Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Erm, better late than never!

Okey dokey, my posting habits have been a bit non-existent of late. I have however kept up with the exercise and measuring, I will post up the results of two weeks ago first, then the readings I took this Sunday.

The measurements from Sunday the 21st November are as follows:

Body Fat %: 51.9% (46.3kg/7st 4lb/102 lbs) (=)                                              
Visceral Fat: 8 (0 Normal) (=)                                                 
BMI: 32.8 (Obese) (-0.3)                                                                   
Weight: 14st 0lb/89.2kg/196lbs (-2lb/-0.8kg)                                                  

The measurements from Sunday the 5th December are:

Body Fat %: 51.6% (45.9kg/7st 3lb/101 lbs) (-0.3%)
Visceral Fat: 8 (0 Normal) (=)
BMI: 32.7 (Obese) (-0.1)
Weight: 14st 0lb/89kg/lbs (-0lb/-0.2kg)

It seems that my weight is still going down very slowly, the stones measurement hasn't changed in two weeks but my weight in kilograms has. Having done the sums for the conversions I only need to lose one more kilogram to be 13st 13lbs, I haven't been 13st anything for a very long time so I'm really pleased! My overall Body Fat Percentage is slowly going down as well, I would love more than anything for it to be down to 45% or even 40% although I realise it may take a while with the slow reduction thus far. I might only take tape measurements every four weeks now, so very little is changing with them that it’s almost not worth doing regularly.

Well, I'm hoping I can keep this up over Christmas and New Year, I am approaching the most dangerous time as far as activity and weight loss goes but it's quite fun! I'm finding that I feel better after exercising and feel energised, that's not to say I don't feel exhausted and sore the next day but as I get stronger and fitter I don't hurt as much. I'm looking in the mirror and feeling better about how I fit my clothes, I'm not wanting to go for the huge baggy T-shirts option to hide my figure anymore. It feels good :D.

Another positive thing about exercising is that I almost gave blood today... Now you might be thinking "Why is she happy about not managing to donate blood?" Well, I am committed to donating to the Blood Service but I've never quite managed it. Each time I go they never quite find a vein but this time they did, I'd been exercising earlier in the day to get my heart rate up and it actually worked for about 40 seconds then it stopped. I was disappointed but it means that by exercising my veins are expanding and my heart rate is improving, thus the next time I go I should, *fingers crossed*, be able to donate a pint of blood properly. Just a reminder for people who can, Christmas is the time the Blood Service always run short so get to the Donation Sessions people!!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Weigh Day 6

Here I am again, another two weeks have passed and it's time for measurements again. I have started a new set of exercises and it seems to be doing the trick, everything is slowly going down.

Bust: 43 in/109.2cm (+0.5)
Chest: 35.5 in/90.2cm (-1)                  
Waist: 39 in/99.0cm (-1)                  
Hips: 46 in/116.8cm (-0.5)                  
Thighs: 27 in/68.6cm (-0.5)                  
Calves: 17 in/43.2 (=)                  
Upper arm: 14 in/35.6cm (=)                  
Forearm: 11 in/27.9cm (=)

Body Fat %: 51.9% (46.7kg/7st 4lb/lbs) (-0.5%)
Visceral Fat: 8 (0 Normal) (=)
BMI: 33.1 (Obese) (=)
Weight: 14st 2lb/90.0kg/198lbs (=)
This is the comparison with the first weeks numbers, I seem to have hit a bit of a plateau with the tape measurements and I'm not sure what else I can do to try and reduce them a bit more. I've never been one of those women with a 'straight up and down' figure but I'm certain I am able to lose a few more inches than I have done!!

Bust: +0.5in/1.2cm                      
Chest: +1in/2.5cm                       
Waist: -1in/2.5cm                      
Hips: -1in/2.5cm                      
Thighs: -0.5in 1.2cm                      
Calves: =                      
Upper arm: =                      
Forearm: =  

Fat %: -1%
Visceral Fat: =
BMI: -0.9
Weight: -5lb/2kg

I must admit that I'm starting to get into my head that it should be going faster, I should be losing more weight for the amount of time I've been doing this. I'm falling into the trap that a lot of people find themselves in after so many months of trying to lose weight, I'm one of those people who have never done any real exercise at all. This is the most time I've devoted to trying to get in better shape, I tend to be slightly impatient with things and I'm a bit of a perfectionist so having my body respond slowly to the exercise is driving me a bit nuts!

I did however find something encouraging recently. A while back in July I got the opportunity to go to one of those really expensive Health Clubs on a 'Free Week Trial' pass that they do sometimes, one of those ones where the Gym equipment is so advanced that it washes you and trims your nails while you exercise. Well, in the changing room was a very fancy electronic weigh scales, it not only told you how much you weighed but laser measured your height and gave you the Fat %, Visceral Fat, BMI and how much your Fat % was in kgs. It was that set of scales that gave me the idea for the blog and for getting a set for myself. I rediscovered the printed out set of measurements the other day and it turns out that on the 22nd of July 2010 I was 14st 10lbs. As I am now 14st 2lbs I've actually lost 8lbs in three and a half months. :D That cheered me up a bit!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Weigh Day 5

Well, I am a bit late... I took the measurements on Sunday, as normal, but then promptly forgot to actually post them up. It was only when I was talking to my husband that I realised my mistake! I blame getting over the cold :).

Bust: 43 in/109.2cm (+0.5in)
Chest: 35 in/88.9cm (+1in)                   
Waist: 39 in/99.0cm (=)                   
Hips: 46.5 in/118.1cm (=)                   
Thighs: 27 in/68.5cm (+0.5in)                   
Calves: 16.25 in/41.2cm (-0.25in)                   
Upper arm: 15 in/38.1cm (+1in)                   
Forearm: 11 in/27.9cm (=)

Body Fat %: 52.4% (47.3kg/7st 6lb/104lbs) (+0.2%)       
Visceral Fat: 8 (0 Normal) =                    
BMI: 33.1 (Obese) -0.1                
Weight: 14st 2lb/90.2kg/198lbs -1lb           
By the looks of these measurements, having the cold knocked me back a bit. I just haven't had very much energy to do anything really, it wasn't totally unexpected as it usually takes me a couple of weeks to properly shift a cold. I am however starting a new exercise routine which should kick-start the progress again.

