Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Well, tomorrow my Greek man is leaving Dubai. Tonight we are having a joint leaving do. Today is my last day of employment. My landlord is being a jerk about giving me my deposit back. As if that wasn’t mentally strenuous enough, my good friend went into intensive care last night and I am pre-menstral. Not a good combo at all.

On the plus side, I seem t have lost weight, and I think I might be able to fit into my holy grail UK size 10 jeans very soon. Well, I hope so, anyway.

That’s all for now, I think. I might update again later.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eating My Greens

I am rediscovering the joys of eating well (okay, only most of the time… the veggie burgers are still sneaking in). I am going to eat a mostly vegan diet for the time being, and see if I want to go the whole hog again. I’m also trying to eat more raw foods. I don't feel deprived at all, which is great. I feel energised and healthy.

So, yesterday I made an awesome green smoothie; celery, spinach, kiwi, cucumber, pineapple and water. It tasted great! I’ve barely been exercising over the past few days due to lack of time, but I have been losing weight because of my eating plan. I hope the weight loss can last; usually as soon as I treat myself even a little, the weight goes right back on again. It’s just not been sustainable. Hopefully this time, going back to the drawing board will prove fruitful.

Today I had peanut butter on wholemeal toast for breakfast, and have nibbled on edamame as a snack. I’m off for lunch at Lime Tree, which serves awesome smoothies, so I will just have one of those and some fruit and nuts for lunch. It seems like a small lunch, but if I’m not losing weight then obviously there is room for lowering my calories, and I have been reading a lot about the raw food diet; you can thrive on so much less than you think you need to. Most of the time I’m not that hungry anyway, so that seems like a good indicator that I can lower my portions.

Yesterday I drank a green tea and a celery and spinach smoothie for dinner. I’d had a big couscous salad for lunch and been quite slothful all day, so it was plenty. I didn’t feel sick in the morning, which I often do if my dinner hasn’t been substantial enough. Hopefully this is my path to weight loss. I am getting frustrated about not losing! This flitting between 60kg and 63kg drives me mad. Just have to keep trying and tweaking.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Food for thought

Today is my first day of being a vegan again. But, I might just do it gradually; eating most meals as a vegan. I don’t know if I’m ready to fling myself fully into it yet – I guess my upcoming holiday makes me want to be a bit flexible. I will reassess post holiday.

Today I have had muesli and soya milk for breakfast, and a banana and a veggie salad for lunch.

I’m thinking about dabbling in raw food a bit, too. I don’t think I want to follow a diet that is quite as strict as that, but it can’t hurt to introduce a lot more raw food into my life. As it is, I usually have a raw lunch, but everything else is cooked. I want to try it out of curiosity – there is a LOT of hype surrounding it. I also want to challenge myself to think of more interesting recipes, to lose weight and to feel healthier. If it helps clear my skin – which has exploded into a colourful range of weird bumpy spots and massive red angry ones, that would be a bonus too.

I have spent so long writing this entry that I have now eaten lunch as well. I had a leafy salad with tomatoes, sweetcorn (which may well have been tinned stuff, so not entirely right for the raw food thing), cucumber and a bit of vinaigrette. I also had a banana. And then a fruit salad and another banana spread with palm-oil and sugar free peanut butter. Yum!

Also, I am drinking water like it’s going out of fashion. This is actually a bit of a concern, as I can’t seem to drink enough. It’s 2pm here and I have already drunk about 3.5litres. I’m still thirsty. I had a massage yesterday and the therapist told me I wasn’t drinking enough water; I told her that I drank at least 3.5 litres every day. She was surprised and asked me if I had a hormone imbalance. She suggested I might have a thyroid problem, which was concerning. I read up on it, and it would be consistent with the fact I am finding it ridiculously hard to lose weight, despite working out all the time, and the fact that my periods are very irregular. They just stop and start for a week or so each month. Of course, it might not be anything to do with my thyroid, but I think I will get it checked out. I know for sure it’s not diabetes because my friend tested me the other day (he is diabetic).

Anyway, it’s a bit weird to be going to the loo every 30 minutes, but still be gasping for water, isn’t it?

In other news, my landlord is an arsehole. That is all.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turning Veganese, I really think so

Hello. If anyone is reading, I hope you will understand that my lazy blogging is because I am getting ready to leave Dubai and move to Bangkok.

But today I felt like I must blog. I think walking around Safa Park clears my head and gets my thoughts in perspective.

Today I decided to go back to being a vegan. I have been vegetarian for 20 years, and vegan for six of those, until I gave up when I found love and wanted to stop having so much trouble in restaurants – sending food back and explaining to every person I ever met about why I was a vegan. Sometimes you just want to eat your food in peace, you know?

But, I feel as though, like it or not yoga has made me more aware. I’m much more in touch with my body since I became serious about yoga. I know I am allergic to onions now. I feel hungover the day after I eat them, and I can taste them for a full day afterwards. It hasn’t made me give them up, but it certainly makes me think twice about them.

