Author: fatgirlphd

Recipe: The Easiest Egg Muffins You’ll Ever Make

Recipe: The Easiest Egg Muffins You’ll Ever Make

I posted this photo on Twitter earlier, and had a few requests for the recipe – presumably because they just look SO DAMNED CUTE. They really are the easiest breakfast around (and I’m pretty sure the polka dot cases are at least 30% of the reason […]

Making Every Day Special: The Year of New Things, Part II

Making Every Day Special: The Year of New Things, Part II

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I don’t get tired of the fact I’m able to walk these days. I mean, don’t get me wrong – there are definitely days when I’m not exactly mindful. I don’t believe there’s anyone in […]

Anatomy of a Shame Campaign; or, Weight Watchers, You Suck

Anatomy of a Shame Campaign; or, Weight Watchers, You Suck

Ah, Weight Watchers.

Weight Watchers, Weight Watchers, Weight Watchers.

Your ex-Finance Director said your customers were as likely to succeed as they were to win the lottery. One of your original spokeswomen, Bernice Weston, said “when it comes to food, fat people are basically very stupid.” And in 2013, consumers spent $5billion on your products in an attempt to lose weight.

And for your 2014 US marketing efforts, you’ve come up with a new campaign that – without a hint of irony – shames women for eating, and encourages them to adopt a healthier lifestyle by buying the range of processed, chemically formed crap-patties you call “food.”

Y’all are asshats, plain and simple.

Yes, that’s right. It’s time for a takedown, with thanks to the many lovely people that sent me this excellent piece at The Frisky highlighting what may be, for me, one of the most irritating, cynical marketing ploys yours truly has ever encountered.

Cue twee ukelele music (we’re good people). Clue exposed brickwork (vulnerability), director’s chairs (you’re in control), cue ‘real women’ and wholesome blackboard writing (because it’s about learning, right?)

Then – because Weight Watchers realised they’d made an important discovery about women (namely: they enjoy food) – cue PR stunt publicity campaign in Times Square. Cue vox pops from ‘real women’ with well-placed product references. Cue happy women, looking pleased whilst holding an empty plate even though it hasn’t, and isn’t about to, held any food of any description.

Yep, that’s right ladies – not eating is empowering.

Enjoying sweets, chocolate, and takeout, on the other hand, makes you a wildebeest. Get in the booth and confess your sins to be immediately absolved of anything – from the occasional extra cookie, to a full scale eating disorder, the WW Confession Booth offers a one-stop-stop for all your therapy needs:

Always intrigued by a quick fix, I decided to hit up their website – where, it turns out, there are no ingredient lists – which is weird, huh? I mean, given it’s a product for the health-conscious consumer, you’d think ‘what’s in it’ would be a pretty big question… Right?

But that’s because – much like junk food from McDonalds to Slim Fast – Weight Watchers Smart Ones don’t actually constitute what I would define as food. A collection of chemicals constituting certain amounts of protein, carbs, and fats, yes – but real food? Notsomuch. So far, so unsurprising.

The campaign page, though, is where things get a lil’ more interesting. I’m a big Twitter addict, so my first click was to the #cleanyourslate hashtag, to see who was talking about it. This user, in particular, popped up on the Weight Watchers’ site feed – and with good reason. She’s hella enthusiastic, and appears to have posted a whole number of tweets on the subject – many of which appear in threes, all at the same time:

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 10.39.53

If that ain’t a bot – or at least, a pre-programmed series of tweets from someone who doesn’t appear – or rather, admit – to being affiliated with Weight Watchers – I will eat my hat.

Or rather, a hat. I’m not really a hat person.

Here’s another example:

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 10.38.39

Spot the identical middle tweet. Coincidence? I think not.

Then, I clicked the link – the “ptab.it” link, that redirected right on back to Weight Watchers’ website, where I could purchase the item in question. Ptab.it, though, is a link I hadn’t seen previously – so I tried to visit the root site there, to see what redirect programme they were using. Y’know, ’cause I’m nosey.

That took me to a 404 on Punchtab, a digital marketing business who – and I quote – “deliver consistent personalized experiences across any channel – digital, CRM, social, direct marketing, mobile, and in-store.”

They’re right about the consistent part – their consumers are tweeting identical things. Impressive, y’all.

So, having concluded the Twitter users probably weren’t real – or at least, that they were under some serious influence – I headed back over to the Weight Watchers site to find out a lil’ more. I right-clicked a link to open it in a new tab, and as if by magic, I ended up landing on the following URL:

http://www.punchtab.com/campaign2/55417?xdm_e=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eatyourbest.com&xdm_c=default3938&xdm_p=1#

…Yep. Punchtab.

