Saturday, 28 February 2015

Confessions of a Sugar Addict

It's been really interesting being open about my weight on social media. Many people, even those who know me and have met me have said things like "no you can't be obese" "but you lead such a healthy lifestyle". I have had even more interesting comments like "the scales must be wrong" "maybe its the medication you take"

I am indeed obese, and the reason I am obese is that I have taken on too many high energy foods over a long period of time and not expended enough energy to compensate. Simple. Decrease my energy consumption, increase my activity = weight loss. Brilliant. Simple yes, easy no.

This in advertisement I snapped out of my latest Good Food Magazine. And this, my friends, is at the heart of my problem. I have had many difficult periods in my life and have come to rely on sugary foods which usually also contain fat, in order to cope with life and to make myself feel happier.

My dad used to regularly buy us sweets, and I came to rely on them. When at the age of 12 my mum sought advice from a chiropractor to manage my asthma he put me on a whole food diet but we made a fatal mistake. We still used raw sugar and honey. That's still sugar. My downfalls are cakes, biscuits, sugary drinks and chocolate. My meals have always been relatively healthy its the "treats" that are the issue.

This time I am approaching my weight loss in a different way, and this is why my weight loss is so slow. I am making large changes one at a time. Because these changes have to be for life. If I don't change my relationship with food  and more importantly with my self, I will just be back here again.

When I initially started this I bought some alternative sugar products like rice malt syrup, date syrup and coconut sugar. These are still sugar. I thought I would break my reliance on the more familiar sugar first then decrease those, thinking about it, kind of like a methadone programme. I also made Bliss Balls, which are highly calorific sweet hits but don't contain added sugars. I have now decreased all of these in my diet.

I have also decreased my fruit consumption. I still have fruit twice a day but what I have done in the past is immediately replaced my high sugar treats with sugary fruits like mango and grapes. I am now eating apples more often and the very occasional banana and still having the fruits I love but less often.

I have been beating myself up a little and came across this extract from a TED talk about sugar and it made me feel so much better about my situation.

Now I know what is going on, I realise that my approach is spot on. I am concentrating on eating a variety of foods and trying new foods, not relying on the same meals over and over. I have totally eliminated sweet drinks, even artificially sweetened ones. I am drinking water, herb or green teas and coffee occasionally. I am still occasionally having dark chocolate and I think that's for now.

This is a forever journey. It's ok that in the initial stages I'm only losing a small amount of weight. I am making small changes for life I think my weight loss will speed up if I keep focussed and keep making changes.

Sometimes I think it would be much easier to go to Weight Watchers or Slimming World but I am not convinced, having been there before, that that is the right approach for me.

And now I have a firm goal for 2015.

By Christmas I want to weigh 100 kilos. That's 16 kilos off from now.

I can and I will

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Continuing this Forever Journey

So after the disappointment of my weigh in I have been continuing to eat healthily and drink my water. This week, half term, I allowed myself two meals off. Previously when I lost 6 stone, I did this from time to time and it worked for me. I had a burger and sweet potato fries on Tuesday lunch time. I really enjoyed the meal but didn't enjoy the way the bun made me feel, further reinforcing my decision to eat minimal wheat. Last night I had fish and chips. I stopped eating when I naturally felt full, and left most of my chips untouched. I think I am not wheat intolerant but it doesn't enhance my diet and there are many more foods to eat.

My body is learning what it likes and dislikes. I am making naturally healthy choices. Interestingly I have "allowed" myself to choose dessert, usually my downfall, and have looked at the menu both times and decided there was nothing there that would make me feel satisfied, and have gone home and had a green tea,

I started this journey by slowly breaking my sugar addiction. I cut out all "normal sugar" and let myself have small amounts of date syrup, rice syrup or agave, I am no longer needing these in my life and haven't bought any more since my first week, and still have plenty left. They are handy to have for healthier baking but are not forming part of my every day diet.

I have been reading more about High Fat Low Carb eating, but remain to be convinced this is a healthy long term solution for me. I am certainly eating much less in terms of carbs, and find when I have a meal that is carb heavy I don't enjoy it. I do remain convinced a breakfast with carbs is important for me right now. Whether that is always the case is another thing. I am reminded of my mindfulness teacher's Irish lilt "to get from point A to point B first you have to be at A" to sustain my 18 stone frame I need some carbs in order to get around. I think cutting further would send me scurrying to unhealthier alternatives anyway.

I am certainly eating more fat in a considered way now hidden fats are no longer in my diet. Coconut oil is a friend of mine now, but used sparingly. Sometimes when I have a sugar craving I have half a teaspoon of coconut oil and it passes. Nut butters and whole nuts are my friend too, but I am being wiser about their use.

