Health and Fitness Update

Updated Before and After

The reason why this blog was started was because my clothes were too big after I lost weight and I had come to the realisation that I really didn’t have any definitive style. After nearly 18 months of keeping my weight and health steady, I thought it might be time for a health and fitness update. An updated before and after photo has been included above – it’s amazing looking back and seeing the changes that have happened.

My Story                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

I became overweight while I was at uni through a combination of very little exercise, and eating too much food. Two children, and thinking pregnancy was an excuse to eat what I wanted didn’t help matters, and my weight ballooned. I had tried unsuccessfully to lose weight before, through fits and bursts of healthy eating and exercise that never lasted. After the birth of my daughter my cholesterol was 7.2 (anywhere between 4 and 5 is normal). I didn’t have much energy, and to be brutally honest I didn’t like the way that I looked. My doctor decided to give me a three month grace period to lose weight and get my health under control. Through exercise and eating well I was able to lose 10kg. I hurt my knee quite badly, and couldn’t exercise for weeks. As a result I found myself very down, and turned to food for comfort. After seeing the above picture of me at Christmas in 2o12 I decided that I needed to jump back on the Weight Watchers wagon and proceeded to lose a further 8kg. I reached Goal in April of 2013, and have kept the weight off since. My cholesterol level dropped to 4.1, and I have so much more energy.

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Where I Am At Now

While I don’t track with Weight Watchers anymore, I do use My Fitness Pal. During the Christmas and school holidays I felt myself slipping as I wasn’t tracking, and I gained back a couple of kilos. While the number on the scale isn’t so important because it does tend to fluctuate, I did notice my clothes not fitting as well as they had. I began tracking again to keep myself in check. The barcode scan function on My Fitness Pal is fantastic, and it keeps me in check. I find that if I am tracking my food I am less likely to eat out of boredom, so this is just one thing that works for me. My Fitness Pal also talks to my FitBit, which means I can see roughly how many calories I am burning.

For me, exercise is just as important as eating right. It clears my head and gives me a lot more energy. I’ve been mixing it up a bit lately, with yoga, long walks outside, jogging, bike and weight training. My Mum was diagnosed with osteoporosis last year, so it’s important for me to be strong to keep my bones healthy. Exercise is actually something I enjoy now, after years of it feeling like a chore. Seeing muscles become more defined is a bit addictive, and I like seeing my body change.

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Where to From Here?

I plan to keep on tracking, and trying to get a bit healthier than I am now (less chocolate would probably be a good move!). When I joined my gym I didn’t ever get around to making a proper program, so this is something I need to do now. Shaking up a workout is never a bad thing.

The Fitness Show is on in Sydney on 18-19 October, and I am looking forward to learning about different workouts and nutrition tips. I will also be scouting out some new trainers – mine are about to fall apart!

Here’s to continued good health, fun exercise and a strong body.

* Last week I was involved in a photo shoot, and the picture above is a sneak peek. I will be able to give you more details in October.

What do you do to keep your health in track? What exercise are you loving at the moment?

Country Style

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As a child, we went on holidays to a seaside town. During our first holiday we met a wonderful family who were to become life long friends. We had a lot of fun on those holidays, sharing midnight snacks in tents and finding a new Summer crush each year. Back in April we went to visit our friends at their home – a beautiful farm on more land than the eye can see. I used to love visiting when I was growing up and I have fantastic memories of our holidays there. It was where I learnt to ride a bike without training wheels, had my first turn in the driver’s seat of a car, and where we slid down the sheep chutes in the shearing shed. I was so excited to take my own family for a few nights away to enjoy the fresh air, green grass and wonderful company.

We enjoyed wandering around the farm, and the kids thrived in the wide open spaces. They adored feeding the horse every day, and sitting up high in the tractors. Feeding the sheep in the ute was a highlight, and being able to spend time together as a family without the distraction of home, technology and work was lovely.

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I love the wide open spaces in the country, and I have to confess that we did peruse the real estate agent windows in the nearby towns! While we won’t be making a big country move, it is so much fun to visit and imagine what life would be like.

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We paid a visit to the local liquorice and chocolate factory, where we always manage to miss the tour times, but sampled some of the goods anyway. The dairy free members of the household were very excited to learn that they had dark chocolate that they could try. The grounds of the factory are cute, with little courtyards covered in vines that remind me of Tuscany.

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The last morning brought the most beautiful sunrise. Autumn is my favourite time of year, with the crisp chill in the air. I loved watching the sun rise up over the horizon and hearing the birds in the trees. The small one loved the roar of the quad bike and had a ride at 6.30am in his pyjamas!

