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


...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
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.

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