My fat year: Back in the 7lb club

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“Reprise”

Just 2 weeks into the new year with Slimming World, and I’m back in the half-a-stone (7lb) club!

Actually, it’s 7½lb, and I’m only 1¾lb away from dropping into the next stone-zone. I’m also only point-two away from dropping into the next BMI.

This isn’t quite the weight I was before Christmas, but even that is only a pound away. And we’ve not really been very strict either.

Cutting out processed food and cutting down on added sugar and added salt to cooking seems to be doing the trick. I’m also eating less bread.

The poet had an annual check-up at the doctor’s on Friday. He’s not very well, sinus-wise, but the rest of him is apparently doing brilliantly.

His weight is down, his blood pressure is “normal”, his cholesterol is three-point-something – down from six-point-something – and his blood sugar is “low-normal” compared to “borderline” just a year ago.

The nurse said to just carry on doing whatever it is he’s doing.

I haven’t had my annual check-up yet, I don’t think I’m due. But last time my blood pressure was “normal” (it always is), my blood sugar was “normal”, and my own cholesterol was “slightly down”. Hopefully by the time I’m due, I’ll get the same kind of news.

So, whatever it is that we’re doing, it’s working. So we’ll carry on carrying on.

My fat year: New Year with Slimming World

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“Neigh-up!” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

And so I was doing really, really well, earning my first half-stone (7lb) badge from  Slimming World, and then … well, Christmas happened, didn’t it?

I’m not complaining really, though. I’ve often believed that weight-loss should not be all-consuming, that life happens, and that you can be far too anal about certain things. And, after all, Christmas really is only a week out of fifty-two. Plus, a lot of people put weight on over the holiday period, and then they lose it again.

I put on 7lb. Half a stone. In just two days (yes, really), my weight went up by 7lb. But within only days it was back down again by 4½lb. So as I re-start the slimming year today, I’m only 2½lb heavier that I was before the festivities.

I would have started last week, and I’m not averse to starting on a Tuesday either. But we did have a lot of sickness in the house over the past four weeks and, to be honest, slimming was the last thing on our minds. And anyway, there was all this chocolate and cake to finish – and mince pies and puddings and crackers and …

We did make a half-hearted attempt to get back on the wagon on bank holiday Monday last week with a trip to Whitby. But by the time we’d battled traffic, we didn’t have time for even a meagre 2½ mile 2-hour walk. But we did walk 2¼ miles around the town when we finally got there.

However, right now, we’re both much better health-wise than we were, and on Saturday we did make it on a different planned walk, one that’s only 1½ miles, but a good, easy starter all the same. And it was a walk I’d already done on my own a few years ago, so I knew it would break us in gently.

There’s still an 8-portion Christmas pudding in the cupboard, and we were going to have that for tea for the next four days. But as I’m back on the wagon today, I calculated the syn-value™ and decided that 18 syns for just one pudding portion was simply too much. (My maximum is 15 syns per day.) The pudding has a good date on it (March 2018), so maybe we’ll save it for Christmas 2017.

So I’ve made some sugar-free jellies with fresh strawberries in the bottom instead, and we’ll be having baked salmon. With a teaspoon of low-fat spread on my potatoes, this will bring my total syns for the day to 3½, leaving me plenty for if I feel like a little snack later.

I have a pint glass filled with icy cold water on my desk, and the next walk should be on Saturday, either 2 miles (in Rievaulx), or one of the 2.1 miles a bit closer to home.

The chap in the picture was snapped on our Whitby walk last week. Do say “Ey up!” back! 🙂

Day out: Whitby

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Whitby Harbour (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We were supposed to be going for a walk on New Year bank holiday Monday, only a short one, around 2½ miles. But there was a LOT of traffic on the way, with traffic on the A64 just starting to build up on the opposite side of the road to us.

By the time we got to Whitby, found a parking space in the marina car park, and then wasted 30 minutes or more queuing at the car park meter and then trying to get it to work, the light was already going. (The meter wasn’t letting anyone use their payment cards, including us, and we were going to pay by phone until a kind soul with a pocketful of change came to our rescue with five pound coins in exchange for a fiver.)

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

When we started out, it was a gloriously sunny day. By the time we arrived, we could see the rain clouds creeping in from the sea. And the town was already very, VERY busy. It was past lunchtime and I was starving.

So before we could even reach the start of our walk, we also had to eat – and the first restaurant is already half a mile from where we ended up parking.

Suitably sated, we strolled through the town to the beginning of our walk, the 199 steps up to the abbey. On the way the poet was able to try out his new camera and his new lens.

The dog was very well-behaved, considering the amount of pedestrians that were out in force. He was more than happy to let “all these people who had come to see him” fuss and stroke him. And he “helped” me up those 199 steps.

