Facing Your Truths: Starting a Healthier Lifestyle

I may have inadvertently blown my notes away. Considering the state of my handwriting that might not be the greatest loss. Okay, deep breath and…that’s how it happened! I’m being jocular because I’m doing another of those ever tiresome, dull posts where I talk about health and well being and we all end up bored to almost death. Why do them then? Because I’m a contentious idiot and any contention to that fact will be blown away too. It’s very easy to tell when I’m being serious as the puns start to drop away and you peek behind the curtain of the Jack facade. No, no, much like Santa Claus Jack is indeed real and apt to break into your home at any time, so have no fear, dear reader, or lots, depends on how you look at it.

I wish I could’ve been more systematic with these diatribes, kidding, I’m not angry…just bitter, but they come of sudden realizations and epiphanies that need to be taken down quickly lest hey be forgotten. I’ve often talked about the struggle f talking about health whilst keeping in mind all the possible human variables. There are many struggles, many people and many reasons to do and not to do. Doo be do be do. What I oten struggle with is trying to keep an open mind to everything, whilst also making sure I don’t inadvertently offering an excuse for someone not o even start on their journey. I realized that in all of this I have often placed myself at he helm and tried to steer every conversation with myself talking all blame i anything should be put wrong. Then I thought again, what was it that pushed me to such success and, yes, I’m learning o view them that way. I’m sitting here with a new bellybutton, richly earned, ten and a half stone lighter than I was. What did I do to start this? Well.

I faced my truth. I needed to lose weight and I needed to keep it off. Simple right? No, not so simple. I could find a multitude of fad diets that once failed would give me ammunition to fire back at my detractors. I could find excuse after excuse if I just looked. Mocking of healthy lifestyles, extremists in those same lifestyles, just sheer pigheadedness would have gotten me far or, rather, nowhere at all. So many comfortably lies that I could choose to believe and that would enable me to take no action, to wallow in my denial. So, when I see myself falling into the role of excuse destroyer, smashing them out of the air as fast as they come into my mind so as to help others facing those same excuses I realize that I could do that until the end of my days and not help a single soul. Not a solitary sausage. Excuses are endless and easy, comfortable as they are dangerous. I don’t even need to give any examples as you surely know them already, we all do.

Instead, I will, as I have been doing, check the weight-loss tag, it’s more healthy lifestyle advice but that not what people search most, is it?, tell you what I faced, what I had to do, why I did it and where I’m going and have gone. Firstly you have to face the truth. Accept what it is that you need to do, before anything else realize you need to know where you stand. You’re not unique, nor are you an oddity for needing to change your life. Many people would do well to look at themselves critically, but that’s them and we’re us. Am I still Jack? Here I sit, dear reader, a huge scar, future surgeries and peace of mind. For the first time in almost eight years I’m at peace with this body of mine. We’ve come to this place with so much hard graft, so much sweat and tears and pain and joy and everything else, but the first step is the most important. I assume you know what that is, right, dear reader?

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Saving For The Future

It was more rot than ripen. Or perhaps rot then ripen.

What? No, not our future. I mean, I love you dear reader, like a rhetorical device, you mean a quantifiable amount to me. If we were  on a sinking ship, why, that’d be terrible! Why would you do that to me?! You can’t tie Jack down with thoughts of the future of humanity! I just care about plants. That might be a lie, but possibly not as much as would be reassuring. Now we’re not taking filthy lucre, nor clean cold hard cash, no, all that is dross, says he without very much of it. We’re talking seeds! We could be taking recipes, but I’m in a rut, well, I’m in a rut and playing a murder mystery game and that’s hijacked my brain. Give it time, all things in time. Like these chilies, what a wonderfully masterful segway ruined by a run on sentence…where was I?

No tittering at my handwriting! Please!

Those are chilies grown from saved seeds which I’ve again saved. I’ve made a habit of grabbing whatever seeds I could as you just never know what will be successful and the more you plant the greater a chance you have of getting something. These actually did much better this year. Whether it was the large pot, comfrey tea or genetics I have no idea, but they were absurdly hot, I could eat them but you could smell the capsicum a room away, and worth saving for another year. There are seeds like this where inbreeding isn’t an issue, I like these kinds of plants for seed saving as I’m not planning ahead and being careful of cross-pollination. Maybe someday I’ll have my own squash variety, but for now I’ll just buy the seeds online and grab whatever I can from the garden at the year’s end.

I almost missed the larger ones.

