The truth about what the scale says

K and I have had our ups and downs with our diet over the past three to four weeks. We celebrated our three-year anniversary with a weekend away to the Cape Winelands – and yes, as the name implies, it’s all about good wine, great food and gorgeous scenery. Of course, those of us who are following either healing or weight-loss diets know that ‘special occasions’ aren’t excuses to veer from our diet plans – but I will be honest with you and say that both K and I treated ourselves to our indulgences!

I for one have been embarrassingly lax with my diet, and daily I struggle with various deep-rooted food demons – but that’s not what this post is about.

The point is that, despite the occasional indulgence over the past near-month, K has been committed to eating paleo at home, at work, and most times when we go out. She’s also been exercising regularly and in just three weeks, has lost 4kg.

Now, she hasn’t been happy with this amount of weight loss, but I think it’s amazing, and here’s why:

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Let’s get one thing out the way first: some people start exercising and then increase the amount they eat – it’s the weird treadmill/McDonalds anomaly that manifests in some people’s brains. So if you are working out and gaining weight, but you’ve increased your food intake or started indulging more, this doesn’t apply to you. However, If you appear slimmer/more toned, as the lady in the picture above does, and you’re clearly getting into better shape, why does the scale stay them same, drop only a little or even increase?

There are two main reasons for this.

One, it could be water weight. You’re sweating more, so you’re drinking more water. Water weighs a lot – just ask the Biggest Loser contests, who down gallons of the stuff if they want to lose a weigh-in.

The other reason is that muscle is denser than fat, so gaining weight could mean that you’re losing fat and building muscle. The scale going up (or staying put) could indicate that your hours at the gym are paying off, if you’re not ‘phoning it in’ of course.

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The point is, you need to consider the entire picture. If you look better, feel better and are fitting into your clothes better, your diet and exercise routine is working, regardless of what the scale says. However, if you’re bingeing and looking flabby, even though you’re working out every now and then… well, sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.

Also remember that the slower you lose weight, the better: losing weight slowly is the key to keeping it off. Quick losses usually equal quick – and bigger – gains.

This article will ring so true for many people, and it’s something I aspire to. I’m ‘skinny fat’ – relatively slim (though I never think so) but out of shape. I feel motivated by this article to take myself in hand and treat my body the way it deserves to be treated. Thanks for the inspiration, Lonni!

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Day 4 and an easy way to start exercising

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Everyone knows that the key to losing weight is diet AND exercise (sorry about that, I didn’t make the rules). But those of us who are trying to heal our bodies through diet also need exercise, even though that might sound counter intuitive, especially if you’re struggling to maintain your weight.

Exercise doesn’t have to be about burning 500 calories on the treadmill or ripping through a crossfit workout (although it can be!). Doing yoga or taking a walk is amazing exercise for anyone trying to develop a stronger, healthier body without necessarily losing weight. As we know, exercise is one of the most important building blocks of physical and psychological wellness. My nutritionalist recommends a 4km walk several times a week (it only takes about 40 minutes), or a few yoga or Pilates sessions each week.

K recently joined our local gym and she and a couple of colleagues work out during lunch time. One of them – J9 – happens to be a pro fitness buff, and she accompanied K today. I later received this email:

Time: 1.41pm

Subject: J9 killed me. I am dead.

She made me do all this [workout attached – it was pretty insane]
I did everthing except the burpies.
Not that I have anything against burpies but by that point I was on the verge of throwing up. And I didn’t want to make a mess.
This whole thing took us an hour.
Oh and as a warm-up I did 9 mins walk/run on the treadmill… and of those 9 mins I did a full 3 mins of running (not in a row). But still. That’s more than I did yesterday.
OK I’m going to go whimper whilst I eat my lunch… If only I can bring the spoon to my mouth. I may have to eat it out the bowl with my FACE.

This week alone, K’s been gymming (after not exercising in years) AND following my paleo diet and she says she’s feeling ‘lighter’ – not necessarily weight-wise, but in terms of not being weighed down by stodgy carbs and sugar.

For my part, I’ve been slowing getting back into exercise too. I lapsed on my Jillian workouts for a few months and now I’m starting to get active again slowly. I’m sure you’ve seen those ’30 day’ challenges online, so I’ve printed out a few and stuck them on my lounge wall to encourage me to do them every day. Today my thighs were so sprained from squats that I thought my muscles might burst right through my skin and splatter over my colleagues.

These are the two I’m using:

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It’s an easy, manageable way to get back into it and I do love a challenge so it works for me. If you like the idea of this kind of workout, use these templates or Google your own. There are tons of different ones – arm workouts, leg workouts, abs, etc. Obviously you need to keep it up after 30 days, but it’s a great way to transition into more strenuous workouts – well I think so anyway.

