25 January 2013

A helping hand?

I've been a real Moaning Minnie over the last few weeks (sorry about this chaps), but, when I was up in the middle of night recently... worrying again... something positive and wonderful struck me and I was so surprised and delighted that I simply have to share it. It's a bit of a 'eureka!' moment for me and I'm quite excited about it.

And it's that, despite being pretty darned stressed at the moment (and even having those 'diving into chocolate' thoughts), the scales have been, and still are, telling me that my weight has stayed spot-on-the dot stable for weeks. Funny how staying 'the same' isn't something I noticed, whereas a rise (or even a drop) would have made me sit up and take notice pronto, eh?

It's a very 'good' thing, and I'm grateful for that. Grateful not to be gaining, oooh yes indeedy, but also because it's a 'positive' in what seems a sea of negatives at the moment. Enough of the 'poor me' stuff though - I'm well aware that everyone has their own troubles, and mine could be a whole lot worse, so it's time I shut up!

Now, to that stability - once the 'oh, wow' had given way to a bit of thought I'm guessing there's a reason for it... and it's name is 'comfort food'.

In the past, during periods when 'bad stuff' has been going on, I've really struggled to stop myself eating too much, and badly to boot. I've had to lean heavily on my wavering 'willpower' (usually giving myself a 'good talking to' along the way) and it has never, ever been easy. The foods I've naturally gravitated towards and felt drawn to eat (or inhale madly!) were things like bread, potatoes (including crisps and mash), pasta and 'sweet things' of some sort, like biscuits and scones. Comfort foods for the fat lass, please - forget those salads!

I probably don't have to tell you that it's been hard to keep strong and eat sensibly at times like these, and I often failed and fell off the wagon, even if I did manage to haul myself back on track... eventually. But this time seems different, and I'm only just figuring out why.

You see, I hadn't realised it until now, but I simply don't seem to have the same very 'real' urge to stuff my worries down with food. Yes, it crosses my mind that I would really like to 'eat something nice' please, but it's more of an abstract thought now (almost an old habit I haven't quite shaken off), not a 'clear and present danger'. It just isn't accompanied by the same old sense of absolute desperation and real desire to put my thoughts into practice 'right now', say 'to hell with it', and E-A-T everything in sight! It's almost like the 'indulge me' demon has had some of the fight knocked out of him... or is my demon female I wonder.

Anyhow, it could be that merely being more 'aware' of the composition of what I'm choosing to eat, so actually 'thinking' about the food more deliberately, rather than a pure focus on calories alone, could be just an added reminder to me to choose more wisely. So part of the change could be assigned to 'mindfulness', and be more of a staying 'in the moment' matter, I mean.

Similarly, it could be that my habits and tastes have changed enough along the journey so my immediate thoughts of and interest in those age-old 'comfort' foods have just lessened because of that. I'd say there is certainly an element of this going on here too, as I know that some of my old 'go-to' foods (cheese & onion crisps, for example) don't really hold the same appeal any more.

But, I think there's more to it and I'm really beginning to believe that, for me, low-carb life may be a saving grace when it comes to maintaining a steady weight under stress. Maybe, finally, I will not (as for so many years) start piling on the unwelcome avoirdupois when I hit a rocky patch? Well, I certainly haven't suddenly morphed into a dietary angel, and can't see that ever happening!

I know that, where I am concerned, I've mentioned a pretty healthy scepticism about an 'addiction' to sugars (or foods which are broken down into sugars) in the past. I've never really felt that it was an issue for me in the same way as it can be for others - particularly anyone who is unfortunate to have the genetic make-up which means they are carbohydrate intolerant/insulin resistant.

But, I'm simply not 'craving' those filling, stodgy, comfort foods in the same way as I used to do... and this makes me have to think again about a probable 'addiction' factor.

I may be way off base here, but think many 'addictions' may take hold because they are coping mechanisms when the going gets tough. Smoking is probably a reasonable example - how many times has a smoker told me a cigarette 'relaxes' them. However, unless there is a chemically 'addictive' quality to a substance, like nicotine (hmmm, the jury here is still hung when it comes to sugars, although we've just bought John Yudkin's book so I may be converted yet), I feel that a 'substance' of choice (whether it be a drug or food) may often be 'addictive' simply because it provides a 'feel good' of some sort, even if short-lived, which calms us in times of stress.

