23 December 2013

A life, and Christmas, re-defined?


Like many people, for the greater part of my life, Christmas revolved around food. Tempting treats and too much turkey, a little something special under (or on) the tree, the fun of carrying on a family tradition (like the flaming brandy, and finding silver sixpences in the Christmas pud), and all those things which, through the years, I thought made a Christmas complete.

As a child, I remember it was THE time of year when we had a box of Quality Street on hand, open for anyone and everyone to dip into whenever they pleased. OK, we had to endure those awful (as a child) Brussels sprouts, but we had tins of assorted biscuits, my Aunt's lovely home-made Chocolate Log (complete with plastic robin), and home-made sausage rolls and mince pies aplenty, Advocaat 'snowball' (a sophisticated glass of which I was allowed, well-diluted with lemonade, from a fairly young age), pigs-in-blankets and all sorts of other goodies we didn't see at other times of year.

There was always a tray of nuts (in their shells) for us to dip into, and the traditional Boxing Day well-buttered rounds of cold meat and stuffing sandwiches, usually with a liberal helping of my Mum's home-made green tomato chutney. We maybe even had a Cadbury's selection box to enjoy all to ourselves if Santa thought we'd been good boys and girls. As I grew older, you could add wine with dinner, a glass of sherry with those mince pies, and other alcohol to the mix too.

There's nothing surprising or unusual here, to be honest. Most people I know, and have ever known, have or do something pretty similar. After all, it's Christmas!

I can recall all this with nostalgia now but, d'ya know, I've slowly begun to realise that the entire focus of my Christmas has changed over the last few years. Firstly with the changes in how I ate for weight loss and now with the low-carb lifestyle, food, while it's still important and both enjoyable and enjoyed as a part of the festive season, is no longer the be all and end all. It's just that - a 'part' of the celebrations. If I'm honest, with the way we eat nowadays we'll probably seem like party-poopers to many during the festive season, but I'm just not too interested in the 'traditional' Christmas feasts any longer.

Overindulgence with those seasonal 'treats' is no longer a thing to be eagerly anticipated because of the relative rarity of the goodies involved - I guess that's part of it. But the lack of scarcity doesn't cover everything.

Even though the goodies are now readily available, I just don't really feel the need to overdo it for the sake of a 'good' Christmas any more. What's even better, the sometimes (OK, often!) uncomfortable after-effects of wall-to-wall festive munching are something I no longer feel I 'have to' endure because they too are now something that's pretty much past. But hey, I can still enjoy the Christmas carols, the decorated tree, the joy of time with family... and let's not forget those presents!

Gradually, I've come to see what a valuable, incredible, and long-lasting Christmas gift this is. One of Mum's 'blessings' to be counted indeed, so here's to a Merry low-carb Christmas.

On a slightly sadder note, the season will be redefined in another way too this year. We won't be heading off to look after my lovely (and much missed) Mum, to cook a tempting turkey roast for her or see her open her stocking. Yes, it'll be different this year. Yes, there'll be sadness because we won't be with her. But there will also be a host of beautiful and happy memories to look back on.

There's also the knowledge that she'll never suffer again, and that she is where (for the last few years) she had desperately wanted to be - safe and secure in the arms of her God, reunited with my Dad and other precious family.

So, keep that in your mind, fat lass - then how could you possibly see it as a bad thing, eh?

Latest Update:  
My poor darling, who had just gone back to work today after his 'problems', now has another thing to worry about. He managed to cut his hand badly this morning and had to go to the surgery. He'll have to go again tomorrow to get it re-dressed. 

Ho hum. What was that about it never raining, but it pours! Guess I'm on KP duty full-time this festive season, eh? Ah well, at least it'll take my mind off things. 

19 December 2013

In denial?

I was talking to a colleague a day or so ago and she said something which, at the time, I disagreed with (although I kept quiet), but which I've since mulled over and decided she has a point.

This is a lady who, in the seven or so years I've known her, has always been beautifully slim, glamorous and very attractive. I actually used to envy her a little when I first knew her and thought I could never be like her... but that's another story.

Anyhow, she's had a fair few 'female' health problems in the last year, and told me she was unhappy that she'd gained around nine pounds (where she's put this weight I couldn't tell you - she still looks gorgeous to me). She went on to say that she knew she'd have to 'deny' herself in the New Year to lose this unwanted weight.

My first thought was that, woah!, this was a tad harsh. To me, it smacked of the exclusionary, prohibitive and restrictive 'dieting' mantra of you CAN'T eat X, Y or Z. In my mind, that path sets you up to lead to disaster. The word 'deny' has such negative connotations it couldn't be right, I thought. So in my head, I didn't agree... but later I pondered and now realise she was actually right.

We each of us have choices to make - all day, every day. Do I eat that biscuit? Do I head off for that walk, even in the rain? Do I pick low-carb foods? Do I hit the gym tonight? To some of these choices we'll answer 'yes', to others we'll say 'no'. When we pick what we feel is the 'healthy' choice, we also 'deny' the less than optimal option, and vice versa. It remains our choice, whichever way we play it.

So denial isn't a word to be scared of, necessarily. It's merely, for all it sounds quite strong and negative, a part of choice. So, when it comes to maintaining my health, and my weight, I'm quite happy to choose the positive options and  'deny' myself the things which would have a detrimental effect on me.

Hmmm, I guess you could then say I'm 'in denial'.

17 December 2013

Still not out of the woods...

Or to put it another way, 'just when you think it's safe to...'

I have a plethora of extremely rude words in my head right now. I'd best make them stay there as I'd be banned from blogging if they overflowed and leaked out into print. This has come about because we seem to have developed a small cloud on the horizon and I'm frightened (OK, scared witless) that it presages a storm.

My poor darling lovely hubby, having made such good progress, now displays another little symptom or two (things like slightly elevated blood glucose readings, and other less pleasant manifestations) which I am guessing means he's developed an infection... er, in the region previously affected. To put it mildly, he isn't over the moon, and neither am I.

He can't get hold of the GP today so will try again tomorrow (hiss, spit, grrr - this is one source of my rude word thoughts!). Obviously, we'll keep an eye on things but I have to admit I'm quite worried as he'd only just started to pick up again from last week's fun and games. I know, I know, it'll probably just mean a round of antibiotics, but... (call me Mrs Clucky Mother Hen!)

Stress! Wow - what a powerful and immediate force it is. Having just spoken to him, the fledgling appetite which I thought was beginning to make a decent return has been kicked into touch, and my lunch (which I was looking forward to for the first time in days) now seems as appetising as a box of wood chippings. Worse, I'm back to feeling marginally queasy.

Odd as this sounds, coming from the fat lass, I really do not need to lose any further weight. I'm currently at the lowest on record (as an adult) and am not entirely comfortable with this. I'm frustrated because I CAN'T eat. Gee, what a turn up for the books this is.

Still, 'nil desperandum' and all that jazz. The trick is to keep positive. We'll get this sorted and then life can return to normal again. Onwards, to wherever it takes us...

15 December 2013

The best laid plans...

...of mice and men (and in my case, women) often go awry.

Robert Burns had no idea how right he was. My well thought out strategy (in my mind, anyhow) for avoiding the danger zone of work social occasions and the prospect weight gain in the run up to Christmas wasn't actually needed after all. I didn't make it to any of the 'dos' as things changed around me pretty rapidly.

On Wednesday morning (Lordy, but that seems like eons ago!), I went to work as usual, leaving my darling lovely hubby apparently perfectly fine and dandy behind me. I hadn't done much more than take my coat off after I got to work when the phone rang. He called me, in obvious distress, and asked me to come home right away as he'd been taken ill.

I could hear he wasn't kidding so I hopped in a taxi, and the driver (when I explained why I'd needed him) very kindly put his foot down. When I got home my hubby was in a lot of pain, sweating but freezing cold, grey and near panic, with a very tender and somewhat distended abdomen. The problem was that he'd sat on the toilet as usual in the morning, started to do the necessary, and then all hell let loose - something was blocking any progress and causing him immense pain in the process. By the time I got home, this had been going on for nearly three hours (I work a distance from home) and he was by now exhausted as well as hurting badly.

After he'd nearly passed out with the pain I persuaded him (OK, more like insisted, bullied, call it what you like) that I needed to call the emergency services. Thankfully a paramedic came out quite quickly. She was a darling, and calmly but rapidly assessed the situation, gave him gas & air to try to help him and, when this didn't get him very far, requested an ambulance. Yep, he had an intestinal blockage - at that point we didn't know why.

Off he was whizzed in the ambulance with me doing my Speedy Gonzalez act in our car following them to A&E at our nearest hospital. Bloods, observation, a gazillion questions and so forth later, we then began to wait for a doctor to be free (and it was an extremely busy morning in A&E... even for them!).

Finally, upon examination (boy, that was fun... not!), he was diagnosed with an impacted stool, a.k.a. a severe case of constipation. To be honest, this was something of a surprise to us as (to put this delicately) he hadn't had any problems in that respect in the preceding days. Nevertheless, something must have become lodged and impacted further up in the system some time back and then, when it did decide to move, it caused the complete blockage.

