Monthly Archives: November 2016

They Weren’t Kidding!


It’s hard not to feel a bit intimidated, when you open your eyes to greet the day everyone’s been talking about in hushed tones. In all the boomph we got sent before we even set off, it said day four of our trek was the hardest and now it was here. I sort of had that feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know the one…it felt like I was about to sit an exam, or walk the green mile to the gallows.

It didn’t stop me eating a hearty breakfast mind, come on we were staying in a proper hotel. The night before, at dinner, the absence of rice and green beans was a cause for celebration in itself and the buffet had been superb, so despite my love affair with the lumpy mattress and wafer thin pillow (which wasn’t a tent and a ground mat so who really gave a shit about the lumps) I was out of bed as fast as my poor worn out chunky legs would carry me. Which wasn’t that fast, to be fair.

Safe to say that by the time we walked out of the hotel, I was carb’d up and ready to tackle the day head on. It didn’t start badly, apart from another one of those killer hills. But we soon started heading down into a sort of national park area so the paths were well walked and not bad at all. I kept checking in with myself, you know? Well that’s another ten minutes done, and that wasn’t too bad. Only six more hours to go…I wonder if this next bit is the really hard bit..? 

We ended up deep in a valley after a couple of hours’ worth of walking and we had a pit-stop and posed for some pictures next to a waterfall, which was beautiful. We were dwarfed by the cliffs rising up either side of us and that’s when it dawned on me that there might be a bit of climbing involved to get out of here, you know? We were maybe three hours into the day at this point so I knew any minute now all the stuff that made day four qualify as the hardest day was about to jump out and say BOO.

Call me Mystic Meg, but I wasn’t wrong. As we started to retrace our steps, my spirits lifted when I thought that perhaps we were just going to go back the way we came, and they’d been winding us up about this being a tough day but our pocket-sized guide was waiting by what couldn’t even be described as a turning off the path, pointing with his machete and indicating that we should follow him. And that’s where the day started to live up to its advance publicity.

After fighting our way down a very muddy and treacherous slope, clinging onto trees which dispensed a waterfall of red biting ants every time you touched them to steady yourself, we emerged from the forest briefly and crossed the river using a succession of smooth, slippery and very wobbly stepping stones which were not arranged in a very customer-centric way…Mother Nature, eh? What a bitch.

How on earth I didn’t end up arse over tit in that river is beyond me and there was nothing graceful about my progress. Tom Thumb was watching me with that look on his face and you know what, I’d had enough. As he put his arm out to steady me on a particularly wobbly stone I could see the for fuck’s sake expression about to make an appearance and I lost it. He got it both barrels.

Don’t you dare look at me that way! I might be old and fat but do you see me giving up? I can do this the same as everyone else so take your head for a shit and let me get on with it…okay, I didn’t say the take your head for a shit bit out loud, I just thought it. But he got the message, and credit where it’s due from that point on for about the next six kilometres he man-marked me as we made our way through the jungle.

This was the hard bit. This is what they’d been saving up for us…no national park walkways here, in fact it was completely virgin rainforest. We were climbing, with a sheer drop to one side of us and he was actually clearing a path with his machete as we went. This was the one day I wasn’t at the back of the pack, I suspect because after my outburst he took personal responsibility for getting the fat cranky old woman up the hill.

And that was a mixed blessing. I couldn’t linger, or pause to catch my breath because I had to watch his feet, and plant my feet where his had been a moment before. Thank God he had short legs, right? I would have split my difference otherwise. There was no pausing to admire the view because we were so deep in the jungle there was no view apart from trees as far as the eye could see, falling way way down to the river that we’d crossed, and towering way above us as we climbed out of the valley. I didn’t dare look down because I’m terrified of heights and we were literally clinging to the hillside we were climbing.

And so it continued, for a good two hours. Stepping up and over tree roots, fighting with the biting ants, slipping in the mud as we climbed and climbed some more. Every step took us about a foot higher, I mean I don’t think I’ve ever climbed anything so steep. I recall listening to the sound of his machete swinging at a branch here and a vine there, all the time trying not to actually shit myself with fear. My heart was doing its best to beat its way out of my chest and I thought it was never going to end.

