Monday, 10 December 2012


I am very pleased to report that on Thursday 7th December 2012, I successfully donned a pair of jeans that I cannot remember being able to get into. Nor buying for that matter. Be not misled though, they are not a size 12 and I didn’t look any good in them. The triumph here is not aesthetic, it’s not even really very impressive, but it’s MY triumph and I celebrated it all day by wearing said jeans and looking uncomfortable. The ungainly ensemble was topped (or bottomed) rather perfectly by my choice of winter footwear – flip flops, due to the burn on my foot having yet to heal. However, as the place that I chose to wear this bizarre mismatch was to our annual Candlelit Carol Concert, I confess myself to have been less than concerned. The whole night was a low-lit, glimmering, choral affair with voices raised on high and mouths filled with festive treats. Said voices also raised us over £3,500 which is a wonderful triumph of generosity over recession. In short, I can sum up the last two weeks by telling you I’ve been wearing terrible outfits, but getting into the Christmas spirit. Which is nice.

There are two tests that I regularly carry out to assess whether or not I’ve lost any weight. Neither of these involves scales as I’m afraid ours are broken, so I’ve resorted to ingenious alternatives. The first of these is the Hug Test. Basically this requires an honest boyfriend, a metaphorically thick skin and a willingness to be embraced. Step one: Tony hugs me. Step two: He tells me if I’ve gotten a little smaller. He also tells me if I’ve gotten a little bigger, but thankfully the news has all been good recently. The second test is even more hit and miss than the first one. It involves how fast I can walk, climb stairs and take part in other such travelly activities, and for how long, without getting out of breath. I was coming in at a personal best until it got so cold that I required ventolin. Now my average is completely thrown.

Neither of these gauges is reliable, scientifically measurable or accurate, nor do they really push me to work harder. However, following the jeans-related success of Thursday I must be doing something right. Little progress is progress no less, and I’ll not turn up my nose. Also, for the first time in a couple of months I’m moving in the right direction. In order to maintain this over the Christmas period I plan to walk Tony’s parents’ dog as often as he can stand it, swim at least 3 times per week no matter how small or child-filled the pool may be, and spend a lot of my time sitting in the snow in my underwear in the hope that I’ll burn enough calories simply staying alive in the cold to warrant both my Christmas dinner and the amount I’ll no doubt drink when we get to my parents’.

So, in other news, the 16th of December is rapidly approaching and bringing with it the onset of my 32nd year. I can honestly say that I have no feelings either way regarding turning 31. I am neither elated nor tempted to try a chemical peel. In fact nothing could induce me to try a chemical peel. Chemical peel. It brings to mind an overenthusiastic maniac using acid to strip the skin from my face to reveal some kind of mutant superhero/villain underneath. I, Charlotte, once a mild-mannered Community Fundraiser, now arise to meet my true Red Devastatooooooooor!!!!!!!! No thanks. In fact, 31 seems to be to one of those non-ages where you don’t actually age at all, you simply remain the same until you hit another milestone, such as 35. For this reason I believe we actually age in stages. For instance, you remain 21 until you’re 30. Which would explain men if nothing else.

My birthday, however non-agey it might be, could not pass uncelebrated, so on Saturday we held a Hideous Christmas Jumper affair for our nearest and dearest which, despite half the guests having to cancel, turned out to be pretty damn great. This week’s photo is of Tony’s outfit, and it doesn’t disappoint. Don’t be alarmed, the item down the front of his thong is in fact the cat’s plastic ball toy with a bell in it. Which led me to name him Jingle Bollocks, an endearing nickname which happily stuck. Needless to say, I broke my diet horrendously that evening, with party rings (never too old), gooey marshmallow things, decorate-your-own cupcakes and a lot of cheese. My one abstination though, was alcohol. The sheer amount of sugar consumed in the first hour seemed to put everyone off their drinks a little. Except Tony who was still going strong at 5am when I phoned him from our bed to ask him to shut up. For the first time in the history of our parties I woke with veritable bluebirds singing in my head rather than angry crows eating it from the inside out. I even managed to sit through Dead Snow, our unanimous morning film of choice, without looking away too often. The same, alas, cannot be said for a certain other lady, but she shall remain nameless. I will simply apologise for putting her through it!

So yes, terrible outfits and Christmas spirit. Not a bad couple of weeks to be honest. The true test will be Christmas, that overbearing, chocolate-dipped, wine-laden glut itself. My inspiration though is a friend I saw on Friday night. This gallant young pirate has dropped no less than 9 stone, NINE STONE, since March. In fact, it’s closer to 10. And he looks utterly amazing for it. Also, I just found out he reads my blog so I couldn’t resist dropping him in. Well done dude, it’s an epic achievement which I hope to emulate. Although maybe not to the tune of 10 stone as I’d probably have no boobs left. And what fun would that be.

