I want my body back

As I suspect so often happens, this blog began as one thing and became another.

It began as “The Adventures of a Binge Eater Taking Her Body Back After Menopause” but in writing it, I’ve realised that as with all human beings, my body is far more than my weight: like all of us, my body has become a battleground, fought over by scientists, governments, cultures, factions and the diet industry. It is something by which I am judged and by which I judge myself. As with all women, and increasingly men, the beauty of my body is currency and can earn or lose me respect, opportunities and admiration.

I’ve always been fortunate enough to be on the right side of that equation, to have the kind of body which earns me the approval of my culture; however, my body has disfunctioned. I was injured and as a result I gained weight – and so the beauty bank called in my overdraft and closed my account. I became invisible.

I’m not resentful about that. I’ve had my time in the sun and I have to be willing to spend my share of time in the shade.  However, I want to drag my body back to full health and fitness; to feel strong and enjoy the freedom of a body that moves easily and gracefully again;  to love my body again and, who knows, perhaps to share it with a lover again.

So there’s a long road ahead of me, with mountains to climb and twists and turns to navigate;  and along the way I’ll be doing battle with diet, diagnoses and demons.

And seeing as both you and I are human, my demons are probably the same as your demons – so why don’t you come with me?


Binge eating and Clicking

So I haven’t been saying much because I’ve been busy unravelling the dynamics of my binge eating.  It’s become less, but it’s still there and every binge still leaves me feeling despairing and disgusted.

So I’ve been reading, thinking, unravelling and today, finally, there was that click.  The click that I needed.  The click that says ‘It’s different now.  I’m different now.’

I realised that while I’m focussing on my weight I will never get out of this restrict-binge-restrict cycle.  There is always going to be the sense of shame and self-disgust at my changed body that compels me to desperately want to lose weight;  and the corresponding anger that I have to deny myself what is all around me and is constantly being offered to me, on top of my other current medical issues.

I feel ashamed when I see myself. I feel ashamed when I go out.  I feel ashamed when people see me.  I feel ashamed when my children look at me, because I know they were always so proud that I remained lithe and agile while other women my age were becoming … well, me.  I hate the idea of anyone who knew me slim seeing me now, and later revealing to other people, ‘I saw A in town today and my God she’s put weight on!’

In gaining weight, I have lost the right to be a private citizen.  My body is no longer my body – my body is up for public debate.  It is now an object on which others are allowed to pass comment and judgement.  I have stepped into the spotlight, and the audience have the right to throw as many rotten tomatoes at me as they wish.

All of that makes me angry.  All of that is completely unhelpful.  And nobody could dislike my body as it is right now more than I do.

But today, suddenly, that anger pushed me, like water out of a geyser, out of the place where my concern is for my weight.  I suddenly felt, F**k the lot of you!  This is my body!  What you think of it is completely unimportant!  All that really matters is, am I healthy?’

And in taking the focus off what other people thought of my body, I suddenly realised that love for myself should be focussing me not on what the scales say, but simply ‘Am I doing the best I can for my body?’

That should be the only decider about what and how much I put in my body;  about how much exercise I take;  how much flexibility work I do.

And the wonderful thing is, when I think I have to lose weight and set the target of becoming me again – well, that’s in 50lbs time and it could take a year;  so for that year I’m going to constantly want to be other than I am.  It will be a pretty bloody miserable year.

Whereas if I make my focus ‘Am I doing the best I can for my body?’, well, I don’t have to wait a second.  I can accomplish that right now.  It’s already here.

And a healthy, well functioning body will sort itself out. I have great faith in the power of the human body to heal itself:  I’ve seen it, many times.  If I treat my body beautifully, it will gradually shed all the waste weight it doesn’t want to be carrying anyway.



‘Caffee’ recipe – coffee alternative, kick ‘n’ all

If you’ve just come for the recipe then scroll down, and you’ll find it at the end of the post.

For everyone else – of all the things I’ve had to give up, due to the injury to my jaw joint and nerves, the thing I still struggle with having given up most is coffee.

