Category Archives: Diet and Nutrition

An update on Operation Chrysalis…

“Operation what?” cry my new readers.

chrysalis

Let me fill you in.  Basically, back in September, I began to feel like a big fat caterpillar.  I had put the weight on that I had fought to take off in the previous 6 months and I decided to start again and to lose all the weight that I want to lose.  Initially I tried to do it on my own, using my own knowledge of nutrition and what worked and what didn’t for my own body.  The plan was to use the winter as my form of cocoon (they are also called Chrysalises, hence the title!).  The idea is that come the spring, when the summer wardrobe is back out from the loft and everyone want to looks awesome in shorts, I shall take off the winter layers and reveal my new butterfly me.  Or if not the entire transformation, certainly a good way towards it.

Operation Chrysalis

The first two months of Operation Chrysalis did not go well.  I discovered, week after week, the weight was going back on again.  So, I decided to take the bit between my teeth and head for a local slimming class.

It so happened that I got a text message from one of the leaders I used to go to slimming class with, and as I do not believe in co-incidences, I decided to go along.  So… I did.  In the 8 weeks since I have been going (even with Christmas and New Year festivities in the way) I have lost 15 and half pounds.  This is really, really good for me, because with my PCOS and Insulin resistance, losing weight is incredibly difficult for me.  I have great support at home, which is crucial, and I must say, it is rather pleasant to have people from Church come up to me and tell me how good I am looking, and have I lost weight.  It is massive boost to the morale, and makes you want to keep going.

tape measure

I have also taken my measurements.  Those inches are really beginning to show.  I have to wear a belt with all my jeans now.  Some of my skirts are too loose on me.  I am actually looking to take some of them in.  This is, let me tell you, a FABULOUS feeling.

Seeing as it is a New Year I have committed to a new start on the diet front as well.  I lost 1.5 pounds this week, but I am going back to basics on the eating plan.  I am going to write down everything I eat (“write as you bite” is the phrase I am taking away from today’s class!) and hopefully I shall come away with a good weight loss next week too.

If any of you are undertaking your own “Operation Chrysalis”, how are you getting on?

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I think I was tempting fate…

I did say I liked December… and I still do.  Sort of.  Unfortunately, the heating system at home has decided that it is not that happy.  So we are going to have a few days of shivering in a cold house.  It is not too bad though – it is definitely a first world problem.  Luckily we have contacted a heating engineer who is coming out on Monday at noon – so not too much longer to wait.  In the meantime there are hot water bottles, thick blankets and hot drinks on the cards.  Oh, and I am in layers.  Lots of layers!!

cold inside

In my many years of dieting, I have often heard that being cold is a good way of losing weight.  I know that when you do lose weight you feel the cold more, which is to be expected really, with a lack of erm… insulation.  I can tell you, I am feeling the cold more this year than I have previously and I am sincerely grateful.  I went to my slimming class this week and was thrilled to discover that I have lost my first stone (14 pounds).  I have a good few more to come, but getting over the first stone barrier is a psychological thrill and the fact that all my clothes fit me better is just bonus.

It is slightly odd to realise that I am now the same weight as I was when I was 18.  The year I went to University.  Goodness.  So, the rest of my “journey” to being a better weight is going to be a magical mystery tour, as I really don’t have any frame of reference for how I will look or feel.  But that can be my motivation – lets see just how awesome I can feel/look.  Anyway, I had promised myself that I would treat myself to some new makeup when I reached the first stone.  So, I did.  And let me tell you, it felt GREAT.

make up

I also streamlined the contents of my makeup bag at the same time.  I still have enough, but I do not have too much, and what I do have, I like and will wear when I want to put a face on.  Plus, losing the weight means my clothes fit better, so the general look of me is better than it was.  Not that there was anything wrong with me before, but I am enjoying the change of losing weight.

There are some bad things – tights keep falling down (very annoying indeed), the fact that my fat cells are reducing means there is a lot of oestrogen being released into my system.  I generally have a headache when this happens – but I am happy with that – especially as it means that I am losing inches.

knitting 1

So, my treat when I get to my next stone target is to get a knitting pattern and the wool to knit it up.  In the smaller size I will be when I get there.  I am keeping that in mind when temptation presents itself.

A rant about tipping the scales…

For the long time readers of this blog, you will know that I struggle with my weight.  I have always struggled with my weight and I suspect it is something I will ALWAYS have to have an eye on, for the rest of my days.  However, in the last 3 weeks, I have decided that I am back on the dietary wagon, and I am bound and determined to get the excess weight off this time.  I have given myself targets, I have decided on the treats I am going to give myself when I reach those targets, I have even given myself time scales in which to do it (though I am going to be flexible on those!).

