My Day In Elle

When it comes to confidence it’s all about context. For a long while now I’ve claimed to be totally cool with all my wobbly bits, as I stomped up hills or paddled canoes or dashed to the hardware shop in a tracksuit encrusted with paint and yesterday’s Weetbix. But back in November I had a real test of those convictions: a photo shoot for ELLE magazine!

I was so excited when they asked me to write about how I came to a place of bodily peace, lurve and understanding. But when it came to the accompanying photo shoot, you might say I had an old-fashioned Fat Girl Freakout. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’d written 1500… so wasn’t a picture and a half enough?

"I’m not Elleworthy," is what I whimpered to everyone who said I was being ridiculous. I thought they’d have to amend the slogan on the spine: The World’s Biggest Selling Fashion Magazine: Now Contains Morons!

I’d had my photo taken before under less daunting circumstances: just me in my own clothes with freelance stylists and photographers. This time it was in London in a posh studio with Real Magazine People, and they were supplying the clothes! I couldn’t sleep for a week beforehand. Despite giving them my measurements I feared they’d not find anything to fit me. I had visions of seams bursting; of buttons flying off and blinding nubile assistants.

I woke at 6AM on the day of the shoot to wash my hair. I dried it at 7AM. At 8AM I became convinced it looked greasy.

Shauna: Does my hair look greasy? I think it looks greasy.
Rhiannon: It doesn’t look greasy.
S: But I think it does, I used too much of your hair stuff. It’s more powerful than my hair stuff.
R: Is it?
S: Why didn’t I use my own? Why did I risk New Hair Stuff today of all days?
R: It doesn’t look greasy!
S: I think I better wash it again. Do you think I should wash it again?
R:   . . .
S: I don’t know. I can’t decide.
R: Well you better hurry up and decide. You only have two hours.
S: Oh my god what do I doooo?

Not only does my nervousness cause loss of appetite, there’s also severe indecision and paranoia. In the end I listened to the voice of reason that is my sister and did not re-wash my locks.

We met the lovely Sam and Anna from my publisher outside the studio and together we entered the temple o’ glamour. It was all high ceilings and huge windows and yawning white spaces. We sat on a plush couch and were offered refreshments, but I declined because my teeth were chattering so wildly that I feared I might bite a hunk out of a teacup.

The Elle People trickled in, and they were very nice and chatty. I began to relax. Then the hair and makeup artist got to work. She did a great job at disguising all those sleepless nights! Then she bouffed up my hair and pulled fancy moves with the straighteners. All I could do was gawk in amazement. Make up artist? Make up magician more like! Woohoo!

Next I met Bonnie the Stylist and she was gorgeous. She took me off to a dressing room with a rack of clothes and a neat row of swanky looking shoes all waiting to be caressed by my size eight hoof. She explained we’d be doing a series of portraits with a soft, elegant look. I nearly snorted because I saw myself as more suited to a rustic farm girl look.

She pulled a shirt off the rack and it looked impossibly dainty and pretty. Thankfully it fitted. The trousers did not. I couldn’t get them past my knees and I mumbled, Sorry! Sorry! I’m sorry.

I was so irritated that I’d said that out loud. What happened to the Happy Just Being Me stuff? I felt crushed and pathetic, but Bonnie was like a reassuring old Aunt trapped in the body of an elegant, tiny young woman. She told me not to worry about sizes and labels, and besides, she had plenty more trousers to try on. Soon I was clothed and climbing into a pair of high heels.

Dudes. Nobody warned me about high heels. I mean really high ones. I started to walk back into the studio expecting my legs to just, you know… walk? But instead I staggered like I’d been thrown out of a moving car. How do people wear those things all day? I was mortified by that entrance and the fact that I was clearly the elephant in the room… yet all this fuss was due to My Amazing Weight Loss?

