Thursday, 31 May 2012

Day 17 of 30 Day Shred

I'm having a fat day today.  Maybe it has something to do with this white t-shirt I bought from a charity shop the other day.  I refuse the pay full price for "transition" clothes, as I've already gone down three dress sizes, so charity shops are the only way for me.  Trouble is, I don't like to try clothes on in the shops because they always have dingey little changing rooms - and in most cases the curtains are torn or don't pull the full way across (and there's always some weird dude loitering in the vicinity!).  So, because we're mostly talking about £3 or £4 for a top - I just take a risk.  After all, that money I've just spent is going to a charity.

A very long winded way of saying I bought a white t-shirt on Tuesday and frankly, it doesn't suit me.  I am a pear shape with a C/D cup and so a V neck or a scoop neck suits me much better than anything with a high neck.  I should have known - this white t-shirt is bias cut with a boat neck, not the best idea!  So, I've spent the majority of the day feeling bloated and fat.  Yuck.

I did get on with my shredding tonight, and despite it being Day 17, I'm still finding Level 2 quite difficult.  I'm definitely progressing, but not as quickly as I did for Level 1.  Lord knows what Level 3 has in store and I won't find out until I'm in Chester next week!  My son Josh has been keeping track of my days on the Shred for me!  He's so sweet and really encourages me to keep going!  He had joined me (along with my daughter) for Level 1, but Level 2 is a bit trickier and I don't want my kids injuring themselves, so it's a mum only workout from now on!


I've been really inspired by Katie at Runs for Cookies marathon race.  And spurned on, I suppose, by my brief jogging interlude at the Race for Life last week, I decided to enter another 5K race at the end of August.  But this time it will be different - I plan to run the entire race!  So, today I found a good Couch to 5k training programme (though I'm hardly a couch potato anymore, but I'm definitely a beginner).  I'm easing myself into it with a 10 week programme, so by the time the race comes along, I should hopefully be relatively confident and able to run the distance.  The good thing about this particular race is that they also offer a children's 1 mile race, which takes place before the main race - and both of my kids have said they would like to enter!

I must say that since I've been exercising again, I am really feeling much better in myself.  Not only do I feel more confident (aside from the white t-shirt blip today), but it's a nice feeling to be able to go for a good long walk in the country park and not be huffing and puffing the whole way through!  Even though I love walking, I'm really looking forward to the challenge of running - who knows, if it sticks, I may have to change the name of the blog to A Run in the Woods!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Day 15 of 30 Day Shred

Today I am halfway through the 30 Day Shred and Level 2 is still thoroughly kicking my ass.  It hasn't helped that summer has suddenly arrived here in England and the temperatures have been soaring.  I was sweating buckets before the heat arrived, but exercising in 26+ degree (celsius) temperatures is torture!  Thankfully we had a torrential downpour of rain yesterday which has cleared the air a bit.

The fantastic news is that I have dropped 2.5 pounds since last week, so the combination of calorie zig-zagging and Shredding is definitely working!  Who knew that upping my calories would actually make me lose weight!  Now there's upping my calories within a restricted sense - as I have been doing, and upping my calories in the binge sense - which is what I want to avoid.  I suppose this is paramount on my mind as we are shortly about to go away for five days on a little holiday.

On Sunday, my family and I will be travelling north to the city of Chester for a short break over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  I'm a compulsive planner when it comes to going away - where we will go, what we will see, collecting postal codes so the sat-nav gets us there!  We will be staying at a budget hotel in Chester and we've booked in for a breakfast and dinner meal deal - so I've been inspecting the restaurant menu, trying to plan my meals to ensure I don't blow the diet!  The only problem is that literally ALL of the choices are ridiculously high in calories - even the salads!  Ironically, the least calorific item on the menu is the beef lasagne (served with salad), which is 656 calories.  The majority of the other meals available are between 800-900 calories - and that's without an appetiser or dessert!

I mentioned previously that I was tempted to bring the 30 Day Shred DVD with me, as I've got a portable DVD player and I could just do the workout in the hotel room.  I'm now certain that I will do this and complete the full 30 day programme.  I know that we will be doing a lot of walking while we are up there.  We even plan to drive to Wales and climb the highest mountain in England and Wales - Snowdon. On the one hand - I totally believe that we should allow ourselves to enjoy a holiday and not stress so much about what we're eating when we're away from home.  But on the other hand, having just got into the 'losing' zone again, I don't want to go back up to 204 pounds and struggle to get back down!

So, my plan is to be sensible, enjoy myself, but try to balance out what I'm eating with exercise.  I know that if I do gain weight, I'm ultimately determined to lose it, so it will come off.


