Accountability: Bigger on the inside

Its been a while since I updated. Life has become slightly busier as I have more commitments right now than I did when I first started writing. The last couple of weeks have also been fairly turbulent, which has held me up from getting on here. For that reason, I’m going to centre this update on my mental health rather than physical. The latter part is also not going terribly well.

I am still unable to exercise, moreso right now because my left foot has swollen up and even walking is a challenge, let alone much else. I had my first physio appointment on Wednesday and I wasn’t even in there for five minutes… I showed the nice lady my foot and she said there was nothing we could do today and I should go to the urgent care centre. I did, and doc said there’s a build up of fluid or something where I’ve been putting too much pressure on that foot to avoid leaning on my bad leg. I kind of have to laugh at this point. It’s Saturday night and I’m sat in my flat with a bag of frozen veg on my elevated foot. I am feeling like quite the lamer. It seems to be getting slightly better at least.

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SOURCE: Goodreads/CBS

So, the last couple of weeks. Again, I have to laugh. I’m better the last few days, but otherwise emotionally, I’ve been very wobbly. Fighting to get out of bed in the morning, crying at inappropriate moments, putting off showering, comfort eating… All the stuff that tells me I’m heading for a dark place. I don’t really want to go into details of what triggered it here but it culminated in a huge blip last weekend. I had a night out on the Friday that went pear shaped – alcohol was involved – and I ended the night going home early and feeling very sad. I know that I shouldn’t drink when I’m already not doing good, it’s the worst idea… I wanted to go out and have a good night and just feel normal. I’m going dry again for a while. Why do it to myself? I didn’t have a huge amount to drink, even, but it didn’t matter. The result was still the same.

The next day – mentally more than physically – I felt like absolute hell. I didn’t move from the sofa, just sort of laid there and cried some and slept a bit and thought a lot. I could have done that all day. I could still be there right now, a week later – it’s not unheard of – except I forced myself to do something I’ve only recently learned to do. I picked up my phone.

I messaged my close friend who lives nearby and asked if she was free to come over. I felt silly, I felt scared, I felt vulnerable – but she came. She sat with me all evening. We watched American Pie and talked about crisps. It was so nice just having her there with me; a reminder that I’m not alone, no matter how much that bitch voice in my head tells me I am. Just a few hours of hanging out with my friend, shooting the shit and being normal – it helped so much. I felt better. Reminded that there are good things and good people in life and what goes on in my head is not the be all and end all.

The next day my mum came over; again, I asked her. I asked for help. Just doing that, made me feel powerful again. Reminded me that I’m not helpless to this stupid illness. Part of it too is that my mum has an amazing way of putting things in perspective. She’s very pragmatic about things, which is what I need sometimes when I get caught up purely with the emotions. I talked about a lot of stuff with her – things that had been happening, things I was feeling, and she listened patiently. I didn’t feel like a burden and I realised I didn’t need to – this is my mum, for Christ’s sake – but it was still such a big deal for me to message my friend, to call my mum, to say, ‘I need help.’

I’m so glad I did. After my mum left, I managed to get off the sofa. I then packed my bag for the next day, had a shower and set my alarm. I was still feeling like a big bag of dicks – but feeling, at the very least, like I could carry on, like I could cope. Maybe it will never feel comfortable asking for my help, but I proved to myself that I could do it. I’m learning.

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Source: Twitter/BBC

People have told that I’m a fighter, that I’m brave. When I’m just going through the motions, it doesn’t feel like that at all. I do all I can; I take my meds, I use all the self help going, but I’ve accepted that for me, depression as a chronic illness that all I can do is manage. And that’s okay. I have a damn fucking good life. I cant always see that, especially when I’m really down, but I really, really do. For people like me, recovery isn’t going to be something that happens once then I never think about it again  Recovery is going to be a constant process. I’ve not failed because I have a blip for a few days. I’m just not doing as good on those days as I do on other days. And that’s okay too. My friends and family have been amazingly supportive over the past few months, and I will never stop feeling grateful for that – for all the people who sat with me, listened to me, put themselves out for me. I am so, so lucky and I don’t know where I would be without them. I couldn’t fight at all without that support. It’s important. There is some guilt that comes with that; fear that I’m a burden, that I’m taking an emotional dump, that I’m just silly and whiny. But I know if any member of my friends or family were in that place – I’d be there too. I wouldn’t think that about them. So why am I so fucking hard on myself?

I’m lucky. But I’m conflicted.

Even just admitting sometimes that I’m not doing so good is very difficult. I am pushing myself hard to be open on this blog. In day to day life, I have no problem telling people I have a trapped nerve. But telling them I have depression? That’s different. I fear judgement. I fear they’ll see me differently. Yet usually, they’re just really surprised. They say things like, ‘really? But you seem so happy.’

