24 September 2012

Connie, lovely hubby and me

It's turned to autumn with a vengeance and been raining and windy here in the UK, so let's ditch the blues and think about some positives.

Well, I can honestly say that whatever else life is chucking my way at the moment, and there's some fretful stuff going on that's giving me a lot of sleepless nights, there are a few nice constants.

The foremost of these is, of course, my darling lovely hubby who is such a support in the worries going on in life at the moment (hmmm, maybe I'll write more of these in a later post... if I feel brave). He is such a love and takes care of me and protects me much more than I ever expect, or deserve. I won't go into detail, but he is quite prepared to change his life completely to help me and I can't thank him enough for 'being there' for me. He's a very, very special man.

The next though, surprisingly enough, is Connie. Even though I was pretty happy with our old Horizon rowing machine, I always hankered after a Concept of our very own and I'm so glad we bought her. She wasn't cheap, but she's worth every penny. In fact, I'd say, if she's good enough for this man, she's good enough for the fat lass!

Now, I can put my hand on my heart and say that I just can't believe how much difference she's made to my mornings. Hopping on and rowing (albeit for way too brief a time, dammit!) is sheer pleasure now she's set up in the office and some days I feel like could cheerfully carry on for hours if time permitted. It's like the difference between wearing a silk shirt and a haircloth one. It's funny, but it's really motivating - the knock-on feel-good effect continues right through the abs work too, which I'm also now enjoying much more than previously.

Another 'plus' is that my body finally seems to be catching up and getting the low carb message. Yes, I know, I know... I'm just too impatient!  But, I tested with Ketostix at the weekend and there was a bit of a colour difference so I guess I'm entering 'ketosis' and beginning to use up some fats as a fuel, not just glucose/glycogen. So, let's keep going this way and see what happens next.

One tiny worry though (and it's one I never thought I'd find myself putting into words) - the scales have also shifted downwards by just over a kilo in a week (aaaargh!) so I'll need to keep an eye on that as I really don't want to lose much, if anything at all. For one thing, we can't afford yet another new set of clothes... and, perhaps rather vainly, I like the clothes I have now! Hmmm, that said, if it reduces the 'orrid flap of belly fat a bit more I won't complain. Watch this space, I guess.

Onwards ever...

21 September 2012


Sorry chaps - this is going to be a long one (it's certainly taken long enough to write!), whilst the fat lass arranges her ducks into a nice neat row. Feel free to skip right past it as it may only be of interest to me.

Not that it'll help, but I'll begin with a quote:

If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em. - Harry S. Truman

Yep, the man got that just about spot-on right and in recent weeks I've found I was getting less convinced by the day. The more I researched the science behind this particular topic, the stronger my sense of confusion became and a dawning lack of conviction grew.

What was I less convinced about? It's a tough one, this - namely the 'given' message here in the UK about eating 'healthily' with Type 2 diabetes. As you'll have gathered over recent weeks, this is a topic dear to my heart.

The bottom-line dietary advice provided by the NHS (who are supposed to be the experts and our 'look to' advisers, after all) is to "include starchy carbohydrates with each meal, eat more fruit and vegetables, to eat at least 2 portions of oily fish a week and to cut down on saturated fat, salt and sugars."

Diabetes UK say something pretty similar, and produce a nice coloured leaflet, "Eating well with Type 2 diabetes", which (although it cautions readers to limit sugars and sugary foods) states in it's second main point that readers should "include starchy carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, chapatis, potatoes, yam, noodles, rice and cereals" at each meal. They also go on to say that the 'starchy' carbohydrates should "make up about half of what you eat and drink".

OK, so that's good advice from 'reliable' sources, huh? Well, in some (you could even say most) respects, you can't say a great deal against it, especially if you view it as sensible dietary advice for the general population. However, when it comes to Type 2, there is one stand-out point that I beg to disagree with, actually.

It's that very first bit where it suggests a Type 2 diabetic should eat "starchy carbohydrates at each meal". Hang on a tick - can we pause and think about this for a moment.

After a very speedy canter (thanks to Google) through the science of human metabolism - call it metabolism 101 if you like - what I've read quickly reveals that.our bodies convert carbohydrates in the food we eat to glucose in order to make use of it as a source of energy for just about every part of our bodies. OK, so what?

