Tuesday, 30 October 2012

If You Bite It, Write It.

I've lost count over the years of the amount of times people have asked me 'whats the secret to your success?' (they are talking of course about my weight loss, because the extent of my success in any other aspect of my life is being able to get myself out of bed in the morning without a fire drill and a bucket of cold water thrown over my head).

I have several key pieces of advice for anyone who asks me this question - or anything weight loss related in general. First of all I usher them closer to me, bow my head towards them, and talk in hushed tones. Because its a secret (it really isn't, but I have a flair for the dramatic, what can I say?).

My first piece of advice is this - you have to do it for yourself. My previous half-arsed attempts to lose weight before joining Weight Watchers in 2010 were for all the wrong reasons, and predictably they didn't last. I often didn't even see the day out. You can tell yourself you'll lose weight for your kids, your partner, whatever reason you want to give, but until you're doing it for you its not going to stick. IMO, anyway.

My second piece of advice is not to deprive yourself. I can't think of a single day since I started Weight Watchers (and subsequently lost over 6st, lets keep that in mind) that I haven't eaten chocolate. And there is nothing wrong with that. I like chocolate, and if I want to eat chocolate every day then I will. Mostly its a Weight Watchers bar of some kind, occasionally I will splurge on a Galaxy Ripple or a Cadbury Picnic. Don't try to cut out the things you love and enjoy - whether it be chocolate, a glass of wine, crisps or a can of full-fat coke every now and again. Find the ProPoints/Calories/Syns/etc to enjoy a little of what you love, because not only will it stop you from going completely insane, falling off the wagon and emptying an entire vending machine into your gob when the cravings get too much, but you'll also come to enjoy it so much more when you know you're 'allowed' it.

My third, and arguably most important, piece of advice is this.

If you bite it, write it.

That is, tracking. Keeping a food diary or journal. I know for a fact that anyone who has ever set foot in a Weight Watchers meeting or ventured onto the website has had the importance of tracking extolled to them long and loud. I'm not sure how it works on other plans, but I'm pretty sure there is an almost universal agreement when it comes to weight loss, that keeping track of what you eat (and by that I mean keeping a physical record of what goes into your body, not just keeping track in your head) is key to success. Obviously it allows you to see just where you are with your food intake that day - do you have a few spare points or some extra calories for aforementioned Galaxy Ripple? Or will a Weight Watchers Rich Toffee bar have to cut the mustard? (Incidentally, everyone buy a box of Dark Rich Toffee bars at their next meeting. This is an order.) I find without tracking I tend to overestimate the points I have left and end up overeating just because I think I can. When its in black and white in front of you it changes your mindset somewhat. It holds you accountable. When its all in your head you can push it to the back, to some dark recess of your mind where you don't have to acknowledge that you used 20 points on biscuits. A 'I won't tell if you won't' situation with yourself. Having those 20 points written down in front of you not only allows you to keep track of your points but also your behaviour around food. It helps to acknowledge and address those issues.

Another huge benefit of tracking effectively is being able to check back to certain days or weeks whenever you want to for inspiration. I've been looking to old trackers a lot recently for meal ideas. When I was at university I cooked for myself every night, but since I've been home mum has done the majority of it. While her cooking isn't unhealthy as such, its not always particularly ProPoints friendly (think shepherds pie, stews, all those wholesome hearty family meals that are so delicious, and yet so hard to point properly). Sometimes its just easier to cook for myself, and having my old trackers has been really helpful in reminding me what of the sort of meals I used to make when it was just little old me that needed feeding - nothing particularly thrilling but after six months of not really cooking for myself I found it a real struggle to remember what I used to eat. (Uni seems so long ago already...woe.)

Tracking isn't just limited to the Journals from Weight Watchers meetings either - in fact I hate the Journals that they have at the moment because they seem to fall apart after about week 4 (they're supposed to last for 12 weeks...yeah, right) so I've invested it an adorable little Paperchase notebook to keep track of my points. This is also a lot more subtle than dragging out a tracker that has 'Weight Watchers' emblazoned on the front (not that I care, but I know others do.) I prefer to handwrite my tracker, but I know others (my friends Liz and Nikki, for example) swear by the online tracker on eSource - which is available on iPhone, iPad and Android, but still not BlackBerry....Sort it out, Weight Watchers! There are also Clickers available, for checking off points as you use them if you haven't got time to write it down (essential on nights out for the 45 minutes that I'm sober enough to remember how to use it) and if all else fails there's your phone. I've been known on many occasions to open a new note  on my phone and use it to write down what I've had to eat or drink, so that I can write it into my tracker later in the day. Lets face it, we all spend most of our time tapping away at our phones these days anyway - its not like taking two minutes to make a record of your 8th pint is going to make a difference!

