Saturday, 30 June 2012

Unexpected Perks of Weight Loss

I thought I would take some time today to document those unexpected perks of weight loss.  These are the things that I would not set out to correct or improve as faults on their own, but through changes to my diet and exercise, I've noticed real improvements.  I think it is wonderful to jump on the scales each week and gradually see a loss, to notice that those clothes which were once tight are now so loose they're barely clinging on, and to see tangible improvements to my level of fitness with each new exercise I try.  But, in addition to all of that, there are little, less spoken about bonuses that come with weight loss.


The first very noticeable improvement since I started on my healthy eating and exercise regime has been my complexion.  I had beautiful skin when I was a teenager - no acne whatsoever - I was really lucky.  Little did I know that it was waiting for me later in life!  Since my early 20's I've battled with an oily t-zone and lots of spots.  As well as acne, the skin on my face was very red and blotchy.  I made so many changes to the makeup that I wear, the face cleanser and moisturiser that I used, but nothing really made a big difference.

I wish I had a 'before' photo to show you - but this is me now, typing this blog entry, sans makeup.  I've not touched this photo up at all, and please know that it's taken real courage to post this because I NEVER leave the house without makeup - even given the improvements in my skin!  But, you can see I am now spot-free and the redness in my skin has virtually disappeared!

I put this down to general improvements in my diet, yes, but I think the single biggest factor has been the fact that I have given up coca-cola and Dr. Pepper!  I now ONLY drink my allotted amount of coffee in the morning (up to three cups, none after lunch) and the rest of the time I drink water.  Still or sparkling, but only water.

I really dislike diet drinks - this is just a matter of choice for me - I don't like the aftertaste of the sweeteners in them, so from the beginning when I decided to give up coke, it was an all or nothing situation.  I settled on sparkling water - a sort of substitute fizz, if you like, but still very refreshing and a little bit more interesting than still water.  I had a real addiction both to cherry coke and Dr. Pepper, and now that I'm free of it I don't even crave it anymore!  But it does take some iron will to be able to give it up - and stick to it!  I would seriously encourage anyone out there who has a similar addiction, to try giving it up - even for a short period of time, I'm sure you will notice some very good improvements to your health as a result.

Hoarse Voice

I used to be one of those exceedingly annoying people who cleared their voice every couple of minutes because of a persistent 'frog' in my throat!  The strange thing was that I didn't even notice this had gone until about a month ago when my father in law was clearing his throat - and suddenly the penny dropped!  I've not cleared my throat repeatedly in months!  Seems a strange thing to be grateful for, but I am.  I hated being at work, trying to speak with someone on the phone or in meetings and having to keep apologising for clearing my throat.  But now, it's wonderful not to have to worry about that!

Interestingly, I am not sure if this is a result purely of diet, or if it is a general improvement of my adrenal glands.  In an earlier blog post, I wrote about how my adrenal glands were depressed which resulted in me feeling constantly tired, with no energy, and I was suffering from serious bouts of low blood sugar - causing me to binge.  I went to see a naturopath in Harley Street, London, who conducted several tests which proved that my adrenal levels were depressed.  I am now on two daily supplements which support my adrenals and my thyroid.  I should mention that I do not have a thyroid problem, but that the thyroid and adrenal glands are directly related and do affect each other.  You can read that post here.


They say a little bit of what you fancy does you good and I would be inclined to agree.  However, a lot of what you fancy definitely does more harm than good!  My waistline prior to January is certainly testimony to that!  I've never been the kind of person to do things by halves, and this includes binging!  I mentioned in earlier blog posts about my daily, gluttonous, Ben & Jerry's ice cream experiences.  And while I was able to break the cycle with our friends from Vermont, sadly this later transferred to other foods - such as Mars Planets, Maltesers, pancakes of any description, waffles of any description, certain breakfast cereals (anything described as chocolate and crunchy!), etc, etc.

In eating these foods there has never been an ounce of me that has been able to say "I'll just have a few" - I would buy a large sharing pack and proceed to eat the whole pack myself, easily.  It was impossible for me to think about eating any of these foods without eating a massive amount.  Now, I can honestly say that the feeling is gone - or should I say the compulsion is gone. Whether it is my sheer determination to lose this weight, or something else, I just do not have cravings for these foods anymore.  I will say that I would still eat them if I wanted to - and I've had the odd pack of Maltesers now and again - however, the difference now is that I buy the single size pack (!) and I work the calories into my daily allowance.  It is slowly teaching me that treats are good - but they are precisely that - treats!  E.g. not to be had on a daily basis and not to be had in bulk!

