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Posts from the ‘Medical Matters’ Category


The Weight Loss Programme that is Working for Me – 38 lbs Lost So Far!

10 February 2013

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 15.58.48I have now dropped 38 lbs since I started my weight loss programme. There have been some periods when my weight has levelled off and it has taken real determination to get it dropping again. Four more pounds to go and I will have lost 3 stones.

The effect is really noticeable – I can get into my size 12 clothes – that is the biggest bonus and I noticed yesterday I can cross my legs. Another thing, I can kneel on the floor, something I haven’t been able to do for years! I can get into my sheepskin coat that has been languishing in a cupboard for more years than I can remember. I have been buying cashmere jumpers on eBay at an alarming rate! I go for the auctions of used items. There is a knack to getting what you want, at least I have devised a method where I receive items that are clean and ready to wear. I send an email to the seller asking them to confirm the item has been cleaned and ready to wear. If I don’t hear from them, and that does happen, then I don’t bid for it. I also ask for confirmation the label shows it is what the seller says, for instance one item was described as silk, but turned out to be polyester. Look out for ‘style’ or ‘type’. For instance cashmere type, or silk type, or couture style. I have found it means whatever the item is it is not 100% silk, or cashmere. That’s what I have learned so far – check out detail before you buy. I have made mistakes, mostly with measurements. I get carried away with the photo and forget to actually check the measurements given … this entails returning the garment and that is tedious, especially as return postage is seldom refunded.

One incentive to keep to the weight loss programme I have devised is to aim for couture clothing in size 10! I have to decide whether the investment will be worth it, whether in fact my willpower will ensure I succeed in further weightloss. It is so easy to slip back into old, negative ways. I still have a tendency to overeat when I feel a bit blue, or feeling stressed. I have no trick to get over this. I can foresee getting into size 10 clothes may well be a size too far. Or shall I just keep trying? Probably! I love being able to wear my ebay bargains!

17 November 2012

Most of us who seriously need to reduce our weight, and I’m thinking here of anyone with more than 3 stones to lose, need to spend a long period concentrating on food. Which may seem a contradiction in terms.

One of the biggest challenges during that long period is maintaining motivation.

Sometimes serious health conditions help focus that effort, and most long term dieters are aware of the possibility and danger of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer – just a few of the serious health problems associated with serious over weight.

If assured we would definitely be dead within two weeks through eating more than 1200 calories a day I’m pretty sure we would all make certain we kept under that target, indefinitely.

To begin with controlling our appetite is hard. The trick is to maintain that control – we have to be creative with food, keep meals interesting, colourful, tasty, satisfying and recorded. This in turn can work to prevent a sense of deprivation developing. Deprivation can include resentment, isolation and the downward spiral of eating more than we need to survive.

Sooner or later those of us on the Sainsbury Diet find food becomes less important. Why this is is not clear, but I think it might be a consequence of a smaller stomach that no longer demands food so often. Also the taste of highly sweetened, or salty food is not as attractive as before. It would seem our tastebuds become more sensitive. However fat in food doesn’t seem to lose its attraction, it’s so high in satisfaction. Alarm bells should ring if you start eating more than 20% of your total daily food intake. This is all monitored on the diet so you can quickly see if you are close to making a mistake.

However, like recovering alcoholics, we are vulnerable and have to be vigilant. That’s the reality … food can never be what it was before we took our health seriously.

The importance of exercising can’t be emphasised enough. The making and maintaining new muscle which is heavier than fat can in turn lead to what is referred to as a plateau. No one likes this to happen but it seems an inevitable feature of serious weight loss. The body seems to need time to rearrange itself – well that’s how we see it!

Exercise can become addictive! It stimulates endorphins and adrenaline and although to begin with might be painful it really is worth it to feel more alive, move around more and feel more energetic. What’s not to like?

The Sainsbury Diet Forum is littered with references to hunger. Many of the long term dieters are able to provide sound advice. Onesuch is: If you feel hungry try waiting for 5 minutes – still hungry? Then eat. It’s more likely you no longer feel hungry. Or it could be your body needs fluid. Try a glass of water.

The Forum is a positive self moderating organism – providing support, empathy and down to earth feedback.

I have at last reached a two stone loss after a three week plateau. What a relief … On now to my next stone to lose … I can do it! Yes, I know I can!

Why not join us? If you are serious about weight loss this could be the site for you.

November 5 2012

Tracking Progress

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, as dispiriting as, when following a diet, any diet, reaching a plateau for whatever reason. What is hard to bear is when no matter how hard you try, the weight will not budge. How long will it go on? Can you avoid succumbing to temptation because you feel so low. Jam, bread and butter, cheese, chocolate, crisps, peanuts all raise their profile and the mouth waters.

Recently, on the 8th day of a plateau, I went for a bike ride, 8 miles in an hour. Not as fast as I used to be two years ago, but acceptable.

I returned home absolutely ravenous.

I ate jam on Ryvita, two little tubs of chocolate mousse, biscuits, bits of cheese, two glasses of wine, a biscuit, leftover meat. All eaten out of hunger – the thought of possible weight gain the next day didn’t stop my guzzling.

Next morning: My weight had dropped by a pound!

Ah! But the following week my weight rose by 2 lbs and stayed the same for the next two weeks and no amount of ‘being good’ had any effect. Very, very frustrating but perhaps understandable. I simply couldn’t get back into the swing of restraint and although I kept to my 1200 calories a day I did slip from time to time, especially in the evening with the odd biscuit.