On a sad note, my friend Diane passed away this morning.  She had breast cancer, which led to further complications and she lost her battle today.  She was such an inspirational person who was always the life of the party and made everyone laugh.  I dedicated my race for life to her on Saturday and I do feel blessed that she was my friend.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day 12 of 30 Day Shred and Race for Life race report

Today I can truthfully say that I have completed a 5k race!  OK, I only jogged the downhill sections and walked the rest - but heck I was pleased to have jogged any of it and was surprised how well my body coped with it!  We could not have had a better day weather-wise for the race, if anything it was a bit too hot.  But we piled on the sunscreen, took bottles of water, sunglasses and made the most of the glorious British summer.

Shortly after embarking on my weight loss/fitness journey I came across Katie's blog Runs for Cookies, and was so inspired by her story I decided to find a 5K race here.  I knew that the Race for Life would be the best option for me because there's no pressure to run - you can walk, jog or run and there were even people in wheelchairs and mums pushing pushchairs - it really is a race for everyone.  Quite early after I registered I made the decision to run the whole thing, but at the end of February/beginning of March I got a lung infection that literally took over a month to shift.  This not only knocked my fitness plans, but also my confidence.  So, I took the decision that I would just walk the Race for Life this time around.

Thankfully I was not alone.  The ladies in my team were all up for walking, and in addition my daughter said she wanted to do it with me (she's ten years old), so I signed her up too!  I had seen some adverts on TV for the Race for Life and had obviously seen the thousands of people who take part - but nothing could have prepared me for what we saw walking to the startline.

Quite literally a sea of pink ladies!  This pic unfortunately doesn't show it that well, but there were over 2000 ladies racing today - it was an amazing experience!

Here I am in the middle with my friend Eve and my daughter Verity - we were just about to walk just over a mile to the starting point - our 'warm up'!

When the race actually started, it was very weird because there were sooooo many people you literally couldn't walk fast at all - it was very frustrating!  Thankfully, as we moved through the starting line this sea of people dispersed a bit and we were able to jog along the edge of the route passed a lot of people. The route we did at the park was absolutely nothing like the route we had been walking every Saturday in preparation - it was completely the opposite side of the park!  This route was much more open and exposed, so the sun was really baking down on us.  At times this heat was quite oppressive, but we pushed on - running during the downhill bits and going back to a walk when it came to uphill.

One of our team-mates, Nina, hadn't been very well and so was struggling at the end of the race.  We had agreed that as a team we would stick together no matter what, and we would all hold hands and run through the finish line at the end.  As we approached the finish line (which was uphill - come on!), I actually felt a bit emotional.  Even though I hadn't run the whole thing, I did feel very proud of my accomplishment.  My friend Eve and I agreed that we would enter again next year and this time we would run the whole thing!

All total, with walking to the race, doing the race and then walking back to the car, we walked 6.3 miles today!  


So today is Day 12 of the 30 Day Shred.  I started Level 2 actually three days ago because I was very comfortable with Level 1 and thought I could use a challenge.  Flippin heck was I in for a surprise!  Level 2 really steps it up - the cardio is much harder and the strength training is actually scary!  After the warm up you start with walk out push-ups - which is basically bending down, touching your toes and then walking on your hands out to a plank position, doing the push-up and then walking on your hands back to the standing position.  This move is unbelievably hard!  

The plank features quite a bit in Level 2, as later on there are some more moves involving this position. Although at the moment it is very difficult, I am very optimistic because I remember feeling this way when I started Level 1, if I can get used to doing these moves and feel 'comfortable' on Day 18/19 - then I know I'm really making progress!

I'm going to close for now - put my feet up and enjoy some well earned rest!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Days 8 & 9 of 30 Day Shred

The Chelsea Flower show was an amazing experience - but today I am so tired, I'm literally fighting to keep my eyes open to type this.  I was a very good girl yesterday and woke up at 6am to do the 30 Day Shred.  It was a bit weird doing exercise first thing in the morning, but at least I could get on with the rest of my day safe in the knowledge that my shredding was done!

The most expensive glass of Pimm's in the UK - £9.90 per glass!
Today it was back to the normal evening workout routine - very difficult tonight because my eyelids are being held open by matchsticks, but it's done and I will doubtlessly sleep like a baby.  Tomorrow will of course be my last day of Level 1 and I'm starting to panic at the thought of Level 2.  Having now definitely felt improvements to my endurance, I'm comfortable with the level of the workout.  I know, however, that the feeling is very short-lived!

So, I jumped on the scales this morning and that horrible pound that crept back on last week is now gone!  Thankfully the calorie zig-zagging appears to be working, though progress is still slower than I would have hoped.  Today, I logged my 'hopeful' weekly weights on my calendar - the weight I hope to be next Wednesday, the Wednesday after that and so on - a steady two pound loss per week.  Sometimes I find it helpful to visualise when I will reach these goals - and to see when I will ultimately reach my goal weight.  According to my lovely calendar I will reach my goal weight in around October time - assuming I can shift 2 pounds per week to get there!

