Thursday, December 22, 2005

Roundup, part two - genius, chocolate, scaphoids

While I was staying with the D. B. my eating was not of the healthiest (hard when you’re staying as a guest, and harder still when you go out for dinner twice on the strength of the D. B not only having graduated with Distinction, but having won the faculty prize for the best project! Yes, I’m a little bit proud of him). And it didn’t improve all that much when we came back. I only made it to the gym once that week, and for some reason, was eating chocolate as if it were going out of fashion. The D. B. and I were both, I think, suffering a little from post-holiday blues, and he’s been having a slight depressive episode all week. Alas. I hope he will be feeling better soon – you just have to give it time, and give him lots of support meanwhile.

We did manage to get to his work night out, which was fun, but didn’t help the diet either. When I eventually weighed myself, I was up a pound, and I wouldn’t really have been able to argue if it’d been more. Well, it’s all a learning experience…

This week, I’ve been to the gym twice, although it is now going to be closed for Christmas on all the days I’m not working, and only open until five on the days I am. Which means I won’t get back there until the fifth of January. Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable that the gym staff want some time off too, but I will have to make good use of my free time and Actually, You Know, Go For A Run Or Something. Or I’ll make a very poor showing when I do my 5K in January. I am, however, down a pound again.

My department lunch was on Tuesday, and while I was not going to worry too much about calories, I don’t think I did too badly. It was a nice restaurant, and while I don’t suppose the food was too healthy, the portions were a reasonable size. Oh, and it was yummy. Mmmmm, crème brulée. Very civilised. We were walking back to work afterwards when I was grabbed around the neck by a maniac, otherwise known as my sister, just off the train home from uni. My bro was also skulking off to the side a bit, pretending not to know us. I love my siblings, but perhaps they could choose not to give me a heart attack in front of all my colleagues next time?

But it’s lovely to have her back. In fact, over the course of the next few days, all of my family have been wonderful, and we’ve needed them to be.

The D. B. and I were meant to be meeting after work on Tuesday and going for a drink with some of my colleagues. He’d been working late and I’d been at a work function, but he was going to cycle along and meet me. I came out of work to find him waiting for me, but in a bit of a state. He’d fallen off his bike while turning on slippery, damp cobbles, and landed on his wrist (and his shoulder and hip, although he didn’t realise until later – he’s rather bruised). After a moment, it had felt OK, but as he biked along to meet me it got more and more painful.

Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the pub but went straight home. The D. B. is not a great one for making a fuss (sometime I’ll tell you about the time he had meningitis…) but it was obvious he was in a lot of pain, so Mum and I took him to A&E – a longish trip, as it’s on the other side of town. Rarely have I been more grateful for parents with cars.

If you must injure yourself, Tuesday is the day to pick, because there was hardly anyone in there. He was dealt with pretty quickly (the D. B. didn’t even manage to finish his chapter of Harry Potter while we were waiting), x-rayed and splinted up. The x-ray wasn’t conclusive, so my brother, who is a medical student and had been taking a keen ("Can I see the x-rays? Cool,")and not unsympathetic interest in the whole thing, took him to the fracture clinic yesterday. They decided he probably has a scaphoid fracture, so he’ll be in a plaster cast for about two weeks. Which is a bit of a bummer. It could have been a lot worse, but people? Please don’t you fall on any cobbles.

Roundup, part one - mortarboards and progress photos

Tons and tons of stuff has happened since my last entry, much of it concerning the D. B. We went back to his home town for the graduation and stayed with his parents, who have been missing him. His dad and I went to the graduation on Friday.

The D. B and I met at university, and then proceeded to take postgraduate degrees at another, different university, and not at the same time as one another. However, for complicated reasons (one day I may write about them, but don’t hold your breath) I graduated in absentia, so I never got to dress up in the big robes and have my picture taken. (We’d already done that when we graduated from our first degrees, so it was not a huge deal.)

For fun, and because my mum quite fancies having a complete set of photos, I decided to hire robes and get my photo taken with the boy. Which we did, holding fake plastic diplomas and making last-minute decisions as to whether the hats should be on or off.

I didn’t really think through what would happen after that, because I then had to walk around robed for the rest of the morning. When we got to the Great Hall, I had to explain three times that no, I wasn’t supposed to sit at the front with the graduands because despite the robe and silly mortarboard under my arm, I wasn’t graduating today. The first two stewards merely gave me a “Well, it takes all sorts” kind of look, but the third said “So you’re just wearing that for fun?” in the sort of tone of voice usually associated with “Didn’t it hurt when they pierced your nipple?”

As I’ve said before, I have no idea what I look like and usually feel that some daft-looking stranger has taken my place in photos. I have no progress photos on this site mostly because with the measly amount of weight I’ve lost, I’m hard put to tell the difference between thin pics and fat pics. (Also I’m mostly hiding behind someone else.) When I look at the photos of my previous graduation, though, I really do look quite chubby-faced, so it’ll be interesting – and possibly discouraging – when the new ones turn up to see if there is any visible difference. Obviously the gown will be hiding my body, but the skirt I wore to graduate the first time is now loose on me, so I know I’m thinner in general.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Zoom zoom zoom

Just a quickie - I am going down south for the weekend to watch the Very Clever D. B. graduate, and probably won't be able to update while I'm there.

I went back to the gym on Monday, and had a good workout, which (I hope) means that the cold I was incubating was to blame for the rotten one I had last week. However, despite the lack of exercise, I lost about 2 pounds, bringing me to my lowest ever weight (just over 183) and breaking the plateau I spend most of my time on. So I'm happy, although I wonder whether the mere act of recording what I eat causes me to eat less, even though I'm not trying to or aware that I'm doing so. Either that, or having a cold burns a lot of calories.

And I forgot to record the piece of carrot cake the D. B. bought me on Thursday. Even more mysterious.

Anyway, I'll probably get plenty of walking in over the weekend, as the D. B. and I will be doing some Christmas shopping. Have a great weekend!

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Cheese of Doom

I take it all back. Obviously I do eat cheese every single day, or at least I did this week. I'm trying not to make excuses: it's been an unusually social week, and maybe not the most representative one to have chosen. However, maybe no week is normal. This week I'll be going down south to watch the D. B. graduate, so it won't be "normal" either. I suppose that you have to take going out with friends (and so on) into account, because nonstandard days will come up, and you have to allow for them.

Seven comments! That's got to be a record (I'm not counting my responses). I keep meaning to say that I love getting comments, so thanks to all the people who leave them and if you're reading this now, do give me a wave.

I'm now feeling a lot better, and am heading back to the gym after a week off.

Boring foody bit:


Breakfast: Rice crispies (there! I surprised you! Only because we’d run out of oats) with 1 tbsp flaxseeds, 4 tbsp muesli, about 200ml skimmed milk. Herbal tea.

Lunch: egg mayonnaise on white roll. (I was aware this wasn’t the healthiest, but I was in a hurry.) Apple. Nonfat latte from Starblend*.

More herbal tea. Chocolate coin (just 1) from the Christmas Elf**.

Buffet at pub quiz†: half egg sandwich on white bread (not very nice). Four small pieces of vegetable quiche (about an inch square). 1 gin and tonic, Diet C0ke. When I got home, cup of tea, plate of boiled peas.


Breakfast: Rice crispies with 1 tbsp flaxseeds, 4 tbsp muesli, about 200ml skimmed milk.

Lunch: sandwich (2 slices wholegrain bread, 40g cheddar, 2tsp Flora) and apple.

Tea – vegetable soup. I forget the main course. I didn’t write this down, because I thought I would remember, and I am stupid. Tesco’s apricot lowfat yoghurt.

Later: pineapple lowfat yoghurt. Half a pack of fresh pineapple. I must have had a serious pineapple deficiency that day.


Breakfast: Oats (Mum had been to Tesco) with 1 tbsp flaxseeds, 4 tbsp muesli, about 200ml skimmed milk

Lunch: vegetable soup. Toasted cheese (about 40g cheese, 1 slice wholegrain bread) and apple. A small piece of chocolate from the Christmas Elf, and about five jelly beans (from the D. B.)

Tea. Well now. The D. B and I went to dinner at the house of some friends, who are French. All that can honestly be said for this meal was that I didn’t totally overeat. We had “raclette”, which is basically potatoes, meat or vegetables with melted cheese poured over them. You melt the cheese at the table, a bit like fondue. I stuck to the vegetables, obviously, and had some salad, but I did eat something like 100-150 grams of melted cheese. It was absolutely delicious and was followed by little chocolate things.


Breakfast: Oats with 1 tbsp flaxseeds, 4 tbsp muesli, about 200ml skimmed milk

Lunch: vegetable soup. Roll with about 35g cheese. Apple. Small packet of chocolate from Christmas Elf (about 75 calories). Crunch cream biscuit (also about 70ish calories).
Tea: vegetable soup. 1 cup butterbean/onion/mushroom stew. About 2 cups of salad containing mixed leaves, carrots, grated beetroot, yellow pepper, snap peas, cucumber, cherry tomatoes. 2 potato croquettes (tsk tsk). ½ piece sponge cake filled with raspberries and whipped cream, small scoop ice cream. Coffee. Several cups of herbal tea later in evening.

*Obscure reference to book called The Telling by Ursula Le Guin.
** OK. It's like this. We have an elf who comes to our house and leaves us a little treat, every day of Advent. Yes, I know, we're very lucky. He's kindly leaving me only very small amounts of chocolate as he doesn't want to put temptation in my way...
† We won!

Thursday, December 01, 2005


The cold continues. I had a day off from choir, though not from work, which may have been silly. Oh well, I'm not exactly dying. I think the gym may have to wait until I'm less germy and can breathe properly, though. And sleep. I really should be in bed now!

I've only been doing this food diary for three days, and already it's become apparent that there's almost no variation in what I eat until the evening. No cinnamon toast, though, RG! (I used to eat a lot of toast at college, because it was about the only hot food we could have in our rooms. It was a bad habit. I still have difficulty eating just one piece, so mostly avoid it.)

Today (Wednesday's) food:

Breakfast: oatmeal with 1 tbsp flaxseeds, 4 tbsp muesli, about 200ml skimmed milk (Boring, you say? Me?)
Coffee with skimmed milk.

Lunch: sandwich (2 slices wholegrain bread, about 60g cheddar, 2tsp Flora) and apple. (That sounds familiar too.)

Tea: veggie burger, peas, cabbage. Two cups of herbal tea. Ginger crunch cream biscuit. Remarkably small apple.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


At the weekend, the D. B. had a stinking cold, with sore throat, sneezing and blocked sinuses.