I lost my pedometer down the loo – now this may seem insignificant but it really put me off making sure I covered 2,500 steps a day. It took me 6 days to replace it, during which time I was fairly inactive.

I then restarted using my stationary bike, 5 minutes the first time, then 10 the next day and that did the trick! Phew at last weight loss – miniscule but significant.

With the target of 15 minutes on the bike every day.  I have also been keeping a note of the number of steps with my new pedometer. So that and the bike riding should beat it! Onwards and downwards at last!

Tracking progress 

October 15 2012 – 92nd day

Today the weighing machine shows I have now dropped from 14 stone to 13 stone and .8 of a pound. So close to two stones lost!  My BMI is now 31.9, a drop from 37 since 9 July 2012.

The key to this steady weight loss has been achieved through following the Sainsbury Diet. Using their website I now plan up to 7 days’ meals ahead and make sure I have the food available, so accurate shopping lists are very important. Everything is recorded as it is eaten on the Food Diary. This calculates the calorific value of any food from the weight entered. It’s a very flexible system and works well if I decide to eat less, or sometimes, more, or change my choice of bread to potato. Whatever, the flexibility suits me down to the ground.

Another use of planning is a way I thought up to cope with anticipated social events and others that crop up before the big festive season. I have begun to ‘save’ a few calories each day from my 1200 daily allowance. Difficult to begin with, but I keep a note and watch the total grow, it’s a bit like saving money in a bank account! The plan is to use this accumulation of calories to cover those inevitable, irresistible goodies. Using the saved calories will eliminate that feeling of deprivation when everyone is having what they want and I can’t. Whoopee!

Over the 14 weeks spent on this diet I have identified a sense feeling of deprivation as being key to much of my past indulging and overeating behaviour. I intend eliminating that sensation at every possible opportunity, it feels that important.

My current target is 11 stones 2 lbs … planned to be reached by 1 December 2012. Just over a 2 lb weekly drop, my weekly average has been between 1.5 and 1.75 lbs a week so far, but I’m travelling hopefully … Onwards and downwards is a familiar cry on the Sainsbury Diet Forum! A huge support that reinforces achievement and helps those who lapse from time to time, and that includes me!

Tracking progress 

September 25 2012 – 78th day

Although it has not been a steady drop of 2 lbs a week, overall 22 lbs have gone now in 11 weeks. I am very happy with this result and really amazed how effective the regime is that I’m following.

I’ve had a lot of emails asking which diet I am using. Well, I’m trying out, with what I think the best possible results, the Sainsbury’s Diet. Essentially you weigh and record every single thing you eat during the day. All the hassle is taken out of the recording if you use the Food Diary: enter a food, add the weight and hey presto the result is recorded on your screen diary as carbs and fat in grams and totalled by meal and day. Or you can use a Meal Plan at any time, for any day. This is where everything is planned for you to follow, including a shopping list. When you join the Sainsbury Diet you are given a daily food allowance and every gram is counted down until you reach your target for the day.

The flexibility really suits me. I like to plan the day ahead, depending on what’s in the cupboard/fridge. If I change my mind later about a food, or the amount I want to eat, that’s endlessly adaptable.

If you wish you can request an Exercise Plan. It’s emphasised that reducing your food intake together with exercise – as gentle or strenuous as you want to make it – gives you the opportunity to lose weight faster. It seems to work for me. Over the 11 weeks I have gradually increased the amount of exercise and I have maintained the weight loss.

My current target is to reach a 28 lb loss – due in about 3 weeks. I am experiencing a bit of a plateau but with a bit more table tennis I should manage to get there!

There is a forum where you can vent your feelings, congratulate other participants on their loss and commiserate when things don’t go the way they want.

So far, this diet has worked remarkably well for me … I’m hoping to reach my final target of a 4.5 stones loss by the end of March 2013.

I’ll keep you posted!

August 11 2012 – 34th day

11 lbs gone – and am feeling pleased with myself. Have ‘discovered’ Weightwatchers Chocolate Biscuits! At 89 calories and 4.3 fat and individually wrapped I have to keep them in a box at the top of a cupboard that I can only get to using the steps. To get at them I have to make a real effort and that strategy, together with being out of sight, has meant I have managed to eat just one every other day.

My husband really likes another Weightwatchers biscuit –  Fruit Crumble 89 calories and 2.4g fat.  He likes them so much they’re on the shopping list already! He’s lucky, he doesn’t need to watch his weight, nor does he have the same food cravings I have. Explains why we are like Jack Sprat and his wife!

Onto the next goal to make it 14 lbs lost. Then I will be able to make a new target. This breaking down the whole amount to be lost is a really positive feature of the programme. Bit like eating an elephant, one bite at a time!

August 3 2012 – 26th day

Weight loss chart

8lbs down, just don’t ask how many more to go! But this is progress and I’m delighted. Been shopping in the charity shops and was pleased to find a pair of slacks size 18 that fitted me! Have gone through all my clothes and put them in size order. Some size 22′s have gone into a big bag in the attic to be used for painting jobs. Others I returned to the shops for recycling.

Had a sneaky look at size 10 clothes and there were some lovely dresses. Was so tempted to buy one but resisted … can look forward to that treat sometime next year … in the meantime size 16 is my next target but haven’t found anything in the trouser line yet. It will be my daily walk about the town to get those 5,000 steps in.

