Weight Loss

Mechanics of Weight Loss Pt. 2

Happy New Year to all my fellow writers, bloggers, readers and healthy folks. I thought it kind of fitting (unlike my trousers- ha!) that this second part has fallen in after the festive period. My intention was to post this much earlier, but work basically destroyed my life in December.

I digress. Part two is all about the bit I’m not so good at controlling – the eating. We’ve already discussed how exercise is a lifelong commitment to stay fit and trim. Monitoring food intake is exactly the same.

Some people are incredibly lucky and subconsciously self-regulate their eating. My partner is one of those annoying people. If he starts to gain weight, he just eats less, but he’s not thinking about it. It just happens for him. I asked him about it once and he had no idea what I was talking about. Needless to say James has never had a weight problem.

For the rest of us mere mortals I cannot stress the importance of food intake. I remember being out on a long run once with some of the chaps from my old running club. We were talking about being piggy eaters, and one response was, “If you run ten miles three times a week you can eat anything you want.”

I laughed so hard I nearly fell over. Apart from the unfathomable logic (to me a ten-miler is fine, but three times a week, every week just to eat and drink??) I pointed out that these gentleman had clearly never seen an Italian eat. I could destroy the calorie deficit of thirty miles in under an hour. Easy. Extremes of anything are not good.

So yes, although exercising helps to burn the calories, keeping track of what you eat is vitally important. It’s easy to over estimate activity and underestimate calorific values, or even the actual items you have consumed. How many times have you ‘forgotten’ about the wee biscuit you had with your tea, or the few chips that were left on the kids plates after dinner?

You know what comes next.

Write. It. Down.

If you do nothing else, write down everything that passes your lips. It has been proven that in going through the physical act of putting pen to paper, it makes us more aware of what we are consuming and in turn we become more mindful before eating something. It can also help to pinpoint ‘danger’ times for mindless eating and shows the pattern to our eating habits – I’m a nightmare between 3 and 6 p.m – meaning you can take steps to avoid mindless overeating.

Just like exercise, make it a habit. Practise it every day until it becomes second nature. The more often you do it, the easier it becomes. It makes you face up to your eating problems and tackle them head-on.

Now that Christmas is over and everything is back to normal, I’m going to take my own good advice and track, track, track. Maybe my trousers will become as fitting as this post?


Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss

Some Weeks…

…are great, others not so much. In terms of weight loss, mood, work, everything. What goes up must come down and all that. But we all know this, yeah?

So why do I punish myself so? One of the things I’m trying to do to make myself a better person is to cut myself some slack. Aside from my father (sorry, Dad) I’m my harshest critic and repeatedly insist on beating myself up over the slightest deviation from my success mission in life. But I try, I really do.

Right now I’m buried in my own turmoil over having what I would describe as a ‘bad’ day yesterday. I feel guilty, like I’m a failure and that I’m never going to get anywhere with my goals in life. Why? What was so bad about yesterday? That’s what is so ridiculous about it. I had a great day yesterday. For the first time since moving, I spent a full day with James. We don’t get a lot of time together. We didn’t do anything spectacular, but we took the chance to relax, venture out and actually enjoy each other’s company. Which was lovely.


I ate like a pig. An actual, wallowing, greedy, oinky pig. All day. I didn’t do any writing. Not a single sentence. I have a novel that isn’t even going to be finished THIS YEAR, and I’ve already been working on it twelve months. Then there’s housework. Nope, none of that either. NOTHING. So am I completely deranged? Possibly. One of the many parts of my contradictive personality caused the conflict yesterday which made for interesting internal dialogue. My rebellious, spontaneous, fun-loving side had locked horns with my deliberate, routine-centric, I-must-succeed-at-everything-all-the-time side. It got ugly. All the usual negative thoughts came pouring out, which I won’t bore anyone with.

The upshot was that the time I spent fighting with myself was detracting from what should have been a carefree day. It’s not like one day means the collapse of my novel, nor does it mean that the house is going to rot to hell. And most importantly, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to gain the weight that I’ve lost. But that is very, very difficult for me to deal with. How can something that goes against everything ‘good’ about weight loss be enjoyable?

Not only am I a complete hardass on myself, I also seem to have an incredibly short memory. This week I’ve upped my exercise and started running again. Not just that, I’ve signed myself up for a race to give me something to focus on. One bad day doesn’t mean a bad week, and even if I don’t lose at the scales, does it mean I’m going to be fat forever? No.

