One year on…

Ok. Deep breath. Let’s get started.

I’m 35, a Dad to an amazing little boy, a teacher of inner city kids, I have a fantastic family who live 5 hours away and a lovely girlfriend. I also like bikes…. a lot.

I’ve had cancer. I’ve had it three times in fact…. Hodgkin’s lymphoma which has been stage 1 once and stage 4 twice. Not so great. To complicate matters further, I also have autoimmune hepatitis. This means I’m immunosuppressed and suffer from fatigue. To add insult to injury, I have neuropathy in my feet pretty badly. So, I very much like to think I’m medically exotic!

On Boxing Day 2016 I found a lump in my neck and I knew that I was ill again. So, 2017 has been mostly spent feeling pretty ropey. Quite a few rounds of chemo left me ‘cancer free’ in August. Great news but unfortunately the treatment left me unable to keep up with my mum walking round Tesco. The fitness I was able to build up by November was then all but wiped out by a week-long stay in hospital with neutropenia and sepsis, which was nice!

So that brings me to January 2018, almost exactly a year on, I’m overweight and nowhere near as fit as I would like to be. I’ve found that chemo, and the accompanying fatigue, have helped me put on weight and I don’t much like it. I’m going to change it.

It’s my intention to use this blog to record my progress and document what I find out about healthy living and eating. I’m aware that there is a huge amount of conflicting information about diet and exercise and I want to try and discover what works for me. I’m very lucky that I have an exceptionally clever person sat next to me who will help me get to the bottom of all of the science stuff!

I’m hoping that by doing this it might become a place for other people who have ‘been a bit poorly’ to get some support and encouragement. It might also help some people who haven’t had illness but can be motivated, because if I can do this I think most people can.

Here goes….

Featured post

A month in to a new life…

Well a little bit more than a month, but you get the idea, no more timetables or commuting, no more bells.. no more teaching. And how’s it been? It’s been great!

The flexibility has been amazing. Not having to book time off for hospital appointments has been a revelation! I’ve also found that it suits me much better to exercise in the mornings, I just to have more energy and more importantly motivation. A cycle or run in the morning sets me up well for the day. I have been reading some interesting stuff about the benefits of being a weekend warrior vs exercising throughout the week. So am going to try and combine the two styles to see if I can perceive any difference.

So any downsides to working from home? Yes. A biggie! The temptation to snack is huge! I find myself going for walks regularly to keep active through the day……..and I somehow keep ending up in the coop! Ahh well I’m sure I will get on top of it.

Spending a lot of time marching to the beat of my own drum has also given me a lot of time to reflect on recent events in my life and focus on what’s important. Trying to answer the questions what makes me happy? What do I want out of my life? And actually having the time to spend thinking about it has been really good for me. I’ve always dealt with the rough stuff by putting it in a box and burying it under being busy. I realised that I have been pushing myself to get back to work and progress with my career without actually understanding why. Having some time away from that cycle has allowed me to think about improving my lifestyle in other ways. Less stress, more exercise, more laughter for me and the people in my bubble.

Now I just need to stay away from those bloody cookies!

Easter eggs and family holidays

I’ve avoided them completely. Ok nearly…. a couple of creme eggs doesn’t count does it? My quest to eat better, do more exercise and generally be healthier and happier has overcome the seasonal challenge that is Easter! Fantastic I thought, my last Easter holiday as a teacher, two weeks to get out as much as possible on my bike and eat healthy. Sort of get the jump on becoming a home worker!

First week went well, some really nice rides out and not not too bad on the eating front. Then the second week….. I took my little boy to Plymouth to stay with my family. An awesome week, we have been blessed with the weather! Done loads of cool things, been outside as much as possible and I’ve even managed to sneak in a few runs and a couple of cycles! So what could of possibly gone wrong?? The combination of ‘I’m on holiday!’ And ‘I’ve been for a run’ have made me believe that I can definitely have burger and chips for lunch, and I fully deserve that huge slice of cake!

Oh well at least my fitness levels are improving and I’m getting quicker going up hills!

I have also found out recently that my autoimmune disease seems to be in a dormant phase and I’m currently not being medicated for that. I’m going to try and see if diet and exercise can keep that going as one (or three or four!) less pills to take in the morning would be ace!

Ebikes and mornings…..

An ‘ebike’ is an electric bicycle. To be more specific it’s a pedal-assist bike, so when you pedal a 250-watt motor assists you. this means its much, much easier to ride uphill. I do not own an ebike, I have a regular mountain bike.

Why is this relevant? well, I went on a group ride with a bunch of guys from the Notts Outlaws MTB group on Saturday. We were riding Cannock chase, which is a trail centre I know reasonably well. I arrive to find……I’m the only one without an ebike…… OK, no worries I’m sure they aren’t THAT fast…. I was wrong. They are.
I was last up every single hill, apart from one really technical one. On the flat, I was working much harder to keep the pace, although I was holding my own on the downhills where the ebikes are less of an advantage.

