Up is the new Down

Holy moanfest, Batman! Thanks for indulging me in the last entry. I always need to have a good whinge before getting my act together again. It's an official stage in the Getting Back On The Wagon process. There are official stages, don't you know. I've fallen off so many times that last time it happened, I made an actual List of them. It's a handy reminder that it's happened all before and everything will be dandy soon enough.

There's always a low moment when you worry that this time you've really cocked it up beyond repair. I was chugging up Ben Lawers on Monday, my heart rate monitor declaring I'd reached 90% of my maximum. Jenny and Gareth were slightly ahead, but in my gloomy frame of mind they may as well have been lounging on the mountain top, sipping cups of tea and cackling, "Pick up the pace, fatty!"

I was trying to describe the feeling to Gareth the other night. Most of the time, staying healthy is mindless and natural; it's just the way I do things. But when things get on top of me, I feel fraudulent. Like the gymming and hiking are just pathetic attempts to outrun my old self. Like I'll always be ten steps behind the real skinny people. Like the real me is the recluse on the couch with the drawn blinds and tub of ice cream. It's a feeling of despair that this time, the ruse is finally up.

The moment did pass when I got to the top of the hill. I'm really glad I created a Setbacks and Screw-ups category because it's been reassuring to see hard evidence that I do have the ability to bounce back again. And again and again and again.

"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."
Good Feeling, 24 October 2007.

The Weary Squirrel

I'm back from me holidays! We attempted to balance all the whisky, cooked Scottish breakfasts and Cadbury Top Deck with lots of walking – to big rocks, steep steps and a pair of Munros.

Mysterious Jenny on Ben Lawers.

I'm pleased to report that Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas were my least whiny hills ever. Partially because they were touristy fellas, side by side with non-scary paths. But also because my mate Jenny was there and I didn't want to look like a wuss. So there was only one obscene gesture and a wee bit of stick waving!

Cadbury Top Deck - Jenny brought it over from Oz!
We need to start a lobby group to bring this to the UK.

. . .

It's been awhile between entries – sorry you had to look at my boofy cheeks for so long. No matter where I've been on the scales, I've always had chubby cheeks that grandmothers love to squeeze. Gareth once said they were like "little cushions". That a weary squirrel might rest upon!

. . .

A year ago this week I was dancing in the streets after handing in my manuscript. "La la la!" I said, "I AM DONE WITH THIS WEIGHT LOSS SHIT and I am never going to think of it again!"

Then I ate a packet of Marks & Spencer choc-coated strawberries.

Of course I remembered the next day that you are never done, sucker. Ever since then it has been a challenge – no, let's not downplay it – it's been a constant, shitty struggle to get the balance right. I so badly want to stay healthy without needing to be a slave to scales and calories, but I have to bear in mind the brutal reality that when it comes to food, I got issues. I can't pretend that I don't need to think about it.

It's like my peanut butter fork. I keep a jar of PB in my desk at work and I like to spread a wee bit on spelt crackers. For the past couple of months I've being doing this with a plastic fork. Part of my brain screams, "This isn't working! This ain't the tool for the job!" and the other part of my brain says, "Oh shuddup. Sure it's messy and the cracker is cracking up all over the keyboard but it sort of does the trick, right?"

Likewise I've been letting everything get chaotic. I cram more and more into the day, not sleeping properly, eating too much, feeling like crap but telling myself I'm still good! I'm still good, just because my guts have not yet exploded out of my jeans. I keep diggin' and diggin' with my plastic fork. 

Last Wednesday on the Isle of Skye, we hauled our arses up to the Old Man of Storr. There was a polite sign near the big rock that said, You are advised not to go beyond this point. There's no better sign than an actual SIGN!

Old Man of Storr
Dr G laughs in the face of danger.

Hmm hmm hmm. I really need to stop and get my priorities in order, before I burn out and bloat up. And/or become an annoying wanker who claims to be too busy to peel an orange.

. . .

Ooh I gotta write about the Moonwalk! Next time Gadget. Next time. Hope you're all doing well!

En route to the Old Man of Storr
Heading up to the Old Man of Storr.

71 June

I walked the Walk! But I’ll have to wait to talk the Walk until later in the week when we get back from our wee jaunt in the Highlands. The Walk took me EIGHT HOURS so as you can imagine I have a lot of Walk to talk about.

