Babble On

It would be very easy to watch ten minutes of American television commercials and drown in a puddle of insecurity. Your teeth aren’t white enough, your belly’s too big, your hair needs to be more shiny; buy this pill coz you’re not happy enough. And don’t forget your floppy manhood! I don’t even have a manhood and I started feeling ugly and inadequate. Mwahaha.

Of course we have these sorts of ads in the UK and Australia but it just seems more relentless over here. Then there’s a chick on the cover of a magazine this week who vows she WILL lose ten baby pounds by January, or bust. They had a story about the story on E News, and it seemed like her happiness depends on the removal of these errant pounds.

But apart from the telly, the thing I love about travelling is that it makes me feel small and insignificant. And so aliiiiiiiiiive! Back home over the past few months, I’ve been isolated hypercritical in a way I hadn’t been for years…

(I don’t know why, but when things get dodgy in my life, that negativity can leak onto the ol’ body. I start mentally resculpting, shrinking and smoothing; as if that would make everything else better. I guess sometimes it feels easier to focus on stupid little skin deep flaws than to think about the real issues)

… but over here, scurrying about in this gigantic city, I’ve finally regained some perspective. It’s like the brain has been rebooted and things seem manageable now. I feel good in my skin.

I sent myself a postcard today, because I am a deranged dork. But also, I just wanted something physical to surprise me in a week’s time (or seventeen weeks, depending on the whims of the Royal Mail)… a handwritten reminder to hold on to this Good Feeling again.

In my first few delirious days in New York I thought, "Enjoy the holiday feeling while it lasts", but I think I can bring it back to the everyday grind. I just have to remember not to amplify problems in my head, to stop worrying about things that haven’t ever happened yet, to chill the hell out, really. And to ENGAGE WITH THE HUMANS, darnit! Every time I get down, I disappear into my burrow and lose all perspective. But just a few moments with friends and sunshine and wine and noises and colours and everything feels okay again. I don’t need to fly to fancy cities to do that, but this New York trip has been the most unforgettable reminder.

Sorry this is bloody indulgent and not very weight-lossy, folks… I’m over-excited and sleepy and so bittersweet coz we’re heading home tomorrow. Normal service shall be resumed soon πŸ™‚

It’s A Wonderful Town

Hello lovelies, I’m in New York and it’s 12.46AM, also known as 5.46AM in the good ol’ UK and extreme delirium has set in. I’ve had far too much to drink tonight but just wanted to say HELLO! Thank you for your kind comments on the last entry; I really didn’t want to post something so blue but it’s always such a relief to be honest because once you turn these eelings into words they always feel so much easier to sort out. And a change of scenery has been bloody marvellous too!

ANYWAY, whoa. Too much delicious, rosy red wine tonight! I’ve been blogging about our day at WNP and hope to keep doing so during the trip instead of taking six months to write Wot I Did On Me Hols, dodgy wifi connection pending. Hope you are doing fine and dandy! πŸ™‚

Good Feeling

So how do you hold on to the Good Feeling? I’m a huge MotoGP fan, and when you see the riders getting interviewed after a race they often talk, in their endearing English As A Second Language way, about their Good Feeling.

"The bike gave me a good feeling today," they’ll say if the race went well. And then I snigger, coz I’m sure I’d have a bloody good feeling too, if I was straddling a gigantic vibrating motorcycle! But if things go bad, they will say, "I could not find a good feeling with the bike."

They’re talking about the harmony between man and machine. What’s this got to do with anything? Well, if you say hypothetically my brain is Valentino Rossi and my body is a motorcycle, then it’s clear we’re not having our best season. It’s that elusive mind/body connection I was talking about last month. I still haven’t quite got it back!

The last time I truly felt the Good Feeling was back in Chicago in July. I’d just finished the first round of book edits and was so happy with how it turned out and with the message I’d put across. I felt this lovely peace with everything. It was like there were dozens of those dinky tealight candles, racked along on my ribs, so I was just glowing glowing glowing from within.

But ever since various things… mostly my own sabotaging brain… have chipped away at the ol’ confidence a bit. Do not fear, scale-watchers! I’ve not stacked it back on. It’s just that a little black cloud has been loitering like a seagull outside a chip shop.

The other day I went out for a bike ride ON THE ROAD. Analogue bike, that is. I’d never ridden a bicycle on a road before. I grew up on a farm so it was all rattling over gum leaves and sheep shit. After a year of adult bicycle ownership I thought it was time to venture beyond cycle tracks and illegal footpaths, so I got Gareth to take me around the road loop he does a few times a week. I felt a grim determination about the task. I wanted to come back to the blog and report my triumph and be all positive and light and endorphin-ed, like I always do after these new sporty forays… mind and body hooked up again. Instead of clicking New Post and staring at the blank space for an hour.