There is nothing that irritates me more though, then people telling me that “losing weight is simple.  Just eat less and move more.”  What a pile of horse hocky.  If it were that simple, don’t you think that we all would be stick thin and no one would be overweight at all?  For some people, maybe it is that easy, but for others?  No, it is more complicated than that.

And who decides who is overweight anyway?  Well, in most western countries, the medical profession relies on an Index called the Body Mass Index.  It is a conjunction of your weight and your height.  Depending on where you come on the matrix you are classified as being overweight, clinically obese or morbidly obese.  What they fail to tell you though, is how that Index was dreamed up.  You might think it was the greatest medical minds of their generation putting their heads together and coming up with something that truly reflects the health of the citizenry and that it is a number and a score with a lot of research behind it.  Ummm… no actually.

The BMI was dreamt up by some doctor who had been given the job of proving that the Soliders in WW1 trenches were being given enough food and weren’t poorly nourished.  Patently, they were poorly nourished, and patently it caused all sorts of health problems, but the index was put together as “proof” that Private Joe Bloggs, this tall and this weight, was actually the right weight for his height, even though he really, really wasn’t.

So, the tool which I have been judged against for most of my life is actually a tool of 100 year old war propaganda?  Great.  Just great.

Please do not mistake me.  I am fully aware that I carry too much weight.  This is partly because of appallingly bad choices I have made in the past, and partly due to genetics,and even partly due to a desire to squash feelings down by using poor food choices (and no, that really doesn’t work and is not a very positive way of doing things.)  But I am done with feeling guilty about this.  I know what needs to be changed, and I am doing something about it.

Recently, I rejoined a slimming class.  In two weeks I have dropped 8 pounds, and altogether, I have lost 12 since I started on my health kick, way back in May.  I feel a lot better for it, and I know what to do in order to eat healthy meals, feel full and happy and have the energy to do what I need to do.  And that is what I am going to do.

So, if you feel like you want to be healthier, or carry less weight, then the best thing to do?  Go and see a Nutritionist.  Take their advice and do what you know is healthy in order to get to your healthy weight.  And do not let some stupid position on an outdated and scientifically dubious index tell you whether you are healthy and happy.  Let your own body do the talking.

My own personal barometers…

I don’t know about you, but I have personal barometers which tell me when the weather is going to change.  Thanks to breaking several bones whilst growing up, and also a couple when old enough to know better, I am a reliable source of weather data for those around me.  I can tell you more accurately than the weather forecast when it is going to rain for example.  It is a neat trick, but I would rather I didn’t get joint pain at all.  Unfortunately, that particular ship has sailed.

Sore joints

A lot of people get joint pains on one sort or another.  Some of them have delightful whimsical names like Tennis Elbow and Housemaid’s knee.  Despite their names, they are unpleasant to have to deal with.  Not to mention painful.

Lots of things can cause joint pain.  Infections, fevers, food allergies, diet deficiencies and liver problems can all cause joint pain.  Not drinking enough water if you are an athlete can cause calcium crystals to develop in the joints and that can be SORE.  Or if you have a tick bite it can develop into Lyme Disease.  That can cause joint aching, swelling and inflammation.  Psoriasis can also affect your joints, causing a deep ache.  After all that, the broken bones method is not looking so bad.

sore knee

However, most joint pain that we will experience will be down to wear and tear, arthritis or injury.  Overuse of a particular joint (like your elbow and your knee) can inflame the individual parts that make up your joints.  Muscles, tendons, ligaments and bursae, which are the tiny fluid filled sacs that provide lubrication between the joints.  There is gout as well, which is where urea crystals form in the joints and cause some really bad pain.  It is thought to be brought on by rich foods in your diet and is unfortunately becoming increasingly common in modern life.  Henry VIII suffered from it.  Might be one of the reasons he was so grumpy with everyone, especially his wives.

What can you do about aching joints?  Well, the first thing is to…take a break.  How is THAT for a blinding glimpse of the obvious.  If a joint is hurting, stop using it for a bit.  Once the pain has gone, gradually reintroduce the activity and keep going from there.  Listen to your body.  If it is shouting ouch, then stop hurting it!

ibuprofen

Second thing is kill the pain.  Unlike some herbally people, I am not going to suggest you exclusively use herbs to stop things hurting.  Yes, some herbs will help – turmeric in a tea is supposed to work miracles for inflammation, but nothing works as well as ibuprofen.  It is formulated to take down inflammation, so if it works, then USE it.    Unless you have an intolerance to ibuprofen.  In which case, turmeric tea might work for you.

