Leksvik Things that do not mix: jetlag, a mild fever and assembling Ikea furniture. It took me three hours to make Leksvik, a simple beside table. I put the drawer together upside down, twice. And I missed the mark when banging in those stupid little nails into the backing board thingo, so the inside of the shelves have spikes poking through like a medieval torture chamber. It will be a triumph if it doesn't collapse after three days.

"I hope this is entertaining for you," I grumbled to Gareth, who was sitting on the couch.

"Oh yes," he said, "It's always inspiring to watch someone struggle against the odds."

It's Business As Usual Monday – porridge for breakfast and kickboxing tonight. I just found out the next grading day is less than three weeks away. Eek! I desperately want to earn my Green belt so I can progress with my buddies, but I've only made it to one class since Christmas. Then again, if I swotted madly and got an A- for the Orange belt, how chronic would I have to be to actually fail the Green? If I can be cool, suppress the inner high school nerd and accept that the world won't collapse if I don't ace the test, I reckon I could swing a pass. So… not panicking yet. Calm blue ocean calm blue ocean!

Ginger Ninja

I pre-purchased my Post-Grading Bacon on Saturday morning.

"Didn’t you do this before the Moonwalk too?" asked Gareth, "It’s like you’re a dog – you only get a treat for performing tricks."

Too true! The bacon before that was because I finally found a new job. The bacon before that bacon was because I’d turned in my book. But it’s bloody amazing bacon and it must be treated with reverence. Except for Saturday when I was starving and turned the whole lot into a toasty bacon, tomato and avocado sandwich. Hubba hubba.

I was concerned that Grading Day would suck without a bacon-shaped carrot dangling in front of me, but I pulled through!

Dacks I broke out my sexy new Official Fancy Trousers. Many times my pals had asked, "Why do you not wear the Trousers?" and I said snootily, "Because I haven’t earned them yet!" But as with the bacon I decided to seize the reward before I’d earned it and see if the universe fell apart. I only wish I’d bought them earlier – sure it looks like you’re storing a picnic lunch in your crotch but the bagginess is makes for free and easy kickin’.

The grading felt different from previous sporty events. With the 5K and Moonwalk I could zone out and fall into a rhythm once I’d crossed the start line – the only thing to remember was put one foot in front of the other. The grading was more like high school exams – so much information crammed into your brain; wondering if you could get away with writing the answers on your arm.

To prevent freak-outs, I broke it all down into chunks: three different belts, six different sections for each belt, then sparring at the end. A total of 19 components. We weren’t allowed to bring anything into the room with us except a bottle of water, so my spreadsheet had to be a mental one – I ticked off each chunk as we went through. Five chunks down, 14 to go! It was much easier to deal with that way. I calculated what percentage of the grading had been completed, percentage remaining; number of tasks cocked up versus tasks successfully executed. Etc etc etc!

I tell you what’s irritating: when you’re spewy with nerves and you can hear someone prattling, "I’m not nervous at all. I’m feeling quite relaxed and calm." Oh reeeeally now! In contrast, one of my mates was convinced she was going to screw up. My heart pinged because she’d worked so hard and there was no logical reason for her not to believe she’d kick arse. So I’d say after each panic, "You can do this dude! I’ve seen you do it a thousand times before."

Just saying those words out loud to someone else helped soothe my nerves. Throughout the four long hours of grading I’d mutter to myself, You have done this a thousand times before. You have done this a thousand times before. It pains me to admit that such cheesy self-talk bollocks was helpful.

Of course there were stuff-ups. The worst segment is like sight reading in piano exams – they yell out a random sequence of kicks or hand techniques and you’ve got to do them on the spot. ARRGH! It’s so hard to stay focused and not totally forget the instruction. I always seemed to be kicking with the wrong leg and doing the wrong punch at the wrong time. It was hard not to feel demoralised for mucking up but I kept up the chatter: That’s just one of 19, calm the hell doon!

I think Orange went the best – it was the hardest one, but by the time we got round to it we’d been going so long that the nerves had eased. For the first time ever I did the Orange set movement in a flowing fashion, without Rain Man-style mutterings!

The sparring turned out okay because I was mercifully grouped with my mates – we’d kicked each other plenty of times before so I didn’t feel scared. Finally I was calm enough to think about the moves and actually throw some, instead of waiting for the blows to rain down. About bloody time.

