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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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.

 

 

 

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.

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing

Packing Ninja

In February my life flipped in a different direction again. James got offered more or less the perfect job. So here I am boxing up my little world again for another adventure. I tell ya, I’m getting mighty good at this packing malarkey. I’ve done this routine 5 times in three and a half years, and haven’t had two consecutive Christmases in the same property since 2006. I could give some military wives a run for their money. It doesn’t make it any less of a stressful process, though. The logistics of moving jobs, animals, belongings etc still has to be done in a timely fashion.

This time feels different though. Firstly, I actually want to move this time. Secondly, the new place is amazing. It’s in a beautiful part of the country, and I feel much more at home already than I ever did in the previous two places. I’m kinda frightened to say it, but I think this might be it.

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I came to this cautious conclusion as I sauntered down the trails on the new farm, exploring the leafy tunnels. My brain is heaving a collective sigh of relief as is the psychological warrior in me.  It occurred to me that at my healthiest, both physically and mentally, was when I was happy in my surroundings and felt secure in my home. It was when I’d stayed in the same place for 2 years. Maybe that might happen again. Hopefully. It’s very difficult to achieve that secure feeling in the position we are in. When you work in agriculture, it’s a lifestyle, not a job. James manages farms. If you want to do that you really need to be on the farm 24/7 – so somewhere to live is often provided. As a ‘farmer’s wife’ you tend to get roped in to helping, regardless of whether you want to or not, or whether you have your own job. We’ve done a proper job on it this time, landing right in the middle of the calving and lambing period. Talk about in at the deep end! Luckily, I like that side of it. It’s a massive ask to be able to get absolutely everything right though – not only does the job have to be right for James, but I still have to be geographically well-placed for my own job, as well as being happy with the house being provided. The size, quality and condition of tied houses can swing wildly from one extreme to the other.  A new job basically  means a new life. If any aspect is wide of the mark, it can have disastrous consequences, and if you make the decision to call it a day, you are automatically moving house.  And this is why I’m cautious.

The first night I stayed at the new house I was the most chilled-out I’ve been in 18 months, so I’m taking that as a good indication. All I want is to settle now, give myself a chance to get to know my surroundings and give myself the chance to really get well again. I don’t think that’s much to ask- but hey, if it doesn’t work out, at least I’m a ninja when it comes time to pack up again.

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

Smartpoints Part 3 – Smile

First of all I’d like to say hello and welcome to my newest followers *waves* – if you missed the first two sections, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. For my regular readers, thank you for sticking in and the support you have given me in 2015 – it’s been immense, and made my brain-farts completely worthwhile. I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2016.

So now we’ve covered the eating and the moving part, I’m delighted to talk about a completely NEW part of the Weightwatchers plan. It’s laid out in a third booklet called, simply, ‘smile’.

I am ecstatic. I am satisfied. After a short discussion with my leader, I am now also convinced that the plan developers stalked the two of us before coming up with the third part to the new approach. For regular readers of this blog, you’ll know that I have anxiety problems and have fought hard over the years to not let it ruin my life after a nervous breakdown nearly did. I’ve talked long and weary time and time again about the importance of not just physical health, but mental health too. I’ve banged on endlessly about how the two go hand-in-hand and being healthy ‘upstairs’ is just as, if not more important than the physical part. It affects weight. It affects our attitude and habits towards food. By bringing out this little booklet, Weightwatchers have told me I’m right. I’m not going to lie, I like being right.

The idea behind the ‘smile’ booklet is to focus on the mental wellbeing side of your weight loss journey. I’d like to mention that this is entirely new territory for a weight-loss company and therefore very brave indeed. It’s perfect. Every single thing they mention in this third booklet I have talked about in blog posts, so WWs, you’ve done right.

So what does it actually entail?

The idea here is to put yourself first. Take some time to look after your brain and reap the benefits in your weight loss journey. Suggestions for a generally more positive outlook on life, self appreciation, relaxation and accepting flaws are all mentioned. Tips and ideas to help empower and ultimately make better choices because you don’t feel like a bag of crap all the time. To me, this is far more valuable than anything else WWs has to offer. I hope members take this part seriously and actively pursue this aspect of the plan. I’m convinced it will pave the way to success.

