Monday, April 14, 2014

food and self-love.


I joined Weight Watchers on 15 January of this year and three months later I’ve lost 1 st 6.5 lbs. It’s not a massive loss and I don’t feel all that skinnier. It’s a slow process not least because I genuinely like shit food and I’ve fallen off the wagon a couple of times. It’s not that shit food is especially convenient for me, it’s that I really do believe that cheese is its own food group, necessary with every meal. Before I joined Weight Watchers I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the real reasons why I’d decided it was time to drop a few pounds. I knew that I’d gained a lot of weight since I started college almost four years ago and I knew that some of my clothes were tighter than I wanted them to be and I knew there were a few photos of me that I found genuinely revolting. But I also knew that my value was not in what I looked like but who I was as a person. So joining Weight Watchers was problematic.

… what if I'm joining Weight Watchers for the wrong reasons? Part of it is that I want to feel comfortable in the clothes I already have (because the bigger I get the smaller the selection of nice clothes, particularly in shops like River Island where I have never seen a size 18 in anything). Maybe part of it is that I fear no one will ever want to be with me (unless desperate, lonely, etc) while I'm the size I am. Part of it is that I am significantly bigger than I was when I started college. I'm growing, yes, but I'm growing outwards, not upwards. And then I think of Youtuber, Leena, and her video on taking up space. And I don't want to be the kind of person who shrinks into non-existence because she feels guilty for taking up too much space, more than a normal, pretty, dainty, demure woman would. I don't want to be bullied in any metaphorical sense by myself or society into being a smaller version of myself. But at the same time, I want to be a smaller version of myself. Because I don't like me.
past ramblings, 27 December 2013

I still have some of those concerns although I am finding that my body is an intuitive and instinctual thing and though lately I had fallen off the Weight Watchers wagon and was plying myself with hydrogenated fats on the daily, I was able to recognise when my body had had enough. It wasn’t guilt that drove me back to healthy eating, it was my body telling me that it had had quite enough processed meats for the time being, thanks. So I’m back on the wagon. And I’m eating lots of veggies. And I’m treating myself if my body and my mind deem it necessary. Everything in moderation. The above collection of photos is a small sample of what I’ve been eating over the past three months including Hangover Food and Healthy Dinners. I regularly post pictures of  my meals on Instagram these days and I know that makes me a bit of a wanker but I also know that it helps me stay on track. It makes me feel proud of my healthy diet and my newly-acquired cooking skills.

I’ve finally begun to take a proactive role in loving and accepting myself. Losing weight/eating healthy is a small but important part of that journey: the way I look is not the most important aspect of who I am but taking care of my body is a vital exercise in showing love and compassion towards myself. However, I don’t expect miracles: in a TED talk on why dieting usually doesn’t work, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt claims that a drop in calories forces your body to go into starvation mode which has lasting effects on your body. These negative effects including gaining back the weight you lost plus a few extra pounds for good measure. However, Aamodt points out that eating healthier and introducing some good habits into your lifestyle is not without benefit. Aamodt cites a study which looked at the risk of death over a 14 year period in ‘normal’ weight people compared to overweight people. The study found that the risk of death was lowered with the introduction of one of the four healthy habits (balanced diet, exercise, not smoking and moderate alcohol intake) and when all four were introduced there wasn’t much in the difference between the risk of death of a ‘normal’ weight person and that of an obese person. In other words, obese people with healthy habits are about healthy as normal weight people with healthy habits and carrying a few extra pounds is not necessarily an indication of poor health. This, I think, serves as at least one argument against fat shaming.

On my weight loss journey so far, I have never felt starved. My particular path on Weight Watchers is based on a list of ‘filling and healthy’ foods of which I can eat unlimited quantities if I wish. This list of food includes all the fruit and veg a girl could want as well as meat, eggs and wholegrain. In other words, no food group is left out. Combining these foods in new and interesting ways is part of the fun of Weight Watchers and I’ve made some pretty tasty dishes over the past few months. In addition to the unlimited amount of healthy food, I also get a weekly allowance of 49 ProPoints which I can use for chocolate (2 squares = 2 ProPoints), olives (10 olives = 1 ProPoint), sugar (1 tsp = 1 ProPoint) or any of the other foods which don’t appear on the extensive list of ‘filling and healthy’ foods. Weight Watchers, like Sandra Aamodt, also encourages mindful eating: eating when hungry and stopping when full, taking cues from your body. Weight Watchers doesn’t feel like punishment and I get a real kick of eating healthy and seeing and feeling the positive effects on my body.

