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!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

That Was The Year ... 2016



2016 sure went quick, and here we are on it's final day already.

If there was one word that stood out for me this year, that summed up how it felt for me, then it would be "progress".  It felt like many strands of my life, things that I've been working on for a while, suddenly took a leap forward, and it's been pretty amazing.

For a start, I sit here writing this from my dining table in my kitchen.  My OWN kitchen in my OWN house because, guys - I finally got a foot on the property ladder!  The house completed mid-way through December and I managed to get in before Christmas, and there is such a sense of accomplishment in that, especially when I look back on the years in the financial desert not that long ago.

In my career, I've continued contracting which has put me on a more positive cash footing for now, but I've also taken the first tentative step into where my career might go next and booked the first part of my coaching certification for early next year.  I don't know yet how my career might unfold, but I've had some enchanting, frightening, exciting ideas on that this year and I have the sense of adventure to go looking, and we'll see what happens next.  I know how I want my life to look, and I'm going to go and find the pieces that make that vision come to life.

My weight loss journey feels like it took a tiny but significant step forward in 2016, and particularly December, too.  Having spent this year exploring my emotional eating and trying to figure out how to resolve and re-normalise my behaviours, something clicked in December.  Despite the month holding the move out from my rented flat, a couple of weeks of long commutes and spare room surfing with friends, and the stress of completing on the new house, plus all the normal socialising around the festive season and Christmas itself, I lost 2lbs.  To anyone else that might seem a non-achievement, but like a lot of people I normally put a few lbs on in December (or, you know, half a stone), and without even really trying I've done the opposite.  If I can do it under the super-pressurised circumstances of December, then I hold a great deal of hope that I might have turned a corner and can do it in other months.

Of course, there's also been some amazing trips and holidays this year - skiing in France in February and March, my amazing trip to Borneo and Brunei in the summer and long weekends in Wales, Cornwall and the Peak District, and the wonderful friends that have accompanied me along the way.

All in all, I feel pretty grateful at the close of this year and throughly excited to see what lies in wait for me in 2017.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Advance and Retreat

I love this time of year!  Christmas is approaching, I’ve just had my birthday so I’m usually still feeling the glow of the love I get from my friends around that time, and it’s a time for being cosy at home and enjoying the brisk chill in the air outside, and all the lovely twinkliness of Christmas lights and decorations.

Of course, this year – just to be different – I’m currently between homes so I’m a little like a long distance traveller in transit at a big airport.  I don’t quite feel settled, and I can’t wait to get to my destination, but I can still enjoy all the festive feel-good spirit around me even if I can’t have my own tree and lights right now.  

I decided to give up the lease on my rented flat at the end of November and, as my house purchase hasn’t quite completed yet, I’m bridging the gap by putting most of my stuff in storage and spending a few weeks staying at Dad’s home in Worcestershire.  It means long drives to work in Bristol (nearly 70 miles each way), and living out of suitcases for a few weeks, but it’s worth it to avoid overlapping the two properties and having to double up on rent and mortgage for a month as well as not having to try and do a handover of a flat at New Year.  With any luck my sale completes on 15th December and I’ll be living in my new house in time for Christmas!

In the meantime, I continue to look for the positive in the situation – saving money, spending some time with my Dad, having the opportunity to see friends at home, getting in the festive spirit with Christmas tunes in the car, taking advantage of the quieter shopping near Dad’s to avoid the Christmas Crazy in Bristol and having a handy parcel-collector at home for when the postman calls with my Christmas shopping.  See: lots of positives!

I’ve had brilliant weekends away recently too.  I had 3 night break in Cornwall at the end of October with one of my best friends which was heaven.  Cornwall was full of Autumnal walks by the coast, exploring local towns and shopping for souvenirs in the little boutiques and gift shops, eating clotted cream teas and pasties, and enjoying quiet drinks and card games in the hotel bar each night whilst chatting rubbish and putting the world to rights.  We meandered around Looe, Polperro, Fowey and Polruan, hopped over rivers on ferries and generally relaxed and unwound.  We especially loved relaxing in the spa every evening before dinner.

Then at the end of November, just before my birthday, I went to the deepest, darkest Cotswolds for the Sacred Rascals retreat.  I had been looking forward to it for months, ever since I had an unexpected tax refund and decided that I damn well deserved it, and it definitely lived up to expectations.  The weekend was a mix of hardcore relaxing, being looked after in amazing style in a beautiful country house near Tetbury, and group coaching sessions with some amazing leaders and a fabulous bunch of fellow retreaters.  The group work sessions were enlightening and empowering, and whilst I might not have had any earth-shattering revelations, I came away feeling like there had been a subtle but definite shift in my outlook.

I felt relaxed, more centred and balanced, enthused to follow up on some plans I’ve had brewing for a few months, and I’ve been sleeping better ever since.  Pre-retreat I’ve had generally broken sleep and restless nights for months now, and could probably count on one hand the number of nights where I’ve slept right through and felt well rested in the morning.  That started with shoulder niggle that made it uncomfortable to sleep on my right side last summer, but even after that slowly healed my sleeplessness remained.  Since the retreat, I’ve been sleeping much better – most nights I drop right off and I’m pretty solidly out until the morning.  I’m unsure what changed, but wonder if it’s because I’ve put some plans in action for a part of my life that has been really frustrating me and so my brain just feels calmer?

