Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking back, and forwards

If I had to sum up 2005 in one word it would be an easy job. "Amazing".

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.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Something fishy

I suspect that I'm nearly ready to face the one big remaining food demon. There is one thing that I've steadfastly refused to eat for more years than I can remember, and no number of supposed health benefits has been able to tempt me. There's a mental block that's keeping me away from an entire food group at the moment, and in a sneak new year's resolution preview (there are more, but this will probably be one), this is one of the big tasks for 2006.


This is such a big no go area for me it's hard to explain the enormity of it. I occasionally eat a prawn or two, although occasionally maybe gives a hint of frequency that doesn't reflect reality. We're not talking within the last 12 months, and I'm not sure about the 12 before that. I just don't do fish.

It hasn't always been like that though. I remember when I was little we used to go to Blackpool for the day with my grandparents. We'd have tuna and salmon sandwiches. Tinned fish rather than fresh stuff, but I distinctly remember eating them, with slices of beetroot on soggy white bread. I'm sure I ate them (or at least some of them. I have a vague feeling that I may have eaten one but not the other, but I can't remember which one). I also occasionally hear the apocryphal tales that I used to eat fish and chips. Cod and haddock and that sort of stuff. With lashings of batter and fat, and with piles of chips, salt and vinegar, but they definitely claim I ate a bit of the fish as well as the chips. I don't remember doing it, but equally I don't remember kicking up a fuss about not eating it when we went to the chip shop.

So there is some evidence, albeit a little scarce, that I may have once eaten fish and tolerated it. I have no idea when I stopped doing it or when I decided that I no longer liked it. Or to put it more accurately, when I started detesting it with a passion. When I went to Whitby and saw the fishing boats bringing the fish back complete with eyes? When I realised that fish were animals, not something that came out of a can? Or when I first became aware of the smell of real, raw fish.

That smell used to make me gag just walking past the fish counter in the supermarket. With that sort of response it became inconceivable that I'd want to put that stuff in my mouth and eat it. My mouth is too close to my nose for a start. But recently I've started tolerating it a lot more. I'm getting more accustomed to the idea, if not the reality, of eating it.

And today I realised how much closer I am. I picked up a tuna and bean salad when I was getting some stuff to eat for lunch. It actually looked quite nice, and the tuna didn't look too threatening. Can dead, cooked fish ever look threatening? It might sound odd, but it did to me for a long time. But this one looked OK, even potentially edible on a good day.

This happened with salads too. I didn't eat them for many years, then I started picking them up and looking at them. After a while they started looking more tempting than they had before, until eventually I took the plunge. They're still a work in progress, but I'm eating far more green leafy stuff than I ever did. So maybe tuna and maybe even other fish will be the same. I can feel myself getting closer to doing it. So that's one of the resolutions for the new year. Take the plunge and eat it when that time comes.

The main task now is to work out the best way to approach it, hopefully something easy that I can't mess up, and surrounded with stuff that I really do like to take away the trauma. I'm teetering on the brink, and I need to work it out and just do it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's cold...

I'm back, and I'm freezing my arse off. I had forgotten, briefly, how cold this country is. Well, I remembered when I set foot outside the airport at 1.30am this morning.

If there's one thing I like to do it's get every second's worth out of my holidays. So that's why I set off for the airport 10 days or so ago at 12.30am on a Saturday to get an early flight out to Spain, and why, despite being due in work for 9am this morning, I found a late flight back that got me to an airport 4 hours drive away from home at 1am this morning.

Yup, it was another of those 2 hours of sleep nights. But then if you have to go to work, you may as well see the sunset thousands of miles away with your family before you bow to the inevitable.

But lack of sleep is no bar to blogging, oh no. You see, while I've been away I've jotted down a couple of random thoughts which I am now going to type up before I go to get some well deserved sleep, just because I wanted to pop in and say hi. And as I was reading through them I realised that, although this post is going to be long, it kind of encapsulates a lot of what I've learned this year. The things that I see differently now compared to where I was this year. It's the end of the year and a good time to take stock of such stuff, and I think that this little lot is a good place to start with that.


You wouldn't buy a recovering alcoholic six bottles of vodka for Christmas, and you wouldn't buy an ex-smoker a bumper quantity of cigarettes. So why on earth did my family decide to buy me a shed load of turron, mazapan and chocolate covered nuts? I'm no calorie counter, but I do keep a vague eye on how many calories I'm eating, so I can compare different things more than anything. So I added it all up. I got, in total, 10,824 calories worth of sweets and stuff.

