Do Plus Sized Clothes in High Street Stores ‘Normalise’ Obesity?

I was reading this article on Mummys Pages (not sure how I ended up there) but I have also read other similar ones about UK celeb, one time singer and TV now and then pop up Jamelia who in a nut shell feels that plus sized clothes should be available only in specialist shops and not an integral part of the regular high street fashion stores.

Her reason for this is that to put those clothes in the mainstream shopping spaces normalises obesity and can promote an unhealthy lifestyle. Something she feels we should not be allowing to happen. My new healthy self thought “she has a point” but then I got to thinking…

I remember a year ago or so, exploding with indignation when a guy blogged something similar and I was kind of embarrassed with myself for changing my mind so easily now I’m out of the obese zone. I kind of had an inner conflict feeling like I’d left my overweight brothers and sisters behind and become one of ‘them’ the skinny folk (not quite). I needed to think more about how I really felt about this subject and not just do it with my ‘I’m alright Jack’ hat on, because I know, only too well how fast I could slide back into obesity, believe me I know and I know what a fight I have forever to keep myself from that slide. So no, I decided to think about this not as a slimmer, healthier, fitter, happier person, but think about this as who I am, a fat person currently in control.

Evans was where it was at in the 80s and 90s if you were lucky to have one near you, there was no internet shopping back in the day
Evans was where it was at in the 80s and 90s if you were lucky to have one near you, there was no internet shopping back in the day

I thought about the days when finding plus sized clothes was a specialised job, there were select stores on the high street which stocked fatty fashion and that was it, or you made your own…with no patterns. Evans and Rogers and Rogers were the two main ones I can recall and then Rogers and Rogers, who now sell out of Matalan stores, I only saw in London.  and The offerings were not very good… thinking back to the 80s and early 90s, lots of the plus sized stockists were apparently aiming at middle aged ladies or people who worked in offices and didn’t mind wearing polyester florals and ill fitting trousers and odd shaped jackets. Strangely even the specialists didn’t seem to understand the larger figure and what it needed to dress it to make it look and feel good.

For a young girl/lady these offerings were mostly over priced for the often poorly made garments that they were, but at the other end of the market you had quality in celeb offerings from the likes of Dawn French (UK comedian) who opened a cute little boutique in London right near my friend’s flat called Sixteen47 which sold tent like creations at what then seemed extortionate prices to the more wealthy large lady. A little look for Sixteen47 just now showed that the prices are less extortionate these days, they have an online store and the garments are rather less tent like to an extent.

It was rare to find clothes in regular high street fashion shops such as Top Shop, Chelsea Girl, Miss Selfridge and later Next below a size 10 or above a size 16. I remembered this all with a shudder, even calling to mind some of the hideous outfits I wore, knowing they looked crap, feeling crap, hating myself and hating that I’d had to spend a fortune to feel and look horrendous.

BUT I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the misery of some of those shopping trips spurred me on to start a diet. That awful feeling of nothing fitting or looking right, being faced with your fat self in the changing room mirror or even worse in those days walking in to try to squeeze yourself into something and being met with the horror of communal changing rooms. The desire to wear nice clothes, the hatred of the fat shopping trip, the way I had to walk by every other shop on the high street searching for the same one shop that sold what might fit me was awful. It affected my social life. I hated girlie shopping trips, would never ask my slim friends to come into the fat shop with me and would try to steer them towards shoe shops, accessory shops and make up stores. I had TONS of shoes and nail varnishes and make up and hair accessories but just one or two outfits… outfits that I didn’t like but had had to settle for. I still notice with young chunkier girls how they still, in spite of the massive choice now available on the high street, tend to spend more on shoes and jewellery and change their hair colour every five minutes than buy lots of clothes so there is maybe a lingering still of what I used to feel.

Times have changed, most mainstream fashion outlets on the high street and online make clothes up to size 22, 24, 26 or beyond, including the big supermarkets and many of these offer beautiful, trendy garments at reasonable prices in not too shabby (but varying degrees of) quality. Higher end fashion, at higher prices is also becoming a big business when targeted at the obese ladies and all at a time when never before has health and fitness been more heavily promoted.

Isn’t that bizarre? When I was a young fatty with nowhere to buy clothes, I didn’t know anyone who went to a gym, I don’t even think there were many gyms around. I remember keep fit classes at the local church hall becoming popular in the late 80’s and then the Jane Fonda explosion and from there we got to here, a gym on every street corner. Nobody talked about healthy eating unless they were trying to lose weight and we didn’t have a clue, lettuce and yoghurt was about it in terms of our education.

