Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Veg Dilemmas

Normally my eating is fairly consistent at work. I take most of my food in and just eat it. Routine is good. I cook my porridge after the gym, I put something in the microwave at lunchtime. I have fruit by my desk all day, and I can make sure I have enough healthy food around to keep me going all day.

Today I had a full day meeting in Sheffield. Not one to let that get in the way of the gym (even two days after a half marathon), I went to the gym on the way down there. Which meant I needed a breakfast I could eat afterwards (in the car), but not anything that needed microwaving. I ended up with muesli, extra dried fruit and yoghurt which worked OK.

But then the slog through the meeting. I don't like making it through the whole morning without at least a piece of fruit mid morning. But that's what I had to do, so by the time the lunch came in I was worried what I'd do to it. At this point I was also starting to worry about whether there would be anything vegetarian I wanted to eat. And also whether it wouldn't be healthier to eat a chicken sandwich rather than a cheese one. Then the sandwiches came in and the vegetarian plate (thank god there was one!) looked far more tempting, and that was that. I just dove in (in a relatively restrained way) and wondered what I'd been worrying about.

I made it through the rest of the day, came home and cooked some sweet potato and spinach curry (my new recipe of the week). So much for the pancake day meat binge...

But it did get me wondering about the reasons for this sudden push towards vegetarian food. If I'm not looking solely at the healthiness of each individual food choice (e.g. chicken compared to cheese), and I'm not doing this because I have a deeply held belief that meat eating is "wrong", then what is it? I think what it boils down to is that although the vegetarian choice might not always be the healthiest, sticking to it as a rule means that I'm less likely to go off course on the majority of occasions where it is healthier. I don't know, it turns out I didn't fancy the meat sandwiches anyway, and that decision's been put off for another day, but I suppose I'm still working this out in my head.

Tomorrow I have another buffet out of the office, doing a presentation on the fantastically exciting Reuse of Public Sector Information Regulations (yes, my job is that dull), so fingers crossed that I carry on making relatively decent choices.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Today my new Runner's World arrived in the post. I eagerly got it out of the plastic bag and devoured it, cover to cover. I looked at the adverts for fancy bits of running kit, and I scoured the events listing to see if there was anything I fancied.

I read articles and they made sense to me. It wasn't like looking into another world, filled with theories I don't understand. I knew what they were talking about, with tapers, and tempo runs, and carb loading, and rehydration. And tight hamstrings too (oh, the tight hamstrings. I've been feeling those today!)

Every time I finish a race I realise how much more of a runner I've become. Not just someone who runs sometimes, but a proper runner. An athlete. I realise the things I've given up or moved around in my life to fit running in. The Saturday nights when I don't drink because I've got a long run planned for the next day. The previously sacred rugby matches that go head to head with a run I fancy and lose.

I can see it in my body too. Of course yesterday I was far too busy concentrating on my own race than other people's thighs, but I couldn't fail to notice that I fit in. My body doesn't stand out as being ludicrously badly shaped for running. Today on the cross trainer doing a low impact warm up for a good stretching session I actually watched myself in the mirror and realised how little jiggle there is now, and how streamlines (comparatively) I look.

And then I got the results of the race through. Again, the details are on BerlinBlog, but I realised that I'm actually quite good at this. I've been running for less than a year and much of that was spent losing the weight before really starting to train in earnest (which I'd probably put at some point between my first 10k in September and my second in November). And I can still post a highly creditable time for my longest run ever.

I'll never be an elite athlete, but I'm starting to believe that I can be fairly decent at this running lark. Improbable as it would have sounded this time last year, I can be, and am, an athlete.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Woo hoo!

It was my half marathon today, and I'm a very happy gym bunny for managing what seemed like a ludicrous idea at the beginning of the year.

But I'm not going to give too much away, you'll have to go to BerlinBlog to read all about it. I'm not running 13.1 miles and typing it all out twice...

The strangest thing though is that I'd planned to go out for a celebratory meal tonight and I'd also planned to have lots of wine to make up for my abstinence in the run up to the race (I've got two bottles from the winery tour in Spain TWO WEEKS AGO that I've not even looked at yet, let alone considered opening).

And yet I'm sitting here, I'm not hungry and I'm not particularly inclined to have a drink. Very very strange.

Although I may well change my mind in a couple of hours once I've had a nice long bath (yup, I drove home and blog the day before I considered de-sweating myself, I was just so excited to tall all!). Actually, maybe wine in the bath will help...

Saturday, February 25, 2006


I was thinking the other day about my increased vegetarianism and, in conversation with a friend, talked about trying extended periods without meat to see how it went. I've done vegetarian weeks in the past, but never for longer than that. I might only have one piece of chicken, but I break the meat free spell and then start over for another week or so. So my initial thought was that once the half marathon is over I drop down to training for 5 mile/10k races until about May, so March would be a perfect time to see how it goes and test it out. I don't want to try it on particularly high mileage at first while I get used to it and try to sort out some more protein sources, but I thought March would be good. I don't have anyone visiting me, and I don't have plans to go anywhere, so it should be one of the easier months of the year to do it in.

And then I pondered some more, and I realised the coincidence. March 1, Ash Wednesday, is the start of lent. If that isn't a sign, then I don't know what is! If I'm doing a month I can do the full period, I guess, so I modified the challenge slightly. I'm not giving up meat because it's lent, I'm giving up meat anyway and using lent as a bit of motivation to stick to it. I'm not particularly religious and I haven't been hunting for something to give up, it just fits.

So, this isn't a religious, fasting, type decision for me really. It's just that it's something I've been considering doing, and it fits nicely on the calendar to give the whole thing a bit more structure and to give it a more explainable basis. I like the symbolism of it, even if I wouldn't have forced myself to give something up if I hadn't already been planning to do it. It's a new challenge to be playing with once I finish the half marathon, and the main aim is to force me to try new vegetables and different ways of cooking them by taking away some of the old standbys from my repertoire.

So I came up with some rules. Firstly, this is more about giving up meat and trying new things to replace it than it is about being strictly vegetarian. I'm doing this for me, not the animals (does that sound awful?). So, on the basis that it's on the "trying new things" list, fish is allowed. For now.

Linked to this, I'm not going to be a strict vegetarian, and I won't be bothering with vegetarian cheese and scouring lists of ingredients to make sure there isn't any sort of animal product in there. If a bit of chicken stock gets through in a soup I'll survive.

Thirdly, I might not actually do all of lent. March is a definite, as is early April, but my mother is coming over for Easter, so I might stop a day or two early once she comes to save explaining what I'm doing and forcing her to change what she cooks for me. (I may make a stand over a salad occasionally, but I'm still a wimp when it comes to standing up for what I actually want to eat).

Fourth, to stick with the trying new stuff theme there are two ways I'm planning to do this. One is that I have a vegetarian cook book and I want to try at least one new recipe each week. I'm in a bit of a cooking rut quite a lot of the time, and I really want to get into learning how to cook new things. The second is that my new Thursday pre-Spanish treat is going to be a proper meal at a vegetarian cafe I've found. Sometimes if I go out to eat I find that one unusual, untried vegetable makes me scurry back to the safe "chicken and chips" options on the menu, but if I take away that option I will be forced to try things that include things I've never tried before. I'll try to make sure I pick something different off the menu each time, to expand the range of what I eat. I went last night and enjoyed what I ate, so money permitting I'll be going back regularly.