So I get to the end of the ride, feeling slightly (a lot) shattered, I’d been working hard to try and keep up. I track my rides using Strava and to my surprise, I had set over 30 personal bests. I had actually beaten uphill times that I had set ‘pre-cancer’ (or at least my most recent bout) and not just by a little bit but smashed them. This felt good! I have been getting out on a road bike recently and I think this is starting to pay off.

I have also been trying to run in the mornings before work as I seem to be waking up at 5amish, regardless of bedtime! I am really enjoying this peaceful time now that the mornings are getting a little lighter.  My sleep patterns have been really erratic recently and I have struggled to get anywhere near a good amount of sleep, but I think I’m coming out the other side of this and will share my thoughts and readings on sleep next time.haibike_my18_xduro_allmtn_9-0_seite_links_01

A year ago today….

What were you doing on the 3rd March last year? Can you remember? I can’t. I’m useless with dates! But my mum is excellent at keeping a diary and can tell me exactly what was going on. This day last year I was sat in a waiting room about to be told that not only had my cancer returned, but it was stage 4. Again. Woohoo!

Being told this today has made me feel quite reflective. I’ve been feeling really under the weather and have struggled to shake some kind of cold/flu/virus for the past three weeks. This has meant I’ve not been able to get out and ride my bike much, haven’t been able to run and have just felt really really fatigued. To be completely honest this doesn’t leave me in the best possible mood……… I hate the feeling that my body has let me down. I hate being unable to get out and do stuff (I hate that I end up watching Jeremy Kyle!) and I just end up feeling really frustrated. BUT……. I then was reminded what I was doing last year, I thought about all of the days that I was literally unable to leave bed or the days spent in hospital having chemo surrounded by people who I thought looked ‘proper ill’ (looking back at photos I maybe didn’t look that hot!)

All of a sudden I didn’t feel quite so bad today. I was able to go for a walk with my parents and see the sea. I spent time with my sister and nieces and my grandmother. Today was a good day.

As someone who is very special to me says: ” I have had my privilege checked”

Night rides and burnout

I’m going to be honest, 2017 sucked. A lot. There were good bits of course but by and large it was a really tough year. Cancer and a divorce in the same twelve months isn’t a lot of fun!

So 2018 is gonna be the best year ever! Right? Ummmmm………

Well it turns out it’s a lot tougher coming back from illness than I remembered (maybe I’m getting old!) I seem to get every cold under the sun and they knock me for six. But I’m still trying! My running times haven’t improved much…yet…. And I’m yet to put in that epic, bucket list bike ride, but I’m building up to it!

I’m also slowly getting my affairs together personally. Slowly. And I’ve realised that this has been having much more of an effect on me than I had thought. I’ve been living with a large amount of stress for a long time what with one thing or another. This week the effect on me has been very much on my mind. I have always considered myself very good at compartmentalising and carrying on like nothing ever bothers me, but I’m human and stuff does. I have just this evening read a really interesting article about stress and burnout. Do I think I’m burnt out completely? No, I don’t. Do I think I exhibit some of those traits? Hell yes! So I am really excited to be changing a few things in my life, and really happy to have made a few massive changes.

I was reminded of how good I feel after a ride or run though, especially with others. I went for a night ride with a good mate this week and although we only covered about 5 miles in the woods (and we both fell off!) I felt much better afterwards mentally, and probably physically but I have been suffering with a ‘half term cold’

So riding does appear to be really good for the soul. Best get on and do more of it I suppose….

What a week…..

This week (well fortnight really) has been CRAZY. I have had loads of changes going on with work, family stuff etc and I will be really glad to get to the weekend.
I have managed to secure a new job that will start after Easter that will be home based! So I will be really keen to see how that will impact on my exercise levels and food choices. I really hope it will be all positive, and I can’t wait to start doing it! I am aware though that working from home will bring some different challenges; notably, working on my own all day. I am very used to being surrounded by other people all day and chatting to my co-workers is very much part of working life. I’m sure I’ll find ways of dealing with it all though and am genuinely excited about the prospect of a career change.

So all this change and stress has had an interesting effect on my lifestyle for the past few weeks. I’ve noticed that I’ve been fancying running more than cycling for exercise; a half hour jog seems to clear my head a lot more than an hour bike ride followed by all the clean up afterward. So I have been trying to get out at least three times a week. I have also been noticing I have been justifying snacks to myself a lot more…. as I have previously mentioned I am a horrendous comfort eater! And although I never actually get any satisfaction from snacking, it’s proving difficult to reprogramme my brain! In the style of Prof Steven Peters, my ‘chimp’ is taking control. (I am currently reading his book, The Chimp Paradox, which was recommended to me and is very thought-provoking)

So, in summary, I have been pretty stressed, eaten too much rubbish, got a new job and realised that my brain is sabotaging me. Should be easy to sort out………

Hitting a wall

Today I hit a wall. Not literally hit an actual wall, I believe the technical thing is depleting glucose and glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. Also known as ‘bonking’…..