The campaign itself – the digital aspect of the Clean Your Slate marketing campaign is, it turns out, run by Punchtab (who, eagle-eyed readers may observe, also represent ConAgra – one of the biggest junk food and sugar companies in the world). Even their Instagram hashtag seems to be fake – with almost all the photos published either by the official campaign account, one user who – in yet more amazing coincidences – seems to tweet many of the same things as the accounts referenced above – and one by @punchtabsarah.

photo

At this point, it seems like a good time to point y’all over to The Onion’s brilliant skewering of ‘social media gurus’, where the speaker says:

“Ideally, real human users will leave social networking altogether, and all that will be left will be thousands of robots, talking to each other – who we can then advertise to. Now, robots don’t yet buy products – but that’s not our concern. In the new social media economy, you just have to keep looking like you’re doing work – and people will pay you for it.”

Now, it might appear that this piece is picking on Weight Watchers for the fault of their digital agency – but let me refer you back to The Men Who Made Us Thin, and the interview with Richard Samber – their former Finance Director – who, when questioned about their appalling 16% success rate after 5 years, said that the business is successful “because the other 84% have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from.”

In other words – they’re selling you nothing. Nothing. It’s a gloss, a sheen, some kind of smoke and mirrors affair designed with the sole purpose of making money. The false tweets, the fake accounts, the imaginary Instagrammers, the holes in the execution of this Weight Watchers campaign are – in a kind of poetic loop I couldn’t even dream up – a direct reflection of their entire business.

Their cynical, offensive attempt to cash in on the fact that women eating is still the cultural problem that it clearly is – by hawking chemically processed ready meals like magical empowerment cookies – is bullshit, pure and simple.

It’s yet more evidence that you’ve gotta be critical like a ninja around food advertising, because – ironically, given the level of woman-shaming going on around these parts – when it comes to their own marketing ploys, companies like Weight Watchers have no shame. They don’t give a damn about your happiness, or your health – but your money?

That’s pretty damn appealing.

From the twee music, to the food-shaming, via the omnipresent cultural myths that Losing Weight Will Make You Happy and Hunger Will Make You a Better Woman, this campaign – like all diet industry marketing, from Slim Fast to the diet pill company that tried to buy yours truly – represents a hateful, cynical ploy to make cash out of you, the consumer, by selling you something that isn’t true, and doesn’t work.

So, Weight Watchers, from me to you: keep your shaming, and flip it back on yourselves. Keep your cynical, nasty-ass ideas about what women fall for, and don’t come near me with that stuff you call food – because the sort of happiness that really matters doesn’t come in a box, a fake tweet, or a bullshit confessional on Times Square.

It comes from standing here, and flipping two fingers to your cynical, soulless business.

Asshats.

One Step at a Time; or, My Mad Fat Hillside Freakout

One Step at a Time; or, My Mad Fat Hillside Freakout

Last week, I headed off to Dorset to spend a week at The Body Retreat, having been very kindly invited down to review their Weight Loss Retreat here on the blog. I figured I’d go down for a bit of a holiday, coast along in some […]

Review: The Body Retreat

Review: The Body Retreat

Back in February, you may or may not remember I had a patch where I was sick. Constantly. I don’t know what happened to my immune system, but I felt like I’d been hit by a bus – and I caught every bug going. It […]

Thanks for Your Concern, But I Will Eat Wherever the Hell I Want

Thanks for Your Concern, But I Will Eat Wherever the Hell I Want

So there I was, after a productive day at work, feeling like I’d kicked quite a lot of ass today – a little zen, a little satisfied, and all round at peace with the world.

You know how this ends, right?

Yes, as usual something came along to ruin my day, and cause a hulk out. This time, it was entirely the fault of my (normally quite lovely) agent Juliet, for tweeting a link to this Buzzfeed article on the fact that there is such a thing as a Facebook page called…

Drum roll, please.

“Women Who Eat on Tubes.”

What the actual f*ck?

If you’re busy, my response can be easily summed up with the following visual:

OMG FAT BITCHES EATING

 

No, seriously. I am eating in public. Like that. Passers by in this trendy-ass coffee shop have observed my eating, but they’re too polite – or possibly scared – to say anything. I’m a living, breathing, woman eating in public.

Run for your lives, bitches.

In all seriousness, though, I don’t even know where to start with this one. I really don’t. It’s messed up on so many levels.