And finally, this is not an excuse to eat cheesy chips or cheese and onion pasties for a month. They may be vegetarian, but that's not why I'm doing this. I'm not going to lose sight of my goal to eat more fruit and veg, and I'm not going to try to stuff my diet with meat substitutes. I'm not giving up chicken so I can eat fake chicken, I'm giving up chicken so I can eat more vegetables instead.

Where I think this is leading is becoming fully vegetarian at some point, and getting a bit stricter on some of those rules, but I'm unwilling to commit without at least trying it out first to see how it goes. When my mother comes over I'll either stick to it and "come out" or I'll take the time to think about whether I want to do this long term and then either re-commit or give it up as a fad. I'll see when I get there. At the moment deciding to label myself as vegetarian seems like a step too far, but after the month or so doing this, I might be more comfortable with that.

One thing that was interesting though is that I'm not planning a meat blow out for Tuesday or anything like that. The reverse, in fact. Having not had meat since Monday evening, I'm actually more inclined to start as from now. I was only planning to have one piece of chicken or so between now and Wednesday anyway, and I'm more excited about trying out my new vegetarian recipes than I am about eating the chicken, so that's what I might do. As a start I cooked a gorgeous bean soup this lunchtime, and although the kitchen looks like there's been a nasty accident in there (the top of the blender flew off...), it's something I want to do again, as it was far nicer than shop bought soup. And as I'm meant to be carb loading today I had some bread with it. Oh, the luxury!

I honestly don't know what this will do to my weight loss. On one hand, I'm pretty much vegetarian as it is, and it hasn't harmed me. On the other, a lot of the recipes in my recipe book rely more on potatoes, pasta and rice which are things that I don't really eat much of at the moment. I don't know what effect increased carbs will have, although I will try to stay away from the refined ones. I will have to have a go and see what happens, I guess. If I start really piling on the pounds then I might backtrack a little if necessary, but I really should give it a go on the basis that it won't be a huge change from what I eat at the moment. And I might even speed up my weight loss, you never know!

My other worry is getting enough protein, particularly when I'm exercising and doing weights. Again, I'll have to play it by ear and make sure that I pick healthy vegetarian recipes as opposed to any old recipe. If it's really not working, again I might end up backtracking a little.

I'm not going to burn in hell for eternity if I fail to see it through, after all.

I hope.


The other big decision of the week (although this one has been made for a bit longer, but not put down on screen yet), is that I really don't think that 160 will be it. I've actually taken my trackers off the top of the page for a while, partly because I need to change the code, but also because the numbers aren't as relevant any more.

160 is still a big goal, and one I'll celebrate, but I think I probably need to/could go a little lower than that. I feel like I have more than 5lb of excess fat left to lose. I'm not going to set firm goals, but somewhere between 150 and 155 sounds like a good place to start. I'll adjust my thinking as I go along, so watch this space.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Under my nose all the time

I often wander round the city centre and seethe inwardly at the amount of rubbish food on sale. Not just Leeds, everywhere, it seems like nutrition very definitely takes a back seat to convenience. I eat healthy stuff, but only because I plan everything in advance and take bags full of food to work.

It seems I just wasn't looking. Over the past week or so I've discovered a whole list of vegetarian restaurants, organic/veggie/wholefood shops, and places to get nice, relatively healthy food. Of course, you could live in an organic veggie way off chips made with organic potatoes and green and blacks chocolate and not be particularly healthy, but generally speaking I find that if I make the effort to eat vegetarian food (although currently it seems more of an effort to actually get some meat in), I tend to make better choices than I would have made not looking at the vegetarian options. I've found places that sell locally produced organic vegetables that I really want to try, I've found places that sell some of the food I've considered trying but not been able to find in Tesco, and I've found places where I can stock up on my weeks supply of food at lunchtime, thereby cutting the torture of trips to the supermarket to a minimum.

So where have I found these obscure places that I didn't know about before. Erm, I have been going past them every day for the past two months. One of them is opposite the place where I get off the bus in the morning. I then walk past it on the way to the gym. Another is opposite the bus stop where I sometimes wait for the bus home. And a third is very close to work (and I'll be popping in there tomorrow if at all possible to check out those "award winning salads"). It just goes to show that sometimes you really need to open your eyes and see what is around you. I'm so excited at the thought of not only being able to buy the food I like far more easily (I got some lovely flavoured tofu the other day that I'd never seen before from one of the shops), but being able to support smaller, more independent and ethical shops (and producers) without even putting myself out to do it.

I was pretty surprised when I discovered my inner vegetarian (and believe me, she's damn persisent and demands to be fed vegetarian food nearly all the time), but it seems that I'm getting greener by the day. I could see how this journey could lead to me losing weight, but it's become more than that. I'm really thinking about what I eat from a quality point of view as well as simply for its nutritional value. I never realised that losing weight would unleash a bus catching, organic food eating almost vegetarian, not through rules but by choice. I'm not complaining, but sometimes it seems like this whole process has taken on a life of its own to go in directions I never even dreamed of!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sinking In

Every morning when I wake up (and every night before I fall asleep) I find myself feeling my body, both to see if I can notice any fat loss, but also to check that I've not suddenly woken up 95lb heavier and this has all been a dream. Feeling my hip bones as I lie down helps remind me why I set my alarm for 6am and why I really should get out of bed. I also like to feel connected to my body, I ignored it for so long, so it's nice to check that it's still how I left it when I fell asleep.

Recently I've started really realising how skinny I'm getting. Lying in the dark letting my hands do the "seeing" I don't get hung up on how my body looks, and lying helps my stomach feel flatter. It isn't necessarily a 100% accurate representation of how my body hangs when I'm standing up. But still, there's only one thought that springs to mind in my head. It's how tiny I am. Comparatively speaking at least, I'm not sure that tiny is the description that should really spring to mind when you're 5 foot 9 and 11 stone 11!

But quibbles about the use of words aside, I really am starting to come to terms with my (relative) thin-ness. After my shock when I saw myself in the mirror at the gym the other week, there have been increasing numbers of incidents when I've looked in the mirror and seen someone thin looking back. It seems strange to not think of myself as fat, which has been one of the words that has consistently defined me throughout my life. Every morning it feels like a new revelation. Hang on, I'm not fat. And it's still phrased as a negative a lot of the time. I'm not fat, rather than saying I'm thin. But still, at least I say it on a more regular basis, and I'm starting to believe it.

It's been a long journey, and it's nowhere near finished, but I'm finally starting to really believe I've done it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Emotional Icebergs

Sometimes I dream about having the sort of talkative, boisterous family that can have enjoyable meals and parties together. With discussion, laughter, maybe a bit of argument. But with noise and with life.

In my family though, eating, even eating in a restaurant, becomes a silent affair. The art of conversation just seems to have passed us by. I try to get them talking, but a question about their recent holiday is met by a short answer and doesn't go anywhere. It's stilted and strained. Instead we just focus on the food, pushing it round the plate to kill time, keeping our mouths full so that we have an excuse not to talk, nibbling on bread long after the hunger has gone just because it's something to do, something to distract us from the fact that we're just not communicating. Watching the hands on the clock spin slowly round as we count down the time until the silent torture is over. No long lingering coffee at the end, savouring the experience. Fuel and move on, with barely a word spoken between us.

It's always been like that. Not so much when we eat with my grandparents, but with my parents even the nicest meal out can become something to endure rather than something to enjoy. Something to get through. And of course it's not just meals. It's sitting in the house with them, travelling by car with them. I try to find a seed to spark a conversation, and usually I fail. At their house the tv fills the gap. It's on no matter whether there's anything worth watching or not. Sitting in the corner of the room, filling the house with noise to take away the emptiness. Whereas I only turn the television on if there's something I actually want to watch, which draws attention to the lack of conversation even more.

