Be Your Own Cheer Squad

I was reading Pasta Queen’s excellent "Ask A Loser" entry yesterday and one of her commenters posted a link to a blog called The Skinny Website, wherein an intellectual discussion was taking place about a photograph of Star Jones and her Hideous Arm Flab.

I have no idea who the bloody hell Star Jones is, but Wikipedia tells me she’s an American lass on the telly who was once rather large but lost 100lb. It doesn’t really matter who she is because this entry is about the arm flab, or rather people’s reaction to it.

A few choice (unedited) comments from the Skinny blog:

"ew she is sooooo fugly!! the hanging skin is really discusting"

"she is the example of why people shouldn’t get very fat in the first place (put down the cake star). you will never get your old body back without seriuos surgery, that flabby skin is just NASTY"

"Why on earth would she wear a dress like that with her arms flapping in breeze? Disgusting. What’s the point of losing all that weight… when she looks so gross with all the left-over, floppy skin?"

The purpose of the site is to discuss the rise and fall of celebrity weights, and that’s fine by me. It’s not something I want to be involved with, but it’s a big ol’ internet with plenty of room for everyone and all their niche interests. And it appears there’s many folks wanting to weigh in on burning issues such as, Does Victoria Beckham look skinnier this week, does Geri Halliwell have nice legs or not, and does Rhianna look nice in her new bikini?

No matter how gaunt or gigantic the celeb happens to be, some commenter will say she’s too fat, another will say she’s too skinny, or her hair is shite or her thighs are too big for her torso or she’s just plain fugly. You can’t please anyone.

What is my point here? I do have one, I swear. I was looking at the photo of Star Jones’ arm flab and all the horrified comments and cacked myself laughing.

"If that’s what they think of the Star Arms," I thought, "What would they think of mine?"

You may recall I spent a good few years being completely paranoid about my arms. In the early days I referred to them as giant pillows spewing out of my shoulder sockets. Then they were known as the Boeing 747 arms. Then I was hysterical when I could only find a sleeveless wedding dress in 2005 and even more hysterical when my giant arms were displayed to the nation in Grazia magazine.

But then last year I granted myself the Right to Bare Arms. Five years of weight training had bossed them into far better shape than I ever imagined possible. This year they’ve got even better. Actually to be honest, the real turning point was when I was standing in the change rooms at Zara in a sleeveless dress, whinging about my mega arms and my sister Rhiannon screamed at me, "Shauna. Get over your fucking arms!"

So I am at peace with them now, you see? I am actually proud of them, how they stayed faithfully by my side, adapting and changing despite those years of abuse.

But back to Star Jones. I realised that although I may be happy with my arms and all their imperfections, there are giant packs of bitches out there that would find them horrific. They would be hacking at them with knives. They would cross the road if they saw me sleeveless on the street.

It drove home to me, yet again, that you have to be your own cheer squad. You need to be your own biggest fan. You have to set your own standards and work hard to impress yourself. It is pointless comparing you and your body and your abilities to someone else’s. Someone is always going to be thinner/prettier/fitter. Someone is always going to look at you and think you’re hideous. It makes much more sense to compare yourself now to where you’ve been or where you want to go next.

If I’d seen that Star Jones Arm Flab pic three years ago I would have had the same first thought as I did yesterday, "If that’s what they think of the Star Arms, what would they think of mine?". But instead of laughing about it I would have seriously bawled my eyes out. And put on three jackets and Groucho glasses before I dared venture into public.

But these days I have finally reached a point where I honestly do not give a toss about what anyone thinks about my body except for me. I’m happy with how it looks and what it can do in all its dimpled imperfect glory. All the healthy eating and trips to the gym are for my own selfish enjoyment, not to make my body less unpleasant for the masses.

And if anyone started poking fun at my arms now, I would happily tell them to rack off… then flap my big arms and fly far, far away!

Spring Forward

I meant to mention earlier… it’s now officially SPRING! The clocks are FORWARD, baby! I cannae believe I survived my 4th round of Evil Winter Darkness. It’s almost 6.30pm and it’s still light! And it’s only going to get lighter!