I’m also more aware of my body’s natural cycle. For the first time I know when I am ovulating (sorry if that’s too much, but I find it amazing that I can now realise this when I never did before), I know when I am due on – thanks to chocolate cravings and being a bit short with my ex boyfriend – and most other people. I’m more aware of my libido, and my appetite, and my hydration levels, what is important to me and what makes me feel good and what does not. Dairy does not. It makes me feel sluggish and phlegmy (and my blood pressure seems to be lower so that I get very lightheaded and faint when I’m a veggie, not a vegan..?) Also – I’m doing it for the cows. It was one of Alicia Silverstone’s Tweets that made me take the plunge.

Perhaps I won’t be vegan forever, or perhaps I will follow a mostly vegan diet so that I can be flexible and avoid the inevitable troubles and attention the diet brings. But I know at the moment that I feel wretched after eating a pizza last night. Nothing about me felt right this morning. I worry I’m feeling that about alcohol too. I like alcohol, but I fear it doesn’t like me. I’m not going to give it up, but two pints of beer made me feel HORRIBLE even the night I drank them. Not drunk in any way, but I could taste them in my mouth until well into the next day. Ick.

Last time I became a vegan, I gained weight. I think this is down to my love of chips and bread. Great separately, even better together. This time, thanks to my job as a journalist, I am much more informed about nutrition after interviewing loads of nutritionists. And being more in tune will help too. So, no more chip butties (or at least not nearly as many), this time veganism is going to mean tofu smoothies, pistachio and date tabbouleh, wild rice salads and the like. I have no desire to eat one last tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I have a desire to purge!

In exercise news… well, I’m leaving the country, so there are lots of goodbyes to be said, and lots of 6km runs are being missed. I’m fitting in exercise around the tête-à-têtes, but it’s like walking up a downwards escalator. I’m not getting anywhere. Holidays are coming – I’m off to Istanbul on 4th April, and I ALWAYS lose weight on holiday. I’m a freak of nature. I think it’s because I don’t walk much in Dubai (there are few walker-friendly areas, it’s too hot and I work 10 hour days), so sightseeing holidays are a shock to the system! When I get some routine back, my new aim is to burn 1000 calories in a day. It’s easy when you can squeeze in two sessions; a morning run and a dance with weights in my room, for instance. Today, though is a lost cause on that front – leaving drinks tonight. Say a prayer for my waistline.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Just read that last post back – I even talk about ‘forcing myself’ to walk slower! Not a great way to de-stress, and certainly not a non-harming thought which I think is the first step on my path to inner peace.

Another thought occurred to me in my walk today. While I was walking I realised how much I miss grass and greenery and nature while I am in Dubai. The smell of flowers, grass and autumnal soil is so rare that when you catch a whiff, you want to fill your lungs up to bursting point with it. It made me consider that perhaps I would like to live somewhere a little less hectic. Perhaps somewhere beautiful and sedate would be nice (although when I think about it practically, I know I would get bored in days). It made me laugh for a second that I am pursuing a more peaceful life by moving to Bangkok – which must be one of the most hectic, polluted and crazy cities on the planet! I suppose inner peace can thrive whatever your exterior, though.

But actually, in direct contrast to what I just said – I spoke to a psychologist about clinical depression for a feature I was doing last week, and she said that you must take into consider both internal and external factors when finding what is at the root of depression. She said that to take somebody out of their environment was only looking at one piece of the jigsaw. With that thinking then of course if you live in a stressful environment then you are more likely to be stressed. My heart still beats for Bangkok, though.

This is my church

As usual (lately), I am stressed out to the max. I had a massage the other day and was told that I have knots all over – even in my wrists. She said this was much more than a normal person.
I admit that I haven’t really taken any steps towards de-stressing (unless you count the Kinder chocolate bar I ate yesterday – I decided it would be more effective than pills, which I hate taking). But today, when faced with the prospect of a lunchtime run, I decided it was too hot. I also decided that I did not want to stay in the office. So I compromised and went for a walk.

I’m so glad I did. It was wonderful. I began walking the periphery of the park, and was hit by the beautiful smell of cut grass. I took my shoes off and allowed myself to meander (instead of my usual power walk) around the park. The running track under my feet, the sound of the birds and distant traffic, the smell of pollen and cut grass and the feeling of the sun on my skin were just what I needed. I felt a knot or two drop out of my shoulders, and my breathing become deeper. I took a detour inside the park so that I could feel the grass under my feet too. It sounds so small, but my feelings are running high with the knowledge that my time in Dubai is nearly over that it made me cry with relief to feel so happy and calm for an hour. I think I will force myself to walk slower more often – it’s really incredible that power it has to slow your mind too. I am constantly trying to multitask – chatting on the phone while making dinner, writing a feature and checking Facebook, eating and watching TV. The result is that I never relax into one task. I’ never mindful.

Even when I take activities that should be for myself, I manage to turn them into a challenge. Moving to Thailand has become daunting, exercising becomes about pushing myself further and harder, yoga becomes a competition with anyone stronger and more flexible and social events become a test of my conversational skills and story-telling.

Today was incredible. Until I got a text that smacked me right back into code red stress levels. Tomorrow I am leaving my phone behind and taking my camera. And Exhaaaaaaaaale.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh Plateau

I haven’t blogged very much lately because of a bit of a combination of things:

I am leaving the country, so I am fairly busy making plans
I was worried that I had started to get a bit too hard on myself with food and exercise and it was making me unhappy
I have been going through that time of the month when you just want to eat chocolate and then cry because you look like a whale.
I have plateaud and it makes me sad when I have been working my arse off.

