Friday, 29 November 2013

'Your arms feel thinner' or 'Why I love my personal trainer'

So, rather unsurprisingly given my previous lack of determination, exercise, tracking...yada yada yada, I gained this week. I sat in my weight watchers meeting twiddling my thumbs going over every 'mistake' I made last week. And there were many; an extra six points (which I didn't have) on a starter for my curry, pizza (the whole medium- rather than my usual half) and the garlic bread AND the jalepeno poppers. The biscuits...Oh god WHY the biscuits?! You name it, I probably ate it. And I knew why, and I knew it was happening. So this is not an issue of 'fat shaming' where I'm going to stare at myself in the mirror for the next week threatening myself with something or other that if I don't lose what I gained AND more that I'm a failure. That's not how I operate.

How I operate is as follows:
Whilst sitting in said weight watchers meeting and praying that Sue, my leader, wouldn't pick on me to talk I got out my phone. I used said communication device and texted Jemma my personal trainer (as background information, I'm at home- not at uni). I told her that I was going to be utter crap but that I was home and needed to get back in the swing of things. I then went back to my meeting. We were talking about how to cope with the Christmas season, all the food, the booze, the stretchy jumpers your Nan gave you that hide the extra Christmas weight (to keep out the cold, obviously) and then I managed to change the subject, as I so often do. 'We always talk about how to have a life when you're losing weight. What do you do when life kicks you in your (very bruised from the damaged coccyx) arse?' I was of course talking about my grandfather, and here's where I should stress that last Saturday I made it seem like everything was fine. So it never dawned on me fully until it was there on the scale how much of an impact it had had. The answer was, not caring about cooking healthy foods (thus all of my copious takeaways) and eating an entire packet of chocolate digestives, because why the hell not? The answer I received from the members of my meeting was: you have to forgive yourself. There is no point dwelling on what happened food wise after it had happened, you just need to go back to the beginning and track. And be accountable. Which I was. I knew the result wouldn't be the one I wanted but I stuck to my guns and went to that meeting because otherwise I would never know how much I had to do.

Once I got home I had received a text from Jemma. Bummed about the coccyx but looking forward to seeing me. She'd get the motivation back in me...or else. (I kid, I kid!) And so I went to bed and dreamed about not being able to lift even 5kg in a bench, gone would be my squat technique and you could forget about the pull-ups. It was going to be amateur hour, but it was going to happen. No matter how painful. And I should stress it was painful but that's mainly now because the muscles in my bum are rebelling against three weeks off anything and are irritating the same annoying coccyx. And then, an amazing thing happened. I wasn't a disaster. The fear that had held me back from going to the gym 'everyone will laugh at you cus you can't lift for shit' 'if you try running you'll explode your lungs or trip over your feet and go flying off the treadmill' 'if you move you'll injure yourself again you silly idiot' was gone. THIS is what I needed. I needed the trainer I trust, my friend to give me the (gentle) kicking. As we were finishing up she asked me, 'so what do you need to do to keep the motivation?', 'nothing' I said 'we just did it'. 'Awesome...Oh, and by the way, your arms feel thinner'.

It's amazing how it can be one thing, one day, one person that gives you back the motivation that is taking a day/week/month off. As E.L James would say; my 'inner goddess' [barf] is lounging in a chaise and will not be coming out to the gym. Well, my outer goddess has a sore bum, but it was so worth it.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

For a love of life.

Dear readers,

It's been a very long time and I've struggled for weeks knowing what I was going to write. The answer was always, nothing. I've gone past the four stone mark but to be honest I've felt complacent recently. I damaged my coccyx a few weeks ago and this has, to some extent, made exercise harder and sometimes scary. I worry about injuring myself again and with the exercise slipping my tracking has got a little sloppy.

My grandfather passed away yesterday. I ate. I tracked, but I ate. I used food as my coping mechanism for the first time in months. But this is not why I am writing this. I realised from the knowledge of my PopPop passing and from a facebook comment on one of my mother's status that I had stopped doing things for the love of life. I'd lost that a little bit.
The aforementioned facebook status.
I didn't realise until I was scrolling back through my mum's facebook page that someone had said that they found my 'love of life inspiring' and until this point, I knew I inspired people to lose weight or achieve their goals but I never necessarily realised that it was also my love of life and the vivacity and vigour that losing weight had given me that was inspirational to people. And so, as I sat in church this morning to remember my grandad and his awesome faith (one that I respect but do not share) I remembered him for all of the things he did, the memories I'd had or the wishes he'd had for his family. I remembered that life is fickle and that there are only two days that you can do nothing, yesterday or someday. It has to be today, it has to be now because I don't know what life will hand me tomorrow.

I know as I write this that my absence in writing down how I feel, my struggles or my victories has contributed to my recent slipping (I stress, I haven't actually gained weight- I just haven't been as positive as I had been). So I'm making a promise, to myself, to my family who I hope to inspire, to my friends who I love to entertain and to absent friends who always wanted the best for me that tomorrow is a brand new day, and I never want to feel like I've wasted a day again.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

'Dream On'

As I sit here writing to you all tonight, I am still living off the runner's euphoria that comes after completing a great race. I just did another 5k, it was at Twilight and the route was all along Bristol's harbourside. It was beautiful, the weather was in my favour- not hot, not cold. Damp from earlier but no rain. I completed it in 45 minutes and 14 seconds. Which is nearly 11 minutes off my time in July. So I'm happy, I'm too awake and muscle weary but happy.

Flash back nine hours and you'd see a VERY different picture. I woke up not feeling very well, I can feel the wetter, damper weather beating down my immune system and a cold is almost sure to follow. I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself and was trying everything I could to say it was okay if I didn't compete. I wouldn't be damaging anyone. This is, of course, a lie. I would have damaged myself and my confidence had my lazier urges (Oatmeal's 'the Blerch) won out. As some context I should explain that this came off of the laziest week I've had on this programme. I haven't been gymming nearly as frequently, I've been lazy with my cooking, lazy with my tracking and just didn't feel bad enough to do anything about it. In general (other than some self inflicted boy troubles) everything is going pretty damn well in my life. I'm loving my studies, I feel positive about my abilities and I wasn't feeling NEGATIVE about my weight loss. I'd just became complacent. And so, it'll come as no surprise that I gained weight. I wasn't surprised by this gain but it was a sense of shame for me and lead me not to tell anyone about it. I didn't want to be reminded every time I talked about it that I'd just been a lazy git. Or worse, I'd come to terms with a gain even before I got on the scale, having people say 'oh that's too bad!' or something similar may just have made me feel worse than I would just within my own head. This was not one of those occasions where nature just was conspiring against me and kept my weight the same or secreted in a sneaky pound. Sometimes it's exhausting trying to be the person you want to be for yourself and all of the others who care deeply about supporting your efforts and it's even worse having someone pick out your faults- even if they do so in a non-judgmental manner.

This should have been a line in the sand where I just learn from the mistakes of the past week (of which I could easily see many) and move forward, but this sense of complacency was still there. It was still there this morning when I didn't want to run, it was still there minutes before I donned my running shoes and headed out the door.

And yet, now that it's done, I have the clarity to see just how very important doing this race was to me. It gave me back some of my edge, some of my drive and reminded me of why I'd come to love fitness and activity so much. I just feel better, even now when my feet are a bit sore and my legs feel heavy and uncooperative, I feel better than I did before. Doing this race showed me how far I'd come- 11 minutes difference in 4 months is nothing to be sniffed at! It made me once again think about how I nourish my body and how it nourishes me and that, even when it gets hard and all you want to do is order those onion rings, I need to take care of this body I have and this includes not limiting yourself just because it may be 'easier'. If fitness and activity were 'easy' everyone would be doing it.

So, as I crossed the finishing line with Neil Patrick-Harris singing 'Dream On' in my ears to the cheers of the wonderful people who came out to support and gained my medal (let's be honest, I'm in this for the cheddar) I felt once again, renewed. I am capable of so much more than I would ever have thought- I just have to try.
Here's a motivational Bruce Lee quote for your Sunday morning. It seemed appropriate for this post.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

When you reach a milestone.

Well, this blog has been a long time coming (or it certainly feels so to me). I have finally reached my 50lb weight loss goal. If we're being more specific 53 lbs. But who's counting...I kept putting off writing a blog until I hit an arbitrary goal, so I'd finally decided that enough was enough and I needed to sit down and write. And then I actually DID hit this, really important and really long time coming, goal.

When I started this process I believed that the numbers on the scale meant more than anything. Before I came home for the summer reaching that 50lb goal was all I could wish for, but I have learnt so much since then- deeply important things which are just as (if not more) important as the number on the scale. So, I won't lie I had a glass of champagne last night to toast this long awaited goal but it's the other, sometimes little, things that I really want to celebrate with all of you here.

