Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Discovering Singleton Beach and Thrombolites

Growing up in the amazing town of Singleton NSW, I was fully aware another Singleton existed on the western side of the continent. Often when auto-filling digital documents I'd be asked if I lived in 2330 or 6175. I never quite knew about this mysterious western place with the same name as my hometown, but while exploring WA, I figured it was my duty to check out the Singo of the west. 
First things first, this Singleton has a beach! I wouldn't go as far as to say it was the best beach I've ever been to, but it is by far the best Singleton Beach ever! You even have the option of going one way with your dog, or the other without your dog! This is sensational news for both people with and without dogs. Just be sure to look out for those snakes! Following the shoreline south of the beach you can make out the town of Mandurah, the second largest city in WA.The WA Singleton isn't quite as large as the NSW location, it is actually a suburb of Rockingham, despite being closer to Mandurah.
Any adventure to Singleton WA wouldn't be complete without a quick trip to the general store. I was really keen to get myself a stubby holder or postcard as a souvenir of my expedition, sadly however nothing was available. I would have thought many Singletonians would be making the spiritual journey from Singleton to Singleton, but alas, not enough to make Singleton based souvenirs the next big thing.

We didn't have the time on this trip to fully explore Mandurah, however on a whim we ended up at Lake Clifton within the Yalgorup National Park. What marks this place on the map are the Thrombolites. Thrombolites are these weird rock looking things, which are actually microbial communities, about 2000 years old, that photosynthesize. They are the ancestors of the origin of oxygen and are only found in very few locations in the modern world. There's a nice little jetty that gives you a good view of these Thrombolites, they also look amazing in the late afternoon sun!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dukan Diet: An easy way to shed that travel fat!

One thing that has always hit me hard about travel is the weight gained while enjoying yourself! It doesn't effect everyone, but I know every time I've travelled, local or abroad, my clothes start feeling tighter. It is always exciting to consume food you've never heard of before, drink drinks you've never seen and party like no one who knows you is around! If you are like me, even though you are doing way more physical activity than your normal life, the indulgence catches up to you. It sucks, and for years now I've just put up with it. I grew up being overweight, and only once became fit, but that involved a ridiculous amount of physical exercise, 2+ hours a day, which at the time I had become addicted to.
Since travelling and slowly putting on weight I began to believe that if I want to ditch the gut I'm going to need to adopt that extreme fitness routine again. Deep down I never actually believed changing your diet could make you lose weight, only hard exercise. Until recently...

At the beginning of this house sit I found a book about the "Dukan Diet". I flicked through a few pages and read some really positive things. I really liked what I was reading, but at the same time, it felt like a bit of a sales pitch. While mixing reasons the diet works it was throwing in a lot of feel good, this is the best, blah blah type stuff that I'm sure most diets throw at you to get you excited and give the diet a crack. I've never liked the concept of dieting, but I was getting close to the biggest I'd ever been and knew I had to do something, so decided why not?

The Dukan Diet was created by a French doctor, Dr. Dukan. He came upon his idea after a bit of luck, then researched into it and has come up with a heap of scientific reasons this is the best diet for weight loss ever. In a nutshell, this diet is mostly about water and lean meat, protein. By kicking out 99% of sugar and fat you can't gain fat and as protein burns a lot of energy to process you will lose weight. If all you ate was meat though, you'd be pretty clogged up and lacking vitamins, so the diet has different stages. One thing that rocks about this diet, you can eat as much as you want, provided it is of the right foods, no calorie countiny or portion control! At all levels of the diet you also eat Oatbran every day, good for movements, absorbs bad stuff and I think Dr. Dukan may get commissions for every pack sold from how highly he regards it!

First an attack stage, only pure proteins. In his book it says all sorts of glorious things will occur, your energy levels will rise and you will lose heaps of weight. For me I found the opposite. See I used to eat a lot of fruit, lots of sugar, which I was now missing for a massive energy drop. My entire life I had thought of fruit as healthy and good for you. I knew they had sugar, but it was good sugar right? Well it is good sugar and fruits are full of vitamins and nutrients, but if you want to lose weight, lots of fruit will not help, it will do the opposite infact as you will be storing up a lot of sugar and where's that going to go? I'm no nutritionist or doctor, and only know what I've learnt through experience, but this diet just rewired my very belief on what is a "healthy snack". How many times as a child did you say "I'm hungry?" only to be told to go eat some bread or fruit, possibly the two worst things for someone overweight. I know for sure I was never given a lean steak or some smoked salmon when I was hungry!

Secondly is the cruise phase, this is where you lose most your weight. You basicly alternate between pure protein one day, to protein + vegies the next. Although all vegetables aren't on offer at this point, starches like potato and fat like avocado are not allowed. After a week of protein you'd be surprised at exactly how much you'll enjoy chowing down on a tomato! I stuck at this phase for almost 2 months, losing about a kg a week. I was actually shocked at how easy it was to be disciplined and stay strictly on the diet, and was made easier because Jen has been supportive the whole way. The weight loss motivated me greatly and the food wasn't bad. Most days I ate steak for breakfast, smoked salmon with cottage cheese for lunch and chicken breast/ fish/ steak/ kangaroo for dinner. If it was vegie day the steak would be aided by tomatos and mushrooms, the salmon with capers and non fatty/starchy vegies for dinner.

