Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sugar Rush

I really don't think I appreciate how much of my energy I get from sugar until I'm not getting it.

I am really, really struggling today. Not with food temptation - being back in the top half of 13st is enough to make me never want to eat again (slight exaggeration there, but you take my point). What I'm struggling with is actually keeping my eyes open!

It doesn't help that its really quiet in the office today. Everyone is engrossed in their work and nobody is talking much. We're on a pretty tight deadline (at some point I'll post about what it is that I actually do) so we're all focussed. Which is fine - good in fact. Gets the work done. But when you're in your own little bubble, staring at a screen and barely moving for hours on end...well, you can get a little drowsy. Particularly when you're not running on your usual tank of sugar.

Its not like I've been eating Mars Bars to get me through the day or anything like that, but I usually have some form of sugar intake in the morning that gives me a boost through to mid-afternoon. At which point, I'll have another one to get me through to the end of the day. Normally a cereal bar or something. I've been loving the Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars recently, and they are laden with sugar and 5pps a pack! And quite frankly, for 5 points, I'd rather have a Ripple. Am I right or am I right!?

In an attempt to perk myself up I've been mainlining caffeine since 6.30am. Tea, coffee, coke zero....If I could set up an intravenous drip of Vanilla Latte next to my desk then I would. (On that note, I have decided that I will now be foregoing my daily Skinny Latte (3-4pp, depending on the size) in favour of an Americano, which is a sweet sweet sweet 0pp. I always take 1pp out of my daily allowance for the milk I use in tea and coffee anyway, so any milk I use is covered.) Also, in the interest of not flipping out and killing somebody, there is a bar of chocolate on my desk. A dark chocolate KitKat. The whole thing is 7pps, but I'm not going to eat all of it. I'm eating 3 of the fingers for 5pp - the other one will be donated to a colleague or go in the bin. I am loathe to waste food, but I'm also loathe to use 7pps on a bar of chocolate. I also took one on the chin this morning in the name of skinny thighs and walked to the station rather than getting a lift - IN THE RAIN. I was soaked by the time I got there but its a 20-minute powerwalk up hill so I'm thinking I earned at least 1 activity point! I'm also going for a run this evening when I get home from work. I want to keep up the momentum of this newly rediscovered motivation, otherwise I'm liable to crash and burn. And nobody wants that!

Right...I suppose I'd better go do some work now...

Love to you all - I hope everyone is having a fantastic day in spite of the miserable weather!
Lauren xxx

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Final Push, Day 1.

I mentioned in my post yesterday (and the few before that too) that I'd hit something of a plateau. Well, thats not strictly true. If you want to get technical about it, I've gained. Quite a lot in fact.

I can point the finger at all the parties and celebrations over the last few months, the trips away, starting a new job, not having access to a gym...all of those things. And yes, they have all contributed. But they are not the reason that I've gained weight. 

The reason I've gained weight is really quite simple. I got greedy, and I got lazy. And now I've gained. In a couple of months I've gained the same amount that it took the previous six months to shift. It will probably take me another six months to shift it again. And who have I got to blame? Nobody but myself.

I woke up today with a new energy and motivation and determination to finally get there once and for all. Despite having gained, I'm still within touching distance of my goal weight and I'm determined to get there before the end of the year. My mum and I are starting to look into taking a trip to the West Coast of America in 2014 (California, Nevada (not strictly 'coast', but still West), maybe a little of Arizona), and while I know that its almost two years away, I am also painfully aware of how fast time flies when you're not looking. It feels like a week since I started Weight Watchers but its been two and a half years. I said I'd be at goal by now, but I'm not. To be honest, thats not the end of the world. To not get to goal at all...to fail at the last hurdle after all the times I said 'no' to dessert when I could have killed for a cheesecake, all the hours I spent sweating my guts out at the gym when I would rather have been on the sofa reading a book, all the times I half-bankrupted myself drinking full-price spirits when I could have got three alcopops or a pitcher of snakebite for practically the same price...to fail after all that...that would be the end of the world.

