Looking back, and forwards
Don't worry, I'm not going to leave my review of the year just at that. I have many reasons why it's been amazing, and I'm not going to gallop off into 2006 without sharing at least some of them.
First, stating the obvious, I'm 6 stone or so lighter than I was this time last year. 2004 saw a bit of weight loss, and a bit of regain, whereas 2005 has been downhill movement on the scales all the way. I've lost far more than I ever dared dream of, and while I'm not quite at a healthy BMI or the weight I'd like to finish off at, I know that I've still lost a hell of a lot of weight, and that I've done most of the hard work. Any weight I lose from now on is the icing on the cake rather than the weight that was really important. The hard work of losing is nearly done, with just the hard work of maintaining to come.
That was me at the end of last year. I don't look like that any more, and I can't remember the last time I downed two bottles of red wine, various other drinks and lots of food, as I did that evening before the photo was taken.
But even though I've lost a lot of weight, that's not the thing that makes me proud of myself. Weight loss is almost a side effect of the changes that I've made. Of course those changes were made with half an eye on that side effect in particular, but what I'm pleased with is the changes I've made to my lifestyle. There are other ways to lose weight, liquid diets, surgery, faddy plans, but I've just gone with old fashioned common sense and exercise. The fact that I've achieved so much with that, without professional support and purely on the basis of working out what works for me and what I can live with is what puts a smile on my face.
Exercise is the big one. I was already a gym member this time last year, but I'd fallen out of the habit of going regularly. I managed to get myself back on track early in the year, and I'm coming up to completing a year of regular gym attendance. I never thought that I'd be able to say that. But what's more, I don't just go to the gym, I push myself. I run, and I sweat, and I feel like I'm about to collapse but still push myself for just that final spell. I've never once come out of the gym and been able to leave my hair unwashed, it's always that full of sweat. I'm constantly challenging myself and pushing my fitness on further than I ever thought I could.
I run! I really do. Not in a running a bit, walking a bit, gently jogging round the park sense, but doing proper 10k runs in under an hour. And enjoying them! This time last year I could barely run for 1 minute, let alone 59. I find myself looking at running gadgets and accessories (I'm surprised how badly I want one of those snazzy GPS/HRM thingies to track my runs, if only I could afford one), and planning where and when I can run another race.
Eating too. In the past I've fooled myself into thinking that because I'm eating "healthy living" ready meals I can't be doing too badly with eating. And I'm sure I could have been eating worse, but this year the healthiness of my meals has gone to another level. I rarely get through a day eating less than 5 portions of fruit and veg, almost everything I eat has actual nutritional value rather than just being selected for the absence of fat or calories, and I eat salad and all sorts of stuff that I avoided like the plague last year. I even crave healthy stuff when I can't get it (and for the past couple of days I've been on a bizarre fruit and veg binge after being deprived of it for 10 days in Spain).
The result of this. Well, I'm currently about 40kg/88lb down from my highest weight, and fitter, healthier and thinner than I've ever been in my adult life. Not through deprivation or forcing myself to do stuff, but by finding healthy things I enjoy and being a bit more adventurous trying new stuff.
I'm a (UK) size 12-14. I don't remember ever being under a 16, and this time last year I was nearer a 22. I'm pretty much the same size as my sister and this year for the first time ever we each bought each other clothes, so I tried on some jeans and bought them for her, and she gave me some pyjamas based on what fits her (and helped my mother buy me a jumper). They fit us both perfectly. I can go into NORMAL shops and not buy the biggest size. I buy things with medium on the label. I'm the size of the average British woman and I can buy clothes in pretty much any shop I go in. Except the fat shop, of course!
I wear colours I'd never have dreamed of. I style my hair properly in the morning. I wear makeup more often. I care about my appearance again. For the first time I can remember I'm proud of how I look and I want to show it off. I look in the mirror and I stand there and I stare because I still can't believe what I see. I'm normal. This December I'm a different person, and I like the person I am.
But 2005 hasn't just been about my weight and my fitness. I've travelled to some amazing places, Paris in March, Budapest and Santorini in Greece in May which was fabulous.
Lots of trips to Gran Canaria, Dublin in September, and topping it all off an amazing trip to Marrakech in October. Travel is what keeps me sane. I may spend lots of weekends and Friday evenings in the house alone, but if it saves me money for my weekends away I'd rather do that than spend my money on alcohol and taxis.
Work has been good. Nothing spectacular, but I seem to be progressing OK and hitting targets. Dull, but it pays the bills. I've started working towards some of my non weight related goals like learning Spanish and reducing my debt. I've made some fabulous friends over the past year, and overall I've been happier than I've been for a long time.
And amongst that I can't even think of any negatives. Sure, there have been days when I've been frustrated, or lonely, or upset, but not about anything that matters or anything important. My family are all healthy other than a couple of relatively minor and quickly cleared up health scares mid-year. I've not had to deal with any real shit this year, and I suppose that makes me incredibly lucky really.
So, back to that one word. Amazing.
Which begs the question of what 2006 can do to top it. It's going to be a hard job. There are things I can control, and some things that I can't control that might come along to trip me up. Still, there's no use worrying about those at this stage, so it's time to look at what I can do.
I'm not usually one for new years resolutions, and I didn't really make any last year. It just happened that things started falling into place early in the year, but more through accident than design. But this year I've learned so much that it's nice to be able to set myself some realistic, achievable goals. To be honest, a lot of them are pretty much to carry on what I've been doing rather than to make drastic life-changing decisions, but hopefully that means I'll be able to keep them.
