It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day

I know I’m always going to have to think about what I eat in order to maintain a ‘happy’ weight. I had a lot of success and lost nearly 3 stone with Lighter Life as has been much documented on this very blog. Since reaching my lowest weight in May last year I have gained and lost the same stone and a bit quite a few times. I know I’m always full of grand plans but this time I’ve got a new one and it’s really really simple…

Eat Better
Eat Less
Move More

I don’t want to be ‘on a diet’ again because at some point that ‘diet’ has to end and that’s when the weight goes back on. So the new plan is pretty straight forward and hopefully sustainable in the long run. On a day to day basis I (and the boy) are cutting down our portion sizes, with the aid of smaller plates, but if we’re going out for a meal, or really fancy a pizza or some chocolate, then we’ll have it but just not every week. 

And as for the moving more – I am almost at the end of my third week of Fitness Bootcamp. It’s just half an hour of exercise, four times a week, outside in the cold and dark of a Scottish winter and it’s hard going, but bloody hell it works! After the first two days I could barely walk, I even had to use the lift at school because walking up and down stairs was so painful. But by the end of the first week most of the muscle pain had gone and now I’m just getting fitter and the pounds and inches are dropping off me. 

It’s not like one of those military fitness camps with lots of running and shouty drill sergeants either. Brian, the trainer is a very encouraging Geordie man who just shouts things like ‘good squats’, ‘keep going’ and ‘nearly there’ even when you’ve still got another 30 seconds of thigh burning squat hold to go. It is really hard while you’re doing it but the half hour is over before you know it. On a Tuesday I’ve even been managing to go to the 6.15am(!) workout because my Spanish class means I can’t go to the evening one. And for a person renowned for her dislike of mornings (early or otherwise) that’s not bad going.

Anyway, each camp runs for 4 weeks (with a free taster week before that) so I’ve got another 2 weeks to go of this one. I’m not sure what’ll happen over Christmas but I’m planning on going back in the New Year so I’m in tip top shape for the wedding in April. The other good thing about it is that once you’ve been going for a while and know the exercises there’s nothing to stop you doing it in your living room –  although I imagine I will be slightly less motivated without a Geordie man shouting encouragement at me. Still I really hope I can stick with these recent changes and that this really is the beginning of a new life. I’m certainly feeling good.

Life is a roller coaster

Don’t panic, this isn’t going to be a tribute to the back catalogue of Ronan Keating, more a quick life update since I’ve been quiet on the blog front again of late. All systems are go for my imminent life of living in sin; in Manchester boxes are being packed, junk is being thrown away and leaving parties are happening, and here? Well, here I’ve done a bit of measuring of rooms and looking at where I might move furniture about….and that’s about it. But I promise I’ll do my bit of carrying boxes and unpacking when the time comes in a few weeks. 

As well as the upcoming move,  the New Year has also found me back on the weight loss wagon and hopefully now only a couple more weeks away from my happy weight again. And when I get there I’ll have another attempt at maintaining that weight. I know it’s never going to be easy, and I’ve not been as successful as I would’ve hoped in the past, but every time I do it I figure it out a bit more, and get a few more tricks up my sleeve to stop the weight creeping back on. I’m hoping this time that having the boy here will help, that we’ll encourage each other to make healthy, sensible decisions about what we eat rather than encouraging each other to indulge in the things we would do better to avoid. I reckon that having to think about what someone else is eating, and perhaps being a bit more accountable for what I eat will mean I can find an equilibrium where I’m neither putting weight on, or having to lose it. I do know one thing for sure, if the weight does start coming back I’m in a place now where I’m much quicker to react. Because there is no way that I ever want to be in a position where I need to lose 3 stone again.

Along with the more sensible eating this year, I’ve also started doing some exercise again. I’ve gone back to my dance class for the first time in about 6 months, and started doing Zumba again. Last week I did an hour’s dance class followed immediately by an hour of Zumba – I did actually think I might collapse at one point, and the next day climbing the stairs was a struggle but I was so glad I did it. When you aren’t doing it regularly, it’s easy to forget how much fun exercise can be and how much better you feel for doing it. I’ve even gone as far as getting my step machine out from under the bed and I’ve been doing at least half an hour on the nights I haven’t been going out to exercise. How long it’ll last is anybody’s guess but for now I’m making the most of my renewed enthusiasm.

