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!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Oh Calamity (Maybe)

I was in the process of writing a post about how I had some awesome news, and after spending just 6 weeks looking for a home of my own to buy, I had had an offer accepted on a lovely little Victorian house in Bristol.

I had already dubbed it the Little Yellow House, mused on how lucky I was (ha!) in the ferociously competitive market in Bristol to have found somewhere and managed to successfully bid on it in such a short time.  I had even mentally started the renovation project in my mind (and on Pinterest).

I.  Was.  Ecstatic.

And just 3 short days after getting the brilliant(ly unexpected) news about the offer acceptance, I had an equally unexpected and much less welcome call from my mortgage broker on Friday:  there was a major issue with my mortgage application, and when I asked if I should be genuinely concerned I got the very ominous answer of "yes".

At this moment in time, I honestly have no idea whether we can rescue the purchase and I'll have a house all of my own in just a few short weeks time, or if everything is going to come grinding to a halt and I'll not only have to let the vendor down, which I absolutely hate to think about, but I won't be able to even start the process again for another 18 months or more.

Distressed is really not the word.  Although numb and resigned occasionally comes close, as does panic.

Somehow, and I don't even know how this happened, I sailed through all the initial questions from the mortgage broker about my financial situation and got a provisional green light from the banks, and it only emerged on Friday when the broker took the actual real-deal mortgage application to the bank, that  there is a HUGE issue with my having been out of the country on my ski seasons.  Yeah - I don't get it either.

It would appear that at some point in the last couple of years, a lot of the banks decided that anyone who had lived abroad in the last 3 years automatically got benched in the mortgage game.  Where this gets super annoying for me is that, although I did technically live and work abroad and so put a French address in my address history, EVERYTHING to do with my credit, financial and work history during that period remained in the UK - my banking, my salary from my UK employer, my tax arrangements, my loans and credit cards and phone plans, my ability to vote, I wasn't even on the lease on the work property I was staying in - so the reason why they won't touch people who've lived abroad (gaps in the credit history so they can't judge the application properly) doesn't apply to me at all.

My broker and I are now desperately trying to work out a way round this, so that someone will give me a mortgage, but I don't know how long I actually have given I'm now in a chain.  It seems ridiculous that someone with my salary and credit score (significantly higher than the national average on the first and about 10 points short of the maximum possible out of 999 on the second) could end up in this position.

Cross all your fingers and toes for me if you will!!

The only good thing in this whole scenario is that I can tell that my tendency to stress eat is well and truly behind me now as there has been zero inclination to binge or snack outside of normal during the whole thing.  In fact, I'm actually on a pretty great eating kick at the moment, but I'll save that update for another day.

The only weird behaviour I caught myself indulging in was mentally finding sneaky ways to try and blame myself for what has happened, when it CLEARLY outside of my zone of influence. I found myself thinking it was my fault for celebrating too early, or of course I didn't deserve to have the house go through, and other weird inner-mean-girl-in-my-ear thoughts.  I told her roundly to shut up and eff off - I deserve this damn house and I'm going to fight for it.

Send all your good mortgage / buying vibes my way if you will!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


I feel really positive right now.  Which is weird, but entirely awesome.

Somewhere between mid-July and now, I feel like someone changed my batteries and my lightbulbs and now I’m energised and sparkly again and feeling wholly refreshed and rejuvenated.

Winding back to mid-July and I had, I think, hit full flaming burnout.  I was sluggish, apathetic and constantly tired – I had no energy, couldn’t face the gym, had no interest in anything but curling up in darkened rooms and sleeping.  I even got to the point where I cancelled seeing people because I just didn’t feel like I could put my mask on and act like a proper human any longer.  I recognised it and acknowledged it and set about trimming back my social engagements and trying to rest myself a bit better, but all I could really think about was holiday and getting away for a couple of weeks.

Oh boy, holiday was amazing.  Two and a half weeks in Malaysia (Borneo) with the first few days of that spent unwinding in 5* luxury in neighbouring Brunei.  We climbed 4,000m mountains (never again), saw So.  Much. Wildlife and visited surreally beautiful landscapes like perfect tropical islands where we sat on the beach and watched the sun rise over the islands of the Philippines as the final green turtles finished laying their eggs in the sand and scooted back into the glassy blue sea. 

Somehow the sense of peace of being away in such quiet locations has come home with me, and I feel quietly positive about life.  I’ve still got a bit of jetlag, but instead of getting frustrated with waking up too early, I’ve been using the time to enjoy leisurely breakfasts before work or go to the gym to swim or do yoga.  I’ve set about gently rearranging the flat now that my flatmate has moved out – spreading out slowly from my over-crowded bedroom and making the stark open spaces where all her stuff has now gone homely and warm again.  I’m on the hunt for possible future homes again, and taking my time and being patient with the process.  

