Skinny Girl Diet Adventure: One woman reflects on her year so far to put weight back on.

This week we have another guest blogger. Thanks Bethan Mosley for sharing your dieting experience!

Never in my life did I think that I would go on a diet. After all, aren’t diets, except for those in sports or with certain medical conditions, meant to be for people wanting to lose weight?

In terms of my own weight, I have always been a slim person. Before my weight loss, I could fit comfortably in UK size 6 and 8 clothing. I weighed around 7st-7st5. It wasn’t until I got down to 6st 5 at the end of last year that I realised that I had a problem. I put the majority of the blame to my work life. I was, and still am, a door host at a restaurant located in a popular indoor shopping centre. It was December and I was working a lot of shifts, ranging from 4-9 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. I was constantly busy with seating people down, cleaning and re-laying tables and organising bookings. Whilst it doesn’t sound like much, when it is Christmas time and you have people doing their Christmas shopping, it is a lot of work. I was always walking around trying to get everything done as quickly as possible and, even if I didn’t always know it, I was stressed.

I’m lucky that the restaurant where I work provides us with free staff food. A lot of the food that we can have for free isn’t exactly healthy. Ok, at the time I was eating pretty much pizza or pasta, sometimes a side salad. Once Christmas had passed I thought I would put the weight back on easily. It had calmed down but nowhere near as much as I thought. Shoppers now had money and vouchers to spend, so it was still mayhem. Progressing onto mid-January, early February, it had now started to calm down. The shoppers were broke. Hallelujah! I had way fewer shifts, a majority of which I finished early or were cancelled. I could finally start having proper meals at home again and spend all day sitting on my lazy arse. Moving further on throughout the next few months, although I wasn’t as skinny, I still wasn’t what I should be.

Following a series of doctors’ appointments, in which I had to do a blood test and keep a food diary, I was asked if I would like to be referred to a dietician. Being referred felt like a step in the right direction to getting to a healthy weight again. At my first appointment with my dietician, back in May, I weighed 6st 10. I had put on some weight but nowhere near enough. As I did with my doctor, I explained to my dietician my weight history, how I was pre and post university life and with the situation at work. She asked me basic questions like what I ate, how many meals did I eat in a day etc and weighed me. After this discussion she worked with me to develop a plan to get me to my target weight. In terms of the plan itself, I wasn’t entirely sure what it would be like. Working with her I was glad to find I wasn’t going to be forced to eat what I didn’t like. Not to brag (totally to brag) I certainly didn’t expect to be telling people that I get to eat two desserts a day. I’ve definitely had more than one person tell me that they want my diet.

Bethan diet plan

I remember not long after that appointment I went browsing round the clothes shops. I didn’t really want to be buying clothes when I was planning to put on weight but at the same time, I wanted some clothes that actually fitted me properly. My intentions were size 6 clothes. I was quite shocked to find out that when I went to Primark that their size 6 clothes weren’t the best fit. I had to go a size below. I was now a size 4. I fit into the equivalent of a US size 0. Even now that still shocks me. Growing up I loved fashion. Subjecting myself a lot to it, I must confess that a part of me did wonder what it would be like to be that size. I can now say that it is not good.

Writing this now my progress is steady. I have had a 6 week check up appointment with my dietician in which I managed to put on 4 pounds, taking me up to exactly 7st. On average, I was putting on half a pound a week. My next appointment is in about 3 week’s time. Weighing myself last weekend, I am up to 7st 2. From that, I want to put on just over a stone. In terms of my BMI, if I was to weigh 8st 3, my ideal weight, I would be in the healthy range for someone of my age and height. I can gladly say that my size 4 jeans are starting to get a little tight. The jeans I actually now have on I have ripped one of the belt loops from using them to help pull them up because of how tight they are. Oopsie! I am not quite there yet, but size 6 and size 8 clothes are starting to fit me properly again.

Now, when I look in the mirror, I have a better shape. Do I even dare I say that I’m developing some curves? My bones don’t stick out as much either. Allow me to tell you that being told you’re all ‘skin and bone’ is not intended to be a compliment. After I reach my target weight, I’ll be visiting my dietician to work on a plan to keep my weight healthy. I’m aiming to be at my target by the end of the year. Before my diet I didn’t really pay too much attention to what or how much I ate or even partake in any exercise. Now that I have seen what can happen to my body I’m learning that I need to keep a better lookout. I expect that it will take time for me to truly learn what is best for my body but I’m ok with that.

