Sunday, 17 January 2016

One Step At A Time

It's been a busy week. Getting in the running for my training plan, learning my new job (and trying to understand just what the hell they're saying - swear to God it's a different language they're speaking), catching up with friends old and new.

Also going to the eye hospital twice ... because that's always fun, isn't it? I have (or hopefully had after the amount of anti-biotic eye drops I've dripped in there this week) an ulcerated cornea. Doesn't that sound cool?  Bet you're jealous. You are, aren't you?

I've also been trying to stay on top of my company's admin and work out what I have to do to keep things ticking over, and despite being an accountant myself it's frankly baffling sometimes.  I don't think I'm ready for this adult malarkey.  Not yet.

I bought a Fitbit just after Christmas, and so did the rest of the UK apparently because it took and AGE to arrive, but it got to me just before last weekend.  I've now had it on for a whole week, and it has indeed encouraged me to move a bit more.  I'm quite active anyway (I thought) since I walk to and from work 5 days a week, but it turns out that's not quite as much as I thought and with the prompting of the Fitbit I've been adding extra bits of walking in on days when I'm not running so I can hit my daily targets.  In the last week I've managed to get my daily 10,000 steps on all but one day, and the one day I missed was only by a couple of hundred steps.

According to Weightwatchers the amount of walking I'm doing translates into a quite ridiculous number of activity points. Luckily, under the new style plan, I don't get to swap any of my activity points for additional food, so I'm not tempted to splurge out on things I don't really need, but my tracker said I earned 97 points last week, and I've already earned 42 in the first two days of the current week. Blimey!

Still, it doesn't seem to have done me any harm, because after another week on the good eating after Christmas, and staying the same last week, I dropped 3.5 lbs this week.  DEFINITELY not to be complained at.

Whether that was fluke, the Fitbit, or the cumulative efforts of 2 weeks of good eating when I didn't see any change last week, I don't know. I'll just have to keep doing both (eating and moving) and see what happens.

Speaking of moving, the running is getting a tiny bit easier.  My short runs this week were improved - I did another solo 2 miles without stopping and my lunchtime 2.5 mile run with my friend Liz was steady with just a few breaks ... mostly for her I think, I felt like I could have kept going.  I've got another 3 miler to do this afternoon.

Yesterday, in a fit of adventure we headed into South Wales to venture up Pen Y Fan. I've only ever climbed one mountain before, Snowdon, back in the days before I lost weight, and it was a mammoth effort.  Yesterday would definitely have been easier if it hadn't been covered in snow! We ended up only going up to the first peak as that was a steady hour and a half climb as it was and we had had to leave Bristol late and wanted to make sure we were down in good time for the light.  The climb up was pretty slow going as it was slippy as hell on the path and up to thigh deep off the path, so you either had to stamp up the side of the path dodging anyone trying to do the same on the way back down, or forge your own path.  We weren't sure how long it would take us to slide back down and the visibility was incredibly low at the first summit,  so we took a sensible decision to call it there and just enjoy the shorter than planned walk safely and in relaxed fashion.

Still, it was fun being out in the fresh air and snow for a few hours, and I now know that getting a pair of micro-spikes would be a great idea of me in future as I really do have an irrational fear of slipping and falling hard.

On the January challenge side of things, I'm still doing well.  No alcohol, despite having 3 nights out this week, no takeaway, and obviously the running's still going.  Two more weeks to go!

Apparently tomorrow is know if know as Blue Monday, as it's the most depressing day of the year .... stay happy out there folks.


Thursday, 14 January 2016

2015 Reflections

Firstly, I must confess that this is totally stolen from Shauna Reid (who is fabulous), but I love the idea of having something to look back on (ha!  Let's see how long that lasts for!).

1) What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?

  • Went to Asia!!  Got to tick a new continent off the list, and all that, when I visited Vietnam in November.
  • Defied my slight fear of heights to ski off the side of a mountain with a 'chute (and instructor) attached ... aka parapenting.
  • Went on holiday solo properly - a week with just me, myself and I surfing in Morocco.
  • Stuck out the job hunt and finally broke into contracting.

2) Did you keep any New Year's resolutions, and will you make any more for this year?

