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Friday 12 June 2015

Back Eating Packet Mix: Revisiting LighterLife 8 years on

It was strange to be back eating food prepared from a LighterLife pack. So much has changed in the past 8 years. So much is different. It feels a long time since I was in that place, eating strictly prepared food from a powder mix. A long time since I was the girl on that low calorie diet. 

But I haven’t forgotten you Other-Sarah.

8 years ago, Other-Sarah was hoping she’d been handed a magical pill, that the packs would contain a miracle. She had reached the end of her tether. Standing there in clothes too tight as she hadn’t wanted to buy clothes in the size she really was, too scared to face up to her increasing size and ballooning figure. She was full of hope, prayers, desperation. And pie. 

Smiling but unhappy
Today I was tasting the new recipes, standing in the offices of LighterLife HQ. This time aware that the packs themselves did not contain a magical pill, but that perhaps they had unlocked something that I couldn’t have accessed without them. 

I remember as part of the counselling having to write a letter to my body. It was full of hopes, apologies for blame and written with plenty of smudges and tears. But I don’t remember writing a letter with my hopes and expectations in. Now THAT is a letter I’d like to read ... and written by Sarah-of-8-years-ago, I doubt it would have involved any mention of running or triathlon and probably no mention at all of children or marriage.

My cat DID love me despite appearances ... this picture was at one of my slimmer times.
I‘d like to hold that letter and compare it to my life now. What did I want back then? Was the desire to be thin all-consuming? Did I think about exercise and nutrition and how my weight would be managed ... and whether it would be?

What made me choose LighterLife instead of the other diets was the speed of the weight loss ... but what differentiated LighterLife for me in reality was the counselling. WHY was I eating two meals in the evening? Was I attempting to self-medicate with the alcohol or was this just a leftover from the student years that I hadn’t grown out of? Sharing the stories, tears and lives of the other women in the group was heartbreaking but also cathartic. And we all had so much in common. 

I'd like it to be noted that despite being twice his size I was STILL a better shot than Simon ...
I bought recipe books that I couldn’t use but pored over the food with my eyes, eating it with my mind. And no, it’s NOT the same. No matter how many time skinny women tell you it is. It’s not. But it’s almost the same. And I realised I didn’t need to eat all the chocolate. And all the cheese. I know what cheese tastes like. It hasn’t changed. Although I still like to check every now and then. Especially with the Dorset Blue Vinny. 

I thought tasting the food packs would be awful. I remembered my time on the packs as 100 days of purgatory. But they’re fine, nice. We had trifle made up for us with the jelly and rhubarb & custard topping (delicious!) and Mediterranean risotto and bolognese. And they’re filling. It certainly makes me realise that even now I’ve probably not got a handle on my portion control. 

Portion control?? (Looking knackered after Angela's hen do)

Yesterday was like going back to my original LighterLife group. Sharing the laughter over holding our work trousers up as our weight – and dress sizes – dropped and not keeping up with the clothes shopping. And discussions on how we maintained our weight. The key seemed to be tracking. Tracking your food, not minutely and not in a controlling manner but being aware, being mindful of what you’re eating. And eating good quality food. Fresh vegetables, protein and keeping away from the processed food. On LighterLife your nutrition is managed for you. In real life? Not so much and certainly not in the processed off-the-shelf food. 

But it was the counselling, the understanding, that made the difference for me. It wasn’t the weight making me unhappy, weight was the symptom. Removing the food gave me a chance to understand the sadness and the causes and I discovered I had the means to manage this. And it wasn’t by having a full fridge and a full stomach.  

It was an interesting day. It was good to be back among people who understood the food issues that naturally slim people don’t. Having to ban certain foods from the house (or you’ll eat and eat and eat and never stop) and what it’s like not to have an off button (with food or alcohol or exercise or talking ...) and what it’s actually like to be on food packs for 100 days and probably only poo 12 times. People wonder where my poo obsession came from ... well I can confirm it started about 8 years ago in the absence of ...! 