Yours itchily (hideous Christmas cardigan that I’m still wearing),

P.S. I made up three words. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Comeback

So where the hell have I been? Yep, that’s right, I’ve been hiding. I could say I’ve been really busy, which I have, and that I haven’t had time, which I haven’t, but I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth. My weight-loss has been non-existent over the past few weeks and I was, once again, too ashamed to say it. Of course it hasn’t helped that I’ve had incredibly painful eczema all over the palms of my hands which has rendered me not only unable to swim, but has necessitated my wearing white cotton gloves everywhere I go. Like a mime. However, swimming is not, as they say, the only fruit and I could have done many other things. I think I’ve finally learned that this is going to be a series of trials, errors and fresh starts, and that even when it’s not going well I have to keep blogging in order to maintain momentum.

So, times have changed since I spoke to you last. Tony, Philip and I are newly ensconced in a lovely, cosy flat of our own in Leytonstone. Of course, when I say ‘flat of our own’, I meant that we’re renting, but not having to share with Scario anymore. Also, when I say ‘lovely’ I mean damp, old and mouldy, and when I say ‘cosy’ I mean frickin’ freezing. However, did I mention the lack of Scario? The flat’s not really that bad, it has lovely big rooms and a good-sized garden, plus we’re only in there until the end of May and hopefully the heating bills won’t have wiped us out by then.

Other new developments include my positively leaping on the band wagon that is Zumba. Yes, yes, everyone’s doing it, but there’s a reason for that: it’s awesome. Of course it helps considerably that the venue I’ve chosen is a bar, with NO mirrors on the walls such as you would find in a studio. This enables me to maintain the belief that I am not only cool, but graceful and awesome as well. A belief shattered by the sight of my incredibly red face following the class. Perhaps the best part of Zumba though, is that I have people to go with, which makes all the difference. Also, Tony’s rhythmical prowess is not to be underestimated on the dance floor – a fact which many Zumba-goers quickly learned after standing too close him. He’s in his element though: surrounded by women and able to dance around like a mad man. Philip doesn’t do Zumba. Philiip throws up on the bed and leaves live frogs in our shoes. So he’s happy.

I’d like to share a couple of things with you, things that I’ve found during my travels around the internet. The first of these is “The Egg and Wine Diet” which is endearingly dangerous and bizarre. The cholesterol alone would probably finish you off within a week, but imagine your breath! This, however, is nothing compared to the original ‘Egg and Wine Diet’ as detailed here: which advocates drinking at breakfast!! The small part of me that is still a student at heart cries “Yes!” at the thought of a liquid breakfast, and the rest of me simply cries. I also think any dieter would be fired, very quickly....

The second thing I’ve found is this: which I think requires further investigation. In theory it’s a brilliant idea, but for someone like me who keeps wimping out and falling off the wagon and into a large vat of wine, it may not be.

Anyway, my plans for this week... Tonight I shall be visiting the walk-in centre to have a burn on my foot assessed. Said burn was caused by a hot water bottle, furthering the legend that I could manage to hurt myself in a padded room whilst wrapped in cotton wool and wearing a helmet made of marshmallows. After this appointment though I intend to get out my “Dance Yourself Slim” 50 minute workout DVD and make an idiot of myself in front of the neighbours who can see in through our curtain-less windows. Tomorrow night is date night and will consist of two Orange Wednesday tickets to Skyfall (no expense spared here), Thursday we take our Cantonese class, Friday is Zumba, and on Saturday I will make my triumphant return to the pool. Keep watching this very slow-moving and accident-prone space, progress will be made – especially as I now not only have one wedding in July to go to, but also Tony’s uncle’s wedding in Hong Kong in January!

Oh yeah, we've started learning Cantonese. Which is cool.   

Monday, 30 April 2012


Much as I’m loathe to use a clichĂ©, I’m also genuinely astonished at how drastically things can change in a week. Last Monday I felt alone, frightened and was wholeheartedly despairing of my living situation. This in turn had absolutely ruined my work ethic and any chance I had of doing anything other than just getting on with things in the best way I could. At which I was also failing miserably. I think perhaps the worst consequence of this situation was that I’d also completely given up on weight-loss; shifting my excess was just one too many responsibilities and the will to do so had leaked out along with my motivation, and frankly my giving-a-(four letter word). So what changed?