My shiny new medal. 
I did my half marathon on the 28th September. There were, of course, moments where I was certain that my feet were going to fall off, that my back was about to go into spasm and that I was simply going to give up. But I did it. The actual walking bit took about 4.5 hours and no amount of training (and I did a fair amount of training) could really prepare me for what it was going to be like. Walking: for hours, at night; with eight thousand other people. My goal of completion in 3.5 hours was never going to happen when I hadn't accounted for all of the other people and the pit stops and the result of continued exertion in the VERY early hours of a Sunday morning. Had I not done it with Sarah I know I would most likely have stopped. But even with the support of another person personal emotional motivation was what really got me through to the end, to the finish line and to the medal collection area. When doubt set in I thought of my parents; my mother who wishes she was still capable of walking distances, my father who I hope endlessly to motivate to stay active. My friend Lucy who was too ill to take part and for all of the people the world over who, through no fault of their own, are simply unable to use their bodies in the ways they no doubt would like. I almost certainly would have become one of those people. So I did it for me. And once the pain in my feet had subsided (c. 6pm Sunday 29th) I could finally see it for the amazing accomplishment that it was. You could also say I got the bug, as I'm signed up to do another 5k race next Saturday. That'll seem like a doddle now.
Me, before the race started. Before the sore tootsies.
I am now over a quarter of the way into my weight loss. You may or may not remember my coming up with a (beautiful) spreadsheet to keep track of the important goals. I worked out how many pounds I would need to lose when I was 25, 50, 75% into my weight loss and ticking that first one off was hugely important to me. That's not to say there isn't an awful long way to go, but every day and every step feels a little bit closer to that goal. To anyone who is thinking of doing a similar weight loss program I cannot encourage you enough to work out manageable goals that will truly keep you going when the going gets tough, which is does. More frequently than you might wish.
Weight loss Jars, still being used weekly.
I go to weekly yoga classes and I started kickboxing. Both of these do similar things for my body and mind. I may go in carrying a lot of tension (why, I sometimes don't know) but once you're done punching something or going through a full sun salutation with full yogic breathing, it all seems clear again. It's easier to focus, and it makes it far easier to keep going when I would previously have allowed myself to become entirely bogged down with the day to day living of your life. I hate to be a cliche, but incorporating activity in my life has given me part of my life back. And it's not necessarily a part of my life that I knew I was missing. I feel more at ease with who I am, what I do and how well I can do it. This is not something I'd anticipated. I knew that becoming fitter would make my body feel better but when it comes to stabilizing my emotions and taking control over my mind and feelings it has come as a complete shock. If I'm honest, this is the best I've ever felt. About myself, about my life and the best I've felt about my ability to deal with problems when they get handed to you.

Clearly, reaching that goal of 50 lbs is hugely important to me. I was at this point back in March 2009, I'd received the certificate but I eventually stopped being proud of this accomplishment. The framed certificate found itself being shoved under my bed never to be seen again. I'd failed. But now, I've changed my entire way of being. I'm comfortable in my skin and have a good relationship with myself. Change has stopped being about wanting to be different from what I was before and has everything to do now with loving who I have become and wanting to continue to do good things for my body. It's the only one I'll ever have and I now see why it's important to do something every day for myself. It's a strange feeling realising that the way you were before was neglectful to this body that supports me, keeps me alive and only occasionally complains about this neglectful treatment.

In short, I thought I'd managed the 'lifestyle change' before, but I don't think I had. I have now, and I count my blessings daily that I've finally done it.

To the next 50.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

What will you gain?

The past few days I've been musing about the things that I have gained whilst I've been losing weight. This was brought up in my meeting on Wednesday and my leader, Sue, asked me what a difference losing 2 and a half stone has meant to my life. (Yes, in case anyone didn't get the memo, I've lost 2.5 stone, 35 lbs, 15.8757 kg. 15 lbs till 50 lbs and nearly halfway to my wall...the dreaded 75 lbs...EEK) Anyway...I sat there for a moment ruminating on what she'd just ask me. I feel different, certainly, but how do I sum that up without making it sound like I was completely unhappy before? You see, I've realised that whilst I certainly CAN and AM happy as a bigger woman, it takes losing some weight to remember that this doesn't change the fact that I'm happier slimmer. This doesn't mean that I look in the mirror and hate myself but equally doesn't mean that I am content to simply 'stay' somewhere. And this is particularly important now that I've remembered this truth. I'm happy both ways, one simply brings more happiness than the other and that is fine. This is why I'm going to keep that number going down. 

After I sat there thinking, for what felt like minutes-in reality only seconds, I answered that I have more energy now and promptly left it at that. I didn't go into the fact that I feel proud to have achieved this much, that I'm over the moon that my boots (the devil shoes that once needed two people to put on) are now too large around my calfs or that I'm finally too small for my jeans (and when I say too small, I mean I'm only just NOT falling out of them). Nor did I go into the small, but incredibly important ways, in which my life has changed. I eat 'mindfully' now. I believe that the William Morris quote can be reworded to say 'never eat something that you do not know to be useful (healthy) or believe to be truly beautiful (yummy)'. If my food doesn't go in those two sections I don't eat it and even then I still stop and think about how much I want this over that. In short I've taken back the control of my choice. Ultimately, this is one of the things I love the most about the transformation so far. I've taken back control of an important part of my life. One that can only be very slightly impacted by outside forces and others around me. What I put into and get out of my body are down to me, and I love that I now know what that means.

One of the guys in the meeting picked up on my singular 'more energy' comment and added how much more energy he has to 'DO' things and this is yet another important transformation. I exercise now. A lot. I'm active now. A lot. Most importantly, I've realised that I love to be active and do exercise. Do I still have a wobbly now and then when watching the same old nothing on the TV beckons me to put away my running shoes and plant my arse for the next 12 hours? Yes, but I almost never give in...Almost never, I AM human after all. But, some achievements in my physical activity:

I swim between 60 and 80 lengths in an hour
I began this journey running a kilometre in over 8 minutes, I now have a PB of 4:45
I can do pull ups
I can (and do) use a TRX system
I can hold a plank for well over a minute
I can row 1000m in 4:41 and 1500 in 7:36
I can benchpress 30 kg
I can squat 20 kg

Do I believe that I would be incapable of doing these things had I not lost the weight? No. Truth is I believe that had I had the motivation I would eventually have gotten where I am now and would still be making improvements week in, week out. What the weight loss has given me IS the motivation. And that is what I was SORELY lacking in. Every session I look for progress in something, even if it's just something 'feeling' better. The weight loss (and the pain of the first training session) made me want to be fitter and becoming fitter has made me strive for health. I think more about 'nourishing' my body with healthy and filling foods and the weight loss still comes as a happy reward for looking after my body.

In short, this IS the 'lifestyle change' that people are constantly talking about as a method of losing weight. Is it always easy, hell no (Jemma, I still hate the summit trainer...we're getting there, only slooooooowly) and sometimes I still do have the temptation to eat the entire world's allotment of cheese but then I think of how far I've come and all of the good habits I'm embracing, creating pathways in my brain which make it easier and easier to continue thee habits in the future. The clearest sign that I've made serious physical and mental changes came around my birthday. The menu, was the single healthiest party menu I've ever planned and when I went overboard with the sweet stuff associated with birthdays -cake, sweeties etc. I paid the price the next day. I felt sick as a reminder that my body has changed and rather than feeling annoyed or upset that I'd 'done this' to my body, I was glad to know that my body has been altered enough for this to be noticeable where before it would barely have been a blip on my radar. It can hurt now, but I'm creating a healthier future with every decision I make today.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Return of the...something or other.

Dear readers,

I would like to start this blog post with an apology. My brother Jeffrey brought to my attention the fact that I had not written a new blog post in nearly a month. A month...has it really been that long?! Well, after signing in this evening I saw that I have, indeed, not posted anything since the 22nd of July. This is not exactly the continued blog progress I had hoped to see. The truth is, I've simply had writer's block. I have not fallen off this mysterious bandwagon that people like to mention and have, in fact, continued to lose weight am past my 10% and am no longer within the 300lb bracket. YAY. I suppose, in my own special way, I didn't want to write about those things because they're just not necessarily that interesting. How quickly everyone would turn off if every post was 'today, I lost two pounds and exercised till I vomited' would make my head spin. I want to inspire people, motivate people and entertain people and so I don't really like just giving a blow by blow account of what did or didn't happen in a particular week. But finally, yesterday, a topic of genuine interest (that I know a fair bit about myself) came up.

