Monday 25 February 2013

This just made me laugh...

I stumbled across a race report from last year... UK Ironman 70.3.  And saw the run stats.  They made me giggle a bit.  Check the average and moving paces.

UK Ironman 70.3, 21km run, last year...

London Ultra, 51km run, this year...

OK, there's less than twice the elevation gain in over twice the distance, and yes the 70.3 had the small matter of a 1.9km swim and a 90km bike ride first, but golly-gosh that's a small difference in pace between the two.  And I was holding it back in the Ultra, to conserve carbohydrate stores/stay under the knee-point in the fuel burn graph.  I -think- I might just be a bit faster this year.

Saturday 23 February 2013


Despite feeling really great (but with an irritated right ITB) after a 50 minute hard turbo session this afternoon, I will not be riding Hell of The Ashdown tomorrow.  My legs will not have recovered enough from the London Ultra last week to be able to tackle the hills; both climbs (not recovered legs) and descents (not practiced enough on the roads since September) would make me too miserable.

And there's no point doing an event if you're only going to be miserable.

So I'm not.

Discretion... valour... etc.

Monday 18 February 2013

London Ultra (race report)

(I've done a brief report on the low carb/high fat thoughts for the race here - this is the fluffy race report)

6am on Sunday 17th February 2013 and I'm waking up to a day with the longest run of my life so far, having run further than 21km only twice before this day.  And today I'd be running 51km.

MrTOTKat (on race support duty) and I got up and breakfasted on scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, baby plum tomatoes, coffee and cream before packing water bottles, post-race clothes and shoes into the car and off to pick up @abradypus and head to the race start near Grove Park station in East London.  At 7am on a Sunday, traffic is pretty OK crossing town from South West to South East and we made good time, arriving at registration at 5minutes to 8am despite setting off a few minutes late.

Registration was quick and easy and the room was filled with people munching on chocolates being handed out, bananas and various chewy bars.  Pointy-looking, fit-looking people.  Not like me (or so I think).  It's pretty chilly, so I'm in a few layers: Under Armour base layer with long thumb-hole enabled sleeves and a 1/4 zip, Under Armour long-line compression knickers (both from Sport Pursuit), my old Nike Run To The Beat t-shirt (best running t-shirt ever!), Under Armour fleecy beanie (£8 from T K Maxx :o)), Bridgedale running socks, some lovely warm Thoosa running tights (again from Sport Pursuit), Nike running gloves and a buff from Blacks (own brand, I think, 2x for £10 on sale a while back).  My support kit - a Camelbak Delaney Plus run belt which has 1x closed pouch (holding iPhone and extra battery pack for safety and being able to upload position to GarminFit), 1x mesh pouch (holding "emergency salami" and a middle-warming haramaki in case I got cold), 1x bottle holder (plan was to swap in a bottle at each check point if I felt I needed it).

We stood and chatted for a bit, listened to the race briefing (you really need to look up "tyre girl") before strolling to the start, a wave of the flag by Rory Coleman and we were off.

The plan was to start out at around 07:40 at a nice high cadence to warm up and then turn it up from there to keep my heart rate on or below 170BPM.  OK, I didn't quite do that as that meant falling off the back of the entire field and that would have been too depressing at the start, so I picked up to keep up as the rest of the runners swarmed down the middle of the road and held up a bus for about 5 minutes before thinning enough to fill the pavements without too much problem.

I thought I'd get space to myself pretty early on, but it didn't really happen and  I fell into a bad habit of following people in front of me.  You don't do that.  You can't be sure the people in front are going the right way (and I hear later on from "3 guys in blue" that they did it, ended up 1.5 miles off course before realising, sorting themselves out at the others carried on going the wrong way).  But I did keep an eye on signs and got tuned in to the various combinations of Capital Ring signs on high posts, little logos on low posts, "Ur" stickers and yellow spray-painted arrows that marked almost the whole route (more on the "almost" later).

So, despite not really wanting to talk to people as I generally prefer to run alone, I find that talking uses effort I'd rather spend on the actual running and I either end up running too slowly or too quickly when with others, I ended up running and talking to people.

