The Other F Word

I am fat.

I've been fat for a long time. First plump, then overweight, then obese, then very obese, then morbidly obese. Not a pretty term, but medical terms aren't coined for beauty, are they? I've hated my size, tried to make peace with it, but the fact remains that I am not a healthy shape and size. I am very grateful for the luck I've had being as big as I am for so long, but also aware that the thing with luck is that it runs out. And being the size I am raises the stakes in so many areas - for heart problems, for sleep problems, for joint problems, for diabetes - and that's something I'm not prepared to accept.

I feel at this point I should affirm that this is my personal journey, and these are my personal thoughts. I am well aware that there are lots of people my size who are happy, healthy, and fit...but I'm not. So this post is about the changes I'm making, and the changes I have made. Because when you've grown just a little bit over the years, each and every year (5 pounds, seven pounds, ten pounds), one day you will look in the mirror and no longer see a body you know. Your body won't be able to move or inhabit space in the same way, and if you're like me, that'll make you feel sad. These feelings, this journey, are deeply and intrinsically personal, and I share them here because it feels like time. No-one can tell people how they should feel about their bodies, but this is how I was feeling, and how I am feeling about mine.

That's exactly where I was at the start of this year. When I tried to put on a pair of size 22 trousers and they wouldn't do up. When I stepped on the scales and saw a number which sent a chill right down my spine. 280 pounds.

I've been at that point before, with different numbers. 265lbs. 250lbs. 230lbs. And my reaction has always been similar - diet hard, exercise hard, pile up the self-loathing, approach the whole matter as punitive proceedings. Punish myself for being fat/lazy/disgusting (delete as applicable, my mind told me all three, frequently), and go hard. And for four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks I'd be successful. Pounds would drop. People would notice. And then I'd run out of steam.

Because while the science is simple (calories in, calories out), the psychology is not. I didn't get to this size through healthy habits, and have a slightly effed up relationship with food. Years of yo-yo dieting, comfort eating and self-loathing piled up to a complex and not very nice relationship with what should be one of life's great pleasures, food. So this year, instead of going for the big January loss (which I'd always gain back with interest, naturally), I've been focused on the habits - in interrogating, unpacking and fixing the negative habits and building the positive ones, as well as introducing a few more in for good measure.

This is where I add the aside - I'm not an expert. I'm not a health professional. I'm just sharing a little bit of what's been going on, with me. A working group of one human. The changes I'm making are positive ones for me, and ones I'm determined to make, but everyone is different.

The changes I've made and am making are working. As I write this I'm smaller, healthier and fitter, but more importantly I'm happier and feel like I have more control over my habits around diet and exercise. I'm definitely still learning, and I certainly eff up from time to time, but I'm feeling stronger and more and more able to walk this path. I mess up often, and I need grace on plenty of occasions, but the changes I'm making are reaping rewards. I'm lucky enough to be in a position to make these changes, which have been...

1. Going flexitarian. I eat less meat, and this has really fed into a greater awareness of what foods I eat and enjoy.  This certainly isn't for everyone, but it's really helped me to feel more full and to choose my foods more wisely. It's also helped with the second change I've made, which is...

2. Seven to ten portions of vegetables and fruits, at least six days a week (because sometimes we need a toast day!). I was concerned this might prove pricey, but with spending less money on meat and 'junk' foods, plus using my trusty fruit and veg guy on the High Road, our grocery bills have actually dropped. I've always been pretty good at getting my five a day, but this is even better.

3. Less junk food. I have prohibited no actual foods - chocolate, cheese, steak, wine, pasta, cake, pizza all have their place. I am, after all, trying to build habits for the rest of my life here. However, I am eagle-eyed in my consumption of food full of unpronounceables and try to limit things like sodas and processed foods to seldoms.

4. Portion control, with a healthy dollop of mindful eating thrown in. Rather than depriving myself of food, or eating mahoosive portions because I feel sad/angry/worried/bored, I'm trying to give my body the fuel it needs. And I'm enjoying my food more too.