But, my period is over, I have started making some headway in The Move and most importantly, I got talking to my friend – who is a Muay Thai/ Kickboxing/ Kung Fu fighting machine and trainer and he gave me some motivation.

Tomorrow, the detox will start. I am going to give my system a bit of a break by eating simpler foods for a week. It’s not going to be starvation, like a typical detox – I don’t see the point in that. Instead, I will eat a lot of fruit, veg, whole grains, beans and tofu and drink lots of water and green tea. I will cut out the alcohol, bread and chocolate as well as all the other little vices I have for that week too. Even then, I will only reintroduce things slowly.

Also, the exercise routine will be refreshed. My fighting machine friend said that I needed to shake up my routine, ignore the numbers on the scales and concentrate on building muscle – once I have that, he said, the weight will drop off.

My fitness is definitely at an all-time high. I can run further than ever, but my shape isn’t changing. My body (and my brain) is bored of the running and the swimming and has embarked on a silent protest by halting my weight loss.

When I started losing weight, I was 70kg. I lost weight fairly steadily until I got to 64kg, and then it stopped again. I ramped up the fitness and got to 61-62kg where I seem to have stopped again. The lowest I have got down to is 60.5kg. I want to lose 10lbs and then I will be happy to just maintain my weight.

I am aiming for 56.5kg. I think this is healthy and achievable.

The plan is to do at least one hour per day of intense exercise that will make me ache. I want to wake up aching every day – this way I will know my body has been challenged instead of just having gone through the motions. I will do this by including the following in my routine (and maybe others if I think of some):

Stair sprints interspersed with recovery runs
Walking fast with weights (can be done on walk into work)
Running (increasing distance or speed)
Fartlek running
Weights at gym
Home routine (press ups, squats, reps etc)
Skipping with rope
Dancing (in room to radio)
Beach running (soft sand)

So, the aim in a nutshell is to eat more simply, work out for at least an hour a day and make sure I push myself every time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Scale Scare

Hello, I have been busy since I last wrote.

I’ve been busy almost finishing my weekly goals but not quite, (okay – 20 lengths, 6.5km and 1 hour of strength training off – BUT I had an ankle injury).

I have also been busy at work – 14 features in 15 working days to do. Great. AND for reasons like the sentence before this, I quit my job. Yes, I finally did it.

I have no job to go to, but I feel so liberated. I can’t wait to go and see some more of the world. It bothers me that it’s there and I know it is, but I can’t get to it. Now I can.

I will tell you more about my plans in the next month, but today I want to confess that I have had a day of eating nothing but sugar. Tomorrow I will be good as gold. Today I have eaten:

1 Frijj chocolate shake
2 slices of toast with peanut butter
1/3 of a big honey flavoured pot of goat’s yoghurt (I ate the other 2/3 last night)
A fruit and nut bar (somebody left it as a present on my desk)
A piece of fudge
A salad
A load of plums

I am also just about to eat a nut bar.

God help my waistline.

The problem is twofold. Firstly, it’s flooded in Dubai. My yoga class was cancelled last night and it’s not possible to run or swim, or even get cabs to the gym. So, I was lazy two nights running. This scares me. I don’t want to remember what lazy nights feel like… I know they feel good and I don’t want to get lazy again.

Secondly, somebody told me I looked thin, and I started to realise that maybe I am - so I guess it made me a bit complacent. I think I am a UK size ten on my bottom and a size 8 on my top. I still feel fat, though. I know I’m not. But I think in the same way that when you are 26 and you still feel like a geeky teenager inside, when you have lost weight, your brain still thinks of you as chubby. Does this sound like two opposing thoughts? It may do, which gives you an idea of my scrambled brain at the moment!

I am trying to quell any unhealthy food thoughts, but it’s hard. I notice more and more what I eat, and I think of things in terms of whether they are carbs or protein etc, and I hate eating carbs at night because I can see it on the scales in the morning. This is bad, and something I need to nip in the bud. But preferably without becoming a hippo. Hard, hard, hard.

It’s weird because really recently I was way more interested in just being fit and healthy. Now I have a near obsession with getting below 60kg. I’m still 61kg, although today I don’t want to weight myself. I think I will cry if I see the effect the chocolate has had.

I think that maybe it will just sort itself out when I have a new focus. Like a boy, or a new country and job. And preferably all of those things! These are not the thoughts of a yoga teacher. I need to think holistic and long term health, not plummeting weight and food fears.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why Weights?

Oh god. Weights are dreadful, aren't they? I dread the gym much, much more than I do outside work outs. I NEVER go on treadmills because I feel like a hamster, so I only go to do weights. I have weights at home, but I hate using them there too, so I guess it's not exclusive to gyms, this feeling of loathing I have for them. But I do still hate gyms.

Reps. Even the word is boring. Repetitions = monotonous.

But,it's something I need to do. I have weedy arms,and I can see that the strength training helps my yoga. And it's the only thing I do that gives me that satisfying ache the next day. I like it when my lower back and my shoulders ache so much that it makes breathing harder... so it hurts to laugh. THENI know I have done a really hardcore workout. Kickboxing is great for this, but unfortunately it is on the same days and time as my yoga, and yoga comes first, so unfortunately I have to do weights as a substitute. Yuck.