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One thing I have always noticed about the country is the distinct style – jeans, collared shirts, vests or quilted jackets, and boots. I loved making use of my new gumboots somewhere more country than the local agricultural show!

Our hostess shared a catalogue they have bought work clothes through, which reminded me that clothes that are normally seen as ‘country’ can be integrated into most wardrobes. RB Sellars have a fantastic range of clothes for women, men and children. I am looking forward to buying some shirts for work – there are lots of colourful prints which could easily pass for Ben Sherman and Tommy Hilfiger.

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1. RB Sellars Pearl Long Sleeved Shirt – $55 |  2. Jeans West Petra Printed Snood – $24.99 | 3. Jeans West Super Skinny jeans – $69.99 | 4. Hunter Tall boots from The Iconic – $154 | 5. Target quilted jacket – $18 (on sale, but only in stores)

If you are dreaming of wide open spaces, cows and horses and want to bring a little bit of country to your home (in addition to your wardrobe), be sure to check out the range from Dee Dub Designs.The daughter of the friend we stayed with owns a graphic design business, and recently launched a homewares range. She has produced some gorgeous cushions, one of which gives a nod to her home on the farm.

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Silhouette farm scene cushion – $42

Are you off on a holiday any time soon? Do you change your wardrobe to suit a place that you are going to visit?

Present Ideas for a Significant Birthday

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Breathe by William Patino

This Saturday, I will turn 30. My 20’s have been a big decade – an engagement and subsequent wedding, two beautiful children and two university degrees, some travel and lots of adventures in between. I am looking forward to seeing what the next decade will bring. A ‘zero’ birthday is a good excuse for a party, special dinner, spending time with your favourite people, and sometimes some presents. Family have been asking what I would like, aand  I thought I would share a few present ideas for a significant birthday for others who have a little more planning time than me. As a sentimental person, I prefer receiving gifts that mean something and that I can keep for years to come.

Last year, a friend linked to a photographer called William Patino on Facebook (you can find his page here) and I fell in love with his gorgeous landscape pictures. I spent a lot of my childhood in the picturesque area that he takes most of his shots, so there are a lot of nice memories attached to them as well. He was recently lucky enough to have some trips to Canada and New Zealand to capture their natural beauty. Morraine Lake in the picture above was one of my favourite places in Canada and I have chosen a print as my birthday present. I can’t wait to have it on my wall on Saturday and I have a feeling that we will be investing in a few more of his photos in the years to come. Both of William’s pictures are republished with his full permission.

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Valley of Solace by William Patino

Another investment present for a special occasion is a good quality watch. I received my last watch when my husband and I bought each other one for our wedding presents seven years ago, so thought an update would be nice. I have my eye on some rose gold watches for something a little different, as the last few I have worn have been silver.

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1. Fossil Cecile watch – $249 | 2. Michael Kors Three Hand watch – $180 | 3. Fossil Stella watch – $199 | 4. Michael Kors mid-size rose gold Mercer watch – $275 | 5. Nixon Small Kensington watch – $240 | 6. Marc by Marc Jacobs Blade watch – $207 (on sale)

If photographs and watches are not your cup of tea for gift ideas, I have put together a little list of other presents I’m sure people would be very happy to receive for a big birthday.

Present Ideas

How have you celebrated your significant birthdays? What gifts were you given?

Let’s Talk Mocktails, and Birthday Giveaways!

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Style Unearthed turned one a week ago. Much like the day I pressed ‘create’ on my first WordPress site, the day whooshed by in a haze of work, kids, house and life. There wasn’t time to celebrate in a big way, but it’s nice to know that my little online space has been around for 12 months. Thank you to everyone who has read and contributed in that time. It has been so nice to build new relationships and get to know you through comments and social media. Here’s to another year! To celebrate, Style Unearthed is having a giveaway. Keep reading for all the exciting details…

Prize One – A case of Bionade Organic Soft Drink

In normal birthday circumstances, cocktails or drinks would be poured, music would play and fun would be had. Thanks to the lovely people at Bionade, who sent me a case of their organic soft drink to celebrate Style Unearthed’s first milestone, I was able to experiment with some mocktails. I had to compete with my husband to try the drinks, and the cola flavour disappeared before I could even try it – he’s fallen in love with them! There are five flavours to choose from – cola, lychee, elderberry, herbs and ginger and orange (my favourite). They are very low in sugar, so are great for people who don’t want to drink their calories. Bionade is brewed using the same process as beer, and is 100% organic. It’s therefore free from nasties so it is suitable for everyone to drink, and a great alternative to normal soft drinks.