Finally the grading was over! OVER!

All twelve kickboxing dames gathered wearily before our Great Leader, where he informed us that we had all passed.

White belt!
Yellow belt!

And then our Leader actually shed a few wee tears, saying he was so proud of us and how much work we’d put in. Aww. It was a tender moment.

I didn’t blub, for once in my overly emotional life. I was too busy feeling euphoric and relieved and stunned. And wishing I hadn’t already eaten that bacon.

Judgement Day

Some people are born to perform and some people are just born. When I was 13 I entered the local eisteddfod, the annual music, dance and drama contest thingo. I was to play a song on the organ. I sat beside the Mothership, trying not to spew as I watched the adoring parents watching their virtuoso little shits.

Finally it was my turn. I walked out onto the stage, squinted in the spotlights, curtsied to the adjudicator, sat down at the keyboard, propped up my sheet music, splayed my fingers over the keys, then froze.

I don’t know how long I sat there baking under the spotlights; I can’t remember if I played a note. I just remember thinking, Nope. I stood up, scooped up the music and fled into the curtains.

I have a rich history of choking under pressure – public speaking, swimming races, own-goals and that time once again at the Eisteddfod where I had to recite a poem called Bullocky by Judith Wright and I strolled onto stage and said, "Bullocky… by Judith Wright " Then I froze and could not remember what came next. Bloody stinking Bullocky by Judith Wright. I still can’t remember what comes next.

But the kickboxing grading tomorrow is going to be a different story! I have been telling myself this all week. The mind is so good at only recalling the SHIT TIMES but I know I have successfully done stuff in the past – recited poems beyond their title, collected shiny ribbons, savoured the smugness of victory.

We had our last practice at Wednesday night’s class and I completely froze up during the sparring and almost burst into tears – but let’s be positive! Let’s say I was just getting all the crapness out of my system in advance, so I’ll be entirely competent tomorrow.

Thanks to all you lovely martial artistes who wrote this week. You’re so right in that this is a mental challenge more than anything. I’m going to try to block out everything else in the room, concentrate like mad, listen properly to the instructions instead of my churning guts.

This time tomorrow night I’ll be on the couch watching the Indianapolis MotoGP and eating bacon and pass or fail, it will be DONE. Cannae wait.

Making the Grade

Kramerkarate Next Sunday is Grading Day at kickboxing! I’ll be performing tricks in an attempt to obtain coloured belts. Hiii-yah!

It’s basically like piano exams with violence – there’s the same angst and nerves and endless practice. I’ve done nothing but kick and punch and panic for the past two months. Okay, there was that one night last week where I just sat on my arse watching eight consecutive episodes of The Cook And The Chef and weeping for my homeland, but apart from that it’s all kickboxing.

Amazingly I didn’t sign up for grading because my friends were; I genuinely wanted to do it. I know I said I was taking a break from Big Goals after the Moonwalk, but I couldn’t resist this one.

It’s the first time they’ve done grading down at our fighting establishment so we’re able to do some fast tracking – that is, attempt multiple grades on the same day, instead of one at a time with many months in between. Initially I was just going to do White and Yellow but our Great Leader said I should try Orange too. I said okay, but admittedly that was because my friends were.

It’s been an intense couple of months. Holy learning curve, Batman. New kicks and punches, attack and defence combinations, competition techniques and set movements. Sure, the seven-year-old munchkins in the Kids class are doing the same belts as me but I’m old! I don’t absorb information as easily. Many times my comrades have nailed the moves after the first instruction while I stand there gawking at the syllabus whining, "I don’t even know what that means!"

But the training been a great kick up the pants, reminding me I do have some capacity for focus, patience and dedication. I made flash cards. I typed out the moves and stuck them on my cubicle wall. I have a copy in my handbag. I do mental run-throughs during meetings. I kick Gareth a lot. I even gave up my beloved MotoGP to practice for hours on Sunday. Gasp.

With nine days to go I’m not quite yet feeling competent, yet alone confident. I’m fairly okay with White and Yellow but Orange features the dreaded sparring. We’re told the purpose is not to win, but to demonstrate your techniques.  So far I’ve only mastered the technique of covering head with hands while begging for mercy.

