Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Difference Of Reading

Weighing machine, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris
Image: Wikimedia Commons

A strange thing happened to me this week. I'd gone for my annual medical check-up at the doctor's surgery round the corner. The nurse read my blood pressure, took a blood sample, asked about my alcohol consumption — that kind of thing. I told her I'd been on a diet and had lost a stone quite easily, but was now finding it almost impossible to drop below 14 stone. She weighed me — and announced that my weight was 13 st 4 lb! And this is with clothes on (obviously I didn't want to frighten her by suggesting I removed them). Earlier I'd weighed myself at home with clothes off and the scales had read 13 st 13 lb. The nurse insisted her own scales — a hefty, industrial-sized model — were correct, and were regularly and rigorously calibrated. Who was I to disagree?

Delighted, I left the surgery in a state of euphoria and made a bee-line for the supermarket next door, where I bought some celebratory cakes, chocolate and a couple of bottles of wine. However, as soon as I got home, I began to have some doubts. What was going on here? We have two pairs of bathroom scales at home — one mechanical, one digital — and both always read the same. How could they both not only be wrong but also be so far out? I took 5 cans of baked beans, which I knew weighed 2 kg, and placed them on each pair of scales in turn. Yes, 2 kg exactly. How very odd all this was becoming.

I did eat the cake and chocolate, and I did drink the wine, and enjoyed them a lot, though I must admit my pleasure had been very slightly tainted. I'll have to try to weigh myself somewhere else for a final, cast-iron verdict. And that's another thing. Where have all the public weighing machines in Britain gone? They used to be outside every chemist's and in every public park. (And when did you last hear the word 'chemist's' rather than 'pharmacy' for that matter?)

I must be honest and say I do actually feel more like 14 stone than 13 stone. An okay weight for someone 6 ft 1 in tall, and I feel good, and all my trousers now fit beautifully. But I'd still rather lose another stone if I can. (Or if I haven't already, according to the nurse!)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Writing Myself Positive

Image: Wikimedia Commons

I'm approximately a third of the way through my self-imposed regimen, so I thought I'd better assess my progress.

Diet: This still goes well. It's not that I ate unhealthily before, but this time I really am cutting back on sugary, fat-laden and processed foods, and concentrating on natural and organic as far as possible. As far as sweet things are concerned this wasn't too difficult, as I have a naturally savoury rather than a sweet tooth. Though everyone craves sweetness now and then — and I find fruit or small quantities of chocolate or ice cream fit the bill. This diet does seem to suit me, I must admit, and I feel fit, healthy and full of physical and mental energy. My ban on alcohol wavered once or twice recently, but I haven't fallen back into the habit. My weight this morning was hovering between 13 st 12 lb and 13 st 13 lb, so I've broken the 14 st barrier. Therefore, roughly speaking, in a month I've lost half of what I set out to lose in three months. The rest sounds easy? Well, no — as I predicted, my weight loss rate has now slowed considerably.

Exercise: Because of the pulled hamstring, exercise was on hold for a while. But I'm now back to doing 20 min to half an hour stretching and various resistance and cardiovascular exercises each day. I haven't any expensive exercise equipment; in fact I have no equipment at all except for a Bullworker and a skipping rope. I find that the free props we have around us in the home — the wall, the floor, the chair — work perfectly well. I'm also walking again each day. In fact, the other day I walked 6 miles into the nearest town, and yesterday I walked 3 or 4 miles through the surrounding countryside. Soon I'll begin some very gentle running in combination with walking.

Meditation: I suppose I'm practising this on my walks rather than putting aside any special time or place for it.

Reading: I'm still reading a fair amount, but not as much as I was when recovering from my cyst and my muscle injury.

Computer: Hopeless! I'm grazing on it at every possible opportunity.

Thanks to everyone for your continuing support. Rereading the above, I hope I don't sound too smug and pleased with myself. In attempting to hide and cope with the problems in my life which were the impetus for this new regime, I sometimes may come across as more self-satisfied and in control than I really am. I'm just trying to think and write myself positive.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

So Far, So Good

I was overjoyed to do a circular walk round the village this morning, a distance of about one and a quarter miles. This felt strangely exciting and liberating as I've been forced to rest my leg at home for a couple of weeks because of a strained hamstring muscle. Although painful, it was obviously only a very minor sprain, since I can now walk perfectly normally.

