O Radiant Coupon

I was sitting on the couch yesterday morning with a cup of tea, unwashed and resplendent in baggy tracksuit pants and an old grey XXL hoodie.

Suddenly Gareth peered at me in a thoughtful manner and said, "You have a real glow today."

"Get out!" I snorted. He isn’t normally so… poetic.

"No really, you’re looking good! Your coupon is radiant!"

Scottish word of the day, folks: COUPON. It’s your face. You’ve got to pronounce like the Scots do; it’s not like those things you clip out of the newspapers for discounts. It sounds like coo’pn.

Anyway, I was chuffed that Gareth said I had a radiant coupon because I have been feeling rather radiant on the inside and it is nice that someone thinks it shows on the outside. I feel calm and focused; quietly determined and productive. I am faithfully following my exercise plan and feel stronger and fitter already. My eating has been the height of wholesomeness. So there.

Yesterday I rode a new beast at the gym called an Arc Trainer. Is anyone familiar with these? I thought it was going to be like a normal old cross-trainer machine but my thighs were burning! The resistance seemed much more gruelling. It almost felt like trudging up a hill and skiing at the same time. Normally I avoid cross trainers because they irritate my knee, but this one didn’t seem to be a problem. Score!

And finally, has anyone in the UK seen that godawful new Weight Watchers ad? They have all these people talking about an unseen woman and how FABULOUS she is now that she’s lost the pork with the Points. Her husband, her neice, etc. But then they show her beautician, who is wielding a wax strip as she says, "It takes half the time to do her legs now."

ARRRRRGH!

I have to admit, I now shave my legs in half the time it took in 2001. But still, I wonder how many people will see that ad and spring up from the couch, "Righto, that’s it! If I can get my legs waxed in half the time then I shall join the Twin Dubyas NOW!". I just hope they realise that just coz your legs are smaller doesn’t mean the Waxtress will charge you any less.

Think Thin!

I’m getting out the measuring cups, folks. I have officially declared this Watch Your Portions Week. I don’t have a problem eating the right kinds of foods, just a problem with eating too much of them. I am sure my brown rice portion is more suited to a family of four. A family of four gorillas. If gorilla families ate brown rice, that is.

Today I bought a small loaf of rye bread, a chunky doorstop of a thing. If you threw it at somebody’s head it might be fatal. I’ve always wanted to try the stuff, it looks so wholesome in a potential-deadly-weapon sort of way. But I toasted a thin slice and it was actually alright, although a little chewy. It went down nicely with an egg and spinach and grilled tomatoes and mushies. Hubba hubba.

In Scale news: there is no news. But I shall keep on keeping on! The exercise is alright and if I can get a handle on these portion sizes something will happen soon. I am feeling less flabby in the belly region so right now that’s good enough for me.

. . .

Thursday nights are sacred at Chez Dietgirl, well at least the precious minutes between 7.10 and 8 PM. The classic 60s series The Avengers is on BBC Four and we always tune in. It’s kitschy and hilarious and Gareth gets to perve on Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in her shiny leather trousers.

Last week’s episode was intriguingly titled, "How to Succeed… At Murder!" and featured a gang of Killer Secretaries that would bump off their bosses and take over their businesses. They would all meet up at HQ for briefings and fitness classes. You need more than shorthand to be a good killer secretary. There’s ballet and Strangulation 101 too.

Anyway, there was this fantastic sign in the classroom with the Killer Secretaries motto:

Sign

THINK THIN
TO BE SLIM IS TO BE SUCCESSFUL
NUBILITY = PROSPERITY

I thought of all the good folks in Fatblog Land and our constant search for words of motivation, so here are some more grainy screenshots.

Blondie

Blondie Secretary here strangled one guy with her stocking and shot another with a gun-shaped charm on her charm bracelet that was actually a REAL gun! All while thinking THIN!

Emma

Meanwhile our heroine Emma Peel doesn’t seem convinced by the sloganeering. She may be nubile, but working top secret for the British government hasn’t made her particularly prosperous.

Thin4

Here our hero John Steed is surrounded by leotard-wearing weapon-weilding Killer Secretaries. What is the collective noun for a bunch of Killer Secretaries? A tippex of Killer Secretaries? A memo? A staple? A shredder of Killer Secretaries? Anyway, power in slender numbers, gals!

Now even if you harbour no ambition to become a Killer Secretary, I’m sure you’ll agree these are words of wisdom and inspiration that can help you on your own lard-busting journey. A motto for life!

It Never Ends

This week’s episode of Real Story was about Slimmer Winners. They surveyed 70 women who’d won slimming competitions in various magazines and newspapers. You know — Success Stories, Slimmer of the Year, etc etc. If you hurry along to the BBC website you can watch the whole thing again right now.

