A Little More Action

I’ve been stuck in a perpetual state of Freaking Out for the past month or so. It’s either right there in my face, intense and debilitating and bloody irritating for all around me, or it bubbles under the surface – a nice jittery background panic, just enough to cause insomnia.

There’s nothing wrong per se, it’s just that everything seems to be changing all at once. And I’ve always been rubbish with change. I tend to find a nice little rut, fill it with mud and roll around all comfy and safe for as many years as possible. Splash splash, wallow wallow! But then one thing changes and it seems to set off a chain of further changes and suddenly that cool pool o’ mud no longer surrounds you.

If you look at it all with calm and rational eyes, you see change as challenge and opportunity. It really is positive stuff what’s happening to me. But I always seem to have to go through a tedious period of Headless Chickening before I can embrace that. This involves funny breathing, spontaneous sobbing, making lists of things to do but being so overwhelmed by said list that I do nothing at all, etc etc.

You’d think when things are uncertain that that would be when you’d REALLY make sure to look after yourself and exercise and eat right. But nooo… the routine got chucked out the window. I have been moping on the couch, doing a few half-hearted DVDs or going for a bike ride only because Gareth spent an hour persuading me.

This isn’t about fat or diets or weight loss, it’s just that basic mind and body connection. Personally, when I deliberately move my arse and eat the fruit and veggies on a regular basis, I simply feel better equipped to handle the world. When mind and body are humming along together as one kick ass machine, I have the energy and self-assurance to muddle my way through challenging periods.

So why the bloody hell do I always abandon that connection when things get tough?

I’ve been drafting and deleting entries all month about this, because I am a paranoid loon and so many people I know read this now therefore I hate being a whinger. But this blogging malarkey has always helped me work through things and to GET OVER the Freak Out and GET ON with the action. So if you will indulge me today. What I am going to do is:

  1. Draw a Microsoft Paint representation of my current state of mind, because Microsoft Paint really is an underrated as an artistic and therapeutic tool
  2. Get off the couch and do my Muscle Max DVD then
  3. Report back to you.
Argh

OKAY PEOPLE I AM BACK!!!

My abba-dabbas are screaming and my triceps are still shaking and I have gained perspective. Score!

A basic lesson I need to remember is that no matter how petrified one may be feeling, nine times of out ten that feeling can be soothed (temporarily or otherwise) by one or more of the following:

  1. Fresh air
  2. Exercise
  3. A cup of tea

I feel much better. I feel kinda… rebooted. I will get back into my routine, darnit. Like I said, this isn’t about weight loss, it’s just knowing what my brain and body needs to feel capable and excited about moving forward, rather than terrified.

I am determined to be done with the Freak Out phase now. So it’s on to the Action phase.

This arvo I am going to make a pot of veggie soup (with guest appearances from barley and split peas) then I am going to do the dishes and then I’m going to store all my summer clothes so there is more room in the drawers so I don’t have to swear at the drawers when I can’t find anything and can’t close the fucking drawer afterward AND THEN I’m going to read some more of this book or tackle the Email Backlog of Doom and then I am going to figure out what the hell to wear for the first day of my new job on Tuesday (ARRRRRRGH no I didn’t mean arrgh I meant YAY) and then I think I’d better have a bath.

Thanks for putting up with me, comrades. Bloody hell.

The Great Wall

I’ve spent the past two evenings stripping ancient wallpaper in our hallway and it’s been quite exhilarating. I know I’m nearly 30 and definitely old enough to legitimately do such things to a dwelling, but DIY still feels like reckless vandalism. I kept waiting for the Mothership to jump out of the cupboard and say, "What do you think you’re doing, young lady!?"

All those hours of steaming and scraping gave me a lot of time to ponder in a Calorie Flabshaw sort of way how wallpaper stripping is a great metaphor for weight loss. I reckon you can turn almost anything into a crappy lard-busting metaphor – chickens, bananas, sunglasses, making risotto (feel free to raise a challenge) – but wallpaper removal is particularly good and cheesy.

