Saturday, November 09, 2013

Completing C25K

On 28th October I finally finished C25K with a 30 minute jog around my local park.  It felt like this:

Like Chariots of Fire.  Only fatter.
Back in March last year when I originally considered taking up running, I jumped straight in.  And it was hard, much harder than sitting about doing nothing, definitely harder than Wii Fit.  I lasted a week before giving up and going back to my sedentary ways.  Exercise isn't for me, I thought once again.  I've tried it and I've failed, let's think no more about it.

Fast forward 18 months, and I was feeling a bit miserable, and I started noticing myself waver in the whole self acceptance anti-dieting stance that I'd been successfully maintaining for what was now some years.  I felt fat, I felt unhealthy, I felt tired all the time.  I started counting calories.  I felt even more miserable.  

Then I came to my senses.  I deleted the calorie counting apps off my phone and I consciously went back to intuitive eating.  The food diarising had at least exposed the woeful lack of fibre in my diet so I consciously upped that without restricting anything else in my diet.  I thought about what would help me get out of this rut that was leading me down what I knew to be a damaging path (for me at least).

And so I started going out for a walk, just 30 minutes every other day.  It was the dying weeks of August, so the weather was fine in the early evenings and it was pleasant to be outside.  As I walked I thought about C25K, and I tried to work out what had made me give up on it so easily the previous year.  I started reading message boards for C25K, and although everyone said that anyone could do it I discovered that it wasn't easy for everyone, especially in the beginning.  I read that people with very poor fitness or "the obese" (dah dah dah!)  could start off walking before easing themselves into the plan.  I read that a common mistake novice runners made was to go too fast, and that it was best to go at a pace where you could comfortably hold a conversation.  Last year I was so out of breath I could barely breathe let alone talk: I had definitely been going too fast!

So I had decided to try again, giving myself at least 2 weeks of walking to get me in the habit of regular exercise, and to build up my fitness level from 'appalling' to 'ok.'  I took my iPod and used its fitness app to monitor my progress, I timed it so I was walking at least 30 mins each time.  By the end of week 2 a half hour walk wasn't a challenge, so I decided to move on to C25k.  

I knew that I would find it difficult but I was prepared to repeat runs/ weeks until I was able to complete the course.  I was ready this time.  This is what I had to say about the first run:

C25k wk 1 run 1: Managed 6/8 60 sec running intervals. Calf muscles seemed to shrink part way through. Hard. Kept telling myself it would get easier, need to believe this is true. Positives: Last time I tried this I could not run 60 secs, 6/8 isn't bad for a first go. Doing all 8 doesn't seem impossible, just hard.

And so the next day I went back out, and this time I managed all 8 intervals.  That first run, I'm proud to say, was the only one I had to repeat.  I am a slow jogger, sometimes overtaken by walkers, but I can work on that.  I started to feel fitter within the first 2 weeks of the course, and it's given me more energy in my day to day life.  More importantly it's a reminder that if there's something I want to do, even it it's not something that I have a natural aptitude for, I can do it if I want to.  I might not be the fastest runner, but I am a runner.

I would recommend the NHS's C25K podcast to anyone interested in learning to run, it really does what it claims to and really is suitable for all levels.  It's completely free and you don't need any fancy equipment, just an MP3 player, some decent trainers (I got mine for £25 from TK Maxx) and a good sports bra (if you're a woman).

You can download the podcast from here: or from iTunes.  If you're running with a mobile phone, you can download the NHS Change for Life Couch to 5K app from Google Play or again from iTunes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fun and Games

It's been more than 2 years now since I started this blog, which makes it more than 2 years since I ditched dieting and started this (wonderful) journey of self acceptance.  In these 2 years I've learned to see my body as part of my self rather than an external force - and I've come to understand that if I look after my body better, all of me benefits.  

