I Fought The Law

I’ve got that old Queen song stuck in my head, I want to break free. I’ve got a dozen diet books in a bag all ready to be chucked into the charity shop bin. I want to breaaakkkk freeee!

Our bookshelves are oe’rflowing, you see; so I was seeing if anything could go. The diet books were an easy target. I just don’t need ’em around anymore. Some were just those free extracts that came with Slimming magazine, but some I bought in moments of gloom and despair. Whenever I had some sort of crisis I’d go and buy a diet book, because crises made me lose all faith in myself and my ability to know what’s best for the ol body. Depression relapses, job worries, moving overseas, pre-wedding freakout – there’s a diet book to commemorate every lard busting hurdle.

None of them were really sensational titles, and they’ve taught me stuff – recipes, exercises, etc etc. But every time I’d read them I get annoyed with myself for wasting money, because they weren’t really telling me anything new. Or I’d get annoyed because I knew there was no way I could fit my life around that particular diet… which meant the real answer was to stick with what I was already doing, and just be patient. Which is even more frustrating, because sometimes you’re just busting for someone to come along with a miraculous solution.

But now I’m finally happy and confident doing my own thing. I trust that I know what works and what will bend and stretch to accommodate life’s ups and downs. There’s no diet or rules, no wagon to fall off. It’s a messy amalgam of different ideas and advice and years of trial and error that basically boils down to — do the healthy thing more often than I don’t.

Sometimes I still go off the rails completely, but I’m more in tune with my body now. There’s this mental threshold and I know when it’s time to stop and take an honest look at myself. I know how to get back on track without panicking and without racing to the bookshelf. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but the wait has been worth it. Woohoo!

. . .

I’m trying to decide if I love or hate this hillwalking caper. It’s so different from every other kind of exercise I’ve ever done.

The first thing that annoys me – there is no escape.

The other day we set out for Ben Cleuch. It’s in the Ochils, which aren’t considered very sexy to hardcore walking types, but they’re close by and good for total beginners like me. Ben Cleuch isn’t particularly high (721m) but en route is a nasty hill called The Law. It is one steep bastard. Most people do Ben Cleuch the other way so you finishing coming down The Law, but Gareth likes to be different and go up.

It usually takes him about 45 minutes on his own, but we’d been walking for an hour and had only made it 3/4 of the way up. I had to keep stopping to gasp for breath, freak out or just plain whinge. There were rocky bits and slippery bits and other bits where I thought my calves would explode from the steepness. And I kept stabbing my walking poles into fresh, giant sheep turds by mistake.

I told myself sternly, shut up and enjoy the views and think about the tea and sandwiches and thank bloody goodness we didn’t do this in reverse. The only thing worse than going up The Law would be going down. Well, if you’re a total wimpypants like me.

But I spoke to soon, because all of a sudden we were surrounded by surly black clouds. And then the rain came in. Good old horizontal, icy Scottish rain that instantly soaks you to the bone. We had no choice but forget about Ben Cleuch and turn back.

"Well that’s f*cking LOVELY!" I screamed to Gareth. "I can’t believe we have to go back down there! You know I hate descents!"

(Because, of course, it was totally his fault that the weather had turned. Hey, at least I didn’t punch him!)

So that is what I hate about the hillwalking. You can’t just give up. You can’t walk out of the class or get off the treadmill or turn off the DVD player and put the dumbells away. You can go up or you can go down, but you have to keep going. Arrgh!

I picked my way back down The Law like an arthritic goat, testing every loose stone with my boot, slowly slowly slowly. My legs shook the entire time, just waiting to slip and plunge to a grisly death. But anger and annoyance spurred me on. By the time we got to the rocky bits at the bottom, I was almost enjoying it and laughing at myself for being so pathetic. It was quite fun scooting across the rock on my hands and knees. When we got to the car park my legs and butt were covered in mud and that was rather satisfying.

OH! But there’s something else about hillwalking that I hate even more than descents and the inability to abort your mission.

You’re walking up big a hill, right? And you’re tired and sweaty, but you can finally see the top. You’re thinking about your tea and sandwich and it’s going to be okay, as illustrated below…

Hill

But then you get to the top and find out THERE ARE MORE HILLS! Bigger, nastier hills that were stealthily hiding behind the first one!