In a way, I am happy. Life is good. I just have an illness. And that illness is not who I am. It’s also down to the fact that chronically sad people learn from a young age to pretend everything is fine, even to act as if we’re more chipper than the average. We have to mask it, otherwise we wouldn’t get by in this world. We would just be crushed. Sometimes I feel ashamed that I feel things so much more intensely than other people. I feel like a freak. Intellectually I know I’m not. I purely have a chemical imbalance in my brain. But emotionally? Forget it. I’m working on it. The stigma against mental illness will never change without openness. Be the change you want to see in the world and all that noise. It’s just not always that easy.

Speaking of quotes, there’s a song by Amanda Palmer called Bigger on the Inside that I haven’t listened to for ages, but it popped up as a random earworm the other day. I started thinking a bit about what that phrase meant. Presumably from the lyrics she wrote the song in response to all the horrible cyber bullying she was a victim of a few years back. I really like the phrase, though: I am bigger on the inside. I can handle more than I realise. I am stronger than I think. That’s how I choose to interpret it. I’ve adopted it as my new affirmation.

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Source: Rebloggy/Disney

Tonight I made myself a nice healthy clean meal for the first time in several days… And I already feel better from the simple pleasure of cooking. Also just from getting some food inside me… I have little appetite at the moment. I’m trying to remember this feeling; that nice, contented relaxed feeling of being full of healthy food I made all by myself. There’s no reason why I can’t do that every day. And I didn’t even make too much mess in the kitchen. My flatmate will be pleased.

Exercise wise, I hope I can start doing some yoga at least when my foot is better. Physio says I can indeed do some exercise with my leg, just that I need to lay off the HIIT. That’s a double edged sword…

I digress. I’ll end with this: If you want to help someone who is depressed, know that you cant fix us. We dont expect you to. Ultimately, just be beside us. If we need to talk, listen; if we don’t want to talk, just be there. Your presence is comforting.

Equally, sometimes your presence isn’t comforting and we need to be alone. That’s about us, not you. The best way to help in this situation is to give us space.

And please, if you need to: set boundaries with us. Do it gently. Sometimes we’ll drain you. Sometimes you’ll feel helpless. Call us out if our behaviour hurts you – again, gently – there’s no point in both of us being depressed.

But above all, remember us how we are when we’re well. That’s the real us. And above, above all – please, please don’t give up on us. We’re still in there. We’re fighting. It may not look like it sometimes – but every second we’re still here, we’re fighting.

And if you’re depressed – if you can bear it, please reach out. To anyone – a friend, a family member, an organisation, a helpline… The list is endless. And it’s so worth it. I promise

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Accountability 12.2.2017-25.2.2017

Last night I dreamt that I wrote a children’s book and some woman in Hungary typed it up on the internet and claimed it was hers. I will track that dream bitch down.

So it’s been a productive and very busy couple of weeks, and things have been pretty good overall. The one weird thing I’ve been noticing is that I’ve been really craving a cigarette the last couple of days… not strong cravings and I haven’t been tempted to give in, just random pangs of really missing my old cancer-inducing friends. It’s been almost four months now since I quit and despite slipping up here and there, it hasn’t, overall, been nearly as traumatic as I always feared it would be. From talking to ex-smoking friends and family, the general consensus seems to be that it takes about a year all in all for the cravings to stop completely. I think I can handle that. I just need to not cave – which has happened once or twice after a few drinks… though I never find myself craving or wanting to buy cigs after so hopefully those slip-ups have not done too much damage…

I’m still low to no on the exercise front right now, which is pissing me off to no end. I saw a doctor about my leg/back/hip pain last week and he did some sciatica test on me, which I’ve never actually had done before, I was just told by another doctor that was what it was. This doctor decided that all this time, I’ve not had sciatica at all. It turns out it’s actually a compressed nerve in my hip, an unpronounceable condition (I’m not even going to try and spell it) also known as skinny jeans syndrome. I shit you not… that’s a thing. Apparently you get it from wearing tight clothing, and not even consistently… you only have to wear it once. I bet that shit is widepsread in Shoreditch.

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Source: seinfeldgifs.tumblr.com

So it’s pretty fucking ouchey by all accounts. Who knew.

As such I have been referred for physio (finally) and been told that I can’t do any exercise apart from yoga and swimming… my two least favourite exercises. I can’t faff around getting to a swimming pool at the moment so yoga is having to do for now. I’ve also been put on some strong ass painkillers that my body is not tolerating very well at all… never known drowsiness like this. I came home from uni yesterday, passed out for five hours, got up for a bit then went back to bed for a full night’s sleep. Whilst this amount of sleep is pretty damn orgasmic, I know that my sleep pattern is very sensitive to fuckery, and sleep pattern fuckery gets me depressed and then I’m just no good at all. So I’m doing some stretching here and there to manage the pain instead unless it gets really bad – it’s worse in the morning, standing on the tube in rush hour is a fucking nightmare – but I’m going to wait for the physio before I go crazy with it… I think the stretches I was doing when I thought it was sciatica probably made it worse, so I’m trying not to really go there right now. So for the twice-daily stretching goal I set for myself on my last accountability post… yeah, that’s not really happened.