I should make mention of the hurricane. We were extremely lucky to have avoided much of the damage, it was nerve-wracking to experience and the loss of life is tragic, I would never make light of any aspect of it, but I feel that sharing a humorous anecdote isn’t out of the bounds of propriety. Now, I did have one brief moment of terror, you can imagine how I felt looking at my, well, not to be too honest, my slightly aged, just slightly makeshift greenhouse, sigh, enough putty to fill a drum, having to face a hurricane. This is my baby and a replacement is naught but a fever dream. When the storm started to make its presence know, well, the door fell off…yeah, nothing dramatic, fell down like a drunk and just lay there. So out I dashed, dashing, shhhh, it’s my story, and literally shoved it back and kicked it into place, somehow managed it pop it right into the warped frame. It would blow off again so I grabbed, seriously I picked it up like an idiot, but it was stormy and I was slightly panicked, the wheelbarrow, turned it over and wedged it against the door and the wooden edging.

Hefting a wheelbarrow into the air during a hurricane is like a chapter of my autobiography.

It held. Sadly the door was warped slightly, just a gap, but here’s the really weird part: Ophelia knocked some old junk off of our shed, we’d missed it in the preparations, and one of them was this plastic covering for plugs and wires, that just fit onto the frame and sealed the gap and as a bonus there was some rubber running so I can seal up the window more. Ill winds and all that. Aside from that everything else was fine, we didn’t even lose electricity. I’ll always remember the extremely polite storm that broke a door and supplied me with the means to fix it. Until later, dear reader.

Two Months…Yesterday…Whoops

Hey, my hard-drive crashed, have a little leniency. I know, dear reader, to be without Jack is a torment, the withdrawals from ever erratic prose is unendurable, the missing maunderings gnaw at your very soul, you can’t just smoke that Jacky Tobacy and all will be well, no no, you need me with a working computer, which is thankfully what I have again. An early Christmas present for me and the gift of Jack for all of my dear readers. All five of you. Heh. I wasn’t very long without my computer, but I tell you it is an addiction, the wait was interminable (Not really I have so many gaming consoles with web browsers)  we should all realize that we use these as coping mechanisms and be careful when we’re to be without them. Hmmm? You thought I was going to approach the pulpit and trot out the same tired speech of over dependence on technology? You should know me better than that dear reader, I wouldn’t have a dear reader to refer to without this computer. Nor would I have had the information at my fingertips, now worn after trying tirelessly to uncover that information, to enable me to lose the ten and a half stone that earned me my sick, I’m cool, I can use sick like that, you shush, two foot scar. See how I segwayed into that? Like an enraged bull in a terribly thought out metaphor.

Yeah, Thursday marked the two months post-op. The swelling is still reducing, the binder is staying mostly off, just when I’m out walking, better to build up the muscles slowly. The one problem I’m finding in finding, or rather, not, information on tummy tucks is that they never specify whether it’s a full or partial, or mini, that’s why I settle for abdominoplasty, also because it sounds so cool. There’s a huge difference between a tummy tuck and getting your muscles pulled together, like a curtain is how I think of it, less disturbing that way, that’s been stitched together. Imagine the length of me and imagine the amount of stitches. Not to be gratuitously graphic, it’s just silly to imagine I’d be bobbing back to the gym after that. Silly because I’ve never been in a gym and the muscles are absurdly weak at first, getting stronger daily, but slowly. The best advice I was given is that you’ll be back to a fair approximation of normality after two months, still no lifting heavy things and after six you’ll be mostly heal and ready to return to your daily routine fully and finally at one year you should be pretty much there. Two years, yes, this is a huge surgery, after and you should have no problems, but some swelling can remain or reappear.

I might be making it all sound deary and depressing, but I’ve honestly never felt better. I have my down days, everyone does, but I’m glad to be here. I’ll be honest I still feel as it it were some kind of cruel jest to be forced to live with that skin for so long after losing all that weight single handedly, someone called the wait abusive and it was. I think that’s why I’m getting so many comments on my face, it must have been showing more than I realized. Does this mean my budding career as the number one poker player in the world is in jeopardy?! But I haven’t even learnt to play yet! Wah! There are surgeries to go, but nothing so major as this. I know I’m cruel not showing you any pictures, but you’ll just have to imagine it for yourselves. Imagine a ling that goes all the way from hip to hip, them imagine Jack staring at you admonishingly for breaking into his room like that to stare at him so. For shame, dear reader.

