Photo by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

This week has been a battle of time: the pressure to get work tasks finished to a deadline versus the time and energy it takes to prepare meals from scratch.  It’s a battle that I saw coming and prepared for in a way. I  got a few ready-made meals in, but from a company that cooks them like you would at home, so no processed stuff. I chose the lowest carb and sugar options, bunged them in the freezer, and then relied on them quite heavily last week. Mostly, we both enjoyed them, and they had the added advantage of controlling portion size for me, something I am not that good at doing for myself. It’s not damaged our weight loss, either. Two pounds for Andrew, three for me.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about food in between meals this week, not as much as before I started the Harcombe Diet, but more than last week, and I have noticed it creeps up on me towards the end of a busy work day. I need to watch that, and make sure I am not doing too many hours at work and wearing down my stamina.

We are Phase 1 still, and I am not snacking, but after the evening meal,  we are having cashews and pistachio nuts (unsalted, not roasted) as well as two dark chocolate squares. I have struggled with the tea ever since I started, and have succumbed to taking milk in my tea at home, but not at work. I’m still missing sweetness in my hot drinks, but have resisted the temptation so far. I hope it won’t be too much longer before I get used to tea and coffee without sweeteners; it’s the one thing I think I am most likely to crack on first, which I didn’t expect!

The next test is dining out next week. I am away for work overnight, and eating out with friends. I’ve picked the restaurant, and I know it’s somewhere I can find good choices, but will I make them? We’ll see.

The easy dinner options have allowed me to spend more time with my knitting, which has been lovely. I feel more relaxed for having the needles in my hands most evenings, and I am sure that being more relaxed must help my willpower in sticking to THD. I’ve finished a chunky cowl, which is much needed with the very chilly spells we’ve been having lately, and I have almost finished a second one for a friend. I rarely knit in super-chunky, and it is great to see a project come together so quickly. If only losing weight more quickly was simply a question of picking a thicker yarn!

In many ways all this feels a lot like FWP – First World Problems, or at least First World Preoccupations. I didn’t intend to get political on this blog at all, but this has been the first week of Trump’s presidency, and marked by exactly what I expected (dreaded) having heard rather too much of his despicable rhetoric and lies. I can’t let it go unremarked. I’ve donated to a couple of organisations in the US that I think will need all the help they can get to fight his particularly nasty brand of politics, American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, and here’s why:

By an executive order this week, Trump revived a ban on US foreign aid to organisations that discuss abortion as a family planning option or campaign for abortion rights. There is already a ban on US tax dollars going to overseas clinics that provide abortions, but this extends it to funding to nongovernmental organisations if they offer abortion counseling or if they advocate the right to seek abortion in their countries. That means fewer people campaigning for the right to abortions for women who are raped (a common tactic of warfare in some parts of the world) and become pregnant as a result. That means closed clinics for all sorts of contraception, and higher rates of unwanted pregnancies, in countries where decent healthcare is already hard to come by for many people, and the death rate in pregnancy and child mortality rates are much higher than they ought to be. But on top of that, it also drives the sort of outcomes that Trump and his ilk claim to be trying to avoid: more abortions. A study of 20 sub-Saharan African countries by Stanford University researchers found that in countries that relied heavily on funding from the United States for reproductive health services, abortion rates rose when the policy was in place.

As for the ACLU, they have got off to a flying start … this week, they and others challenged Trump’s executive order banning nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the USA. The ACLU  won a stay from a federal court on behalf of Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had been detained at JFK airport. He had been working as an interpreter for the US armed forces in Iraq, and accord to one platoon leader had saved countless US service members’ lives. Just the sort of person you would want in your country and on your side if you were a patriotic US citizen, you’d think. Not Trump. But thanks to the ACLU, for now, he’s not going anywhere.



Pic courtesy of Chris D 2006 on Flickr

I weighed in yesterday; my first full week since the 5-day Phase 1 starting point. I’ve lost five pounds, making a total of a stone in 12 days. I’m very happy about that. I’ve been coping okay with the plan so far. I’m feeling well most of the time, but if I delay eating when I am hungry, I do notice I feel a little light-headed. On the plus side, I am thinking about food a lot less in between meals. There’s still a lot of thought and planning (and chopping!) that has to go into this, but when I’m not doing that, I am not thinking about food very often, which I take to be a healthy sign.

