Does My Belly Look Big in This Changing Room?

At the weekend I headed over to Westfield, Shepherd Bush’s super duper shopping centre with my housemate. Our mission? To buy me a dress for next week’s Big Night Out with work.

I have to say I was excited about the prospect of having a new frock. However, considering the fact that I had a £30 voucher leftover from my birthday last July, and not really any money to spend in any other store, it was rather a suicide mission, in terms of the death of my mood, and my avoidance of sugar.

We rocked up at Westfield around 1pm and headed straight for Debenhams. Like I’ve found before at Debenhams Westfield, there were pretty slim pickings. Maybe it’s my timing; too late in the sale? Anyway, I grabbed a selection of dresses and headed for the changing room.

It became apparent as soon as I donned the first dress that this was not going to be a good day for trying on dresses. To get into the dressy mood, I had already worn a dress and a pair of tights paired with my denim jacket and a black pair of flats. I was quite happy with my appearance when I left the house.

However, with the first dress on, my belly, which is my problem area, looked huge. I had of course picked my top choice to try on first, a reddy-pink and black A-line dress with black lace detail around the top of the chest. My housemate, Sina, is pretty good at all this fashion stuff, and advised me that the dress wasn’t cut that well, and that the fit in general wasn’t right. So back on the hanger, and onto the next.

The next dress was a lovely white dress with a gorgeous flower pattern. But it is obviously one of those that look better on the hanger. While it wasn’t a complete disaster, and I think it’s one of the styles of the moment, it had no shape, and was similar to a look that I could have achieved had I cut a hole in a bin bag. It was a pretty rectangular dress, not fitted at any point. Sina advised that I should try a smaller size – a size 10, which was music to my ears – and she went off to find the next size down. In the meantime, I tried another dress, a black A-line with a kingfisher pattern and short sleeves. By the time Sina came back with the size 10, I had already declared myself a state of flump. A fat lump.

Sina thought the black dress was the best so far, but I was desperate to get it off. I tried on the 10, but the smaller size didn’t really make much difference. It still hung like a rubbish bag.

At this point I thought about the fitting rooms. And I praised The Lord that things had changed in one respect. When I was a teenager growing up in Lincoln, many of the stores I shopped in had COMMUNAL changing rooms. Some had one or two cubicles, but these were nearly always full on a Saturday when I was in town, which left girls like me no choice but to try on in the large communal area. While the benefit of hindsight tells me I had the perfect body as a teen, slim (although boobs were tiny back in’t day, and not much bigger now. I’d definitely fail the pencil test, although I take this to be a good thing in that by the time I’m 50 my nipples should still be pointing in whatever direction I want to go), I didn’t have any self confidence because I was so shy. Taking clothes off during PE lessons was difficult enough, let alone trying things on in front of complete strangers.

I looked around the cubicle I had, which was plenty spacious enough, with enough mirrors and hanging space and a little cubed seat on which to place my bag, and said a little prayer thanking God that things had changed for the better in one respect at least since the 90s. But back to the problem in hand. I’d tried on four dresses so far and wasn’t looking good in any of them. I eyed up the button on the wall which was begging to be pressed. “Need help? Let us bring you another size” proclaimed the sticker. Bring me some chocolate and I might consider this to be a helpful offer I thought.

So, to sum up so far, we’d only been in one shop, and my self-confidence was already shot. Sina suggested that I may have to invest some of my money in another shop, and so we handed the dresses back to the changing room assistant and headed onto H&M.

H&M was initially looking to be a similar drought of good dresses, however, after picking up a few not-great-but-I’ll-try-because-I’m-getting-desperate dresses, I found The One. A classic black shift dress, with pointy little sequins around the neckline. I picked up a 12 and a 14 just to be sure, and joined the queue for the fitting rooms.

I tried on The Perfect Dress. I almost laughed out loud at the size of my stomach. The stretchy material showed up every lump and bump I had. I unzipped and went for the 14. This has got to be it, I thought. I was bitterly disappointed. It was still too tight. I tried on the other selection of dresses I had brought then went back to the 14. Sina suggested I try the next size up – the 16. I said no, but back in my own cubicle and facing the desperateness of not having a dress to wear next week, I threw my own dress back on, took the size 12, and told the assistant I was going to get another size. I returned with the 16, which I’d noted on the tag was the biggest size H&M do.

The 16 fitted better around the belly, but not around the neck. It gaped slightly, which probably wasn’t so noticeable. But I had made up my mind. I wasn’t paying 30 quid of my own money for a dress that had a size 16 label on it. I tried on the 14 again, hitching my tights up past my belly button in a bid to give my belly a smoother line. I wondered if £30 was enough to go back to Debenhams and buy me a pair of Spanx (aka Bridget Jones Big Pants). But really what was the point in paying £30 for a dress that wasn’t right? I always buy clothes that are “a bit tight” and tell myself I will lose weight and fit into them. It doesn’t happen. Well, it happened once, after I left my husband and a lost a stone and a half. But that was a drastic way to lose weight that I’m not keen to repeat any time soon, husband or not.