It also shut down his urinary system and, although it didn't seem such a big deal to us, this was what concerned the hospital rather more. I won't go into the treatment details other than to say we were there for the best part of the (very unpleasant) day and at one point hubby wryly observed that he thought he understood how a heifer might feel after artificial insemination! Bless him, it takes a lot for him to completely lose his quirky sense of humour.

After much discussion, and a bit of intervention, I was allowed to take him home late on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the drive home in the darkness was a nightmare with him still in intense pain (for the record, those prescribed paracetamol don't do jack!), bumpy roads and fog! Still, we made it home safely and thus began several overly long days and nights of him being in a lot of pain... and what follows on from an intestinal blockage as the unwanted 'stuff' is then cleared from the system is something I'll leave un-described. Let's just say it's one heck of a mess, and roses isn't exactly the aroma which comes to mind.

Five days later and he's a whole lot better, if not by any stretch of the imagination back to normal. Still, the pain has mellowed to mere aching, soreness and discomfort, the 'Holy God, what a mess' has toned down to something rather more manageable, and last night he actually got most of a night's sleep... which meant I did too. He's still walking like John Wayne on a bad day, so won't be back in work for a few more days yet, but is at least able to take care of himself now so I can go back tomorrow.

As to that weight business? Well, I haven't been able to eat much at all (what between the stress and... er, circumstances) and I've been running round like a crazy woman (just don't ask me about one of our GPs screwing up his prescription until I've calmed down!) so I've actually lost weight. Hmmm, it's quite dramatically too. Looks like, for the first time in my life, I may approach Christmas needing to put a few pounds on! Bizarre or what?

Hopefully this will be all's well that ends well. Onwards, and wearily, upwards...

10 December 2013

Countdown...

...and I don't mean to the night that jolly old man in the red suit hops down your chimney. No, this is far more serious. It's countdown to the moment I enter the (rapidly approaching) danger zone! [oooh, cue the scary music]

This 'danger' comes in the form of three days of pre-Christmas festivities at work. A bit like London buses, they don't come around for ages then there's three turning up on the trot!

Tomorrow the whirl begins, with a departmental buffet lunch. Thankfully, this won't (shouldn't) be too difficult for this fat lass to navigate as it usually comprises wall-to-wall carbs, which are off my radar these days. I don't partake of the alcohol at lunchtime either or I'll doze over my keyboard in the afternoon (hey, the wine's not all that great anyhow), so the temptation to 'cheat' is also reduced by remaining 100% sober.

On Thursday things begin to get a little more tricky to handle. The afternoon will see me at my friend's funeral. This means I'm unlikely to be at my most rational/least emotional in the evening when I go out with one of my teams for a three course Christmas dinner... with wine. A 'no weight gain' strategy is in place, but it'll still need me to be vigilant.

Although I have chosen from the menu already, all the choices come with unwanted carbs which I will have to push to one side (er, this restaurant was NOT very accommodating so I don't think a return visit will be on the cards). This shouldn't be too much of a problem, except for those tempting sounding herb-crushed potatoes. Be strong, fat lass.

The third course is, of course, dessert and I've had to choose something sweet as they don't do a cheese plate (grrrrr!) on their Christmas menu. So, I've chosen something I don't actually like and already informed the organiser that 'my' dessert is up for grabs to the first bidder. How's that for planning ahead!

Then we get to Friday, and I'll be out for an extended (three courses again) lunch with another team, at a place I've been to before which I know serves wonderfully tempting food. Again, all the choices come with 'some' carbs, but mostly what's served on my plate will be OK (I just have to steer clear of the root vegetable selection). This place will (after a special request) provide cheese so my big test will be to keep my portion size to a 'reasonable' level... and my wine consuption to a sensible level too.

Oh yeah... then we have my sister and bro-in-law coming for the weekend... See what I mean about the danger zone? Watch this space (and the scales!).

05 December 2013

A happy puppy

There are downsides in life (like the little bug which has given me a thundering headache and made me break out in cold sores - grrr!) and then there are the upsides.

Went to see my lady doctor earlier this week about a little spot of bother I've had with Mrs Menopause. It's no great huhu, but something that's given me pause for thought and that I wanted her to be aware of. It turned out to be neither a downside nor an upside - more a 'hmmm, we'll see'.

Doc was, as always, really great. She took time, listened carefully and discussed it with me, and we agreed that we won't leap into making changes just yet so, for now and for the next three months, I'm on a 'watching brief'. If things stay OK over that time there's no further need to worry. If they don't quite go to plan then we'll be heading off into prodding and poking territory. As I say... hmmm. Wish me luck.

While I was there though, two other things happened that made this fat lass a very happy puppy indeed.

The first was a discussion about my asthma. She noticed from my records that I hadn't ordered the inhalers on my repeat prescription for 'quite some time'. I agreed that I hadn't, and confirmed that I couldn't remember the last time I'd needed to use them. I also confessed that I can't actually recall where I've put them (sheepish grin) and that I certainly don't still carry them everywhere with me now, like I did for most of my life. She replied, 'no problem, I'll take them off your prescription'.

Doesn't sound like such a big deal, eh? Well, to me it is - I've had the darned things on my repeat prescription (and carted at least one around with me) since I was in my early teens. So this is a very B-I-G measure of progress for me... and all this good stuff whilst my aerobic excersise plans are still sitting firmly on the back seat as I'm not yet back to my regular rowing. I told my doc I couldn't have been given a nicer Christmas present.

She then decided it was probably about time to take my blood pressure as it hadn't been checked for a while. She was happy when it came out as 125/65 mm/Hg, and that was after a brisk walk to the surgery so not exactly 'resting'. Hey, OK, I'll take that.

Before factoring in age and gender, a nice 'normal' blood pressure reading is said to be 120/80 mm/Hg (systolic/diastolic). Actually, in the UK, adult blood pressures are usually categorised into three groups:
Low = 90/60 mm/Hg or lower
High = 140/90 mm/Hg or higher
and
Normal = values above 90/60 mm/Hg and below 130/80 mm/Hg

Then there are those modifying factors. For a woman like me, aged between 50 and 54 (OK, I know, but I'm just about still in there), 142/89 mm/Hg is deemed to be the high end of the 'normal' range. Note this is still 'normal', just the top end, once age and gender are accounted for.

By the time I hit my next birthday, so fall into the age 55 to 59 bracket, that 'normal' upper value is expected to be a little higher, at 144/90 mm/Hg. In fact, the 'average' blood pressure for a healthy 54-year-old woman is, I gather (after Google searching), 129/85 mm/Hg. Even looking at that I think I'm doing OK.

03 December 2013

Random thoughts and minor miracles

Do please excuse me if I'm beginning to sound a shade fanatical here, but just a short week ago we lost a friend, and that has set me to me pondering the fragility of life and health and why it is so damned important to look after ourselves as best we can. Pretty deep for a Tuesday, huh?

Oooh, how easy it can be to let our guard down and slip into old (and usually bad) habits which do little to promote or support our health. Boy, we really do need to be vigilant... don't we fat lass. However, in thinking about vigilance, a concept that I'd never actually considered, but one that I can only describe as an unexpected bonus - a little miracle if you like - has become evident to me.

Now I know I've mentioned before the 'relative' ease with which my weight remains under 'reasonable' control with the low-carb lifestyle, but I didn't really think too much more about it (or particularly deep and hard) until I met someone I haven't seen for a while.

This is a lady who knew me when I was obese, through the years of my calorie-restricted weight-loss (which I am NOT in any way going to knock - hell, it worked for me!), and in the early days of trying to maintain that loss. But, we haven't seen each other, nor talked, since the advent of my low-carb adventures.

From back in the 'old days', she remembered my telling her that I sometimes found it quite a challenge to keep 'on track' with the 'diet' (and what I really mean here is 'way of eating') that ensured I first lost my weight, then didn't regain it. She commented that she recalled my scouring every single food label I encountered for the energy values (calorie content). She also remembered my workplace 'snacks' pile - generally a sizeable arrangement of fruit, a box or two of 'healthy' cereals and cereal bars, and various other 'low-cal' options which I used to tide me over when I got the munchies. She was a little surprised to see that those had all gone, gone, gone.

It was only after she'd left and when I stopped to consider the sugars (oh yes, even in that fruit), and the grains and other carbohydrates, and the chemical additives (I guess the fruit's excepted here, thankfully) that used to make up my 'go to' snacks that I realised that going low-carb has done much more for me than merely helping me stay at a 'sensible' weight without too much of a struggle. One of the clues lies in that word 'label' above.

To bear a label implies that something has been processed and, when I look back at it, quite a lot of my old lifestyle food intake was in some way processed. It was purportedly 'healthy' (often with this very word proudly emblazoned on the label) but, aside from that fruit, it was not usually raw and definitely not in the form which nature provides us with food. Man (yeah OK, probably woman too) had 'messed about' with it in some way.

Being pre-prepared (a.k.a. processed and packaged) it had a 'shelf-life', so inevitably contained preservatives and anti-oxidants and, very often, there were colours and added vitamins too (I guess they were there because the processing had stripped away any colours and vitamins nature provided).