On the bright side, I’ve not done too bad with the other two goals – namely continuing with healthy eating and directing my sad energy into good things. I have, overall, managed to eat pretty healthy over the last couple of weeks… I’m very happy to have incorporated carbs back into my diet. God, I missed bananas… how does anyone live without those? And brown pasta. Guh. Eating out, however, is still a problem. I’ve talked in previous post about how food and socialising go hand in hand… I still haven’t mastered the art of just ordering a fucking salad when I grab food with friends. I arrive well intentioned, but as soon as the menu arrives and we begin our respective drooling,  I’m either like ‘fuck it, yep, I will have cheese on those fries, please’ and then spend the rest of the day feeling guilty… or I start to panic. What have I already eaten today? Are they lying about the calorie count on their menu? Why is the superfood section so fucking pricey? Do they have nutritional breakdowns on their website? I took half an hour to pick something off a damn Wetherspoons menu the other day because of these thoughts. I did about three calorie calculations on my phone even though I know now that focusing purely on calories is a recipe for disaster. I’m lucky to have such patient friends.

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Source: Tenor.co.uk/FOX

My attitude to food is certainly healthier than it used to be, but sometimes I become really aware that I’m just not there yet. I still hear that little voice telling me that if I eat that dish then I’ll have to not eat tomorrow. I still find myself obsessing over what my next meal will be, I’m still tempted to slip back into unhealthy behaviours because of the temporary feel-good they give me. I still know the calorie content of absolutely everything. I still sometimes feel out of control… and I still fucking love to talk about food, about nutrition, about what this carb does and why this is good and this is bad. I’m good at fighting it, of talking myself down. I just wish I didn’t have to. I used to think that everyone felt like this, but since I really started being open about my attitudes I’ve realised that most people don’t. Like any deep seated thought process I guess it will take a while to reverse. The important thing is I’m aware of it and can tackle it, and I’m able to keep myself focused on what my goal is: eat the most nutritious foods I can most of the time and everything else will take care of itself. Sure, I fuck up sometimes, and I do obsess over it – working on it. But on the whole, I eat well, I stay healthy, I feel good. I try to focus on health rather than weight, an attitude which, although it wavers sometimes, has changed my life. I’m now able to keep well and maintain a healthy weight without going to ridiculous extremes, and I know this makes more sense than absolutely anything else out there. But with these thought patterns still lingering in there, it’s really tough sometimes.

I digress. I was feeling crappy when I made my last accountability post, and I’m definitely doing better as of now. Following the above, my other goal was to direct all my sad energy into positive things, and I think I’ve succeeded pretty well on this front. Uni’s been busy as busy does this past week or so, lots of long, intense classes and I’m finding myself more determined to get as much as I can out of it and more able to focus than I have been for a long time. I feel like I’m finally emerging from the Great Funk of 2016 all shiny and new and ready to enjoy my life again. And I think it’s because I’ve learnt how to channel my bad feelings into positive things. I managed to get myself to an open mic this week and read some of my poems inspired by that period, which was extremely cathartic. It’s weird how borderline yelling some angry verse at complete strangers helps so much.

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Source: Medium.com (original source unknown, please let me know if you recognise this so I don’t get sued thanks)

So I also had a little think about what this blog is actually doing for me, and how it’s helping. It’s a little scary sharing such personal stuff like this, but it really has proved to be cathartic, which is the whole reason I decided to do it. The accountability aspect is really helping me to figure out what’s going well and what’s not in terms of getting and staying healthy; being able to lay it all out rather than trying to pick through a jumble in my head makes it all so much clearer. There’s a lot of crap still festering up there, but there’s a lot of good too, and I can see from laying it out that I’m doing a lot better with everything than I sometimes think I am. It makes identifying the bad stuff easier too. Writing this blog also gives me a nice little project to focus on, another thing to channel bad energy into to create something that’s good for me. Honestly, I wish I’d done it a long time ago.

Finally, I just really want to say thank you to everyone who encouraged me to start this blog, and to everyone who’s been reading and who’s given me feedback. You know who you are – I just want you to know I really appreciate it. xx

Accountability week 4: Feeling like a big bag of you know whats

So, they’ve remade The Wizard of Oz for some insane budget looking TV series. Dorothy is some like Xena figure by the looks of it. I’m not terribly sure how I feel about this.

So I’m a little late on the accountability this week. I’m in a bit of a funk right now. Its been a turbulent few weeks and I’m feeling more hopeful, but still trying to scramble out of the hole I crawled into. Its dark in here, but oddly warm and cosy.

