Category Archives: Health and Fitness

More Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats

You can’t have too many posts about cats…no, really, you can’t!
So, here are some more things we can learn from cats.
Actually, I’d quite like to be a cat…

More Life Lessons we should Learn from Cats - The Last Krystallos

Some more life lessons we can learn from cuddly floofballs…

A cat purring on your lap is healing...as the vibrations pure love and contentment - Saint Francis of Assisi - The Last Krystallos

Fluffy © Lisa Shambrook

A cat purring on your lap is more healing than any drug in the world, as the vibrations you are receiving are of pure love and contentment – Saint Francis of Assisi
They say animals assist healing, both physically and emotionally, and they’re often used in hospitals to aid recovery, especially in children and the elderly. I know that a purring cat is one of the most beautiful things in my life. Stroking a cat and listening to their contented purr has the ability to calm me and make me happy.
We could try to be more understanding, calming, and let our words heal.

What greater gift than the love of a cat - Charles Dickens - The Last Krystallos

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

What greater gift than the love of a cat – Charles Dickens
As above, a cat’s love is given when you’re worthy of it, and is infinitely rewarding.

Cats possess numerous charms, and anyone who has ever loved a cat has fallen for its magic - Susan Easterly - The Last Krystallos

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

Cats possess numerous charms, and anyone who has ever loved a cat has fallen for its magic – Susan Easterly
If we could harness just an ounce of cat magic, we’d be rich in mystery, and able to weave spells of utter enchantment. However, we have buckets of magic to offer, if only we would recognise it in ourselves. Find your magic and weave your own spells

God made the cat - pleasure of caressing the tiger - Fernand Mery - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

God made the cat in order that humankind might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger – Fernand Mery
These miniature tigers and lions enhance our lives with their fun, love, and sense of adventure. We have the responsibility of caring for them and playing with them without the danger of huge claws and man-eating teeth…just small claws and small sharp teeth… Respect them!

Cats worshipped as Gods...Cats have never forgotten this - Anon - The Last Krystallos - Photo Caitlin Shambrook

© Caitlin Shambrook

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as Gods. Cats have never forgotten this – Anon
Love this! Actually it doesn’t matter if cats were ever Gods, or if you are better than anyone else, cats generally love those who love them, and that’s a great ideal to live by! Again, it doesn’t matter who you are. As C. S. Lewis once said in The Weight of Glory It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible Gods and Goddesses…

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat - Ellen Perry Berkeley - The Last Krystallos - Photo Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat – Ellen Perry Berkeley
The cat is independent, and if you don’t treat them right they will walk.
I find several parallels with this quote. Every life on this planet is important, and we have been given the responsibility of caring for them and the planet that gives us life. This isn’t something we should or can walk away from. We don’t own this planet or any of the creatures on it, but our environment is something we should care deeply about. Unlike the cat, we can’t walk away if it’s not treated right.
And though cats wanderNot all those who wander are lostJ. R. R. Tolkien.

There are no ordinary cats - Colette - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

There are no ordinary cats – Colette
And there are no ordinary humans either… and to continue C. S. Lewis’ quote …There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Embrace your oddness, your quirks, and your funWe’re not meant to be ordinary!

Enjoy your relationship with cats…
Find your love and magic, and make sure you can roar and purr!

Also check out: Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats and Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs.

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Coping with Alzheimer’s: Sadness, Love, and Humour

I saw a lonesome forget-me-not gaze up at me the other day,
late in the year for these delicate blue flowers,
but they will always remind me of my mother.
They will forever be linked with the disease that stole her.