Things have shifted so much in the fashion world that if you are not plus size some of the plus sized shops make clothes from a size 14 to pick up the top end of slim, so size 14 ladies are able to pick up real bargains and some lovely clothes from the plus sized outlets as these smaller sizes, catered for by other high street shops get left on the rails for sale time. I know this, I do it myself. I have frequented the plus sized shops for so long that I know what goes down in there, for someone who has always been a 14 they may never dream of entering a plus sized shop and I’m glad because I get to snap up all of those bargains let alone the accessories which skinnies miss out on. So i guess that’s a positive in all this which supports specialist shops but only for my own selfish interests.

So, where do I stand on this now? I’ve had to think about it and for me, recalling the horror of not being able to find clothes to fit, being at the mercy of the plus sized specialists who didn’t have to try with style, all they had to do was make it BIG and price it HIGH and the obese folk bought it as they had no choice, I would hate for anyone young or old to go through that misery. It definitely left scars on me, for sure and I thank the campaigners and bloggers who have and still work to influence clothing makers to think about style, fashion, fit, body shape and not just make shapeless sacks.

So on that count I support the expansion of plus sized fashion into mainstream. There are people who are sick of dieting, sick of the yo yo who cannnot lose weight and who have given up and decided to be happy as they are, many of these people are healthy, fit active people, more so than lots of skinny people I know, they are living their lives, raising their kids, pursuing their careers, dating, getting married, travelling and they have a right to be able to feel fabulous doing that. Who is Jamelia or anyone else to say they do not have that right? Besides this I know people who are slim but have massive boobs who have to wear plus sized tailoring to fit their body shape, high street stretch in a 14 will do the trick but if they want to dress it up in something sophisticated or as I say tailored for work or whatever they have to go into plus size to get the fit. Why should they not be able to find what they need on the high street at an affordable price just because their shape dictates their size on the rail?

In terms of business. If there is a market businesses will exploit it. As I said earlier the pressure from bloggers and plus size fashionistas is increasing and they are alerting manufacturers and designers to the demand. No longer is the fat woman a middle aged mother of 6 stuck at home happy to wear an elasticated crimpolene skirt and polyester vest top with nylon cardigan on top… oh no, big ladies now are business women, models, celebs, entrepreneurs, independent ladies with disposable income all of their own and they want fashion.

Business doesn’t care if women are getting fatter because they’re selling them clothes, businesses don’t have conscience or half of the world’s food manufacturers would be out of business. All they want is profit and if there is a group of large women holding out money and shouting suggestions they are not going to ignore them, so how Miss Jamelia proposes to halt that business cycle of identify the market, meet its need and make money I’m not sure. And why not? Why shouldn’t businesses make clothes fat people want, they didn’t make them fat, the don’t sell mega packs of chocolate and cut price packs of biscuits and bottles of sugar laden soda… oh wait, some of the them do, in fact Asda has the doughnuts and muffins in the doorway section WAY too near the clothes really. Are they subliminaly saying, have some doughnuts its OK we sell big clothes? Hmmm, I wonder.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, does shaming or forcing someone with obesity to lose weight actually work? Ever? No. Well at least not in my experience. Given the way lifestyles have changed since the 1980’s in terms of what and when we eat, how we live our lives, would taking away big clothes from mainstream stores make people change and lose weight? I doubt it.

So while I can see where Miss Jamelia is coming from I don’t agree with her, I think it’s more complex than her simple view considers, I wonder if she’s just looking for a hook for another documentary to be commissioned during which she tells us how amazingly fit and healthy she is and how we all need to be like her (last time it was single parenting).

People have a choice. Some people choose not to change their body size or their activity levels, not all fat people are obese, not all obese people are ill or unhealthy or unfit or inactive, nobody deserves to have their quality of  life damaged because someone tried to force their hand to do something they struggle with. I remember feeling forced to diet after a misery inducing shopping trip and it’s not fair, I wasn’t even that fat, I was a young girl, I should have been happy, I should have been carefree, I shouldn’t have been ashamed to go shopping with my friends, I shouldn’t have been compelled to buy a ridiculous amount of shoes, I should have just been able to buy some clothes. If I had been able to do that maybe I would have felt more normal and engaged more with other activities and not got fatter and fatter and used food more and more as my crutch. In fact I remember peeling off from friends heading to trendy boutiques and buying some cakes and gorging them on the way home on my own, had there been a place I could buy something alongside my friends those cakes wouldn’t have entered my body and sat on my gut for years and I might have gone out dancing in my new clothes that night.

I get it, I do, I see her point but the more I think about it the less I agree with her. I read lots of American bloggers who say how difficult it is in the US to get good plus sized high street fashion and it hasn’t done anything to reduce obesity there has it? I don’t think it would here in the UK either. Jamelia was entitled to her opinion and these debates are always good to have, they make you think, challenge the way you think and keep things real. I’m glad that I’m not out of touch with how morbid obesity felt and how it happened, it will all help me to stop it happening again.

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Growing Your Own Food in a Tiny Space

Anyone following me knows that last year I set about growing food. I already grew some herbs but I decided to make it a project for the family to have a more determined approach to growing food that we knew to be healthy for us.

