Self-care and starting again. Again.

Self-care is a big thing in the trade that I’ve been learning over the last few years. If you spend your working life using your own body to assist other people to feel better in their bodies, it can be wearing – on the joints, on the fingers and thumbs, on the muscles, and on the soul.

Tonight, slouched on the sofa in my most disgusting clothes, having scarfed down an entire packet of Jaffa Cakes in a bid to feel good about where I am in life, I realised I’m not being good at self-care. Again.

I haven’t eaten the five-a-day in months (the orange in the Jaffa Cakes sadly does not count). There have been days where it hasn’t even been one-a-day. I’ve let these days slip by and accumulate. Oh, tomorrow will be different.

We’ve all made the resolution that starts right after we jump gleefully off the wagon. Right now I’m watching the wagon leave without me, telling myself I’ll take up running again to catch up with it, while I plan more ways to make myself sick enough that I can’t get out of bed tomorrow.

It’s not the food that’s making my body sick. I can only blame the nation I live in for so many things. The supermarkets in this part of the country are stacked with goodness that I could sink my teeth into, but instead I end up reaching for the boxed mac and cheese, telling myself I won’t really eat it.

It was delicious, by the way, with a good lashing of black pepper.

I could eat the good food. I could tell Cowboy that beef is off the menu, he can just suck it up, it’s steamed fish and vegetables from now on – although I’m not sure how long our relationship would last if I cut him off that abruptly.

I cleaned the stalls in the barn today while he was out, because it was physical activity that would get me warm and breathing a little harder, and it felt lovely. Later, in my Jaffa stupor on the sofa, the thought suddenly hit me in the face like a wet sponge.

You are really quite depressed, Bee. You need to do more exercise, and eat better, and you’ll feel happier again. You always do! It’s ok. You can fix this.

So I did the sensible thing and went to get into my pyjamas and go to bed in a funk. Here I am.

The first step to self-care has been to put on Beyonce in my outrageously loud headphones and blast some empowerment into my eardrums. The second step was to google counselling in this neck of the woods and discover that the gym is so very much cheaper, gracious me. So, my therapist will probably be telling me to squat and push rather than asking me how my week has been. But that’s ok, I get the same end result of being a more normal human being.

Added bonus: revitalised buns, abs and guns of steel.

Here’s the kicker: this whole thing is a cycle. Every few months, I get into this dark, deep place, and I have to haul myself out by my arse again. This blog will become a catalogue of pledges to start again, to change again, because I get happy and I get complacent, and then I get not happy again.

It’s ok to keep starting again. As long as I keep checking in and noticing that it’s bad, it’s ok to have to keep restarting. Ignore all those snappy Pinterest posts about how if you’re sick of starting over, stop giving up. Bullshit. Start over as many times as you need. Good for you!

I’m going to go and eat cereal for dinner. I’ll start over in the morning.

Progress report

Mark the Magician (the personal trainer) had casually mentioned in my first session with him that a person should really be able to deadlift their own body weight without too much trouble. That was the same day that I squeaked and groaned as I tried to deadlift 25kg, and protested, “That’s really quite heavy!”

He was gallant about it and didn’t laugh at me until a week later.

Today, I was lifting 50kg. It was tough, but up it went, for 6 reps. Then I did pull ups – pull ups! – for 6 reps (I’ll admit, they were assisted rather than my full body weight, but still). This whole process was repeated 5 times. I felt like Xena. Next time we do deadlifts, apparently we’re gunning for the full body weight equivalent. It’s exciting.

Now when I tense my glutes, there’s actually a slight curve to my butt, and there is something firm underneath the winter stores. This is very exciting. It’s been a long time since I had a butt worth mentioning.

Mexican rice and black beans – cheat food

Earlier on this week, I met up with my best friend for supper. We plumped for our favourite Mexican eatery, where I stuffed my face with fish tacos. On the side was a small pot of black beans and rice.

I’ve been craving black beans and rice ever since. No other beans would do. There must be something in the black beans that I need. This afternoon I cobbled together this cheat* meal in about four minutes flat. It was so good.

Cheat food. Mexican rice, black beans, tomatoes, avocado mashed with lime. #omnomnom

*Why is this a cheat meal? Because I used packaged rice, that’s why. Uncle Ben’s Mexican rice with lime, to be exact. Don’t judge me!

Here’s how it happened:

Half a packet of Mexican rice
Half a can of black beans, rinsed and drained.
2 tablespoons of water

All of these went into a covered pan over low heat to warm through, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, I halved an avocado, added a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime juice, and roughly mashed. I then quartered some cherry tomatoes.

Ta-da! The rice and beans were lovely and hot and mushy! Shoved it all into a bowl, and gorged myself silly.

