Category Archives: Health & Wellbeing

In closing. Or, the chips will sometimes be down.

I think it’s possible that I’ve said more or less all I’m qualified to say in terms of this particular subject.  But first:  It wasn’t that one day I woke up and said, “Right – that’s it – I’m going to lose all this pesky weight!”  It was more like there had been too many days on which I’d woken up and said, “How did this happen…again?”  And there’s sort of a gazillion reasons why any of us find ourselves in a situation we really hate and somehow feel responsible for, even if we’d never have wished it upon ourselves in the first place.  And if that situation is of the downward-spiral variety – i.e., feeling bad about it makes us perpetuate it, ad infinitum – well, it’s tricky at best and downright agonizing at worst.

Finding myself clinically obese was the result of a lot of different factors.  I had a bad injury that put me on crutches for 6 months.  That wasn’t so bad, because crutches are damn hard work and so my weight was well within control during that period, but as soon as I had to put weight on the injury, the pain was debilitating and I was afraid of the pain.  I was also working quite a lot in a very demanding job and volunteering as much as possible, and my living situation wasn’t ideal, as we were in London and so sharing small flats with friends where no one really had enough space.  So I was stressed, frustrated, tired, and filled with all sorts of self-pity…which created the perfect environment for me to indulge in unhealthy behaviors like eating too much and too often and almost never the right things.  This was of course compounded by my pain and fear thereof, because I obviously wasn’t moving nearly as much as I should have been.  I’m willing to bet anyone struggling with their weight has undergone a similarly complicated set of circumstances.

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What’s on your plate Part IV: Dinner

As the evenings grow dark earlier here, dinner is becoming a less festive time of day for me, which is a bit of a bummer, because there’s something about the melancholy of autumn I find quite lovely, and because I feel like mother nature affords us a little respite from the grey via the vibrant changing leaves, and all the lovely new fruit and veg the season proffers.  I just miss the sun. But I do appreciate all the afore-mentioned goodies…Around here, it’s all about apples and pears, walnuts and chestnuts, potimarrons, butternuts & pumpkins (though the meatier European variety – awful for jack-o-lanterns but lovely for all sorts of edibles).

Autumn and winter food just feels like dinner food for me, because as an American of Anglo-Germanic traditions, dinner is the most comfort-driven meal of the day.  It’s the part of the day when I’m typically most hungry (though this is changing as I get older), and it’s definitely the part of the day when I feel I’ve earned a big, hot sit-down meal that fills my belly.

Thing is – that’s often a terrible idea.

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What’s on your plate Special Edition: Salads.

Life in terms of food in the Philippines wasn’t so bad, and it could certainly have been worse.  Where we lived, we had good access to a decent array of fruits and vegetables, and we eventually found a couple of places we could buy tofu (as it’s a common foodstuff, but not found in the supermarket) and learned how to make mungo beans.  But there were a few things we had to go without.  For C, I think the hardest of these was (what we consider good) bread, but he finally bit the bullet and started baking his own, which was awesome for both of us.

Some foods we couldn’t compensate for, though most of these were no big loss:  apples, oranges and grapes were on offer but out of the question.  The apples were tasteless and powdery, the oranges were juiceless and neither sour nor sweet, and I never got around to sampling the grapes…but I wasn’t bothered – we had mangos and rambutan and lanzones and jackfruit and like 4 kinds of bananas (though I’ve heard there were once hundreds of varieties in Mindanao, but due to monoculture there are only a few now – and there are far worse consequences, but I digress).

Something we absolutely never bought, though – except for that first time out of sheer naivety – was lettuce.  The lettuce was awful.  It was hard and bitter and dry…the climate just isn’t conducive to growing the stuff.  So upon arriving in France, I was ecstatic about salad.  The French love salad.  Most families serve it with every dinner and sometimes lunch, too.  The only problem is that for them, salade is the word they use for “lettuce”.  Which is to say that they eat lettuce with their meals, with dressing of course.  But rarely anything else, unless the salad is the main dish, which is typically only for eating out.  Not having lettuce in the Philippines had forced us to learn to love a whole bunch of other raw vegetables, and lettuce and sauce just didn’t cut it for me anymore.

