Stick with it

I’d hit a plateau with weight loss and had thought that was it, I was at my ideal ‘forever’ weight. I blogged about it recently (read about it here) and how I felt about plateaus but I’ve had a little shift beyond now so maybe I’m just at a point where weight loss is going to be very very slow. I’ve never known what that was like before, being so overweight and never coming close to a normal weight meant I’ve always seen good weight loss progress if I’ve stuck to a diet. The only time I did get slim was not my choice and so that one doesn’t count.

I have learned something about me and my whole journey through this plateau though, I’ve learned that the way I eat and exercise now has truly become a way of life for me. I’ve also learned that I wasn’t fully convinced of that or the need for that before I got to this point. I thought I was, but I wasn’t.

I’ve always known and I’ve mentioned in umpteen blogs how this is not a journey to an ideal weight but a journey for life, that I will always be on and I thought I had my head around that but when I got to near goal and to this plateau phase which made me think I was at goal I realised that I wasn’t prepared for a lifetime of this at all. Whether it was some emotional thing in my brain, a previously set trigger which told me “it’s done now eat cake” or what it was I don’t know but I found myself really craving crap food and I mean craving as in to the point of distraction. At first I wasn’t sure what it was and then I realised that it had a direct co-relation to me accepting I was ‘done’, I’d made it. The self destructive demon in my head sprang back to life when it heard that news and decided to make me change it all around, reverse all of the good I’d done and head back to Fatsville and boy did that demon find some power from somewhere. It’s as if it’s fueled by my emotional reliance on food, it’s energised by my self doubt and this innate need to destroy myself. I’d kept it at bay for a long time but as soon as I was where I wanted to be it rose up and hit me hard. As if success wasn’t something I had a right to. I have to delve into that I think.

MindPowerI don’t suppose I’ll ever understand the mind of a fat person and I am one. How we expect other people to understand I don’t know. I understand a lot and I understand more but I just don’t get what it is that made this happen. I fought against it and it was hard I will not lie. This is a real, true addiction, make no mistake. I don’t imagine it could have torn me apart any more  if it had been an addiction to alcohol or drugs that I was facing and it was far worse than anything I faced when I quit smoking. It took over my mind mentally and my stomach physically. I’ve never felt so empty in my stomach after food, it has actually been painful and I’m not exaggerating. I have felt so sad, so low of mood, so stressed and all because of this internal fight to resist bad food. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? To anyone who doesn’t know what a food addiction is or who believes food addiction is not real they would think I’m insane or making it up to cover for the fact that underneath it all I’m just a greedy person. But it is real.

Anyway, I’ve done it, I’ve battled and won again, for now. It took a while but I resisted and the urges have subsided again. The only way to win was to just keep self counselling, keep telling myself why I couldn’t binge on chocolate and crisps and biscuits and cakes and sweets and to distract myself with other things, keep on eating healthily, keep on exercising and now and then throw in a treat to satisfy the urges. That organic chocolate has come in really handy.

I really thought I’d seen the last of those pangs, I really thought I’d dealt with the emotional issues but now I believe that this really is a forever fight for me. That beast that wants to make me fat is going to come back time and time again and I’m going to have to beat it back down time and time again. Even though it’s been hard and I’ve not been the best person to live with and there have been tears shed over that because I felt so guilty for snapping at times and for retreating at others, even in spite of that I am grateful for this experience because it has taught me what I thought I always knew and that is that these really are forever changes and this is a forever battle. It is a journey that can never ‘end’. It doesn’t stop, it isn’t over and even though it feels like a way of life, even though it feels easy, there will be times when it really isn’t easy and when I’m reminded that the new way of life is just that, a new way which has 40 odd years of the old way lying underneath the surface and only time will put distance between those two ways of life.

It’s so important not to slip back into bad habits and to hold fast, it’s so hard to do but so important. I don’t want to be fat again and if I’m going to have to face a week or so of miserable struggle now and then to make sure that doesn’t happen then so be it. I know people say “I’d rather be happy than slim” but I really really am happy slim and I’m happy fit and healthy and if I have to trade that off for a once in a while bad mood while I’m in the clutches of the fat demon then so be it, it’s a good trade off. I would rather this than be miserable all of the time and being fat made me miserable, not because I was influenced by media or I wanted to be attractive to men or any of that, but because I didn’t feel I was getting the best out of my life or giving the best to my loved ones and I felt I was letting them and myself down.

This is a hard thing to do make no mistake changing habits is a tough call but with the right attitude it’s possible and with the right people supporting you. Nick and my son have been through the ringer this past week or so as I’ve struggled with this but they have never stopped loving and supporting me and helping me to come out the other side.

We’re all going away for a family holiday for half term and we’ve managed to get all of the kids together with us which is fabulous and rare these days. So good times are back and better ones are ahead, the sun screen is in the case along with the bikinis that I only ever dreamed of wearing. Holiday report will be forthcoming.

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The Downside of Losing Weight

Having a comment chat the other day with Tony from  One Regular Guy… blog  (have a read it’s good for anyone not just guys and not just people trying to lose weight) we mentioned some of the downsides of weight loss. Now not wanting to put anyone off losing weight at all, because we agreed there is no downside which compares to the upside of having a waist line reduced by inches, but there are a few things that you might want to get to grips with so you’re not so shocked when/if they happen.

