Thursday, September 29, 2005

On a lack of motivation

I constantly seem to have people asking me how I get motivated to do this. I think it's finally hitting home that I've not just lost a lot of weight, I've lost more weight than anyone I know in real life, and in most cases more than anyone else they know. I'm heading towards the level of "my fantastic weight loss success" stories in trashy magazines, and I've done it the old fashioned way, without support, without drugs, without someone constantly telling me what to do. So people think that I must be incredibly motivated and disciplined to do this, and that it must be hard to keep doing it day after day.

But really, motivation seems to mainly be a bit of a non-issue to me. I don't think of myself as being particularly motivated to do this (although I may seem that way to other people). I see it more that my lifestyle gets stuck in a rut from time to time, I like consistency and I don't like change. All I've done is to get it stuck in a healthy rut, so by doing what comes naturally to me (i.e. the same as I did yesterday) I can keep in that rut and keep the weight coming off. Which is illustrated by the increasingly non-breaky "break" I'm meant to be on, I'm actually find it hard to think of what I would do if I wasn't doing this. So I carry on doing this til I remember. Seriously!

I just do it. These are the cards I've been dealt, and I do it. So what if I have to do more exercise or eat less than someone else in order to maintain a healthy weight? Life isn't fair. Maybe I'm a better lawyer than them, or I've travelled more, or I've not had a messed up childhood. Maybe they'd swap something I have for being thin. I might have been born with a crappy metabolism, or messed up messages in my brain that don't tell me to stop eating as soon as I should, but there are far worse things that could have happened. If I'd been born deaf or blind I wouldn't necessarily have this option to put things right just by working a bit harder at it. If I was in a wheelchair do you think I'd enjoy spending my life trying to find accessible workplaces, shops, toilets, transport, hotels, everything, and wheeling myself round all the time? Not having a real chance to look the world in the eye or to give myself a fresh start away from the chair? Probably not, but I'd just have to put up with it and live my life that way, whether I wanted to or not, and regardless of any issue of motivation. Put into context, having to spend some time in the gym most days is hardly the biggest possible hardship in life, and its something that I have to do, much like some people have to take drugs every day to control their illnesses.

I finally got to the stage where I realised it's pointless to sit here and wail that I'm fat and that it's not my fault. Maybe my body isn't ever destined to be effortlessly slim, and maybe I will always be nearer the heavier end of the healthy weight range than other people. But that doesn't condemn me to being quite so horribly obese as I was. I don't have to be tiny to be healthy, but I can sure as hell be a lot healthier than I was, and I have it within my power to do something about it.

So I got into the habit of going to the gym in the morning. I don't wake up in the morning and give myself the decision as to whether I'm going, I get up and go because I get up and go every day. I pick up my lunch from the fridge on the way out, and eat it because that's what's in my bag. I don't think about whether it's healthy or not at that stage, it's just what was in the fridge. Which in turn came from what I buy at the supermarket because that's what I always buy. Simple as that.

Making excuses, putting it off til tomorrow isn't going to change anything. If I don't do it today the weight loss fairy isn't going to visit in the night and decide that I've thought about it, so maybe I deserve a break. Zap! 5 pounds off! It doesn't work like that. I'm fat, and I'll stay fat unless I do something about it. I won't be able to pay my mortgage if I give up work, and I won't be able to fit in my size 14 clothes if I give up exercise. They both sound like appealing options sometimes, until you think of the consequences. Does understanding that fact and acting on it count as motivation? Maybe, but I prefer to see it as plain old common sense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pink rice pudding

So, let's all jump on the Jamie Oliver bandwagon and sort out school meals.

I have mixed feelings about this really. Not that I have anything about trying to improve childrens diets, but then I think back to what I ate at school and I'm not sure how much good it would have done.

At primary school I ate school dinners sometimes, and my abiding memory of them is the fact that I vowed never to eat pink rice pudding or soggy carrots again. I don't remember too much wholly unhealthy stuff being served, but I don't remember much with a great deal of taste either. Bland, bland, bland. Most of the time I brought a packed lunch in with me, and again it wasn't particularly unhealthy. But still, I was fat by the time I went to secondary school.

And there I went through probably the only period where my eating was really messed up. I didn't tend to take a packed lunch to school with me, I had lunch money for the first time in my life. But the thought of buying lunch in the canteen filled me with horror. I was never a popular kid, and I hated the whole pantomime of finding a table to sit on with people who might deign to speak to me. Sometimes I'd sit happily on my own, eating a slice of pizza (thinking back, this is when things started to get a little more unhealthy), but more often than not I wouldn't bother eating.

I didn't get pocket money for a while, so I'd save my lunch money to buy magazines and sweets on the way home. I'd buy a bar of chocolate from the sweet shop because it was cheaper and I could use the money for something else. I'd go all day without really eating anything with any nutritional value. As I got older and I was allowed off site at lunchtime I started getting more into the trips to the chip shop for a battered sausage, or trips to the local shop for sweets. Not every day, but when I did eat, it was never the stuff that was offered on site.

When I moved school for sixth form I don't remember eating in the school canteen more than about three times in 18 months. In fact I don't remember eating very much at all during the day. Partly from a vague thought that I might lose weight, or at least not gain it, but probably for other reasons that I can't even remember now.

The quality of school meals wouldn't have done a thing for me. At worst, badly cooked healthy food might have put me off eating veg for life. At best I might have been tempted into the canteen, but I'd have still been the unpopular fat kid who didn't have anyone else to sit with, no matter how nice the food. And I'd probably still have drifted through school with hardly a morsel of food passing my lips on school premises.

It's a start, and I'm not going to knock anything that leads to better food being available in schools. But I really don't think that it's the whole picture, and could end up being something that's for show rather than something that has a lasting impact. I do hope I'm wrong on that though.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Attack of the Clone

Sometimes being with my mother really winds me up, because she seems to have this deep seated desire to be me.

One of the very best things about losing weight is that I'm buying clothes in shops where she can't find stuff. That's not meant to sound nasty. Actually, it is meant to sound nasty, but not because I want her to be fat, but because I really really hate it when I buy some clothes then find out that she's been shopping and bought exactly the same thing a couple of days later, after she saw mine. She does it time and time again, and it really winds me up. I don't want to be constantly wearing the same clothes as my 51 year old mother (particularly not at the time when I was wearing it in bigger sizes). I know imitation is meant to be the sincerest form of flattery and all that, but please please please buy your own clothes.

Now, it's not so bad. I'm handing down (up?) all the stuff that's too big for me which not only makes me look nice and generous, but solves my issues with how to get rid of all my fat clothes. And it's stuff I'm not wearing any more anyway.

So clothes aren't so much of an issue, but it's spreading. The woman is obsessed with what I eat. She's coming from a mindset that says if you want to lose weight you have a yoghurt for breakfast, a yoghurt for lunch and beans on toast for tea. Or even better skip some meals entirely. So she's constantly amazed at the quantity of stuff I eat and is determined to pick up some "secrets" or something from me. I keep on trying to tell her that it's not that simple, and that what I eat isn't the answer.

She can't exercise like I can. She's older (not that that's an excuse for not doing any exercise) but she's also had pretty serious heart problems in her time. Cardio probably isn't the way to go when you spent your childhood having various forms of open heart surgery. I suspect that running 10k, or even 5 would probably kill her, or at least scar her for life.

But still she tries to replicate what I do, without the most important part. She peers into my bag to look what I've got for breakfast and lunch, she interrogates me as to what I have in the evenings. She bulk buys skinny cows because she once saw me eating one, and it just goes on like that. It's like I'm constantly on display, like a museum exhibition, and it bugs me.

