Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

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Last week’s emotional breakdown was triggered by a few things. Weight was one of them, with the realisation that I’ve been trying to lose the same fifteen pounds of weight for over a year. I needed some rationalisation of what exactly is going on inside my body, and have turned to science for the answers. I am genuinely staggered by what I have found.

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This is my latest weigh in using the impedance scale at my Gym. It passes a small electrical current through my body, and as different types of matter return differing electrical impulses, I can see what I am made of. The 1kg of extra weight there is, I can tell from the scales, all water, so there is nothing there to be concerned with. Everything else is telling me that I am, like it or not, most efficient at converting fat to muscle. The fat that isn’t muscle remains stubbornly unburnt/unused, and this will be because of the sweet tooth that I keep falling back on when stuff gets tough, and on Sunday was banished to at least Christmas.

It is time to make my body work in a way it seems frankly unable to entertain.

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The plan is simple: maintain the calorie count as it stands, but remove as much sugar as possible from my diet: no more honey in tea and the ‘healthy’ snacks which still contain sugar enough to promote my body to burn them before I attack my fat ‘reserves.’ That doesn’t mean fruit sugars (still having the pomegranate with breakfast) because that is part of the important fuel required by my body. This is removing all the superfluous shit that I felt I’d deserved by working hard but was crippling progress. That also means not taking a take away at the weekend and cutting out all the stuff I know is a hindrance until this weight can finally shift. The last 72 hours shows that the water weight is being nibbled away at: it will be the next 10 days that are key. I promised myself not to obsess about weight but now I want this excess gone for good.

It has become a means of showing myself that self-control and hard work is more than a reward.

This is my new exercise of choice at the Gym: it has the air of looking incredibly simple but, as is the case with most things, is hugely dependant on upper body strength. A year ago I couldn’t even manage to hang. Now, I have the strength to do 12 raises in 30 seconds. It means that pull-ups are not far off, and this was one of the reasons why I began this journey to begin with. I can feel a major move forwards coming, with a lot of the disparate parts of my life coming together. Once this bit of the puzzle is placed?

We’re a long way towards achieving a ton of personal goals.

Two Tribes

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I was woken up at 6.30am yesterday morning by a news alert on my tablet, propped up next to the bed, announcing North Korea’s successful nuclear test. As a child, living through the most stressful part of the Cold War, this feeling of dread is not new. However, there is no such concern or worry this time around, even with the two world leaders who are in charge of the weapons right now. If it happens, there’s absolutely nothing I can do. That lesson was learnt a long time ago; obsessing about the end of the World has no real value. For the first time in my entire life, I’m more worried about enjoying the time I have as opposed to stressing about what is to come.

That’s a mindset shift I’m rather enjoying, as it happens.

Yesterday’s bike ride was a World away from the week before and there is no worry that I can’t keep improving on times as long as weather allows decent progress. Starting tomorrow I’ll be back in the shed, on Zwift, sticking another 10 miles a day on the legs. The only concern right now are elbows (struggling to get stronger as I hang for increasingly longer periods) and a persistent back niggle, which I’ll take to the Doctor if it doesn’t improve. Other than that, we’ll just keep going forward.

If the World goes tits up, at least I’m physically ready for the challenge.

Bicycle Race

Saturday and Sunday at the end of July, in this household, are reserved for RideLondon. Husband’s now completed his fourth 100 mile race, and on Saturday myself and the youngest joined him for the Freecycle, with 70,000 other cyclists.

To make it easier to get into and out of town with the minimum of fuss, we took three Bromptons . My husband’s love affair with these folding commuter bikes began when he won one in a contest about a decade ago. Since then, he’s picked up the other two dirt cheap at boot sales and restored them. They are huge fun to ride (though not that great on the arse, as mine still attests this morning) and, I discovered on Saturday, get raced just as often as ‘proper’ bikes do. In fact, on Saturday, after the Ladies Race in London, the Brompton World Championship was held.

It was not the best day weather wise but, I must admit, the experience of cycling past some of the Capital’s most iconic monuments was special indeed. Particularly satisfying was the ride up the Embankment, which I’ve used as fan-fiction backdrops for many things, and to imagine characters running as I cycled did give a bit of a special thrill. In the end we did 15 miles (including getting to and from the car which we parked near the Tower of London.) I’m going to do this every year from now on, because honestly I never need an excuse to be in London.

Husband's @ridelondon Medal. Beyond proud of his achievement ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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This year’s medal for my husband is particularly special: it was his best finish so far, and he’s now very close to breaking the six hour mark for the ride:

This year I could follow him around the course too, thanks to a microchip on his bike. It’s amazing how technology has changed since the ride began in 2013, and I have no doubt that will further improve next year. I’m really proud of him every time he completes this, but this one is particularly awesome.