It also keeps us grounded in the knowledge that for every good thing there could be a bad thing just waiting to smack us in the face… total unequivocal happiness and satisfaction may not be as easy to come by as we think and losing weight is not going to take all of our stresses away.

The first one we mentioned was temperature control. Remember when we were huge and we lolled around all summer sweating, wishing we had the nerve to wear barely anything, wishing we had the nerve to strip off and dive in a lake or pool (high five to those who just did it anyway), remember those days when we lay under a ceiling fan or hid out in air conditioned rooms as our fat added layers to insulate our bodies which on the upside also kept us warm in the winter? Well when that weight has gone, when the insulation is no more, summer is so much easier, having fewer creases and rolls is more comfortable (less places for sweat to gather) and less chunkiness rubbing on chunkiness causing sores and chaffing. Gosh I have been lucky that my legs were never really very big but even so I’ve had the odd summer where my inner thighs have blistered and bled from friction, and not of the fun gained type either, just walking.

So summer is easier BUT winter is a beast. You will feel sooooooo cold on your first winter and maybe beyond as your body really is shocked by the exposure no longer padded and insulated by all of that fat. If you struggle to lose weight in the winter (I used to) count your lucky stars here because you’re delaying the pain of freezing temperatures. We had a mild winter here this year but even so my heating bill was higher than last year all because I was totally freezing all of the time!

Another thing I’ve noticed is that sitting on a hard chair or bench is sooooo painful. I feel like I’m sitting on metal bars. It took me a while to even figure what it was, I thought the discomfort came from strained butt muscles but eventually realised I had so much less padding on my posterior now and sitting down for a skinny bum is really not comfortable, how do people cope? I’ve yet to find it comfortable and wonder if I ever will. So if you have stubborn bum fat, don’t worry, leave it there, when it’s gone you will know about it.

Saggy skin is another thing, I’ve not got any yet apart from tops of my arms but that’s not even bad. This section kind of covers more than that though, when you lose weight you can become hyper critical of your body in a whole new way. I have to remind myself when I look int he mirror at my naked self or in my underwear just what I was seeing in that mirror a year ago. It becomes too easy to obsess with body parts, to look at your floppy arms or podgy belly or dimpled thighs or reduced bust or whatever it is and hate it. It’s really bad to start hating your new body, it is. You have to remind yourself where it’s come from, how hard you have worked, how much better your feel and how a saggy bum or a few stretchmarks or boobs that only have a clevage in a bra are really not the end of the world.

It is hard to achieve perfection and what is perfection anyway? Who has a perfect body? Even if you can name someone who in your opinion does have a perfect body if you tell them that they’ll say “Oh no, my bum is too big… my boobs are too small… I have awful feet”. We have to get away from looking at our bodies on the outside and thinking of how they are thriving on the inside. It can be a really really bad downside of losing weight when you start to obsess with things about your body you can not change, OK so some you can change with diet exercise, even surgery but don’t let anything detract from the amazing accomplishment you have made to shed weight in the first place, don’t forget how much better your body is functioning on the inside. Don’t depress yourself because you’ll wind up eating again and risk getting fat again and you’re not going to be happy if everything you’ve done was reversed and we know how fast it can be reversed. When I look at myself in the mirror I suck in and posture and say “Hell yeah, you’re looking amazing, look at those slim ankles, look at that glowing skin, look at that thick shiny hair, look at those gorgeous pearly teeth, look at your slender sophisticated hands, look at the you that was hiding under all of that fat” and I slap my still slightly wobbly bum and turn that to the mirror.

Another downside is people’s comments about your size. This is a real downside. It’s like when you’re pregnant and people feel they have a right to say “Aren’t you massive?” or to touch you without asking first. It happens when you’ve lost weight. It’s like you trade the insults and jokes about your weight from people you didn’t know for constant comments from people you do know. People suddenly feel they have a right to ask a lady her weight, her dress size, how much she’s lost, when she’s going to stop and to comment with things like “you need to stop now, you’ve lost enough now, you’re looking ill, you don’t look like you anymore” and let’s just forget the ones who say behind your back “she’ll put it back on in a year she always does”… those ones need a swift jab in the eyes.

Nobody cares about anything else anymore, all they want to know is how much you lost and how, some of them want you to write them a diet plan, some want you to cook for them, some to come and steal your trainer sessions, you become weight loss guru and they either put you on a pedestal or they can’t cope with the threat of the new you and abandon you like trash. I think this is why I’ve kind of migrated towards relationships with my friends who are also trying to change their lives, either through weight loss or anything else, learning new skills, retraining, finding new jobs, exercising more.. these friends get me and don’t talk to me all the time about losing weight. We mention it but it’s not ALL we talk about and it’s not the first thing we talk about when we see one another. It’s at the point now where I dread seeing anyone I know who hasn’t seen me in a while I just know the first thing they’ll say is “Haven’t you lost weight? Oh gosh I didn’t recognise you” and I’ll have to retort with “Well you did otherwise you’d not have screamed my name across the supermarket so that everyone in here turned to look at me”. You just wish that once in a while someone you know would see you and say “How are you and the kids doing?” just like the old days when they didn’t say “Hi, aren’t you fatter than last time I saw you?” or “So I see you’re still massive then”

The other downside is that guys think you’re hot, everywhere you go guys are chasing you down, throwing flowers at your feet, sending facebook requests – you are in demand. Well not quite, for some maybe but you do notice that single guys you’ve maybe known a while suddenly see a photo of you someone tagged on FB (I hate that) and next thing you get a message asking if you’re doing anything Saturday and you have to send  back a message saying “Yes I’m on a date with my beautiful boyfriend who had the foresight to ask me out before I cross trained my way off the fat bench”.