On Monday, I went to the gym as usual, where I did the worst workout I can remember, particularly the weights. It's not that normally my routine goes like clockwork: I'm still learning all the movements, so I tend to go slowly and carefully so I don't get sloppy and risk injury. But this was not good. Last Thursday, I was given some pointers regarding my deadlift form by a guy I've often seen in the free weights gym, usually acting as a trainer to a girl who I think rows for the University, which leads me to suspect he knows what he's talking about (I've also seen him lift, and he's very strong). It sounded sensible, and when I tried what he was showing me with light weights, it did feel more effective. Trouble is, I couldn't seem to make it work yesterday, and nor could I revert to the way I was doing it before – apparently I've forgotten how! Then my squats were rubbish too, mostly because the backs of my thighs felt "tight" and I couldn't get more than halfway down, which didn't feel like I was doing anything. I did my usual upper-body routine (bench press, tricep extensions, rows, dumbbell curls) but it took me longer than usual and the rhythm just wasn't there. I ended up very tired and frustrated.

Today, I have a sore throat, runny nose and blocked sinuses (though I'm not sneezing quite as dramatically as the boy was. He is now better). I'm hoping this is the explanation for the feeble workout.

I'm going to be journalling my food for the next week, to try to get some data on my average calories per day. so here we go. I probably won't keep this up longterm, as it will be boring.

Breakfast: oatmeal with 1 tbsp flaxseeds, 4 tbsp muesli, about 200ml skimmed milk. Coffee with skimmed milk.
Lunch: sandwich (2 slices wholegrain bread, about 60g cheddar, 2tsp Flora) and apple.
Cup of hot chocolate with skimmed milk (I was cold!).
Snack: 50g cheese, can of Diet C0ke.
Tea: about 1 cup macaroni cheese, 4tbsp ratatouille, 50g broccoli.

Breakfast as Monday (I have this every day, as I can't think in the morning). Cup of tea, skimmed milk.
Lunch: half egg sandwich, half cheese. About 175ml fresh orange juice. Small banana. 1 mini flapjack, one mini chocolate roll (this was a work buffet, and I think I was doing pretty well for me.)
Coffee with skimmed milk. Mince pie (last day of handwriting class - party), 50ml orange juice.
Tea: 1 cup cooked tagliatelle, 1 egg scrambled with 1tsp Flora and a mushroom, 15g cheese, 50g sprouts and sweetcorn. 1 cup fennel tea. 1 piece of shortbread.

I think today was quite high, calorie-wise, because of the unusual lunch and the mince pie, but we'll see. I will work out the calories on FitDay later, but wanted to get this down before I forget it.

Now I'm taking my cold to bed. Night night.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Where was I ? Oh, that's right... Barcelona!

Things I've Been Doing Which Explain If Not Excuse Lack Of Posting:

Wandering round town in the cold with the D. B. at lunchtime.
Playing with LiveJournal. (New toys are a bad idea.)
Going to my handwriting class.
Going out to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Going out with some friends for a drink (look! A social life!)
Trying to organise wedding invitations.
Watching Bleak House and Lost (and you probably don't know how unusual it is for me to watch more than one series at a time, or you'd be more surprised)
Reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and enjoying it really rather a lot. I'm sorry it's finished.

Thanks for all the encouraging comments! Eating has been going a lot better, despite its being very cold here, and I'm happy with my diet for the past week. I have been wondering, however, if I ought to get a bit more scientific about what I'm doing. The other day I worked out my basic metabolic rate, which was 1638.7. This is (if I've understood it right) the number of calories I'd need to maintain my weight if I didn't do any activity at all.

This seemed quite a high number. Then you need to decide what your activity level is, and multiply the BMR by the corresponding number, which is 1.55 for moderate sporting activity 3 to 5 days a week. I ended up with over 2500 calories to maintain, and about 2000 to lose weight, which sounds like an awful lot.

I tried again with "light activity" (1-3 days per week) and got 2253 to maintain weight, 1753 to lose. Again, I can't believe I eat that much.

Perhaps I should try to journal what I eat for a week, and see. This isn't the kind of thing I'm good at, not being particularly methodical, but I am sick of this plateau. I feel that I'm doing all the right things, exercise-wise, and not losing.

Otherwise I'm quite cheerful. One month to Christmas! When the decorations go up really early, I'm as cynical as anyone about it, but now I'm beginning to get in the mood. I love Christmas. We actually had snow this morning, which is almost unheard of, this early in the year. The way the flakes fall, that slow drift downwards - it's just magical. (Probably I'd feel differently if I had to drive in it, or if we had snow more often.)

This week sees the passing of Lose the Buddha, the second blog I ever read (the first was Pound!), one of the best blogs out there and one I'll always have fond memories of, as it helped me through some gloomy times. Undoubtedly I wouldn't have embarked on blogging if not for Erin, and she is the only possible reason that I imagine I'd like to do a triathlon at some point, as well as introducing me to the term "boy howdy" . I'm sorry LTB is going, but understand Erin's reasons for calling it a day - and I'm very glad that her regular blog will be continuing at

Oh, and if you can spot the connection between the title and anything else in this post, I'll be highly impressed.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Crisps and chocolate. Not both at once

What has been up with my eating this week?

While I don’t follow a strict diet (because, well, I’m not very good at it, which is probably also why I rarely write about food), I have some rules I try to follow. These are, roughly speaking:

1. Ideally, no snacks between meals.
2. If you must have a snack in the evening, have a bit of lowfat cheese, or fruit, rather than a biscuit or a piece of toast. (If you are not hungry for fruit… you’re probably, well, not hungry.)
3. Do not eat something just because it’s there.
4. One helping of anything is enough (with the exception of vegetables).

Mostly, what I eat is fairly healthy. I’m a vegetarian, so I have to be slightly careful about the ratio of protein to carbohydrate, and the amount of cheese I consume, but I don’t normally eat any fast food or even many ready meals. And although I don’t cut out treats completely, some of my eating habits have changed for the better. A few weeks ago, I was in a coffee shop and thought “I’m going to the gym and I won’t have dinner until later; I could have a cake now.” But when I looked at them, I just didn’t really want any. This would not have happened a year ago.

Since the D. B. moved up, we’ve both been bringing a sandwich from home, rather than buying one at lunchtime. Lunch used to be my Achilles heel, in that I would sometimes find my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so to speak. If I was really hungry, I’d buy something extra as well as a sandwich and fruit, eat it all too quickly, and then realise I was overfull. (This is a good reason to sit down and eat slowly.)

There wasn’t a good reason why I didn’t bring in my lunch before – mostly I just didn’t remember to. But it does save money (which, as we know, the D. B. is keen on) and if I don’t go into food shops, I’m not tempted by other things. Or at least that’s the theory.

Since Monday, the no-snacking principle has gone completely out of the window.

The worst case of this was undoubtedly yesterday, when there was a function at work in the late afternoon. Had it been at lunchtime, I’d probably have been OK. But as it was, I ate quite a few crisps and things, more or less because they were there, and free. As a result I felt dehydrated (probably the unaccustomed salt) and wasn’t really hungry for tea.

I’d feel better if I knew why I’m doing this. Nothing is wrong; I’m not under particular stress. I will let myself off for Wednesday (piece of pizza, Galaxy ice cream) in that I was grabbing something I could eat fast between work and going out to the Neil Gaiman booksigning, and given that I was going to be standing up for an unknown period, I wanted to have eaten something. But the rest of it? I think I’ve just lost concentration somehow.

Today there have been biscuits (free) and chocolate. Well, there we are. What I need to do now is focus, remember why I’m doing this, and remember that food is fuel. Sugar is not good fuel, and it won’t make me feel better for eating it.

Finally: I don’t know how this works, and I'm sure it's totally unscientific, but it’s weirdly accurate.

ColorQuiz.comkicking_k took the free personality test!

"Her need to feel more causative and to have a wide..."

Click here to read the rest of the results.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Eerie silence

It’s been a full kind of week, although, alas, we didn't do anything much for Hallowe'en. I had a yen to dress up, but nowhere to go to (maybe we'll organise a party ourselves next year). But I’ve been to the gym twice (and will go again on Saturday), I had my palaeography class on Tuesday night, and choir started up again on Wednesday. Funny how one can have what feels like a very quiet life, and simultaneously not have a free evening in which to write a blog entry.

This has also been made more difficult because my computer, which used to be quite well-behaved, has recently become slow and crash-prone. I think it doesn’t like its updated virus protection and anti-spyware program. Anyway, it takes ages to boot up, so you can’t just nip online for a quick browse and post. Luckily for me, I have a handy computer expert in the D. B., who had brought a new processor unit up with him with the idea of rebuilding the whole thing anyway and doing a clean reinstall. So that’s one thing we’ll be doing tomorrow.

It’s funny – I’m still in the process of adapting to life as one half of a couple. Although I live with my family, like them, and do a lot of stuff with them, I don’t necessarily dash home at the end of the day to be with them. I don’t have that feeling of conflicting desires when I’m off doing something on my own. For the past couple of years, the D. B. and I have either been visiting each other (so obviously, we spent all our time together) or a long way apart, so I’d sort of forgotten what it was like. I like singing, reading, doing my crafty things, and going to the gym, and I don’t want to do less of them, but it’s still such a novelty to have the D. B. around on a daily basis (and he’s so lovely) that I want to spend all my time with him too.

I did manage to find time to update the sidebar links here, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages. And I’ve finally succumbed to temptation, and made an online place to talk about books. I keep being tempted to post rambling accounts of what I’ve been reading here, and while that’s OK once in a while, it’s not really what this blog is for. I had a livejournal which was sitting empty, so it’s now become my book blog. If you’re interested you can find me at, or click on the link at the side. I’ll be doing the TIME reading list and reading my usual SF and fantasy as light relief.

Yesterday I had the best workout for ages. By the end, every muscle felt well-used, and I think the level of effort was about right. It hadn’t started out too propitiously: the cardio room was very busy. Usually I go on the treadmill for 20 minutes, then do weights, then use the elliptical cross-trainer for another 15 or 20 minutes. There wasn’t a single treadmill or cross-trainer unoccupied, which I’ve never seen since the renovations – there are a lot of machines. The StairMaster was the only thing available; I’ve never used it before, but nothing ventured…

I think I shall rename it the MoonWalker. It feels a bit like walking on a trampoline, or a giant squishy marshmallow, except that it’s easier to balance upright. The longer you stand still, the deeper your feet sink, so if you go slower you have to take bigger steps. I did the “fat-burning” interval course (well, it sounds good) for fifteen minutes and although I didn’t have to stop, it was hard work. I think it burned about the same number of calories as the equivalent run (about 150) but it was tiring in a completely different way. The hardest thing of all was pushing with my whole foot, rather than going up on my toes as if I was actually trying to climb up a step.