There hasn’t been much progress in new recipes. I am trying out toasted buckwheat flakes, the taste is really delicious, not sure what to do with them yet. I did make lumpy waffles using an even split of buckwheat flour and flakes. I haven’t been baking much, I just lacked the energy on the approach to the surgery and afterwards it wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts. What I did this week was to bake a Buckwheat Flour Simple White Cake and rest it for a day, resting after freezing won’t work, cut it up and freeze it to have over a few weeks. That way I don’t eat it all at once and I don’t have to bake again to enjoy something. It’s a balance between self control, don’t eat all that delicious cake, and my inherent laziness, I want cake but don’t want to bake! I think it’ll balance out well. I’ve just opened my final jar of yellow strawberry jam and I can’t wait to try the two of these things together. The yellow jam seems to improve with age or perhaps it’s just scarcity of ingredients. People are mostly shocked I eat. The idea of weight-loss is inherently and erroneously tied with the idea of starvation and deprivation. You don’t do without, you just make do with proper food and stay away from junk. I’ll always eat my plate stacked with vegetables, seeds, nut butter and meats. What else would I eat if not that?

Oh! You know what I have been doing that’s not a recipe, more a recommendation, I could call it a lifehack but then we’d all feel a little dirty. I used to freeze mashed vegetables and microwave them, but the taste wasn’t very good and the texture could be slimy at times, so now what I do is mash the vegetables, I used my squash from the garden, twenty five and possibly there’ll be a twenty sixth, for the curious, and froze them in those little tin trays, you know the ones (I hope), that way I cold bake the mash, or stuffing, alongside other frozen blanched vegetables. It’s so much better and you don’t need oil or butter to season it. Just dry is fine. You sometimes get a crispy top or bottom, sometimes both, depending on what you use. The squash blanched fine too. I never thought I’d end up using so much vegetables in my cooking, even growing my own at that. The freezer currently contains blanched parsnips, which I liked roasted, carrots, mostly ditto, cauliflower, broccoli, a mix of both is nice, I prefer the broccoli, harlequin and table king squash, mashed too. A fistful of this and that and I have all my vegetables for any meal. See? A freezer with cake and vegetables! What a diet.

The onions are still delicious and strong. They’ve stored extremely well so no need to freeze those. I tried roasted shallots and they’re pretty nice, they  add a hint of sweetness. Sadly I have to buy them as I’ve long since run out of my own. Mark my words, dear reader, I will grow more next year. Way more. I won’t even steal the bulbs, I mean borrow! I like playing around with what ingredients I have. Even if you’re eating the same thing daily you can change it so much by just changing the cooking or preparation method. Frying sliced garlic in a little oil and lifting it out to dry yields crunchy little morsels of garlicky goodness. Roasting vegetables gives them such a different taste and texture. Barely any oil needed. That’s about it for me today, dear reader. I hope you’re keeping well. I’ll be back again soon.

Hospital Stay With Multiple Food Allergies/Intolerances

Hey, that title might be boring, but it’s better than: You Can’t Eat A Bed-pan, right? Now, before I begin, I already have? Oh, well, anyway, this isn’t a strict guide, it’s more of a recap of what I did that worked when I was in for my abdominoplasty. You know me, dear reader, I can’t eat out and I can’t just buy food. It’s very hard, I’m at one of those low-times when it’s getting to me. Hence this post, I might as well put my work into words that might be of benefit to someone else. Who knows? As with all these types of posts this is just me, my own personal experiences with honesty running through them. This is just a discussion and look-back at what I did rather than a to-do guide. Whatever you take will have to be restructured to fit your diet and lifestyle. I’ll include a few recovery tips in here too, this is going to be pretty loose and informal. Just remember that everybody and every body is different and what suits one won’t necessarily suit another. Listen to your surgeons and doctors first, your nurses next, then Jack and then everyone else. Kidding, but seriously listen and take notes, you won’t remember it all and it can blur, take that as the first tip. You’re not that good that you’ll remember every detail and after a barrage of the same questions you’ve answered a dozen times before your head won’t be in the game fully.

I’m going from both before the surgery, my first major one, and also the after, that’s double the knowledge, it’s Jack squared! Or, rather it’s the knowledge of what was actually useful rather than just what I tried. This is the second run through, not he unholy first where I only had one week, I still have black rings under my eyes thanks to that. The one big thing I did was to get as much into the freezer as I could in the time I had. Breads, buns, dinners, everything that I knew would be okay for after, in other words nothing likely to cause an upset stomach or to aggravate an already troubled stomach, remember you’ll probably be on pills that might not agree with you. I never took any painkillers, but the antibiotics I was on really tore through me. A good set of meals already made meant I could stick to my diet and eat without much fuss. You can’t be sure how you’ll feel afterwards, you may not be able to make your own meals everyday, you might have help or not. What I wish I’d done is had a few sauces and frozen sides ready. Quinoa reheats really well, rice I had in, but should’ve prepared a bit more. I had stocked up on turkey mince, much easier to prepare than cutting chicken. Though I was eating steak a few days home. Heh. As always I have blanched vegetables by the pound already stuffed in the freezer so that wasn’t a problem.

