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.

 

 

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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, Mental Wellbeing, Running, Weight Loss

No Offence Intended

Everyone has their ‘me time’ – that precious little part of the day that belongs to you, and you only. It might be the fifteen minutes when you get up in the morning before the rest of the house stirs, and you can sit with a cuppa and leaf through the paper. Maybe it’s the hour on a Sunday when you don’t have to work and you take yourself off for a walk to escape the everyday chores. Most people savour it, for it is precious. Yes, yes yes. It’s vitally important, and now even Weight Watchers agrees.

My time is running. Working from home, I’m constantly surrounded by animals (usually tripping over them), farm-noises, phones ringing and so on. I rarely get peace. Much as I am a sociable person, I prefer my own company and I like quiet. Going out for a run first thing in the morning is a chance to ready myself for the day, wander in my own thoughts and build my psychological strength. My mental health is a squillion times better when I’m running regularly.

What’s that got to do with unintentionally offending someone?

Well, I’m back running on a regular schedule. I’ve signed up for Perth 10k in August, so I’m building up my runs gradually. I’m enjoying it immensely. However, it would seem that this is an open invitation for people to join me. A person (not familiar with my blogosphere) decided to do just that, and ‘invite’ themselves to train with me, ‘push me on a bit’ and sign up for the race too.

Internally, I exploded into a fiery ball of rage. Italians are great at that. How I managed to keep it in I don’t know.  Externally, I smiled in the friendliest fashion I could, and calmly said I’m not much of a sociable runner, I’m not long back running so therefore slow, and that I like to go out super-early around the farm. Said person looked at me like I’d kicked them, proceeded to throw a sulk and be generally weird with me the rest of the time I was in their company.

Know what?

I’m not sorry.

The reason I got so angry (inside) was that it’s MY time. There are advantages to running with others, and I do it once in a while. But it’s MINE. I decide when to do what, not be dictated to by someone else. That person assuming it would be nice to have a jolly and trying to ‘help’ me by doing a bit of running was unwittingly taking away the only time I have for me. I had to put a stop to it, or else I would lose the only thing that I actually allow for myself. Also, thinking that because they run faster than me (for now) means that I could ‘learn’ from them was a touch on the insulting side. I’m fat, I’m not a novice. Christ, I ran 16 miles to my WWs meeting once, just for fun.

I hated being in a running club amongst incessant chattering. If you can talk, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.  Also, I’ve been running long enough to coach myself. I find very little advantage to running with someone faster than me – I know my limits well, and EVERY run is me pushing as much as I can. I went from being able to run for less than five minutes at a time to 13.1 miles (Just over 2 hrs)  in less than three months. No-one will ‘push me on a bit’ more than I will by myself. Ever.

I feel so much better for letting this all out, so thanks for reading, everybody. I suppose what I’ve learned is that in putting myself first, which needs to be done, someone might get offended. But that’s okay, it’s not intentional.

 

 

 

Exercise, Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Running, Targets, Weight Loss

Fat Girl Who Runs

When it comes to healthy body and mind, I used to worry about what people thought of me. I used to slouch my shoulders to hide my ample bosom and avoid photographs with my ‘skinny’ friends. I was ashamed. I used to go out of my way to hide the fact that I’d suffered mental illness – no-one wants to deal with a nutcase. During my months of inactivity pre and post surgery, I felt as if I had to justify to people why I’d got fat, and why I wasn’t sleeping and looked like crap. Much as we live in a more accepting and open world these days, people still judge whether we like it or not.

Friday was a very special day for me. I laced up my running shoes. Running for me is about keeping a mental balance, proving to myself I can work hard and follow my commitments through to the end. It’s not about weight loss, that’s an added bonus. When I’m mentally ‘up’, I find it a lot easier to control my food intake, but also how well I cope with day-to-day life.

I was absolutely scared stiff.

Not only had I not run for over a year, but I was 28lbs heavier than the last time I pounded the pavement. My ‘big’ running gear was tight. Thankfully I’m a bit more level-headed these days, and my sensible, positive voice Cordelia sat me down and had a chat before I set out. She told me to forget what I’d done before. This was going to be a new start. Today was the first step. She patted me on the knee and ushered me out the front door.

I chose a 2.6 mile route simply because it was an easy out-and-back, and I knew 5k was out of the question (lamenting my 16-mile run to my WWs class in times of old). Come on Gem, be sensible. Okay. No expectations. Start with little more than a walk. Really slow. But I’m on a main road. Everyone can see me. So be proud. Show all those people you think are staring at you as they drive by that you’re a warrior, and being heavy or slow isn’t going to stop you. Yes. Cordelia, you’re right. I’m a warrior. No-one knows how far I’m running, no-one who passes by and judges knows my story. Screw them. Just run.

And I did.

