New Years Goals Check-in: August

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

Not posting an August update on September 15 is a sure fire sign that August was rather rubbish and I wanted to get my act together before writing again!

In summary: exercise good, eating not good for latter half of the month. I dunno what to say, things have been messy around here and I pretty much temporarily abandoned the Basic Tools o' Healthy Living. I didn't register it properly until I hopped on the scales and saw I was five pounds up, wiping out months and months of slow and steady progress. I'd almost forgotten how quickly I can stack it on if I stop paying attention. It reminded me of a rapid gain five years ago:

"You're like a Marvel comic," said the Scottish Companion in awed tones… "The Amazing Expanding and Contracting Woman!"

The déjà vu lead to a Spiral of Blogging Doom…

Downward-spiral-of-bloggingAt the pointy end of the Spiral is Blogging Paralysis. Have you ever experienced this condition? It's where you stare blankly at the computer with imaginary reader voices swirling around your head…

Janet

  • Random Person A: "You're being too tough on yourself!"
  • Random Person B: "You need to get tough with yourself!"
  • Anonymous: "HA HA told u you'd fail and ur still failing… lardy!"
  • Ex-Boyfriends: "Good lord, I totally dodged a bullet"
  • Work Colleagues: "That explains the crumbs on the keyboard"
  • Gareth: "Typo in paragraph three"

While struck dumb, blog wise, I've been getting back into the swing of things. A few rough weeks does not mean doom. I need to keep working on why my Mega Stress repsonse still seems to be… Stop Doing The Healthy Things. But just focusing on the helpful actions: exercise no matter what, cosy porridge to start the day off right, back to the food diary, tuning into the hunger, getting enough sleep. Yes I feel like a nong to still be writing about this stuff, but I guess this is how it is. Fall down, get up, repeat til the end?

Cycletta: 7 weeks to go!

Time flies when you're huffing and puffing up hills in the very lowest gear… only seven weeks til the Cycletta bike ride!

There is now route information on the website:

Cycletta North's 38.5km route is somewhat deceptive. Unlike its sister in the South, Cycletta North is a series of gradual inclines and declines, turns and straights, so you'll have to keep your wits about you and push throughout.

Dagnabbit! I swear I'd read before, "gently undulating hills". It must have been either wishful reading or I'd read the Cycletta South blurb by mistake. Oh well. There's still seven weeks to go. And 38.5km is a whole 1.5km less than originally thought, even if it the route requires wit-keeping and pushing throughout.

Besides, there is a refreshment stop half way round the course. It's not the Olympics! It is a fun and friendly event. And so far the training is doing exactly what I was hoping it would do – making me not dread getting on the bike. It can be quite exhilarating at times… the wind in my hair, the pollen up my nose; eyes blurry with hayfever tears…

Aside from being unable to get up a hill without using all the gears, the descending also needs work. Braking the entire way down can't be doing the brakes any favours. And my right calf is forever streaked with grease as I seem to press it into the chain on the way down, as if that will stop me flying over the handlebars. No matter how many times Gareth tells me this will not happen ("You are not above the laws of physics!") I can't let go!

New Years Goals Check-in: July

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

July highlights

  • Exercise consistency – giddyup! July's initial motivation was a slight SHAME JOB! feeling – the Summer Up & Runners have been busting their arses 3x week and I didn't want to feel slack! But the motivation is now, "coz it feels good and it makes me less grumpy". Can't go wrong with that.
  • Cycletta training – I had a few weekends away so alas it was mostly on the spinning bike, but I was consistent and I can feel my fitness improving.
  • Seeing a lovely osteopath about my dodgy knee and lower back – after "working around" the pain for about five years. Good to finally understand what's going on.

July lowlights

  • Feeling rotten after the first osteopath visit due to these humbling realisations:
    • the obesity/weight loss/regain rollercoaster has taken its toll on the bod
    • denial/"working around" the problem for years made the knee so much bloody worse than it had to be
    • kickboxing is off the cards for now.

But I got past the gloom pretty quick, and now focusing on what I CAN do. It doth suck that kickboxing and kettlebells are out for the momemnt (all the squat-esque kettlebell moves anyway)… but Pilates, cycling and upper body weights are IN, baby!

I might look into a punching bag to help with the kickboxing withdrawals. Or just gently clobber Gareth to save money. Not really. Don't call the cops!

August plans: Cleaner eating. There's no getting round the fact that my joints would be happier if I was 20 kilos lighter. I've held steady the past two months and I'd like to make some more progress now. No crazy schemes, just making sure I check in with those portion sizes and hunger signals. I slackened off with that a bit in July.