The ride was bloody terrifying! Especially because I don’t have any road sense. I’ve driven a car once in the past 4.5 years, so I’m rusty on road skills and peripheral vision. Gareth pedalled along behind me on a lazy country road, and yelled out when a car was coming. I would shake my head vigorously in denial, as if that would make them go away! I could barely pedal, my quads were so ridiculously tense.

Somehow we made it to the Big Mother Roundabout with all the buses and trucks hurtling along towards Glasgow. I froze in terror and pulled over, feeling angry tears catch in my throat. It was like that Yoga Incident a couple months ago, where my physical fear and crapness felt like a metaphor for everything else I’d been crap at lately. But after glaring at some trees for ten minutes I got back on, approached the roundabout and made the shakiest hand signal ever and arooooond we went. DUDES, MY HAND WAS OFF THE HANDLEBAR FOR A WHOLE TEN SECONDS. I can’t believe it took me a year to get up the nerve to do that. Mwahaha.

Then I pedalled painfully slowly through a wee village that was far busier than should be legal on a Sunday. Why do people insist on not only driving cars , but parking them and getting in and out of them and flapping their big scary doors!? My teeth were chattering with terror, but then I got the giggles at how I was too knackered to pedal any faster to get out of this situation any quicker.

Finally I made another hand signal – this one more of a limp flash of a Hitler salute – and we were back on a country road. Oh my leggggs. They had nothing left to give! I had to get off and walk for the second last hill. Gareth reassured me he didn’t make it either earlier in the year, when he’d put on a slight Winter Coat of lard over Christmas, stillI couldn’t help feeling annoyed.

But then we got to the last hill, and I recognised it right away. The same "XTREME" hill I was too terrifed to ride down in February; the same hill I failed to pedal up! It looked so hilariously tiny now. I huffed and I puffed but I got to the top, no worries!

We finally got back home after 1hr 20mins – Gareth usually does it in 45mins, the shapely bastard. I curled up on the couch to listen to my muscles sing. The exercise hadn’t brought on the Good Feeling; I’ll be honest… but I suddenly felt okay about not feeling the Good Feeling.

I’ve been very negative recently, thinking that I should be cool with all the Big Changes in my life by now. I worried that I’d never shake it and find my way back again. But the highs and lows of that little bike trip made me see where I’ve been going wrong. It’s impossible to see the way forward if you’re too busy beating yourself up. It’s not a failure of character if you dare to feel a bit lost and incompetent. Sometimes life gets challenging and things are plain uncomfortable for a sustained period. The Good Feeling is harder to come by, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never find it again! I keep thinking of that dinky little hill that seemed so impossible six months ago, and remember that I’ve been here before. I’ll be back up to fullhorsepowers soon enough. Vrooooooom!

Gently Down The Stream

Row Once upon a time, a sign appeared on the wall behind the rowing machine at Girly Gym. 1000 Metre Challenge! How Fast Can You Go? All you had to do was row one kilometre as fast you could, then if you beat the current fastest time you’d yodel for a staff member to verify, then they’d write your name on the sign which is conveniently covered in plastic for easy erasing.

A year later, the same name and the same time are still there. I can’t remember the name but damn if that bloody time isn’t burned on my retinas. 4 minutes 11 seconds. I don’t know if the record stands because nobody can come close to it, or they can’t be arsed, or they haven’t even noticed the sign. Whenever I’m at the gym I seem to be the only person who goes anywhere near the rower; everyone’s busy fighting over the treadmills.

So it’s just me versus this Speedy Mystery Woman. There’s no prizes involved here, just the Whiteboard Marker Scribble of Glory! But do you think you I can get anywhere near 4:11? No I bloody cannot! And I’ve been trying soooo hard for soooo long! Okay I haven’t really been trying very long or hard at all, to be honest. I was working on it last winter and then spring, but then I exercised outdoors most of summer. I’d totally forgotten about it until I ventured back into the gym recently and saw the sign still there, unaltered and mocking; and now it’s made me cranky all over again. HOW DO YOU DO IT SPEEDY WOMAN? How can I catch you?

Over and over, I sit down at the machine and shrug my shoulders then stretch my arms and then strap in my feet and do a few test rows and fire up the iPod with a furious beat. And off I go and I row and row and row… but the fastest I’ve managed is 5:10. Bloody hell. 1:01 slower!?!

