Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Cohen Journey

 Chicken tenders with garlic mayo dip, inspired by the recipe of Cohen FB buddy, Rosa Tobias

I've been a bit obsessed with my diet lately that some things, like this blog, have taken a backseat.

I lost 26 pounds in 2.5 months. Yes, let me repeat.  I lost 26 pounds in 2.5 months.  I still have 4 pounds to go before I reach my upper goal weight, and start the second phase of this program called the "Refeeding Phase." During RF, food that I've been avoiding the past months will be gradually added back to my eating plan. But still, don't you think 26 pounds in 11 weeks a miracle? Twenty-six pounds?!? Two and a half months?!?

My favorite breakfast: low fat greek yogurt (with one splenda) and mango crumble. modified from the apple crumble recipe of Cohen FB buddy, Ena Roldan.

Yes, I'm on the Cohen diet. Not the "let-me-follow-your-plan" Cohen diet, but the real deal. I invested and signed up at the Cohen Lifestyle Center in Medical Tower. I was told by some friends that it was going to be hard to follow, and that so-and-so tried it, lost a lot of weight but gained it all back. Friends who "fell off the wagon" warned me that the food will be limited so it will be hard to stay on track.


They also added that it was such a hassle because I'd have to  bring my food if I had lunches or dinners out because I had to eat exact portions as weighed on a digital scale. After all these warnings, I was apprehensive, nervous and scared.

I already know the concepts of good and bad food, that excessive carbs is the enemy and that sugar is poison. Please don't explain the food pyramid to me--I know that--I learned that in grade school, and I'm quite conscientious about what I eat. Don't talk to me either about "number of servings" because I get confused with how many servings I can have of each food group, and how it translates into a menu.

 My packed lunch, re-plated by the chef at the Shang Palace during a Sunday lunch with the family

I wanted someone to just give me a plan of *exactly* what to eat, how much and when. I was already committed to follow it, as long as it would guarantee healthy eating and weight loss. I was prepared to suffer and starve, after all, I got myself to this point over the years by carelessly eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

 Shepherd's pie, another recipe idea from Cohen FB buddy, Rosa Tobias. 
Mashed cauliflower is the mock mashed potato.

After an introductory presentation at the Cohen center (this is mandatory--you have to understand the concept),  a weigh in, and a blood test, I had to wait a couple of weeks for them to prepare my personalized "Eating Plan."

I got my wish! My plan included exact grams of each type of food, an extensive list of allowed food, cooking guidelines and eating schedules.  I was told I had to eat the specified grams--no more, and no less.  This is not a calorie-based diet, so it would be useless to ask "why are we allowed mango, isn't it fattening?" or "why aren't we allowed X, isn't it zero fat, low calorie, healthful, (add other adjectives here)?"  You just have to trust and follow the plan.

chili prawns with mushrooms 

Oh, I also told them in the beginning that I wanted to lose 20 pounds. They said, no, your body will reach its metabolic equilibrium at X weight, which computed to a loss of 30 to 38 pounds. Eegads, really? Can I actually get there?

If you want to lose weight rapidly, don't deviate, they said. "Deviate" is the Cohen word for "cheat" (yes, they also use positive language, which I appreciate). If you deviate for one day, it sets your program back a whole week. If you follow it to the letter, you will lose weight rapidly, and will be finished in no time. Could this really be true? I had nothing to lose--well, except for the money I paid. The Cohen plan is not cheap at P55,000 (approx US$1320).

I have access to a great support group through the Cohen FB page, where fellow "Cohenites" 
generously share recipes and tips on how to stay focused.

It's very simple and easy to prepare "Cohenized" food at home. Most dishes can be done in 15 minutes or less. It just takes some planning in the beginning, much like how you would plan your regular house food (my kids think my food looks much nicer than theirs all the time). I'm surprised when people ask me where I get my "Cohen food", and they are equally surprised when I say I make everything at home.  It has got to be the simplest way to cook because the seasonings are limited to the basics: a spray of oil, salt, pepper, pure spices, fresh or dried herbs and vinegars.

