Thursday, 16 May 2013

Projects and Weight Loss - A Frustrating Lack of Progress

Three months ago, when I reached a low point, I was inspired to set a few aims to transform my life in three months.  Did I manage it?  No.  Am I despondent?  No.  Well, perhaps a little, but more frustrated at my lack of progress.

The Easter projects are still ongoing, long after Easter. The hall stand is still standing in the kitchen, waiting for a rub down and a final coat of paint. Then the hall will need some work before I move it into place. I am managing not to be a perfectionist about it - rough is okay, but not so rough that the wood catches my scarves or scratches my hands as I hang things up.

Rain has frequently stopped play/work in the garden. We had a month's worth of rain the other night, so the soil is horribly claggy again.  How can such stoney soil also be so claggy? Now that the weather is warmer, the areas I've cleared are greening up again and it feels as though everything is escaping from me! I wanted to cut back the pieris in the corner, but the advice was to do it once it had finished flowering.  Good advice, too - the bumble bees have loved the flowers! I'm going to lose the lovely flame coloured shoots, unfortunately.  It turns out the buddleias which I had to move and heel in have not survived the cold and wet from earlier this year.  Luckily, there are some more self-seeded buddleias around the place which I can move.  The idea is that I get it done so I can sit out there in the sun (hopefully) while recovering from my foot operation.

I'm still waiting for a date for my operation; I've just had a pre-op assessment and been told it could be another 6 weeks before I get a date, and in the meantime, I need to get my blood pressure under control.  The lack of ability to plan ahead is stressing me out in a very big way, I hate having my blood pressure taken because it's invariably painful (the one done at the pre-op assessment has left bruises), and I'm having another flare of the osteoarthritis in my knees (since doing lots of work on the garden).  No wonder my blood pressure is high!

For the past year, I have been trying to lose weight. I've exchanged various foods for low fat versions, stopped eating meat, reduced my intake of bread and dairy, hardly ever drink alcohol and do an average of half an hour exercise a day as a baseline. I have been trying to keep the calorie count to approx 1600-1800 calories a day.  Then I found some NHS advice which said that 1400 cals should be the target. I've tried having a day or two a week where I only eat up to 1000 calories. What I've found is that my weight bounces up and down by three or four kilos over a number of weeks.  The worst is when I do dance workshops.  I'm wise to the 'compensation' effect of wanting to eat more when I've been doing exercise, so I try to drink more instead.  I find I then am up by a couple of kilos.  Even if this is only water, it then has to go. It feels rather like two steps forward, two steps back, as on balance (sorry, pun not intended), I'm not losing weight!

The trouble is, I love food and don't believe that denying yourself what you love is a good idea. So while I don't have crisps, cakes, biscuits or sweets in the house (except possibly at Christmas), I will still have a biscuit or two when I'm out. Surely a pudding once every couple of months should not be a problem?  One of my danger areas is refueling the car, because it's too easy to pick up snacks and sweets at the same time.  Last May, I had ballooned to my heaviest because, although I was dancing a lot, I was also doing a lot of driving around and I often picked up sandwiches, crisps and Maltesers as I filled up the car and whizzed off to my next appointment.

I know I'm an emotional eater, eating when I'm stressed, upset, worried, tired, lacking in energy, procrastinating .... My other danger area is portion size.  In deliberately trying to lose weight, I feel as though I am denying myself and this is made worse when I see the size of some recommended servings (even in a small bowl, to try to trick myself with the resulting optical illusion that it's a bigger serving than it in fact is). I know that this sort of thing triggers me to binge. The usual advice to eat slowly so that the brain gets time to register and feedback that you are feeling full doesn't seem to work with me.  I can graze all day.  Similarly, the advice not to eat with the TV on, so that you can fully concentrate on and enjoy your food, doesn't always work for me.  If it's just me, enjoying what I'm eating, I might carry on eating until there is nothing left. Watching the TV or working at the computer can be distracting enough sometimes that I don't even finish my food. When I'm happy and busy, I forget to eat, but then have to be careful not to skip meals and over-compensate later!

I like to cook from scratch with whatever I happen to have, and calorie counting for off-the-cuff recipes like this can be very time consuming. I guess this is why people go for slimming clubs and their products, like Weight Watchers. How much easier to go for a calorie-counted ready meal worth so many points, and feel as though you're treating yourself with another little branded item?  The bread is thin-cut and mostly air, no taste, so ultimately dissatisfying, and no wonder it's lighter on the calories than an artisan loaf full of seeds.  My experience of organised slimming groups was brief. I dislike the cost in money and the time needed, and having to sit and listen to the lectures and quizzes, and most of all dislike the competitive and judgemental nature of the weigh in. Everyone is doing it, so it masquerades as support, but I'm rather anti-competition. It might be different with a group of friends all doing it, and then the support is not really from the slimming group. The weight and inches coming off are positive outputs, but the inputs (food and drink) need to be viewed positively too, for the nutrition, seasonality, taste. If the key to long term weight loss is a change in eating habits, relationship to food, and lifestyle, then demonising food isn't going to help. And while there are people who aren't that bothered about food and are okay with meal replacement milk shakes for weeks on end, I know that I am not one of them.

