BACK SOON

BACK SOON

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So You’re Trapped Inside Your House

So You’re Trapped Inside Your House

So, err… It’s been a while. And honestly, I had no plans to resurrect this blog, in the immediate future – but these are exceptional times we’re living in… Right? If you’re not freaked out, you’re not paying attention – etc etc. A brief update […]

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 of things – but it happened to me, and I’m a self-involved kinda person, so let’s go with it.

Let’s start, also, with the fact that in many ways, this last year has been gorgeous, chock full of perfect moments. My sister got married to a man she loves, and who loves her, and it was a beautiful wedding – the kind of day you can’t help but smile over whenever it comes to mind.

Specifically: dancing maniacally to Bohemian Rhapsody at 1am in trainers and a bridesmaid’s dress, clutching an inflatable guitar, with my Mum, Dad, and of course, the bride and groom. I mean, I felt kinda bad for outshining the bride with my incredible moves, but I can’t help it. I’m an icon.

I’ve also moved into my very own little flat, way out of London, which has wooden beams and a log fire, and a bed in a little hidden away nook. Ignoring the fact that I am rapidly coming to discover spiders enjoy living in and around wooden beams and log fires, it’s perfect. I wake up here, and I make myself a coffee in my tiny little kitchen, and feel like I’m home.

And I’ve seen all the things you want to see for the people around you, too. Like, romances, and new jobs, and gorgeous lil’ babies, and so on. All that montage-worthy stuff Louis Armstrong was singing about.

So it’s not been all bad.

But damn, it’s not exactly been a vintage year for your girl Katie.

Months, and months, and months of sickness; long, exhausting hours of not being able to get out of bed – not even really able to move, because my brain feels like it’s melting out of my eyes. The last twelve months, for me, are defined largely by a six month period when I threw up all the time (and I do mean all the time) and another three-plus months of chronic, world-ending migraine headaches.

With that, plus a bunch of other inconveniences, aches, and downright sad feelings, I forgot all the things I thought I knew to be true.

Because it’s not easy to be a fierce, powerful woman in control of her shit when you’re having an anxiety attack because you think you’re going to faint on the tube. Even harder, when you do, and have to spend three days in hospital as a result.

It’s definitely not easy to love your body when nausea and aching bones keep you up in the night, and then make getting out of bed seem about as doable as my winning gold at Rio. Not gonna happen, unless eating cake is now an olympic sport, in which case: Team GB, hit me up.

And it’s hard to extol the virtues of a healthy diet and three-times-a-week workouts when standing in the kitchen makes you feel like you’re being repeatedly beaten in the back of the head with a tree branch… So you eat toast, and go back to bed. Again.

Given I’m someone who’s been pretty open about dragging my ass through periods in which my mental health hasn’t been so hot, I don’t think there’s any need for me to elaborate on the ways that particular beast reared its ugly head during this last couple o’ seasons.

Lord o’ Lord o’ Lord. It’s been laugh-a-minute.

Then – when things finally started to get better – the Worst Week happened. Over a four day period, I put myself in hospital, once again hitting the deck in a very public place (though I did come out with a diagnosis for one of my many symptoms – so, you know, there’s that.) The next day, another member of my family had some news about her health that we’re all still reeling from, months down the line… The kind of thing you can only ache over.

Just to cap off the week, the next night my Dad put himself in hospital, with an awful case of pneumonia from a cold I Definitely Gave Him (sorry Dad). In the time he was in there, we were told it was a heart attack, and then it wasn’t, and then they didn’t really know – with the rest of us hanging around uselessly offering tea and hiding in the shower at every opportunity.

Y’all. ‘Twas the worst of times. So far, so grim.

And then, just when I’d given up on expecting it – when I’d pretty much written off the concept of it… Life started coming back.

At first, small things began to make life better. New medications began to click. Symptoms began to ease off, one by one. Nausea, first. My heart rate slowed down to a rate that didn’t feel like I had a scared bird living in my chest. And then, the headaches – which are now more of a fortnightly thing than, say, a twice-a-day terror.

Then, even smaller things.

An unexpected major chord in a sad song. A sunbeam on a day that was all cloud. A beautiful phrase in a hard-going book. The things that make you sit up and wonder if they’re what life’s really about.

