Author: fatgirlphd

On Balance

On Balance

Picture the scene: me, alone, after midnight, on the floor in tracksuit bottoms and an old band t-shirt, hair essentially one matted lump by this point, twitching occasionally, a little red-wine-drunk, arm-deep in a pack of Doritos (see also: orange smudge on chin, crumbs in […]

You Are Here

You Are Here

“You know what?” “What?” “I’m actually feeling kind of normal again. Like, happy.” That’s how this post ends, which is good – because the route there is kind of winding, and not exactly cheery. It’s not even really that interesting, or dramatic, in the wider scheme […]

Eating Yourself Well; or, Punching Depression in the Face with Sweet Potatoes and Stuff

Eating Yourself Well; or, Punching Depression in the Face with Sweet Potatoes and Stuff

So as I mentioned in the last post, I’m doing the whole pick-yo’-ass-up-off-the-ground thing that follows a period of not-so-great physical and mental health.

Having been freakin’ miserable for a while, I decided at the start of this month to try to approach things a little differently. I decided to try thinking of food not just as sustenance or a mood-flattener, but as a kind of medicine.

This, in theory, is ok – but in practice, it seems kinda cheesy. I put the hashtag #healingwithfood on an Instagram post and then almost deleted the entire post, because… Well, it’s corny. I’m British. I can’t.

But my doc had told me I’ve got some kind of underlying issue that’s making my immune system go haywire, not helped by the fact that I am The Worst Coeliac Of All Time – which in turn may have been contributing to the fact that I’ve been suffering with the kind of low mood that makes the thought of getting out of bed in the morning seem about as doable as climbing Mt. Everest in a bikini, in a blizzard, with a downright furious and somewhat overweight Great Dane strapped to my back.

(Still bad with metaphors, y’all. Some things never change.)

So I did some research.

Unfortunately, everything I read/watched/listened to on the subject was written with in a way that made me all but cringe myself inside out with over-the-top enthusiasm and a mildly embarrassing cure-all approach – so I decided to take myself shopping, without thinking too much about what I’d read – but with the sole purpose of buying food that I knew would make me feel good.

No plan, no rules, no bans on anything in particular – just food that, when I looked at it, made my body go “yuh-huh – that’ll be nice.”

I imagine it’ll come as a surprise to precisely no-one that by the time I got to the checkout, I had a basket full of fresh fish, meats, avocados, mangoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, and a whole bunch of other things my body was apparently after. I am not saying there’s anything new in the fact that bodies like delicious, nutrient-rich foods. This ain’t news.

Almost two weeks later, however, and I’ll admit – even as the ol’ clean eatin’, gym-goin’, fat-girl-representin’ blogger I’d very nearly forgotten I was – I’m surprised at how much better I feel. I have less pain and more energy. No migraines. No nausea.

And also, my skin and hair are lookin’ healthier than they have in ages. I am practically Beyoncé with the hairflips and glow right now.

The big change, however, has happened in my head.

I can confidently say that, in my experience, having had five knee surgeries, severe obesity, a not-all-that-mild addiction to prescription painkillers, and various other physical illnesses in my time, that nothing has knocked me for six quite like a period of real, dark, long-lasting depression. In my experience – and it’s different for everyone, obviously – it’s been like having all reason and sense and logic sucked out of me, in favour of an overwhelmingly self-destructive and quite frankly, kinda bitter mood, on a near constant basis. For months.

The upshot of that is that this last few weeks – since I made the decision to make some kind of peace with my body, which itself is a sign things were getting better – have been like coming up for air. I had completely forgotten what it was like to be me, and the relief of remembering – of that awesome life I had, of fitness, and health, and downright joy in things like a sunny autumn morning – has been hands-down one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

And that makes me think there’s something in this whole food-as-medicine thing. I mean, obviously there is. But, y’know, more so than before.

Now, let me be clear: I am not for a moment suggesting that you abandon or ignore any medical advice given to you in favour of sweet potatoes and salmon. If you’re on medication (which I’ve certainly been in the past), don’t change that without a doctor’s advice. You know this.

But I do think – more so than ever before – that supporting your body with food that you enjoy, and that does you good, can have a profound effect on how well you are, both physically and mentally.

The reasons for this are twofold. First up, good food = good nutrition = happy body, and blah blah blah. I’m not going to bang on too much about that, because it’s been said repeatedly before.

More than that, though, it’s a mindfulness thing. Mindful shopping, mindful cooking, mindful eating – regardless of what you’re eating, even (and especially) if it’s cake – is a form of control that, when you’re suffering with the chronic, painful blues, can seem almost impossible… But which, if you can make it work, can give you something of yourself back from the apathetic and downright miserable ol’ black dog that’s gnawing at your coat tails.

