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.

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Weight Loss

Groundhog Day

If I believed in God, I’d say he’s trying to tell me something…

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I’m holding my hands up. I’m lost. Out at sea. Falling by the wayside. I could have a million reasons and motivations to want to lose weight, and I’m pretty sure I do, but they’ve left me. I’m hoping it’s temporary, but my determination is at zero.

As I reach for a bottle of wine to while away an evening with a book, it’s as if my mind shuts down and selectively blocks out things like alcohol, or anything else calorific for that matter. I seem to turn into someone who no longer gives a s**t about what I look like, what people think or the state of my health. Shortly after disposing of said consumable(s), there I find myself back in the prison of guilt, torturing myself over and over and regretting ever having gone near the corkscrew in the first place.

Well. Some higher being soon put a stop to that, didn’t they?  I have a history of snapping hand-held tools… I took the handle clean off my Denman hairbrush not so long ago. Even so, I can’t help but think that some force or deity or whatever is trying to give me the kick up the arse that I need. Problem is, I’m wearing padded cycling shorts.

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When the corkscrew snapped, I should have called it quits. I didn’t really need the wine anyway. Unfortunately I’m a stubborn and resourceful little so-and-so, therefore more than capable of fashioning a makeshift corkscrew. (Did you know there’s more than 10 ways to open wine with no corkscrew? Seriously, Google it.) Bye-bye wine.

So as I sit here writing at my lovely desk (sober), I’m trying to figure out a way to bump myself out of this horrendous cycle. I stayed the same weighing in this week, and I just feel that I’m stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day and nothing I do seems to let me move on. I looked back longingly at pictures taken back in 2014 when I was  on my way to being a ‘normal’ weight again, and it seems like a pipe dream. I know a few more lbs would be enough allow me to get back out running, which in turn would help regulate my mood thus improving my weight loss attitude and getting me back into that positive cycle again.

I know there’s no magic formula, but if I happen to figure it out, I’ll let you know.

 

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Stop Smoking, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

That Man

I had a loss at the scales this week, which was important for me. I also had an epiphany. It’s been an interesting week.

Writing my post last week very much finalized the fact that I don’t smoke any more. It’s the first time I’ve ever called myself an ex-smoker, and it sort-of felt like the end of a chapter. Closure? I don’t know. But it’s an end.

I pondered this as I walked my foggy path round the farm one day with the dogs. I’ve conquered something massive that has blighted my entire adult life. It’s quite liberating. It almost makes me feel like I can get on with the rest of my life and achieve the things I want to now that it no longer cripples me. And it did – financially, socially and mentally.

That made me stop and think. Sub-consciously I think smoking has been an excuse not to lose weight. That horrifies me. I did say I felt like a fraud and that I’d never lead a healthy lifestyle because I smoked. (Go on, look back at the last post – I did say it, didn’t I?) How long have I struggled with my weight? Have I been sneakily sabotaging my weight-loss attempts with a sub-conscious negative attitude for years? Uh oh. I have. That thought sent all of my nerve endings prickling and brought the familiar flip-flop stomach that I hate so much. Right there in the middle of my ‘safe’ place among the firs and needle-cushioned paths of the farm, I returned to self-loathing Gem in a flash. Anxiety went from zero to ten in less than a second.

And that’s how quickly my triumph of the last few weeks came tumbling down. I mean, reality check. I am horrendously overweight. I’m back to being ‘fat’. Too fat to run. All my clothes are tight. My underwear doesn’t fit. I’m unattractive. I’m never going to achieve the weight loss I’ve longed for. I’m useless. I can’t do anything right. I’ll never achieve the other goals in my life.

By the time I got home twenty minutes later, I’d mired myself in a self-created pit of pure hatred and spite topped off with negativity. It was time to retreat to one of my other ‘safe’ places – playing computer games. I needed to forget all the thoughts that had just destroyed my confidence.

I’m currently enjoying a zombie-mashing, button-bashing affair (Dead Rising 4 if anyone’s interested) on Xbox. I got playing with this American guy in multiplayer. I knew nothing about this man. Zero. After playing with him for two hours, I knew him well. He was very polite.

