A letter to a future me

Dear Sarah,

I’m writing this letter in the hope that you will read it in the future whenever you are struggling, or stressed, or worried and that it might help in some way.

First of all, I want you to remember what it felt like today. Today, when the scales were showing 9st 11lb and, when you’d had all your hair cut off and everyone was telling you how great it looked (while we at it, remember that; if you are undecided about having short hair…just do it, it really suits you). And remember how it felt to have just finished your teacher training course, and all the positive feedback you got from the teachers, telling you what potential to become a great teacher you had. Remember that feeling, because that’s the feeling that you deserve to feel all the time.

And I know you won’t feel like that all the time, but on those days when you are struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed, when you’re wondering if teaching really is the right career for you, or when you feel guilty because you over-consumed then try and remember how you felt today. Remember the hard work it took to get there, and most of all, don’t give up. 

Please, please don’t ever slide back into the downward spiral of self-destruction that over-eating brings. Think about how good it felt to buy those size 10 jeans for the first time in over a decade, think about how looking in the mirror is a pleasure, not a exercise in pain and criticism. Remember the promises you made to yourself and think before you eat. Don’t deny yourself, but just remember that ‘one more slice’ will make a difference.

If you feel lonely, or like you’re in this all alone, then remember your friends. Remember all the fun you’ve had, the comedy you’ve seen and the amount of time you’ve spent laughing. Remember those people, who maybe you aren’t in touch with any more, but who were there to offer support and love whenever you needed it. You still have people like that, and don’t forget to return the favour when those people need you. 

Remember that playing the ukulele will always make you smile.

Mostly, just remember how lucky you are to have a happy, healthy family who support you in everything that you do (both emotionally and financially!), and don’t be too hard on yourself. And always, always remember that whatever happened today and however crappy you feel, tomorrow is a new day.

I love you,

Sarah x

On being Fat (Part Two)