My choices were predominantly low-calorie, so generally low in fat, which meant that other substances (usually sugars - oh yeah, including that universally recognised 'super-food' high fructose corn syrup!) had been added to make it taste of something. What fat was present wouldn't have been natural saturated fats, but cheap, industrially processed (and often partially hydrogenated) oils of some sort.

There'd even be delights like bulking agents (wow, what a horrid term that is) and other chemical joys. In short, those 'look after yourself' snacks were processed crap and a one-way ticket to screwing with one's metabolism.

The way I eat now isn't 100% perfect and I don't suppose for a second that it ever will be (weak-willed is my middle name), so there is 'some' inevitable processing to some of the foods I choose. Still, it's a dramatic improvement over what I considered 'good' choices back then.

The little miracle to me is that the vast majority of what I eat now, and this is largely led by the serendipity of my moving to a low-carb lifestyle to fit in with lovely hubby's needs, is either natural, or has been only 'lightly' processed. What I mean by this is that it does not automatically contain the sort of junk and padding which makes us sick.

I wouldn't classify my eating habits as primal per se, but there are a lot of overlaps. Mark's Daily Apple sums up the basic approach in his advice on "What to Eat and What to Avoid for Lifelong Health". Must admit, while I don't necessarily agree with him over supplements (or the carbs for athlete's option, being only an armchair athlete myself), his primal food pyramid makes pretty good sense to me

Hey, though - there was silly old me thinking primarily of my low-carb food choices in terms of keeping my weight settled (and lovely hubby's blood glucose levels under control), when all along it's also helping to promote an altogether healthier fat lass and family.

Miraculous indeed, and another of Mum's 'blessings' to be counted.

28 November 2013

There but for the grace...

I'm shocked and sad. We just found out this morning that on Tuesday night we lost someone we know. My friend's brother, a lovely, gentle, fun and funny man who was only fifty years of age, died in hospital, after much suffering, from cirrhosis of the liver. While we weren't exactly close, we'd quite often been out for meals together with my good friend, his sister, and we'd even shared a kitchen and cooked foodie feasts together, so I can't quite believe the news.

And only fifty. That's so damn young - it's younger than me! He was such a vibrant person, with so much love to give and so much more life to enjoy. And now he's gone. My friend is devastated, as you'd imagine. She's gone through a lot of grief over the past few years, one way or another, and now faces this too.

You know, I cannot get it straight in my head. It seems so unfair, but then I guess that's a part of life too. This is horrible, but I just keep coming back to how very, very fortunate I am that this didn't happen to my lovely hubby. It could so easily have been him, as he was diagnosed with NAFLD years back - a precursor to NASH and cirrhosis.

I can't express how grateful I am that, because he lost his weight and changed his lifestyle (oh yes, the low-carb again), the liver function markers for this insidious disease have disappeared and it seems that once again he has a healthy and properly functioning liver. There but for the grace of God.

Look after yourself and your loved ones. Tell them how precious they are to you and encourage them to take care of themselves too.

25 November 2013

A new word

Hey, it's always nice to stumble across a new word, and that's happened to me today. It's a really appropriate one too. One which made me smile and say 'aha!' when I read the definition.

It's the word 'sophrosyne' (in Greek, the σωφροσύνη above), which originally comes from the name of a Greek goddess who was 'the spirit of moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint, and discretion' and, so the story goes, one of the good spirits that escaped from Pandora's box when the lid was raised.

Now the word means: healthy-mindedness and from there self-control or moderation guided by knowledge and balance. Does that sound familiar...?

Good old Wikipedia goes on to say that the Roman poet Juvenal later re-interpreted this sentiment in one of his verses as 'mens sana in corpore sano', meaning 'a healthy mind in a healthy body'.

In part, his verse went:

    You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.
    Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
    and deems length of days the least of Nature's gifts
    that can endure any kind of toil

Nice, eh?

22 November 2013

Good times, bad times...

... you know I've had my share. To quote Led Zeppelin, that is.

Hmmm, there have indeed been both good and bad times recently and I guess all of us experience that from time to time. But, I think it's about time for me to focus on the former and review those things that are good, worthwhile and beautiful in my life. An appropriate time to give thanks.

And, funnily enough, no sooner had I thought about this, then got it written, than I came across Deedra's post doing the self-same thing a day or so ago. Small world, eh?

Anyhow, I've said it before, but as my much-missed darling Mum would have told me, I need to "count my blessings".

So, first and foremost, I know that I'm very lucky, as I have the most wonderful, supportive and loving husband a girl could ask for. He really is my rock, and my life just would not be as it is now were it not for him. Because of him it is as plain-sailing, straightforward and easy as it can be. He does so much more for me than anyone could ask, and does it without thinking - it just comes naturally to him. Slightly biased and peering through love's rose-tinted spectacles I may be. but that doesn't make him any less special. Whenever I'm tearful or down, I'll get wrapped up in his arms and feel safe - then even the worst problems become somewhat muted and more manageable. I'm blessed indeed.

I have a super sister too, and it's very nice to be able to say that her husband is also a lovely chap and a great support. It's good that we've grown closer over the years, especially over the last difficult months, and I know they'd be there for us whatever happened, as we would for them. My sister is my emotional depth gauge in so many ways. As another woman, with a host of shared experiences, I can talk through things with her that I find hard to express to anyone else - often because they'd probably seem 'silly' or trivial, or just plain incomprehensible.

I'm also absolutely delighted that I can say I have my health -  what a blessing that is! In the main I'm deliciously healthy, aside from the odd little niggles which show up somewhat unexpectedly when one finds oneself getting a tad longer in the tooth, like those minor aches and creaks, and yes, in part I mean you too Mrs Menopause! Whatever, I certainly have 'excellent' health these days in comparison to how unhealthy (and unhappy) I was when I carted around nearly an extra person with me every day, week in, week out.

I'm grateful (SO very grateful) that I'm able to move around freely and exercise my body. Walking every day keeps me sane (or at least fairly balanced) as well as keeping me active, and there's the other forms of exercise I do when my motivation is working properly. Related to that, I need to remember where I came from, and be grateful for the successful weight loss and the fact that it is (for the most part) staying off, unlike so many times in the past. One aspect of that is acknowledging how much better life is now, but I also want to remember the joy of hitting those little markers and milestones I experienced along my journey, and recognise the victories, however small.

Health is not just the physical side of things either, and while I'm aware that things are not on super tip-top form at the moment, I not sunk in the depths of black depression either. I am, in fact, 'hanging in there' pretty well. That is something I must keep in the forefront of my mind, and be grateful for.

I'm lucky to work where I do too, although I moan and gripe and grumble, in this rather quirky place but amongst some lovely people. OK, when I think about this, I'm also grateful that I have a job at all (even though I'd like to win the lottery - I'd quit to spend more time with lovely hubby). So many people I know have been made redundant, or are on fixed-term contracts without huge hope of getting a renewal, or are just plain out of work.

Another blessing is discovering that a low-carb lifestyle works well for me. It isn't always 'perfect', but there sure has been a lessening of cravings and comfort eating through the harder times. Backsliding may not be completely off the radar but it's a lot more manageable a challenge. What's more, we both enjoy eating the foods we choose and don't miss the sweet and starchy stuff much, if ever.

And lastly, I'm grateful for the little joys in life... the glorious autumn colours, the blue sky (today - hooray), the fact that although it's cold outside I have warm clothing to wrap up in and get out anyway. I'm grateful for the lovely flowers on my dining table (so beautiful), for the ripening avocados in the fruit bowl, for a glass of red wine now and again... as I say, life's little pleasures.

Life actually holds a lot to be grateful for and I am indeed blessed in so many ways. My lovely Mum was right - I just need to remind myself of this regularly.

18 November 2013

Hang tough

This post started off in a completely different way, as I actually started it last Friday in a real temper. It was all about the fat lass 'Slip slidin', and began:

Right, this'll have to do in lieu of what I'd actually like to type, but that's way too rude and the censors would have a field day if I really let rip. So here goes - oh bottoms. Big, fat, wobbly, saddle-bag bottoms. And ageing, stretchy, gravity-dragged boobies. And pendulous, paunchy, poochy bellies to boot!

This isn't going to be a positive post. Heck, you could tell that, couldn't you.

I'm NOT a happy bunny at all, and the only person I have to blame for this is me. I don't quite think that the term 'struggle' encompasses what's been happening over the last couple of days - it's been more akin to 'galloping disaster zone' and I'm really peeved, angry and disgusted with myself.

Having made a little progress at the start of the week, and foolishly reported slight 'improvements', I proceeded to prove myself dead wrong. I chucked it all away and headed back to where I started (and wasn't happy about). I've had a few horrendous days and behaved like an utter brat.

So, taking a look at this whole sorry episode again, with the benefit of a good weekend and hindsight's.twenty-twenty vision...

In an attempt to keep my sorry ass out of trouble, I have started chanting a daily mantra to myself at the moment. I suppose it's a little bit like the Nike one... mine simply says 'you've just got to get on and do it'.