We made raised beds to make it easier to tend and to ensure that what we grew was in organic soil and not in the earth in the garden … heaven knows what was in that.

We used reclaimed sleepers and old wooden pallets to make the beds which are this year getting a bright paint job and I mean bright, we’re talking candy colours and big splodges, splats, dots and stripes. My son had even asked if he can do the bed full of green stuff (kale, cabbage and lettuce) in an Avengers style which should be great fun. We don’t care about coordination in the garden it’s rather more functional now than it used to be and besides the paint jobs will give us something nice to look at and will be a talking point when entertaining in the summer.

We filled the beds with organic soil, fertilisers and we collected stones and large rocks for drainage from the beach. So where we had to pay out for the more expensive stuff to grow the food in, we saved on the actual structures to put the lot in.

Having raised beds really did help a lot, we were able to cover one with a poly tunnel over the winter and keep things going, thanks to lots of sun and a very good position.

We didn’t really have much in the way of frost this year, winter was very mild but even if we had the beds would have been more insulated than the ground. We’ve not had any weeds but getting them out would be much easier on the back, general tending is so much easier on the back and knees anyway. So if you have space we’d highly recommend investing in a couple. This year we’re early enough on the case to be growing fruit and our greenhouse is fully operational at last. We bought that from an online re-selling site for a bargain price and although we had to dismantle and re assemble this end it was still well worth what we paid for it.

We’ve also now got a little gang of chickens out back and we’ve been offered a rooster but we’re not sure how we feel about that. We had one when I was a kid and it drove us nuts. We’ve had our first eggs too and we’re really happy that our chickens due to the design of our garden are able to roam free over quite a large area in safety from other animals. At night we do lock them away as we get foxes around here so we usher them into a nice little chicken shed all tucked away in a corner and keep them safe and sound.

We know that we’re lucky to have this space and to be able to afford to start it off, but believe me if you’re worried about making the investment once it gets going it saves a small fortune especially on green leafy produce which seems to grow like crazy and you can pick just what you want to eat that day rather than pulling a whole plant. We try our best to plan our planting so that we don’t have any waste and so we can uses most of what we grow but we have had mishaps where we’ve wound up with a stock pile but don’t worry, friends, family and neighbours are happy to take that lush organic freshness off your hands.

It’s a little easier for us to manage now because you remember the old guy I befriended by the sea? Well he comes almost every day, he loves to potter about and he has dropped about ten years in age from having a purpose in life. We don’t take advantage before it sounds like we’ve taken on OAP labour, he asked if he could help out when we showed him around on after he’d come for lunch one day and ever since he comes and goes as he pleases. He has keys for the back way and the house but most times he doesn’t even bother us, we stumble upon him out there. Our over eaters group from our GP surgery has a double pitch allotment and Nick and I have our rota’d slot there each week and we take him along there with us too and he loves to get involved and after that we go for our walk with his dog and we take him for something to eat. He’s passed on lots of valuable knowledge and information so he’s been a real God send in so many ways. He calls me his angel but he’s ours too, I think sometimes we are just sent people we need when we need them and definitely we all appreciate one another. The best bit, if I can type this without crying as it chokes me up, is that my son  has a grandad for the first time in his life. They get on so well and have developed a real bond. I was always so sad that my kids grew up not knowing their grandad who would have loved them (did for a couple of years in my daughter’s case) beyond measure and I feel they were cheated out of a wonderful man in their lives but watching my son and him together, it’s just like someone else thought he deserved a grandad too and that’s just beyond words to even try to explain what that means to me and to him.

Anyway, instead of being sentimental I’m supposed to be sharing a resource here. My daughter’s very health conscious too but she flat shares and has a very small courtyard garden which she’s grown some herbs in pots in (a cute little colourful window box she put together – they don’t even have to go outside to get their herbs they sling the kitchen window open and snip away and during the winter she simply lifted it inside and sat the whole lot on the kitchen windowsill where it fared well). She wants to get a bit more adventurous and grow more this year (she did have a kale and lettuce container last year) and so I was looking for ideas for her when I came across this book. I bought it online form The Book People in the UK but am sure it must be available elsewhere or similar books.

GAYC

It’s really great, lots of techniques and tips, instructions and fab pictures to guide you and inspire you. It also has diagrams and charts and helps you plan out your planting and growing so that you make the most of your space and add variety into your growing. She is really following a very similar diet to us although she has more carbs when she is hiking in the mountains or kayaking, she finds that she needs more of an instant energy hit before those strenuous activities but she eats lots of leafy greens but wanted to also try growing onions, garlic, beets and some carrots. This book is fabulous to help her with all of that and it was only a fiver! (well £4.99)

I just thought I’d recommend it to anyone who feels they don’t have space enough to grow their own veggies and wants to give it a go. I know it seems like another job to do in already busy lives but honestly the time we spend in our garden we see as exercise and mental relaxation rolled into one. There is something uniquely therapeutic and relaxing about watching and nurturing growing things.