I could hear him smoking. He had a wheezy sort of breath which his microphone picked up when he spoke. He told me that smoking calmed him as he suffered with severe anxiety, and that was why he allowed himself to smoke. He coughed in a short, sharp rasp roughly once every six minutes. He told me that if a doctor told him he was dying of cancer, he’d stop, and he could stop no problem. Through other routes of conversation I established this man to be between thirty and thirty-eight. He lives alone. He drinks spirits because beer doesn’t get him drunk, and he can and does drink a lot. This man is overweight. I was this man.

It made me realize how far I’ve come. How much I’ve already achieved. What I no longer am. The habits I’ve dropped and how my life and attitude has changed. And that my earlier internal outburst (I realize that doesn’t entirely make sense) was out of proportion and very, very harsh. There was still a grain of truth, though. A chance that I might stay this way forever, or worse, return to being ‘that man’.

I took action. I have the tools, I know the rules. I no longer need food as a nicotine replacer, I am aware of that now. So, it’s time to boogie. I fired up my Weight Watchers app, and I’ve been tracking ALL my food and exercise properly. A few pounds off and I can run. I feel better already.

This isn’t about failing at weight loss. It’s about picking battles, timing and appreciating the positive steps that have changed your life. No matter how small. It’s those things that keep you positive and turn you, however slowly, into the person you actually want to be.

I’ve come a long way.

 

 

 

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Stop Smoking, Uncategorized

After 18 Years

Being hard on myself is somewhat of a hobby. Anything that I can use against myself, I probably will, and I have a few pet subjects that I’ll keep harking back to when I’m doing a bit too well generally. A fine perpetual example of this would be my weight.

My Dad asked me the other day if I was happy with the person I turned out to be. Surprisingly, I answered yes. I said I was happy with the person I turned out to be on the inside and that I’d consciously worked on that, but I was still working on the outside, which was less complicated and not as important.

If he’d asked me the same question six weeks ago, I’d have said ‘No.’

On the 5th of December, I stopped smoking cold turkey. I’ve smoked in some capacity for nearly 18 years and made numerous attempts to stop with nicotine replacement, classes, cessation programmes, the lot. The longest I’ve lasted is two months, and that was a New Years resolution a few years ago. So why am I mentioning this now and what’s it got to do with internal happiness?

The motivation to stop is usually the glaringly obvious health facts about smoking and the increasing cost of doing so. (A 20-a-day smoker will now spend up to £280 a month.) Stopping for me had very little to do with either.

I’ve not lasted as long as the last time I quit (yet). I don’t need to. I know that I’m done this time – I’m not ‘lasting’, I’m an ex-smoker. I’ve gone from strength to strength over the weeks, and I now know I’m not going back. Ever. I can honestly say hand-on-heart it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It really, really is. I’ve put on weight. Everyone knows that’s the last thing I want right now. There is no way I’m ever putting myself through those first two weeks of withdrawal EVER AGAIN.

Stopping for me was completely about the impact on my mental health. Smoking was one of those subjects that I could keep beating myself up about – I’m intelligent. Intelligent people don’t purposefully give themselves cancer and pay for the privilege. When it comes to running, I’m a fraud. Proper runners don’t smoke. I’ll never lead a ‘proper’ healthy lifestyle because I’m a dirty smoker. I struggle with social anxiety and quite a lot of the time I’m uptight about what people (even complete strangers) think of me face-to-face, and I assume they are searching for flaws and judging me. People seeing me smoking made me anxious. “What must these people walking past think of me?”

Because of this, I stopped smoking in my car over a year ago, when I bought a new vehicle. Six months later, I was no longer smoking in public, unless I was standing outside a pub having been drinking. I was ashamed. The anxiety far outweighed the pleasure of actually smoking in public. I’ve never smoked in my house.