What I mean by this is that I am trying to persuade (OK, more like bully) my inner brat that I MUST stick to what I know works to keep my health and weight under good control... even when my mind is screaming 'c'mon, gimme a break, dammit!' and wants nothing more than to hibernate under the duvet or dive into a sea of carby 'treats' like a homemade fruit scone from the local tea shop.

I'll admit, this is easier to accomplish some days than others. I know that a lot of things seem hard for me at the moment and I'm aware it would be a simple out for me to 'take it easy' on myself. But I also know that this would be a mistake in the long run.

To that end, I did a session of my floor exercises this morning before I showered (not that I actually 'wanted' to at just after 5 a.m.). I packed up a sensible mid-morning snack of leftover cod loin (from last night's dinner), and a healthy, if pretty firey, lunch of red cabbage, celery and hard Turkish cheese salad, with a rather over-generous (and accidental!) dollop of pul biber. I'll walk at lunchtime and walk some more on my way home.

My darling lovely hubby doesn't know how much his love and support helped me at the tail-end of last week and the weekend. But it did and he's a shining example to me. I'm so lucky, and so grateful..

So this week will NOT mirror the last one. Even if I do end up slipping, or tripping or falling, I won't let it derail me or get me down. I will hang tough, and I will NOT let this lurking black dog get the better of me.

Onwards ever....

11 November 2013

Improvements?

Yep, feels like there are some - hmmm, hope so, anyhow. After my recent salt debacle I think I now have my head back on straight again (oh OK then, it's a bit straighter, even if not completely straight).

It was indeed a fair old blip, but thankfully one that doesn't seem to have done me too much long-term damage... well, certainly nothing that can't be addressed if I take care of myself and my system rather more mindfully.

My weight is, as I had anticipated, up from where I had been happily sitting for weeks. The bad news is that I stood on the scales with the needle showing 55kg on Saturday's weigh-in and had almost certainly peaked higher than that earlier in the week, what with the (now obvious) water retention. Whilst I'm not too happy about that (as 55kg is my red line 'do something' weight) I know it could have been a whole lot worse had I not figured out what I was doing to myself and turned it around.

Let's view this positively - so far, so good, eh? This morning, after a careful weekend with plenty of water and some exercise, I feel less bloated and the needle looks to be sitting a shade lower. Great, so I am at least heading in the right direction. Having turned my sodium boo-boo around, I need to keep things going along the same lines.

Mindfulness - now there's an important word for the fat lass to ponder. Normally, when I think of it, I conjure neat little pictures of meals - taking my time, eating slowly and appreciating each and every forkful, but that's about it. However, I've just had a timely reminder that the word means so much more than this.

My mindfulness should encompass taking care and giving thought to choosing what to put on my fork in the first place. It should also include the thought, planning and determination required to get me off my backside and move. It covers emotional well-being too, not just matters physical. It is actually all about being 'considerate' of the whole of my life, not just the activity or dietary-related parts. It's about 'taking care' of myself.

OK, I understand now that I need to start looking hard at where I am at the moment and taking care of the 'me' inside once again. I'm aware that this has taken a back seat and slipped in recent months and that things in this respect are, pretty obviously, somewhat adrift. While I know there is that perfectly valid and understandable reason for this to have happened, continuing in this fashion isn't doing me any good at all.

As a start with this I'm going to do something I don't really want to do, and that is mention something personal which makes me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. I'm going to admit that most of the common symptoms and signs are there to indicate that I'm probably depressed. Hell, but I hate the bloody 'D' word with a passion, along with all of it's very negative connotations. Got the tee-shirt from a long time back and don't really want to be wearing it again - still, sometimes we don't get the choice. This is where I seem to be.

And, although I know things are very much off-kilter, I do not feel I can go to see my GP. This is the very last thing I want noted on my medical and employment records. Sounds silly, I know, and I guess I might possibly benefit from it. But there is still SO much prejudice out there about any perceived 'failings' when it comes to a person's mental state - I don't feel I can take that chance.

What I'm going to do instead is take the D.I.Y. approach. I'll focus on this mindfulness and walk myself through the whys and wherefores of my present funk. Once I have a clear understanding of what I'm feeling (hmmm, not as simple as it may sound as there are so many feelings, some of them conflicting), and why this is so (again, pretty complex as there's all sorts of family history and baggage to contend with) then I'll look at what I need to do to retrain or reframe my thinking.

Self-counselling, I guess. In short, I'm going to find a way to sort myself out.

Never fear, I will get through this and the dreaded black dog will not defeat me. I know it's 'normal' despite being not a pleasant place to find myself, and I know that the passage of time will help me too. Odd as it sounds, that is one plus about having been through a previous period of depression (which happened when I lost my Dad and my first marriage blew apart). Even though it was a hellishly rough time, I know I came out of it a stronger person, and that means I can do it again.

This time, I'm lucky. Very lucky indeed. I have my darling lovely hubby to hold my hand, dry my tears and pick me up when I fall.

OK, onwards, very definitely upwards...

07 November 2013

Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid

Doh! For an allegedly bright woman you really are a silly mare sometimes.

The penny has finally dropped and I've just realised what I've been doing to myself for the last week or so. Grrr, I can't believe I managed to fall into this age-old trap again.

I've been a bit low (emotionally) for a while - but it's been particularly noticeable since we came back from our break. I'm slightly irritable (understatement), a tad more tearful than I had been and generally feeling 'not myself'.

My darling lovely hubby keeps reminding me that it's to be expected (even normal to a degree), having lost Mum only a matter of months ago and finding myself in the run up to the b**dy festive season, but I'm still struggling with it... a lot, actually. Part of the problem is, I suppose, that I feel like I 'ought' to be coping better.

But, setting this aside, it's no wonder I've felt fat, and bloaty all week, and no wonder my work trousers feel tighter and vaguely uncomfortable. No wonder too that I've felt like a pile of c**p - sleeping poorly and with a sort of daily low-level off-colour/achy/headachy feeling. My temperature regulation has gone up the Swanee too - chilly one minute, hot the next. Heck, I've been tired and run down for days now. I'd put this down to fighting some nebulous and persistent little 'bug', and it was indeed probably partly that, but not entirely!

I must confess that my daily exercise plans have headed out of the window too, which won't have helped matters - and I'd say that's been a direct result of my feeling so utterly 'bleh'. Even the walking has taken a hit. Oh my, of this I'm not proud.

I don't actually know as yet (er, I haven't been brave and hopped onto the scales out of a general sense of 'worry'), but am guessing I may be in for a nasty surprise (hmmm, just 'rise' will cover it) when I weigh at the weekend.

And my heinous crime has been...?

I've been going salt crazy. Oh Lord, clean eatin', this ain't!

Haven't done it for ages, but I've found myself adding it to my meals (breakfasts, lunches and dinners) in larger than 'usual' amounts... all because I like the taste. OK, if I'm honest, it's also because I love the crunch of those gorgeous Maldon flakes too. My snack almonds have been salted this week, rather than my usual raw ones (they were cheaper so it seemed like a good idea at the time). I've been eating more olives every day - brined ones, of course. I've had Marmite almost every day, as the 'tasty' part of my lunchtime yoghurt dip too... which is? You got it. Salty!

Know what else this nonsense has done for me? Meant I've probably, nay undoubtedly, eaten more than usual. Oooh yeah, as I've also fallen into the second trap of thinking I'm hungry when I was actually just thirsty... so I've nibbled and munched. Maybe not a huge amount at any one time, but even so - too much is too much. Double whammy, eh? Oh dear, that anticipated weight gain is looking more and more likely!

Do me a favour. Just turn away for a moment now while the fat lass vents her spleen at her own blithering stupidity, swears like a trooper and screams to get it out of her system!

Hmmm, that's better. OK, now I can see what a dozy critter I've been it's time to haul this poor abused system back on track. Let's make a start by hitting the water. Let's get a grip and reduce that salt. Let's get moving and start up the exercise again... even if you do still feel like a run-over (salty) dog.

Onwards ever...

05 November 2013

Low-carb Aşure or Ashura – Noah’s Dessert

So, although not belonging to the Muslim faith myself, I'm quite happy to appropriate a celebration. Muharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar) has started which means it's that time of year. Time, that is for Aşure.

Tradition has it that when Noah’s ark settled on land following the flood, the last remaining ingredients on board ship were used to prepare a meal. That was how Aşure, the dessert to celebrate this month, was first made.

OK, before we go any further, this isn't a traditional version, in any sense, as the usual components are quite carb-heavy. But it does mean I can enjoy this delicious treat... my way, and anyhow recipes vary quite widely between regions and families.

Mine has no added sugar at all, which may mean it isn't sweet enough for some. But I reckon the sweetness of the fruit is enough. In any case, I think it is delicious.

It is simple. Take:

  1. Full-fat Greek yoghurt (this substitutes for the rice/barley/chickpea base)
  2. Dessicated coconut (helps thicken the yoghurt nicely)
  3. Berries (I've chopped strawberries & raspberries to sub for the usual dried fruits)
  4. Mixed seeds (sesame, pumpkin, poppy and linseed... oh, and a few pine nuts)
  5. Rose water
  6. Pomegranate arils
  7. Crushed walnuts (mostly because we don't have any lovely green pistachio)

Mix together the first five ingredients, and let sit in the fridge for a while for the yoghurt to thicken.

