Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, the joy of home ownership and the occasional rant!


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The New Me – Documented

With my whole lifestyle change over the last couple of years I was wanting to get some proper, professional photographs of myself.  I wanted some headshots (I act occasionally and needed at least one proper one), some suitable for business use and promotion, and some just for my own satisfaction – to show how I’ve changed physically.

Other than school photos or those horrible family photo sessions, I had never had a professional photo shoot of myself for my own reasons.  I have photos taken by pros but I was an accidental subject, or the photos were for someone else’s use (for magazine profiles for example.)  I have some very nice photos – but they were of the “old” me.

So this past Sunday I finally had my photo shoot with MAJ Photography (her website is this link) in Grande Prairie. Maj had taken my photo before at different times and I knew she is great at portraits and getting natural looking shots of all sorts of people. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

This is one she took for a magazine feature about me in 2013.

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And this next one she took when we were both at a local event last December. I was wearing my new coat and asked her to take some photos of it for me.

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We finally got it coordinated and last Sunday was the day!

I had a mini-crisis trying to decide what to wear. Even with a closet full of new clothes I had a hard time choosing. I hadn’t actually realized HOW many tops I’d managed to acquire in the last eight months or so – since I got to my current size. I counted all of them while I was trying things on to pick out what I thought were the best. Keep in mind that there are a couple dozen $5 t-shirts from Michael’s, but I have probably around 70 tops. That includes turtlenecks for winter, sweaters, fleeces, blouses, tunics, and Aloha shirts… Some were my mom’s and now fit me so I kept them.  And some are oversized that I’ve kept for gardening and messing around with crafts, etc.

Anyhow… after a marathon session of trying on various things, I narrowed it down to eight tops I liked and thought looked really nice. I left the final choice to the photographer. When she got here she chose four of them – based on the backgrounds and contrast needed.

We were at it for four hours!  Started in my basement studio with two different backgrounds – the painted wall and my black backdrop. Then we went to a local park as it was a beautiful Spring day, in front of the Courthouse, then inside the Art Gallery in three different spots, then outside the Cultural Centre on the patio.  We were all over the place.

Maj was really fast getting the images to me! We did the shoot Sunday afternoon and I had the files by Tuesday afternoon.

I am beyond thrilled with how they turned out.  Maj sent me close to 40 shots to use and all are great, but I have my favourites.

These three are for using for promoting my make-up services.  I was sitting sideways in my make-up chair leaning over the back in the two.

This was a studio shot.

Maj Photography (20 of 37)

The rest of these were taken at the park, in front of the Courthouse, in the Art Gallery and on the Cultural Centre patio.  I love the natural light – and my beautiful blouse from Morocco looks great with my leggings and boots.  This is a bit of overkill with multiple shots but I love them all and couldn’t narrow it down any further.

The fact that I actually got down and sat on the floor is a testament to Maj’s skill, as I don’t get down that low for just anyone!  Getting up involved railings and a lot of leverage.

I think this is my favourite – I am adjusting to how I look as it is still so new to me. Losing 200 pounds is a lot of difference.

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The new me, to-date

Had my monthly weigh and measure at the gym on Friday.  And we took some “after” photos… well, it isn’t after really, as I am still doing everything I have been so let’s call them “progress” photos!

This shows me in 2002 around the time I was told I was pre-diabetic – I had already lost a bit of weight at the time of the time of the photo; middle was in October 2005 and my weight was documented at 274.6 lbs; and third is Friday at 173 lbs.

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We figure I probably maxed out around 375 when I was at my largest… but no weight records exist… but compare the above to this photo taken in 2000, shortly after I arrived in Grande Prairie:

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That means I’ve managed to lose about 200 lbs. since moving up here almost 17 years ago.

Initially it was just a change in lifestyle – no more lattes or second breakfasts on the way to work, packing a lunch as going out to buy it wasn’t convenient, jobs with some physical activity involved.  Then, a more conscious effort to control my health by cutting out excess sugar, etc. The loss of the first 100 was not a specific diet, just a collection of changes that resulted in the loss over a period of about five years.

Over the next ten years my weight would fluctuate depending on my activity level, which was directly tied to the jobs I had.  Working graveyard shift on my feet netted a drop of about 30 lbs over a couple of months.  Working in retail also caused weight loss and better fitness levels.

Stress would change my eating habits too, causing weight changes.  After Neil died I dropped some, and both times mom was in the hospital I lost quite a bit.

Then since December 2015 when I completely changed my way of eating to Low Carb High Fat to control my diabetes I have lost another 62 lbs. (so far!)