What do you do when you just don't want to go on any more?
Now, this is not some melodramatic throwing of the arm above the head to say 'I simply can't go on' this is a very real issue, that happens to many people with many of the challenges in their life. You'll hit the wall, and it really isn't as simple as going 'Ok, wall down let's keep going'. When you hit a weight loss plateau or you simply get out of a rhythm with yourself, it can be incredibly difficult to keep going. You can start making excuses that 'next week' I'll be good or, if you're me in 2009, somehow manage to completely miss the fact that you've gained nearly 4 stone in 8 months. My best friend Sarah and I have had a few conversations about this. She wished that she had somehow managed to motivate me or give me the kick up the arse that I sorely needed but it simply isn't that way. Had I realised that I'd been undoing the good work of the last year and 2 months that probably would have been enough, but when you lose your motivation, are resentful to the plan or simply stop caring; all of the gentle prodding and motivational speeches in the world are not going to get it back.

So what do you do when someone wants to throw in the towel? I have no idea. It's not your job to motivate someone and when they get in that thunk THEY have to claw themselves out of it. And this, can be devastating to watch. I imagine it must have been borderline painful for my family and friends to see the girl who had worked so hard for over a year to lose 75lbs just stop trying. To see the things that this new lifestyle had brought me slip away into non existence as my apathy to my weight increased day by day. With every pound I gained back, I lost a little of the person I had started to become and it wasn't until months later that I clambered back on that scale and saw the damage. That, I remember vaguely, was a less than comfortable feeling. Seeing that old weight on the screen apparently caused a mass exodus of all of the healthy skills I'd developed and I went into a cycle of not eating, eating only fruit and then binge eating in one form or another. Gone was the exercise and, despite the fact that I am a generally happy person, for that brief period; gone was my self respect. I managed to recover it at the LighterLife meeting where I was told that I 'couldn't possibly be happy' but for that couple of weeks I was so disheartened and unhappy about what I'd allowed to happen that I lost my confidence. It was months before I was brave enough to start a weight loss plan again (online-I couldn't face my old leader Natasha) and, with my heart no longer fully in it, I failed.

You see, it really isn't as simple as going 'oh dear, bad slip-I'll go back to my meeting this week' it can be a total and utter debilitating blow to your pride and sense of self. I never want to get back to that point. This is why, as I've said before, simply pushing myself into meetings every week is of the utmost importance. Did I gain a pound this week after my birthday...yes, do I care. Slightly. Will that stop me from maintaining my positive mental attitude, starting again fresh and seeing what happens this meeting. No. I, for one, am tired of starting again. And the only way that I can prevent that is to STOP QUITTING.

To finish, I'll end with my two new mantras.

'If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.' Weight loss IS a challenge, it is not easy and no one (or I hope no one reading this at least!) believes it to be as simple as a couple of mathematical equations. But change does not come over night. Nor should it. This is a process of progression and change on every level of my being. This is not just a change in my mass and no one should expect it to be so.

'NEVER give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway' -Earl Nightingale
I know this seems simple but I'd never thought of it this way. The time will pass, and does pass, regardless of what you choose to do with the time. I, for one, would rather be making the changes now rather than getting to the SAME point in time three years down the line and seeing no change.

And finally, an oldy but a goody.
'Never never never give up.'- Winston Churchill


Monday, 22 July 2013

Run Fatgirl, Run.

Today, was the first day that I honestly- truly- felt like shit. I had been out exercising and at one point simply came over with an overwhelming feeling of being a loser. I wasn't as fast as I could be, I wasn't as strong as I could be. I was sore and tired and bruised and just wanted to curl up and do nothing at all. There came a point when I felt so panicky that my limbs shook violently and I thought I was going to pass out. This is a stark contrast to the woman I was yesterday. Strong, happy and ready to take on anything. I just couldn't understand what happened in that 12 hour period.

There came a point in the afternoon where I started thinking about ALL of the things that I've given up on in my life. I gave up on ballet, horse riding, playing the flute, french, learning to ride a bike, losing weight battles 1-12. What today made me feel was a complete and utter failure. Whilst I know that this is all in the past there will always be that 0.1% in the back of my head saying 'and you'll give this up too, just like all of those other things'. There are things there that I loved. Ballet nourished my body and my soul and I gave up twice. Once as a child and again a few years back when my teacher moved back to Serbia. She was my everything and not having her teach me meant that I slowly but surely disappeared from that part of my life. Horses have always been one of my favourite animals. I had an immediate and natural affinity with them that meant horse riding was easy for me to pick up. When I fell off the first time, despite landing badly on my head I was back on Joey within minutes because I loved him and would do anything to feel in tune with these magnificent creatures. I didn't 'give up' so to speak but I was phased out because of my weight. My issue was that I never once stopped to say 'but I LOVE this, I need to be doing this'. I just let my life happen to me.

Some things I've taken up again and others are on my list but this reflective moment made me feel nothing like the strong, empowered woman I have been in the past 15 weeks and every bit the weak, powerless little girl who (to my negative state of mind) had nothing but a load of bruises to show for her pains. And this  really worried me. The urge was there, as always when I'm feeling down, to eat. EAT ALL THE THINGS! But I didn't. I had a cheese string, a bowl of blueberries with some yogurt and honey and a berocca (you...but on a really good day) to try to calm myself down and regain my equilibrium. I hid in my bedroom for hours watching 'Get Smart' and cried. I cried so much I fell asleep and I woke up 3 hours later feeling so much better. It's likely I was simply over tired but it does show just how easy (and unexplainable) it can be for something to throw a serious spanner in the works. This is what the Oatmeal refers to as 'the blerch' a little chubby critter chasing you around just trying to get you to go back to the lifestyle you had before. And yet, I can say that I do NOT have the lifestyle I had before. If I did I would have gone to my fridge, pulled out all of the cheese, all of the mini peperamis (1 proPoint per sausage- yeah boi) and then devoured all of my pre portioned snacks in one go. I would NOT have reached for a yogurty fruity treat...

But this doesn't change the fact that my track record indicates that I give up. Often. And I simply cannot afford to do that now. So, I'm watching Run Fatboy, Run ( for the fifth time this month) and thinking about what I need to achieve. This film is a metaphor for me in so many ways, and today- feeling as I do, that I'm not a finisher- this is exactly what I needed. It shows to me, that if you believe in something enough (and have a chubby Indian man wielding a spatula at you) you can do anything. And so I will. No longer will I let my life happen to me. It's time to go out and find it.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Another one bites the dust.

Dear people of the bloggersphere this post (probably) will have no allegorical meaning. It is not one where I try to explain a particular reaction to a societal truth. It is well and truly just a demonstration of success. I have reached another goal. As of last night at 5:28 pm I have lost two stone and one pound or 29 lbs or over 13 kilos. I am four pounds away from my 10% weight loss target, have dropped 4.53 points on the BMI scale and I feel great.

In other news, I beat my personal best in the gym today and look forward to the ache in my chest and gluteus maximus (my bottom) sometime tomorrow. The pain will probably arrive just as I'm about to sit down and I'll be stuck hovering in mid-air for a few seconds waiting for the strength to let myself fall (not so gracefully) into a seat.

But back to the weight loss. When I stepped on that scale last night and saw the number drop I felt empowered and capable. I new that I was over half way to that 50 pound certificate and knew, well and truly, that this is it. In conjunction with the exercise and my overall change in perception, I will never be the weight I was again. As I added two more beads to my 'pounds lost' jar I knew that I eventually will see an empty bottom on the 'pounds to go' and, in no small part, I have to give credit to this blog. You see, as I think back to this stage in my weight loss journey 4 years ago I can't remember in all that great detail how I felt at the good time,s at the bad and I can't remember what those things were that pushed me through. Reading over things that have happened in the past few months, reading the emails I've received from people like you reading this and looking at all of my beautiful spreadsheets/graphs is what will ultimately push me to succeed. I know when I have a bad week that it's not the end of the world and that it's happened before and I got through it. I just need to keep pushing.

I know also that it'll get harder as I lose the weight, it simply does and there's not much I can do about that, but I know that the end result will be worth it and that making this journey now, whilst I still KNOW I can do it, is what I absolutely must do.

And so, the weight watchers Facebook page reminded me of something today. The topic today was 'what was your Eureka! moment?' and I read through all of the comments about looking at holiday/wedding photos or wanting to be fitter for their children and I finally found one which resonated with me. This has been a hard concept for me to define so finding another person who shared something similar made me feel that 'yes, this IS a valid reason' :

'Actually, I just woke up one day and decided I didn't want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. So I changed. Just like that.'

People have asked me why I started weight watchers or entered into this program of losing weight and I've always struggled to answer, but it really was as simple as sitting in bed on a Tuesday evening and going 'I'm going to lose weight' and so I did. I just felt like a change, a change for the better and knew that this feeling, this simple, instantaneous decision was the one that would get me through, rather than weeks and weeks of 'thinking' about it. I just 'do' and will continue till goal and beyond.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Some new thoughts about activity

I used to hate exercise. And when I say hate, I mean truly loathe. It was too hard, I wasn't any good at it and I'd push myself too much (in consideration of my previous fitness level) and find myself unable to walk for a week only to repeat the process. As such, I tried to avoid it like the plague. What's most important though is that I never really questioned why.

