I’ve started this post a dozen times now, each time with a few words, a sentence, a line or two. Then… delete, delete, delete. Truth is, I have no idea how to appropriately express what’s going on at present.
But I’m going to try one more time, and I hope you’ll forgive the lack of detail… Someone extremely dear to me has been admitted to hospital and is in a serious condition. Beyond that, until there is detailed feedback from the specialists and an indication of possible next-steps, all there is, is uncertainty. I am bereft, and overwhelmed, and doing everything I can for the person I love.
There’s another thing too. By inconvenient coincidence, I was scheduled to have a growth (a disruptive but nothing-to-worry-about growth) excised from my lip, for which objective a minor operation took place last Wednesday evening, involving local anaesthetics and lasers and a wasted hour in bed, when my blood pressure shot through the roof (hardly surprising, considering). Since then I look like I’ve been in a fight. I have four stitches in my lip and for a few days at least, this most fragile flesh blew up like a puffer fish, then oozed and bled a little (keeping me from the hospital for a day) before at last settling down to a raw, then crusty blob. I would be hibernating under normal circumstances, though I guess the one place where you can actually blend-in with stitches and bruising… is a hospital.
If you will allow me a moment’s wry observation, there’s nothing like a personal crisis to disrupt a weight-loss plateau. Whether it’s stress, distress or anxiety, lack of sleep or loss of appetite, disruption of routines, tail-chasing or all the above – I don’t know. But in the first two days, I dropped four pounds and almost three more since then, in just over one week. If I took the time to breathe, I would be weirdly appreciative of this.
I’ve lately been thrilled to be picking up new readers every day for this blog. It seems to have caught a wave with people at last, some maybe seeking inspiration for their weight-loss journeys or support in making lasting lifestyle changes; and others, well, just… people of the blogosphere, engaging, connecting. Now I need to ask you, readers new and old, to bear with me please. I may be gone a little while, or sporadic in my blogging. I certainly won’t be my usual chippy self.
I’ll be here, now and again, or in a while, or posting ‘lite’. I’m not sure yet. But I do so hope you will stay with me. For what it’s worth, I’m firmly and resolutely in my healthy zone, and very determined that this disturbing turn of events and disrupting period won’t upset the ‘new normal’ of good eating habits I’ve established over recent months. (Not so sure about the exercise though, unless you count power-walking a hospital corridor every day.) I know I’m already coping better with what’s going on than I would ever be, were I still hauling around those surplus 70+ pounds.
With the quieter days between Christmas and New Year comes a great time for reflection and planning, and I’ve been using those days as best I could (through the brain-fog which descended on me along with a nasty winter virus). I thought I’d share something of how I’ve gone about this, in case it’s useful for anyone else.
My Vision Board
Have you ever done a Vision Board? I hadn’t until this year, but, inspired by a friend, I gave it a go. It’s basically a collage, a visual representation of the things you want to welcome into your life, or make the most of, or channel your energies into, in the coming months. I created it on a whiteboard which is around 60cm x 40cm. The pictures come from my personal collection, and from magazines and the web. They may look random to you, but each one means something to me – be it a goal, a mood, a theme, or an intention. Look closely and you will see my board includes references to family and friends, to health, to writing, to work plans and projects… and there are one or two other more obscure references (for me and my private headspace!). I was quite pleased with how it came out although since I completed it, I keep finding other pictures and words I want to include, so it may be an evolving thing.
The Big Question
Imagine it’s the last few days of 2017. You’re sitting in your favourite armchair, looking back over the year. The question is this – what needs to have happened, what do you need to have achieved, or brought about, or changed, in order for you to feel satisfied, fulfilled and above all else, happy with the year? You can have any number of statements (write them down…), which will begin with “I will have..” or “I will be…”. They will not be things which you cannot influence. These will be your most important projects, missions, goals – and pleasures – on which you’ll focus your energies in the coming months.
My vision this year includes continuing my healthy lifestyle changes and losing another 30 pounds, achieving clarity on some personal issues, maintaining my client work at a specified level, learning to jog (and getting into 5k Parkruns), getting back into writing fiction, being more socially active than I was last year, embarking on my new coaching venture… and a few other oddments. When you take the time to visualise, it’s surprising how quickly the thoughts begin to flow. My statements are all precise, not woolly, which is all about committing to them and more importantly, calibrating success and achievement.
