Fast is the new…. Fast!

Forgive me friends it has been 66 days since my last blog.

Going back to my last blog, on 7th Jan, I was 7-days into the Fast Diet (or 5:2 Diet) and was feeling superb.  Fast forward to today and I am only just finding time to sit down and update you all on my progress. Continue reading

Fast is the new Slow

This year, in my ongoing efforts to loose the weight I gained during my battles with Glandular Fever in the 90’s, Post Viral Fatigue in the naughties and eventually Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the naughties/”210’s” I have started following the “Fast Diet”, alternatively known as the “5:2” diet. Continue reading

G.E.T. Started

Graded Exercise Therapy.

For some sufferers of CFS/ME this brings to mind painful experiences where they have been’encouraged’, by healthcare professionals with limited understanding of the technique, to push through their limits and do more, ending up with crashes, flair-ups, setbacks and pain.

Although the end-goal of Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) is to increase your energy levels and stamina; initially it is about doing less.  I will go into more detail about this in a later post. Continue reading

G.E.T. M.E.

My planned series on my experience, hints and tips on Graded Exercise Therapy (GET, also known as GAT, Graded Activity Therapy) has been somewhat delayed: I have been meaning to post for days but life has been getting in the way.

In the meantime, check out this page at Action for ME which has some resources, research and articles on GET to start with.

I hope to get my first post in this series, together with an update of what has been keeping me away, up at the weekend.

Holiday! Part the second.

Snapshots of my Gibraltar Holiday

Snapshots of my Gibraltar Holiday

Slightly later than “tomorrow” but better late than never for the second instalment of my holiday fun. Continue reading

Same but different

As I sit here at my newly re-vamped desk, typing on my new computer (laptop finally becoming more limited by age than was good for work) and with the cat curled up in one of her favourite spots – tucked up my jumper – Continue reading

Time and Motion

I’m away house/dog sitting again this week and, as happened last time, I realise that I have let my step-count dwindle since I stopped wearing my pedometer every day.  It is difficult when I am working hard to build up my business which is mainly desk-based.

I have always struggled with working hard at work and working to maintain my fitness; getting home (or leaving the home office) after a busy day leaves you reaching for the quick and easy choice for supper, which is not always the healthiest choice.  When dragging your tired body out of bed ready to start another busy day the last thing I want to do is jump on the cross-trainer, even though it is right by the bed (which I try and avoid looking at so as to not feel guilty).  You may have the time, but don’t have the energy or you may have the energy but not the time.

I have been keeping up with the riding, which at times has been the one thing that gets me going through the day: my “raison d’etre” when I wonder what all the hard work is for.  I’m really enjoying the ‘map my run’ app on my phone and using it to track the rides we go out on – especially useful for tracking the fitness of the horses too, giving top and average speeds and an accurate track of our mileage (then you realise that the dog has also been coming with us on our 7-8 mile rides).  Having kept up with the riding, which is good all over exercise, I’m not so unprepared for the dog walking I do when I’m dog-sitting but I do need to make sure that I do 20 minutes on the cross trainer every day.

I haven’t been doing my EAP exercises, although I have been trying to stick to the nutritional plan and last week I had lost another couple of inches although the weight hadn’t changed much.  Not sure what this week’s measurements are going to bring as I fell off the wheat wagon and am struggling to get back on the straight and narrow.  I always find it difficult with the change in the seasons, not that we’ve really had a summer to speak of, when the nights draw in.

Since receiving my diagnosis of CFS and getting set on the road to recovery, I have always known that I need to prioritise my fitness as equally important as my work because without maintaining my fitness, I will not have the stamina and energy to do my work.  I have always hoped to be able to work not-quite full time in order to devote some of the time that would normally be spent working to building and maintaining my fitness.  However, to get to that point working for yourself means that you have to work more than full time to initially build up your client base which adds an extra challenge.