Just because something works for me, it doesn't mean it will work for anyone else. There's nothing special about what I eat, and other people might not lose weight eating it, it's just that there's more exercise added in with it and it works for me. I don't mind talking about what I do and giving other people ideas of what they can add into their own lives, but it just scares me when someone tries so hard to be me but only goes half the way. I'm unique, I don't want to have a replica of me following me round all the time.

I don't want this to sound like I want to condemn her to being fat for the rest of her life, of course I don't. It's just the wholesale copying and obsession that freaks me out. We are different, and that should be a good thing, rather than constantly trying to erase the differences between us.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The future

I don't know how many times I've started to write this and failed to finish. It keeps on coming out wrong, or incoherent.

I think the problem is that I'm trying to sort out in my own head what I want out of this whole process, and it's taking a while.

I'm not talking about what I want my body to look like. Of course I have ideas on that, but that's only a secondary issue. I'm not going to push for a body that doesn't fit with the number one concern, which is how, exactly, do I want to live the rest of my life.

I don't want to be someone who lets food rule their lives. When I was fat I didn't think about food. I ate it if the occasion demanded, I didn't stress and I went with the flow. I was never a binger and I never had a wholly unhealthy diet, I just ate a bit too much, a bit too often a bit too consistently, and over time it just kept on adding up to those extra pounds. Well, I had a vaguely unhealthy relationship with 200g bars of chocolate, but apart from that it was just constantly eating maybe 2-300 calories a day too much.

I suppose that I had some dream that I could re-train my eating, lose the weight but still have the same carefree attitude to food that I had before. I didn't want to go back to the way I used to eat, but eating slighly healthier food in much the same way (and not having the weekend chocolate fests). But I'm not sure that it will ever happen.

I'm trying to work out exactly where the balance lies, and at what point I'd be happy with the balance between living my life how I want to live it and having my body how I want it to be. In an ideal world I'd be able to eat whatever I want but still have the body of my dreams, but this isn't an ideal world and for those of us not blessed with a stunning metabolism there's always going to be a trade off. Work incredibly hard to get and keep a fantastic body or work slightly less hard to get a body that's far better than what I had but possibly not the best that it can be. I'm realistic, and I know that unless I'm amazingly lucky (which may still happen, but I won't count on it) I just can't have it all.

I think this is where the "break" idea came from, although I didn't know where it was coming from on Saturday when I wrote about that. Now I'm within 30lb of my original goal, and well under the weight I'd need to be to be classified as obese, I'm starting to think about the long term a bit more. When I talk about a "break" I'm not talking about going back to how I used to live - I can now give myself free rein to eat what I want and it’s still pretty healthy. What I want to do though is to find a level that I think I can comfortably maintain and see where it takes me. And if I can't maintain at this weight (or lose, although that's not the main aim) by living like that, I need to think again about what it would really take to get down to 160 or beyond.

To be honest, I'm pleasantly surprised in that I've done very little differently over the past couple of days compared to when I'm trying to lose. What I'm currently eating and doing in the gym is the new "normal", and that bodes well. But I appreciate that I've had an easy six months or so in terms of pressures on me, and that I need to be able to cope with disruptions as well as those days and weeks when I can do exactly what I want. So even though I'm not really changing so much at all it's a "break" from a mental point of view in that I've told myself I don't need to lose (but I'll happily accept it if I do). It will be interesting to see if anything does change with that way of thinking or whether I've got everything so wonderfully ingrained that I do almost exactly the same stuff anyway.

I'd rather find out now if I'm not going to keep it off than after struggling down to an unrealistically low weight. And part of me wants to start living like I'm maintaining now, and letting myself lose slowly until my weight stabilises at a healthy level. I think of it like jumping out of a plane and freefalling, then floating gently down to earth on a parachute, slowly but surely. And then I realise, maybe there's no difference anyway, and maybe this is just a lot of drama about nothing.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Time for a break?

I've started so many different posts today, trying to explain the mixed up stuff that's going on in my head. What it boils down to is that I want to stabilise my weight at about this level for a while before trying to take this any further.

I've kind of been pushed into the decision anyway, my mother's coming to stay with me for 3 weeks, and while she's very supportive when she's talking about my weight loss, her actions when she's cooking or suggesting places to eat don't necessarily always back that up. To be honest, I'm at a stage when I don't want to try to fit all my relationships with other people round my relationship with food, and I want to go with the flow a bit and relax for a while.

I don't mean relax entirely. There's no way I'm intending to go back to how I used to live for three weeks. I'll be trying to introduce her to a couple of easy healthy changes to her lifestyle, and I'll still be exercising. But I won't be quite so in control as I like to be, and I'm not expecting to actually lose.

Add in four days in Marrakesh in a couple of weeks time, then an all day drinking session in Manchester with friends the week after, and I'm not going to have any overambitious targets at the moment. If I lose that will be fantastic, but if I don't then maybe it's what I need.

Recently I've started getting the negative thoughts back in my head. "Do you really think that you can maintain this, face it, you're doomed to be fat", "what on earth have you done to yourself that you drag yourself out of bed at 7.30 on a Saturday morning to go for a 7 mile run?", all the old doubts that hadn't been around for a while. I'm heading into the unknown now. Even size 14 is a place I've never been before, so each pound that comesof now is a step into new territory. I don't think I've quite got my head round the magnitude of what I've achieved.

Reading my posts for this week I can see that sub-text. I'm tired of being the person who's losing weight, and I'm somewhat disillusioned as to what a size 14 body looks like. I realise simultaneously that I need to work even harder, and that I want to have more in my life than just weight loss. That's a double whammy of conflicting emotions that's messing round with my head a bit. It's hard to reconcile the new me with what I remember the old me being. While I love the new me to bits, there are odd moments of nostalgia. I was happy when I didn't think about my weight, or at least when I didn't know what my weight was.

I seem to have dropped incredibly quickly from 205 to 189, and maybe I need some time for my brain to catch up with my body. I've felt like this before, and come back far more refreshed from a break. Maybe that's what I need to do now.

I'm not saying I'm giving up. This morning I went for an amazing run, my longest outside run ever, and probably at the quickest pace too. I went for a 30 minute swim this evening too. My eating hasn't been bad all day, and for the most part it won't be bad when mum's here. I can still eat breakfast, lunch and my afternoon snack when Im at work in the same way as I always do. One meal a day, it's hardly going to send me back to where I started.

Unless I do what I did last year. She came over, I stopped going to the gym (because at the time I didn't want to publicise the fact that I was trying to lose weight, I wanted to keep it to myself until I knew whether I'd stick to it). I didn't get back to the gym on a regular basis until January this year. I'm not going to do that this year. I'm going to carry on being fairly sensible, but take the pressure off a bit.

So maybe "break" isn't the word, maybe it's more of a maintenance practice. I'm not going to consciously try to lose, but I'm determined not to gain. But I'll try not to think about my weight qute so much. And I won't be blogging as much either, I'll have more limited access to the computer anyway, but trust me, I'll be back.

Friday, September 23, 2005

My arse is not public property

If there's one downside to this whole process, it's having my life and eating habits pored over by everyone I know and having everyone talking about me constantly.

At first it was a nice confidence boost when people told me I looked like I'd lost weight, I loved it and it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. It still does give me a bit of a boost, but more often than not it just winds me up. "I was talking to Kirsty about you and we can't believe how well you've done". Forgive me for being a bit touchy, but I don't like the thought that you and Kirsty are gossiping about me. I'm not into that sort of stuff on the gossip spreading side, and I don't like being the subject of it either. Particularly when I don't know what they're saying. If they're just complimenting me then fine, but I know how bitchy some people can be and it wouldn't surprise me if there aren't all sorts of dubious theories circulating about what I'm doing to lose weight so fast. Healthy food and exercise, folks, simple as that. I can't explain it in any more detail than that, I don't have any complicated plan or drugs to share with you, it's just that by a process of trial, error and sheer good luck I've hit on something that works for me, even if I don't quite know why. I'm losing far faster than I expected, but at 2lb per week on average it's not dangerously fast, so I'm happy that I'm not causing any more problems by it.

