Weight loss and self identity

When our body changes through illness, accident or injury we have to develop a new relationship with ourselves, with our new physical identity.

For me it was weight loss through illness. For most of my adult life I had been around 140lbs, but when I went into my 40’s this gradually increased to 148lb, and it was a continuous battle to remain at that weight. There were a few exceptions, for example prior to getting married I was eating 1300 calories a day and it still took 4 months for me to loose 8lbs prior to our wedding in 2013, needless to say it soon went back on. Then in the late Summer of 2014 I naturally began to lose weight which I put down to a change of diet; drinking smoothies and eating lots of salads, but the weight continued to fall through the autumn.

After an episode of acute pancreatitis – where the pancreas becomes inflamed and the digestive enzymes it produces begin to digest the pancreas itself – my diet became more restrictive. I was eating less generally, as well as having a low fat diet (less that 35g of fat a day bearing in mind an Avocado pear is around 20g!).

However, due to the pain I was in, eating wasn’t enjoyable, it became a chore rather than a delight. Anything containing too much fat caused me discomfort as my pancreas wasn’t able to digest it properly.

I struggled to get used to my lighter weight and what I called my scrawny shape. Why? Because it wasn’t my choice. The interesting thing about losing weight when it’s not planned is that there is a sense of confusion about why it was happening and also a concern as to when it would stop.

How low could my weight go for me still to have enough energy to get through daily life?

Then when I was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour (IPMN) in January 2015 the weight loss made sense, at least I knew why, which was a relief. Also, the tumour could be removed, an even greater relief.

By the time I had surgery to remove my tumour I was down to 120lbs, the last time I was this weight I was a teenager! Having lost 2 stone none of my clothes fitted, everything was baggy, making my weight loss more obvious. I became gaunt as my face became thinner.

My sense of identity had never been challenged before, and I didn’t know how to adjust to the change. It was like I had been given a new body to live in, a very disconcerting feeling. My view of myself changed. I may have looked a thinner version of my usual self to everyone else. But I felt small, not just physically but psychologically too, it felt like everything about me was diminishing, fading.

Fortunately as with most things, it was time that allowed me to accept my new shape and identity. I literally had to shrink into my own skin and then as I got used to it, I became stronger and more confident in myself and my new body.

When we chose to change our body shape, it’s because that is what we want to do, and therefore we are delighted when we achieve it whether that is due to diet, exercise or surgery.

Having lost 28lb in the 12 months prior to my operation, it has taken 9 months to put on 8lbs due to a low fat diet. But I now finally feel comfortable and well in my own skin, and I am enjoying having a new body, a new shape, a new identity.

It takes time to adapt and accept physical changes. I am fortunate, I haven’t lost a limb or one of my senses, I just have an abdominal scar that fades with each passing day. I also have age on my side, at 50, I no longer want or have any expectations of a ‘perfect’ body, what ever that may mean. I am just happy that I have a body that is still functioning and enables me to live fully.

Fragrant memories

Whilst mulling over which onions to buy in the local supermarket, someone walked passed me and their smell or should I say aroma transported me immediate back to my childhood.

The person in question was an elderly gentleman who obviously had been smoking cigars, as they have a very distinctive and slightly sweet aroma, but it wasn’t just the cigars, I swear he was wearing the exact same aftershave as Grandpa had done all those years ago.

Grandpa - Cecil Mitchell, as I remember him.

Grandpa – Cecil Mitchell, as I remember him.

In one instance, in one inhalation of air I was momentarily in the presence of someone who had died thirty five years ago, and with it came all the memories of my childhood in the early 70’s. My grandparents had a three storey house in Woodville Gardens, Ealing, where they lived on the first and second floors and some of their 4 children lived in the flat on the ground floor.

I remember being taken to watch cricket at the club over the road on summer Sunday’s whilst waiting for Sunday lunch which was usually Nana’s fabulous curry with assorted dishes of pickles, desiccated coconut, and the like. After lunch Grandpa would sit in his favourite arm chair in their elegant but creatively styled lounge (Nana was an artist) and he would smoke a cigar before falling asleep, at which point the rest of the family would disappear into the the kitchen or the garden.

Sanderson 'Arundel' fabric 1960s

Sanderson ‘Arundel’ fabric 1960s

My sister and I still have the huge floor to ceiling curtains from their lounge – made from bright, bold and colourful 1960s Sanderson ‘Arundel’ fabric, reminiscent of a vibrant decade.


What sights, sounds and smells transport you back to your childhood?

Un posted excuses

I am beginning to wonder what is going on. I was so inspired both during and after doing the Blogging 101 course that I planned to be posting a very realistic twice a week, or so I thought. But this hasn’t happened and I have been reflecting on what has been going on.

Putting the rest of my life aside, two things seem to have happened:

Firstly when I am inspired I start writing, maybe jotting down a few notes here and there in notebooks, on my phone or even more shockingly in WordPress itself! More often than not this happens between 3 and 4am, so whilst inspire I know that I need to get back to bed and sleep. And, that is where it ends, I have about a dozen unfinished posts, and 6 incomplete pages to add to my blog.

This is all quite fascinating for me as usually I am a list person, in fact I  get given List Books as presents. I write lists of what I need to do and buy and then work my way though them, which I love and find wonderfully satisfying and it saves my little brain from having to remember much.  But this writing lark is oh so very different, there are  ideas, topics, words, phrases, sentences, occassionally paragraphs and rarely a post. So over the next month I am going to endeavour to actually complete my unfinished posts.