I end up going to bed far earlier when I'm with my parents (either at their house or mine), because it rescues me from sitting in a room with nothing to say. I go to bed and I dream of being part of a less emotionally cold family, of being able to entertain ourselves rather than relying on television or food or drink. I dream of another life when I'm chatty and vivacious because I've been brought up in an environment that encouraged me to be like that.

It's no wonder I rarely feel lonely. My experience of being surrounded by people makes me feel far more lonely and isolated than actually being on my own does. On my own I can have wonderful conversations with myself, but with other people, with family, I feel like I should be giving them attention, doing something with them, when there seems to be little that they want to do. We got in yesterday afternoon and my mother went to bed feeling ill, while my father sat down at the computer to edit his photos from their holiday in Egypt.

Over time food became a filler. Food is something that helps to take away the boredom. Food is the only thing tenuously holding us together, no matter how painful it looks while we sit there and silently eat it. Without that, even the limited conversation we have would wither away and die. We eat because we don't talk, because we can still have some semblance of a relationship.

I'm sure there are seeds there for my relationship with food and indeed my relationships with other people, but I'm not going to attempt to psychoanalyise myself to the nth degree. I'm not interested in reasons and recriminations. All I want is to work out how to bring some conversation and communication back into our relationship.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rebel with a... bottle of salad dressing

My parents are here, and I'm trying hard to avoid falling back into the old patterns I've always been in with them. I can eat well and exercise well so easily while I'm alone, but as soon as they arrive it's like I don't want to let on how much I've changed, and how hard I actually have to work to do this. I seem to want everyone to think that it's easy, effortless, by masking my normal effort behind a weekend reverting to roughly my old ways. Oh, that weight. It just fell off by magic. I hardly had to do a thing. Strange.

In particular, I find it hard to stand up for my right to eat healthy stuff. They come, they want to eat crap. I eat crap with them. I don't go out for my run and I drink.

This has to change.

So last night when they arrived I warned them that I didn't have much food in the house. I've been busy all week and I normally need to go to the supermarket on Saturday morning because I've run out by then, this week is no different. I offered a trip to the supermarket on the way home, but they turned it down. They then blocked my car in by parking on the drive behind it. I assumed that knowing the lack of food in the house we'd be going out before lunch either to somewhere where we could eat out, or to the supermarket.

No such luck. Instead my dad decided that he only wanted to eat at about 3, and my mother had slept late with a headache and also didn't want to eat. Meanwhile I'd forced myself out for a 6 mile run when I got up, and was hungry. I eat a lot, healthy stuff, but a lot. I need the fuel to cope with the exercise I do. So when they decided at 1.30 that food wasn't a priority I flipped.

I stormed out of the house.

On foot, because the car was blocked in.

And I went to the greengrocers.

To buy salad vegetables.

I'm such a rebel...

So I had a delicious spinach, red pepper and bean salad for lunch. And when my parents decided they wanted food later they had a choice. Salad or, well, salad.

They can't say that they weren't warned, and I certainly wasn't going to buy crap for them when I went out on my food mission. If they want crap they can get their own crap. I'm not going to encourage them to bring that stuff into my house. If they don't want to eat what I eat then they can't expect me to sort it out for them. I refuse to fall into those old patterns any more. I'm not just going to be the daughter they've always had, eating what I'm given. I'm going to be an adult who eats what she wants, and who is capable of standing up for her own needs.

I could have had a tin of lentil soup from the cupboard, but I wanted to make a statement. To come out and show how much I've changed. I need to stand up for myself and how I live now. I need to make it clear what sort of person I am now. I need to stop giving up what I want every time something from my old life comes up.

There can't be many people who rebel or stand up for themselves with salad, but it seems that I'm one of them!

The Sun Is Shining

And I'm feeling good. Since last weekend's trip away I've seemed to have such a more positive outlook on life. I've really appreciated the things I like about myself, the things I'm good at and the things I wouldn't change for the world, and I've developed a bit of an idea of where I'm going with my life. The change in the work situation has helped, but I was feeling better before that. There are hints that the spring is coming, the rugby season has started*, I've sat outside on a beach having something to eat, and this morning the weather was glorious for my run. I even found myself singing and dancing along to my iPod one morning at the bus stop.

My eating hasn't been perfect, but I'm living with that. I don't need it to be perfect, to be honest, so I'll just do the best that I can from day to day. I like the way my life is balanced, and even though it seems quite ambitious to keep all the balls in the air at once, I'm doing it, and I'm enjoying it.

I bought some new jeans yesterday. I don't know whether the 9 on the label is the US size or the age I was when I'd last have been able to consider getting in them, but it's good either way. I had a beautiful 6 mile run this morning, round the lake under glorious blue skies.

I'm feeling good, and it's wonderful.

*Again, best not to mention the rugby too much. We lost last night. Again. This could be the story of the season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Promotion! I think...

Well, it's more responsibility and a more defined career path with more opportunities for advancement. That has to be good. But there's not actually any more money (yet) or any change in job title. But it's a start.

Let me explain. At the moment there are three of us in my immediate team. Myself, my boss and her husband. I'm the least experienced (coming up to three years qualified), and he drives me MAD. As does their relationship with each other. I don't mind the firm or the work, but sometimes I think I must be crazy for working in that team, it seems like it's sometimes just arranged for their benefit.

I've considered leaving, and blogged about it on here. Then, at the start of January it looked like there might be changes afoot. There was talk of a similar sized team coming in from outside to complement what we do and double the size of the team. That would have been interesting, but it fell through.

So I was in limbo. I have no clear idea of where I'm going, and the husband (let's call him N) was sitting in the middle of the team blocking my way internally. He likes to have control over the people below him, and he was never going to make partner. Overtaking him would be nigh on impossible, meaning that should I get any lofty ambitions he'd be in the way (lucky those ambitions never arrived!)

But, it turns out N's leaving, which gives me a great opportunity. Instead of replacing him I'm going to step up to be second in command, with any replacement coming in below my level. I have a clear gap between me and partner level, and my boss has said she'll start grooming me for the associate appointment process, which is something that might not have happened with him there. (I think in the US and some London firms you start as an associate, it's only a title at the end of the day, but in my firm it's used as the level between assistant (me) and partner. It doesn't really affect your pay or workload as such, but it's a sort of recognition and you get a couple of extra perks).

I will get more autonomy and control over my files, without him constantly checking up on me (I much prefer the supervision I get from my actual boss which is far more trusting, just looking at the overall strategic aspects of what I'm doing rather than the fine detail). My boss has said that she thinks I'm ready to step up a level work wise and take more responsibility for the day to day conduct of files without fine tooth supervision. I'll also be more involved in the "management" side (we've already had a chat about the sort of person we want to recruit to fill the gap, and whether the current trainee would fit the bill). I've got a clear gap to move into as my career progresses. Applying for associate isn't really going to happen this year, but by next year I should be more firmly established as 2nd in command, and in a far better position than I would have been as bottom of a team of three.

The team will also be better balanced without the husband and wife part of it, and should be taken more seriously by the rest of the firm because it will look less like a cosy bed of nepotism. The change might be precisely what we need.

