Friday before last, I had a Grand Day Out – I hopped onto the train early in the morning to go to Lorsch, or rather to Lauresham, in preparation for the European Textile Forum.

Usually, we have this little conference in Mayen, at the Lab for Experimental Archaeology, but this year, LEA is due for some construction works. As it was not entirely clear in time when those works would be finished, we had to find an alternative place to hold the Forum, to be on the safe side.

To my great delight, as I have fond memories of working on archaeological digs in Lorsch, the good people at the Open-Air Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology Lauresham offered us their place to be. Because going to the venue for a visit is always a good thing (you don’t want to plan a conference blind!), after figuring out most of the things that needed figuring out via mail and phone, off I was to meet with Claus Kropp, the leader of the Lab.

The place where we will be for our conference (at least mostly) is the Visitor Info Centre, which looks a bit like a glass house:

When you are closer, you can see that it’s actually not a glass house to grow plants, but to grow knowledge:

There are rooms in the blocks inside for working, and things such as conferences, or school events, or small exhibitions. There’s also space for exhibitions in the corridor, which – with all that glass – is very light and spacious-feeling. We will be a very happy group in that place!

There is, of course, also a little museum shop where you can get all kinds of things: honey made by bees on the location (bees are important in Lauresham, not least because there is a manuscript with a bee-keeping prayer written in Lorsch in the 9th century), mugs with an artistic rendition of Lauresham, ceramic mugs and music instruments and piggy banks…

…and you can even buy a reproduction of a pin found directly in Lorsch, dating to the 8th/9th century:

Besides checking out this building, I also got treated to a tour of the grounds of Lauresham proper. It was absolutely beautiful – there’s a small vinyard, there are fields tilled with reconstructed ploughs using the working animals in Lauresham. The grains that are farmed here are of course old and often very rare kinds, such as this special type of rye, Waldstaudenroggen:

There are also Valais Blackneck goats, a very old breed:

Lauresham, as an ideal-typical reconstruction of an early medieval manor farm also has a small chapel, with a door modelled after an original 8th century find from Germany:

More from my visit tomorrow!

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As promised yesterday, here are a few more weighty (hah!) or so thoughts, and a bit of background.

As I child, I was normal-weight, and fairly active. All during school, I stayed at normal weight, with fluctuations between summer and winter; but I started getting heavier and heavier with the reduced activity and different eating habits that came with moving away from home and studying.

Over the years that followed, my weight went up, and up, and up – and due to a lot of diet myths that I had bought into, taking them as facts, I never believed that I could do anything against this.

I lost a good bit of weight when I went on a three week trip during my PhD study time, looking at textiles in Scandinavia and Finland; I also lost some weight when I had to deal with food intolerances and was trying to find out what I could eat, and what did not sit well. However, after these stints, I inevitably returned to my old eating habits, and the consequence was, of course, that I gained back the weight I had lost.

The turning point came in January 2016, when a friend pointed me to the book “Fettlogik überwinden” (which, by the way, has come out in English recently; it is called “Conquering Fat Logic” and published by Scribe). You can read more about this in the post from January 2016, if it interests you. It took me from January to June to get down from a BMI of almost 39 to the upper edge of normal, BMI 25, and another few months to lose the remaining few kilos and reach my goal weight – that happened in September.

So… you already know that I still have to keep an eye on what I eat, and how much. This can be irksome, and I’d prefer to live in a rainbow-coloured wonderland where I can just have all the chocolate that I want and eat whatever and not pay attention and still be slim, and strong, and healthy. Who wouldn’t? However, I’ve come to the conclusion that this will never happen for me, and it is probably not going to happen with most people. (I have a friend who has to watch what he eats closely, because otherwise he’ll eat too little, which is no better than eating too much.)