Hill2

Every time that happens I just want to STAB somebody. You don’t see a treadmill suddenly leaping to an incline for no good reason. Mother Nature is so annoying with all her devious variations and unpredictability. She is so, so cruel. But she is growing on me.

You’ve Got To Hide Your Lard Away

I had this brainwave to make a wee photo album for my sister of all travels. We came to Scotland together in 2003 on a working holiday visa, where the idea is to work work work then see as much of Europe as you can before your visa and/or money runs out.

I poked through a gazillion folders trying to find pictures of us in front of famous landmarks but it was slim pickings, folks. Take the first ever trip we did, a long weekend in Paris. I was so excited to finally be off the couch and seeing the world, but wasn't bold enough to want photographic evidence of this newfound adventurousness. Every time I got the camera out I'd think, My hair sucks. I need a new bra. My head is enormous. My body is revolting. And it was hot and my face was red so I told myself, I'll just come back here some day when I'm smaller and better dressed.

So all I have are a few dodgy shots with my noggin lurking in a corner.

Paris

Even as I lost more weight I still kept hiding. On the rare occasions I let Rhiannon take my picture, I'd bark orders, "Make sure I'm just in the corner! Don't go below the waist! Actually, don't go below the chin!" Or I'd try to hide my body behind statues or trees or sunglasses or hats.

We went on a tour of Russia and Scandinavia in 2004 and I nearly keeled over from Photophobia. Every seven seconds in front of another church or museum someone would shout, "GROUP SHOT!" I'd fight my way to the back row and hide behind the tallest bloke. So despite having been desperate to see Russia my whole life, I only have two fuzzy, barely-recognisable pieces of photographic evidence that I ever went there.

Hiding

I would love to go back in time and kick my own arse. DUDE! Why didn't you just GET IN THE STINKING PICTURES!? These were once in a lifetime experiences! Sure I looked like hell while travelling, but most people do, especially when you're on a budget.

I know I have the memories in my head, but there's something special about having a souvenir photo on your desktop or mantelpiece. I'd kill to have a decent shot of Rhiannon and I together in Red Square or Reykjavik. We worked long and hard to afford those trips so it's sad not have captured the euphoria and relief on our faces when we finally got there. But at the time it didn't feel like I'd be collecting memories, I just thought I'd be documenting FAT FAT FAT!

My favourite picture from our travels is this one from Estonia in 2004, that Rhiannon took without my knowledge. I look like a clown but I'm clearly not thinking about the fact my jeans were a snug size 18. I'm just thinking, "WOOHOO. Life is a hoot."

Every time I look at it, my resolve is strengthened to just jump into photos then laugh if they turn out dodgy. I'd rather have a dodgy photo of a happy moment than no photo at all. Half the joy is looking back and sniggering at your bad haircuts and questionable taste in fashion. I no longer say "I'll come back another day when I'm skinny", because the moment is already happening… right then and there!

So this is a call to any fellow Photophobes out there. Don't scream! Don't hide! Don't put yourself in a  corner! After all, you don't have to post the pictures on the bloody internet. They can gather dust on your hard drive, ready to make you smile and spark your memory when you're old and grey.

Ain’t No Mountain

Oooh! The other day I had the best breakfast in ages. Total 2% Greek Yogurt, strawberries and a splodge of honey. It's a wonder the strawberries made it to brekkie, when I bought them the night before I opened the punnet and POW! The scent of summer smacked me in the nose. Is there anything more scrumptious than berries this time of year?

And that Total 2% is the business. I've waxed lyrical about the 0% version before, but I only really use it for cooking – like a dollop in some pumpkin soup or on a bean burrito in place of sour cream. And the full fat version is ace, but it's sooo thick and sturdy you could probably smear it on the ground and build a house on top that would last 100 years. Then recently someone blogged about a 2% version but can't remember who it was! If you were the 2% yogurt blogger, please let me know so I can bow down to you! (ETA: Taylore blogged about it!)

It's the perfect yogurt compromise! Especially with good old Australian Capilano honey mixed in. There's a lot of poncy honey on the market today, derived from all sorts of exotic trees or bushes, but I like Capilano coz it makes me think of home. Every time I squeeze that bottle I sing the old jingle… Capilano honeeeeey makes the difference every tiiiiime!

