Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Past the point of no return

Jesus, is she blogging about running again? Erm yes, sorry.

I've realised that I'm officially hooked, and past the point of no return (for now anyway).

Back in August I blogged about a gang of girls who did a run and didn't ask me to get involved. At the time I was more than a little pissed off about that. How times change.

Now, one of them has got some entry forms for another run organised by the same charity. And where was the first place she came when handing them out? Yup, she appears at my desk and says "you run a lot, don't you?".

Being accepted into the gang would be one thing, but it gets worse in terms of recognising my increasing love of running. They're running two races. A "5 mile road race" and a "3 mile fun run". Well, I pick up the form and go "ooh, 5 mile, that's probably a nice distance". Her face drops. "Well, I was thinking more of 5k, personally...".

Yup, I picked it up and automatically my eyes went to the longer race rather than the shorter fun run. That says a lot about how far I've come.

As does the next bit of conversation. The trainee I share my office with (who may also get roped into the 5k) pipes up "I've never worked out what's fun about a 5k run". I think you can guess what comes next. Despite sharing precisely the same sentiments for 26 years of my life, I wonder who pipes up "oh, I don't know, it's just a short little jog really". Yes, I'm now defending the use of the word fun in relation to runs.

This is, quite frankly worrying. In a good, exercise freaky sort of way, but still worrying. I remember when I changed schools when I was 16. At my old school, post 16 sport was compulsory, but consisted of a couple of hours a week of doing something of your own choice. Swimming, golf, table tennis. There was no need to get overly physical about it. Even before 16,their idea of a long run was twice round the field. I moved school back to a world of compulsory runs. I remember feeling like I was going to die the first time I got introduced to cross country. And the second and third times, to be fair. I hated that experience more than anything else in my 18 months at this place. It was the embodiment of hell. What on earth could be fun about that?

But look back even deeper into the layers of repressed memories, and there's a different story. At primary school there was a yearly run, a competition between two schools next to each other, which basically involved running up and round the smallish hill behind the schools. I remember it, I remember doing it, but I don't remember actually hating it with the passion that I hated that later cross country route with. Maybe it's because I wasn't actually that fat then, and the only thing I hated at 16 was the fact I couldn't do it, rather than the fact it was running.

And now, I love it. Maybe it's partly because it's an individual sport, maybe it's because it's such a visible change from who I used to be, or maybe I really liked it, deep down all along. Either way, I'm definitely hooked. The run is only in March but the application form is filled in and ready to go.


I'm not quite sure what I'm doing in Edinburgh yet, to be honest! I just fancied a trip away before Christmas. Just for the day, but to get away and see somewhere I've not been for a couple of years. I found cheap train tickets so Edinburgh it was. (I found the train tickets and booked a stupidly early train before I found out the date of the Christmas party). At first I thought that if I have to brave the crowds to go christmas shopping, at least I could do it somewhere nice. Or there was the thought that I would devote the day to looking for the party dress, until I found out the date of the party. Then I thought I might just wander round and soak up the atmosphere. I think there's a Christmas market and an ice rink and stuff that I might visit. I might just spend the afternoon in a pub if I'm in that sort of mood. I just wanted a day away, rather than my normal Saturday routine. It's just a "me" day, where I'll decide what I'm doing as I go along.

So any ideas from you natives would be more than welcome!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Under an hour

I've been walking around with an insane smile on my face this afternoon. The chip times from the race came through, and I did it! I beat my 1 hour target. After the minor disappointment of seeing 62 minutes on the clock as I came up to the finished (outweighed by knowing I'd run all the way, but still 2 minutes more than I was hoping), today I found out just how slow the start was.

59 minutes and 17 seconds! Woo hoo! That's within about 30 seconds of my best 10k time ever, and below 60 minutes, which was a big big goal. I'm so proud of myself!

I think in the end only about 3200 people ran, not the 4500 the paperwork said, and I finished at about position 2651. But there were still lots of people behind me, and that's not the real reason I do this.

I don't do this to race against other people and to beat their times. (Well, unless Emma had run, in which case I'd have been trying to beat her and win that bet...) It's about proving things to myself. Proving that I'm fit, and I'm healthy, and that I can run for an hour.

The nature of the route meant that after about 3k there was ample opportunity to turn round, join the runners going the other way and cut minutes off my time. Oh, I might have been spotted by other runners or the race marshalls, but what would they have done, really? And it wasn't that thought that stopped me doing it. It was the thought that I'd know I'd cheated. I'd never know if I could have run it all under an hour. Sure, my time would be under an hour, but it would be a lie.

I didn't finish the race in 40 minutes, or 50. But I wasn't running for that. I was running to prove to myself that I could run. I am the only person who that goal needs to matter to. It doesn't matter that I'm on page 65 of 81 (better than page 66, however), it matters that my name's on there at all. It matters that I've got myself to a place where I can even contemplate lacing up my trainers on a Sunday morning and challenging myself physically. This time last year running for 59 seconds would have been an achievement, let alone running for 59 minutes. 59 minutes was under my goal, for me, and I met it. Other people can have goals, and I will have mine.

Much as I like receiving comments on here, and reading other people's blogs, the only person I'm accountable to in all of this is me. I'm doing this for me, and I'm doing it by my rules. There's no-one there who I expect to stop me falling other than myself. That's the way I like it, and I wouldn't dream of doing it any other way. The thing that gives me most pleasure isn't the compliments from other people, it's reading back and confronting my thoughts from four, five, six months ago, and realising how far I've come and how hard I've worked for me.


It looks like YP will be going to the party on Friday after all the stressing the other week. I bought a dress yesterday, and got inspired to go to the party for the simple reason that it makes me look thin. Is that completely shallow of me?

So today the preparations started escalating. I bought magic knickers to try to get rid of the remaining bulge. I've never worn any before on the basis that magic can only get you so far, and no-one yet sells major plastic surgery pants. Sure, they can flatten a couple of pounds worth of bulge, but they can't make 80lb vanish. I'm sure the person who invented pants that could do that would be the richest person in the world very quickly!

I've bought make up. I'm working out what to do with my hair. I'm planning transport that will get me home in time to get up at (eek) 4.45 on Saturday morning to get ready to go up to Edinburgh on Saturday.

I'm actually looking forward to it. Simply because I'm going to look thinner and hotter than I ever have before. Of course, I hope there will be other christmases, but I don't think that anything will beat the first time I walk into a room wearing something flattering, and blow their socks off.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The other side of the lens

I'm trying to find myself a new digital camera for Christmas. I'd found one I really like, but by the time I got round to trying to reserve it this evening to pick up tomorrow (pay day) it's out of stock. I think I'll hold on for a while in case it comes back into stock (or I can pick something up in the sales if not). It's meant to be a present from my parents, but I'm sorting it out as I know what I like better than they do.

I like taking photos. When I had another non weight loss related blog, which died a death because I ended up not posting on it, and only keeping this one up to date, I used to post some of my favourite photos every now and then. They were all pictures of places, buildings, scenery. Occasionally animals. But never people. Particularly never me. Of course I post the progress photos from time to time now, but I still very much prefer to be behind the camera rather than in front of it.

I look back, and there are years upon years of my life that just aren't documented with photos. The strange thing is that I remember some being taken, but I can't find them now. There weren't many, but I remember a photo of me at a friend's engagement party when I was 18, a photo of me before a law school ball when I was 21. Not an impressive pictorial history of myself, but rather more than I've been able to find. I sometimes wonder whether my parents have them, or any others, or whether a whole era of my life has lost without being committed to camera.

In one way it's nice not to be confronted by the evidence of what I let myself become, but then I sometimes wonder what I was really like, what I'd think of myself looking back, having sorted out self esteem issues and with a less warped vision of myself. I'm quite sad that I might not get that opportunity.

My mother told me today that she's organising having some family photos taken at Christmas when I'm over in Spain. Because she's not had any taken for a long time, and wants to give them to other family members as presents. The sub-text, as ever, is that she didn't have it done before, because she didn't want to show me off. And now she does. That doesn't make me angry, I wouldn't have wanted to show myself off either, but it does quite starkly illustrate the extent of what I did to myself. I wasn't the sort of person you took photos of and put them in frames.

But I'm looking forward to it now. For the first time ever, I'll be pretty much the same size as my sister (9lb heavier, an inch or two taller, and with a couple of weeks to try to lose a couple of pounds more), and I'll feel worthy of being photographed. You never know, I might even get a copy for myself.

And the new camera might take more photos of me than the previous one too.

And just one more picture to share. This isn't my photo of yesterday, but if you look at the piccies of the day here, and look at the picture of "jumping", you can just about see me. I think I'll make it a little competition to see who spots me first, my number is 2739 and it is (just) readable if you look hard enough. Oh, it might help if you look for someone who looks really uncoordinated...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I run

Second stating the bleeding obvious post of the week. After the revelation that I'm not actually fat, I've finally convinced myself that I can run. Not that I attempt to run, or that I can run for a while, or that I might be able to run one day, but that I can run. 10k, to be precise.