Themes for the Year
Lastly, I choose a few themes for the year ahead, usually something between three and six words. Last year, my themes/words were: Health, Vitality, Self-respect and Connection. For 2017, in line with my ‘Big Question’ thinking, I’m going for: Health (again, for obvious reasons), Inspiration, Renewal, Social, Creativity and Love.
Maybe this has given you a few ideas for yourself, so it just remains for me to say, Happy New Year to all, and I wish you success in all your goals and ambitions, for health and beyond, in 2017.
I’ve never felt able to wear leggings of any kind. I haven’t had the right legs for them, not since they were invented. My calves have been far too big; my thighs elephantine; my bum… well, the less said about that, the better. I’m not perfect yet – not by a long way – but lately I’ve been converted. With my steadily diminishing frame, I’m embracing the leggings culture.
A Kind of Magic
It turns out, that with the modern-day application of hefty doses of elastane/spandex, good-quality leggings are tough, really tough. It turns out they can constrain my wobbly bits quite adequately, with no challenge to fragile seams. Elastane is truly a miracle fibre. Careful selection of tops can minimise the look of my far-from-flat stomach, and the overall result is… not bad.
Do I sound vain? If I do, I make no apology. For years, I’ve stared at myself in the mirror, overwhelmed with defeat and negativity. For years, my response to my own image has been ‘that’ll have to do’. I’ve always dressed carefully, presented well… for my size. But big, is big. And in the privacy of your own bedroom mirror, you can’t escape it. So, as my size continues to diminish, work-in-progress though I still am, allow me the thrill if you will, of looking in that mirror and… feeling good about what I see.
West End Girl(s)
Back in the day, in the eighties, when I was in my twenties and hovering around the 11-stone mark (that’s 154 pounds/70 kilos), I had a wardrobe full of what we used to call stirrup pants. The forerunners of leggings, these were stretchy, up to a point, but instead of tightly gripping the calves, they were held in place by the addition of elasticated stirrups, which hooked around your heels. Pop these on and pull on a pair of knee-high boots, and the effect was exactly like you see today with leggings. I loved my stirrup pants – I had several pairs. I worked ‘Up West’ (London’s West End). I went out a lot in those days – and I wore them all the time.
Here Comes the Rain Again
But as my calves expanded over the ensuing 25 or so years, knee-high boots became impossible to wear. If I could get the zips up, they would cut off the blood supply to my feet, but more usually, the zips wouldn’t even meet. I went into my new favourites – calf length ‘slouchy’ boots. These look like boots that are meant to be knee-high, but are slouched, ending just below the widest point of the calf. As the leather around the ankles is rumpled, the look, even for someone with fairly large calves, is quite nicely balanced. They’re also pull-on, no zips. I wore these for years until… yes, you guessed it, my calves expanded beyond the fit of even this style, and I could no longer pull them past my widening feet.
I’m Still Standing
I ended up in ankle boots, as I could usually get the zips up. When I could no longer achieve even this, there were stretchy pull-on ankle boots, which looked okay, so long as you covered them with boot-cut trousers, which I always did. Eventually, with ankles permanently puffy and the zips on even these short boots straining, only shoe-boots, which finish below the ankle, would achieve anything like the boot look for me.
Alive and Kicking
With the arrival of leggings in my wardrobe over the last month or so, I realised that in my transitional (and still quite cuddly state), the leggings-and-ankle-boots look preferred by the slender ones and teens, wasn’t going to work for me. They seemed to magnify the proportions of my calves and thighs – the opposite of what clever styling is supposed to achieve.
I found a pair of flat suede booties, loose fit, Ugg/Emu style, which worked ok with leggings, but only in a very casual, outdoorsy way. But earlier this week… I tracked down a pair of old-style slouchy calf-length boots at John Lewis. They fitted! They pulled on easily; they slouched stylishly around my ankles; they even reached the right point of my calves, balancing the look just as it should be. Better even than that, I had £80 worth of John Lewis vouchers squashed into my purse, itching to be spent.
I bagged my prize boots and hauled them home.
