Back to square one

I went to the doctors last Saturday and saw a reading of my weight, which I haven’t seen for about a month. It’s not good news, as I’m almost back to when I started changing my diet and improving my fitness two years ago. The scales read around 101kg, which is about 15.9 stone. Back in 2014 I weight 15.11 stone, although I did change my diet a week before I got a pair of scales through the post, so I might’ve been closer to 16 stone.

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How I felt at the doctors!

It’s been a difficult road trying to lose body weight and refrain from putting it back on again. If you’re really determined, losing body weight and body fat can be easy, but keeping it off is a real challenge. I’ve mentioned before in posts that I was living away from home when I changed my lifestyle. I was just looking after myself and occasionally cooked for my house mates, which made it much easier to lose weight. Coming back home and retaining these changes was very difficult, and it’s clearly not worked since I’m almost back at square one.

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However, I’m not the same as I was this time two years ago. Training for my first 10km race last year meant that I developed certain muscles, especially on my upper thighs. Gaining muscle means you’ll gain a bit of weight, but it’s not unhealthy body weight since it’s muscle, not fat. I’ve not been running as much since doing the Race for Life, but my muscles are still there and I’ve been doing alternative workouts at the gym on a weekly basis.

Secondly, I also consider myself a lot healthier than I was two years ago. I make more of an effort to eat more nutritious food including fruit and vegetables, and I never really ate salads until I changed my eating habits. In addition I drink a lot more water than I used to and refrain from consuming carbonated drinks at home, such as coke and lemonade.

And thirdly, I fit into smaller sized clothes than I did two years ago, despite almost being the same weight. Two years ago I would wear size 18-20 clothing and 38C sized bras. Now I wear 16-18 clothing and 36B bras. I noticed over time that my figure changed while losing weight and saw where areas of body fat were becoming diminished. Since being back at home I’ve noticed where the gained body weight/fat has been distributed on my body, which is different to two years ago. Unfortunately I have gained body fat around my arms, more than I have before (I’ve noticed that from looking at photos). However, my belly isn’t as large as it was two years ago.

So despite being almost at a previous body weight at the moment, I’m not getting myself stressed or upset about it. While I am annoyed at myself for putting excess body weight back on, I’m pleased that I can consider myself healthier and fitter than I was two years ago. I’ve become more aware of what it takes to be healthy and live a good lifestyle. One of my goals for this year is to lose 2 stone by my sister’s wedding in June. That should be achievable, as I almost lost that much body weight by June 2014.

I’ve been looking into dates for races and I’m definitely going to run at the 10km Race for Life again. I really enjoyed it last year and I raised a lot of money for Cancer Research UK. It’ll also give me an opportunity to beat my previous time of 1 hour and 11 minutes. I’ve also found a date for a half marathon in Leicester, which takes place on Sunday 23rd October this year. This gives me plenty of time to train, since it will be about double the distance of one Race for Life. This definitely makes me nervous, as it will be the biggest challenge of my life so far in terms of fitness!

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Many thanks,

Clare Bear

First spin class

This morning I ventured into an intense form of exercise known as the dreaded ‘spin’, which I had never tried before for several reasons. The first being the representation of it in media, such as the films Bridget Jones and Run Fatboy Run. I much prefer walking and jogging to cycling, and bicycle seats are rather uncomfortable!

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It looks so tiring!

Today I decided to put these preconceptions at the back of my mind and give it a go at my local gym. I’ve only been able to get to the gym a few times since working full-time, so I need to use the weekends as a prime opportunity. There are many classes throughout the week at different times of the day, but Saturdays 11-11:45am is ideal for me at the moment.

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Ready for a good old spin

There’s a lovely large studio at the gym where most classes take place, including Zumba. There were only two spare bikes left over when the class started and it was nice to see some men, as Zumba only seems to attract women.

I have to admit, I didn’t expect there to be more than just spinning at the class. The instructor shouted away to do arm stretches and stand while cycling as well! On every bike there are red knobs which you turn anti-clockwise to reduce the intensity, and vice versa to increase the resistance. The instructor would shout ‘Turn it up 3 to the right’, ‘Turn it down half to the left’ etc. While the instructor doesn’t know what intensity you are spinning at, I pushed myself and tried to spin at a higher intensity when I could.

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Sweat to style my hair!

I was drenched in sweat afterwards and my legs hate stairs at the moment. I’m dreading the morning when my legs will ache even more, but the class was worth it. I’d definitely like to go to another spin class, despite my legs, hands and bum hurting during the class! I will grow accustomed to it, and this form of intense exercise will help with losing body fat and increasing the strength of my legs to complete longer distance runs.