It was the Abbey Dash today. I remember this time last year I had to drive through the city centre on the day of the Dash and saw lots of people wandering around in their brightly coloured t-shirts. I wondered what was going on, but thought fairly little of it. I didn't know how far it was, how hard it was, how big it was. I just drove past, in my own little world.

This year though, I was there, complete with fetching bright yellow t-shirt. We got down there early, as is my habit. Insider knowledge got us parked pretty much exactly at the start, a short walk away from the finish and near the gym where I was going to have my much needed post-run shower. The run actually left from the car park behind my office, so I knew exactly where I was going, no worries!

It wasn't as cold as I was fearing. This was a good thing. I was wearing my new long sleeved running top (size 10!) under the hideous yellow t-shirt, hoping that it would keep me warm enough and be vaguely breatheable. My attempt to run in a jacket last weekend failed miserable so I decided I'd just have to run fast enough to keep me warm. (worth a try, anyway!)

As at all the races I've done, there was an aerobic warmup organised. Doing it I realised two things. Firstly that I still have very little co-ordination sometimes, but also that the warm up on its own would have finished me off this time last year, with all that jogging on the spot and doing star jumps. It did get me warm, but not particularly out of breath or tired, so I've definitely made some progress.

There were some scary looking runners today. As in scarily fast, people who have run in the Olympic marathon, that sort of scary. Lots of people from running clubs, which hasn't really happened at any of the runs I've done before now. So I made sure I was behind them at the start. I was looking for a "stupidly slow" starting time slot, but there didn't seem to be any distinction for people who were going to finish in over 40 minutes, so I just positioned myself in the middle of the crowd and hoped.

A slow start to get over the timing mats, but unlike the last 10k I did, once you were past the start it opened up nicely and you could run straight away, rather than having to go through a narrow gate and slow back down to a stop. So I started running.

And I carried on running.

And running.

And running.

In my previous 10k I broke into a walk somewhere between 2 and 3k I think, and I walked part of the 5k I did in July. My big target, bigger than getting a good time, was to run it, and not to walk. A question of personal pride, if nothing else, I didn't want to walk. At all.

So I ran. The course was nice and flat, it was also on familiar roads, so I knew where I was, and roughly what was to come. After about 3k the scarily fast runners passed on the other side of the road (the route is pretty much run 5k up a main road, turn round and run back - you turn round in the grounds of an abbey, hence the name). They had done 7k. I'd done 3k. Hmm.

But I was still running. At this point the target was to get to 5k without stopping, which would have far exceeded anything I'd ever done in a race before. There were a couple of small hills here, but nothing too dramatic (and certainly not the hill of hell from the September 10k), so I carried on running. I got round the abbey and started on the way back. This is where it gets more encouraging, as you see people on the other side of the road and get an idea of how many people are behind you. You realise that YOU'RE NOT LAST. This is important.

Having ticked off 5k, I wanted to get to 8k without stopping. I didn't want to think of another 5k, but another 3k was a manageable target at that point. I might make it that far.

I made it to 8k. This is near where I park for work, and I was back on very familiar territory. With only 2k to go I told myself I needed one more big effort, that it wasn't very far now, and that it would be a shame to start walking now.

So I carried on running. I ran over the timing mat, and I'd finished it, without a step of walking. I can't just run 10k in a theoretical, hesitant sort of way. I can run 10k. And what's more, I enjoyed it. There were more people running than the 10k in September, and it was a lovely atmosphere. The weather wasn't great, and the route wasn't partcularly scenic, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I was enjoying myself.

I don't have the official chipped time yet, but it's going to be within a minute or two of an hour, which is definitely faster than September, but still something that I can improve on should I run next year too. I finished somewhere around 2700 out of 4500.

And I think I will. Before the race as I was putting my coat in the car before the start someone came past me handing out leaflets, for a 10k in January and a flyer for a running shop. After the initial shock that I could be taken for someone who might want to visit a running shop, there was a second, greater shock, that I looked at the leaflet and saw things on it that I wanted to buy. That I AM the sort of person who might want to visit a running shop.

Is it just me who suspects that I may already be past the point of no return?

Saturday, November 26, 2005


A nice gentle swim this morning, in a pool on my own. What a blissful way to start a Saturday morning.

I really enjoy my chill time on a Saturday morning. Of course, I get bored of it soon enough and go out on a hunt for something to do, but just for a moment I like to be with myself, with the rest of the world a million miles away, and nothing to rush or hurry for or to stress about.

Whether it's swimming, on a solitary run round the park or simply lazing in bed (yes, I still do manage that from time to time), I've really come to appreciate that reflection time.

Time when I can be alone without other people constantly asking me repetitive and increasingly annoying questions about my weight loss. Without work, without crowds, without the phone.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Doctor phobia

I had to laugh today, I got a letter from the doctors asking if I wanted to remain on their list, because I've not contacted them for a long time.

Let's get this accurate, I've never been, not even for a new patient appointment. I moved here just over 2 years ago, and I've never been to my new doctors. In fact I'm not even sure exactly where it is, my mother signed me up!

Regardless of my obesity, it's never really caused me health issues. In fact the last time I went to the doctors was to get a sick note cancelled! After I broke my ankle I kept on getting nice long sick notes, and towards the end it got to the point where I was about to go down to half pay. I had had my cast of by then and could get around OK, if I'd been on full pay I'd have finished off that sick note, but I couldn't really afford to stay off on half pay so had to go for a medical to check I was OK to go back.

I used to have irregular periods. Very irregular. I went to the doctors once, and had a blood test for PCOS. I never went back for the results. To be honest, it didn't bother me, and the thought of being "treated" to give me more regular periods that I didn't want anyway didn't exactly appeal. The whole fertility thing doesn't bother me at all, and I just couldn't justify taking time off work to go and find out something that would make very little difference to my every day life.

I don't have smear tests. I don't need them. Actually, this is one thing that puts me off going to the doctors. I just know that I'll be called on to explain my continued recalcitrance (particularly in view of the fact that my sister's last smear showed pre-cancerous cells, and therefore I should be careful about this sort of thing). But the fact remains that I'm pretty much zero risk, so I don't want to go through intrusive procedures for little benefit.

And the big one. I didn't go to the doctors, because I knew it would involve being weighed. It was nice living in ignorance not owning up to what I needed to do. Of course, I knew it, the fact I was avoiding admitting it proved that well enough. Had I not realised, I wouldn't have been worried about being weighed because I wouldn't have known it would be bad. If that makes sense. But even though I knew that I had to do this, and I knew that I would be told that, I wanted to leave it so that I could decide to do it on my own terms, at my own time.

I didn't want pressure, or expectation, or lectures. I wanted space, and I wanted to live a while before getting down to it. I didn't want to be told what to do, I wanted to work it out for myself. I'm like that. I want to do things my own way, even if my way is everyone else's way, I want to decide to do it by myself. Stubborn or independent? I'm not sure it makes much difference.

So I ignored the pleas in pretty much every diet book to see your doctor before starting trying to lose weight. (Actually, I ignored the rest of pretty much every diet book, so there's not much change there). I have no idea about all the stats that I sometimes see banded around, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglericides etc etc. It would be nice to have a measure of my progress, but then I have so many of those I can cope without. In fact, there's probably no official record of my highest weight, or the progress I've made.

One day I'll go back to the doctors, I have little to hide now. But that would involve getting ill first!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I went to Spanish tonight. I wasn't looking forward to it at first. I've missed two out of the last three sessions (and the one I went to wasn't taught by my usual teacher), and I was worried about how behind I'd be.

There were drinks after work, and I had time to kill before the lesson, so guess what. I drank. So not only was I behind, I was making the problem seem worse by turning up just a little tipsy. Part of me was wondering whether it was worth going back.

Hold on. Haven't I been here before?

Isn't this the very reasoning our inner fat chicks use to talk us out of exercising? You're not fit and you can't do it, so there's no point getting back on that wagon and working to get to a place where you can do it. You will never be able to do it now you've slipped a little, so there's no point trying.

Well, bollocks to that. I went, I sat there, and I realised that the missing lessons were redeemable. With a good teacher, and a bit of work, there's no reason why that should be a problem. By the end of the course, those missed sessions will be irrelevant.

And so it is with fitness and eating right. It's the long term that counts just as much as the short term. The only thing wrong with slipping occasionally is not getting back down to it. As simple as that.


I'm currently getting worried. I'm meant to be doing this 10k race on Sunday and it's going to be cold. Very cold. Cold as in potentially snowy. But quite possibly not snowy enough or at the right time for the race to be cancelled. Can someone remind me why I ever thought that a run in November wouldn't be cold, and why I'm surprised now?