The thing I’m really crapping my pants about are the set movements – this is where you do a whole bunch of moves in a sequence. The moves themselves are learn-able, but on Grading Day we have to do them individually, with the rest of the class watching!

I hate people watch me do stuff. I could never be into dogging, for example. That’s just too much pressure to perform.

We went through set movements at the end of my very first Advanced class. Then our Great Leader said, "Okay now we’re going to do it one at a time. Volunteers?"

I hid in the corner, fighting nausea as my mind played a montage called ‘Botched Music Recitals Of Your Childhood’. I did not want those Fighter Dames in the fancy blue pants watching me wobble through my moves. I prayed I’d be spared since it was my first class, but no.

Needless to say I completely arsed it up and wanted to diieeee.

"I heard you had to do your sets in front of the class," one of the gym lassies said to me a few days later. "Good on you! I could never do that."


"I heard you were totally nervous and white as a ghost and shaking all the way through!"

"Oh really now! Yes. Well. Somebody’s got to be the class clown, so it might as well be me!"

I was going to write about this much earlier, as I normally do with sporty ventures. But I’ve been so convinced I’m doomed to fail that I thought I’d keep it quiet, so you’d never have to know!

However I know that getting angsty thoughts out of the head and onto paper helps me calm down and start getting practical. So here I am with just nine days to go. Nine days to get my Left and Right sorted. Nine days to learn how to tune out the crowds and the voice in my head that whispers, you’re going to arse this up!

Deep breath… deep breath… ahhhh.

Float like a lead balloon, sting like a flea

Kapow Things have gone up a gear at kickboxing, for the most pathetic reasons.

I was perfectly happy in my rut at the Monday beginners class with my trusty partner V. She was petite and light on her feet while I lumbered and failed to distinguish left from right. But we made a good pair – always urging the other to hit harder and kick higher; both in love with the faux violence.

Then V said she fancied adding in the Wednesday night Intermediate class, did I want to come? Her pal M was going to start too. Alas, I was in the midst of Moonwalk training and didn’t have enough legs to fit it in.

That was my first twinge of panic. What’s wrong with our cosy wee beginners class? Why would you want to join the scary class with the scary chicks with the fancy team trousers?  And you’ve found someone else to go with too? Am I not enough for you?!

It tore me up inside, knowing V was learning new moves without me. But I played it cool. Sorta. I joined the Wednesday class as soon as my Moonwalk wounds had healed.

But then! Then she had to go and buy the fancy trousers! The bright blue team dacks with the white stripe up the sides. Once you get the trousers, you mean business.

And then! V said she wanted to get into sparring. That’s when you start thumping actual people. Now I know some of you lovelies out there are proper martial arty types who do proper fighting, so please don’t laugh at me. It took me six years to graduate from punching the air at Body Combat class to punching a focus pad, so I wasn’t planning on punching people for at least seventeen more.

V was placing a big order at our favourite online martial arts shoppe and asked did I want anything? I ordered the protective puffy hat, the shin guards, the gum shield and the padded shoe thingos with no intention of using them. But if V and M were ordering sparring gear then I had to at least create the illusion of interest so I wouldn’t be written off altogether.

People ask me all the time, "How do you stay motivated?" Well, you can spur yourself on by sticking an unbecoming photo on your fridge or training for a charity event… but don’t underestimate less noble motivations, such as:

  • jealousy
  • fear of abandonment
  • desire to not look like a sissy in front of your friends

They fire me up just fine and dandy.

It may sound negative on the surface, but they compliment the other side of my personality: the lazy, complacent underachiever. Sometimes it doesn’t occur to that I could be pushing myself harder until I see someone else pushing themselves harder and then, frothing with envy, decide that perhaps it’s time to up the ante.

So in addition to the Wednesday night class, last week I graduated to the Monday Advanced class, again because V and M were doing it. It was so intense I almost spewed all over the mirrors and that was just the warm-up. I’ve never felt so incompetent in my life. I’m paranoid that I shouldn’t be there and the proper fighter chicks want me dead.

But I kept up. I need to remember that I was hopeless when I started the beginners class too, and hopeless when I started Body Combat in 2001. Baby steps, etc etc.

I’ve also had a wee sparring session. To psyche myself up I put on all my gear – puffy hat and gloves and gum shield (we call them mouthguards in Australia) – and asked Gareth to hit me.

