Soldier On!

Urgh. I was a complete slug this past weekend. I had grand plans and a whopping To Do list but instead just slopped around the flat. I only went outside once, to buy leeks, zucchinis, bread and cocoa. Once! No wonder I am so freaking pale.

I didn’t go the gym on Friday or Sunday as scheduled, either. Nor did I do any "back up" workouts at home. I actually got changed into my clothes on two separate occasions. I tied up my trainers. I shuffled all the workout DVDs on the shelf. I knelt down on the floor and peered at the weights under the bed. Just looked at ’em. Then I took off the gym clothes and had a long bath instead.

Not sure why I was such a crabbit bastard all weekend (crabbit, incidentally, is my favourite Scots word). I was just a little tired and fed up. And frustrated by situations I want to fix but can’t seem to. Some days it is easy to balance all the things in your life, but other days you feel like one of those martyred women in the cold-and-flu commericals, walking down a rainy street with a red nose, just struggling on with their busy, tortured lives because they have to and NOBODY ELSE BUT THEM could do it.

I hate them bitches.

Anyway. At least I went to Pilates today. It was abso-bloody-lutely brilliant. I am finally getting the hang of the convoluted breathing and there’s some serious toning happening in the flabba-abba-dabba region. Since the class is only once a week, I’m looking for a Pilates DVD so I can carry on at home. If anyone can recommended a title I’d lurve to hear it!

Recipe Corner: A Little Chunk of Oz

This post was imported from my short-lived, now-defunct food blog, Cooking With Ginger.

noice, different.

Just when the body has recovered from the guts-and-starch-orama that is Burns Night, along comes Australia Day on January 26. If I was Down Under I 'd have celebrated traditionally beneath relentless sunshine — pavlova, snags on the barbie and the Triple J Hottest 100 Countdown blaring on the radio. But I was in Scotland, so I trudged off to work in the darkness. On the way home I bought a can of Fosters Lager for 67p, presented it to Gareth and said, "Happy Australia Day!"

"Ah, thanks!" he said and wrinkled up his nose. "How about some lamingtons?" 

Crikey. Lamingtons. Baking and diets are incompatible. Sure, one may experiment with applesauce and low-fat margarine and artificial sweeteners. But for me, if it's not the real deal I'd rather not eat it at all. And since I can't seem to bake without licking the bowl, spoon and kitchen bench clean, my tactic has been to completely avoid baking altogether while trying to lose weight.

Unless, of course, it's a Special Occasion™. Recently I surveyed the year ahead and declared the following 2006 Official Special Occasions:

  • Australia Day
  • Wedding Anniversary – March 3
  • Anzac Day – April 25 – the mandatory Anzac Biscuits
  • Easter – It's about time I learned to make Hot Cross Buns
  • Gareth's Birthday – August 12
  • My Birthday – November 1
  • Christmas Day – an inevitable trifle

Now that sounded all well and good, until I added a few Supplementary Occasions. Such as the Anniversary of the Day I Moved To Scotland, the Anniversary of the Day I Met Gareth, the Anniversary of Our First Date and the Anniverary of the Day I Discovered Green and Blacks Chocolate. Then there's the birthdays of my mum, sister, best friend and grandmother. They don't live anywhere near me but it would be rude not to have cake in their honour. And while I'm at it, I should pay respect to Halloween, the summer solstice and the National Days of a few obscure African nations.

It is all too easy to find a flimsy premise for a baking frenzy, and before you know it your healthy habits have been derailed. But there is something so fundamentally peaceful and satisfying about smushing butter and sugar together; of cracking eggs and waiting impatiently by the oven door, that I can't imagine limiting that pleasure to a few times a year. So here are a few more tactics I've employed:

  • Bake smaller quantities. I love fruit scones, and once had a craving that would not shut up. So I got a trusty recipe and divided the quantities until it yielded just four scones. Yes, it's not very energy efficient to fire up the oven for such a small batch, but two for me and two for Gareth meant I could answer the Call of the Scone without the Baker's Remorse for weeks afterward.  
  • Go through your favourite recipes and enter the ingredients into a calorie counter/recipe builder/Points©™® Calculator such as Weight Loss Resources. How many calories per serve? How much saturated fat? How small can you make the servings to reduce the damage but still be satisfying? Some results will be so shocking it will put you off them for life, but others will surprise and be a managable treat.
  • Bake stuff you don't like. For me the kick comes from the stirring, creaming and messing up the kitchen just as much from eating the results. So make something you don't fancy then give it someone who does.
  • Freeze half of the batch. But this only works if you can be trusted not to eat frozen cookie dough in a weak moment. Not that I've done that that or anything.
  • Bake for a crowd. I like to make a batch of brownies, allocate myself a piece or two, then take the rest to work where it's guaranteed to be snarfed up in minutes. This Bake-and-Dispose method means you are popular AND your house stinks deliciously of chocolate without affecting the size of your arse.

Anyway, back to the lamingtons. Lamingtons are a great Australian tradition, and defined as "a small square of sponge cake… coated all over in softish chocolate icing and then in desiccated coconut". An exhaustive history can be found here. I like my lamingtons after a day or two in the fridge, when chocolate icing has seeped into the sponge, making each bite a coconutty chocolately mess. It goes down like a charm with a cup of tea.

My grandmother is the master Lamington Maker. Her sponge is always light and airy. Her lammos are always uniform cubes, with just the right balance of icing and coconut. Back in the Farm Days she'd whip up a batch at Shearing Time. We'd carry them down to the shearing shed for morning tea, along with cheese and tomato sandwiches and Billy Tea. The shearers held the dainty cakes in their thick greasy hands, coconut flying in all directions. The dogs snuffled around on the wooden floors, searching for stray crumbs amongst the tufts of wool. My eyes would be glued to the Tupperware container, counting and calculating, hoping there'd be one left over for me.