Walking On Sunshine
I can’t describe how comfortable I felt, trying on my leggings with these new boots; trying on a variety of tops and jackets, just to see what worked with what. It all felt so… natural… harking back to the type of outfits I would put together in my twenties and thirties; things I would wear all the time, modified just a little for the few more pounds I still carry, and for the extra two or three decades I’m also wearing. I felt more confident, more poised, more relaxed, more… sexy.
Never Gonna Give You Up
I spent the rest of the day breaking-in my boots at home, and they were immaculately comfortable and supportive for hours – I just didn’t want to take them off. Every time I passed a mirror, I stopped to reassure myself I wasn’t just imagining it.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
And with those wonderful slouchy calf-length boots, my winter wardrobe… is complete. Now all I need is to take my worked-in-the-eighties-but-is-somehow-also-weirdly-on-trend-today look for a rocking good night-out.
Last autumn I was just a couple of months into my new healthy lifestyle programme. I’d lost perhaps 20 pounds – not that much off what was, back then, a very ample frame. This autumn, with over 70 pounds having relinquished their fleshy grip, I’m feeling the cold more than I’ve done for almost two decades.
For the last several years, I’ve needed nothing more than a scarf about my neck on all but the very coldest days. For the last three years my favourite winter outerwear was in fact a sleeveless waistcoat (big buttons, asymmetrical – I love weird clothes). I never wore hats of any kind (in fact the only one I own is an aritsan bobble hat that I keep in the car in case I break down and have to sit out a frosty night at the wheel). My fingers hadn’t seen the inside of a pair of gloves since those ones you used to get sewn on to a string and threaded through your sleeves as a small child.
So it’s come as some surprise – in a good way – that this autumn on frosty mornings and blustery afternoons, I have been properly, seriously chilly, right into my bones. My built-in duvet – those flumpy folds of laid-down fat – has shrunk from a heady 13-tog to a lightweight 5 or 6. My internal central heating appears to have shifted to an economy setting. In short, I need winter layers like never before!
Yes, friends, that means… shopping (see – there’s an upside to everything). I reason that in the long drawn-out autumn/winter/spring chilliness that we get here in the UK, I’ll get probably 6 months wear out of my purchases, even if I am still on the way down the size ranges. So I’ve gone to town a bit. I’ve treated myself to a faux-fur jacket (sublime and tactile to the point of naughtiness), a leather jacket (my first in thirty years, buttery soft and the colour of a Werther’s Original – sorry!) and a slate grey padded high-neck wind and shower-proof zip-up thing (stylish enough for my vanity, but practical for windy walks). Add a snug pair of woollen gloves (which wouldn’t have squeezed over my chubby digits last winter) and I’m all set.
I have the scarves already, you see, a whole drawer full…
Oh, but there’s still the question of my ears; I seem to have what I can only describe as… delicate ears; they’re temperamental, capricious… unsupportive. As a child I remember being prone to ear infections. As a grown-up I’ve had occasional problems when I went swimming or took a long flight. That was all, until I started walking more regularly. Now I find that if the cold gets into my ears, they protest and deliver me days on end of painful gumminess; and when they’re really playing up, I get bouts of vertigo. In the summer, it’s sufficient to plug in my headphones and walk to music or an audiobook, but the colder weather demands a little extra protection. So I’ve invested in a pair of earmuffs.
Don’t laugh – they’re not the fluffy ‘Princess Leah’ kind, but far more workaday flat-to-the-head ones which hook around the back of my neck. They do the job, even if they do look a wee bit silly. My vanity can bear it if it means my fragile ears stay toasty (but before you ask, that same vanity won’t allow me to upload a photo of me actually wearing the darned things).
Anyway, with my new outerwear, my old scarves and the pragmatic application of silly earmuffs, I’m all set for the cold months ahead and I’m looking forward to my winter walks.
I’ve spent far too many years interpreting certain events and experiences in my past in a way which allows me to heap blame, reproach and criticism (and a whole lot more besides) on to my own shoulders. But as I lose weight, I’m gaining back my self-respect, and with it, a little perspective.
I’m a work-in-progress as much with this as with the weight-loss, but with my diminishing physical burden has come the ability to see emotional things differently; to acknowledge that certain situations and the outcomes that wounded me, were not my fault, or my doing; they were not about me being weak or careless, stupid or naive; they did not come about because of some failing in me, something I did, or didn’t do, some expectation I failed to meet. Those situations were not, in fact, about me at all.
