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!)

Let Them Eat Crispbread

I'm glad folks enjoyed the MSN article. And just so you know, I didn't come up with that Queen of Diet Blogging title! I would never dare to refer to myself in such lofty terms.

Obey

. . .

As predicted, last week's mega loss (4.5lb) did not stick. Once my appetite returned things levelled out again. I was 2lb up this week which means 2.5lb down over two weeks which is more indicative of my efforts. I'm happy with that, woo!

. . .

SALAD! It's what makes you skinny. Unless it's an unhealthy salad. Did you know there is a salad in Britain called Savoury Cheese, which basically means grated cheddar mixed with mayonnaise. They really stretch the definition here. You can get it on a bread roll or perhaps plopped atop a baked potato.

But back to the skinny salads. This week I am obsessed with this Carrot Salad that I got from a Weight Watchers cookbook. Say what you will about the twin dubyas, but in my opinion they consistently come up with the most innovative diet-friendly recipes. I couldn't be bothered fetching the cookbook, but here's a brief rundown.

JAPANEASY CARROT SALAD

Serves 4

  • Grate 4-5 big fat carrots
  • Chop up a wee bunch of coriander (cilantro if you're American).
  • Throw it all into a bowl with
    • 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
    • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds
    • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
    • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon of honey.
  • Mix it all up and eat. Serves 4!

I was out of pumpkin seeds so used extra sunflowers. I also added the juice of one lime to zing it up a little. It tastes so refreshing and vaguely Japanesey! We had it with tuna steaks and steamed new potatoes.

Why is this not on my cooking blog? Because that's on hiatus while I write that stinking book. Which is on hiatus for ten minutes while I write this entry 🙂