I’ve always adored coffee – and I take it black, no sugar and very strong.  I love everything about black coffee – the silky black-brown liquid, so deep it could be leading directly to hell;  the smell – ah the smell!  How even to describe the smell of coffee? Perhaps it’s the smell of mysterious sensuousness in Eden. And the taste – woodsmoke laced with dark chocolate and the sultriness of an oncoming storm.


And that’s before we’ve even begun to consider the caffeine kick, the legal stimulant that it turns out is actually good for you.

I still find it difficult to walk by the coffee section in supermarkets.  Tea branding either opts for cheery and jumping-up-and-down-for-your-attention, with talking monkeys or hearty, flat-capped cartoon Northeners;  or trying to impress by being imperial (do they still call Ceylon tea “Ceylon” tea or have they figured that one out yet?) – and neither do much for me. But coffee branding … coffee knows it can afford to play it cool and so the branding is seductive, sophisticated, enigmatic.  The golds, the bitter chocolates, the jewel colours of the packaging …


… all the places the coffee beans come from, speaking of lush, exotic heat – Colombia, Java, Ethiopia (which no longer exists, but strangely Ethiopian coffee still does) …


… and the intriguing flavours they’re laced with, inviting you to taste, just a sip, come on, just one sip – maple walnut, black cherry, French vanilla or …



Damn, but I miss coffee.

So I had to do something.  I had to try to find some acceptable alternative, something that would give me at least some of the pleasure of coffee.  And then I formulated Caffee, which really hits the coffee spot.



The chicory root is a powerful prebiotic and gives the beautiful colour of black coffee, and some of the taste – but immediately after the pleasant taste there’s an insipid wateriness to it;  and that is what the peanut butter powder is for:  somehow it shores up the chicory root and gives body.  And then the maca powder is to give the kick I so miss from caffeine.

In a mug, add 2 heaped tsps Whole Earth ‘Organic No Caf Coffee Alternative (made with barley & chicory)’, 1 heaped tsp peanut butter powder and 1/2 tsp maca powder.  Pour over boiling water, stir – then do the sensible thing, because caffee mouth burn is no nicer than coffee mouth burn, and wait a few moments until it’s reached drinking temperature.

Then relax, drink and prepare to be really active in about 15 minutes.

Dairy Free ‘Butter’ Recipe

If you don’t want to read this post and have just come for the recipe – which is fair enough – just scroll down to the bottom.  If you like reading me, then stick around, friend, it’s lovely to have you.

So I’ve pondered whether to be dairy free over the last few years.

I’ve read dairy will make you fat.  I’ve read dairy will boost your weight loss.  I’ve read dairy will protect your bones;  I’ve read dairy will filch calcium from your bones.  I’ve read that dairy is full of hormones that will mess up your system;  I’ve heard dairy will help balance your hormones.

Personally, I love dairy.  I’ve always adored creamy sauces;  melted cheese;  cheese in quiches, sandwiches or even just a block to be nibbled on.  Mozzarella?  Oh my.  Roquefort?  I’m all your’s.  Shall I move on from cheeses?  Okay.  Yoghurt.  Oh Greek yoghurt with honey and nuts;  black cherry yoghurt;  hazelnut yoghurt.  Full fat, low fat, no fat.  Who cares?  Just feed me yoghurt.  And butter.  Oh, butter.  My mother, due to wartime rationing, which had excluded butter and made her childhood a thing of margerine misery, had vowed that from the moment she was able, she would never, ever have margerine in her house again;  and no matter how poor we ever were, she never did.  Butter was queen of our fridge.

Dairy.  I love dairy.

And what, after all, is a baked potato that is not slathered in butter and cheese but a poor imitation of a baked potato?

But somehow over the last few years, I’ve fallen a little out of love with dairy, sufficient to be able to view it more dispassionately.  And actually, for me it’s the ethical problem I have with dairy farming – to me, worse than meat farming – that’s been the decider.  I’ve walked out on dairy, and I’m afraid – although she might not have accepted it yet – it really is over.

So, having experimented with a few recipes, this is my new dairy free butter;  or Bootang, as I affectionately call it, because rather like Wu Tang Clan, it’s a lovely word to say.

As a little aside, it has very few ingredients.  This isn’t because I don’t know my way around a kitchen;  I really do.  However, over the last few years I’ve become so sick of recipe lists that are so long that even I find myself overwhelmed and give up.  I’ve come to think it’s really just showing off;  and although I’m not a Jamie Oliver fan, I do think he’s caught the zeitgeist by bringing out a cookbook where no recipe has more than 5 ingredients.