10,824 for fuck's sake. That's not a nice box of chocolate, that's a container load of the stuff. Why? What were they thinking? I mean, I know I like the stuff, but I really don't need that amount, not least because they are solely for my consumption. It's not like I'll be sharing them, seeing as I live alone and they're in my house, with me. No, they'll sit here until I eat them. I could throw them out, but they're presents, and I don't like the feeling of ingratitude that would involve. I feel duty bound to eat them. And that's a very bad thing.

OK, so this year I might eat them a little slower, but eventually, I'm sure I'll have eaten them all. Pointlessly and needlessly. Did they just not think? Did they not notice the absence of 6 stone of fat and the fact that I don't eat that stuff any more. Or at least when I eat it I only eat it in small quantities. Not over 2kg at a time.

If anyone wants any, give me a shout!


That links to the one thing that really annoys me about Christmas, the needless consumption of it all. It's one thing spending time with your family, but does that really have to involve constant eating? I wasn't as bad as some of my family, and turned down some of the food, but wouldn't going for a walk in the sand dunes on a lovely sunny day be preferable to sitting on the sofa, inside, passing the Ferrero Rocher from one end to the other, and back, while watching a DVD?

Then again, spending time with each other without ready made entertainment might require us to, God forbid, actually talk to one another, so stuffing stuff in our mouths always seems to win.

And the same with the presents. I don't need stocking fillers. I got what I want (my lovely new digital camera), and I don't need sweets to fill it out to make it look like more. Don't just buy me that stuff because you want to make a good pile. Give me one thing I'll really like, and I'll be happy.

When did I become the sort of person who craves fruit and vegetables? When did I start being disappointed when a plate of food arrives unadorned by any sort of veg, a solid mass of meat and starch? Or pizza, fried breakfast or burger, the staple foodstuff of package holiday hell. I used to dream of that sort of meal. Something that I could eat without having to worry about funny green stuff and whether I'd like it. Meals I didn't need to dissect, pushing the carrots to one side, out of my way. But now it just seems strangely lacking. I feel disappointed if I get through the day without eating a decent amount of fruit and veg. Not because it breaks the "rules", but because I just want it on a deeper level than that. I'm even getting more adventurous with veg. Desperate times, you see. In a sea of veg free nothingness if I see something that I mainly like with a veg I've not tried before I'm getting more willing to order it, purely because it has to be better than more chips. That has to be progress.

I am now the sort of person who tries to get away from my family for the day so I can raid the supermarket for fruit and veg for a packed lunch. I remember when I used to try to escape them on holiday so I could drink, now I try to escape them to find a juice bar. When did that happen?!
But seriously, how do people survive eating that stuff day in day out? How did I survive? Stupid question. You can see it on their waistlines, their stomachs and their thighs. Warm(ish) weather, shorts and beachwear emphasise the effects like nothing else. Hardly a person walked past without me realising exactly the sort of harm I had been causing to my body. I don't want to be like that any more, and it seems that my tastes have changed so I don't have to be.
The same applies to my mother's cooking. Huge portions of stuff, and with questionable nutritional value. I just feel really awkward about raising it, so I don't. I put her feelings ahead of my (and her) health. The stupid thing is that when she's with me she scrutinises what I eat and tries to emulate it, but when she goes back home and when I'm over there she just reverts to the old ways. My sister's cooking is little better. She seems to burn it off OK, but her boyfriend was talking about how he's put a load of weight on since they started living together. Even my mum's cat and my sister's dog are getting fat. Any ideas of how to put it tactfully gratefully accepted.
More ponderings on trying stuff. Why is it that when offered a new cocktail I've never tried before I'll plunge right in there and drink it up. But offered new fruit or veg I'll turn my nose up because I don't know whether I'll like it. Even when, and this is the killer, the new fruit is precisely the same thing as was included in the new cocktail, but without the added attraction of alcohol. I must sort that particular habit out, although maybe cocktails are a way to introduce new tastes into my diet without it seeming painful!
(Seriously, if I want to try something new I quite like incorporating it into a treat. So I might have a vegetable pizza with some new veg on it. The pizza itself might not be great, but the fact that I've tried something new is better long term and it feels like a treat. So maybe if I say I can have cocktails as long as they have a new flavour of fruit juice in them I might be onto a winner. Or am I just making excuses in advance of my next drinking session?)
I am now officially addicted to shopping in Spain. I just love Mango and Zara (which are over here too, but more expensive), and I've found a couple of other shops I like too. And it all seems so cheap. The good news is that I actually bought sensible stuff this time, cord trousers and jumpers and simple t-shirts rather than the sparkly stuff I've been buying so far that's gorgeous but not really every day wear. And for the second holiday in a row I came home wearing stuff I didn't own when I set off. The weather may not be perfect this time of year in the Canaries (or not every day at least), but the shopping certainly is!
Exercise. Must try harder. I took my trainers and my tracksuit bottoms and my sports bra, but did I wear them and actually go out for a run? Erm, no. Did I swim at all? Not exactly. I walked, a little, but there's room for big improvements there so that maybe next time I won't gain a shed load of unwanted holiday weight.


