Thursday, 4 September 2014

Three months on

In the last three months, I have:

  • walked an average of just over 100K each month (4-5K most mornings)
  • turned my eating plan upside down (have gone right off processed meat, eat virtually no red meat, poultry weekly, fish twice weekly, veggie the rest)
  • removed caffeine completely - now on all herbal, fruit and redbush teas
  • removed most dairy - now using soya milk and yogurt, and goat or feta cheese
  • removed most gluten - eating very little bread, and using GF muesli, GF pasta
  • juice for breakfast from Obsidian recipes most mornings - muesli and fruit if I'm in a real hurry
And these are the results. (Click on the photo for a closer look.)

(Same t-shirt but baggier! Jeans instead of the sloppy joe trousers, because they look better.)

I've lost 21 pounds. Still only about an inch from the waist, but three from the hips, and probably about two or three from the bust (that measurement wasn't taken in June, but I can guess from the clothes). I'm now fitting comfortably into size 14 rather than a tight 16 (although different stores have different ideas, of course) and have reclaimed a lot of my wardrobe.

I'm not quite done. My ideal weight, from a BMI point of view, at 5'5", is 10 stone 9. So that's where I aim to reach and settle.

My fabulous husband has been constantly supportive, eating the curious recipes I've dished up for him (actually, last night's quorn bolognese went down rather well), encouraging me with the exercise, helping me keep alcohol to a bare minimum. As a result, his own clothes are now fitting rather easier than they were too.

This is not (and really never has been) a 'diet'. It has been a genuine change to what I view as 'normal'. That's why the size 16s are not being kept 'just in case'.

I can never thank the good folks of Obsidian enough for setting me on a road that is - after 51 years - right for me.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

My Obsidian video

I was delighted to see the excellent job that Cris and his colleagues at Obsidian had done in compiling my case study video.

As you've seen, this was shot after 7 days at the resort. A day further on my total weight loss was 7lb. By 'concert day' I'd added a further 9lb loss to that total.

So, so happy and grateful.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Determination helps me through

... as one of my friends has pointed out, this was a line in a song that I sang in a concert last night (Noel Coward's If Love Were All, if you were wondering).

About ten days ago, I was a bit annoyed with myself for getting a target wrong. Let me explain...

When I left Obsidian on 13 June, having lost 7lb, I was 12 stone 6. I reckoned that getting to under 12 stone would be enough to allow me to fit into a particular concert dress on 19 July. I set this as an achievable target during a session led by the splendid Marco during my stay in Spain. In fact, I actually well achieved that (by last night's concert, I weighed in at 11-11 - making a 9lb weightloss in around five weeks).

With ten days to go, and weighing in at about 12-1, I extracted said dress - and wondered why it was still far too small. When I checked, I found that my recollection had been faulty: the last time I'd worn it was in May 2009 - when I'd not long been coping (badly) with my plantar fasciitis, hadn't yet put on too much weight, and was around 11-3. Disappointed, I reckoned I'd have to borrow a dress or (worse) buy another one, as a loss of some 12 pounds in ten days seemed unlikely (not to say unhealthy).

However, a further four pounds came off in that time, and perhaps the exercise and mostly vegetarian diet are changing my shape; because I triumphantly wore said dress, and was delighted that it looked good. I actually felt confident in a stage outfit for, I would say, the very first time in five years.

I had to publish a silly photo to share with my Obsidian friends on Facebook, so this was it. Caption really should be (if you know your James Cagney films): "I made it, Ma - top of the world!".

So, after a wonderful concert, many happy times and much encouragement, I will now pause and reflect, focus on my next goals, and keep doing what I'm doing. Because there is another way, and it's working.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A milestone achieved

Am I allowed to be just a little smug? This morning - six weeks tomorrow since I travelled to Obsidian, and 31 days since my return - I have (a) got below twelve stone for the first time since 2011, and (b) have therefore lost a stone since my first day at the resort. I have a further 18lb to go to reach a 'normal' BMI, so just under halfway through.

It's a bit disconcerting to realise that my weight today (167 pounds, or 11-13) was actually my HEAVIEST point on previous journeys in 2006 and 2007, but hey - that's the way too many cookies crumble.

However, here is one other interesting observation. During the last fifteen years, my blood pressure has constantly been a little on the high side. Not dramatically so: most of the readings were in the region of 118 to 130 for the systolic reading, and between 80 and 95 for the diastolic. That latter reading caused several medics to say "it's not quite high enough to use medication, but it's higher than I'd like it to be..."

On my first assessment at Obsidian, my reading was in that sort of range: 131/95. The day that I left, it was a highly satisfactory 114/76. Today it was *drum roll*... 102/77.