I was discussing lamingtons with my grandmother when I was back in Oz last October, whining that mine were always a deformed, lumpy mess. The kitchen floor and my shirt inevitably wore more icing than the cakes. But she said the problem was my technique. I'd been cutting the cake into cubes then dunking them in the icing, fondue stylee, then throwing them into the dish and pelting them with coconut. She said it was far easier to divide the cake mixture into two loaf tins, then simply ice a WHOLE cake and roll it in the coconut, one side at a time. Then once it's set you cut it into smaller pieces and then carefully ice the remaining sides. Much tidier and far quicker. 

I should have quit while I was ahead

The cake in loaf form.

Well that all sounded very good in theory but my lamingtons turned out just as sloppy as ever. First I realised after 25 minutes that I'd set the oven ten degrees too low, so I turned it up to 180 then promptly forgot about it. So the cakes were a little bronzed and dry. It was somewhat easier to ice a whole cake in loaf form, but I still had my usual problems of dripping excess icing into the coconut dish, and spraying excess coconut into the icing dish. Oh, and excessive manhandling of the cakes, resulting in huge thumb dents and smudges that you can only fill in with so much coconut.

So: lamingtons! Very Australian, very tasty, but very messy. By the time I'd made the bastards I was so cranky that I didn't want to eat them. Now there's another Diet Baking Tip: Bake something so convoluted and frustrating that you'd rather throw it at a wall than eat it! 

Crikey Mate! It's a mess.


FAIR-DINKUM AUSSIE LAMINGTONS

Source:  The Grandmothership
Makes:  24  (or 12 bigguns if you are greedy, or just too lazy to go on)

For the cake
125 g butter
125 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
250 g self-raising flour
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a rectangular tin (30 x 22 cm approx) or two loaf tins. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Add flour and milk alternately, beat well. Pour into tin(s), smooth surface with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes or until risen and firm. Allow to stand for a few minutes then turn out onto a rack. Once cooled, refrigerate cake at least 30 minutes before icing. 

For the icing
125 ml boiling water
3 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
500 g pure icing sugar, sifted
250 g dessicated coconut

Mix water, cocoa, butter and vanilla togeter in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Gradually beat in icing sugar to form a smooth mixture. Trim cake edges and cut into 24 cubes, or less if you want bigger lamingtons. Place coconut onto a tray or dish ready for rolling. Using a fork, dip cake into icing then toss in the coconut. Leave on a cake rack to dry for a wee while.

NB: I tend to use slightly less water so the icing is thicker if doing the whole cake method, as opposed to the fondue-esque technique.

The Offal Truth

This post was imported from my short-lived, now-defunct food blog, Cooking With Ginger.

January 25 is Burns Night, where Scots eat haggis, drink whisky and recite the poetry of Robert Burns to celebrate his birthday.

I've never been to a proper Burns Supper but it does sound good, particularly The Entrance of the Haggis. Everyone stands up and gazes in awe as the mighty bag o' guts and spices is carried into the room on a platter, complete with bagpipe fanfare. Then the host recites the Address To A Haggis: 

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

Which roughly translates as: Oh haggis, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey haggis! 

After the poem goes on a few more verses, the haggis is STABBED repeatedly with a juicy big knife and everyone cheers. Hail to the haggis! Then someone proposes a whisky toast to the haggis and finally everyone tucks into a nice plateful of it, accompanied by neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). After that there's more speeches, toasts, poetry and whisky. Sounds like a great night out. 
For foreigners living in Scotland, eating haggis is right up there on your To Do list with Edinburgh Castle and the Highlands. I was surprised to find I enjoyed it – sure it's offal but the spices and oatmeal give it a beautiful flavour and texture. I'm not sure if I'd ever want to make it myself though:

the horror

You have to love any recipe that contains the phrases, "wash the paunch", "boil the heart", "hang the windpipe" and "grate the liver". I was fresh out of lungs tonight, so we had the ever-tasty Macsweens Vegetarian Haggis. It has the same yummy spices as the traditional version, but the offal is replaced by lentils and nuts. You simply wrap it in foil, place in a water bath then whack it in the oven for an hour or so. 

mmmm

Next you prepare the traditional neeps and tatties. And if you're immature, do take time to snigger at your neep if it looks particularly nippy! 

nippy neeps!

Then take the haggis oot of the oven and stab it. KILL KILL KILL! 

dieeeee!

This is the part in food blogs where ones posts a photo of the plated meal. But since this is my first food blog entry and I am a food blog amateur, I forgot to do that and just scoffed it straight up. After that starch-and-lentil fest, all we can do is slump on the couch and toast Mr Burns with almighty belches.

I Wish To Complain

I got a letter from the local council yesterday reminding me that my membership to their provincial barn that masquerades as a gym will expire in March.

If I want to continue my membership I need to:

  • Fill in the same Joining Form that I filled in when I joined last year
  • Fill out the Direct Debit form again
  • Attach yet another passport photograph
  • Send it off then and wait 30 days or so for this to be processed
  • Wait by the mailbox for my new membership card to be dispatched.

Local government is notorious for inefficiency but have you ever seen such a ridiculous paper-wasting palaver!? In addition to that I will need to cough up an extra £3 a month, taking it up to £47 pounds a month. At todays rates this translates to $112 AUD, $84 US, 60 Euro, 16,372 Slovenian Tolars or 5,584 Bangladeshi Takas.

£47 is also a paltry £3 less than what I used to pay for my beloved softly-lit excellent-timetabled fancy-showered free-breakfasting internet-cafed two-dozen-treadmilled Heaven Gym back in Edinburgh! O the humanity!

The facilities at my gym are excellent by council gym standards, albeit quirky. The pool is always full of peeing kiddies or old ladies in bathing caps. The change rooms are always full of naked peeing kiddies and old ladies in bathing caps. The weights room is always hogged by steroid-pumped guys with crewcuts who talk shit to each to other in impenetrable accents, but their grunting and groaning needs no translation. The fitness class instructors are good, but the classes are held in a basketball court, so their voices blast and echo off the walls. You literally cannot understand a single word they say. At Body Pump I watch the beginners stand there with their bars, gawking at the stage in confusion. And there’s no Technique class to help people learn the moves either – so you hardly ever see them come back the next week.

