I’m not quite sure this qualifies as a recipe, really – because there’s hardly any cooking involved. However, it’s a solid, tasty and satisfying lunch that can be pretty much thrown together with hardly any cooking equipment – which makes it absolutely perfect when you’re […]
Missed Part I? Read it here.
Things have been weird between us for a while. You’ve noticed it too, right? We’ve been on-again, off-again for so long that I figured I ought to take a bit of time to put my feelings into words… But it’s not easy.
I know now that I should’ve been kinder to you for a long, long time. As long as I can remember, really. I blamed you for a lot of things that really weren’t your fault – like, the fact I couldn’t walk. The fact my shoulders ached from dragging you along on those bloody crutches. The fact that I was addicted to painkillers, cigarettes, food… Whatever happened to cross my path, really.
Turns out they aren’t kidding when they call it “addictive personality.”
So all that stuff, I’ll take responsibility for.
But that’s not the worst thing. Not even close.
Nope – the worst thing I did was deciding that you were ugly. I don’t know what on earth I was thinking, ’cause you were pretty god damn gorgeous.
So now it’s just you and me, naked and alone… Let’s address a few of those “ugly” things.
First up, the scars. Two kinds: there are the big, bright, purposeful noughts and crosses, the angry scrawled red marker of four knee surgeries, and then there’s the stretch marks. They’re everywhere.
But they’re not ugly. Every single one is the sign of something overcome, something you are now that you weren’t yesterday. They change all the time, but they’re a permanent reminder of both how fragile you were, and how strong you’ve become.
Eventually, there will probably be more, too. That’s fine. They’re glorious.
There are also all those other visible imperfections. The cellulite, the spots, the loose skin, your ridiculously tiny pinky toes (eww) to name but a few – somewhere along the line, I got confused and figured they weren’t okay, because the women in magazines don’t have them.
Of course, that was dumb. The women in magazines barely have skin; it’s more like a painted sheen on Lino. But these things – they’re normal. In fact, they’re not just normal. They’re bloody gorgeous, because they’re you, and you are a human being.
And, there’s all that fat. I mean, for a long I was kinda under the impression you’d be thin by this point – it’s been three years, after all. But you seem to have reached a point you kinda want to stick at, and that is fine.
Stop feeling like you’ve gotta be the perfect “after” photo. Stop using that as a reason to put yourself down, and stop assuming people will be underwhelmed by the fact you’re still not small. Chances are, you just ain’t built like that. You come from a long line of strong women, and not one of them is designed to be a size six. They’re all gorgeous though, right?
And anyway, those squishy bits, the squeezable, grabbable, sexable and smooshable bits of you – they’re gorgeous, ’cause they’re you. They’re in there, alongside the heart that beats, the lungs that breathe, and that brain that thinks. Don’t doubt how much joy could come out of loving them, ’cause you know what happens when you do.
You walk taller. You swerve that more-than-ample junk in the trunk when you strut across a room. You throw your head back when you laugh, and you don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. You put Beyoncė on when you’re alone in your pants, and you get DOWN, right in front of that mirror. You smile, even when you’re alone.
And that’s how you ought to be, all the time.
Now, don’t get me wrong – we’re going to have our ups and downs. I’m still going to make you eat pizza when I’m drunk; I’m still going to have “fat days,” and you’re still going to get the flu around deadlines and things I’m excited about; I’ll probably make you wear uncomfortable things I like the look of, and you’ll almost certainly throw your toys out of the pram during my healthy January – probably by having some kind of knee-related strop.
But the ups? They’ll be beautiful.
I’ll drag you to the gym, and we’ll work out because it feels good, not ’cause I have any expectations of how you oughtta look. I’ll eat nice, healthy food most of the time, and you’ll respond with shiny hair, great skin and strong nails as a reward. I’ll keep working you hard with crazy writing hours and a demanding job, but you’ll handle it with good grace, and a favourable response to caffeine, because you’re strong. You kick ass.
So: let’s start afresh. Let’s be great, be beautiful, be empowered by the fact that we’re very much a team – and let’s do this.
Let’s go take over the world.