Now, I’ll be honest – finding these things was almost as scary as losing them, before. Which is why, up ’til now – even though it’s been a gradual thing over, say, two or three months – I’ve kept it to myself. I haven’t really admitted it to myself, come to think of it.

But last weekend, I was unpacking the very last box brought over from my house move. I had a glass of wine in hand, and I was singing along to Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get It On being my go-to karaoke tune, in case you’re wondering.) I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular… Just living.

I cracked open that last box to find no fewer than sixteen types of supplements I’d bought, each offering me another solution. I found thirty foils of different types of painkillers, sleeping tablets, anti-sickness medications, each offering some form of relief.

Seeing these things, I remembered weekends when I’d only left the house to buy painkillers. When I’d had to stop, half-way, because I couldn’t walk the five minutes down the street to the pharmacy. When the half-way point was a coffee shop, but I couldn’t go in, because I couldn’t risk being sick in the queue.

I felt an echo of those days – that creeping dread, the inescapable feeling that this particular moment was forever – and then blinked. There I was, sitting in my new house, Marvin Gaye making way for Stevie Wonder (another classic on my own personal karaoke playlist), a cool evening breeze passing through.

And I realised, the world had put itself back together again. Or, more accurately: the amazing people around me had propped me up long enough for me to see it’d been there, waiting for me, the whole time.

Sure, things are a little different. I’m not exactly a health icon, for one thing (though if you’re wondering – still flawless, still giving Beyoncé the occasional run for her money, still iconic). But – as I said to my Mum the next day:

“You know what?”

“What?”

“I’m actually feeling kind of normal again. Like, happy.”

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 […]

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 watching Grey’s Anatomy.

What can I say? I just love drama.

If you haven’t seen it, lemme fill you in: Food Babe, aka Vani Hari, is an anti-GMO, anti-flu-jab, anti-food-additives activist who runs the “Food Babe Army,” and has a bit of a habit of making what might kindly be described as “inadequately researched” claims about food.

Science Babe, aka Yvette D’Entremont, wrote a piece on Gawker called “The Food Babe is Full of Shit,” which said… Well, basically that.

This, naturally, was followed by a response by Food Babe – which I’m also going to link to, although anyone who’ll cite a letter that makes unverified claims about someone on a personal level as proof that their arguments are wrong makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

Still, in the interests of balance – you can find that here.

Also in the news this week, you’ve got a man who appears to be a demon hybrid of all that is wrong with this argument, the one and only Dr. Oz.

The man has been called out by the medical community on numerous occasions – including by the British Medical Journal, who stated that 50% of his information has no basis in fact – for peddling what can only be described as “bullshit.” Yet he’s also a doctor – “America’s Doctor,” in fact.

So: you’ve got a scientist, an activist, and a doctor – all offering you conflicting information.

Of course, this ain’t new – but it does quite nicely crystallise an issue that’s been bothering me for some time.

I’m pro-science, and I’m pro-medicine – but I’m also pro-clean eatin’, for the pure and simple fact that I retain water like a cactus (and become a goddamn prickly bitch) when I eat processed foods. I’m not, however, pro-Dr. Oz, or pro-Food-Babe, despite their being an overlap in what we’d consider good food – and the internet, for all its wonders, makes finding verifiable science something of a minefield.

We’re absolutely bombarded with conflicting information presented as the truth on a near constant basis. You can Google anything and find arguments for and against it. Dairy, gluten, alcohol, sugar, fat, carbs, protein, supplements, shakes, cardio, weights – for every 10 arguments for all these things, you’ll find 10 arguments against ’em. Quite often these are backed up by science on either side… Even if their reference source is a study funded by a vested interest, or a footnote in an obscure journal article from 1982.

So information-wise, it’s near enough impossible to work out where to start.

But there’s an economic aspect to this, too. I live in London, one of the most expensive (and amazing) cities in the world – where you’ll find both incredible fast food joints on the one hand, and £9 cold-pressed juices on the other. You’ve got people living on whatever they can afford on a minimal weekly budget, living around the corner from organic, mega-healthy stores that’ll charge you £3 for a potato.

