Smells like Krav spirit…or is that sweat?

How in the world do you blog about a group of people who have quite literally changed your life?
13606656_10156979276515411_756404044872232427_nI wasn’t going to write this just yet.  I’m not 100% sure why, exactly.  I have a few reasons I guess, I wanted there to be more of a change in me, I wanted to make sure I stuck at it for an extended period of time and I wasn’t convinced that eight weeks was enough time to gauge, well, anything really.
Plus? Let’s just throw it out there now, but when it comes to talking about my amazing little Krav family? I get hit square in the feels (as long as it’s not the jaw, right?)

But, my time here in Houston is drawing to a close over the next couple months, and this new lifestyle and these new people have already had such a profound impact on my life, I thought “screw it”.  I figure that there’s really no harm in sharing this new chapter of my life on this blog.  Especially considering that the mental changes within myself, far outweigh any current visible, physical changes.  I’ve even gone so far as to have already looked up somewhere to continue my training when I go home, and Col has looked for somewhere in India.

I officially have “the bug”.
13516350_10156973497185411_7002291917759849473_nOn Thursday, May 5th, (so just over a month ago as I start to write this), I, in what felt at the time, like a moment of utter insanity, drove North of the city to try a free Krav Maga class.  I didn’t know much about the self defense system, other than it was more instinctual and less “organized”, than say, Tae Kwon Do, and really a little more akin to street fighting even.  So, off I went.
I got there a little early so I could watch the end of the previous, intermediate/advanced class, train and had I listened to the not-so-quiet voice screaming loudly in my ear to think again about what in the name of all that is holy I thought I was doing, I’d have bolted.  Part of me wanted to.  Not a small part either.  There was absolutely no way in hell I could ever do what those people were doing, right? But they’d all seen me come up the stairs, there was no escape – believe me, I considered it.
Hold up.  Let’s rewind a little, we all know that I’ve posted any number of fitness, weight loss, or healthy eating posts since I started this blog.  I’ve yoyo-ed the same 10lbs for years and my self-image hasn’t ever been stellar.
I abhor exercise.  Despise it.  I’ll leave a collection of things on the stairs that needs taken up, because I’m just too out-rightly lazy to add an extra flight of steps into my day.

And then something clicks.

It’s the same process every time, right?
I’ll get so sick of seeing my reflection in the mirror and I’ll hit something full pelt.  I’ll eat 1600 (-1800) calories a day (GP approved before any of you give me grief), drink 2 liters of water, eat 5 a day and start some form of exercise, Les Mills Body Attack or C25K have been the most notable favourites to date.  I’ll go 3-5 times a week, give my all, and after the first week or two of quick body-shock progress, eating like a hangry ankle-biting rabbit and working out more than any sane person should, in my lazy land of couch potato, I’ll hit some dumb plateau, the scales won’t move and I’ll lose my patience with it.  Or? Better yet? I’ll get my period, use it as the worlds lamest excuse to curl up in the corner and avoid the gym like the plague.  It really doesn’t take much for me to quit and go back to being unhappy with myself.
I know myself, I know my patterns.

Or so I thought.

Anyways, back we go to Las, sat on the floor of the Krav loft, trying to look calm – when all she really wanted to do was jump in the car and drive home – stretching, because from the look of the intermediate class, it seemed like that was a smart thing to do, and praying, praying hard, that no one laughed at my mere presence there.
Then it occurred to me, the (I’m reluctant to call them educated, but on the subject matter I guess they are) person (people) who encouraged me to go to Krav in the first place? Wouldn’t have done so from an unkind place, or to make fun of me somehow.  They encouraged me to go because they thought I was capable – in spite of enjoying my couch potato lifestyle.  They thought that it was, perhaps, something I would enjoy, and maybe even go to a second class.  They believed in me, even if I didn’t believe in myself.
13510781_10156955669315411_8653724555621343230_nMy first class was pretty “low-key” (I’m also reluctant to say low-key, because I still ended up a sweaty mess and my calf hurt for three days after training).  It was all footwork, (stance is the most important thing!) and I spent most of the 60 minutes face to face with an orange belt, called Jen, who I’d seen training at the end of the previous class.  Neither she, nor Mike (the instructor), laughed at me for being there, they didn’t scoff, or ask what I thought I was doing, and, despite us giggling for the guts of an hour, Jen taught me more than I realised.
In spite of not being able to walk very well the next day (my calf protested being off the floor for an hour), I was sufficiently intrigued.  I signed up for a monthly, unlimited class membership and attended a two-hour monthly women’s self defense seminars, just two days later, that Saturday morning.
13319719_10156865174375411_9113199934113673980_nIn the eight weeks since that first night? My goal in May was 9 classes (two per week) I finished the month on 13.  I’ve attended a 3 hour Kali/Escrima (knife skills) workshop, two (soon to be three) 2-hour women’s self defense seminars and a 3 hour Muay Thai workshop with the best Muay Thai coach in the US.  I’ve not only tried an intermediate class, but I’ve done a number of back to back inter/beginner classes in the last few weeks, and I’m hungry for more.  Why? Not just because I enjoy it – sure, that’s a huge chunk, but these people I’m training with? They help me find belief in myself that I’m CAPABLE of more.
Crazy as it sounds, (and I know it’s a long shot, but we all need goals, right?) I’m training with the aim of testing for my yellow belt before we leave the US.  My goal for June was 13 classes, 3 per week and I finished on 22 Krav classes and 1 cardio combat class, I’ve not skipped a single class simply because I have ovaries (as a friend’s better half pointed out “an attacker doesn’t care if you’re sick or have your period”) and I’ve even managed to simultaneously train through a chest infection, just fine.
13307453_10156865174365411_3685887745969475778_nIt’s incredibly hard to capture, on a computer screen especially, the kind of people, or atmosphere, that Fight Back Fit has managed to harness, and I find it just a little laugh-out-loud-funny that I’m getting ‘totes emosh’ about a group of seriously bad ass fighters, however, I really am.  Last week? I trained for two hours before we went out for post-training tacos.  We typically close out the places we go to eat, mostly, I think, because the other patrons are afraid that our special kind of crazy is contagious and don’t want to be within a city block of our hysterical giggling.  Anyways, I had a not-so-minor breakdown on my way home, worked up and upset that I’m leaving this great group of people in a short matter of weeks.  It bothers me, a lot.
In class, no matter who I pair with in training, I learn something.
Everyone has something to teach.
Everyone is vested in everyone else’s training.  Everyone wants to make you a better fighter and no one cares that you’ve only been there a short number of weeks and suck at hooks, your left elbow flares when you strike, or that you punch with the wrong part of your fist – they just want you to be better.