First up, as the Buzzfeed piece rightly notes – it is totally freakin’ creepy to film strangers in public. It is highly likely that there is something wrong with you if you think ‘y’know what? I’m going to film this person who doesn’t realise I’m here, and publicly shame them on the internet.’ I know I called Perez Hilton the ultimate douche canoe, but congratulations – you’ve found a whole ‘nother level. You’re officially a creep.

But obviously, there’s more to it than that.

In fact, it’s fat shaming and misogyny, distilled in their very purest form and brought from the core of what’s wrong with our attitudes towards women, and women’s relationships to food.

See, even before this absolute turd of a Facebook page, I totally got – from painful experience – the Fat Girl Eating in Public Dilemma. I genuinely, genuinely, once pretended to be on the phone whilst eating a muffin in a coffee shop, just so I could have a pretend conversation about how I hadn’t had the chance to eat all day because I’d been so busy doing Very Important Things. To prove to the complete strangers around me that food didn’t dominate my life, and that this food was necessary for my survival, not a result of my sheer gluttony.

Man, that’s sad when I write it down.

It’s sad for me, and it’s sad for my old self, before I realised that I’m actually awesome, eating or otherwise. And it’s sad for anyone who’s ever felt, in any way, shape or form, as though they’re in the judging gaze of someone else, when they’re trying to live their lives in a public space.

And this isn’t just something that happens to ‘fat girls.’

I would bet my trusty morning coffee that most women have felt this – not, admittedly, to such an extreme level – but who hasn’t ordered a salad instead of a pizza on a date? Who hasn’t thought about ordering what they really fancy off a tasty lookin’ menu, but plumped for something smaller, healthier, and more “feminine” because there are other people – male and female – present?

It’s not uncommon, and it’s not unusual. What it is, though, is messed up – and I’ll tell you for why.

To my mind, the fact that people think it’s okay to do that – to shame women of all sizes for eating in public – is a stark, ugly-ass symbol of the fact that our culture still thinks that women ought to live in a state of deprivation, of secrecy, and of shame. It’s as though the image of the woman eating isn’t one we’re prepared to accept. It’s why we get our knickers in a twist at the fact Jennifer Lawrence professes to love cheeseburgers – because it’s still, apparently, revolutionary for a Hollywood starlet to actually eat real food (no T, no shade to J-Law, by the way) – and it’s why we have ever-increasing rates of eating disorders and obesity, all at the same time.

That’s a bitch of a paradox, no?

And it’s one that shows, loud and clear, that we messed up somewhere along the line – and we’ve got a lot of work to do to repair how women ought to feel about their bodies, their confidence, and their relationship with food.

The fact that 1200 calories-a-day is the great cultural myth of our time; the fact that there’s a multi-billion pound diet industry, spiralling anorexia and obesity rates, the Daily Mail, and of course, trolling, pathetic, weak-ass ‘hide-behind-a-camera-and-slag-’em-off-once-I’ve-run-away’ idiots on tubes – these things are linked because we made some serious errors of judgement in figuring out how, exactly, we see women.

So – let me break it down for anyone who’s still unsure.

It’s okay to eat in public, and I for one will continue to do so. I don’t mean to shock or disturb anyone, but that sandwich I’m eating in that picture? Finished it. About half an hour ago, as it happens. It was delicious.

This rule also applies to any mode of public transport you happen to be travelling on – and in fact, knowing myself, there’s a 60% chance I’m going to end up taking more tube journeys, and eating more sandwiches, just to prove this god damn point.

On the other hand, it is not okay to shame people you don’t know on the internet because they’re hungry and fancied a McDonalds. I mean, they’re my mortal enemy – but hell, some days you just want a Maccy D’s. If you do this, you’re a misogynist, a fat-shamer, and an asshat, and this is me shaming you.

And finally, it is not okay to shame, to judge, or to criticise people on their appearance. In any situation. Doing so makes you a relic, and someone who’ll be first up against the wall when my revolution comes.

And on that note – I’ve got fightin’ to do. Over and out.

Let’s Nip This Bikini Body Bullsh*t in the Bud, Shall We?

Let’s Nip This Bikini Body Bullsh*t in the Bud, Shall We?