Healthy Eating - Yummy Eating!

The last thing I would like to mention in this post is how much I am enjoying the food I've been eating! When I was heavier my meals were not that bad.  I've always enjoyed cooking and with two young children in the house, cooking healthy has always been something that I've done.  My weight was caused by portion sizes being too large and all the added extras!  But, since starting this new regime there are some healthier items I'm now incorporating which I absolutely love!

Fish - I've always loved fish, but never realised how low it is in calories!  Prawns (or shrimps) are incredibly low in calories and fat, and as such make an excellent lunchtime food.  We regularly have salmon fillets with mashed potatoes and broccoli, but instead of frying the salmon, I now bake it with a slice of lemon - still tastes just as nice!  Cod is an awesome fish that you can do loads with.  I cook it with a spicy cous cous and tomato sauce (Jamie Oliver recipe), the whole meal is about 450 calories and trust me, there is tons of it!

Cous Cous - I can't get enough of this at the moment!  SOOOO easy to prepare and so versatile!

Lentils - I love green lentils and the simpler the better.  Literally saute a bit of onion, celery, carrot and garlic in a pan, add the lentils and some chicken stock - simmer until the lentils are cooked through.  A splash of basalmic vinegar just before serving really brings out the flavour.

Berries - Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries - take your pick, but we eat them on a daily basis!  And the best part - not only are they rich in vitamins but berries are very low in calories so make an ideal snack!

This was a bowl I had at work the other day (we have a fruit seller in the high street who is always shouting "2 pack of strawberries £2" - I can't walk past strawberries and not buy some!).

So I will close for now and ask what are some of the unexpected perks of weight loss that you've all experienced?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Hectic Week

This week has been a bit manic - and it will probably continue well into the weekend.  It's my kid's last week at school and there are all kinds of evening activities, followed by last minute sporting activities, followed by school camp at the very end of the week.  So, in addition to my normal very hectic life, I have to remember a multitude of things - ensuring my kids are where they need to be, when they need to be, wearing what they need to be - to top it all off, I am NOT an organised person, so times like this are a great challenge!

Tonight was the school open evening - my daughter had a ballet performance and my son (and his classmates) acted out the story of Exodus (abridged, thankfully!).  I had planned to do one of my Jillian Michaels DVD's when I got back, but it was late, so having done a quick 20 minute walk at lunchtime, I decided that would suffice and today would act as a rest day.

The Marathon Weight Loss challenge started with a thud as I managed to lose a whole half a pound last week!!!  Ugh!  I hate it when you literally bust your butt with exercise and your body rewards you with such a small loss.  But I suppose it's still a loss, so I should be grateful for that!  The plus side of the challenge is that I've gained loads of friends on My Fitness Pal!  If I haven't mentioned this previously, apologies, because it truly is an invaluable tool on my weight loss journey!  I use the iPhone app - but you can easily just use the web (  I love it because it is one of the most comprehensive collections of calories available - and you can always use their barcode scanner for foods that might not appear on their database.

I have used this app from the very beginning to track my daily calories and exercise.  One of my favourite features is the recipes tab - if you're like me and cook a lot of your food from scratch, then this feature is invaluable!  Basically, you enter all of the ingredients to a particular food, or meal add the number of people it serves and hey presto - it tells you the calories per serving!  If anyone reading this would like to add me as a friend on My Fitness Pal, my username is: pilliepop (appreciate this sounds a wee bit strange!  It was a silly word that my daughter made up when she was about three - we thought it was so cute that it sort of stuck!).

Very apt this week!

The 5K training is going well and I'm definitely feeling that my stamina for running continues to improve.  This week my training consists of a 5 minute warm up walk followed by 7 sets of 1.5 minutes running, 1 minute walking, then a 5 minute cool down walk.  As I finish this programme about half a mile from home, I have started running that last half a mile (slowing to a walk when necessary), but I think this added extra is really helping increase my fitness.  Last night I only stopped running briefly for about 1 minute when I had a really bad stitch in my side - as soon as I got my breath I started running again.  I'm hoping that this cheeky little add-on at the end will magically progress me on the programme!  We shall see!  I have looked ahead in the programme and I must admit the forthcoming weeks are making me feel VERY nervous!  I'm really hoping that my body can cope with this!!