In the gardens I saw the fat red seed heads of climbing roses and the papery brown seed heads of dahlias, and also many signs of spring's coming resurrection: purple and yellow crocuses, multi-coloured primulas, yellow jasmine, aconites, snowdrops, catkins, the buds of flowering currant; and tulips and daffodils were pushing up through the earth.

The diet still goes well: my weight is now 14 st 1 lb, so I've lost 12 lb in three and a half weeks, which is good going. The weight loss will slacken off now my body has stabilised — perhaps 1-2 lb per week. But my target of 13 st by the end of April is quite achievable, I think.

I've started exercising again — but I'm taking things very gently indeed. I'm still probably spending too much time on the computer but, hey, you've got to do something, and I enjoy it. And I've been reading loads — Rimbaud, Verlaine, Graham Robb, Jean Giono, Jostein Gaarder.

So far, so good.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Progress (Of A Sorts)

The strained hamstring is slowly improving, and the bird's egg-sized cyst on my chest is shrinking, but it's slow progress. I'm now off all the pills (painkillers and antibiotics) — they were beginning to upset my stomach. I've been forced to slow down over the past couple of weeks, which is probably no bad thing. Usually I'm rushing about here and there far too much and doing stuff far too quickly. At first I had the strange illusion I was actually living in slow motion. Pretty soon, however, I grew to relish the enforced stillness and slowness. Many books have been read (from Lawrence through Thomas Merton to Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu), much music listened to, many radio programmes heard. Now I just want to get on the move again.

The diet goes well. I'm taking in around 1500 calories per day or less, and a typical day's meal consists of muesli or a boiled egg with a slice of toast and Marmite for breakfast; salad or a low-calorie soup for lunch; and a fish (sometimes white, sometimes oily) / meat (often chicken, sometimes red meat) / vegetarian dish in rotation for dinner, with plenty of veggies, followed by something like three fruits with either yoghurt, sorbet or ice cream for pudding. Three meals, no snacks, no alcohol. If I'm hungry in-between meals, and I rarely seem to be, I'll eat some fruit or a crispbread with low-fat Philadelphia cheese or marmite.

The weight. Started out at 14 st 13 lb on 28 January. Am now 14 st 5 lb. Target weight: 13 st.

The exercise. Practically non-existent because of the leg. Though I have been doing some routines involving non-upper thigh body parts from a supine position (ooh, err!)

The meditation. Nothing specific, but many contemplative moments throughout the day.

The computer. Hopeless. I'm on it all the time!

I'll end with my poem Slowing Down, which seems appropriate.

I slowed right down today,
Just slowed right down.
How little we see most of the time!
So I slowed right down.

And saw a fork-tailed kite circle then drift
On a blue highway, until it was no more.
I cracked a sunflower shell between my teeth
And curled the seed out with my tongue,
The taste intense and bitter-sweet.
It hit my palate like a burst of sun.

Today I listened to a stream
Trickle then rush from Extremadura
Into Castilla y León.
I heard the hollow clunk of cow bells
Jangle like Tibetan wind chimes.

I smelled a cistus bush today.
It reeked of incense. And I sniffed
The fragrant, bitter scent of thyme,
The aromatic tang of eucalyptus.

Today I felt a mat
Of soft, green moss under my hand,
And, underfoot, crunched oak leaves, crisp and brown,
And spiky chestnut husks, like tiny hedgehogs.
I fingered the jagged edge of stones,
Felt the smooth roundedness of rock.

I slowed right down today.
I slowed right down.
How blind we are to what is happening!
How quickly we walk on!

But, for today,
I slowed, I slowed right down.
I slowed.
I slowed.
I slowed time down.

