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Avalon news and views

January 2019

My journey so far!

Although it hasn’t been that long since I started, this seems a good time to look at my experience so far, and to answer a few questions about what I’m doing and why.

Am I giving advice? Do I expect others to try the same things? Absolutely not, this is not a wellness blog or meant to be suggestions for others. I’m not selling anything, and I don’t think using any type of wonder ingredient can change your life.

I’m trying to change certain aspects of my life - you may feel there are changes you’d like to make to your life, but they will be different to mine. I’m analyzing and documenting my process and experiences. Your process and experience will be different.

The process of writing a blog is far outside my comfort zone (I’ve never even kept a diary) but it is a useful tool, forcing me to analyse my experiences, as well as making me learn more about myself.

You can read books for advice or self-help, but only you can make the change happen and I think that each of us is best placed to work out how to go about it. This does take effort and willpower, however you’re more likely to succeed if you begin with easily achievable goals and then extend yourself gradually – only you understand yourself and difficulties involved.

Hence my starting point of three things that are achievable:

I’m not really concerned about my weight as much as I am about the amount of body fat I’m carrying, and in particularly, visceral fat. This is internal body fat that is not visible which can be stored around organs and is being linked to a variety of risk factors to health. I haven’t set a weight goal or time limit, as failing to meet them causes disappointment.

I’m not promoting WW Team either. I chose them partly as solidarity with my wife so we can eat the same things and to be honest, if you’d told me a year ago that I’d be doing this, I’d have laughed! But here I am losing weight and surprisingly I’m enjoying it. I’m learning that I can lose weight and eat carbohydrate (obvious to most perhaps, but a revelation to me!) and eating a more balanced diet as a result.

Pilates has proved to be a good decision as I’ve forced myself to start at the very bottom and I’m learning a lot. My ego felt that as I’d done yoga for many years, surely I should start at an intermediate level! No one likes to feel like they don’t know anything, but my approach to yoga has not prepared me for my pilates experience so far. I’ve learnt how weak my core is, and the fact that I may have felt like I was doing yoga well, I was in fact, really relying on my strength to achieve this.

Wood carving I’ve found enjoyable, but I don’t feel it’s going to be a viable alternative to meditation. I’ve stalled slightly as it’s difficult to find enough free time to devote an hour at a time which, for me, is what it takes to progress reasonably. As you can see from the picture, 4 hours work has produced something that’s still a way off being a spoon and a lot of kindling!

So, I’m sticking with the diet and I’m going to use Pilates as my base to build more exercise into my week. I’ll finish the spoon, then have a think and try something new. What I’m finding exciting about this process is not knowing what I’ll be doing when the year’s up.

Posted 23-01-19

Breaking old habits

The element I’ve decided to write about first is my diet, mainly because that seems to be my biggest challenge at the moment. However, it has also brought an unexpected bonus too.

It’s been just over a week since I started and I’m starting to refine the rules I’ve set myself. I’ve lost some weight as the point system is easy to track and is really highlighting where my excessive calories are coming from. I’m still eating the foods I want, but the quantities and proportions have changed a lot.

I believe that pretty much any diet will work if you don’t cheat, so I’m going to stick to my points’ limit of 34 per day. For some reason I’m allowed 45 extra points a week which I’m going to try to avoid using.

It’s easy to play the points system by having a lot of zero-rated foods (e.g, a banana is zero points but if you enter fifty bananas into the app, it still counts as zero) so I’m going to keep portion sizes normal.

Ever since I used the Atkins diet, I’ve avoided carbohydrates as much as possible, however I’m trying to mix things up a bit, as this has to change. For example, I’m going to eat more fruit and make my own bread wherever possible. I’m going to use wholegrains as I think they taste better.

I won’t eat anything that is ‘low fat’ but I will limit the quantity to keep the points down. My belief in this is that some things, e.g. cheese, are inherently high in fat, as the products that produce them contain a lot of fat. To me, low fat cheese interferes with the taste and texture and possibly uses additives I’d rather avoid.

So, this was my dinner last night, it wouldn’t look great on Instagram but it’s miles away from my normal meals. Plus, I need to add that my wife was supposed to be bringing the vegetables from the grocers on Gloucester Road, close to where she works, but as she was delayed this is what I had to work with… 

Salmon fried in a pan with very little oil along with microwaved brown rice and a store bought plum sauce. In total, this comes to 9 points and is tasty in its own way,  but quite bland compared to what I’m used to. It was. however, much less calorific, very quick to cook and for the first time in a while, I sat down with my son to eat the same meal together.