I’ve been cooking properly – making fresh soup, eating fruit and pasta with homemade sauce and (a sign of the progress I’ve made) I'm not really fussed by the open packs of crisps, chocolate, biscuits or icecream in the kitchen from before holiday.  

I also decided against weighing myself on the return from holiday.  I was re-reading parts of The Goddess Revolution whilst I was away, and am generally feeling quite a peace with my body right now, so realised that the scales couldn’t really tell me anything useful at this point in time.  My clothes fit, my skin looks healthy and tanned and I feel strong (well, my dodgy back feels good, my ankle still feels a bit tender after rolling it 3 times on the way down the mountain), so the scales can only either tell me what I already know if I tune into myself, or ruin that.  I choose blissful ignorance and trying to trust myself.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Recently ....

I had a couple of posts queued up to upload but yeah .... life got in the way and suddenly I was sitting on the coach to Heathrow airport and they didn't happen. Soz and all that.

So instead, I thought I'd just do a quick catch up post, as it's been a busy couple of weeks.

Sooo - I didn't get the little house I fell in love with. I was just pipped at the post by another bidder - I was really disappointed about it, but after a few days (and a little search for everything that had sold in the area I like in the last 6 months) I felt comforted that there had been a good few houses that I think I would have liked and it will all happen in good time.

In the meantime I've buggered off on holiday and I'm currently sat by the pool at 5* splendour that is The Empire Hotel in Brunei, flying over to Borneo this evening. This trip has both come round very quickly and also seems like it's taken FOREVER to arrive!! However it's nice to be away with the girls again and fall back into the old comfortable patterns of chat and chuckling.

Elsewhere in my little world, I had a flirtation with what seemed like an actual, real life, nice man ..... which lasted exactly until he told me about his wife (back away, back away!) and discovered that my invoicing has been wrong all year and I've been substantially under-billing my current contract. This could have been a disaster, but my agency have been very sweet and helpful and I'll be getting all my missing back-dated fees since January as a lump sum while I'm away. Which is really pretty awesome as it means I'm getting an unexpected boost to my house deposit and a lovely pay rise going forwards.  For the first time in my life I feel really quite well off and well on the way to financial stability.

That financial stability will be super important and significant going forward as I still have every intention of signing up for my coaching course in January next year and exploring the options to become fully self-employed (and more fulfilled by my career). The extra money makes it easier to save for the cost of my course and to start saving a really good sized safety fund to help smooth any future transitions in my work.

So all in all, things are positive .... or I'm choosing to take the positives out of events. I will find a house and now I know how the process works and feels. I had a fun flirtation with a guy which reinforced that I'm a perfectly normal, not unattractive person and the fact that he had zero morals has no reflection on me (and I responded in a way that means I can hold my head high and know I did nothing wrong). Bizarrely, despite being still being bigger than I had been for a while on holiday, I also feel more confident in my bikini that I probably ever have - all this work on my emotional eating, self love and acceptance might finally be kicking in.

So I'm wishing everyone a happy August from here in Asia and I'll see you on the other side for more adventures in emotional eating and house buying.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

In Suspense

I HATE hanging around like this waiting for news.  Especially news that is life-changing.  I have enough trouble waiting for exam results and this is that same nervous flutter, except that this time there’s no studying or anything I can really do to improve my chances.  I guess I hate the feeling of powerlessness, and the spectre of potential failure, though in this case neither really reflect badly on me.

So, today I’m sitting with this nervousness, much as I’m trying to learn to sit with all those other uncomfortable feelings.

I want this house so much, and I’m also scared of the commitment at the same time.  I guess a house of my own feels like security and the start of a new phase in my life, so for me it represents so much more than just the literal bricks and mortar, and maybe that’s why this feels like such a pass or fail transition in my life – that it’s pass or fail moving to the next “level” of being an adult and successful.

In all honesty though, I love that damn house.  Something about it just called to me, I got that click when I went in.  And yes, it’s a standard 2 bed Victorian terrace, but I can see in my mind’s eye how cosy it could be, how me.  After 14 years of near constant moving I just want a home now – somewhere I can stop, settle and finally breathe out.

And so, even though I’m 90% expecting the call to tell me I haven’t got it, I suspect it’s still going to feel like a kick in the teeth.  I know, I know, that everyone keeps telling me that it’s only the third house I’ve seen, and by the 20th it won’t seem that special, but there are people I know like Hannah, who back me up that sometimes you just know.  And I’m sure there will be others out there, and that realistically that is the future I’m facing, that I will have to keep looking, but I know that aside from the practicalities of the constraints of my budget, this is somewhere I could be happy.