But I’ve run out of time; its 1.23 AM and I just finished going over 409 pages of proofs for the US edition of Dietgirl. I read the cover note last week in a zombified state and thought it said, "complete by 71 June". Plenty of time, nae bother! But of course there is no such date. It was actually 17 June, which is today. Now my eyeballs feel like they’re about to explode which nicely parallels the feeling in my calves!

I better scoot to bed. Until next time, here is a picture from the Start line, just before midnight. Already looking tired, but behold the joy and innocence!


(We are all wearing plastic coat thingies because it was SO bloody cold)

And here is the complete opposite of joy at 4.21 AM Moonwalk0421. The orange was very tasty, however.

I wanted to say a huge thank you for all your kind comments and Moonwalk wishes! And also a big woohoo to those who climbed aboard the 100 PushUps challenge. I did the Initial Test and managed just three trembling reps. The only way is up.

Twas The Night Before Moonwalk

1 day to go

This time tomorrow night I’ll be waiting for the stroke of midnight, my cue to start Moonwalking along with 11,999 other bra-wearing folk. Shit! Shit! Shit a brick! I mean, woohoo!

We had a bra decorating party last Saturday – Dirty Dancing, Chinese food and a sea of sequins, fluff and taffetta. There was booze galore but nobody drank much as our hands were too busy with scissors and needles and glue. Conversation was minimal; just random bursts of song and swearing when thumbs were stabbed.

I tried to channel all the skillz learned for my Brownie sewing badge circa 1986. Thankfully Claire had earlier dyed all our bras a lovely shade of fuschia pink, so mine looked pretty cool already as the lacy bits stayed white. It took me three hours just to sew one bit of frill along the bottom and a squiggle of silver across each boob. Check out them highly accurate stiches. Brown Owl would be proud!

Moonwalk bra decorating
Moonwalk bra decorating 2

Here is the finished product, nestled lovingly against Gareth’s engineering textbook. Some serious engineering going on in that bra,too.


Since Saturday I’ve been in state of Wardrobe Panic. I’d been so focused on walking the 26.2 miles that I totally ignored the do-it-in-your-bra bit. During training I wore a long-sleeved top with my boob-crushing grubby ye olde Enell sports bra underneath. The bra above was supplied by the Moonwalk folk and Einstein here didn’t bother trying it on until Sunday night and discovered that it isn’t supportive enough to tame my girls.

Well, DERR! That’s Australian for DUH, btw. Why the hell would a frilly bra be suitable for an 8 hour walk? Of course I panicked for a couple more days until it was too late to order a different bra online or go shopping in Edinburgh. I’ve come up with an eleventh hour solution with a second bra and a large pot of Vaseline but really, I am tempted just to wear it as a hat:

I reserve the right to keep this photo small
due to current state o’ haggardness.

I feel like a twit writing this, but I had a total Fat Girl Freakout on Sunday. When I signed up late last year, I thought the Moonwalking in your bra was such a fab way to raise money for breast cancer research and I was pretty cool with my body these days so bring it ON. But the wave of panic started on Saturday night – looking at my bra, looking at my colleagues, comparing my body to theirs, feeling larger and wobblier by the minute.

The panic grew overnight then on Sunday afternoon in the shower, I just started bawling my eyes out. I felt so sick to my stomach, the thought of my bare arms and bare belly out for all the world to see. For my work colleagues to see. I felt like a fraud; like I’d been disguising myself as a Normal Person just like them and now they were going to find out I was a wobbly-armed mess.

I thought about how there was something noble about a scar from a surgery or a stretch mark from bearing a child, but what if your impefections are just your own bloody fault; the result of too much chocolate and chips and whatnot? For those ten minutes under the shower I felt ashamed and angry, thoughts racing through my head that had not surfaced for many years.

After I had my good old cry I towelled off, got dressed and tried the pink bra on again. I took photos from a bazillion different angles and just looked at them on the computer for ages. I calmed down after that. You’ll be alright, ya dork.

90% of the time I live and breathe that bit of my silly book where I go on about embracing all my lumps and bumps. But I guess embracing said lumps in everyday life is different from having to parade them around town all night long. Like I said, I feel like a goose even writing about the Freakout, but I like to be honest; not just with you but with myself. This feeling-good-in-your-own-skin thing isn’t always smooth sailing. I still have my little moments but thankfully they’re fleeting these days.