In the short term it will probably be more work for no extra benefits (at least until pay review time comes round in May), but long term it's definitely made me feel more optimistic and enthusiastic about staying where I am and seeing whether I can carve out a role for myself that will keep me interested and stimulated. Finally there's a career path mapping itself out for me to aim towards, rather than feeling like I'm at a dead end.

I'm still not certain that this is what I want to do for the rest of my career, but at least if it is, the changes should benefit me long term. So I'm cautiously optimistic.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Almost a perfect weekend

Well, I was right. The weekend away was what I needed to perk myself up after last week's moodiness. I feel so much better now after some time alone with myself, doing exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it. There were a couple of separate incidents that told me how much I've changed over the past couple of years, so apologies in advance, this will be long (although I have pictures to brighten it up a little!). This is what happens when I have three days of thinking without getting near a computer...

On Friday I said that I wouldn't be using today's weight as it always gets thrown off a bit when I go away for the weekend. Roughly translated that means that every time I've been away since I started this, I've stood on the scale the next morning and it's been up. Water, usually, but up all the same. This morning I nearly died of shock. The scale was actually lower than it was on Friday. Only half a pound or so, but still lower. Interesting. But I know why, it's simply because I didn't use a holiday as an excuse for eating and drinking to excess. Far from it. I was far more saintly than I'd been intending, more by accident than design, and much against my better judgment. I relaxed my normal rules, but I didn't go mad with the relaxation. I listened to my body's needs, and we came to a perfect understanding.

Before I left the house I shoved some fruit in my bag. Satsumas and minneolas, together with a bag of dried apricots and a bag of dried berries. And several bars of Green and Blacks chocolate. The main rationale was that the fresh fruit wouldn't survive the weekend, and that the dried fruit would be better than crisps for nibbles on the journey. Wise, wise move. Also before leaving at 1am on Saturday morning I had my normal breakfast. I was a bit undecided about how to structure my meals, whether to go to sleep when I got in on Friday night and eat my evening meal before leaving, or whether to treat it as Saturday breakfast. I was hungry when I got in, so I took the breakfast option. Between 1am and arriving in Spain at about 10am CET I sustained myself with a couple of snacks. One of the chocolate bars, one of the minneolas and a bit of dried fruit. I didn't get a croissant or muffin when I got a coffee at the airport, and I didn't get crisps for the flight. I landed, got the hire car and set off. The plan was to get up to the Costa Brava and drive round the coast road to Perpignan. I had been considering a second breakfast of churros and chocolate, but quickly realised that service station food in Spain is every bit as bad as service station food in England, and that there wasn't going to be a decent churreria on the motorway. So I nibbled on the fruit.

I eventually made it to Roses, a resort on Cap de Creus at the northern end of the Costa Brava and had lunch at about 2pm. I just hadn't been that hungry before, and hadn't found anywhere that looked nice enough to be worthy of a stop until that stage. The fruit had kept me going without any problems. I found a restaurant, and in a moment of adventure picked the only meaty looking thing that didn't come with chips, even though I wasn't entirely sure what it did come with. It turned out to be a sausage with garlicky beans, and was actually pretty nice. Then onwards to Perpignan.

The match was due to kick off at 7pm, and I wanted to get there at about 4, in time for a drink and a waffle in town before wandering up to the ground. Roses didn't look that far away from Perpignan. Except, it was. 4.30 came and went and I was still in Spain, shooting through towns and villages I'd have loved to have the time to stop in. At 5.30, having probably broken more than one French speed limit (I have no idea what they are, but I wasn't dawdling by this stage) I get to Perpignan to realise that my carefully printed and labelled map of the town centre is sitting on my desk at work. I found a car park (any car park would do!) and dumped the car in it, before setting off on foot to find the hotel and walk up to the ground quickly. Thankfully I vaguely remembered Perpignan from 2002, so found where I needed to be, but no time for that relaxed vin rouge and waffle or crepe stop.

Meanwhile, the other Wigan fans have been on a pub crawl since about 10am. Suffice it to say, that having been driving (or sitting on a plane waiting to re-start driving) for the majority of the past 16 hours, I'm rather more sober than they are. Completely, in other words. I got to the ground, and was disappointed. Last time I was there I was sure they served red wine, and crepes, and churros. This time it was beer and burgers, with a complicated double queuing system where you had to queue to buy vouchers which you then queued to exchange for food and drink. I couldn't be bothered with that for food and drink that wasn't on the list of stuff I'd been craving, so sat down, tried to recover from the dash across town, and pulled out from my bag... you guessed it. Fruit. And water. And Green and Blacks. I would have killed for a waffle, but I didn't want a burger, so I didn't eat one. Simple as that.

Look how sober I look (although you may be able to detect by this stage that I've been awake and travelling for 18 hours and counting, the scary thing being that I wasn't even relying on coffee so I have no idea how I was still awake). Also, some un-used tips for taking photos that make you look skinny. Don't wear horizontal stripes (rugby players can wear them because they're meant to look big and scary, however, it's not a good look for fans). Don't wear shirts made of material that actually reflect the camera flash. Don't wear shirts that are about four sizes too big because you've not got round to buying a new one and you bought this at your heaviest). To be fair, I still look much thinner than I used to, but believe me, I've looked better.

After the game, bed was more appealing than food. I'd still have given vital organs for a waffle, but my two options seemed to be a proper meal at a restaurant or a takeaway kebab/pizza. Neither appealed, so just one more bit of fruit and I collapsed, asleep. I didn't even have a quick glass of wine before bed. Just water. So much for all the food I was going to treat myself to. However, there were a few things that should have been on the list. Baguette. Croissant. President butter. All three satisfied at breakfast. You can't beat the French for those refined carbs for breakfast, together with the classic black coffee.

After a quick wander round Perpignan on Sunday morning, back to Spain I went. I was booked on a winery tour just south of Barcelona at 1pm on Sunday, and other than a quick stop at the services and for petrol I didn't have time for much of a detour. Or for food that wasn't service station rubbish, so when I got to the winery at about 12.45 I think you can guess what I ate. You may be wondering how much fruit I packed, and to be fair, so am I recounting this tale! I went on the tour (which was fab), and got to the tasting room at the end. This is where the whole thing gets scary. I didn't drink FREE wine. I love the Torres reds, but for some reason the wine we got to taste was a white. I'm not a big fan of white, so I had a couple of sips and left it. I don't drink Guinness either, but I managed to down a pint at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, so you'd have thought I'd have made more of an effort. Here though, I just left it on the table. I had a couple of breadsticks with the couple of sips I had, and went on my way again.

I'd have drunk the stuff in here though, red wine is a completely different proposition...

When I left, I started looking for somewhere for lunch, but nowhere took my fancy. Nowhere was quite what I was looking for, and I wasn't that hungry. In the end it got to 3, and then 4, and I decided to have an early evening meal instead, eating a bit later on the basis that I had a long night of travelling ahead. Eventually, I got to Sitges and decided I really had to force myself to eat. I still couldn't find anything that really appealed and called my name, but settled for a tortilla overlooking the sea, watching the sun drop to the west. Hardly a big, gourmet meal, but still more substantial than anything I'd eaten all day (breakfast, fruit and breadsticks). I just wasn't hungry for what was available, but knew that the food at the airport would be even less appealing than the options available there (and certainly wouldn't have that view).