It was one of those moments when I could stand outside myself and listen to the wild screaming match between my Old Thinking and New Thinking. Who will be the victor today? I hope you can understand how everything I’d learned over the past seven years could temporarily desert me. It was the context – a room full of glossy magazine people, cameras, bright lights, high-heeled clomping. I’d never felt like such a big fat fish out of water. My mind raced as I took my place on the wee set, Who have I been kidding? I should lose another ten kilos. Maybe twenty. Why did I eat so many bloody bagels in New York?

But then thankfully the New Thinking took over. The moment the photographer smiled and lifted the camera to her eye, I felt a massive rush of adrenaline and glee. I’m in London! In a studio! With fancy hair! And crazy shoes! Gettin’ me photie taken! For ELLE! This isn’t awful, it’s pretty much the coolest thing ever.

I remembered my favourite Flight of the Conchords episode with Jemaine’s heartfelt speech about racism: "I’m a person. You’re a person. That person over there is a person. And every person… deserves to be treated like a person."  All the people in the room were persons, and they were treating me like a person. So I should remember to treat myself like a person, and not a lardy freak!

The camera was hooked up to a computer so the photos instantly popped up onscreen. That could have been daunting, especially when people were clustered around it with serious expressions, pointing to blown-up eyebrows, teeth and jawlines. But somehow once we were in the swing of things I could look at the images with a pleasant objectivity. It was fun doing all the poses too. At first I couldn’t stop laughing, so there were dozens of giant gummy grin shots. Then the photographer said, Look sad! So I looked out the window and saw an old lady shuffling towards a mailbox. I pictured a Royal Mail van burning around the corner and mowing her down. I think I even summoned a wee tear. Then she said, Pretend your secret crush has just walked into the room. Oooh. Cue demure blush. At one point I had to toss my hair around, like I’d just stepped out of the salon. Fun and games!

We had a lunch break. There was table full of freshly-cooked gourmet treats but I picked at a tiny wedge of quiche. Not because I’d gone all Starving Model but I didn’t want to get anything stuck in my fangs! I thought about models and how its no wonder they snort things and live on cigarettes and have tortured love lives. I can’t imagine anything worse than your career being based entirely on the way you look. How do they not explode from the constant scrutiny?

There was a basket of miniature bars of Green and Blacks chocolate. In all the flavours! OH I trembled with joy, or it may have been high heel instability. I grabbed one, clopped back to the dressing room and nestled it beside my Spare Bra. I had to bring two along – one black, one flesh coloured.

The rest of the shoot passed without incident, except for when my arms got STUCK inside a shirt! It was outfit change no. 5 methinks. The top was carefully placed over my head and outstretched arms, but when they pulled downward they couldn’t get very far. I felt like a right goose, trapped in designer cotton with my arms glued to my ears, but at least I laughed instead of apologising!

Afterwards, I changed into my civvies and was just about to head out when I remember my choccie. They were packing up the clothes in the dressing room. The stylist’s glamourous assistant smiled and scooped up the goods from the table.

"Here’s your bra and your chocolate!" she said.

She had the chocolate bar in one hand and my giant, ultra supportive bra in the other. She could have worn one cup as a hat, I swear. It was hilarious.

. . .

So the story is in this month’s issue of Elle, but it’s only this month’s issue for another half hour as the new issue comes out on the 30th. How’s that for timely blogging? Anyway, I’ve done a dodgy scan if you fancy  a peek. Gareth and I keep cackling over one frame in particular because it’s like the opening credits of Kath & Kim:

Over the shoulder
There’s always a joker in the pack.
Bwaaaaaaahhahahaa!
(apologies if you’ve never seen K&K!)

click for larger mugs
(click for larger)
Full story: page 1, page 2

The Long and Whining Road

Gareth told me that after one of my radio interviews a lady phoned in and said, "It’s all very well this girl writing about losing loads of weight, but we all know it’s just calories in, calories out."

Oh reaaaaally, I longed to hiss at Mrs Gloria Smug of Tunbridge Wells or wherever, IS THAT RIGHT?!

