Perspective

food

It’s very tempting to only blog when good things happen.  To edit out the bad days, low moods, rough times and pretend that everything is all hearts and flowers and rainbows and sunshine.  I’ve talked before about how life is not a show reel and in the interests of honesty I don’t want to pretend to be something, or someone, I’m not.  I have been really, really struggling over the last week and finding life hard to deal with.  A week of extremely long days with work (students from my school performed at the finale of the Brighton Festival and I could not be more proud) coupled with a horrible bout of PMT have knocked me for six and I have been struggling to make the right choices for my health.  Sometimes I have failed to do that and I have beaten myself up about it and felt guilt and shame for eating things I shouldn’t.  Aside from work and hormones I have also been really missing my husband.  I am extremely blessed to be married to someone who has seemingly never ending patience and understanding with me and without his support, sometimes it is really tough.  In these times of instant communication it has been hard to deal with the fact that I have been unable to even speak to him for a week and it is amazing how long a week can feel.

The best laid plans of mice and men

The best laid plans of mice and men

I tried really hard to be well prepared and take healthy food with me on set (see above), but I think it was the lack of exercise that broke me.  For almost a week I didn’t go to the box and I can see now that had huge effect on my mental state.  For some of that time I wasn’t physically able to go (if you are working 15 or 16 hour days and you can find the motivation to go to the gym before or after work you are a better person than I).  This week I have been three times and it has been hard.  I feel as though my body is made of rock, that I am running through treacle, that I am weak.  But even though it is hard, it is better than sitting at home weeping into a box of chocolates whilst my cats look at me indignantly for not stroking them.  Even if when I am there I am so hormonal that I can’t stop sweating just from the warm up, or I’m so grumpy I can’t even bring myself to talk to the lovely people I am surrounded by, it’s the right place to be (for me, maybe not for everyone else!).

This month I was Member of the Month at Reebok CrossFit Connect and when I read the newsletter I felt like a fraud because I know there are so many other people who are fitter, stronger and more committed than me.  Today a fellow box goer and truly lovely lady got frustrated with herself for finishing the WOD last.  She was using the same weight as the male coaches.  When people were looking at her as she finished those last few reps they were thinking’what an absolute bad ass.’  I know because that was what I was thinking and she has been a constant source of inspiration to me since I joined.  CrossFit encourages us to strive to be better, work harder, achieve more and we do, but sometimes we just need to get a little perspective.  We set enormously high standards for ourselves but we have to remember that we are only human.  Today I may not be exactly where I want to be, but I am on the right path and I am closer than I have ever been.

My 30th Birthday.  Drink in one hand, cigarette in the other.  Standard.

My 30th Birthday. Drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. Standard.

* Fellow CrossFitter Kay has written a lovely blog about how important CrossFit has been to her and her husband recently, whilst they have been dealing with some difficult health related issues.

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Movement!

After a few weeks of stagnating I have actually lost some weight/ fat/ body mass!  I have seriously monitored my food intake, reducing how many nuts I eat, limited dried fruit and swapped red meat for fish and chicken.  The best thing about this is I have still eaten plenty of food, I haven’t been really hungry and I have had enough energy to exercise.   I have been following the paleo/ zone way of eating and at the moment it seems to be working for me.  I have been making sure I get carbohydrates such as sweet potato early in the day (this has caused some raised eye brows at work as I munched on my breakfast in the staff room!)  So far, so good.

Weight: 65.8 kilos/ 10 stone 4 pounds

Body fat percentage: 33.8%

BMI: 27.2

Dress size: 12/14

Bust Size: 34 DD

Waist measurement: 80.1 centimeters/ 31.5

Height: 154.94 centimeters/ 5 foot 1 inch (same!)

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Thighs, thighs, thighs

sam briggs

I have always had an issue with my thighs.  Even as a small child they were a source of great embarrassment and shame to me.  I’m really short so my thighs should be perfectly petite like Kylie Minogue’s, right?  Except they’re not.  They are large and chunky.  Solid.  My body image has improved dramatically over the last year and a half, I am very happy to be able to say that, but there is still the thigh issue looming in the back ground.  My good friends went to America recently and brought me back a very cool top from CrossFit Brick City in New York and some long, purple socks.  I took a picture of myself in my new gear, with very short shorts, but I could never imagine actually going to the box in them.  I would be too self conscious.  I am a reasonably intelligent human being, I know this is ludicrous, but still I have this crushing fear of people looking at me and judging me.

