Runs with hamburgers

Last night I was running on a trail beside a railway line, while holding a large hamburger in my left hand. I was dreaming, of course. But it felt so good to be running. I was light on my feet despite my unweildy body and the whopping burger.

I felt an urgent desire to be on the other side of the tracks. I came to a bridge that crossed over the line but it was extremely narrow; about a foot wide. I’d need to turn sideways then somehow wiggle and squeeze my way over. The hamburger would need to go. As my run-ragged heart hammered away I looked at the bridge and then looked at the burger then looked at the bridge and looked at the burger again. What to do? What to do?

I woke up half-laughing. Random dream or a painfully literal metaphor for the lard busting efforts? Hmm…

This is not a burger with the lot“What kind of burger was it?” Gareth asked, “I bet it was an Aussie burger with the lot!

“Yes!”

“Well that’s a rubbish burger to run with. They put too many fillings in and it always falls apart. Lettuce onions tomato cheese bacon pineapple and I don’t know which is more ridiculous, the fried egg or the beetroot.”

“So I should have ran with a Scottish burger where it’s just crappy meat and cheese welded to the bun with grease?”

“Far more sensible.”

. . .

Once, twice, three times a blogging lady!

Three Times A Blogging Lady Challenge: Halfway Report. I’m slightly behind! I have three 85% completed posts. Shall knock those buggers over tomorrow. This Challenge along with the DVD Dust-Off have highlighted my tendency to noodle endlessly instead of just getting things done and moving on. Let go of that hamburger and CROSS THE BRIDGE baby!

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Goldmember

“There is a small, competitive part of me that gets annoyed from time to time that I didn’t ‘finish’ Weight Watchers. Not because I crave a sense of completion, not because I had a burning desire to be on the cover of the magazine; but because I wanted to be a Gold Member.

That’s what you become when you reach your goal weight. And they give you a GOLD CARD. You could carry it around in your wallet and whip it out at any time to prove that you’d WON weight loss! :P

While I never became a Gold Member, I once stood beside a gold member at the Museum of Sex in Copenhagen – see picture below. That’s not too bad a consolation prize, I reckon.”

Copenhagen, Summer 2004

Copenhagen, Summer 2004

I wrote the above about five years ago, saved it to my draft posts and forgot about it until yesterday, when I cracked open those cocoa nibs and one of them was shaped like a tiny penis. This amused my juvenile mind and I thought, I should write about this cocoa nib development! And that made me remember the old Copenhagen Willy post.

Last night I worried that some people might find that poor taste and never read the blog again. But then I remembered a recent conversation with the incredible Sas about how trying to please everyone is futile, especially everyone on the internet. It’s physically impossible, for one; plus it can get in the way of you being the real you and that leads to all sorts of unhappiness.

So I thought, dang it, I’ll go ahead and post it, as a tiny step towards writing more fearlessly. As you can see there were no deep, profound thoughts lurking behind the inner censor. It’s all chocolate and male appendages.

. . .

I feel very sad looking at that photo from eight years ago. It was the first day of our Russia-Scandinavia tour and I thought I was the most humungous, ugly blob. I’d lost a shitload of weight but had little appreciation of how far I’d come. I felt huge compared to my tour mates, though looking through the photos all these years later it clearly wasn’t the case. I was so scared of gaining weight on that tour. My whole self-worth was attached to the lard busting mission and I felt like I was one Finnish chocolate bar from it all spinning out of control.

With such unsustainable and unkind motivations I can kinda see the inevitability of everything that happened in the following years. Today, properly large again, I’d be chuffed to be the size I was in that photo (minus the dodgy hairdo and maudlin clothing!). But I don’t want that old headspace.

I hope, and quietly believe, that there exists a middle ground where my knees, vanity and mind can all find peace. I’ll keep working on it.

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Ah ha! That explains it nicely…

Tree outside a B&B in Wilmington, NC

My friend Nikki posted a link to this recent Lifehacker article “To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem”. It talks about the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion, and sums up in that typically succinct Lifehacker style what I’ve struggled to articulate re: being kinder to yourself doesn’t mean giving up on yourself or weight loss etc. I reckon self-compassion might be a better term for what I’m attempting to practice:

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding—it’s embracing the fact that to err is indeed human. When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego.

I also liked this bit:

“…it’s important to understand what self-compassion is not. While the spirit of self-compassion is to some degree captured in expressions like “give yourself a break” and “cut yourself some slack,” it is decidedly not the same thing as taking yourself off the hook or lowering the bar. You can be self-compassionate while still accepting responsibility for your performance. And you can be self-compassionate while striving for the most challenging goals—the difference lies not in where you want to end up, but in how you think about the ups and downs of your journey.”