That's what I would have said about my old desire to eat stodge when things got hard - it wasn't an 'addiction' as such, but those foods gave me a temporary 'feel good', a release from stress in some way. Maybe something to focus on, or maybe a feeling of things being 'safe' or 'normal' or 'unthreatening' in some sense. Hey, guess that's why they are called 'comfort' foods.

Another element is that I 'may' be feeling more satisfied in general with what I'm eating (if so I guess that'll probably be the fat component) so maybe I'm less likely to feel the first inklings of incipient hunger and immediately think I 'need' to eat.

However, I think I'm finally warming to the idea that significant physiological or biochemical changes may indeed have been triggered in my body by the move away from my previous 'normal' or mainstream 'healthy' diet to low-carb way of life.

That is, I'm beginning to believe that there 'could' have been actual changes in 'me', meaning that I'm not experiencing the cravings for comfort foods in the same way as I used to. The trigger-points, that is the stress (in whatever form it takes), may not have disappeared completely, but the responses to it are certainly different and much less prominent.

If things do get bad enough to feel panic stricken and overwhelmed by the worries and that I want to stuff myself silly, which I have to say hasn't really happened in earnest recently, I've noticed that I'm actually picking up low-carb nibbles like nuts or cheese (without really being conscious of doing so). What's more, once I start with the nibbling, I'm not carrying on eating and eating until everything disappears.

For example, I've got a jar of peanut butter (my former 'banned substance' of foods) on a shelf above my desk. I've maybe had the odd teaspoon every few days while things have been stressing me. Even I can hardly credit that the jar is still there and, even better, it's still way more than half full. That'll be a first, as my lovely hubby could tell you! I have some toasted coconut chips too. Now I've always been partial to coconut and it's been something I could eat until I burst. The bag hasn't even been opened yet.

These things may not sound a huge deal but, by 'eck my dears, they are for this fat lass! And I don't think my 'mind' or my 'willpower' or my 'psyche' has changed a jot, so I'm guessing the difference is must be in some aspect of my metabolism, and the only reason for that to happen (that I can think of) is going low-carb.

So, I did a quick Google search to see if anyone has experienced something similar... and found a few things which seem to support my thoughts (as well as some stuff which doesn't). I need to read and understand a LOT more before I start trying to get it down in black and white, but it is a possibility that restricting those sneaky carbohydrates consistently has more benefits than I'd given it credit for.

Thank goodness for low-carb!

21 January 2013

It's just snow joke

No, indeed it has not been funny, as South Wales did get the white stuff dumped upon them and so was hit with the anticipated travel disruption and the Met Office's most super-dreadful, 'oh my word just don't even think about it' warnings not to attempt to move at all! Rightly so though, to be fair to them, as we wouldn't have been able to make it if we'd tried, with sections of the main east-west UK routes closed.

And... not too long after that all kicked off, the snow found us too. Terrific!

This caused a particular problem as not only didn't we get to go and see said relatives, but my darling Mum was very poorly indeed over the weekend (on the verge of hospital admission on Saturday) in part because her evening carers on Friday hadn't been able to get to her... and no-one knew. This is getting beyond a joke. I absolutely HATE being so far away from her as it makes me feel completely powerless to help her. I know I shouldn't but I also feel an abject failure at some level and am really frustrated and angry and... all sorts of emotions, all of them negative.

So, my dumps are even deeper than they were last week. Add to this a weekend clearing snow (only for it to pile up deeper afterwards - grrr!) and a long but short-tempered and irritable attempt, with lovely hubby, to put 'something' in a letter to the relatives, during which we both got pretty cranky, with each other and with the situation in general.

So, does this make me happy to be back at work instead? Nope - don't be daft! I came in (yes, through the snow) to 1) 'surprise' from my boss (huh, of course I made it - this isn't bloody Siberia!), 2) a pile of problems, and 3) the prospect of a loooong week ahead.

Given half an opportunity, I feel like I could dive into a great big pile of chocolate and not bother coming up for air. I won't, I guess... but hell, it sounds like a great option.

17 January 2013

Down in the dumps

I'm struggling at the moment, in all sorts of ways.