5. Being kinder to myself, and expecting more from myself.

6. Moving more - my fitbit has been a godsend. There are weeks where I'm more stationary (for example a few weeks back when I was overseeing the first week of renovations), but this little gadget is a great motivator for me. I know there are several studies saying the 10k steps thing is a bit arbitrary, but I like feeling motivated to move more.

I'm happy with all of these habits, and having been working on them all for months, they are pretty solid now, and have weathered holidays, stressful times, and all that jazz.

Looking forward to the next part of the year, I want to continue with the good work and there are a few other areas I want to improve, namely:

1. Work on my sleep habits. I've been sleep deprived since forever, and this can have me feeling worn out and lacking in motivation. I'm lucky in that I don't need the most sleep, but I need to be getting at least 6 hours a night, and ideally aiming for 7 hours as an average.

2. Find three exercise classes or swim sessions I can put in the diary each week, or at least most weeks. I feel so much better when I make time for exercise, but I also find scheduling it a challenge. Luckily, this is the year for challenges.

3. Continue working on my mindfulness and meditation work.

4. Post about the journey more here. It's my journey and my life, and I feel like it's time I shared the journey.

The results so far?

I only started recording in June, and only thought to selfie it up after number three...the journey will be long but I feel like I've made some good first steps. Thanks for reading if you made it this far!

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Three Years/Nine Years

Happy Anniversary Matthew!

Thank you for three wonderful years of marriage and a whopping nine years together. Would you have believed those two kids up there would have started dating, let alone gone 'all in' on the love, house and marriage stuff?

Thank you for your kindness, your humour, your intelligence and your patience.

Thank you for loving me (even when I don't love myself). Thank you for spoiling me and those katzen. Thank you for inspiring me daily to be a better person, a better wife, and a better version of myself.

Thank you for supporting me, no matter what Claire-brained scheme I'm pursuing. Thank you for working so hard to help make our home and our life so comfortable and cosy. Thank you for listening.

Thank you for all the marvellous holidays you plan for us - I'm so lucky to see the world, Matthew-style.

Thank you for enjoying my silliness. Thank you for playing Monopoly with me. Thank you for the way you love my friends.

Thank you for nine wonderful years, and three of those as Mr and Mrs. When I first met you and started speaking franglais I had no idea where this journey would take us, but I'm so glad to be here, with you. Thank you for being my better half.

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I Love Your Blog: Connie Consumes

I have been reading Connie's blog for a couple of years now, and more recently have become friends with her through the most wonderful of members of PIZZA CLUB (the other two members, Vicky and Emma, have also been interviewed for this series!). Connie writes about her foodie and travel adventures over at Connie Consumes, and I'm forever getting great restaurant tips and major food envy from her shares!


How long have you been blogging?

I've been blogging at Connie Consumes for around three years and still love every minute of it!

What do you blog about?  Do you have a specific goal with your blog, or is it more a record of your life?

I blog about food and travel which are two huge parts of my life in London and the main reasons I moved here! I like to think of the blog as a diary and portfolio - it's a reminder of all the incredible adventures we've had and also a place for me to indulge in my love of story telling and writing.

All pictures in this post are courtesy of the lovely Connie!

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

It's a cliche but definitely the people I've met through blogging in London - as an expat, it can be hard to make new friends in a new city, but the blogging community has made this pretty easy!

What is your least favourite thing about blogging?

All the boring technical, behind the scenes stuff which I still don't understand! I'm just a girl who wants to tell everyone what she had for dinner...

Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers?

I've got an old post and a recent post which I really love... The recent one is about our experience at Gaggan, Asia's Best Restaurant according to World's 50 Best Awards; I'm really happy with the way I captured our overall disappointing experience in what I hope is a balanced and informative post. The old one is my recipe for a fancy sausage roll which despite my amateur photography skills is still one of the most popular posts on my blog!

Whose blogs do you love?  I’m always looking for recommendations :)

I love Dalton Banks because Vicky and I share a very similar food and travel style, Hand Luggage Only because their photography is to die for, and Woks Of Life for cooking inspiration!

You are the queen of finding amazing places to dine! Where are your go-to sites for inspiration and ideas?