But one final, non-whingey thing. What Christmas should be about. Not cielos de mazapan y chocolate, but proper family stuff. My best non-camera present? A framed photo of my sister and me from when we were small. My sister actually put some thought into it and bought me something that, although it was relatively cheap, actually means something and brought a huge smile to my face. That's what Christmas should mean, not all the eating and drinking.

So, to finish, 2 photos. First me and Annette when we were little, and then on Christmas Day this year. I'm on the right in both photos, enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Feliz Navidad

So, that's it. I've made it through to Christmas. In a couple of hours I'll hit the road for a lonely four hour overnight drive, I'll check in at the airport early tomorrow morning, and by lunchtime I'll be sunning myself in the Canaries with my family. Fantastic.
My weight has been a bit blah this week. I'm retaining a shed load of water for some unknown reason, and I've not been eating amazingly well. I've exercised like a demon mind you, with another 5k run this morning (continuing the recent trend of getting a couple of seconds quicker each time, too - I'm now down to 27:47), but it's not shifting on the scales. But as I've blogged to death, I'm not going to let that bother me too much. What's a couple of pounds compared to the great mass of what I've lost.
I'm trying to decide the plan for the 10 days ahead. I always eat excessively when I'm with my parents, and to be there over Christmas isn't exactly conducive to weight loss. Or maintenance, to be perfectly honest. But I think I'll just try to be realistic. If I gain three pounds, then it could be that this time last year I gained four, so it's still an improvement. If I gain, as long as the holiday was worth it I'll take it on the chin and just get them back off again. I know I can do that. It's just a number at the end of the day, and experiences are more important than minor variations in numbers.
I'm hoping to swim a little, and I may run too. There's a lovely sea front path near my parents house that would be good for running if I could get over the embarassment of them seeing me start off. I'll take my trainers and my sports bra and see what happens. That may mitigate some of the worst excesses. I will walk a little, but possibly not as much as I do here sadly, unless I can think of new places and reasons to walk. I won't exercise like I normally exercise, but I won't be glued to the sofa for the next 10 days either.
But above all, I want to just relax and de-stress from the year. I want to get some sleep, and I want to forget all about work. I want to just enjoy myself for the moment, and I don't want to constantly worry about what I eat. If the trade off for that is a gain, then that's a choice I'm consciously making.

That's the difference between this year and last year. Last year I just did stuff, and didn't think about the effect on my body particularly. This year, if I go a bit off plan it tends to be because I choose to do it, and I let myself do it. There's no such thing as an accidental slip up round these parts. There is choosing to eat stuff that's good for me, and there's choosing to eat stuff that isn't. I'm responsible for everything I do, and I have to take the consequences of it. If I choose to indulge myself once in a while, I know the consequences, and it's up to me. So I choose to relax at Christmas, because that's what works for my sanity.
So I'm just going to say happy christmas to everyone who stops by here, have a good time whatever you choose to do, and I'll be back just before the new year to get my act back into year and make 2006 the year I hit and stay at goal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Glass half full

I've always been a fairly positive person, trying to see the best in any situation. Over the past two days I've demonstrated that to myself yet again.

First some background. My bosses are on holiday, leaving me in charge, and the place I normally park my car (for free) has been fenced off this week, meaning that I've resorted to travelling in on the bus.

That combination leads to only one possible outcome. Christmas drinks. But I'm not going to sit here and moan about going way off track compared to how I've been eating and drinking recently, instead I'm rather impressed about how much better I'm handling the situation that last year, even if it isn't perfect.