Why Stripping Wallpaper Is Like Weight Loss

  • If you want good results, you’re going to have to get hot and sweaty
  • You start out thinking you’ll blast it off quickly and neatly but it ends up taking a bazillion times longer
  • At first it’s almost fun… but soon novelty is replaced by NEVER-ENDING TEDIUM and you realise you’re going to have do the same thing over and over and over and OVER again
  • When things get dull, you look for shortcuts and/or alternative methods until you eventually admit that only time and hard work will do
  • Sometimes you scrape away for ages and ages and the wallpaper won’t budge, then just when you least expect it a great big chunk comes off at once!
  • Things can look grim and messy when you’re in the middle of it but if you persist it will come together eventually

At least I hope that one is true. Hmm…

Wallpaper

. . .

In other news, I’m daydreaming about boots. Knee high ones to wear with frocks and skirts. I’ve never worn ’em before and I vow at the start of every Scottish winter, "THIS YEAR SHALL BE THE YEAR OF BOOTS!" But every year I talk myself out it, saying I needed to get smaller legs first. Just one more year! Then you will be Boot Worthy!

Well this will be my FIFTH Scottish winter and I say to hell with all that postponing. My legs are plenty bootworthy right now. They always have been, darnit. They are sturdy legs, and I’ll no doubt need wide fit ones from Duo or similar to accomodate my calves. But they’re strong and healthy, they’ve faithfully lugged me around through thick and less thick and I’m over this Waiting For A Skinny Day mentality. I’ll save my pennies and hopefully I’ll be clomping around town by Christmas. Woohoo!

Tenderised

Two stupid minor injuries in the name of health and wellbeing this week. Firstly, I bit into an apple yesterday. Since spatial reasoning has never been my forte the bite was much wider than it needed to be. Instead of sinking into the fruit, that really pointy tooth sank straight into the side of my tongue. Now I’ve got a centimetre-wide flappy bit of broken tongue, all swollen and painful.

And then tonight we went to the forest for some off-road cycling action and I forgot to wear my padded shorts underneath my trousers. D’oh! After 90 minutes of pelting over rocks and puddles and big fat tree roots, I am feeling rather tender in the lady parts.

The first half hour of these bike rides always seems to suck. My legs just don’t work properly and it’s too haaard and I just want to go home because I just don’t think I can doooo this today. But when it’s done and I’m wiping mud off my bike with a handful of grass before loading it back into the car, that’s all completely forgotten.

"Sorry I was such a whingy git earlier," I said to Gareth after a recent ride, "It always feels like I’m not going to make it."

"That’s alright," he smiled, "I don’t listen to you anyway!"

. . .

In other exciting news, I had another culinary first last weekend – a fresh fig!

Somehow figs had passed me by until now. Once as a child I waited in the car feeling completely mortified as a certain member of my family climbed over a fence of a former WWII prison camp site with a plastic bucket, then raided the fig trees in order to feed their homemade fig jam habit. The jam was always a weird browny greeny colour and freaked me out. The fruit itself looked a bit creepy too.

So when my friend served them up for dessert the other day I wrinkled up my nose. Well I wrinkled it up inside my mind, because it would have been rude to wrinkle it for real! But these figs had briefly been in the oven alongside some fresh peaches so they were warm and syrupy. Then they were dolloped with vanilla creme fraiche. PHWOAR! It was difficult not to moan with all that juicy soft but crunchy goodness… I waited nearly 30 years for this? All week long I’ve been thinking fig fig fig, I gotta get me some more figs.

That is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I reckon. The moment of surprise when you taste something amazing that you’ve never tasted before. And knowing there’s still a million other untasted things out there all shiny and new. Noice.

Bon weekend, lovelies!

On The Road

IcingI have a relatively sane relationship with food these days. I love it dearly and passionately and still dream of diving naked into a vat of Nutella – but these days it’s not quite as dominant in my thoughts. At the very least not to the detriment of basic things like work, sleep, bathing, etc etc.

Every now and then though, I get that possessed feeling. And more often that not it happens when I’m out of town. Put me on an open road and suddenly there’s nothing in my brain but thoughts of FOOD FOOD FOOD.

Perhaps this stems from the epic voyages of my Australian childhood when my parents rationed one measly Lifesaver per 250 kilometres, but as soon as I’m in a moving vehicle for anything longer than half an hour I think… Ooh I’m kind of peckish. Are we there yet? I start calculating how far it is to the nearest town or motorway services as a mild panic flutters in my stomach… What if I get really hungry? What if I STARVE?

