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26 to 12 – another weight loss blog

One woman's journey to lose half her body weight

Month

June 2014

New Things #8 – Quinoa

A lot of people have recommended quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah” for some unfathomable reason) to me over the last year or so, and I spent a long time not eating it.  The other day I found this yummy recipe on Sparkpeople and decided to give it a go.  First problem was locating quinoa.  I went to Sainsburys (which isn’t my usual supermarket) because it seemed the most likely of my local shops to carry it.  I found where it should be, and a big empty gap.  So I approached the three chatting hardworking staff hovering by the tills and asked if there was any more.

Assistant 1: What’s tha’?
Assistant 2: (blank look)
Me: It’s spelled “quin-o-a” if that helps
Assistant 3: Oh, I thought that’s how you’re s’posed to say it
Assistant 1: If there ain’t none on the shelf we’ve run out, they’ve all been stocked this afternoon
Me: OK, thanks (toddles off feeling too middle class for words)

Eventually I found some and made the recipe, which is:

Ingredients

1 Cup of quinoa (washed)
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 cups light vanilla soy milk
2 tbl ground cinnamon
1.5 cups (one package) of crasins
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Makes 6 1- cup servings1. Rinse quinoa
2. Bring Quinoa and apple juice to a boil in a 12 quart pan
3. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the apple juice is absorbed.
4. Add soy milk, cinnamon and crasins. Simmer, covered for another 15 mins, stirring occasionally
5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

I had to find the conversions to grams for everything because I don’t have measuring cups (for those who aren’t aware, cups isn’t a common measurement in the UK), and I struggled with washing the quinoa because the grains are too small for my sieve.  I know, I know, there are way bigger issues in the world, so skating over that.

The portions look really small but it is insanely filling!  I had this and a banana for breakfast and I never even thought about having a mid-morning snack, which I almost always do.  Oh, and it was yummy too, so I’ll be making it again.  Another big success in trying new things!

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New Thing #7 – Feeling Fruity

Next up in my ten new things to try in my June challenges is exotic fruit.  If you’ve read my other “new things” posts, you might be getting the sense that I’ve been feeling a little stuck in a rut.  I have, especially foodwise.  So a week or two ago, when I found myself in the exotic fruit aisle in my local supermarket, I saw an opportunity to try something new.

I tried three new fruits altogether:

Sharon fruit/Persimmon kind of looks like a tomato’s bigger, more orange sibling.  It tasted similar to pear, but didn’t have the grainy texture problem I usually find with pears.  I’d definitely buy it again, it was an interesting addition to my diet.

Papaya is something that I couldn’t believe I’d never tried before.  But when I tried it, I didn’t feel as though I’d missed out, I was actually kind of disappointed.  It was ok, but nothing really special for the price.  (And the seeds look like rabbit droppings which is a bit off-putting.)

Passion fruit looks like a big squash ball, but was thankfully easier to chop.  When I tasted it, I recognised the flavour – the same as Solero ice creams (I think I was probably supposed to recognise the flavours in the other directions but never mind.)  I love the flavour but I’m not keen on the frog spawn appearance or the edible seeds.  So all in all, nice enough but it won’t reappear too regularly.

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As exotic fruit goes, these were nice for a change, but I’ll keep looking for permanent additions to my mango-pineapple-melon cycle – any recommendations?

New Thing #6 – Stepping Out

For the last few days I’ve been wearing a pedometer through the day (except for the gym) and it turns out I hardly take any steps through the day.  I think I kind of knew this on some level, which is why I started tracking it, but I was shocked at quite how few I do.  My pedometer is only a very cheap one so I have some doubts about its accuracy, but unless it’s cutting out thousands of steps then I can’t really blame the equipment.

Therefore, in the name of getting my step count higher than 3000 a day (seriously, I’m averaging about 2500 which is not many at all) I have decided to make sure I go for a daily walk, either at lunchtime or in the evening (or both!) – I will report back about how well I’m doing!

On the topic of tracking activity and things, I have been considering a Fitbit or something similar.  I’d really love some input from people who have tried anything and to hear your recommendations!  Price is a factor, but I’d rather spend a little more and get something that works properly than get something cheap that doesn’t work at all!

Anyway, back on the subject at hand, I’m going to be aiming for 6000 steps a day to begin with.  I can imagine myself walking round and round my house in the evenings trying to get my step count up, which could be interesting.

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New Thing #5 – Cable Girl

No, not that sort of cable girl, my face is nowhere near as rubbery as Jim Carrey’s!