I earn enough – not loads, but enough (and not from blogging, I’d like to add – this ol’ thing has earned me a whopping £16 in the last six months) – to be able to eat well, and make healthy choices… But I certainly can’t afford to buy my weekly shop from places like that, and I’m not even sure I would if I could.

Yet, were certain areas of the internet to be believed, I’m probably damaging my health by not investing in these premium foods – so hell, why bother trying? Essentially, it’s like the ugly cousin of diet logic – the idea that if you don’t live perfectly, according to all the rules set out by whatever plan you’re following, you’re doing it wrong. It’s flawed, and it’s damaging, and it’s rigged to set you up for a fall.

The big question, then, is… How do you find the path to health? And how do you draw out credibility from a million and one sources?

Quite frankly… I don’t know, short of reading as much up-to-date scientific literature as you can get yo’ hands on – but for the time poor (self included) that’s easier said than done.

What I do know is that I’ve been convinced of many things over my long, long, still continuing journey towards good health – having heard compelling arguments from both sides of pretty much every story. Hell – those very arguments have thrown me off course, and pushed me back on it again, and then chucked me onto another course, on more occasions than I can count.

But I’ll give you the benefit of my experience here, and tell you one thing I know for absolute certain: you should question anyone that tells you there’s one way to get healthy, or live well, or be happy – because quite frankly, there ain’t.

Everyone’s different, and that’s a glorious thing – but it means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to good health. The only thing you can guarantee works is the thing that makes your life better. For me, personally, that’s avoiding processed foods, liftin’ weights, and doing yoga. For my no.1 homegirl, it’s walkin’ and spin – the latter being my personal idea of hell, most of the time.

The only way to know what works for you is to try things, and build your own lifestyle around what makes you feel good – and what’s achievable for you. Try things, test ideas, and draw your own conclusions as to what makes you happy – and when you work out what that is, bask in it.

If finding the path to good health in your life means switching out the occasional chocolate bar for an apple, or cooking a meal from scratch a couple o’times a week – that’s awesome. If it means not eating meat, or eating more meat, or whatever – good for you. If it improves your life, and the way you find yo’ path to health, then homie – I am delighted for you. Great job.

Have confidence in the things that make you happy, and that make your life better. Listen to others, and allow them to choose their own path – but don’t be shaken by people who think the right arguments are the loudest. And for god’s sake, don’t believe everything you read – even if I wrote it. (Hell, especially if I wrote it. I write a lot o’stuff after wine, is all I’m sayin’.)

Where you can, ask questions. Use science.

And above all: listen to your body. It knows what’s right for you far, far better than some stranger on the internet – so trust in the things that bring you, and you alone, the joy of good health.

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 […]

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:

WTF

Apparently, I’m so savvy I discovered this little-known cellular “switch,” without even realising it. Every day really is a school day.

Naturally, once I’d pulled my jaw off the floor, I followed the link to a website called “Start Beta Reduction Now,” and was greeted with a video by a woman called Sue Heintze, described on her Twitter page as “Former figure competitor, mum to gorgeous Kyah, & MD of Australia’s premier online fitness site for women.”

Bitch, please. You may have something of a reputation for being a trainer, a fitness competitor, and yadda yadda yadda – but this just ain’t cool. At best, it’s spam marketing, and at worst, it’s a cynical ploy to make money out of someone else’s insecurities by stealing images not only from me, but by the looks of things, a whole number of people who’ve shared their before and after photos with the world.

Either way, it’s asshattery, pure and simple. And boy, did you pick the wrong anti-bullshit-diet-blogger to mess with – because a) I don’t believe in selling people diets, and b) I turned down actual cash last year for someone to use my images on their product, so you can whistle if you think I’m cool with you doing it for free.

Let’s start from the site itself. You can tell it’s, like, totally legit, because their Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy pages both go through to their ClickBank Order form, where you can input your credit card details to – and I quote – “literally, flip the switch.” Like, literally.

Having given up on the T&Cs, I decided to go back and watch the video. Y’all should understand, this was somewhat painful for me, because anything that’s “absolutely guaranteed” to help me lose weight gives me an ache in my soul not unlike stepping on a plug. I’ve ended up clenching my teeth so hard I think I’ve broken my jaw.