It was the most bloody depressing thing I’ve watched in a long time.

Nicked from the website:

"An investigation into the weight loss habits of 70 slimmers showed that less than half had kept their weight off, with the remainder being overweight, obese or severely obese.

Moreover, eight out of the 70 demonstrated indications of bulimia and 10 showed signs of Binge Eating Disorder.

Fifty-one of them either binged or used compensatory behaviour in the past month, such as taking water tablets/laxatives and hard exercise.

Nearly three quarters of the champion slimmers had binged at least once – with some binging up to eight times – in the past month. "

I don’t want to dwell on the statistics, because there is only so much you can extract from a sample size of 70. And they really squeezed the absolute maximum stats from that 70. What had me close to tears was the people they interviewed.

  • A woman who’d gained back three stone (18kg/42lb) and was hypervigilant about weighing her food. They showed her weighing half a banana and she confessed sometimes she might chop off another tiny slice if she was feeling indulgent. She then said she even weighs SLICED BREAD, "Because even in a standard medium-slice loaf, some are thicker than others".
  • A woman who was Slimming World’s Yorkshire Slimmer of the Year who’d take some sort of water tablets the morning of her weigh-in to make her pee like mad, then she’d have to guzzle water as soon as she hopped of the scales so she could hydrate. She was also bullimic. She regained her weight then finally had gastric by-pass surgery last year.
  • An older woman who was a finalist in their 2004 Slimmer of the Year contest, who had gained back three stone and said she felt deeply ashamed and embarrassed.

It was the last lady that particularly made me want to bawl. I remember reading about her in Slimming, one the last issues I bought before I vowed never to buy it again, and thinking how radiant she looked. And now two years later here she was on telly all teary and fragile. She just so sad, ashamed and resigned that I wanted to smash through the screen and cuddle her.

I also felt this odd sense of despair, that she could be in her sixties and still be tortured by all this diet crap. I didn’t want to get to her age and still feel like that.

That’s when it hit me. It never ends.

Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Moe gets a facelift and becomes handsome and gets a role on the soap opera called It Never Ends? Well this food issue crap is like our very own drawn-out melodrama… It. Never. Bloody. Ends!

Real Story had all these quotes from the slimmers – they constantly thought about food, they’d just replaced obsessive calorie counting with obsessive exercise, they felt like their lives were ruled by food, they were scared of food, that the urge to binge was overwhelming. Sometimes we read these cheesy Success Stories and think they must have hit the jackpot then lived happily ever after in the size 8 pants, but in reality many just end up smaller with the same issues.

I got quite anxious watching the show, wondering if I was in the same boat. It’s not so much about the fear of regaining all the weight – I have maintained a large loss for a few years now. I am confident that while I will go off the rails now and then, I will not let it get out of hand. This is not me being cocky by any means, I just know I will never be a size 26 again.

It’s more about the emotional shit. That even if you get to a goal weight, it is still a struggle every day. That you constantly have to be vigilant about what you eat and wrestle the urge to binge. That you just think about food all the bloody time.

Like last weekend, we went to the Wickerman Festival. As soon as we pitched our tent I dragged Gareth into the main grounds… not to check out the different music tents but to check out the different FOOD VANS!

And my sister and I email each other about three times a day… a good 50% of those emails concern what we’re eating for lunch, what’s for dinner, what we ate yesterday and what we wish we didn’t eat yesterday and what we vow not to eat tomorrow.

Food, food, food.

It’s just a crappy, sinking feeling to realise that you will never be free of all this.

I got upset watching that show because I recognised those feelings of despair and desperation, but I do feel like I am in a better place than many of those women. They didn’t seem to be in touch with why they behaved that way. It also seemed they felt they had little power or control over their plight. I don’t feel that way anymore. I think with all this navel-gazing we do en blog, you start to learn about yourself and your mistakes.

I am quietly resigned to the fact that these fundamental eating issues will never go away, but I won’t let them dominate my life any more. As much as I hate to paraphrase Dr Phil, I don’t think it can be cured… just managed.

And I will never weigh a slice of bread.

Grain of Truth

Memo to Nestlé. You ain't fooling me with your Whole Grain shit.

We are being bombarded with adverts at the moment about how Nestle cereals now contain whole grain. Old family favourites like Cheerios, Shreddies and Fitnesse have been rejigged to add this wholesome goodness, involving "massive R&D resources and major changes… all while maintaining taste appeal". Well thank you for your hard work, Nestle! Cynical folks might think you're just capitalising on the current Whole Grain hype and desperate to make consumers think your cereals are healthy enough to keep buying, but I know it's because you care about us so much that you would put in all that effort to give us the grain.