The article goes on to say that self-compassion is powerful because it takes your ego out of the equation and, “You can get a realistic sense of your abilities and your actions, and figure out what needs to be done differently next time”.

Interesting stuff. Thanks Nikki!

Update: I hope I’m not freaking anyone out by writing about this stuff lately, but this article really has me thinking. So often I say or think really shitty things about myself, and I don’t find it helpful to look in a mirror and say YOU’RE AWESOME to counter that. But a little compassion, on the other hand, is something I feel I can work on.

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The elephant in the blog

You'd think missing three Monthly Check-Ins in a row meant I was splashing around in a gigantic pile of Twix wrappers. But all is well – I've been busy taking a long hard look at myself.

This past month been incredible and I am so full of the joys I could spew! But before I get to the fun stuff, I wanted to fill in the gaps.

. . .

It's a bizarre thing to write about your weight in a public place for eleven years. Kinda ridiculous, let's be honest. But I love this nerdy habit and have met so many amazing people as a result. The trick is not to let it mess with your head. Unfortunately, I'd begun to do just that.

Despite working on the mindfulness and self-acceptance stuff, the old "You Suck" voice had reared its grotty head these past couple of months. I'd start writing then feel completely bowled over by shame, anxiety and dread, stemming from both the regained weight and my failure thus far to re-lose it.

Sometimes the shame was sparked from within, other times triggered by external stuff. I've developed a tougher skin over the years but when you're already feeling low it's hard not to crumble a little when you receive opinions ranging from friendly curiosity, concern, to apparent disappointment over the size of your body.

Anyway, there I was feeling like a stinking fraud and like nothing I wrote would ever be worthy until the day I could report, Hey folks, you can come back now. I'm normal again! I match the After photo!

Suddenly it was all about the lard again. If I wasn't scheming ways to worm out of all social plans for the rest of the year, I was doing frantic maths to figure out how to lose X kilos in Y weeks by cutting down to Z calories so I'd look halfway "acceptable" again.

But then I had an epiphany in early April, at my friend Sarah's wedding. All night I sat on the sidelines, too self-conscious to get on the dance floor with my friends. Dancing is one of my favourite things in the world, but I was frozen to my chair. I could not stop thinking about how much space I took up. The thoughts came so dark and fast; I felt like I was growing wider by the second.

The déjà vu was a smack in the chops – the last time I'd felt like that was a night out with my friends back in Australia, eleven years earlier.

Shauna, this officially SUCKS, I thought. Are you really going back here again? You know you want more than this.

It was time, as mentioned earlier, to take a looooong hard look at myself. This is what I figured out:

1. Focusing on external stuff doesn't work
It must be the 357th time I've relearned this lesson, ahem. But fear of public events, disappointed strangers, holiday snaps, not being liked and/or increasingly enormous undies are not lasting incentives to get me on the spinning bike. When I'm home alone with the kitchen cupboard doors flung open, they're not compelling enough reasons. Shame only takes me so far forward, then it leads me straight back to the biscuit tin.

2. I need to focus on what I want
… rather than what I think I should want, do or be. I asked the flaming obvious question, "This is your life, what the heck do you want out of it?". I wrote a dorky list of stuff and I've been reading it every morning. It took a few weeks, but now it pops into my mind when I'm working out or staring down a cake. A gazillion times more effective than, "I shouldn't eat that or I'll look crap at Fitbloggin" or "Must do training walk otherwise I'm a shite example for Up & Running."

3. I'm a bloody boring person when I fixate on weight
Dude. There's more to me than my size. I have a wonderful, kickarse life. But for awhile there I couldn't see the forest for the flab. I was hiding away from my friends, being a moody git, not being very present. Which leads me to…

4. Fun first, fat second
Because there's too much good stuff happening! I had to get out of my head and back into the world. First on the agenda was finally going indoor climbing with my friend Tor, the awesome one who persuaded me to do the Santa Run and Loony Dook. She'd asked me yonks ago but I made all sorts of excuses, including "I'm Too Fat for climbing". Yes, I was back there again!

But thankfully I came to my senses and Tor very patiently showed me the ropes, HAW HAW. There was a hilarious moment when I could not let go of the wall… top metaphor! But awhile later I lost my grip and fell off and instead of being shitscared I was just annoyed and wanted to do it over… an even better metaphor. It was an awesome, awesome day (thanks Tor!) and made me feel rebooted and refocused on what's important.