On the whole the gym is perfectly fine. They manage to appeal to all kinds of people and have a good range of activities. Despite the boring timetable and lack of Body Jam, I have made it work for me over the past year. It’s the only gym around and it’s a mere ten minutes walk from our flat. Plus it’s at the halfway point between the train station and home, so it’s hard to justify skipping a workout at the end of the day.

BUT STILL, I just don’t see how the facilities on offer are worth £47 a month! I don’t see how they get away with charging almost as much as a poncy private gym. Ooh every time I look at my Online Banking and see that debit has come out I just start to glare and spit at the screen. Boo! Hiss! BAH!

By the way, there is no point to this rant at all. I raged about it to the Scottish Companion last night but thought I should rage about it again here, just to spread that pointless fury a little further!

. . .

Beckie tagged me for a meme thingy. If people post memes on non-fat blogs I usually skip over them, sneering rather righteously, "That’s lazy content!". But I always read the answers on fat blogs coz I want to know what everyone is into aside from lard busting. We all have other talents and dimensions, dammit. Plus noone had ever tagged me before! So I was chuffed about that. Cheers Beck!

So only read on if you don’t mind a meme. If you do, come back later in the week. Hehe.

. . .

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was just about to leave home to start the first year of my journalism degree. Ten YEARS ago!? Bloody hell. I had also just finished up my high school job at KFC (I don’t recommend you work at KFC if you have a problem with food). I was also learning to drive in an awful hurry (I don’t recommend trying to learn to drive in two weeks. It will make you a rather crappy driver).

2. What were you doing a year ago?
Planning a quickie wedding and frantically exercising to fit into wedding frock.

3. Five snacks I enjoy:
Edamame
Avocado mushed up on grainy toast with heaps of black pepper
Almond butter on grainy toast
Fruit scone with butter and raspberry jam (didn’t have to be healthy, did it?)
Nairns Rough oatcakes with mature cheddar cheese

Arrgh! I’m hungry now.

4. Five songs to which I know all the lyrics:
A Day In The Life
by The Beatles
Six Months In A Leaky Boat by Split Enz
Anything by The Eagles (shame!) or Radiohead.
Boys and Girls by Blur. Except I get the girls and boys mixed up all the time.

5. Five things I would do if I were a millionaire:
Pay off debts for family and friends
Buy a house in Australia and a house in Scotland
Hire a personal trainer to bully me into buffness
Hire a personal shopper to fetch me a decent wardrobe
Donate money to obsure charities that don’t get much publicity

6. Five Bad Habits:
Leaving "bits" on the dishes when doing the washing up
Spraying the kitchen with low-fat cooking spray instead of the food
Leaving clothes in a pile on the bed/chair/floor
Not listening to instructions properly
Impatience

7. Five Things I Enjoy Doing:
Baking cakes
Sleeping
Wandering around foreign supermarkets
Watching mens tennis
Arranging my boarding pass collection in chronological order

8. Five Things I Would Never Wear
Bikinis, mini skirts, capri pants, cropped jackets or anything Burberry.

9. Five favourite toys:
Harvey the iBook, Pedro the iPod Shuffle, the stab blender, the electric frypan and the Scottish Companion. HA HA!

I tag: Anyone who feels so inclined.

Til next time, Gadget.

Five Years of Dietgirl – Part VII

Finally we come the last day of the Dietgirl 5th Anniversary Spectacular.

When visiting Oz in October, I took the opportunity to dig out my old Fat Jeans. I wasn't going to do this until I got to my goal weight but was curious to see how they were fitting these days! I think they were an Australian size 24 or 26.

Let this be a lesson to you all. It really is true what Trinny and Susannah say – if you don't wear clothes that fit you properly, you'll look bigger than you are! Mwahaha.

(Disclaimers! This was towards the end of our trip, and three weeks of eating my way round Australia had reunited me with a few extra kilos. Goddamn Cadbury Mint Triple Decker Bars. AND my top is a little baggy round the waist AND I am in serious need of a new bra that actually provides some hydraulic assistance. Oh, AND it was a cold day!)

First here is the traditional Check Out How Big My Guts Used To Be pose.

1

I have no idea what I was thinking here. Probably, "How does one Photoshop out slightly erect nipples?"

2

Somebody call Slimming magazine! It's the ever popular two-legs-in-one-leg, I'm Half The Woman I Used To Be! pose.

3

And now for my next trick, I will need my lovely assistant…

4

Once upon a time, I used to pull this face just trying to get into these jeans on my own!

5

The lumpy weirdness in the chest area in this next shot is just my top all bunched up after wrestling into the jeans. Even though it looks like my boobs have deflated or something.

My first reaction when I saw this shot was, "Hell, my arse looks huge in those jeans". But then I remembered my whole arse now fits in the space that one cheek used to occupy, so I'll stop whinging.

6

And now as a special bonus, here are some pictures of two of my favourite things in the world: the Scottish Companion and CHOCOLATE CAKE.

Cake

. . .

Well that's it for Anniversary Week! Hope you enjoyed it. I have burned approximately 450 calories from all the typing, and your retinas will have burned even more from reading!

Five Years of Dietgirl – Part VI

Things I Have Learned.

A couple of years ago my Mum flew to Scotland for a visit. One minute she was chatting away, perched on on my sisters bed, then the next her head slumped forward, snoring softly as the jetlag took hold. About an hour later, she sat bolt upright, shook her head and opened her eyes and announced, “Things I have learned!”.

She proceeded to spout some great philosophical tidbit, which I wish I could remember, then immediately fell asleep again. Bizarre!

Before I fall asleep myself after this marathon week, I’ll mention a few Things I Have Learned while busting the lard.