It's getting to the stage where it's starting to annoy me that I can barely put a piece of fruit near my mouth without being asked to impart my wisdom or be told how well I'm doing and that whoever it is this time couldn't imagine eating fruit for so long. I am eating other stuff too, guys. Chocolate, for example. And anyway, my raspberries and yoghurt afternoon snack is the highlight of my day - it's so much tastier than processed rubbish anyway so don't try to tell me it's a hardship to eat it, it's not. It's more expensive than a bar of chocolate, but just so much tastier. Honestly.

Although the reaction I get when I eat fruit is nothing compared to the looks I get when I eat chocolate. It's as though other people feel like I'm letting them down when I treat myself from time to time. I feel like beating them round the head and reminding them that a single bar of chocolate in itself isn't going to make me put back on all the weight I've lost. Half the time it isn't even going to slow me down that much. 200 calories? Not a problem. If I need a treat once in a while I'll have a treat, what I won't do is eat two 200g slabs of Dairy Milk at about 1000 calories each every weekend just because they're on special offer if you buy two instead of one. Don't look at me like a bite of chocolate is a betrayal of dieters everywhere, I'm not other people, I'm me. If I decide I can have it, I can have it.

I don't like going into the kitchen to wash my raspberries to find the mad Scottish woman who works here (I've been here 4 years and I've not quite worked out what she does…) discussing the reduction in the size of my arse with one of the male partners (a partner who clearly isn't actually that interested, and which leads to some uncomfortable shuffling on both my part and his). She's obsessed with her weight. She doesn't need to lose anything really, but has been trying to lose half a stone for at least the past four years. So I'm acting as a kind of weight loss proxy for her, she gets far too interested in what I've lost as she hasn't lost anything. "You're doing so well, I can't lose half a stone and look at you, you've lost 5" (incidentally, I didn't tell her it was 5, so I'm trying to work out how that particular bit of information made it back to her, a couple of potential routes spring to mind).

I don't like the mad Scottish woman talking in a loud voice on the other side of the office to random people about my weight loss so that I and half of Leeds can hear it, when I'm trying to concentrate on some drafting. No matter how complimentary she is, I'm not public property.

It seems like something so visible as weight loss makes your eating habits public property to be discussed and pored over at will. I know I talk a lot about it on here, but that's different. I'm in control of what I type, and people I know in real life (other than people I've met through the whole weight loss thing) by and large don't get to see this. But with the people I work with, what business is it of theirs really? Of course I'm immensely proud of what I've done, and I wouldn't swop being gossip free for being the weight I was, but to be honest, I'm sick of them talking about it.

There are lots of different sides to me. On here, I talk about my weight loss. I hide behind a cloak of semi-anonymity to do it (you can find my real name as well as my photos on here if you look hard enough, but I don't advertise it). This is my weight loss space, and I'm fine with that. I have an online persona that puts things out there that my real life persona would never discuss. But on other websites where I post stuff my weight loss just isn't an issue and other sides of me come out, depending on what I'm talking about and who I'm talking about it too.

In real life, I do the same thing to some extent. There are some things about me that even fairly close friends and family don't know, but that I've confided to strangers on the internet. There are things about me that everyone who knows me in real life know, but I never discuss online. And in work, the most important thing is that I want to be seen as a competent, capable lawyer. I don't want to be objectified for my appearance or seen solely as the person who lost tons of weight. The problem is that weight loss isn't something that you can hide and only reveal when you want to. And it occupies such a central part in so many womens minds that it just seems to tempt people to talk about it.

Maybe it's a bit hypocritical of me. There are some days when I postitively crave for somone to notice or to say something, and then other days like today when it just starts winding me up, but the balance is shifting now. It's old news, and I want to move on and get my life back. When people see the whole of me, I want them to see more than just the pounds of fat that aren't there any more.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The promised land isn't like I expected

Every morning I get up and put some work clothes in my bag. A suit. I have lots of suits, unfortunately most of them are size 20 and 22 and are getting comedy big. Last time I tried on the very biggest, a Marks and Spencer size 22 that I was wearing at the beginning of the year (and which was getting snug again after loosening up a bit last summer before I had my mini-blip over winter), it was already getting to the stage where I can see that it might be useful for one of those stand in one of the legs photos at some point in the future. Really, there is absolutely no way the trousers would even stay up without some sort of assistance, they'd just fall right down over my massively reduced stomach and hips.

Anyway, I have lots of suits, but in terms of things that might actually be wearable I have one size 18 suit, and two size 14s (one which I bought a while back and one which I "liberated" from my sister's old clothes last week). Every day, every time I wear the size 18 suit I realise how much too big it is, the skirt now starts twisting round at any opportunity because it's just so loose. But I love that suit and still I wear it. Every day. I spent over £100 on it back in June when getting into a size 18 was an amazing achievement (OK, to be honest, I bought trousers and a skirt for it in a 20 as well as 18 because the 18s didn't exactly fit. But getting into an 18 jacket, even if it strained a bit when I fastened it, was an achievement…). At that stage I'd spent nearly a year getting from a 22, to a 20, to a 22, to a 20 and then edging towards 18. I didn't realise how little wear I'd get out of it once my weight loss really kicked in.

I love that suit, but in a way the reason I picked it up every morning was that the thought of wearing the size 14s scared me. It's strange, considering how much I looked forward to dropping a size when I was bigger. I've started wearing the occasional top in a 14, but I've not been trying on 14s like a madwoman like I did when I approached 18 and 16.

When I first started this 14 was an impossibly distant number. Something almost theoretical. Yes, I could be a size 14 one day, but it won't happen. Imagining myself looking slim and sleek in size 14. Thinking that I would be happy to make it to that size. That size 14 was the answer to all my weight loss prayers, and I'd be thin beyond my wildest dreams. I think the reason that I'm reluctant to admit that I'm verging on a size 14 (see, I'm not admitting it even when I'm talking about not admitting it, why can't I say "reluctant to admit that I am a size 14"?) is that it involves me admitting to myself that all this time I've been underestimating the scope of my task and giving myself too much leeway.

I never imagined that my stomach could look as flabby as it currently does and still fit in size 14 clothes, or that I could still have so much flab left to lose. I've started to realise that I'm not one of those people who looks fab at size 14 (because there are some people who seem to have impossibly toned bodies but still pick up the same size skirts as me), and that maybe, in order to get down to the shape I would like to be I'll have to be wearing clothes sizes that I never even thought about in my wildest most optimistic dreams. Size 14 bodies come in all sorts of different shapes, and although mine is far better than my size 22 body, it's still a long way off what I was hoping for. It makes me worry that maybe I'll never be happy with my body. That if I can get to the size I wanted to be and still want to lose more weight then what happens if and when I do that? Will I still always want to be thinner? Will I always find a bit of fat to point at to make me feel like there's still work to do?

So my "size 14 looks better than this" thinking has kind of led me to putting off trying or wearing those 14s. It's made me feel like I'm some sort of fraud, that I'm using magic or something to get them to fasten because there's no way that this body is a size 14. That as soon as I breathe out or sit down the seams will split and bits of clothes will go flying in all directions as soon as my flab spills out. I look at other people my weight who are wearing far bigger sizes than me and, even though I'm relatively tall, I use this as further evidence that the label is wrong or it's just a fluke. I can't actually be a size 14, can I?

Well, yes. Actually.

