Slice Of Life

These will take a while, but that’s okay with this weather.

Yo, Dear Reader, just a quick post. It’s that time of the year when the fad diets start to look a lot more difficult to maintain and where the glamour has worn off and people start to revert and…I could say not everyone does, but I’m tired of carrying everyone else when I’ve been made to go it alone, you know your truth if I’m not talking about you then there we go. Well, the same cycle repeats, but as someone who has been at this for over eight years, has never once stumbled and has an extremely restricted diet I find the same tedious problem popping up again and again. People want to view any dietary or lifestyle changes through their own narrow lens, they don’t want anyone’s successes showing up their deficiencies. I’ve never pushed my success, have I, Dear Reader? Is this the ELEVEN STONE LOST! MAINTAINED LONG-TERM blog? No, nor do I sell what I did as a plan. But when someone starts a diet they think themselves wholly unique and will push again anyone who, like me, Dear Reader, who exists so far ahead to dwarf anything they’ll do, makes it look lesser. As I’ve often said they want the acclaim, the glory and when that fades they lose interest. So, what’s to be done? Stop doing that, that’s it, leave people like me out of this, I’m tired of it.

Mango Seed One is go.

I wanted to get that off my chest, Dear Reader, it’s happened so often, but I don’t always realise that’s what’s happening. What I do want to talk about, to help those genuinely in need of guidance and anecdotes that will help enlighten, however dimly, this confusing and at times dark, winding path of sustained health living. If you think about it, one of the most common ways we find out about anything involving this is social media, even discounting the specially tailored posts and blogs, but say you’ve found me, how lucky are you, Dear Reader? Blessed truly by Jack’s benevolence and kindness, his mildness and meekness as THE GREAT BLOGGER…heh. You have to have fun with this, Dear Reader, but what I’m getting to, however long-windedly, is that no matter how open or honest you can never see all there is at any given stage, no matter how open and receptive you or or how willing and open I am in sharing, here are parts that just don’t fit the neat way we share on blogs like this. Take the recipe below, it’s really tasty and I just stumbled onto it, but as a recipe worth sharing? It’s hard to say because it’s rough, mostly changes depending on what I have to hand and really might depend entirely on who’s eating it because it is a hodgepodge or flavours. It’s also a common way I cook or myself, recipes that can be typed up cleanly, explained clearly and fit the usual framework are there too, just repeating after all these years, but the singular recipes, hat are just for me, not for anything other than to feed me, those are harder to share and I often have no desire to, I will tell you what this is I’m not being smart, i’s just really basic, and that’s the crux of any dietary plan: It’s a lifestyle, it’s 24/7 and it has to fit the complex shape that is you. Most importantly it can’t fit anyone else that perfectly, I’ve repeated that sentiment a lot already so I won’t harp on it again. If I had to sum it up, well, stop trying to sum people up: We’re more than what and how we eat even when just looking at diet and food choices.

Gonna be a real shame when I run out of the frozen sauce.

Okay, Dear Reader, back to my usual nonsense, the good stuff that is, the mango has started to separate or grow from the shoot, you can see the little leaves unfurling, I have no idea where this is going to end up, but it really is wonderful to try and accept that if I fail I have gained so much from the attempt. I have the other seeds still growing in the hot-press, I’ll see how this  fares first. The potatoes, Maris Piper, for a friend, are set up for chitting, starting them before planting, the ones in he store has all sprouted too much, the garlic too, but I went through the whole box to get these. With all the storms I haven’t had much garden time, but when I do nothing will stop me, bar exhaustion. Oh, my arch, the one with the honeysuckle and jasmine, too a huge knock and it was held up by the honeysuckle which is why it’s so lopsided, it’s a paradox, it needs a base of cement, come he Summer I’ll get to it, I might try anchoring it for now. I never expected the honeysuckle to grow so well, another win for the bottomless bucket idea. Okay, that’s it from me…oh, the recipe, right it’s a cranberry and sugar sauce, really loose, sweet potatoes, onions cooked until brown with maple syrup, rose salt, cinnamon, chicken and Thai rice noodles. You cook it in stages, onion and salt, then sweet potato, steaming once the sauce and maple syrup go in, then the chicken goes in and everything bubbles away melting and cooking, the noodles just get a few minutes, they’re already cooked and cooled. It goes thick and tastes so amazingly tangy and sweet. Like I said, really basic and quick, heavily dependant on your tastes and what ingredients you have. Until later, Dear Reader!