But then it did. We emerged from the canopy of trees and clambered down some rocks which looked like a giant staircase and there, right in front of us was the most stunning lagoon, with two waterfalls cascading down from a monstrously tall cliff, I mean it was spectacular. And what made it all the more special was the fact that very few people will ever get to see it. It’s buried deep in the jungle but we were there…and we’d fucking well walked there.

I’ve got to admit, I had a moment. I shrugged my backpack off my shoulders and sat on a big rock overlooking the lagoon, and before I knew it there were tears rolling down my cheeks…I couldn’t help it. It was so beautiful, but it wasn’t even that, you know? I couldn’t help thinking about twelve months before, when every step had been painful and I’d struggled to walk beyond a couple of hundred yards. This felt like the moment that I could officially declare I’ve claimed my life back. I’m doing things I never thought I could possibly do, and I’m living the dream.

I’d found it really hard, that killer trek between the two waterfalls, and I totally get why they’d called out day four as the hardest day…they weren’t kidding. But you know what, I didn’t find it any harder than anybody else. We’d all found it hard, because it was bloody hard but we’d all done it. I’d done it. And the emotion of it all caught me unawares. I thought about my dad, and wondered whether he’d be proud of me as I sat on my rock and cried like a big girl’s blouse.

We had another long steep climb ahead of us to get out of the jungle and meet the truck, and that nearly polished me off on top of what we’d already done. Nearly, but not quite. One foot in front of the other, and repeat.

I had a finish line to cross tomorrow after all… 🙂


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Not Giving Up. Ever.


I’d love to give you an update on my weight loss, given that I’m six days into season two with my head fully back in the game but you’ll never guess what…the bitch in my bathroom has conked out. Kaput! I’m not exactly heartbroken, in fact if I’m honest that scale was in the bin before I’d even finished doing my happy dance. I had a cheeky little mooch around Amazon, and there’ll be a new bitch in town by Wednesday.

So I thought I’d continue with my jungle tales this week – I was planning to anyway, but something rather extraordinary and totally unexpected happened on Friday (for those of you in the know, shhhh in the thoughts thread!) which I don’t want to tell you about until I’ve shared with you all the highs and lows of the trip.

Can you believe I’ve been home from Cuba for six weeks and I’ve still only gotten around to telling you about the first two days? It’s ridiculous how time flies, but I’ve been somewhat preoccupied by the power struggle raging between me and my asshole voice. I’ve had a handful of emails from folk in the posse eager to hear about the rest of the trip, so I’ll pick up where I left off in Hiking In Rollerskates, which saw us marching into our second camp.

I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome that place was. The camp on our first night had been very pretty, and we’d had a great night as we all started to get to know each other but the facilities were a bit hit and miss, and if you didn’t like beer, your only other option was water. I’m not being funny right, but when you’ve drunk three fucking litres of the stuff during the day, it’s never going to be your tipple of choice when you’re trying to kick back and relax, you know?

This camp was different. Still pretty, still rustic and still very basic, but it had a proper bar. And better than that, when we arrived, hot and sweaty and wiped out from what had been a really tough day of walking there were ice-cold drinks lined up on that bar waiting for us. And they had coke! I mean it wasn’t exactly coca-cola, it was their locally produced version which had at least a tablespoon of sugar in every mouthful but in that moment it was like nectar. Especially when it had a large slug of Havana Club thrown in for good measure… 🙂

They’d pulled out all the stops with a hog roast, and that night will stay with me for a very long time. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. I was one of the first to bed at around 11pm, even though I desperately wanted to stay up…I was knackered. My Cuba Libra tab at the bar was already flirting with double figures, and no way could I have managed day three with a hangover so I turned in, and fell asleep smiling in my tent to the sound of raucous laughter floating on the breeze. I think the more hardcore contingent were up till around 4am. Hats off, right?

Our guide, the pint-sized action man who still wasn’t convinced that fat old women had any place on the trip was busy multi-tasking as I emerged the next morning, doing one-armed press-ups outside the tent of our lady doctor (who was young and very attractive) whilst simultaneously ogling her bum as she bent down to tie her laces. I barely registered on his radar as I walked past, which amused me no end…even his peripheral vision was tuned into her impressive norks.

