Huel keeping hunger at bay

Two days into my reformed ways for 2017 and food is never far from my mind. I’m back using Huel as a meal replacement and valuable source of vitamins and minerals. It makes for a great start to the day and keeps me really, really full.

Which in turn makes it super-easy to avoid snacking or binging. Which, to be fair, were my two favourite activities throughout December.

The photos above show the delicious smoothie I made yesterday, which included a banana, some Huel, almond milk and flavoured with Matcha green tea I brought back from Tokyo. It was the perfect post-run meal, especially as I can’t consume anything bar coffee before I go on a long run.

I’ve been thinking about traveling with Huel – as I travel a lot for work – and while bringing this powder along with me within the UK is easy enough, taking it on a plane is a potential headache I could do without. So I was pleased to read that they’ve launched Huel bars and have ordered a sample pack of 5 to give it a go.

I see them as the perfect alternative to unhealthy hotel breakfasts where all they have on offer are sugary cereals and buttery pastries. Each Huel bar contains 250 calories, which when combined with a couple of pieces of fruit and some coffee, will make for an excellent on-the-go breakfast for me.

But for the next couple of weeks at home, it’ll be Huel for breakfast and/or lunch and something normal but healthy for dinner. I’m tracking my eating in ‘My Fitness Pal’ to help me be more mindful and aware of what I’m consuming. It definitely helps me understand how those calories add up, but also makes it hard to avoid any accidents. Accidental Snickers bar? Yes, i’ve been known to in the past. As if it just fell into my mouth!

I’ll report back once I’ve experimented with the Huel bars. And no, before you ask, this isn’t the onset of an eating disorder. I’m going to have a perfectly normal chicken salad for dinner tonight. But unlike Christmas, it won’t come with stuffing, cake or Prosecco.

Baby steps…

Starting 2017 as I mean to go on…

I started today with a run. I haven’t run in a few weeks due to te damage I did to my shoulder during the final 150m of the Royal Park’s Half-Marathon in October. It still hurts when I run and now, when I walk briskly. So I made an appointment with my GP before Christmas and have an MRI scan booked in for tomorrow.

That said, the pain is annoying but not crippling. Like a toothache. And I really needed to do something to begin a fight-back against my Christmas over-indulgence. I planned a quick 5km around the neighborhood but ended up running over 13km. The sun was out and the streets were quiet, making it easy to just…keep going.

I completed my usual run, keeping it to a manageable pace – nothing like my runs pre-Royal Parks. And as I’ve basically given up on the Nike running app due to its disastrous re-design and tendency to crash, I used the Apple Fitness functionality built into my Apple Watch and iPhone. It was idiot-proof – one click on my watch to start and one to stop.

did miss the audio prompts updating me on pace and distance, but the watch ‘clicks’ as you pass each kilometre and it’s no great hardship to raise the watch to check pace visually. I’m not a professional athlete, so it doesn’t need to be accurate down to the inch, or even metre, if I’m honest. I just want to have some way of tracking my runs, taking the outputs and combining them with other info in other apps.

This means the data from the fitness app informs what’s in ‘My Fitness Pal’ and vice versa. This includes the terrible, terrible news from my Fitbit scales this morning that my weight has gone up 3 kilos over Christmas. I say that tongue in cheek, as it’s not disastrous and actually gave me more motivation to make a change. And I completely understand where it’s all come from: the non-stop consumption of calorific (yet delicious) Christmas treats.

I now stand (Hobbit-like) at 68.8 kilos. I’d like to get that back down to 60 kilos, a feat last achieved in the distant, distant past. But it’s possible. Continue the runs, cut out the crap from my diet and generally move around more.

I think I need to plan a trip to Sitges to give me something specific to aim for! 😉

A change of gears required…

When I say I ‘over-consumed’ over the Christmas holidays, it’s no exaggeration. I consistently ate whatever was put in front of me. When I wasn’t eating, I was waiting on new food being prepared, or taking a short break after finishing my last meal. Or I was asleep. 

