Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I think I fed my spirit pretty well with this sketch—and not a calorie ingested . . .
I admit I used to be very afraid of butter. I have always preferred butter to other ‘low fat’ alternatives but I am also a child of the ‘fat is bad’ generation (and have been varying-degrees-of-overweight most of my adult life) so butter has always felt taboo for me. Well, I am here to tell you my friends—I am a bone fide convert. Staunch advocates of low-fat eating had best look away now!!
Until recently I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had a packet of butter in my house. Seriously. No idea. However, a month ago I began a new eating plan (just as all the yummy treats are starting to appear for the festive season—way to go Sal!) and quite suddenly, and very unexpectedly, I found all my previous ingrained beliefs about food and dieting (and full fat versus low fat) started to crumble around me. Butter has become my new best friend.
I admit when I came across the dietdoctor.com website my first thought was—‘I wonder what they’re trying to sell?’ Imagine my surprise then to find that they didn’t appear to be trying to sell me anything at all, except perhaps a different way of looking at the food I eat. There were no advertisements, no product placements and they even stated that they accepted no industry money for their research either. So far so good. It turned out that the site was run by an international team of doctors, clinicians and research scientists whose whole concern seemed to be an attempt to address the staggering rise of obesity, diabetes and heart disease rates all around the world today.
The more I read, the more interested I became . . .
I had heard about low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) diets before (wasn’t that what Atkins was all about?) but I had never tried one. (I’d tried virtually everything else but not that.) I was highly skeptical. (How could high fat food possibly be good for me? It goes against everything I have ever been taught.) But I like to think I have an open mind (about most things at least) so I read everything on the site and I watched all the videos, and the more I read and the more I watched the harder it became to come up with excuses not to try it. It all seemed to make perfect sense to me. Could everything I thought I knew about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food be so completely wrong?
Anyway, long story short, I decided I needed to give it a go. I am not diabetic, nor on any medication and I didn’t have a lot of weight to lose but the possible health implications of continuing to eat the way I was eating were enough to give me pause. I decided to give myself over to the LCHF eating plan (full on, no cheating!) for one month to see what would happen. No sugar, no grains, no fruit. This was going to be interesting.
The first week was by far the hardest. Everything they said might happen, did. I had a searing headache for the first three days. I had heart palpitations. My muscles ached. I had waves of nauseating hunger (don’t look at the lolly jar—don’t look at the lolly jar!) and I almost had an anxiety attack the first time I fried my hamburger in a pan swimming in butter! But I persevered and then, towards the end of that first week, I started to realise I actually felt pretty good. I was no longer getting hungry between meals. I was sleeping better. I wasn’t missing the bread, or the fruit, or the sugar at all, and all the butter (and cheese . . . and cream . . . ) I was eating was actually really delicious . . .
Suffice to say, a month later I feel great. Not only am I actually enjoying my food more (my girls are beside themselves with all the lovely smells that come out of the kitchen these days—yes folks, Sally has actually been cooking!) I am eating plenty of it—and Bonus!—I have also dropped nearly 6 kilos by doing it. The proof is in the pudding (or lack of it). I am a believer.
But you shouldn’t take my word for it. If anyone out there is interested in losing weight, or is diabetic (or pre-diabetic) this is a great site for information if nothing else. All I urge is that you go onto the site with an open mind. And here’s a small tip—there is a huge amount of free information on the site, but there’s even more information on the member pages (videos, films, presentations, etc). Membership is only $9.00 a month, but you also get your first month free. So sign up, read and watch everything on the member pages and if you still believe the whole concept is bat-crap crazy you can pull out before your first membership fee is due and the experience will have cost you nothing.
Go on. I dare you. www.dietdoctor.com. What have you got to lose?
It’s a hard life being a dog. Or, to clarify, it’s a hard life being a dog in my household. My three little girls are fed, watered, washed, brushed, walked, played with, fussed over and loved to within an inch of their lives on a daily basis, and frankly (but don’t tell them this) I wouldn’t have it any other way. But sometimes, just sometimes, I do feel they can be a tiny bit inclined to take advantage of my good nature . . .