For the last two and a half years I've used the discipline of my weekly meeting to keep me on the straight and narrow, but with my finances the way they are at the moment I just cannot justify £20 a month on a monthly pass. Even when I'm getting paid, I think it will have to come to meetings vs gym. I'm lucky enough to have access to eSource (thanks to the lovely Lucy) but its the fear of getting on the scales in front of a leader that really stops me reaching for the biscuit tin. At the moment I haven't got that...but I have got you guys.

So here's how its gunna go, from now until the time when I am able to go back to meetings - or suddenly develop some self-control, whatever comes first. I'm going to weigh-in here, right on this very blog, with photographic evidence to document my success or failure of that week. Every Monday, come rain or shine, I will be hopping on those scales and sharing the results with you. If by 10pm on a Monday there is no weigh-in post from me, you have my permission - no, encouragement! - to harrass me until I 'fess up. Twitter, email, text, facebook, whatever does it for you. If I need to be shamed and publicly humiliated to do this, then thats what we'll do. I have come too stinkin' far to let it all go to waste now. We'll call today day 1, and take it from there.

So without further ado...time to 'fess up.

Ok, so I tried to upload the picture, and every time I do, it ends up looking like this:

I have NO idea why, but you can just about see the number on the scale right?! Right. That number. It makes me feel a bit sick to look at it. I am now up 13.3lbs from my lowest recorded weight of 12st 9.5lbs, and 18.8lbs above my (preliminary) goal weight of 12st 4lbs. 

My measurements are as follows:

Right upper arm: 12.5in
Waist: 32.5in
Hips: 43.25in
Right thigh: 25in 

I'll be updating my weight on here every week and my measurements every four weeks, and trying to check in a few times in between to help keep my focus!

And now, I must dash...all this working full-time stuff is exhausting!

Lauren xxx

Saturday, 28 July 2012

You Saand Like Yorrr From Laandaaan

Well aren't I a naughty little blogger!? I can't believe its been almost two weeks since I posted - shocking! There's been so much going on that I just haven't got round to it.

Last week I started my new job at Dorling Kindersley Publishing House - exciting isn't the word! I am a technical content assistant in the Picture Library, spending most of my day tracking down various bits of paperwork and making sure copyright and yadda yadda yadda is in order for the millions of pictures that DK have used in their books over the last few decades. Its only a six month contract but I'm hoping to do a bit of networking and get my name out there, and hopefully make some friends in other departments so that when my contract finishes I'll have some contacts in other departments - hopefully in ones like Publiclity, Marketing and Editorial, all of which are areas that I'm interested in. It helps that DK is owned by Penguin, which is in turn owned by Pearson, both of which have offices in the building that I'm based. Fingers crossed for making friends in the right places!

Other than that, there really hasn't been an awful lot going on for me. Oh the graduate life, its such a thrill...nottttt. Both Weight Watchers and exercise have been up and down - and more down than up if I'm honest. Starting a new routine is always hard for me, especially when it involves leaving the house at 7am and getting home anytime between 6pm and 7pm! Its also doesn't help that I can't afford a gym membership until I get paid, and that there is both a cafe and a restaurant in my building selling heavily subsidised goodies. I'm not too proud to admit that I succumbed to a slice of chocolate and raspberry cake on Friday afternoon. It. Was. Amazing. 

I know that I'm going to have to keep myself on the straight and narrow somehow though, particularly since my mum and I have started planning our next adventure - a two-week trip to the California and Nevada in 2014. Its almost two years away yet, but I know how fast the time goes and I can feel the lbs creeping back on. I'm painfully aware that I will always have to be careful about what I eat, and now that I'm starting a routine that I'm likely to be in for the next 10-15 years AT LEAST, I need to take steps to make sure it fits in with a healthy lifestyle. Starting with resisting the cake. Even if it is a taste of chocolate heaven....