Urgh. So, January came and went – and with it, the usual ‘New Year, New You’ tripe that tends to do the rounds in our annual carnival of self-loathing and despair. And I watched, shouting crazed anti-diet one-liners into the abyss (and running 30 Days […]

Review: Misfit Shine Activity Tracker

Review: Misfit Shine Activity Tracker

I’ve wanted to try out an activity tracker since way back – when Matt and I used to lament over the fact the Jawbone UP was inclined to crash, and that neither of us could afford one even if they weren’t. I mean – the […]

Review: Adidas Supernova Glide 6

Review: Adidas Supernova Glide 6

I’ll admit, I’ve never been all that into the idea of running shoes. It’s seemed to me that they’re a pretty expensive outlay for something like running – when, really, running’s just about getting out there and getting moving.

So my first few attempts at running were a little abortive – not least because, as I’ve mentioned, my ol’ knees aren’t exactly in the best shape after a whole bunch of major surgeries a few years ago. They hurt. Really hurt.

But being a skeptic – and also, being poor – I’d never really thought about buying ‘proper running shoes.’

However, once I started getting into the idea of running – having cancelled my gym membership to save some much-needed funds – I figured if there was ever a time to think about getting some better shoes, this would be it. Don’t get me wrong – my trusty ol’ Nike Air Max will always hold a place in my heart, but they’re a hefty shoe that’s far more suited to the weights area than the pavement, and they didn’t seem to be doing me any favours in my first attempts at getting out and about.

In other words – it was time.

And well-timed it was, too. As part of their Fashionably Fit campaign, the folks over at Sportshoes.com kindly offered to kit me out with some snazzy sneakers to get me on my way – and in a decision made in the exact mid-point between research and random guessing, I plumped for the impressively named Adidas Supernova Glide 6.

I’ll admit, it was partly because the description said ‘comparable to the functionality of an airplane’s landing gear.’ Sue me, but if I’m going to have bionic knees, I might as well attempt flight, too.

Adidas Supernova Glide 6 Review 2

Anyway, I had a feeling I’d made the right decision when they arrived at the promotional staffing agency I work for, only for a visiting Brand Ambassador to say ‘I worked on a campaign for those last year, and they are amazing’ and talk me through the benefits of ‘Boost technology’ – which means these shoes are designed to help you bounce back off the ground when you hit it.

Pretty cool, huh?

Still, it wasn’t until I got them home and tentatively lifted them out of the box that I found myself realising quite how different these shoes were going to be. For a start – they’re ridiculously light, weighing in at about half the weight of my usual kickers (despite being half a size bigger.) Even the laces seem to be designed with that in mind, and to the untrained eye (ie., mine) you’d imagine they were made of polystyrene, judging by their weight.

After all those years of knee braces and immobilisers, it’s sort of ingrained in me that to offer any kind of support, running shoes would have to be built out of solid rubber to actually do anything – so I’ll admit, I had my doubts over whether something that light could offer any real barrier between my lolloping self and concrete.

But the real surprise came on putting them on.

Man, these shoes are like walking on clouds. I’m not kidding – they’re the single most comfortable shoe I’ve ever owned. Although I’ll admit – I had to walk around my house wearing them for a few hours first, just to get to grips with how my legs would respond to them, because that Boost technology thing is no joke. You spring, in a way that really does take a bit of getting used to.

Turns out running shoes aren’t like regular shoes at all.

The next day, I hit the pavement – and, as I’ve said, it all started coming together. Rather than feeling like I was dragging myself along, bouncing forward felt more organic, and less like a form of torture – and the strain on my ol’ joints was definitely reduced. For all their ‘springiness,’ they also felt supportive and firm on my feet, which – to me – is a great combination.

As an addenda to all the practicalities, they also look cute. I live in the city, so if I’m running somewhere, chances are I’ll have to journey on home in them afterwards – like yesterday, after the Sport Relief Games. And if that’s the case, I like my trainers to fit in with the rest of my outfit – and these do that pretty damn well.

In short, these trainers are one of the best things I’ve ever reviewed – they’re comfortable, practical and they look damn fine (in keeping with the rest of me, of course.) I’m a convert to the way of the running shoe – and I think these Glides are a great first pair.

Tiny Miracles; or, I’m Not Sure Exactly What Just Happened

Tiny Miracles; or, I’m Not Sure Exactly What Just Happened

Be warned, right off the bat: if you’re not into slightly emotional, flashback-tastic posts, this one probably ain’t for you. But hell – I’m feeling a bit ‘mosh today, after running a 3-miler for Sport Relief – so you’ll have to excuse me, but it’s […]

Baby Steps; or, Holy Moly I’m Starting to Like Running

Baby Steps; or, Holy Moly I’m Starting to Like Running

As part of my year of trying new things, I’ve been making my first attempts at running. Like I said, I’m a girl who doesn’t run – and never has. Even before those four knee surgeries, I was the fat girl who’d go out of […]

Apparently, My Relationship Status is Super Interesting; or, Go Forth and Love Thyself

Apparently, My Relationship Status is Super Interesting; or, Go Forth and Love Thyself

I know some awesome women.