(Please don’t throw things at me, Southern Hemispherians! Just think of the casseroles and nights down by the fire. Every season has it charms 🙂

Violent Femme

Arrgh! Where did that week go? It was all work work workity work. And sitting on my arse watching the cricket and MotoGP too, must admit.

So! It’s time for another New Years Resolution Update. Imagine that there’s some sort of theme tune to go along with that… doo doo dooooo.

All my goals are ticking along nice and dandy. I think making them specific, realistic and enjoyable has helped. About time I learned that lesson!

8. Try three new sporty activities in 2007

Old school folks may recall my first Body Combat class way back in November 2001. I was 117 kilos at the time and my face went redder than my hair. My punches were feeble and my kicks were about as powerful as a chihuahua lifting its leg to pee on a car tyre, but I was an enthusiastic participant and was soon addicted. I was proud of my big red face. I loved throwing punches and kicking and screaming, even though I was only assaulting thin air.

Five-and-a-bit years later my pal V called up and said she was going to try a kickboxing class and did I fancy coming along. Like Body Combat? I asked. Nooo, she said. Like boxing gloves and kicking the crap out of people. AH HA! I said. This could count as a New Sporty Activity for my list! Gloves ahoy!

I hadn’t been to a gym class since May last year, because of the dodgy knee. It was bizarre being back in a mirrored environment. I still did my automatic sweep of the room to see if I was the biggest, and I was. But in height only. Hehehe!

The instructor was a bloke and he was the real kickboxing deal, black belt and everything. I’m so used to techno music and instructors who say "woohoo" and "work it, ladies!" that it was a bit unsettling at first when it was clear this was more sporty than aerobic-y.

First we did drills and circuity things – shadowboxing, then switching rapidly back and forth between kicks, push-ups, sprinting on the spot, star jumps, sit ups. It was rather grueling! But sooo much fun! You have to remember I’d spent the previous eight MONTHS limited to nothing but boring knee exercises and boring stationery bike riding, so it was a real treat. Oddly enough my fitness level hadn’t dropped off; I easily kept up with the class. My face was merely pink instead of the old Call The Ambulance red.

Next up the group was split in two. Half of us got our gloves on and the other took the pad thingies. Us Gloved Ones did a lot of running between the Pad People and punching them in all manner of styles. Holy CRAP, I loved punching people. Really! I just thought of everyone who had even remotely annoyed me over the past 29 years and let fly. POW POW POW! One Pad Girl said to me, "Whoa, that is a scary face!" and her neighbour said, "She is taking it very seriously, isn’t she?". Damn right, girly!

Then we had to kick, which was even better. My favourite was a drill where you just had to do roundhouse kicks over and over for one minute, really fast, then switch to the other leg, then back to the first leg, and so on, until your pins turn to jelly. I love roundhouse kicks. It was amazing after all those years of kicking nothing at Body Combat to actually connect with something, even if it was only a girl with a big cushion! My knee felt good and I loved the sound of my foot smacking the pad, pow pow pow.

But then we had to swap over, and I went from overly-aggressive freak to total WIMPY ARSE. Oh dear. As soon as I had those pads in my hands I wanted to run home to mummy. I didn’t think these nice girls with their pretty ponytails would punch so HARD. I was totally unprepared and compleeeetely useless at holding the pads, and got smacked in the cheek and temple by mistake. So I just sort of floated the pads around my head, cowering beneath as they rained blows down on me. I could dish it out but I sure couldn’t take it! Hehe.

The hour was up by then, and after that was the sparring class, where the pads get put away and you assault people more directly. But since Vicki and I were beginners the dude suggested we wait a few weeks for that. Fair enough! "You’ll be in a world of pain tomorrow," he said, "But don’t let that put you off. You gotta come back next week!"

So that was 8th January and I have not bloody been back. Tis why I hadn’t written about it sooner, I was too busy SULKING. I woke up the next day and my knee was completely cactus. Unable to straighten my leg properly, hurting like a mofo, blah blah blah. It took two long weeks of limping and rest and ice and exercises before I could even get back on the boring stationery bike on the gym. Grrrrrr. It was similar to what happened with the swimming – the knee felt okay at the time, it was only the next day that it was all out of whack. I don’t think it was the kicking that did it, because I’d been really careful with them at the time. I think it was the over-enthusiastic hopping and skipping and springing around; all the short and sudden movements.