They might sound like small, even obvious, things, but trust me: when you’re depressed, stuff like this is the Big Fight. It’s hard. But even attempting to do it is a hella brave, hard-as-nails kind of thing to do (even if I do say so myself.)

I know what your big question will be here: aside from sweet potatoes (gawd, woman, stop going on about sweet potatoes) – what did I eat? What’s the miracle cure?

And quite frankly, I’m kinda loathe to answer that.

Because there is so much conflicting information out there already. I did some research and discovered I should go vegan, go paleo, quit carbs, eat more carbs, juice, avoid juices, and… Yeah. You get the picture. Not one person needs me to put another whole bunch of ideas based purely on my own personal experiences and no scientific evidence out there, because the internet is full of it, and a lot of it is… Fluff.

Not just fluff, in fact, but kind of mean, even if written with the best of intentions. To my mind, the worst thing you could say to someone who’s struggling to even get out of bed in the morning is that they’ve gotta follow some kind of ludicrously strict, complicated, rule-ridden diet that’s going to put a bunch of additional pressure on them.

What I will say, though, is that I’m currently eating real foods, most of which I’m preparing myself, when I want them (like that burger at the top – which was one of the best things I’ve ever made.)

I’m listening to my body. I’m being mindful. And it’s helping. I’m also not ruling out cake, because I know there will also be times when cake is going to give my mindful self actual honest-to-god joy.

What I’m getting at here – and what I guess I’ve been getting at since I started this blog in 2012, even if I did kinda forget it for the last few months – is that you know your body better than anyone else. You know what makes you feel good. And making the decision to listen to that, even when things are about as bleak as they can get, is one of the bravest things you can do.

So, the conclusion of this tale.

First up: if you’re struggling at the moment – if things are dark, or bleak, or grim, or any of the other words I’d have used to describe my recent mental state – it will get better. Things will improve.

But also, believe in the little things you can do to help yourself.

Even if that’s just making one meal that your body craves, buying some fresh fruit, even taking a couple of steps out the door when you really, really don’t want to – these things, cumulatively, will make a difference, because they’ll show you exactly what you’re capable of.

And trust me: you’re capable of pretty much anything.

So, godspeed team – and if you’re in the dark right now, I wish you all the best of luck.

Don’t Call It A Comeback: or, Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

Don’t Call It A Comeback: or, Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

(See that? Two nineties R&B/hip-hop references in one blog title. Anyway…) Picture the scene: me, with a sick bug. Me, feeling really sorry for myself, lying on the bathroom floor, trying my level best not to die (or at least tweet what I’d like inscribed on […]

When It Comes to Health, Who The Hell Do You Trust?

When It Comes to Health, Who The Hell Do You Trust?

Up until a couple o’weeks ago, I’d never heard of the Food Babe. But I’ve been watching the recent spat between she and another blogger, Science Babe, with interest – not least because I bloody love watching good ol’ fight for exactly the same reason I enjoy […]

In Which Our Heroine Has a Revelation or Two

In Which Our Heroine Has a Revelation or Two

It’s been a while, huh?

I’d like to say I’ve been away because I’ve been on a rollercoaster of endless fun stuff, but if I’m totally honest, it’s been a weird few months. A weird year, in fact.

Y’all might remember last year, when I ran the Bupa 10k in May – resulting in a stress fracture in my foot. And then, in August, I ended up in the hospital after a weird heart thing that meant I had to take a break from exercise for a couple o’months.

What you won’t remember (’cause I didn’t write about it) was that, over Christmas, I got a bit blue – through a combination of burning the candle at both ends on a few projects both at and outside of work, the absence of regular exercise in my life, repeated bouts of ill health, and the general negative feeling that can only follow a year that was mediocre at best.

So, I booked a holiday. A solo holiday, to a spa in Marrakech. It might’ve eaten up all my hard-earned bonus for the year, but hell, it was my first holiday since 2010 – and the only thing I could imagine helping me out was getting as far away from my regular life as possible for a lil’ bit.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – I have incredible friends and family, I love my job, and objectively, I have nothing to complain about. But when you’re depressed – and I’d say, lookin’ back, that was probably the appropriate word for where I found myself for a pretty substantial part of 2014 – none of that really makes a difference.

You get through, or you do your best to; and that’s why I wound down pretty much everything outside of work. I stopped writing – I pretty much stopped tweeting, even. I did the bare minimum – I’d get up, drag my butt to work, and then go home and go straight to bed.  At weekends, I’d do all of nothing – just eat, sleep, and repeat.

February rolled around, and come the 20th, I was on a plane to Marrakech, to literally get away from it all. I had a half-bottle of champagne on the flight at 6:30am, because I was on holiday, and I’d be damned if I didn’t make the very most of it.

