Tag Archives: Diet

Confused

Every so often someone will ask me what I’ve done to lose weight, or what should be included as part of a Healthy Heart diet?

Over the past 9 months I have managed to get myself into reasonable shape, partly through exercise and partly through watching what I eat and drink.  I’ve taken a fairly hard line in determining what I should be consuming:  low saturated fat, lots of fruit and vegetables, no alcohol, no caffeine, low salt.  I have not dieted as such, when I’ve been hungry I’ve eaten.  However I have generally avoided processed food and stuck fairly religiously to the “good” stuff.

The problem is, having made these changes to my diet, I’m confused myself… what is the “good” stuff?

There’s so much contradictory information out there, new research is released on an all too frequent basis.  It’s difficult to know what to do for the best.  Since my Heart Attack I’ve been paying fairly close attention, and I’m confused.  What is it like if you just catch a newspaper or radio headline?  How is anyone supposed to follow a simple, healthy diet based on the “noise” that’s thrown at us?!

Here are some snippets from recent articles:

More research needed into fat guidelines  (The British Heart Foundation 17/03/14):

A study suggests there’s not enough evidence to back the current UK guidelines on the types of fat we eat.  But we think more research is needed before suggesting any major changes.

At the moment guidelines generally encourage us to swap out saturated fats – found in foods like dairy products – for unsaturated fats found in products such as margarine or sunflower oil.

But this analysis, by researchers including BHF Professor John Danesh from the University of Cambridge, of 72 separate studies suggests this change does not impact on our risk of developing heart disease.

So that’s clear then!  Bad fat might not be as bad for us as we thought!  Excellent!

Living and working near takeaways linked to obesity(The British Heart Foundation 13/03/14)

People who live and work near a high number of takeaways are more likely to be obese than people less exposed to these outlets, according to new research we helped to fund.

The researchers found that those who live or work near to takeaway outlets were almost twice as likely to be obese than those who encountered the fewest outlets.

Being obese isn’t good for you, I get that.  I’m assuming, although the article doesn’t mention it, that you need to eat the Take Away food in order to put on weight.

Apparently, giving people information to make healthy choices will reduce the risks of living in this sort of environment… assuming they know what a healthy choice is after they’ve absorbed the information!

Are we too sweet on sugar?  (The British Heart Foundation  04/02/14)

Added sugar is associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), researchers have claimed.

A US study used national health survey data to examine added sugar consumption as a percentage of daily calorie intake. Higher levels of added sugar were then linked to an increased risk of death from CVD.

And so it goes on… sugar, salt, carbohydrates, this fat, that fat, vegetarian diets, Mediterranean diets.  There is even news that chocolate might be the answer (or part of it, at least).  What to do?

For me, there are some basic guidelines that seem to make sense:

    1. You have to eat.  Not eating is not a great idea… not very sustainable.
    2. Things that look like they did in their natural state are generally better for you.
    3. It’s good to eat a variety of different things.
    4. Processed foods can contain a multitude of evils, beware!
    5. Don’t over-eat, manage portions sizes.
    6. Practice moderation and balance.
    7. Try to avoid obsessing over food, it’ll take a lot of fun out of life!

From my perspective, if you’re aware of what you’re consuming it’s a big step towards doing the right things.  I don’t feel like I’m in a position to suggest what to eat, or not.

As I’ve already said, there’s plenty of advice out there.  Good luck in deciding which advice to follow!

An ice cold beer

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Officially my most craved after meal. I eat lots of fish, but not like this!

Since I’ve been “being good”, people have asked me on a regular basis whether I enjoy my new regime.  The best way I can describe it is that it is like moving overseas to live in a new country… it is new and exciting but there are aspects of my old life that I miss.  This can take various forms but often revolves around food and drink; the passing smell of some fine, forbidden food, the craving for something salty, an indulgent dessert, a hit of caffeine, the crispy surface and fluffy centre of a well-cooked chip, or an ice cold beer on a hot sunny day.

untitled (47)The physical environment obviously has a major influence on my cravings, as do associations with the “old life”.  Ice cold beer has tended to be a major feature of most of my foreign holidays; a pool-side treat to help pass the day, a pre-dinner tipple to start the evening off, or a refreshing late night pick-me-up.  In fact, ice cold beer seems to feature quite highly in many of my holiday memories!  Not this one!

