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.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Shoulda put a ring on it?

First, let me start this blog post by saying a few things. First, the end of these two insanely busy weeks are coming to an end. Yay. Secondly, I LOST FIVE POUNDS THIS WEEK. This means I've now lost a stone in total. I thought I'd gained, I was certain of it. So you could say I'm a little bit happy right now.

So, let me now get onto the crux of the matter that I wish to discuss today. Weight loss surgery. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on weight loss surgery but I can say with absolute clarity that it has never been a consideration of mine. This is the spiel that I have managed to gather from the NHS website about bariatric surgery:

The gastric band (the ring in this post's title): a band is used to reduce the size of the stomach so that less food is required to feel full. This is reversible and also adjustable. A medical practitioner can increase levels of saline solution to tighten a band if necessary.

Gastric Bypass: The entire digestive system is re-routed so a pouch is created in the top half of the stomach and attached to the small intestine. You need less food to feel full and absorb fewer calories.

The reason that I want to talk about this here came from my friend Piers sending me an article about a man who had lost 22 stone through gastric bypass surgery. I thought, for one horrified moment, that he was encouraging me to have weight loss surgery. Over dinner he asked if I'd seen the article. When I said yes he immediately said 'don't you think that's cheating?!' Panic of him pushing for weight loss surgery over, we entered into a dialogue about the pros and cons of weight loss surgery.

I have (in the past) put a significant amount of thought into the benefits of weight loss surgery. Let us all now flash back to when I was 17. A very good friend of mine was suffering severely from Anorexia Nervosa. He was skeletal to the point of feeling faint all the time, headaches, etc. As context I should add that there was a period of time when he was eating so little that I decided to match him for a week. I'd eat as little as he ate and, if it really came to it, I'd purge at the same times he did. The concept of me putting myself at risk like that absolutely mortified him. He told me I'd die or become incredibly ill. Of course it was difficult for him to see that this was how worried we all were of him, and he didn't have a good few stone that he could lose. So, with that information, perhaps you can imagine my surprise when one night he called my house and, as coolly as he'd ask what I thought of the newest episode of 'The OC', asked if I'd ever considered a gastric band.

I was shocked, and what's more I didn't know how to respond. Well, no. I'd never thought about it. To be honest at that stage in my life I entirely didn't know how it worked or anything like that. I felt like I was on the losing side because I had no information behind me. All I could keep saying was that, for me, I would rather shed the weight myself slowly, with healthy eating, monitoring of caloric intake and increase in exercise because I wanted to be (and here's a line you've heard before) a 'normal' person. Normal people don't have bands cutting their stomach in two.

I told him that whilst I would never begrudge someone's wish to have bariatric surgery, it just wasn't for me. It is, in my opinion, an absolute last ditch effort. And I know full well that I am nowhere near that stage. I can still walk, my blood pressure and blood sugars are perfect. The likelihood of me dropping dead tomorrow from weight related issues is minute. I am also acutely aware of the countless cases of weight loss surgery where the weight comes back on because it has not been a long term continued process where new habits become maintained habits and anything without this learning process where you change your habits, opinions, likes etc. makes me incredibly nervous.

I appreciate the usefulness of this surgery being available to those who need it but I feel confident that the only thing that would cause me to fall back enough to require these drastic options is my giving up, and that simply is not an option.

My weight loss jars. A very visual reminder to keep going.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

An update and a new feature.

To all of you on the interwebs who have taken to reading this blog. Thank you, so very much, for your continued support. I haven't written in over a week because this has been the busiest week of my life. I've had assignments due, week one of archaeological excavation and a run of 'Little Shop of Horrors' to contend with. As such, an update. To those of you who have been watching the lilyslim ticker on this blog you may have noticed I've lost another pound. I've had moments this week where, because of time constraints and stress, I've felt like my world was falling to pieces. Now that this busy, hellish week is over I know that I was being far too negative. Losing that pound, making sure I went to the meeting on Thursday (covered in mud and soaked through from digging all day, I should add) was my way of maintaining some control.

