Running, running, running

So. If you are someone who pays a bit of attention to what I bang on about, you will probably have heard me talking about weight and what I believe is an unhealthy emphasis on it by society. When I was doing interviews around the release of my book, most of the interviews wanted to talk about the section of it which talks about fat. My fat. Being fat. The way the world treats fat people. Again and again, I found myself pointing out that evidence shows that being fat is not the root of all evil when it comes to your health, that actually, most of the problems attributed to fat are more accurately linked to a sedentary lifestyle.  (If you want more info on this, check out the Health at Every Size movement.)

At the time, I was pregnant, so I had the perfect excuse to fob off exercising, but I knew that when I had my baby I needed to introduce some exercise into my life. I didn’t want to be at risk of the aforementioned health problems, and to be honest, I wanted my baby to grow up viewing exercise as something everyone just does. His dad plays football and cycles 90km a week, so he had his part covered, and I didn’t want to let the side down. Basically, I didn’t want him to grow up as I did, feeling that exercise ‘just wasn’t for me’.

I never really considered running as something that I might do, because every time I’d tried it I wanted to die. I hated it. But then, while I was pregnant, a friend of mine did the couch to 5k. She wasn’t a thin person. She didn’t find it easy. But she didn’t find it that hard, either. And suddenly I wanted to do it too.

I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible, as well as to prove it to others. I wanted to show people that large bodies are capable of doing all kinds of things you might assume they can’t. So, I decided that after I’d had my baby, I would run 5k.

Then I had Sam. You aren’t supposed to run for the first six weeks, so I had a pass for the first little while, but then the voice in the back of my head started going on at me. ‘I thought you were going to run, Louise! I thought you were going to run 5k!’ I was successfully ignoring it when I got an e-mail from the Rock and Roll Marathon asking me if I would consider being an ambassador for the run this year. It felt like fate. Or the universe calling my bluff, or something. Anyway, I couldn’t say no, could I?

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Here’s me and Olympian Thomas Barr launching the event. He actually knows what he’s doing. He was better at air guitar as well. 

Clearly, I’m not running a marathon. Actually, the event includes a half-marathon, 10k, 5k and 3k family fun run, so that’s not even an option (TG). I have, however, committed to running the 10k. That means that between now and August 13th, I have to go from being a committed non-runner, to being someone who can run a fair distance. For me, that means doing it my way.

Previously, any time I’ve tried the couch to 5k, I’ve given up almost immediately, because it’s just too hard. The distances increase too quickly, and I immediately feel like a failure.  This time, I found a plan for absolute beginners online which seemed manageable to me and is based on my own ability.  Essentially, it suggests that you walk for five minutes, then for twenty minutes run until you can hear your breath, then walk until you catch your breath, then run again, alternating until the twenty minutes is up. Do this every time you run, and eventually you’ll be running the full twenty minutes, at which point you can reassess.  It made sense to me, and this morning I put it into action for the first time.

Do you know what? It was grand. It wasn’t easy and my lungs certainly got a shock but it was manageable. I knew that I could stop if I needed to, and rather than stopping the second I wanted to, I found myself challenging myself to get to the next corner/lamppost/dog-walker instead. I brought Sam with me in the buggy, and he thought it was hilarious (there’s something about panting which is pure comedy to him) before he fell asleep. Also, as someone who doesn’t relish exercising in public, I found the buggy to be a great prop.

So, I have begun, and I’m not even dreading the next run, which is something of a shock to me. I have five and a half months to go from where I am now to being a proper runner, and I’m actually kind of excited about it! If you want to join me on August 13th, you can sign up here. Having a tangible goal is definitely a strong motivator, and has gotten me moving when I almost certainly would have put off starting for another few months. Also, by all accounts, the Rock and Roll Marathon is a lot of fun, with music along the way and a light atmosphere. Would be great to see some other beginners on the day!

