My first Year with Fitbit

Last week  I received an email from Fitbit to tell me my stats for the past year.

My flexible friend was a Christmas Gift in 2013 and I knew I had walked over 1000 miles and worn out a pair of trainers but my stats were really quite surprising.

In 2014 I walked 1128 miles and 2552,528 steps.  Now when I was teaching I know I moved about 13,000 steps every school day and that would have been no surprise to me. Once I stopped that and life revolved around the home office and the garden I knew pretty soon I was in trouble. My stamina and endurance had gone and the pounds began to pile on. In late 2012 and all of 2013 I was trying to go for a walk every day and building extra walks into my daily life.

It’s true what they say about every little helping if you park the car at bottom of car park and get off the bus a stop early. I have even walked round the malls in Abu Dhabi to get my daily Fitbit fix (nice and cool in there). In fact the hotel manager was the first other person I saw wearing a Flex band!  I walked up and down the hill in my sister’s housing estate  in South Africa and along the pristine sand at Kersbosstrand.

Mostly though I just walk down the town and back via the beautiful seafront we are blessed with in Seaford or over the golf course into the South Downs National Park.  A trip to London or Brighton is a reason for a longer walk. Down to the station and back then London Park and city walks with a friend plus great conversation and coffee and lunch stops are my favourite easily clocking up over  6 miles in a day.

Tide Mills round walkstats

Tide Mills round walkstats

As a successful weight loss maintaining member of MyFitnessPal I was encouraged by  very active long term pal to join the monthly Move Your @ss Challenge  aka MYAC and over the year  have gradually increased my monthly goal (we only challenge ourselves so no major hassles there)

The Fitbit community itself was an eye opener. No sooner had I said hello in the over 60s section when I got loads of friend requests from people doing 20K plus steps a day. My 6k or 7k would leave me at the bottom of their chart and feeling superior so it seemed given they sent taunts! …so I soon knocked that on the head.

It seems there is a similar though younger element on UK Fitbit Fanatics on Facebook where up to 50K steps a day are being paraded by non runners. Sorry good for you, but I don’t find that very encouraging!  Another good thing though is there seems to be plenty of young mums pushing their buggies for miles.

I did discover a sensible shopping voucher earning system through that called and I have already earned £5 for doing what I do already. If you want to join use my code brett1102 to get a bonus and I will get one too. It connects to Runkeeper, MapMyWalk, Strava, Garmin  etc too and can be used in some gyms and strikes me as  a cost effective way to incentivise  and get the obese more active without costing the NHS more than the price of a Flex band. I mentioned this to the consultant at this week’s hospital appointment and she thought it was a great idea.

The Accuracy of all these smart devices has been called into question lately and yes there is a slight discrepancy between Mapmywalk and Fitbit with the former measuring distance as slightly longer; but my point is does it matter if it gets idle people like me moving?

Baking with less sugar

With the current fashion for home baking thanks to The Great British Bake Off and other media influences I have been trying to extend my repertoire of sweet treats that will not add to the diabesity and heart disease explosion.

I was always taught to follow cake baking recipes to the letter in order to get the texture right however experiments with sugar substitutes when I was teaching just did not taste right hence my efforts to cut the sugar in many of the recipes we used. Fruit or plain scones without the sugar, muffins with 20% less all seemed to work well and taste fine.

At home I went further and started to look at some of our old favourites. Tea bread with 20% less sugar than the recipes and ditto lemon layer pudding or cheesecake. I also served up custard powder custard with no sugar at all in it over a crumble with no comments.

Fruit crumble is one of our all time favourites so this is the one I focussed on , Did I need to add sugar to the fruit –no not if it was canned in juice or had been frozen. How about apples? Well the secret is not if you add some home picked blackberries or fresh plums.

I experimented with the toppings for a while and although this does not have the solid texture of a traditional crumble it works for us!
Mix 400g blackberries – picked from the golf course last Autumn  during my foraging expeditions and frozen . Add  200g sliced apples – Bramley’s or dessert it make no difference. Place in oven proof dish
Make the topping by rubbing in 30g butter to 50g spelt flour and 50g plain white. Stir in 20g brown sugar and 10 g porridge oats.
Sprinkle over the fruit. Finish with 10g mixed seeds.
Bake at 180 for 25 minutes. Serves 6 and gives about 168 calories a portion

Blackberry and apple

Blackberry and apple

Me with a Sports injury? You are having a laugh!