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Hello Depression My Old Friend

This week we have guest blogger Abigail sharing her experience with depression. We hope you enjoy and you can check out more of her work via her blog found at  the bottom of this blog!

When I finished the hell that was masters degree back in December, I expected to be bouncing off the walls with my newfound freedom.  I booked a one-way ticket to New Zealand for a year-long adventure.  It was supposed to be a year packed with nothing but mountains, star-gazing, and Lord of the Rings references.  But it turns out that there’s a catch.

I have depression.  And somehow missed the memo on this!  You see, my brain and I have been deep in denial about this for years.  Yes, it’s come around before, but I’ve always gotten past it one way or another.  Depression is different for everyone, and I appear to be on the high-functioning end of the spectrum.  Essentially, I can still function, go about my job, be a good student, and get all the chores done.  On the surface, it seemed like there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong.

But recently, I’ve found myself wishing I could stop in the middle of whatever I’m doing to just curl up on the floor, cry my eyes out and hope the linoleum sucks me up.  Somehow…this didn’t seem right.  Also…this didn’t seem socially acceptable when I was supposed to be cleaning the hostel kitchen.

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Nope by Gemma Correll

So it seems that the demon has returned. For years, I honestly believed that I just didn’t have depression anymore. I went to therapy years ago, I worked myself out of it, I was fine! Except now I’m not. Well today I am…but tomorrow who knows.

To me, depression seemed like this thing I could beat. And I did for a good long while! But as much as I love the adventure of traveling, solo travel gives you a lot of time in your own head. You begin to question things and become in tune with yourself. So when your heart is jamming out to My Chemical Romance…well…you notice.

I was blindsided the first time I was really aware that it had come back. Where had it come from? There was nothing going on to make me so upset! I was in the land of hobbits for Pete’s sake! And then I remembered that depression isn’t about that. Still, acknowledging that the beast was back didn’t bring me much comfort. Once I knew there was a problem, I kept waiting for it. Each day I would wake up wondering, “When is it going to hit?”.

The other problem was that I was already aware that I suffer from PMS. There are some times that I find myself being really down…and then surprise! I get my period two days later! And amazingly this seems to happen every month! Thank you, uterus!

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Uterus by Sarah Anderson

So my depression must only be related to PMS right? WRONG! This time my depressive episodes were happening at random. Hmm…So it looks like depression has made itself comfortable on the couch that is my brain. Rude!

It’s even harder being so far away from home. I feel like my brain specifically prefers to go into breakdown mode when no one at home is awake. At some point, I had a friend go on a trip abroad, meaning I finally had a conscious friend to call on during one of my episodes. Guess who got a phone call the minute she woke up? After all, nothing says “wake up sleepy head!” like “HELP! I CAN’T STOP CRYING AND EVERYTHING IS AWFUL AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!”

Now I have friends in Kiwi-country that are helping me cope. Things are improving. There are still days when I find it hard not to just curl up on the floor. But on these days, there are at least a few things that help:

1. Watching a familiar movie, preferably Spirited Away or Pride and Prejudice.
2. Crying. A lot. Sometimes, I can get it out of my system. Sometimes I can’t. Either way it does seem to bring temporary relief.
3. Taking my damn vitamins! Vitamin B6, Calcium, and Magnesium can do wonders for reducing my PMS symptoms. So maybe, just maybe I can at least keep the hormones at bay.
4. Telling a friend. The more people I talk to about depression, the more I realize that I’m not alone. Sometimes even just telling someone that I am the exact OPPOSITE of okay is enough to keep me in balance.
5. Going outside. Even if I don’t want to move, just lying in the sun can help. Given…it’s winter here in the Southern Hemisphere, but I can still try!

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Tropical Depression by Gemma Correll

6. Eating healthy food. I do this at home, but on the road, it’s much harder to find the motivation to cook myself a decent meal. Often, I resort to just sticking a spoon in a jar of peanut butter and thinking, “Welp…close enough!”. I feel worlds better when I actually cook up a vegetable or two.
7. Going for a walk. I am very lucky right now because the hostel I work at has a Border Collie that I can borrow almost any time. If I’m riding the struggle bus, I grab the leash, steal the dog, and walk until I can at least partially function around other people again.

I’m not saying any of these things are a cure-all. I’ve accepted that now…I think. But they’re helping me cope. Heck, even having a list of coping tools is an improvement right now. It turns out that there’s no guidebook to dealing with depression. When the unwelcome tenant in my brain returned yet again, I had no clue how to cope. If I hadn’t asked one of my friends for advice, I would still be struggling a lot more than I am now. She helped me begin to sort out my triggers and list the things that help me stop feeling like I’m at the bottom of a well with no way out.