Last month we were heading way up the A9 for a wedding in a tiny village. Despite a generous lunch before we left and an arsenal of fruit and nuts in my handbag my thoughts quickly wandered to chocolate. It’s a pretty boring road, the A9; and as always we were stuck behind a parade of trucks and tourist buses. We inched past magnificent mountains but I was mesmerised by all the signs that warned ROAD LIABLE TO ICING… Mmmm, icing.

It didn’t stop when we got to the Tiny Wee Village either. It really was tiny and wee, and we were going to be there for two whole days and two whole nights! So as soon as we checked into the hotel I said to Gareth, "Let’s go check out the town", which was codespeak for, "Let’s find out where all the food is". I paced down the streets, scanning the smattering of buildings like a robot. Name. Opening Hours. Prices. Menu. I had to have all the information. All the options. You know, so I wouldn’t STARVE TO DEATH!

Supermarket_2

On the morning of the wedding we had a full Scottish breakfast at the hotel that would satisfy most stomachs for three weeks, but already I was plotting… Wedding isn’t til 1PM… wonder how long it will go for? What kind of gap will there be between wedding and reception? Is the reception like lunch, or dinner? Should I stuff a sandwich into my handbag? Hmm hmm…

The wedding was lovely despite the relentless rain. I love proper weddings. And then there was a bloody delicious dinner about 4PM… I had the roast beef and my first ever Yorkshire pudding. Ooh yeah baby.

Not long after they cleared the tables ready for the ceilidh – that’s Scottish dancing, take yer partner by the hand and all that. And what do you know, I was still thinking about food, especially now that glass of wine had kicked in. I hear these Highland weddings go on all night. And all that dancing. What if I get hungry again? Huh huh huh?

And that was despite the chocolate fountain. As soon as we’d sat down for dinner I’d noticed a mysterious tower-shaped structure in the corner, wrapped in plastic.

"I reckon that’s a chocolate fountain under there," I’d said casually to Gareth.

I tried to act natural but he kept catching me staring at it. And so began the whispered running commentary throughout our meal:

Oooh lookit that fountain, Shauna!
Wahey! The dude’s taken off the plastic cover!
Ooh, he’s switching it on!
Oooh look, he’s adding the chocolate chips!
He’s getting out his marshmallows now!
And his strawberries!
Are you ready to dip? Are you excited?

Well of course I was bloody excited! It was molten, flowing chocolate, three feet from my nose! But then again, I thought, what if it wasn’t really nice chocolate? Even in the depths of ridiculous possession I still had my lofty standards. Besides, I reckon I could do two trips to the fountain before I’d get an attack of self-consciousness. It could be a long evening. What to do?

Meanwhile the backs of my heels had become all blistered from impractical shoes, so I seized that excuse to wander over to the wee shop before it closed to get some Band-Aids. And a Freddo Frog. It was still chucking down with rain but I risked breaking my neck and/or frizzing my hair to hobble across the street. Stomach comes first!

So we danced and drank and chatted for hours and had a lovely time. I felt like such a goose carrying round my emergency chocolate ration, especially when they wheeled out the tea and sandwiches and wedding cake for supper. But somehow, in the midst of that foody mood… it was so comforting and reassuring to know wee Freddo was there, nestled beside my tissues and lipgloss, just in case I needed him.

Poetry In Motion

So I’m on the train to the Big Smoke and I bought George the Laptop with me, determined to use this enforced period of seating and free wifi to catch up on all my emails, especially the ones from April, so people don’t go on thinking I am a Snobby McSnobbypants; and update my darn blogs so people don’t get bored and never come back. But my seat is facing BACKWARDS and as the scenery whizzes past my window I feel like I am going to spew. Urrgh. I fear those scrambled eggs I ate for lunch are going to come back and haunt me. Arrrrghhhh!

A wee while later… Okay I just posted another entry but it stank so I took it down. Apologies to the Notify List and RSS folk! More soon.