So I won't feel bad because yesterday I chose to eat a burger with cheese and bacon. (I did try to get a chicken breast in pitta, but they had no chicken). It was, to be fair, a fantastic burger, and what's more, even though it's more than I'd normally eat for lunch (it came with chips too), I didn't eat much more that day, just some yogurt, fruit and muesli and a few chocolate coated strawberries. And some chocolates... But still, what I didn't do was get a burger, a kebab, a pizza or any other sort of takeaway food on the way home, I limited the blow out to one measly meal, and it was worth it.

And I won't feel bad because I accompanied the burger with lots of wine, and lots of cherry beer (each glass of which came with a complimentary chocolate truffle). I won't sit here complaining that I'm hungover. Instead I'll reflect on the fact that in the past I might have drunk far more than that. Large glasses of wine instead of small ones. The sort of beer that's served in pints rather than halves. I might not have left the pub at 4.45 and gone home. I might have really turned it into a bender.

I won't feel bad about making myself just feel a little drunk last night, because this morning I got up, forgot it and went to the gym. I ran 5k in 28 minutes, and I did some weights. I walked past the sandwich shops selling tempting smelling bacon sandwiches and I got back on track by eating my normal breakfast. It doesn't necessarily redeem the burger, but it cuts the damage off before it gets too bad.

And I didn't sit there worrying about the fact that I was meeting up with a friend for lunch today too. Instead I got back on the wagon and ordered something insanely healthy for a change. I may not have eaten all the brocolli (a vegetable nemesis of mine), but I ate some of it, and I ate all the rest of the veg, including no fewer than three things I didn't eat this time last year. So that was good. Even if I did accompany it with another cherry beer (see above re complimentary chocolate).

I'm not perfect, and to be frank, I never expect to be. But at least I'm learning how to fit those little indulgences into my life, how to indulge for an afternoon and get straight back on the wagon, and how being a bit better than before is still a victory.

Monday, December 12, 2005


I'd like to start off by being horribly self indulgent, and quoting myself, from May.

If I can do 5km in 35 minutes now then if I get a bit faster maybe I can do 5.5km in the same time given time. And then take it from there.

Well, you know what? Today I ran 6k. In just over 33 minutes. It's amazing looking back at those old posts sometimes, it really rubs it in just how far I've come over the past year. Today I realised that I'm actually one of the fittest people I know. That shocked me. A lot. I still need to pinch myself, particularly when people tell me that I just don't look overweight or that I look like I'm a normal weight.

I keep on banging on about this, but it's something I never thought I'd be able to say. That I'm not overweight. That I'm just, well, normal.

Technically I may not be quite there yet. But mentally it feels like I am. This isn't just me copping out by starting to celebrate early, but I kind of feel like building up the next couple of pounds into a really important thing rather than just another couple of pounds on the journey isn't overly helpful.

Not given the fact that none of this is a precise science. I used to avoid scales, for nearly 10 years. But then I started weighing myself pretty much daily, because it was so exciting to keep seeing the numbers go down.

Now, however, the obsession is fading a little, which has to be good. I still weigh every time I go to the gym, but I no longer go to the gym just to weigh. If I fancy a swim or a run in the park then I do that, rather than feeling that I have to go to the gym to see what my weight is.

I'm also realising, as I hinted above, that the number isn't the be all and end all. I know roughly how much weight I've lost, but I'm not so sure that I know exactly and definitively how much I currently weigh.

What I do know is that for my height I'm meant to weigh 12 stone (168lb) to be at the very top of my healthy range. I'm currently weighing in at 12 stone 4 (172lb). But, is that what I actually weigh?

For a start, I weigh in with trainers and gym gear on. I'm not getting naked in the middle of the gym to weigh in. I know that when I weigh in with my trainers off that's pretty much 2lb gone in an instant. (On that I just can't be bothered getting them on and off just to weigh in, when all my historic weights are based on wearing trainers anyway). So that 172 is maybe more like 170, just for starters.

And beyond that, do I know that the gym scales are accurate? They're certainly fairly consistent, but are they actually right? I only use other scales very infrequently, so I don't really know how they compare. I read stories on a fairly regular basis about the despair when a different set of scales add stupid amounts of weight, so do I weigh 172, or 165, or 179, or something in between?

And there's the time of day. I might be 172 when I get to the gym, but I'm certainly not that weight in the evening, for example. Or the day after eating salty food.

So can I ever be definitively said to weigh any particular number? No, not really. I know that I'm not over 18 stone, and I know that I've lost a lot of weight. But I don't genuinely know whether I've hit that magical 24.9 BMI or whether I'm still languishing in the 25s somewhere.

