The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Days 222 to 229 – Going Unnoticed 26 September 2008

Another long gap between posts!  This is such a busy time of year.  Before I know it, it will be Christmas, which is a scary thought.

I went to the pub the other night with my Dad to watch football and have a chat, and we had dinner there (I had salad while he had a burger … that’s how well behaved I am these days!).  We were sitting at the front of the crowd, pretty much under the TV screen, and were therefore surrounded by dozens of blokes all watching the game.  I realised that I was sitting there eating in front of all of these people, without a care in the world.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable, I didn’t feel self-conscious, I didn’t think that the blokes behind me were looking at me and thinking ‘haven’t you eaten enough, love?’.  I mentioned a while ago that I didn’t realise how damning I was being about myself, and how insidious my negative thoughts were, until they stopped being there.  That moment in the pub illustrates that perfectly.  For years and years I’ve been desperately uncomfortable about people watching me eat.  I wouldn’t say that I’m exactly over the moon about it now, to be honest, but I’m getting better.  In fact, I think I was in a vicious circle.  I hated public eating so much that I would wolf down my food as fast as possible so that nobody saw me do it.  I didn’t allow myself to eat slowly, thoughtfully and healthily.  I’ve always wanted to be able to eat and not be noticed (critically or otherwise) for doing it … now I believe that I can.

I went shopping for a ball dress last night.  The last time I went to a ball was just after I left university, which is a very long time ago indeed.  With my new-found retail confidence I went to Coast on Regent Street on a recommendation by a friend and was confronted by a wide array of beautful evening wear.  Having never bought anything there before, I took a range of sizes and styles and holed myself up in the changing room.  Now, in the past, shopping for formal wear and dresses has been a total nightmare.  I was never able to step into a dress without doing a very convincing impersonation of Mavis Cruet.  I was confident that this would no longer be the case.  And what did I discover?  Dresses that fit my bottom half like a glove haven’t a hope in hell of getting over my ribcage, whereas dresses that I can actually do up on the top sag around my bottom half like a baggy old bin liner.  So I stood there, in two hundred quid’s worth of beautiful but il-fitting dress, staring at my reflection and giggling.  Being thinner doesn’t make everything perfect, not by a long shot.  And the hunt for the dress goes on!  Any suggestions?

I’m on my way to Stockport this morning to listen to housewives talk about cleaning their toilets.  I’m not lying … that’s how glamorous my life is.  It means that I’ll be stuck in a darkened room behind a one-way mirror for several hours.  Past experience tells me that the temptation in these situations is to graze your way through crisps, snacks, biscuits and fizzy drinks purely to alleviate the boredom.  With that in mind I invested in a bag of nuts and a packet of dried mango (my new favourite treat!) on the way to the station.  I’m hoping that I have the willpower to reach for that instead of the chocolate when the discussions about removing limescale get too thrilling for words …


Days 212 to 221 – New Adventures 18 September 2008

Ten days since the last post … I should be ashamed of myself.  Well, my excuses are pretty valid.  Not only have I started a new job (and my brain is melting under the strain of taking on loads of new information) but I’ve been sick and I’ve been away.  So I don’t feel too guilty.

The most significant thing for me was a long weekend in Cornwall.  I’d been really looking forward to this trip … work has been a hard slog for me over the last few weeks and I was counting down the hours until I could put my feet up and enjoy the sea air.  Thirteen of us went to a cottage near Tintagel, and bloody gorgeous it was too.  For the first time since I began dieting (and before that) I felt that I could join in absolutely everything in good conscience … the activities, the chilling out, the food and the drink.  I didn’t feel unable to participate in anything too energetic, I didn’t feel guilty about being lazy when I wanted to be, and I didn’t have to have ‘special food’.  It was brilliant.