So as far as my personal life goes, I can’t remember a time when I was this happy before. Everything is going my way. So why is life a roller coaster? From what I’ve just said my roller coaster is only on the long climb up. But along with all the happiness, there’s a lot of stress in my life at the moment too. 

My job has been particularly difficult for the last few weeks, I’m struggling with discipline in the classroom and spending half my day shouting at kids is taking its toll. I’d love not to have to shout but sometime it seems that it’s the only thing that works. On top of spending more time in a lesson trying to get the kids to listen, pay attention and do some work than I do actually teaching, we’re heading into a busy time of year full of assessments and reports and parents evenings…..and there are times when I’m seriously questioning if I made the right decision, whether I can cope with the rest of this year let alone a whole career in teaching. Working at the bank was boring for sure, and it wasn’t really taking me anywhere but at least at least it didn’t make me cry almost every day. I mean surely no job should make you feel so bad that on the drive into work you wonder how badly you would need to crash your car so you could get a few weeks off work but not be seriously injured. That’s just not right. And yet that’s what I find myself thinking on almost every journey.

I’m really hoping things start to improve soon. Hopefully having someone to come home to every night will make things easier. And according to one of the teachers at school the kids behaviour has been so bad lately because of the full moon – surely that’s bollocks but at this point I’m willing to believe almost anything if it’ll make things easier. I also know I should ask for help, or at least speak to someone at school about how I’m feeling. My problem is that I’ve always hated admitting that I can’t do something, or that I’m not doing as well as it as I think I should be. Asking for help feels like admitting I’ve failed, but I can’t carry on like this, my emotions are all over the place and I need to try and find a balance from somewhere before I meltdown completely. 

I’m not sure that actually publishing all this in a blog is really the best idea, I’m still wary that someone from school; a pupil, a parent or a colleague might find it. A quick Google check would seem to indicate that is quite unlikely, and so,  because writing this helps, I’m going to press the Publish Post button and try and remind myself that tomorrow is another day.

A weighty issue

My name is Sarah and I’m addicted to food.

This has been on my mind for a while and as much as I’m loathe to admit it, I’m hoping that blogging on the matter will help knock some sense in to me. You see the thing is, I lost three stone over the last 18 months, and I talked and wrote about how I had changed, how I wasn’t going to go back to the yo-yo dieting that had dominated the previous 10 or 15 years, how I had really changed my attitude to food this time…but it turns out I was wrong. Because since the end of May I’ve managed to gain back over a stone of the weight I had lost. And I’m not very happy about it. 

Of course three weeks in America didn’t help, then another three weeks away from home. This time though, it wasn’t so much that I was at home and miserable and turning to chocolate for comfort, but that I was out and about and having fun…and drinking too much, and eating out too often. It’ll be OK I thought, I’ll get back to school and I’ll get back into my healthy eating routine. And I kind of did. I was having a banana for breakfast, salads for lunch and healthy dinners. Now winter is upon us (in Scotland anyway) the salads have been replaced by homemade soups but the weight still isn’t shifting. And that’s mostly due to my old nemesis – chocolate. I just can’t seem to resist it. Especially when the nasty little voice in my head is telling me that I’m stressed, and it’s been a tough day at school, and ‘you’re tired, go on, you deserve it’. I wish that voice would just shut up. Or at least that I could get better at ignoring it.

Extra added booze isn’t helping either. I’m still not drinking during the week but I’m seeing the boy nearly every weekend (which I’m certainly not complaining about) which always seems to involve drinking. I’m happy, I like drinking, especially with good company….but something somewhere has got to give, if I’m going to avoid ending up where I was 18 months ago. 

A lot has changed since then, I know; I found someone to love for a start, someone who thinks I’m beautiful whatever I weigh. But in a way that doesn’t really help. Barry has lost a lot of weight since I first met him too – we should be the ideal partnership, united in the battle of the bulge. But instead I think there’s a very real danger we’ll encourage each other into over-eating again. In fact, that isn’t fair. I’m the one doing the encouraging, and my powers of persuasion are so good that he sometimes ends up coming along for the ride. I don’t blame him at all in this, this is my issue not his.

