Monday, 31 December 2012


What a year! It's gone so quickly, that it barely seems 2 months ago that I was watching The Lord Mayor's fireworks on the London Eye in our fair capital city.

Initially, I wasn't that impressed with this year, but as I look back I realise what an amazing year it's been. This time last year I:

- was seeing someone I thought I was keen on, and didn't yet know that it had barely 2 months left to run, but that I'd almost immediately meet someone I liked far more which would lead to a 6 month emotional roller coaster.

- didn't own my surfboard and hadn't yet experienced the glory that is the sundowner surf after work in the summer.

- hadn't run my first half-marathon or slogged through the hip-deep bog of my first trail / obstacle race.

- was homeless, crashing on my friend's sofa, and didn't know my wonderful housemates who are now such amazing friends.

- had no idea I'd be going on a solo trip to Africa for a month (which is now less than 2 months away - squeeeeee!).

- hadn't started to seriously entertain the idea that I actually might be able to go and live and work abroad for awhile and make one of my great dreams happen.

- didnt have my loan and was still frantically fitting my debt - since then I've made great progress.

I also had lovely trips to Majorca, the Loire Valley and Paris and 2 fab weekends in Brussels. All in all, a great year.

2013 is looking amazing - I'm looking forward to all manner of adventures. Happy New Year and I'll be back with my goals and resolutions tomorrow!!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Step 2: Make A Plan And Stick To It

Does anyone else suffer from what I'm dubbing the "Winter Frenzy"?

It's that nagging need to fully indulge in whatever's going on, way beyond the level of sanity or sense.

Around this time of year, there's the pressure to have the perfect Christmas (the perfect presents, decorations, family day of celebrations). There's the constant smorgasbord of food and drink on offer and people trying to stuff it down your throat in the nicest way possible. And there's the sale frenzy that now seems to start before we've even got to Christmas.

Whichever way you turn there's pressure to conform, fit in, out-do your friends and neighbours. Have the best Christmas, the best presents; it's like a competition and .... I hate that aspect of it.

This Christmas, as with so many before, I can feel it settling around me like a cloak of dis-satisfaction - the feeling that I'm missing out somehow - but this Christmas I've identified it, and hopefully I can therefore stop it.

It starts with the family aspect of Christmas for me: I've always wanted a big, boisterous, glamorous family Christmas like I imagine my friends have, but the reality is that I have a very small family and that isn't going to happen. My Christmas' are my dad and my 98 year old grandma - one gets insanely stressed by everything and the other is very frail, partially sighted and nearly profoundly deaf. We cook lunch super early and take it to my grandma's small house about 50 miles from home. It's a low-key affair, and what I realise year after year is I should be grateful for these years when I still have them both. Whatever happens in the future, I won't wish away these precious years with them both because they are what is left of my family. Maybe I'll have those boisterous family Christmas's in my future (and maybe I won't - we can't plan for how life works out), but I'll treasure the family days while I can .... especially when I realise that I might be away next year and this may not happen again. Family is good - appreciate it.

Then there's the food: my plan is simple - take control of what I can, and enjoy the rest. Christmas is a time to enjoy some food that you don't have the rest of the year. It's a time to catch up with friends and family and talk and laugh and ... yes ... eat. But it doesn't have to be every meal and all day. I've tried to listen to my body as to when I'm full and then stop. And when I'm home, or have a choice, I try and stick to Slimming World friendly meals. I take it a meal at a time. On Christmas Day I had a good breakfast because I knew the rest of the meals were out of my hands. Strangely enough though, I wouldn't say I was terrible the rest of the day.

Boxing Day I indulged in a tradition - the pub walk. A lovely stroll over the hills (and splashing through muddy puddles like a child), followed by mulled wine, sausage baps and lots of chat in the pub. Then the walk back, and an evening of Christmas films in pyjamas, cold cuts dinner of leftovers, and a few Christmas chocolates and more wine with friends. Two glorious days of family and friends, and so yesterday I reined it in a bit. I dropped in on some more friends, had tea and cake, but kept my meals sensible and on plan. Now I've got 3 glorious days of relaxing with no particular plans and intend to eat well, and maybe swim and walk.