Now, what's even more interesting is that this reading is way, way lower and healthier than it was when I was much lighter than I am now. Today I'm 167 pounds. In May 2008, I weighed in at 150 pounds - and my BP was my highest that I have ever recorded: 142/109. That's when I was just one pound heavier than my healthy BMI target today.

I can only judge that the removal of most sugar, alcohol and (probably) gluten from my diet, a 5K walk nearly every day, and around 75% vegetarian food, have been responsible for this change - which is, in fact, far more important than the fact that I am gradually reclaiming half my wardrobe.

It's all about so much more than the pounds.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Reviewing Obsidian

A quick update to share my review of my time at Obsidian. I love using social media to appreciate services, places, holidays or anything else that deserves a bouquet, and my TripAdvisor review will, I hope, encourage others to try 'the Obsidian way' for themselves.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

After Obsidian: three weeks on

We all know what new eating and fitness regimes are: difficult to keep up. The briefest of looks through this blog will demonstrate just how 'life happens' and our best intentions and desires are scuppered, whether by ourselves or by external events, whether reasons or excuses. In my case, it's been a bout of extremely painful plantar fasciitis lasting two years - 2008 to 2010 - and a severe ankle sprain in June 2013, just as I was at least getting myself back into a regular walking habit, which is still painful twelve months on.

After seeing (and more importantly, feeling) the extraordinary difference made by my Obsidian experience in just eight days, and having experienced the new possibilities afforded by increased vegetarian eating and the delights of juicing, I knew that I needed to make this as easy for myself as possible. So... what has changed?

  • I have kept up my near-as-dammit 5K walks almost every day. OK, so a Norfolk countryside is a lot less tough than Spanish mountains, but it's still done. You can see the evidence on my Runkeeper account. In the 23 days since my return, I have had just three days on which no walking has happened, and two others when I've walked less than 4.5K. That's included some rainy days, by the way.
  • I have eliminated my Assam tea entirely, and am perfectly happy with an assortment of Redbush, fruit and herb teas. The last time I had 'normal' tea was on the flight to Obsidian on 3 June.
  • I have not missed dairy products, and much to my surprise find a real liking for soya milk (which I have on occasional [gluten-free] muesli, and in one or two juices.
  • I have been cooking mostly vegan recipes from Obsidian, using chicken and fish on average once a week each.
  • I have drunk (and enjoyed) three glasses of (half diluted with water) white wine in the time since my return, and haven't missed it the rest of the time.
  • I have reduced my regular carbohydrate in evening meals by half (1 ounce instead of 2 of pasta or rice, 3 ounces instead of 6 of potatoes).
  • I bought a juicer, which arrived five days after my return. Since then, most of my breakfasts have been (post-walk) juices. If I'm in a real hurry, it's gluten-free muesli, fruit and soya yogurt, which I love.
  • I have started treatments with an excellent local sports masseur (James Witham) to try to deal with my continually problematic right ankle. This was inspired by my session with the wonderful Gilly at Obsidian.
Now, for the first ten days after my return, having implemented all the above, I was getting a bit piqued that my 12-6 weight (down from 12-13) hadn't moved an ounce. Very irritating! However, I persevered; and suddenly the downward journey began again. Today, 23 days after my return, I've shed a total of a further 5 pounds; this morning I weighed in at 12 stone 1 pound - a total weight loss of 12 pounds.

I have reclaimed a skirt, a top, a jacket and some t-shirts from the 'keep-and-hope' section of the wardrobe. I don't have to change out of jeans and into baggy trousers in order to sit down and be comfortable; the jeans are OK to sit in. I seem to have left at least one chin behind at Obsidian. My wedding and engagement rings, while still not removable (not that I want to, you understand) can now be moved on my finger rather than cutting off circulation (I was truly afraid that they would have to be cut off and resized). 

My next target is to get down below 12 stone, and to fit into a concert dress for a performance I'm directing and taking part in on 19th July, and I'm on course to do that.

I will add more reflections on this journey - especially the 'learning' and 'moderation' aspects, which are what has made it so achievable for me - very soon. In the meantime, the photo below was taken (outside a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Norwich, in fact) after I'd had a new haircut and highlights - and my nails painted! - wearing one of those 'rescued' jackets, and feeling SO MUCH BETTER.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

There is another way: the Obsidian experience

So... Obsidian. I have been back from my trip to Southern Spain for a little over three weeks, and life has been as manic as ever; but I wanted to report back on the experience, and my continuing progress - so here I am. [I'm dating this entry shortly after my return, although it's being written in retrospect!]

[The above is my first Obsidian sunset. You can see my photo album of the whole stay by clicking here.]