Life without dairy, I have to say, is totally liberating. No longer do I feel tied to dairy. I have discovered that actually I like black tea and coffee with no additions. I enjoy my green tea so much now. If I have a flavoured green tea I can taste all the nuances and flavour without my taste buds searching for sweetness or creaminess. I love trying all the different dairy alternatives, and seeing how they perform when I cook with them. I love all the new foods in my life now.

If I do have dairy I feel so revolting it is totally not worth it. I am more convinced than ever I do in fact have a dairy intolerance. I am sure with my improved eating I am getting more calcium than I ever did when having dairy, without the dire effects on my IBS I am so much happier and more confident.

I am in recovery. It's an every day awareness exercise and living in the moment, making good decisions is important. Planning is essential. I love my Aldi lunch box and filling it with healthy, colourful foods.

I don't want to hate food. I want to enjoy it, food is one of my passions and always will be.

It is not the enemy and I don't want to eat merely for sustenance, but I do want to eat myself to health and wellbeing, and to be able to enjoy my life for many years yet.

My mind is changing, my tastes are changing and my body will follow. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Be kind

It's so simple isn't it. "Be kind"

In our busy lives remembering kindness isn't always easy. I certainly am often rushing from task to task, meeting to meeting. Busy, hectic, out of time.

Making time to be kind to others, even ourselves, is often the the last thing on our minds.

This year I have been thinking a lot about kindness.

One of my "pet hates" is token random acts of kindness. Yes kindness to strangers is important, for many reasons. Some people have no one. Some people have lots of people but no one knows they need help. Some people are in situations where a bit of kindness will mean the world to them, If you have opportunity to perform a random act of kindness then yes, be kind.

Yesterday I was in the reception area of a modern busy hospital and I needed the loo. If you have followed my journey lately you will know I have upped my water intake so when I say I needed the loo I really really needed the loo.

I noticed an elderly couple, the lady in a wheelchair, standing at the doors to the toilet area. I asked them if they were ok. She mentioned she had only just received new sticks. "What do you need me to do?" I asked. She asked me to guide her hands through the arm rests so I did. I then spotted as she stood up and I walked to the toilet with her, opened the door and made sure she was safe. It took 5 minutes. Her gratitude was immense. First be kind.

In hospitals kindness is often in short supply. People are busy, staff are busy, people are stressed. A kind word, a smile, a chat, they all help.

So much of what our volunteers do at Bliss can be summed up as bringing some kindness in.

A volunteer has time to ask "how are things with you today?" "Is there anything you need?" "Would you like a break for a cup of tea?"

Kindness beings and ends with us. Not just randomly but thoughtfully, considered, lovingly. To those we know and love, to those we know and maybe do not like.

When I think of kindness I am brought back to Matthew's gospel. Whether you are religious or not it rings true, every religion I know of stands the same on kindness, as does no religion, humanity thrives on kindness. It creates a fertile soil for other acts of kindness to take root and grow. Be kind.

"35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’"

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Forever Journey Month 1

I went to the GP today and the scales I weighed in on initially were missing. Nowhere to be found. So I stepped on the scales they had and .....116.5 kilos. I've lost a pound. In a month.

This has happened to me before if I just watch what I eat and don't exercise my weight loss is much better. Underneath this layer of fat I am built like a shot putter, strong big muscles.

I look considerably smaller. People who don't know I am trying to lose weight have asked me if I've lost weight. My health and well being are much improved. And bizarrely without trying I have stopped biting my nails and they are really strong! So I know I am doing things right to an extent.

However I still need to make improvements. Please if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook NAG ME to drink water. I am not drinking enough at all and I know I'm not. On the plus side I haven't had anything naughty to drink, no diet drinks, no sugary drinks, no juice, just not enough water.

My diet might need adjustment so I will have a look at that over the next few months but I'm not panicking yet. I think I am on the right track, it's taken a while to adjust to this new eating plan and I've changed some lifelong habits, it might take just a bit longer to reflect my good work on the scales.

This is forever. I am embarking on an eating plan that needs to work for the rest of my life, so if my body only wants to lose a pound a month then perhaps that's just how it's going to be. It's no point restricting calories too much or I won't be able to sustain it.

As my mindfulness teacher Karen says, in her beautiful Dublin accent, to get from point A to point B first you have to be at A. I am at A and I am being at A. I am knowing my body, knowing food and knowing what exercise I enjoy and what fits in with my lifestyle.

I am being at A for another month, and that's ok. I haven't gained, I have done really well. I got through this month without alcohol, without sweets, without relying on chocolate, without takeaways. I have done really well. I must let the fact a mechanical measuring advice hasn't reflected my good work.

I will make the following changes for this month:-

* drink a glass of water every 1-2 hours (that I'm awake)
* reduce my porridge size to a small bowl
* add more protein to my diet
* reduce nut butters
* more careful lunch planning

As well as my walking I've added resistance exercise too. I know I probably need more high intensity exercise but at the moment I think I am asking for injury doing that until my fitness and joint stability improves. I will continue to aim for 5-7 k walking a day plus 3 resistance sessions a week.