In keeping with my new exercise regime, I was up with the lark on the Saturday morning and did something I’ve not attempted for many years.  I went for a run.  It was indescribably beautiful jogging along a country lane, passing fields of sheep and watching the sun rise.  I managed about a mile and a half, maybe two, by my calculations, and ran for about ninety percent of it.  Just as I was feeling on the point of giving up, I passed a man walking his dog and my pride forced me to carry on running … a strange, red-faced and sweating townie who is running along the road looks much more acceptable than the same person simply walking along the road!  I was so pleased with myself.  I’ve always liked the idea of running and struggled with the reality … it was brilliant to actually enjoy it.  However, despite stretching before and after, I was stiff as a plank and did hobble about a lot for the rest of the weekend like an old lady.  Well, that’s something I’ve been getting used to recently!

The real excitement happened later that day when we clambered down the cliff path to the beach to go surfing.  Old me would have been sitting on a rock watching everyone else having fun.  New me, however, clambered into a wetsuit and took the plunge.  I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever worn a wetsuit in my life.  They’re not the most flattering of garments at the best of times, but in the old days it would have been unthinkable.  As it was, I did look a little bit like a squeezed tube of black toothpaste, but I felt perfectly comfortable in it.  I had to couple the suit with a pair of chunky black Caterpillar boots for the walk to the beach so I did look slightly like I was going to a grunge fetish party, but I coped.  Clearly I’m too much of a novice to do proper surfing on a grown-up board, but I managed a bit of boogie boarding, didn’t drown, swallowed about three pints of sea water and only smacked myself in the face with the board once.  Not bad for a first-timer!

The fun didn’t stop there.  When the tide came in we all showered, dried off and went to Tintagel Castle.  Anyone who’s ever been there will recall the steep climbs up and down hundreds of narrow slippery steps.  It’s not the kind of tourist attraction that would be popular in Florida, put it that way.  Again, unthinkable for the old me but nothing more than a strenuous stroll for new me.  OK, I was limping a little and starting to make whining noises about going for a beer by about 5.30, but it was fun.  In fact, I loved it.  I even had enough energy to go surfing again on the Sunday (despite my wetsuit being very cold and damp … ugh).

And as for the food … well, we ate tons of the stuff.  To be fair, all of the fresh air and exercise did make us genuinely hungry, but I for one ate much more than I have in recent memory.  And I probably drank my own bodyweight in red wine.  Did I care?  No.  Did I feel guilty?  No.  Did I almost cry when my new denim skirt was a bit on the snug side come Tuesday morning?  Yes.  But that’s the way it works.  I’ve not dared to go on the scales but my clothes are telling me all that I need to know.  So it’s sensible eating this week and next, lots of trips to the gym, and back on the straight and narrow for me.  The advantage of having an entirely new wardrobe is that I can’t ‘cheat’ myself into bigger clothes and pretend I’m the same weight.  I don’t have any bigger clothes.  So, unless I want to look like an overstuffed sausage, I have to lost any weight that I gain.  Easier said than done, and sometimes I do miss the simplicity of those lighter life packs (yes, it’s true!) but this is what normal means, and what I’ve wanted for more years than I can remember.


Days 208 to 211 – Old Faces 8 September 2008

What a lovely weekend!  Well, I know it peed down with rain for most of it, but it was still a good one.  On Saturday morning I dragged my aching bones to the gym … I knew I had to do it as I was facing a weekend of indulgence, and I needed to stretch out my poor old leg muscles.  Feeling quite virtuous for spending a Saturday morning somewhere other than under the duvet, we then went off to a festival organised by a friend of mine.  It’s not quite on the same scale as Glastonbury, but the effect of being in a muddy field in Surrey in wellies was pretty similar.  There were people there that I’ve known since school, some of whom I’ve not seen for years and years.  As ever, I took most of them by surprise.  I was told by at least three people that they didn’t recognise me (the very fetching hooded cagoule I was wearing may have had something to do with it, mind you) and was repeatedly told ‘you look well’.  Is ‘you look well’ the polite way of telling someone they’re not fat any more?  Only my closer friends, or those that knew about the diet, commented on the weight loss outright.  It’s funny, I’d never realised before just how sensitive people are about referring to other people’s weight … it might be seen as gauche to tell someone they’ve piled on the pounds, but is it bad to tell them when they’ve shifted them?