Not shop. Which brings me to the last in my unholy trinity of Christmas pressures: The Sales. Long-term readers know of my struggles with money, which is mostly driven by my struggles with shopping. I am a (reforming) shopaholic. Labels, image, STUFF - I love it, but I'm trying to steer my life away from that path. These days I want less stuff, not more - I'd like to de-clutter my life, streamline it, and make more time and space for doing instead of having. But, my god, show me a winter sale and it so hard not to think of all that I could have.

Case in point: I'm obsessing over Hunter welly boots at the moment. Why? Because my friends have them (well, some of them do) and I hate feeling left out. Doesn't matter that I have perfectly nice stripy Joules wellies and that I don't use wellies often, I want some Hunters.

Except it does matter - because I don't need them at all. I broke it down, that want, and it comes back to my driving need to have the same lifestyle as my friends. Sheer material competitiveness. Deeper than that, it's that they are all getting married, buying houses and having successful lives and right now I'm not. And somehow I've mixed up their belongings with their lives, and confused the two. The Hunters are just the current manifestation of that. This kind of competition is what got me in my financial mess in the first place. And it's ridiculous because it's not the life I'm choosing for me at this point. I might not be able to choose the relationship part (it will or it won't happen), but I'm choosing my adventures and my direction, and Hunters don't need to be a part of it right now. My down jacket is, that I got in the sale just last week, because it gets very cold in the Namibian desert, where I'll be in March. And some ski-wear might be in the spring, because I may be stocking up on decent gear to see me through a season next winter (more on that excitement in the new year), but for now I'm choosing to stay away from the sales, and all the lifestyle ideals they're trying to sell me, because they're not my life right here and right now.

I'm going to spend the next couple of days being in the moment, existing in my life, and not trying to live someone else's. Treating myself well, and reflecting on this year and what's yet to come next year. I hope you're enjoying this time and not letting the pressures get to you either!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Step 1: Take Control

I've finally arrived home at Casa Starfish for Christmas after a lovely weekend in London. This weekend we've been big kids at London Aquarium, made ourselves feel dizzy on fairground rides, and laughed on fun houses, and drunk mulled beverages on carousels at Winter Wonderland, watched the Strictly Come Dancing finals in our pyjamas, eaten dessert for dinner and just generally lived and loved the festive season. It was a good weekend with an excellent friend.

One challenge for me over the Christmas period is to maintain some control over my food whilst enjoying this special time spent with family and friends. I'm realistic that I probably won't lose any weight over the next 2 weeks, but I'd like to emerge in 2013 at a similar weight to now and ready to make some progress. And the biggest aspect of that challenge is control.

One of the things that made the last couple of weeks quite successful for me has been being at home (my Bristol flat that is) and having the time to cook from scratch and stock the fridge and cupboards to my own specifications. For the next 10 days I'm going to be based at my Dad's house and facing his (very over-stocked cupboards). My dad has a terrible sweet tooth - must be where I get it from - and is a notorious feeder. Feeding is how he does hospitality. On the plus side he's keen to manage his own weight (although he goes about it the worst way), and is therefore open to me taking over the kitchen. Which is just what I've done.

I've worked out that my best shot at being good this Christmas is to do the cooking for the meals we share. And saying no to Dad every time he offers me chocolates. Or dessert. Or one of the *three* Christmas cakes he decided we need.

Cooking the shared meals will allow me to steer us towards fresh food rather than processed and load up the plates with veg. We eat breakfasts and dinner separately which allows me to do what I want .... I'm concentrating on keeping all my meals completely made up of Slimming World free foods, which allows me to keep my Syns for nice snacks and booze. Right now I'm enjoying a coffee and a piece of carrot cake and I'll have some champagne tonight but everything else today has been good. I'm balancing my intake.