I didn't have any resolutions last year, as I was on my ski season and just aiming to survive it in one piece and figure out what the hell I was doing afterwards.  I guess the only resolution I could be said to have for 2015 was making sure my grandma's inheritance actually went to making me debt-free when it arrived (it did, and I now am).

For 2016, I went back to my annual tradition with my friend Jo of doing a New Year challenge - January is booze and takeaway free and full of getting back into running by doing the first month of my half marathon training plan - all going to plan so far.  In terms of year long aims, they were to work on being healthy and happy, whatever that takes (currently involves looking at my emotional eating, wanting to get back into meditating and actually learning to love running again) and also to start saving for a house deposit - I have an appointment with the bank to talk to them about the best way to do that in a couple of weeks time.

3) Did anyone close to you give birth?

My friends Bridget and Kath - I think that's everyone.

4) Did anyone close to you pass away?

A friend from my ski seasons tragically passed away young and very suddenly in May which was a hell of a shock.  Poor Dave - he's probably raising hell in whatever the afterlife is, partying and snowboarding up a treat.

5) What countries did you visit?

France (twice), Morocco and Vietnam.

6) What would you like to have next year that you lacked in this one?

Finding some peace with my eating, more focus and less procrastination and possibly some life coaching!

7) What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • 6 July - doing Wimbledon for the first time with all the very English trappings we could think of in our picnic hamper!
  • 5 August - after months of anxiety and not being sure if I was doing the right thing or making the right choices, I got offered my first ever contract out of the blue with terms that suited me down to the ground.
  • 30 October - heading off to Asia for the very first time.
  • 25 December - making new traditions at Christmas with my Dad; a cozy, happy day.

8) What was your biggest achievement of this year?

Breaking into contracting and becoming self-employed.

9) What was your biggest failure?

Not making better use of my enforced summer off work - I let my job hunt dictate to me too much and ended up wasting a lot of the lovely free time.

10) Did you suffer any illness or injury?

Slammed myself to the deck in a Bambi-esque moment on ice in La Plagne in December - my hand is still sore two months later.  Also crashing the scooter in November on Phu Quoc - still got some lovely pink scars on my hand and knee to show for it.  Maybe my resolution should have been: be less clumsy.

11) What was the best thing you bought?

My journal!  Such a small thing, but I love writing in it now - emptying the tensions out of my head, recording the good times, and using it to find out who I am.  Plus it's a very pretty one.

12) Where did most of your money go?

Moving back to Bristol and into our gorgeous new flat (can't believe we've been here 5 months already!).  A post ski season(s) wardrobe revamp.  And travelling off course!

13) What did you get really, really, really excited about?

  • Coming home from my ski season in April - I missed my Dad and home so much when I was away.
  • Going skiing to my old resort from my first season in December - loved going back!  
  • Booking another trip there for March with even more of my old friends - it's going to be epic!!  
  • Paying off my debts FINALLY!
14) What song will always remind you of this year?

Cheesy but Lost Frequencies - Are You With Me?  It was playing for months on French radio before it came out here, and the upbeat vibe just associated with parties, sunny days and making travel plans for exotic holidays.

15) Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

Happier - I feel in a more peaceful, settled place.

b) thinner or fatter?

Probably about the same actually - but on the way down (hopefully) instead of up.

c) richer or poorer?

Lots richer!!  Paid all my debts off and I now possess a savings account which I have great plans for!

16) What do you wish you'd done more of?

Meditation - I started but then trailed off.  More single-tasking - if I'm going to watch tv or read, then I should just do it and leave the internet elsewhere.

17) What do you wish you'd done less of?

Probably shopping for material items that I don't really need.  Such a waste of money!

18) How did you spend Christmas?

At my Dad's house, just the two of us.  We did a proper sit down breakfast and I made an epic Christmas lunch.  So epic that tea didn't really happen that night.  We exchanged a few presents, watched some festive specials on tv, chatted, did my jigsaw and generally relaxed and enjoyed.

19) Did you fall in love this year?

Not with any people (still waiting for that lightning strike to happen), but I did fall in love with journalling!

20) What was your favourite TV program?

I binge-watched Scandal and Burn Notice last winter, right now I'm a bit hooked on The Bridge - uncomfortable Scandi drama at its best.

21) What was the best book you read?