I have a pedometer and can note every day’s total in the record ‘book’. So far it is a bit erratic but is gradually improving.

George Foreman Fat Reducing Grill

A new George Foreman fat reducing grill arrived today. I’ve had one for about 8 years and it is still going strong. This new one is slimmer and will stand on its back to give space on the worktop when not in use. It’s really sleek.

I interviewed George Forman on one of his promotional visits about 9 years ago and he is a sweetie pie. The rumble in the jungle was a distant memory even then but he was just as lean and lithe as ever. He still oozed raw energy though and made me jump when he suddenly laughed and thumped the table!

He delighted in showing us how the grill worked and how much fat it removes. I’m looking forward to using this new one especially for its space saving feature. What I like is that it saves having to put on the oven grill, or use the oven thereby saving such a lot of time and costly energy. The grill makes the most delicious toasted sandwiches and cooking vegetables is a breeze.  It comes with a recipe book and a tray for the fat that runs out. It’s easy to clean – to finish off I use a damp sheet of kitchen tissue that removes any residual bits and pieces. The grill is available in stores and on the web. This the one gadget my husband actually uses! He just loves toasted sandwiches.

July 25 2012 – 17th day

Nothing in the wardrobe was suitable for the heat so I went out and bought 3 cotton tops for all of £7.49 from the local Help the Aged shop.

The good news is they are size 20, down from 22 … Although they are just a little tight, I feel I’m on way to success … keeping a tight grip on my appetite, lots of exercise and lots of glasses of water and strict weighing and recording food.

Looking forward to donating the tops back and getting ‘new’ ones size 18 … until I get back to size 12!!! What a prospect!

July 24 2012 – 16th day

5.5 lbs lost so far in 16 days.

Am loving this diet, I’m in control and am choosing all kinds of food, safe in the knowledge that every gram is calorie counted. With a target of 1200 calories a day and exercise built in, I’m feeling confident and optimistic that at last I will be able to reach and maintain a sensible weight for my age and build. If you would like to know the programme I’m following just send an email There is absolutely no catch, it’s just that I don’t want to publicise a weight loss programme that I might just not complete or fail at totally. If I do lose the 5 stone I want to shed then I’ll announce it to the world! Plus pictures of before (ugh) and after!

July 15 2012 – End of First week

When I want to eat I have to eat, I don’t want to hang around. So you can see why/how I have always had a weight problem! Monitoring exactly what I eat has been the key to successful weight loss in the past and today, after a week of keeping a very accurate diary, I have dropped 4 lbs in week , a huge boost to my confidence.

Yesterday, feeling very hungry at lunchtime I luckily had ingredients in the fridge ready prepared when it was crucial to eat a sensible meal.

My 323 calorie home made open sandwich

Here are the ingredients of the open sandwich I put together. It added up to 323 calories, well within my lunch target.

Slice of Vogel’s soya and linseed bread  42 g
Generous covering of Sweet Harissa Houmous 58 g
Teaspoonfuls of Philadelphia Extra Light Cheese 28 g
Small tomatoes sliced 37 g
Grated carrot 24 g
Sultanas cut in half 11 g
Sprinkled with squeezed lemon juice 4 g*

This was sufficiently large enough to need a knife and fork to eat it – very tasty and filling too.

Sultanas came from a tub of reduced mix from a supermarket deli section
The tomatoes gave the moisture I like
The houmous gave body and flavour
The carrot was left over from the previous evening which gave crunch and the sultanas sweetness
The Philadelphia extra light cheese gave it creaminess
The bread gave it a satisfying chewiness

*The weight of each ingredient was of course my choice and is endlessly adaptable to suit any appetite

Of course the next few days’ lunches will have similar ingredients but with a bit luck I’ll be able to add different bits and pieces to make them interesting to look at and great to taste.

We have a supermarket just across the road from us and tend to buy most of our food there. Occasionally I nip over about 7 pm to see if there are any ‘Reduced’ items – there generally are. It’s true to say all the ingredients for today’s lunch, apart from the Philadelphia Extra Light and the soya and linseed bread, were at a reduced price.  This access to low cost food could make for overeating, in fact it did until recently. I buy all kinds of unusual things to try, like the harissa houmous. I found some salmon loin and some fillet steak at half price last night. Kept in the freezer with other bits and pieces bought over the last couple of weeks they will give me the opportunity to produce some interesting, low cost and carefully weighed meals.

I have sometimes bought a really high calorific item, like treacle tart which goes in the freezer. This week I found some at the back of the freezer and cut off a very slender slice, weighed it, made a note of the calories* and ate it with a feeling of righteousness! There is some cheesecake in there too … Yummy outlook!

The food weighing machine is the key to success for me. I really enjoy entering an allocation of grams in the diary and then comparing later how the quantity I want matches up with what I have planned. This makes for a really flexible recording system and eliminates any feelings of deprivation. Everything is my choice, including any drop offs from my schedule.

The systematic weighing of food is the most important aspect of the diet for me.  I write down everything I weigh as I go along. The weighing machine is zeroed between each item weighed as it is all too easy to forget the number of grams and I want to keep as accurate record as possible.

There are many calorie recording schemes for dieters on the web. I have used several in the past, especially those provided by pedometers.