Or, ‘On not being Fat any more’ as this blog should perhaps be called. Because I was fat you see, and now I’m not. In fact, a little under 12 months ago, at 12st 11lb with a BMI pushing 30 I was very nearly what they call obese. And I’m very sorry to all those fat people who don’t agree with the categorizing and the labels but I was fat, and I decided to do something about it once and for all.
I’ve talked about my issues with my weight and food before and it is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. But 12 months down the line I now weigh under 10st for the first time since I was 19 – which is 13 (it seems, very long) years ago. I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster to get here though. (Please note however, that I have not been, nor never will go, on a ‘journey’). I lost 24lbs last summer but then I got to a point where, although I hadn’t lost as much weight as I wanted to, I felt and looked so much better than I had (and I quit my job, and the Edinburgh Fringe arrived with all its opportunities for drinking delicious (and very calorific) pear cider, and eating chocolate crepes and giant baked potatoes) that I kind of gave up. I just thought, ‘that’ll do for now’. I let myself indulge in all things I’d denied myself for the two months before. I went a bit crazy…but I think I learnt a valuable lesson; I’m not very good with moderation, but, if I deny myself of something (mostly chocolate) for long enough then at some point I will crack and a raging beast will emerge screaming ‘give me all the chocolate, and give it to me now!’
So, what happened? Over the summer I put about half a stone back on. No, problem I thought – I can fix that. But I didn’t, I started at university and I went on my first, stressful, school placement, and I went right back to what I’d always done…I tried to fix myself with food and booze. Before I knew it I was back to eating a chocolate bar every day (and then some) and drinking every weekend. In fact, I was now drinking alone which I had never done before, but telling myself it was OK because I wasn’t ‘alone’, I was in the company of my friends on Twitter. I was in a downward spiral again and I couldn’t seem to stop. When I’m like that, and unfortunately I have been many times before, it’s like I’ve pressed a self-destruct button. I’ll go to the shops and buy a tub of ice-cream, and think ‘well, if I’m having ice-cream I might as well have a family size bag of Maltesers as well’. Then I get home and think ‘well, if I’m having Maltesers and ice-cream I may as well order pizza, and I can’t just order pizza because they won’t deliver, I’ll get potato skins too, and while I’m at it I’ll have a glass of wine, and I’ve opened the bottle now so I might as well finish it….’ and so it continues. Until you find yourself 6 months down the line having put a stone back on and almost being right back where you started.
It was a situation I’d been in so many times before, but this time something was different. Maybe I had learnt something after all. Because every time I’ve lost weight in the past I’ve put it back on, and added a bit extra just for good measure. But this time, when I saw those scales head back over the 12st mark again, I said no. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. So I went back to Lighter Life, tail somewhat between my legs, and I started again. I know (and I’ve said before) that a lot of people don’t really agree with the concept of meal replacement diets but by god it works. With two shakes, a bar, and a meal of protein and vegetables every day it’s really easy and it means you don’t really have to think about food.
What I did this time, which has been a bit different is not follow the programme quite so strictly. For example, you are only supposed to drink water or tea/coffee, but I’ve been having diet drinks and sugar-free juice as well. And I’ve had quite a few breaks when I’ve been away from home and it’s just been impossible to follow the programme. But during those times I’ve tried to stick to the principles as much as I can, and do as much walking as I can to make up for what I’m putting in my mouth. And all this has meant, that although it’s maybe taken longer for me to lose the weight than it might have done otherwise, I don’t feel I’ve denied myself. And crucially, I haven’t put on any weight since I got back on the wagon in January. There have been a few weeks where my weight has stayed the same, but that’s OK, because that is what I’m aiming for in the long term anyway.
The other thing about Lighter Life is the group therapy (for want of a better word) sessions that go with it. I’ve always been a bit cynical about things like this, and I still think that some of it is nonsense, but a lot of it is good stuff. It’s not like WeightWatchers (or lots of other weight loss groups) where you are in a massive group and most of the discussion is about food, and how you can still try and fit the ‘naughty’ foods into your diet. Lighter Life looks more at the underlying issues to try and get to the bottom of how you ended up overweight in the first place, and how you can stop it happening again.
I mentioned in my last blog that something had happened last week at one of the group meetings that surprised me. We had been talking about over-consuming, about why we had done it in the past, and how we might have been feeling at the time. There had been quite a lot of specific talk about food, and things we had eaten. And I had been talking about a few days earlier when (despite what I’ve just said about not denying myself and so not cracking and going mental) I had lost the plot somewhat and eaten a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I don’t know what being a crack addict is like, but I imagine it’s a bit like what I felt like the night I virtually ran across the road to Asda in search of something to fill the hole in my tummy. Talking specifically about food is something Lighter Life tries to avoid, because it just makes you think about, and want to eat the things you’ve been talking about. So towards the end of the meeting, the counsellor (that’s what they call the leader woman) wanted to do a little exercise to show how thoughts can affect us and she needed a volunteer. I was it. So I got up and she got me to put my arm out at shoulder height and told me to resist the pressure as she pressed down on it. I did. So far so good. Then she told me to say out loud ‘ I am a weak and vulnerable person’ and to keep repeating it. Which I did, three or four times….and here’s the weird bit. It felt really strange, I didn’t like saying it. I was telling myself it was only words but I didn’t like it. She told me to say it a few more times….and I started crying. It was so strange. I don’t know why I was crying. They were just words, but maybe they struck something in me that thought they were true. The counsellor was really surprised too – she said she knew it was a powerful exercise but she’d never had anyone cry before. We carried on to the point of it, which is after saying the first statement, you do the arm thing again and you just can’t resist at all. Then you repeat ‘I am a strong and confident woman’ over and over (like you mean it, as they kept telling me) until you do the arm thing again and can resist it again. So there we are. I never really believed stuff like that would work with me but a few simple words had the power to make me cry.
Which brings us to now. I said at the beginning of all this that my goal weight was ‘anything with a 9 in it’ but now I’m at 9st 12lb I actually want to lose a few more pounds. I want to be at the bottom of my ‘safety zone’ – this basically means I can fluctuate by a couple of pounds without ending up over 10st again. But I’m definitely happy with what I’ve achieved. I feel so much better about myself, shopping is fun again because I can go into any shop I want and know that a size 12 will just fit me which is just a brilliant feeling, I’m more confident, less self-conscious and all those other clichés, but then why wouldn’t I? I look fucking hot!
I look like me again, or the image of me that I had in my head. I think I had some weird kind of reverse body dysmorphia. I know it’s often seen in people with eating disorders who see themselves as fat when they are actually dangerously thin. But when I was fat, I still had a picture of myself in my head, and that person looked like I do now. I would look in the mirror and think I looked OK, and to be honest I mostly avoided having my photo taken because I knew that a camera would tell the truth. But like I say, now I look like me again….and that’s the way I plan to stay.