What has creeped me out is the uncanny resemblance to things both my leader and I have been doing long before the plan came into being.

My leader has always talked a lot about being ‘thankful’ or ‘grateful’ for things, and you see a lot of it even in her

Week 25 of the Gratitude Challenge from my journal
Week 25 of the Gratitude Challenge from my journal

personal social media posts. In the ‘smile’ booklet, there’s a page on gratitude and how it affects our outlook. Weird, eh? Because I do a lot of writing (fiction as well as blog posts), every year I take up a writing challenge. In December of 2014, I decided this year I was going to do “52 weeks of gratitude” – a challenge which gives you a weekly prompt on what to write about being thankful for. It’s been thought-provoking, and made me a much nicer, more tolerant person. And I’ve completed it. So what the ‘smile’ booklet wants me to do, I’ve already been doing for the last year. If you fancy taking the challenge yourself, just Google the phrase. I dare you. It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece, even bullet points once a week will do if you’re not the creative type.

I’m a firm believer in harnessing creativity and I think everyone has some, you just need to dig about to find it. One of the things the booklet mentions is inspiring that creativity through Pinterest – a virtual pinboard (I call it virtual hoarding) to collect ideas, concepts and stuff you like. Surprise, surprise, I’ve been using it for years. If you’d like to take a look at my Pinterest boards, you can find them here. I have over 12,000 pins on various subjects including running, writing, computer games and boxes (yes, you heard me). If you decide to use the site, you can find oodles of Weightwatchers-inspired boards with recipes, tips and giggles.

The other odd thing that really got to me about the ‘smile’ booklet was the ‘relaxation’ partIMG_1026 – Adult colouring has become quite popular again recently, and in the back of the booklet is an abstract rabbit for that purpose. I’m not much of a fan of colouring in, but a week before the plan was unveiled I drew the picture on the right-hand side in my journal. Creepy.

Although I am 100% weirded out, I know that I’m doing all the right things to keep myself on track, and doing the best I can to combat those dark days and my inevitable periods of lockdown. I’m just so, so glad that Weightwatchers have recognised this – I know I’m not alone on this one, and by writing this blog I wanted to share my experiences to help others if I can. Thank you Weightwatchers for making my private whispers loud enough for everyone to hear.

Exercise, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

SmartPoints Part 2 – Move

Now that we’ve covered the eating part, it’s time to talk about an equally important part of a healthy lifestyle – activity. WeightWatchers have always been at the forefront of ‘healthy living’ plans, and exercise is no exception. WWs were one of the first to encourage people to get off their backsides and move to aid in weight loss and create positive habits for a lifetime of good health. The tweaks to their very successful plan are no exception. Nowadays, it’s a well accepted fact that exercise is a necessary and inevitable part of a normal lifestyle. Up until now, activity points have been ‘earned’ and were freely available to gobble up for parties/events/Saturday nights.

The nice thing about the new approach is that not a lot has changed really. It’s more the attitude towards moving more that’s changed. The WWs app will now give you a weekly fitpoints target to aim for. If you ask a leader now about ‘eating’ your fitpoints, the answer will be “If you are running on zero, they are there as a backup”. This is fundamentally important. It gets rid of the ‘reward’ cycle mentality. Previously, it was very easy for members to say “Oh, I did two classes at the gym today, so I’ll have an extra helping of dessert” – thus a member was basically undoing their hard work and congratulating themselves with the very thing that caused them bother in the first place.

We should not think of exercise as ‘work’ and think that we should be entitled to some sort of prize. That’s not how it works. Unfortunately, in modern sedentary society, taking some form of brisk exercise is a requirement of not being a lardass – something that no Weightwatcher wants to be. So stop rewarding yourself because you’ve been to the pool twice this week. If you have a rigorous training regime you will need to eat more – remember, the key to losing weight is an energy deficit in the foods we consume versus the energy we put out. When the boundaries of this are pushed by strenuous exercise it’s inevitable one would need to eat more. Monitor it – it’s very easy to get carried away and land back up where you started on the scales.