So, getting clean this week has been a mixed bag. Mentally I’m taking stock a lot right now and straightening things out in my mind, which is very tiring but necessary, and I’m struggling to scrabble together the energy to devote to much else. The remainder of last week went pretty well; I stuck out low carb for the most part  and I got one of those three day pass things at a gym. It was literally the first time I’ve been to a gym in my life as I’ve always never seen the point when I do fine keeping fit at home for free (link to previous post), but I actually really, really loved it. This is good and bad. Good because I’ve lost my gym virginity and i made the most  of that shit. I pushed myself hard. Then bad because I am a student and cant afford an actual gym membership. And it appears I pushed myself so hard that I should be proud as I triggered another sciatica flare up. Go me.

So I have indeed been feeling like a big bag of dicks this week. I’ve come down with another cold – the office where I work my part time job has a horrendous case of sick building syndrome – my back has been on and off, and I’ve just generally been feeling pretty low and out of sorts. I haven’t been able to exercise much due to my back which doesn’t help my mood. I wouldn’t say my diet has been terrible, but I’ve definitely not been sticking to low carb. I just don’t have the motivation right now – and I’m kind of not surprised.

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Source: Wifflegif/Cartoon

 

Until I decided to try low carb, I was always very much into not cutting any food group and just trying to make sure I ate natural food as much as possible, which is something that worked great for me for a long time until I slipped back into emotional eating just before Christmas. For the first couple of weeks, it felt great to be more full and be dropping all the post Christmas weight (which I luckily haven’t regained!)… But as the novelty’s wearing off, I’m starting to ask myself what the hell I’m doing. Fruit and grains have always been good friends since I changed my lifestyle and frankly, I miss them! I’m always preaching about not looking for a quick fix, about changing your lifestyle rather than sticking to one idea about what you should and shouldn’t be eating, but here I am doing just that. I miss quinoa and bananas. I have no medical need for rapid weight loss or any other health issues that low carb is supposed to quash.

The honeymoon period is over and I’m starting to wonder just how good this is actually is for me. It started as I’ve been horrendously busy this week, largely the practicalities of it have become a problem. I’ve been darting around back and forth between work and uni and home and visiting family and sticking to it on the go has been much more of a problem than it was when I started and I was spending a lot of time just at home. It highlighted to me the need to plan for it more, definitely… A lot more difficult to eat healthy when running around when you cant eat a lot of fruit and don’t really fancy processed meat snacks… But because I did turn back to eating fruit and grains purely out of practicality (admittedly the occasional supermarket sandwich too, don’t judge) I noticed that although I was eating more, I was much less tempted to slip into treats mentality… Less need for the emotional eating that had started to creep up on me again in that godawful week a couple of weeks ago. For now I’m eating like I used to – healthy and as clean as I can on the go, much higher carb and I’ve noticed I have more energy.

So now I’m at something of a crossroads on whether to continue with this or not. I cant reach for a piece of fruit anymore when I’m craving something sweet, and this may in itself be serving as a binge trigger. Admittedly my motivation has been a little shot this week, as I said… I’ve been feeling pretty out of sorts this last week, what with the back and the cold and generally feeling quite low in mood at the moment. Its a productive kind of low, I think. I’ve recently been questioning certain relationships in my life and how much they’re actually making a positive contribution, and have made the decision to spend a lot less time and energy on these people. This is naturally quite sad and something I’ve probably been putting off for longer than I perhaps should have done. Well if I’m going to get healthy again, I need to remove the unhealthy people as well as the unhealthy habits, foods and drinks… Kind of a necessary evil, but sometimes the things that feel good are not the best for our health. And its time to say bye.

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Source: Cartoon Network

So dry January ended. I got horrendously drunk last Saturday and regretted it. I felt hungover for like two days and asked myself why I do it. Its Friday night and whilst usually I would be sitting here with a glass of wine, right now I have no desire. I think I’ve got kind of used to not drinking for the sake of it, which is good. Kind of a reset I suppose. I definitely don’t think I’m going to go back to the regular drinking I was doing, but I guess we’ll see.

I’m feeling pretty flat right now and can feel that’s coming across in this post. My goals for the next week are going to be stretching and resting to get my back healthy again – all this one week of vigorous exercise and one week out in pain cant be healthy – and probably going back to the doctor about it… And trying to stick to eating clean while working out whether low carb is the right path for me in light of my realisations. Oh and rocking out to the Kills in the bathroom after a shower. That seems to work for the slump of a mood I’m in right now at least. I’m going to work on redirecting my energy on focusing on positive things this week rather than the stuff that just brings me down. Easier said than done, but I promised myself that this year things will change. And I intend to honour that promise for all I’m worth.