Here I am in my post-climb squinty sweaty glory!

Let's climb

Since then the momentum has been building. And whaddya know… the scale is going down again.

Well, you deserve a medal if you got through this post. Next time I need to tell you all about ITALY and the Up & Running retreat and the big race and the Nutella.

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Friday Link Feast #15

What do you mean, it's Saturday?!

  • The Baby-Sitters Club Changed My Life
    Loved this post by a bloke called Stu about how Stacey The Well-Dressed Diabetic From New York helped the girls in his life understand his Type 1 diabetes.
  • Cycletta – Cycling events for women
    Any UK cycling ladies out there? I'll be taking part in the Cycletta North bike ride on October 2 in Tatton Park, Cheshire. Cycletta events are women only bike rides on safe, traffic free roads for complete novices and experienced riders alike.

    I was offered a media place and my first reaction when I saw the email was to scream/delete – not coz of the distance (can hear my hardcore cycling pals snorting at 40km ;) but because five years after buying my bike I'm still too shitscared to ride it! Once or twice a year is pretty rubbish Cost Per Ride economics.

    But I ended up saying YES coz Cycletta seems like a great way to give cycling a proper go, once and for all. More on this soon – including a wee interview with Olympic Gold medallist Victoria Pendleton (woo!) – but thought I'd mention the event now in case anyone out there was up for it too!

  • Medicinal Marzipan – Body Lovin' Homework
    I met Mara at Fitbloggin and she was smart, hilarious and charismatic as heck. As soon as I got home I stalked casually perused her blog and discovered Body Lovin' Homework, a series of writing prompts "created with the express intention of bettering our relationships with our bodies through creative means". I tried out some of the exercises and it was powerful stuff.
  • Zen Habits – The Spiral of Successful Habits
    I know I've banged on about baby steps around here far too often but this post reiterates how small actions can grow into honking huge changes!
  • Green Gourmet Girafe – Why does food history matter?
    You could spend a week reading this amazing post from Johanna – it's packed with fantastic links and insights about food history and memory and meaning. A must for food nerds!

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Introducing… Up & Running running e-courses!

image from www.upandrunningonline.org Out of all the bumbling sporty things I've tried over the past ten years, none has given me a greater rush than that 5K running race.

Way back in 2004 I got an email from a woman named Julia, an American in Italy. She was a running coach and said that I sounded like I was in need of a challenge. How would I like her to virtually train me for a 5K?

I told her the idea was bloody ridiculous. Running was for skinny girls with long legs and bouncy ponytails. Not for chunky lassies who got puffed running for the bus!

But Julia had already coached thousands of women who thought they couldn't run, so she'd heard all the excuses before. She urged me give it a go.

So for eight weeks I followed her programme. It was hard. I whined a lot. But it was fun! As each week went by I discovered I was capable of far more than I’d ever thought. I found new endorphin highs, new muscles in my legs and new faith in myself. Even though kickboxing and Zumba are my exercises of choice these days, running was the thing that made me ditch my fears about exercise and the "I could never do that" limiting beliefs.

I'll never forget blubbing my eyes out as I crossed the finish line at my 5K race. I wrote en blog:

"There is no better feeling in the world than to take your mind and body to some place you thought it couldn’t go; a place you thought it didn’t belong. You should all try it some time."

Now six years later, you can try it, if you fancy!

I'm chuffed to bits to let you know that today Julia and I have launched Up & Running: kickass running e-courses for women.

We've taken Julia's tried and true running training programmes online, so no matter where you are in the world you can get running too. Julia is your expert running coach, while I'm the boss of the website!

Up & Running

We're starting with our eight-week 5K Beginners Course, with plans for 10K, half marathon and marathon courses later down the line.

The 5K Course, which kicks off on 21 March, is not the usual boring "walk 5 mins, run 5 minutes" training malarkey. This is a mind and body approach. We'll not only get you running safely, we help you set goals and understand your motivations. We help you get in tune with your body and how to look after it when you run so you stay strong and healthy. We've got video tutorials, inspiring interviews with runners.

And we don't just give you a set of instructions then abandon you – you get unlimited support via our community forums – all your questions answered.

I'm really rambling on now – can you tell I'm excited!? I'm just so passionate about this because Julia is a brilliant coach and I so strongly believe in the power of exercise to change the way we see ourselves. Well. How about I shut up now so you can go check it out?*

(* If you want to. If you do, I will love you for life. Woohoo! :)

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Scott the Strawberry

These past few months have been rather batty. Stuff that is too personal or awkward to write about in real time. Also, stuff that is too personal and bloody tedious to subject you to.

