No Year’s Resolutions

It's the obligatory new years post! I've decided not to set any Big Goals this year just yet. I want to slow down and get the Little Things right. 2008 was often shambolic and I know I can do things better – less panic, less grumbling on the couch, less abandoning of healthy habits when life gets busy! So instead of grand goals I came up with three basic daily things I must do:

2009 Minimum Standards Agreement!

  1. Write down what I eat
  2. Exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes
  3. 10.30 PM Internet curfew!

The first one is straightforward – I have to pay attention to what I eat. All the bloody time. Borrrring. But after two weeks of reviving my daily paper diary, I feel so chilled about food again. The Zombie Eating has stopped simply because I'm paying attention. Why did I ever stop doing this? It's not that difficult! (Thanks Pamela for inspiring this one 🙂

The exercise one – I know 20 minutes doesn't sound like much to you hardcore dames out there, but last year I kept going from one extreme to another. I'd do a 16 miler for my Moonwalk training then do nowt for a week. Even if it's just twenty minutes of Pilates or a quick jaunt around the village, I need to set a minimum. How can I say this without sounding like a new age wanker? It's not about burning calories, it's about taking a little chunk of time each day to focus on my body. Otherwise I just tend to live in my head (and on the couch) with my To Do list and not take very good care of myself. Things always seem easier to deal with if you get off your butt and get some endorphins buzzing!

And finally the internet curfew. I didn't realise how badly I needed this until we moved house in November and had no internet connection for three weeks. Suddenly I became incredibly productive and well rested! I called friends, I went for walks, I did my stinking tax return, I read books and newspapers.

So much of last year's angst could have been prevented if I'd just turned off the bloody computer. This was my weekday evening far too often, plonked in front of the laptop: Farrrrk I'm busy. What day is it. Crap, I gotta write that thing for tomorrow. Crap, look at all these emails. I better answer some before bed so they don't think I'm a jerk. Hmmm, wonder what's happening on Twitter? Crap, I haven't blogged for a week. LOL at that LOLcat. Crap, I gotta write that thing for tomorrow.

Next thing it would be 1AM. I hadn't washed my hair or packed my gym bag or prepped my brekkie and lunch for the next day. I'd go to bed, lay awake for another hour panicking about all the things I hadn't done. Then I'd oversleep, wake up swearing, make a hasty PB sandwich, race to work with odd socks and one mascara-ed eye, eat my PB sandwich at 10AM without even tasting it, too often leading to a a whole day of dodgy choices, and too often skipping exercise coz I had to write that thing for tomorrow which was now overdue.

So! By setting the Internet Curfew, I've had to get my arse organised. What's the real priority? What can wait until tomorrow? Have I done my minimum exercise yet? Have I had a SHOWER? Etc etc etc. 

Hopefully setting a cutoff time means I can read some books and get some bloody sleep and be 63.5% more pleasant company of a morning. Thank you Trish for the curfew idea.

And now I am going to have to end this entry abruptly otherwise I will be in violation of my own curfew. I don't want to have to ground myself.

ETA: ARRGH just hit post, IT'S 11.51 PM! I totally failed on the curfew today. Okay. Tomorrow, for sure.

Make It Easy

The most excellent Kathryn Elliot at Limes & Lycopene confessed her hatred of stir-fries in an entry called, Do small impediments stop you from eating well?

"Don’t get me wrong stir-fries are a great meal and I love eating them. They’re quick, easy and healthy … Plus we always have tofu and vegetables in the house, which are perfect stir-fry fodder. Our mid-week meals would be better and easier to prepare if I made more stir-fries.

Instead I hate and avoid cooking them.

There are lots of reasons for this.  I don’t think I cook them very well, we often run out of necessary condiments etc, etc.

But the real reason I don’t cook stir-fries is . . . I can’t stand cleaning the wok."

Rather than kidding herself that there would come a miraculous sunny day when wok cleaning suddenly appealed, she devised a different strategy – she steams her veg and grills her tofu then throws over a quick dressing.

I agree that it’s often the small, seemingly trivial things that lead to less healthy choices. Kathryn gave examples like skipping brekkie because you didn’t have milk in the house; raiding the vending machine because you forgot your afternoon snack.