(Do they still have that jingle? Sniff sniff. Holy homesick, Batman.)

Anyway. Berries! Summer! Sunshine! But there's no need to be jealous, all you Southern Hemispherians in the throes of winter – it was only 2 degrees cooler in Melbourne yesterday than it was here. Sultry! Gareth and I decided to get out there and walk up a hill. In fine Scottish tradition it was rainy and misty and you could barely make out the view. But it was refreshing nonetheless!

I finally tested out my brand new walking pole thingies. Normally these are reserved for creaky old people but the lovely Babs mentioned them on this old entry and they seemed great for someone with a dodgy knee and a Fear of Descents. I made Gareth walk in front of me, so he could suss out any impending obstacles. He said the climb was like being chased by a pack of blind people because all he could hear behind him was TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP!

But today my knees are thanking me and it was much less scary when I could stab the ground with a pole. I still HATE descending – I whinge and whimper and it took me longer to get down than climb up! But I'm sure it's character building, right?

You can see the blinding Scottish summer sunshine below. And some very sexy high-waisted walking trousers! (That weird bulge around my middle is the bulky waistband, not a sprawling belly roll, hehe) And you can see those golden poles. I am thinking of carrying them at all times, just to poke people who don't shuffle up quick enough in the Post Office queue.

Benaan_2

And finally, thank you kindly for the comments on the last entry. It wasn't so much about what the Bra Lady said – I totally agree it was simply off-the-cuff Retail Banter – but my utterly wounded reaction to it. I thought I'd developed this tough skin lately, feeling confident and foxy, but I was really disappointed at how instantly deflated I felt, how one little comment made me question everything. But I guess it just takes time to build up your self-belief, to trust that you genuinely feel good just to be you. The more I stop obsessing about diet stuff and just start doing things like climbing up hills… the more I really believe it 🙂

Twin Peaks

I went to Marks and Spencer for yet another bra fitting today. Out of all the bits of my body radically transformed by this epic lard busting journey, it’s the boobs that have changed the most. I started with a 50 inch under-bust measurement and now it’s a 32 or 34 in whatever cup size the boobs happen to FEEL like fitting into on a particular day. I swear I just get the scaffolding right then POW! They’ve shrunk some more. Could you please just STAY WHERE YOU ARE, ladies?

I had a very nice Bra Lady today, short and round with enormous boobs that I kept brushing by accident as she helped me into the various garments. She was very patient and kind as I told her I’d lost some more weight and needed yet another new bra. She made me try on FIFTEEN BRAS, people. I never knew there were so many kinds. But she was determined to wrestle the ladies into submission, even though I knew the very first one was going to be the best one.

She kept scurrying back and forth to fetch more bras so I took advantage of being alone with 360-degree full length mirrors. I like just having a good long look at myself. I did a lot of flexing and posing and sucking in my stomach and doing tricep kickbacks so I could see the muscle pop out. And you know what I thought? I likes what I see. I felt proud. I felt strong. I felt foxy. I had never felt so content to be occupying this body of mine. Dare I say I felt… totally done.

Anyway finally Bra Lady agreed with me that the first bra was the best. Then she asked me just how much weight I’d lost and I said "12 and a half stone". So she said "OH MY GOD 12 and a half STONE!?" and I said yes and explained that this was about my 75th bra fitting in the past 6.5 years and she said all sorts of nice things. I thanked her as she handed me the Chosen Bra and guess what she said?

"That should see you through the next couple of stone!"

As I walked away I snorted with laughter but it wasn’t until I got to the checkout that I thought, HEY!  The next couple of stone!? Does she think I still need to lose 2 stone? 28 pounds? 13 kilograms?

All the satisfaction and bravado I’ve been feeling for MONTHS just sort of wilted right there and the ye olde self-doubt rushed in. Do I still need to lose two more stone? Am I hideous? Have I been deluding myself? Are the exercise endorphins giving me false happiness? Am I just settling? Should I not be satisfied with a size 14? Are all these people who say "you look great" really saying "I mean, compared to BEFORE!" Is it wrong for me to think this body is just fine and dandy as it is right now?