Two For One: Safety In Dietary Changes

Hoo boy, Dear Reader, do I hate everything about diet culture, even trying to rail against it is exhausting. So, as I preface almost all of these posts, if you’re here for the quick-fix, the quack remedy, the one secret to…you get the idea, just go now and forever hold your breath. Jack has no tolerance for the damage all the lies around weight-loss has caused, thankfully he also has a sensible, small readership and can talk frankly without constantly fretting over everything he says. You’re good people, Dear Reader.

The orchid is slowly opening.

The full story of my journey, most of it anyways, is on the Journey To Better Health page, so I’ll save myself reiterating. One of the core tenets of my lifestyle has been the idea that for everything removed from my diet it will be replaced by two beneficial foods. Whenever I dropped a problematic food I instantly, or as close to instantaneously as I could, found two others. Now, I didn’t have to like these foods, I often didn’t, still to this day I eat many foods I just tolerate, they just had to balance out the absence of the other.

My living stone seeds started.

Really this is the reverse of many dieters, for all the new foods they consume they often reward themselves with more of the foods causing the issues in the first place. I have heard so many people say some variation on: “But I have to have” and then they proceed to name something they really don’t need. With all I have been through my patience and tolerance for this is gone, I can just about hold my tongue these days when I hear that. I’ve been through hell with this and I refuse to coddle anyone doing this because they will fail, maybe in years, but they will fail because of that mindset. It’s destructive and dangerous, but also extremely self-serving,

This has been saggy, dead, bent and various other types of succulent. It looks okay now.

You don’t even need to understand food all that well to start this. I looked at what was in everything I ate, be it fibre, fats, carbs whatever, as long as there was a varied balance then I could push on and see what would work. I had no certainties and no lies because of that. The idea a set amount of anything in prescribed amounts will guarantee success is the foundation of every fad diet. The comfort that all your problems are now sorted is the death knell sounding in the not too distant future. The shame is rarely talked about, but it’s a huge part why this spreads unchecked, who wants to admit they were fooled? Better to let others fall to save face.

Is Jack an exception? Well, yeah, I never regained the weight, never went back on anything I started. I have a mind that move forward, into whatever uncertainty I face, not to say I’m some hero, unafraid and undaunted, I was scared and hopeless, I waded through a hell that is still ongoing, I’m on the brink of despair most days if I’m truthful, I’m waiting on a surgery that is killing the joy in my life, I face this every day and still stick to everything I’ve set myself, it’s burning me out inside, but I’m still doing it, so, yes, I may well be an exception and that’s why I share. Whether it helps a single soul is immaterial, the fact it may makes the extra effort worthwhile. I do it because I care, Dear Reader, when I started I had no such help or support, to this day most of this rests on my shoulders alone. I live in hope of better days, I don’t ever want to see anyone go through what I have and continue to go through. Until later, Dear Reader.

Just Watering The Old Metaphor

I never expected the ponytail palm would grow so well, but here I am, re-potting one of my favourites.

From a long dying stem, to a nub to this. Let’s hope it grows well now.

Goodspeed you glorious, confusing plants!

The gardening cycle is starting to speed up slightly, Dear Reader, it never stops, growth and death, life and rebirth, it can never really stop, but it slows, I’m getting ready to start once again, though I never really stopped either. I won’t plant anything much until March, but I have bulbs starting and Winter planted vegetables growing so I’ll always have something to look towards, the indoor garden will start to speed up too, just not as noticeably as the outdoor one. As it’s 2020 I will of course start a huge post on all my resolutions, my hope and dreams and you know me and that isn’t me, Dear Reader, I have a surgery to wait on until this limbo breaks the only dates and times I will care about will involve will be connected to the garden. I do sincerely wish all my Dear Readers all the best for the new year, other than that it’s just another year to me.

The older leaves are falling off, they’re solid, but slightly yellow.

I rearrange this so often and it’s always trouble.

