Saturday, 8 October 2011

Autumn Good Habits

Since the beginning of this month, I've been tracking my food again. I've also been keeping snacking in between meals down. The quantities of fat consumed has also been noted, and I am very pleased to say that I now scrape butter on my toast & sandwiches rather than slather it on! The same for vegetable oils that I use to cook my food - I use just a splash, rather than cover the bottom of the pan with it.

It has also helped that I now keep frozen veg to hand, and whenever I buy meat, it is bagged into single portions into the freezer, so I only ever take out enough for one or two meals at the most. This strategy is paying off - and I am getting used to only eating one pork chop, one chicken breast etc. I try and keep my doctor's advice in my head when I am allotting my portions - meat/protein to be around the size of my palm, carbohydrates to a handful, vegetables to a double handful, fat around a tablespoon. In practice however perhaps I am still being a tad overgenerous with the carbs, but at least the fat content of my meals is way down. 8 oz potato, 100g pasta, cup of cooked beans/lentils/rice should be my standard. I think getting the battery changed in the electric kitchen scales sorted will certainly help!

This summer I have spent mostly feeling sorry for myself, and rather down. And that has translated in minimal activity, and comfort eating of carbohydrates. Bread has been an especial downfall. The result? I have not only gained pounds over what my scales can record, but I am also finding it hard to walk anywhere without experiencing severe back pain after a few minutes. Standing upright for more than 10 minutes has the same effect, so washing up is now conducted in batches! My knees are finding it hard to carry my bulk around, and getting up from my low sofa is now quite an effort. I feel breathless after performing only minor activity, eg walking up the stairs, and having a shower, necessitates a few minutes sit down. I have been taking hypertension medication now for 3 years.

I know these are all red flags to my ill health. I have only myself to blame for allowing this state of affairs to continue. I know the key is to be a little more active, every day. To build in this exercise gradually until I am again able to walk a mile or two and enjoy it. To watch the portion sizes and the fat/processed food intake so I lose some weight, and keep the salt/sugar ingestion low to help my circulation, heart and kidney function. To see all this in small, achievable steps.

Here are my current goals
A loss of half a stone, a 30 minute walk everyday, 20 laps in the pool twice a week, feeling full enough during a proper portioned meal that I leave a few bites on the plate!

Knowledge and information is always good. Even better is when it is implemented! I keep watching Supersize Superskinny programs on TV to reinforce to myself that other people have been in my predicament, and it is possible to change.

I am still having down days, when hiding on the sofa with a book is the only thing I want to do, but they are getting less. I am hopeful. I am hopeful that I can establish a routine again, and get my life back in a happy swing of proper scheduled work hours, good eating habits, good activity habits, enjoyable pleasures scheduled in my week's timetable.

One recent change this month. I have been drinking coffee again. I wonder if having big amounts of caffeine has been helping my brain chemistry. Other things I've noticed - I find that after ingesting large amounts of processed carbohydrates like bread products, rice, mashed potatoes, I feel very very sleepy. I can conclude then that maybe eating those foods is best left for the evening. I feel most alert when I have eaten something like chicken or pork with heaps of broccoli, green beans, peas, cauliflower, courgette, tomatoes, asparagus, salad. Perhaps a low carb lifestyle for a week to test this out.

Last week I made a great soup. I'd cooked some butter beans (excellent food - soak 250g dried beans overnight and boil for 35 minutes, makes tonnes!). First I sweated off one chopped white onion until translucent in a splash of olive oil. Then I threw in the fridge veg remains - half a carrot, a quarter red pepper, one baking potato, all cubed. A pint or so of boiling water, a chicken stock cube (proper jellied stock of course is an aspiration, but I don't have freezer space), a pinch of Cornish seasalt, fresh ground black pepper, some dried herbs, left to simmer for 10 minutes. Two big florets of frozen cauliflower, then simmer again for 5 minutes. Finally I stirred in a tablespoon of tomato ketchup, a few drops worcester sauce and lemon juice, a cup of cooked butter beans, and half a cup of frozen peas, brought to boil for 2 minutes. I broke up the cauliflower into smaller florets before serving. It was delicious, hearty, satisfying, and best of all, full of great healthy stuff - all of it good for me. I made 3 good portions out of that pan of soup.

Porridge is back on the menu. As are omelets. I'm going to try and keep to foodstuffs that are as un-messed with as possible. So fruit & veg - frozen or fresh. Meat and fish without additional salts, preservatives etc (bacon, sausage, ham, sliced & pre-cooked meat as a rare treat) - portioned and frozen until needed. I'm still going to have tinned sardines and mackerel in oil, as these are oily fish, and I do need some fishy fats in my diet. What I do when I eat these is mash them on toast without butter. Yummy with a few drops of lemon juice and a sliced tomato. Tinned tuna - I'm now eating half a tin instead of a whole one, and making sandwich filling with a tablespoon of half-fat creme fraiche. Mayonnaise is very fatty, and actually gives me indigestion! I'm building in treats - individual ice lollies, fruit yoghurts, individual chocolate bars, so if I want a sweet treat, I can have it. And as each item is self contained, I'm not tempting myself to eat a whole block of chocolate, or a whole tub of ice cream. Strategy! I'm also cooking myself puddings, but as single puds in ramekins, so it is pre-portioned. So far this has been successful.

I do feel much better this week than last week. Snacking in between has mostly been confined to helping myself to another big coffee (milk, no sugar) and a piece of fruit. I've had peaches, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, oranges this week. A couple of ramekin sized apple crumbles (lots of apple, less crumble + a dab of half-fat creme fraiche = delicious + a happy me! I did have 100g of chorizo, a 800g loaf of white bread, 3 croissants, 180g nut chocolate & a large Twix this week. But in the overall weekly menu compared to what my bread/sweets/processed consumption has been over the summer this is brilliant. I'm happy.

Keep this up for a month, and I will have a new set of good eating habits to stand me in good stead for my goal of getting half a stone off. And a smaller tummy = less strain on my back and knees = happier to walk about more me. More activity = creating happy endorphins = happier mindset = more willing to keep going. Good consequences all round.

There are still a few Cox's apples on my garden tree. I like how picture-book red they are! The weather is now definitely turning chillier. Leaves are dropping. Perhaps this week I might go for a small walk at Harcourt Aboretum to enjoy nature's autumn show.

I haven't been out in the garden for a few days. Last time I did, I slipped and fell on the path and it brought back unpleasant recollections of my last bad fall a few years ago when I damaged ankle and knee ligaments and was effectively crippled for nearly a year. Luckily, this time the only damage was to my self-esteem! I felt just like my cat does when she does a boo-boo, got myself back together and then told myself what a silly I was! But it did bring home to me that getting fatter does compromise my agility and ability to avoid mishaps like this. Another good reason to keep to my good foods healthy portions no snacking routine.

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