Saturday, 31 December 2016

An (Honest) Eulogy to 2016

Oh, 2016. You had so much promise. As I stood under the moonlight watching multicoloured pinwheels fly through the sky howling my lungs out in celebration of what was going to be the 'BEST YEAR EVER' I had no idea what you were going to bring. But I knew it was going to be good.

I. Was. WRONG.

Good God 2016, could you have been worse? Yes. We could be living in 1916 and witness our loved ones leave to fight in WWI only to never come back. We could be one of the thousands of displaced Syrian refugees or otherwise simply be in a less privileged position than I actually am. I am aware of this. I look around myself at the overwhelming prosperity and I am thankful that I have the things that I have and that the people I love are still here. But honestly...2016, I'm sorry but you were pretty shit.

In 2016, I have put on and lost and put on and lost somewhere in the region of three stone. I start the new year about half a stone heavier than I did on January 1st (and I am so thankful that it is ONLY half a stone heavier) but 2016 has been the hardest weight loss/fitness/general motivation year of my life.

In 2016 I have fallen in love and had my heart broken and put it back together only for it to be broken AGAIN. In 2016, I witnessed some of the finest artists of our time pass unreasonably early.  Social divisions were pushed to the absolute limit; first with Brexit, then with Donald J(esusChristyoucan'tbeserious) Trump, and the wave of intolerance continues at home and abroad.

Katie Hopkins did NOT leave the country either of the times she promised to. Nor has Nigel Farage pissed off (what would have been one of the few good aspects of the surge of hatred in the weeks immediately following the referendum). Jo Cox was murdered. Native Americans once again had their rights revoked because of big business. Lorries ran over celebrating civilians. Natural disaster after natural disaster. Police brutality. Civil war rages in the Middle East and no one really seems to know what to do about it, or knows what to do about it but is just too chicken shit to actually make a stand. There have been terrorist attacks and mass shootings what seems like every day of the year.

It's Christmas time, my absolute favourite time of the year. The time of year I love because, in general, people just seem nicer to one another. You take a minute to think of the people you care about and all of the wonderful things in your life. But when I look around right now, there is a veritable shit storm of fear and hatred and bigotry and just awfulness and I hate turning on the news because there's a picture of yet another child that the world forgot or a once thriving city razed to the ground or yet more hate attacks on people who are a bit different. I feel drained and demotivated and sometimes just, completely lost. And I know I am not alone.

And yet. There have been pockets of goodness throughout. I read something after the Florida mass shooting that struck me. In moments of peril, look for the helpers because they will always be there. And it's true. Where there is injustice, people will stand for what is right and good. Bloodbanks (after the Orlando shooting) were overwhelmed with support, veterans stood with protesters, the UK voted to ratify the Istanbul Convention, the White Helmets, donations were made to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's name, three parent babies, we're closer to a cure for HIV than ever before, the Icelandic football team received a heroes welcome, tiger populations are increasing, Bill Clinton reacted to balloons, Leonardo DiCaprio FINALLY won an Oscar, Leicester City, Larry the Cat, the Chicago Cubs, Pope Francis continues to be Pope Francis, The Olympic and Paralympic games. I watched one of my best friends achieve a life long dream. I had fun. I held the people I love close. I didn't fail.

There is the potential for goodness and determination in the face of adversity everywhere you look. So, my wish for 2017 is to make it count. Every new year has the potential to be a bizarre game of deja vu. We repeat the same resolutions, give up at the same times and then just carry on with the day to day monotony. I don't plan on doing that. I plan on putting the work in. Grabbing on to possibilities and giving them my best shot. And in many ways, I have you to thank for that 2016. If you hadn't been so crap I wouldn't have the drive to make 2017 the best year yet.

Nearly everything that happened in 2016.
Beutler Ink. (

Friday, 16 September 2016

Changing priorities

This afternoon I went with my friend Elspeth to see the latest in the Bridget Jones' Diary franchise and I had a bit of an epiphany. Yes friends, Bridget Jones brought around a real psychological evaluation that I'd like to share with you all.

Let's begin by briefly discussing my state of mind for the last...year. It has not been pretty. If I am honest with myself I started beating myself up on the 14th September last year when I attempted the New Forest Marathon. Having come in to this with an incredibly positive mental attitude (despite having lost weeks of training to illness) I was certain that there was no way I wouldn't be able to achieve this and so, when I couldn't, I don't think I ever really forgave myself. Gone was the celebratory marathon and Tough Mudder themed tattoos (unfair on the latter as I did actually complete that and still consider that to have been the greatest fitness success of my life), I stopped running and slowly but surely I stopped caring. My nutrition went down south, my love for activity decreased and I just became overall complacent. Flash forward a year and two days and this has changed very little.