Personally I’ve found eating well becomes easier if you’re truly realistic. What fits into your life? What are your likes and dislikes? What can you manage without wanting to stab yourself with a fork? Some people wouldn’t mind washing a wok but for others it could mean, Screw this! I’m dialling a pizza. (Not that Kathryn would do that, mind; being an ace nutritionist and all!)

I love food and I love cooking. In my fantasy life, I slave over complicated casseroles and ponce off to the farmers market to stroke the organic spinach. But in reality? I’m lazy, busy and irritable. And hungry. There’s no point pretending otherwise; you just have to work around it.

So I have a list of about 20 easy meals in the back of my notebook. There’s old Weight Watchers recipes, food blog recipes, soups, salads; things I swiped from Ready Steady Cook. Half of them aren’t meals so much as assembling things. I use the list to plan our meals before doing the weekly online grocery shop. I take into account the Level of Busyness – what will I have time and energy to cook? What could I be arsed to peel or steam after work or kickboxing?

I chuck the notebook at Gareth and ask for his opinion. He says, I don’t mind! You’re in charge of Foods. I say, Just look at the damn LIST would you.

We debate for five minutes: Yep. Nope. Bored of that. Aye. Nope. Too hard. That one’s good. Too much chopping. Too many utensils. Can’t we just have CHIPS for dinner? No. Oh.

Right now, with the Kitchen of Chaos, it’s about minimum effort. For example, in the past I’ve made falafels from scratch, blitzing chickpeas and herbs and whatnot. Currently the very thought of messy food processor and messy chickpea hands and messy frying pan makes me want to stick my head in the oven. So this week I bought ready-made, non-dodgy falafel that take ten minutes in the oven. Last night while they baked I slapped hummus, salad leaves, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and grated carrot on a wholemeal wrap. Then I plonked on the wee falafel… squeeze o’ lemon… dinner in 15 minutes. Rock n roll.

In summary: Online shopping, a daggy old list and a strong sense of reality make it easier for me to do the healthy thing. It took a lot of time and effort to find my groove, and sometimes I still fall out of it. But when I screw I just return to the basic formula and soon enough we’re rattling along again.

I realise this topic won’t be particularly earth shattering for some, but I know from experience that eating healthy can feel like a royal palaver and totally overwhelming. Do you have any crafty strategies for eating well? Let’s hear ’em!

UPDATE: Many people have requested a copy of The List – you can find it here.

Recipe: Vegetarian Curry

I've been making a list of questions that keep coming up in comments and emails. Not only for the love of a good list, but so I can finally do that FAQ and be a wee bit more helpful to the folks out there.

One question that has popped up a lot is: Could I get the recipe for the veggie curry you cooked for Gareth in the book?

SpicedahlsoupOh yes. Forget flowers and chocs, there is no better gift to give your new vegetarian love interest than the Gift of Fragrance.

The recipe mentioned in the book is this Spiced Dahl Soup from BBC Good Homes magazine, February 2004 (click on the pic to enlarge). In February 2004 I was living in a sharehouse with six other chicks so I figure the purchase was desperate escapism.

It's an easy recipe and the ingredients are dead cheap. I didn't have a food processor at the time to make the paste so I just chopped and chopped til I couldn't chop no more. I also used yogurt instead of crème fraîche for the garnish thingy.

I've got a few more easy curry recipes/links to share but I'm about to nick off to Glasgow to see Mogwai et al at the Triptych Festival, WOOHOO! But the recipe says "One to cook on lazy Sundays" and tomorrow is Sunday so I scanned it in case anyone is looking to lazify their Sunday!

Heart Rate Monitors?

I went to a Spinning class on Good Friday and came out with jelly legs and a serious case of gadget envy. The instructor and one of the participants were yakking about their beloved heart rate monitors. My friend Jane used to rave about hers and I know Kekster uses one. I’ve always resisted them as it seemed yet another way for me to obsess over statistics and shiny things. But I LURVE statistics and shiny things! Is that so wrong?!

