The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Days 348 to 353 – Another Year Older 28 January 2009

It’s my birthday today.  Well, strictly speaking, it was my birthday yesterday, given that it’s almost one in the morning.  And I just had a very strange moment in the bathroom (how freaky does that sound?).  I was merrily cleaning my teeth when I looked down at my legs and feet and was struck for the millionth time how different I look.  It was around this time last year that I was bracing myself to begin lighter life in a week or so.  A year ago I was very fat, very unhappy about it, and desperate to change.  I was also very scared about it.  Now, I’ve been through what can only be described as a rollercoaster ride and yet I’m still feeling a bit awkward, a bit unusual, and not 100% certain about myself.

The ‘big diet’ is over.  I’ve come so far since last year that I can’t quite sum it up in words.  However, I’m still struggling.  I’m still not totally comfortable with myself.  I’m still in a situation where I’m setting myself strenuous (unrealistic?) goals in order to feel happy.  Does this ever stop?  Will I ever wake up and feel at peace and at ease with myself?  In all honesty (and I’ve always tried to be honest in this blog) I don’t know.  And that really bugs me!

On the running front, I’ve been told to ease up.  My trainer spoke to a physiotherapist colleague of his, and she told him that I shouldn’t run more frequently than twice a week.  She was worried about the damage that I might do to my joints and bones … fair comment, given that I’ve done pretty much zero exercise over the last thirty-odd years of my life.  However, that feels like a setback for me.  I’ve finally found something that I feel happy doing, and I’ve been told to put the brakes on.  How bloody frustrating!  And to add to the irritation, I know that they’re right.  I ran home last Thursday and had to stop after only three miles because I felt exhausted.  As I said in my last post, I had just begun to feel that I could actually be a successful runner, and yet on the next running outing I just couldn’t complete my target of getting home.  Frustrated and angry I rang the Boy, and his immediate response was to tell me that running three miles was an achievement in itself and I shouldn’t beat myself up.  Of course he was right, but that didn’t alter how I felt at the time.  Grrrrr!

I went for a run this morning.  Just once around the Common.  I was in great spirits (birthdays do that to you) but I was very conscious that some of my impetus was missing.  I need to brace myself again.  I’ve come to learn over the past months that I need to consciously push myself forwards … the problem is that I’m not used to what I would call failure.  It knocks me sideways.  Having hated so many things about myself for so long, and then having overcome that hatred, it’s pretty bloody tough to face up to the fact that you might still be as flawed as you always were.

Am I being hard on myself?  Probably!  These are the kind of negative thoughts that would, in my past life, have made me take refuge in food (I guess).  And that’s not the case.

Despite what this post may suggest, I’m embracing the beginning of my 37th year (not least because it has been hilarious to remind my parents that their first born ‘baby’ is now 36 years old).  I have learnt more about myself in the last twelve months than I care to think about but, at the risk of speaking in cliches, I have to move onwards and upwards.

In terms of my diet, my trainer is going to give me a diet plan on Friday morning.  Half of me is going to resist this vehemently, whereas the other half of me will be quietly relieved to think that (once again) my nutritional discipline is out of my hands.  I’m interested to see what he suggests … I’ll share it with you all and you can judge for yourselves.

Here’s to the imminent end of January … it’s the month that everyone hates, isn’t it?  Well, apart from us Aquarians 🙂  Good luck to all of you who’ve chosen the new year to make significant changes to your weight and your health.  Take it from one who knows … you won’t regret it.