Out with the old, in with the new

I seem to give one thing up and pick up another when it comes to adjusting my eating habits these days.

Chocolate has gone from my diet altogether now. I managed a choc free Easter with no eggs received and none gifted. Instead I made some cute little upcycled gifts for people I would normally give eggs to and asked for daffodils instead of chocolate and I filled my house with the little beauties. I love them and they brighten up my day, unlike chocolate which gives me a horrendous sugar rush and makes me feel like crap.

In has come Coconut Oil. Now I have long since been a fan of the coconut. I remember years ago when on my travels in Africa that I was told and had it demonstrated how the Coconut Palm is 100% useful. There is not a single part of the plant which goes unused, from its bark to its sap from its fronds to its fruit/seeds. It is used either as food, drink, medicine, tools, utensils, material for shelter, clothing… it’s crazy how much that one plant gives to us. I believe that the presence of the coconut palm in the very parts of the Earth where humans originated and its usefulness to us is testament to the fact that we should be taking in as much of what it gives out as we can.

coconuts-Coconut-oil-on-spoon
Image from here http://coconutoil.com/

So are you trying it? Eating it, bathing in it, medicating with it, cleaning with it? It seems to be the new bicarbonate of soda, or vinegar it is all things to all people. OK so that may be exaggerating but have you read about this stuff? Try starting with this info from Wellness Mama with links to even more info or check out the link beneath the image I used to go to dedicated website Coconutoil.com

I’ve been consuming it for sometime but stopped when I started the low carb thing because for some reason I thought it must have lots of sugar in it and my research so far has turned up conflicting stories on how much sugar, if it’s fructose or glucose and so the jury’s out but in small amounts it’s doing me more good than harm and to be honest I am so sensitive to sugar now that I positively explode if I ingest the stuff and I don’t when I eat coconut or the oil, milk or water and so my body tells me I’m doing OK.

I must admit that it’s used more on the outside of my body than the inside. I’ve used coco oil based body moisturisers for a long time now but have combined them with other concoctions but I’m gradually phasing out other things and trying to get really simple with these other elements of our lives. Our diet is so simple now it’s crazy, it takes little thought yet our meals are fabulously satisfying and delicious. I figured it’s time to rid the bathroom and my dressing table of a load of pointless junk too. We’re using up last bits of gels and oils and sprays and going as natural as possible with as few products as possible.

I kind of figured that we’re refining what we put into our bodies and what we ask of our bodies yet we’re still spraying and rubbing on who knows what harmful rubbish. So over the next few weeks the old stuff is going and we’re seeking out more natural, less harmful products to use on the outside of us.

I’m turning into a health freak but to be honest I’ve heard some bad news about a couple of family members this last few weeks and I’m counting my lucky stars not to be in their shoes and to still be so healthy in spite of the abuse I’ve given my body over recent years. I don’t think at approaching 50 I can take my  health for granted even though I’ve lost a lot of weight and changed so much, my continued health, weight loss and subsequent maintenance of a healthy me into the future will depend on the changes I have made and continue to make.

Besides, a slim healthy person has to be thinking around now of their mortality and of fending off illness, disease and immobility for as long as possible so in some respects I’m just doing what any normal close to 50 person should be doing and evaluating the way I treat my body and thinking of what I want out of the next phase of my life. I don’t want to crack and creak every time I move just yet, I don’t want to have stiff joints and water retention and bloating. I can’t do much about the wrinkles that will come and the grey hair that’s under the dye already but I can try to keep the rest in check for as long as possible.  For now coconut oil is my miracle… it might be something else next month but whatever it is, it will be better than chocolate.

One Year Anniversary

My first post on this blog was made on 5th April 2014 and it kind of dealt with how I was sick of being so fat, sick of not having a life, sick of going to bed thinking I was not going to survive the night and sick of worrying about leaving my kids alone too soon. It stated how I was determined to change my life for the better. Subsequent posts revealed how I didn’t want to just lose weight, I wanted to get fitter, engage more with life, be a better person, be happier, get healthy and make changes forever which would help me to beat what I called my ‘fat demon’ and break a lifetime yo-yo cycle of gaining and losing weight once and for all. I wanted to get to the root causes of my issues with food and weight and deal with them. It was now or never.

HappyAnniversary.175114211_largeA year on, reading through those early posts for the first time since they were written I hear my old self in my writing but she is someone I don’t really recognise anymore, someone I’ve moved so far from that I even had trouble relating to her. That shocked me. It shocked me how much we can change as people in just one year, just by altering our lifestyle. How we can forget so quickly how we felt and transition into our new way of life. I think it’s a good thing that we can change and move on, I really wouldn’t want to carry the doom and gloom of my 2014 self around constantly, it would be as restrictive as carrying the weight I’ve shed around. But I really don’t want to forget how miserable I was and how hard I’d made my life. I thought that I could recall how bad I’d felt but reading back makes me realise I don’t come close to remembering at all. For that reason alone it has been worth charting my progress through this blog because I know now that I will never be able to forget how it felt because I can go back and read how it felt, at the time, for me. I can remind myself of myself and nothing will be more powerful than that.