Every class.

13528802_10156942683145411_1999757221268620819_nFighting and fitness aside? The folks I train with have a pretty social element to their training, they typically eat out after class a couple times a week (this has become after every time I train because I have a long drive home and am so hungry I could eat an entire cow when I’m finished), we’ll sit, laugh (there’s always lots of laughing), talk, share stories and re-fuel after a tough work out that we push each other to kick ass in.
I know you’re skeptical, I would be too had I not experienced it first-hand, there’s no way anyone could accidentally happen upon such a ready-made group of great friends, right? Wrong.  Aside from the Krav-ing, and the post-Krav eating (which, in the interest of being up front if you’re thinking of joining us, can last for hours), we have also hung out socially, I’ve been shooting with them, we’ve had lunch together on non-Krav days, and we’re working on throwing together a bucket list for my last eight weeks here in Houston and have a few fun things like karaoke and go-karting on the list for us to try our hands at.
13615046_10156987121315411_4232918578577866323_nWe even landed around to my Krav friend Kathy’s house (toddler and all!) and invaded for a bbq for the 4th, with two of my other fave Krav friends (Kate and Jen) with Kathy’s sister and her family.  If someone starts a sentence with ‘Hey, why don’t we…?’, or ‘Does anyone want to…?’ chances are at least four of us will be there.
They pick me up when I fall (literally), build me up when I’m low, push me through when I feel like I can’t do something and tell me I’m getting skinnier while punching me in the chest – what’s not to love? 😉
13606503_10156989125330411_3121260125936346466_nWanna know how hard I love these folks? Sunday night on my way to my volunteer shift at Ronald McDonald, I hit a pot hole – and I was scared to my core that I’d busted out my tyre, was going to get stranded at the hospital (I had the car seat in my car, so Col couldn’t come rescue me, had I been in trouble), but I knew that without a doubt, I could have called any of a handful of Krav people and they’d have busted their behinds to help me get myself figured out.  Thankfully, I didn’t need it, but it’s a very, very reassuring feeling to know that someone’s got your back.
While a large part of me is devastated that I didn’t meet these people seven years ago when we first moved to H-Town, a larger part of me is so damn thankful that I got to meet them at all.  That I got over myself, my inner demons, my self-hatey and crappy self esteem to take a chance, try something new, and that I get to spend my last four months in Houston, doing something I love, with people I love even more.

Learning to love my plus-sized self.

12642992_10156387774010411_2556516841211561801_nGrab a cuppa, this is a long’un.

Before I start? Let me get a couple of things out of the way, cause I’ve been saying some variation of these points, a lot, since I shared the photos:

1.  You see more at the beach, in a nightclub, or after 11am at your local Walmart.  If you’re offended by these pictures, or think I should be ashamed of myself? Bite me.
2. Before you comment and call me brave, or bold, or daring.  Please take a moment to consider where that comes from inside you, am I brave cause I’m a fat chick showing some skin? Am I brave cause I’m showing a vulnerable and exposed side of myself with the entire internet? Am I brave cause we aren’t used to seeing women empowering themselves? WHY is it that you think I’m brave?
3. No, I didn’t have these pictures taken as a gift to my husband, that was an added perk.  I had them taken as a gift to myself.  I’ve spent way too long feeling like crap about myself and wanted to do something to feel beautiful for a change.

Let me explain;
I typically spend most of my days chasing around an energetic, almost two year old boy.  A boy, who, for the record? Doesn’t like having his hands dirty, so will wipe his Nutella, cheese puff, or paint covered fingers on my clothes if I’m not careful.
And? While I am trying to get into running, I don’t run.  So anything other than flats on my fallen-arched flat feet? You can forget about it.  Chasing a toddler in anything other than my comfy gel-soled Asics, sounds like the seventh circle of hell to my chubby-legged and unfit self.

I live in denim capris, some kind of graphic T-shirt and flip flops.

A friend of mine recently described me as dressing like a college kid.

He wasn’t wrong.

He didn’t stop there, he went on to say that almost my entire wardrobe needs thrown out.  “Maybe keep some stuff for when you go hiking” (no, really, he does know me, I swear!) “but the rest needs to go”.

Again, he wasn’t wrong.

I’d love to say that being a stay at home mum (SAHM) is the reason to blame for my college “style” wardrobe.  Alas, I cannot.  My poor relationship with clothing and fashion began much, much, earlier than I’d care to admit.  I’ve always been overweight, fat, obese, having always had a waist much smaller than my hips and bum, I have what you’d politely refer to as a classic “hourglass” shape, but I never learned to dress for my shape, love my curves, or, without sounding too pathetic, like myself, in spite of my size.

Instead, I learned to dislike, often hate, the reflection I saw in the windows of shops and the mirror.  It wasn’t the same as the images I saw in magazines, on TV, in shop windows.  It was different.  The only time I saw people who looked in anyway like me, was for Weight Watchers adverts in January when people had over indulged over Christmas.

Hot damn girl!

Don’t draw attention to yourself!

I learned to abhor shopping.  No kidding – I mean panic attacks, palpitations and hysterical breakdowns at the mere idea of needing new clothes.    At my smallest I was a 12-14 on top (UK) but on the bottom I never got below a 20.  I was grossly out of proportion.  My narrow waist meant you could always see my knickers when I sat down in jeans or trousers cause I always needed bigger sizes to accommodate my rotund arse.  I lost patience at myself when I could find anything to wear, I’d cry angry tears in dressing rooms wondering why things didn’t look, on me, like they looked on the stick thin models standing in the windows as I walked in the door.

I learned to wear the same half-dozen outfits in rotation (I’m pretty much still wearing the same outfits, decades on), never be “brave” or “daring”, only have “nice” clothes, look “pretty” for special occasions.  If I found something that fit, and looked passable, I’d buy one in every colour and call it good.  Shoes (ok, flip flops) too.

