Exercise, Mental Wellbeing, Running, Weight Loss

Preparations Underway

The day before my 21st birthday I stepped on the scales at Weight Watchers for the first time. I was upset, ashamed and I felt like a failure – the figure that flashed up on the scales confirmed my suspicions. I was half a pound shy of weighing 15 stone. I made a promise to myself there and then to never see that number again. After surgery I came close, but I’ve kept my promise.

Today I’m making myself a new promise – I think 12 years of success from the old pledge is more than enough.

5 per centI’m changing my promise today because I’m making preparations. This week I hit my 5% goal. Tomorrow morning I’m going for a run. Running makes me happy. It always has. It ticks every box for me. Due to a dodgy old knee injury, I’ve learned (nearly the catastrophic way) that weighing much over 13 and a half stone is not conducive to injury-free running, and my knee complains at anything over a mile. So like before, I’m making a promise to myself – I’m never going to be heavier than that ever again.

The benefits are huge. Why would I not want to be able to run all the time? This is the second time since my surgery that I’ve had to work towards getting down under that ‘heavy load’ threshold, and I’m not doing it again. Aside from the obvious fact that running aids weight loss, it has so many other benefits to me. I’m an early morning runner, and even a few miles sets me up for the day and makes me more productive, motivated and positive. It also has a meditative benefit on longer, slower runs where I can let my mind wander, or use the exertion as an emotional outlet – I’m no stranger to venting anger (read: swearing a lot) or having a good cry on a run. (It’s probably just as well I don’t see many people when I’m out running.)

With that in mind, it’s in my best interests to get sorted and be out there clocking the miles, and I’m delighted to be at that stage again. Today saw the pulling-out of the running attire box, which kinda left me with mixed feelings. Most of my winter running clothes are bigger, so I can slip into them no problem – I was running in them at this weight, but my summer stuff is considerably smaller. The last time I ran a full summer season I was nearly two stone lighter than now. That made me sad. So I tried everything on. Rather than sorted by season, my gear now stands in three piles: what fits, nearly fits and no-freaking-chance.

I soon perked up again when I found my favourite running socks and vest – a vest that I

vest
Favourite vest and socks

can just about squeeze into – two items that I associate with achievement and success, and that I love wearing. I also pulled out my Garmin which has been out of use so long it wasn’t even telling the time. I put it on to charge and went on with my preparations. Dust off the favourite shoes. Check. Dig out the running diary. Check. Get out the sports br…. uh oh.

How I can forget about my boobs I’ll never know. Sports bras. My ‘newest’ ones are tiny. Well, tiny by my standards. They do still resemble a reserve for the Scottish skydiving team. My old ones that fit no longer have the support in them for running and I’ve been using them for farming. So there I was frantically rummaging through a box of sports bras that are all the same, colour and everything, except for the size. My hand touched a label. A shiny, cardboard label – not a material one. I pulled it out, attached to a bra strap, closely followed by a whole bra. At this point  I was already praying to the booby gods that it’s the size I needed… If so, how the hell did I not know it was there?

I looked at the label.

Bingo.

And then I remembered. I bought this bra when I lived in England – I was close to surgery and very heavy, and it was on sale in one of the lingerie shops. I knew it wouldn’t fit, but seeing as it was the one I usually wore, I bought it thinking I could slim into it once I was back running, as an intermediate step before going back to ‘tiny’ ones.

As I thought back to that snippet of my past, I sat for a minute, just holding the bra. I remember trying that bra on post-surgery and I couldn’t even fasten it. I forgot how desperately miserable and depressed I was at that time in my life. It couldn’t be further from where I am now. And it made me grateful.

bra
Shock Absorber D+  – The only bra for me.

The bra is a bit snug, but it fits. I’m glad I found it. When I go out and take those first steps tomorrow, it will remind me once again that I have made progress, and sometimes it doesn’t need to be on the scales.

 

 

Exercise, Life Journey, Running, Targets, Weight Loss

Quarter Challenge and Being a Hobbit

I’ve now completed week four of my Quarter challenge – the time is going in so quickly. But so far, so good. Six and a half lbs down, it’s not looking likely that I’ll make the rather ambitious goal of 13st for my holiday, but I won’t be too far off.