Bits of London came and went and I recognised parts of the route from having read the Capital Ring leaflets and plotted the course to load onto my Garmin 910 watch (which I had on).  Check-point 1 came up pretty quickly and I took a bottle from MrTOTKat, glugged down half of it, ditched my hat and gloves as they were too much now, and carried on without taking a bottle with me.  On entering Crystal Palace Park I spotted loos and decided it would be a good idea to make use of them and took my leave from Dave-the-teacher who I'd been chatting with to that point.  I spent a bit long in the loo, due to making sure that all of my layers went comfortably back in place without wrinkling, and ended up running alone for quite a while after that.

See the little scribble just inside the East side of the Park? Loos :o)

I don't remember much of the next bit of the route.  There were quite a few sharp little hills and I walked up those to manage my effort level/fuel burn, paranoid that I'd run out of carb and have to slow right down (probably to a walk) before I got to the end of the race, and there were a few odd little bits like where the route wriggled around the back of a kiddies play-park.

Then I overshot a turning by a few metres due to a bus being in a bus stop and obscuring a sign I caught sight of briefly then misplaced where it was...

Very quickly recovered from that and carried on alone for a while longer and up came check-point 2 and MrTOTKat was ready and waiting with a smile on his face, a full bottle in one hand and a half full one in the other.  I think I made a mistake at this point as I put the 1/2 full one in my bottle holder, swigged a bit of the full one and carried on.  I wasn't all that thirsty, so I thought it was OK.  Quite quickly I regretted the bottle I was carrying as it changed the weight distribution that I'd got used to and it tempted me to swig frequently like I used to on long training runs last year.  Not good.

Onwards, still alone, past Tooting Bec Lido and up another mean hill before my Garmin shrieked at me half way down a road I'd been following Capital Ring signs into, with no turnings that I'd spotted, telling me I was now off course.  And it kept at it, so I stopped, turned around and headed back to see if I'd missed a turning, to see "3 guys in blue" (3 of the other runners, dressed in the same blue shorts and tops and apparently running for a testicular cancer charity - Dave, Ian and Nick) thundering towards me.  I asked if I'd gone wrong and they were sure I hadn't, so I carried on with them for a little bit, chatting away before I realised their pace was too high for me and I let them go on ahead without me at Wandsworth Common.

Memory fades again at this point a little until I saw signs for Earlsfield and recognised bits of local territory and I motored on towards Wimbledon Park, through the building site mentioned in the race briefing which meant I was at about the half-way point and on into the park, around the kiddies play-park, alongside the lake and then down the side of the athletics track where I'd set my 5km PB only 4 days earlier.  Check-point 3 hove into view and I chatted to MrTOTKat a bit about my stiffening right quad, sore feet and achey glutes which had come on noticeably since check-point 2, and dropped off my buff as that was making me too warm too now.

Digging the empty bottle out of the holder - attractive pose!

I ditched the empty bottle, drank half of another bottle and went on without a bottle for the next section of the route.  And this next bit of the route was going to be nicely familiar, but I knew it would be muddy and a detour from my usual routes across/around Wimbledon Common.

Brooks Pure Cadence
Asics - Fuji Attack
I did go off course just past the windmill as I missed a low-level Capital Ring sign, but realised really quickly, swore a bit until I saw it and set off down a steepish, muddy descent.  The mud had begun in earnest and this was the section that made me worried about footwear for the previous two days.  Trail shoes?  Road shoes?  I'd plumped for road shoes in the end because most of the course is on pavement, tarmac, gravel or paved paths and my cushioned trail shoes (Asics Fuji Attack) are appreciably heavier than my cushioned road shoes (Brooks Pure Cadence).

The next part of the route across Wimbledon Common and then across the A3 (where I bumped into @abradypus who very kindly stopped me from heading off on totally the wrong heading at the junction) into Richmond Park was very muddy.  Very very muddy bridlepath at the beginning, then once in Richmond Park just a boggy field in which I lost my right shoe right at the first edge of the field, accompanied by a sucking-popping sound from the mud and a loud squeak from me.  From here on in, my already abraded feet were scraped further by the gritty mud that got squeezed into my shoes and socks in this section.  My feet were soaked through and I squelched on through Richmond Park.