We are keeping up the Phase 1 stage for a bit longer – how long remains to be seen – but Andrew is having the occasional splash of milk in his tea, and we are eating two squares of 85% dark chocolate each in the evening. That’s my only treat. Andrew is still eating up the last of the festive leftovers and stuff that was in the cupboard and doesn’t fit with the Harcombe Diet. He’s lost three pounds, which is excellent.

I have spent a lot of time on THD since we started, and my knitting has taken the hit. I barely did any for the last fortnight. Yesterday, I finally got round to finishing a dog jacket for my bro, SIL and nephew’s dog, Holly, who is a little sweetheart. I worked from the measurements they gave me and a pattern that says it can generate the perfect fit from those dimensions, but I am still nervous about whether it will fit her. We shall see …

I’ve also sorted out what the next few projects are to be … two secret projects for gifts, and a shawl for me, blatantly copied from something I saw an indie dyer doing at Yarnporium in London last year (huge fun!). It was her yarn she was using, so I bought the same two colours, and I’m hoping to cast on this afternoon, once I am finished with the cooking. In the kitchen today … bolognese sauce and chicken stock, to make chicken, bacon and leek soup later. Yum!


After a five year break … what have I been up to?

The usual … trying meal replacements, calorie-counting and Weightwatchers … sticking to it for a bit and losing some weight … falling off the wagon and putting it back on again, plus more. A well-trodden path for many, I know. I’ve struggled with overload/other rubbish at work, and the usual worries and tribulations of life, including bereavement and serious illness in the family, all of which have badly impacted on my willpower, too. End result? I saw in 2017 the heaviest I have ever been, with inevitable impacts on my health and self esteem. My negative test for diabetes just before Christmas was a wake-up call. A bullet dodged for now, but without serious changes, not one to be dodged much longer, I dare say.

On the bright side, I have found huge pleasure in taking up knitting, and developing my skills with the help of talented friends and acquaintances in real life and on Ravelry. I have acquired a yarn stash that I love and that I could happily knit from for life (it’s my retirement fund!), and found great enjoyment from meeting indie dyers and designers at various yarn festivals and a knitting retreat. More from me of those as they happen during the year, starting with Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March. For now, it’s the healthy eating story on which I want to embark …

I started by taking advice from someone I trust to know what they are doing around diet, nutrition and health, and who has a real focus on what has been scientifically established. At his suggestion, I have been looking into The Harcombe Diet, and today I finished Phase 1. It was essentially five days of abstention from a lot of what I ate for the last year or so. No processed foods, sugar, dairy, fruit or wheat. Plenty of lean protein, eggs and vegetables, butter or olive oil for cooking, and a small amount of brown rice (up to 50g per day). Oddly, the hardest thing was giving up the milk and sweeteners in my tea and coffee. I’ve been playing around with fruit teas, with some success, but nothing’s matched a nice cup of tea. I can tell that I am weaning myself from sweeter tasting things, though, and that’s a good development.

I was lucky; I didn’t find Phase 1 that hard. I had moments of feeling light-headed, and I was quite often hungry between meals, but I didn’t suffer too badly from loss of energy in the early part. By the end of the week, though, I was exhausted, partly because there’s more preparation required. That’s in the planning and shopping sense; I had already been preparing quite a bit from scratch, so that wasn’t a huge change. However, I have had to cut out a lot of ingredients and think harder about what to use instead. I also haven’t been able to rely on processed ingredients to speed along the meal prep. The one thing that undoubtedly made it easier for me was that I cut out caffeine over a year ago, after my GP advised that it might be contributing to my migraines. Not having to go through caffeine withdrawal as a Harcombe newbie certainly made the last five days go more smoothly, I am sure.

And how has it gone for my weight? The number at the top tells you, if you view it as a number rather than an awesome photo of a staircase, which appealed as a metaphor for my journey, both up and down. You can choose to turn round and head back up, even if, or especially if, you’ve gone down as far as you can. So it’s nine pounds lost in five days. A really good result, and I am very pleased. I’ll weigh myself again on Monday to see what I have lost in the first week. I plan to stay on Phase 1 for a bit longer, as recommended when you have plenty to lose, and I hope I will keep up the blogging, too, if only so I have a record of the highs and lows to look back on.