Yesterday I walked quite a bit, but food was a problem.  I still don't think I exceeded my daily calorie allowance (I think it was 1300 yesterday), but the quality of the food was poor.  At the flower show I had half a tuna and avocado sandwich at about 170 calories, plus two alcoholic drinks.  On the train on the way home, I was hungry so we stopped at a pasty shop at the station and I just had spicy potato wedges.  The show itself was beautiful - so many amazing ideas for the garden and so many beautiful flowers!  It really is a must visit place!  The most fascinating aspect for me was the fact that all of the gardens appeared as if they had been there for years, but in fact they've all been 'created' in the past three weeks!  We saw a beautiful 'reclamation' themed garden that had a 'well' made from stone - the designers had sourced stones with moss growing on them - again so it looked as if it had always been there!

One of the feature gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show
I shall leave you with the inspiring photo above!  Thankfully summer appears to have arrived in Britain!  Long may it continue!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Day 7 of 30 Day Shred

One week done!  I now understand why you switch routines after 10 days - after 7 days I'm pretty well versed on the routine for my current level and in terms of fitness, I am definitely making strides forward.  Tomorrow will be my first attempt at doing the workout in the morning, I just hope I can get the energy to cope with it at 6 o'clock in the morning!

In terms of food and calorie counting, I've been successfully "zig-zagging" since Friday.  Today I was back down to 1300, having had a 1600 calorie day yesterday.  I have yet to weigh myself after last week's gain and since starting zig-zagging, so it remains to be seen if this is making a difference.

I am trying to resist temptation to step on the scales until Wednesday at the earliest.  I am the first to admit that I am an obsessive weigher.  Most weeks I weigh myself three or four times, sometimes more!  This is not healthy behaviour because of course each time I hop on the scales I am expecting a loss - and of course this isn't always the case!

Due to my gain last week, I am now trying to convince myself that the longer I leave weighing myself, the more surprised I will be.  The flip-side of that, however, is that if my calorie zig-zagging is having a negative affect and causing me to gain weight - it will be that much later before I discover it!  Oh the dilemma!  So, we shall see if I weigh tomorrow or Wednesday - but I think it will definitely happen at some point this week just so I can check I am on the right track.

Tomorrow evening will be spent at the Chelsea Flower Show.  I am really looking forward to this and have wanted to go to the show for some time now.  I am hoping that there will be some healthy food choices available, so I can manage to stay within my calorie limit - but I'm going to a party as well, where I know there will be wine, so I may be unable to resist!  Photos of the show will follow, I'm hoping for lots of inspiration!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Day 6 of 30 Day Shred

Day 6 of my 30 Day Shred has been a typical action packed Sunday.  Sunday morning always starts with preparing our lunch - usually a roast of some sort, though today it was a roasted chicken pie.  I also made a very delectable dessert - Buttermilk Blueberry Cake.  At 10.15 it's off to church and we usually get home around 12:30 - by which time the house is filled with the lovely aroma of the roasted chicken!

After lunch is generally the time that everyone feels like a Sunday afternoon nap, but not for me!  There's still tons to do to get ready for the week ahead, so it's around this time that I brew a pot of coffee and get the ironing board out.  I truly detest ironing, but believe it or not, I now think of it as a cardiovascular activity.  I actually enter my ironing time on My Fitness Pal!  Ok, it doesn't burn a lot of calories - but every little bit helps!

I was toying with the idea of doing another walk today, but by the time 6pm came along and I had done my online grocery shopping, I thought it was time to get on with the 30 Day Shred DVD.  I am definitely noticing a difference in my endurance levels from day one.  My muscles are not aching anywhere near as much as they did in the first few days.  I am also able to cope better with the cardio part of the workout.

Shortly after the introduction there is two minutes of cardio to get your heart rate into fat burning mode.  This consists of jumping jacks, butt kicks (jogging in place, basically), skipping rope (no rope, just jumping up and down) and this squat boxing move.  On day one, this two minute segment made me feel sick and faint.  However, today I definitely found it easier to cope with (not easy, but certainly easier!).

In fact the DVD is going so quick now that I'm used to the routine, I'm toying with the idea of doing it in the mornings before work.  This is particularly relevant for Tuesday, as my husband and I are going to the Chelsea Flower Show in the evening and probably won't be home until about 10pm.  I'm focused to ensure that I get my 20 minute workout in every day, even if this now means that I have to get up super early on Tuesday.  I have read that it is best to exercise in the morning anyway, as this sets your metabolism up for the day.