So then I get into a huff and curse the Speedy Mystery Woman and her alleged record. What setting did she have the rower on? How much resistance? And who verified this record? Where’s the proof? Was there drug testing?

Instead of sulking, I need to be more strategic in my approach. First of all, schoolgirl error – I shouldn’t attempt to break the record after I’ve already done 25 minutes of stinky high intensity intervals on the Arc trainer. DERR! I need to go in fresh. I need to be well hydrated and maybe a bit carbed up. I also need to revise my technique.

I’m in the mood for relatively small challenges lately. I’ve been caught up in rather big broad long lofty goals – lard-busting, writing – so right now I fancy some smaller scale ambitions (but still satisfying with some scope for obsession). Learn to make a souffle! Revisit kickboxing! I can’t remember the others!

But somehow I think "Defeat Speedy Mystery Woman" will end up being a long-term project. GRRRR!

Crumbs on the Keyboard

Thanks so much for all your kind comments about the book. I’m a sentimental fool so must admit I blubbed while reading them!

It has been a rather intense process. Looking over the past year’s blogging now, it’s amusing to see the various Book Writing Mini-Meltdowns reflected in the entries. I thought I’d churn it out with cool detachment but instead it felt like reliving it all over again. Method writing at its worst! If I was scribbling about a Dark Time, I’d become just as miserable and bleak as the original moment – sobbing all over the keyboard and generally being a horrible git to live with.

Another thing I struggled with was the urge to stuff my face with chocolate every time I was in the throes of panic. Which was pretty much all day every day in the last three months leading up to the deadline. I’d sit at the desk absolutely nauseous with anxiety, unable to find the words to describe some moment four years ago about how I triumphantly overcame my desire to stuff chocolate into my mouth, while thinking Oh I really need some bloody chocolate right now and I would truly go to town right now if not for the irony of scoffing chocolatw while writing a weight loss memoir.

But it was all good, because the angst led to some amazing moments of clarity. Such as learning to endure shitty feelings instead of masking them with sugar. Writing really helped me to let go of a lot of old crap and completely rethink lard-busting matters.

Right now I am feeling rather self-conscious about crapping on about the book so much, so I will just answer a question I had in the comments before awkwardly changing the subject: They didn’t make me a blonde on the cover! My shoddy scan doesn’t do it justice, it’s a more accurate ginger when you see it for real πŸ™‚

Also, I just found out the book shall be coming out in New Zealand at the same time it does in merry old Oz in February. CHOICE!

Ooh look over there, a pony! Now here’s some top entries I’ve read in the past few days:

Here Is The News

Remember last year I had a wee existential crisis and asked you guys, What Do You Do For A Living? You kindly responded with 117 comments of pure inspiration. It proved a virtual kick up the arse and made me think hard about where I was going and what I was doing with my time.

I realised I'd been waiting for a Writing Epiphany, just as I'd waited for a Lard Busting Epiphany many years earlier. And like the lard busting, I realised there wouldn't be an epiphany, but just a moment; when I made a plan, picked up the tools and took the first step.

Well I'm happy to report that eighteen months later, after supersized amounts of shoddy drafts and labour and luck and wheeling and dealing and tea and tears and editing and mighty good times, I've finally finished the bloody book. WOOHOO.

I also heard from Random House Australia last week that it shall be coming out Down Under in February. Double WOOHOO!

You may be thinking, I've read the blog, why would I want a book? Well, the book is the blog turned up to eleven! It's the complete story, without annoying archive gaps. It has three dimensions and contains much more fibre!

You could also put it in your handbag. You could put it on your head and walk across the room to practice good posture. Or you could stroke the cover, because the title is embossed! Recently I went to London to visit my rockin' publisher and they gave me a cover, and I just can't stop stroking the puffy letters.

Alternatively, you might even want to read it! I poured heart and soul and guts into each of the 90,000 words. There's just so many stupid diet books out there written by smug, bossy celebrities, so I tried to write an antidote to all that. Sure it contains weight loss, but it's also about love and life and travel and chocolate and feeling good in your own skin.

I have been pissfarting around for so long now, waiting for a good moment, not wanting to be a showoff, and worrying a piano would drop on my head if I dared say it out loud. I practiced telling people at BlogHer and on Facebook and now I'm finally officially yabbering about it here. The book is done and it's just starting to hit me that it's actually real and happening! I'm really proud and bewildered and bloody excited πŸ™‚

And now here's a few words from the poor souls who read the book multiple times throughout the long and winding writing process. I asked them for a one-line review, and some grasped the concept better than others…

"Not bad! I get all the best lines!"