After a breakfast of rice and green beans and yet more prison bread washed down with great coffee, we walked out of camp and almost immediately went underground into some caves. We walked for maybe 500 metres through the tunnels, passing lots of bats and the resident owl. It was a really tight squeeze in some parts, and we had to crouch down and walk bent in two but I fitted in all the tight spots and didn’t get stuck, not even a little bit.

I didn’t feel like a fat girl…I was doing it, just like everyone else and I couldn’t stop grinning. Me, in a cave with a head torch and everything, I mean this was verging on extreme sport, right?

Day three wasn’t bad at all. There were some challenging climbs of course, and some descents but nothing quite as steep as day two, and it was a bit less muddy so the walking was a little bit easier. And I think we’d all started to acclimatise to the heat too, and find our rhythm. The folk up ahead at the front of the pack set their own pace, and stopped every couple of kilometres to wait for those of us at the back.

When we caught up they’d set off again, and repeat. They walked with pace, and had several rest stops, where me and one or two others at the back walked steadily but hardly stopped at all beyond a couple of minutes here and there to have a drink, or take a picture, so we must have looked like a big unwieldy caterpillar as we made our way through the jungle.

We trekked for maybe five or six hours, and then met the truck, which took us to an amazing place for lunch, a restaurant with tables open to the elements on one side and incredible views across the valley.  And although you don’t much feel like moving when you’ve had a good lunch, we weren’t quite done. The truck dropped us back at the edge of the rainforest and we trekked for another couple of hours…this is the point that I had my second wobble of the trip.

It was towards the very end of day three, when we were almost at our hotel and the going got really hard. We were out of the jungle by this point walking on roads which were so steep it was hard to catch a breath. It was raining but still ridiculously hot, and the hills were relentless…for maybe 45 minutes or more it was just one after another after another. On the very last one I remember thinking that’s it, I’m done, I’ve got nothing left.

Ever since the start of the trip, the guides had said day four was the hardest, so I’m walking up these hills, utterly spent after two uncomfortable nights in a tent with hardly any sleep, hot, wet and fighting the urge to cry, knowing that it was going to be even harder than this tomorrow and wondering if I had enough in reserve to complete the trek…it was a real low point and I started to really doubt myself.

But then I started thinking about my dad, and what a fighter he was, and I thought about all the people who’d supported my journey. How much belief every single one of those folk had that I’d cross the line, and that somehow allowed me to tap into my reserve tank, you know? I was able to dig deep enough to push on because when I thought about all that stuff, I knew right there and then that I’d never give up. Never. When the hotel finally came into sight, with its hot showers and air-con and beds and pillows and better still all our main luggage lined up in the foyer I let go a few big fat tears out of sheer relief.

Day three of five, done. You don’t need me to tell you how awesome that hot shower was, or how comfortable the bed was…let’s just say that was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, and leave it there. And funnily enough, by the time I woke up the next morning I was full of optimism that day four’s ass belonged to me.

Hard? Maybe…but so am I 🙂

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It’s Like Going Back In Time


Monday was a good day. So was Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday, and today’s going to be a good day…I can feel it in my water. It’s fragile, but my feet appear to be back in the sweet spot and they’ve held tight for four whole days. I nipped in through the back door when the asshole wasn’t looking and claimed squatters rights, and I can’t even tell you how good it feels at this point to have four days’ worth of skin in the game.

The week so far has been full of little victories. Yesterday I turned down a festive bakewell tart at the last minute even after I’d set up my surroundings to enjoy it, how about that? My friend had bought them at lunchtime to have with a mid-afternoon cup of tea. I’d eaten oats for breakfast, and chicken and ham salad with a banana at lunchtime so I was primed and ready for a little treat.

And they were little so I figured it’d be fine, slipping one into my food plan, you know? My tea was in the cup and my mouth was actually watering in anticipation as I picked up the box and zapped the barcode with my phone…then almost fell over when it proclaimed they were nine smart points each. Nine! I only get thirty six in a day. So I drank my cuppa and said no, thank you. Without drama. No asshole voice jumping up and down like rumplestiltskin demanding that I change my mind…just no, without a fight.