Weights went very well, although I had a long wait to use the Olympic platform and squat cage. I’ll be happy when they get round to building a third platform. I added a bit of weight to my deadlifts and squats. Last time I did squats, they made me feel sort of head-rushy and nauseous (they were at the end of the workout – the cage was busy then too) and I ended up skipping my second cardio, on grounds of not wanting to throw up. I know some people see throwing up as a sign that you’re working really hard, but I can’t help feeling it’s the body saying “You are not up to this.”

This time, although I was being cautious, the squats were fine. It’s actually easier to balance the bar if there’s some weight on the ends (we’re talking a measly 5kg here – don’t want to go mad, do we?) and also easier to keep my heels on the floor.

It’s the upper-body stuff which is a real challenge. I’m doing bench presses, dumbbell rows and hammer curls, and although I’m not using much weight yet, it’s always quite a challenge not to involve my back towards the end of a set. On the other hand, self-correcting is easy because it feels instantly wrong if the back is anything but neutral.

And finally, abandoning any pretence at a structure for this post:

In the gym a few days ago, I was getting changed next to a girl who was ready, waiting for her friend. She was tall, pretty and graceful-looking – I would like legs like hers in my next life, please – and since she was discussing philosophy animatedly with her friend, she clearly wasn’t dim either. Generally enviable. I was vaguely thinking, as you do, that here was a person who was far more together than me, who didn’t look as though she was stumbling through life in a shambolic and amateur manner like me, and sort-of wishing I could be like that.

Then I noticed she had her shorts on inside out.

(Yes, I did consider mentioning this to her, but she noticed before I had thought of a tactful way to do it. However, that made my evening.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Stick it out

I meant to post at the weekend, but I’ve been pretty busy, because THE D. B. MOVED UP HERE YESTERDAY!

I’m a little bit happy.

No, that’s not really an excuse for not posting on Friday or Saturday, but since he’s moved into my parents’ house, we had to move all my brother’s stuff out of the room he’ll be sleeping in. Which took a while. Also, I had to blitz my own room as it was, to put it mildly, total chaos, and if the D. B. had seen it that way, I wouldn’t have entirely blamed him if he’d had second thoughts about the whole marriage thing.

However. We got it all done, and he arrived at lunchtime on Sunday, and spent the rest of the day cooing at each other in a revoltingly soppy manner, and trying to get his new laptop to connect to our wireless network. And it’s been the first day of his new job today.

What with all of this, I have not been to the gym since Thursday. This is the first skipped session in quite a while, and it does worry me slightly. I’ve never had the D. B. around full-time while I’ve been doing this. Will I keep it up? Or will I want to dash home to his arms rather than going for my session? He has made the odd noise about joining my gym, but I don’t know how serious that was; he’s not keen on spending large sums of money on himself. (Yes, I know this is meant to be a virtue.) It’s up to him, but I really hope he does join, because otherwise – there’s no denying it – I will feel guilty for going.

But Thursday. On Thursday I had a dental check-up, and my free-weights induction.

Of the two, the dentist’s was vastly more scary in the event. (Only because I’m a wimp – my teeth are fine.) The free-weights, which I’ve been dreading and putting off for months, was fun. There were supposed to be three of us, but I was the only one that turned up, so I got one-on-one attention. The instructor was the same guy who gave me my Nautilus induction, way back when I was scared of those machines too (I should just rename this blog I’m A Total Coward and be done with it, shouldn’t I?) My gym has the most helpful instructors. They are all really nice, and this guy is no exception. He actually remembered me from eight months ago.

We started out on the Olympic platforms, and the instructor told me how to do a deadlift.

Now, I have been trying to make my mind up to try free weights for a long time. Months. And my primary source of motivation has always been Krista’s extremely full, thorough and funny site (go and explore – there's TONS more than I've linked to). So I’d looked at the “Dork to Diva” pages many times, trying to educate myself a bit.

And it’s all paid off. “That’s a perfect deadlift” said the instructor as I sank down the first time, concentrating on not rounding my back, and on keeping my heels still and shoulders over toes. (Of course I told him I’d been reading up – and where). Unfortunately, I did have a slight case of beginner’s luck – as my muscles got tired, proper balance became more difficult, and I don’t think I ever managed quite as well again!

I was expecting the squat to be more difficult, also – and it was. But I have practised it unweighted, and so it didn’t feel nearly as weird as if the movement had been completely new to me. Apparently both of these exercises are “all about sticking your bum out”, and I have a natural talent there. Anyone who saw me in ballet class as a small child would have no doubt of that…

But I think I can master both of these, and that the dumbbell exercises I want to do won’t be an impossible challenge either. I will still be using at least some of the machines, because apart from anything else, I’m just using practise weights for the deadlift and the unweighted bar for the squat and chest press, until I feel the form is right. That will still be a bit of a workout for a while, judging by the way my muscles felt on Friday… but it was a good sort of hurt.

And on a closing note, go and read this post. So much of what YP says is what I thought and felt for years, but could never express nearly so well...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Backwards & sdrawroF

Post-workout yesterday, I showered, washed my hair, and stood combing it out in front of the big mirror in the changing room. Without thinking I tossed it back over my shoulders, and in the mirror saw a T-shirtless girl sitting on the bench behind flinch backwards.

I’d sprayed her with now-cold water off the ends of my hair. Very clean cold water, but still… Note to self: do not shake wet self like dog. You are a human; use a towel.

It could have been worse. Back in the days when I used to play football, my pigtail was a bit of an offensive weapon on rainy days, as it’s over a foot long and, when soaking wet, very heavy. Fair’s fair, though: it smacked me in the face as I turned about as often as it smacked anyone else.

The changing rooms at the gym were redone recently, and although they are much more salubrious than they were before, there are rather a lot of mirrors, set at angles to one another. I could live without this. I don’t mind seeing my reflection from the front, but catching sight of my rear as I’m walking to the showers… not so good. How is it that a person always looks so much wider from behind? Blast you, mirrors! I know I have a big bottom: do you have to rub it in?

There’s also the optical illusion produced by one set of mirrors, which are set not quite at right-angles to one another. This gives the illusion that your body is half as wide again. Also that you have one and a half heads, mind you, but even so it’s not encouraging.

And I could do with encouraging at the moment. The numbers on the scale are not going anywhere. Or rather they are, but only up half a pound, down half a pound, and up again. Yes, this has happened before – twice – and then I’ve suddenly and mysteriously lost five pounds at once and gone back to zigzagging, just at a lower number. But it’s driving me barmy. I’m not doing any less exercise; probably more, in fact, and I don’t feel that food has been particularly bad (well, except on Sunday when my grandparents took us out for lunch). I could cut calories a bit further, but am worried about messing with my metabolism, and there is no point in losing quickly only to find I can’t sustain it.

On the other hand, I’ve finally booked a free-weights induction. On Thursday. Although I’ve really enjoyed doing the Nautilus machines, and will probably keep on with some of them, I think I’ve gone as far as I’m likely to go with many of them. I record my progress in a notebook, and mostly have been working at the same level for weeks without much prospect of improvement. I can see that you can’t go on adding weight forever, so it’s probably time to learn something different.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Normal service resumes

This morning I woke up at 8.30. Grrrr.

I am not pleased with myself.

What's worse, for some reason part of my brain thinks I have a license to be unhealthy today, and has led me to consume a vanilla-and-honey yoghurt smoothie and some chocolate which I really didn't need and wasn't hungry for. It's not even emotional eating; it's brain-turned-off eating.

I'm posting to draw a line under this, because it is silly, and stops NOW.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Il pleut sur la ville

Maybe it’s silly, but I always feel reluctant to do a sad post. In a way, writing a post that said “I’m really down today” might make it official, whereas if I don’t write it down, I hope I’ll be able to move on quicker and get to the stage where, when I think back to it later, I’ll wonder what all that was about and tick myself off for being a drama queen.

So: I’m feeling better now. This could be something to do with having had enough sleep the past couple of nights. For several nights in a row I had been still awake at three (or later) in the morning, which is Not Good. The next day, all is gloom. I can’t concentrate, my head hurts, I turn into a grumpy cynic and am convinced nobody likes me. (I have been a bit lonely recently, but it is entirely my own fault.)

Ever since the nights started to draw in and the mornings began to get darker, I’ve had difficulty getting out of bed. Not that I’m ever a morning person, but it just seems less painful in summer, particularly as the temperature difference between bed and room isn’t so great. (Not that my bedroom is particularly cold, but it feels cold by comparison with bed.) How on earth do people who work out in the mornings do it?

I try not to be a night owl. The world is not set up for the nocturnal, and it’s a pity to waste daylight. And what with work, I’ve been tired in the evenings, so shouldn’t have had any trouble getting to sleep – except that it doesn’t work like that. But having slept through my alarm on various occasions last week, and on Monday, this couldn’t go on.

On Monday night I took extreme measures. That is to say, I took a hot-water bottle and a cup of hot milk to bed with me, before midnight for once. Such a rock’n’roll lifestyle I have. Once there, I read a couple of chapters of Dorothy L. Sayers – I’ve read all her books so often now that they are infinitely soothing – and actually managed to have the light off in about 20 minutes. Wow.

Same measures last night, with the result that I woke up at seven BEFORE THE ALARM. And I felt fine. This doesn’t happen. As a result, I had time to have porridge and a cup of coffee and was in work by 8.15. Tell me I can keep this up…

Another disadvantage to not getting enough sleep is that I tend to make poor food choices to perk myself up – drink too much coffee, and eat more than I really need to. If you never wake up properly, you’re sluggish and therefore cold, too.

So eating has not been miraculously healthy recently. In particular, last night’s tea was a bit of a carb-and-saturated-fat-fest: pasta parcels, cheese sauce, Müllerice (reduced-fat Müllerice, but still). And broccoli, but I don’t think that exactly counteracts the rest of it.

The gym, on the other hand, has been fine. I seem to be well in the routine of 20 minutes on the treadmill (intervals), Nautilus, 20 minutes on the cross-trainer, three days a week. Three sessions I can do, but various people I know who are losing much faster than me do five, and now I’m worried I should be doing that. But I don’t really think I can, unless I learn to get myself up earlier in the morning (see above).

Now that I’ve got used to it, I like the cross-trainer better than the stationary bike. Music is evidently the key – once I get in the rhythm, I can just dance along (well, provided it isn’t some annoying rap track with a slow beat. Or “Beautiful”. Why, remind me, did I not just change the channel or pull my headphones out of the socket? That never occurred to me at the time).

