Thursday, 25 February 2010

It's Been Almost a Month Already

It’s almost the end of February, which means I’ve been on this new diet plan almost a month (yes I know it’s kind if cheating because February’s the shortest month). So I thought tonight I would talk about where I am now, what I’ve learned, what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, and were I want this to go from here.

I started February feeling fat, ugly and wanting to changes that. Now I feel slightly slimmer (not significantly so, but we’re getting there), and quite a bit happier about who I am. I’ve started to learn how to love myself, and it’s about time. I’ve spent 21 years loathing my appearance, it’s about time I learned some self love. Whenever I take a shower I try to pick out a body part I like, instead of focussing on all the flabby flappy bits I hate. For example I’ve decided I have a really nice arse, and I’d quite like to get rid of my love handles so I can show it off!

I have taken a number of positive steps this month; steps I hope are lifestyle changes and will be slightly permanent. I’ve pretty much given up fruit juices, which were a major source of unwanted sugar and calories. Instead I’m eating more fruit and veg, as at least with the actual fruit you get fibre as well as the sugar. The other major change is my attitude to carbs. I haven’t gone carb free, for reasons mentioned in this post, and I’m not sure I want to. Cutting carbohydrates out completely might have a good impact on my waistline but a negative impact on my brain.

I’m trying to eat less carbs, as I’m aware that my reliance on large portions of carbs was at least partly responsible for my size. I’m also changing my attitudes as to what carbs I eat; where before I was reliant on processed white carbs like pasta and bred, not I try to eat more rice and potato. And when I do have processed carbs, I try to have wholemeal varieties. It’s not always easy to stick to, but I do my best; as of right now I honestly couldn’t tell you when I last at pasta. Another method of lowering the amount of carbohydrate I’m eating is to replace something like apsta or chips with something less carby and more healthy. For example this evening instead of chips I had roast parsnips.

My attitude to calories has also changed. Before I used to ignore the numbers and hope they go away. Now I have a better idea how many calories are in a food, and if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve learned that calories are not necessarily your enemy; provided a balance is maintained and foods are consumed in the correct moderation I can eat pretty much whatever I want. Which is awesome!

I’ve pretty much given up unnecessary sugar too. I’ve permanently switched to sweetner in my teas. And just in case anyone wants to jump on the ‘Aspartame is bad’ bandwagon, I’m studying toxicology at the moment and there’s no evidence at all that it’s harmful. Not unless you plan on injecting massive doses directly into your liver everyday for the rest of your life. Academic bit over. I don’t drink carbonated drinks or soda very often, but when I do I’ve switched over to sugar free here as well. Meaning almost the only sugar I’m intentionally putting into my diet is in my morning porridge. And I’m afraid that’s staying.

The one thing that’s a little bit iffy is the exercise. I’ve been making an effort to walk more, walk faster and do more housework, but the skipping thing hasn’t really happened yet. Need to buy a sports bra, and that’ll have to wait til next month’s budget. I’m also very tempted to get a pedometer to monitor just how many calories I’m burning walking to and from lectures and around the lab. If anyone can recommend me a good pedometer for a reasonable (student) budget I'd be very grateful.

One of the other things that hasn’t happened as much as it should is the drinking of water before meals. I honestly just keep forgetting. I’m drinking plenty of water, cordial or teas (some of which are herbal and/or caffeine free), but they’re usually after meals. I’m also still working on the alcohol thing. I’m going to try drinking more water at the pub, and buying half’s instead of pints to see how we go. I don’t mind not having succeeded 100% in my first month; it gives me something to aim for.

The plan for March is to keep up the good work. I’m going to try improving the amount of exercise that gets done, and the amount of water I’m drinking. I’m also going to try cut down on the alcohol and see if I can go the whole month with no takeaway. Failing that, if I absolutely must have takeaway I’m going to try getting a jacket potato.

And if all else completely fails, I’ve learned that it’s okay to mess up. I just have to pick myself up, dust myself off and try again.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Being a Student and On A Diet

Being a student makes dieting and healthy eating quite the challenge, or so I’ve found. In an ideal world I would be able to fill my plate with protein (which for me means meat, sorry veggies) and vegetables and pretty much cut out carbohydrates from my diet (except that found in the veggies). Being a student (and therefore poor) makes this almost impossible.

The advantage of starchy carbohydrates like pasta, rice and potatoes is that they’re cheap. You can buy a bag of cheap pasta for about forty pence, and it lasts you about a week. For a lot of students this means they have more money for spending on booze; for me it means I can afford to pay rent and bills. In addition to being cheap and cheerful, these carbs are also extremely filling. You can eat a bowl of pasta and you feel full. The equivalent amount of carrot sticks, for example, is nowhere near as satisfying, and has me reaching for something more substantial in less than two hours.

