Saturday, 26 January 2013

Fancy a cuppa?

My early morning cup of tea – taken in bed, listening to the Today programme - is my best drink of the day. It’s Dragonfly Rooibos, and it is rich, red and refreshing – but funnily enough this is the only time of day that I drink it.
I have coffee during the morning (my favourite is Grumpy Mule decaf, don’t ask me why!), then green tea in the afternoon – usually Twinings green tea with pineapple and grapefruit because I find that the fruits cut through that slightly acrid taste green tea can have. But apparently I should be switching to white tea – which of course is nothing like white coffee... White tea leaves come from the same plant Camelia Sinensis as green tea leaves – the difference is that they’re picked when they’re younger.  And, with less caffeine, they’re considered green tea’s younger, healthier, brother, according to Joe’s Tea Company. In fact a 2009 study by Kingston University and Neal’s Yard Remedies, found that white tea not only boosts health (lowering cholesterol and protecting against heart disease) but can also combat age-associated wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Wow! I usually finish off the day with peppermint tea, or, if I’ve run out, ginger or fennel  – but tonight I’m trying white.

Friday, 25 January 2013


There’s nothing like a mini break for ruining any good diet plans – and reigniting the desire to eat carbs. And so it was, last weekend in Barcelona, that I breakfasted on bread, croissants and tiny crescent shaped doughnuts filled with creme patissiere. At lunch I ate toasted bread smeared with tomato and garlic. Then there were the free pastries offered at teatime in our hotel... And more tomato toasts at dinner. It was delicious, and terribly addictive. My tummy now looks like a balloon. But I feel very happy. Perhaps we all need the occasional mini break to Carbelona...

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Listen up!

It started with my husband answering what sounded like “mwwaah” in response to most questions. I didn’t know if it was “yes”, “no”, or “maybe” – or if he was just hedging his bets with a “mwwaah”... Now, that being the case, it could have occurred to me that Steve had not properly heard what I’d said and was winging it with his response. But instead it struck me that it was me, not him, who wasn’t hearing too well. Still, he is a serial mumbler – so I let it go for a while. And my other excuse was that I heard him least well when we were walking alongside a noisy road, or if I was in one part of our airy L shaped kitchen while Steve – a private chef – was in the other part, competing with the force 8 extraction and sizzling pans.  But then I noticed I couldn’t hear the radio that well when the Today programme woke me up. I particularly noticed it if I was straining to hear an interesting story - and it occurred to me that one ear was better than the other. Even then, though, it was easy to forget about it once I’d got up and on with my day. But there were other incidents – a friend whispering in my left ear, which I couldn’t hear, and increasing trouble hearing softly spoken people in noisy restaurants.
A number of my friends and colleagues seemed to have the same problem – all of us practically boasting, in fact, that we couldn’t hear a thing, and that our children complained we never listened to them.
But, when Hidden Hearing offered me a free hearing test last September, I thought I may as well take it up and find out what was going on. It may have been a blob of wax – but it turned out my left ear (which did indeed fail the hearing test) was squeaky clean inside. My local Hidden Hearing audiologist, Tom, later confirmed that the hairs lining the outer part of my cochlea had fallen flat and were no longer picking up sound as they should be. It is apparently unusual to have this kind of hearing loss at my age (yes, even at 52, I am TOO YOUNG!!) – and it’s also abnormal to experience the loss in one ear only... However my brother says he has the same thing (in his right ear), so I am not too concerned about that. As a child I had a lot of earache and always seemed to have cotton wool in one of my ears – so it’s possible that’s when the damage was done. The good news is that I now have a lovely, very discreet, little “listening device” and it has been as much of a boon as my reading glasses were. They helped the words leap off the page. My listening device helps them sound less muffled - even if it hasn't cured Steve's mumbling and there is still the occasional "mwwaah". 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Bye bye diet rules

Waitrose makes a really very good red lentil and chilli soup in its healthy eating ‘Love Life’ range. Half a carton was my lunch today and made me feel very good about myself - after last night's stilton, port and walnut fest.

Then I went off and interviewed Professor Peter Whorwell, the IBS specialist. We were talking about the pros and cons of the York Test as a bunch of Prof W’s patients took part in a double blind trial, and those dropping foods to which they were intolerant had 25% more symptom relief than those who were told to avoid other foods to which they were not intolerant, but had been led to believe that they could be. After he mentioned that many of us also have IgG antibody responses to foods, but without any symptoms, in which case there is no benefit in avoiding these foods, I found myself back in the kitchen – eating my first sandwich in weeks (and jolly nice it was, too: Brunswick smoked ham with Dijon mustard in deliciously nutty Heyford Wholemeal bread) – and then a piece of butter fudge (it seems to be replacing itself as it’s consumed) and the last of my mother-in-law’s flour and butter free chocolate cake, which she made with chestnut puree (apparently replacing everything else) for New Year. After all, I am not 100% convinced I do have symptoms - although the next step should probably be to measure my tummy after eating different foods, and see if dairy and yeast make much more difference. 

While consuming all these post lunch delights, I read in the Times that fitness guru Matt Roberts likes his clients to keep a daily food journal as listing everything we eat apparently discourages us from eating too much.  So... you already know what I’ve eaten so far today (btw breakfast was muesli with half a banana and coconut milk) – what have you been eating??

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Wake up and look in the mirror!

Trying on a lovely little black dress yesterday – then seeing that I looked like a cross between a slug and a crustacean -- I definitely regretted all those salted caramel hazelnuts and glasses of Bailey’s.
But I did get down to the gym today for my aquarobics class – and I am trying to bask in the endorphin rush. Every cloud has a silver lining. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

As the Christmas tree of life prepares for the dustcart of destiny, I’m taking stock of all the unnecessary treats I’ve consumed over the past week – salted caramel hazelnuts, butter fudge, chocolate mints, chocolate with chilli, Pringles, crisps with dips, mince pies, panettone, Christmas pudding, burfi, samosas, pakoras, Bailey’s, champagne, prosecco, cava, red wine, white wine, elderflower vodka... All things I normally eschew, and certainly shouldn’t be eating when I am still religiously pouring coconut milk on my muesli in order to comply with the rules of my yeast and dairy intolerances. What is it about Christmas that makes us (for I know, and you know, that I am not alone) pig out so unashamedly? I blame boredom – for, you have to admit, Christmas is without exception the most boring time of year... And, this year, I also blame the bad weather – which has been relentless. With little to do but veg out on the sofa, the snacking becomes as inevitable as the panic rush to the gym that will follow later this week. Christmas was, after all, invented in order to get us all to part with more money than we have for more food and drink than we should reasonably consume. And New Year was invented to get us to part with yet more money for gym memberships that most of us will never use beyond January.
If joining a gym is on your list of new year’s resolutions, take my advice and wait until February, as the desire may have worn off by then.
But if you are already a member of a gym – as I am – make sure you use it this week, before the Christmas apathy has had time to take even more of a grip. All those festive treats I have been eating are not only addictive but they seem, in my case at least, to flip a switch in my brain that convinces me that healthy living is not only undesirable but also completely unnecessary.
Because of a fluey cold the week before Christmas, I have already been out of the gym for so long that the prospect of entering the locker room now fills me with as much joy as queuing for the January sales – so I will have to force myself back to yoga and aquarobics, and remind myself that I will love every stretch, splash and lunge... Because I’m worth it!