New Years Goals Check-in: June

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

We're 50% done with 2011! 

June highlights

  • Kettlebell Love. Wow that weird lump of iron makes you feel like such a badass. But a lot of the love is for lazy reasons. There's only one item to deal with: no faffing around switching plates on a barbell or putting dumbbells away afterwards. Makes it easier to get past the "I don't wanna" tantrums!
  • Bike Non-Hate. I cycled up my very first hill without stopping this month. I know most people achieve this when they're 8 years old, but one must celebrate the victories. I had to use the very lowest gear but at least I got up the bloody thing. I attribute the attitude improvement to this wee cycling computer. Now I can geek out on how fast (okay, how slow) I am going and how far I've been.
  • Six months of Food Mood Journal Spreadsheet completeness. Nerdgasms ahoy!
  • Six months of not gaining weight and actually very slowly losing, without being an obsessed dieting crazy lady. That feels great after steadily expanding for so long.

June lowlight

  • I completely unravelled for about ten days. There have been some challenging times lately and I managed to carry on with the mindful habits for a good while, but for awhile this month I lost it. It started innocently with running out of yogurt for breakfast leading to me deciding to buy a pastry from Starbucks, then a chocolate after lunch, then skipping a few workouts, then feeling really crap then just wallowing that feeling. And while being aware of exactly why I felt crap (which is progress in some ways), I decided to continue feeling crap by making poor choices, not planning meals, ignoring hunger signals and not pausing to think before I ate.

The positives: I've returned to the healthy habits so much faster than previous setbacks. I'm back to Tuning In and the meal planning is sorted so July is looking better.

Mid-Term Review
It's been a modest kind of year so far. But when I think about my mental state and the inability to breathe in my jeans back on January 1, it feels like real progress.

July plans

  • Improved consistency with strength training – twice a week minimum. Need to remember how much I enjoy it when thinking of ditching it for a cuppa and a book!
  • Cycling cycling and more cycling. There's only three months til Cycletta, eep.

Hope you're all well… thank you gazillions for reading. Apologies for the cobwebs on the blog lately!

New Years Goals Check-in: May

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

I'm a wee bit stunned that I've made it to a fifth New Years Goals Check-In. Part of me thought it would have all gone to pot by now! But I guess keeping the goals small and sane has ensured they are do-able.

May highlights

  • The biggest highlight was, derr, the Fitbloggin conference. For both the people I met and the feeling of renewed enthuasism for living that I left with. Holy cornballs, Batman. But after a year or two in the wildnerness, the stinky depression and the utter disconnection from my body, I finally felt like I was all joined up again. I felt like I was actually there. Cool.
  • I accidentally started salsa lessons! My pal Claire and I went to try a new Zumba class this week and they had a special offer – stay for the salsa class afterwards for only £1. We's planned to dash off to kickboxing afterwards but I've always wanted to try salsa so I put down that extra pound. BARGAIN!
  • The class went on and on for 90 minutes and with the hectic hour of Zumba beforehand I was utterly knackered but it was so much bloody fun. I was so busy trying to follow the steps that the time just zapped by. Four days later my hip and stomach muscles are still singing!
  • I'm definitely back into those size 18 jeans. Although I bought new jeans from a different shop the other day and they were a 20. So the labels are meaningless as we have recently bitched about, but the takeaway here is that a pair of jeans that couldn't be wrestled over my stomach in January now fit great.
  • I went to the USA for a week and lost a pound. Last time I went to the USA for a week I gained ten pounds. Progress!
  • The food diary, meal planning, consistent exercising and pause-to-think-before-eating are still going well.

June is going to be about blowing the dust and rust off my bike, dabbling with kettlebells and testing the limits of the food processor with vast amounts of instant frozen yogurt. What are you getting up to this month?

New Year Goals Check-In: April

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. ONE THIRD of 2011 is now done and dusted!

The lovely Jennette wrote on her blog today:

I have often wondered if someone who's lost a ton of weight has to become a fitness and health fanatic for the rest of their life to keep it off, or if they can just integrate it into a normal part of the life that is not any more or less important than other things in their life.

Recently I was emailling with some podcast listeners about the Maintenance episode and we were pondering pretty much the same thing. The thought of having to be "hardcore" for the rest of your life was just totally depressing, quite frankly. But I've been thinking about it and I reckon what I've been doing this year is sustainable and realistic – healthy but not hardcore.