Really, I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow with my mates in my beloved Edinburgh. The big night is finally here and I think it’s going to be a hoot.

One Hundred Push-Ups

Who’s up for a new challenge? Andrew is taking on One Hundred Push-Ups. It looks to be the Couch to 5k of the push-up world, a six-week program designed to gradually build your strength for the mother of all moves. From the website:

"If you’re serious about increasing your strength, follow this six week training program and you’ll soon be on your way to completing 100 consecutive push ups! Think there’s no way you could do this? I think you can! All you need is a good plan, plenty of discipline and about 30 minutes a week to achieve this goal!"

Holy exclamation mark, Batman!

I like how they say "on your way" to completing 100 consecutive push ups, because right now my efforts are rather weak and wobbly and I’d be happy to work up to 20. We do a lot of push-ups in my kickboxing class but there’s only so much you can progress with one class a week. I like the idea of a real concerted effort to improve – not only the quantity but the quality of the reps.

It’s also a convenient wee challenge – I can do push ups anywhere, and unlike this stinking Moonwalk it’s not going to take over my life. Or puff up my hands.

So I’m in, baby! I’m going to take the initial push up test tonight then start next Tuesday 17th, giving myself a couple of days to rejoin the living après-Moonwalk.

Anyone else fancy it? It’ll be tops. And there’s nothing quite like knocking out a few push ups to make you feel smug, strong and sexy.

Further reading on the joys of push-ups for young and old, large and small:

(Proper entry re Moonwalk later today!)

Chocolate Therapy

My mother is usually the calm and organised type but I enjoy the rare moments of panic, because she sort of throws her hands in the air and shrieks, "Shit! Shit! Shit a brick!"

I am having a Shit Shit Shit A Brick kind of week. Not only is the Moonwalk on Saturday, my pal Jenny arrives from Australia. Then Rhiannon arrives next Tuesday and we're going on a mini road trip. I can't wait to see which version of a Scottish summer we encounter – pouring rain or mauled by midges?

The flat is almost finished – no couch or carpet but the painting is done and Dr G put down a sexy new kitchen floor. There is the small issue of complete lack of things upon which guests can sleep. No food in the cupboards no accommodation booked no clean clothes no sleep no mercy at work no idea what to do about my stupid Moonwalk Bra of Doom etc etc but we're totally calm and cool, really now.

Things may get a little haphazard around here for the next couple of weeks but rest assured I'm planning to answer your burning questions such as, "How do I stay on the wagon?" Hopefully by then I'll have figured out the answer for myself!

. . .

Aside from boundless support and inspiration, one of the very best things about blogging is International Parcel Swaps. Like old school pen pals, but TASTY! Earlier this year Gracie in Alabama was pining for Tunnocks Tea Cakes so I sent her some sickly Scottish treats and she sent me a bulging box of American candy, complete with bottles of ale for Dr G !

More recently Amanda, an Australian expat in The Netherlands, expressed her longing for Tetley tea so I pounced on the opportunity. I exchanged 240 Tetley tea bags for THREE boxes of my favourite Droste cocoa!

I first fell in love with Droste for aesthetic reasons on a trip to Amsterdam – the chick on the cocoa box is holding another cocoa box with a chick on it who is holding another cocoa box with a chick on it who is holding another cocoa box with a chick on it! And so on. This is known as the Droste effect and can keep the simple-minded amused for hours! Just imagine my eyeballs spinning round now that I have THREE!


When I first started lard-busting I was hooked on low-fat sugar-free just-add-water hot chocolate sachets, the ones with 275 unpronounceable ingredients. A colleague used to scream at me in the tearoom, "THEY GIVE YOU CANCER!" but I guzzled on defiantly! Then one day I admitted that I didn't really like the taste so switched to old fashioned cocoa and real sugar. Gasp!

But as they say so persuasively on the Green & Blacks website, one teaspoon of cocoa is only 12 calories. I have three, but that's still only 36. A teaspoon of sugar is 15 calories. Cup of semi-skimmed milk, 115 calories. So 166 calories in total.

I also make it on the stove now, after adding up all the time I'd wasted mopping up the microwave. I liked it served it in a Starbucks mug that I got for free at the Society of Authors conference because it's so thick and cuddly.

