Challenging my rules

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I’ve been working through Intuitive Eating for the last 6 months or so and it is making a huge difference in how I think about myself and food. Therapy is also helping a great deal as I am actually talking about what I really think and not being distracted by other people’s opinions. I am finding I am beginning to listen to myself first. I am starting to ignore the media and supposedly well-intentioned people who just want to help. I am doing the research and listening to what my gut, heart and head are telling me. It’s hard work, but I feel so much freedom at the same time.

I have been working hard on noticing and trying to ditch the diet mentality. It still rears it’s ugly head with automatic thoughts, but I don’t let it control me. I’ve also been working on honouring my hunger, which again is a work in progress as I have used food as a coping mechanism for so long that it won’t change overnight, so each step is important. The next two principles about Making peace with Food and Challenging the Food Police is where I have been concentrating lately.

Through therapy I have begun to notice, understand and challenge the rules I live by that are not my own. They have been embedded within in throughout my life and no longer serve a purpose and actually cause me more harm then good. Many of my rules are from my parents and this isn’t about blaming them, it is about understanding that those were their rules, but they do not have to be mine. They grew up in a different time and are not going to change, but I don’t have to live by them anymore, I can find my own or throw them all out the window.

In my work I have found a couple of things that have really had an impact on my binge eating behaviour and my lack of trust in myself around food – the idea of waste and the rule of not having it in the house. Both of these enable binge eating behaviour and eat into my self-esteem by encouraging negative thinking about food and myself, both diet and behaviours. I have completely lost the ability to trust myself around food as I have lived by rules that have reinforced that I cannot be trusted around food. At the same time I have been living by rules that mean I cannot waste food and so I have been eating it all in order not to waste it or have it in the house. So confusing!

 

So I have been challenging these rules, but buying things in large amount and keeping them in the house. This has been my list so far:

  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream
  • Fresh bread
  • Full fat yogurt and milk
  • Biscuits
  • Alcohol

I have binged, but the majority of time I forget they are there until I fancy something. I have given myself permission to break those rules and prove to myself I can trust myself. I taken them off the banned list and therefore reduced their appeal. It’s been liberating!

Ignoring people is the harder part for me and in the past comments about food or weight have knocked my self-esteem out the park. But now I am trying to give less of shit about other people. I listen to myself and make my own choices, then bat other people’s opinions away. I’m keeping it simple and having a few prepared lines to respond to people with such as ‘and I’m really looking forward to eating it’ in a sweetly innocent tone or being a bit stronger and challenging them by asking ‘why does it matter to you what I eat?’. It’s an interesting process at the moment and does depend on how I feel about myself at the time. Sometimes though I am just choosing not to acknowledge the matter at all – such as my rant on twitter about the random old man in the supermarket who tried to encourage me to ignore the chocolate aisle – and for me that is re-enforcing within myself that I do not have to conform or agree with societal standard or stereotypes, and instead I can say fuck off!

It’s a long journey, but I feel in a really good place with it all. It will take time and I am so glad I have taken the focus off weight loss and just focusing on being the best me I can be and loving myself exactly as I am so much so that I threw the scales out! I’ve also been buying clothes that fit and throwing out the ones that don’t. I want to feel good and that is what I am going to do and anyone who doesn’t want me to feel good can go on their way and stay out of my life. Simple.

Having fun fly boarding by being body positive

This was just going to be a straight forward review of my experience, but I went through some body image stuff in the lead up to going fly boarding and after I’d done it. So I thought I would make it a bit of both!

My sister bought me a voucher to go fly boarding for 30 minutes for last Christmas and Birthday and I admit I was putting it off, because of my swim and all the training I needed to do. However she reminded me and I realised it was starting to get near the expiry date and therefore I could not put it off any longer.

Why was a worried? I was freaking out because of my weight and not having done it before. I had also looked on the website and there was a weight limit and since I have not weighed myself since I took the focus off weight and dieting, I had no idea what I actually weighed. I was feeling good about myself and my clothes fitting well, but this was totally out of my comfort zone. I decided to take my own wetsuit as I knew it fit me and it would take away the awkward bit of selecting a wetsuit when you arrive, which is normally some guy looking at you and then looking at a rack of wetsuit – not the most inspiring time in any process. Also my sister had said she had wished she had taken her own wetsuit when she went last year.

So off we went to Big Crazy at the National Diving and Activity Centre in Chepstow. I was nervous, but on arrival the weather was extremely wet and that meant all the spectators were in the cafe and not wandering around the site, so my audience would be small. They guys from Big Crazy were also amazingly nice and encouraging. I was in a group starting at 3pm and I was the only girl (but I think I was the best out of all of us!) and when we were changed and walked down to the jetty I ended up going first – they asked who had the smallest foot size and I was the only girl!