One more thing before I go raid Netflix for some light entertainment - who watched the opening ceremony of  the London 2012 Olympic Games last night!? Wasn't it AWESOME!? I have been vehemently anti-Olympic since we got it in 2005 (we all know my love of sport...) but I definitely got caught up in it yesterday - I even went down to see the flame being rowed up the Thames with my colleagues. Our office backs on to Embankment Park (for those of you who have any idea what that is) so we're right on top of the river. It was amazing to see everyone out on the riverside to cheer it on its way, and even the cynic in me has to admit that Danny Boyle did us proud. It was just so....British. I love that we don't take ourselves too seriously (as evidenced by the 'Queen' parachuting in to the Olympic stadium) and that we celebrated the best of our country and heritage. As much as I am intrigued and fascinated by other countries and cultures (particularly North and South America and Canada), I am so incredibly proud to be British. Being British is fantastic. Not least because we have some of the best actors, writers and musicians the world has ever seen, but because we also have fish and chips, roast dinners, Cadbury chocolate, Victoria spongecake, Cornish Pasties, Cream Teas, and English Breakfasts. And that, my friends, is why I will always be just that little bit fat.

(I hasten to add that just because I watched the opening ceremony and saw the torch go down the Thames, does NOT mean that I will be obsessively watching sport for the next however many days or weeks. I might watch the gymnastics and the 100 meters, but other than that....what time is Castle on!?)

I will leave you now with the wise words of Mr Hugh Grant - because we all know that a quintessential Middle Class English man can't be wrong.

With love to you all, as ever
Lauren xxx

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Packed Lunch Weight Watchers Style

A few weeks ago the lovely Lucy over at Weight Watchers sent me a little care package of products to review. I was meaning to post this last week, after I made myself a packed lunch for work that was made up entirely of Weight Watchers products...but then in the excitement of graduation and everything else, I forgot.

I've been a massive fan of Weight Watchers products since I started the plan in 2010. Some of them can be a bit hit-or-miss, but for the most part I find the products to be of extremely good quality and fairly reasonably priced. I love the Weight Watchers mini Quiches, Bagels, Soups, and snack bars (which are unfortunately only available at meetings). There's also some mean wraps and sandwiches out there, which I'm beginning to see in more and more shops. Having the ProPoints Value there on the packaging is really convenient and means there's no nasty surprises. I've lost count of the amount of times I've seen 'low fat' (or other 'healthy' slogans) on packages, only to get it home and find that its insanely high in ProPoints!

I originally tried these when the old Discover plan was still in action, and I wasn't a fan. The old wraps seemed to fall apart at the slightest touch. I don't know whether Weight Watchers has changed the recipe since the new plan came in, or whether I just picked up a dud packet the first time, but they seem to be much better now. They're extremely good value for your ProPoints, as some other branded wraps can work out to be as high as 6 or 7 ProPoints each. When you're only working with 26 a day, using 7 on a wrap before you've even put anything in it can be a bit of a disaster! They're probably slightly smaller than most of the other wraps out there, but they're big enough for a decent lunch and they're tasty too. I had mine with some tuna mixed with a little mayo and some chopped red onion and pepper and topped with some wild rocket. I made in the night before and took it to work with me and the wrap didn't go soggy OR dry out, and some other bread-substitute products can do. I would definitely recommend these as an alternative to sandwiches or pitta bread. They'd also be great as part of an evening meal to make fajitas and so on.
(I should note that I didn't receive the wraps from Weight Watchers but bought them myself. Well, my mum did. But that is neither here nor there. I thought I'd include them as I was impressed by them and it fits in nicely with my packed lunch theme.)

Nacho Cheese Tortillas

Of all the products I was sent, these were the ones that I was most dubious about. In my humble opinion there are certain things that cannot and should not be made into 'low fat' versions, and top of that list is cheese. So when I see anything cheese related that says 'low fat' on the packaging, I balk. Fortunately these surpassed my (admittedly low) expectations! Lets keep it real here folks - they are never going to be as good as a packet of cheesy Doritos, but for 2 ProPoints I would never expect them to be. There is a decent amount in each pack and the flavour is actually very cheesy. I'm not a big crisp eater normally, but I liked having these in the cupboard and in my lunch box as an afternoon snack - it made a nice change from fruit and at only 2 ProPoints it didn't derail me either.