This bothers me.  It bothers me that even at this stage in my life I allow myself to be governed by these ridiculous ideals of beauty and that I continue to feel ‘less than’ others because my thighs are thicker.  I don’t want to be bullied into believing that I am not good enough because I don’t have perfect thighs (this could easily be substituted for boobs, bum, tummy, face), and when I have children I certainly don’t want to pass on these worries and concerns to them.  It infuriates me that we live in a society where the worst possible insult you can give someone is fat.  Surely it would be worse to say I was mean or cruel or selfish?  A British comedian was recently heavily critisized on twitter for the dress she wore at the Baftas award ceremony.  She wrote this fabulous, but very sad response, here.  The critics, in my opinion, don’t care about the dress she is wearing.  The message is not ‘buy a nicer dress and fancier shoes,’ the message is ‘who are you to be a successful woman if you are not skinny and pretty?’  It is a message that we have forced down our throats day after day and I’m sick of it.

camille

It is the same message we get when we support CrossFit and people like Camille, Annie and Julie Foucher are the darlings, whilst the actual reigning champ, Sam Briggs, is sidelined.  Don’t get me wrong I adore those women, I think they are fantastic, but if you really pay attention t0 the media coverage and the language used by the commentators there is a marked difference.  Why?  Because Sam Briggs is a total effing bad ass and she does not fit in to the prescribed view of what a woman should be.  Because Annie, Camille and Julie are strong, with big muscles, but they are also very pretty, very feminine, and they smile a lot.  I had an interview with the youngest member of our box, Madi Farley, on BoxRox website recently (you can read it here).  She is 12, almost 13 and she is incredible.  Her mum and dad (and extended family, who are all super human CrossFitters too) are doing a great job of raising her but I think its sad that these young girls are being raised in a world where if you are a woman it matters more what you look like, and less what you do or say.   That’s the world I was raised in and it didn’t do me any good.

Beast mode

I have been inspired of late by the awesome, hard working, dedicated women competing in the Regionals, many of whom are very well endowed in the thigh department themselves.  So today I tested myself.  I decided that I would go out in public wearing what I like to call my booty shorts (they are just normal adidas shorts really) and see what happened.  So I got on my bike and went for a ride and a few things happened.  First of all the world did not stop.  Nobody crashed their car or dropped their small child out of shock at the offending hunks of meat.  In fact, I was just cycling along wondering how many people were silently judging me and my thighs, when a man called out to me ‘hey baby how ya doing?’  Obviously I blushed furiously and looked away but inside this made me laugh because I realised that its all about perspective.  If someone is looking at you, you don’t have to assume they are thinking the worse.  Try assuming they are thinking the best.  If they aren’t its their problem, not yours.  And me?  I will try assuming that nobody else gives a crap about the size of my thighs but me.

*  I have been loving watching the Regionals and I am really excited to catch up with the action today.  Go Sam and Will, Go Go Go!

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In the (paleo) zone

zone plate

I have flirted with the concept of zoning before and I’m not going to lie, its not easy.  Schools of thought about diets have varied dramatically over the years and as science has progressed we have been given contradictory advice on what is healthy for us to eat.  Should I restrict my calories?  Restrict my fat?  Eat lots of red meat?  Cut out red meat?  Are grains good for me?  Is veganism the right choice?  There is so much information available that it is not surprising that we can all feel a little overwhelmed and confused.  As I have talked about before, my personal choice, and the one that fits in best with my personal stomach issues, is the paleo diet.  So what happens when you find that you feel great, you are happy and healthy but you are just not losing weight on the paleo diet?  Old school science taught us that a calorie is a calorie and they were all created equal.  Now, of course, we know that is not true.  There are 112 calories in an individual Weight Watchers Carrot Cake, whilst there are 156 calories in just 1 ounce of cashew nuts.  So does that mean that I should opt for the lower calorie snack?  Personally, no I don’t think so, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else to do so either.

Here is the ingredients list for the Weight Watchers Carrot Cake:  Sugar,Wheat Flour ,Carrot (9%) ,Pasteurised Whole Egg ,Water ,Vegetable Oil ,Pineapple ,Humectant: Vegetable Glycerine ,Pasteurised Egg White ,Citrus Fibre ,Raising Agents: Diphosphates, Potassium Bicarbonate ,Coconut ,Glucose Syrup ,Skimmed Milk Powder ,Caramelised Sugar Syrup ,Ground Cinnamon ,Tapioca Starch ,Preservative: Potassium Sorbate ,Gelling Agent: Pectin ,Dextrose ,Fructose ,Ground Nutmeg ,Emulsifier: Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids

carrot cake                              cashew nuts

Cashews may contain more calories but they also contain these nutrients:  Copper, Phosphorous, Manganese, Magnesium and Zinc and they do not contain a plethora of additives, preservatives and chemicals.