I bought a cheap size 14 suit a month or two back on the basis that the 16 was a bit loose, I liked it and it was reduced, so I thought I'd get something to shrink into. Even though I've been aware for the past couple of weeks that it's perfectly wearable now - not tight, not in danger of ripping the seams (which I used to do with frightening regularity), I've left it hanging in the wardrobe. Somehow I didn't feel worthy of wearing it. Today I forced myself to pick it up and put it in my bag, together with a size 14 top. I left the house and there was no turning back, I'd have to wear it. Head to toe size 14. And it fits fine, it looks good, and it doesn't provoke shrieks of "what the hell is she doing, trying to squeeze herself into that". Maybe it was labelled wrong, but that wouldn't explain why almost everything in my sister's size 14 stash fit too, would it? I got to the end of the day and the skirt hadn't split, ripped or otherwise burst into pieces. I hadn't got red marks round my middle from it digging in. Even more people than normal had stopped me at work to ask how much I'd lost now (new clothes always seem to do that, good for an instant conidence boost), and wearing a short skirt I suddenly noticed how fab my lower legs look from all that running. Shame about the stomach...

I wouldn't claim that I can fit in every size 14 in the world, but more often than not I do, so maybe it's time to admit that I am a 14, and that I need to reconsider where I want to end up.

Maybe size 10 isn't a dirty word. There, I've said it. I don't think I'd ever have admitted it to myself at my biggest, but there it is, in type. Something new to aim at. Forget my old 12 - 14 target zone. Time to kick on. Even if I never make it, at least I'll know I tried.

*A note for any US readers. I'm talking about UK clothes sizes here. I need to make sure I'm sitting down to type this bit. UK sizes are smaller than a US size with the same number. I have some Gap jeans which are labelled as US size 14, UK size 18. And some skirts that are labelled as UK size 16, US size 12. Which would mean that a UK size 14 is a US size 10. Which may go some way to explaining why I feel like I should look better than I do and be lighter than I am at this size.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Getting the small things right

First of all, a big hello to anyone who has come over from Dietgirl's fantastic blog. If you could see me I'd be blushing now from the glowing review, and wondering whether I can come up with any inspiring words today to live up to that billing.


Anyway, I thought that the past couple of days were going to throw me off track, but I'm glad to say I came through creditably. First of all on Monday was the dreaded moment when work really kicked off. I've been lucky for the past few months, I've been fairly quiet, after a manic period in about March where I ended up working all hours. It's been fairly calm since then, helped by the fact that my boss has been on maternity leave all summer. But on Monday I had one of those dreaded three and a half hour meetings that kicks off at 5pm. The sort of meeting that would have sent me running for chocolate, crips and pizza at the end of it. But it didn't. I went to the supermarket on the way home, and realised that there are healthy things that are just as quick and easy to cook as a pizza, and that just because I was working late didn't mean I needed to "treat" myself with unhealthy crap. It looks so simple written down with hindsight, but I fell into that trap for far too long without even realising it.

Then last night I was out with Zoe and Jonathan for his 40th birthday. It was never going to be particularly sober, and I'm not going to pretend that I didn't drink or even that I chose my drinks carefully (cream based cocktails anyone?). But the stuff round the drinking showed the change in me. First of all, I turned up over half an hour late because I was insistent that I was going to eat something proper and vaguely healthy before going out, even if that made me late.

Then I drank, skip over that bit. But on the way home I didn't visit the row of takeaways by the bus stop for that late night kebab or burger or chips. Partly because I'd already eaten, but if I'm being completely honest that wouldn't have stopped me in the past. I could be not hungry at all but still find myself ordering doner meat and chips or something equally grease laden.

Then this morning I dragged myself out of bed after too little sleep and went to the gym. I could have given myself a morning off, I'm not that obsessive about the gym, but I didn't want to. The gym is part of my routine now, and it's just something I do. I didn't want to have to start working out my morning, what time I'd have to leave the house if I go into town during the rush hour, what time I'd therefore need to get up etc etc. It was just easier to get myself to the gym and work out. Then, to surprise myself even further I persuaded myself I'd try to do a short, fast run on the treadmill rather than a long one. Good plan, I'm trying to work on speed before my next 10k (my competitive spirit is coming up now I know that my secretary is going to run it too...). But I got to 5k, and I just kept on running. Despite the alcohol, the lack of sleep and the lack of intention I ended up running my second fastest ever 10k. It would have been nice if I'd managed 61 and a half minutes on Sunday, but never mind, at least I didn't have the Hill from Hell to deal with today I suppose!

Then I got changed, went into the office and had my breakfast. It was only when I then emailed Zoe to see how her head was that I got the reply "not so bad now I've had a bacon sandwich". It suddenly hit me. I'd not deliberately tried to use my willpower to avoid the bacon sandwich temptations, the temptations had never hit me. Despite walking past two shops that sell bacon sandwiches. And despite that being my traditional post drinking breakfast.

And this is the difference, and part of why Zoe is the size I started at, and why I'm not. Zoe did get the kebab on the way home, didn't exercise, did get the bacon sandwich (and did share an extra bottle of bubbly with Jonathan when they got in). OK, so it's more complicated than that, but you get the gist of it.

Maybe the small things add up to something just as important as the big "ooh, look at me, I can run 10k" things. They're both important, but the little things can so easily be overlooked. And the funny thing is, that half the time you don't even notice the change in the little things until someone points them out. I'd never have missed that bacon sandwich if Zoe hadn't mentioned it. As it was, I kind of craved the taste for about 5 minutes before I realised I wasn't hungry and couldn't leave the office, but that was still the very limited extent of the drama.

I'm never going to give up drinking too much and having a good time. I can never guarantee that work or the rest of life won't get in the way of the way I want to live my life. But if I do the little stuff right consistently, maybe that's not something to worry about, just a fact of life.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The big 10k

The day finally arrived, and joy of joys it was a lovely morning. Bright, clear blue skies and not a hint of the rain that got in the way of my 5k back in July. You'd have thought it would be the other way round, really.

This time I had to drive up to the course so after a brief setback where I stopped for a paper and a bottle of water on the way and got blocked in by a delivery lorry, I made it up to Harewood House in plenty of time. I used to drive past that place every day, but I've never been into the grounds, and I've not even driven past since I moved into Leeds 2 years ago. I was far more organised than I was for Race for Life, I'd pinned my number onto my t-shirt and got my clothes ready last night (the early start kind of dictated that one), and I'd got a better idea of what I'd need to take with me. The main problem with doing all this stuff alone without "cheerleaders" is there's no-one to hold my stuff while I run and while I left some stuff like my wallet in the car, I wanted to be as unencumbered as possible.

I got there and I realised that the start was on grass. This didn't bode well for me, I'm not a great fan of running on grass, I find it slows me down and saps the energy from my legs. And not only did it start on grass, but it was on uphill grass. Not like the nice downhill paved surface for my previous mile and 5k runs round Roundhay Park. Welcome to the real world, YP.

I also noticed that whereas Race for Life was a run/walk for all the family, with lots of walkers, young, old, fat, slow, this was very definitely a run. Everyone looked at least vaguely fit (or clinically insane), and I realised how much my fitness has imprved that I could even consider running in the same company as this lot.

The warm-up was fine. Although I did realise (as I did for Race for Life) that back this time last year a warm up like that would probably have worn me out and done more than just get my heart rate up a bit. It did get me sweating a bit, which is the intention, but nothing too dramatic.

The start wasn't great. We got through the start, ran about 100 metres and then the course narrowed to go through a gate and everyone ended up slowing down to a walk again. Then the uphill grassy bit started. Of course I'm running at this stage, although by the top of the hill I noticed that some people weren't.

This is where the paved bit was, round in front of Harewood House and to the car park. I'm running quite well at this stage. A bit up, a bit down, trying to keep a nice soli pace and not wear myself out too quickly. Past 2k, I'm still running quite happily.