One of the things that all the health groups tout is the ‘Amazing benefits’ and ‘how healthy you’ll feel’ after stopping smoking. I’m telling you now, it’s a load of crap. I don’t feel full of energy, I’m not sleeping better, (I had withdrawal insomnia for the first three weeks on top of my normal insomnia problems) the money I’ve saved has been spent on other things, and my skin still looks like that of a pubescent just before the school dance. Non-smokers morning breath is the most horrendous thing I have ever encountered. As a smoker, you know you wake up with a mouth like a stale ashtray. But that’s okay, because as soon as you’ve got some coffee, it’s going to be a fresh ashtray. As a non-smoker, oh my god… what IS that?

However… I am at peace with myself. I’m no longer killing myself a cigarette at a time. I have one less thing to beat myself up about. I have one less social anxiety to deal with. It made me answer my dad positively. After 18 years, that’s worth more than all the health benefits in the world.

“If you do not like where you are in life, move. You are not a tree.”

This is one of my favourite quotes just now. And I did it. I realised I’m not a tree.

 

 

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.

Uncategorized

Wintumn

The clocks have changed, it’s dark at five o’clock and temperatures no longer allow for short sleeves. I love this time of year.

If you’ve ever heard the question of favourite seasons being discussed, most will say spring or summer for obvious reasons. As someone who spends a lot of time outside and is at one with the land so to speak, I appreciate and enjoy all of the seasons for different reasons (hey, that rhymes).

I like this time of year best though. Not Autumn, but the period from the clocks changing until Christmas. Let’s call it Auter. Or Wintumn?

Anyway, I know this is a time of year that many dread – dark nights, cold weather. Getting up when it’s dark, leaving work when it’s dark…Apparently us Scots go into an automatic hibernation mode – when the clocks change we go out socializing less, we spend less time going shopping and generally hole up in our jim-jams.

Interestingly, I find the perpetual light of the summer months quite invasive, as if I can’t get away from it. I think I feel more at home in the dark. It’s quite disturbing getting up for a morning milking at half three and it’s broad daylight. I also hate ‘big’ lights in rooms. I always have lamps on. Years ago after some surgery on my hand, I was taking a wild cocktail of drugs that made me photophobic and I’ve preferred soft lighting ever since.

So what I’m trying to do is cheer everyone up. I’m here to help those of you who get the early winter blues. Not usually the optimist, but for once I have plenty of positive things to sat about Wintumn.

The temperature is just right. For hotties like me who internally combust running in temperatures over 16 degrees celsius, the prolonged mild-but-chillier weather allows for optimum running without feeling the need to shed clothes to the bare bum as the miles increase. It’s also still pleasant enough to haul ass out of bed in the morning for a walk.

I hate jackets. Well, no, not true. I just hate long sleeves/cuffs. At this time of year I can meander about in jumpers/bodywarmers/gilets and still have my sleeves rolled up without getting cold.

No ‘proper’ shitty winter weather. Thanks to global warming, our winters are getting later and later. We’re not really seeing ‘proper’ bad weather until well into the new year, allowing for minimal ice/drenching/howling winds episodes. This year on the east coast it snowed on the 28th of April. And it was proper snow.  Yes, it’s colder just now but considerably more pleasant. Get outside and do stuff, it’s lovely out there. If you work inside, get out on your lunch break and bang in some vitamin D supplements. A well-documented fact is that Brits don’t get enough sunlight in the darker months, so take what you can.

Building a ‘den’ – the expression my partner uses in relation to getting cosy. This can be anything from cuddling up on the couch to full-on blanket forts or camping out in bed. As it’s getting dark early, take full advantage. Get a pair of cosy socks, shut all the blinds and get some candles and soft lighting on, and top with some chilled-out music. Grab a book (or an iPad if you’re one of the cool kids) and snuggle down with a blanket and turn off your mobile. This is one of my favourite things to do. Chill the freak out. I’m one of those people that loves curling up with tea, a book and a blanket and listening to the rain battering off the window. It’s great.

