The Hills Are Alive

Oh I would kill for a Freddo Frog right now. Has anyone got one handy?

If I was clever with computers I would make a Dietgirl Automatic Blog Entry Generator. I’m smelling a pattern lately:

  1. Shauna reluctantly tries a sporty activity
  2. Shauna freaks out/swears/whines incessantly during sporty activity
  3. In hindsight Shauna begrudgingly admits sporty activity was quite enjoyable

Forgive me for the recurring themes around here; I will be more weight-lossy soon. Please don’t run away! I will talk about vegetables or loose skin or bicep curls. Any requests? It’s just that our pathetic excuse for a summer is rapidly dwindling so I have to get my fix of the great outdoors before the soul-crushing darkness returns.

(Memo to Antipodeans – I don’t want to hear a word about your Spring arriving early. We’ve had no more than two consecutive non-rainy days in Scotland this "summer" and our SAD is kicking in three months early, so we don’t need anyone rubbing it in :P)


Last Thursday night I had my second attempt at canoeing, this time a wee pootle along part of the Union Canal. There were three of us so we took it in turns, two in the boat and one cycling alongside. I ended up paddling most of the time as I was the Most Hopeless therefore needed the practice.

I’d never been up close to the Canal before, just caught glimpses from the motorway to Glasgow. It is rather nice and peaceful in places with lovely bridges to go under and this gorgeous aqueduct to go over. I was feeling very serene and happy, but then said Gareth it was my turn to steer. It’s all very well sitting pretty in the front but the real skill is controlling the vessel. Dammit.

Steering SUCKS. Especially with my inability to visualise verbal instructions and translate them into actions. Not to mention my Left and Right issues. Basically we just bounced from one side of the canal to the other for half an hour, smashing into reeds and horrible stingy nettles. I did the usual cursing and bitching and then my English fell apart, STINKING BOAT WHY DO YOU GO THE OTHER WAY WHAT I TELL YOU TO GO!?! I just could not wrap my head around the concept of canoe steering at all. In the end I rammed the boat into the wall just short of Broxburn and demanded to be allowed back into the Princess Seat.

Overall though, it was a nice way to spend an extremely rare sunny afternoon.


Tonight we dismantled our bikes and chucked them in the car then reassembled them near a wee forest about twenty minutes down the road for my first-ever off road adventure.

I’ve been very apathetic towards cycling so I surprised myself by having a BLOODY GREAT TIME! I went through mud and sand and ditches and rocks and big fat tree roots! I went up big hills! I went down big hills! In your face, hills!

I was in a constant state of terror and nearly fell off about 27 times so clenched the bike frame between my thighs as though their mighty bulk would act as a third brake and prevent me flying over the handlebars. Afterwards I was utterly knackered and felt like all 206 of my bones had been dislocated but it was fantastic. I finally understand The Thrill of Going Down Hills. I got a killer workout AND fun at the same time. Who knew?


I still don’t have one. Suppose I will just go to bed then. Hope you’re all well, lovely comrades!

Open Up and Say Om

My most-detested part of high school was Wednesday Afternoon Sport – the enforced display of wobbly body and uncoordination in front of peers beneath blazing Australian sunshine. Grrrreat. But there was some relief in the senior years when we could pick our own sports. In Year 11 I chose indoor carpet bowls, down at the local Services Club instructed by an old man who smelled faintly of urine.

Then in Year 12 I chose yoga, taught by one of my favourite teachers Mrs W. I discovered a whole new level of physical hopelessness but I didn't care, I was out of the sun!

On graduation night (1995) in my matronly garb, I demonstrated my skillz by posing for this picture with Mrs W and my friend Susan.


Since then I'd done the odd class and accumulated a dusty pile of DVDs. But a few months ago, after reading about Mary and Beth and SJ and Phil and Erin et al getting bendy, I decided I needed a new obsession. As much as I love my weight training and tolerate hillwalking and HIIT intervals, I needed something more mellow; something to get lost in.