Well, I shall close for now.  I hope everyone has a good rest of the week and please pray that I manage to get the right kid to the right place on time :-)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

I'm not running a marathon...

I'm not sure how I stumble across these things, but earlier today I found a running and weight loss website called Run with Jess.  I think I had noticed on one of the other blogs I follow that this Jess is doing a weight loss challenge called "Lose a Marathon" - you basically can join her in her effort to lose 26.2 pounds before 17th September.

I have just over 26 more pounds to go before I'll be at my first goal weight (I say first because my goal weight is actually 160 pounds and that's a little heavy for my height - 5'4").  Because I'm also doing the 5k training programme and my diet is running along side, I figured I would sign up for the challenge because aside from weighing in somewhere else and being part of a whole "Lose a marathon" community, it doesn't really require any extra effort other than what I'm already doing.  Plus, there are hundreds of people taking part and Jess has promised to provide healthy recipes, motivation and there will even be prizes from time to time - so it's a win win!  If you're interested in taking part, I should just point out that you need to sign up before 25th June - so you've only got two days left!

Today my husband was at a men's conference at church all day, so it was just me and the kids at home. The weather was nice and warm, so I decided to pack some sandwiches in a backpack and go to the country park for a good long walk and a picnic!

I love this walk - it's quite secluded and makes me feel like I'm climbing up a mountain in the Lake District, even though I'm in the middle of Essex!

When we got to a hill by the lake, the grass had grown up really high - I took a photo of my daughter because it reminded me of Little House on the Prairie!

All total we walked 3.28 miles - so not bad at all!  But, when we got home I wanted to do my first session of Jillian Michael's Banish Fat & Boost Metabolism DVD.  Sundays are working out to be my first 5k training session of the week, so I needed to get the DVD in this afternoon.  It was quite a shock to the system, because of course the 30 Day Shred DVD is only 20 minutes - this one is 40 minutes!

I'm not going to lie and say I rocked, but I didn't do too badly for my first go.  It's quite hard, as you would expect and some of the moves I just have to try my best because they're a little complicated (and I'm not the most coordinated person in the world!).  But, I'm glad I did it and because of all of my exercise efforts today I can now relax for the rest of the evening!  Shame I don't have any wine in the house because I think I earned a glass today (or two!)!

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Running Bug (and 30 Day Shred results)

Wednesday was my last night of the 30 Day Shred.  I was able to complete the whole of Level 3 without stopping for breath (a first), and as promised, here are my before and after measurements:-

15th May 2012
20th June 2012
Right Thigh:
Left Thigh:
Right Upper Arm:
Left Upper Arm:
Right Calf:
Left Calf:

I lost a total of 7 pounds and 8 inches!  I think that's a pretty amazing result in just over 30 days.  Granted, I did climb a big mountain in there too and I also did some extra exercise, but for the majority of the days my main form of exercise was the shred.

My next challenge arrived on Wednesday too - Jillian's "Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism" DVD, which, interestingly claims to "burn mega fat and shed unwanted pounds"!  I said to my husband "do I need to burn mega fat?"!  And a friend of mine pointed out the fact that no one has "wanted pounds"!  It's just my weird sense of humour laughing at silly phrases, I guess!  Anyway, I plan to do this DVD on the days that I am not 5k training.

Now that the 30 Day Shred chapter has come to a close, the 5k training programme has opened!  Tonight was my last session and it went very well.  It was quite windy and threatening to rain when I went out, so I had my rain jacket tied around my waist (handy, as I had a zip pocket for my iPhone!).  Thankfully, the rain stayed off but the wind was blowing against me for quite a lot of the run, which was annoying!  I would love to have a tail wind to help me out, not a head wind!  The local loop circuit that I take is just over 2.5 miles and normally takes me 40 minutes - with the 5k training, I'm meant to be doing 30 minute training sessions, so there's a 10 minute walk back to my house where I feel like I should be doing a bit more.

Tonight, when I got about five minutes from home, I decided "Sod it!  I'm running home!" So, I kept to a slow pace, but I ran the whole way home!  It was probably a pathetically minimal distance, but I reckon it must have taken me about four minutes - but that's four minutes of continuous running!  Unfortunately my Walkmeter had stopped when my 5k training session ended, so I have no idea what my pace was, how far I ran or for exactly how long - but I was pleased that I did it!  I even passed my neighbour who gave me a big smile, thumbs up and shouted "go girl!" as I ran past.

