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.

Well today it’s my 35th birthday, although technically I wasn’t born for another 13 minutes.  I’ve just opened the pile of cards and pressies I’ve already received, before realising that, technically, I’m still 34, but hey ho, at least I waited til after midnight.  Saving cards and presents until the day of my actual birthday is something I’ve always been good at, much like not snooping around for Christmas presents in the run up to December 25th.  I like to enjoy my birthday, which is something not everyone is so keen on doing as they get older, but I always like my birthday.  Cards, presents and especially so much love sent my way is always so gratefully received.

Well I wish I could say that my birthday started off great, but I’m actually hungover, although it is only 1:53am, so maybe my hangover’s not official til I wake up in the morning.  So technically, I could still be drunk, although I’m feeling not so much drunk now, just sick and this heat is not helping.  (Sorry there’s a lot of “technicallies” appearing today, it seems to be my special birthday word.

As you can probably tell from the title of this, I’m now two years older than I was when I started this blog.  I had much encouragement from my former Life Coach Jon to change the title of the whole blog to something new to coincide with my move to London, and what I saw as a new chapter, or rather a new volume of my life.  I resisted, much like I resisted writing blogs for a long time after I moved.  Perhaps I was hoping that life would suddenly become the dream I had always wanted it to be, but deep down (or maybe even on the surface) I know that moving geographically doesn’t make all your problems go away, it just makes them less intense and puts a different perspective on them.  I would love to say that being 35 I am no longer lost in life, but that is just not true, four free glasses of rosè wine courtesy of the company I work for and their summer party, left me sitting on the kerb crying.  Yes, I know I’m a lightweight, and too much drink does have a tendency to do that to me, it always has.  I wonder if this is due to my depression, or whether I’m just one of those people who will always cry and get drunk after too much alcohol.

I had a birthday card from one of my good friends from back in Lincoln, Rachelle, who sent me a birthday card which read on the front “Breakfast After the Birthday Party featuring heavily: Aspirin, dark glasses and plenty of caffeine!”  and a picture of a girl looking much like me, dressed like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but instead of the cigarette in the long holder, she is holding a  glass of Aspirin and in front of her is the cup of coffee, and the rest of the bottle of tablets.  She is wearing dark glasses, but she is smiling, and there is one of those film-esque sparkles on the front of her Ray Bans.  I’m sure I won’t be dressed anything quite so glamorous when I head to work tomorrow, but I’m sure the sunnies will definitely feature, along with probably lots of cold caffeine in the form of Diet Coke.  Rach’s message was “hope you have a night to remember…but not too good, we know what happens when JMO gets too drunk!”  Yes, tonight wasn’t the first time I’ve made a drunken idiot of myself in front of work colleagues, but at least it was the first time in front of my new work colleagues.

I guess my forthcoming birthday has been a cause for some concern for a while, not just because its arrival signals the fact that my blog title is now at least half out of date, but because I will no longer be 34.  The psychiatrist I saw while I studied abroad in the States said that the thirty-crisis ends at 34, and told me that she met her husband at the age of 34 (some twenty years ago).  I guess I was hoping that this whole crisis would be over by today’s date, and yes, I prayed that I may have met Mr. Right by now.  That, I suppose, is the crux of my drunken tears, that I’m still single, and that I’m still searching for the ability to do what I want to do in life.  I know what I want to do, and that is to write, and this blog, and this blog post, is an excellent reminder that I am doing that in some form.  I guess the man thing will take a bit longer, but as everyone says, you have to love yourself before you can find someone else to love you.

I do have a lot of love for myself.  After all, I have been there through thick and thin, and it is only I that know truly what I have been through, especially these last few years.  I don’t know if I will ever be truly happy being single though, and I admire those who get to a point in their life where they are 100% happy being single.  As I discussed with my friend, Em, the other day, people always tell you it will happen when you aren’t expecting it, but when you are always expecting it, how can it ever happen?  Maybe that is why we are both single, although Em is a lot younger than me, but she is much like me at that age (and now) which is why we get on so well.