Disclaimer: This is not smug lecturing or advice or a dietary Sermon on the Mount. It’s just a wee list of lessons learned over the last five years. And so many of em took almost all that time to learn. I’m a bit slow.

  • Laugh at yourself. Especially when you screw things up!
  • Don’t compare your progress to other bloggers, instead be inspired by them.
  • Try to reduce the self-loathing. I’m not saying you have to look in the mirror and chant, “YOU ARE A WINNER!”, but it really doesn’t help your weight loss to stand around yelling at your thighs.
  • Remember that the weight loss industry exists to make money, whether it’s Weight Watchers or Slimming Magazine or the CSIRO or Dr Gillian McKeith. Even though they all help in their own ways, they don’t have all the answers and they really want you to buy the Choco Crisp Bars or send away for the Pilates DVD. Take bits and pieces from what they tell you and clobber it together to make your own way of doing things. Don’t let anything be a substitute for thinking for yourself.
  • Don’t put things off until you Get Skinny. Try something crazy and new. If you fail, just don’t blog about it!
  • Deal with The Past.
  • Look at the Big Picture or look at the Little Picture. Whichever is easiest to stomach at the time!
  • Don’t disappear up your own arse. Losing weight seems to bring a lot of introspection and lightbulb moments, but don’t let this journey take over your life.
  • Accept that you are moody, inconsistent and full of contradictions. What worked for you yesterday may shit you to tears tomorrow, and for no reasonable reason!
  • Never eat lentils before you do squats or lunges.
  • Just because you think everything is about your weight, don’t assume everyone else sees it that way. Often other people are much better at seeing past your fat than you are.
  • Just because you lose weight doesn’t mean your old fears and problems will disappear. Example: If you were scared of rollercoasters when you were 350lb you may still shit your pants at the thought of them 160 pounds later!
  • Total Greek Yogurt is the best thing to come out of Greece since Plato.
  • Things won’t change overnight. It takes time, trial and error to forge a healthy lifestyle and figure out what works for you. The difficulty of this task increases by tenfold increments depending on how many times per week you used to visit McDonalds Drive Thru.
  • Don’t let the fear of loose skin, belly rolls or flabby arms stop you. Do you think Oprah worried about her bingo wings? No. She just flap-flap-flapped and flew away to world domination!
  • If you’re still worried about your flabby arms, move to Scotland. You can get away with long sleeves for about 364 days a year.
  • Even when you royally screw up — over and over and over again — you can pick yourself up again. As long you never stop believing you will get there in the end.

Five Years of Dietgirl – Part V

Finally! The last installment in the Recap portion of the Dietgirl Navel-Gazing Wankfest 5th Anniversary Spectacular!

As you may recall 2005 was a wild, wild year. I only wrote about it the other day, so I will be lazy and cut and paste!

On this day last year, I was simply shitting my pants. My visa was rapidly running out and my fate was uncertain. Would Scottish Companion do something as insane as propose to and marry a twit like me? Or would I be deported back to Australia? It all seemed so bloody hopeless. I never imagined than in 2005 I would end up:

  • getting that proposal just four days later, in the middle of the night
  • quitting my shitty second job
  • moving house
  • eloping in Las Vegas… twice!
  • staring down into the Grand Canyon
  • holidaying in San Francisco
  • running a 5k race
  • being published in a book
  • being photographed for a national UK magazine
  • having my mug being splashed in a Sunday tabloid
  • traumatically having my secret fat life outed to my colleagues due to Sunday tabloid
  • celebrating the weddings twice more, in Scotland and Australia
  • writing a story for Cosmopolitan

It just sounds hilarious and surreal that all that could happen to me, especially when I still feel like the dorky farm girl from Nowhere, New South Wales. But I am glad I still feel like the dork, otherwise I doubt I’d have relished the adventures half as much.

2005 was also a pretty good year for Lard Busting. Nothing like a wedding dress to make you put down the cakes!

My main issue was trying to find balance in my eating. Especially with all those Special Occasions – weddings, holidays, birthdays, Las Vegas buffets. 2005 started with a festive bingefest and a six-kilo gain. I vowed never to do that to myself again. So when we went away to the States in March, I enjoyed the local cuisine with only one sugar-induced freakout. I came home with a minor gain then got right back on track. Yet when I went to Australia in October I devoured everything in sight! I returned to Scotland feeling downright porky and depressed.

But a few months later, I was back on track and felt I’d finally learned from my mistakes. Xmas 2005 went really well, with no extremes and a minor gain. I made a lot of progress last year, but in 2006 I am determined to do even better – to be more choosy about what constitutes a Special Occassion. 

And another important thought:

I had a realisation right there in the supermarket aisle, that there is really no such thing as a Perfectly Empty Week. Something also comes up. Whether this is a spontaneous camping trip, a birthday cake at work or a quick drink with friends, there are always little situations happening that you haven’t planned for. So it dawned on me yet again that that horrible phrase "Lifestyle Change" is really true. I would have to keep reading labels. I would stay hyper-aware of what I ate. I would have to assess each situation individually and make the wisest choice. All these little things that crop up will keep on cropping up, they’re just life happening, NOT opportunities for wild abandoned eating.

. . .

Apart from the wedding madness, I will always remember 2005 as The Year I Was Outed. I had been hysterically secretive about the Dietgirl site for over four years. I didn’t tell any of my friends about it. I didn’t tell my mother or the Scottish Companion. I didn’t even tell my sister, who I tell bloody everything.

It seems ridiculous now, as I am sure it did to you readers at the time, to be so secretive about a process that was so obvious in a physical sense. They could see that my body was changing, but I guess I didn’t feel comfortable with them seeing all the changes going on in my head.

I came out first to the Scottish Companion. I hastily fessed up at the airport in Amsterdam, seeing we’d be arriving in San Francisco ten hours later and staying with my friend Jillian who I’d met though this blog. He was surprised but relieved… I guess you shouldn’t start a sentence with, "There’s something I have to tell you", unless it’s really bad!