Technically she may be correct. And I know some annoying folk like Gareth, for example, just cut down on beer and cheese if their jeans feel snug. But since I’ve been crapping on about this stuff for seven years, I feel the need to splutter defensively as a representative of those who find it more complex.

This Body Stuff is very complicated. I won’t just say Weight Loss Stuff, because personally it has always come down to how I felt about my body. At first I was too busy point countin’ to realise this, but what I really wanted was simply to feel alright to be me. To look in the mirror and not bawl, regardless of my knicker size. THAT, dear comrades, was and still can be the hard part.

I hate to use the cheesy J word… *choke*… JOURNEY! Because it makes me think of John Denver or sunsets or a soft focus montage or this delightfully crusty book of Gareth’s –

Worst

How about the word process? Wendy used it in a comment on this most excellent Big Fat Deal entry last week and I like it.

SO… I started out swimming in self-loathing but ended up somewhere rather healthy and peaceful, where mirrors are my friend and the streets are paved with quinoa. But getting there was a slow process. I had to figure out how the hell to move on from years of believing FAT was my most defining characteristic. It took soul-searching and mistake-making and blog blurting. There was certainly more to it than bloody calories in and out!

I’ve been guilty of over-simplifying things myself. Sometimes a journalist will ask, How Did You Do It? and my mouth flaps open and shut like a goldfish, because I just can’t remember. I’ll look at the book cover and think, Who? Wha? Me? How?! And I’ll hear myself say, "I started out with a walk to the end of the block" or I chucked out all the biscuits or I frantically peed before Weight Watchers meetings, momentarily forgetting how scary and difficult it was; how long it took to look beyond the scales.

Anyway, my point is… if you happen to find it all more complicated than calories in and calories out, and someone keeps telling you that it’s not more complicated than calories in and calories out… well why not just go ahead and punch them in the gob? You might even burn some calories!

. . .

Dublin was ACE! All hail the mighty Irish and their sexy accents! I had a great ol time, guzzled a 20th of a pint of Guinness and chatted to journalists and radio folk. The Ray D’arcy Show was fun, Ray and his gang were hilarious and friendly. It was my first time live in a studio so I was a bit shell-shocked and rubbish in the first segment. Arrgh! But there were texts and emails flying in from the listeners – including a few asking about loose skin. That old chestnut! No folks, you don’t have to look like a shar-pei! My favourite text was, Does she look as good as she sounds? Woohoo!

This week the book officially comes out in Canada, New Zealand and Australia! I’ll be on Radio 2CC in Canberra on Friday morning and the Body+Soul show on Mix FM (Syd, Melb, Brisbane, Adelaide) on Sunday, both Oz time. Also a chat with the rockin’ Roisin Ingle on Newstalk in Ireland will air on Saturday morning GMT. See my author page on Good Reads if you’d like more details of the book pimping activity!

Somewhere Over the Radio

Yesterday was rockin’ and rather surreal. It was seven years to the day since Dietgirl started with that first sobbing-on-the-scales moment back in sunny Oz. And somehow I’d wound up at the BBC in London, rabbitting on the radio about everything that’s happened in between.

I woke up ready to spew from fear, so could only nibble a toast corner and three grapes for brekkie. Nervousness remains the only emotion that kills my appetite. Soon enough I was in a tiny soundproof booth with headphones on, chatting to presenters all around England. Some asked very sensitive and probing questions, some asked about What I Used To Eat. Chips ahoy!

Comrades. Thank you so much for all your kind responses to the wee book – all the comments and emails and Facebook messages and photos. I’ve been reduced to honking snotty tears on many ocassions. My reply time is molasses right now due to book and workplace busyness, but I didn’t want anyone thinking I’m a total snobbyarse. Thank you everyone who has taken to the time to blog about it or write a review on Amazon or tell your next-door neighbour. You have no idea how helpful your words can be. I’m in the process of pulling them all together in one entry, so if I end up missing yours, just hunt me down with a big stick and I’ll get it sorted.

