Musclebound

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.

Iconography

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I’ve been stealth writing stuff all weekend, since Thursday night, mostly because I don’t want to bore people with braindumps that means a great deal to me but not much to them. A friend told me I am perfectly within my rights to own my trauma, but there comes a point where the weight between exposition and boredom becomes very real indeed. I only need to look at my lovely and long-suffering family to understand that, like it or not, some days you just shut up and get on with life. The problem for me, right now, is that history is being rewritten. This is not revisionism, anything but. I am remembering the past as means to survive the present, and that is making for a lot of sudden and sometimes painful revelation.

This morning, we have returned to at least a semblance of normality.

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I went out after dropping the youngest off at School and did about ten days worth of overdue external running around: paying in cheques, posting mail, organising various things ‘outside’ including trying (and failing) to get a doctors appointment for my son. The earliest I’ll now manage outside of school hours is Wednesday, I’m glad he’s not horrendously unwell, or I’d be camping outside the Surgery tomorrow. I am also, inescapably, suffering what I now know is referred pain. Tonight cannot come quickly enough and yet, it is taking forever to arrive. However, I am making the most of the perception disparity by shoving as much work as possible into the space provided.

This may be only a semblance of normality, but it will do.

There There

This week has been tough. Mentally I’ve coped pretty well but physically, my digestive system is a mess. Having to lose what I’ve become reliant on in terms of high fat foods was a wrench my body initially wasn’t at all happy about. However, a week in and I’m beginning to cope. The other major loss is what counted as rewards on Treat Days are effectively out of the window too until I can get the all clear on my scans. I’ve been living on coated nuts in small portions, the occasional flapjack and luck, mostly. I wondered if I was doing this right until I got on the scales: my weight’s dropped consistently this last week, and I’m almost two pounds down. The key here is that there’s been only light exercise, because again I’m on orders not to strain my trunk area too vigorously.

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It is more than a year now since my last period. The night sweats remain, but are slowly tapering off, and I don’t seem to get hot in the daytime nearly as much as was the case before: *gasp* I’ve felt genuinely cold on a few occasions this last week, which is a distinct change. The biggest difference is my skin, which used to be really greasy: now I’m almost permanently dry, but the skincare routine is taking care of that. Oh, and body hair’s stopped growing, which means that I’m brushing my hair less and it is undoubtedly thinning. If genetics isn’t lying I won’t go bald, but even if I did I think that’s a hurdle I could tackle. I love my long hair now and I’ll be making the most of it for as long as I can.

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It seems odd at this stage to be undergoing so much change, but I’m quite sanguine about everything that is happening at once. I’ll be doing a session at the Gym later with weights but only light Cardio, just so I can keep momentum going. I don’t have a PT on Monday as my trainer is away so I think going forward I’ll plan to do *something* daily in order to keep the weight loss moving but not get too stressed if I don’t break goals. I’m certainly not in a mental state of panic or unhappiness over anything related to weight or exercise right now, and long may that continue.

In fact, everything’s looking just fine.

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Before I sat down to write, I took a rubbish sack and a food recycling bag and removed everything bad with an excessive carbohydrate count from what is known in this house as the ‘treat’ cupboard. No, it won’t cure me or anybody else in this house of their sugar addiction, but it draws a line in the sand for my tolerance. If I was living with a bunch of virtuous, healthy and happy people then I’d argue the approach would be different. It is time to move forward.

I’m not doing this to make me happy. What ails me is nothing to do with comfort eating. I am well aware of where the shortcomings are in my life and, like it or not, many of them will never be mine to fix. I can simplify gaming to make it more relaxing and act as a substitute for sugar, but again this doesn’t deal with the addiction. I can continue to lose weight and move forward but until I deal with the causes of anxiety, I’ll always be on the back foot. That means today, I’ll make a phone call.

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However, I anticipate a significant wait (as has always been the case) and so, whilst that happens, here are other things that can be done. One of them is to try and stop stressing about the stuff I cannot change, and to focus on the positives I already have. It’s all very #FirstWorldProblems stuff right now, which is why it feels a bit bad and wrong to discuss it as if there’s more relevance… but it matters to me. Decluttering will help, as will tidying generally. Getting out with the camera is another way to help alleviate stress that I’m not taking full advantage of, and with better weather on the way, I should be out more.

