Thunder from Down Under

An odd little thing I’ve noticed: my clothes take up less space. In the wardrobe, in the drawers, in a suitcase ready for a holiday, but especially when hanging things out to dry. My size 26 undies used to hog so much real estate! But now I can get two pairs on one row of the clotheshorse. It’s silly shit like this that keeps me going!

Three cheers for everyone’s favourite running supastar blogger YP with her incredible half-marathon today! Her time was speedy as hell. Kick ass. Inspirational stuff!

Feeling a wee bit homesick tonight. Firstly because Saffron used the word "texta" in a post. I haven’t heard anyone say that word out loud for almost three years and it made me feel a little funny inside.

Then another blogging fave mentioned a Sydney thunderstorm. I have not seen a single storm while living in Scotland. Strange eh? I grew up on a farm, and I miss looking up at a heavy sky, the unmistakable smell of rain approaching, especially strong when it hasn’t rained in ages. I miss the lightning and gurgling thunder, and the smell of damp soil afterwards. Over here it smells like rain all the bloody time, but it’s a grey and fusty smell.

But this is not an Australia v Scotland rant. I love it here too, don’t you know. Like yesterday when Scotland beat in England in the rugby, I was screaming at the telly like a native. I was just so proud of them boys. When you’re Australian you quite often get to see your team win, but the Scots hadn’t beat the English since 1999, and before that it was 1990. It was ridiculous how emotional I got. Hehe.

This entry hasn’t got much to do with fat, has it?

To be honest I’ve been having one of my stupid Existential Crises. Where I question why the hell I am doing this blogging malarkey. Not this blog so much as the other two. I just get overwhelmed sometimes, by the sheer number of blogs out there, this blur of voices. I wonder sometimes what is the point of my contributions. Am I just adding to the noise?

I also get overwhelmed with the task of keeping up with other people’s blogs and comments, and commenting on comments, etc etc. I don’t want anyone thinking I am some snobbyass blogging from my lofty tower. But I’ve been so obsessed with what everyone else is doing that I have neglected my own efforts. My new years writing goals have fallen by the wayside.

I have moaned about this to the poor Scottish Companion and he, as always, was wonderful about it. Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am! I’ve been frankly quite jealous of him lately. He discovered Garage Band a few months ago and decided to make an album. He’s been tinkering away in his spare time, and already has half a dozen great songs. And why is he doing it? For the pure joy of making music. For fun. For himself.

I was jealous of his productivty and focus, and especially of the happy grin he gets after a session in the "studio". I realised that I have let the joy drain right out of the process. I’ve become too self-conscious about writing, ever since the audience got bigger and particularly when people I knew started reading. What I’ve got to do is Think Like The Scotsman, and get back to just writing freely and openly. To pretend noone is there like I used to, and just bloody do it instead of quietly freaking out.

Ack, it’s time for bed. Instead of editing this to death over the next five days in my usual manner, how bout I just hit Publish and to hell with it? 🙂

Attack of the Blahs

Just in case anyone has developed Gap Envy vis-a-vis the last entry, it’s only a tiny wee gap. Like the size of a pound coin. Probably smaller than that. A half-inch peephole at best! So don’t despair anyone. It would only look like a gaping chasm to me 🙂

Today I weighed in at 83.5 kilos for the fourth freaking week in a row. It’s handy and dandy to know I have the skillz to maintain my weight. But alas, this is something that I don’t need to be doing until I shift another bloody 8.5 kilos.

What also sucks is how slight the difference is between Maintaining and Losing. In order to maintain I would have liked to think I could have fit in a 100g bar of Green and Blacks chocolate or a whole block of feta cheese. But nooo, maintaining is one fun size Kit Kat and a home baked jammy biscuit. Where’s the fun in that?

But seriously. This is not a plateau, nor is it me focusing on the scales too much. I just need to take things up a level. I know that overall I am on the right track. I have developed consistent good habits. I have exercised consistently and I’ve not binged. I have written down every single freaking thing I’ve eaten every day this year, something I have not done properly since the heady days of 2001.

But at this stage of proceedings I need to do more.