To be honest, I don’t really know why I’m writing this. As my fingers tap the keys and the words appear on the page it just seems ridiculous and whiny, and why don’t I just shut the fuck up and do something about it? If only it were that easy. Well it is I suppose. I could just go back to Lighter Life and lose that extra stone again in a month or so. But the regimen of Lighter Life would be much harder now I actually have a life. And I kind of feel like I got myself into this mess, I should get myself back out of it.

You know, perhaps this has helped after all. By blogging, and telling the world, I’m holding myself accountable again. And maybe that will inspire me to get back on track before it’s too late. Thanks for reading, if you’ve stuck with me, and I’ll let you know how I get on.

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.

Trials and Tribulations

It’s the end of March and it’s snowing in Scotland. That doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary, but last week spring was all around us and I had my first hayfever symptoms of the year. What is going on with this crazy world we live in?

Anyway, I’ve had a fairly eventful couple of days as far as these things go. On Friday night I went out with the teachers from my placement school. They are all language teachers (mostly French teachers) and had chosen to go to a French restaurant…now is it just me or is that a bit wanky? As it turned out it was pretty good fun and no-one really spoke French to the restaurant staff so that was OK. Now, as regular readers will know I’ve been on a weight loss mission since Christmas; I’ve now lost 25lbs and only have a few more pounds to lose before I get to my target weight. So, I knew I would probably end up eating stuff I shouldn’t on Friday, and drinking as well, but I was hoping this would be the first step towards my new goal of trying not to do things to excess as I had in the past, and to manage my eating in a healthy way (both physically and mentally). 

It would seem, however, I still have a way to go. To be fair, I didn’t do too badly at the restaurant with my choices although I did have three courses when two would have done. I didn’t drink too much either (I think 3 or 4 small glasses of wine and a pint of cider, which is fairly moderate for me). The problem came when I got home. With a bit of booze inside me I was craving chocolate and lacking willpower. I managed to walk straight home from the train station without calling in the garage for supplies, but then when I got in I remembered the unopened box of After Eights from Christmas… and I ate half the box in one sitting. I was so disappointed with myself even as I did it. Given half a chance I’d gone back to shovelling chocolates in my mouth without even thinking about what I was doing. So much for moderation. It seems I’m not yet capable of controlling my eating when something is right in front of me. If it’s not there at all I’m OK, so I guess that’s what I’ll have to stick with for now.

It gets worse though…on Saturday night my friend Claire came round for an evening of watching rubbish TV and chat. We had chicken stir fry which is very healthy, but then she’d brought Caramel Bunnies and Malteser Bunnies too. They were delicious and if I hadn’t eaten so much the night before it might have been OK, but then Claire went home and I decided I might as well polish off the rest of the After Eights because I was going to end up eating them all eventually anyway. And it’s that attitude that got me in this mess in the first place.

Anyhow, I’m back on track now and I’m not going to beat myself up about it – I think I’ve got away with not gaining any weight this week (although I haven’t lost any) – but I’ve just proven to myself that I’ve still got a long way to go in this battle and I’m going to slip up along the way before I find my way for the long term.

My weekend took a turn for the even weirder on Sunday when I woke up at about 8.30am with excruciating pain in my tummy. I went to the bathroom where I came over with cold sweats and managed to pass out, tipping forward off the toilet and banging the crap out of my knee, and bumping the top of my forehead in the process! I came to lying on the bathroom floor on top of the bucket I’d been holding because I thought I might be sick. It would have been comical if it hadn’t have been so scary. It’s times like these when living alone isn’t always the best position to be in. So, I crawled back to my bed, head still spinning and still having cold sweats. I lay there for a while and the pain started to ease and I managed to get myself a drink of water. And then after about 10 minutes it was gone and I felt almost normal again. It really was very weird. I rang my mum, although I’m not quite sure why. It’s not like she could do anything 350 miles away, and all I succeeded in doing was making her worry. I went back to sleep for a couple of hours then got up and made my way to the sofa where I stayed dozing on and off for the rest of the day. I woke up at about 8.30pm and realised I’d been asleep more than awake, and although I felt OK I followed the advice of the good people of Twitter and called NHS 24. They weren’t an awful lot of help but didn’t seem to think I was any sort of emergency, so I went to bed with nothing more than a big bruise on my knee and a sore spot on my head to show for it. I still don’t know what the matter was, possibly trapped wind?! Who knew needing to fart could make you lose consciousness? That teamed with my naturally low blood pressure was enough it seems. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen again any time soon!