The adrenaline is definitely kicking in with running.  Although I've just started training, I find myself wanting to go out and run more!  So my question to all my fellow runners - is this just a "honeymoon" period - or are you all still as much in love with running now as you were when you first started?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Not quite the end of 30 Day Shred...

Today was supposed to be my last day of the 30 Day Shred.  I need to, however, check the football schedule in future with my husband as England are playing the Ukraine!  So, rather than doing the shred, I decided to go out and do my second C25k training session.  I had already been for a three mile walk at lunchtime with my friend Fi, but am determined to keep to this 5k training, so tonight seemed a good night to do it.

I made a Chicken Korma tonight (that is to say, Sharwoods made a Korma sauce that I poured over chicken breasts!), which wasn't too bad on the calorie front. Word of warning - it's best to not eat curry before going out for a run!  Thankfully, I didn't experience anything other than a mild stitch - but it could have been worse!  My GPS on my Walkmeter seems to be malfunctioning at the moment and I'm wondering if, because of lack of anywhere else to put it, I've had to literally slot the iPhone into my bra!  I think I need to invest in one of those armbands or a something with a pocket!  Today on my walk at lunchtime the GPS said we had done nearly five miles when I know the route we did is just under 3.  And tonight the GPS indicated that I had stopped for a few minutes, which I hadn't!  Anyway, it needs sorting out.  I think it's karma getting me after I've just raved about what a wonderful app it was!

This morning was a weigh-in day.  I'm trying to either weigh in only on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  I weighed in on Tuesday last week, so I thought I needed to get it over with this morning.  I actually felt sick before I got on the scales.  This always happens to me - I have a very good weigh in one week and the following week I am terrified that I will have gained.  Thankfully I'm down a pound this week, but I don't think I'll rest easy until I'm well under that 200 pound mark.  Having reached that benchmark - being under 200 pounds - I really feel like I need to push myself even harder to get well under 200!  I'm not sure if this makes sense, because ultimately my goal weight is well under 200 pounds!   But somehow psychologically seeing a big distance between my current weight and 200 pounds makes me feel better!  I'm strange, I know!

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Where would we be nowadays without techie gadgets?  There are apps for literally EVERYTHING!  I discovered this wonderful iPhone app in December called Walkmeter.  For those of you unfamiliar with this fab little app, it is basically a pedometer, but it's linked to GPS so is much more reliable that the old fashioned type.  It does the basic stuff like record your time, distance and calories and I thought for less than £1 it was a pretty good option.  Little did I know what a fantastic little app this would be!

I must admit, I'm only just now getting to grips with all it does and literally yesterday, after I had returned from my first 'official' C25K training session, I discovered that Walkmeter has a training programme installed in the app!  Even though you're supposed to have a day to rest in the C25k programme, I couldn't wait to get out there and try Walkmeter's version, so that's precisely what I did today.  I took along my stopwatch because although the description tells you what you're about to be doing, I wasn't sure I would know to start running and stop.  Well, I popped in the headphones and needn't have worried!  Walkmeter literally tells you (through the headphones) when you're doing your warm-up walk, when to run, when to walk and when you're doing your cool-down.  I'm actually starting to think that this £1 was the best I've ever spent!

Well, I didn't set out just now to wax lyrical about my stellar app choices - actually I wanted to write about my first two training sessions and how I'm finding running.  I started running quite a few years ago when I lost over 100 pounds previously.  When I started that diet/exercise routine, I was initially walking only but when I saw how many calories you can burn running, I decided to give it a try.  At the time, we didn't have all the technology that we have right now (I think I had a very antiquated iPod and even that was a luxury), and I entered into the activity without much knowledge about how to improve my running.  I would literally start running and stop when I felt I was going to die.  When I caught my breath again I would start running again and repeat the process.  There was no science to it - I didn't run for one minute, walk for one minute, and unfortunately I just never progressed from there.  A series of misfortunes stopped me running - firstly I was in a serious car accident and suffered severe whiplash.  Running after that was extremely painful.  A short time after that my mother in law became critically ill and because of the increased responsibility that came with it (my father in law and mother in law lived with us), my weight began to creep back on and the running became a distant memory.