I make no excuse for speaking in general terms. Blogging is a very public thing, and the events and experiences to which I allude are intensely personal in nature. They involve a thankfully small number of people who have passed through my life and who have, in one way or another, wreaked some degree of havoc for me – physically, psychologically, emotionally.
On those occasions, my default position has been this: That I had somehow brought this problem, situation or person’s behaviour on myself; that it was something about me that caused this or that reaction or behaviour.
On one level, when you think like this it makes you feel weak and pitiful. It’s like in a violent relationship where the victim accepts the rationale of the bullying partner when they say, ‘you made me angry’ or ‘you made me do this to you’. Within the diminished self-esteem that characterises such situations, you let yourself believe that your weakness, contemptibility, failing or fallibility, your unique propensity to irritate or anger, somehow brought about whatever happened.
On another level it makes your own indignation and anger rise up, sometimes in quite uncontrollable ways. Here’s the thinking that has sent me into palpable (but so far private) rages; has seen me ranting at the four walls of my house, bashing out blistering pages of irrational fury on my keyboard (well, I am a writer, it’s the natural place):
“What is it about me, that makes you think it’s ok to do this to me?”
“What is it about me, that makes you behave in this way?”
“What is it about me, that makes you take advantage of my kindness/generosity/… etc.”
“What is itabout me, that makes you have so little thought for my feelings?”
Thankfully those perverse pages, filled with purple prose, pouting and profanity, rarely see the light of day – though it has happened once or twice. When I calm down, perspective rebalanced, I see them for what they are, and delete them. Maybe the process of writing is the exorcism of emotion that I need.
The thing is, when people hurt you, behave badly towards you, steal from you, take advantage of you, manipulate you, treat you dismissively, patronise you, bully you, lie to you, cheat you, let you down – it’s not about you. It’s about who they are or the situation they’re responding to. It’s about them.
Bad people do bad things to others; the narcissists, the sociopaths, the liars, the feckless, the cheats, the lazy, the ruthlessly ambitious, the dishonest, the selfish. That’s easy enough to understand, once you realise what you’ve been dealing with.
But good people do bad things too, and that’s a little tougher to handle. Good people can be thoughtless, come under pressure, get stressed, make poor decisions, judge situations wrongly, let stuff overwhelm them, prioritise other people and things over you. When these situations arise, normally good people can inflict hurt, damage those they would normally treat with far more care. But even then it’s still not about you – it’s about them.
So this is my thought for the weekend; a healing and calming mantra, for when you’re tempted to feel indignant, hurt or angry when someone’s actions wound you, or their behaviour falls short of what you hoped it would be – it’s not about me.
I began my new healthy lifestyle – falteringly – exactly a year ago, on Wednesday 26th August 2015. The day before, I’d had my first of eight lifestyle coaching sessions. I say falteringly because I note, with a degree of embarrassment, that my first few days of so-called healthy eating weren’t oh, you know, actually all that… healthy. They included:
50g bowls of sugar-loaded Honey Nut Shreddies for breakfast
Leftover spaghetti carbonara (white pasta, shop-bought carbonara sauce, leftover chicken pieces and a dollop of double cream)
A meal of crackers loaded with butter and seafood cocktail
Clearly I had a lot to learn about healthy eating, and many, many adjustments to make.
On my first day, I managed two 15-minute slow walks on my treadmill. The second day, I noted a 20-minute round-trip walk to the post box – a circuit which would take me half that time today, if I ever went on a walk which was quite that short (it is, literally, just to the end of the road and back).
My lumbersome weight on that first day was 270 pounds, or 19 stone 4 lbs (that’s 122.4 kilos in new money). Yet despite the Honey Nut Shreddies and spaghetti carbonara, I must have done a few things right; I lost 6 pounds in my first week, and a further 8 pounds over the next 4 weeks, which was a big boost.