I got complacent following a few other runners up the little hill and we all missed a left turn just past Jubilee Plantation.  After a while my Garmin yelled again "off course!" but I couldn't see a path so assumed I'd just plotted the route from the leaflets in a way that disagreed with the signs (which had happened a few times before so far).  But when it got to over 500m off course and we were coming up on one of the park gates I was certain we were all wrong and off course by 1/2km.  We agreed on a route to join the course that seemed sensible (and didn't end up short-cutting) and we all trotted onwards towards the river and the Richmond check-point.

Once alongside the river, it got really really busy; loads of people out for a Sunday afternoon stroll with baby buggies, pushchairs, toddlers in tow, low-slung bicycles, sit-up-and-beg bicycles, scooters, couples strolling hand-in-hand... a normal busy Sunday by the river.  I let the other runners I'd got a bit off course with go on ahead as they were quicker and then we crossed the river again and I was alone.  But I started to overtake people.

Check-point 4, the last checkpoint, 24.5 miles into the 31 miles  and I was sore and it looks like it was showing (though I was slowing to walk when this photo was taken so I could pick up water).  And here I made a big mistake and didn't realise it for a little bit.  I just picked up a half-full bottle of water and ran on with it.

The next stretch was really quiet, long and impossible to get lost on even when it diverged from the river and then dove into Syon Park.

See the line of trees to the right of the red line? That's where the path is...
I had "fun" in Syon Park as I followed the "Ur" stickers along the tarmac road, running on the right as you do when there is no pavement.  There was a little path a good 30-80m from the road at varying distances along its length, but I figured that the stickers were along the road and there was no need to run further than I needed to, so to speak.  The traffic handled it perfectly fine, as it should, until a very angry woman driving in the opposite direction gesticulated at the path and yelled at me to get on the damned path.  I ignored her as long as I could and then cracked and flipped her some Vs.

Under the A4 and down the canal a bit, waving and "good afternoon"ing the boaters along the tow-path, over the river again and overtaking a good few more people who were now walking even on the flat, my legs were really starting to get pretty sore but my feet were drying out, but the worst part was that I got thirsty.  I drank the rest of my water and still had a little way to go.

I realised I'd need to beg for some water from someone else and started to check every bicycle that went by for bottles; there were no other runners in sight.  And then I found someone... who had water and plenty of it left and kindly let me have a drink, then filled half my bottle with it.  I could taste something faint and sweet in the water and asked what was in it.  I feared the answer (it could easily have been a carb mix), so the relief was immense when the answer came "Nuun tablets".  Phew!  No sugar!  I thanked the guy and trotted on as he was walking, but then he started running again and we ended up running together around the massively frustrating paths/bog/quagmire of Brent Lodge Park and then Brent Valley Park and stayed together, chatting along as I counted down the distance still to go.

Frustrating, looping part of the route.
Steve, as was his name, was in quite some discomfort and was grunting with the effort of each step and I joined in occasionally on up or down slopes and steps as my right quad was by now really quite painful.  The OK kind of pain though, the pain of use rather than injury.

Things were really sore now for me too and every time there was a little hump-backed bridge to go over a stream, or steps up or down or a little slope became very difficult.  It was hard to control the descent more than the rise, but the rises were difficult too.  We were so close to the finish and for the first time I had mild thoughts of wanting to walk.  But I wanted to finish in under 6 hours and do as well as I could with the fuel and fitness I had.  Steve and I encouraged each other on in our own ways, his more vocal than mine and I felt so much better after the water he gave me that I ignored the "go on, just walk" thoughts and carried on trotting.

Then we crossed that final road and saw the sign for Perivale Park where the athletics track and the finish line were!  We were so close!  We turned right into some trees and my Garmin announced we'd got to the finish a little prematurely, but we picked up another runner and headed for the track.  Steve ducked in through some more trees to the track and he and the other guy sprinted down the track to the finish, leaving me for dust behind them with nothing left in my legs but I still carried on running and ran over the line.