So that’s what led me to revising my goals to make sure I was working within my limitations, as opposed to working within my fantasy dream world. At times it’s deathly boring but after almost three months, the knee feels much stronger for sticking to low impact stuff. It still pisses me off that I can’t go back to the kickboxing class yet – One, because it ruled; and Two, because I see the instructor all the time at the gym and I haven’t been back to his stinking class, and I HATE the idea of anyone thinking I didn’t go back because I’m a scared little prissy pants. I am thinking of wrapping a big red bandage around my knee that says "HURTY" on it, so he knows there was a legitimate reason.

I am sure I’ll get back there someday. Anyway, I am going to put that down as a New Sporty Activity, and I don’t care what you say! I had not punched anyone with gloves before so it totally counts. Woohoo!

Rack Em Up

This weekend I went shopping with my sister. This was once a very traumatic exercise – Rhi would rummage through the rails and I’d go sit outside with the abandoned husbands, all teary and hating the world because I couldn’t even fit a toe into anything. The more kind and sweet my sister would be, the more I’d want to throw myself onto the escalators. At least now when I am sitting outside the shop it’s just because I’ve just bloody had enough of stinking shopping; not because I’m too large for the frocks.

So I tried on lots of clothes in lots of different shops, just like so many of you suggested. I’ve spent so much time getting philosophical about what it’s meant to shift all this blubber, but now I’m determined to enjoy the fun and frivolous rewards. So I wriggled into skirts and dresses and coats and tops and dacks in all manner of styles and colours. Many of which were in a size 12 (US 10), thank you very much! Woo! And there were belts and shoes and stupid sunglasses too. But I’m a bit broke at the moment so I just bought a smaller bra, because the old cups are starting to runneth under. Sigh.

It was good fun trying things on, even those new season frocks with the lurid Pucci-esque prints. But I must admit my favourite part of the shopping expedition is still the bit where you stop for lunch.

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The one and only Mary has started up a forum thingy called Health Nuts, where health nuts far and wide can gather in one place and have a good natter about health. And nuts. Mary says it’s not meant to be replace our individual blogs but rather add to the community. So if you fancy getting chatty with like-minded souls why not sign up? This is completely free and non-commercial so I am not being a hypocrite, by the way 🙂

You can start up a topic on anything you like. So far people are talking about brekkie ideas and what to do with chickpeas. I am thinking of starting up a topic to ask the burning question, Does anyone else SMILE at their computers when they write a smiley face in a blog comment? I feel dorky enough as it is typing smiley faces, but yesterday caught my reflection and realised I smile at the screen as I do it. More like a grimace actually. Like I am trying to force that good feeling down to the phone line to you. I am being sincere and encouraging. FEEL IT!

Come Fry With Me

I am having a good week. And this in spite of eating a deep-fried Mars Bar yesterday. No, actually it’s because I ate a deep-fried Mars Bar yesterday. Oh baby! Just one bite of that sweet and crispy goo and the world seems even more of grand place to be.

It was actually only a quarter of a deep-fried Mars Bar, as I was sharing it amongst friends. I’ve been eating pretty well and exercising like a mofo for eight solid weeks now without drama and fanfare, so I didn’t hesitate to tuck in.

I mentioned awhile back I was taking the emphasis away from scales, deadlines and goal weights, and it still seems to be working. All the anxiety and pressure is gone. I’m exercising because I enjoy it and my body craves it. I’m eating what I want and what I want just happens to be healthy stuff. And my jeans are getting baggy. By removing the deadlines and expectation, instinct seems to be taking over. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still taken just as much planning and hard stinky work in the gym, but my mindset is changing. I’m now trying to cement the attitude "this is just how I live my life" rather than "this is what I have to do to lose blubber".

Some examples! For our wedding anniversary two weeks ago, Gareth and I stayed over in Edinburgh. So often when I’m let out of the house I see this as license to let loose with the eating. First we had lunch at Wannaburger, home of the lovely big burgers, fat fries and obscenely huge chocolate shakes. At Christmas with the lads from work, I’d ordered all three. This time I knew all three wouldn’t really help my goals, so I thought with the brain instead of the stomach. I went for the burger I really fancied, no chips and a plain orange juice.