It seemed like such a good idea at the time!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Miss Average

I've been putting off posting this for a while, as though merely uttering the words will make me rocket back up to where I was, overnight. It won't. I'll wake up tomorrow morning as thin as I am today, and I'll wake up this thin on Friday too. So it's time to say it and admit it to myself.

I'm not fat.

I don't think I've ever said that before, not so definitively. I've said I'm thinner, or I'm thin for me, or a million different ways of nearly admitting it, but not the black and white finality of it all.

I saw a survey the other week that says that the average British woman wears a size 14. I wear a size 14, and what's more, I'm edging quickly towards the lower end of the size. Some of my 14s are (gasp) a little loose now, and I can fit in 14s in some of the shops that seem to size smaller than others. I wear a 12 in some things, and the other day I bought a size 10 top because it was the only size they had, and it fit.

I'm coming to realise that I'm "normal" (whatever that means). If you put me in a room full of people who don't know me, my weight isn't an issue. I won't be the thinnest there, but I won't be the fattest either. Indeed, there may be people who don't think I'm fat at all. I've started noticing it at work. I'm thinner than some of the people who I've never even, for one second, thought of as having a weight problem.

I'm lucky not to have horrendous flapping skin to remind me of what used to be. I'm just one of many other people out there who are maybe a little overweight but pretty much there. I'm not stick thin, but I'm not fat either.

I'm not fat.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Perpignan 2006, the return

I'm so excited! I mentioned this a week or so back, but it's booked, I'm definitely going to France in February. Kind of.

I went to Perpignan for a rugby match in 2002. (I didn't realise it was so long ago! Nearly 4 years!) It was the first game I'd watched outside the UK, and I absolutely loved every second of it. The French have a fantastic passion for the game, and a fantastic passion for red wine and cakes. And crepes, waffles, churros, red wine (did I mention that?). It was the first of my "lunatic trekking round Europe for 24 hours" weekend, and it set me off on a pattern that's never quite gone away.

I've been to other matches in France since, Limoux in 2004, but now it's time for the return to Perpignan. The Catalan Dragons are coming into Super League, and their first game is against Wigan, so guess who just had to be there! (And who booked the flights the day before the fixtures are officially released...) I can't wait, I'm already plotting the weekend.

It's a YP special. No days off work, but maximum enjoyment. 2 countries, 2 days, no problem. So I finish work on Friday night. I sleep for a couple of hours (hopefully) and leave the house at midnight. I get to the airport for a 4am checkin (yes, there are airports much closer to home, but not with such conveniently timed flights). I fly to Girona, in Spain (yes, flying to the wrong country is deliberate!), arriving at about 9am.

I pick up a hire car. The last time I did this, for the Limoux trip, I got some strange looks. They can just about understand me jetting off round Europe on my own, even though they wouldn't do it themselves (and this time I'm exceling myself, going on holiday alone on valentines weekend!), but for some reason the concept of hiring a car and driving round nasty foreign places on my own got them far too confused. The car gets me where I need to be more easily and cheaply than flying to a marginally closer airport).

So I meander to Perpignan (about an hour away on the direct road) by the long road, up the coast and over the border. By 4pm or so I'll be in Perpignan having a pre-match drink or two, going to the Saturday night game and collapsing at the hotel (which is where I stayed in 2002, so I know it's nice). Sunday I meander back again, plenty of time to get back to Girona for a 10pm flight, fly home, get home at roughly 3am on Monday morning, have a couple of hours sleep and go to work.

Just the way I like it!

(And seriously, I've arranged all this for about £100 less than the "official" day trip to the game which includes flights, transfers etc. I've got my own car so I can see what I want to see, when I want to see it, including, if necessary, carting large amounts of wine back to the airport. For the sake of a bit of driving and a few hours less than normal in bed, I think I've got a fantastic deal here)

So, the payback for arranging myself a fab weekend away is that I'd love to be at goal for the trip. It's possible, unless I run into the plateau from hell between now and then. At the most, I'm hoping that I'll be a "healthy" weight (which would mean losing 8 of the 16lb between me and goal). I really like having something to aim at, a reason why I want to lose weight by a certain date, rather than just using something arbitrary.

It won't affect the trip. Whatever my weight I'll have a great time, and I'll probably eat a few local delicacies. But the feeling of reward would be so much better if I can do it. So, I've got a target now, I just need to do it!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Bah, Humbug

Still no update on the Christmas party outfit, but I think I've worked out why.

All year I've had this image in my head of turning up to the Christmas party a changed person, and really knocking people dead. Shimmering like a star, dazzing people with the amazing lack of bulge in a sexy little black dress (and control pants). I had it all planned, in my head.

Then things started to go wrong with the plan. Not with my weight as such, although given that everyone has already noticed, the knock em dead effect won't be quite so stunning. Maybe I should have just worn a fat suit for the past few months so that I could do the big dramatic unveiling all at one, like a butterfly emerging suddenly.

One problem is the date, it's very early. Which is the reason I'm banging on about it in November too - 2nd December. Far too early. Earlier than I wanted, not because I think the extra week or two will make any significant difference to my weight, but because I'm quite simply not in the party mood yet, and I'd already got something planned for that weekend that involves the 7.10am train to Edinburgh. Not good for the morning after the night before.

And the theme. I hate themed parties, even more I hate themed Christmas parties. I don't spend Christmas in the UK, so traditionally the office Christmas party has been my traditional Christmas. A nice sit down meal with all the trimmings. Of course, I prefer the real thing with my family on the proper day, but I like the good old fashioned turkey, crackers, christmas pudding, silly hats, bad jokes thing that you just don't get in Spain. Some of the bars where I've eaten Christmas dinner over the past couple of years have tried, but it's just not the same when it's sunny outside (or indeed you are outside).

This year we're not having a team meal at work (or not until January anyway, because too many people have clashing holidays), and we're not having a traditional party. We're having a Wild West theme with a tex mex buffet. No turkey or sprouts in sight. (I don't even like sprouts, but it's not Christmas without them).

I don't want to go to a Wild West night. I want to go to a Christmas party (stamps feet up and down like a spoiled child). I particularly don't want to go to any sort of party that has prizes for fancy dress. It's just wrong. Where does my little black dress fit into that?

I think that much of my malaise in trying to find something to wear has come from the fact that I don't actually want to go. At all. I've tried to force myself to look for stuff to wear, and to get enthusiastic about the prospect, but it just isn't happening. The prospect of a night in with a good book sounds ever more appealing than that.

I've got quite selfish with my indulgences recently. (and they're my indulgences, so why not be selfish about them?) I don't mind going off plan a little for something that I really want to do. A good meal with friends or family, an afternoon in the pub with a load of like minded people. But do I really want to go out and get horribly drunk (because that's the only thing to do at something so horrific as the office Christmas party) with a group of people who I don't actually even like very much. I get on with them OK at work, but there aren't many of them who I'd choose to go out with socially. And spending an evening with them, with some of them possibly in fancy dress, is turning into a vision of hell. I didn't expect losing weight to turn me into the life and soul of the party anyway, but even if it did, I'm not sure that I'd want to be the life and soul of that particular party.

So I'm trying to decide what to do. Do I give myself a big kick up the arse and get myself there, in full drinking mode (which is, to be fair, the only way to get even a sliver of enjoyment out of it, if I'm drunk enough not to cringe at every moment)? Do I turn up half heartedly, not drink, get bored, and slink off home at the earliest opportunity? Do I just stay at home, doing something I want to do (possibly involving decadent Christmas treats from the supermarket), and sod the lot of them? Something tells me that it would be better not to go at all than to go and be miserable, resenting the fact that I've eaten and drunk rubbish for something I didn't even enjoy. But is it just my inner recluse talking, and should I stop being such a misery-guts and try to enjoy myself?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It's me!

You asked, you get (within reason...) Unfortunately the hot christmas party outfit search is still drawing a blank (I'm coming round to wearing a skirt I already have (which is sparkly) with a plain black top rather than getting anything new), but I did buy some jeans yesterday, which is always a good excuse to show off the fact that my arse fits in them.

For some reason, Gap jeans have always had an almost talismanic status for me. I don't know whether it was the fact that when I lived in the US briefly I was so amazed with the instant size drop with no dieting involved. (Sadly, I seemed to take the opportunity to go back to the size I was, but in US sizes rather than English ones). I don't know why it is, but I really do like Gap jeans, and longed for the day when I'd be able to get back into them.

Well, check out the evidence

But these aren't any old gap jeans. For the first time in my life I'm wearing something with the word "skinny" in the name, skinny bootcut jeans. And even better, they're a UK14/US10. I've long suspected with Gap (the jeans at least), that the UK translation of the sizing is just a little optimistic. I'd been a size 18 a while before I got back into the Gap 18s (14s). I don't know whether this is just because there isn't a perfect 2 size gap between the US and the UK, or because they're just a little more stingy than other stores, but fitting into even a US 14 was a distant dream when I first started this (I remember the desperation when I'd lost about 2 stone and still couldn't even get them over my thighs), and now I'm in a UK 14. Bliss.