Me, finishing!
Got a medal and a goodie bag presented to me by Rory Coleman and I triumphantly produced the square of snickers I'd picked up at check-point 4 where I told MrTOTKat I thought I was in serious danger of running out of fuel as I was burning my heart rate too high too often.  It was untouched from check-point 4 and I'd not had to eat it, nor any of the nuts or salami I'd carried with me in case I felt uncomfortably hungry.

I'd done it.  51km on a breakfast of salmon, eggs and tomatoes with coffee and water with electrolytes while on the route.  No gels, bars, sweets, snacks from the check-points, energy drinks, cola or sugar in any form; no food or calories; just water and salts.  I didn't run out of fuel, I ran out of endurance strength/form/support in my legs.  And I felt fine!  Perky!  The lady who massaged my legs said I didn't look tired at all.  51km in less than 6 hours, at an average moving pace of 06:45/km.  3 PBs in 4 days - fastest 5km ever by 91s, fastest 42.2km ever, and longest run ever by 9km.  The only disappointment was lack of hot drinks at the finish and it was quite a big disappointment as I was really looking forward to a cup of tea.

My shoes and feet were caked in gritty mud...

But hey... I had a medal and I'm now an Ultra runner, no matter what people think about the 50km distance.

And thanks to MrTOTKat for making me a yummy dinner (bacon, eggs, tomatoes, cheese and no-carb "bread") that wasn't giving in to the the convenience of a Dominos pizza.  And for the fantastic support through the day, ferrying to and from the race through the awful traffic on the way back and being there at the check points with everything I needed at the right times and words of encouragement and pride.  <3

The results are out and my official time was 5 hours 51 minutes (Garmin which auto-pauses says I was on the move for 5 hours and 41 minutes).  I was 18th lady across the line of 38 that started, 178th across the line of 246 people that started, two didn't finish.

London Ultra (LCHF edition)

(The human, fluffy race report is here, the low-carb report is below.)

So, I've run two half marathons and two more as part of Ironman 70.3 races, and one marathon as part of an Ironman since I started running in July 2009.  I've also got my longest training run of 28km once, but since July 22nd 2012 (Ironman UK 2012) I've not run further than 15.5km in any training runs and only one half marathon race.  Of course it was a great idea to sign up for a 51km Ultra Marathon!

July 2009 - started couch-2-5K
October 2009 - first 10K run/race
September 2011 - first 1/2 marathon
July 2012 - Ironman UK (first/only marathon)
February 2013 - London Ultra

Seems a logical progression, right?

Add in the fact that I changed to a low carbohydrate (high fat) diet at the start of November 2012, and, against conventional sports wisdom, planned to race without loading up on, or taking on carbohydrate during any race as far as is practical and you get a quite interesting place for a 51km long running race course.

I train with water and electrolytes and otherwise just end up eating a little more on training days than rest days, averaging around 2400kcals per day.  And there are a few reasons I want to race without taking on carbohydrates (faff, stomach trouble, personal lack of skill, time-wasting, not being comfortable with the contents of gels/sports drinks/sports bars in general, insulin spikes).  This 50km Ultra race was going to be a fantastic, practical test of the theory of fat-fuelling exercise for me.

In the run up to the London Ultra on Sunday, I decided to work out how long I could run for and at what effort level before I depleted my body's glycogen stores.  I had the gas analysis figures from the beginning of December last year and Excel in my armoury...

Complicated with a lot of assumptions:-
  1. liver glycogen as normal
  2. reduced muscle glycogen stores due to day-to-day diet
  3. using muscle glycogen from mostly lower half of body
  4. lower half muscle mass is 2/3rds of overall muscle mass
  5. weight approx 62kg
  6. body fat of approx 25%
  7. no added carbohydrate from breakfast (4g carb, coming from 100g tomatoes and 40ml double cream)
  8. improved heart rate threshold for changes in fuel burn by approx 5 BPM since gas test

Using those assumptions, the calculations dropped out the rough reckoning of needing to maintain a heart rate of 170BPM to be able to last for 6 hours on the carbohydrate stores from my body (estimated to be 1500kcals from the initial assumptions above and a burn rate of 4.2kcal/min of carbohydrate).  You can see from the graphs and below spreadsheet fragment that the time (Time on CHO column below) drops off a cliff at 166BPM when it was tested (and I'm assuming an improvement of 5BPM in threshold since this test).