In the meantime, I am resisting temptation to jump on the scales!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Day 5 of 30 Day Shred

I decided to get my shredding done early today, well, 4 o'clock early so I could spend the rest of the evening relaxing.  The morning was spent cleaning, doing laundry and then my usual 3.1 mile training walk at 12noon.  I got back at 1:15, just in time for a quick bowl of soup for lunch.  After lunch I finished the cleaning and laundry and then got on with preparing supper (I'm cooking a beef curry, which needs to cook for a few hours).  After that I decided to just get the DVD finished and that way, I can have a shower and enjoy my Saturday evening beef curry guilt free ;-).

Today's Walk

All total, my cardio activities today have burned 804 calories!  The good news today is that my muscles are far less achey today than they have been in the previous days.  I must be getting used to Level 1 and today I'm officially half way (through the first level)!  I'm slightly dreading what is coming next, but definitely looking forward to the results at the end.

In a couple of weeks our family is having a short break up north in Chester.  I knew this when I started the 30 Day Shred programme, but was tired of coming up with excuses so decided to start the programme anyway, knowing that I would only have 19 days to do it.  However, today I thought I could bring the DVD with me (how desperate is that?!).  I have a portable DVD player, and it's only 20 minutes - I could do it in our hotel room!  Well, we shall see if I still feel the same way in two week's time!  It would just be nice to keep going for the full 30 days, and also have some reassurance that by getting in my training every day I will be less likely to gain weight while we're there.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Day 4 of 30 Day Shred

Four days in and the aches and pains continue, but I am definitely noticing that my arms, legs and abs are feeling firmer.  I have not been using a mat to do the floor work and noticed that I've got bruises on my knees from the push-ups!  We do have a nice rug on the floor, but it's obviously not soft enough for my nobbily knees!  I must admit, getting the umph to do the workout on a Friday night is going to be difficult, but as soon as my husband and son are finished with the TV, I will don my trainers.

So, I did a bit of research today on Calorie Cycling and I definitely think I'm going to give this a try.  Also known as Zig Zig Calories, it works on the premise that by varying your caloric intake from day to day, your metabolism never knows how many calories to expect and therefore works more efficiently.  In a normal weight loss programme of counting calories, as our weight decreases, our body gets used to functioning on a lower number of calories - meaning that a plateau in weight loss could be inevitable.  Eventually, our metabolism slows even further and because we're only consuming the bear minimum of 1200 calories per day, we can't drop this more, so we plateau.  It kind of sucks, doesn't it?

I found a very helpful website that puts together a 7 day calorie cycling guide for you:

Daily Caloric Intake Calculator

To get your Zig-Zag calorie guide, click on the box at the bottom of the tool.

My recommended caloric intake is actually quite a step up from the 1200 calories I have been eating, so my plan is to gradually increase this over an extended period.  Today, I started with 1400 calories (easy because we had a lunch-time meeting!), tomorrow I will have 1300, Sunday 1600, Monday 1300 and so on.  I may not weigh myself for a bit, but rather take my measurements and then hopefully get a nice surprise in a couple of weeks.  Provided I am staying below my 'maintenance' calorie level of 1923, and continuing with the 30 Day Shred, my weight should come down.  Fingers crossed and watch this space!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Day 3 of 30 Day Shred

It's my third day on Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred programme and I'm guessing this is when the average person starts to find it a struggle to continue (or, at least I hope I'm not alone in that regard!).  My muscles are aching, pretty much in every area - particularly my upper arms, chest and my abs.  To add insult to injury, I jumped on the scales this morning, feeling sure there would be a loss and I actually GAINED 1 pound!  I was not a happy bunny this morning!  Still, despite my aches, pains and disappointments, I shall continue!

Photo credit
When I first began my weight loss journey, I took the decision to restrict my caloric intake to 1200 calories per day.  This may seen extreme, as it's literally the minimum number of calories a woman should consume per day.  But I had set myself a target of reaching my goal weight by September, and in order to lose 2 pounds per week, this, I assumed is what I needed to do.  Although I have found it relatively easy to stick to such a low level of calories, I'm thinking of changing it up a bit to see if this gives me better results.

I read recently that by incorporating some higher calorie days in each week (within reason of course, not 3000 calorie binge days!), it keeps your metabolism guessing and therefore keeps weight loss steady. I suppose I'm just looking for a bit more than a measly pound a week, and certainly looking not to gain a pound back!  I will do some further research on this and try to put my weekly plan on the blog.

It's less than 10 days til the Race for Life and I haven't been out for a single walk this week!  Having said that, I am hoping that the 30 Day Shred will act as my race 'training'!  Either that or my muscles will be so sore that my friends will have to carry me on a stretcher through the race!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Day 2 of 30 Day Shred

Well, I did it - I did Level 1 of Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred last night and I'm still alive today to tell the tale!  When I watched the introduction I thought to myself "This doesn't look that hard", but oh my goodness can appearances be deceiving!