Boom! Preachy headline. But y’know what? I stand by that. Because this morning, I posted the above statistic online: that one in four seven-year-old girls have tried to lose weight. I thought that in itself was pretty depressing – but then my very good friend […]
I love this time of year. Love it. I’m a huge fan of Christmas – cheesy movies, ridiculous music, amazing food and more than a few cups of mulled wine – plus, the whole ‘good will to all men’ thing? That works for me.
So it was with ridiculous pleasure that my housemate and I went out last Sunday and bought a tree, decorated the house, and had the very best festive time ever. I love it. I’ve also been to festive parties and such pretty much every night for the last week – and given it’s my birthday on Tuesday, and my work Christmas shindig on Thursday, I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
Note: I’m not complaining. Nobody should complain about having too much fun.
However, something I hate about this time of year is the inevitable patch that follows it: an annual cross-cultural round of festivities I like to describe as the New Year Diet Bullshit Extravaganza.
I hate it, not because there’s anything wrong with the idea of taking stock and starting afresh at the beginning of the new year – I for one am yet to have a festive season that doesn’t result in me gaining a lil’ junk in my trunk, so I appreciate the need for a bit of good behaviour on the other side – but because it’s always taken as an opportunity for diet brands to take advantage and try to sell you a miracle.
In case I haven’t made this abundantly clear: there is no miracle. There is no Secret To Weight Loss™, no Easy Weight Loss Cure ®, no Quick Fix to Shed Pounds © – all these things are fallacious, malicious, dirty lies told by people who want to make a quick buck out of you and yours.
And by a ‘quick buck,’ I mean the kind of money I personally cannot even comprehend. On any given day, almost half of all women and a quarter of all men in the US are on a diet, helping to fund an industry that’s worth over $50bn. 80% of all dieters fail to lose weight, and a third go on to gain additional weight afterwards.
I’m trying not to indiscreetly cough the word ‘rip-off’ into my coffee.
And I’m not just saying this from the outside, either.
Trust me: I have lost weight fast. And I have gained weight even faster as a result. I’ve tried every diet you know (and a fair few of the ones you don’t) and I have failed consistently and painfully every single time. I’ve also been offered money by said diet people to endorse bullshit products I’ve never used – which means you’ve gotta take endorsements by people with a real platform with one big ol’ pinch of salt.
All this to say: there’s only one way you’re going to successfully improve your life in 2014, and that’s by learning to accept, appreciate and love yourself first. Improve your psychological wellbeing, and the rest will follow: I promise.
And so, I’m jumping in there first, before anyone gets hit by the post-Christmas marketing bomb.
Are you planning to buy jump on the diet wagon in January? Gonna cut carbs? Master cleanse? 5:2?
Because if you are, don’t.
Please don’t. I beg you. Don’t get involved with that, and don’t buy into it. It will do one thing, and one thing only: it will make you miserable.
Instead, join me – because what I lose in multi-million dollar marketing campaigns, I more than make up for in cult-ish language and big swooshy hair. And spurred on by the fact that I don’t want one more person to be ripped off this January, I’m going to bring 30 Days of Good Stuff back for Round Two: The New Year Ass-Kicking Edition.
If you missed Round One, it doesn’t need much of an explanation, really. It was just thirty days of positive thinking, healthy eating and all-round goodness. That’s it. But you guys were incredible – I’ve never had so many life-changing ‘my life’s changed’ messages in such a short period of time.
It’s not just about weight loss – but just from the emails I received, y’all lost a combined 600lbs in a month. And the changes in attitude, mindset, and general happiness were even more mind-blowing.
So: who’s up for an amazing 2014?
Then pop a paw print in here, and keep an eye on your inbox at new year:[mc4wp_form]
That’s it! Don’t forget to tell yo’ friends, and anyone else you think might be thinking about a new year’s diet – let’s make 2014 awesome for everyone.
Merry Christmas team!
I’m hugely flattered to have been quoted on this lovely infographic by the wonderful Elena Maghinetti – who’s been sharing her journey with me over the last few months, and has done an incredible job of taking control of her health and wellbeing (’cause she’s awesome!)
Take a look – and make sure to share Elena’s hard work if you like it!