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Many thanks,

Clare Bear

Weighty women

Since making the decision to walk to work and back, I have become more observant of advertisements. We are bombarded with them on a daily basis: the television, radio, modes of transport, giant billboards and bus stops. When I used to catch the bus for work I would only really remember the adverts at the stops I would use, and notice when they were changed to advertise something else. I have been walking the same route as the bus more often recently as it is slightly quicker than going the more scenic route however, doing this made me think of an idea for a feminist blog.

On my most direct route to work I pass many bus stops, and in that period of 40 minutes, there are currently four advertisements for Slim Fast. Slim Fast, as you can guess by the name, offer weight loss products which, if used accordingly, means the consumer can lose body weight quickly. What made me want to write this blog is that all of these four adverts that I see every day, the same woman appears.

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And here she is…

From what it appears on the advert, this woman is of slim build. On one of the adverts, she is leaning back on what appears to be a kitchen counter, and looks relaxed. Her smile, to me, is not genuine though. It looks fake. The text in red which appears across her upper body states ‘Works for me’. This implies that if women were to use Slim Fast products, then they would achieve positive results and look like the build of the woman on the advertisement. Additionally, the other advert is titled ‘Showtime Saturday’ and the woman states ‘I’m chilled’, while she is in the process of drinking a Slim Fast milkshake. This implies that women could or should consume these fast weight loss products while they are watching television, since binge watching back to back episodes of shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. with takeaways and snacks seems to be the encouraged and current norm for staying in on a weekend evening.

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She looks so chilled…

The fact that only a woman appears on these weight loss advertisements suggests that these products are aimed at women, and that it is women who should be maintaining and looking after their own body weight. It also seems timely that these Slim Fast adverts have appeared, not just because they are promoting a new range of products, but it is not long until Christmas. There is a general consensus that people gain body weight and fat over the Christmas period, since we buy each other sweet unhealthy treats and stuff our faces with endless amounts of food. The advert could be suggesting that women should aim to lose body weight quickly in the run up to Christmas, so that they are prepared for weight gain, and then of course, Slim Fast will more than likely return after the Christmas holidays and encourage women to lose the body weight that they have gained, alongside all of the gyms encouraging people to apply for a ‘much needed’ membership.

Actually, don’t most adverts promoting weight loss only include women, who appear to be so happy with the results and would recommend it to their female friends? Products with lower fat and/or sugar content always seem to be advertised by women, such as Activia and Muller light.  I cannot think of a single advertisement that has had a male promoting a weight loss product. It seems that advertisements aimed at men, in terms of their bodily health, promote muscle. By gaining muscle, men are able to gain a fit physique and be admired by women for their ‘hours of training’ at the gym. I don’t know much about the giant tubs of tablets and powder that you can buy which supposedly facilitate with muscle gain and increasing protein intake, but they always seem to be aimed at men.

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Look at all of that manly muscle!

While men are encouraged to gain to fulfil their masculinity, women are told that they should lose weight to achieve the perfect physique, such as being beach ready with a bikini body. Do you see what’s going on here? Throughout history, women have traditionally been expected to make sacrifices and are dictated on how they should behave, while men have been implicitly advised on what they can achieve, and that they don’t need to lose out on anything.

These ideals in the divide between the sexes is upheld by the world of advertising. The divide has always been an opportunity for businesses to exploit and manipulate consumers into buying certain products. A simple example is body wash products. Many shower gels, shampoos and conditioners are aimed at one sex or the other, even though they all do the same job. One thing that startled me once was when I was looking for cranberry tablets in Tesco for my dog Oscar. The first packet I picked up advertised the tablets for women! What difference could there be between cranberry tablets for men and ones for women? Why is there a need for this difference?

I could go on with many more examples of sexist advertising, but this blog has been written in order to be critical towards advertising concerning weight loss for women. The fact that I see four advertisements with the same woman is detrimental to women’s health and well-being. This statement is bold, but it probably affects many women on their daily commute to work. Many of us face enough hardships on a regular basis just because of our sex, so promoting fast weight loss so many times on one route is dangerous. We live in a world where people have become impatient, due to how quickly we can get to places, the speed of surfing the internet, the unbelievable pace of technological advancements etc etc. We want results fast, and we want them now! Weight loss fits into this as well. Losing weight quickly is unhealthy and means that you are more than likely to put it back on again. Slim Fast offers a quick solution, but not a permanent one.