In the end, becoming the arbiter of my own destiny was always going to come with a catch. Nothing is ever smooth or perfect in its execution, and anyone saying otherwise is an all out fraud. This is a new journey, only just beginning, becoming one with all the other places I am moving towards, and I will find the means to fit it into the fabric of my existence eventually, but until I do? I promise not to complain, or indeed to mention it again. Needless to say, stuff doesn’t get fixed unless you work to do so. Bodies are no different to brains.

I’ve got this too.

 

Size of a Cow

This is the story of how I FINALLY lost 10 pounds and moved my exercise journey forwards.

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This week, the scales shifted down for the first time in quite some weeks. Fitbit has only recently started registering and tracking weight loss, it never existed when I first signed up. However now, I can see how much has vanished since the new software kicked in. There’s a sad truth behind this 10 pounds that made me stop in my tracks. I didn’t grasp just how many times it has taken to get this far. The problem with apps is that they rarely lie, and that means that, at least for me, five pounds has been a millstone for quite a while.

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I was shocked at this statistic, and went to look at my weight measurements for confirmation. I’ve been trying to lose the same five pounds for close to a year.

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This belittles the work I’ve done to get this far as well, because it doesn’t show the level of effort or that muscle and fat have been swapped with a quite definite regularity. If all you see are the numbers and not physical change, the potential to go backwards is, I know, a fair deal stronger than it would be if all I had was weight loss as my objective. This journey’s become therefore a lot more about self-education: yes, I can read all the gumph in the world about eating to lose weight and what exercises work the best, but none of that is necessarily going to work for me. That’s the problem with the Internet: everybody is out there trying to sell you the best way to do things like they’re a) the only person doing so and b) their way is the optimal path for you, and that’s a bunch of wobbly dumdums. What is best for ME is when I understand WHY things are happening, and I can grasp the relationship between what I eat, how I exercise and how that affects my progress.

This is the new world I now find myself in, and it is amazing.

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I can tell you the key changes that have been made to improve my ability to lose weight: they include stopping with the Special Fried Rice on takeaway night, removing myself from temptation when hungry and not lying to my PT when she asks me if I did all my exercise promised from the week before. However, I hate to break it to you guys, but the #1 overriding reason why I’ve succeeded in losing weight is that I’ve worked myself into the fucking ground. That meant that yesterday, on the back of five hours sleep, I dragged myself out the door, walked to the Gym, ran for nearly an hour and did 30 minutes of weights, before walking home and promptly falling asleep. Yes, exercise is meant to give you energy and vitality, but in a menopausal 50-summat it was enough to destroy me yesterday almost completely.

That’s normally when you want to give up.

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When I look back at myself in pictures, from when I started the serious part of this journey, there’s now an inescapable difference between then and now. Once upon a time I couldn’t see it, and had I allowed myself to be swayed by the fact that nothing (apparently) was changing in my mind at the time, I’d be no further forward. All those years of trying and failing to lose weight had nothing whatsoever to do with how I did it or with whom. The biggest single issue, ultimately, was myself. That’s easier to write now than it has been at any other point in the past too, that there’s come the final grasping of a truth that underpins everything else that I do. When jokingly I’ll mention that ‘people are stupid’ to someone in conversation, I’m talking about myself. This inability to want to grasp the failings and shortcomings that have hindered progress for decades makes the current revelations all the more bittersweet.

This could easily have happened a long time ago, but never did, because until fear was addressed and faced, everything was impossible. Shame and embarrassment are potent shackles in a mind that believes that what matters more than being free and happy is conforming to norms that were never placed on you to begin with, but end up being applied by everybody else. Once there’s the ability to look beyond the constraints of what the rest of humanity tells you is possible or acceptable? The only thing stopping progress, ultimately, is death. I write this sentence for a friend of mine who, right now, is going through the most difficult of circumstances as a reminder: every day is special, each moment to be appreciated and treasured as if it were the last, because that might well be the case. A life not lived well is not really a life at all.