Yeah right. Cheerios do contain whole grains, but they also contain a whole lot of other shite that maintains that precious "taste appeal":

Whole Grain Corn, Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Whole Grain Barley, Whole Grain Wheat, Whole Grain Rice, Corn Starch, Refiner’s Syrup, Corn Bran, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Colour, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Trisodium Phosphate, Monoglycerides, Tocopherols, Vitamins & Minerals: Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (vitamin B6) Folacin, Iron.

Whilever wholegrain is the new nutritrional wave the media choses to ride upon, companies are going to keep slapping it on their labels. It's all the rage in the States too, with Renee reporting on the new (baked with) 100% Whole Grain Chips Ahoy! Still loaded with fat and sugar with only marginally less calories than the original, these cookies were launched AT AN OBESITY CONFERENCE.

Meanwhile, the Wonder Bread folks have come out with a Wonder Bread Whole Grain White loaf, designed to appeal to Mums who want to give their kidlets whole grains but know their little bastards would refuse to eat grains. Now how the hell do you get a whole grain white loaf? From the article linked above:

Marion Nestle, a nutritionist at New York University, says the long list of dough conditioners necessary to give the new Wonder Bread its distinctive soft, mushy texture means it's hardly bread at all. "Bread is flour, water, yeast, salt. Period. This has something like 20 other ingredients. … Why not buy your kids real bread?"

It shits me no end that food companies are allowed to put such misleading claims on their products. Did you know a can of Heinz Baked Beans counts as one of your 5-A-Day vegetable portions? Never mind all the sugar and salt and whatnots they're swimming in. By this logic I may as well say ice cream is good for me because it contains calcium. These food labels may be technically true, but they can be grossly misleading. It makes things even more confusing for the average consumer who is already overwhelmed by choice and the latest health trends. Joe Bloggs of Lancashire might see Gillian Crackpot McKeith singing the praises of wholegains on the telly, so he goes to the supermarket and spies those Whole Grain Cheerios and think, "Rightio! That's the ticket!", and ends up sitting down to a bowl of wholegrain sugar and chemicals.

As usual, food manufacturers (and some media) are distorting what is actually sound nutritional advice. Whole grains ARE extremely good for you. But whole grains are pure, cheap and unprocessed – a bag of quinoa or barley is just some grainy stuff in a bag. That's not very exciting to the food manufacturers; where's the money in that? So they have to fiddle with their existing processed shite products to make them fit into the latest trend. Just as they did for the Low Fat trend of the 80s, and the Low Carb shebang of recent years. Low Fat and Low Carb were also good dietary concepts – a healthy diet should be low in saturated fat and low in refined carbs. But this translated into Fat Free Ice Cream and Carb Free Pasta which totally distorted the original ideas and simply ended up feeding us whole lot of shitty food full of chemicals and sugar.

I guess all we can do is learn how to read nutritional info panels on the back of the box, and ignore the brightly-coloured starburst exclamation marked!!! propaganda on the front. There is some good info here if you want to know more about what the hell wholegrains are, even though Nestlé are behind the site.

Okay, time to climb down from my hydrogenated high horse.

. . .

Are you sick of coming to this page and never seeing an update? Are you tired of my endless journey and find yourself wondering if I'll ever get there? Or are you just looking for a way to waste more hours on the internet? Well help is here, because I am going to tell you about a few of my favourite reads. I know I have a bazillion links on the sidebar but thought I'd highlight a couple that have been particularly inspiring for me lately. Not say the others aren't inspiring, but these are simply the blogs du jour. So don't get pouty.

  • Beverly lost over 180lb (can't remember exact number) a few years back and has kept it off. Her blog is now mostly focused on her day-to-day life now, but she has written some real gems about what it's like to lose a megaload of weight. This entry in particular got me all hiccuppy and sad yet so happy that someone understands.
  • I love love love the Born Again Gym Bunny. It's great when you find a blog you can really relate to – YP has lost a lot of weight, is around my weight now, exercises like a mofo, and lives in the UK! Best of all she is a runner extraordinaire and just did her first 10k. Stalking my way through her archives these past few days has been like a kick up the pants for me, remembering how simple hard work and CONSISTENCY bring fantastic results. I feel completely inspired and fired up now, which I really need before I leave for Australia. I am determined not to gain an assload of weight over there so I can come home and blitz off the rest. So thank you, Ms Bunny.

There are bazillions more but I will shut up for today. I am just glad that after all these years it is still so easy to find inspiration. It keeps me away from the vending machine, I tells ya.

I will probably squeeze in one more entry before we leave on Friday, and will sneak some in while we're away, so if you want to be informed of the dribbles of new content round here, don't forget you can join the Notify List or subscribe to my site feed. The links are there on the right. Woohoo!

