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Blame it on Scotland!


Tuesday, January 08, 2013



18 months ago today, the 8th of July, 2011, I returned home from three beautiful weeks in Scotland. My legs were swollen and I could barely breathe. I was inclined to blame the long air trip---but really--I had flown many times before without particular suffering. I had to think about Scotland. It's beautiful and majestic. We got to visit the cities and the country. We went to the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides and the Highlands. We saw Glamis Castle, home to both Macbeth and the Queen Mum. We visited St. Andrews where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went to university. Loch Ness. Churches, castles, tartans, whiskey--everything beautiful made by man and nature.

BUT---for some reason that shocks me now, I kept saying things like "We are in Skye, we need to have a Scottish pudding" or "We have to have a celebratory meal because this is where the Queen Mother lived" or "Zara Philips is getting married just down the street; we must have a dinner in her honor" etc. I did not miss out on the joys of Scotland entirely but I mediated the trip through my ideals of eating. Trifle. Caledonian Cream. Cranachan. Strathbogie Mist. Clootie Dumplings. Highland Flummery. Not to mention the rich, creamy, salty Cullen Skink to commence each meal!

Did I really travel so far just to eat dessert? Evidently so. My husband would climb up on some of the mountains in the highlands, on well-worn paths and I would stand at the bottom, out of breath and puzzle over why other people--men and women well in their 60s and 70s and perhaps older--were also navigating the steepness with ease.
Yet I could barely go 10 paces.

Scotland was beautiful but the fact is that I experienced it through eating, through reading travel guides and history books, and through asking my husband to describe what he had seen on those vistas.

Back to the 8th of July, when we returned home. I had to go to the doctor who told me that I had serious heart failure and very low oxygen count--92. 92? I was in denial. 92 is like a very high A- grade. So what? That's no A-, lady. That's bordering on Acute Respiratory Distress. I had to think. Why was I huffing and puffing when our hotel room was on the second floor? Why was my husband able to essay the Royal Mile in Edinburgh with ease, but I needed to "rest" every few minutes?


I was dying of heart failure, diabetes, and obesity exacerbated by sweet pudding mania. I saw Scotland not as beautiful castles and lakes but as beautiful desserts, castles, and lakes. In that order.

18 months later I am very unlikely to eat any sweets. I am rarely tempted. I still have heart failure, but I have not been routinely out of breath in ages. I've lost somewhere between 40-45 pounds (it's a bit difficult to calculate because I had to invest in a new scale--the old scale put me at a generous 7-9 pounds BELOW my "real" weight).

And when I first stepped on the elliptical machine almost 18 months ago I simply could not get it to move. Now I can go for 60 minutes and would manage to do it longer except that my gym likes it when people don't hog the machines.

Mostly, my dedication to Spark and to tracking has also paid off. I can see measurable results. The idea of spending time and money on travel just to sample the desserts strikes me as the most vacuous and ridiculous form of tourism! Scotland, you really showed me that I was not worthy of your majesties and that I needed to change.



Thank you for all of the responses! I will post on my Roman Redemption of 2012 soon--I can hardly recall any of the food I ate but I certainly felt fit and energetic throughout!
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MORTICIAADDAMS 1/10/2013 6:55PM

    My family is Scottish but no haggis for me. LOL.

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LIBBYL1 1/10/2013 12:39AM

  Time to go back - and this time you will get to the top?

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CURTIOSITY 1/9/2013 11:14PM

    What a splendid blog - thank you! Have you ever seen the movie Rivers and Tides about Brit artist Andy Goldsworthy? - he lives and works in Scotland. I don't know you at all, but I have a gut feeling that the film would touch you.


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LISAMG1220 1/9/2013 2:19PM

    Great Blog!!

I completely understand and can relate! It seems like every trip, family get together, night out always centers around food. I search out the best restaurant spots for days before we take a trip or before we go out for a date. In my family we were raised that good food makes it fun and are a bunch of closet foodies. This is a tough habit to break, it is always a work in progress!