I’m now 3-years on from my diagnosis of Hypothyroidism and CFS and sometimes can’t believe how far I’ve come: from someone who was not far off being bed-ridden to someone who would be considered ‘moderately active’ (or ‘Active’ when I keep up with my step-count).  I still have a way to go to get to the level of fitness I want but when I worry that I won’t be able to get there, I just have to look at what I have already achieved – and also at the determination that kept me going before my diagnosis – and I know I can do it.   I hope it doesn’t take me another three years to get there but if it does then it does and it’s still a great achievement.

Taking back the years….

…and my body!

I have found the fit me again!  At last!  I know it’s early days still but I have started running again.  I have had a big mental block about it, I think because for so long any exercise I have done (other than riding and Pilates) has brought about a setback – either an infection/cold or just a crushing fatigue.  This was even to the point that whenever I was trying to run in my dreams, I just couldn’t do it; although I desperately needed to run, my body just wouldn’t respond, my legs wouldn’t move fast enough or I’d trip over my own feet.

However, recently, thanks to building things up slowly with Pilates and riding, I have been feeling fitter and healthier than I have in a long, long time.  I can now take Archie out for a hack for 45mins to an hour and a good 90-95% of that time is trot-work, not just ‘bimbling’ but working on an outline, impulsion and strength… a good workout for me and the horse.  I’ve also been wearing the pedometer again and am mostly hitting my goal of averaging between 7-10k steps a day (just over 8,600/day for Feb/Mar/Apr) with my highest step count being 21,312!  And I didn’t have a setback either.

Another turning point was when we had to call out the vet to one of our ewes who was having difficulty lambing: I had to run from the far end of the fields to the house to get the field gate key.  OK, so I only managed to run the length of one of the fields but I didn’t die, my hips didn’t give me hell and I didn’t suffer a setback over the next few days. Watershed moment in ditching my fears that exercise will knock me back down as it has so often before.  I’ve even been able to run in my dreams and imagining myself working out on a cross-trainer has become an excellent tool to stop my brain spinning when it won’t switch off (although I think I can safely say that I will not be taking up spinning any time soon, if ever)!

I’ve bought myself a cross trainer so I can start out doing short stints without over-doing it, then building up my times by increments, still remembering my ‘phasing’ so I avoid setbacks. I started doing some interval training for running today (probably managed about 5-minutes running out of my 25 minute dog walk but, hay, it’s more than I’ve done in ages!) and I’m feeling energised rather than knackered.

I’m hopeful that I will soon be re-claiming my body from the clutches of CFS for good.  I’m looking forward to fitting back into all the fabulous clothes I used to wear that I could never quite bring myself to throw away.

Having CFS can steal your body identity.  I keep forgetting that before I developed glandular fever (and subsequently CFS), I used to ride at least once and often twice a day, regularly cycle and run just for the fun of it, go (jive) dancing 2-3 times a week and all this whilst working shifts of either 6am-2pm or 2-10pm.  I used to be fit.

After 13 years of being told by various doctors that there was nothing wrong with me other than being over weight and un-fit (with the sub-text of “lazy” running through it all), you start to believe them.  Even to the point that when you regularly have to climb three flights of stairs to your office (no lift) and it gets increasingly difficult you still don’t realise that it is not just a case of doing more exercise and getting fit; if that was the case it would become easier the more often you did it.

Although I wouldn’t ever want to get to the point that I was – where I could barely get out of bed and some days even thought of calling a taxi to get me the last couple of hundred yards home or be in tears at the thought of walking that far – and I hope that nobody else has to be in that situation before they get treatment, but I am glad that the eventual outcome was the diagnosis of CFS as it has enabled me to manage the condition and get to the point I am now, where I can see a way back to being as fit as I was at 17 before it all started.

An Improving Trend!

This weekend has been manic!  My eldest sister and her three children came over on Friday to stay for the weekend and then my next eldest (from me) sister came over with her two children & husband and camped in the garden for Saturday night.  A busy weekend of entertaining 5 children aged 6 and under ensued – they are all great fun but as happens with kids who have seemingly endless amounts of energy they keep you on your toes!

I also went out for a good hour and a half ride in the morning, with lots of trot and canter work on Saturday morning.

Sunday morning I was stewarding at a carriage driving event with mum, which was lovely and fairly quiet and then all the family came and joined us for a picnic.