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I bought some lemon and lime to compliment the citrus in the orange flavour, and some mint to add a fresh kick. Poured over ice, it made for a refreshing summery drink that will be a regular favourite of mine in warmer weather.

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Do you have a favourite cocktail or mocktail? For a chance to win a case of Bionade worth $86, please share your favourite mocktail or cocktail recipe below.

Prize Two – Sass necklace from Ashloc Designs

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I first saw Ashloc Designs on Instagram last year. Kylie makes gorgeous jewellery from clay in a wide range of colours. I always receive compliments when I wear my melon coloured necklace. Her creations are now getting so popular that she’s selling in shops as well as on her online store. They are available in so many colours, and there is an Ashloc Designs piece of jewellery to compliment any outfit.

Kylie is offering one lucky reader a Sass necklace worth $35. For a chance to win, please leave a comment below telling me how you would feature the Sass necklace in your Winter wardrobe.

Prize Three – Saviour Glass Screen Guardian

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I used to be a loyal Blackberry user, but after having two smashed screens (repairing the first, and then getting a cheapy phone second), this product would really have come in handy! Saviour Glass Screen Guardian wants to help you avoid ‘Oh-No Smash Screen Face’ and protect your phone screen. Now, I’m not about to try and smash my iPhone with a hammer, or drop it on the ground, so I will take their word for the fact that it works! I definitely feel more secure if I have a mishap on my phone, knowing that it has the Guardian on it, and a protective case.

For a chance to win one of five Saviour Glass Screen Guardians worth $35 each (available for iPhone or Samsung phones), please leave a comment below and tell me about why you need a Guardian for your phone.

Good luck! Which prize (or prizes – you can enter for all three!) would you like to win? Answer the questions above and you will be in the running. 

* I was given the above products for editorial consideration.

Terms and Conditions

- This competition will end on Saturday 19 April, 2014 at 5pm AEST.

- This is a game of skill.

- You may enter to win each prize, by answering all three questions.

- This is an Australia only competition (sorry!).

- To be eligible to win the case of Bionade, you must live in a metro area as it will be delivered by courier.

- Please leave a valid email address so I can get in touch with you if you win. If you do not respond within 48 hours the prize will be re-drawn. Winners will be announced on this post, Facebook and Instagram.

What I Wore – Cue Dress to a Family Wedding

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On Friday, my beautiful sister-in-law was married. We were so thrilled to welcome her new husband into the family, although he has felt like he’s been part of it for a long time already. Our kids adore them both, and were thrilled to be involved in the day. They both looked incredibly cute (and grown up!) in their special outfits, and our daughter had a ball having her hair done.

I decided to buy a new outfit for the wedding – it was a special one, after all! I had also been asked to perform a reading, which I was very honoured to do. You have heard me rave about Cue clothing before, and it was one of the first places that I went to look for an outfit. Their dresses are beautifully cut, and I find that they fit me well. The sizing is consistent, and they are incredibly comfortable. The staff at my local store are fantastic – nothing is ever too much trouble, and they’re always happy to give constructive advice.

Cue have lots of Japanese inspired fabrics and looks this year (I saw both Summer and Winter dresses that suited this style) and I was drawn to the colours of this dress. It is nipped in at the waist, which I always love, and had pockets so it had to be a winner! It probably could have done with a belt, but as my shoes were navy and I didn’t have a belt to match, I went without this time.

I chose navy wedges, as it was a garden wedding and I didn’t want heels becoming stuck in the grass. They are Corelli brand from Williams, and were a lucky find in an end of season sale. The fantastic thing about this dress is that it has so many colours in it, and can therefore be worn with a variety of accessories to make different colours pop. It would look great with gold sandals for a casual Summer look.

It’s no secret that I love Swarovski jewellery, and I wore a couple of my favourite pieces – earrings that my family bought for my birthday last year, and a purple and blue ring to match the colours in the dress.

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My hair was cut the day of the wedding, and I asked my hairdresser to use a ghd to do some loose curls. Unfortunately the weather was wet, but this suited my hair as it tends to frizz in the rain and humidity! Is it just me, or does it always make you slightly nervous waiting for curly hair to drop? I certainly got some strange looks with my big hair when we went out for lunch that day.

I can’t wait to wear this dress again – it was comfortable and I felt wonderful in it. Cue strikes again!

Do you enjoy getting dressed up for weddings? What is your go-to outfit?