As I’ve discussed in this blog previously, the person I always believed, from the age of 11, to be “the One” turned out to be nothing but a figment of my imagination.  While he does exist in real life, the love I believed was between us was truly one-sided, spun out of many, many years of my depression.  This is probably one of the hardest things I have had to face up to over the last few years, being the huge romantic that I am.  I always wanted to believe that I had a soul mate, someone who was linked strongly to me and who had always felt that way.  My thirties brought about the realisation that this was not true, or at least, if I do have a soul mate, it is somebody that I have not yet met, because there is nobody else I have ever felt that way about.  I am glad to say that putting a hundred miles or so between me and that person has helped, because I am no longer surrounded by reminders and things that made me think of him, and every time I see a man of his profession, I don’t even think of him now.

My new life in London is just that; my new life.  It’s so new that I’m still settling into it.  It will take time to meet that special someone, but in a couple of months, when I’m more financially stable, I can afford to start putting the time and money into meeting someone (I’m not talking about a gigolo, in case you’re wondering).  So for now, I will try to get myself into looking physically better; losing weight, getting a tan (which is going fabulously with the hot weather we’ve been having here in the UK, and London officially reached “heatwave” status yesterday, although I still have too many white bits) and doing something with my hair, which for the most part resembles something like straw, my loose waves (although that’s a nice way of putting it) being the permanent reminder of the perms I had as a teen.  My job, while not being a particularly creative one (which is actually not too much of an issue for me right now), is giving me the chance to meet people, and settle into my new life.  In my mind I am writing, although the physical act of doing so is not quite so common.  However, the ideas are there, along with the inspiration, and my job is a reminder that if I want to be a writer, and to make money from my writing, then it will have to be in my own time.  But I’m cheered up by the fact that one of my favourite authors, Jodi Picoult, didn’t publish her first book until the age of 37, and now has a prolific back catalogue.  I am a firm believer that your thirties are a discovery of self, and despite their ups and downs, are that voyage over sometimes choppy seas.  I can’t see land ahoy yet, although I know I’m getting close, and the storms that threatened so much the previous years are subsiding, leaving much calmer water and a significantly smoother sail.  I suppose now it’s time to just drift, rather than steering towards a place the direction of which I do not know.

Anyway, I am now officially 35 years old, and while tomorrow may bring a hangover, it will also bring many happy returns.  It also brings a working day, so at 2:51am, I am signing off.  Good night world, and thanks for listening, as always.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 8

Today I held my breath as my phone rang, seeing the London area code pop up.  Finally! I thought.  A job!  Sadly, it wasn’t about a job, unless you count taking your clothes off in London’s Covent Garden in recompense for a fluffy white towel and some Nivea goodies as a job (I wouldn’t, but I might consider making a career out of it should I struggle to get work after I move down South).

About a week ago, I signed up to Nivea’s Dare to Dip campaign, which challenges women to take their first dip of the season in confidence, after a survey done by the brand suggested that more than half of British women fear getting their belly out in a bikini each summer more than baring all to a new partner*.

I can quite understand this.  Despite the confidence I’ve gained in myself over the last few years, I’m wary of the fact that I now weigh more than I ever have, and my pot belly, the product of too much Diet Coke and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), might give some to question when the baby was due, should I dare to don a two-piece.  As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I lost a stone and a half in six weeks due to stress a few years ago, and having felt great despite being vastly underweight, a different kind of stress has led me to comfort-eat and to pile the weight back on.  While I had no plans for being on a beach half-naked in the near-future, with my relocation to London taking priority over a holiday, it now appears that I will be needing do exactly this in the not-quite-so-exotic (or warm) Covent Garden in Central London.

Looking at bikinis today in the shops, my eyes wandered to a pair of pink “tummy-control” bottoms, and for the first time in my life, actually considered that I may have to buy them, as well as spend the whole time in Covent Garden next week breathing in (especially as there will be photos taken afterwards).

The long winter we’ve had here in the UK has meant that I’ve been able to cover up my body, insisting to myself that I’ll ditch the Diet Coke and eat healthy once I move to London.  But now the weather’s getting warmer, I want to start revealing my body parts to the sun, because I do look better with a tan, and also because I have two bottles of Hawaiian Tropic SPF 15 which have been collecting dust after my trip to Singapore got cancelled to save my academic career and give myself time to finish my dissertation.