As with the original meeting, 8 years ago I arrived with trepidation, but left with friends and a lighter heart. I wish I could reach out to Other-Sarah and let her know that everything is going to be ok.   


Other-Sarah let me write you a letter from the future. 

Let me send this back to you to arrive just as you have finished your other letter. You’re going to be happy, Very happy. You have a daughter who looks just like you and who is absolutely obsessed by Frozen and Disney princesses but who lets you plait her hair. She also ADORES cuddles. You are married to someone lovely and you all live in a small house with a garden the size of a postage stamp – but it’s full of roses. Roses that smell wonderful. I know I’m nearly home when I can smell the big white roses. And you’re obsessed with running. Yes. You read that right. You – the girl who dislikes having to walk to the shop and who smokes 20 cigarettes a day – love running. Your footsteps on the trails are the sound of freedom to you and running fast feels like flying – see you really DID learn to fly – and you make friends through it. So many wonderful friends who share this craziness! And we have wonderful adventures, running 75 miles through Essex, swimming in lakes – with massive fish!, triathlons, marathons, running laps in fields in the middle of the night. Sure, there are ups and downs but it’s all seasoning. Different flavours in this massive adventure. And it is an adventure. Life feels different now. 

Go be happy. 

Note: LighterLife haven't paid me or asked me to write this and I'm well aware that this was my journey not anyone else's. This might not work for you or for your friends but it was very personal for me and I feel that it was a big stepping stone to helping me be who I am today. I found that being able to survive for 100 days on soups made me realise that I could do so much more than I thought I could. If I could do THAT, I could do anything, right? :)

Friday 5 June 2015

Hope 24: How To Be An Amazing (*Amazingly Shite*) Support Crew

For once it wasn’t me running. It was the husband’s turn to have a go at running a 24hr race solo. I was promoted from ‘runner’ to ‘support crew’. Decided would attempt a Stepford Wife style support system but with wellies and noodles instead of heels and freshly-baked cookies.

Step ford Wife (Source)

4:30pm: As was going to be Best-Support-Crew-Wife ever I drove the car which I’d packed full of games for the hotel and snacks for the road. Even decided to allow husband to share snacks. However did give him a 2-turnarounds-max and 2-miles-from-home-radius for going back to the house to retrieve forgotten items. 

5:30pm: Drive going smoothly despite small argument over last chocolate bar and there wasn’t even any sulking (I got the chocolate bar).  

7:30pm: Discovered had somehow been conned into driving to Plymouth which is practically Cornwall and involves 145 miles on the M5. Stop at services and order husband out of car to bulk buy energy drinks. He comes back with one drink. Resist urge to sulk as am on Best-Support-Crew-Wife duty.

8:30pm: SatNav directs us to a dodgy looking housing estate in Plymouth on what appears to be an episode of Shameless. Husband gets shirty and threatens to take over driving. I get shirty and threaten to kick him out of car on dodgy looking housing estate. Compromise by locking all the car doors (to stop people getting in rather than us getting out) and navigating using map.

9:00pm: Finally get to hotel and discover have picked up wrong package and have brought parcel containing the cat’s new scratching post instead of the parcel containing the games. And the snacks are in the car.

9:01pm: Decide Best-Support-Crew-Wife doesn’t apply until race day and give up and go to bed. 

8:00am: As hotel is only 5 miles from race venue can have a lie in until it’s time to put on support kit and wellies. Perfect. Prepare Husband-Solo-Runner coffee and breakfast.

10:00am: Husband has locked himself in bathroom. Suspect is nervous. Will leave him in there and practise Supportive-wife-style-smiling for Support Crew Duties.

10:15am: Getting a bit concerned as registration closes in 45 minutes and husband is still locked in bathroom. Practise more smiling and soothing “don’t be nervous” voice.

10:30am: Forget about Stepford-wife style role and bang on bathroom door.  Is not nerves. Husband-Solo-Runner had forgotten about time and was playing computer games on phone. Smile slips somewhat and resists urge to clobber Husband-Solo-Runner around head with welly.

