picture shows a white bowl containing a salad of lentils, millet, green leaves, and pomegranate seeds
Foodie Posts, Living, Physical health

Lifestyle Changes

Very well, I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Like, I guess, pretty much everybody I’ve gained a bit of weight during lockdown. Between joining in with the quarantine baking craze and working on the desserts/baked goods section of my cookbook – without being able to parm the resulting food stuffs off on friends – I ate quite a bit more and moved around quite a bit less. I also went into the first lockdown having just restarted on Mirtazapine – and, for me at least, that’s always resulted in weight gain.

Which, especially during a pandemic, wouldn’t concern me too much – except that gaining weight around my waist and hips exacerbated the chronic pain I experience as a result of degeneration in the discs of my lower back.

So I needed to do something. And I didn’t want that something to be a diet. Because diets are miserable. And they don’t work. But mostly because they’re miserable. And the time of coronavirus is already miserable enough.

So instead I opted for what I’m choosing to call lifestyle changes.

Which has mostly consisted a lot of being more mindful of what I eat, and when, and why – but has also included incorporating a new skin care routine that’s suitable for the hormonal changes I’m noticing now my Mirena is coming to the end of its life, and entering my late 30s. Simple cleansing wipes and Rimmel Lasting Radiance just don’t cut it like they did in my 20s anymore. And drinking much more water to make sure I’m not dehydrated.

(And as a side note – I know the diminished power of beauty magazines is seen as a widely positive development – but it did mean that I was initially at a loss for where to go for information as to how to build a skin care regimen for my slightly older skin. In the past I’d have just gone to the supermarket and picked up a copy of Glamour and seen what their beauty editors would recommend.

Ditto for clothes. I don’t necessarily want to wear all the same things as I did 10 years ago. So I want different clothes – presumably from a different retailer – but when I first realised this I was initially stumped as to what my options were in that respect. Maybe it’s more obvious to people who still watch regular TV with adverts – but if it’s not on Netflix or Amazon I definitely haven’t seen it so 🤷🏻‍♀️. Anyway… )

Since I now have a family history of bowel cancer I decided the Bowel Cancer UK website was as good a place as any to start looking for advice on what I shouldn’t be eating.

There I discovered the heartening information that about half of bowel cancers could be avoided through dietary changes. And that I – and indeed most of the people in the world – needed to start eating A LOT more fibre, and especially in the form of more whole grains. More good news – as these were exactly the foods I’d been stocking up on in case the government didn’t manage to get it’s act together over Brexit. All I needed to do was actually start cooking them.

It spurred me to finally open the 2kg bag of buckwheat kasha that I bought long enough ago that I don’t want to think about it – but then was too intimidated by to decide what to do with. And so it languished… er, …in a glass jar on the counter beside where I keep my kettle…

Turns out it’s pretty tasty.

I started eating yoghurt – with cultures – because the evidence seems to suggest that eating the cultures at least is good for you.

I devised a banana muffin recipe with buckwheat and spelt flour so that I’d have something a bit more substantial than my usual toast or cereal to have for breakfast or lunches. As I’d identified that my tendency not to eat much during the day often led to a late afternoon blood sugar slump that left me feeling shaky and then prompted me to eat plenty of whatever in order to make it stop.

I started making lots and lots of salad. I love salad – at least since Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat taught me how to make them properly – but they’re a lot more effort to put together than, well, so many, many other things. But now, in quarantine, the action of lockdown salad making took over from whatever the psychological function was of lockdown baking. And I have all the time in the world for it.

And I stopped baking yo-yo biscuits. Which with their recipe calling for an entire block of butter and double the weight of icing sugar could easily have been the start and end of my problem in themselves.

We’ve also cut our takeaways down to the once a month that I grew up with rather than the at least twice weekly occurrence they’d become. I feel slightly bad about that because we’re no longer supporting local businesses as much – but some places are now offering vouchers that you can redeem when they’re allowed to open again. Which I think is another good option that allows you to help out without having to eat a lot of food that is cooked for taste with no thought to your longevity in mind.

Starting to think about the quality of the calories I’m consuming rather than their number has resulted in my actually eating a lot more food, and more frequently.

And I’m actually enjoying food again – rather than thinking it as a series of tasks towards the project of my cookbook.

And it seems to be having the health effects that I wanted it to. I’m losing weight in the areas that I wanted to lose it. I have more energy, more consistently. And my mental health is always better when I’m cooking regularly.

The next step to add in to these lifestyle changes is a more regular form of movement. I told myself that I’d work on that once the snow cleared, as I’m too immobile to deal with ice. And today it has. I’ll let you know how I got on with that one when I’ve figured what it’s going to involve.

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