Some things, and some other stuff

So where was I? It’s been a while…
I’ve been back on school placement for the last three weeks but to be honest it’s been fairly stress free this time. I’ve only got another four teaching days to go and then I won’t be back in a classroom until I’m starting my first actual teaching job in August (The Autumn term in Scotland starts in the middle of August – a concept which seems completely alien to me after a lifetime of English schools starting back in September – and it’s also rather inconveniently in the middle of the Edinburgh Festival).
I can’t quite believe I’ve actually nearly finished my course. Yesterday I passed my final university assessed lesson, I’ve still got one more school report to get but seeing as I’m at the same school as last time I can’t see there being any problems there. And then there’s just the small matter of another 3500 word assignment due in a week, but the plan is to get that written this weekend. And then, to the chagrin of many in full time employment, I get a two and a half month holiday before the real work starts. And it’s going to be an action packed two and a half months!
I’ve got another week in London coming up at the end of this month (for comedy, of course, plus it’s my birthday), then at the end of June I’m off to the USA for nearly three weeks (which I’m incredibly excited about), followed by another couple of nights in London, then Latitude festival, another few nights in London for some Edinburgh previews, then finally back home a month after I set off! After that I’ve only got a week at home before going to Scout Camp (slightly random I know, my Dad is a Scout leader and somehow I got roped into helping out – he asked at Christmas, I was drunk). And the Scout camp will segue directly into Edinburgh, where I’ll be staying for the first week of the Fringe, despite only living half an hour away on the train. And then it’s straight into school. See, I told you it was action packed. But I’m never going to get this long without having to work again so I’m making the most of it.
So that’s what’s to come….but what has passed? Last weekend, in the name of Mark Watson’s ridiculous iPod competition I took a nine hour round trip to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, to meet a young man, so he could put a song on a memory stick and write about why he chose that song in a small notebook. The memory stick and notebook will hopefully, eventually be filled with music by others around the country and will finally make their way to a lady in Essex who won an iPod in a competition on Mark’s blog.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, last time I was in London I met Mr Watson in the Apple Store to purchase said iPod and memory stick and I brought it back up to Scotland. The theory was that the iPod would make it’s way around a chain of I think 70-odd people before finally ending up with the winner. However, these things never quite work out how you think they will. As it turned out there were six people in Scotland who had volunteered to join the chain and add a song – being in possession of the iPod I somehow got tasked with trying to co-ordinate these people to meet. Which is slightly difficult given the size of Scotland (it really is quite big!) and the fact that most of the people are young students without the cash or the ability to travel very far from where they actually live. To be honest I got a bit pissed off with the whole thing at one point but I’m no quitter and I couldn’t just take the iPod back to London without at least trying.
In this iPod chain of 70 people there were six people who had been finalists in the competition and part of the point of the chain was to make sure it passed through these people before getting to the eventual winner. And just to make things a little bit more difficult one of the finalists was a Scottish school boy who lives to the west of Fort William – about as far away from where I live on the east coast as you can get! So after a few emails backwards and forwards it became clear that the only way the iPod was going to get to Seamus was if I took it there myself. Of course, he could have just emailed his song choice to me and I could have put it on the memory stick from the comfort of my own sofa…but that kind of misses the point of the whole thing. So last Saturday I took the 120 mile trip to Fort William, where I met up with Seamus for about half an hour, then I drove the 120 miles home again. And, yes it really did take nine hours door to door. Still, it was a lovely sunny day and the scenery in that part of the world is spectacular. And I did get much appreciation in Mark’s blog for my efforts. I think I’ve done my bit now, and seeing as the other Scottish people are spread from Aberdeen to Glasgow, I don’t think I’ll be meeting up with anyone else before I take the iPod back to London, to pass it on to the next section of the chain, and thankfully it will no longer be my responsibility!
On a related note, you may remember I set myself some goals as part of Mark’s Ten Year Self Improvement Challenge…and so a quick update;
  • On weight loss/maintenance – I now weigh just under 10st for the first time since I was 19 (back in 1997 – in fact about the same time that as a fresh faced young student I was getting excited that I’d played a small part in getting the New Labour government into power, and was full of hope and expectation….and now look where we are, it would be ironic if it wasn’t so depressing). I still want to lose a few more pounds so I can get to the bottom of my ‘safety zone’ as they like to call it at my weight loss class things. And then the very much more difficult task of maintaining that weight starts – especially with the amount of travelling I’ll be doing in the next few months. That said, I managed to stay the same weight after my last week in London, despite not being on my diet plan at all, so it is possible. Something happened at my weight loss class last week which surprised me quite a lot, but I think I’ll save that for another blog.
  • On becoming a fully qualified teacher and moving to London – I am getting closer everyday. See above.
  • On visiting the Antipodes – this one is on hold until such a trip is practical (possibly in a couple of years)
  • On playing the ukulele – I am getting better, I think. I’ve been to a couple more meetings of Monday Ukearist and I’ll be going again soon. And I recorded a few more videos and put them on YouTube. You can see them here. And my favourite one is here….just down there….
All in all I’d say my TYSIC is going well for now, and we’re only a few months into the ten years so there’s plenty of time yet.
Another mammoth blog from me – thanks again for sticking with me, and I will try and update my adventures with a little more regularity in future…there’s certainly going to be a lot to tell.
Did I mention that I love you? Especially you.