Sp please all cross your fingers and toes for me that this little dream could come true xx

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dreaming About Jobs

I feel excited about my career prospects for the first time in a long time.  More specifically, since about this time 3 years ago when I first realised that maybe I could do something much more exciting with my job than purely sitting in a big office all day, and applied to be a resort accountant in an Alpine ski resort.  That fateful day, when I submitted my application, kicked off one of the most exciting adventures of my life – it led to me achieving several life list goals and spreading my wings, and was a chapter of my life that was one of the happiest I can remember.  I lived abroad, developed my language skills, learned that I have what it takes to successfully financially manage a small business, independently work on my own from home and adapt on the fly to a highly challenging environment.  And I loved it.

As I made that decision, I really wasn’t entirely sure it was a wise thing to do, but it felt right.  Logically speaking, I would earn much less money than my sensible, safe banking job.  I would have to turn my entire life upside down to move abroad for 6 months, including leaving the lovely, affordable home I had fortuitously found at the peak of my personal debt crisis, and indeed putting back the date of me finally repaying all that debt by another 6 months.  I would be moving to a place full of perfect strangers, and would be at least partially career-dependent on a bunch of potentially flaky teenagers and ski-bums.  On paper, it was a horrible choice for my career, and some people including my beloved Dad thought I was nuts and it was too risky.  But a surprising number of people expressed envy at the freedom of my choice, and I followed the excited, fizzing sensation in my gut and the swelling feeling in my heart that told me yes.

Several years on, things have changed somewhat but I’m still not fully satisfied.  I’ve done two winter seasons and they were great, but ultimately not the long term solution to my career I’d hoped for.  I’ve now swapped to contracting, which definitely ticks a few more boxes but it’s still not right.  I think for the longest time I’ve known I felt dissatisfaction with my career, but doing the work on dealing with my emotional eating has really bought it uncomfortably to the forefront.  The problem is I’ve had no idea what to do to solve it.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time visualising what my dream job would look like, and it looked awesome, but sadly not in any way realistic. I mean, I’m sure companies exist out there like it, but to find a job combining the qualities I’m looking for, a salary I can afford to live on now, and in Bristol because I don’t really want to move from here ... well, let’s just say my weekly single Euromillions Lucky Dip looks more promising.

Something cool is happening now though.  I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been thinking about it honestly, admitting my hopes and fears when it comes to my career, and being open to the possibilities, but I feel like one of those possibilities is growing into being Something.  Something that makes my insides fizz with excitement again and makes me shout a great big instinctual yes! inside. In fact, I feel a bit like a scientist that realises that they’ve been looking at the confusing evidence all wrong, and if they re-arrange it something startlingly clear and completely different emerges.  I’ve been looking at the problem from the conventional wisdom of seeking a single job to satisfy all of my needs.  What if the answer isn’t one single job.  What if it’s two (or more!) strands of what I’m good at, all woven together to make a flexible satisfying whole?

Even writing this down and putting it out there feels like a great big “eeeek”.  I mean what if it’s too much?  What if I freak out and retreat back into my shell and don’t believe I can do it?  What if it’s yet another thing that I get all excited about and then it all fizzles out?  But I do have two actual career strands in mind, one of which is a natural extension of what I’ve already been doing all my working life and the other is .... not.  The other is way out there, totally outside my comfort zone, but something that definitely intrigues me.  Something I would need to train and study for and make a real commitment to but I can very seriously imagine myself doing. Something that has ironically been suggested on every single personality or career test I’ve ever taken. 

The funny thing is it was the way-outside-the-comfort-zone strand that came to me first, but one of my biggest fears that has held me back has been stepping away completely from my financial career – I trained 4 years for it after all, and there are aspects of it I do still really enjoy, and what if I’m wrong and I can’t go back???  I’ve also worried that for every career I’ve thought of, I can’t imagine just doing that full time and feeling satisfied with it.  I don’t seem to have the commitment to do just one thing, all of the time.  But then the strangest, most reassuring thing occurred to me this week – why I can’t I be making money from more one than one thing at the same time?  Why can’t I utilise two completely different skill sets in parallel to earn my way in the world?  Hell, I might even find that some weird synergy ends up forming and I actually end up with a blended business coming into existence, or it might evolve into something completely different from my two potential starting points.

Even better, having two potential business plans to run side-by-side means I could potentially dip my toe into the pond gently, one thing at a time, and ease my way into it, rather than having to abandon my current career in one big, bold (terrifying) step.

For the first time in years, I feel like I have something I can aim for, and having the aim means I can start dissecting that down into A Plan.  I have things I can research (I loves me a bit of research) and baby steps I can start to take towards seeing if this is something that can truly work for me.  It feels both big and bold and ambitious, and yet totally more manageable and realistic than anything I’ve done yet.  And it combines elements of everything that I had in my Dream Job visualisation.  It feels true to me and deeply satisfying.