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199 steps (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We posed on the first stage with the sea behind us while the poet took a picture (not here, but it will be on FB when his picture is ready too), and I had to keep the dog on a tight lead in case he fell to the ground beneath us – it must be a fifteen-foot drop from that first “landing”.

At the top we had a breather while the poet wandered around taking more pictures. Then we made an attempt on the rest of the 2½-mile walk, having already completed a mile before we started.

The guide book we have is an older one and when we couldn’t find the path alongside the “last farm building on the left” to the Cleveland Way, we changed tack anyway. (The path that is indeed alongside the “last farm building on the left” has a shiny new “private” sign on it, so we’ll take a look at the OS map and see if it’s still a right of way before attempting it again.)

Because the clouds were rolling in now with a vengeance, we knew there wouldn’t be very much more “good” light for the photography. Plus, the traffic jam had meant that we were, and would continue to be if it was the same on the way home, a long time away from the house.

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Whitby Harbour (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We wanted to get back to the chickens before the fox got there, and while they’re very good now at taking themselves to bed once it’s turned dark, we still need to close the door to keep the fox out.

So at the English Heritage car park for the abbey, we decided to head back to the car via Caedmon’s Trod. This is an easier staircase and it meant we wouldn’t be re-tracing to many steps.

I felt a bit over-dressed in all my walking gear and with a rucksack containing water for us and the dog if all we were doing was a short town walk. But at least we were warm.

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Whitby Abbey (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

As we walked around the other side of the abbey, the clouds did indeed pile in around us, and all of a sudden it was as dark as night. The banner picture below was taken seconds before the picture on the left.

The English Heritage visitor centre was closed yet the abbey grounds were packed – English Heritage missed a trick there, although I’ve heard of other English Heritage properties that were closed despite being advertised as open over the New Year weekend. (Whitby Abbey wasn’t advertised as being open, by the way, but other closed properties apparently were.)

The first part of Caedmon’s Trod from above is just a footpath, but it does join the steps before coming out in the town. There are some horses in a field halfway down, but the light had already gone for pictures of these to be any good.

On our way home we headed via Thirsk as the A64 was still very blocked, and there had been an accident on the A1(M). It took just as long to get home as it did to get there – but the chickens were fine. Next time we go we’ll leave the house even earlier in a bit to avoid this common problem. And next time, it will be the walk.

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Whitby Abbey (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

My fat year: Week 4 with Slimming World

0-5It’s been a much better week with Slimming World. The shopping is catching up with the menu plans and I’m getting used to not eating between meals. I’m also calculating what I can and can’t have in my head now, and just confirming it on the online diary.

We’ve been adapting favourite recipes to suit and adding more to the poet’s repertoire. We have a book called The Classic 1,000 Low Fat Recipes and many of our favourites start there. Another favourite is the Weight Watchers Time To Eat cookbook.

He made a Weight Watchers toad in the hole at the start of the week (it has vegetables in it as well), and when he went on a work’s do on Friday, I had the final portion for my tea. That left me feeling a bit hungry and I did pig-out on not one but TWO Belgian buns.

Yesterday I went bust too, but I’m not fretting over that too much as I know we’re still eating quite well (apart from the Belgian buns …).

We’re having a varied diet too, including fish at least twice a week, and at least one of those being oily fish. Last week we had plaice and salmon. This week we have salmon and cod. We’re also eating a wider variety of vegetables, but that’s not likely to increase any more as I’m a proper finick when it comes to vegetables.

We made SW steak & kidney pies yesterday and we mashed the potato with fat-free natural fromage frais … and we were surprised when we liked it too (the mash, not the pie – we knew we’d love the pie). For pudding I made “apricot cut-and-come-again cake” from the classic low-fat recipe book, and while this came in quite high (6½ syns per ninth and part of why I went bust yesterday), we know it’s still a nice, healthy pudding.

So today I weighed in, and I’m 7½lb lighter than when I started. Not only have I met my first personal target, I’ve also been awarded my first badge. Next personal target: to drop into the next stone zone.

Wish me luck!

My fat year: Week 3 with Slimming World

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

We still don’t have any new photographs – we really ought to get out more! But here’s another one I’ve already used this year.

My third week with Slimming World has been difficult.

The week started okay, but on Wednesday the poet cooked a SW Mexican chilli. Now, I’m not a huge spicy food lover, but I don’t mind the odd chilli con carne. But when I make it I use haricot or baked beans or, occasionally, kidney beans. This time I accidentally picked up a tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce. The recipe also included lots of chilli, and coriander. It was hot and spicy and I hated the coriander.

As a result, the poet got an extra portion of the chilli, plus he gets two more portions to take to work and heat up in the microwave. But the net result Wednesday evening was that, after only a portion of rice for tea, I was hungry. And so I grazed.