One thing I have talked about is the foundation of good habits and that all new habits form on the old, while looking at my plants I was hit, not literally, but as clumsy as I am it’s possible, with the exact metaphor and a lesson in gardening all rolled into one, what else do we need, Dear Reader, aside from a recipe, but hey strictly warn against eating indoor plants, no matter hoe temptingly delicious a succulent may sound, it’s a succulent, but not a succulent morsel of cactus…do don’t eat my plants, Dear Reader and I’ll try to impart a little of what I’ve learned.

You can’t see the lighter leaves here, but it’s a very strong contrast between new and old.

All the old leaves are gone then the petals become leaves…this is strange and I love it dearly.

I’ve been gardening for nearly four years now, this is my fourth year I guess, the indoor harden is a very young six months or so, so take all I teach you with the understanding I’m as new to this as anyone, but still, I learn, Dear Reader, because I listen and observe, not for the acclaim that knowledge brings, but for the thirst that understanding quenches. Indoor plants are interesting because they’re an oxymoron, which is a moron holding their breath, no, sorry! Come back Dear Reader! There is no plant that grows naturally inside, in shade, in low sun in the lark, but not inside, so we take what can b grown indoors and we feed them, we force their growth, we make them seem healthier than they are for a short time, then they fall apart, if this is an apt metaphor for fad diets nothing is, yet we aren’t even there yet fully.

The more sun the tighter the rosette.

What can happen after this stage is the new growth, a slower more natural growth can occur, a healthier, slower more carefully cultivated growth, often lighter in shade and more naturally green, this is the tricky part for growers, whether you can keep a plant alive that might already have had it’s balanced eschewed too far towards excessive growth and be unable to return to a normal stage, but no matter the growth it will always grow on the old, much like us, see? I didn’t forget about the whole theme here, the new depends on the old and is affected by it. Like us when we start a new regime, all the old habits still exist, they need to be pruned away and carefully maintained to a minimum if they can’t be obliterated, often, like tangled, packed roots, we can’t see the trouble they are causing for the new growth that attracts our focus.

All the air plants were soaking, they’re growing too thankfully.

Between a new “us” and the “old” us is a vast limbo, Dear Reader, I feel that way myself with the loose skin, even when that goes the damage it did both mentally and physically will still exist, but muted, blessedly muted I imagine, unlike a plan  we can’t cut away the best part of ourselves and start again, we are tethered to the old stem, growing far away, but always connected, that isn’t a bad thing, but ignoring it can be, it’s why many people fail at becoming healthier, sticking to habits. They refuse to acknowledge the journey through that limbo, which may never truly end in someways. They want to grow new leaves of health, have a profusion of new flowers of a better quality of life, so they try to force it, they do to much, too fast and we know what that causes. It creates a temporary perfection that falls away, like leaves cascading down a withering stem, all the work for naught because they wanted a shortcut, to avoid the limbo.

Why it took me so long to flip this side is beyond me, habit I guess. Have to figure out the angles and sun.

So, am I saying I’m here to help? No, if what I say helps you understand then that’s good and I’m glad, but I’m neither a life coach or interested in being one. I started my journey alone and terrified, I’m still working with the benefit of much understanding from others below the surface, but there are those that know the struggle of the new roots digging down through the tangle, that know the effort behind he beauty of new green growth. I hope that this year will bring me the freedom I crave, that the sun will shine on Jack, Dear Reader, I think I’ve more than earned it, this is my ninth year, I’ve spent half of it waiting on surgeries, more than that in pain, I just want to be free to grow, to leave behind the dead parts of myself and find my peace. Thanks for sticking with me, Dear Reader, here’s hoping this is our year.

Better Habits ≠ Best Habits

In lieu of flowers, have birds.

Greedy, fuzzy birds.

Comical birds.

Elegant birds.

Yo, Dear Reader, I’m still in a bad place, awaiting this surgery with an indescribable dread that the year will pass with no word, let no one ever say weight-loss is the end of the journey, it’s barely the beginning, Dear Reader, short of becoming rich I have only hope to cling to, but the stress is taking a toll. Which is why I’m talking about it, but also leave it there, I’m not putting on a show, far too many people revel in this kind of story, instead I want to talk about habits. Specifically new habits, I’ve already talked about old habits never truly vanishing somewhere or other, no, I want to talk about the habits that are formed early on in any reinvention of a lifestyle.