I have now gone 122 days without alcohol passing my lips (not that I’m counting!).  I suspect I had enough in the preceding 122 days for my average still to be on the high side of the healthy limit.  My abstinence has definitely helped me to lose weight and get fit.  While I appreciate there is medical evidence that supports the fact that drinking some alcohol is better for you than drinking none, I still don’t feel like I’m quite ready for moderation… yet.  I’m still an “all or nothing” kind of guy, even in my new life.

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The destination for today’s ride… a chapel famed for its fertility assistance. Enter at your peril!

I’ve been cycling regularly since we’ve been in Rhodes.  There is a small group that gathers every morning for an organised Mountain Bike ride.  The typical ride tends to head into the mountains to visit places of “interest”.  We ride on a combination of road (tarmac) and off-road (dirt / rocks), and the terrain is generally flat with the occasional steep incline (tough on the way up, treacherous on the way down).  It’s a bit different to the road biking back home!

Depending on the difficulty and duration of the route, the main group may splinter, creating a break-away group as we look for some more continuous cycling.  Given it’s my main source of exercise each day, I’m keen to make the most of it so a longer, steady ride is just the ticket for me.  There have been a couple of really good sessions that have been physically challenging (mostly within the limits my Heart Monitor allows!) and enjoyable.

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Nothing fancy… just ice cold!

Refreshment is a key feature of these break-aways.  Identifying a target destination with an appropriate watering hole is an essential part of each ride.  For most of the party an ice cold beer is the beverage of choice.  For me, I’ve been adventurous enough to have a Fanta Limon.  I have to admit, the beers do look incredibly tempting.

I know there’s nothing really stopping me from having one (other than the distinct possibility that I wouldn’t be able to cycle any further!), but I really am trying to be good.  Yes, I may be being too hard on myself, but I’m determined to stick to the regime.

I will however set myself a goal… when I cross the line having completed my London – Amsterdam – Brussels cycle next May I will have a beer.  I will make sure it is ice cold, served in a glass straight from the freezer, and I will enjoy it.  A lot!

I’d like a “Man Salad”

I’ve found eating out tricky since I’ve been watching what I eat.  I want to eat healthily.  I want to eat a varied diet.  I want to eat well.  However, one of the big challenges is that despite this, I still have a man’s appetite.

Deep Fried Cheese & Chips. Tasty, but not the healthiest option!

My menu options are extremely limited in many of the places we go out to eat.  I guess people offer what sells. For example, it’s surprisingly common to find deep fried cheese and chips as the (what I would expect to be “healthy”) vegetarian option!

I realise I’m overly strict on myself with my menu selections (some might argue I’m getting close to the point of obsession).  I am definitely being more strict than I need to be (technically I can eat anything, just not loads of the wrong stuff).  In my defence, I feel like I’m on a roll and I’d like to stick to it.  It seems to be doing me good, so why change it?

Since the Heart Attack, I’ve generally favoured Sushi joints for socialising as I get a good selection of food that I know hasn’t got lots of hidden bad stuff in it.  This does however result in tricky stand-off when I eat with someone who’s allergic to seafood!  I have also discovered that teenage kids can only take so much fish!  So going out starts to become an issue.

Not what I had in mind!

The menu restrictions often result in me ordering some sort of salad (dressing on the side).  The good thing is that I like salad ingredients, some of them a lot.  The bad thing is that my hunger is rarely fully satisfied.  Why?  Just because you order salad doesn’t mean you have the appetite of a tortoise.

I think the logic must go along the lines of:

  • People who order salads are watching what they eat …
  • People who watch what they eat want to lose weight…
  • People who want to lose weight need to eat less…
  • To help them eat less we’ll give them a smaller portion…
  • Therefore, people who order salads get smaller portions!!!

No!!!  What I really want is a “Man Salad”.

Some places “get it” (see last night’s example below), most don’t.

Man's Salad

That’s what I call a salad. Nicely loaded on a large plate.
Substantially more than a nibble!

How nice would it be for an order to go along the lines of:

Waiter / Waitress:  “… and for you sir?”
Me:  “I’d like a Salmon Salad please.  Can you bring the dressing on the side.”
Waiter / Waitress:  “Certainly sir.  And, how hungry are you?”
Me:  “Oh, I’m hungry.”
Waiter / Waitress:  “Then we shall prepare you a proper salad sir.  A man’s salad.  Would you like a larger table?”

Honesty is the best policy (FD +46)

Honesty is the best policy!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed people looking at me with a little sympathy in their expressions.  I had assumed it was because they knew I had been away recuperating after the Heart Attack, and they felt sorry for me.