Anyone out there a Heart Rate Monitor fan? Anyone think they’re baloney? I know sweat and slobber and inability to form sentences are good indicators that one is exercising hard, but… SHINY!

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!

Tips for exercising in winter

All the leaves are broon and the sky is grey! Well, it's getting that way around here anyway, that time of year when you just want to hide under the blankets and cry. Which brings us to the lovely Margaret's topic suggestion:

"Perhaps a subject to touch upon… is what to do to fight off the probability of motivation slide as the weather becomes cooler.. and how to move your exercise regime indoors without wanting to chuck it all in."

Exercise becomes even more of a priority during winter. My sunny disposition (haw haw) tends to nosedive without regular exercise and even more so when it gets dark at 3PM. Exercise this summer was nice and leisurely and fun – bike rides, hill walks, canoe stints – but it will take a bit more imagination over winter.

I don't rely on motivation per se, because I rarely wake up thinking OH YEAH HURRAH it's time to exercise! So the trick is to make it as 1) efficient 2) inviting and 3) easy and mindless as possible, so there's a chance I'll actually do it instead of grumbling into a mug of hot chocolate.

As always, I can only ramble on about what works for me and hopefully it will be somewhat useful to passers-by.

Lunchtime walks
It's easy to miss daylight altogether when you arrive and leave work in the dark, so this winter I'm aiming to get away from the computer and go outside at lunchtime. I kept meaning to do this last year but most days I'd end up yapping in the lunch room or remain slumped in front of the computer. When I did get out and stretch the legs, even just five minutes of Vitamin D and fresh air did wonders for my mood and will to live!

Classes
I've sung the praises of group fitness classes about eleventeen million times on here but they are even handier during winter because of their Leave Your Brain At Home-ness. In winter, I find the mental effort of exercise feels even more enormous than the physical, so 45 minutes of Spinning or the kick and punch of a Body Combat class is a great way to get it out of the way. Just rock up to a class, let someone boss you about for an hour, and you're done before you know it.

Gym cardio
I really loathe cardio at the gym but it's a sensible option when the pavements are icy or just poorly lit. I always sigh and huff when it's Cardio Day but have come up with a few ways to make it bearable:

  • High Intensity Interval Training – maximum results with minimum time. Just Google HIIT to find some sample workouts. The idea is to be completely shagged by the end of it, as though you couldn't possibly do another minute on the cursed treadmill/bike/whatever. My average session is 25 minutes.

    That can still feel like an age sometime, so I use Cardio Coach. This is a downloadable MP3 workout where a dude called Sean O'Malley with a rather sexy voice tells you exactly what to do; suitable for any piece of cardio equipment. When to go fast, when to go slow, when to stretch; it really does make the time go faster! I have conversations with Sean in my head. I hate you Sean. Oh we're almost there? Fine then. I'll do it. Only for you. Fetch me another bottle of water Sean. You're the best Sean. HIGHLY recommended. iTrain also does MP3 workouts but they're a little cheesy for my liking.

  • Rowing Races – Sometimes when I am feeling REALLY sluggish and/or unmotivated, I'll go to the gym and say, "Okay lazyarse, all you have to do is commit to ONE KILOMETRE on the rowing machine and then we can go home." But then the competitive streak kicks in, and I will be disgruntled with my time, so I will do another kilometre and try and beat that. Soon enough I've got in a rather intense workout.

The Home Gym
My favourite kind of workout is the one you can do in your pyjamas. I'd be lost without my Home Gym, which consists of a scrap of floorspace in our bedroom measuring 1 x 3 metres and a few bits and pieces:

