28 November 2012

Gonna tell you a little white lie...

...but it is only a little one. Promise.

I'm a happy bunny today. No, actually I'm one delighted rabbit this morning. Why is this? Because I went for my annual asthma review last night and received an early, but very welcome, Christmas present.

There we were, the specialist nurse and I, sitting in a little room while we went through all the usual questions, beginning with 'how have things been since I saw you last year?'

This one was easy - I said 'absolutely fantastic!' and went on to say I hadn't had a problem that I could remember in the last six months at least. She seemed quite pleased, if maybe a little taken aback at this somewhat vehement and definitive reply, but onwards we went.

The next question was a little more tricky as then the nurse asked if I was still taking my medication. I squirmed a bit and said 'er, no, not really'.

Starting with the Qvar (beclomethasone) inhaler, which I'm 'supposed' to use every day, both morning and evening,  and which I absolutely hated being put on in the first place. I sheepishly confessed that I'd started cutting back to once a day much earlier in the year and dropped it altogether sometime in August. I did qualify this by telling her that I felt 'just fine' while doing this and I'd seen no deterioration in my peak flow measurements (which I check fairly regularly).

As to the Ventolin (salbutamol), which is my come-with-me-everywhere, 'on demand' inhaler, I recalled quite clearly the last time I'd needed it. That was back in July. It wasn't a biggie, even then, and there was a specific reason my asthma triggered on that occasion, which I also shared with her.

Finally, I mentioned that my peak flow (PEF) now usually averaged somewhere in the region of 450 l/min. She looked up and asked me to confirm my height, and checked if she had my age correct. I did, and she had.

At this point she handed me a meter and asked me to blow into the tube. OK, I can do that. Bang on target, it read 455 l/min. She grinned at me and said 'fine' and that the result was a better reading than the average expected for a non-asthmatic of my age and height. She followed this up by telling me to 'keep on doing whatever it is you are doing'.

So, I told her about the walking and rowing (she already knows about the weight loss) and she agreed that it is very likely that this is making a significant difference to my lung function, amongst other things.

To say I floated out of there is putting it mildly!

And my little white lie...? Well, I'm going to tell you that I can say a fond farewell to these babies.

[OK, this part is a bit of a fib. I can't actually 'get rid' of them... but I can keep them stored safely away for a rainy day]

27 November 2012

Cake, anyone?

Nope. Not for me thanks.

That has been the story of the last week (thankfully!), even if I can't quite understand how things can possibly have changed in the fat lass to this extent. Amazing, isn't it.

But, before I start, I've had to perform a rather unsettling task this morning. For the last several years I've kept satisfying but fairly low-calorie snacks at work by my desk so, when I get tempted or hungry, there's 'something' to go to for a little nibble that wouldn't do too much harm.

Even during this low-carb switchover phase they've been sitting there quietly as a foodie security blanket, although I haven't touched them in weeks. Sadly though, these have definitely not been things I could even pretend are low-carb, so are not really a sensible option to have in my eye-line any longer. So today, my much loved and reliable staples, the good 'ole Grape Nuts and Shreddies, finally found a new home in the bin.

Might not sound like a big deal but, now I've done it, I feel a bit odd and ambivalent about this step - it's almost like I'm skating on rather thin ice without my 'standby' bits and bobs to hand. How stoopid is it to 'grieve' for a breakfast cereal, huh? But that's sort of how I feel.

Anyway, back to the main point and, yep, it's been a welter of wall to wall sweet treats at work over the last week. A name day last Monday, a birthday on Tuesday, a leaving do on Wednesday and a 'just because' day on Thursday (er, I think Friday just went right by me in a bit of a haze!) and, oh yeah, a meeting in London yesterday with a very fancy lunchtime spread.

On every occasion there was something sweet and edible on offer (from biscuits, to chocolates, to cakes, to cheesecake), most of which looked, at a minimum, 'very nice' to 'gorgeous', and any one of which were things I would previously have sampled (or at least wanted to) with delight.