Goals for this week include twice daily stretching, redirecting all my sad energy into productive things and focusing on eating healthy. I’m not restricting any food groups for now but we’ll see what happens. I’m also considering cutting caffeine to see if it helps my stress levels any, but I’m going to do a little more research into that before I take any action. Hopefully a more cheery post next week.

 

Accountability Week 3: January, emotional eating and the kitchen floor reset.

If January was a dessert, it would be the kind no one orders, like a wilted fruit salad with grapefruit in (NIGHTMARE) or a bland sorbet. Go away, January. This is awkward, but nobody actually likes you. We’re skint, we’re cold, it’s ages until summer and even longer until Christmas. And a lot of us are facing you stone cold sober.

January, I loved you in the beginning; on our first meeting on New Year’s day, you made me feel so powerful and special. You and I were full of possibility, and you made me feel all brand new. But as time has worn on, I’ve seen that you are not quite who I thought you were. Things between us are becoming so fraught,  January: youre cold, you continually make demands of me, and you’re downright difficult to live with. This is hard, January, but I’m starting to think we cant continue. Shall you change or shall I? The crazy thing is, you and I were never even about resolutions. You were just a really good month. But you let me down, man. You let me down.

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                                     Source: CollegeTimes.com                                        January, you’ve been manipulating people for years with your fancy ‘look, I’m shiny and new and you can be just like me.’ Piss off.

So basically I fell off the wagon big time last week with this low carb business. The monster of emotional eating has crept up on me big time and I haven’t wanted to fight it. It’s been a rough few days. I broke up with my boyfriend the week before last, and at first I felt great. I was angry, but it was a productive kind of anger, that spurred me on to get a lot of shit done. I suddenly had this incredible confidence. I was in Beyonce mode, spending time with my friends, doing stuff I liked, dyeing my hair really pink because I no longer had to worry about his conservative ass not liking it. I worked out hard, ate well, meditated and felt great.

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                                                  Source: Giphy.com                                                  I’m actually very very uncool but on the internet I can pretend.

But then, perhaps inevitably, the crash came. I’m definitely on the other side now but it was rough. I came home to my mum’s place for a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday night and I didnt actually leave until Friday afternoon. My friend calls this behaviour the ‘kitchen floor reset’ – you go home to mum’s, have an emotional meltdown, get it out of your system then go home all shiny and new. My place was on the sofa under a blanket rather than the kitchen floor and my family quietly allowed my miserable ass to stay there – they’re awesome –  but I’m back at my flat now, sitting in front of daytime TV like a true student, and feeling calm and energised again. Beyonce is still in there somewhere.

I digress. Emotional eating is my arch nemesis when it comes to staying healthy. I think it has an even bigger hold on me than smoking did.

I think there are a bunch of reasons why it grips me and many others. For a start, food is widely available. Nobody will bat an eyelid if you buy a whole madeira cake at 10 o’clock in the morning like they would if you were getting a bottle of wine to drown your sorrows. You don’t buy Oreos off some sketchy guy on a street corner in Hackney. You also can’t simply abstain from food like you can with any other form of abuse/addiction because you’ll like, die… so whilst you can change your habits, know all there is to know about healthy eating and implement it daily until you’re blue in the face, when sadness creeps up on you… hi, my old friend pizza.

There’s also the social aspect of eating. Alcoholics and drug users manage abstinence by breaking the connections they have with the people they used to drink/use with, but imagine saying ‘yeah, I can’t be friends with Bob anymore, he eats too much pasta.’

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                               Source: The Methods Man                               Bob, your addiction is negatively affecting our lives. So we made you an appointment and we want you to keep it.

Beyond the social aspect, you have the social acceptability. Especially after a break-up, and perhaps even more especially for women,  perhaps the main factor is the pure social acceptability of it. People are generally unnerved by the idea of themselves or others reaching for a bottle of vodka to deal with heartbreak, believing this to be akin to alcoholism and the very accurate belief that this will simply make things worse. But a tub of ice cream, or a whole pack of oreos, devoured with a side of tears and snot in front of a Jennifer Aniston romcom isn’t only considered okay, for women, it’s kind of what you’re supposed to do when a relationship ends.

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Source: CBS

Its no problem if it occurs just the once. Its expected. For example, here is the sitcom version:

  1. Tearful woman squirts a whole cannister of whipped cream into her mouth, or devours a tub of Ben and Jerry’s with a wistful, trance like look on her face.
  2. Woman is later comforted by a usually platonic male friend who utters a few clichés, woman tearfully smiles, there is a hug, the studio audience ‘awws’ and everything is okay.

I’m sure this is not too far from real life for many (apart from the studio audience,  unless you have your own personal one following you around everywhere). But for emotional eaters, there is more ice cream and whipped cream beyond the reassurance from kind friends that your sexy ass deserves better. There is chocolate and pizza and secrecy and shame. (Shame is particularly yummy BTW.)