Some days, I am the happy-go-lucky person I always thought I was, being so cheerful it would probably make unicorns cringe. Some days, despite the beautiful shining sun in the sky, I just want to hide in a nest of blankets. Nothing is perfect. But I’m functioning as well as I can. And throughout this whole process I’m learning more about myself. I’m trying to accept the beautiful, messy brain in my head because, despite all the ups and downs, we’ve accomplished some great things together.

While I know that a blog post won’t cure anyone else’s depression any more than it’s cured mine, I hope it helps. Sometimes it’s so easy to get in your own head and think you’re going nuts or that you’re an idiot. Well for the record, you’re not. If you’re reading this and you can relate, I’m sorry that you’re going through this as well. But you’re not alone. You are beautiful. And we’re all going to pull through on this crazy rollercoaster called life. As my favourite fish once sang: “Just keep swimming”.

 

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Octopus by Liz Climo

 

Social Media: So I won’t be posting this on my blog just yet (I may do a sister article more focused on traveling), but my blog is wanderponderwonderland.wordpress.com if you don’t mind including the link. It’s a travel blog focused on some of the less glamorous aspects of traveling abroad. Thanks!!

Back on the Merry-Go-Round

It feels like it’s been ages since I last wrote about my actual disease, so this is going to be an ulcerative colitis post! Yaaayyy…

It’s not going to be particularly upbeat though, I’m afraid, because I am bloody fed up with the bastard. For the thousandth time, I am a bit not very well.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my colitis kept flaring up last year, meaning I was on and off steroids so often that every IBD professional who looks at my folder actually winces. At the beginning of the year, my lovely IBD nurse told me that we should aim to keep me off steroids for the whole of 2017 as a result. At the time this gave me a not-inconsiderable swirl of anxiety, but on the outside I was all:

thumbs up

But then, things were okay for a couple of months. Then they started to get a bit crappy (ha), so I was put on some mild, non-steroid extra medications, and it cleared up. All was well for a while, then it started to get worse. I was given a colonoscopy (fab) and some more mini-fixes, and it once again sorted itself out. Here came a blissful period of about two months in which I was pretty consistently fine, could go about my life without worrying and sang daily in the shower. Then about a month ago, my colitis sensed a fun-packed fortnight on the horizon (comprising of having friends to stay, a party, my birthday and a holiday) and evidently thought:

let's do this

This time it took a lot of extra medication to beat the fucker back down, but I have a very serious takes-no-shit (ha) policy for my birthday and wasn’t giving up easily. Now, whether my colitis had taken this defeat personally, or whether it took me on my word when I pleaded for just a couple of good weeks, it’s back. Literally the day after I had successfully weaned myself off the extra meds it was all churning, aching, stuck-in-the-bathroom fun again.

And it’s not that I (by which I mean my wonderful nurse) don’t have any more tricks up my sleeve to get it back under control, it’s just that I am so friggin tired of this merry-go-round. Going from living my life like every other person, to analysing all my plans for the next fortnight to see how much of a risk they’re going to pose to my health/mortification levels. To being asked for drinks with work, and trying to find a subtle way of saying ‘no’ that’s not ‘if I drink anything right now I’ll spend the whole of the next morning on the toilet’. To spending the day after my boyfriend receives really good news literally willing myself to feel less ill, to be enthusiastic, to eat this celebratory food, not worry about that glass of champagne and not have to curl into an exhausted, bowel-bludgeoned ball at the end of the day when I can’t power through anymore. To knowing that a two-hour car trip to and from my brother’s hour-long graduation ceremony won’t be risky enough to stop me from going at all.

It’s exhausting, and has me a bit:

rage im fine

And I’ll be okay. I’ve now officially caved in to the preparation for being put on another long-term drug which will (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) finally get me off the merry-go-round, I’ve got more temporary-fixes on the way and I’ve got lots of lovely people around me who are very understanding of the (really, quite spectacularly) volatile mood swings that come along with this frustration. In my outside-health life I’ve had lots of good things happen in the last week, which helps an inordinate amount, and I know I’ll be okay in the end.

But to the merry-go-round, I say:

bugger off

What is being mentally healthy?

This weeks long awaited post is by Rosalind, if you are interested in her other posts you can find her last one here and follow the links there to access more. If you enjoyed the art in the piece you can find more here.