On Friday night I went home. I snuggled up on the sofa with Tony and Philip and watched Toy Story 3 until I fell asleep. When I woke up at 7am I went quickly back to sleep wrapped, as I was, in my own nest. Unfortunately I awoke feeling just as agitated and nervous as I had the previous day, albeit for very different reasons. For that day was the day of the Marie Curie Cancer Care Swimathon. 

Months previously, when I was swimming regularly and was hopeful of my abilities I signed myself and Tony up for the 5k Swimathon option – that’s 3 miles to us simple folk. 3 miles of continuous swimming. To say I was feeling less than confident would have been an insult to apprehension, I was terrified. Given that my last attempt at swimming (documented in previous entry) had seen me struggle my way to a mile and then throw up afterwards, I was under no illusions of my ability, there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to complete this swim. Luckily I had only raised around £120 in sponsorship and had stopped asking for it as soon as I realised I was unlikely to be able to deserve it. However, for the sake of the sponsorship I had managed to glean and, more pressingly, so that Tony wouldn’t be disappointed in me, I put on my swimsuit and we headed off to Christleton Leisure Centre.

Upon arriving I was confident that my failure would not be well-witnessed being as we were the only people in attendance. Unfortunately this was due solely to Tony’s propensity to arrive anywhere incredibly early and soon we were swimming in swimmers. Luckily though, not everyone was taking part in the 3 mile challenge, some were only doing a mile, so I was confident that I could sneak out when they did, admit my failure to the lane-counter and pretend to everyone else that I’d signed up for, and completed, a mile. This wouldn’t have happened though, my own propensity is to be really and stupidly honest, and I would have admitted to everyone that I’m overweight and unfit and could never have completed the ridiculous challenge I’d set myself. So, instead, I put on my stupid, rubber hat and pushed off from the wall.

My plan was to reach a mile (64 lengths) and see if I could continue. I secretly thought I might be able to swim two, but wasn’t willing to admit that to myself until I got within 10 lengths of it as it would also be a colossal achievement. Having struggled up to100 lengths and stopped to have another drink and stretch out my now aching arms I started to wonder if I could get to 160 lengths and therefore have managed two and a half miles. Surely that would amply discharge my promise and show everyone that I’d really, really tried my hardest. So, absolutely amazed that I was still going, I pushed on towards my new goal. And I reached it. No one was more surprised than me – except perhaps Tony who thought I’d gotten out of the pool about an hour ago. By this time my upper arms were terribly sore and a really strangling headache was developing under the rim of my stupid, rubber hat, but also developing was a personal vendetta against this swim. I was determined to finish it even if it meant a migraine or possibly more vomiting afterwards. It had never occurred to me that triumph may even be an option and here it was within my aching reach. One of the biggest driving forces though was how proud I knew Tony, my parents and my friends would be. Having watched me give up on everything else recently, this was something I could do to prove I was still worth it, that there was something I could do, some way that I could still surprise them.

2 hours, 17 minutes and 48 seconds after first donning my goggles I realised my dream. It was a dizzy, chloriney, achey, tired dream, but a dream nonetheless. And it was worth it to hear Tony say he was proud of me and see the huge smile on his face. Unfortunately it was closely followed by a McDonalds but considering how much energy we’d used swimming 200 lengths crawl I’m pretty sure we’d earned it. It also stopped me throwing up on the way home and ensured we were able to attend the other event of the evening – the second leg of a stag do complete with man wearing wig, dress and leg warmers with makeshift boobs made unusually from Bibles. We may have only lasted for two drinks, but we made it to the club, danced a bit, saw our friends and then went home for a well-deserved sleep. Plus, we woke up without the usual Sunday morning hangover!

The best news this week though was that Tony has set a date to move to London. We’ve even been able to start looking at flats, and it’s this more than anything else that has turned my mindset around and encouraged me not to give up. Whatever happens now, whatever Scario throws at us, however hard London is on my own, it will be softened by the knowledge that I won’t be on my own for long. At the moment I feel as though our life together is on hold and I’m now counting the days until it can start again.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Fear and Loathing in Finchley

So, the keen-eyed amongst you will have noticed that I haven’t written a blog entry in a while. There are two reasons for this and only one of them actually relates to weight-loss – namely that there hasn’t been any. To be honest I haven’t risked getting back on the scales to find out whether I’ve lost any weight, but I know my body and I know I haven’t. Call it intuition, call it a deduction brought on my utter lack of exercise since my last blog, but I’m not getting back on those scales. And that’s the problem isn’t it? This blog started as a motivational tool to encourage me to track my progress and be able to look back through past entries to discover what worked and what didn’t. The fact that people read it has really surprised me and has given me another level of motivation: “don’t slack off, everyone’s watching and they’ll know if you do”. So one of the reasons I haven’t been back here in a while is because I’ve slacked off and I’m too ashamed to face everyone.