Then. The Hill From Hell. There is no other way to describe it. Of the people around me (and the course was still fairly crowded by this stage, before it started opening up a bit) about 2 people attempted to run it. From just after 2k til just before 3k it was very steep uphill (level 20 on the treadmill didn't come close), it was an awful surface with tree roots and pothills everywhere, and it was long. I was quite disappointed as I was hoping to run to at least 4 or 5k before breaking into a walk break, but this hill wasn't runnable. The good thing is that the level 20 hills clearly worked. I can now do a walking pace which isn't far off a slow jog (I can walk 5k in 45 minutes), and I was still managing to overtake people as I hauled myself up the hill.

At the top of the hill I overtook one of the people from Radio Leeds. It's always the same with these things, the local radio or tv station make a big thing about training for these events, but I've never overtaken one of them before. Usually the celebs start at the front and I never get near them. Ha.

A bit more running, another hill just before 5k which was also a walker, but shorter. The expected water station didn't materialise until between 6 and 7k, just before another hill. I'd got my own bottle of water anyway so didn't need it, but at this point I was very glad I'd taken the trouble to carry it round with me. At the top of the hill after the water station (a hill on which I managed to walk fast enough to overtake someone who was still trying to run) there was a string quartet. Quite randomly bizarre...

From there it was mainly downhill, and mainly running. I started to feel a blister on my foot but figured that it wasn't going to be any less painful to walk on it so I may as well run and get it over quicker! The terrain was still horrible, as it had been after about 2k - lots of mud, I nearly slipped a couple of times, holes, roots, stones etc. By this stage everyone had spread out a bit better, and it seems that most people had found their pace. There wasn't much overtaking going on at this stage, people tended to be running at a fairly steady pace with the people round them. I did actually overtake a couple of people during this stage, but there was nothing like the movement earlier in the course.

Then finally, round a corner and you could see the finish. I couldn't see the time for ages as it was hidden round a corner, but at least I knew the end was coming. In the end I got through in 68 minutes, which wasn't too bad and better than my outside target of 70 minutes. I'd have liked to go a bit faster, as I've done it in 60 on the treadmill in the past, but I know that would have been optimistic on a course that hard. It really was a difficult run, and I know that my next 10k in November will be far faster and flatter than that one.

I might be able to post some pictures later. The new hair is great for running as it just doesn't get in my eyes at all, but it did look a bit wild by the end! There were photographers round the course so I might see whether it's worth buying a picture to prove I did it.

Cocktails tonight to celebrate! (Why waste a weekend long 2 for 1 offer?...)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A reminder

It's the big 10k tomorrow. I'm now getting scared...

Anyway, I've not been grovelling much this time round, but it's all for charity, and if you would like to sponsor me and donate some money to Cancer Resarch I will love you forever and ever.

If you go here you should be able to donate (I say should because I had trouble getting it to work earlier).

Asolutely no obligation, obviously, but if you do feel like giving some money to a very good cause, then you know what to do.

The Five Stone Haircut

Today was the day of the big haircut. I wanted something different to celebrate the fact that my face is almost worth seeing and not something that is best hidden behind a mountain of hair. I wanted a new haircut to reinforce when I look in the mirror that there is something different about me. I made an appointment and I was prepared to leave myself in the hands of the stylist. My hair has been roughly shoulder length for a while, with some layers, but the best word to describe it most of the time is bushy. It is just so thick and heavy that it ends up just looking like a mass of hair very quickly. I was considering having it shorter and more styled so that there was a definite difference.

Bad idea, apparently. Going shorter would mean that it springs up even more. So the stylist suggested more layers, but that's what they try every time and it never looks too much different. Then, she suggested a fringe. I don't think I've had a fringe since I was in junior school, but what the hell, I can always grow it out. I have a fringe.

I've not decided whether I like it yet, but it makes a change not constantly having to tuck the front of my hair behind my ears to get rid of it. I will hopefully post a photo once it's grown on me! (Coincidentally I've updated my header with a more recent photo today, which now looks nothing like my current hairdo. Never mind!).


Anyway, the other significant thing about the haircut is that it was the 5 stone (70lb) haircut. That's a hell of a lot of weight. I made the appointment during the week because I was fed up of the state of my hair and decided I was close enough. I did not expect to be 5 stone down by today. But I am. I even got a print out from the scales at Boots to prove it. 13 stone 8. That's a number I never really expected to see. 5 stone down. If I lose 2 stone more I'll be a normal weight for my height, and as it is my BMI is about to drop below 28. The task just doesn't sound too bad any more.

At the moment though I am worried about how fast I'm losing weight. I never thought I'd say that, but I am. I constantly see and hear things saying that you shouldn't aim for more than 2lb per week, and I don't aim for more than that. But I seem to be losing more than that. I thought my weight loss would slow down as I got closer to goal, but it doesn't seem to be. I'm even eating more than I used to, and if anything I'm losing more weight than I was a couple of months ago. I set a target over the past 7 or 8 weeks of 14lb and I've lost 19. I know it's not a huge amount more, and I'm not losing stupid amounts, but it's still faster than I was expecting at this stage. I suppose I shouldn't complain and maybe I'll plateau for months to make up for it, but I'm just surprised really at how easily it's coming off at the moment. (Easily being a comparative statement - I am working hard at it, but no harder than I was before).


Came back with some goodies from the big shopping trip. I'm actually starting to think more carefully about what I buy and what I wear. One day I might even be able to say that I have a sense of style. Who knows? What I do know though is that increasingly I can walk into any shop that catches my eye and be fairly confident that they'll have something in my size.

Any shop except the fat shop, obviously, although I did get some boots from there in the end having conquered my fear of walking in again.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Role Reversal

I remember it so well. I'm meant to be going shopping with Zoe tomorrow. I have an insatiable need for new clothes (or at least to try on every size 14 I can get my hands on following last night's achievements), whereas she told me last time we met up that she's put on three dress sizes in the past year or so. Which means that, from a rough guess, she must be pretty much where I was before I started losing weight, if not bigger. She's just sent me an email saying she might look for some shoes or a handbag tomorrow.

Oh yes. I've been there. The horror when you go shopping with a skinny friend and realise that you just can't get clothes from the same shops as each other. (Miraculously, if I genuinely am a size 14, and a surprising number of clothes seem to confirm that analysis, I'm too thin for the fat shop! Maybe that's a reason to go in there, so I can try some clothes on and check, but how gutted would I be if they fit...). How I remember the solace that comes from the fact that you can never be too big to buy a handbag or a pair of shoes*.

*except you can, or at least you can be too fat and have feet too big for normal shoes, as I moaned earlier in the week. And apparently some people's feet do shrink when they lose weight. I'm still hoping for that one to happen. In my case even accessories didn't really do the job because I didn't see the point of trying to tart up something fundamentally unattractive. A fat girl with a nice handbag and shoes is still a fat girl. Some people see it differently and make the best of what they have. I wasn't one of those people, I didn't see the point. But still, when forced to shop, shoes and handbags would be the limit of my aspirations.

Back to the point. I'm really at a loss for what to do. I've never been the skinny friend in this situation before (the use of the word skinny here is entirely comparative), and I don't know how to handle it. I can't just drag her into the thin shops where I know she won't find anything so that I can try to shoehorn my arse into increasingly small jeans, but will it draw attention to the fact if I volunteer a trip to the fat shop? (actually, I might have to squeeze that one in because I will probably want to look at their boots) Even though I feel a million times better than I did at that weight and have a tendency to come over all evangelical sometimes with my "running is the best thing ever and I can't imagine going back to being that size" spiel, I don't want to make her feel like I'm judging her for her weight or trying to pressurise her into losing it.