 

 

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I realise that April Fools Day is a bad day to do this…

I can honestly say that throughout my experience with cancer I only thought ‘WHY ME?’ one time. That moment came in the office of a fertility specialist four months after being given the all clear. The treatment which had saved my life had also decimated my egg count. Where I should have been at 35 or 40 on the scale of being able to conceive, I was a two. I was a two, and I was pissed off.

The doctor tried to reassure me, explaining that there were other ways, and anyway, it might happen! He told me a few stories of women who conceived naturally despite the odds being stacked against them. I felt like telling him to fuck off. I was in a dark place.

Over the following weeks I shared the bad news with some friends, who all did their best to reassure me. Many of them had their own stories of friends of friends who surprised themselves by getting pregnant when they thought they weren’t able to. I shut them down one by one. I didn’t want to hear about the exceptions, because they were exceptions. I couldn’t bank on being an exception when I knew the probability was that I would be the rule.

Then, a few months after we started trying, I got pregnant. We spent the seven weeks between finding out and going for a scan in total disbelief, barely telling anyone, and trying not to get our hopes up. This wasn’t meant to have happened! Then, last week, we saw our baby wriggling around on a screen in The Rotunda, and now there is simply no denying it. No matter what happens now there is a baby of our creation, and I have become the exception.

We are absolutely delighted and a little bit terrified at the prospect of becoming proper adults, but I gather that’s a normal way to feel. We are also incredibly grateful that we have beaten the odds.

If you are happy for us, we are very grateful for that. If, however, due to your own circumstances, you find this news difficult, I get it. I get it, and I hope that some day soon, just when you’re least expecting it, you find yourself waving a wee covered plastic stick around with delight as I recently did.

Why I’m doing Operation Transformation

A few months ago the producers of Operation Transformation approached me about presenting the show’s accompanying programme on 2fm. Last year, Nicky Byrne had teamed up with Karl Henry, the show’s trainer, to do a two hour programme on Saturday mornings for the duration of the show. The aim of the show is to get people fired up for Operation Transformation’s national events, walks and runs and the like!

It’s always nice to be approached about a new opportunity, but I told the team that I’d have to have a think about it. You see, I have a big problem with the diet industry. I have a problem with society’s need to put down fat people. I have a problem with people profiting from the misery of people who have been convinced that their bodies are disgusting. At the time of my first discussions with the OT team, I had just finished writing a lot on this subject for my book, so I was hesitant to get involved in anything to do with weight loss. I don’t want to be part of anything which adds to the ‘if you’re fat you’re a failure’ message.

However, I also need to lose weight.  You see, my body has been on quite a journey over the last eighteen months. During the summer of 2014 I was feeling exhausted. I couldn’t figure out why, and neither could my doctors, so I decided that maybe it was because I was carrying too much extra weight. I went to a personal trainer, stopped eating carbs, and the weight fell off me. I was getting lots of compliments, but I felt like shit, and I found that I had completely lost interest in food. In one way, I was living the dream of anyone who’s struggled with being overweight. I was losing weight, and it wasn’t even an effort because I didn’t want to eat! Unfortunately though, I was also dying. I had cancer, and it was sucking the life out of me and eating away at my body.

Once I started treatment, my appetite returned, and I started to put weight back on. I had a hard time with this. It had been so liberating to be free of the negative thoughts about my body which had been a consistent part of my life for as long as I could remember. It felt good to have an empty stomach, and to push full plates of food away because I wasn’t interested in them. I got a real high from my disinterest in food. A sense of superiority. A feeling that I was better than my previous gluttonous self. And now, here was my appetite, back to ruin everything. It’s a sick line of thinking. It’s sick that signs of my body getting healthier and my cancer becoming weaker became a source of disappointment for me. However, that is what I felt, until I had an epiphany a few months into treatment.

I had spent the afternoon having chemo in the Mater, and chatting to a lovely woman who was also getting treatment. I had walked in to the hospital that morning, but this woman could barely walk to the toilet. Her body was not taking chemo well. It was letting her vibrant spirit down. She was full of desire to just get on with it, but her body wouldn’t let her. My encounter with her stayed with me for the rest of the day, and at home on my couch that evening I realised that I had it all wrong. I had spent my entire life hating my body for what it wasn’t and ignoring all that it was.