It would be easy to lump all the blame on myself without looking at external factors – I’m a big believer in being hard on myself – but in this case I have to admit that there’s been a toxic level of mentallness in the air, and for once it’s not all mine.

So, over to Scario, what can I say about him? I can say that he’s made the last couple of weeks an absolute nightmare, that I haven’t felt safe in my own home, that I lock my door at night and that Tony and I were forced to stay in a hotel on Monday. Yup, good times have not been had in Finchley. I’m going to try and keep this to a minimum as I don’t want to turn this entry into a whine about a terrible landlord, but this entry cannot pass without a nod to what has happened recently.

In short, Scario has always claimed to be our landlord and the owner of the house. He believes this entitles him to set impossible rules and stamp his regal decree on every aspect of house life. The fact that his wife’s name appears on the tenancy agreement instead of his doesn’t seem to bother him, and while he’s living in the house he will exercise his perceived right to treat us like unwelcome guests rather than paying tenants. My answer to his dictatorial regime is to rush quickly upstairs when I come home and lock myself in my room for the rest of the evening, but this is no way to live. There’s no one to complain to – if tenants dare to try and call his wife, or the letting agent he goes ballistic. Literally. Declaring he will lock the living room so we can no longer using it, using phrases such as “how dare you call her?” and becoming so aggressive that you back down and don’t do it again.

 Scario’s rules also extend to having guests in the house and the first rule he imposed upon me was that Tony could stay once a month, a rule apparently instigated by his wife. We laboriously pushed him up to twice a month, which we’ve stuck to religiously and which he’s usually been alright about – until Sunday night.  When Scario discovered Tony in the house on Sunday and, God forbid, would be there on Monday night as well, he shouted, threatened, ordered him from the house and declared (to another tenant) he would call the police to have him removed if he hadn’t left by the following day. Cue homeless people. We managed to stay on Sunday night – in his good grace and infinite kindness he allowed Tony to remain in the house for one night – but had to find alternative accommodation for Monday. To be honest, the hotel was heaven and I would have tried to live there if I hadn’t left my DVD collection back at the house.

Anyway, instead of having a day off on Monday we visited the letting agent, with me verging on catatonic out of worry and fear at my drastically limited options as a tenant, only to be very pleasantly surprised. He gave us hope where hope had previously feared to grow, hope that I might be released from the agreement on grounds of barmyness. Following this, I received a call from the *actual* landlady, Scario’s long-suffering wife, on Tuesday night which revealed even more surprises. Not only is Scario not the landlord, but he doesn’t actually have any claim of ownership over the house either. He’s a tenant. And he’s even been served the same notice as the rest of us for the end of the tenancy in June. His wife set no rules about visitors and has confirmed that Tony can stay as often as he likes on whichever days he likes. She also hinted that Scario might have a drink problem and confirmed that I could leave the tenancy with no financial penalty if he ever made me feel uncomfortable in any way again. Words including, but not limited to, liar, simpleton, bully, abject liar and f*$%ing liar sprang to mind (but not lips) during this conversation and now I feel nothing but anger. How can a person continuously lie in such a proud and brazen way with no other end than to make the lives of others unbearable? I cannot wait to get out of his totalitarian regime. I’m handing back my koolaid and taking off the robes.

Scario’s Reign of Mentallness has affected my work, my sleep, my motivation and basically every other aspect of my life. Now that it’s starting to calm down I’m beginning to get everything back on track, but I have to say that it led to two emotional breakdowns for me in the last two weeks. This is a really dark period that starts with a voice niggling at the back of my mind telling me that everything I do is wrong, that no one wants to know me and that I’m absolutely alone. I start to doubt each aspect of my life until I end up a tearful, gibbering wreck incapable of holding a conversation or leaving the house on my own. Afterwards, there’s no sense of relief, just utter exhaustion during which I can sleep for over 12 hours, and after that a numbness which sometimes lasts until it comes round again. Thankfully I haven’t been alone in this and the cycle’s been broken, meaning I can get on with my life again, but it has taken its toll: on my nervous system, my sleep pattern and most noticeably (I suppose because the rest of them are internal!) my waistline. It also led to an embarrassing episode at a hen weekend that was nothing more than a sad misunderstanding, but that left me too ashamed to face the world and in a state of panic for days afterwards. When your own worst enemy is none other than yourself there really is no winner.