I was introduced to the Obsidian Retreat by a local friend and business networking contact, Debi. She has achieved some inspiring weight loss herself in the last few months, as has her husband, and this was inspired and kick-started by her initial visit to the retreat. She has since become their General Manager - commuting every couple of weeks between Norfolk and Spain - and is working to raise the profile of this excellent place. She spread the word around those friends and colleagues that she knew were keen to review their health and fitness, and that included me.

So on 3 June, I set out for Spain via Stansted Airport. I arrived late that evening, and spent the next eight full days - leaving at lunchtime on Thursday 12 June - taking advantage of many of the opportunities afforded by my stay. This included:
  • superb vegan food, delicious imaginative salads and amazing juices - all of which, as a lifelong meat-and-dairy girl, I found surprisingly easy to adapt to
  • a 5K walk every morning (tougher in the Spanish hills than at home in Norfolk!)
  • various exercise classes, from yoga to rebounding (mini trampoline), stretch & tone and Zumba, as well as higher-impact workouts that are less my personal style but clearly worked very well for other guests
  • use of the little gymnasium and the swimming pool at any time of the day or night
  • a thorough medical assessment and in-depth interview at the start and end of my stay, with weights and measures of all kinds allowing me to monitor progress
  • cookery and juicing demonstrations
  • talks relating to health, motivation, inspiration, future planning
  • two visits to local seaside resorts for a change of scene and keeping in touch with real life!
  • support and encouragement from all staff, including the nurse, yoga teacher, several fitness coaches, life coach mentor - and all the other guests during my stay
What about the food? Well, this is intended as a detox (although it's up to you to what extent you do this). My toughest challenge was doing without my 4-5 mugs each day of strong Assam tea. I spent the first three days in a bit of a confused fog - with attendant headache - from caffeine deprivation. However, I soon became accustomed to fruit, herbal and Redbush tea, taken without milk.

The juicing is a revelation. Imaginative combinations of vegetables and fruit made into effectively giant shakes (although there's no milk in there!) in a pretty large glass; always served for breakfast, and guests choose a juice or salad for lunch, and juice or vegan evening meal. For days 1-3 I had two juices and one meal each day; days 4-6 were spent entirely juicing; days 7-9 one juice and two meals.  I was seldom hungry, took around an hour to drink each juice, drank loads of water, and after the initial three days felt genuinely much, much better in myself.

Now, I could have done a lot more exercise than I actually did; but what I did worked well for me. My own personal fitness investment went something like this:
  • 5K walk every morning (except the first one)
  • several yoga classes
  • one stretch & tone
  • three rebounding classes
  • one Zumba class
  • two swims
  • one gym session
I also spent a fair bit of time sleeping; talking to staff and other guests; a few treatments (facial, manicure, sports massage); a counselling session; and several talks and workshops. As I observed to a friend, the lack of 'normal' daily responsibilities is extraordinarily liberating: no cooking or housework, emails (unless you want to!) or work, means that 24 hours in each day is yours to use as you wish. If you sleep for 8 hours each night, that still leaves SIXTEEN HOURS for the other activities.

I was inspired and encouraged, as I've said, by so many people. Each day new people came and went, with different aims and lives and situations, and I never failed to be impressed by their willingness to try all that the resort had to offer. 

On my final day, I was delighted to find that I had - in the course of eight days - lost seven pounds, leaving behind the scarily imminent 'medically obese' definition (5'5" tall and 12 stone 13 pounds) and reaching 12 stone 6 pounds. Better still, my BP was lower than I believe it has ever been in my adult life: it went down from 131/95 to 114/76. I had lost an inch each from waist and hips. Best of all, I had found my enjoyment of the vegan, non-dairy, non-caffeine, non-alcohol regime had been far, far easier than I would ever have imagined, and the health benefits were very clear.

Friday, 13 June 2014

There is another way

I haven't written in this blog since 2011. Somehow I could never bring myself to delete it, as I subconsciously knew that the issue - that of maintaining a level of health that allowed me to live my life - wasn't going to go away. Meanwhile, my injuries caused more trouble and my weight topped out at just over thirteen stone - bringing me into the 'medically obese' category.

I will write a more detailed post as soon as I can (the backlog of emails and laundry after nine days' absence is rather scary) but in the meantime I just wanted to say:


In eight days, I have lost seven pounds (that's represented by the yellow stuff I'm holding in the photo). I went from 12-13 to 12-6.

Much more importantly, I have gained a huge amount of friendship, knowledge, support, ideas and inspiration from the superb staff, from coaches to cooks to cleaners.

Obsidian is a health resort near Benissa, an hour from Alicante, in southern Spain.The experience was extraordinary, relaxing, exhausting and rewarding in equal measure.

More soon, but as a taster, please check out their website here; and feel free to view my photo album here.

And expect to see me back on this blog much more frequently in coming weeks and months.

Next post: The Obsidian Experience