This blog will make sure I never forget that person because if I forget her I have a chance of becoming her again and I do not want to become her again. I don’t have to relate to her, in fact the less I relate to her the less I’m likely to become her again. I’ve never been under any false illusion that this transition is a one off, short lived, time limited thing, I know it will be ongoing for the rest of my life and I know that there ill be times when sinking back to her may be tempting. I’m strong now but I’m not stupid, I know that something could send me spiraling back out of control and just being mindful of that, having things to remind me how that felt should I feel myself falling will help me to win over the compulsion that still exists inside me somewhere to use food to self destruct.

But positives…I can’t even list the amazing things that have happened in my life since I first wrote on this blog. I couldn’t begin to share the knowledge I’ve acquired about food, exercise, physical health, mental health, holistic well being in general and about how all of those things make me who I am and change who I am every day. I’ve experimented with food groups, cooking methods, recipes, home growing and fermenting and now we have chickens and fresh eggs.

I’ve experimented with exercise starting with walking and stepping from one foot to another I’ve tried out so many new things including swimming (which I only learned to do properly this last year and has now become one of my favourite pass times), tai chi, cross fit, climbing, pilates and I’ve even managed a little run or two and am now getting to grips with yoga. All of the experimenting pays off for me because it gives me a wide varied repetoire of activity which I can slot into a day no matter where I am or how busy I am or even if I’m not well or injured, I can do some activity, some form of movement which enhances my general state of well being and makes me feel good about myself and keeps my body moving. That’s all exercise is, I’ve learned that… it’s just moving however you can and however you want to and however you enjoy doing it. I do have a routine when it comes to seriously working out and keeping in shape because I need that in my life and I enjoy it and I get so much that I need mentally from it besides needing the discipline of a routine. However beside that I also have this huge bag of activities i can dip into when I feel like it for fun, pleasure and even just to enhance my mental state, to take away stress or give me thinking time or just to give me an energy boost.

The same with food, all of the trial and error and experimenting has kept my body on its toes, I’ve tried a few approaches and each new one has taken me a step towards finding an eating plan which suits me perfectly which makes me feel energised, satisfied and well. But it all came about through trial and error, this has been a year of experimentation for sure. It also came about from advice and links and reading blogs so again blogging has really had an impact on my success.

I’ve also delved deep into my past. My upbringing and my relationships with people throughout my life and found how those relationships have influenced my relationship with food and I’ve looked in to myself and found a way to love me and accept me and to stop self destructing with food and to stop thinking food is my friend when it’s actually not. I’m more open with my feelings more expressive and demonstrative a better mother friend and lover and I’ve learned that it’s OK to take from those relationships now and then to lean on people who love me at times just as I love them to lean on me when they need a hand.

Besides all of this I’ve changed how I work and what I do for a living and had the courage to do something I wanted to do for a long time. I’ve learned new skills and developed a professional confidence that other people always thought I had but I never really did. I’ve started a fabulous relationship and my kids are positively thriving and definitely benefiting from all of the changes either directly or indirectly. Their habits have changed and they’re healthier, sleeping better, doing better generally and they are benefiting from having a much happier, healthier mum who is engaging with life now instead of hiding and waiting to die. I think I’m far more fun to be around and they don’t say it but I’m sure they are relieved that they don’t have to worry about my health now.

I guess more than anything since this blog began I’ve learned to just relax, enjoy life, be me and let myself go with relationships (including those with food and things as well as people), not to question myself, not to doubt myself or to be so hung up on what other people think of me. I feel like losing the weight has just freed me from the hell I’d allowed myself to sink into, or even purposefully put myself into. I think I’ve become more conscious of myself whilst becoming less self conscious. That may sound weird but I think there is a definite difference between the two.

Life is good and I’m so glad that I documented this past year and so glad that I went through everything I went through to get me to here. I’m feeling strong and ready for my challenges in the coming year and can’t help but get excited about whatever is in store for all of us.

Kefir and Kombucha… it’s been a year and I’ve learned a few things

It’s been nearly a year now since I started to home ferment and ingest these two products and I can honestly say two things:

  1. I notice a huge down turn in energy when I don’t drink kefir every morning and a massive upswing when I get back to it
  2. The online tutorials on fermenting and culturing are way too complicated. the process for each is so much more simple than they make it out to be

Making a batch of kombucha is made to look like some scientific experiment when really it’s making some tea and decanting it to bottles rather than cups.