And finally, on a more positive note, I went to Monday Ukearist in Edinburgh last night and it was a lot of fun. And as improving my ukulele playing is one of my TYSIC goals I feel I’ve taken another tiny step in the right direction. And on top of that, I only have to go into university three more times ever (and do another four weeks in school) and that is pretty bloody exciting!

I’m heading off on my Easter adventures on Thursday; it begins by seeing Derren Brown in Edinburgh on Thursday night before setting off on my drive which will take me to London, comedy, camping, comedy, wedding, the parental home, back to Scotland for a day or two, then a flight back to London and more comedy. I shall do my best to blog about some of the above, but I’m not making any promises! It’s been another long one today so thanks for reading if you stuck with me. I really do appreciate it.

My life and me: A TYSIC update

I’m feeling pretty happy today. I’ve finished my school placement for now (and I got a really good report), my assignment that’s due in tomorrow is done, and I’ve only got a few bits and pieces of work to do. I was in university on Friday and it was good to hear everyone else’s school experiences, and that I wasn’t the only one who cried on my tutor after my assessed lesson! I can’t believe how quickly this course is going. This time last year I hadn’t even applied and now it feels like it’s almost over. I’ve only got to go into university another six or seven times, go back to school for another four weeks (which is actually only two full weeks and two four day weeks), do one more assignment… and then that’s it, I’m done. I know I still have to do my probationary year before I can really call myself a teacher, and that it’ll be really hard work, but I’m starting to feel like I’m getting there. Which means I’m one step closer to achieving one of my TYSIC aims of moving to London and getting a teaching job there. 

I still keep having moments when I wonder if I’m doing the right thing and if teaching really is the job for me. And I worry that even having those thoughts means it’s not. Because if it was definitely the right job for me, then I wouldn’t have any doubts about it. But then I just think I have to stick with it and see what it’s like in the real world, as opposed to this weird student version of teaching that I’ve experienced so far.

In other news, my weight is still moving in the right direction. I now have a BMI in the ‘healthy’ range, for the first time in ages, and I’m fitting into clothes I haven’t worn for years. The other night I through some old trousers and jeans away, that were falling apart anyway, but were also too big. It was also one of the steps towards changing my mindset and seeing this as a permanent change. Keeping ‘fat’ clothes means that you can easily go back to your old ways, because you’ll still have something to wear. But by getting rid of them, I’ll notice more quickly if my weight starts creeping back up. It’s just a shame I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe! Although I still want to lose a little bit more weight I can’t really lose much more for the next three weeks, because I’ve now had my bridesmaid dress fitted (I had to have it taken in quite a lot…and it looks awesome!) and if I lose any more weight it’ll end up being too big on Claire’s wedding day, which is only on 10th April. That has come round really fast too, it doesn’t seem long since Dave proposed. I’m really looking forward to the wedding, it’s going to be a great day, and there’s going to be some people there that I worked in France with 10 years ago and haven’t seen since. As far as my TYSIC goes, I can’t really work on maintaining my weight until I get down to the weight I want to be, but I am making some steps in the right direction. One of these is trying to re-train my brain into thinking about cakes and other ‘treats’ in a new way. It’s easy not to eat the good stuff when I’m ‘on a diet’ but it’s afterwards that things need to change. Yesterday, for instance, I went for a cup of tea with Claire after we’d been to try on our dresses again and the cafe had some really delicious looking cakes. In the olden days we would always have cake, or at least share a piece, but I need to train myself that I can go out and not have cake. And that’s not to say I can never have cake again, but that I don’t always have to have it. Or that I can have pizza or fish and chips if I want, but that it should be a once a month kind of meal, rather than every weekend. So there we go, I’ve still got a long road to travel but I feel like I know what I need to do this time.

And on top of all that I’ve got lots of comedy coming up, which is not only fun, but also means I get to see lots of my friends who I usually only get to talk to on the internet. And I’m spending Easter weekend with my Mum and Dad, sleeping in the awning of their caravan… which, odd as it might be to some people, I actually really enjoy. Plus I’ve not seen them since Christmas….and that was 23lbs ago.