You can’t avoid it now – WWs are even giving you a target to work towards to get you moving! Everyone’s level of fitness and ability is different and this is recognized by height, weight, age and the survey questions you answer. So your fitpoint goal should be within realistic reach. Exercise is something (luckily) I’ve never had a problem with. I’ve always loved it, particularly anything that involves being outside. I understand that not everyone feels the same. One of the most common excuses I hear is “I’m too big to (insert activity here)”. I call pants on fire, liar liar. If you recognize this, stop it. Right now. Would you rather not do something in case an occasional person who has nothing to do with your life says something unsavoury and just stay overweight? I ran my first half marathon nearly two and a half stone heavier than my ideal running weight. Surprise, surprise, I didn’t die. Or get laughed at. People were impressed. Be brave and go for it, whatever ‘it’ is. The satisfaction you’ll get from seeing progress is worth it.

The key to fitting activity into your life on a regular and permanent basis is simple. Find something you enjoy. It might take you a while to find out what it is, but you can have fun trying. If you don’t enjoy yourself, it becomes a chore very quickly and that’s what you don’t want. Be brave, try something you wouldn’t normally do. Walk. Swim. Cycle. Yoga. The possibilities are endless. Once you find something that you are passionate about, you are on to a winner. I can promise that before long, you’ll look forward to it.

The final point about regular activity is the effect it has on the brain. Regular readers will know I’m a huge advocate of exercise for a healthy mind. It helps keep me balanced. Sciency stuff tells us that moderate exercise on a regular basis lifts mood by stimulating the feel-good hormones which outlast the period of exercise. I’ll vouch for that. I’ve also found it has a relaxing effect, allowing me to sleep better (something I’m not very good at) and generally be a more chilled-out chapette. It also has a temporary appetite-suppressing quality with may or may not help with controlling the volume of food we eat after exercise. Aside from this, the sheer sense of achievement you get from doing something that requires effort and perseverance is the best mood-lifter of all. Whether it’s perfecting a dance routine, upping your reps or simply walking faster and further. Once again, well done WeightWatchers. Bravo.

So why is all this mood-lifty nonsense important? Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3!

Life Journey, Relationships, Targets, Weight Loss

Boom!

So I dropped into class with my Mum on Thursday. I stepped on the scales knowing that I definitely hadn’t put on any weight, and was feeling good about a STS. Having a handle on my eating habits makes all the difference when getting on the scales. I genuinely didn’t care if I didn’t see a loss, simply because I felt as if I had got my eating back under control. I was delighted to hear the ‘beep’ and see 13st 5 – my 10%! BOOM!

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I gladly posed for my little photo that my leader insists on taking and received my card and keyring. In ten years of trying to lose weight, that is now my third 10% keyring. I still have the other two, and I’ve kept them as a reminder. Not to remind myself that this is a third attempt or that my previous two attempts were a failure, but to serve as a testament of my stubbornness never to give up. Keep trying. Keep on truckin’. That’s all I can do. IMG_1375

The meeting itself was quite a deep and emotional affair, and I talked candidly about the effect a large weight loss has had on my mother. She’s lost 80lbs, and genuinely is a different person, inside and out – it’s changed her life. And she’s awesome. It made me think about myself. By the time I’m finished, I’ll have lost over 50lbs. Will it change me? I don’t have the lacking confidence like mum did, or the health issues. What else is there to change other than what I see in the mirror?  I had a little talk with myself and decided it doesn’t matter as long as the changes are positive ones –  but I’m not giving up until I find out.

I don’t often go to class with Mum because of my work schedule, but I’m really glad I did. The mutual support is a big help, and there are more connections than both of us realize. We should be there for each other as much as possible, and I’m going to go with her every chance I get. My next goal is my 25lb certificate, which is 4lbs away. I’ll get it at the same weight my mum was when she got her last certificate… I think the weight-loss gods are trying to tell us something?