The weight loss has slowed considerably now, which is what I was expecting to happen. I’m now only dropping a couple of pounds a month, rather than the 10 I was losing to start with.  With the slower drop I am noticing that some of the loose skin is tightening up a bit and my muscle mass is increasing with going to the gym regularly.

In my photo from Friday I am wearing my size 12 yoga pants and a medium top!  That’s pretty exciting for me.  I get teased at the gym as I tend to wear oversized (XL men’s sweat pants and 3XL t-shirts!) to workout in, but I have them so I am wearing them until they are ready for the garbage or won’t stay up!  I only wear the skinny clothes for measuring days and photo ops!

My regular wardrobe is all new – all old items have been donated, recycled or thrown out. I still need to get a new heavy winter coat for -40C.  What I have now are not rated for that, but I wanted to wait until I needed it to make sure I got a nice fitting one. I used to always wear men’s winter gear – this year I am getting women’s!

 


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LCHF My Way

When my doctor told me I was diabetic just three days before Christmas 2015 he reviewed my test results with me, then gave me prescriptions for the required equipment for blood monitoring and for Metformin (at the lowest dose – starting on half of that to make sure I didn’t react to it.)  Other than that, I was left to figure the rest out myself.

I already knew carbohydrates were my nemesis. I had been informed I was pre-diabetic back in 2002 and at that time had gone to “diabetes school” at the hospital and routinely tested my blood sugar for a month.  That showed that carbs were not my friends.  I went for regular blood work (every four months) for a number of years and was always in range so I stopped going for the tests.

In hindsight, that wasn’t my best idea.  If I had continued with the tests I could probably have stopped the progression to full-blown Type 2 diabetes, the diabetic retinopathy and the other issues.  But… it is what it is.

So I started my prescription and pricking my finger half a dozen times a day while researching diets and meal planning.  I have to say there are a lot of really bad diet plans being touted as “diabetic”… and by the diabetic organizations which shocked me.  Even with my limited knowledge I KNEW I could NOT eat carbs at every meal and every snack and still manage to lower my blood sugar.

In doing my research online I skimmed over different diets like Paleo and Ketogenic.  The no carb aspect made a lot of sense to me, but there were aspects of both I wasn’t interested in.

Right away I cut sugar completely out of my diet.  It wasn’t difficult for me.  While I liked sweets I never craved them.  I preferred savory treats most of the time – like potato chips! I didn’t use sweeteners in my coffee or tea, didn’t add sugar to anything, etc. so it wasn’t really something that caused me any problem.  And I haven’t been tempted at all.

And sugar includes pretty much all fruit as well for me.  The only things I seem to be able to manage are Mott’s Unsweetened Apple Sauce – it is the only brand that doesn’t cause a spike in my blood sugar (I think it is the type of apple they use) and a tablespoon of mashed strawberries mixed into plain full fat yoghurt that I make frozen yoghurt pops with.  I tried other fruit and I can’t manage it.  I do miss watermelon, I admit.

And I can eat one square of a Lindt 85% Cocoa Chocolate Bar without any effect on my blood sugar – that is my occasional treat.

I also do not use sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners.  A lot of things are actually quite sweet once your taste buds adapt – like milk and cream and cream cheese!

For the first couple of weeks I TRIED to keep carbs in my diet to a certain extent – a piece of whole wheat toast with my egg for breakfast, Wasa bread with cream cheese for lunch, six potato chips with dip… Unfortunately they all caused significant spikes in my blood sugar.

To me, increasing the medication was NOT an option.  My goal is to get off of medication, not increase it.  So, as I did not want to go blind or worse, with regret I cut out all the carbs.

I went through the house, removing all the food that I could no longer eat.  I gave it all away – pasta, popcorn, chips, crackers, canned soups, canned beans, flour, rice, tortillas, noodles, bread, buns, frozen peas/corn, potatoes, carrots, frozen fries, frozen dinners, breaded chicken/fish, sauces, juices, candy – there was a LOT of stuff.

I did try to use brown rice flour, amaranth flour, rye flour in place of white flour – but nope, still caused my blood sugar to spike.  I tried to make “low” carb versions of oatmeal cookies with no sugar – they were really excellent (recipe is shared on the blog here) but two cookies caused a 6 point spike!

I spent a fortune buying coconut flour, almond flour, etc. to make carb-less “substitutes.” What a waste of money and time! Practically all of the recipes in no way resembled what they claimed to be.  One was sort of okay, but barely.