I don't know that I ever thought about running again, frankly, until I stumbled across Katie's blog, Runs for Cookies.  I was seriously inspired both by her weight loss and her continued progress with running. Reading her blog made me think, 'Heck, I can do that too!" - so what did I do within the first few days of finding her blog - I signed up for my first 5k!  Initially I planned to run the whole thing, but once again, things conspired against me.  From March to April this year I battled a bad lung infection and it took me literally AGES to get over it!  Walking from the car to the classroom to get my kids from school had me out of breath - it was not a nice experience!  But thankfully, I recovered and managed to at least run the downhill sections of Race for Life in May.  Now, I have signed up for another 5k race at the end of August and my C25k training for this has officially begun!

Walkmeter recommends a 10 week programme, so I am literally just on target.  Running for one minute is so far OK - it has not brought any major difficulties.  Running for longer periods, we'll have to wait and see!  The loop that I generally use for walking exercise has quite a lot of ups and downs and surprisingly I am able to cope with running uphill.  I am just taking it very slow and trying not to go too fast!

So, I have three more days left of the 30 Day Shred.  I have ordered another Jillian Michael's DVD - 'Banish Fat & Boost Metabolism' which I'm hoping will arrive before Tuesday so I can move straight onto that.  I'm thinking that I will do the DVD three days per week and the C25k training three days per week - that way I'm getting some weight training and arm/ab workouts in with the cardio of the C25k.  And I'm hoping, of course, through all of this, that the weight will just fall off!  Well - we shall see :-)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Kettlebell...

I have a very interesting job.  I work for a family business that makes high end mirrors and furniture, mainly for interior designers in London.  I love my job - it allows me to be creative, to get involved with the design process and to work with some seriously talented people.  Because it's a family business, I actually work in the owner's home - which carries with it all kinds of experiences!  The owners are now in their 60's, but living with them is my boss's 86 year old mother, my boss's sister and her husband (three days per week), two lodgers (one Dutch, one Bulgarian) and my boss's 30 year old daughter, who has recently qualified as a personal trainer (very handy!).

The daughter has just taken on a couple of clients and is slowly building her range of equipment.  One of the items that had all of us in the office intrigued yesterday was a large grey kettlebell.  I must admit I'm not overly familiar with kettlebells - my knowledge of them is pretty much limited to Katie at Runs for Cookies' review of The Swing book.  However I tried picking the various weights up and swinging them to see how it felt.  She had ordered four in total at different weights and in pretty pastel colours, but the beastie was the grey one - this is the one that I could just about pick up and carry to the next room.  It weighed 20kgs.

Then it hit me.  20kgs is the amount of weight I have lost!  It was completely amazing to me that the weight that I was struggling to lift and carry to the next room is precisely the amount of weight I had been carrying around on my body!  I seriously think that everyone who has lost a significant amount of weight should try this from time to time, just to remind them of how far they've come!

I'm on a bit of a high at the moment, as you maybe could tell.  Having a good weigh in will do that to you!  Ask me again when I've busted my ass and didn't lose an ounce and I'm sure my opinion will be different!  However, in addition to having a good weigh in, a number of people have commented on my weight loss recently and I'm obviously finding this very encouraging.  Even my son tonight told me that my tummy was "less flubby" than it used to be :-).  So, it got me thinking about progress.  I have put up a new photo showing me just before the start of my journey and then a photo that my son took of me tonight.  Clearly I still have a ways to go, but I'm pleased with the difference so far.

I was also thinking of how much of this progress, or elated feeling, is due to my exercise programme of the 30 Day Shred.  Every night, with the exception of a few days in Chester, I have shredded.  Next Tuesday is my last scheduled shredding day (watch this space for before and after measurements!), and I'm a little bit worried about what to do next!  I like the idea of having something that I know I have to do every night - it's a goal - I'm obviously not under contract to do it, but I only let myself down if I don't.  I've been looking at getting another Jillian Michael's workout, including one with a kettlebell (though I would not use the 20kg weight!!).  I haven't made a decision yet, but I know that I want to continue my daily exercise routine for sure.

So, some questions to my readers!  What is your daily exercise routine?  Is there a fitness DVD that you recommend?  Finally, how do you measure your own weight loss progress - is it purely personal, or do you not feel that you've 'progressed' until others start to notice?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

My old nemesis...

Today was a good day.  It wasn't weigh in day, but having dropped the two pounds I put on when we were in Chester pretty much straight away, I decided to weigh myself a day earlier this week and I got a fantastic surprise!  I lost another 2 pounds!  I think the mountain climbing has finally caught up with me now that my eating is back to normal.  I needed this encouragement because yesterday was an awful, awful day.