Up until my experience with cancer I had never had a health issue. Day in and day out, my ‘stupid fat body’ had kept me going. It stayed up all night at Electric Picnic. It walked the length and breadth of London on two hours sleep when I flew there the morning after the PPI radio awards in 2009. It kept me going to work day after day when I had stage three cancer and put on such a good show that I was convinced that I was actually fine. And now, during chemo, a literal poisonous attack on it, it was grand. Yes, I felt tired. Yes, I had hard days. Yes, it could have been better, but oh my god could it have been worse. I could walk to chemo. My body was playing a blinder.

For the first time ever, I realised that my body was not my enemy. In fact, it was my greatest ally. Since then, I’ve tried to change the way I think about it. I try to appreciate what it can do, and counter negative thoughts with positive ones. I’ve packed my social media with body positivity, and try to call out my friends when they’re being nasty about themselves. There are a million things more important than being thin, as long as you’re comfortable and happy in your skin.

Just when I had gotten to the point where I was comfortable and happy in my skin, however, I learned that one are in which my body had not coped so well during chemo was in the area of fertility. Chemo decimated my eggs. During a heartbreaking appointment with a fertility specialist last summer I learned that it’s going to be hard for me to get pregnant naturally. If I haven’t become pregnant the old fashioned way by next summer, I need to go back to him and look at other options. One of those options is IVF, but if I want to do that I have to get my BMI down. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if I think BMI is bullshit. It doesn’t matter if I feel good in my skin. It doesn’t matter if I’m ‘healthy at any size’. If I want IVF I have to lose weight. So here I am.

If I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to do it in a reasonable, healthy way, and what I found when I went away and looked at Operation Transformation is that that’s what they’re all about. Their experts are expert. The plan is accessible and inexpensive. Their message is a positive one. It’s a plan I can get on board with, and so that’s what I’m doing. From tomorrow, I’ll be presenting OT Radio on 2fm every Saturday morning from 9-11 with Karl Henry and I’ll also be following Lucy’s plan (she’s one of the show’s leaders this year). He thinks he’s going to be able to get me to like exercise, I think he’s never met a challenge like me in his life. The truth is though, I’d like to incorporate exercise into my life, so I’ll be delighted if we get there. The purpose of the show is to invigorate and encourage anyone who’s taking part, so if you’re doing it too be sure to get in touch.

However, if you are not someone who wants to lose weight right now, I want you to know that that’s ok too, and that’s why I’m writing this blog post. I know January can be difficult with all its diet ads, and fat-shaming. That’s not what I’m about and I’m not going to be shoving this down your throat. I’m doing this for my own reasons, and I don’t think the Louise who’ll be a little bit lighter in a couple of months will be any better than the Louise who is writing this today. Being thinner is not being better. Being fatter is not being worse. We are where we are, and that’s ok.

Now I’ve told you why I’m going to follow a leader this year, but why am I doing the radio show? First, I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to do some talk radio again! I love my show but it’s all about tunes, so a little on-air conversation will be nice. Second, I am allowed to ask Karl all the questions I want, from why the leaders have to be so scantily clad during their weigh-ins to how to get myself motivated to exercise when the thought of it makes me want to throw myself down the stairs. Third, I think it’s good to have a real person who knows what it’s like to struggle with weight and body image alongside someone for whom fitness is life. I’m not going to sugar coat anything. I’m not going to agree if I don’t agree. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy when it’s not.

So, that’s that. If you don’t want to hear another word about it, that’s totally fine.

If you want to chat about it – comment here or get me on Twitter or Facebook.

Finally, if you feel like you want to join in, join in. We’ll be live on Saturday mornings on 2fm from 9-11am. At the very least, it’ll be fun.

Big love. x

 

Cancer eyebrows on FLEEK!

