You might be happy, but are you WELL?

Personally, yes, I am well. Ok, so I have a chronic illness, that periodically makes my life a misery, but even in those times, and in-between those times, I am – mostly – well and happy and content.

I am perfectly happy with how I look, despite The Media yelling at me all the time that how I look is somehow wrong. (There is no wrong way to have a body. Just saying.)

I enjoy my food, and I am comfortable in that joy. In fact, I relish that joy of cooking and eating.

Wellness for me is not the elimination of everything you hold dear with no sound medical reason, because someone else has tagged it ‘unclean’. That doesn’t lead to wellness, it leads to fear, and paranoia, self denial and almost self flagellation. It also seems to lead to an awful lot of expense. The wellness and clean eating trend seems to mean a totally clean wallet, mainly. The Medjool date sellers and Sainsbury’s must be in heaven.

I am very well aware of how my body works, and what it needs to nourish itself.

Now. Read that again. “I am very well aware of how my body works, and what it needs to nourish itself.”

MY body, not yours. Or anyone else’s. What works for me (and I do NOT mean what makes me lose weight, in case anyone asks) may very well not work for anyone else at all on this planet.

We are legion, and because we are legion, there are as many body types, and health types as there are teeming billions on this tiny blue pearl of ours coasting through space.

Wellness, to me, doesn’t mean restriction to the point of madness. It certainly doesn’t mean designating a foodstuff ‘evil’ just because YOU have a reaction to it.

For example, if I take tetracycline antibiotic, it kills my white blood cells. We learned this through a nearly fatal experience when I was 6 or 7, but I am certainly not going to go around telling everyone I meet that they should never take it and that it will kill them. There is not, and never will be, a one size fits all when it comes to food and eating, and nor should there be. We are not living in Airstrip One. Yet.

Thane Prince made a very good comment the other night at our cookbook club, in that the current fads are now decrying what used to be our ‘wellness’ foods back in the day.

Good, wholemeal homemade bread has now become evil incarnate. It’s a great shame. One of the most simple, basic foods there has ever been, a food which has sustained millions, banished by people who think the world needs to be spoken to like they all have an illness or an allergy.  I am not in favour of the Chorleywood technique, as that has caused its own problems, despite it being a very useful tool when it was needed but the pure pleasure in eating well made bread, with cool butter, is one that should not be ignored.

Bread – 4 or so ingredients, butter 2 ingredients. Together they bring joy. (I am, however, extremely glad that a gluten free bakery in London has managed to provide my GF friends with the same joy. Restriction through necessity is not fun.)

Bread

Projecting your own food fears and obsessions out into the world can be dangerous, but it is also highly profitable. Our £60 BILLION diet industry is proof of that. It plays on our fears, and our insecurities. Ruby Tandoh has a rather brilliant post here on the subject. I am extremely glad that she is using her media position to speak out.

Life will be better IF we are more slim, just that bit more slim, and then a bit more.

WHEN you lose the weight, you can do [swimming/cycling/play with your kids]

This is all just another Cambridge Diet, or F Plan, or Slim Fast or Grapefruit Diet or Lighter Life in another guise.

Cycle, play with your kids, swim, walk, dance when nobody’s looking, dance when somebody IS looking. It’s YOUR body. Nobody else owns it.

I wish that people were able to genuinely love themselves for who and what they are.

Life doesn’t begin when you lose weight. It’s only you that is stopping yourself from doing all those fabulous things. Yes, I did lose a lot of weight a long time ago, through severe restriction. NOTHING CHANGED. I was still me, and what I discovered was that am not a bad thing to be.

I’ll go on the beach, or by the pool, in a swimsuit and hang the critics. Why? Because it’s my body, and it’s my life, and people do not dictate to me.

You are under no obligation to look at me. But you can if you want.

Run with the Moon
Sent to me by my friend Becca, as it reminded her of me. I am deeply honoured.

Wellbeing: mine, or yours?

“Health and wellbeing” seems to be the new favourite phrase. It’s being bandied about at my workplace, and whilst I am sure it comes from a good place, people do need to get a grip on what it means, not just generally, but individually.

It may come as a surprise to many, but thin doesn’t automatically equal healthy, and fat doesn’t automatically equal UNhealthy.

I know. Shocker, right? Who knew that a thin person could have chronic heart disease? Or that a fat person could have great blood pressure and cholesterol levels?