Decorate with the final two ingredients.

Eat and enjoy.

01 November 2013

A new flavour

Wow, what a find. At the back of one of the kitchen cabinets I noticed a bottle of rose water that's been lurking for far too long (bought a gazillion years ago to make a sugar-laden Middle Eastern dessert, I think). I hate to throw anything away unless I have to and it intrigued me, as one of the flavours I used to love was rose (think violet and rose cream dark chocolates - ah, the happy memories...).

This was rose 'water', and it definitely wasn't a syrup, but I wasn't really sure what was actually in it (as the label was not in English) so, out of curiosity I looked up the nutritional information on the web.

Great news - it has ZERO carbs! Yippee, my mid-morning snack (Greek yoghurt and coconut with our last three remaining strawberries) just got a make-over... and it tastes amazing.

As much as I love adding cinnamon to my yoghurt, I have got slightly tired of that recently and it's so nice to have a new treat now and again. I think my little bottle may make it's way to the front of the cupboard, and I can't wait to let lovely hubby try some too.

29 October 2013

Missing Mum

Some days are harder than others...

 I thought today I felt her touch
In the air as it passed me by
And then I heard her voice.
She said 'Child, my soul will never die'

28 October 2013

Wet, wet, wet...

Well, that is one way to sum up our holiday. But, do you know what? It didn't matter a jot and we had a marvelous time despite the almost continual sogginess.

My lovely sister was able to make it after all - I'm so glad, and the four of us got on very well indeed. We walked loads, uphill and down dale, and talked even more, and we ate very well indeed (actually, they were low carb feasts). I'd say we probably consumed a good deal more red wine than is truly good for us too. What the heck - it was great.

We were surrounded by forests and beautiful mountains (and sheep!) and every day we breathed in the fresh, clean country air. We saw the amazing autumnal colours develop in the week we were there, and explored to find stunning waterfalls (the rain helped there, I guess), including one extraordinary one from behind, accessed by paddling through a rocky cavern - wow, what an experience!

We didn't get chance to light the log fire (damn!) as it was so mild, but those same balmy temperatures for this time of year (around 14 to 15 degrees C, both day and night) did mean we could go outside in just our slippers and nighties, when we got up in the early hours, to see the stunning night skies... er, between downpours, that is!

We did talk a lot about our lovely Mum, so there were some moments of sadness and a few tears were shed, but we both agreed that she'd have absolutely loved being with us in this gorgeous place... and she was with us in spirit.

I'm still tired (guess that'll be the case for a while still) but feel renewed in my mind and was ready to face the joys of returning to work after a week's absence. I may regret saying this... but (apart from an email inbox fit to bursting) it hasn't been too horrendous so far.

17 October 2013

Let it be

A great mantra this, and one I'm leaning upon really heavily right at the moment.

Yep, when you find yourself in times of trouble... let it be! That is what I'm telling myself in the face of a variety of actual and potential disruptions to our holiday, having had a series of phone calls with various people last evening which may (or may not) cast a shadow on our break. I'm also telling myself not to be selfish, to go with the flow, to cut other people some slack, and employing various other clichés to stop my inner brat throwing her toys out of the pram!

The positive part of me is working overtime, and mostly succeeding, and I'm trying to smother the negative part of me, which is grumbling and muttering away under it's breath in the background about 'everything going pear-shaped', which really isn't true.

The main point here is, we ARE still going away, we MAY be joined by my sister and her hubby and we WILL have a good break. All the rest is just fluff and smoke.

Onwards ever...

16 October 2013

Counting down

It's that time of year. Only a few more days and we'll be heading off for a well-deserved and long-anticipated break in a cottage in the middle of nowhere. No TV, no mobile reception, no papers, just trees, sheep, great walks on our doorstep and the chance to kick back and relax.

This is somewhere we've been before, but this time it'll be a little different, as we're going to be joined by my lovely sister and her hubby. That's great, and it'll be really good to spend some quiet time together. What between losing our darling Mum a few short months ago, and with everything else that went before... some of which is still causing problems...I think we both need it.

It will make the food side of things slightly more complicated though, as they aren't low-carbers. In fact they're dedicated biccy and sweet stuff fans!

No criticism intended but, in a funny sort of way, my darling lovely hubby and I feel far less restricted and more free with our dietary habits than we feel they are. Neither of them handle 'strong' flavours too well so we'll have to take care with the chilli, spices and even garlic. My sister won't eat beef (remember the BSE scare?) or anything even slightly offal-related, and my brother-in-law won't eat pork, er, unless it's bacon (I know, I know... I just don't understand).

They are not adventurous eaters, but us? Well, we'll not only eat just about anything that (as lovely hubby puts it) 'used to make a noise or move around', but we're 'hey, let's give it a go' when it comes to trying something new.

Still, we've had a long chat about it (I guess my sis was quite worried about our foodie weirdness) and I think we've convinced them that we'll be able to eat pretty much the same for most meals - just we'll load up on the low-carb things we do eat and ditch the grains/sugars/high-carb bits. It'll work out fine.

One thing we both agree on is that a drop (or two) of red wine won't go amiss!

15 October 2013

Upwards - and a heartfelt grrr!

There was a little hike upwards in my weight at the weekend - aaaaargh, the shock and horror!

It was a bit of a surprise, to be honest. Looking back at the chart, since around the beginning of August, at least from the 10th, my weight has remained amazingly stable at 53.5kg (that's just mapping the Saturdays when it gets recorded, once weekly). But this wonderfully stable record, of which I was probably unjustly proud, took a knock...

Hmmm, you know what they say about pride!

So, this Saturday the needle on the scales was up half a kilo to 54kg. Not a lot I know, but I wasn't a happy bunny about it. However the logical part of me talked me down (as ever), telling me that it is understandable since differences in dietary salt intake and water intake will inevitably lead to the odd variation. Indeed, by Sunday morning it was back down again to 53.5kg but, of course, that bit doesn't get recorded.

And my point here?

Well, I've learned something about myself once again. It's amazing how truly crappy a small rise (one that I had to write down) made me feel. I'd sort of forgotten the immediate and very visceral reaction I have to seeing a gain in weight and having to be 'honest' and commit that to paper (well, to an Excel file). I have to confess that it put me in a real grump for a while.

Funny enough, if and when I've weighed during the week and seen a rise (even a more substantial blip) it hasn't affected me anywhere near as much as Saturday's incident. Usually, I growl for a moment, review what I've been doing, realise I'm being too obsessive and move on. Generally, when I weigh again another day, the 'problem' has disappeared - just as it did this time.

But... there was a difference. There's obviously something important (subconsciously?) about the act of recording it that's critical here.

Ho hum. However long I continue along this 'weight' journey, and however well I think I now know myself and think I can predict my likely reactions to a given situation, there's still something new to learn. Interesting, eh?

26 September 2013

Hey Bambi, be scared...

Yes, be very scared, because this fat lass has developed a full-on taste for Bambi burger!

I happened to be passing the local farm shop a few days ago, and noticed that they had just reduced their wild venison burgers, which are usually quite pricey (and yeah, I do watch those pennies where I can). I've seen them before, but these looked particularly appealing and lovely. A deep, dark, luscious red as only venison can be, speckled with little flecks of creamy-white.

This time I took a closer look. I carefully scrutinised the label (don't really 'do' processed these days) and was delighted to see that all they had in them was venison meat, venison fat and salt & pepper. No 'rusk', 'bulking agents', 'fillers' or the like. Good old farm shop - should have known I could trust you.

So, four small crap-free burgers came home and, before long, I chucked them on the griddle while some purple broccoli steamed on the stove top. Wasn't long before lovely hubby came to investigate, drawn by the irresistible aroma drifting out of the kitchen.

A grind of pepper, a little salt (Maldon, please!) and a final garnish of a little grated cheese over the broccoli (got to get that fat in there somewhere) and they looked wonderful. What's more, they were delicious! In fact, the whole meal was.

Hmmm, I may be passing that farm shop later today...

19 September 2013

A corner turned, or just an anomaly?

Different people react to periods of stress in different ways. We all know that, right? Well, it's funny, but something about that seems to have changed - hence the post title.

In the past, a 'difficult' period in life would inevitably mean a hike in weight. If the source of worry/upheaval/distress continued over months (er, like this time), that'd almost certainly translate into quite a significant gain.

That's mostly (no, more like entirely) because throughout my life I've had a real tendency to comfort eat when placed under emotional pressure. Problems? Hey, let's start eating! My 'must nibble' mode would be activated almost immediately and I would actively seek out something, anything, I could munch which might, just maybe, help make me feel better.

D'you know what though? Whatever that 'something' might be it rarely, if ever, made me feel any better at all. Just guilty afterwards... usually... but it was also a reaction I seemed unable to stop. And, as I've mentioned before, looking back to 'what' I'd eat, it was almost always heavily carbohydrate based.

There has been a whole lot (!) of stress in my life over the last few months. Hmmm, there still is if I'm absolutely honest. Plenty of opportunity for my old demons to come to the fore. And heck, I can't and won't pretend I haven't comfort eaten at all either. I have doubtless consumed a fair few more nuts and olives and a bit more cheese than I would normally think reasonable.