I am not doing enough cardio, for example. I am barely managing twice a week lately. The pilates and weights are going great, but you gotta move your butt if you want to move the blubber. And these Monday Afternoon Avocado on Toast feasts must stop. I don’t know why I am always so ravenous on Monday afternoons. But it seems an extra two bits of grainy toast and avocado today is the equivalent of a Family Block of Cadburys bender five years ago. I simply don’t need as many calories now. D’oh!

It’s been a pretty blah kind of week, really. I’ve been really blah and I would elaborate on the blahs, yet feel too blah to write about it right now. But I need to let it all out so I will come back tomorrow. Apologies for the blahness of this entry but I just wanted to update since it’s Wednesday and all.

Recipe Corner: Friday Night Cookie Emergency

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

Gareth has some pals drop over unexpectedly last night, and there we were without any biscuits to offer. These evenings typically consist of the lads sitting around on the couch in a cloud of smoke, playing records and scoffing tea and biscuits into the wee small hours. It soon became apparent that without something buttery and sugary to dunk into their mugs it just wasn't going to work. 

I happened to be leafing though the latest copy of Good Food magazine, which I'd purchased in spite of my New Year's resolve to buy less food magazines. D'oh! They had a great Mother's Day feature in which readers sent in favourite recipes handed down from their mums. I pounced on these Simple Jammy Biscuits, because the title says it all! Simple, jammy, biscuit – how can you go wrong?

The blokes usually tear into packets of nasty supermarket-brand Custard Creams, Rich Tea and Bourbons. How can I put this nicely? These biscuits are shite. They cost about 59p for a huge pack and they're full of hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially inverted glucose syrups and a rainbow of colourings and flavours. I usually sit frowning into my tea, watching the boys demolish them by the handful and thinking, that ain't good for you! Butter, sugar and jam are hardly have a place in the temple of health foods but at least you know what you're dealing with there. 

So I had an attack of the 50s Housewife, disappeared into the kitchen and had these babies in the oven within ten minutes. The biscuits in the magazine picture were golden discs of perfection. Mine were lumpy and sprawling but they were happily scoffed by Gareth and friends. I'm still being a Sugar Martyr so I only stole one bite. They were beautifully buttery, simple, soft and Mumsy – ideal for mindless dunking into tea. 

jamdrop.jpg

I'll scan the magazine picture later so you can see the more appetising, non-deformed version!


SIMPLE JAMMY BISCUITS

Source: Good Food, March 2006
Makes: 12 

200g/8oz self-raising flour
100g/4oz caster sugar
100g/4oz butter
1 egg, lightly beaten 
4 tbsp strawberry jam (I used Bonne Maman Raspberry. Choice!) 

Heat oven to 190°C, Rub the flour, sugar and butter together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively, you can do this in the food processor (Yeah right. I did it by hand, less washing up that way!) 

Add enough egg to bring the mixture together to form a stiff dough. Flour your hands and shape the dough into a tube, about 5cm in diameter. Cut into 2cm-thick slices and place on a large baking sheet. Space them out as the mixture will spread while baking. Make a small indentation in the middle of each slice with the end of a wooden spoon, and drop a teaspoon of jam in the centre. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes until slightly risen and just golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: Next time I'd probably make 24 wee ones instead of the recommended 12, so you'd get more jam per bite!

Per Biscuit: 170 calories, 5g saturated fat. WW Points: 3.5 (ouch!)

Mind The Gap

I loved Zara’s post about her new dance class. Fun cardio, is what she calls it. Goddamn, we all should have some fun cardio. I still pine for my old Body Jam class. Don’t get me wrong, I am rubbish dancer. Every class ended with me whining to my sister, and her very patiently walking through the steps, and me still cocking them up. But it was fun and ridiculous and difficult. It made you get sweaty but it made you feel sexy. And there were Beyonce songs!

My favourite tracks were always the Latin ones. Probably because I finally found a use for ample hips. And probably because the steps were easier than the hip hop songs. But mostly because the rhythms were so irresistible.