This morning, I posted a link to a brilliant Buzzfeed piece on “Corrected Fitspiration Photos” on my Twitter feed, because frankly, it elicited a big cheer and a “hell yeah” from yours truly. Now, I’ll be honest: I do find myself having mixed feelings about […]
I’m really sorry guys – I haven’t fallen off the edge of the world, I swear. I’ve just been ridiculously busy, with a combination of work and non-work stuff. Plus, the dark mornings and nights are making me want to get up as late as […]
You might remember a little while ago I went to visit a functional medicine expert and nutritionist in London, the very lovely Steve Grant – because I’d been feeling bloated, lethargic and generally a bit rubbish for a patch, and I couldn’t quite get to the bottom of it.
I also hadn’t had a period in a long time, not because of weight loss (or at least, not directly) but because of an adverse reaction to a contraceptive injection way back in 2009-ish. And that’s not to mention the residual damage my liver and kidneys were at risk of, given that I spent much of the period between 2007 and 2010 taking up to 22 prescription tablets a day. I’ve spent much of the last 18 months going back and forth to the doctors, and I’d had some tests, all of which came back with the same result – “your fertility looks normal, probably nothing to worry about, come back in about six months if it’s not fixed.”
Trouble is, this was kind of throwing a spanner in the works – not just my works, but those of the amazing Tom Dyer. He’s been training me for a while now, and it’s been an absolute revelation – but while I’ve been getting stronger and somewhat leaner, I’ve been struggling to make any big changes to my body when I’m zapped of energy and carrying what looks like triplets in bloat. Which is why he recommended I pay a visit to Steve.
I’m already a coeliac, so gluten has been out for a long time – but in following Steve’s instructions, there have been some pretty significant changes to my lifestyle. No dairy, for one – which, as a cheese enthusiast, I’ve found kinda difficult. Plus, no processed foods of any description, one cup of coffee a day and – probably worst of all – no technology after 8pm at night.
As a blogger and compulsive Twitter addict, you can understand why that last one was a bit of an issue.
However, generally I’m pretty good at doing what I’m told – and in the interests of finding out what on earth was up, I threw everything I had at it. And four weeks later, I found myself back in Steve’s office, for round two with the callipers.
If you’ve never encountered body fat testing with callipers, it’s laugh a minute. And I do, genuinely, mean that – because I’m ticklish as hell, which tends to make things a bit awkward. Especially when I’m getting pinched in all manner of places I’m reserving for my wedding night with Ryan Gosling.
Anyway – the callipers measure the amount of skin they can grab on to in each of these places in millimetres, allowing Steve to calculate how much fat and muscle I’m made up of. It’s essentially pinching an inch, but using science – and the results are as follows:
|Date||Weight (kg)||Chin||Cheek||Pec||Tricep||Shoulder||Upper torso||Waist||Belly button||Knee||Calves||Quads||Hamstring||% Fat||Lean mass (kg)|
Now, I am rubbish with charts, so if you already get the gist, I’m sorry – but I’m going over it step by step. First off: if I were looking to lose p0unds on the scales here, I’d be severely disappointed. 0.8kg in a month ain’t that much, especially if you’re conditioned to watching The Biggest Loser and mentally preparing for ‘double digits’ on a weekly basis.
But – as I’ve said again and again and again – it’s not about the number on the scales. They tell you nothing. What’s much more telling is the fact that I’ve lost 2% body fat this month – and from some pretty interesting places. You’ll spot that my pecs, knees and calves stayed pretty much the same – which makes sense, because if I’m “lean” anywhere, I’d say it’s around there. But around my middle section, my quads and my hamstring (or rather, my butt) there are some pretty substantial differences.
After three years, I’m no longer losing weight, but changing shape.
And while we’re talking about weight – 74.5kg is 164lbs. I am a whole 10lbs heavier than I was when I moved to London, but two dress sizes smaller. Trust. I don’t even know what the correct answer is when people ask me how much weight I’ve lost now, because… Well, I’m gaining weight, and it’s awesome.
Anyway, back to the matter in hand: my shape is changing. And I’m up almost a kilo in lean mass, in theory – but I’m going to stress ‘in theory,’ and I’ll tell you for why.
