Health Diary Week 52: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

One Year Review: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…

Me on my 1st Birthday, 70’s style

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Hi, I can’t believe it’s already a year since I started on this health challenge! So, it’s time to review my year and also reflect on when my health concerns first began. And of course, I’ll also include some smile-provoking experiences – appreciating those little things in life became high priority in 2020, but I intend this to be part of my everyday life moving forward.

Overview

Part of me would have liked some big reveal of my health improvements, kind of like they do on TV weight loss series. But then I considered how not all health improvements are visible – it’s not all about weight. And people can lose weight in an unhealthy or non-sustainable way – I don’t want that – I want to age healthily and enjoy my life. I remind myself it took nearly five years to regain the weight I initially lost (more on that below), so how on earth could I expect to lose it all again in just a year? My aim was (and still is) to make sustainable lifestyle changes to gradually lose the excess weight impacting on my pain levels (hypermobility issues) and reduce risk of developing Type 2 diabetes[1] (a condition both sides of my family have contended with). So, my primary objective was (is) to restore my healthier lifestyle and move forward from there. This isn’t a race – I’m in this for life with the intention to live healthily (well, on the whole). That sounds sensible, right?

Now, the way things panned out haven’t been as expected – who would have known we’d have to massively adapt our lifestyles to survive a pandemic? Certainly not me. So, I’m proud of myself for not giving up, despite probably contracting the virus back in March and struggling with some lingering symptoms of insomnia and brain fog for months (more about this here) – thankfully, I think this is now mostly resolved.

Okay, so let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start… hang on, I sound like Maria from Sound of Music! Sorry, I digress…

History

So, what I should share (and did share in Week 0), was that this isn’t my first struggle with health and weight – it’s my second.

Late Night Socials:

I love socialising, alcohol was often a key component – I‘d go out most night’s in my late teens and 20’s and every weekend in my 30’s – I guess what I’m trying to say is I drank a lot of alcohol and snacked on less healthy convenience foods, sometimes equivalent to a meal, late at night. It caught up with me in my 30’s – I started becoming uncomfortable with my size at some point – it was a very gradual process. Also, I started experiencing food intolerances (gluten, dairy, sulphites) and worsened reactions to pollen and dust.

Left: Me aged 19 about to head to a house party. Right: Me aged 21 at College Summer Party (1990’s)

Weight Gain, Injury and Hypermobility:

I had no real health concerns until my early 30’s, when I started noticing a weight gain. So aged 32, I re-took up tennis and swimming – activities I’d loved as a kid. But then I decided to try jogging regularly and within a couple of months, I was experiencing excruciating pain in my feet – all exercise stopped. A couple of years later (at my heaviest weight), I was finally referred to a podiatrist who diagnosed plantar fasciitis, most likely caused by my rubbish running technique and hypermobile ankles offering little stability. The podiatrist identified several hypermobile joints[2] and explained high impact exercise was no longer an option for me – gutted.

Young flexible me flinging myself around fearlessly – there’s not much evidence of my bendiness as we didn’t take so many photos back in the 80’s

Turning things around:

Understanding my issues better, enabled me to work around them. So, I set up health challenges with various friends and Mum – I lost about 15 lbs (6.8 kg). Also, I re-took up swimming (less pressure on the joints) and completed my first 5 km swim challenge. Another important factor was transferring to part-time work, enabling more time to focus on my health behaviours.

After completing 5km Swimathon, 2012

Feeling healthier, increased my motivation to continue moving forward. I felt ready to start addressing the food intolerances – gluten was eliminated from my diet. I also gave up caffeine to improve my sleep – I had 10 days of horrible withdrawal symptoms. All was going well, until December when a cold progressed into a horrific sinus infection – the pain was unbelievable. I had a recurrence a few months later, spurring me on to eliminate dairy, followed soon after by becoming completely plant based (I was 37). I lost about 20 lbs (9.1 kg) during this time and felt at my healthiest since my 20’s. It took about four years to get to a place where I was happy with my weight – Wow! – I hadn’t fully grasped that until now, having looked at the below table:

My decade of changes: Weight and key events

Studying and Weight Gain – The Three S’s:

As you can imagine a lot of people questioned my plant-based diet, which was great, because this finalised my decision to study Nutrition – I had to take a long-winded route, studying Health Sciences with The Open University first (in hindsight I’m so glad I took this route) because I couldn’t jump into an accredited course[3] with no relevant science qualifications. The decision to study led to my assessment confirming Dyspraxia[4] (at 38) – finally I understood myself better.

However, five years of intensive studying took its toll and slowly the unhealthy habits crept back in and I regained the weight lost, along with regular flare-ups of food and environmental intolerances. I’ve asked myself what happened? Looking at the above table, I’d say the culprits were:

  1. Sitting for long periods of time (reduced NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis[5])
  2. Stress from throwing myself into a degree level science with little prior knowledge, followed by completing a postgraduate degree in a year
  3. Sleep deprivation from long nights studying

(I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks based on my above table)

Late night studying. Image: Ambady Sasi, Pixabay

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not regret having put those five years into studying, because not only am I more confident, I’m also proud of the skills developed and knowledge obtained.

My Progress

After graduating from my latest degree, I decided it was time to take some time out to focus on myself and gain back my healthier lifestyle (more on this in Week 0). And that’s how the idea to write this blog came about – I needed accountability.  