I learned to be ashamed of my body.  To never dare look at bikinis, anything knee length or higher, anything low cut, bright or bold patterned either, for that matter.  Not only that? But you can’t shop at “normal” shops, you have to go to “plus” shops, for “bigger girls”, where the selection is crap, the prices are higher and you almost wonder aloud as to why companies can’t just make the same damn clothes they make for skinny people, just, y’know, bigger?

Dark colours flatter, don’t wear anything that shows your flab or calls attention to your “not normal” shape.

Right? That’s what “they” say.

As a result? I learned to hate and hide my body.  Black dress trousers, then jeans, paired with “cute” graphic tshirts conveying my love for the TMNTs, or the Care Bears, paired with oversized hoodies (at least in Ireland) that covered as much of my shameful plus sized figure as I could manage.

Then you think all your prayers will be answered if you could just lose a bit of weight.  You go on a diet.  You work out.  You drop thirty or fifty pounds, only to realize that your shape? Is still a Goddamned hourglass.  That the weight you so fervently tried to lose, is coming off your pinky finger, your ear lobes, your ankles…everywhere that ISN’T your fat arse, or thighs, or double chin, or bingo wings, or wherever else you’d spent nights praying to God to take it from.  That unless you take a hacksaw to your hips (believe me, I even contemplated that a time or two) those bastarding hips aren’t gonna budge.  “Childbearing hips” they call them, and while they served me incredibly well during a blessed, easy and quick labour, they make clothes shopping painfully frustrating.

Then you find routine.  You get lazy.  Or, you have a baby, your body shape changes, but not in the ways you’ve dreamed about your whole life and you suddenly have the added dismay of a “mummy tummy”, cause life wasn’t unfair enough with your big hips, big arse and big thighs, I guess at least now a big tummy completes the set, and so you hide behind your baby for a couple years.  You justify it to yourself, saying “I’m a mum”, like that excuses you from taking a moment to think about what you put on to wear outside, in front of other people in the mornings.  Like that means you can’t justify carving out some extra cash to treat yourself to an outfit here and there, like it means you don’t deserve to feel girlie or pretty any more.  Like you’re resigned to sweats and hoodies forever, because you don’t have the time, the money, the energy or the wherewithal to go shopping and treat yourself to something that makes you feel human.

And here we are.

wm1I turned thirty-one this year and I still dress like a college kid.  I still wear jeans and flip flops, I still self-hate, am ashamed of and hide my body, I still lust over pictures in magazines wondering if there will ever come a time when I can walk in to a “normal” clothes shop and not end up with hot tears of frustration down my cheeks in the fitting room cause I just want to find something decent to wear out the door in the mornings.

Enter plus sized fashion bloggers.

Ok, one fashion blogger really.  Georgina Horne over at Fuller Figure, Fuller Bust.  I’ve had her on the periphery of my radar for a few years, but lately, she’s been ALL up in my ‘bidness’.  She’s a sassy, loud, occasionally rowdy lady, with large cleavage, a rockin’ waist and an ginormous heart.

She takes a genuine interest in real, every day people (seriously though, the first time she tweeted me back I was all fan-girlie) and she gives great advice (on any manner of things!)

Without realizing it, her “f*ck it” attitude kinda rubs off on you, and you suddenly find yourself believing that maybe you could look half as hot as she does in front of the camera, and suddenly you’re off out down the town, squishing your boobs in to a corset named after an Addams Family character and booking yourself a boudoir photoshoot.

What possessed me?

I’ve toyed and flirted with the idea for years now.

Around my wedding, I even momentarily SERIOUSLY considered the idea, and at 35lbs lighter than where I am right now, and feeling a little more self confident, it probably would have been a more “sensible” time to act.  But I shelved the idea and buried it under ALL of my jeans and hoodies.

My “everyday” photographer, liked a picture on Maribella Portraits Facebook page that appeared on my Facebook feed and I liked it.

I liked it a lot.

So much so, that I went back the next day and stared at it.  And the day after that, too.
It was a picture Maria had taken at dusk in downtown Houston of some beautiful curvy women.  The more I dug into her page, the more I discovered she was keen to empower women, make them feel strong and show to them their beauty – both inside and out.  Her work, her page, her mantra spoke to me.

houston photographerI booked a consultation, had a chat with Maria about what we both expected from the shoot, pencilled it in and hit up Pinterest for inspiration before hitting the shops to frantically search for pieces of clothing to wear to my shoot.

After WEEKS, yes, weeks of searching, I finally had my outfits.  My corsets, sports shirts and underwear for boudoir, a couple of dresses and an outfit or two for Downtown glamour, jewellery, hot rollers, props and heels.  I was good to go.

On the morning of the shoot I was overcome with nervous excitement.  More nerves to be honest, but those quickly dissipated as Maria and my friend Sandra kept telling me I was doing great and looked hot.  They stole my glasses so I couldn’t see my reflection (that’s not why, but it worked) and although at certain points I felt somewhat unnatural and a little ridiculous, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of getting dolled up and, I guess, almost being someone else for the morning.

Maria was excited by the results, her original two-week turn around, became only days, as she was inspired by the shots she had on-film.  I, on the other hand, felt sick to my stomach.  What if the pictures didn’t come out good? What if they weren’t what I had expected? What if, what if, what if.

There was even a moment of “Dear Lord, what have I done?” Was I absolutely crazy to think that my chubby self could look as good as the other plus size women I’d seen in similar photo shoots?

And then Maria showed me my film.

1151_10156373441335411_5141502942695401336_nThe same friend I mentioned above (who told me to dump my wardrobe) asked me if I learned anything from this experience, and I guess my answer to him, is yes.  I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot about other people and I learned that you don’t need grand changes to make yourself feel pretty or confident.  Even the smallest of changes, mentally, more so than physically, can make a huge difference to your every day life.  My friend Amber has asked me three times this month if I’ve lost weight, I haven’t.  Maybe it’s because I feel even just a little more comfortable in my own skin.  Maybe it’s because, as she says, “you’re carrying yourself differently”, or maybe it’s because I’ve realized that being fat, isn’t the end of the world.  There are people out there with real, honest to goodness problems and maybe I just need to get over myself a little.
untitled-213Houston friends, I know some of you have said in passing that you would love to do something like this, quit thinking, here’s her website, call or Facebook Maria, now. 
Non-Houston friends? Research photographers in your area.  Interview with them, study their work.  Find someone who ‘gets’ you, whose vision you love.