I use instagram a lot... some might even say I'm a little obsessed with it, but I also love reading reviews from Marina O'Laughlin and Jay Rayner, and the Eater Hot Lists. I'm not someone who swears by a critic's review, as I believe people should try things for themselves and form their own opinions, but I do enjoy reading their commentaries!

What would be your perfect meal?

I think I've spent more time thinking about this one than a current issue I'm trying to resolve at work - such a tricky question! I would start with a selection of nigiri and a beef tartare, then follow that up with a stonkingly spicy laksa, before finishing with a gelato - and if anyone knows of a restaurant who can do all that in one meal, please for the love of god, let me know!

Which ingredients or dishes do you loathe?

Aubergine, pumpkin, sweet potato, and mint!

What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs?

I truly believe the most successful and engaging blogs are the ones where the blogger is not only passionate, but also knowledgeable about their content - I value their opinions so much more and actually get excited about what they have to share.


Thank you so much for visiting today, Connie!
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Travel: The Grand Canyon by Helicopter

Hello, it's me.

The person still writing up posts on trips that were over a year ago.

But they were awesome, and I like looking back and writing 'em up, so enjoy, my lovelies!

Our Las Vegas-Hawaii-Las Vegas honeymoon was brilliant and filled with so many high points, but one of them truly has to be the helicopter flight we took on the final evening of our holiday. We wanted to end the holiday on a high, and we took that word, high, quite literally, with an evening flight out to the Grand Canyon and back across the city as the sun went down.

We took the sunset tour offered by Papillon, and it was truly worth every penny. We were whisked from our hotel by limo (only in Vegas would a limo be considered a par-for-the-course mode of transport) and taken out to the airfield with another couple. Once there we were checked in, weighed in (to balance the flights), and awaited our resignation.

The waiting room was busy, but not uncomfortably so as three helicopters were heading out. We were assigned a flight with a lovely family from Burnley and strapped ourselves in for the flight out to the canyon.

Up in the air we flew, over the beautiful houses of Lake Las Vegas and Lake Mead.

The enormous Hoover Dam looked tiny as we soared overhead!

After taking in the amazing views across the desert and the mountains, we were into the canyon and ready to land.

We stayed down in the canyon for about 45 minutes, enjoying a champagne picnic and taking in the beautiful views. Out here all was still and calm and the rocks and the river combined to make a stunning vista.

Isn't the helicopter cute?

After soaring upwards, we needed to top up our fuel for the return to Las Vegas, so we got to stop at the Grand Canyon airport!

The Red Rocks which we flew over on our way back to Las Vegas were beautiful! They looked simply otherworldly in the early evening light.

As we came into the city the lights were just turning on for the night. It was so cool to see the tower of The Stratosphere, the Eiffel Tower, the wheel and the Bellagio fountains from up on high!

Forgive the blur - we were at quite a pace! It was so special to see the city we like so much from up in the air.

If you're holidaying in Las Vegas I would heartily recommend a flight with Papillon. The flights felt smooth and safe, the pilots were knowledgeable, friendly and funny, and the whole arrangement ran like clock work. Definitely an ideal way to see the Grand Canyon.
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I Love Your Blog: Dorkface

Jemma, the girl genius behind Dorkface and the loveliness that is The Girl Gang over on social media, is a multi-coloured ray of sunshine. Filled to the brim with humour and creativity, both she and her blog are delightful, and I was so pleased she was able to make time for a quick interview for I Love Your Blog.


The lady herself! The pictures in this post were kindly provided by Jemma :)

How long have you been blogging?

In total, almost 5 years, however Dorkface has only been 3 and a half! I decided to start taking it seriously and putting my rambles to good use, haha.

What do you blog about?  Do you have a specific goal with your blog (i.e. reviewing products, promoting a business, transitioning into a writing / media / digital career), or is it more a record of your life? 