Thanks for reading … see you soon.

Mouse @ Flickr

I stayed the same this week. I’m happy with that, because I lost 4 last week. I got Slimmer of the Month, for a total of 11.5 lb in March, and I’m very pleased about that. :-)

This week in group we talked about our attitudes to ‘food optimising’, which is what SW calls the plan, and whether we were doing all we could to focus on weight loss. The plan allows you to eat as much as you like of certain foods, and the risk/temptation is that one keeps hold of eating habits from before. Eating for comfort, to reward myself or others, or simply through boredom are the sorts of behaviours that got me into this situation, and SW doesn’t remove them from reach as long as I change the foods I use to those ends. However, that will only get me so far; to achieve and sustain weight loss, I need to work on the default ways of thinking, and tackle some practical issues like portion control and snacking.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the science behind both willpower and happiness, and the two feed into healthy eating in the ways I expected. The unexpected thing (for me) about both strands is that it is possible to work on both with some fairly simple techniques. I may post about both at some stage, once I have had a chance to read more, and digest some of it better. In the meantime, I leave you with an observation: I use food-related words quite a lot, even when I am not talking about food – ‘digest’, ‘feed into’ – is it just me? :-)

Goingslo @ flickr

I love my sleep, and can get a bit twitchy when I don’t get a good eight hours. Ask my OH. :-) It seems, though, that I’m doing it wrong. I ought to be sleeping for four hours, getting up in the early morning for an hour or two, then going back to sleep for another four hours.

In the 1990s, Thomas Wehr, a psychiatrist, experimented with making subjects experience 14 hours of darkness every day for a month. His research, published in 1992, showed that, after adjusting, they fell into bi-modal sleep quite naturally.

This type of sleep pattern was commonplace until the 17th century, apparently, but has receded completely from our collective social memory. At about the same time as references to segmented sleep start disappearing, sleep maintenance insomnia starts to appear. That’s where you sleep, wake and have trouble getting back to sleep again. If we once again recognised first and second sleeps as normal, perhaps those who can’t get back to sleep would feel less anxious about it?

(c) Feversham Lens

After the BBC published their article, people who sleep like this wrote in with their accounts of what they do in their waking section. They watch TV, eat, pray, draw, do yoga, or just lie and look forward to their next dream. My OH, whilst not a segmented-sleeper or a regular night owl, has been out and about in the early hours, grabbing some night photos, and I think this is one of the best shots he’s taken. :-)

L. Marie @ flickr

Last week I forgot to blog about weigh-in – a very creditable two pounds off. This week, I lost four. I haven’t done anything different this week, although I have stuck to the plan. I’ve had a very busy week at work, so maybe I have been burning nervous energy. :-)

A work colleague has just started Lighter Life, and she’s lost nine pounds in her first week. I’m really pleased for her – is it wrong that it’s tinged with a little jealousy, too? Not that I envy her the all-liquid diet in week one, and not much else for the rest of the time. I suppose I just feel a bit like a tortoise next to her hare. :-) I am pretty sure that, despite the faster losses, the meal replacement route wouldn’t work for me. I need to be on a plan that makes me get into a routine of eating sensibly, and embedding it. I’ve lost loads and put it on again, so I know it’s hard to stick to even when you are in the habit of healthy eating. I have no idea how I’d manage if I hadn’t had the chance to practice it all the time I was losing.

L. Marie @ flickr

By the way, the pic this week comes from a series taken of a dismantled Nixie tube. I picked the photo because it’s very stylish, without recognising the name of the thing it came from. Out of curiosity, I followed the link on L. Marie’s flickr page to find out. Once you see the photo of the four in its original setting, then of course you recognise it. This is nowhere near any of my usual fields of interest, but I did enjoy reading about it. :-)

An interesting article on research being done in the US to improve the identification of suspects in police id procedures.