For a good while, I was sort of annoyed about this need to pay attention, but fairly recently, I realised that this is kind of a nutty thing to be. I have to pay attention to spend my time wisely, too, after all – every single day. There’s only so many hours in a day, and if I get sidetracked too much and dawdle on random internet sites, I am going to get into trouble with the rest of my plans. I’ve never seen this as an annoying unfair thing, though. Budgeting my time wisely, or my money wisely, or my calories wisely – they are very similar to each other, and while I may have dreams about having inexhaustible amounts of time and money, I have never seen not having them as unfair, much in contrast to not having inexhaustible eating capabilities. Weird, right?

Realising that weirdness has helped me to mostly come to terms with that – I might still grumble quietly about not having enough calorie budget, but more in a way of how I grumble about not having enough money to spend on fancy things that I don’t really need.

Another thing that I recently realised is that, in one way of looking at it, I am actually… a diet failure.

You probably have read, and heard, about this “95% of diets fail, because people gain back weight afterwards”, right? Well. Technically, I am also falling in that category… because I am, today, about 2 kg above the weight from the end of my diet. Which makes me someone who re-gained weight after finishing… if you do a survey that only asks about gain, and not about how much. (There were a few occasions during the last three years when I had re-gained a little bit more, by the way, but I was able to cut back for a while again, returning to tracking calories, and got it under control once more.)

If you ask me, though, I’ll tell you that I would consider gaining back a little bit of what I have lost is not making me a failure at all. And even if I would have re-gained some more – how many people manage to stop smoking on their very first try? How often do you fall off a bicycle when you are learning how to ride? How many knitters never have to rip back a bit, or a lot, because things did not turn out to be the correct gauge, or the correct fit after all?

Is that a reason to just give up before you even start? Of course not. Learning something is rarely easy all the way through – but it’s always worth the effort, and finding out how to eat the right amount for what you are, and do, and want to be, is a kind of learning, too. It gets easier over time. It is easier if you have support. There will be days when it seems like nothing budges, but there will also be days when things suddenly feel in the flow. Whatever you do – don’t give up on your goals. Go for it. If you fail – try again. Sometimes it just takes a lot of small steps, but every little step in the right direction brings you closer – and at least you won’t have to wonder about what could have happened if you hadn’t given up.

Here you go. Ramble over – now this blog will go back to its more usual topics!

Posted in health, personal stuff | 2 Comments

It’s a personal one, and it’s a health-related one, and I am very happy about this, so you are going to get a long and rambling post. Or two.

Exactly three years ago today, I stepped on the scales in the morning, and for the first time in I don’t know how long, I was in the “normal weight” range. And now it’s three years later… and I feel like writing a bit more about all this. Which means you’re getting a post about weight and health stuff today and on Monday – in hopes that it might be interesting to you, or maybe even helpful.

First things first, though: Pictures.

This is me, a little less than three years ago, in September – that is shortly after reaching goal weight:

And this is me, last week. I tried to get a similar body position, and, of course, I mostly failed. So there’s a blurry pic that is sort of similar:

and a not so blurry pic that is even less similar:

As you can see, there’s not much obvious change. I am about 2 kg above the goal weight that I had set, which doesn’t make me tremendously happy, but I’m also not motivated enough at the moment to do a serious calorie reduction stint (which, for me, means I have to measure and weigh the things I eat to closely track calories, because I’m still not good at estimating stuff to eat under maintenance).

The not so obvious things are these: Both being overweight and then obese and finally seriously obese for years, and doing the hardcore weight-reduction diet for nine months have left their traces, physical as well as mental. I have stretch marks on some spots of my body (I actually got a few stretch marks from growths spurts when I was a teenager, my connective tissue is not top of the pops, it seems). I still have some excess tissue and skin in the places where I carried most of the fat, though my impression is that this is still improving, albeit very, very slowly. I don’t mind it too much; I look decent when dressed and decent enough when not, and with 40 years I am not going to have the body of a 20-year-old, even without the overweight years. My food intolerances have gone away with the excess weight, the asthma and hay fever has improved a lot, and my general fitness is much better as well (though I still don’t have enough raw strength for many of the bouldering things, and I will complain about that muchly).