Bridget Jones is remembered for a number of things: big pants, sliding down a fireman's pole and singing 'Like a Virgin' in a Thai prison (to name but a few) but my single most pervading memory from the books is her obsession with weight and caloric intake. Bridget can proudly tell you the number of calories in a small banana and complain about being 9 stone 10 (b***h). First thing I thought of here is, God I hope I never get so obsessed with the number on the scale that I am at that level. Followed by 'F**k, I already am'. You see, I started September with every intention of rejigging my life. I've been doing the yoga 30 day challenge at Sweat Studios and I was meant to be eating well, hydrating well and therefore feeling ALL of the benefits. What has actually happened is I have done the yoga but I have forgotten to hydrate adequately, meaning that I've spent much of the last week either missing classes or feeling like death warmed up because I have such a headache; I have apparently thrown the nutrition handbook out of the window meaning I feel sluggish and overfull ALL THE TIME, and have gained weight. Last time I did the challenge I was dropping pounds on a daily basis. Anyway, that bit is really unimportant. The important bit is the obsession. See, the thing is I really shouldn't KNOW that I've gained weight. I should NOT be weighing on a near hourly basis seeing if I've shifted the pound I gained at breakfast or hoping that a good bowel movement will get me closer to my weight this time last year. I have lost the plot.

I am missing the opportunity to see my body work at its peak because I am completely overtaken by a number on a scale. I go to the gym to lose weight. I go to yoga and operate in blistering heat to lose weight. All I have thought about for months is weight. And as, obviously, that has not been moving in as expedient or consistent a manner as I would like, the way I have been thinking about my weight has become increasingly negative.

And then today, Mark Darcy stepped in. As many of you know, I am studying to become a lawyer and human rights is absolutely where my interest lies. And I'd kind of forgotten that. I'd become swept up with all of my obsession with weight and with the negativity that has been following me around like a bad smell and, quite frankly, I've been fucking things up. Not badly. Not enough to hold me back, but enough for me to notice. And then I remembered the way I was when I was younger and all I wanted in the whole world was to stand on a stage in the West End and play the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl or Eponine in Les Miserables. Every thing I did then was in service of my ultimate aim. Which is why, on the drive home, I gave some thoughts to my goals now. Career aspirations obviously include completing my legal degree with as high a degree classification as I can achieve, get a place studying for the BPTC, get pupillage, change world. But health wise, I just don't think that my 'weight' can be the priority. Right now my 'weight' is not serving me. It is holding me back. My aim is to be healthy. To go to bed feeling well and waking up feeling well and able to start the next day. Not feeling like I've put poison in my body that wracks my stomach with cramps at night and waking up feeling like I've been hit by a bus. To be fit. To give my body challenges that it has not achieved (or even tried) before and feel like I can do it. To not feel so lethargic. To not go up the three flights of stairs to my bedroom and feel exhausted at the end. To condition my body so that it is in excellent condition for as long as possible. Not my weight. My weight does not determine any of those things.

So kids, for now at least, I am banishing the scales. I will still record what I eat as a method of accountability but my focus has to be on getting the most from my activity, eating healthily and regaining my balance. But most important of all, finding the positivity that drove me on all that time ago when I first started this. And until then (and perhaps even then) my 'weight' can only hold me down.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Managing expectations

This week I've been thinking a lot about expectations. Not just the expectations a person has for themselves but for those around them. The general feeling I've managed to come up with is that we all just need to be nicer; to ourselves, to the people around us. To people we know and those who are just strangers on the street.

I went to visit Lucy on Monday and as I was sat on the monument inside seven dials in London dreaming about the oishii buns I would soon be gorging myself with I had time to do some serious people watching. I had been mean to myself pretty much all morning and I was being less than generous to the people around me. Overhearing parts of phone calls and imagining the most recent domestic they'd had with their partners, judging their choice of lunch when one chap with a (particularly delicious I'll admit) thai green curry sat down next to me, picking on people's clothing, the sound of their voice, the music they were listening to too loudly on their MP3 devices. And then I stopped, I looked up at the glorious blue sky above me with the fireball that had returned temporarily to confuse Londoners on their lunch breaks. I looked at a girl across the street from me hang up her phone call and could see what was the beginnings of tears forming as she hid beneath sunglasses and I thought 'everyone is fighting a war about which you know nothing'. I had been expecting things from people who were deeply at war and I was blaming them for that. Moreover, I was expecting things from myself that I just did not have the energy to provide and I was beating myself up about it repeatedly.

I went back to my first Weight Watchers meeting since October and I had expected my leader to have binned my card. It had been well over the 12 weeks 'lapse' period that leaders are meant to employ. I scoffed to my friend Elspeth, 'we'll see if Sue still believes in me by whether or not my card's still here'. I got to the box of cards and, what a surprise, my card was not in the box. I felt an instant disappointment. I was disappointed in myself, in how far I'd come and how far I was guaranteed to have slipped back. I laughed it off with the receptionist and got to the front of the queue fairly quickly. The first thing I said was 'I wasn't in the box...time for a fresh start I suppose!' I was NOT expecting Sue to turn around and say 'your card is in my car. I just had a feeling today when I was clearing them all out.' With that, she believed in me again. I believed in myself again. Got on the scales and, whilst I HAD gained weight since my last meeting, I'd lost three pounds since I'd last weighed myself. There is plenty to do, there can be no denying that, but sitting in that meeting being reintroduced to people who did not recognise me and being called upon to tell my story to those people I had yet to meet was the catharsis I'd needed. I vented my spleen, I confessed my sins and emerged ready to step up to the challenge ahead of me.

