Monday, 1 January 2018

2018 - Happy New Year!


Last New Years Eve I decided that I was totally over the whole New Year, New Me movement and wouldn't be making any resolutions beginning on January 1st.

That's not to say I didn't have goals for the year, but I wanted them to be longer term and more organic than trying to reinvent myself on an arbitrary day of the year in a fit of guilt at not being good enough and having overeaten over Christmas.

And do you know what?  It was the most relaxing start to the year as a result.

I still lost some weight, and regained some fitness, and made some progress on money goals ... just not in January.

I liked it so much that I'm doing the same again this year.  My goals are boringly non-dramatic, but feel like they're authentic to me, so I'm still excited to see what progress I make this year.

It's become a tradition that my friend Jo and I sit in the village pub on Boxing Day night, having a break from families, and reflect on the year that was and what we want to achieve next year.  We make our goals in our own ways - hers are more drastic diets and fitness goals for January and February because that's how she likes to operate, and mine are more gentle actions I want to take over the coming year.  I tend to focus mine around the 5 areas of my life that are super important to me: love and relationships, career, money, health and travel.

My health ones are to keep doing exactly what I've been playing around with the last 7 months - getting to an honest, neutral, peaceful relationship with food, taking the emotion out of my eating and learning to appreciate the body I've got already.  To continue experimenting with exercise and activity until I reach a comfortable middle-ground of things that I love doing and feel great.  And I'd like to incorporate a bit more mindfulness and meditation into my life as a whole.  Also making sure I'm getting enough sleep.

In career terms, I'm still not entirely sure what lies ahead but I'm still thinking about doing the next part of the coaching course I did in February this year, so I'm going to save towards that, and also read some more coaching books.  I'm also going to keep an eye on my day rates and not be afraid to ask for an increase on future contracts if that is sensible - I'm adding stuff to my CV with every contract and I want to make sure I market myself at what I'm worth.

Under money, I want to clear my last outstanding credit card balance and put some money towards an overpayment on the mortgage - boring but very sensible, especially as I re-mortgage for the first time in the second half of 2018 and, the better my equity to loan ratio, the better the rate I get next time.  I'm also experimenting with taking my "non-essential" spending  - e.g. my social and shopping budget - and giving it to myself in cash.  I've been spending more than I want to the last few months, and admittedly while some of that was Christmas, it eats into how much I can save and it's not a habit I want to get into.  The overspend is 90% my non-essential stuff, and my theory is that I'm always much more hesitant about spending cash as it's so obvious how much you're spending and how much is left.  So, starting in January, I'm taking my allotted budget out in cash each month, and we'll see how that impacts my spending habits.  

Love and relationships are tricky because you can't force them, but one thing I can do is expand my social circle a bit.  I've let my Bristol circle of friends shrink right down, especially in this last year when I've been hermitting in the house.  So I'm going to make an effort to return to the surf club, and investigate what else is out there in Bristol - basically I've challenged myself to get some proper hobbies because I seem to have actually forgotten what I like doing.

And travel - possibly my favourite category!  I've got a few short trips in the works at the moment for early 2018 - I'm going to Amsterdam and Bruges for a few days in February with my friend Bridget, and I'm hopefully booking skiing in Italy soon with Jo.  But my big goal this year is Bali and Lombok.  I really want to go, and I've been having a serious case of itchy feet recently to go somewhere exotic so, whether it's with friends in the summer, or on my own in the autumn, I'm going to try and make that happen this year!

What do you have planned for 2018?

Christmas Survival Guide

It's nearly the end of another year - Christmas is just about done and dusted and ready to be put back in the box, and it's that time when I tend to get a bit reflective over the year that's just been.

I sometimes think that when you're wallowing around in the muck of the year, it's all too easy to get discontented and think "I don't have enough / do enough / make enough progress", and it's only when you look back over the 12 months as a whole that you can really see all the highs and the journey so far.

It's been a good 12 months, I'd say.  I've had some brilliant holidays, which is always good in my book, but I've had a kind of gentle bubbling layer of contentment at home too.  Partly because the house I bought right at the end of last year is now starting to feel like a home.  It's not shiny and beautifully presented like those ones you see on Instagram (and stalk on Insta, if you're me and hungry for inspiration), but it's my safe space from the world and it's starting to look like me.  Which I love.  I didn't do quite as much home improvement as I'd hoped because ... money ... but what I did do I'm happy with.  Main bedroom and living room painted, new carpet in the main bedroom, guest bedroom feature wall done, and furniture starting to appear where it should be in the living room.  I also grew things in the garden this year - actual things!!!  There was a parsnip that survived from seed to fully grown (which is a bloody miracle, let me tell you!), and I learnt a lot that I can apply to my little garden next year.

