Month: May 2012

Get Happy – Five and a Half Tips to Make Your Life Better

Get Happy – Five and a Half Tips to Make Your Life Better

My last few posts have been a bit serious, I know – so I thought I’d take a minute to write a nice cheery post! I am happy at the moment. Really happy. The sun’s out and I’m only a little bit burnt, which is […]

There’s No Such Thing as a Quick Fix

There’s No Such Thing as a Quick Fix

I was going to write a blog today about the importance of keeping your ‘before’ pictures for later use – but I was browsing the news over my lunch and came across this article about a girl in the UK who has been declared ‘Britain’s […]

Appreciating What You’ve Got

Appreciating What You’ve Got

It’s often all-too-easy to get complacent about what you’ve got, be it friends, family, money, warmth – and your health.

I’ve got a cold at the moment, and dammit, I feel sorry for myself. Really sorry for myself. I’ve noticed this more since I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle – the fact that I feel so much better 99% of the time means that in the 1% of the time I’m not firing on all cylinders, I’m really sad about it. But this is just a cold.

I was talking to a lovely lady yesterday whose husband has stomach cancer, and it’s terminal. It’s returned despite doctors’ best efforts through radiotherapy – they’ve even removed his stomach, but unfortunately, it’s back. That sort of thing makes you really think about what you take for granted. The health of yourself and your family is so, so important, and yet all too easily forgotten.

In my family, we have a really bad history of cancer, and I’ve lost a number of family members to it. It’s actually recently been the anniversary of my Nan’s death, so it’s been on my mind quite a lot, which is why I’m taking part in the Race for Life in June – and look! My number arrived this week:

Events like the Race for Life aren’t just about raising money, although obviously funding the research that the guys at Cancer Research UK do is incredibly important. It’s also about awareness – of the fact that everyone knows someone who’s had cancer, and that every two minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with some form of the disease. These facts are hard to ignore.

What is easier to forget, however, is the fact that lifestyle and cancer are fundamentally linked in a number of ways. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who suffers with the disease has ‘brought it on themselves’ – of course, that wouldn’t be true, and it certainly wouldn’t be fair. Most of the incidences in my family are as a result of the BRCA-1 gene, so we’re proof of that.

However, have a look at some of these statistics:

  • It’s estimated that obesity is behind around 17,000 cases of cancer each year in the UK.
  • If the average lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in nine, an obese woman’s lifetime risk is one in seven.
  • Obesity is one of the main causes of bowel cancer. Some groups have estimated that obesity causes about 11-14% of bowel cancer cases.
  • Putting on 2-10 kg (4.4 – 22 lb) after the menopause increases the risk of breast cancer by 30%.
  • Putting on 25 kg (55 lb) after the age of 18 increases the risk of breast cancer by 45%.

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding those statistics pretty terrifying – especially as I’ve still got some way to go to reaching a really healthy weight. And as an ex-smoker, and sometime drinker, there are some more pretty scary numbers too:

  • Smoking accounts for one in four UK cancer deaths, and nearly a fifth of all cancer cases. In the UK, smoking kills five times more people than road accidents, overdoses, murder, suicide and HIV all put together.
  • Every year, alcohol causes around 4% of cancer cases in the UK, about 12,500 cases. As little as 3 units a day can increase the risk of mouth, throat, food pipe, breast and bowel cancers. That’s one pint of premium lager, or a large glass of wine!

Now, I’m not saying you should give up everything fun and stay in a padded cell for fear of cancer. You should be living your life to the full, regardless of how exactly you choose to do that – it’s up to you. And I’m totally behind the philosophy that you’re here for a good time, not a long time – a life without fun isn’t really worth living.