So last month I went to a class at the local council gym. It's in a poky room, with bodies of all shapes and sizes and ages. There's a faint whiff of salt and grease from the chip shop down the block and you can hear cars and buses and spotty young blokes gobbing and swearing on the street below.

But somehow that all melts away when our teacher starts turns down the lights and starts speaking. She has this rich, low voice so every instruction sounds like singing. I don't know what the hell she's talking about half the time so I'm always peeking at other people for a hint. Whenever she says quietly and pointedly that we should all Go At Our Own Pace and that Yoga Isn't A Competition, I'm paranoid she means me and want to say, "Dude! I'm not competitive! For once. Just clueless!"

I do like having a quiet competition with myself though. I love trying some wacky pose and feeling my body stiffen in protest. But then I breathe a wee bit and try again and ease deeper into it, stretching and unraveling. It's hard not to "woohoo" out loud sometimes.

It's been strangely confronting too. In the first class we did shoulder stands. I watched the teacher demonstrate and thought, "No bloody way". I started doing a modified move but she came over and gently pulled my feet into the air and told me how to adjust my upper body and lift lift lift. Arrgh! It was bloody terrifying, that upside-downy feeling, like my guts were going to fly out of my mouth! I'd never done anything like that before in my life; I avoided cartwheels and somersaults and monkey bars when I was a kid. It was such a shocking sensation but I got a mad rush from pushing through that little barrier, mental and physical.

Afterwards I raced home and babbled happily to Gareth for hours. Life's great! Yoga rules! I felt high like I'd guzzled a whole pack of jelly beans. I blew the dust off the DVDs and counted down the days til the next class.

Last week was bloody awful. I haven't been in a positive frame of mind lately; my confidence has been a wee bit shaky. When I got to class I proceeded to stuff up every single move, confusing left and right (I always have to make an L shape with my hand as it is), tripping over my mat and clomping on the floorboards like an elephant. It just seemed like a metaphor for my general ineptness and inability to get my shit together.

Normally I love the quietness of the class and disappear, but last week the quiet just meant I could hear my brain bubbling over. It reminded me of when I got that full body massage earlier this year – when confronted with yourself and your body in such a raw way, all the things you've try to ignore seem to come to the surface. I actually was in tears doing a stupid triangle pose! Raaahhh!

So there's been some up and downs but quite like how yoga screws with my head. I'm officially hooked. It's a lot more challenging than carpet bowls, anyway.

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I always read and savour every single email, Tweet and blog comment I receive like a block of finest chocolate. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to say hello! However due to the volume of messages I receive, unfortunately I’m unable to respond to them all.

I promise I’m not being a jerk here, it’s just that I have a full time job and other responsibilities and it’s become impossible to keep up.

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Muscle Memory

A week after that epic hill expedition my legs are finally functioning normally again. Woohoo!

Last Friday was a different story. My knees decided to stop working. I never realised how useful knees were in the Art of Walking. They just wouldn’t bloody bend properly, and furthermore my calves and quads and glutes were throbbing. The overall effect was stiff and straight scissor-like gait, like an Aussie pedestrian crossing sign!


That evening Dr G and I were heading over to Edinburgh for a movie and a birthday curry. Most times when I catch the train to Edinburgh it involves me looking at the living room clock in my underwear about half an hour before the train is due and shrieking "FARK!" Then I spin around in circles, chuck on some clothes, almost gouge an eyeball with a mascara wand, run out the door, then speedwalk or jog the 20 minutes to the station, then bolt across the station carpark coz the train is always arriving just as I do.

But Friday was a wee bit different. I started getting ready two hours early, because all movements were difficult – getting in and out of the bath, bending to fetch things from the wardobe, putting on my shoes. Then I decided I couldn’t face the walk to the station with my current, painful zombie-like pace so convinced Dr G to drive us to the station.

And of course as soon as we parked the car I heard the train coming. I couldn’t make a run for it; I hadn’t even manouvered out of the vehicle yet. So the train sailed on without us. In a huff, I sent Dr G to buy the tickets so I could take my time doing my cross-country ski-walk to the platform.