"Bloody brilliant – but I get all the best lines!"

"Shauna's book is not simply a succesful weight loss adventure. It is a journey back to her centre. Through rise and fall, and fall and fall and rise – till she finally flies – she gives the essence of the true companionship with ourselves. She elaborates on the necessity of accepting, admitting, embracing and supporting who we really are. And she does it with hard proof, humbleness, pride, sincerity and vigour that is really pouring out of each word.

I learned so much from reading her book. I really found answers. I read and re-read several parts till they really sunk in my heart. It is so different from reading a blog. Instead of several tubes of different shades and colours, I was in front of a finished canvas this time."

"Shauna's book ran me through the whole gamut of emotions…from belly laughter, to moments of intense sadness and empathy for Shauna at the beginning of her adventure, to awe for the changes she made – one step at a time, falling down at times, picking herself up, going so far out of her comfort zone; to eventually emerge triumphant – stronger in mind and body, yet still growing.

I wanted to start reading it again when I finished – it's a book that you keep dipping into – when you are climbing that tricky mountain, when the scales don't show a result or when you think you can't make through the day without a chocolate bar."

So here endeth the sales pitch! Or shall I sneak in that pre-order link one more time? Also, if you're into Facebook you can join the group Go Dietgirl Go! to get all the latest news. I'm down with the technology!

And thank you all, for everything.

Tips for exercising in winter

All the leaves are broon and the sky is grey! Well, it's getting that way around here anyway, that time of year when you just want to hide under the blankets and cry. Which brings us to the lovely Margaret's topic suggestion:

"Perhaps a subject to touch upon… is what to do to fight off the probability of motivation slide as the weather becomes cooler.. and how to move your exercise regime indoors without wanting to chuck it all in."

Exercise becomes even more of a priority during winter. My sunny disposition (haw haw) tends to nosedive without regular exercise and even more so when it gets dark at 3PM. Exercise this summer was nice and leisurely and fun – bike rides, hill walks, canoe stints – but it will take a bit more imagination over winter.

I don't rely on motivation per se, because I rarely wake up thinking OH YEAH HURRAH it's time to exercise! So the trick is to make it as 1) efficient 2) inviting and 3) easy and mindless as possible, so there's a chance I'll actually do it instead of grumbling into a mug of hot chocolate.

As always, I can only ramble on about what works for me and hopefully it will be somewhat useful to passers-by.

Lunchtime walks
It's easy to miss daylight altogether when you arrive and leave work in the dark, so this winter I'm aiming to get away from the computer and go outside at lunchtime. I kept meaning to do this last year but most days I'd end up yapping in the lunch room or remain slumped in front of the computer. When I did get out and stretch the legs, even just five minutes of Vitamin D and fresh air did wonders for my mood and will to live!

I've sung the praises of group fitness classes about eleventeen million times on here but they are even handier during winter because of their Leave Your Brain At Home-ness. In winter, I find the mental effort of exercise feels even more enormous than the physical, so 45 minutes of Spinning or the kick and punch of a Body Combat class is a great way to get it out of the way. Just rock up to a class, let someone boss you about for an hour, and you're done before you know it.

Gym cardio
I really loathe cardio at the gym but it's a sensible option when the pavements are icy or just poorly lit. I always sigh and huff when it's Cardio Day but have come up with a few ways to make it bearable:

  • High Intensity Interval Training – maximum results with minimum time. Just Google HIIT to find some sample workouts. The idea is to be completely shagged by the end of it, as though you couldn't possibly do another minute on the cursed treadmill/bike/whatever. My average session is 25 minutes.

    That can still feel like an age sometime, so I use Cardio Coach. This is a downloadable MP3 workout where a dude called Sean O'Malley with a rather sexy voice tells you exactly what to do; suitable for any piece of cardio equipment. When to go fast, when to go slow, when to stretch; it really does make the time go faster! I have conversations with Sean in my head. I hate you Sean. Oh we're almost there? Fine then. I'll do it. Only for you. Fetch me another bottle of water Sean. You're the best Sean. HIGHLY recommended. iTrain also does MP3 workouts but they're a little cheesy for my liking.

  • Rowing Races – Sometimes when I am feeling REALLY sluggish and/or unmotivated, I'll go to the gym and say, "Okay lazyarse, all you have to do is commit to ONE KILOMETRE on the rowing machine and then we can go home." But then the competitive streak kicks in, and I will be disgruntled with my time, so I will do another kilometre and try and beat that. Soon enough I've got in a rather intense workout.