I thought of looking for a salsa class or similar, but the Scottish Companion isn’t really interested. That would be my fault, because I once told him salsa classes are where marriages go to die. At least that’s what happens on the telly. Has anyone seen Lantana? Or what about Rico and Vanessa in Six Feet Under? They went along to put the spark back into the marriage but turns out Vanessa was popping pills then Rico ended up with that lap dancer and it was all downhill from there.

Another reason I am wary of salsa classes is that you have to wear high heels. I have never worn high heels. Well I wore them once, on our wedding day. I clomped around like a footballer in drag. Luckily I only had to go from our hotel room to the taxi, then from taxi to Chapel, then down the aisle and back again. God bless Las Vegas and its moving walkways.

Elsewhere in Blogland, Nancy wrote a cracker of a post called The Truth About Weight Loss, and actually says a lot about the Truth About Maintenance.

Oh! And three cheers for Triathlete Sue!

The brain and the body are never in synch. The brain feels proud after a good workout, or when it has passed up a chocolate cake, or drunk all its water. The brain feels like it should be rewarded. So the brain goes running to the scale and feels crushed when the number hasn’t changed.

But the body is slow. It has a vague idea that it is being fed differently and made to move in new ways, but it gets confused and takes awhile to catch on. Huh? What are you doing to me? Wha’ happened?

There can be weeks or months of the brain getting impatient, stamping its feet and throwing plates at the wall. But then one fine day the body will catch up, and it feels like a whole bunch of things change overnight.

It’s probably coincidence and my being chronically unobservant, but this happened to me last week. After weeks of frustrating nothing, I seemed to notice oodles of changes all at once and proved yet again why Patience, Grasshopper is my mantra:

  • The new Australian trousers that sliced me in half in October can now be put on without undoing the zipper!
  • The boobs no longer fill the bra! My cup runneth under! (Memo to boobs: ENOUGH! I don’t want you any smaller)
  • My once skin-tight H&M tops are loose around the waist!
  • I increased my weights for Body Pump!
  • Strange tendons appeared in my feet. I was getting seriously creeped out by them, and started shrieking about "freaky bones", until SC explained they were tendons everyone has those. Indeed, my feet used to be seriously lardy, folks.

And most exciting of all, there is a gap between my thighs. When I stand up straight and press my knees together, there is a little gap between my thighs. There’s light shining through! You could put a person either side of me and they could peer right through and wave at each other. If they squint a little.

It may seem ridiculous to you, how much this thrills me. But even though my stomach has long stopped spilling down south, I have always had chunky thighs and was resigned to the idea that they would always be smushed together, crashing and clashing like pale, doughy cymbals. Behold the miracle of exercise!

The other night, after prattling on about The Gap all evening, I was drifting off to sleep when the Scottish Companion suddenly wriggled his hand between my legs.

"What are you doing?"

"I’m checking out your Gap!"

"What?"

"You could drive a truck through that Gap!" I could hear him grinning.

"Listen, I’m not going to tell you these things if you’re going to mock!"

"I’m not mocking! It’s like the Arc de Triomphe!!

Internal Affairs

The lovely Nicole was talking about women’s locker rooms and the antics folk get up to, like blowdrying their nether regions. Nice! It reminded me of my last trip to London when I accompanied by sister to her Nice Gym for a Body Pump class. After this past year of solo gymming, I’d forgotten how great it is to have someone to chat to, ie. someone with whom you can complain about the pain and make bitchy comments.

I’d also forgotten what my body looks like in gruelling motion, since of course there’s no mirrors at my own gym. I’d forgotten what bits stick out and what bits wobble. Hmmm. But I was also surprised by how much taller and slimmer I looked since the year before! My face was leaner, my legs had narrowed, and the hips had finally shrunk some. Holy crap!

But then I realised I’d just found one particularly Skinny Mirror. The bastards. Don’t you hate that!? Still, all the other "normal" mirrors showed a discernible, if not quite as dramatic, difference. Bah.