The festival involved lots of drinking and barbecued food.  I stuck to wine (red, this time) and steered clear of Old Sheep Dip or whatever weird ales and ciders were on offer.  I was pretty restrained on the barbecue front, too, and managed not to chomp my way steadily through the afternoon.  This all went slightly to pot on Sunday when I had to meet a succession of people for breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner.  There’s only so much salad a girl can take, I can tell you!  To be honest, I think I did pretty well in the face of some quite serious temptation.  Well, the scales will tell on Thursday.

I was out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6am today to meet my trainer in the gym at 7.  This session wasn’t as cripplingly difficult as the last one, despite some intensive bursts of activity on the rowing machine and the bike.  I did actually fear I might be sick at one point, but my pride prevented me from spilling the evidence of an indulgent Sunday on the laminate floor.  I had more comedy moments trying to lift weights.  My arms, particularly my left one, are pathetically weak.  It’s a wonder that I can lift a handbag, frankly.  But I have to stick at this.  I’m never going to be a dainty little thing, so the sooner I can turn this chunky physique into a more athletic one the better.  I just wish that exercise came in pill form, that’s all 🙂

I need to be careful this week.  The exercise means that my body is demanding more calories and I’m wary of lapsing back into a carb-heavy diet.  Because I’m approaching the end of management now, and will soon be going it alone, I need to get to a happy place between dieting (as such) and a normal routine.  As I’ve said before, I still want to lose some weight, and I’m giving myself a deadline of Christmas by which to do so.  I think that’s achievable, but I need to be strong.  It’s harder to exercise willpower in the world of food than it was during abstinence, and I’m permanently conscious of that fact.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever be able to stop thinking about my weight.  Sadly, I think I already know the answer to that question …


Days 205 to 207 – Limping Along 4 September 2008

Oh … my … god.  I am in pain!  I went to my personal training session on Tuesday morning, all keen and full of beans.  My trainer is a lovely Australian guy who’s athletic enough to show that he knows what he’s doing but not one of those ridiculously over-pumped muscle types.  That suits me just fine.  He’d told me that the first couple of sessions would be all about assessing my fitness and working out a suitable programme.  In his words, ‘you’re going to feel a bit like a lab rat’.  Again, fine.  To be honest, I’ve been weighed, measured, poked and prodded so much over the last few months that I’m quite used to it.

So the lab-ratting began with some squats and lunges and things while he peered at me and wrote notes down in his brand new ‘Joanne’s fitness plan’ notebook (pink and from Paperchase, I noticed … nice touch!).  We discovered that my left side is weaker than my right, so despite my best efforts to lunge like a pro I kept veering comically to one side like some malcoordinated toddler.  When I’d finished making myself look stupid I did a fitness test on a bike, and was delighted when he told me that I’m fitter than I give myself credit for.  I’m holding on to that thought, I can tell you.  In fact, when I first met him he seemed to be genuinely surprised that a lifetime of being overweight hasn’t given me a catalogue of slipped discs, back problems and knackered joints.  There’s still time …

Then the real fun began with the free weights and resistance machines.  Picture me – a slightly flabby and red-faced blonde chick – surrounded by enormous men with muscles bulging out of tight vests, lying on a bench trying desperately not to drop twenty kilos onto my face.  I can’t say it was my finest moment.  And, of course, my dear trainer was trying to see how strong I was so kept piling on the weights until I thought my arms were going to drop off.  And I can’t even begin to tell you about the machine where you have to push heavy weights in the air with your feet … all I can say is that it took all of my willpower to keep my legs from buckling completely when I climbed off of the damn thing.