Anyone who has ever raised a dog knows that dogs like their routines. Routines are comforting. Routines are safe. Dogs like to know what to expect and when to expect it. (An early morning walk, breakfast, mum goes to work, sleep, mum comes home, ten minutes of over-the-top silliness followed by an afternoon walk and play at the park, dinner, and then more sleep. Perfect.) Of course, day to day (human) life means it is not always possible (even if we wished it) to do exactly the same thing at exactly the same time every single day but even so we usually manage to rock along at a fairly steady momentum at my place. So you would think, wouldn’t you, that my girls might allow me just a little bit of slack on the odd occasion when something goes a tiny bit awry . . .
There they were, all sitting in a row patiently awaiting their breakfast (well,okay—Molly was squeaking under her breath and stamping her feet but that’s about as patient as she gets) and I went to the freezer and . . . oh-oh . . . no chicken necks. Sigh. I knew right away I was in trouble.
Okay then. Deep breath. Smiling brightly and looking down at their eager little faces—”So girls. Why don’t we try something different for breakfast today? Who’d like a ‘lolly’ instead?” (Lollies are in fact doggie-chicken-sticks and I am usually all but knocked over in the rush when I offer them as a treat.)
I was met with blank stares.
“Come on! You love lollies. Here Molly, you have this one.” (There was method in my madness. Molly can always be relied upon to never turn down food of any description. She’s rotund, but she knows she’s fabulous so she cares not a whit.) Sure enough she took the proffered treat and disappeared into her basket. Two more to go . . .
“Here Maudie, you have one too.” Maudie obediently took the lolly from me . . . and then very carefully laid it at her feet. She gazed back up at me.
“Mabel?” Mabel sniffed the end of her chicken stick daintily and then turned her head disdainfully away.
And then Molly reappeared, “Hey mum, that was great. Thanks for the lolly. Now where’s my chicken neck?” Sigh.
Now I love my dogs dearly and fully acknowledge they run my life, but I was also not about to make an early morning, pre-work dash to supermarket to buy them chicken necks when there was a perfectly delicious alternative being offered. I stood my ground. (Buddy Hackett’s mom would have been proud.) But—wow. Those eyes. Three sets of what-have-we-done-wrong-and-why-won’t-you feed-us eyes watched every morsel of my own breakfast disappear into my mouth. They followed me silently into the bathroom and watched me brush my teeth and they continued to watch from the bed as I dressed for work. Not a grumble, not a whimper, not a sigh was uttered. Just those eyes. You’d think after decades of owning dogs I’d be immune but—nope. I got out of the house as quickly as I could . . .
Needless to say, by the time I got home all was forgiven. I was met at the gate by the usual over-excited onslaught and then we went to the park to play. When it was time for dinner I had a brainwave—“Hey, what say you all have chicken necks for dinner (well of course I picked some up on the way home) because you didn’t get one for breakfast?”
I swear I saw their faces fall. Does that mean we’re not going to get our regular dinner . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
Why is it, do you think, that the moment I decide—and I am talking the instant the decision is made—that I am (absolutely, definitely, starting right now) going to lose those extra couple of kilos which have somehow sneakily (re)appeared on my already ample backside since this time last year . . . that, suddenly, inexorably, all I can manage to think about is what I am going to eat next . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I love bread. In fact, I never really met a bread I didn’t like—brown, white, rye, seeded, ciabatta, damper, focaccia, roti, soda, multigrain, pumpernickel, (banana—not sure that counts as a real bread but . . . yum)—the list goes on and on and on. . .
And, although I do agree with James Garfield that bread needs something to go with it, for me it’s not peanut butter. For me it is cheese (any kind of cheese) and ham . . . and chutney . . . and pickles . . . or . . . if it’s toasted, pâté. I could, seriously, live on toast and pâté . . . and red wine . . .
Well—when I say I could live on it, I probably actually couldn’t. My digestive system seems to have much more to say about what I can, and can’t, eat (and drink) these days. Sigh.
Sometimes getting older sucks . . .
Have you ever woken up one morning, with no previous indication that there might be anything amiss, and suddenly find yourself inexplicably caught up in the throes of some kind of hypnotic trance, unable to do anything else all that day except eat and eat and eat (and eat . . . and eat . . . and eat . . . )
This happened to me last weekend and it caught me totally off guard. Friday night I was fine. After dinner (Penne Pesto Pasta—yum) I cuddled up on the couch alongside my girls (in my trakky-daks and fluffy slippers—me, not the girls) with a nice glass of red (possibly two) and watched ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ on the telly. We were all comfortable, warm and fed. All was right with my world. Or so I thought . . .