A few more stats:
Since starting this weight loss programme I have-
Lost 9 pounds
Lost an average of 4cm on my waist, bust, thighs, arms and hips
Have purchased a dress in New Look (albeit, in their plus sized section. I'd never even bothered before as I felt so very out of place)
Walked an average of Nine Thousand steps per day
Had comments (either in person or online) from 12 different people about how 'inspirational' or 'motivational' this blog has been
Had comments from 5 people about how much trimmer I am looking.
Had one negative comment from someone trying to be supportive (I think we covered that well enough in the last post)

It's more than a little bit amazing. My friend Piers has shared my blog with his friends and he comes to dinner and tells me that they're all talking about it. People I've never met/ am only acquainted with send me emails saying that I've somehow given them the push to lose weight or simply do something for themselves. Something that makes them happy and more fulfilled. And I have to say, I couldn't be more thrilled. This was, ultimately, the entire purpose for this blog. To inspire one person. To let people know that they are certainly not alone in their feelings or worries.

As such, as a way of rationalising all of the support and positive energy, as well as the misplaced negative energies which will happen (thus is life, there will always be people who get their jollies from getting others down) I have been inspired to start a new feature. I was talking with my friend Maddy and she said that simply reading this blog over the last few weeks has opened her eyes to a variety of different issues that come upon people losing weight. Now, Maddy is an intuitive, intelligent young woman and if these are the kinds of things that would simply have passed her by, it stands to reason that it will have done the same to others. Together she and I came up with the idea of my writing different 'myth busters' over the coming weeks. Most of these will be formed from personal experience but many (where the science-y bit is involved) will require a bit more research so I do hope that you will bare with me as they take form.

The topics I have for discussion so far are:

  1. Changing your diet (as opposed to going on a 'Diet') means you can't have certain foods. A.K.A 'WHERE IS ALL THE CHEESE?!'
  2. Changing your diet means you've got to 'cut your calories in half'
  3. The difference between a 'Diet' -six weeks till your sister's wedding and changing your diet
  4. The concept of maintenance OR 'Coping at war. Have your exist strategy at hand before you go in'
  5. What it actually means to eat 'Healthily'
  6. Coping with outside forces OR 'The dinner party means my 'Diet' is over' scenario
  7. Unsupportive support.
I hope that you will find these myth busting episodes interesting and, where possible, I'm more than happy to take requests. If it is within my power to answer, I will certainly do so.

Until then.

Friday, 3 May 2013

A word about discouragement.

I start this post having reached my first goal. I lost two pounds this week and as such have lost my first half a stone (or 8lbs if we're being really specific). This was the information I needed to hear to tell me that my work at losing weight back at university has been going well and that I can continue to lose weight and have fun with my friends. Next goal, is to have lost my first stone. We'll get there.

This is not why I have felt discouraged. I have the most amazing friends, and in general they have been so incredibly supportive. Have there been a few funny looks with Lucy and I whack out the scales at meal times? Yes. Have there been moments when people have not known how to support my efforts? Yes. That being said, at no point has anyone made me feel like what I'm doing is a waste of time. Until today.

As with many incidents at university this issue emerged with a conversation about alcohol. I am not a massive drinker. I have had my moments of excess but as a rule I don't have a need to drink on all that frequent a basis. I think that's because my parents raised me in a very Mediterranean fashion and as such alcohol has never seemed that exciting, it was simply always present. As such, in general I am not drinking because I don't want or need to use my points on alcohol when it could be used on something that I actually genuinely do want. Most people understand this explanation and just drop it. Today, however, a friend of mine decided to inform me that being "on a diet" doesn't work. This is great, when you're trying to change your lifestyle and at times feeling discouraged on your own. I don't necessarily like people telling me to my face that I am doing such a good job, but certainly the last thing I want is mot be told that it's a waste of time.

Fortunately, after I tore this person a text based new one, I could easily brush myself off and not let it affect me. I know that he meant no harm and this probably comes from him never having experienced a weight problem. Ultimately this post is not about him. This about all of the times that people get discouraged. Specifically, all of the times that people will tell you that they love you 'just the way you are'. Whilst that's amazing, and ultimately all that anyone really wants - acceptance- when you have actually committed yourself to improving yourself, for yourself and no one else, you just need to have someone say 'I will support you, whatever way that may be'.