Most of my weights on the machines have reached a plateau now, where I can do 12 with a bit of effort, but can’t do the next level up. The exception is the leg press machine, which is still moving. I’ve got to 275 pounds on that now, which seems utterly ridiculous. But cool. I don’t know what a sensible target is on that, though. Apparently if you’re doing squats, your own bodyweight is a good target, and leg presses are only half as difficult… which would suggest you should be aiming to leg press twice your bodyweight? That doesn’t sound very likely.

Logically enough, the machines I’m making least progress on use the muscles I have most trouble with – the thighs and upper arms. I know that there are muscles in my thighs under the squish, but my upper arms seem to be doing nothing despite assiduous bicep and tricep work. I actually seem to have more muscle in my forearms – is this normal?

My calves are rock-hard these days from all the leg work, which is nice, but also discouraging. Because one thing I’d really like is to be able to wear knee-high (or at least three-quarter) boots. Flat riding-style boots. I’ve wanted some of those since I can remember, and I could never find any that fit because my calves are just too chunky. There are wide-leg ones available, but there's not so much choice of style (and yes, I may have a slight issue there. I want normal legs...)

So now the calves appear to be solid muscle and although they look better, they’re still chunky. Other bits of me have slimmed down – my ankles have, my waist certainly has. But there may be nowhere for my calves to go. “Maybe you should do fewer leg presses,” my sister suggests, and yes, there is a certain logic to that. But nooo… I don’t want to. Muscle burns fat, right? So if I lose muscle, I’ll lose fat more slowly, and I don’t want to do that, because it isn’t exactly evaporating at the moment.

There may be no answer to this one.

I still haven’t booked a free-weights induction.

I saw Serenity at the weekend, without knowing a thing about it except that Beth recommended it, and it was fantastic. Crouching Zombies, Hidden Star Wars. I could geek on for ages, but I won't unless someone posts a comment about it. G'wan.

It is extremely wet in Edinburgh, but I’m quite cheerful.

I'm going to go and buy some flaxseed now.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"Strange how potent cheap music is..."

First things first – James Blunt.

Thanks for all your comments, people. It’s such a relief to find that I’m not the only inappropriate weeper, and that it’s not just me who thinks the song is a bit lame. Which it is. Crying at Great Art would be just about acceptable.

I was amused to see this letter in the Metro (our local free newspaper) a few days after the gym incident:

"My sister Annie is convinced James Blunt wrote the song You're Beautiful about her and that I was the 'other man' she was with when she smiled at him (on the Glasgow Underground). Thus I'm held responsible for ruining her chances of going out with a pop star and also for causing him to get depressed. If Mister Blunt is reading this then he should take heart. My sister is single and if he hangs around the Citrus club at the weekend then he should catch up with her..."

So there's hope for him yet.

I had a really nice weekend with the D. B.: I got to see his project and it seems very impressive to me. I went down on the Friday and his hand-in was Monday, so he did still have some work to do, but it was great just being with him. Somehow I never remember quite how lovely he is when we’re apart. I still think he’s lovely, but when we’re together it hits me afresh, and it’s a wonderful surprise.

Shock, horror – I made the tea on Sunday! You might have gathered that I’m not exactly the most domestic person you’ve ever met. As I live at home, usually the evening meal is made by the time I get home and rather shamefully, I hadn’t cooked a meal I was expecting anyone else to eat for months. (I do make my own tea from time to time, but I have low standards of edibility. If it’s reasonably nutritious, it’ll do.) But he was working, so I offered to make the tea and we had cheese soufflé, which rose, with new potatoes, carrots and broccoli, and then fruit salad.

I know that’s not the most difficult meal ever cooked. But I’ve been stressing slightly for months over the necessity of cooking once we are married, and I’m actually feeling much better about it now. It had just been such a long time since I had done it. As it happens, the D. B. is a much better cook than I am, but it isn’t really fair to expect him to do all the work!

On Monday he handed his project in. We stayed in town after that, celebrated with the other people from the course and then went off for a meal together. This was not the healthiest day I have ever spent. Chips featured heavily, while vegetables were pretty well absent. On the other hand, the weekend had contained quite a lot of walking, so I didn’t feel under-exercised.

The week after that was… a bit odd. I had made up my mind to audition for a musical theatre group that I’ve been involved with in the past. Last year, I didn’t get in to the show, but did some costume stuff for them so was still around. Various people had said to me that it was a shame I hadn’t got in, and that I should try out again, because they’d had an unusually high turnout. (“It’s not you, it’s me…”) The audition was on Thursday, so I spent the days before psyching myself up and humming the song to myself.

Well, I didn’t get in again. Probably I shouldn’t have tried out again, but I am incapable of bearing a grudge, and had persuaded myself that not auditioning was just cutting off my nose to spite my face. I’m not the greatest singer in the world, but I didn’t feel it had gone that badly. Maybe the others were all brilliant, who knows?

The people doing the auditioning were totally different this year, so it was without prejudice, and I don’t really blame anyone, but… well… I still wish I had got in. I love being in a show – the atmosphere of everyone working together, also the social life. This is partly selfish. It would be true to say I don’t have much of a social life at the moment. Post-university I seem to have fallen out of the loop, partly because many of my friends now live elsewhere, and the one uni friend who did live here has just moved away.

I could still go to some of the drama socials, but I don’t want to seem like a desperate hanger-on… is that pathetic?

In order to cheer myself up, I’ve been having a book orgy:

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Thud! by Terry Pratchett
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula Le Guin
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Minor Arcana by Diana Wynne Jones
Stories of the Supernatural by John Buchan
Huntingtower by John Buchan
Castle Gay by John Buchan
True Tales of American Life edited by Neil Auster
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Now you know why I haven’t had time to write a blog entry for ages. Now that I write it down, I’m quite impressed by this list, especially since I also disposed of the newspaper most days, two copies of the New Scientist and a few other magazines that were lying around, and read Minor Arcana twice in that time. I mean, I’m a speed-reading book addict, but still.

In fact, I read Anansi Boys much too fast (in one sitting), and will have to read it again, more slowly. I’m beginning to feel that, much as I enjoy reading Neil Gaiman’s online journal, it sets up a very high expectation for his new stuff. Given that I’ve been vicariously present during much of the creation of Anansi Boys, I would have been really disappointed if it hadn’t lived up to my expectations, given that I’ve been waiting for it for all this time (the same was true of MirrorMask). So I almost didn’t want to start reading it, in case it wasn’t as good as I hoped. Whereas with Thud!, also new out last weekend, I knew it was coming only just before, and therefore didn’t have such a pitch of anxiety about it, even though I like Terry Pratchett a lot and would also be disappointed if he wrote a substandard book.

It’s all right though, because both books are good, although I notice that Thud! continues the trend I’ve seen in recent City Watch books to move further from “comic fantasy” to “quite serious book, with funny bits.” The tipping point for me was Night Watch, which isn’t really a comic novel, doesn’t contain much fantasy (well, there’s some time travel and a very brief zombie, but that’s it) and might well be my favourite Discworld book.

Anansi Boys, on the other hand, is definitely a comic novel, and contains some wonderful observational writing, although I will have to read it again before I’m certain where it lies on my personal Neil Novel Ranking (which currently has American Gods at the top – where it’ll probably stick – followed by Good Omens, Stardust, Coraline and Neverwhere).

I have been going to the gym (Four Ways to Forgiveness, Minor Arcana and Huntingtower were all partly read while on the crosstrainer) but if there’s a conflict between having time to exercise and having time to blog about it, exercising wins. It’s all been going fine, I think. I do wish the new cardio suite was cooler, though. The extra heat makes a surprising amount of difference – running is considerably more difficult. I’ve been trying to challenge myself, but am not making progress as fast as I’d hoped (and certainly not as fast as the Born Again Gym Bunny, who started running about the same time as me, I think, and has worked up to 10K. Why can’t I do that? Maybe because I don’t go every day).

Eating has been… OK, but I need to be a bit more vigilant, I think. More fruit, fewer carbs. After the Weekend of the Chips I got my period immediately, which confused things rather, but I think I gained a pound and then lost it again. So I was still at my lowest weight when I last checked, but it’s my lowest from 3 weeks ago. Which is not exactly progress.

On the other hand, I had a little milestone a few days ago. You know how I’ve been complaining that my jeans are too baggy? They’ve now reached the stage where they really don’t do anything for me – just hang there looking shapeless. I was vaguely wondering whether the time had now come to try some new ones on when it occurred to me that I have a pair of slightly smaller ones. I don’t know if there was a time when I physically couldn’t get into these – there may have been, but I stopped wearing them because they looked too tight.

Now they don’t. They look fine – in fact, I think they’re looser than when I bought them, which is a distinctly odd thought as I definitely had those at university. So I’ve presumably undone the damage that I did from taking very little exercise in my final year, which means I’m thinner than I’ve been for four years. I'm still trying to get my head around that...

Saturday, September 17, 2005


OK, I am now officially PMS-ing. Yesterday’s gym experience proves that, unfortunately.

I didn’t remember to bring Blue Baby with me this time, but I did have my headphones, which meant I could listen to the sound on the cardio-machine TVs. So I ran along with Sky News, then cross-trained to “The Hits”, one of those presenterless music-video stations (I didn’t seem to be able to change channels to anything better).

Gwen Stefani – fine. Peter Kay doing “The Way to Amarillo” – cheesy to the point of gorgonzola, but cheerful, anyway. I was bouncing away and keeping up a good pace, feeling a little tired but OK.

Now the next song was James Blunt’s “Beautiful”. James Blunt is one of those silver-spoon English pop singers (I think he used to be in the Brigade of Guards or something, unless I’m thinking of someone else) and “Beautiful” is a sort of doleful slow ballad thing. However, I’d heard it several times on the radio without it making any particular impression on me.

I hadn’t seen the video before, though.

If you haven’t seen it either, it involves Blunt standing on what appears to be a tiled balcony or poolside, wearing jeans and a parka and looking a bit bedraggled. It’s snowing lightly. He sings about a girl that he saw, fell in love with, but isn’t going to ask out because she’s already with someone else.

During the course of the song, he slowly takes off his coat and T-shirt. At this point, I suddenly thought, “He’s going to kill himself.”

I am very easily upset by the thought of young men killing themselves, not just because it’s a gloomy subject, but because the D. B. was plagued by suicidal thoughts for some years, and during that time I worried constantly that he might do it. (He’s a lot better now, but has said that if not for me he might well not be here, which is quite a frightening thought, as I have no idea what exactly I did except what any girlfriend would do.) And when I am even vaguely hormonal, I cry at the drop of a hat. Anything even mildly sad will do it. So I had a lump in my throat already. On the other hand, my brain was already trying to salvage the situation with logic.