She talks about her struggles with body image, with bullimia, with obsessive calorie counting – all things that have been widely linked with the diet industry – whilst using an actual lie to encourage others to pay her money to follow her diet.  She actually says her system will help women to escape negative body image, whilst using images throughout the video that imply that fat is bad, thin is good. These two slides follow each other directly:

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 11.13.54

Then this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 11.18.16

Damn, y’all. It’s like I’m being trolled. Even more so once I reached this part:

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 11.18.42

Because, y’know, the way to escape negative body image is by constantly comparing yourself to other women and encouraging a culture of snarking and bitchery. Riiiiiiight.

It’s just so short-sighted, and so utterly complicit in everything that’s wrong with diet culture that I’m not sure I even have words to describe it. Except, y’know, I totally do.

Sue, you may have struggled with negative body image in the past, and sure, you might want to help women feel better about themselves – I appreciate that. Maybe you do think you’re doing the right thing.

But your whole product, the marketing behind it, the fat fear-mongering and the importance of what other women think of your butt over your own personal happiness, and the fact that you’re using “proof” that quite clearly isn’t? Girl, you need to take a step back and think about what you’re doing.

I know we’ve all gotta make a buck, and hell – I probably could sell my wares online and not have to work, but I don’t want to, because I’m not going to be a part of perpetuating diet culture – and I refuse to let you make me a part of your money-making scheme. If you can charge $325 an hour for personal training, as your video clearly states, then you sure as hell shouldn’t need to be stealing my photos to drum up interest in what you do.

The idea that there’s a single solution to weight loss, and that you have it (the reference for the science to back this up, by the way, was an image of a book that said “Medical Journal” on the cover – I ain’t no PhD student, but… Wait. Scratch that) is a myth, perpetuated again and again by people trying to make money out of the insecurities of others. And by suggesting that weight loss is the solution to negative body image, you’re completely missing the mark – because sure, you might feel a little better when you’re slimmer, but learning to love your body is a mindset change, not one that comes about once you’ve got a “smooth, firm butt.”

I can safely say, as an honorary representative of your product, that you’re peddling some absolute bullshit here, Sue. You need to go back, think about your life and where you come from, and make a decision as to whether you’re going to be a part of an industry that results in 35% of dieters progressing to pathological dieting, and 20-25% of those developing full-blown eating disorders like the one you say you struggled with.

If, given all that, you still want to be that person, then fine – you go right ahead. But I’m having no part of it – so cease and desist the hell out of using my photos, and feel free to compensate me with a sum that I’ll donate to BEAT immediately to try to balance out what you’re putting out there.

Karma’s a bitch, eh?

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.) […]

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 […]

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, called Linda Kelsey, who proudly took the opportunity to display her credentials (?) with the passion and vigour of someone who’s just realised how ridiculously fun being a troll can be.

The piece was entitled “Why are today’s young women so unashamed about being fat? Horrified by the rolls of flesh she’s witnessed on show this summer, Linda Kelsey takes no prisoners.”

She’s horrified. Poor Linda.

In short, her piece was about obesity, and the fact that if you’re fat, you should probably be miserable. She pointed out an example of a bunch of young girls heading on holiday, who had the audacity to be having fun, despite being – brace yourselves – a bit fat.

Linda, understandably, was shocked at what she saw – presumably, she’d been under the impression that fat people a) don’t have fun, except when they’re a token fat caricature on TV, and b) shouldn’t have fun in summer, because it’s inconsiderate to those who have to witness such a display.

I hate to break it to you, Linda – but the internet thinks you’re an asshat.

While my Twitter timeline seemed to erupt into endless comments about her own appearance – I’m not going to go down that road, tempting as it may be. I mean, I think her opinions are hideous, and wrong – but I don’t believe two wrongs make a right. I don’t believe tearing her apart because she, also, doesn’t look like the media ideal, will do anyone any good here.

(That said, Linda – if you’d like to see what I do think of people like you, please click here for an example from last year. Although be warned – my body’s on there, and you’re likely to find it horrifying. And so we’re clear, although I’m not going to say anything about your appearance, I reserve every right to pull out any other insult I choose, because I can.)

Anyway – Linda is a gross example of body shaming in the media – but to her credit, at least she’s up front about the fact that she’s a fat-shaming turd trumpet. What you see is what you get, with Linda – and from reading her article, I see a click-baiting grinch with a chip on her shoulder and an axe to grind.