Carbohydrates are also versatile; on their own these foods are pretty much universally boring and bland, but they’re easy to dress up. Got some pasta? Whip up a simple sauce and dinners done. Got bread? Put something interesting between two slices of it and hey presto, a meal. Carbohydrates are a base for something more interesting, and it is all too easy to create meals that have carbs at their core instead of at the side.

The final thing that makes carbs so irresistible and useful to me as a student is how easy they are to prepare. In most cases you can boil your chosen carbohydrate in a pan of water for ten or twenty minutes and dinner’s ready. After a day of lectures and labs, with an evening of coursework ahead of me, the last thing I want to be doing is cooking a gourmet dinner that takes three hours to prepare and cook. I want something quick, simple and satisfying, and all too often a carb heavy meal is what gets made.

The fact carbs are cheap isn’t necessarily reason enough to make them my main source of nutrition. If protein and veg were as cheap as pasta and rice, then I would eat them instead of the carbs. But the simple fact is they’re not. Meat can get quite expensive, particularly if it’s chicken. Fresh veg can also be quite pricey, depending on what you’re after in terms of quality or variety. I try to buy frozen meat and veg where possible, but this saving in price often means compromising on quality. And lower quality meat tends to be very fatty, which completely defeats the point.

All of this means that it has been extremely challenging for me to balance my diet with my financial situation. So far I’ve managed by getting a lot of my protein from eggs. I tend to have an omelette or scrambled eggs for lunch and something with meat and vegetables for dinner. If I’m having a really good day the only carbohydrate I eat is my porridge at breakfast time. If I’m having a bad day or it’s the end of the month, every meal has a large dollop of carbohydrate. It’s tricky, but I’m starting to get an eye for deals on meat, particularly bulk buying and freezing things. It’s taking time, but this is a lifestyle change I intend to keep, so it is well worth me getting used to it.

The other major challenge about balancing the student lifestyle with this diet is alcohol. It’s not that I feel pressured into getting plastered every night. I have plenty of friends who are either teetotal or only occasional drinkers, so I would have company in abstaining. The issue here is primarily the cost of soft drink in the Student’s Union bar, where I do most of my drinking. In the SU bar a pint of coke costs nearly as much as a pint of cider, which is my usual tipple, so there is little incentive to stay sober there. There’s more incentive in other bars and pubs, but there I’d rather drink alcohol anyway, because of the variety these places send to stock.

And delicious though it is, alcohol has so many calories. Alcohol is produced by fermenting sugar, so it’s no surprise its calorie heavy. A pint of cider ahs about as many calories as a whole meal under my diet, which means a night of drinking can very easily put me over the calorie limit recommended by the government, let alone my personal calorie budget.

It is a challenge, undertaking a healthy lifestyle while living as a student, but I believe I’m approaching a compromise. And for now, compromise will have to be enough. When I’ve graduated and am earning, then I’ll review this diet to see if I can afford to amend it. Until then, I’ll just try to stay away from carbs as much as possible.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Romance: The Pitfalls and Problems of Being Fat

Since it was Valentine’s Day recently, I thought I’d discuss the obvious impact being a fat girl has on your love life. I’ve made no secret of the fact I am currently in a relationship, and I’m very lucky that I’m with a good man, and that we’re very happy together. But I am almost painfully aware of how lucky I am, and it hasn’t always been this way. I have endured countless Valentine’s Day alone, and a significant portion of those where I had someone were a disappointment.

As a teen I had to endure all my friends getting together, knowing that I had next to no chance of finding someone. At one point, I was part of a group of seven; three boys and four of us girls. At parties the other six would pair off (in various combinations) and I would be left on my own, watching them flirt and cuddle and kiss. When it was at its worst I would crawl into a corner or under a table and cry. And none of them ever noticed. It was a sickeningly empty feeling, knowing that your friends were too wrapped up in themselves to notice they were leaving you on your own. It was disheartening knowing that however well you got on with boys, they would never see you as anything more than a friend.

I very rarely dared even think about pursuing a crush. If it ever got out that I liked a particular guy it would be the end of the world, because I couldn’t bear the look of revulsion in his face when he heard. And yes, I have actually seen revulsion in the eyes of a crush on finding out how I felt. I used to try convince myself that I was content to wait until these boys grew up a bit and realised that looks weren’t the be all and end all when it comes to romance. Now at 21, I have realised that there are many guys out there who will never grow out of wanting their girlfriend to be ‘hot’ at all costs, even the expense of a pleasant personality. And I take exception to thei definition of ‘hot’.