“Look, K. Taking off one’s T-shirt does not indicate imminent death. People do not kill themselves because someone won’t go out with them, and anyway, this isn’t real. It’s a pop video, for heaven’s sake. He’s not even really standing in the snow, he’s in a warm studio somewhere.” I pounded the pedals of the cross-trainer really hard, trying to work through it. But my eyes were tearing up. I blinked frantically.

Torso now bare (and not even the least bit goose-pimply) Blunt was now taking his shoes off. “Look. It’s a pop video. Anything could happen. The girl could run on and hug him. He could fly up into the clouds – listen, he’s singing about angels now. That automatically makes it a cheesy song, doesn’t it. You don’t even LIKE this song. ‘I saw your face in a crowded place’? What kind of lyric is that? And he has a funny high breathy voice.” However, by this stage, big fat salty tears were making their way down my cheeks. Consumed by embarrassment, I clung to the vague hope that nobody would notice. My face was wet with sweat by this point anyway, so I hoped the tears would kind of blend in. James Blunt was lining up his wallet and rings on the tile in front of him. No, James! Don’t do it! Over the sound from my headphones I could hear myself sniffing and gulping for breath a bit. Oh for heaven’s sake, if anyone could hear me they probably thought I was about to fall from the crosstrainer in a fit.

Blunt finished singing. He leapt from his balcony into the cold sea below, and the water closed over his head. The Black Eyed Peas wanted to know where the love was, but it barely made any difference to me; I was a wet mess, managing not to sob out loud but only just. The course came to an end and I jumped down, wiped my face with my hands and headed at a fast clip for the changing rooms. My eyes must have looked as if I’d been swimming in chloriney water. Alas, there’s no pool at this gym.

Fortunately there was only one other person there. I tried not to look in her direction, but she asked if I was OK.

“Oh, fine!” I said, with an artificial-ish laugh. “Just a bit tired, be glad to get home.” Goodness only knows what she made of that.

Once I’d had a shower and taken some deep breaths, it was hard even for me to believe that I’m quite so easily moved to tears. And today I’m absolutely fine – perfectly cheerful. I had a good time out on Wednesday evening and was glad I went, so there have been ups as well as downs.

I hate PMS. It’s a catch-22: either you admit that you have PMS, thus making it seem you are a slave to your hormones (as men are not); or you deny that you have PMS, making it seem that being illogical, maudlin and weepy are permanent character traits. Either way you come over as unreliable.

To his credit, the D. B. didn’t laugh when I told him about this little episode. I love that boy. And I’m going to see him today! Hooray!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Struggling along

I’m having some problems getting myself together this week.

At the moment, I only have one aim in life, and this is it: to get into work before nine o’clock. Yesterday: 9.26. Today: 9.11.

To be fair, on Monday night I was still awake and staring at the wall at 3am. There’s not much pattern to my occasional insomnia, but in this case it’s probably low-level anxiety about not having done various things that I ought to have done. Like phoning the wedding-dress lady; doing some proper research into courses for next year – and applying for them; sorting all my financial bits of paper; working out when I can see the D.B.; that kind of thing. Nothing major, but enough to keep me from my sleep. I’m not that great at hauling myself from my pit at the best of times, never mind when I’ve only had four hours’ sleep.

I don’t get into trouble if I’m late in, but since I’m on flexitime, every minute I’m not in the office has to be repaid later. I had collected three hours of credit, and it feels just awful to fritter it away sleeping. I mean, three hours is an afternoon off. Granted, until recently I had every Friday afternoon off, and I mostly spent them in the gym or vaguely bumming around town rather than writing an award-winning novel or anything constructive like that, but still.

Despite my sleep-deprived state I did get to the gym on Tuesday. They’ve been renovating the place for months now, and this was the first day I’d been there when the new cardio suite was open. The old one was in a smallish, basic room, with only 28 machines, but with windows opening to the outside. The new one looks fantastic, has loads of brand-new machines with TV screens on them, and fancy light-fittings and stuff, but is in the centre of the building. Therefore it’s rather hot – at least it was on Tuesday.

If you’ve been here and here (and if not, why not?), you’ll have seen some of the recent discussions about the wonders of iPod playlists. It was my birthday on Friday and I was surprised to receive one of these. I had thought it would be nice to have one, as my otherwise splendid Walkman doesn’t like treadmill rhythms (they cause it to stop). Tuesday was the first time I’d taken my new blue baby to the gym, and certainly the music made the run seem shorter (though not easier). It was strange, though, that I seemed to want to slow my pace to match the beat of the music. This is fine when on the crosstrainer, not so good on the treadmill. It’s never been a problem with the music they have playing in the background, so why is it a problem with my own music? Maybe I pay more attention to it.

The run was hard going. It may be that the new treadmill is slightly faster than the old ones, but I kept finding myself gradually moving backwards on the belt. Usually I run at a steady 5.6, with the occasional break to walk if I need it, but I had to keep tinkering with the speed to find a comfortable and sustainable pace.

Today’s been a dullish sort of day, the kind where you keep finding yourself staring out of the window. By teatime I had built up a fair degree of weltschmerz, possibly mildly hormonal, and couldn’t really work up any great enthusiasm for going out with some friends from a drama group I’ve been involved in. On the other hand, I haven’t DONE anything other than work and the gym for ages, so I am smothering this feeling and going anyway. And I discovered today that Monday is a public holiday (don’t know how I missed that one), so have got myself on the net, acquired a cheap flight and am going to see the D. B. That should sort me. I haven’t seen him for over a month.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

“I am not ill, I am not well…

… My quondam dreams are shot to hell.” No, actually, things aren’t anything like that bad, I just had the Dorothy Parker quote on my mind.

It is possible that I’m not terribly well, though. I’ve been unusually knackered all week, and my dad and sister have or have just had terrible colds, and both maintain that it started out by feeling sort of wiped out. So when I woke up several days running with sore and swollen tonsils and a flu-like ache in the bones, I thought I was in for something too, but it hasn’t come to anything and the tonsils have returned to normal. Must be my superior immune system.

Anyway, as a result of this persistent weariness, I haven’t been to the gym yet this week. What is it that keeps preventing me from getting into a routine? I know it was easier with my old job, but still. Last week I was congratulating myself because I’d gone to the gym three times: I hadn’t done that for ages. Food was going fine and I lost another pound. I’ll be amazed – no, stunned – if that happens this week.

It’s not that my habits have been awful, but I keep catching myself eating stuff I don’t really need because I’m tired and I think it will give me more energy. This is bad. Back when my eating habits were at their poorest, and my physical fitness was lowest, that was my usual excuse for eating junk – “I need the energy”. Now I know that if you exercise, you feel more energetic and don’t feel the need to self-medicate with angel cake (or whatever) but this week, I just haven’t been able to summon up the… what? Energy? Gumption? Life-force?

However. I have my gym kit with me today. That means I’m going to the gym this evening, no excuses.

Gah. I shouldn’t moan on, considering what is going on in the world. But I’ve noticed a posting lull among quite a few normally prolific bloggers. Probably the relentless gloom on the news is having a knock-on effect on everyone’s levels of vim and vigour…

Oh well, we just have to plough on…

(Warning: long navel-gazery bit, but with bonus book review.)

I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week about this weight-loss business and about body image. On the whole, I don’t think mine is too bad, at least as an adult. I may never have a perfect body or love my upper arms, but (clothed anyway) I don’t think I look too bad.

However, last night I saw some holiday photos and had it borne into me once more that what I see, when I look in the mirror, may not be what others see. It is rare that I like a photo of myself. Not that I see a girl with perfect regular features in the mirror – I know I have a funny little rounded nose, a high forehead, a largish chin – but I’m always surprised by how much chubbier my face, in particular, looks in photos. I often think I look rather stupid.

“Do you really like this one? My face looks so fat. And I’m doing a really goofy expression.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. I don’t think you have a fat face – it’s just what you look like” said my mum. Oh, please no. Don’t tell me I really do look like that.

I’m aware that other people see a difference in me now. I don’t see any difference naked, not really, but the tapemeasure tells me I’ve lost 3 inches off my waist, and one pair of my jeans has now reached the stage where I can pull them off without undoing them (and consequently have to wear a belt with them, which is a new experience, I can tell you). According to Dietgirl, this is the stage at which you can officially buy smaller ones. And it’s true that I have recently bought the odd item of clothing in a size 14, including a dress which makes me feel quite alluring, and possibly even makes me look that way.

The other day my sister and I went clothes shopping and I was startled to realize that my slim size-12 sister and I had acquired a few things that were (officially anyway) the same size. I know, really, that we are not the same size. She might borrow my tops, because she likes things to be a bit loose, but the day I can borrow her jeans will be the day I see a pig soaring gracefully into the sunset on porcine wings. However, it’s an odd feeling that although we will never have the same body type, I might actually be able to be… relatively slim.

Somehow, even now that I’ve proved I can lose some weight, I haven’t stopped thinking that I am just naturally a big robust girl. And in a way I don’t want to stop identifying myself as such. Maybe it was a defence mechanism – I am not thin, but thin girls are waifs, slender reeds, fragile wisps. My feminist self doesn’t want to be a fragile wisp, therefore it is OK not to be thin, and besides I have a Mind Above Such Things.

When I read D-girl talking about how one doesn’t wish to go on about one’s bodily dissatisfactions in public, it made me think – yes. Partly I was hoping if I didn’t bring the subject up, nobody would go “Yes, actually, now that you mention it you are a bit on the lardy side.” But the bit of me that is more realistic simply wanted people to think that I didn’t care particularly about my weight. I was an intellectual, not a vain, superficial person who cared about fitting into society’s dictates for female beauty. (So why do I have so many clothes, all purchased in the vain hope that this will be the item that magically makes me elegant, cool and reveals my inner wonderfulness? Because somehow I’ve never quite managed to shake the idea that new clothes will have this effect.)

I’ve never stopped thinking, all the time, about the way people will perceive me. A couple of weeks ago I read William Leith’s The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict. It’s very interesting to get a male perspective on the issue, because men talk about their feelings about being fat even less than women do, I’d say. Leith had various other things wrong in his life, and ate emotionally because he was miserable; the book documents his cycle of loss and regain, discovery of the Atkins plan, his starting to lose weight by using the plan and realising that he had shifted his comfort mechanisms on to other things (drink, cocaine and painkillers) and finally having therapy and sorting himself out a bit.