Now I’ve got to be honest, last week I would’ve had my head in that box faster than the speed of light, without a second thought about barcodes or points. I’d have vaporised the first one, and then spent the rest of the afternoon hoping for seconds, I mean who can stop at one, really?

Except yesterday I stopped before I’d even started. It wasn’t worth it. The last four nights I’ve gone to bed feeling strong, and I’ve woken up the next morning a few ounces lighter than I’d been the night before. Too many times recently it’s been the opposite way around, going to bed feeling disappointed with myself and waking up at least a few ounces heavier than the day before. It’s such a fine line between the two, right?

Putting all those reflections together earlier in the week and finding the right words to play them back so they were crystal clear in my mind was exactly what I needed to help me pull my head out of my arse, where it’s been languishing for the last few weeks. And I feel like the crisis has passed.

I’m aware that I left you hanging and never finished my jungle tales, in fact I think I only got as far as day two…sorry, I got sidetracked by the asshole in my head. I’m looking forward to filling you in on the rest of it now I’m no longer having to spend all my energy clinging on for dear life.

There are a couple of things that will test me over the next few days but I’m feeling up to the task, in fact it’s a bit like going back in time. This time last year I was feeling strong, invincible and utterly convinced that nothing would knock me off course. And right here, right now I feel the same. I could weep with relief that the storm appears to have passed…it was a nasty one, but I appear to have weathered it. I survived.

Game on 🙂

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Choosing My Miserable


Well, it’s been an interesting few days. The battle between me and the Asshole in my head has raged on and on to the point where it’s becoming old news. I’m bloodied and battered but you know what, I’m hanging in there. Yesterday was a good day. I ate clean, no naughties at all and I did two classes last night. Before you worry that you’re about to be dazzled by the light bouncing off my halo, don’t be…Saturday was shit and Sunday wasn’t much better.

So it’s been a rollercoaster, you know? It’s weird, I was off-reservation when I got back from Cuba and I’ve been sailing close to the wind ever since, as well you know but it’s fair to say that things sort of came to a head towards the back end of last week when I had to face the reality of what I was doing. I’d somehow got caught up in this whirlpool of self-sabotage for reasons known only to the voice in my head. I told you he was an asshole.

Anyway, a combination of real-life encouragement from some of my buddies and some proper wisdom and insight from you lot is helping me navigate my head to a calmer place. It was something Margaret said which provided the first reality check, in her thoughts on Friday’s post. She articulated beautifully how that first slip is a really big deal, but when the world doesn’t end the second slip feels less important, and on that sliding scale I’d reached the point where saying fuck it was pretty much part of my daily routine.

It’s a bit like boiling a frog, right? I’m not suggesting you should, but if you were to stick a frog in a pan of boiling water he’d immediately jump out screaming. Stick him in a pan of cool water and slowly turn up the heat, chances are he won’t notice how hot the water is until his legs are cooked. I didn’t notice how hot the water had got, is the long and short of it.

God of Pain provided the second reality check. I was talking to him on Sunday about how hard it’s become all of a sudden. In his usual telling it like it is way, he pointed out that I’ve got just two choices. Hate the journey for a while but stick with it anyway and reach my goals, or abandon the journey and hate the life I will inevitably go back to, and probably myself too just for good measure.

Talk about Hobson’s fucking choice, I mean both of them involve me being in turmoil and I’m miserable either way, right? But not really. Maybe right here and now, in this moment I’m pissed off because I can’t eat crap every day and lose weight. But one year from now when I’m rocking my size 12 skinny jeans I doubt very much that I’ll be pissed off at all.

So I’m sticking with it folks, even if I’m doing it through gritted teeth. I am going to do better because I am not going back to that old life. So here’s the thing. It gets harder to remember how I used to feel when I was at my heaviest. When nothing I wore felt nice, when I was so uncomfortable with a huge downer on myself because I knew I looked like a moose. I kind of felt like I needed a reminder.