How DietGirl Became Not-On-A-Diet-Girl

You may have noticed that I've not really updated the weight stats on my sidebar in a long long time. I keep meaning to explain why, but all I had to show you is fifteen abandoned drafts. The truth is, everything has changed this year; my attitude to this diet stuff. I needed to pull back from the scales and think long and hard about things. There's been so many incidents that screamed to me that after six and a bit years, I had to change my approach to my health and weight.

It wasn't until the lovely Sarah invited me to write a guest post for Elastic Waist that I actually sat down and put the massive changes in my head down on paper. The post is up today. Thanks all you lovely EW folks for having me over.

Update: I've archived the full post below for posterity.

I’d been on a diet for 333 weeks when the pickled ginger stepped in and saved my sanity.

Earlier this year I was on a spring-cleaning rampage when I came across the long-forgotten package. Instead of the usual pale pink, my ginger had turned into a swampish, scummy brown from sitting on the pantry shelf for so long. I’d bought wasabi, rice and seaweed too, with the intention of making homemade sushi, but for a whole year I’d been putting it off.

I’ve got to lose those last ten pounds first, I kept telling myself. If I make sushi now I’ll get bloated and it’ll show up on the scales! I can’t ruin my diet with a carb fest!

But when I found that dust-covered package I sat down on the kitchen floor and actually said out loud, “ARE YOU INSANE?”

After a lifetime of angst-ing about my weight, I finally saw how ridiculous it had all become. I was almost 30 years old, and I’d been dieting on and off through my entire 20s. My weeks revolved around my Monday weigh-in—what to eat, when to eat it, how it would affect my date with the scale. And it wasn’t just the pickled ginger; I had a whole drawer of wacky ingredients and a shelf crammed with untouched cookbooks, waiting for the day I gave myself permission to cook from them. After 333 weeks I knew I had to move on—before it became 666 weeks.

* * *

Way back in January 2001, I weighed 351 pounds. My weight-loss journey began with very negative motivations—I was depressed, angry and so full of loathing that I wanted to hack off my belly rolls with a knife. Even as I made changes to my lifestyle I never believed they’d stick; I didn’t think I deserved any better.

But surprisingly, my self-perception swiftly changed. The more I treated my body kindly with good food and gentle exercise, the more I positive I felt. At first I could only manage a walk around the block or 10 minutes on the elliptical, but I began to appreciate my size 26 body for what it could do, instead of what it looked like. For the first time I looked in the mirror and saw a worthy human being, not just a collection of flaws.

By August 2006, after 291 long slow weeks, I’d lost 175.5 pounds and weighed 175.5 pounds; I’d shed precisely half my body weight. I had the healthy lifestyle down pat, too. I loved my exercise and instead of binging or dieting I finally had a balanced relationship with food. When I took some progress photos in my new size 12 jeans I loved what I saw. I felt confident, healthy, sexy and content. I felt done.

But how could I be done? I still had 10 pounds to lose before I stopped being fat in the eyes of the Body Mass Index overlords. Surely my happiness wasn’t really valid unless I reached that number?

So for the next year that package of pickled ginger rotted away in the pantry while I became obsessed with my goal weight. But the harder I tried the more the scale refused to budge. I grew panicky and impatient, and instead of keeping faith in my tried-and-true formula of sensible eating and exercise, I scoured my old diet books looking for answers.

Finally in Week 333, I stopped and asked myself, What the hell am I doing? Haven’t I learned anything? Why am I torturing myself?

For six years I’d battled to achieve a balanced approach but now I’d fallen back into my old, obsessive ways. And what for? I was fit and healthy. I liked my body. I finally liked being me. But my weight fixation was making me lose sight of all those positives.

So the moment I tossed that rotten ginger into the trash I tossed my diet mentality too. No more number crunching, no more ritual weigh-ins and no more Last Ten Pounds. I decided to just let go and decided to see where my instincts took me.

Part of me worried what would happen if I didn’t obsess about my weight. How would I stay healthy without all that angst? Without the fear of a weekly weigh-in, would I go wild and wake up in a sea of candy wrappers with chocolate smeared across my gob?