It's put some light into an otherwise shitty weekend so far. It's that time of the month, and it's cold, and the two things have combined in a desire to spend the entire weekend under a duvet with chocolate and wine doing anything but exercise. When I went shopping there was hardly anything that I liked and I was convinced I looked fat in everything (no leeway for the fact that it's better to look fat in a 14 - or in some cases a 12 - than in a 20, but that's my state of mind this weekend), and the rugby last night didn't help (bloody Aussies).

I'm meant to be going for lunch with a university friend today (she was meant to be staying here last night but ended up staying with her new bloke who also lives in Leeds), but she's not phoned yet so I don't know what's going on, and I'm generally grouchy. I'd better cheer up before she gets here.

I did manage to drag myself out of bed for a run this morning though. Sometimes it seems like the first step is the hardest part. I didn't have a long run, just over 5k probably with another 2k walking home from the park afterwards (I always run there, run round and walk back as a cooldown), but a run nevertheless, which was an achievement this weekend. I wouldn't have beat myself up for missing exercise, i've actually been good with my eating this weekend, and can afford days off, but it was more that I wanted a trial run outside before the 10k next weekend to get an idea of what I need to wear to keep my warm enough but still let me sweat. I'm glad I went out now, but it was one hell of a job getting myself up for it.

Right, I'm off to wallow with the Sunday papers and I'll try not to snack before I find out what's happening with lunch!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Skin and cold

Two things that I read about when I started doing this were the unwanted side effects of big weight loss. Being cold all the time and loose skin. One has been on my mind more than the other recently, but as I've been asked about skin I'll lump them both together.

First, the skin. It doesn't seem too bad. I'm young, I exercise, maybe I'm lucky. I'm not fantastically toned at the moment (although I've been told by people that I look toned, they clearly can't see under my clothes). My stomach in particular still seems to have a lot of flab and jiggle on it. What I don't know is how much of that is fat that has yet to go, and how much of it is skin that will be left behind once the fat has gone. As you deflate a balloon, at first the balloon shrinks as the air goes out of it, and it's only at the end that it starts to wrinkle up. I guess it's the same with skin. Maybe I'm just not thin enough yet to really get the loose skin effect, or maybe I won't get it. I don't know.

Or maybe it's just a difference in perception. I've never been thin. I don't have an 18 year old 10 stone body to compare myself with, I've always had a fat body image. So where I have areas that are a bit untoned (stomach, upper arms), it's still a lot better than anything I've grown up being accustomed to. So yes, I still have bingo wings, but they're a lot smaller than they were. From some angles they're hardly noticeable (to me), it depends how I hold my arm. But maybe if I was accustomed to being thin they'd be horrendously big. Again, I don't know whether I will lose any more fat there, or get any more definition. It's too early to tell, really. All I know is that it looks a lot better than it ever has done, and that's progress for me.

I told myself not to worry about it when I started doing this, that I'd see what happened. The other thing that I told myself is that I wouldn't allow myself to look at plastic surgery for a year after losing the weight. Partly to give things a year to settle down, to find out what my body actually wants to look like, but purely to see if I can maintain for a year before spending any money on it. I'm becoming more and more comfortable that I might not want to go there anyway, but if I do, I'll keep you informed.

Second, the cold. God it's cold at the moment. There are times when I sit and I think about the insulating capability of 82lb of lard and get a bit nostalgic. It's not only the temperature outside (and I can't think back in enough detail to wonder whether I feel colder than I did at precisely the same air temperature this time last year), but the lack of clothes. Last time it was this cold I was a lot bigger than I am now. As I've lost weight I've gone through summer and autumn, buying lighter clothes, pretty clothes. I have a serious lack of chunky jumpers and warm coats.

This struck me going to the rugby last weekend. I haven't been to many games recently with missing out on the playoffs and having a couple of holidays, and the last two games I went to were in glorious, don't even need a coat, autumn weather. Before that we're talking summer, and early September. So I picked up my thick rugby jacket to put on. This used to be a little snug, less so as time went on through March and April before I put it away for the summer, but still wearable.

It isn't now. I need coats, and jumpers, and warm stuff. Luckily a fleece I ordered a while back finally arrived last weekend, but it's only making a small inroad into the general chill.

And I'm sure I feel colder generally too. At the course yesterday I was freezing all day. I know there were some comments in the first session about it being cold, but no-one seemed to complain after that. But I didn't feel much warmer at 5pm than I had done at 9.30. In fact it feels like my fingers haven't been warm for days sometimes.

I'm really not looking forward to running outside next weekend (or this weekend, but I don't have a race this weekend so could dive for the relative warmth of the treadmill in the gym) if it's this cold. Still, it might make me faster if I have the incentive of a nice warm shower when I've finished!

Bring back summer!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


If there are two things that have kept me on track through this (apart from the things that I say are important in every other post), it's planning and routine. Every morning my alarm goes off, I put my gym stuff on, I put enough food to get me through the day in my bag, I go to the gym, and I go to work. I eat pretty much the same every day, it's all packed up with fruit to spare for those snacking urges, and it's a habit. It keeps me doing it without having to think.

So I was worried about today. At 10.30 last night the phone rang. I dreaded being summoned back into my work after I'd had my running home to eat salad moment (this is me? really?). But no, Neil remembered that he was meant to be on competition law training in London today, and that given that he expected to be working on the deal for some hours he really didn't fancy the 6.40 train in the morning. So I got to go.

Normally I'd have jumped at it, CPD points to avoid me having to do presentations next October like I did this year, and a chance to piss Neil off. He's already annoyed that I know far more about competition law than he does, and I think that the course was intended to help him redress the balance so he doesn't always need to ask me for help. Hah! But I was vaguely annoyed with it being Thursday, meaning I'd miss Spanish again. And there wasn't exactly much notice. But I could imagine the reaction if I turned it down, so gave into the pressure to go.

So I drove back into work, picked up the train tickets and came back home again. I then started worrying about how I'd get through the day without my normal routine. As the day's gone on I've kind of been making notes, and I thought I'd share it because it's taught me a lot about how far I've come.

5.30am. Get up. Why is it that the mornings you have to get up early you wake up every 20 minutes or so through the night worrying that you've slept in. Cranky and irritable. Never mind, I can doze on the train.

Shower, get dressed. I never use the shower at home normally, it's quite a novel experience. I usually go to the gym then shower. I'll miss not exercising, I'll do weights tomorrow instead of the swim I had planned to mae up for missing weights today. Getting dressed was interesting. I couldn't be bothered with a suit, so I went for smart casual, and pulled it off far better than I ever have before. My sister's (size 14) smart grey trousers, with a big black knee length jumper dress over it (size 12). It looked pretty good, I have to say. I can finally pull smart casual off!

Breakfast. This is unusually early. I usually eat breakfast at 9am and lunch at about 12.30. I'll be starving by the time I get to London! One portion of fruit and veg down, four to go.

6.40. On the train. The seat next to me is reserved but not taken. Before I'd have been grateful for this, not spilling over onto someone else. But now, it doesn't make much difference. I was floating around in the seat. Fantastic. The trolley came down and I got a water and a coffee. The start of an amazing caffeine intake for the day, far more than normal.

8.50. The underground. I've not been to London since about March or April, and definitely not since July. I have to admit I was a little nervous going down to the tube at pretty much the same time of day, and on the same tube line, as the bombs (which is what comes of watching a tv programme about them shortly before the call comes to go down to London...)

On the way from the tube to the hotel where the conference is I pop into Boots and get a shapers cloudy lemonade and two bags of grapes. I eat one bag of grapes there and then to avoid me diving into a pile of biscuits mid morning. 2 portions of fruit down, 3 to go.

9.30. The conference. To start there is coffee and a tray of croissants. Very grateful for those grapes. I get some water and go through. There is a plate of sweets on the table in front of me. Why do they do that at these training sessions? Is it not enough to feed you at every break without holding you captive in a room with sugar? Also a bottle of water on the table.

11am. Where has my bladder control gone? I've noticed this since I started losing weight, I really do drink so much water that I'm constantly peeing. Not too bad when I'm in the office, but that doesn't help much in meetings or training sessions. At the break there is a tray of biscuits. I get some more water (like I need any) and eat another bag of grapes. 3 portions of fruit down, 2 to go.

Lunch. No sweets eaten, a gallon of water drunk, and no rubbish. I'm planning to take it easy at the buffet. I walk into the room and realise it's not a buffet. It's a three course sit down meal (makes a change from the standard of training I usually get to go to - I need to stand in for people more senior than me more often!). OK, steel yourself. I take a bread roll (ooh, the barefaced refined carb eating cheek of it!). The starter comes, good news. It's a fish cake. I leave it on the plate untouched. There are times when I'd try to eat a little to be polite, but I don't like fish and I don't need the calories, so why bother.

