Monday, 22 June 2015

The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.


For a long time I have been living with regret, living in the past, living with the "what if I had done this differently" attitude. Now that is not a great way to live and it has been a challenging year but one that I am proud to say I feel like I am coming out of the other side of. 

It's been a challenging year, and this isn't a sob story post but more to let people know that if you feel like I did then you are not alone, and I promise you things get better. The last 12 months I felt like most days were a challenge, there was a period of about 6 weeks when I had my breakdown when getting out of bed was a massive effort and I would congratulate myself for getting up and dressed, slowly that became easier - I went back to work, I started seeing my friends again. I took one step at a time on the road to recovery. Looking back now I can't believe how low I got. Now I know depression isn't solved over night but I am in a *much* better place now than I was then. I am happy again, and that has been a long time coming. 

Recently things have been falling into place - I have found myself just thinking how contently happy I am, I find myself smiling again and I am confident again, I'm excited for the future- something that this time last year I honestly didn't think was possible, as I used to dread every day. And I am so damn proud of myself for that. 

I have been on anti depressants for about 18 months now. I had my dose upped when I had my breakdown, I reduced this (with my doctors supervision) at Christmas to half the dose, and then decided to ween myself off them. Don't ever do this people - I went a bit cray cray and poor Jon was a star putting up with me - I was a nightmare to live with for about 2 weeks before I realised it was a bad idea and went back to the doctors and they told me to start taking them again. Because although I thought I was doing well then - looking back now I was far from ready to come off them but I judged myself for being on "happy pills" as I referred to them, I know that's stupid but it's the way my little mind works. Recently though (with my doctors supervision this time) I have started to ween myself off them and I am feeling great, I am not relying on the pills; although I am taking one day at a time - but these individual days are adding up to weeks and months, which helps with everything else falling into place. 

This weekend something clicked for me - the self love, the belief in myself and the recognition that I am worth it. I am worth investing in my body, I am worthy of taking an hour out a day to go running, I am worthy of going out with my friends and not feeling like a burden.. the list goes on. I am starting to feel like the 24 year old that I am, and that feeling is great. I feel so much more confident in myself. And confidence is the best accessory a girl can have!

I have learnt not to regret the past, I cannot change it and living with regret prevents me of having the future that I can create and that I deserve. The last year or so has been a tough one, and I would not have got through it without the love and support of my amazing family of friends. Surrounding yourself with love may feel like the worst thing in the world when you just want to be alone, but at times forcing myself to do so was the best thing I could have done as it has got me where I am today. 

For a long long time I have beaten myself up about my weight gain, and well that is not going to get me any where - other than fatter as I emotional eat and that's a vicious circle....I've had every excuse under the sun going as to why I put on weight and the reality is I put the food in my mouth and I did it. And I am the one that is going to work my ass off and get healthier and fitter again. 
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As I sit here and write this post I am home alone - Jon has gone away for 3 days with work and even only a few months ago this would have sent my anxiety sky high. This time though I was looking forward to it, having my own space and routine for a couple of days (and I get to watch all my trashy TV without him moaning!) 

No I don't have the perfect life and I don't live through rose tinted glasses that things will always be this great, yes I know I will have bad days and sometimes my anxiety makes an appearance. However I am in such a better place right now I know things will never be as bad as they have been in the past, and I am the one that has put the effort into making me this strong again.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Spicy Chicken Noodle - The Skinny Grub

A couple of weeks ago when I was lying in the sun and a message popped into my inbox on twitter about whether I would like a copy of a cook book to review I jumped at the chance. A) because I love food. B) I'm a sucker for making the same thing week in week out & always need new ideas.

Jayne who has written "EAT to your heart's content..without the guilt" has written this cook book alongside her weight loss with Slimming World but the book can be adapted to any weight loss plan/ healthy eating lifestyle.

My other half opened up the book for a browse before I had even got my hands on it and instantly made a mental note that we had to make the Spicy Chicken Noodle soup as soon as possible, which I agreed with as soon as I had read it as it sounded delicious and when we made it last night it certainly didn't disappoint.

When I say "we" made it...I actually mean my personal chef AKA Jon my boyfriend! And the great thing about this recipe was that it is pretty much a 1 pan meal, so for the rule in our house "whoever doesn't cook does the dishes" meant I wasn't left with a sink full of saucepans either! Winning.