I awoke yesterday at 5:30am when my son came into our bedroom and said he had just got up to go to the toilet and stepped into a puddle.  While we were away in Chester a leak had come through his window (we've had a lot of rain here lately) and there was a small amount of water on the floor.  We didn't think it was that bad and planned to have a roofer have a look at it soon.  On Sunday night we had a significant amount of rain and, well, the water must have poured in because his wooden floor was covered.  To make matters worse, our home insurance are being real bastards and saying that it's not covered!  How can a leak not be covered?!  I screamed at so many people on the phone yesterday that I've had to ask my husband to deal with them - a day later and we are still no further forward, but thankfully we seem to have determined the cause of the leak!  The downpipe was completely blocked and so water couldn't flow down it - but simply poured over the top.  This has now thankfully been cleared and so far (touch wood), no more water in the house!

So, when I saw that weight loss on the scales this morning, it truly brightened my day.  I started Level Three of the 30 Day Shred properly on Saturday and have one week left to go.  Level Three isn't as bad as I was expecting.  Maybe it's just because I'm super fit now (not!), but I definitely have not had the shock of progressing up to the next level with this one.  I am not sure what I will do when the 30 Day Shred is finished - probably another DVD or just keep alternating between Levels 2 and 3, but I'm sure I could not have tackled Snowdon without it!

While we were away we stayed in a budget hotel that had the usual vending machines in the hotel lobby.  In addition to the usual suspects, they had a Ben & Jerry's Ice cream vending machine!  I've never seen one of these before, but they basically sell little tubs of popular flavours and the kids were fascinated by it!  I looked upon it with dread!  I did end up having three tubs of the stuff though, but I must say it was purely out of necessity!!  The service in the hotel restaurant was slow at the best of times, particularly when it came to taking orders for and bringing desserts.  The ice cream tubs were £2.60, so cheaper than a dessert off of the menu and yummier too.  So, for three nights in a row the kids and I had Ben and Jerry's.

It was lovely to have the stuff again, but it did bring back unpleasant food memories.  Thankfully the tubs in the vending machine were small portions at 320 calories per pot (still a lot, but OK as a well earned treat!) - no where near the huge amount of the larger tubs I used to consume in one sitting!

So, I must close this now as it's 9pm here and I must do my shredding!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Highest Mountain in England and Wales

We are back!  Though the week was a bit of a washout due to poor weather, we did have a lovely, relaxing time, well, for the most part!  My legs are aching badly and from Tuesday, the prospect of completing the 30 Day Shred was a distant memory!  As I mentioned in a previous post, one of our objectives in going to Chester was to travel to nearby North Wales and climb Snowdon.  Snowdon, for those reading this who don't know, is the highest mountain in England and Wales (3,559 feet, to be exact).  For my American friends reading this - yes Snowdon is a bit of a small lump, but mountains don't get that big here on a small island and what she lacks in height, she makes up for in beauty, interest and pure mountain walking challenge.

When we arrived in Chester on Sunday, we looked dismally at the weather forecast for the week - which was not good.  Rain every single day except for Monday.  Monday came and instead of setting out to climb the mountain, we headed for Chester Zoo instead.  We were tired from the journey up on the previous day and didn't want to do another long drive again on Monday, only to get out and climb a 3,500 mountain!).  The zoo was fantastic - I had taken our kids a couple years earlier and was really impressed with all the animals and the whole set up.  Plus, we had blazing sunshine, so it was a good day!

On Monday evening as we were eating in the hotel restaurant, we decided that Tuesday would be the day we would climb the mountain! All of the guidebooks I had read suggested our route takes in the region of 6 hours to complete, and that the carpark at Pen y Pass got very busy quite early, so best to arrive there early.  We had to drive 1.5 hours from Chester, so we left the hotel at 7:30am, having fuelled our bodies with a very large full English breakfast!  The journey was an interesting one for me because although I've lived in England for 17 years, I have never set foot inside Wales!  I hadn't realised how quickly after leaving Chester that you actually drive into Wales - so I was very excited to see a sign with a red dragon welcoming us to Wales!  We drove along the coast for a significant part of the journey, passing Colwyn Bay - this area really is beautiful and I would certainly visit again when I have more time. 

I had decided we would tackle Snowdon using the Pyg track - this was one of the shortest paths to the top and also one of the most interesting.  You have an advantage in starting at Pen y Pass, which means that you drive up a bit of the altitude, leaving you less overall altitude to climb.  This is a map of our chosen path.  Pen y Pass can be seen in the lower right hand corner.  Our track, the Pyg track, is the higher of the two featured.