I headed back to the airport, to find that the flight was delayed (thanks, Ryanair! I was hoping for 3 hours sleep when I got back, but your delays took half of that away from me. Still, at least the flight was cheap...), and that the food at the airport was even less appealing than I'd imagined. Some Spanish airports have nice food. At Madrid there's a tapas bar I love (terminal 2 from memory, if you're passing through), and I always have a nibble of something from the Canarian produce shop at Las Palmas. La Palma does nice fresh pizzas, from memory. But at Reus it was run by the same company that runs those service stations I'd been declining all weekend. I started to be glad I'd at least eaten something. I did get a bag of crisps, as by the time the plane even boarded it was getting on for 11pm and the fruit was long gone, but only because the crisps were the least bad option there. More water (the joy of a driving holiday, no need to get tempted by too much alcohol, as it's just not an option!). On the drive home I had a little chocolate (more Green and Blacks, and a Dairy Milk) as I played my get home with chocolate game. It basically involves a small piece every 10 minutes to stave off tiredness and keep the energy levels up just enough to make it to the next chunk. A bar lasts about an hour, which isn't too bad (and I wasn't exactly high enough on calories for the day to dissuade myself from this plan). I find it works as well as caffeine, and is far more enjoyable. The shocking thing was though that I didn't enjoy the Dairy Milk. I've not had any since I discovered Green and Blacks 70% bars, and it just tasted... artificial. I never thought I'd see the day I ate Dairy Milk and didn't like it. (Particularly not with it also being the day I turned down free wine).

I worked out a couple of theories for my bizarrely restrained eating. All interesting in different ways.

First, I wasn't as hungry because I didn't exercise. Those two days of "planned rest" showed up just how many extra calories I usually burn, and I adjusted automatically, almost unconsciously to deal with it. This would be a good thing, if true. It may also be because I have a cold and was eating menthol sweets, even though they were sugar free, maybe they filled me up a little? (This could explain the fact that today I'm still not that hungry, and I exercised this morning).

Second, craving certain foods is a good thing. As long as you crave stuff that you can't get at home, that has to be cooked in a very specific way. Croissants in England just aren't the real, French, deal, for example. By setting off with a clear vision in my head of what I wanted to eat, I passed up lots of other things that just weren't it. I didn't drink white wine or beer because it wasn't red wine. I didn't eat burgers because I was still hopeful that I'd come across somewhere selling waffles, and wanted to save myself for it (I didn't, but I'd have kicked myself if I'd come across somewhere after eating a burger). I didn't eat steak and chips because I was hoping for tapas, or something else nice (I was a little hazier here about what I did want, but knew what I didn't want). Craving McDonalds isn't good (not that I ever have) because you can satisfy that craving too easily. But craving a little bit of something special, well, it helps you to remember what sort of things you do and don't want to give into, and if you only find it rarely you don't need to worry about indulging when you do.

Third, I'm old. It's the same theory with both food and drink, but drink shows it off better. Other Wigan fans went for the party. They were drinking all day, and carried on for most of the night. The people in the room next to mine at the hotel got in at 4.30am. They weren't drinking anything special, they just had an excuse to do it. Some of them were drinking to get drunk, or because that's what you do when you're on holiday. Me, I prefer a drink I can savour. Something that tastes nice rather than something that makes me get tipsy and lose my inhibitions. A nice bottle of red wine I can sit down with and taste the flavours in. Not cheap vodka from duty free on the way out there. I finally have very little interest in drinking to get drunk. The times I do get drunk it's more because I lose count when I've got good company, not just because I'm drinking for the sake of it. Pass me my cardigan and slippers.

But there is pay off. As well as the rather unusual downward scale movement (and maybe that's not genuine, so I'm not counting it yet), I had clothes issues over the weekend. I only took hand luggage (mainly filled with fruit...), and only had one pair of jeans, with spare tops and underwear in the bag. When going away for the weekend with only one pair of jeans, it's sensible to make sure they fit first. Which is something I failed to do. I realise that this may not be something that gains me a lot of sympathy, but it's harder than you'd think to get through a weekend when you're constantly hanging onto your jeans to prevent them going downwards quicker than a skier at the winter olympics. I got them in November, and was oh so pleased to get into Gap "slim boot cut" jeans in a US10/UK14. Now, not only can I take them off without unbuttoning them, but they seem to like that idea and want to do it of their own accord. Whenever I attempt to walk (or, god forbid, run). I don't think the look I should be aiming for is the crotch at mid thigh level look, but they seemed to want to try it. I may need to go shopping again soon for new jeans. I was also wearing a coat of my sister's (one she brought over from Spain and left here last weekend). I put it on and thought it was baggy. Must be a 14 or 16, I thought, to have so much room in it. Erm, no. It was a 12. And the trousers of the new Zara suit I got a couple of weeks ago come off without unbuttoning either. They didn't do that last week. This whole shrinkage thing is getting out of control.

More pay off. I remember once I flew to Gran Can on a plane with the call bell in the arm of the seat. All the way there, for five long hours, someone's bell was going off. They put it more politely, but the announcement was to the effect that they couldn't stop it because some fatty was pressing the button with their lardy thighs. I was sitting there hoping and praying it wasn't me, trying to avoid thigh-button contact as far as possible, but with nowhere to move to to get away from it. This weekend, not only did I sit in an exit seat both ways (gotta love that pick your own seat policy, us singles get a great choice of the spare seat on a prime row with a couple on it), with the tray in the arms, but I rattled round in it. At one point, to see if I could, I managed to put my arms down by the side of my legs, one on either side, inside the arms of the seat. It was tight, but I did it. Because there wasn't a seat back pocket I put my litre bottle of water by the side of me on the seat, as my arse wasn't using that space. And for the first time in forever, because I was sitting next to someone relatively thin on the way back, I managed an entire flight without either of us spilling over into the other's space. I've always either been the spiller or, more recently, the spillee, and it was nice to find out how flying should feel without being pressed against someone else's arm flesh.

Back to today, I got in at 4.10am. I went to sleep until my alarm went off at 6am. Call me nuts if you want (I have been all day), but I got up and I went to the gym. As far as I'm concerned the extra hour or so of sleep wouldn't be enough extra to make a difference. 2 hours, 3 hours, it's still not enough. I'd still be flagging by the end of the day. But at least having 2 hours and a run, the run got my body moving and woke me up physically and mentally. I think it was far more useful than the extra hour in bed. And anyway, I only gave myself 2 planned rest days, not 3, and I could imagine what state I'd be in if I tried to exercise after work.

Last night I stood on a Spanish beach, with the Med lapping against the shore a couple of metres away, watching the sun set. This morning I was at the gym just after 7am, and I ran 8km on the treadmill. I wouldn't have it any other way. No matter how much I moan and whinge, I wouldn't swap my life for anyone else's. I feel unbelievably lucky to live in a time and place where I can eat breakfast at home, lunch on a Spanish costa and have an evening out in France (and then do it all in reverse, and make it back to work via the gym on Monday morning). It's not just the availability of cheapish flights though, it's the fact that I take advantage of them that makes the whole thing work. I'm not scared of a weekend driving round foreign parts on my own, I'm prepared to just go for it, and this weekend has made me remember just how much I like being that person. Me. Sometimes I wonder why people say I'm amazing when I just do what comes naturally to me. But then I look at my life, and maybe it's true. I'm not scared to go chasing round Catalonia (or Berlin for that matter) in search of my dreams, and I wouldn't change me for the world.

(PS, in case you're wondering why it wasn't quite perfect. We lost)

We have more photos...

While I'm posting photos, I'll try to put these on too. First of all the family photo from last weekend, with me looming above everyone rather ungracefully...