Kombucha brewing with white and green tea
Kombucha brewing with white and green tea

Kefir and kombucha are reported to die if you go near them with metal….nope. A quick rinse in a metal sieve does no harm nor does cutting you kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) down with scissors if you want to ferment in a smaller jar or you let your babies integrate with the mama and the whole thing becomes rather more dense than you’d like.

When you are straining your kefir to keep your culture in tact and your milk product aside for drinking or second fermenting it can be a real pain getting it through a regular sieve so I use a small holed metal colander and so far it has not been damaged at all, my culture keeps on reproducing. Another thing I learned is that your kefir grains can sometimes do with a wash as milk sticks to them and they can start to produce some rather tangy sour tasting stuff. What I do is strain off the liquid then swish out the jar with some fresh milk and pour that over the culture in the strainer, then I pop the culture back into the jar and add some milk and give it a swirl around and strain it again. I only do this once a week, it’s enough and then once a month I rinse over my culture with some room temperature filtered water to give it a good clean. It responds well to this and it doesn’t harm it at all.

The rule of thumb is that if the SCOBY is healthy and growing it’s happy and doing what it’s supposed to do. This is the best advice to follow, your SCOBY will tell you if it’s not happy.

kefir-grains1
Healthy Kefir SCOBY

The biggest problem with kombucha is fruit flies they love the stuff but a home made trap kills them off pretty fast and be sure to use a denser fibred cloth to top your fermenting jar as opposed to muslin which would seem the obvious first choice to allow air in. That SCOBY needs to breathe, it’s alive.

Also don’t fret if you have to leave your SCOBY or brew unattended for a while Kefir grains survive just fine if they are immersed in milk and I had some in my fridge for a fortnight and they are still thriving.

Also flavouring kombucha is a faff if you make your own syrup as recommended in lots of video tutorials. Store bought syrups for a change of taste are fab to add at the bottling stage and make for some great flavours. Use sparingly if they are heavy in sugar but the fermenting process uses up the sugar so it’s not such a worry in terms of calories.

I’ve lost weight consistently and have kombucha and kefir every single day. One hit of kefir each morning and three hits of kombucha one before each meal. Plus I do make yoghurt from kefir and also cream cheese.

There are tons of health claims about these two cultured foods/drinks and I don’t know how many are true but I do notice a difference if I miss drinking them and I don’t think about it, I’m not obsessional if I miss it but I definitely notice a flag towards the late afternoon in terms of energy levels.

I do believe that my gut is just healthier given the ’emissions’ since using these products and I just have a greater sense of well being. I’ve not had any gall bladder issues at all since taking Kombucha and had excellent results in recent liver and kidney function tests which have shown an improvement, along with my thyroid at each of my past three checks. I’ve made so many changes to my diet and lifestyle that all or any could have caused the resultant health improvements but I do believe these product have a part to play.

If you’re thinking of giving them a try there is a whole host of info out there to research and if you have any questions just pop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer as a seasoned fermenter. They’ve certainly not appeared to do me any harm.

Too much of a good thing

My friend who is doing very well with her weight loss and exercise efforts has been leaning on me for advice and support. I like that she is addressing her issues but at the same time I very much think this whole thing is a very unique experience. I don’t think one size fits all. We can share tips and thoughts, recipes and motivation and I’m so glad that so many people do, but at the end of the day it all comes down to us, just the me, myself and I approach. I’m trying to not discourage her by encouraging her to try things for herself and not simply do exactly as I’ve done, purely because I think that is the only sure way to long term sustainable healthy lifestyle changes. It’s a little bit tricky to manage without dampening her enthusiasm.

I’m wondering if part of me doesn’t want to be held up as some kind of mogul because I’m deep down worried that I might fall off this wagon at some point, or if on the contrary, I’m deep down worried because I know that being her inspiration might make it impossible for me to wobble off the wagon… I don’t do enforcement and backed into corners very well. I’ve asked myself these questions and I truly believe that it’s none of that (I’m flashing forward now a year to when I blog about the pressure of being someone’s weight loss idol leading me back to fat and although I’m saying that flippantly my inner laughter is not too convincing), so strike ‘truly believe’ and replace with I really think that… it’s just because I want her to go on her journey not mine. She’s looking for herself and I’m looking for myself so even though I love to support and encourage her I don’t think it’s wise for her to do exactly as I’ve done.

I’ve realised in this past ten months that there are so many reasons why obesity happens and so many reasons why it can be difficult to live with and that our bodies and minds are so different, we have different abilities, different ways of storing fat, different tolerances to foods, different sleep patterns, different energy levels  not to mention different interests… we’re unique. So what works for me might not work for anyone else in the whole world or it could work for a few people or a lot of people but the important thing is that it works for me and the even more important thing is we all find what works for us and not just for now, but what will work for us long term.