I see from the notes alongside my food diary (which I have kept in detail every day since then – it helps to keep me accountable to myself), that in those first few days, in addition to my coach, I drew support and positivity from a variety of sources:
The encouragement of several lovely friends
Positive feedback on my work from a couple of clients
Some time spent reflecting on the comfort and calm of my home and garden
My Pilates habit and the gains I’ve seen from embedding this in my life, and sticking with it even when I got very overweight
A personalised hypnotherapy/relaxation tape given to me a couple of years ago by a hypnotherapist, whose help I had sought with my menopausal/health anxieties
My twin nephews, so happy, positive – and very, very active
I didn’t go sugar-free until the middle of October 2015. I gradually stripped away the more obvious treats (biscuits, confectionary etc), but until mid-October I was still making my breakfast Bircher muesli with Rachel’s Coconut Yoghurt, which is very, very highly sweetened. Pranita had visited my home and we’d done a helpful store-cupboard and fridge audit, which had made me think about why I was holding on to this last sweet-treat. My rationale – that it was an organic yoghurt, and therefore healthy – was all wrong. Yoghurt of the right kind is indeed healthy, but sweetened yoghurt, bio/organic or not, is… dessert.
That was a huge turning-point for me, finally acknowledging and then laying my sugar compulsion to rest. Once I replaced the sweetened variety with natural Greek yoghurt – bio, full-fat and proud, since you ask – I didn’t even miss the sweet taste. And the die was cast. Today, at a guesstimate, I would say I am 99% added sugar free. The odd microgram creeps in here and there, usually when I don’t read a label carefully enough. That’s about as much of a success as I can claim – but I’m more than happy with it.
Giving up added sugar was… massive. It freed me from hunger pangs, insulin spikes and a mass of barely controllable temptations, requiring extremes of willpower which I struggled to muster. In the weeks and months since then, I have read voraciously about the sugar-free and LCHF (low carb healthy fat) approaches. Whilst I haven’t gone 100% for LCHF, I totally bought the sugar-free message and I’ve succeeded in abandoning not only added sugar in all its many guises, but processed ready meals (where the sweet stuff hides in quite astounding volumes) and big stomach-stretching bricks of simple carbohydrate – bread, pasta, white rice and potatoes. I’ve lowered my general carbohydrate intake very considerably – and I feel so much better for it.
Not only that, but it’s extraordinary and thrilling to me that the sweet stuff is now… too sickly sweet. My taste-buds rebel when in the vicinity of anything remotely sugary. And unless you’ve been released from sugar addiction yourself, you’ve no idea how truly magnificent that feels!
Exercise is… Hard Work
Ah… exercise. I have tried hard to exercise more often, but even after a year, I still struggle with this. Simple walking, the odd bit of swimming and of course, my Pilates, form the lion share of my exercise habit – but even now, I have to push myself out of the door.
I’m told there should be a joyous shift towards actual enthusiasm for exercise at some point, but all I’m experiencing so far is an ebb-and-flow. Some days or weeks are better than others. I hired a Personal Trainer to come to my home for a few weeks, and that has propelled me into episodes (whole minutes at a time!) of laboured jogging, and some more constructive cardio and strength exercises. I swim, usually once a week, with a friend. I enjoy walking more than I ever have before, but it’s still a big heave-ho to get myself out of bed for a walk at 6:00am, and I don’t always manage. I make that effort more frequently, I seek out opportunities to leave the car behind and walk instead, and I’m definitely more active than I was; but exercise is something I fear may never come easily or naturally to me.
I do it though, I do it – and it’s helping me become fitter. My resting heart rate has dropped more than 10 BPM, as my stamina, flexibility and general energy level has improved. All these are great rewards in themselves, and they contribute to a significantly diminished experience of health anxiety, which was quite the thing for me through my menopause years.
A year down the line, and the weight-loss component of my new healthier lifestyle is a little over half done. I’ve lost 65.5 pounds (that’s over four and a half stone, or 29.7 kilos). I wanted to be under 200 pounds by now, and currently at 204.5 pounds I’m not quite there (until the last few days, I’ve been frustratingly plateaued for nearly two months – like my body was trying to sabotage my ‘anniversary’); but I’m not far off. I last saw this weight in 2002, but only briefly, and before that, it would have been around the early 1990’s.
I’ve dropped 5 dress sizes, a shoe size, 3 ring sizes and 2 bra back sizes (but not even one cup size – hurrah!) and lost at least one chin. And there have been many other payoffs too.
