Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically, which we share with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I work as an environmental educator, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and spent 10 years as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council. I offer talks and run workshops and events where we talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. We also make crafts and have fun.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun. To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Musings on my life and on losing 7 stone in weight

Warning, this is a long post :)

I used to be "not fat". In 1985, when we got married, I was really quite slim :) 



and although I put on some weight over the years, even in 1995 I was still  "a little bit plump" rather than morbidly obese.


 I was fit and healthy, very active with a full time and demanding job, a house and garden ( not Compost Mansions but a smaller house and garden in Worcester) and Compostman and I spent weekends from March to October out competing in Speed Hillclimbs and Sprints in our racing car. We were pretty good at it as well :) Weekday evenings were spent fettling the car for the next event, or digging the garden and yes! there was composting involved even then :)


But, as some of you may know, a few years  after we moved to Compost Mansions in 1997 I became  very ill as a result of an adverse  reaction to an antibiotic, while being treated for an infected gallbladder.  Overnight in Feb 2001 I developed an auto immune, rheumatoid condition called Erythema Nodosum, along with various other unpleasant ailments. Although I took all the medication on offer I struggled to even walk or grip a mug or wash myself, felt terrible all the time and expended what little energy I did have, to make sure Compostgirl (a baby and then small child at this time)  did not suffer because I was unwell. 

Despite being so unwell I still did all sorts of stuff with her, looked after her as a SAHM, we went out to parties and play sessions and had friends round  and I was very good at struggling on and putting on a "brave face" to everyone bar a few close friends and Compostman. And then, after Compostgirl had gone to bed, I would collapse. I was advised by the medics to rest as much as possible but realistically, how can a parent with a young child, AND a house, AND animals and any kind of work, (we lived here so there was always work to be done outside) manage to "rest" ? I used to ask the medics that, but I could never get an answer!  

We had no living parents or siblings or other relatives to help us - so it was just my wonderful Compostman who shouldered most of the extra work, along with a couple of good and lovely friends ( you know who you are :) and I love you  forever for helping us in our years of need) To be truthful I don't like to remember how awful that period was, as apart from having Compostgirl, life was pretty grim.

Anyway, I spent several years on many different medications, and in and out of hospital, being seen by all sorts of different specialists and having many, some very unpleasant, tests. The most alarming was when I had a scan which required me to become radioactive beforehand - I swallowed the drink with the isotope in, and THEN I was told to go off into Hereford for a couple of hours while it was absorbed, but "not to sit close to anyone" and also "not to cuddle my baby or breast feed her for 24 hours " because I was radioactive !!! 

I was not impressed with this.

To cut a long story short, I was very ill and very incapacitated for several years and on top of everything else was also additionally diagnosed with CFS.

June 2006

By 2006, by dint of applying holistic therapies, an organic diet, pacing myself and conserving my energy whenever I could (and dropping the medication in favour of herbal and aromatherapy pain remedies - it worked for me but check with your GP first!), I had recovered enough to get back to a small amount of work (as opposed to the unpaid work I do, and did then,  here, day in day out!)  so I volunteered as a Master Composter, then became self employed - first teaching Organic Gardening and running Eco clubs in schools,then in 2008 I trained as a Forest School leader and finally in 2010  trained as an Adult Lecturer. You can read about all this elsewhere on this blog :)

I still felt exhausted a lot of the time and I would be flattened by any bugs "doing the rounds" but on the whole I had a bit more of a normal life.  At least until the evening, which was when I would collapse.

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April 2008

I was VERY active both at work and on our smallholding and I continued to eat apparently very healthily and also lead a healthy lifestyle -   but still was gaining weight. Eating less and doing more did not work for me.


March 2010


By mid 2013 I was feeling worse and worse again, brain fog, joint aches, bloating after meals, passing wind, itchy eyes, itch skin and all sorts of niggling ailments which were "nothing in particular" but which made my life miserable. It was a struggle to keep working. I just wanted to sleep all the time. I also would be overcome with the desire to eat endless slices of wholemeal toast and Marmite, even after a couple of slices for breakfast  - I would crave more all day. I did not often have any more, but it was there in my mind. I also craved sandwiches and pasta and potatoes. 


July 2013

Oct 2013

As the months went by I got fatter and more bloated, despite (as far as I could see) not eating any more food than before. My weight and mood would fluctuate quite a bit and I was SO tired, all the time. I assumed this was the extra weight I was lugging around as well as  "just" the CFS affecting me.
Feb 2014


The first half of 2014 was horrible for me - I was getting fatter and more unwell but couldn't seem to lose any weight however much I tried ( and oh how I tried) . 

The turning point finally came when I was rushed into hospital on 28 June 2014 due to an infected Blandford Fly bite. My arm had turned sceptic and my blood pressure had rocketed to more than 220/135 – that’s stroke and heart attack range! 
 