Aside from all the keeping yourself accountable stuff my favourite - and I do mean my absolute favourite - thing about tracking, is seeing how far you've come. I still have my very first tracker book somewhere - harking back to the old school Discover Program - complete with arm, waist, hip and thigh measurements. I think of my old trackers in a similar way to how I think of this blog - in the same way that I look back at this post to see how excited I was about reaching the -3st milestone, I can look back at old trackers and try to remember what it felt like to have a waistline thats over a foot wider than it is now. Sometimes its difficult to visualise yourself as that person - or as the person at the goal weight - but having it down in front of you in black and white really helps keep things in perspective and reminds you how far you've come.

Whats your favourite way to track?

With love,
Lauren x

P.S Since I first drafted this post a few days ago I've not been tracking religiously, and I know feel bloated and disgusting and am estimating a gain of around 2lbs - just goes to show that it works, and that I need to practice what I preach!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bants in Cants

This past weekend I made a pilgrimage down to mecca of Canterbury for a long overdue catch-up with some of the besties. There is a commonly held belief that 'you don't know what you've got til its gone' - this definitely applies to my relationship with and general love of Canterbury. I have always loved the city, in fact that played a large part in my decision to study at the University of Kent, but it wasn't until I was dragged out of the calm picturesqueness of 'Cants' and thrust into the hustle and bustle of London life that I really appreciated what a gorgeous little city it is. Its teeming with history and has parts that are very 'oldy worldy' for want of a better phrase - particularly in the streets surrounding the cathedral. It also has awesome shopping and what counts as a fairly reasonably nightlife for such a small city. And awesome restuarants. And the best Weight Watchers meeting IN THE WORLD EVER. (I must just say here, huge congrats to my ex-leader Jen for becoming a triple diamond Weight Watchers Leader. Nobody deserves it more!) I mean, come on. Whats not to love??

I toddled down to Canterbury on Friday night and came home Sunday afternoon. It was an awesome weekend and just what I needed after a stressful couple of weeks. I don't have any close friends where I live, so going down to see Nikki, Liz and Natalie felt like the first time in forever that I'd been able to have a real girly catch-up with friends. On Friday night Nikki and I stayed in, watched horror films, drank wine, ate homemade sweet and sour chicken (which is amazing and I now have 'torture S+S recipe out of Nik' on my to-do list) and spent hours chatting with her (hilarious) housemates. We had a lazy day on Saturday before getting ready to head out for dinner and drinks with Liz and Nat. As the girls are all fellow Weight Watchers (to the best of my knowledge we have lost about 17st between the four of us) eating out together isn't a huge issue for us. We had all agreed that we weren't going to stress hugely about points because we wanted to enjoy our meal and eachothers company without 'have I got enough weeklies left for dessert' ruining anyone's mood. We ended up at a great little restaurant called Cafe Des Amis which none of us had been to before, despite all having originally moved to Canterbury in 2009. I wouldn't say the food was exactly Weight Watchers friendly, but it wasn't hugely naughty either - and I can't fault the service or the meal. Nat and I shared the paella and it was incredible.

After we'd eaten we grabbed a drink in town and then Liz and I headed to a house party on campus, where I got to know her housemates and friends some more. I FORGOT HOW MUCH FUN STUDENTS ARE. A lot of MA students are international so I spent the night chatting to people from all over the place and absolutely loved it. My work isn't exactly sociable at the moment (its very deadline and target oriented so we're pretty much chained to our computers all day) and there are only so many interesting and intellectually stimulating conversations you can have with your family when two of them constantly have their faces in the PlayStation and the third would rather talk to the dog. This felt like actual human interaction and I was loving getting to meet people that I otherwise wouldn't have got the chance to speak to.