The other problem closely related to this is your girlfriends suddenly see you as hot too and they panic whenever you are around their men folk. You are no longer the safe fat mate who they can take anywhere or who they can leave alone with their man or who they take along  just to make themselves feel thinner. What do they call it? The DUFF… dull ugly fat friend… seriously slim people see us fat people like that and whats worse we didn’t even realise it until we lost weight, we thought they were really our friends. This isn’t some juvenile only thing, this happens with middle aged women too, there are bitches alive and kicking out there at all ages. I really hate this one though, it’s like your friends, people you called FRIEND think that because you’ve lost 150 pounds you want to destroy their marriage or suddenly you find their whimpy boring idiot husband remotely attractive. Harsh? You bet I am! This is so upsetting when it happens. It suddenly becomes your fault that their husband says to them that you look good even when you’re miles away, or he says that maybe they should think about getting in shape again.

That is not your fault and don’t you dare feel guilty about it if it happens to you because that shit is not your fault. If your friend stops inviting you over or wants to kill you because their husband who they insisted you add on facebook while you were fat happens to like a picture of you now you’re not… even if it’s a picture you didn’t put there, it is her fault, his fault, anyone’s fault but yours. Sadly to some of your friends you will become the biggest flirty ho bag ever to walk the Earth because you lost some weight and got in shape and even if you have a lovely man in your life, that doesn’t exclude you from your expulsion from friendship groups. Sometimes I wish Nick would just hurry up and propose so that these idiots see us as more official and stop worrying. But then I don’t see why he should be rushed into something he’s clearly waiting for a very special time for (pft) by people who hate me because I’ve lost some weight. Oh yeah, because I also forget that as soon as  you lose weight, another downside,  you suddenly lose all of your morals and become a marriage wrecker and your years of friendship mean nothing and yes, you really can not keep your pants up for more than ten minutes. Upside of this, Christmas list shrinks and birthday calendar frees up some slots and when the wedding does come… Nick reads this so I’m told so excuse me a second while I get needy with the hints… ring, diamonds, ring, proposal, waiting, only joking when I said I wouldn’t do it again.

Honestly we went to a former colleague’s house for dinner a few nights ago and we both could feel the tension. Every time her husband, who I’ve known longer than I’ve known her, laughed at something I said we could feel the draft from her kicking him under the table. It’s not even flattering, years ago the bitch in me would have played on it and had him eating strawberries out of my cleavage but now I’m mature I can’t be bothered and my dresses are more expensive. I just find it very sad and very disappointing that my friend pool is diminishing at a time when it should be expanding as I become more social. But then it’s not diminishing because I have better quality friends now, I know who the real ones are and I also have met lots of lovely new ones through my activities so that’s not such a bad thing, we don’t need negative people in our lives do we?

On that note I shall say keep on going or start going if you are losing or wanting to lose weight. The downsides are few compared to the masses of positive effects, the longer life being the best one, the non irritable bowel, the lack of heartburn, the unswollen liver, nice clear wee, solid sleep, energy, flexibility, mental alertness, even my memory has improved, better hair, better skin, better nails, better teeth, reduced blood pressure, reduced water retention, reduced risk of diabetes reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, increased libido, cheaper clothes, being able to get out of the bath, being able to do a home pedi, knowing if you’re ready for a bikini wax without using your selfie camera… OK so that last one was  TMI but don’t not lose weight because of the downsides just prepare yourself to deal with them, some of them can really piss you off.

Back to Earth

What a lovely weekend, I’ve been well and truly chilled out. I was treated to a special get away to Berlin. Not the typically romantic first choice city of love like the Paris we probably flew over but my, what a fantastic city! I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to visit and ‘someone’ had found this out and planned a very nice Valentine’s weekend getaway.

Lots of walking and exploring in bracing cold weather with a luxury spa at the hotel to warm back up in. Let it be said that the spa which we had virtually to ourselves all weekend, was well used. I love spas. The further I get along this ‘new me’ road the more I value relaxation as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and I really do love mineral soaks in fab pools and steam rooms to sweat out some toxins. I feel wholly refreshed and ready to face a busy work period.

The weekend involved quite a bit of champagne and I indulged not only in some fabulous chocolates (just a couple, as I always say if you’re going to go for a treat savour quality over quantity) but the real indulgence was delicious chocolate mousse. I love, love, love chocolate mousse especially a good ultra rich home made one and the hotel we stayed in had a fabulous one on the menu which I sampled on the first evening and just had to revisit on the second evening. Delicious and without a doubt up there with my three favourites of all time.