This time I’m using a calorie recording diary on the web provided by a supermarket, it requires joining as a member with a very affordable monthly charge.  We’ll see how it goes. There are forums to read other members’ experiences, very useful as I’m a bit sceptical as to the extent of my determination, I have not been hugely successful in the past. Mark Twain’s ironic remark: Giving up smoking is easy, I do it all the time, is all too true of my dieting behaviour!

Right now I’m travelling hopefully – I feel quite good too!

*A little wire bound notebook to write down everything is kept with the weighing machine.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Val Reynolds, Editor


What is it about chilli that polarises opinion?

Supermarket chillies

Supermarket chillies

A quick survey of friends and colleagues showed that more men than women like chilli.

Some men were quite adventurous and consumed meat dishes containing large amounts of chilli. We wondered whether there would be any taste in the dish apart from chilli, so why such a volume?

We guessed it might be the endorphins that are stimulated, so chilli gives a kick, or perhaps it’s something else …

Another question is what positive benefits are there to be gained?

Searching Google with chilli+stomach we found:

  • Chili stomach ache
  • Chili stomach cancer
  • Chili stomach ulcer
  • Ghost chili stomach pain
  • Chilli and stomach ulcerts
  • Stomach pain from chilli
  • Stomach pain after chilli
  • Chilli burning stomach
  • Chilli and stomach cancer

We didn’t go any further.

We then entered chilli+stomach+healthy and found many websites with advice for all kinds of ills, including cancer, from all kinds of self-appointed experts.

So, what should the discerning enquirer do?

Our advice is to follow the old adage of a little of everything does you good and, if you like chilli make sure you which find out which are the most reliable websites to refer to.

Websites providing reliable health information we recommend are: is a website where you can pay to talk to a doctor direct

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Washing Hands – Hygiene Matters

Washing hands

Washing hands

The importance of hand washing should never be under estimated. I wondered how many people picked up on it following Global Handwashing Day and was interested to see some feedback from the UK public.

Are we worried about hygiene?

It would seem we are, especially when visiting, and leaving, a public toilet. Some ingenious if rather ingenuous tactics are adopted by some people to avoid touching doors in the loo and on leaving. However, it’s all very well making sure you use a piece of toilet paper to hold the door handle, or wait until someone enters the toilet area to hold the door open for you, or failing that, keeping the door open with your foot and or elbow. But if, for instance in a pub, you go straight to the bar and eat a few peanuts from a bowl, just how many people have also taken some peanuts and did they wash their hands … Apparently e.coli has been found on nuts, crisps, even olives in open bowls on bars.

And what about cash machine keys, card readers in supermarkets, keyboards on computers, hand rails on buses and the Underground, the list goes on. You could say a ha’peth of dirt doesn’t do anyone any harm, but it isn’t just any old dirt we’re talking about. We’re concerned about campylobacter and salmonella bacteria both likely to cause a gastric infection and easily passed on through fecal contamination.

When out and about some people take a small container of antiseptic gel. It is a token gesture towards hygiene as it is not entirely effective. So it’s always wise to wash your hands before you get to eat anything. That’s a great restraint on your appetite – you would be off to wash your hands before you ate that luscious cake, cup of coffee and biscuit in the coffee shop of even the irresistible chocolate bar at the checkout! You would have to wait until you got home to wash your hands after touching the keypad in the supermarket and the trolley or basket handle!

Hand washing techniques

John Oxford professor of virology thinks people don’t wash thoroughly, or long, enough – singing two verses of Happy Birthday – to yourself – is a good guideline. Just rinsing your hands under water won’t wash the germs away. They need soap to slide off your skin.

And it isn’t just after visiting the toilet. It is important to wash your hands if you have been handling raw meat and poultry.

Increasingly public toilets have devices to avoid hands touching infected areas. For instance taps that operate when you waving your hand in front of a sensor, another sensor dispenses soap. The new blow driers from Dyson are becoming more common, so are ultraviolet light hand cleaners.

Did you know copper door handles kills MRSA?

Whether or not a recent study suggesting one in six mobile phones contaminated with fecal matter is statistically anomalous, the findings were interesting. Does it mean people use their phones in the loo? It wouldn’t surprise me. I remember a student who had been on work experience had transcribed an audio tape in which she distinctly heard the dictator using the loo. Luckily it was of the watery kind … Her experience had us in stitches!

So, while diarrhoeal disease remains one of the world’s biggest killers in developing countries and handwashing  saves lives, here it will help prevent a nasty stomach bug. In the UK it is more likely that children pass on stomach bugs. They have a habit of constantly putting their hands in their mouth, and love to handle pets and all that entails.

Did you know there are wipes available that kill 99% of harmful bacteria?

National Handwashing Day logoThe Global Handwashing Day website has a lot of very interesting statistics and background information.

So should we really be worried about hygiene? The consensus is yes, but keep it in proportion. Do you agree?

Val Reynolds, Editor


A Bad Back is a Painful Thing

Orange tulips

© Pintail

Janet ruefully writes about her Back. A bad back. Something a lot of us suffer from. We are all in a search to soothe, relieve, strengthen, our back. The back is our weakest part of our structure and as Janet says, once it goes, there’s not going back. This is how it is for Janet.

The world is divided into two kinds of people; those with Backs, and those without. And before you sigh and turn to another feature, let me remind you that you could find yourself in the other camp at any time and without warning. And once you’re in that camp, you’re there for life.