I walked into about six different shops and looked at myself, in as many different angles and lighting as possible. I checked in shop windows and car windows and the public loos as well. Just to make sure I really was satisfied.

Affirmative, captain!

I came home and told Gareth all about it. I didn’t punch him on the arm, for I wasn’t angry, just bemused and a little wounded. It reminded me again that when it comes to lard busting you have to make sure you’re impressing yourself. You’ll never have a body that everyone in the world wide world is going to be in love with.

And it’s funny how no matter cool and confident you think you’ve become, there’s still a few wee chinks in your armour.

I See Red

Ellen and Kek both kindly nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award which was lovely and surprising, as I haven’t been feeling particularly thoughtful lately!

I regretted that stupid Shoe post the minute I posted it, thinking everyone would think I was a horrible angry, violent person who assaults her husband and has no sympathy for the retail workers of the world. It seemed like one hundred torturous years before anyone posted a comment. I said to Gareth, "Do you hear that silence? They all think I’m horrible". Gareth said, "Maybe they’re still ASLEEP!"

There are so many frontiers on which I no longer give a shit what people think of me. Like this morning at the gym I was clearly the tallest and blobbiest in the room. In the old days I would have run for the door. But now I didn’t care if they thought I was fat, I just hoped they thought I was strong. All my weights were four times heavier than theirs so… rah!

But when it comes to expressing emotions, sometimes I still worry. In particular, anger. Maybe it’s because in the old days I always played the UN Peacekeeper, running around trying to keep people happy and calm, striving to diffuse conflict before it happened. I had opinions but I kept them to myself. This started long before I got fat, but it’s why I began this blog in the first place, so I could have a faceless place to vent and get upset about my weight without having to bother Real Life people.

It’s been 6.5 years now, and this blog is no longer anonymous and you’re not strangers. You’re friends, family and treasured acquaintances. So I guess there’s still a tiny, insecure part of me that worries I am one blog entry away from alienating you all with my Crazy Emotions, eg. my Footwear Freak-out. Honest guv, it was a wee tap on his arm! I’m a pacifist!

When Crankybee and Beck commented that they’d have got angry too, I felt a bit better. I briefly wondered if I was becoming too British and polite? But I just know if I’d gone postal at the shoe shop, I’d have bad shoe karma for the rest of my life. They’d keep my picture behind the counter and hide all the size 8’s every time I walked in.

So after nearly 30 years of swallowing my anger I guess I have to figure out how things are going to be. I want to speak up for myself and not be a spineless gimp. I also know that you can’t please everyone. I have a brain and I am entitled to an opinion, but it still scares me. What if after all this time there was an obnoxious jerk hiding under my fat?

But just like it’s not healthy to bury anger in chocolate, it’s probably not the best idea to punch your husband.

Anyway, here are my 5 Bloggers Wot Make Me Think. And quite often cry!

1. I Am That Girl Now
2. Fatslayer
3. Body of Work
4. Susan Wagner (I love the Figure Matters stuff)
5. When I Grow Up

This Thinking Bloggers meme has been going around for awhile so if any of my listed legendary bloggers would like to pass on the baton, you can read all about it here. Thanks again, Ellen and Keksterooni! 🙂

Thinkingblogger

Ace!

Just a quickie: I read an extract from Brad Gilbert’s new book on the weekend. Reading about sporty people can be incredibly inspiring; all that sacrifice and focus as they pursue their goals.

Mr Gilbert is a superstar tennis coach and is currently tending to Scotland’s great young hope, Andy Murray. The opening paragraph really leaped out and slapped me about the chops, speaking as One Who Has Obsessed About Numbers. I thought I’d share it for any fellow number junkies out there. Emphasis is mine.

"Can I get Andy Murray to No1 is what everybody wants to know. Here’s the truth: I didn’t know for sure that Andre Agassi or Andy Roddick would go to No1 when I started coaching them.

Nevertheless, here’s my 100% coaching principle with Andy Murray or anyone else: I don’t talk about numbers; I don’t obsess about rankings or results.

What I talk about are those specific things we need to do to keep getting better; to get closer to the maximum game out of the player. Do that and the ranking will take care of itself."