The rest of the experience can be found in my Go Pro videos below!

 

Side note – I now really really want a Go Pro as I would use it swimming and for other things like this!

I had the most amazingly fun time doing this! I honestly can’t believe I was worried! But since then I’ve begun to understand why and it all about how we think about our bodies and what we think other people think. I look back at the videos and see a woman having fun and being really good at fly boarding the first time. I didn’t look at how I looked in the wetsuit until later, when I realised I hadn’t noticed. I was laughing the whole time (some was a nervous laugh as that is what I do) and focused on making the most of being in the water and doing something different.

I came away form the experience with a new appreciation of what my body is capable of. It also showed me some of the areas I need to work on with how I see myself and giving less of a shit about what other people think. It’s always going to be a journey I think, it won’t end, but I hope to get to a place where it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not going to change how society sees larger bodies, but I can keep doing my bit to prove those bodies are capable of anything!

A couple of weeks after this I went to the doctor as I’ve been struggling in circuits class with light headedness and almost fainting a few times. Its very frustrating and I was worried it was something serious. Again I went into that completely expecting the outcome to be told I needed to lose weight, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The doctor told me I have an athletic resting heart rate and didn’t mention my weight once. We talked about all the endurance swimming I’ve been doing and after testing my heart rates and looking for problems with valves he thinks it’s just that I am not used to the high intensity and I need to start slow and build up so my body can get used to it. It was amazing feeling to come out of the doctors surgery and not feel bad about myself. I know I want to treat myself well and that means dealing with my issues with food by understanding them, not sweeping them under a rug by going on another restriction diet. I am active and strong and want to learn and grow as a person and I need to do that through positive challenges and joy, not punishment!

Life is good and my body is loved and capable of anything!

Learning to love my body

 

  • Skincare – check
  • Make up – check
  • Therapy – check
  • Giving less of a shit – in progress
  • Hair – in progress
  • Clothes – up next
  • Body – up next

Have you ever realised it’s not your voice in your head telling you how you should feel about yourself?

That is exactly what I’ve been working through in therapy and it is truly enlightening.  Especially around the thoughts I have about my body. I find it quite sad I’ve let other people and social pressure dictate how I feel about myself and my body and I’m only just realising I don’t need to care what others think.  I’ve been working on creating identities for the voices in my head, specifically the negative ones, as this is helping me realise they are not my thoughts, but external influences being voiced.

I have a women as the thin, always made up to perfection, weight watchers leader character who provides the fake sincerity and makes everything about diet and appearance. This is the voice we think is helping us and being kind, but is really Professor Umbridge in disguise!

I also have a general type character; a uniformed shouty man who is all about the rules. Nothing is ever good enough for The General and no matter how hard you try you will never be what he wants you to be. It’s also the voice that sends you on the overeating followed by over-exercising cycle. It’s never ending. It’s all criticism and all about power and control. It makes you feel weak and useless.

Both of these voices are not mine. They are the things I’ve heard and learnt from others and think I believe, but really they are at odds with what I really value. Putting names to them allows me to see they are not internal and that I can choose not to listen to them. I’m slowly building another voice that is really from the inside, but I’m yet to fully see that voice as it’s still in the shadows and shyly taking steps out as my confidence grows.

All this history has really taken a toll on how I feel and see my body. I’m so detached from it that I probably wouldn’t recognise it if I saw it in a line up! How crazy is that?

However I’ve been working on this without really realising that is what I was doing. I was thinking about it as positive self-care. But really this goes deeper below my skin and into my being and impacts on how I really feel about myself. I’ve been concentrating on my skincare and make up in recent months to learn what my skin needs and what makes me feel good. I’ve even committed to bulk buying a few products to keep up my new run of consistency in these areas.

Skincare – Balance Me – I love this range as it’s mostly natural and leaves my skin feeling hydrated. I’ve moved away from fearing oils and although I’m not yet spot free yet, I am having fewer breakouts. I think the rest is to do with what foods I’m eating and being active.

Makeup – Hydrating primer and foundation – As I’m not yet clear of acne I’m still using foundation and concealer to cover up blemishes, but I’ve swapped to more hydrating products. Old favourites have had to go as I realised they were drying out my skin and making everything worst. So I’m now a fan of Smashbox Hydrating Primer (although I would like to find a cheaper version) and Kiko Hydrating Foundation.


Make up – Beauty Blender – I am a convert! I love these sponges for applying all forms of makeup. So much so I’ve bought the standard one, the mini ones, the pure one, and the blush one – I know, I know, I’ve bought into the brand! Honestly though the sponges are applying the makeup so well that I am using less product and getting the finish I think is natural and provides coverage. I also bought the cleaner and find that is working well and takes the product off after each use. The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to travel with them as I leave them out to dry, I’m sure I’ll figure it out though!