Back In MY Day

There was a cracker of an article the last Observer Food Monthly about food in the Olden Days. They interview some senior cits about their memories of food and eating over the years. It’s fascinating stuff. We take for granted the absolute abundance of food choices we have today. During the war years these people ate the likes of powedered eggs and Mock Apricot Flan (made with carrots and margarine). Mmm mmm.

A great quote from 91-year-old Bill Deedes:

I don’t think it is the food people eat today which makes them unhealthy. I can’t blame the supermarkets or fast food. I blame it on the ubiquitousness of the motor car. We really don’t eat much more than people did in the18th or 19th centuries, but we need to learn that if you do moderately frequent exercise you can eat more or less whatever you want. We mustn’t put too much emphasis on what is eaten, rather on what activities are done. I go for walks in the wood and I drive golf balls in a field near my house most days.

Marguerite Patten, 88 was a home economist to the Ministry of Food during World War II. She used to go about the country doing cooking demonstrations to how to make the most of their food rations. This part in particular was food for thought:

Today, I think that we are a divided nation when it comes to food. Half of us love food and cooking and the other half subsist on ready meals. I have nothing against ready meals per se… but it does make me angry that we worked so hard to keep people healthy during the war, with so little food, and, now we have an abundance, a great number of people are nowhere near as healthy as they should be.

You can read the full article here.

. . .

Most of my gym classes are at 6pm, and since the gym is next to my bus stop I usually go straight there after work than going home first. I arrived at 5pm yesterday and instead of curling up on the lovely leather couches for my usual catnap, I thought maybe I should actually use that time productively. So I ventured into the cardio theatre.

I have been at that gym for about 16 months now, and had only been on the machines twice before. It just intimidated the hell out me, that endless grind of treadmills and skinny people all slick and shiny with sweat. But today I thought to hell with em! I am paying just as bloody much, I have the right to gallumph on a treadmill. I did 20 minutes on an incline, including five whole minutes of running!  I never really timed how long my bursts of running were when outdoors, so I was well pleased to see I could keep going. That ain’t no marathon, so stop laughing – but I had to save some energy for my Body Pump class! Also I didn’t have my running shoes on, I didn’t want to wreck my legs. So I hopped off and did 15 minutes on the elliptical machine. Fark! I’d forgotten how evil they were! By the time I shuffled into my Pump class my legs were jelly.

Needless to say the class hammered me. I hadn’t been for five weeks. Ouch. And the instructor was Kiwi Vanessa, who is officially The Best Instructor In The Universe. I think I have one of those non-sexual crushes on her. She is so nice but so tough so I can’t drop my weights coz I want to impress her. Ha ha! Anyway, she is totally bossy and prowls around the class correcting people’s form. I didn’t get corrected once, woohoo!

I have been taking Pump classes for close to three years now and I managed to pick up tips from her last night. She has the most incredible way of describing how these exercises are supposed to feel, how you should be moving. For example, in the Back/Hamstring track when you do the clean and press move, most instructors break it down by saying you do an upright row then flip the bar under, then up into the shoulder press. Which is correct, but as Vanessa pointed out, a lot of people end up finding their shoulders are doing their work, not the legs. So she suggested you don’t do a complete upright row, maybe just halfway, then when you turn the bar over and catch it, you let your thighs take the impact. So you’re almost in a squat position. Then when you push up, make sure your legs and arms straighten simultaneously to make sure it’s your legs doing the work. It is impossible to describe this but just that subtle change of not doing a complete upright row really made me feel a difference.

Another tip she had was about tricep press-ups. Instructors always give an alternative for normal press-ups, ie. on your knees, but they aren’t as good telling you what to do if you’re too weak to do tricep pressups. Vanessa actually gave a beginners variation so you can FEEL SOMETHING even if you’re a spazz like me. I had been mucking it up all this time.

I felt so inspired and happy after the gym last night! So did my sister. And unlike Tuesday night, (Return to Body Jam) I didn’t make a dick of myself. Tuesday night Vanessa was getting us to practice a samba move, a backwards step, and I stepped back alright – straight into a pile of Reebok steps. It is very hard to hide quietly up the back of a class when 30 people turn around to look who’s making that bloody racket.

You Are What You Eat

There’s this show on Channel 4 called You Are What You Eat.  The basic premise is you get two fat people with disgusting eating habits and a bossy nutritionist tells them what they’re doing wrong.  She leaves them with an eating plan and returns 8 weeks later to find they’ve lost weight, and HURRAH! Two reformed fatties are released back into society!