Sure, progress is happening at a glacial pace and thus I too shall be fat at Fitbloggin next week (loved Jennette's post there – ditto to all that!). But I feel so peaceful and positive right now, and a helluva lot happier than I did when I got to my so-called Happy Weight a few years ago.

Reasons why:

  • I'm not constantly thinking about food
  • I no longer feel like I'm on any sort of wagon, poised to fall off at the slightest wobble
  • I'm getting better every day at pausing before I eat to decide whether I am really hungry
  • I no longer fear losing control around food
  • There's no good or bad foods anymore. I'm starting to observe how different foods make me feel and choosing accordingly. Lately my body makes the choices more often than my mind, if that makes sense!?
  • I can now recognise when I am feeling upset or angry or tired rather than hungry. Sometimes I still eat anyway, but the ability to pinpoint the real emotion just plain rawks!
  • I'm getting better at doing what I need to do to feel sane and happy and not worrying about what others may think
  • I am getting better at being honest with myself e.g. Are you really sooooo busy or just can't be arsed to go kickboxing? 
  • I'm getting better at dealing with problems and issues as they arise, instead of letting them rot and/or eating to supress the feelings.

All this progress feels SO HUGE to me but the changes aren't quite as big on the outside yet. I have no idea where all this will lead in terms of my size. I feel it is more important to keep working on the problem, rather than the symptom. The emotional eating, not the weight loss. I don't want to screw that up and get all obsessive just to get back into The Jeans of 2007.

I'll be honest. I would like to lose some weight, simply to have more choice of clothes and to have less wobbles in the way when I exercise. But I am prepared to be patient and focus on being consistent and sane. Ahhhhhhhh 🙂

April highlights (aside from the Zumba ferret dude of course):

  • I hit my goal of exercising consistently, until the 'flu and a very loud and annoying cough slayed me in the last week
  • I hit my goal of consistently planning meals. Amazing how that half an hour of effort every fortnight brings so much freaking CALM and order to everyday life
  • I lost a grand total of one pound
  • Food diary is still humming along. I tell you it is so satisfying to a spreadsheet lover to see four months of entries filled in!

Hope your May is going smashingly so far!

New Year Goals Check-In: February

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. 1/6th of 2011 is gone. Yikes.

Once again I'm late with the monthly update. Aside from feeling lame talking about this stuff with earthquakes and tsunamis going on, I've also been in the kind of overly emotional mood where it's best to steer clear of blogging. The kind of mood where one says or does ill-advised things, as per this hilarious tweet I saw from writer Sali Hughes:

Playsuit
February was a good month with some nice small victories.

  • I spent a long weekend in Paris with Dr G (my birthday gift to him – "Here, have an Easyjet ticket! Yeah, I'm coming too!" Everyone's a winner.) and I didn't put on any weight. Blow me down with a feather, I ate mindfully in the land of pastry and cheese.
  • I started a Pilates class! For the past four years I've pined for the weekly class we had when I worked at the House of Sport. I finally found a place on a Beginners course (yep, back to Beginner level, d'oh) and really loving it.
  • I lost a couple of pounds.
  • Food diary still going strong.

Things that didn't go as well:

  • Very inconsistent with exercise in the early part of the month.
  • Got sloppy with meal planning post Paris. It really helps to buy some bloody groceries!

I am happy with my glacial progress. I'm working more on the exercise and planning this month, but overall it feels like I'm devoting the right level of brain power to the task. There are still the PMS-y moments of I should do more panic, but I know that would mean taking away time and energy from other parts of my life and would no doubt trigger nutty behaviour and serious overeating. So I'll keep plodding along.

It felt like amazing progress to walk around in Paris and not have my guts knotted with regret for stuffing my face nor fear that I'd blown a diet. Instead, somehow I was able to switch off the lard-related chatter in my brain and focus on being there. It sounds cheesy but for the past few years I've not properly savoured some really cool moments because I was too caught up in angstypants thoughts.

This time I tried to focus on all five senses, not just taste. The tiny details of the Notre Dame. The echo of our voices when the river boat went under a bridge. The bright smell of a Vietnamese dinner. The flaky pastry of a chausson aux pommes dissolving on my tongue. The icy night air in my lungs as I raced Gareth around the Louvre pyramids on our bike tour. Gareth's yelp of pain when I accidentally rode too close and stabbed him with my handlebar. The unfortunate stink of that dog poo I failed to ride around.

Good times, people. Good times!

Louvre
This photo is rubbish but you get the idea!