I probably should have mentioned that the weather was awful.  It started raining pretty much as soon as we set off from Chester and continued in a constant, annoying misty rain pretty much the whole day.  When we arrived at Pen y Pass and managed to snag literally the last available parking space, the whole area was covered in mist - but there was no shortage of people willing to climb the mountain, even in these conditions!  The Pyg path from Pen y Pass is excellent - it is clearly signposted, easy to follow and very well maintained.  The Welsh obviously take this sort of thing seriously and all credit to them.  Having followed a multitude of paths in the Lake District (some equally as well sign posted, some not sign posted at all!), I'm quite well versed with pathfinding now, but thankfully for Snowdon, all I literally needed do was put one foot in front of the other.

After leaving the car park and the short tarmacked section at the end of it, the path turns to stones and climbs steadily.  I was amazed how well my legs were holding up, because you're basically climbing stairs for 3.5 miles.  Not only did my legs manage the journey, but my lungs were also coping remarkably well.  The rain was an annoyance, more than a hinderance.  I hate walking with my mac hood up - it drops right down over my eyes and won't stay where it's told, so I tend to keep it off mostly and just have a wet head!

Me with the kids on the decent - mist behind!
After nearly two hours of hard slog - steady upward climbing, we reached the summit ridge.  I can't say that I have ever climbed a mountain in such conditions and it was very confusing not being able to see the summit you're striving for.  We were literally placing one foot in front of the next with no idea when we might reach our target.  The summit of Snowdon is unique in this country because it is the only one to have a rack and pinion railway that goes to the summit.  In fact, the only indication that we were nearing the summit, was purely being able to hear the choo-chooing of the train in the distance!  As we neared the true summit, there were a serious of very well laid out stairs - more like a building than a mountain top, before we reached the actual trig point.  Just below the last set of stairs, my legs officially checked out.  Three and a half miles of climbing and they had given everything, but had reached their limit.  I have absolutely NO idea how I made it up the final stairs to touch the summit marker, but I did.  I had done it - I had climbed the highest mountain in England and Wales and when I got to the top I couldn't see a thing!  The only joy I found was knowing that I had done it by my own steam.

Another benefit and unique feature of Snowdon is that there is a cafe at the summit!  I cannot tell you how wonderful it is, having beaten yourself senselessly getting up a mountain, to be able to get into a warm building and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a well earned cookie!  We stopped for about half an hour at the cafe, had a sit down, rest, used the toilet (wonderful not having to squat behind a boulder!) and went back out into the cold to begin our decent.

We retraced our steps to a tall stone, which marked the path's decent into the valley below and the whole time I'm feeling very nervous.  Nervous because I know my legs literally can't cope with much more, and also nervous because I know at various points on the decent there will be a sting in the tail.  Rocks make me seriously nervous - clambering over them to get to the summit is one thing because I'm using forward momentum to get up and over and I can't see down.  Approaching from the opposite direction is another thing altogether and it was at this point of the journey when I really started to worry about what was coming up!  One section in particular on the ascent required us to grab a hold of two metal pins that had been fixed into rock, use our hands, knees and feet to pull ourselves up a tall section of rock - this was quite steep and I didn't fancy trying it on the way down.  Miraculously, however, it never appeared!  Somehow, we must have gone past it and found another route and for that I was incredibly grateful.

Rob and I on the decent, both wet and totally exhausted!
The main difficulty with the decent was purely going down 3.5 miles of rock stairs.  Every time I stepped down all of my weight pounded on top of my knees and at the end I was reminded, despite my elation in reaching the summit, that I still weigh 200 pounds.  The encouraging thing, however, was that my six hour workout had just burned in the region of 3500 calories!

I had originally planned to continue the 30 Day Shred while we were in Chester, however after the mountain climb, I literally couldn't walk the following day without considerable pain.  My legs have now nearly recovered, but I've decided to start again today as if it were Day 21 and see it through to the end.  The good news is that despite the high calorie dinners at the hotel, all of the walking (both on Snowdon, at the Zoo, and generally), I only gained 1.8 pounds!  It is literally the best post-holiday weigh in I've ever had!

So that's my climb up Snowdon!  It was certainly a goal of mine to be fit enough to tackle it.  What are some of your fitness goals?

