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, 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?

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss

Staying Positive

I’m trying. I really am.

During a ‘good’ depression, I can maintain my weight, but it takes every ounce of willpower and self-motivation (usually to the detriment of something else) to do it. Normally if things are ‘bad’ I’ll gain weight as I comfort eat out of emotional instability and boredom.

I’ve had a tough week. I’m still fighting with the weight I put on over Christmas and stopping smoking. I’m still too heavy to run on my duff knee.I’ve had some very frank conversations with my doctor which haven’t pleased me. My mood has started to tip downhill, and it’s not surprising.  Every year around this time I hit a cycle of depression and I can feel it. I usually occupy myself with a selection of my wretched personal attributes and wallow, hidden away from the world feeling guilty until it passes. I can’t do that this time. I won’t. This year is the year for weight loss. I promised myself. So I’m trying to remain super-positive to the best of my ability while I see out my black spell.

I’m not saying it will work and I’ll continue to lose every week, but it may help with damage limitation and I might have a few weeks where I lose a pound or so. I wanted to share the things that I’m consciously making the effort to do, because somewhere out there, someone else might be struggling too.

  1. Exercise and fresh air every day regardless of weather – Walking my dogs (even for 15  minutes) every day gives me a sense of purpose and helps lift my mood.
  2. Track food on my WWs app – This helps me to curb my emotional eating binges and remain mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth.
  3. Brain space – time to relax and reflect and leave the ‘guilty’ brain behind. Yoga every  day to help settle my mind.
  4. Mid-Week weigh-in – A gentle reminder not to lose focus!
  5. Continue to Blog – I clam up when I’m depressed, and I find it difficult to write. I’m going to do my best to produce a post every week for the next few weeks.
  6. Take one day at a time – Positivity and routine come easier when you don’t look at the bigger picture.

All of the above I’ll document as a tick-box list in my journal – this shows me a visual representation of how I’m doing and it’s something that I find helpful (Especially when I make it pretty with my coloured pencils 🙂 ). Here’s hoping I can get through the coming weeks with some level of success. I just keep telling myself that if I keep trying, keep bringing my mind back to my weight and keep positive, then I’m doing all I can.

 

 

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.

 

 

Mental Wellbeing, Sleep, Uncategorized

Why so SAD?

Following on from last weeks’ post, I thought I’d talk a little more about Wintumn. Hopefully y’all are buoyed up by all the lovely things I like at this time of year! There were some great additions from all of you, including posting autumn colours on Instagram and sitting by an open fire. I feel cosy already.

It’s time to look at the flip-side. As I mentioned last post, Scottish people seem to have a natural defense mechanism when the clocks change, a sort-of hibernation mode. I’d be interested to find out if some of our same-latitude buddies in other countries have a similar instinct. We seem to be good at protecting ourselves and hopefully for most this means taking better care of our overall health in the colder months.

We’ve all experienced the winter blues at some point. Getting out of bed seems a mammoth task, especially when you are nice and toasty, and the thought of trudging to work is less than appealing. (Hey, some folks feel like that every day. That’s another post for another time.) Relentless grey skies,  sniffles and short days can leave us less motivated and feeling sluggish, or even a little depressed. Don’t panic, it’s normal. Usually we can shake it off after a week or two and the balance seems to redress itself.

It’s important that we keep up the good habits and lifestyles that we’ve embraced so much in the warmer months to help combat a stodgy winter. Fresh air, exercise, time to relax in peace and good food are still important in the dark as well as taking appropriate steps to keep ourselves well over winter.

But what if that balance doesn’t return to normal? Most people have heard of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. In the UK, nearly one in ten people suffer from the disorder and yet it can be difficult to pinpoint. Is it really just the winter blues?  I deal with many of the symptoms associated with SAD, but mine are episodic and can occur at any time of the year – this is a classic example of why it can be difficult to determine, particularly for those who already cope with chronic mental illness. I do not suffer from SAD.

SAD sufferers tend to feel an onset of symptoms in autumn and this can last right through until spring. These symptoms are caused by a lack of sunlight.  Insomnia or disturbed sleep, changes in appetite and moderate to severe depression and anxiety are all indicators of SAD, along with many others. It’s not a straightforward condition. It can leave people socially, mentally and emotionally crippled, making it very difficult to function on a day-to-day basis.