Whilst in the short term if you follow a calorie restricting diet such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World you will undoubtedly lose weight, in the long term, it is not sustainable AND if you buy the products that they make you are also giving your body a smorgasbord of chemical crap, entirely devoid of any real nutritional value.  If you decide to do exercise whilst you are dieting, (which I hope you will) these foods will not provide your body with enough energy to sustain even moderate levels of movement.

However, one aspect of the paleo diet that cannot be ignored is the fact that if you eat excessive amounts of calories (albeit of healthy, nutritious, wholesome foods) you will not be able to consistently lose weight.  At this point in my life, having lost and gained weight to varying degrees over the last twenty years, I would still like to be leaner.  That’s not because I think I’m fat.  Gone are the days when I look in the mirror and hate what I see, where I talk about myself in terms of being less than others because I weigh more.  What I do want, though, is to be a more efficient athlete.  I am carrying excess weight and that makes certain aspects of my training more difficult.  I find it hard to run, I am unable to complete an unassisted pull up, I struggle with box jumps.  All of these things would be improved if I lost weight.

So what is the answer?  One diet that is very popular with athletes is The Zone.  The Zone separates food into blocks, the amount of blocks you are advised to eat is dependent upon your size and gender.  According to the chart below I am a small female and should need 10 blocks.  When I had a brief soiree with The Zone Diet I found that with my training that was simply not sufficient food and I had to up it to 11, which was sustainable.  So 11 blocks of food per day, I’m not going to lie, that is not a lot of food and it does take some getting used to.

zone-chart

Many athletes bulk cook zone meals on a Sunday so that during the week they don’t have to worry about their preparing and cooking food.  This is particularly helpful if you are trying to juggle work, training and possibly a family all at the same time.  This kind of practical approach means that your food goes from being something that is regulated by your emotions, to something that is very much a tool to fuel your body.  If you are training for a sport or are trying to mend a broken relationship with food, this could be a good solution for you.  I am going to give it a whirl and see what effect it has on me.  I will let you know how I get on!

5 weeks

Weight: 67.3 kilos/ 10 stone 6 pounds (- 3 pounds)

Body fat percentage: 34.9%  (+ .4%)

BMI: 27.6 (- 1.5)

Dress size: 12/14 (same)

Bust Size: 34 DD (same)

Waist measurement: 82.55 centimeters/ 32 inches (-.5)

Height: 154.94 centimeters/ 5 foot 1 inch (same!)

The way I look at it is this: over the last 5 weeks, which have been incredibly emotional for me, I could have binged on all sorts of foods and gained a lot of weight.  That is what I would have done in the past but this time I took control, to some degree, about the kind of foods that I was eating.  Now to get serious about actually losing some weight because lets face it, who doesn’t want to look good in a bikini!

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High days and holidays

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What do you eat and drink at a wedding?  Since the last time I wrote that is where I have been – a sunny, happy, beautiful wedding.  Its challenging being away from home for someone on any kind of health challenge.  You don’t have the comforts of home, you don’t have access to the gym or box that you would usually go to, it is all too easy to stray from the path.  Add to that the double obstacles of bank holidays and a wedding and you can imagine where we are headed.  I started this health challenge because my husband had just gone away and I really wanted something to focus my mind on to stop me from comfort eating and bingeing on calorific, chemical laden foods.  In that respect it has worked very well.  With the exception of one occasion, which I will tell you about in a moment, I have eaten wholesome, healthy, paleo food the entire time.  Even through the Easter holidays and another bank holiday I stuck to the programme with good (if not incredible) results.  What happened this week is that in the face of a table full of beautiful cake and a fridge full of prosecco I, like any good little sugar addict, talked myself into making the decision to eat non-paleo foods.  These are the justifications I gave myself, I’m sure you will recognise them:

  • I have been so good, I deserve a treat
  • Its a wedding, you have to have a drink at a wedding
  • Its gluten free cake, so its fine (the bride is coeliac so anything with gluten was totally banned)
  • If ‘they’ do it, it means its okay for me to do it (followed by me persuading my very good friend Pipp to be naughty with me.  Sorry Pipp!)
  • Its just one day

cakes!