So ranting aside, my accountability for last week: low carb happened here and there but mostly I ate shit. I kind of went into this with a hopeful heart that due to the lack of restriction on calories, the naturally curbed appetite and the fact that with a little creativity, it’s easy to substitute high-carb food with more fat and protein loaded options, this would kind of be the solution to temptation. Of course it’s not. It has helped the boredom eating; being so full all the time means that my mind genuinely doesn’t wander to ordering a takeaway or watching a film with chocolate on a slow Sunday afternoon. But when I’m sad – nah.

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                                              Source: Channel 4                                                   Mmm potatoes…

I can say with certainty that it’s nowhere near as bad as it was, probably down to awareness. I’ll do a little advice post on this at some point. But the last week or so has shown me that I’m definitely not there yet and changing the way I eat is probably not going to solve the problem. I am going to stick with the low carb for a while longer as it has helped with the appetite control, weight loss and I’m definitely feeling the benefit of eating more veggies. But it’s certainly not the solution to emotional eating, kids. Though you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.

January, maybe it is me. You still suck though.

8 Amazing Free Workouts for Beginners

If you’ve not exercised since high school and want to get fit, it’s difficult to know where to start. Gyms can be pricey and feel intimidating as a beginner, and who wants to go running at this time of year?

That’s why at home workouts are a great (and warm) alternative. And now in the age of YouTube, you don’t even have to fork out for a fitness DVD brought to you by the latest Celebrity Love Island runner up. Huzzah. What a great time to be alive.

I believe there’s no reason why you can’t get fit in the comfort of your own home. I personally find it’s a lot easier to motivate myself to stick on YouTube in my bedroom than it is to get myself out running after a long day. For this post I’ve chosen workouts that I have personally tried and found useful that also require minimal or zero equipment. Even with the ones that do, you can improvise with everyday household items, like cans of soup or bottles of water. Hell, I even used my boombox as a kettlebell once (that was unsuccessful, I do not recommend it).

The following workouts can be done at any fitness level, but they’re especially beginner friendly. It’s also okay to swear at your trainer because they can’t hear you 😉 The majority of the ones I’ve selected are led by women, but there’s absolutely no reason why men can’t do them too. The links to the videos are on the titles because I’m a WordPress Pleb and the site won’t let me put the actual videos in here. Never mind.

1.Fitness Blender: Calorie Burning Low Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners

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Source: Youtube/FitnessBlender

Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes with me will know that I worship Fitness Blender. They are health-focused, body positive and just so damn LIKEABLE. And rather than baring their teeth and yelling ‘COME ON LAZY ASS YOU CAN DO IT’ until you collapse in front of your laptop in a pool of tears and vomit, they huff and puff and suffer with you through the hard parts and encourage you to take breaks if you need them. It’s actually very motivating.

This particular routine is very low-impact and has no jumping, so it’s especially good if you have knee problems. This is also makes for a nice recovery workout if you’ve been working out hard and you’re too sore to go full throttle.

2. Denise Austin – Burn Fat Fast: Cardio Workout

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Source: Befit/Youtube

Denise is much more famous stateside than she is here in Britain, but she’s one of the longest running TV fitness trainers and one of the best. Her workouts are the holy grail for beginners, and this dancey one is absolutely perfect for those starting out. I did this almost daily when I first started exercising and found that my fitness levels, which were shocking at that point, improved very quickly. This one is good if you’re pressed for time because it’s fairly short. And the background people are unintentionally hilarious.

3. XHIT – Total Arms Workout

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Source: Xhit/Youtube

XHIT are a chipper bunch with a range of excellent workouts. This arms workout, led by peppy Brit Rebecca Louise, is nice and short so again a good one to fit into a busy schedule. Ideally this should be done with a light pair of dumbbells, but cans of food or bottles of water work fine – or bodyweight only probably won’t do any harm. Adjust how much weight you use to what you can handle.

XHIT’s channel sadly doesn’t seem to be updated anymore, but Rebecca is very encouraging and flies solo these days. She does a bunch of other good toning/strength videos – I particularly recommend her abs workouts, many of which feature her dog Alfie ‘helping Mummy out’. It’s all a little bit weird but certainly a unique selling point.

4. Boho Beautiful – Easy Yoga for Beginners

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Source: Youtube/Boho Beautiful

This is a gorgeous workout brought to you by self proclaimed ‘digital hippies’ Boho Beautiful. Filmed in the beautiful surroundings of Thailand, this is a gorgeous workout, great for both gentle exercise and a little relaxation. Yoga is great for enhancing your flexibility and the evidence for its health benefits are well documented. Get your zen on, bitches.