The book’s been criticised for his, as it were, swallowing Atkins whole; actually, he’s only mildly evangelical about it, for someone who’s evidently found it very useful. I know the temptation, when one has seen results from a particular activity, to sell it as The Answer to everyone you know. (I started this site in part so as not to bore everyone by going on about how wonderful Nautilus machines are…) Some might find it hard to sympathise with someone who has behaved in what should have been an obviously self-destructive way: the subtitle is apt, because food was evidently an addiction in the same way that booze and pills were. But he doesn't really sell Atkins and therapy as a universal solution – he just documents how they helped him.

Leith is spot-on about some things: the way in which, when you’re fat, you divide the world into people who are thinner than you (and so enviable) or fatter (and so a source of comforting “at least I’m not THAT fat” thoughts); his description of remembering when he used to go to the gym and feel pleasure at seeing another regular who was fatter than him, and his gloomy realisation that he was now about that size himself; the feeling that you don’t look smart even in your good clothes, that they somehow always look dishevelled and don’t hang right. There is the odd piece of writing that doesn’t quite come off (he describes an obese woman’s hands as “veinless”. Well, I’m looking at my hands now, which are not even chubby – and I don’t see any visible veins. I think most youngish female hands aren’t very veiny). But on the whole I thought it was an interesting read.

Why, then, did I read it standing up in the bookshop, almost hiding at the corner between two bookcases? There might be defences for this behaviour – it’s probably not a book I would want to buy and treasure forever – but upmost in my mind at the time was that people on the bus would see me reading a book about weight issues and consequently would look at me and think “Yes, that looks like a person who needs to concern herself with weight issues.”

I do not make judgements about whether other people around me should lose weight. I don’t think any the worse of people who are trying to lose weight – on the contrary I admire them – so why am I still so convinced that others will make judgements about me?

I don’t think I’ve got it all entirely sorted yet. I’m going to the gym now.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lochs, hills, hearts and apples

It’s been a funny kind of week, mostly because of the Festival. In many ways, I love the Festival. For the three weeks that the Fringe is on, Edinburgh has a completely different atmosphere. People come from all over the world. There are street performers everywhere (the oddest I’ve seen this year is the man on Princes St who stands on his head, hands-free, in a bucket. He doesn’t sway or anything. The bucket hides his face completely, which adds to the surreal nature of the feat.) I’ve been to various shows, all enjoyable, but I’m quite tired from going out in the evenings (last night I was at a show which didn’t start till half-past midnight). In a way I will be glad when it’s finished, although the streets will seem strangely empty and life will be a bit flat.

Look what I did on Wednesday! Don’t worry, it’s only henna…

I decided to do my own design – one of the vaguely Celtic-style heart shapes that come out of my hand when I’m doodling. No, it doesn’t mean anything in particular (a couple of people came up and asked while it was being applied – which was just slightly embarrassing as I was sitting there in my vest top with my unfortunate arms exposed. It took me a long time to find a flattering angle to take a photo). I think of it as a tree of life, but that sounds awfully pretentious and new-agey when you say it out loud!

Anyway I’m pleased with it, although it’s slightly ridiculous, as nobody is likely to see it – it’s on my shoulder so it will always be concealed by my clothes. I rolled up my T-shirt sleeve for this picture! But there’s something obscurely enjoyable about walking along the street thinking “You don’t know what I’ve got on my shoulder”. I guess that might be the attraction of having real tattoos – which is not something I’d ever do. Firstly I’m a big wuss about needles and blood, and secondly I can’t imagine ever being able to choose a design and be certain that you would like it forever. Mine will wear off in about two weeks.

Our trip to the Highlands went well. We travelled to Fort William on ordinary Scotrail trains, then to Mallaig on “The Jacobite” steam train. You can see some photos from the trip if you scroll down (the earlier ones chronologically are at the top. It seemed the easiest way to do it).

“Enough of this piffle about henna and steam trains,” I hear you say. “Have you been moving and eating properly?”

Oh, OK. Well, mostly. Exercise over the weekend mostly consisted of an impromptu walk up a big hill and then down again while we were trying to find the B&B, and then a gentle wander through Fort William and then Mallaig. But I have been back to the gym twice since then and – are you impressed? – have tackled the scary cross-trainer Nordic machine thingy.

In fact I only did this because the gym was very busy and there were no treadmills left for my first burst of cardio, so I did an interval programme on the bike instead. After doing my Nautilus, the prospect of more biking just seemed ineffably boring…

I can’t say I really found it easy. There’s still the same problem of maintaining a regular rhythm, although that became easier when the resistance level went up a bit. However, I did fifteen minutes – not very fast, but hey – and it definitely reaches parts other machines do not touch, such as the top parts of the back of my thighs. Weird feeling. My abs were also involved, possibly because I found it quite tricky to maintain a comfortable upright posture. But my back didn’t hurt afterwards.

Eating has been – well, not as good as last week, but it hasn’t been entirely my fault. The vegetarian options in Fort William and Mallaig are a little limited – baked potatoes are pretty much it. As we know, baked potatoes are not low-GI, although I had them with cottage cheese rather than nice melty cheddar.

I’ll admit culpability regarding the apple pie, the Mars bar and the jelly beans.

The Apple Challenge is going pretty well – I’ve had an apple every day since last Thursday, except for Saturday when I didn’t come across any (that was the day I had the apple pie. Does that count? No, I thought it didn’t.)

Square One goes photoblog

I love taking photos, but rarely have the time to do it. Last weekend was an exception, though.

My father combines a love of steam trains with a tendency to be very difficult to buy presents for. We never know what to get him for his birthday. This year, however, my sister had a brainwave: we would take him on the West Highland Railway to Mallaig. He'd get to go on a steam train, we would get to look at pretty scenery and bond, and it would probably be our last chance to take a trip as a family before I get married next spring (after which we probably will still take trips together, but the D. B. will come too).

It was an incredibly relaxing trip. The scenery was indeed very lovely, so I thought that since I have some photos worth showing for once, you might like to see some.

We set out from Edinburgh rather early and it wasn't until we caught the Fort William train at Glasgow that everyone was fully alert. However, from then on the view from the windows steadily got more and more impressive. Even the stations on that line are picturesque.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Loch Treig

We reached Fort William at about noon, and after some baked potatoes (evidently the Highlands' premier vegetarian option) we set out to find the B&B. This involved a certain amount of mapreading, which led us up a very steep hill, and then down it again when the road turned out to be longer and more curved than was at first evident. A nice friendly fluffy cat was encountered in the car park.
We had a pleasant wander around the town and a good night's sleep, and set out next morning for the main event...

"The Lord of The Isles"

That's the name of the steam engine you can see at the end of the platform. It looks like the crack of dawn, but actually it was about 10am. The clouds look a little ominous...

On the way to Mallaig

View from Glenfinnan Viaduct
( This loch should come after the viaduct: for some reason they didn't upload in the right order and I can't seem to fix it)
The viaduct itself, as seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

As you can see, the weather wasn't quite as good on Sunday. Still, the mist was very atmospheric (and frankly it's more typical of the West Coast than the brilliant sunshine was).

Bay just before Mallaig

Apparently they trained the first ever Commandos here. Seeing the tiny islets brings out my Swallows and Amazons tendencies - I want to explore!

Friendly seal

This seal was taking a great interest in these holidaymakers. Mum thinks it was hoping for a fish.

Mallaig Harbour

Friday, August 19, 2005

Running away from the Dark Side

I am a happy person.

On Tuesday, the scale said 190. Yesterday it said 186.

I finally got myself to the gym on Tuesday, not feeling terribly enthusiastic. It was one of those days when you feel like a large pink puffy marshmallow person. I knew I wouldn’t be at my peak of performance (if I have such a thing) after two weeks off, and indeed I wasn’t.

Usually I run for 15 minutes on the treadmill, on the interval program. (My aim is to increase this gently as I get back into a routine.) On Tuesday I only managed 10. The gym was busyish and on the treadmill next to me was a tall fair guy in white T-shirt and shorts, running lightly as though it didn’t take the least bit of effort. Meanwhile I was labouring gracelessly along in my usual black tracksuit bottoms and T-shirt. We looked like some kind of symbolic representation of the Good Runner and the Bad Runner. Certainly by the end my skin was a most Mephistophelian shade of red.

As I got off the treadmill, another runner asked if I was finished. “Oh good,” he said when I told him I was, “you sweat much less than the other guy,” indicating a bespattered treadmill, which its occupant hadn’t bothered to wipe off (yuck). There was a time when I might even have taken that as a compliment, but I know why I didn’t sweat that much: I wasn’t working as hard as I might have been. That said, after Nautilus I then did a long interval program on the stationary bike (33 minutes) and was so wiped out when I got home that I fell asleep on the sofa. At nine o’clock in the evening. This is not like me, I can tell you. Eventually I managed to drag myself to bed and slept for about nine hours there, after which I felt better.

Yesterday I ran my fifteen minutes and did 20 on the bike, and didn’t fall asleep in the evening. It’s funny, but merely having been to the gym made me feel thinner on Wednesday and Thursday. My muscles didn’t hurt, but I was aware of them (in a way I’m not when I haven’t been exercising) and it makes me hold myself better. It’s true, also, that some of Tuesday’s 190 must have been water. If I can only keep eating sensibly and convince myself that that 186 was real, then that’s a new lowest weight. Eating is going well, and inspired by Zara, I'm challenging myself to eat an apple every day in addition to the fruit and veggies I would normally eat. Five a day really ought to be achievable. Two down, five to go this week.

Oddly enough, the Nautilus weights have been if anything better for my two-week rest. I’ve hit a plateau (numbers-wise) on most of them by now, but some of the machines have been easier than I was expecting. I’ve reached two milestones, however: 250 pounds on the leg press machine, and I’ve completely filled my second Nautilus card. Now I said to myself that when I did this, I would sign up for a free weights induction – you have to do this to use the free weights at my gym. But I’m still mildly terrified by the idea. This is silly. I used to be scared of Nautilus machines and now I’m an old hand (well, oldish). I suppose it’s partly that the Nautilus programmes require no mental work from me – I have the card and I go around and fill in the numbers, without having to make any decisions or plans.

However, the free weights gym is being renovated at the moment, giving me a handy excuse not to take any action for the moment.