Or…what else? Oh yes. Did you know that both fat and thin people get the same illnesses? Yes, really. But did you also know that if I get an illness, I will get told to lose weight to cure it, and maybe given medicine but that when a thin person gets the same illness they will (mostly) be given a treatment without the body advice?

Appearance based healthcare should not be a thing. Actual medical evidence based healthcare should be a thing. The only thing you can really tell from what a person looks like is what they look like. (Apart from the obvious physical things like rickets, or decapitation, let’s not be silly about this.)

This week we had a Know Your Numbers session at work. What those numbers in relation to blood pressure, blood glucose levels etc., really mean.

Hurrah! says I. Useful stuff at last! and then I spied the devil in the detail. Those 3 letters that spell doom, gloom and lectures for most people who are not olympic athletes or star rugby players.

B M I

There were tape measures on all the tables, and little charts to help you work out your BMI. My heart sank.

Mostly it was ok. The Dr was an interesting speaker, and did a good job of explaining what most ‘normal’ numbers should be. BMI = 25, blood sugar = 5/6 and blood pressure more than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80). He did also say that BMI is of no real use. But then said it was a good measuring tool, which confused me.

I do not drink. I do not smoke. I rarely eat white bread, or pasta, or huge amounts of carbs. Junk food isn’t a thing in my house, and processed meals don’t really feature at all unless I have really run out of time and energy. I do not eat crisps, or even the latest ‘healthy’ snack, popcorn.

I follow, mostly, the Mediterranean diet because it’s what I love, it’s what I’m used to and who doesn’t love a good olive? (It’s ok, I know lots of people who do not.)

I decided to play with the blood pressure machine that the Dr had brought along, rather stupidly forgetting for a moment that I was going through two of the most stressful, upsetting, grief inducing weeks of my life, the culmination of which was going to be the next day, and which had a high probability of having a very bad, life altering outcome. Plus three people were crowded round staring at me while the machine was working.

I think my numbers were 142 over 91, then 140 over 90 the second time a couple of minutes later.

“That’s high blood pressure, you should get to your GP and get on statins. “

“But it’s never read like that before, it’s consistently within normal range whenever my GP checks it.”

“Well that’s just the numbers, that’s what it is.”

“So why, whenever I had had it checked, in all my 45 years, has it always been good? Even after a bike crash, it was perfect? Surely my GP would have said something?”

“Well, it’s just the numbers, go to your GP asap or get a blood pressure machine to use at home and keep an eye on it.”

But you know, it wasn’t his words. It was the look on his face. I know that look, I’ve seen it countless times over the years. It’s a slightly indulgent smile, and an expression that says

“Of course you’ve got high blood pressure, you’re fat.”

It doesn’t matter what I say, or how well I document what I eat, it’s never quite believed, because my appearance shouts the contrary, according to society. In fact one of my friends who kept a food diary, showing exactly how little she ate – and I know how she eats, she lived with me and was UNABLE to get to the shops herself to buy anything other than what was in the house – was told OUTRIGHT she was a liar.

The most stupid thing, the thing that I am angry with myself about, is that he actually managed to scare me, so I bought a portable blood pressure unit, and used it today. I could feel my heart racing as I put on the cuff, and of course…my BP was higher than when HE tested it, so has he now put so much fear in me that I’ll skew the result each time? Have I given myself some sort of white coat syndrome so that my adrenaline spikes at the very thought of the machine?

I feel fine, I eat well in a way that I know is good for me – the way my very first GP told me to eat when I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 16 – I try and walk as much as I can in the time I have each day, I try to not sit for too long at work, which is hard when you’re a PA whose job is mainly email and computer based, and I’m trying to lose weight for my own peace of mind but this whole thing has made me feel very scared, and about to run to my GP for statins.

This is not how properly done healthcare should make you feel. Whose wellbeing are they looking after, really, when one 10 minute meeting can leave a person upset and scared for days and spending money that they probably didn’t need to.

But, as ever…

G-PutOnBigGrlPanties

This courgette* has no morals!

*zucchini

I just read this rather excellent piece by Eva Wiseman.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/21/when-did-food-get-so-scary?

I have to say, I agree with pretty much all of it. It’s nothing that hasn’t been said recently, but it absolutely bears repeating, often. Gizzi Erskine came out against the clean eating fad a while back, expressing concerns – rightly so – about the negative effect the Cult of Clean has on people’s attitudes to food and body size, not to mention the moralisation of foods. Clean foods, dirty foods et al. They’re just FOOD, not a bible class.