Being extremely obese the rules are different. I don't have 1 stone or even 3 stone to lose, I have 6. I need to stay calm and considered and focussed.

But I still had a cry. I'm only human. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Slow Cooker Porridge

Who would have thought cooking porridge in a slow cooker would be so controversial? "But it's so quick in the microwave" "It only takes 5 minutes on the stove top. Here are my reasons for using the slow cooker.

1. I'll eat it. I know to lose weight I have to have a substantial breakfast. I will skip breakfast if left to my own devices. If it's hot and waiting when I get up I will eat it.

2. I use proper steel cut porridge oats. These oats are lower GI and more substantial and keep you fuller longer. The also take longer cooking, at least 20 minutes on the stove top and they aren't that great in the microwave. In the slow cooker they are perfect every time.

3. I don't own a microwave.

4. The time I save by cooking on the stove top I use to prepare my porridge toppings and to make my lunch for the next day.

How I do it

My grandad used to cook it direct in the slow cooker. This isn't a great plan. The porridge tends to catch and caramelise which doesn't taste good. So I use a bain marie technique.  I use a glass Pyrex jug which is marked up to 500ml or 1 pint. I fill to the 1/4 pint with oats (a good handful) and to the 3/4 line with "milk". I am currently using soy as that's what I have in, but I prefer coconut or almond. Normal milk is fine of course. I half fill the slow cooker with water. I was using my oval one but it doesn't have a light on it so now I use my tall one, as it's easier to check that its switched on. I learnt this one the hard way.

I then cook on low overnight and wake up to delicious creamy hot porridge.

Porridge toppings
My grandad used to have salt and butter on his, followed by wee dram of whiskey or drambuie. I am not of his stern Scottish stock!

The limit is your imagination but here are some things I put on my porridge

* stewed rhubarb - I cook this in the slow cooker as well
* apple butter - this is a reduced apple sauce, also done in the slow cooker with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed spice, sweetened to taste or not.
* bananas
* raw apple
* raw pear
* blueberries

And then something for crunch, protein or just fun
* peanut flour
* cacao powder
* vanilla paste
* coconut flakes
* chia seeds
* flaxseed and goji berry powder
* brazil nuts
* almond meal
* macademias

 I have tried quinoa porridge, first time on stove top which was not successful and second time in slow cooker. I kind of liked it but to me quinoa has quite a savoury taste, so I'll stick to it for main meals rather than breakfast.

My portion size is fairly large. I usually walk for 2 kilometres in the morning and I am satisfied until lunch. If my weight hasn't dropped I will reduce this portion size but for now I'll stick with it. I find I am not snacking during the day unless I have been exceedingly active, so I think it's working for now.

If you find you are skipping breakfast or short of time in the mornings and have access to a slow cooker, perhaps give it a try! 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

My Forever Journey Plan

So yesterday I talked about my Forever Journey and there are 3 elements. Thought, Consumption and Movement. There is a fourth, support and inspiration but that's another post!

The first is kindness. I have been embarking on a mindfulness course and the first thing I learned is this. To move from point A to point B first you have to be at A. I have to be in my body, know it, understand it and love it. I need to be kind to myself, not berating myself, but urging myself to do better.

I understand now why I am fat. Food is one issue but the biggest one is a set of false beliefs. That fat is safe, that my fat protects me against bad people. It's utter rubbish. Fat is dangerous, and if someone wants to hurt me they will regardless of my size. Being fat could kill me.

I had a course of NLP recently and I am building a bracelet of positive thoughts and images to help me motivate myself.

Like any addict I have looked at what my problems are. The root cause is this incorrect thinking however this leads me to foods that aren't helpful to my weight loss. So for now I have done the following.

Dairy is completely out. I cannot be trusted with butter, cheese, cream etc. It cuts out ice cream too. And it also makes processed foods tricky. This is all good. For now I am using soy, coconut or amond milk. I am not missing dairy yet and it's been a month or thereabouts. I'm not saying I will be dairy free forever but whilst I am enjoying it I will embrace it and see what happens.

Wheat at the moment is out. I am still having freekeh and spelt occasionally which are wheat based, and probably will have cous cous too. I am not really eating bread. I have had pumpernickel and oatcakes when I've wanted something of that nature. I also tried wheat free pita, but not sure I will have that again. Not eating wheat means Macdonalds and KFC are out. I don't even like these places but we seem to end up there once or twice a month. It also means pizza is out together with the dairy embargo.

Sugar I have a huge sugar problem. At the moment I am not using sugar itself at all. I am using small amounts of agave, rice syrup and date syrup, and have used coconut sugar a few times. I am not convinced on this and whether I need to cut out all sugars but I will be kind to myself for now. It's not large amounts and not every day so I am not worrying too much yet.