And trust me – it was heaven. Marrakech, the hotel, hell, the waiters – all gorgeous. Exactly what I needed. For about five days.

After that time, though, I found myself starting to realise that the whole “grass is greener” schtick?

Turns out it’s true.

A world of glorious sunshine, all-you-can-eat (and drink), regular massages, no schedule, and no demands on my time was exactly what I thought I’d want on a permanent basis – and yet, after five days… I missed my life. My crazy-busy, often stressful, regularly tiring life that I was 99.9% certain I was fed up of… Was exactly where I wanted to be.

Now, I’m not suggesting y’all take a solo holiday – because I know I’m really, ridiculously lucky to finally be in a position where I can afford one (and trust me, it wasn’t without significant “should I actually spend this money?” deliberation… A girl’s still gotta hustle, if you know what I mean).

You don’t need to do that to think about all the things you love about your life, because let me tell you: I got on a plane and went all the way to another continent, only to realise that all the stuff I really wanted was right here at home. When it comes down to it, I’d wager that there’s a strong possibility you’d find the same.

So that’s revelation no. 1.

For no. 2, I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I spent quite a lot of last year unwell – and, for various reasons, not able or allowed to exercise. Y’all know exercise for me is a form of therapy – so it doesn’t take a genius to see how physical and emotional well-being for me are totally linked.

Even for a badass fitness blogger like m’self, it’s ridiculously easy to fall out of good habits. The treadmill, for me, is the absolute cornerstone of my healthy lifestyle. Without exercise, I struggle to motivate myself to eat well; without eating well, I struggle to motivate myself to prevent one glass of wine from turning into a weekend-long party; and with a hangover, I struggle to motivate myself to do… Well, anything.

So being banned from exercise for a big part of last year threw everything else outta the window.

This, from a woman who oughta know better: you never, ever, really know better. And even when you do, it’s hella easy not to listen to your own good advice.

Now, I’m still having to be careful about a dodgy knee, and I know I’m not going to be running a marathon any time soon – but I can get back on that treadmill and carefully put one foot in front of the other. I may not be takin’ on any Olympic weight lifters, but I can take some lil’ dumbbells and start working those muscles again. I might not be as fit or good as I was a year ago, but I’m still me – and I can go out and kick butt if I decide that’s what I want to do.

(Clue: it is.)

Having good health out of my life for a while has really brought home the fact that being able to exercise, and having the tools at your disposal to be a moderately well person, whether that’s just access to a gym, a yoga mat, or a decent food shop – that’s a privilege. It’s one of life’s great joys (even if it doesn’t feel that way when you’re dragging your tired ass there after a long day at work) – and the decision to make the most of that is one of the best, and sometimes hardest, things you can do.

What I’m getting at, I guess, is that life sometimes falls apart a bit, and it can seem near enough impossible to put it back together. Be kind to yourself when this happens, and do exactly what you need to do to get through it. I’m very lucky to have excellent friends and family that gave me that advice, even when I couldn’t imagine it being true.

Because even if there are days, weeks, even months where you don’t feel up to it, and where the world doesn’t seem to be working in your favour, eventually there will come a time where the sky’s a lil’ brighter, and the path to your own version of good stuff suddenly seems possible again.

At that point, you’ll suddenly find the things you love in life – for me, that’s having a job that’s as heart-glowingly rewarding as it is demanding, and friends and family that I love in the smooshy, come-‘ere-you-big-lug kinda way – and be mindful of them. You’ll remember that your life choices got you where you are, and you’ll be aware of the reasons you made those choices in the first place – and you’ll have clarity on the things you can change, and the steps you can take to move on.

Trust a girl who knows: it’s not always easy, and life does get in the way.

But the upside of darkness is that it makes light magical – and when that light comes, hell… It’s a beautiful thing.

Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Diet in January; or, 30 Days of Good Stuff is Back (Again!)

Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Diet in January; or, 30 Days of Good Stuff is Back (Again!)

Damn it, I  freakin’ love Christmas. I love the music, I love the twinkly lights, I love time spent with friends and family… And I really, really love the food and drink. My Mum’s cooking is better than anyone else’s (sorry ’bout it – there’s […]

This is Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read; or, Cease and Desist, Asshats

This is Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read; or, Cease and Desist, Asshats

Following yesterday’s post about why it’s a good idea to be critical around supposedly body-positive advertising and the like, I awoke on this fine morning to find the following photo sent to me by my very lovely Twitter follower: Apparently, I’m so savvy I discovered […]

Not At All Surprising Study Shows Fat Shaming is Bad; or, You Too Can Fight Shame Culture

Not At All Surprising Study Shows Fat Shaming is Bad; or, You Too Can Fight Shame Culture

Now, I’m not inclined to say “I told you so.”

