I’m quitting sugar!

It’s time to make change.  Middle age isn’t a lot of fun when the diet keeps whirling out of control, weight starts to pile on, and one feels perfectly crap.   So here’s how I’m gonna do it.

The ‘now’ situation

After continually waking up feeling tireder than when I went to bed, struggling to be motivated, feeling like my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-vanished-into-the-ether, I’ve decided to get serious and do something about it.

The extra kilos I’m carrying will be playing a large part in feeling so bad, and therefore that’s the area I need to change first.  It’s also the one area I have 100% control over.

I’m also aware that menopause plays a huge part in feeling blah much of the time, so I plan to eventually get my hormone levels checked.  Then I’ll know for sure how much of a male I’m turning into.  Honestly, how unfair is that.  When you’re a female, looking like a bloke isn’t part of the plan.  Same for a guy.  How many older guys do you know who have breasts and higher voices?  Maybe they need to follow my plan too.

And while I’m on the subject – why is there viagra for men and nothing similar for women?  That’s just plain mean.


Why sugar/fructose is really bad

I plan to refer to this list whenever I feel like jumping off the wagon.

  • Sugar is highly addictive.
    Like other addictive substances, it takes a mountain of willpower to kick it. There’s a mountain of research on this so I ain’t talking through my hat.
  • Causes overeating.
    The sweet stuff seems to encourage bingeing and thus we munch more than we’re ever designed to eat.
  • Team up sugar with fat and very soon ye shall put on weight.
    You might be able to get away with it in your 20s, 30s and even your 40s. But by the time you hit your 50s and although you might still be active, for most of us getting fatter becomes the order of the day.
  • Sugar feeds cancer cells.
    This is a biggie. I wonder if people who have cancer are told this by the medical profession?  Indeed, I understand you’re fed a sugar substance when they scan to find cancer cells, because cancer cells just looove to feed and grow on sugar.  Why is this not more widely known?
  • Sugar marries well with many diseases.
    For example, sugar loves to play havoc with people who have autoimmune diseases. There’s a lot of information out there on the havoc sugar creates when you’re suffering from all sorts of things.
  • Causes rollercoaster highs and lows.
    This leads me to wonder if people who suffer from depression, bipolar and other such mental issues wouldn’t benefit from ditching sugar from their diets.
  • It’s linked to dementia.
    If this works out to be so, I’m in very big trouble.  Dementia runs down my mother’s side – females only at this stage.  Perhaps cutting out sugar will stop or defer the onset of symptoms.
  • Inhibits our immune system so it’s difficult to fight off bugs.
    I’m finding as I age, that the body takes 2-3 times longer to heal. Adding sugar to the equation probably doesn’t help.

Health concerns

I’m adding this bit so I have a baseline to refer to as time goes on.  For others who happen upon this blog, it might prove useful if you’re suffering similar issues.

  • Weight control.  I’m too fat.  Far too much fat around my mid-section = middle aged spread.  With the joys of menopause (so little to recommend it, other than saying goodbye to years of stomach cramp and messy periods), no clothes fit nicely.  One feels old and decrepid.
  • Feel addicted to sugar.  Crave it much of the time. Throat often full of phlegm so I’d like to find out what’s sparking that.
  • Heart rate issues.  Not able to exercise as well aerobically (even from a year ago),  takes 3-4 times as long to recover from aerobic exercise, find my heart beats way too fast if I push myself.
  • Poor energy. Tired and fatigued much of the time and have to take Nanna naps when it gets bad.
  • Lack of motivation, enthusiasm, get up and go.  Most days I suffer from the ‘blahs’ and the ‘yeah whatevers’.
  • Healing.  Taking 4-8 weeks to heal from cuts, abrasions and mozzie bites.
  • Bug fighting.  Constantly fighting off an impending cold and when I get them, ooh I’ve had some doozies.
  • Chemical taste in my mouth.  Nasty taste comes and goes and may have something to do with my teeth. But if I can remove sugar as a possible irritant, then the dentist is my next port of call.