Non-fiction was Shrink Yourself by Roger Gould, which is helping me get to grips with my eating.  Fiction-wise I really enjoyed The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond, and I always enjoy whatever new works Ilona Andrews has put out (I think it's genre'd as urban fantasy for want of a better category) - she has a voice that has me in stitches and paints wonderful new worlds.

22) What was your favourite film?

A Little Chaos - a quiet little Brit film that came out in the Spring about the designers of the gardens of the Palace of Versaille.  It had Kate Winslet and the sadly-now-departed Alan Rickman, and was as pleasing and gentle as period drama should be.

23) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 35 on the final day of our trip in Vietnam.  I'd been a bit bummed about this as it meant I'd be flying pretty much all day ... not my favourite activity.  But our hotel surprised me with flowers, chocolate cake for breakfast and a beautiful card, and my lovely friends took me out to an amazing ice-cream parlour for lunch, so it wasn't the worst day.  I still find it weird to have moved into another age bracket on a lot of surveys ... I don't feel that old!

24) What kept you sane?

Long phone or in-person chats with my closest friends, and getting outdoors and moving.  Walks on the hills at Dad's, or round lovely Bristol clear my head.  Lunchtime walks have become a thing for me now.

25) Which celebrity / public figure did you fancy the most?

I have a major girl crush on Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone - they're articulate, gorgeous and stick 2 fingers up at the establishment.  Plus they have awesome senses of humour.

26) Who did you miss?

Recently, I've missed my mum and aunt Joan who passed away in 2007 and 1999 respectively - I've been wishing they could have seen who I became, and sometimes I've just wanted to ask for advice or get one of those amazing maternal hugs that make everything alright.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Emotional Eating 101

It always seems to me that the first week of January is a tough one.  The excitement (whether it was deserved or not) of Christmas and New Year is over, you're going back to work, the bills of Christmas are looming, there's no holiday for the foreseeable future, and most people seem to be making themselves miserable with unrealistic resolutions.  It's no wonder we want to curl up in a ball and rock ourselves gently in the corner until the warmer weather comes back.

For me, January has been the start of a new job, which kind of spices things up a bit - something new to get my teeth into rather than going back to existing problems and a pile of unanswered emails.  So that's cool.

I've also been very careful not to go crazy over the festive period this year, and I made it more about a time of restfulness and looking after myself than the traditional time of excess. That's definitely helped cut back on that Christmas Hangover feeling - I don't feel so exhausted that I'll never make it through January alive and I don't feel about a stone heavier and bloated with all the Christmas food and drink.

I've also set myself reasonable resolutions and challenges, designed to make me feel better about myself, not worse.  I've cut out alcohol for most of January, as well as takeaway, but I'm not particularly missing either of them right now and know that I'll feel better for it.  I'm running again, which is hard, but always makes me feel a bit like a ninja warrior when I'm done - the battle is all in getting myself out the door in the first place, and not talking myself into thinking I can't do it before I've even put foot to pavement.  And I'm continuing to read lots around emotional eating, self-compassion and mindfulness.

Which brings me to today's topic.  Emotional eating.  A phrase that I've thrown around my whole adulthood, but without really know what it means.

As an adult, I've constantly been aware of, and struggled with, my weight.  I did Weightwatchers in my gap year, aged 19 - it didn't work for me at the time.  At university I piled on weight in my first term.  Then I battled to lose it again during the rest of my time there.  I think I tried Rosemary Conley for a while.  I played sports for the uni and kept active.  I ended up losing most of it during a particularly vicious bout of Norovirus.

After graduating I moved very quickly to a job in London, and ended up living in a hotel for a month because I didn't have a home down there yet.  Again, I piled on weight in that month.  Then I spent the next two years trying to lose it.  Are you seeing a pattern here yet?  Every time I was in a new and stressful environment I ate way too much to comfort myself and ended up putting on weight and adding an extra stress to the pile I already had.

After those two years, I moved back to my parents' home, as my mother was ill and I wanted to be closer to family and I was so over the London thing.  I lost a bit of weight, but not much - perhaps half a stone.  I was still constantly fighting with myself over it - struggling, obsessing, but not really getting anywhere.  Two years after that, and following my mother passing away, I moved out into a flat near my Dad's, and it took another two years after that before I came back to Weightwatchers again.  That time it worked.  I lost 4 stone in less than a year.  Then I started struggling again - I've never put it all back on, in fact I've never put more than 2 stone of it back on, but I've bounced around that 2 stone bracket, struggling to get back down to that 4 stone loss, and to finish losing weight and have the battle ended.