 My daily espresso lungo

Anyway, here I am 11 weeks later, and 26 pounds lighter. I feel great. I don't feel deprived because I enjoy the food that's allowed. Many times, when a full plate of food is in front of me, I think to myself--"this is a diet?" 

I  follow my Eating Plan to the letter (I should say "number")--I haven't deviated and have no plans to deviate. I actually find my Cohen journey a fun challenge. While I do miss some things that have been removed from my eating plan for the time being, I've also learned to appreciate pure flavors of food. I never realized so much pleasure can come from fresh, crunchy fruits and vegetables, and food that isn't smothered in fatty sauce.

When I'm in a rush or not too hungry,  I have a "pizza"

The challenging part is eating out, or worse, traveling. But my confidence was boosted when I recently went on a week long trip to Bangkok and Singapore and I. did. not. deviate! I'd have my delicious yogurt breakfast in the room, then before going out, I'd pack an "emergency lunch" in case I didn't find a suitable place to eat. At other times, I made the extra effort of talking to the waiter to explain exactly how something should be prepared (just salt and pepper please, all sauces on the side).

I also had my digital pocket scale handy and weighed all my portions as close as I could to my plan. When I got back, I was still on track, and even lost 3 more pounds!  Obsessiveness does pay off--it makes me focus on the goal.

bought from Cohen FB friend, Abigail Ongyanco-Lim

I'm now waiting for my "Refeeding Plan" (you can order your Refeeding plan when you are 5 pounds from your upper goal weight, and it takes about two weeks for the center prepare it). Again, I'm anxious and nervous for this part of the program. At the same time, I'm motivated and excited for the new things I'll be able to add back to my menus.

We're told that this phase  is considered the most important part of the program. It allows us to discover exactly what food triggers weight gain--is it rice? bread? some types of fruit?

My grocery cart the day before I started the program--all fresh food!

If When I finish the Refeeding Phase successfully, I would have "graduated" from the program and cross over to "Maintenance Phase." At this last stage, I'm  supposed to be able to maintain my weight by continuing to make proper food choices and adding some exercise into the equation. So actually, Cohen is not really a diet, it's an introduction to a healthier lifestyle. I hope excessive carbs and evil sugar will be gone from my life forever.


Ps. Sorry,  no before-and-after-photos of me because I'm too shy. Enjoy my food shots instead, it's a small sampling of what I've been eating.

Pss. I'm not connected to Cohen Lifestyle Center Philippines, although I wish I was the one who brought the program in. And no, this is not a paid advertisement either, although I also wish it were!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

100 Maneiras, Lisbon

Your reservation is all set for tonight at 100 Maneiras. They will be holding a table for 2 at 7:30pm under the name "Marivic". If you arrive later than 7:45pm, they may give your table to a stand by reservation. On Friday nights they usually get a lot of last minute reservations and a waiting list forms, so its a good idea to be there on time.

This is not a restaurant that Paolo recommends to a lot of people, you and your husband must be serious foodies, and Paolo picked up on it. I think you will be delighted and impressed with this special place.

The address:
100 Maneiras
Rua do Teixeira, 35
Phone: 210 990 475 (Call them if you are late or lost)

I got this email from Antonio right after our enjoyable walking tour with our tour guide, Paolo. I don't think we are "serious foodies",  but we like to try all kinds of food wherever we are: holes-in-the-wall, popular restaurants, degustation places and even a foodcourt. All get equal attention and patronage from us.

The multi-awarded chef of 100 Maneiras, Ljubomir Stanisic, is originally from Bosnia. He arrived in Portugal 15 years ago, and fell in love with the cuisine. 100 Maneiras has been voted among the top ten restaurants in Portugal some years back, and his wine list has also won awards (they give out awards for a wine list?)

 The small restaurant filled up quickly

There were going to be 5 to 6 glasses of wine paired with the each of the dishes, and since neither of us really drink, we decided just one of us would order the wine pairings and we'd just share (we're also cheap that way).

This is an ingenious way to serve kropeck, don't you think? On the menu it's listed as "Codfish Clothesline."