But I didn’t. Instead life got a helluva lot more interesting once I ditched the scales and dieting. I carried on being healthy. I started yoga classes, something I’d yearned to do for years but had put off in favor of workouts that burned more calories. I went for long hikes in the Scottish Highlands with my husband. He’d been asking me to join him for ages but I’d turned him down because he always took sandwiches to eat on the summits and I fretted that bread would screw up my weigh-ins.

These days I’m not afraid of a sandwich. And I exercise purely for the joy of it, not to make my body more pleasant to the masses. Instead of thinking, “These are things I must do to lose weight,” I now believe, “This is just how I live my life.”

I don’t know where the scale will end up, but after 333 weeks I’m not wasting another minute worrying about it. I always thought the prize would be seeing that magic number, but now I appreciate that it was never about the scales or the size of my jeans. The true reward was finding peace and acceptance and embracing my own skin, with all its lumps and bumps. It's getting out there and diving into life, instead of sitting around getting old and moldy like that pickled ginger!

Loose skin after weight loss

SharpeiSo enquiring minds want to know about Loose Skin. What does one look like naked after losing half their body weight? Does my stomach hang down to my knees? Do I resemble a human shar-pei? Will you resemble a human shar-pei if you lose weight?

I completely understand why this issue causes so much worry. At the end of 2000 when I was trying to work up the nerve to Do Something, part of me was reluctant to even start for fear I'd end up looking like my furry friend on the left there.

Of course now I can only answer from my own experience, and I am happy to report I don't look like a roly-poly-dog.

Now lets get down business.

1.    AM I GOING TO BE A SHAR-PEI?

I must have read a dozen articles with varying levels of doom and gloom but most folk agreed that how your skin bounces back from a large weight loss depends on a range of factors:

  • the elasticity of your skin – this decreases with age
  • how long how you carried the excess weight (eg. 9 months pregnant vs 9 years being overweight)
  • how much excess weight you carried
  • if you've previously gained/lost large amounts of weight
  • how quickly you gained the excess weight
  • how quickly you lost it – slower loss allows skin more time to readjust
  • your body composition – how much body fat vs muscle you have

One of the more interesting articles I found was by Tom Venuto, author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. He said that in many cases when people have lost a lot of weight and think they've been left with great puddles of excess skin, it's actually still body fat. You may have reached your Goal Weight on the scales but Tom sayz it's worth looking at your body fat percentage (see point 12 of his article).

"Except in extreme cases, you are very unlikely to see someone with loose skin who has very low body fat. It's quite remarkable how much your skin can tighten up and literally start to "cling" to your abdominal muscles once your body fat goes from "average" to "excellent." Someone with legitimate single digit body fat and loose skin is a rare sight.

So… the key to getting tighter skin is to lose more body fat, up to the point where your body composition rating is BETTER than average (in the "good" to "great" category, not just "okay"). Only AFTER you reach your long term body fat percentage goal should you give thought to "excess skin removal."

… unless you are really, really lean, it's difficult to get a clear picture of what is loose skin, what is just remaining body fat and how much further the skin will tighten up when the rest of the fat is lost."

Now Mr Venuto is a pretty hardcore personal trainer type and his article seems directed at blokes, but in my experience I have found this to hold true. Body composition makes a huge difference. The more muscle I build, the more my skin appears to "tighten up". I have not had any dramatic weight loss on the scales for two years now, but my body composition has changed – I have gone down another size or so and I'm much firmer. I once said I could flap my arms and fly all the way to Australia for free, now I think I'd only make it to say, Dubai. Haw haw haw.

2.    WHAT THE BLOODY HELL CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

Honestly, the best thing you can do is be realistic. I knew when I started out that there was no way my 351 pound body would ever snap back flat and flawless Elle McPherson stylee. But my aims were more about making the bed without getting breathless than attaining perfection.

This article has a few suggestions, including:

  • losing weight slowly
  • keeping your skin hydrated
  • preserving muscle tone and
  • eating nutrient rich foods:

"If your meals and snacks consist of junk food (even if you eat it in smaller quantities than before) then you're unlikely to nourish your skin properly and build up its strength.

Choose foods which are high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar, saturated fat and additives. Include foods high in essential fatty acids such as avocados, olives, oily fish, nuts and seeds and oils made from these and also ensure that you have an adequate supply of lean protein."