On Thursday, we went shopping, and I was hungry again … and so I grazed again …

On Friday, by teatime, I was starving. I’d had a ham salad earlier and saved my daily “healthy extra” allowance of 2 slices of home-made bread for tea, as we were having steak, chips and mushy peas and I was looking forward to a couple of chip butties … but when the poet came to make the chips, there weren’t any chipping potatoes!

I’d been looking forward to that chip butty all day, and as boiled baby potatoes just aren’t the same as chips, I consoled myself with one of my slices of bread with home-made apple jam on (half a syn for the jam, half a syn for the spread).

And then I grazed some more.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I stepped on the scales on Saturday (to see what damage I’d incurred so far), and I’d LOST another 2lb. How could this happen? The scales were broken, obviously.

The poet checked his weight too and nope, the scales weren’t broken. And the weight was still the same on Sunday morning when I checked – you know, just to make sure the scales were actually broken – but my weight was the same, although I had behaved myself on Saturday. We went out Saturday night and, as I was driving, I had Diet Coke to drink. The poet had lager. It was his band’s “Christmas gig” and it was my turn to drive. And on Sunday morning … he’d gained 2lb, but my weight was still the same.

Yesterday wasn’t great, in the slimming scheme of things. We didn’t have time to make a syn-free pasta salad to take with us, so we each selected from the salad bar at Morrison’s when we got to Birmingham. But I really, really fancied a gingerbread man, and the poet convinced me that if I didn’t have him, then I’d feel cheated. So we bought a gingerbread man, and I worked out the syn value … 14 syns! Oh dear! BUT, if I was going to go bust, then I may as well make the most of it. And I went bust quite spectacularly in the end. Well, by around 7 or 8 syns.

Fearing the worst this morning, I stepped on the scales again … and I’d lost again! This meant I’d lost 3lb in the past week, despite the grazing. I have no idea how that happened, other than the grazing I’ve been doing has been syn-free or low-syn.

And, of course, it means that in only 3 weeks with Slimming World, I’ve lost a very respectable 6½lb. I only have ½lb to hit my first target of half a stone (7lb).

Perhaps I should have “difficult weeks” more often!

Hentastic!

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Hmm, it’s nice and cosy in here … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Last Saturday we drove half-an-hour to Letwell, just on the other side of Rotherham, to collect 6 new additions to the family.

The British Hen Welfare Trust rescues around 50,000 hens a year and around 300 of them were coming to South Yorkshire. These are caged hens coming to the end of their commercial viability who would otherwise be heading for slaughter.

We’d already decided we wanted some chickens, and if we could rescue any, all the better. So we researched it and we bought a small hen house (houses up to 12 chickens).

We live on a free-range farm that has had chickens previously, so we knew that so long as we keep them safe from foxes, they’d hopefully enjoy a long and happy life with us.

The house was sited in a sheltered part of the front garden, with the stable to one side, a hill behind, a big tree overhead and a shed on the other side (soon to include a greenhouse). We’re gated in and there is fencing all around, mostly to contain the dog.

There are only 2 chickens left on the main farm at the moment, thanks to the fox. But there are 5 guinea fowl, 4 peacocks, 3 geese, 2 horses, a few hundred sheep and some cows.

Living in the countryside immediately around us are pheasants, badgers, woodpeckers, mallards, owls, kingfishers.

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Diane tries to encourage them out with a handful of grub … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We have a fast-running section of the River Don where the poet goes fly-fishing. And ramblers regularly use the public footpaths that cut through the land. It really is idyllic.

And so we thought the chickens would settle in nicely and enjoy their new surroundings.

We found an animal feed specialist just down the road where we can not only get our chicken supplies from, but the garden bird food is considerably cheaper too. So we have chicken food, chicken grit, straw, sawdust, a feeder, a water hopper. The extra we’re spending on the chicken supplies, we’re more than saving on the garden bird food.

On the first day, Saturday, we just got the girls home and settled them into the hen house, where we left them overnight. Monkey Dust had a gig on the evening, so we just had to make sure the house was secure in case a fox wandered by while we were out.

They were still all present and correct (and safe!) when we got home. 🙂

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Egg no 6 on day no 1 … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Sunday morning, still in his dressing gown, the poet went out to see them. They’d laid 5 eggs, which we were very happy about. We didn’t really get them for the eggs, we got them to rescue them. But the occasional egg is a nice thank-you gift from them.

When I got up, we went out and we let them out for the first time. They were nervous and cautious and not at all sure what to do. So we encouraged them outside in the sunshine. And that was when I found the sixth egg.