Intense birds.

Shy birds.

Patient birds.

Brave birds.

When, what feels like a life time ago, but is just over eight years, I had to get a calculator and top up dates, I’ve spent longer waiting on surgeries than I did losing the weight, twice as long in the first case, over on this second wait, sorry, Dear Reader, it’s in my mind constantly. Anyway, when I started, the thought of any onion being visible in my food was abhorrent, I know, same with garlic, they had to be shredded, over time I’ve grown and use them in various ways, even growing them, and use far more than I would’ve, but funnily I still use the same amount of coconut milk, this is going somewhere, stick with me, the coconut milk was the bulk but as I started adding more onion the sauce grew vastly more. It was still liquid, not worrisome, but in the last few months I’ve felt it too much, I wasn’t going to cut down on any more food, so I left it, but funnily until today I never thought to use less. Because the habit of using a can, of pushing past my old biases regarding food, was so firmly rooted it seemed impossible to change. This was a good change, there’s no doubt there, Dear Reader, it gave me meals that have stood by me, but now they needed a change and if you’ve ever gone through a massive change like I did then you know how hard change is, regardless of whether you’re used to it it still poses a challenge. So now I’ll start to use less liquid, a relatively small change, hardly worth a mention, but it shows one aspect of my journey that you might have missed, understandingly, you weren’t the one going through it, but it’s beneficial to anyone thinking of making a change in their life.

Sociable birds.

Most of all birds that need a little help in colder weather.

You need to be adaptable, I’ve no doubt said that before, Dear Reader, but when you’ve drastically changed everything about your diet you do come to a familiar stubborn place, the same kind of place that stops people from starting in the first place, we’re human, Dear Reader, extremely flawed in ways we can’t or won’t see, but here lies danger. The thought: “I’ve done enough”, is all too often people’s undoing. I’ve said this whole changing your lifestyle never stops and this is true, you are constantly thinking of so much, it eventually turns to a background hum, but it takes a toll and when more needs to be addresses the hum can get too loud once more and you can refuse, which may not be that impactful, like me eating more sauce, but I’d be better with less water, a simple change, but I’ve made countless and it does rankle. Knowing this stubborn streak exists and needs to be acknowledged is vital. To know your brain will fight change tooth and nail is part and parcel of continued success. I have most of my diet and lifestyle down to a science, but all things can’t be under my control, do I have to understand that even if I don’t want to I have to, for my own betterment however small. I share this because I never see it  talked about, Dear Reader, maybe I’m a strange exception, or maybe in dark days I’ve had a lot to think on. Hope for me, Dear Reader, hope I see any end to this soon, it has poisoned what should’ve been a crowning success in my life, I hope when it’s over that the poison will disintegrate and I can see just the good. Until later, Dear Reader, take care.

Motorbikes and Burnout

Dear Reader, what I know about motorbikes can be summed up in three words: Vroom, broom and honk…but though my knowledge is lacking, just a little, they do make for a great metaphor on weight-loss and burnout, this is naturally a long-way down the road of my own journey so your mileage may vary. There are far too many vehicular images here it’s getting to be a regular traffic jam…er, sorry. One thing I remember hearing is that when a motorcyclist takes a corner they lean in to it, as to the why, well, look it up, I’m not the best on anything vehicular and will most likely be the passenger in the vehicle flying off the edge of something if you rely on my experience. As per tradition I refuse to be too serious about an extremely serious issue as I’m still in the midst of it and any reprieve or relief is welcome.

My diet is currently at its most restricted and that’s due to necessity and a lack of available foods. Inevitably a sense of burnout occurs, it’s impossible to eat the same foods day in and day out, in as varied preparations as is humanly possible with such a limited selection, I do well, Dear Reader, but I can’t work miracles, without a feeling of dull familiarity or resentment. I was asked recently what would happen if I stopped even for a day and I told them frankly that in two days I would be a shambling wreck and that, sadly, is no exaggeration. As you can guess I’m currently in a slump, I miss so many simple foods that have fallen away and no doubt some of the ones I have omitted are preying on my subconscious, does the stomach have a subconscious? I like to think it does, there’s a connection to the brain that really is under researched. This takes a toll and each day’s prandial preparations can grate on the nerves. There are no breaks, Dear Reader where this many restrictions apply.