Actually, that’s a load of crap. I’m definitely going to say I told you so, because I did: here, and here, and here (and various other places – but hell, I’ve made my point. Consider me done.)

Yesterday, a University College London study published in the journal Obesity suggested that “fat shaming doesn’t encourage weight loss.”

To let the experts explain, Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) said “Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain.

“Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food.”

Hell – I know I’m not the only person who’s been told I’m fat/ugly/somehow not good enough and responded by spending the evening in the company of my good friends Ben and Jerry. For me, personally, every time I’d have an insult thrown at me – and bearing in mind I worked in customer service on the high street for 9 years, was depressingly often – my instinctive reaction would be one of two things.

More often than not, I’d just go straight for the inevitable – taking a tour around the supermarket to pick up a bag of cookies, a sandwich, some sweets, ice cream, hell – whatever I thought would numb it for that day.

But sometimes, I’d decide “I’m not going to be a fat girl any more,” and starve myself for a couple o’days.

Eventually, I’d go crazy with hunger and end up – you guessed it – back in the supermarket with a basket of carbs. Either way, it’s destructive, unhealthy, and pretty much guarantees weight gain, in the end.

And that’s not all. The doc continues: “Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it.”

Again, I’m talking from experience here. I lived across the road from my gym for three whole months before eventually wandering in, because I figured I’d be laughed out of there quicker than you can say “I need help.” Although for what it’s worth, in four years of being resident in various gyms, never have I experienced anyone calling me fat whilst exercising – presumably because hell, what are they going to say? “Get some exercise, fatty”? Shhh. I’m on it.

Now, I’m totally behind this study. I’m all for things about body shaming being proven by science, because it makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about, and gives me numbers and studies to refer people to when pulling ’em up on bad behaviour. But let’s face it – it’s not a shocker.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with a soul that saying something mean to someone is likely to make them miserable – and that comfort comes in many forms, one of which is food. But I think it’s a tad narrow to say fat shaming is a free-standing issue, all by itself.

We live in a culture that’s relentlessly, ruthlessly focused on how women (and men) look. We judge health, attractiveness and, often, ability, on looks alone – with fat/thin being just one dichotomy on which we figure out a person’s value. We’re constantly in pursuit of perfection, a Photoshopped ideal that just doesn’t exist in the real world – and we beat ourselves and each other down when we fall short. That’s the world we’re in.

This study suggests that “everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment” – but personally, I think that’s only one part of the wider issue. What we really need to do is move away from shaming on a wider scale, and stop perpetuating the myth that how you look is what defines you.

But that’s not something that other people can change. It’s something every last one of us needs to take responsibility for, by thinking about what you say. We may never eradicate the Samantha Bricks, Linda Kelseys, and Katie Hopkinses (who I’m pretty sure the Daily Mail are incubating in some kind of evil laboratory); and women’s mags will no doubt continue to perpetuate endless bitchy comments (although I will continue to cross them out like so.)

But we can make the decision not to perpetuate it in our own lives. We can decide not to snark, or bitch, or shame – and we can make the choice to be one of those people who has a positive impact on the way other people feel about ourselves.

That kind of attitude has a knock-on effect on the way you feel about yourself, because when you see shame culture and negativity as the shallow, flimsy, bullsh*t construct that it is – and when you choose not to engage with it in your relationships with other people – it becomes much easier to negate it in your own life.

When you do that, it’s easier to place value on your own body for how it feels, rather than how it looks. For what it can do, rather than what it weighs; for the value it really has, rather than the semblance of value shame culture places on it.

The impact of that is twofold.

Firstly, you’ll feel better about yourself generally. You’ll stop internalising shame, and your internal monologue will move from one of negativity, to one that’s generally pretty positive.

And secondly, if you’re looking at your body as something with a real worth for you, and you alone, it’s easier to make healthy, positive decisions. To make good choices, to choose to eat real food because it makes you feel great, and to exercise because it brings you joy. Good health, as a reward in itself, will follow, and even if you don’t achieve the desperately impossible ideal of perfection – even if, like me, you find yourself stretch marked and saggy (but still god damn gorgeous) – you’ll have that happiness and security deep down that makes your experience of living a positive one.

It won’t solve the problem entirely – up against the junk food industry, the media, and the fact that some people are, and always will be, asshats, shaming will continue to happen.

But hell – fight the good fight. Do the good thing. Fight shaming, fat or otherwise, by being one of the awesome people who takes responsibility for it. Be a person that lives a good life that results in good health – and help others in the process.

Vive la god damn revolution, and thanks to science for giving me the opportunity to say…

Just kidding. Y’all know I’m right.