The peacocks, the guinea fowl and “Madge”, one of the farm chickens, came up to have a look at what was going on, and to scrounge the bit of food we scattered on the ground. At first they tried to bully the new arrivals, and we decided not to put food outside again until the new chickens have properly settled in.

By day 2, by the way, the biggest of our chickens was giving as much as she got with the other birds and making sure they all knew which was her territory. They still try to bully them, but if I come out or if our “big” chicken sees them, they start to back off again.

We didn’t leave them out for very long on Sunday as it was new to them and we also want them to get used to going into the house at night.

When we go camping in the summer at weekends, we will have a fox-proof enclosure up – that’s next Easter’s bank holiday weekend project. But for as long as we’re home and can shut them in at night, that’s not really a priority.

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Hmm … it *does* look sunny out there … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

As the week progressed, laying went down to just 2 eggs a day, with a possible third being eaten by them for the shell. Today, for the first time since last Sunday, we had 3 eggs. And tomorrow they get their first clean-out.

They’re all settling in very well, exploring their new surroundings, establishing a pecking order. And by yesterday (Friday), they were running to me every time they saw me, pecking at my wellies, and mostly going into their house at night by themselves.

Just now when I went out to see them, at noon, one of them pecked at the empty water dish and then glared at me. Then she waited while I went to clean and re-fill the water hopper, having a massive drink when I put it back. Naughty Diane!

One bird in particular is straight out of the coop as soon as we open it, with another 2 following soon after. Two more tend to take their time and one of them definitely prefers to stay indoors. We’re calling that one Aggie the Agoraphobic.

We also have one that is very, very bald, and while I call her Baldy when I’m talking about her, to her face, or when she can hear, she’s Gail. We also have a Lara Croft – she’s the adventurous one.

We hope their feathers will grow again and that their plumage improves, and we will continue to be grateful for every egg they leave for us. I hope you enjoyed the pictures – perhaps as we take more, we’ll all see an improvement. They’re already looking chubbier.

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… nearly … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

If you are able to rescue any chickens, the BHWT have collections all over the country.

Our chickens came from a farm in Chesterfield, and the re-homing centre we collected them from rescued around 250 chickens that day, and over 2,500 chickens in the time they’ve been volunteering.

You have to register first and then, if there isn’t a waiting list, you could be collecting your first chickens within days. We bought our hen house from Egg Shell Online, but you can do an online search or the BHWT will point you in the right direction. They’re not the only re-homing charity in the country, either. So do your research and find the right fit for you.

We made a donation of £5 per bird, but this is completely down to the discretion of the re-homer(s). Other charities ask for a donation of just £1 per bird, but again, I think it really is up to you.

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Yay! Chicken no 1 meets one of the guinea fowl. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

My fat year: Week 2 with Slimming World

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

We don’t have any new pictures to share at the moment, so I’m going to use an old one instead. (I know there are pictures on the camera too, but they haven’t been processed yet …)

After my second week with Slimming World, I’ve lost another ½lb. That brings the total so far to 3½lb.

I’m getting confused, though. For example, I thought that fruit was “free”, but it isn’t if it’s tinned or dried. So when I add a tin of strawberries to a sugar-free jelly, it’s exactly the same as having a piece of Swiss roll. If I have just 2 dates, it’s exactly the same as having a bag of skinny popcorn or a square of Green & Black’s Thin milk chocolate – salted caramel. And even if you stew apples with granulated sweetener you have to count them.

This is rubbish, as I really did think that all fruit, unless candied or steeped in sugar, was free.

Saying that, though, I *am* selecting one or two pieces of real fresh fruit for a snack if I’m feeling peckish and that does do the trick a lot of the time.

We had a nice dinner yesterday. It was supposed to be “fennel infused” chicken but we couldn’t get any fennel bulbs so used chestnut mushrooms instead. The whole dish was very aromatic as there were heaps of fresh herbs used. I often don’t like the sharp, bitter taste some herbs can leave on food. But yesterday’s chicken was very nice and we still have the meat for sandwiches.

I’ve spoken to SW about the home-made bread and they’ve said to treat it exactly the same as ordinary bread. I’ve not yet found a good Syn™ calculator, though. At least Weight Watchers tell you how to work out the points in food, and other websites allow you to input the recipe to their site

At Slimming World you have to send them the recipe to work out for you, and when you’re trying to decide what to cook for a nice, slimming pudding, waiting to send a recipe off and then waiting to get the results back doesn’t really work as dinner will have gone cold by then …

And another thing … the recipes at SW are delicious, but there isn’t a facility to just “add” that meal to your day’s food diary. You have to go in and “add your own” and then save it to your favourites. This is fine, but it would be just so much easier to simply add the syn-value to your diary, as I’m sure other diets allow that.

So the grumbles continue, but at least the weight is going in the right direction.

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