The Dare to Dip campaign is encouraging women to bare their cossie-clad bodies to the world.  When I received a call today confirming my place in the 200 out of the 22,000 who had applied, I was asked why I wanted to take part.  I explained about my quarter-life crisis, about the last seven years being about finding who I am and not being afraid to show that person to the world.  To me, Dare to Dip is an extension of that; the person that I am will not only blog about things that others would refuse to even talk about, but to not be afraid to get out there in a bikini and show the world that this is me – I may not be perfect but this is who I am right now.

While there is a lot of pressure on women from magazines and other media – who hasn’t seen the features about stars with no make-up, or take a look at so and so’s cellulite – I believe that if you feel confident in your body, you will feel more confident in yourself.  When I weighed 8 stone 3, there’s no denying I felt slim and so much better, and having a tan I was even happy to forfeit make-up.  At 10 stone 4, I feel like a flump.

Having been a very shy girl at school, I’ve always been rather conscious about my image, and even with my make-up on and my hair looking its best, I still feel as though I look like everyone else without their hair and make-up done.  I can’t imagine ever feeling so glamorous that I feel like a million dollars.

Anyway, this wasn’t intended to be a self-pitying blog.  I want this opportunity that Nivea has given me to be a celebration of the fact that I am a woman, and that women sometimes need encouragement from other women.  While my blog is a focus for my writing, about the one thing I am an expert in – myself – I also want it to give hope to other women, who may not feel quite so brave about living life and pursuing their dreams.  I understand that, because for me, I was that person for a long time.  But now it’s time to change.  And not only time to Dare to Dip, but to Dare to…Be.


*To read more about the survey, click here:

Jogga-Blog No 3

It’s a beautiful day!  The sun is shining!  Why I am so happy?  I’ve been out for a jog, that’s why.  No, not job (not yet), but jog.

The other day I finally put batteries in my bathroom scales, hopped on and…when I finally picked myself up off the floor, decided that it really was time to do something about my weight.

As I’ve probably mentioned before on this blog, three years ago, I lost a lot of weight in just a few weeks.  I went from 10 stone 4 pounds (65.3kg/144lb) to 8 stone 3 pounds (52.2kg/115lb).  While it was stress-induced, I felt great, and even spending six months in America while studying abroad, where they do love their burgers and portion sizes, I returned with only an additional 3 pound.  Sometime between June 2011 and now, I’ve put on 2 WHOLE STONES.  When I stepped on my scales the other day, I was 10 stone 6.  My ideal weight for my height, 5 foot 6 inches (167.5cm) is 9 stone 10 pounds.

I have never weighed so much in my entire life.  Growing up I was always pretty underweight, and I liked it that way.  I know I’ve been piling on the pounds, but I guess I didn’t realise quite how much until I weighed myself.  It always goes to my stomach, and the amount of coke I drink, along with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) I suffer from, has always given me a belly.  Plus I’m a Cancerian, and they are apparently renowned for having pot bellies (I certainly can’t argue with that).

So this morning, I woke up, decided that today would be my first jog of the year.  Got dressed, put my Adidas London Marathon 2012 cap on (I’ve never run it, the cap was a freebie at a place I worked last year), strapped my iPhone to  my arm with Michelle Branch playing and took off on my route.

It was so warm out today that I knew I didn’t even need to wear a hoodie.  While that meant my belly was on full view to everyone, I didn’t really care, because even wearing my jogging outfit, I feel slimmer already.

I’ve been eating lots of fruit this week, and trying to drink more water, and less Diet Coke.  This healthy eating is going to continue, along with a decided effort to cut the crappy foods out.  I want to look great when I move to London.  Whereas the huge weight loss from three years ago was caused by stress, usually stress causes me to comfort eat, so this was rather a one-off.  To lose weight, get toned and look great, it’s going to take a lot of work, at a time when I already have a lot of other stuff to think about, but it’s time to kick this new me off with a bang.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 22

Last night I was talking to one of my friends on Skype, who happens to be a fellow blogger.  “Are you still torturing yourself with that twelve-week blog?” he asked me.