I slowed myself



Thursday, February 7, 2013


"Februalia was the Roman festival of ritual purification. The festival, which is basically one of Spring washing or cleaning (associated also with the raininess of this time of year) is old, and possibly of Sabine origin. According to Ovid, Februare is a Latin word which refers to means of purification and derives from an earlier Etruscan word referring to purging." WIKIPEDIA

It's par for the course, isn't it? No sooner have I begun my own physical, mental and spiritual Spring cleaning than I've had to visit the doctor twice in a week.

The small sebaceous cyst (not dangerous) on my chest had grown larger and was becoming painful. I'm now on penicillin, and if that doesn't do the trick it will have to be surgically excised.

The second problem was the niggling muscular pain at the back of my upper left thigh which I developed after my walk along the Viking Way last Thursday. It suddenly got a lot worse, and the upshot is: I have a strained hamstring. I'm astonished how painful and debilitating this is. I've pulled muscles before, and although they were painful in certain positions, and although they took longer to heal than I hoped, the whole situation was bearable. But this strained hamstring is painful all the time no matter what posture I'm in (though some positions are better than others) and seems to affect my whole locomotion. I can't get comfortable in bed — lying on my side is out of the question. It's difficult to put on trousers and socks, and to get up from a chair. And when upright I can hardly walk (without groaning and general melodrama). The co-codamol I've been prescribed hardly cuts through the pain.

So my new exercise regime is on the back burner for a while. However I've already lost a fair amount of weight, which I'm pleased about, and this state of relative immobility is a good excuse for meditation, for reading lots of books and for listening to lots of music.

I'll give more details about my weight and the type and amount of food I'm eating in my next post. In the meantime I'll groan my way upstairs and go back to bed!

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Beginnings

I have some unbelievably difficult and seemingly insoluble problems in my life at the moment. In fact they've persisted for a while and I don't think they'll be going away any time soon. Sometimes I feel I'm losing it. Sometimes I feel that life is pushing me about, that I'm not in control.

I need to change things, to cope with the stress, to realise that there will always be problems, and that life is full of difficulties, but it's the way you handle them that's the important thing. Over the past few months I've tried turning things around, but with little success. Now I am absolutely serious about sorting things out and have formed a strategy, a three-month plan (Feb-Apr).

I have rather an addictive personality, and it's all too easy for me to deal with problems by doing things I enjoy to excess: eating, drinking, blogging, you name it. But of course doing all these things in an undisciplined way just leaves you feeling wretched, out of control, a piece of flotsam pushed this way and that by the stormy tides of life.

A sea change is needed. So this is my plan. First of all I need to lose weight. I've gradually been putting on weight for a year and am now nearly 15 stone. I don't actually look particularly overweight — I'm 6 ft 1 in with broad shoulders — but I know only too well that I should weigh more like 12 and a half stone. At between 12 and a half and 13 stone I always feel great and full of energy. I want to get back to that state. So my goal is to weigh 13 stone by the end of April — which means I have to lose around 2 lb per week. And then stay at that weight. I've done this before, and know it's doable, but it will mean a balanced, calorie-controlled diet of healthy food. Fortunately I eat healthy food anyhow, and am not tempted too much by sugary snacks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and suchlike. I will be giving up alcohol, though.

Secondly I need to get more discipline back into my life. Therefore, as well as the diet, I'm returning to my old regime of daily exercise and meditation. Also I intend to read more mindfully (well, I tend to do this already, but my reading has become a little haphazard) and walk and/or run every day. Re. blogging and computer time I'm confining myself to one slot in the evening, rather than dipping in and out throughout the day.

I've decided to document my progress in cyberspace because I think it will be a massive incentive knowing that the world is my witness (hopefully you don't think I'm being too narcissistic). It's a bit like promising things to a sympathetic audience, then not wanting to let them (or myself) down. Also it may help others in their own pursuit of physical and spiritual transformation, an energetic and healthy lifestyle and a life in which you can control difficulties to some extent, rather than be overwhelmed by them. I'm sure it won't always be easy, but to know that at least a few others may be walking alongside me each step of the way will be a great encouragement.

I'm beginning now, but my official start date will be 1st February. I'll be blogging once or twice a week about the experience. As usual any comments are most welcome.

The scales this morning showed my unclothed body weight was 14 st 13 lb.