Is there a way to trick your brain into thinking it's fun? I'd love to know. All that clanking of metal, rooms full of butch men lifting weights too big for them, machine whirring and eyeing up from both sexes makes me very sad. Surely there must be a better way? It feels like this doesn't fit in with my holistic fitness ideals. Or maybe I am just making excuses not to go to the gym?

Thursday ramblings

Yesterday was a good day. I am well on the way to completing my training schedule for the week because I am devoting every evening to working out. It’s easy when all your friends have left the country or are otherwise engaged!

Yesterday I ran 6km. It’s the longest I have ever run. I walked for about two minutes about 1.5km from the end, but other than that, I ran the whole thing. It took me about 40 minutes, which is pretty rubbish, but I don’t care – I am just so proud that I didn’t collapse in a sweaty heap. I went to yoga straight afterwards and managed to do the chaturanga properly. I’ve never been able to before because I lack upper body strength.

This schedule is tough to keep to, but I hope it will just become second nature. I’m seeing such promising results that I really want to keep it up.

There is one blip at the moment, which is that it’s too hot to run at lunchtimes now. It’s only February, but already Dubai is about 30 degrees centigrade. I can’t comfortably run 5km plus in that without returning to work as a sweaty, red-faced monster. I’m not sure how to get around this, but I will find a way so that it doesn’t impact my training. Perhaps I will just have to make more time in the evening?

I have until the end of Sunday to finish my goals. I still have the following left to do:

Run 15km
Yoga for 2 hours 30 minutes
Strength training for 1 hour
Swim 90 lengths

Friday and Saturday are my weekend, so I will try to pack lots of exercise in. I have literally no other plans. Wow – that sounds very sad. All of my friends seem to be out of the country, though. Might as well make the most of the time, then. I think this calls for a mini detox.

In Other News..............

I’m handing my notice in on Sunday. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and the time is definitely right now. Everything has slotted into place – the stars are aligned and all that. I really can’t wait.

I will work one month’s notice, and then leave the country and stay with my mum for a while before heading to South Korea. I think I can start to feel alive again when I go there. At the moment I feel in suspended animation. I’m waiting for a month of admin, heartbreak and stress. When that’s over things will get better. You have to demolish everything before you can build your palace, I guess?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love Your Lungs

I mentioned Max Strom in my last post, and it reminded me of something else interesting he said in the seminar I had with him last month.

He said that we carry our feelings in our chests, and that is why pranayama is so important. This is what my understanding of what he said was, anyway.

He said that though science would dispute it, his scientist friend couldn’t explain why it was that when we are depressed we deeply exhale, when we are excited we take short, shallow in breaths and when we cry, our chests pump up and down. If we can control our breathing through pranayama, we can start to take some control over our emotions, our thoughts and our bodies. The chest is a vital gateway to that.

I have only dabbled a little bit into pranayama so far – I take deep belly breaths when I am stressed, and when I remember to, and I activate the ujjayi breath throughout my asana (though I have to remind myself to keep it up sometimes, and try to take a lion’s breath before I resume). Anyway, it’s something I plan on exploring a lot more. I think it has the potential to be so much more powerful than it is to me now. I will keep you posted.

Some Wise Words

So far, so good. I’m on day two of my Holistic Health Fortnight, and I’ve kept to it reasonably well. There was a naughty dinner last night of fajitas and a couple of biscuits today, but the exercise, meditation and breathing have gone well.

Tonight I am keeping it holistic by doing one or two hours of strength training (depending on how bored I get), and a little bit of shopping. The shopping covers the spiritual happiness, I think; especially because I am planning on buying harem pants. What could be more spiritual than that?

In other – less silly- news, I met a really interesting man today. I was interviewing him for a feature about Pakistan.

If I may, I will just sidetrack for a moment. I was told once by Max Strom, a renowned yoga teacher from the US, that when you have a special interest in something, those things suddenly seem to be everywhere. So, if you’re newly interested in fitness you suddenly notice gyms everywhere. If you are buying a silver Ford Focus, you start to see them everywhere. It’s another way to look at the ‘law of attraction’, and one that seems to make more sense to me.

So, anyway – I suppose I am looking for inspirational people at the moment. I am looking for guidance. This Pakistani gentleman was very inspirational. He was talking about the unrest in his country and said that the main problem was the division of communities through religion or political affiliations. One of the things he said, which applies to everyone is ‘if you’re not proud of what you are, then you can’t use it for positive ends.”

I thought that was very interesting, and a concept I hadn’t thought about before. He also said that those who are privileged in life had a duty to help others who weren’t so privileged; otherwise they will be seen as the criminals in history’s eyes. He said that to live in a dream world (which I am completely guilty of) is to deny the truth of what is happening. Sitting back and saying that you can’t change things is tantamount to contributing to the ills of the world.

It was a fairly intense interview, but very, very interesting.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gym Maths

Phew! I’ve made good headway into my goals already, and it’s only 3pm on day one.

So far I have swum 30 lengths and run 5km (I ran once around Safa Park – matching my best time of 20.07 - and then half walked half ran the next lap around).

Tonight I am booked in for an hour and 15 minutes of yoga too. I can’t wait to get back to yoga. I haven’t been to a class in over a week!