So I had a couple of glasses of prosecco and some delicious gluten free cake.  I had a great time, it was a beautiful day and I loved every minute of it, and if the result of my decision was simply that I didn’t lose any weight, or even that I gained a couple of pounds this week, that wouldn’t have been so bad at all.  That isn’t what happened.  What happened was my body completely, utterly and violently rejected my sugar laden, deliciously indulgent offerings and I was very ill.  That night when I got home I was violently ill, and it continued the next day.  In fact my stomach has only just, 4 days later, recovered.   The week before the wedding I experienced an attack of IBS* at work and as I sat on the bus on the way home, in huge amounts of pain, what shocked me most was that I used to deal with this every single day.  It was a daily experience for me and I wondered why I was miserable and grumpy!  Nowadays it is so rare that at first I wasn’t sure what was happening.  That is progress.

Image

So what now?  Do I have to start my 365 day health challenge from the beginning?  No.  Why?  Because I make the rules and I choose not to punish myself for being human, but I hope that next time I am able to make an informed decision about what to do, and realise that it is not a treat when it leaves you in pain or discomfort.  A treat is something that makes you feel good, not just in that moment but now, later that day and for the rest of your life.

*I have never been officially diagnosed with an illness and now that I have discovered a cure (a healthy, paleo style diet and regular exercise) there is no need to investigate exactly what is wrong with me, it may be Irritable Bowel Syndrome as I suspect, it may be Candida, but what I do know is that my body wants to be fed nutritious, delicious food and if I give it anything but, it reacts swiftly and aggressively.

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Freaking out about fertility

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Like many people, my life looks very different now that it did ten years ago.  At 35 years old I like nothing more than a quiet night in snuggled up with my cats and a nice cup of tea.  Ten years ago I was a drinking, smoking, festival frequenting mess, fluctuating between bingeing and half starving myself.  I was also miserable.   Now here I am and, other than the people I love, I would say my number one priority is my health.  I eat (mostly) paleo, I CrossFit, I sleep well.  I try and do everything right.  So what was my motivation for this dramatic change in lifestyle?   Am I trying to look hot to find a man?  No!  I got married last summer and bless his heart, he loved me when I was at my heaviest, most unhealthy self so I think he is pretty happy with how I’m doing right now.  Am I hoping to squeeze in to size 0 jeans?  Definitely not, and if I was it wouldn’t be CrossFit I was doing.  These thighs!

No, my one true motivation is that I want a family.  I love children and I want a family of my own but the timing has just never been right.  I know what you’re thinking…the timing is never right.  Whilst that may be true to an extent there are varying degrees to everything and trust me when I tell you that emotionally, spiritually, financially and geographically, the timing has never been right.  It is a sad fact that as a woman, regardless of what else is going on in your life, you only have a certain amount of time to reproduce and as soon as you hit your 30s you become only too aware of that.   This is a direct quote from the NHS about age and fertility:  ‘When it comes to fertility, age matters.’  Right, no beating about the bush there then!  That is not all.  It goes on to state ‘In women, fertility declines more quickly with age. This decline becomes rapid after the age of 35.’

I am a natural worrier and I have shed many, many tears questioning ‘what if I have left it too late?’  I know I’m not the only one.   One of my best friends wanted nothing more than to have a family of her own but she never met the right guy and when 35 came and went she began to give up hope.  But she did meet someone rather wonderful and when they started ‘trying’ she was pregnant in the first month.  They now have a beautiful, healthy son who they adore.  This may have been luck, she may just be a very fertile person and she never knew it, I don’t know.  What I do know is that she is one of the healthiest people I know.  She runs marathons, she rides a bike, she climbs, she gardens, and she eats well.

rach and trev  preggers rach  Otto

Here’s the thing.  Whether you are single or in a relationship, gay or straight, rich or poor, you can’t predict how age is going to affect your fertility, so there is no point worrying over what may or may not be.  The best thing you can possibly do is concentrate on what you can control and ensure that you are your healthiest, happiest self so that if and when the time comes you are mentally and physically ready to be the best mum you can be.

Main photo courtesy of Rx’d Photography

Baby Otto courtesy of Rachel Hatcher and Trevor McDermott, two of my favourite people in the world.

The author trains at Reebok CrossFit Connect

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