We never know where life is going to take us or what challenges it brings. In January 2010 I was happy, so happy I wanted to stay that way for as long as I could. I realised that if Ali and I wanted a long and healthy life together, we had to change. I was clinically obese, had a bad back and my knees were feeling the strain. I had various health problems and I was ageing faster than my years. I looked ahead to a life I did not want. It was time to change. By the end of the year I had lost 4 stone - 56lbs. My confidence rocketed - I had taken control and it had worked. I was exercising, enjoying buying clothes, speaking up for myself.

I began to believe in myself again, I began to dream. For years I had watched marathons with admiration and a lump in my throat. In April 2013, I ran my first marathon.

This blog is about living life as a slim person, staying slim and fulfilling my dreams. Come and join me, support me, advise me!

Take care, Sue

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Fill your trolley: the psychology of food shopping

Deciding to lose weight is a life changing decision. It's a bit like marriage, you want to do it, you want to make it work, but are you going to become a different person? Will it change you? It's a journey you embark on in high spirits and with great expectations - with very little idea of where you'll end up.

It's not the big changes, it's the small ones that challenge you most. The things you used to do automatically without thinking - breakfast teapot for two not one; not taking the car keys off with you. When I started my weight loss programme,  I knew I'd have to eat different things, but I hadn't really worked out what that meant day to day and just how deep rooted those changes would be.

Going shopping, cooking meals are habits that are built up over the years so you go through the motions with barely a thought, you just do what you always do. I saw a study a few years ago that found a very high proportion of us have fridges and cupboards full of the foods our parents had, foods we grew up with. 

One of the scariest things about starting to lose weight for me was the first shop. If you're like me, you don't have a shopping list, it's all in your head, you can shop happily on automatic pilot. Well on my diet, my old list didn't work any more - panic! I was lucky, my weight loss plan gave me a shopping list, so I didn't have to work it out from scratch, but it was still very strange, like having a map to a new world.  

Some of the the territory was familiar; chicken, fish, fruit and veg, porridge, yogurt. So far, so good. But there were alien objects on the list, strange foods that made me feel I was shopping for a stranger. Crisp breads? Rice cakes? These were foods eaten by people on diets who don't like food! I remember my Mum eating them in the 60s, along with the grapefruit and the boiled egg diets that made her ill and a bit tetchy.

I was suspicious and unnerved.  I am definitely not a faddy diet person, I care about my health, these were not my foods, what were they doing in my trolley??  I consoled myself that they were only a small part of the list, and I wasn't ashamed of being on a diet was I (or was I? Hmm, another story). I decided to regard it like eating food in another country, I didn't have to love them, I just had to try them out, for a while.

The biggest change was the number of absent friends from my shopping trolley, foods that I always had in my house, and would no longer. Losing weight meant I had to say 'farewell' to foods I loved, foods I delighted in discovering and eating - cheese, bread, cakes and biscuits and wine.  I loved cheese; I loved the variety, the taste, the texture of cheese. I loved the social aspects of cheese, talking about a new discovery, sampling different tastes at the end of a lovely meal with friends. Low fat cheese would not cut the mustard.  These delights were absent entirely from my shopping list and I felt a sense of loss. I was a person who loved cheese who would eat it no longer. I missed cheese!

But I gradually came to love my new shopping trolley.  I love the colour of the fruit and veg that now fills it full to the top. Low fat yogurts replace cheese and I discovered Rachels Low Fat Organic Probiotic Rhubarb Yogurt which is better than ice cream (and now as dangerous!). We have lots of different fish too and very rarely eat processed meat. I delight in the diversity and abundance of my weekly shop, and I certainly don't feel deprived, my basket truly does overflow. The local farm shops are doing well out of us too as we treat ourselves to local seasonal veg and fruit. If you're in East Lothian try Knowes Farm Shop and Gosford Bothy Farm Shop. Haddington Farmers Market is a treasure trove of local healthy lovely food from around the area.

What we eat says a lot about who we are.   Our faith or beliefs can determine what we eat;  we have allergies and sensitivities; foods we we like and don't like, all of these say something about us. What we eat makes us who we are physically and psychologically. How many times have you looked at the shopping basket in front of you in the queue at the supermarket and formed a judgement? I do. I can compose complete life histories, if not dynastic sagas based on the content of the next shopping trolley. Have you ever hidden the white bread under the fruit in the trolley or explained to the check out person that the chocolate biscuits are for your Mum?  I have. Oh yes, food is much more than just physical nourishment.