I could blame Scario for my lack of weight-loss, I could blame my mental state, I could even blame the fact that I have been eating out for the last week in an attempt to avoid the house, but I can’t neglect to blame myself as well. This was supposed to be a time in my life when I worked harder than I’ve ever worked before, and I feel ashamed that I’ve failed in what I saw to be my final push towards a lighter life. If I’m honest I’m not actually sure how to get up and start again, or even if I can. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Auntie Bev's Rocky Road Cheesecake

First and foremost, because I can’t keep it in anymore without slowly dying from acidic anger melting my insides in ire, I want to talk about that bloody Brick woman. I know what you’re all expecting, you’re either rolling your eyes in dismay and preparing for another attack on the woman who brought you “Why women hate me for being beautiful” and “I use my sex-appeal to get ahead at work...and so does ANY woman with sense” (which partially answers the questions raised in the first article), or your eager for another round of picking at the carcass of her delusion like a vulture with a taste for the vapid. I’m afraid that I will deliver neither, having already vented my spleen on Facebook, several times.

However, I would like to draw your attention to another article, one that is more in keeping with the theme of this blog, namely “Why a magazine for large women is just a big, fat con (and I should know, I used to be a size 16)”.

The magazine in question, Just as Beautiful prides itself on using plus-sized models and not featuring diet tips. It proclaims itself “...the UK’s official mouthpiece for curvy, real-size and plus-size women”. Personally, having had a look through, it seems to be nothing more sinister than a magazine to make women feel good about being themselves. In the current climate of ‘anything but thin is a sin’, where celebrities are praised for their (pathetic attempt at) curves, and then in the very same magazines are praised considerably more when they shed said “curves” a month later, I find it a breath of fresh air that there is a place to go where beautiful women look like you and it’s ok to have a sense of self-worth even though you’re fat. They don’t glamourise obesity; they boost self-esteem and a sense of normality. However, who am I to talk? I’m not a journalist, and heaven knows I’m not a size 16 – the national average female dress-size in the UK by the way. No, I’m terribly overqualified size wise!

My guilty pleasure this week was imagining Samantha Brick guest appearing at a Weight Watchers meeting or a branch of Evans and preaching to women about the error of their ways from her lofty, self-righteous perch of an ex-size 16. The ending would no doubt be similar to the lynching scene in the film adaptation of A Handmaid’s Tale.

Anyway, enough of that, how did my week go? Well, it was a mixture really of abject failure and astounding success – much like last week. The week itself was hard being, as I mentioned in my previous blog entry, the week following my most difficult, Tony-less London moments. I decided to forgo swimming this week in favour of company instead. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that I can’t lose weight unless I’m healthy, and when I say healthy I mean it in a brain way. The blessing though was that this week was a four day week, meaning only three nights to fill until I saw Tony again. Monday night was spent drinking tea and therapeutically comparing nightmare landlords (thank you so much Kasia!), Tuesday was spent in the pub with a lovely new work colleague and Wednesday was spent on a Jack the Ripper walking tour with my best friend followed by a restorative glass of wine in what disappointingly turned out to be a Wetherspoons having looked like a regency-esque hotel from the outside. I highly recommend the tour by the way, a brilliant, entertaining and informative guide took us back in time to the murder sites (not literally), filled us in on the prime suspects, taught us much about the history of the East End of London and included just the right amount of gore.

Thus I filled my week and counted down the days until I could get over my homesickness, and I am very grateful to everyone who contributed. I’ll be brutally honest for moment though, forgive me: every day I felt that little private gut-wrenching flavour of loneliness, and I not only found it hard to concentrate on work, I found myself tearful several times without really understanding why. Loneliness is a relatively new feeling for me and one with which I didn’t cope particularly well. The week seemed to literally be on hold until I could leave for Manchester and time moved so slowly you’d have thought it knew. The real danger of feelings like these is that they lead to other things. A feeling like loneliness, or failure, allows doubts to creep in about my self-worth. The worst feeling though is realising you’ve lost control, that you’re on your way down the spiral again trying desperately to cling to anything that’ll stop you. That’s what depression is like; it’s like treading water and hoping you reach land before you become too tired to continue. That’s what this week felt like: treading water and hanging on until I reached the island of the weekend and could breathe again. The saving grace is that it’s easier now; following The Big Breakdown of 2010 and subsequent medication, everything’s easier. I can recognise the signs and I know when I’m ill, which was sadly missing in years past, and knowing about it means I can do something about it – hence the social, exercise-less week. See? We don’t sit around and eat cake to avoid exercise, some of us have real and pressing priorities.