I've also bought my swimsuit home, along with wellies and a waterproof / warm jacket, so I can hit the local pool or the hills for walks for some fresh air and time out.

Other than that, I'm all ready for Christmas. I have a final present to wrap, and a lunch to cook tomorrow, and after that it's all fun and no responsibility. Just lots of friends and laughter.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the time with loved ones, leaving you ready and refreshed for the new year.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Week 1 Results

I wasn't sure how it would go, my first week on Slimming World, so it was with a little trepidation that I went to my first weigh in last night. The result? 1.5lb lost.

I felt like I ate an awful lot this week, and that I wasn't particularly strict (weekends away will tend to do that), so I'm very pleased with that loss. However, I do know that my weight quite often fluctuates within a couple of lbs, so I'm not going to be convinced that this works for me until I see a couple of losses in a row and a definite move away from my current weight.

To be totally fair to Slimming World, I had the same feelings when I started Weightwatchers on the old program - I felt like losing weight couldn't be that easy and it must be a fluke, and it wasn't until about the 3rd week that I started to accept that it could work. Having followed a healthy eating plan for nearly 4 years, I also knew not to expect the big losses that some people see in their first couple of weeks because I wasn't coming to this from a period of particularly bad eating. So with that in mind, I'm going to make a real effort to stick with the plan right over Christmas and into the first weeks of the new year to give it a real chance.

Good things: I've been doing a bit more cooking and even tried a new recipe yesterday for a creamy bean soup, and I've just generally been eating more fresh and whole foods.

Bad things: eating out and on the go is more tricky, since Slimming World penalises processed foods so much, so I'm going to have for rethink that.

Generally, I'm pleased with this first week and feel it was a solid start, and I'm ready to face the challenges of Christmas and see if I can't lose a little bit more before my next weigh in in 2 weeks time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Sorry, that funny noise you heard was the little scared noise I made thinking about having my first weigh in at Slimming World tonight. In front of other people. Being accountable to actual real people who might look at me all disappointed-like if I haven't lost anything. Or worse, have put it on on.

I'm not sure I feel like I've lost anything at all, but I guess we'll have to see.

Spending a delightful weekend in Brussels hasn't overly convinced me that I'll have lost anything either. I did keep my slightly-cautious-head on, but it's tricky sticking to a healthy eating plan when you're wholly in someone else's hands from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. There were some pastries from the Belgian patisserie by my friends (hi amazing Tarte aux Pommes that made me want to cry a little), there were some pain au chocolat fro breakfast, and a Bratwurst in fresh baguette from the Christmas market, and an amazing open beef carpaccio sandwich and frites (that we shared) - I'm still drooling a little about how the carpaccio just melted apart under my fork - it was seriously delicious. And there was a Christmas buffet o Saturday night accompanied by mulled wine and champagne (and a truly awesome Christmas jumper because you have to get in the spirit of these things!).

Somehow though, none of that really seems to conducive to weight loss when you look back, although it was all partaken in moderation and with minimal snackage. My strategy was just to eat sparingly of the nice stuff, and to keep my head right up until I landed in Brussels and to resume as soon as I took off, which I did do. Other than that, I've been pretty good this week, although I've probably hovered at the top end of the range of Syns they recommend.

I guess the jury will be in later.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Lazies

I am suffering a severe case of The Lazies at the moment. Movement just seems altogether like too much effort. It's been coming on for a while - I can see the lethargy started to set in way back in October, when work got too busy and then I knew the gym was closing sometime soon (my old gym that is), and even joining a shiny new gym couldn't get me out of that funk.

Now, here I lie at home on my bed, on a day off, and even though the surf report is 4* today (out of a possible 5), I cannot find the energy or the motivation to get off my bed and get out there. I feel like my muscles are slowly melting away through lack of use. In fact, I suspect that happened several weeks ago.