That said, however, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that, since I ‘woke up’ and changed my life for the better – giving up smoking, eating better, getting regular exercise and drinking less – I’ve been considerably happier, and I’ve had considerably more fun. That’s why I’m so miffed at this cold – because the lethargy, the inability to get out and about, the loneliness, all remind me of the day-to-day of being morbidly obese. I didn’t realise how miserable I was until I changed – and now, the thought of going back to that fills me with despair, no matter how much the idea of a life of pizza, wine and cigarettes sounds like fun.

Because really, it’s not fun. It’s escapism, and it’s a release, but it’s not fun. Cooking yourself a delicious, super-healthy meal whilst dancing to the radio? That’s fun. Walking home from work on a sunny day without getting out of breath – and enjoying it so much you take a detour to go see a gorgeous view? That’s fun. Going to Global Gathering and dancing for two days straight? Definitely fun.

And taking part in the Race for Life, raising money for a great cause and helping in the fight against cancer?

That’s going to be really fun.

If you’re not making the most of what you’ve got – and I’m willing to bet there’s at least one area of your life that you’re neglecting to fully, wholly appreciate – I’m going to set you a challenge.  Make one change today that will make your life better. Whether it’s improving your health, making contact with a friend or family member that you’ve lost touch with, or finally getting down to writing that novel – think of one thing, and commit to it.

Once you’ve made one change, you’ll make others – and pretty soon, you’ll find your life is better, and you appreciate it for what it is. The biggest tribute you can make to people who are fighting diseases like cancer isn’t running a race – as much as that will help.

Nope – the biggest tribute is making the most of your life, and being grateful every day for what you’ve got.

The Learning Curve

The Learning Curve

When you first embark on a diet, of any description, it seems like you’ve made a permanent decision to change for the better. For about two hours. Then the biscuits come out in the office, and suddenly it seems very much a temporary measure. If […]

Adventures in Gluten-Free – Courgette, Sweetcorn and Quinoa Egg Bake

Adventures in Gluten-Free – Courgette, Sweetcorn and Quinoa Egg Bake

I was reading this recipe by Naturally Zass this morning in bed, and was inspired – not least because I’m addicted to courgettes at the moment. I figure there are worse things to be addicted to. Anyway, the idea of a courgette-y egg-y thing to […]

…A Gluten-Free What?

…A Gluten-Free What?

My suspicions have been confirmed – I need to bin gluten from my diet. This isn’t a big surprise – I’ve noticed over the last couple of months that I’ve been getting sick after I eat wheat, or things containing it. I’ve always thought that I’ve had a sort of abnormally bloated feeling after meals, but I thought that was because I was eating too much. Which I was. And that’s why I’m writing a blog called “Fat Girl, PhD.”

I’ve always been inclined to get sick when I’m stressed out – but I think I’ve figured that out too. I’m a comfort eater, so when I’m emotional, I eat, and the foods I choose to eat when I’m emotionally eating include things like pizza, pizza and… Yeah. You get the gist. What does worry me, however, is the fact that I’ve had a lot of knee surgery as a result of my accident a few years ago, but I’m now ever so slightly suspicious that the last surgery may have been to treat pain that might (might!) have been related to an allergy. I say this because I was near enough convinced I needed the same surgery to the other leg before I cut down on wheat, and now… I’m near enough pain free.

Scary.

Anyway, this means it’s time to rethink my eating habits quite extensively. I’ve been following a low-carb (note: not no-carb), high-protein plan for a while now, which is how I discovered this issue – so fortunately I’m fairly clued up on some excellent recipes. I’ve already discovered (and gotten addicted to) quinoa and lentils, and I’m almost over the need for my ‘daily bread’ …although I will admit that I’ve stocked up on GF bread products that were reduced at the supermarket on the way home. I figure they’re a handy thing to have in the freezer.

At an initial glance, though, I’m surprised at how many pre-packaged gluten-free products are actually quite bad for you – well, not bad, but…not great, for something that looks like it should be super-healthy. I’ve already been making steps towards eating clean, trying to use as few processed foods as possible in my diet, and keeping packaged products to a minimum, but obviously I’m not a fully fledged clean eater. This gluten-free business is either going to make that much easier, or much more difficult.