I have a private session on Saturday too, and I just had an email from my teacher. She’s been in Goa on a yoga retreat and she said she’s got loads of new stuff to share. My teachers get so enthused when they learn something new. It’s very infectious. I think it’s a great idea to have teachers you admire and trust, but also to occasionally see how another teacher does something. You can never have too many perspectives.

Wow. I feel great after my run. Going round twice really makes the difference. My muscles feel really worked, I look pink and healthy and I feel amazing. The only thing I regret is forgetting to pack spare underwear. (I realised this morning after my swim that I had only packed my gymming undies and bra).

30 degree heat + two laps around the park = sweaty work clothes and upset co-workers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Trying to stop being mental

After reading back some of my entries, I realised I was quite alarmingly focused on my weight. Which is weird because when I ate three cupcakes last night (after shoveling down some pasta), I didn’t seem too bothered about it.

But because of this, I am spending the next fortnight focusing on a more holistic approach to my health. I actually feel like I look fine now. I’d like to lose a little more in time, but I feel like that will happen naturally. I can only imagine I am so focused on it because I am looking for distraction from The Move.

I’m planning to spend the next week on looking after both my mental and physical health a bit better. Stressing about my weight is not going to help me get through this next month. But plenty of yoga and meditation might!

With that in mind, my goals for this week are:

Meditate for 20 minutes each day

Swimming x 200 lengths
Yoga x 5 hours
Running x 25km
Strength training x 2hours
Pranayama x 5 minutes before sleeping and for 5 minutes when I wake up (some belly breathing will be a nice way to start and end the day, I think)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

So much to do, so little idea where to start

I have learnt to pick my battles a bit when it comes to arguements. I used to get angry a lot and 'unleash the wrath' - as my friends called it. Now, not so much. Now I have another problem when it comes to picking battles.

How do you decide what causes to pursue? I would love to help the people of Burma - that is a cause that just breaks my heart. So does Tibet, Xinjiang, the mistreatment of animals, poverty all over the world - women who can't afford to feed their children, kids who sniff glue to distract themselves from their reality, men who travel to Dubai to work as slaves to keep their families afloat - who literally give up their lives for their children.It's all so worthy. How can we help? How do we choose where to direct our attentions?

After nearly two and a half years in Dubai I would like some reality. And I would like to know I am doing something to make the world a nicer place.

How can we make a real difference every day?

Must be Mellow

I had a migraine today. My second in as many weeks. This is not normal for me, so I know it is related to the stress I have in my life at the moment. I cried a lot today; at the hairdressers (he asked how I was - I told him and then burst into tears when he put his hands comfortingly on my shoulders- poor man), on the metro (when I went blind in my left eye when my migraine started), when I tried to blindly walk down the street to meet my friend who said he would drive me home, and then again when I got in the car.

I have a feeling this last month in Dubai, and the upheavel that comes with it is affecting me more than I thought it would. I like to think I let things wash over me usually, but this time I am not dealing very well.

I joked with my friend the other day that for lent I am giving up my home, my best friend/ ex boyfriend and my job. It's stressful, even if I am excited about life post Dubai.

I actually had a lovely weekend, but a few little things piled on top of me.

This week I am going to take time to meditate. I neglect my meditating because I am a daydreamer. I now see that allowing your imagination to run riot through daydreaming is not a substitute for focused thought. I need to save my sanity with a little 'me time' every day, as cliched as it sounds. Even though I spend a lot of time alone, I don't allow myself to think; I go on Facebook, or I run, or read.

This week I am going to be focused. When stress if giving you such a big physical signal then you can't ignore it. Two knock-out migraines in two weeks is enough of a sign that I am taking more on than my simple brain can manage!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bare Feet

Being barefoot is one of my favourite simple pleasures. Others include the sunshine on my skin, falling asleep on the beach and people watching. I really, really like doing all these things at once.

Walking barefoot is just lovely. It makes me feel rooted to the earth, and more mindful about where I am and what I’m doing. Not only this, but the feeling of the ground on your feet is wonderful. Wearing shoes is the equivalent to wearing gloves all the time. It dulls the senses and puts a physical barrier between you and what you are doing.

The feet have so many nerve endings that walking along soft sand, or dewy grass or (my favourite) smooth cobbles are really sensual experiences. It really makes me happy. I remember the first time I realised how incredible it was, I was in Corfu walking over some really smooth cobbles of a fort. Since then, I try and go barefoot as often as possible.

I never wear my shoes at work unless I am going into the toilets (as well as being more comfortable, it means I can sit in half lotus at my desk), and I love to take them off when I go for a walk. In fact, I often leave the house for work and then have to come back because I have forgotten my shoes.

If you haven’t already, you should try it. You just have to be a bit more mindful of where you put your feet. Going barefoot also makes you more aware of the rubbish people put on the ground. It makes me so angry to see broken bottles on the beach, or chewing gum on the pavements.

Go bare foot today, wherever you live. Even the pavement and wet mud feel great on your sensory-starved feet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feeling Pumped

I have a sneaky suspicion that I might be gaining muscle. My weight has been the same for a while, but my clothes seem looser, people keep commenting on how skinny I am and I feel like I am a bit more... err, solid – especially in the few hours after a work out. Right now my core and calves feel pretty rock solid. Okay... not that rock solid.