The next advice is to do precisely what your Mum or Granny would suggest.  Apply heat to the area.  In the form of topical warming creams, or hot water bottles, or hot wheat bags, or hot cherry stone pillows.  You can make your own herbal warming cream using cayenne pepper, chilli and ginger which does the same thing (and isn’t quite as assaulting on the senses as Ben-Gay or Deep Heat are.

hot water bottles

Now… if these remedies don’t work, or if you had the pain for more than a week, you have given the joint a very hard knock indeed or your joints are all swollen all at the same time… then don’t be daft.  Go and see your medical professional.  There are no points for being a hero.

Oh Crumbs… something I ate does not agree with me…

Everyone has been in this situation.  It is Christmas (or Thanksgiving, or a Wedding Reception, or a Birthday dinner out).  You get a feeling that something you have eaten does not agree with you.  It might be nausea you feel, or a highly flavoured something repeats on you, or you get the delightful acid reflux.  It usually happens at a very important point.  Like in an important business meeting.  Or in a quiet bit when you are at Church.  Or when you are on a date.  It is horrible.  But it doesn’t have to happen regularly.

Indigestion is no joke.  Not funny at all.  I know people who have had to severely curtail their life because their indigestion is a little out of control.  It is a catch all title for any discomfort experienced in the upper abdomen and whatever causes it, I know it is miserable for the person on the sharp end.  If the indigestion is chronic, then you should definitely see a medical professional.  If it comes on when you exercise, then it is even more important to see someone.  It could be heart and not stomach trouble.

So what can you do to stop it?  You need to cut out the stimulants.  Say goodbye to coffee, tea, nicotine, chocolate.  All of these have a chemical that relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter which contributes to indigestion.  It is a good job that I don’t get indigestion very often, because I would find it very hard to give up coffee and tea.  The other two, no problem, but you will have to prise the caffienated beverages from my cold, dead hands.

The second piece of advice from the Country Doctor book is not to be a hog at a trough come feeding time.  Overeating will send the stomach into a tailspin.  Basically, if you eat a huge meal, then your stomach produces too much acid to help digest that meal and then it keeps on going  producing a lot of acid, even if you only eat what you normally would.  You end up in a hyperacidity vicious circle.  Cut down on the portion sizes might help, if you think it could be overindulgence causing the problem.

What about trying a calmative tea?  Catnip and Chamomile make good digestive additions, although I might have to battle with the cats for the catnip.  Liquorice and mint is a really tasty and fabulous mixture for calming the digestive system, and so is Fennel Tea.  You can pick up tea bags of these flavours (except the catnip!) in most supermarkets these days.

Also, if you find that your indigestion happens after you have eaten rich, fatty foods, or after you have eaten highly spiced foods, then perhaps your eating patterns needs a bit of an overhaul.  Taking away fat and cream does not mean that you lose taste or flavour and if it calms your digestion, then it has to be worth a try.

From my research, one of the thing that many people are unaware of is that sometimes indigestion is caused by too little stomach acid as well as too much.  If you try all of the above remedies and you are still feeling horrible, then try drinking a little apple cider vinegar in a glass of water before you eat.  If you don’t get indigestion, then bingo – you had hypoacidity issues.

A modern plague… and what you can do about it.

There is an idiomatic quirk of the locale where I live.  A lot of people, when discussing their ailments love to express that they “Suffer with Blood Pressure”.  It is at this point that my inner pedant rises up in protest.  You do not suffer with blood pressure; you absolutely and totally require blood pressure in order to survive.  It is what pumps the blood around the body.  What you actually suffer with is either high blood pressure, or low blood pressure.

high blood pressure

Either is equally nasty, to be honest.  In modern days however, it is high blood pressure which is something of a plague.  I have lost count of the people who have been diagnosed with it in my network of friends and family (including myself at one stage), so I think it is quite important to think about the causes of it and what we can do in our own home arsenal, before we take to the medical profession.

Doctors actually call high blood pressure the silent killer, because it rarely causes you any problems until something in the body gives out, like your heart or your kidneys.  Effectively, it is the result of your system getting overstressed due to something or other.  Shortness of breath and severe headaches can be a sign of high blood pressure, but the only sure way of telling if it is normal or elevated is by going to get it checked.  A good guide is to get it measured once a year.  You can go to the doctor for this, but equally you can purchase your own machine from the pharmacy, or you can use some publicly available machines if that is a service provided in your community. If you are a normal, healthy person should have a blood pressure of below 140 over 90.  The last time I was checked, for my adoption medical, I was 120 over 80.

hypertension

A few years before that, when I was 35 or so, I went to the doctor reporting symptoms of unexplained headaches, nausea, no energy whatsoever and inability to sleep.  She took my blood pressure, took it a second time because she didn’t believe the first reading and then told me that if I didn’t calm down I was going to have a stroke before I turned 40.  It’s a shame I can’t remember the reading from that occasion, but I know it was elevated.  I am rather proud that I never required drugs to keep it under control.