I gave Jon my phone and made him take step by step photos (he needs to work on this as I only got 3!) and ensured that he gave me a step by step guide about how simple the recipe was to make.

The recipe is for 4 people so we just halved everything for the 2 of us.

Ingredients (for 4 people)
1.4 litres chicken/veg stock
5cm ginger, thinly sliced
1 stick lemon grass (we didn't use this as our local Asda have stopped selling it!)
1 red chilli, halved
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
4 boned chicken breasts, fat & skin removed
200g dried rice noodles
6 baby bok choy, sliced (we used pak choy as it was the closest alternative that Asda had)
12 basil leaves (we omitted these as Jon hates basil)
12 mint leaves
handful of beansprouts - optional (again we omitted these as Jon hates these too!)
1 red chilli, thinly sliced into rings
3 spring onions, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped coriander - optional (again, you guessed it we omitted these as Jon isn't a fan!)

Recipe

Add the stock, lemon grass, ginger, chilli, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce to a pan, bring to the boil & reduce to a simmer. Add the chicken (at this point we were unsure whether the chicken should be cooked or raw, so we browned the chicken before adding) and continue to simmer until cooked, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken, set aside and keep warm (we placed ours in the oven on low). Then remove the ginger, lemon grass and chilli and discard.

Bring back to the boil, add the rice noodles and simmer for the next 3 minutes, or until cooked. Add the bok choy and simmer covered for a further 1 minute. Turn off the heat and leave for 2 minutes.

Thickly slice the chicken and add to serving bowls. Divide the basil, mint & beansprouts between the bowls and ladle over the soup. Serve garnished with chilli rings, spring onions and coriander.


This came out at 543 calories per serving - although we used slightly more than 200g of rice noodles.

Our kitchen smelt divine when this was cooking, and certainly increased my expectations of what I was expecting to taste. And wow it was like a party in my mouth - the soup wasn't too spicy, although if you wanted more spice you could add more chillies. Jon gave this a massive thumbs up for both ease of cooking and taste - so much so he wants it for dinner again this week!

Head over to The Skinny Grub on Facebook or Twitter to find out more about Jayne and her delicious recipes. I'll be working my way through the book over the next couple of weeks with "guilt free guacamole" and "Chinese Duck" top of my hit list!




Monday, 15 June 2015

Half Marathon #4 - Swansea Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran my 4th half marathon - The Swansea Half, on my 24th birthday, if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you'd have known as it's all I have gone on about for weeks.

I always knew this was going to be a tough run - I'm around 4 stone heavier from when I ran my last half in 2013 and around 2 stone heavier from when I ran the marathon in 2014. I also hadn't stuck to my training as well as I should have - hindsight is a wonderful thing! It is amazing how much muscle memory your legs have as the great news is I completed it without dying - more on my incident at mile 10 later!! But it was way harder than I had anticipated due to the crowds - well lack of.

All my previous runs I have done; Bristol, Bath, The GNR & London have always had the streets packed with supports, often 2 or 3 deep in the crowds and finding loved ones was always a challenge. So I was expecting the same - I mean why wouldn't it be - watching half marathons are so inspiring if there was one in your local area you'd go out and watch; plus what else are you going to do when all the roads are closed! Swansea was the complete opposite - there was literally no one- I mean no one apart from the race makes and a handful of people every mile or so. And as great as it was to have those race makers there, I needed more people. When runners say the crowds carry you for the last couple of miles we mean it!

It may have had a lack of supporters because it is only the 2nd year that the Swansea Half has been held, however it could have done with more publicity as friends I know who live in Swansea didn't even know it was being held on Sunday!

There also appeared to be a lack of atmosphere - it was very much a runners run, rather than a run that has a lot of charity runners and us slow ones at the back. There was no charity village at the start/finish and I only saw a handful of people in fancy dress whereas I saw hundreds of running club vests etc. Which is absolutely fine if that is the race you want to hold, but I think it should be made clear to us charity runners that it is more of a competitive run.