Coping with Alzheimer_s amid Tears of Sadness, Love, and Humour The Last Krystallos

The forget-me-not is the poster flower for Alzheimer’s, so when I noticed this little blossom peering up at me, it brought the condition back to my mind, and reminded me that I hadn’t yet read a book loaded up on my Kindle. Maybe it had been too soon when I bought it, Mum passed away at Christmas last year, but sitting in the Dr’s waiting room with Dad the other day I clicked on the book and opened it.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-Forget-me-not- The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Instead of bringing tears, which it does too, it brought a smile to my face, many smiles. Finding a kindred spirit can do that. I relate strongly with the author S. R. Karfelt. Her candid humour, outright frankness, and sincerity shone through in her words. Our situations regarding Dementia are different, we’ve been through very different circumstances, but the familiarity of her anecdotes and narrative rang so true.

Alzheimer’s is the thief of time, stealing memories and lives with no compunction at all…and it is on the rise. More and more people are being diagnosed and figures show that 850,000 people lived with dementia in the UK in 2015 and it’s set to rise at a rate that will mean over 1 million in 2025 and 2 million in 2051. I’ve blogged about Prevention and Awareness before, and there are things we can do, changes to our lives, diets, and routines that can help, but this post isn’t about prevention or cure, it’s about living with the disease.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-time-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Please remember that living with Alzheimer’s affects a whole plethora of people for every one person diagnosed. Whole families and communities have to come together to care. When someone in your family has dementia, you can’t walk away, you can’t hide, you can’t bury it. The condition sneaks up and robs you of your loved one, but unlike other diseases that leave you to grieve after you lose your cherished family member, dementia leaves the shell of the person with you. I can’t describe the pain that that instils.

In her book, Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of DementiaS. R. Karfelt has been through all of this and eloquently puts her experiences on paper. For anyone facing dementia within their family, this is a book that will show you that you’re not alone. You’ll know you are part of a growing number of people dealing with this disease and staring it right in the face with defiance – and humour you have to laugh, and you’ll cry too. Lots.

So many stories in this book tickled me, made me smile, and made me belly laugh, because I’ve been there. You have to attack Alzheimer’s with humour, wit, and love, they give you the strength to carry on.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-Home-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

When Mum complained of the noisy street party going on in her back yard, outside her house, we had to humour her, because my parents lived in the middle of a field, not a sound anywhere. When she thought I was her mother, I held her close and rocked her. When she was convinced Dad was a doctor, I told her she’d better take her medication with no complaints. When she thought Dad was a stranger who had kidnapped her and was holding her hostage, I talked her through it, tried to allay her fear, and help her calm down.

Can you imagine believing you’re only fourteen, and then finding out you’re married and he’s an old man? Imagine looking in the mirror expecting to see your twenty-five-year-old-self gazing back and instead seeing a seventy-year-old with a very different face? Imagine nurses/carers visiting every day when you don’t think anything is wrong with you at all.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-raindrops-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Imagine forgetting how to walk, or how to lift your food from the plate to your mouth with a fork. How would you feel if you couldn’t remember the beginning of the movie you started watching an hour ago? How would you feel when your grandchildren walk in and smile at you, but are complete strangers because you believe you’re twenty, and there are still eight years before you give birth to their mother yet?

Think about being in hospital or a home and not having a clue how you got there, or why, or for how long, or who took you there, or where you are, or why you’re there, or how long you’ll be there, and there’s nothing wrong with you, where are you, how did you get there, there’s nothing wrong, who took you there, when can you go home, as there’s nothing wrong… Where am I?

This is life with Alzheimer’s. It hurts – not only the patient, but the family, and carers, and friends… Alzheimer’s hurts everyone it comes into contact with.

So, if you’re dealing with, living with, coping with Alzheimer’s please know that you’re not alone. Please laugh as much as you cry. I’ve told my children that if I ever get this disease they are to treat me like normal, but play to it, allow me to stay in the time that I believe I am in, humour me, give me adventures, if I don’t know where I am – make it up!

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-leaf- The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

People will tell you how to cope with this condition when you’re caring for a loved one who doesn’t know who you are, but as long as you are compassionate and loving, you’re doing the right thing. Take time out. Laugh, I cannot say this enough, not at the person sometimes not even with the person, they won’t understand and you don’t want to hurt or alienate them even further, but you need to deal with the mess it makes of your life too, and once you’re out of the immediate situation talk through the absurdity Alzheimer’s proffers you and laugh at it. Irreverence can see you through it all.