This is me on the beach at Roses, on Saturday lunchtime. My turn the camera round and shoot photos are always a bit hit and miss, and I quite like this one.

And finally, Cadaques, on the Cap de Creus, where I wish I'd been able to spend longer. Maybe next year (although I couldn't see much sign of anything being open when I got there with it being off season!)

Friday, February 10, 2006


Today is better, which is what a good run can do for me. Well, a bit more than a good run, but the good run was the major part of it. First of all I saw movement in the scales, down to 167. Eleven stone thirteen pounds, finally breaking through that twelve stone mark. I'll take it because Monday's weight (my normal weigh in day) is not likely to be particularly accurate with the weekend and a late drive back from the airport on Sunday night to contend with. I'd already earmarked today's weight to be an official one, so official it shall be. I finally get some ticker movement!

Then, the run. This week I've been building up to today's "10k race" on the schedule. Of course, there aren't many races on a Friday at 7am, so I contented myself with psyching myself up to go as fast as I could on the treadmill and treating it as a race. No second chances. No wimping out after 6 or 7k to leave it for another day, and no excuses. Pushing myself a bit harder too, rather than just a training run. This week I've been building up to it with a couple of other 10ks to get my miles for the week done and allow myself the weekend off. My previous best before this week was just under 59 minutes, and on Monday it went down to nearer 58, then on Tuesday to just over 57. I had a number in mind for today, a target. I wanted to get under 55 minutes for the first time, knocking a whopping 4 minutes off in the space of a week. The number felt achievable, if I pushed myself, based on my 4 - 5 mile times and the relative ease with which I'd got down to 58 and 57. So I went for it, and I did it. In 54:44.

I started off too fast, but reined myself back in after about 20 minutes because I knew I wouldn't be able to sustain that pace for much over 35 minutes. Once I'd recovered a bit I started pushing the pace back up a bit to make sure I hit that sub-55 minute target. I got myself through the last few km by telling myself that if I broke 55 I wouldn't run at all over the weekend, but if I slowed down and missed it I'd pack my running stuff and make myself plod round Perpignan for 40 minutes or so on Sunday morning. By this point I knew I'd make the time if I just kept going at a steady pace, so it was a case of hanging in there. The prospect of a lie in was all it took to keep me going to the end without slowing down and missing the mark!

The one thing I noticed was how much more focussed I was than normal. When I'm doing slower runs I look around, take in what other people are doing, watch people doing weights and ab exercises to get ideas of things I could add to my routine, check whether I'm running faster or further than people on other treadmills, that sort of thing. Today I was absolutely focussed on the run and barely noticed a thing outside my little treadmill tunnel vision thing. The level of concentration really took me by surprise. I wasn't counting down the minutes until I finished or looking what people were wearing or watching myself in the mirror, I was concentrating on maintaining my speed, pushing it up a bit, keeping going as hard as I could. All of which would explain why I got under that 55 minute mark.

That brightened my mood significantly, then as I was stretching afterwards I caught sight of myself in the mirror and saw something I'd never really seen before. I saw my body as it actually is, not as I think it is. When I look down at myself, the first thing that catches my eye is my stomach. 5 or 10lb ago I didn't have a loose skin problem, now I'm starting to develop one. The skin has probably shrunk as much as it can, and is now getting to the stage where it looks a bit saggy. While I don't think that it will end up too bad compared to other people, I'm definitely starting to realise that it's never going to be taut or toned without surgery that I can't afford. That clouds my view of the rest of my body. But as I saw myself in the mirror for once I didn't have my hang ups clouding my view, and I saw myself clearly. Maybe it's a side-effect of the concentration from the run. I'd blocked all my negative thoughts out of my head in order to run faster, and I caught myself by surprise before they had the opportunity to force their way back in. I am thinner than I realised. A lot thinner. I know I've not suddenly become that much thinner overnight, but I seem to have let myself see it for a change. One way to put a smile back on my face!

So, now for 2 consecutive days of planned rest. I'm not going to exercise (other than walking) and I'm not going to feel guilty about it. I've deliberately moved my runs around this week to let myself have the time off, so there's no reason to feel like I should be doing something. There's a strong chance I might eat French cakes or drink a little red wine. Or maybe have churros or merguez or cassoulet or gauffres or crepes. Actually, that might be and rather than or. I'm actually drooling writing this. I'm not going to beat myself up about it, and I'm not going to worry. I won't binge, but equally I won't deprive myself of fresh local specialities that always taste better when you're away than at home. I've earned it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I really feel like I'm running just to stay still at the moment. Literally, figuratively, financially, emotionally.

On the treadmill you can run for miles without actually going anywhere. Mile after mile of churning belt, running just to stay on it, to stop being thrown off the back onto the floor. Running so as not to admit that you can't keep up, that you want to get off. But there's a stop button, and you can change the speed. You can get off, you can slow down. You don't even need to get on in the first place. I do, of course, but at least I'm in control.

At the moment my whole life seems like one big treadmill, but with one big difference. I don't control the speed, the hills, the duration. And there's no easily accessible, easily pressable stop button. I'm running and running and running, but it just doesn't feel like I'm getting anywhere.

Financially, every time I get anywhere near getting my money under control along comes something to mess the plan up. I'm paying off historical debts slowly but surely, then the car decides to throw a wobbly and up they go again. No matter how much I feel like I'm in a decent job and should be able to afford this stuff, even put some savings aside, I just can't seem to do it. All those little indulgences, Spanish lessons, cheap flights, clothes that don't drown me, I can afford them as long as nothing goes wrong with the car or the house or anything else, but as soon as it does I realise that there's nothing extra in the pot for that rainy day and that maybe I need to sort those priorities out a little. The car is now fixed, but it wasn't cheap. Not cheap at all. Money I didn't really have.

At work I go through quiet spells and busy spells. At the moment the work is just piling up around me, and nothing I seem to do makes much of a dent in the pile. It's one of those times when I feel out of my depth and scared, as though I can't pull the wool over anyone's eyes any longer. A couple of jobs that I can't get my head round and I start to panic about the whole thing. I'm my head above water, but I get more and more scared that I'm going to found out.

Emotionally I just feel like I'm constantly pushing myself on, keeping myself busy, learning Spanish, going to yoga, but not making myself happy. Just making myself tired, so I can come home to an empty house, sleep alone and wake up the next morning to do it all again. I enjoy Spanish, and I enjoy yoga, but I sometimes wonder whether I should just take some time out to relax and not constantly feel like I'm trying to keep myself busy to stop myself getting down.

Half of me is looking forward to the weekend, but the other half asks whether I should just stay at home, because I'm constantly running around trying to find something that I'm not going to find out there. It's not in France and it's not in Spain. It's not on the A1 in the middle of the night. Rationally, I know I'll have a great time, but it won't change anything here, and my life will still be waiting for me when I get back.

You may have gathered from this that I'm still going through the shitty mood from the past few days. I know, rationally, that my life is nowhere near as bad as I make out in my low moments, and I know that I'm very lucky to be able to do this stuff. But still, these feelings aren't something I enjoy, and I really wish I could snap out of it. I do't want to be sitting here feeling sorry for myself, I want to be enjoying my life, and enjoying what I'm lucky enough to be able to do.

I really hope that the prevailing gloom raises soon. Maybe a good run in the morning will help to shift it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Not Good

Yesterday I felt like I was back in control again, but today I seem to be falling off the wagon big style. Well, not really that badly, not comparatively, but compared to where I prefer to be there's a definite downward trend today.