I did my research.  I knew which risk factors I had (overweight, stressed to the maximum, pretty crappy diet at the time, hardly any exercise because I was anchored to a desk all day at work) and I knew I needed to change things if I wanted to beat the beta blockers.  So if you are in this position yourself, here is what you do.

vegetables

First, overhaul your diet.  I will be honest, I am not the best at eating like an angel all the time.  If I was, then I would have lost this excess weight a long time ago.  But one thing I have done is cut out the excess salt in your diet.  You might recall a few years ago there was a big push from the medical profession to the food industry to stop putting extra salt in things?  That was because of this, and the link to heart disease.  So…  gradually cut out convenience foods out of my diet.

Consequently, I lost some weight, and that is also good for the blood pressure.  I could stand with losing some more, but that is for the sake of vanity rather than anything else.  I do not need to do so for my blood pressure to equalise.  Another good tip is to learn how to breathe properly.  A lot of people do not take as deep breaths as they should, due in part to appalling posture brought on by sitting for long periods in front of a computer screen.  Taking deep breaths, holding it and then releasing it slowly is actually a great technique for relaxation as well.  I actually know of one lady who was about to be put on beta blockers, but learning how to breathe properly meant that she was able to get her blood pressure down entirely without the aid of drugs.

walking

You also need to do some exercise.  Walking is one of the best exercises you can do, and a gentle walk for 30-45 minutes per day is perfect for getting the blood pressure down.  You need to do this at least 3 times per week and ideally walk steadily without a break.  The whole point is to exercise your heart for a sustained period.

Walking is also a great stress reliever and walking the family pet is also a great reason to walk places.  Having a pet and fussing it, and receiving love back from it, is a wonderful feeling.  I certainly noticed the difference on adopting two cats and a nutty dog!  Anything that relieves stress in a healthy way is fine – get out and see people, laughing at a funny movie, listening to music you enjoy, planting something in the garden  (well, I like that, anyway!).  Anything that can get your blood pressure down and lets you chill out.  After all, another phrase for high blood pressure is hypertensive.

Talking about Hair Loss…

In some circles of society this is quite a delicate matter, so I understand if you feel a little embarrassed.  Please, don’t be bashful.  I might be able to provide some remedies which could help.  First of all, you need to work out why the hair is falling out.  Each reason will have a different method to treat it.

hairloss

I decided not to use the book for this blog… because I need to keep my researching muscles in trim, so cue some on line searching.  It turned up some really interesting information.  There are so many reasons that your hair might fall out.  One of the things I have to mention though is acknowledging that losing your hair, whether you are male or female, can be equally devastating.  So, knowing what is happening in the body can help you treat the hair loss, and possibly, in some cases, reverse it.

 

The first reason for hair loss is physical trauma.  So, if you have had a car accident, surgery, illness, a really bad case of the flu, then you can get temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium.  Generally speaking, when the body recovers from the trauma, and if there are no other issues, the hair will grow back.  Often women who have just given birth have hair loss as well.  Essentially, if this is the reason for your hair loss then once your body recovers from the trauma, then it should grow back.

Vitamin A

Another reason for hair loss might be too little vitamin B or too much Vitamin A.  It is important to note that you CAN overdose on vitamin supplements.  It is vital to read about the strength of your supplements and make sure you are aware of the recommended daily amount of whatever you are trying to take.  If you stop taking the Vitamin A, then once the body has naturally dealt with the excess, you could recover your hair loss.  In the other situation, take a dose of 100% of your RDA of Vitamin B.  If your hair does not begin to grow back, then you need to see a medical professional because there might be something wrong.

 

If you have a lack of protein in your diet, then the body will ration protein use and will shut down hair growth.  So, if you are already shedding your hair naturally at 75-100 hairs daily, then it won’t take long for it to seem thin or receding if it isn’t being replaced.  It can also be a symptom of suffering from anaemia.  Remember to keep protein in your diet, especially fish, lean meats, pulses and eggs.

auto immune disorders

There are occasions that the body gets confused and attacks the hair follicles, killing them off.  Generally this is due to some auto-immune conditions such as lupus.  If you have these issues, you need to keep watch.  More hair loss may indicate a flare up is on it’s way.

 

What has amazed me in researching this blog is how many issues can cause hair loss.  I haven’t touched on genetic issues, or hormone imbalances, or drug side effects or even overstyling.  There are many old wives tales about how to encourage hair to stay put.  The best of them seem to be about encouraging blood flow to the scalp, either by massage or by using peppermint oil.  It might work… but then again it might not. If you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, then… sorry.  There isn’t a great deal you can do.

 

But the best advice?  Rock the style you CAN have, and don’t try and have a style that isn’t going to fool anyone.   I am thinking bad toupee’s and comb overs here.  It is not a good look for anyone.