I am probably mad but…

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…it’s got to be worth a try, right?

My weight has been very much Groundhog Day these past few months. I lost 20 kilos relatively easily in the first 9 months last year once I’d put my mind to it. Far, far more easily than I thought I would, having been on and off diets all my life.

But then the dreaded plateau struck and I’ve been hovering between 74.5 and 77 kilos for the past 6 months. God it’s boring. On the plus side at least I haven’t piled all the weight back on again for which I’m truly grateful. And I have learned what my maintenance diet is. Essentially fairly low carb most of the time with a bit of a bread, wine and cheese blow out when I’m away from home (which is quite often).

I refuse to give up my trips away from home as they keep me sane, surrounded as I am by various family members’ hideous illnesses and diseases which I often think affect me as much as they affect them. And I refuse to not eat delicious bread when I’m away from home. Life is too short for such denial. This attitude is my lardy downfall.

I would really, really like to get down to 70 kilos and then try and hover around that weight for ever more if at all possible. There will be ups and downs I know. I will still technically be overweight even then but that will do for me, being a woman of a certain age. Don’t want to get even more haggard and wrinkly looking.

So – what is a girl to do given that even when I am being ‘good’, like now, the scales still aren’t budging? Well… I have decided to try a 48 hour fast to shake things up a bit. I am probably mad. I have read Jason Fung’s Obesity Code, which is one of the best books about insulin resistance and how we have come to gorge on carbs by default that I have read. Dr Fung recommends fasting and actually if you’re in ketosis from low carbing it isn’t (allegedly) as horrendous as it sounds, as your appetite is already fairly suppressed.

Having started low carbing properly again on Monday I am edging towards ketosis I think and hopefully by tomorrow morning I’ll be in it. I’m planning on eating my last meal tonight and having my next meal on Saturday night. Is this even possible?! I will be recording my progress. Or lack of.

Today’s 3 mile walk was around Pendennis Head and up through Princess Pavilions (of which there is a picture of the grotto, above). Today’s food was a rasher of bacon and 2 eggs for breakfast. Lunch was chicken and salad out with friends. Dinner tonight will be steak and kidney pie without the pie, and veg. No wine. Gah.

That will be my last morsel of food until Saturday, 6.30pm. Gulp.

Eat Fat and Grow Slim(ish)

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I can’t recall a time I have ever been thin. Slim, yes, for about 5 minutes thirty years ago, but never thin. I first realised I was fatter than my friends when I was about eight I suppose, though the word ‘fat’ was never used. I was ‘chubby’, it was ‘puppy fat’. When I asked my Mum what puppy fat was she made it sound like it was going to magically disappear when I got to about 13. It didn’t.

So when I reached 13 and was still inexplicably larger than my friends I embarked on my first ‘diet’. Oh how I wish I could tell my thirteen year old self not to bother! It set in motion a life time of bloody dieting. I think my first diet was simply to eat fruit and nothing else. I lasted about a day.

When I got to 15 I heard about Dr Atkins and his revolutionary low carbohydrate diet. I read his book and others such as Pure, White and Deadly by John Yudkin. Eat Fat and Grow Slim by Richard Mackarness was another one. That was it; I was convinced. This time I really was going to lose weight and be beautiful.

And I did. Lose weight. About 20lbs. I wasn’t particularly beautiful but I was beautiful-er. I found it quite easy. No more slices of thick buttered toast when I came home from school, no more bars of Galaxy. Now it was cheese. I ate a lot of cheese. I took cheese and pickled onions on skewers for my lunch at school and my friends thought I was mad. But it worked.

However. Inevitably the weight crept back on. I kept it off through sixth form college but by the time I was 20 I was back to being somewhat porky. But then the boyfriend I absolutely adored did me a massive favour by buggering off to Paris with another girl (and borrowing money from little old unsuspecting me to do so) and the weight dropped off again. I was inconsolable. I had no appetite. I hoped that if I lost weight he would love me again. He didn’t. Bastard. He messed me around and screwed with my head. He was my official First Love, although now I think about it I did fall in love when I was 16 with a boy called Derek who tried to kill himself by taking 10 iron tablets when I dumped him.