Dudes. I think the Brad Gilbert coaching principle could be a nifty way to approach lard-busting. Focusing hard on doing the healthy things that take you closer to being that healthier person, rather than obsessing about the numbers. I’ve changed my focus this year and while I’m hardly trotting off to Wimbledon, I’m a bazillion times happier and healthier.

Crabbit

Petty anger is the worst form of anger. I’ve talked a bit this year about dealing with stress, as in mega angst and catastrophe, and learning to feel those feelings instead of stuffing your face. But sometimes I think the minor, everyday annoyances are the hardest to cope with.

I bought some sandals on the weekend, and was overjoyed to have solved my endless Summer Shoe Dilemma. I took them home and put them on while watching the qualifying for the Italian MotoGP. Just as it finished I looked down to see one of the sandal straps wasn’t stitched properly and was all loose.

Nae bother, I thought, I’ll just take them back on Monday. So I rocked up to the shop early yesterday morning and to find they were opening late due to an obscure local holiday. The sign said they were closing at 5PM, so I made a point of downing tools early and rushing up there. I arrived at 4.47PM and  they had already locked the doors. The sales chicks were still swanning around and I kinda waved at them but they just shrugged and pointed at the tills, as if to say, "Sorry, we’re done baby."

I just kind of lost the plot right there, coz I say 13 minutes to the hour means you should still be bloody open for business! When I worked at KFC in high school, some drunken moron would always come in at 10.55PM demanding a Fillet burger and I would make his stinking fillet burger, even though I’d much rather finish cleaning chicken grease off some impossible surface so I could go home. BUT NO, I would make the burger because I was dedicated to the Colonel’s cause. I would pick the most withered, dried-up piece of bird and give him less than the regulation 14 grams of lettuce, while sighing heavily and rolling my teenage eyes, BUT I STILL DID IT!

Kids these days. No work ethic.

Anyway I was full of pathetic rage for wasting about an hour of my day stomping back and forth to this shoe shop and as the venom surged through my veins can you imagine what my first thought was?

Chocolate. STAT!

But luckily Gareth was nearby, so instead I ranted and raved about this retail outrage then punched him on the arm about twenty-seven times. They were very gentle blows, and his arms are strong, so I think he was okay with being my punching bag (we shall see).

By the time I was done the town clock was bonging the hour, so I bellowed, "OH HARK! What could that be? Why it’s… five oh f*cking clock!"

It felt good to let it all out. And this morning I did some weights and my arms and legs are still trembling as I write this, so I am back on track and all is good with the world again. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Calorie Flabshaw

When I write on this site I spew it all out straight from the guts and come back later to turn it into proper English. Or sometimes I’ll just make Gareth read it and tell me where the mistakes are. I was saying to him the other night how I’ve been stuck in this musing, reflective mood lately and every time I write something it feels like an annoying internal dialogue, raising more questions than it answers.

"I feel like the fat blog version of Carrie Bradshaw when they did those voiceovers as she wrote her columns on Sex and the City. Except five million times more irritating."

"Except you would be called Calorie Bradshaw," said Gareth. "NO! Calorie FLABshaw. Hee hee!"

I shall try and write more about fat busting proper, but I am really bumbling along lately and feeling quite inept. Not falling in a heap but not making any real progress with fitness or feeling particularly ZINGY with health, you know? I’ve got masses of work to do and those recent trips got me off my trusty exercise schedule and the meals were a bit sloppy for awhile there.

Gareth and I went out on the bikes the other night, he did his 10 mile loop and I did my wee 7 miler. It was nice to be outside with the fresh air and humans. I’m happy to report that unlike last time we did not finish at the same time! I have improved! I had been sitting back in the house for a whole FIVE MINUTES before he arrived. Whoa, move over Lance Armstrong!

I really need to learn how to take my hands of the bloody handlebars though. I feel so much more relaxed on the bike – I don’t grip so hard, but I still can’t quite let go.  The air is choked with pollen and small bitey insects at the moment, and the wind was flinging them all straight into my face. But of course I was too chicken to lift my hand to swipe them away. So I just pedalled blindly, gasping and sneezing and swearing and jerking my head at random intervals. Arrgh.

And isn’t funny about women and men, and how like, they’re different and stuff?

Love and kisses,
Calorie Flabshaw.