Tonight we had the most amazing paleo Thai chicken curry with cauli rice. It’s super healthy thanks to the coconut milk (homemade, so zero additives) and truck-load of green veggies we added. Meals like this really make you feel like you’re not missing a thing.

And tomorrow is FRIDAY! The weekend is going to be our first paleo hurdle together: Saturday night we’re going to a show that I’m so, so excited about I might just BURST… but it includes a 3-course set meal. Luckily for me, I’m there for the star of the show – my most favourite drag performer, Cathy Specific – and I could DIE DIE DIE I’m so excited!! I actually feel like instead of my thighs, my stomach might burst all over this screen and splatter you all with butterflies. So I’m hardly concerned about the dishes but I know it’s going to be a challenge for K and it’s going to be exciting to see how we navigate it together.

Okay OMG I’ve gotta go. I need to start thinking about what I’m going to WEAR!

Day 67: Observations part 2 – Besides food, what else can cause bloating?

Yesterday I spoke a lot about bloating and the food that I think is causing my biggest problems.

Today,  I didn’t eat ANY bananas! I know! Amazing! I did experience some bloating and also some cramps after a lunch of vegetables and avo, which I suspect will require further investigation. But I also had a realisation about other factors that could be causing my bloating:

1. Eating too much. I’ve never been one for moderate portions, which is probably what helped get me into this predicament in the first place! Whether I’m eating a bowl of chips or a bowl of broccoli, I eat a lot of it. I’ve always said that I’m missing the ‘fullness indicator’ and that I could just keep eating and eating and eating without stopping until I burst like a cartoon character. Anyone else have this talent problem?

Basically me at every meal, minus the roll

Basically me at every meal, minus the bread

The average adult stomach is roughly the size of a clenched fist and can stretch to fit about a litre’s worth of food in it. I like to take that as a personal challenge and try to pack in around 3kg at every meal. And then I’m surprised when my belly blows up to the size of the Times Square ball.

2. Eating too fast. I’ve never had any reason to eat my food like a prison inmate about to have it snatched away. My parents always cooked plenty of food and there was always enough for seconds and thirds… for us and the neighbours. My dad also eats super fast, and in fact, when I go out to eat with other people, I have to consciously slow myself down so as not to embarrass myself. Thank goodness K and I seem to keep the same pace!

3. Not exercising. In Jan and Feb, the first two official months on the job (prior I was freelancing for the same company), I was able to leave work at about 4.45 each day, and be home by 5.30. I’d exercise until 6, shower and then make supper, with plenty of time to spare. When we hit a crisis at work about three weeks ago, I found myself easily staying at the office until 6 or even 7, getting home after dark and then still having to cook supper. I simply haven’t had the time to work out, and I know it’s so bad for me. Could this be contributing to the bloat?

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4. What I’m drinking. For the first 19 days on this diet, I drank only water. For the first 30, I drank no coffee or booze. Now, I still drink my 2l of water a day – but I also have a glass of wine most days, and one to two cups of coffee. There’s no doubt that drinks can have just as big an impact on your gut as food, and it’s careless to think they don’t.

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5. Stress. When our work crisis hit, our stress levels shot right up. Some days, my colleagues were running to the bathroom with diarrhoea – and they don’t have IBD! I felt a gnawing nausea for days on end, and I was constantly in a state of high-strung anxiety. I’ve no doubt that this not only aggravated my gut, but also contributed to my bloating.

So what’s the next step?

Now that I’ve got a more holistic picture, so to speak, of the root causes of my bloating, I can start to fix the problem (if I can commit to it). It’s almost like working retroactively, going back and fixing what I’ve broken. Now that the bananas are gone, I know I should take a break from booze and coffee too, and keep working backwards like that until I am able to identify the food causes of the bloating – and then of course I need to address the non-food causes too.

I’ve just had dinner and I tried not to overeat. I had yogurt for ‘dessert’, with honey, because I’ve already cut out bananas today and I felt I deserved it!

Ugh, damn bloating. I feel like a stuck record. Imagine how AMAZING life would be without bloat!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!

Day 54: What things do you do today that your future self will thank you for? Share your tips!

I’m not getting all philosophical here. I’m not talking about the 50 or 60 or 100-year-old you. We’re all working hard to improve our long-term health and wellness, otherwise we wouldn’t be following these crazy diets and (literally) exercising out butts off 😉

I’m talking about you tomorrow. Not tomorrow in the existential sense; tomorrow as in the day after today.

A friend of mine, Simon, used to say, ‘That’s future Simon’s problem’, which was funny at the time (we were in our early 20s and travelling the globe when he came up with this). I always thought it was a clever saying, but at the same time, I really hate lumping things on Future Debby’s shoulders.

I’m the kind of person who likes to do things now, which I definitely got from my dad. I hate having tasks hanging over my head, so I tend to do things now rather than later. This is also great for someone with an unpredictable disease like UC: You might be 110% healthy today and (wo)man down tomorrow, unable to get out of bed – or more accurately, leave the bathroom. And for many of us – myself included – flares can sometimes hit suddenly and violently without any warning.