I got to Swansea at around 8.00 and parked easily - a big bonus that all council car parks are free on a Sunday and with 4 in walking distance of the start line there was plenty of choice. We got to the starting area and I went for my usual wee straight away as I hate stopping on the course for a wee. I was disappointed that even at 8.10 there was no loo roll in the portaloo's - I mean how hard is it to supply enough loo roll!? Jon and I then wandered around for a bit  to visit the charity tents - of which there was 2! The race was due to start at 9.15 and nerves were starting to set in - which meant one thing - I needed to wee again!! However the massive lack of portaloo's meant the queues were horrendous, so we dived into McDonalds in the hope we could use the toilets in there - of which everyone else had the same idea. Although the queues weren't quite as long I still queued for 40 minutes( I may or may not have contemplated using the mens). Although I missed the first 2 pen calls I wasn't overly concerned as I was the last starting pen so had a little bit of time to play with. But the organisers severely underestimated the amount of portaloo's needed for 5000 runners, hopefully they will take this on board and put some more in next year, but a massive thanks to McDonalds for allowing everyone to use the loo's in there!

The race started well, it was hot but not unbearable. The first 3 miles went by quite quickly; I was running just behind the 2:30 pacer and was feeling strong. It was a very flat course which is always a bonus, I knew once I had got to the half way point and turned back that I could do it. Around mile 5 it suddenly hit me that I was running a half and that I had got this far and I could finish - I just needed to bottle that feeling for when I hit the inevitable wall!

Turning round at mumbles to come back up to the city was tough - I saw the tall tower in Swansea that is a mile from the finish line and muttered "F*cking h*ll that's a long way"...didn't realise with my headphones in quite how loud I had said this as the lady next to me patted me on the back and said "it's not too far love we can do it" which is what I love about running, everyone supports each other.

The 2nd leg of the race was a strange one - it was on the footpath along the sea front, which was great views but strange to run on as it wasn't cordoned off for the race so there was people walking on it in your way! Now I know the organisers have had some issues with the council and the roads being closed and reopened by a certain time - but surely holding a half marathon in the city everyone should embrace it even if it does mean the roads are closed for a few hours. If London can deal with road closures for a day I am sure Swansea can!!

My wall came, as I knew it would around mile 7.5, I honestly wanted to cry. So I looked at my phone, text a few people (pretty proud of my ability to run and text if I do say so myself) looked at some tweets I had received and knew that everyone was backing me so I needed to back myself. As Jon said to me "your body has done this twice over, dig deep" so I did. I had 1.5 miles until I knew Jon was at mile 9. I could get there then it was all mind games until the finish - Water stations, double figures, Rhian at mile 12, gel taking, the finish; it's amazing the things you do to count down the miles.

I must shout out to the guy at mile 8ish who heard me ask when the next water station was to be told it was another mile and he gave me some of his water; another example of the kindness that us runners show towards others.

Mile 9 came around and I could see in the distance Jon stood at the side. It wasn't hard he was the only person stood there apart from a race maker on the other side of the path! He gave me a hug, asked how I was and jogged with me a little bit. I waved by to him as I got onto the sandy path and said I would see him at the finish line.

It was now the count down to double figures and then I was on the home straight. I was looking like I would finish around 2:45. Then my ipod died; but that's OK I would just stream the radio on my phone - but that wasn't playing ball so I sacked off the headphones and decided to soak up these last 3 miles. Then I had the most awful pain I have ever experienced in my life. I honestly thought I was paralysed - turns out I just had cramp in my foot. I had stopped at the side of the road and tears streamed down my face, I didn't know what was happening nor what I needed to do. I waved down to the race maker who was about 300 meters away and he came running over. Got me to sit down and got my shoe off. Jon then saw me and came over; literally threw an energy gel down my mouth along with the water whilst the race maker made me stretch my foot. I stopped crying, realised I wasn't going to be paralysed and that it was just cramp and that I had another 2.5 miles to go. With my trainers back on, water in hand and a kiss from Jon I was off.

Mile 11 came and went - the next milestone was mile 12 where I knew Rhian was and then it was the home straight. Rhian saw me coming from about 500 feet away from where she was. Despite her dodgy knees she came running down to me grabbed my hand and ran the next half a mile with me; whilst the police sang happy birthday to me. I wanted to die with embarrassment but that would have used too much energy. It was just the boost I needed to get through the last mile. I turned back up Wind Street where Jon was there with words of encouragement that the finish was just around the corner - it was actually 3 corners but I'll let him off!