Don’t delay – everyone should feel beautiful, even just for one day!

Since my photo-shoot with Maria, I’ve worn all the clothes I bought for it.  I’ve even worn two out of three pairs of heels I got too – wonders never cease.

I’ve tried to take a little more care in my appearance.  I’ve continued to shop for clothes – not like a woman possessed – but I’ll saunter in to a clothes shop and casually  browse, which is something I never did before.  I don’t seem to have the same core-melting fear about shopping that I had before.

Most of all? I’ve tried to give myself a bit of a break.

 houston curvy girl glamourI’ve already stated, that I’m fully aware I’m plus-sized, over weight, obese, chubby, fat, whatever label you’d like to stick on me.  I’m an unhealthy weight, I’m unhappy with my size, it’s something I’ve been working on, and will work on, for a long time.

There’s no quick fix.

That said?

Maybe who I am right now? Isn’t quite so bad after all.

IMG_1110Maybe? Instead of frantically trying to change who I am every day and being soul destroyed that I haven’t found a magic cure for being fat yet, maybe I should more frantically try to find a way to like myself a little more?

As is.

Maybe? Being fat isn’t the worst thing in the world.  I’m not a criminal, or a murderer, I don’t kick babies, or burn animals (nor do I share those God-awful burned animal photos on Facebook).  Being fat doesn’t make me a terrible person.  It doesn’t make me “less than” because I’m bigger, because I’m different.

A friend described me as being “not societies definition of beautiful”, who said society was right?
Can’t we all just be beautiful?
untitled-1bw84-2“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine”

From fat…to less fat.

I haven’t always been fat.

I had a few rare years of dramatic theatre time when I was svelte.  But one tends to remember being fat, more than not.  Especially when fat is the current state.

Those are the hardest times.
I can already hear my sister and my coach Taylor, screaming at their screens.  “You are NOT fat! You HAVE fat”, it’s a mindset I’d love to have, and that I’ve vowed to try and adapt, however, for now, I am fat.
I am aware of it, every single minute, or every single day.
I see it every time I look I the mirror, or catch my fat ass reflection in a window, or see my rotund shadow when it’s sunny (which is a lot in Houston).
I see it, always.
I hate it, always.
I’ve written blogs like this, at least once a year.  New beginning, new me.  It trails off.  It flops.  I quit.  And I’m normally not a quitter.  I HATE to quit.
This time it’s different, this time it’s for real.
It never is.  I stay fat.
Since Lewis was born, I’ve lost 33lbs and counting.  It hasn’t been easy, or quick (he’s nearly a year old).  Breastfeeding seems to be hindering, rather than helping and, since January 5th, I’ve been working so hard that I almost expected the weight to fall off me.  But I’ve been here before, I know the drill, sometimes you just have to put your faith in the science.  Eat less, move more and it will happen.  It WILL.
But it’s hard.
I’m trying so hard to eat cleaner, high protein, low carbs, low sugar, and as of this week, no carbs after 3pm.  I’m doing my best, for once, I’m giving it my all.  I really am.  No kidding myself this time.  It’s a struggle every time I open my mouth to eat.  At every meal.  It’s a conscious choice to self improve, to make the better choice, and to inch just a little closer to my goal.
What’s my goal? Well, I started at 268lbs, my first major goal is 180, and I’ll reevaluate the next one, when I get there.  My first interim goal, however, is to lose 30lbs by our wedding anniversary cruise in October.  I want to be 213lbs, (which is the weight I was on my wedding day), for my anniversary.  It’s an achievable goal, theoretically, and bet your ass I’m going to give it my all.
I have an inspirational chart taped to my pantry (aka the infamous pantry penis) that I color in with my Crayola markers every time I lose 1lb.  I have photos from my wedding taped to it, to constantly remind me of my goal.  Where I want to be.  Who I want to be.  So every time I go in to that cupboard for food, I have a choice to make.
What do I want more? The chocolate, or to color in the chart.
What’s my food plan? Like I said above, high protein (lean meats), low carb (100g rice/potato or a tortilla wrap), low sugar (berries rather than citrus).  Three meals (I’m not a breakfast person so this is tough) two to three snacks (nuts, Greek yoghurt, rice cracker, small Apple with peanut butter) and prayers.  ‘Cause, I love my food, I hate any sniff of feeling deprived.  I’m doing my best to feel satisfied and occasionally allowing myself a ‘treat’, cause while although I’m not a dog, it needs to be sustainable for this to work for me.  The odd pizza, or the wings, I still indulge in my diet coke and I’m trying to keep it reasonable, sustainable.  A lifetime thing.
What are my activities? I went back to Body Attack 2-3 times a week for a few weeks, put my back out, got the flu, and got really weak.  So started walking with my boys, and C25K last week, to try and ease back in to working out.  I’ve signed up for not one, but TWO 5k walks/jogs this summer, both at night (oy vey! I couldn’t handle the day time heat!!) with my girl Taylor and I hope to do them in a ‘respectable’ time, but I’ve not yet set a goal, because snails are currently faster than I am.
I’ve stuck to it for fifty days.  5-0.
That’s a record.
What’s my secret weapon? My secret weapon is three-fold.
Firstly, my crazy sister, she has this knack of ‘bigging me up’ *right* when I need ‘bigging’, sending food suggestions, meal ideas, encouragement and most importantly, she’s always there to kick my ass when I’ve found my way to the wrong side of the tracks, or, often more importantly, to keep me from straying before it happens.  I talk to her daily, not always about food, but she’s there, like a strong silent, rock, waiting to hit me in the face if I go near a pizza 😉
Secondly I have a great ‘coach’, she helps me set realistic goals, she helps me learn about food, she encourages me when I am feeling weak, she cheers me when I do good and she bucks me up when the scales don’t move.  She gives me exercises to do at home when I can’t get out, or one of us is sick.  She guilts me into taking Lewis for a walk when the weather is glorious and she’s stuck in an office – oh, yeah, did I not mention she has a full time job?
She is nothing short of amazing.
Her name is Taylor, I met her by accident a few years ago when I needed a door prize donation for an SSA event and she is FAB.  I send her photos of all my food, she texts at least once every single day, if I’m wavering, I’ll text her and say ‘I want to eat crap’ and she’ll have a come to Jesus meeting.  She keeps me focused, asks about the progress of my pantry penis and pushes me.  Pushes my limits.  I need it, cause some days I’d be like ‘f*ck it!’ but she reminds me of my goal, and helps me get there.
My most important secret weapon, is my eleven month old little boy – I almost wrote baby – but he’s no longer a baby.  He’s transitioning into ‘toddler mode’ and he’s doing it quickly.  He’s crawling, sure, but he’s also pulling himself up, walking with a walker, moving between objects and as of today, he’s started to stand up solo for a few seconds – this kid will rule the world.
He will soon be running, chasing, kicking a football, playing sports – and I don’t want to be the lard-ass trudging mother who can’t keep up with her toddler (and beyond).  I don’t want to have to watch him play in the park, wondering why mama can’t chase him, or why she needs to sit down every few minutes.
I want to be healthy, for my boy.  I want to be active for my boy.  I want to be FUN, for my boy.
8lbs down, 22lbs to go by October 30th.
This time I won’t quit.  I can’t quit.  I won’t let my son follow the same path as me, I want to teach him healthy choices, healthy activities and I want him to enjoy family time, walking, cycling, swimming…I want him to have a healthy relationship with food, understand its purpose and eat the right things.  I can’t expect him to do it, if I don’t do it.
The buck stops here.
It’s on, like Donkey Kong*…
…*and if I fall down, Taylor (and a few other people) will drag my ass up off the dirt and help me dust myself off, and start again.  Cause that’s what badasses do.