  • Workout DVDs. My favourites are:
    • Cathe Pyramid Upper and Lower Body and Muscle Endurance
    • Gaiam Pilates for Weight Loss and Yoga for Weight Loss. There's nothing particularly weight lossy about those DVDs, they were just decent workouts going cheap on Amazon!
    • Thanks to Mary, OM Yoga Intermediate/Beginners DVD which rules.
    • The best thing about ALL of these DVDs is that they have timesaver options. The normal workouts are about an hour, but they have shortened versions, usually 45 minutes. I find myself taking that option quite often, hehe. So when it's time to get sweaty, I put a DVD into the computer and off we go!
  • Reebok step – a bench for weights, to stand on for calf raises, or to cling on for grim death for tricep dips. These are pretty cheap at Argos and slide neatly under the bed when not in use.
  • Resistance bands – if you Google "resistance bands" there are dozens of exercises you can do with these inexpensive rubber babies. I made a list of band and body weight exercises that equates to a total body resistance workout – totally portable and perfect if you don't have much space and/or feeling too lazy to get out the dumbbells!
  • Assorted dumbbells – These live under the bed. I started with a 1.5, 3, and 5 kilo set from Argos that were quite cheap. I've gradually built up a collection, including some nice heavy ones I found by Googling "cheap dumbbells uk". They were listed as seconds so were really cheap, and absolutely nothing wrong with them but a few wee scratches!
  • Dumbells
  • Barbell and plates – Again from Argos. You can generally do most exercises with dumbbells but the barbell is the way to go when you want to lift heavier. I shove the barbell under the bed when not in use, but inevitably I leave the end poking out and someone trips over it and screams, "F*!@ing BARBELL!" Because of my limited floorspace I have to turn sideways and watch the screen out of the corner of my eye, otherwise the bar clonks into the wardrobe. Awkward, but do-able!
  • Swiss ball for doing ab work or modified planks and pushups or even as a weight bench when too lazy to get out the Reebok step. The ball lives on top of the Wall of Sound in our hallway – Gareth's bass amp and other musical paraphernalia, which is crammed in next to a mountain bike. The ball falls off its perch about 20 times a day, often landing on one's head to a chorus of, "F*!@ing BALL!"
Ball

All of this stuff has been gradually gathered over the past three years or so, and has proved very cost effective. When it's miserable outside, it is much easier to convince myself to do some exercise when I just have to drag out some dumbbells from under the bed. Huzzah! So let it snow let it snow let it snow… I'm ready baby!

Old Dog New Tricks

Diets are dead, they’ve been telling us for years; it’s all about lifestyle changes. I’m down with that rather annoying phrase. But what irks me is just when you manage to make changes, the style of your bloody life changes so those changes no longer fit in… to your lifestyle. Does that make any sense at all?

This week I’m trying to figure out arrangements for the latest changes. How long can I feasibly snooze before gulping down brekkie and getting out the door? Which is the fastest route to the office? Does the office have a microwave? How long must I eat Quiet Fruit like bananas before I feel comfortable enough to chomp an apple? Where does exercise fit into this new schedule? Before, lunchtime, after? I’ve got timetables and graphs and diaries and still haven’t figured it out the logistics.

Sometimes people ask "What’s the secret?" in regards to the flab busting. There’s no secret, I say squirmingly, just exercise and eating healthy and spilling your guts on the internet, over and over for six years! But seriously, if I was forced to pick something I’d have to say an ability to adapt. Finding new ways of doing things when things change, over and over again.

But that kind of thinking will have to wait for the weekend, methinks. MY BRAIN IS FULL! Information overload. I keep fantasising that the Career Fairies will sprinkle me with brainy dust, so I will be blessed with all the workplace knowledge right now and able to bypass the whole uncomfortable Stupid Questions and Silly Mistakes phase. It’s like when I started my Lifestyle Change back in the day – I longed for miracles and instant results, without having to endure all the panic and salad.

Crazyy_2

Loose skin after weight loss

SharpeiSo enquiring minds want to know about Loose Skin. What does one look like naked after losing half their body weight? Does my stomach hang down to my knees? Do I resemble a human shar-pei? Will you resemble a human shar-pei if you lose weight?

I completely understand why this issue causes so much worry. At the end of 2000 when I was trying to work up the nerve to Do Something, part of me was reluctant to even start for fear I'd end up looking like my furry friend on the left there.

Of course now I can only answer from my own experience, and I am happy to report I don't look like a roly-poly-dog.

Now lets get down business.