I think it's just part of the overall malaise that's been hanging over me recently of just being generally under the weather. The general illness that wouldn't come properly or go, the borderline exhaustion and just focusing on getting through the weeks until I had a break and could just STOP. And, of course, the chaos that is building up for Christmas at the same time as trying to run everything down at work in order to take near enough a month off.

Still, this laziness thing is self-perpetuating, and I know that the more I allow it to continue the worse I will feel. So I'm allowing myself this week to wallow like a lazy oaf and do as little as I feel like, relaxing, catching up on my sleep and eating well, and next week I'd like to see a bit more activity. The pool should have re-opened at my gym by then, so I can enjoy some swimming, yoga, Pilates and spinning whilst I have time.

Of course, I think the other reason I didn't fancy spending 4 hours driving to and from Devon today is I know that I have to get up early and drive my ass to London tomorrow morning (I have to be at Heathrow by 11.30 and need to drop my car at my friend's place in Chiswick first so I can save some pennies and park for free). Normally, I'd just go right ahead and surf anyway, but that tired part of me whispers that I still have a lot of packing and organising to do, and I won't feel like doing it tonight after a full day out and about in the fresh air. And also that December equals broke-ness with all the parties and present-buying and can I really afford an extra tank of petrol for fun. Damn that tired voice!!

But I have promised myself this: if there's any surf to be had, I'll make sure to get some next week (god bless early pay day in December!), and I will go to the gym and do SOMETHING today, even if it's just a Pilates or spin class.

Eating-wise I'm struggling a bit with the concept of how much food I'm eating on Slimming World. It's so ingrained in to my head that in order to lose weight you must not eat very big portions, that I'm convinced I'm going to start seeing a gain sometime soon. In actual fact, since I started last Thursday (technically, although with a few hiccups and a TERRIBLE weekend), I've lost 1.5lbs since this time last week. That puts me very close to that 12st 3lb barrier that I've been trying to bust through for so very, very long. I'm not going to do anything different to what I've been doing so far, just continue being vigilant of my eating on this new plan as it's sufficiently different to Weightwatchers that I really have to think about things, track honestly, and try and figure out how to get safely through a completely unknown weekend unscathed.

Because this weekend .... I'm off to Brussels and Bruges for some Christmas market action!!!!! Woohooooo!!! I'm going back out to see my friend Caroline, hence the flying tomorrow, and I'm so excited. I was in Brussels around Christmas 2 years ago, and it was glorious, although I killed half my weekend with the most mahoosive hangover and didn't get to really see the Christmas markets as a result (I'm not even kidding, Caroline had to put me in a taxi and take me home at lunchtime and put me back to bed with a bucket as I was feeling so sick ... absolutely ridiculous), so I'm looking forward to doing it right this time!!!

Eating wise, it's lots of jacket potatoes, pasta and fruit at the moment. While I'm off work, my diet this week is looking a bit like this:

Breakfast: banana (I've been getting up quite late)

Snack: Alpen Light cereal bar

Lunch: jacket potato with beans and some reduced fat grated cheese, followed by a big bowl of raspberries and apple with a low fat yoghurt

Dinner: pasta with bacon (no rind), mushrooms, onion, garlic, baby leeks and some Philadelphia Extra Light.

Yesterday, I used my remaining Syns to have a small slice of lemon loaf cake at my local coffee shop with a Diet Coke whilst writing my Christmas cards (I got a bit cabin fever-y and needed to get out the house and see people), and a few chocolates from my Secret Santa stash. I'm probably not being a strict with myself as I could be at the moment, but I'm trying to strike a balance of Christmas mellow-ness with new-plan-determination. And the sooner those bloody chocolates are gone the better!!!