The weekend itself was even more of a mix of fail and win. Thursday night was perfect, I was back home with Tony and Philip and could physically feel the weight and unhappiness of the previous week leaving my body as I snuggled further into the sofa with the men in my life. Friday brought a trip to the shops and an outing to the pub with Tony’s friends and Saturday contained a visit to his parents’ (and their dog and three cats :) ) followed by birthday celebrations for my cousin at my aunt and uncle’s house. And therein lay the fail. And the fail shall be known henceforth as Auntie Bev’s Rocky Road Cheesecake and the two pieces I ate. But God, it was worth it!

One thing I’ve come to learn about this process is that it’s about equal parts forgiveness and firmness. This week was about healing: I needed it and without it I wouldn’t make any progress. This is a trap in which I’ve been caught in the past. If I deny myself the things I need in order to progress and constantly beat myself up for not progressing then I might as well give up and beat my head against a wall, brick or otherwise. It won’t help, but it’ll soon put an end to my ridiculous, circular struggle. When I need time out to feel mentally strong enough to continue, I have to take it. I need to forgive myself the necessities, accept that The Cheesecake was NOT one of them and now focus on using the strength I’ve rebuilt in order to move forward. As it turns out the week was not a total loss, in fact it wasn’t a loss at all in that I didn’t lose any weight. However, I didn’t gain any either and I can live with that. But just for this week.

So what am I doing to fix it? Well, last night I went to the supermarket, not in order to start anything with a Common Jarvis Cocker, but to stock up on supplies. These supplies consist of substitutes – soup ingredients as a substitute for my PrĂȘt a Manger (low fat) soup. Fruit and raisins as a substitute for whatever snacks are lying around the office. Pitta and ryvita as a substitute for bread. To be honest, eating hasn’t been a problem so far, I’ve been calorie-counting and making damned good choices, but taking away temptation is a very important part of will power, and after the calorie-laden weekend I’ve had planning ahead is nothing but a good thing! I’ve also packed my swimming bag for tonight.

Perhaps the greatest motivator though was the sight of the bridesmaid dress I will be wearing for my oldest friend (in time known, not age)’s wedding. The colour is yet to be decided, and I’ll give nothing away about the style it not being my wedding, but suffice to say: It. Is. Awesome.

Wish me luck…

Monday, 2 April 2012

What I'm Missing

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag – some triumph, some abject failure, some lessons learnt and, most shockingly, some terrible loneliness. Last weekend I visited Manchester for the first time since leaving, and being back in the familiar and comforting surroundings of my own home, with Tony and Philip (our cat) affected me in a way I never expected it to. Unfortunately, the house in London is not a welcoming environment. My housemates are helpful, friendly, talkative and welcoming, which is great and I love them for it, but we live with our landlady’s husband who is not playing with a full deck. Let’s call him Scario. I get the impression that he thinks of the house as the set of Independence Day, and has cast himself in the role of Will Smith, defending his territory against the hostile, betentacled aliens invading his White House. It seems not to matter that said aliens are untentacled, well-behaved, rent-paying tenants, or that the house does not actually belong to him but rather his wife who lives several miles away, he will not be deterred from his war and will continue hiding the cutlery in his bid to defeat us. Unfortunately, he’s winning, and we find ourselves confined to our rooms dreading the voice from the landing calling “can I have a word with you?” and emerging only to find an angry man with a trivial complaint. My favourite recent Scario incident involved getting up in the morning to find him passed out on the sofa in the living room with his trousers undone. All in all, not a personable individual. Anyway, needless to say that leaving my little Manchester haven and returning to the realm of Scario filled me with a feeling akin to the realisation that you’re about to be eaten by a spidercrab. Isn’t it funny how you don’t realise how awful something is until you see the greener grass elsewhere and realise what a resoundingly crap situation you’re actually in? It didn’t help that the Northern Line wasn’t running between Euston and my desired stop, that instead I had to get two busses home, that the first bus I got on was going the wrong way or that the second was diverted.

So, I began this week with an empty feeling – I missed my boyfriend terribly, I missed my home and my cat, and I missed my friends – I currently know 4 people in London. I decided the way to combat this feeling was exercise, and throwing myself into weight loss. Unfortunately though, payday on Wednesday got in the way of my swimming plans and I went shopping instead. Battling through the hordes on Oxford Street though is no mean feat, so at least it wasn’t a total loss. I did, however, swim on Thursday, and what an adventure it was.