I quit smoking over a year ago, with the aid of patches and following a year of regular chest infections and ill health that I couldn't pretend was nothing to do with the habit.  I feel better for it, and I know that I found it much easier this time around because a) I had a clear reason for quitting [ie. the terrible effect it was having on my health] and b) I had no concern whatsoever about gaining weight if I gave up smoking.  I knew it was a possibility, and I knew that when making that cost/benefit analysis that smoking was going to be worse for me than putting on a few pounds.  

I make decisions for my health now in full recognition that health is a different animal to weight loss (thank you Linda Bacon) - and now I'm finding myself wanting to take the next step forward.  Maybe break into a jog.  

Exercise.  The very word fills me with dread.  Even at the peak of my weight-loss manias I generally wouldn't go quite so far as to exercise.  There was a time in the dim and distant past known as primary school when I was on the netball team.  I loved horse riding.  I'm also a very strong swimmer.  But at High School sport was a popularity contest, sport was all about winning and I just wasn't the type.  Games wasn't at all fun for me.  You had to like all sport or none at all, and my hatred for hockey and cross country running put me purely in the second camp.  I hated games lessons, I hated the teachers, I hated wearing P.E. knickers (yes, really) - and so I came to hate all sport.  

Since school?  I was a member of a gym for a bit.  I only really liked the treadmill, and the steam room.  It was expensive and I stopped going.  I've done aerobics (dull and sweaty).  I did tai chi for a bit (too much to remember).  I've done yoga - which I loved - but I'm not able to find a class here that I can attend regularly.

But I'm ready to try again, to try again to find a way to move my body which I enjoy.  I'm going to start by trying running - I've stumbled upon the Couch to 5K on the NHS website and it seems like it could be just the ticket to improve my stamina and get me moving.  Running could potentially work for me because it's non competitive, doesn't require excellent spacial awareness (I have very poor spacial awareness), doesn't require a raft of specialist equipment, and is free.  I'm going to give it a go, and am giving myself a 2 week deadline on starting the endeavor.  I might not like it, but it'll be something I've tried - something to tick off the list of potential candidates for the Exercise Holy Grail.  

I deserve respect, and if I'm going to respect myself I need to respect this body that I live in.  That means giving it what it needs, not just fuel but also movement.  

Let the search for the Holy Grail commence!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mental Health at Every Size

I have been off the dieting roller-coaster for over a year now, enjoyed my 2nd ever Christmas off a diet and have some things to report health-wise.

Firstly I have never, in my adult life, been as emotionally stable as I have been this past year.  I came off my anti-depressants about 18 months ago and, though I won't pretend I've never felt down or that there haven't been days when I've been anxious as hell, I am doing just fine.  I don't attribute all this to my discovery of FA - it's a combination of many factors - my mental health improving to a point where I could FINALLY put into place all those things that they taught me in various talking therapies over the years (which my depressive mind thought weren't up to much but which I've adopted during the long, slow journey of recovery); being in a happy, stable relationship with a man I love and who loves me wholeheartedly;  leaving the stressful job that was doing me no favours at all - and (and it seems strange to write this) lowering my expectations of myself and putting my mental health and myself before career, friendships and relationships.  I'm also completely aware that there may come a time that I need the drugs again, and I'm fine with that.  I keep an eye on my moods and have my boyfriend look out for any worries just in case I'm not in a fit state to notice.  Taking medication when necessary is part and parcel of maintaining my mental wellbeing, but right now?  I don't need them at all.

So how has FA helped with all of this?  Well, over my years struggling with mental illness I've taken a lot of medication with the side effect 'weight gain', I've repeatedly stopped taking the drugs to stop the weight gain and then started dieting in the aftermath, seen a swift return of my anxiety, depression and eating disordered behaviour.  Eventually had to take the meds again until I put on so much weight I quit the drugs etc. etc. etc.  I came to realise that if I was ever going to be able to manage my mental health problems I had to get out of this vicious cycle but I had no idea how.  I discovered FA shortly after stopping taking my medication that last time, I started to prioritise my mental health and putting into practice what I'd been taught about looking after myself mentally.  I quit dieting around the time I started this blog and have not once, in the last year, been tempted back onto the bandwagon.  The first things to improve were my fingernails - they always used to peel and crack and break and now they, well, look like nice healthy fingernails.  I've also found I have more energy and resiliance.  I'm generally feeling much much happier and yes, healthier.

