What happened?

Yes, it’s been a while.  There’s been a whole lot going on.  From personal tragedies (yes, plural) to major work transitions, one way or another it’s been way too long … and even I was surprised by how long when I logged back on.

But I’m back.  I’m finally heading in the direction I’ve wanted to go for so long, and branching out for myself.  This blog is now tied in to my new site at www.crystalwoods.com.au, and I’m working to build that as we speak.  I look forward to picking up the threads and finishing off the ones I left hanging, and thanks a million for sticking with me as I do.

The first new series will be a blog of the mindset shifts I’m finding as I move away from paid employment and start taking responsibility for my own financial well being.  It’s been tough, surprising, and I’m still a work in progress, so I’m aiming for the first entry before the end of the month.  Please check back in and let me know what you think.


So, I’ve been reading and learning a lot about microbiomics lately.  Did you know that there are ten times more microbes of one kind or another than there are human cells in your body?  We really are walking ecosystems.  Medicine is only starting to realise that the ‘blast everything’ antibiotics approach has consequences beyond developing super resistant nasties.

So, having done a course online (University of Colorado via Coursera – https://www.coursera.org/course/microbiome ↑) and learnt how incredibly powerful this internal ecosystem in managing just about everything about your body (did you know there’s more seratonin – ‘feel good hormone’ in your gut than in your brain?), I discovered someone had written a book about rebalancing intestinal flora to match the profile of microbes that live in skinny people’s guts.

I kid you not, there are medical practitioners out there who very successfully do this to treat any number of chronic conditions, but they do it via ‘fecal transplant’.  You don’t want to know.  Suffice to say it makes the idea of the oral supplements approach look a lot more attractive.

At the moment, I’m not technically starting from a blank slate, as good experimental method should.  I also have a long term issue with inflammation markers being elevated.  Like, almost 3 times normal elevated, with no apparent cause.  (Stress, maybe? Or something related to perimenopause?)  Since part of this approach involves enzymes which are known to help with inflammation, and there’s cross over with ‘anti-inflammation’ diets becoming popular right now, I’m guinea pigging myself again.

I can’t do the full diet, since I’m vegetarian and it isn’t.  The suggestion is, however, to focus on the supplementation with my normal diet.  Being in Australia, some of the products listed in the book (The Microbiome Diet– from the US , of course) aren’t available, but there’s enough information in there I’ve been able to hunt down substitutes for most of them.  Some sources delivered a lot slower than others, though, so I haven’t had a clean start to taking the full protocols.  Instead, I tracked each of them as I added them in.  Today is day 4 of the full series, with the final two elements arriving at the start of this week.

I’m not going to list all the individual products here, but there are a couple of categories of supplements.

  • The products that reduce or get rid of the microbes not part of the ideal (I hesitate to call them ‘bad’ bacteria because every one has a function and is beneficial in some circumstances, and absence can have negative effects in others.)
  • Products to replace stomach acid (this is actually as simple as cider vinegar, but built up to full dose)
  • Products to replace the full range of enzymes needed for effective digestion (some of these are very hard to source)
  • Probiotics themselves – the microbes you do want put back into the system
  • Prebiotics – the food these microbes need to survive & thrive in there.
  • Products that assist with repairing any intestinal or digestive damage

These are spaced out including 3 sets with meals, one before and one after a meal, and one on an empty stomach last thing at night.  I can tell you that having started the first of the products 20 days ago, and with 4 days on the full protocol, I have come down from 150.6kg to 148.8kg, a loss of 1.8kg (4lb).  I would also recommend not starting this protocol without having a period of at least 4 or 5 days when it’s not going to matter if there’s a lot of, hmm, antisocial noises happening.  😉

Yesterday, however, I experienced a noticeable shift in food tastes.  I woke to find myself wanting high protein food, specifically eggs and legumes, and as the day went on I experienced almost a sense of being reconnected to my appetite.  I felt the level of my hunger as an awareness rather than an urgent signal, and I was aware of what, specifically, I wanted to eat.

For someone who spent their life ignoring their body and starving it in the name of losing weight, this is a major breakthrough.  I ate really well, without feeling I was forcing myself to do it.  When I’d eaten, I was able to forget about food and focus on other things until I chose to act on the levels of hunger that I was feeling, at which point I would again start looking for the things I never normally crave.  I also sweated more (thermogenic) and my sleep has started improving, with fewer wakings through the night and more solid blocks of light, deep and REM sleep (I still have my Zeo to track that).

This is one I’m definitely going to follow through for at least a month of full trial, and am already feeling it making a difference.  With my next blood test tomorrow, I’ll update next week with any changes to the inflammation side of things.