Once in Edinburgh there were even more obstacles to avoid – the gruelling Waverly Steps, stairs at the cinema, stairs at the restaurant. Even little things were impossible, like crossing the street as the lights started to flash, because I knew I’d be mowed down by a double decker bus before I could hobble across. All my post-hillwalk smugness was replaced by crankiness and frustration.

Then I felt a strange little bittersweetness in my belly, remembering that this was how my life used to be all the time. The Dietgirl Logistics Department worked overtime, fretting over every move, plotting the less-strenuous route; making sure I left the house ultra early so I’d arrive somewhere before my friends so they’d never see me breathless.

Out of all the ways my life has changed from the 351lb Days I’d have to say the very best thing is Moving Without Thinking. My body automatically moves how and when I want it to (albeit accompanied by bitching and/or clumsiness). I can just enjoy the moment instead of worrying if my body can cope with the moment without sweating or chafing.

Sometimes I take that ease and freedom for granted; because everything changed so slowly that I forget how different it used to be. I’m also always trying to charge forward – not lingering on the past; busy figuring out what to do next. But those aching muscles made me appreciate that after all those years of obsessing about scale readings and clothing labels, the real joy is just moving through the day.

Creme de la Creme

O joy! The gospel of Fage Total Greek Yogurt is spreading ever further throughout the land, particularly after a very swanky ad in New York Magazine. Here in the UK, I spied it in this month's Red, named as a fabulous alternative to mealy, over-processed diet yogurts.

Hopefully this will mean more 2% in the shops so I'll no longer have to wrestle old ladies for the last tub. I admit it, I'm hopelessly addicted. But Greek yogurt just makes life worth so much brighter. Well, creamier.

You see I once was a fool for sour cream. One of my favourite foods used to be this white trash French onion dip – in which you mix a packet of dried French onion soup with a tub of sour cream. I used to eat a whole tub of that on my own, with a whole box of Jatz crackers. Sitting home alone wondering what would become of me. Those were the days.

But my waistline has enjoyed some respite since Argy put me on to Total. It works the same magic on that dip (which I now prefer to share with friends) without the artery-clogging properties. It's also a dream dolloped onto a bean burrito or into a bowl of chili or pumpkin soup.

And it works just as well with sweet things. Like on Sunday when Gareth insisted he didn't want a birthday cake as he wanted to stay svelte for all his sporty activities. But I said, what's a birthday without FLAMES?

So I got some meringue nests from M&S (just 50 cals each, rah!) and spooned in some yogurt then chucked on some chunks of kiwi, strawberries and fresh pineapple on top and flooded lightly drizzled with raspberry sauce.

(Tangent – how good are fresh pineapples!? It's been years since I bought one. It was on sale for Β£1 and bloody beautiful)

Then I just stabbed the meringue with some candles. Flaming miniature birthday pavlova! The picture is a bit dodgy because I was in a hurry – waxy yogurt is not tasty. And yes, apparently Gareth turned four years old.


Anyway, I can't help thinking of that old Seinfeld episode in which the gang get hooked on the yogurt from a non-fat frozen yogurt shop. Suddenly they're all stacking on the weight, so they send a sample off for some scientific tests and it turns out – gasp – the non-fat yogurt isn't non-fat at all!

I know Fage Total Greek has been around for eighty years but there's still part of me that's very paranoid and pessimistic. That's the part that believes if something seems too good to be true then it usually is, that there's no way I could enjoy something so indulgent without terrible repercussions, that all good things must come to end, that every rose has its thorn, etcetera etcetera. So I'm half-expecting that one gloomy day I'll open the paper to the shocking headline TOTAL 2% ACTUALLY TOTALLY LARDY!


But then there's the positive thinking me that trusts in a good Nutritional Information panel. Pass the tub.

Will Climb For Food

This Week In Hillwalking News: I've bagged my first Munro!

From the Wikipedia: "A Munro is a Scottish mountain with a height over 3,000 feet (914.4 metres). They are named after Sir Hugh Munro (1856–1919), who produced the first attempt at an exhaustive catalogue of such hills, known as Munro's Tables, in 1891."

