The Art of War: Chicken and chili soup, Chinese style

My mind has long been at war with my body. Primarily the battle has been purely psychological, but three weeks ago after a long period of escalating tensions,  my body and I entered Def-con One. War broke out. For the first time in my life, I went on a diet motivated primarily by weight loss. There have been two primary foes in my mind’s battle for my body: Self-Esteem and Ego. Self-Esteem is a terrorist. It whispers hateful words when I look in the mirror and explodes bombs of self doubt during sex. It feeds on fear and uncertainty. It is hard to find and difficult to capture.Ego is a powerful bully. It takes control of my mind by drugging it with the things it wants. It tells me I’m too smart to buy into all this body-image bullshit. You’re a strong, educated, critical woman, it says, you know that you’re being manipulated by advertising to buy into an ideal that doesn’t exist. Have another pork spare-rib, it’ll make you happy. You want to be happy, don’t you? 

I have a deep admiration of women who are comfortable in their own bodies. I have never been. Self-Esteem and Ego have been slugging it out for as long as I can remember. Always a pointless and exhausting state of affairs, having children caused the whole thing to spiral out of control. My pelvic bones spread (as I suppose happens when you force a child through them), my rib cage was pushed up and out to make room, my breasts turned into behemoths and stayed that way, never to experience the post breastfeeding shrinkage I was promised. Then of course came the exhaustion and the sugar hits and the quick meals and finishing whatever the kids left on their plates and the absolutely no time or energy to do anything for myself. Size 12 became a size 14, 14 started to trend towards 16. Things were looking grim. Self-Esteem was waging a highly successful guerrilla campaign that was destroying my self-confidence, Ego was busily placating me with self-righteousness and lollies.

But across the border, in a more distant part of my psyche, a third party had been planning a campaign to take control of my body. Reason had for some time been amassing notes and now it had compiled a complete dossier. The notes concerned the many health risks associated with being overweight: heart disease, stroke, a wide variety of cancers, Alzheimers, Diabetes and other delights. It attached these notes to pictures of my children and reminded me of a good friend from Primary School whose mum had dropped dead of a heart attack in front of her. Not yet a teenager, she’d had to go live with the father from whom she had long been estranged. Reason also reminded me that the greatest indicator of obesity in children is having obese parents. Reason had of course attempted sorties previously but with limited troops behind it had quickly been pushed aside by far more experienced adversaries.

Suddenly and unexpectedly Reason found an Army. My mind had been taking more notice of Reason since a First Aid Course had put the fear into me about what I was doing to myself. It was with wonderful timing, then, that I came across my masseur down the street. He was looking great and I told him so. He told me about a diet that he and his naturopath wife had been on and Reason seized advantage. Now is the time, it said, and immediately booked an appointment. In no time at all, Reason had assembled an army and crossed the Rubicon. No turning back, in 3 short weeks it has shaved close to 7kgs off the territory previously held by Self-Esteem and Ego. An extreme diet, 500 calories a day from extremely limited food groups for 23 days. There have been civilian casualties: my poor husband and children who have borne the brunt of my out of control rage, my ability to speak in properly formed sentences and my singing voice. But it will be over soon. When I finish this phase, I spend another 23 days on a normal calorie intake but free from carbs and sugar to stabilise my weight. I am dreaming of scrambled eggs, bacon and avocado. There will be spoils of war, however. I plan to write an eBook of very low calorie recipes because, despite the battle raging around me, I have still managed to eat really delicious food. Here’s a taste.

Chinese – style chicken, tomato and chilli soup

This is a really satisfying and delicious soup and so very simple to make. I suspect it will become standard repertoire for me. In case you’re interested, it contains about 170 calories. 

  • 100 gm chicken breast
  • 2-3 cups fat free Asian-style chicken stock (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon julienned ginger
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 300 gms tomatoes, each tomato cut into about 8 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh coriander
  • Dried chili flakes

Place the chicken breast in a pan with the stock, ginger and garlic. Bring gently to the boil and then remove from the heat for about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and shred finely. Return the pan to the heat, return to the boil and again remove the pan from heat. Add the chicken, soy sauce, coriander and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with chili flakes to taste.

To make the Chicken stock, trim the fat off some chicken chops and throw them in a stock pot with a stack of slices of fresh ginger, a couple of roughly chopped onions, some crushed garlic and about 6 peppercorns. Don’t be exacting about quantities, just make us much as you like. Bring gently to the boil and let simmer for 2 hours. Strain the stock and place the liquid in the fridge. As it cools, the fat will float to the surface and be easy to scrape off.



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One Response to The Art of War: Chicken and chili soup, Chinese style

  1. Jackie says:

    this tale rings so true with me. Tell me more about this diet.