Now, almost a year after reaching my target weight, I am happy with the new me. I like what my trolley says about me. It says this is a woman who loves to eat healthily and well.  Changing what I eat has changed my size but also changed how I see myself and I hadn't really expected that, it's a bonus. This idea I eat healthily is also a bit of a brake on indulgence, well I like to think so!

They say you are what you eat, how true that is!

Take care and happy shopping


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mind Games - Fartlek for the Brain playfullness

I've had a wearing week, it's been non stop and I'm knackered - bet you all know exactly what I mean. All I wanted to do was sit still for a while and rest, maybe sleep. But I knew that I had to go for a run and to try and make it a long one or I would regret it. Punchline - I dragged myself out for 10 miles and I feel so much better. That's all because I now believe me when I tell myself I will enjoy it and the hardest bit is just getting out of that front door.
So much about running is not really about your legs - you just put one foot in front of the other as fast or as far as you can.  Simples.  The big challenge about running is your head and what goes on in there.  All this stuff about mental discipline and toughness that the serious althletes talk about (and which sounds so scary to us ordinary folk) is at the heart of running, it's what it's all about. The best runners are the ones who put their heads down and just get on with it

I've never really had to think about mental discipline. I'm one of these folks that is a bit of a butterfly. I tend to follow what interests me with great passion and enthusiam.  Of course like everyone, I have to be disciplined every day from the moment I get out of bed to the moment I fall back in again. But I never thought this was about discipline, you just do it and get on with it. And that is the secret - you just do it.

Running is teaching me all kinds of stuff about what you can do if you really put your mind to it. It's teaching me that if I can take control of what goes on in my head, I can achieve things my aforesaid head thought I couldn't do.  

In running there's a range of techniques you can use to get better and to help you take on challenges that you once thought impossible. My favourite is 'fartlek'. Right, stop sniggering at the back! It's Scandinavian for 'speed play' and it's made for butterfly big kids like me.

Fartlek is really simple, it means that when you're out for your run, you play around with your speed and see what happens. You speed up till you reach the next lampost, or sprint as fast as you can until you get to the end of the beach. You play around with how fast you go in your burst, whether you run up a hill, how long you leave between bursts, whatever you want, you're in control.  It's all about trying things out and seeing what happens and it works.

The magic happens for me because it's playful, experimental and the pressure's off. No shame if you only sprint for a minute, no blame if you stop when it hurts. You can't help but learn a bit about yourself and as you push that little bit harder,  the penny drops that you can do a bit more than you thought you could and you up your game.

I was out very early the other day for a run. A lovely sunny morning on the beach, a perfect morning. The Bass Rock was white against a blue sky; the sand that lovely red colour that goes so well with the sea, the sky and the grass.  But my legs were like lead. My body takes a while to wake up, not for me the #4.44 alarm favoured by the mighty Pyllon!  So I was kind of split between euphoria at the beauty of the day and misery at having to run when I should be in bed. And I'd not had any breaklfast - Mrs Grumpy, bad mental attitude.

As I trundled along, I thought with all this going for me, why didn't I just buck up and get moving. I remembered the advice of my lovely mentor Jill about how acting as if you're confident or happy can make you feel that way. I put a big grin on, I lifted my face to the sun and got my posture good and strong, I lifted my feet and before too long I began to feel good. As I felt better, I got stronger and speeded up and my legs began to enjoy themselves. My head seemed to have caught up too, I was starting to feel good.  I started a bit of mindlek - playing around with my thoughts. Positive thinking made my legs work, negative thinking made them heavy and unwilling. I twigged that my brain and legs worked together and kept each other on the right path - or indeed the wrong one!

I'd always say I was never built for speed, I'm a long distance gal who likes the steady slog and my natural bent is to focus on running longer and longer distances.  But you have to build speed up for distance work and I don't always have time to run for hours, so I played with the speed workouts in Women's Running magazine. Well a few months later, I'm speeding up and my 5k time is getting quite respectable and my 'natural pace' has increased too. I'm beginning to enjoy 5K!

Playing about has made me challenge my own beliefs about what I am capable of and improved my performance in ways I couldn't have imagined.  I have shaved a chunk off my time and got my little legs moving faster than I thought I ever could. I don't run fast? Well I do sometimes!
I shouldn't be surprised, play is how children learn, so that means it works.  So much of being a grown up means that your ability to play gets restricted and labelled as irresponsible, but play is one of the most powerful ways of learning and getting better at what you do. Play opens up your mind and makes you prove yourself wrong.

So, if you're like me and a bit tentative about believing in yourself, try a bit of play and see where it takes you. You have absolutely nothing to lose and a massive amount to gain.
Take care