For me, it all kicked off at the age of around 40 when I was slim and supple, and attended a weekly two hour yoga class taught by an inspiring teacher. I don’t know what mischievous yogic demon persuaded her to introduce her class of middle-aged mothers to the splits, but one fateful day this is what she did. To my great joy, and very short-lived sense of smugness, I was pretty successful and went home determined to keep practising, though quite what I thought mastering the splits would do for my life, I don’t know.  But sheer stupidity led me to think that I could safely attempt at 7.30 am the next day what I’d done previously at the end of a long series of stretches. The pain as I tried to sink into this extreme position was excruciating, and my 40 years of not having a Back had ended. I soon learnt to tell no one how I’d hurt it as the looks of incredulity followed by badly concealed amusement spoke volumes.

So from then on life changed, as it does for all Back sufferers. Because you, the owner of a Back, are constantly searching for the ultimate goal – a permanently painfree back – your antennae are always on the alert for some new and amazing therapy. Your address book is full of chiropractors and physios, while your postman is at risk of developing a Back himself due to the volume of books on Back Care that you’re ordering,

Then you discover a book called You Can Heal Your Life and find that the cause of your problems might not be physical at all, but a reflection of your financial anxiety, or of feeling unloved and unsupported. You pass some of this information onto your partner who takes instant offence and moves into the spare room – where he’d been thinking of going anyway as he’s fed up with falling over the arsenal of back support devices littering the bedroom (Tens machines, magnetic blankets, etc) and with the hour which you now need to prepare for bed every night; gentle yoga postures followed by a period of meditation while lying on the floor, aromatherapy oils burning to help your spine to absorb new energy.

Travelling is well nigh impossible unless accompanied by someone strong who can lift all your suitcases as well as their own, and who hasn’t by now lost all sympathy for you. And when/if you reach your destination, well, hotel beds! Almost without exception, hotel beds are soft enough for that neurotic princess with the pea phobia, and provide no support for aching joints. If you don’t have the nerve to ring beforehand to ask them to provide a stiff board to be placed under the mattress, resign yourself to sleeping on the floor. Don’t take offence if your partner appears to be delighted as this means he gets a nice bed all to himself after weeks of being condemned to the tatty old spare bed. After all, he’s resigned now to the total lack of sex since your Back injury. Oh, hadn’t I mentioned that?

Not only is your sex life non-existent but your social life dwindles. Shopping – of the recreational kind – becomes a challenge. How long will my Back hold out while I try on new clothes? More importantly, how will my best friend react when I have to leave her alone to try things on while I retreat to the coffee shop to rest? You could of course take a leaf from the book of another friend – also a Back sufferer – who simply looks for a quiet part of the store, and lies on the floor! This might just work in Liberty’s or Selfridges where they’re used to eccentrics, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it in Primark in Oxford Street.

Concerts and films? Forget about what’s on; what’s important is how good the seats are. People with proper backs don’t understand this. Their thinking is that if you’re sitting down then you’re resting and your Back is OK, but those of us in the other camp know a bad seat is worse than no seat at all. And sometimes it’s impossible to tell good from bad at first, but slowly the truth reveals itself, and you find you’re starting to wriggle, searching for support for the lower Back. You find it and relax, but several minutes later you’re wriggling again because now there’s no support for the upper part of your Back. Eventually you come upon a way of sitting that suits all your Back – bliss! – until you realise that a serious pain is developing in your buttock and down your leg. To alleviate this you slide your hand underneath your buttock to cushion it from the hardness of the seat and stretch out your leg and this works for a few minutes until your shoulder begins to hurt due to being twisted, and you’re contorting yourself in your seat as your calf muscle has developed cramp. By now you’ve thoroughly infuriated the people sitting next to you and behind you, and you have to annoy them still further because you can’t stand sitting for a moment longer and have to get out. But you can’t leave without your handbag which is somewhere on the floor, so you have to bend down to feel around for it which of course hurts your Back, so gasps and little groans are added to the rustling noises which you’re already making. Heads are now turning in all directions to identify the source of the disturbance, and a chorus of “tuts” and indignant mutters accompanies you as you limp along the row of seats, invariably tripping over outstretched feet. Your partner, unable to withstand the embarrassment, has remained in his seat pretending to be unaware of what’s going on, his face a picture of serious concentration.

Will I ever get better? you think to yourself after months of this. Well, I can say with some certainty that my days of doing the splits were over before they really started, and I’ll never be able to dig the garden again, but with care I can manage a fairly normal life, most of the time. You might be able to do almost everything you did before, but Backs have long memories. One day, probably when you least expect it, the Back will be, er, back.

Back Books

Back Sense by Dr Ronald Siegel, Michael H Urdang and Dr Douglas R Johnson is a selfhelp programme that I can recommend. The cycle of Pain-Fear-Tension-Inactivity-Pain is explained clearly. I wouldn’t accept for some time that pain didn’t necessarily mean that I should rest, but gradually came to notice that after a day of resting, I usually had more pain. Dr Siegel was himself immobilised for some time with back pain, so understands what we go through.

The Body Control Pilates Back Book by Lynne Robinson is also good, though I’d suggest consulting a qualified Pilates instructor before embarking on some of the exercises.

Janet Hamer, Contributing author

We would like to hear of readers’ experiences of a bad back and anything they found gave them relief. Just email


Care Home Fees: How to avoid being wrongly charged

None of us like the thought of our parents becoming frail and needing full-time care. For many families, though, it’s inevitable and it can put immense strain on everyone involved.