So here are a few things I do – and that you can do – to make tomorrow easier for future you:

1. Cook big batches of food. I like to cook lots of food on a Sunday. Sure, it takes many hours, but it means I have food in the fridge and freezer for an entire week. Tonight, my dinner took 5 minutes to prepare – 4 of which were done by the microwave 🙂

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2. Get as much work done today as possible. I set myself targets each day at work, and I hate to leave without having completed them. When possible, I try to do even more if I can, so that I have a lighter load tomorrow.

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3. Think about the little things you’ll need in the days or week ahead. I’m going to a baby shower on Saturday, so last Saturday, while at the shops, I took a few extra minutes to find a gift. This means that the gift has been ready and waiting for a week, and I won’t have to rush around tomorrow after work (or worse, on Saturday morning before the event) looking for something. Last-minute gift buying is frustrating, expensive, and almost never goes the way you hoped. Buy ahead with everything if you can, especially avos. Forethought is never more golden than when you want a ripe avo 🙂

4. Do an extra load of laundry today. Uggggghhh laundry. But if you have the time, just do it today. Tomorrow, you’ll thank you. Same goes for sweeping the floors, dusting the counters or taking out the garbage. Do it when you have the time, and maybe tomorrow you’ll have an extra hour to put your feet up. Bliss!

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5. Go to the bank. These days, you hardly ever need ready cash. Which means that when you do, you need to start digging around the bottom of your bag, your cubby, your pants’ pockets, your partner’s pants’ pockets, etc. We’ve all been there. Every Saturday, our maid comes to our apartment, and we pay her in cash. While at the bank yesterday, I drew the extra cash so that I won’t have to rush around like a mad thing when she’s already here on Saturday morning.

6. Put in extra reps when you have the energy. If and when a flare hits, you won’t be able to work out as heavily as usual – or even work out at all. So when you have the energy, and you feel like you can push a little harder, do it. You’ll be so glad you did.

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7. Fill up your tank when you pass the petrol station. You’re always going to need gas – and Murphy’s Law says that when you hit the red light on your petrol tank, you’ll be miles from a gas pump. Cue unnecessary stress. Rather fill the tank when you pass the station and you’ll pat your future self on the back.

8. Buy a case of wine or bubbly when it’s on special: This way, you’ll a) always have a bottle to take to a BYOB without having to find a liquor store that’s open (in Cape Town, most bottle stores close at 5pm and you can’t buy on Sundays), and b) you’ll always have a gift in a cinch. This was K’s tip, from experience 😉

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9 & 10: Two more tips from K. I asked her what she would add to this list, and she said choose your clothes tonight for tomorrow, to save time in the morning, and always reverse park so that you can get out faster in an emergency.

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Is there anything that you do to help your future self out? Share your tips – I really love hearing them 🙂

Day 52: Back on top and looking for your stress-busting tips

Guys, it was a false alarm! Despite having ongoing GI issues as a result of my UC, I never actually get stomach bugs, so I have no idea what they feel like. All I thought was – OMG it’s a flare. And that is exactly what it felt like. After all, I’ve always known I’m for-sure in a flare when I’m getting up in the night.

Anyway, it seemed to be clear yesterday, and today it definitely is. I was a little bloated all day, but I had zero diarrhoea. In fact, I’m a little backed up, but right now, rather that. Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how relieved I am.

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Today I was feeling brave enough to add onion. I’d probably have waited longer if I didn’t have a whole cooked batch waiting for me in the fridge, and that ever-present nagging voice telling me not to waste food. The onion tasted good but because I was already a little off-kilter, I’m not sure whether I reacted to it. I don’t feel worse, and I’ll test again tomorrow and Thurs and see how it goes.

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So how do I cut down on the stress?

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find ways to stress less. I know how important it is, and my mom’s stern talking-to yesterday has sunk in. I MUST find ways to deal with my stress, but how? What do you all do? I can’t keep putting my body through all this:

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To reduce stress, this is what people on the internet apparently do. Do any of these work for you?

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I did yoga for years, and I enjoyed it, but I never switched off. I’d use the cool-down time to make to-do lists in my head or think about work or social plans or my weight or…

I haven’t exercised in a few weeks either because I’ve had a persistent cough/cold that’s made me quite chesty, and as much as I wanted to push through, I know that it’s counter-productive to exercise when ill. But I definitely think exercise is one of the best ways for me to de-stress.

What works for you guys? How do you keep the stress and anxiety at bay? I could really use some tips because clearly I’m not managing it on my own. SCD is as much a mental challenge as it is a dietary one, and while I’m finding it easy to avoid sugar, grain and pre-packaged foods, I’m not finding it so easy so avoid stress, anxiety, frustration and anger.

Please share your tips – I could really use them.