If we are longing for a day when we can stuff our face and gorge out on crap like we used to do then we’re not doing it right and we’re not going to succeed long term or at least we’re going to struggle more and more. I’d say we can all do that now, right now, nothing really is stopping us from stuffing our faces if we fancy it but what we’re doing and what the key to this is, is training ourselves, or re-training ourselves not to do it. While we’re doing that we’re also training ourselves to make that a conscious choice which becomes easier and easier to make over time. We’re establishing new habits and that takes time and small steps.

My friend is eager to just copy the lifestyle I have now and I keep on telling her that’s not how it happened. I didn’t wake up last April and do what I do today, heck I didn’t wake up today and do what I did last month, it is a gradual process of trial and error with food and exercise and also a big deep delve into my emotional issues, which are personal to me. There may be similarities but none of us have experienced exactly the same lives, even twins brought up in the same house with the same people at the same time don’t experience exactly the same lives because if nothing else they think differently.

All of this for me is an ongoing process and always will be, there is no end. The way I live my life healthily will change as I age, as I move geographically as what I do for a living changes, there are so many variables ahead that I know of not to mention the ones I don’t.  It took lots of researching and reading and talking and listening to get here and I’m not some kind of pioneer who has done it all so everyone else can follow. I’m not fat Moses who parted the sea of lard and sugar so all fat folk could run through to Slimsville, I so wish I had done that because I know how tough it is wading through that sea and I’d love to make it easier for everyone, but I know that we all have our own sea to wade through and although people can help and inspire, cheer us on from the banks and shores and even wade along with us for parts of the crossing, it’s something we have to do for ourselves. I see myself as one of those people who is a little bit further through the sea than some people, a lot further through than others, I see myself as someone beckoning them on, cheering and shouting and waving and willing them to keep on going. But I’m also mindful that there are people ahead of me who are doing the same for me and those behind me give me a push too but ultimately I have to wade through it, there is nobody coming to lift me up and carry me over this, it’s my battle to not be one of the ones who was ahead and has now fallen behind or who never got far from the shore.

Just as our lives are a unique experience, so too are many of the micro journeys we take as we pass through this mortality of ours and living those experiences, learning from them, stumbling and falling and getting back up again are the things which make us learn, grow and succeed in the long term. This journey is one where bad old habits and associations with food are examined, understood and controlled and new healthier habits and associations are put in their place. It’s taken me years and years to develop all of the bad habits which made me weigh over 300lbs how can I expect to change everything forever in just ten months? But I can change it day by day and so can anyone else but right now might not be their time, I’ve waited 47 years for this time to come, just like I waited 19 years for the feeling that smoking was something I never wanted to do again to come. When it hits you, you know it and its up to us to recognise and go with it and if it was a Braxton Hicks type false alarm preparation which only served to lose us a few pounds or make a tiny lifestyle change in preparation for the big labour to come then so be it. But I don’t think my journey can be mapped onto someone else’s life step by step, there are lessons and tips and triumphs and thoughts and facts to share and I do that gladly but I don’t put myself out there as a weight loss guru, even though I’m perhaps better equipped than some who make a lot of money out of some very unhappy people. I couldn’t do that ever because I know it doesn’t work, my pushing 400lbs self of last April knew that and she hasn’t lost her memory along with all of those pounds. So many people stop me and ask how I did it, I’ve heard on the rumour mill that I had a gastric band, which upsets me as I’m looking way way too healthy to have gone down that route. I don’t knock it if it works for people then great but my friends who have had one look very sallow and unwell and some are left with life long conditions which I would never want to risk. I’m not about replacing one illness with another, I want to be healthy not just slim.

This is one thing we are more than allowed to be selfish with and I really advocate digging into ourselves and finding out why we do this to ourselves, why we have a problem with overeating, why we are often paralysed into inactivity and why we stuff ourselves to sickness with food when we’re not even hungry. Something in our minds, either superficial or deep within flicks a switch and sees us descend into an unhealthy misery of fat and more fat. That switch has been flicked on for years and years and we need to find what it is that operates our own personal switch, be honest and open with ourselves and get to the bottom of this issue, this condition, this illness and I believe only then can we truly start to soar and leave not just our fat bodies behind but our fat mentality too and that is so very personal and so painstaking to do and it doesn’t all just drop off like an unbuttoned coat, it is something we have to wriggle out of, like we’re shedding a skin and it takes time and manipulation and a calm approach with some frantic flailing at times. It’s not easy. When people ask me how I’ve done this I say “I’m not done, I’ll always be fighting obesity and this is a start which has been very, very tough but I’m getting there by eating healthily and moving a lot and getting to understand and love myself, God willing I will carry on with it forever.”