For some odd reason though, none of these sweet treats has really 'drawn' me to it at all, and it's been easy to politely decline... every time. I'm hardly sure I can dare say this, but I seem to have lost the urge to eat anything like this... even that Polish cheesecake, which would have had me drooling with a vengeance not too long ago.

This period has even coincided with one of my 'oh Lord no, I'm hungry!' days, on Tuesday last week, (does anyone else get those days?) and I still didn't say yes. Could it be the low-carb eating 'switching' something off in me? To be honest, I just don't know.

So, my question is this. Is there truly something in what I've read (but dismissed pretty cynically) about the 'addictive' nature of sugars? Is that what's going on here? Have I, because of the dietary changes we've made, actually 'quit the habit' as it were? What's more, can I have even 'had' the habit (given that I've always said I'm more of a savouries type) and not known it?

The jury is out ladies and gentlemen. I can't decide and a quite big part of me is still pooh-poohing the whole idea. But...? Maybe... just maybe...?

OK, enough! I'm just going to be grateful and hope this lasts. Onwards ever...

19 November 2012

A deserving case?

Hmmm, nope, I don't think so!

Someone very recently asked me if, now I've lost so much weight, I find it 'easy' to stay slim. I said "oh hell, no", but without really thinking too much about it at the time. However, now I've pondered some more on that question I've realised that I've been guilty of taking my eye off the 'constant vigilance' ball.

Just lately, although I've been keeping a pretty good check on my weight and have been staying nice and stable eating low carb food, I've found myself thinking some rather bad thoughts. That cannot continue.

These 'bad' thoughts are sneaky little things like "hey, my weight's fine, I've been up and down on my feet all day and walked a long way, so I can have just a little 'x' or 'y' or maybe even a 'z' as a treat". Oh dear, that's closely related to "hey, I deserve..." a whatever it is for "being so good". Sure, my recent treat choices may have been made with low-carb in mind (e.g. a piece of cheese or a handfulof almonds), but at the end of the day they are still 'unnecessary' treats.

Oh deary me indeed - this isn't a postive mindset for a fat lass! If I carried on in this way, that's the sort of attitude that'd get me right back to the bad old days of using foodie treats as a reward for all manner of things. And, worse yet, when I actually stop to think about this a bit harder, and take it a little further than the immediate pleasure side of things (er, always a good thing for me to take time to do), I know exactly where this path would lead me...

It'd head me on a straight, clear track right back up the numbers on my scales... and that's somewhere I DO NOT want to go!

So, this is where I say "whoa, stop, halt" to those invasive thoughts! Heck, I didn't work so hard over the past few years, to get where I am now, only to throw it all away on a 'treat' or two... or three. Being 'active' or 'good' or similar (in no matter what way I feel I may have been) just isn't a deserving candidate for food rewards. C'mon fat lass - you KNOW that. Get with the plan again.

It's too early for a New Year's resolution, so I'll make myself a nice 'new week' resolution instead. Here goes...

I WILL remain vigilant, and will keep sensible strategies for maintaining a long-term healthy lifestyle firmly in mind.

Onwards ever...

14 November 2012

Good stuff

The Egyptologist Howard Carter once, on peering through a tiny opening into the tomb of Tutankhamun, was asked if he could see anything. He very famously said "Yes, wonderful things", and I'll second it. Wonderful things are indeed in my sight.

I'll begin with last Friday, when my darling lovely hubby went to see his GP to get the results of blood tests at the end of a three-month no-meds trial. The bare minimum I will say to begin with is that he came away beaming. As to me, when he told me how he'd got on I was practically dancing in the street!

Why? Now, where do I start?

Because... whilst still Type 2 diabetic (with the best will in the world, this can be held at bay but not 'cured'), he does not have to return to medication to control his blood glucose. His HbA1c is better (I'll repeat that - BETTER) than it was when he was taking Metformin. And that's purely down to diet.

Because... having been on two forms of medication to control elevated blood pressure, he now needs nothing (I'm going to say that again - NOTHING) to lower it any longer. In fact, it's lower and more stable than any of us can believe.