As someone who is actually beginning to really like activity I started thinking about what it was that I disliked so intently only 3-4 months ago. I've gotten to the stage where activity leaves me energised and feeling like I can take on the world. Where I can feel particular muscle groups working and growing and in general feeling fitter and stronger. Now I even like the ache. This is all very strange for me. Previously I would do anything to NOT feel the ache, but now I see it as hard work, well done. The callouses developing on my palms are indicative of hard work and I feel proud looking at them and feeling them. I sleep better and I get restless if I go more than a day without doing SOMETHING. Do I wish I knew why my body is covered in mysterious bruises? Yes. But I look at them and assume I did that in the process of getting better and I like them. I even signed up for a half-marathon...All so very alien to my previous self.

Oh look. What are those? Hard work dudes, that's what they are.
After walking 5+ miles around London with Sarah on Thursday we sat down to lunch at Cafe Rouge. Soon enough we started talking about exercise and bonded more over the joint love of 'the ache'. Something that is fairly new to both of us. Shortly into our conversation I made a realisation about my 'journey to activity'. Something I've come to see as important and something that I wish someone had realised earlier. Maybe they have, but it certainly isn't mentioned. And here it is:

Schools do very little to encourage the enjoyment of activity for enjoyment's sake.

What's that I hear you say? 'That's absurd, I was on my school's netball team and I love being active' or 'That's a bit of a generalisation, I've always liked to take part in some activity or other' but bear with me here.
When you exercise at school level, none of the activity can be counted as solely for yourself. You're a part of a team or a house or you participate for your school. You're always being pushed to compete for something. For some people, competition ensures that they thrive. Hell, I love music/drama competitions because I know I'm good at it. If it's something I'm not good at (the 100 metre at sports day...grumble grumble) I want to hide my head in a hole just like the rest of us. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those who thinks that children's sports should be 'competition free'-if a child wants to record the score of his/her football game, one would hope that he/she is intelligent enough to keep count, even if the parents don't want them to- but there certainly should be more of an impetus on enjoying activity just for enjoyment's sake.

I never learnt to enjoy activity, just to enjoy it.We're not even talking about being 'good' at something. Just participating because it's fun. I am only now picking up the pieces and pushing myself to enjoy what I'm doing. Certainly it's getting easier every day but it's not coming naturally for me. And I truly believe it could have. Now, I might be wrong here but had the enjoyment of activity been impressed upon me when I was young, and where did I spend most of my time when I was, then it wouldn't be so hard now. It would have been a part of my day to day life.

Let me now go a bit into the psychology of this:
As someone who was never very good at sport, I hated being pushed to compete because I knew I wasn't good. I knew I wasn't good so I never pushed myself to be better and as such I hated to compete. The cycle continued on and on.

In another scenario (props to Sarah for this one) I enjoy my activity (trampolining incidentally) but find myself being pushed to join a team or get to another level simply because it's the next stage. I can't just continue to enjoy my activity. I stop my activity and am wary about starting another for fear that this cycle will continue.

As children we hear things like; 'do YOUR best', 'compete with YOURSELF and no one else', 'the only person you need to be better than is you-this is what progress is' and yet, as children (I'm not denying that teens or adults are fully capable of competing against their own personal best, this is what I am doing now) we are most aware of our competition with others. Either you have to beat your peers in team sports or you're constantly trying to be faster than someone else. And, for many, this atmosphere directly goes against the enjoyment of activity.

What's more, I certainly experienced this, if you aren't good enough for the team/don't want to do something competitively, you're often passed over for other students who ARE on the netball/gymnastics/track team. I wanted desperately to learn to play tennis as a child but at some point people realised I wasn't going to be good and I was never given the support or help I needed to learn. I don't know about you, but if I'm not good at something I don't want to continue the ritual humiliation in P.E. lessons. No thank you, I'll just go and pretend to hit stuff in the corner now thankyouverymuch.

The trouble here is that we develop, as children, the habits we continue in adulthood. If I'm taught to dislike sport at a young age, will I continue it as an adult. Chances are that's going to be a no. The media tell us that the 'obesity epidemic' is emerging in our younger generation and I have to believe that this must be a part of it. Educate the parents in nutrition and cooking certainly but if you can encourage activity that a child will want to continue, that will pay out dividends. If a child dislikes activity during school, why would a child want to participate outside of school? Healthy competition is an important part of life, and I would never seek to take away team sports or competition. After all, competition pushes us to succeed. But, when someone goes into a situation without ever getting the chance to WANT to compete, it removes the choice and ensures that those who just want to run around like idiots kicking a ball cannot. If society is so worried about our children being overweight, surely it's in our best interests to actively encourage the enjoyment of an activity, just because it's fun. If nothing else, I hope that I can instill in my children a love of being active, I simply worry that this current framework won't support that initiative.

**Edit** In my first edition of this post I didn't put quotation marks around the words 'obesity epidemic'. This was as a result of me not paying close attention in my editing. My reasoning for putting quotation marks is simple. Without them, it's as if I'm claiming something is a statement of fact. Personally, I HATE the phrase, obesity epidemic. It's as if I'm being told that fat people are a disease on society that can be caught in a similar way to influenza or something even less pleasant. In short, the phrase simply continues to perpetuate the image that overweight people are bad and those who have a normal weight are good. The purpose of this post was that we ALL need to eat responsibly and get activity, regardless of our size or numbers on a scale and that overall health should be the ultimate goal, not being 'skinny'.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Fat Acceptance: Yay or Nay?

So here it is. This is one of the more contentious blog posts I probably will ever write and the long and short of it is, I just cannot give you an answer. I've been thinking about writing on this topic for as long as I've been writing the blog and it wasn't until an anonymous reader commented about me writing it that I decided, enough time has past. It's time to dig deep and give it a go. As such, if this isn't what you believe or want to hear, I apologise, but I can only go from what I know and what I see...SO here goes.

Fat acceptance. The basic issue here can be broken down into the following points:
Personal accountability
Being accepted for the person you are
The difference between being 'fat' and being 'unhealthy'

Personal accountability, for me, simply means that I am responsible for who I am. None of this bullshit of 'oh, but I was MADE this way'. My degree has taught me enough about human agency to know that we, as living, breathing creatures, have a reaction on ourselves and the world around us. Whilst genetics and the agency of other humans WILL impact your life, ultimately who you are comes down to who you choose to be. The old adage says 'good things come to those who wait', I think 'good things come to those who get off  their behind and go get it' and this is exactly the same with weight.

That being said, I am losing weight FOR ME and no one else. I have been a happy, healthy female for most of my life. Of course I have down days but I don't look in the mirror and hate myself. I never have and I doubt I ever will. I suppose you could say I've been blessed with enough self esteem and self assurance that I don't really feel any self loathing. But, I made a decision to lose weight, because it probably will impact me at some point in the future. Near or far, who knows. IF, on the other side I had chosen to continue my fabulousness as a (and I HATE this term) Big Beautiful Woman (BBW) then that would have been my decision and no one else's. And equally it would be no one else's place to hate on me. This is the problem with our society, we have become so obsessed with the correlation between weight and beauty that we automatically go 'oh, she's fat. She can't possibly be happy' and to society, I say 'how bloody dare you condescend to tell me whether I'm allowed to be happy or not. I should be accepted for who I am, fat or not and if I'm happy with my size (and do not personally impact the lives of others) then you can shove off'.

We have come so far in this part of the world in the past century. In most places we have reached universal suffrage (i.e. all citizens of a nation over an age limit can vote, regardless of gender, race or creed), racism is completely unacceptable (though apparently some people have still missed that memo) and segregation or other demonstrations of different rights for different races has been all but snuffed out. We've seen feminism call for equal rights between the sexes, I can be whatever religion (or indeed no religion) I want and we are almost (ALMOST) at the point where our gay brothers and sisters can marry their partners. Almost as if they're just people...apparently this is a shock to some people. Who knew?

Fatism (if this isn't a word, I'm coining it) is the last acceptable form of prejudice. It's not just acceptable, it's encouraged. We see it in our governing bodies, in our medical offices; in schools and businesses. I am fat, therefore I am seen as of a lower earning potential or of a lower intelligence level. I am fat, therefore I am seen as a burden on our countries supplies and medical care (I pay for private health insurance, I am no drain on your taxes- promise). I am fat, and since you're no longer allowed to be homophobic or racist, I am seen as your target of ridicule. And in some ways, and I hate that I can say this, people aren't always wrong. The problem comes from the attitude. I've been told, and I don't know if this is true or not, that often the people doing the ridiculing think that their abuse is going to be some kind of catalyst which will drive the overweight members of our society to better themselves and that one day we will look back on those abusive bastards with joy in our eyes 'thanking them' for their help. No, we'll always think you're a disgrace. Sorry to break it to you.