So that I didn’t over indulge we ordered a fruit dessert and a chocolate mousse so we could share and I’m glad we did as the portion was quite generous and even though I would have loved to eat the lot I was happy to half and half with Nick. The fruit salad contained lots of fresh pineapple which I love to eat with chocolate mousse anyway so I was in fruity chocco heaven.

I’d recommend this as a tactic when dining with someone else in a place where you’re not sure about the portion size. If it’s a meager portion you can just chomp down the lot but if it’s a large one you can share and balance out with shared fruit too. I have eaten in places where I’ve asked to see a portion before ordering and usually they are quite happy to show you or another tactic if you don’t want to do that is to check out desserts if possible when ordering your starter or main and then keep an eye out around the restaurant for someone being served a portion of what you fancy.

I have to do this because I’m a glutton and when I’m eating something I really like (ie anything really fattening and far from nutritionally beneficial) I just have no cut off, I can still down a family sized mousse even if I’m full up. So portion size is something I’m slowly but surely working on training myself to get a grip with although I must say that I do tend to have smaller portions now without really thinking about it sometimes.. not when it comes to mousse though. If a large portion was put in front of me I’d eat it, I have no self control so it’s good for me to be vigilant and check out sizes before I order or to just ask for a half portion when ordering or plan to share.

I love to eat something that’s on my ‘save for special occasions’ list. I really do enjoy those treats far more now they come rarely as opposed to many times a day as they used to, so more reason to keep delicious things in reserve.

I did offset some of what I consumed by having a morning work out in the well equipped gym and I did a few lengths of the hotel pool each day.

I know that in my blog I focus on my diet and exercise when I go anywhere but really I don’t make it a big deal when it is happening. I just blog about how I deal with the difficult times when my fat demon is more difficult to keep a leash on and temptation to go back to old ways is all around me because it helps me to reinforce that positive behaviour in myself. My tactics are very subtle in reality and I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that I’m eating healthily after all many many people are doing the same and have been for many years and I just want to be one of those ordinary people who make good choices as a matter of course but at the moment I am still conscious of that thought process which helps me keep my inner glutton in check.

I thought I might have had a proposal to blog about today but it didn’t happen. I did joke to Nick on Sunday that I’d not found the ring yet so he’d better just give it to me and he laughed, reminding me of the last time he’d mentioned marriage and how that had made him put the idea on the back burner. He said that now he knows the water may not be as frosty as he thought he might be encouraged to dive in at some point but promised it would be when I least expect it and not predictably on Valentine’s Day. At least I don’t have to wait a year then 😉

He asked if i was disappointed and of course I’m not, I know we’ll get married at some point and besides, as I said to him “Not at all, you have to take me away somewhere lovely again now”

Weight Loss Up Date… 124 pounds of fat naturally shed for good

I’ve finally managed to get to a point where I really do let weeks and weeks go by without getting on the scale. This has been a goal for a couple of reasons:

1. I know my weight loss is slowing and I don’t want anything to dishearten me so the longer I leave it the bigger surprise I get which spurs me on. This will only work if you are 100% honest with yourself and as a person who struggles with obesity and over eating I can own up and say that I know I was always lying to myself about what I ate so don’t think you’re alone, I’m sure we all do it. If you know that you are going off the rails then get weighed more often maybe to give yourself the shock to get back on track. I know I’m eating super healthily and exercising lots 99% of the time so I know I’m not going to be gaining fat so I’m happy to leave the scale alone.

2. I don’t want to be a slave to the scales. I want my journey primarily to be about how I feel, my lifestyle improvements and how healthy and fit I am and not focusing on my size or weight alone. So weight isn’t something I need to check constantly although it is of course the indicator which will show progress and which will get you into the desired blasted BMI bracket which your doctor, insurance company, company nurse will use to assess your ‘health’ in terms of your weight to height ratio. Like it or not and I don’t, that BMI figure is used to judge us and so we may as well try to comply, it’s a measure if nothing else.

I envy people who can totally set themselves free from the scales and use measurements of body parts instead as a guide, or clothes sizes or whatever but I do need to see those numbers I’ll admit it but I’m able to prioritise it less and less in terms of importance to me. But having said that I do like to be able to visualise my progress statistically and mounting numbers is a good way to do that.

Anyway I’ve gone over a month again without stepping on a scale and weighed in today after my training session. Before I do the reveal, I have to tell you it was a really tough session – gruelling, sweat tears and almost blood as we stepped outside onto the beach today and I ran up and down the sea defence wall 4 times [remember when my goal was to be able to walk to the top??] and I lost my footing on the final descent and tumbled to the bottom… fortunately only from two steps up. I’m fine though, fortunately I was so wrapped up against the winter chill that I think I bounced on layers of fleece and wool. Darren my PT laughed when I turned up and insisted that I went through my layers to show him what I was wearing. I unzipped the first fleece top and revealed a big chunky knit bobble hat under the hood after I’d unwound ten layers of self crocheted scarf and two pairs of gloves. Under that I had two sweat shirts and two pairs of sweat pants, 2 pairs of socks, a tee shirt and leggings and a base layer over my thermal underwear which was over my control pants and sports bra. I kid you not, this is the North Sea we’re talking about, it’s February, the sun wasn’t even up, I was taking no chances even though movement was slightly inhibited. I had to shift some rocks today… that’s what Darren does to me he has me rearranging whatever nature deposited on the beach often.

