Health Diary Week 63: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A Brief Update…

Me Outside CommuniKate, Wales Trip (2005)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate. Unlike my usual posts, this will be a briefer one, as I’m taking a bit of a break, which means I’m not keeping a diary for a few weeks. I still want to continue communicating with you all though, so I’ll report my weekly results and share some positivity.

What’s New

All-in-all it’s been a very quiet week.

Hello 2021:

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all much happiness and success in 2021. Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, I had an incredibly tame New Year’s Eve – just my parents and I at home watching TV. Very different to last year’s rowdy night at the pub. It was pleasant enough though. I opted for one cheeky alcoholic beverage – Polish potato-based vodka with cranberry juice:

My vodka and cranberry juice indulgence

UK Covid-19 Cases Rising:

As expected, Covid-19 cases (especially the new variant) are rapidly increasing. So, there’s been more movement into the top Tier 4 restrictions (I was already in this), which is very close to a localised lockdown. Thankfully, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the UK, which is great as it is more easily distributed than the current Pfizer one. Frustratingly, it sounds like it may take quite some time to trickle down to me, but I’ll be happier when my parents have been vaccinated.

Food and Nutrition

So, I didn’t keep a food diary this week – it was nice to have a break from tracking everything so closely. I was a bit lax on managing my histamine levels – although I mostly opted for low histamine foods, I did indulge in chocolate, ‘cheese’ and bread. So, I kept dosed up on medication to control most symptoms (I experienced some fatigue and nausea) – not the best method, but it’s only temporary.

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I was completely surprised that I didn’t gain weight and body fat this week! Instead, I lost 1.8 lb (0.8 kg) and 0.3% body fat – amazing! I didn’t feel like I ate less or more healthily, so was I more active? I checked my Active 10 results for the past couple of weeks – I walked 66 minutes more compared to Week 62 and an extra 52 minutes were brisk walking. Maybe that swung it?:

Week 63 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Despite this being a shorter version of my usual post, I still wanted to share some of my week’s positive experiences with you all …

Storytime:

I absolutely love Pretty Pretty Good Short Fiction’s short stories, so I was really pleased to see a new release “Once upon a time… long, long ago…”. I look forward to the daily chapter publications, although sometimes I save them up for a good binge read. This tale was a little different to the previous love stories; instead, it was written from a child’s perspective, focused on homemade cookies made with mum. I could totally relate to this, as I fondly remember my sister and I baking cookies with our Mum and wanting to eat the lot immediately!:

My sister and I baking with Mum at Christmas time (actually, I just seem to be running around!), Tortola, BVI, late 1980’s (One of my favourite photos ever, because of the memories)

Delightful Nuts:

Macadamia nuts are one of the three types of nuts I know I can consume on a low histamine diet. Sadly, I wasn’t that keen on them despite their creaminess. As shared in Week 62, I was delighted to discover they work really well as a flavoured ‘cheese’, my favourite being onion, garlic and herb (ingredients here). I’d had some leftover in the freezer, so I decided to try it as a pasta sauce with added spring onion and sweet paprika (details here) – so delicious – I’m actually craving cheesy pasta now just thinking about it!:

Macadamia nut ‘cheese’. Clockwise: Cheesy pasta. Macadamia nuts. Crackers and bits with macadamia cheese. Macadamia ‘cheese’ spread

Snow – Well, a Little:

What a wonderful surprise to awake to snowfall on Tuesday morning, especially since we rarely get snow in these parts of the UK (video here). I threw on my dressing gown and hurried outside to enjoy the large clumps falling from the sky. I’m glad I went outside to appreciate it, as the snow didn’t settle and soon disappeared:

Snowy Morning. Left: Snowy sky. Right: Me in the snow soon after rolling out of bed

Princess Ariel:

I updated my Facebook profile picture and had a surprising load of likes and lovely comments. My favourite comment was my friend who said her young daughter was watching her scroll through the feed and asked if I was Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid – how adorable and incredibly flattering. To be fair, this isn’t how I look day-to-day – I’m usually somewhere in between ‘just-rolled-out-of-bed’ (above) and ‘made a proper effort’ (below):

Princess Ariel? Left: My latest profile picture. Right: Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid (Image: peridotmaize, Pixabay)

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 64
<<<Week 62
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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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<<<Week 51

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.

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Health Diary Week 32: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A Little Excursion

Image: digital designer, Pixabay

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Hi everyone, hope you’re all doing okay. My week was mostly decent – here’s my weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and some positive smile-provoking experiences…

Food and Nutrition

So, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices…

Breakfast:

My week actually started with a slip-up on Monday morning (after Bank Holiday Sunday’s drinking) by breakfasting on tortilla chips! Fear not, I didn’t catastrophise into an ever-accelerating downhill decline. I had fruit as part of my breakfasts each day, including apple, satsumas, berries, mango and pineapple. Twice, I ate toast, once with scrambled tofu, another with Meridian yeast extract. I had a pack of 4 Nairn’s Oaties another morning.

Breakfasts: Strawberries & blueberries. Scrambled tofu on toast. Nairn’s Oaties. Mango & pineapple.

Lunch:

Lunches were a version of My Typical Salad, except once when I had homemade carrot and ginger soup (it had a mighty kick to it!).