Scott the Strawberry
A healthy eating poster at the local primary school

Basically I took myself off to a shrink. After a year or more of saying I should be able to fix this on my own I thought I'd try talking to an objective person about things.

It was very fruitless to begin with, because I was being very half-arsed about it. There were many conflicting voices:

  • Shame and Fraudulent: I'm wasting her time, I should be able to fix things on my own.
  • Denial: There's nothing wrong with you; harden the f*ck up whinge bag!
  • Hopeless: You've cocked up so badly you're beyond help
  • Blogging Out Loud: telling "hilarious" stories and not being honest about how crappy things were, in case she didn't believe me and/or thought I was pathetic.

It was three expensive months of not much progress and soooooo much denial. I bawled and/or binged and binged and binged after every session. I was tempted to churn out a few of my "I'm doing great now!" blog posts even when I wasn't, because I felt like I should have been doing better.

But slowly, slowly… light bulbs started going off. The energy saving kind that take awhile to warm up, but still, progress.

Recently I got home from work and went to get changed for a workout. I saw my favourite winter coat in the wardrobe and for some reason decided to try it on. It was so tight that I couldn't get it over my shoulders. I looked in the mirror and the bullshit and denial just fell away. I plonked on the bedroom floor and had a cry for twenty minutes.

Then I thought, Righto, ENOUGH. I got up, put on my gym clothes and did a Cathe weights DVD. I started sniffling again halfway through because I couldn't lift as heavy as I used to, but it still felt like a minor triumph over the "you suck, you're doomed!" voice.

"What has changed?" the shrink asked in our next session. What's changed is that I finally accept that I have work to do. I accept that I need to change the way I think and I accept that this takes hard work. I accept I need to communicate properly with my loved ones and not hide or deny problems.

I accept that I need to build a healthy relationship with food that will sustain me for the rest of my life. I had to buy size 18 jeans recently. I want to get back into my 14s but my approach is different now. It can't be about losing weight so I'll fit into a wedding dress, or have an ending for a book, or look acceptable to promote a book, or to live up to the expectations of certain people. It will never stick until deep down, I want to live a healthy life just for me.

I finally see how damaging the language of shoulds, musts and have tos has been. I see how needlessly worrying about what other people think has steered my actions. I see how hiding my problems has made them worse. Man, it's really embarrassing to realise how you've let things go to pot. Even more embarrassing to see how powerful the LA LA LA EVERYTHING'S FINE denial has been.

But I am writing this with a dopey grin on my face because I feel alive and clear-headed and unburdened. I've just spewed this entry straight from the guts today and feel like a complete WANKER for all the psychobabbly dullness but thought an update was overdue. It's been a very insular, delicate, roller coaster process that leaves you feeling very raw and haggard at times, so hopefully you can understand why the blogging has been sparse. I hope you're well and dandy and thank you, as always, for sticking around!

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Who are your self esteem heroes?

Recently I linked to Already Pretty, a fantastic blog by Sally McGraw about personal style and body image. Last Monday she wrote yet another brilliant post about her self esteem heroes.

It's easy to focus on and amplify the memories of those who have given your self-esteem and/or body image a kicking. Family members remarking on sturdy thighs, teachers pointing out chubbiness (so professional), or girls who called you a "red-headed slut" in high school. Despite having red hair themselves.

(Actually that last one made me chortle at the time and still does two decades later!)

Sally wrote:

But let’s talk instead about the quiet heroes of your self-esteem. Who in your life makes you feel gorgeous, powerful, perfect? Which friends and family members are quick with a compliment, or eager to re-route the conversation when you start tearing yourself down?

Such a cool idea. Here's my list – incomplete for sure, but it's been awhile since posts. No time for dilly-dallying!

  • Colin the Kickboxing Coach – I wrote previously that he deserves a knighthood for services to self esteem. He makes everyone in the team feel welcome, from prize fighter to prize wussbag. Whenever I'm about to punch myself in the noggin with frustration he'll pop up and say, "nice kick" or "good work, keep going!" and that you suck! voice is sent back in its box.
  • Kellie the Zumba Lass – I'm an anonymous number in an insanely crowded classes – she wouldn't know me if she tripped over my beet-faced sweat-basted semi-conscious body. But her classes make me feel so freakin' alive – I'm always there, fully present with shaking booty. Afterward I'm giddy and can't shut up about it all day.
  • Sister Rhi – We dissect our lives in a weekly phone debrief, lifting each other up and laughing at ourselves and our misadventures.
  • Carla – Our podcast calls leave me buzzing and determined to make the most out of my days. Carla makes me see how important it is to be passionate about what you do and not let other's opinions stop you.
  • Dr G – He is very economical with his words – a man of action to my slug with verbal diarrhea.