Indulgence – Just Modified
Don’t run away with the idea that I’m living some sort of parched, fat-free existence, devoid of culinary interest. I enjoy all sorts of indulgences. I still eat butter (although without bread/toast in my diet, a packet of the stuff lasts me weeks and weeks); I still eat cheese almost daily (limiting quantity – mostly – to a few slivers). I choose full-fat over low/fat-free options, which I’ve always done, but it’s interesting to note that opinion is swinging towards this as the healthier choice these days; I eat plenty of eggs (another healthy foodstuff, long demonised). I try new recipes regularly and have added several healthier, more nutritious meals to my repertoire in recent months.
I still snack on savouries every now and again, but having lost my taste for crisps (USA: potato chips) I’ve found one or two alternatives which don’t press my guilt-button. The beauty of these is that they’re not addictive in the way that old style crisps are. I make my own toasted and seasoned seeds, crispy seasoned kale and small bowls of lightly salted air-popped corn.
I still enjoy the odd dessert-like treat too. I’ve made added-sugar-free banana and almond cake; I even (very) occasionally make an unbelievably indulgent ‘ice cream’ from frozen banana, organic (no-added-sugar) peanut butter and Greek yoghurt. There may be substantially more vegetables and a broader spectrum of nutrients in my diet than ever before, but my taste-buds have not been utterly deprived of naughties.
Onward and Downward
So to the year ahead. I have another 30-50 pounds to go. I’m deliberately vague about this, as I shall see how I feel about it as I progress. But the big change for me – re-educating my taste-buds and my insides to welcome healthy food and reject sugar and processed junk – is something I now dare to feel confident I have nailed. I’ve dieted before, but I’ve never felt this lifestyle victory until now.
I’ve been so very grateful for all the support and encouragement I’ve received through my blog. It’s clear that my experiences have inspired others to keep going with their own healthy changes, and that thrills me. I cannot imagine anything more positive (apart from the fact that I’m improving the quality, and perhaps even length, of my own life) than to inspire others to do the same for themselves.
So the journey continues. Stay with me, if you will – and I hope you do. It won’t be dramatic, but it will continue to be frank and honest – a true account of a very ordinary battle to re-establish good habits, achieve a healthy weight and – hopefully – set myself up for a longer, healthier and more active middle- and old-age.
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I love hearing from people who follow my blog, and respond to every comment. If you have any questions on how I’ve gone about my first ‘healthier’ year, please post them through the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.
Coming next: My Top Ten experience-based tips for sustainable and healthy weight-loss.
One unexpected bonus of my (so far) nine months of steady weight-loss has been that I’ve begun to enjoy wearing heels again.
At just 5’3” short, I depended upon four inches of heel, usually in the form of a stiletto, to give me the boost I felt I needed in the professional workwear department. Back in the day, I could teeter for miles, spending all week in my pin-sharp stilettoes; walking to and from the tube station, you would find me regularly prising my heels, often minus their tips, out of the gaps between paving stones and escalator treads. I could click-clack up and down corridors and around shops, and stand for long sociable hours in basement wine bars.
Graduating from tube commuting to a car, I could drive in anything. Those four inch heels? No problem. Platforms and wedges? Bring it on. My footwell carpets were scarred with holes which bore witness to my persistence with heels of all kinds. All in pursuit of those precious extra inches.
Heels are uncomfortable at the best of times, but we women of more reduced stature stick with the programme anyway, forcing our fragile feet into narrow, pointy and strappy shoes for the sake of our vanity. All the weight you bear pushes down into those heels, and the smaller and more pinpointy they are, the greater the pain, and the more lasting the damage. I began to wear heels at work, but make the swap to trainers for, umm… the train… and a pair of old car shoes for driving. Yes, the sensible gene kicks in eventually.
But as my weight increased, my heel height, even during work-time decreased, until the only thing I was comfortable in was a pair of flatties. I began to shop in Clarks again, for the first time since childhood – best place for women’s brogues and slip-ons you see. I still pushed my protesting feet into heels for the odd evening out, but even that last lingering vestige of vanity slipped away as my bulk grew, and my self-respect drained away.
What you don’t expect as your weight increases, is that your feet get bigger. It’s like they’re spreading out – trying to take your increasing tonnage on a wider… footprint. I went from a size 6 (UK) to 7, and soon only wide-fitting shoes would be comfortable. Good old Clarks saved the day there too. Not only that, but a slow, unhealthy circulation results in water retention, and I’d become accustomed to puffy ankles and fluid-filled feet on all but the chilliest day. And waterlogged feet do not squeeze without considerable protest, into pretty shoes.