It only took me about a month and a half to give up on carbs and the so-called replacements for them.  I just accepted that those things are no longer part of my life, and moved on.

I read about the LCHF – low carb, high fat – diet, or rather, lifestyle.  That made a lot of sense to me.  I was already pretty much eating according to that description by then.  I don’t follow it exactly, but it is the closest to how I am eating.

My intake of vegetables increased substantially, and with every meal. But no potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, parsnips, beets, yams, etc.  I eat very little tomato – it is a fruit and therefore high in sugar. Celery and cucumbers became my best friends.

I kept all the dairy – full fat as always: butter, cheese of all types, yoghurt, sour cream, 18% m.f. coffee cream.  But never pre-grated cheeses due to the cellulose that is added to it – I can’t digest it.

Protein with every meal and as snacks – pork (ham, bacon, roast, sausages, chops, ribs, etc.), lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs (lots of eggs), bison, cured meat like turkey pepperoni and European wieners, fish, etc.  I can’t eat beef due to an allergy.

And after over eight months of eating this way it is completely normal for me.  I have no interest in eating carbs or “cheating” in any way at all.  I’ve even made cookies and things for other people without the slightest interest in licking my fingers.

That’s not to say I don’t miss potatoes, I do. But I’d rather be healthy.

I like to try out interesting food combinations and spices. I make my own spice blends. I eat a lot of frittatas and omelettes with various ingredients, I coat pork chops and chicken with seasoned ground almonds, I make lots of stir-fries.  I cook with butter, olive oil, and peanut oil.  And I don’t miss the carbs that would usually accompany things anymore.

I get inspired by recipes I see and experiment. You can take the carbs out of recipes and make them anyway – like, no breadcrumbs in meatloaf, or no flour or cornstarch as thickeners in sauces.  Some work well, others need adjusting.  That’s why I call it experimenting.

My next experiment is a low carb, no tomato, vegetable lasagna this weekend – stay tuned for a post if it turns out!

For snacks I eat things like nuts, hard-boiled eggs, baked parmesan chips, celery with unsweetened peanut butter or cream cheese, seaweed, cheese, veggies with dips like tzatziki or guacamole and turkey pepperoni.

What I’ve discovered is that I am not hungry anymore.  I don’t need a snack during the day, and lately I don’t have anything after dinner most nights either.  This apparently is because my blood sugars aren’t spiking and plummeting due to eating carbs and sugar any longer, based on what I’ve been reading.

It is all interesting and quite amazing how this is changing my life.  My blood sugar is in range all the time – I am still on Metformin but hope to get off it (I see my doctor in October for my next check-up.)  And since December I’ve lost 57 pounds.  My goal was not to lose weight, although it was a desired result given my situation, but it is a side-effect of the low carb, high fat way of eating.

I’ve also been going to Curves since January which increased my activity level and am feeling a lot healthier and have a lot more stamina.  I recently started adding the treadmill to my workouts and each day cover a longer distance.  I’ve no plans to pump iron or run races, but would love to tighten up the sagging butt!  The loose skin from such a big drop in weight at my age is quite… um, let’s just say I will never wear shorts or sleeveless tops in public – not that I ever have, but, you know…

This is me in 2002 vs 2016 – over 100 lbs difference.

2002 vs 2016

 

 

 

 


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Summer thoughts and deeds

Last weekend I was face painting at Grizfest Music Festival in Tumbler Ridge, BC.  I have been there every year since 2005!  It is a nice weekend in a beautiful little town in the mountains.  We get to paint and listen to great music while we work.  We drive up there Saturday morning (three-hour drive), paint for five hours on Saturday and Sunday, and drive home on Monday.  I always enjoy the trip – even driving through blinding rain and thunderstorms, forest fires, and snow – depending on the year.

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This year Tom Cochrane was the headliner on Saturday (we ran into him in the lobby of the hotel!) and Simple Plan was the main act on Sunday.

On July 13th my crew and I face painted at Municipal Government Day at Muskoseepi Park (which had been rescheduled from June due to a massive storm!)  This photo by William Vavrek Photography is of the line-up of people waiting for face painting.  The City events at the Park are always busy!

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We were there on Canada Day too.  And so was William Vavrek Photography!  I am too busy to stop to take photos so thankfully someone is there to take some!

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Next weekend I will be face painting at the Debolt Festival & Fair on Saturday.

The weather has been really damp here – thunderstorms, massive rain.  I actually put my furnace on yesterday as the damp was making it quite chilly and I needed to warm up the air in the house.  Yesterday there were thunderstorms for 10 hours straight… one after the other rolled in.  Everything is nice and green… but too wet to mow!  On the positive side I don’t have to haul the hose around to water the garden.