Therapy – This has been key for me this year to really get under the skin of my disordered eating and relationship with food and people. The only limiting factor for me is the finances and is something I need to consider going forward.

Hair – I’ve finally booked in for a haircut and colour at an actual salon! I’ve neglected my hair for the last 5 years. I’ve just let it grow, then had it cut, then let it grow, and then had it cut again, irregularly I might add. So I finally took the plunge and asked my friends who they see and booked in on their recommendation. I’ve been for a consultation and colour test and have an appointment next month!

Giving less of a shit – This is one that I’ve begun to notice I’m doing without focusing on it. As I’ve been doing my therapy and taking the time and putting the effort into looking after me this feels more and more natural. I feel like I can voice my opinions and not care if someone doesn’t agree or worry that I’ll cave in. I have the right to take up space in this world and is some doesn’t like it, they can fuck off!


There are two areas I would like to work in order to really truly love my body and those are the areas of clothes and actually seeing my body – also crazy right, but not really at the same time. These areas are the two I find the hardest. I haven’t really ever enjoyed clothes shopping as it made me face my discomfort around my body. But I am starting to find this goes hand in hand with giving less of a shit about what others think and my desire to quieten the voices who aren’t really mine. I want to go shopping for clothes that fit and look fantastic on my body exactly as it is. I want to then continue to do that as my body changes with age, whether that is gets smaller or bigger as it doesn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be healthy and will continue to monitor that with my doctor, but if the only problem I have is that I weigh too much and that isn’t impacting on anything else, you know what, I’m going to focus on what makes me content and I hope that will then mean I find equilibrium within my body naturally.

Wandering around Bristol

I’ve said recently I’ve been restless and not quite feeling where I am living. Don’t get me wrong I do love my house and being near all my friends, but there is something about it that is not quite working for me at the moment. It’s too quiet! I love quiet, but also I want to live a full life and love exploring and where I currently am, doesn’t have the things I want on the doorstep. My sister lives in Bristol and I head that way quite a lot and I keep thinking about maybe, possibly, in the future, moving there…

I don’t know for certain, but a big part of me at the moment want to live in a city. I loved Vancouver, Edinburgh and Cardiff, even if I was just there for short amounts of time. I love how you can walk everywhere (pretty much) and there is usually something new happening or to explore every week (maybe month). There is a sense of life to those places. I get the same feeling in Bristol and with my current job that could work as a place to be…

This last weekend my sister and I were meant to go sailing, but the wind was not in a kind mood and we are fair weather sailors, so we changed plans and went out for a walk around Bristol Harbour. We have done this many times, but as it was heavy showers forecast all day we went out expecting to top for coffee and in places all day, and that we did.

First we went to lunch at a new cafe called Mokoko.  I introduced my sister to flat white and the coffee bean menus even though she took the piss out of me for being so interested in coffee! We had a lovely lunch and I would recommend it as a place to go if you’re in the area.

We then started our walk, got about 500m and it poured down so we went into the M-Shed to learn about the history of Bristol. It’s free and it was interesting, but both of us were annoyed that there was no logical flow to the information and instead it was in themes, which was interesting but confusing!

After that we started on our walk again and go a bit further – to the cafe outside the SS Great Britain to be exact! It had started to rain again and we went for a cuppa. As it decided it was going to carry on for an our we decided to into the SS Great Britain as neither of us had actually been inside ever!

I was quite impressed. I loved the being able to walk around the ship and go below into the dry dock. The dry dock was the best part and I found it much more interesting than the reconstructed interior.

When we got to the deck the sun decided to make an appearance and it was beautiful to see colourful Bristol come to life.

Did you know you can get married on this ship?

Nor us! We were wandering around and suddenly there were lots of smartly dressed people heading into the lower deck which was all set out theatre style. It would make a unique setting that is for sure!

We then carried on our walk around the floating harbour, stopping for another coffee when it decided to pour down again and then headed for an early dinner at Pho. I am now obessed with Vietnamese food! I want to learn how to make Pho and rice paper rolls and have already spied that I can get the ingredients I need from my local shop. It was so fresh and filling, but light and tasty all at the same time.

Just one day in Bristol and I explored new things and went to new cafes and restaurants that just isn’t possible where I currently am. I am so tempted, but at the same time I don’t know whether I want to spend the money on moving. I have only just got to a place financially where I can afford to do the trips I want to do (Hello Japan!) and I really don’t want to give that up. I need to think hard about whether I can do both, but it might need to wait until I progress in work a little further. I’m excited to think about it though. I can start creating the future I want now, but only if I know what the future I want looks like. (I haven’t been reading a leadership book at all!!)

Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon Swim

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I undertook my swimming challenge for this year and I still can’t quite believe I did it!