My journey is not over and I hope to introduce some movement into my life over the next few weeks. I’ll throw on my bright pink Nikes and work through the agony of what I suspect are shin splints and I’ll feel those super cool endorphins swimming through my brain. The main reason I avoid exercise at the moment is because I am so self-conscious – God forbid someone might see me moving my body – and that’s something that I’m working on. And it’s also a story for another day. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram for foodie pics and feel free to comment or send me an email ( about your own journey toward Good Health and Self-Love. :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

love thy self, innit.

The other day my Tumblr blog was recommended by a body-positivity blog and that feels like a really big deal to me. It was featured in a list of about 100 other Tumblrs and while it might go unnoticed in the midst of all the inspiring and mundane pictures and quotes all over Tumblr, I feel very humbled to be mentioned in a list of blogs which promote self-love and body-positivity. Seeing myself as part of that group made me realise how far I’ve come in my journey towards loving myself and accepting myself. I still have a long way to go before loving myself becomes second nature. Right now it’s a conscious effort but I’m proud of myself for maintaining that effort. Here’s to more lovin’.

Image from Tumblr.

Friday, April 11, 2014

college craic: avoiding college & analysing the glass castle.

My final semester (ever!) of college has been a bit of a disaster as far as semesters go and  I know most of my class feel the same way. The semester began with a collective panic about our theses and the hours spent in the library in the first six weeks of the semester probably amounted to more than the previous three years altogether. I went to the first couple of classes of the semester in order to suss out what essays needed to be done. After that, my time was mainly spent writing my thesis and complaining about my thesis. When the thesis was finally submitted on 6 March, I had the best intentions for the rest of the semester. I envisioned Golden Weeks and assignments being completed on time. Instead I got cans of cider and Arrested Development. And I’ve forgotten how to do college.

I went to a class on Thursday in the hopes of getting some inspiration for my final essay. The class, Sociology of Gender & Popular Culture (my wet dream), focused on zombies and monsters in pop culture as commentary on the current economic and political climate. Not particularly interesting for a girl who only recently learned (and subsequently forgot) how banks work. But I spoke to the lecturer after class and got a heads up on what to read in preparation for  my essay (an analysis of Supernatural in relation to monsters and hegemonic masculinity). So all’s well that ends well. I also ventured into my feminist literature class today for some extra knowledge on my essay on The Glass Castle. It wasn’t entirely beneficial but I did have a wee cake afterward (Broderick’s Bars and Cakes’ Rocky Road for Rockin’ Rebels which, according to the packaging, is “100% for men!”).

… what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes.

The Glass Castle is a great book. It’s one of those ubiquitous sob stories about a crap childhood. Depressing but addictive and extremely popular. Maybe it’s the voyeur in us that compels us to read about lives which are so different from our own. Most of us (thankfully) can’t relate to the sad stories of neglect and abuse in books like A Child Called ‘It’, Piece of Cake or Angela’s Ashes. But by reading 200 pages of what amounts to a life, we can safely peer into that world. In the case of The Glass Castle, author Jeannette Walls claims that that is exactly what she wanted in writing her memoir. She hoped that a ‘rich kid’ would one day read her story of poverty, squalor and adversity and that that ‘rich kid’ would then be a little more compassionate towards, for example, the kid in their class who might sometimes show up to school in old, dirty clothes and without a packed lunch. Equally Walls wished that a kid like her, a poor kid, would read her story and see a glimmer of hope: life can and does get better.

The book is a great read and I’d recommend it for a fetishistic glimpse into another world. It’s also an inspiring although often unbelievable yarn. It’s allegedly set to become a movie so the literary-adverse among you can hold out for that. My own personal trauma starts this week when I attempt to write an essay on the bugger.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

on taking care of body.

Sometimes a shitty thing happens and sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise. Lately, I’d been very concerned with having a boy to hang out with and kiss and be weird with, knowing full well a relationship was off the cards. But now that it’s become evident that even casual hook-ups are fraught with problems, I’m aware of how tunnelled my vision had become. And last night’s seven or eight tears somehow cleared my vision. I still felt pretty poo today (especially since I was tutoring for four hours) but I had decided that, regardless of outside factors, I was still an okay person and I deserved to treat myself as such.

So I went to Weight Watchers after college and discovered that instead of gaining 6 – 10 lbs in chocolate weight, I’d actually lost 1.5 lbs since my last visit about three weeks ago. Considering my diet over the past few weeks, this loss seems divine. Joining Weight Watchers felt strange to me at first because I wasn’t certain of my reasons for doing it. I’m still not certain. But there is no harm in eating healthy foods and trying to get a couple of hundred extra steps into my day. In any case, I’ve been feeling pretty body positive lately anyway. I’ve decided that my body is a wonderful thing because look at all the wonderful things it can do! I can walk and jog and jump and dance (like a dad at a wedding in the ‘80s) and bend and lift. I can have sex and maybe (one day) have babies. When I get a cold or an upset tummy, my body does this miraculous thing: it gets better. That’s pretty cool, right? Everyone likes to feel pretty but for me, for now, it’s enough to marvel at the things my body is capable of.