My eyebrows have never been more important to me as they were during chemo. For years I didn’t  pay any attention to them at all, and by that I mean I literally didn’t do a thing to them. Any time I tried to tweeze I had a sneezing fit, and I just didn’t think they were that important. Now I know differently.

Without hair or eyelashes, your head can look a bit… well… a bit like a potato.

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As a result, I paid a lot of attention to my makeup during treatment, and making my eyebrows a feature became a priority. They add a lot of definition to your face, and help take away from that ‘sick’ look which, let’s face it, nobody wants.

I did a lot of research, tried a lot of different products, and got a lot of questions about my technique, so I decided to put my experience into a video.

Before you watch it, please note that;

A) I felt like a complete dope making it.

B) I felt like a complete dope editing it.

C) I feel like a complete dope posting it.

However, I’m hoping that it might be helpful for some people, so here goes. (I apologise for the background, I could really have chosen something more attractive.)

The above video is a snip from a much longer video about cancer makeup, I’ll post the section about faking eyelashes soon.

Big love. x

These are a few of my favourite things…

As I’ve got a lot of time on my hands at the moment, I’m discovering all kinds of things I might have otherwise missed. I’m doing my best not to spend all day, everyday, on the internet, but it’s fair to say that that’s what I’m doing with a significant portion of my sick-time. Honestly, I don’t know what people did when they were sick pre-internet. I love telly and reading, but I people must have felt a lot more alone and disconnected in those days.

Anywho, as part of my efforts to keep this website a little more alive, I thought I’d share some of the things I’m into at the moment as a result of my trawling.

1. Taylor Swift’s Wonderland Magazine Cover

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I’m really into Taylor Swift in general at the moment, but this cover is a super-cool departure from her usual classic red-lipped look. HELLO EYEBROWS.

Staying with Taylor, I also adore this video of Mae Whitman dancing to Blank Space on the set of Parenthood (incidentally, a show I’m totally into which you should totally check out if you totally love a good family drama) taken by her co-star Dax Shepard.

And finally, this mash-up of Taylor’s favourite Kendrick Lamar song with Shake it Off is loads of fun.

2.  Sali Hughes’ Pretty Honest

Sali Hughes Pretty Honest

Sali Hughes is The Guardian’s beauty columnist, and the proprietress of SaliHughesBeauty.com, an excellent beauty website.

She specialises in no-nonsense beauty writing, and I always trust her recommendations, however, I was a little skeptical about whether or not she could fill a whole book writing only about makeup and the like. My skepticism was completely misplaced.

I loved this book. It’s broken up into useful chapters (e.g. Acne, Bridal, How to Look Good in a Picture) so that you could easily skip to relevant bits if you wanted to, but I devoured it cover to cover. Sali’s advice is useful in terms of application and the best use of your favourite products, but she also dispels beauty myths (no, you don’t actually need toner) and recommends specific brands and products along the way too. If you wear makeup, you’ll find this useful. I promise.

3. April and the Bear

This lifestyle and homewares website is filled with gorgeous stuff you’ll immediately want. Sorry about that.

From stylish prints to carefully selected jewellery, I reckon it’s also a great destination for Christmas presents. I’m looking forward to hanging the above print in my new house, and am also coveting this one, and essentially want all the gold stuff on the site.

The site is Irish, and a one-woman show, which always makes me want to buy more.

4. J.O.D Clothing

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The reason I know that April and the Bear is a one-woman show, is because I was lucky enough to meet Siobhan Lam, the brains behind it, at Bash Prep last week (check out Siobhan’s run-down of the event here).  My mate was late, so Siobhan invited me to join her crew at what was quickly christened ‘the bold table’.

When I got home I immediately got my stalk on to find out more about the gas women I’d met that day, and discovered that one of them, Jen O’Dwyer, makes really cool custom leather jackets. (At least I hope it’s her, morto for me if I’ve got the wrong Jen.)

I don’t know about you, but I find it really hard to get a leather jacket with just the right fit, so the idea of having one custom made gets me really excited. I also think the prices are very fair, when you consider that a similar leather jacket off the peg from All Saints would set you back a lot more.