Well, for one thing - our bodies don't actually seem to 'need' to be totally reliant on carbohydrates for energy, as some of the 'authorities' suggest. Our bodies seem (given a little time to adjust) to be able to adapt quite happily to utilising fats as an energy source instead. Indeed, that seems to be what pre-agricultural humankind used to do as a matter of course, and what some extant societies still manage to do pretty darned successfully. Hmmm, maybe those Paleo people have a point after all? Let me think about this for a second.

OK, so let's assume that those "starchy carbs" are not written-in-stone essentials then - that is they do not need to be the first choice option at meal times. Fine so far, but this'll call for a pretty radical shift in the way we think about our food intake... won't it?

Yes, I guess it will. But the clincher to this mind shift is...?

If an individual is trying to control their blood glucose to 'near normal' levels both before and after eating, and avoid 'spikes' in BG levels to minimise the risks of 'diabetic complications' (oooh, what a lovely term that is!), how on earth can this guidance (from the NHS and Diabetes UK, don't forget) be good advice? Having read around, this now seems to be completely counter-intuitive to me.

After all, it proposes incorporating a specific food category (carbohydrates) as a significant - that's right... a 'significant' - contribution to a 'healthy' diet. But yep, you got it right - that category is carbohydrates... the very stuff which the body breaks down really readily into glucose. Call me dumb, but doesn't this mean it is, therefore, the single food category most likely to lead to a high BG spike?

Head spins, brain reports "does not compute" and confusion reigns.

Let's take a look at some evidence, shall we. OK, this is 'only' empirical evidence gathered over a short period, from a very restricted sample size (of one!) to say the least, and it concentrates purely on blood glucose, not overall health. However, given those provisos, it sure has begun to look valid from where I'm standing!

To do this, we'll step back a couple of weeks to when lovely hubby first came off medication. At that point, we started off by buying into the low GI idea. This meant following the 'expert' advice and including carbohydrates. Minimising sugars, but choosing the more complex 'good' ones, such as 'wholegrain' foods which take longer to digest than the processed alternatives so 'slow' the rise in BG levels. That was the path we headed out on.

We identified some baseline 'good' BG figures to aim for and tried to keep within the limits suggested by these, whilst eating the low GI way. So far, so good?

Er, no actually, and we found it pretty challenging to adhere to the guidance whilst keep hubby's BG levels nice and stable with the low GI approach. Even relatively small amounts of 'good' carbs sometimes seemed to have quite drastic effects on his BG.

It was in part those definitions, like 'a rise' and 'spike', which first tripped us up. How do you figure what level of 'elevated' BG is an acceptable one, and what sort of increase you should label as a 'spike' and should be worried by?

More reading ensued, and we seemed to be getting a handle on it all. What we did find though, was that as we selected foods to keep my lovely hubby's BG meter readings down to manageable figures, the amount of carbohydrates in our diet was gradually decreasing.

Finally, we seemed to come to a bit of a crossroads. That was when we started reading more about the specifics of a low carb diet, and when my man began getting serious about following a low carb regime. Hence we changed what we eat (trying to lose the fear of fats!) and, since then, he's not felt so restricted and the 'strict' BG control seems so much more easily achievable for him.

Some blood glucose comparisons:

The Low GI approach
5.0 mmol/l - fasting average
6.3 mmol/l - 2-hour post-prandial average
This was not (we thought) too bad at all, but choosing foods to maintain this was beginning to feel a bit restrictive. What's more, we still encountered some surprisingly high spikes to kick the averages up a bit.

The Low Carb approach
4.6 mmol/l - fasting average
5.3 mmol/l  - 2-hour post-prandial average
Better! It seems to be a little easier and less restrictive to follow, and BG figures are definitely trending in the right direction.

I'm still confused though. Now my bafflement comes from the fact that the very organisations I expect to be able to rely upon to guide us to a healthy way of life when dealing with an extremely well known and understood metabolic disorder seem happy to sidestep some of the basic biochemistry which drives how our bodies function. Er, why? Call me cynical.... but did someone mention money, honey?

20 September 2012

I need some...


...and I need it now.

My head's spinning and my brain seems to have gone into shut-down this morning. No great huhu, just a bad day at the office. Wish I'd stayed home and played with Connie.

Ho hum... onwards ever.

16 September 2012

A new approach... for me too

Well, the ongoing trial of low carb living seems to be going well for lovely hubby. His body has happily switched to ketosis (we've checked with Ketostix) so he's now using fats as a primary energy source. His blood glucose levels (without the aid of Metformin) remain admirable, he's now off all his old blood pressure medication and there's just a statin to kick into touch... er, if we can persuade the GP!