I've just wanted to get to the place where I'm at a healthy weight and at peace with food.

And I never got there.

Sometime in September something clicked, and for some reason I started researching emotional eating.  Turns out it's not just a phrase, but an actual clinical thing.  In psychiatric terms, it's called a maladaptive behaviour, and knowing that really helped me.  I wasn't just weak of will-power and useless, I had developed a recognised pattern of behaviour to deal with life - and if it's recognised, then there's ways of changing it.

A maladaptive behaviour is basically receiving a stimulus and translating it into a different response than the one a "normal" brain would use.  With emotional eating, that means feeling sad, or bored, or frustrated, and instead of processing that feeling in a useful way, the brain translates that into a hunger (emotional instead of physical) and causes the body to go in search of food.  Why?  Because eating distracts from the original stimulus.  The brain has forgotten, or found an easier way, of dealing with an unpleasant emotion.

Effectively, the body has developed a reliance on food in an emotional capacity.  An addiction.  Not dissimilar to any addiction to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.  Yep.  Really.

That's an eye-opener isn't it?

But like an addiction, there are therapies and oodles of information out there on dealing with it.  One thing I've quickly discovered though is that in facing emotional eating, you have to be open to the fact that you have it and actively want to deal with it.  I've realised this both through reading reviews of all the books I've been looking at, and also in speaking to my own friends, which has been a shock.

To me, it's been an amazing revelation - I don't want to diet for the rest of my life, I want to find balance in a natural way, and the more I read on emotional eating, the more it makes perfect sense that I use food in a screwed up way.  But talking to my friends about it, they say "of course I'm emotional eater, I eat when I'm bored, but I'm totally not addicted to food, and I'll just go on a diet to lose weight" which is completely missing the point.  I've learned pretty quickly that where I could talk to friends about losing weight via Weightwatchers, and they were either totally supportive, or ready to jump on board with me and lose some too, now I'm delving into the deeper meaning of why I overeat in the first place .... tumbleweeds.  Either they're not ready to admit what they're doing or they're not ready to step outside of the comfort zone yet.

Which is cool, because me and my journal are exploring it quite happily on our own.

Some things have been super-quick to resolve.  Others not so much.

I've already read a couple of really cool books - Shrink Yourself by Roger Gould (hate the name of the book, loved the contents) was genuinely revelatory.  I read it like "yes, yes, yes - this is ME!".  Half the book is explanatory and then the 2nd half is related exercises for the reader to do themselves. I worked through all the exercises, some of which were quite painful as I had to go through and recognise all my crappy sentiments about myself before I could address them, but it's definitely been a helpful process.  Just reading that book I banished one of my cravings straightaway for good, as I found that my attachment to Chinese food and frequent craving for it is related to trying to recreate feelings of happiness and celebration from my childhood.  Now I've made the link, I realised that I can actually access those same feelings and memories any time I want, and the need for the accompanying food as completely vanished.  That happened to be a standalone behaviour which has been easy to resolve, and a lot of the other behaviours aren't as simple but I'm working on them.

I also read What Are You Really Hungry For? by Deepak Chopra, which went a bit too spiritual for me, but still had some really interesting points, concepts and techniques in.  Techniques like how to slow down your response to food cravings and how to work out alternatives responses that work as well, if not better, and are more appropriate than eating.

Because that's what curing emotional eating all comes down to:  intercepting the cue to eat, assessing whether it's a genuine physical hunger or emotional, and if it's emotional tracing back to what you're actually feeling and allowing it.  Embracing it.  And if it's frustration, figuring out how to remove that mental block and make yourself happier.

It's slow, tiring and so worth while.

So yeah - that's what I'm doing at the moment.  I'm still on Weightwatchers because it gives me a useful guide as to how my eating is going as a whole.  I have a new Fitbit to encourage me to move a bit more.  And I'm doing a lot of reading, thinking and journaling to unravel all my emotional eating cues, and to either accept and embrace them when I'm feeling crappy for some reason and find a better way than food to feel better, or to turn those frustrations into positive actions to make my life better.

2016 feels like it'll be a good one!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Hey There 2016!

Where did you spring from so soon??