If anyone had told me a couple of weeks ago I would get a sports injury I would have said you are having a laugh. If anyone had told me I could get one from walking I would have laughed even louder. My dear departed dad simply would not have believed that I – the most unsporty person in the world could succumb to this.
After 15 months of walking alternate days and then nearly every day and raising my distance from a mile to 2-3 usually I am dismayed to find that this has proved too stressful for my knees. When I was teaching I used them for far more hours than I do now; walking round my classroom all day long with countless trips up and down those stairs. So why has this happened now I have to time to enjoy the countryside, clouds and seascape when I go out for an hour every afternoon?
To cut a long story short I felt my knee give way and start to hurt when I was walking by the river in Dusseldorf a couple of weeks ago and after trying to ignore it and rest it I finally went to see the doc. It turns out I have sprained a ligament and now have to take anti- inflammatory meds (NSAIDS) for a month plus wear a support when I walk at slow pace only. No more Leslie Sansone speedy walks for me then at the moment. Grump!
So off I go to Boots where I wait for 20 minutes for my prescription and then a nice woman takes me into the booth to measure me for the support. She saw the bruise on my other knee and got confused as that one is fine! I turned out to be size medium 13 plus inches all round. The support is not supplied on the NHS which is a bit off but luckily they were on offer. It is not exactly attractive either!

My very elegant (not) knee support

My very elegant (not) knee support

I now feel sorry for all the proper sports people who have to wear these things as they really pinch and are very uncomfortable and that’s even before you try and walk in them. SO….have just been for my first walk with a very bad grace , trying to avoid hills and inclines which left me strolling round bungalow land in the afternoon gloom. Not my usual uplifting walk by the sea. I suppose I will get used to it- it’s a case of having to as I am only half way through this months walking challenge (65 miles if anyone wants to know) which is the longest one I have ever tried.
I am not giving up though. I am still planning a long walk on Boxing Day back home from Tide Mills.

Eat less Move more- Walking for Health


Back in August 2012 when I decided to do something about the weight I had gained this century and which was threatening to continue to increase now I was no longer running round after a bunch of school children all day; I knew I needed to do some exercise as well as reduce my cheese and wine intake.  Apart from dancing I have never enjoyed physical movement or sport and a brief experiment with Zumba the previous winter had shown me my  physical limitations. I hate swimming and would make sure I only walked to the village or post-box as little as possible.I turned 60 in March 2012 and no way did I want an unhealthy retirement. After all I am a baby boomer!

It soon became clear from the logs of my friends on Myfitnesspal  (MFP) that walking at a moderate to brisk pace was popular.  I was not the only one who did not want to go to a gym or start something I would not fit into my lifestyle for ever so walking was what I decided to do.  I knew that for heart health I should try to take 30 minutes exercise a day. So Initially I walked a one mile round trip to a farther postbox than usual and it took me 25 minutes. I would come back hot and exhausted and have to sit down for half an hour to recover .  Gradually I built this distance up until I was walking to the village via the nature reserve and finally I proudly made it to Sainsburys and back- 2 miles plus.

The biggest surprise was the change in my mind-set.  I began to purposely look for a reason to do that walk most days and made sure I needed something from the village. On days I did not I explored the private roads around my home and watched the building of several houses in the following months.  If one of my online pals logged she had done a walk that morning I was incentivised to do one myself and mid-afternoon off I would go. I explored paths I had never known about in the 10 years I had lived there. All through Autumn 2012 I was walking between 20-30 miles a month and I did some longer 5-6 mile walks round London with another RL  friend. When the weather got bad a  MFP friend told me about Leslie Sansone online walking programmes so I checked these out on You Tube. They are Ok when there is ice on the ground or torrential rain but I would rather walk outside.20131015_154518