The comparison with the first measurements below are about the same, these last two weeks have hampered progress but never mind. Onward and Upward!

Bust: +0.5in/1.2cm
Chest: +0.5in/1.2cm                   
Waist: -1in/2.5cm                   
Hips: -0.5in/1.2cm                   
Thighs: -0.5in/1.2cm                   
Calves: -0.75in/1.9cm                   
Upper arm: +1in/2.5cm                   
Forearm: =

Body Fat %: -0.5%
Visceral Fat: =
BMI: -0.9
Weight: -5lb/2kg
It's a fairly short post this time as there's not that much to report, hopefully things should improve soon.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Check it out...

Right, this is something that I've had a couple of potential scares with in my life. It's something I take seriously and although this is a fairly lighthearted post, the message is fairly clear.

I've spoken about different exercises you can do to get fit, there are some things that you can do extra to exercising which will improve health... checking yourself out! No, I'm not talking about posing naked in front of the mirror to marvel at your achievements, I'm talking about ladies checking your breasts and men checking your testicles. It is such a vital thing to do yet hardly anyone does, once a week - that's all you have to do.

Ladies, check your whole breast, be thorough. This includes the armpits, breast and upper chest. There are many cancer sites that use the 'TLC' rule: Touch, Look, Check. I'll include a list of helpful websites at the bottom of the post. The average woman's breasts are made up of mostly fibrous (fatty) tissue, underneath the fibrous tissue are ligaments and muscle that support them - effectively your 'Pecs'. It's good for women to keep their Pecs exercised well, the twin towers need a solid foundation to keep them up girls!

There should be no major changes in texture, no discharge coming from the nipples, nothing should be going crusty or weeping, the nipples shouldn't have inflamed or sunk in, and there should be no large lumps. That being said many women do have what is termed by Doctors to be "Lumpy Breasts", I've had a couple of times where I've gone to the hospital because I've found a lump and I've been reassured that it's not serious. There's no shame or a black mark on your medical record if you turn up every fortnight saying you've found something, they won't see it as a waste of their time at all. Also, if the Doctor does feel something they now have to refer you to the hospital for a scan, even if they don't think it's serious. I had this explained to me the last time I went. Nine times out of ten a lump will be nothing more than fibrous tissue, but if that one time in ten is found then DONT PANIC. It's ok to be scared, there are so many support groups and Charities out there that will help you. If it's caught early then the percentage of full recovery rockets up.

Family factors also increase or decrease the risk. One of the things they always ask is "Has your mother or grandmother suffered from breast cancer." If the answer is 'yes' then you're in a slightly higher risk category, but it doesn't guarantee that you will get it. (By the way lads, you can develop breast cancer as well.)

This brings me on to the men, you thought you'd escaped didn't you. "She's a woman, she's only going to talk about breast cancer and woman's health." Wrong! In my opinion it is even more important for men to check their testicles than for women to check their breasts, the reason for this is that nobody talks about it. It's not advertised, it's barely funded and it's not cool for a guy to check his tackle, it's also a social and moral roadblock as it's acceptable to have a breast on screen but not the male genitalia. It's not a 'sexy' cancer, I don't ever see anyone organising National Fun Runs, or trying to push a TV advertising campaign about it. You can’t put a happy, bouncing family on it, nor can you use the image of a cute, elfin, blue eyed, blonde child forlornly towing a drip behind her.

It mainly affects younger men weirdly, between the ages of 20 and 55, it affects white men more than black and doctor's aren't entirely sure what causes it. The symptom that is mostly picked up is a painless pea sized lump or swelling in the testicles, as with breast cancer there are other less common symptoms. They include a dull ache in the scrotum, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, collection of fluid in the scrotum and feeling unwell and tired. Very rarely in the later stage symptoms can include breast tenderness, back pain, shortness of breath and coughing up blood.

It's fairly rare, only one or two in 100 of the cancers in men, it's also the most treatable of cancers with 95 in 100 men making a full recovery after treatment. Usually the treatment is the removal of the offending testicle, this doesn't mean that you can't then have children "The Gods have seen fit to grant you a spare..."

As with breast cancer family inheritance is a biggy, the main causes as far as doctors can make out are being born with undescended testicles, having a brother or father who had testicular cancer and fertility problems. Seriously guys, check them. Hey, even get someone else to check them 'While they're down there!' It's most often your partner who discovers the obvious symptoms anyway, they're a bit tricky to get into your own sight range. I really hope you'll take what I've said here to heart, just once a week for ten minutes max. If you find anything for God sake go to the Doctor fast, it could save your life.

Handy websites:

Breast Cancer.Org
Breast Cancer Care 
Cancer Research UK
Maggies Centres

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Weigh Day 4... ish!

Well, it has been two weeks since my last confession... This post is two days late because I've been in bed since Friday night with a horrible head cold, with a headache that wouldn't shift for a while no matter what drugs I was taking for it. These measurements were taken in my lucid ten minutes yesterday morning before I went back to sleep again! I can think well enough today to put them up on the interwebs so here they are:

Bust: 42.5 in/107.9cm (+0.5in)                   
Chest: 34 in/86.4cm (-1.5in)                   
Waist: 39 in/99.1cm (=)                   
Hips: 46.5 in/118.1cm (+0.5in)                   
Thighs: 26.5 in/67.3 (+2.5in)                   
Calves: 16.5 in/41.9cm (=)                   
Upper arm: 14 in/35.6cm (=)                   
Forearm: 11 in/27.9 (=)

Body Fat %: 52.2% (47.1kg/7st 5lb/103lbs) (-0.2%)
Visceral Fat: 8 (0 Normal) (=)
BMI: 33.2 (Obese) (-0.2)
Weight: 14st 3lb/90.3kg/199lbs (-1lb/-0.2kg)

As you can see, everything's pretty stable and I expected as much. Something that has surprised me is that the Fat Percentage/Overall Weight pattern has been broken. They have both gone down in these two weeks which is great, I'll just have to make sure they don't both go back up again over Winter.