This show simultaneously fascinates and appalls me.  They have scoured the British Isles to uncover the most truly extreme cases of poor eating.  Last week’s couple would put seven sugar cubes in each cup of tea, and had a separate freezer just for their ice cream supply.  The folk on the week before fried their eggs in two inches of oil and each drank two litres of Coke a day.  The week before that was a family who had processed meat and ketchup sandwiches for lunch and take out for every dinner.  Their cupboards were stuffed with chocolates, cookies, cakes and crisps.  It was truly horrifying.

Dr Gillian McKeith is the bossy nutritionist in question.  She barges into the houses of these apparent freaks, ransacks their pantries and expresses her shock and disapproval at the complete lack of nutrition in their diet.  Then they get a table and lay out the food these people have eaten in a week, so they can be visually shocked by their own gluttony.  One family had gone through four litres of oil in a week.

Now that the fatties have been thoroughly chastised, Dr G gets them to poke out their tongues so she can tell them they’re lacking in all sorts of vitamins and must have no sex drive and raging PMS. She then gets them on the floor, shirts lifted, so she can prod their towering bellies and tell them their digestive systems are in crisis.  Then she whisks them off to a clinic for a colonic irrigation, where each week we’re subjected to their pained expressions as their crumbly fecal matter whimpers down a tube.

And that’s just before the first commerical break.  When we come back we get a shot of the couple in their bathing suits, the camera on the floor looking up as to make their bodies look as wide as possible.  Then Dr G sits them down to tell them, "Your poos are terrible! I’ve never seen such terrible poos! You have no fibre in your diet!".  When the fat people look suitably ashamed, Dr G says, "When I’m finished with you, your poos will be so great you will gather your family round to look at them!".

Just when I am ready to vomit we get a beautiful shot of another table full of food, this time all the wholesome stuff they will be eating for the next two months.  It looks gorgeous, oodles of fresh fruit and vegies and lentils, seeds.  Many of the couples have been prescribed vegetarian diets, while some had chicken and fish included.  In another piece of champagne televison, they always have footage of the fatties being spoonfed some lentil mush or pureed quinoa and cabbage (whatever).  They and always they gag and moan and exclaim, "I ent gonnae eat tha’!".  Then you’ll see them wrinkling up their noses at Dr G’s menus, complaining about the exercise, whatever makes them look the most pathetic and ungrateful and a reinforces the stereotype of fat people being miserable lazy bastards.

(Observation – have you noticed how Fat Brits on television are always portayed as prickly and defensive?  Compare and contrast with our large friends across the Atlantic.  Fat Americans will break down and cry on the shoulder of a TV psychologist and say, Yes! I am fat and weak and I had a terrible childhood. I surrender, please help me! — whereas Fat Brits on telly tend to be cranky, proud of their beer/lard diet and full of hiss and crackle when Experts try to tell them what to do.)

Next up we have footage of the people muddling through the week and generally cocking it up, all accompanied by a smarmy, condescending, Hehe Get A Load Of These Hopeless Fatties voiceover.  Then Dr G pays a "surprise visit" to see how they’re doing and give them a patronizing lecture in her bossy Scots accent, "If you don’t do what I say, you will have no sex drive and/or YOU WILL DIIIIEEE!". 

So then they make a begrudging effort and find themselves actually quite enjoying their new diet.  There’s all of thirty seconds dedicated to this part of the process, then you get magic wand noise and voila, it’s Week 8, and look at them now! 

Dr G drops by to see how her minions are doing.  "Oh my GAWD!" she trills, "LOOK at you.  You’re a whole new PERSON!"

Cue the former fatties, awkwardly spinning round and grinning into the camera. They almost always seem to have lost two to three stone (about 30-40 lb) and look fantastic.  The makeover and new hairdo courtesy of Channel 4 certainly helps their cause.

"So Mrs and Mrs Fatty," chirps Dr G,  "Eight weeks ago you were staring death in the face.  But look at you now! Do you feel good?"
"Oh we feel GREAT.  We have SO much energy."
"And your sex drive?"
"Oh we fuck like rabbits, at least twice a day."
"And your poos?"
"Solid as a rock."

Dr G asks if they will continue with her regime and of course they chime in, "Yes Dr G".  Satisfied, she hops back onto her broomstick and disappears down the dingy suburban street in search of her next victim.  Roll credits.

Now like I said, I tune in every week.  And I like her diet plans, they are reasonable and full of delicious food.  They’re not extreme, they’re something you could follow for life.  I admire her attempt to try and help Brits eat better while simultaneously flogging her book.  I think her heart is in the right place.  I just worry about what happens to these people once Dr G is out of their lives.  Has she really taught them anything?  Has their mindset changed?  Do they know how to carry on this new lifestyle without her spontaneous checkups?