Operation ‘Quit Sugar’

Denise in 2005, like to be feeling and looking like this again
Denise in 2005
– like to be as healthy as I was then

Here’s the plan. I’m going to:

1. Cut sugar from my diet for a minimum of 8 weeks.

The official start date is 12 January 2017. I’ll be following Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar” 8 week plan, and joined online to ensure there’s added incentive.

Bought her books in early 2016 and have been trying lots of her ideas, but that hasn’t stopped me imbibing sugar in all its various formats.

However, I’ve noted that when I do cut down on sugar, I feel heaps better and lose weight without unduly thinking about it.  But now I really need to go the whole hog and not just phaffle around with sides of bacon.

2. Cut toxic fake fats out of my diet forevermore.

I began deleting the following fats from my diet in mid 2014 after reading “Toxic Oil” by David Gillespie. This means one no longer consumes margarine, canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil or soy oil.

Why?  Because they’re man-made using chemical processes. Our bodies have no clue what to do with them when consumed. You can argue all you like that David’s deductions aren’t scientific, but to me it makes total and perfect logical sense. If a product needs a chemical process to be created and provide a shelf life such that it doesn’t spoil in 5 minutes, there’s something wrong with it.

I also plan not to consume anything with palm oil given the environmental concerns.

The tricky bit is … these products are in EVERYTHING. Have a look at the ingredients in any sort of cracker, biscuit, crisps, fish and chips, most deli goods, relish, mayonnaise, sauce, frozen meal, bread (excluding artisan), tinned foods etc.  I bet you can’t find one that doesn’t either contain one of the above ingredients and/or sugar of some sort. Good luck with that.

It makes you realise how widespread their use is and how tricky it is to remove them from your diet.  And it also makes you wake up to the idea that eating fake oil can’t possibly be good for you.

3. Keep up the exercise plan.

This one isn’t a problem as I’ve exercised 5-6 days a week for decades.  Weight training, tabata, HIIT, F45, personal training, running, swimming blah blah.  I don’t muck around – I like to work hard because it’s only for an hour each day.  I can spend longer than that eating lunch.

The trick will be to step up the intensity throughout the 8 weeks and give my heart a good workover to ensure it’s still in tip top nick.

4.  Get off HRT.

Finally, when my diet is under control and I feel half decent again, I’m going to wean myself off HRT tablets very s-l-o-w-l-y.  The tablets contain a mild anti-depressant, which I wasn’t aware of until I tried going cold turkey in early 2016.  That didn’t turn out so well.

I became depressed and incredibly angry ALL the time – like REALLY REALLY angry,  I’ll kill you all, don’t muck with me or you die.  My thoughts were negative and suicidal.  Certainly no fun to be around … oh my poor partner.  I’d burst into tears at the weirdest times – often after exercise which is when I’m normally at my most euphoric and happy.

So while life felt pointless, another part of my brain knew these thoughts weren’t logical and eventually it clicked that going cold turkey was a really stupid idea.  I resumed HRT a few months later and life eventually normalised.

But I want to get off them again only this time I’ll go slowly, safe in the knowledge that my nutrition is the best it can be.

5. Get a face lift

Just tricking.  Every time I mention I need a bit of a freshen up on the facial bits, everyone goes nuts at me.

And now …

So there you go.  That’s the general plan.  I’ll add some ‘before’ photos in due course and keep you posted as to how I go  …

Double goosey gander

Ever met a Cape Barren goose?  No?  Then you’re in for a treat.

You won’t find this lovely hued goose anywhere other than Australia. They reside in the southern coast of Western Australia and in south-eastern Victoria, although we’ve only seen them on Phillip Island, where we are based.

They rank as one of the world’s rarest geese which makes them very special. Fortunately there are more of these geese kicking their heels up today than at any time since the settlement of Australia. This is apparently due to the improvement of pastures in which they graze – so much more to eat.

How about a magpie goose?

They’re common in northern Australia and used to be widespread in southern Australia. However, the usual story – humans stuffed that up by draining the wetlands where the birds breed.

The Cape Barren goose and the magpie goose hang out at opposite ends of Australia. The monochromatic orange legged magpie goose lives in coastal northern and eastern Australia, and southern New Guinea as well.