I held my head high, puffed and panted all the way, wiped sweat away and talked to myself (out loud) pushing uphill. I stopped to walk when I needed, and I completely ignored everything else. As I came downhill on my last half mile, I felt strong, confident. I sped up a little. Three men in a white transit van approached, and they were looking at me. Uh-oh. Talk about a buzzkill. I looked straight back at them, waiting for the sneers and perceived taunting going on inside that van. Guess what? It never came. They beeped the horn and gave me a thumbs-up as they zoomed past. I sprinted the last tiny bit home.

If I had looked away instead of at them, I’d have taken the horn-beeping as a cruel, judgmental gesture. That might have been enough to kill my confidence completely. I suppose the point I’m making is that what we think others see is often what we torture ourselves with, and if we lack confidence in what we do, our own judgement can swing wildly from one extreme to the other. Don’t worry about what others think. It’s too delicate a balance to be upset.

So what if I’m big and I go running? So what if I’m proud of my 12-minute miles? One day I’ll be back at 8-minute miles, 16 mile runs, chasing a long-forgotten and insane 5k PB. The people I think are judging will be long-gone by then, and I’ll only have the Fat Girl Who Runs to thank.

 

Exercise, Healthy Eating, Relationships, Running, Weight Loss

Two Steps Forward….

…and then I hurt my back.

I’ve been like Superwoman the last month. I’ve single-handedly painted, bought, fixed, tinkered and rearranged four rooms in four weeks, which included building a solid-wood four-door wardrobe on my own. It’s been a great precursor to going back to ‘proper’ exercise, my weight loss was off to a great start and everything was going swimmingly (Incidentally I’ve found a lot of things that I never knew I was capable of). I should have known it was too good to be true! I had a stiffness in my back towards the tail end of last week, which I assumed was because I’ve been using muscles that have been on a very long holiday. By Sunday evening, I couldn’t stand up straight and moving in any direction was a problem. Even sitting at my desk to work/write was a complete no-no.

So it’s been a bit of an odd week. I wasn’t well enough to drive, so didn’t weigh in, and ended up playing catch-up at the end of the week with work. My Mother dearest warned me not to go ‘off the boil’ with my weight loss just because I was a temporary cripple and didn’t weigh in, but to be truthful, the pain was actually putting me off eating for a large part of the week and I didn’t track at all. Instead I self-medicated with Jack Daniel’s to get me off to sleep. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

I’m now cautiously optimistic as I’m now only suffering tweaks as I move about and am firmly back in the tracking zone. I think this is helped by the house starting to feel a bit more like a home, so tonight I cooked my first proper dinner since I moved in. It was a recipe for Moroccan stuffed butternut squash, from this month’s WWs magazine.

IMG_1041Oh good god. Not only was I absolutely ravenous, but I was excited about cooking proper, tasty food again. The last month I’ve been living off ‘healthy’ ready-meals, simply to fit round my insane work/dogs/decorating schedule. (An aside – if you do find yourself reaching for the ready meals, take the time to cook them in the oven – I’ve found they taste so much better than being microwaved.)

I got halfway through this bad boy and had to stop for a rest. I’ve never been so outrageously full in my life. The veg ended up going to the dogs because I physically couldn’t fit any more food inside my body. That really is saying something when it comes to me and food. For a measly five Propoints I’d highly recommend it!

I’m ‘allowed’ back to exercise next week, but have the added complication of having James home for the week. I’ve not seen him in a month because he is still living and working in England, so I’m REALLY excited to have him home. Our time together is precious at the moment, and I don’t want to waste any of it. BUT….. The first question he asked was, “Have you found a decent Chinese yet?”

I had to gently explain to him that five stones are not going to lose themselves and I’ve not touched any takeaway food since I arrived North of the Border. I have no intentions of doing so either, so next week is clearly going to be a tough one. With that in mind, I’m focusing on having a good, positive week this week and hopefully I can see my 5% goal at the scales on Saturday just in time for his arrival.

Lastly, I came across my running diary as I unpacked some more boxes the other day. I keep a very meticulous record of every run – I was surprised to find that my running after my knee injury started at 13st 7, not 13st. So I’ve decided to pull that milestone forward. That excites me – it’s not far away. As I’ve said before, I’ve done it once, I’ll do it again.

Exercise, Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Running, Weight Loss

Acceptance?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my week-long hiatus, which consisted of birthday treats, a visit from Mamma Bear, a few Jacks and lots of computer games and books. I chewed through a popular trilogy in a day and a half, and it was the best time I’ve spent on my own in ages. (Dear lord, that sounded geeky) No work, no writing, no housework. Fabulous! I also felt like I needed the head space to reflect on a few things this last week.

The term ‘acceptance’ has been floating around in my brain a lot as I struggle to decide what it actually means to me at this moment in time. The dictionary defines it as ‘A person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognising a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest.’

Now, isn’t that interesting? I am very self-aware, and know that I am an all-or-nothing type. I consider myself to be a relatively accepting person. That is, in relation to other people. I tend to take people as they come and make room for reasoning of their beliefs and principles, and have found little use in trying to change people. However, when it comes to other matters I am the antithesis of acceptance. Rejection. Denial. Refusal. I’ve often thought of myself as a breathing contradiction, and these previous points just strengthen my case.

