Stopping a wobble turning into a nose dive…

I’m having a blip. My mental health is wobbling, between the equilibrium I’d reach and a lower, more self destructive mood. I know this happens. It’s part of my recovery. But knowing that doesn’t make the blips any easier. 

I’m trying to identify what causes these blips. But it’s rarely as simple as one thing. Potential triggers this week:

  • First week back at work after two weeks annual leave.
  • IBS flare up leaving me feel bloated and uncomfortable.
  • Worry about elderly dog who spent Friday at the vets for blood tests.
She’s feeling a bit better on her new meds.
  • Out of my routine with one child away with friends and the other at Granny’s. 
  • Long drive to collect daughter from Yorkshire leaving me very tired.
  • Variois triggering conversations I couldn’t avoid.

And those are just the ones I noticed!

I’m trying to deal with it differently. Keep the wobble from turning into a downward spiral. So yesterday evening instead of hiding myself away when I felt dreadful I let myself cry in front of my partner. Usually I insist “I’m fine” even when I’m clearly not. I cry alone, hiding in another room or after everyone else is asleep. This time I let my partner know how I was feeling, we talked about it. It didn’t stop the negative feelings completely but it muted them a bit. 

This morning I felt lethargic and numb, that washed out emptiness that hits after a real low and leaves me not wanting to do anything. I could happily have moved no further than the sofa all day, and very recently I wouldn’t have. Again I spoke with my partner. 

My plan for today had been to go for a run, but with my mood low being seen in public in running gear just seemed impossible. My paranoia was in overdrive, my anxiety telling me how awful an obese middle aged woman in leggings would look, how I’d be unable to run, how people would laugh.

My alternative was the gym. Leggings aren’t so bad when everyone’s wearing them! But getting up seemed impossible. My partner reminded me how positive having the 5k goal had made me, that I’d feel worse about myself if I skipped a training session, that I could do this. 

And I did. I headed to town, did a couple of messages (including buying cupcakes for tea) and then I went to the gym.

I started slowly, and felt leaden for the first few minutes, but I managed my first ever 5k on the treadmill, running the first 2.5k and then combining running and walking for the rest. It took me 43 minutes, and hopefully I will improve on that in the 4 weeks before the race. I know it will take longer off the treadmill. Mo Farrah could run 3 x 5k in the time it takes me to run one, but he’s a world class professional athlete and I’m a middle aged obese woman who has never run before, so I’m still proud of 43 minutes! 

Proof 🙂
Three short spells of walking is not bad for just over 5k.

This evening I cooked our tea from scratch, so I’ve not yet succumbed to the sofa, but my anxiety tried to turn every tiny error into a crisis. A dropped knife, a missing ingredient, a pan boiling over – all led to panic. Getting out helped, but it’s not a magic fix. I feel better than I did, but still wobbly. I know I need to keep on top of it, I know how easily a blip can become a nose dive. But I also know I have support, and if I take advantage of that support I can start heading back upwards. 

Eating more veg – Healthy Coleslaw #NewcastleCan

Last week’s organic veg bag included a giant cabbage which I’ve been struggling to use up. So yesterday I decided to make coleslaw. This is one of those foods I’ve been avoiding lately, I know the shop bought kind can include more calories than you’d expect, but I’ve always been put off making it because it seemed a bit faffy. Nevertheless I’m determined to eat healthier and stop wasting food, so I decided to give it a go. 

I settled on this recipe from BBC Good Food over all the others available online, mainly because I already had the ingredients in, but also because I know BBC recipes tend to be pretty straightforward to follow. I did however hit the usual “my kitchen doesn’t have such fancy gadgets” quandary and the “what does that mean?” worry during the making of it. 

The recipe calls for 1/2 a cabbage, 1/2 an onion and 2 carrots – “what does that mean?” I find recipes which are so vague a bit frustrating to be honest. Vegetables vary so much in size, how do you know how much they mean? 

As I knew it was a large cabbage I upped the other ingredients.

One medium onion, three mixed size carrots and half a huge cabbage.

I didn’t want too gloopy a coleslaw, so rather than doubling the ingredients I used heaped tablespoons where the recipe called for level (6 of natural yoghurt and 2 of mayo) and 1 teaspoon of mustard (I didn’t have Dijon so used English).

The recipe tells you to grate the veg in afoog processor or box grater – “my kitchen doesn’t have such fancy gadgets!” I do hovever have a fairly bog standard elderly cheese grater which is what I used instead. 

Its surprisingly hard work to manually grate that amount of veg, and I had to deal with the fact that the kitchen was pebble-dashed with fragments of cabbage, carrot and onion afterwards! However it was effective and I was pleased with the end result.

Low fat, low gloop, tasty coleslaw. Not bad for a first attempt!

Running for the reluctant. 

I went for a jog this morning. I’m determined to complete the Great North 5K at a jog next month, so am pushing myself to get fitter. (More on that here).

Up until now my running had been done on a treadmill at the gym. I’m doing quite well there, up to 2.5k at a run, or 3k if you include the cool down. But as my free training plan has me running 3 times a week I decided it was time to venture out into the real world to run too.