In future, I resolve to make my own Mexican rice. But given that I was in a post-gym state of jelly-limbs and questionable stability, quick and easy was what I needed.

Enjoy!

The Juice Cleanse: an honest review

It’s all the rage these days. All of the super-healthy, vegan, gluten-free, homemade-almond-milk-making, kale-eating cool kids are doing it. It sounds so seductive:

The juice cleanse.

So, considering that I had nothing better to do with myself except pack my suitcases and cardboard boxes for impending emigration, I decided to try one. I’ve been following Fruveju on Instagram for a while, after Ella of Deliciously Ella posted about their juices, so I plumped for their one day cleanse.

The cleanse consists of six juices of 500ml each. They come in various enticing colours and interesting sounding flavours.

Image from fruveju.com

So, I was pretty excited when they arrived at my house. I had ordered online, and a very polite email had been sent to me to confirm when they would be delivered. Customer service is so lovely. The package arrived on the day as promised, delivered by courier. The juices were packed in a small cool bag, with an ice pack. They were still mostly frozen, and I put them in the fridge in the bag to wait a couple of days to start.

The accompanying leaflet on how to make the most of the cleanse suggested adopting a vegan diet for a day or two before starting, and for a day or two afterwards. Well, I didn’t have time for that. I had training with Mark the Magic PT on Saturday and I ate what I wanted.

Come Sunday morning, I was surprised to find the juices were still mostly frozen! The ice pack was still solid and cold, and the insulated bag had done a super job. I put them out on the kitchen counter to thaw out and decided to start the day with a cup of hot water and lemon, as suggested by the leaflet.

Juice One was ready by the time I’d showered and washed my hair and faffed about for a bit. It was one of the two green juices for the day.

Juice cleanse
Now, perhaps if I was more accustomed to drinking green vegetable juices or smoothies for breakfast, this might have been more palatable. As it was, I’m still learning to enjoy kale at the best of times, and I could really taste the kale and spinach. It was a little bit of a shock for first thing in the morning.

I also hadn’t quite appreciated that 500ml is almost a pint. That’s a lot of iron-y green juice to get through. I took the advice from the website about how to get through it if it isn’t so delicious, and drank it through a straw. It took me a while to work through it, and I started to focus on the apple taste rather than the kale taste, and it improved.

Onward! How hard can this be? All of the aforementioned cool kids had claimed not to feel hungry while doing this, so I was feeling confident.

The second juice was rather delicious: watermelon and lime.
Juice cleanse

Very refreshing, very easy to drink. The only trouble was that I was starting to think about food…

I cracked open the third juice, another green juice. I became acutely aware of the metallic vegetable taste again. I struggled for a moment. Although my stomach was full of liquid, I didn’t feel satisfied, and I was definitely hungry. I’ve never been one to starve myself for the sake of it, so I caved and ate a toasted bagel with houmous and lettuce. It was epic.

I continued to battle with the green juice. This was getting more difficult. I had three more juices to get through after this, and I was already sick of juice. I started to notice the slightly grainy texture. The juice is thin, but as it reached the back of my mouth, I could feel the small particles of vegetable on my tongue. It wasn’t all that enjoyable.

The next juice was this “spicy lemonade”.
Juice cleanse
At first, it didn’t taste too bad: almost like honey with a mildly spicy finish. And by “at first”, I mean the first three sips. After those, the sweetness was sickly, and the cayenne was kicking my arse. With every swallow, the pepper would irritate the back of my throat and make me cough. The grainy texture was even more noticeable.

I’ll be honest. I barely got through a quarter of this one before I considered pouring it down the sink. It was unpleasant. I didn’t want any more juice. I constantly needed a wee. I wanted macaroni cheese.

Out of sheer stubbornness, I cranked my way through the lemonade, but it took me two hours. I’d have taken another green juice over this one in a heartbeat. I was glad to see the end of it.

Fifth juice: the Royal Roots flavour.
Juice cleanse
I’m still learning to enjoy beetroot, and tend to only eat it in a very flavoursome soup that hides the earthiness of beetroot with tangy orange. The pineapple and apple added some sweetness, but the beets and carrots were overwhelming. The ginger wasn’t enough to add any significant kick. The grainy texture was making me twitchy.

I was starting to feel very lethargic and a little bit nauseous. There was none of the fabulous energising that the cool kids had blogged about. I just felt bogged down. I was desperate for a big plate of wholesome, greasy American food.

Eventually, I made it to the final juice. It sounded so good.

Juice cleanse

Again, perhaps I need to be more accustomed to some of these things in order to appreciate them, but this flavour was sickly. As the sixth pint of liquid in the day, it was difficult to get it down. I was just bored of swallowing fluids. I craved solids. I was so very glad to see the end of it. I could have sworn off juice for life. How anybody makes it through three or five days of juice is beyond me.