I blog about a range of topics which all build up to give my readers a greater understand of who I am. So there'll be plenty of lifestyle posts, think pieces, DIY posts, crafty, creative and colourful work, some beauty reviews, and whatever else I fancy! The goals for my blog are mainly just to keep people interested! I love documenting my life for myself, but I'd truly love if this helped me achieve my dreams (SO many! Write a fiction book, create an Art book, Get my designs in places like Paperchase, travel the world!).

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

The inspiration I now feel on a daily basis! I can't believe there was once a time where I came home from work, watched TV and did NOTHING. I feel sorry for old Jemma, haha!

What is your least favourite thing about blogging? 

The gang mentality on social media. It happens, I've had it happen. It can be really damaging. Keeping a distance is healthy.

Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers? 

I do!

This is a personal piece I wrote, but I felt like I'd bared my soul writing it, and I wrote this recently, on how life can change so muchI also created a full guide to blogging, which I put so much effort into!

Whose blogs do you love?  I’m always looking for recommendations. 

I LOOOOVE the following SO damn much -

Little White Socks

Lauren Evie

Lazy Thoughts

A Girl Obsessed

Midnight and Lace

I’m always in awe of the sheer amount of writing you manage to do. What are your best tips for creating and organising content? 

Write every damn chance you get! Whether its on your phone scribbling notes on your phone, or writing down an idea in the middle of the night - take advantage of inspiration! I always meticulously plan ahead, for the next month of content. I can switch my schedule around as much as I like, but I have all the ideas/drafts for posts there, ready to go or work on!

I love The Girl Gang, the amazing community you’ve created. What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the group? 

I simply hope people will keep the spirit of it alive! I try to do giveaways, plan fun things, get people involved; but at the heart of it is a simple message of spreading joy. I hope it serves as a nice reminder and encourages people.

I love your creativity and I know you make and sell many beautiful things on your etsy. What are your favourite things to create? Are there any items you’d like to make or design that you haven’t done yet? 

YES OMG. My favourite things for the past few months have been selling original canvas paintings. Each one is unique, and never replicated; and they're my babies! I tend to put these on Twitter or Instagram when they're done, to see if anyone wants them, rather than listing them on Etsy, just as its easier! I'm SOSOSO excited for a current project I'm working on. It's something I've ALWAYS wanted to do, and I've been keeping it hidden for months now. I hope it'll be finished and ready for sale in September, eeep! Keep an eye out!

What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs?

Do your own thing, only spread joy, take time away from social media often, and do whatever makes you happy! :)


Thanks so much for popping over, Jemma! What a fun and inspiring interview!
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Travel: Duomo, Florence

Florence's famous cathedral, or Duomo, is such a beautiful building. Topped with a Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, it has long been a symbol of Florence and of Florentine excellence. The cathedral is a large Gothic structure which is actually built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata - you can tour the ruins of this original church when you visit the cathedral, as some of them are preserved below the current structure.

The Duomo is Florence is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. The only structures larger are St Peter's in the Vatican, St Paul's in London and the Duomo in Milan. So clearly I need to visit Milan to round out the set. While the outside of the building is stunningly ornate, inside a calmer aesthetic is at play. The marble floors and intricate dome are lovely to behold, but the interior was less striking than the sheer opulence of the exterior, and far less busy or decorated than say, St Peter's.

Man, we saw a lot of churches on this break.

In the church we took time to explore the ruins of the older church, as well as looking into some of the smaller side works of art, the beautiful mosaics and marblework, and the the clock above the entrance on the inside of the church. According to the Duomo's website, it was designed in 1443 by Paolo Uccello in accordance with the ora italica, where the 24th hour of the day ended at sunset... and it still works!

After touring the interior we headed back out into the spring sunshine, which had the tower and facade of the cathedral looking splendid (I haven't edited these shots).

We crossed over the street to visit the Baptistry, where we were greeted with one of the the most splendid and ornate domes I have ever seen. Such detail and artistry must have taken a lifetime, if not several lifetimes.

In every church we visited during our Italian visit I was taken aback with the sheer beauty of what had been created. I also developed a semi-permanant neck-crick from looking up at ceilings, domes and frescoes. #travelbloggerproblems, anyone?

If you're visiting Florence, you'll be visiting the Duomo - it's a stunning building!

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