A Trip to the Hospital; or, a Lesson in Respecting My Elders

A Trip to the Hospital; or, a Lesson in Respecting My Elders

A week or so ago, thanks to some smooth moves (read: a very embarrassing public fainting situation) on my part – I found myself stuck, for a couple of days, in hospital. Yep – your resident health blogger got stuck in a hospital ward, feeling very […]

It’s Not Your Fault: Depression, Kindness, and the Death of a Funny Man

It’s Not Your Fault: Depression, Kindness, and the Death of a Funny Man

I’m not normally one for eulogising a celebrity death. I find it all a bit awkward, if I’m honest – so for fear of saying the wrong thing, I tend to stick to nothing. Robin Williams, though? That damn near broke my heart. It’s rare […]

Choosing the Right Sports Bra Or; I Jiggle, So You Don’t Have To

Choosing the Right Sports Bra Or; I Jiggle, So You Don’t Have To

I’ve got a confession to make. For a long time, I didn’t own a sports bra. And by a long time, I mean the first, say, 18 months of my weight loss – when me and my 42G boobs bounced around in a double-layered bra/top combo that, quite frankly, did my girls no justice whatsoever.

I don’t know if it was a result of self-doubt, and a reluctance to believe I’d actually be able to commit to a healthy living routine, or simply a fear of heading into a department store and attempting to buy a sports bra as a fat girl – but I just kept putting it off.

Also – these things are hella expensive. Or rather, they seemed it, when I was on minimum wage and attempting to self-fund a master’s degree. What with a reasonably priced one costing somewhere around the £30 mark, it seemed like one helluva ‘spensive investment – and so, I put it off.

Thing is, though – and I say this from experience – a good sports bra really can do wonders for your workout. For me, personally, the crunch came when I started taking my cardio a tad more seriously. As far as my homemade efforts went, I could manage weights and walking without too much discomfort – but once I started attempting to run, the risk of two black eyes and a chipped tooth became a little much. Y’all – it was time.

But man – choosing is hard. And so, in the interests of science, me and my now 36D-ish knockers have spent the last two months testing out all of the big-name brands in the sports bra world – to save you both time, and money.

The test was thus – jogging, jumping, and a good old fashioned bend and snap. Then, a run through the wash – ’cause hell, if you’re a busy woman like me, you don’t have time to be hand washing your delicates every time you manage to squeeze in a workout. And finally, style – because frankly, this fat girl likes to look good when she’s workin’ out the booty.

Told you it was scientific.

So, without further ado, I bring you: the Bra Wars.

Shock AbsorberShock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra

When I put it out to Twitter that I was first attempting this challenge, the Shock Absorber brand came up time and again as the highest recommended by my tweetin’ crew. And with good reason – personally, I found it to be one of the best in terms of keeping the ladies in place, no matter how bouncy my running efforts became.

This, I figured, was some kind of witchcraft – because I’ll be honest, when I first pulled this bad boy out of the box, I couldn’t really understand how it’d hold anything in place. Hell, it didn’t even look like it’d fit. Aside from the foam on the straps, it’s largely seam-free, with no padding and what looks like no structural integrity – which gave me some severe doubts.

However, when on, it held everything down perfectly – with very little movement in any of my Very Scientific Tests. It held up well in the wash, although the foam padding went a tad curly and needed straightening out each time – not, by any means, a severe issue, but a tiny niggle.

In terms of style, though, the Shock Absorber Run Bra fell down a tad – it’s super-functional, but a tad bland to look at. In the end, that’s the last of the criteria you ought to be thinking about when choosing a sports bra – and it does come in a gorgeous purple colour (which, alas, I couldn’t get when I was hunting). However, it’s a brilliant bra – and if you’re looking for something to hold everything in place… This is it.

Jog: 9/10
Jump: 9/10
Bend and Snap: 8/10
Washability8/10
Style: 6/10

Stockists: Less Bounce, £28.00


PanachePanache Sports Bra by Panache

The Panache Sports Bra seems to be designed with the larger-breasted ladies in mind – and it was a clear winner for me in the style stakes, not least because it came with some super-gorgeous matching pants.

Yeah, I know, I’m vain. But if I get hit by a bus when out running, at least my Ma will be pleased to know I’m wearing matching undies when the ambulance comes to pick me up.

It’s got much more structure than the Shock Absorber, giving the girls a much-needed boost without seeming to compromise on effectiveness – but this does mean that they’re marginally more likely to go astray when you’re hitting the ol’ star-jumps. With that said, I was beyond impressed at the overall design on this one, given the way it ticked both the style and functionality boxes – and it’s my preferred choice when I’m out exercising these days (and when I’m not – because damn it, this is one comfy bra.)

It held up really well against my rather violent washing machine – several washes later, and it’s still holding shape and colour beyond any of the other bras here – and the option to choose between racer-back or regular straps means it’s just the right level of noticeable under most workout tops.