Breaks between meals were short and sweet, usually more so the latter. A dip into some chocolate here, demolishing a packet of biscuits there. Constant grazing, like a particularly greedy piece of livestock. 

Time for a change

I know many people the world over are looking at themselves in the mirror today and making all kinds of promises about their weight, their diet and their exercise regime. 

I’m not. It doesn’t work. 

But I was given an alarming piece of feedback by my own body the other evening. While lowering myself into a hotel bath (I’m usually a shower man), I was perplexed by the gathering of flesh around my waist. Flesh that’s not obvious when standing upright. Flesh that resembled the dreaded ‘spare tyre’ that the fitness magazines I buy but don’t read describe on their covers. 

Jesus. 

Now, I’m not talking ‘Peter-Griffin-fat’ or ‘Oh-my-God-where-are-my-genitals?’ fat. But it was enough to remind me that I’ve been eating like an unsupervised toddler for over a month and I need to dial it back a bit. Perhaps more than a bit. 

What to do? 

I’m not one for crash diets. Or rather, I am, but they tend to last only until about lunch time. So rather than make a massive commitment to becoming a healthier eater overnight, I’m simply going to move out of Christmas eating into New Year eating and leave a few things behind. Mince pies, Christmas pudding, sly glasses of Prosecco throughout the day. And the easiest way to do all this is simply not to have them in the house in the first place. 

So fewer ’empty’ calories and more in the form of something nutritious, such as Huel

I’ve also not been running, due to a shoulder injury. (Yes, smart-arse, you use your shoulder when running). But I’m getting an MRI of that on Wednesday morning, so should have a plan for what to do about that by the end of the week. But it’s really shown me the lethal combination of being sedentary and having zero willpower. 

Onwards and upwards. I don’t expect stunning changes this month, but it should pay over over the next couple of months, especially if I can get back into regular exercise. And no, the sauna doesn’t really count. 

There’s no excuse

Dodgy shoulder aside, there’s nothing stopping me from making this change today. I have all the tools I need, including the fitness tracking capabilities of my iPhone and its many apps, a digital weighing scale (the treacherous bastard!) and plenty of space around me to go for walks and runs. I even have a gym in my apartment building. 

I just need to get going. 

I’m actually writing this in the BA Lounge at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. We’re flying home from our New Year’s Even trip to the Netherlands and I was immediately exposed to the free buffet here. But I persevered and had the healthiest thing for lunch that I could find. Some Edam cheese and a whole meal roll to put it in. A bottle of a water and a coffee. No chocolate, no Prosecco, no biscuits. 

I’m not looking for a pat on the back or praise. But I do know that accountability helps with this sort of thing. So next time I post an epic description of my meal at Bodeans, or a similar BBQ joint, feel free to come down on me like a ton of bricks. 

My top posts of 2016

It’s been a busy year on the blogging front. I reached by 1,000th post and built a better habit of regular posts. Some of which were surprisingly popular with those of you with enough time on your hands to come visit. I had a quick look at my stats and the following posts are (in order) those that far and away got the most views. 

They’re an interesting mix of topics, that’s for sure! Travel, notebooks, productivity and nude beaches. The latter in particular garnered some interest and seems to have been shared on a view blogs that (ahem) specialise on the topic. I’m flattered, honestly. 

I’m Seoul Excited – planning our trip to Japan and including 48hrs of a stopover in Seoul. On a whim!

Unboxing the iPhone 7 Plus – another gadget un-boxing, this time with better photos. 

Testing the iPhone 7 Plus camera – a selection of pics to demonstrate the new phone’s power.

My trip to the Traveler’s Factory – an over-excited recounting of my visit to the fabled shop in Tokyo.

Is everyone leaving Evernote? – a question I’m still asking myself.

My Japanese stationery haul – a summary of my over-indulgence while in Japan in October.