I was ranting on discussing all this with a friend in much the same situation last week (talk about preaching to the converted!) and she was inspired to start a little closed group on Facebook to provide friendly support, minus the slimming club. To raise our consciousness of what we are eating, when and why, we can record and share it, as well as ideas and recipes and it is free.  I feel like together, we can do this!

Despite the frustrations, I have found the mechanism of checking into my diary, breaking down jobs and listing them, microbursting, crossing things off, getting SMARTer about setting objectives, all works well for me. I am achieving my resolution of doing more. This week, I am resetting my aims for the next three months. I wonder how things will look then?

All Tied Up!

For the past year (or possibly longer) I have been collecting ties. I saw some lovely patchwork quilts in a magazine several years ago, with blocks made from old ties and I thought I might start one myself.  As I started to pick up a few ties from various charity shops, I started to foresee problems, such as just how many a double bed quilt might need, how much that would cost, and that my cats like to snuggle and it would get dirty and perhaps be difficult to clean.

At first, most of the ties I could find seemed to be rather drab polyester club, company or regimental ties. (These could be collectors items in themselves.)  Things seem to have picked up recently, and I have been finding polyester ties which look and feel like silk, wonderful textures and patterns which beg to be used in individual pieces. There are some lovely fabrics which must surely have been produced specifically for ties, as I have never seen anything similar available by the metre.  I got all of my ties out to take stock.  I now have lots of them - about 80 at a guess, all different fabric weaves, prints, patterns, except for two which are the same pattern and make, but in different colours.

All this diversity started me wondering about ties. According to Wikipedia, (neck)ties originated in Croatia (Hrvatska), the source of the word cravat, which is the proper name for the item of clothing. During the 30 Years War (1618-48) Croatian troops fighting in France wore narrow red silk scarves tied at the neck,with the ends slipped into their shirts. The Parisians thought them so stylish that they called them cravates after their originators and the look became fashionable.  They became known as ties because you tie a cravat. What I think of as a cravat is more properly a day cravat or Ascot tie, itself a precursor to the typical long tie worn every day as smart working or formal attire for men.

The typical tie was apparently designed by New York tie maker Jesse Langsdorf in 1926. The 'Langsdorf' tie is made up of three pieces cut on the bias.  This was further improved by a slip stitch method used to secure the interlining, which Richard Atkinson and Company of Belfast claim to have introduced in the late 1920s.

Apart from the diversity of patterns, I have been intrigued by the different weights of interfacings, the choice of colour and fabric for the end-linings ('tippings'), the widths, which range from 6.5 cm/2.5" to 10 cm/4" and the brand labels (or complete lack of them, in some cases). The labels are like little windows into history. There are ties which follow the rebranding of Marks & Spencer, from St Michael (and made in England or Great Britain, or U.K.), becoming 'St Michael for Marks & Spencer' (still made in U.K.), and since 2000, just Marks & Spencer (and made in China). One tie is from Horne Brothers, which went into administration in 1993.  Another is from C&A, whose last UK store closed in 2001. There is an ornate brocade kipper tie by Welch Margetson, who were taken over by CoatsPatons in 1963. There is a Liberty silk geometrical floral print, though not one of their current offering. At the other end of the scale, a tie made for Arcadia Group Limited can't be older than 2002, when that company was formed.

One tie has custom tippings woven with the brand name Chicks and an embroidered C on the front of the tie. The fabric is polyester with a bright geometrical print. There is a large, long label with 'Ties of Distinction' woven in gold lurex thread on part of the slim end which would go under the collar, but sewn through all the layers, and not sewn in straight, which made me laugh. Methinks the maker doth protest too much!

All of these ties have been sourced from charity shops, so a little at a time, they have been doing very well out of me! Most of them charge £1 or so per tie, which I think is okay providing they aren't shrunk, twisted, scorched, a mess of stains and/or pulled threads.

I took the opportunity the other day to check in a few charity shops for ties.  In one, there was one lone tie left.  It turned out that they had recently been cleaned out of ties by a lady who makes them into quilts! I went to another shop and saw they had no ties.  I wondered if the quilt lady had been in and cleaned them out too, but no! There was a box of ties still in the back room, for which they were charging £2.50 each. Too much for me, and when I said so, I had a rather sniffy reply that they were a charity, didn't I know, and some of the ties were silk and hadn't she had this conversation with me before?  Well, no, she hadn't. (I wonder if perhaps it was with the quilt lady?). Of course, £2.50 might be okay if you're a chap wanting a cheap tie, so I checked with a couple of chaps and they said no, if they were going to get a charity shop tie, £2.50 was possibly a bit much, unless it was a very classy silk. And they wouldn't think to ask if there were any in the back room. It might still work out cheaper than getting a tie through eBay, but only because postage prices have recently gone up again. (I'm sure I've had a rant elsewhere about charity shops who upgrade themselves into pre-loved clothes boutiques, dispensing with the bric a brac so beloved of crafters everywhere.  I've recently seen a few items which have been priced higher than they would have been originally. In these times, when you can buy cheaper elsewhere, where is the compelling reason to recycle and support charities? Oh, enough!)

I dropped into one of my favourite local charity shops yesterday to look for plant pot holders and came out with a few holders and, yes, a few more ties. Okay, I am now officially somewhat obsessed, a compulsive tie-buyer.  It's time I started making things from them so that they can earn their keep. Watch this space (but don't hold your breath!)