In other words – this baby is my new life partner.

Jog: 9/10
Jump: 8/10
Bend and Snap: 7/10
Washability: 10/10
Style: 9/10

Stockists: Panache Lingerie, £38.00 (I’d add that at the time of writing, this one’s half price on LessBounce, too – bargain!)

Freya ActiveFreya Active Moulded Sports Bra

I really, really wanted to like this one – because aesthetically, it looked the most like a traditional bra, and it came in a whole range of colours, all of which I’d happily team with pretty much any workout outfit.

Unfortunately, I’d rate this one at the more disappointing end of the spectrum – although like the Panache, I did like the option to wear either with the straps down, or cinched together mid-shoulder in a racer back. It feels as though it should do more, with a solid structure and a light, but firm material – but alas, in terms of functionality, the Freya Active really fell down, leaving me with considerably more jiggle than the other bras tested here.

It held up well in the wash, looked gorgeous, and – to the credit of the stockist, Blossom Lingerie, came beautifully boxed in purple packaging – but alas, the Freya Active was a disappointing choice, and won’t make the cut in my future workouts.

Jog: 6/10
Jump: 5/10
Bend and Snap: 5/10
Washability: 8/10
Style: 9/10

Stockists: Blossom Lingerie, £36.00

Anita Extreme Control Sports Bra

AnitaThis one was something of a wildcard – not one of the three ‘big brands’ mentioned above. I’d heard rumours, though, that the Anita bra was something of a surprise leader – and I have to say, it was very, very impressive.

Sitting somewhere between the Shock Absorber and Panache in terms of style, the Anita didn’t seem as ‘heavy’ as the latter, taking some of the lightweight, seamless witchcraft of the Shock Absorber, albeit with a bit of extra boost. It also seems to carry a lot of the boob weight below shoulder level, holding everything in place seemingly weightlessly – which was something of a miracle, and not a sensation I’ve experienced with any of the others.

I’d say with that in mind, the Anita is the easiest to ‘forget’ when running – and I mean that as no bad thing at all. It’s a credit to excellent engineering – and a very impressive addition to the sports bra set. However, at £46.00, it’s also the most expensive of the bunch – but it held up well to repeated washes, and it’s a great fit. One to watch, I reckon.

Jog: 8/10
Jump: 9/10
Bend and Snap: 8/10
Washability8/10
Style: 7/10

Stockists: LessBounce, £46.00

So, overall, a worthwhile experiment – and I’ll be honest, I’m a total convert to the world of sports bras. It’s an investment, fo’ sho – but one I’d really recommend if you’ve got designs on getting fit, and looking stylish along the way.

I know this isn’t it, though – there are so many brands out there that I’m sure there are others that’d stand up to my rigorous tests. So… Any recommendations?

Calling a Fat Girl a Fat Girl; or, Why Don’t You Come Over Here and Say That?

Calling a Fat Girl a Fat Girl; or, Why Don’t You Come Over Here and Say That?

Is that headline a tad too aggressive? Screw it. Let’s do this. A week or so ago, the Daily Mail published another of their regular “Let’s Give an Offensive Person a Platform for their Horrible Opinion” piece – this time by a woman I hadn’t encountered before, […]

Recovery; or, Harder Than You Think

Recovery; or, Harder Than You Think

I know, I know. I’ve been off the radar for a solid month, following the overwhelming high of running my very first 10k at the end of May. Man, that was a good day. A really good day. And I don’t regret it, even though […]

Review: USA Pro Fitness Range

Review: USA Pro Fitness Range

I’ve been on a bit of a hunt of late for fitness clothes that actually fit. I mean, properly.

Let me give you a bit of a back story, here.

It is downright impossible, sometimes, to find clothing that actually stays put when you’re wearing it, especially if you’re what you might call ‘curvy,’ like yours truly. I mean, I love my boobs and bootay – but finding fitness-wear that sits and stays where it ought to be when you’re all jiggle and junk can be easier said than done.

Anyway, after a lot of moaning about the subject, the kind folks at USA Pro sent me some lovely samples from their current range to review – and I have to say, I was already a bit of a fan. See, I love fitness gear. Love it. But I also love being able to afford to eat, and often that pretty much rules out a lot of brands on the market – so the fact that most of the USA Pro range is relatively budget-friendly is a clear selling point, for me at least.

Now, let me start with one thing – if you’re a well-endowed-up-top kinda girl, the bras in this range ain’t for you, unless you’re wearing them over something with a lil’ more structure.

However, the rest of the range stands up pretty well to the jiggle test – by which I mean, me wearing it to exercise in. It’s very scientific, don’cha know.