Painting of magpie goose and cape barren goose (didn’t scan so well sorry)

Introducing the Cape Barren goose

This gorgeous critter was rarely seen on Phillip Island. However, in recent years, they’ve become surprisingly common. They’re still classed as vulnerable or rare, so it’s a magnificent pleasure to see their numbers steadily increasing. Occasionally we’re treated to the sight of dozens of birds making merry together in grassy fields overlooking the bay.

This goose is a grazing bird and munches happily on common island tussock grass Poa poiformis for those of you busting to know the Latin name). They’re also partial to chowing down on spear grass, herbs and succulents, pasture grasses such as barley and clover, and legumes.

They tend to hang about in pairs – it’s unusual to see one on its own. In autumn, Mum lays her eggs in a nest in the tussocks on open grasslands. To ensure he contributes equally to the equation, Dad builds the nest and lines it nicely with down. Then they noisily defend it against other crazy geese. Like many humans, they’re monogamous and hang together for life. Mum incubates the eggs but the babies are brought up by both parents.

The geese on Phillip Island are wary of humans but they do allow you get relatively close. The other thing we noted is couples inhabit the same areas all year around. We do a count every time we leave the island and you can almost always find the birds in the same fields.

Because their colouring is quite amazing and they’re such special birds, I’ve included one in my sketchbook.  Both geese are tearing about on wheels and the Cape Barren goose has the dubious distinction of being on a skateboard.

And now for the magpie goose

When wandering past the Port Douglas golf course on our northern Queensland meander, I spotted a gaggle of magpie geese picking around the edge of the grass.

They have a black neck and head, with a knob on the crown of the beak which gets bigger as they age. Bit like a human female bottom really.

The underparts are white and the bits I like best – the bill, legs and feet – are orange. Where they differ from most waterfowl is they don’t have fully webbed feet. Instead they have strong clawed toes that are only partially webbed. I’m sure you all wanted to know that.

They’re very partial to chowing down on aquatic vegetation. They munch mostly wild rice, paspalum, panicum and spike-rush.

Magpie geese build nests in secluded places, preferably close to wetlands. Like the Cape Barren goose, Dad builds the nest.

Pairs of geese mate for life, but a male might cohabit with two females. Why is it you always hear the story of one guy with two girls? Who’d have thought geese would have such proclivity towards this behaviour.

Fortunately all adults share incubation and care for their babies.

Given the magpie goose isn’t very keen to make your acquaintance, he’s on skates for a quick getaway.

Crabby crustaceans

As part of the Sketchbook Project, an idea for painting crustaceans – crabs mostly – came to fruition.

When wandering through the wonderful Daisu in Melbourne, I chanced upon a small ream of blank music paper. Being a devotee of paper, I thought it’d be useful for a painting. Duly purchased, I popped it into my stuffed-to-the-gills craft cupboard for future use.

The Sketchbook Project was a good reason to fish it out. My initial thought was to draw musical notes and paint a creature over the top. The idea evolved into two pages showcasing crustaceans and shells found on our local beach on Phillip Island, plus a way to incorporate tiny shoes that weren’t too obvious.

Getting it done

Fortunately I learned music for decades in my youth, so crafting clefs and notes wasn’t too difficult. It did give me an appreciation for composers though. How tedious drawing all those notes. I haven’t played either tune on the piano – I suspect it’ll be very discordant.

Sourcing sea urchins and shells was easy as I’d collected them from our beach over the years. The tricky part was determining the best ones to use. In the end laziness won out and I used the first ones that came to hand.

I had a number of very fragile upper “shells” from deceased sand crabs so used those as a main point of reference. Sadly some shells didn’t make it through the process – you only had to move one and it’d shatter. Bit crushing really (I do like the odd pun).

Soldier crabs scatter themselves along our beach in their millions so it was a case of sneaking along to take photos. I’ve recently bought a Canon digital camera with 65x zoom so it’s brilliant for sneaky photographing of creatures in the distance. Can’t be bothered fiddling with changing lenses and all that fanatical cleaning, so this was an excellent compromise.