Using this logic, I’m trying to draw a line under yesterday and starting again today. I AM allowed to have fun once every few months with my soulmate. We work hard for that precious time. I did some housework as soon as I got up, and I’ve allotted an extra hour for working on my book this evening.

I’m only human.

Healthy Eating, Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing

Game Plan

So the uncertainty continues. I’m used to being a self-aware, forthright and organised person, so this whole business of not being in control does not sit well with me. I’ve turned it over numerous times in my head. Day after day, week after week. I know I need to reach a conclusion sooner rather than later, so I’m not allowing these thoughts to escape into the recesses of my mind. I’m starting to develop a game plan. Granted, it’s in its infancy, but I feel like I’m currently mourning the loss of the healthier person I was gradually becoming. In essence, I’m back to square one. I know I have reasons for it, but I don’t want excuses for it – leading a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t cease due to a medical problem. I still have my tea and banana when I get up (Breakfast of elite runs in the Days Of Old, y’know) and still eat my oats, blueberries and maple syrup.

I’m due to attend the consulting surgeon in a few days. This is a repeated step from my treatment at ‘home’ (Scotland) as I’ve got to go onto a separate waiting list for surgery in this area. I absolutely loved my last consultant, he was amazing. He was a slightly rotund Indian fellow with a warm and round face and excellent bedside manner. More importantly, he was able to tell me roughly how long I would have to wait for surgery.  I’m hoping New Guy will be able to do the same and not want to prod around too much! Once Thursday rolls around, I’m hopefully going to be able to take definitive steps in deciding how to handle the interim period. I think it might just be needing a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ – in this case a rough timescale for d-day. I know I’ll feel so much happier just knowing what’s going on.

Planning is obviously a major part of my life, and secretly I love it. Having a plan for anything makes me feel competent, confident and in control. This is especially true of losing weight. You have to think ahead, and plan accordingly. How many times have you thought about where you will be for lunch during your week ahead? Planned dinners for the working days in front of you?

Forearmed is forewarned, and that’s exactly where I intend to be after Thursday.

Healthy Eating, Weight Loss

Replacement Blindness

We all have to make choices in life, some more substantial and important than others. What colour of knickers to wear? No problems there. Buy a new house? Bit more thought required on that one. For people who are trying to lose weight, some of those everyday choices all of a sudden become very important -yep, I’m talking about what we decide to put in our mouths. And it’s choice we make many, many times. (Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong all this time?) We have to make judgements on the best things to put in our bodies to help us on our weight loss journey, but we also have to balance that need with a quirky trait called want.

I think ‘want’ has a lot to answer for in my case, and I don’t think I’m alone on that one. We all have some things we really enjoy eating. If any of you are anything like me, it’s all the stuff that’s bad for you. The main culprits are usually heavily carb-based (bread), sugary (waffles) or fatty foods (BURGERS), and they taste goooooood. The survival of our species does not depend on these things, but we want them because they taste good, and any one in their right mind will tell you if you deprive yourself of these things, nine times out of ten, it will not end well. So the idea is that we allow ourselves these things in moderation; not an everyday occurrence.

The global weight-loss industry is huge these days (no pun intended there) and cashing in on all of our fat backsides in every way imaginable – particularly in technology, fashion, fitness and of course, food. We are aware of all the different ‘weight loss foods’ available (going to try really hard not to Brand-Bash too much here) as well as actual weight-loss plans that involve soups and milkshakes. The cleverest thing about the market is the introduction of ‘replacement’ foods – the concept of an item with a reduced calorie/fat/sugar/whatever content. Items like this are EVERYWHERE. People on a weight-loss journey lap it up (sometimes literally) and gung-ho themselves into reduced everything in order to feel like they aren’t missing out and still be able to lose weight. I am no exception.

However. Even more interesting is the development of replacement ‘treat’ foods – stop and think for a minute. Biscuits. ‘crisps’ (I use that term loosely). Ice cream and desserts. They are actually everywhere. These can be an excellent weight-loss tools, and really help us in dealing with the ‘want’ side of things, and also make us feel like ‘we aren’t on a diet’. The last part of that sentence is the problem. While we can use these products as tools to aid in our weight loss, we develop what I call ‘replacement blindness’, and it doesn’t do anyone any good, apart from the companies lining their pockets.

