Reflections.

Not reflections in a mirror, more about taking a step back and reflecting on the progress I have made in the last five months. This is not just about weight loss which has been slow but steady but it is also looking at the place I find myself in now.

My studio has been de-spidered by the LSO and is ready for action and after much thought I have decided to approach the whole experience as an extension of this new place I have reached. I will go with the flow.

I have lost 33lbs to date and a further 25 lbs will put me in a truly healthier zone but it is what I have realised about myself that is most surprising. I have yo-yo dieted for years, lost weight, gained weight, wallowed in self pity as the pounds plus rolled back on but never achieved how I feel now. I am actually at peace with the need to lose weight, less frantic and definitely more in control and more accepting that it will happen but not in the short term. It will take time and during that time I will enjoy life, inevitably taking the occasional step backwards but I now understand it’s all part of the journey.

I have positioned the easel, put a fresh canvas on it and am ready to paint but what? After much deliberation I decided to look through the photographs of skies that the LSO has taken. There are hundreds of them so I was definitely spoilt for choice but I found a sunset in soft purples, pinks and gold which resonated with the way I feel at the moment.

Can this new sense of emotional freedom last?

We have an outdoor visit on Friday to see the AP.

Will I remain calm cool and zen-like?

I’ll let you know.

Emotional eating.

I had never actually considered the emotional attachment I have to food until recently. I have cooked all my married life, enjoying moments of serious entertaining as well as cooking for family and friends on a more casual basis. I also love eating out and have been fortunate in visiting some exceptional establishments during the last fifty years.

But during these pandemic days I have had time to assess how and why I eat and what triggers certain reactions, such as the need for a G&T or a piece of chocolate. I used to think it was just a habit and I am sure some things are just that but there are definite triggers that have me mindlessly heading towards the cupboard.

I don’t binge eat or drink but I do have an emotional need where food is concerned. I am naturally shy but have learned to control the urge to hide or disappear into the background but how, in heavens name, did I manage to teach 11 to 18 year olds for 35 years! Lockdown has forced me to look at myself which I have found uncomfortable at times. I discovered I have spent years hiding behind the cooking and the social drinking because I could.

I am a good cook and love experimenting but I would never have wanted to be a chef. I would have loved to have been a food critic sampling superb cuisine in fine establishments, in an ideal world of course. Dreaming aside the reality is that I enjoy company and also cooking for people who like eating.

The last sixteen months or so have been such a change in lifestyle that initially I just cooked, baked and ate what the LSO and myself fancied. He put hardly any weight on and I ballooned but he is generally more active that me. So unfair I cried but he just had another beer and smiled enigmatically.

But I am two stone plus lighter and a bit less buddha shaped but need to come off the plateau I have settled on for the past week and address the situation sensibly. Food has always been a refuge for me whether I am preparing it or eating it and I guess it will always be like that so I need to watch portion sizes and find something to do when the 4 pm urge to eat chocolate arrives. Today I am writing this blog as a diversionary tactic. Tomorrow? Well tomorrow is another day, walking the dogs with the LSO could be a good plan.

In fact a daily plan is what I need, I will start that tomorrow.

Another life.

After a spell of really warm weather, then some torrential rain, we are back to the great greyness and it is cold. Cold enough to tweak the central heating on which comes as a bit of a shock three-quarters of the way through June.

It doesn’t help with dieting either; I was enjoying the barbecued meals with lots of salads and vegetable kebabs which are spot on for a low carb diet. Now I find my mind lingerering, be it briefly, on more wintry casseroles and soups but no, I will not succumb to these thoughts and tonight it is a warm salad which I suppose is a bit of a compromise. I have now lost 30lbs, another 6 lbs off will put me about halfway to my target which I am hoping to reach before my 76th birthday.

My cousin and his wife came down from Scotland for a few days last week and although I was a bit concerned about how I would manage, especially as with so many of our friends and relatives we have developed a culture of ‘wining and dining’ but it was fine and I even lost some weight. The G&T’s were definitely off the menu replaced with fizzy water with a slice of lime and lemon.

But the recent visits of relatives and our children with their families has all been a challenge, be it a lovely one, to not slip into old habits and so far, so good.