Otto the Cat came to live with me, and I learnt that I could in fact take care of another living being successfully.  He's covered the house in fur and takes up 75% of my bed on a regular basis at night but he's taught me that you can't be a perfectionist about everything .... and if you paint two rooms in your house he'll choose those two to sit in the windows of and leave grubby paw prints on your nice new paintwork.  Sigh.  Good job I'm slavishly devoted to the furball, eh?

Probably most importantly to this blog, I feel like I made massive strides in my quest to end my battle with food.  Something clicked in May - a combination of yet another weekend away overeating leaving me just over 15 stone on the scales, and the after-effects of coaching and all my reading and investigation bringing me to a place where I was ready to take responsibility and had the tools to do something about it - and I embarked on a new chapter.  I dared to rejoin Weightwatchers but with the confidence to try doing things my own way and 7 months later I've gently and pretty effortlessly lost over a stone.

Despite the annual Dieter's Doom that is Christmas, I've lost weight in December.  I've put on less than 2lbs over the Christmas week itself, but I've been able to enjoy everything I wanted to.  I've not felt out of control, or deprived, or binging over the period at all.  Although I have to come to realise, especially as I was hosting for the first time this year, that there is an extraordinary amount of pressure placed on Christmas being perfect that originates from food.  Was your Christmas perfect if you didn't have an extravagant Christmas lunch followed by Christmas pud and brandy butter?  Did you do it properly if you didn't have a full spread of a Christmas evening tea?  Did it even happen if you didn't have the cheeseboard and port, the mince-pies, the mulled wine, the chocolates, the chocolate biscuits, the canap├ęs and whatever else we associate with Christmas?

The answer, I've discovered, is "yes".  Christmas is whatever you choose to make it, but the food isn't make or break, and if I'm hosting again next year, I'll choose to tone it down - especially as it's just Dad and I, because I've been eating leftovers for a week now and I'm bored!

What saved my festive period, was meal-planning the busiest weeks.  I marked down exactly what meals I was out for, and I planned and batch-cooked my favourite healthy comfort food around it - and honestly, that saved me falling into a pile of unnecessary snacks multiple times, because I knew I had great food to go home to and I wasn't starving when I arrived at events.  It allowed me to switch out of "celebration" mode between events and just carry on as normal - well-fuelled and guilt-free.  I also made sure I got plenty of sleep.

In fact, my whole December has felt pretty good on the health front.  I made a decision early on that the best way to tackle it was to think like a naturally thin person - I imagined that they would indulge a bit at Christmas, enjoy the good bits and probably be a lb or 2 heavier at the end of the month, but they wouldn't turn it into a month long binge.  So, I decided that the honest tracking absolutely had to continue - if I was going to gain a bit I wanted to be able to honestly say "I know how that happened".  I also wanted to not feel any guilt about seeing higher than normal totals on my tracker at the end of the week - no food is "bad" or "naughty", I've worked hard to get to that point and I didn't want to undo that - so I resolved to just view each number neutrally and observe how I felt in myself after eating the richer food of the Christmas season.

I've had my two highest total weeks on the tracker in 7 months in December - Christmas week and New Years week - and I think that's probably exactly how it should be.  There's a lot of treats still in the house but I'm able to leave them be and just have a bit now and then.  Most of the actual Christmas food has now either been finished or binned because it had lingered too long.  I've done a fresh meal plan and shopped and I'm back eating normally and looking forward to see what 2018 brings!

I'd call that a success!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Getting Ready For Christmas

Well, this poor little corner of the internet is truly a little sadly neglected these days, but actually, for once, it's not because things have gone completely tits up with the weight loss, but rather that things are just ticking along in a very undramatic fashion, which doesn't make for the most interesting writing!

Just over 6 months since I adopted my new approach, and I'm now about 17lbs down, and I'm just slipping out of the 14 stone bracket and into the 13s again - a fact that makes me very happy.

I fully expected December to be a month of pretty minimal losses, what with the festive season in full swing, but committed myself to at least remaining absolutely 100% honest in my tracking during that period, so I could make sense of the gains and losses that occurred.  Instead, a week and a half into the month I appear to have had another little jump forward on the scales and have lost nearly 4lbs. Go figure!  I expect that the final figure at the end of the month might end up a little smaller after all's said and done, but I'm content with how things are going.