Proper food. Oh yes. No more salads or grilled chicken. Soup. Stews. Roasts with all the trimmings. I reserve the pleasure of soup purely for the darker months, and get great satisfaction out of eating it because of that. I’ve dusted off my special soup-pot and I’m good to go. (I have a ‘special pot’ for just about everything.)  On a dreary Sunday, one of my favourite things to do is make batches of soup. Allow me to share one of my simplest recipes: Tomato and Basil.

1 tin tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, crushed, small carton of passata, 1 large onion roughly chopped, handful of fresh basil torn, 1 pt ham stock , pinch of sugar and salt & pepper to taste.

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  1. Sweat onion and garlic in a lidded pot with a squirt of low-cal oil.
  2. Once soft, bung in tinned tomatoes, passata and stock. Boil 20 minutes.
  3. Buzz down with a hand blender. Return to heat, adding sugar, seasoning and basil.
  4. Simmer 10 minutes uncovered to thicken.
  5. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan and a sprig of basil to make it pretty.

Night Checks. By far the best thing. All of our cows are brought inside from grazing at the end of October into straw-bedded sheds. Last thing at night we don our wellies and hats and walk through the barns to make sure everyone is okay and the farm is secure. Most of the animals have settled down for the night and it’s an atmosphere I find incredibly calming. The smell of straw and the heat from the cows as you pick your way through them is very unique. I always talk to them in whispers (I’ve no idea why) and pet the tame ones on the way past. Again, if the rain is drumming on the roof of the sheds it seems all the more pleasurable. I wouldn’t change that for anything.

Now I have that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, I’m off to wrap myself in a fleecy blanket and dig in to a bit of Dickens. What does everyone else love about wintumn? I’d love to hear what else I can add to my love-in list for this time of year!

Healthy Eating, Life Journey, Weight Loss

Out of Hiding and Giving it Yee-ha – A Catch-up

Current Weight: 13st Dead (182lbs)

Well, after a two-month absence I’m back. I’m using this post as a catch-up and will post separately later on.

Since my last post, my thoughts on the various aspects of my life were spot-on. Lambing did eventually come to an end, although a lot later than expected.

My job in the kitchen didn’t get any better or any less stressful, and I gained 8lbs in the month or so I worked there. I left.

Our sheepdog lost an eye in an unfortunate accident, which resulted in another sheepdog on loan, and the lovely Moss has now joined the tribe on a permanency- he’s not house-trained, so I’m now going through the steps of trying to house-break a 2yr old dog. Fun!

The Lovely Moss
The Lovely Moss

I’ve suffered a knee injury, which has limited my exercising ability temporarily, but hopefully I’ll be good to go in a week or two.

I now have a new job in the local shop, which although involves shifts, fits in with my eating habits a lot better – a much nicer place to work too.

So how have another raft of changes affected the way I eat and my campaign to get healthy? Well, I’m a lot happier now and 20 times less stressed, which has had a very positive impact on my outlook. After gaining 8lbs at work, I took the step and re-joined Weight Watchers 2 weeks ago. I lost the extra 8lbs in the first week, So I’m now back at 13st.

One of the things I always struggled with was tracking my food intake, and I have to say that I’m all over it now. This is thanks to the very handy Weight Watchers app – It’s a bit more user-friendly than myfitnesspal and has loads of extras to keep motivation up, including members’ success stories. Maybe I should have gone back sooner, knowing how well it worked for me last time, and having the discipline of standing on the scales at a meeting really helps. Weigh-in Day is a Wednesday, so weights will be updated then.

Another thing that heading back to WW has taught me is portion size – although I’m eating ‘good’ food, I’m still eating too much. My first day using pro points I was dismayed at the size of my porridge portion. Surprisingly, it filled me up and I wasn’t hungry again until lunch time – a prime indication that my body really doesn’t need the extra fuel – it’s just my Fat Brain that thinks it does.

The final thing that has happened is James – he had no idea I was so bothered about my weight, and has now given me added incentive – if I get to 11st, he’s buying me my engagement ring, and if I reach my target weight, we’ll set a date for the wedding! He now understands properly how I feel, even though he loves me whatever size I am, and what he has said will motivate and inspire me!

So, from this point, it’s onwards and upwards! (Well, hopefully downwards!)