Main course isn't bad at all. A piece of chicken and some veg. Even better than that, veg that I will eat (even though they're not my first choice). I reckon that's a portion of veg taking me to four portions of fruit and veg so far, with only one more to go. Fantastic considering the lack of advance preparation.

Then dessert. There are some things (fish cake) a girl can resist and some things (tarte au citron) that she can't. Ah well, I was considering getting myself a yummy London cake treat before coming home anyway, so I'll have to forego that and eat this instead. It was very nice.

The problem with the sit down lunch is that there was no time to go for a walk. Bad.

3.30pm. The afternoon is dragging. I'm downing coffees and also using caffeine strips. I don't know whether it's the lack of sleep or the big lunch, but I'm seriously drowsy. I've still not had any sweets though. Cakes for this break. I'm still full from lunch so pass on them again. I consider skiving the last session and getting an early train back to Leeds to go to Spanish, but then I come up with another plan and stay.

5.15pm. It's over. I've not touched a single sweet or any of the croissants, biscuits or cakes. Not bad, not bad at all. And I'm still full so in no danger of grabbing takeaway just yet.

Now, what would involve walking, and taking advantage of being in London... Oh yes, that's it. I have an open return, I can get any train I want, I can go shopping! What I'm really looking for is something to wear for the work christmas party. To be honest I don't really want to spend much money onanything as I'm only really going to the one party, but equally I want to look fab. And even if I only try things on, I can assess how fab I can look. The other problem is that the party is themed "Wild West" so I don't want to go too glam as I'll stand out too much (although equally, I'm not doing fancy dress). I wander round a couple of shops getting ideas, and then hit Top Shop. Oh. My. God. I'm definitely a size 14 then. I find a fab dress, it is tight in the right places (and frilly over the boob area to give an impression there's something there), and skimmy in the right places (stomach). I nearly buy it. But then I realise, it's probably not actually the dress that makes my body look fab. Maybe (and this is a revolutionary thought), it's my body that makes my body look fab. OK, some things will look better than others, but I shouldn't be surprised it looks better than it did last Christmas. Maybe the dress is nothing special, and anyway there's a Top Shop in Leeds if I crack.

I head back to Kings Cross, getting the tube for a bit of the trip but also doing some walking, for a couple more stops than I need to. I'm still not hungry and there's a train about to leave so I don't head for a takeaway. There's no buffet trolley on the train, which is heaving, and I can't be bothered to walk up to the buffet car either, so I don't eat anything til I get back to Leeds. I still have some water in my bag though, which keeps me going.

9.30pm. Back in Leeds. I'm hungry now. The choices are Burger King, McDonalds and M&S. Thank god for M&S. I look at ready meals, but they're a bit substantial really for this time of night, particularly by the time I get home and heat it up. So I get a mixed bean salad and a carton of blueberry juice. That's got to give me that last portion of fruit and veg for the day, hasn't it? I eat it in the station concourse to give it a tiny bit more time to digest before I head to bed.

How things change. An unplanned day before might have been breakfast, bacon roll on the train, grazing from the trays of cakes and sweets all day, something rubbish to eat on the train home, maybe even a drink. I always think that I didn't eat too badly before, and a lot of the time I didn't. But there would be days like that where I'd just be unable to turn down food that was there, and that looked nice. It's what you do when you can't plan ahead, when you have to make decisions and choices as you go along that really shows off what you've learned. It's one thing being all mechanical and methodical about it, but another being able to make the right choices without help, and I think today showed me that I'm definitely getting there.

And while I remember, comments on comments. No, there's not too much loose skin at the moment (although there may yet be some to come, you never know), but I'll talk about it properly over the weekend or sometime, hopefully.

And yes, I keep on meaning to do some new photos, maybe I will when I get my super sexy christmas party outfit sorted out!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

If you believe, clap your hands

Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe. If you believe, clap your hands!

I've said this before, but what I've achieved really has been hitting me recently. I've started to look at other people and realise that I'm not the fat one any more. I'm not necessarily even average, I can be in a group of people and actually be the thin one. I'm heading towards a size 12, and the other day I caught sight of myself in a miror and marvelled at how flat my stomach looked. Sometimes I look down at my thighs or my hips, and I see it, I really do. I see it every time I look in the mirror now, and sometimes I almost want to cry and let out the emotion I feel about what I have done for myself.

I never really had any conception of what I'd look like at this, or any other, weight. I've been aiming blind, on the assumption that anything lighter is better than what I was, and that I'd think about the details when I get there. Kind of like heading for a house in a town at the other end of the country, and only looking at the street map when you've found the town itself. I knew what a healthy weight range was, but didn't want to have any fixed ideas about where in that range I wanted to fall. I still don't, to be honest.

But the one thing I had, every minute of every day was a belief that I would get down there. Maybe not quite to a healthy weight, but that I'd get to roughly where I am now. I've never really had doubts, and I'm sure that's why I've succeeded.

Like Tinkerbell, I think that if you don't really believe in your ability to lose, it will fade and go out. No matter whether I've been losing or having little mini plateaus or gains, I've known, deep down, that it's all part of the journey, and that if I do the right things I'll lose. I've been able to pinpoint things that have caused me not to lose and put them right. I've never had any doubt that if I exercise and eat healthy food I'll stop. And that's really what's kept me going. I've not got worked up about little setbacks, because I know I'm doing things right.

What has really helped me has been doing things the "wrong way round". I started losing weight before I started trying to, if that makes sense. I decided to join the gym and sort my diet out for general health reasons, not weight reasons, and it was only later that I realised that I'd hit upon precisely the combination that would make me lose weight. So I knew when I started consciously tracking my loss that I was on the right lines for me, not following a diet that worked for someone else but wasn't right for me.

I've believed throughout, and that light has stayed on. I really don't know if I could have done this if I didn't believe, truly, that it was th right thing to work for me. I'm not sure that belief on its own would have worked, but I wouldn't have got anywhere near here without it.


Still more changes. I had to work late tonight, and there was a pizza order. I'd spent a lot of last night cooking a gorgeous salad (yes, that sounds like a contradiction, but I roast a load of peppers and tomatoes, grill some chicken, then chop it all up, add some extra veg and dressing etc, so it does take a while), and I hoped that I'd either be able to escape early enough to eat it or at least pop out for half an hour or so to go home and pick it up to bring in.

So I didn't order pizza. That was an achievement in itself, but I then astounded myself by not only turn down slices I was offered, but also by finding myself feeling positively nauseous when confronted with the smell. I still do eat pizza, but this one just had such a greasy smell, and I really didn't fancy it. That's never happened to me before, and I'm at a loss to find out where this sudden pizza aversion came from!

Anyway, I escaped at about 8.40, came home and ate the salad. Disaster averted. (now I just have to hope the phone doesn't go, to ask me to go back in).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


After my brief flurry of job related excitement last week I've slipped back into lethargy. I have two half finished job applications, and I don't know whether I want to finish them off. I just don't know what direction I want to be going in at this point in my career, and I don't want to head off down the wrong, less well paid, track just because I'm bored. I want to be sure that something that looked like a good idea in an advert really is, and that it isn't a slight step back when I should be going forward.

I think it all links the the point that I don't know what I want to do with my life any more. It was OK going through school and university, aiming towards qualificiations, degrees, qualifying as a solicitor. I had goals, and I always had a new challenge to aim for. Then, the day after I qualified I realised that I didn't really have anything to aim towards and I started drifting along. Of course, I could aim for associate or partnership, but it always seems that those titles are based on how much money you bring in rather than how good your work is, which is a complete, and unwelcome, shift for someone who tends to focus on quality rather than money. I was lost for a while, wondering where the motivation to get to the next level had gone. I do my work, and I generally do it well, but all the ambition seems to have been sucked out of me. I feel like I need a map sometimes.

I've been putting off this issue for over a year now. I've been plodding along, but not looking for anything else to do. At first I told myself there was no point in applying for jobs and going to job interviews at the size I was. Whether it was through fear of fattism or just an acknowledgement that I wasn't confident in my own abilities at that stage, I knew that I wouldn't get the jobs so didn't apply. Or maybe it was just a way to avoid having to make a proper, grown up decision for once. I told myself that I'd sort out one part of my life at once, starting with my weight and then moving on to other stuff. For a year I've had a sense of purpose in my life, that the thing I'm really working towards and concentrating on is definable, and desirable. I could make sorting my weight out the most important thing in my life, and that's really helped me to get where I am now in that respect. But now the weight thing is kind of under control and nearly sorted (or at least in a position where it will work itself out over the next few months as long as I carry on doing what I'm doing), the old issues have started rearing their heads.