10:52am: Finally get to race venue after mad dash drive through Plymouth. Under speed limit of course. Park car in field after finding brilliant spot by finish arch and close enough to loos for middle of night trips but not close enough to smell them. Am natural at this support crew stuff.

10:53am: Send Husband-Solo-Runner off to register and collect race number.

10:54am: Put up tent and gazebo all on my own. Blow up air mattresses and arrange food and kit. Am obviously AMAZING support crew. Suspect will get promoted soon to Queen of Solo Support Crews.

10:55am: Husband-Solo-Runner sits in car scoffing food and playing on phone.

10:56am: I make coffee and make sure everything is perfect.

11:00am: Race briefing.  

11:55am: Husband-Solo-Runner goes and stands on start with everyone else. I go and find a spot to cheer and take photos. This will probably be the only time in 24 hour race Husband-Solo-Runner will be smiling. I don’t tell him this. 

11:59am: Husband-Solo-Runner runs up to me in a panic "I forgot to charge my Garmin and it won’t turn on..." Start to say “You complete tw-...” Then remember am supposed to be Awesome Support Crew and stop sentence and give him my brand new Suunto to use instead. Resist urge to clobber him around head with welly. 

12:30pm: Went and clapped him at the 2.5 mile point. Went and clapped him at the 4 mile point.

1:25pm: Lap 2: Went and clapped Husband-Solo-Runner at the 2.5 mile point. Went and clapped him at the 4 mile point. 

2pm: Went and got snacks on ready for Husband-solo-runner. Made coffee. Prepared fresh socks. Did whole Stepford Wife thing but in running gear and wellies. Am AMAZING at being support crew! Suspect may win trophy for being best Support Crew ever. Make a note to email race organisers about making this A Thing. 

2:15pm: Have revelation about what would improve 24 hour races even further: beer tent. Had hopeful explore of campsite. No beer tent. Make a note to email race organisers about making this Another Thing. 

2:30pm: Ran lap 3 with Husband-Solo-Runner in attempt to encourage and support up close. And to take mind off lack of beer tent. Amazingly beautiful run course. Fricking massive hills though but had excuse to walk up hills as had to make sure Husband-Solo-Runner goes slowly. Even ran down hills slowly which is just plain wrong. Ran with Husband-Solo-Runner and let him dictate speed despite wanting to run fast and enjoy hills. Am obviously amazing support crew.  

4:00pm: Husband-Solo-Runner went round on another lap so went and did some loud cheering and clapping for the Solo Runners. They looked a bit bemused. They’d only done about 15 miles at this point and had hardly made a dent in their snacks. However am sure they appreciated the effort INSIDE.

4:10pm: Throat bit sore from all the enthusiastic cheering. Had a chat to Alice of Cirencester and saw Linda and Steve of Yeovil Town Road Runners.

4:15pm: Went and had a nice sit down. I could get used to this sitting. 
Had a bit of flapjack. This is the life. Sitting, eating snacks and reading in the sunshine. Tried some of the crispy cakes.
Read a bit of book. More snacking. Bored of book.
Went on Facebook. Read ALL of Facebook. Mmmm flapjack. Mmm crispy cakes.
Went on twitter. Read ALL of twitter. Mmmm cake.
Bored. I wonder what these nuts taste like.
Will read twitter again.
Unable to find more flapjack and realise I have eaten ALL of the flapjacks (1 entire box) and ALL of the crispy cakes (1 entire box). And all of the nuts. 
Shit. Can’t feed Husband-Solo-Runner on grass and empty noodle packets. Resist urge to clobber self around head with welly.
Remember we passed a Tesco on the way to site.
Realise can’t get car out of field due to runners.
Realise mad panic is probably due to huge amounts of sugar and remember am runner so can RUN to Tesco to get snacks.
Check on husband-solo-runner. Have 35 minutes until he is due back at tent. Get a sprint on. 
Make it back to tent loaded up with food and snacks before Husband-Solo-Runner realises all food is missing. Phew. Is lucky am runner. 