I weighed when I got back to the gym with Darren (who incidentally wants to see my weight loss in pounds periodically for his records) and found I have lost a total of 124lbs almost 9 stones now with a loss since last weigh in at the beginning of January of 7lbs. That translates internationally to give me a current weight of:

15 stones 13 pounds  OR     223 lbs    OR     101.15 kgs

I am close to some goals here – next weigh in should see me through that 9 stone mark and under 100 kgs. I am at my lowest weight now for over 15 years which is the most important thing to me.

Tracey has now lost 17 chunks and next weigh in should be another piece gone, leaving just two before I can wave goodbye to her forever. If you don’t know Tracey she’s my visual goal of ten stones which I set when I started this journey in April 2014. There is not much of her left now unfortunately, she’s been like a buddy through this, a buddy I wanted to shake off but will miss dreadfully. I might have to create a mini Tracey to carry in my wallet just to remind me of her. When Tracey has gone of course I will also no longer be obese in terms of BMI so she is a hugely significant goal for me. When she’s gone I’ll just be over weight with a nice steady paced journey ahead to become ‘normal’ and then a long, steady road always taking me away from being a fat person. I can’t wait to be able to start that journey of maintenance although really, if you’re doing this with healthy diet and exercise and making real lifestyle changes you are already on that journey anyway.

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Tracey as she was
Tracey now
Tracey now

Lose weight by knitting a scarf… incredible but true

Today it may be Friday 13th but things are looking good chez moi. We are heading towards the end of a very productive week. I got a chance to do some teaching which will always be my first love, I did tons and tons of crafting for valentines orders and got to design a couple of unique soft furnishing novelty pieces which was super fab. Creativity is really flowing. My princess was home and she got involved and created some amazing pieces of artwork which shocked even her. She’s a very logical person and likes order and deals in facts so imagined she didn’t really  have much in the way of creativity in her but when she sat in the craft room with some canvasses and paints and a variety of innovative tools, which incidentally she made herself to create different effects, and armed with scissors a craft knife and some card to make templates she produced some beautiful, simplistic pieces which I’m going to stick up for sale in my store as well as use for backdrops for some paper art projects I’ve got underway.

It just goes to show that given the opportunity even people with little artistic ability can find some flowing and also we had a great time working together. Crafting is super relaxing and it is amazing how long you can spend working on a project without ever giving a second thought to food… remember what I’ve said before about distraction and diversion techniques to keep your mind off food… crafting is a great one to use. It’s also wonderful to create something with that time rather than destroy some more cells and your self esteem by cramming a tin of biscuits down your throat. I know which I’ve come to prefer.

I maintain that for me food cravings were just that, self destructive impulses driven by everything BUT hunger. If you are eating 3 good meals a day starting with a really nourishing wholesome healthy breakast and if you have a couple of drinks and fruit snacks during the day and if you drink at least 2 litres of water a day you will not be hungry, even less to the point where you need to munch on several cakes, that isn’t hunger it is a compulsion, a destructive compulsion. Beating that compulsion by diverting your attention elsewhere WILL see you lost some weight and feel better. If you then combine that with healthy meals and some movement you’ll lose even more weight. Don’t battle the craving by sitting and having a mental fight with it, get it out of your mind by focusing on something else. It really does work and is the best advice I could ever give an over eater based on my own experience.

So, craft! It’s fun and who would have thought that knitting or crocheting or painting or sewing or stenciling or paper craft could make you lose weight? It’s amazing when you consider it like that. So go on get out some needles or a crochet hook and knit a scarf. In fact, why not create yourself a visual record of beating your addiction to bad food and each time you feel a craving coming on grab your project and do a bit more, change colours each time and as you see that scarf or blanket or whatever you’re making grow you will see how much progress you’ve made towards a healthier you and to beating that addiction.

Start today, you don’t need expensive materials.

I’ve gone a step further and in my craft room I have now installed a motorised treadmill which I bought second hand for the amazing bargain price of ten pounds! It’s an amazing beast of a treadmill too and would have been sturdy enough even for the 300+ pound me of last year. When I’m crafting and feel a little bit stiff or need a break I get up, grab a big glass of water and I either go for a fast steep inclined walk or a crafty jog just for a few minutes, 15 max (I can’t jog for that long so that would be combined walk and jog) then I jump off and crack back on with my work. You don’t need a treadmill in your craft room or a craft room come to that, you can bounce up and dance for a few minutes, jog on the spot, do some star jumps, lunges, burpees or whatever.