I remember having an argument with one of my male friends about a mutual female acquaintance. To my eyes she wasn’t terribly pretty; her face just wasn’t attractive. But the friend maintained that she was hot. When I protested that he only thought she was hot because she was skinny, he agreed, with a tone in his voice that said ‘duh!’, and couldn’t understand why I was so bothered by this. I had the same argument with him about another female acquaintance in the same situation; not terribly attractive face, but she was skinny and therefore hot. There is a mentality, certainly in the UK, that skinny=hot and hot=skinny. This means there are countless (female) celebrities who are considered beautiful, but their face are actually quite ugly. I won’t mention any names but I’m sure you can think of some. This mentality means that, as a fat girl, I’m at a natural disadvantage when it comes to romance, because men are being told daily that fat girls cannot be attractive. I have to try extra hard for them to find me attractive, and that usually ends up with me being ‘just friends’ with them.

But all this doesn’t mean I never had any romance, oh no, I actually had a fair amount of romance in my life as a teen. Some would call me lucky; I would ask them to read what I have to say before calling it. The men (and often more appropriately, boys) have all been of the same kind of person, almost without exception. These boys were all socially awkward, shy types with almost no idea on how to form a proper relationship with a member of the opposite sex. No other female wanted anything to do with them. I saw something others didn’t, that made them seem appealing, and they took advantage of me.

I wanted relationship; I wanted to talk and hug and kiss and laugh and hold hands. These boys dated me, not because they wanted the same things, but because I was a piece of flesh that was willing to give them the time of day. Almost without exception these boys showed little to no interest in me before I approached them romantically; they weren’t interested in me as a person, merely as a woman. All these boys wanted was to have sex, to lose their virginities. Some were subtler about this agenda than others, but on one occasion I was outright told by the boy in question that that was why he was with me. They took up with me when it suited them, and cast me aside when it became clear I wouldn’t give them what they wanted, or that they’d have to give too much before I did.

Thank goodness I had a strong enough will to wait until I was ready, but this attitude from the boys and men I’ve dated left me extremely damaged. After a while you start to view yourself as they do. I had a very low opinion of my looks to start off with, which was only made worse by the fact my only redeeming factors, to them, seemed to be my tits and my vagina. All in all it was a series of very upsetting and hurtful situations, and at least part of me wishes I’d remained single instead of going through all that.

Thankfully, this story does have a happy ending. There are guys out there who prefer a good personality to a great pair of tits. There are guys out there who prefer woman with natural curves (as opposed ‘melons on toothpicks’ as Sam is wont to call skinny girls). There are men out there who deserve your time and attention, because they don’t just see you as ‘that fat chick’ or ‘one of the guys’.

I’ve found that things improve a great deal on realising that romance isn’t the be all and end all of life. But its not easy getting to that stage. The more disappointments you have, the better things feel when you actually find a good relationship, but the more you crave a relationship at all costs. I’ve made that mistake myself many times. Right now I’m with a good man. He screws up once in a while (and more often that he’d like or care to admit), because he still partly falls into the socially awkward category. But more important that anything else he wants me for me, and no other person will do. He’s not just after sex, he’s not with me because he wants a relationship and I happened to be willing. He wants me for me, and thinks I’m beautiful. I had to wait until I was 19 for a boyfriend to call me beautiful, but it was worth the wait, and very nearly worth all the disappointment in between.

Right now I’m happy. I am aware of just how bloody lucky I am. I do my best not to take him for granted; I do my best to show him I appreciate him. I remember what it was like to not have him, and going through it all again doesn’t sound fun. If you’re still looking, hang in there, there’s someone out there who will want you, and only you. It’s just a matter of finding the elusive bugger.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Pancake Day and Progress Report

Monday sees me enter the third week of this diet. It also represents one of the most challenging weeks I will have had since starting my diet, for this week has Pancake Day. The one day of the year we devote to eating obscene amounts of carbohydrate and sugar. Which doesn't look like good news for my diet.

I AM planning to eat lots of pancakes, because I'm hosting an event for friends and I'm not slaving over a hot pan for hours just so they can eat. Also, I was fully aware of Pancake Day when I decided to start my diet, and I already have it allocated as one of my naughty days. I do plan on there being a variety of pancakes at my event though.

One of my house mates is planning on making buckwheat pancakes. These are usually savoury, and are made with buckwheat flour, which is gluten free (he's coeliac). I am also planning on making Finnish pancakes from this recipe. The advantage of this recipe is that it uses lots of eggs, and less flour than regular pancake recipes. There will also be plenty of traditional pancakes on offer, but the range of recipes we have means I can minimise the negative impact the day will have on my plans.

Positive news though, I've had the first sign that the diet is actually working. Today I was having a sort through of clothes that don't fit are too scruffy or I no longer wear to clear out my wardrobe. I came across a couple of pairs of jeans than I'd dismissed as being too small that are now quite comfortable to wear. The pair of jeans I'm currently wearing has two buttons on them, and ever since I've got them I've not been able to fasten the top one up. Today, I could fasten both buttons comfortably.