The times when I have been slim have almost always been the result of severe emotional trauma. I need to break that cycle. I need to not be relying on the next catastrophe to lose weight. I need to grow up.

So here we are, forty years on, and I’m still low-carbing. In the intervening years I have tried every diet imaginable at some point and I can now safely say, after exhaustive research, that the only diet that works when you get to my age and have hypothyroid and metabolic disease is low carbohydrate. Or to use its current cooler name, ‘ketogenic’. The sad thing is that after years of dieting I can’t even get away with eating much cheese on a low carb diet. And that is a very sad state of affairs.

Escaping

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Whilst in the midst of my ‘I could scream’ mini breakdown my friend Eve told me she was going away for a few days. To Bexhill.

“Why Bexhill?” I asked.

“Because I’m thinking of moving there,” says she.

“What?! Why?! What’s wrong with here?!”

It turns out there’s nothing wrong with here, it’s just not home. Eve was born and brought up in the South-East and while she’s had a lovely time living in Cornwall the past 8 years it’s time to go home to where her family are.

We continued to amble along beside Loe Pool, as we do, chat, chat, chat when I said I was thinking of asking my brother if I could borrow his flat in London for a few days. Just to get away from my son, painful though that is for me to write. My brother spends half his time travelling and happens to have a lovely little flat in Camden.

“If he’s not going away you could always come to Bexhill with me,” said Eve.

“Why Bexhill? I ask again.

“I’ve been doing my research and it looks nice. I need to live by the sea and my budget rules out places like Brighton”.

So here we are in Bexhill. It is not nice it is a dump. It is soulless. There are endless shops devoted to old age: Alzheimers and Dementia Society, Mobility Aids, charity shops, many, many residential homes and funeral parlours. No doubt I will be delighted with all those things one day, but that day is not now. I cannot believe Eve is even considering it.

As the place that Eve booked had no space for me I did some googling and found myself a  bargain price hotel room. I totally lucked out. Eve’s place was grim, mine was fabulous. Lovely, comfy hotel: swimming pool, great bar, excellent breakfasts. The only downside to my otherwise very pleasant room was that the floor sloped at an angle of about 30 degrees, which was incredibly disconcerting whilst walking to the loo in the middle of the night, still half drunk.

The plan was to do lots of walking over the next few days to counteract the food I knew I would succumb to. As my hotel was a couple of miles outside Bexhill this was quite handy as it meant I more or less had to walk lots, just to get to Eve. Up and down Cooden Beach I walked, getting pebbles in my boots. My thighs are now strapping. I still managed to put on 4lbs in 4 days though. That takes some doing. I blame the hotel breakfasts. It just seemed rude to refuse the full English. Every. Single. Day.

Yum.

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I could scream

One of the hardest things about trying to lose weight over the years has been the need to cook highly calorific meals for my son, who has cystic fibrosis. The kitchen needs to have drawers full of chocolate, crisps, cakes etc, simply because he needs the calories. Of course he eats healthy meals as well, the cakes etc are the snacks he needs to make up the calories.

So I’ve never been able to simply ‘not buy any biscuits’, as many a diet article will tell you to do. I’ve always had to have these highly tempting things in my house. Still, despite the mountains of roast potatoes I’ve cooked over the years, Angus remains very thin. He is improving though now that he has a gastrostomy tube.

Anyway I digress. The reason I could scream is because despite loving my son very much I also find him so frustrating I feel like leaving home some times. He does nothing, or very little, to look after himself. When he’s in hospital he always promises that when he gets out he’s going to do more exercise, lift more weights, maybe get a part time job, be more helpful round the house etc, but he never, ever does. I went away to Center Parcs for a weekend recently and when I got back he’d not taken his tablets. The tablets that I help him make up, in little pots, that sit by the chair he sits in when he’s watching television in the sitting room. I couldn’t make it any easier for him.