Because... despite having been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease several years ago, the markers which flag-up this problem have disappeared (yep, I'll repeat this too - DISAPPEARED) entirely. Er, to the extent that his GP thinks making an appointment for a scan to confirm the change would be a "waste of time" and very happily reported that he once again has a "fully functioning liver".

Are you grinning yet? Well, there's more good news.

Because... his blood lipids are great. For the final time, I'll repeat myself - I didn't just say good, I said GREAT. They include improved HDL, lower triglycerides and a much better (CRR) ratio. Is the additional fat in the diet (and I'm talking saturated fats, like butter, nuts, olive oil, chicken with skin, eggs and cream here, amongst other things) doing any harm? Nope, not one teeny bit!

What's more, his GP not only isn't even slightly disapproving of what he is doing in terms of a ketogenic diet to achieve these great results. He positively supports lovely hubby and told him to carry on doing what he's doing. I couldn't be happier about this - from bitter previous experience, supportive medical teams can be as rare as hen's teeth.

That in itself is a HUGE thing as low-carb high-fat flies in the face of NHS dietary guidance (closely seconded by Diabetes UK), which exhorts diabetics to, and I quote, "include starchy carbohydrates with each meal.... and to cut down on saturated fat" amongst other recommendations. I've already talked about how that didn't work for my lovely, despite our best efforts.

But it gets better. You'll have picked up already how anal this fat lass can be. Well, we've kept detailed records of food eaten against blood glucose levels over the three month trial period, with my darling testing five times each day (and occasionally more often). These show very graphically the effects of firstly a low GI diet (keeping in line with the 'official' guidance), then the conversion to a LCHF (ketogenic) diet.

Just as an example - these are the blood glucose results across three months from tests performed two hours after our main meal every evening. The date on which his diet changed to from low GI to LCHF is marked in yellow. Bear in mind the aim was to control blood glucose to minimise peaks and troughs, in other words to get it as stable as possible, by choosing the right foods for him to eat. Notice anything?

Hmmm, so did his GP. In fact, his GP asked whether lovely hubby had any objections to his printed results (and all the bloods as well as our own records) being used in teaching (our practice is a training practice for newly qualified GPs). Quite a compliment, eh?

Oh, and there was not even a mention of my lovely hubby being 'too thin' or any of that nonsense. The GP is more than satisfied with where he is so all the 'don't lose any more' doubters can just shut the... er, heck... up now please! Do you detect a note of sheer frustration here?

OK, so am I happy enough yet? Well no, things get even better. Once we'd celebrated with a small glass of red wine and a nice low-carb dinner, we packed to go visit my mother.

It was lovely being with her but then, on Monday, we took her to see her consultant. I was dreading it, as it's always really hard for her, so I'd girded my loins to argue against various pointless (in my opinion) things they usually ask her to do. It wears her out completely (well, she is in her nineties), and I just can't see the benefit to her. This time I was primed to ask 'why', and keep doing so until I got some darned good, clear answers.

My worst fears were raised when we saw the physio, who started talking about an interventive 'trial' of new medication and mentioned possible side effects. Well, stoopid here could see this trial would not have been practical for a lady of my Mum's age so I went in to see the consultant ready for the full 30 minute argument.

It didn't happen! In fact, he was an absolute sweetie, and treated her like a person, not just a 'condition' to be treated. In fact, is so happy with how her particular condition is being managed at the moment that he shelved the trial before I'd had chance to raise any objections, on the basis that she's 'stable' and happy and it makes no sense to 'fix what ain't broke'. Score another gold star for the NHS.

So, I'd say good stuff about covers it, wouldn't you? I now intend to bask in the positive vibes for as long as I can. Onwards ever...

09 November 2012


OK, I have just about managed to haul my way of thinking back to a more positive vein. Next job is to kick-start that 'enthusiasm' engine.

But, before I get going with blathering on about weight related things, with Remembrance Sunday fast approaching and in light of my 'miseries' post of a few days ago, I just wanted to take a moment to consider how fortunate I am.