The mental things are a little harder to pin down, and they will also fluctuate more. First thing to mention: If the excess weight comes from eating as a coping mechanism, there’s a definite need for a different coping strategy to keep the weight off. I had a mild case of using food as a reward, or as consolation when things did not go well, but it wasn’t too hard to put a stop to this for me. Food was not connected to a lot, or to very bad, underlying different issues for me, which made – and makes – things a lot easier. Losing weight will not miraculously cure all problems. It will cure the stress of the excess weight on the body, it will alleviate hormonal issues coming from the extra fat (which is a hormonally active tissue), it will lessen joint and respiratory problems and generally improve health and fitness. It may alleviate depression or depressive moods, but it will not cure problems of self-esteem that come from different, deeper places, or any other mental issues. These might come up harder, in fact, if eating more was the coping strategy that used to hold them at bay.

So these days I try not to slide back into having food as a reward for something, or as a consolation. Most of the time, I manage. Sometimes that emergency chocolate does come in, though. I’m usually not very happy about that, but well, that’s life, and I try to do better the next time something like this comes around.

One of the things I struggle with a lot more is irrational fears of suddenly balloning up again to my highest weight. When thinking about it with a level head, it’s really absurd – you just physically cannot add on several dozens of kilograms in the space of a few days, even if you eat all the time. But tell that to the little part of my brain that insists on being stupid! I tend to retain water when I get stressed, when I don’t have enough sleep, when I travel, when I have an illness or tweaked a muscle, when I have done more or different sports than usual, for hormonal reasons, and when I have changes in diet. So… basically for anything not in the very relaxed and normal plan. This means that my weight can shoot up a few kilos if several of these things come together – and even though I do know it’s just water weight, at times I will get into some kind of irrational panic that I’m going to re-gain all the weight I lost now, no matter what I do or how much or little I eat. (This is not helping, as it adds more stress. It also takes a long while for some of these water retentions to ebb off, sometimes several weeks, which adds to the stress from these irrational things… which doesn’t help. You get the picture.)

Sometimes I can handle the weight fluctuations pretty well, and sometimes I get really panicky, which totally sucks. Same with estimating how much I eat – sometimes I do well, and everything feels under control and relaxed and stable; at some stages, though, I feel perpetually hungry and could eat five elephants in a day, which is not a good thing. Occasionally, something in the other direction happens, and I eat too little for a while, which has its own not-so-nice repercussions. So I am trying to keep things in balance and not overeat even if I have the desire to just stuff my face all freaking day long, and not eat nothing or next to nothing even if I am not feeling really hungry. It works, mostly. Sometimes I just fail. Then there’s nothing to do but pick myself up, take a deep breath, and move on, aiming to do better next time.

Losing the weight was simple in the sense of “just eat less, and maybe move a bit more”. Sometimes that felt easy, and sometimes it felt like the hardest thing in the world. There were days when I was super motivated, and days when the only thing keeping me at it was sheer stubbornness, and the knowledge that there would be an end to this at one point, and the more I veered off track the longer it would take.

Maintaining the lower weight is just as simple in the sense of “track your weight, keep an eye on how much you eat, and make sure you don’t eat too much or too little for extended periods of time”. It’s not always easy either, and there is no end to maintenance mode, so replacing a lack of motivation by stubbornness can be even harder now. In both cases, however, sticking to it has proven to be totally worth the time and effort I put into it.

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… but they are both to spectacular things. Number one: A one thousand year old sarcophagus was opened in Mainz – here is the link to a short video report (in German).

Number two is more textile-related stuff: A report about the conservation of embroidered and textile book-bindings at the British Library. These stunning book covers are definitely worth a look!

Posted in archaeology, books, museums | Leave a comment

Here’s some stuff about places you could go at times when there are things that might be vastly interesting:

The CfP of the EXAR conference in Vienna, September 26 to 29 2019, is ending on June 15. You can send your paper proposal via their website.

If you are interested in Tudor clothing, there’s a conference with a lot of event stuff around it called “Missing Persons”. It will take place in Nottingham on April 3-5, 2020. You can register via the Tudor Tailor site; conference costs are 299 GBP (with an Early Bird registration until June 19 for 275 GBP).