We’re all different we have to remember that and this is where so many weight loss plans go wrong and ultimately fail (I know there are long term successes but don’t we all know more people who regained weight than stayed slender and healthy?). Mass marketed plans are aimed at everyone who is fat, whether that’s someone who feels fat and wants to lose 7lbs to get in to a bikini for holiday or someone who is super morbidly obese who hasn’t left their couch for 5 years, they cater for someone who gained 10lbs over Christmas and someone who gained 300 pounds over a lifetime of masked pain. The problems are different, the people are different, the underlying causes may be very different and so the treatment needs to be different and for those with the real weight ‘problem’ there needs to be a holistic approach for success, but even that has to come at the right time when there is something in the head of the obese person shouting out loud and clear “the time is now” and we all know that feeling. I’ve certainly heard that voice in my head so many times and I never want to hear it again, or perhaps I never want to stop hearing it again. Thankfully more and more doctors and health care professionals are understanding obesity and the holistic approach.

Anyway, I’ve digressed… what I was supposed to be writing about was how my friend showed me today that she’s taking a whole stack of vitamin supplements. We’d been for a bike ride (a good example of cheering each other on through the journey) and we went to her house for a stretch out and some much needed water, I stupidly forgot my bottle, I usually sip on a good half litre on a moderate ride in the cold so I was feeling the dehydration. When she sat down at the kitchen table to drink her water she plonked a big plastic container down and peeled off the lid and proceeded to open bottle after bottle and tip a tablet or capsule out of each one onto the table. I asked her what they were and she said they were her vitamins and minerals. I picked up a couple of bottles, iron, zinc, magnesium, St Johns Wort, evening primrose oil, cod liver oil, garlic capsulres, selenium, two different multi vitamins including a menopausal concoction, extra vitamin B6, ginko…. I could go on.

I asked why she was taking them all and she said to make sure she gets her RDA of everything and then I asked her what she was planning on eating today and what she ate yesterday and I told her that while I’m not doctor or nutritionist I’m pretty sure that there is such a thing as overdosing on vitamins and minerals and that perhaps it was a better idea to trust that her new healthy diet was giving her all that her body needed in a more natural way. This led to her looking up iron overdosing, potassium overdosing and all manner of overdosing and we discovered some pretty ghastly consequences which scared both of us to be honest.

I’ve always relied on my diet to provide me with everything I need to nourish, maintain and repair my body and feel that I’ve got a nice internal balance going on, demonstrated by how healthy I feel and look and how well all of my bodily functions are occurring and I urged her to do the same. That was backed up by sound advice from experts (always check sources of online information for quality) that a good healthy balanced diet with oily fish and or pulses, grains, seeds and nuts a range of vegetables and fruits from the colour spectrum, a good mix of raw and cooked, well washed, organic if possible, home grown if possible all washed down with lots of water and a spattering of dairy and that should make sure that over the course of a week we get everything we need especially when we throw in plenty of herbs and spices too. We don’t have to eat the spectrum every day or down a bucket load of mixed berries each evening but as long as we get to the end of a week and find we’ve planned in and carried out the consumption of a hand full of each two or three times a week at least then we’re pretty much guaranteed that we covered all bases and got in everything our body needs.

We have to consider that our bodies need the vitamins and minerals to perform functions or to balance one another out or to work together to ensure that another vitamin or mineral can do its job efficiently and at the end of the day its all about creating a balance, about the body using what it needs, expelling what it doesn’t and maintaining harmony in all of our millions of cells which work to keep us alive and functioning properly. I urged my friend to think about that word … balance and to consider how that day she planned to consume a couple of foods which are known to be rich in iron and then to top that up with iron supplements in their own right as well as iron in three other of the combined pills she was going to take, each purporting on the pack to be the RDA.

I suggested to her that she was perhaps already outdoing her RDA with her food that day but that was OK as she was taking in other stuff that would help process that and get the balance right but with her piling on iron like she was weighing it in for its scrap the balance was not likely to be as easy to achieve. She saw my point and description along with what we’d read that morning made her throw all of those bottles of supplements into the bin and when I left she was ready to spend the rest of the morning checking through to see if she was missing any essential nutrients from her food diet and if she found anything lacking (I was confident she wouldn’t she’s in the early days total commitment phase) then she would source them out in food and include those foods in her diet rather than pills.

I’m not knocking pills at all I’m just sharing this to implore anyone on a new healthy you journey to make sure you don’t over do the healthy thing to the point where it becomes decidedly unhealthy to overload on some mineral or other. So in spite of myself I went into guru mode but I was concerned and it reminded me that the research into food is very important if you want to live healthy. I’m glad that she didn’t get upset and feel she was doing something wrong but she looked for herself for advice and has since sent me a couple of links which I’m going to find useful about how certain enzymes in our food can counter out the healthy elements in other foods when consumed together. So I’m happy that today she has been able to lead and teach me and that feels right to me now. I feel that I’m helping her make that transition from someone who wanted to copy and be led to someone who sees herself as on the same road beside me, walking together but walking for ourselves, learning and sharing as we go. I just hope that I can continue to encourage her down that route as I if there is one thing in all of this that I am 100% convinced of, it is that we really are in this for ourselves and ultimately it is a unique experience which we have to lead.