So here, finally, at last is my unashamedly simple recipe for Bootang.



Bootang isn’t pretending to be butter;  there can be no real Pretender to the butter crown.  What it’s supposed to do is all the things butter does on, its own merits – bring depth of flavour when frying, add a little creamy saltiness when spreading, bring a little lipsmacking when melted over something.

It is a savoury recipe, although if you wanted, I’m sure you can adapt it for baking.

The nutritional yeast can mean it sticks a little if you fry at too high a heat, but for me it contributes enough to the flavour that it stays in.  Leave out the saffron if you don’t have any, and are feeling a little stoney-broke.  Strangely, TK Maxx has a section of gourmet foods going cheap, and they often have saffron strands.  Just saying.


In a microwaveable bowl, combine 1 cup coconut oil and 1/2 cup rapeseed oil.  Microwave on full power for one minute, and then in 30 second bursts until the coconut oil is fully melted.  Combine the oils with a fork, and then add 1/2 tsp salt2 tbsps nutritional yeast1/4 tsp turmeric and a pinch of saffron strands.

Beat lightly with a fork and leave to cool.  When fully cooled, place in the fridge for an hour, then beat again with a fork to ensure elements combined.  Repeat this every half an hour until you have a fully combined mixture with a buttery texture.  You may still be able to see individual nutritional yeast flakes, but I think they’re rather pretty.

If you forget to check and then race to the fridge to find it’s a solid block – don’t worry.  You may still be able to warm it enough by beating it to combine the elements.  If not, leave it out for a little while until just slightly softened and then beat.

If you can be bothered – sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t – whisk the mixture just before it reaches solid.  This adds a delicious lightness.

Store in a lovely glass jar in the fridge and use wherever you would have used salted butter.

Dr Michael Mosley & the death of CICO

in his latest book ‘The Clever Guts Diet’ (2017), Dr Michael Mosley says this:

Why weight loss is not simply a matter of eating less and exercising more

What studies like this [the one quoted above] have done is undermined the idea that has dominated weight control thinking for the last half-century:  ‘CICO’ (‘calories in, calories out’).  According to CICO the reason we’re fat is because we eat more calories than we burn off.  The answer to obesity is to eat less and exercise more.

Except, of course, it’s not as simple as that.

For those of you who don’t know of him, Dr Michael Mosley (see above) has a loping, slightly lisping, eye-twinkling charm that make him an ideal TV presenter, and he wears his erudition lightly enough to communicate easily what the results of scientific study actually mean for us.  He’s the anchor of a TV programme ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’ which examines health myths, fads and science and is a regular contributor to the BBC’s Horizon programme, which explores scientific issues.  He’s made a name for himself as a have-a-go experimenter who, in the name of science,  will try out things on himself – such as tapeworms, leeches and malaria – so that we don’t have to.

During his research for a TV programme, he created the 5:2 Diet, also called the Fast Diet, and in so doing brought the idea of intermittent fasting to the British public;  and then followed on by bringing HIT workouts to us too.  I’m not sure I forgive him for the latter.

Now, as he created the Blood Sugar Diet, which demands its followers eat no more than 800 calories a day, I’m surprised to hear he no longer believes in CICO.  I can only assume that Michael is demonstrating the hallmarks of a good scientist, by being prepared to rethink his own conclusions when new evidence comes to light.

So there it is.  Finally.  The death of CICO.



The death of bingeing?

I don’t know what happened precisely, but something did.  Something went off in my head, and I was suddenly able to step outside of that uncontrolleably bingeing version of myself – like a snake shedding  its skin – back into my own body and breathe the fresh air of relative sanity.

It was good to be back.

I think what did the trick was realising that I needed to focus not on the bingeing but on the why I was bingeing.

A few days ago I was watching Queen Victoria’s Children on iplayer (it’s surprisingly interesting) and the observation was made that Bertie, King Edward to be – who had a hopelessly bad relationship with his mother, who blamed him for the death of his father – had rapacious appetites for all things physical including food, and that

“he looked for emotional satisfaction from physical appetites”.