When Angela Sherman’s parents both developed Parkinson’s Disease in their early 50s, she could never have foreseen the nightmare journey they were all about to embark on. 20 years later her parents were in full-time nursing care with the added complications of dementia, stroke and cancer.

“My parents had some savings, and so I simply assumed they’d have to pay for their own care. No one told me otherwise. At that point the care fees were about £4,500 per month for both of them, and I knew that I’d have to think about selling the family home to pay for it. It was heartbreaking.”

Because Angela’s parents had savings, few people in any ‘authority’ seemed willing to help her with information or advice, and her parents’ local authority (local council) were keen to close all their files. When this happens it leaves families in a black hole, not knowing what to do or who to talk to – and that can often be the hardest thing.

It was only when Angela saw a TV programme about NHS funding for long-term care that she started researching what funding is actually available.

“Before you go into a care home,” says Angela, “the first thing you’re usually asked is how you’re going to pay for it. Social Services (your local council) will do a means test, and if you have savings or assets over about £23,000 (depending where you live in the UK), you’ll be told you have to pay all the costs of your care.

“This is the wrong way round. If you have significant health needs – and most people in a nursing home have health needs – it’s the NHS that should assess you for fully-funded NHS care, also known as NHS Continuing Healthcare. Social Services should not be making this decision. If you’re in a residential home, you may also require as assessment for NHS funding, depending on your health needs.”

The confusion arises with the difference between ‘social’ care and ‘health’ care. In the UK social care is means-tested, but health care is free at the point of use. Just because you’re elderly doesn’t mean the law has changed. We all pay tax to fund the NHS, and the NHS in return provides us with healthcare – no matter what our age.

“Most people are completely unaware of this,” states Angela, “and the various authorities involved don’t exactly publicise it. The devastating result is that tens of thousands of elderly people every year in the UK lose their homes and everything they’ve worked for, to pay for care they’ve already paid for through taxation.

“Being forced to pay for health care in the UK does not comply with the law. As my parents’ power of attorney, I decided to challenge the NHS on this and I pursued two cases against it – one on behalf of Mum and one on behalf of Dad. My point was that the NHS was illegally stripping my parents of all their assets to pay for care which they had a right to receive as UK taxpayers. It took me three years and a huge amount of time, tears and stamina – but eventually I won both cases.

“By that time my parents had paid out £160,000 on care fees. The NHS was forced to repay over £100,000 and pay all future fees. It can be hard to win a case like this. I am one of very few people to have done it – not just once, but twice – and at the same time. A solicitor friend was a welcome sounding board for me, but essentially I fought the battle myself – and other people can too.

“The whole process left me exhausted, but I feel glad to have had the stamina and drive to do it. Both my parents died at the end of 2009 and, after I’d taken some time to recover, I decided that my experience could help other families. That’s why I set up Care To Be Different.”

Care To Be Different makes available to families all the knowledge and insider insights Angela gained during her dealings with the NHS, and her guidance and advice now helps people step-by-step through the whole process. The website is packed with information and there’s also a range of practical guides people can purchase for a small fee. You can also book a telephone advice appointment with Angela to help you move forward with your own specific situation.

“I’ve ‘been there and done it’, as it were – and now I can save people huge amounts of time and stress and give them a much better chance of securing NHS funding for care fees. I wish I’d had all this information when my own parents first went into care!”

For information and advice about care fees and long-term care visit or call Angela Sherman on 01908 582231.


'On The Edge' TV interview about NHS Continuing HealthcareCare to be Different is led by Angela Sherman and it grew from her experience having two parents in full-time care for several years, learning the ins and outs of the care system and understanding how it really works in practice. She also challenged the NHS to provide free Fully-Funded NHS Care (known as NHS Continuing Healthcare) for both parents – and won. 

Watch her TV interview about NHS Continuing Healthcare on our YouTube channel.

Alternatively, read the interview transcript.

We have written a review of a book entitled The Care Homes Guide – South East England which you might find useful.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Catering for Coeliacs: Orange and Chicken Hot Salad, Orange Drizzle Cake, Brandy Snaps

Fresh orangesMore recipes from Sallie Darnell – delicious cakes designed with coeliacs in mind and an unusual savoury dish – all working with oranges

Oranges are full of Vitamin C, other nutrients are vitamin A (as beta carotene), potassium, calcium and most other vitamins and minerals but in small amounts. Orange juice is a popular drink but in reality eating an orange is better than consuming juice as the membrane contains bioflavanoids which have antioxidant properties.

The many types of orange include Jaffas, mandarins, clementines, satsumas, tangerines,  the bitter Seville orange (suitable for marmalade) and kumquats.  They can all be used in different recipes both sweet and savoury.

Chicken and Orange Hot Salad

Chicken and Orange Hot Salad

Chicken & Orange Hot Salad

500g/1lb 2oz boneless chicken, cut into strips
1 tabsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1  packet rocket
2 large oranges
2 tsp wholegrain mustard mixed with 1 tabsp olive oil
1 tabsp sunflower seeds or chopped chives
Fry onion and chicken in oil quickly until browned. Add oranges, mustard and oil to warm through
Put rocket onto serving dish and place chicken/orange mixture on top.  Sprinkle with sunflower seeds or chopped chives

Orange Drizzle Cake

Orange Drizzle Cake

Orange Drizzle Cake

110g/4oz margarine
110g/4oz caster sugar
110g/4oz rice flour
2 eggs
One heaped teasp baking powder
Topping – juice 1 orange
2 tabsp caster sugar

Heat oven 180 degree / gas 4
7″ square cake tin lined with baking parchment

Put all ingredients in a bowl and using a hand electric mixer whiz together until a smooth creamy mix is obtained.  Do not overbeat otherwise you will have a heavy cake.  Add approx 1 tabsp milk to mix.