Anyway, my sister’s gym had quite the fancy shmancy change rooms. I’d forgotten all about gym change rooms. I always go straight home from mine, as the crowds of naked toddlers and mothers yelling, JUST PUT YOUR PANTS ON! make me feel panicky. So it had been a good twenty kilos ago since I had last undressed in these circumstances. All around me chicks were stripping off with great aplomb, slapping moisturizer onto tanned thighs, or happily fluffing their pubes with a towel. I took off my shoes and socks then froze.

It was then I realised with all my sprouting off about my newfound positive body image and happiness, I was still a trembling prude. My sister was done in a flash, wrapped in a towel and ready to hit the showers, but I had only just psyched myself up to take off my t-shirt.

"Don’t worry about it," sis reassured me, "No one cares!"

Well yes, true, yet I still felt reluctant to unveil my pasty flesh. I huddled in the corner with my head low and shoulders rounders, my traditional Fat Girl Hiding stance. But since there is no practical way of removing bra and undies while covering up with a towel at the same time, (how do you secure the towel? with your teeth?!) I just had strip and be done with it.

Once showered I felt a lot better. I padded back to the locker in a towel and paused only briefly to frown at my pudgy arms in the mirror. It’s a good body, it does what it’s supposed to, why be self-conscious?

But then as I started to dress, who should saunter in and sit down on the bench opposite me but the Body Pump instructor! She got a water bottle from her locker then just sat there, for what seemed like an eternity, sipping her water, all of ONE METRE directly behind my naked arse.

I looked at my sister. We held alarmed eyebrow conversations. What is she doing? I don’t know. Is she going to go soon? Doesn’t look like it. I don’t want to get changed now! Me either, and I ain’t no prude. She is RIGHT THERE near my butt! I know, it’s too weird!

It was just rather unsettling, being naked near ones fitness instructor. It’s not a position you expect to be in. I thought they’d go to a separate after class, a private temple to have their beautiful muscles kneaded by chiselled boys in loincloths. And of course I had brought the most hideous grey bra and bright purple Bonds Cotton Undies with the word PURPLE written all over them. Yes Instructor, I thought; not only am I flabby and uncoordinated, I have no dress sense!

In the end I held the towel around me by holding it on my chest with my chin, then did a sort of wriggle/slide motion to pull my undies on without the towel dropping. I knew I was being bloody ridiculous, but once you start these things you just have to see them through.

Afterwards I had a big plateful of scrambled eggs and bacon for brunch, which were devoured without a trace of self-consciousness. I just operate so much better with clothes on!

There was no Wednesday Weigh-In this week. I woke up feeling not quite right. Hideously bloated and blah. Perhaps it was the Pumpkin & Lentil soup I’d eaten the night before. Okay maybe it was the three bowls of Pumpkin & Lentil soup I’d eaten the night before. If you want to be picky.

I toddled off to work and proceeded as normal until after lunch when my stomach turned to lead. I was on the verge of unzipping my trousers right there at my desk, my stomach was THAT swollen and painful. Then after five trips to the bathroom in a half an hour, just sitting there with my enormous grumbling belly wondering if anything would ever happen, I told my boss I needed to go home.

All I had to do was walk ten minutes to the train station. I made it across the street before I had to turn back and run for the bathrooms. Twenty minutes later I ventured out again, got a third of the way before throwing up violently in some bushes. I did not trust my body to get to the station, let alone to not errupt during the train journey, or make the 20 minute walk home after that. So I shuffled back to work and told my colleagues mournfully, "I couldn’t make it!".

Until recently I’d bragged about how I’d not vomited since 1992. Then last October while in Brisbane, my record was shattered after a very very painful night on the tiles when my body reacted violently to a Hungry Jacks Value Meal. We’d flown into Brisbane very late and the HJ was the only thing open near our hotel. I saw the Double Bacon Cheeseburger Deluxe (may not be exact title) up on the board and remembered that I used to like those back in the day. You know the days I’m talking about. The days when I’d eat two of them for a snack and not even flinch. It didn’t take long for my body to tell me those days were long gone!

Anyway, Wednesday was like that all over again. I’d never felt so wimpy and pathetic, there on my knees in front of an office loo. But my colleagues were nice about it. My boss took me to the first aid room then got one of my other colleagues to give me a ride home. I was so petrified I’d spew all over his car but luckily I held on through peak hour traffic. I spent the rest of the night feeling sorry for myself and hoping my stomach would deflate. Fun fun fun! So no weigh-in.