I was admitted and spent a few days on an iv antibiotic drip, which helped the septicaemia. I was also put on medication to try to get the very high BP figure down. In addition I got a friendly but very serious talk from a consultant about how much my weight was affecting my health - all stuff I knew but had chosen to go "la la" and cover my ears about.

This time, I listened. I was in a lot of pain, very ill and very frightened. I was in an acute admissions ward, surrounded by some seriously unwell people, I had to listen to a crash team working for many hours on the lady next door.  Listening to people die around you tends to concentrate the mind a lot on mortality - I knew I had to do something to change the way things were with me,  or I would be dead soon. So this time I vowed TO DO SOMETHING about the mess I was in.

After discharge from hospital I spent another two weeks recovering at home, on lots of medication and mostly in bed, with lots of time, and serious reason, to have a good hard think about my life and the way I was treating myself.
The BP medication was making me feel even worse and I did not want to take it forever, which is what I was being told I would have to do. 

I had a copy of  Zoe Harcombe's book " Stop counting calories and start losing weight" by my bed - I had read it the previous year and found it interesting but gave up on Day 3 of Phase 1 of  The Harcombe Diet as I felt so dreadful. This time, I read it properly and suddenly it all clicked into place. This time I was motivated to do The Harcombe Diet properly. It was summer, I had unlimited organic salad growing in the garden and poly tunnel so I had no excuse. 

But mainly I was frankly terrified that if I did not do something about how fat I had become, I might not be around those I loved much longer. My mother sadly had a stroke, the first of many, when I was only 11 and she spent the rest of her life (another 15 years) in hospitals, paralysed and in a wheelchair, unable to speak and with brain damage.

The thought of putting my family through what I had gone through as a child, growing up without my mum, finally spurred me into action to improve my own health.
I did not want to die of a stroke or heart attack!

I had not had any alcohol since the day I was admitted to hospital and did not start drinking again so that helped. My diet was 'apparently' very good - lots of wholemeal home made bread and wholemeal pasta, organic meat, dairy and veg (lots of the veg home grown) but looking back my food was very heavily carb laden, especially wheat (even though it was organic and wholemeal!) I had lots of symptoms of Candida/Food Intolerance which I thought were just the CFS, and although I did not eat many sweet things my savoury choices were still carb laden and I also mixed fats and carbs all the time.

I think my food choices were feeding the Candida, to be honest.

So after two weeks of convalescence, where I did not eat as much (was sort of doing THD Phase 2 ) or drink any alcohol I got on my scales - and I had lost 16 lbs !!! Ok I thought, this is good but I knew I needed to lose a lot more weight to get my health back on track. And I had been very ill so had not had much appetite etc.

So, I decided to do things properly. I signed up for The Harcombe Diet 30 Day Blitz package that day and got started on Phase 1 properly on 12 July 2014.

I felt dreadful for the first five days without caffeine and I could have killed for toast, butter and Marmite (my food of choice) but I figured as I still felt dreadful anyway, due to recovering from illness, I would just keep on and stick to what the book said. And then...I started to feel livelier, more clear headed, less sluggish and my sleep was deep and refreshing. Each day, I felt a little better.

29 July 2014
In the first month I lost 27 lbs

Sept 2014
between July and Sept I lost 4 Stone.

Oct 2014

Since then I have slowly re-introduced various foodstuffs, one at a time. As a result I have identified that I have a real issue with wheat, as even organic, wholemeal bread seems to make me bloated with achy joints and pain in my stomach. I have more recently found that dairy products also disagree with me so have now cut out milk and cheese. Fortunately I still seem OK with butter!

Unfortunately drinking even small amounts of beer upsets me (shame!) However, drinking my home-made organic cider does not. So that’s my new “cheating” tipple of choice!

My former diet was “apparently” very good - lots of wholemeal home-made bread and wholemeal pasta, organic meat, dairy and home-grown veg. However, looking back, my food was very heavily carbohydrate laden, with lots of wheat based foods. What I now know is that my food choices were feeding the Candida lurking inside me and my wheat intolerance made it all even worse,  hence a lot of the bloating.


Oct 2014


Xmas Day 2014

Seven months in, and I can honestly say that I have not felt this good for more than a decade. I feel SO much better! I sleep well and wake up raring to go and keep active all day. I bounce around full of energy, and my BP is now within the bounds of normal so I am off the medication.




I look in the mirror and I am so pleased with how healthy I look. I’ve lost seven stone and dropped four dress sizes since I started this way of eating. I can finally wear clothes that I stashed away years ago!

I recently put on my ’bum bag’, with the waist-strap set from the last time I wore it, back in mid-June 2014. I had to adjust it in by 12 inches!