Just an aside before I go on – why is it that people who are skinnier than me that tell me I should stop losing weight? They put on concerned faces and say ‘you don’t need to lose any more weight! Seriously – I can see your ribs.” I won’t pretend I don’t find it flattering – I really love it – but, please. I am a UK size 10 on top and a size 10-12 on my bottom. I am not going to waste away just yet. I eat very well and exercise moderately. There’s not too much to worry about, I don’t think. But, it’s ALWAYS women who weigh about the same as a pencil that tell me this. Weird.

Anyway, so I suspect I am gaining muscle. I can even start to see the beginnings of a six pack, and to check I wasn’t going mad, I showed my friend, T. He said he could kind of see it too. I’m not aiming for Mark Wahlberg kind of abs, but a nice Evangeline Lilly figure would be BRILLIANT. Though I think I’m too pear-shaped for that kind of look.

I’m stuck on a plateau again at the moment. I cannot seem to get below 60kg EVER. I flit between 61kg and 63kg no matter what I do. I thought once you started to develop muscles, the fat burned off faster? I suppose I should use a tape measure for more accurate measurements than scales, maybe then I would see a change?

I am getting impatient. Hmmpph.

Being Boring

My blog seems to be a bit same-y at the moment. It’s all ‘I ran 3.5km then I ate rubbish for dinner.’ It must be very tedious for you, but I have two bits of good news:

It’s made me realise exactly where I go wrong in my health routine, and so will encourage me to step out of a rut – and the blog should get a bit more exciting in turn.
I will be leaving the country soon, so the blog is bound to get more interesting as my life turns upside down.

But, so far I haven’t changed my routine or moved out of the country, so as expected I will tell you about my runs since we last spoke.

Yesterday I did a 3.5km run, and today I did a 3.5km run followed by a 3.5km walk – which I plan to repeat tonight.

I haven’t done anything else on my goals list, but I’ve now only got 5.5km left to run (and I have tonight and tomorrow to do it.)

So, after work this evening, I will go for another quick run and then for drink with my friend N. We are heading to Okku for some kind of launch, but really we are just shamelessly going for the free champagne and the jellyfish.

I have eaten in this restaurant before and it’s a bit weird for my palate (probably great if you eat fish, though), so I think I will avoid the canapés. This leaves me with a problem. I haven’t eaten lunch yet because I haven’t had time, and I won’t have time for dinner either. It means that I will have to snack all the way through today to make sure I keep my metabolism going and that I don’t let the champagne go to my head.

Maybe it would be a good idea to let the champagne go to my head so that I at least have a livelier blog tomorrow? Actually – the weekend should be good. I am off to stay in a five star hotel in the middle of the desert for a girly evening, and I am going blonde. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Natural Highs

It’s taken months and months of exercise, but now I get a post-exercise high every time I work out. I used to only get it occasionally – usually after a great ashtanga yoga session, but now I get it almost every time.

I’d heard about this elusive feeling, but I thought it was just something sporty-types like to say to make them sound less boring. It was just never something that really happened for me.

I think the reason I didn’t used to get it is because I used to just feel ill and in pain after a work out. Now I am getting to know my body and its limits so I know how to push myself out of my comfort zone just enough that I feel terrible when I finish, but then really, really amazing afterwards.

I’ve just been for my lunch run and I decided that what with being hungover and all, I wouldn’t try for a personal best today, so I just went for an easy jog. I stepped up the pace halfway through, and then a bit more at the end and I managed it in 21.13, which I think until yesterday would have been a PB, in fact. I guess my fitness is definitely improving!

Every morning on the bus after I have had a swim, and every afternoon after I have had a run, I feel as though I am wrapped up in a warm, fuzzy blanket. It’s such a good feeling. It might even be better than actually being wrapped up in a warm fuzzy blanket.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Goals and Gluttony

It’s been a couple of days since my last entry, so I’ll get you up to speed.

My weekly goals are going okay – so far I have swum 150 lengths (which was the goal I set for the week), have run 10.5km (so I have 12.5km left to run), have done an hour and 15minutes of yoga (so I have 3 hours 45 minutes left) and have done no strength training or planks, so I have 2 hours and 10 sets respectively.

I suppose that’s made a fairly big dent into the goals, but I only have three days, including today to finish it. I find these goals really motivating, so I might set them for myself every week. Next week I will know that I can manage more swimming, as 150 lengths was so easy to achieve. The goals also highlight what I’m missing out on in my training. I always say I want to gain strength, but I haven’t done any strength training yet – and I keep putting it off. My friend lives in a building with a gym, so I think I will pay that a visit this week. I will ask her nicely if I can abuse her facilities.

The reason I am a bit behind in some goals is that I have been naughty. I have had two nights of slobbing. Last night I went out for lots of drinks with my friend, and the night before I watched rubbish films and ate pizza with another friend, as we lay on the sofa. The thing I always use to justify nights like this is that I’m not on a diet or following a fitness ‘regime’. I am trying to follow a healthy way of life that I can continue for the rest of my life. It has to have room for midweek drinks and for lazy sofa nights or I just won’t stick to it. I don’t want to be an athlete, I just want to be fit and healthy, and it’s perfectly possible to do that with the occasional indulgence. Does this sound like I am trying to convince you or myself?!