When you make a ‘healthier’ version of a food, something always suffers. You quite literally cannot have your cake and eat it. The compromise is usually portion size or taste. most of the time they are quite heavily processed, too.


A well-known weight-loss brand company bring out their own version of a traditional biscuit. It’s half the syns/points/checks (whatever you want to call the counting system) of it’s genuine counterpart. Oooh, I’ll have some of that to dip in my tea! Except when you actually look at the biscuit, it’s just half of the original biscuit, done up in fancy packaging and a bit pricier. And it doesn’t taste quite the same. WAKE UP. This is a classic case of replacement blindness. It’s expensive, doesn’t taste as good and a shoddily lazy attempt at a suitable alternative. I may struggle to keep my weight under control, but I’m not a mug. I understand that people have various reasons for selecting certain foods, but I’m not going to be tricked. I’d rather not have said biscuit at all.

Another company tout a chocolatey alternative tea-time treat, and I have to say they are delicious. When you unwrap them, you become aware that the reason they are so ‘low’ is because they are tiny, and you could have a small piece of actual chocolate for the same values.

A foodie guru and his pal bring out an alternative to hot chocolate, made from all-natural ingredients and rant and rave that it is fabulous, versatile and yum-yum-yum. It’s revolting. It tastes nothing like chocolate, it’s bitter as hell and it’s because it is made from Carob. I feed carob to my dogs, for christ sake! And it is extortionate. Again, any one who kids themselves into thinking this is a good replacement is seriously deluded.

It was this latter situation that I found myself in which prompted me to take off my weight-watcher-tinted spectacles and really look at the volume, quality and size of my replacement foods. Am I suffering from replacement blindness? The answer is no, because I like my food to taste ‘proper’. There are certain good quality replacements I will always use, such as sweeteners (versatile) and some of the stuff out there really is fabulous (WWs Rocky Road Bars – to die for). But if I can’t justify the points on the Real Deal, I’d rather go without than accept a half-arsed alternative. incidentally, this is why I no longer have biscuits with my tea.

If you do happen to be suffering from Replacement Blindness, don’t worry – I can point you in the direction of a carob-based beverage that will jolt you back in the right direction.

Healthy Eating, Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Relationships

Trigger Happy

Last week I mentioned ‘triggers’ when talking about negative behaviours that affect our health and lifestyle. We all have things that ‘set us off’ or make us react in a way that is detrimental to our wellbeing. For some, this can be relatively minor and situations pass without much more than a bump in the road. Other people find it much more difficult to overcome certain obstacles. Some people are more sensitive than others, and as we know, everyone is wired up differently. I’m trying to augment my contingency plans so they are positive (hence last weeks post on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), because at the moment my default behaviour for trigger situations is to eat and get drunk. Seeing as I have a stress and anxiety problem, it’s no surprise I struggle with my weight. My triggers are acute and frequent. Any sudden upset in routine or my organization leads to pretty horrible physical symptoms and a complete inability to focus on everyday tasks. BAM! Two packets of crisps. Car breaks down – Ta-DAAA! Three slices of toast. And jam. Cat sick on the carpet – BOOM! The booze starts to flow…..

In terms of things that set me off, this week has been a doozy.

My car is in the garage just now, so I’m stuck at home while James takes the other car to work. I work from home, and I don’t know anyone here, so getting out and about is really important to me, so that I’m not isolated. Any sort of human contact will do, I’m not fussy. Currently, this is not happening. Our fridge packed in, ruining just about everything in it. (Oh, yeah, can’t get to the shops – no car.) We have had a rodent visitor in our porch, who has chewed a hole through the ceiling. James comes home and tells me we might have a house move. Again.

Yup, you heard me.

Crisps. Wine. Olives (yes, really.)Beer. Yoghurts. Cheese. Bread. Everything that was in the fridge and freezer. You get the picture. This unfortunate chain of events catapulted my brain into the mental equivalent of turning on the food mixer without the lid on. The last one broke me. I didn’t sleep properly for nearly a week, and in a desperate, desperate bid to curb the eating and stop myself from jumping three dress sizes, I did the only logical thing left. Talk to someone as bat-shit crazy as me who gets it.

I phoned my dad.