Amazingly enough, for a former carb-hound who loved his bread, pasta, white rice and potatoes, he isn't finding it hard to do at all. In fact, he's not really missing the carbs (most of the time), and he's enjoying and feeling satisfied with the foods he's eating.

However, I was beginning to find things a bit of a challenge, as I started to feel rather torn between keeping on with eating the way I've been doing to maintain my weight loss and trying to incorporate some of the requirements of low carb into shared meals.

The problem has come about as I've still been eating some unrefined carbs as normal (e.g. my daily beloved porridge oats) and also trying to stay fairly low fat. Counter to this, we've been trying to increase lovely hubby's fat intake to slow/stop/reverse his continuing weight loss which is getting a tad dramatic. With both dietary approaches on the go, this was becoming less easily sustainable for me.

So, a decision has been made and, as of this weekend, I'm starting down the road of adopting the low carb approach rather more 'fervently' myself. Yep, I am aware that the blood glucose effects are not relevant to me in the same way as they are to my man, but the more reading I do (especially relating to the science of low carb living) the more convinced I'm becoming that it is a healthy way of life for someone without Type 2 diabetes too.

So, I'm now in that initial metabolic changeover period, waiting for my body to figure out that it needs to use fats rather than glucose as it's primary energy source. Once the Ketostix tell me it's got it's act together life 'should' become a wee bit easier (pardon the pun - just couldn't help myself!).

I'm happy where I am so don't really want to lose any more weight, but neither do I want the scales to creep up. So, for now, I'm not adding in the additional fats as we are doing for hubby... well, not just yet anyway... and will rely on the scales to tell me how I'm doing.

So, for breakfast this morning we each tucked into half an avocado, chopped tomatoes and lettuce with black pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, a few olives, some feta cheese and a plum, with a Greek yoghurt and pesto dip and ground flax seeds. 

Looks nice, huh? I have to say, it was both filling and delicious!

07 September 2012

Missus Shift It, that's me!

Yep, that's me alright. For the last three days I've moved, shifted, re-organised, re-labelled, chucked out, cleaned and generally blitzed a couple of rooms at work in preparation for refurbishment work... which starts at sparrow-cough on Monday.

Why the mad panic rush, fat lass? Couldn't you have planned this better? Hmmm, you may well ask.

The rush is all to do with yours truly asking for weeks (and yes, I mean this quite literally!) when the work will start so I can make a plan and enroll some able assistance. The answer I 'always' got was "ah well, we think it'll be soon-ish, but can't give you a date just yet". Huh! That's men for you.

That WAS the answer, that is, until Wednesday morning when I asked for the umpteenth time and was told that Monday is the big day. What the ?*!#? Nothing like a tight deadline then...

So... in the past few days I've shifted fridges, freezers, filing cabinets, desks, drawer units, lab equipment (some big, awkward and seriously heavy) and a gazillion boxes of 'stuff'.

I've swept and washed floors, cleaned shelving and generally got my hands (and every darned thing else) filthy dirty, whist fielding questions from almost everyone who passed about what I was doing and why. Very few came with an 'is there anything I can do?' offer!

As of this moment I ache, I'm extremely grubby and a tad disheveled, a bit bruised in places and I'm absolutely knackered, but I feel really, really, very satisfied.

Why? Because I did it... And because I 'could' do it... And because, despite a return of summer here in the UK, I barely broke a sweat... And all that is in the most part because of the weight loss and fitness. Faced with this task a few years ago I'd probably have curled up and cried. Not now! It was head down, grit teeth and get on with it.

I've still rowed and done my abs workout in the mornings, still gone walking at lunchtime. I've (mainly) eaten sensibly. I feel strong and powerful and unstoppable, and there's a snippet of song playing over in my head at the moment. It's by the late, great James Brown, and it goes

Whoa-oa-oa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good...

03 September 2012

Meet Connie

Thought I'd just introduce our new house-mate. Say hello to Constanza Beata del Magnifico, a.k.a. Connie.

She may have only just started to live with us, but has already secured a place in our hearts.

She's a lovely neat and quiet lady. Slightly used she may be (er, she certainly shows one or two of her previous life's stresses) but she's one smooth lady, and informative too (her PM3 gives us a LOT of information - and I will investigate the 'fish game' option!) and she's an absolute joy to use.

We've already had a lot of fun with her and will continue to do so.

Otherwise, things are still ticking along nicely so nothing major to report. I'm still trying to get my head around metabolic pathways and different food groups so will probably blither on about that in another post.

Onwards ever...

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