So I'm starting to think about it again, but the problem is that even though I kind of feel like I need a change, I don't really know what I want to do. I thought I did, I saw the lecturing job and decided I wanted to do that, then I saw another job advertised, and decided I wanted to do that too. But in the harsh light of day, when I'm a bit further away from the back to work blues, I wonder, do I? I'm not unhappy in my job really, I just feel like I'm missing some drive or ambition, and that I want a job where I can find that. Here I'm just not pushing myself, not really. I do enough to get by, but there's no master plan for my career, and no real goal.

Some of my friends are doing fantastically well at work. One has just got a big promotion to MD at her company, but I see ambition in her that I don't see in me. But equally, I don't know whether I want all that, money and status. Isn't there more to life than that?

Without getting too philosophical, I sometimes do wonder what the purpose of life is, and how I should really be spending my time. It does seem to me that spending my life working for other peoples profit is entirely meaningless and pointless. Yes, if I'm good at it and make partnership, I could work for my own profit too, eventually, but what good would that do me, really. It would be nice to have money, but what would I do with it? Waste it, probably. I've got no-one to spend it on other than myself, and I don't really need it. I sometimes crave the chance to do something worthwhile for once (and then look around at the world around me and wonder who really gets that opportunity, and whether I'm not being a bit greedy hoping for that).

And while all this pondering and procrastination goes on, I sit in the same comfy chair at the same old desk. I'm fairly happy here, and there's no pressing reason to leave. Should I really go off chasing fulfilment when I'm no more likely to find it in any other job than I am here? Is it the fear of change, or a worry about being left behind if I try to jump off the bandwagon now? I'm not sure. I'm really at a bit of a loss though, and I really wish I could find some purpose or direction, something to really throw myself into and get enthusiastic about. I just wish I knew what that might be.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The final 20

As I predicted last Monday, the holiday weight has gone and I'm back at 180 which was my previous low. And now I'm back there and have established for certain that pretty much all the holiday weight was water I can reluctantly reveal that last Monday's horrific weigh in was 188. I'm glad to be back down!

The upshot of this all is that I'm now ready to start my final challenge, getting rid of the last 20lb to get me down to 100lb lost. That figure's more symbolic than anything, but it's about half a stone under my "24.9" BMI weight, so it's as good a place as any to aim at, at least until I get a better idea of what I'd look like at that weight. I first got to 180 a couple of weeks ago, but knew that my weight would fluctuate around for a while so didn't want to start aiming at anything lower until I consolidated that number.

Anyway. 160 beckons, and I'm starting to plan my reward for getting there. I've been looking back at my diary to get a realistic idea of how long it will take. By coincidence, I hit 199 on 14 August which is exactly three months ago. And if I assume another three months to lose the next 20, that would take me to 14 February. I'm a bit hesitant about setting a 3 month timescale as I appreciate that my weight loss has and will slow down as I get closer to goal. Hell, it might not even want to make it to 160 at all. And there's Christmas and New Year in the middle of that three month period. But on the other hand, the past three months have actually been fairly tricky for weight loss - I've had 5 or 6 disrupted weeks in that period, and in the next 3 months there's only really the fortnight or so over Christmas where I'll be in much danger of falling off the wagon. I haven't got many Christmas parties to go to, and I don't really do New Year, so it will just be the time when I'm in Spain. So actually, I could stick to being good far more easily than I have over the difficult October period.

The other reason for sticking with the 3 month goal is the end date. Anyone who's read back through my archives may remember that I'm a terminal singleton and proud of it. I'm not looking to get into a relationship with anyone really, and am more than happy on my own. February 14th is always a date that winds me up though, with all the celebrations of couplehood and conspicuous loved-up-ness. I certainly won't be going to use the pool at the gym on Valentines weekend this year, let's put it that way! But next year I'd like to take the opportunity to celebrate my love for myself (how narcissistic!), and what I've done for myself over the past year. I'm also probably going to be going to France for the weekend on the 11th for a rugby match, which is perfectly timed to be a reward to myself for what I've achieved. A weekend of celebrating how fab and thin I am (and eating a celebratory French cake or two), in lieu of getting depressed about not having something I don't want anyway. I'll go and have a good time whether I've made "goal" or not, but it's just something to aim for.

However, going past that, I've also decided on a New Year's resolution (just a little early, but part of the thinking process I went through today). This one is far less time critical in terms of flogging myself to get to a certain target as soon as possible, but probably more important. What I want, more than getting to 160 by 14 February, is to be 160 or thereabouts on 31 December 2006. I can either get there early and maintain, or I can get there on the 31st. I don't care. But I need to focus on staying there, rather than just making it, so that's the date I want to concentrate on. There are no real mini targets left now, it's time to head to goal and stay there.


I bought new tracksuit bottoms today and nearly died of shock in the process. The XL were labelled as 16-18 and the L as 14-16. I assumed that a medium would be 12-14, and pretty much what I wanted. I found some but they were labelled 10-12. Anyway, I chickened out and tried the 14-16 on and couldn't believe how baggy they were. Surely something labelled 10-12 wouldn't fit? Would it?

(You may have guessed from the fact that I'm recounting this story that the answer is yes. The "I tried something on and it didn't fit" stories aren't quite as confidence boosting, funnily enough).

I'm assuming they're nearer a 12 than a 10, and with sufficient stretchiness to survive but still!!!

There's something about the number 12 today. I also tried on the trousers that I bought for my sister years ago that I mentioned in a post way a few months ago. They fit. I'm not saying that I'm there yet, but I'm still edging downwards.


A fantastic 58:48 10k on the treadmill before work this morning. I can't believe that I can actually get under an hour for 10k! (In fact, I first need to start believing that I can run 10k at all). Only 13 days to go before the big race, and I feel far more prepared than I did for the Cancer Research 10 I did back in September. At the moment I'm running 10k a full 10 minutes quicker than I did that day, and I know that the course will be far easier with no hills to speak of. I'm considering running the course this weekend as a trial run, but I'm quite worried about the traffic if I do it on a day that isn't race day as it goes up a busy road (which will presumably have a lane or so coned off for the real thing). I walk a couple of km of the course every day between the office and where I park (bizarrely the run pretty much leaves from the back door of my office!), and I know the road fairly well, but it would be interesting to see whether I can do it in advance.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Happy, and fulfilled

I went to a meetup with some of my rugby message board friends yesterday before going to a game. Now we're into the international end of the season I'm meeting up with some people who I've not seen all year, who support other teams or who mainly travel for international games, or other big games.

As in any big group of people, there are some people I know really well and see all the time (Zoe, for example, who I see more off the board than I talk to her on it), and other people who I never really chat to or rarely see. There's not necessarily time to speak to everyone (not between the vital activities of the day such as drinking or blowing up an inflatable penguin), but I spoke to most people. The usual range of questions, had I lost more since I last saw them, what on earth was I doing (my favourite version of that one must be from someone who asked whether I was exercising, because "I look so toned"!)

Anyway, on the way out I got tapped on the shoulder by someone I rarely speak to and hadn't chatted to that day. I've probably not seen him since last November, so I'm guessing there's a big difference. I'm used to the routine by now, and am getting better at taking a compliment graciously, but still, I was a little shocked at his choice of words. "You look so happy, and fulfilled".

I started to wonder, is that a euphemism for "thin". Oh yes, I've come across lots of men who can't quite come out and say the word. But then I thought, maybe it isn't.

I told myself when I started losing weight that although it may make me healthier, it wouldn't necessarily make me happy on its own. If, for example, I hated my job fat (which I didn't, but it's an easy example), being thin wouldn't make me enjoy it any more. If something made me unhappy then I would have to work on that in its own right rather than just hoping that thinness would be a cure for everything wrong with my life.

But somehow, the whole process of losing weight does seem to have made a difference. Maybe if I'd woken up one morning a size 10, out of the blue, I'd have been happy about that, but only in a one dimensional way. I've said this before, but sometimes I think that what makes me proudest of this whole thing is the way I've done it rather than what I've done, the strength that comes from knowing that I've done something amazing for myself, and the confidence that I can do anything I set my heart on.

That belief sends me round a room to talk to people, and to have confidence in my opinions and thoughts. I suppose the reduced size helps, in that I don't feel like I need to apologise for my appearance or wonder what people are going to think of me before I open my mouth, but it's the self-belief as well as the appearance.

I always used to love rugby matches. I've never been the heart and soul of a party, and drift through life very much alone. I have some friends, but I choose them carefully and need to keep my personal space rather than spending my time as part of a group. But at the rugby, you can stand alone, but part of a crowd cheering for the same thing. The emotional rollercoaster of the game picks up everyone and takes them along with it, as a group. When you're cheering on your country or your team you're never alone. I like that. It always gave me that feeling of being part of something that sometimes I missed. It didn't matter whether I was fat or alone, I was part of something bigger.

And the internet, of course, was great. I could post on rugby message boards without needing to betray too much about myself, and I could be anyone I wanted. I was part of a bigger group of fans, and the person who was sitting behind the keyboard was immaterial.

