(Me and my sister Phi in our Christmas pyjamas- end of 2013)This post is basically me trying to convert the first page of my 2014 notebook into blog form; just with slightly fuller sentences and more pictures. I've tried to be really honest, not overly ambitious and most of all, to take on board what I learnt this last year. One of the hard things about a New Year in the age of social media is dealing with people's 'Oh, look at everything I've achieved this year' posts. This isn't going to be like that. For a start, I've had a really tough couple of years. I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but 2012 was the worst year of my adult life. The first half of 2013 wasn't much better, but after a couple of years of therapy and a lot of hard work, this last six months has seen me feeling in control again and optimistic about life. So, without getting too worthy or personal or anything, here are some of the things that have helped me through.
In Spring 2012 I found out my relationship with my boyfriend who I'd been with for 10 years at the time was not what I thought. My whole world came crashing down around me, and then a week later my mum was in a really serious horse-riding accident. I was left feeling completely unable to deal with all the emotions and so decided to see a therapist. Without going into too much detail, I can confidently declare that doing this saved my relationship with my boyfriend, hugely improved my relationship with my family and really, most areas of my life.
But it wasn't an overnight fix. I've been going for 2 years and think I'm just about ready to stop now. It takes a while to recognise the unhealthy behaviour patterns you've developed, to learn to recognise when you use them and then to replace them with something better. My other half also saw a therapist, separately, which I know is quite unusual, but it actually really worked for us. It sounds totally cliche, but our relationship now is amazing and almost unrecognisable from what it was 2 years ago. I'm so glad we fought for it, it's the hardest thing I've ever done, but it was completely worth it and I'm now happy. Really happy.
It can be hard knowing where to start when it comes to finding a therapist- I literally just googled therapists in my area, then picked one who was young and a woman, and she turned out to be amazing. If you want her details, just email me or DM me on twitter.
(Beetroot and honeycomb at Duck and Waffle)2- Food
For years I'd thought that I just 'couldn't' lose weight. This was a total lie, and tied up in a pretty unhealthy attitude towards food that I'd developed over years, from when I began comfort eating at boarding school, to the years I spent unhappy in my relationship and basically eating as a weird form of self-harming. I didn't realise how unhappy I was, and how I relied on things like chocolate to make me feel better, how I'd give up on diets before they'd even had time to work and how I'd sometimes binge eat just because I hated myself. I wasn't consciously thinking about having an eating problem until about a year after I started therapy, when things were really starting to go well in my relationship again. I then started losing weight and have now lost over a stone over a period of about 7 months. It took a while to realise that getting healthy mentally and finally managing to lose weight weren't unrelated!
When people ask me how I did it, the answer isn't miraculous, but it is a two- parter; firstly and most importantly, I had cleaned up my head enough to actually want to lose weight, for myself, and was willing to put in the work and time it took to do so. What it will take to get to this headspace is obviously different for everyone, but as I said before, I'd recommend therapy. Secondly, I really, really swear by the MyFitnessPal app. I downloaded this, bought a pair of scales (which I'd always been scared to own before) and started seriously keeping track of what I was eating and drinking. It's hugely enlightening to see how much sugar there is in so much of what we eat- most breakfast cereals are awful, for example. I also invested in a pair of dumbbells and started doing the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred workout. To start with I guess I was doing it about 5 times a week, but then I moved up to level 2 and found that really upset my knees, so I went back to level 1 and have stuck to that a few times a week, as well as a few of Jillian's other workouts available on youtube. Because they're so short- just 20 minutes- they really are easy to fit into your day, and I found doing them at home much easier to achieve than making it to the gym. However, it can get a bit boring, so the other thing I started trying to work into my life was:
3- Alternative Exercise
The great thing about the MyFitnessPal app is that you can put in any exercise you do- be it walking to the shops or doing a full workout- and it'll calculate how many extra calories you can eat that day and still be on track to lose weight. It really helped me start to get into a healthy way of thinking about food and exercise- at no point did I feel like I was 'dieting' as such- I didn't cut out anything specific and there were definitely a few birthdays and weddings where I didn't log in at all and just ate exactly what I wanted. One of the really negative mindsets I used to get into was, dieting really hard for a few says, then inevitably falling off the wagon and having a massive pie or something, then convincing myself that I'd ruined all the good work I'd done and I might as well just eat what I want. Having scales in the house has really got me out of this pattern, as now I can see proof that even if I've had a really naughty day, I'll only have put on X amount- I'm not back to square one- I shouldn't just give up. Even after Christmas- where I really indulged- I got rid of half the weight I put on with just one week of healthy eating and a couple of 20 minute workouts.