If he doesn’t take his tablets he will deteriorate very quickly and end up back in hospital. Which he professes to hate. I have tried everything to motivate him. Bought him a treadmill so he doesn’t have to leave home to get his exercise (what the hell was I thinking?) I have paid for memberships to racket sport clubs. I have suggested he might be depressed and told him to go the doctor. He was prescribed a low starting dose of citalopram and then never went back to get the dosage increased to an actual therapeutic dose. I have offered to pay for 6 counselling sessions. He went to one, said it was quite useful, but then refused to go to any more. I have paid for holidays, meals out, take-aways every night he’s in hospital, bought him a car so that he could do a college course that he’s never capitalised on, the list is bloody endless.

But. I’ve had enough. The final straw was when I found myself bribing him, financially, to take his medicines, do exercise etc. Even that didn’t work. I have to just accept that if Angus wants to be ill and stay ill then that is his right. But I don’t have to put up with it going on in my house. Angus will always hold the trump card because if he gets ill, which he can do very quickly, then he knows whatever hard stance I am trying to take will melt away in my panic that I’m going to lose him.

I have lost one son (not to cystic fibrosis but an accident) and I don’t want to lose another. But I have to just accept that I probably will. I now have to try some tough love, knowing all the while that in the short term, and maybe the long term, it might make Angus’s health worse. It is shit. But I am all out of ideas. I’m quite terrified of implementing the plan my daughter and I have come up with (which is that he goes to live with her for a bit, she won’t stand any nonsense from him) but if I’m honest I’m more terrified of what I will do if I don’t take this stand. I am so close to just running away. I’ve had years of this and I’m worn down with it all.

***

Last week we had snow. Actual, lying on the ground snow. In Falmouth! This is quite unheard of as we normally have mild winters and we are on the coast. In terms of walking myself slim it was fantastic because I couldn’t bear to stay in, I was out in it, walking miles, taking photos, slithering around but having the best time.

In dieting news I am so fed up of losing and gaining the same few pounds that I’m now trying a bit of 16:8. That is, I only eat in a window of 8 hours. So I’ve been skipping breakfast. Now I’m not one of those mysterious people who ‘can’t possibly face food first thing’. No, I am one of those people who LOVES breakfast. In fact it’s probably my favourite meal. So this is quite hard but so far I’ve been replacing breakfast with either an exercise class or a bottle of fizzy water. I will report back as to how it’s going. Or not!

 

The Great Flat Lode is far from flat

For a long time I’ve wanted to walk the Great Flat Lode, or at least part of it. This is a long trail around the old tin mines near Redruth and as many of my ancestors were tin miners and both my parents were born and brought up in the area it has particular significance for me. I am also a woman in want of a flatter stomach and a good old hike is a step (excuse pun) in the right direction.

Lo and behold what should pop up on Facebook a couple of weeks ago but a lady who likes rambling and who likes people to join her on her walks who just happened to be leading a walk around The Great Flat Lode. She calls herself Cornish Ramblings. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time but haven’t been quite brave enough to do. ie just announce a walk I’m about to do on Facebook and see if anyone’s interested. Jodi is her name and good for her for being braver than me and inviting others who like being led on a walk, to be led.

I like both exploring by myself (I am never happier than with a map in my hand) and I like being led. With the latter there is no thinking involved and also you can have a good natter to whoever happens to be walking along beside you. If you don’t gel then no bother, you just drift apart and the next person you strike up a conversation with could end up being your next best friend. It is quite brilliant.