My girl <3 i="i">

Pulled pork nachos...omnomnommm

Paella....even more nomnomnom

Fat club reunion with Liz, Nikki and Natalie

New friends

 Make Love Not War

Top: Topshop
Skirt and boots: New Look
Leather jacket (as seen in above photo): Borrowed stolen from mum

The weekend was topped off with a hangover McDonalds on Sunday afternoon (woops) and an invitation to go back in a couple of weeks for a Hallowe'en house party at Nikki's. Its two weeks away and I am already ridiculously excited. I need to get a life.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Where Are My Knees? Ten Week Pledge

As I'm sure most of you are aware by now, us wonderful ladies and gent over at Where Are My Knees? are running a ten week pledge. Yesterday marks ten weeks to Christmas Eve - what would you like to achieve by then?? I myself have pledged to lose 15lbs - an ambitious feat and yet achievable nonetheless. I hope. Dinner at TGI's followed by a post-cinema McFlurry may have hampered my efforts somewhat but its bad form to order salad on a 'date' (social butterfly, what can I say!?). Your pledge doesn't have to be directly related to the number on the scales - lots of people have pledged simply to go to the gym three times a week, or to cut out sugary drinks and so on and so forth. And its not too late to join in the fun! Just hop on over to WAMK and tell us what you want to achieve before Christmas Eve. Just by committing to the pledge you can enter to win a pair of Zaggora 2.0 hotpants (unfortunately this post doesn't count towards me winning another pair for myself...boo hissssssss) and you have the added benefit of having all of us along for the ride. If ever you feel like you're struggling you can just hit up the WAMK Team with an email or use the #wamkpledge hashtag on Twitter to get chatting to fellow pledgers. So what are you waiting for?

One more thing - if your pledge does happen to be fitness related, you should also check out out Get Fit Feel Epic competition as well, for a chance to win £150 worth of fitness gadgets and goodies.

We're just too good to you lot, aren't we?

Much love!
Lauren xxx

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Ok so I finally got cool and signed up to bloglovin'...I have no idea how to use it mind you but the effort was there! If anyone has any handy hints or tips for finding my way round then hit me - until then, get following!

Lauren xxx

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Monday, 8 October 2012

A Lesson In Self-Worth

Sometimes the most effective lessons are the ones you didn't realise you needed to learn. I had just one such lesson recently.

Some of you, particularly those of you who follow me on Twitter, have probably noticed that I can come across as somewhat jaded and cynical when it comes to men and relationships. Those of you who haven't noticed obviously haven't quite grasped the nuances of sarcasm. Its ok folks, its never too late to learn. My cynicism and often vitriolic abhorrence of 'conventional' relationships and the male kind in general is not just reserved for the internet either, in fact my mother often asks how I got to be such a cynic at such a young age. Just for clarification, this is the woman who frequently urges me not to have children, but to just 'get a dog instead' as they are much less hassle, and has also been known to encourage me into lesbianism because men are all a pain in the arse. And my cynicism shocks her.

There is a reason for my negative outlook on relationships. My first (and, truth be told, only) serious boyfriend spent almost three years making my life exceptionally difficult and unpleasant. Every mind game in the book, he played it. I won't pretend that I was all sweet and innocent and butter wouldn't melt - a lot of the time I gave as good as I got. But he was older and so painfully out of my league that I would have done anything to hold on to him. It wasn't really until I went away to university that I broke the holding pattern and started to realise that I wasn't defined by our relationship anymore. (He is now desperately unhappy and is stuck in a dead-end job and an even deader-end relationship. Not that I'm keeping score.)

As well as my introduction into the wonderful world of relationships (<sarcasm) being sorely lacking, the fact that I have divorced parents has also played no small part in my opinion of the matter. I don't remember my parents ever being together as a couple, and even though they are both now with new partners - my dad remarried in 2004, my mum has been with her partner for 13 years - their subsequent relationships have also been somewhat rocky. They will probably be pissed at me for putting that on the internet. Whatever, its true. Its coloured my opinion of the matter. A lot of people aspire to a relationship like their parents or grandparents, which is fine if they had that sort of relationship to start with. Mine...not so much. 