So, what’s happened after a whole year? Well, everything moved in the right direction. I lost 5.8 lb (2.6 kg) total – I get that this doesn’t sound like much, but it could easily have gone the other way given the challenges 2020 have presented – namely that virus – I was unwell for 68 days (long-haul COVID?) and continued to have sleep difficulties until mid-September (180 days – yep I tracked it). Add to that, my intensive physical activity levels plummeted with cancellation of circuit training and lack of fitness after illness. And then there’s the social isolation – not great for a comfort-eater. Am I making excuses? – Yea, I guess so, but they’re kind of warranted.

My weight increased by 1.8 lb (0.8 kg) from last week, because I indulged in foods I knew I had to cut out from Week 53 – at the end of the week I ate three pieces of chocolate cheesecake over two days! The most notable overall changes are that my right thigh lost 9 cm (don’t worry, both thighs reduced proportionately) and bust reduced by 7 cm. And I’m pleased I lost 5 cm from around my waist. My waist to hip ratio is still in the high-risk zone for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but it has decreased at least. I view this past year as only the start – I’m still highly motivated to keep moving forward, so please continue to stick with me.

Week 0 versus Week 52 body changes: Weight, BMI, body fat, waist circumference (WC), hips, waist to hip (W:H) ratio and right thigh, calf and bicep

And, if we look at my body shape, it’s changed a little – my waist is more defined – I’m a little more toned looking. Oh, and my boots zip up – that was a concern at the beginning of this. One thing’s for sure, I feel better than this time last year, despite everything 2020 has thrown at us.

Left: Me at the beginning of November, 2019 (a couple of weeks into the health challenge). Right: Me now, 2020

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Okay, I couldn’t leave without sharing some smile-provoking experiences:

Cuteness:

I saw Bevy and Harry’s son, Lawrie, briefly after his swim class. I hadn’t seen the little guy in real life since probably February. Lawrie looked very cute in his spiderman robe. And he was so good listening to his parents about maintaining physical distance. But when it was time to leave, he reached out his hand towards me and said, “Come on Katey, let’s go” – cuteness overload! I wanted to hold his hand but resisted. It was so lovely to see him though (oh and Bevy and Harry too of course):

Remember the days when we could hold hands? Image: Bruno Germany, Pixabay

Exercising my Brain:

Ah, more learning for this knowledge hungry lady. It was Breast Cancer Awareness week, so naturally the MyNutriWeb continuing professional development webinar was ‘Breast Cancer and Diet’. The four key recommendations were to limit alcohol (there is no safe limit), maintain a healthy weight, be physically active (follow the national guidelines) and breastfeed if you can if you have children. It was heartening to hear that UK survival rates have doubled over the past 40 years due to improved detection and treatment:

MyNutriWeb ‘Breast Cancer and Diet’ webinar and infographic

Freebie:

Who doesn’t love a freebie? In preparation for my low histamine diet, I‘d ordered some nutritional supplements from the Vegan Kind Supermarket. And kind they were, for they sent me an unexpected mallow puff chocolate bar with my order, which I promptly devoured, thank you very much Vegan Kind:

Mallow Puffs gifted by Vegan Kind Supermarket

Calamitous Katey:

Why is it that when I’m being particularly careful, I seem to have unfortunate incidents? Knowing that a comforting cup of cocoa could be a joy of the past, I decided to indulge this week. I was carefully resealing the pack, aware it wouldn’t be used for some time, when… Whoosh! Cocoa powder exploded out of the bag all over the kitchen cabinet! Obviously, I called Mum in to witness the result and we giggled at my mess before the clear up commenced:

The cocoa powder spillage

Motivational Quotes:

I do like a motivational quote. My former job share Marjory and I used to share a book of quotes and we’d leave it open on a page for the other to read when they arrived at work. So, I wanted to share some quotes I found regarding perseverance:

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

Earl Nightingale (1921-1989), American philosopher, motivational speaker, radio personality and author.

“Sometimes the strength within you is not a fiery flame that all can see, it is just a tiny spark that whispers softly, “you got this, keep going.”

Unknown

“It’s perseverance that’s the key. It’s persevering for long enough to achieve your potential.”

Lynn Davies CBE, Welsh former track and field athlete.

“There is no failure, except in no longer trying.”

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), American founder of the Roycroft Arts and Crafts community, philosopher, lecturer, critic, publisher, novelist, essayist, and biographer.

“When you feel like quitting, remember why you started.”

Unknown

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

>>>Week 53
<<<Week 51
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References

1. Diabetes UK, Ca 2020. Type 2 diabetes?
2. Hypermobility Syndromes Association, 2017. What are hypermobility syndromes?
3. Association for Nutrition, 2020. Accredited Programmes.
4. Dyspraxia Foundation, 2019. Dyspraxia in Adults.
5. Malaeb, S., Perez-Leighton, C. E., Noble, E. E. and Billington, C., 2018. Workplace Health and Safety [online] 67 (3), 102-110. A “NEAT” Approach to Obesity Prevention in the Modern Work Environment.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate:

47 thoughts on “Health Diary Week 52: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

  1. What a colourful year. Here’s for another wonderful 52 weeks ahead *raising a virtual cup of black coffee* 😀 Congratulations on completing the one year milestone, Katey xx

    Like

      • Nice to know that I am not alone in this ‘long game’. In the world where people wants everything to be instant, including ‘instant weight loss’, it is indeed nice to find like minded people.
        Your weekly meal plan has inspired me a couple of times to try new food lol. So yeah… I actually asked myself once in a while: ‘heey… what’s on watson’s plate this week?’ 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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