Is This The Taste of Evil?

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

it burns! it burns!

As I approach the business end of my Fat Busting adventure, I'm having to fight for every tiny wee ounce I lose. My body seems reluctant to surrender any more lard. All it takes is a stray slice of toast, one skipped gym class or merely breathing in some Lamington Fumes and I'll wind up with a nasty result on my Wednesday Weigh Days. So lately I've been scouring my food journal, looking for things to cut out or modify in order to get some results.

This week I focused on milk. I normally drink semi-skimmed, which contains about 1.5% fat. That's the bottle with the green lid. Here in Britain the milk is colour coded and it all makes perfect sense to me. Full fat milk is blue, which makes one think rich, lush, indulgent – fat jersey cows ambling over pastures. Green is wholesome, inoffensive, natural – a happy compromise. Red means pain, suffering, deprivation – the mournful moo of a malnourished bovine. Red is evil. Red is for skimmed milk.

So that's what I drank last week. Here's where I need to insert the disclaimer. I hate Skimmed Milk. I hate Non Fat milk too, which is the American equivalent. I even hate Skim Milk, as it's called in Australia with our fine tradition of abbreviation. I hate skimmed milk as I was forced to drink it as a child. Well, I wasn't forced very forcefully, it was just often all we had left in the fridge. The Mothership liked to stock healthy foods such as brown bread, green vegetables and sensible cereals like Weetbix. The typical parent/child conversation went thus: 

"Muuum I'm hungry."
"Have an apple."
"I don't want an apple."
"Well you're not really hungry then, are you?"

The Mothership's milk of choice was Shape, which was allegedly not as evil as Skim as it contains half a percent or so of fat. But I couldn't taste a difference. It was still pale and watery. Even if you added Home Brand Chocolate Topping and blasted it for ten minutes in the milkshake maker, it was still pale and watery. Just BROWN, pale, watery. I used gag and screw up my face and clutch my stomach most melodramatically, counting down the days til the weekend where I could guzzle full cream milk and sugary cornflakes at my dad's house. And I always thought the design of the Shape carton somehow made it taste worse. It was white with gold stripes, the word SHAPE zapped across it in a neon 80s font. There may also have been a silhouette of a lady in a leotard and legwarmers, because that's how we all dressed back then.

Despite this troubled history I decided to give it another try. I'm all for revisiting the Food Foes of ones childhood – I used to say I hated avocados because they seemed pale and nasty to my ten-year-old self. But now? Mmm, avocado. I pity the fool I was back then. ANYWAY, in my quest to save calories and fat, skimmed milk seemed a good place to start. Plus they tell me that low fat dairy is higher in calcium. How can you go wrong? I subjected the brew to a number of different taste tests. 

First test:   The Smoothie
Hidden amongst frozen berries, yogurt and orange juice, the half cup of Skimmed Milk wasn't a dominant enough player to really make an impact. I sniffed and sipped, looking for the tell-tale notes of water and evil, but it was indetectable. So score one for the Skimmed Milk. But then again I used full fat Yeo Valley yogurt. I guess that cancels out the benefits. D'oh! 

Second Test:   The Porridge
After trudging to work on a winters morn, there's nothing better than zapping ones oats in the microwave for a hearty breakfast. I usually make my porridge with a 2:1 ratio of semi-skimmed milk and water, but this time it was pure Skimmed. I thought there wouldn't be much difference between 0% skim and 1.5% semi + water. But there was! It was rotten, ROTTEN I tells ya! Usually the oats are burbling after two minutes, white and creamy and begging for a pinch of brown sugar. But in their insipid Skimmed Milk bath, they just sort of blinked up at me, grey and sludgy. They hadn't melted at all, and the addition of sugar just made it murky and sickly sweet. Never again!