There are 284 Munros in Scotland and freakishly fit people like to scuttle up as many as possible, obsessively ticking them off the list in a practice known as "Munro bagging". I can't imagine ever being that dedicated to the cause. I think I reached my peak of obsessiveness in Greece when I was madly compelled to try as many varieties of Total Greek Yogurt as possible ("yogurt bagging").

Anyway, after my tentative forays into hillwalking Gareth reckoned it was high time I graduated to a Munro. So off we went to Ben Lomond (3195ft/974m), which funnily enough looms over the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. It's like the Disneyland of munros, wildly popular and crowded especially in the summertime. But since there's a path all the way to the top and not considered particularly difficult, it seemed like a good Virgin Munro.

Some statistics from the day:

Walking time – 5 hours 55 minutes (including Whinge Breaks)
Whinge Breaks – 27 (approx.)

You know how Jillian Michaels said you should do the sort of exercise that you like to do? I don't think I like hillwalking very much. This is what I told Gareth about five minutes into the walk. Specifically, "This SUCKS. And so do YOU for making me do this."

Normally my bad attitude doesn't kick in for about 500 metres but it suddenly hit me that this was going to be a long day. Weeks ago when Gareth suggested the walk I wasn't really paying attention, "Sure, big hill, yeah, no worries". When the day came I just ate my porridge and laced my boots in a la-di-da fashion as if I was off for a casual stroll to the shops. It wasn't until I got on the hill and noticed the endless path stretching ahead of me, up up up, that my heart sank and the surliness began.

Tissues Used – 56

My nose didn't help my mood. What the hell is going on with the pollen this year? My hay fever will not let up. After a few minutes amongst the heather it felt like there was a brick inside my brain. My sinuses throbbed and I was continually blowing my snoz which really slowed down my walking pace and delivery of bitchy comments.

Pathetic Declarations of Defeat – lost count

  • I can't do this.
  • I don't want to do this.
  • I'm going back to the car.
  • You just go ahead, you athletic bastard. I'll wait on this rock.
  • I never even wanted to do hillwalking in the first place. I only did it so we'd have something in common!

Gareth captured this moment of tantrum about 3/4 of the way up (you can see my tongue poking out in the larger version). I was full of murderous rage by this stage and wanted to stab him with my walking sticks as he was barely breaking a sweat.


Masochist Level – Extreme

By the time the top of the hill was in sight I was suffering. My legs were trembling, my head was fuzzy and I almost cried when a wiry bloke RAN past us. I yearned to trip him up with my stick, but I could barely muster the energy for a snailish stagger by that point. This was despite that giant bowl of breakfast porridge and a calorific yet nutritious Nakd bar scoffed halfway up. I swear I felt the precise moment the last drop of energy drained out my toes. But on some grimly determined level I enjoyed the sensation.

"Do you want to stop for a sandwich?" asked Gareth.
"No!" I hissed.
"Why not?"

Munros Weakly Ascended – 1
PB&J Sandwiches Devoured – 2

Finally after 2 hours and 50 excruciating minutes I'd shuffled to the top.

"How does it feel Marsho?" said Gareth, "Your first Munro!"
"Bah! Sandwich!"

I slumped on the grass, closed my eyes and wished really hard for a funicular railway to appear. No such luck, but the view was wonderful, despite the crowds and some wanker yapping on his mobile phone.


Thanks to the restorative powers of my sandwiches and two cups of flask-tea-that-sort-of-tastes-like-coffee I stopped being such a grumpy git and posed for a windswept half-triumphant, half-sarcastic photo.


Falls on Arse – 1

A fascinating aspect of hillwalking is how it brings out the very best and the very worst of your character.

There are two ways to descend Ben Lomond. The quickest and easiest is back down the tourist path, the way other is steeper and involves a wee bit of scurrying over rocks. Gareth asked me which way did I want to go?

"The quick and easy way, of course."

And Ms Cranky was back.

What I hate most about hillwalking – just when you get over the thigh-screaming hell of the ascent you and enjoy the view, you have to come back down… which just means your body hurts from different angles.