I couldn’t be more excited.*

*I apologise extensively for the vagueness of this post – even putting the basic concept out there and saying I want to do it feels like an almighty big first step. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Day To Day

Despite being super busy last night and getting finished late – it was one of those nights when all the errands just got blitzed in one go and I was feeling super efficient – I still went to the supermarket, bought fresh ingredients and went home and cooked up something fresh.  Hooorah!  I am proud of myself for making something fresh and homemade, for trying a new recipe, and for coming back from the supermarket with an alarmingly healthy set of food after a long day.

Yes – I think the re-balancing of my diet is finally on the way!  Whilst the food I bought was healthy and balanced, it was not standard, strict diet fare – there were little treats in there like fudge and pita chips and things I banned under Weightwatchers like juice and fresh coconut – but there was also vegetables and lean proteins .... basically my basket represented lots of fun, tasty whole foods and less processed stuff.  

One of the adjustments I’m making is to focus on more protein heavy breakfasts.  I suffer quite badly with the mid-morning munchies if I have carbs and sugar alone for breakfast, which is fine on the weekend when I’m up later and then usually less inclined to eat through boredom or anything else, but not so great for weekdays in the office.  This morning’s breakfast was scrambled egg with smoked salmon on a slice of seeded toast, some green juice and tea.    Not the strict diet fare from my Weightwatchers days, but proper tasty food – butter not margarine, proper bread not some wimpy diet excuse, whole eggs, juice!!  Weightwatchers caused me to shun all juice like it was the work of the devil, but I’ve been having a small glass of juice with breakfast recently and it’s delicious – this week’s juice has been apple, kale, lemon and ginger and is super refreshing.

I’ve also been playing with getting back in the kitchen and falling in love with cooking again.  Half the battle of eating good food, is having the energy to prepare and cook it in the first place.  In The Goddess Revolution the author wisely suggests making your kitchen somewhere you want to be – we decorate the rest of our rooms to appeal to ourselves but often skip the kitchen as it is the site for so many psychological battles during dieting.  She suggests making as much effort with the kitchen – get some tunes of your choice going on a cute radio, bring flowers and candles or photos into the kitchen, whatever your preference, to make it a fun, light pretty room.  Clear your kitchen of all the rubbish so you’ve got space to work and nice tools to work with.  She has a point.  

At last Monday’s impromptu dinner party I learnt to cook with lentils for the first time, and turned out a rather tasty cod wrapped in smoked ham accompanied by lentils with sage and onion.  It was so good I used the leftovers to cook it again later in the week.  Last night I tried a Thai sweet potato soup, inspired by one of the menus from my second ski season – it turned out to be super easy and incredibly tasty and now I’ve got three portions in the fridge and freezer.  I bought avocados last night.  Avocados!!  This might sound ridiculous but I’ve never used avocado at home before.  I didn’t think I liked it much until recently, but I’ve been having it in food when I’m out and have realised how nice it is, so thought it would be something good to play with adding to breakfasts.

I also bought myself some really awesome work trousers yesterday – following on from the clothing theme the other week when I realised I was beating myself up constantly by not allowing myself to think I’m worth clothes at my current weight.  Result – I feel comfortable and stylish today, not crammed into something that’s slightly too small.  Apparently, when I did my shopping for my work wardrobe revamp last summer I did my usual trick of buying things slightly on the tight side, assuming that “this time the diet would work” as I had just started Weightwatchers again after my second season.  As I’ve subsequently changed my approach, and am currently a couple of lbs heavier instead of lighter, that had resulted in several pairs of trousers that were cutting my circulation off to my lower body and making me feel miserable every time I considered wearing any of them.  Plain stupid.  I think, just maybe, I’m learning to love and respect myself a little.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Coaching Myself

I’ve started wondering about looking into life coaching.  Not just getting a life coach, which is something I have previously considered, but actually how to become one.  I’m fascinated by the coaching process (as you can tell by the number of books I’ve consumed on the journey to find peace with food), and there’s a small part of me that wonders if it’s something that I would be good at myself and could incorporate into creating my ideal life.  But there’s also a second big reason for my curiosity – reading books by coaches, and getting actual coaching sessions would be ace .... but what if I could take it one step further and learn how to coach myself??

It would give me constant access to the resources I need to improve myself, and in understanding the process behind it, maybe I can take it one step further and build it into a deeper way to constantly, gently, evolve my life.

My frustration with work is currently more obvious than ever.  Things annoy me more quickly and I can feel that I’m not quite taking it as seriously as I should for something that is such a big part of my life (like last week when I got warned by colleagues that my boss has been taking credit for my work and down-playing what I do, and I couldn’t help but laugh even though as a contractor life can be precarious).  As much as there are aspects of business that I love and really enjoy, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that I need something more in my career to keep me satisfied.  And what if coaching part-time could be an answer to that.  Creating my own coaching environment and space and getting the satisfaction of actually helping people in a tangible one-to-one way.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and this will be another flash-in-the-pan idea that fizzles out just a few weeks down the line, but it’s an exciting possibility to follow, and the first time I’ve genuinely considered the prospect of doing something outside the financial sphere.