Now I still have that, but I seem to need it less. I don't need to immerse myself in a group to feel part of the world, I feel like I'm accepted, and that my right to be isn't dependent on being a voice in the crowd or words on a screen. I still enjoy it, but it's no longer the only high point of my week. I fit the rugby into my life rather than the other way round.

All of which is a long winded way of saying that maybe he was right. I know I am happy, and maybe I am more fulfilled. I never thought of it that way, and I never realised that my appearance exuded happiness, but maybe it does. I just wish I could bottle this feeling.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fairy tales

Sometimes it seems like this whole thing is happening to some other version of me. That I'm sitting here having an out of body experience, watching a me that's no longer me lose weight. It's hard to explain, but I think it partly comes from a difference between my perception of what I've done and other peoples perceptions of what I've done.

Yesterday I got cornered on my way out of work by the mad Scottish woman. I think I've mentioned her before. She's 8 stone 8 and wants to be 8 stone 1*. She's been going up and down between those two numbers pretty much for the four years I've known her, constantly re-starts weight watchers, and is a terminal chocoholic. She was grilling me on how to lose weight.

She was constantly going on about how amazing I was, and how she wanted it to rub off on her, but the strange thing is that sometimes I still don't feel like I've lost that much weight. I constantly see the fat that's left rather than the absence of the fat that's gone, and it also feels like there's a properly thin version of me standing in for me sometimes, persuading people that I've done far better than I have. The warped body image of the formerly obese, huh?

It's almost too big to take in. For people on the outside, looking in, it's less personal maybe, and they can see things that I don't. Maybe they could really see how big I was to start with, without the benefit of denial. Maybe they don't see the flaws that I focus on.

The problem is that it adds to the unreal feeling about the whole thing. Sometimes when I'm running I feel like I suddenly wake up and wonder what the hell I'm doing, and where my lie in disappeared to. As though someone else got me out of bed and down to the park or the gym and only then do I realise what I'm doing. It's not that I feel like I want to go back to bed, I keep going, but I wonder what made me do it. What put me in a situation where I can be disappointed to only manage a half hour run when I used to feel like dying after 30 seconds? Did the fairies come at some point and give me a new me. Or have they been tinkering away every night, changing a bit at a time?

I suppose that the benefit of the general feeling of unreality is that occasionally I get a flash of light and I see myself as I probably actually am. The contrast between that and how I usually see myself outweighs any comparison between my current mind-self and what I used to think I was.

*Incidentally, these numbers actually gave me something of a shock when I was playing with a BMI calculator earlier. She is under 5 feet tall, which makes her 8 stone-ness somewhat understandable. I was still shocked though when I realised that my BMI is 26.something and hers is 24.something. I thought there would be far more difference than that!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dark mornings

If I could get money for every time anyone told me how hard this whole thing is at this time of year, I'd be rich. It's funny, for a while I felt all smug with the "I'm not struggling" mindset. I'm so entrenched into gym going and doing this that it's harder to stop than it is to carry on. But still, I understand.

This year it may look like I'm all fine and dandy on the surface. (But judging by the number of times I have to go back and correct my typing, maybe not sober). But I realised that I was in exactly that dark place this time last year. I've started to really get a measure on how far I've come, and on what it takes to get fully committed to doing this.

I've probably told the story before many times, but never mind. Last July I joined the gym. Last September I stopped going, and I didn't start again until January. Every time I drag myself out of bed on a cold, dark, wet, November morning, I realise that this time last year I didn't do that, I didn't keep up wih the goals I'd set myself, and I fell by the wayside with this whole weight loss thing.

It really is so hard to force yourself to do stuff during the winter. It's cold, it's wet, and it's dark. All you want to do is to hide under a duvet with some chocolate and a good book. But somehow this year the depression has passed. Not that I necessarily enjoy making myself get up, but it's so ingrained that I just do it, day after day.

If there's anything that I can say to make the whole thing better for anyone who's been struggling, it's simply that. This is a long term war, not just something you need to fight this month. As time goes by, you'll get there. Next November you could be sitting here in a nice new body, keeping going regardless.

It's amazing how a person can change in a year, but please, I promise you, it is possible.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

No regrets

When I first started losing weight, or more accurately when I first realised that I needed to lose so much weight, I felt really sorry for myself and hated that I'd put myself in that position, let it get so bad. I realised that I'd spent roughly 10 years, from 16 to 26 being fat, nay obese, and I felt like I'd wasted the prime of my life.

I used to sit and wonder what sort of person I'd have been if I'd been thin during that time. Whether I'd have got better jobs, better friends, different interests, a diffrent life. Would I have been loved, adored? Would I have been gorgeous? I really regretted the fact that I'd never given myself the opportunity to find out.

But as I come further with this, I realise that is all bollocks. I'm me, and I'm still the same person, obese or merely slightly overweight. And I'll be the same person thin. It goes further than that though, I realise that however much being obese may have shaped my life in terms of my interests, personality, and friends, I'm glad it did. I like being me, and if being fat sent me heading towards my books or a quieter life, then I'm happy. I'm interested in who I might have been if I'd been thin, but really it's probably just me in a smaller pair of jeans. It's taken me a long time to realise that I've maybe been attributing things to my body when really it's just me. Why should I be more outgoing? I don't want to be. Fat was an easy excuse, but it's not a real explanation.

I have changed during this process. But do you know what? I think the increased confidence hasn't come from my new body. It's come from the knowledge that I did this, for myself. That's I've achieved something that's actually quite difficult. If I'd never been obese I'd never have had the chance to do this, and to finally get the self-belief that I can do anything I put my mind to. I've met (virtually and in real life) some wonderful people through doing this. At the gym, online, all over the place, and I've learned a lot of things about myself. If I'd never gone through this I might not be as rounded as a person.

Being obese taught me important lessons. I've always had to rely on other qualities rather than being one of those girls who get by in life because they're pretty. I can't imagine always relying on my looks to get what I want, partiularly not as that's always going to be something temporary. Beauty doesn't last, intelligence and personality does. I'm glad that I've achieved everything that I have achieved the hard way.

But do you know the best thing about having been obese? The use of the past tense in that sentence. I'm not going to regret who I was for so long or wish I'd been someone else, but equally, I want to take those lessons and move on to a new thinner phase in my life.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Go for it!

Thanks for the compliments everyone, it looks like I'm going to have to go for it then! To be fair, I half wrote the application at lunchtime at work before checking back in here, so I think the decision was pretty much already made. There's nothing to be lost by applying, and I can decide whether I want to do it (a) if I get the job (a big if) and (b) when I find out the exact salary. There's just a salary range in the advert ranging from wouldn't pay the mortgage to a cut but not too bad. If I get an offer at the higher end, it would probably be a no-brainer decision to take it, equally to reject if it was at the lower end. In the middle, well I'd have to see where it falls and how the benefits and quality of work/life issues work out to balance out the pay cut. I can't really make a decision based on a salary range, so I'd need an offer to decide in any sensible way.

The benefits look good from what I've seen though. I don't have full details, but 35 days holiday and gym membership for £45 per year look fairly tempting to me! Plus I think the pension is a cracking one, and thre would be opportunities to do other work "on the side" like writing, marking, moderating etc. Oh, and the job satisfaction too, mustn't forget that one of course, which is the whole reason for applying in the first place.

The interesting thing about writing the application is that the words and the reasons are just flowing. For the first time in my life I really know why I want to do it, and I know what to put in there. I'm not just putting what I think they want to hear, I'm putting what I want to say. I don't have to put all the corporate bollocks in (like my last appraisal - where do you see yourself in 5 years? My original answer - I have no idea. My answer as edited by my supervisor - Working towards partnership) and I am just explaining my motivations, in the belief that they finally match up with the job description.

I've been a bit pre-occupied by the whole job idea over the past couple of days since I saw the ad, so no real thoughts on weight loss today. The good news is that 3lb of the holiday weight disappeared overnight making the temporary gain slightly less horrific. Let's hope that another 3lb disappear before tomorrow, should we? (well, I can dream!). I ran again this morning, and am really trying to work up to this 10k at the end of the month. My cheerleading squad is coming together nicely with Kylie and a colleague who is hoping that her application got lost in the post so that she can cheer rather than run. Is she afraid of being beaten perhaps?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Back to work blues

I hate the first morning after a holiday. You have to drag yourself back out of bed reluctantly, not just for work, but for the gym. Where you confront exercises you've not done for some time and some scales that invariably show a degree of weight gain. And then you have to face going back into work (on which more shortly).

The gain wasn't good. In fact it was horrible. I've eaten rubbish all week, and lots of it. There is no excuse for eating that amount of food. Enough food that my stomach felt sore after eating. Not once but twice. Finishing off a meal when you've eaten enough about a third of the way through it. Eating a three course meal (with profiteroles) for lunch and then ordering a starter as well as a main course in the evening. And the alcohol, oh the alcohol. I knew there would be a gain, but I was still a little disappointed (hopefully there will be lots of water there...)