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole into ghd Wonderland

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My first hair straightener was a $40 version from Priceline that I bought when I was a uni student. Straigheners were the next ‘big thing’, and my parents couldn’t understand why I needed something to straighten my hair when it was already straight. I have quite thick hair that tends to frizz at any sign of moisture, so it’s always a bit tricky to control. The thought of nice, straight, fizz-free hair made me very excited! About six years ago, I was given a ghd for my birthday. My hairdresser had worked magic with one and I was keen to try and re-create the look at home. My hair dressing skills leave a lot to be desired, so the easier the ‘do, the better. My ghd has stood the test of time, and still works, but when I was asked to try the ghd Wonderland styler I jumped at the opportunity.

The styler arrived with a heat proof travel bag, two hair clips to secure hair while styling, and a plastic holder to pop on the end to keep the plates together while it is stored. It heats up quickly, and will also switch off automatically after 30 minutes if you forget to do it manually. The plates are contoured to curl the hair with ease, and the ceramic plates left my hair feeling smooth. I was so glad not to have the dry feeling often associated with heat styled hair.

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To straighten my hair, I sectioned it with the clips and worked with the bottom section first. This ensured that it was smooth underneath which I find makes the difference with my hair. I then straightened the top part, smoothing it down. One thing I loved about it is that it didn’t create poker straight hair – it was left with some body and movement. You can see the before and after pictures above on the left.

Today I wanted to try something a little bit different. The ghd website has lots of fantastic videos with how-to hairstyles and inspiration. You can find them here. There are up-dos, and instruction about how to do ghd curls. This is what I decided to go for this morning. My hair had been in a pony tail all day yesterday, so had bumps and twists in it already. While it doesn’t look all that different in the before and after photos, it was smoother and the waves were more defined. After taking about 20 photos, I still didn’t manage to get the perfect one (as usual!). I have attempted curls with my straightener before, and had some success, however I always find one side of my head easier than the other to do. I watched the how-to video a few times and then tried my best to re-create the look. As my hair is not as long as the model in the video, and the fact that I don’t own a paddle brush, the result was a little different but it was surprisingly easy to do. My old straighter used to get a little bit stuck in my hair as I tried to curl it, but the Wonderland slid through easily. While I know I need to practice a lot more to perfect curly hair, I will certainly have fun trying. It will also be good to play around with some up do’s for something different, especially to find something easy but more interesting than a pony tail.

I absolutely love the ghd Wonderland styler – it’s easy to use and leaves my hair looking smooth and shiny. The straighteners have definitely improved since my first version six years ago, and I think I will be a loyal ghd customer for a long time coming.

* I was given the ghd Wonderland styler to try for editorial consideration. 

Do you have a ghd or another hair straightener? What is your favourite look? Have you ever used how-to videos when styling your hair?

5 Vegetarian Recipes for Meat Free Week

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This week is Meat Free Week. An initiative created by Lainie Bracher and Melissa Dixon, it was started to raise awareness about meat consumption and production. The movement urges people to omit meat from their diets for one week each March. Meat Free Week is gaining traction since it’s inception in 2013 – it has provoked discussion in Australian parliament and has initiated conversation across a variety of media channels. You can find out more about it here.

I have been vegetarian for four years this May. Never being a big fan of meat I found that I wasn’t eating it much, and enjoying it a lot less. I did some research, and with animal rights and sustainability factors taken into account, I decided to take the plunge into vegetarianism. It did take some adjustment, for myself and my family. I fielded quite a few ‘But what will you eat?’ questions, but on the whole, everyone has been very flexible. Offering to bring something for myself always helps! Being vegetarian does not mean that you are stuck eating lettuce leaves and broccoli. I do still eat some ‘faux’ meat (soy based protein, mostly) to bump up my protein levels which I struggle with on occasion. While I still ate seafood for a couple of years, I now omit all meat from my diet. Since becoming vegetarian I do feel healthier – I used to suffer from stomach issues which are now thankfully few and far between. Our household has many dairy free items due to an allergy, however I still eat some animal derived products. I do buy free range eggs and responsibly farmed meat when I purchase it for other family members.

To promote Meat Free Week, I wanted to share 5 vegetarian recipes that have become my favourites. Some contain faux meat, which may not be for you, but there are always alternatives that you can try instead. Consider trying even just one vegetarian meal per week if you’re not sure about stepping outside your comfort zone. You may be in for a delicious surprise!

Vegetarian Burgers

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This is one of my favourite meals, as there are a variety of options. You can use something like a Sanitarium Not-Burger, or Fry’s schnitzel, a store bought lentil patty, or home made patty made from a variety of legumes or beans. I top the burger with my favourite fillings like pineapple, beetroot and salad. Serve with home cut sweet potato fries, and you’ve got a delicious dinner!