I really do feel that I am finally throwing away the shackles that have seriously blighted not only my life but the life of the LSO. It is two years since the AP went into the care home and it has taken all that time to get my ducks in a row. I still speak to her every week and sort her affairs out but in truth lockdown has done us a favour because at the moment we don’t have to see her, well only infrequently, which is giving me the time I need to mentally and physically heal.

Mindfulness.

Well, here I am almost four weeks since my last post and the 16lb loss is now 24lbs off but I have reached a bit of a plateau which I refuse to be down about. I do need to move a bit more but I am back to swimming twice a week and I have resorted to doing some stretching exercises only intermittently and have bought some resistance bands. I just need to read the book and then remove them from the wallet they are in, they are way more effective that way!

Lockdown has done me no favours and I am sure many can equate to this feeling. I have definitely become a bit of a couch potato and the very word ‘exercise’ can reduce me to a jabbering wreck, full of endless excuses as to why I should avoid it.

Also whilst battling the little devil that sits on my shoulder I am trying not to look too far ahead because then I might just cave in due to the enormity of the task facing me. I need to lose a further 42 lbs to be in a true health zone and to become non-diabetic as well as fitter and just as importantly very much happier in my skin.

So I am taking small steps and enjoying my new mindful eating and the fact that I can now bend over and pick things off the floor, bonus.

It’s the word ‘mindful’ that intrigues me. Has anyone else noticed how often it creeps into so much literature. It’s obviously a new buzzword, an all encompassing word to take the place of others, such as meditation, stress busting, good old fashioned awareness among but a few. There is even a mindful chef!

But being serious it’s interesting how I have found that mindfulness when applied to eating can actually make a difference. Also I have never, until recently been quite so aware of how the past seven years have impacted on everything to do with our lives. How overwhelmed we have been by it all and how the circumstances that brought about a great deal of unhappiness, distress and in my case, illness could have been avoided if the LSO and myself had been more mindful and more fully present in our own lives. The AP would not have come to live with us and we would both have had fond memories of her. Sometimes it is not right to do what seems to be the right thing, the attempt to offer her warmth and kindness fell on stony ground. At some point we should have put our own needs first.

Now I am struggling to even ring her nevermind go and see her which is so sad; so it’s definitely a time to meditate before making the call. Will it work?

Hopefully.

An Update.

After a rather rickety start to my new weight loss programme I am finally losing pounds, twenty-one to date so I am feeling not only a lot better but more positive about everything.

It’s a calorie counting regime that verges slightly on low carbs but allows me to eat most of what I like within reason and doesn’t put me on a guilt trip. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? No, I’m not getting smug, therein lies disaster and the inevitable ruin of the weight loss and yes, it has it’s restrictions such as logging everything I eat and drink.

That’s another issue of course and I’m not talking about the gallons of water I am drinking, this time it’s the reduction of my alcohol intake. I have ditched the habit of decades which is the evening, pre-dinner G&T and the LSO and I only share a bottle of wine three days of the week. Astonishingly it hasn’t been such a miss and I feel almost saintly about it all but some may say that the wine will have to go eventually and the answer to that is, never. Life is too short, especially at our age to not have some pleasures in the week and a fine bottle of wine shared with a delicious meal is a joy.

I may just have to run up and down the stairs!

All hasn’t been completely fine and dandy though; I had a little blip last week when we went to visit the AP in the care home because she had reached the grand old age of 103 years. We booked the visiting pod but it was all a bit of a disaster because she was particularly vinegary and apparently couldn’t hear us or chose not to and said we had forgotten her birthday even though she was wearing the rather elegant top we had bought her. It’s difficult to really understand but she seems to save her nastiness and spleen to vent only on the LSO and myself which can be hard to take given how much we have done for her over many years and continue to do so despite her attitude. The visit also brought back some of the past and was a reminder of how thoroughly divisive she had been whilst living with us. This really saddened me because I had finally arrived at a good place regarding my mother; needless to say after about half an hour of a non-conversation that was mostly about her we departed, having had more than enough and headed home to sanity and the dogs. Fortunately the angst didn’t last too long but I did indulge in a G&T that evening. I think for the moment we’ll stick to the weekly telephone calls when she is generally nicer, although dotty.