I like to be organised. I like to plan and be in control. I write lists. I don’t like surprises. Yet, I am prone to the most illogical bouts of spontaneity and throwing the plans out the window, and thoroughly enjoy them. I am a scientist who thrives on numbers, statistics and processes, yet finds joy and satisfaction in creative pursuits including writing, drawing and music. I’ve always been good at a lot of things, but never excellent at anything – the old ‘Jack of all trades’. At the risk of sounding big-headed, there are very few things that I’ve turned my hand to that I’ve been terrible at. I’m rubbish at being quiet, sleeping, sewing (I once stitched a pair of trousers to the jeans I was wearing trying to turn up the hems) and playing pool – that much I’ve learned in my 31 years. So the conflicts of my own personality continue on, and I need to make sense of it in my current situation.

I have accepted that my medical status is affecting my ability to lose weight. Does this mean I’ve accepted I won’t lose any weight until after my surgery? I don’t know. I’m confused. If I’ve accepted the second hypothesis, would I still be fighting with food? Would I still be going to Weight Watchers? Am I wasting my time? It sure feels like it. The constant back-and-forth is wearing me out, and weighing in is stressful. It’s the most horrible feeling in the world knowing you’ve done everything right and you might still put on weight. The one thing that fixes that for me is running, and I can’t do it.

I know that I cannot accept not being able to run because of it. Walking my dogs, I’ve conjured up all sorts of plans and tactics to allow me to run. Do it during the day so James doesn’t find out. Load up on painkillers before I go to minimise the searing pain in my abdomen. Run flat-out but only for 60 seconds. Try a walk/jog ‘scouts pace’. ANYTHING to let me go out and do it. Hell, if cutting off my left arm was an option I’d do it. (I’m left-handed, by the way) I don’t think I can accept getting bigger and bigger until all of this is over. Conversely, I also think that it doesn’t matter how big I get, because I know that once I’m back to full health the weight will slide off. I’ve considered starving myself. Living off fruit and liquids. Living on alcohol to block it all out. I’m pretty sure I’d make a good alcoholic, I’ve had plenty of practice!

The conflicting views are affecting far too much of my life at the moment, and spilling over and tarnishing everything else- it’s affecting my other circles. After a week of contemplation, I’m no clearer in my thoughts or opinions, and I don’t know what I should be doing with myself. Everyone knows that’s no use to me, I need to make a plan.

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

Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Just like that, I’ve gone from bundles of stress to most of it melting away in the space of a week. My burdensome woes had agitated my synapses into a frenzy, but to quote my favourite film, I’m now calm as a Hindu cow.

My mood has improved. I’ve got a stack of writing done- two draft chapters of my book, and a short story for an open submission for a literary magazine. My work performance has improved, (I’m self employed, so this requires being a self-starter and bucketloads of motivation) and apparently I’m kicking some serious ass on the statistical as well as the scientific front. My house is pristine.

I like to think of my recent stressors (the smaller, less important things) as a package, which have been wrapped in my weight loss problems and tied with a gammy ovary bow. Well, my dear friends, I am happy to say I’m unwrapping the package.

I have a new fridge, the car is back from the garage and we have dealt with our unwelcome visitor in the porch, so the small things upsetting my day-to-day are fixed, which directly improves my eating patterns. (Seriously, try being anxious and stick to healthy eating with no fridge or freezer- banana anyone?)

The real good news is the ‘bigger’ stressors are being dealt with too. The previous house move I talked about is thankfully, not happening. We are back to the original plan of staying where we are until our ‘big house’ is built on the plot next to the farm, which won’t be for at least 18 months. (Phew!)

Even more exciting than that, I received a letter from the NHS- have I not only now been referred to the consultant, but I have an appointment for the middle of March- this still means I have to wait a month to tell him to book me for surgery, but at least I have a date for SOMETHING. He should also be able to tell me rough timescales on the waiting list too.

This excites me more than anything, as I’m really ready to get my life back. The frustrations of struggling to lose weight/exercise and so on have been going on too long, and by the time I’ve seen the consultant it will have been a year since I was diagnosed. I am SO READY. I think what narks me most is that I was doing really well up until around August of last year- my weight loss was coming on beautifully, as was my running and at that point whatever was going on in my body wasn’t really having any adverse effect on the rest of me. In August, getting to goal was a real possibility before I turned 31.

Depending on my surgery dates, I’d like to re-set that goal to being within a healthy BMI by Christmas, and at goal for my 32nd birthday. I was daydreaming about being back out running, and as soon as the doctor tells me I’m allowed, I’m going. That very same day. I don’t care if I can only run a mile, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I only run for three minutes. Because I know it won’t be long until I’m back to normal and that feeling of progression and achievement is wonderful.

I love daydreaming about running, and I suppose I’ll be doing it for a while longer, but hey, things are looking up.