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This post is actually about the latest addition to my fitness routine – the cable machine.  A few weeks ago when I went to boxing, Richard had been called away and left me in the care of another trainer, Neil.  This was a good thing in some respects, but bad in others.  The bad points were that he struggled with the concept that my focus in those sessions is boxing, with fitness second.  I don’t know if this was down to my size, my gender or something else, but it was quite frustrating since I didn’t get to box very much, and when he gave me weights to work with I had to keep asking for heavier ones since the ones he picked didn’t really test me.  On the other hand, I got to try things that I don’t usually do, like the cable machine, and get other advice on things that Richard doesn’t normally cover.

I asked Neil, Phil and Richard whether they would recommend the cable machine over free weights, and they all had the same opinion: they wouldn’t recommend one over the other, and instead they prefer to mix the two.  Neil did mention that for biceps curls the cable machine can be better, because it requires control through the whole movement – apparently people have a tendency to be sloppy when they lower dumbbells after each curl.  When I used dumbbells yesterday I noticed that I am one of those people – especially on the last rep in a set!

So now, when I do strength training, I do some work with dumbbells and I have added in lat pushdowns, using two different handle attachment thingies, shoulder rotations and I use the cable machine for biceps curls on alternate sessions.  One new thing tried and permanently added!

New Thing #3 & #4 – Not-so-personal Training & Real Weights

A few weeks ago I talked with a friend from the gym about having a joint personal training session, but we never got any further. We came to the conclusion that our fitness levels were too different for it to be useful (Kelly runs and cycles a LOT). However, after a bit of reflection, we chatted again and thought it was worth a try – and that Phil would make adjustments for us so we could train together.
So, we booked it for the following week and turned up at 7am one Thursday morning a couple of weeks ago, with full water bottles and fearful faces. After a 5 minute warmup on the cross trainer we were raring (sort of) to go.
Phil had set up a circuit each for us. Well, more of a path really, since we had to race each other. On the first circuit we did:

  • 15 squats to a step
  • 10 kettlebell swings
  • 10 push presses
  • 10 press-ups
  • plank

Despite my step being a level higher than Kelly’s, she got off to a much quicker start than I did – as we already know, I believe that squats are evil!  We did our kettlebell swings around the same speed, so I didn’t make my time up there.  But never fear!  It seems that lifting things (including myself) are something that I’m good at.  I overtook quite quickly during the push presses and made it through the press-ups in one set (just!) – although I did the modified version, which Kelly wasn’t allowed to do.  My reward for winning?  Why, a 30-second plank of course.  Lucky me!  Actually, that really was lucky for me – whoever came last had to do a longer plank.  For the second circuit, everything was increased by 5 and the plank was increased to 45 seconds (or 90 seconds), and for the final circuit we dropped back down to match the first one.  Oh, and I won all three circuits, in case you were wondering…

Next up, after a short break, were mountain climbers and the TRX.  This was only brief – one did 1 minute of mountain climbers whilst the other did 1 minute of TRX squat jumps, and then swap.  I think this might have been planned to be longer but neither of us enjoyed it that much, so Phil moved us on to the final section.

The last section was boxing (woohoo!) but sadly not against each other.  We took it in turns to do 1-minute rounds against Phil and the pads, whilst the other one did high-knee running/jogging on the spot.  We both did two rounds of each and finally it was time to stretch.

Having a joint PT session was a lot of fun – I actually felt like I worked even harder than I usually do in a session too.  There was a combination of competition and cheerleading which was great for both of us, and I think we both were surprised by what we could and couldn’t do.  It was also cheaper than a single session!  So all in all, despite my fear of working out with someone fitter than me, I have seen a lot of benefits – and we are now planning for it to be a monthly booking!

You may have noticed that this post is about 2 new things – the second being “real weights”.  You might also have noticed that I skimmed over the mention of push presses earlier.  There was an unexpected “new thing” during the PT session – working out with a barbell instead of dumbbells.  Push presses look a bit like this:

0609_push_press

and I have to confess I was pretty excited to try them!  I kind of fell in love with lifting then and there, although I have only done it once since.  I’m planning to ask at the gym for some advice on lifting – I really want to try out some other strength training, even if I do have to brave the man section of the gym to do it!

Reflections…

Sam here is completely amazing, she is an inspiration. Her 365 journey is at an end, but her life has completely changed as a result. Take a look round her blog if you haven’t seen it already, she has tried some pretty varied stuff!

Midsummer 365 Projects

365 days have passed since I rather rashly declared to the world that I would do some form of exercise or activity every day for the next year, and the time has come to reflect on everything that has happened during that process…

reflections I took this a while ago…it seemed appropriate 😀

ok…not everything…I am not going through the whole year day by day…that would be pure craziness…

It’d also take me another year…and I have new and exciting things to do in the coming year!