October is Vegetarian Month

There’s not been a lot of publicity, but something I found online said that this month was ‘Vegetarian Month’, and a few searches seemed to support it.  I have no idea if that’s just in the US or here as well, but in the spirit, here’s a cool infographic I found to share, from OneGreenPlanet.org.

Vegetarian Month Infographic - OneGreenPlanet.org

If you’re curious about where I fit on the poster, I’ve been a Lacto-Ovo all my life (they’d put it as health reasons, but I’ve an intolerance to meat and an allergy to seafood. I spat it out as a baby, apparently), but am gradually transiting towards more raw vegan for weight loss purposes.

PS For Aussies, did you know minties aren’t vegetarian either? Or most marshmallows.


Week 8 Halfway to the Nexus!

Still watching my health, but this week I finally made the milestone half way to my first goal – the Nexus 10 tablet!!!  

You’ll also notice some changes on the site, since the theme I was using was having Week8problems with the latest version of WordPress. I upgraded to the newer version, but I haven’t had a chance to add back all the customisations I had.  I won’t get to it this weekend, either, so since I know there won’t be time I can do it all at once, I’m going to try for doing it bit by bit over the next week.  

Now I’ve been at this a while, I’ve shortened the table below to only the last few weeks – and this week I’ve finally got up 3 weeks running of losing weight!!! You’ll see from the table above that I hit a couple of records this week, too. Highest step count, longest ‘Moderate Activity’ (some of which felt amazingly vigorous, but not according to the bodylink!), most amount of calories burnt (over BMR) and highest liquid intake as well. All on the one day, so I’m pretty pleased with that. It’s another example of how tracking helps with motivation and pushing myself further each week.

Week 8: 144.9kg – down 2.4kg -5.3lb
Week 7: 147.3kg – down 0.7kg -1.5lb
Week 6: 148.0kg – down 1.5kg -3.3lb
Week 5: 149.5kg – up 0.6kg +1.3lb
Starting weight was 150.9kg 332.7lb

Total loss since 18 March is up to 6kg (12.2lb), but most importantly, I’ve cracked the 145kg barrier! Woo Hoo!

I also made a bit of a breakthrough this week.  I’m finding now that I’m developing a sense of how much is enough – around about the 1600-1700 calorie mark I start getting a sense that I should start watching it so I leave enough for dinner, and you can see the results in terms of calorie intake. This became especially noticeable when I had a day where I was on mostly raw in the morning, and by afternoon I really felt like something hot, and had a calorie count that was ridiculously low, so I went into the Indian takeaway and got myself a couple of pakoras and a samosa.  I only ordered 2, rather than the 3 they had a price deal on, since I thought that would about do it. It did, and it put me within 50 cal of my 1880 calorie target. I’ve never looked those up, so it’s an internal sense, rather than learnt knowledge, and I’m absolutely stoked. NOW I’m feeling like the lifestyle changes are permanent and there’s no going back.

The weather got a bit colder, so the morning commute has been fun to get up for, especially with some of the stuff going on at work. You can see I’ve still not been getting a lot of sleep, but that’s more been from restlessness because of stress rather than lack of time, so I’ll have to work on putting a bit more relaxation in this week. The worst stress isn’t from the work, but from a particular situation going on there that I just can’t see my way out of, unfortunately. As with last weekend, I let the hydration drop a bit, but I did have the extra glass of water on coming home most days and that’s helped. I’m also doing exercise before bed most nights, and finding myself wanting to move more, which is another good sign.

Once again, I kept my net calories under the 1880 target except for one day, although I alternated high and low on the total calorie and that seems to have really helped – I’m really happy with this week’s result.  Every average was improved except for having a bit more sugar and fat, but not much, so I’m not going to stress about that.

So, experiments to try over the coming weeks:  My major issues right now are sleep and stress, and they’re related because on the day I came home and went to bed really early to catch up, I still found myself restless, waking through the night, and not getting enough REM or Deep sleep. So, this week, I’m focusing on R&R and taking time out – and putting a few strategies in place that will help, medium term. It means a few more nights of not enough sleep, but I’ll wear that to get to the solution.

Hopefully not too long until I can order that Nexus!


Week 7 Finally Heading South Again

Yet again I got swamped at work and let it dominate my time, so sorry this week’s update is late.  I’m still swamped, but I’m learning to occasionally put my own goals on the list, at least.    I came down sick this last week, and spent most of 4 days pretty much going between bedroom, bathroom and doctors. I’m still coughing, but the worst is over.  This always seems to happen after a run of being left to fly solo with no support, and workload levels elevated way beyond what I can achieve (but I still kill myself trying), and of course the weather turning towards winter didn’t help.  Neither did coming back in before I was fully recovered, because I knew how much was waiting on me, only to discover I couldn’t even get to that because another major job got priority.  And then another one.  I’m going to have to be super-careful with my health for the next few weeks, I think.