Then in June, Tales From The Scale was published in the UK. When I first submitted my chapters to Erin back in 2004, I hadn’t thought about the part where it gets published into a real live book that anyone could buy. I still thought of the Dietgirl tale as something I just wanted to whisper to the Internet People. So I hadn’t told anyone about the book, none of my friends, not even my Mum. I still felt strangely self-conscious about the whole thing.

But then the story was picked up by Grazia magazine, and then my quite hilarious giant floating Jabba-The-Hut-style Before Photo was in the Sunday Mail:

I admit that I am a doofus when it comes to all things mathematical, arithmetical and statistical, so perhaps that’s why I’d convinced myself that even though the Sunday Mail sells millions of copies, none of the 80 or so people in my building would be among its readers. I mean, surely they’d go for something a wee bit more highbrow?

But noooo. I tiptoed into the office at 7.30AM on Monday morning and was ambushed by a colleague in the foyer.

"Hello!" I said.

"Well HELLOOOO!" she grinned, "And how are YOUUUU?"

Uh-oh.

"I opened the paper and I thought, that looks like SHAUNA. And it was! Oh my god! I got the shock of my life!"

"Oh!"

People were quite nice about it. There was only a few odd reactions:

I was mildly irritated by one person who cornered me and said, "I heard about your article. It’s amazing. But I just can’t picture you being so… so… you know… big! I mean, 25 stone!" Her face wrinkled up with mild distaste as if she’d said, "I mean, two vaginas!" or "Sleeping with horses!".

Sometimes I think I should have been an alcoholic, it seems a more socially acceptable character kink. Obesity just isn’t glamourous and it seems to make some people uncomfortable.

I finally started confessing to my friends and family, despite feeling bloody ridiculous for the years of cloak-and-dagger behaviour. I even sent a copy to my Mum.

Most of all I’ve learned that it’s time to stop hiding.  Back when I was twice as big, I felt like half the person I wanted to be. I felt like I had to hide myself away from the world and make as little fuss as possible. Since I took up so much physical space, it was like I wanted to make my personality as small and muted as possible. So the virtual space was where I could stretch out and have fun.

I no longer need a secret place to be my real self. Because I am finally being my real self all the time now, out there in the big bad world. I am sick of leading this stupid virtual double-life, it has been bloody exhausting. This isn’t to say I’m ditching this site, I’m just ditching the bullshit. I’m sick of worrying about what people think when they’re probably not thinking anything at all. So… let’s just get on with it.

. . .

2005 was also the year I finally accepted all my glorious lumps and bumps. I blame that on the running. For the first few weeks of my 5k training I hated how running made me hyperaware of my body. Every time my foot hit the pavement I could feel every humiliating rumble of my belly and jiggle of my butt. It was like my flesh was laughing at me, "Thought you could pretend we’re not here, HA? HA?!".

But as I progressed I developed a strange new respect for the ol’ bod. Sure, I was slow, clumsy and red-faced, but I was going further than I ever imagined possible. Being so focused on the training made all my body insecurities seem trivial and pointless. I start appreciating my body for what it could do, instead of focusing on the so-called flaws. I cringe at how much energy I have wasted over the years with paranoia, loathing, and holding myself back for no good reason. Let’s have none of that in 2006!

. . .

Unclejoe

Unlike Stalin, I failed to deliver on my Five Year Plan. I did not reach my goal weight by 2006. Och well. At least I didn’t kill any peasants, which is more than I can say for Stalin.

As of yesterday I was 85 kilos, so 10.9 kilos gone for the past year and 74.2 kilos lost overall.

And that about brings us up to date! Woohoo!

. . .

Be sure to stay tuned for the arse end of Anniversary Week.

Friday:  Lessons Learned
Saturday:  Silly Photos!

Five Years of Dietgirl – Part IV

2004

This year was chock full of adventures. Travel! Vistors from Oz! Romance! Chocolate!

It was a crap year for weight loss. I lost and gained the same five kilos over and over again. I could not tame my extreme tendencies. It was either intense effort or none at all. I dabbled with many methods that year — regular blogging for accountability, various online calorie trackers, new exercise classes, setting weekly Mini Missions, but nothing seemed to stick.

My attention seemed to be diverted everywhere else but my arse. When I wasn’t on holidays I was working seven-day weeks to pay for them. But there was also sheer complacency:

When you’ve lost a shitload of weight, the equivalent of an average woman, it’s so easy to think you’re on top of things, that the weight will surely keep coming off. But there’s still another twenty kilos to go. I just stopped putting in the effort. I stopped thinking of my weight as an issue. When there’s suddenly this someone who likes you for who you are, you start to think you’re not so bad and put the thought of those last twenty kilos to the back of your mind.

. . .

Looking back through the archives, I seemed to have been obsessed with chocolate in 2004.  Not just the odd bar now and then, but major binges.

I am still trying to figure out what prompted my binging. I was so deliberate and calculating about it. Do you ever feel like you’re so eager to be skinny and tap into the sexy clothes and supple flesh, but part of you is afraid of missing out on something if you don’t stay fat?

Of course the binging always lead to those horrid dark moods, which the Scottish Companion bore the brunt of, if I hadn’t already ranted to the internet.

Have you ever just woken up and loathed yourself? Just felt like your whole being was nothing more than a huge puddle of flesh and a tiny paranoid brain? The Boy was there and trying to talk to me but all I could do was scrunch over one side of the bed and hope he wouldn’t notice me.

All day long I proceeded to make stupid little irrational comments. Like making breakfast, there were only two pieces of bread, I insisted he eat them. He asked why, I pointed to my body and just shrugged, "Well, come on!".

He shook his head, totally bewildered, "Why do you say things like that about yourself?"

And of course I just started bawling because I didn’t know why I was saying all this hateful stuff… I hadn’t thought such negative thoughts for years, let alone actually say them aloud.