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Weight loss hygiene Part III: The company we keep

When I was at university, I had about a hundred different jobs, one of which was tending bar in a karaoke bar that sat alongside a Chinese restaurant in Oceanside.  We had these two regulars, who I’ll refer to here as Dave and Sam.  They came in absolutely every night.  The nights I worked, the nights I didn’t – they were there.  They always sat at the end of the bar, about two seats apart, Sam nearest the exit so he could go out and smoke.  My boss was this knock-out Filipina single mom in her late 30s, and I’m pretty sure they and every dude in that restaurant were head over heels for her.

Sam was really smooth – almost like something out of a movie.  He smiled, but never too much, and was only really nice after he’d had one too many, so usually quite late in the evening, when he’d started buying rounds and killing my tips (he was a very bad tipper).  He was in his late 50s or maybe even early 60s by that point, and he was always well-dressed, in slacks and a button-up shirt, never jeans – I doubt he even owned a pair.  He drank something classic – martinis I think, or maybe old fashioneds – and he didn’t talk too much.  He’d go crazy when I’d sing “My Funny Valentine” – that was how I won him over, actually – and though he was reserved, he was a good guy.

Dave, however, wasn’t reserved at all.  He was one of those guys who just exudes generosity and kindness.  Dave was heavyset – probably weighed just under 300 lbs – and didn’t drink a drop.  He was in recovery.  He didn’t smoke, either, as he’d quit that not long after he gave up booze.  So nobody gave him any trouble for chowing down on as much deep-fried bar food as he fancied…Dave had already made some very difficult decisions in the name of his health and wellbeing.

Here’s the thing:  Dave was a recovering alcoholic who spent every single night (except meeting nights) at a bar, and never drank. Still, he was addicted to food – maybe before he gave up drink too – I wouldn’t know – but I imagine it got a lot easier to eat too much after he gave up drinking and smoking.  Meanwhile, Sam was also most definitely an addict.  Don’t get me wrong – he was very responsible with his addiction, always handed his keys over when he needed to and was never disrespectful to anybody.  But he was in that bar every single night. And every night he put back at least 4 or 5 of whatever highball it was he drank.

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What’s on your plate Part III: Lunch.

The diet industry astounds me.  Every week there seems to be a new way to get fit fast, until another comes along and blows the last one out of the water…each and every one promising the journey will be that much less painful (lose weight and eat what you want!), and that much more effective (bikini body in 30 days!).  I know this stuff sells because A) there are magazines upon magazines at the grocery store, always with the same headlines, and there have been for decades, and B) because we all want to believe in happily-ever-after – we want amazing things to happen to us.

But the truth is that while some amazing things do happen to us, weight loss isn’t one of them.  Getting fit and feeling well means actively changing our lives every day, establishing new priorities and letting go of old, destructive patterns.  There is so much joy to be found in this process, but it isn’t overnight – it’s long and slow, and sometimes really frustrating.  When the going gets tough, we must remember what we love…

And I love lunch.  Lovelovelovelovelove.  When a day’s going well and I’m flying from one task to another, it’s a welcome opportunity to slow down and breathe.  Conversely, when a day is absolute shite and I don’t think I can handle another minute of it, sitting down and eating can be as medicinal as going back to bed to start fresh.  But lunch is tricky, because most of us aren’t home at midday.  I think that’s a damn shame, because this really should be the time to sit down to a nice, big meal and a siesta, but that’s just not how the world works.

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Do it for the feeling

Today I went for a jog…and it was hard.  I’m not a natural when it comes to exercise at any rate – it’s just never come easy to me – but today kicked my arse.  I was thirsty, I felt like my breakfast was still digesting, I was out of breath too soon and my legs felt like bricks. It reminded me a lot of when I first started.  But I’ll start this post a little further back than that.

After I broke my leg, the doctors said I wouldn’t need any physio because the breaks were in the tibia and fibula, not the joints.  So although they had operated on me three times to insert, re-set (because my foot was pointing in the wrong direction the first time), and finally remove the nail that extended from my ankle (joint) to my knee (joint), and although a good part of the trauma my leg went through was at these joints (owing to the two screws at either end to hold the nail in place), no follow-up therapy was carried out.  Consequently, I had a lot of pain, particularly in my ankle.  I couldn’t walk for more than half an hour before I began limping.

It didn’t help at all that I’d begun putting on weight.

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