New Year Goals Check-In: January

I thought I'd do a monthly update on my New Year Goals. 1/12 of 2011 is already gone, by crikey! Well, a wee bit more now since it's taken me til February 10 to write the update.

I'll probably be mowed down by a bus for admitting this, but January was great. I can't believe that I'm actually feeling positive, purposeful and full of hope. It's been years since I felt like this. Years since I sincerely cared. Years since I properly wanted to, and believed, that I can make changes and see things through. I dunno why it's happened but I like it!

It feels different this time though, because the motivations are healthier. I'm doing this for me and not fretting about what other people think*. Not like 2001 with the "must lose weight to be a presentable member of society" feeling or the panicky "must lose weight to be bookworthy" angst of the last few years. Every day when I decide how to spend my time it's all, Righto Shaundogg! What do you want to do? What will make you feel best, mind and body?

Well! I don't want to get all woo-woo touchy-feely now, so let's bust out some bullet points.

  • Food Diary – completed 41 days on the trot now!
  • Exercise – focusing on fun rather than punishing regimes. After a year of hiding in the Beginners group or not going at all, I'm back at the "Big Girls' Class" at kickboxing, which is my pal Claire's nickname for the Advanced class. I can't keep up with the prize fighters but huffing along regardless and the old kickboxing love is returning.
  • Meal planning – why the bloody heck did I ever stop doing this? It's ace having all the meals and tasty snacks sorted. Knowing my true love Green & Blacks is waiting in the pantry at home helps me back away from lesser confections.
  • Accountability – I've said to friends and colleagues, "Well, as you know I've stacked on some weight; but now I'm back on track so that's why I'm laying off the cakes". Saying it out loud has been very helpful and refreshing.
  • Mindfulness Stuff – Ace! Recently I had the most ratty rat arse of a day at work. My heart thumped and my cheeks burned with crankiness. Then a thought popped up: "This is the moment when you usually head to the vending machine or go out and buy something decadent for lunch to take the edge off."

    It was gobsmacking to recognise the feeling BEFORE I'd mindlessly munched a chocolate bar. I went outside for some fresh air, pulled cranky faces at a tree (dunno where that came from) and felt a little better. When you've been trapped in a fog of emotional eating for so long, it is amazing to realise you can ride out a shitty feeling; that you don't have to distract yourself from it.

  • Random January Consumption Statistics: 28 tangerines, 16 bowls of porridge, 33 slices of bread, 94 cups of tea!

* There was one January moment of worrying about what other people thought. Surprise surprise, during the throes of PMS. Out came the Ghost of Diets Past: You could do better! You should cut more calories! Bust some serious poundage before Fitbloggin so you're not so lardy in front of the Americans!

But we'll have none of that! The calm and steady approach must continue. The blinkers are off and I'm cool with where I am right now, in a daggy size 20 pair of jeans, and I'll slowly work my way down…

(Yes, size bloody 20. Remember in the Spreadsheets entry where I wrote about my size 18 party dress being too tight? I thought later, "how about I just admit the size 18 jeans are starting to cut off my circulation too?". I bought a bigger pair the next day. It was soul-crushing to see that number on the tag, but much more comfy!)

… So there will be no miracle transformation in time for Fitbloggin. I'm building a good, sustainable set of tools here and I'm not going to muck that up. I did lose a few pounds in January but that's not the focus. It's all about a healthier relationship with food and practicing the mindfulness malarkey. I doooooo not want to get crazy obsessive and make my whole life about weight loss like I did back in 2001. There are more important and fun things to do; more productive uses for my energy.

February has also been good thus far. The plan is to just keep on trucking. I know I'll get back to my happy weight all in good time. GIDDYUP!

Ten years ago today…

… I was in Canberra, Australia, bawling my heart out on the scales at Weight Watchers then racing home to write about it on an anonymous patch of internet. Today I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, significantly smaller, allegedly wiser and meeting my friend and former virtual running coach Julia in person for the first time. Memo to concerned citizens of 2001: turns out the internet is not entirely full of perverts and axe murderers!

My mind boggles when I think how much has changed since that gutwrenching day Down Under. This blog has been a great companion through the ups and downs. All week long (between the flood watching and workplace panic) I was mentally composing spectacular, deeply poignant commemorative posts… but in typical fashion I never got round to writing anything.

Now it's late and I'm a wee bit red wine merry, so I will just say how glad I am to have grown older and realised that there is so much more to me and life than the size of my jeans. And a huge thank you to everyone who has stopped by over the past ten years. Thank you for all your comments and emails and friendships and ideas and all-round goodness. It has truly been a blast.