Because, on the way to my appointment with Steve, I got my period. I am almost painfully aware that this is the very definition of TMI, but work with me here: that’s exciting. After months of having the excruciating hormone fluctuations, the headaches, the bad moods and skin but with no real sign of Mother Nature doing her thang… There it was. I’d been wondering why I’d gained three pounds earlier that week – and I’d found my answer.
And that is why the lean mass part is in theory: because during my time of the month, I retain water like a camel crossed with a cactus. With that in mind, that jump on the scales might – for the moment – have to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Now, Steve’s got some logic behind why my cycle seems to be back in the game. Hormonal problems tend to be the result of an imbalance of either estrogen or progesterone, and by levelling out gut and liver function, it’s easier for the body to detox (in the non-irritating sense of the word) and sort these out. The whole idea behind functional medicine is that it deals with the causes behind issues, rather than trying to fix the symptoms (have a look at the case study he did on reversing his own Mum’s diabetes for more on that!)
It’s also why I’ve seen those big drops in and around the areas I tend to store fat – my belly, thighs and butt. Combining Mr. Dyer’s squat torture techniques (I kid – he’s lovely) with a super-clean lifestyle means my body’s had the chance to have a bit of a clear out. My standard PMS symptoms definitely point towards a little too much estrogen, and that tends to be stored in fat – so it stands to reason that by losing fat in these areas, I’m clearing out estrogen and getting my body balanced back out.
What’s crazy is that I’ve spent years going back and forth from the doctors, being told to just wait for it to fix itself. In fact, my most recent trip in resulted in me having to go back for a second round of blood tests because they couldn’t believe my health was so far improved on a couple of years ago – but still, it didn’t get me very far. I wasn’t exactly making headway in working out a cause for my feeling-like-crap.
And yet once again, it’s turned out that lifestyle changes can make one hell of a difference to my health and wellbeing. It’s pretty amazing to me, this far in to my journey, that I’m still figuring things out – and more importantly, that there are still things I can change and build on to get healthier and enjoy every minute. I reckon empowerment – and in particular, the feeling that you can make decisions about your life that really make a difference – is the goal I never really knew I had, when I first stepped in to the gym, three years ago… And it turns out, I’ve still got plenty to learn.
Here’s to the next three years!
I’m super-sad to see the end of the amazing BBC2 series The Men Who Made Us Thin, in short because it’s been a programme basically aimed squarely at people like yours truly. The first episode was about why the diet industry is selling you lies (which inspired an entire post here), and it’s covered some utterly horrific quick fixes and food industry marketing along the way.
Seriously: if you have access to iPlayer, I strongly recommend you give it a watch.
But in the last episode, the focus was on how our food environment affects the way that we eat. Kind of a no brainer, when you think about it – but it’s something I hadn’t really considered all that much before.
I mean, the amount of advertising we’re exposed to on a daily basis is tricky to pin down – but estimates have ranged from 250, to over 3000, every single day. And personally, I can’t remember the last time I went for a walk somewhere and didn’t encounter at least two or three places I could buy junk food – not helped by the fact that I live in the middle of London, obviously, but I’m pretty sure this rings true back home, too. Our whole environment is geared towards heavily marketed, unhealthy, junk food.
And when you go to the supermarket, it’s incredibly easy to get drawn in to the pretty colours and massive ‘you want this yes you do no seriously you really bloody want this‘ signs hovering over a multipack of coke and a family-size bag of Doritos. It’s designed that way.
And in the name of a balanced argument, it does work the other way, too: I went to Borough Market yesterday, and only bought healthy things – because there, the healthy things were arranged so beautifully that it was impossible not to. You don’t even want a bar of chocolate when the fruit looks this great:
Unfortunately, that’s kinda the exception to the rule. In the real world, it’s generally not possible to do all your shopping in a posh organic rah-rah market, as much as that’d be nice. Day-to-day, it’s just easier – and more practical – to get your food wherever’s closest to home, and offers the best bang for your buck. Which tends to mean the supermarket.
There’s a TED talk by Dan Ariely about decision-making that explains it a lot better than I can, but in short, deep down, the brain doesn’t like thinking too hard about decisions. We like to opt for the default, especially when we’re faced with an overload of choices – a situation that tends to make us freak out and just pick something to get the trauma of deciding over and done with.