Infertility: Making friends with the baton!

May 1st was my six year dating anniversary with Col, if I hadn’t been so stubborn and just said ‘yes’ when he first asked, it’d be six and a half years!

What better way to spend our date-iversary than at a fertility specialist’s office?

photo(27)I described it as ‘going to see a man about a baby’.  I’d been referred to Dr Dunn by a good friend of mine, she herself had trouble with fertility and after becoming Dr Dunn’s patient had herself a healthy pregnancy.  My OBGYN had referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist, but we’d decided to go with someone that we had a personal referral from someone that’s had first hand experience with him.

photo(28)As you can see, Col came with me…I won’t lie, I was nervous.  I’d not slept very well in about two weeks and while I’d love to say my appointment had nothing to do with that, I don’t like lying to my readers.  It’s not so much that I was afraid of the appointment, I guessed that he’d take bloods and would probably want an up to date ultrasound (I’d not had an ultrasound done since 2009) but that no major procedures would be done at our first meeting – so nothing *really* to worry about.

What bothered me most, however, was the mere fact that the appointment had to happen at all.

Rational or not, I shouldn’t *need* help to get pregnant, let alone need to go to my third doctor on this journey, a man, to help me figure out what bits of my female self are broken – and potentially how to fix myself.

The office staff were very nice, the lady that called me from the main waiting room was the same lady that waved me off to get bloods done at the end.  I liked that, there was a lot of changing rooms:

Sign in, wait in waiting room, blood pressure and weight taken, back to waiting room,  appointment with the doctor in his office, move forward through the maze to a red couch where you wait for ultrasound tech to call you to another waiting room, ultrasound room, and back full circle to check out desk.  But the whole time you have the same nurse with you – it was certainly reassuring.

photo(29)Let me tell you what I learned (or at least remembered) from my appointment with Dr Dunn: (it’ll be quicker to bullet-point it, than to try and recount what I can remember!)

  • PCOS is the single most common endocrine ‘defect’ in women all across the globe.
  • Dr’s and OBGYN’s tend to count cysts of a certain size or bigger (usually 1cm) to diagnose PCOS, reproductive endocrinologists and fertility specialists? They count all cysts.
  • It’s likely that PCOS and insulin resistance was partially to blame for my gallbladder issues in 2010.
  • For a guy, taking a darily multi-vitamin can notably help improve the quality of sperm.
  • While many pre-natal vitamins contain folic acid, it’s recommended that you take additional amounts of folic acid.  It’s been clinically proven that those women who take higher amounts of folic acid are less likely to have babies with spine and heart defects.
  • You can’t take too much folic acid, you can’t overdose.  He said that you can essentially go home and swallow the entire bottle and the only downside would be that you have very expensive pee!
  • One of the easiest ways of telling that someone has insulin resistance is to look at the base of their neck/top of their spine (or underarm) as that’s where the insulin tends to be deposited.  The skin will look darker.  He said that next time I’m out grocery shopping and in a line, to have a sneaky look at the people I’m surrounded by, it’s more noticeable in darker skin than my pasty Irish stuffs!
  • My doctor, when she gave me Metformin, she was trying to treat me with a ‘diabetic’ dose of metformin.  I gained 25lbs on it and gave up after 2-3 months.  Apparently for PCOS, the dose of metformin needs to be higher to improve how your body processes insulin, so I agreed to try his method for a while and see how that goes.
  • I learned that with PCOS (tests will mostly confirm this diagnosis), my body is producing insulin but doesn’t really know what to do with it.  So it keeps requesting that more and more is produced – which, in turn, produces more male hormone (potentially the reason we’re having trouble getting pregnant).  He said if I ate the same thing as many of you, you’d produce ‘x’ amount of insulin to process it, whereas for me, I’d produce two or three times the amount of insulin to process the same food.  It takes longer, my blood sugar will spike higher, take longer to return to normal and will be more inclined to drop below baseline (hence the suggestion below for my diet changes).
  • He asked if I’d ever tested beyond a positive ovulation test, to see if I have ever ovulated twice in one month – which, I haven’t.  It’s not something I’ve ever considered!
  • Obesity exacerbates insulin resistance, and insulin resistance can lead to obesity – it’s a catch 22, never-ending circle, or, as Dr Dunn said, ‘the snowball rolling down the hill’.

photo(30)When you’re in this situation, it’s all about the little things that help you through it, (for example, the socks on the stirrups in the picture above).  When you’re lying back and thinking of vacation, chocolate and puppies – anything other than what’s actually happening to you – and here at the Fertility Specialists of Houston, this is what you see when you’re staring at the ceiling:

photo(31)It’s a mobile, the pieces all move slowly, methodically and are quite soothing to keep your attention north of the border – genius!