I've been grazing all day. It's not the fact that I'm eating me more that bothers me so much as the way I'm eating. I know that when I run more I need to eat more (one of the best reasons to keep running!), but what I don't expect or like is the way I keep reaching my hand towards food supplies when I'm not even particularly hungry. Just grazing because food's there rather than because I want it. That has to stop. I've cleared everything out of my desk drawers and I'll see how I go tomorrow morning with just one orange to snack on until I get out to get some more at lunchtime.

Work's suddenly gone crazy again. Why do clients think that you can drop everything to do something that they've known about for weeks within hours. Yes, I can draft a development agreement, but if you only tell me about it mid morning you can't have it today. No matter how many times you phone and beg. It's just not happening (neither, incidentally, is my plan to work on it this evening, sadly).

I was feeling shitty and really didn't fancy yoga. I was never going to go, but would have prefered a less crappy excuse than yet more car trouble. It's embarrassing enough calling the breakdown company twice in five days, but my shame was compounded when it was the same bloke who turned up as on Saturday. Yes, I'm shit with cars. (And no, I'm not trying to chat him up or anything by faking spurious mechanical problems...) This time it's because one of the brake shoes has come off, it locked my back wheel causing the tyre to basically burn off. Not a pretty sight. I try to be all environmentally friendly and not drive too much, and how does my car repay me?

The breakdown people have the car at the moment, and will take it to the garage tomorrow. Then I have to hope it can be fixed tomorrow or on Friday, as I need a car on Friday night to drive down to Stansted. Otherwise I could be in the fantastic position by Saturday lunchtime of driving one hire car round Catalonia while a second hire car is sitting in the car park of Stansted airport. I've checked and it's not expensive enough to make me cancel the trip, but I'd still rather get mine back. I don't think it's actually a huge job, so fingers crossed.

So by the time I'd been dropped back off at home yoga had started anyway, and I didn't go. I did have a good 10k run this morning so it's not exactly as though I haven't exercised today, but still it's making me feel down on myself.

I'm just in a generally shitty mood today. I'm hoping it's PMT and not a sign of a deteriorating mental state at the moment. (Plus if it's PMT I might be retaining water and therefore less fatty than the scales say, always look on the bright side!) Fingers crossed that the weekend will cheer me up a bit again.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I never realised that 168 would be such a strange sort of limbo. I've been sitting at around this weight for nearly three weeks now, between 168 and 169 most days, and I'm not sure where I'm going with this any more.

168 was a dream weight, and the reality is pretty good. I get compliments daily, hourly sometimes, and yesterday my grandmother said I was thinner than my sister (hah!). I can look in the mirror and like myself, even when I'm wearing tight fitting exercise gear. I'm a normal weight, and I'm fitter than most of the people I know.

But on the other hand, 168 doesn't feel like "it". I can feel fat on my body that I'd like to lose, and I want to get a bit further away from that symbolic dividing line between healthy and overweight. (Further away in the right direction, of course!). I want to get to 100lb lost, and I want to get to a comfortable size 12.

But I don't seem to want to achieve it enough. I'm grazing and snacking and while I'm being fairly good, certainly good enough to maintain my weight loss to date, I'm just not being disciplined enough to actually lose, despite my vastly increased mileage. I'm not being as disciplined as I used to be, as disciplined as I know I can be.

Getting down from 260 was a no-brainer. I knew I had to do it, and I did. But now, it's not as important. It's just a bonus, but still a bonus I want. But is it a bonus that I want that sort of control to get? Do I want to be more careful with what I eat rather than my current eat pretty much what you want but still maintain regime? And, psychologically, am I shying away from getting to 160 because if I do that I won't have a goal to aim for any more. Am I scared of what I'll do if I don't have a goal to aim for?

I'm not going to complain that I've not lost any weight for weeks. I know precisely why that is, and part of me is happy that I can maintain without too much stress at the moment. I know that at this weight not losing weight is nothing to be too worried about. Getting my brain used to that idea is taking some doing, but I do know that it's true. What I'm trying to work out is that, if I know what I need to do, and know how to do it, why can't I actually motivate myself to do it. Why do I keep on putting off the day when I'm not going to snack and nibble until tomorrow?

Maybe this is good. Maybe I need to take a break from losing now. Maybe I should just focus on the half marathon this month. Eat what I need to be able to run at my best rather than risking having low energy because I'm cutting back too drastically. Then after the 26th I have a couple of months before I start the marathon training in earnest. Maybe I should wait for those couple of months before refocussing on loss as opposed to maintenance. But then I don't want to let my bad habits pile up during my maintenance, because I think I can get away with it and not gain.

I need to either go one way or the other. To embrace maintenance for now and not stress about th scale, or stress about the scale but actually take some action to do something about it. The problem is, I'm not sure which yet.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Use it or lose it

This morning for the first time the number of miles I've driven in 2006 has gone higher than the number of miles I've run. Seriously!

I drove back from Gatwick airport on the 30th December. I filled my car before setting out from the airport, and that drive takes pretty much a full tank of petrol. I filled my car for the first time this year yesterday afternoon.

Partly this is because the car park I normally park in for work has shut, and I'm going into work on the bus instead. And also because it's not the rugby season, so I've been staying at home weekends and not going on regular treks across the M62 (or indeed across Europe, which is next weekend's treat).

It almost became a challenge, how long could I go before I put petrol in it and started to use it again. I would run or use the bus at any opportunity to extend my personal record for eeking out a single tank of petrol. As my runs have got longer over the past month I've realised that places I'd only ever driven to aren't actually that far away at all.

So, when I came to start the car yesterday to put some petrol in it in advance of this morning's trip to Manchester Airport to pick my parents up, it wouldn't start. Completely dead. I did wonder for a moment whether I was out of petrol, but I put some petrol in it and it didn't improve matters. It was just a plain old dead battery.

You see, in the past month I've left it sitting on the drive from Monday to Friday, taking it out to the supermarket, about 3 miles away on a saturday or a sunday. I've got so many things planned for evenings these days that don't need a car to get to that I just don't have a reason to move it during the week.

So the battery runs down during the week, and the short trip to the shops at the weekend just isn't enough to recharge the battery properly. Nothing particularly earthshattering about that revelation, I guess. It should be better now, as last weekend was the last time until about November I won't take it on a decent run at the weekend, which should be enough to see it through the week.

But more interesting, I pondered, was that my body is probably exactly the same. Sometimes you don't need rest to refresh you, but a bit of activity or something to do. I know that if I've been away for the weekend spending 2 days trying to do as much as possible, even though I'm physically tired, mentally I couldn't feel more alive. Whereas spending the weekend lazing on the sofa may be easy, but it makes me feel tireder.

And running, too. If I didn't run for a month, or only ran 3 miles twice a week there's no way that my body would be in any sort of condition to attempt anything longer, and it would probably feel sluggish when I started a run too.

I've got a body that can do things that I'm proud of, and I need to keep doing them to be able to say that. I don't want to let those running batteries run down.


So, for that reason I went for a half hour or so run when I got back from picking my parents up from the airport. We come in and they sit down with a cup of tea while I get changed. By the time I get back from my run they've been making bacon sandwiches for themselves and for my sister who's still around until tomorrow. And sausage sandwiches too, as if bacon wasn't enough.

I come back in, about 3.7 miles later, and make myself my healthy fruity porridge, studiously ignoring the smells of fat and grease coming from the kitchen. I really can't believe it, but I don't actually want one. I'd rather have what I ate for breakfast than what they had, and I'm glad I preceded it with a run too.