Lunch: Homemade carrot & ginger soup accompanied by toast.

Dinner:

Twice dinners consisted of vegetable risotto (asparagus, peas, mushrooms and green cabbage), once with Linda McCartney red caramelised onion and rosemary sausages. Mum made chickpea, potato and spinach curry, dhal and rice, with poppadum and chutneys/pickles – yum! Another day I had a Fry’s chicken-style breaded burger, low-fat oven chips and salad. I thoroughly enjoyed scrambled tofu (I’d argue my best version yet!) in a seeded bun. I also had a satisfyingly simple dinner of Quorn slices and salad in a sandwich accompanied by cucumber and celery sticks with hummus.

Dinners: Top: Curry, dhal & rice. Veg-loaded risotto. Scrambled tofu in a bun. Bottom: Quorn slices & salad sandwich with veg sticks & hummus. Veg risotto & sausages. Burger, low-fat oven chips & salad.

Snacks:

Impressively for me, I didn’t snack on chocolate every day; I indulged on 4 days, including either 2 (of 8) squares of Enjoy caramel chocolate (3 days), a small pot of raw chocolate goji berries and a hot cacao drink. Savoury snacks included fruit, mixed nuts, crispy seaweed, rice crackers and veg sticks with hummus, a few crisps/nachos and a rather large bowl of pasta salad (my Saturday alcohol accompaniment).

Savoury snacks: Top: Mango & pineapple. Mixed nuts, grapes & crispy seaweed thins. Rice crackers, cucumber & celery sticks & hummus. Bottom: Grapes & a few cheesy nachos. A few nachos & crisps with beetroot & horseradish hummus. My big pasta salad.

Alcohol

Talking of alcohol, I drank alcohol just the one night: 6 single vodkas with a can of lemonade, diet cola and light ginger beer.

Exercise

My physical activity levels were minimal – only 60 minutes on the exercise bike and 40 minutes walking. Why? I was lacking energy and motivation after several nights of insomnia (an ongoing issue since mid-March).

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

So, what were my weigh-in results? Well, I was relieved I didn’t gain additional weight. However, on the upside, my body fat decreased slightly by 0.3%.

Week 32 results – some fat loss

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Right, I think it’s about time for my favourite section: ‘What Made Watson Smile’

Replacement Phone:
I received a new mobile phone to replace my old and faulty Blackberry:

Hyperactive Squirrel:
I was amused by the antics of this hyperactive squirrel among the pond trees and it’s cheeky theft of the bird food:

There is a squirrel in the background of the 1st photo! – These 2 were terrorising each other!

The Veg Box Challenges:
Loving the veg box surprises and challenges. We received some fennel and were at a loss of what to do with it. Mum then had the genius idea to use it instead of cabbage to make coleslaw – it worked marvellously! And, we had a happy surprise to receive Padron peppers in our veg box – love them and we hadn’t had them for ages! They both accompanied a salad lunch nicely:

Updated COVID Course:
I’m back on the Future Learn COVID-19 course developed by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and UK Public Health Rapid Support Team. I was so impressed with the course back in March that I was looking forward to attending this updated version. 2 more weeks to go:

The Bird Feeder:
The bird table by the pond next to our driveway. We sit by it, relaxing with a morning coffee, whilst observing nature. The last bird in the picture is particularly bold in approaching us:

Three Little Birds:
These ‘Three Little Birds’ making me think of the same-named and loved Bob Marley song with its uplifting lyrics: “Rise up this mornin’. Smiled with the risin’ sun. Three little birds. Pitch by my doorstep. Singin’ sweet songs. Of melodies pure and true. Sayin’, “This is my message to you-ou-ou:”. Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing, oh! Every little thing gonna be all right…”:

Nutrition Lectures:
MyNutriWeb Immunity Series Part 3: Pre and Probiotics by Dr Caroline Childs (University of Southampton), an excellent speaker. It was a great refresher, much of my expertise on this topic is related to prebiotics (the nutrients, e.g. fibre, feeding our gut microbes). I want to further investigate taking specific probiotics (live microbes), especially as credible evidence was presented for probiotics supporting the immune system against acute upper respiratory tract infections:  

Online Socials:
Anyone reading my blog posts pre-lockdown will know how important socialising with my friends is to me. Sadly, I can’t imagine meeting up with anyone in person anytime soon for fear of infecting my parents who I’ve lived with since returning to studying. So, the online meets are incredibly important to me. This week I had a lovely meet with my friends Bevy and Harry. Also, I popped into my parents’ and Aunt and Uncles’ Houseparty (as did my cousin and his girlfriend) before joining my friends for our usual meet:

Brief family online meet-up with a drink.

An excursion:
Who would have thought the car’s battery conking out would make me smile? Well, after its recharge, it was decided the car needed a run. I haven’t been in a vehicle since 13 March, so this was an exciting prospect – the highlight of my week! – it’s amazing how such a small excursion can bring so much joy! After the final ‘Clap for Carer’s (in my mind ‘Key Workers’ – that includes you sis), we decided to visit a local river. We’d planned to take in the view within the safety of the car, but it was nearly deserted, so we got out and enjoyed the fresh breeze. Beautiful!:

The excursion to the river: Excited me in the car on the way there. My parents by the river. River views.

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 33
<<<Week 31
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