Honestly, the tiny tap to my well-padded noggin was about as powerful as a mosquito’s fart but I shrieked, "You’re a prick! I’m calling the police!"

It is hard to describe the gut-wrenching alarm of seeing a punch coming at you for the first time. You spend your life avoiding that kind of thing, so it’s unsettling and unnatural to deliberately seek it out. I had a big sook, ripped off all my gear and vowed to eBay the lot.

But a few days later I rocked up to the class to try it for real, not wanting my pals to think I’d gone soft. I had to ask V to tie on my padded shoes for me because I was panicking too much to figure it out.

Finally, ready to rumble. V and I touched gloves. Immediately every technique fell out of my brain. Kick? Punch? What? Where? How?

I could not connect my brain with my arms and legs at all. Instead I muttered, "Shit! Shit! Shit a brick!" and turned into a human punch bag.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly be more shit, I had to swap to one of the experienced chicks. I was so intimidated, despite her being so polite and only using 2% of her actual fighting power. She was literally instructing me how to attack her, but my legs and arms just froze up and said, WE GOT NOTHIN!

At the end of the session I had to spar with our instructor. Arrgh! Honestly, you’ve never met a bloke so encouraging. He has built up a safe, friendly atmosphere and a great team who are so supportive of each other – even clods like me. He shuffled round saying,  "Just go for it! Don’t be polite!" But I felt so bloody uncoordinated and embarrassed and wanted to go home and eat toast. He wouldn’t let me give up though. Eventually I managed to loosen up and connect a few moves, thanks to him pretty much standing there and telling me exactly what to do.

Oh yes. Champion in the making.

But still, at least I had a go. There is a perverse satisfaction in doing something that scares you. I thought the biggest fear would be the Flying Fists and Feet but I was too busy being consumed by the Fear of Looking Like A Dickhead. When it comes to physical activity my mantra has always been, to butcher a phrase: It is better to stand still and be thought a fool than to move around and remove all doubt.

So this is uncomfortable ground but I am going to keep trying. I was overdue a change in routine and I know that many things great things in life start out feeling awkward. Better to be filled with dread and nausea as you explore new frontiers than languish in a rut. Besides, I gotta at least pretend to keep up with my mates for awhile before I go waving a white flag.

Bubble and Squeak

Tonight I went to my pal V's house to practice kickboxing in her back yard. When she called up with the invitation I automatically said, I caaaan't. But then I remembered – no Moonwalking, no DIY… I'm free! I'm freeeeee! I dropped to my knees, Tim Robbins in Shawshank style.

We were joined by fellow kickboxing fiend H, and the three of us literally kicked each others arses in the fading light while Max the Dog growled at nothing in particular.

The love affair with kickboxing grows hotter every day. I'm clobbering people in my dreams. I've added in another class too, more advanced and full of intimidating fighter chicks. But it's like what Gareth says to me when I don't want to order in restaurants because I worry they won't understand my accent, "It's good for your development!"

. . .

Things that don't make much sense

#1 – How I can persuade myself to go for walks lasting up to eight consecutive hours, yet at the end of every working day I struggle to walk eight seconds to the kitchen to wash my revolting coffee mug.

#2 – How I have a website with my weight posted on it and a book with my weight written in it, yet I run away screaming when invited to a WiiFit Gathering because I don't want everyone seeing my BMI.

. . .

Dudes, we have CARPET! After bare chipboard for nine months, every step now feels like we're bouncing on the moon. It's added a pleasant dimension to the 100 PushUps Challenge; it smells fantastic when I collapse to the deck. Only downside is I have to re-learn how to be cautious with wine and beetroot.

We also have a COUCH! Although I kind of miss the fold-up camping chairs, the way they make you stink like an Arbroath Smokie.

. . .

I also unpacked the new scanner that we've had for three months, which means I've finally scanned my List of Dinners Dinners as some folks kindly requested. You'll see it's a total dog's breakfast but it's purely designed to jog my memory when doing the weekly meal planning, because I always forget what the options are.

Note: "Dr. G Soup" is a recipe that Gareth devised. I haven't chopped him up and turned him into soup.

. . .

Rhiannon and I were in the queue at H&M yesterday when a girl came over and asked politely, "Are you Shauna Reid?"