The thing that really made my day though, was trying on my skirt. I acknowledge that it is made of a fairly stretchy material, but there's only so far it will stretch. I managed to fit into this skirt, which made me very happy because it's a size 16. Size 16! My ideal size is 18 and I already fit into a smaller size than that! I'm not taking this as indicative, but it was a hell of a self esteem booster and is going to spur me on to make sure I get down to my ideal weight/size.

I've not dropped a dress size yet, despite what my skirt might tell me, but there has been definite progress. I know I can get to where I want to be, but I'm also increasingly aware that since I'm the one this benefits, this has to be done on my time. So, I'm going to enjoy my carbohydrate and sugar filled day on Tuesday, because Pancake Day is fun and even fat girls deserve a treat once in a while. Even fat girls deserve fun. I'm just going to make sure the rest of my week is full of protein and vegetables to make up for Pancake Day.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

3 day report

I was planning on writing a fairly lengthy blog post tonight, but I ended up talking to my Mum on the phone for an hour, so instead you’re just getting a quick update on how the diet is going. Today is day three of the super diet, and so far it’s been a mixed experience.

I’m not 100% following my calorie guidelines, but then they were only supposed to be guidelines anyway. I am no far more aware of the calorie content of the food I’m eating, and I try to keep calories, sugar and fat down as low as possible. The 1200 calories I set myself a day was designed to give me a bit of a leeway, and to be honest, I am actually staying pretty much on target.

The biggest difference so far has definitely been in the exercise, which I’m doing right because I ache all over. It has helped that I’m now in the lab 4 afternoons a week, running round collecting reagents, glassware and looking after experiments. The skipping hasn’t really happened so far, mostly because it utterly kills me, but I will keep trying. I have increased the amount of walking I am doing though. If I have to go somewhere I try to walk there and bus back; it’s a compromise that makes my diet plans, my wallet and my ankles happy. I keep thinking it might be an idea to get a reasonably priced pedometer to get an estimate of how many calories I’m burning through walking.

I have however taken to the weights quite nicely. I do need to look up some good exercises for the triceps, as they’re by problem area on my arms. Also, having stronger triceps is more beneficial to my karate (when I do it) than bulky biceps. In addition to the weights, I’ve also found a couple of methods of making myself do push ups and sit ups. I can’t do very many yet, but it’s still early days.

After reading my blog post on Monday a very helpful friend pointed me at a calorie counting website, which I’m tempted to take the free trial of. After filling in their assessment they reckon I can safely lose about 3 stone by July, using a similar plan to the one I’m on. I know I’m not going for outright weight loss, but it sounds like a very good intermediate goal.

So my current goals are: lose three stone by July, fit back into size 18 clothes by the end of the year. And after that, world domination (just kidding).

Monday, 1 February 2010


Well, today is D-Day; the day when my diet officially starts. And honestly, I’m nervous as hell. As much as I want to lose this weight, I am rubbish at sticking to a diet of any kind. I manage to three of four days and then it kind of trails off. I forget I’m on a diet, or I have a bad day and pig out. When I go off track I find it quite hard to get back on track. I’m really hoping Sam’s going to be able to get me to keep going even when I don’t want to.

So far I’m doing okay, but then I’ve only had breakfast so far today. I have decided to compromise on one item: the drinking of the water. As a general rule I can’t stand drinking water straight from the tap, and there’s no way I’m buying bottled water in the amounts I’m going to need. That would bankrupt me. So I’m going to allow myself to drink fruit cordials. It’s only about 10 calories per pint I’ll be drinking, and I figured I’d be better drinking that, which I will actually do, than trying to make myself drink water and failing miserably.

At the end of the day, these are my rules, and I’m the only one I’ll let down if I break them. This diet is full of a few little compromises as it is, and I’m hoping that this will make me more inclined to stick to it. I want to lose weight and drop dress sizes, but I sure as hell want to avoid making myself miserable over it.

I’ve yet to work out the calorie content of more than a handful of recipes, but it’ll come. Managed to knock together an awesome soup the other day; I’ve a feeling that vegetable soups are going to become a very good friend of mine.

Finally, I found some old fat metabolise tablets in a cupboard from a previous attempt to lose weight. They’re still in date, so I figure I might as well add those to my diet until they run out. I know that they’re not going to be a magic pill that will help me shed pounds and pounds, but they might just enhance the work I intent to be doing. It does mean that I have to cut back on my coffee intake though, as they contain fairly high levels of caffeine. I don’t really mind though, as I was starting to cut down on the coffee and move over to tea, water and cordial anyway. Now I just have an extra incentive.

Wish me luck