Lentil Pie or Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

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This is a family favourite (our five year old clears his plate when it is served), and it’s perfect for the cooler weather we are about to start having. It is incredibly simple to make, and can be served with pastry or mashed potato (or sweet potato) on top. You can find my recipe here.

Roast Vegetable Salad

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My next two favourite recipes include roasted vegetables. They’re healthy, super easy to prepare and can be thrown into salads and pastas, or used as side dishes. One of my favourite Summer salads can be thrown together and include your favourite salad veg, along with roasted sweet potato, potato, pumpkin and carrot. You can see the full recipe here for other delicious variations.

Vegetarian Roast Dinner

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I always have fond memories of Sunday roasts at my Nana’s house. There are still plenty of meat-free options. Sanitarium make a vegetable roast, seasoned with rosemary and mint. You can also have a go at making your own nut roast. I made a cashew version a couple of Christmases ago. While it was fiddly, it was very tasty and filling, and requested by family again this Christmas!

Caramelised Onion and Tomato Tart

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Photo credit

I made a variation of this tart for dinner last week, and it is even more delicious when served as lunch left overs the next day. My recipe is a little simpler than the one above, as I use pre-made shortcrust pastry. Brown the onions and then caramelise using brown sugar. Put the pastry, onions, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and sliced Bocconcini cheese. Place in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees, and cook until the pastry is crisp and the cheese is melted. The flavours work beautifully together, and is a lovely dish for lunch or dinner.

I hope these recipes might urge you to try something vegetarian in Meat Free Week. You can find lots of great recipes at taste.com.au, and on the Meat Free Week website.

Do you eat any vegetarian meals? What are your favourites?

Four Ways to Take 10, 000 Steps a Day

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The title of this post might seem like a silly one – ‘Just walk, Sarah!’ would be the obvious answer. I am currently taking part in the CARE Australia Walk in Her Shoes challenge. You can read all about it here. This week, I am walking 10, 000 steps per day to raise money for projects supporting women and girls in Africa. At the conclusion of the seven days I will have walked 50kms. Some women walk this distance multiple times a week to collect water, firewood or food – items we can easily access and therefore take for granted in the Western world. As they are walking to procure items necessary to live, they often miss out on important opportunities such as education and employment. If you would like to sponsor me (I would be so grateful) you can do so here. Every dollar counts!

While my job is reasonably active, I average around 7000 steps moving around during the day. On days I am at home, sitting down to work, or playing stationary games with the small ones it is a lot less. I feel incredibly lucky that I have to think of extra ways to move, as it means that I have easy access to all the things I need. During the Walk in Her Shoes Challenge, I have been viewing videos showing what life is like for women in other countries. CARE Australia have been working hard to install water bores and taps so people can have easy access to clean water. Hopefully through their (and other charities) hard work, someday soon these women and children will be able to walk and move for pleasure and exercise rather than out of necessity.

Like me, you may want to move and exercise more for your health, and maybe even to raise some money too. There are so many charity walks and initiatives involving exercise now, that it is easy to find one that suits you. Here are three ways that you can help you integrate more movement into your day.

Four Ways to Take 10, 000 Steps a Day

Just Dance – The easiest way I have found to get extra steps up is to move to music. Having a lounge room dance party, or dance around while you’re making dinner (just watch your fingers when chopping veggies!). By having the Fitbit app open while I’m moving I can see the types of movements that register – squats, bobbing up and down and moving from side to side all activated both the Fitbit and the pedometer.

Get Jumping – Jumping on a trampoline is fantastic exercise, and it’s not just for kids. Trampoline centres are opening up all over the place, and run exercise and self defence classes. According to the Flip Out Trampoline Arena website, NASA have proven that trampoline classes are four times more effective than traditional gym classes. I haven’t tried a trampoline arena yet, but the little one in our backyard is always great fun and really gets my heart pumping.

Stride Away – One exercise machine I favour at the gym is the elliptical trainer. Having knee problems can make it hard to run for long periods of time without pain, so the elliptical is the perfect answer. I feel like I am running, and am taking steps, without putting pressure on my knees.

Exercise Incidentally – Park the car a little bit further away, get off your train or bus one stop before you need to, walk to a shop close by if you run out of milk or take a pet for a walk. You will be surprised at how many extra steps you will take!

What tips do you have to get moving more? Can you suggest any other techniques I can use to get to     10, 000 steps?