Tears will fall, that’s a guarantee, but don’t ever think you’re alone.

The Alzheimer’s Society is an amazing resource who will help you through this minefield, as will those who’ve been there already. Stay strong.

Nobody-Told-Me-S-R-Karfelt-Dementia

You can buy
Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia
by S. R. Karfelt on Amazon UK Kindle Hardbackand Paperback.
Amazon US Kindle, Hardback,
and Paperback, and from your local Amazon and other online bookstores.
Please visit her website for further information and links.

Plastic – Polluting our Oceans

Do we need plastic?
That’s one of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves,
as the ocean begins to drown in the man-made material…

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - The Last Krystallos

A plastic-free society is a scenario I definitely pose in my current manuscript The Seren Stone Chronicles (unedited excerpt):

‘Will’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s no plastic!”

“Legend has it that all your plastic got swallowed up by mother earth in the lunar apocalypse,” said Ianthe. “It melted in the pit of her belly.”

“Best place for it,” said Rhianna.’

In my future Wales, plastic has become a thing of the past, but how do we know how the phenomenon of this synthetic material created only 110 years ago (though natural polymers have been around for generations) and widely available from the 1940’s after the introduction of Tupperware, will ultimately affect the earth that we live on?

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Earth - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I glance about me at home and plastic is rampant…It forms much of my laptop, television, plug points, plugs, wires, my car outside, pens, kitchen utensils, white goods – fridge, freezer, many appliances, and a huge amount of packaging. It even forms veneers on some of my cheaper bookshelves, plastic bags, and more, but the majority of disposable plastic in my home derives from packaging.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Plastic Bags - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do we replace it? It shouldn’t be that tough, after all, generations only a hundred years ago didn’t have access to the sort of durable, strong plastics we do now, and they managed! We could move back to using metal, wood, and plant-based materials, but in this society that’s not always easy. A few years ago my daughter tried to reduce her plastic usage and go plastic free using bamboo toothbrushes, trying to buy dry food in jars, even taking her own jars to fill, and her own cups to coffee shops, and using canvas bags for shopping. It was so hard, and so unaccepted that it became near impossible to achieve. Some people have and I salute them, but it makes normal life very difficult.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Glass Jars - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We live in a society where butchers aren’t used as much as they could be, and meat is packaged in large, thick, sealed plastic boxes. The green grocer is left behind for plastic bags of pre-packed fruit and veg, and the grocer with cardboard boxes and tins and jars has been replaced with plastic bottles, containers, and bags for almost everything.

We are often pushed by governments and local councils to recycle more, fines are imposed when we don’t, and rubbish collection services are cut to force recycling. The fines and restraints should be levied upon the companies using excess packaging, in my opinion, but that’s another story.

Many people are trying their best to be environmentally friendly, after all we didn’t ask for plastic microbeads to be placed in soaps, facial washes, and toothpastes. We don’t need all the packaging that companies force upon us, and we don’t need many of the knick-knacks that are constantly thrown at us. And there are so many organisations trying to show us the way to a more enlightened and environmentally friendly approach to life.

We see how plastic is drowning the sea, how microbeads have devastated oceans and marine life, how plastic wraps have damaged creatures, and how plastic is washing up on beaches across the planet. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from bottle tops, to rope, bottles, plastic bags, sanitary products, disposable nappies, and more. Evo News even quoted that:  ‘The number of plastic microbeads in oceans and seas, bigger than the number of stars in our galaxy.’

However, there’s been great news from Greenpeace who reported just last week that by 30 June 2018 all personal care and cosmetic products with microbeads will be off shelves in the UK in a government ban!