By yesterday evening I was really rather pooped – so much so that I tried washing my face with moisturiser!  So, I went for an early bed and slept the sleep of the righteous through to 8am this morning and still felt rather rough.

However, after all that I made it to my pilates class this morning and did pretty well managing to do most of the exercises at the higher intensity level.  I also walked in and back to the class and I feel a lot better for it – I’m certainly not as washed out as I thought I might be.

This is a great milestone in my recovery: a busy, highly physically demanding weekend and I’m not pushed into a setback.  Saying that, I’ve planned a few quieter, low energy jobs for this afternoon but I am in control of that, I’ve planned it as an insurance policy, not been forced into it by necessity.

Additionally, after a weekend of eating not wisely but very well, I’ve only gained back 1lb making a net loss of 4lbs since I started on the diet.  I’ve also realised, after having a look at myself in the mirrors in the pilates studio, that my body is changing shape, I’m getting a more defined waist and have greater control of my tummy muscles, which means that my net loss of fat each week is greater than 1lb because at the same time I’m gaining muscle which is denser (therefore heavier) than fat.

I’m enjoying this diet.  It’s something I never thought I would say about “dieting” but I think that’s because what I’m doing is not “dieting” in the commonly used sense.  It’s not a fad.  It’s not promising to shed masses of weight in a short period of time.  It’s not replacing meals with a shake or a bar.  Most of all, it’s not something that is going to fail as soon as I start to eat normally after loosing the weight.

What I’m doing seems very, very simple: cooked breakfast (grilled bacon & scrambled eggs with half a piece of toast or 2 boiled eggs), salad for lunch (with chicken, tuna, marinaded herring or other ‘extras) and then a normal main meal – with pudding – in the evening.  I keep off alcohol apart from Friday & Saturday nights (with occasional exceptions) and try not to snack.  I try to have a maximum of 2 slices of wholemeal/multigrain/seeded bread a day, and a lot of the time will have none.

It’s working.  The weight is coming off at a steady 1lb a week which, if it continues at that rate (I’m hoping that the usual difficulties of weight loss slowing down as you near your target weight will be counteracted by the increase in muscle mass I am trying to achieve and the attendant higher calorie requirement for maintenance) I will reach my target weight by next August.

The beauty of it is that I can go away for the weekend and have a couple of meals out, a few extra drinks and a few extra treats and it doesn’t wreck the whole diet.  It’s very low maintenance.

Part of me thinks that it is a long time to wait to reach my target but on the flip side, the longer it takes to come off, the less likely it is to be gained back.  Another advantage of this diet is that it is not something that will drastically change when I’ve reached my target weight.  There is also the fact that it will take me only slightly longer to loose the weight as I’ve been signed off from work – which isn’t a long time at all.  When you also consider that I’ve been carrying the extra weight around with me for the last 10+ years, what’s another year when all is considered.

I’ve also found that I have less cravings for ‘bad’ foods, and when I do have those cravings they are easier to resist.  I’ve also found that my relationship to food has become less “inappropriate” – I no longer find myself stuffing myself with food I don’t really want as some kind of punishment and then end up eating more as a ‘comfort’ because I’ve just blown the latest diet.

Although this diet is very simple, it has taken me a long time to get here because my head has not been in the right place to be able to cope with the changes.  I’ve been so unhappy, and just existing has been such a struggle that any diet I tried has invariably failed because I would either become ill or I would be emotionally unstable and resort to food for a comfort.  Also, I have always found that exercise is a key to any consistent weight loss for me but that if I took on any aerobic exercise to get fit I would suffer [what I can now identify as] a setback.  Having now received a diagnosis of CFS/ME I now know that my body responds to exercise in a different way and that the best way for me to do exercise to help my weight loss is to increase my muscle tone by doing things like pilates, rather than burn masses of calories doing highly aerobic exercises.

The time will come when I can get back to doing high aerobic activities [such as jive dancing which I miss terribly] but for now I’ll stick to the Pilates and keep saying “slowly, slowly catch-y monkey” and “less haste, more speed”.

I’ll stop rambling now and go off and give myself a pedicure!