Outcomes of the appointment:

  • My bloods were taken after my chat with the doctor.  I have since had a call from them to say they want to talk about my Vitamin D levels, but I can’t seem to get hold of them to find out what the issue is.
  • I had my first internal ultrasound, which was even more unpleasant than I anticipated because one of my ovaries were playing hide and seek!  I’ve been told to make friends with this nifty ‘little’ device, because I’m going to be very familiar with it by the time I’m done!
  • Went home with a prescription for Metformin (gradually building up to 1500mg/day) and folic acid.
  • He recommended I try to drastically change my lifestyle habits, progressing to 6 small meals per day totalling between 1600-1800 cals.
  • Col will get re-tested in 4 weeks, his last test was July 2012.
  • Fasting blood test and 2hrs later a glucose test will be done when we get back from vacation.
  • On day 1 of my next cycle, I’ll have another round of blood work done.
  • Follow-up appointment will be in 6 weeks.

It was emotionally draining for sure, my appointment with the doctor lasted for about 70 minutes – but it flew by, when we’d finished I couldn’t believe the time on the clock.  My husband came with me, it was recommended by my friend – partially for emotional support, but partially because it’s beneficial to have him there for questioning with the doctor, it’s like a two-for-one thing.  You both get to ask and answer questions and it helps to have a second brain on-hand, because you’re so worked up about the whole thing, that he can often remember things that you may not.

Make a list of questions to bring with you – things that come to you at stupid o’clock during the night, or in the bath, or in the aisles of the grocery store – don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you’ve asked them to ten different doctors, ten times over.  Sometimes, you’ll get the ‘right’ answer from the eleventh doctor!

I also did something else this time, many of you will feel like me, like everything that makes you inherently female, your total feminine essence is broken, has let you down.  Like you’re a defective woman.  Ahead of this appointment, I went for a mani-pedi, something totally girlie and feminine to help me feel better and for after the appointment, I scheduled afternoon tea with some of my girlies and it really helped.  It was nice to do something girlie, relaxing and distracting from the short-comings of my femininity.

The next time I do see Dr Dunn, he’ll have 4 different types of blood results to go through, a sperm analysis and an ultrasound.  Plus I’ll have had 6 weeks of Metformin, so I’ll be up to full dose of 1500mg/day for and will be making huge adjustments to my eating habits when I get back from vacation.

Fingers crossed that this is the door down the path to being healthier and losing weight and hopefully to getting pregnant!

Slimming World: Eating out in the USA, on-plan (Part I: Ghengis Grill)

Eating out is a huge part of the culture here in the US.  Since we moved to Texas three years ago, it’s definitely become almost a hobby, for us, and for many other people, expats and Americans alike.  I can see why people can easily become obese (and stay obese), here in the US, the ‘bad’ food, is the ‘cheap’ food.

It’s cheaper to eat bad, than to eat good.

If you check the Sunday papers, the coupons overwhelmingly favour the unhealthy food.  Chips (‘crisps’), candy, cookies, frozen microwavable deals and soda.  Processed foods, tinned foods and packet foods are all coupon-able.  However, try and find a coupon for some fresh produce, or lean meat?

They are few and far between.

If you find ’em, buy a dozen papers and stock up on whatever it is the coupon is for.  It’ll be a while before you see them again.

That said, since joining Slimming World, I’ve been determined to try and keep my life as ‘normal’ as I possibly can, which involves our social enjoyment of food.  I’ve made it my mission to still enjoy my favourite restaurants, but incorporate the Slimming World way into my dining out experiences.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a number of blogs related to this, restaurants I’ve been to recently, what you can chose from their menus that are Slimming World friendly and how open they are to making small adjustments to their selections to make their menus more Slimming World adaptable.

First up, a lunchtime favourite of ours, Genghis Grill.

What you do…

This place is great, you get a metal bowl and the sky is the limit.

Step 1: Pick your protein


They have a huge selection of protein, chicken, pork, beef, fish, sausage, crab, pepperoni etc.  Of course, the best selection for us SW folk is chicken, however, I have been known to toss in the odd piece of sausage or pepperoni.

Be warned! They marinade their fish in oil, so in spite of their fish seeming to be ‘free’ and ‘super speedy’ tilapia, it is not.

Step 2: Season your protein


The next table you’ll come to, is a table lined with lots of seasoning pots, filled with things like garlic, chili flakes, Cajun, black pepper, lemon pepper and curry salt.  I rarely use the seasoning station.

Step 3: Pick your veggies

Veggie station

Next up, is a Slimming World-ers paradise, the Super-Free station, veggies (and fruit).  Remember when you get here, that once cooked, fruit turns in to syns, it’s only on a very rare occasion I throw in some pineapple or mandarin segments in to my bowl.  For the most part, I stay super-free and I load it up high!

Step 4: Pick your sauce

Sauce selection

Before I joined SW:USA online, I used a tub of the curry sauce and figured it’d be a few syns.  Since having joined SW, I’ve discovered more specific syn values for the sauce selection in Genghis grill

“Count one or two Syns per bowl for these options: chili garlic sauce, ginger citrus sauce, mongo BBQ sauce, Khan pao sauce, island teriyaki sauce, roasted tomato sauce, stir fry sauce, sweet n sour sauce, Szechuan sauce.

And keep track of three to five Syns for these: 3G sauce, dragon sauce, honey soy sauce, red curry peanut sauce.!” (source

Step 5: Pick your starch

Carb time!

You present your bowl to one of the gong-masters, and call your starch.  Rice (white or egg fried), pasta twists, noodles or tortilla wraps.  I switch between pasta twists or white rice.

I love it in here, It’s delicious! And you can have a bottomless-bowl option if you’re really hungry!

The gong-masters spray bottles are marked water, however, I always ask them not to use oil when they cook my food – just to be 100% sure, I don’t want secret syns sneaking in without me knowing.

If you’ve not been to Genghis before, you really should give it a whirl, it’s quite an all-round experience, the food is healthy, low-syn (or free depending on how you compile your bowl), choc-filled with super-free and pretty reasonably priced to boot!