I’m hella familiar with that trauma. It’s called lunch. But when our food environment is geared towards unhealthy, high calorie, low nutrient, quick-and-dirty meals, we’re more inclined to opt for that – even if we know it’s wrong. And that means that when you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, you’re at a bit of a disadvantage – because you’re doing so in an environment that’s kinda pushing the opposite.
However: I don’t like the whole food-marketing-conspiracy idea that people are too weak or dumb to outthink clever marketing. I think it’s patronising, and it plays into the idea that ‘fat’ is the same as ‘lazy,’ ‘stupid,’ or any of the other subtle negatives we talk about when we’re using the f-word.
In reality, I think it’s a matter of self-esteem, self-confidence and empowerment. If you’ve got enough faith in yourself to know that you can make the right choices, and that you’re informed enough to do so with purpose, that’s more powerful than any marketing trick out there. But that confidence is something that comes through habit, and positive reinforcement.
It’s a matter of repeating a message that you can make the right choices, again and again. This study shows why advertising slogans work by repeating their messages in exactly the same way – but I’d wager it’s even more powerful when these messages come from inside.
For instance: whilst working with the wonderful Steve Grant to figure out what’s been making me ill, I’m not eating wheat or gluten, dairy, sugar, or basically anything that’s processed in any way. I could look at that in an ‘oh my God, I’m not allowed to eat ANYTHING FUN’ kinda way; or, I could look at it as an opportunity to create some really delicious things.
Case in point:
Coke and their multi-million dollar advertising campaigns got nothin’ on my Instagram feed.
But when I make one great meal – especially once I’ve put it through a snazzy filter and posted it on the internet – I’m inspired to make another. And if I’m spending all that time in the kitchen making said snazzy meals, you can guarantee I ain’t going anywhere near the bakery aisle at the shop and ruining all that effort.
And then, because I’ve been eating well, my skin is clearer than it was three weeks ago. My hair looks better. I’ve got more energy, so I go to the gym, which means I feel even better about myself… Which means I’m inspired to make more positive choices, like drinking green tea and getting to bed at a reasonable hour.
You can see what I’m getting at. One good choice inspires another. And after a little while, habit sets in. I’m not tempted to hit up a bag of cookies when I know I’ve got that delicious lookin’ (and smellin’) watermelon waiting for me in the fridge. I’m almost oblivious to the McFlurry flashing at me from the billboard on the bus stop, because I know I’ve got one hell of a dinner to go home to. And because I’ve experienced for myself how much better I feel for making these choices, I’m confident that they’re worth making, and I’m sure that they’re right.
None of this stuff needs a crazy diet plan or a snazzy marketing strategy, though. It’s just good stuff that’s available to pretty much anyone. It’s real food, reasonable exercise, and positive thinking – things that Pepsico, Nestle and Coca-Cola aren’t going to make any money selling.
So: trust yourself. Create a positive environment, both in terms of food, and other good stuff – and pay attention to your choices. It’s mindfulness on an everyday level, but it’ll get you a lot further than any diet plan out there, and it’ll make you feel pretty damn good while you do it.
And now – I’m off to go Instagram my lunch.
Like I said last week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. This whole ‘six months in London’ thing has given me plenty of food for thought, because if I’m totally honest, I found that transition considerably more difficult than I expected to. I […]
I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking this week. It’s a bit self-absorbed, but hell – that’s why I blog. I’ve made it through six months in London – which, when I wrote this post, seemed like years away – and it’s rapidly approaching […]
Generally speaking, I’m a pretty chilled out kinda girl. Relatively. I spend a lot of time telling people not to worry about stuff, and I don’t stress too much about the future because I figure it’ll all turn out alright in the end, just so long as I keep my chin up.
I like to think that, on the whole, I’m pretty forgiving. I’m relaxed. People make mistakes, and say or do the wrong thing, but when it comes down to it, I’m absolutely frickin’ incredible at doing that too – so I get over it. it’s fine.
Anyway, I drink far too much coffee to take on extra stress. I’ve cut down recently, but still – y’don’t need to be getting all wound up over little things and then chucking a boatload of caffeine into the mix. That’s just dumb.