To anyone trying to change their lifestyle, don't let anyone else get you down and to the people who think that they're only helping, remember that your helpfulness is directly proportional to the goal the person is trying to achieve and by all means, love us for who we are, whether we're changing things or not.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Plus-sized fitness

Today, I decided that I am going to run the marathon. Not in 2014 but in 2015...I think that's enough time. As fitness plays such an important part in overall fitness it seems only natural that I write about this here. As an overweight woman I have always struggled with the concept of exercise.

As a child I never developed a liking of exercise and always thought that I was the butt of all jokes and ridicule because my lack of proficiency. It was only when I was 18, and came back to ballet classes, that I developed any real love of a fitness activity. Six months in and my fitness was amazing and whilst I was still only losing 1 or 2 lbs a week my body was strong and had definition and my general level of fitness was a million times better than before. As with many things, life got in the way. I had a new boyfriend, a new job and less free time to spare on my favourite activity. When I eventually went back months later my fitness had deteriorated so much that I didn't go back again because I was so upset that I'd allowed myself to fall so far backwards. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Going to a gym is a complete nightmare. I always feel that I'm being judged by the fitter individuals whose bodies are more capable than mine. Finding fitness clothing or accessories (such as arm bands) is problematic to say the least. Fitness clothing is made for 'normal' people and the plus sized stuff is anything but attractive. Even finding comfortable footwear is a problem when you have wider feet than the standard foot. Tonight my friend Piers asked me about what I do for swimwear. Enter a long winded discussion of why I detest going swimming because I'm on show more than any other activity. I love swimming but hate being the odd one out in the group which is a shame because it's so good for you, especially when you need to preserve your joints.

There are activities which I simply feel I am too heavy to do, such as military fitness groups or martial arts where I feel like I could injure someone else. I've been told repeatedly that many of these worries are unfounded but it's still a thought at the back of your head when you take up activities. I even held off starting ballet until I'd lost a fair amount of weight because I thought I'd be so completely out of place. What's more annoying is the activities which I actually AM too heavy to engage in. I was an avid horse rider from the age of 5-13 but slowly got weaned off because I was growing too heavy for the horses. I love animals and any activity which can involve them is wonderful for me. However, as it stands I need to get down to about 15 stone in order to safely ride a horse again. When that point comes there will be no stopping me. Further to this, certain rock climbing and diving courses won't enrol an overweight person. Rock climbing is something I've always been terrible at but wish I could at least get to the point where I can comfortably climb as an activity and diving is something that has always intrigued me. The fact that my weight is holding me back drives me absolutely insane.

As a result of all of these things, my current level of fitness is not that great. My house-mate Andy has been brought in as personal trainer and I feel things coming on slowly. Today Piers, Lucy, Maddy and I all took turns working on assisted pull ups on the machine near our halls. We've been doing this for just under a week and today I just about managed to do an (unassisted) assisted pull up. This is a huge achievement for me as even a week ago I couldn't imagine pulling up my own body weight. The target is simply to get better over time. I want simply to be at the point where I can run without worrying constantly about injury. Last week I bought the shoes and finally, since the weather's been so nice, today I stopped putting it off and went for a walk/jog/run thing. As a person who lives in fear of things getting too difficult when it once was far easier, the only solution is to start something and not stop doing it. This is the line I drew in the sand today. Today I make the promise to myself that I will never again have to think 'I can't believe my fitness has gotten so bad in X weeks/months' because I simply can no longer allow myself to stop doing it. The hope being that if I get to the point of actually enjoying these activities, these will be the things that keep me going when I'm having a hard week and will ultimately make the greatest impact to my appearance.

And so, I am going to go and watch "Run, Fatboy. Run" and plan my programme to future marathon runner/ 'tough guy' attempter and think of all of the wonderful things that I'll be able to do further down the line.