Round Two was dinner at Chop Chop, one of our favourite restaurants. It ain’t romantic but it’s gooood. This time I thought long and hard about what I really wanted to eat and then we ordered small size dishes to share. It was our fifth visit to this place and the first that I didn’t need to dicreetly unzip my jeans under the table because I was so stuffed. We even had room to share a dessert! Bloody amazing.

I know this is all such basic, simple stuff but it’s something I’ve always struggled with. I knew I should make considered choices when dining out, but so many times I’ve thought, "But I may never dine out again! I must have everything I want! Plus bread and butter!".

So I am working hard to undo this all-or-nothing mentality. I tried it again yesterday when I met up with Greg and Jillian, the fab friends we stayed with in San Francisco before our wedding. I was drooling over the lunch menu and almost pounced on the burger and fries. But I reasoned that it would never be as good as Wannaburger so wasn’t really worth it. So I chose something lighter instead then later took the opportunity to try the quarter-of-a-deep-fried Mars Bar. Which really was worth it.

Excuse my language here Mothership, but it feels fucking amazing to feel it all coming together. To trust myself. To feel balanced and calm. To realise after all this time that the power and knowledge really is in my hands. Wow that sentence makes me sound like a Ninja Turtle or something. But seriously. I know how to to do this, I’ve always known; but now I finally have complete faith in myself that I can do it. And that it hasn’t all been a big fluke.

. . .

Today is Red Nose Day, in which people across Britain do wacky things to raise money for Comic Relief. If you’ve seen the original UK version of The Office, do you recall David Brent dancing like a twat and dressing up like a bird? That was all in the name of Comic Relief.

If you don’t have a bird suit handy, you could always contribute by buying a copy of Shaggy Blog Stories. This book went from wacky idea to real live book in just 7 days! It is a collection of funny stories from 100 UK bloggers that would surely keep you amused for hours. There’s even a story of mine, from my non-fat blog. Hurrah!

So come on luvvies, why not buy a copy! That link will take you to lulu.com, where they ship all over the world and you can even pay via PayPal. You know reading burns calories. Or at the very least will tone your eyeballs. Nobody wants to see a flabby eyeball.

Shaggy

Plankety-Planks

Plank_1I have gone plank mental lately! I used to hate the plank, but now I lurve the plank. Embracing my inner sulky six-year-old, I hated planks purely because I couldn’t do them. WAH.

We did a lot of planks in my old pilates class and I truly stank. My arms would give out and I’d dive to the carpet. But for the past few weeks I’ve been tacking on this wee six-minute plank segment every couple of days. On-your-elbows planks, straight arm planks and reverse planks that you seem to hold forever. In my case it was about five seconds. But suddenly on Friday, I could doooo the bastard planks! I kept up with Cathe and held ’em all for the entire time. I even chucked in some side planks at the end for added torture.

I’m a big fan of weight training but I’m trying to do more stuff with my own bodyweight. After all, it’s a heavy ol’ body! There’s plenty there to resist without always needing to drag out the dumbbells. I like the look of this crazy 7-Minute Weight Loss Circuit, as Marla has been doing of late. The Mountain Climbers and lunges would be too dodgy for my knee but there’s some good ideas there.

. . .

When I started my lard-busting caper in 2001, one of my motivations to get smaller was to one day possess a decent wardrobe, free of polyester and appliqued kittens. But despite dropping many sizes I have yet to get adventurous. I’ve been awed by blogging comrades like Kathryn, Phil and YP who’ve swathed their saucy slenderised selves in all manner of foxy frocks. I just can’t seem to get the nerve to do this myself. All I’ve done for the past six years is buy jeans and plain tops in the next size down. Just look at my progress pictures; I just keep downsizing the same bloody uniform!

Laziness and tight-waddery are a factor, but cluelessness has much to do with it. I went straight from being a little kid when your Mum picks your clothes to being a Large Adult with no choice but the trusty Uniform. Now that I’m finally spoiled for choice I’m not good with the choosing.