I guess it just hit me that morning that I didn’t feel in control of my life. I thought of how I’d had to run around my room before The Boy arrived, ferreting out all the chocolate wrappers…

… Monday night I dragged myself back to the gym after a 3 week absence. But not before I scoffed a ‘final’ King Size Mars Bar and a 150g packet of sweet chilli crisps.

But at the other end of the spectrum were days like this:

There was a moment on the weekend when I had a glimpse of what it was like to just have a body, as opposed to The Body, that Thing that I waste so much time and energy worrying about…

The Scottish Companion and I were out with his parents for the day, and he’d persuaded me to play on the swings at the park.

To my surprise, I fit on the seat with room to spare. The two of us swang back and forth, made lame jokes about always wanting to be swingers, tried to make our swings crash into each other and yelled at his parents like five year olds, "Look at me! Look at meeeeeee!". It was such a thrill to feel so active and un-self-conscious and… normal.

And all that travelling helped too. Being out of your comfort zone in wacky countries is a good way to give your old fears a kick up the arse. I was on top of the world when I got back from Russia:

I take it for granted these days, the fact that I can walk as far as I want for as long as I want. I don’t think so much about how now I can find something decent to wear, how I can talk to strangers, how I can catch a train in a strange city or lift heavy objects. I don’t like to congratulate myself in case I should develop a fat ego, but on that day I allowed myself a moment. I couldn’t believe it was me on Red Square, in the country I’ve wanted to more than anywhere else, the same scared person who rejected the idea of living overseas just a couple years ago coz I was ‘too fat and stupid’ to do such an outrageous thing.

. . .

TRIUMPHS OF THE YEAR: My first Valentine’s Day with a real live valentine.

FEARS OF THE YEAR: The Running Shoe Shop. And fretting endlessly about what would happen when my Visa ran out. Would I be evicted or would true love save the day? Cue much melodramatic woe-is-me writing. Consider this a belated apology to friends, family and readers alike for being such a moaning pain in the arse 🙂

. . .

I finished up the year still around 95 kilos. I either failed to lose or successfully maintained. Despite that it was a cracker of a year, and I am going to be a lazy bastard and cut and paste what I said at the time:

2004 has been the busiest, most exciting year of my life and I put the flabby thoughts on the backburner:

  • I spent 21 days in Scandinavia and Russia with three dozen strangers – something I’d never have even contemplated when I weighed 350 pounds.
  • I backpacked around the Baltics for two weeks without any plans.
  • I took my clothes off in front of a man, many many times.
  • I ran in public.
  • I took a dance class that left me beet-faced and breathless three years ago but now I keep up with the skinny chicks…

Yes, there were days and dozens of blog entries in which I bitched about my lard and longed to have smaller jeans, but for the most part this year I was just happy being in my own skin and stop fretting about my size. I just dove headfirst into life and scoffed up new experiences with the enthusiasm I used to reserve for scoffing icecream straight from the tub.

If 2001 was the year of me Obsessing About Fat, 2004 was the year of me Obsessing About Me. It was like the carefree, heady college days that I was too fat and depressed to have at the time. It was unashamedly indulgent and fun and now looking back, I am glad I took the time out to make the most of it.

Five Years of Dietgirl – Part III

2003

At the start of 2003 I was still wearing my Lard-Coloured Glasses. My self-perception, and the way I imagined people perceived me, still revolved around my size. I was a size 20, hovering close to the "normal sizes" but still rather hefty. So I was prone to paranoia, with a bizarre need to explain myself to people: "Yes, I know, I am fat! But hey, I used to be fatter — I AM IN TRANSITION, GODDAMMIT!".

The stupidest example of this was when I had my wisdom teeth removed in February. They were severely impacted, crowding my mouth at crazy angles, so the bastards needed surgery to get out. I was to be put under IV sedation, and the doctors warned me that when I came out of it I might start talking a lot of shit. This terrified me more than any concerns about pain, blood or swollen chipmunk cheeks. Sure, they said it was a routine dental procedure, but I had seen too many A Current Affair horror stories. My paranoid fears included:

  • I was so fat that they wouldn’t be able to knock me out. My fat was more powerful than their chemicals!
  • If they DID manage to sedate me, I would wake up halfway through and hear them laughing at my thunder thighs or measuring my tummy rolls with steel instruments

But they had no troubles sending me off to loopy land. I remember someone saying, "Righto, we’re done", just as I was drifting back to earth.

And that’s when I started babbling.

"Hey you people," I mumbled, "You’re probably thinking, whoa this chick is fat, but let me tell you I have lost 50 kilos. That’s right 50 kilos."

"Is that so, dear?" asked the nurse, "That’s fantastic! How did you do it?"

"Well I started out with Weight Watchers but then I got into the gym…."

It was mortifying. My mouth was out of control. I could hear a voice rambling about exercise regimes and healthy breakfasts and faintly realised that it was me. The lights were all fuzzy, the room came in and out of focus, my brain screamed WHAT ARE YOU DOING MOUTH, SHUT UP YOU IDIOT! But I was all drugged up and powerless to stop it.

They left me in a chair to recover for half an hour, then my sister arrived to take me home. The nurse handed her my bloody teeth in a jar and said, "She’s done well, hasn’t she?"

Embarrassing at the time but makes me laugh now to see just how much I was still obsessed with my blubber.

But that started to change later that year when we moved to Edinburgh.

My sister had first raised the idea of us doing a stint in the UK in 2000, but I had said I wasn’t interested, in other words, "I’m too fat". But a couple of my good friends had gone over there and loved it, and after a couple of years of Lard Busting I was feeling more adventurous. We’d set a departure date of 25 March 2003 and had been saving like mad for about a year beforehand.

A few weeks before we left I freaked out. Firstly I wondered just WHY the bloody hell we were leaving? Things were going great! Not only did I love my job and living arrangements, all of my bestest friends now lived in my town. I was happy and content, so why mess that up?

Secondly, I was cranky with myself for not having reached a "normal size" before I left Australia. After a good start to the year I’d gained a few kilos between the high-calorie mush I’d eaten while recovering from the wisdom teeth, and the fifty bazillion restaurant meals I’d eaten farewelling friends and family.