On Saturday morning I woke around 5.00am and my very first thought (and I still remember it vividly) was ‘I might go down to the bakers later and buy myself a sticky-bun’. Say what? Where did that come from? I can’t tell you the last time I ate a sticky-bun. And why a sticky-bun for God’s sake? I can think of at least three more things right this very second which I would usually prefer to eat in order to sate any unexpected cravings (chocolate, cheese, more chocolate . . . )
And why was I having any kind of food cravings at 5.00am anyway? I am not a big breakfast eater and usually have to force myself to eat something in the morning. As it turned out the ‘why’ was irrelevant—all I could think about for the next couple of hours was that I going to get me that sticky-bun. And, in the end, I did. In fact I got two—and inhaled them both.
So that should have been the end of it—right? I had eaten the sticky-bun(s)—I had completed the task—it was time to move on.
But—No. It actually all went rapidly downhill from there and I, who have spent years and years diligently (although perhaps ‘diligently’ is somewhat of an overstatement) attempted to practice the art of not eating, seemed utterly unable to control myself. I ate everything edible I could find in the house—that is everything that did not, in any way, shape or form, constitute a ‘proper’ meal. (I was so not interested in eating a supernutrient-full-of-veggie-goodness ‘proper’ meal. I wanted Caramello Koalas—or salt and vinegar crisps—or two large loaves of French bread dripping with garlic butter . . . Blissful sighs)
But this is not my first time around this particular block. Although it has not reared its ugly head in a long time, this seemingly-out-of-the-blue-food-frenzy is not entirely unknown to me, and I was pretty sure I remembered how it was going to play out. I would grumpily blob myself down on the couch and berate myself all day with ‘For-God’s-Sake-Sally-Stop-Eating!’ reprimands, and constantly remind myself of all the good work I was undoing—all the while stuffing my face with whatever sugar-fat-salt laden delicacy I had hold of at the time. And, that is exactly what happened.
As you can imagine, on Sunday I felt absolutely crapulous (I just knew that word would come in handy). I was nursing a deadly sugar hangover (not to mention a severe case of ‘buyer’s remorse’—those sticky-buns had a lot to answer for) and trying to fathom what had brought it all on. There had been no obvious triggers. Nobody had upset me, there had been no major dramas, I hadn’t been fretting about anything—at least consciously.
Subconsciously, of course, is anybody’s guess. Who really knows what goes on in our little heads when we are not paying full attention. We think we have got it all sorted. We practice the things that are supposed to be good for us. We exercise daily, we meditate, we nurture relationships, we nourish our bodies with good and healthy food—and then while we are sleeping some mean, nasty, delinquent part of our brain slides over to the good, stable, responsible side, knocks it unconscious and issues orders for us to start eating the planet. It’s all a bit underhand and totally unfair if you ask me.
But you know—it’s done, and there is no point bitching about it any more. I seem to have weathered the storm without too much damage and this week I have had no recurring desire to overload on—well, anything really. I appear to be back in control.
But we all know appearances can be deceiving and I guess I shouldn’t get too cocky. If this could all sneak up on me so unawares this time it could easily do so again. I’m think perhaps I am going to have to watch my back for a while yet . . . and perhaps drive past the bakers really, really fast . . .
When she first came to live with us Molly weighed 3.2 kilos (7lbs). She was 5 years old, teeny-tiny, a little bit scruffy, and had ears like Gizmo the Gremlin.
Molly came to us with ‘issues’. She was terrified of everything and everyone, prone to disappearing for hours on end (to eventually be found hiding buried underneath the sofa cushions or in a little nest she had made for herself under a bush out by the back gate) and would go into an almost coma-like state if you picked her up and gave her a hug. She had no understanding of ‘play’ and would run and hide if you tried to get her to join in any kind of game.
Four years along and many of Molly’s little idiosyncrasies, although still there, have become somewhat tempered. When I come home she will come running for her own ‘Mum’s back’ cuddle and even push the others aside to make sure she doesn’t miss out. She will let other people pet her (providing I am close at hand). Although she has still never made any attempt to join in, she will no longer run away in terror when Mabel and Maude grab an arm or a leg each of their favourite teddy and drag each other, growling and snarling, round and round the house. (She did once, in a mad moment, make a grab at one of the many doggie toys littering the house, but it squeaked at her and sent her into hiding for the rest of that day. She has doggedly (see what I did there?) ignored any possible toy-trauma ever since.)