(Many authors removed the mugs from their goody bags, as if loathe to sully their authorly lips with merchandise from a corporate behemoth. "DUDES ARE YOU CRAZY", I wanted to say as I swiped an extra one, "They just told us that the average British author earns less than £5,000 per year and you're turning down a free mug? Flog it on eBay for 10p or use it as a begging bowl!" )

So yes, 166 calories is more calories than the old diet sachets but the whole cocoa ritual tastes and feels  more satisfying. Thank you Amanda for enabling the habit! I will think of you while I sip away and watch the mighty Dutch footballers at the Euros.

I'm really quite delirious today; apologies for loopy nature of this entry. Take care, dear comrades!

Moonwalk Training – 20 Miles

2 weeks to go

Twenty mile haiku
Known in metric as
thirty-two kays. But to all,
a bloody long way

10 miles out on the cycle track then ten miles back. I didn't count the half-mile walk from home to the path this time, since I struggled with the maths last week.

Weather Report
Well, alright. It wasn't hot. It was about 20 degrees (68F). Stop laughing, my fellow Australians. Do I mock when you put on scarves coz it's 12 degrees? Seriously, I'm pathetic in the sun these days and deserve to have my Oz passport revoked. Just try to understand what an alarming sensation it is to see this weird pale blue stuff above your head. 20 degrees can feel positively balmy, especially if you're walking all day long. The epidermis sizzles in shock and you start muttering, Walk faster! Faster! Before the skin cancer gets you!

So that is what I did. I banged out mile after mile, glopping on more sunscreen every hour and weeping stingy sunscreeny tears. The bike path was 70-30 split of sun and shade, so it was like interval training – charging through the sunny parts then easing off in the less treacherous shady bits.

The first ten miles were okay. I sipped water regularly and felt pretty good. Hot and sweaty, but good. My feet ached in the usual tired-but-not-too-hurty way. I stopped to take a picture of this delightfully retro scarecrow.

I say old chap! Get the devil away from my cabbages!

I've heard about the phenomenon of swollen hands during long walks and finally experienced it myself on Saturday. This was mile 11 when I had to loosen my heart rate monitor by two notches because my wrists had ballooned.


Losing the plot
Maybe my fatigued brain is failing me as I'm writing this five days after the event, but I don't think the 20 miler was all that bad until the last four. I was hardly jumping for joy but I had some great podcasts and almost tuned out the fact that I was in motion. Plus, I was worming out of painting the living room. Poor Gareth was slaving over the skirting boards while I strolled along, eating Mars Bars.

But something pinged in my brain when I saw 4 miles spray painted on the cycle path. It hit me that I'd been walking for four long hours and had at least another hour to go. My body hurt and I was all woe and melodrama. This is the longest training walk ever. In fact, this is the longest walk I've ever done in my life. BOO!

And I was thirsty. I'd drunk plenty of water already but very specifically wanted a glass of orange and passionfruit juice from a cafe back in Australia. And I was hungry, but all I had left was a wilted peanut butter sandwich.

I got strangely weepy at the 3 mile mark. How was it that a couple hours early I was all, "Yay! Only 11 miles to go!" and now three puny miles seemed like walking to Jupiter?

Then at 2 miles my shoulders were agony (wtf!?) and I tragically ran out of podcasts. Nooo! I dispensed my emergency cheery-up tunes, The Best of Blur. There's No Other Way! Damon sang. No shit. The jaunty tunes felt like mosquitoes spitting in my ears but at least got me moving and thinking, lets get this miserable stinker done.

Everything hurt for the last mile but I stayed ahead of the beat in Girls and Boys. It was the quickest one, just under 14 minutes, as I adopted an Olympic walker style – arms pumping, nostrils flaring, generally looking like I had a stick up my butt.

My legs turned to lead as soon as I finished. It took 11 minutes to limp that extra half-mile home. I nearly called Gareth to pick me up but I think my fingers would have been to swollen to press the right buttons.

When I got home all I could do was slump in my chair, whinge incoherently and wait for my hands to deflate. My normally too-big wedding band was stuck fast.


I am so glad that's over. Now there's just over a week til the big night. And then after that I shall avoid all forms of walking as much as possible. Rickshaws all the way.

20 miles (32 km) in 04:56:52. Average pace 14:50 (4.04 mph)