Total loss since 18 March is back up to 3.6kg (7.9lb).  (Getting closer to that Nexus 10!)

Week 7: 147.3kg – down 0.7kg  -1.5lb
Week 6: 148.0kg – down 1.5kg  -3.3lb
Week 5: 149.5kg – up 0.6kg  +1.3lb
Week 4: 148.9kg – up 0.7kg  +1.5lb
Week 3: 148.2kg – up 2.4kg  +5.3lb
Week 2: 145.8kg – down 1.5kg  -3.3lb
Week 1: 147.3k – down 3.6kg  -7.9lb
Starting weight was 150.9kg 332.7lb

Week7 The meditation didn’t really happen at all this week, although I did spend time on the train relaxing as much as possible (and I re-read one of my favourite authors for de-stressing as well.  Mercedes Lackey).  The glass of water on rising continues most days, except on weekends I’m not so good on that.  This coming week I’m going to refill it and have one on arriving home as well, I think, to get the hydration levels up a bit higher.   The exercise has kept going up, thanks to being able to SEE it via the bodylink.  It’s a real motivation help and has definitely paid for itself in terms of lifestyle change. 

You can see that on average, I kept my net calories under the 1880 target, except for one day, which I’m quite happy with.  I’ve figured out that while exercise results show up quite quickly, the diet takes 2-3 days to affect the weight, which ties in with what they say about how long it takes to go through the system.  So, the days I eat a bit more, now, I know in 2 days time I need to really amp up the exercise to counter it.  Carbs went up from 224 to 303, Sugars went up, but Protein was down slightly, and fats went down from 96.7 to 76.6.  To offset that, though, my exercise has increased from an average of 515.6 calories above base metabolic rate to 559.6.  Like I said, I credit the Bodylink with a lot of that.

The sleep is improving, partly because I am having more raw and healthy food, partly because I now exercise before bed as well (mostly to get the step count up to the next major level) but also I think because I’ve taken to making sure I finish up eating with a meal as soon as I get home, around 5 or 5:30, and then don’t touch anything but water until I go to bed.  I read something about an ‘8 hour diet’ where you have your food intake over only 8 hours, and that was my prompt, but it could be as simple as the old advice to stop eating 3 hours before bed.  Since bed is around 8:30-9pm, I’m now doing that, and it seems to be paying off.

So, experiments to try over the coming weeks:  Hopefully next week I’ll be able to start tracking raw percentage, which should also help me stay higher raw through this winter – I’ve generally gotten better at making it further and further into the winter on raw over the last few years, this year might be the one when I finally make it all the way through.  This week I’ll also push the hydration levels up again with the glass of water on getting home.  Finally, since work stress is an issue right now, I’m going to try to go back to doing the meditation.

It feels like, step by step, I’m ‘getting it’ and learning what works for me, as well as getting much more conscious of what I’ve been doing wrong.  Both are really good indicators for making this a permanent, long term change.



Week 6 Transformation Progress

sleep_thumb.jpgThe sleep still hasn’t been working, but wearing the Bodylink is (the picture is wishful thinking).  I set 3 new personal best records this week, for ‘moderate activity’ (which apparently includes going flat out on the exercise bike, I couldn’t kick it over to vigorous no matter how hard I tried).  I got a record with 1hr 23m, then beat it again the next day.  My step count finally kicked over the 10k and that was, of course, a record too.  

Total loss since 18 March is 2.9kg (6.4lb)

Week 6: 148.0kg – down 1.5kg  -3.3lb
Week 5: 149.5kg – up 0.6kg  +1.3lb
Week 4: 148.9kg – up 0.7kg  +1.5lb
Week 3: 148.2kg – up 2.4kg  +5.3lb
Week 2: 145.8kg – down 1.5kg  -3.3lb
Week 1: 147.3k – down 3.6kg  -7.9lb
Starting weight was 150.9kg 332.7lb


Week 5 Mon 22 Tue 23 Wed 24 Thu 25 Fri 26 Sat 27 Sun 28
Sleep score 67 58 60 84 60 (nw) 56
Calories 1086 2122 2948 2321 1483 2588 2129
Exercise 448 901 873 47 413 372 555
Net 638 1221 2075 2274 1070 2216 1574
Moderate Activity 0:38 1:23 1:26 0:01 0:42 0:14 0:34
Steps 4712 1221 10460 1786 5499 3636 4067
Hydration 150ml 700ml 700ml 600ml 1Litre 1.1L 1.1L

The meditation didn’t really happen except a couple of nights, since as you can see, I still wasn’t getting a lot of sleep.  I was making sure I drank a 600ml glass of water as soon as I got up on most days, though, which improved over the week as I tracked it and realised how little I was drinking.  Also from looking back at the stats, having a couple of days where I dipped my calories really low seems to have helped as well.