We went in a few more shops, and my day was made worse by some idiot in Mango putting a security tag through a belt on a dress, which meant I couldn’t undo it to try it on. I was determined to try the dress, which was a potential option, and managed to shuffle it on over my head and boobs. When it was on, the dress was definitely not an option. But could I get the bastard thing off? No. I left the safety of my cubicle and asked the one of the girls to remove the tag for me. “That’s the second one we’ve had like that, they should put the tag further round” said the other girl. Her colleague looked at me and told me I would just have to take it off with the tag on. Good job I wasn’t carrying a Swiss Army knife like a good little Boy Scout, otherwise that belt wouldn’t have been going back on the shop floor in one piece. Sina and I managed to get the dress off and I redressed.

I’d had enough. I admitted defeat and we headed home. By this time I was hungry and despite having had a sandwich for lunch and some Char Sui rolls at Westfield, I was hungry. But not just for food. I wanted comfort food. I wanted chocolate. But since chocolate is the only part of the refined sugar thing I’ve managed to avoid during lent, I picked up a packet of Hob Nobs. Those oaty, crunchy biscuits I love so much. Upon arriving home, six biscuits were gone with a cup of coffee. By 10am the next day, the rest of the packet was finished.

So in a bid to find a dress for my second proper night out in London, I ended up feeling fat, flumpy, humiliated and breaking my sugar-free diet pretty spectacularly. At least I still have my money. But to be honest it’s not much consolation. I still have no idea what I’m going to wear on Friday, but I know it will have to come out of my own wardrobe. It may end up being jeans and a pair of heels, but I hope not. I spent most of my teens and twenties living in jeans and avoiding getting my legs out and since now they are probably my best feature (the bit on display anyway) I would be happy to show them off, if only I had the right dress to wear.

I miss a lot of things about America, but one thing I do miss is their dress sizes. As a size 10 back then, it meant in the US I could buy a size 6. I don’t ever remember buying a size 6 over here (maybe Age 6). While I’d be happy to buy a 12 nowadays in the UK, I don’t think I’ll ever be that Perfect 10 again. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take some comfort from The Beautiful South…

Perfect 10 – The Beautiful South (1998)

Sugar-Free Me: Day 1,493

Ok, so it’s not really Day 1,493. More like Day 29. But it sure feels like it.

Back in February, some work colleagues challenged me to give up refined sugar for Lent. No chocolate, no sugar. I figured I was up to the challenge, since I eat far too much of the world’s best chocolate. Yes I just said that. England makes the WORLD’S BEST CHOCOLATE. I have lived in America and yours tastes like shit. Or like cooking chocolate if you want to put it politely (but I’m not really in the mood for politeness).

So this was mid-February and on 5th March, the challenge began. I started reducing the amount of sugar in my coffee the week before, so by the time the 5th came round, I was pretty ok with having sugarless coffee. But I went cold turkey with the chocolate, which was tough. As it’s pretty tough to avoid sugar altogether, because so many foods have them, I allowed myself to have some sugar in savoury meals, as long as I went for options with the smallest amounts. I ate fruit, because that is “natural” sugar, and allowed myself the occasional smoothie, which have a high sugar content but again this is “natural” sugar.

As the weeks went by, I avoided chocolate and sugar in my coffee. Gradually sugarfied foods have crept back in, such as croissants and cakes. But the only time I lapsed on chocolate was during a work do, where they provided free-flowing champagne, canapés and mini chocolate macaroons. Other than that, no chocolate has passed my lips.

I have to say I think I have done well. Although I haven’t seen the results I expected. I haven’t lost weight, and as I mentioned in Jogga-Blog is Back! yesterday, I feel like I am heavier, certainly around the middle. I have read about people feeling so much better after giving up sugar, having more energy, being less tired and having whiter eyes. I don’t feel like I have any of these benefits. Maybe because I’ve been filling up on carbs, my hunger cravings going wild because my body doesn’t believe it’s full if it doesn’t have pudding (it’s an English thing).

But chocolate and “sugar” are not the only things I have given up. I am proud to tell you that the last time I had a Diet Coke was on Friday 21st February. 42 days ago. I have just equalled my record for giving up liquid caffeine. But this time I’m pretty sure I have given up for good. I only craved it once, in the first two weeks after, and I think that was more about craving a cold drink.

Since I gave up coke, I’ve been drinking more water, at work and home. I had a small glass of lemonade on my business trip while I was working (yes I realise this is sugar) but I could taste the sweetness in it and didn’t have another.

Again, I haven’t noticed the benefits I thought I would have from stopping the Diet Coke. My urine is a totally different colour now, being much clearer and not so neon (sorry was that too much information?). However, I am still as bloated as ever at times, which means after this sugar-free thing has finished, I’ll be going onto working out what my food intolerances are.