After weeks of rain the Gods were shining on us as was the sun. We had a fantastic walk though the name is a misnomer as it is far from flat. We even walked past the house by father grew up in, in Carnkie, and the house my mother was born in, in Four Lanes. We also walked past Carnkie village hall where there is a little plaque dedicated to my father. Such fame! It was six miles of heaven as two of my closest friends, Jan and Denise, came too, and we put the world to rights at the top of Carn Brea.

In dietary terms things Are Not Going Well. My friend Tamara gave a tea party for another friend Natalia, for her birthday. Tam makes the most wonderful cakes and I ate about 7 of them. And sandwiches. Well it was rude not to.

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Guns ‘n’ beaches

IMG_0175Out on my usual 3 mile stroll around Pendennis Head I came across two men with a gun. One of them was shooting something down on the beach. I stood on the footpath and watched them – they had no idea I was there. I took a photo. I carried on staring at them, wondering when and if they’d notice me, and if so what they’d do. Eventually one of the men turned round and looked somewhat alarmed to see me. At this point it occurred to me that it might not be an air rifle but a fully loaded shot gun so I decided not to hang around any longer and continued on my way.

Just round the bend, the other side of the cove, where there’s a good view of where the men had been standing I turned to look. They’d gone. I was perplexed. Was what they were doing legal? They were so brazen it seemed to me it must be. But then I started to question it so mentioned it on Facebook where the conclusion from friends was that yes, I should report it to the police.

Which I did. And now the police are saying I should have dialled 999. Aargh! They’ve also asked me to keep an eye out for the men when I next go for a walk so this is going to make my daily constitutional much more interesting.

Shrinking breasts

One of my motivating factors for wanting to lose weight was my consultation with Mr Breast-Reduction Man a year and a bit ago. He stared at my nakedness and told me I was too fat to have my breasts reduced. He did me the most massive, massive favour. He was right, god damn him, I could no longer pretend that if I had smaller breasts I would look thinner. I would still be fat but with perkier breasts. Perkier breasts deserved a better body to go with them than I was able to offer at that time.

He sent me away and told me to lose a stone. I lost three. Yes! I was really looking forward to presenting my new lighter self in his consulting rooms and being lavished with praise and a date for reducing my (still huge) breasts.

But something happened on the day of the consultation. Roads were blocked, the venue was changed last minute and I was also told that in any case the consultant didn’t do his operations in the Duchy Hospital any more. It was just before Christmas, I was worried sick about my son, irritated with the consultant’s secretary for being so incompetent so I just gave up on it and cancelled. The consultant, mortified at his secretary potentially costing him a lucrative operation, offered to see me in January instead, for free.

I was going to go. But then something happened in my brain. I realised I just wasn’t so bothered about it any more. Yes my breasts are still huge but they’re not quite as huge as they were. I’ve discovered Curvy Kate bras which repackage my breasts very well into something almost verging on perky. In short, I think I have reached peak boob job obsession and come out the other side. And saved myself several thousand pounds and recovery time when I’ve got enough on my plate as it is.

Today’s walk involved my friend Eve which was the best news as, due to illnesses, holidays and generally shit weather I haven’t seen her since before Christmas. We had a lot of catching up to do. A LOT. We covered every topic, as we generally do and she revealed that she’s thinking about moving back to the South-East. No!!!! She lives in Carbis Bay and this is the problem I told her. People move to Carbis Bay to live out their final years before they die. She is far too young for this. I am on a mission to persuade her to move to Falmouth, which, as everyone who lives here knows, is the best place on earth. She is unconvinced.

Yesterday I walked 12,000 steps. For breakfast I had bircher, for lunch I had tuna salad and for supper I had 2 pork steaks, sweet and sour peppers, creamed leeks and cabbage. This morning I weighed 75.1kg. It would seem I simply cannot get down to my previous lowest weight of 74.1kg. And I’m getting bloody fed up of it!