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Breakfast and Old Clothes

I have a confession to make... I am completely, utterly, irrevocably in love with... granola.  There - I said it!  And it feels good to finally get it off my chest!  The very word granola conjures up images of delicious golden clusters of oats, seeds and honey - and in a lot of cases, a load of sugary junk pretending to be 'healthy'. I avoid supermarket granola like the plague!  However - I don't make my own granola, but I've found a wonderful little gem that's as good as homemade - Lizi's Granola!

I stumbled across this wonderful stuff purely by accident last year.  I bought Patrick Holford's Low GL diet cookbook when I was first trying to correct my blood sugar imbalance and he mentioned this website called "The Good Carb Company" - so naturally I had a look!  It was through their website that I found Lizi's Granola and immediately took notice because it said "Low GL granola"!  I should really start this section by saying that I used to find it very difficult to find a breakfast food that was both healthy, low in calories and fat AND kept me full until lunch.  Many of you will know the concept behind both the GI and the GL Diets is that we choose foods that fill us up for longer.  So, when I saw low GL granola, I had to give it a shot!  Well, I was not disappointed - Lizi's granola was absolutely scrumptious - so for well over a year now I have been a very loyal customer ;-).

My breakfast routine is pretty much the same each morning - sometimes I change it up and get different flavoured granola, but for the most part I stick with Treacle & Pecan.  Now, I haven't told you the magic part - Lizi packs her granola in individual portion packs of 40-50g (depending on the flavour you choose).  So - all the weighing and calorie counting is done for you!  All you have to do is open a fresh pack each day (and though I'm going through a lot of packaging, we do recycle everything here, so I don't feel guilty!).

I cannot emphasise enough how much this simple little thing has helped me on my weight loss journey.  I was quite surprised, I must admit, when I first poured 40g of granola into a bowl and saw how much 40g actually was!  Basically - it's not that much!  BUT - it does fill me up!  If I had been left to weigh out 40g myself each morning from a bigger box, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have poured at least 60g and still be thinking "that's not enough".  I generally always have plain yogurt with my granola, but sometimes I have an organic fruit yogurt, just to change it up a bit.  All total, my breakfast is less than 250 calories every day and keeps me full until it's time for lunch - it's a win win!

If you're not lucky enough to be able to get Lizi's granola where you live - I would recommend finding a natural granola from your local supermarket.  I always read the ingredients on the box - if I see any E numbers, or pretty much anything that looks dodgy or that I can't pronounce, I generally think it's worth a miss.  Once you've found a good granola - you can package it up yourself using my Twizzler rationing idea (e.g. individual servings in Ziplock bags)!


I live in a family of hoarders - but for once I think this has paid off.  I may have mentioned in earlier blogs that this is not my first time losing weight.  About four years ago I got down to 147 pounds, but didn't stay at this weight long.  My maintaining weight was around 155-165 pounds - I have a large frame and this weight seems to suit me without making me look too boney up top.  Anyway, I kept most of my clothes from when I was this weight - right up to when I started gaining weight when my mother in law became ill.  Now I'm glad I did!  Though I'm still 40 pounds off goal, I've managed to find a whole stack of size 16 (size 12 US) clothes that I'm juuuusssssttt about squeezing into!

It was quite exciting going through the bags this morning - almost like going shopping - for free!  Amongst my finds this morning was my absolute favourite summer dress - I'm not quite slim enough to fit into yet, but I've taken it out of it's cobweb storage bag ready for when I am able to squeeeeze into it!  I actually made this dress four years ago and I love it.  It's a very flattering A line shape, princess seams with a v-neck.  The fabric is a swiss cotton dot in a soft blue, which really suits my pale complexion.  Here's me wearing the dress three years ago in Jacksonville, Florida.

The other day my husband told me that he was really noticing a difference in how I am looking since I've been losing weight.  This is really encouraging, especially since the weight is taking it's dear old time coming off!  It could be due to the 30 Day Shred - because I'm definitely noticing new found strength in my legs and arms.  I've taken my measurements loosely (e.g. not all of my measurements - just hips, waist and bust) and there is certainly a difference since I've been shredding.  I'm waiting until the 30 days is complete before I take full measurements and do a comparison - I'm hoping (and trusting) that there will be a significant difference!

This maybe my last entry until next Friday.  We are off to Chester for five days tomorrow and I won't have my computer with me.  I'm hoping the weather holds out and we will be able to climb Snowdon (an hour and a half away from Chester) at some point next week - but at the moment the only decent day appears to be Monday :-(.  Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales and is definitely a goal for me!  Watch this space ;-)