I find it interesting that we throw around the phrase mental illness in so many situations – clinically, socially, professionally – but you don’t often hear of people being mentally healthy. Mental Health is a term only used when there is a big problem.

The thing is, in my experience I don’t think it’s that simple. I know people with mental illnesses who are getting on a lot better than people without, mainly because they think about their Mental Health.

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The brain is a funny creature and Mental Health and the culture, or even the social circle, we are in also influences the way we see it.

Friday last week I woke up and it felt like a part of my brain had turned off and I was no longer able to access emotions. This is not the first time this has happened. It lasted two days; the first I kept it low key and tried to accomplish a couple of tasks I needed to do, the second I went to work.

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Without emotion, being motivated to do anything was difficult; being social was challenging and not doing inappropriate things was a struggle. I was using my rational brain to keep things on track using past experiences and the knowledge that I would care in the future to keep going.

I get intrusive thoughts. This is something I have only come to recognise recently after I explored the entire back catalogue of the great Maria Bamford, and they are harder to keep in check when you have no emotion (mine are reasonably mild and I wouldn’t consider it OCD territory).

Here are some examples of things I have thought about: smashing a bottle/ mug / anything smash-able and stabbing myself, slamming my head in a door, saying/doing inappropriate things the list goes on. Now these are not things I want to do, they appear as very non-aggressive suggestions in the same way you might think ‘hmm I could have some chocolate’. Just because I have these thoughts doesn’t mean I want to do these things, this is the bit that’s harder to wrap my head around, but it’s true and there is a difference, it just isn’t always clear cut.

It’s interesting when I have talked about my experience of losing my emotions to friends; the initial reaction is ‘that is awful’, which is in a part true, but on the other side it doesn’t feel awful because there is no feeling. There is knowledge that it’s not a good state, but no feeling behind that.

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Part of the reason I want to write about this is because recognising that something happens helps me and knowing that it’s not just me makes things better. On the other side of this, I want there to be more awareness for things like this because I benefit so much from having really supportive people in my life so these things do not cause me large problems, but a lot of people don’t have that same support.

On my way back from work on Saturday my emotions slowly started to return. It’s funny how much you don’t notice your emotional experience until it’s gone. Sunday I was in work and it was a completely different day and for the next few days I noticed my emotional experience a lot more and was able to relish moments that would normally pass me by.

On both days I ate very nice chocolate and the difference in that experience was something I can’t even describe.

In the past I have had real difficulty coming to terms with the variance in my brain’s ability to function. I have tried to fight with my brain and it has failed miserably, often ending up with more difficulties and complications. I’ve got to a point where I have accepted my brain is complicated and fragile and that’s ok, I like it that way (even though sometimes it is hard to deal with…). I also feel very mentally healthy probably the most mentally healthy I have ever felt.

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One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that sometimes the most important self care is not harming yourself or those around you and if you don’t manage to eat, shower or leave the house for a few days, that’s ok.

To those that haven’t experienced things like this, if someone in your life who you know experiences mental health difficulties and is being a bit of a tosser, examine your perspective for a moment. Are they actively seeking to hurt you? Does what they’re doing line up with what you know about them? Are they fighting a battle with their brain that you can’t see?

There are mental health services you can point them towards, it is also not your responsibility to fix them, but knowing someone is there for you makes such a difference. Imagine you are walking beside someone carrying a really heavy bag. They may fall over, they may pant and swear, they may even blame you for not carrying it because fuck it’s so heavy, but it’s not personal; if you weren’t their they would swear at the air and blame gravity. Knowing that you are there can distract a little from the burden.

It also means that I have a lot more patience and empathy. I mean if I can have empathy for myself when I have felt a very strong urge to physically maim/mental scar a stranger/myself/someone I love then it’s much easier to accept the frustrating things other people do.

I genuinely do not know what kind of person I would be without the love and support I have received in my life so far, so when I see people doing awful things I take a moment to see how they got there. It’s very easy to take what you have for granted and to say ‘it’s not an excuse’ but then try and excuse your own bad behaviour because you were a bit tired or you weren’t really paying attention.

What if they don’t know? I have days where I don’t know what emotions feel like. If I didn’t have a structure in place to help me remember what is important to me when I am not in that state I could commit genocide without batting an eyelid.

Black and white is just a filter, there are more perspectives than you can ever realise.

 

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Above is a little book I created about one way I see my brain, to see more of my art click here.