But there is still ‘the food thing’.
Molly has no ‘off’ switch when it comes to food. She just does not believe in leaving food on her plate. Or any one else’s plate. Or anywhere in the house. Ever. Once she starts eating there is just no stopping her.
I remember the first time I gave Molly her dinner in her own little bowl. She sat. And she looked at it. Then she looked at me. “Go on,” I said, “eat your dinner.” She looked back at the bowl. She looked at Mabel and Maude happily eating out of their own bowls. And looked at her bowl again. And looked at me. I moved the bowl toward her. She backed away. I backed away. And she sat and looked again. I picked some food out of the bowl and tossed it to her. She gobbled it down. I moved the bowl towards her. She backed off. Okay. So, this was obviously going to be a thing. Sigh.
It was a very frustrating process to get her fed that first evening (compounded by the fact that Mabel and Maude had now finished their meals and desperately wanted to join in the new ‘game’. Not helpful, girls, really not helpful). Long (long) story short but after a few weeks and any number of false starts, Molly did eventually get the hang of eating out of her own bowl. More than got the hang of it. ‘Eating’ is possibly not the right word. ‘Inhaling’ might be closer to the mark. Food has become her passion.
I have been thinking about why Molly’s relentless appetite bothers me so much. Now that I know about it, it really isn’t that big a deal. For her health I don’t want her to get too heavy (and she is already starting to resemble a tiny sumo wrestler) so, without depriving her at all, I monitor how much food she eats and watch that she doesn’t eat all of Mabel’s leftovers as well her own meals. (Mabel is much more delicate in her eating habits.) I watch her like a hawk when we are out walking. If there are any kind of remains left under a picnic table three miles away, in the opposite direction, Molly will find them—and have eaten them all before I have even noticed she is missing. (I also now know where she keeps her ’emergency stash’ (bits of doggie biscuits and chew sticks stolen from the other girls when their backs were turned)—which I assume she keeps just in case we all get hit by an earth-destroying meteor before dinner.)
Perhaps it bothers me because I too have had my own issues with food. I like food (I really do) but I can honestly no longer remember a time when I wasn’t ‘watching what I eat’. I have been heavier than I ‘should be’ (don’t even get me started on the ‘shoulds’) for most of my adult life, and have been reminded of it on many an occasion. When I was younger such mean remarks would usually send me directly back to the refrigerator—both to console myself and to prove to others that I really didn’t care what they thought. But, of course, I did.
Over the years I have, like Molly, managed to modify a lot of my less-than-helpful behaviours and responses, but I was reminded quite forcefully last week that just when you think you have a handle on something, that is usually the time it will come back and bite you in the bum.
Last week I decided it was time to get my health and fitness back on track, as I had slacked off a bit over the last year or so. I just don’t have the motivation to do these things by myself any more so I signed on to a three month fitness and diet (ooops, sorry, ‘healthy eating’) on-line plan. So far so good.
I got my exercise gear together, cleared the kitchen of all distractions (bye bye chocolate—at least until next week when the Easter bunny comes) and was raring to go. And then, almost as if a switch was flipped, I started to think about pizza. I love pizza. Just love it. It’s right up there as one of my favourite foods. But you know I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate one, or even thought about eating one. Not for a long time. Out of sight, out of mind. But, swear to God, almost the moment I signed on for a new fitness and healthy eating plan—BOOM—all I could think about was eating pizza. Aaaarrrrrghhhhh!
However, this time, instead of berating myself mercilessly for my failings, I have decided to give myself a break and not fret too much about my ‘pizza brain’. I am sure, given time (and a couple of laps around the park) the yen for a Super Supreme (extra cheese) will fade. I am also going to ease up on Molly a bit (and by ‘ease up’, I don’t mean feed her more, but I’ll try to stop my continual exasperated, “Stop Eating Mol. You’ll explode!” commentary). We girls should stick together.
And who knows, Molly might well have the right idea. If finishing what you start is truly the road to inner peace, my Molly must be a Zen Master . . . .
So that’s it. The office phone is on ‘Leave a Message’. The Gone Fishin’ sign is on the door. Work is over for another year.
I am now officially ‘on holiday’ until after the New Year. Yay!