But I haven't gained weight this time around. In fact I've actually lost a little weight in the last couple of months. Not masses, just 'some'. Still, this really is quite extraordinary and a very different experience for me... though, unfortunately, one I'm not sure that I can claim any personal credit for.

Now this 'oddity' may just be happenstance. It could merely be that 'anomaly' I mentioned in the title, but I don't quite believe that it is. I think it's more likely that something of a corner has been turned. Sadly, not in terms of 'my' response to stress exactly - after all, I've just confessed that I have still eaten outside of my current norms (and that's something I don't take a great deal of pride in saying).

But maybe this little bit of a loss that I've seen, rather than an almost 'expected' gain, can be explained as a consequence of dietary changes. Cutting out those carbohydrates as much as possible and actively avoiding grains, sugars and crap seems to have helped. Despite some comfort eating, I don't seem to have descended into the cycle of overeating in the way I would have done in the past, and it makes a difference.

Now I'm not trying to say that a low-carb lifestyle is the Holy Grail here, nor do I say it would work in any circumstance to keep weight stable through stress, even for me. It just does seem to be giving me a helping hand this time around. And hey, it's nice to think that (even if I'm dead wrong in this) there's a possible silver lining to this particularly emotionally charged black cloud.

16 September 2013

Anticipation...

Despite a fantastically good day on Saturday, with a wonderful car picnic by a babbling brook as just one of the highlights, or perhaps as a backlash from it... I don't really know, I was really down and moody yesterday, and the black dog had taken a firm grip on me. I think this may, in part, have been because the autumnal weather seems to have set in with a vengeance (er, apparently overnight) so it was cold, windy and grey, grey, grey, all day long.

Rather out of the blue too, triggered by hearing a song I haven't played in an age, I also got particularly tearful about the lost opportunities of no longer having my lovely Mum to share the little things in life with. Ended up bawling my eyes out again. Oh boy, but I so miss being able to speak to her.

It really wasn't a great feeling, and I can't go on this way, so I'm making an effort today to pull myself together, to remember Mum's directive to count my blessings, and to stop being such a bloody misery. One of the things I'm telling myself is that the coming of winter (with those dark mornings and evenings, feeling shivery cold, missing sunshine, etc.) which seemed so dire yesterday, isn't actually all bad and that there are things to look forward to.

Hmmm, I'm not quite talking about Christmas - I think I may find that pretty hard this year. But I know we'll have days when it's crisp and clear and beautiful, and I'll see my exhaled breath, spreading and dissipating like a soft cloud, carrying good remembered thoughts of my lovely Mum out to share with the world.

I know we'll see cobwebs sparkling and rimed with the morning frost. I know it'll be a treat to get home of an evening, unwrap myself from the multitudinous layers of clothing and be enveloped in a toasty warm hug in my lovely hubby's arms. All of these are things to look forward to, and blessings to count.

One more nice thing occurred to me. We're nearly ready for Harvest Festival - this is the time to give thanks for summer's bounty and celebrate the abundance of the land. Now we're eating low-carb, so choosing even more fresh produce than ever before, this is a good thing to remember.

Soon it'll be that time of year when the autumn and winter produce comes into its own. It's getting close to the best season for fresh game - think of those warming and flavourful venison, bunny and pheasant stews and casseroles. And the fabulous veggies, including some of my dearly loved brassicas, come into season. We'll have leeks, marrows, the wide range of mushrooms to choose from. And kale, red and savoy cabbage and... wait for it... Brussels sprouts!

My goodness! I think I'm turning into Maria from the Sound of Music:
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel so bad.

11 September 2013

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

That just about sums up my weekend (imagine me wearing a great big cheesy grin). It was fantastic! We set off for the wilds of Wales (to a hamlet over the border but not a million miles from Oswestry) in the 'oooh my Lord!' early hours of Saturday.

Off we went to meet the artist we've commissioned to make us something special in celebration of our forthcoming tenth wedding anniversary. What is this wondrous thing? Well, those of you who are made uncomfortable by sloppy and romantic stuff can skip the next bit...

We've had a marvellously detailed cast made of our joined hands (you can see every hair and wrinkle), showing my wedding and engagement rings in all their glory, and the finished piece will take pride of place on our living room wall where everyone can see it. The whole process was such a lot of fun to be involved with, and once we have collected it I'll put a picture of it in another post.

This cast was only stage one though. The finished article will be a 'hammer & chisel-free' marble piece that's actually made of a sturdy synthetic resin with added ground marble. So we'll have something with all the appearance of a beautiful Roman sculpture, but with no pesky stone chips to hoover off the carpet!

It got better. Eating was great as we had a series of car picnics (the best of all was an avocado, iceberg, red cabbage and ham salad with hard boiled duck eggs and mixed seeds). Also, the hotel we stayed at on Saturday night serves a stonkingly good low-carb breakfast. We feasted on smoked haddock and poached eggs (me) and bacon, scrambled eggs and mushrooms (lovely hubby). Phew! it was good and it sated us until early Sunday evening.

We seemed to eat absolutely loads, but when I hopped on the scales this morning my weight is down a tad again. Funny how these things go.

Then, the gala concert we went to in Birmingham on Sunday afternoon, after joining in with the Bullring's tenth anniversary celebrations (coincidentally), was outstanding too. Three of the top British brass bands to listen to, all in one go, with the Black Dyke, Fodens and Cory all playing their socks off. What an afternoon!

Nice to have something positive to share. Have a good week folks.

02 September 2013

Good news

Yep, I am absolutely delighted to say that there is something nice to report - so we're right back to my lovely Mum's blessings to be counted.

Blessing number one - I finally got to see (and hold) our newest member of the family at the weekend. Yes indeed, got to see my beautiful red-haired great niece at last. She's such a sweet little girl and very well behaved for one so tiny. She wriggled a bit (doing the baby arms and legs in all directions dance routine which scares me witless!), cried just once or twice, but mostly snuggled in for a cuddle and looked adorable. Her Mum is doing pretty well too and, for a new mother who's so recently undergone a pretty traumatic labour, she seems admirably relaxed and laid back.

Blessing number two - there's some tentative good news about my cousin in intensive care. He's still there, and still extremely poorly, but the medical team have closed him up now they are fairly confident they won't have to operate yet again, they have lightened the sedation he's been kept under so he has now been able to register and respond to a voiced request, and they are generally "pleased with his progress". They've warned the family that he still has a long way to go and that his recovery won't be easy, but it is, at last, looking more positive. Long may it last, and I hope the news will be even better very soon.

Before I finish, I will say that it isn't all a bed of roses in life, but I refuse to go into the darker side right now. I'm going to bask in the nice feelings, feel good and send positive vibes to all.

27 August 2013

Hungry Tuesday

Well, so much for the positivity folks! Oh boy, but this Bank Holiday didn't exactly go according to plan...

First off we didn't get to see our lovely new baby girl after all (a long and involved story... er, maybe later) and then having postponed that visit, unfortunately, we didn't get to go for our 'consolation prize' long walk either. It being a British Bank Holiday weekend, it rained so darned hard on Saturday that we'd have drowned before we'd got halfway there!

So, it wasn't quite what I'd expected, but I guess the upside is that the house is nice and clean and all the ironing is done, although heck, housework wasn't exactly what I wanted to be doing. Ho hum.

But the main reason I'm feeling stressed today (and thus starving of the hunger, I suspect) is that, as if there hasn't been enough, we've had some more bad and worrying news.

My poor cousin, who is in his mid-sixties (this is a cousin I've been close to for the whole of my life), underwent emergency repair surgery for an abdominal problem in the early hours of Saturday/Sunday (following 'routine' surgery earlier last week) and is still knocked out and in intensive care.

Yes, thinking logically, I know there's nothing I can do to change the outcome. I also 'know' he's in the right place, and I do have confidence that he is being looked after as well as he possibly could be, but I'm still scared for him. Really scared. He's not the fittest person around, even under normal circumstances, and this isn't an insignificant thing. Hence my fears - and I suppose some of this worry is selfishness as, in addition to my concerns for my cousin, his wife and their children, I really don't want to lose another precious family member.

So today, my concentration is not what it could be, my thoughts are casting around and I find I'm looking for something (anything) to eat once again. I've taken the precaution of sellotaping my 'snack' drawer shut so I can't easily open it to binge on nuts. My packed lunch (leftover chicken and bits 'n bobs) stayed intact throughout the morning... and I went for a very, very brisk walk at lunchtime to distract myself.

One way or another I need to keep these roiling emotions tamped down and stay in control. Onwards, ever...

Just a little update - I have successfully managed to avoid (ignore) the sweet Sicilian treats one of the team brought back from their holiday and left in our communal kitchen. They looked lovely too.

22 August 2013

Endings and beginnings

Well, they always do say that when one door closes in life, another one somewhere opens. So, I'm delighted to think about that freshly opened door, and tell you some good news for a change.

My sweet niece (after a pretty easygoing pregnancy, but a very, very long and quite traumatic labour) now has a lovely little girl who has, I understand (since I've yet to see the much awaited pictures), a little shock of gingery hair and is utterly "beautiful".