The good news is it can be treated with light therapy, and some doctors may prescribe anti-depressants where required along with complimentary therapies such as counselling. Even if it’s the winter blues that get you down a lot of the same suggestions for SAD patients work – Getting as much natural light as possible, and using mood-boosting activities can help battle that feeling of drudgery.

It’s not always obvious to others that someone is having a hard time. Like other mental illnesses, it is an invisible illness and many will not be understanding or sympathetic. It can make life very difficult. If you think you or someone you know may be affected,  more information can be found from the lovely people at the SADA website, the UK’s only not-for-profit SAD organization. www.sada.org.uk

 

Exercise, Weight Loss

Own Worst Enemy

Hello lovely readers! Although my posts have been lacking, I’ve still been working away quietly in the background on my health and wellbeing. It’s nice to be back after a prolonged absence. I had to take a break from writing for a while.  The idea of writers sitting up until the wee hours with wine and weaving tales sounds romantic, but in reality it sucks. It’s tedious and mostly involves a lot of editing.  It was taking over my life and was becoming a chore, and as per usual I was putting far too much pressure on myself to do everything.

Which brings me neatly onto the title. The reason I suffered way back at the beginning when I fell ill was that very point. I was far too hard on myself. In fact, I was the undoing of my own sanity. Ten years on, I try and be a bit kinder. I try hard to resist the urge to be that girl who can do everything, and stop putting pressure on myself with things that don’t really matter. I am an incredibly competitive person by nature, but unfortunately it’s only competition with myself. Writing is important to me, but if I don’t line edit a manuscript/submit to a deadline/whatever there will still be food on the table and a roof over my head. In that respect my hiatus has been successful and I have to say I’m feeling better for it.

So does that make me a failure? In the past, I would have answered ‘yes’ to that. I’m a firm believer in finishing what one starts. It’s a rule that I apply to everyday life. Refer back to the competitive comment. However… I may be turning a corner. In making the decision to stop writing for a bit, I recognised that I wasn’t ‘giving up’ writing, but merely taking a breather so I didn’t end up hating one of my passions. The result has been that I’m now raring to go and excited by my projects. I’d say that’s a win.

I took the time away to focus on myself and my home life outside of my office door. I’m finally easing into a routine (god knows I love a routine!) at home and it’s having a positive effect on all the aspects of my life, including my health. I now walk my dogs for at least 45 minutes most days, I’m organised for meals, I have a regular running schedule and do a bit of living room yoga on my rest days. Pretty good, huh?

So somebody tell the scales for me, because they don’t seem to know. I’m stuck in half-a-poundland. And no, I don’t mean a fifty percent discount version of the popular high street chain. It’s excruciating. And it’s not even every week. Sometimes I STS. You hear people talking about hitting a plateau when losing weight, and I am definitely there. And it’s been going on for MONTHS.

In that past life pre-breakdown (and for a while post- also) I’d have dug my heels in, whittled my food intake down to the bare minimum and ran like hell every morning in part punishment, part stubbornness to get the scales going. It would work, and I’d feel validated and successful.

The problem with that behaviour is that I was miserable and obsessive. Yes, getting on the scales (every morning) and seeing the numbers coming down was good, but the manner in which I achieved it was neither healthy or sustainable. Then I’d end up on a binge and feel guilty and even more wretched than when I was only losing half a lb a week.

Not this time, dear readers. Sure, it does nothing to quell my inherent impatience and stoke my competitive edge, but I’ve been able to step back and see the bigger picture. In all these weeks, I’ve never once gained. Not even half a pound. That counts for a lot. I’m also nearly back to where I was before the trauma of moving destroyed my happy little routine-world for the umpteenth time. So who cares if it’s a tiny loss week on week? It’s not a race. I don’t need to compete with myself – I look in the mirror and see that I’m winning. I don’t need to be my own worst enemy.

I say this cautiously, as the saying goes, ‘a leopard never changes its spots’ – but I may be on the way to becoming my own best friend instead.