I’m aiming for the former.

It’s quite interesting to me that going gluten-free is more a psychological issue than anything else. We don’t need gluten, and my body actively dislikes it – but most, if not all, of my comfort foods are packed full of it. Bread, pizza, pasta, biscuits… If you’d told me a year ago I’d have to give this up, well… I don’t know. I think I’d have probably opted for the stomach and knee pain. Now, though, I have different resources for coping with stress, or just for finding pleasure.

Now, I’d choose an intensive yoga class (like the one I’ve just had – phew!) over a trip to Pizza Hut; a cup of green tea over a chocolate biscuit. I’d choose the thing my body wants over the thing my brain thinks it needs. And dammit, I feel pretty good about that. It’s indicative of the general trend of getting rid of negative influences one by one – smoking, painkillers, fat – that’s meant that I’m a much stronger person now than I was then.

So, yes, I was miffed (to say the least) when I called for my test results earlier today. But I’ve already made most of the changes I need to make, so now it’s just a matter of being a bit more selective (and savvy – gluten-free and cheap don’t seem to go well together) and focusing on changing for the better.

So… Anybody got any good tips for going gluten free? And what can you change today that will make your life better?

Why I Love Yoga… and your Monday Inspiration!

Why I Love Yoga… and your Monday Inspiration!

I love yoga. This isn’t something I thought I’d ever say, being rather inflexible and a bit of a chunky monkey. When I first started on this journey, and I had two problems with yoga. Firstly, surely if you’re trying to lose weight, you should be […]

Choosing Your Goals – and My New Ones!

Choosing Your Goals – and My New Ones!

Yesterday, I made an exciting decision. In 7 weeks, I’m doing the Race for Life with my Mum and sister! We did it once before, years and years ago when I was still at school, and I huffed and puffed my way through walking the […]

Back to the Future

Back to the Future

A very, very large part of my reason to move to this particular flat was location, location, location. It’s closer to my family, and it’s two doors down from the flat I lived in that day when I made the decision to enter the gym across the road. Yesterday, I rejoined said gym – and tonight, I saw my old trainer (who is amazing – even if he’s fairly brutal in his circuits class!) and the very, very lovely receptionists who were always super encouraging of yours truly, Fat Girl PhD, when I was double fat.

Honestly, it’s so thrilling to be back. I’ve been to a few different gyms, having moved quite a lot over the last year or so – but none of them are as friendly, encouraging, or as all-round-great as my (new) local gym. So it’s all good on that front.

And something even more exciting has happened too – I’ve gained the ULTIMATE WORKOUT BUDDY.

My sister and I used to work out together, but we were both very much at different points in our fitness, and we both had very different goals – but the last two nights we’ve gone together and we’re the perfect match. I feel like writing her a love letter or something of the like.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not easy. She is a HARD taskmaster. I did ask for it though – we were doing the plank, counting backwards from 30, and I foolishly decided to add in a few random “and a halfs” along the way. Thought I was being clever, didn’t I?

So then, she got me doing some evil, evil leg stretches and bends that she’s learned from a (clearly sadistic) aerobics instructor. Consider me punished.

Anyway, the point I’m getting to is that finding a place where you can work out and genuinely enjoy yourself – and feel comfortable shakin’ yo’ ass on a treadmill, or hand-dancing to Nicki Minaj on a bike – makes a huge difference to your attitude towards working out. And finding the ultimate workout buddy? That’s harder – but if you can find one, you’ll see the difference when you’re trying exercises you’d never normally attempt, and having a giggle at the same time.

After all, laughing’s got to be good for the abs – right?

Escaping Emotional Eating

Escaping Emotional Eating

I’m an emotional eater. No doubt about that. That’s pretty much why, when I had two broken legs, I ballooned in weight – it’s the way I deal with that stress. It’s also why I’ve always had snacks on standby when PhDing, because – believe […]