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Now I’ve lost 10 pounds, the next goal is 15. These are hardly real world issues for you or anyone else but for me, this is a journey I am determined to complete. It has become a metaphor for an ability to do what is needed, to allow honestly to underpin everything, and to not be a lie. It is in effect, not clean living but honest living. I don’t need funky foods and stupid fads to be better, just myself and common sense. This then becomes a measure of how the two combine with current circumstances.

I believe I am capable of anything I now want to do.

Every Day is Like Sunday

Once upon a time I’d have never seen 8am on a Sunday, but today I woke up and having realised I’d done my eight hours rest for the night, I just didn’t want to stay in bed. So, after getting up and admiring the brilliant iced cake my 11 year old produced on her own last night from scratch, I made breakfast, and because I’ve not yet had a cuppa I put a spoonful of honey in with my porridge without thinking. Taking the first mouthful, I may as well just have eaten the honey directly because that’s all I could taste, and suddenly comes the revelation that I’m done with sweetening a great many things. In fact as I sit here there is the understanding that somewhere between late December and here, something quite fundamental has occurred.

My body no longer craves sugar as fuel.

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That revelation comes from Friday’s binge, where my first port of call wasn’t to reach for cake, but to go buy brown sourdough. In fact it was a sandwich that was far more tempting than any amount of sugary treats that I had to hand. Normally after abstinence in January (I’ve done a couple of years now where I’ve given up the sweet stuff after Christmas) I simply slip back into the old habits like this morning and don’t stop, but that porridge tasted AWFUL. All the subtlety of flavour and texture was ruined by shoving the unprocessed sugar into a place where on reflection, it didn’t belong. If I’d have wanted that sweeter the answer would have been dried cherries, not raw sugar. Before I’d have simply dismissed the oversight and carried on, but not today, because this week I’m going to learn something and not just carry on as if nothing changes.

For the second time in two weeks I’m off to the Gym with my Husband: he does a Spin Class, I’ll do 45 minutes on a treadmill, which is now roughly beneficial to doing 90 minutes if I was here a year ago. It is an opportunity to just relax (as I did last week) that then ends up with me pushing the limits of what I’m capable of, because it’s not being recorded or registered as an ‘official’ session. I now do my Push day on Wednesdays and a Pull day on Saturdays without a thought, though I will admit this week I didn’t Cardio ‘properly’ as I was recovering from the head cold my Son very gratefully passed on. However, all the weights were completed, and in many cases increased so I know I’m not skimping on physical effort. The scales have crept up simply as a result of the physical weight of food I’ve eaten, and that’s (hopefully) something I can deal with today with a largely liquid diet before I weigh in again tomorrow.

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There are days when you know you’ve gone backwards, and often these are the moments when you learn the most about yourself. The last three days have been mentally tougher than anything I’ve experienced for a while, and the revelation that I stuck in the writing blog last night was probably overdue. I can talk about myself now without issue, but the fictional side of things, which traditionally always suffered when there was mental issues to deal with, has been effectively sacrificed in order to get fit. This cannot be allowed to continue and so today, quite apart from the need to not lose impetus, I was up early to write what needed to be done so I can focus later on getting the groundwork done to move forward. Having identified the issue, it would be remiss of me to just ignore the work required to get that fixed. That’s why the personal stuff’s been done first, I can do the gaming stuff now in my sleep, and I have a cracking topic to start on when I get back from the Gym.

My friends have said, on numerous occasions, that I take on too much and can be quite hard on myself when things don’t work as I wish. I’ll happily admit this is true, but at present I know what I’m capable of doing, and that is no more than I currently have on my plate. The effort now must be directed into making sure the time I spend at a screen isn’t wasted, is better organised and has a tangible result. None of these things are impossible or require any changes in current schedule, except when it comes to the shit in my head. Nothing will ever get better unless I make the changes.

So, this is me up on a Sunday morning, doing just that.

Never Tear us Apart

When I started talking about mental health on Social media, I was messaged almost immediately by someone who wanted to make sure I was genuine. There were, I was informed, a lot of people on Twitter pretending to have mental issues to draw attention to themselves. This person also decided to inform me of who they considered ‘genuine’ in that department and who could be trusted. I will admit I read that first DM and laughed: then I knew this person had the potential to be quite serious trouble. I’d invaded their patch, as it were, and the first order of business was to come sniff my butt and then lay down terms.