And what were the plans?  Well, after some conversations with the coaches, I finally made a decision on whether to book on some coach training myself, and I did it!  I had originally been looking at one of the American programmes that you attend long distance on the phone, but I’d had doubts about it which I couldn’t place my finger on.  After some suggestions and research, I’ve found a programme that feels like a much better fit for me, for where I am in my life right now.  And I booked it!  I do my foundation course in February in London, and it’s a bit terrifying, because part of the homework is to do a practice coaching session straight away after the first day – eeeeeeek!  BUT .... whilst that feels outside my comfort zone right now, I have faith that they won’t make me do anything I won’t have been given the tools for, and I have people in my life I can ask to be my guinea pigs.  

I still don’t know what I intend to do with this coaching training in the long run, and I’ve decided not to worry about that yet.  Hell, I might not even want to continue after this foundation part of the course, but it feels good and right to be exploring the options and trying something new out.

On a food front, I’m still exploring my eating demons and trying to find ways to deal with them.  No recent moves on the weight front, up or down, but given I historically always gain most during periods of change and uncertainty, I’m happy that this house move hasn’t caused an upward trend.  Nor has my birthday or my weekends away.  I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with what my triggers are, even if I’m not perfect with dealing with them, and this increased awareness of my emotional state – whether it’s fatigue, boredom, frustration, or anxiety – feels like it should be the underpinning of learning to sit with them or respond more appropriately than just eating them.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Little Yellow House

Writing on here is a bit more sparse these days than it used to be, and I think some of that comes down to the fact that I journal privately now, a habit which I only picked up last year – which is awesome for me but ... not so great for the blog!  I’m not quite ready to give up on here yet though, so you’ll just have to suffer with more infrequent updates (if anyone still reads that is!).

I’m very glad to say that after that the cliff-hanger ending of my last post, the mortgage crisis all sorted itself out, and the house purchase is back on track.  Since then there have been several *exciting* evenings of paperwork in order to support and document my mortgage application, many emails and calls booking various surveys, a thoroughly depressing call around life assurance and critical illness cover (I’m sure he kept going on and on and on intentionally just to wear me down until I screamed “yes, just insure me for everything and let me go!!!”) and today I have a fun appointment with my solicitors to get my shiny new will signed.  

The world of Adulting is overrated.

But hey – at the end of this I’m going to have a house!  And it’s even an actual house not a flat.  A house with stairs and a loft and a garden with a shed.  I considering getting a cat.

So ok, maybe Adulting can be quite awesome.

I can’t remember how much I said about the house before potential disaster struck.  I know I’d written a glowing post of gushing contentment at finally getting to have the stability of a home of my own, that wouldn’t be subject to the whims of flatmates leaving or landlords being a$$hats about stuff, but I’m pretty sure I hadn’t yet posted it when The Mortgage Crisis struck and therefore deleted it in a fit of depressed pique.  So yeah – you can just imagine all of that.  

Instead I shall tell you that my new gaff will be a little 2 bed Victorian terraced house on a quiet cul-de-sac.  That I’ll be moving across the river from lovely, smart regency Clifton where I rent now, to fashionable, in demand, up-and-coming Bedminster / Southville – it might not have the classic graceful architecture and boutique-filled Village of Clifton, but it’s full of families and young professionals and has a buzzing high street full of independent shops – and more importantly I can afford a whole house rather than a poky, converted flat which is all my budget would stretch to in the exorbitant prices of Clifton.  I’m sure they’ll let me back in to visit Clifton once in a while though.

What’s Victorian on the outside is thoroughly 90’s on the inside (probably why I could actually afford to buy in an area that is “middle-classing” faster than you can say “log burner”), but that’s actually good from my point of view.  Pending my structural survey telling me otherwise, the house is in immaculate condition but dated, which means I have a great excuse to completely redecorate but a very easy base to start from – the plaster’s in good condition, there’s no heinous wallpaper to strip, and the bathroom and kitchen are completely clean and usable until I have the money to replace them.  Thanks to some nifty remodelling somewhere in the house’s history, I also have large lounge and a large kitchen diner downstairs instead of the original small lounge / small dining room / tiny kitchen combo that would have originally have been there.  Perfect.

And just because buying and moving house is not enough to deal with, I’m also unexpectedly contemplating a job move.  My current contract runs until December, so I hadn’t really thought about doing anything different until then, but was contacted earlier in the week asking if I wanted to apply for a promotion / payrise on a new contract with people I know from previous jobs.  It’s the kind of unexpected situation where there’s no harm in applying so I have done – no worries if I don’t get it and if I do, then I get some extra money and experience, and it will help pay for the coaching course I want to do in January.

Eating-wise – well, everything is stable.  Which is good and bad I guess, but I’m trying to look on the positive side.  I’m eating a more varied diet and more satisfying food than I used to.  I’m working on my sense of self-worth because that’s pretty much what underpins everything – nothing works if you’re constantly operating from a standpoint of hate and fear for your current situation, it has to be from love for yourself ... which is a lot easier said than done.  I’ve quit the gym (pretty much) but started doing regular yoga at home which I’m enjoying.  I’m still plodding along, but accept that I’ll need to buy myself a new winter coat this year because my others are too small – whilst I’m not putting on weight currently, I haven’t lost the extra little bit I somehow gained after holiday, which means what was tight last winter (because I hadn’t bought anything new after several ski seasons away) is really tight now.  Even though I’m only 7lbs heavier that last winter, everything dates from a couple of stone / years ago when I was at my very lowest.  I won’t punish myself for the variations in this journey and where my body’s at though, so I’ll just buy a new coat and enjoy it!