Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Category: Food (page 1 of 3)

Online Nutrition Programmes – I Tried One And I Hated It

Over the last six years, RedWineRunner has tracked many aspects of my journey towards becoming a runner (and my recent apparent journey away from it), but one thing I have rarely touched upon is my diet. Some bloggers make what they eat a huge focus of their content, but I’ve never really felt like this was something which I wanted to share with my readers. What you eat is very personal, and what you eat when you’re training for multiple ultramarathons becomes in turns random, horrifying, and very specific to the individual. To that end, I never really wanted to get into that discussion in a public forum and inadvertently encourage even more of the uninvited scrutiny which sometimes landed in my inbox regarding my training. Today however, I’ve written a post about some diet and weight stuff which is a real change from the norm. It’s a bit of an essay, but I’ll try and add in some gifs to lighten the mood from time to time. Read on for a bit of back story, and my experiences in using an online nutrition programme.

High Mileage = Hungry

Over the last few years I’ve benefited from a useful side-effect of consistent high mileage, which was that I never had to worry about my weight. I know I could have spent a lot more of my time paying greater attention to what I was fueling my miles with, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter as my running improved continuously and my body stayed the same happy size. Delving into sports nutrition is a complex science and ultimately, a life choice. As far as I see it, if you want to reap the full benefit from the changes you make, you can’t really go half in. Of course there are aspects of balance, but when I do something I tend to want to completely immerse myself in it. In recent years that lifestyle has been ‘ultramarathon dustbin’: What’s that? You can’t outrun a bad diet? Aye ok pal; watch me.

What happened next of course has sold a lot of books – I stopped most of the running but didn’t stop the eating, and consequently got a bit fat. Then I decided I didn’t want to be fat any more, so began looking for a solution.


The slightly longer story is of course that I trained for and completed my 2015 goal race, then quite rightly took a period of recovery which neatly aligned with the last three months of my MSc. I was at home alone writing up my thesis, submitted it and then went travelling for a bit. Hoorah! Holiday time! Then I came back to earth with a bump and stayed crumpled into the ground during the entire 8 months I was unemployed, whilst living my isolated life in a small village. You’d have thought with all that time on my hands I would have been taking advantage of the opportunity to get in the shape on my life and become a full-time fitness blogger or something, but that’s not quite how long term unemployment works for most people, I’m afraid. I was lonely and very sad, often not coming into contact with anyone other than Kynon for days at a time. Exercise only helps to lighten the mood if you’re capable of actually getting out of bed in the first place, you see…

Chapter Two of the tale saw me move to Edinburgh in June for a job (yay!) without Kynon (boo) and try and figure out a new peripatetic lifestyle between Edinburgh during the week and Stonehaven at the weekends, a two and a half hour train journey with my husband and cat stuck at the wrong end of it (boooo). Despite walking a 6 mile round-trip to work most days and doing a couple of runs a week, there was no magic return to svelte fitness. Whilst this was a definite step in the right direction, oddly it was no replacement for my previous consistent high mileage routine. The only real consistencies seen to this day are consistently high cortisol levels and consistently high alcohol and calorie consumption at the weekends – easily enough problems to de-rail the healthiest of Monday-Thursdays.

Towards the end of the summer I also found myself in the snowballing situation of:

I ran less so I got larger <=> being larger makes it difficult and unenjoyable to run, so I run less <=> because I run less I stay larger <=> LARGE. 

I also had one of those lightbulb moments when I was looking at my holiday pictures, where I saw a picture of me taken from behind unawares and didn’t actually recognise the back side of myself because I was so huge. That was good; it was a classic un-ignoreable sign that I was really ready to make some changes to my diet because that was the only option I had left to alter the above cycle into:

I eat sensibly to become  lighter <=> being lighter makes it easier to run <=> I run more and l’m lighter and faster <=> happy

SPOILER ALERT: It’s nearly December, I’m still huge, and I’ve only ran 12 miles in November.


Let’s get to the point, shall we?

I decided I needed some guidance with my eating and was willing to pay for it. I knew what worked for me before because I never needed to think about eating and I’d never eaten specifically for long-term weight-loss before. I figured I had become desperate enough to place a monetary value on this, so paid £28 to join an Online Nutrition Programme which I had heard others talking about positively online.