    "Your eyes look especially blue today" I'll say.

    "Yeah," comes the reply, "Blue EYE BAGS!".

    Or: "You're looking very tan lately, Doc!"

    "It's just dirt!"

    But he makes me feel loved and happy to be alive by making me laugh – half the time he doesn't even realise he's said something funny, which makes it even better. He also knows when to give a hug and can tell the difference between carefree joke and joke-to-disguise-inner turmoil.

    He also always remembers when it's Haircut Day so he can say, "I like your 'do!" when I arrive home even though he can't really see a difference.

How about you?

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Better living through The Baby-Sitters Club

Bsc The thing I miss least about being a kid is all that longing to be someone else. Oh to be anyone but grotty swotty ginger-haired me!

Like many younguns, I found my escape in books, particularly The Baby-sitters Club series. I didn't want to join the Babysitters Club so much as I wanted to shed my own skin and be one of 'em. I deliberated over whom I aspired to be; which one I most resembled. Kind of like the shrieks of some women in the late 90s: OMG I'm totally a Carrie! No I'm the Carrie! You're the Miranda!  Except less fecking annoying.

When I was ten I wanted to be Stacey. She was so cool, hailing from New York City and all. She also had diabetes. Every time I was busting for the loo I'd think, Dude I must be getting the diabetes like STACEY!

Then I had a Dawn phase. She had blonde hair cascading right down to her bum. I went for a haircut and the lady wanted to give me a bob. I said "sure!" then instantly died inside. CRAP, I was sposed to be growing my hair like Dawn's!

And of course there was my favourite, Claudia. Artist and master accessoriser. We had nothing in common but the desire to stash candy under our beds.

I thought long and hard about this stuff, I tell you. Here is a handy chart to summarise my pre-teen ponderings: (click pic to view full size)

Baby-Sitters Club chart

The only BSC character I actually had anything in common with was Associate Member Mallory Pike – she had red hair, was insecure about her appearance and wanted to be a writer. But she was also very annoying. And she liked to read horse stories. Horse stories! I did not want to align myself with that.

In my research I found out that after I bailed out of the series, Mallory got an Australian boyfriend named… BEN HOBART. I will be bwahahaha-ing over that morsel for months.

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Radio sucks without Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels To quote the great Hall and Oates, baby come back!

Jillian Michaels has abruptly disappeared from the radio waves and I'm bereft. On Sunday 21th July she gave no indication that the show was to be her last. If I'd known I'd have listened solemnly by candlelight while doing crunches and/or eating her favourite organic peanut butter cups… but nothing! She didn't even say goodbye!

Her final message on the KFI AM 640 website says, "I'm going to be taking a break from radio" which I naively thought meant a summer break. But Jen reports that the guy taking over her time slot said she was too busy to do the show. According to her official website the radio show is "on hiatus". Wah!

I always found it was amazing that Jillian found time for a radio show amidst all her filming and books and DVDs and Wii Fit thingies. It must take a lot of work to prepare for two hours of radio every week. Maybe she finally got in trouble for slagging off The Biggest Loser? Or maybe she got tired of answering the same questions every bloody week… how many times did she have to tell people how to lose the vanity pounds?

But I miss her. Jillian seems to be a love/hate figure but as I've not really seen her in action on The Biggest Loser I only know her through the radio show and one brief magical meeting at BlogHer 2007. She was funny, compassionate, honest, imperfect and completely lacking in bullshit. That's the charm of radio – you can show more dimensions to your character that a heavily edited and scripted television show would never allow.

And what of the lovely Janice, the show's producer? Does she still have a job or did she get sent back to Canada?

It's a sad day. Jillian will still be on the telly for you Americans but I know of fans in Britain, Australia, Finland and beyond who rely on the radio for their fix. I should start a petition. I haven't been compelled to protest since 2002 when I campaigned to get Everybody Loves Raymond taken off the air (91 signatures thank you very much) but this seems like an equally serious political cause to get behind!

We the undersigned hereby kindly request that Ms Jillian Michaels please get thee back on the radio…

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