I eat well 80 per cent of the time, so the other 20 per cent I can eat a pizza with minimal guilt. I’m a girl, so there will always be a little bit of guilt when I eat a cheesy deep pan pizza…

Other than the goals and gluttony, I have achieved another personal best in my lunchtime 3.5km run. Yesterday I nearly died, but I managed to complete it in 20 minutes and 7 seconds. I am so pleased – it’s much quicker than before. I was talking to a friend about it last night, and even though it is a rubbish time, he was very encouraging. I told him that when I first started trying to be sporty about nine months ago, that I had to walk a lot of the 3.5km and could only complete it in about 27 minutes. Well, I soon got that down, but it’s only in the past few weeks I have managed to get it to less than 23 minutes. He said I should do a 5km run and aim to do it in 25 minutes, because then you are well on the way to doing a 10km run in an hour – which would be amazing for me. I think I will do a 5km run tonight to see just how far off that I am. I imagine I will be ridiculously far off that – but we’ll see!

I’m going to do a run at lunch today too. I feel a little bit hungover from last night, so I’m going to take it easy. After yesterday’s run, I felt like I was going to be sick, but – as my friend from last night said – if you think you’re going to puke after exercise, but you don’t, then you know you’ve done your best. It’s probably not a great philosophy, though.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Good Day

It's day two of my detox, and It's going well. I'm eating lots, but my tummy is flatter and I am weighing less already. I'm sure it's just water-weight, but a detox is a nice kick-start.

Today I have done 40 lengths of the pool, a 3.5km run and a 1hour 15minute yoga session. My usual teacher is on a yoga retreat in Goa, so we had a replacement. It was a HARD class! She tried to help me do a head stand, but I still don't feel ready- mentally or physically. I chickened out when I got my first leg up, and then I immediately regretted missing out on this one-on-one attention. Anyway, I had finished all this by 12.15pm. I got back to the flat and my flat mates were just getting up. I felt a bit sad- I am an early to bed, earlyish to rise type. They had been clubbing the night before. I had been on Facebook. Still, I was glad to be active today.

I've also spent a lot of time on the beach today. I only had a factor 6, which is terrible for a pasty white girl, but it seemed to do the trick. I guess my skin is used to the sunshine now. Still- MUST buy a higher factor for next weekend.

It's 5.50pm now, so there is still plenty of time to fit in some more exercise. I think it's too cold for the pool now (plus, I try to limit my pool time or I end up getting very hard on myself - I used to do 200 lengths a night which would take me three hours. Anything less seemed like a failure), so I might go for a light jog down Jumeirah Beach Residence (where I live) and back. Or I might strap some ankle and wrist weights on and go for a power walk instead.

The idea of the 10k run isn't very appealing now. I think I will pretend I never mentioned I was considering it, no matter how vaguely.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back on the Health Wagon

It's the weekend here. I have just come in from meeting my friend for a long, lazy lunch and immediately done one of my favourite things; taking off all uncomfortable clothes - jeans, bras with underwires etc, and swapeed them for loose, yogini clothes so that I can sit in half lotus and type in comfort. Is there any nicer feeling after a long day?

I'm detoxing. It's just a weekend mini-detox,and it's not hardcore, but I would like to kickstart my weightloss again. Miraculously, I weigh about the same as I did before I started these dinner reviews, butI want to get below 60kg, so I need to get to work.

Today I had oats and rice milk for brekkie, tabbouleh,pistachio and date salad for lunch and pumpkin salad for dinner. I have drunk two green teas, a hot water lemon and honey, a veggie juice, a triple berry juice and water. I am falling into the familiar detox trap of not eating enough protein, so I am going to munch on some mixed nuts now. Tomorrow I will have a few tofu and fruit smoothies.

I've also gone for a 3.5km run on the beach and swum 40 lengths in the pool. It's 7.30pm and I am losing inclination, but before it goes entirely, I plan to do a few weights and a bit of yoga too.
I have an exercise schedule for the week, and I find this helps me focus. Basically, I plan what I want to do, but I don't give myself daily goals, because sometimes life gets in the way of a daily goal. So, my goals for this week are:

Run 23km
Swim 150 lengths
Yoga x 5 hours
Strength training x 2 hours
Plank for one minute x 10

I work it out based on what I already do, and then I add a bit more on to that, so it should be manageable. We'll see. Tomorrow is the weekend,so it's the best chance I have at making a really big dent into these goals. I am vaguely considering running 10k tomorrow. Vaguely considering.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hanu's Competitive Yoga

I am just about to do some yoga in my bedroom. I have a little yoga corner full of books and incense and beautiful things to make me feel nice. I'm going to run through an Ashtanga routine and then focus on specific asanas to open up my hips, because...

I have a small problem. I am competitive in yoga. This is against everything yoga is, but unfortunately it's a nasty little trait I have. So, tonight I am working on my Hanumanasana. After all, I am Hanu. I should be able to get into my own asana. Nearly there, but still require the bricks.

If you have read my past posts, you will know that if/ when I have my own yoga practice, I wanted to call it Hanu Yoga, but that name is already taken. How about Hanu's Competitive Yoga, then? I think it would go down about as well as Bikram Choudhury does with traditional yogis.

I am going to try and let go of the competitiveness. Just as soon as I am the best in my class.

These are my confessions

I just ate two slices of chocolate mousse cake from Paul. Will start being good right now. I’m off for a green tea. Do the antioxidants in a green tea cancel out the sugary hazelnut base of the cake?