No don’t ask me what…I don’t know yet…

Ok, I do know some things but I will come to those later (in my what next? post)

Firstly my year…

I had one aim:
To get fit enough to dance in a mask
To become sufficiently fit and healthy that I could dance as many dances as necessary without having to have breaks and without…

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New Thing #2 – Griddled Chicken and Mango Salad

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really struggle with packed lunch ideas – I have a few things I take regularly in a cycle but that’s it. So for my second new thing for June I tried a recipe from one of the Slimming World recipe books and it was delicious!
It was really simple to make – diced skinless chicken thigh, griddled with lemon juice and smoked paprika, on a bed of shredded cabbage, grated carrot and finely sliced onion. The veg was mixed with lime juice and white wine vinegar for flavour. The dressing is a mixture of fresh mango, lime juice, coriander and seasoning.
It’s a yummy summertime lunch and can be served hot or cold, and the portions are huge! Another new thing tried and a new lunch added to the cycle.

New Thing #1 – Breakfast Kickstart

For part of my June challenge, I am going to be trying 10 new things throughout the month.  I don’t have any plans as to what these will be really, but this first one is a change to my regular routine.

Now, before anyone shouts at me, I do always have breakfast, but usually I have it after the gym, once I get to work.  I had read some time ago that it was better to eat after a morning workout rather that before, as a study had shown that this could help to burn fat more successfully.

After a poor result at Slimming World again last week, I’m trying Success Express this week for a boost (for those of you who don’t know, this basically means that fruit and veg should form 2/3 of each meal, but that the healthy extra allowance for fibre and calcium rich foods is doubled).  I decided to try a couple of other things this week to help me – I’m wondering if I’ve lost motivation a little because I’ve got stuck in a food rut.  So, using the healthy extra allowance, I decided to try porridge for breakfast.  This has the double effect of being a new food for me (I have never eaten porridge made the “old-fashioned” way, only the instant pots quite some time ago) and being a new time to eat breakfast as I’ll need to cook and eat it at home before I go to the gym.

The information I’ve been reading today says that eating this type of breakfast about an hour before my workout can be beneficial by

  1. Kickstarting my metabolism earlier in the day, meaning that
  2. My workout will be better fuelled, so that I can push myself a little more, and
  3. My body won’t break down muscle for fuel for my workouts.

So far, I haven’t noticed a difference – I think it might be more of a long term benefit – but I am finding that I’m more hungry after my workout than I used to be.  That seems a bit backwards, since I’m eating beforehand now and I used to fast until afterwards, so maybe that’s a sign that my metabolism is getting that kickstart.

As for porridge, well, I don’t hate it like I thought I would (I have texture issues with certain foods and I’m not keen on milk).  I add a 25g mix of dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips and I have to say that is delicious.  The first day I had it with fresh fruit as well, but I found that I was too full to work out properly, so now I have the fruit half of my breakfast after the gym.  It seems to be working well so far – let’s see what the scales think on Wednesday!

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PCOS

I have spent a lot of time trying to come up with a snappy title for this post, but try as I might I couldn’t come up with one. This is a sensitive topic for me, which I have been planning to write about for quite some time, ever since I mentioned it in this post last November. I was diagnosed with PCOS about 4 years ago, and it was a lot to come to terms with.
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, and affects an estimated 20% of women in the UK, although approximately half of these experience no symptoms and so are undiagnosed. PCOS is characterised by imbalanced hormones, in particular high levels of androgens (male hormones), irregular or absent periods and the formation of multiple cysts on the surface of the ovaries. Interestingly, to be diagnosed with PCOS, you only need to show 2 of these 3 symptoms, so people can be diagnosed as having PCOS without any cysts having been seen. Other symptoms of PCOS include oily skin, hirsutism (excess body or facial hair), hair loss, acne and weight gain. There is a lot of information on the NHS website.