The Workout DVD consists of three levels, each level contains a 20 minute workout and the idea is that you do Level 1 for 10 days, Level 2 for 10 days and so on.  I thought that my fitness level wasn't that bad - after all I've been walking regularly (in the region of 6-9 miles per week) and my weight has gradually been coming down.  But, nothing could have prepared me for the intensity of this workout, and the bad news is that I'm only on Level One, and with 29 more days to go!

Jillian says that the routine works because in most instances you are working more than one muscle group at a time (therefore burning more calories per exercise) and by combining strength, cardio and ab exercises your body burns more fat.  The Level One workout starts with some push-ups.  In one of the internet reviews I read, someone said they couldn't do one push-up - and that was the 'easy' kind where you're on your knees.  Secretly, I did think to myself "Who on earth can't do one easy push-up?!  Surely everyone can do one"!  This judgement coming from someone who hasn't done a push-up in living memory, well, I got my comeuppance last night!  Although I could manage more than one easy push-up, I did find it incredibly hard and this really, really surprised me!  Funny, but I always think that the strongest part of my body would be my arms, but after last night I'm starting to think it's actually my legs (which would explain why they are the size of tree trunks!).

From the push-ups, we moved on to jumping jacks - always a worrisome exercise for any women who has had children!  Thankfully, I managed the jumping jacks with no mishaps!  After only about 5 minutes into the workout I was sweating like a pig, out of breath, felt at various stages I was either going to faint or throw up - but I stuck it out til the very end.  I stopped for a few seconds near the end when I literally could not do another jumping jack - got my breath and then completed the exercise.  I'm pleased, after all I read about the DVD, that I was able to complete the whole level, but it was certainly an eye-opener as to my level of fitness and reminds me that, despite feeling much more confident, I do have a long way to go!

A little funny story from today... I am the ultimate internet shopper - I think generally you can get a much better deal on the net than you can in stores, at least that's the case here in England.  I searched our general everything shop, Argos, for some hand weights that I needed for the 30 Day Shred (I used two cans of custard last night - much to the amusement of my kids!).  Finding 2 x 2kg weights on Argos for £11.99, I decided to look at an outlet shop called Sports Direct for something similar.  I thought I stumbled onto a bargain when I saw virtually the same weights for £3.50 - great, I'll order those please! Well, my package arrived today, with some bits that I need for the Race for Life and I realised that the weights were £3.50 EACH!  One weight isn't much good for working out both arms... oh well!  Thankfully we have a Sports Direct shop here in our town, so I shall try there tomorrow to see if I can find a mate for my one lonely weight!


So, dinner tonight is a new favourite healthy meal of mine!  Grilled Garlic Chicken, with new potatoes and asparagus.  It's a Martha Stewart recipe (I love Martha!) and it's super-healthy.  New potatoes are SO good for you, they've got loads of vitamins and are the best spud (with the exception of sweet potatoes) to eat on the GI/GL Diets - so naturally when I stumbled across this recipe, I thought I'd give it a go.  The chicken is actually thin chicken cutlets - so they cook very quick and absorb lots of flavour.  Asparagus is in season at the moment, so this is an added bonus!

Here's a link to the recipe on Martha Stewart's website:

Garlic Marinated Chicken with Grilled Potatoes and Asparagus

My Fitness Pal calculates there is 204 calories per serving for the Chicken, 113 calories for a 150gram serving of new potatoes and about 25 calories for the Asparagus.  There is a vinaigrette dressing which I drizzle very lightly over the Asparagus and I added 41 calories for this.  All total, it's a very nutritious, filling meal and under 400 calories!  One little note - the recipe above calls for some butter - I've omitted this entirely and honestly, you don't miss it!  Use a brush for the olive oil and you'll use a lot less.  I also parboiled the potatoes in some salted water for about 15 minutes, because I had quite large new potatoes and this also ensures that when you pop them under the grill, they go all crispy - yum! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Day 1 of (nearly) 30 Day Shred

At some point in April, I discovered a DVD by The Biggest Loser trainer, Jillian Michaels called "The 30 Day Shred".  I should start this post by saying that we are a bit behind the times here in England with American TV programs - we tend to get episodes much later than they originally air, and I'm not huge watcher of television anyway, so when I found this DVD on Amazon I thought I'd give it a try.

While I was waiting for it to arrive, I read through many internet posts where people described it as "hell" and that it was the toughest workout they had ever done.  Not exactly inspiring confidence to someone who has relatively recently started exercising again!  But, as ever, I am the optimist.  Having said that, I have owned the DVD for about a month now and so far I have not attempted it once!  Today, I said enough it enough!  Even though I don't have a full 30 days at home, I will start the programme today!