It will be odd for me, very strange, to go shopping and to be the thin one. I remember sitting sulkily in shops as a teenager while my sister tried clothes on that I never dreamed I'd get into (hee hee!). I remember shopping in the fat shop at 16 for school clothes while getting the sympathetic but still makes you feel bad commentary from my mother "we can cut the labels out, no-one needs to know". I remember the pain of when it first got to the stage where I was too big for the normal shops. I was "still growing" at that stage, then I realised I'd grown right out of a normal size and into the elasticated wilderness beyond. I remember a world of pain and humiliation associated with shopping as I tried to convince myself I could still wear a size 18 despite the fact that even 20s didn't fasten, thereby setting myself up for more humiliation when I tried the 18s on. I hated every second of it. I suppose it kept me solvent through university, but shopping was the worst thing in the world (particularly on those dreadful days when I needed both shoes and clothes).

Maybe I'm being over sensitive on her behalf, but I've been there, and I know how much I used to hate shopping in places I couldn't even dream of trying anything on. I just used to hate shopping, full stop. It shouldn't be an issue, we're mates, and I don't want to make it one. She knows where I've been and what I've done for myself. But I don't want the fact that I'm suddenly so much thinner than she is to get between us by accidentally doing or saying the wrong thing. I don't want her to feel like I'm leaving her behind while I go on this quest for a new body.

Ah well, there's one sure cure - 2 for 1 cocktails at Mononi when we've finished!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sibling Rivalry

OK, maybe not rivalry as this battle is only going one way, but I'm still impressed with myself today.

I felt a bit cold on the way home from work today, and remembered that my sister has a fleece from my old university in the States. For some reason I fancied wearing it rather than any of my too big jumpers (having lost all my weight over summer I don't really have any thin warm clothes, I could do with a shopping trip for that...)

Anyway, the fleece came into my mind and I dug it out. I don't know at what point it occured to me, but I realised that if I could wear the fleece, I could rummage deeper in her pile of old clothes.

My sister's always been thinner than me. when she lived in this country she was never thin as such, but next to me she was. Now she's got a gorgeous figure, still not amazingly light, but she looks good and she's definitely lost a bit of weight over the past couple of years since she's been a scuba instructor. But even when she left, 2 years ago, she didn't look half bad.

Anyway, as I was looking through her clothes for more jumpers (she's always been fairly busty so her extra boobage would balance out my extra fat...) I came across a pair of jeans, and I noticed the label. I've been searching for the perfect pair of jeans for a couple of weeks now. Maybe perfect isn't the word, but I've been searching for the perfect trade off between price and fit. I don't want to pay any more than I have to for transitional clothes, but I want something more flattering than the clothes I could wear 20 or 30 pounds ago.

This pair of jeans was precisely the size I'd been trying on (34/34, or roughly a UK 16). So I tried them on, and they fit perfectly. Far better than some of the jeans I've tried on recently, and with a far better price tag!

I got bolder. I dug out a suit, a dress, a pair of trousers, some jumpers, a coat. All of them size 14. And they all fit. Some looked better than others, and some would be a little too tight to wear comfortably for a whole day, but they all fastened and they all avoided too much overspill. I've been in the size 16 comfort zone for a while, and I was just about considering trying 14s, not realising I had such a fruitful stash in the spare bedroom.

So I've acquired the basics of a new smaller winter wardrobe for free, and even better I've got a marker of what I've achieved. I'm at the size my sister was at two years ago (the jeans have a cinema ticket in the pocket from November 2003), and that's a size I never really thought I'd ever see. One day, you never know, I might even be the thin sister. And that really is mindblowing to imagine.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

First impressions and motivation

I'm sharing an office with a new trainee at work. In the 6 months I had the last one I lost 4 stone and he never mentioned a thing, I'm not sure he knew what to say (women tend to be better at this sort of thing, I find). The new one's a girl, thin, pretty etc etc. But I've started to realise that she doesn't have the same first impressions of me as the other guy, and that superficially at least I seem like I'm a different person now.

Jeff never questioned my gym going, my amazing intake of fruit or my frequent clothes shopping trips. I think at first he probably wondered how someone so fat managed to go to the gym every day and still look like that, but by the end of it he understood. He didn't mention it, but you could tell he knew.

New trainee has spent the past week and a half talking about going to the gym. She's transferred her gym membership (she moved cities for this seat) but hadn't got round to going yet. Meanwhile she quickly realises that I go every morning before work. Every evening she says she'll go in the morning, every morning I ask her and she's not got round to it. Fair enough, I'm not going to force gym going on anyone, particularly not someone who's thin anyway, but the next comment is the interesting bit. "I don't know how you motivate yourself to get out of bed every morning". If only she knew.

I motivate myself because I have to. She might not see it, but I know that before I started doing this I was nearly 5 stone (70lb)* heavier than I am now. And I'm no skinny minnie now. I look at myself and find it hard to visualise an extra 5 stone even though I know it was there, so I'd be surprised if she realised unless and until I tell her (or more likely someone asks me about it in front of her). I don't (yet) have appallingly flappy or loose skin, so it's not really obvious. I exercise because I realised that I'd rather exercise for an hour or two out of 24 every day than carry that weight around (and over time no doubt more) 24 hours a day for the rest of my life. It's a simple trade off, and I know what I'd prefer.

I've been there, I don't want to go back. The reason I've lost weight so dramatically isn't because of what I'm eating or how I'm exercising. It's because I've finally realised what it is I have to do, and why I have to do it. What I eat and how I exercise form a part of that, of course they do, but it's more complicated than that, and it's the mental aspect that is the key. It's the difference between knowing what to do, wishing I could stick to it and actually just doing it.

I may look like just another overweight person. Could do with losing a stone or two, although nothing too drastic. But behind that lies the simple fact that I'm fighting a lifelong battle with my weight, and that this is the lightest I've been for a decade. Without doing what I do I'm under no illusions where I'd end up, and I want to be healthy enough to do whatever it takes to get and stay that way. Who needs motivation when you've got cold, hard facts and undesirable consequences waiting for you. Why would I not want to do something that makes me feel so much better, and that actually works? But people who look at me with fresh eyes sometimes don't (and maybe can't) see that battle as part of my life, and that's an amazing confidence boost. If they don't see why I need to do it so badly, it shows that it's working.

I'm already thinking ahead though, to what the next trainee will think. I don't think I'll lose the same amount in the next six months as in the last 6 (scarily I'd be verging on being underweight if I did!), but I'm hoping to be at or damn close to goal, a normal weight and feeling fantastic. And that really will hide a lot of my story. I may always be the person who used to be fat to myself and other people who've known me for years, but that doesn't mean that other people have to see me that way. That will be possibly my greatest achievement, getting to and staying at a healthy weight so that people who meet me in the future never even know what I've had to do.

*67lb, but "nearly 5 stone" sounds far better!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Born to Shop

A special part of hell should be reserved for shoe shops and the people who work in them. In my clothes buying and non clothes buying phases alike I've always been forgiving of clothes shops. It's my fault that I'm fat and therefore it's my fault I have to shop in the fat shops. I'm not going to get all stroppy because Warehouse don't sell a size 22. They don't claim to be in that market. I don't want pity or special shops, I want a kick up the backside to get down to a size they do sell.

But when it comes to shoes, that's when I get worked up. I have big feet, and worse than that, they have a tendency to be big and wide (although maybe a little less so these days). Shoe shops don't stock or make my size as standard, and that's where the fun begins. My feet steadfastly refuse to shrink as I lose weight, and I'm not sure they will. Maybe I'll be able to get into a couple more size 8s, or narrow 9s, but I'm not expecting huge changes, and there's very little I can do to improve the situation.

