts, an eighth-cup of seeds, vast forests of spinach, etc. The tricky thing is weighing everything to make sure you aren't exceeding your 800 calorie allowance. Drinking 2 litres of water turns out not to be a challenge when you are on 800 calories. I am up to about a half litre of herbal tea a day.
I have been asked how Benedict Ambrose is doing, which is a fair question. I was determined not to let my diet interfere with B.A.'s life, but this is difficult as B.A. usually does most of the cooking and believes in generous portions. The poor chap assumed that brown rice has a low Glycemic Index (at 50, it is much higher up than Uncle Ben's 38).* It is also 216 calories a cup, which is fine for a normal diet--even if you are given a whole cup--but not so fine for a severely calorie-reduced one. Also, B.A. likes to eat at 8 PM, which means either a 6 PM snack or a raging headache for me. Thus, I have had to disrupt the family eating regimen. In short, that B.A. has a pork chop and a baked potato at 8 no longer means I am having a pork chop and a baked potato at 8. Meanwhile, the evening the sugar-withdrawal kicked in was not a happy one. Rarely do we raise our voices, but on that occasion there was a slight atmospheric alteration of the historical roof.
However, not all is adjustment and strife. Benedict Ambrose has enjoyed some of the new dishes I have been making. Homemade hummus with real tahini was a great hit, preferable to my own low-fat, no-tahini version. My first experiment with farinata (made from gram flour) was edible but odd, so we are going to try other recipes. B.A. also likes the "Eat Real" hummus chips from Real Foods, which are a fantastic substitute for potato crisps. (As prepared food, they shall be eaten primarily by B.A.)
Meanwhile, I decided to honour Sunday by relaxing my personal 800 calorie rule and doing some baking from The Low-Sugar Cookbook by Nicola Graimes. First I made the Coconut, Banana and Oat Cookies (p.208-9), and then I made the Apple & Raspberry Flapjack Pie (p. 220-1), which is basically flourless apple crumble (i.e. crisp). This last has 2 Tbsps of honey, brown rice syrup or maple syrup, so I found it incredibly daring. I put an experimental drop of honey on my tongue, and it was the sweetest, deepest, most honey-like substance ever. It zinged into my bloodstream with loud music and crashing of cymbals. When anti-sugar people swear sugar is a drug, they aren't kidding.
The Coconut Cookies are only so-so, I think, but B.A. says he really likes them. When I eat cookies I expect sweet, and these are not sweet cookies. However, they do taste of coconut and banana, which are good flavours, and toasted oat is very nice. The raw cocoa nibs, which illustrate how important sugar, no matter how little, is to the making of chocolate, taste pointless on their own, but do add an indefinable something to the cookies.
The Apple & Raspberry Flapjack Pie (which at 325 calories a portion shall be only a Sunday treat) is the best apple crumble/crisp I have ever made. It's absolutely scrumptious. The secret is to use eating, not cooking apples, as they are already sweet, and the addition of small amounts of nuts and sesame seeds. I have always used oats in my crumbles/crisps; here no addition of flour is asked for. The result is crunchy, fruity goodness. It is sweet but mostly because eating apples and raspberries are sweet. No doubt the honey--I made 2/3 of the recipe, so that was 1.5 Tablespoons--did its work, too.
It is perfectly possible to hike 5 miles on this diet, for I have done it three times. Earlier this week I walked about 10 miles and on Saturday B.A. and I did at least 5 miles. I was not at all hungry. In fact, I don't feel hungry except in the mornings, when I go directly to the kitchen upon waking and start my porridge. When food is in front of me, I certainly eat it. However, "I must eat now" now belongs more to reason than the appetite. That said, I bring a packet of pumpkin seeds with me on my journeys.
Sadly, there has been an unexpected challenge from an entirely different quarter. The walking has been murder on my left heel, and I may go back to the pod to complain. However, at this stage I don't think the bony deformity is to blame. Never having used blister plasters before, I eagerly used one on a beginning blister, only to discover new blisters sprouting up under the sticky plaster edges: now I literally have a blister on a blister. At the moment I have a good old-fashioned cloth handkerchief taped to my heel, and I am not stirring from the house until late afternoon. I very much hope the blisters are all gone by Thursday, when my companions and I are going on a 10-12 mile walk.
*That said brown rice has a relatively low Glycogen Load of 16. (I'm still figuring out the GI/GL relationship). White rice has a GL of 43! Kraft Dinner has a GL of 32! The big surprise is premium ice-cream... Well, look here.