They look so pleased with themselves, all brimming with optimism and growing confidence, but they worry me.  When asked if they’d keep the new regime, one lady said, "Of course.  But not as strict, like Dr Gillian.  I’m really missing gravy…"

And another episode, where a fat family was apparently reformed, they asked the kids how they were coping.

"I miss McDonalds. And Burger King."
"And KFC," chimed in another kid.
"I think we should just have it once a month."
"Or once a week, maybe."
"Yeah."
"Or maybe just once a day."
"Yeah"

I worry what happens when the cameras have gone away.

I’m also troubled by the extreme cases they show.  When you see the list of what these people ate in a week scrolling down the screen (6 packets chocolate biscuits, 20 loaves white bread, 10 hamburgers, 12 litres soda), the average viewer at home is squealing, "Oh my god! That is disgusting! Well, at least I’m not that bad," then reaches for their own bag of chips.

By showing these extremes I think many people will think they’re off the hook.  I know I’ve done it myself. I know a lady who’s a bit of a serial dieter. She’s dumped Weight Watchers and now she’s on Atkins.  She was blabbing on about how Atkins really works and she can eat her roast peppers and beef for lunch and no carbs.  So I look at the "meat" she is eating and it is some processed schnitzel type thing, coated in some hodge podge of crumbs, sugar, spices and E numbers.  Carb free, my arse.

Of course, I am all smug there with my salad roll and thinking, "Well jeez, I’m not that bad," and ignoring the fact I ate half a block of chocolate the night before (albeit dark) and slept in and missed my Pump class.  It’s all very well to be horrifed by someone else’s eating habits, but one really needs to watch what you’re putting in your own gob and what it’s doing to you.

The Way We Eat

Interesting article today called The Way We Eat Now. [via kottke]

I don’t know about you, but I know personally that I need to stop bullshitting myself. The western world needs to stop bullshitting itself. Think about how much eating has changed over the past couple of decades.  We have ever-increasing easy access to really crap food and so many of us are just scarfing it up. It’s not the way the human body was designed to live.

I think about how much things have changed even since I was a kid. Now there’s vending machines in the workplace, fast food joints galore, stores are open longer. When I grew up on our farm we did the grocery shop once a week and when that ran out, well, "have a apple, have a glass of water", said my mother. We didn’t run down the shops for a chocolate bar. A chocolate bar was a rare treat, yet I know people here at work who have one every day with their morning coffee, thanks to the handy vending machine. And this is after breakfast of a bacon and egg roll – the Hot Roll Man delivers fresh greasy rolls right to our office every morning. Or they snack on so-called healthy "cereal bars", 93% fat free but full of fructose and hydrogenated vegetable oil. For many people, overeating has become so ingrained in our culture and lifestyles we just think it’s the normal way to be.

But when you get down to it, I have a choice, and so do my colleagues. We’re middle class, reasonably educated folk who know enough and who can afford to eat healthily if we make an effort to make it part of our busy lives. What saddens me about the article is the correlation between income/education and obesity level. It’s far cheaper to feed a family on calorie-dense, highly refined foods, as opposed to fresh vegies, fruit, meat, fish. It’s certainly cheaper in the UK, I imagine it’s the same in the States.

The article goes on to talk about the effects of advertising help to create a bigger market that needs more crappy food to sustain itself. Think of the amount of money spend on food advertising compared to the paltry amount spent on nutrition education. How can it compete?

I think the article is informative and balanced, not the usual sensational bullshit you get on the obesity issue. But it just disturbs me, I am resisting the urge to rant on about it. I worry about the world, coz I only see this problem getting worse until we start tackling the issue in a serious, sensitive and intelligent manner.

. . .

My sister and I have put on a few pounds in the last couple of weeks, it’s that whole cycle I mentioned in my last entry. We received a box of clothes from our Mum last night. She’d done some shopping for us back in Oz. My stuff was all size 16 – the tops fit but the pants were too tight in the stomach area. I took off the pants and threw them to the ground and yelled, "WHY AM I SO BLOODY FAT!"

And my sister smiled replied, "Because you’re just like me. We eat too much crap and our gym attendance is patchy."

I just felt so bloody angry with myself coz I know I’ve been idly buying those bacon rolls and chocolate bars these past two weeks – I’ve been tired and busy and not at home so I didn’t prepare my usual healthy food. Instead I went for the easy-access crap just like in that article.

It just goes to show, it is hard work to be healthy. It a conscious decision that needs constant monitoring. We’re all so freaking busy these days but you have to find time to plan and purchase the right things – to have the fruit on your desk, the almonds in your drawer, the yoghurt in the fridge – so there’s no need to make bad choices.

. . .