Eating-wise – it’s a bit blah right now.  I decided to do a weigh in this morning, and I was bit up.  I felt like I was a bit up before I stood on the scales so it came as no surprise, and curiously I didn’t feel guilty, or bad about it, or beat myself up.  I just accepted it.  Having put on another lb or two I’m probably the heaviest I’ve been for a good while – I think since 2009 when I first lost the weight, but I’m still a good 2 stone off where I started.  But also 2 stone up from my lightest now.  However, I’m also far more relaxed and accepting, and I feel like my eating is taking another change in direction.

Since I mentioned it last week, my inclination is definitely starting to come back round to more wholesome, properly cooked food.  I’m starting to crave soups and pasta, protein at breakfast and less bread.  Certain types of sugary food are starting to seem a lot less satisfying and I’m more conscious of what fuels me well, and what leaves me with a energy slump half an hour later.

The weekend was gloriously relaxing as I was in the Gower near beautiful Port Einon.  My friend Jo and I did a 10 mile walk along the cliffs from Rhosilli back to the house, marvelling at the scenery along the way and enjoying a picnic, cake and ice creams at various points.  We watched bits of the Euros and Wimbledon, played cards and pool at the house and sunbathed on the beach on Sunday .... it was heaven and such much-needed downtime after the last few weeks.  I’m also re-reading the Harry Potter series and I’m totally addicted again!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Breaking Up

I would love to tell you how much I weight right now, but I really can’t because I just don’t know.  My scales are right there in the bathroom, with batteries in and functional, but I haven’t weighed myself in about 2 weeks.  I’m in the process of breaking up with the scales.

I’ve tried this previously, but usually cave in and start panicking after a short period of time, but this time genuinely feels different.  I feel more at ease with the idea of not just not weighing myself, but letting my size settle where it will and putting more emphasis on being the best me and liking that, and not the size of my clothes or the number on the scales.

A couple of weeks ago, I read the latest in the series of books I’ve been devouring in my search for insight into my eating and finding peace – this time it was The Goddess Revolution.  This one is much less focused on the psychological emotional eating side of things, although it definitely touches on it and other disordered eating, and is much more about self-acceptance, a holistic approach to looking after yourself and learning to love you however you end up.  It talks about cutting out the constant quest to be someone else or a past version of yourself and working towards your best future self instead.  And do you know – I really enjoyed it and took note of a number of points the author made. Mel Wells talks about how to reconcile leaving the diets behind and loving yourself as you are with still wanting to lose weight and be healthy in a ... well, healthy ... way.  And a lot of what she says works for me.

Having said that, I’m still noticing organic changes happening in my eating and behaviours – I don’t really have to think about not finishing a plate because I’m full anymore – most of the time that just happens; cravings have faded and I’m much better at identifying times when I’m eating from fatigue or emotion (I’ve started to notice that fatigue is actually a huge driver for me to eat, and I’m getting better at persuading myself to take naps when I’m home) and coming up with a better solution than eating; and I think I’m finally starting to exit what one author refers to as the Donuts and Doritos phase.

I was seriously concerned a few weeks ago about the complete lack of fruit and veg I’ve been eating recently.  Whilst I got used to listening to what my mind wanted to eat and not feel guilty about it, although things plant-based kind of disappeared from my diet for a while.  I think this was maybe the backlash from so many years on the diet where I was not only forbidden all the naughty food, but when I had over-indulged I would eat all the “free” fruit and vegetables to try and make up ground.  I think I had started to associate them with the stick that I would beat myself with when I deviated from the diet.  But, slowly but surely, I’ve started to want a few again and have been picking a few items out of the fruit box at work and considering meal plans with some vegetable accompaniments.  I’ve been trying really hard to listen to not just my mind but my body – what makes me feel good and what leaves me with a food hangover, and as I catch up on everything that was off-limits and the sparkle and allure of it fades, it’s much easier to do that.  We had dinner out at The Burger Joint last week (a-mazing burgers if you’re ever in Bristol) but I felt horrible the next day – I’m learning.

Aside from all that, the world keeps turning.  The UK voted out of the EU in the referendum (nooooooooooo), we did horribly in the Euro 2016 football (mwah ha ha ha) and Wimbledon started on Monday (so that’s my tv for the next couple of weeks!).  I had a hideous deadline at work which I somehow delivered by the skin of my teeth.  And I’ve been off enjoying myself all over the place – we camped in Cornwall at the weekend and it was glorious, I saw Kaiser Chiefs at Westonbirt Arboretum and they were brilliant, I took my dad out for birthday lunch, had dinner with my friends from ski season, caught up with my old housemates, had a dinner party with friends from work and other things besides.  The last 2 weeks have been so jam-packed that I realised mid-way through last week that I was very much burning the candle at both ends and suffering for it.  So here’s to some quiet weeks ahead to catch up with myself, tidy my house, save some money and generally unwind.  Oh and it’s only 5 weeks until Borneo now!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Project Acceptance

One of the hardest parts of trying to deal with emotional eating and learning how to properly eat intuitively, has been getting to grips with the concept of needing to love myself.