This isn't a whinge about the capriciousness of scales. Far from it, it's just me finally accepting that a number isn't everything. It may not happen before Christmas, but certainly in the new year I expect to pass that 168 figure, even with trainers on. And I'll celebrate a little on that day, and walk round with a smile on my face.

But it won't change anything, and I won't suddenly look all fabulous (or more fabulous than I currently do), just because I've got to a specific number. Why wait til an arbitrarily chosen set of scales tell me I've reached a relatively arbitrary number before starting to act "thin" or "normal"? Why not just try to accept right now, starting today, that I'm there, more or less, and that any minor shortfall is just a minor thing, nothing like on the scale of what I've already done. Instead of spending my Christmas thinking about the 4lb that I might still be short, I want to focus on the 88lb that I've shed.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Another busy weekend, the last one before Spain. Manchester yesterday, doing a bit more Christmas shopping and meeting up with lots of friends (in shifts!). A nice afternoon round the shops, then an evening drinking and going on the big wheel.

Then today I visited my grandparents. Which basically involves doing no exercise and eating rubbish. Today it was a traditional Sunday three course lunch in a hotel in Blackpool. This is seriously my idea of the meal from hell. Not because of it's effect on my weight loss, at this point I don't really care much about that, for a one-meal family visit. But I just don't like that sort of food. Food that's sitting in the kitchen just waiting to be put onto a plate, possibly three hours after it was cooked.

I like waiting for food that's been properly cooked, and that is worth the wait. I'm not a fan of overcooked vegetables, dried out meat and potatoes, cheap tasting bread and desserts that are basically cream, and then smothered with more cream. Yum. Give me a nice balanced meal, some beans, some nice veggies, some fruit, and something worth indulging on. Of course I'd rather see my grandparents than go out to eat somewhere nice on my own, but it does frustrate me that I'm having an off plan day and not even enjoying it.

However, I had plenty of time driving over and back to ponder my plans for next year. I've never been one for new years resolutions really, and I've certainly never kept them, but next year might be different. I'm coming up with a list of resolutions that aren't "give up this" "work harder at that" but which are "use what you've gained (e.g. fitness) and use it in another way". So that's taking up new, active, hobbies, that I've always vaguely wanted to do, but always feared I'd be too fat for (one example which might not make the final cut, white water rafting - one place I found recently on the internet has a weight limit of 16 stone). I don't want to give too much away just yet, but I've got a couple of things I'm looking into to act both as rewards for what I've done and an incentive to stay fit and healthy. Things that will challenge me, but will hopefully be enjoyable. Things that will give me a sense of achievement. I'm planning a couple of looking forward/back posts which I'm going to write while I'm away, so I'll save the details for that. Keep you all guessing!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hitting moving targets

At first I was pleased with each individual pound or kilo, and I didn't think at all about where it was leading. I took each pound, and added them to a pounds lost tally. Without a pounds to go thought. Actually, that's not quite true, I originally weighed only in kilos. That was good, if only for the simple fact that I had no conception of what weights in kilos equated to or what they should be. 118kg was a number. I didn't know it was eighteen and a half stone. Had I known that would I have been panicked or daunted? I'm not sure. I didn't, so I kept on plodding away.

Then I worked out my BMI. That was a big shock. I knew I was fat, but even admitting to obesity was a push for me. So to realise that I was within a stone or so or being morbidly obese was a big wake up call. A very big one. I'd managed to lose some weight, and after my first stone I decided to try to lose another. And it was only at around this stage that I worked out how many stone may need to come after that.

I had no idea of an ideal weight for me, as I'd never been there. When calculating what would get me to a BMI of 24.9 I made a slight miscalculation, working it out on the basis of a height that was an inch or so taller than I actually am (I converted it to cm in my head and was a bit off). But it gave me a nice, round, targetty figure. To lose 40kg to get to 78kg. That's a nice round number if ever I saw one, so that became my goal.

It was always a tentative, hesitant goal. For a long time I subscribed to the misguided theory that I carried my weight well and that I just wasn't necessarily meant to be thin. That I didn't really need to lose that much to be healthy. I didn't know whether I'd make it , whether I'd want to, or whether I needed to. (And the answer to that is, yes, I did need to, and yes, I do want to).

It sat on here for quite a long time. My ticker had my 40kg goal, ticking down slowly, edging towards the right hand side. At some point in April I sat down and I worked out that it was actually achievable. If I lost 1kg most weeks, mixed with a couple of 0.5kg weeks when I knew I had holidays or visits or birthdays or December, then it was doable by the end of the year.