Below is the comparison with the very first set of measurements taken, I'm really pleased to see I've almost lost 1% of my Body Fat since starting, even though my weight is stable at 4lbs lost:

Bust: =                   
Chest: -0.5in/1.3cm                   
Waist: -1in/2.5cm                   
Hips: -0.5in/1.3cm                   
Thighs: -1in/2.5cm                   
Calves: -0.5in/1.3cm                   
Upper arm: =                   
Forearm: =

Body Fat %: -0.7%
Visceral Fat: =
BMI: -0.8
Weight: -4lb/1.8kg

I believe this set of measurement marks two months since starting up this little adventure, I must admit recently I haven't done as much as I could have. At the moment I'm working up a new routine, trying to do different - and slightly more organised - things. We're recently re-discovered a very good site that has concise videos teaching you how to do weights routines here, once again most of the site is supplement-tastic (Although their anatomy model looks like the Thing from Fantastic Four! :D ). I'm amazed at how hard I've found it to do anything since the weather has changed over the past month, I know the Human Animal is a warm weather creature but why is it so different in my head?

Something I've found helpful is keeping a little folder of exercises, sometimes there are bits and pieces in newspapers and magazines with exercises and healthy eating tips, sometimes there are hints on the back of cereal packets. If you also print everything out from the internet that you, personally, find interesting then you can build up quite a tome in a relatively short space of time. I will log off for now, but once I've got over this cold properly I will re-start my fitness drive.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Weigh day 3

These are the next set of numbers for public perusal:

Bust: 42 in/106.7cm (-1)
Chest: 35.5 in/90.2cm (+1.5)
Waist: 39 in/99.1cm (+1)
Hips: 46 in/116.8cm (+1)
Thighs: 24 in/60.9cm (-2.5)
Calves: 16.5 in/41.9cm (-0.5)
Upper arm: 14 in/35.6cm (=)
Forearm: 11 in/27.9cm (=)

Body Fat %: 52.4% (47.5kg/7st 6lb/104lbs) (-0.3%)
Visceral Fat: 8 (0 Normal) (=)
BMI: 33.4 (Obese) (+0.1)
Weight: 14st 4lb/90.9kg/200lbs (+1lb/+0.2kg)

My Body Fat has gone down by a small percentage but my weight has gone up by a pound, that seems to be a weird pattern forming. Every time my weight goes up my fat percentage goes down, and every time I lose weight my fat goes up! My husband tells me that it's something to do with maths and percentages which I've never been too good at. I'm just glad my weight hasn't increased too much, it's just a single pound gained.

It seems to be my legs turn to lose some inches, my thighs have reduced by two and a half inches which is great and my calves have reduced by half an inch. My waist and hips have put an inch back on but these are still fairly promising results, nothing has dramatically changed which is good.

To be honest I have really, really struggled these past two weeks. I've had massive motivational problems with getting up and doing my walks, the initial problem started when I needed to get new walking trainers. My old ones were fairly ancient and I came home after one walk with blisters all across the bottom of my feet which stopped me doing the walk for a few days, when I got new trainers I got blisters across the top of my feet because they were new which again stopped me from walking as it was too painful. This had now broken the momentum and routine of the walk every two days. I'm the sort of person who needs a regimented routine to stick to, if I even have a break of one day then it shatters the pattern and I need to play catch-up until I regain the pattern.

Another major factor is the change from Summer to Autumn, which happened on the 21st of September. It's been quite a sudden and rapid change in temperature, the days have been gloriously sunny and very hot and now in the space of a week it's been stark clear skies and absolutely freezing outside. My head and heart have just not been in it, which is also why there hasn't been many blog posts recently, I've been letting life issues and worries impact on my weight loss goal. Psychology and what state your head is in plays a massive part in weight loss, so much so that you could 'Win or Lose' because of it, ask anyone who's struggled with their weight over the years and they will tell you the same thing.

I will cover psychology in another blog, for now I will be thankful that my relapse of enthusiasm hasn't done too much damage to my overall progress. I will just have to find a warmer top to go walking in and actually get some exercise done, we've managed to locate my coloured plastic weights from storage now so I can get some proper weights work done. I'll sign off for now, happy Autumn!

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Flat Tummy

I have been asked by a member of my family "What is the best way to get rid of stomach fat?" It's the ultimate goal for weight loss isn't it, a flat tummy and, if you want, washboard Abs! After doing a bit of research on the Interwebs and reading what I've picked up from Gyms in the past, unfortunately the best way to get a flat stomach is to get your heart rate going. you need to mainly do Cardiovascular (Heart, Lungs and Circulation) exercise, running, jogging, walking, dancing, swimming, skipping (jump rope) or cycling.

I found that this site here had a lot of very handy tips. As it says, you can do as many sit ups and crunches as you like, but if you've still got a layer of fat covering them they're going to be hidden. By all means do the sit ups and stomach toning but you need to get rid of the fat first!!

The method that a lot of fad diet sites - and people trying to sell you expensive equipment - use is to tell you that by targeting one specific area of the body you only lose weight in that area of the body. It's not true at all, it's called 'Spot Toning' and it's a gimmick. You can’t just target one area to lose fat from, the fat isn't contained in neat little bags that you empty one at a time. It's like a bath full of water, if you take some out of the middle then the level of the whole bath goes down. If you do Cardio work then the fat level of the entire body goes down, there's no quick solution for a flat stomach I'm afraid!

A good tip one of my friends told me, and it seems to be repeated in quite a few health sites, was that you can start out walking to get your heart pumping, then jog for a while then walk again until you've got your breath back then jog again. Repeat until you get back home and your heart and lungs would have had a really good exercise. I think this method is called 'Interval training'. This site here has a pretty good explanation. I’d also suggest having a poddle around the rest of the site, it’s got quite a few good articles but, like a lot of the sites on bodybuilding, some of the advice can be a bit extreme and full of supplements!