I won’t get to the gym on Saturday, because I’m away for the weekend with my family. We’re going to the Highlands on a steam train. Or words to that effect. See you next week.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sluggardry and comedy

I haven’t been to the gym for two weeks.It’s been a busy time. My old job ended two weeks ago, and I had a week’s holiday during which the D. B. came to stay for four days. He’s been under a lot of pressure lately, as the final month of his Master’s project is approaching and he’s been working far too hard (as is his wont). Just before he came up, he was convinced he shouldn’t be taking any time off at all, soI was a bit worried that he wouldn’t be able to relax (indeed, I was slightly worried he wouldn’t come). However, we had a great time: the Edinburgh Festival is on at the moment and we went to see The Odd Couple with Bill Bailey and Alan Davies – which was very, very funny, despite a rather wandering accent (New York by way of Essex and quite possibly Australia) from Mr Davies. We also saw the Improverts comedy team who are always splendid. They improvise sketches based on audience suggestions. Whatever they are. Anyone who can improvise a musical, complete with songs, about a light that won’t turn off is a genius in my book.

The rest of the week was mostly taken up with doing weddingy things, like booking a car and trying on dresses. Shamefully, as I had to admit at the beginning of this blogging thing, some of the reason I'm trying to shed some of myself is to look good in said dress. I know pretty much what I want: I’ve seen it in a magazine but it costs £1,400. Even if I could countenance it for a dress I'll wear once, we DO NOT have that kind of money to spend on it.

I’ve tried before to blog about trying on wedding dresses, but have found it very difficult to express what I feel about the whole thing. I love clothes, but I have a kind of split personality about them: on the one hand I love to dress up on occasion, but on the other, I don’t like fussy fastenings and overelaborate details. Also I invariably feel that whatever it was, it looked better on the hanger.

Most bridal samples seem to be a size twelve (US 10), which means I spend a lot oftime standing about pinned into dresses that won’t do up at the back, and with my arms crammed into too-tight sleeves. This isn’t terribly good for the self-esteem. Hardly any dresses have sleeves, because the fashion is for strapless bodices. However, since we’re doing the deed in church, and I hate my arms anyway, a more covered-up style is essential. But the choice is so limited: we’ve yet to find a shop with more than three styles with sleeves, and I don’t really want a jacket or wrap as I will still want my arms covered in the evening. I have seen a dress that will do if we can’t find one I like better… That’s not the attitude! I don’t think we’ve entirely cracked it yet. I'll stop moaning.

But, the exercise. And more importantly, the food.

I might let myself off not going to the gym while I was on holiday – I did go for some long walks – but I feel bad about not having gone this week. My new job started on Monday. It’s what I’ve been wanting to do for ages, and an end to my weird half-life of working in the mornings and volunteering in the afternoons.

The weird half-life had one advantage, however. I got an hour and a half for lunch, which was plenty of time to go to the gym. Now I’m slightly further away, which means I have to factor in two ten-minute walks. If I allow fifteen minutes for changing and showering, that only leaves me fifty minutes to do two lots of cardio and Nautilus – oh, and to eat my lunch. Because my new job involves working with unique historical records, it’s forbidden (perfectly sensibly) to eat lunch at your desk. Call that fifteen minutes, and all you have left is thirty-five. It’s not enough.

In this job I’m working flexi-time, which I’ve never done before. The idea is that you can work whatever combination of hours you like between seven a.m. and seven p.m. The working day is seven and a half hours long, but you can work longer if you like and earn yourself some time off later. Or vice versa. So I could take a ninety-minute lunch if I liked. The snag would be that I’d then have to get back those extra half-hours, either that day or another day. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but if I work late I miss eating dinner with my family. The ideal thing (and lots of people here do it) would be to start earlier, but I am not at all a morning person.

Myold job started at nine and frankly I wasn’t too awake then. This week I’ve dragged myself in for 8.45 three times, 8.30 once, and felt like a total zombie (PMS didn't help much). I’ve also been really tired and spaced-out in the evenings – I even fell asleep on the sofa on Tuesday. Usually the evening is my good time. What’s the point of getting up early so you have time to have a life after work, if you’re too tired to do anything once you finish?

What I think I’ll have to do is this: start going to the gym on Saturdays. Then I can take an extra half-hour on Tuesday and Thursday, probably at the end of the day rather than lunchtime (I’ll just take the minimum allowed half-hour lunchbreak). That would still be seven and a half hours at work.Then I’ll only be late home two days a week, which won’t be so bad. I’m not going to earn myself many days off this way, however!

Eating lately has been rubbish. I’m forced to admit it – I am not good at this dieting business. I just accept helpings of things on the spur of the moment, and don’t plan ahead enough. It wouldn’t be so bad if I said “OK, I had chocolate mousse yesterday – that means I have to eat slightly lighter than usual today to compensate,” but I don’t really do that either, although I always tell myself I will when I’m giving in to temptation.

We have had guests, which means that more treats have been around than usual. But I’m in danger of getting into the habit of eating badly when the D. B’s around, because I tend to be on holiday then, and I’ve got to teach myself not to – preferably before he moves up here at the end of next month.

Update: This was written on Friday. I still haven't been to the gym, because I am in pain (TOM). On the other hand, I have been to see the Lost and Lonely Rebels – three men, three chairs, comedy splendour (feat. Archie from Balamory, and Stuart and Humphrey the Improverts – see above). They could make anyone feel better.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Lawn of dreams

The week before last, I was on holiday with my family, staying with my great-aunt in East Anglia. A relaxing time was had by all. We went to local attractions we've been to many times before; we read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while lying on the lawn; we ate a lot of cake; and my siblings and I acted as though we were all at least 10 years younger than we actually are (although this is everyday behaviour for the sibs). I feel so lucky that I get on well with them.

Despite all the cake-eating, I got plenty of exercise. My brother tends to feel a day is wasted on holiday if he hasn't been for a bike ride, played frisbee or at least kicked a football about. We did a bit of all of this. My great-aunt has an enormous garden and one night, my brother and I played frisbee until we could no longer see each other in the dusk. It's a glow-in-the-dark frisbee.

However, one sporting activity in particular will form my abiding memory of this holiday, and it all started when my sister said, "Anybody want to play rounders?"

We had a softball bat, two squash balls, and (between us) a hazy grasp of the rules of rounders, softball, and cricket. And only three players. You may ask yourself, how would any of those games work with only three players?

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the D. Family Sporting Federation Memorial Batball Tournament.

(Name arrived at after much discussion. "Who is it in memory of?" my mum asked. "Batball!" said my brother.)

1. There shall be 3 players:
– Batter
– Bowler
– Fielder.

2. There shall be 2 bases:
– The glow-in-the-dark frisbee, positioned a yard or so from the edge of the lawn nearest the house (home base)
– The yellow football, positioned about 10 metres away from the frisbee, or level with the big leylandii tree (outside base).

3. The playing area shall be the lawn. If the ball is hit beyond the trees and into the bushes, or on to the gravel path, or over the wall and into the woods, and is therefore hard to find, that will automatically count as half a run.

4. When the ball does go on the gravel, K will fetch it if she is the only one with shoes on. Uncharacteristically good play by K may also be attributed to the shoe factor.

5. The ball shall be bowled underarm, as otherwise we will be here all night before it goes near the batter. The batter will stand to the right of home base, and may claim a no-ball if the ball does not pass over the base at roughly waist height, or if K’s sister does not feel like hitting it, or if K bowls particularly erratically.

6. The batter may not stop at the outside base (the football) but must keep going back to home base, since there is only one person on the batting team.

7. Three strikes and you’re out, unless we’re feeling generous (see no-balls, rule 4).

8. Either fielder or bowler may get the batter out, but only by touching, while holding the ball, the base towards which the batter is running, or by striking the base or the batter’s body with the ball. This last is not recommended, as you will certainly miss and make "arrrgh" noises. If anybody (K) actually manages to hit a running target (brother), a round of applause is in order.

9. Once the batter is caught out, the bowler becomes the new batter, and the fielder the bowler. Or something. Bowler and fielder may swap roles if they feel like it or the batter is doing too well, but the order of turns at bat should stay the same.

10. When K’s sister tries really, really hard to catch her brother out and misses the catch by an inch, play will stop to commiserate her as soon as her brother has reached the base. This is doubly true if she falls over in the attempt.

11. Play may be suspended for the night if:
– the grass becomes too dewy to run on
– the midges become too rapacious
– it’s too dark to find the ball in the woods.

Our tournament ran over three evenings, and I won in the end! ("Fluke! Fluke!") On the last night, as it got darker and darker, we realised that the air was full of little dark shapes that squeaked and fluttered. Our batball had been graced with some genuine bats.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I hate mornings

That's not a witty post title, but frankly I'm not up to thinking of one. I had an insomniac night, and am somewhat zombified this morning (never my favourite time of day, at the best of times). Oddly enough my entire family seemed to feel the same way at breakfast this morning - my sister complained that she thought she had left her brain lying around somewhere - so maybe it's something in the air... which is distinctly damp and chilly. Apparently it's about 14 degrees. I worry about global warming as much as (or more than) the next person, but hey, it's July. It's not meant to be like this.

I have lots of stuff to post about, such as the lovely holiday I had last week, and the 5K I ran just before that. And I will, when I muster up the energy to do it properly. Just not this morning.

This week, however, is going to be Eating Week. I have been half-hearted about this for far too long and it's time to face up to the facts: I am not losing any weight at the moment. I haven't approached the scale since I got back, but given that cake consumption was pretty much a daily occurrence on holiday, I need to get serious whatever it says.

I'm going to go to the gym at lunchtime, which I hope will make me feel more energised.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Running up that hill

OK. It's been a week and a half. I am finally going to write about the Race for Life.

There are various reasons why I didn't do it earlier. Last week was very unsettled and disconcerting, even before the bombings, and somehow I just didn't feel like it. After the bombings we were all sad and I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for writing a cheery, lively "I love running and I had a great Sunday" piece.

And then the D. B came to visit, of which more later.

But I need to write about it now. Why? Well, because tonight I'm doing another 5K...

I woke up on Sunday 3 July at 6am, not feeling exactly my best.

It’s probably a good idea, if you’re planning to run five kilometres for the first time ever, not to be a physical wreck. It was partly my own fault. The previous Tuesday, I’d been called up by a catering firm for which I occasionally do a bit of waitressing. They were due to provide food at a wedding on Saturday at a castle near Dundee, and the agency which was to have provided the waiting staff had pulled out because of the G8 summit. Would I come and do it? Well, I have this slight problem with saying no… also, I could use the money. I won’t be working full-time until August and I have a wedding to save up for.