Mark Watson’s Ten Year Self-Improvement Challenge

As I mentioned in the last post, comedian Mark Watson has set himself a Ten Year Self-Improvement Challenge (TYSIC) and invited others to join him. Mark’s challenge is to write a blog every day for the next ten years (!) and, due to recently turning thirty and the birth of his son, he has set himself the challenge of being more optimistic about life. You can read more about Mark’s own goals here

I decided this was all a very good idea, and seeing as I was sort of setting my own goals (as previously discussed – particularly to do with my weight), it seemed like a good idea to join in. The TYSIC was to officially begin on 4th March so the day before I posted a comment on Mark’s blog with my goals for the next ten years. This is what I came up with…

  • Firstly, I’ve recently lost a quite a bit of weight and I have a little more to go to get into a healthy weight range for my height. Once I’ve reached this weight my aim is to stay there or thereabouts for the next ten years (well, indefinitely really) rather than the dramatic yo-yo-ing of the last 10 years.
  • The second goal is probably easier to achieve and that is to spend at least a month in Australia and New Zealand (with the possibility of emigrating – but I don’t definitely want to do that so no point setting it as a goal).
  • The third – which I’m actually fairly certain will happen in the next two years is to become a fully qualified and registered teacher…and move to London.
  • And finally (I know, I don’t ask much do I?) is carry on playing the ukulele, which I’ve been doing for about 6 months now, get better at it and actually learn to write my own songs on it.

So there we are – I reckon there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to achieve these goals in the next ten years (by which time I’ll be 41!). I’m also sure that the first one will prove the most difficult. But Mark asked that everyone try and make a small step towards their goals in the first week and I think I have done that. As I have just blogged, yesterday I passed my second assessed lesson which takes me one step closer to being a fully qualified teacher and goal number two. But more importantly for me, after a shitty day of tears and emotion I didn’t try and find comfort in either food or alcohol and that is a very important step towards achieving goal number one.

I’ll be updating on my progress here, but also, Linzy, the brains behind Tim Minchin’s fan forum, Angry (Feet) (along with fellow Watson fan, Misha) has set Mark up with a fan site of his own. The site contains a forum and will shortly have a section where participants in the TYSIC can record their goals and progress so I’ll be doing that too when it’s up and running. Maybe I’ll see you there?

On being fat (and related battles)

This is quite a difficult issue for me to write about, and it probably won’t be of any interest to a lot of people, but I received such a positive response to my blog post on being single that I felt the time was right to get this out of my head and on to the page too. It feels quite appropriate too because it’s almost a year since my first blog post (which I wrote on 15th February 2009) and in it I said I would probably be writing about ‘what I’ve been up to, how my latest diet is going (this time I’m really going to do it, damn it), the ongoing lack of anything resembling a love life and more than likely a lot of Tim Minchin related nonsense‘. Well, there haven’t been masses of Minchin posts – mostly because he’s been out of the country, and hasn’t really done anything new for months – but I have done the being single post so it’s time I came good on the first part. If you find diets and girls with issues about their weight and body images tedious and uninteresting then please accept my apologies…and look away now.

For as long as I can remember my Mum has been on a diet. I remember the F Plan Diet in the 80s which seem to consist of eating lots of bran-based cereal which looked (and tasted) like cardboard. Then probably in the early 90s my Mum started worshipping at the scales of WeightWatchers in all the various incarnations it’s had since then. Now, I wasn’t a fat child. We ate relatively healthily from what I remember, in a ‘meat and two veg’ kind of way. Of course in the 80s we also discovered pasta and the wonder new-fangled foreign foods like spaghetti bolognese, although I do remember having some weird combinations; pasta with tinned meatballs and gravy anyone? Or even better, pasta with hotdogs and ketchup? I’m not having a go at my Mum here – this was all pretty normal stuff for the time. I was a really fussy eater as a child too (well until I was in my late-teens really). When I was little the only vegetables I would eat were carrots and raw peas straight out of the pod. And the only fruit I liked was apples but I was restricted to one a day…any more than that and they sometimes fermented in my stomach and I essentially vomited cider (which is really quite unpleasant). I liked salad (but only lettuce and cucumber), I wouldn’t eat onions in anything (because they were ‘slimy’), and despite the rest of my family switching to brown bread, I would only eat white (to be fair, I would still much rather have white bread than brown). So you could say I had some issues with food early on in my life. I wasn’t the only one though – my brother didn’t eat cooked potatoes until he was 12 years old. If we had chips then he would have raw chips, and seeing as I just liked raw potato I would have half cooked and half raw! But like I say, I wasn’t fat. I remember having to ask if I wanted anything to eat. I wouldn’t be allowed a biscuit when I came in from school because it would ‘spoil my tea’, but I was brought up to finish everything on my plate. I think my Mum was pretty good at judging the right portions to give us so finishing it all wasn’t really a problem, but that is a pretty hard habit to break. 