Some of the philosophy behind these cleanses is that it’s a good idea to let your digestive system “rest” and take a break from dealing with solids. Sounds admirable enough. Trouble is, my gut is pretty picky about a lot of things. It likes to have something to work on. It feels good to have a diet rich in insoluble fibre. At the risk of sharing too much information with you, readers, there is something intensely pleasurable about a good bowel movement – you know what I mean?

I now feel like I’m playing catch-up, trying to eat enough of the right stuff to give my gut something to wrestle with.

On the positive side, whilst I was craving grease and salt and carbs during the cleanse, the following day I had a very different craving on the palate. I wanted extremely clean food. I had a hankering for salads and beans and lentils, for some complex grains and for some good proteins. Whether that was just the mood I woke up in, or the result of the juice cleanse, I couldn’t say.

Would I do it again? Not unless I made my own juices. It was an expensive luxury, and the whole day was a bit of an ordeal. I’d love to be a glamorous, raw-diet-eating, super-healthy blogger, but I’m not. I didn’t feel energised, I was ravenous most of the day, and I was in a terrible mood by the end of it all. It was not worth it. Honestly.

The Last Hurrah

The end of my feeble, wasted, lazy existence is nigh.

On Monday morning, I slithered into my running lycras and went to meet Mark. Mark, a personal trainer, owns a little outfit in Oxford called StudioPT, and I have asked him to fix me.

I did my best to put him off working with me. “My fitness is terrible. I am a walking disaster. I am riddled with old injuries.” He was undeterred, and unfortunately I had to show up at his private gym and feign enthusiasm.

The studio is well equipped, bright and airy, and has a banging soundtrack. After a quick sit down to discuss my situation, Mark put me through my paces as an assessment session.

He is tall, lean, and oozes power. He demonstrated each exercise with little to no effort, and corrected my wavering form as I tried not to shake too obviously in the press ups. This was nothing like my usual visits to the gym.

Mark is going to whip my butt into shape, starting tomorrow morning. He says he has a plan. I’m slightly terrified.

I’m preparing the best way I can think of, with one last rebellion – sitting on the sofa watching the Food Network, eating a bacon sandwich, and binging on cake.

Signs of getting older

I’m becoming increasingly aware that I am not 21 any longer. The thought of wearing a minidress and stilettos and going out dancing until 3am is not appealing these days. Neither is the fried chicken from the dubious fried chicken shop that we used to frequent after a night’s dancing.

No, these days I fancy things like kale and chia seeds (whatever they are). I live in my sheepskin slippers and good sensible flats, work boots, and on the few occasions when I do cram my feet into a pair of heels, I just notice that my feet have spread and my bunion has got a bit worse.

I used to stop and stare at the window displays of Footlocker and Size?, in love with the brightly coloured Nikes and Adidas that would look totally sick at dance class.

OK, sometimes I still do that.

I tend to stop and stare at different window displays, though. The ones with good saucepans and juicers and solid wood furniture. I dream about the day when I can construct my perfect living room.

But the most recent, most potent sign that I am not 21 any longer is these…

I'm getting old and blind. Awesome.

I used to be able to read for hours, in terrible light, and suffer no ill effects. Lately I noticed headaches, a sense of tiredness in my eyes, and I was squinting unattractively as I moved the page closer and further in a bid to find the perfect focus zone.

The optometrist told me cheerfully that my vision probably won’t go downhill in any significant way until I’m in my forties, so that’s something to look forward to.

My Excessive Collections: new lip balm

Whilst shopping at Coastal feed store in Mount Vernon a few weeks ago, when I spoiled us with some new tack for Sunshine, I spotted a box of lip balm at the till. I was really just intrigued by the name.

Best lip balm I've found in a long time! #chickenpoop

“You never heard of that?” Cowboy said, bemused. “You put chicken poop on your lips. Old cowboy remedy.”

I did my best not to think too hard about how that works, and added a tube to our pile of leather and metal on the desk. I then forgot all about it for several days. I eventually remembered, and dug it out to see what on earth I had bought.

Look at this lovely list of ingredients!

Untitled

No poop! Yay! I slathered it on immediately. The flavour is citrusy and fresh, but leaves a soft and buttery feel on the lips. The consistency is just right – not too firm, not too squishy. I am rapidly wishing I had picked up a fistful of these. If you see some Chicken Poop on your shopping travels, invest. You won’t regret it.

P.S. It turns out the “remedy” was that if you put chicken poop on your lips, you wouldn’t lick them any longer, thus ending the vicious cycle of chapped lips. Still disgusting.