1.    AM I GOING TO BE A SHAR-PEI?

I must have read a dozen articles with varying levels of doom and gloom but most folk agreed that how your skin bounces back from a large weight loss depends on a range of factors:

  • the elasticity of your skin – this decreases with age
  • how long how you carried the excess weight (eg. 9 months pregnant vs 9 years being overweight)
  • how much excess weight you carried
  • if you've previously gained/lost large amounts of weight
  • how quickly you gained the excess weight
  • how quickly you lost it – slower loss allows skin more time to readjust
  • your body composition – how much body fat vs muscle you have

One of the more interesting articles I found was by Tom Venuto, author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. He said that in many cases when people have lost a lot of weight and think they've been left with great puddles of excess skin, it's actually still body fat. You may have reached your Goal Weight on the scales but Tom sayz it's worth looking at your body fat percentage (see point 12 of his article).

"Except in extreme cases, you are very unlikely to see someone with loose skin who has very low body fat. It's quite remarkable how much your skin can tighten up and literally start to "cling" to your abdominal muscles once your body fat goes from "average" to "excellent." Someone with legitimate single digit body fat and loose skin is a rare sight.

So… the key to getting tighter skin is to lose more body fat, up to the point where your body composition rating is BETTER than average (in the "good" to "great" category, not just "okay"). Only AFTER you reach your long term body fat percentage goal should you give thought to "excess skin removal."

… unless you are really, really lean, it's difficult to get a clear picture of what is loose skin, what is just remaining body fat and how much further the skin will tighten up when the rest of the fat is lost."

Now Mr Venuto is a pretty hardcore personal trainer type and his article seems directed at blokes, but in my experience I have found this to hold true. Body composition makes a huge difference. The more muscle I build, the more my skin appears to "tighten up". I have not had any dramatic weight loss on the scales for two years now, but my body composition has changed – I have gone down another size or so and I'm much firmer. I once said I could flap my arms and fly all the way to Australia for free, now I think I'd only make it to say, Dubai. Haw haw haw.

2.    WHAT THE BLOODY HELL CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

Honestly, the best thing you can do is be realistic. I knew when I started out that there was no way my 351 pound body would ever snap back flat and flawless Elle McPherson stylee. But my aims were more about making the bed without getting breathless than attaining perfection.

This article has a few suggestions, including:

  • losing weight slowly
  • keeping your skin hydrated
  • preserving muscle tone and
  • eating nutrient rich foods:

"If your meals and snacks consist of junk food (even if you eat it in smaller quantities than before) then you're unlikely to nourish your skin properly and build up its strength.

Choose foods which are high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar, saturated fat and additives. Include foods high in essential fatty acids such as avocados, olives, oily fish, nuts and seeds and oils made from these and also ensure that you have an adequate supply of lean protein."

Thanks, learned experts!

Here's what I personally found helpful:

  • Slow and tedious weight loss – Yes, six years was a bit bloody ridiculous, but the fact that it took me so long seems to have worked in my favour.
  • Weight training – This has been THE biggest thing for me and goes back to the body composition stuff mentioned above. I started weight training about eight months into my lard busting and have been doing it 1-3 times a week for six years now. I was about 120 kilos when I read this "No Fat Chicks" article on Krista's Women's Weightlifting page and it changed my thinking forever. Pumping iron has made a huge difference to my shape and tone. I noticed changes within weeks and used to love feeling the muscles developing beneath my baggy size 24 tracksuit pants.
    Years and years later, I'm so glad I persisted. My legs, for example, are never going to be small but they're strong and solid and there's no loose skin.
    My arms haven't fared as well; they're still wobbly but considering they used to barely squeeze into a size 26, they're okay and I'm happy to wear t-shirts.
    I only wish I'd known about weight training from Day One. So if you're starting out, even if you just pick up a can of beans and so some bicep curls, get lifting!
  • Pilates – I started a weekly class at work in December 2005 and while it took a good six months to understand what the hell was going on, over time it made a huge difference to the tone of my abdominal area. Not mention better posture 🙂
  • BEING PATIENT – I know people don't want to hear about things taking years to improve, but for me it gets better the longer I simply carry on with the exercise and healthy eatin' .

WELL MISSY, IF YOU'RE SO DAMN SMUG AND SEXY WILL YOU BE POSING NUDE FOR PLAYBOY ANYTIME SOON?