By this stage, I realised things had gone too far. I’d eaten 26 ppts in three hours and was looking for alcohol at one in the afternoon. Thankfully, there was none in the house and I had no transport to remedy that. The sweat was running down my temples and my legs were wobbly. I thought I was going to be sick. I couldn’t concentrate on my computer screen and  my mind kept turning back to everything that had gone wrong. I need stability in my life, as it really helps keep the stressors to a minimum, and moving for the FOURTH time in two and a half years was NOT part of the plan. I’ll spare you the details, but it IS a logical move that WAS planned, but not for along time – we’ve barely unpacked this house! It wasn’t actually this that was upsetting me – it was the ‘might’ part. It’s an unknown at this moment, and that’s just torture for me. Pure and ultimate torture.

I digress…..

One hour and twenty-three minutes later, I was much calmer. It’s amazing what a difference one conversation can make when you don’t know what to do with yourself, and I am eternally grateful for that.

What I learned from this particular episode: On your journey, don’t be scared to lean on people who understand and have experienced the same things. They ‘get’ it. Having a simple conversation when you feel like you are going out of your mind is sometimes all it takes to halt a destructive behaviour, particularly if someone has been in a similar situation. So do it. Don’t keep that crap bottled up – you know the saying – ‘Better out than in’

Poor Dad.


Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss

Being the Best Version

So the weight loss is slow, but it’s starting to come off. 5lbs since the New Year, better than 5 lbs ON. In looking at my weight, I’ve been forced to investigate underneath that Weight Watchers ‘layer’ and take a more holistic look at my lifestyle, to try and make the weight loss as easy as possible.

I’ll be honest – I’ve always known what the problem is. I’m not a stupid person. I have no issue with exercise, and never have had. My eating is the problem. Well, actually it’s not – overeating is the by-product of my behaviour, thoughts and what I deem to be ‘solutions’ to problems. I know that it’s actually anxiety and stress that trigger my eating behaviours, and that’s a very difficult thing to admit to yourself or anyone else. For some reason it’s easier to say ‘I’m a pig’ than ‘I eat as an emotional crutch’. I think the latter sounds more like a weak answer and possibly comes across that way to others, especially as to any logical person, eating does not solve problems (unless the problem is hunger). I take issue with it because it’s one trait I hate – being weak. I am NOT a weak person in any sense, and it’s something that doesn’t sit well with me.

As I’ve gone through the last 5 years or so of my life after my crisis, I’ve always tried to be the best person I can, and continually improve myself. Science has taught me that if we don’t evolve, learn and adapt, we get left behind and that generally leads to unhappiness and/or conflict with the rest of the world. Learning new things and exposing oneself to new experiences helps us to ‘grow’ as people, makes us more broad-minded and compassionate towards others. Plus, we get to know ourselves better. How do you know if you don’t like broccoli if you’ve never tried it?

As a person with a thirst for knowledge, I like pushing my boundaries and learning new things. But, if it isn’t on my terms, it causes me all sorts of issues. This is where the stress and anxiety comes in. If I have no control over a situation, it puts me into a state of very real panic. Sweating. Numbness in limbs. Raised heart rate and blood pressure. Upset stomach. In extreme cases, vomiting. (My partners first memory of me was throwing up before one of our finals at university – nice.) I like routines. I like to plan and know what’s happening. I’m happy to try new things if it’s planned. My automatic reaction to panic/no control situations is to have an outburst, and then go to ground and eat/drink myself into oblivion. That makes me sound like a nut.

Everyone has their own ‘triggers’ and mine are just a little bit more extreme than some, but the point is, we are all human and not perfect. It’s when you get to a breaking point (those holiday snaps from when you were 3 stone heavier?) that you usually realise that you need to do something to change.

I learned this when I had my breakdown, and it is why I’m always trying to bring out a better version of myself. I don’t need to change, and I actually quite like the person that I am most of the time, but I need to improve. In being able to identify that I have a few broken logic patterns, I took a step towards Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). I’ve done a lot of reading, and CBT is a tool often used alongside medication for depressed/stressed/insomniac patients. CBT basically invites you to break down your principle thoughts-to-action processes in situations that make you feel like crap in order to establish where you are going wrong, and how to make changes to positively adjust these processes and improve your general mental health and self-worth.