Nudity: the great leveller – considering the relaxing properties of the clothing-optional beach experience.

Hopefully 2017 will offer a similarly broad range of topics to write about. And hopefully, there will be even more in the way of travel writing. I’m planning an inevitable return to Japan (cities to be decided) and some more time on the beaches of Barcelona and Sitges. 

And there’s bound to be more technology to write about, right?

Christmas closedown…

Out-of-office notification is on. Bags are backed. Travel booked. I’m officially on Christmas holidays and not a moment too soon.

Gorgeous Christmas lights earlier this evening on Regent Street. #London #RegentStreet #Christmas

A photo posted by Richard A. MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

This time tomorrow, I’ll at my parents’ place in Scotland, busy eating them out of house and home, lying around on the couch and other soft furnishings and enjoying an open fire. It’ll be wall-to-wall seasonal food and drink, long lie-ins in the morning and at least twice my recommended calorie intake until I fly back to London.

I can’t wait.

Plus the fun of watching the kids open their Christmas presents, which @FrankDJS so carefully wrapped for me. (I did minimal wrapping this year – it’s my kryptonite. I’m completely useless at it and at this stage of my life, I’m admitting defeat and letting someone with more skill look after it).

So here’s hoping you have an enjoyable holiday, whatever form it takes where you live. And if your country or culture doesn’t celebrate Christmas, then please don’t be jealous of the thought of me lying down and eating chocolate for four solid days.

Dear Epilepsy, fuck you very much

I normally try to keep quite upbeat when it comes to living with epilepsy. I reflect on how I basically have it very good, how epilepsy doesn’t impact my life too much and how things could be so much worse.

But today…

Today made it very hard to think positively or optimistically about epilepsy in any way.

This morning, while in London City Airport, between (very approximately) 0900 and 1030, I had five (for me) severe seizures. They started with my usual inability to read what was in front of me – in this case, the departures board I was reading, trying to work out just how long my flight to Dublin was delayed.

This spread to the laptop screen in front of me, as I attempted to decipher a client email, which suddenly appeared to be a string of cities. The same cities that had appeared on the departures board. I know I’m having a seizure when the text from one source appears everywhere else I look, like a freaky ghost image.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, bracing myself for the inevitable experience to follow. And my brain didn’t let me down.

A feeling of inexplicable dread, rushing thoughts and intense, intense focus on the table in front of me. And then, as if someone flipped a reset button on the back of my head. Nothing. No idea of where I was, why I was sitting there or who the people were around me. I was traveling alone, so to be fair, they were all strangers.

Reality slowly dawned and my memories and awareness returned over the next few minutes. I weighed up my options. I was supposed to be flying to Dublin for two days of client meetings and some coaching sessions. If this was a single seizure, I’d snooze on the plane and then work through the inevitable headache until I could get into bed. I probably have to cancel the client dinner, but no harm done.

Sadly, just as soon as I was able to think clearly – marked by me as being able to read the logos on the planes just outside my window – I had another, stronger seizure. I had to squint through the confusion and gripped onto the table as I started to feel like I was falling. Except I wasn’t. Temporal lobe epilepsy messes with your reality and as my seizures are now limited to the complex-partial type, I don’t fall to the ground and exhibit ‘typical’ symptoms.

In fact, I’ve been around people previously who had no idea I’d even had a seizure. It mostly goes on in my head, with very little difference externally, unless I’m speaking to you. Or you’re speaking to me and I don’t respond. Or I burst into song while trying to speak. That only happened the once, but it was to an audience of about 25 people. So it’s memorable.

I sat there and waited for it to pass. Which it did, eventually. I think it took about 15 minutes before I felt anywhere normal. I then had another, not as strong, but enough that I couldn’t move from my seat. I was now in a lot of pain due to the headache and wanted nothing more than to curl up in a soft, warm bed. I had to abandon the Dublin trip and find my way out of the airport.