Third Test:   The Glass
One of my favourite snacks is grainy toast with almond butter. But it has to be accompanied by a glass of cold milk, so you can swirl it round your mouth and hose all the sticky bits off your teeth. So I made the toast and poured the glass and sat down in front of Ready, Steady, Cook. All I can say is, BLARRRRGH! On its own, the Skimmed Milk tasted like not just all the fat but the SOUL had been drained right out of it. And when gnashed around with a bite of toast it just got lost completely, instead of being part of the overall flavoursome mess as the Semi-Skimmed does.

Conclusion: Definitely the taste of evil. I shall stay loyal to the green cap. While I envy and applaud those healthy folk who manage to chug this stuff down, for me the 1.5% fat I'd save is not worth sacrificing 100% of the taste.

The Potato With Eyes

A few months ago I was at the Barn for a Body Pump class. There were two instructors up on the stage. I’m not sure why they have two. Maybe it’s so one person can walk round the class helping people while the other teachers. Or maybe it’s because when you’re teaching a class in a basketball court, you so get exhausted from shouting to make yourself heard that it’s nice to swap the microphone with the other instructor halfway through.

There were a lot of new people that night. And it’s always the same story. Bad form ahoy! Wonky squats, swinging bicep curls, awkward lunges. I remember the first time I did Pump in 2001. I knew diddly squat about squats. It’s a crazy new world in there! Now I watch people wrestle with the bar and squint at the stage, trying to absorb so much new information. I want to run over and say, “Don’t give up, pet! It gets better!”

On this occasion there was one woman doing a particularly unusual interpretation of a squat. As the track went on, I saw Instructor 1 (who was on the mike) glance at Instructor 2, nod their head towards Wayward Squatter then grin. I2 looked and smiled. And so it went on for another few minutes. Nod. Grin.

Then Instructor 1 actually rolled its eyes. I2 shook its head with a hint of exasperation then decided to step in. In the most un-freaking-subtle way possible. I2 threw the bar down with a mighty clang that echoed round the court, jumped off the stage and ran over. I2 stood beside the Squatter and demonstrated the correct form.

Maybe I am just an oversensitive fatass, but I found myself getting rather angry and defensive on the Squatter’s behalf. Sure, the instructor was nice to help her out, but crikey! Every single person was staring, trying to be casual about it as they sank deep into their bottom-half squats. The Squatter was clearly flustered, and the more I2 corrected her, the more she’d fluff it up.

I remember the first time I rocked up to a group class; all the fretting I’d done about even turning up; how fragile my resolve was. I was just looking for confirmation of my fears that I shouldn’t be there, that I didn’t belong. I already feel like an idiot simply for daring to be in the same room as these nubile regulars, resplendent in my baggy trackpants and oversize t-shirt. I recall looking in the mirrors and thinking very specifically that I looked like a potato.  A potato with eyes, standing in a sea of celery stalks.

So if my instructor had done the eye-rolling, half-smirking, dramatic bar-throwdown thing with me, I would have slunk out the door and never come back.

I just wanted to yell at them, where’s your empathy? Isn’t fitness meant to be for everyone? You may not be able to relate to the Squatter’s overweight body, but haven’t you ever been crap at something before? Were you ever a beginner or did you emerge with those muscles straight from the womb?

I am hyperconscious of not forgetting what it feels like to be right at the start of a lard-busting journey. It would be all too easy to be smug, arrogant or complacent. It is possible to be proud of your own achievements without sneering at the efforts of others. Especially since we’re all just a few skipped workouts and a bag of cookies away from being there again.

(The Wayward Squatter never came back.)

. . .

I ranted about the above to the Scottish Companion months ago when it happened – I bet he thought I’d let it go by now! No way, mate! You know I just use you to test out my material before I write it on here. Hehehe.

. . .

So I lost 0.9kg (2lb) this week. Woohoo! That’s 75.7 kilos (168.8lb) gone in total. “You’ve lost a whole me!”, said the Scottish Companion. How bizarre.

This new softly softly approach feels so much better. There’s balance. No extremes or denial. I ate the 0% fat yogurt and the sunflower seeds but I also factored in the three slightly stale Mint Slice biscuits (brought all the way back from Oz by a good mate). Softly, softly!