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


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.

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