Another 14 days to go of the Sugar-Free Me. Why anyone had to organise Lent so close to Easter I’ll never know. I for one will be looking forward to a Cadbury’s Creme Egg, a proper British one, and a glass of water this Easter. And the knowledge that I survived this challenge, even if I didn’t blog about it as often as I should have. That’s a challenge I still need to work on.

Jogga-Blog is back!

While this blog is called 33 and Lost in Life, and you expect to hear the mumblings of a thirty-something as she stumbles her way through the journey of life, I have to be careful not to grumble too much. Suffering with depression, and now being off my anti-depressants (I’ll tell you about that another time) I am susceptible to bouts of downness. After a lovely weekend away with friends, I was particularly down at being back to reality. Yesterday as I headed home after doing some overtime at work and my weekly shop, I could feel the depression seeping in. My housemate was out, so the flat was deserted except for The Bish (my cat, Harry). I knew there would be trouble ahead if I didn’t do something.

So, after unpacking my shopping and feeding Bish, I donned my jogging gear and set out to run.

Something else I need to update you on is The Sugar-Free Me Challenge. I’m well into it now, and I promise a proper update today or tomorrow.

One thing I can say is that I’ve not lost weight. As I turned onto the main road, I felt heavier than I had when I jogged this route earlier in the year. This did not bode well.

However, after my initial misgivings, I managed to run for 13 minutes without stopping. I was most impressed with myself. I was out for a total of 25 minutes, and probably 5 of those in total spent walking (which admittedly seems like a lot now!).

When I got home, I felt like the cloud had lifted. Not totally gone, but put enough at bay to have some food and relax for the rest of the night.

I still want to blog about what’s on my mind, but not yet. They say that patience is a virtue. If I blog when I’m down it shows in my writing.

Yesterday on my commute to work, there was a fog over London. Between Acton Town and Chiswick park, there is a point where you can look east towards Central London and see the skyscrapers. I make sure I take a look most days as it reminds me that I live in London . This great city. I don’t see much of it apart from this West London bubble between Chiswick, where I work, and Ealing, where I live. Yesterday, the city skyline was obscured by the fog, but I knew it was there. Like the way out of depression, I know it is there, I just have to try to follow the path. I think I shall jog and blog my way of the fog…

Kitchen Sink or Swim?

Do you ever feel like you are drowning? So out of your depth that you wonder how much longer you can keep your head above water?

That is how I feel right now. As you know I’ve had money troubles since I literally ran out of money before Christmas, and it really doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Last weekend, I had a big fall-out with my housemate over house-matters. While we did kiss and make-up, it left us both examining our futures within the flat, and while she has decided that, for her, the best option is to stay put, for me, my only choice is to move to somewhere a lot cheaper.

By looking for a place to live where the rent is inclusive of the bills, I am confident I can find somewhere for £300 less than what I’m paying now. Right now I am being financially crippled for a mistake made out of impulsion, when I and my housemate evicted ourselves from a stressful situation in the flat we were previously in. Out of the frying pan, into the fire, so they say, and while the freedom I desired to feel at ease in my own home was given in shed loads here, the price I paid was a high one. The currency had an actual monetary value, which in turn has taken its toll on my health. As someone who doesn’t handle stress particularly well, I have struggled to keep my head above water in this material world we live in, and the idea that this will not change for the foreseeable future is what has prompted my itchy feet.

While I will be sad to leave the flat and even more my housemate, I need to have money to start paying off my debts, as well as being able to live without worrying (about that at least), and to be able to feed myself with a balanced, healthy diet. Having no money and already being a Diet Coke and chocoholic, I will always choose to spend my last few pennies on these. With the Sugar-Free Me challenge coming up in less than a fortnight, I hope that I have an opportunity to break the habits that are costing me my health and wellbeing, not to mention money.

So now all I have to do is find someone to take over my room, find myself a new place to live, and start managing my new-found extra money better. Moving (again) will be costly, so it’s a good opportunity for a clear-out of literally the baggage I have been moving from one place to the next the last decade or so, and to make some money. Baggage, in both its literal and metaphoric forms, do not make it easy to move on, as I have learnt more times than I care to admit.

Wish me luck, people. Seatbelts on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But hopefully, the car won’t be too overloaded this time round.

The Power of Positive Blogging…

Since my Woe is Me blog post this morning, I’ve been feeling much more positive about everything. In fact, at work this morning I have agreed to give up refined sugar for lent. And since that means I’ll be without chocolate or sugar in my coffee for 40 days…I might as well blog about the experience too. It’s been almost a year since my first (and only) blogging challenge started, “The Twelve-Week Challenge”, chronicling the final three months of my university degree and the journey to where the hell I would end up after that. Well, here I am, in hell at times, some might say, but London’s not so bad. Like me, it just needs to be given a chance. So look out for the sugar free me…