In other news things are progressing – still dropping weight as a result of removing carbs and sugar from my diet, blood sugar is staying in the normal range and I am still receiving injections in my eyes to treat diabetic retinopathy (apparently it is working and once it it fixed the injections stop.)

This is of me in 2000 and me last Saturday.  The change was really gradual, and in spurts due to various things.  The big changes due to the diagnosis last December resulted in a 50 lb drop, which is continuing.  I am assuming I will plateau once my body finds it’s preferred level as I am not dieting, per se, just don’t eat things I can’t.

BW before after

I’ve reached the stage where I can actually shop in “normal” stores and buy off-the-rack large and medium clothing… and it FITS!  I’ve never done that.  When I was 10 I was wearing my mother’s clothes.

I keep ending up in the plus size areas – habit I guess.  It is hard to look at things to judge size, but I am slowly getting the hang of it as I have to shop for new things every month I am getting lots of practice.  I’m doing most of the shopping at Giant Tiger or Goodwill – no point in spending a lot when I’m going to be donating things in a month!  I was searching for heavy leggings (heavy as they need to hold things in, like loose skin) and ended up at Bootlegger. I’ve never bought anything there before!

I culled my closet again and dropped off a load at Goodwill this week.  I need to start making sure to wear all the things that fit, WHILE they fit. I get annoyed with myself when I pull out something I bought a couple months ago, never wore, and now it is too big to look nice.

I’m a little sad my Spider-Man and Hulk shirts are too big now.  I’d inherited them from my brother Neil when he died.  I’ve only been able to wear them lately.  The Hulk is just hanging off of me and Spidey probably will only be wearable until the end of this month.  I really love those shirts.  I’ve been looking for similar ones but just don’t see them anywhere.

Oh, and this is exciting – I bought cheap sports bras (two for $12) in large, and they fit!  OMG, they are so comfortable!  There are some things you NEED a bra under and the only one I own is black – and that just doesn’t work for light summer tops!  As I am less than an A-cup I don’t need much.  One of the first things to disappear was whatever bosom I had (which wasn’t much to start with.)

This is 2013 vs this week … anyone interested in a medieval reversible bodice and blouse?

2013 vs 2016

 

 

 

 

 


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Happy dance! (and cheesecake)

I am heading into week two of all “normal” blood sugar readings!  Even my fasting sugars are in the normal range now – they took the longest to get down.

Took four months to get them there.  Four months of NO sugar and NO carbs – which is a permanent change in order to maintain and control the diabetes.

I see my doctor next week for my four month follow-up to the diagnosis in December. I know my A1C won’t reflect the last week’s success but it will definitely be better than the one in December.  But I can look forward to my next one being NORMAL in three to four months!

And the side effect of weight loss is also continuing.  I’m down 30 pounds since Christmas. I had to give in and buy MORE pants.  There were photos of me taken a few weeks ago … I looked like a bag lady – I was horrified.  The clothes were horribly baggy and just awful.  To force myself to stop wearing them I culled my closet, again, and took it all to Goodwill.  Every couple of weeks I try on everything and am bagging up things that are just too big.  I do have a fair selection of tops that do still fit –  so haven’t had to start buying replacements for them yet.  I just don’t want to spend much until I plateau.

I am still experimenting with making up my own recipes!  Yesterday I made a cheesecake – NO added sugar (and no sugar substitutes!)  It is really good – rich, and hits the spot.  It is no bake and really simple.

As I discovered that I can eat 85% cocoa chocolate without any effect on my blood sugar (ONE PIECE, not a whole bar!) I decided to make a base for the cheesecake with melted chocolate and chopped almonds – spread it in the bottom of the dish and put it in the fridge to set.  Then I whipped an 8 oz brick of cream cheese (it was at close to room temp), 1/2 cup of unsweetened peanut butter and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla with my electric handheld mixer until fluffy.

I spread the cheese mixture on top of the base, covered with plastic and put in the fridge for a few hours.   This recipe made a small cake – I made it in a 6″ ramekin – which is four small servings.  I lined the dish with plastic wrap and lifted it out once it was set and put it on a plate to cut.

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I find, with the chocolate base, that it is sweet to my taste.  But… I haven’t eaten anything sweet for four months.  I will make another, this time without the peanut butter and have it with some berries.  I think I want to try baking one too – and use coconut, butter and ground almonds to make a crust (which may end up being more of a crumble but it’s worth a try!)  And maybe flavour the cheese with lemon or lime.