And yet, I still expect too much. Lucy tells me, and she's right of course, that this is because I'm an overachiever. I have always wanted to be the best at something. To be the one who is known for X and I am used to people celebrating my achievements as a result. And recently, I've had to take a step back from that and accept that I am not the best and that that is okay. That it's alright to not have control of my emotions 24/7. That the veneer I'd painted on of having everything together all the time does nothing but cause pain in the long run and that I am incredibly fortunate to have so many people that I can fall back on when I need to be supported. There is no weakness in asking for help. There is no weakness in admitting that everything is not perfect, far from it even.

Learning not to expect too much for myself is going to be a long, hard process. What I can do now is manage my expectations of others. And so, I'm sorry. I'm sorry if I didn't let you in or if I made demands because of my needs, my wants without accepting that that may not be what you needed or that you were giving all that you could at the time. I am sorry that I am selfish and occasionally unkind and that at times I am guilty of being very much blinkered by my own tunnel vision. Going forward, I intend to be very much more forgiving of the individual battles we are all undertaking at any one moment. I promise to be more accepting of my own failings but to stop letting those failings hold me back. Today, I looked down at the arrow tattoo on my wrist and remembered that I have overcome far greater obstacles than the challenges I currently face but that the key to all of those victories was my own positivity, my personal belief that it could be done.

And it can be done.
Everyone is fighting a battle:

Sunday, 13 March 2016

'In Search of Self'

When I was 15 I was diagnosed with depression. I started seeing my therapist, Christine, and over the next year and a half of my life my weekly sessions with her would see me talking through everything.  Mean girls at schools, boys, my weight, boys, my family life, boys. Together, I got my life back together and was (generally) happy. I've revisited her a number of times as I grew from a teenager to a woman and needed a little guidance and a push in the right direction. The reason I'm thinking about Christine is that she gave me a book when I finished working with her in my teen years. The book was called 'Dibs in Search of Self' by Virginia Axline. To my discredit, I never read it. Today, I found the book whilst I was sorting through some old things. With a deep sigh I thought 'I have lost myself recently'.

The reasons for this unfortunate statement are numerous and there is no one thing that can explain it. In terms of weight loss, which is the primary reason this blog exists, I have completely lost my way. I say that with some shame, with a good deal of pain and with a very 'anonymous' attitude that the only way this can change is for me to accept that, acknowledge it and (critically) move forward. Coming back to my blog is a way for searching for the self that I have misplaced- temporarily. The way is not shut (sorry, Lord of the Rings reference that had to happen- my fingers just typed it, honest) there is ALWAYS a way back to yourself and there will never be a reason for me to give up on who I am and, importantly, who I want to be.

So, who do I want to be? What do I want to be?

I want to be:
Secure in myself and my abilities
Progressive (I never want to stay stuck again)

I have spent many months, too many to count or to even be sure where my loss of self started, thinking 'you've done so well, it doesn't matter that you're just staying where you are'. That attitude turned into a 'you've done so well, what does putting on a couple of pounds mean in the grand scheme of things?' Neither of these statements are a bad thing, far from it. I'm thrilled that even though I've been up and down and up and down since...October?..I have not gone so far off the rails that I do not feel capable of pulling myself back. But, what neither of these statements focus on is the importance of moving forward. This is not just about my weight loss. Staying static for a time is not bad, but allowing that status quo to continue for too long is unacceptable. I had become uninterested in progress at my running, in the gym, on the scales, hell my love life if we must. With that status quo I have become more and more lazy and lost more and more of my get up and go attitude, my tenacity and my determination. I knew that things had gotten bleak today when I walked out of Hotel Chocolat with an Easter egg that I intended on eating...two weeks before Easter.

So, moving forward I need to make a few declarations of my self to find my way back to the road I was carving out for myself.
I go back to my first Weight Watchers meeting since October (I cannot believe it's been so long) on Wednesday. I need to go and air my grievances and recommit to myself and my group.
I recommit to Heather (if she's talking to me). That hasn't been too long (two weeks I think...maybe three) but I'd stopped going to the gym between sessions and as such, little progress has been made.
I recommit to making my fitness about my happiness. The weather is finally changing and I can go run (jog, fatgirl, run) outside just for the enjoyment of using my damn legs and breathing in the fresh air.
I recommit to tracking. EVERYTHING.
I recommit to my jars. I have been so remiss on my jars, I was 22 pebbles out of date...
I recommit to myself. Full stop. End of sentence. That is all there is to it.

And I read that book.