When I was about 13 though everything started to change. For one thing, I grew boobs seemingly overnight. I thought I wanted them but when they suddenly appeared I would have given anything for someone to take them away. They became one of my defining features; ‘oh you know, Sarah, with the big boobs’. And at the age of 13 or 14 I was regularly mistaken for someone much older. At the time I was doing a lot of dancing, going to classes and rehearsals four or five times a week, but boobs and hips do not the ideal dancer’s body make. I started hiding under baggy clothes and slowly put on weight until I was about 16. I still wasn’t fat by any stretch of the imagination but I wasn’t skinny and flat-chested like some of my friends either. It was in these years from 13 to 16 that my battles with my weight and body issues really imbedded themselves in my head. I’ve kept a diary on and off since I was 13 and looking back through them other day I came across a lot of ‘I wish I was thinner’ comments. My mood would soar if I managed to lose a pound or two then plummet again if the needle on the scales went back up. Like I said, my Mum has been on a diet for as long as I can remember, and I think that it just seemed like a normal thing to do at that point. I don’t specifically remember her making comments about my weight back then, but I do remember a sort of disappointment if I needed a bigger size school uniform. Maybe my Mum was just trying to avoid me falling into the same cycle of yo-yo dieting that she was (and still is to some extent) stuck in but I definitely remember feeling that I was getting too fat. 

Then when I was 17 it all took a turn for the slightly more sinister. If you’ve read my blog post about being single you’ll know that when I was 16 (and a half) I got a boyfriend 6 years older than me. After I’d been going out with him for about six months and was well and truly hooked, he made the delightful comment ‘you know, you’d be so much sexier if you were just a bit thinner’. Nice. He probably wasn’t really thinking about what he was saying, I’m sure he didn’t realise just what an effect his comment would have on me for the next year. Because what happened was that I pretty much stopped eating. I don’t actually remember that much about it. I can remember starting off by skipping breakfast – just having a glass of sugar-free juice. Everyday my Mum would make me sandwiches to take to college for my lunch, and everyday I threw them away. This was when Pepsi Max had just come on the market and I drank a couple of cans a day to try and take away the hunger. I think I must have eaten the dinner that my Mum made because I don’t remember ever hiding or throwing away food but I did cut down the amount I would eat. I was also doing about 250 sit-ups every night. And the up shot of all this was that I lost a lot of weight. At my thinnest I weighed about 8 and a half stone, which I know is not that shocking but it was very thin for me. And I still had 32FF boobs. I looked ridiculous. But no-one (except my boyfriend) really knew how thin I was because I was still hiding under baggy t-shirts and big jumpers. And although being thin was what I was aiming for (and I have been ever since) I don’t think I was happy. I was hungry. And I still thought I should be thinner. I wouldn’t have described myself as anorexic at the time, and I still wouldn’t now, but I think I was pretty darn close to tipping over that edge.

Then one day about a year later, I don’t really know what happened, but I left college and I started eating again. This was about the same time I went to university and split up with my boyfriend and that probably had something to do with it. My weight started creeping up and I remember saying to myself ‘I should do something about it’ but I was having fun and being on a diet was boring. And I was living away from home and cooking for myself so my eating just became more erratic. I would binge one day, polishing off whole chocolate bars and full tubs of ice-cream one day. Then eat nothing the next day to compensate. I still think myself lucky that I never fell into the binging and purging cycle of bulimia. 