In particular , to give thanks that my own life has been unaffected by the horrors of conflict experienced by so many people in the past, and still suffered by so many people in other parts of the world even today.

Life is such a fragile thing and can be so deeply affected by events outside our own making. The phrase 'Lest We Forget' is one often voiced around this time, and it does make me stop and think.

In a similar (albeit somewhat less important, in the great scheme of things) way, I sometimes need to stop and think about the changes my life has undergone over the last few years, and to give thanks for the positive things which stem from that. Actually, I can't think of a better time than this.

Again, I feel very fortunate. This time, it's gratitude that the likely 'future' which faced me whilst obese (having been so for years) and desperately unhappy, has been averted. Because I made that one choice, set my mind on that firm committment to set out to turn myself around and improve my health (and my life) by losing my excess burden of weight, in some ways that prospect now seems almost a distant memory. But it's a memory best not forgotten.

Had I not bitten the bullet, accepted responsibility and 'done something' to change, I shudder to think where I'd be now. My weight would almost certainly have continued to rise, year by year. My fitness (minimal though it was back then) and mobility would have deteriorated even more. I'd likely be on medication for a wide variety of health problems by now and, because I pretty much hated being 'me', the spectre of descending into serious depression was very, very real. Not to put too much emphasis on this point, but there was also a chance that, with the strain I was inflicting on my poor abused body every single day, it could have failed me altogether and I might not even be here.

Contrast this with where I actually am today. Today's picture is much rosier by far.

Since my story began, I've lost just under half my old body weight and around eight dress sizes. Better yet, along with this, I have lost fear. Fear of getting even fatter, and of my health further deteriorating. Fear that my lovely hubby could maybe decide a slinkier model would be a better bet. Fear of being out of control of myself. Fear of dying young, but also of living for decades longer but remaining desperately unhappy with my lot. And yes, fear of failure (yet again) if I tried to do something about it, so a very real fear of being trapped in my own body.

I've lost other things too. I have lost much of my old self-consciousness, replacing this with a previously undreamed of confidence. I've lost my cringeing embarassment around new people (although, by God!, I hid it well), and a similar shame around those people I'd known before I grew my fat suit and who now viewed my bulk with pity (and often frustration).

I've lost the need to hide in baggy, drab and unflattering clothes, and the resentment that 'pretty' was out of the question, and the 'big girl' shops were my only option if I did ever want something new. I've lost the sheer horror of seeing a mirror or, worse, a camera pointed my way now that photos don't hold the terrors they used to. I've lost the need to make sad-sack excuses about why I 'didn't want' to do something, when often it was more that I wasn't sure I was able.

I've lost a lot of things I considered 'normal' back then, but now see to have been symptoms of my body's distress. Things like feeling 'old' before my time, like my almost unceasing aches and pains, the near-constant 'bugs' I used to pick up. the skin rashes, the chafing, the horrible spots and zits, the breathlessness. I've lost the need to carry an inhaler with me on every occasion (although habit means I often still do). I've lost the desire to bury my emotions under a sea of food... only to find that they surfaced again all too quickly.

And I've gained such a lot too. I've gained fitness and health and freedom and a new delight in life. I've gained the desire to be active, to get out and about in the fresh air - whatever the weather. I've gained the ability to bend over to tie a shoelace (believe me, I couldn't without a good strong support!). Now I can even pop on a pair of heels if I want to. Hell, I've gained a swimsuit... and I'm not afraid to use it!

And, most of all I've regained 'me', and I've gained my long dreamed of 'more love' for every 'square inch' of me that remains. That is a gift beyond rubies.

So, a time for remembering and a time for giving thanks. Sometimes, maybe especially when things seem to be going awry, it's worth all of us sitting quietly for a moment amongst life's daily madness, and making time to do just that.

Onwards ever...

08 November 2012

Bumps in the road

No particular reason for them to have materialised and nothing 'specific' to report on, but a general malaise. The last few days have seen me dog-tired, to the point that I've had to haul myself out of bed with a general lack of energy and enthusiasm. OK, so there's been a touch of sleeplessness and a smidgen of the black dog meanies but nothing 'real' to hang my grumpiness on.