Thankfully the Scotland trip got you to focus on your health! :)

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EXOTEC 1/9/2013 2:01PM

    I'm thoroughly enamored of Scotland, too! My experience was a lifetime ago: my mother took me on a graduation gift vacation through Britain (well, excluding Ireland, alas). It was one of those whirlwind bus tours, but it was still very worth it to me, since I had no experience with the country at all.

I went to Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare! and we saw a play!), Stonehenge, all the touristy things in London (sigh), and of course lots of road time on the bus seeing the countryside. I think I liked that part the best: the beautiful unmortared stone walls, cows the size of small elephants, the cool mistiness of the land... so many wonderful memories!

We started out in Edinborough, and while most of the rest of the "team" were arriving and recuperating from the long transAtlantic flight, they took those of us who were willing on a short afternoon's bus tour round the moors. I was immediately captivated and enthralled. The beautiful colors, the wildness; I never wanted to leave. Let the rest go on the bus tour. Come back here to Scotland and pick me up on the way home! lol

One of my fond memories of the trip was a little side excursion along the road to the bus driver's mother's house in Devon. She served us a proper high tea with delectable finger delights served with homemade preserves and lemon curd and clotted cream made from the cows right across the lane. Nirvana.

The majority of the tour we were served basic fare - not even particularly upscale basic fare. I remember lots of mutton. I didn't care for it to begin with, but it grows on you. I prefer it to lamb now, but can't find it here. Butchers look at you with a queer expression when you ask for mutton! I did splurge and ask for beef once or twice, but it just didn't have the desired effect. We went to a McD's in London...and let me tell you, Brits DO NOT understand ketchup as we serve it! I took the (Heinz) bottle and turned it up with a tap over my burger and the entire watery liquid emptied itself onto my plate and tray and thence to the floor. I noted some smirks nearby. I thought that was uncalled-for! Another fond memory was a restaurant somewhere along the way by the name of "The Tickled Trout," an apt name, since the staff would take you down the lawn to the little trickle of a stream and go in and tickle one to cook! What an experience. Needless to say, the lunch took pretty much all afternoon!

I do love to experience other cultures through their food. The real foods, not the recipes we bring home and *call* ethnic foods. Stuff from food carts (even when I worry about whether it will create some sort of revenge in my gut!). Little hole-in-the-wall cookeries. Best of all, homes that open up to a customer or two in their dining rooms and feed you whatever the family is having! But since most of my longings revolve around carbs, I think it's probably serendipity that I'm no longer in a position to do much travelling.

Although, I'm sorely tempted by pony trekking in Ireland!

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SCCUDDLERS 1/9/2013 7:12AM

    Wonderful post! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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EMMACORY 1/8/2013 10:35PM

    You have come a long ways! You have gained insight and I appreciate you sharing it with us all. Your next trip will find you among those doing the walking, hiking and climbing! emoticon emoticon

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OJ_2_OK 1/8/2013 8:38PM

    This blog really touched me and I felt very emotional throughout reading. I am so happy for all your progress, keep up the great work. And if I haven't said it before, you are a fantastic writer.

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PAULKNUTH 1/8/2013 8:30PM

    Good thing you did not go to Italy!!!

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MONETRUBY 1/8/2013 6:10PM

    This was lovely! I am so glad that you are now in a much healthier place.

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EJOY-EVELYN 1/8/2013 5:25PM

    What a terrific testimonial to living the good life and the difference eating and moving healthy can create. Good move on your part to finally see the light!

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CARRAND 1/8/2013 1:37PM

    Good for you! You've really taken charge of your life.

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POPSY190 1/8/2013 1:16PM

    Rationalizing bad habits is something we all do at times! Isn't it wonderful now to see so clearly the skewed thinking involved? Good to hear about the health improvements. emoticon

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LE7_1234 1/8/2013 12:20PM

    Oh, please go back to Scotland, now that you can see more than the food... Go back to Skye, where you go around each bend thinking it can't possibly get any more beautiful... And it does. Even when you get back to the beginning. :-)

And thank you, thank you for sharing your journey--physical and otherwise.

