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


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...

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