There's usually a poster in the shoe shop saying they stock size 9. (*selected styles only, please ask for assistance). So I ask for assistance and ask them how which size 9s they stock. Bitter experience has taught me that "selected styles" means one or two from the whole shop and it would be useful to know which ones so I know whether it's worth looking more closely at every pair of shoes in the shop. Oh no, they can't tell me that. I have to choose some shoes I like and then they'll go and check them for me. So I choose some shoes. No, they don't have that in a size 9. How about these? 5 minutes later no, they don't have those either. And so it goes on. What makes it worse is that when they eventually do find something, there's still a chance it will be too narrow to fit, particularly if it has to go round my ankle which is still swollen, and always will be, from when I broke it nearly three years ago. Great. I know these things do depend on stock availability, but even if they just had a label, "these shoes come in a size 9", how much easier buying shoes be for me? Or don't claim to sell something that's only available once in a blue moon. You get my hopes up and then you dash them. After a while it just depresses me and I walk out, I have no patience for this kind of thing.

So I was left with an option I've been putting off for a while. There's one shop that makes everything in a 9, and a 9 wide to boot. They even do 10s. The only problem is, it's the fat shop. When I hit size 18 I vowed I'd never set foot inside that shop again, now I had other options. I didn't want to allow myself the thought that I would ever need to shop there again. I wanted to put it behind me. Better to act like fat clothes aren't sold anywhere and cut myself off from the option of buying them. But I really do need work shoes, and I'm running out of options fast. Deep breath time.

On the positive side, it was nice being one of the thinnest people in there. It was also strange looking at the clothes, seeing something that would absolutely swamp me and realising it was the size I used to wear. I could still shop there, of course, but I'd be needing their smallest size, and hopefully even that would be a little baggy these days. I didn't intend to try anything on to find out. God, the insecurity in my head. I hope people don't think I'm here for the clothes. I'm here for the shoes, the shoes. I hope my inner fat voices don't realise that there are shops that sell fat clothes. Walk straight through, focussing on the shoes. Don't look at the clothes. Look at the shoes. I just don't want to be the person who has to shop at the fat shop any more. They saved my life a couple of times by keeping me in clothes, and I don't mean any offence to people who do shop there, but I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be fat.

And after all trauma that they didn't have any shoes I liked.


I'm very excited, I've booked a christmas shopping trip for December and I'm already plotting what to buy. I never really took christmas shopping seriously in the past, as it was a form of shopping, but my new love of shopping is seeping through into other areas (except shoes, obviously). I was half tempted by another day in Dublin on some 1p + tax Ryanair flights. Even with transfers to and from the airport and check in time I'd have been in Dublin from about 9am to 7pm, making it a good days worth. I considered London too, as I've not done any proper christmas shopping there for years. In the end though I plumped for a day in Edinburgh. I've not been up there since 2002, and I found train tickets for pretty much the same price as the Dublin flights, with the advantage that I'd travel from Leeds station and not have to drive over the pennines to the airport and back. I get slightly less time there, I think from about 10.30 til 7, but it's a much shorter day overall once the airport run and check in time at the airport has been taken into account, plus I won't need to pay for parking or stay sober.

I suspect that the main task of the day is going to be the great "Christmas party dress" hunt. That task is bad enough when you have one or two shops to choose from. With the whole of Edinburgh to aim at I dread to think how long it will take. I intend it to be absolutely stunning to really show off what I've lost. I'll hopefully be a comfortable size 14 by then (or possibly smaller), and boy am I looking forward to flaunting it.

This is the change. It's September and I'm already looking forward to going shopping in 3 months time...

Monday, September 12, 2005

A brownie, untasted

I've been away for the weekend to Dublin. As ever, there is a finite amount of time and money over a year, a month, a weekend, and a vast multitude of world to see. I can't go away every weekend to visit places I want to go to. I don't have the time, and I don't have the money. When I get there there isn't time to visit every sight, every shop, every restaurant. I have to pick and choose. I'll go to the the Guinness brewery, but this other museum isn't open at weekends, maybe. Or I'll spend a couple of hours shopping instead of looking round churches. I can spend an age soaking up the atmosphere of one district instead of spreading myself too thin trying to cover everything. There's beautiful countryside nearby, but I don't have time to get to see it. I make decisions as I go, trying to balance time, money, sanity to come up with the perfect break for me.

So why has it taken so long to apply the same logic to food. Give me a city break with 10 things I want to do and only time for 5, I'll pick 5. Give me a buffet with 10 things I fancy eating and I'll eat all 10, no matter how hungry I am. I have traditionally had an almost compulsive need to have a bit of everything, as though I'll never be able to experience that particular taste again. I see something luscious looking and I have to try it, even though I'm not particularly hungry, just because it's there. I see something that looks good, and I want to try it.

I unintentionally won a battle like this over the weekend. Let's call it the battle of the chocolate brownie. (food p o rn alert…) Just for clarity, imagine the most perfect looking chocolate brownie you've ever set eyes on. Just imagine the look of it, calling your name. Imagine thinking, on Saturday afternoon, that you'd let yourself have a slice later. And imagine realising later that you're not hungry enough to really enjoy it. Imagine Sunday lunchtime, thinking that the brownie would be a lovely Sunday afternoon snack, and then on Sunday afternoon thinking it would be a nice Sunday evening treat. And getting to Sunday evening still unprepared for the sensory assault of brownie on tastebud. Imagine sitting in the café at the airport, knowing that unless you eat it now, the brownie will have to stay, unbought and untasted, on the wrong side of the Irish sea. And then imagine the realisation that you don't actually want to eat the brownie, you just don't want to think that you missed out on it or that you made the wrong decisions.

I'll live without that brownie. I didn't die of a lack of chocolate brownie on the journey home, and I'll cope without it. One small battle, but a battle won nevertheless. I have nothing against brownie, and if I'd genuinely wanted it I'd have had it. I promised it to myself enough times after all, but the fact is that I didn't really want it, and that's why I'm glad I turned it down.

I noticed a couple of other changes too over the weekend. I eat slower, I put my knife and fork down between bites. I struggle to finish large portions. I can eat a single chocolate truffle in three or four bites instead of one, savouring each tiny bite as much as a big one (hence deriving the enjoyment of four chocolates from a single one). I didn't drink much, because I didn't feel like it, despite the extraordinary concentration of pubs and the expectation of going to Dublin to drink. I ate a pizza, but it was topped with lots of vegetables because it was the one I fancied rather than because it was the only one I'd let myself have. I ate half and half only of my cooked breakfast. I sat extremely comfortably in a plane seat. I dropped my rucksack off at my hotel because carrying around 5kg of clothes and other stuff was too heavy, even though I've lost 30.

The other thing I realised over the weekend was a reinforcement of the fact that I can do anything I want. Some people think I'm strange for heading away for the weekend on my own. Sometimes they think I'm brave, they envy my freedom, and sometimes they can't understand how I could cope with walking into a pub or a restaurant alone while I'm there. I go away because I'm young, I'm free, and I have the money to do it. I don't care what people think, and I get an amazing buzz walking through an unknown city, on my own, doing what I want to do, and doing it for myself. One weekend last year I drove, alone, round the south of France, soaking up the scenery and a love of life. I can do that, and I can do anything that I want. It would be nice to have company sometimes, but I'm not going to spend my life waiting for the right person to come along to join me in doing what I want to do. Even worse I'm not going to do it with the wrong person just to avoid doing it alone. I'd rather just do it now. The possibilities are endless, and the only person who can stop me taking them is me. If I want to do something badly enough, I can do it alone. The same applies to my weight. I can do it if I want to. I want to do this, I know how to do it, and I've proved I can do it. So why would I fail? How can I fail?