5:00pm: Is only 5hrs in and Husband-Solo-Runner is already refusing food. This is going to result in dramatics later on. Luckily it also means he hasn’t spotted the missing crispy cakes. Resist urge to clobber him around head with welly.

5:10pm: A man in a clown suit keeps honking his horn at me. Is this a hallucination brought on from eating ALL the cake? 

6:00pm: As expected Husband-Solo-Runner is being all dramatic and complaining about feet. (And lack of crispy cakes). Forced Husband-Solo-Runner to eat noodles. He cheered up dramatically after eating food. Sent him out to run another lap.

6:45pm: Just had to use the line. “No. No more noodles until you’ve run another 5 miles. Here have a banana.” Am evil run crew. Decide have discovered amazing new Support Crew Distraction: Runger Games. Like the Hunger Games but with noodles and 5 mile runs.   

8:00pm: Went out and ran 2 more laps with him with a headtorch. Actually physically ran behind him and PUSHED him up all the hills. Have secured place in history as best support ever. Apart from eating all the food.

10:30pm: 45 miles done. Decided Husband-Solo-Runner deserved a dirty burger but burger van out of burgers and refusing to sell us sausage inna bun as these were for breakfast time. Hurriedly bought Husband-Solo-Runner plate of chilli as he was eyeing up the tethered dog.

10:45pm: Husband-Solo-Runner refusing to run in the dark and went to bed. Resist urge to clobber him around head with welly. Am sure 24hr races supposed to last for 24hrs ... but am not complaining as comfy sleeping bag and air mattress. Plus have stolen The Warm Blanket. Decide is a good plan to sleep until morning. Make mental note to try not to snore so as to keep up role of Awesome Support Crew. 

7:00am: Woken up by Husband-Solo-Runner leaving the tent. Waved sleepily at him from sleeping bag. Couldn’t face cheering. Too early. Too loud.

7:30am: Decided HAD to get up and be amazing support crew again. Sigh. Supporting is hard.

7:45am: Man in clown suit now dressed in chicken suit. Suspect is results of extreme sleep deprivation.




9:00am: Sugar crash. Do not want to walk up any more hills. Husband-Solo-Runner is being grumpy. Not sure why he’s being so grumpy. Not as if he has a tummy ache from all of the flapjacks he didn’t eat yesterday. Huff. 

10:00am: Husband-Solo-Runner also refusing my help pushing him up hills in daylight. Apparently “Is embarrassing and all the other solos will laugh.” Huff. I’m not the one walking like have had a brown accident in shorts. 

11:00am: Husband-Solo-Runner adamant he does not want to do 65 miles but suspect he secretly would like to do more than target. Try to get him to run down the hills but he is not keen. He had a go after I threatened to withhold noodles but his evil-disjointed-scarecrow style of having-run-60-miles is scary. Relieved when he stops running to do his usual ‘Brown Accident’ style walking. 

11:59am: The race finishing horn blows when we are about 12ft from the finishing line. The look of relief on Husband-Solo-Runner s face when he realised he wouldn’t be allowed to run another lap is somewhere between Oh-My-God-They’re-Giving-Out-Free-Beer and I’ve-Eaten-All-The-Chilli-But-I-Have-Loo-Roll. He is relieved, ecstatic to have hit 60 mile target and thankful to be allowed to stop. 

12:30pm: A successful weekend. Husband-Solo-Runner has hit his target, I got to eat all the food and we found a brilliant new event that we’ll definitely be returning to. Wonder if I can persuade Husband-Solo-Runner to push ME up all the hills next year?

About Hope 24:
Hope 24 is a 24hr event run on 5 mile loops around a country estate. Big hills, gorgeous trail route and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. £45 entry, camping is free and the money raised from the event goes to a charity so it's all for a good cause.
You can enter here.