The NHS website has this advice for Cardio exercise:

"Adults should get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, five days a week."

The trick is that if you don't have a spare half hour in your day, and I know a lot of people don't, split it into three 10 + minute workouts or brisk walks! The effects are cumulative, it all adds up during the day. I find this better to do, it makes you think you've been active all day rather than doing one big 30min push and then sitting down for the rest of the day!

The 'Flat Stomach' website I found has three great exercises, one for each part of you abdomen: upper, lower and obliques (sides or 'Love handles'). It's on the page called 'The Best Abdominal Exercises for a Flat Stomach' here. I am definitely doing these three, I want to tone as much as lose fat and these are very good low impact exercises. A word of advice to the ladies, doing the obliques too much can thicken your waist and make it look less feminine!

Talking of sit-ups there is a word of caution, they can be quite bad for you as they grind the vertebrae in your spine and could make things worse. Stick to crunches as a slightly better alternative, if you want to strengthen your lower back to help with back pain and posture these sites here, here, and here all have brilliant tips for lower back exercises.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Weigh day 2

My second weigh day had arrived, the '+/-' symbols are changes and the '=' is the same. Right, here we go:

Bust: 43 in/109.2cm (=)                   
Chest: 34 in/86.4cm (-1in)                       
Waist: 38 in/96.5cm (-2in)                       
Hips: 45 in/114.3cm (-2in)                       
Thighs: 26.5 in/67.3cm (-1in)                       
Calves: 17 in/43.2cm (=)                       
Upper arm: 14 in/35.6cm (-0.5in)                       
Forearm: 11 in/27.9cm (=)

Body Fat %: 52.7% (47.8kg/7st 7lb/105lbs) (+1.2%)
Visceral Fat: 8 (0 Normal) (=)
BMI: 33.3 (Obese) (-0.7)
Weight: 14st 3lb/90.7kg/199lbs (-5lb/2kg)

To say I'm a tad confused by these results is an understatement! My chest and thighs have reduced by one inch, my waist and hips have reduced by two inches, upper arms have reduced by half an inch. My fat percentage has gone up by a tiny amount but I have, apparently, lost five pounds in overall weight.

It appears that after two weeks of trying things start to happen, over the first two weeks I was building up my Cardio fitness to a point where my body could actually start metabolising properly. Some of it may be a reduction of water retension but I can't imagine that all of it will be, the most positive thing is that my body shape is changing and reducing.

The tape measurements have been constant, I barely saw any change at all at the last measuring as my tummy and hips were the same. Those are my 'problem areas' as I seem to collect weight in the usual places women do, my tummy and my bum need to reduce quite a bit!

After a month of hard work walking up sand dunes and around Cardiff, the comparison between the very first measurements I took and todays measurements are as follows:

Bust: +0.5in/1.3cm
Chest: -0.5in/1.3cm                       
Waist: -2in/5.1cm                       
Hips: -2in/5.1cm                       
Thighs: -1in/2.5cm                       
Calves: =                       
Upper arm: =                       
Forearm: =

Body Fat %: -0.2%
Visceral Fat: =
BMI: -0.7
Weight: -4lb/1.8kg

Nearly all of the measurements have either stayed the same or reduced, in short it's working - very slowly - but it's working! In a month I've lost 4lbs, the exercise is paying off! :D.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


There were a few articles in newspapers and magazines recently that have gotten me thinking, everyone knows that mass media has been cited as the cause of people feeling they need to be thin and beautiful to be accepted. Media has had the blame piled high but is it actually magazines and TV that have caused this, does it go a lot deeper than that?

My main educational background has been in the arts, paint on paper mostly but I've seen such a broad range from sculpture to living art that I feel fairly comfortable talking about the subject. Art in any form is about getting you and your work noticed, it's all about screaming from the rooftops "This is ME, this is what I can do!" It's no different now than thousands of years ago with the creation of the Pyramids and the Sphinx statues in Egypt, however those craftsmen were nameless when they created them, they were doing it for the good of the Gods rather than personal glory so there was no reason to say who had made them.

Ancient art is fascinating but most of the information gleaned from it is either very technical, or guesswork using what we know of the period it was made in. One piece I've always found beautiful yet puzzling is a tiny sculpture, only 11cm/4.3 inches high, of a woman called "The Venus of Willendorf"

A few technical details: She is made out of 'Oolitic limestone' (I love that name!) and painted with red ochre - a really rich terracotta red. She is thought to have been made between 24,000-22,000 BCE, which makes her at least 25,000 years old. She was found in 1908 by the Archaeologist Josef Szombathy, near the town of Willendorf in Austria, and is currently making her home in the Natural History Museum Vienna. The Oolitic limestone that she's carved from isn't found naturally in the Willendorf area so, the best guess is, she was made somewhere else and travelled in with someone.

I think this tiny sculpture is a marvel, there have been many Archaeological experts and artists who have pondered and wondered over this sculpture: Is it a fertility goddess, is it a representation of Mother Earth? They all seem to want to believe that she is an idealised form of a woman, I've not really heard anyone say yet "Well, hang on. Couldn't he have just seen a big woman he really liked and made a sculpture of her?" They haven't really entertained the idea that a big woman could have absolutely stunned a passing bloke enough to want to make a model of her for all eternity, a lot of them are looking at it from an entirely modern viewpoint.

Whoever carved this - man or woman - was quite frankly an amazing sculptor. This ancient Stone Age relative of ours had a staggering grasp of anatomy and the human form equal, even better in some cases, to the sculptors living today. Just look at her, if this was modelled from life then I applaud them. If this was - as most believe - an idealised form of a woman and not done from life then this person was equal to the great masters! They have got all of the areas where fat commonly collects on women correct, they have got it to hang correctly. Even going as far as to put the 'dimple' just above the bum where our monkey tails used to be. (Humans still have a tiny tailbone, it's called the Coccyx and it hurts like hell if you damage it!) She’s got her arms folded over her breasts, like a lot of pregnant women do with their baby bump. Her head is a little strange, it’s not been decided whether the bobbles on her head are braided hair or a woven hat pulled down over her face. Whatever this is it has made a faceless form, a body without identity.