Days 345 to 347 – Yes We Can! 21 January 2009

Sorry … forgive the slightly corny title, but I feel a bit like that at the moment.  Buoyed up from watching history in the making yesterday I ran home again, this time via a slightly different and fractionally longer route.  I was hoping to achieve 5 miles/8 km, according to the route planner, but my running watch told me I’d actually done 4.8 miles/7.7 km.  Frustratingly close!  I should’ve run around the block a couple of times 🙂

The good news is that, as I was crossing Waterloo Bridge (arguably the most beautiful view of the Thames, I hope you agree!) and heading for Kennington, I felt very comfortable about what I was doing.  I was in a rhythm, making reasonable progress and enjoying myself.  I began to feel, probably for the first time, that the goal I’ve set myself is an achievable one.  A bit like Thomas the Tank Engine, the words ‘you can do it, you can do it’ were going round and round inside my head (to the accompaniment of something suitably rousing like The Pogues’ Fiesta, probably).  That felt great.  I didn’t feel like a very recently ex-fat girl who was wildly overstepping the mark.

I think my positive frame of mind was helped by the fact that I was relentlessly healthy yesterday.  Cereal for breakfast, then home-made vegetable soup and home-baked rye bread for lunch, washed down with lots of water meant that I felt good on the inside too.  I felt light and not weighed down.  I even managed to steer clear of the celebratory hot dogs and Budweiser that was on offer in the agency during the inauguration speech … it would have been so easy to cave in, have a drink or two, and commit to running home another night.

But before you think I’m too smug and saintly for words, I promptly ruined everything by meeting my Dad last night for a curry and red wine … whoops!  This is something I need to be very careful about.  I can’t use exercise as an excuse to take my eye off the ball when it comes to what I’m eating.  It wouldn’t be so much of an issue if I was at my perfect weight, which I most certainly am not!  I could kid myself that the scales have crept in the wrong direction because muscle weighs more than fat, but I’d be lying to myself.  The fact that my (size 12) denim skirt that I’m wearing today is decidedly on the snug side proves that … it’s not muscle, or the washing machine, it’s over-indulgence.

So, with the running training seemingly taking care of itself, I need to focus now on what I put into my mouth.  And that, as we all know, is not something that I’m particularly expert at.


Days 333 to 344 – The Next Chapter 18 January 2009

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the direction of this blog since completing lighter life.  Clearly, given that I’m not actually following the diet any more, I either need to wrap it up or find new topics to discuss on a regular basis (it won’t have escaped some of you that my posts have got fewer and further between).

I don’t want to stop blogging.  I’ve had numerous posts and emails from people who say that they are interested in finding out what happens to someone after the diet.  Does it all go horribly wrong?  Does the weight pile back on?  Is it a short-term fix that doesn’t resolve long-term problems?  For that reason, I”m going to keep writing, and intend to be as honest as possible about what happens to me in the future.

Also, I have resolved to follow a regular exercise regime with running as my primary focus.  As I begin the uphill climb towards a marathon (fingers crossed) I want to document the trials and tribulations of beginning from a cold start and attempting to run 26 miles.  Speaking selfishly, I found that the blog really helped to keep me on track while I was dieting and I’m hoping that it will do the same for me while I’m training.  It’s not all about the exercise, either … I’m going to be working with my trainer to make sure that I”m eating the right foods while I’m doing this.

So this is where I go from here.  I had to summarise my goals for 2009 for my trainer last week and, in a nutshell, I think that 2008 was the year that I lost weight and 2009 will be the year when I get fit.  I hope!  I’m optimistic about my chances.  If last year taught me anything, it taught me that if I give myself a huge goal, then something in my psyche forces me towards it.  Here’s hoping I can replicate that success.

The running is going well.  I ran home from work on Thursday evening, having been encouraged by a friend of mine who does the same.  We spent a hilarious ten or so minutes dodging confused commuters on Tottenham Court Road and then went our separate ways at Trafalgar Square.  I was nervous … when you run with a fixed goal (i.e. your house) it’s very different from just going for a bit of a pootle round the Common.  I knew that there would only be one outcome … I would make it or I wouldn’t.   I tried to see the journey in stages … to the river, then to the Embankment, to Vauxhall, to Stockwell then home.  Those mini goals were vital in getting me home.  By the time I got to Vauxhall I was over the moon.  I told myself that I’d really broken the back of it and was on the home straight.  Then, at Stockwell, I was ready to give up.  I wasn’t knackered, or struggling, I was just over the whole thing.  Then my pride kicked in and I thought about the incredulous faces of my friends as they asked ‘You got to Stockwell and gave up?  Five minutes from your house?!’.  So I pushed on, and sheer joy and adrenaline made me sprint from the end of my road to my front door.  I stumbled through the door, panting and sweating and ecstatic, and terrified the life out of my cat who went belting up the stairs.  I’d done it.