I finished bang on 3 hours, not a personal best but I never wanted it to be. Yesterday's half was about overcoming the challenges I have faced mentally over the last year and I did it. I couldn't walk for a few hours but a massive burger and bottle of champagne soon sorted that out!

There were definitely some positives of this race, but more so negatives and that means Swansea Half won't be on my to do list again any time soon. If you are thinking of running it next year, here is my round up of positives & negatives

Positives


  • The route - "from the city to the sea" is so true and it is a great route
  • The car parking around Swansea on the day
  • Having your name printed on the bib - it encourages people to shout your name & that gives us runners a boost
  • Having the timing chip in the bib rather than a chip for your shoes
  • The race makers were second to none and were a great support
Negatives
  • Toilets - has to be top of the list for me; it's not hard to supply enough toilets & loo roll!
  • Water bottles - have sports tops not screw tops; do you know how hard it is to unscrew a bottle, drink out of it & do it back up whilst running? Hard!
  • Supporters - every race needs them and you need to get the cities buy in if Swansea Half wants to be one of the best in Wales
  • Foil blankets - I didn't receive one at the end & the do make a difference.
  • Photos - make the search ability on photo's a bit more "in your face" as I had trawled through photos for an hour before I came across the search function.

Overall it was a great way to spend the morning of my 24th birthday as nothing can take away that sense of achievement. Heres to the next one in 13 weeks! 

A few pictures of the day :)






Monday, 18 May 2015

Reality.

In 2010 I started my weight loss journey and over the next 3 years I proceeded to lose 6 1/2 stone, in May 2013 I was 5lbs from goal. I got featured in magazines for my weight loss, gained followers on Twitter and Instagram for "being inspirational" I made myself, my family and friends proud. Since then I have put 5 stone back on. And until now haven't admitted in to any one, not even myself to some extent. And for my friends and family reading this it is probably the first time I'll have admitted to them how much I have put on. Although they obviously already know as you can't really hide a 5 stone weight gain can you? And my mum well she has a sixth sense and probably knows the exact numbers, plus has put up with my tears and tantrums (literally) over it! Thanks mum!

It's strange how you don't see the weight creeping on and how easy it is to kid yourself that you haven't put anything on. Squeezing into your clothes that are now too small for you.

I have been praised by my friends and family, been in magazines for my weight loss, have followers on social media because of my weight loss and here I am lying to myself at how much I have gained, and feeling like I shouldn't have all these followers and friends I have made through weight watchers, through twitter and Instagram because I'm not really that person any more am I? It's funny how I'm the only one judging myself for this - in my eyes I feel like I have failed, like I'm a fraud. And I know all of those people still love me (or at least I hope they do!)

And I guess by writing this down I'm drawing my line, moving on to the next stage of my weight loss journey.

The last 2 years have been tough, I guess in my heart of hearts I knew the weight was creeping back up, especially after I had run the marathon. I stopped running which again I kidded myself that "having a little break" would be ok... I did a few runs here and there but nothing compared to what I was. Timehop is a killer sometimes reminding me how quick I used to run!

I used excuse after excuse. Being in a relationship, losing a baby, moving in with Jon, having a breakdown, the anti depressants, even the marathon I used as an excuse to eat! All of these happen to each and everyone of us but I chose to eat my way through the tough times and that has got me here now.

This reality check for myself has been coming for a while - I went shopping with my mum for an outfit a month or two ago, had a melt down in the changing room and had a strop like a 5 year old because I refused to by a certain clothes size! I hate how much more I care now - hell when I was 18 and a size 22 yes I didn't like that I couldn't walk into any shop and by anything but I don't remember crying almost daily about it.

I guess the difference between now and then is what I know. As cliche as it sounds I didn't know any different then. I didn't know what it was like to be healthy, I didn't know what it was like to run up the stairs without wanting to die at the top, I didn't know what it was like to run, I didn't know what it was like to walk into any shop and pick up whatever I wanted and know I wasn't going to look like a sack of sh*t. All I ever knew was being fat. And I want to be healthy again. And I will.