I really believe that my diet has helped the recovery, there’s no way I’d heal so well a few years ago. It won’t speed it up dramatically and have you back long before you should be, but it’ll mean that you’ll possibly suffer less complications and be in the best shape you can be in the circumstances. Now, as for the stay itself. The idea is similar. Anything that can be eaten cold is king here. Any breads will work. I prepared a bag of mixed breads, cookies and crackers, froze them in sets and had them brought up. For dinners I had cold pasta or cold quinoa, each with chicken and a cold nut/seed sauce. I’m being vague because this will depend largely on what you’re willing to eat cold. These aren’t pleasant options, but they’re the best that were available to me and I was damn glad to be able to eat so well in the hospital. If you, like me, just have no choice what I suggest is making a few trials before you go for the real thing. Freeze a few dinners, get on Google and search for freezer suitable cold lunches, there’s so much that can be defrosted and eaten cold. No matter your restrictions if you’re willing to suffer a slightly bland meal you can eat well, eat healthy and eat nutritious food that will again aid in your recovery. Best way to plan it is the less flavour it has, the less it can lose. That might sound counter-intuitive, but I tell you the honest truth when I say the more spiced and flavoured the meals when it went in the freezer the harder it was to choke them down once defrosted. I had someone bringing these in to me daily, also a yoghurt and a packet of chia seeds. I was never hungry and only had trouble with my blood pressure once, I think I forgot to eat. It’s scary, but more than doable if you research and trial.

Now, I was offered help with planning a meal plan of sorts, I was very grateful, but I didn’t need it. They were willing to start from scratch to help me, so if you can try contacting the hospital beforehand and see what’s available. I was anxious that this might cause issues so I asked beforehand, they said it was no problem and at no point was it anything more than mild interest when questions arose. You probably won’t eat after the surgery, for me I’m ready to eat whenever so the day after I was stuffing cold pasta into my face. This was the biggest issue for me staying in the hospital. One more tip would be to over-prepare just in case anything happens and you have to stay longer. I was told I’d be in five days and prepared eight dinners. It was just the five days, but the three days grace meant peace of mind for me.

One thing you might be able to do is to have a list ready, with pictures if necessary, of brands and foods that you can eat.  I had a baggie of nuts and a few nut butter bars with some fruit leather ready. One at home and one with me. Again, you may not need this, but having a list ready means that the people supporting you will have a much easier time getting what you need to you. Fresh fruit is a must as well. Every time I took a tablet, which I hate, do it regardless, I was either sticking fruit in my gob, nut-bars in my mouth or bread in my pie-hole. You can sink into sickness in the hospital, just feeling off in there can be draining and it’s all too easy to let yourself go and turn into a sickie. I saw it happen across from me, the man in that bed was fussed over, felt sorry for himself and slowly started to get sicker and more whiny. Staying healthy is mental as well as physical each helps with the other. Speaking of the mind, you may go out of yours stuck in the hospital. These next tips are probably petty well know, but you’d be amazed at what you never think of or what turns out to be useless when you’re in.

Music wasn’t as much help as you’d imagine, the problem is when you’re besieged by nurses trying to do their jobs. Reading was a little better, but it can be hard to get your focus so keep it light and airy. Put down that copy of War and Peace. You may end up throwing at the noisy machine in the night. What was a godsend was a book of crosswords and word-searches a friend brought in. They’re fast and keep your mind active enough to be distracting. I also kept a journal of my stay. Mostly taking down whatever I was told about the surgery, what I had to do and what might happen. You can also record anecdotes and stories. It again keeps your mind off things. A hospital stay can be distressing, the more comfort you can supply yourself with the better you’ll have it. Just think fast and easy to stop and resume frequently. You’ll be hit with a deluge of information and it can be extremely hard to keep it all in mind.

As you can see the food issues are just a small part of the whole. An important part and one that can be dismissed too easily. You can’t be sure how a surgery will affect you. No matter how young or strong you are it can topple even the best. Not everyone is an ideal patient like Jack. Not everyone is so wonderfully humble. My last bit of advice is to be patient, listen to your body and realise the time you take in taking care of yourself now is an investment in your future well being. Don’t be an idiot in other words. None of us are immortal, no matter how much we might feel it. Take the time to prepare beforehand, to stay healthy and happy during and to heal afterwards. It’s worth it, dear reader, it really is.

Softly, The Garden Slumbers….I SAID SOFTLY

Yes, dear reader, it’s that time of year when the garden commences its repose, ever

“HEY! WHAT’S GOING ON?!”