So what happens when you stop dieting for a whole year?  Do you let your standards slip and EAT THE WORLD?  Do you live on a diet of donuts and Maccy D's?  I certainly didn't.  Before I quit dieting my boyfriend had to literally HIDE the chocolate in the house so that I wouldn't just eat it because it was there (and so there would be chocolate when it was my time of the month) - he stopped doing this a couple of months in and I DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE.  I don't eat bigger portions or exclusively heavy food - my diet has actually broadened in the last year because I've made a habit of asking myself what I want before eating and have the nearest thing available to that (even if it's not something I usually go for).

Have I gained any weight?  Not that I can tell, or at least not significantly enough for me to require new clothing (this is AMAZING for me - I think it's the first time since EVER I've not required a different set of clothes from one year to the next).  I've don't appear to have lost any weight either, and you know what?  It doesn't bother me at all.  (I considered weighing myself for this post but decided, on reflection, that that would not be the best thing for my mental health).

This month I have finally gotten around to reading Linda Bacon's Health at Every Size - and there's definitely some stuff I'd like to take onboard with that.  FA has made me value my body, made me grateful for it in ways I couldn't imagine - I can look in the mirror now and think "that's me, standing there in my amazing body" rather that "OMG I am so horribly disgusting".  I am so grateful to FA that I am able to think this - something I have never done at any weight in my past.

This year my goals are to:

-Be more active
-Wear more colour

But hey, it's not like they're rules or anything, they're just things that I would like to do.

I'm also attempting to quit smoking again due to me having had a chest infection every 3 months for the last year, which I can't pretend has no correlation to all the smoking I do.  Wish me luck with that.  (I'm aware I don't sound too enthusiastic about it but I'm wary of giving myself a task to do where I'll feel like a failure if I don't succeed.  So I'm going to take it one day at a time and see where it takes me - I am currentlty mid-illness too so you'll also have forgive me if the prose is a little sloppy).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday, November 12, 2010

Panorama - Fat Tax

I've been asked by BBC Newcastle's morning show for some comments and an interview (Monday mid-morning) on the subject of Panorama's "Fat Tax" documentary. Although I only have the website to go on so far (, there's some things I'd like to say in response, and here they are:

"Would putting up the price of junk food, high in sugar and fat, cut obesity rates in the same way as a tax on cigarettes has helped reduce smoking?"

This represents the over-riding popular view that all fat people are fat because they eat nothing but junk. This just isn't the case. The causes of obesity are far more complicated than the calories in vs. Calories out model - weight gain can be caused by medication side-effects, medical problems such as diabetes and PCOS, sedentary lifestyles (office working etc), stress and depression to name but a few. Increasing taxation on food, therefore will not eradicate obesity. Comparing tax on cigarettes to reduce smoking to a tax on food to reduce obesity doesn't work.

This approach also implies that any health problems caused by poor diet affect only fat people, which is simply not the case. By labelling a tax on percieved 'unhealthy' foods a "fax tax" it's unnecessary adding to the stigma of being fat - and stigma itself contibutes to stress and depression.

The fear-mongering of the media as to how much obesity-related diseases is causing harm in itself. We find ourselves in a society where fat people are increasingly viewed as of less value to thin or normal people and where health is determined not by medical tests but by BMI by which measure professional athletes are often classified as obese. Fat people need advice on how to improve their health that rests on more than "lay off the burgers, fatty" - we can reduce our risk of diabetes and heart disease without weight-loss and should be encouraged to try these rather than starvation diets or invasive surgery.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Monday, September 27, 2010

Out of the Game

The world wants us to diet, they believe it is their right to advise us to do so on the premise that we'll be healthier, more attractive and above all happier.  Every advert flogs us the The Fantasy of Being Thin like it's going out of fashion (while we pray that it is) - just tonight I've been told that being thin will enable me to be a catwalk model, afford boating holidays and destroy fad diet books with golf clubs (well, I already do that...).  The implication is that being thin is so wonderful that any sacrifice used to obtain it will be paid back tenfold because what could be wrong when you're a single digit dress size?