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Tumultuous Times

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…And……..breathe…..  It’s been a difficult few months. My son has been in and out of hospital, culminating early on Boxing Day by his needing to be rushed to A&E, having difficulty breathing. I kind of knew we were building up to it, but when it happened, and because it happened so suddenly, it was horrible. He had been hiding how ill he was.

I spent the next few days utterly terrified that he was on his way out. If not right then then in a few months’ time. Angus had a gastrostomy tube fitted in December and this had not gone well. He’d been in pain and without access to the painkillers he really needed (as it turned out), so he stayed in bed a lot. Staying in bed a lot when you have cystic fibrosis is wrong, wrong, wrong. You simply cannot do that. You have to keep moving. So that your lungs keep moving. If the alveoli in your lungs are constantly moving it is much harder for a bacteria to take hold and unleash micro bacterial havoc.

I visited my son every day, sometimes twice a day. We watched the stats. How much oxygen was he taking in? Too little, he needed extra O2. What about heart rate? Far too high; signs of infection (and also lung damage). I cried when I wasn’t with him. He was so thin it was impossible to see how he could still be alive. I have watched one of my children get thinner and thinner, and then die, I railed at the universe that I might have to do it again. It seemed impossibly cruel.

And then. A miracle. Angus turned a corner. The antibiotics started working. The gastrostomy tube stopped being so painful. Food was being absorbed through it overnight. This in turn led to his appetite starting to return. I could see – physically see – in his face, that he was putting on weight.

Another miracle: Angus somehow (and I have no idea how this happened) managed to improve enough so that we could go on our pre-booked family holiday to Lanzarote. Medical supplies and permissions from airports were hastily arranged. We needed to take seven huge feeding bottles in our hand luggage; way, way over the normal liquid allowance but it was all ok because Angus had a note!

As a result of us all expecting not to be going and then going we had the best holiday ever. The sun shone, Angus ate, Sorcha and Matt played pool by the pool, Ian and I swam in the sea. My mother though – aargh – managed to fall over at the airport before we’d even picked up our hire car and spent the rest of the week looking like a victim of domestic abuse.

This tale of woe has meant that my weight has been up and down and all around the houses. But some interesting stats: I started this #walkingmyselfslim campaign at 94kgs. Exactly one year later on 4th January 2018 I was 76kgs. I’m bloody proud of that! I have now been 76kg for about 3 months though…

I am still in the overweight area of the BMI chart though so I really, really need to lose some more. So… I AM BACK! Let the walking re-commence!

Today’s walk was round Mylor and Pandora. We even woke up to a little bit of snow, unheard of in Cornwall. ‘Twas lovely.

Doing it properly actually does work

As I spent most of September at the same weight, despite sticking to low carb (mostly), I decided to do a bit of analysis. I have been quite anal about this weight loss project and I have Google Drive spreadsheets for all sorts: my daily weight, my once a week ‘official’ weigh in, my daily diary of what I’m eating. It means I can access these spreadsheets on all my devices. God that makes me sound boring.

But weight loss is rather boring and the way that works for me is to treat it like a scientific experiment (I took much the same approach when I at last managed to give up smoking). Record, record, record seems to be my motto, and then I am accountable. I also like being able to look back on what I was eating when and the rate of weight loss. It is a jolly useful tool.

So I looked back on September and yes, while I was sticking to my more or less usual low carb diet what did happen was that I noticeably relaxed more at weekends. Roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, regular puddings, more wine…. all eaten under the guise of it ‘being the weekend’. I was making a lot of cakes for my son at this time too, in an attempt to get some weight on him, and that would inevitably involve licking the bowl out and trying a piece of the finished cake if it was a new recipe. This all resulted in a rather static weight line on my graph from the beginning to end of September.

Since Portugal at the beginning of October I’ve been as good as gold. Ish. I’ve cut out the HP sauce with my morning eggs (high sugar), I’ve cut out cranberry sauce with my halloumi salad (this has been quite difficult, I love the salty sweet combo), and I’ve had no Yorkshire puddings at the weekend. Wah! But – it has made a huge difference. The numbers on the scales are dropping again. So now I know. A properly stuck to ketogenic diet does burn fat even in post-menopausal women like me.