Er, well, some plants having begun a little later sleep the sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care at a later da


“LOOK WHAT I MADE!”

Oh, come on! Yes, this is Jack’s garden and much like him it doesn’t know the meaning of the word die. Sadly I haven’t the energy to tend it properly, but I’ll still have plenty to admire next year and for the coming months there’ll be a splash of colour here and there. I’m healing well and when the true Winter hits, though it’s close now, I’ll stick to planning rather than pottering. It’ll only take a few months to heal, the garden will be there when I’m ready to return. Let’s have a look and see what we can see, dear reader.

The plant was all but dead. I hope it’s okay inside.

One of the neighbour’s roses. I think they weren’t small, just stunted.

Either a freak colouration or a different clematis from the small purple.

Nasturtiums never die.

Ever. No matter how much I kick and stand on them.

I walked past this a lot before I noticed it.

Hah, I can save bulbs after all. Indoor plant again.

There are so many begonias stuffed in there. At least five varieties.

Bottomless buckets will be the fad of 2018.

Grown in terrible soil and badly composted plant matter.

I have rose cutting growing from this. No idea where they’ll go.

The little rose that should’ve died a year ago.

The flowers in Naru’s garden never stop blooming.

Sunchokes apparently.

No this is a different pink rose, probably, there are dozens.

The small white one sets so many roses at a time.

A different yellow, don’t be roseist.

 

Buckwheat Cakes

Pep's Free From Kitchen

2017 Update: Due to a problem with Photobucket, see here, there will be a lot of recipes without photos. I will be slowly redoing the recipe pages, as best I can, but many other posts will be impossible to replace. I’m doing this in my own time, while continuing to update the blog with new recipes and posts. If you’d like to donate, any amount appreciated, you can do so here. The site will always be free, the recipes will never be locked behind a paywall, but this is a lot of additional work. I’m not demanding or begging, just putting it there so if you feel like repaying my hard work you have that option. I don’t make any money from the site, all that I do here is to help others, I couldn’t charge for that.

Spread with butter and prepare to bake more.

These are…

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We Want That Bam Bam Jack

“Isn’t that an indoor pl” Shhhh! It doesn’t know that!

The twenty fourth squash. It’s probably the last.

Bird. A birdy bird. An avian invader. I don’t know what type.

Dear reader, dear, dear reader, you and I go quite a way back don’t we? We don’t? All you dear readers look the same to me. Anyway, I’m still here, still healing too, my gardening activity is restricted to prodding things with the tip of my boot and taking photos. It’s very strange to walk when you’re able to stand upright without effort, to turn suddenly without toppling. When all this has healed I’l have a new lease on life. The other surgeries aren’t too far in the future, but for now I focus on healing. I know the diet is the biggest help, but I also need to remember to slow down, I overdid it and ended up in bed early, well, early for me, just because it was too much effort to stay up. I’ll learn, I’m doing everything right and getting the best results. They don’t call me Jack Sit Down You Moron for nothing….wait.

The roses continue to bloom.

Dead-heading is very effective.

They’re getting absurdly tall too.

I have been clothes shopping, but at my height the options aren’t very varied, but what’s refreshing is that I never have to change my sizes again. I’ve been through this both ways, in losing and gaining, and I have hated every minute of it, not now though. I have more choice than I had and I’m sticking to what I feel comfortable
in, if anyone dares to tel me how to dress then they’ll be promptly told to stop. If they insist they’ll see a very dark side of dear Jack. This is my journey, my life, I’m learning that. It’s taken a long time to learn it, but I’m getting there. I’ve seen so much in this world, dear reader, so much  I wish I could forget, so from now I’m searching for every joy that I can find, however small. I put this words down here as a reminder to myself and maybe to show someone else, who might be struggling, another point of view. Getting a little deary, ummm. Hey,, look! Flowers!

So many pink roses.

It’s trying so hard to ripen!

SO VERY HARD!

There are pumpkins appearing in the shops, but they’re just carving pumpkins. I hope that the young woman selling the Hokkaido Pumpkins will have them again this year. I have so many recipes it’ll difficult to do anything new. To be honest I don’t have enough energy to do a dinner daily and to make something new. Not to say I won’t, but I look at all the recipes neglected on the site and I realise no matter how many recipes I post they’ll be worthless unless they’re reaching people. I’m still trying to undo the damage Photobucket caused, but it’s slow, tedious and impossible to fully fix. I’ll just do what I can, that’s enough, right, dear reader?

No red chillies yet.

The basil has reached its end. I’ll see if I can get a few seeds.

They fall off fast, but they’re nice to have so late in the year.

The fuschia continues to flower.