Ginger and Lemon Cookies
Normally the only baked goods I'm interested in are ones that have 'chocolate' in the name, but I absolutely love these! It seemed like a bit of an odd combination at first, but the lemon and the ginger works really well. I had them for my mid-morning break with a cup of tea and they definitely hit the spot. My only criticism would be that of the 6 two-packs of cookies in the box, 3 came out broken. That may have something to do with the fact that they had been posted to me and had probably been through the ringer in the back of Postman Pat's van, but it was still a bit annoying. Dunking your biscuit in a cuppa isn't quite the same when your biscuit is in sixteen parts.

Italian Red Grape and Pomegranate Cordial

First let me start by saying that I'm not a lover of fruit cordials anyway - in fact the only ones I like are the Robinson's Peach and Lemon varieties. That being said, its no surprise that I didn't like this product. I tried some at home when it arrived and wasn't a fan, but I persevered and took a bottle to work with me anyway in the hope that it would grow on me. It didn't. When I first opened the bottle I found that it smelled like un-mixed jelly - you know, the cubes that come straight out of the packet before you've mixed it with the hot water? Or vodka, if thats your thing! I thought that would go away when it was diluted but it didn't and I kind of got the same thing from the taste too. Its really quite strong and wasn't my thing at all.
All that being said and done, my mum and brother both really like it and proceeded to drink the entire bottle within a few days, so I think in this instance its a matter of personal preference. I will admit to the 0 ProPoints value being extremely alluring - I find myself drinking far too much diet coke because a lot of other drinks have higher ProPoints values and I get bored of water. If Weight Watchers decided to bring out another flavour of cordial - perhaps one that isn't quite so complicated and fancy-pants - I'd definitely give it a go.

Have any of you tried any of the products here? What did you think? All the opinions I've expressed here are my own, and once again a big thank you to Lucy for sending me these products. I'm hoping to share a couple of recipe reviews from the cookbooks I received over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that.

Lots of love,
Lauren xxx

Friday, 13 July 2012

Class of 2012.

I can't quite believe that its taken me this long to post an update about what was arguably the most important day of my life to date! After what can only be described as a tumultuous three years at the University of Kent, I graduated on Tuesday with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and American Literature with Upper Second Class Honours. I am officially Lauren Elizabeth Jones BA.

[Dress - Next
Shoes - New Look
Bracelet - Links of London]

It was a fantastic day that I was lucky enough to share with some of the most important people in my life. I managed to get two extra tickets for the ceremony, meaning that my Nan and Auntie were also able to come as well as my mum and dad. 

Proud Mummy and Daddy Jones before the ceremony

We went for a gorgeous lunch in Canterbury before the ceremony at a restaurant called Cafe Du Soleil, and then made our way to the venue - Canterbury's gorgeous cathedral. Its the oldest cathedral in the country and is literally one of the most stunning buildings I've ever been in, rivalled only by the chapel at the Tower of London. Say what you like about religion - those people knew how to build!

(I didn't get any photos of the front of the cathedral, so credit for this goes to my lovely friend Siobhan)

My ceremony was the last one of the day and took place at 7.15pm. The notoriously unpredictable English weather did, for the most part, hold out for us throughout the day, and there were only a couple of minor rain showers in the afternoon. After two months of grey skies and rain almost every day it was a relief to finally have some nice weather!