My family are delighted and very relieved at how much weight I have lost and how much healthier I am. Friends have commented on how good I look, how clear my skin is and how bright my eyes are. My nails are no longer flaky and chewed looking, but long and strong. I have even started varnishing them for the first time in 10 years!




Yes, I have a lot more weight to lose but I know that if I just carry on doing what I have been doing, I will get there eventually. There is loads of online support from The Harcombe Diet Club Forum and I have made some good friends on it. I also have the joy of being able to buy "normal" clothes and underwear from mainstream stores. Sounds trivial I know, but it made my life miserable not being able to just pick up a pack of knickers or a tee shirt from a High St shop!





I am now more than 2/3 of the way to the weight I want to be. I am happier, healthier and fitter than I have been for 15 years - since before I first got ill back in 2001!  I am "on target" to get back to where I was 15 years ago - and I know I can do it by sticking to The Harcombe Diet way of eating.

I have a private blog detailing my weight  reduction journey so if you would like to join, please email me.

38 comments:

  1. Wow ! What a difference.
    Good for you, stay healthy, your family needs you!

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    1. Thank you :) I do feel so much better, now :)

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  2. I just wanted to say well done. It's SO hard when illness hits and your body begins to get out of control. I'm in that situation now with a recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Keep at it :)

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    1. I still have CFS but a lot of my symptoms have been allieviated by not eating wheat or milk. Have you tried that Solorn? Might be worth a go, if you have not? Anyway gentle (((hugs))) over the FM diagnosis :(

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  3. The speed of your weight loss is astonishing, considering that you didn't have loads of junk food to give up. It's needed lots of determination, though finding out what foods made you ill as well as fat must have spurred you on. I congratulate you, you're marvellous!

    I'm very wary of self-diagnosed food intolerances because of my mother, who had digestive problems which she thought were caused by candida. She cut out lots of foods, spent thousands at various quack alternative health practitioners and had a severely limited diet for years, but was still ill. She was never overweight and became skeletal, it was awful. My sister's weight has piled on in the last few years, initially because of low thyroid, and nothing she does seems to help. She doesn't overeat and I don't know what else she can do, she doesn't seem to eat much carbohydrate and very little sugar. It's so sad when food, that should be a joy, becomes such a problem.

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    1. Z I remember what happened to your Mother :( and I agree with you about self diagnosis :) If I had not had a full blood work done when in hospital which showed "only" the blood poisoning and the high BP, I would not be so pleased at the weight loss I am sure :) As it is the "only" thing wrong with me was the bite and associated high BP due to it. And being very obese. And CFS and a rubbish auto immune system.

      I would love to get officially tested for gluten intolerance, but unfortunately I would have to go back to eating wheat forseveral months before they could test me ! And as I am not prepared to go back to how I was, that will not happen. I know what I know - having eaten a clean diet for months and then eaten a half slice of organic home made wholemeal bread - well lets just say the consequences were pretty grim and involved using the loo and being very unwell!
      And thank you so much for the praise :)

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    2. Your regime clearly works and you've proved what you need to cut out - as I'm sure you realised, I didn't intend any criticism of you, nor of trying to eliminate suspect foods to see if it helps. xx

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    3. Oh of course not Z I knew what you meant :) . I do remember the quackery your poor Mother was subjected too, though and it was so very sad, especially under the circumstances :)

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  4. Well done, keep up the good work. There are plenty of alternatives to wheat and dairy around today, which should help your choices when shopping.

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    1. Yes there are :) I don't eat any processed foodstufs now but the gf oats have been useful and I do have a couple of berry bars in my emergency food stsh in the car which are nice :)

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  5. I was so moved by this post I read it three times. I'm in a similar situation with my health so you have given me hope my lovely. Thank you for sharing and well done to you xx

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    1. Oh Julee I am so sorry :( I would urge you to try The Harcombe Diet for yourself - it really does work. There are loads of people who have tried it who can vouch for it. See the Harcombe Diet forum for their experiences.

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  6. Just read your whole post - didn't realise just how much you've been through. You're an inspiration lady! massively impressed with how far you've come & so happy for you that you've found what works. (this is Alix from the forum btw) xx

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    1. Hi Alex :) *waves* Thank you so much - the support and encouragement from THD forum has helped me keep going :)

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  7. Well done you look radiant. Its very interesting that you probably of all of us have eaten the healthiest of foods for years; due to growing your own and yet have experienced problems. You have given me food for thought as I also have long term autoimmune disease, Scleroderma, Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crest, etc. I cook from scratch and do not buy processed foods but maybe I need to do a little more than what I am doing. Thank you for sharing.