I really, really do.

I know women who fit and defy every definition. I know women who make their personal life choices from every which way. My phone book is a directory of awesomeness, and my Twitter feed is a spectrum of joy and wonder.

And I keep being asked whether I’m single.

Man.

Let me answer this simply, and for (hopefully) the last time for a while: yes.

Yes, I am single. And no, it’s not because I haven’t met the right person yet. It’s not because I’m not looking in the right places. It’s not because I work too hard, and I don’t plan for it to ‘happen when I least expect it,’ and frankly – it  just ain’t a thing.

Except, y’know – as soon as you say it’s not a thing, people think… it’s a thing. Apparently more so than ever, at the moment, when I’ve had a few (very kind, but maybe a tiny bit misguided) emails from people asking me to review their dating companies on here.

I know.

Now, there are two reasons I haven’t written about my relationship status around these parts previously. First up, I write here as the chronic oversharer – the girl who strips to her pants and gets a bit sweary to make a point about a douche canoe on the telly that she’s never met. So, y’know, there’s a point at which my business is mine – and I figured keeping my single-or-not-ness in the realms of the ol’ private life counteracts the naked-on-the-internet part.

But secondly – it just hasn’t really occurred to me that it’d be a question.

It’s not something I ask people, and I don’t tend to wonder about it until they bring it up – because I go about taking people as I find ’em. Just them.

So it’s been a bit of a surprise to me, as I’ve been doing more press, and getting a bit more ‘out there’ that it’s suddenly a thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A couple of people have asked just out of curiosity, mostly in response to me bitching about my rent – as a ‘maybe if you’re attached, that’s a potential solution’ kinda deal. That’s fine. That’s a practical thing.

But more and more frequently, I’m asked it as a Big Question. A personality profiling exercise that’s asked to ‘figure me out.’

And that’s got me wondering about two things.

First up – is the logical ending to the ‘weight loss transformation’ story the ‘happily ever after’?

The short answer, from where I see it, is no.

I’m good. Not just good, in fact, but awesome – and my own journey to this whole ‘healthy’ affair has been purely for me. Sure, the catalyst – or at least one of ’em – was the end of a bad relationship that made me realise I’d been leaning on someone else in search of my own personal happiness – but it was never the case that I wanted to get healthy to ‘find someone else.’

I got healthy, and – more importantly, learned to love myself – and the person I found was me. Me, happier, and more secure in my own ability to create my own lil’ patch of joy.

And I think that’s really, really important whenever you’re thinking about making any kind of change. If you’re aiming to lose weight, get fit, shave your head or get a nose job for anyone else – anyone at all – you’re not going to reap the happiness you ought to out of it. It just doesn’t work like that.

The only person you should ever be aiming to make happy with any kind of physical change… Is you.

And also – why would I be a better candidate for a relationship now I’m thinner?

…I’m just going to let that one hang there a rhetorical question. Because it’s bullshit.

So that’s the first question answered.

But the other one bothers me slightly more, and it’s this: do we ask the relationship question so we can get people figured out? And in that case… Why?

Now, I refer you once again to my awesome homegirls mentioned at the top o’the page.  Some of them are awesome single women. Some of them are equally awesome and married. Some are attached (and awesome), some are in kinda-casual-let’s-figure-out-a-definition-later kinda situations (awesome), and some of them I genuinely do not know, because I haven’t asked. You guessed it: they’re still awesome. And as for their sexual preferences: their business.

The thing about all these awesome women, though, is that there’s one thing that unites each and every one of them.

They’re all complete in themselves, just the way they are – with that whole relationship question being a lifestyle choice, not a definition. If they’re coupled up, it’s because they happen to know a person they’d like to hang out with some of the time, or all of the time, or just occasionally after a few beers. And if they’re single, it’s ’cause they’re just not all that fussed. That’s all.

It strikes me – more so, these days, when apparently the impending still-a-few-years-away-but-people-keep-bringing-it-up-Big Three-O means I’m the target of The Relationship Question – that it’s another box to check. Another set of rules to follow, and another set of conventions to be lumped in with – a trap that’s all too easy to fall into, if you’re so inclined.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Regardless of your relationship status, sexuality, gender or whatever – the most important thing in the world is still how you feel about you. It’s a matter of being complete in your own self, and knowing you’re capable of any form of happiness you choose to style out – in short, it’s about loving yourself, everything else be damned.