There are obviously a lot of snake oil salesmen out there on the internet but this company and their ethos really seemed to suit me – the sample plan available to view looked exciting and satisfying, and there were options to sub out meals if life got in the way of the plan. A specifically vegetarian plan was available and all meals were supplied with recipes a week in advance. They are health-focused and advocate lifestyle change that you can stick with rather than drastic alterations and I liked their focus on fat loss over weight. At £28 for four weeks it seemed a reasonable starter investment, and I decided that even if I didn’t want to stick with a monthly £28 subscription,  I would have a month’s worth of meals for reference.

Sounds great, right? So what on earth went wrong?

1. It was nowhere near as bespoke as I expected

After completing an extensive questionnaire upon signing up, where I detailed my lifestyle and goals, I was excited for my first weekly plan to arrive in my inbox. I was disappointed to see that it was clearly a generic plan designed for a non-active person with exercise tips such as ‘Why not try jogging today?’. I am also quite aware that I am no nutritionist, but the portioning was seemingly tiny for a reasonably active person. There was also a ban on snacks – not eating between my teeny lunch at 1pm and getting in from running at 8pm seemed unrealistic and challenging. I logged back into my account to send an email to query this, and saw that all my information had been wiped from the questionnaire apart from the first lines of every box. Aha! A technical error! They just didn’t know about my lifestyle and goals…!

Well, not quite. Something that isn’t mentioned on the website is that the basic monthly plan is not suitable for runners or people who are already active – of course, this could all be fixed for me if I signed up for the next level up, which was the same price weekly as I paid for my month. The website error was never addressed. I started to feel pretty stupid for signing up.

2. Many of the choices just didn’t make sense to me

When I asked if it would be ok to have my usual pre-run snack – such as a handful of almonds or dried apricots, or a banana, or some oatcakes with peanut butter; a sugar-filled processed cereal bar was suggested instead. You could have up to four cups of tea with one sugar a day, but no strong coffee. The bare bones of one meal was stated to be “No carbs, beans, or pulses”, but then the suggested recipe was for a bean-based soup – I’m guessing this was a grammatical error, but that is not helpful information on a plan that I am paying for.

3. I didn’t like the extra advice packed up with the plan

There was a half A4 of advice and little tips and tricks for mind-setting each week, but some of the advice clashed hugely with my general approach to a happy life. A lot of it was quite sensible, but some pearls of wisdom were seriously WTF. Is falling foul of this why I’ve put on weight? I don’t know, but if losing weight means I need to think in these ways, then I think I’d rather be fat and happy:  If you can’t overcome a craving, have it instead of a meal or offset it with exercise <- I feel this is enabling a really unhealthy relationship with food. Eat your dinner on a side plate to make it look bigger <- Sorry, but I don’t want to be an orthorexic Healthy Living Bloggers/Instagrammer… Empty your house of all food that isn’t on your plan at the start  <- No. I refuse to waste food when others go hungry. Become a person who doesn’t think about food in between meals and treat food only as fuel for the body <- This would give me a very sad life.

There was also a Facebook group which I just couldn’t get on board with. I could see that a lot of people gained a lot of support and advice from it, but I didn’t enjoy reading the weekly weigh-in threads and the constant navel-gazing (sometimes literally). I also did not enjoy reading people slagging off their friends and family’s choices (no matter how daft) behind the door of the closed group, or people sharing tweets or articles which did not agree with the programme and encouraging dog-piling. I just found it all to be the kind of dialogue which I really don’t want to be a part of; that is not how I build myself up.

4. In the end, my life is so messed up right now that it just wasn’t sustainable

I probably could have made it work, even if I did ignore all the odd advice and daft online conversation, the meal ideas and recipes themselves were good and I think if I doubled some of the portions on run/gym days and added healthy snacks, then it would lay a good foundation. However, here are some more excuses:
– I just didn’t have the time or energy to cook different meals each night – the way I get around this now I live and cook like a single person again, is to make huge pots of healthy food and freeze portions for quick, healthy meals I don’t have to think about.
I’m lodging in someone else’s house  during the week and I have to fit my cooking around their cooking too, as well as cope without my own cooking implements and not make a mess.
I found it very expensive – my weekly food costs doubled when I bought everything for the plan, which is not something I could easily absorb. Batch cooking works for more than one reason for me – I can make 6 portions of lentil dhal for about £2.50. That would get me two avocados, or one bottle of unhomogenised milk for my weekly meal plan and that’s it. The plan claimed to save money by planning ahead, but maybe these people have never been truly broke.
– I found I wasted food – Living between two houses meant I was left with lots of unused ingredients in the fridge over the weekend when I would be in Stonehaven. Taking a half full litre carton of Greek yogurt and a half empty bottle of your fancy milk along with a selection of half used vegetables in a carrier bag on a packed rush hour train is never going to end well. The alternative is to buy smaller packets which are less economical, buy more stuff in Stonehaven (which won’t get finished), or just leave it in the fridge until Monday and cross my fingers.