In hindsight it wasn't that difficult; three hours of descent featured all of ten minutes of rocky bits. But with the mist rolling in as I shuffled down on my hands and knees and arse, I was seething with venom and fear and resentment and once again decided it was Gareth's fault.

"You're a PRICK. I TOLD you I didn't want to come down this way!"
"I thought you said you liked challenges?"
"Only when the challenges are over!"

About an hour later I tripped on an innocent rock and landed comically on my arse. Gareth watched my face for signs of tantrum but by then I'd started to enjoy myself and found it rather hilarious. Here's a picture of mud on my butt.


Crushed Toes – 10

The last hour was hell. My body started to betray me – aching calves, knees, back. My pollen-brain was pulsing with pain. And either my boots are too small or I'm a total wimp, because my toes were smashing against the front. It was so excruciating I wanted to bite them off. But there's just no respite because the ground is continually so bloody steep. I tried walking backwards for awhile out of desperation.

But it was tolerable, because the end was in sight and the views were grand and glorious. Here's Gareth amongst the ferns, looking infuriatingly energetic.


Post-Walk Sexiness Rating – ZERO!

Finally we hit level ground again. We were done. Gareth was cheering kindly, "Woohoo! You did it Marsho! One Munro down, 283 to go!" But I was too knackered to feel any triumph whatsoever. I had never been so utterly shattered in my life. There was not a single ounce of energy left in my body.

Below is the worst, most hilariously unflattering photo of me I've seen in a long time. I was reluctant to post it but in some ways it's the best photo of all time. I barely recognise myself with the red nose and tired eyes and greasy limp hair and the smile so strained and pathetic because lifting my face any higher was just tooooo much effort πŸ™‚

But that crazy moment of exhaustion is preserved forever. Two days later, with legs so sore and stiff I'm walking like a zombie, I like that I don't recognise myself in the photo; the face or the person I've become. It makes me wonder what other surprises I could find up my sleeve. I've never been so proud of a bad hair day.


Tote-leh Oarsome

Marg_2 It only takes a few days in a foreign country to start picking up on their lingo. Thus after just a week in Chicago I manage to absorb the word "awesome". I thought Americans only said that on the telly but many folk I met used it frequently! So now I’ve been saying it, except my accent is rather screwed up these days so I say totally in a vaguely Scottish way ("tote-leh") and awesome in an alarmingly nasal Australian way ("Oar-some. Mate!").

Anyway, I’m not going to keep banging on about BlogHer because I’m sure it must be tedious to read, but I just wanted to preserve in writing about two more OARSOME people I met.

Continue reading

Meeting Jillian Michaels

Buff Lady and Big Loser

Holy jet lag, Batman. When I finally went to sleep last night I'd been up for 30 hours, and now I'm awake again and still buzzing. Bzzz bzzz. I feel completely delirious and insane. Am I annoying you yet? Huh huh?

Let's begin with a burning question from the last entryWhat is that yellow goo with the pretzels? On the left is mustard, on the right is some sort of Processed Cheese Produkt. Which didn't really do much for my tastebuds. So I ate two Chicago hot dogs to compensate πŸ˜‰

Another question – Is Jillian Michaels wee or are you eleventeen million feet tall? I'm 5'8" and she is tiny! As Jen said, you could fit her in your handbag. And smuggle her out of the country so you could put her on your mantelpiece at home. Which is what I am sure many of us wanted to do after that soiree.

I had another one of those You've Come A Long Way Baby moments when everyone was lining up to have their photies taken with her. Despite Jillian being minuscule, I did not for one moment hesitate to get in the frame with her. Instead of fretting about our David/Goliath contrast all I could think was, "I cannae wait to show this to the blogging dames!"

All weekend I shocked myself at my ridiculous levels of boldness and enthusiasm. I think folk may have thought I was on drugs. Maybe it was the jet lag or maybe it's because I've been very busy and isolated this year and haven't been out of the house much — but I just wanted to yap to everyone and hear all about their lives. I wanted to jump into photos, I wanted to tackle people to the floor and tell them how tops it was to meet them in the flesh, I wanted to burst into tears about 10,000 times. I didn't think about my arms or wobbly thighs or my bite-infested ankles.