So when I realised that my BMI would only be "healthy" at a lower weight than I'd originally calculated, and that losing 100lb would be pretty cool, I revised my overall targets, but kept that 78kg figure in my head for the end of the year. I'd probably need to keep losing on into next year to get to my ultimate goal, but getting to 78kg would be the bulk of the battle won.

So, this morning I stepped on the scale and read

77.8kg (172lb)

I did it! I expected it after my last (oh so close) encounter with the scale, but it's nice to see that number, confirmation of what I've done.

Although it's a milestone, this isn't a time for huge celebrations.
Of course I'd rather lose 40kg than 4kg (and yet I remember how happy I was when the first 4 were gone), but there's more weight to lose. I know that now. Far from 78kg being unachievable, it's still noticeably heavier than I need to be. So much for carrying my weight well. I've lost 40kg/88lb, and if I can't really carry what I've got left then how on earth did I think I carried what's gone?

But, from where I was this time last year, this would be miracle territory. When in fact it's not miracles that we need, but good old fashioned hard work.

It's funny how your perspective changes though. I once found an ideal weight calculator on the internet. It was interesting to see how perceived ideal weights changed as your starting weight changed. I'm already well past the figure that was given for people starting at 260lb might want to aim for. As the weight you put in it goes down, so does the ideal weight it recommends. I wonder, does there ever come a point where it says "stop, you're fine as you are"? Is there ever a point where a woman's mind would agree with that?

So I have the new targets, and I'm starting to wonder whether I'll also end up going below that. Maybe I won't aim to go below it as consciously as I've been aiming for 160, but maybe it will happen. I'm getting the impression that I could certainly manage to go below 160 without looking too thin or being any more obsessive than I currently am. I don't know whether I'll try, but it might happen anyway. Because at the end of the day I'm not going to stop exercising and start eating chocolate the day I hit 160 and use that as an artificial line in the sand beyond which I don't want to go. I might try to cut down weighing and tracking of my weight, or I might change the balance of my exercise and try to get away from deliberately trying to lose - maybe take up a new energetic activity rather than spending so much time in the gym. But the way I live now I feel confident that I won't just magically stop losing at a randomly set number.

And maintenance, too. That's a challenge I've still got to face. I won't lose 40kg next year, but I'd be happy to keep off what I've lost. I have to remember to focus on that and find something else to keep me going when the numbers dropping down on the scale don't.

(and don't ask me what's going on with the fonts here - I keep on trying to edit the post, but it keeps on putting paragraphs in random fonts for me...)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I was trying on clothes again at lunchtime. I like doing this when I go up to town for a walk, just trying things that I wouldn't dream of buying and seeing what they look like on. And the funny thing is that they usually look good. Almost anything, in any style looks better than I imagined it would. I've even tried things like skinny jeans (admittedly that was something of a mistake when I picked up the wrong pair) and those tailored shorts everyone is wearing.

It struck me though how much my shopping habits have changed. Before, the decision making process went much like this.

1. Drag yourself to a shop about 3 months after you realise you have no decent clothes. Look longingly in the "normal" shops and try on a 20. Realise that whatever you might tell yourself you're not a 20, and it's the fat shop or nothing.

2. Go to the fat shop and hope no-one you know sees you going in. Of course they see your "figure" every day, so it's unlikely to come as a surprise, but you don't like to confirm their suspicions.

3. Head for the shoes. You're only there for the shoes, aren't you? Just in case anyone saw you going in. Look at the shoes, and then on the way out surreptitiously start looking at clothes.

4. Reluctantly pick up something that looks like it has some shape or style. (Admittedly they're getting better in this respect, but there are still things in there that look like tents). Remind yourself to put the 20 down and go for the 22 to avoid embarassment when the 20 doesn't fasten.

5. Try it on. Close your eyes as you take your clothes off so you can't see yourself in the mirror. Attempt to fasten clothes. If they fasten you will buy them to avoid trying anything else on, as long as you can answer no to the following questions:

  • does it look like there's a sack of potatoes down the front. or the back?
  • does it look like a sack, a tent, or any type of home furnishing?
  • does it only fasten because you're breathing in?