The big one is exercise, and that's pretty much "as you are". I want to carry on running, and to run the same races I did this year, but faster. One day I'd love to run a marathon (there, said it), and a half marathon to build up to it, but I'm not going to push for that to be in 2006. If the Leeds half marathon is on a date I can do (I have a feeling it's the weekend I've already booked a trip to Madrid) then I might go for it, but if not it will give me an excuse to carry on running into 2007.
The one exercise thing I do want to incorporate is doing more "fun" active stuff. Stuff that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing before. So I might try kickboxing, and stick with it if I enjoy it. One thing that I'm 75% committed to doing is an activity weekend in Wales, either here or here. Abseiling, climbing, gorge walking, canyoning - all the sort of stuff that I'd have avoided like the plague (not least because of the potential requirement to wear a wetsuit). If I win the lottery or find myself with spare cash I might also do a skydive in Gran Canaria, but they're pretty expensive for the amount of time they involve (at least the adventure weekend would be a weekend away too rather than just a couple of hours), and at the moment that money would be better off spent paying off the rest of my debt. I also want to get out and about more locally, and go on proper, long, hilly walks in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. They're so close that it's a shame not to enjoy the wonderful scenery on my doorstep, particularly now I'm fit enough to do it. I'd love to find a walking buddy to do it with, but I'll do it alone if necessary. The final thing in this category is considering, in summer at least, cycling to work instead of driving or getting the bus. I only live a few miles from work so it's not particularly daunting, as long as I get my bike checked over first as I've not used it for a long time.
And finally on being active, I really ought to do at least some of the PADI Open Water course this year. I've done dive 1 so far, which just leaves all the pool sessions and 4 or so more dives to go. I'm not saying I'll finish it, but I might start working through it slowly.
Eating, again is more of the same mainly. Keep on trying new vegetables (today I tried my first bit of asparagus, having eaten asparagus soup over Christmas for the first time) and, as I blogged yesterday, try fish. By the way, thanks for the suggestions everyone, I think I'm definitely going to start with tuna - it seems the "meatiest" fish, and if I only eat one fish it seems to be one that's widely available and therefore the most "useful" one to eat rather than something really obscure. My diet isn't 100% "perfect", but of the "treats" I allow myself, there's nothing I want to cut out. If that means never being stick thin then so be it, I'm relatively happy at this weight, and I feel that my current diet and continued exercise will get me a little further down, so I don't see the need to make drastic cuts, even if I do give myself some new healthy alternatives to choose from sometimes.
And in weight terms, where is this leading? I've never set myself a weight loss New Year's Resolution, and I'm not going to start now. All I will say is that I want to start 2006 lighter than I start it. If that's 1lb lighter then so be it. If it's 14lb lighter then fine, but I'm not going to kill myself trying. I appreciate that the main task of the next year is maintenance, and while I'm fairly sure that I will lose at least some weight over the year, I know that realistically it won't be much (by comparison with this year at least), and so I'd rather set myself a "maintenance" goal than a "loss" goal. That's the important thing now, and I need to get used to the idea that I can't expect to lose weight every week any more, and I can't get depressed if the scales don't go down. I've got to a point where they don't really need to.
Non weight related, I want to ramp up my Spanish. When this course finishes in about a months time I might move up to two evenings per week for the next one. I definitely want to carry on and get myself to a decent level, after all I have plenty of opportunity to practice.
Travel is definitely going to be on the agenda, so far I have booked trips to Catalonia, Madrid and Amsterdam, and I'm on the look out for cheap flights for other trips as and when the low cost airlines have promotions on. I also want to get out more in this country, walking mainly, and the weekend in Wales, and realise that you don't need to go abroad to have a good weekend away.
In contradiction to that, I want to carry on getting my debt down. At the moment pretty much everything is on a 0% credit card (or my mortgage) so I'm only doing it slowly, but steadily. I want to keep that up over the next year. A bit of a no-brainer and no-effort resolution this one, as I already have a direct debit set up to pay it off slowly, but I suppose the main thing is to not do anything that would make my debt go up rather than down...
Career wise, I need to start making more effort at work. A lot of the time I coast along, and I need to decide whether to really push at making progress where I am or whether to bite the bullet and move. There are potential changes on the horizon at work, so for the next month or so I'm in limbo to some extent about what's happening in the future (my job's not under threat, but the way I'm managed could change significantly, and I don't know whether that's a good thing or not until I find out more detail). I don't want to take any big decisions until I find out one way or another, and if there's a change, until I've given the new regime a try, but I do want to take control of my career rather than coasting along doing the minimum required to get by.
One thing that's easier said than done is to come out of my shell a little and try to meet new people who share my interests. I've finally realised that it's one thing meeting people in general, but it's far harder to find people who you can be yourself round, rather than forcing yourself to be someone you're not for a bit of company (chief example of this is going out drinking because that's what your new friends like doing. I like a drink from time to time, but a 6 hour binge in York every Friday night isn't how I want to spend my life). I'm hoping I'll meet people I get on with through things like Spanish, kickboxing, Wales and of course on here rather than by drinking and partying. And of course, not neglecting my existing friends in the process of acquiring new ones!
But overall, what this boils down to is embracing and nurturing the person I've become, and doing what I really want to do with my life. Listening to my hopes and dreams, and acting on them. I've finally realised that nothing is impossible, and that if I want to do something I can. Only my pre-conceptions hold me back, and if I can be thin, I can do anything.
That needs to be my motto for 2006.