17lbs means that clothes that were tight are now loose, and trousers that really didn't do up are now being worn regularly.  It's made quite a different to my confidence (or learning to trust myself and making some final peace with food has - I'm not quite sure which at this point!) and I'm feeling pretty ok with life.


My only concrete New Years Resolution that I know I will be making yet is that I will be continuing to treat myself with love, respect and a little dose of honesty well into next year, and see where it takes me.  That, and making a trip to Bali and Lombok happen.


In the meantime, the house is looking very Christmassy - I probably spent waaaaay too much on decorations last month in preparation, but I don't care too much as they'll last years - and I've been baking Christmas goodies (Swedish Christmas Biscuits! Mince pies!) and getting organised with my present buying.  I'm feeling pretty chill, if a little broke, and pretty organised at this point.  It's a bloody Christmas Miracle!


Even better, my dad is coming to me for Christmas this year!!  This is another Miracle with a capital M because Dad hates being broken out of his comfortable routines.  But with my own house this year, which he helped buy and hasn't yet been to see, plus the fluffy majesty that is Otto to think about, I suggested that it might be nice if I host this year, and after a bit of persistent "suggesting" he gave in! I'm super excited!

It's going to be a good Christmas - I have a very positive feeling.

And I have a feeling that 2018 might just be a corker (as long as Trump doesn't start a new world war).

Sunday, 1 October 2017

October Already?

This year is just flying past!  I can't believe that it is October already and Autumn is firmly upon us but life is not too shabby at the moment.

I've had a fab holiday in the Pyrenees - 2 weeks going coast to coast from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic full of relaxing by the beach and taking in the amazing scenery of the mountains.  We walked loads, stayed on a yacht  and enjoyed the local speciality of tartiflette pizza (bacon, onion, potatoes and cream on pizza - what dreams are made of).



I'm still bumbling along with my Weightwatchers "Plus" approach to eating and ... it's going quite well.  I've lost 11lbs since the end of May which is slow and steady, but definitely adds up as time goes by.  Admittedly, I lost nearly 7lbs of that in the first month, and the losses have been slower after that (and I went up a couple of lbs after holiday) but the losses do keep coming.  Which is awesome.

I've also kicked my activity up a level over the summer and as well swimming and a bit of yoga, I'm now regularly incorporating HIIT into my routine and have even started running again in the last couple of weeks.  I'm not doing it to speed up weight loss, or even inch loss particularly, but because it makes me feel good, and empowered, and I've actually noticed a difference in my fitness and strength.  It's taken a while to build up to it, and I think the fact I've built up to it slowly has meant things like running have actually been less painful to re-introduce.

Having said I wasn't doing it for the inch loss, that has been one of the nice side effects.  My clothes are fitting better already and my weight and size are better than they were before Borneo last summer.

The house is coming along and it's slowly, slowly starting to look like a home, and one I can be proud of.  I have a good contract currently with people I like and it looks set to run until sometime between the end of the year and next March which is good news.

I think, in short, life feels pretty good right now.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Return To Weightwatchers

I’m extremely conscious that over the last 18 months or more, I have written on more than one occasion that I really think that this time I’ve found the key to losing my excess weight without returning to dieting.  And yet here I am, still carrying that excess weight round with me.

I read a lot around emotional eating and different coaching approaches, make another little breakthrough with my understanding of my emotional eating and for a week or two I’m really conscious with my eating and the scales start to drop.  Then life happens, as it tends to do, and my mind wanders back into its old patterns and I’m back where I started, or occasionally a little heavier.  So it is, that in the 18 months since quitting Weightwatchers and dieting as a whole, I have ended up about 8-10 lbs heavier than I was on quitting.  My mental state and my attitude to food is undoubtedly better now, and I have detoxed myself of the fear of certain foods and re-normalised most things into my diet, but I have still not shifted the excess.

After a gorgeous long weekend away in Wales with 4 friends at the second May Bank Holiday, I came home feeling bloated and a few lbs heavier than I left – extended social occasions are always the toughest on my eating – and this time something shifted in my brain:  I absolutely did not want to return to dieting, but I fully recognized that I needed some extra tool that was missing from my repertoire to help me … and so I signed up to Weightwatchers again with a plan that this time things would be a little different.