Everything culminated after a rather large melt down I had caused by a swim suit and a pair of shorts! First of all the swimsuit was a size 16  whereas all my other holiday clothes were a 14 and then the shorts were an 18! Now I know that all shop sizes vary blah blah blah. But it hit me, hard. I had put the weight back on and in my mind I was back to square one. Yes I'm not the size 22 I used to be and yes I know it's not all about a clothes size but running. Running I used to be able to run a 9.30/9.45 mile. Now I'm dying running a 11.30/12 minute mile. That hurts a lot. Mentally and physically its tough, knowing that I had worked so hard to get to where I was and in what seems like a blink of an eye I am back to square one.

It's tough going out, I'm no longer the confident bubbly person I was. I can blame that on the depression, the anxiety or the weight gain. But as hard as it is staying in bed and crying isn't going to get me to where I want to be. I want to have fun again and I want to be proud of myself.

I needed to stop kidding myself. It's time to stop making excuses. It's time to be healthy. It's time to be happy again.

Here's to the next stage of my journey. As the title of my blog says "you haven't failed until you quit trying" and I certainly haven't quit.



xxx

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

How can something so 'normal' be so completely and utterly terrifying?

I haven't blogged in a while, maybe because my laptops been broken and I don't like blogging in my iPad (yet here I am doing just that) maybe because I've wanted to pretend my life is hunky dorey and that everything is ok. And to most it would seem that way. 

Either way the last couple of weeks have been an eye opener for me, I've acknowledged things that I've just brushed over in the past, things that are impacting my day to day life, things I need to get a hold of & work with. 

Back when I had my 'breakdown' I don't really like calling it that, but that's what it is. I was seeing my counsellor, I was put on anti depressants and I put in place coping mechanisms. Which worked, and are still continuing to work. 

But over the last year I've changed, I've changed a lot. I've gone from being that outgoing bubbly character to someone who hates going out, who feels uncomfortable when out, someone who has to have a plan and stick to it or I freak out, I would much rather hide away in my little apartment and pretend everything is ok. I miss the *old* me, the spontaneous me. 

What I've realised over the last few months that alongside my depression I'm living with anxiety. As I look back I can't believe that I'm someone who lives with anxiety. But it's real, I deal, well try and deal with it on a day to day basis. I'm hoping that now I've acknowledged it I will start to cope more so than I have been. 

I'm not one for New Years resolutions, but I want, and will make 2015 my year. I vowed to get some one the 'old' me back. It's little things like booking a weekend in London with my girls, previously it would have done this a few times a year, wouldn't have thought about it and just gone! However, I put a lot of thought into it - had questions like do I deserve a weekend away? Should I go? Can I cope? But I'm putting all of those behind me and I've booked the weekend and I'm going. I deserve to go. There is nothing I won't be able to 'cope' with. I'm with my best friends and will be ok. 

I've also signed up to a half marathon, being brutally honest I can count on one hand how many times I've run since the marathon! I need something to get my focus back, something to allow me 'Elle' time, to focus on me, to relax and know I deserve some time out. It's going to test me, both physically and mentally, but I can and will do it. And what better way to do it than with one of my besties?

One of my biggest anxiety fears I need to work on; is being on my own. I rely on Jon *so* much. I'm ok if he has plans to go out and I know a few days in advance, but I freak out if these change, or if it's something I don't know about. I should love this time on my own - time to see my friends. But in the depths of my depression I didn't feel like I deserved to see anyone. So I would completely rely on him. I guess in a way I've dug myself a hole. I know I have amazing friends and family around me that will support me all the way. But sometimes you need to do it on your own, however

hard that is, but with them by your side.

I'm working on this anxiety. I have good days and bad days; more recently bad. But I guess acknowledging it is the first step to helping myself. 

If you have any hints/ tips to coping with anxiety I would be grateful to hear them. 

Xx

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Weight Watchers V Slimming World

I'm sure I've had this debate many times before but I'm going to have it again.

Weight Watchers V Slimming World.

I've done both - With Weight watchers I lost 6 stone, was 5 lbs from goal. Fell in love, got complacent had a sh*t year, put 4 back on. Slimming World, I've lost 6lbs in 8 weeks.