I tell you what, my heart hammered ninety to the dozen. Have I stolen something by mistake? Have I parked illegally? But I don't even have a car!

Then she said, "I read your blog!" My face burned and words deserted me and I think I might have said something really stupid. But I did manage ask the lovely lass her name. It was Sarah and she said she has a blog too.

HELLO Sarah, if you're out there! Thank you for saying hi! I'm sorry for being a gibbering fool. I was just a wee bit embarrassed because I knew when you came over I had truly slovenly posture and a surly I Am So Over This Shopping Trip expression. If I'd been more organised I would have been doing bicep curls with those 6-pack socks they always have at the checkouts, to be more inspirational blogger-like!


I thought today would be fabulous because of my new shoes that only cost TWO POUNDS. That’s cheap in any currency! Then I spent ages writing a very helpful post to answer all the vegetarian questions I’ve been getting but then I clicked the wrong thing and next thing I know my near-finished draft is GONE and my bare bones scribbles were published. My apologies to the folks reading via feed reader! Arrrrgh.

People have also asked why my Twitter page doesn’t work. I’ve logged a help desk ticket but until then, you can still find me by searching for Dietgirl on the Twitter homepage.

Your most grumpy servant,

Update: I got whacked in the face at kickboxing tonight and I think it was just what I needed. Feeling much chirpier now! Endorphins rule 🙂

Update 2: Here are my Shoes_2 dinky £2 shoes!

Wheels On Fire

How are you all 100 Pushups people going? I confess I only got round to starting this past Sunday. So far, so shaky! But what a novelty to have a challenge that takes 15 minutes instead of your entire bloody day. It’s so quick that it’s not even worth making excuses not to do it. Last night I did my pushups at midnight in Lancashire in a sad hotel room. My train had got in late as one of the engines CAUGHT FIRE… but I pressed on despite my brush with death*. How’s that for commitment!?

Continue reading

Comeback #457

Back in the saddle today! It’s been three weeks of sickness and sloth and sloppy eating, with no exercise except the blowing of the nose. I hit the wall in York yesterday as I stared down into the remains of a tasty pub lunch of steak pie with mash and veg. My belly burbled, Why are you feeding me all this pastry? And all these animals? Why haven’t you been taking me for walks?

I have long accepted that there will always be times when I lose it for awhile – circumstances conspiring to disrupt the routine… or me just eating too bloody much. But it is weird, even in the actual moment of overdoing, I don’t seem to feel the old shame and panic anymore, nor the urge to carry on scoffing into oblivion. It’s more like, Righto. I’ll enjoy this here pie now and get on with the porridge and kickboxing as soon as.

But lordy it sucks getting back into the routine. How many million times have I been here? I had a nice healthy salad sandwich for lunch and stocked the desktop pantry with oatcakes and apples and bananas and oranges and peanut butter but I just wanted to bellow, BORRRRRRRING! like Homer Simpson. Then I arrived at the gym for kickboxing after a shitty day to discover I’d left my trainers at home. Nothing like that spluttering rage that comes from doing something stupid that can be blamed on noone but you. I stomped back downstairs and said to the receptionist, "I left my shoes at home! Can’t do the class! What a shame eh?" Then my friend Vicky arrived and pointed out I still had time to trot home and get my shoes and only miss ten minutes. "OH ALRIGHT THEN," I said. Foiled!

But I’m glad I fetched them, even if I arrived back in time for a fitness test. Apparently they do this every six months. This annoyed me because we had a CHART to fill in and lack of exercise has left me weak and totally not PRIMED for the event… so my chart wouldn’t be as good as it could be! I got all competitive and pathetic and even stole glances at other peoples charts in order to become even more competitive and pathetic. It was all, how many quivering push ups can you do in a minute (bugger all), how many axe kicks (57 left leg, 60 right), how many backhanded fist punch thingoes before you swear your arm is going to fall out of it’s socket (170-something), how many lunges (barely 20! stupid knee!), how many straight punches… I can’t remember but surely it was HEAPS!?

I take the mouth-frothing desire to improve these statistics as a sign that I am on the comeback trail, despite still not being able to hear properly. Woohoo!

. . .

First law of blogging: Never blog after midnight. Second law of blogging: Never blog while upset. I did both at 1AM today in spectacular fashion. SCORE!