But I'm not counting it. This isn't denial, far from it. This is motivation borne of the fact that I knew what I did to put the weight on, and I know what to do to get it back off again and to get back down to where I was before the holiday. It's not a permanent falling off the wagon gain, or even a nearing goal and fluctuating around within a maintenance zone gain. It's a temporary, reversible week off gain, and I can live with that. So the tracker will stay where it is, and I'll be back there very soon.

How do I know that? Well, the fact that I ran just over 5k and did weights before work this morning? Usually after a holiday I try to build back up again gently, as I've got out of the habit of exercising. Amazingly, that's kind of what I'm doing this time except that running 5k now is building back up again gently. And if I can do that on my first trip back to the gym, I know that the holiday weight isn't going to hang around, so I'm ignoring it until it's gone. Why worry about it?


The thing that's been pre-occupying my thoughts today though is my career. Is it the back to work blues? Maybe, but I don't know whether it's more than that. You see, although I can do my job perfectly adequately, I'm good at it and it's well paid, I don't get any real satisfaction from it. I don't hate it, as such, but completing a deal doesn't give me a high, and I don't really feel like I'm making a difference to real people. It might help balance sheets, or improve profits, but it's not life changing. The work just leaves me feeling a bit empty, like there has to be something more fulfilling than this. I often have a dream about being able to do a job I really enjoy, and that really feels worthwhile.

I'm not looking for a new job as such, and I rarely read the job adverts in the Gazette, but today something made me flick through them. And there it is, something I can see myself doing, in Leeds. Using my legal knowledge, but in a different way.

When I was still an undergraduate, a friend said to me that I'd end up as an academic. I'd do two, three, four, maybe even five years in private practice, but I'd end up as an academic in the end. I never really dismissed the idea, to be fair. I think that deep down I knew they were right. I just didn't know when the urge would hit me. Recently I've been doing a fair bit of internal training for trainees and other members of my team, and I've enjoyed it. People have even said that I'm good at it. But I didn't think much more about it.

Then it hit this morning. There's a job as a lecturer in European law at Leeds Met. I love European law, I have a masters degree in it. I suddenly got enthused by the idea of making a difference to real people, on a personal level. At university there were lecturers who really made a difference to how I developed as a person, as well as making a difference in my career. I could enjoy doing that. I could still be involved in law, which I do enjoy, but in a different way, hopefully more fulfilling, less money driven and more enjoyable.

The thing that struck me was that if I went to an interview for another job doing what I'm doing I wouldn't know what to say. I don't know why I want to do what I do now, other than that it's what I know how to do. I'm not motivated by money or status or the buzz of completion day. I don't dream of becoming senior partner, or billing huge sums of money. That's partly why I'm not looking for a new job. I'm just not sure that I want a job that would be more of the same. I can get that here, and I'm not desperately looking to advance my career at every turn. I'm just surviving, plodding along doing the same old stuff because it's what I do.

But when I thought about the lecturing job, I couldn't stop thinking of reasons why I'd love to do it. Maybe I'm all misty eyed and romantic about what it involves, and the reality would disappoint, but I'd get a far bigger thrill from seeing students graduate with a better degree than expected, or from seeing a love of a subject develop than I ever have had from what I'm doing at the moment. I'd love to be able to research interesting areas of law from a purely academic view point rather than being dictated to by clients constantly. I can see myself doing it, and enjoying it. I've been having a bit of a reality check this evening about what the job actually involves, that there's internal politics, no money, exams to mark etc, but still, there's something that appeals.

My CV ticks most of the right boxes (other than having lectured before, which to be fair it doesn't actually ask for as a requirement). I have a good law degree (first class), I have a higher degree in the specific area (with distinction), not a PhD, but it doesn't specifically say that, I could also cover other subjects (I need to look what subjects they do, but contract law as a minimum, possibly something more specialised if they run it). I have a list of academic prizes as long as my arm from when I was at university. I was even a student rep for law faculty meetings, so I have some insight into the management side of it. I need to look at the full job description later today, but from the summary I've seen it describes me. I'm not saying I'd definitely get the job, but I'd probably at least get past the start line. Worth an application? You'd have thought so.

So, what's stopping me? The usual. I know I said I'm not motivated by money, but I suppose that's only true to a point. I like my lifestyle at the moment. I don't see the need to earn much more than I do at the moment, but equally, I wouldn't like to have to live on too much less than that. I could do it, but I'd have to budget more carefully than I do at the moment, and be far stricter with myself. Some of those little indulgences might need to be reviewed. Is the job worth taking a huge pay cut for? Because, from what I can gather, that's what I'd be facing. I don't know, but what I do know is that if I don't do it now, the difference between the pay of the two career paths is only going to get bigger. If I don't jump now, will I ever be able to?

The other thing is really fear of the unknown. What if I don't like it? Would I be able to get back on the private practice gravy train if I'd taken time out to lecture? Although, I could answer that question, I suppose. Would I want to?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Triangles and String

I'm back! Sunned and rested, and not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. 'Tis always the way when holidays end, more's the pity.

So, the big news is that I did go diving. It was OK, I got into the wetsuit without any major dramas, and I didn't. It didn't blow me away like it does some people, but equally I'd do it again, if I was somewhere where there was something spectacular to see. I'm not like my dad who would dive in the North Sea in November just to get out there and dive, or who would spend time training people for the love of it on chilly Thursday nights in the local pool, but I'll probably do the course slowly so that when I go to Australia (in many many years time at this rate) I can ve there.

One thing I did notice though, was that weight does matter. One of the customers diving with me was a very chunky guy, only a teenager but very big. Now there was nothing malicious in the way he had to be treated, and there was never any suggestion that he couldn't dive, but he did have to be treated differently. He couldn't use a "normal" weight belt, and he had to be watched even more carefully in terms of how much air he used. My sister (who is, as we've already established, roughly my current size) felt nervous about diving him without assistance from another instructor because if he'd got into difficulties it would have been hard for her to support or rescue someone who was probably a good 6 or 7 stone heavier than her. He dived, he enjoyed it, and there weren't any problems, but it did hammer home how much easier life is when you're not massively obese. You can sit on planes, put the tray down, wiggle around in the seat. You can dive using normal kit and without having adjustments made for you. You can do things without worrying about your weight rather than finding a way to do them despite it.

The other big news is that the triangles and string bikini made a public outing. It's only triangles and string at the top, with smallish but all the way round bottoms rather than the tie at the side things. And actually, there were two bikinis, I discovered another one lurking in my wardrobe in Spain which I'd bought two years ago in a fit of hopeless optimism.

I admit that I mainly wore the top because my top half is far better than my bottom half. I'd wear the bottoms, but under a skirt, or a sarong, or anything else I could find to disguise the bits of me I'm less comfortable with. But I wore it. And I took the opportunity to reassess my body.

A beach holiday is good for lookng at other people's bodies and realising that they come in all different shapes and sizes, and that none of them are perfect. Well, not many of them anyway. When I was obese I tended to think that thin was thin and lovely, and fat was fat. But there are so many more variations than that. There are the skinny framed but flabby people, the chunky but toned people, and so many other combinations. And it became obvious that the one thing that determined whether they looked good in a bikini wasn't size, or flabbiness or anything like that. It was confidence, and the belief that they looked good, or that it didn't matter.

There are two distinct groups of people I usually see. There are the tourists, white pasty flesh usually, and lots of shapes and sizes. And there are the Canarios, also in lots of shapes and sizes. But the Canarios have that look that says they were born in a bikini, they were fortunate enough to be born into a fantastic climate where you can live on the beach after school or work, at weekends, all summer, and where you can and do walk along the sea front in a bikini as a matter of course. Wearing a bikini seems to be a birthright rather than something to stress over or worry about, and they pull it off, with an almost 100% success rate.

Their bodies aren't necessarily any better than some of the tourists, but they just pull it off so much better. It's confidence, and that's an important lesson.

I always wore a bikini, even at my heaviest (and judging by some of the evidence of copious amounts of lardy flesh, I'm not alone in this - not that a one piece swimsuit hides it much better anyway). Not necessarily a particularly revealing one, but a bikini. But it was always doomed to failure because I was constantly aware of the fact that it looked awful. It probably did, but I never really had the confidence to hold my head up high and be proud of it anyway. My bikini wearing was always more apologetic, as if I felt like I should be preceeded by an advisory notice as I lumbered towards the pool.

But now, why the hell shouldn't I wear one. My body's a long way away from perfect, and maybe it will never get there. But really, how many bodies round the pool or on the beach are perfect? There are bulges and wobbles all over the place if you actually look. Does it matter? Not at all. I'm proud of my body now, and if it wants to show itself off, then why the hell shouldn't it? And maybe one day I'll have that confidence that disguises any imperfections and rises above it.