But all in all, life looks brighter even if today is wet and cold.

Progress.

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, in fact a month because I have been utterly self-consumed sorting out my new regime. It has been an uphill struggle to find out what I can and cannot eat but there is some progress. I am pleased to say I have lost 16lbs so far and feel much better in myself. There is still a long way to go but I do believe that this time, I will get there and stay there. That’ll be a first in the last decade or so.

I have been testing to see how certain foods spike my blood sugar or cause a drop and it has been interesting to view the overall result. The general trend is definitely down which is good and I have discovered that full keto is not a good idea but low carb, low calorie and smaller portions do seem to be working. I haven’t as yet discovered how low I can safely go in order to keep losing weight and reduce my glucose blood count.

In the midst of all this the LSO and I are lamenting the freezing Spring weather we are experiencing at the moment which has meant our tomato plants grown from seed are spending nights in the kitchen and days in the greenhouse. It’s like cooking in a jungle and I keep looking for little men in pith helmets to pop out from between the leaves. They are sturdy looking plants and hopefully will be planted in the greenhouses some time next week. I will then look forward to producing endless freezer boxes of homemade passata, in between the inevitable plum and bramble jam sessions.

For those who have followed the blog you may be wondering that there is no mention of the AP. That is partly because there is not much to say about that particular situation but she is still going strong, well looked after in the care home, a bit dotty at times but generally ok and she will be one hundred and three years old at the end of this month. What do you buy for someone so old?

In the words of the AP herself, it’s utterly bonkers.

A dawning of reality.

Well so much for a hint of Spring. Since I wrote my last blog, which the LSO said was a like an interval, the temperatures have plummeted and snow and ice have appeared. The former more of a dusting but with temperatures hardly rising above one degree during the day, it has been really, really cold. Today there is a sudden rise in temperature although it is grey and drizzling but it’s certainly a change to have warm feet.

Some time ago I wrote about ‘watch this space’, well the ‘space’ has arrived with a vengeance, completely back-footing me. About a week or so ago I finally removed my head from the bucket of sand which I had firmly stuck it in for months. I had actually been enjoying cooking all the comfort foods that the LSO and I have enjoyed through the months despite my slow but steady weight gain. There were several signs that all was not well but I chose to find other things to blame, then I woke up one day about a week ago and realised I needed to be honest with myself. I knew in my heart that the latest drugs I had been given for Type 2 Diabetes were not working so I blew the dust off my BG Monitor and started testing. Oh dear me, glucose levels were definitely too high. They would have been reasonably ok if I wasn’t already on medication, medication that four months ago had been doubled in strength.

To cut a long story short I arranged to have blood and urine tests and I am now on a different drug, this new one involves a completely changed eating regime which has thrown me into confusion. I cannot retreat to the keto diet which did work for me a few years ago because on this drug I risk getting Ketoacidosis which is not to be recommended. I need some carbs to keep my glucose levels stable, but how many can I have or should I say, how few do I need. Can I have as many as 45 + Carbs per meal or will my body be fine on less. I also have to drink loads of water, two to three litres a day which doesn’t come naturally to me. This results in me spending half the day rushing to the loo but at least, with lockdown I have nowhere to go.

Sadly there is no-one who can give me a definitive answer to my problems, we are all different and our bodies all have different reactions. It really is a case of trial and error whilst I find a balance that works for me.

So it is back to the drawing board, while I read again about Type 2 Diabetes, portion control, checking recipes that can be used for the LSO as well and are suitable for me, with some tweaking. At the moment I am looking at Low GI versus Glycaemic Loads and which foods work to keep the BG stable as well as enabling me to lose a substantial amount of weight at the same time. In the meanwhile I am testing four times a day, when I remember, peeing for England and feeling like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

Thankfully I can still enjoy a glass of wine.

Just a hint…

….of Spring. Our Snowdrops were a little later than usual this year and at one point were covered in a frosty coating of snow thus living up to their name. I just love it when they finally appear because although it is still a bitterly cold winter this year, these delightful little flowers are definitely a hint of hope and rebirth, of better and warmer days to come. They are such a cheerful, fresh flower and yet so robust, arriving during the dark and cold days of Winter. They always make me smile.