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GRACEMCDOG 1/8/2013 12:16PM

    Oh, my. I can SO relate to over-doing the gastronomical aspects of a beloved culture. I've been equally torn between wanting to spend a month in Tuscany and being terrified that I'd succumb to constant temptation. Or France??? Forget about it! Well, like you, I now feel so much stronger, knowledgeable and 'in control' that I can actually contemplate travel to the culinary wonders of the world without worrying about coming back in full-blown diabetes. I'm so happy for you that you're managing the heart issues so well. An hour on the elliptical is nothin' to sneeze at.

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PARASELENIC 1/8/2013 11:55AM

    I'm with HHB: If you can do another trip, this time taking on the trails, what a lovely way to come full circle, to re-experience and redefine scotland for you. It can not only be your wake-up call, it can be a milestone of progress, too.

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HHB4181 1/8/2013 11:40AM

    Sounds like you need another trip!

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KASEYCOFF 1/8/2013 11:31AM

    Burns Night is coming, sweetie - I don't do "real" haggis, tho Himself has no qualms. I go for a vegetarian version, as I've seldom met an oat I didn't like.

Oh, Scotland! I love Scotland! I wanted to retire to Inverness or Aviemore, but he dissuaded me, and probably a good thing, as the last couple of years have seen me growing ever more sensitive to cold. I probably couldn't take Scotland these days, except for a month or two in the very middle of summer - as if there's ever much of a heatwave anywhere in the British Isles, Torquay notwithstanding, lol...

There's a tiny house across Loch Duich from Eilean Donan with my name on it. It's called The Ferryman's Cottage, and was granted as partial-payment to the hired boatman who ran the mail and freight (and probably the occasional passenger) across to Totaig. No ferry there anymore, and the cottage is abandoned.

When you're ready to go back, you let me know. We're just outside of Manchester, and I'd have no problem heading north to meet up. My goal is to see John o'Groats. No reason, particularly, mostly just to say I've been from Land's End to John o'Groats.
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p.s. Oh, and Skara Brae - Skara Brae's on my list, as I so want to get there before they close it to foot traffic!

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LIVINGFREE19 1/8/2013 11:10AM

    That would be awesome to see Scotland! You are very lucky to have seen it, and to have had the doctor give you the 'news'.
Great job so far!

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-LINDA_S 1/8/2013 11:06AM

    Beautiful blog, and how great it is you heard the wake-up call and acted on it! Now I'm wondering if my swollen ankles and feet by the end of my cruise were a warning of something...although I'm not usually too out of breath. Bears looking into, I guess. I should go to yoga early and do some biking! Thanks!

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LIBBYG7 1/8/2013 10:22AM

    First of all ....Lucky you to have seen the beauty of Scotland. I've always wanted to go.
And second; how lucky to have that epiphany - that got you to the doctor; that got you to lose all that weight; that got you so much more healthy!!

Yes, that trip to Scotland, tasty tho' it was, was also a life-saver . Here's to many more, healthy, trips.....!!!

Libby emoticon

Comment edited on: 1/8/2013 10:22:40 AM

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DAP1313 1/8/2013 10:08AM

    Wow, good for you for losing the weight and taking care of yourself. I hope you get to go to Scotland again to see the sights.

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AMARILYNH 1/8/2013 10:03AM

    Wonderful blog!! I'm thinking your NEXT visit to Scotland is going to put that one to shame!! I too have learned the joy of seeing exercise done at home every day pay big dividends while on vacation - in fact after our visit to several National Parks in the western US in 2011 my DH quit teasing me about my long walks and started increasing his own mileage, all because I was less tired at the end of a long day of hiking than he was. Exercise does a LOT more than help us lose weight!! emoticon

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AELI2468 1/8/2013 9:57AM

    You have come a LONG way from where you were in scotland!! Keep up the great work! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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