The plan of attack for this weekend is to try and take control where I can. Although I'll be on the move tomorrow I'll be travelling solo so at least I can make my own choices on what I eat, so ill maybe try and grab a big bowl of fruit before leaving tomorrow and take cereal bars for snacks. Lunch will be at the airport, but it's Heathrow Terminal 5 so I'm guessing that there should be plenty of choice. Once in Brussels I'm in Caroline's hands, so I'll just have to make the best choices I can, and then I'm flying back late Sunday night - again, I can make my own choices when travelling. There will be lots of walking, and there's talk of some swimming on Sunday - let's do this thing!!!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Slimming World

Well, this is all very new to me! And different. Very, very different.

As I mentioned yesterday, I finally decided that I needed to do something major about my weightloss and its very stalled state of affairs. Weightwatchers hasn't been working for, well really, for a quite a long time now. And so, via the medium of my flatmate Krissy, I've stumbled into the arms of Slimming World.

I have to admit that I've been wondering about it for a while now, but the concept of no portion limits on all your core foods scares the hell out of me. I'm a greedy guts - Weightwatchers taught me that when I started measuring out pasta, rice and cereal portions with them - and I seriously worried that I'd end up putting weight on instead of losing. However recently, I've been making more of an effort to stop eating when full, and leaving stuff on my plate has occurred occasionally, and I started to wonder whether just maybe I could make this work for me.

Slimming World, for anyone not familiar with it, basically gives you a huge list of healthy items that you can, and should, eat as much as you want of: lean meat and fish, fruit, vegetables, pulses, pasta and rice, etc, and some key store cupboard ingredients for flavouring it all. In addition, they have what they call healthy options that you should have at least a little of each day - these cover your key calcium / dairy and fibre intakes. Everything else you could possibly eat has a sin value attached to it, and everybody is allowed 5 - 15 of those a day - your treats. It's very simple, and although you obviously still have to track your food every day, it's a step away from the Weightwatchers approach of pointing absolutely everything except fruit and veg.

For me, it feels like both a step towards encompassing a lot more whole foods back into my diet, and a step away from monitoring every little thing I eat and learning to trust myself a little more again.

I've been doing it informally, using Krissy's books, since last Thursday, and last night I stepped up to the plate and formally joined for myself.

Interesting fact for you: despite grumbling about my current weight, it's actually the lowest weight I've ever started a slimming program with!! I've done Weightwatchers twice, and had a brief foray into the world of Rosemary Conley whilst at university, and I actually see this statistic as a huge success. Whichever way you look at it, I lost 4 stone since 2009 and managed to keep just over 3 of it off for 4 years, and that's not too shabby. What I'd like to do now, is tidy up the loose ends of my weightloss and find a way of eating that will work for my life, to keep me happy and full-powered through my adventures (of which I plan on having many!).

So, here's the rest of the statistics. My official starting weight is 13st 7lbs (which is obviously a bit different to my usual morning, and distinctly less clothed, weigh in). I also weighted myself last week before I started and the difference between that and this morning was at least 1.5lbs, despite having a very heavy weekend in the middle, so that's somewhat encouraging. For my own records, I will probably continue to have my own Friday weigh ins, as I have done over the last 2 years, but it will probably be the official Slimming World Tuesday evening ones that I will (hopefully) celebrate on here.

Right now, I just want to lose for my first week, so I know that it's working, but my first proper goal is to get back under that sodding 13st barrier that I've been mincing around with for so long!!!

And that plan itself? How am I finding that? One word actually: filling. Very much surprisingly so. I've had to rethink my go-to foods, as many of them have changed. Whilst I've got the time off I'm playing around with what my new go-to foods will be, but I'm loving having jacket potatoes back on the list as they're one of my favourite comfort foods.

It's going to be very strange going to weekly meetings, and I do find it adds a certain need to lose to the proceedings, as I discovered last night that they go over everyone's weekly results in a circle and discuss them individually. There was no judgement or criticism for people who'd gained, but still, I'd rather not do that too often!!

Wish me luck with my first week!!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Greetings From Off-Duty


After a frantic couple of weeks (or, let's face it, months), I am finally done with work for the year. I am now on holiday for a whole, gorgeous, lovely, self-indulgent 3 weeks.