So how do I wrap this up?

The long and short of it was in the TL;dr at the top – it’s the end of November and my jeans are still tight and I’m still bigger and slower that I would like. I thought that by handing control over my diet to someone else, it would take the stress out of healthy weightloss, but it turned out the opposite was true. I don’t think diet plans are for me right now, and I can’t afford the cost of a one-on-one nutritionist. I’ll do my best to stick with what I know, and just keep clinging on to hope of improvement. The key areas I need to fix are keeping my snacks whole foods and unsugary, not going wild on food at the weekend, and trying to cut back on the booze. With Christmas coming up, this will be a hoot!


However, I do feel I am making progress somewhere. I’ve joined a gym again and am on week three of consistent training which is a baby step, but one step further than I’ve gone for some time. It is as clear to me as it will be is to those that can read between the lines here, that there are wider issues affecting the trajectory of straight-forward progress, but as long as I keep trying again every time I fail, then I’m not actually failing. I’ll get there.


Have you ever tried an online nutrition plan?

Will you attempt to balance healthy living with the festive season, or enjoy a couple of weeks of indulgence?

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

**Edited to add – Sadly Cue BBQ shut down in September 2016, with the effects of the Oil downturn in Aberdeen being cited as the cause**

When an email landed in my inbox inviting me to try out Cue BBQ, Aberdeen’s newest BBQ joint, I was understandably hesitant. As a vegetarian for over two thirds of my life, unsurprisingly I tend not to frequent such meat-focused establishments by choice. In my past experience on the rare occasions when I’ve joined friends for dinner at BBQ restaurants, my choices are usually limited to potato salad, coleslaw, fries and perhaps a token item like a veggie burger if I’m lucky. Put simply – it’s just not my kind of thing.

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

This invitation was a little different, however; the event had been organised for a group of Aberdeen Bloggers by Just Julia, and I really wanted to meet some of the other ladies in person after tweeting with many of them for a while. A quick glance over the menu looked very encouraging, and I was reassured that vegetarians would be well catered for.

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

We were welcomed with jars of a refreshing Pimms cocktail whilst we learned a little more about the restaurant concept. Owned jointly by Aberdeen restaurant group Beetroot Restaurants Ltd and Angus & Oink sauces, Cue BBQ opened to the public on the 2nd February 2016. After a road trip, Chris, Scott, and Malissa decided they wanted to bring the diverse culture of barbecue cooking commonly found across the Southern states of the USA all the way to Aberdeen, and create a relaxed, family friendly, traditional barbecue joint.

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

Great attention has been paid to the decor and getting the restaurant vibe just right. Colourful murals are splashed across the walls, filament lightbulbs hang from the ceilings, and seating is either at individual tables or at the higher ‘Ledge’ pit-stop tables, designed for eaters on the move.

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

We were treated to a tour of the kitchens to see the enormous smoker; unique in Scotland and shipped all the way from America… imagine the team’s frustration when it arrived and they couldn’t fit it in through the front door?! Luckily with the quick hire of a crane and the removal of a second floor window, the behemoth was located carefully into its new home.

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

All meat is slow smoked in an authentic American ‘low and slow’ style, and is sold to the eater by weight, directly from the smoker. I’m told it’s all very, very tasty.

So; onto the good stuff! What can a vegetarian expect to feast on at Cue BBQ? Let me tell you – there’s a lot…

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

On this tray we were able to sample four dishes which are all available as both main meals and sides, and pride of place in the middle was the massive Monster Mushroom Burger. In the dishes were Big Mamma’s Mac n Cheese (deliciously rich and flavoured with pumpkin and thyme), Texas Rootin’ Tootin’ vegetable chilli (aromatic and smoky), Pit Boss Clay Pot BBQ Beans (fruity, saucy and very smoky), and Dirty Rice (a delicious addition to the beans or chilli). As for the burger; I wish I had a can of coke or similar to give perspective, but the size of the patty was absolutely huge. A ‘mushroom burger’ in a restaurant usually means a SINGLE portobello mushroom with salad in a bap, accompanied by a ridiculous price tag. This burger is an original in its field however, with the huge patty consisting of smoky cooked mushrooms and vegetables fried in panko breadcrumbs, served with pickled mushrooms, relish and salad.