Daniel Kitson – 66a Church Road

Daniel Kitson is renowned in the comedy world for his brilliant, often long and rambling stand up. There are very few people who would have a bad word to say about the famously publicity-shy comedian and after my third experience of Kitson in action I’m not about to be the first.

66a Church Road, however, is not a stand-up show. It is more a one man, autobiographical, play based around the longest relationship that Kitson has ever had. A relationship, not with a woman, but with a flat. The show is subtitled ‘A Lament, Made of Memories and Kept in Suitcases’ and those nine words describe the show better than I ever could. 

I saw 66a Church Road at the final of four performances at The Tron theatre in Glasgow. This theatre, in a former church, was a perfect venue, with steeply raked seating allowing the audience a clear view of the stage; a stage set with a large Persian rug, a variety of old trunks and suitcases and lit from above by a a cosily shaded living room light, and intimate enough to allow Kitson to talk without the encumbrance of a microphone.

A hush fell over the audience when a surprisingly beardless Daniel Kitson took to the stage and settled on to its solitary chair, and we were enthralled by the wonder of his storytelling for the next ninety minutes. This show tells the story of Daniel’s six years living at 66a Church Road, it is by turns happy, sad, funny, tragic and nostalgic. The story is interspersed with recorded memories and, loathe as I am to use the word, it really does take you on a journey. As Daniel himself said this is a break up show, for his flat. And as that subtitle suggests, it is a lament for a lost love, and the memories of a home.

66a Church Road continues to tour the UK and if you can get your hands on a ticket I would urge you to see it while you can.