Put mix into lined tin and bake 20mins

When cool remove from tin and sprinkle cake with orange juice, then sprinkle over remaining sugar

Brandysnaps for coeliacs

Brandysnaps for coeliacs

Brandysnaps – Special recipe for coeliacs
110g/4oz dairy free margarine
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 tablsp golden syrup
110g/4oz rice flour
1 tsp ground ginger

Makes approx 14 brandysnaps

4 oranges – peeled and sliced.  For a touch of luxury the slices can be marinated in brandy.
Cream or dairy free ice cream

Heat oven  180degrees/ gas 4

Melt margarine, sugar and golden syrup together in a saucepan, remove from heat, stir in rice flour and ginger

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and place small spoonfuls of mix on to paper.  Make sure these are well spaced as they spread on cooking.

Cook until golden and bubbling approx 10 mins.
Allow to cool for a few seconds and roll over small pieces of plastic tubing.  Allow to cool completely.  Can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Fill brandy snaps with whipped cream or dairy free ice cream and serve with the marinated oranges.

This NHS website has some very useful information and Coping with Coeliac Disease is a good reference, available on Amazon

Sallie Darnell

Sallie Darnell

Sallie Darnell – Sadly Sallie died a couple of years ago. Sallie was an inspired and down to earth professional cook whose husband became wheat intolerant. That led her to devise scrumptious and appealing recipes for him. We admired and valued her recipes and are pleased to pass them on, a valuable resource for coeliacs.


Catering for Gluten Free Diet: Tried & Tested Coeliac Recipes

Sallie Darnell

Sallie Darnell

The prospect of having to cook separately for a member of the family can be a daunting experience. However, Sallie Darnell* a professional cook faced up to it when her husband became wheat intolerant needing gluten free dishes

Having trained as a Home Economist Sallie’s interest had always been healthy eating. As such she ran a popular outside catering company for 22 years, working for corporate and domestic clients alike. In many instances she created her own recipes.

However when her husband became wheat intolerant she needed to re-think how to cook on the domestic front.  She had cooked for wheat/gluten/dairy intolerants on a professional basis but as a one off this was easy. Her new challenge in life was obviously how to create interesting fabulous food, giving variety for all time. Whilst relearning cooking principles she also discovered new recipes for wheat free food and became more concerned about vegetarian and vegan food as well. She realised her interest in healthy eating had only just begun.

Cooking lessons for specific food intolerant persons were not available at that time and so she devised a range of recipes, all easy to prepare. Here are a couple of cake recipes suitable for anyone wanting to achieve a wheat free regime.



This Victoria Sandwich recipe for instance can be adapted by changing flavours

It will make 12 fairy cakes, lemon cake, or add coffee (liquid) and walnuts
4oz /125g soft margarine or butter
4oz /125g rice flour
4oz /125g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients together with hand mixer, put into prepared tin
Bake gas no 4, 180C

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

Her husband found this Chocolate Cake irresistible!

5oz /150g low fat spread or butter
5oz /150g caster sugar
2oz /50g cocoa powder
100ml boiling water
3 eggs
5oz /150g rice flour
2 heaped tsp baking powder

Mix spread + sugar until light and fluffy
Mix cocoa + water to smooth paste, then mix in eggs, flour/baking powder.
Put into cake tin 6 or 7”, lined with baking parchment

Bake 30 min Gas 4 180 C

More recipes suitable for those with a wheat intolerance – muffins, sweet and savoury filled pancakes – will be added to this Recipe Section of In Balance Magazine website in the near future.

*Sadly Sallie died some years ago. She was an inspired and down to earth cook whose work we admired.

We recommend highly the online grocery suppliers GoodnessDirect for healthy, fresh, eco and organic shopping for all your cooking needs

For information on coeliac disease and a gluten-free lifestyle see
For information on allergy and intolerances see
There is good information on the NHS website
For information about eating well go to the Food Standards Agency website

NEWS: You may have heard that Novak Djokovic, the Men’s Wimbledon 2011 Champion, had recently being diagnosed as Gluten Intolerant and claims his new diet helped him to improve his game.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


The Woman with a Worm in her Head

The Woman with a Worm in her HeadThis book is a collection of fascinating true stories of a doctor’s struggle against the terrifying and invisible world of infectious diseases.

I can remember at the age of about ten dipping into my grandmother’s medical books, recoiling in horror at the pictures but fascinated by their message. The real awfulfulness of all things medical hit me hard and I thought I only had hours to live because I must have at least three infectious diseases and the possibility of a host of others. I know now my reaction wasn’t unusual and my morbid fascination with all things gory was something my friends shared.

The book reads like a medical thriller

Reading The Woman with a Worm in her Head reminded me of that first encounter with medicalspeak and graphic, dispassionate descriptions of conditions. Dr Pamela Nagami writes of the many patients she has helped through conditions involving bacteria, viruses, parasites and opportunistic microbes. For instance when Danielle Jordan ate a salad, she had no idea she’d become a ‘host’ to an organism that six years later would grow into a worm that would burrow into her brain.