It seems to me, in fact that right there, in that zen place of ‘I got this’ – that’s the intersection at which positive body image, feminism, and a healthy attitude to the good life meet.

And it’s got precisely diddly squat to do with anyone else.

I have no doubt that this won’t be the last time I answer the question, and I can’t predict what the answer will be at different times in my life – because hell, sometimes I might want to hang out with someone. Sometimes I might not. But it doesn’t matter, and it won’t – because I got this. I’m me. I’m good.

And dammit, if you’re reading this – I’d bet’cha you’re pretty awesome too. So go out into the world, and represent – not for the singles, or the marrieds, or whatever else – but for you, as a person.

Go forth, and love thyself.

Hot Stuff: Adventures in Hot Pilates

Hot Stuff: Adventures in Hot Pilates

As part of my ‘trying new things’ kick, I was invited to attend a Hot Pilates class, courtesy of the lovely folks over at simplyhealth. I’ve never really been one for Pilates, being more of a yogini myself – but spending 40 hours a week […]

Trust No-One; or, That Time I Was Offered Money To Flog Diet Pills

Trust No-One; or, That Time I Was Offered Money To Flog Diet Pills

I hate diet pills. Hate ’em. And recently, I was approached by a certain diet pill manufacturer offering me a pretty hefty amount of money to plug them on here.  By hefty, I mean more than my salary. Considerably more. Enough to give this perpetually-poor […]

The Year of Trying New Things

The Year of Trying New Things

It’s been over a year since I made my big move to the big smoke – and what a year it’s been. I’ve been really lucky to have landed on my feet – ending up with a job I love, a house that I’m glad to come home to (even if it is a little worse for wear), and most importantly – I’ve made some incredible friends. Including one I’ve just been to visit, living in the manor pictured above.

I know, right?

Needless to say I’ve come back – after a nine mile country walk, I might add – feeling very zen, and a lil’ bit philosophical.

I’m grateful to finally feel properly settled here in my new home – which is starting to really feel like that, rather than ‘some place I live for work’ – because for various reasons, it’s not exactly been an easy year. A lot of things going on beyond my control means I’ve been living pretty intensely over the last twelve months, so this sense of normality is a genuine relief – and I intend to enjoy it.

…Sort of.

See, being the kind of frustrating person that I am, I’ve reached this settled point – and now I’m itching to change it up.  Not in the big ‘full life overhaul’ way – mostly ’cause all those big things like my job, and my house, have fallen nicely into place. But having been a bit under the weather recently, and feeling a lil’ settled… I’m ready to make some changes.

So I’ve decided: 2014 is going to be the year I try new things.

See, I’ve got this fitness thing pretty much figured out – but having been doing variations on a weights ‘n’ walkin’ theme for the best part of four years, I’m kinda ready for… Well, new stuff.

So last week, I made my first step towards it. I made an attempt – drum roll please – to run.

To help you understand that for the big ass freakin’ deal it is, let me give y’all a bit of backstory on my history with running.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’ve always been a fat girl. So when people say ‘you could run as a child, it’s just a matter of re-learning it,’ strictly speaking… That ain’t true. I was more at home in front of a book, and the only time I recall attempting to run when I wasn’t actually being forced to, I tripped on a paving slab and hit the deck with such force I broke both my front teeth.

So I didn’t run. And in PE class, I’d go out of my way to escape it. I’d fake a stitch, perform an impressive pratfall, or just get a sicknote for ‘period pains,’ and thus never actually run. I may not be Usain Bolt, but nobody, nowhere, gets to argue with the fact that I can be resourceful in getting outta exercise.

Then, I broke my knees, gained ten stone, and found myself unable to walk for three years – only to re-learn, slowly, lose the weight, and find myself where I am now: fit, healthy, a lil’ bit fat by stupid-ass magazine standards, and still definitely not a runner.

But damn. I don’t know if it’s the city, or the fact that I’ve not had the internet for a few weeks, or whether it’s just some kind of weird primal urge – but I’ve been fantasising about running. I’ve had a couple of dreams about it; I’ve been scoping out routes; I’ve just been thinking about how nice it’d be to feel my heart pounding in the crisp spring air.

It’s bloody weird, and it’s kinda freaking me out – but the way I see it, I’ve got no other option. I’ve got to give it a try.