It turns out the real world is much harder than a treadmill. There’s the obvious hazards: hills, puddles, dogs, pedestrians, traffic, uneven surfaces etc. all of which I was prepared for. What I hadn’t realised was how hard I’d find it to control my pace. My body just kept speeding up to a pace I couldn’t maintain, and I ended up having to slow to a walk to get my breath back several times. 

I managed 1.3 miles in 17 and a bit minutes, which is distressingly close to my fast walking pace, and a fraction of the time I can manage on the treadmill at the gym. But the race is in the real world, so I need to get used to running in the real world. 

I wish I enjoyed it more. My body doesn’t naturally move in a running stride, and I’m more looking forward to it being over than enjoying the moment. I’ve been watching some of the athletics from London and marvelling at what the human body can do. I saw Usain Bolt’s final race last night and wished I had just a smidgeon of his effortless grace when running. I saw Jessica Judd interviewed after her race saying how much fun she’d had and wished I had a tiny part of her attitude to and enjoyment of running. 

All the advice on getting fitter and more active says to find something you love doing, but I love curling up with a good book and a cup of tea rather than anything energetic. As well as training my body to move more I’m having to train my mind to enjoy it. So far my body is responding better than my mind, but I’m determined! 

My Gemma Correll water bottle sums up how I feel running! Pic from, and bottle bought from

Pondering clothes shopping, expectations and ethics…

I did something amazing yesterday.

I went into a high street clothing store, found something I liked, tried it on, and bought it. 

If this doesn’t sound that amazing to you it’s likely that you’re lucky enough to be what most retailers consider average sized. I haven’t been for years, and have had to skulk around the plus size sections, buying clothes based on being able to get into them, not whether or not I liked them. If you’ve never had to do this you’ve no idea how soul destroying clothes shopping can be. Even if you don’t already hate your body an afternoon of struggling to find anything you can squeeze into can leave your self esteem badly bruised. Society has raised us that appearance is everything, especially for women for whom clothes shopping should be a treat and indulgence. When you’re too big to fit into the majority of what’s on offer it can be hard to convince yourself that appearance isn’t important. Being able to choose something I like, and buy it from the general stock not a separate range, feels like a massive positive change. 

This is an indication of how the changes I’ve been making this year are making a difference. That small, sustainable changes to my life style do have a big impact on my health and my life. It’s motivation to keep going.
I’m now down to a UK 18, which is at the large end of what most shops consider average size. Although of course all shops vary, I’ve found the difference in waist size between different 18s can be as much as 4 inches, so for every store I’m an 18 in there’s one I’m in a 20. And I’m still too tall for most stores, for trousers or long sleeves I have to go to the special “tall” ranges. 

And of course there are the ethical issues. Refusing to participate in throw away fashion is much easier when none of it fits you! The first things I bought in my new size were pre-owned from charity shops, a lot better for the environment and my bank balance! When I do shop on the high street I try to be aware of the ethical standings of the stores and avoid the worst offenders. I’d recommend checking the Ethical Consumer website to see how your favourite store scores. 

Plastic Free July – my limited success…

For me plastic free July was not about completely avoiding plastic, I knew that was too much to attempt in one go. It was about becoming more aware of the plastic I was using and finding ways to begin reducing it. I decided to focus on reducing my use of single use plastic. Here are some of the things I found out:

Three easy switches:

  • Hand wash – Easiest of all. Instead of plastic bottles of hand wash I now have a soap dish at each sink, although finding ceramic rather than plastic soap dishes was a challenge in itself.
  • Toilet paper – To economise I usually buy whichever multipack is on special offer, different brands but always wrapped in plastic. I scoped out various local supermarkets and couldn’t find any paper wrapped rolls. So I ordered from Who Gives A Crap whose recycled toilet paper is paper wrapped. The rolls are also double wrapped so they last longer than the big brand ones I used to get, the box I ordered is going to last us ages and work out an even better bargain than the special offers I used to get. 
The bargains are always plastic wrapped.
  • Peanut butter – I use a lot of peanut butter and usually buy the larger plastic containers which work out cheaper. Switching back to glass jars is easy, but more expensive. And other ethical choices I make are also more expensive, organic fruit and veg, farmers market instead of supermarket for meat and so on. All those little additional costs add up and my budget doesn’t have a lot of leeway.

More Challenging: 

  • Plastic Bags – I always have at least three reusable shopping bags in my handbag and take extra when I know I’ll need them. So this was an area I’d thought I was doing well in. I realised this month I’m not doing as well as I’d thought. I buy organic veg from local producers, and a surprising amount of it comes in plastic bags. When I buy additional fruit and veg from the supermarket there’s very little of it not prepacked in plastic. When I shop at the farmers market everything is either in plastic bags or clingfilm. 
  • Bread – As far as I can tell there is no way to buy bread at the supermarket without plastic. Even the paper bags my supermarket uses for the store baked loaves have plastic panels. I can bake bread at home, plastic free, but I don’t have the time to do that every time. I tried a couple of the more upmarket supermarkets, plastic everywhere. Eventually I found a small bakery in the city centre which doesn’t use plastic. And more importantly they make fantastic bread. So now I either shop there or bake my own. 