6. Styles, fashion, colour came into it only rarely. partly that's just me, I hated shopping so much that I'd avoid it as much as possible, and if I had something I'd tried on and something potentially nicer that I hadn't, I'd go for the one I'd tried to avoid facing the changing rooms again. It might make me look 1% better, but that 1% wasn't going to help a lot. And there was no point trying a different shop. It was the fat shop or nothing. (belatedly I realise that wasn't actually true, and that some shops I never thought about did have plus size clothes. But why would I have gone in there to find that out in the first place?). So my ability to find stuff that passed the rudimentary of tests was roughly equal to my ability to spend money on it. If I found something that didn't make me look a complete mess I'd buy it, because there wasn't much that fit the bill.

Now, though I have a problem. Everything I try on answers the questions. It all fastens (properly), and it all makes me look pretty good. There's the occasional thing that doesn't work, but they're not as frequent as my bank balance would like them to be. So I'm into new territory. I actually have to make decisions about what I like most.

It's taking some time to get used to. That I don't need to buy something merely because it fits. I can't afford that. I can't even afford to buy everything that fits and looks pretty damn good. I can't afford that either. Everything I try on looks far better than what I used to wear, and it's taken me a while to realise that it's nothing to with the clothes. It's because of what's under them.

So instead of buying the gorgeous stuff I have to buy stuff that I actually need, and that I'll wear more than once (unless it's the party dress which is worth every penny if only for the fact that I've immortalised it on here, even if I never wear it again). When I first hit size 14 I went mad on skirts that I loved. But do I wear them? Not often, I mainly wear jeans and a jumper. And that's what I should therefore be buying, even if I look far better in the dresses and skirts.

It's heartbreaking. There are all these gorgeous glam dresses, short sparkly skirts, posh tops, impractical shorts, and I can't justify buying them. But at least when that special occasion comes up, I know I'll be able to find something to wear!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A mass of contradictions

One thing that probably contributed to me getting obese in the first place is the fact that I've never been comfortable with using my body to attract people.

I've written before about my asexuality, and how I think that has affected my outlook on life. While it didn't make me eat my own body weight in chocolate, it stopped me having the sort of concern for my appearance that might make me consider what I was doing to myself. Doing this has made me realise that I'm not particularly an emotional eater or a junk food addict. I just didn't care enough about myself to eat stuff that was good for me rather than stuff that was easy. I never liked eating rubbish more than I liked eating healthy food, I just liked the ease of popping a pizza in the oven or cracking open some chocolate and wine.

I've always struggled with one question. Why would I want to make myself attractive when I don't want to use that attractiveness to attract men? Isn't it easier to just hide away smothered with lard, avoiding any difficult issues and not having to confront my demons? Why would I want to make myself pretty when making myself pretty could put me in situations that I didn't want to, and couldn't handle.

Last December I sorted things out in my head to some extent. I finally realised that I could be attractive for me, and that I didn't need to be scared about explaining myself if the situation arose. But I still had the doubts to some extent. What was the purpose of being attractive if I didn't want to use it?

That's why I've always focussed a lot on my health and on my fitness. Being able to run 10k in less than an hour (which, just to remind you, if you didn't pop by last week, I can do) was far more important to me in many ways than the prospect of getting to a size 12 (which is getting closer, but isn't quite happening yet). I wanted to do this for me rather than for other people. Of course dress sizes would be a measure of my progress, but more so I could measure my health than to allow me to use that power.

But now, I look at the pictures I posted the other day, or I look in the mirror, and I realise that I'm far prettier than I ever thought I'd be. I'm no supermodel exactly, but I actually look quite nice. For the first time ever I'm not ashamed to use my photo as an avatar on message boards and the like.

And that's where this post is leading. Last night I went back to the asexuality website that kicked this whole process of realisation off. I changed my avatar to use my photo as I'm so proud of it, and I replied to a couple of posts.

And got a private message. Oh yes, the photo has power.

It may go nowhere, the guy lives in London. But I also know from the place he contacted me that should we meet and should things go anywhere the big issue is out in the open, and he probably wants what I want in a physical sense out of a relationship. Cuddles rather than sex. Companionship rather than animal passion. There's nothing to tell as yet. I don't know whether it's a fizzler or a goer, and I don't know whether we'd get on. There's more to getting on with someone than just having a similar lack of sex drive. But it's not something I'm going to leave untried just yet.

But it still leaves me feeling very contradictory. I don't want to use my photo or my looks to attract people, yet I like it when I do. This is somewhere I've never been before and it's all uncharted territory. It could be interesting anyway.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The accidental vegetarian

I've noticed this happening for a while, but it's getting more and more pronounced. I'm turning veggie, almost by accident.