What I’ve come to realise is that I barely even accept myself, never mind having affectionate feelings towards little old me, which isn’t really an ideal place to be starting from.

One of the books I was reading gave an analogy which I rather liked: you need to accept where you are in order to make progress; otherwise it’s rather like wanting to make a journey from Boston to LA, but you’re not in Boston, you’re in New York.  You cannot possibly make the journey you want to without acknowledging first where you are actually starting from and planning to go from there.

I sort of thought I was cool with that and had acknowledged my starting point, but turns out I was wrong.  I realised as I was walking home last night, just how much I refuse to accept my current self.  And the catalyst for that realisation?  My wardrobe.

Let me explain.  Like a lot of people, my weight has fluctuated over time;  I’ve been bigger and I’ve been smaller.  Influenced by what is “socially acceptable”, whenever I have lost weight I’ve tended to celebrate and throw out my bigger clothes as soon as possible – “I’m not going back there obviously!”  But when my weight has gone up a bit, I’ve clung to my smaller clothes.  Oh, I have an entire wardrobe stashed under my bed that belongs to my much smaller self and has realistically been put away for another day, but I also have quite a bit in my current wardrobe that belongs to my slightly smaller self and doesn’t really fit comfortably.  The result of this is that when I stand in front of my wardrobe trying to find something to wear, there appears to be a lot in there but quite a chunk of it doesn’t fit or feel right.  That is not a situation that is engineered to make me feel good!

Here’s the kicker:  what this comes down to can be summed up perfectly by a pair of long denim shorts I own – they are a style I love, but they are a bit too small – they just about do up but are really uncomfortably tight.  Rather than buy some more in my current size, I think to myself that it’s not worth it, I’ll just wait until the ones I own fit again.  I am basically telling myself that at this size I am not worth some new shorts.  I don’t deserve them.  I don’t accept my current size as anything other than some kind of temporary blip.   And that is a terrible message to be sending myself.

Last night, I felt like enough was enough.  I can’t go round thinking of myself like that.  I am not accepting me for me.  I am judging my worth based on my current weight – do I deserve some clothes that make me feel comfortable and confident?  Yes!!  But the way I’ve been acting has been telegraphing “no” and effectively punishing myself by not getting a few new clothes that fit. Ridiculous!

My weight has not changed significantly in the past year (which is actually a pretty positive thing when you consider that I stopped dieting last September and didn’t automatically put weight back on), and I’m around a solid size bigger than I was at my lowest weight a few years ago – some stuff still fits and other things don’t, but I think it’s about time I stopped punishing myself for putting on some weight and allow myself things that make me feel good.  After all, as one friend said last night in response to me commenting that I’m not as small as I was, “no, you’re more awesome now”.

Project Acceptance starts here.

Friday Favourites

1)      House shopping – I love looking at all the possibilities and considering the options.  I seriously need to sit down and write out the list of what I want, as the more I look at the slightly further out areas and the houses I could  have instead of a little one bed flat, the more it looks tempting, but I think I’d regret being that far out away from my friends at the moment.  I’m quite good, I think, at seeing the possibilities in a property rather than just what it is right now, and I’ve started dreaming of house decorating and home improvements already.  Heart eyes emojis over having a little nest of my own.

2)      Planning summer adventures – last night was the summer planning session for the Explorers Connect group and we came up with loads of potential ideas to keep us entertained over the summer, starting with maybe a bit of wild-swimming next weekend.  

3)      Pimm’s – you can’t beat the feeling of summer that comes with drinking cold Pimm’s in the warm sunshine .... definitely when accompanied by a punnet of strawberries.  Living the quintessential British dream last weekend on a picnic blanket by the Thames with my book.

4)      Busted (and Wheatus!) – last Saturday night was like a trip down a very cheesy memory lane.  We saw the bands at the sold out O2 Arena in London, and it was awesome.  And if I’m honest even – so much better than I was expecting.  I thought it was going to be cheesy hits and nostalgic, but potentially not the best quality singing ever nor the most tuneful – just a bit manic.  Well.  That was me proven wrong.  Both bands blew my socks off in terms of raw talent and the performances were electric.  It was a hell of a lot of fun and my friend and I danced the whole way through.  We were pretty lucky with our seating as well, as we were close enough to be watching in person, rather than on the big screens, and they came down to do a section on a central stage that was literally about 10m away from us.  All in all, it was fabulous.