Too much of a good thing

My friend who is doing very well with her weight loss and exercise efforts has been leaning on me for advice and support. I like that she is addressing her issues but at the same time I very much think this whole thing is a very unique experience. I don’t think one size fits all. We can share tips and thoughts, recipes and motivation and I’m so glad that so many people do, but at the end of the day it all comes down to us, just the me, myself and I approach. I’m trying to not discourage her by encouraging her to try things for herself and not simply do exactly as I’ve done, purely because I think that is the only sure way to long term sustainable healthy lifestyle changes. It’s a little bit tricky to manage without dampening her enthusiasm.

I’m wondering if part of me doesn’t want to be held up as some kind of mogul because I’m deep down worried that I might fall off this wagon at some point, or if on the contrary, I’m deep down worried because I know that being her inspiration might make it impossible for me to wobble off the wagon… I don’t do enforcement and backed into corners very well. I’ve asked myself these questions and I truly believe that it’s none of that (I’m flashing forward now a year to when I blog about the pressure of being someone’s weight loss idol leading me back to fat and although I’m saying that flippantly my inner laughter is not too convincing), so strike ‘truly believe’ and replace with I really think that… it’s just because I want her to go on her journey not mine. She’s looking for herself and I’m looking for myself so even though I love to support and encourage her I don’t think it’s wise for her to do exactly as I’ve done.

I’ve realised in this past ten months that there are so many reasons why obesity happens and so many reasons why it can be difficult to live with and that our bodies and minds are so different, we have different abilities, different ways of storing fat, different tolerances to foods, different sleep patterns, different energy levels  not to mention different interests… we’re unique. So what works for me might not work for anyone else in the whole world or it could work for a few people or a lot of people but the important thing is that it works for me and the even more important thing is we all find what works for us and not just for now, but what will work for us long term.

If we are longing for a day when we can stuff our face and gorge out on crap like we used to do then we’re not doing it right and we’re not going to succeed long term or at least we’re going to struggle more and more. I’d say we can all do that now, right now, nothing really is stopping us from stuffing our faces if we fancy it but what we’re doing and what the key to this is, is training ourselves, or re-training ourselves not to do it. While we’re doing that we’re also training ourselves to make that a conscious choice which becomes easier and easier to make over time. We’re establishing new habits and that takes time and small steps.

My friend is eager to just copy the lifestyle I have now and I keep on telling her that’s not how it happened. I didn’t wake up last April and do what I do today, heck I didn’t wake up today and do what I did last month, it is a gradual process of trial and error with food and exercise and also a big deep delve into my emotional issues, which are personal to me. There may be similarities but none of us have experienced exactly the same lives, even twins brought up in the same house with the same people at the same time don’t experience exactly the same lives because if nothing else they think differently.

All of this for me is an ongoing process and always will be, there is no end. The way I live my life healthily will change as I age, as I move geographically as what I do for a living changes, there are so many variables ahead that I know of not to mention the ones I don’t.  It took lots of researching and reading and talking and listening to get here and I’m not some kind of pioneer who has done it all so everyone else can follow. I’m not fat Moses who parted the sea of lard and sugar so all fat folk could run through to Slimsville, I so wish I had done that because I know how tough it is wading through that sea and I’d love to make it easier for everyone, but I know that we all have our own sea to wade through and although people can help and inspire, cheer us on from the banks and shores and even wade along with us for parts of the crossing, it’s something we have to do for ourselves. I see myself as one of those people who is a little bit further through the sea than some people, a lot further through than others, I see myself as someone beckoning them on, cheering and shouting and waving and willing them to keep on going. But I’m also mindful that there are people ahead of me who are doing the same for me and those behind me give me a push too but ultimately I have to wade through it, there is nobody coming to lift me up and carry me over this, it’s my battle to not be one of the ones who was ahead and has now fallen behind or who never got far from the shore.

Just as our lives are a unique experience, so too are many of the micro journeys we take as we pass through this mortality of ours and living those experiences, learning from them, stumbling and falling and getting back up again are the things which make us learn, grow and succeed in the long term. This journey is one where bad old habits and associations with food are examined, understood and controlled and new healthier habits and associations are put in their place. It’s taken me years and years to develop all of the bad habits which made me weigh over 300lbs how can I expect to change everything forever in just ten months? But I can change it day by day and so can anyone else but right now might not be their time, I’ve waited 47 years for this time to come, just like I waited 19 years for the feeling that smoking was something I never wanted to do again to come. When it hits you, you know it and its up to us to recognise and go with it and if it was a Braxton Hicks type false alarm preparation which only served to lose us a few pounds or make a tiny lifestyle change in preparation for the big labour to come then so be it. But I don’t think my journey can be mapped onto someone else’s life step by step, there are lessons and tips and triumphs and thoughts and facts to share and I do that gladly but I don’t put myself out there as a weight loss guru, even though I’m perhaps better equipped than some who make a lot of money out of some very unhappy people. I couldn’t do that ever because I know it doesn’t work, my pushing 400lbs self of last April knew that and she hasn’t lost her memory along with all of those pounds. So many people stop me and ask how I did it, I’ve heard on the rumour mill that I had a gastric band, which upsets me as I’m looking way way too healthy to have gone down that route. I don’t knock it if it works for people then great but my friends who have had one look very sallow and unwell and some are left with life long conditions which I would never want to risk. I’m not about replacing one illness with another, I want to be healthy not just slim.