As time has gone on, my suspicions have been confirmed. This person’s crossed swords with an awful lot of people to get to the point where their number of followers has somehow become a metaphor for how capable they are at maintaining this persona online. The stories I’ve seen play out, that people have kindly shared, often with a sense of genuine fear, each confirm that first interaction and subsequently solidifies my belief. Then, when people ask me why I still continue to interact? I have to laugh again: never at them or the incidents, but at the belief that somehow the only way life works is when you make a big thing of who the bad guys are.

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It helps being able to have a villain in order to place everyone in a basic context. It’s nether productive or safe however to start throwing around accusations that only come from other people. The only 100% safe means of burning somebody’s fakeness to the ground is when they directly challenge you and then you then push back with 110%’s worth of irrefutable evidence. Surmise and hearsay is never going to cut it, and once you’ve done that? Well, it’s then a case of how far you want to bury the body. When it comes to being accused of being a fake?  I have no axe to grind. I don’t need to prove to other people that I’m committed to them by burning bridges. Nobody’s forced a ‘it’s me or them’ standoff for some time.

When I think of the drama I’ve directly caused in the past, I don’t regret one iota of it. It wasn’t my mental issues that caused those problem, quite the opposite. It was my inability to make good on promises, or often general laziness. I will happily use these as a stick to beat myself with, but never anybody else. All the flashpoints have resulted from knowing that people stopped acting as decent human beings. They expected too much, or they assumed, or in at least one case took pretty much total advantage of a generous offer. If I were a perfect human being, I could easily hold these up as issues, but as I am so much less than perfect, you don’t start slinging mud. The reason why I am so vague and refuse to name names is that all of this is pointless to begin with. This isn’t REAL drama, and never will be.

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I know how many people matter to me in this virtual safe space. I am also aware that unless I choose it, these people never become anything more than simply at arms length. When they are allowed past the barriers, they know it has happened. It’s not imagined, or staged. I don’t fake friendships for the lulz or the views. I don’t give away shit to increase my followers. I do this stuff because I can, have the money to spare, and because other people derive pleasure from the process. I don’t need the attention, and I sure as fuck know people will survive long after I’ve gone. I’m not indispensable or unique. I’m the Girl who Might, and nothing else right now.

Yet still remains this issue, to be somehow quantified by others’ actions. I have to be honest, I can’t pretend to have a problem. Other people pursue these fruitless attempts to create distorted views of those who seem to oppose them. Everything is a game, and nobody is to be trusted and on some days I laugh when I see what passes for ‘help’ and ‘support.’ I shudder at what some people choose to share and wish they thought more about the consequences. I want to ask some to say more, that their wisdom and common sense is what this platform craves, but these people are the sensible ones who stay away. The clever people know that Social media is dangerous. They are the smart ones who already have a plan to leave.

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All of this often happens in a fifteen minute window, and I wonder why some days Twitter’s such a fucking destructive waste of my time.

This is an odd period for me: I realise that I could be successful without ever needing a single follower on social media, by just doing what I already am. There is absolutely no requirement to equate success with followers, and yet this is what people continue to do, day in and out. Not everyone who appears in your life is there to steal your stuff and make life difficult, so maybe next time someone appears the default setting should not be ‘Threat.’ However, undoubtedly, there are those who must be undisputed owners of whatever spot they find themselves shoved into. I’ve never felt the need to be in charge, yet that’s where I often end up from necessity, because nobody else is prepared to do the work.

Mental illness is a constant and often precarious balancing act. To keep yourself sane, so much else must be weighed and considered. Sometimes, if other people decide they know you better than you do, there’s a temptation to let them do the work, but it will always end in tears. You are the ONLY person who understands your brain. Other people simply live a version of your reality. However, there is no doubt that existing alone is a sure fire method to madness. Ask all the questions, and don’t take the first answer you get as gospel. Be confident in your own mind, and don’t let other people tell you who’s the bad guy.

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Make these decisions for yourself.