We are all still in the grip of the pandemic and the road ahead is not looking particularly smooth just a great deal more of the same old, same old. In the midst of all this the LSO and I realise we are not getting any younger. We have limited contact with our family who are all flat out coping with it all and we have been unable to see them for months.

News programmes continue to dredge up a continuous stream of inane comments accompanied by equally nonsensical and repetitive questions for politicians. The powers that be never learn to stop making definite predictions that just cannot be upheld. But nevertheless, thanks to one small snow white flower I feel there is hope on the horizon and that better days will arrive eventually.

In the meantime I will make a plan for my weight loss and head to the studio to begin a new project.

The sound of silence.

One of the things I have become acutely aware of during this latest lockdown is how noisy silence can be. It’s not a loud noise, just a background of the electrical and electronic equipment surrounding us, clicking and whirring. Then there are the creaks and groans of the house itself especially when the central heating clicks in . Later in the evening the LSO lights the stove and the sound of wood crackling and flames gently roaring fill the void. If it is windy its the silver whirligig on the chimney that sings to us.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that during the day we have neither the radio nor the television on. The LSO is mostly in his studio during these cold, dank days whilst I footle around the kitchen feeling a bit rudderless at the moment. I do find January and February difficult months to get through and the situation with the Coronavirus isn’t helping. My studio doesn’t beckon at the moment although I have some plans in my head of my next project, at least that’s a start. My knitting lies untouched and unloved and dust is gathering on my cookery books.

A great cloud of lethargy is engulfing me like a thick impenetrable fog which I know I need to shrug off and start making an effort to be more positive. Then I sit down and let my mind drift in the non-silent silence until the beep of something electronic shakes me out of my thoughts and I go to take the towels out of the washing machine.

If I am honest I will admit that in a rather obtuse way I am quite enjoying the peace. All my life has been a tearing rush and even in retirement I have always felt the need to be up and doing with everything planned and mapped out, feeling guilty if I sat down. So perhaps, in a way this whole situation with the lockdown has done me and also the LSO a favour. It’s still good to be up and on the move but also there is nothing to be ashamed of in sitting and letting silence embrace us. I am not a great believer but I was brought up with hymns and during my life as a teacher, assemblies and chapel sevices were of great importance to the school communities I worked in. One of my favourites and I’m sure also a favourite of many is ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ with the spine-tingling build up at the end of ‘Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, to an almost whispered ‘O still small voice of calm’. The biblical nature of what we are all living with is definitely echoed in this poem.

Perhaps when this whole sorry situation has improved we can still enjoy the sound of silence as well as having our lives back.

No horizons.

We have woken up for several days lately surrounded by dense fog and on one particular day it never disappeared at all; it just kept becoming slightly more transparent then rolled back again. Apart from the occasional and refreshing sunny day, it has been cold, damp and grey. A bit like our lives in lockdown really only now we fight the brain fog that threatens to engulf us too. Conversations are punctuated with ‘thingymebobs and thingamajigs’ as we struggle to remember basic words.

When the AP came to live with us neither the LSO or myself expected the sudden change in her personality that caused us so much grief for so long. It was a relief when she finally went into a care home although that situation has its own set of problems and we did, for a short spell have our freedom back but the coronavirus and yet another lockdown have left us marooned in our home again.

I had, during our brief break for freedom, thought about changing the title of this blog. During those five and a half years not only did our horizons shrink but so did our energy levels. The whole situation seemed to suck the very life out of us both and in truth that is happening again now for differernt reasons and it must be the same for many people. So, I guess there is little point in changing the title. These are indeed worrying times and all we can do is take care, be kind to ourselves and others and have hope that the vaccine is eventually effective and we can all get back to some kind of normality.

I haven’t abandoned the weight loss programme; I am eating smaller meals, reducing the alcohol intake and I have stopped baking for a while although we are demolishing the Christmas cake. These little tweeks to our lifestyle seem to be having a positive affect for the time being.

I am now considering heading into the kitchen, in a most positive way of course, to bottle the Crab Apple gin I made two years ago.