By the time I moved to Seaford in August 2013 I was  walking most days. It might only have been a couple of miles but it all mounted up and most importantly it no longer felt like a chore- I really looked forward to it.  The 30-40 miles a month I had been walking earlier in the year had stretched to more than 50 and if I did not walk every day I felt something was missing.  3 months on I have some great new walking circuits established. Who could fail to be uplifted by the chance to walk by the sea? I have ventured further afield to the Cuckmere valley and there are many more great places here I can explore on foot.  My goal now is to increase my monthly distance beyond 60 miles a month and make sure I walk every day. The online distance  challenges my friends have introduced me too are helping enormously as is logging these walks with Map my Walk. I could never have imagined that I would have walked nearly 600 miles in 15 months.  I have more energy and stamina and  am so thankful to all those who have encouraged me.

Oh and did I mention I have lost more than 2 stone in weight? But that’s another story

Why is there such poor availability of Healthier Options in local supermarkets? rant!

My other half has been trying to get me to do a food blog for ages but I have always felt it was an overloaded l area on the web, however since moving to beautiful Seaford on the South Downs  of East Sussex UK   in August I am finally moved to share my frustrations.

As an older woman  I have been working hard since I left teaching  2 years ago to have a healthier lifestyle. I now walk by the sea or on the Cliffs nearly every day.  I have also managed to lose nearly 2 stone in weight  (thanks MFP but that’s another story) and get rid of most of my middle aged spread. My partner has also lost weight, changed his eating habits  and is no longer type 2 diabetic. He has long called me ‘The Food Police’

I was looking forward to being able to access fresh fish from the fishmonger (who is great and tells me good ways to cook it) , use a real butcher and  enjoy all my usual products and more at the enormous Sainsburys in Newhaven which is about 4 times the size of the old one in Warlingham. From my first visit to the latter I could not have been more disappointed and frustrated.

Where was my regular spaghetti ?– the Hi fibre  white (with oat fibre) that we use so much of to help keep our  cholesterol down. I spent time on the phone with their customer centre  but they did not seem to know what I was talking about.  Where were Blue Dragon whole wheat noodles and Alpro Unsweetened Almond milk about which I also wrote to the manufacturer.  The customer service desk said they have no power over what comes into the store – in fact I was told today they only stock what there is demand for.

Aagh if you don’t stock things they will not build up a following will they ? and how many customers just go elsewhere – I was told the Eastbourne Sainsburys is much better but why should I drive 15 miles how ecologically unsound is that?  Anyway this has turned out to be untrue because would you believe it about a month later I was doing my weekly shop and there they were- my spaghetti and my noodles- the following week the two hi fibre pasta versions appeared.  Next came Alpro unsweetened almond milk though I have to say this has not always been there since. Still no sign of the Sainsburys own brand plain passata jars though of course you can buy all sorts of pasta sauces with added  flavours sugar etc. The store stocks far more highly processed food  including endless cakes, biscuits and ‘snacks’ than I am used to seeing  on display which is a bit depressing in an area like this.

Seaford and Newhaven is a community where there are many older people  who  need to manage our modern day ills like type  2 diabetes and heart disease There is also a significant sector of low waged working  families and people living on benefits. Surely they  deserve the choice of  healthier options? My initial foray into Morrisons in Seaford filled me with dismay- such poor quality fruit and vegetables and you can’t even get  a couple of slices of  unpackaged cold cuts from their so called deli counter. They cut it and pre-package.  The less mobile  and  many of them  appear very elderly tend  to shop here and they are not well served as far as I can see.

So the straw that broke the camel’s back was yesterday when I went to get the Non dairy Koko milk with added calcium which I enjoy after my daily walk. The shelf was bare- was told they get one case at a time- 12 cartons and for the first time ever I actually ordered it meaning I had to waste time and petrol returning today to collect it.

It makes we so angry that the big supermarket chains who let’s face it have so much power over the growers, manufacturers and  consumers can’t even stock a few wholegrain staples like  large packs of plain brown rice, pasta and a wide range of vegetables both fresh and frozen. They have the chance to show social responsibility and promote these products instead of forever coming up with new pre prepared options. There  is a place for the latter in our busy lives but not  for everyday or at the expense of real food for good health.

 Does anyone agree?