There Will Be Spreadsheets

Happy new year comrades! Hope your 2011 is off to a cracking start.

Things were rather crapful, healthwise, in the last six weeks of 2010. I was about as mindful as bulldozer! While there was some brilliant bits (good times with friends and family, progress on a groovy new web project) but there were also very messy bits – workplace madness, my 6th major cold of the year and the re-emergence of that old self-destructive streak. I dropped the ball completely and just did not have any interest in looking after myself. I took to hiding in the bath tub with the bubbles a foot high so I could pretend I didn't have a body. Next thing my rubbish bin was jangling with the sound of foil wrappers from chocolate coins and the size 18 dress I reluctantly wore for a summer wedding was now too tight to wear to a party. D'oh.

Strategy I've come out the other side now after a couple of weeks off work and some time to rest and think. I learned so much in 2010 with the shrink visits and mindfulness stuff – many lightbulbs went off. But I wasn't able to translate those lightbulbs into meaningful, lasting changes.

The missing element was a plan. It's not enough to realise you have work to do – you have to figure out how the hell you're going to do it. Otherwise I could see myself muddling on forever, slightly more aware of why I do the things I do, but still bloody doing them!

So it was time for action. I spent Boxing Day mapping out a wee strategy. I thought I'd talk about the lard-related bits of it on here…

Food Diary
Yeah, that old chestnut! But it works for me. When I acknowledge and document what I eat, I'm thoughtful with my choices and more likely to tune into hunger signals. When I don't, I do okay for a while but then I get sloppy with portion sizes, then unhealthy choices creep in, then it's "quick, noone's looking!" mode, then the slide into all-out denial.

All year the shrink tried to get me to fill in a diary and I never stuck with it. I don't know if it was because a) I didn't want her to see how bad my "mistakes" could be (interesting to seek the approval of someone you're paying), or b) I didn't want to acknowledge what I was eating, because it might mean giving up the fleeting diversion of eating rubbish. Maybe both?

I've realised since, that I just have to buckle down and DO IT, but in a way that suits me. Which leads us to…

The Spreadsheet
The food diary is a Google Docs spreadsheet. It's inspired by the paper Food/Mood journal the shrink gave me, but I'm finding it so much easier to update on the computer or phone. One row per day with columns for meals and observations. The document is shared with a good friend who's on a similar path – we have a tab each and check in on the other's progress daily so theres no scope for slacking off. And so on to…

Accountability & Real World Support
Getting help from a professional is great but in many ways it's an expensive way of talking to yourself. You can dump all your woes in the session, walk out of the office and kind of leave it there and not really do anything with it back in the "real world".

I've always been most successful when I'm open about my eating struggles with those closest to me. My recent strategy of trying to fix things myself and pretending all was okay did not work, and was no doubt unconvincing for my loved ones as I slowly inflated before their very eyes.

So I've had some conversations with my nearest and dearest along the lines of, "Well, obviously I've been struggling a wee bit here. This is what I'm planning to do about it. Do you reckon you might like to buddy up on a food diary/go somewhere healthier for lunch/eat at the table instead of on the couch/etc etc etc?". Simple things, low key support, but for someone who has not wanted to acknowledge what was really going on to herself, let alone out loud to others, it was huge step forward. It had been very lonely on Planet Denial.

Planning
I'm back to the good old weekly meal planning. There's a spreadsheet for that too! Healthier meals but not boring, single spear of asparagus and a glass of air diet food. Normal, everyday food but remembering I don't need a mountain of rice and that toast doesn't have to come in pairs. This is becoming less of a drama each day now that I'm getting back to…

Mindfulness
The mindful eating tools and techniques I'd adopted last year were really helpful. I'd just stopped using them! So it's back to things like: tuning in to hunger levels before and during eating, putting my food on a plate and sitting down to eat it, exercising for enjoyment not punishment, etc etc etc.

Committment
I've got a combination of practical and mindful tactics, accountability measures and support. I'm ready to tackle this now. The black dog is back in his kennel! Unlike a year ago, addressing my eating now is not a diversion – the "designated issue" as Martha Beck calls it – because I've worked on the bigger issues.

That's enough baby steps for now, I reckon. Are you still awake?

Disclaimer: My pal Lainey is always bemused when I put disclaimers on my blog but I should show her the emails I get from folks insisting, "you're doing it wrong". So I'm disclaiming that this is the plan of action I have come up with based on what worked in the past combined with what I've learned since about my wily ways. I'm giving it a red hot go (one week down) and will reassess at the end of the month. Yee-ha!