Visit the website to see other lovely looking products, such as Good Gravey, and Kill It Dead. I’ll take them just for the names and scrumptious packaging.

"I feel stronger…"

I am a bit of a nerd, secretly. I love a good RPG on the X-Box or on my computer. I adore those roaming adventure games where you build your trusty band of comrades and go on quests.

One of the games of years gone by that I loved (but never finished), was Planescape: Torment, an epic game of storytelling and imagination. I think I only played it through the once.

What stuck with me most was what the only playable character would say when you had enough experience to level up. In his gruff, battle-worn voice, he would growl:

I feel stronger…

I feel like I’m levelling up. Today, I completed the third run of the Couch to 5k programme – that’s week one done and dusted. It was tough, but probably because I chose to run up and down hills in the village, instead of running on the flat. It was good to see the little progress map move to week two. It was good to get home feeling like I could have gone on for longer.

I feel stronger. Apart from how my knees hurt, and I have a new pain in my shoulder.

My mental fortitude still leaves a lot to be desired, as I can think of nothing but chocolate, biscuits and cake at the moment.

No news from the school in Seattle yet. The suspense is killing me.

Measuring up

As part of my plan to transform myself from weakling to wonderwoman, I realised I needed a way to measure my progress. A month in America doing little else than eating and sitting about hasn’t been the best way to start, but on the other hand it gives me a clean break from one way of life and way forward into another.

I took some measurements, which I’m about to share with you here. Now, I’d like to clarify something: I’m by no means looking to lose weight. I don’t want to become smaller, or get a thigh gap, or see my clavicle. No thanks. What I want to is to be fit enough to run without heaving up a lung. I want to be strong enough to lift hay bales. I want to fill out my clothing with firm curves of a healthy, powerful body.

So, here goes. I would actually like a good few of these measurements to go up as I train.

  • Calves: 13 1/2″
  • Above-knee: 15 1/2″ on the right, 15 1/4″ on the left (remnant of injury and muscle wasting)
  • Mid-thigh: 18 1/4″ on the right, 18″ on the left.
  • Upper thigh: 21 1/4″ on both sides
  • Butt: 37″ (this definitely needs to go up)
  • Hips: 31″
  • Waist: 27 3/4″
  • Chest (bra-level): 30″ (the bra-fitting lady knew her stuff)
  • Chest (above boobs): 34″
  • Upper arms: 10″
  • Neck: 13″

There we go. I’d like my calves and thighs to tone up. By “tone”, I don’t mean get firmer, I mean get bigger. I want muscle. My butt needs shape and size, because right now it is flimsy and flat and doesn’t help me jump up in the saddle at all. My thighs need to grow, particularly the left which is still atrophied from injury in September. My arms need more muscle too. My upper body strength is non-existent.

I’ll attempt to remember to update these as I go. Today, I begin conditioning.

The first run

I went for a “run” today. I’m going to use that term loosely. Let’s remember that I haven’t run anywhere since last March. A long and complicated combination of sheer laziness, preoccupation with exams/studies/horse riding, injury, illness, travel, new injuries, more illness, more travel, and yet more illness meant that I didn’t really run in the last year.

Today’s effort was a start on a long road. I downloaded a “Couch to 5k” app on my phone, made sure I had some appropriate funky house to run to, and peeled myself into my running clothes. I laced on my trainers. Then I made myself look in the mirror. If I didn’t go and run now, I was just an idiot wearing running clothes in the house.

I strapped on my heart rate monitor and my GPS watch, items I purchased in a rash of enthusiasm a few years ago. I really only love them for the calorie burn calculation that they produce.

The first episode of this Couch to 5k programme was mostly walking. There were eight runs of one minute each. I don’t know what was more depressing: that the runs were only a minute long, or that I was wheezing and coughing my way to the end of each minute with barely another step left in me. I am horrifically unfit, to a degree that I don’t recall for many years. My dance fitness came on so gradually, I didn’t appreciate how in shape I was when I took up running the first time. This is a firm slap in the face. I need to put in work.

First run

Luckily, it was a beautiful day, and I only got chased by a dog once, so it was a nice outing. I also got to see frogs in the village pond, and I do love seeing frogs.

It's a little hard to tell but the filth pit that is the village pond is now stuffed with frogs and frogspawn. At last that solitary goldfish has some company! Spring is here!

By the time I got home, 32 minutes after I’d left, I had burned 240 calories, most likely through panic that I was about to die of heart failure. The lady on my app congratulated me heartily on completing the first session. I felt pretty pleased. The next run will be on Monday. Let’s hope it’s less gaspy and a bit more springy. I expect I will be stiff tomorrow. I’ll deal with that when it happens.