The Home Gym
My favourite kind of workout is the one you can do in your pyjamas. I'd be lost without my Home Gym, which consists of a scrap of floorspace in our bedroom measuring 1 x 3 metres and a few bits and pieces:

  • Workout DVDs. My favourites are:
    • Cathe Pyramid Upper and Lower Body and Muscle Endurance
    • Gaiam Pilates for Weight Loss and Yoga for Weight Loss. There's nothing particularly weight lossy about those DVDs, they were just decent workouts going cheap on Amazon!
    • Thanks to Mary, OM Yoga Intermediate/Beginners DVD which rules.
    • The best thing about ALL of these DVDs is that they have timesaver options. The normal workouts are about an hour, but they have shortened versions, usually 45 minutes. I find myself taking that option quite often, hehe. So when it's time to get sweaty, I put a DVD into the computer and off we go!
  • Reebok step – a bench for weights, to stand on for calf raises, or to cling on for grim death for tricep dips. These are pretty cheap at Argos and slide neatly under the bed when not in use.
  • Resistance bands – if you Google "resistance bands" there are dozens of exercises you can do with these inexpensive rubber babies. I made a list of band and body weight exercises that equates to a total body resistance workout – totally portable and perfect if you don't have much space and/or feeling too lazy to get out the dumbbells!
  • Assorted dumbbells – These live under the bed. I started with a 1.5, 3, and 5 kilo set from Argos that were quite cheap. I've gradually built up a collection, including some nice heavy ones I found by Googling "cheap dumbbells uk". They were listed as seconds so were really cheap, and absolutely nothing wrong with them but a few wee scratches!
  • Dumbells
  • Barbell and plates – Again from Argos. You can generally do most exercises with dumbbells but the barbell is the way to go when you want to lift heavier. I shove the barbell under the bed when not in use, but inevitably I leave the end poking out and someone trips over it and screams, "F*!@ing BARBELL!" Because of my limited floorspace I have to turn sideways and watch the screen out of the corner of my eye, otherwise the bar clonks into the wardrobe. Awkward, but do-able!
  • Swiss ball for doing ab work or modified planks and pushups or even as a weight bench when too lazy to get out the Reebok step. The ball lives on top of the Wall of Sound in our hallway – Gareth's bass amp and other musical paraphernalia, which is crammed in next to a mountain bike. The ball falls off its perch about 20 times a day, often landing on one's head to a chorus of, "F*!@ing BALL!"

All of this stuff has been gradually gathered over the past three years or so, and has proved very cost effective. When it's miserable outside, it is much easier to convince myself to do some exercise when I just have to drag out some dumbbells from under the bed. Huzzah! So let it snow let it snow let it snow… I'm ready baby!

Across the Pond

Have you ever been to New York City? Fancy sharing your ideas or tips with two hapless foreigners? I know I could get on the Goog but asking real people what to do on your holidays always gets better results! There’s an entry over on my non-fat blog where any scraps of information will be gratefully received!

Old Dog New Tricks

Diets are dead, they’ve been telling us for years; it’s all about lifestyle changes. I’m down with that rather annoying phrase. But what irks me is just when you manage to make changes, the style of your bloody life changes so those changes no longer fit in… to your lifestyle. Does that make any sense at all?

This week I’m trying to figure out arrangements for the latest changes. How long can I feasibly snooze before gulping down brekkie and getting out the door? Which is the fastest route to the office? Does the office have a microwave? How long must I eat Quiet Fruit like bananas before I feel comfortable enough to chomp an apple? Where does exercise fit into this new schedule? Before, lunchtime, after? I’ve got timetables and graphs and diaries and still haven’t figured it out the logistics.

Sometimes people ask "What’s the secret?" in regards to the flab busting. There’s no secret, I say squirmingly, just exercise and eating healthy and spilling your guts on the internet, over and over for six years! But seriously, if I was forced to pick something I’d have to say an ability to adapt. Finding new ways of doing things when things change, over and over again.

But that kind of thinking will have to wait for the weekend, methinks. MY BRAIN IS FULL! Information overload. I keep fantasising that the Career Fairies will sprinkle me with brainy dust, so I will be blessed with all the workplace knowledge right now and able to bypass the whole uncomfortable Stupid Questions and Silly Mistakes phase. It’s like when I started my Lifestyle Change back in the day – I longed for miracles and instant results, without having to endure all the panic and salad.