It's probably down to a combination of :
- quite serious family worries which have led to numerous disturbed nights' sleep and tiredness
- feeling stressed and cranky in the extreme, so not enjoying (or having any enthusiasm for) work at the moment
- feeling ineffective and not 'in control'
- the dismal weather and growing concerns that it'll totally put the kibosh on our weekend travel plans to see said family
- the time of year (January blues)
and... maybe that I'm fighting a bit of a bug which doesn't come to anything but won't quite quit and go away either.

I'm not doing too well on the exercise front (although I'm still walking and have done 'some' rowing, albeit half-heartedly). Desire for food vacillates between not really too interested and keep that horse away from me or I'll chew it's leg off!

However, this made me smile...

"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes" - William Gibson

William, my friend, you may just have something there!

07 January 2013

Let them eat cake!

Oh dear, that's blown it. The fat lass has a confession to make. This isn't pretty, but the planets must have aligned along the wrong axis (or something similar) allowing that dreaded low-carber's nemesis, the cunning Christmas cake-monster, to trip me up.

It crept up on me in clandestine fashion and attacked stealthily, bushwhacking me the form of a beautiful, golden-brown, home-made cake, lovingly baked by a colleague's grandmother. An absolute delight, chock-full of fruit, nuts and candied peel and liberally laced with spices and alcohol, both looking and smelling EXACTLY like the ones my darling Mum used to bake. Deliciously un-iced too (heaven forbid!), it was even topped with perfectly placed whole almonds, wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in a Quality Street tin, just like hers. Arrrgh! I found myself in serious peril, but managed to resist for two whole days as it grew smaller and smaller.

I thought I was safe. I admired it, and sniffed it, and looked longingly at it, and dreamed and drooled about it, but fended off the urge valiantly and didn't as much as nibble a crumb... er, until my Monday went seriously pear-shaped. And pear-shaped was definitely what happened. Although many of my colleagues have still not returned from the festive break, more than one of the individuals who have come back are... I'm going to be polite here... a pain in the posterior!

Not just demanding, not just cranky, not just depressed that Christmas is 'over' for another year, but also (in my humble opinion) pretty darned careless too. See I've spent much of Monday 'mending' and 're-mending' a piece of equipment, over and over again. I can't say I'm best pleased. I've had an engineer in too, fixing another item, and a variety of visitors, phone calls, emails and general 'crap' I could have done without and hadn't really anticipated... all whilst attempting to catch up on some financial stuff I'd failed to get finished before the holidays. Ho hum, such is life.

So the cake-monster lay quietly in wait and bided it's time before it ambuscaded me good and proper! By late afternoon, only one small sliver remained, and I could have resisted that without too much heartache... indeed, I did!

But the greaseproof paper was littered with the crumbled and crumbly remnants of the rest of the cake and this is what got to me. That linked straight in to a lovely memory of sharing similar delightful debris with my Mum at the end of a holiday, both of us picking up the sweet little bits by licking our fingers and dabbing them in the crumbs with glee to 'clean the plate'. And I'm sad and worrying about my lovely Mum at the moment which means that, pretty much, I'm fair game to be hijacked.

So that's what the fat lass did. Hoovered up every last one of those little tasty titbits. There could only have been about a tablespoon or so of 'bits', but every single scrap was near-pure carbohydrate. Half of me relished each and every mouthwatering morsel, while the rest of me chanted a litany of 'sod it!', 'sod it!', 'sod it!' as the carbs were consumed.

Seems that, just like Oscar Wilde wrote, I can resist anything except temptation. Not the finest start to 2013, eh?

03 January 2013

Oh Lord, I'm a 'pusher'...

...and deja vu.

Getting the 'I've been here before' moment out of the way first... I've just been growled at. Completely unjustly too, dammit. I think you could say that I'm not a very happy bunny at the moment.

Almost a year ago, to the day, I had a 'conversation' of sorts about post-festivities weight gain with a colleague.

This morning I talked to him again, and he was "very down" about starting another year with a bigger mid-section than before the Christmas break. To start with, I felt some sympathy. But, just as it went with January 2012, he then seemed to get quite cross with me - almost verging on the aggressive in a verbal way - because I hadn't "gained weight" too.