Women of this size aren't uncommon in history, certainly not in Africa. In Africa a big woman was a sign of great wealth and prosperity as the woman's family had enough to eat that they could overeat! It is regarded as the accepted beautiful figure. There was a series on the BBC called 'The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency' set in Botswana, South Africa. The lead character in the series was 'Mma Precious Ramotswe', played beautifully by American soul, jazz, R&B artist, songwriter and actress Jill Scott, who sets up a detective agency. She's a larger lady and in one of the episodes she goes undercover to solve a case, another character makes reference to the fact that she "Didn't think my son preferred women with a classical figure."

If you're skinny then you must be poor as you can't afford enough to eat. This, ironically, has become a problem for some girls in Africa. Some of the tribes actively force feed their daughters on milk and fat rich cheeses to make them larger and a more attractive prospect for bringing wealth into the tribe, this is causing a lot of health problems amongst certain tribes in some areas! The problem is being addressed by different organisations but it proves that wherever you are, Body Image always manages to creep in.

A societies historical concept of beauty will always influence how the populous see themselves, there is very little 'mass media' in Africa yet everyone knows what a beautiful woman is meant to look like and some tribes are going to damaging lengths to achieve this - all with completely good intentions for their daughters. It's very easy to put the blame on the media, admittedly they don't help themselves, but there is always an underlying established constant that is generally maintained.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Dune of Doom

Yesterday I decided to do something different for my walking routine; me and my husband went to a place called Candlestone in Bridgend, South Wales. This was not a holiday trip, oh no. As part of my fitness quest I decided to attempt the 'Dune of Doom'!

I will explain a bit more about Candlestone, it's a gorgeous campsite in the middle of a forest quite a way from anywhere else. Apart from having the campsite it also includes a scrubland Nature Reserve which then leads on to the largest area of Sand Dunes in Europe, so big in fact that parts of the film 'Lawrence of Arabia' were made there!

As my friends will know, from many trips to the dunes, I don't often go with you and I will explain why. It was very embarrassing for me, I am so horrendously unfit that it would only take five minutes or so before I was miles behind the rest of you, red faced and gasping for breath like a crippled ninety year old. I would then feel completely self conscious and that would set off a panic. I would never get to the encounter before it finished so I decided that I just wouldn't go.

I don't want it to be like that anymore, so I'm going to do something about it. We now only live about forty minutes away from the site so it's an easy trip, walking and running through sand is much harder than normal so if I go dune walking it's going to be a better workout for me.

The 'Dune of Doom' is a particular dune quite a way in, it's height is comparable to a six storey building and it's very steep. Perfect :D. The first photo is of the initial slope with me for scale, the others are the journey up:
Now, the photos make it look flat... believe me it isn't! There is a slope, and it's very soft powdery sand so you're sinking in and fighting that all the time. There is the slope then a flat bit, then it goes back down and then back up twice as far. There's another flat bit then the last huge slope through spiky bushes to the top! When I got to the top I was stunned by the view, the sea was about three miles away but I felt like I could have reached out and touched it! I was grumbling about how hard it was to walk up this hill and my hubby said he could explain, so here is his explanation about:

"The Biomechanics of Walking on hills and why it hurts.

There are two parts to hill walking that work against you. The first is the most obvious: The ground is not flat. upright bipedal creatures like us humans walk in a state of "arrested fall", the next time you are walking analyse what your legs are doing. Lets isolate one leg alone - You swing it forward and contact the ground, then like an upside down pendulum we rock over the foot. If we didn't catch ourselves the leg would continue to the floor. Instead you swing the other leg forward and stop (arrest) the fall and do it all over again. This is a very energy efficient system as all you are doing is permanently defying gravities efforts to get you to fall over.

Now compare with climbing, here we are not using an arrested fall, we raise the leg and engage the foot at a point above us. We now lift ourselves up and beyond that balance point using the thigh muscles before overstretching with a bent knee to catch the next part of hill. Think of hill climbing as a flattened set of stairs. This is very inefficient as we have to overcome gravity rather than bend it to our whim. The second part is bound up in this, every step you take you are lifting your full weight on one leg.

This may seem stupid, you are always lifting your weight. Consider again normal walking, you actually lock the grounded leg into a column that then pendulums forward. You are not lifting your weight, you are maintaining its height. Think about it, it is easy to hold yourself in the "up" part of a press up, once you disengage the locked arms and muscles take over that is when it becomes hard. Hill walking is all about the "down" part of a press up. Now that I have confused you all utterly, consider this:

Go to a step near you. Step up it slowly and feel where the muscles are working. Every single stride is like that on a hill and the heavier you are? The harder it is. Every single step I take up a hill is the equivalent of lifting all my nineteen stones on one leg.

Now add into the equation the fact that you are not on a step where your foot is flat, at the optimum angle. It is on a slope, your ankle is overextended and at its weakest point (I might do a couple of paragraphs on muscle biomechanics if people want it sometime). You have to use more energy to overcome this inertia than when on a flat step (that's why we don't have ramps in our houses!). Finally add in what me and Lucy did (because we are apparently masochists) and make the surface soft yielding sand. Every step you take wastes energy sinking you into the ground and maintaining balance. So that is why walking up sand dunes is such good exercise! Class dismissed."