I'm not convinced it's actually sunk in yet that I don't have to get up early and go to my office until the new year. I'm treating these weeks as time for me. Time to reset. Relax. Reflect on this year. Gather my thoughts for next year and what I want. Look after myself - lots of sleep, good food, letting go of all the stress.

That said, I have quite a lot planned for the next couple of weeks, with weekends in Brussels and London to come, and a fair few evenings of Christmas drinks and meet-ups. I've already survived my back-to-back work and surf club Christmas parties on Friday (lots of fun and highly alcoholic), and a mahooooooosive Christmas lunch with my Malvern friends yesterday.

One thing I absolutely need to work on while I have time off is my weight and my eating. Christmas is always a potential minefield for the weight-conscious person, and I really, really don't want to make the wrong choices and start the new year with regrets.

I might not have written huge amounts on here recently regarding my weight-loss efforts, but its still a case of neither forwards nor back. A couple of weeks ago I got below 13st 3lbs and then promptly went slightly back up again, but on the whole, I'm still at the bottom end of the 13st bracket.

I need to focus. I've made no secret of the fact that I've been struggling with Weightwatchers for a while now. Very occasionally I can string together a little glimpse of good and lose a bit, but on the whole it's just not really working with my lifestyle these days. It hasn't really fitted for me since they changed the plan almost 2 years now, and I've been hanging on in there hoping that either I'd change or the plan would. Clearly I haven't, and this week Weightwatchers released the latest version of their plan .... and I realised that it hadn't changed enough for me either.

Earlier in the year I tried MyFitnessPal for a short while, before quickly realising that I was making poor choices and putting weight on instead of taking it off. The problem was that, presented with just a calorie limit to work with in my food tracking, I don't make nutritionally sound choices. I eat too much processed food, especially when I'm busy. I also over-use any activity allowances that I earn - because I'm usually quite active I tend to earn quite a few extra calories or activity points .... and then I eat them, which is probably over-kill.

With Weightwatchers, I also struggle with the Flex Allowance they give you. Left to my own devices I tend to over-eat on the weekend and tone it down during the week. The Flex Allowance encouraged that behaviour in me. The tracker is set up to give you 29 points a day and an additional 49 points on top - with my tracking week starting on a Friday, I would always end up using all 49 within the first couple of days and then not-far-off-starving myself all week to catch up.

I've been looking around for an alternative plan that might guide my eating into a more even pattern. Something that will encourage me to eat more whole foods and get more balance. Less binge, more satisfaction. Exercising because the activity feels good, not because I need some extra points.

I'm not ready to go off plan and try on my own - I've proven to myself over and over again that I still don't have that discipline (or common sense!). I wasn't quite sure which way to turn, and so I'm taking a bit of inspiration from my flatmate. Krissy has been following Slimming World for about 2 months, and has done very well, losing a stone. I wasn't convinced this was the plan for me, as Slimming World focuses on a long list of completely free foods, and then everything else is assigned a Syn value (minor niggle - couldn't they have spelt sin the proper way?), of which you have about 15 a day to play with. The catch is that there is no portion control on the "free" foods which include potatoes, pasta and all the meat. The other catch is that exercise doesn't get counted at all. I was scared that my greedy guts instincts would cause me to eat far too much and I'd never lose any weight.

Sometimes you have to take risks.

I've researched on the internet, and the verdict of others is that Slimming World works better than the current Weightwatchers plan, so I've decided to try it...

I've been on the plan since Thursday (borrowing Krissy's literature so far as I haven't joined myself just yet), and it's very different. I've felt very full after meals, and haven't always cleared my plate (very unusual for me). Sugar's out, and bacon and eggs is in. Processed foods gone, and pasta and jacket potatoes have taken over. I'll update tomorrow with a proper post on how it's going, as this is getting rather long, but suffice it to say I'm still here, still fighting. And thoroughly in the Christmas spirit!!