(Ice-skating with smallest sister Florrie at Somerset House)Anyway- I was talking about exercise- plugging any type of exercise into my app has been great- it's amazing how many calories some really fun stuff burns! Ice and roller skating are great, as is cycling which I got really into during the summer. Swimming is also great for both calories and toning- I started going to the London Fields heated outdoor Lido in the summer, and Oasis in Covent Garden. I've also got really into Hula-Hooping, Anna Hulagan does classes near me and Marawa the Amazing does some in East London- great for the waist.
(Knife throwing)3- New Things
I've tried lots of new things this year, and even the ones I haven't kept up have been really great fun just experimenting with. I did a weekend of sword-fighting and knife throwing which was exactly as awesome as it sounds, I posed topless for a life-drawing class, I've done more DJ gigs, and I've learnt to LOVE mudlarking on the banks of the Thames. Doing something completely new always feels a bit like rediscovering your inner child, so I'm determined to keep doing it!
(Bourgeois and Maurice)Editing Run-Riot means that I'm always inundated with opportunities to go to new shows- I know, cry me a river, right? But actually, you can get a bit exhausted by it all and just end up staying in with a takeaway rather than making the effort to go and see something new. But this last year, the few times I have bothered to go and see a new act I'd heard lots about it's been so brilliant, I've gone back to see them again! Cases in point include Bourgeois and Maurice ( I actually went to see their show with someone I'd chatted to on twitter for ages but never met in real life- another thing to do more of!), Rachel Snider's Camellia and the Rabbit show and Wendy Bevan's band, Temper Temper.
(Kate Nash crowd-surfing)Other musicians I've seen live this year who have been incredible include Kate Nash, Kim Boekbinder and She Makes War- seeing more live music is a must for 2014 too!
(She Makes War on my Diana F)
(Kim Boekbinder aka The Impossible Girl, also on the Diana F)4- Stuff
We're about to move house and clearing everything out really makes you realise how much crap you have. I'm determined to stop accumulating it. For example, I've resolutely vowed to buy no more heels. I just can't wear them. They hurt my feet, I'm 5ft9 anyway so don't need help with height, and there are now lots of pretty flats available (En Brogue is my new favourite blog) so there's really no excuse. When I DO spend money, I want it to be on things that enable me to do one of my other resolutions- so buying equipment to do new things (I'm really getting into building terrariums at the moment) or on things that make me really happy, like pieces of art. I was given a print by Wendy Bevan which I'm so excited about getting framed and up in the new flat, and I currently have a voucher to spend at The Print Club London which is probably going to go on something by Cassandra Yap.
(The Tiger Moving game we got in Nepal)5- Switching Off
The other thing my other half and I have been investing in a lot is board games. Rock 'n roll, right? But seriously, we are WAY into Settlers of Catan. And Carcassonne. And we just got Ticket to Ride for Christmas. We try and play one over the weekend, or one evening during the week- it just means we definitely switch the TV off for a while- we don't check our phones or tablets or laptops while we're playing- it's a really good way to wind down before bed.