Three I’ve not yet solved:

  • Toiletries – other than soap everything comes in plastic. 
  • Pet food – wet food now comes in plastic trays rather than tins as it used to, and the dry food comes in plasticised sacks.
  • Cleaning products – my only success here was finding a shop that will refill washing up liquid bottles, so I’m still using the same plastic bottle. Other than that all my cleaning products come in plastic. 

    I’m glad I’ve taken part in plastic free July, its made me a lot more aware of what I’m using and what the alternatives are. Hopefully I’ll keep on being a more aware consumer, and build on the changes I’ve made so far. 

    Can I run 5k? #NewcastleCan

    Until yesterday I hadn’t run much further than the bus stop at the end of my street in decades. Today I signed up to the Great North 5k. I’m slightly terrified.

    I know many people who are doing the entirety of the Great North Run, who think nothing of running 5k before work as a warm up, or in the evening as a stress buster. I don’t have that sort of a relationship with running. I’ve been throwing the odd minute or two of running into my exercise routine more out of duty than enjoyment.

    I’ve been struggling to remain as enthusiastic about my health kick since my weightloss stalled, and I’ve been feeling like I need a new challenge. I’d had an email from Newcastle Can about the Great North 5k and was toying with the idea of signing up. I know I can complete 5k at a brisk walk, I did it for International Women’s Day (see This Woman Did! to find out how I got on), and that was before I started my regular gym sessions. I wondered how much fitter I was now, how to increase the challenge. Could I run 5k rather than walking? 

    Feeling the buzz around the Newcastle Can Wake and Shake event on Northumberland Street this week made me more confident about joining in and pushing myself. Seeing all those people enthsiastic about getting healthier energised me. It’s easier to make lasting changes together rather than struggling alone.

    At the gym yesterday I tried running on the treadmill rather than fast walking. To my surprise I managed two lots of 15 minutes. A sign of how my fitness has improved so far this year. And I decided if I can do 15 minutes now I can build up to 5k by September. 

    So thats the plan. 5k at a run (jog!) on 9th September. Wish me luck! 

    6 months in #NewcastleCan

    It’s 6 months, near enough, since I signed up to Newcastle Can, a local initiative to get people healthier, more active and losing a combined total of 100,000 pounds this year. You can read the various posts I’ve written about it here. I thought 6 months in was a good time to look back and review my progress.

    I feel healthier. I am healthier. I’ve upped the amount and intensity of my exercise. Prior to Newcastle Can I was generally managing 10,000 steps a day, but a brisk walk was the nearest I got to cardio. These days I’m at the gym at least once a week, building in weights as well as cardio. When I first started, in April, I struggled to manage 10 reps with the smallest weight on any machine. My arms are still not as strong as my legs, but I’m upping the number of reps and the weights and its definitely working. My body is changing shape, my stamina has improved and I come out after 90 minutes feeling more energised than exhausted. I have Newcastle Can to thank, their open day got me through the doors and showed me the gym was not the terrifying torture chamber of my imaginings. 

    I’ve had to cry off my Saturday Dancercise class over the summer due to family commitments, so I’m wondering if I can find another class I enjoy or whether to add another gym session to my routine. I don’t want the gym to become a chore, but as cost is a definite consideration it may become the choice of necessity. 

    During the first couple of months the weight dropped off quite quickly, and Ive lost over a stone. Although recently the weight loss has stalled I’m definitely continuing to change shape. My clothes are hanging off me and I’ve had to start buying things a size smaller. People are noticing and complimenting me on how much slimmer and healthier I look, which is lovely.

    I’m not kidding myself. I was clinically obese when I started and despite all the weight I’ve lost I’d have to lose another stone or two to get anywhere near a healthy BMI. People are really complementary when they hear how much I’ve lost, but as a percentage of what I need to lose it’s not that great. I need to keep going. I know now that it’s not just possible, it can be fun too!

    I’m cooking from scratch more, and I’m far more aware of what I’m eating and the impact it has on me. I’m not dieting. I don’t have a calorific value I’m strict about not exceeding, or any foods I can’t eat. I know from past experience that would just make me feel frustrated and craving “banned” foods. But I am far more mindful of what I eat, portion sizes, additives, fat and sugar contents. Nine times out of ten I will choose the healthy snack, but I’m not going to beat myself up the day I go for a cookie instead of an apple. And by making my own cookies I can be sure I’m not getting any hidden extras when I do indulge. 

    I think it is this mindfulness, this drip drip drip of small changes that I can keep to rather than unsustainable massive changes that’s made Newcastle Can a success for me. I don’t know if I’ll hit the very optimistic weight goal I set when I signed up. If I did it would see me in the middle of the healthy BMI range for my height. I do know that I’ve made permanent changes for the better in the way I live my life, and that’s worth celebrating. 
    What small changes have you made that have made a big difference to your life?