But the wheels were in motion and before I knew it, my sister and I were standing in the middle of Edinburgh with our suitcases, watching the sun setting over the castle and wondering what the hell to do next.

Moving overseas was nothing like I expected it would be. It’s such a well-worn path, Aussies doing a couple of years in Britain; so I expected any easy transition. Instead we were completely thrown out of our comfort zone. My sister and I had enjoyed such cozy, middle class lifestyles in Canberra, and suddenly we found ourselves in grubby hostels, our savings rapidly dwindling.

We found somewhere to live very quickly, but it took far longer than we’d budgeted for to open bank accounts and find work. I’d left a cushy Government marketing/web job in Oz, and had naively hoped to find something vaguely similar in Edinburgh. But there was sweet bugger all available. With my limited Visa, I wasn’t suitable for permanent roles so it pretty much came down to temping agencies. My degree and experience went out the window and instead I was dumbing down my resume, taking typing tests and trying to prove my competency in Word and Excel.

I look back now and just have to laugh at myself. I used to be so proud and snobby! A few crap secretarial jobs soon knocked that out of me. I was taking home half the amount of money I’d earned in Australia, while living in a city that was twice as expensive. In a perverse way I am glad it turned out that way. I learned so bloody much that year! I lost the luxury of fretting about my weight and wondering if I should buy that lipstick in my lunch hour. Now life was rather elemental – work, shelter, food. We wanted to travel so we quickly learned how to keep to a very strict budget.

I was too preoccupied to worry about my weight for the first wee while. We’d looked at joining the gym but it was £50 per month – $120 AU. I used to bitch about paying $50 AU per month!

But by May I was feeling miserable. I missed my friends and family. The shitty jobs were making me cranky. The lack of exercise made me feel like a slug. My diet was shoddy as I struggled to adjust to a smaller budget and higher prices, not to mention the delicate Scottish Cuisine.

I’d gotten into the bad habit of grazing on junk food at work out of sheer boredom, then coming home from work and flopping on the bed and sleeping. Or crying. Crying because I felt like a big fat loser and I’d come such a long and expensive way to feel like a big fat loser.

One Saturday night I was plonked in front of the BBC eating Twix bars, when I suddenly thought, "This cannae go on". I recognised these shitty feelings, and knew where they would lead if I didn’t stop now. I refused to go down Depression Road again, especially when I knew I felt crap purely because of these strange new circumstances. For once, I wanted to learn from past behaviour. So stomped upstairs to my sisters room, declared that I was miserable, sobbed for awhile then made room in the budget for the gym. And it was worth every penny:

It is the Holy Grail of gyms. This gym is the luscious Godiva chocolate of gyms, whereas my old aussie gym was a half-eaten packet of stale Home Brand jelly beans.

The gym scales revealed the results of the Chocolate Bar and Lard Diet – I was back up to a hefty 105 kilos. D’oh! But once I was back on track with exercise, the crap eating stopped and the self-esteem inched higher. Which brings me to:

TRIUMPH OF THE YEAR: The long-await Scale Milestone – getting under 100kg!

FEARS OF THE YEAR: Nothing specific, just the ongoing Sporadic Episodes of Fat Girl Paranoia.

Which brings me to…

June! I was enjoying life in Scotland. There was something so liberating about living in a city where noone knew a thing about you or your past.

We were at a pub quiz with some new friends. I had lost a couple of kilos, but wasn’t looking particularly sexy that day. My jeans were too big, I had on this awful purple top that had started to pill from wearing it so bloody much. But I remember feeling calm and happy, like I was finally adjusting to my new life. And for once I wasn’t thinking about the goddamn fat.

And in walks the Scottish Companion. He was running late, as I would later discover was his habit. He was introduced as a friend of my friends. I was I knew instantly that there was something about the boy. Sometimes the cliches are true. He had the loveliest accent, so quiet that I’d have to get him to repeat things (whereas I was loud and competitive as is my way at pub quizzes). He was so unassuming, genuine and quietly witty. I instantly took a liking to him when he knew the answer to an obscure question. Then when my sister and I mentioned we were off to Paris for the weekend, he said he’d been to Paris not too long ago. I asked what he’d seen and he replied that he’d been to EuroDisney and went on all the rollercoasters, and had taken a bus from Edinburgh to Paris because he didn’t have a lot of money and it had taken like three freaking days to get there. I thought that was so hilarious and charming.

But it took another few months before I realised I like liked him, and apparently he felt the same way. The romance spewed up a dazzling array of new insecurities and freakouts:

He may just well be the most sweet and gorgeous guy I’ve ever met, who could possibly be very understanding about my Issues. But you know, if it ever comes to me taking off gear, there will be soft lighting, and I will be rambling on. I will be feeling the need to EXPLAIN why my body is such a wreck and REASSURE that efforts are being made to rectify that. Then I will probably feel the need to outline my gym timetable, nutritionally-sound eating habits and highest squat weight, just so he knows I am aware of the problem!

Even when the gear did come off, there were still some bizarre episodes:

The other night I crashed at his place after we’d been out to see some bands. My top was reeking of smoke, and I’d forgotten my PJs. We’re laying there in the dark and he says, "Man, the smoke from the club is really clinging to me tonight!" and I piped up that it was actually my stinky clothes.

He offered to go get me t-shirt to sleep in. I quickly refused.

"But why?" he said. "It’s no trouble really, you shouldn’t have to sleep in your nice clothes."

"It’s fine, don’t worry. I’ll just sleep without my top on."

"Well that I don’t mind, but it’s freezing."

"It’s okay, honest."

I could see him half-smiling half-puzzled frowning in the dark. "I demand to know why you’re refusing to wear my crappy clothes!"

But of course I just laughed and took my top off and told him not to worry about it. This is how ridiculous I am – I would rather sleep and freeze with no top on… than risk him getting me one of his t-shirts and not being able to fit into it.