On average, I decreased both carbs (down from an average of 274 to 224) and sugar (average down from 134.6 to 113.1) this week, protein went up from an average of 50.9 to 57.9, but interestingly, increasing my fat from 79 to 96.7 doesn’t seem to have held me back – maybe because it was highest on Saturday so it might not have ‘hit’ yet.  Calories went up from averaging 1973 to 2096, which argues that part of my problem might be that my system is in that ‘starvation mode’.  After all, it’s been subjected to diets since age 7, so it would probably be unusual if it wasn’t.

There was one thing particularly noticeable, since sleep is becoming a focus with how difficult it’s been to get enough lately.  The days I had more fresh (raw) food I definitely slept better.  Not in terms of the sleep score, but in terms of feeling functional on waking at least.  Breaking it down, I got more deep sleep and, to a lesser extent, REM sleep those nights.  Those are the things that affect me most when I don’t get enough of them, and my ideal seems to be about 2 hrs of deep.  The REM tends to run parallel with the deep sleep – they’re remarkably similar, usually.

So, experiments to try over the coming weeks:  It might be next week before I work out the best way to do it, but I’ll also start tracking a raw percentage and test the impact that has on both sleep score, composition and weight loss.  This week I’ll see if continuing the alternating up/down pattern of calorie intake keeps working, and I’m going to aim to push the average water up to 1.5L a day.   I hope to break at least another one personal best this week, too, on the exercise front.

All in all, I’m happy it’s going down again.  But it can’t hit 140 fast enough for me.  I want my Google Nexus Tablet!!!



Week 5 Lessons

A colleague at work asked me today if I’d lost weight since I started wearing the Bodylink.  I told her yes I had, but unfortunately I found it again.

Coincidentally, the last 2 weeks have involved a lot of long hours covering for other people being on leave, and a lot less sleep than usual, while the calories haven’t gone over all that often, and the books all say I should be losing 1.5lb a week.   The results are below.

Total loss since 18 March is back to only 1.4kg (3.1lb)

Week 5: 149.5kg – up 0.6kg  +1.3lb
Week 4: 148.9kg – up 0.7kg  +1.5lb
Week 3: 148.2kg – up 2.4kg  +5.3lb
Week 2: 145.8kg – down 1.5kg  -3.3lb
Week 1: 147.3k – down 3.6kg  -7.9lb
Starting weight was 150.9kg 332.7lb

The exercise counts are now the adjustments MyFitnessPal makes between what it works out I’d burn as normal metabolic rate, and what the Bodymedia tells it I have burnt, so they’re back looking more normal.

Week 4 Mon 8 Tue 9 Wed 10 Thu 11 Fri 12 Sat 13 Sun 14 Target
Sleep score 81 66 87 71 85 0 59 >70
Calories 1650 2081 2263 2393 2715 2114 1271 1920
Exercise 701 684 849 538 418 556 335 >1
Net 949 1397 1414 1855 2297 1558 936 <1920
Mod Activity  1:11  1:07  1:17  0:55  0:44  0:18*  0:02* 30m
Steps  8639  8800  9596  6885  6594  3971  1392* 8000


Week 5 Mon 15 Tue 16 Wed 17 Thu 18 Fri 19 Sat 20 Sun 21 Target
Sleep score 61 57 81 82 86 67 92 >70
Calories 1847 2420 1534 2049 2258 1871 1833 1920
Exercise 740 594 582 482 946 123 305 >1
Net 1107 1826 952 1567 1312 1748 1528 <1920
Mod Activity 1:04 0:56 0:48 0:34 0:51 0:02* 0:14 30m
Steps 8339 7656 6315 7089 7676 2381* 2037 8000

So, what I can learn from this?

Obviously sleep is a factor, and from the work that got dropped on my desk this morning that’s not going to change in a hurry.  Now one person is back on deck at work, there’s someone else gone on leave with no relief.  So I can’t expect that to change, I’ll have to work around it.  What I’m going to try for the next week is including meditation in my evening routine and see if that improves the result.

I also noticed that hydration levels are down, so I’ll also be tracking fluid consumption over the week, to see if that makes a difference.  There were a couple of days where I dropped weight more than the normal variation, and the only pattern I could find was that they followed a day where I went over the calorie target, so the following day I was really low carb and very high raw.   I might test that pattern again sometime in the next week or two and see if it results in the same kind of drop, because that could be useful. It might just be that they were also days when I found a dream job at my dream company and was working on putting my application together, so it could have been no more than the reduction in stress from having hope of a pathway out of my current situation.  The only way to tell for sure is to test it, so I’ll keep you posted next week.