So, the motorbike metaphor finally comes into play, whereas you might assume I would stick to simple preparations and in a sense resign myself to it I do the opposite, I lean in hard. I take extra care in preparing my meals, I over spice and season generously, I don’t add anything unnecessary or out of the usual run, this is a danger as it can lead to reformation of bad habits and an increase of unhealthy foods. I just take more care about what I’m doing, it forces you to really think about what you’re eating and sometimes, this isn’t infallible, Dear Reader, neither am I. I recall reading that the shapes of food affects where it touches your taste-buds and that even garlic’s preparation method increases or decreases its potency, grating it and using it raw really makes it pop…and burn. As a system it’s necessary, I can only eat what I can and what’s available, I need to push through slumps, but in switching up even more than usual I find it makes me feel that bit better.

At times I can happily eat without thought of taste and take it in as fuel, but in the less active months there’s is an impulse to store up and to eat heavier, more comforting foods. You have to realise that I went from food being a huge part of my world in a negative way to being a huge part of my world in a healthy, but stringent way. I’m only a few mistakes away from ill health, not many people understand the complexity or the difficulty as they see it as a mere snapshot, a moment that fades away and is never as real as their own lives. That’s me, Dear Reader, I’m learning to put myself forward more, to look after myself and not let myself, or others like me, be treated like that/ You’re good people, Dear Reader so I will share with you a little silliness.

A very piratical decoration…

Sorry, I meant impractical.

You can feel the glee emanating from me, Dear Reader, when I saw that cheap, old Halloween decoration had many dents and crevices, well, the old “I wonder” impulse kicked in and a few days later here I am and I tell you, honestly as always, Dear Reader, it’s a beautiful thing. A heavy duty garden ornament that’s truly one of a kind, I had to get rid of the decoration or I’d do it again. It weights far too much, but look at it! I love this absurd thing because another time I wouldn’t have tried at all, I’d have let myself be dissuaded by doubt. I’ll let it cure and then plop it out in the garden a testament to the fun thing in life. I’ll be back later, Dear Reader, until then ARRRRGH! Matey.

Hit and Delay: Problem Foods Ambushes

Hey, Dear Reader, it’s been a while since I spoke on anything like this. I’m in a very stable place in my journey, there hasn’t been any huge changes, well, recently, er, maybe about four or five months actually, I decided to omit corn from my diet, I didn’t use it in anything other than pasta, cereal and baking powder and the baking powder never caused issues, really the corn would often be fine, but other times I think it was affecting me days later. Then again other times it would make my histamine symptoms worse, not that it caused them, but those two together could get very nasty. Histamine seems to affect me with the changing of the weather too, but keep on top of it has helped and without the corn it’s very manageable. Really it made me think of the years I spent trying to figure all this out, I suppose in a way I’ve applied the same methods to the garden: A slow and gradual testing system, with elimination and replacement. Which is absurdly difficult and has taken so much willpower, but it has been worthwhile. What this has reminded me of is of of the biggest struggles I faced early on, so let’s talk a little about that.

When I started I had no idea what foods, what food groups and even what illnesses and intolerances I had, I had no one to seek help from and was entirely alone, you know this story so I’m not going to repeat it. One issue I faced was that everything made me feel ill, trying to deduce whether it was the food, a delayed reaction, which is the worst or if it was just my health that had deteriorated greatly over the years. I suppose there are two very important points to take from what I’ve learned: The first is that you need to be methodical, you need extensive amounts of patience, you can’t cut out willy nilly because you’l ditch too much and eventually revert. For everything removed ad two was my motto and one I stick to. It took me three or four year to just map out the main bulk of my intolerances, the nuances have taken a full decade. There’s also another point: When you’re at a relatively okay point you can be tempted to stick, I was like this with corn, a good 60% of the time it was fine, I had no major issues with the cereal and ate it daily, the pasta weekly, in tortilla chips as a treat, but I think, sometimes even three days later, it was adding up and causing trouble, with food issues they can compound and cause greater trouble and the wait to heal again can be interrupted when you’re still eating the same problem food.