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

On to another tray of delights, and here we have a selection of some of the other side dishes available to accompany your meal. Potato salad, Red House Slaw, Rainbow Unicorn House Pickles (my favourite!), Coleslaw, and Cornbread muffins. Cornbread isn’t something that you often find outside of America, and it was one of my favourite things to eat alongside a bowl of chilli back when I lived in Texas. The guys have absolutely nailed this recipe, and eating it brought back great memories.

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

There is also a range of tacos – vegetable, pork and fish – which explode everywhere with deliciousness as you enjoy them. I especially enjoyed topping these with some of the Angus and Oink sauces which were on the table as well. If you find one you particularly like, you can even buy a jar to take home with you. My favourite was the ‘Red Dawg Apache’, but the ‘Voodoo Mango’ was pretty special as well; just watch out for the kick!

Cue BBQ Aberdeen

Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly eat any more food, taster trays of desserts arrived. Anyone who knows me knows that my ‘pudding stomach’ is a very real thing, and it doesn’t matter how much I’ve eaten, I will always have room for dessert. We got to try slices of the Bannoffee pie (creamy decadence),  Pecan pie (sticky and spicy) and the Key Lime Cheesecake (refreshing and juicy).

I rolled home fit to burst and singing the praises of Cue BBQ to a very jealous husband. I’m so glad I decided to come along and visit Cue BBQ as the vegetarian offerings actually far surpass many other restaurants in Aberdeen. When you’ve eaten one beetroot and goats cheese tart you’ve eaten them all – and don’t even get me started on the omnipresent mushroom bloody risotto!  It’s safe to say we will be back very soon, and what’s more; on the weekends they even do an all day BRUNCH!

Thank you so much to Cue BBQ for having me and the Aberdeen Bloggers for the lovely company!

Cue BBQ – – 1 Alford Lane, Aberdeen – 01224 589109

One month in

I can’t believe it’s now been a full month since my last post, where I was preparing to make one of the biggest changes of my adult life and quit my job to return to University. I always expected it to be a busy few weeks, but whilst I expected immersing myself in Postgraduate study would be hard work, I underestimated how time consuming the workload would be. I am enjoying the course (MSc in Digital Marketing) so much though which makes the work easy to do, and I’m learning so much about areas which have always held interest for me. Recently we’ve spent a lot of time working on Google Analytics and SEO which I am enjoying gradually implementing on my blog to cement my learning! I’ve had GA installed for years but never really understood how to work it and how best to use the data. SEO is a massive field and I have a lot to learn – it’s quite embarrassing seeing how poorly optimised this site is at present…

Google Analytics Wonka MemeI am still getting used to the concept of being a student. It has been a very weird transition from being in a relatively senior administrative position in a University Department to being a clueless student again, but I think I’ve avoided many of the more common pitfalls that used to plague some of the students who used to pass through my office.

Alongside student life comes the myth of all the ‘extra time’ I thought I would have at my disposal. I have a lot of work to do and *just* enough time to do it in, which has not left a great deal of time to meet my usual weekly fitness goals. I haven’t been to running club in weeks or gone for runs with friends, but I have been getting out for short runs and doing BodyPump/metafit/circuits classes which have been great. I am re-growing some muscle which is nice, and my body is slightly less soft. However I am missing my Saturday long runs, and long adventures in the hills. Come the Spring and my usual ultramarathon training cycle, I’m not quite sure how I’ll be able to work the usual 6+ hour Saturday runs into my University work schedule but I’ll hopefully have found a bit more balance by then.

Hoka Highland Fling 2014


After my last update, in line with my goals of losing a few inches I stuck religiously to a strict diet for two weeks before I cracked and ate/drank some carbs. The diet was supposed to last 4 weeks, but I was just getting so unhappy by not being able to eat the things I like! I was planning on writing a post solely about the diet, but I bored even myself writing it so I didn’t think it would be of any interest to my readers at all. In summary, it was a meal plan I found in Trail Running Magazine which was easily adaptable to a vegetarian diet. It was extremely vegetable heavy and involved a lot of snacking (good) but it seems that no matter how big I make a salad, it only keeps me full for about an hour which made for a very cranky Red Wine Runner (bad).

pulse salad vegan

However, two weeks did seem to re-start a healthier mindset when making food choices and whilst losing only 4lbs on the scale I lost a cumulative 4 inches off my bust, hips and stomach. I call that a win.