I’ll admit, I have used Slim Fast products, but I didn’t follow the instructions as specified. When I changed my diet last year in January, I would drink a Slim Fast milkshake and eat a healthy snack for my lunchtime meal. To achieve optimum results, you are supposed to have two milkshakes and how ever many Slim Fast snacks throughout the day, and one low calorie meal. Since my goal is to achieve weight loss over a period of time and keep it off, I decided against the recommended usage outlined by Slim Fast and decided to use their products as a facilitator in my weight loss. Plus I was lazy about making lunch and as a student, I wanted as much sleep as possible before going to university or work. So making a milkshake was very quick and simple, and saved time.

I am glad now that I have stopped using Slim Fast products, especially since seeing the advertising. Since my aim is to lose body weight and fat and keep it off, other methods are required. While losing weight fast can feel good and people notice, it is not a healthy way to go about dieting. I’ll take the good old fashioned route because I’ll feel happier that way; I’ll be healthier in the long term.

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Many thanks,

Clare Bear

What jogging 10k has taught me

I can’t believe it has already been 2 weeks since I jogged 10km at the Race for Life in Leicester- it feels like it was so long ago, but it’s not really. The atmosphere was incredible and everyone was so supportive of each other. I would definitely like to participate in another Race for Life in the near future, to raise more money for Cancer Research UK. While jogging the Race for Life was to raise money and awareness, I did it primarily as a way to improve my fitness and health. I thought that jogging for a great cause would motivate me in my training to complete the 10km non-stop, and it certainly worked!

I decided that I would jog the Race for Life back in January this year, but at first I chose 5km. I surprised myself when I  jogged 5km non-stop on the treadmill at the gym in about 45 minutes on a flat gradient. I didn’t feel the need to stop and I didn’t feel breathy after completing it. That’s when I decided to up the ante and aim for 10km. At first I thought to myself, are you crazy?! That’s a bit of a daunting challenge you’re setting yourself, isn’t it? Will you ever be ready to jog 10km non-stop by July?

I was getting a bit worried in my training when I found it difficult to jog outside, which I didn’t start until March time. The first time I completed 10km non-stop on a treadmill was not until towards the end of April, which I did in a time of 1 hour and 25 minutes. This meant that I had May and June to practice 10km outside, and the first time I achieved that was a month after completing it on the treadmill, in a time of 1 hour and 15 minutes.

I’ve mentioned recently before that I worry a lot; I even call myself a ‘worry wart’ sometimes! I worry that I won’t have enough time to complete tasks and challenges, such as essays I’ve had to write and the dissertation which I’m currently working on. Most of the time, I have plenty of time left over to check over my work lots of times. In the month that I had left to prepare for the Race for Life, I think I must’ve jogged 10km outside at least 5 times. I proved to myself through all of those times, no matter how tough or easy I found them, that I would be able to complete the race, even if I had to walk parts of the route. However, this was not the case. I jogged the 10km route non-stop, without feeling the need to walk or stop, in 1 hour and 11 minutes, which was 3 minutes over my best ever time, but I was still thrilled!

On reflection, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about what I have learnt through my training to jog 10km:

 

1. You can do great things, no matter what your body weight

I feel brave enough now to say that I currently weight 14 stone and 11 pounds, which is about 94 kg, and my height, last time I checked a year ago, is 1.74m, which is about 5 feet and 8 1/2 inches. I have been averaging this weight since the start of this year. While my training went well, my dieting has not so much. I thought that in order to jog the distance non-stop, I would need to lose at least another stone however, this was not the case. My training meant that I started to develop more muscle in my thighs and other areas of my body, so I am guessing that this muscle is burning off the calories while I am maintaining an average weight.

It felt fantastic to cross the finish line at the Race for Life, that I was able to jog 10km non-stop even at my current weight. I always had the conception that being over-weight meant that I would become tired and breathy quickly; I have proved this wrong!

2. No one cares what you are doing when you are exercising

I jumped over the hurdle of being nervous about joining the gym in March last year and I still feel fine to this day. However, I dreaded the first time I went jogging outside. I had thoughts whirring through my head, that people would wonder what ‘a big girl’ like me was doing outside sweating buckets and look at me in disgust as my ‘bingo wings’, legs, belly and bottom jiggled about. The truth is, people just seem to get on with their own business and don’t even bat an eyelid, just like those at the gym.

Even if they were thinking the thoughts I have just stated, I wouldn’t have even known and to be honest, I have learnt not to let it bother me, and just let them deal with it. If people have had those thoughts about me, then it’s their problem.