Seagull Dreams by Bekah Shambrook Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - the last krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds with legs and feet caught in plastic bags and debris, turtles deformed with plastic can rings looped about their shells, and fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and even whales caught up in plastic nets. These are creatures we have the responsibility of caring for. We have the responsibility of caring for the whole earth.

There are several initiatives trying to help clean up our oceans, and make us aware of the pollution of plastic. Von Wong began #MermaidsHatePlastic and borrowed 10,000 plastic bottles to make an art installation that makes a valuable point. Find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and read his story.

And 4Ocean sells bracelets made from ocean plastic to fund the removal of trash from the sea Find them on Twitter.

My question evolves into a solution when people respond with the continuing need for plastic in our lives, why can’t we use the plastic we recover from the ocean? Hopefully we are, or if we’re not then governments will soon pick up the idea, as they have with home and business recycling.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Bottles - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

But to counter, maybe we can try to use less plastic, invent things that use less plastic, and we could buy and use more environmentally friendly products to begin the move away from plastic. Plastic isn’t generally good for us. Many of us, myself included, reuse water bottles to drink from, but that plastic gradually breaks down and enters our bloodstream through constant use. It’s better to buy a metal or glass water bottle. As charges for plastic bags have come in, we are using less and reusing and taking our own, every little helps. We need to keep doing our bit, no matter how small it is.

There are alternatives if companies are willing to put the money and research in to develop products that are environmentally friendly – take these plastic bags for example…

I’ve seen plates and tableware made from palm leaves or wheat fibre pulp, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton/canvas shopping bags, water powered clocks, solar power and much more. We can all do our bit by increasing recycling, reusing products, avoiding one-use items, and we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle.

reduce reuse recycleI’ve seen many products that are created/invented using plant based materials, we just need to change our ways, alter our sensibilities, and transform our habits.

Humans don’t like change – but change is what we need to do.

We need to continue the fight to remove unnecessary plastics and packaging,
to help not only our own health, but the health of the planet on which we live.  

What are we doing to Mother Earth?

* Edited to add: 2nd August 2017 is officially #EarthOvershootDaywhich makes this post even more appropriate. Today is the day that we have used up this year’s quota of Earth’s natural resources for one year. We need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support humanity’s demands on nature… Just something to think about…

Alzheimer’s Awareness Week – Forget-me-not…

This post is peppered with forget-me-nots
because Alzheimer’s is the thief of time
stealing memories with no compunction at all…
Please, forget-me-not.

Alzheimer's Awareness - Forget-me-not - The Last Krystallos

Dementia Awareness Week is the 17th to 23rd May and this post is painful to write because Alzheimer’s has made me very aware of what it can do. It’s stolen my mother and there was so much left unsaid – things that now will never be said and that leaves regrets and resentment in its wake.

Quoting from The Alzheimer’s Society website: The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness week,

© Lisa Shambrook

I don’t know my mother’s actual diagnosis, there are several types of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, but my dear father has always handled it with the ostrich approach, with his head pretty much in the sand. I understand this – it’s tough to see your loved one fade away in front of you and even tougher when they have no idea who you are. She has a professional diagnosis though and is on medication but it gets worse and there’s nothing to stop it.

For my parents’ privacy and respect I won’t go into their circumstances, my mother has many more illnesses and conditions, and everyone has different situations when this disease hits. But awareness is vital and help for the afflicted and the carers absolutely essential. The Alzheimer’s Society, whose symbol has also been the forget-me-not flower since 2012, is one of the first places to go for advice and they are wonderful, and Age UK have helped too, but Social Services and NHS help is also inevitable and crucial. Assessments need to be made and help given. I can’t report on the effectiveness of Social Services, as the planned assessment was cancelled and I haven’t yet heard back from them.  Be prepared for long waiting periods.

This is a disease that breaks hearts, and it’s on the rise. So is there anything we can do to prevent it?

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

To try to thwart dementia the NHS recommends we should: eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t drink too much alcohol, stop smoking (if you smoke), make sure to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

This is pretty much blanket advice and I shrug a little, this is the stock advice for a healthy life, not just dementia prevention.
What can you really do to help keep dementia at bay?