So thats where my cynicism comes from. And as a result I've had a series of unhealthy, unhappy 'relationships' since I was 18, with a variety of guys who have been so eye-wateringly bad for me that it often beggars belief. My best friend fancies herself as something of a psychologist (she did a module at college once or something) and seems to think that I deliberately go after unattainable men because I know it can never go anywhere and therefore cuts out the middle man. Her argument does carry some weight - as a brief example I will draw your attention to the teaching assistant at my school (yes, I was still a student), the guy who lives 3500 miles away, and the good friend who also happened to be hopelessly in love with someone else. That last one is a personal highlight.

This has been the pattern over the last few years - I have brief, meaningless flings that quickly disintegrate. I wallow for a few days, eat too much chocolate, curse the world, and then I get over it. And to me, that was ok. I wasn't interested in anything more than that. I looked at all the couples around me and I couldn't see a single relationship that I would want to be in. I watched friends' boyfriends come and go and took part in the ritualistic break-up process of girls in their late teens and early twenties - that being, cry, spend a lot of money, get drunk, repeat. Every time I got a text from a friend lamenting the most recent relationship fuck-up, I thought to myself 'thank God I'm single.' Many out there will say I didn't mean it and that I was in denial and trying to convince myself that I was happy the way I was. Maybe you're right, but to be honest I have no idea. All I know is that I was perfectly content with my string of meaningless flings and encounters. This continued all the way through university and most of this summer, and I saw no reason to change my habits or address my behaviour. I was having fun, I was young free and single and I finally had a body that I could be proud of and that could turn heads for all the right reasons (not that it particularly mattered anyway because I still seemed to meet people even at my biggest - obviously not all men are as shallow as we give them credit for!). I had every intention of continuing as I was. 

And then there he was.

Why is that they always sneak up on you? Jude Law might have made a terrible Alfie, but there is one thing he got right - 

'It seems to me, the problems you worry yourself sick about never seem to materialize. Its the ones that catch you unexpectedly on a Wednesday afternoon that knock you sideways.'

Ok so it was a Saturday evening, but the same principle applies. I did not go out that night with the intention of meeting someone. In fact I very nearly didn't go out at all. And at first when there was a flirtation and a frisson of attraction I put it down to the unattainable man syndrome - because he also happens to be a friend of aforementioned ex. (This is all getting rather angsty now, isn't it? Sorry!) For the first few days I wasn't sure whether or not I was interested, but I decided to give it a shot - fully expecting it to become just another episode in the aforementioned series of 'relationships'. Imagine my dismay when I realised I actually liked him! And worse - that he actually seemed to like me! As a general rule the guys I see have a polite disinterest in anything I say and do - a sentiment I share for the most part. But this was different. He took an interest in everything I said and even went so far as to ask my opinion on things, thus acknowledging that I am a human being capable of rational thought. I gave him ample opportunity to get in my pants and he didn't take it because he 'didn't want to rush things'. I know what you're all thinking, and no, he wasn't gay. So there we have it - an attractive, intelligent guy who seemed to genuinely enjoy my company and want to spend time with me. Was this me finally breaking the unattainable man habit?

No. Of course it wasn't.

Because while he was all of the wonderful things above, he also worked/works (I keep using the past tense which is incorrect because he's not dead) every hour God gives and wants to focus on his job. His suggestion...a 'friends with benefits' arrangement. 

Once upon a time I would have jumped at the chance, and I very nearly got sucked back into the whole habit again. This time though, something was different. This time I was very aware of the voice in the back of my head that was telling me 'you deserve more than that.' Normally when I hear voices in my head saying shit like that its my mother or my friend Emma, and they're very easy to talk over. This one, however, sounded a lot like me, and no matter how much I tried to convince myself that a Friends With Benefits situation was exactly what I needed, I couldn't quite drown out that voice. There's a saying that 'you don't know what you've got til its gone, but you also don't know what you've been missing until it arrives.' I'm not sure whether the new-found sense of self-respect came from an increased confidence just from looking and feeling better about myself, or whether it came from actually having someone take an interest in the way this guy did. I think it was probably a bit of both - meaning in a way, he did himself out of a fuck buddy just by being a good guy. Which I think is kind of nice...or is that me still being really cynical and mean-spirited? I can't really tell anymore. 