When I got home from my two gym classes on Monday I was buzzing. I felt so happy, so motivated, so proud of my body. I felt like I could anything with my life. I wasn’t thinking of food. All I could think of was my next trip to the gym and what I’d do and how I’d push myself further.

It was a feeling of utter contentment and peace. To be honest, the only other time I feel like that is after a good round of bedroom gymnastics, I tell you. If I could hold on to that positive feeling and carry it with me throughout the day, I wouldn’t feel the need for chocolate or cheese sandwiches. I would be invincible.

So the solution is clear. More sex, more exercise.

I Want To Live In America

The muck continues to flow from my nose, and the coughs just keep on coming, so I skipped the gym again last night. I was twitching to go back but every time I went to practice some moves my head felt so fuzzy I thought I’d keel over, so I stayed in and read my Slimming magazine.

I am determined to go back on Monday though, dammit. I am having Body Jam withdrawls. You know you’re addicted when you practice dance steps at the bus stop. My sister and I gave a nice performance outside the supermarket the other night. It was one of the hiphop tracks, made all the more authentic by my three-sizes-too-big jacket and Dangerous Thug woollen beanie.

Anyway, back to Slimming magazine. I rush out and buy it every month so I can spend an evening comparing  myself to the success stories, stewing in my feelings of inadequacy and envy. That woman lost 5 stone in 6 months?! Why can’t I lose that quick? Or she started losing at the same time I did, so why aren’t I done yet? Or, she is WAY too skinny now. Or, look at the way she’s posing, she’s hiding her bat-wing arms. Or, her calves are still huge. Or, she hasn’t done any exercise, so I may be taking longer but at least I’ll be more toned.

Or every now and then I might actually read one of these stories and say, "Oh cool, good for her, that’s great!".

Numbers are evil, this much we all know. Why just the other day I was waiting at the bus stop all innocent-like, and a great big number 3 and 7 came up behind me and demanded I hand over my purse.

No, really. If we’re not getting distraught about the scale it’s the sizes on our clothing labels. Still, when the numbers go down one can’t help getting excited. The other day my sister got some clothes from a mail order place. She’d ordered a size 14 top and it was too big for her. That’s when we realised the clothes were American sizes, not British. I tried the top on for a laugh, and blow me down, it fitted perfectly.

It was a bizarre experience, I stood there gawking in the mirror, saying, "Holy CRAP! My tits are enormous! Where did they come from?". I was getting all upset until my sister pointed out that they were the same bazookas as before, just my decreasing waist meant they were more distinct these days. Also my other tops are getting a bit baggy around the waist, so I couldn’t really see my shape until I wore something that fitted properly.

Anyway. Bloody hell, kids. I want to move to the States. The numbers are much better for ones self esteem. I remember when I arrived in the UK a year ago, I was wearing my plus-size 18 clothes from Australia – so I nearly had a nervous breakdown at H&M when I could barely squeeze into Brit a size 24.

These days, I generally fit into a (non-plus) size 18 (in some of the more generous stores the 18 is getting roomy). But in good ol’ USA, dude, I could get myself into a 16! Or a 14 as in the case of the Hello Boobies top. I could really see that helping me keep my will to live when I hit the shops. In Britain they seem intent on destroying my soul.

Love Your Vehicle

Guess what? Someone finally noticed!

Crikey, and it’s only been nearly six months. I went home to see the folks this weekend. First I saw Mum, who knows I’ve been on this health kick, but hadn’t seen me for two months. She’s the kind of woman who never shuts up, so it was amusing to see her standing on at the gate with her mouth opening and shutting like a goldfish. "Uh.. ooh… hmmm… uh.. uhh.. look at you!". She went on and on for ten minutes before she even noticed I’d got a haircut and foxy blonde streaks. Then coz she knew I’d reached the 30 kilo mark, she gave me huge bunch of flowers – white daisies with bright red and orange gerberas – to celebrate. She really has been so supportive. I love her to bits. It’s amazing how our relationship has changed over the years.

Then I went and visited my grandmother. She’s the kind of lady that doesn’t dish out compliments unless they’re really deserved. So when she said to me, "Helloooo, somebody’s lost some weight!", I grinned madly. FINALLY someone who didn’t know about my efforts ACTUALLY NOTICED! It was brilliant!

This morning I am pleased to report that the snugly fitting pants Mum gave me on my last trip home (the beginning of May) are now floating round my waist. I have to pull them up a good couple of inches above my belly button so they stay up. Woohoo!

Watched two TV shows this weekend that really got me thinking. The first was a British show that follows round some overweight folks and their struggles to lose weight. I use that evil word struggle because that’s what most of those people seemed to be doing. To me they just didn’t seem to be in that ZONE, that state of mind you reach where you quit making excuses and just start putting in the effort. Also, I was alarmed by the lack of support these people had. One big guy’s wife would roll her eyes at him and tell the camera that he "hadn’t been very good" and didn’t think he’d lose anything. How rude! A little love and support from her would have went a long way.