As I read through some of these texts, I was focusing on my anxiety issues. What surprised me was I could directly relate a lot of the examples to my eating behaviours. Nearly every, single time. that kinda shocked me a little, because I didn’t realise quite how closely tied the two things are. That revelation in itself made me feel a million times better about myself. So now I’m trying to implement a few of the things I have learned, slowly, in preparation for GemGem v.31.1.

I’m not suggesting that everybody runs out and starts taking sessions on CBT, but take a minute to think about what your triggers are, and why you think reacting in the way that you do is ‘helpful’. Having a think about this can help you to understand what’s wrong and a path to fixing it. If you want to be a better version of yourself, you’ve got to move forward.

Life Journey, Targets

Walter the Gatecrasher

Still triumphant after my 5k time, I’ve been jollying along this week embracing the Christmas Spirit. I’m a self-confessed Christmas junkie, and the only thing ruining it for me this year is the lack of crispy, cold weather. I can’t attend weigh-in before Christmas now due to work, so it’s kind of screwed up my thought processes a bit, and makes me worry about all my merry-making. I’ve decided to weigh-in at home, and keep myself as sensible as possible.

An Aside

Off my original train of thought here but still on the subject of sensible,  I was reading a popular running magazine last night and I often like to read about all the new scientific breakthrough reports. (I get really excited when they use proper sciency words, just because I know what they’re talking about!) I was HORRIFIED to read a segment on self-weighing. A woman who is a lead author for a study published in ‘Obesity’ (A leading scientific journal on fighting weight problems) suggests that ‘DAILY self-weighing can produce clinically significant weight loss’

This is typical of the scientific community and also of the media. And it makes me VERY annoyed. Scientific studies are very stark, controlled and black and white. They have to be in order to assess the effect of one factor, so they can say for certain one way or another, or prove or disprove. All other variables have to be controlled in order to achieve this. But in real life, when is this actually true? Never. There are always variables, and when it comes to losing weight, we can rarely control all of them. I think our obesity specialist needs to team up with a psychologist. Anyone who has ever had concerns about their weight knows that stepping on the scales every day is unhealthy, and often counter-productive.

I realise that this particular publication is not aimed at people who have food issues/weight problems, but, many readers of running magazines are running to lose weight, this statement was printed in the ‘fat-burning’ section of the magazine, and comes from a journal focusing on obesity. It’s exactly this type of sly placement that encourages obsessive behaviours (and maybe even more so in people who are a healthy weight) and is NOT the key to successful weight loss. There is no information on how, where or why this experiment was conducted, just this sensational claim  marked as ‘Instant Wisdom’. Do not implement everything you read.


I Digress….

With the Christmas Spirit comes, um, spirits. This weekend we had our Festive Party, inviting all our friends down to stay.Lots of tree-decorating, mulled wine, crackers and TONS of food (and drink!). I love cooking for people, and spent the whole of Saturday afternoon in my kitchen making lots of lovely tasty things. My halo was shining (even if it was propped up by an empty Jack Daniels’ bottle) as I made WWs recipe lasagne and a chicken arribiata pasta. Perfect.

Unfortunately, I am not a person of self control when it comes to parties, although I kept the main-course foodie-eating to a minimum, Walter basically sat on my shoulder all weekend shoving mince pies and beer down my throat. I tried to discreetly slide him onto my guests’ shoulders. Fail. Did I have fun? Yes. Would I do it again? Hell Yeah! BUT……. I have that usual nagging feeling on this here Monday morning. I could have been good. I feel guilty. I’m glad to be back to normal. I’ve put on loads of weight over the weekend. Think how much lighter I would be if I had more self control.

I was thinking about this in the car the other day. I think about my life over the last six months. If I omitted every social occasion and didn’t drink, what would I be left with? Working odd hours, running and feeding animals. That’s pretty much it. The only time I wouldn’t be on a farm is if I was out running or at the supermarket. To me, that’s pretty sad. When you pare it down like that, it’s pretty obvious that I NEED stuff like that in my life to keep a sense of balance. So what if it takes me two years to get to target? Life is for living, and the older I get the more I realise that life slips away so quickly. A friend of mine that lost weight and kept it off said to me once: “Enjoy the journey, the mini-goals and the triumphs, because maintaining your weight is not nearly as much fun as the changes you go through on the way”

I think she’s right. Much as I still enjoy having my party hat on, I think I’ll swap it back for my running shoes this afternoon – after all, my 10k PB isn’t going to beat itself, is it? 😉