As soon as my weight settles after all this cancer etc. I’ve set my sights on the jacket above.

And again, Irish, woman, etc.

5. The new Girls trailer

Roll on January!

6. All Tvvins

I’ve loved this Irish band since I heard the song You Better earlier this year. You’ll know that if you were listening to my show at the time because I played the song for weeks.

Since then, the lads have played loads of summer shows and been working hard in the studio ahead of an official release. Along the way, they’ve been teasing us with a few videos which will give you a taste of what’s ahead. Last week, this was on repeat in our apartment. (And when I say on repeat, I mean it was literally all we listened to or hummed for four straight days.)

The good news is that All Tvvins’ Irish tour kicks off this evening, so you can go and see them in action! They play Whelan’s tonight, McHugh’s in Belfast tomorrow and my beloved Roisin Dubh in Galway on Saturday.

7. And finally… Claire Huxtable

This clip of Claire Huxtable delivering a perfect feminist shutdown is an oldie but a goodie. I was reminded of it this week and have watched it several times since.

The Late Late Show

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I was delighted to be invited to have the chats with Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show recently. You can check it out on the RTE Player here.

As you can imagine, I was pretty nervous about the whole thing and tried on no less than 17 outfits before settling on an old River Island dress I had only worn once before for my 30th birthday. (Which is disgraceful really, who do I think I am, Kate Middleton?) Now, of course, I’ve decided that I made all the wrong sartorial choices, but there’s not much I can do about it so am trying to let it go! I hope that someday I’ll get to go back on the show to talk about something a bit happier than cancer and troubled childhoods. Maybe I’ll be happy with my outfit on that occasion.

The experience in general was a good one. I was lucky to be first up so didn’t have to wait around for long, which is good because all I could think about ahead of time was falling down the steps when I walked onto the set. I knew that I’d be fine once I started talking but I was convinced I’d make a complete and total hames of walking on. Fortunately, I managed to get to the chair without incident, and to be honest, the rest of it flew by.

Dominic West was also on the show, and full of the chats in the green room. He seems like a really lovely guy and had some Irish family with him who he wanted to ensure had a good experience that night. Alas, Brian O’Driscoll and I were like ships in the night so aside from a very quick ‘well done’ to each other we didn’t get to talk. To be honest, that’s probably a good thing because I don’t think I would have been able to be cool and probably would have droned on and on in a mortifying way about how great he is and how much I love his daughter’s name and then I would undoubtedly have made him feel uncomfortable as I described how much I love and admire his wife despite never having met her. The evening would almost certainly have ended with a restraining order and let’s be real, no one wants that.

I didn’t hang around after my interview because I was pretty wrecked (having had chemo the previous Tuesday) and also wanted to reward myself with a 5-in-1 XL.

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Having devoured enough calories to feed a small city, I hit the sack. I was lucky to wake up and find that the feedback regarding my interview was really positive, so thank you very much if you contributed to it. People have been incredibly kind to me throughout this cancer bullshit (I was going to say journey, but come on, journey? No thanks) and I am truly grateful for it. Sometimes people ask me why I decided to be open and honest about everything that’s going on at the moment, and there are loads of reasons. The main reason that I’m glad that I made that decision at this point is the fact that I have heard from so many people who have experienced or are experiencing similar things to what I am now. You can’t put a price on other people’s support and wisdom.

That’s all for now – I’m going to try to be better about maintaining this website from now on. It was actually embarrassing there for a while. Talk soon. x

Excuses!

Things have been quiet around here of late, for a combination of reasons.  First, I’ve been really bloody busy!  For the last couple of months I’ve had my normal Monday-Friday and also Weekend Breakfast on 2fm at the weekend. That means a 7 day working week and as a result – borderline exhaustion!   The other (vastly more interesting and exciting) reason, is that I’ve got something new coming in the pipeline.  I’ve been plotting with some lovely and clever people and the results will be seen soon.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve had a lovely Summer!