Now, it just so happens, too, that my gym membership expired yesterday – and being six runs into the ‘couch to 5k’ programme, I’m feeling pretty optimistic. Nothing’s broken – yet – and my knees seem to be holdin’ up. Not only that, but I’m in a better mood on the days I’ve been out and about – so that’s a boost, and one I’m really lovin’.

And it’s not just running I’m trying out. I’ve recently been sent a couple of awesome things to review – which is amazing, because my bank account is feeling a lil’ tender after Christmas (yes, still) so anything that saves a girl having to hustle is a-ok by me.

So I’m trying out something called a MisFit Shine – a snazzy lil’ tracker that measures your activity over the course of a day – and last night, I made my first attempt at creating a green juice after the folks at John Lewis very kindly furnished me with a juicer to play with. So far, so delicious:

Juice

And next week, I’m hitting up a hot pilates class for the first time – so my horizons are going to be well and truly broadened over the next month, I can tell you.

I want to try new things, and gain new experiences, because there are a million ways to get active out there – all of which will appeal to different people. There are so many diet brands and so-called gurus out there who’ll tell you there’s only one way to get healthy – which just so happens to be their way, retailing at £99 – that it’s easy to overlook the joy of just doing healthy things for the heck of it.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who – at this time of year, when it starts to be lighter in the mornings, and the air seems fresher with something like potential – gets the urge to do something different. You don’t have to be thin, or perfect, or even all-that-fit to try new things, fitness-wise – you’ve just got to be an optimist, and up for a challenge.

In other words, you’ve got to be prepared to fall on your ass, and ready to pick yourself up when you do.

So join me. Try new things. Do more good stuff. And love every minute – ’cause when you get out there with a positive attitude, I’m pretty sure you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

Q&A: What Does ‘Processed Food’ Mean, Anyway?

Q&A: What Does ‘Processed Food’ Mean, Anyway?

I get asked this question all the time – and the ‘right answer’ depends on where you’re coming from, and how strictly you want to manage your nutrition. Personally, I’m lazy, and short on time, so a girl’s gotta hustle – and that means my […]

Diet, or Disordered Eating?

Diet, or Disordered Eating?

First up – I’m really sorry. I’ve been a terrible blogger of late, thanks to a combination of long hours at work and a really gross winter bug. But I’m back, y’all – and while I’ve been lying around feeling sorry for myself, I’ve done […]

The Psychology of Extremes; or, Why Diet Language is Making Us Sick

The Psychology of Extremes; or, Why Diet Language is Making Us Sick

Get a cup of tea, guys. This is likely to be a long ‘un.

You ready?

Okay.

It’s been a bad week for international bullshit connoisseurs and my long-standing nemesis, the diet industry. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a moment to rub my hands together gleefully to prepare my typin’ fingers. Feel free to join in, if you feel so inclined.

Now: first up, and so I can publicise this a lil’ more than it has been – Dr. Pierre Dukan, of Dukan Diet fame, has been struck off the French medical register for peddling what can only be described as dangerously unhealthy quick fix quack-toolery that studies are increasingly suggesting causes kidney stones, and all sorts of other renal diseases. Oh, and also ’cause he wanted to fat shame kids.

One word, you guys: asshat.

In the interests of full disclosure – in darker times, I tried the Dukan Diet. My old housemate and I gave it a damned good shot, for about three weeks – which shows some serious willpower living an experience that I can only assume is a lil’ like going through a war. I lost about 20lbs, and gained bad breath, horrible skin, frizzy hair, fatigue, headaches – oh, and about 22lbs, shortly after. So I’d like to think that constitutes a very scientific real life study, on my part.

That news goes nicely with Wednesday’s BBC2 Horizon show, Sugar vs. Fat, which I’d strongly recommend you watch, ’cause it caused me to do some serious fistbumps. The gist was that some (quite cute – ahem) twin doctors each tried diets that cut out sugar (or, rather, carbs – which metabolise into sugars) and fat, respectively.

They concluded – after a whole bunch of tests – that cutting out either sugar or fat on the whole is a terrible idea. Both will make you sick, in different ways – so don’t do it.

Seriously. Don’t.

Their advice was thus: you’re more likely to stay healthy and live well if you minimise the amount of processed foods that you eat, and don’t buy into any ridiculous fad diets.

I hate to say I told you so. I really do. I’m British, after all. But come on guys – how long have Matt and I been saying things to that effect?

(It’s two years, FYI. That question ain’t rhetorical.)