It took some willpower to break away from corn, I’ve lost so many of my staple, or so they seemed at the time, foods, but I’m better for it. I’ve replaced the sugary cereal, not sweet, but still surprisingly high in sugar, with puffed quinoa and chia seeds, the pasta is now all buckwheat. I feel better, whether this has contributed to a slight dip in my weight is hard to say because I’ve been so active in the garden. See, you can’t take anything as if it exists in vacuum, everything affects something else, but you can be careful of giving yourself an out, I did with the corn, it seemed impossible, it was extremely difficult, to find a replacement for the cereal which was a vital part of my diet. It’s not been an easy task, my relationship with food has been in a flux all this time, in someways I just don’t care about food and that has never been a part of my thinking regarding food so it can be jarring. I’ll never lose the “Fat” part of my brain, it will always be there, inert, but still a potential switch. It would take drastic steps to go back, but I’m aware it’s still possible and I’m always vigilant. I can love food and hate all the work my diet requires, I can love the garden’s produce and still want processed junk, I can still eat and find no pleasure in trash, but still want more and I can still shovel healthy food in without a thought and feel it as alien to me. Weight-loss has been hugely complex and involved, Dear Reader, I sincerely hope that when the surgeries are finished I’ll be given a re-balance into a happier state. All I can do is share what I can and hope no one has to face what I have and continue to. That’s all for today, Dear Reader, I’ll be back soon, take care.

Lift With Your Knees, Ed-boys

As the day is snowy and slushy I thought I’d take a moment to talk weight-loss, Dear Reader, and if you’re a regular to these discussion you know when I talk weight-loss I’m giving you the hard view, the annoying well-informed anecdotes and focus more on sustaining healthy habits and weight. If you’re here for advice on losing weight in any gimmicky form or for shortcuts then trundle along, Jack is tired and there are so many conversation to be had. A quick one, today, Dear Reader, not very in-depth, just an interesting re-frame to an idea I’ve discussed often.

Since I’ve started the greater work of the garden the more labour intensive start, I’m still marvelling at the different the surgery and subsequent healing has made, still waiting for the next letter, but let’s not go there, I’m reminded of advise we all know: Life with your knees. Which in thinking on I realised I don’t actually understand it fully, so I went researching, I found the advise that the backside goes out while the knees stay put. The knees lower, but you don’t squat. Which really works well and saves the back. What, you’re thinking, Jack see all, Dear Reader, has this to do with weight-loss or healthy eating?Everything! Or nothing, depends on what you’re focusing on.

Think first of the advice we all know, much like lifting with the knees, eating well has it many examples, plenty of fibre, water, five fruit and vegetables day etc, but when it comes to the execution of those practices we falter because don’t have the full picture, much like lifting we hear, but don’t understand and again, like the knee advice, when it finally comes to a point we need it we can feel that we should know this and don’t start the important task of researching and learning. Partly it’s conceit, we’re all prone to varying degrees of vanity and asking for help or even admitting a lack of knowledge can be embarrassing. It isn’t helpful where many promoters of healthy eating are crafting an all-knowing, easy-to-do image, Jack isn’t bitter, I just know that’s not, nor has it ever been, never will either, my space. So, we, metaphorically, strain our backs instead of bowing our heads and admitting we know less than we thought. I’ve always said hat I know I know very little, but I can, and have, learned. I took a lack of confidence and turned it to a strength.

So, the first hurtle is admitting we don’t know, you pass that by simple truth, I don’t know, but I can learn, the second is putting the work in, in both researching the real answers, not the easy ones and then applying them, which can be extremely difficult as you will meet resistance in yourself and, worse still, others. I always say my journey was a solo one, that is probably part of the reason, I don’t ever advice doing everything secretly, but oversharing can be detrimental too.

From an unrelated piece of advice, which I will be endeavouring to follow, I’m extremely tall and have no intention of doing any further damage to my back, I’m free from back pain for the first time in twenty years and I’m not undoing that, Dear Reader, mark my words, we find an anecdote for sustained weight-loss and healthy eating, both sides of the same coin. It’s always simple sounding advice, isn’t it, Dear Reader? That in itself is telling of its worth. The humble acorn becomes a tree, I saw that in a cartoon, I’m very cultured. Until later, Dear Reader, I’m off to haul stupidly heavy pots in the best posture possible…to the wheelbarrow because I’m learning. Until later, take care.