In terms of racing, I have signed up for the Monymusk Half Marathon next weekend, and then the Peterhead 10k and the Fraserburgh Half in November. That will see out the end of my racing year, which will segway nicely back into ultra training. The Monymusk Half is the final race in the Stonehaven Running Club championships, where my friend Vikki and I will be ‘battling’ it out for 2nd and 3rd places in the female championships. Rebecca has taken 1st place by a mile and is now unbeatable, but the order which Vikki and I finish in will decide who takes second and third place, as we are also unbeatable. I am just delighted to have a podium place and I think it reflects a year of very hard training so I don’t mind how it plays out in the end.

Hoka Highland Fling logo

Ultras next year will be the D33, Fling, potentially the Cateran (I’m not sure if that’s a good idea…) and then the West Highland Way race. Later in the year I’d like to do some of the other Scottish Ultras that I am yet to do, such as the Clyde Stride, Speyside, and maybe the River Ayr Way. Kynon is intending to do the D33, Fling and the Glenmore 12 hour race again; I think I will support/marshall at Glenmore this year with the view to getting a big PB in an Autumn marathon.

So that’s all I’ve got for now; I look forward to returning to racing next weekend and writing up the Monymusk Half. It’s a trail race so it’s hard to forecast a time goal, but I understand it’s good and hilly so it should be quite a fun challenge with my clubmates. I seem to be making some progress towards the elusive sub-50 10k goal as well, with all the short fast runs and strength training I’ve been doing. Tonight I did a 6 mile progression run in 49:54 so I can certainly call that progress!


RECIPE: Haggis Cannelloni

Two weeks ago on the 25th of January it was a very special day; not only was it Burns‘ night, but it was also the birthday of my darling betrothed. With the confluence of these two great annual events came the opportunity to showcase my dazzling culinary skills and create a delicious birthday meal for Kynon. Both of us love Haggis (I stick with the vegetarian option of course), so I decided to make a Haggis based dish with an unusual twist and decided to make Haggis Cannelloni.


My Mum first made this dish for me years ago, and inspired by it I have since experimented with haggis as a mince substitute on a couple of occasions, creating haggis lasagne and haggis tacos. It’s really quite a simple recipe but it just takes a little time to prepare the various components before assembling the dish for baking. It can be incredibly healthy as well (depending on how much cheese you put on the top), and can be made vegan by exchanging the ricotta for a vegan soft-cheese substitute.


Vegetarian Haggis is made with lentils, grains and beans so is a great protein-packed food for vegetarian athletes. Lots of spinach also adds a nutritional punch as well.
This recipe will give you 4 hearty servings, or you could stretch it a bit further if you’re serving with accompaniments such as bread and and salad.

Haggis Cannelloni by Rhona Mitchell

Prep time: 20 mins, bake time: 40 mins

250g vegetarian haggis
Box of dry cannelloni
150g fresh baby spinach
40g fresh basil (chopped finely)
150g mushrooms (chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic (crushed and chopped finely)
125g ricotta cheese
Large jar of tomato pasta sauce (I used 660g Lloyd Grossman Tomato and Basil)
Bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
1tsp olive oil

1. Set your over to pre-heat to 200C. Cook your haggis as per the packet instructions and set aside in a bowl to cool.

20130125_1752512. Finely chop basil, garlic and mushrooms




3. Heat the oil in a large wok and saute the garlic, mushrooms, basil and spinach until the spinach is completely wilted.


4. Add the sauteed vegetables and ricotta cheese to your bowl of haggis and mix thoroughly.



5. Blanch cannelloni in salted water and set aside out of the water to cool.


6. Fill the cannelloni with haggis mixture using a blunt knife – push the mixture to the middle first of all then stuff each end til they are full.


7. Place filled cannelloni in a greased baking dish. Fill as many as you like – just make sure you have enough tomato sauce to cover them! I did two layers.


8. Cover the cannelloni in sauce, making sure no pasta edges are peeking out.


9. Bake in your pre-heated oven for 25 minutes, then add your shredded mozzarella and cook until brown and bubbly – probably about another 15 minutes.

Leave to cool for a few minutes after taking it out of the oven, then serve and enjoy with lots of wine and bread!

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