The reply was, of course, yes.  At times I do ask myself why on earth I challenged myself to write a blog a day during one of the most stressful times of my life.  Although considering I’ve not missed a blog yet (albeit there were a few late ones, but if you knew me, you wouldn’t be surprised at that), I think it’s been a pretty good challenge to do.  It would be very easy for me to get to the end of every day and not think about what I’ve achieved, or, what I haven’t achieved that day.  But this challenge has been good because forcing myself to reflect on what I have or haven’t done, means that I get to either pat myself on the back, or waggle a finger at myself and tell myself to get my arse in gear.

After yesterday’s blog, I sent off another job application.  It had been on my To Do list for a while, and I’m glad I got it sent off in time.  Today I have done some more research into jobs abroad, which has actually led me to find some more jobs to apply for in London.

The problem I’m having is that I’m still not quite sure where I want to be when I finish uni.  I hate living in England, mainly because of the weather.  Today was a sunny day, but still cold.  If we had a summer that started in April and was continuous through to September, and let me be specific – by summer I mean sunny AND warm – then I could probably cope with that, but even the warm spells are few and far between, and you can’t plan anything.  Not knowing what the weather is like from day-to-day just doesn’t suit me.  I want to know that it’s going to be sunny and warm every day.  Sadly, there is not one spot of the British Isles where this is the case, so, I need to look further afield.  My passport allows me to move within the EU, but obviously in most cases there is a language barrier, and these countries do seem to have a different way of life to the English-speaking ones.  Hence why Europe has never really appealed to me to as an alternative location to live.

The where-shall-I-move-to-question however is not just dependent on me.  I’ve mentioned this in my blog before, but I have a cat, Harry.  He’s twelve and a half years old, and I’ve had him since he’s a baby.  He’s pretty high maintenance (like his mother) and he depends on me; also, I depend on him.  Of course I get annoyed at him for waking me up at the ungodly hours that he does; living in rented accommodation does cause its own problems when you cannot just go ahead and put in a cat flap.  But I don’t know if I can leave him.  I never wanted to be one of those people who says they couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that because of their pets, but I really don’t know if I can leave him now.  Last weekend before I went to Whitby for the weekend, he knew the night before that something was afoot.  In the morning he wouldn’t settle and when I tried to put him outside to do his business before I left, he downright refused, and sat on my bed while scowling at me.  Next weekend I shall be away again, and I daren’t tell him I’m going away again!  Somebody asked me if I would go abroad if I didn’t have him; the truth is, yes I probably would.  But while part of me wants to go somewhere the sun shines year round, I don’t know if that is the best way to move forward with my career.  I’ve never had “a career” before.  I’ve had jobs but never anything that felt that important to me.  After the uncertainty of the last few years, I want to get a job, have some money coming in, a place to live.  I want to be settled.  I guess that’s why part of me feels like moving to London would be the right choice, because I could focus on all of those things, and Harry could come with me.  I’m not sure how much choice there will be for house shares/bedsits for people with pets, but I figure it can’t be that hard to find somewhere.  I guess ideally I would move somewhere hot, where Haribo could come with me, and I’d have my dream job in publishing.  But I know the chances of that are slim, if not completely unrealistic.

Sigh.  I seem to have gone off on a tangent here, so I’ll continue with the blog in hand.  I’ve done no uni work today; mainly for the reason that I’ve not felt too well.  I slept in until around 11am, had something to eat (a student’s breakfast of Diet Coke, a lemon bakewell and some digestive biscuits) then went to the shops and the supermarket with my housemates.  Not long after being out, I started to get backache, accompanied by a general unwell feeling (f I didn’t know better, I thought I was getting my period, although you’ll know from reading Day 21’s blog that I’ve been on my period for a week already).  We stopped in Morrison’s and had a late lunch/early dinner (it was around 2:30pm by this point) and I felt slightly better after food.  Around 6pm I started feeling sick and rather headachey, although this seem to be cured by a combination of food and paracetamol.  My housemate told me I am probably getting flu again; I hope not.  I am just about well again after the last bout of cold and don’t need any more!  But I do feel run down, so anything’s possible. Anyway, the point I was making, before I rudely interrupted myself, was that I had great plans for working this weekend; and all have been scuppered by not feeling 100%.  I’ve done nothing for uni this weekend, and with three weeks until my dissertation is due in this is not a good sign.

I’ll finish this blog here, because I have another one that I want to write before I get myself off to bed for a reasonably early night.  See you there.