5)      Sunny pub walks – again from last weekend, myself and two friends set off for a walk along the Thames with the aim of a specific pub because we knew they did awesome cheesecake (who needs lunch; skip straight to dessert!), and the weather was so lovely, that some 6 or 7 miles later we finally staggered home via another 2 pubs in the sun.  It was catch up chat, summery drinks and admiring the drool-worthy property on that section of the river (shout out to Chiswick Village and it’s random picture-perfect country cottages and manor houses by the river).

6)      New sandals – since summer is basically here, and knowing good ol’ Blighty will probably last for approximately 3 more days this year) I’m taking advantage of sandal-wearing weather.  My pair from last summer look sadly tatty and worn now (which is fair since they cost about £7 from New Look) so I  fell in love with this gorgeous pair of blue ones from White Stuff when I accidentally fell into the shop on the way home on evening this week.  They fit like gloves and give a colourful little boost to my outfits.  They’re a necessity right?  I just have to keep telling myself (and my budget) that.  

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Friday Favourites

Sometimes it's nice to reflect on what's bought you happiness / contentment / joy, especially when times are feeling a bit stressful, and so I bring you a second instalment of Friday favourites!

1.       Amazon Firestick

I actually bought this baby a few weeks ago but I still get excited about spending time at home several weeks later!  I love my Netflix, but I’m not so good with watching regular tv.  Not having a smart tv (I made a good choice when I bought my set about 6 or 7 years ago and it’s still going strong and looking good), I’ve been relegated to watching Netflix on my laptop or iPad up til now, which usually means I end up playing on the internet instead, getting distracted or curled up like a teenager in my bedroom.  Now, however, I can watch in state, installed on the sofa with a blanket, and not having to worry about which device has got some juice in the battery.  It’s safe to say that I’ve been enjoying my Netflix more than ever, and I love being able to pop Spotify up on the tv for music while I’m pottering round on the weekend, plus having E4 and BBC iPlayer at the touch of a button.  Money well invested.

2.       Horse riding

Way back in the mists of time, I used to ride regularly.  Every weekend as a kid you’d find me gleefully hanging out at my local stable all day Saturday or Sunday – the lesson would only last an hour but I’d happily muck out stables, help with feed and generally hang out with friends and ponies for the remaining hours.  I rode with the University’s riding club when I went off down South to do my degree, but I had a pretty painful riding accident during my final year of uni that severely dented my confidence (and my back), and when I moved to London immediately after graduation I gave up .... there’s not too many places that a new graduate can afford to ride in the capitol after all!

Since then (a good 12 years or more) I’ve ridden just a handful of times and I’ve always loved it, but it was never a regular thing.  The time has come.  I spent a bit of time over the last couple of weeks researching local stables and finally had my first lesson 2 weeks ago on a very damp Wednesday evening.  I thought I was just going to be getting back into it gently with some walking and trotting, as I was booked into a novice lesson, but no – the instructor had me cantering and popping over a few little single jumps before the hour was up!  This week she had me on faster horse and we spent most of the lesson tackling runs of (small) jumps and at the end of the lesson she said I can join the advanced class next time if I’d like.  Two weeks ago I was scared I’d have forgotten and make an idiot out of myself, but it’s all still there and I’ve loved being back in the saddle.

 (Riding down in Exmoor a few years ago)

3.        House buying

As mentioned earlier in the week, this distant pipedream has suddenly moved forward to being very much a reality, and I can’t tell you how exciting that is.  Of course, me being me, I’d really like it all to just happen NOW, but it doesn’t work that way and I’ve still got a long, hard road ahead of me, trawling through all the processes and trying to find an actual place that I like, can afford.  There’s a huge problem in Bristol at the moment with houses all going to sealed bids and selling for about 15-20% above the asking price, which is terrifying when you have a strict budget to stick to, but I’m sure if I just persist, I’ll triumph eventually.

Just the thought of having a home, somewhere that is mine to decorate, furnish and improve as I please, that is not dependent on anyone else’s renting whims and is my own little haven at the end of the day makes the whole spectre of the buying struggle worthwhile.  Right now, I’m talking to mortgage brokers to confirm how much I can get and that someone is prepared to lend to me, as well as religiously scanning the listings to see what’s out there right now.  

4.        Bill Bailey    

We went to see this genius of comedy on Tuesday evening, and he was just as funny as ever.  During the second half I was literally doubled over, laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.  Enough said.  I love a bit of live comedy and can’t wait to put some more in my diary.

5.        Bristol 10k Great Run

I did it.  It felt highly satisfying to be able to drag my very under-trained butt around the course on Sunday, and to be able to finish in a surprisingly decent time for me.  1:16 on Sunday, compared to personal best of 1:05 and my first ever time of 1:12.  Both when I had considerably more running fitness than I do now.  I was happy with that.  I still haven’t quite managed to re-find my love of running but it felt like a step forward.