This could be an ideal opportunity for me to revert to the old ways of being negative and reminding myself of what a useless failure I am, and that I’m going to struggle all the way and that I can’t even set myself realistic goals. I did mention before that I am getting better at being kinder to myself, and I definitely feel in a much more positive frame of mind. Rather than dwelling on the coveted number that I may not meet (there’s time yet!), I’ve pulled my focus closer. Half a lb this week will see a silver seven and take me to within four and a half lbs of my ‘safe’ running weight. Although this particular goal is light years away from even being a healthy weight, it is one of my major milestones.

Running changes everything. It makes each and every pound I lose have purpose. It makes my step lighter, my knee better, my recovery faster and my times quicker. It makes me not want to ruin a ‘good’ day of eating after sweating like hell. The chances are too, that my first few weeks back out in my trainers will see an increased loss at the scales as my body adjusts to the extra exercise. Just what the doctor ordered.

lambWe are now full swing in lambing season, which translates as very, very busy. There are babies EVERYWHERE. It’s an interesting time as sleep is minimal and a pretty intensive schedule piles up on top of all the normal work. Regular eating patterns disappear out the window and this can go either way – some days there literally isn’t time to eat, and others I find myself shovelling in anything I can see because I’m so hungry. This may balance out in terms of weight loss, but I’m trying to remain mindful and track where and when I can.

 

One of the things that has struck me in the last few weeks is my similarity to Bilbo Baggins and his chums. And I’m not talking about the hairy feet. Hobbits are a race who thoroughly enjoy their grub, and are more than partial to a second breakfast. I too am now an advocate of the second breakfast. For long and weary a cup of tea and a banana have been my meal of choice first thing, which is a throwback to going out running early in the mornings. I don’t have a particularly harmonious running/digestive relationship, and I was amazed at how far you can go on a humble banana and sugarless tea. I find now that if I eat porridge/eggs/crumpets somewhere between 10 and 11am as well, my body seems a whole lot happier and I eat less at a later lunchtime, which then rolls into the afternoon and omits any snacking. So you can eat more to eat less. (Does that make sense?)

So in the coming weeks if I maintain my hobbit-ness and my positivity, I’ll make it through lambing and be back running in no time.

Exercise, Healthy Eating, Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Targets, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

A Quarter-Challenge

I went to my new meeting. It was fabulous. It is indeed very small, and everyone is so supportive of each other. Because I’ve moved about a fair bit, I’ve attended a lot of different meetings. I can usually tell straight away whether I’m going to like it or not, and I knew the second I sat down in the little room that it was going to be splendid.

One of the things it did was lift my mood, and for the first time in weeks I’m beginning to feel better about myself. It feels nice. Getting up and getting on each day feels easier. I want to go out more and I’m becoming less irritable. In my normal pattern, this ‘up’ episode usually begins around the clocks changing at the end of March and I think the early turn is due to going back to Weight Watchers. That sounds a little dramatic, but sometimes isolation in large doses can skew your thinking more, and having a group of people who share your struggle can just be enough to knock you in the right direction.

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One of our farm walks – what’s not to like?

Having turned the proverbial corner, my mind has floated towards my weight loss and my holiday at the beginning of June. I tried on some of my holiday clothes that I kept from waaay back – I got rid of most of them when I started to slim down. The ones that were left were all too tight to put on. In most of the major/nice times in my life, I can tell you what weight I was, and my last holiday abroad was a long time ago and I was 13st dead.

That’s where we’re going.

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My last holiday ~ 13st

The funny thing about it was how big I remember feeling then. There are no bikini photos, any time I stood up I put a sarong on and even now I still can’t stand the sight of my legs in shorts in those pictures.

But I was healthy then and still in my 20s. I wasn’t even aware I had any problems with my reproductive organs, let alone in agony waiting for surgery. I’ve come through a lot since and the thought of being back at 13st right now is delicious.

So I have 12 weeks. A quarter of a year. My challenge is to get to 13st by the night before my flight. Funnily enough, my class happens to be the night before I go. Once again, I feel like the gods are trying to help me as best they can.

That works out at a little more than a 1lb per week for the next 12 weeks – a goal that is not unreasonable. Every week I will set a different intention to help me get there. If anyone wants to join me, feel free – I’d love to hear how you get on.

Week one for me is about assessing my fitness routine. At the moment most of my exercise is covered by walking my dogs round the farm and mixed yoga practice most days. At some point in the next twelve weeks I’m hoping that will change. I’m a keen runner but a old dodgy knee injury will not carry me up and down the rough trails on the farm at my current weight. If all goes to plan, I should reach my ‘safe’ running weight sometime in the course of this challenge.

If I can establish a baseline fitpoint achievement this week, that will allow me to set myself minimum standards and increase it as I get lighter and fitter (again).  So this week I aim to track all of my activity using my Weight Watchers app.

It’s so nice to have found a bit of hope and motivation again, and have someone tell you that yes, you can do it, yes, it is feasible and yes, help is at hand. We can all do this, one week at a time and with a little help from some friends.

Exercise, Healthy Eating, Life Journey, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

Someone is Listening

I’d been saying that I think some other-worldly force has been trying to send me a message. The breaking of the corkscrew was a hint – one that I should have heeded. Well, the cosmos hasn’t given up on me.

After last weeks’ corkscrew incident, I pretty much couldn’t get any lower. I’m hunkered down right now, fighting my way through a black episode and trying to function as best I can as a normal human being. For me, that means washing, brushing my teeth and making sure my animals are cared for, plus the absolute bare minimum obligation for work. If I manage all that, I’m done and usually knackered. I don’t even try to be socially acceptable in public. In fact, I try to avoid being in public at all.

Needless to say at times like this, watching what I eat and weight loss are the last things on my mind. It’s not that I don’t care. I do. I really, really do. It’s just that they are so far down the list of priorities that they get swallowed up, and it feels like and seems like I don’t care. When personal hygiene feels like a mountain to climb, there isn’t much hope for kale smoothies and 5-mile hikes.

Fate has definitely been listening and paying attention, if not, then definitely reading my blog. Two things have happened in the last few days that have helped me turn a corner. I’ve booked a holiday. This is a big deal –  James and I have never been abroad in nearly five years together. Being a farmer is sh*t for holidays, and we’ve always either been too skint, too busy, or moving house. I’m not excited about a holiday which is a shame, but my current mindset will not allow enthusiasm. However… I am happy. It gives me a focus, something to work towards and a really good, solid reason to lose weight.

The second thing is my Weight Watchers class. I had to stop going to the only class in the area for a few reasons. I am a person that needs my class, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. During low periods it can prevent me from being a shut-in and improve my self-esteem (even if that translates as a half-lb loss!). I was toying with the idea of travelling further afield, but didn’t want to because I really like my leader. As if by magic, my leader tells me she has started an evening class in town and that she misses me! (how nice is that?)

Again, no enthusiasm. Relief. I feel relieved that I have a class to go to again. I’m not going to get any bigger. I’m not going to struggle on my own any more. If I am struggling, I’ll have support. I can do this. There is a tiny chink of light peeping through the crack at me, and I’m cautiously smiling.

Whoever or whatever is responsible, thank you from the deepest part of me. It’s just the motivation I need right now.

 

Exercise

The Little Things (NSVs)

I had a funny incident. It was funny because no-one else saw me, but it made me think about all the other weird little things that happen as you lose weight and the things that make you notice a difference – those non-scale victories.

For many people it’s the simple things: The next hole over on a belt. A shirt fastening that never used to. Personally I like the more quirky ones…

I’m at the point now with my yoga where I’m getting more flexible, and I realized this bending down to hoover under a shoe rack some weeks ago. But this has brought with it a new problem. The problem is my fat. It’s preventing me doing stuff. I’ve always had massive quad muscles  (even as a slim person) and there are certain restrictions that places on you (like fitting into skinny jeans and crossing your legs.)  It’s fine, and I’ve dealt with it, but the quads issue has spread to the rest of my body during the festive/quit-smoking period. I want to bend further to extend my poses, but my fat is actually, physically stopping me from doing so.  I refer to the funny incident – I had to come out of a yoga pose or else I was going to suffocate. I’m not kidding. I’ve jokingly said about choking on my chest before, but good god, I didn’t actually expect it to happen…

My rolls of belly fat were compressed against my generous thighs whilst leaning forward, which acted like a sort-of built-in wonderbra. This resulted in my face disappearing in to my ample bosom which was shoved up to an unnaturally pert position. Although everything was technically right in terms of my yoga posture, it was so very, very wrong. So what did I do? Stayed put for as long as possible, of course. I did try and stick it out until it was time to change positions, but when the room started spinning I thought I’d better get up.

I’ve decided that I’d really like that yoga position to be a future NSV.

 

 

Exercise, Mental Wellbeing, Targets

What does a ‘Good’ Day look like?

I’ve talked a lot about coping with anxiety and stress, and what to do with a ‘bad’ day. Following on from my post last week on staying positive, I’d like to continue that theme.

On a good day I feel awesome. I feel like a superhero. I feel like I could be sociable. Happiness and warmth radiates from me all day and I climb into bed at night content and satisfied with how I have spent my day. I look forward to the next day being more of the same. I wish most days were like this.

So what does a good day actually mean? Here’s what mine looks like right now:

Wake up early, fresh after a decent night’s sleep. Have breakfast and whizz through morning chores. Wash and BRUSH THE TEETH (A huge hurdle for me when I’m depressed). Check work emails, make good coffee and get dressed. Do hair and makeup. Although I work from home, I still get in to ‘work mode’ with my appearance on good days.

Have a productive work-day with my good coffee, squeeze in lunch with James when he comes in. Walk dogs after work, do yoga and then enjoy an hour or two of ‘me time’ (writing in my journal, playing Xbox, meditating, whatever) before preparing dinner. Eat with partner, spend a few hours with him and then write for the last part of the day. Double-check my WWs app to make sure I’ve filled everything in. Climb into bed, read for an hour and fall into a content slumber.

I’m easily pleased. I’ve found the things that make me tick. What you see above may look like the motions of an incredibly tedious day. I get that, and it probably is tedious to some. But productivity and covering all bases whilst doing enjoyable things does it for me.

I heard a quote recently along the lines of  ‘you are trading your life for today – so use it wisely.’ The above feels like a ‘wise’ day to me. I spend time making money. I make time for the person I love. I spend time outdoors in amazing scenery with three little animals that love me unconditionally. I exercise my body and my mind. I get to cook, read and create worlds for others to enjoy. And play computer games.

When I was a trainee manager I was taught the importance of learning what motivated people, and being objective with it. I’ve simply applied it to my own life. When we set goals for ourselves, it’s important to understand why we want it and what enjoyment we are going to get out of it, otherwise we might find it tough going to achieve what we desire. The worst part of my routine is getting ready. There’s no enjoyment in it, but I can’t walk about naked all day. (Well, I suppose I could…)

Even in a mental state of darkness, I try and adhere to these motivations because they might just make me feel a teeny-tiny bit better about my day. That’s why I set myself intentions last week to help me through. Here’s how I got on:

  1. Exercise and fresh air every day regardless of weather –I managed this 6 days out of 7, which included one day of freezing fog.
  2. Track food on my WWs app – Not so good here. I managed five days and bailed on a trip to the cinema on Sunday. Must try harder next week.
  3. Brain space – I haven’t ‘yoga’d’ every day, but I have meditated in between times or even taken a bit of quiet time to stare out the office window.
  4. Mid-Week weigh-in – Check! looking positive…
  5. Continue to Blog – Ta-daa….
  6. Take one day at a time –Still tryin’ 🙂

What goals and intentions have you set for yourself? Do you know the motivations behind them?