An ordinary insect bite on Allan Roth’s foot led to ‘flesh eating strep’. He shed his skin like a snake and had to have a large area of dead tissue removed from his abdomen and upper thigh.

We assume most infectious diseases can be treated and those that can’t be are somehow far removed from daily life, but think again. Do you know what ‘souvenirs’ you’re bringing back from your exotic holiday? Killer organisms are also on our doorstep.

Written from a practical viewpoint with a wry humour interwoven, Dr Roth’s book is compulsive reading and a reminder of how important it is to pay attention to cleanliness even in our super hygienic Western world. That is not to say we should be scrubbing ourselves and food preparation surfaces fanatically, but simply to be aware and remember the consequences of slackness. Washing hands after visiting the loo is so important as is our responsibility to remind our children and husbands (especially!). A doctor speaking on my radio show about hygiene was emphatic about the importance of washing thumbs. With air travel now taken by a vastly increased number of people, all over the world, basic hygiene could be the definitive feature of survival.

So, what ‘souvenirs’ might you be bringing back from your exotic holiday?

The Woman with a Worm in her Head is published by Fusion Press and available from Amazon

A couple of books about health when travelling we have found useful are:

<a href=”The Virgin Travel Health Handbook: Sound Advice for Anyone Travelling Abroad"" “>The Virgin Travel Health Handbook, Michael Wright, ISBN 0-7535-0748-X
<a href=”The Rough Guide to Travel Health"" “> The Rough Guide to Travel Health by Dr Nick Jones, ISBN 1-85828-570-4

Val Reynolds Brown, editor


Good Health – The Influence of Sitcoms & Drama Series

Good health and its maintenance concerns most of us, although it seems women take the greatest interest. This was graphically highlighted in a recent survey of couples that found men took little or no responsibility at all for how healthy they were, leaving their diet and choice of food up to their partner. Amazingly more than half the men consulted their partner before having a drink and three quarters asked her before eating unhealthy food which would seem to indicate some awareness of the importance of good health but a preference for relying on their partner’s advice.

So where do women go to build up that bank of knowledge they need to keep their family healthy. Well, family, magazines, friends, the web, but it seems the most influential are tv sitcoms and drama series where scriptwriters take on topical health issues, based on contemporary medical research and findings. And it would seem we take them seriously, rather than regarding them as fiction, thereby getting positive health messages across effectively.

With the most popular TV drama series with powerful plotlines in the US off air during the summer EverydayHealth, one of the most comprehensive and accessible health websites we have found, looks at next season’s content and questions the general view of the unhealthiness of mindless tv soap addiction.



PARENTHOOD is an NBC drama with humour grounded by the difficulties of parenthood and the next series includes a father confronting his son’s emotional issues the son having been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. By the way if you are interested in one of the most inspiring accounts we have read do have a look at Look Me in the Eye written by John Elder Robison. A compulsive read.

Army Wives

Army Wives

ARMY WIVES on ET on Lifetime, focusses on a very fit and seemingly healthy wife who receives a diagnosis of diabetes. This is particularly topical in the light of the huge increase of diabetes in the Western world.

The Big C - Showtime

The Big C - Showtime

THE BIG C Showtime puts a young woman in the limelight, chronicling her way of dealing with a diagnosis of melanoma with just a year to live. Who hasn’t been touched by someone with cancer and wondering how they would cope with a similar diagnosis?

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

BREAKING BAD, an AMC drama, relating how a high school chemistry teacher reacts in an unconventional and fearless way to provide money for his family when he dies.



A musical drama by Fox, GLEE, has two storylines, one that develops the character playing a student with Down Syndrome at McKinley High School, the other explores the mental illness of one of its teachers. Two storylines with strong human interest threads. This is the show that had Gwyneth Paltrow as a feisty teacher last season.

The United States of Tara

The United States of Tara

UNITED STATES OF TARA, another Showtime drama, portrays a character with dissociative identity disorder (DID), once known as multiple personality disorder one of the lesser known afflictions .

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Learning to Live with Asperger’s Syndrome: A Real Life Story

Look me in the EyeDoes it make you feel uneasy if someone you are talking to avoids looking at you, direct eye to eye contact?

Is that learned behaviour on your part, or instinctive? Most psychologists would say it was learned, that you had experienced it before and been puzzled and made some assumptions – they are uncomfortable with you, they are guilty of something and they don’t want to look at you for instance.

But what of the person who is avoiding the eye contact? Do they have something to hide, or are they simply not wanting to make any kind of contact with you? Are they painfully shy?

John Elder Robison has written an account of his life from when he realised he was different from other people. Unable to make eye contact or connect with other children and by the time he was a teenager his odd habits – an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, behave obsessively – and earned the label social deviant.

I found this book hard to put down and spent most of a day and evening reading it cover to cover. I have come across people who displayed some of the behaviours described by Robison, who was eventually identified as having Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 40 and who eventually was able to work hard to communicate and be able to socialise with greater ease.

This fascinating book, a New York Times bestseller, mixes ascerbic wit with painful honesty, wry humour and clarity. It should help to break down some barriers to understanding the behaviour of anyone within the autistic spectrum. More importantly I think it should help anyone with Asperger’s syndrome to manage their interactions with their peers and society in general better and be more able to successfully survive the slings and arrows that life throws at us all.

Published by Ebury Press, 2008, available from Amazon Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

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