Let me explain:  whenever I did Weightwatchers previously (let’s call it Weightwatchers Original) or any other diet, I always approached it as the Solution To All My Problems.  This Plan would tell me everything I needed to do to make the weight fall away and as long as I followed it faithfully (and perfectly!), success would surely follow!  I would contort myself into whatever patterns the diet told me to, cut back my intake drastically and for a while it would probably work.  Then I would get resentful of the restrictions, fall foul of feelings of deprivation, over-eat a bit, decide that if I couldn’t do it perfectly there’s no point in doing it at all, beat myself up, eat everything in sight, beat myself up some more for good measure, and eventually viciously restrict myself to get “back on track” and “make up” for my dieting indiscretions.  I gave all authority to the diet and assumed I could make myself fit it.

A model, I think we can agree, that is clearly flawed.

Enter my intended new way of doing things, which we shall call Weightwatchers Plus ….. otherwise known as utilizing the Weightwatchers tools to suit me personally.

During my time away from dieting, I have come to conclusion that I get easily distracted from what I have consumed throughout the day, and I wanted a way to stay aware of what I’d eaten.  A way to track my food and therefore make fully conscious decisions.  What I didn’t want was the accompanying set of standard rules and regulations – I want to trust myself to work out for myself how many points I need and to take a more flexible approach to how I eat them throughout the week, rather than falling into the increasingly extreme binge and restrict cycles that I ended up in by the time I quit Weightwatchers back in 2015.

I am choosing to sacrifice fast, “guaranteed” weight loss in favour of conducting some research on myself over a series of weeks to build a picture of how much I can eat in order to lose weight, maintain or gain.  I’m trying to become my own expert on me and take responsibility for the results of what I eat.

It’s been 4 weeks since I started this new Weightwatchers Plus approach.  For the first couple of weeks, I haven’t intentionally restricted my food at all, but I have faithfully tracked everything and consequently I sometimes find myself making more responsible decisions based on what I’ve already had that day.  I’ve started writing down at the end of the week how many points I’ve consumed in total and calculating a points per day for that week, recording what deliberate exercise I’ve done and what weight I’ve lost, and I’ve kept an eye on those stats.  They’re pretty fascinating.  Weightwatchers Original plan would have me eat 37 points a day on average (including my Flex allowance) – that first week I averaged 47 points a day and lost nearly 3 lbs. 

It turns out that, at the moment, I can lose weight by eating anywhere between 45 and 55 points per day on average, and over the first 4 weeks I lost just shy of half a stone.  So this is what I’m now calling Weightwatchers Plus – my own personalized plan.  In the first month, I have religiously tracked everything because I don’t have rules on how much I can consume so I don’t need to be embarrassed or disgusted at myself about anything.  There are no bad days or bad food.  Curiously, since taking this new approach I haven’t had any of those binge days that used to plague my original attempts to follow Weightwatchers, no days of 100 points or more or even close to that.  It always fits into my life, because it’s completely flexible.  I’ve noticed that the items I’m least keen to have to add to the tracker are the things I’m debating eating due to something other than physical hungry and the thought of it seems to be enough to slow me down and have a think many times.

I am conducting an experiment in Me.  I will continue eating roughly as I am, and tracking the results of that, until the current losses tail off, and then I will look to just reduce my intake a little bit – maybe even just a few points a day on average, until I observe losses picking up again.  

I have bought quite a few habits with me from my time off-dieting, including not being afraid to use a healthy chunk of points on breakfast and things like avocado or peanut butter which pack a hefty number or points, but also happen to keep you full for ages.  Consequently my snacking levels are still down and it’s rare for me to feel super hungry.  I’ve started cooking properly again, including batches cooking dishes so I can bring leftovers for lunch and I’ve recently been rekindling some affection for moving a bit more and getting some activity on.

I have no expectation on what kind of losses, or rate, I can expect, and in many ways I’ve resolved to focus on what I’ve already achieved and be grateful for it, rather than get hung up and impatient about the next target to reach – it’s so unsatisfactory and negative to always focus on what I don’t have rather than what I do.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Life Lately

Once upon a time I was a good little blogger and actually wrote posts on a regular basis.  Looking back now, I thought it hadn't been as long as it clearly has since I last wrote, and also - I was much better at posting last year than I thought I was! Huh - who knew?

But anyhoo - apparently it was January when I last wrote something and I'm not really sure where the time has gone since then.  If it's any comfort, it's seems to have really flown by in real life too!