But here we are today, and with my weight decreasing again and my circulation improving, guess what? My feet are shrinking. My bloaty, swollen peds are history; I’m back in a size 6, back out of the wide-fitting department too. And… with a touch of narcissism beginning to resurface, I’ve begun to venture out in heels again. I’d kept my favourite tall shoes, you see; even though they’ve been unwearable for the last few years due to the crippling pain they induced. Now my feet will stand a few hours in those welcome extra inches; straps no longer dig in and draw blood; burst blisters are a faint memory and I’m once more enjoying the way I walk in heels. Because I’ve begun to feel elegant again.
Oh, I know, I do still have a very long way to go. Others at my weight will bemoan how frumpy-dumpy they feel, but I’m on the way down, not up, and I’m being gradually released from my frumpy-dumpiness.
I still have a shoe cupboard full of Birkenstocks, Crocs and flip-flops, and they are still my go-to at-home wear for all the obvious reasons of comfort and practicality. But it’s wonderful – truly fabulous – to be able to take my short legs out in a pair of tall shoes every once in a while these days. Another of the many, many rewards of the weight-loss journey.
I’ve just returned from a blissful 4-day break at Ragdale Hall Health Spa in Leicestershire (that’s right in the middle of England for my non-UK friends – around 2.5 hours’ drive from my home, west of London). I went with my Mother – it’s something we’ve been doing for a few years, to celebrate our birthdays and have a little mother-and-daughter time. It’s her treat to me – and quite a treat it is!
When it comes to health spas, Ragdale Hall is in a league of its own. They have an elegant estate in a beautiful rural setting, a wonderful attitude to customer care, a stupendous array of treatments, a creative and imaginative way with food, and fabulous facilities. Hard to beat, on every level.
From the moment you pull up at the door and a young man emerges to take your case whilst another valet parks your car, to the moment you leave, there is no detail left unattended. It’s one of those places that looks perfectly sublime on the surface, but you can only imagine what goes on backstage to deliver that calm, professional and infinitely relaxed ambience.
This year, visiting Ragdale Hall with over 50 fewer fatty pounds on my bones was a truly invigorating experience in a host of new ways. With more energy to spare, I enjoyed a brisk walk and a swim every morning, before blissing-out in the thermal spa. I found the gym! I walked around all day – like everyone else does – in a towelling robe (not previously possible, as the only robe which fitted me last year weighed a ton and left me sweating and uncomfortable). I enjoyed a wonderful dry flotation experience (again, not possible last year, as I exceeded their weight limit for this facility). I made healthy choices at the generous lunchtime buffets and turned my back on all the yummy desserts – awarding myself many smug-points as I watched others heap their plates. I was exfoliated, scrubbed, buffed, massaged and aromatherapised until my skin was velvet-smooth and my muscles stretched. At the gift shop, I bought a bracelet with a magnetic clasp – something I could not have done last year as even my wrists were too big. I slept well. Yes! I slept wonderfully well.
I took some homework with me, as it seemed an appropriate place to re-focus and plan the next few months and years: The Life Plan by Australian Life Coach, Shannah Kennedy. I read cover-to-cover and begin some of the many exercises designed to help me figure out what I want from my future. I know… some people think that’s all a bit cranky, but not me. I was a Life Coach for a while, so you shouldn’t be surprised – I do actually practice what I preached! I’ve done this kind of life audit in one form or another three or four times over the years, and it’s always proved worthwhile. This time, healthy lifestyle is front-and-centre of my priorities. I boosted my resolve still further by ploughing into Sugar Salt Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss.
Do I sound a little evangelical about my Ragdale experience and the opportunity it gave me to celebrate my dietary and lifestyle success to date, whilst looking forward to a healthier and more energetic future? Guilty as charged, m’lud.
I came home relaxed and refreshed (not even the long crawl down the M1 could have disrupted my blissful state), ready for the second half of my healthy weight-loss journey – the next 50 pounds (and more…).
Back home in the garden, my amelanchier – my beautiful Singing Ringing Tree – had burst into blossom. It looks perfect in its shower of white flowers, for just a few days, and I’ve occasionally missed it – but not this year.