This all feels so unreal sometimes. I started writing in 2001 because I felt like the most lonely, lardy, hopeless lass on earth. If I could travel back in time I’d say, "Look around, you goose!" There is no need to feel lonely. We’ve all been in this lardy boat together. Rock n roll.

So, I did five interviews and I don’t think I swore once! Although I did talk about poo one time. And of course that would be the interview that Dr G recorded for you all. It also makes me laff  because we get interrupted with the breaking news that the Bristol Rovers vs Fulham match has been CANCELLED due to a flooded pitch… And now back to Dietgirl!

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Modus Operandi

Oooh I’ve nearly finished my 2008 goals list so am feeling excited and purposeful. About bloody time.

The Mothership reports that Dietgirl got a great mention in Ray Chesterton’s column in the Aussie Daily Telegraph today:

"With the issue of obesity in the news in Australia, a new book is a timely release. ‘The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl’ by Shauna Reid details in an intimate and often hilarious style her personal battle of the bulge to cut her weight in half from 159.5 kg to 79.8 kg from 2001-07. There are no recipes: weight was shed via a controlled diet using food from a commercial weight-loss company."

It could have been quite a different book had I actually spent six whole years on a Jenny Craig-esque regime:

Day 1: Chicken cacciatore. Yum!

Day 7: Chicken cacciatore. Joy!

Day 976: Chicken caccaitore. KILL ME!

Then the whole moving-to-Scotland-finds-love sub-plot would never have happened by virtue of being too darn bankrupt to go travelling.

For the record, it will be seven years next week since it all kicked off and it’s comprised: one year of Weight Watchers, four months of Sure Slim… and 5 years 8 months of my own hard work and bumbling trial and error 🙂

The Last Supper

Hello to anyone who wandered in after seeing my gurning mug in the Daily Express today!

The article turned out fab; the journalist was wonderful to talk to. It’s not online, which is quite a relief as I look bloody awful in the photo. Awful, and totally lardy. I had so much fun at the shoot yet something went horribly wrong in that frame. I reserve the right not to scan it for you all!

Meanwhile, Gareth is guffawing at the wee breakout box called WHAT SHAUNA USED TO EAT. In the book I talk about The Last Supper – the day before I braved the scale in 2001, I ate all the things I thought I’d never see again. It was going to be all carrots and lettuce from then on! But taken out of context, it gives the impression that I ate like this every day. Holy fat girl cliche, Batman. Please understand, Express readers… it was the Last Supper!

Menu_2

Diet Lady

Here are some snapshots of my life out of the fatblogging closet, ever since those newspaper articles.

Scene 1: The vending machine at work.

SHAUNA:
Oooh bugger! There's no Minstrels. I really wanted Minstrels.

COLLEAGUE:
Should you even be anywhere near that machine, DIETGIRL?


Scene 2: At the train station, late at night.

[A friend spots us and runs over. I think he might have been a little altered.]

FRIEND:
Heyyyy! I saw you in the paper!

SHAUNA:
D'oh!

FRIEND:
What a surprise eh? Diet Lady! Hello Diet Lady!
Hey don't look embarrassed, it's so cool. BE PROUD, DIET LADY!
… It is Diet Lady, isn't it?

. . .

I would give my efforts a C+ so far this week. Exercise is all coming together but the eating has had some really sucky moments. And the scales were up. I am back in the 80s. But I don't plan on staying there. So I am not going to update the sidebar, as that would be too demoralising. I've done all my moping and yesterday and today were good days. Onward and downward. Don't give up on me kiddies!

. . .

The following is a wee quote I read in Oprah magazine. At the end of 2004 when I was having my existential crisis (aka Will Gareth Marry Me or Will I Be Deported), I somehow thought an annual subscription to Oprah would make me feel better. Hmmm.