I swear to God that 2015 was about 5 months long.  Definitely not the normal 12 months.  And yet here we are in a fine and dandy, fresh new year.  Well, actually a grey and rainy one, but who's being pedantic about it?

December has zipped past, Christmas has been and gone, and with it New Years Eve, and I apparently start a new job in 2 days (gulp).

New Year's, being what they are, are filled with fond looks back at the last year and resolutions for the next one.  2015 was an odd year, but also a pretty awesome one.  I started in the mountains on my second ski season in Meribel, spent 4 months unemployed over the summer whilst I stubbornly held on for the right job, paid off all my debts finally, went surfing in Morocco, went to Wimbledon, the Formula E in London, the Rugby World Cup, outdoor cinema at Kew Gardens and lots of other fun stuff, moved back to Bristol and into a new flat with an old friend, started the new job (and technically a new career, as a contractor), travelled round Vietnam, took a last minute ski trip to visit old friends in La Plagne and generally relaxed in December as I was between contracts.  I made new traditions with my Dad at Christmas as our first festive season with just the two of us and spent New Year with two lovely friends, champagne, our pyjamas and Jools Holland like a proper adult.  And for the first time in 6 years my back seems to have pretty much magically fixed itself meaning I feel strong and able.

All in all it was a pretty stella year.

I also spent quite a lot of time and energy trying to unravel my war with food, both by getting myself back on Weightwatchers as soon as I got back to the UK in the spring (with some limited success), and by taking a long hard look at what causes my overeating in the first place.  I haven't written about it yet as I hate being all like "Guys! Guys! I've found the answer to losing weight and keeping it off and it's easy!" before doing an epic crash and burn, but basically speaking I've been trying to address my emotional eating, and I wouldn't be lying if I said that my weight loss trend this year has followed that.

For the first couple of months back on Weightwatchers, I followed my all-too-common theme of lose a few lbs, put a few lbs back on in an annoying cycle that seemed to involve a lot of effort for little result or movement.  Then right at the end of September I was getting really fed up and via a series of fortuitous events was prompted to go a bit introspective and start considering why I struggled so much.

The more I looked the more it made perfect sense to me, and the more I read about it, the more obvious the way out seemed.  And sure enough, the weight started to slowly drop a bit finally.  Through October my weight gradually went down half a stone, then in November I was travelling for 3 weeks and somehow lost another 2 lbs.  Even over the course of December's ski trip, and the festive period, which would usually each be a disaster all on their own, I only put on about 4 lbs - to put that in context, it's a running joke between myself and my friends that we normally put on half a stone each week we're away skiing, this year it was 2 lbs from the ski trip and 2 lbs from Christmas.

Of course, it's not easy.  In October and November, I was all over it, but being home for Christmas I started to take my eye off the ball.  Not completely, but just a bit.  I'm more than chuffed that it was only 4 lbs, and I'm still starting this year lighter than I finished my ski season (I'm not really sure where I was at the start of the year proper as I wasn't doing WW's at the time).  I also picked up an awesome new habit as a result of all my research and soul searching and now keep a regular journal.  And now it's time to get back to normal after all of December's disruptions and make some more progress.

I'm back home in Bristol and I made a few New Year's Resolutions - some with friends and some with myself.


  • To make a commitment to my health and wellbeing and continue working on my emotional eating and being kind to myself (I'll do a separate post on this at some point).
  • To make 2016 the year I finally start saving money and really take the gift my grandma gave me and work with it.
  • To keep myself up to date and on top of the admin that goes with running my own company and generally be a bit more organised about life stuff.

January challenges (which I'm doing with my friend Jo):

  • Staying off alcohol for the next 4 weeks to give ourselves a bit of a detox into the New Year.
  • Staying away from takeaways for the next 4 weeks - home cooked food is best, but I'm still allowed to eat out for social occasions.
  • Complete the first month of my half marathon training plan with a view to doing the Plymouth Half at the end of April.

Jo has her own set of challenges (apart from the alcohol one which we're doing together) but we're supporting each other.

2016 is looking great so far.  I have a new job I'm excited about and two more ski trips booked for February and March.  At least 3 races are planned for this year - the Plymouth Half, the Bristol 10k and another Colour Rush Obstacle Race in May to get me moving again.  Who knows what other adventures there will be but I'm excited to find out!

Happy New Year!!