The ceremony itself was absolutely stunning as well - I loved the pomp and ceremony of it all! The music, the different gowns denoting which stage of academia you have reached, the wonderful surroundings. More than anything I loved the atmosphere! Even though at times it was slightly stressful, there was a real air of pride and happiness. Everywhere you looked there were proud parents and families, Graduands beaming under their silly hats and swishing their gowns, and just generally celebrating a fantastic achievement. The majority of people graduating - myself included - have spent their entire lives up to this point in education, and finishing our degree signifies the end of all that for most people. Some people are staying on to do Master's Degrees (JEALOUS), but most of us are entering the working world and I think that Graduation was the day that we all became truly appreciative of the fact that this is it now. This is real life, the real world. No more Student Loan payouts and a vast reduction in the number of mid-week hangovers that we'll be able to get away with. For me personally it means redefining the life I've built for myself over the last three years. People were always shocked when I said that Weight Watchers was as important - if not more so - to me than my degree, but that they don't understand is to me the two go hand in hand. Had I not joined Weight Watchers when I did I never would have got to the end of my degree and been able to celebrate the day with my wonderful friends and family. Likewise if I hadn't gone to university, I probably never would have found the motivation to do something about my weight. Now university is done, and I have to find a way to amalgamate Weight Watchers with living back at home with my family. I haven't quite got there just yet, but I will. Its a work in progress, but eventually I'll nail it. 

All in all it was a beautiful - albeit slightly exhausting - day. The majority of my closest friends all graduated on Tuesday as well, so even though some of them weren't in the same ceremony as me I still got to see them.  I don't think I realised how much I missed them until I saw them again - especially my boys. Special thanks goes to them for quite simply being the most incredible housemates and friends that anybody could ever ask for. Despite my initial hesitation and the fact that stuff got slightly complicated towards the end (which, in fairness, was my fault) I had a fantastic year living with them, and its safe to say that hangovers will never be the same again without our morning-after debriefings and Team Breakfasts at Beano's cafe. 

60% of the fittest house Canterbury ever saw

Me, Nikki and Emma before the ceremony.

My #1 girl
Me and the lovely Miss Britta Sanderson

Lit girlies - me, Liz, Nikki, Emma and Sellisha

Katie and I on our post-Graduation night out

Finishing my time as a student the same way I started it - pint of Snakebite in hand. The only difference being I'm almost 7st lighter than I was when I arrived in September 2009.

[Top and bag - Dorothy Perkins
Shorts - Tall @ Topshop
Wedges - ye old and faithful New Look]

Not going to lie - I'm feeling a bit emotional after writing that and looking at those pictures. I had an absolutely fantastic day that was the icing on top of an incredible three years at university. To my family I owe many thanks for all their support and encouragement, as well as the occasional lending of money and sending of food items. To all the fantastic friends with whom I share so many superb memories and with whom I hope to create many more - thank you for making my time at university as wonderful as it was. Most importantly, to the University of Kent - thanks for having me.

UKC 'til I die.

With love,
Lauren xxx

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Weigh-In Wednesday

A quickie from me tonight folks! I don't think I mentioned it on here (kind of an oversight on my part, but hey ho) but last week I went and 'joined' my local Weight Watchers meeting in Essex. It has absolutely NOTHING on my old Wednesday morning meetings in Canterbury, although in fairness that has nothing to do with the leader/helpers/members, and everything to do with the location and time of the meeting. Its in a much smaller hall, and is at 7pm on Wednesday evenings, meaning that if you choose to stay for the meeting you won't be getting home until gone 8pm. Obviously most people don't want to eat their dinner before they weigh, and 8pm is quite late for dinner for some people so my guess is that the majority of members just weigh and go. ANYWAY, the shortcomings of the meeting are neither here nor there (and in fairness no meeting will ever live up to the St. Stephen's meeting anyway) because I LOST 4LBS THIS WEEK!!

Such a great loss (if I do say so myself) is exactly what I needed to get my head back in the game after an iffy few weeks. I'm looking forward to another week of pointing and tracking and hopefully seeing a decent loss next week as well - although with my Aunt's 50th party, my graduation meal and night out, AND my brother's 16th birthday between now and my next weigh-in I highly doubt it will be quite as good as this weeks! I'm planning to carry on with C25K and hopefully squeeze in a couple of other workouts as well, and other than that I'll just make wise choices where I can and not sweat it too much if I go over points - I know that I'll be drinking my points on graduation night anyway, but as its arguably one of the most important days/nights of my entire life I don't see too many reasons to worry about it. Besides, I'll be too busy basking in the wonder of graduating in a size 12 dress!