But then, these big things are hard to fix, because they’re… Big. They’re mountains in comparison to lil’ ol’ me. I’d be far better off pointing my fury elsewhere, at things like the fact my mouse on my work laptop dies with exasperating regularity, or my iPhone keeps overheating and turning itself off, because these are things I can fix. Probably.
But these things only benefit me – and the overwhelming outpouring of awesomeness that followed my “knickers and v’s” post makes me think there are enough people out there doing amazing things to start a revolution. Or rather, join in with the many revolutions going on all over the world – from Go Kaleo’s “I Am Awesome” project, to last week’s Twitter silence and the shouting back that matched it, to true gentleman Joe Taylor speaking about his experience of everyday sexism…
People are doing awesome things, everywhere.
And there’s a common thread among all these things.
They’re all rooted equally in anger or frustration on the one hand, and kindness, generosity and compassion on the other. They’re about understanding; about seeing something wrong and trying to fix it with positive action and genuine care.
These examples are, generally speaking, aimed at women. They’re not exclusive to ladies, and they deal with issues that really ought to be considered by everyone – but on the whole, they’re targeted at women. You’d think, though, that these things were a minority interest, for all you’ll find them in the kind of discourse generally seen to be by and for women.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am once again referring to the women’s magazine market. I know I keep doing this. Broken record. Do not care.
I come back to them, time and again, because they represent the gradual erosion of the confidence of a thousand girls whose bodies don’t measure up to the “perfect” figures which, themselves, are anything but immune from the “circle of shame.”
This be bullshit.
When you compare and contrast, you can see that where the really revolutionary people are focused on kindness and goodness, these mags are rooted in old-fashioned nastiness and snark. They’re the product of the same culture that created low-fat and fat-free foods (which did anything but prevent the whole obesity/diabetes/heart disease epidemic) and made heroin chic a “thing.”
In short, they’re out of date. They’re like ancient relics, or the purple corduroy flares I used to wear at high school. They’re old-fashioned, and they’re no longer relevant. And unlike purple corduroy flares (which I still maintain are awesome), they’re actually pretty annoying.
(By annoying, I mean they ignite in me the fires and fury of hell – but I’m trying to be understated here. Go with it.)
Because it turns out that kindness and compassion are the avant-garde, which is kinda odd because they’re supposed to be the default setting, the one that comes naturally. Still, it’ll do. If we can be revolutionaries by being nice, then fine. Colour me revolutionary.
This is the kind of thing I mean when I talk about all-round wellbeing. I’m referring to eating natural foods (most of the time, at least); to doing exercise you enjoy because it makes your body happy; to learning to love yourself despite – and because of – your flaws; and to being positive, not just towards yourself, but other people too. When you turn that positivity outwards, I swear to God it really does come back in buckets. I’ve witnessed that for myself over recent months. People are kind.
And I figure this is how we conquer those big things I mentioned earlier. Snark culture can be overcome by just stepping back and giving up snarking; body image can be repaired if we start being nicer to ourselves and each other; weight loss gimmicks can be defeated by spreading the word about the healthy, tasty, plentiful things you can eat (that don’t come in a packet, or, heaven forbid, the post); and if we all start being more kind, more compassionate, more caring towards ourselves and each other, I reckon we could take some pretty big steps towards this rights thing being sorted, too.
It won’t solve everything, of course – not even close. But it’s a step we can all take, individually and together, to change the snarky status quo. Get angry about the fact that Heat magazine thinks you’re not perfect, and get mad about the fact that certain politicians think they know more about your sexuality than you do; but then counteract it by giving yourself credit for being amazing (because you are), and pass it on. Tell someone they’re brilliant, and that they deserve to be happy. Mean it, because they probably do.
It might not change the whole world, but in combination with the knowledge that we can – and should – fight the status quo regardless of whether some nameless internet asshat is going to tell us what we “deserve,” it’s certainly got potential to do some good.
So vive the damn revolution team – go forth and be kind!
You may have caught the show “The Men Who Made Us Thin” on BBC2 on Thursday night. If you didn’t, but you’re in the UK, you can watch it on iPlayer here. It was, frankly, excellent, if you’re really into shouting at your TV. Or, […]