Vegetables and legumes This isn't a paleo plan as I am eating legumes. I can't see the point of cutting them out, they are protein filled, nutrituous and cheap. I am aiming for 5-10 different vegetables a day. I am loving the amount of vegetables I am eating and my body loves it too. I have discovered kale. I love it. I throw it in soups, salads and other dishes. I adore it. This is worrying!

Fruit I am eating 2-3 portions a day. I am trying not to rely on fruit too much. As I love sugar and sweet things I am trying to concentrate on more savoury foods. I have fruit with my breakfast and one or more portions during the day.

Seeds Chia seeds, where have you been all my life?? I love the weird little critters and I think they are making a huge difference to my diet. I find my porridge more filling with the little critters on top and they make great pudding too. I am also eating flaxseeds (linseeds), sesame, poppy and other seeds too.

Nuts I avoid nuts as I consider them too high in fat, however am quite happy to eat Macdonalds or KFC, how dumb is that? So now I am including nuts in my diet. A handful of macademias on my porridge, or almond meal., tossing nuts onto a salad or on top of soup instead of croutons and using nut butters. I can honestly say, hand on heart, the crunchy organic hazelnut spread is much better than Nutella!

Drinks I have totally given up fizzy drinks and I am aiming to never have them again, not diet versions either, just totally not having them. I am having a coffee every couple of days, but only one, and I've gone back to my beloved green tea. I am not drinking enough water. I know I am not. So I am going to start instagramming my water count for the day and you can all nag me.

Treats Food is about enjoyment as well as nutrition. My idea of treats has changed as I am eating for enjoyment as well as sustenance. A bowl of mango is a treat, as is kiwi fruit. Or a good fruit salad. Even a fresh organic carrot if you stop to taste it. I am baking the odd sweet treat, I have a vegan friend at work so it's nice I can make stuff she can eat too.

Last year I took up yoga. I used to do yoga when I was smaller and I notice how much harder it is with my tummy in the way. I am still doing yoga and also mindful movement. However to really burn calories one needs cardio and for the moment that is walking with a wee bit of interval running whilst my joints get conditioned again. I also plan to use the outdoor gyms popping up in Bury. I have a small amount of exercise equipment at home.

I aim to walk around 5 k a day broken into bits. I am walking at lunch time and in the morning. I hope it's enough. I feel anxious about getting enough exercise in but if I'm smart I should be able to do it.

Please follow my journey on instagram, user name is kykaree, and as promised I will be blogging recipes soon!

Monday, 2 February 2015

My Forever Journey

It started with a pledge in January not to eat out, no takeaways and no bought lunches. Then it grew. I decided to really look at my weight and how this had come to pass.

I am 18 stone 6lb or 117 kilos and I am 5 feet 4 inches tall or 163 centimetres. My BMI is 45.

I love healthy food. I enjoy fruit and vegetables and good sources of protein. I enjoy exercise. I keep my GP in a state of confusion as apart from high blood pressure, I am fit and healthy. My cholesterol is perfect, I don't have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, my liver, heart and kidneys are fine.

I am not stupid. My weight will catch me up. I am not going to be forever lucky. I know this. And I have to do something about it.

I have two inspirational people to follow. The first is my dad. My dad died just two weeks ago of COPD. At the ripe old age of 89. He gave up a 50 year smoking habit 20 years ago and bought himself precious time to see his grandkids be born and grow up, to travel and to enjoy life. If he can do that I can get to a healthy weight.

The other is my best friend Daniel. Daniel had a scare 2 years ago when he was found to have a dangerously low white blood cell count. He made some huge changes to his diet that weren't easy, he added green tea and tomato juice and gave up cherry coke. For someone who cannot eat solid food and who is very limited in what he can enjoy this was a huge thing for him. He still hates green tea and he perserveres. He has been healthy for 2 years.

I lost six stone 8 years ago over 2 years. I regained all the weight back. But no more. Weirdly I am two dress sizes smaller than I was before presumably due to exercise and muscle making up more of my body composition than before. Still I wear a size 20-22.

I hated being a size 16. I felt exposed and frightened. I like being fat. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am who I am. Plenty of people love me, my son and my husband think I am beautiful. And that's fine by me.

However I am looking at my weight problem differently now. I am addicted to being fat. I have false beliefs that being fat is safe, that my fat is a cushion and an armour, that it makes me safe.

This is bollocks of course. Fat is inherently dangerous and I will have health problems as I get older, and perhaps fatter. This needs to stop.

So I have embarked on a forever journey. I am changing the way I eat, move and think. This isn't a quick fix, this is slow, deliberate and considered.

This is addiction recovery. This is serious and it won't always be easy.

But I will succeed. Because my dad did, because Daniel did, and because my GP says I won't.

I can and I will.