To put it bluntly he thinks, just like last year, that it "isn't fair" and I have to admit that I began to struggle at this point. I counted to ten and bit my tongue REALLY HARD to stop myself saying what I wanted to say... which is that he's his own worst enemy. OK that's what I used to be like too, so I do understand, but he has had a whole twelve months to do 'something' if he's truly unhappy with his weight (he apparently does not take it too seriously as I still see biccies and cakes on an almost daily basis!).

Once he'd got grumpy with me I also wanted to point out that it isn't actually mandatory to stuff one's upper orifice over Christmas. Funny enough I can't recall coming across the 'eat it' rules printed out for all to see or catch breaking news reports of Santa beating people with a baseball bat if they don't overindulge on the mince pies!

Oh heck, I guess the best I can do is mutter into my (healthy!) lunchbox and let it go.

And the pusher? Er, I've done a bad thing (at least I think I have).

I was given a box of Famous Names liqueur chocolates which, even if I wasn't low-carb these days, I hate with an absolute passion. I brought them in to our communal kitchen area just over 24 hours ago and, darn me if they haven't completely evaporated! Gone in a flash!

Trouble is, now I feel guilty for inflicting this sugary crap on other people. Ho hum, mea culpa.

02 January 2013

A time of new beginnings

Why, oh why, do I ever write daft things like "I can look forward to this year without too many worries about health", eh? Even thinking the thought was stoopid!

The Lords of Misrule were obviously on the ball when they heard me, as my lovely Mum has gone down with a renewed bout of the rotten chest infection which wiped her out almost completely over the whole of Christmas. She's not very well at all, has got worse over the last day or so, and the doctor is due to come out to see her again today... hopefully with some stronger, longer antibiotics. Just as the poor darling 'was' picking up a little too. Sigh... and I'm back at work and can't get there to take care of her this time.

That brings me to a resolution... even though I rarely 'do' resolutions. I've always reckoned that a good old-fashioned revolution is much more my style. However, to get to the darned resolution - this year, no matter what else is going on in life, I MUST get down to Wales to spend more time with Mum.

Not the best start to 2013 for her and it adds to my worries about her, sadly. Hence I'm thinking about new beginnings as, like a lot of people seem to be, I'm often hit by the January blues. Don't want that to happen this year, so I'm going to make a special effort to look for the 'good stuff' in life. So, apart from that Mrs. Lincoln... how has 2013 begun?

Well, not too bad, thank goodness.

I'm really pleased that I haven't needed to make a 'new beginning' on losing weight this January. Actually that is something I could not be happier about. So many Christmases have come and gone and left me heavier than ever for the start of a new year. Thankfully I don't need to kick off 2013 with that as a game plan and, contrary to all the 'nay sayers' who thought I'd struggle, a low-carb festive season wasn't any real problem to manage.

The flooding has receded at long last (albeit leaving one helluva muddy mess behind) and shows no signs - as yet - of returning so the wellie boots can go back in the hall cupboard once again. Score that a plus.

On the exercise front 2013 got off to a good start as Connie and I had a little session and I hit the abs stuff. Today (is it really only the 2nd?) I've walked and may row later tonight.

We didn't over-indulge ourselves on New Year's Eve. We had neighbours round for drinks and nibbles and had prepared a feast of Middle Eastern-ish low-carb bits* so even entertaining was guilt free. They were impressed and it all looked and tasted lovely. Just wish I'd taken some photos - especially as the flowers my darling lovely hubby bought for me looked spectacular in our squeaky clean and sweet smelling home. It wasn't a late night. In fact, I woke up at midnight, thought "oh, there's fireworks" and fell straight back asleep. Must be getting old!

*OK, if you must know - it was:
  • tiny wee glasses of pea & mint soup (cooked in our own ham stock)
  • a wee plate of miniscule deep red cherry tomatoes stuffed with Turkish tulum cheese with fresh herbs and topped with a toasted walnut piece
  • salami 'crisps'
  • grilled sucuk (spicy Turkish 'sausage') slices topped with a smidgen of goat cheese and a sliver of grilled red pepper
  • smoked Palestinian olives and Turkish marinated ones too
  • flaxseed crackers with garlic and parmesan (home-made and cut out in heart-shapes so they looked pretty)
  • a Persian-inspired dip (the original's called Mast o Khair).of yoghurt, cucumber, fresh mint & dill and pomegranate molasses

All that's left to say is... onwards, ever!

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