Katya is a food adventurer through and through; happiest when she’s surrounded by plates of the stuff. You can find her on her blog and you can also hire her for social media training and photography. Don’t read her blog on an empty stomach! She lives in Stockport with her boyfriend Jamie who understands that her priorities in life are food first, himself second.
A Change of Appetite
Like most women, I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. Food first became an issue when I was about 12 and I got a bit chubby. And from that age dieting and eating weird things to lose weight became the norm. Over the years food normality was mainlining diet coke, buying strange tasting fake chocolate bars from Boots, low fat yoghurts, low fat everything, and my go to lunch was cup a soup (yuck) – any magic trick to lose the pounds.
As an adult in my early twenties it became apparent that I actually had a very narrow diet because I was afraid that non diet foods would make me put on weight. Ironically, that was when I was the heaviest I’d ever been. And hilariously I was allowing myself to eat Mars bars and drink booze alongside my low fat diet, it was just everything else I refused to eat. A very patient friend convinced me I needed to start broadening my diet because I was literally missing out on delicious food and not living my life to the full. Fortunately I embraced this challenge and slowly started enjoying experimenting with food and have never looked back.
Now at 41 years old I can’t say I’ve completely undone all the damage that started when I was 12. Some habits remain. For example a classic Katya trick last year was to eat a no carb evening meal (perhaps with courgetti), then be really hungry afterwards and have two portions of ice-cream. I’ve never quite lost the desire to trick my body so I can have more of the naughty stuff!
However a year ago I stumbled across a cookbook by Diana Henry called ‘A Change of Appetite’. Diana is a food writer, and a very overweight one at that. The premise of Diana’s book is finding really amazing cuisines that are incidentally delicious. Her recipes blew my mind – they were exotic, intriguing and obviously, incredibly tasty.
What really struck me though, was that Diana was not going to comprimise on taste. This is a woman who loves beautiful Danish pastries and gourmet food, and she expressed very stridently at the beginning of the book that she would not be sacrificing flavour or enjoyment. Instead she would gather all the facts on what healthy eating really means – which is a very different thing to dieting, and she would find cuisines and recipes that were nailing it in the most inspiring ways.
I think Diana’s self belief that she deserved to eat beautiful food and continue to enjoy her food was a fantastic example to me. Women in so many areas of their lives are expected to make sacrifices, and suffering for the sake of a slim waist is yet another one.
And what about the food? Well her section on grains really caught my eye. Ingredients such as barley, buckwheat and farro are cheap as chips, packed with an astonishing amount of nutrition and prepared the right way, despite their rather dull reputation, are versatile and bloody gorgeous. Unfortunately in a Western diet we tend to eat a lot of processed grains (white rice, white bread, pasta) that have had most of their nutrients stripped away.
I was further convinced by Diana’s argument to get more grains in my life by the cracking recipes in her book. One of my favourites (pictured below) was kisir (an autumnal tabbouleh with pomegranite seeds) served with griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad.
Griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad and kisir
And a seed was planted, and I started to question how many processed grains I was eating, whether that was white flour, pasta or white rice. I realised I wanted to get more unrefined ingredients in my life. So in the past year I’ve started to cook increasingly with wholegrains like quinoa, freekah and bulgar wheat, and I now make cakes using healthier non-refined flours like coconut flour, spelt flour and ground almonds. And what I’ve discovered is I prefer the food I’m eating now. It’s more a faff to source the ingredients and find the recipes but omg, the rewards are huge – gorgeous satisfying food that satiates you in a way that processed grains just can’t.
Spice-scented carrot cake with a crumble topping by Amber Rose
I’m certainly no food angel now, by any stretch of the imagination (especially when it comes to ice-cream and alcohol!), but I’m delighted to be experimenting with and including more wholegrains in my diet, especially because it’s actually fun!