Then we had cauliflower and truffle cream, shrimp, sprouts and hazelnut. A delicious savory start. I had notes on each of these dishes because I wanted to write about it...but I can't find that little notebook now.

Duck and Foie Gras carpaccio.

Seared scallop with fleur de del, potato foam and sunchoke chips.

Game Stew Canneloni with mushrooms.

Sauteed sea bream with saffron and lime risotto. This was my favorite of all.

Black Pepper and basil granite as a palate cleanser.

Then the last savory dish, a pork loin crusted in smoked sausage with parsley with hazelnut cream. Everything we had so far was very, very good. And the shared wine...hic...(what a lightweight!) was a brilliant idea, instead of skipping it altogether.

Banana ice cream and orange and Maria cookie cream.

The desserts weren't as impressive as the savory dishes, so it was a bit of a let down.

And this chocolate cake with pennyroyal gelatin and strawberry sorbet was a bit of a flat ending to a delicious line-up. But everything else was good. The service was also impeccable. The waiters explained each dish and accompanying wine very thoroughly.

Paolo was right. For the quality of the meal, it was very good value. We were happy with this recommendation.

One of the interior details I noticed was this acrylic barrier that's installed right under the aircon cartridge. It's a clever way to diffuse the annoying drafts from these overhead units. (Yes I know--what a thing to notice).

The restaurant was about a ten-minute walk from our hotel, so we stepped out into the night we had a leisurely stroll back.

This was a perfect ending to a short but activity-packed stay in Portugal with only a couple of nights in Lisbon. We were thrilled that our walking tour earlier in the afternoon led to this dinner, only because B's inquisitive stomach mind asked the right question.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lisbon On My Mind

"Who was your guide in Lisbon?" my friend Bea texted me yesterday, jolting me into blog reality. Yes, I have been blog delinquent, only because I've been preoccupied by non-travel and non-interior things lately. But Lisbon...

Lisbon seems so long ago--and yet we were just there in January this year.  I realized I never finished my posts on Lisbon, and there are many things I want to remember.

For my Lisbon visit, I contacted Lisbon Explorer, which I found through my usual obsessive online research. I emailed two other companies that also do walking tours and similar things, but Antonio of Lisbon Explorer not only emailed me back right away, he was warm and offered me the type of information I expect to get, like say, from a cousin or good friend. It was full of details, advise and tips. We emailed extensively back and forth, and I hadn't even booked anything with him yet.

I eventually booked a "Hidden Lisbon" tour, and also a walking tour of Sintra. I only contacted Lisbon Explorer after I booked my own hotels, otherwise I might have asked him to book our hotels too. The Sintra tour was just okay, but the "Hidden Lisbon" walking tour was one of the best private tours I ever did, and it was all because of our guide, Paolo Scheffer.

Paolo is deeply knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He clearly loves what he does and is excited about everything in the city. I think our tour was supposed to last 3 hours, but neither of us noticed the time and we ended a full hour later.

B and I got along with him immediately. Paolo is perceptive, or maybe he just likes the same things we do. When B asked one little question about Michelin-type restaurants in Lisbon,  it launched a long discussion of great meals we've all had.  He eagerly recommended "this fabulous restaurant that my wife and I love--not cheap, but a great value for the gastronomic meal they serve." How could we pass that up? He said he would get Antonio to book us a table that evening (it was our last day), but not to get our hopes up too high because it was a small place and always full. We did end up having dinner there, and if was a very memorable experience.

Although I love wandering around cities and discovering things on my own, I also love being brought around by tour guides. I'm always the nerd walking in front of the whole group, right beside the guide, asking tons of questions. In recent years, I've discovered the luxury of a private guide.

I've learned though that not all private guides are equal. Just because one has lived in a place for a long time doesn't make one a good guide, and rven someone who is  professionally trained is not necessarily interesting.

But once in a while we get lucky and meet wonderful ones who are intelligent and scholarly, ebullient and enthusiastic. I was extremely impressed with Paolo in Lisbon. I googled him only after, and was not surprised at his ratings on Tripadvisor.

My friend Bea and her husband also enjoy private guides.  Paolo is the best there is and I know they will be very happy with him.


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