Third is the consolodation phase, this is where I am at now. This phase is not about losing weight, but by slowly adding the foods you have deprived yourself back into your diet without reclaiming all the lost fat. The most exciting thing about this phase is you can have a beer again! You pretty much treat this phase as a protein+veggie day however you are allowed a couple of slices of wholemeal bread, 40 grams of cheese, and one piece of fruit a day. It also opens you up to eat slightly fattier meats again, (lamb and pork), one starch meal a week and one celebration meal where you can eat anything you miss including chocolate. I had been following the diet very strictly up until this point, where I occasionally exchange the bread for beer. I'm still losing weight on this phase, but much, much slower, about a kilo every third week. This is probably the hardest phase as it is recommended to stick to it for 10 days for every kilo lost. I lost 12 kg, so this phase lasts for 120 days! At the same time after learning so much about the way your body absorbs different foods, it is easier to stick to a high protein diet and I believe this time sets a good guideline for how you should eat in the future. Also once a week, every week during this phase you do a strict protein day, this is just to remind the body of where it wants to be.

The fourth phase goes for the rest of your life. It's pretty much eat whatever you want, have that oatbran every day and once a week have that strict protein day!

If you are ready to shed that travel fat, but not keen to do intense exercise for hours a day, I'd highly recommend giving the Dukan Diet a crack. Even if you're not ready for a diet, try change what you are eating up a little bit. Have smoked salmon for a snack instead of fruit. Eat more lean meat with less veggies and no sugary sauces. It really is amazing how easy you can lose weight by just changing your eating.

Post in the comments below if you've given the Dukan Diet a go, or keen to try it out! There are plenty of forums out there with support if you need to ask anything that you are unsure of and some great recipes and ideas, but the books, "The Dukan Diet" and "The Dukan Diet Recipe Book" written by Dr. Dukan, are a helpful source of information that hold specific details about the different stages of the diet, what to expect, and ideas on what to eat. After all, he did design with the diet, so who better to learn about it than from him.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Capel Vale Winery

The south west of Australia is filled with a variety of wineries and breweries that Jen and I have been keen to check out for quite some time. However one little thing I decided not long after arriving in the west was to go on diet to drop some weight. Drinking lots of wine and beer while consuming an assortment of cheese and chocolate didn't really fit the bill for how to go about that plan. It's not all bad though, I have dropped 14kg over the last few months and have hit the point where once a week I am having celebration meals, Hazzuh! Time to start checking out these wineries and breweries!

The decision to hit Capel Vale Winery on a sun drenched Saturday was an easy one. We had gone down to Busselton that morning and a sign pointing to the vineyard was highly visable on every trip between Bunbury and Busselton. Just off the highway we found the beaut little place. Everything was lush and green from all the rain, bar the vines as they had gone into hibernation for the winter. 

The cellar door and resturant were connected, working in unison together to offer top-notch, matched meals. We were greeted by Nathan who was happy to explain how the resturaunt works with matching wines to food and also making sure we were well informed on how those wines tasted! If you've read any of our other wine tasting posts you'd notice I'm quite the fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, so being in the heart of a Cab Sav growing country was pretty exciting! Sampling their tasty Cab Savs starting with a cleanskin, to the 2014 Margeret River,  then to the oaky full flavours of the 2013 Black Label was quite delightful. We were fortunate enough to also get to sample the 2012 Scholar Margaret River Cab Sav which was ridiculously smooth with very light oak and fruity flavours.

I was pretty happy with the Cab Savs, but Nathan prompted me to try their Shiraz. I happen to be pretty open when it comes to wine tasting, so went along with the flow. Again we began with a cleanskin, then onto the full bodied Mount Barker variety and finished with the Whispering Hill Mount Barker Shiraz. Maybe it was as it was towards the end of the tastings, maybe it was the hype, or maybe it was just awesome! The Whispering Hill Shiraz really hit us both as an amazing wine. Allowing the aroma to flow up your nostrils was a sensation on its own. One thing that hit me was a slight hint of the ocean, sparking positive emotions and excitement. The taste was amazing, incredibly full bodied and adventurous (Don't worry, no taste of the ocean!) it isn't a wonder they save this as the final drop in a tasting. Decision made! Yep, I came all the way from Shiraz Country to Cab Sav country so I could drink shiraz!

So with our wine selected, it was time to choose the food! With the matched resturaunt the entire menu is filled with platters filled with a variety of foods to go with your wine. The portions are generous, with each platter being the equivelent of a meal. Nathan assured us you can mix and match your wines with meals, so we grabbed ourselves the Shiraz platter and the Cab Sav platter to enjoy with our bottle of Whispering Hill Shiraz. We were seated by our waitress, Casey, by the window where we could enjoy the afternoon sun. Casey seemed to be just as enthusiastic about Capel Vale Winery as Nathan, telling us about how beautiful the place is in the summer. Everything is even greener with the vines dripping with grapes, there is a vine trellis around the top of the windows of the resturaunt which looks amazing in the summer. 

Once our meals arrived we were in awe at how much food we got! Meats, breads, olives, mushrooms, cheese and some super delicious choccy strawberries made sure we had a fantastic meal! Really enjoyed our experience at Capel Vale Winery. They blend wine and food together in a magical way making it enjoyable and simple regardless of wether you are an indulgent connoisseur or just an average couple looking for a great dining experience at a reasonable price.