So, in one of the internet posts I read someone recommended that I take all of my measurements at the beginning and then again at the end, so for the purposes of record keeping, here are the vital statistics:

Hips:  46 inches
Waist:  36.5 inches
Bust:  42 inches
Neck:  14 inches
Right thigh:  27.5 inches
Left thigh: 27 inches
Right calf:  17 inches
Left calf: 17.5 inches
Right upper arm: 14 inches
Left upper arm: 14 inches

In taking these measurements, it surprises me what a difference there is between the right side and left side of my body!  I definitely took the measurements in the same place, but it's a bit weird that there can be a clear half an inch difference between my thighs and my calves!  I'm hoping this is normal and everyone is slightly wonky in this way - that I'm not alone!

So tonight is my first attempt at this workout - wish me luck!  The plan is to post my experience with the plan and hopefully at the end of 30 days, there will be a considerable difference to those measurements listed above!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

"The Fear"

My weight loss programme officially started in January, so I thought I would take this post to include some 'before' and 'current' photos.  When I officially started this journey my weight had ballooned over the Christmas period to 17 stone 2 pounds (240 pounds) - this was very near to my all time high of 18 stone 7 pounds (260 pounds).  From 2004-08 I lost over 100 pounds through a combination of diets - mainly the Cambridge Diet meal replacement programme, and then eventually reached my goal weight with the GI diet.  The weight gradually began to creep back on after my mother in law became ill at the start of 2010.  She eventually passed away in June 2010 and this put a tremendous stress on the family as a result - my comfort again became food.

Having been there before, I knew what I needed to do to lose the weight, but it took quite a while for me to get "the fear".  The fear is how I describe that feeling that compels you to do something and to succeed at it.  It's like something clicks in your brain - you suddenly have the motivation and determination to see it through - other attempts failed miserably - but this time you just know that you'll get there.  I wish I could say undeniably what it takes to get "the fear", but I don't have the answer.  You just make up your mind that you are going to succeed and even though you may fall off the wagon occasionally - you jump right back on.

Me with the family in August 2011 - not quite my heaviest weight!
So, though I have 44 pounds to lose before I reach my goal, I know that I will get there.  I'm also strangely encouraged that I'm losing the weight the 'slow' way this time.  When I first started back in 2004, I used the Cambridge Diet - this was a meal replacement programme consisting of shakes, soups and bars.  I lost five stone (70 pounds) in about four months and when I came off the diet about 20 pounds went back on straight away.  I personally think that diets such as this are purely a quick fix and not really suitable for long-term weight loss.  They don't teach you about eating a proper balanced diet (day to day - they tell you all about it in their brochures!), nor do they tackle your food demons.  Eventually, after yo-yoing with Cambridge for the best part of a year, I decided to try the GI diet, which enabled me to reach my goal.

Personally, I feel that by losing all the weight this time by simply counting calories and exercising, I am losing it at a much slower rate than before.  Because it is coming off more slowly, I am learning a lot of patience, but I am also learning more and more to make intelligent food choices - and the longer I continue to make those good choices, I think the better chance I will have at maintaining the loss once and for all!  Strictly speaking, the rest of my life will involve making those same choices!

This is me at the moment - 36 pounds down!


So, my friend Fi is back from holiday and we went on our (resumed) usual lunchtime walk on Tuesday.    I was pumped and ready to go - finally my walking buddy was back!  I think she was a wee bit out of practice, having had a nice, long, relaxing holiday, but it was nice to have a good catch up even though our pace wasn't super fast.  The bonus though was in the last section of the walk.  We do a loop route and the final stretch involves a near one mile slog up a gradual climb - this bit always used to kill me.  It's near the end, you're getting tired, all you want to do is get back to the office and have your lunch... but you know the only way back is up this incline.  Well, I noticed on Tuesday that I was happily chatting away and my legs weren't aching, I wasn't huffing and puffing, I was fitter!

finally worked out how to see my average speed!
I was really pleased that my hard work was now noticeably starting to pay off!  Another interesting little feature of my Walkmeter is that it records your total distance from all your walks - my grand total (from recorded walks, I should mention) for 2012 SO FAR is....

57.98 miles!

That's the equivalent of walking from London to Oxford!  I firmly believe this number would have been a lot higher if I didn't have a lung infection earlier in the year (my February and March walking totals were not that high in comparison with other months).  We'll have to see what May's total is - but I'm feeling another goal coming on here!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Facing food demons

This morning I read a post on Runs for Cookies that evoked a lot of memories for me.  Katie was answering Reader's Questions and one of the readers was asking how she managed to avoid buying junk food at the supermarket.  I wholly understood both the question and Katie's answer - having been on both sides myself!  Let's face it, it does take willpower not to pick up a box of your favourite cereal, or a pack of your favourite chocolate treat at the supermarket every week.  It probably takes more willpower to not eat them if they're in your house!  But there comes a time when we all must face our food demons - and for me the best way to do this was to terminate the relationship forever!