Slimming World: Las's Superspeed Challenge

Well, it’s should come as no surprise that after last weeks ‘maintain’ that I was going to hit this week with a spring in my step to try and make some kind of dent in my weight loss.  I was frustrated, a little disappointed, but no less committed or determined that I’m going to lose this weight.

To help kick my own backside, I decided to set myself a challenge, something to work towards in the hope that I could push past the maintain and not get tempted to slack or fall behind in any way.

I read on Facebook, in one of the Slimming World communities, about a Speed/Super-speed challenge and I committed.  The aim was to eat 10 speed or super-speed foods every day for a week, and while I didn’t succeed (my first two days I didn’t even get to five!) I DID get a majority or 5 days out of 7.  I also upped my water intake too.

I’ll get to the point, the bit you are all dying to know did it work?

Damn straight it did!!

In spite of eating out FIVE times in seven days.

I lost 3.5lbs this week, for a total of 14.5lbs.

I hit my first stone, at LAST! (14lbs)

I got a new middle number (I’m now under 250lbs for the first time since 2011!)

As much as I’d love to do this every week (it became seriously easy, very quickly) I just know that my body would adjust to it and then I’d have no ‘trump card’, no ledge to push myself over if I hit another plateau (big or small).

That said, however, I think I’ll aim to eat around 5 speed/super-speed per day for the next few weeks and if/when I next hit another plateau, I can at least kick it up to the 10-a-day challenge again.  It was great, and I actual felt *tangible* benefits too, I had more energy, I felt more refreshed and I really enjoyed the food that I was eating.

Not only that, but it filled me up.  I was fuller for longer.  I found, that by the time I had my dinner (every day too!) I’d either used zero syns, or only one or two syns, so I got to enjoy some yummy treats as the week progressed.

I was on plan and I was most definitely happy, the boys also enjoyed the food I was making, which is always a bonus!

Here’s my meal daily plans with a list of speed/superspeed foods for each day:


Banana (bananas are superfree but not speed/superspeed)

Chicken (I was surprised to find chicken on the list of speed/superspeed) and cheese toastie (HeA and HeB)
Veggie Soup

*Ate out* Dave and Busters Philly Cheesesteak (onions and peppers) with Fries

Apple with yoghurt

Total Syns: Didn’t count
Total Speed/Superspeed: 5


2 slices canadian bacon
1 quorn sausage (3 syns)
1 egg white
home made hash brown (onion and peppers)

Veggie soup

*Ate out* Hooters chicken strips with fries

100 cal popcorn (5 syns)
Milky way (5.5 syns)

Total Syns: Didn’t count
Total Speed/Superspeed: 6


3 egg omlette with onion, leek, yellow pepper served with beans and beetroot

*Ate out* Genghis Grill bowl with chicken, snap peas, carrots, beansprouts

Pear slices, apple

Total Syns: No idea how many in Genghis sauce but not 15!
Total Speed/Superspeed: 11


3 egg omlette with onion, leek, yellow pepper served with beans and beetroot

Cottage pie with peas, carrots and garlic bread

Grilled cheese sandwich (HeA)
Mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, pear slices
Milky bar (3.5 syns)
Aero (3 syns)

Total Syns: 6.5 syns
Total Speed/Superspeed: 10


*Ate out* BJ’s Jacket potato with cheese (HeA) chicken and broccoli
Lettuce, cucumber, carrot

Tilapia (surprised to discover tilapia is super-speed) with garlic rosemary potatoes, beetroot, lettuce, bell pepper and boiled egg, sweet chilli sauce (2 syns)

Apple with yoghurt
turkey deli meat
Cadburys fudge (5.5 syns)
2 Aero bubbles

Total Syns: 9.5 syns
Total Speed/Superspeed: 11


Grapes (Grapes are superfree but surprisingly not speed/superspeed) and Melon

*Ate out* Cheddars – chicken breast, with rice, onions, broccoli, carrots and peas

Lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, beetroot, onion, chicken
potatoes w/ chili sauce (2 syns)

Curly wurly (6 syns)

Total Syns: 8 syns
Total Speed/Superspeed: 13



Turkey and cheese toastie

two Oscar Mayer fat free hotdogs
mash potato
broccoli and carrots

Club orange 5.5
1/2 sausage 7
Magzs’ home made strawberry icecream 6.5

Total Syns: 18 syns
Total Speed/Superspeed: 6

Slimming World: Super-Speed challenge

Isn’t it always the way, when you finally set yourself a personal goal, things stagnate?

I had mentioned that by today’s weigh-in, I wanted to hit my first stone (for you North Americans out there, that’s a 14lb milestone), however, I am 3lbs off from that goal, due to a maintain this week.  Which, in all honesty I don’t think I deserve, but I’m not questioning the SW gods, I’m just rolling with the punches.

I’ve never been one of these fast weight-loss people, those losing 3 or 4lbs per week and hitting a 2st loss in a matter of months, that is not me, I’ve always said that I would be very happy with 1-2lb loss per week.

That said, I want to work extremely hard this week and get the results I seek, I very much want to hit my first milestone soon and although 3lbs in one week is a HUGE ask, it’s not impossible, (and realistically I’d be happy splitting it in to a two-week loss if I absolutely have to).

I resolve to get back to the gym, I went once over the last seven days and although I burned over 700 calories, it’s just not enough.  If I split it up over a week, that’s 100 calories a day – it’s peanuts!  I did try and go again yesterday, however, due to some ill-timed car trouble, I missed my class.

I also resolve to drinking more water, I know I’m slacking on that, a lot.  It needs addressed!

Thirdly this week, I am undertaking what the cool kids on Facebook are calling the Super-Speed Challenge.

The aim of this challenge is to eat 10 different speed/super-speed foods each and every day.

Now, if you don’t know what speed foods or super-speed foods are, go back to your Food Optimising book, you know, the one you were given on your first week?  It looks tattered and worn because you use it every week to take note of your weigh in results, but you often forget that it actually holds valuable information? Yes, that one!

Go to the front of that book and there’s lists and lists of foods, if the food has an S or SS beside it, then that’s what you’re aiming for.

Ten of those.

Per day.

For seven days.