Today has mainly been spent surprisingly awake, refreshing the cricket score. Even for a non cricket fan there's something special about beating the Aussies at anything (well, anything except rugby union that is), and I think I've finally discovered how a game that goes on for days can actually be exciting. I never quite believed it before now, but there's nothing quite so likely to bring about a change of heart than a bit of glory hunting bandwagon jumping…

2 new sports in a weekend! I watched the All Ireland Hurling final on tv yesterday, and I have to say that was fantastic too. I'm well and truly spoiled at the moment, well, apart from Friday night's performance that is...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

There is no secret

I got worked up for a while when I got home from work. There was a card through the door, advertising a premium rate weight loss line. "The secrets of slimming", indeed. At £1.50 per minute.

What secrets? Hey, I'll tell you for free. There's very likely to be nothing you need to know that you don't already know. Exercise more, eat better. I'd guess there are very few people out there who couldn't work out a couple of healthier adjustments to their diet or who don't know, deep down that eating at McDonalds every day isn't going to make you thin. There are so many free resources available out there, and no secrets. OK, some people need support making those adjustments, or maybe they need ideas, but a premium rate phone line? Is that really the best way to do it?

I don't know, maybe it would help for some people, but it just seems such a rip off to me. But maybe I should get into this game...

I was looking back at some of my posts from when I first started this blog earlier. It's nice to realise how far I've come. I've now lost 30kg and I'm a good 2/3 to goal. Less than 2 stone off getting my BMI under 25. When I started, 2 stone wouldn't have got me out of obesity. In fact, once I'd lost 2 stone, another 2 stone wouldn't have got me out of obesity. But I've lost 2 stone twice now (and a bit more) and I'm feeling confident that I can do it again. I've lost 25% of my starting weight, and it's really starting to dawn on me every time I look in the mirror.

Before I used to see it sometimes, from a good angle, in a good light. Now I can't help but notice it. Fantastic. And all without having to pay for someone else's "secrets".

Monday, September 05, 2005

Will I ever learn?

Some alcohol OK. Drinking your own body weight in cocktails bad. Very bad.

I looked in the mirror before I went out on Saturday night and I didn't recognise myself. The change in my appearance is really starting to blow me away, and I felt so gorgeous and confident.

Not least because the friend I went out with seems to have gained my arse. We were talking about stuff, and she said she's put on three dress sizes since she moved up here late last year. I've lost three dress sizes, so I'm convinced my arse must have found a new home. I'm sorry Zoe, but if and when you decide to get rid of it I'll quite happily help as long as you don't give it back!

Discovering that one of the nearest bars to my house makes fantatic cocktails is not a good way to ensure a relatively sober night. I keep on saying that I can't drink like I used to, and then I decide to prove that by making myself horribly ill. I'm glad that I don't get horrible headaches from drinking at least, but I still feel quite crap enough. But I suspect I'll never learn. Ah well, at least the fact I couldn't keep food down for a while meant I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped on the scales this morning...

New trainees started at work today. I realised, these people never knew the obese me. Going forward, I'll meet more and more people who may never realise where I've come from and don't realise I have weight issues. That's kind of liberating, that some people are never going to think of me as "the one that used to be fat". Maybe one day I can think of myself like that too.

Finally, I've updated my mini target as the old one was to the end of August (and successfully completed). I've not set an end date for this one as I appreciate that as I have less to lose my loss is going to slow down. In an ideal world, it would be an end of October job (keeping up my historic rate of a stone or so every 6 - 7 weeks), but I know that with what I've got planned for October that's fairly unlikely, even if I don't slow down too much naturally. So, I'll just let it go undated and see what happens. It's strange to think that this could be my last mini target. Once I've done it I'll only be 20lb from my original goal, which is amazing really. It seems strange to be thinking of the finishing tape, and even though I'm still a fair way away, it's feeling more achievable than ever.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Feminine Wiles

I never used to understand other girls and later other women. The preening, beautifying, "getting ready" process. Whenever I got ready to go out the process was very much spend all day doing whatever I was doing (nb unlikely to be shopping), get to 7.45pm, wonder in a panic whether my clothes are clean, possibly change my shoes, or my top (rarely both), look in the mirror, decide make up won't help, head out of the door.

But as this weight loss process goes on I'm getting more and more conscious of what I look like, and more willing to make an effort. So when Zoe texted at about 2pm asking if I fancied a night out, my mind immediately started whirring. What should I wear? What time should I have my bath? What time should I eat? Should I straighten my hair?

It's not something that's come on consciously, I just seem to take more interest in my appearance these days. Maybe it's because I've got clothes that actually make me look nice, I'm more interested in wearing them. Even if it is just a night down the local with a mate and her sister. I do live in a quite nice bit of Leeds, to be fair, so the local is quite trendy but still, I'd never have made this effort before. I guess I thought that no amount of pampering would make enough of a difference!

It's not that I'm going out on the pull, or wanting to attract male attention. I just don't see why I should hide my lovely new body away, even if it is still a work in progress. I'm going to wear a skirt because all this running has made my legs look fantastic, and I need to remind myself why I put all the hard work in. I'm going to wear a low cut top because it shows off my collarbones amazingly. And I'm going to wear it because I now have the confidence to pull it off.

I always wondered how other people learned this process, how they started doing it, but it just seems to have, finally, come naturally to me. That's been one of the biggest surprises of this whole process, together with the fact that I now enjoy shopping. I never enjoyed shopping before, but it's all become far more interesting and far more fun now that I have such a wide choice of clothes to wear.

I sometimes have to pinch myself when I'm shopping. I still pick up size 16 stuff with some trepidation, wondering whether it will fit. It still hasn't sunk in that I'm actually edging towards the small end of size 16, and that I shouldn't be surprised when they fit. And I certainly shouldn't buy everything I try on that actually fits any more! (on the subject of fit, I tried on my size 12 target trousers again today. I blogged about these a while back, I can't remember when, I bought them for my sister but she didn't like them and I never got round to taking them back. Well, I have to move most of my belly above the waistband to do this, and there's one hell of a roll over, but I can get them to fasten! just...)

Anyway, the hair straighteners are heating up so I'd better get on with it!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Inspiring other people

It's strange but I'm almost getting sick of other people telling me how well I'm doing, and saying that I'm inspiring them. There were times at first when I loved to hear it, but now it's just getting repetitive. It's nice getting compliments, but it's odd, my weight and my appearance have never been the most important thing about me, and I don't want them to be now. I want to be more than a one-dimensional shrinking person. I want people to be interested in what I do for fun, not how I'm losing weight. I want people to be interested in me, not what I eat.

And in terms of inspiration, I honestly don't think I'm worthy of that. I'm not doing anything particularly noteworthy or inspirational, I'm just eating decent food and doing exercise. I'm not doing anything more than trying to live a relatively healthy lifestyle and do the amount of exercise that someone my age should do. That shouldn't be hard to stick to, and it isn't, really. It shouldn't be an inspiration, it should be just what people do.

What I'm doing now shouldn't be seen as unusual, noteworthy or impressive. It's a healthier lifestyle, nothing more than that. The only reason that it's led me to lose a lot of weight is because I lost a lot to start with. I'm not proud of giving myself that task to do, and I'd rather never have succeeded like I have so far if that was a result of not getting in that position in the first place. I get annoyed with skinny people who want to lose a couple of pounds thinking that I've got all sorts of secrets that will magically make their pounds melt away.

I don't, and I don't think anyone else does either. There's no secret to what I've done, and there's no magic. I'm not following any strange rules or special plans, I'm just eating better and moving more. Try to explain that and they don't understand. Can't I just pass on the magic potion, the secret?

The other reason I don't want to inspire people is because I'm so near the start of this journey. Losing isn't the issue, it's keeping the weight off that worries me. Maybe if I do that for a decent amount of time, then I'll see myself as successful, but until then I'm just a work in relatively slow progress.

For now, I'm trying just to live like this, and to remember that there's more to life, and in particular more to my life.