Another guy was REALLY big, at least 400lb I’d say. He was a really sweetie and very determined to lose his extra weight. He’d made a big decision to have surgery to reduce the size of his stomach, so desperate was he for results. He was full of determination and optimism when he went under the knife. He came out okay, but two days later he died of a massive blood clot.

He died! I couldn’t believe it!

I had this really sick feeling in my stomach after that. It hit me hard that being overweight can kill you. I know he had that surgery and it was risky, but he was so desperate that he thought it was his only chance. Just six months ago I was gaining weight so rapidly, I could have been heading for that stage. I know my health was at risk. I’m so glad I reached that point to say "enough is enough". He wasn’t even that old, he had a wife and kids, and he died.

The thought of that happening to me is terrifying. And to think I came so close, I really was out of control. I felt like I wasn’t in charge of my life one little bit. But now, oh wow. I have plans, people. I have things I want to do, places I want to see, and I am going to be healthy enough to do it all.

The second show was called Good Girls Do Swallow, a TV special by this wonderful woman who wrote a book with the same name. It was all about women and body image. I felt so good after watching it, I wish I could hug that woman and tell her what a champion she is.

The blurb about the book goes like this:

"Between the ages of 17 and 31, Rachael Oakes-Ash lost 63kg and gained 76kg on a roller-coaster of body image problems and food obsession. She went through anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, gym mania, strict dieting and binge eating before she finally figured out how to stop torturing herself and hating her body."

I’m sure oodles of women can relate to that. Just about all of them. Have you ever had a female friend that has never been on a diet, whined about her body, etc etc? I don’t know a single one, personally. Anyway, I think I heard this Rachael chick say on the show that’s she’s now a size 16 (US size 14) and doesn’t diet anymore. She looks just fabulous and oozes charm and sassiness and just looks nice and comfy with herself. How brilliant is that?

The show had a lot of women who’d had eating disorders. It was horrible to hear them talk about how poorly they thought of themselves. One girl even told herself she was worse than Hitler or Mussolini. Good lord.

I really don’t think there’s much difference between obesity and anorexia, except for a helluva lot of pounds. All the extreme feelings they had about themselves, I felt as an obese person. It’s sad and disturbing how much time we waste being obsessed with our body image and hating ourselves. It’s exhausting! It’s pointless! Why do we do it?

I’m not saying I don’t do that anymore. If you look back through my archives you’ll probably notice a nice pattern where once a month I seem to be totally doom and gloom about myself an my body. I don’t think there’s any avoiding that. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when it feels like someone’s taken a jackhammer to your ovaries!

But for the large part, I totally dig myself these days. Like, totally, whatever. Hehehe.

While this show was saying you should accept yourself no matter what your size, I think you can apply that philosophy to weight loss. For the sake of my health, I really do need to lose weight, I am very overweight for my height. But that does not mean I should not be happy and proud of my body RIGHT NOW.

I’m a size 24 going on 22, I am still 52 kilos + overweight, but I’m okay! I don’t think of this caper in terms of Losing Weight any more. It’s now about Feeling Good About Me. I have wasted so many years of my life telling myself how fat and ugly and useless I was, and where did it get me? Nowhere. "You’re so right, brain!" I would reply. "I’m doomed, therefore I will eat two Quarter Pounders and a family block of chocolate!"

The more I started thinking good things about myself, and the more I stopped thinking Food Is The Enemy, the easier this whole caper became. It’s really that simple. If I want to eat half a cheesecake, all I do know is think, "Is that going to make me feel good? No really. Think about it." and for the most part I realise, No, I am going to feel like a whale, a whole pod of whales stapled together in fact. So I don’t eat it. Or perhaps I will have just a small piece instead. If I do, I won’t punish myself for doing it. Food’s great, y’know? I just don’t go crazy about it anymore.

You have but one body, people, so you gotta treat it well. It’s the vehicle that carries round your brain, the brain that carries round those bad, bad thoughts about yourself. Train your brain to think nice, nice thoughts about yourself. You have to learn to love your vehicle. Food is just the fuel to keep it going, it’s not an evil demon that you need to struggle with. And don’t worry about other vehicles with better looking paint-jobs or smoother bodies. Love your vehicle as it is RIGHT NOW, spare tyres and all. Next thing you know your vehicle’s looking good, and you feel fantastic. You are cruising down the highway of life, and you are by-passing all the McDonalds drive-thrus.

(Damn. That’s an overloaded analogy if I ever heard one.)