Flushed with that success (it’s about 4 and a half miles from work) I ran home from Crystal Palace yesterday.  That’s getting on for 5 miles.  The Boy has bought a flat to rent out (yes, some people are still buying houses!) and we’d been over there taking out the filthy old kitchen.  I have to say that my legs really don’t like me very much today, but they’re going to have to get used to it.  I intend to do two middle length runs (4 or 5 miles) and one longer one (between 5 and 10) every week.  Let’s see how I get on!

Food-wise, I’m trying to work off the excesses of Christmas.  We’ve started getting a vegetable box delivered every week with the aim of decreasing our takeaway consumption or temptation to go out.  Not only will it save us money in these cash-strapped times, but will be better for our health.  So far this year I’ve discovered the wonders of curly kale, pink fir apple potatoes, and fresh beetroot … I’m looking forward to some more weird and wonderful food concoctions!

So here begins phase 2 of this blog.  Let’s see how it goes, eh.


Days 320 to 332 – Happy New Year! 6 January 2009

OK, so wishing people a happy new year on the 6th of Jan is slightly belated, I know, but I realised with some relish that I hadn’t switched on a computer since my last post on 24th December.  For me, that’s unheard of.  I’m one of those people who’s usually only inches away from a laptop, blackberry and a mobile phone.  It’s nice to know that I can turn my back on them once in a while.

I’ve just come back from a week in Devon with the Boy and two other friends.  We rented a cottage on the outskirts of a town called Halsworthy, about half an hour from Bude.  It was a week of long walks, board games and home cooking.  In fact, cooking played rather a large part of the holiday.  We decided to play our own version of ‘come dine with me’ and took it in turns to cook dinner (slightly nerdily we also scored each other in secret and announced a winner on the final evening).  Clearly, with everyone aiming to impress in the kitchen, the potential for enormous calorie consumption was high.  In anticipation of this I made a pact with myself to keep up with the running … and run I did.  I went out on three mornings during the week we were there and managed one run of 5 miles and two runs of 3 miles.  I could’ve done more, I think, but on the second two runs the roads were extremely icy and very treacherous so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and opted for an early shower rather than a broken ankle.

The fantastic thing is that I’m really starting to get a feel for running.  Once I’ve made the effort to get out there (and clambering out of bed at 8am in a cottage where you could see your breath condensing in the morning was no mean feat, I can tell you) and have got going, I now hit that point where I’m in a rhythm and really feeling good about it.  I feel as if I’m relaxing into it, if that makes sense.  You have to understand that, apart from swimming, I’ve always viewed exercise as some form of masochistic torture that people impose on themselves … now I’m beginning to see it differently.  Oh god … am I going to turn from a diet bore into an exercise bore?  Please shoot me if I do.

On a slighty less worthy note, my sister bought us a Wii fit for Christmas.  It’s absolutely brilliant … despite the fact that it had the cheek to tell me I’m overweight (well, that’s Christmas for you).  I thoroughly recommend one to anyone who’s feeling a bit squidgy around the middle after all the turkey … exercise in the comfort of your own front room is a simply genius idea, and much more fun than those hideous celebrity workout DVDs.  Frankly I don’t think using one will turn anyone into an olympic athlete, but I spent a couple of hours on it today and some of the exercises were taxing enough.  That also made me feel better about opting out of the run around the Common that I had planned for this morning … well, it was bloody snowing at the time!

So … here’s to a slightly punitive January after the excesses of last month.  Nice glass of carrot juice, anyone?