    Pattypan

    x

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    1. Thank you Pattypan. I remember you have similar issues to me so I think...it may well be worth you trying THD? It is a healthy way of eating, not just a way to lose weight - I cannot imaging eating differently, now.
      Certainly try cutting out the Wheat and reducing the Carbs - as tbh they just tuen to sugar in our bodies. We need far less of even good carbs than we actually eat :)

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing. I have a variety of conditions resulting from a rubbish immune system and my weight is piling .on despite eating less etc etc. I must google the diet you spoke of. I actually suspect wheat intolerance, but the thought of giving up my vegemite sandwiches scare me, lol. You are an inspiration. And well done.

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    1. Zana I am so sorry to read yo, too, have all those things to deal with. Yes do google it - it really helps a lot of people!

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  9. This is a really inspirational post - congratulations on getting 'everything' under control and then maintaining it! Jx

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    1. I don't know yet about having "everything" under control but I am getting there and I feel so much better than I used to :) Not just from losing the weight, although that helps. I feel healthier now :)

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  10. Oh my, you have had an incredible journey and have do so well to lose the weight you already have lost, I thank you for sharing this with us as I have Narcolepsy and FMS, I'm constantly fatigued from both conditions, my joints hurt and depression is something I'm ever watchful of. I need to lose 5 stone but weight has been an issue for me for 23 years - I was a slim active younger person. I'm active but I too suffer from bloat, IBS, itchy skin, headaches etc. I know certain foods are guaranteed to make me worse such as bread and I try to avoid them but I crave sweet things :( It's kind of rassuring to hear of other peoples journeys.

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    1. The craving for sweet things may well be due to Candida - it demands feeding and can produce the most horrible cravings :( I have to watch the level of carbs I eat or the cravings return.

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  11. I just posted a comment but it's disappeared...did you receive it? (Peapod from the Harcombe forum)

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    1. Sorry Peapod only this comment popped up from you :(

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    2. I thought as much. I just wanted to let you know that I read your story with interest, and having met you at the Harcombe Conference last September I feel I know you so much better now. You are looking so full of vitality and health, which is such an uplifting story after all you've been through. I want to wish you all the best on your continuing journey. See you back on the Harcombe forum! Peggy xx

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    3. I really enjoyed meeting you as well and I found the Conference inspiring - and Dr John Briffa was jaw dropping for me - all he said about conditions which make people disposed to have an impared system was describing me.
      I have found THD forum so supportive and full of great advice.

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  12. So glad you are regaining your health and not the weight!
    I've gone to Slimming World and now I'm getting into the swing of it, have lost 7lbs and hopefully more this week too. I need to lose at least 8stones in total.
    The good thing is it does give you more energy and with further loss, I may be able to come off of some of my medications too. They reckon losing 10% of your body weight alone can make the biggest difference, as Blood pressure reduces, cholesterol levels fall and overall fitness spurs you on. ( My Cholesterol levels have never been higher than 4.5, so one thing I don't have to worry too much about.)
    Your post today is inspiring!
    Keep up the good loss! xxx

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    1. Thank you Sandies' Patch :) Best of luck with your weight loss as well :)

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  13. I just found your blog today and it is wonderful! I am looking forward to going into the archives to see what has happened so far. Congratulations on your weight loss. Such an interesting and encouraging journey.
    Tana

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    1. Hello Tana. Lots of stuff to read on here :)

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  14. Well done! I'm glad you're feeling better with it as well. A really positive post!

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    1. Thank you Kev, I don't think you would recognise me now :)

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  15. Wow - what an amazing story and it's brilliant that you felt up to writing it. The photos bring it all to life. I am wheat intolerant, like you. I had some tests done a few years ago that showed I am actually allergic to the husk of the wheat, so, as I can't be the only one, wholemeal isn't always good for people. Well done for sticking to this. Best wishes for the future.

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    1. Yes Sylvia I think wheat has played a huge part in my problems - m=not all by any means but a large part and I feel so much better for not eating it. Still miss toast though - gf bread just does not toast the same!

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  16. What an amazing journey, thank you so much for sharing it. What an inspiration you are.

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  17. I've said it before and I'll say it again.... you are inspirational. Well done. Through sheer grit and determination you are turning your life around. It just goes to show we really are what we eat.

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  18. An amazing post - inspirational and very brave of you to share the photos. I am not 'technically' overweight but I often suspect I have a sugar problem. Have not yet either become ill enough or brave enough to try to kick the sugar and see if it helps my fatigue.

    Like you, whilst my diet looks good on the surface I know there are too many biscuits, processed 'treats'. However, we all (generally) need a kick-up-the-bottom before we make a change and reading your story really helps. Thank you so much.

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Hello! Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting. I try to reply as quickly as I can and I really appreciate your interest in my life and doings here in The Compost Bin.

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