Here’s to taking part in 2018’s events.

Walk on By

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I have been remiss on my step count of late. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which involve getting the Patreon off the ground. However, the Summer holiday is providing a head start in getting step numbers back up to the point where breaking my current record of 35k in a day might yet be doable. Today, for instance, involved dropping off the car, walking to the Gym then back, with 30 minutes of VERY brisk walking when I got there to help sort my legs out after yesterday’s PT. Then I strolled back, before doing to and from the supermarket with the youngest. It meant I could pretty much eat what I liked, and there should be more days like this and not less. It definitely helps that the weekend cold/virus thing is virtually gone, and that this morning wasn’t damp or wet. In fact, it must be said, I even enjoyed walking down the main road which is normally never that much fun during rush hour.

The plan tomorrow therefore is to walk to pick up the car, drop it off here, then walk to the Gym early, do a session of cardio and weights to be back as my daughter gets up. Then there will undoubtedly be a walk somewhere else in the afternoon (probably for bread) and I can try and use 18k as a starting point. If I can do that all week, it should set me up for the weekend’s real challenge.

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On Saturday, Central London is effectively closed to traffic, and for the entire day you can bike around it. The RideLondon Freecycle is the precursor to Sunday’s RideLondon main event, the 120 mile race around the 2012 Olympic circuit which Mr Alt’s taken part in since inception. This year myself and the youngest get to go and throw ourselves past some of the most iconic parts of London history and not worry about being mown down by a continental lorry driver. I have to admit I am rather looking forward to it, assuming that the weather holds. If it does, expect all the pictures, plus I suspect there will be Pokemon hunting to boot. It should make this week a bumper one for miles, and *crosses everything* perhaps my hyper efficient fat to muscle exchange of a body could take the weight down a bit in the process.

A girl can dream, after all.

Accidents will Happen

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I dropped my Son off at his NCS placement yesterday, and driving back from the car park was rear ended by a young man in a hire vehicle. I would have written off the damage and not claimed, had he not mentioned that exchanging details was like ‘going on a date’ whilst failing to maintain eye contact. In shock news, if I’m stationary and you run into the back of me, of course its not my fault. I’d like to thank the lovely insurance lady for allowing me a rant on that, and now it is somebody else’s problem. I need to go get neck looked at by the physios anyway at the Gym…

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Yesterday’s PT has broken me, literally. I cannot squat, bend down or even walk properly. This says to me that muscles that have not been previously used are working, and that I need to remember to stretch post exercise. Mostly it is the brilliant fallout that, after nearly two months off, I not only have lifting form down in my head, but that I can still lift my post-Operation weights. That’s the biggest takeaway from this, and enough to have me grinning most of yesterday until fatigue caught up with me and I passed out, face down on the sofa. Utterly worth it, for the record. All of this is brilliant, especially the weight loss. It may be glacially slow right now, but there is no denying it is happening.

Normally, the deal is simple: I work hard all week, then get to the weekend, and everything gets blown and it is back to stage one on Monday. Not so since the beginning of July. I lose stuff, stop for a bit, then lose some more, and so it continues. In this case, I can use the Gym’s Boditrax system to show me why actual weight loss is so slow. It is the efficient and consistent exchange of fat for muscle.

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So, I’ve lost three kilos of fat, and replaced it with three kilos of muscle, more or less. Just to remind you:

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My body is a triumph of efficiency. All that remains now is the fat that can’t be muscle, and as that is worked away (and it is) it is as if I am an onion: layers are shed, slowly but surely. The fat on my stomach is moving, literally melting away. Stretch marks begin to fade, translucent under the skin, marking each cardio session and rewarding every day without breaking the calorie total. I am immensely proud of my willpower and focus right now. It does work, all of this, and the results are becoming more apparent with each passing day. Once I’m done working here and when the legs are more compliant, I’ll even stick myself back in the Gym for a cardio session.

It’s stopped becoming a chore and now is fun. WHO KNEW.

PS: This is also brilliant:

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No Surprises

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Eight hours sleep is GLORIOUS.

The problems don’t go away after a good night. You just have more energy and desire to solve them.

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450 days of My Fitness Pal and it is only in the last two weeks that the process is bearing fruit. It is a sobering reminder that it doesn’t matter how long something happens, there’s only ever a difference made when application comes into play. Getting down to a target weight and staying there asks a lot of you, and it is easy to see after a hard day where the slip ups can come. Last night, I’ll be honest, ended up 15g over my fat goal with Breakfast Cups for dinner but boy, did I need them. Low carbs and sugar is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It has been an absolute revelation staring at food that I’d normally eat and realising just how much sugar is in just about everything.