She may have been a bit reluctant to make her move into this strange new world, but having been persuaded to join us is happy and healthy and apparently getting the hang of mealtimes.

Mum and babe are still in hospital, but her Daddy has changed her nappies several times and, when told by the staff how proficient he, as a brand new dad, seemed to be, casually remarked "well why shouldn't I be... I have four nieces!"

Oooh, I can't wait to see her.

There is just the tiniest tinge of sadness that my lovely Mum didn't get the chance to hold her great grand-daughter. We can't share the excitement with her, but in my heart I believe she knows what's happening and shares our joy from a better place.

15 August 2013

I wonder...

Sorry chaps - this one has turned into particularly lengthy fat lass ramble so do feel free to skip me blethering on. Perhaps it's been triggered by recent events or maybe I've reached that stage in life, but I've found myself deep in thought for many reasons recently.

Yep, the fat lass has definitely been 'wondering' about stuff in recent weeks... hmmm, make that months... and loads of different things have zipped through my thoughts. Just like the Grinch, I've been puzzling and puzzling 'til my puzzler is sore.

One of the random and inconsequential things I've wondered about is when, precisely, did tomatoes morph from being a savoury staple to a sweet treat (well, in my opinion anyhow).

Looking back to the days before the new low-carb 'us', we used to buy and use tomatoes in bulk. We loved 'em, and almost everything we cooked included them, be they fresh, tinned or paste (and sometimes a mixture). Think of that holy trinity of tomatoes, onions and garlic as our starting point, and you'll get the picture. And it always, always, always seemed like those gorgeous red globes were savoury, to me. Since we moved over to our low-carb lifestyle, and as tomatoes pack quite a carbohydrate punch, we've drastically reduced this reliance on them in our cooking.

Imdeed, we've moved away from buying weighty bunches of the big beefy vine tomatoes and now buy maybe one small box a week of the teensy tiny cherry toms instead. No longer, even in a salad, do we have a whole large tomato or more each. Now one, or maybe two, of the teeny weeny cherry tomatoes apiece is quite sufficient.

And, d'ya know what, these little darlings are amazing. They're like sweet little flavour bombs. I suppose I 'knew' they were fruits but wow! I find I really do only need one or two, chopped into small sections, to be satisfied with that sudden burst of juice-filled tomatoey flavour. Guess now I don't eat much in the way of 'added' sugars my tastes have changed.

I've also wondered a lot about how (or rather, whether) I would have coped with the events and stresses of recent weeks and months had lovely hubby and I not changed the way we eat.

By 'change', I don't mean any recent change that I haven't mentioned before, but the sustained move over the last year or so to cut out all added sugars, processed foods and associated 'crap', and minimise our carbohydrate intake drastically. In other words, to maintain our bodies in a ketogenic state as far as possible (and possible it is!), dip-stick testing weekly to check that we haven't inadvertently strayed. To keep to this plan, we now only include smallish amounts of fresh veggies (primarily things like spinach, leafy greens, and the cruciferous veg) and a few lower-carb berries for most of the carbohydrate contribution to our diet. Hey, know what? It's easier than it sounds too.

Somehow, without this move to a radically different diet/lifestyle, I think I'd now be writing to confess my latest descent off the back of the wagon.

I'd doubtless be bemoaning a weight gain, maybe a pretty substantial one by now, grumbling about how challenging my struggles had been and coughing up to those the 'treats' I'd indulged in. I'm guessing that an unhealthy reliance on comfort eating may have been involved in this (sure, with vending machine crisps and chocolate playing their part). Yeah, the old-style fat lass was definitely an emotionally driven eater.

I cannot and won't say I haven't comfort eaten at all through this - because I have. Perhaps a bit of an increase in the cheese and olives 'snack' component of my diet is testament to that - but it hasn't been overwhelming, and I've actually lost weight in recent weeks (much to my surprise). This is significantly different than during previous periods of stress in my life. And, whatever I have nibbled under stress this time hasn't tipped me overboard into stuffing my face until I feel like I could burst. Now how amazing is that? There you go, Mum - that's a blessing counted.

But, back to my main point... I've mostly wondered just how much of an ass I must have been.

Much as it pains me to say it, I think I've probably been an ass for years. How could I (supposedly trained as a scientist, for heaven's sake) have believed in and dedicatedly followed the 'sound dietary advice' spouted by so-called experts, about basing the bulk of my food intake on 'low fat' pseudo-foods and those 'healthy' whole-grain carbs, for so long?

What's worse, this slavish adherence just plain 'happened', without my giving a single moment's thought to it's validity or taking a nano-second to consider whether the advice was, in fact based on good solid science. Instead, without so much as a backward glance or a quibble, I accepted what I read and heard and 'assumed' it was right.

Silly old fat lass! Assumptions, after all, make an ASS out of ME (...and maybe U too).

Having now pored over lots of detailed explanations (er, I guess some may still call it 'heresy') from the likes of Phinney & Volek, John Briffa, and the Eades, John Yudkin, Robert Lustig and a lot of other people who lay out the scientific basis for carbohydrates (and especially sugars) being something rather less than the 'healthy' basis for a balanced diet that the 'eatwell' plate (amongst other things) recommends, I wish I had come across this years ago.

Maybe, just maybe, had I encountered this scandalous idea earlier, and taken the time to review the science behind it as I have been trained to do, I wouldn't have endured my decades of obesity. Perhaps I wouldn't have tried and failed at so many 'diets', always beating myself up for my failures, and despairing as I grew more and more heavy over time.

Maybe, had I encountered this earlier, I could be looking back at photos taken of my Mum and her grown-up 'little' girl (me) together, and not always see her tiny frame dwarfed alongside her gargantuan daughter. Bless her, though. While I know she was worried about me, she never, ever judged me and she loved me anyway. Still, I can't turn the clock back and it does make me feel sad.

That may be so, but I'm so very, very grateful that she got to see me change my bad habits in the end - steadily moving downwards through the weight-loss pathway towards where I am now. Healthy again. There you go again - that's another blessing counted. How am I doing, my lovely Mum?

So, back to this wondering business...

With regards low-carb, this time I haven't been content to just read what this new bunch of 'experts' say and accept it, but I've thought and wondered, and checked, and counter-checked, and researched, and even gone back to some of the original published research papers myself, and generally made use of a little grey matter.

Between this newly acquired 'knowledge' and with the benefit of seeing the positive (if empirical) results for both me and my lovely hubby, I'm finally happy to concede that the 'eatwell' plate is, after all, the 'eatbadly' plate that Zoe Harcombe describes. Sorry if this is beginning to sound like so much evangelical zealotry on my part, but I do rather feel like Saul on the road to Damascus at times.

I've been wondering about other stuff too. I've read quite a lot in various blogs and books, over the last few months, about addiction. Food addiction, that is. Specifically, an addiction to sugar and to wheat.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I've been seriously sceptical about 'addiction' to any sort of foods in my own case. If I'm honest, I thought it was hogwash! Until recently I've been much more inclined to think my penchant to overeat was of my own making. Hey, there's that self-blame all too many of us are willing to take on board - but before I condemn this as 100% negative, in my case I think a healthy measure of it actually helped me.

You see, a good part of my 'self-blame' stemmed from all the years I spent on that decades-long 'diet' roller-coaster, looking for 'something' (anything, whether it be hormones or circumstances!) upon which I could 'blame' my obesity. Now I look back at it, what I was doing was quite a commonplace thing. I was looking for someone or something to take the hit, and a for there to be a nice neat quick fix for whatever was 'wrong'.

The mythical magic bullet was what I was seeking. For way too many years, I didn't countenance that any 'blame' for my weight problems could ever be pointed in my direction. What? My actions the cause? Hell, no way!

But, there probably always was a tiny seed of doubt there and, for me anyway, it turned out that I was only able to bite this particular bullet and take positive action to first lose and then maintain my weight loss once I'd accepted personal responsibility for 'my' part in the original (and subsequent) gains. That's where the self-blame (or call it taking responsibility if you'd prefer) helped me. Until the point when I took on board that it was to do with 'me' and there wasn't an external (if convenient) 'cause' for it, year in year out, diet by failed diet, this ageing broad just kept on growing broader!

However, and this is a pretty large 'but', the more I have read about this subject, the more I now wonder... was all of that responsibility 'really' mine to take?

As I say, when it comes to 'me' and food addiction I was sceptical in the extreme. In part, this was because (as you'll know if you've read older posts from the 'losing' days) I didn't lose the bulk of my weight and improve my health through the low-carb route, but followed a low-fat, reduced calorie 'diet' and increased my activity levels. And this was successful... for me.

Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones, and because of this I really have doubted that the 'healthy' food I was choosing could possibly be addicitive or cause me harm in any sense.

Sugar (or sweet stuff) in itself hasn't generally been such a big thing for me. While I've always been partial to the odd cake or scone or chocolate up to a point, they weren't 'my' thing in a that big a way - most of my passions were, and still are, savoury. Sweet or savoury though, a good many of my 'go to' foods used to be wheat based and the overwhelming majority were seriously carbohydrate heavy.