In my first year at university I made a major change to my body that I thought would cure all my body issue problems. And for a while I suppose it did. When I was 18 I had a breast reduction (paid for by the NHS). I went from being a 32FF to a 32C. I weighed about 9 and a half stone and that’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been with my body. I’ve got a photograph from about a month after the operation when I was going out to a party – and I still have that photo on my kitchen noticeboard as the body I aspire to. Although, now I had the small(er) boobs I’d wanted they weren’t really as small as I’d hoped – but I couldn’t tell anyone that after what I’d put myself through. Breast reduction is a very invasive operation and I ended up with fairly horrific looking scars for a while (they’ve all but disappeared now though). But for a while there I was pretty happy with how I looked. But then I started piling on the pounds. I was a student and therefore drinking quite a lot, and eating lots of chocolate and smoking a lot and generally being quite unhealthy. In between my second and third years at uni I went to work on a campsite in France, drank a lot of beer, had two pain au chocolat and a bottle of full fat coke for my breakfast every day, and then wondered why I’d but on a stone in less than three months. By the end of uni I think I weighed nearly 13 stone and I was fatter than I’d ever been (and my boobs had already gone up to a 34D). I tried to pretend (even to myself) that I was happy with my size, but I was miserable. There are hardly any photos of me from that year or the couple of years that followed. My self esteem was pretty low, and as I mentioned in my single blog I compensated by having a lot of unsuitable sex to try and convince myself I was still attractive. Of course there’s nothing attractive about a girl who has a lot of sex, apart from the fact that you can be fairly sure she’ll have sex with you. In the summer season and ski season that followed it (I was 21 by this time) I think I gained myself something of a reputation, and one that I’m not particularly proud of. At the time I thought I was having fun but looking back I remember being quite miserable a lot of the time too.

Over the next few years, I carried on working in France and because I was doing a physical job, I lost some weight and I stabilised around 11 stone. I would still periodically try and lose weight. I even followed in my Mum’s footsteps and did WeightWatchers for a while, which worked fine when I was at home but was virtually impossible to follow when I wasn’t. So my weight went up and down, every Christmas I would see my Grandma who would exclaim ‘well, you’ve put weight on!’ – just what I wanted to hear. My Mum would often ask how much I weighed as well, it seems to be very important to her. I really don’t want to blame my Mum for any of this but I can’t help but feel her attitude to her own weight, and mine, has rubbed off on me.

Skip forward, and I’ve lived in Scotland for the last six and a half years, and I’ve lost and gained the same stone and a half more times than I can remember. Oh, and my boobs are now bigger than they were before I had my operation. In hindsight I think I was probably too young to have it done, and gaining weight will inevitably make everywhere get bigger. I’ve gone from going to 3 or 4 excercise classes a week, to doing no excercise at all, then training for a (walking) marathon, to nothing, and to my current level of one dance class a week. But then when I was excercising more, I would see it as an excuse to eat more so it never made much difference to my weight. The problem is not really what I eat at meal times, which is at the healthier end of the scale, but that I go through phases of binging on chocolate, and biscuits, and ice-cream. And I have a tendency to binge drink as well just to throw a few more calories into the mix! I have a strong tendency to comfort eat, so if I’m fed up about something, or stressed, or even just bored then I start eating. And then I start to think; well, I’ve eaten a family size bag of Maltesers so I might as well have a pizza now. And then I feel miserable and annoyed with myself for having eaten them, so I eat some more and I end up in a downward spiral where I’ve been known to put on a stone in three or four weeks. The other problem is that when I’ve successfully lost weight in the past, it’s been ‘for’ something. For example, I appeared in an amateur production of We Will Rock You in 2007 and before the show I managed to get down to about 10 and half stone which is the lowest my weight has been since I’ve lived here. But as soon as the show was over I just went back to my old ways again.