Until the time comes where genetics can tell us once and for all 'Congratulations, you have the 'fat' gene' being overweight is not the same as sexuality or race. Personally, I wasn't born fat. This is something that I have done to myself over my 22 years on this planet. BUT, our society has become confused by health and weight. As I mentioned in my earlier post about skinny vs. healthy, a skinny person can be as unhealthy as a fat person on the inside and overweight people can be perfect specimens of health in everything but their weight.

If society wants to 'help' their overweight members lose weight, it has to be the individual's own decision and it has to come from a position of GENUINE support, not a passive aggressive position of browbeating a person into feeling inferior and further damaging, what can be, an already shattered self esteem. Indeed, what would be beneficial would be taking away the fact that many people are made to feel like losing weight is a punishment and that they need to suffer in their weight loss journey. This is what we need to invest time in, not in bullying people.

In society, unless a person has demonstrated that they are truly terrible people (and we're talking about murderers, rapists etc.) we should be accepting of one person's desire to be who they want to be. As long as people take personal responsibility, it is no one else's business what they do or do not do. If you come from a religious perspective, most religions follow a system of treating others as they would themselves. So let's try to do this from now on. And finally, as I've already said, if you abuse a person from a point of view of being 'helpful' you need a reality check and a slice of humble pie. You're just being a dick. Accept that and change or accept that and move on. But DON'T tell me that you're being helpful.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen, this post is a good one... I think. It relates directly to my last post of wanting to challenge myself into changing and so I did something. I have been in London this past few days staying with my brother, Jeff. I've been in and out of the tube over and over visiting with friends and going for a butt load of yummy meals- entire meal of fishy tapas made me super happy. BUT I digress. I have seen on the escalator sides advertisements for the Cancer shine walk. For those of you who don't know the Cancer shine walk is a half or full marathon on the banks of the Thames at night. I kept saying to Sarah 'oh, that'd be a good thing to do in a year or so'.

I got back home today and I did it. I googled, read all about it, signed up, paid my registration fee. I am now, officially taking part in the shine walk. It's only a walking half marathon, but for me is the continuation of a spirit to make activity a part of my life. The same spirit that made me register to park run and look up races that occur throughout the year.

I'm a tad (a lot) nervous that I won't be able to do it. But, with support from my truly amazing team of friends and family, I know that I will be able to do those 13.1 miles. Keep an eye here for more progress.

Tomorrow, look out for 'Fat Acceptance: Yay or Nay?'

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

What doesn't challenge you, won't change you.

This week in my life (there I go sounding like Miranda) I have had a few challenges. One not so good- my weight stayed the same- and one good - I ran (jogged/walked/nearly crawled: if we're being specific) a 5 kilometre Race for Life. Here is my report of these challenges:

Not losing any weight for me this week has been annoying. Not frustrating, just plain annoying. The kind of annoyed you get when a bug is chasing you from room to room or a small child has been given an ice cream and sticky fingers are being created and threaten to touch EVERYTHING you own... And I'll tell you why. I was SO BLOODY GOOD last week. I went to the gym 4 times, one with my personal trainer Jemma who I love, and the others using the program she designed for me. I ate clean, healthy food up to but NOT ONCE over my daily allowance and had snacks of fresh fruit and veg and water, water, water. I'm three pounds away from my mini goal of having lost 2 stone and 8 pounds away from reaching my 10% weight loss goal. All in all, I was expecting good things, or in the very least SOMETHING that showed how hard I'd worked. Basically, staying the same was not what I expected. So I was more than a little confused by this turn of events. Cue a mini mope and a bit of a rant in my meeting where I complained about how unfair it was as this was pretty much the first time that I'd done absolutely everything right and didn't see any results. After that I went home and got back to business.

Cue a change of perspective this past Sunday. At 8am I woke, dressed and breakfasted (poached egg, toast with butter and cup of tea). I pinned on my race number (lucky 4114 apparently) and my inspirational note declaring that 'I race for life for you, me and everyone. Sod off cancer'. I grabbed my water bottle, iPod and headphones and headed to the Bristol downs. I got there stupidly early because apparently I can't tell the difference between 10am and 11am... so decided to chill out in the shade beneath a tree before all of the warm ups began. 'Getting in the zone' so to speak. At 10:30 We all got called to the main stage area for a warm up led by an 81 year old lady who was running her 15th Race for Life. Basically, everything is designed to be super inspirational. Finally at quarter to 11 we were put into our stages: runners first, joggers (the group I went in to) second and walkers/dancers at the back. Music in, Ke$ha on and by 11:08 I crossed the starting line at a gentle jog. The mantra I'd told myself before I started was simple: You WILL finish this. This wasn't the first Race for Life I've done but it is the first I've run by myself. This was the first time on exercise IN MY LIFE that I have ever had to self motivate myself to attain a specific goal-5K. And that self motivation, was not easy. When I ran it with Sarah, I don't remember feeling like we were exercising. The kilometres seemed to just slip away. I remind myself now that I was 2.5 stone lighter than I currently am and the fittest I'd ever been. This time, the kilometres seemed unending. Every time I was certain I was going to turn a corner and see the next km mark I was wrong. And it was at least another minute or two before that mark came up. I jogged the first three km before realising that my pedometer had disappeared. Victim to one of the feet in the crowd-I'll never know how many steps I took that day. Oh well. After that third km the sun was baking down and my pace slowed considerably. But I was over half way. New mantra : YOU WILL FINISH THIS, YOU WILL NOT DIE. I started thinking at this point less about myself. I started to take in the other women. This was the first 'race' I'd ever run where I didn't feel like I was going to be the last to cross the line, or like if I WAS I'd be seen as inferior to all of these people watching. All there was was support. Support for the racers, support for family members in remission, support for the 1 in 3 of us who will get some kind of cancer in our lives. I doubt, at this stage in my running career, I could have run a 5k without feeling like I was doing something for a cause bigger than myself and it was finally summed up to me when I saw a woman, clearly with cancer or just in remission, standing at the race side shouting and clapping and pushing us on, up, higher, faster, better. I was about 500m from the finish line and completely exhausted but this woman reminded me of so much more than the ache in my feet or legs.

She reminded me of why I'm doing this. Whilst I am currently an incredibly healthy woman (I've had the health checks, I'm bang on for EVERYTHING) there could come a time in my life when I'm not. And, chances are, if I continued as I had been this would have almost certainly been weight related. Either I'd get diabetes, cancer or heart problems or I'd suffer worse and worse joint problems as a result of the weight they must bear. I could be lucky, but equally I could not. I won't lie, I'm also doing it because if I was a healthy weight, I'd be hot. Like, lock up your sons, Femme Fatale kinda hot. But I digress. I was running it for a cure to a disease I or people I love may get but I was running it because one day, I may not be able to. I was running it so that next year and the year after and the year after I will progress and this will be a part of my life. And as I crossed the finish line, saw three of my best friends in the world and got my medal I vowed that not only would I beat my 54 minute time next year but I would make this a part of my life for good. Because I never again want to be in the stage where I couldn't walk half that let alone get any reasonable time and I always want to do my bit for the causes I believe in.

Me, pre-Race for Life

Together we will beat cancer, but only I can change myself. And I'm okay with that.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

A change in perception

A common issue when losing weight is simply how you (the person losing the weight) perceive yourself. This isn't about negative vs. positive mental attitude this is a genuine issue of how you see yourself in the mirror. You will have lost a stone, two stone,  50 lbs, 125 lbs and yet, when you look in the mirror you still just see you. It's almost impossible to see the changes, despite the fact that you rationally know they're there. You wear different size clothing, you take up less space and people constantly tell you 'wow, you look amazing. I can't believe how much you've lost!' Well, I have to tell you nearly 2 stone lighter I can't believe how much I've lost because I look in the mirror and I look pretty much the same.

The reason that I came to write this today in part came from watching 'Secret Eaters' last night. This show follows around a group of people, usually a family or housemates, and tracks what they eat. They usually come in saying 'I just don't know why I keep gaining weight!' and with the help of secret cameras and private investigators the team work out where the extra calories are coming from. But I digress, last night there was a gentleman who started off at over 29 stone. My first comment was that he didn't look 29 stone but then you realised how tall he was and it made sense. By the end of the program and a 10 week nutritional upheaval he was in the 26 stone mark. The presenter dutifully drilled him to ask how much of a difference it had made and he replied he felt great but couldn't 'see' the difference when he looks at himself in the mirror. She was shocked, borderline horrified even that he couldn't see how much change had come about. And I sat there with my all knowing Yoda hat on thinking, 'I wonder when I'll start to notice a genuine change'. I can feel differences. I can feel the shape of my skull more (weird...) can feel the muscles in my arms and legs more, and can feel the all important collar bones (I'm slightly obsessed with female collar bones, I think that they're beautiful and delicate). That being said I look in the mirror and I look the same. Until today...