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Knowing which basic foods are bad is not a problem: avoid starchy stuff, white rice is not great, white flour is the Devil’s work. The hope, of course, is that you end up in the ‘healthy eating’ aisle of the Supermarket where everything is 40% more expensive under the auspices of ‘balanced.’ Except, if you look closely, that’s often a lie too. We’ve already had the discussion about sugar in ‘whole food’ bars, and the alternatives I’ve discovered fall into two distinct camps: ridiculously expensive and essentially soulless or eating raw. I’ve therefore gained massive amounts of satisfaction in the last two days taking whole pomegranate and separating out seeds, saving a small fortune and pointless packaging. The future is doing it myself, if I wasn’t already grasping the truth.

Then, I remind myself I didn’t exercise yesterday. That was no bad thing, all told, and there’s energy in my legs plus determination in upper body to go do good work. I had an omelette at the Gym on Monday, as opposed to my normal order of flatbread and today I suspect I’ll do some kind of salad to at least keep up the pretence of vegetables. I’m not going to lie, all I want right now is cake and tea and bread and butter pudding until I’m full. I get how this works. However, if I’m going to break my body’s desire to not lose weight, something has to give.

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I don’t need a Treat day any more. I’m not looking forward to that bar of well-deserved chocolate or the slice of cake, because as soon as they are ingested my body swells. It is impossible to guilt free eat ANYTHING sugary right now, and that may be the case until my hormones finally leave for good. Knowing this, I am simply determined to keep going, not look back and run my way out of the craving. Most days, as it transpires, that works surprisingly well.

Let’s see if today is one of them.

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Exercise is bloody hard work. Believing that simply taking protein supplements is going to give you a body like The Rock’s is, like it or not, living a massive delusion. I have to admit, the implication that under 30’s would believe this feels pretty insulting, and without any kind of hard facts that prove the point, the bigger issue is teaching better nutritional awareness. Protein shakes have their benefits: my husband’s using them to very good effect currently as a way to maintain weight, in tandem with what is a stupidly healthy diet prior to another bike race on Sunday. They can be incredibly useful to kick-start weight loss too. The article that started all this talks about what an average body requires to stay healthy in terms of protein: no two bodies are alike, and if you don’t sit behind a desk every day the number of calories needed will vary.

Mostly, the press can only ever talk about health issues in general terms. Studies and reports increasingly are taken out of context to highlight particular issues, headlines created as clickbait. It is quite rare to be presented a whole truth in reporting: like it or not, that doesn’t make for very engaging content. History reminds us however that promising people better bodies using advertising is hardly anything new. This kind of ‘persuasion’ has been going on as long as newspapers have needed advertising: this isn’t about buying anyone into the idea of supplements or aids either, it is convincing the gullible that their physique is flawed. In the modern world, obsessed now with body image in all its various forms, that is probably more concerning that handing over money to companies for anything that could be considered largely pointless if you just amend your diet and exercise more.

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I was asked at the weekend why I’d started weight training by a total stranger. The answer is twofold: it has always been something I wanted to do, because I equate strength with physical fitness. Body image is largely irrelevant, but keeping asthma in check is far more important: I can have a direct and positive effect on managing an illness which, as a child, meant exercise was off the cards… except, now I find myself wondering what might have been different if my parents had encouraged that urge and not suppressed it. I’ll never know, of course, but now I’m in a position where breathing difficulties are the exception due to my own hard work. The sense of satisfaction and achievement that gives is beyond significant.

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The irony for me is that my stomach refuses to process either protein shakes or gels: I can swallow them but they’ll be straight back up in short order. If I want to lose weight and build muscle, it’s good old fashioned food groups: chicken, lean meat and white fish, flapjacks and nuts, or protein bars at a stretch. On days like this when the sugar craving is strong, that can be a hard ask, but my brain’s spent over a year grasping the undeniable truth that you really are what you eat. If protein shakes help people be healthy, honestly, what’s wrong with them? In 40 years, if Global Warming has its way, we could all be eating proteins in powder form anyway. There’s an assumption only one real way exists to be healthy, and that’s simply not true. Sure, you can eat cake and drink coffee but if that’s your life without exercise, it’s as bad in its own way as never eating a ‘healthy’ meal. The key here is not one thing or the other in excess, but balance.

The truth about health is never hard and fast. Reality, as always, depends on the individual deciding to make a change, and then sticking with it. There are many success stories, but for every miracle weight loss or transformation there are the many who can never make it past the scales or the next meal. Like so much else in life, change must be yours to instigate. If you want something enough, it will happen. For myself, I can attest that a healthier lifestyle has transformed my life at 50, but that is only part of a far larger and more complex set of circumstances. Knowing that, I’ll never discourage anyone wanting to start the journey, but it has to be on your own terms.

Decide what you want, and then make a plan to get there in the healthiest manner for you.