Stats from my HR monitor for the race:-
HRavg   - 171
HRmax  - 179

Pretty pleased with my effort management (it's missing the first 15mins due to trouble before the start)
So I kept fairly close to the heart-rate I'd intended.  But, for every beat per minute above 170 I burn around an extra 10kcals in carbs per minute so it starts getting very carb costly very quickly when I go above that number.

To cut the long story short, I had scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with a few cherry tomatoes for breakfast at around 06:30, the race started at 08:59, I finished at 14:50 having had only water with High5 Zero tablets in (and about 300ml water with Nuun tablets in).  I did not bonk.  I maintained a steady 06:45/km throughout (apart from a wee stop and short stops at aid stations and traffic lights).  I maintained an average heart rate of 170BPM.  I did not feel tired.  I was perky at the finish.  The bits of me that hurt was my calves, quads and soles of my feet and I needed to stop when I did because my fitness and muscular endurance levels had limited me (remember, I have -not- trained for anything like this distance in the slightest), not my fuel.

Endurance racing without carb loading or taking on carbs in a race is possible.  It isn't painful or difficult.  Fat adaptation works.

And I want to try this again but with race-specific training and better long distance fitness (i.e. able to run quicker for the same heart rate/effort level).  Time to ponder when that might be practical; possibly after 70.3 Zell Am See, seeing as I'll likely ditch 70.3 Lanzarote now.

Slightly less boring race report with nice photos coming next!

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Fat-fuelled 5km Time Trial

This week's training plan had two tests in it; one 5km running time trial and an FTP bike test.  At the moment I can't do the FTP test as I don't have power measurement on my bike (and I don't get on with the Wattbikes well enough to use those - just can't seem to set them up nicely).  So, I went to the athletics track yesterday to do my 5km time trial.  It was shut.

I've been to the athletics track about 10 times and 3 times it's been shut.  The council web site says it's open 9am to dusk on weekdays, so I sort of expected it to be open.  So I went home, gave in and phoned the council.  You see, I've looked at the web site about it and it has the usage times and costs and I'd never seen anyone taking money or anyone around to give any money to the times I'd been and it was open.  The lady on the phone at the council told me that you have to pay at the tennis kiosk and someone comes to open it for you.  Thing is, right, there are two notice-boards at the track, one at either entrance.  And neither of them mentions opening times or where to go to pay or the fact that you need to go to the tennis kiosk.  *sigh*

So today I went to the tennis kiosk.  And there was no-one there either.  Though there was a park warden around who seemed to be someone I could pay - though he asked me how much the fees were, which didn't really instil confidence.  I paid my £4.50(!) and he let me in to the track.

V. cold today
15 minutes of shuffling 'round the track, in the freezing cold, as a warm up, then some strides for 6 minutes then I hit the lap button on the Garmin to start the 5km time trial.  Long story short, there was a gap in the trees at the end of the 100m straight, so there was quite a head wind running down that section, otherwise one of my socks rubbed a bit some of the time and I had the usual "I don't feel like this, I'm going really slowly and I feel horrible, why don't I just call it a day" thoughts around 3km into it but persuaded myself to carry on.

Chuffing like a train for the last lap, 12.5 laps of lonely foot tapping around the track, and my 5km was up.  I hit the lap button again and shuffled back to the start of the lap to pick up my woolly hat and fleecy jacket and jogged down to the tube station to go home.  I felt sluggish, but fine.  No problem banging out my fastest 5km ever and it's 3 months after I decided to go low carb/high fat.

And here we are.  My first properly hard 5km fuelled by fat and the splits are like this:-

Splits 4-8 are the 5km distance with a total time of 22:36.  I calculated that on the train on the way back and didn't really believe it until I did it all again properly at home.  That's 01:31 faster than my PB that I set back in October 2011, with a WAVA Age Grading of 62.8%.  Today's run gives me an age grading of 67.7%.  That's... quite pleasing really.  It also helps to give me an idea of what I could aspire to if I trained for other distances...