I went to the gym (I do that now, dontcha know) and afterwards I was looking at myself in the mirror as I brushed my hair and my arms looked smaller. I had a bit of a double take and I'm sure to the other women in the changing room I looked ridiculous as I just stared at my arms raised above my head and saw that they'd shrunk...when did that happen?!

To me, the number on the scale can often be enough to keep me going. If I see it going down, even if I can't 'see' it on myself, then it's going down and therefore, I must be taking up less space. That being said, I know plenty of people who will look in the mirror, see no change and feel completely disappointed that they can't see this apparently amazing change that people are commenting on day in, day out. It starts to mess with your head a bit and all you need is a bad day and a bad angle in the mirror to make you feel like it's all been for nothing. It really just is a case of the change being so gradual on you, the person who lives inside your body, that you can't see it as easily as everybody else. Now, I don't know this for sure-maybe I actually have a case of body dysmorphic disorder..who knows- but there has to come a point where you see a truly visible, dramatic change. It's just a case of trucking long enough to see it.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The temptation to give up.

Hello again all. It's been the better part of three weeks since I last wrote anything here and this has been for several reasons. The final few weeks of the summer term at university took up a great deal of my time and I procrastinated on the consistent recording of my feelings and successes (or failures-as the case will be further on). I'm now home for the summer and thoroughly committing myself to getting the best results I can achieve in this window.
As an update, here's my beautiful face at the summer ball. I finally found a dress!

The other main reason that I didn't want to write is purely and simply the fact that I had a blip.

Two weeks back I wandered into a meeting on the Thursday afternoon, knowing full well that preparations for the summer ball and general end of term stress meant I hadn't been tracking as well as I could. I'd gained a pound. That one pound to me felt like nothing. I could rationally understand it. I decided I would simply pick myself up again and keep going and that is what I've done. Two weeks and 5lbs later I have lost that pound and got myself to another important goal for me- the loss of 25lbs. But still, that gain meant more to me than I was allowing myself to accept when I first got off the scales. That pound could easily have been the end and the next day, when a friend made a foolish comment about it, it nearly was. I simply didn't care anymore. I felt like a complete and utter failure and I just wanted to pack it in, put away my new (semi) active lifestyle and eat a burger, three cupcakes, two bags of pick n mix and all of the cheese strings I could manage. I moped for the next two days in my self loathing feeling like this was the beginning of the end. The next week I'd get on that scale and, as has happened before, I wouldn't go back again after the (presumably) shocking result. So I did something (arguably) even worse. I didn't eat. I made myself unwell with a cheese string as all of my daily sustenance and 32 hours of sleep out of 36. I sobbed and sobbed and begged to go home early because I was so unhappy with the state of affairs.

Here comes some background information: I've struggled the last 6 months with depression and there has been more than one occasion where I simply don't want to get out of bed. Losing weight has, at times, been my only source of feeling in control and I didn't realise just how initially devastating this gain would be for me. As the days went on I felt totally out of control and it wasn't until Monday when I finally pulled myself out of my cave and went to sushi that I started to feel like myself again. (BTW the prawn katsu, fewer calories than the hairy prawns and yum-highly recommend) Most of the week I was dreading getting on the scales at the next meeting. I didn't want to see the damage. I had to be practically pushed on to the scales by Lucy and only after a final series of jumping jacks (apparently to burn off any final calories...), and the removal of all superfluous clothing, would I get on the scales. When I saw the number go down it was like some kind of outer body experience. I stood there, jaw to floor, flabbergasted and completely incapable of coming to terms with the fact that not only had I lost that pound I'd gained but I lost another two for good measure. And it was right there that I realised the one piece of advice I can give anyone is simply to keep going. It's so easy to be beaten down, whether by yourself or someone else, and to just want to mope in your own little hole but it's just then that you need to show the world what you're really made of. Obviously, this relates to more than just weight loss and is a good guide to life. To quote Buffy 'the hardest thing in this world, is to live in it' but if you don't keep pushing forward and trying, what's the point?
A girl's gotta have a Vampire slayer idol. . .

Monday, 10 June 2013

Weight loss and Exercise

It's been a while since I wrote and I've reached 21 lbs. This week has been a strange one though. This is the first time since starting Weight Watchers that I feel hungry. I don't know what it is. I've dropped points as I've lost weight but I went from a week where I never went over my points to a week where I consistently use a few of my weekly points. This shouldn't be an issue but it's still making me uneasy.

This, I feel, somewhat brings me onto exercise in weight loss. As a result (or perhaps its the cause) of feeling hungry I've upped my exercise. I went for a walk/jog/run thing on Saturday evening and as I was moving I started thinking about all of the things that have held me, and other overweight people, back from exercising. My first issue came from genuine fear. When I exercise, I worry that I will damage myself and put myself out of action for lord knows how long. As a result of my weight I probably couldn't have surgery and if I were to, I don't know, badly break a bone I'd be sentenced to my bed and would gain weight from lack of moving. I know that when I twist an ankle or sprain something that it takes me a long time to recover and I even managed to track my recovery time getting faster over time as I lost the 75lbs before. However, the reasoning stands, I worry about damage and injury and I'm not known for being the most stable of people...I tend to fall over.

I know this is a common issue among the overweight community. You hear stories of people who have been bed ridden for years because of physical issues caused by their weight. I know people personally who cannot exercise because of years of damage to joints and muscles and tendons. And with that, we go back to a comment I received a few weeks ago: change of diet does nothing, the only thing that makes people drop weight is simply, unequivocally, exercise. I'm here to say that this concept is utter crap. Exercise is great for you, don't get me wrong, but what kind of hope do you give to someone who's struggled with their weight for years, decades even, and have crippling physical issues that the only thing that can do is to get up on their broken bodies and exercise. Doing an activity that could potentially permanently damage them.

Further to that, there's just the embarrassment of it. I'm not good at exercise, except (strangely) ballet. I get sore, I worry that I'm not doing it correctly and could (no surprise) injure myself. That people are watching and laughing at me. There's the insecurity. I look silly, lumpy, uncoordinated. Everyone knows someone who HATES going to the gym for fear of people looking at them. Maybe that person is you. We've all seen those people who go to the gym just to show off whilst they preen themselves in the mirror and for people like me, the ones who are going there in some desperate attempt to get fit/lose weight it screams of our insecurity.

But on Saturday, I had a break through. I was walking along, looking back and forth at all of the people who must no doubt have been looking at me and I stopped caring. I remember reading a comment on the site tickld where someone mentioned seeing a very overweight man jogging. I read the first line and assumed 'oh, here comes the mockery'. I couldn't have been more wrong. The original poster said how inspirational this man was for his trying, how it would get easier and how those who see those who struggle at exercise should have nothing but respect for people simply making an effort. And so, Ke$ha's 'warrior' came on and I started running. Not for too long and I was all out of puff at the end but I ran and I felt free of my worries that people were looking at me. They say 'you have to learn to walk before you can run' and that's true. But it's learning when you've come to be able to run and this was also holding me back. I didn't know if, when I came to speed up, I'd be capable in the slightest. And I was shit, and that's okay. It's just going to take time and every step and every mile will make the trying easier and the training better.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Stress and losing weight

Again, an update before I start the actual topic. Today, I went again to weight watchers and had lost 2 lbs. Now, this isn't the high losses of 5 and 4 lbs respectively over the last two meetings but 2 lbs, at this stage in my weight loss, is a good result. As such, I've lost 20 lbs. YAY Again, I went into my meeting not at all sure about how I'd done. Rationally I knew that I should have lost weight, I've stayed within my points and weekly ProPoints allowance, boosted my exercise again with a lot more walking so it should all have worked.

This leads me beautifully onto the discussion of how things can not go exactly to plan, even when (on paper) it should be working. Now, I've had a relatively stress free week. I finished my exams, went home over the weekend, have had lots of sleep and plenty of good food. However, when I do get stressed I am an absolute nightmare. My sleeping habits fly out of the window and I take so little care of myself. I'm usually incredibly regimented with my regime but when I'm ill or stressed it's like it never existed. That being said, I've experienced stress in relation to weight on two contrasting sides of the spectrum.