Really don’t worry if you find some of the poses hard; this lady is a former professional gymnast who has been doing yoga for years. Just do the best you can and if your body tells you it can’t do something, it’s important not to force it. Work with what your body can do and take it slow – otherwise you run the risk of hurting yourself and not being able to exercise at all.

5. Cassey Ho – Fabulous Flat Abs for Beginners

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Source: Youtube/Livestrong Women

Fitness instructor Cassey Ho needs no introduction. Her channel Blogilates has made her an internet celebrity, and rightly so; she knows her shit. She’s also an advocate of body positivity – watch her moving ‘The Perfect Body’ video here, a response to criticism she received on her own body – and blogs and vlogs about clean eating too.

Cassey has hundreds of workout videos on her YouTube channel and elsewhere all completely free. Whilst some will literally shred you to bits and make you cry (I am never doing that inner thigh video again), this beginners abs workouts is gentle but still a bit of a challenge – stick with it for quick results. I also find her cheery personality to be a good motivator, which is perfect if you also hate abs workouts!

6. Lumowell – 10 Minute Slim Sexy Arm Workout Without Weights

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Source: Youtube/Lumowell

No equipment. Low impact modifications. Ten minutes long?! DO IT NOW.

Lumowell’s workout videos are a little, err, quirky – follow the computerised figure for results! – but this video contains tips on good form to avoid injury and maximise effectiveness along with rolling motivational quotes. They also offer a range of FREE apps for Android and iPhone, including workouts and fitness plans. No excuses with these guys!

7.Denise Austin – Ultimate Fat Burn Workout

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Source: Youtube/BeFit

Yup, more Denise Austin. I guess her infernal cheeriness gets addictive.

Ultimate Fat Burn is perhaps the most challenging on the list, but a good one when you’ve been working out for a couple weeks or so and want to pick up the pace a little. It’s also really fun, but the cues are a little off here and there, so watch closely; you might need to do this once or twice before you pick it up. Follow the lady in the light yellow top on the far left for low impact modifications of some of the slightly more challenging moves. The interval ladder style of this one makes for a good metabolism booster too.

8. Fitness Blender: Low Impact Lower Body and Core Tabata Workout

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Source: Youtube/Fitness Blender

Had to sneak another Fitness Blender one in here too. This is a very low impact but still effective workout for your lower body and core – it’s oddly relaxing and again the lack of jumping makes it gentle on your knees. Don’t worry about the low calorie burn on this one. You will definitely feel the burn to the point of being sore afterwards and hey, it’s exercise – your body will be thanking you! Whilst exercise is great for weight loss, it’s only about 20% of the full picture. The other 80% is about eating the right foods. You don’t always have to work out with the aim of burning as many calories as possible – remember, exercise also improves your strength and endurance, is great for your mood and sleep and benefits your health overall!

You should always talk to your doctor before starting to exercise, especially if you have health problems or are on any medication that may affect your ability to carry out certain routines. I reiterate again that I am very far from a professional on these matters and you should take everything I say on this blog as friendly advice based on my own experience and research. Your mileage may vary – experiment, read and learn to figure out what works best for you.

“I’m sorry you feel that way”: How not to apologise

The apology is something that seems to baffle us as human beings. Some of us do it too much, for example, the classic ‘I-said-sorry-when-she-stepped-on-my-foot.’ Some of us avoid it because it forces us to admit we did something wrong and we find that very uncomfortable. Some of us do it out of the corner of our mouths while looking at our shoes. Apologies are difficult to get right, and they take practice. However, there is one way definitely NOT to do it – EVER. By saying one of the most condescending, invalidating, borderline gaslighting phrases in the English language:

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

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Source: BBC/giphy.com

Ladies, gentleman and all in between: this is not a fucking apology.

“I’m sorry you feel that way” translates, loosely, to “I don’t think you have a reason to be upset but here is a half assed attempt to like acknowledge your feelings or some shit. I don’t think what you feel is relevant to what I supposedly did and I don’t have time to sit down and talk through this with you so that I might empathise with your viewpoint.”

Fair enough, sometimes we might think people’s anger or hurt is irrational. We might not think what we did was that bad, especially if it was an accident, or that we had no way of knowing that our behaviour might hurt someone. And we are, of course, entitled to think that. But if we have behaved in a way that HAS hurt someone close to us – which sometimes we ALL do – we need to acknowledge that fact, listen and try to work something out so that the hurt doesn’t happen again. Of course, this takes two willing people who can discuss something rationally to work out – and it isn’t always possible – but even if you think the person you have upset or offended must be smoking crack to feel that way, never, ever tell them that you’re simply sorry they feel that way. It is invalidating and will cause more hurt.

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Source: Paramount Pictures/giphy.com

(As an aside, if you really do suspect someone you know is on crack, you might also want to deal with that).