All I know is that I want to feel more girly, while I am still actually reasonably girly. I am nearly 30 years old and have never worn a dress aside from my weddings. I am so entrenched in my jeans-and-top uniform that my mother-in-law was worried that I’d get married in them. Ha! So the other day I went KA-RAZY and bought a frock. It’s a bit plain but I figure I have to start somewhere, eh? (Here’s a pic Megarack but my camera’s colour has gone wonky. Stupid shoes for demo purposes only. And transparent legs = four years in Scotland!)

I think I am ready to have some fun with clothes. It’s just fabric after all; it can’t bite you. I am a sucker for 10 Years Younger and all those makeover programmes; I wonder what it would be like to wear knee-high boots or crazy jewelery or a colourful belt. I’ve never owned a belt. I always had my guts to hold my trousers up, after all!

Maybe this summer I will go radical and buy some clothes with actual colour! Maybe a pattern! Maybe a skirt or two! All the possibilities make me nauseous, but I don’t see the point in busting all this blubber if I’m not going to enjoy it.

. . .

I am cuckoo for tofu lately. Never used to like the stuff, unless it was microscopic cubes floating in a bowl of miso soup. But we needed some protein variation in our pseudo-veggie household so I thought I’d give it a go. I consulted the trusty Leith’s Vegetarian Bible (tip top wedding pressie from Sandra!) and found a stir-fry recipe.

You chop the tofu into cubes and marinate it for twenty minutes in soy sauce, garlic, lime juice with a dash of honey and sesame oil. Then you drain it, reserving the juicy goodness. You put the cubes on a tray then zap ’em in a hot oven for 20 minutes til they’re nice and golden.

I just stir-fried a bunch of green things from the fridge (broccoli, snow peas [mange tout to the brits], green beans, swiss chard [or some leafy thing, never can tell what’s what], green pepper [capsicum to the Aussies]) with a handful of frozen edamame and the leftover saucy stuff. Then plonked the crispy tofu on top to serve.

It was very green, but bloody beautiful and wholesome to the MAX! Total tofu convert now. Tofurkey for Xmas 2007!

Made of Stars

Did any Northern Hemispherians catch the lunar eclipse on Saturday night? Gareth and I went down to the beach to watch it. It happened to be our wedding anniversary (two years!), so on paper that just about sounds like the most romantic thing ever. But it was freezing cold we had to stay inside the car and ended up with severe neck cramps from tilting and turning in our seats to try and get a good look at the bloody moon. And then a big cloud came along and hid the whole show.

What we did see was beautiful and incredibly humbling. Normally the moon looks so undefined and distant, but during the eclipse it looked properly three dimensional, like a giant golf ball that you could reach out and grab. I’ve always loved having a good gawk at the moon; it gives you great perspective. For all our busy lives and crazy dramas and struggles, we’re all just wee specks in the universe. Isn’t that comforting?

. . .

Yesterday I wanted to throw my bike into the canal. I just had a really shit ride. I’ve been so full-on with my exercise this week and methinks I’d got a bit over-enthusiastic. My first interval session was intense and totally fried my legs. Then I’ve been doing some killer weights. I felt like a change so I did Cathe’s Slow and Heavy, where you do a 2-down-6-up rep count with the heaviest weights you can manage. The Legs & Shoulders was particularly gruelling, I was shakin’ like a shitting dog, to use a favourite phrase of Gareth’s.

By Wednesday my legs were knackered but I was scheduled for another round of intervals. I knew I wouldn’t make it so thought I’d do a quick easy bike ride to let my legs recover, just the wee 7 mile (11.3 km) loop on the cycle track. Gareth came out with me, but took off into the distance for the 10 mile (16km) route that he does during the week, just a quick blast of a workout when he hasn’t time for longer rides.

So. It sucked! There was an innocent-looking breeze but it felt like riding through molasses. Normally I can coast for long stretches but I was pedalling hard the whole time. At the halfway point I had to stop for a drink and a sook.

I was sooo slow on the way home. There were people WALKING faster than I was riding. And I had to stop twice more because my quads felt so bloody weak. I was even yelling at my legs at some point, "Why. Won’t. You. MOVE!?".

And the final insult was when I limped over the finish line, Gareth casually wheeled past me having finished his route, the longer one with all the hills and stuff. ARRGH.