Analysis by Age UK suggested that lifestyle was responsible for 76% of changes in the brain and that people could go some way to avoiding the disease by adopting or quitting certain habits. Taking regular physical exercise, eating a Mediterranean diet, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation were all found to decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In addition, preventing and treating diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity was also found to reduce the risk.

I have also heard that learning another language, drinking raw fruit and veg, reducing stress and meditating, running 15 miles a week, laughing more, sleeping more and lowering your sugar intake can all help.
Learning a language, laughing, keeping your brain active and engaged all help create new neuro pathways in your brain and helps grow new brain cells, therefore keeping the brain busy and fully functioning. Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells and once destroyed they cannot be recovered. Thus you see memory loss and lost skills that will never be salvaged.

These are ideas and helps, and current medication can halt the progress of Alzheimer’s to a degree too. However, more and more people are being diagnosed and current figures show that 850,000 people lived with dementia in the UK in 2015 and it’s set to rise at a rate that will result in over one million sufferers 1,142,677 in 2025.

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

I wish I had the answers to Alzheimers and Dementia – but I don’t which is why I’ve linked The Alzheimer’s Society, but I’d like to finish on two positives:

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

Five Things You Should Know About Dementia from The Alzheimer’s Society:

It’s not a natural part of ageing

It’s caused by diseases of the brain. The most common is Alzheimer’s

It’s not just about losing  your memory – it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks

It’s possible to live well with dementia

There’s more to a person than the dementia

They suggest we:

Spend more time with friends and relatives who are living with dementia (I can testify the carer will need support and friends, dementia in a partner is lonely, frustrating and terribly heartbreaking)

Learn more about dementia and maybe become a Dementia Friend

Volunteer and Fundraise…which brings me to my last thing…

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

Bekah, my daughter, having seen the effects of Alzheimer’s first hand, has decided to do a Tandem Sky Dive and raise money for The Alzheimer’s Society. She is planning to leap from a plane and parachute on the 10th September and needs sponsors to help her achieve her goal!

Please think about supporting her and those suffering with this tragic disease if you can. Any funds raised online on her Just Giving Page go directly to The Alzheimer’s Society, but she will need physical donations which go to the jump and the charity, so if your know her personally please ask her for her sponsor form and do it direct!

Thank you so much in advance, anything we can do to help those suffering and fund research and help is imperative and very much appreciated!   

Bekah-skydive-alzheimer-justgiving

Bekah’s Just Giving Page for her Sky Dive Sponsors
in aid of The Alzheimer’s Society – Just click this link

Running Away and Coming Back Again…

People deal with stress, anxiety and panic in different ways.
I’ve always been a runner
and not in the sense of pounding the streets in Nikes with a stopwatch.
I run. That’s what I do. When it all gets too much I run.

running away and coming back again, Lisa Shambrook, the last krystallos, running away, escape, coming home,

The two main responses are Fight or Flight. I fly. I don’t do confrontation – I avoid it all costs. So much so, that I barely ever answer my own telephone. My initial reaction to anything that makes my heart pound is to run. Even love caused me to run a mile, which hubby discovered after only two weeks. As soon as real emotion got involved, my poor heart fluttered and panicked and I was gone. I hid, refusing to answer the door, or the phone, remaining cowered inside my heart until I pulled myself together and accepted that I felt the same. Thankfully he hadn’t given up. Now twenty-three years later, he is, and always has been, my rock.

drapetomania running away, drapetomania, the urge to run away, the last krystallos,

Drapetomania © Lisa Shambrook

My default setting is to escape, and it’s been that way since I was young. I avoided people, lost in books, writing and drawing as a child. The necessity of school meant I had to run the gauntlet of social activities. I was the quiet one, the shy one, the one in the corner. I didn’t stand out surrounded by myriad friends, but the friends I made at school loved me for who I was.