(The great outdoors- Yorkshire)6- Go Outside
When we go on holiday, we're always struck by a few things that really make our lives different for that week or so. One is that we're outdoors a lot. Which we really aren't in London. Obviously it's much easier to be outdoors if you're on holiday in the Caribbean than on a workday in the city, but I'm making a real effort to make sure I don't spend any days not even leaving the flat, a trap that can be easy to fall into if you work from home. Being outside and doing more exercise also always leads to us sleeping much better on holiday- which I'd really love to transfer to our everyday lives as I usually sleep terribly. So I'm going to be trying to be outdoors more in 2014- even if it's just strolling along the rainy riverbanks of the Thames, mudlarking, it still makes a difference.
(Rabat, Morocco)7- Go Places- new and old
I've been so lucky in the places I've been able to travel to, for both work and pleasure- I plan to keep going to as many new places as possible for as long as I can afford it! I'd also recommend going to old places too though- over the Christmas holidays I went back to the village I lived in until I was 8, a place I dream about regularly, and it was really cathartic to re-visit this part of my life. Therapy will really make you realise how important your early memories are.
(Me and all my siblings this Christmas)8- Friends and Family
Make time for friends and family. My sister is currently doing a year abroad in France; my trip to visit her in October was so lovely, we hadn't really realised how long it had been since we'd had time just the two of us. My brother is about to go to Australia for 6 months, so I really hope I'm going to be able to afford to go out and visit him while he's out there.
As far as friends are concerned- I think you reach a stage of your life where you realise that you have to really, really like someone to bother organising to see them. We're all so busy in London, it's easy to talk about organising meetings but never actually getting around to it. If you're in a relationship and the options are going out in the cold to see a friend or staying in on the sofa and snuggling over a takeaway, it can be easy to just opt for the latter. So I've stopped trying to half-heartedly organise meeting with people I'm not sure about. Instead, I'm trying to make proper time for people I know I actually like. A lot.
There really is no better feeling than when you're properly into a book- so into it that you keep reading it as you change tubes, from the bus-stop to your front door, or til one in the morning even when you have work tomorrow. So I'm going to read more books, and also- and this has been my resolution for a few years now but I've still never managed it- I want to try writing fiction again. It seems like a really daunting task once you're used to being a journalist- such a different sort of writing- but I remember being good at it at school, so would like to try again before I forget how to altogether.
10- Forget perfection
Kate Winslet says something about not believing in perfection in the new issue of Psychologies magazine, and I couldn't agree more. Beyonce also sings about how perfection is 'the disease of a nation' on her new album. Both are fantastic feminist role-models who are often criticised for some of their decisions- guess what? They're not perfect. Men don't wait around til they're perfect before they bother standing up and voicing their opinion, why should we? Women are so tough on themselves and on each other- yes, women in the public eye should accept the responsibility that they will be seen by some as role models, but parents shouldn't expect that they'll ever be able to serve up a bonafide, 100% perfect role-model on a plate for their kid to idolise. They'll still have to step in and interact with their children, explain to them that yes, it's wonderful that Beyonce is such a powerful woman, but maybe wearing a thong to your school dance isn't such a great idea. And not because of any, 'it's not sensible/you'll get raped', slut-shaming reasons, but just because 'sexy' in real life is actually a lot more subtle than 'sexy' in music videos.
People like Madonna and Peaches didn't seem to get the same flack Beyonce does for marketing themselves as both feminists and ladies who like to get their kit off. Of course this issue is far from black and white- I've experienced first hand in the music industry how managers will say- 'can't you make her sexier' on a shoot- er, why should I? She's an amazing singer, if she doesn't want to get her ass out, why should she? But maybe if you're Beyonce and you have an ass that doesn't quit, maybe you genuinely feel like showing it off all the time?
One of the hardest things I had to get through in therapy was realising that my relationship was never going to be 'perfect'. They'd always be this horrible scar from a very dark period, it would never again have that idyllic, Disney feel, but what I've ended up with is something really deep, something that involves us accepting each other for who we really are, warts and all. Something real.
So there you have it! Please do leave a link if you have a New Year resolutions blogpost, I'd love to read it. Wishing you all the best for 2014!