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Weigh Day 1

Well, after my first two weeks of work here are the results of my first weigh in and measurements. The little men in the white coats have deliberated and the results checked by an independent adjudicator. The '+/-' symbols in brackets are showing whether the stat has gone up or down from the previous weigh in, if there is '=' it means that the stat hasn't changed at all:

Bust: 43 in/cm  (+0.5in)
Chest: 35 in/cm  (+0.5in)
Waist: 40 in/101.6cm  (=)
Hips: 47 in/119.38cm  (=)
Thighs: 27.5 in/69.85cm  (=)
Calves: 17 in/43.18cm  (=)
Upper arm: 14.5 in/cm  (+0.5in)
Forearm: 11 in/27.94cm  (=)

Body Fat %: 51.5% ++ Very High/47.7 kg/7st 7lb/105lb  (-1.4%, 1.2kg/2lb)
Visceral Body Fat: 8 (0 Normal)  (=)
BMI: 34.0 (Obese)  (=)
Weight: 14st 8lb/92.6/204lb  (+1lb)

Okey dokey, as you can see pretty much every measurement has stayed the same, which I was expecting as I've only been doing this for two weeks! My bust and my chest have gained half an inch, I'm not too worried about that because when you're a woman that region of your body does get bigger and smaller as the month goes on. I have also gained an average half inch on my upper arms which I am almost certain is to do with the boxing I've been doing, I have gained a pound in weight but then I also seemed to have gained muscle so I don't mind that too much.

The biggest change and the one I am delighted with is that my Body Fat has gone down. Now 1.4% doesn't sound like very much but it really is, it's a loss of 2lbs/1.2kg of fat. Try holding two bags of sugar and you'll get a comparable weight. Just 2lb loss also means that I'm doing this in the right way, if I'd have dropped half a stone then something is drastically wrong. A massive drop in weight over a short period of time is very bad for you so I'm glad it's only 2lbs!

I have now done eight walks, I did my walk as usual yesterday when we got back to Cardiff despite walking all round the Zoo for the Wedding! The distance I have covered is very roughly 36 miles/57.9 Kilometres. I have done Boxing, staff training, strength training and stretching. I will start up Yoga again using the Lyn Marshall books to wake my flexibility back up, overall I have been building up my stamina and endurance so I can keep going for longer. Once my Cardio fitness reaches the level of a normal human I, hopefully, will start to see reductions in my tape measurements as well.

I'm not sure whether to continue with what I've been doing then alter it after the month mark, or do more stuff from now on. If anyone has any suggestions as to the routine I've got or can think of more stuff to do post it up and let me know! I definitely welcome suggestions on this one :D.

For a first weigh in I am delighted with the results, I was so worried that nothing would have changed at all. It's so disappointing and a blow to confidence when you think "I've done all this work for no reward." Thank you to the people who have stuck with me so far and are still reading this Blog, it's great to know that people enjoy reading the randomness!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Cockles and muscles, alive alive ohh...

The title is from an old folksong called 'Molly Malone/Cockles and Mussels', it's one you may not know the title of but you will have heard before.

As well as doing all the walking I've been trying to build muscle without the aid of a Gym, which is slightly easier than it sounds! I have to admit I didn't really know where to begin on this one, then I found this site here: Body I have only been using their exercise archive as it's brilliant, the most useful thing has been that you can filter by muscle group, male or female, and whether you have access to weights and/or a Gym or not.

The link opens up on the 'Machine exercises' page, but if you look down the left hand side you can tick or un-tick the boxes to whatever configuration you want. In the 'Equipment Type' section lower down, if you tick 'Body Only' and nothing else it will give you all the exercise that you can do without the aid of any weights or special equipment. It's what I've been doing! If you do have access to your own weights or go to a Gym then there are so many muscle building exercises on this site, it's great. I will say if you're not that interested in major league body building don't check the rest of the site out, it's more geared towards the competition aspect and preparing for that.

Why should you want to build muscle as well as just losing fat? Because every gram of muscle in your body has to burn energy just to move, the more muscle you have the more effective your exercise will be at burning calories and fat. Even when you're just sitting around the body has to expend energy just to keep muscles maintained. There is also the fact that if you lose a whole load of weight and don’t do any muscle toning and building you look a bit saggy, your skin has lost a lot of volume keeping it stretched and taut so it needs the muscle volume to replace the fat volume otherwise you get folds of skin that just sort of hang there!

I know that a lot of women don't want to end up with huge muscular shoulders and legs - myself included. To prevent that from happening a very rough rule of thumb is to do 'Low weight, high Rep', which means lots and lots of lighter weight repetitions, rather than trying to lift your own bodyweight once. If you want to 'Build' your muscles then you get into increasing the weight consistently and trying to lift heavier and heavier amounts. Effectively what you are doing is damaging the fibres of the muscles a small amount every time you lift, when you rest overnight the body repairs the damage making the muscle fibres slightly thicker and stronger. This is why you MUST REST between good weight sessions, you don't build weight in the Gym or wherever you weight train, you 'damage' the muscles during the sessions and then the body 'builds them back up' overnight!

'Low weight, high rep' gets you the more subtle, toned muscles. 'High weight, low rep' gets you the more obvious 'Body builders' rounded muscles. If you are going for the big Arnie style muscles, if you can do more than 12 repetitions in one go you need a slightly heavier weight.

I also found this funny little calculator, here on the same site. It uses the width of your wrist in inches, bone density, to calculate what the rest of you should ideally measure. There really is such a thing as being 'Big Boned', my husband had to go to hospital once and they did an ultrasound scan on his knee, they decided to check his leg as well and the doctor remarked that his thigh bones were 'ridiculously thick'! He did a lot of rowing and walking when he was younger so he strengthened and enlarged his bones from an early age.

This is a fascinating article about Rugby training, I come back to Rugby as I find it a brilliant example of how different body shapes and strengths can all come together to form a cohesive team. The players all display a level of fitness that is amazing to behold, these men run nonstop for eighty minutes with one break of fifteen minutes in the middle. They are an inspiration, I may hear many of you shout "But what about football, their players are equally fit." Well yes, but someone who is built like the side of a house doesn't usually get selected for a football squad no matter how fit they are. It is the exclusive realm of smaller, thinner, fast guys, whereas Rugby has every body size and type from 'Prop Forwards' (the guys who could stop a charging Rhino) to the 'Backs' and the 'Hookers' who are the tiny speedy ones who break from the sides and run half a mile in about a second!

Using Rugby workout templates, even for women, is a very good all round workout - even little weights do make you sweat surprisingly quickly! There's also this video for a bit of fun! It's 7.25 minutes long but it's great, and it features Gareth Thomas briefly :D.