. . .

I finished the year at about 95 kilos, so 10 kilos lost for 2002. I went from an Aussie size 20 to a UK 18. Not too shabby!

Five Years of Dietgirl – Part II

2002

It’s no coincidence that "2002" sort of rhymes with "poo", because 2002 pretty much stank.

While 2001 was a golden uneventful year that allowed me to focus entirely on losing weight, 2002 was all about reality rearing its ugly head. Everything seemed to turn to shit all at once.

There’s not many posts in the 2002 Archives. There was a major Movable Type glitch and I lost six months of entries, never to be seen again. Not that I had been updating much. Now’s my chance to fill in the gaps.

First there was very traumatic family upheaval. I won’t rehash the Jerry Springer-esque details, but it was a shitty time, and I just fell in a heap. I cannot remember ever feeling so utterly drained, angry, hopeless, hurt and lost.

While all that craziness was going on, my sister and I made the ill-considered decision to move house, to share a place with a friend of ours who’d been looking for somewhere to live. Both of us knew at the time that it was bad, bad idea; but we were in such a zombie state of numbness that we were just not our usual rational selves. We left a perfectly cosy home for a bloody nightmare.

It’s a convoluted story, but basically the landlords sent me a letter stating that I wasn’t allowed to have a dog on the premises and he was to be removed immediately, depsite being assured by the estate agents that managed the property that this was okay when we signed the lease.

And thus began a three-month saga, complete with furtive letter writing, legal advice and courtroom dramas. We won our little case in the end, and had our lease to be terminated just so we could get away from the Evil Dodgy Landlords. We were even awarded some minor compensation so we could pay to move house yet again. But in the end we couldn’t find anywhere with a yard so I had to find a new home for my wee dog, and it was a bloody miserable day when I said bye to him.

Meanwhile, things had gone pear-shaped at work. I had been working as a Content Manager since 1999, one of those beautiful dot-com era jobs that don’t exist today thanks to software like Blogger and MT. By mid-2002 the work had dried up and the company had decided to "redeploy" me. Instead of a fun, varied job with heaps of responsibility, I’d been lumped with data entry and sticking barcodes on computers all day long. A few weeks of that really kills off the old self esteem.

I began a desperate search for a new job. But my desperation and complete lack of confidence and direction must have come through in every interview, because I soon had a hefty stack of rejection letters.

And what of the lard busting during all this?

I gained back over 20 kilos. I stopped going to the gym and got reaccquainted with my old friend the chocolate bar. By July my nice new Skinny Jeans had become the Jeans That Spontaneously Unzip Themselves In Public. I was completely out of control again. And not just with the eating. Every aspect of my life felt out of control. I dragged myself through each day, numb and bleak. I started calling in sick to work, then hiding under the covers and crying. Then the faux-sick became proper sick because I’d let my health slide. So it was back under the covers and crying, with extra snotty tissues.

I felt like such a stinking failure for not summoning the strength to pick myself up again. What happened to the Invincible Dietgirl of 2001? At the first sight of trouble I had turned back to my old ways. Had I learned nothing at all?

In the end out of sheer desperation, I went to see a doctor and came out with my old friend Zoloft. The doc had been reluctant, saying diet and exercise would be much more beneficial. I bawled in her office and pleaded my case. I hated the idea of taking anti-depressants again, but I needed some help to just get out of bed, before I could tackle the diet and exercise.

Things picked up very quickly after that. Maybe it was the drugs kicking in, or maybe it was just me feeling relieved that I had put a name to months of shitty feelings. There was something comforting about declaring myself depressed. Not that I told anyone – I’d gone back on the pills in secret – but it was a comfort to admit to myself, Yes I’m Down Here Again. Somehow it made me feel more sane. I could put a name to it, draw a line under it, put all the crap in a box and move on. As soon as I admitted that I wasn’t coping, I started to cope again. Does that make any sense?

A few weeks later I started exercising again, then made the very expensive decision to join SureSlim. I was still feeling rather fragile and pathetic and wanted my hand held. I didn’t really follow their diet as it was too restricted for my style, but thrived on the individual weigh-ins and having a good fifteen minute chat to someone each week. None of the cattle truck feeling of Weight Watchers. It was then I realised how complex this weight loss journey was going to be, how life was going to keep getting in the way. I would have to learn to quickly adapt my methods to whatever was going on in my life at the time.

By September I’d lost ten kilos of the regain and made my Dietgirl comeback, slinking back online after months of silence. Then finally I scored a fantastic new job.

Then in October my beloved grandfather died after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. I had never lost anyone before. Since he had been suffering so long I had expected to feel relieved, instead it was a crazy rollercoaster ride of grief. My sister and I gave his eulogy, which was difficult and uplifting all at the same time. At one point as I stood there at the pulpit, I am ashamed to say I thought, I wonder if anyone can tell I’ve lost weight, coz I look great in this new skirt! Oh dear.

But I do remember suddenly realising that life was so much bigger than what you weighed. I never felt so close to my family as those few weeks, and so protective of them. My sister and I bought a giant passionfruit cheesecake the afternoon Poppy died, and I remember our wistful giggles as we ate it, Poppy would want us to have another slice, I’m sure of it.

FEARS OF THE YEAR:

That I would never find anything decent to wear in the midst of the puffy peasant shirt revival of summer 2002.

And this:

There comes a day when you just look in the mirror and realise that no matter how many times you haul your ass to the gym, no matter how many mountains you climb, no matter how many bars of chocolate you decline to eat; you are never, ever going to want someone to see you naked.

TRIUMPH OF THE YEAR:

After all that regaining, I got busy losing again and finally reached the elusive 100lb lost mark.

ANTI-CLIMAX OF THE YEAR:

My 25th Birthday came and went and obviously I did not reach my goal, but vowed to do it by my 26th. HA HA HA!

After starting the year at 115 kilos, I finished the year at about 105. So 20 kilos gained, but 30 kilos lost again.