Identification is notoriously difficult, and has frequently been proved wrong by other decisive evidence, such as DNA. Human beings are just not that good at picking the person we saw commit a crime, or even at recognising people we know. How many times have you seen a person walking down the street, and thought it was someone you knew really well, only to discover on closer checking that it was not them? That kind of “fleeting glimpse” identification is the most dangerous.

There’s a Code of Practice for police as to when and how to carry out identification procedures, backed up by a whole body of criminal case law. Many police forces here use VIPER, which shows a series of images on DVD – stills or videos – and asks the witness to pick the person. The possible choices are shown sequentially, but the witness does not have to make a decision about whether they are or are not the right one before moving on to the next. That appears to be the big difference between VIPER and the system Gary Wells has designed. Also, Gary Wells’ process is significantly different, it seems, from usual practice in the US, which appears to be to show the selection simultaneously in an array.

I don’t know what the data is for successful identifications from VIPER procedures, and it’s harder to assess outside the lab, of course, when you may not know who the real culprit is. The stats from Wells’ research are described in Ben Paynter’s article: “Overall, simultaneous and sequential methods proved equally (if not highly) effective. Witnesses to real crimes picked the prime suspect 26 and 27 percent of the time, respectively. That difference isn’t statistically significant. For Wells, it’s the first indication that there actually might not be any downside to the sequential method: If the suspect is there, witnesses will pick him or her out, no matter which lineup procedure gets used. Even better, while witnesses viewing simultaneous lineups chose fillers 42 percent of the time, witnesses viewing sequential lineups picked fillers only 31 percent of the time. In other words, witnesses shown sequential lineups are 25 percent less likely to rationalize their way into bad choices.”

From the always-interesting Mind Hacks (and they got it from overlawyered.com):

In 1995, New Mexico state senator Duncan Scott introduced a legislative amendment providing that:

When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong…

The amendment, which was intended satirically, was passed unanimously but removed from the bill before it became law.

If you want to know more, there’s a good post by Karen Franklin Ph.D. here expanding on the story.

BLOOM by Anna Schuleit. White Tulips

In 2003, the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC) was to be demolished, after 9 decades in operation. As a memorial, artist Anna Schuleit was invited to create an artwork, and chose this incredibly vibrant installation, entitled “Bloom”.

BLOOM by Anna Schuleit. Blue Hallway

In an interesting interview (with some great photos) on Colossal, she talks about the project: “Twenty-eight thousand flowers arrived on trucks in the span of a few days, all needing to be watered as they came in, all having to be placed in the building, unwrapped, arranged, watered again. I had a team of about eighty volunteers to help me with this, all spontaneous helpers”

BLOOM by Anna Schuleit. Orange Tulips

“After four public days of Bloom, the building was closed for good and we delivered all twenty-eight thousand flowers to shelters, half-way houses, and psychiatric hospitals throughout New England … Bloom was a reflection on the healing symbolism of flowers given to the sick when they are bedridden and confined to hospital settings … Here, patients receive few, if any, flowers during their stay. Bloom was created to address this absence, in the spirit of offering and transition.”

There are more photos here and more info here.

(c) My OH :-)

This is a really easy and delicious dessert, and it’s SW-friendly. :-)

Take two nectarines per person. The riper they are, the easier they are to de-stone, but make sure they’re not too ripe, or they’ll just collapse. I find the easiest way to remove the stone is to run my knife from the stalk all the way round, then twist gently to separate the two halves. Take out the stone, and use a teaspoon to scrape away any remaining fibrous bits.

Bring a griddle or frying pan to a medium heat on the hob, and spray with Frylight. Place the nectarine halves cut side down in the pan, and leave to soften and caramelise. This takes about ten minutes or so. Keep moving them every so often to make sure they don’t stick.

I serve these with yoghurt. My OH likes the full fat Greek yoghurt with honey, which does work very well with the fruit, but I go for Total 0% and add some sweetener. You can sprinkle over some cinnamon, which is lovely, but I’m going through a phase of having them with crushed green cardamom seeds.Yummy! :-)

This is equally good made with peaches or plums, and I guess you could use apricots, although I’ve not tried those.

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2012 by Eau de Nil. Please do not use my original text, recipes or photos without obtaining my permission in advance. Many thanks.

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