Here’s an example of why “I’m sorry you feel that way” is so shitty when you have, unintentionally or otherwise, caused somebody harm:

Bill and Ben were once good friends. One day Bill, feeling that he wasn’t progressing in his office job, fancied a career change. So he decided to become an axe murderer. So he bought an axe and decided Ben should be his first victim. After all, Ben’s a pretty understanding guy and tends to support everything he does.

So, Bill shows up at Ben’s place with crazed axe murderer eyes. Ben feels a bit hurt when Bill charges at him all ‘RARGH I’MMA AXE YOU’ and the following conversation ensues:

Ben: Dude why are you murdering me I had so much to live fooor

Bill: I’m just trying something new why can’t you just be happy for me

Ben: I am but I am also feeling hurt by your behaviour I feel like you didn’t consider how I might feel about you murdering me and that hurts and I wish you would have talked to me first

Bill: I’m sorry you feel that way!

Okay. So here we can see that Ben is laying dying and is quite pissed off that Bill went ahead and acted without thinking about the impact his actions might have on Ben. Instead of exploring Ben’s feelings about how his thoughtless behaviour (which harmed him whilst he benefited himself, whether or not this was Bill’s intention) has affected Ben, Bill shrugs it off with ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ to smooth over the situation without taking any responsibility for Ben’s feelings. Therefore, the implication is that Ben is feeling bad of his own accord, ignoring two golden rules: every action has a reaction and everything you do affects other people.

But, I mean, Bill apologised, right? Ben will probably be cool. Except, he’s kind of dead…

So, whilst Ben was still alive, Bill’s behaviour made Ben feel as though Bill cares more about what Bill himself wants than how the way he’s gone out to get it has hurt him. Bill may not have intended this, and sometimes we all hurt people without meaning to – Bill is only human. It’s what he does next that matters.

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Source: Paramount Pictures/eonline.com

Picture the situation differently. Bill is laying into Ben with his newly purchased axe:

Ben: I had so much to live for I feel sad that you didn’t consider how you killing me might affect me

Bill: Oah, shit man I had no idea. I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings with my thoughtless behaviour. Let me help you up and lets go talk.

So. The outcome here is that Bill and Ben talked and they were able to communicate openly, make amends and move pat it. And Ben didn’t die. Huzzah.

Bill wasn’t considering how Ben might feel  if he murdered him. He wasn’t considering that he was so excited about his new axe murdering career that Ben’s needs (i.e. safety) fell by the wayside. Bill is not merely sorry Ben feels that way: he’s sorry his behaviour hurt his friend and he takes responsibility for this.

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Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men: Creepyass British puppets. Source: BBC

So… when is it okay to say “I’m sorry you feel that way?”

It’s not.

“But what if I am genuinely not the cause of the feeling?”

Well, you don’t need to be sorry, do you?

Here’s a slightly different situation involving Bill and Ben:

Bill: Dude I think I’m in love with you
Ben: Don’t feel the same way soz
Bill: K I hate you now bye

Should Ben be sorry Bill feels that way? No! He doesn’t need to be sorry because in this situation, Ben has not done anything to cause Bill’s feelings. He is not responsible for how Bill feels. You can’t make someone fall in love with you. People just do because people are odd and we are complicated and we don’t always feel the same way about each other, and that’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way things are.

Now let’s consider that phrase again: ‘I am not responsible for how you feel.’

Sigh. That is a phrase that gets misused far, far too much in the wrong context. It does NOT apply when it’s related to you evading responsibility for your shitty behaviour.

Let us consider Bill killing Ben with an axe again:

Ben: Bill you are such a dick for killing me with this axe I am so annoyed with you right now
Bill: Nvm I’m not responsible for how you feel.

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Source: HBO/gifsoup.com

Um, Bill? You’re killing the guy with an axe. That’s all on you, man. So you’re not responsible for how he’s going to feel in his dying moments? You’re not responsible for how his family and friends are going to feel that Ben has died in an axe murder perpetrated by his bestie? You’re not responsible for the fear that will create in your local community if there’s an axe murder on the loose?

The point is, everything we do has an effect on other people. Sometimes we act like douchebags – I do, you do, your grandma does. We’re all human, and it’s often understandable. But repair it by learning to give a genuine, sincere, heartfelt apology. Most of us never mean to hurt people, but we do, even if at the time we are totally oblivious to it. Even if it was never our intention. Don’t brush off someone you care about. Talk to them and work it out.

Don’t be sorry someone feels that way. They are already taking care of feeling sorry that they feel that way. If the person is of sound mind and is feeling hurt by your behaviour, acknowledge what they are feeling and apologise for being the cause of the feeling – even if you think it wouldn’t upset you personally or you think they’re making a fuss over nothing. It’s the classic ‘you’re too sensitive.’ ‘You’re overreacting.’

None of us are perfect. We all have thoughtless, mean and downright stupid sides. Respect for people’s feelings and open, honest communication will keep your relationships strong.