Are you in?

I’m still keeping a food diary (which y’all should be doing anyway) and I will post my eating habits for y’all to keep me accountable (as always!)

Let me know if you’re gonna join me, so we can help each other along and hopefully work hard towards a solid loss next Thursday on the scales!

Sticking to the Slimming World plan while on the road…

I won’t lie, it’s hard, maybe not so much hard, but tricky – and you often appear to be that crazily fussy punter asking for food to be cooked an overly specific way…

“I’ll have the *insert menu item here* please, but with no *insert butter, cheese, milk, cream* and not cooked in *oil, butter* please”

or, asking a serious amount of questions, that very often requires a trip, by your server, to visit the chef to ensure that what the menu says, is actually what you’re getting on the plate…

“What’s in the mash potatoes?”

“How is the meat cooked?”

“Can I substitute?”

I thought it’d be harder, and was pleasantly surprised at how many options there were for me to enjoy while being on the road and eating out of restaurants for our main meals.

Monday I had weigh in, then we had lunch with Col’s nana and dinner at my folks house.  We hit the road on Tuesday evening, but during the day we went to Col’s mum’s for lunch.  We thought we were going out, so I’d planned on having a baked potato with beans and cheese, however, we ended up eating in her house instead, and I had to eat what there was, and syn it.  It was a higher syn value than I’d have liked, but it is what it is.  For dinner, en route to the ship, we had dinner with a friend of ours in Nandos, I tried to chose what I thought would be the lowest syns.

I came ‘off the wagon’ twice in the last week, once on Friday lunch time and the second time was Saturday while in Manchester visiting friends.  I’ve said why in previous posts, but for new readers, I’ll tell you why, I haven’t been home to N.Ireland in two years, I’ve not had a curry chip in two years, I’ve not had a sausage supper in two years, I’ve not had a decent Indian or Chinese in two years.

There’s so many things you can’t get while over in the states, proper chips, decent sausages and bacon, a good curry, curry sauce, good bread the list is endless!  When we leave in early June, it’ll be December time before we come back again and I want to still enjoy the food I love, the food I’ve missed, while I’m here.

I joined Slimming World while I was home, to restrict the amount of eating out we did while here (cause, let’s face it, it could have gotten grossly out of hand) and, for the first two weeks we ate out every day, at least once, somewhere ‘bad’.

However, I didn’t fully subscribe to the plan.  I wanted to learn how to do it, stick to it as best I could while I was here, but still enjoy the odd dinners out, here and there, where I wasn’t counting syns and where I was enjoying the foods I have been dreaming about for the last two years – yes, I’m that sad.  All I wanted when I got off the plane was a curry chip and sausages!

This is my 3rd week of Slimming World and while I’m still eating out a lot more than I’d have liked to (and more than I would be if I was back at home), for the most part, my choices are a LOT better than they would have been before I signed up to the programme.  For sures!

I also found it so hard to stick to plan, when hubby was ordering stuff like this,

Steak pie and chips with onion rings…

or this:

Fish’n’chips with onion rings

Here’s my food diary starting Monday, it’s not great, in fact, it’s pretty poor in places, however, I recognise where I’ve gone ‘wrong’, I know that I can follow the plan, and I have learned, this week, that I can still eat out in restaurants and stick to the plan at the same time – this, is very important to us as we enjoy eating out with friends and Col’s colleagues, and I go out a lot at lunch times with friends etc back in Texas.

If you pay particular attention to the days (and ‘total syns’) that have been highlighted Fuchsia, this is a good example of a perfect eat-on-the-road menu.  It was easy to find, stick to and order while in restaurants.

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Slimming World: Chicken, lemon and garlic casserole

I finally hit my ‘bump’ in the road, we had a catastrophic dinner the other night – mostly because this didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, or the way the picture looked and I wanted to thicken up the sauce, but instead of using fromage frais or fat free vanilla yoghurt, I accidently used vanilla yoghurt – yuck! Disaster!

I do, however, think this recipe would be good, with a slight adjustment.  Instead of cooking for 25 minutes like the recipe suggests.  I’d throw it in a slow cooker, or I’d put it in a dutch oven in the oven and leave it on a low heat for a few hours.

Chicken, lemon and garlic casserole

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Slimming World, Week 2: Star Week

Well today I weighed in, a day early cause we leave for England tomorrow and I can’t make my normal time – which is a whole bundle of worries unto itself as I’m not looking forward to being on the road, without a kitchen, it will be hard to stick to plan.  Living out of hotels, going out on business meals, eating at friends houses…I guess all that is next week’s concern.

Like I said, today ended up being weigh in day, 6 days after my first weigh in, my encouraging weigh in.  My massive 5lb loss.  I was confident.

I wanted 2lbs to hit my first target.

I ate better than I did the previous week, I kept the goal in mind.  When everyone around me was eating litre tubs of ice cream, plates of chocolate brownies with custard and sticky buns, I stayed strong, I kept the prize in mind and instead, I ate fruit.

I had 2lb on.

I was gutted.  I AM gutted, I can only hope that this gain is down to star week.  Either that, or my (minor) cheating from my first week is catching up with me.  Either way, I want to cry.

I know it’s only my second week, I know my body is still adjusting to the routine and I know that ‘star week’ completely messes up your body (if you don’t know what that term means, you can probably guess).  I am clinging on to hope that this plan IS the plan for me and that this week is just a blip on the radar.

I’ll admit, I wanted to say screw it, as soon as I left weigh in.  But I want this, I want it so badly, that I’m ok waiting a while for it to fully ‘kick-in’.  I’m ok putting the work in on the faith that it’ll work for me, like it’s worked for everyone else I know.  I know I want my weight gone, but it’s a long road, it’s BEEN a long road, and just because it’s a new plan for me doesn’t make things happen any faster – no matter how much I want it to.

I am in control.

My friend Jen said something to me this morning, she said,

“Be in control Las, stop letting it control you,”

She’s right, but after a crushing weigh in (yes, I know everyone has gains eventually, but week 2 wasn’t *quite* what I was expecting!) it’s hard to keep the faith.

But, sitting here munching on my breakfast of a melon, I’m bloody well going to try!

Under the ‘cut’ is last week’s meal plan…with linked recipes to those that I tried 🙂

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