East Finchley Leisure Centre doesn’t get the best press. Reviews I read about it before attending told me it was dirty, old and that the floor was wet. Considering that the changing cubicles are pool-side I would be concerned if the floor wasn’t wet, so clearly I don’t expect the same level of luxury from my public pool as those who write these reviews do. To be honest, it was exactly what I was expecting – a little rough around the edges, but nevertheless a big diminishing hole filled with chlorinated water. Excepting the presence of twenty ten-year-old girls in one section creating a noise akin to having your ears pecked to shreds by a flock of marauding seagulls, it was quite pleasant. They have three lanes: slow, medium and fast. In a pool the size of East Finchley it isn’t really necessary to have more and I found myself quite well-matched in the fast lane with the only other person in there. I would state now that I am not a fast champion swimmer, but when your competition can barely manage two lengths together, I look pretty hot. Anyway, I started my swim thinking I’d do a mile of crawl, but 4 lengths in and I was doubting whether I’d get to 10. The first 20 lengths are always the hardest for me and considering that I haven’t swum properly for a good couple of months it was no surprise that my arms hurt. However, despite my lack of stamina and incredible lack of speed I forced myself up to a mile, and I felt wonderful for having managed it.

I should probably explain that I’ve been a very keen swimmer ever since I was allowed near water. I attended stamina training as a child and also used to swim with a triathlon club. Although it might seem strange to hear an unfit, overweight person talk about swimming a mile, I can only do this as a result of ingrained muscle memory. This phenomenon allows a person to retain a certain level of (slow, painful) ability even if they have not participated in the activity for a while. This is how ex-runners can quickly regain their stride, and once steel-legged cyclists rediscover the wind in their hair. It also gives me a little feeling of pleasure when I walk red-faced and wobbly to the poolside amongst furtive looks and giggles, unceremoniously fall in whilst trying to be graceful and then take my position in a higher lane amongst yet more giggles of disbelief, and then out-swim the bastards! HAHA! What? When the zombie apocalypse comes and I have to run for my life, I will certainly die with my inhaler in one hand, cursing my love of the water over that of the road, so I have to take my triumphs where I can.

Upon returning home I was filled with the aforementioned sense of achievement and thoroughly happy with my week so far. As I awoke at 2.30am with terrible stomach ache and proceeded to throw my guts up though I felt less elated. Did I push myself too hard and cause my body to rebel? Was I wrong about East Finchley Leisure Centre and the huge mouthful of water I swallowed around length 47 actually contained e-coli and other sick-making creatures? Or were there darker forces at work? I’ll never know. Although I didn’t sleep again until 5am I STILL got up and went to work, I got through the day and even managed a trip to the pub in the evening to undo all my hard work in the pool.

The weekend included a different kind of activity - volunteering for Time to Change (look ‘em up, they’re awesome), doing my bit to combat the stigma attached to mental health. As an example myself I feel this is a cause I strongly need to put my weight behind – all of it. They built a make-shift ‘village’ on the South Bank and invited people to come on in, have a look around, watch the adverts, read the bumph, talk to the volunteers who all had a history of mental health issues and generally go away with a more balanced sense of mental health issues and, hopefully, without wanting to use the word ‘psycho’ anymore towards anyone. It was difficult to engage people into hearing about the changes that needed to be made, but we still had a pretty good turn out! My favourite part though was the Human Library where you ‘took out’ a ‘book’ or person, who then told you all about a certain condition or subject related to mental health discrimination. Clever.

Having left the Village of Relative Sanity, as I like to think of it, I met up with Tony for dinner as work had brought him to London for the day. The plan was to have dinner together and therefore not miss out entirely on seeing each other this week. Far from enjoying the 2 or 3 hours we had together though, I actually found it harder to see him for a couple of hours and then say goodbye than I would had I not seen him at all. It seemed to bring to the surface all the feelings of loneliness that have been building since I left home for the second time last weekend, all the feelings that your brain buries to protect you and that only surface again when you’re faced with them. I’ll be honest, I felt terrible. I wanted to hang on to him at the station and ask him not to leave. This was actually the hardest thing I’ve had to do so far and the very first time in my life I’ve felt like this. Watching Tony head off for his train sent me back to the underground in tears and I cried for much of the evening. It isn’t just missing Tony with whom I’ve spent every day for almost two years, it isn’t just missing Philip or home, or my friends, nor is it the fact that I know no one here in London, it’s all of the above. I’ve made three big moves in the past – the first to University which was exciting, the second away from a terrible ex-boyfriend which was liberating, and the third back to Manchester which was exciting once again. Due to the fact that these have all be hugely successful I failed to foresee the emotional upheaval that would accompany this move. In the past I had been moving towards something better – this time I was leaving my partner, my pet and my fully functioning life to live in a cell in a shared house with a scary man who hides the cutlery.