In my opinion, and I own the fact that this can only go as far as my experience allows, either my eating goes haywire and I NEED all of the biscuits, cheese, sandwiches to comfort myself in times of distress. As you will no doubt see, this means that I would generally gain weight at these times. Or, on the switch side, I also go through times of stress where I simply do not wish to eat. Food becomes the last thing on my mind and I'll eat at strange times in the day just because I need something to keep going. Unfortunately, in the latter scenario often that something to keep you going isn't all that healthy. This starts a vicious cycle whereby when you return to normal and start to eat as you once did, your body comes out of a state of Ketosis and screams 'WHY WERE YOU STARVING ME!?!?!? I know, I'll store whatever you eat as fat' and you gain Then you get stressed again and repeat the process all over.

Stress is a very strange biological process and you'll forgive my GCSE biology here. The hormones released when you tell your body that you are in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation ultimately want to produce one reaction. Fight or flight. This means that other processes in the body, those which are unnecessary to the self preservationist reaction, slow down. This includes your metabolic rate and includes increased storage of fat. In addition, your body produces hormones similar to those in starvation mode which (can) make you want to eat more and stores this 'more' as fat. As such, even if you're not over eating, your body can be producing long term energy stores as fat. Further to all of this, stress has some other nasty responses such as sluggish digestion and the potential for stomach ulcers. Basically, stress can make eating and digesting very uncomfortable and inefficient which is never a good thing.

This is where the problem with losing weight comes in. Lucy, my friend in university who is also on Weight Watchers with me, went in to the meeting today thinking that she'd probably gained a few pounds as a result of stress from exams and other external factors. We agreed in the car on the way in that no matter what happened we'd stay on track this week because a one week blip isn't the end of the world. She put on 1/2 lb so there wasn't all that much damage and she managed to keep her total weight loss to the point of having lost her first 5%. However, this wasn't a result of massive overeating or not tracking. Lucy is still one of the most organised trackers I've ever met. She brings scales and measuring spoons to meals and absolutely everything that goes in her mouth gets recorded. Yes her exercise levels have been dropped with revision commitments but she still was within her points allowance and should (on paper) have lost weight. This is where stress can have a really detrimental effect on your weight loss. She and I are just lucky that we have each other (and our previous successes) to keep us going. It would be so very easy to get disheartened in these situations, where sometimes losing weight feels like the only thing you have control over.

Obviously, I don't want to put a list of 'stress reducing' activities here. Everyone responds differently to different things. Where some need absolute silence, a warm bath and a good night's sleep others need to go boxing or for a 10 mile run. So what works for you, works for you. This is just a reminder that sometimes (at least it feels this way) your body's natural responses seem to be working against you. It's just a case of remembering that this too, will pass and that we cannot be defined by a simple number on a scale. Stress will always have the potential of popping up, we don't live in isolation. It's a case of trying to be prepared and moving forward when things don't go exactly to plan.

And finally, this is just something I found the other day that feels poignant in this discussion.
An arrow can only be shot by being dragged backwards. Sometimes being held back is nature's way of propelling you into something great. Cheesy, I know but I likes it.

And for those who got to the end and suffered through my arrow quote, a picture of the lovely Jennifer Lawrence as Catniss Everdeen. Enjoy

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Another update and some musings.

It's been a while since I wrote, again everything's been crazy busy and then my laptop decided to have a nervous breakdown. As such, there hasn't been an update or myth buster or anything in five days.

So, an update. I am at home with my parents for the week as my Aunt is visiting from America. This means that I couldn't go to my normal meeting in Bristol and had to go back to my old meeting on Wednesday in Buckinghamshire. As I've said before, going to meetings absolutely keeps me in control and in the weeks, like this one, where you don't feel great they're even more important. That being said, I won't lie, I went in there looking forward to seeing my previous leader's face given that I've lost the better part of a stone since I last saw her a month ago. Big grins all around and we got down to the conversation of how I've been doing, how my perceptions of weight watchers at university may have changed and some goals. I told her that I had a feeling I hadn't done too well. I've been having cravings for sweet food late at night recently so I've had several days where late night snacks of weight watchers chocolate bars have featured heavily. We both agreed, only the scale with tell. On I got. Four pounds off. Now, I am not often speechless, but this is the second week in a row where I got on the scale thinking 'I'll be lucky if I lost a pound'. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd lose the three pounds needed to have lost 5% of my starting body weight, let alone another one just cus. Out came the congratulations certificate and the 5% sticker on my card. I wandered around with a stupid grin on my face as I settled in for the meeting.

Now, for those of you who have never attended a weight watchers meeting, here's a secret. It's actually some sort of masonic secret society...I kid. First the leader told us all how much we had collectively lost and gained and after that we start talking about individual accomplishments. The spot light landed on me. Everybody wanted to know how I had managed to continue my weight loss, and so well, at university. To be honest I want to know I've managed to do that. I still find myself so uncertain of whether I'm right or not when tracking food. I still worry that my takeaway portion is more than would be listed in the book and there will always be some pressure, whether real or imagined, that I should be socializing avec alcohol et al. And yet I go into meetings and I've lost.

It's only now that I think back over how much I've lost that I truly realise the result. My clothes are much looser, I can do unassisted- assisted pull ups and I have far more energy. I just feel better. That's not to say that I spent all of my time before hand feeling terrible about myself but there is a marked difference in how much energy and drive I have which I was lacking in previously. I dance in the kitchen again, and I haven't really done that since my ballet days all those years ago. I spend far too much time obsessively feeling my collar bones being revealed and there are muscles being revealed from underneath the layer of fat that I haven't seen or felt in a long time. I have even found a ball dress...which will probably be too big for me by the time the ball comes around, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
My goal table, with the first 4 crossed off
This post doesn't really have any structure or any point, it's just a case of looking at the things you've achieved in bite sized chunks. My goals, whilst still a while away, seem that much closer and more attainable. This for me is the best point in losing weight. I have energy and all the drive in the world to continue. And ultimately, this is the purpose of these kinds of posts. These exist for the points later on when the drive is practically non-existent and you just want to be able to go out for a meal or a drink without planning your entire day around it. It takes time and is a rollercoaster, but as with all things you can't appreciate the highs or the end results if you don't have those low moments. It's just a case of keeping the momentum going.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Myth Buster: Skinny = healthy

I had intended on doing this blog post later on in my series of myth busters but there have been a few things in the last few days which have driven me to write this now. We would all like to think that the world is obsessed with health. We try to convince ourselves that this is why we follow the weight losses (and gains) of our most notable celebrities. Unfortunately, this just is not true. The truth is, and I've known this for years, we are obsessed with weight. Tyra Banks gains 5 lbs and the furore is unwavering. She loses it too quickly and she's anorexic. It is not just in the world of celebrity that we are obsessed with weight. It finds its way into the lives of the skinniest people. This is so much of an issue that we simply equate weight with health.

Now, I am not going to sit here and tell people that being morbidly obese is a healthy option, but neither will I tell you that being underweight is a healthy lifestyle option. The first issue over the last few days that pushed me to write this post came from lunch yesterday. I was guessed it SUSHI with Lucy and Piers. I'd found my Weight Watchers eating out guide and had brought it with me just out of curiosity. As happens when the eating out guide is involved, a game starts where people look at what they would eat in certain restaurants and equates it with how much they should be eating. In general, this is very entertaining. However, yesterday I mentioned that (on the old system of Weight Watchers) my previously favourite burger in T.G.I. Fridays was a day and a half of my then daily points. Piers made the comment that 'well, we can see where the problem started' and I had to immediately shut him down. My, slender, best friend used to eat the same burger. No one would bat an eye at her eating that burger and yet when I ate it this was a clear demonstration of my lack of healthy lifestyle. Sarah, my best friend mentioned above, has repeatedly said that I have a far better diet than she does. I eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg, lean meat and little to no processed stuff. Which just goes to show how easily people will ascribe health with weight.

What's more important though is the article I just read. This highlights something that I've known for a long time. The food industry WANTS people to be overweight. Companies make unhealthy processed food cheaper and market it as low fat, low carb etc. hoping that people will see it as a cheap means of 'getting healthy'. The food industry will push and push to get people buying their produce rather than actually considering what it means to be healthy. If people were more concerned with being healthy rather than being thin, the food industry would suffer massively. I started thinking about another article I read a while back, as well as experience with other weight watchers. Technically, if you were to stay within your calories everyday, you could eat <insert bad fast food outlet here> for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still lose weight. I know this to be true because I know people who've done it. Does the lack of weight mean that they are healthier than someone heavier who eats unprocessed, fresh food everyday. No. But this here is a massive image that the food industry wants to perpetuate.