I've always been a meat eater, and given my traditional hatred of vegetables, vegetarianism was never really for me. I do have friends who would exist on a "vegetarian" diet of margarita pizza, cheese on toast and baked beans, but I never really went for all that. To me, vegetarianism involved vegetables and wasn't somewhere I wanted to go.

But the more I do this, the more I realise that I'm moving towards that diet, and that I prefer it. At the party on Friday night the buffet consisted of chilli, bean chilli and mexican chicken. I took the bean chilli without any hesitation. On Saturday in Edinburgh I saw somewhere that had a lentil and nut roast. I ordered it without hesitation. I'm not even so sure that it's because I think I will lose weight eating it as much as the fact that I know that I'll enjoy it.

I seem to have got into a good little seam of new vegetables too, and it's surprising me. Whereas I used to eat meat maybe twice a day, for lunch and in the evening, now it's more of a twice a week thing. I always have a vegetarian lunch, and more often than not a vegetarian meal when I get in from work. My protein of choice is pulses rather than meat. I can go for days without meat, and it doesn't bother me at all. I still eat meat, but it's becoming less and less of a staple to me. If I can choose from a meat or bean version of the same dish (burgers, chilli etc), I tend to go for the bean version every time.

It's funny how my tastes have changed. I ate a waffle on Saturday too. I'd promised myself a bit of a treat and as my eating had been surprisingly good all day (the lentil and nut roast with a bowl of tomato and basil soup earlier in the day), I went for it. It's really quite disappointing when you realise that you don't even enjoy that stuff any more. Sometimes I really want to be able to treat myself, but I can't find anything indulgent I want to treat myself with. Either I don't fancy it at all, or I know it's not good enough to be able to justify to myself.

Sometimes I find myself in the ridiculous situation where I'm actually trying to persuade myself to eat something indulgent. Go on, have that bar of chocolate, it's allowed. But I just don't want it. Or most of the time I don't anyway, last Thursday I got to the stage where nothing but chocolate would do. I ate yoghurt, and fruit. I had a nice balanced meal of chicken and veg. I was still craving chocolate, and I knew that only one thing would do. I ate it, and I was right.

For me this is key to not feeling deprived. I've taught myself to like healthy food more than I like unhealthy food. Unbelievable but true. And as I allow myself unlimited healthy food, within reason, I don't feel like I'm starving myself.

Of course, there have to be some limits I suppose, and that's what I'm struggling with this week. I want to have two good weeks before I go on holiday, and get myself out of the increasing snack cycle I've been getting into. Nothing overly unhealthy particularly, I just know that I've been eating more than I need to and that I wouldn't miss out if I cut down a little. Plus, it would be good to get two good weeks in before the Christmas splurge, to mean that I'm not giving myself too much to do in January when I get back down to it properly.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Visible progress

So, I had a good time in Edinburgh yesterday. I found some lovely people who were handing out free mulled wine (sweetened with Canderel no less), so hung around the ice rink for a while, wandered round the shops, and generally just had the chance to get away from all this for a while.

I managed to work out a whole theory of food, weight and me on the train (which idiot decides to send a train from Edinburgh to Leeds via Doncaster by the way?), but even though it's sitting there in my head, it's resisting my attempts to put it down and get it on screen. Hopefully I'll work it out over the next week or two before I go on holiday.

So, instead, I'm going to take the opportunity to post a couple of pictures. I've been accused of not having enough pictures on here, so here goes. The first is a photo of me from Friday night, complete with cowboy hat and magic knickers.

The second is a photo of me from this morning that I actually quite like (I'm not normally a huge fan of pictures of my face).

And, lest I forget where I've come from, I've just located some of the pictures of me at closer to my higher weight. I think I may have posted this before, but I'm not going to dig back around in my archives to find it, so it's time to share the shame again. I'm so fat I managed to block out the Acropolis...

I haven't looked at the progress photos for a while, only ever the most recent ones, and it's been quite eye opening today to see some of the photos at weights where I felt like there was a real difference and, while there was, I can look back now and see that I was still fat. I think that's just the boost I needed for the last two week push before Christmas.

Friday, December 02, 2005

When you wish upon a star

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dreams
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
the sweet fullfillment of their secret love
Oh, like a boat out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true
If your heart is in your dreams
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Woah, when you wish upon a star
Your dream comes true...

When I first started this whole thing I dreamed of the Christmas party. An impossibly tiny dress, an impossibly tiny waist, an impossibly tiny waist.

When you wish upon a star

Your dream comes true.