I'm not playing that game any more.  Not because I don't want to strut my stuff on the catwalk, dive off sailboats or beat the sit out of another crappy diet book - none of these things are conditional on being thin (especially not the last one, in fact if you've not burned all your dieting books on a ceremonial pyre, I'd recommend it).  I won't play because it's not worth it.

Being thin is not worth spending hours, weeks, days, years of your finite existence counting calories.  Being thin is not worth rationing chocolate to once-monthly binges.  Being thin is not worth having nothing to talk about but tricks to avoid food.  Being thin is not worth being constantly hungry.  It's not worth feeling tired, miserable, cold and irritable for the rest of your life.  A life of constant hunger will never be a life fulfilled.

Being thin wont make you all those things they tell you it will.  You'll still be you, but smaller.  Whatever it is that you really want be it a dazzling career, a loving relationship or a happy family - it's not going to magically appear if you lose a few pounds.  Don't you think your time and energy would be better spent working towards your goals rather than a smaller waist size?  I do.

Years of my life have been spent in self-inflicted hunger.  I've made myself literally sick of it, and I've grown tired of it.  I hope never to have to spend another day hungry.  And if I ever have to it won't be through choice.  My health and my happiness are too important to me, my life is too important to me to put myself through this.

I raise my middle finger to the diet industry and their cronies.  You want me to go hungry because of your arbitrary standard?  The answer is NO.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A guest post by Karen: From the other side of 'acceptable'

For seven years, I have alternated between suffering and recovering from anorexia nervosa. While I have never been overweight, I have been confronted by many people about various weights, ranging from 6st7 to 9st7. These people have included family, friends, acquaintances, but also, perhaps surprisingly, strangers. I have had raging arguments with parents (“it’s not attractive”), friends who have grabbed my bottom, or lack thereof, and informed me that I’m too thin. I have had strangers in the street shout at me to eat a burger, and point me in the direction of the nearest eating disorders clinic as a hilarious joke with their friends. Perhaps most hurtful of all of this was a supposed friend coming to me in the college toilets, lifting my jumper and pulling my jeans to expose my ribs, concave stomach and hipbones to her friends, to prove that I was “too thin” as she’d told them.

The strange thing about all of this is, while I have strived for and achieved that UK size 2 (US 00) frame where knickers only stay up because they can be hung on protruding hipbones, this never made me happy. I openly admit that I did feel achieved when I could no longer buy clothes, with adult clothes being too big and children’s being too short and yes, I did feel achieved as I lost more and more weight. For years, losing weight has been my goal but at many times during these seven years, it has been my life.

However, I am now a UK size 6 (US 2) and, while the days of endless dieting and obsessive exercise do not seem as though they are a thing of the distant past, I am a healthy weight and shape. One would assume from this that I am a much healthier person, but this assumption couldn’t be much further from the truth. While my healthy 9st body and my 28F chest give me a curvy, womanly shape, and while I eat regularly and I am more confident, this does not mean I am healthy. I smoke 20 roll-ups a day. I don’t run unless I’m going to miss the metro and, if I do that, I practically need resuscitating upon entrance to the train. At the same time, my boyfriend’s weight is exactly double my own, making him technically obese but, while the BMI charts all do battle with him trying to make him eat less and get more exercise, I spend time doing battle with him myself, simply to get him away from his weight bench! Of the two of us, he is far healthier and sets a fine example of how healthy one can be at a higher weight. I, however, work more as a terrible warning of the opposite issue!