Thanks, learned experts!

Here's what I personally found helpful:

  • Slow and tedious weight loss – Yes, six years was a bit bloody ridiculous, but the fact that it took me so long seems to have worked in my favour.
  • Weight training – This has been THE biggest thing for me and goes back to the body composition stuff mentioned above. I started weight training about eight months into my lard busting and have been doing it 1-3 times a week for six years now. I was about 120 kilos when I read this "No Fat Chicks" article on Krista's Women's Weightlifting page and it changed my thinking forever. Pumping iron has made a huge difference to my shape and tone. I noticed changes within weeks and used to love feeling the muscles developing beneath my baggy size 24 tracksuit pants.
    Years and years later, I'm so glad I persisted. My legs, for example, are never going to be small but they're strong and solid and there's no loose skin.
    My arms haven't fared as well; they're still wobbly but considering they used to barely squeeze into a size 26, they're okay and I'm happy to wear t-shirts.
    I only wish I'd known about weight training from Day One. So if you're starting out, even if you just pick up a can of beans and so some bicep curls, get lifting!
  • Pilates – I started a weekly class at work in December 2005 and while it took a good six months to understand what the hell was going on, over time it made a huge difference to the tone of my abdominal area. Not mention better posture 🙂
  • BEING PATIENT – I know people don't want to hear about things taking years to improve, but for me it gets better the longer I simply carry on with the exercise and healthy eatin' .

WELL MISSY, IF YOU'RE SO DAMN SMUG AND SEXY WILL YOU BE POSING NUDE FOR PLAYBOY ANYTIME SOON?

Well, no. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so while I look at my body and think mwrrrrowr, you may recoil in horror. You might see my naked body as a starting point or a candidate for Slice and Dice at the plastic surgeon. Yet I am amazed at what good nick my skin is in, considering everything I've put it through.

I didn't realise quite how happy I was with the ol bod until I visited my friend Argy in Athens this July. Living in Scotland you can ignore your wobbly bits much of the time, since they're hidden under 27 waterproof layers most of the year. But in sweltering Greece I had nowhere to hide. I expected to feel anxious being skirts and t-shirts again, but I felt good. My stomach is still hella wobbly – I don't know if you'd call it loose skin or just flab I could still lose if I could be bothered – so I'll never don a bikini.

But I was perfectly happy in my one piece swimsuit lazing by the pool at Argy's apartment – not hiding beneath towels or kaftans. That is good enough for me. At one point we were going to the beach and I was excited by the prospect rather than worrying how my pale lumpen form would clash with the bronzed Greeks. Hurrah for progress!

IN SUMMARY

What will happen to your body if you lose a lot of weight depends on your circumstances, methods, current condition, etc etc; but time, patience and consistent exercise can help your lovely epidermis. But most of all I passionately stand by what I said in my Things I Have Learned list last year:

"Don't let the fear of loose skin, belly rolls or flabby arms stop you. Do you think Oprah worried about her bingo wings? No. She just flap-flap-flapped and flew away to world domination!"

The People That You Meet

Ooh ooh ooh I can’t believe I neglected to mention my latest bout of Blognobbing. You know, like hobnobbing, except since it’s famous bloggers it’s blognobbing!

A couple of weeks ago I met Australia’s favourite globetrotting poledancing triathlete Skinny Latte Phil in sunny Edinburgh. She was up here checking out the Fringe Festival and has just posted a lovely entry about her adventures.

It was great meeting her in person. Sometimes you read a blog and wonder if the blogger will be like the blog in real life. Then POW! You meet them, and it’s just like the blog has grown a voice and arms and rather sexy legs. It’s all real, baby!

Phil seemed to like Edinburgh, which really warmed the cockles of my psuedo-Scottish heart, because I demand that everyone loves the city as much as I do. She’d taken in a lot of theatre and shopping and then we took in a helluva lot of vodka. So much so when I ran into some good pals afterwards at Guy Pratt’s hilarious show, I couldn’t remember one of their names. Eek!

I think because so many Antipodeans make the trek to the UK that people don’t always realise just how difficult it is to find your feet. And find shelter, employment and sanity. But Phil has hit her stride in London now. She’s full of plans and dreams and enthusiasm. Go you good thing!