Last May my weight hit another all time high. I was supposed to be trying to lose weight in time for my brother’s wedding but somehow I was just getting fatter. Once again I was trying to pretend that I wasn’t bothered but when it got to the point that hardly any of my clothes fit me I knew I had to do something. And I knew I couldn’t do it on my own this time. So I went to Lighter Life. Now, I’ve always sneered at meal replacement diets but I knew a few people who had done this, and frankly, I wanted something that would give me fast results. Without fast results, I know that I get bored and disheartened and slip back into old habits. The Lighter Life Lite programme that I followed means that you have three ‘foodpacks’ a day (shakes, soups or bars) and one meal of protein and vegetables. Which means no booze, and no chocolate. I actually found it relatively easy – completely cutting things out of my diet isn’t hard, it’s moderation that I have issues with. In just over two months I lost nearly two stone. As well as the meal replacements, I was also attending a weekly meeting with a Lighter Life councillor, where we talked about the reasons for my overeating, my attitude to food, and what sort of changes I needed to make. I was really pleased with how I’d done, I was a lot happier with my weight although I still wanted to lose another stone. But….the Edinburgh Festival happened, and I started uni again and any routine I had quickly went out the window. And unfortunately, I clearly hadn’t learned quite as much as I hoped because over the next six months I put a stone back on again. However, I was determined not to fall into my previous trap of putting back on even more than I’d lost in the first place, so I went back to Lighter Life just after New Year. And since then I’ve almost lost that stone again and I’m feeling positive about carrying on until I lose the other stone I wanted to originally. I know I still have a lot of work to do to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again, but I’m still going to the meetings and talking about it all (and blogging) actually does help. I’m doing things a little bit differently this time, in that I’m allowing myself a small amount of chocolate once a week if I want it, and clearly last week in London I was drinking, although that isn’t going to be a regular occurrence. I think one of the problems with cutting things out of my diet completely is there will come a point when I just can’t resist any more and my brain will just go ‘give me all the chocolate, and give it to me now!’ So by having a little when I want it, I’m still losing weight but I’m training my brain to realise that nothing is forbidden, but moderation is the key. In all of this I haven’t told anyone close to me just how I was losing weight. I haven’t told my Mum, or my brother, or my best friend Claire – I know that none of them would approve of my methods, especially not my Mum or Claire so it’s easier not to tell them. In fact, I didn’t tell my Mum I was doing anything to lose weight at all; because when I have done in the past it ends up being all that we talk about. Every time I spoke to her on the phone it would be ‘how much did you lose this week? And what do you weigh now?’ So not telling her took the pressure off – I didn’t see my parents from May to September last year and the transformation was quite dramatic, and so quite a surprise to my Mum when she saw me!

So there we are, another long, rambling look inside my mind. But if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you should be used to this shit from me by now…and I did give you ample warning at the beginning of this post so if you’ve stuck with it, thank you. I’ve still got a way to go before I get down to the weight I want to be and I’m aware that it won’t be the miracle that will solve all my worries and problems overnight but hopefully it will make the other stuff easier to deal with. I’m being a bridesmaid for Claire in April and of course I want to look amazing in my dress but I’m not doing this just for that occasion. I’m doing it for the rest of my life. One of the other reasons I had to do something about this now is because of the whole teaching thing – kids can be mean and I didn’t want to give them any ammunition, I need to feel comfortable standing at the front of a classroom. So this isn’t just for the wedding, because I’m planning on being a teacher for a long time.

I really hope I’ve broken the yo-yo cycle this time. I don’t want to have to do this again.

New Decade, New Year, New Me?

Here I go again. Today is the first day of the somewhat obligatory New Year diet. You may remember I managed to lose over a stone and a half between June and August last year. Unfortunately, what happened between September and now was that I’ve put a stone of that weight back on again…so today sees me return to the scales, and the diet. This means once again I am giving up booze and chocolate for the foreseeable future. I managed 66 days without either last year so I am aiming to better that this year. I know some people would say why give it up all together, it’s all about moderation. Not for me it isn’t; I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. My mind doesn’t know the meaning of moderation you see. I can do complete abstinence without too much bother but give me a bar of chocolate and ask me to only eat one piece and there’s no chance! And as far as booze goes, I’ve always been a binge drinker in the finest British tradition. One glass of wine you say? Well what’s the point of that??

The other issue is exercise, of which I have done next to none since September. For this I blame starting at university and the total disruption to my routine that this brought. Oh, and also my laziness of course. So this week I will also head back to my dance classes. I have to do this before I go on my next school placement in five weeks because I know if I leave it until then I’ll never go back. 

At the moment I’ve got no comedy trips planned any time in the near future, I’ve got no parties to go to, and no imminent celebrations; which is all a bit dull for me, but also means I have no excuses not to get my arse in gear and my body back on track.

So there we are, maybe 2010 will finally be the year I conquer my food demons. It’s unlikely, I can but hope. And I have a bridesmaid’s dress to look awesome in this April and for now that is motivation enough.