Well, no. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so while I look at my body and think mwrrrrowr, you may recoil in horror. You might see my naked body as a starting point or a candidate for Slice and Dice at the plastic surgeon. Yet I am amazed at what good nick my skin is in, considering everything I've put it through.

I didn't realise quite how happy I was with the ol bod until I visited my friend Argy in Athens this July. Living in Scotland you can ignore your wobbly bits much of the time, since they're hidden under 27 waterproof layers most of the year. But in sweltering Greece I had nowhere to hide. I expected to feel anxious being skirts and t-shirts again, but I felt good. My stomach is still hella wobbly – I don't know if you'd call it loose skin or just flab I could still lose if I could be bothered – so I'll never don a bikini.

But I was perfectly happy in my one piece swimsuit lazing by the pool at Argy's apartment – not hiding beneath towels or kaftans. That is good enough for me. At one point we were going to the beach and I was excited by the prospect rather than worrying how my pale lumpen form would clash with the bronzed Greeks. Hurrah for progress!

IN SUMMARY

What will happen to your body if you lose a lot of weight depends on your circumstances, methods, current condition, etc etc; but time, patience and consistent exercise can help your lovely epidermis. But most of all I passionately stand by what I said in my Things I Have Learned list last year:

"Don't let the fear of loose skin, belly rolls or flabby arms stop you. Do you think Oprah worried about her bingo wings? No. She just flap-flap-flapped and flew away to world domination!"

Meeting Jillian Michaels

Buff Lady and Big Loser

Holy jet lag, Batman. When I finally went to sleep last night I'd been up for 30 hours, and now I'm awake again and still buzzing. Bzzz bzzz. I feel completely delirious and insane. Am I annoying you yet? Huh huh?

Let's begin with a burning question from the last entryWhat is that yellow goo with the pretzels? On the left is mustard, on the right is some sort of Processed Cheese Produkt. Which didn't really do much for my tastebuds. So I ate two Chicago hot dogs to compensate 😉

Another question – Is Jillian Michaels wee or are you eleventeen million feet tall? I'm 5'8" and she is tiny! As Jen said, you could fit her in your handbag. And smuggle her out of the country so you could put her on your mantelpiece at home. Which is what I am sure many of us wanted to do after that soiree.

I had another one of those You've Come A Long Way Baby moments when everyone was lining up to have their photies taken with her. Despite Jillian being minuscule, I did not for one moment hesitate to get in the frame with her. Instead of fretting about our David/Goliath contrast all I could think was, "I cannae wait to show this to the blogging dames!"

All weekend I shocked myself at my ridiculous levels of boldness and enthusiasm. I think folk may have thought I was on drugs. Maybe it was the jet lag or maybe it's because I've been very busy and isolated this year and haven't been out of the house much — but I just wanted to yap to everyone and hear all about their lives. I wanted to jump into photos, I wanted to tackle people to the floor and tell them how tops it was to meet them in the flesh, I wanted to burst into tears about 10,000 times. I didn't think about my arms or wobbly thighs or my bite-infested ankles.

I feel like I've shaken off so many old doubts and insecurities. I'm pretty damn excited about life lately. As the leather-trousered Mr Morrison sang in Light My Fire, the time to hesitate is through.

Jim

Righto. Focus Shauna, focus!

Okay, today I will zoom in on the Jillian Michaels Lunchtime Chinwag. The AOL Body folks sponsored some lunchtime chats with various health-type people, so I pounced on the chance to meet The Buffed One. I thought there'd be hundreds of chicks in a barn and Jillian would be a dot on the horizon, but there was only a dozen or so, clustered around a table. It was all very cosy with some very honest and frank conversations.

Jen wrote an excellent recap of the discussions if you'd like to know the nitty gritty, so I will just sprout my impressions. I'd only known JM from two episodes of The Biggest Loser I saw in Australia back in 2005, in her hyper fembot trainer mode. She was equally hyper in person, but also warm, kind, funny, wise and so generous and open. She only had to be there for an hour, but she stayed for two – answering our questions, cracking jokes, offering advice and insight and juicy anecdotes about the show.