You can see why I love it and why it feeds my soul, can’t you?
This weekend was a memorable one for me, in weight-loss terms. I’ve shaken off 50 pounds since I begun a new healthier lifestyle last September. I still have a long way to go (I’m not quite half-way to my most ambitious goal, since you ask). But at 50 pounds – that’s over 3½ stone or over 22 kilos, depending on your measurement of choice – I’ve just exceeded the most I’ve ever lost on any healthy eating campaign (note the absence of the word ‘diet’) before.
Weirdly, and I don’t want to labour this as it could easily depress me and I don’t want to get depressed… I’m now back to the weight I was when I started the weight loss campaign when I managed to shift what was until yesterday the most I’d ever lost before. But back then (2002) I had crawled to the upper 40’s and couldn’t keep it going. It all went (excuse the pun) belly-up. On that occasion, I’d gone to Weightwatchers, and it was good while it lasted. But as soon as I took my eye off the ‘points’ ball, my weight soared back on. Yes, soared back on at a rate which terrified me and which I could not even begin to understand. In all, I put on an average of 1 pound per week over the next 18 months (and then still more thereafter); a catastrophe from which, after several false starts in the mid noughties, I am only now recovering.
But I don’t want to jump aboard the trauma train. The whole point of this post is to mark an achievement, and highlight some of the many, many wins, gains and benefits that I’ve seen from the loss of this first 50 pounds.
So, here they are, in no particular order – all the ones that spring to mind at least:
I’ve dropped 3 dress sizes
I’m wearing ‘old favourite’ outfits that haven’t fitted me for 8 or 10 years
I’m back to the weight I last carried over 14 years ago
My ankles are pretty again, no more heavy, fluid-filled balloons
I’m wearing high heels again and loving the increased stature and well-being
I can go for a walk without pouring with sweat
I’ve discarded a giant pile of ‘fat clothes’ that I hated having to wear
I’m breathing more deeply, not catching my breath
My resting heart rate has dropped over 10 bpm
My nails are unblemished and healthy
I haven’t had a cold all winter
I can bend and touch my toes
I can see my toes!
My waist and once proud hourglass figure is re-emerging
I’m wearing pretty bras again
Yes, I’ll say it, I feel sexy again
I’m standing straighter and taller
When I pull my tummy in, it actually goes in a bit
I like myself because I feel in control of my eating habits
I feel good when I take exercise
I feel good that I take exercise regularly
I feel great when I get home from taking exercise
I’m relishing many compliments from friends, family and colleagues
I’ve surprised one or two people who haven’t seen me in a while – that’s been fun
My feet have shrunk
My boobs have only shrunk a little
Pilates has become more fun again
I can lie on my stomach and still be able to breathe
I’ve rediscovered vegetables, nuts and seeds
I’m looking forward to warm summer days ahead, not fearing discomfort
I’ve eliminated 99% of added sugar from my life – and totally lost my sweet tooth
I’m able to make healthy, balanced choices in restaurants
I can fit into bucket seats without cutting off the blood supply to my legs
I can sit on folding chairs without worrying they will collapse
I won’t need an extender belt next time I fly
I’ve learned to live without… toast
I’ve discovered I can lose weight and still enjoy butter and cheese
I can wear trousers that do up with buttons and a zip
My favourite dressing gown wraps right around me again
Tight toilet cubicles are no longer an embarrassing challenge
I can buy ordinary clothes at Marks & Spencer
I can buy actual sportswear
I have swimming costumes which hold everything that has to stay… held
My neck is slimmer and necklaces sit so much more comfortably and attractively
My fingers are slimmer and I can wear rings I haven’t worn for years
My wrists are slimmer and I can wear watches and bracelets again
My hips no longer ache when I walk
I can run upstairs
I don’t get acid reflux after evening meals
I no longer worry that I’m slowly killing myself
And a bonus ball…
“Hold yourself to a higher standard, and enjoy the self-esteem that comes with each single, small, disciplined act.” Tony Robbins
… I am indeed enjoying the self-esteem that comes from ‘holding myself to a higher standard’…
What about you. Are you, or have you ever been on a weight-loss, healthy lifestyle journey? If so, what were the most significant gains for you?