While this has, so far, been a message of how unhealthy one can be when slim, I do not mean to suggest that one must be curvy to be healthy. For me, it is a question of balance - a balanced diet in which one nourishes one’s body, and a daily routine that keeps the body active but not exhausted. This balance is something I have not yet struck, but I intend to once I have come to be more comfortable with the sudden arrival of my bust and my bottom. If I led a healthier lifestyle, however, I would lose weight and that in turn would lead me back to the same situation of people passing me in the street and feeling that they have a right to comment on my shape. For me, then, and for many others, this situation becomes catch 22. I lose weight because I am leading a healthy lifestyle; I gain weight to please others by fulfilling a certain ideal of appearance. There is no point at which I am acceptable. Why?

The issue that few seem to consider is this: commenting on the appearances of others in a negative way is NOT polite, acceptable or necessary - rather, it is rude and it is damaging. By telling someone thin to go and eat something fattening, one will not inspire them to gain weight, just the same as telling someone fat to put down their pasty will not encourage them to lose weight. No one should be made to feel ashamed of their appearance but, furthermore, are the people who wish to comment in this fashion not being rather shallow? I am no more or less happy, successful or loved at this weight than I was at any other. Those who care about the person inside don’t care about the person outside but, those who do care about the outer “beauty” are often the ones with the power to make the individual miserable and lonely.

An argument against Thin Hate

 Whilst I applaud any attempt to erode the idea that you have to be a size 4 to be beautiful, I find it just as hateful to be labelling thin bodies as unacceptable as I do fat.  Your dress size does not define you, it does not show whether you're a 'good' person or a 'bad' person.  You are not more or less real if you are a size 6, 16 or 26.  Skinny women are real women, fat women are real women, in-betweenies are real women.  We are all real, goddamn it, and this shouldn't need any kind of debate.

The prevalence of anti-thin hate is just as damaging as anti-fat hate and the fat-acceptance movement needs to be just as against it as any other form of body shaming.  If we support this kind of behaviour then we are perpetuating the myth that some body types are just plain unacceptable, and whilst some may see poetic justice in reversing the status-quo, the reality is that we will just leave another generation of women struggling to be something that they simply are not.  I wouldn't wish the looks, the comments and above all the self-hatred that I have felt on anyone else. The ridiculous panic of 'but if we accept fat people then people will be encouraged to live unhealthily' could become terrifyingly real if we were to reject thin-ness and replace the ideal with one equally unobtainable for many women.

Of course, most 'real women have curves' rubbish isn't suggesting that we replace thin with fat or anything so simple.  What it actually suggests we replace the 'aspirational' skinny body with is one not too dis-similar from a Barbie doll - big boobs, tiny waist (because it's beautiful to have curves but not to have fat).  It is not helpful to replace an ideal that  is (for a large proportion of women) neigh-on impossible to achieve (ie. starve yourself to be acceptable)  with an ideal that is (again for a large proportion of the population) only possible to achieve with surgery (or, according to the Daily Fail, breastfeeding ).  I used to work with a beautiful young lady who had neigh-on starved herself skinny and still felt so uncomfortable with her body that she had breast implants (which left her in near-constant pain) - no woman should have to go through this.  We need to promote the beauty of curves without negating the beauty of other body types.  We need to stop promoting unhealthy behaviours in the service of being acceptable.  We need to stop equating body size with health.

Which brings me to my final issue with thin-hating pro-curves propaganda.  The misuse of the term 'anorexic' is becoming increasingly prevalent  Anorexic does not mean skinny - anorexia is not a choice - anorexia is not something to be mocked.  Anorexia is a serious fucking illness and sufferers do not need your judgement to make them better.  In the same way as telling me that I should stop eating cake (for my own good) it is NOT FUCKING ACCEPTABLE to tell an anorexia sufferer to get some pies down her.  No matter how socially acceptable it might seem.  The increasing social acceptability of the idea that anorexics should be persecuted is ill-informed, discriminatory and unhelpful in every way.

The inspiration for this post came from the deplorable 'Hips and Curves, not Skin and Bones' Facebook group.  Yet another hate-filled board full of trash (I've reported it and suggest you do too) - 297,607 people 'like' this page.