Weight watchers pros and cons

* I know the plan
* It's worked previously
* I will always love weight watchers
* Flexibility between points & filling and healthy.
* Easier to follow with random nights /meals out - weekly points

* Meetings may be more tricky now I am back at work full time
*Will I get complacent again

Slimming World pros and cons

* It's lifestyle friendly
* Jon prefers the recipes - living with him it is vital he supports the plan I follow
* Meetings are more accessible
* I like the shiney certificates & stickers

* I've only lost 6lbs in 8 weeks.
* When I go out I go completely off plan as I feel I can't stick to it


To be honest I'm really struggling so much with weight loss at the moment, I can't put my finger on it. But I know I need motivation back. I had a massive heart to heart with Jon last night and he pointed out how when we first got together I was going to the gym 3/4 times a week, running 3/4 times a week and eating healthily - even when we went out and was losing weight. Now I don't run, I go to the gym, I don't eat as well as I should. I can't completely blame my depression and what I've been through the last year - there is only so many times I can use that as an excuse. I have to remember my end goal, remember how well I feel when I am 100% on plan and lose weight, remember that motivation I had - I lost 6 stone I must have it in me some where!

I've done it before, I can do it again, I just need to find what is going to work for me at the time in my life. Give it my 100% attention and believe that I can do it.

Please if you have an advice for finding my mojo again please pass on your words of wisdom.
Motivation
xxx

Surgery.

For as long as I can remember I have whole heartedly been against gastric surgery. Why? I've always seen it as the easy way out, the quick fix. But do I think this because this is what society is "taught" to think. I've never previously done any research into gastric surgery - just quick to assume. The same with such "soup and shake" diets as I often refer to them, I have fond memories of being in university and the girls I lived with used to mute the TV when Jenny Craig or other adverts came on because I would get on my soap box about it.

My mum has always said she want gastric band, I have always bottom line said a big fat NO. So when a recent visit to the doctors started this process of gastric surgery it was all happening a bit to quick for me to come to terms with. How do you accept something that you have always, always, been against. But why am I against it? Perhaps it is jealousy that I work hard day in day out to see the scales go down when it is often portrayed that gastric surgery is the quick fix - something I now know it is not. Stigma - there is, like with everything stigma against gastric surgery - people seen as lazy, that it is there own fault - I don't want that stigma for my mum. I know how much this surgery means to her, how excited she is about it - and like she has been there for every decision I have made, I have to be there for her too.

This post was sparked by an article I read online about how a woman had lost so much weight with the quote "wants people to help lose weight the healthy way, not cheat with gastric band". Previously I would have skimmed over this article, but I read it. It angered me. In no way is a gastric band cheating. It is often the last resort, when people are at a weight that they would benefit from drastic weight loss in a short space of time - for health reasons it is the option. Often not accessible to some people on the NHS as there are certain criteria to fill such as not being able to work, not getting out of bed, and being on benefits as well as a long list of other boxes to tick. So basically if you are fat but you can get off your bum and go to work the NHS won't help you. Yes the NHS offer referral schemes to things such as slimming world and weight watchers but they don't work for everyone. The debate about gastric surgery being unhealthy is something I have learnt in the last few weeks is a load of rubbish. The team that you see make sure pre surgery you are as healthy as you can be, giving you a diet plan to follow to ensure minimal risks of complications, and post surgery you see dietitians to ensure you are still getting all the healthy stuff our bodies need you are getting.

Having done quite extensive research recently into gastric surgery I have in fact realised it is not the easy way out. There is so much more to than just having surgery and eating smaller portions afterwards. There is the psychological element. When you've been large and eating what you want all your life, to then go to having to eat liquidized food for a while & much smaller portions to never being able to eat what you want has got to be hard - mentally. I know I couldn't do it.

The surgery part scares me - but it's done through keyhole surgery, and the consultants have all said there is minimal risk so fingers crossed everything will go smoothly.

It has taken me a few weeks to get to this point, of accepting gastric surgery. But what it comes down to at the end of the day is life and death. It sounds harsh, and when someone first said that I had to accept mums decision because it was the choice of having her around for 20 years or 40 years I cried. I knew it was true. But it's so hard to come to terms with. But I have. I have to. I know that mum wants this more than anything and is so excited about it - I'm now excited for her too, for her to begin her new life after the surgery.