Last November I signed up for the Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon swim. This a 14km swim from Henley to Marlow. My swim coach took part in 2015 and decided to get a team together and make it a social event for 2016. This meant we could train together and set up days when we would all do long distance swims so we wouldn’t be alone.

It was a long journey of training, but it actually kept me going through a time where I really could have given up swimming. I gave up pool swimming and solely focused on the open water swimming. It made huge difference to my mental strength to just focus on the one thing. Taking the pressure off made it much easier to enjoy the journey. I also changed waves so I could swim in the middle one, rather than the faster one – best decision ever!

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It was a very early start on Sunday 8th August – 4am to be exact! I drove to a friends house so we could then car share to Henley. We arrived at Henley at 6am and registered, waited for the group to arrive and got ready. This is where my nerves started to kick in and I focused on thinking about swimming at my own pace and making it to the end.

The sign in the photo below was from the very start and it was a great reminder of what the event was really about. We didn’t need to worry about time as it wasn’t a race. it was run as a sportive and all focused on getting everyone to the finish.

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The swim we split into 4 stages with 3 feed stops at the locks. The first stage was 4km, then 6km, then 1.5km, then 2.5km. Each feed stop had drinks and a variety of food. Hand sanitiser and extra vaseline was provided and you had a to walk at least 100m from the exit to the entry points.

The fist 4km was easy and the stop came up to surprise me. It was a very busy section as everyone in the one wave started together. It meant getting clear water was hard and I lost the two friends I was swimming with (we caught each other at the stop) so I just focused on swimming steady and trying to notice where we were on the river. I felt good for this section.

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The second section was the big one – 6km non-stop. it’s the furthest I’ve swam non-stop and I was surprised at how good I felt. The river changed as we swam along. We passed green fields and very big houses and felt like there was no one else around. When we got in at this section we were asked to keep to groups with a kayak, but there was a steady stream of people that they didn’t make anyone wait to start (they did in the slower wave I was told). There were a couple of points along this route where you could have taken the wrong split, but the kayakers with us were great and kept us on course the whole way. My friend got cramp around 4km in and we pauseda minute, but got going again and this is where my arms started to feel it. My friend picked up speed and I started to slow, but we worked well together and kept going.

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We stopped for a little longer at the next stop to make sure we had the energy and were hydrated. I topped up the vaseline around my neck and then was ready to go. We had to cross the river and walk across an island before getting back in at quite rocky point, but the flow of the weir was a nice push off to start the last 4 km. I found this stage the hardest as my arms ached and it was not quite long enough to find my rhythm after the 6km stretch. Mentally I had to work hard here and kept focused on even arm strokes and moving forward. My friend was able to lose me here, but we caught each other at the last stop.

The last stage was started by a jump into the river after a lock and staying out the way of the boats. It was around 11ish at the time and there were many more boats on the river than the rest of the time. Also we were heading into Marlow so the it was generally much busier on the towpath and the river itself. This stage was easier in a way because I knew it was the last, but it was also hard, because it was the last 2km of a 14km swim! I focused again on keeping steady and getting to the end. Energy wise I was, just tired, but my arms were struggling a lot by this point. I definitely could have done some extra conditioning training in the run up!

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I was so happy at the end. One because it was over and also because I had done it! I had swam the farthest I’ve ever swum (and probably ever will). It was also much sunnier than when we started and I knew I would be able to relax for a couple of hours waiting for the others to all finish before heading home.

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While we were waiting in the glorious sunshine we talked about what other swims we would like to do. Our coach will probably put another team to together for this event next year, but I don’t think I want to do it two years running. I would come and support though as I think it would be a lovely walk along the river to follow the swimmers. Instead we were thinking about Coniston in the Lake District. That could be a fun trip!

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I would recommend this swim to anyone doing long distance swimming. It was fun and really well organised. The feed stops were well stocked and the volunteers at each one were super helpful. The kayakers and start/finish crews were also amazing!

As long as you put in the training and do not underestimate the distance or the mental requirements of this type of swimming then you will absolutely fine. I stuck to feeding as I did in my training, which mainly involved gels and chocolate to take away the taste of the gels. That works for me, and take time to figure our what works for you. Some people didn’t feed, others used what was at the stops, and others used fruit and nut bars only. As everyone has a wear a tow float I found it easy to carry what I needed and it got lighter as you swam further.

Training wise I progressed from swimming around 3km a time to regularly swimming 5km, with longer swims of 7km to 11km every couple of weeks. I didn’t have a set plan in the end, but rather worked out what I needed to get to and fitted into my schedule as well as making sure I took part in the group long swims.

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Overall this was a fantastic day and a great achievement for me. If you fancy doing it go to the Henley Swim website and sign up for 2017! They also do shorter swims, including one that end at a pub with the medal being a bottle opener – open water swimming is for everyone!

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