Dr G took a pic of us which I uncermoniously nicked off her blog. Pink cheeks ahoy!

Phil

Tomorrow I am meeting K and Rosemary. 2007 has been a year of top quality blognobbing, what with all the lovely Americans, the Greek Goddess Argy, etc etc. But I still pine to meet all the Aussies. PINE, I tell you! Someday, someday. Sniffle.

In other news, I did a wee interview with Weight Loss Tips today. Check it out!

Three Times A Lady

Thanks everyone who kindly left Entry Requests in my last post. I initially wrote that line as a joke but later thought I quite like the idea of you guys bossing me about. And I’d like to be helpful. Maybe it could be a weekly feature? I remember when I was starting out I had so many burning questions and just wanted some honest answers and encouragement, dammit. So leave a comment or send an email if there’s anything on your mind – food, exercise, what’s with the Freddo obsession, whatever 🙂 And of course I shall link back to the Question Asker’s blog, if they have one.

I’ll start with the Loose Skin Conundrum as it’s such a FAQ. I’ve touched on it before but I’m getting together some more thoughts and information.

. . .

It’s now September and if my shaky maths serves me correctly this means TWO THIRDS of 2007 is gone! But I’ve knocked off a New Years Resolution ahead of schedule – Try three new sporty activities. First we had kickboxing in January and canoeing in April and now finally… kayaking!

Yesterday I did a wee taster lesson and it was pretty cool. The most traumatic part of the whole experience was donning the wetsuit, surely the least flattering garment on earth. And even more so when you put it on inside out by mistake, and the inside of the suit is bright yellow with black sleeves, so you look like a bloated neoprene bumble bee. I’m just glad my friend pointed this out before we left the change rooms.

I quite enjoyed paddling around the loch in my sexy yellow boat, even when I kept running into the banks and/or spinning round in circles. I like how I don’t feel panicky anymore doing sporty things, just willing to have a go and not feeling like my self-esteem is in danger of being demolished at any moment.

There was one Fat Girl Freakout though; albeit a quiet one. There were five of us in the class – me, Gareth, two of our friends Dave and Lynne and their 8-year-old son Alexander. We had to paddle close together so our kayaks were in a row, then hold on to each others boats so we formed a sort of kayak raft. Then we had to take turns jumping out and walking across the raft then back again. One by one they wobbled over, laughing and struggling to keep their balance.

As I watched them clamber over me I couldn’t help crunching numbers. Dave and Lynne are a lot shorter than me and a good 20-30 kilos lighter. Alexander would be no more that 20 kilos himself, and that svelte bastard Gareth is about 5 kilos lighter than me too. So I when it was my turn I froze in my kayak thinking stubbornly, "No bloody way."

It’s been so long since I’ve thought about my weight. As in, you know, my heaviness. I haven’t felt conscious of being at all weighty. I wasn’t scared of falling or drowning or whatnot, but I did feel my Impending Humiliation Detector going off.

Gareth said, "C’mon Marsho!" and the instructor said, "You’ve come all the way from New Zealand and you’re not going to have a go?" and I just said quietly, "Not today thanks."

Blah. Sometimes you feel like you’ve come so far then sometimes you feel the opposite, and those moments can happen ridiculously close together.

After the kayaking lesson we got the canoe out again for some capsizing practice! Dave, Gareth and I are going to try some bigger water soon and it’s really very highly unlikely we’d ever get chucked out, but Dave likes to err on the side of caution. So the three of us spent about an hour throwing each other overboard and snorting up vile loch water and flipping the boat over and trying to haul ourselves back in. It was such a hoot, especially when I accidentally kicked Gareth underwater and he yelped in shock and said, "I thought it was f*cking Jaws!"

I feel like I’ve found real joy with exercise this year. Real joy in just living in this body, in general. I’m spending far less time in the gym but I’m so much fitter. Yesterday I felt such strength in my arms and shoulders as I pulled myself back into the canoe from deep water. I also felt goofy and messy and drenched and scared but uninhibited. Today my shins are covered in bruises and it feels like they’re the bruises I was too tentative and self-conscious to accumulate when I was a kid.