There's no way on god's earth I'd manage 04:15-04:20 for Sunday's 50km run.  It's a long way.  I've not trained for the distance (or even a marathon, or even a half marathon).  Plus there's the getting lost bit too.  Knowing a route like the back of your had makes quite a difference to overall time.  Still, I can dream :o)  I'd really love to break 6 hours if I'm honest.

Monday 11 February 2013

London Ultra: Impending Fear

Next Sunday I'll be running the London Ultra; a 50km course around London, mostly clockwise on the Capital Ring from Mottingham/Grove Park to Perivale, through quite a few London parks, heathlands and otherwise green bits.

You'd think that for my first run longer than 42km, in fact only my 2nd ever run over 28km, I'd be fearful of the distance and the fact that I've not run further than 15km in one continuous run since June last year.  But no, that holds pretty much no fear for me.  I know I can cover the distance, yes my hips will likely ache somewhat at some point around 35km in, and the balls of my feet too if I pick the wrong shoes, but there is another fear...

Brooks Pure Cadence (probably my choice for this)

Getting lost.

You see, despite the web site saying cheerful things like "London's Capital Ring provides a wonderful waymarked route which is easy to follow and can be run at marathon pace", the course (now in it's 2nd year after a course change following the first two runs), is well known for people getting lost, and lost more than once along the course.

I've done my research, I've looked at the course route and I've read a god few race reports from last year and they all, without fail, mention getting lost at least once.  Now, if there's one thing that's guaranteed to drive me crazy in a race, it's poor route marking.

I really don't want to get massively angry as it's so energy sapping and this will be my first endurance event of any notable duration where I will not be fuelled on dietary carbohydrates (I'll carry some bits of sausage, some nuts and cheese in case I feel hungry but it takes so long for that food to get processed it wouldn't be any use to fuel the running I'll be doing at the time, I'll be relying on body fat and liver glycogen).  I'll need all the mental energy I can get and wasting it on fury will be very counter-productive.  Yes, I'll have a map, but I really don't want to be getting it out to look at it every 5-10 minutes.  The route is pretty twisty and there aren't any long stretches where you could zone out and enjoy the motion.  I've not been able to convert the KML file from Google maps into a file that my Garmin can read, nor am I convinced about the manually transcribed route I've made in Garmin Connect as it's based on the official Google maps route that doesn't follow paths or roads and you can't tell which side of the river it's on at times, plus it looks like it goes through buildings a lot of the time - it looks like a low resolution GPS file.

So if anyone knows the Capital Ring (Sections 3 to 8) at all, or has walked/run bits of the route, or has run the London Ultra route (2012 onwards), or just generally has any suggestions on how to stay on track, please do let me know!

Friday 8 February 2013

New Body, New Life? Not So Much...

I'm excited to present a guest post by Anne H Putnam, author of a new book, "Navel Gazing: One Woman's Quest for a Size Normal".  Having had similar experiences myself and knowing that there are others who have been through the same journeys of significant weight loss, only to be disappointed that they're still not one of the cool kids, still not drop-dead fabulous looking 24x7, that there are still jiggly bits, foldy bits and bits that just won't do as they're told... I wanted to have a post up that talks about it and talks about the fact that losing weight doesn't magically make all of your problems and fears disappear.

"I was fat from a very young age – maybe seven or eight – and as long as I can remember an awareness of my ‘chubbiness’, I recall having an accompanying feeling of being worthless.  I felt like I was somehow lesser-than as a direct result of weighing more-than.  So it’s not surprising that as I grew heavier, eventually passing the ‘chubby’ stage and even the ‘overweight’ stage and moving into full-blown obesity, I also felt worse about myself on the whole; I convinced myself that I was a waste of (too much) space, and would never be happy or live a normal life unless I could lose the weight.