(Liz and I looking relieved to be done last weekend)

6.        Friday nights with friends

There’s something deeply satisfying about finishing the week with a relaxed night with good friends.  Especially when it’s friends that you’ve only recently bought together, but you’ve thought they’d get on well for ages, and you’ve been proved right.  Time with these girls is relaxing, supportive and deeply satisfying.  There will no doubt be wine and chats about things both superficial and meaningful.

(Prosecco Friday from a few weeks ago)

7.       Somerset by Alice Temperley

I went shopping last weekend (whoops – I really didn’t have the money for that!) and was wandering round John Lewis and my eye was caught by the clothes in this section.  Sooooooo pretty!  There was about 10 things I would happily have taken home, but being restrained, I just tried on a top and trousers.  Well.  They were both gorgeous – so beautifully cut and perfectly sized and I soooo wanted to take them both home, but reluctantly put the top back for next month’s shopping basket.  But I am totally getting it then and I'm totally fan-girling over the amazing black lace skirt as well!  The trousers already got me about 6 compliments, so I’m guessing they’re good!

So that’s what’s been floating my boat this week!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Stressing Out

It's most vexing really - I wrote a Friday favourites post ... and seem to have lost it.  Hmph.  And it's now Sunday and too late to do another Friday favourites and well, grumpy, just grumpy.

Much has been going on in my world.  Lots.  And with it there are lots of feelings which, for someone working on fixing her emotional eating instead of just eating all the feels, is a trial.  But I'm still here and I don't think I ate all of them, so that's probably progress of some sort.

My life feels like it's rather full of anxiety at the moment, to the point where I constantly feel like I have a knotted ball of it in my stomach - not an overly pleasant sensation, I think we can all agree!  This is due to a whole list of things which I'm just going to have to work my way through one at a time, but basically fall into two camps.  Firstly: ridiculous events for which I optimistically signed myself up.  Secondly: housing.

At some point at the beginning of the year (and just after several boozy Christmas dinners with various friends) I was obviously feeling very optimistic about how fit I'd be at this point in the year and signed myself up for a 10k, a triathlon and a 5k obstacle race on consecutive weeks.  Genius!  Since then my motivation to run (or really do much other than walking) has sulked off into hiding and so training has been ... sporadic, shall we say.  Today I was able to tick the first event off the list, and whilst it was hard, it wasn't as bad as I'd feared it could be.  I ran the Bristol 10k this morning - the furthest I've run since 2012 - and we made it round in 1:16.  My first ever 10k was 1:12, and my very best time is 1:05, but I was about a stone and a half lighter for both of those, so I'm pretty proud of today's time.  Plus I hadn't run further than 5.5km in training this time, so the second half was pretty much uncharted territory.

Next week is meant to be an off-road triathlon and .... I'm sacking it off.  At least until later in the year.  I was meant to be doing it with a friend, but she is currently injured and I'm even more hopelessly unprepared for this one than the 10k.  I would rather potentially lose the entry fee than try something on my own that makes me feel absolutely miserable and is a horrible experience.  The obstacle run however will go ahead - I'm sure I can survive that one and it's only for fun.

So on to the second set of stresses in my life at the moment - the gnarly mess that has appeared in front of me regarding my housing situation.  This has all come up in the last week and I'm trying to make sense of it at the moment and figure out the best way forwards.

Last week I asked my flatmate outright what she was thinking of doing when our lease is up for renewal in August - I've long had my suspicions she was thinking of moving in with her new boyfriend but, as nothing had been mentioned specifically, wasn't sure.  However she is planning on it, so whatever happens next it will mean change for me.  I'm also away on holiday for the first part of August so the renewal date falls whilst I've been out of the country for the 2 and a half weeks for added complication.

Earlier this week I also found out something quite momentous.  Where I thought I didn't have a hope of buying a house yet because of getting a mortgage,  it turns out it's actually quite possible.  Long story short - I've been dreaming about buying a house for years, but after dealing with the debt from my 20's and then going self-employed I thought I was still years off this possibility and I was wrong about that.

However, the area I live in (and would like to remain in) is pretty hideously expensive, so whilst it's now viable for me to buy, it's going to be tricky finding something decent whilst sticking to my budget.  And as at the moment, I have a 3 month deadline hanging over my head to either find somewhere (or at least have it imminently lined up) or I've pretty much got to commit to another 6 month lease on a flat, unless I can possibly persuade my landlady to let me roll the lease on our flat on monthly on my own.

As you can see, there are a horrible number of variables in play, and it's giving me a headache trying to think it all through and figure out the best plan of action, or even where to start.  As I hadn't expected to be in a position to even think about buying there's a lot of research and ground work I need to do first to figure out where I stand.

In the spirit of trying to cope with my emotions rather than eat them, I am trying to sit with the anxiety when it's nearly overwhelming and use it to propel me into doing something productive like thinking the problem through, doing research and weighing up my options.  It's not always easy though.

In the meantime, I've run the 10k and ticked that off the list, and I have to admit I feel stronger for it.

What is it they say?  What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger?