Did you think the temptation would stop there? Did you think there were going to be only a few setbacks at the start? Hah! Here you are, trying to undo years and years of bad habits, trying to form a new lifestyle and trying to keep sane. Hah! again.. I’m sorry, you’re not going to have all three requests fulfilled all at the same time just yet.

Everyone around you seems to nonchalantly munch on high carbohydrate food – All.The.Time. Pastizzi, mini pizzas, pies and sandwiches look much juicier than they ever did. The scent of that chocolate cake hits you and enters your body through your skin. This is so not fair, I’ve already resisted chips AND another chocolate cake today. My friends are mean creatures. I kid I kid… Cocktails are trendy now and you’re offered all sorts of sugary concoctions that smell like a summer’s day. You’re not exactly hungry, but… a sigh of relief as the cheese platter appears. Even if you’ve just demolished a plate of lovely seafood that was cooked in butter hardly an hour ago. It was divine, you were bursting at the seams, but now you’re kind of peckish again. Already.

Your body feels so much better. You’re so pleased about your energy levels. And yet some of the time this is still not enough. Patience needed… lots of patience needed. Good things come to those who wait.. no?

By the way, one would think that obtaining something like an omelette or an English breakfast (minus the baked beans and toast) wouldn’t be so hard in Malta.. after getting a response on the lines of ‘le hi, ghadu kmieni mintix qed tara ghadni niftah? mur hemm fuq tal bar jaghmillek toast’ (roughly translated as: ‘Can’t you see it’s still too early? I’m just opening up, there’s a bar up the hill where you can get toast), I concluded that even a breakfast venue needs to be planned well. I didn’t quote the man in question verbatim. His response was actually more obnoxious. One would think that since you have eggs, bacon, mushrooms etc in the kitchen anyway, making an omelette and gaining clientele would be an agreeable option. Not for some, it seems.

Beans in garlic

If you’re on a low-carb diet and especially in the induction phase, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you need to be prepared. Once you adopt this lifestlye (and it’s far better to consider it a lifestlye, because you’re aiming for a healthier you, yes?) you should not let yourself feel miserable because you’re not eating enough and you should not let yourself starve. If you do this you might, just might, be tempted to grab the nearest available snack. And let’s face it, considering the kind of foods we’re used to using for convenience, this is very likely to be loaded with carbs. Do not let yourself panic. This is why you need to be prepared and why you need to be kind to yourself.

Read. Read. Read. Find which foods are ‘allowed’ and then scavenge for foods you like. Think of combining them in ways you’ve never tried. Think of trying out new things which you’re not sure you like. Try to give yourself the chance to experience these foods in a different way.

Sure, so you’re used to opening a can of tuna and chucking it in a ftira with some tomato spread and capers. Or placing ham and cheese between two slices of white French bread. You’re used to boiling up some pasta or noodles for a quick lunch. The task of thinking up new recipes as a quick fix is daunting. However, I can assure you that it won’t be daunting for a long time. Perhaps you will want to do some planning even before you embark on the diet. Whichever strategy you decide to adopt, keep in mind that your taste buds are your friends.. they will shoot very specific cravings at you but they will also start to enjoy their new role. Try to think of this as tough love.

Spend some time in a well-equipped supermarket. Read those labels, and try to learn as you go along. This information will be useful for the rest of your life.

This is an extremely nifty website which my friend Lara suggested. Unless you’re already a food specialist or obsessed with food (and perhaps even if you are), this place holds quite a few surprises. One thing was really brought to my attention lately: most of us really, really don’t know much about what we’re ingesting!

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


Kohl Rabi used instead of crackers with bean dip

Pumpkin seeds roasted in a dry pan with rock salt

Ready for work! Green peppers, salami, cherry tomatoes, boiled egg, caciotta cheese

The next two days seem like more of the same. It hasn’t become difficult to come up with meals yet, but snacks are a challenge. The interesting thing is that my taste buds seem to have altered somehow and are becoming extremely sensitive to ‘sweet’. For example green peppers taste like dessert now. Which is handy seeing as I have a great thirst for something sweet following my meals. I suspect I will only be able to trick my mind with this for a couple of days.

Day 4

Snacks at work are somewhat tricky, one must think of what to take and in my case there is no kitchen for heating etc. On day 4 I come up with a small container of roasted almonds, rucola and a gorgeous chunk of Gorgonzola. I’m quite proud of myself but mostly end up eating all the cheese and some of the rucola. I overloaded on almonds the night before and I cannot stomach them today.

For lunch I have chicken drumsticks and roasted vegetables accompanied by some Parmesan squares. I feel exhausted and need to collapse already. I’m really not liking this to be honest. I go on (yet another) internet search. I’ve read quite a few articles at this point and I would never have embarked on this challenge if I wasn’t absolutely sure about the health benefits. And being a health care professional I have access to a couple of reputable sites which I use to double and triple check that I’m doing this right. Not only do they confirm the health benefits (especially in the long term) but they also describe exactly the way I’m feeling – jittery, tired, irritable, faint. I guess they don’t take into consideration the Maltese August heat we’re having either. Luckily, the shakes only appeared briefly on day 3.

For dinner we make a couple of soft boiled eggs each, nibble at the beans in garlic and  cook a thin rib eye of about 125g until it stops mooing. I can’t even finish my rib eye even though it’s much smaller than my usual portion. I can’t understand this. My meals could be half of the usual amount and I cannot finish, but half an hour later I sometimes start getting peckish again. It must be my brain protesting, I’m quite sure.

Socialising = water and refusing fruit salad which my friend had prepared specially.. *sigh*

When we get home I want a snack but I’m also really hot and sticky so I opt for a shower instead. I treat myself to washing with soap that smells of chocolate. If I can’t eat it, I’ll sure as hell wash with it. By the way, you can get one here.

Day 5

No improvement with energy levels. I am still dragging myself out of bed, although if I’m not mistaken there is a tiny improvement to the previous day. I don’t particularly look forward to my coffee with cream, but it’s something I’m getting used to. I snack on pepato cheese and cherry tomatoes like a mouse throughout my morning, having little nibbles to get me by. The cherry tomatoes are of the zenguli variety, quite nice too.

I haven’t actually planned lunch, but I have a few low-carb-friendly foods to use. I snack on green pepper while I prepare my concoction of mushrooms, tomato polpa, olives and cream. After adding the polpa I’m rather perplexed. I usually throw in a teaspoon of sugar at this point to counteract the sharpness of the tomatoes and I don’t know what to do. I try to compensate with salt and pepper, but I am not sure if it does the trick. Finally I throw in an egg and it cooks slowly in the sauce. The result is rather tasty, aside from a slight bitterness from the tomatoes. I’m not sure what to call this, it’s half way soup and half way sauce. I eat most of it and am satisfied anyhow. Later this is followed by sugar-free jelly with cream.

In the evening CN prepares an impromptu chili con carne with some meat sauce I’ve defrosted (really patting myself on the back for making this and freezing in small batches a couple of weeks ago). He uses some cayenne pepper, cumin, tabasco, jalapenos, and pepato to make it very interesting indeed.