Secondly, is photos. I like having a photo to go with my post, which is fine and dandy if I have taken it myself which is then super easy to upload. But trying to embed a photo has totally floored me. I have been using Getty to find images which is slow, due to my connection but is awash with fabulous photos. However despite reading and following the instructions many many times either I can’t copy the link, which I think is a device issue or if I use a regular computer I can copy the link but when I paste it I just get a sting of code and no image.  So over the next month I am either going to be taking loads of photos myself, which could be interesting, or just posting without them.


Adapt and improvise – when cooking?!!

Adapt and improvise has become my new motto when following a recipe.

Not so long ago I had a selection of favourite cooks like Ottolenghi, Nigel Slater, Deliciously Ella and Jamie Oliver whose recipes I would follow substituting the occasional ingredient or missing it out completely if I didn’t like it, or more to the point it wasn’t in the cupboard. Then this year my diet had to change drastically and I ended up with recipe books titled: Low Fat Cooking, Vegetarian Cooking Without and The Wheat and Dairy Free Cookbook and it wasn’t that the recipes were bad, it was the titles – the sense of lack, of not being able to have. I was missing the juiciness.

So I decided to be bold and to go back to my favourite cooks and their recipes and to adapt them to my diet. Which, shall we say, has been interesting. Everything has been edible in the sense that it has been cooked, always a good start, but certainly not conventional or presentable!

However, I haven’t given up, my recipe books are now scribbled all over with notes/comments/substitutions and I actually think it is this improvisation that has enabled me to being to enjoy cooking more, it is becoming more playful and interesting especially as I never quite know what I will be eating for dinner!

What is your most successfully adapted recipe?

RSVP – an introvert accepts!

RSVP – Those 4 letter always make me sigh, as they mean I have been invited to a party, which as an introvert I find challenging. It’s not that I don’t love and want to spend time with my family and friends, I do, but I would rather sit down and have a meal with them than finding myself in a room full of stranger who I am sure are lovely, but who I struggle to talk to. Yes, I do have a few standard questions that I use to open up conversations, but then I struggle to engage in general small talk. It has always been this way. 

Even as a child I remember when my parents had parties, I would spend most of my time in the kitchen, trying to look busy by checking what was cooking or making drinks, anything but actually having to socialise.

Yet it’s not about shyness, I have no problem if I go on a course or workshop by myself as straightaway there is a mutual interest that has drawn us all together and thus loads to talk about.

So when an invitation arrives, I will RSVP to accept and I go because I love my friends, and fortunately they know me well enough to accept my late arrival and early departure – for that is greatness of friendship – an acceptance of each other exactly as we are.

Daily Post RSVP



The man in my fridge

Let me introduce you to Pedro, he has been living in my fridge since April. Twice a week he comes out of the fridge to warm up for a couple of hours whilst he is fed flour and water, before being returned to his favourite cool environment to ferment.

Yes, Pedro is my sourdough culture. He already had a name when he was given to me by my sister and it took me a little while to understand the whole naming thing. But what I have realised is that it is so much easier to remember to feed something when you personalise it with a name!

Interestingly, when I am ready to make the fabulous Rye and Caraway Sourdough recipe that came with him, all of a sudden he becomes known as the ‘sourdough culture’, again.

So do you have a name for the colony of microorganism you have living in your fridge?!!!! 😀

A few interesting things about sourdough; it is the oldest form of leavened bread in the world; it is low in GI; it produces a lower glucose and insulin response than other bread; its more easy to digest than other breads due to the fermentation process which also enables the body to absorb vitamins and minerals more efficiently. Research is also beginning to show that sourdough may even be safe for coeliac patients.

Rye sourdough with sunflower and carraway seeds

Rye sourdough with sunflower and caraway seeds



It’s never too late……..

The topics of the posts that I commented on as part of yesterday’s Blogging 101 assignment were; Perfectionism, Ageing, Letter Writing and Power, so I initially thought I would be clever and write a post about all 4 but that idea fortunately was just fleeting, as I realised that it would take me days.

Then I moved to’ perfectionism’ and thought no. I have spent far too much of my life wrestling with perfectionism just because my School reports usually read ‘must try harder’ or ‘could do better’ and therein lies not just perfectionism, but seriousness and a lack of confidence – not that I am bitter anymore!

I quite liked the the idea of writing a letter to my younger self, so during my 45 minute drive to work there was reflection, words, sentences, and much scribbling out, all in my head. Oddly enough it all seemed a bit belated.

But what about writing a letter from my older self to me now? Now that I am liking, that is what I want to know. And all of a sudden there it was, I had just walked into a workshop to collect some signage for work and there was a fabulous sign;

“It is never too late to be who you might have been”

This totally nailed it for me. The joy and the freedom of knowing, that it is never too late, I walked out of the workshop, feeling invincible.

So thank you to those who have inspired me: The Apprentice, The Personal Blog of Henry Jones, Blog of Sharmin and WanderLaur


Why am I here?

The meaning of life aside – I am here to collate all those random life notes and ideas that, in my case, usually end up on the back of envelopes; underlined in books; or ripped out of magazines. Which for some reason I am never able to collate into a useable source of information, let alone index and find again. (more…)