My absolute most favourite item was their three-quarter leggings, which not only stayed put when running, jumping and crawling around at The Body Retreat, but also which made my booty look damn fine, if I do say so myself:

Booty

As you can see, they’re pretty flattering, and generously sized – going up to a UK size 20. To give you an idea of what I mean by generous, I’ve tried ’em in a UK size 10, 12 and 14 – and despite being more like a 16-18 in jeans, all of them fit, with the 12 being super-comfy, and offering just the right amount of ‘give’ without falling down.

They’ve also got some lovely tops in their range, with the Loose T-Shirts proving a particular favourite (I’m also wearing that in the photo above – although I’ll forgive you if you didn’t notice it thanks to the booty!) However, with these, the sizing isn’t quite so forgiving – I found the size 12 rode up a bit and was tight on the ol’ boobs, for me personally, but went out and bought myself a size 16 which gave a much better fit.

The biggest bargain, however, came in the form of their yoga leggings.

Hell, y’all. These things are insane.

They’re really, really, ridiculously comfortable – and while they’re not the most forgiving in the lighter shades (by which I mean, VPL and a fair amount of jiggle is visible) they’re absolutely bloody gorgeous in darker colours, and fit like a glove. I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing quite so much yoga in these badboys, mostly because they make for amazing sitting-around-doing-pretty-much-anything-wear – but at £5 or less, I am totally at peace with that decision.

So, overall, I’d really recommend the USA Pro range if you’re looking for a low-budget, comfortable option for fitness wear. It’s worth noting that they don’t stand up quite so well to a rigorous washing schedule (I wear them a lot) so I’d suggest putting ’em on a pretty low spin cycle to keep them from bobbling – but for the price and comfort they offer, I think they’re bloody brilliant for both fitness freaks and bootylicious newbies alike.

How You, Too, Can Be Just Like Jessica Ennis-Hill (No, Really)

How You, Too, Can Be Just Like Jessica Ennis-Hill (No, Really)

Last week, I had the huge, overwhelming privilege of meeting the one and only Jessica Ennis-Hill – Olympic gold medallist, world champion athlete, and one of my personal heroes, not just for her incredible feats of athletic performance, but her all-round excellent attitude to body […]

The Things We Tell Our Girls

The Things We Tell Our Girls

I was really lucky growing up. My parents were always focused on our learning, our happiness and on making ourselves the best we could be – and we had plenty of opportunities to do whatever we wanted. I had violin lessons, but was terrible at sports; […]

The Journey; or, That Time I Ran 10k and Learned an Important Thing About Living

The Journey; or, That Time I Ran 10k and Learned an Important Thing About Living

I’m an emotional wreck. And I have been for a solid 24 hours, following the amazing Bupa 10k yesterday, which I ran for my favourite charity, the Willow Foundation – who give special days to young adults suffering from serious or terminal illnesses.

Y’all know that’s something I can get behind.

It seemed like a great idea at the time – I mean, pushing myself, further than I’d been able to go before, to be the girl who’d ‘never walk again’ running a 10k around a city that took a long time for me to call home… It seemed kinda grand. Kinda heroic. Y’know… Cool.

But as with many recent events, including my nightmare hill at the Body Retreat, and my attempted 5k for Sport Relief, this run was more of an emotional punch-in-the-gut meets shot-in-the-arm than anything I’ve done so far.

But first… Let’s rewind a little.

My training – or rather, my Phoebe-from-Friends attempts at running anything more than 1km without collapsing – has been a lil’ stop-start. Three weeks ago, I spent two days back on my crutches trying to rest a screwed up knee joint; five days later, I managed to reach 10k for the first and last time before yesterday’s race.

By yesterday morning, I was pacing back and forth. I had the shakes while trying to rustle up breakfast. I was practically seeing my 290lb, becrutched self hobbling around in the mirror. And I arrived on site at least 80% certain that I was going to be sick, or faint, or dislocate a knee half way around and be forced to die in the heat on the steps of St. Paul’s.

At the start line, I jumped up and down and chatted nervously with my sister, who was playing the role both of trusty sidekick and ass-kicking coach, in an attempt to distract myself from the inevitable fact that I was about to be made to run a distance far beyond my comfort zone, alongside thousands of other people who were what you might call ‘proper runners.’

Seriously – I’ve never felt as though I’ve embodied the words ‘all gear, no idea’ more in my life.

Start Line

But then, we were off – legging it down the Mall to the Prodigy’s Firestarter, no doubt with ol’ Queenie peeking out of her bedroom window and having a lil’ rave to send us on our merry way. I can honestly say I’ve never felt more exhilarated in my life.