It wasn’t that bad, I haven’t ‘bonked’ really hard for a few years… I just got a bit quiet and was absolutely shattered. Unfortunately this wasn’t after a huge mammoth ride being out for hours and hours, this was after a 10 mile ride round the local woods with a couple of people. And to add insult to injury someone (who actually does know about these things!) suggested a take a few sweets to carry in my pocket out with me. Ah well lesson learned. Sweets = good.

Anyway, I manage to drag my broken self back to the car (not being dramatic at all) get changed and crawled into the cafe for a mug of tea… the lads wanted bacon cobs and they smelt so so good. So I gave in. I had a massive white, floury roll with bacon and a sausage in. It was delicious. Like seriously good. But! I’ve not eaten bread for a few weeks now, and I’ve spend the rest of the day feeling seriously bloated and sluggish. Which is quite unusual for me.

So there is definitely something in this giving up bread. I’m going to learn my lesson and stick to sweets.

My names Adam and I’m a comfort eater…

I may have alluded to the fact that I’m a comfort eater, it’s true. It’s a definite flaw in my character but I’m aware of it and by and large I manage it. Except today…..

I needed to get something for dinner so I popped to Sainsbury’s on the way back from work. Got some milk, managed to avoid the cookies and cakes. It’s just me for dinner this eve so I’ll just bang a pizza in the oven, why not I’m crazy busy at work and have a load to do this evening. If I’m having a pizza I may as well get a little chocolate whilst I’m at it…. except the 4 pack of boosts is better value than just one 😭

I think you can put the rest of the picture together. Whilst sat at the kitchen table working I’ve managed to consume enough calories to power a small city! Oh well. It was a damn fine pizza!

Nearly the end of month 1…..

OK, here we are. Almost at the end of the first month of the year. The time that gyms traditionally start emptying and people give up on fad diets and return to takeaways and convenience food.  So what have I done? I’ve just given up bread….. and it’s not actually been that hard to do, it’s actually been really easy. Do I feel magically better? Not yet. Have I lost weight? Nope. But I do I find meals (especially lunch) a bit less ‘stodgey’? Well yes, I do actually.  If you are struggling to give up bread completely it is definitely the case that all breads are not equal! This rather nice article sums up quite nicely the best bread to pick. My quick summary is that it’s better to go for wholegrain or sourdough and avoid white except for bacon butties of course………..

So I’m going to continue not eating bread and move onto the next area… pasta! I eat quite a lot of pasta. I’m a big guy, I like eating and I can be a touch mard-eh when hungry. Pasta fills me up and I like batch cooking and having leftovers for lunch. So out with the white pasta and in with the wholemeal. Ditto for rice!

A lot of this has been brought on by trying to make sure my little boy eats well. He is quite a fussy eater, rarely eats meat at home, but is happy to eat fruit. In doing a little reading I came across some very good tips that I am going to try and make sure I adhere to.

  1. Get a fruit bowl
    Having fruit easily accessible means I’m more likely to eat it instead of ‘bad things’
  2. Use mindless eating better!
    I will often like to snack on stuff whilst just watching the TV of an evening. If I have chopped up fruit/veg and a fruit bowl, I can hopefully reduce the amount of chocolatey, refined sugery, treats I eat.
  3. Say the right things
    I am really guilty of this…” I’ll have the salad. Its healthier” health is a long-term motivator and I’m actually pretty good at living in the moment (I think this and a lot of ‘mindfulness’ has really helped me at dealing with illness) so instead its much better to say “that salad looks delicious” or “this pasta is much more filling/goes better with this sauce”

In other news, I managed to get for a bike ride at the weekend with a great bloke called Dave, who showed me that there is a huge amount of riding to be done in my local area. So longer evenings will lead to more exploration!

And I may have made friends with a four-legged riding partner… more of that to follow!

Food, Glorious food

I have been really amazed at the responses I have received to sharing this journey.  I have had messages of support from so many people that I haven’t met before; I have had others keen to organise bike rides with me, and many friends have taken the time to not only read what I’m writing but also reply and respond and try to help.

One person, in particular, has sent me a huge amount of information relating to the Auto Immune Protocol diet (AIP) No gluten, no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no sugar, and no alcohol…….. so no chocolate, no tea, no beer. Now, this seems really harsh, and to be honest I’m not sure that this is the right time for me personally to be going without all those things (I am a bit of a comfort eater….) That said I need to make some changes. So I’m going to give up bread. And crumpets. And teacakes. And white pasta. Fingers crossed!

Something else that has really caught my interest is Epigenetics. As I understand it, the principle here is that we can actually make additions (tags of methyl groups) to our genetic code that will highlight certain parts of our DNA and tell our cells to process them differently. There are many things that can cause these additions but a couple that have caught my eye are BPA and exercise. Now BPA is pretty well known as a plastic additive to avoid anyway, most drinks bottles etc are ‘BPA free’ but I never realised that it could actually cause changes to your DNA, as well as being linked to cancer.
OK, but I’m already ‘BPA free’, I’m wanting to IMPROVE my health. I stumbled across an article that suggests that exercise actually changes the pattern of epigenetic marks in muscle and fatty tissue.

So exercise is ‘IN’ and bread is ‘OUT’

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