All around it’s been a good year at work, but a very busy one, and I know it’s going to take me a little time to wind down. But I am really going to try. I do have a list (I know, I know, me and my lists) of things I should do over the holiday break. It runs something like this: catch up on my reading . . . and sleep . . . do some writing . . . and sleep . . . go to the movies (‘Star Wars’, here I come) . . . and sleep . . . play with the dogs . . . and sleep . . . eat too much . . . and sleep . . .
I may, or may not, get to everything on that list.
Apart from the fact that this was the last week of work and things should have been slowing down but in fact seemed to be doing exactly the opposite, we did manage to finish the week off in a really nice way with our staff Christmas Lunch. We are a little college so it was only a small group of lunchers (lunchees?) who got together—only 11 of us, but, as Gandalf said, “Oh, they’re quite a merry gathering. Once you get used to them.”
A number of our team don’t work regularly out of the college premises (they train students at other venues) so in some cases people hadn’t seen each other since the last Christmas lunch, and the newer staff members hadn’t met some of the others at all, so it was a really good chance to catch up on everyone’s latest news, talk about holiday plans—and swap our latest doggie stories.
Oasis by the River had been warned of our impending arrival, but in spite of that they had set up a lovely table for us, all decked out in Christmassy fashion with little Christmas trees, tinsel, Christmas crackers, tiny gingerbread men—and a great many wine glasses on the table. (Like I said—they knew we were coming). No really—I am joking—we were all very well behaved (it was only lunch after all). Having said that, we did manage to get a good number of those glasses filled up, and emptied, and filled up again in very short order . . . In our defence—although we don’t technically need a defence as the Christmas rules do state ‘eat, drink and be merry’—we had to have something to wash down the very yummy ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner of roast turkey, ham and all the trimmings that was laid out before us.
(There was so much food that I don’t think anyone completely finished their meal, and the leftovers were all passed along the table to me, wrapped up in serviettes and went straight into my handbag to take home for my girls. Courtesy of the college staff they will be getting some extra yummies with their dinner over the next couple of days. Christmas is for dogs too, you know.)
But—and there is always a ‘but’—for all the lovely table, and the food, and the drinks, there was one thing really not quite right—the Christmas Crackers. It turned out that the Christmas crackers supplied by the restaurant, although very pretty and Christmassy and sparkly—TOTALLY FAKE. Shock. Horror. No bang, no pressie—no joke! It could have spoiled the whole day (or at least it could have spoiled Joneen’s whole day). Just as well then, that Santa (Steve in a Christmas baseball cap) had also seen to it that the Santa Sack was not only stuffed full of Secret Santa pressies, but also an abundance of (fully functioning) Christmas Crackers. Phew.
So the crackers were passed around, cracker-pulling-partners chosen and then the usual bangs, shrieks and scrabblings about on the table as we all went search of our hats, jokes and prizes (which, after the explosion, always seem to shoot across the table and vanish into the table decorations).
Once all suitably decked out in our paper crowns (having swapped them back and forth across the table so as to make sure each of us had one that complemented our outfit) we all took it in turns to read our jokes out, tried to guess the answers, and groaned loudly in the appropriate places. Joneen actually came up with some better answers (and when I say better, I mean more groan-worthy) than those that came with the jokes. It could be a new career path for her should she ever decide to leave the adult education sector.
Towards the end of the meal, when we had finished our desserts and were on to the coffees (or just one last glass) the chef came out to tell us that there was a hail in Port Macquarie and the storm was heading our way. We didn’t think he was trying to get rid of us but it was enough to start breaking the party up. This turned out to be a very good thing as the chef was later vindicated when we did, in fact, get hit by a humungous storm, complete with lashing rain, wind and bone rattling thunder. With luck, everyone was home and dry, or very near it, by the time the storm struck.
So, now we are all done and dusted for another year. We have now all gone our separate ways for the holiday season and hopefully it will be a happy and safe time for everyone.
I am going to do my bit to help with the safety side of things.
After I sign off here I am going to go and write a very stern letter to Santa about a certain person’s Secret Santa gift—a Balloon Animal Making Kit. Why? you might ask. Surely a fairly innoucous type of gift you might imagine. And you might be right—in the hands of any other person. Judging by her enthusiasm for, and her antics with, her new toy at the Christmas lunch, the local ‘elf and safety officer’ is going to need to know where to find her.
I really don’t know what Santa was thinking . . .