Now, they also touched upon the fact that sugar and fat, combined in the right ratios, create that ‘taste sensation’ that makes us go all soft and gooey for the ol’ processed foods – like donuts, cookies, pizza, and so on – which is what makes them so compulsively damn delicious. This isn’t exactly news – and if you’re interested in this kind of thing I’d strongly recommend reading Dr. David Kessler’s ‘The End of Overeating’ which basically concludes:

Chronic exposure to highly palatable foods changes our brains, conditioning us to seek continued stimulation. Over time a powerful drive for sugar, fat and salt competes with our conscious capacity to say no.

Let’s talk about that first word: chronic. I don’t believe in extreme dieting, and I don’t believe you should ever have to entirely cut out anything from your diet unless it’s medically advised (by a real doctor – not Monsieur Dukan). I do, however, believe – along with Dr. Kessler and Dr. Jepp, quoted in the Horizon documentary – that we live in a society that makes it incredibly difficult to avoid hyper-processed foods. It’s all too easy to choose unhealthy, quick options than healthy, nutritious ones – and it’s something you have to actively think about, and more often than not, plan in advance.

However.

I think there is a dangerous rhetoric around this well-intentioned logic that can do more harm than good – because it’s still buying into a psychology of extremes. The word ‘chronic’ means long-term, or habitual – so once in a while, treating yourself to something that’s got that sugar/fat combo won’t really do you any harm.

I’ve talked at length about the way our language around our bodies colours the way we see ourselves, and interact with the world around us – and I think there’s a lot to be said for the language we use around food and exercise, too.

We talk about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods; we ‘cut out’ food groups, or ‘never’ eat, say, processed foods – and when we do, we declare ourselves ‘failures’ and run headlong into a two month binge.

We injure ourselves diving headlong into workouts we found on Pinterest, and we try to go from couch potato to marathon runner, only to end up hobbling back to the couch.

And we’re disappointed when we only lose 2lbs a week – even though 2lbs a week can mean over 100lbs in a year. And – as I’ve said many times before – we ‘hate’ our bodies, because they ain’t perfect.

In other words, the pervasive language of extremes – the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that the diet industry thrives upon – is screwing us all out of a healthy lifestyle. And this, to me, is the ‘ticking timebomb’ nobody’s talking about.

I mean, another study published this week claimed that physical inactivity is on the rise in the UK – with inactivity defined as ‘less than 30 minutes of exercise per week.’ But I think we – culturally – need to redefine our idea of exercise. You don’t have to be doing a Biggest Loser style training session or running an ultra-marathon to be improving your health.

Hell – the catalyst for me losing half my body weight was walking, one painful step at a time. I’d still falter at what those Biggest Loser contestants go through, even now.

But unfortunately, as I’ve said many a time, extreme language is what makes it so attractive, and such an easy sell. Just like nobody ever sold a product (except maybe Ronseal) by saying ‘it does exactly what it should do, and that’s about it,’ there’s no hook to ‘everything in moderation.’ And the ‘wow’ factor in ‘I lost 130lbs over two years,’ is a lot less likely to draw in a person who’s stuck in diet-language than ‘I lost half my body weight in two months’ (unless we’re talking about me, obviously. I’m wow factor to the bone.

But moderation, and long-term good health, is something you’ve gotta take on trust. A happy, good life isn’t one of extremes (thank gawd) – it’s one of day-by-day positive choices, occasional treats and the million tiny lil’ boring, unglamorous, quietly imperfect things that make life worth living.

So don’t fall into the rhetoric of extremes, and please – for god’s sake – don’t diet. It ain’t worth it. Instead, make moderation cool. Exercise a lil’, eat things that make you feel good – and make happiness something that happens while you’re living, rather than after you’re perfect.

‘Cause chances are, the second you give up diet language, you’ll realise you’re already pretty damn perfect as you are.

A Mini-Manifesto For Things That Should Be Totally Freakin’ Obvious

A Mini-Manifesto For Things That Should Be Totally Freakin’ Obvious

So this evening, I got really wound up, and exploded. As you do. Because I’m getting ever more exasperated with this ridiculous god damn asshat-ridden world in which apparently ‘everyone being nice to themselves and each other’ is a foreign concept – and the idea […]

A Beautiful Alternative to Shame Culture (In Which I Vandalise Magazines)

A Beautiful Alternative to Shame Culture (In Which I Vandalise Magazines)

I hate trashy magazines. And I particularly hated the recent Now magazine cover – as you’ll probably know, if you follow me on Twitter, because it caused me to fly into such a rage my poor ol’ Mum ended up having to bring me a […]