Which I did – well, most of it – when I was 17.  I had gastric bypass surgery, which was an unusual and dramatic measure, especially for someone so young, but I was sure it was the only thing that would work.  And it did: I lost over 100 pounds (45kg) and shrank down to a normal size 12 (UK16) in under a year, and as the weight came off I waited for my ‘new life’ to appear along with my collarbone and ankles.

But it didn’t.  Far from being instantly happy and confident in my changed body, I felt nearly as self-conscious and miserable as before.  I could no longer blame my size for my shyness or my awkwardness with boys – on the other hand, I also didn’t consider myself ‘hot’ enough for those things to no longer matter. I had hoped that my body would change so dramatically that my personality could ride on its coattails where social interaction was concerned (quite the opposite of my heavy life, where my self-deprecating sense of humour and quick wit kinda-sorta made up for my bulk), but I was sorely mistaken.

I still felt fat (or on a good day, still-not-thin-enough), and I also found new things to hate about my body: excess skin left over from rapid fat loss; small, uneven breasts that looked like they belonged to an 81-year old instead of an 18-year-old; fine, frail hair where once there was a lush brunette mane.  I bought push-up bras, took vitamins for my hair, and even had surgery to remove much of the excess skin, and while all those things helped my confidence out in the world, at home I still fell into frequent bouts of self-hatred.

I had allowed myself to expect too much.  The surgery was intended to help me lose weight, not to fix my life or even perfect my imperfect body – it did its job, but I was let down by my own unfounded hopes.  It wasn’t until years after the gastric bypass that I finally began to understand that I hadn’t done my part: it was my job to figure out why I was so unhappy and try to fix that, instead of always projecting my anxiety and disappointment about life onto my body.  After years of struggling with my image and trying to make physical changes in order to affect an emotional change, the switch finally flipped.  I needed to work from the inside out.

These days I mostly try to ignore my body; I’m still not emotionally stable enough to ‘love’ it as we’re so often ordered to do, but I make a conscious effort not to hate it.  If I catch myself obsessing over a saggy thigh or a belly roll, I try to distract myself by going out and interacting with people.  I find that talking to someone other than myself, even if that person is a stranger like the newsagent from whom I’m buying a bottle of water, helps me focus my energy on the outside world and away from my self-destructive obsession with my physical flaws.  As long as my body is functioning and healthy, it is doing its job, and I do my best to let it get on with that job without interference from me.

I could never regret the surgery I had or the resulting weight loss, but getting thinner didn’t ‘fix’ me – in fact it didn’t even come close.  I think it’s easy in our society to think that if we can look a certain way, then everything else will fall into place; while losing weight made my life easier in a lot of practical ways, it complicated my emotional world.  In the end, I’m grateful for that complication, as it forced me to examine my self-esteem and work harder on the kind of person I want to be, rather than the type of figure I felt I should cut – but it has been a difficult road. 

The journey is by no means over, but I feel I’m on the right path at last.  And that’s worth more to me than any physical goal."

If you want to read more about Anne's story, you can get a copy of Navel Gazing from all good booksellers (available also on Kindle )...

"For anyone who's ever avoided the mirror, skipped swimming or got stuck in a dress in a changing room . . .

Almost every woman worries about her weight. For Anne H Putnam, it became unavoidable -- by the age of seventeen she weighed over twenty stone and had tried everything, from dieting to fat camp to wearing big t-shirts. When she decided to have weight-loss surgery, she thought everything would change. But now, nine years later and ten sizes smaller, she has discovered that changing your body doesn't automatically change how you feel about it.  Navel Gazing is a funny, passionate and no-holds-barred memoir of one woman's quest to accept her own body -- to feel normal. It will make you laugh, cry, cringe -- and wonder why it's so hard for women to feel happy with the way they look.

By turns funny, painful and moving, this is a story that many women will relate to and will be a great self-purchase.  A classic coming of age story, Navel Gazing addresses the universal themes of self-image (not just weight-related), finding your place in the world, and the small battles of everyday life.  Will appeal to readers of 'Eat, Pray, Love', 'Girl, Interrupted', 'Hungry Years' and 'Menonite in a Little Black Dress'."