Ahem.

Anyway, what with it being summer time, the backing band to Linda’s up-front body shaming comes in the form of the usual suspects – the vile, fundamentally offensive women’s magazines like Reveal, Now, and Heat – who spend every summer comparing ‘beach bodies,’ using words like ‘thinspiration,’ and (I kid you not) ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ to describe women who are just trying to have a nice time on their jollies. Women who, I might add, have the ‘enviable’ bodies that they’re supposed to ‘flaunt provocatively’ on the beach, according to the aforementioned source of all that is shaming, the Daily Mail.

Turns out, as women – we can’t win.

There is no perfect body, because some asshat with a long-lens camera and a poor grasp of the concept of proof-reading may be lurking in the bushes, waiting for you to bend in an unflattering way – and there’s no acceptable way to have fun if you’re overweight, because there’s always the risk of a nearby columnist with a stick up her arse waiting for something new to be offended by.

But why? Why is this kind of stranger-shaming acceptable, even in magazines and newspapers with circulation figures in the millions?

I mean – I’m a fat girl. And I’ve met, spoken to, and had genuinely a-ok conversations with journalists from across the board, both online and face-to-face – and as far as I’m aware, nobody’s yet come out and called me a repulsive fatty with a hideous bikini body. Yet.

(Just so we’re clear – I don’t think that about myself. I don’t own a bikini, but hell, if I did – Beyoncé’d rapidly be outta business through my booty confidence alone.)

So if it’s not a conversation they’d have with someone face-to-face – what makes it OK to put it on paper?

Why is it acceptable to say cruel, offensive things about people you don’t know, just for clicks? And at what point do you start putting one of these articles together without thinking ‘wait a minute – is this hurtful?’ Because hell, if you’re putting things out there without considering the implications – particularly if you’re doing it in the faux-concerned sneering way so common in discussions around obesity and women’s bodies – then you’re not a journalist. You’re a troll.

And nowhere is that clearer than in Linda Kelsey’s Daily Mail piece, in which she couches being downright offensive with a sprinkling of facts.

“The proportion of overweight and obese women has increased by 10  per cent in less than a decade,” she writes, alongside “bulging bellies and billowing pillows of back and shoulder stuffing, punctured by flabby arms and lardy legs that no amount of fake-tan could disguise.”

“Type 2 diabetes, linked to being overweight, is on the increase and more children are suffering from it,” she says, a couple of paragraphs after her nasty-ass descriptions of “young fatties confidently flashing their flesh.”

According to Linda, there isn’t a cross-over with women struggling with ‘real’ eating disorders like anorexia, and women who engage in disordered eating habits which cause them to be overweight. By the same token, being both fat and happy is a crime – and presumably, that one time when Linda saw them in the airport is wholly representative of the way these women feel about themselves all the time, making them serial offenders against the Fat Girl Acceptability Code.

It’s just opinion dressed up as journalism – and it’s a big, ugly example of what’s become acceptable in a world of body shaming that completely misunderstands what the human body does.

Because it changes. Bodies fluctuate between different weights, and how you feel about your body will change from day to day. Saying that fat people are all the same, all the time, is like saying blondes are dumb, buying into bullshit stereotypes that get nobody anywhere.

And not only that – but it shows a god damned lack of empathy and human understanding, which – in a world where that’s sorely lacking anyway, given the amount of times I’ve seen dead children on the news over the last few weeks – means you need to do some thinking about what’s really worth writing about.

It seems to me that one of the great truths of life is thus: be kind to people, even if you don’t know them.

You’ve only got so much time on this planet to do something worthwhile – and if the sum of your achievements is getting a rise out of someone like me, or a stranger you’ll never get to meet, by writing hurtful, nasty diatribes that stereotype and shame – then I’d say your time’s been sorely wasted. If you’ve got the capacity to do good, and make positive things happen, even if that’s just paying someone a compliment, or opening a door, or just plain being patient – why would you do anything else?

In other words: stop shaming. Be nice. Do good things, and leave the world a lil’ nicer than you found it.

‘Cause I can absolutely guarantee you’ll feel better for it. Even you, Linda.

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 […]

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.

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 […]

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 […]