Anyway:

"Are you waiting to be skinnier, thinner, more toned, more tanned, better dressed, sexier, more loveable, nicer, smarter, funnier or wealthier before you really begin your life? Millions of us are. And it's a complete waste of time. Body obsession and the quest for perfection are destroying our lives, and we are willing partners in this destruction."
– Jessica Weiner in Do I Look Fat In This? (Simon & Schuster)

I ripped out that page and have been meaning to blog it for yonks; I was just waiting for an appropriate moment. This may seem like a flimsy premise, but after a sad week that's seen famous Australian race-car drivers, writers, politicians and croc-fiends leave us, maybe it's time to think about what our passions are and whether or not we're holding ourselves back.

I know I've been guilty of it. All the blokes I mentioned wholeheartedly pursued their interests, and I doubt if Steve Irwin ever paused to wonder if his bum looked big in his khaki shorts.

Let's not wait around for smaller thighs or a tiny tum. Let's just get out there and go for it right now.

The Fatbloggers Convention

Why hello! I’m crawling out from under my rock to tap out this wee missive.

It’s been a bizarre couple of days. Yesterday it was happy days with The Scotsman story coming out and having a hoot on radio. Then I discovered late in the afternoon that the story was to be reincarnated for another publication. Oh. That article came out today and it was cool, but the PHOTO. Oh lordy, the photo. It was another from the Scotsman session, and as I described to a friend, I look like a big blue lump in my stupid blue top. Mama Smurf! This is not exaggeration or self-deprecation or paranoia, I look awful. It’s not online but don’t ask me to scan it in coz it ain’t happening, kiddies. I care about your retinas.

There’s just rolls everywhere, fabric clinging in all the wrong places; windswept hair. And I’m squinting like a sailor searching for the shore. My husband is a kind-hearted diplomatic bloke who knows how to soothe the female ego, but even he actually did a double-take and admitted, "Whoa! That’s a shocker!".

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The Whole Bloody Thing

Today I fulfilled a lifelong dream of being on the radio and what did I do? I swore.

Well, bloody is hardly a proper swear word, is it? Especially if you’re Australian. Speaking of which, I sound painfully Oz in this interview. I spoke to Micky Gavin on Edinburgh’s Talk 107 about Dietgirl and my fat busting adventures. If I could lose a kilo for every time I said AWW YEAH in my booming drawl, I would be at goal by now. Or bordering on malnourished!

Gareth taped the interview off the radio using an ancient Ghettoblaster and a strange plastic thing called a "cassette". He then did some jiggerypokery in Garageband and iTunes and now you can click the little Flash player below to hear it all in newfangled MP3.

(A word of warning: the cassette was 15 years old and you can still hear traces of Gareth’s teenage RAWK band jamming in the background. A nice angsty soundtrack for talk of fat and chocolate.)

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The interview was sparked by this article in The Scotsman today. I look a bit cockeyed in the online version of the photo, but as Gareth said, "It never did Thom Yorke any harm".

(I promise I’ll stop being a media tart and get back to the fat in the next entry!)

Mrs Feta

I don't want to write about Feelings and Issues today. This is not to say I have resolved all my Feelings and Issues vis-a-vis my blubber, in fact I've had a few dazzling Lightbulb Moments lately. But I am tired of the public introspection, and feel increasingly conscious that between my two blogs there's a vast portion of my brain archived on the Goog for the world to see. So right now I just feel like figuring things out in my head and quietly getting on with it.

Instead we could talk about porridge, and how I've become obsessed with it. I used to loathe the stuff, but then SC whipped some up last weekend and I discovered it was actually quite delicious. Now I'm zapping it in the microwave when I get to work each morning, the perfect antidote to half an hour's chilly trek to the train station. It takes about four minutes, with four pauses to stir. Sometimes I'll have it with banana, other times I'll chuck in a chopped up apple for the last minute of cooking. You can pretend it's apple crumble. I use chunky Tesco Organic Oats and all milk – no water, because watery porridge makes it feel like prison rations.