The reason they're all over is because it was my grandfather's 80th birthday on Friday, so we're going out for a meal with them. They don't know my parents are here, so that's going to be a bit of a surprise (which reminds me - I must call the restaurant to change the booking shortly!). We're going for a chinese, which annoyed me at first. I don't really like chinese food, and neither does my mother, and my sister (who arranged this with them) knows that. I don't like wasting a celebration meal on food that I don't even like. I'll happily go over what I normally eat for something I enjoy, but it just feels pointless when I don't even enjoy it. However, trying to look on the bright side, maybe it means I'll have less temptation to eat everything in sight, and at least at the sort of place where you just take what you want out of dishes placed in the middle of the table I can take less, and eat less without it being made into an issue by other people.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Reformed pie eater, will chug for salad

If there's one way to make yourself feel thin and healthy it's surrounding yourself with 19,000 or so Bradfordians. Not for nothing were they named the fattest city in the UK earlier this week. There was plenty of lard last night in Huddersfield.

My rugby antics have certainly had an effect on my weight over the years. I remember the days when the bar I go in at Wigan home games used to have free pies after the game. I liked pies. A lot. Not for nothing are Wiganers known as pie eaters... (That's what the P start of my user name stands for, by way of illustration) So I'd get there and buy a pie because I was hungry. Then after the game there were free pies so whether I was hungry or not I'd eat another. Or maybe two more. Because Wigan pies were comfort food, something that gave me a sense of belonging and reminded me of half terms spent with my grandparents when I was a child, and reminded me of matches at Central Park, our old ground, and reminded me of trophies won. Plus I liked pies. Meat and potato. Food of the gods. A slightly lower standard of gods than the chocolate gods, but gods all the same.

Even last year when I finally sorted out my eating as well as my fitness, pies were most definitely on the menu. They were no longer free, but still a regular part of my diet. Actually, they weren't that bad, as instead of a full meal (or multiple pies) I'd just have the one and that would do me. So even though it may lack certain nutrients, calorifically it wasn't too bad. It's not like I had pie and chips or a Wigan kebab (three pies on a stick, as the old joke goes*). The pie and a pint were part of the pre-match ritual, and non-negotiable.

The sorry truth is that there isn't really anything on offer that's much healthier than a pie anyway. I've not got detailed nutritional information to compare burgers and hot dogs and pies and chips and bacon sandwiches, but they all really fall within the single category. CRAP. It's not like there's a juice stand or a salad bar to go to, it's takeaway rubbish or nothing. Did I need any more excuse than that to keep eating it?

I often wonder about the mentality that says people go to watch sport and want to eat rubbish while they're there, as though by the act of watching sport, the calories get burned off miraculously by the team of their choice. You can sit there on your fat arse stuffing burgers into your face, but as long as you're watching something healthy it's not so bad. Because watching sport is so close to doing it yourself. Obviously.

I'm changing though. Over the two months since I last watched a match I've not touched a pie (actually, I hadn't for a while before that at the last few matches of last year). I've not found myself looking forward to the start of the season for my first pie of the year, I'd even forgotten that ritual Friday night pie consumption used to be one of the highlights of the week.

Last night I ended up going to a game I hadn't been planning to go to until yesterday. The charity bloke I've been talking about over the past week or so may be a bit of an arsehole at times but he can get you into big games on a ticket for chugging basis, and I fancied going to the game as long as I could get in for free, so I decided to give it a go. There were a couple of people I wanted to meet up with going anyway, and you can't beat a free ticket really. But that threw my carefully planned menu for the week out of the window.

They sell pies at Huddersfield. They're not bad ones either, from memory. And they didn't harm my weight loss particularly. But I didn't fancy one. I wanted something with nutrients and vegetables and goodness.

So after an hour and a half of bucket rattling (wearing a t-shirt which confirmed my shrinkage. There were days when I wouldn't have volunteered for fear they wouldn't have a t-shirt to fit. Yesterday I was wearing a t-shirt, a jumper and a jacket. I then put a t-shirt on over it, and it was baggy. The t-shirt was large (the smallest they'd brought, assuming people would be wearing clothes under). I used to wear at least extra large without anything underneath. And it was tight) I got into the game and sat down to eat.

Which explains why, as everyone around me tucked into pies and burgers and hot dogs and downed pints I got a tuna**, spinach and bean M&S salad out of my bag and tucked in. And some grapes. And some sparkling water. I may be back at the rugby, but I'm not going back to Fatsville. A pie eater who doesn't eat pies. Whatever next?

*There are many Wigan pie jokes. For example, how do you know when a Wigan girl has an orgasm? She drops her pie.

**I don't mind this salad, so I'm trying to eat it every couple of weeks or so to get me used to tuna before taking the next step on the great fish discovery of 2006 plan.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

From disaster, triumph

I knew there was another reason I wasn't looking forward to my sister coming. Not content with cooking bacon in my kitchen, she's now stealing my clothes.

OK, OK. Her clothes.

You see, I've lost a lot of weight (NEWSFLASH!). That has meant that I have effectively needed to buy a whole new wardrobe including things like a winter coat. Last winter I was a size 22. This winter I've mainly been a 14. There is no way I was wearing the old one. And coats are pricey, or at least thick, longish ones are.

I was just about to give in to the inevitable when, by a stroke of luck, I went in the spare room, opened the wardrobe and realised that, having become a size 14 I was the same size as my sister. And that by a further stroke of luck she'd left all her winter clothes at my house, because she doesn't need them in Gran Canaria. That was a very happy day for my bank account. I rummaged through all her clothes and retrieved jeans, jumpers, a suit and most welcome of all a smart thick coat that was ideal for work.

She knew, by the way. My mother tipped her off and the message that I got back was that the stuff she'd left here was stuff she didn't want, and it was fine for me to wear it.

Oh, how I wore that coat. It has kept me warm for many long months now, and I'd started to forget that it wasn't mine.

Until this morning, when the phone rang.

"I've found the detachable collar from my black coat but can't find the coat. Do you know where it is". Ah, that would be the black coat on the back of my office door, would it? "I was thinking of taking it up to Middlesborough tomorrow and then back to Spain with me". Ah, that would be the black coat that I rely on to keep me warm 5 days a week when I'm shivering waiting for the 6.28am bus to the gym.

This could be a slight problem.

There was only one answer. There's only ever one answer. Go shopping. Luckily I managed to find a replacement in the Next clearance shop for half price (it was meant to be £99.99 and was reduced to £48). More than I wanted to spend on a coat (ie nothing), but relatively cheap for a thick wool coat I suppose. And by rights I should have bought one in October, so at least I've delayed the inevitable by a few months.

And the coat has one redeeming feature, which makes it instantly buyable. It's a size 12 (US 8). Take your 14 to Spain, Annette, see if I care. I'll just be here wearing a smaller size. (That old sibling rivalry thing never really goes away does it!)

(The 12 on the label also reassures me about buying a thick coat at this time of year. I'm not a proper, consistent 12 at the moment, although the coat does fit. Sometimes I still need a 14. It is fairly likely I'll get to be a proper 12 at some point, but I don't know whether I'll go beyond that. But even if I do I find the thought of being smaller than a 10 inconceivable. Actually, I still find the thought of being a 10 inconceivable. So even if I do lose more weight, I doubt it will be enough to mean that the coat swamps me next winter, so I'll hopefully get more than a couple of months wear out of it).