Since then I’ve been shuffling around in absolute agony.  I was warned by the trainer that the first couple of sessions would be hard and that I’d really feel it afterwards.  He omitted to point out that for the last three days a one-legged octagenarian could easily have beaten me in a run for a bus.  I’m having to take stairs sideways, for goodness’ sake.

And I paid for this … 🙂

But, undeterred, I was back in the gym this morning.  The absolute truth is that I need to show those muscles who’s boss (er … they are, at the moment) so I creaked out of bed while it was still dark and managed a very respectable 20 minutes on the cross trainer and the same again on the rowing machine.  So the regime is most definitely on track, and I will be meeting the torture-monger … sorry, trainer,at 7am on Monday for session number two.

Food-wise I’ve been up and down.  The main revelation is that good old lighter life shakes make a great breakfast if you mix them with a banana, some strawberries and a broken up peanut food bar.  That will be my staple post-gym energy boost in the morning to stop me from reaching for the dreaded snacks before lunchtime.  I’m due at my counselling session this afternoon and I’m 99% certain that the scales have gone in the wrong direction, but I’m not too bothered about that.  For me it’s all about getting the balance right … reasonably healthy eating and regular exercise.  When I’m comfortable with that routine, and safe in the knowledge that I’ll stick to it, then I’ll consider that I’m at the end of lighter life.

I now have to leave my desk and go to a meeting.  Standing up will only take me about three and a half minutes, so here goes …


Days 200 to 204 – Making New Commitments 1 September 2008

What a whirlwind last week was!  And all of a sudden it’s Monday again and another weekend has disappeared.

The chaos is all down to my new job.  I’m with the same company, but I’ve been promoted and my role has changed which has involved lots of inductions, meetings and general strain on the old brain.  This has meant that anything diet-related has had to take a back seat.  Frankly, after months of thinking solely about lighter life and my weight, maybe that’s a good thing!

When I wrote my last proper post I was on an enormous high having managed to shift the weight I’d gained on holiday.  I’ve not been near a set of scales since that day, nor to a counselling session (thanks to three all day meetings back to back last week).  So goodness knows what my weight has done since then.  I need to be more disciplined about weighing myself regularly.  I come from the school of thinking that you shouldn’t necessarily weigh yourself every day (I know many people will disagree with that) because I think it’s far too easy to get obsessive about it.  I had a terrible tendency in my teens to go through binge/purge cycles where my weight was concerned, and for years after leaving home I refused to have a set of scales in the house.  Clearly I went too far in the other direction, but I really want to remain rational and sensible about what the scales say.

We had a barbecue at my house over the bank holiday weekend, and some friends came who were over for ten days from Boston.  They’ve been monitoring my weight loss progress (mainly through this blog and facebook) but it’s still flattering and rewarding to see the kind of surprise that they registered when they actually saw me in the flesh.  I think I’m pretty much used to my new physique now (although, in my heart of hearts, I do still consider myself to be a fat person in many respects), and most of my friends have seen me, but it’s still a shock for some.  I know that I’ve been lucky in the support and reactions that I’ve had from the people around me … I just hope that I won’t slowly pile the weight back on and have to see the disappointment on their faces, not to mention face up to how dreadful that would make me feel.

I don’t feel like I’m dieting anymore, even though a proportion of my diet is still lighter life food.  I’m trying desperately to get back to normal.  When I say that, I mean normal for the ‘thin people’ that I envied for so long, not normal for the old me.  The old me would be putting her feet up and reaching for a bag of crisps, whereas I’m trying to plan a new lifestyle and a new regime that will take me into a healthier future.  As I write I’ve just returned from a meeting with a personal trainer.  I have my first session tomorrow at 7.30am.  The old me would rather have eaten her own shoes than sign up for something like this, but I know that I need help, support and motivation to build on what I’ve achieved to date.  I just hope that I can do it.

I have another meeting now (will I be this busy from now on, I wonder?), but I’ll let you know how the training goes tomorrow.  Er, provided that I don’t oversleep …