I've also been making a few old Weight Watchers recipes. When I say old I'm talking 1985 old. My mother used to be a WW leader, or lecturer as they were called in those days. (Lecturer conjures up lovely images of some dowdy old marm at the scales, wagging a finger at a poor woman who ate an extra orange or Imitation Bacon Bit). Mum was a brilliant leader, and often cooked WW recipes at home and brought them in to show the members – healthy cakes, slices, savouries. Sometimes she'd even do live cooking demonstrations. Once she brought in the electric frypan and showed the class how to stir fry without any fat. My sister and I were her able assistants. I still remember the smell of the hot carrots and gently toasting sesame seeds, and the scchhhhhhhhhhhh sound when I knocked over the huge glass jar of seeds and they scattered all over the floorboards. I remember looking at the ladies in their semi-circle of metal chairs. Did they want to drop to their knees and gobble up those seeds? Did they wonder how many Optional Kilojoules they contained?

Ahh, happy days. I think that's why Weight Watchers never hooked me years later when I became a member myself. The leaders never razzle-dazzled like my Mum.

Anyway, she had us cooking the dinner from about age seven, so dozens of ancient WW recipes are imprinted on my skull. Like Pita Pizzas, Balti Beef, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. One old standard was the Spinach Pie. I wouldn't dare call it Spanikopita for fear of Argy hunting me down, it's hardly authentic Greek fare. But it's easy, healthy and delicous

SPINACH PIE

  1. Get a huge bunch of spinach (we often had silverbeet because that's what was in the garden) and chop it up into fine pieces. Or use a large pack of defrosted frozen spinach, but squeeze all the water out.
  2. Dump that in a bowl along with a finely chopped onion onion, a large tub of low fat cottage cheese, two eggs, and generous gratings of cracked black pepper and nutmeg.
  3. Get a big baking dish, brush it with skim milk then plonk down on a sheet of filo pasty. You know the drill with filo pastry – lubricate between layers! Traditionally you'd use melted butter or oil but Mum used skim milk and it works just fine. I use a canola spray if really lazy.
  4. Once you have a two or three base layers, spread the spinach mix over the top.
  5. Add a few more layers of filo. Don't forget the lube.
  6. I usually score the pastry at this point into 8 slices, makes it easier to serve later.
  7. Bake for about 40 minutes in a moderate oven or until golden.

I made this when I first moved in with SC after not eaten it for about 15 years. We had it so many times growing up that I vowed never to go near it again. But the need to find interesting vegetarian meals made me revisit. Now I use a smaller tub of cottage cheese and a 200g block of crumbled feta cheese, because I freaking LOVE feta and would leave SC and marry feta if it was socially acceptable.

You can do it without the pastry if carbs offend you. And you can add some chopped dill or parsley to give it even more flavour. I've also successfully made it with broccoli and cauliflower, because I accidentally bought 3 x 1.5kg bags of broccoli & cauliflower florets in a tragic online grocery shopping incident. You just steam up a whole bunch then chop it up finely and add to the cheese/egg mixture. Sometimes I even just stab it with my stab blender instead of chopping, because I am lazy and just like the stabbing action. Rarrr!

All hail the Scottish Companion! While I've been busy being lazy, he scanned that Cosmopolitan story for me. He's a good egg.

It's not the most bedazzling thing ever written but groovy all the same. It's also the same photo as the Grazia story as I am not the type of person that a magazine would fly to the other side of the world just to snap their picture, mwahah. ( Behold, Cosmo1  Page 1 and  Cosmo2   Page 2.)

The issue came out while we were in Australia, so I had the hysterical experience of seeing people reading it on the train or at the beach. On our last day in Melbourne we were in the queue at Safeway when SC poked me  – the chick in front of us was buying the magazine. I wanted to tap her on the shoulder as she flipped through the pages and say, "Hey, look on page 257. It's me! YES, me right here behind you, the chick who lost all that weight." Except I had two blocks of Cadbury's and a bag of Cherry Ripes in my basket.