I feel like I've shaken off so many old doubts and insecurities. I'm pretty damn excited about life lately. As the leather-trousered Mr Morrison sang in Light My Fire, the time to hesitate is through.


Righto. Focus Shauna, focus!

Okay, today I will zoom in on the Jillian Michaels Lunchtime Chinwag. The AOL Body folks sponsored some lunchtime chats with various health-type people, so I pounced on the chance to meet The Buffed One. I thought there'd be hundreds of chicks in a barn and Jillian would be a dot on the horizon, but there was only a dozen or so, clustered around a table. It was all very cosy with some very honest and frank conversations.

Jen wrote an excellent recap of the discussions if you'd like to know the nitty gritty, so I will just sprout my impressions. I'd only known JM from two episodes of The Biggest Loser I saw in Australia back in 2005, in her hyper fembot trainer mode. She was equally hyper in person, but also warm, kind, funny, wise and so generous and open. She only had to be there for an hour, but she stayed for two – answering our questions, cracking jokes, offering advice and insight and juicy anecdotes about the show.

I was busting to ask her a question, so I sat there listening while I mulled over the possibilities:

  1. How do I get arms like that? How many reps? How heavy? Huh huh huh?
  2. Did you notice any difference between the Australian and American Biggest Losers? Which country had the whiniest losers?

Hehe. Instead I asked her about giving advice. I get lots of emails from people with oodles of weight to lose saying they don't know where to start. What did she recommend I tell them?

I do get a bit angsty-pants when answering emails, because they're often heartbreaking and I desperately want to say something helpful. I realise people have to find their own answers, but I know when I was getting started I was gagging for a wee spark of encouragement. So I usually write about what worked for me – baby steps, finding a source of support, and forgetting about the big fat picture and just focusing on ONE tiny thing. Like say, decide to go for a 20 minute walk, twice a week (or in my case, it was 5 minutes before I thought I would keel over). Once you have that mastered, you pick another new thing and add it to your fledgling repertoire of healthy habits… and so on, until you have almost tricked yourself into being healthier πŸ™‚

I guess I was sneakily looking for some reassurance from Jillian's answer. She said the two big things were 1) getting educated  and 2) getting support. And baby steps. I snavelled Jen's summary from her entry:

In the real world, [Jillian] said, people need to find a support system first, and tell their cheering section exactly what kind of support they want. After educating themselves a little on exercise and nutrition, wanna-be losers should make sure to start slowly with activity, but they should start right away. "Just go for a walk, get outside, find things you like." If they don't love exercise, they shouldn't be surprised, Jillian said, because "there's never a moment when I'm lifting a weight or doing a push-up where I think I love this! But I love the results." The first step for many people, she said, is "just not moving backwards" — once they stop gaining, they can start the weight-loss process and get more fit.

She also talked a lot about the word balance. This was the big key to her approach. You have to find a way to juggle all the variables in your life so that being healthy is both sustainable and enjoyable. I remember a time when it seemed bloody impossible to me that it really could be that simple. But if you're willing to take the time to figure out what works for you, and do what you can feasibly stick to instead of driving yourself mad with unrealistic expectations or someone's elses notions that you must do X exercise Y times a week and eat Z… then suddenly everything really does slot into place. And you just end up healthier, on your own terms and your own pace, without so much angst and stress.

She also talked about how many people have an "all or nothing" approach to fitness and weight loss – if you're a perfectionist it can really paralyse your efforts. She said something like, "Just say your car has one flat tyre, would you go crazy and slash the other three?" No, you would just fix the one tyre then move on and start a new day…

One thing she said resonated with me like a brick to the noggin – "Successful people fail all the time". Nobody gets anywhere interesting without screwing up royally along the way. That sang to me in so many arenas, not just the fitness stuff. "Success is about attrition," Ms Jillian concluded, and I wholeheartedly agree. Just dig in, get your claws dirty and hang in there for the long haul, baby! Even when everything goes stinky. Especially when everything goes stinky.