Thats all from me for tonight folks - for once in my pathetic unemployed life I have to get up at a reasonable hour tomorrow (to go to the Job Center for a 'careers advice' appointment - hellooo, I don't need advice on my career...I just need someone to employ me!) so I'm hitting the sack!

Hope everyone is having a brilliant and on-plan week - has anyone else had any successes on (or off!) the scales this week!? Let me know if you have :)

Lots of love,
Lauren xxx

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

C25K - Take 1,000,000

I've mentioned trying out the Couch to 5k program a couple of times, but I've never managed to see it through past the first couple of weeks. The truth is that I'm never going to be one of these (insane) people who love exercising and have a real passion and zest for it. That being said I have come to accept the importance of exercise and have grudgingly conceded that if I want to get to my goal weight and stay there its something that I'm going to have to incorporate into my life 3-5 times a week.

Enter Couch to 5k.

For those of you who don't know (which I'm sure is nobody because its pretty much the gospel of most weightloss bloggers), C25K is a 9 week training program aimed at those who have never run before. The plan alternatives periods of jogging/running with walking to gradually increase stamina and fitness and claims to have you running 5k (or for 30 minutes) without stopping in 9 weeks. I've heard a lot of great reviews and seen a lot of bloggers who have successfully completed the program. Even my dad has given it a shot and was running 5km in the gym three times a week until just recently. (He has now given up his gym membership in favour of a fancy-pants new bike, and is cycling 75 miles from London to Brighton in September to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. You know things are bad when your 50-year-old father is in better shape than you are.)

Anyway, back to my point. I know that at this stage in the game exercising regularly is going to be the key to losing the last few lbs and keeping them off. As well as that, one of the items on my '21 Before 22' list was to complete a 5km run. And as I no longer have access to a gym since moving home and becoming a poverty stricken unemployed graduate, now seemed as good a time as any to have another bash at C25K. So thats what I did.

As of yesterday I have completed the first week of the plan - without too much trouble. When I was in good habits at the gym a few months back (before exams and my trip to NY messed it all up) I was running for 10-12 minutes at a time without stopping (sounds like nothing but a huge achievement for someone who previously couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without breaking a sweat!). Obviously running on a treadmill is vastly different to running outside so I don't think I could have done that on the road at the time anyway, but its also amazing how quickly your fitness decreases when you're not exercising regularly and maintaining that routine. I tried to mix things up in the gym to stop myself getting bored, so sometimes it would be two weeks between 'big' runs. I'd be doing classes, swimming and other workouts in the meantime, but running is definitely a whole different ball game and requires regular specific 'training' sessions as it were if you want to build up your fitness and stamina. (Because I am clearly a real expert). I had no trouble running for a minute at a time for the week one workouts, except when I had to go uphill - and even then it was doable. I also made the extremely wise decision to download the NHS Choices C25K podcasts, which have definitely made it easier. Before I was going it alone, so I spent most of the time checking the stopwatch on my iPod to see when I had to start or stop running. I wasn't really concentrating on what I was doing and definitely wasn't putting my all into it. The podcasts tell you when to run and when to walk and they're set to some great tracks as well - I'd definitely recommend them if you're interested in starting the plan. They're available for free from iTunes.

I'll be starting week two of the plan tomorrow, and have decided that once I've completed it and can run 5k without stopping then I will treat myself to some new (read: decent) running shoes. The ones I have now are fine and they do the job, but I'd like some that are a little more specific to running and are a little...well...prettier. There. I said it.

I'll be updating weekly to let you all know how I'm getting on with the plan, and hopefully in eight weeks time I'll be able to cross another item off my '21 Before 22' to-do list!

Hope you're all having a good week so far!

Lauren xxx