Exercise, Weight Loss

Mechanics of Weight Loss pt.1

I wanted to share my experience. Over my three attempts to lose weight in the last ten years, I’ve lost over 126lbs – a small person. It’s a shame it wasn’t all at once and I gained in between.

The causes of being overweight are complicated, but the mechanics are simple – how much we eat and how active we are. Both of these are affected psychologically, and weight loss is usually more of a mental battle than anything else.

This week I’ve been thinking about activity. By nature I am not a sedentary person – I don’t like lying in bed, I enjoy being outside and have always loved playing games and sporting activities – I’ll try anything once. Laziness doesn’t appeal to me. Unless I’m reading a book. That doesn’t count, of course.

As a young child I played netball (which I didn’t enjoy all that much) and loved to run, which led to athletics as a teenager. At secondary school I played hockey and volleyball, both of which I was pretty good at. As an adult, I still enjoy running and recently have taken more pleasure in the daily chore of dog-walking.

If you are planning on leading a healthier lifestyle and maintaining a sensible weight for ever, you have to accept that exercise needs to be part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth. This fills some with dread. I know many, many people who are adverse to exercise simply because they hated gym class at school and are not ‘sporty’.

I want to dispel this image of exercise being ‘sporty’ pumped-up, greasy men lifting weights and teeny-tiny women clad in lycra spending every spare minute training and drinking kale smoothies. Exercise is for everyone.

The rules are simple:

1)  Do it regularly to build a habit.

2) Always set yourself new goals to help with motivation and improve fitness.

3) If you hate it, stop. Try something else.

That’s it. No ‘sportiness’ required.  Exercise takes many shapes and forms. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to keep yourself fit. Walking, swimming, running, archery, curling, whatever. The key is finding something that you enjoy, nay, love. It also needs to be realistic. But try. EVERYTHING. Age, free time and ability may dictate what you can and can’t do, but one of the joys of exercise is finding something, sticking with it and seeing progress. You see and feel yourself getting fitter. You feel better. You are motivated to push further. Starting off with a low-impact form of exercise often leads on to other things.

I’ve tried lots of stuff, and it helped me realize what I do and don’t like when it comes to exercise. I tend to lean towards hard, more aggressive forms of exercise (which I will contradict later, but never mind.) as it’s more satisfying for me. I feel kind of cheated if I’m not sweating buckets by the end and I don’t get that warrior/superhero feeling. But everyone is different.

I remember trying a body combat class once. I was relatively fit at the time, and bored with running. I thought, ‘I’ve got this, it will be cool.’ – wrong. I felt like a pudgy show pony being paraded round a ring. I’ve never been so uncomfortable and self-conscious in my life, and I didn’t find it physically satisfying. It’s nuts considering I’m happy to run out in public (at any size or weight), but it was just the way it made me feel.

Oddly, despite being more of a run/spin class kind of exerciser, I’ve found something different. A while ago, it was suggested that I take up yoga or pilates to strengthen my ‘bad’ knee and improve my core strength, which helps with running. I laughed a bit, the mental image of suffocating on my own boobs in some contorted position springing to mind. I did give it a go (I’ll try anything once, remember?) and I love it.

I wasn’t sure what sort of benefits I’d see, but it’s been amazing. I did an online beginners’ 30-day challenge – I didn’t ‘yoga’ every day, but slotted it in when I didn’t feel like running or the running conditions were poor, so it’s taken me 10 weeks to get through it. After two weeks, bending to pick things off the floor was noticeably less effort. Now, my knee and calves are not stiff when I get out of bed in the morning, even after a hard run the previous day. I bent over to brush under the shoe rack the other day and realised when I was down there that I was folded in half. Cool!

It has helped my mental health too. It’s hard work, no kidding, but it’s a different kind of hard. When I’m in Savasana (translates as ‘corpse pose’ – everyone’s favourite part!) at the end of a session, the sense of inner calm and peace is awesome. It actually quiets my brain. I didn’t think that was possible.

Even for a 10+ years runner, I’m still trying new and different forms of exercise and finding benefits. If you try, you can say you don’t like it for sure, and hopefully you find something you love, too. Yoga is definitely here to stay.