The University of Sheffield will offer Zooarchaeology Short Courses in September 2019: Understanding Zooarchaeology on September 10-12 and Birds in Archaeology on September 13. The courses are directed to students, professionals and enthusiasts, no prior knowledge required, and the courses include hands-on practical activities. For more information, visit the website at the Uni of Sheffield.

The CfP for the European Textile Forum is also open; the Forum will run from November 4-10 in the Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology Lauresham, Lorsch, Germany. Focus topic this year is “Shared Warps, Shared Wefts”, but other, non-weaving related papers or presentations are also welcome.

Finally, for those in Germany, I will be offering a two-day tablet weaving workshop on August 31 and September 1, teaching how to do tablet weaving patterns without a written pattern draft. As this is a system and we will start from the very beginning to learn the system, no previous knowledge about tablet weaving is needed. More information and booking possibilities are here via the pallia webshop.

Posted in CfPs, conferences, tablet weaving | Leave a comment

While bicycles may be a modern thing, and thus a modern solution to the sustainable transport issues, overuse and sustainability are not a modern thing or concern. This shit has history. Lots of history.

Case in point? Overfishing. This was already done in medieval times, and there were counter-measures taken – this article in The Atlantic is a nice read about the topic.

While ruining our environment may have a long tradition, though, it doesn’t mean that we should not strive to do better. (War, after all, is a very human thing too, and has a long tradition. Yet nobody in their right mind would say that war is a good thing. Or at least I hope so.) Unfortunately, making things better, and protecting the environment, often needs some kind of rule, or law, or regulation, or making it really pricey – because, let’s face it, we’re all only human, and if someone dangles a shiny tempting thing in front of our noses and offers a really good price, it is very hard to resist and not give in and snatch the shiny, whatever it might be. If meat is really cheap, a lot of it will be eaten. If cars are cheap and convenient to use, people will take the car instead of public transport or human-powered transport. If flights are really cheap, a lot of people will fly without a second thought.

And now we’ve arrived at the real reason for this post: Flights. Full disclosure: I’m not a strict non-flier. I’ve done plane trips in the past both for job reasons and for fun reasons. I will fly to Dublin for WorldCon this summer, not travel there by train, and when I am going to NESAT next year, chances are rather high that I will fly to Finland instead of taking the train. In both cases, a train trip there would take several days – either because I’d need to do an overnight stop, or because I’d have to factor in at least one additional day after arrival to recover from having little to no sleep on the trip. (This would look very, very different if there were still night trains with sleeper cars, by the way. I’d love to use those instead, they were a wonderful thing!) Spending an extra day or two travelling time will up the total cost of the travel, which – going by train – would already be significantly more expensive than going by plane. So that’s a number of things prodding me to choose the plane.

And, obviously, I do. I book those flights with a bad conscience, because yes, I do believe that every flight is one too many. Being an inconsequent human being, I’ll also look for the best deals in terms of flight length, start or arrival time, and price. (No use taking a plane instead of a train if I still end up with a sleepless night.) However… if all flights would cost double or triple the amount, making a long train trip with an overnight stay, maybe to enjoy a little city sightseeing on the stopover point would become much more attractive.

And there’s actually a way to make flights more reasonably priced. Reasonably, in this case, being higher priced – and thus more in keeping with what flying actually costs us, as living beings on a planet, in terms of social costs and environmental damage. (Aviation emissions have risen 21% in the last three years.) One of the reasons flights are so cheap is the tax exemptions that are granted: There is no VAT charged on airplane tickets, and the kerosene used as a fuel is also exempt from taxes. That is unfair, especially seeing that public transport, including trains, is taxed both for fuels and for tickets.

There now is a European Citizens’ Initiative asking to remedy this, with a registered petition at the European Commission. You can read more about the background for the petition here, or you can go straight to the petition, fill in your details, and sign.

It needs one million signatures, and it currently has close to 19.000 – so please go, sign, and spread the word!

Posted in green living, things going on in the world | 2 Comments
Blooming right on time…

Posted in and now for something completely different, garden things | Leave a comment