I calmed down with a cup of tea, for there will always be days like that. Something can feel ridiculously easy one day but feel like the Tour de freakin France the next. Especially when you’re shiny new to this cycling palaver. So I will carry on and rest my weary legs today.

. . .

I really miss that dog. It’s ridiculous to miss something you only knew for a few hours, but I do. Actually, it’s more the idea of the critter that I miss.

I used to have a dog back in Australia, and I was a terrible parent. I should have rescued an aging, immobile lump from the shelter to match my own fitness level, but I fell for a hyperactive mutt that I called Harry. I’d take him for a walk and he’d pull on the lead, gasping and gagging, and I’d think, "That little bastard, why won’t he heel?".

Now I can admit that of course strained at the leash – he was bored out of his tiny little skull! He wanted to run! He wanted to sniff things! But I couldn’t shuffle for more than a few blocks without needing to find a park bench to recover. I still feel so guilty for being such an unfit mother. He deserved someone who could carve up the pavement and walk for miles.

I remember one time Harry escaped and ran into the church graveyard across the street. This was in 2000, when I was at my very lardiest. I chased him as fast as I could, which was extremely un-fast I can tell you now. By the time I got there he was pinging between the headstones, nose to the ground. I did not have the physical ability to run after him, so I called his name. But he ignored me. Instead he sauntered over to a headstone, where a family of mourners were placing flowers, and PEED ALL OVER IT. I didn’t know which was worse; the shame of him pissing on the grave or my complete inability to do anything about it.

I found a new home for Harry not long before we moved to Scotland and even though I was much fitter by then, I was so glad to see his new Mum was very fit and active. I still wish I could call up that hound and apologise for those couple of years when I was so rubbish for him. I just know if I had a dog now, I could do so much better! I could do things right! I’d love to have a four-legged excuse to go outside. We could walk for hours and throw sticks and I could crash tackle it before it had to the chance to lift a leg in an inappropriate place. Someday, someday.

Harry
C’est Harry!

The House of Dags

Lately I’ve been dreaming up schemes to increase my unplanned, incidental exercise. No matter how sweaty you get in your formal exercise sessions, there’s oh so many hours of snooze and sitting in front of a computer to counter that. Aside from extra walking and not using remote controls, I’m trying to cultivate a fidgeting habit. I’ve always been rather still and stoic like an Easter Island statue but it’s amazing how quickly you can learn to sort of bounce around the house, throwing light punches at people and just generally being wriggly and annoying.

I had plenty of heartwarming incidental exercise this afternoon, chasing around a very small and gorgeous pile of fur. We found a runaway PUPPY out on the street! We brought him back to our flat until we could track down the owners. So it was two hours of chasing round a wee fuzzy Spaniel named Fudge. You can behold the cuteness for yourself over here if you’re into that sort of thing.

She stole a carrot from our vegie box and ate it. A CARROT!

. . .

There’s an interview with me today on Real Women’s Fitness, in which I sprout on about my weight loss adventures and philosophies. Thanks for having me over, RT!

. . .

I am still loving my little ladies gym. I joined last year on a ridiculously cheap special offer – £16 per month! Less than half price. That’s cheap even in Australian dollars! There’s not a huge amount of equipment there, but it’s tiny and quiet and there’s showers. So I go along three times a week and do my intervals then go wash my hair. With our shower-less house, it’s a thrill not to have to rinse your locks with a teacup now and then.

The clientele are great. Everyone is so completely daggy.  There’s no real fashion divas, it’s mostly floppy sweatpants and giant t-shirts. My early morning timeslot is a very social hour, full of retired ladies exchanging gossip about their ungrateful children and ailing parents as they swoosh along on the cross trainers. One does the bitching and the says "Oh aye" and nods sympathetically. Then they swap.

Everyone is friendly and says, "Hiya hen" in the changerooms and yaps on about the weather. This really startled me at first, as I was still clinging to the memory of my fancy gym in Edinburgh when everyone hurried along and kept to themselves. I love the lonely grunt of doing my weight training at home, but look forward to mingling with the ladies for my cardio. It’s like a Women’s Institute meeting except with dumbbells and steppers instead of scones and tea.