News from the hospital: my son is still in and now waiting for a gastrostomy tube to be fitted so that he can hopefully gain some weight. Oh the irony. Every time I see him he looks like he might break at any moment, he is that thin. It all seemed to happen so quickly in the end, going from worryingly thin to dangerously thin within two or three weeks. There is no absolute guarantee that overnight feeding him will work. It doesn’t with some people. If that’s the case the future doesn’t bear thinking about. But it WILL work. It will, it will, it will.

Gains… and desperately worrying losses

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Life is a bitch and this is why: while I am trying, very hard, and with painfully slow success to lose weight, my son is also losing weight. Except that he’s not trying. He’s trying to do the opposite in fact. His weight is now so low that I wonder if he can come back from this.

I lie awake at night worrying, worrying, worrying. It all started with the hideous bug Mycobacterium Abscessus which he started growing about 4 years ago. At first he kept on top of it – ish. Then, as more and more drugs have been tried to get rid of it my son has become more and more nauseous. The side effects of these very powerful antibiotics are bloody awful. The jury is still out as to which is worse – the symptoms of the illness or the side-effects of the medication. And worse still, there is no guarantee the medication will work and it often doesn’t. In my son’s case it hasn’t.

But still we try. Meanwhile A gets thinner and thinner and now just looks so ill and is a bag of bones. I literally cannot bear to look at him. He is in hospital now. Partly routine, he has to go in for IV antibiotics about every 4 or 5 months, but partly because I actually can’t cope with his being at home. I cannot watch him not eat. He won’t be here in 6 months’ time if he doesn’t put on weight.

There is hope. He has agreed to have a gastrostomy tube fitted so that he can be fed overnight straight into his stomach. But even that’s not straightforward. The operation itself, although a very simple one, could cause an infection which in turn could lead to sepsis because A has exhausted every single antibiotic there is. Once the peg is fitted he could still feel very sick and be unable to tolerate overnight feeds.

If someone had told me when I was younger that of the three children I would give birth to two of them would end up being tube fed for entirely different reasons I would a) never have believed them, and b) made sure contraception going forward was ultra robust. Almost worse than your child dying is watching your child suffer I think. I still have nightmares about the suffering my eldest child endured before his death.

But, this blog is supposed to be about my dietary successes or failures so, moving on: I am doing pretty well! In fact, I think trying to lose weight and doing exercise are a distraction from the pain going on around me in the rest of my life. I dread to think what I would be like now if I was going through this but still very fat and miserable about that too. Hideous.

I have now lost 18 kilos. Yes! 39.6lbs! I am two-thirds of the way there. My breasts are still massive unfortunately. I veer on a daily basis between deciding I definitely am going to have them reduced in size by a kindly surgeon to deciding that they’re not actually that bad (I have now discovered I am a 36GG not a 42DD so yes they are that bad) and it would be a complete waste of £6000 plus the recovery time, the scars etc, etc. Currently I’m thinking not to have it done.

They do really get in the way when I exercise though and being the age I am they are more like large Spaniel’s ears when I’m not wearing a bra rather than buoyant and sexy orbs. It’s not a good look. My breasts alone in a way are what incentivises me to keep going. If you are genetically pre-disposed to store a lot of fat in your breasts, which I clearly am, then the body will hold on to that fat until it has no choice. So in other words if you have large breasts then that area will be the first to get bigger if you gain weight and the last area to get smaller if you lose weight. If you have small breasts then the opposite is true. So… if I lost more weight would my breasts then get smaller? Properly smaller? It would be fantastic if they did so I’m going to give it my best shot. Though as I’m losing about a pound a month by the time I’ve lost the requisite amount of weight to make a difference I will probably be 87 and past caring.