I was busting to ask her a question, so I sat there listening while I mulled over the possibilities:

  1. How do I get arms like that? How many reps? How heavy? Huh huh huh?
  2. Did you notice any difference between the Australian and American Biggest Losers? Which country had the whiniest losers?

Hehe. Instead I asked her about giving advice. I get lots of emails from people with oodles of weight to lose saying they don't know where to start. What did she recommend I tell them?

I do get a bit angsty-pants when answering emails, because they're often heartbreaking and I desperately want to say something helpful. I realise people have to find their own answers, but I know when I was getting started I was gagging for a wee spark of encouragement. So I usually write about what worked for me – baby steps, finding a source of support, and forgetting about the big fat picture and just focusing on ONE tiny thing. Like say, decide to go for a 20 minute walk, twice a week (or in my case, it was 5 minutes before I thought I would keel over). Once you have that mastered, you pick another new thing and add it to your fledgling repertoire of healthy habits… and so on, until you have almost tricked yourself into being healthier 🙂

I guess I was sneakily looking for some reassurance from Jillian's answer. She said the two big things were 1) getting educated  and 2) getting support. And baby steps. I snavelled Jen's summary from her entry:

In the real world, [Jillian] said, people need to find a support system first, and tell their cheering section exactly what kind of support they want. After educating themselves a little on exercise and nutrition, wanna-be losers should make sure to start slowly with activity, but they should start right away. "Just go for a walk, get outside, find things you like." If they don't love exercise, they shouldn't be surprised, Jillian said, because "there's never a moment when I'm lifting a weight or doing a push-up where I think I love this! But I love the results." The first step for many people, she said, is "just not moving backwards" — once they stop gaining, they can start the weight-loss process and get more fit.

She also talked a lot about the word balance. This was the big key to her approach. You have to find a way to juggle all the variables in your life so that being healthy is both sustainable and enjoyable. I remember a time when it seemed bloody impossible to me that it really could be that simple. But if you're willing to take the time to figure out what works for you, and do what you can feasibly stick to instead of driving yourself mad with unrealistic expectations or someone's elses notions that you must do X exercise Y times a week and eat Z… then suddenly everything really does slot into place. And you just end up healthier, on your own terms and your own pace, without so much angst and stress.

She also talked about how many people have an "all or nothing" approach to fitness and weight loss – if you're a perfectionist it can really paralyse your efforts. She said something like, "Just say your car has one flat tyre, would you go crazy and slash the other three?" No, you would just fix the one tyre then move on and start a new day…

One thing she said resonated with me like a brick to the noggin – "Successful people fail all the time". Nobody gets anywhere interesting without screwing up royally along the way. That sang to me in so many arenas, not just the fitness stuff. "Success is about attrition," Ms Jillian concluded, and I wholeheartedly agree. Just dig in, get your claws dirty and hang in there for the long haul, baby! Even when everything goes stinky. Especially when everything goes stinky.

Ace!

Just a quickie: I read an extract from Brad Gilbert’s new book on the weekend. Reading about sporty people can be incredibly inspiring; all that sacrifice and focus as they pursue their goals.

Mr Gilbert is a superstar tennis coach and is currently tending to Scotland’s great young hope, Andy Murray. The opening paragraph really leaped out and slapped me about the chops, speaking as One Who Has Obsessed About Numbers. I thought I’d share it for any fellow number junkies out there. Emphasis is mine.

"Can I get Andy Murray to No1 is what everybody wants to know. Here’s the truth: I didn’t know for sure that Andre Agassi or Andy Roddick would go to No1 when I started coaching them.

Nevertheless, here’s my 100% coaching principle with Andy Murray or anyone else: I don’t talk about numbers; I don’t obsess about rankings or results.

What I talk about are those specific things we need to do to keep getting better; to get closer to the maximum game out of the player. Do that and the ranking will take care of itself."

Dudes. I think the Brad Gilbert coaching principle could be a nifty way to approach lard-busting. Focusing hard on doing the healthy things that take you closer to being that healthier person, rather than obsessing about the numbers. I’ve changed my focus this year and while I’m hardly trotting off to Wimbledon, I’m a bazillion times happier and healthier.