I could understand it… if I was in their position, I’d find it difficult to know what to say.  I’d probably have mixed emotions.  I’d be glad they were “OK” and back at work but relieved it didn’t happen to me, and a little concerned that it could happen in the future.   That made sense.

Today, someone was honest with me…

“I thought you look like you’ve lost weight because you’re really sick!”

I didn’t realise trying to get fit would result in such a harrowing experience for others!  Sorry!

I feel good.  Better than I have in a long time.

As I’ve said previously, I tend to lose weight in my face first, so a little weight loss may look a bit more extreme than it is in reality.  I can assure you, there’s still plenty of scope for slimming down before I get anywhere near my fighting weight.

I guess it’ll just take a little time for people to get used to the new, evolving shape of me… and get comfortable with the fact I’m not just fading away!

Awakening (FD +35)

Five weeks ago today I was spending my first day in hospital trying to come to terms with having just had a Heart Attack.  It seems like only yesterday, and a lifetime ago at the same time.

Lots of things have changed without needing to make an effort change them.  The cumulative effect of many small alterations have resulted in some big differences:  differences to what I do.  differences to how I do it.  I’m still the same person, although you might find it increasingly difficult to recognise me.

Is it sustainable?  Will I change back?

People say that over time I’ll forget what’s happened to me, what everyone has been through; I’m not convinced.  Apparently only a very small percentage of people who have experienced Heart “Events” actually make lasting, positive changes to their lifestyles.  Will I be one of them?

There are lots of reminders out there…  since I’ve been out of hospital the unfortunate deaths of James Gandolfini and, only yesterday, Mel Smith, have hit the headlines.  A few weeks on from Gandolfini’s death, it’s unfortunate to see that more lessons appear to have been learned (more correctly, reported) about Estate Planning than the cause of his death (which I suspect is more relevant than the vast majority of us!).

In a lot of respects I’m a novice at many of the new features of my life:  healthy eating, regular exercise, weight loss, relaxation, medication.  but I’m not making any new discoveries.  The things that I’m learning are obvious to many if not most people.  I guess I was aware of them myself to a certain degree, somewhere below the surface, buried deep enough not to influence my day to day actions.

Remind yourself:  Preventing Heart Disease

The single biggest “awakening” for me is what I eat and drink.  Given I’m trying to eat healthily (Healthy Heart) and also trying to lose some weight (Calorie Control), I’m very aware of what I’m eating now.  The scary thing was how unaware I was before.  I’m quickly starting to realise that anything that has been “prepared” (by others) is likely to have been “abused” in some way… addition of large quantities of Salt and Sugar.

A light, tasty snack!

There are so many examples of seemingly healthy or wholesome foods that are really not great for you, it’s unreal!  And that’s only looking at the “healthy” choices… a fraction of what’s available.

I know I’m late to the party.  I’m sure you were aware of the hazards lurking in our supermarket aisles, but there are plenty of people that aren’t… aren’t aware, don’t care or are hiding from reality (as I was).

Top down and Bottom up

People lose weight in different ways;  Some lose it in fits and starts, getting seemingly random outputs from consistent inputs; Some struggle to lose any, no matter what they try;  While others only seem to need to think about going on a diet for the weight to fall away.  I’m sure these change over time too: “past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance”.

Someone else’s feet!

For me, it appears that I’m losing weight from the top down and the bottom up.  To date my “health kick” (this should be “lifestyle change”, but let’s take it one step at a time”) has not extended beyond thinking about what I put in my mouth and walking (up to 2 miles, twice a day).

I think these small changes have started to deliver some results:  my legs have definitely “shaped up” a bit as a result of the regular exercise, and while shaving off my facial hair last night I discovered evidence of a long forgotten jaw bone.

The upside of losing weight in your face is that it’s relatively easy to show external signs of progress.  The downside is that it’s easy to declare success too early, before the hard work has been done.  (Not this time!)

As a result, I was greeted on several occasions today (my first day back in the office) with:

“You look much healthier than you did before!”
“Yes,” I was tempted to respond, “but the last time you saw me I was a heart attack waiting to happen!”

So, independent verification that things are headed in the right direction!

Someone else’s body!

The next task is to move forward with the fitness regime…  I wouldn’t say I was particularly toned right now.  In fact, the combination of losing weight from the top down and bottom up, together with years of giving up diets too soon, has resulted in all the pies gathering around my midriff, in combination with my Umpa Lumpa feet (Always wear sunscreen) I’m really not an attractive sight!

Rehabilitation starts tomorrow.  I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it!