I read an article many years ago that talked about overweight people and binging.  The article stated that most overweight people began a binge after consuming a 'trigger' food.  Basically, a 'trigger' food is something that you cannot possibly eat in moderation - it's something that, once you start, it is impossible to stop the binge.  Trigger foods are different for each individual person, so afterwards I thought long and hard about what my trigger foods might be.

I should start really by saying that this is not my first attempt at losing weight and maintaining the loss.  In 2004, I was my absolute heaviest weight topping the scales at 260 pounds.  I had not always been overweight, but the weight gradually crept on after I got married in 1995 and by the time I had given birth to two children (in 2000 and 2002), I was at my all-time heaviest.  The weight-gain, especially near the end, was largely due to binge eating and particularly binging on Ben & Jerry's ice-cream!

I remember going through a particularly bad patch in the summer of 2004 where I would consume an entire tub of Ben & Jerry's per evening - EVERY DAY!  I've just checked and the average 500ml tub of Ben & Jerry's contains 1,000 calories!  And remember, this was in addition to my already incredibly unhealthy diet!  So, somehow I took the decision to cut them off (sorry Ben & Jerry!).  When I started losing weight I knew that there were somethings around which I just could not control myself and this divine ice-cream was one of them.  Now, please don't interpret this as an anti-Ben & Jerry's campaign!  I know plenty of people who love the stuff and can easily remove said tub from the freezer and have an allotted portion.  I am just saying that for me, that's not possible!

It took time, like any addiction, but I can honestly say that I have not craved ice-cream, nor binged on it since that time.  Time does march on, however, and personally I believe that some of us are more prone to addiction than others.  Having beaten the ice-cream habit, and lost over 100 pounds from 2006-2008, the weight did start to creep back on.  Thankfully I took control before I saw 260 on the scales, but a gain is still a gain.

Looking back, there must be some deep psychological reasoning behind binging - we must be trying to fill a void of some sort with food.  The key, I believe, is to really re-examine our relationship with food and take the decision that WE will control what we eat and not let IT control us!  This is something that I've slowly been learning with baking and dieting.  Because my urge to lose weight is stronger than my urge to eat cookie dough as I cook, I am able to control it.  I have also found that I am satisfied having ONE cake, built into my daily calorie allowance, when I do bake something particularly yummy.  And, I don't bake all the time - but I do enjoy baking and I don't feel that I should give that up just because I'm trying to lose weight.  After all, once I lose all of the weight I will need to educate myself to maintain the loss and this will involve a constant struggle of self-control!

I suppose the message I am trying to share with this post is that just because we identify and give up a trigger food, doesn't mean that life is no longer worth living.  We need to have some pleasures in life, and there are still any number of foods that I love eating, but which don't have that binging effect.  So, like Katie at Runs for Cookies, I just don't buy certain foods at the supermarket and I've learned over time to be able to comfortably resist.  Another tip for resisting junk foods is to do your shopping online. I work full-time, have two young children and a very busy life.  Most of the time, I don't have time to go to the supermarket, or frankly, I'm too tired to go!  Ordering my weekly food shop online enables me to choose only the things that I need, and manage to resist those impulse buys!  I also find this saves me money because I check my shopping trolley at the end and ask the myself the question "Do I really need that?" for each item - plus you always see your running total.  Much, much easier to resist temptation this way!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Race for life takes on new meaning...

Thursday was my 36th birthday.  I spent Wednesday evening baking some divine cupcakes to take to work.  There is a fabulous blog called Sweeta Polita that has the most delicious cake recipes and I knew I could find a cupcake recipe here that would not disappoint.

I settled on some Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe below) that looked rather fabulous as they used Nutella (amongst other ingredients) for the frosting - yum!  I did plug in the ingredients to My Fitness Pal and these little beauties will set you back 524 calories per cupcake - so definitely a special, very occasional treat!  But, they were delicious, and it was my birthday!

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting

Last night, Rob and I went into London to see our favourite play, "The Woman in Black" - we have seen this together, and independently about 15 times and still it makes us jump!  If ever there were a perfect stage play, I believe this is it!  The play is staged in a very tiny theatre - but this adds to the whole ambience of the production.  I won't ruin it, but suffice it to say it's a ghost story and there are certainly some jump out of your seat moments!

As we wanted to make an evening of it and belatedly celebrate my birthday, we also went for a meal at Carluccios in Covent Garden.  Knowing that my cupcake the day before had taken me over my calorie allowance, I was keen to try to be as good as possible, so I chose a salad starter, followed by a fish main - as it was I only ate half of the main course because there was a bit too much of it, and this made the ice cream I had during the interval of the play feel much less guilty!
Beautiful Bluebells today

Today was yet another country park training session and having nearly reached the magic 3.1 miles during our last outing, I felt sure I knew the way to add the much needed extra mileage!  There were four of us today.  In addition to my friend Annabelle, I was also joined by two of my Race for Life teammates, Nina and Gill.