Yesterday, I had to ferry my mum around to a few medical appointments, and I dressed in a pair of leggings – every lump and bump was magnified to the tune of at least a hundred, in fact who even knew it was possible for legs to be that lumpy? I’d bought them on-line, and let’s just say they didn’t look like they did on the picture when I put them on, you know? Enough said. They’d never graduated from the ‘fashion mistake but maybe when I’m thinner‘ drawer, well not until yesterday.

I teamed them with a top which is a little bit too snug, good grief it was a total car crash…there was nowhere to tuck my extra one hundred pounds into so it wasn’t on display. Never in a month of Sundays would I E.V.E.R go out looking like that…except yesterday I did. The hospital was so warm and I was sweltering but I didn’t dare take my coat off because I knew what a mess I looked underneath…it was a sharp reminder that I used to feel like that all the time. I haven’t, in a while, and I don’t want to again.

It helped. Yesterday was day one of my season two. And I’m sure it won’t all of a sudden get easier again, but I’ve chosen which miserable I’m going after…I picked the temporary one 🙂

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This Wasn’t Part Of The Plan


Well, yesterday’s post really struck a chord with you lot, and I’ll tell you what else, it reconfirmed to me that I’m not alone in this journey. I’m not the only one who has an asshole living inside my head and just because I argue with myself about whether I should or shouldn’t go/do/eat/work out it doesn’t make me a freak of nature. I’m normal. It’s irritating but it doesn’t mean the men in white coats need to come and cart me off.

Back in the early days when I first started writing, I remember feeling a bit guilty because my growing band of subscribers weren’t getting much drama out of my journey. I was locked and loaded into that sweet spot, and temptation crumbled to dust once it hit my orbit…it barely even registered in the early days. I ignored naughties of all descriptions whilst I was busy tipping out the contents of my head for examination. Life was easy, you know?

Now it feels like all you get is drama. I’m walking a tightrope and to say I’m wobbling all over the place is an understatement. I felt less isolated and a lot less scared once I’d talked about my post-trek struggle to stay focused because so many of you reached out to say it’s okay…it’s a thing. I felt reassured, but to be honest that’s starting to wear a bit thin now…I’m still wobbling and it’s pissing me right off.

Take yesterday for example – I’d arranged to meet a colleague at the motorway services so I could leave my car there and travel with him to a team meeting. I nipped in to pay for my parking and the lady behind the counter offered me a big bar of chocolate for a pound. As I was shaking my head and saying no, I noticed it was Daim chocolate and my pound was in her till before my head even had time to process the fact that I’d walked out with my parking receipt in one hand and a bar of chocolate in the other.

All the way down to the meeting I convinced myself that I’d offer the chocolate to everyone else and by the time I’d gone around the table there wouldn’t be enough left for it to put a significant dint in my diet. So boys and girls, let’s have a pop quiz.

How many squares of chocolate did my team eat? No Squares. And how many squares of chocolate did I eat? All the fucking squares. I know. That wasn’t in the plan. Neither was the posh fish finger sandwich at the local pub at lunchtime, accompanied by my second lot of cheesy chips in a week. I did have the good grace to go to bed without supper last night but I’m very sure that I weighed more when I went to bed than I did when I woke up yesterday morning. Two steps forward and two steps back again.

The thing is, this time last year, you couldn’t have paid me enough money to make me take a square of chocolate, and I would have faced a firing squad before considering a cheesy chip. I would have happily sat there and watched all my team eat cheesy chips without batting an eyelid, because I was on the road to Skinny Town and nothing was knocking me into the ditch, right? My resolve was cast-iron, rock-solid, and at least ten times more watertight than a duck’s backside. Now..? Now I’m a pushover in the battle for supremacy between me and the asshole in my head…I feel like I’m on the ropes.

And I’m terrified. What if I’ve lost it? I mean I know I’ve lost it momentarily, but what if I can’t find it again? This wasn’t supposed to happen. I can live with the odd bit of drama but for fucks sake there are limits…it’s turning into an almost daily occurrence.

I get lots of mail from people who’ve hit the skids and don’t know how to claw their way back into that sweet spot. I hear you sistahs…I’m right there in a heap with you. We’ll just have to help each other figure this shit out.

I’m not giving up…not in this lifetime. Today’s a new day and anyone who tries to wave a cheesy chip under my nose is going down. That is all 🙂

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