This is one thing we are more than allowed to be selfish with and I really advocate digging into ourselves and finding out why we do this to ourselves, why we have a problem with overeating, why we are often paralysed into inactivity and why we stuff ourselves to sickness with food when we’re not even hungry. Something in our minds, either superficial or deep within flicks a switch and sees us descend into an unhealthy misery of fat and more fat. That switch has been flicked on for years and years and we need to find what it is that operates our own personal switch, be honest and open with ourselves and get to the bottom of this issue, this condition, this illness and I believe only then can we truly start to soar and leave not just our fat bodies behind but our fat mentality too and that is so very personal and so painstaking to do and it doesn’t all just drop off like an unbuttoned coat, it is something we have to wriggle out of, like we’re shedding a skin and it takes time and manipulation and a calm approach with some frantic flailing at times. It’s not easy. When people ask me how I’ve done this I say “I’m not done, I’ll always be fighting obesity and this is a start which has been very, very tough but I’m getting there by eating healthily and moving a lot and getting to understand and love myself, God willing I will carry on with it forever.”

We’re all different we have to remember that and this is where so many weight loss plans go wrong and ultimately fail (I know there are long term successes but don’t we all know more people who regained weight than stayed slender and healthy?). Mass marketed plans are aimed at everyone who is fat, whether that’s someone who feels fat and wants to lose 7lbs to get in to a bikini for holiday or someone who is super morbidly obese who hasn’t left their couch for 5 years, they cater for someone who gained 10lbs over Christmas and someone who gained 300 pounds over a lifetime of masked pain. The problems are different, the people are different, the underlying causes may be very different and so the treatment needs to be different and for those with the real weight ‘problem’ there needs to be a holistic approach for success, but even that has to come at the right time when there is something in the head of the obese person shouting out loud and clear “the time is now” and we all know that feeling. I’ve certainly heard that voice in my head so many times and I never want to hear it again, or perhaps I never want to stop hearing it again. Thankfully more and more doctors and health care professionals are understanding obesity and the holistic approach.

Anyway, I’ve digressed… what I was supposed to be writing about was how my friend showed me today that she’s taking a whole stack of vitamin supplements. We’d been for a bike ride (a good example of cheering each other on through the journey) and we went to her house for a stretch out and some much needed water, I stupidly forgot my bottle, I usually sip on a good half litre on a moderate ride in the cold so I was feeling the dehydration. When she sat down at the kitchen table to drink her water she plonked a big plastic container down and peeled off the lid and proceeded to open bottle after bottle and tip a tablet or capsule out of each one onto the table. I asked her what they were and she said they were her vitamins and minerals. I picked up a couple of bottles, iron, zinc, magnesium, St Johns Wort, evening primrose oil, cod liver oil, garlic capsulres, selenium, two different multi vitamins including a menopausal concoction, extra vitamin B6, ginko…. I could go on.

I asked why she was taking them all and she said to make sure she gets her RDA of everything and then I asked her what she was planning on eating today and what she ate yesterday and I told her that while I’m not doctor or nutritionist I’m pretty sure that there is such a thing as overdosing on vitamins and minerals and that perhaps it was a better idea to trust that her new healthy diet was giving her all that her body needed in a more natural way. This led to her looking up iron overdosing, potassium overdosing and all manner of overdosing and we discovered some pretty ghastly consequences which scared both of us to be honest.

I’ve always relied on my diet to provide me with everything I need to nourish, maintain and repair my body and feel that I’ve got a nice internal balance going on, demonstrated by how healthy I feel and look and how well all of my bodily functions are occurring and I urged her to do the same. That was backed up by sound advice from experts (always check sources of online information for quality) that a good healthy balanced diet with oily fish and or pulses, grains, seeds and nuts a range of vegetables and fruits from the colour spectrum, a good mix of raw and cooked, well washed, organic if possible, home grown if possible all washed down with lots of water and a spattering of dairy and that should make sure that over the course of a week we get everything we need especially when we throw in plenty of herbs and spices too. We don’t have to eat the spectrum every day or down a bucket load of mixed berries each evening but as long as we get to the end of a week and find we’ve planned in and carried out the consumption of a hand full of each two or three times a week at least then we’re pretty much guaranteed that we covered all bases and got in everything our body needs.

We have to consider that our bodies need the vitamins and minerals to perform functions or to balance one another out or to work together to ensure that another vitamin or mineral can do its job efficiently and at the end of the day its all about creating a balance, about the body using what it needs, expelling what it doesn’t and maintaining harmony in all of our millions of cells which work to keep us alive and functioning properly. I urged my friend to think about that word … balance and to consider how that day she planned to consume a couple of foods which are known to be rich in iron and then to top that up with iron supplements in their own right as well as iron in three other of the combined pills she was going to take, each purporting on the pack to be the RDA.

I suggested to her that she was perhaps already outdoing her RDA with her food that day but that was OK as she was taking in other stuff that would help process that and get the balance right but with her piling on iron like she was weighing it in for its scrap the balance was not likely to be as easy to achieve. She saw my point and description along with what we’d read that morning made her throw all of those bottles of supplements into the bin and when I left she was ready to spend the rest of the morning checking through to see if she was missing any essential nutrients from her food diet and if she found anything lacking (I was confident she wouldn’t she’s in the early days total commitment phase) then she would source them out in food and include those foods in her diet rather than pills.