In just 2 days time, it will already be 4 months since I got the keys to my very first house.  4 MONTHS!!  It's certainly looking homier than when I moved, and yet I've also not got as much done as I dreamily thought I would.  Mostly because I've discovered that a) I hate painting.  I only did one room so far and that was quite enough for me - next time I'm getting a decorator in to do the main slog for me! and b) everything costs a lot more than you think and buying a house is really expensive and basically I ran out of money for now.  Probably not helped by the fact that I slunk off for a 5 star week skiing in Switzerland in January - oops.

What I have managed to do though is completely paint the front bedroom and get new carpet laid and when I finally have time to drive a van to my dad's house and collect my bed from him I can actually think about moving in there - well done me!

I've started hanging my pictures, bought a sofa and a coffee table (the tv stand is still a cardboard box though) and spent endless hours pouring over the internet trying to work out what style my house will be and splodging paint samples in different rooms.  I've planted a few things in the garden which miraculously haven't died yet and I bought some seeds to plant a few vegetables - ambitious I know!

I have a cat! A giant, fluffy, black and white called Otto has come to live with me and we're just about getting to know each other and find a rhythm now.  He throws up hairballs and tries to trip me up when I walk down the hall and I baby-talk him and freak him out with feathery cat toys which he thinks are trying to kill him - it's delightful.  But all is right with the world when he curls up next to me and delicately puts a paw on me to check I'm still there / ask for a scratch behind the ears.

I went skiing at the end of January and got to tick a new country off the list - I loved it but goddamn it, I really miss the mountains.  One week a year is not enough.

I handed in my notice on my job - I have two weeks left to go and I am so ready to be out of there.  It was way past time for me to do it and I'm enormously looking forward to a short break and finding my next opportunity.  Speaking of which I did the foundation course for coaching in February with the Coaches Training Institute in London.  It was an eye-opening 3 days that challenged me more than anything in years and made me realise that I hate getting something wrong, but that it also doesn't kill me.

And finally - because it's sort of the point of the blog - I'm hoping that I'm slowly turning a corner with my eating and my weight.  It's slow, slow progress, but I'm consistently a few lbs down from where I was at the end of last year.  Of course, I'm still up from where I was when I quit dieting but I'm happy if I'm slowly heading in the right direction.  I've not got far on the scales yet, but have noticed it more in how some of my clothes fit and someone actually commented today that they thought I'd lost a little.  I shall take that comment and run with it!

A lot of the work I've been doing recently has been around working out what triggers you to eat in the first place and working to remove it - quitting this job and figuring out a better long term career plan are big parts of that ... of course I also gave up alcohol for Lent, so that could also have something to do with the loss - I don't know but I guess we'll find out in the coming weeks!

In the meantime - I'm super looking forward to the long weekend for Easter, spending time with Otto, good friends and my Dad, sleeping, watching films, reading old favourite books and pottering in the house and garden.

And on that note, I'm about to fire up Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and sit back and watch.

Enjoy the bank holiday!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Joy

One of the books I was reading recently suggested the idea that a common reason for eating more than we physically need is due to not enough joy in other areas of our lives.

It's an interesting idea because, in a weird way, it means I've got kind of lazy.  It means I basically stopped making the effort to find what I actually enjoy doing, and resorted to food for easy-access joy.  

Since making that realisation, I've started questioning a lot of the times I find myself at the cupboard.  The result has been turning away from the kitchen a lot of the time, and on other occasions taking a little bit of something and really savouring; knowing full well that I am eating it for joy, not fuel, and accepting that.

The scales are currently creeping down by tiny increments.  I'm working on not expecting any particular results by a specific time - this is part a work of self-acceptance, and part a realisation that changing my habits and beliefs takes time, and therefore the external symptom of my habits and beliefs will also take time.  It's hard though because we're all conditioned to want the result right now, and I have to put the work in to get the results.

On the positive side, with the scales dropping slowly I'm experiencing the opposite of what normally happens.  The weight that usually insidiously creeps on, that you don't really notice (or deliberately deny), until suddenly one day your jeans don't fit - well, that is basically going the other way.  If I can keep my impatience in check, and just keep going with the self-acceptance and the mindfulness, I will wake up one day and find my jeans don't fit for all the right reasons.

So I've been working on bringing joy back into my life - recognising what makes me happy, actively monitoring my boredom levels and setting myself activities to occupy myself - not distraction so much as actually filling my time well - sometimes that's practical stuff around the house like decorating, and sometimes that consciously sitting down with a good book or tv show to enjoy, and I have to say, if nothing else comes out of it, my house is slowly getting decorated and I'm feeling generally pretty content!