I'm reminded of my watching Super Size Me a few months back. For me, the most disturbing thing in that documentary was not the amount of weight he was gaining or how sick he was becoming, it was one scene organised around Subway Guy, Jared Fogle. Now, for those who don't know, Jared Fogle was an overweight university student who reportedly lost 235lbs by eating 'low fat' Subway sandwiches. Incidentally, I feel the need now to assert the fact that , legally, for a food product to be described as 'low fat' it must be less than 3 grams of fat. The sandwiches that Fogle was eating was a 7 inch sub at 6 grams of fat. But I digress...Whilst I commend his success and don't doubt the truth in his methods, I cannot help but feel uneasy about the concept that Subway is a healthy method of losing weight. This is not the disturbing bit. The advertising campaign led by Fogle for his 'Subway Diet' involves him going into schools and talking to overweight children. Here comes my area of unease. One young girl came up to Fogle at one of these campaigns and said that she didn't feel like she could lose weight because she couldn't afford only to eat Subway's sandwiches. My mother's from Philadelphia, home of the Cheese Steak so I wouldn't dream of going into a Subway anyway, but knowing people who've worked there I know for certain that they are not the epitome of health food. In fact, one friend of mine who used to work there said that you'd be better off eating a stick of lard...yum.
Jared Fogle
I believe that it is this, damaging, attitude of weight being more important than health that is causing such a serious obesity 'epidemic'. By making health about someone's weight, people will go on crash diets which are doomed to failure and lead to people yo-yoing for the rest of their life. This does untold damage to your metabolic rate and is ultimately unhelpful. It should be an absolute responsibility of the law makers in our world that health, not fitting some vague number representation of a healthy weight, should be a priority and, where possible, make the food industry tow the line.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A (sort of) myth buster: The truth about plus-sized clothing

This post came about as a result of a conversation with my friend Maddy. We were going out for dinner last night (Bella Italia- it was lovely and I'd done an insane amount of planning before hand so had a great meal) after she'd finished revising for the day. At about 5:30 she came to my room and declared that no more revision was happening and that her brain was going to turn to mush if she did any more. To change the subject she asked a seemingly innocent question:
'When are you going to get your ball dress missus!?' My hall of residence holds an annual summer ball which is happening in just under a month's time. Last year I'd bought my ball dress in Monsoon in March, so you can understand why she was so adamant that I should get on top of the situation and at least start thinking about my ball dress.
Me in my ball dress last year
I grumbled some excuses for why I hadn't yet started looking as she sat down at my computer and started a hunt so fastidious that it could only be completed by this woman. Then another question:
'Flo, where do you actually buy your clothes?'. And this is where the purpose of this post really comes in.

Maddy had not realised that I couldn't necessarily just go into a shop and pick up something, in my size, off the hanger. Surely, it should just be as simple as going into a shop and finding things in your size. Her hunt on the internet proved to her what I already knew. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You need specialist shops and more and more of these are closing down as a result of pressure from online sales. So that is issue number one. I hate internet shopping. I don't like not being able to try things on first. I know I can simply return it but it's such a faff and, as a plus sized woman, it's so hit and miss all of the time. The cut may be wrong, the fabric too stiff etc. and you won't know this until it arrives. I hate the worry of getting a bag of clothing only for all of it to look ridiculous on me. It shouldn't be that hard.

We entered into a conversation about the lack of choice. She was shocked when looking at one of the websites that I usually frequent to find all of six, not at all attractive, frumpy dresses. No wonder I don't buy new clothes all that often. I said that being overweight certainly makes your options more limited. Maddy tried to assure me that it wasn't all that much easier further down the scale but I'm afraid that simply isn't true. You have more options in the first place. There are more shops to go into, clothes are designed with you in mind and you don't have the terrifying thought of going into a shop; trying something on, finding it doesn't fit and then (and this is the killer) finding that this is the absolute biggest size they do. You feel like a failure. I'm fat, therefore I am not allowed nice things. I once again used the example of Monsoon. I love monsoon, I love the clothes but the absolute biggest size is a 22 and even this is restricted within the options. I must give them credit, in general that only make 22s in styles that will work on a size 22 but you can't help but feel like you're being pushed aside. If you're a size 12, you can walk into any Monsoon and you will find something that will flatter your shape. More options means even if you don't like a particular cut, there is one for you.

It's not just a case of wearing bigger clothes. It's a battlefield out there. Plus size areas in 'normal' shops are relegated to the back with the maternity wear. It feels like you're going into a back room where only the naughty children go. I'd even relate it as far as going into the chokey from Roal Dahl's Matilda or going into an X rated film shop.
The plus sized department of Next...
Don't even get me started on the shoes. If you have wide feet you practically get put in orthopaedic footwear. How dare you not have standard fit feet? There was a point about 5 years ago where it all seemed to be changing for plus size clothing but we seem to be taking a step back now and that is incredibly disappointing.

And so, I've put off the hunt for my ball dress for months. I argue now that it's because I'm losing weight and don't want to get a dress that's too large but the truth is I simply don't want the embarrassment of not finding something nice. I wish I could go shopping with my friends and try things on with them, especially for big events like this. This has happened for every ball/wedding/party I've ever gone to. I'll sit and watch my gorgeous thin friends try on dress after dress as I watch the bags. It's enough to make you want to wear a bin liner. At least that doesn't discriminate by size.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Myth numero uno: Where is all the cheese?!

As I mentioned in the post before last, I will be running a series of 'myth busters'. These are misconceptions about weight loss, and being overweight in general, that I think are fairly common and should therefore be addressed. Not everyone has had to lose weight and I would never begrudge anyone for this. However, something that I think is true (and I've had friends who have always had healthy weights back this up) is that when you have never had an issue with weight you don't know what it's like. Some people will try to assert something that is a truth for themselves and that's fine. It is important however that people realise that this is ultimately unhelpful because everyone is different and unique and everyone will respond differently to a particular idea. Others will try to be supportive but fall down at certain hurdles because they don't know how to respond or are worried about insulting people by asking questions. All of these are fine. The intention of this series is to try and help knock down some of the myths and (hopefully) clear up a few questions that people may have.

SO, here we go.

Changing your 'diet' means that you can't have certain foods...ALSO KNOWN AS
'Do you like cheese?'
'I sure do. My favourite's Gouda.'
The inspiration for this post ultimately came from my friend Piers. It was in the first week back at university after the Easter break and I'd been on weight watchers for just under three weeks. We were eating dinner and at some point he turned and asked 'don't you miss the cheese?' Now, I should explain that I am a cheese fanatic. I adore the stuff. In fact, when I was 15-16 and suffering with depression I made cheese (and my pet cat) my entire reason to live. Melodramatic statement? Of course; but it worked, and just about demonstrates my absolute love for cheese. I am a cheese person. I believe there are two types of people in this world 1) the chocolate lover and 2) the cheese lover. Argue with me all you will but that's my belief. I am most certainly in the second category.
All right, you get it. I love cheese.

I realised that in this statement from Piers, the one you may have forgotten already because I went on a tirade about cheese, he was demonstrating a very common issue. The ultimate discrepancy between what it is to 'be on a Diet' and what it is to CHANGE one's diet. Now, I'm not going to bang on about things here because that's a secondary topic which I'll discuss in another myth buster but, this is something that plagues many people who have never had a significant amount of weight to lose.

As I mentioned way back when, when (like me) you have over half of your body weight to lose a simple 'Diet' won't work. You'll lose weight initially but it'll become more and more unmanageable and it will mostly come back on afterwards. Diets (with a big D) restrict what you eat. This is why Piers thought that I was no longer permitted cheese.

When you are changing your diet and lifestyle, you cannot simply cut out food. We've all done this. We'll say 'today, I am giving up crisps because they are bad for me. Never again will I eat a crisp'. What happens after this? Of course. The ONLY thing that you want is a crisp. You would sell your first born child for that crisp. If it were a choice between your left arm and a crisp, the crisp would win. And so, you eat that crisp and then make yourself feel terrible for eating that crisp before vowing never to eat you finish the entire pack.

So you see; if I were to tell myself that I could never again have cheese, I would have eaten the entire block of Wensleydale with apricots within the hour. I would be right back where I started again and this cycle would be on repeat for the rest of my life.

And this is the crucial thing. I am making changes for the rest of my life and in life, shit happens. Being totally inflexible in what you will or will not eat, will not make weight loss/maintenance any easier. At the end of the day, we still have to live. One of the most important skills to learn is not to simply say 'no' every time temptation comes your way. The key skill here is in evaluating whether you really, truly, want/need that particular product. If the answer is yes, I need my hunk of cheese, HAVE THE CHEESE. Just not the entire wheel of brie. If the answer is no, then you can say no and not feel as if you are being punished for losing weight. Ultimately, we must do as the French do. 'Everything in moderation. Including moderation'. Live and enjoy this life. And if that means accepting the slice of cheese at the end of a meal, by all means do so. Life will go on, and it is not the end when the Vacherin meets the cracker.