We had a dry morning for our walk, but yet again the path was exceptionally muddy from the recent rain, so my glorious new Asics trainers are now a glorious colour of brown!  The great news though was that my add on route gave us the much needed milage and we hit not 3.1, but 3.2 miles!  Woohoo!  The tragic part however was that we were nowhere near my original target of 45 minutes - we were a full 22 minutes over this, and with less than 3 weeks to go til race day, I'm thinking that's now not a realistic target.
Walking along country paths is just not comparable with urban walking, and so I think this has somewhat skewed my goal.  However, just taking part in the race and finishing it is a fantastic achievement, so I'm just looking forward to that.

Earlier this week I received some sad news that a friend of mine who had been given the all clear from breast cancer, is back in hospital.  She has two tumours in her brain and further complications meaning the outlook is now very bleak. When I first signed up for the Race for Life, it was of course to raise money for cancer research, but also I thought it would be a good motivator for me getting fit.  This friend was in the back of my mind, but at the time we all believed the cancer was beaten.

Now, as I draw closer to the race date, she is lying in a hospital bed.  It's quite a surreal feeling and my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family at this time.  In my Race for Life pack there is a banner included for your back which says "I race for... (blank)", so when I take part on 26th May, my banner will be dedicated to my friend Diane.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

I would walk 5(00) miles...

It has been a little while since my last post and that is because we have been entertaining visitors from Germany over the weekend.  In 1991-92 my family and I in America hosted a German exchange student, Nina, and amazingly we are still as close now as we were then - I'd go as far to say that she's basically my sister.  For the last three years she has come over to England in the Spring for a weekend visit, but this year was special because she was bringing her eldest child with her (a first-communion present for him!).

They arrived on Friday evening and it's been non-stop since then (unfortunately for them, it was also non-stop with raining!).  This was Nina's son's first airplane trip and obviously first trip to England, so we had a 'checklist' of things to do!  On Saturday, we planned to go to the seaside, which thankfully we still managed despite the weather.  One of the wonderful things about Southend on Sea is the pier - to me, this is a walker's delight.  It's the longest pleasure pier in the world (1.33 miles from one end t'other) and full of history.  It's been burnt to a crisp and rammed with so many boats over the years that you'd wonder how it's still standing - but she still is!  We drove separately to Southend as Nina wanted to do a bit of shopping first, so my husband took all of the children to the Sealife Centre first.  When Nina and I arrived, of course they were all at the very end of the pier, having taken the train there - so Nina and I decided to walk down.

Though it was raining, it was not heavy and we enjoyed our short walk to the middle of the pier before the train came back and we turned around.  All total, we walked about 3 miles in Southend on Saturday, which I was pleased with because it went towards working off my Plaice & Chips!

Sunday, we had planned a visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.  My son had an obsession with planes when he was younger, so a few years ago we practically had shares in the place.  However, it had been about five years since I last visited and I did not realise how many improvements they've made to it! Hanger 1 was amazing!  There were lots of scientific experiments for the children to try, along with many restored planes that we could walk through (including Concorde!).
Hanger One at Duxford

I knew that we would get a lot of exercise on Sunday because Duxford is a big place - but I had no idea how much!  I checked my Walkmeter just as we were leaving the first hanger and we had already walked nearly two miles in that hanger alone!  There were a further seven hangers, however we decided to only visit five of these - and aside from the last, the remainder of the hangers were smaller than the first.

When we had finished visiting the last hanger, we were walking back to the gift shop when Nina suggested the kids have a race.  I was happily watching them run and before I knew it, she suggested that she and I have a race!  I had not run in years, but not wishing to be a spoiled sport, I agreed.  I lost pathetically of course, but at least I gave it a go - and I must say that I was wholly surprised to not be gasping desperately for air at the end of it!  All this walking must be doing me some good!

When I clicked 'done' as we were walking to the car, I was shocked to see that we had walked 5.54 miles!!!  This was utterly amazing to me - but I was really pleased that we had walked so far.

Having been worried initially that I would throw caution to the wind over the weekend and overeat - I managed not only to control my eating, but also lose two pounds thanks to all the exercise!  So it just goes to show, if you have a plan for when visitors come - and you make sure to incorporate exercise - it does work!

On Monday evening, I dropped Nina and her boy off at the airport - sad that they were leaving, but looking forward to a well deserved rest.  Tomorrow is my birthday, which will bring challenges all their own (namely some Chocolate Nutella cupcakes I've made for my work colleagues!), but I'm looking forward to a theatre treat and a meal out on Friday night to celebrate.