I ran from school several times. Right out of PE – I ran. After assembly – I ran. I ran with a pounding heart and the desperate urge to flee. I ran with blind panic, with anxiety bubbling inside my chest and with no thought of consequence except escape.

From fourteen I suffered depression, and it reared its ugly head with a breakdown at eighteen. My coping mechanisms crashed and after running for so long, I simply stopped. Getting diagnosed with Post-viral Fatigue/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – CFS) masked the depression, and allowed me to stop running.

Then I met Vince, my rock. I married young and moved to Wales. If that’s not running, I don’t know what is… Three small children kept me busy and finally gave my life reason. I escaped the CFS after a decade, but my depression and anxiety remained. It took ‘til my thirties, an assault and another breakdown before I faced my demons.

And I run til the breath tears my throat The Alarm Rain in the Summertime

Rain in the Summertime – The Alarm – Meme and Photo © Lisa Shambrook

The reasons behind my running emerged and got confronted. The first time I’d confronted my demon, the person I confided in wept, and I comforted them. Then I continued running.

I’ve run from home – just upped and left. I’ve driven away, miles and miles, with no intent to return.

I’ve dreamed, and planned, and run.

I always wanted to escape.

But there was never anywhere to go – so I always came back.

Coming back taught me things. I learned that running doesn’t get you anywhere. It takes you away, it provides emotional distance, but it doesn’t fix a thing. I learned that antidepressants have their place, but they don’t offer solutions. I learned that talking was the only way to move ahead, but the NHS denied me that option. I learned that trust was earned and that the only people who offered me that were already close. I learned that I had value, that I was someone worth loving. I learned to rely on and trust my husband and my children.

They saved me. 

I learned that support is much more than a network, it’s real friends, real people who offer tangible love. I learned that one friend noticing and recognising a self-harm scar can ultimately save your life. I learned that to value yourself, you must love yourself. I learned that when you can’t trust or lean on society, then lean on those who love you. I learned to value myself enough to accept help.

dandelion clock, wishes, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

Wishes in Bluebell Woods © Lisa Shambrook

When you feel that life is too much, don’t suffer in silence, talk. Talk to anyone who’ll listen. If you can get professional help, do. If antidepressants help, take them. Try not to run, but if you do, always remember those you can trust, those who love you, those who need you. 

Thank goodness for those you can come back to.

For help with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression see your GP or Health Provider.

Beneath_the_Old_Oak_front_cover_finalRead more of running away in ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and Etsy.

‘Turn those dreams of escape into hope…’ Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control, and when she mirrors her Mum’s erratic behaviour, she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape, she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak. A storm descends, and Meg needs to survive devastating losses.

How We Lost 8 Stone in a Year – My 365 Days with My Fitness Pal

how we lost 8 stone in year, my 365 days my fitness pal, last krystallos, losing weight, weightloss, Last year, a new phenomenon hit my family’s life – and we lost 112lbs in 365 days.

Bridesmaid Bekah © Lisa Shambrook

Bridesmaid Bekah © Lisa Shambrook

My oldest daughter began using My Fitness Pal to lose weight. She wanted to be a slimmer bridesmaid for her best friend’s wedding, and once we saw the pounds falling away, we joined in!

I’d been unhappy with my rising weight for a while, and though I wasn’t overweight I was far off my preferred mark on the scales. So I decided to follow Bekah’s example and download My Fitness Pal, a free calorie counting app. Several weeks later, after a loss of a fair few pounds, hubby joined in. We very much wanted to return to sizes we were many years ago…

What we once were... © Lisa Shambrook

What we once were 2001… © Lisa Shambrook

Vince was overweight, but not unhappy, just disillusioned with the idea of dieting. He didn’t think he’d stick to a diet, as such, and didn’t believe it would be easy to lose weight. It was seeing Bekah lose a stone (14lbs) that spurred him into action. We explained that calorie counting wasn’t dieting in the sense of banning certain foods, but more about understanding calories, how much we needed to eat and how many calories you needed to allow you to lose weight.