I’m not knocking pills at all I’m just sharing this to implore anyone on a new healthy you journey to make sure you don’t over do the healthy thing to the point where it becomes decidedly unhealthy to overload on some mineral or other. So in spite of myself I went into guru mode but I was concerned and it reminded me that the research into food is very important if you want to live healthy. I’m glad that she didn’t get upset and feel she was doing something wrong but she looked for herself for advice and has since sent me a couple of links which I’m going to find useful about how certain enzymes in our food can counter out the healthy elements in other foods when consumed together. So I’m happy that today she has been able to lead and teach me and that feels right to me now. I feel that I’m helping her make that transition from someone who wanted to copy and be led to someone who sees herself as on the same road beside me, walking together but walking for ourselves, learning and sharing as we go. I just hope that I can continue to encourage her down that route as I if there is one thing in all of this that I am 100% convinced of, it is that we really are in this for ourselves and ultimately it is a unique experience which we have to lead.

Winter’s End Blues

I need to jet off to some hot, sunny location every year around right now. I hate the winter months and am just thankful that Christmas comes in the middle of them to offer some cheer and respite, for me at least. I know Christmas is not a great time for everyone.

downloadI find I struggle more with healthy eating as I tend to eat a lot of uncooked foods as part of my healthy lifestyle and find it so much easier to fill myself up and keep away from temptation with yummy salads, raw veggies and lots of fruits. In this cold, dark, dreary weather I want hot, warm, spicy stuff and so I supplement the raw foods somewhat with soups and stews and North African spicy fishy soups but just being in the kitchen cooking makes me crave baking some delicious bread and smothering it while still hot with butter, or to bake some fab cookies or scones and smother them in jam and cream. I want hot chocolate with cream frothed up on the top and I want something delicious to dip my hand into while watching a movie snuggled up on the sofa all warm and cosy in blankies. I also find it very hard to want to go out and exercise when it’s cold and dark and miserable.

Besides all of this I’m sure I suffer to some degree with SAD, I’ve always struggled with winter blues and find that around now I’m just tired of the dark and cold and long to throw open some windows, have seagulls waking me up and to feel the sun on my skin when I go for a walk. Being swaddled in scarves and coats and jumpers is great for a couple of weeks but by this time of year I’m through with the excitement of the winter chill.

Ways I’ve found to combat this if anyone else is interested and struggles with the same things are to:

1. cook my soups and stews in bulk so that I don’t have that temptation of spending time in the kitchen for longer than I have to

2. allow myself a baked loaf once a week. I make from scratch a small wholegrain granary loaf and I have a chunk with butter as a special winter treat. Everyone knows I have a weekly scone with 100% fruit puree homemade jam and cream and I satisfy the craving to bake by making just 4 decent sized ones, one each for myself and Nick and two for the growing son.

3. I make my own granola each week so what I’ve been doing is putting some into small air tight plastic boxes and I use that to munch on when movie watching with…

4. low calorie, low fat instant hot choc drinks which kill my craving for something hot and chocolatey without piling on the pounds again

5. share the trainer has meant that I am more motivated to go to those sessions as my friend is newly enthusiastic and that is contagious and I can’t let her down as she drives to my house and parks up then we walk together so there is no escaping that and also pre-paying for sessions makes you more likely to drag your sorry behind to them

6. install a day light lamp in the room I’m in the most which is my studio now. It’s working to make me feel happier (as well as helping me to see my work) and I also have a massive window in there so I keep the curtain and blinds open and let the natural light flood in during the day when I’m working. I used to be tempted to leave it all closed up as the side of my house faces a road and so for privacy’s sake I wanted it to be closed but hang privacy, I need that precious day light boost.

7. warm up with some faster paced walking or a little sneaky jog to make you forget its winter when you’re out and about

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Close your eyes and imagine

8. go to the spa where the temperature is pretty ambient. Swim or float around with your eyes closed and imagine that artificially heated water is a blue, tropical lagoon, sweat it out in a steam room imagining you’re in some hot forest (especially easy for me as the steam room at my spa plays a kind of tropical rain forest back track), lie down in the sauna and as the sweat trickles down your body imagine you’re on a hot sandy beach. All of this stuff works for me, visualising myself where I would feel happier works, I swear sometimes I can see the sunshine haha. I invariably leave with my mood uplifted, only trouble is daily spa visits are a tad over indulgent and I really don’t have time for them. I plan to do this after work outs so that I have the boost to look forward to – it inspires me to workout for the reward after but of course the reward from working out comes from the work out itself. Anything that encourages you to go do the work out is worth trying though so that your low mood doesn’t make you miss out on that essential mood boost from working out.

9. plan trips to hotter climates and watch vlogs of people on holiday in warm places, the escapism like above lifts my mood maybe it would work for you too

10. notice that the night is setting in later and the mornings are getting lighter earlier already and know that we’re in February now and spring is just around the corner. Don’t let yourself give in to winter just yet, it’s almost another challenge won.