Potatoes and other root veg, pasta, pastry, bread (hey, wholemeal of course!), those occasional scones, potato and wheat-based snack foods, lots of sweet fruit, etc.... heck, you get the picture.

But now I wonder... were those carbohydrates, whether sweet or savoury, a driver (at least to some extent) for my desire to eat, or stuff down, more than I could reasonably hold. Although I've always considered (and still do) that I don't have a carbohydrate tolerance problem per se, maybe, just maybe, I was not entirely correct. Maybe that constant top-up of insulin-triggering foodstuffs did indeed tip me into a whole different place - one I didn't knowingly recognise or understand anything about.

Perhaps that's not too surprising though. Karen over at Garden Girl has described her own problems with sugar and wheat as leading to "brain fog and numbing" and she, quite rightly, goes on to say "this stuff is COMPLEX..."

A little aside...

Before going low-carb, if you'd dared suggest that I could and would willingly put aside my life's 'staples' I'd have been absolutely horrified. I've been prepared to compromise on a lot of things, and indeed had already done that with a lot of things I'd previously thought almost 'essential', but give up my good, wholegrain, home-made bread? No way, Jose!. Almost certainly I would have growled at you and muttered something like “Nope! Don't be so bl**dy silly - I could never ever give up my beautiful healthy bread!”.

Since I have done though, it isn't such a trauma. I've realised now that life without bread isn't a deal killer at all. Whee, what a liberating thought that is. Could it be that my declared adherence to bread as 'necessary' to my life (my staff of life, perhaps?) was a form of addiction? Who knows.

So, maybe those years of obesity weren't actually 'all' my fault, even if I still feel that some part of my seemingly never ending weight gain was down to me - see, there's that mea culpa again! But, could I have been, in any sense, an addict?

I'm not sure, and I'm not convinced I'll ever really know, but if I was, and if behavioural changes are anything to set store by, maybe 'recovering' addict would be closer to the truth these days. After all, I now better understand my own weaknesses and am all too aware that I'll always be just one slip away from the carb-fuelled chaos of comfort eating. A low-carb lifestyle certainly helps me, but...

Hmmm, I really do wonder...

08 August 2013

Mind-games, mirrors and managing

Strange thing, this 'self-image' business...

I rather absent-mindedly got on the scales this morning, and was a bit surprised to see the needle had drifted a tad down again... and yes, my darling hubby, before you ask me, I HAVE been eating properly!

However, my today brain is saying quite firmly otherwise and I'm having one of those days where mirrors and reflective shop windows are ganging up on me and I feel like I've somehow slipped back in time a few years and turned back into being Ms Podgy McBulky.

You got it. I'm feeling F-A-T.

Thought I'd be able to convince myself that I wasn't by trying on something 'small' while I was out at lunchtime. Well, it fitted OK, but dammit - that didn't convince me either. Ho hum.

Aside from that, how am I doing? OK, I guess. Better than yesterday on the human waterfall front - I haven't got teary yet today.

06 August 2013

Feelings...

Oh boy, are they ever mixed up and muddled at the moment. I seem to have found myself on the emotions roller-coaster with no way to get off, even though the ride is making me quite queasy.

Warn you now - what follows is, in essence, the fat lass venting her spleen. It's nothing remotely to do with weight loss, or maintenance, or anything much at all like the things I'd usually write. However, I do need to get this stuff off my chest for my own comfort and sanity before I get a grip and take the advice in the graphic (if I can!).

Please do feel free to navigate away, move on to someone else's words and forget about the negativity that follows.

OK then, this roller-coaster... one minute I'm quietly smiling at a happy memory of better times (yep, you've got it pegged - these beautiful thoughts pretty much all involve my darling Mum), the next moment I'm desolate and the tears are springing to my eyes - even when there's been no apparent trigger. And then there's the almost overwhelming anger...

I've mentioned my sister a fair bit in the past. She is such a sweet, supportive, thoughtful lady and I'm proud to have a lovely sister like her. Even if we have our differences (which we do) we can talk about them nicely and respect each other's viewpoints, even if we don't agree. What (or rather who) I probably haven't mentioned very much is my other sibling.

You see, I also have a brother. An elder brother who is, of course, by dint of being both older than me and male, always 'right'. Yeah, you got it - he's absolutely correct, 100% of the time... in his own eyes, anyhow. We have had a 'challenging' relationship for a very loooong while but, for the sake of my darling Mum, I've kept my mouth firmly zipped and kept the peace by treading carefully, soothing bruised feelings, sympathising with his multitudinous woes and pandering to all the negative vibes... for years (actually it runs into decades now).

Maybe, in retrospect, that wasn't such a great plan but heck, that's what I did. This isn't just down to him and me though - he has an equally (if not more) difficult relationship with my sister, and various other members of the family have also had their fair share of problems interacting with him.

Let me get this up straight though - my brother isn't an intrinsically bad person. He's not evil, despite anything I go on to say. How could he be, eh? He's my mother's son after all. He's just not an easy man in any way, shape or form. I think he's actually quite a damaged individual. One who is highly-strung, and always has been looking back, and one who is readily (and constantly) stressed. One who, when he feels vulnerable in any way (he really can't cope with 'feelings') responds like a beaten dog might do - with seemingly unprovoked aggression.

Now I am fully aware that every person will need to manage their grief differently, and he is entitled to handle things in his own way. If his way happens to be quite unlike mine, then that is just fine.

But, and this is where my anger comes from, he seems utterly oblivious to the fact that what he's doing has a hurtful impact (and a significant one) on others. He is, both verbally and by his actions, making things a whole lot more difficult than they should be at what is already a very difficult time. Even when we've tried to explain the impact of his approach, words and actions, he dismisses us and discards what we say - it isn't relevant, he won't even listen to us and thinks we are 'faffing about'...

This isn't only affecting we three siblings any longer, nor does it just have a knock-on effect on our respective husbands and wives. Actually, his wife is a contributing factor too - but that's another tale. The problems are affecting Mum's beloved grand-daughters (one of whom is very pregnant and could well do without added strain), some of my cousins (especially those who were very close to Mum as she treated them like her own kids) and also her one surviving brother. Thank God Mum isn't here to see this - we can barely believe that this sort of thing would ever happen to our family... but it is happening.

There is a particular 'something' going on which is making my blood pressure rise and my mental 'temperature' approach full boil. Actually there are several 'somethings', but I digress. The M-A-J-O-R blot on my emotional landscape is the undue haste with which big brother is pushing to get Mum's house completely and utterly cleared (down to the last odd button - just don't mention 'house clearance' to me right now!), sold to the first bidder (in the twinkling of an eye, if you please) and gone forever.

Whilst the logical part of me can understand that there may be a desire on his part to 'move on' and get back to 'normal' life, Mum's funeral only took place a few short days ago.

Sorry bro, but you really need to back off a little here. It's way too soon to be acting like this and by forcing the issue you've initiated a sustained and heartfelt push-back on our part which you probably hadn't anticipated - we do after all need 'some' time to say our goodbyes and come to terms with the fact that we've lost our mother. We're all hurting.

Hell, my sister actually called him out about this over-eagerness at the weekend. She told him that she felt he was "trying to erase every last trace of Mum from existence", an accusation he vehemently denies but one which I reckon holds at least an element of truth. It wasn't a pleasant interchange at all - a master of understatement, this! Similarly reactionary and explosive conversations have occurred off and on for quite some time, covering various topics, both before we lost Mum and since. All of this is taking a toll... a serious one.

Add to this that my sister and I are still desperately trying to understand what's happening, and trying hard to keep some sort of compromise going so that the rift in the family doesn't open wider or deepen further. Just now I feel like Canute, and the incoming tide feels like an unyielding adversary! It seems that pretty much all of our mental resources are being devoted to this battleground, rather than to dealing with losing Mum. This cannot be right.

One other little problem to add to the mix is that every time we go back to Mum's, our family home, (which has been every weekend and various days in between up to now), this involves us both in around a 400 mile round trip. My sister lives about the same distance away as I do and both of us work. So, you can add growing weariness from the travelling to the emotional upheaval. Oh yeah, and a night's uninterrupted sleep is still a luxury. I guess that means you can see why I'm so dog-tired and why I need to vent.

The latest is that we 'may' have come to something approaching a compromise of sorts, thanks to my Uncle's calm and mature input, but I still can't see the way forward at the moment. I guess there's just too much raw emotion surrounding this whole business. Will he honour what's been tentatively agreed? I don't know (and can't know) how this will pan out in the end, but I do know that the situation is causing/has caused a divide that I'm not sure can ever heal. What's worse is that I'm not sure that's something I care too much about any more.

The way I'm feeling right now, once this period is over I don't really want to maintain contact with my brother and his wife. I've lost trust in him, I've lost any sympathy I had, I've lost that familial love for him, and it feels like I've lost my brother as well as my Mum.

OK, take a deep breath. It's time to try to set aside the emotional baggage, seek serenity, then grasp and hold tight to the faith that things will indeed turn out for the best. Onwards, ever...

29 July 2013

Not missing, just unseen


 
based on a design by suckmylolly.com