What we were in 2011 and now in 2015 © Lisa Shambrook

What we were in 2011 and now in 2015 (or from cosy to bad ass) © Lisa Shambrook

The recommended calorie intake for a man in the UK is 2,500 Kcal, and a woman 2,000 Kcal, advised by the NHS. My Fitness Pal asks about you, what you weigh, how much weight you want to lose and gives you a daily calorie intake to achieve this*, over a period of time.

*Note: it’s advisable to contact your Dr, when making serious weight loss plans or if you have health problems.

healthy food, salad, egg and bacon salad, soup, watermelon, tomatoes, lettuce, eggs,

© Lisa Shambrook

We soon realised we knew nothing about calories or the amount we were actually eating each day, and, certainly, it was far more than the recommended intake. For our goal weights My Fitness Pal reduced our intake, mine was decreased to 1,200 Kcal, to lose one to two pounds per week. You can adjust the intake to what you desire.

We very quickly learned how many calories lurked in each item of food we bought! We then went about changing our diets. We didn’t eat much processed food to start with, I prefer cooking from scratch, but we did learn that our portions needed to be downsized, fast! We cut our intake of carbohydrates drastically, reducing potatoes, bread, pasta etc by about 80%, and I soon realised I was putting cheese, large amounts, on and in everything! Dairy and carbs were the first things to go. I stopped buying mild cheddar completely, preferring much smaller amounts of good quality mature cheese instead. We switched to semi-skimmed milk, and cut the amount of desserts and chocolate. We didn’t ban anything, but discovered that healthy, low calorie was better for us. We experimented with soups and salads, and lean meat, and cut our portion sizes.

my fitness pal, the last krystallos, keep fit, lose weight, losing weight, weightloss,

My Fitness Pal © Lisa Shambrook

Now, far from making us hungry, the smaller portions helped us appreciate what we were eating and stopped us feeling bloated from ‘too much just because we could’ syndrome. We found low cal snacks and just ate less of what was higher in calories.

My Fitness Pal requires you to fill in what you eat each day and how much you exercise. From that information it predicts what your weight loss will be. It was dead on. The weight began melting away.

trainers, weight loss, tape measure,

© Lisa Shambrook

Six months after starting using the app, we joined the local gym. Up ‘til then our exercise consisted of long dog walks, and as we lost weight, the walks got longer. Now we added a gym plan, and instead of just losing weight, we began to tone. Vince noticed the results most, the strength exercises worked for great muscle development and cardio offered stamina and fitness. Calorie counting to lose weight works, but exercise is the key to maintaining and toning.

My two stones - all gone © Lisa Shambrook

My two stone – all gone © Lisa Shambrook

After nine months, I’d pretty much lost 2 stone (28lbs) and hit a plateau. You can kick start a plateau in several ways, have a few rest days, then step up the exercise, or vary your calories and then reduce for a few days. I plan to lose more, but have decided not to use My Fitness Pal to do so. It taught me everything I need to know and I can count my calories in my head with the knowledge I have. Our family eats much healthier and I don’t feel the need to log it every day. You can find me on My Fitness Pal as lastkrystallos, and I may return to it one day, if those pounds creep up on me!

Vince's weightloss, before, during and after.... © Lisa Shambrook

Vince’s weightloss, before, during and after…. © Lisa Shambrook

So at the end of 365 days, I lost 2 stone (28lbs), Bekah lost 3 stone (42lbs) and so did Vince, a total of 8 stone (112lbs) between us!

We are truly shadows of our former selves who love the vitality and va va voom we’ve caught…now we get out into the fresh air and enjoy it! 

cloud chasing, clouds, wispy clouds, blue sky, the last krystallos, lisa shambrook,

Chase the Clouds © Lisa Shambrook

What are you doing to become healthier, or have you lost weight and how did you do it?