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What a change

I’ve been losing weight due to my diet change.  When you stop eating carbs and sugar that is a side-effect which is usually quite welcome!

I knew the weight was coming off as my pants kept falling off (as covered in my previous post) and I culled my wardrobe of everything that was miles too big and have another load to donate.  And I had to buy new underwear.

I don’t own a scale so every two weeks I get on the scale at the gym so see where I’m at. Last week I was 22 pounds less than I was at Christmas.  I did the math – I’ve been losing 0.255 pounds per DAY.  Kind of boggles the mind.

AND… last week I FINALLY had two blood sugar readings “in range”!  Too bad I can’t have a cake to celebrate.  Kidding.

Yesterday I took a photo of myself, well, I took a photo of the face painting I did on myself for a birthday party I was booked for.  I like to keep photos of the designs I do for reference.  I knew I now had a visible neck and had thinned out a bit in the face but when you look at yourself everyday you don’t see how much of a change there has been.

I went looking for old photos for comparison… Holy crap!

I found one from when I think I was at my heaviest.  It was taken in July 1998 (the month I got my driver’s license  BTW… just some trivia there.)  I don’t actually know how much I weighed as we didn’t own a scale and I preferred not to know.  I had levelled off there and hadn’t changed size for several years – this is the me that wore that sweater and size 28 jeans from the previous post.

Well… here is the old me and the new me who is still a work in progress, 18 years apart.

1998 vs 2016

Almost doesn’t look like the same person… but those dated eyebrows are a dead give-away!


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I didn’t realize

In January of 2000 we moved from Surrey, BC (Vancouver) to Grande Prairie, AB, where we are today.  So I’ve lived here for 16 full years.

It was a bit of a culture shock, let me tell you!  First, the were NO Starbucks or other fancy coffee places – just Timmies (which gives me a stomach ache.)  Shopping choices were somewhat limited compared to the Lower Mainland of BC.  And a big lack of true ethnic restaurants.  Thankfully things have improved since 2000.

Living and working here changed my daily habits – no more picking up a “second breakfast” when I got off the train, no more multiple vanilla lattes during the workday, and no more lunches out everyday.

I was taking my lunch to work so it was therefore a lot healthier.  I wasn’t having lattes at all.  And a complete change of routine including staircases at work or physical job requirements.

When I arrived in Grande Prairie I was a size 28.  As most people of large size are wont to do, I had a wardrobe of things that fit, things that used to fit and things that never fit – but maybe one day they will.

It was a gradual change for the most part.  Things would get big so I’d start wearing the “used to fit.”  Then after a few years I realized I was in the things that “never fit” and had to buy new clothes.  I gave away my whole pre-Grande Prairie wardrobe – except for one pair of jeans and a sweater that I wore to work when we moved here.

This is the sweater laying on a twin bed… I really wore that, and it fit me.

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About eight years ago I realized I’d lost my ass somewhere.  All my pants were baggy in the butt and women’s slacks just did not fit me properly.  So I started buying and wearing men’s dress slacks and jeans as they fit nicely.

And clothing of my brother’s that I’d kept after he died, I could wear – Spiderman shirts, sweat pants – and actually do up the buttons!

Then I was taking care of mom after her stroke and wasn’t paying attention to myself as much, and my clothes got baggy again.  Gave away stuff periodically to cull and bought a few new things here and there.

Then last summer during mom’s hospital stay and death I noticed that all my clothes were, again, baggy.  But I didn’t have the inclination to buy new things at that point.

Then in December I discovered I had to change my diet for medical reasons, the result being a pretty quick drop of a considerable amount of weight.  And serious problems keeping my pants up.

So… yesterday I was out shopping and as I hiked up my jeans for the umpteenth time decided to go buy ONE pair of jeans to tide me over until I plateau.  So I went into the store and a salesclerk approached me right away.  Told her I needed a pair of jeans that fit, as I pulled the loose fabric of the pair I was wearing out into wings.

She asked what size… no idea, so we started with a 20.  And she had to make a couple trips for smaller sizes.

Total shock.  Size 16… SIXTEEN.  I think the last time I fit a 16 was 1979, after I’d lost 84 lbs in high school and enlisted in the army.

I dug my old jeans out of my tickle trunk to compare them to my new SIZE SIXTEEN jeans…

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Then I got into my old jeans… in ONE LEG!

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I’ve started morning workouts too, as well as the change to my diet, so who knows where this will end.

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