I carefully wore comfy shoes so as not to end up with sore feet, but there wasn’t much I could do about the need to hold heavy trays of champagne and serving dishes for extended periods. On Sunday morning, my biceps ached and my shoulder-blades felt as though someone had tied them together with a thick rubber band. I don’t think I’d helped matters much by trying on Friday to find out what my one-rep maximum on the assisted pullup machine was; I set the weights too light and plummeted floorwards, nearly yanking my arms out of their sockets on the way. Nor was I entirely sure about my left ankle. Wednesday's run had been on a dodgy treadmill which sloped slightly to the left, and I'd had to cut it short because of an ache developing in the ankle. Rather than push it, I hadn't run on Friday at all, but stuck to the stationary bike. Furthermore, I’d had to serve food on Saturday with my left wrist strapped up. This wasn’t exercise-related: I have a small ganglion which gives trouble sometimes. Obviously I would run even if the strapping was still on, but it's made of black Neoprene and is rather sweaty to wear, so I was hoping I wouldn't have to.

So waking out of troubled dreams about having forgotten to bring my race number, and not being allowed to run, I headed downstairs much earlier than I needed. After eating my porridge (slow-release carbs) I hung about the kitchen, trying to tell myself I wasn't nervous.

I was getting a lift to Kirkcaldy with a lady at work, whom I had never met. Only four people could make it to the Kirkcaldy race (there were 20 in the original team) but her teenage daughter was going to run too, and her husband was driving. Dad took me over to her house at nine. It was already quite sunny, and Mum had suggested I change my black T-shirt for a white one. This was perfectly sensible, but the black one was old, soft and comfortable, while the white one was newer, stiffer, and shorter in the sleeves. I kept tugging them down.

It soon became apparent that the lady from work is a Proper Runner. She’s very friendly, and chatted on about the various races she’d done: several Races for Life, 10Ks, taken part in a marathon relay team. She had serious-looking running shoes and had her race number on already. Her daughter is slender and long-legged and I felt sure that both of them would speed away from me and I’d pant in long after them. As usual, they were both smaller and slenderer than me, so I was feeling like a big lump. I was only mildly reassured by the daughter's attitude; she wasn't sure what shoes she was going to run in and wanted to hang on to her mobile phone, just in case her friends rang or texted her while she was on the course. I wished I could be that casual about the whole thing!

We arrived at Beveridge Park in plenty of time. There were plenty of women in evidence with pink race numbers on, but it wasn't at all clear where we ought to go, although we could see pink plastic tape marking out part of the course. Eventually we decided to follow the tape and were led past a pond (with swan-shaped pedalos) to the other side of the park, where there was a stage, a man with a microphone yelling out enthusiastic things, and various tents selling wristbands and ice cream. The sunshine was hot, but there was a fresh breeze.

While we waited for the other two team members, we drank water, did some stretches and talked about running. I repositioned my race number about three times, in a vain attempt to make it lie neatly over my chest (taking a tip from D-Girl, I did have safety pins with which to do this). The others arrived. "K's been training for four months", the Proper Runner told them. Oh no, don't tell them that, I wanted to say. Now they'll expect me to be good...

Eventually the call went out for the warm-up. This wasn't one of the biggest races, but 3000 women is still a sizeable crowd. Here and there you could see little groups all in the same T-shirt or costume: a bunch of girls with bunny ears and tails (but not swimsuits and heels, I'm glad to say), some nurses in surgical pyjamas, a large team from an oatcake factory. Over their heads, I could just see the warm-up leaders on the stage - two leotarded madwomen in wigs that looked like a collision between Agnetha Fältskog and a bale of hay.

I am so rubbish at aerobics. By the time I've grasped one movement, we're on to the next and I''ve lost my rhythm completely. The size of the crowd didn't help: it was hard to get a space to stand in, and nobody wanted to wallop the person next to them! However, we all survived, I didn't trip over or kick anyone, and they started to call for the Runners group to make their way to the start line. Once they had moved off, the Walkers would follow.

Here was the dilemma I'd been waiting for: Walkers or Runners? By this point, I was feeling the need to stick with my group, so I headed for the Runners when they did. I wasn't feeling too daunted. Usually when I sit an exam or whatever, I don't sleep well the night before, and then calm descends just before I get started. This was just the same.

We trotted over the starting line to the sound of "Sisters are Doing it for Themselves". I started fairly slowly, but even so I quickly lost sight of my teammates - the Proper Runner was up ahead somewhere, but the others were behind me. Suddenly it came upon me: I'm actually running in a 5K! Me! In the Runners!

For the first few hundred metres, the course sloped uphill fairly gently. Then it looped back on itself and began to climb the biggest hill we could see. I was determined not to do two things: a) wear myself out in the first ten minutes; b) wimp out too early and walk when I could be running. So I jogged gently up about half of the hill, then walked the rest (two little blond boys yelled "Faster, girls, faster!"), and then started running again when I got to the top. Fortunately there were plenty of large trees for shade. The runners were beginning to string out a bit along the course, but not all the Walkers had even crossed the start yet (I later heard the guy with the microphone say that it had taken six minutes for everyone to get over).

The downhill was wonderful. I didn't go crazy - I didn't need to twist an ankle at this stage, but I definitely ran fastest over that part of the course. When we reached the bottom, the course began to wind through the gardens. This part was level, but it was harder to see where it led next and how far there was to go.

After a while (maybe 1k) I kept seeing the same people. I'd pass them, then they'd pass me, then I'd pass them again - including two little girls dressed as a banana and a raspberry! I found it quite encouraging that there were plenty of people who were going about the same speed I was. The Race for Life seems to be an excellent run for the beginner, because there are runners of all levels of fitness and seriousness. There were lots of people along the course to cheer us on, and the little blond boys popped up again and again. It was all right for them - our course wound backwards and forwards in order to get 5K in, but they could just take a shortcut...

By this point it was definitely beginning to feel like work. The trees were further apart, and the sun was beating down. However, most of it was on grass, which was much easier on the feet and joints than I'd imagined. From time to time I walked, but I was trying hard not to let the walks come too often or be longer than the runs, as I am a complete slacker and it would have been all too easy just to walk the rest. I began to play games with myself: run to that tree, then you can walk. No, that was too easy, run to that tree instead. OK, walk now. Right, that girl in the white T-shirt has passed you again, you've been walking long enough. Catch her up...

I spotted a steward in a red T-shirt. "How far are we?" I yelled. There weren't any distance markers.

"About halfway..." By that point I was already past him. Halfway? That was OK. I didn't have a watch or stopwatch, but we hadn't been going 20 minutes yet. It usually takes me that long to go 2K, so I was ahead of the game. Then another woman said "He's probably lying, just telling us that to motivate us." Thanks! Very helpful... Walk a bit, trot a bit, walk a bit. I began to run through the sunny patches and walk in the shady ones, which isn't as daft as it sounds: you spend more time in the shade that way, and you appreciate it better! We passed the entrance to the park and doubled back along past the pond. I was so hot by then that I almost considered scooping some water over my head, but fortunately I thought better of it. I overtook the girl in the white T-shirt again, and we exchanged a smile.

We wound through a hedged garden. Another steward called out "Half a K to go, girls!

Half a K? At that point, we emerged from the garden and started up the big hill again, but I didn't care. I speeded up and left all the raspberries and others who'd been jogging round with me behind! It was hard work, but I jogged/powerwalked all the way up the hill by kidding myself that I'd walk after the next tree. Then it was a gentle downhill all the way to the finish, about 200 metres. I knew I could run all of that. About 100 or 75 metres from the finish post, the Proper Runner, who was watching from the sidelines by then, yelled "Go Kirsten!" and I actually sprinted the last bit!

I sprinted the last bit. Amazing. Ten years ago, I thought having to run 100 metres was difficult. I thought running 500 metres on the nice, level school track was wellnigh impossible. As I approached the finish, the time-readout said 35 minutes something (I was too focused on the finish by then to be able to take it in properly).

That was about five minutes faster than I'd been hoping for. I wasn't focused on trying to beat any particular time - I just wanted to finish - but I had projected taking about 40 minutes at best.

I collected my goodie bag and medal (I got a MEDAL!) and went back up to meet the rest of the team. Not all of them had finished - I was third! I was tired, but much to my surprise I didn't hurt anywhere (and nor did any aches develop afterwards - shows the merits of warming up properly, I suppose!) My feet hadn't blistered, my ankles were fine. Even my shoulders and wrist had stopped hurting. Granted, my cheeks were starting to ache a little, but that was definitely caused by the big stupid grin.

In a way it was probably just as well that I didn't have anyone close to me at the race, as I would have just babbled about how wonderful it was and how I love the world and everyone in it, etc. I think circumstances were kind to me: it was a nice day, if a bit hot, and the course was undoubtedly a lot easier than the Arthur's Seat route I would have been doing if only I had got a place on the Edinburgh race. Be that as it may, I ran a 5K!

I probably wouldn't have done it without these people: Dietgirl, who gave me the idea and has sent me encouraging e-mails; the boyfriend, who ran with me in public; Erin, who sold me (through her blog) on the idea that this running business didn't have to be torture.

Oh, and my lovely sponsors who gave me £177.54 and haven't even seen any photos of me looking purple yet... That's me on the right.


So this week has been a bit of a washout, exercise-wise, because the D. B. came to stay for a couple of days and I've been spending most of the time locked in his arms. Sorry. He was only here for three days, during part of which I was felled with period pain. However, he did manage, while he was here, to find my engagement ring!

It's been missing for three or four weeks now. We had given up any hope of finding it, and the insurance claim had been granted (yes, we've cancelled it. What do you take us for?)

It was in a box containing silk scarves, at the back of a cupboard in my bedroom which I had already searched. Not throughly enough, it seems. Here I was, imagining it being buried, falling down drains, being squashed by cars on the road, and it was nestled in silk all the time.

I've acquired one of those little clip things that make it smaller temporarily, and I'll be getting it resized. The question is, how much smaller are my hands going to get if I lose more weight? If I resize it straight away, will I have to do it again in a few months?

I wish I didn't have to say "if I lose more weight", but unfortunately I've been losing and regaining the same pound for an awfully long time now. Nine weeks, I think. It's highly annoying and I only have myself to blame, because I'm not being as vigilant with food as I was at the beginning. I haven't been passing up desserts and I'm not doing so well at avoiding snacks, either. I've been concentrating on the exercise, which is easier.

However, once I run today's race, I won't have a particular goal in mind, so perhaps I'll be able to focus on the eating a bit more. I'm going on holiday next week, so I won't be able to go to the gym... and if I have to post a gain I'll be seriously annoyed with myself!

The race tonight is at 6.30, so I'm hoping it won't be too hot (it's cooler today after several days of 80-degree sunshine, in which I do not do well). It's organised by JogScotland and I have a feeling the average fitness level will be higher than it was for the Race for Life, but I'm just going to aim for completion again and not worry too much about times. And hopefully I won't take so long to tell you how it went!