A little back story for you:
I started my periods when I was about 13; they were always very light, and didn’t really settle into a regular pattern. I had stretches when they appeared around every 6 weeks, but then I would miss some. I was even more disorganised than most other teenagers and didn’t really keep track of them, and I never worried about them being irregular as I’d read that that was typical in the beginning. When I was 15 I met my first serious boyfriend and started taking the contraceptive pill. By 18 or 19 I had switched to the contraceptive injection, which caused a) weight gain and b) my periods to stop. At that age, I felt like that was a good thing – none of the hassle, no PMT and none of the expense of sanitary products (I was a struggling student at the time.) I stopped having the injection at age 22, and I’d been warned that it could take up to a year for my periods to return, so I wasn’t concerned that they were irregular at best, and when I returned to student life at 23 I enjoyed the benefits of quarterly rather than monthly periods. So it wasn’t until I was about 26 or 27 that I really began to get concerned about how few I was having and went to see a doctor.
I had gained more weight through my unhealthy student lifestyle, and even more in the first year of living with my boyfriend, so my doctor’s first response was “you need to lose some weight,” a fact I already knew. I wanted more answers though, I had read a lot about PCOS and I was convinced that that was the problem. My doctor sent me for blood tests, which came back showing a slight imbalance in my hormones but, in my doctor’s words, probably nothing to worry about. After that, she sent me for an ultrasound. This was both embarrassing and uncomfortable because, due to my size, she couldn’t get a clear scan using a normal ultrasound methods so had to use an internal probe.  Yes, that is how it sounds.  She told me that both my ovaries were polycystic, but that I was fortunate in that I wasn’t experiencing any issues with uterine lining that can happen with absent periods.

So What Next?
If I’d listened to the doctors, nothing.  Once I was diagnosed, I wasn’t given any help or support, on the grounds that I wasn’t trying to conceive.  According to the first doctor I saw, that was the only way that I would be able to get any help.  I wasn’t even offered any support to lose weight, I had to broach that subject myself with the practice nurse.  I got the distinct impression that the doctors I saw at my old practice felt that I had brought it on myself and so didn’t want to help me.  I had one memorable appointment with a heavily pregnant doctor (not ideal when discussing potential infertility), where I asked questions about the condition and didn’t receive any answers.  Because most of my side effects are minimal (I have slightly oily skin, and a little excess body hair [hairy toes, like a hobbit] as well as my weight problem) I didn’t need any help with them, so she repeatedly told me I needed to lose weight, without offering any advice on how.  She also advised me to start trying for children immediately “in case there was a problem”, regardless of whether we were in a position to support a child if we had conceived then.  Finally, I got up into the table for my smear test, which is never a good experience.  The first question she asked was “when was your last period?” which rather gave me the impression she hadn’t taken any interest in the first part of my appointment.  I left feeling really disheartened, and resorted to reading all the literature I could find on the subject.

Here’s What I Found:
I found that PCOS can be a cause of weight gain.  This is due to insulin resistance, which is commonly found in women with PCOS.  This means that insulin levels need to be higher to process sugar in the blood, which leads to higher testosterone levels.  This then can prevent ovulation as well as causing many other side effects associated with PCOS.  Being overweight can add to the likelihood of insulin resistance, meaning that it can accelerate the symptoms of PCOS, however being overweight in itself is not a cause of the condition.  A low GI diet is recommended, including wholegrain pasta and rice, as well as plenty fruit and vegetables.  Additionally, sufferers can be prescribed metformin, which is typically used in the treatment of diabetes.  It works by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, therefore lowering insulin production and so the related hormonal imbalances.  I am now working with a doctor at my new practice and am waiting for a referral to the endocrinology department of my local hospital to try this.
I also found that there is very little information on the subject of PCOS – the causes are unknown, although there may be a genetic factor.  More importantly, I found that huge numbers of women are being diagnosed with PCOS and then being essentially abandoned with no other information, and turning to the internet for answers, just as I did.
Some research has shown that there may be other indications of PCOS, such as the development of skin tags (I personally have had a lot of these removed from my armpits) , pelvic pain or discomfort (I find it is similar to period pain), sleep apnoea and depression.  These are less well-known than the ones mentioned above, but I think that the link is valid.

It is my personal belief that my doctor should not have prescribed the contraceptive pill for me before my periods had become regular.  I think that this masked the main symptom of PCOS, and led to the condition remaining hidden for much longer than it otherwise might have done.  Having said that, a lot of the research I have seen is very recent, so the doctor I saw in the late 90s/early 00s would not have had access to a lot of the information I have read.

And Now?
I am losing weight, slowly but surely, and making the lifestyle changes that are recommended.  These are for a healthier lifestyle as a whole, but should make a difference where my PCOS is concerned.  I am waiting for my referral to try metformin, and I’ve just found that I’ve had a few months (incidentally the ones where I’ve been most active) where I’ve been having periods semi-regularly.  What I haven’t found out, is what would happen to the cysts if and when my hormones rebalance and I start to ovulate.  Do they stay?  Do they continue to mature and release eggs?  Will they be reabsorbed?  No one seems to be able to tell me.
I’m also aware that the lifestyle changes may not be enough to overcome PCOS, and I may find it difficult or even impossible to conceive.  As someone who has always dreamed of being a mother, that is difficult to come to terms with.  I am working on it, slowly, and I know that I will still become a parent, even if it isn’t in the conventional way.

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