Wednesday 19 June 2024

Health & Wellbeing

What to talk about next?

Well, I've introduced myself and I've spoken about my love of all things Disney so I think the next logical subject will be to chat health and wellbeing.

Now I do have a couple of pages that talk about various aspects of my life with regard to eating well and looking after myself but I think it feels right to give a bit of an overview of where I started and where I am now.

For most, if not all of my life, I seem to have been in a constant battle with my weight. I was never really happy with the numbers on the scale or the image in the mirror looking back at me. I think I was pretty typical of most women craving the slim and sexy figure but never being able to obtain the image I had in my head. 

As we moved into the late 1980's my then fiance, Simon, was diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolaemia, a genetic condition leading to high cholesterol levels and was told to adopt a low fat diet as a matter of urgency. We dutifully did as we were told; we ate as low fat as we could, we embraced the plethora of low fat foods that appeared on the supermarket shelves, we abandoned eggs, cheese, full fat milk, yogurt and cream and we even became regular gym attendees! But I still battled with my weight and my figure. Two children later and things had not improved, and all the time we stuck religiously to the low fat diet and did as we were told by the powers that be.

And then in 2014 a couple of things happened. First we watched a couple of documentaries; 'Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead' and 'Fed Up'. They highlighted the perils of processed foods and sugar along with the strength and commitment of people who were prepared to put in the effort to getting themselves fit and healthy. Then a few weeks later a chance conversation with my daughters karate instructor introduced me to a locally run group called 'Get Real Fat Loss'; a 90 day challenge to lose weight. Now I have never bought into the whole weight-loss industry of clubs and meetings but this was different. It was run by a local guy, Jason, who wanted to give women the right information to set them up for a new way of eating and living. We were a small group of women who encouraged each other by way of a private Facebook group all guided by Jason who gave us personalised food plans along with some body weight exercises (see my page Getting Real for more details).

About two thirds of the way through the 90 days I had reached my target weight and by the end I had lost around two stone (28lbs) and dropped from a UK dress size of 12/14 down to an 8 (and sometimes even a 6!). Then, while on my 90 day journey, I read a book by Gary Taubes called 'Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it' which provided the science behind the nutritional changes I'd made. So what were those changes? At that time the major change I made was the number of carbohydrates in my life - no more potatoes, no more pasta, no more rice and no more bread. All those foods that I'd been told were good for me because they were 'low in fat' were in fact hijacking my insulin response and causing me to hold onto fat rather than burn it. (see my page Eating Well, Staying Healthy for more information).

Since then I have been able to stick with the low carb (or keto) approach to eating and as the years have moved on I have become more focused on eating real foods. I try to cook everything from scratch and limit the amount of processed, and especially the ultra processed foods, in my diet. The approach is that if something has more than five ingredients or contains things that wouldn't appear in a standard kitchen cupboard then I will not buy it. There is a great book by Chris van Tulleken called Ultra Processed People and I would urge everyone to read it and understand just what the so-called 'food' in the lovely packaging on our supermarket shelves actually is!

The bodyweight exercises that I started back in 2014 have now evolved into a weights workout three times a week. Around 2018 I had joined a local gym with Simon and both our kids but when the 'lockdowns' happened in 2020 we decided to convert our garage into a home gym and it has been one of the best decisions ever. We have enough equipment for us to workout effectively and are still able to use the garage as a garage! It also means 'getting to the gym' is easy and quick and we have no excuse for not getting out there and getting a workout done.

Then a couple of years ago I decided to step away from my job of 18 years as a pre-school manager and I entered the world of retirement. Being at home enabled me to spend more time being active; daily walks became the norm and gym sessions didn't feel quite so onerous. I was also able to spend more time 'on me' and began to incorporate cold showers, Wim Hof breathing and meditation into my daily life. 

Last year Simon decided to set himself a challenge to lower his body fat percentage. As part of a routine check-in with our doctor we were introduced to a set of scales that recorded not just our weight but our BMI, body fat percentage, muscle percentage, visceral fat percentage and our RM calories (resting metabolic number of calories). And while all our figures were great Simon wondered whether he could get his body fat under 10%. With an upcoming cruise (Disney of course) as incentive he found a personal trainer to try and help him achieve his goal. So with a focus on getting enough protein in our diet and increasing our daily step count to around 14,000 Simon hit (and has maintained) his goal and along the way I also managed to reduce my body fat much to my surprise. 

Late last year we took the decision to invest in an infrared sauna after a home improvement project gave us the extra space we needed. A daily sauna has now become part of our lives; thirty minutes a day to relax, meditate and absorb the benefits of heat exposure.

And as we rolled into the new year Simon joined me in this retirement malarkey so we now have the time to pursue those things in life that have had to take a back seat during our working life. We have the time to devote to our own wellbeing, to concentrate on our diet and exercise, to spend quality time together, to kick start travelling more than we have been previously able, to enjoy spending time with our Star Wars cosplay family as well as numerous projects that we now have the time and the head space to take on.

And that is where you find me now...enjoying life with my soul mate and best friend by my side, in the best physical shape of my life and looking forward to each and every day and the possibilities that lay ahead.

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