I've kept on with the walking each day (and got soaked doing so too, but that wasn't too bad), and with the exception of today am still rowing in the mornings, which has been 'OK' (ish) but the abs work seems a chore. Ho hum. It's probably just a case of the 'here comes winter' blues.

Food has been fine, for the most part, and I've picked those couple of pounds back up (with the able assistance of butter and cream!), so am back at a 'comfortable' 54 kg (eight and a half stone) but now feel 'heavy' and slightly bloated. Huh - there's just no pleasing this fat lass, is there!

If I'm honest, right now, I'm fed up and tired of the whole subject of weight, and food, and carbs, and choices, and remembering to be 'sensible'. I feel like a holiday from it all, but I'm pretty sure this would be a recipe for disaster.

Instead, I need to get my focus back on the positives in life and, yep, they ARE there. I just need to 'see' them once again. We're off to see my lovely Mum at the weekend so maybe that'll help.

Onwards ever...

05 November 2012

Brussels sprout heaven!

So, how are things going? Or... when is a 'problem' really a problem?

Well, the fact that I'm asking myself this shows I'm not entirely happy with what's happening to me at the moment - and am finding it hard to come to terms with this new 'new'.

Hmmm, I know this sounds a bit muddled, but the thing I'm not happy about is losing weight again. After years of fighting the good fight to lose weight and get to where I am now, this in itself seems SUCH a wrong thing to be thinking. I really am struggling to get my mind around it.

You see, I've gone and dropped a couple of pounds again, despite thinking that I've been eating sufficient to keep my weight stable. I am once again down to 53kg this morning (that's below eight and a half stone... again) and I don't feel comfortable with this.

Maybe I 'ought' to be ecstatic about it, but I'm not. Instead, I'm mildly worried as I feel like I'm eating absolutely loads - too much at times. And what's more, I neither actually WANT to, nor feel I COULD, eat much more than I'm already doing in any single day.

So, increasing sheer quantity isn't going to be the answer here, or I'll get completely discouraged and less inclined to be rigorous about my low-carb food choices. Having said that though, I simply can't keep losing - I won't have clothes left that fit me properly, for one thing, and that'll really p**s me off!

OK, I guess I'm going to have to start adding a bit more fat into my diet than I have been doing. That worked to stop, then slightly reverse, a similar trend for lovely hubby so I just need to readjust my mindset.... and my habits. I've made a bit of a start with this today, adding a decidedly 'healthy' drizzle of olive oil to my breakfast!

Enough of the moaning - now let's talk about something nice. 

One of our week-night's low-carb dinners last week was a masterpiece and absolutely confirms my belief that my darling lovely hubby is a genius of culinary undertakings chez nous. To start with it was good 'ole home-made beef burgers (sans bun, of course!) and these were really, really good.

However, what accompanied them is now a firm favourite, and something we'll regularly have again because it was absolutely fantabulous!

It was some gorgeous Brussels sprouts, shredded quite finely, and dropped into a pan where a small onion had been gently sweating in a little olive oil. The crucial bit is that the sprouts were added just a short time after a spoonful of a Bengali spice mix called 'panch puran' * had been added, and the whole spices begun to 'pop' and release some of the most amazing aromas to emerge from our kitchen in ages.

* I was told about this mix, fairly recently, by a work colleague, to try with shredded cabbage - and have to admit that I am utterly addicted to it now :-)

With a quick shake, then a lid plopped on top, they steamed in their own liquid and stayed a vibrant, beautiful fresh green. A dollop of butter just before serving rounded them off to perfection, giving them a lovely glossy look and a truly decadent flavour. They went wonderfully well with the burgers.

We made loads (we both love sprouts so tend to get a bit carried away!), so there was some left for lunch the next day. Served cold, with a little crumbled cheese and a few pomegranate seeds they were just as good as 'leftovers'.

So, all I need now is a bit more butter, and maybe I'll be back to 'normal' soon. Onwards ever...

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