I’d never really thought about this, but we very rarely sit down together and eat the same meal. I think the lessons I’ve learned are, that I’ve been quite snobby about my food without realising it (considering what I eat it’s no surprise I’m overweight) and if I spend less time in the kitchen preparing and cooking, I can spend more time sitting down with my family, eating more simple food. All of which is quite obvious when you think about it, but the point is, I had never stopped to think about it, I was just carrying on with my normal habits wondering why nothing was changing. 

Posted 15-01-19

Stretching out

So, these are my starting points, there’s nothing too dramatic as my aim is to find achievable goals. I have a whole year to build up to stronger challenges…

Stretching out

I’ve long been an advocate of yoga or Pilates as a useful baseline activity suitable for pretty much anyone. People tend to gravitate towards one or the other, but my choice was always yoga.

Whilst I don’t often recommend something unless I’ve experienced it, I felt I could recommend Pilates, as many people, whose opinion I respect, vouched for its effectiveness. To mix things up and have a new experience, I’ve signed up for an introductory Pilates course which runs for 6 weeks. As I do with yoga, I’ll do some background reading about its philosophy too.

Celebrating the ordinary

I received this book as a Christmas present, as whittling and wood carving are something I’ve been interested in for a while but haven’t really found the time for.

It’s a beautifully written book (and is much more interesting than you’d think a book on spoon carving could be) and in it, the author talks about the act of carving as a way of celebrating the function of simple objects, focusing concentration and developing manual dexterity.

I used to have a daily meditation practice which I’ve allowed to lapse, and for some reason I’m finding it difficult to sit quietly and meditate. Rather than continue being frustrated about this, I’m going to try wood carving as a mindful action, to see if this can be considered a form of active meditation.

Changing the way, I eat

The third element I’m addressing relates to my diet, and I never thought I’d say this, but I, seemingly in conjunction with Robbie Williams, have signed up with WW Team (formerly, Weight Watchers). As my wife kindly pointed out, my own diet system hadn’t produced any weight loss, so I had to try something new. The points system used is straightforward and doesn’t disallow anything, however, it does penalise highly calorific foods by awarding them a high point score.


I’m going to struggle with this the most. I love to cook, I really love to eat and, as I taught myself to cook using a 70’s classical French cookbook called Modern French Culinary Art (an amazing book that has the recipes for probably every dish you’ve ever eaten in a classical French restaurant), my cooking relies heavily on fat or rich stock for flavour. Some of the diet methods I’ve followed in the past rely heavily on protein and fat, with minimal carbohydrate, so I’ve really got to unlearn a mindset and retrain my taste buds.

I shall be sharing my experiences in all three….

Posted 11-01-19

We all make choices….

All of us. If we’re saying we can’t find time to exercise or eat properly because of work, or ferrying children to weekend clubs, what we’re effectively saying is that we prioritise something else over ourselves. Yet, if we’ve found time to unwind with a glass of wine or to watch an episode of Black Mirror, we’ve found time for something that we feel nourishes ourselves.

What this year is about for me, is examining those choices and making some new ones. My diet, fitness levels and the way I choose to spend my time are all areas that I feel need to be addressed because my old patterns aren’t working for me anymore. This is my 50th year on earth so I’m over halfway through what I can reasonably expect to live and I don’t want to sleepwalk into old age.

Listening to my body

What I mean by this is, that I know there’s a point in my life coming where something will happen and perhaps, I won’t be able to prevent or change it. I don’t want to get to that point and think “I wish I’d done something sooner”. I want that something to be done now.

The three areas are my body, my mind and using a word I’m always cautious of, but can’t find anything that works better, my spirit. I use the word spirit to mean that part of you that can’t be measured but has a huge impact on how you feel as a human being.

I’m going to do this by creating space in my life where I can pay attention to all of those areas, and most importantly, get my ego out of the way of the decision-making process. Like most people, I feel I know what’s best for me but if that were true, I wouldn’t be here writing this. I’m going to question everything and try new things, and this means asking what do my body, mind and spirit need NOT what do they want.

Posted 08-01-19


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