My first 'weigh day' is coming up, it's on Sunday so we'll see how it's gone for the first two weeks! I'm off to a friend’s wedding now so I'll sign off with fingers crossed for Sunday!

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Wow, it's officially been a week and I haven't given up yet! I've done five 4.5 mile/7.2km walks which are getting easier each time, boxing and martial art staff training, strength work like sit ups and push ups, and stretching and flexibility!

Right, stretching. Before you do any serious exercise you need to warm your muscles up, I made that mistake when I did my first walk on Saturday and paid for it on Sunday. I've been finding muscles I didn't know I had, apparently there are two muscles either side of your spine just above your bum. My hubby thinks they are the muscles that help with hill walking; well I definitely know they are there now!

I used to do a lot of Yoga with my mum when I was younger and continued to do it when I was in University, in recent years I have gotten out of the habit and really need to start up again. We never went to any classes, we used a couple of books by Lyn Marshall. She is a fantastic teacher and you can get her books, 'Keep up with Yoga' and 'Wake up to Yoga', for literally pennies on Amazon here, and here. I'm talking to the boys as well here!

The most important thing about stretching is that you do it slowly, I really mean it. Your warm up stretching needs to be done slowly and gently, don't try to push it too far or be fast or jerky with your movements. If you try to speed up you will hear an interesting "SPOING" noise, followed by ambulance sirens and a trip to hospital. I do quite a few stretches now that I remember what it feels like to not do them, some I've learned over the years and some I've found recently by researching this Blog.

Here is what I do to get ready.

Touching my toes: I prefer to do this one sitting down as you have more control. Sit with your feet together and legs straight out in front of you. Keeping your back straight, reach with your hands and lean forward slowly until you feel the muscles at the back of your knees go tense, if it hurts too much then stop. Hold it there for as long as it's comfortable then slowly lean back again. Do this a few times then bring your knees up and hug them to loosen up again.

Stretching the inner legs is very similar, sit on the floor with your legs apart as far as they can go. Slowly reach forward with your arms and lean forward, you will really feel the tendons in the inner thighs right into your crotch stretching with this one. When you feel you've done all you can hug your knees again.

Side Stretching: This one's a little tricky to explain so I've done pics with this. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart raise one of your arms over your head bending the elbow so that your hand touches your head. Reach over with your other arm and take hold of the elbow of the first arm. Keeping your back as straight as you can, lean to the side as though your hand was pulling the opposite elbow over your head. You should feel a stretch from your hand down to your thigh if you do this right, again be slow and gentle.

This is the one you see Footballers do a lot, I generally hold onto something - it's a little bad if you fall sideways because you've lost your balance! Standing straight up, raise your heel toward your bum. Reach down with one hand and take hold of your foot. Very slowly pull your heel towards your bum and push your pelvis forward. You must keep a straight line from the front of your leg to your body though.

This is one my mum taught me. Stand straight with your arms out to your sides like a cross, lift your hands so that your fingers face the ceiling and push the heels of your hands out like you want to touch the walls either side. Start making tiny circles with your arms. You will feel the back of your hand stretch, this also stretches your biceps. After a few rotations change the direction of the circles. 

There are quite a few other stretches here, and  here. The second site is a little ad heavy but the info is good.

Having a flexible body feels fantastic, it's a gradual process but once you start to get good at it the benefits are obvious. I've just counted back and I've used the word 'slowly' about six times, it's the word of the day for stretching. My Cardiovascular fitness is, quite frankly, rubbish but I'm still quite stretchy! Seriously, the boys especially, grab a copy of her books and try it out!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


So far it's going well, I’ve been walking mostly. The walking has been an interesting experience for me, I come from Cambridgeshire which has landscape similar to Holland. I can walk for miles and miles on the flat, it's what I grew up with. We are now living in Wales which has these strange bumps in the ground, I'm told they're called 'hills.' The picture below illustrates my point! (If you click on the pictures they pop up bigger.)

My chosen walk is round a lake and back again, it includes uphill and downhill both ways, the lake itself is 1.3 miles/2.1 Kilometre (km) around. The total distance is very roughly 4.5 miles/7.2km and takes me 2 hours! Today is walk no. 3. I'm going to walk every two days until I get used to it, then every day, then walk some jog some, then jog the whole thing. When it gets easy you change the routine, at the moment I have to stop half way up the first hill because I've never done this before, but I will get there... oh yes!

If you want to do walking take some water with you, at least 500ml, it's a lifesaver! I don’t even mean the expensive, filtered through a Unicorn water, just run a tap and fill a bottle! Sip it slowly and move it around your mouth to get your gums wet, don't gulp it down then start walking again as that can make you feel sick.

And now on to one of my bugbears: BMI, the 'Body Mass Index'. This is a common measurement used by Doctors and Gyms to get a snapshot of health. It uses your height and weight to determine whether you are healthy or not, to work out your BMI: Divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in metres (m), then divide the answer by your height again, to get your BMI. The one I use is here, it's the NHS website so pretty reliable!

The thing about BMI is that it works on the concept of a mythical 'Average human', it is quite loose and subjective and not to be taken as a definitive measurement. A Rugby squad were measured on this scale and most of them were found to be 'Overweight' or 'Obese'. For those of you who don't know what Rugby is, the average player looks like this...

Here is Wales player Gareth Thomas, as you can see the BMI measurement has him in the 'Overweight' category. If my husband lost all of his body fat i.e. 0% and thus got down to below the 'Bruce Lee' levels (the man had 7% body fat, he was a bit extreme) he still only just makes it to the border of 'Healthy' and 'Overweight'. It's a good starting point but don't rely on it too much.