3. You start to appreciate and love your body

Before I started seriously changing my fitness and lifestyle, I never thought I would see myself jogging 10km. I loathed my majority of my body parts, only really liking my eyes, calfs and shoulders. However, when you start training, you realise what an amazing thing your body really is. You only have to look at the athletes at the Olympic Games to see what the human body is capable of.

Even while I was writing this post, I was still wondering how on earth I managed to jog 10km. Throughout my training I started to appreciate my body more and embraced the changes it was going through. I can happily say that I feel comfortable in my own skin and love my body!

 

Since the Race for Life, I haven’t had a chance to do intense exercise! This is due to various things, including my dissertation, my part-time job and holidays. I am currently getting exercise by taking my dog Oscar for walks. It has been nice to relax and treat myself since completing the Race for Life, but I will need to get back on track with my fitness. Even though I haven’t done any real exercise, my weight has remained the same, which is good. And even though I have said that I am happy with my body, I want to lose weight for my health in the long-term.

Thank you everyone for being so supportive! It has meant a lot to me and has been really encouraging. I am so glad that I started blogging when I did- thank you to WordPress and its friendly community of bloggers.

 

One happy Clare Bear 🙂

Quick update

It’s been a while since I posted a blog about my fitness and health, and a little while since I’ve posted something (well, only 5 days ago but I normally publish 2-3 blogs a week).

8 more sleeps left until the big day- the Race for Life! I’ve blogged about this a lot, but if you don’t know about it, then you can read the blog called Lucky to be alive.

It is crazy how quick it is coming round and I have been through a roller coaster of emotions throughout my training: self-doubt, when it has been strenuous and difficult; being ‘on top of the world’, when jogging has been successful and feeling easier to accomplish; and most importantly, confidence, which is what I’m feeling right now!

Since I have been aiming to improve my fitness, my self-confidence has grown massively. I am able to jog in public without wondering what people think of me. I can do weights at the gym without being concerned about my body around others who are fitter than myself. I feel great!

I am confident that I will be able to jog 10km non-stop next Sunday. Despite not knowing the route, I have an idea of where I will be jogging. I am not aiming for a particular time to complete the distance in, but my best time so far, on a particular route, has been 1 hour and 8 minutes, so it would be nice to finish the Race for Life close to that time.

I must admit, while training has been going well, my dieting and weight loss is another story. Again my body weight is being the peculiar entity that a lot of people may be able to sympathize with. This week I have been rubbish with my diet, but I have lost 2 pounds. Other weeks I have done rather well, but gained a pound or two! However, I am still happy that I am a stone lighter than I was over a year ago, and I have no intention of putting it back on!

What has surprised me most of all since I decided to up the ante, to jog 10km rather than the alternative 5km Race for Life, is that despite being overweight, I now consider myself as fitter. I always considered myself unfit and since joining the gym last year in March, my body has gone through a lot of changes. I lost 2 stone, then put a stone back on. I have a considerable build up of muscle on my arms where I have been trying to eliminate my ‘bingo wings’. And my thighs have developed more muscle through jogging on routes with varying gradients.

I will see how the Race for Life goes next Sunday, but I would like to continue jogging afterwards, and potentially participate in more races, and maybe even longer distances…

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Many thanks,

Clare Bear

Even more prepared

And another short and sweet blog…

Following on further from one of my recent blogs, when I was underprepared to jog 10km, I got this handy water bottle through the post today! I only ordered it on Thursday, after I failed to jog 10km, so thanks Amazon.

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One of my favourite colours

It will make my life that little bit easier when I’m out jogging, since it’s easy to hold and has no screw top to drink the water from.

I’m seeing the stage version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time tonight and singing in a concert tomorrow, so feeling very excited!

 

Happy reading and blogging,

Many thanks,
Clare Bear

Better prepared

A quick short and sweet update.

Following on from yesterday’s blog, I jogged 10km this morning outside, in approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, which is a only a little bit longer than the time of my first attempt of 1 hour and 15 minutes.

I had a bottle of water with me this time and I didn’t feel so thirtsy when I first woke up. However, I must admit, it was tough going.

Even though the sun wasn’t out until the second half of the jog, it was humid and it felt muggy. This morning was the first time I jogged 10km outside in these weather conditions, so I’m glad I had water!

I struggled and had to stop a few times for a quick breather; I think I may have been a bit too determined to try and beat my previous time, by jogging too fast to start with.

Ideally I’d like to jog 10km outside non-stop at least once next week.

Also, in a month’s time today, I will be doing the 10k Race for Life– so I’d better get jogging!

 

Happy reading and blogging,

Many thanks,

Clare Bear