I so recognised myself in that description.

Since last May I’ve been off work, because of my problems with my jaw joint and the trigeminal nerve.  These prevent me doing a great deal of talking and as I talk for a living (I work in the English Department of a high school, working with students with Special Educational Needs either leading interventions, taking groups or working one-to-one) it became impossible to do my job.

I’m single and aside from my very wonderful 18 year old live alone;  and wonderful though he is, and very close though we are, he does of course not spend a great deal of time with me, which is as it should be.  I have no family (aside from my children) within a hundred miles and I couldn’t be social with friends as initially I couldn’t even hold a conversation, and still now have to restrict the amount of talking I do.

What’s more, the heavy medication I was put on (and have significantly reduced on my own initiative, in collaboration with my GP) meant I was off my head for hours a day.

Just when I was suddenly so much alone and so isolated, so frightened about what my medical condition might mean, off my head half the time and in considerable discomfort, I had also to give up nicotine and caffeine.  What else was I going to do but comfort eat?

I already, of course, knew all that.

What I didn’t know, what hadn’t occurred to me, was that due to my extreme isolation (imagine being unable to talk or use sign language;  it’s made me realise how fundamental the ability to express oneself is to being a human being) I wasn’t just confort eating, I had turned to food so passionately as it was now the only thing I could  connect to.  What alerted me to this was recently watching the TED Talk,  Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong as a follow on from a recommendation made by Julie Ramage.  In it Johann Hari puts forward the theory that people develop addictions when they feel disconnected from the world around them, and their drug of choice (recreational, nicotine, caffeine, food) is the only thing they feel able to connect to.  I instantly recognised that in the behaviour of people around me whose addictions had got the better of them, and I recognised it in myself.

A few days later I noticed Russell Brand discussing the premise of his latest book, Recovery, which is pretty similar;  and while Russell Brand isn’t someone I’d choose to spend more than 5 minutes watching I do think he’s a phenomenally intelligent man who has a great capacity for analysis and self-analysis;  and I think he’s right. People form addictions when they cannot connect – for whatever reason – with the world around them;  meaning the only real connection, the only real relationship, they can have is with their drug of choice;  which makes it the most important thing in their lives, even when it’s destroying their lives.

Incidentally, I am not the only one who has been in that kind of romantic relationship either, I’m sure.

And when I understood, the spell broke.  I realised I need to find new, positive, healthy things to connect to (How interesting I said ‘things’ and not ‘people’ to connect to – but I’m not going to censor that comment because I think it’s very telling and I want to remember it) to and to strengthen existing connections.

Incidentally, one thing the last nine months of isolation have taught me is how very good I am with my own company, although even I can have a little too much of it.  That’s one good thing that has come out of this episode in my life – I cannot imagine having the level of contact with other people I used to, I don’t think I could tolerate that much interaction with other people anymore, confusing and unsettling as even the best of people can be;  I’ve learned peace in my own company,  which I guess makes me more self-sufficient than I was.

But deprived so brutally of work, routine, other people, my health and plans for the future, and my usual drugs of choice – well, there wasn’t anything left to connect to other than food, was there?

PS.  my most recent scans have revealed that I have a lipoma, a benign tumour,  in my shoulder mere inches away from my jaw joint, and it is that which has been causing my medical problems.  Hopefully it will soon be surgically removed and my jaw and nerve can heal.

On the dangers of lemon water

I lifted this directly from the BBC News website this morning –

The researchers found people who had drinks such as water with a slice of lemon or hot fruit-flavoured teas twice a day between meals were more than 11 times more likely to have moderate or severe tooth erosion.

So we try to be good people, follow the expert advice and do that lemon water trick first thing in the morning to flush out our livers – I do anyway – and we drink our fruit-flavoured teas rather than anything caffeinated or sugary because they’re so very bad for us, and now we discover our good habits are uwittingly rotting our teeth.  No fair.  And while on the face of it, tooth erosion may seem unpleasant but not serious, your dental health can impact negatively and seriously on the health of the rest of your body.

I have to laugh, that something so apparently innocuous as lemon water is now not innocuous at all.

Reminds me of one of my very first posts –

You have to be your own pet scientist

We do indeed.