The gist of what I'm trying to say here (in a classically long-winded and roundabout way) is don't sell yourself short - whether it be in relationships, work, or any other aspect of life. It takes a lot of strength to be able to acknowledge your own self-worth, and it takes even more to go out there and get what you deserve. For years I shaped my behaviour around a preconceived notion of relationships and men in general. I have not suddenly turned into a hopeless romantic who dots her i's with little love hearts and daydreams about Mr Right. I still don't believe that there is such a thing as a perfect guy or a perfect relationship for me. What I am willing to acknowledge though, is that just because a relationship will never be perfect, thats no reason for it never to happen in the first place. And what I am absolutely willing to acknowledge is that I have more to offer of myself than I have ever been willing to give away before. It took a chance encounter, a few dates, several hundred texts, a good few hours on the phone and a whole lot of thought and examination for me to realise that.

Don't let the demons of your past dictate your present and destroy your future. You deserve to be happy, healthy, slim, successful, appreciated, loved. Acknowledge that you are deserving of all those things. It might not happen overnight. It might take days, weeks, months, years for you to fully realise that you have as much right to those things as anyone else. Acknowledge that you are worthy of health, happiness and love.

Then go out there and get it.

With love, as always,
Lauren xxx

Friday, 5 October 2012

WI Update and Leamington Blogger Meet

Seriously, how has it taken me so long to post this...?! I really need to get my priorities sorted out and start scheduling time in for blogging because I am utterly crap recently.

Ok, first off - my first week back on Weight Watchers after my summer hiatus was a huge success - 5lbs off! I think it may have had something to do but the week before being 'that time of the month' (sorry, overshare) but whatever, I'll take it. It was exactly the boost I needed to keep focused. I then weighed in this morning with a loss of another 1.5lb so I'm a happy bunny!

Unfortunately my social life does not like me being focussed on Weight Watchers and is determined to throw as many obstacles in my way as possible! I've written before about the weight loss/socialising issue...how the more weight you lose, the more you want to socialise, the harder it is to lose more weight because you're always out eating and drinking...yeah, you know what I'm getting at. Its a huge pain in the arse but I'm a firm believer that life comes before Weight Watchers, and that I didn't slog my guts out for the last two years just to sit alone in my room because I'm too scared to gain a few lbs. So I go out, and I drink too much, and I order what I want off the menu because GOD DAMMIT if I don't deserve to have fun and enjoy myself. Ok so maybe I shouldn't be enjoying myself four or five times a week, but still....

Anyway. On Saturday I hopped into my little car (who is called Pebbles not only because she is a Polo and I like alliteration, but also because she is a Flintstone car. J Reg people. J. The car is only a year younger than I am) and poodled off up the M1 for the Leamington Blogger Meet, where I  consumed more cake than I thought possible in one 24 hour period. We also went to Wagamamas and went on a mini bar crawl around town - my sort of weekend! It was the first blogger event I've ever been to and it was so good to meet everyone - particularly my fellow WAMK members! Special thanks goes to Sarah for organising the weekend and taking us to all the best places around town. It definitely helps to have a local in-tow when you're visiting a new place!

(Speaking of WAMK, have you guys all met Chris?? He's our newest member and is also a BOY-TYPE-PERSON. I know right?? A guy that talks about recipes and exercise and weight loss and stuff, and not just about football and who is fitter out of Tulisa and Cheryl Cole (blates Cheryl). I was shocked too. But seriously though, go say hello and introduce yourselves, and if any of you out there have a boy-type-person who is looking to shed a few lbs and get fit then point them in Chris's direction. After losing 7st on Slimming World, he definitely knows his stuff.)

I took quite a few photos over the course of the weekend, but some of these are Gem's and Kim's. Appropriate credit has been given!! Beware, I am about to go from talking about WAMK and weigh-in to photos of so much fattening stuff you may gain a few lbs just looking at them.

Sarah's amazing Victoria Sponge cake! Photo courtesy of Gem.

We stayed in a super fancy Travelodge that the Queen used to stay in when she visited the Spa! Obviously it was not a travelodge then... me, Gem, Kim, Sarah, Rosie and Katy (this is one of Kim's!)

Wagamama's! Sarah, Aisling, Kim and Rosie.

Group shot with Aisling, Sarah, Rosie, Katy, Kim, Char, Me and Hannah. Another one of Gem's.

Aisling and Sophie busting some moves to Baby Got Back

Afternoon tea at Vinteas!

Died and gone to heaven...

I had an amazing weekend and it was really fantastic to meet everyone - can't wait to do it again in Cardiff in January!