And so the drawing developed. The music paper was surprisingly robust and didn’t buckle too much until I went to adhere it to the journal (as you will see below). Still, it was better than painting watercolour on the actual journal pages – they’re such poor quality, they buckle if you happen to sneeze.

The drawing of the Sergeant and Lieutenant Soldier Crab is about four times actual size, while Monsieur Sand Crab is actual size. Call this artistic license!

Here’s the finished paintings.  Oh, and by the way, see if you can spot the shoes.

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Sand crab

Firstly the initial idea is worked out …

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How will the music around the crab work?

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Then it’s drawn in more detail and the first washes added.

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The music is left in pencil at this stage as I don’t want the notes to show under the crab.

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More detail is added and the notes are drawn in waterproof black pen.

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And here’s the final sand crab painting.

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Soldier crabs & sea urchins

Again, the detail is worked out first.  The final pencil drawing comes together.  At this point I have shells, sea urchins, crab shells and the iPad all clamouring for space on the desk.

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The final pencil drawing is copied over in black waterproof pen.

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The washes and detail are slowly added.

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And the final painting …

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Enter the Sketchbook Project

One thing about retirement, you need to have a plan. Otherwise the days drift past in a marvellous soiree of enjoyment upon which you’ve achieved nothing much at all.

It’s actually rather nice for a while, but then you realise you’re going to reach dead and nothing much will’ve happened. It’d be the most boring funeral – “Denise sat in a comfortable chair and slept for the last 30 years of her life”.

A plan is found

In the spirit of need for a challenging plan, I researched. On the internet, such a wonderful resource, I soon found the Brooklyn Art Library in New York had the splendid idea of getting you to pay them lots of money (bearing in mind Australians pay an additional 30% for anything bought in the USA). In exchange, they kindly send you a cheap looking A5 sketchbook into which you add your idea of art.

They’ve called it the Sketchbook Project and despite the lousy quality and size of the sketchbook, it’s a very fine idea. You only have to look at what others have done to get an idea of the range of bright and bleak creative minds lurking out there. Movie directors could use some of them for ideas on horror film plots.

The big advantage of the project is when you send your finished sketchbook back, it’s digitised and everyone in the wide and changing world can get a look at your hard work.

A plan evolves

You have to choose a theme for your sketchbook. Because my fav thing is drawing and painting wildlife and botanical things, I decided ‘Right Here, Right Now’ was totally appropriate. I’d paint the wildlife that’s around me, right here and now.

As a little quirk, and because I happen to fancy beautiful shoes (not that you’d know this from looking at my feet because they’re usually encased in slippers, running shoes or thongs), I’d incorporate a bit of footwear into every masterpiece.

High heel shoe in watercolour

My first attempt at using watercolour directly onto the sketchbook left the paper buckled and in a very grim state indeed. I forsaw the problem but thought I’d try just in case I was dead wrong about the paper quality. Buzzzzz … fail … end of that idea.

From this slight debacle, I realised you can’t draw or paint across two pages as the image shows through to the other side. I note others have gotten around this drawback by painting one side only, but I haven’t paid out a fortune in Australian dollars to only paint half the book.

So I’ve devised a cunning plan. I’ll paint on other types of paper and use photo tabs to attach the work of art onto the paper.  So far, it’s been an interesting outcome.

A plan in process

I’m about half way through the sketchbook and it’s proving to be outstanding at chewing through the hours. An afternoon flies by faster than a kangaroo racing from a bush fire. It’s a state as close to bliss as you can get.

Not all my attempts are particularly good but I’m going to add whatever I paint, no matter the outcome. It’s giving me a chance to try different styles which I’m truly enjoying and in the end, the point is to have fun and not die on a chair.

One of the interesting outcomes is I’m determined to learn more and another cunning plan has been devised.  I shall go on a painting trip to an Asian country with other like-minded folk.  This is particularly appealing because it’s so much closer and cheaper than Europe or the USA.

The next few blog entries will show some pages as I complete them. I’ve seen all these creatures in their own environment except for the Great White Shark … it’s not a creature I feel a need to encounter.

Happy reading …