Then after much tossing and turning I woke at 5AM feeling like a twit. So I deleted the entry, forgetting that all the people subscribed to the site via the RSS feed had already seen it. Derr! Sorry you guys had to witness such raw panic in motion.

The gist of the entry was: I received an email from someone who was extremely angry that I hadn’t responded to their email of three weeks ago. My tiny mind made the short leap from one angry person to the possibility of whole armies of angry persons – due to the current backlog of emails – and all of them thinking I was a heartless evil sell-out. Thus I spewed out the 1AM Entry o’ Turmoil!

Important lessons have been learned here. One, You just cannae please everyone.

Two, there’s only so many hours a day. Day job, family, friends, book stuff, bathing, kicking things – these must also be dealt with and I’ve been trying like a bastard to keep up with it all. I get such really hilarious, heartfelt and/or heartbreaking emails and want to break out the Scotch Finger biscuits and blether with you all, but I need to be realistic about what can physically be done each day.

Three, my contact page needed a tweak. For a long time I’ve had a disclaimer that responses can be slow due to my o’erflowing inbox, but because of the current volume the disclaimer needed to be strengthened.

Cheers m’dears and hope your Monday is/was a goodun.

Goals Goals Goals 2008

Righto. 2008 Goals! It’s been a little weird this year because losing weight is no longer the mission. So where do we go from here?


  1. I am done bloody done with obsessing about weight, eating and exercise.
  2. My flesh really needs to stay within the confines of my clothes, due to the financial/social implications of bursting out of them.
  3. Given my long and colourful relationship with food, a certain watchfulness is required!

Because it never ends. There’s never a moment when you lunge across the finish line and get a medal and a marching band plays a jaunty tune. But hopefully staying in my jeans won’t have to be a dull and dirty task. I struggled in the latter half of 2007 when life got ultra-stressful, but I’m slowly getting it together again. For the first time in living memory I got through Christmas without gaining weight. It was odd but pleasant to start the new year without the usual bloated panic.

So my goals this year revolve around exercise. When I do the exercise, I feel happy in my skin. If I feel happy in my skin, I don’t feel the desperate need to get lost in the biscuit tin. The goals incorporate a few things that really float my boat:

  1. Cardio with Pals – cardio basically bores the shit out of me so involving friends makes it a social appointment instead of a chore
  2. Physical and Mental Challenge – I feel wracked with Calvinist guilt if I rest on my laurels. I have to push on to new frontiers, especially frontiers that fill me with fear and dread… otherwise a piano will fall on my head for being idle and complacent!
  3. Structure and Purpose – I’ve never felt so healthy and positive as during my 5K training back in 2005. I liked the schedule, the challenge, the inching towards a goal. I ate healthily because it made me run better, not because I was freaking over the scales. I want that feeling back again!

So my exercise goals are:

  1. Keep on kickboxing – social and violent, how can you go wrong? I am determined to nail the spin kick without feeling the need to vomit.
  2. Lift weights twice a week – CONSISTENCY, dammit! I was so stop-start last year that my overall strength didn’t increase much. This year shall be different!
  3. Stretchy stuff once a week – in previous years I always vowed to do it twice or more but it never happened. Time to be realistic. So one yoga or pilates DVD or a class if feeling adventurous.

And the big ones… fun fun fun…

  1. Train for and complete the Edinburgh Moonwalk – a marathon-distance charity walk in June. Basically you start at midnight and pace 26.2 miles through the streets of Edinburgh in your bra (and shorts or trousers, naturally). Over ten thousand lassies doing it all for cancer research! We’ve got a wee team happening at work and I am dead excited – time for a new challenge. It will be long and tough but I will geek out with the training schedule!
  2. Do the Sea to Sea cycle route – this is a popular 140 mile jaunt right across the north of England — from Whitehaven on the Cumbrian coast to Tynemouth on the North Sea coast. Dr G did it last year and had a grand ol time, despite the big bad hill in the middle. I stupidly agreed to give it a crack in 2008. To be honest, I’m not sure about it at all. It’s a truly laughable idea right now. I’ll have some really bloody serious work to do, given my current Absolute Beginner status; the fear of going down hills and inability to pedal up them. Let alone cycling for a few days in a row. Hmmm. We’re planning our trip for early September. Hmm hmm hmm. But it’s ON THE LIST and out there baby, so I’ll give it a red hot go!