My body can do all these wonderful things and if I want that fun to continue, then I’ve got to look after my body. And part of the reason I ventured back to Weight Watchers tonight was because last Saturday’s hangover almost rendered me kaput. Having drank hella cider and tried to cure the alcohol illness with McDonald’s breakfast, Subway, pizza, BBQ wings, an inordinate amount of Lucozade, Diet Coke, and Club Orange – to no avail – I realised that my body was staging a protest. My stomach was all full up and the contents were going nowhere (I know, I’m sorry). I ended up spewing into the toilet at 12 am and resolved to cop on to myself. I think that generally your body will give you hints about how it’s feeling but in this case my body was giving me the middle finger. Sorry, body.

So I’m back on track (ish) with lots of vegetables and fibre and I’m going to up my water intake. My skin has been a little dull lately, partly due to stress, partly due to poor diet. My skin is my number one favourite physical feature but I’d been neglecting it lately. I guess I have combination skin – notorious dry patches alternated with oily patches and the occasional blackhead (blurgh). I gave my face a good scrub with a baking soda paste and treated the one or two spots with a drop of tea tree oil. I always feel a bit funny about putting chemical-laden lotions and potions on my face. The rest of my body, whatver, but since my face is the thing facing the world and the weather and the elements every day, I’d rather not add to the damage by piling on the chemicals. My face is now scrubbed clean with all the dead skin washed down the sink. Yum. (There are some excellent tutorials and recipes for home-made and natural face masks and scrubs as well as natural spot treatments around cyberspace and they’re all pretty easy on the purse-strings.)

Face-wise, I’m also going to leave my eyebrows alone for a while. Every so often, I get a little tweezer-happy and am left with not eyebrows but excuses for eyebrows for which an eyebrow pencil can only do so much. I’m going au naturelle in the brow region for the next while in the hopes that I’ll have something to work with when I next sponsor myself for a professional shaping and tinting. (Speaking of au naturelle, pubes are back in. Not that I’m a follower of body hair trends but sometimes it’s nice to know I’m on the side of the majority.)

For more photos of my face and life and food, follow me on Instagram:  

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

here's a thing.

I met a boy recently through the social cesspool that is Tinder and he turned out to be a real diamond. We had the same taste in music, TV, and vulgar hilarity. We went out on a couple of dates. We got on famously. He even called around post-pub to help me nurse my hangover with cuddles (and really great sex). But. And there's always a but. But the timing was all wrong.

The biggest news in my life lately is that I recently signed a year-long contract to work as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates starting this August. This is fantastic news and I'm pretty thrilled to have a job lined up before I've even finished my end-of-semester essays. It's a great opportunity, pretty excellent benefits, and job-security for at least a year. All round success. Except in between now and August I'm in a bit of a liminal space. I'm neither here nor there. And relationship-wise, that's kind of a deal-breaker. So Tinder Boy called it quits citing the very real issue of one or both of us floating off into the wider world in a few months' time. It's a real concern and it makes complete sense. But it still feels tear-inducing and heart-in-throat awful. Thankfully, mothers, lovely housemates, and Ben & Jerry's exists. Otherwise I might never stop sobbing.

Tinder Boy and I had had plans to go to the cinema tomorrow but obviously those plans have been quashed so my Wednesday evening just opened up. And that's kind of weirdly exciting. If I was any good I'd go to Weight Watchers since I've fallen off the wagon completely and haven't been seen in about three or four weeks. In that time, I've reconciled my intense love affair with Subway, crisps, and chocolate. It's time to cop on. Again. Today was going sort of well until that awful WhatsApp message (twenty-first century tragedy) after which the only sane thing to do was to consume large quantities of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice-cream. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will eat at least fourteen varieties of vegetable, none of which will be coated in grease and/or batter. Tomorrow I will go to Weight Watchers and I will receive the dreaded news that I've gained 10 lbs. Tomorrow I will move on from that news, reminding myself that losing weight (or finding love or getting my shit together) is not a race. I will also keep the following in mind:

So my Wednesday evening is free. Maybe, after Weight Watchers, I'll go for a walk. Maybe I'll read some Salman Rushdie (purely for my British Literature module but it sure does sound fancy, doesn't it?). Maybe I'll watch one of the hundreds of movies on my laptop. Maybe I'll write a few recently-acquired quotes into my journal. Maybe I'll listen to sappy indie music and flush all this emotion out of my system. I'm very excited by the fact that I am resilient. This feels shit but I'll get over it. I'll get over it and above it and I'll be better for it. This was just another sneak preview.