Clearly it’s not just my weight that needs to be addressed, the way I live my life here does too and that’s going to be just as hard. I already need to monitor myself closely to check for signs of relapse, but it seems this isn’t enough. I must make sure that I’m active, that I eat properly, that I go out and see people at least twice a week and that I keep my mind occupied with positive things, or else there’s no way I’ll survive London on my own. I didn’t realise how much strain I would have to put myself under and I have to say that, if it weren’t for the wonder of medication, I would have left on that train with Tony and gone back home where I belong. But I didn’t. And I also managed to lose 5lbs this week, so I win.

Monday, 26 March 2012

It Starts...

Ok, so I didn’t get off to the best start. This weekend was a bit of a blow-out, but all in a good cause as it was our friend’s Superhero birthday party which was a really great night. The question of what to wear though caused no end of problems. See, the problem with superheroes is that they’re all superskinny and their super powers include being able to fit into skin-tight leather or spandex and still maintain functioning, un-squashed organs. Of course everyone was very kind and kept suggesting sexy red-headed superbabes for me to dress up as, such as Poison Ivy. It was unanimously decided however, that I should be Catwoman due to my love of, er, cats. They meant well, but hadn’t really thought it all the way through as these women, awesome though they undoubtedly are, fall into the aforementioned category of spandex-clad feats of engineering. The best I could hope for was Catwoman who’d really let herself go.

I did toy with the idea of going as Cat Lady – dressing in mismatched clothes, a cardigan buttoned up wrongly and a hat made from a whiskas box, but in the end even my pride proved too much to let me attend a party half-filled with strangers looking like I’d abandoned my post as the resident mentalist of a bus. So I wimped out, put on a black dress, a cat mask and some elbow-length gloves and went as a very unconvincing Catwoman. At least we could still enjoy the fun of making Tony’s outfit though! As a point of interest, he’s Thor, not She-Ra – unfortunately that was the only wig we had.

So anyway, I drank too much, ate cake and generally over-indulged. We also didn’t fully get up on Sunday until about 3pm meaning that we wasted the warmest and most beautiful day of sunshine that we’ve seen this year, altogether not my finest hour. I have to admit that I felt pretty ashamed of myself and started wondering how the hell I was going to actually start losing weight if this was what I did on my first weekend into the crusade. In my hungover state though I started watching a program called “I Used to be Fat” on Viva – yes, I know, not the greatest channel to choose for intellectually-enriching programmes, but it seemed the most that my brain could deal with. I was however, pleasantly surprised by the American life-style programme I had found. It featured one teenager per episode (I watched about 3) who took the summer before going to college to have a complete blitz on their weight. They were given a personal trainer, an enormous countdown calendar and, most pleasingly, a complete make-over of their lives. They were encouraged to think differently about food and exercise, to try several different activities, to learn to cook and eat healthily and their families were also included in this re-education and taught how to support their child and help them succeed. Here was a programme about normal people – not perfect, airbrushed characters in Beverley Hills or some other part of California, teaching teenagers that only beauty and an unnaturally thin body can make you really happy – here was a programme teaching teenagers that there are a lot of people who are fat, that they are fat for many different reasons, that every single one of them is a person you can really like and that being fat isn’t just about being lazy and eating cake – in these cases it was about emotional instability, mental-abuse in one case, family-lifestyle and poor nutritional education. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed watching these kids transform their lives and their attitudes and lose upwards of 70lbs in around 100 days.

Of course, this isn’t really a viable option for me; having a job kind of eliminates the option of working out 6-8 hours a day with a personal trainer. It did, however, make me remember the last time I lost all my weight – I was living at home after university and a very, very bad break-up and attending the Jackie and David bootcamp for fat daughters. Putting my life and my health in the hands of my parents was the best thing I could have done. They regulated meals, bought me a membership to their gym and made me go, they forced me to attend weight-watchers every week – not to follow their meal plan, which I really don’t agree with, but to be weighed. Even though their methods were hard work and they very often made me feel pretty worthless for being fat, they brought me back out of myself and helped me rebuild my confidence. This time though I have to do it alone, I have to motivate myself, not let dips in my depression-cycle overcome me and keep on pressing towards my goal, and that’s frightening. Especially since I left my boyfriend, my cat, my home and my friends two and half weeks ago and moved my entire life down to London to live in a room in a shared house and start a new job. This is the time to be making changes, it's a fresh new start and a logical time for a physical spring-clean (it being spring) and to learn how to do it alone, without my support network. It's also the worst time to do it - without my support network.

So, when I get paid on Wednesday I will buy a swim membership and go at least twice a week (hopefully three times), I will walk home from the tube station at night instead of getting the bus and I will climb the two flights of stairs to work twice a day. These are my starting steps, they are not big, but they are manageable. I’ll let you know how it goes...