Which brings me to Body Fat and Visceral Body Fat, these levels are the ones you really, really have to keep an eye on as these are the danger points! 'Body Fat' is the soft squishy fat you can see on the outside, on its own it's a good sign that maybe you ought to get out more. Where it is on your body also plays a factor, the NHS website has a great deal more detail here. You do, however, need fat. Every cell membrane in the human body is composed of fat, and it’s also how the body repairs itself. If you are in hospital and need drugs the fat acts as a slow release mechanism to distribute the lifesaving treatment gradually. If you had no fat then any treatment that was given would overdose you immediately, you would be getting the whole lot straight away rather than gradually whilst the body adapts to the treatment.

'Visceral Body Fat' is the really bad one, it's not visible on the outside. It is the percentage of fat that is stored around organs and is metabolized by the liver, which turns it into blood cholesterol. One of the ways to check is through a 'Bioelectrical Impedance' scale.  The higher the visceral fat level the greater chance there is of having a high blood cholesterol. 'Bioelectrical Impedance' is just a tiny, harmless electric current that goes through your body, as muscle is more dense than fat it can measure the percentage of both by the resistance it gets as it goes through. Really clever! We bought one of these scales a few weeks ago, they're getting really cheap, I'm using this scale for my Fat, Visceral Fat and weight measurements for the Blog.

Another easy way to keep an eye on things is the good old fashioned tape measure! I'm using tape measurements with all these fancy electronic gizmos to check if my body parts are reducing! To take tape measurements here are two handy guides, the first one is for women and the second for men:

Bust: Measure around the chest at the nipple line, but don't pull the tape too tight.
Chest: Measure just under your bust
Waist: Measure a half-inch above your belly button or at the smallest part of your waist
Hips: Place tape measure around the biggest part of your hips
Thighs: Measure around the biggest part of each thigh
Calves: Measure around the largest part of each calf
Upper arm: Measure around the largest part of each arm above the elbow
Forearm: Measure around the largest part of the arm below the elbow.

Neck: Standing, measure your neck at its largest girth, right over the Adam's apple.
Shoulder: Standing, either as a straight line from largest points on each shoulder across the chest or as a girth measurement all the way around the body.
Bicep: Measure at its largest girth, relaxed with arms at side, relaxed arm bent, flexed arm bent or all three.
Forearm: Measure at its largest girth just below the elbow
Chest: Standing, measure with breath out just above the nipple.
Waist: Standing, narrowest point or at the midway point between top of the hip bone and the bottom of the rib cage.
Hips: Measure at the largest girth, where the bum is protruding the greatest.
Thigh: Standing, measure at the largest girth, just below the bum.
Calf: Seated if you are measuring yourself or standing if you have a partner, measure at its largest girth.

Well, that's all for now. The next Blog will probably talk about stretching, it's a very good idea!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

It Begins...

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."   

This was the quote that inspired me to start this blog; it comes from the Chinese thinker and social philosopher 'Confucius' (Or K'ung-fu-tzu to his mum.).

This is an attempt at many things, blogging, weight loss, art and education. The starting point was my weight loss and general health, I have put on about 2st in recent years. I also have a form of IBS, which means that a few foods are not very good for me. White onions hurt me, as does too much fat so I'm careful with food. We switched our diet to a healthier, more balanced one quite a few years ago and we both lost about 7lbs without trying. Recently I haven’t been out as much as I would like and, whilst food is important, I am focusing purely on exercise in this blog. It's what I need to do the most and I am of the opinion that there's no point being reduced to tears if you eat a white bread Ham sandwich, you're allowed to enjoy food, just don't eat rubbish and takeouts every night!

Some people may think “You’re hardly whale sized dear, there are bigger people than you.” That is very true, but this is the biggest I’ve ever been and I don’t feel comfortable. I’m not happy with the way I look and I’m going to do something about it.

My magical, aspiration goal is a loss of 4st/25kg/56lbs. According to my current BMI and Body Fat percentage this would put me into the ‘Healthy’ BMI and under 21% body fat which is classed as ‘Excellent’. I would be delighted with a loss of 2st/12kg/28lbs, this is a more realistic goal to start out with. I am aiming to do all of this for free just to prove you can do it for free, any suggestions of stretching, cardio, any exercises would be welcome. I’ll try them out and see how it goes!

All measurements I will do on this blog will be in British Stone and Pounds, Kilograms and Pounds alone just to cover all the bases. Many people in Britain still use the old Imperial measurements of Stone and Pounds, modern children are taught in the Metric measurements of Kilograms.

For a quick table:

1 British Stone =     14 lbs            1m/100cm in height =      3ft 3.3 inches
1 British Stone =     6 kg               1ft in height =                  30.4cm

I will post my measurements so that I have a log from the beginning, I can then use this as a comparison for the rest of the blog. I will measure/weigh myself from the same machine at the same time of day (preferably in the morning before breakfast) every two weeks. There is no point in doing this more often as very little changes from day-to-day, the changes happen gradually and it is very easy to get disheartened.

I invite you to please join in, and I really hope you will. Post what you yourself are comfortable posting about your results in the comments section and we can take this 'Single Step' together!

I will concentrate more on Body Fat Percentage and tape measurements than actual weight and BMI (Body Mass Index). I will cover BMI in the next entry, the body fat percentage is, in my opinion, more important.

My measurements are:

Bust: 42.5 in/107.95cm
Chest: 34.5 in/87.63cm
Waist: 40 in/101.6cm
Hips: 47 in/119.38cm
Thighs: 27.5 in/69.85cm
Calves: 17 in/43.18cm
Upper arm: 14 in/35.56cm
Forearm: 11 in/27.94cm
Body Fat %: 52.9% ++ Very High (48.9kg/ 7st 9lb/ 107lb)
Visceral Body Fat:* 8 (0 Normal)
BMI: 34.0 (Obese)
Weight: 14st 7lb/92.5kg/203lb

*I will cover Visceral Fat in the next entry as well, it needs some explaining! I have never really had a problem with telling people how much I weigh which is, apparently, an unusual thing for a woman... which brings me to the first of my observations. Why should anyone, women in particular, be embarrassed/uncomfortable about stating how much they weigh? What conditioning has happened over the years to make it a little taboo to ask a lady about her weight? This is a theme I will return to and examine in more depth.

I will sign off for now, I look forward to journeying with you.