In my state of mind, that was harder than you’d expect. I looked distinctly ill – a trip to the bathroom confirmed just how pale and ‘shaky’ I appeared. I had to queue at the information desk to find out just how I could leave the airport. I’d already gone through the utter hell of security and was in the departures area. I’ve never walked away from a flight before, so I’d no idea what to do.

I very quickly explained my situation and a very kind British Airways team member escorted me down to the baggage arrival area via several back doors and stairways. I was then on automatic pilot, making my way home via DLR and tube. Yes, a taxi would have been quicker, but the very thought of getting into a car then made me feel nauseous. I kept my shit together until I got home, but then had yet another seizure in the foyer of my apartment building. I had no idea where I was and had to text @FrankDJS to come down and escort me upstairs.

I then spent about four hours in bed, alternating between sleep and panic, waking up thinking I’d missed my flight. I still have a killer headache and no painkiller ever touches these, so I don’t bother. I’ve sipped tea and water and tried to keep still.

So it’s been a bad day on the epilepsy front. But this time, it’s impacted my work too. There was absolutely no way I could have worked in Dublin today, so mature me knows this and understands I did the best in a bad situation. But I’ve let people down and, despite all their friendly and supportive messages, I feel like I’ve failed.

Fuck you, epilepsy.

Working for yourself is hard enough without you getting in the way and taking me out of action. But… tomorrow is another day. I’ve managed to rearrange my flights – @FrankDJS did this for me while I dozed – and can go to Dublin tomorrow instead.

I should feel like a new man by then, but for now I’m exhausted, disappointed, in pain and in need of even more sleep.

A happy Spotify discovery

Have I told you lately how much I love Spotify?

This afternoon, my ‘Release Radar’ playlist was on in the background, when a live track came on and I thought to myself “I recognise that voice…”. I gave it a few more seconds, but couldn’t place it exactly. I picked up my iPhone to check the track and turns out it was the Tony Bennett 90th birthday concert.

Score one: I didn’t know they’d recorded an album of the concert! It was quickly added to my Spotify library.

Score two: the track in question was actually Kevin Spacey. Yes, That Kevin Spacey. And what a voice he has. I’ve embedded the track in question below – it’s a medley of ‘The Very Thought of You’ and ‘If I ruled the World’.

Score three: the album isn’t half bad! It includes tracks from K.D. Lang and Diana Krall, as well as some excellent renditions from Mr. Bennett himself. I’m so glad he’s getting the appreciation he deserves while he’s still with us. His back catalogue is superb and I’m happy to say I’ve seen him live here in London.

Though the concert was cut short by an electrical fire. in the Albert Hall of all places!

Still, 30 minutes of Tony Bennett live is better than no minutes of Tony Bennett live. Right?

2016 isn’t going quietly…

It really seems like 2016 is trying to push this world to the very edge before it takes its last gasp on 31st December.

The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey live on TV was shocking and brutal. And won’t be without its consequences.

I tell you what else: scrolling through twitter, I didn’t expect to see the video clip of his death be shared so openly. It’s pretty dark stuff. Once again for the slow learners at the back of the room:

Just because you can share something online to millions of people, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should. How about a little more thought and a little less macabre over-sharing. 

Still, you can always rely on the Daily Hate to get to the heart of the matter. The assassin was wearing a suit and tie! Imagine that!

Feeling conflicted about 2016

I haven’t written too much about the horrible, horrible events of 2016 on this blog. I sometimes wonder how useful it is to share angst online, if it’s not accompanied by action.

And one of my key observations about this year has been the tendency of people with whom I identify and like, to comment a lot, but do very little.

On the other hand, what’s the point of having an easily-accessible place to share my views if I limit it to pure geekery and pictures of food? And while it might result in readers abandoning the blog in droves, I think it’s more important to be honest – especially now.

I never started writing online to make others like me, after all.

Continue reading “Feeling conflicted about 2016”