A marvellous rant on Twitter by Poots attracted the interest of Jay Rayner and Tim Hayward, thereby ensuring that it went viral. People said “Oh but it’s been said before.” and yes, it has but it needs to be heard again and again.

The demonisation of sugar, of gluten, of dairy – yes Lorraine Pascale I’m looking askance at you and your proclaimed avoidance which is rich for someone whose shows about baking made you famous – has people who aren’t food aware running in ever decreasing circles as they cut out one thing after another. (There’s also something very uncomfortable for me about people who have access to huge amounts of food cutting out whole swathes of it needlessly when some people have access to almost none.)

STOP IT. YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THAT. (disclaimer: if you have an actual allergy, or an actual intolerance, then of course, you need to do that. This isn’t about you.)

People like Ella write as though all their readers suffer from a food allergy/food related illness. Most people don’t, so stop making people eat like they do. Her own illness getting better by changing her diet is a good thing for her. However, that doesn’t automatically mean she has authority or the knowledge to teach others how to eat. What works for her may not work for others. Hooray for her, she’s healthy again, but health and diet are so subjective that any attempt to blanket diagnose is sheer idiocy. I feel better in myself when I don’t eat white bread or white pasta, but that’s personal to me, and I’m not going to push that on anyone else, because nobody else has my genetics, body or physical make up. If my friend Pete ate my diet – fibre rich – it would, quite literally, kill him.

Gluten is only bad for those people who are allergic, intolerant to it or are Coeliac. Coeliac disease isn’t an allergy or an intolerance, it is actually an auto-immune condition but gluten can make it a life-threatening illness.

If you aren’t one of those people, then yay you! Go eat a bacon sandwich, hoist high a baguette, chew on a croissant and celebrate your freedom. Please do not say things like “I ate a whole baguette and then I was bloated! I must be allergic!” because that’s daft. You aren’t, you just ate A WHOLE BAGUETTE.

If you have a real allergy, you will absolutely know about it. Feeling full and a bit uncomfortable after eating too much bread or pasta doesn’t count. Go take a TUMS, and have a lie down.

I could bang on about this kind of thing for ages, but my opinion doesn’t count. No, really, it doesn’t.

Why?

Because I don’t look like this.

ella

I look like this:

DCP01236

and an overweight person’s views on proper healthy eating are never going to be taken seriously because the underlying response, though never spoken out loud unless that person is particularly asinine, will always be “But you’re fat, so surely you can’t be healthy.”

Never mind the facts, which are that my blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall health is excellent despite having a chronic illness, let’s just look at shape.

I come from a long line of round and fluffy people. I am never going to not be round and fluffy. I am totally fine with that. The only thing you can tell from my body size, is what I look like.

As for my diet, I know what to eat – FOR ME. Same as Ella knows what to eat FOR HER. Most people know and will admit if pressed that crisps and highly processed snack foods are treats, not staples. At least, I hope they do. Pringles aren’t one of the four main food groups, Twinkies aren’t even a food.

I know how my body works, and how it reacts to foods. I am acutely aware of those things. I certainly do not need some trust fund baby pushing squidged dates and chia seeds at me in order to make me into some semblance of what society deems normal just because it made her feel better. Nor will I benefit from reading books or instagram feeds about glowing, unless they are written by people with actual, bonafide certifications (get in the sea McKeith), medical training and years of experience.

I will also add that if you are a convert to the school of GAPS diets, take yourself away from me now. Far, far away. http://angry-chef.com/blog/want-to-see-something-really-scary

I wonder if what this fervour for eliminating everything we enjoy, what it all boils down to, right at the end, tucked away and going unacknowledged in that hidden room that nobody talks about, is the totally illogical quest for eternal life. Or at least the prolonging of this one. Putting off the swish of the scythe for as long as possible, by dint of quinoa and brain dust.

Well my lovelies, it isn’t going to work.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that the Man in Black will turn up as and when he will.

If only it was the skeleton in a robe riding Binky, who loves cats and music with rocks in, coming to take us to the afterlife we think we deserve, but it isn’t.

It’s stealthy, and sneaky, and mostly grabs you when you aren’t expecting it, no matter how much kale you eat.

So eat your greens, enjoy your cakes, have that bit of sugar every so often if you want, tootle about in the fresh air when you can, glory in the seconds as they pass – and do your best not to fall off a mountain because you don’t want your last words to be remembered as “Oh bugger.”

Prosper