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.