And that buzz, that feeling of ‘holy hell, I’m actually doing it’ lasted all the way to about the 2k mark, when I suddenly remembered that 10k is actually pretty damn far, no matter which way you slice it. While the crowds that lined the route were a huge encouragement, the heat, the wind, and the feeling that I wouldn’t make it all the way around without vomiting hit me with the resounding, thundering force of The Fear.

So we slowed down. And like all the big, ugly adversities I’ve had to get past so far – learning to walk, losing 130lbs, and so on – it needed to be broken down into achievable chunks in order to get done. Running 10k? Impossible. Running to the next set of traffic lights?

Possible.

And that’s what we did. For the next 3k, it was all about getting to the next set of lights; the next bus stop; the next corner.

By 5k, my knee was beginning to jar – but this potato-leg and I have been sharing the same space long enough for me to know what’s acceptable, and what isn’t. When you’re overcoming an injury of any sort, half the battle is psychological – which is why, for a long time, I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk unaided again. I didn’t think I could.

This pain, though, was of the ‘not the end of the world’ variety – and I knew a peace offering of an ice pack, rest, and some ibuprofen later on would probably sort things out… So we carried on.

And suddenly, at 7k… It actually seemed like we might make it. We were almost at the point of being closer to the end than the middle, and that last 3k seemed pretty achievable – until just after the 8k mark. That part was pure pain and suffering from traffic light, to bus stop, to ‘holy crap, that’s Big Ben’ to yet another goddamn traffic light, to the beautiful, wonderful, thank-god-maybe-it’s-almost-over 9k signs that appeared up ahead.

As the 1k-to-go became 800m, and the 800m became 400m, it really started to get emotional up ahead. Suddenly, there were crowds again – and speakers with music and excitement and cheers for people as they crossed the line… And the 200m mark up ahead in the distance.

My sister (my hero, at this point, for keeping me moving throughout) and I had decided that, no matter what, we’d do the last 200m at a run, presumably while the Chariots of Fire music played from the heavens. Kind of. And so we did.

I had nothing left. The only time I’d managed a 10k distance previously, I’d had a boost half way through from some coconut water and brief sit down. But as the finish line appeared up ahead, I dragged myself across it on emotional energy alone – and promptly burst into a flood of tears as I crossed it.

Man, I was a mess.

A hot mess, in fact. Check out the Ultimate Relief Face:

Finished Full

Suddenly, the last hour and a half felt like absolutely nothing. It felt like it had flown by, and as though I could have done it all over again. I’d managed to do the thing I’d always thought impossible – and I’d gone from the girl who couldn’t walk to the damn fine woman who could survive a 10k. I could do anything.

As with my recent 5k, all sense of time and space was promptly thrown out of the window by this whole affair. I’m always struck, at each milestone, by how short a time it feels since I felt as though there was no hope.

There was one day, sitting alone, in my room, taking yet another painkiller and ordering yet another pizza, that I’m pretty sure was ‘rock bottom,’ or something like it – and even now, it doesn’t seem like all that long ago. In reality, it was August 2010 – and never, ever could I have imagined I’d be standing outside Buckingham Palace, collecting a medal and high-fiving a stranger at the end of an event like this.

And I think that’s what I’m starting to love about running.

Like a big ol’ metaphor for the last four years, the journey – with all those epic highs and crushing lows, the moments where anything’s possible, and the moments where one more step seems like madness – is the real source of happiness. Sure, finishing is a thrill – and every single milestone, every achievement I didn’t think I’d see, are moments I’ll treasure forever – but what makes you strong, and what gives you the force to live with force, fire and passion, are the steps you take to get there, no matter how slow and painful they may feel.

And the hardest moments are the ones you’ll be glad of later on.

I look back at my rock bottom, at all those hospital appointments, those moments when I wanted to quit, and the times when I did – and they’re up there with my first unaided steps, my first 10lbs lost, the moment I started to love my body and the realisation that it could do anything in the pantheon of Things I’m Glad I’ve Lived Through, because they’ve made me who I am now.

In other words – and to return to the whole reason I signed up to do this crazy run in the first place – every single minute is special, and has the potential to be a defining moment of awesomeness when you look back, years from now.

All you’ve gotta do is keep going.

Review: The Urban Kitchen

Review: The Urban Kitchen

I had a feeling I was going to love the Urban Kitchen from the second I met their founder, Toral Shah. We met in a busy bar in London, where she appeared out of nowhere, like a whirlwind of energy and joy, and completely brightened […]

Meal Plan, Round 2: The Tricked Out Clean Eatin’ Ass Kickin’ Edition

Meal Plan, Round 2: The Tricked Out Clean Eatin’ Ass Kickin’ Edition

Due to very popular demand, I’m delighted to share a brand new version of the Meal Plan with y’all – hoorah! This follows me doing a whole bunch of studying on the personal training and nutrition front – with feedback from some of my current […]