Also, I skipped my run and swim today. Just call me a rebel.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool

Oh, for the love of god. It appears that I am a public crier.

Nope. Not a town crier, a public one. A crazy lady who cries in public.

Apparently, I can’t really do subtle, or hiding my feelings, or playing it cool. I felt a bit silly about that last night (crying in a restaurant to a boy will do that to you), but today I feel okay. I know my faults, but I don’t think that really giving things you love and are passionate about your all is a bad thing. Even if you do just end up making an idiot of yourself in public.

I get through a lot of mascara this way.

If you put as much of yourself into something as you can and it still doesn’t work, then you can’t feel too bad about it.

That’s how I feel about everything I want. I always put myself completely into relationships, my yoga, my writing and my hopes for traveling more. I am totally absorbed by these things, and so even if I turn out to be hopeless, then I know that I tried my best.

I don’t care if I’m 26; I am emotional and I am going to quote some lyrics. ‘At least I try to jump in fire, and if I burn at least I tried’. That’s as emo as I’m going to get on you today.

So, I am going to make this weekend a lovely weekend of self-improvement and motivation. I have a massive list of things to do as I prepare to leave the country. They involve:

Selling my bed
Arranging for my stuff to be shipped to the UK
Selling a whole heap more stuff – books, clothes etc
Trying to figure out how I can afford a flight home, a TEFL course and shipping of my belongings as well as my rent.

Oh god. I’m stressed again now! Hopefully I have a little room on my credit cards for things like these. I’m not thinking about what happens if I don’t. Two years in Dubai and not a penny saved. Whoops.

Okay, that’s it with mushy posts for a while. I am putting it in a box. Let’s get back to dharma and dinner from now on.

Here Comes The Sun

I have my last dinner review tonight, which is good. Then I can focus on losing this weight (perhaps another 9kg), getting better at yoga and taking my mind off my imminent upheaval by running more. Who says you can’t run away from your problems?!

I am looking forward to tomorrow as well, because I am still wildly hormonal. I’m not sure what’s happened this month, but my usual anger has been replaced with a really morose mood. Or it might be that I have seven features to write by Sunday – that’s always a depressing thought.

Tomorrow I’m going to swim, run, do yoga, eat well and listen to Here Comes The Sun. Nobody can be sad when they listen to that song, it’s a fact.

Also, Thursday is the last day of the week in Dubai, so that means I will automatically be happy anyway.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I want April to be over, and February hasn’t even ended yet.

I’ve recently (well, kinda recently) had a break-up, and the boy in question is leaving the country in April. I’m beyond devastated, even though I can see now that we aren’t meant to be. We get on really well, but unfortunately all the big things that matter are wrong. For instance, I am chasing something in Asia (haven’t figured out what!), and he wants to go back to his own country in Europe. There are lots of other things - big things that can’t be ironed out, and in fact, we haven’t even tried to which I think speaks volumes. But, at the same time, I feel sick as April approaches.

In the past, my approach has been to exercise and change my hair colour. I’m true to form with both of these again, but I am also going to throw myself into Asia and never, ever look back. I just need to get there ASAP. I think April will be spent at home, getting myself together and May will be when I fling myself into my new life. I can’t wait. I hate goodbyes and the sick-to-your-stomach heartbreak, but if you’re too busy working out currency conversions and wondering where you can catch a taxi into your new work place, it’s easier to get on with things.

Roll on May.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Starting From Scratch

Last night was a wake-up call. My yoga teacher told me on Saturday that I hyper extend my arms, which means I don’t hold my weight properly in some yoga asanas. Instead, I just lock my arms or legs out and let the joints take it. It’s not good and could explain why my arms are still so pathetically weedy after months of intense practice. So, last night I added a microbend to my arms and legs. Wow. That made things pretty difficult. In fact, it was really hard. Especially this pose (which is super easy if you lock your arms and super hard if you don’t)….

It felt like a bit of a set back when I felt like I was doing so well in yoga. I suppose that it’s the same with anything – you think you’re mastering something and then you find out that there is so much more to master than you first realised. I guess I am getting somewhere, but there is still a long way to go before I can consider signing up for teacher training.

On the plus side, I woke up today a lot lighter. I’m nearly at the weight I was at before the dinner reviews, so I guess it must have just been a bit of water retention. Too much info? Anyway, I feel less of a hippo today and more like a woman.

This morning I had a swim – 40 lengths in my pool, and at lunch I am planning a run, then I was considering a bit of beach yoga tonight. I did some the other day for a laugh when I was with my ex on the beach the other night. I was dressed for dinner, so it wasn’t ideal for a spot of ashtanga (getting into lotus in skinny jeans is impossible), but it was lovely. So, I think tonight I will take my yoga mat to the beach for a bit of a session. It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

I am reading a book about Tibet at the moment. So far, it’s lovely.

I reserve complete judgement until the end because, for instance, I liked Eat Pray Love when I first started reading it. At the end I felt the polar opposite of zen. If you haven’t read it, don’t.

Running is Beastly

It turns out hippos can run. They can run about 30km an hour, apparently. This is faster than man.

[Please forgive me for directing you to the bloody awful Daily Mail, but this is funny]

So, this also goes to explain why I just beat my personal best 3.5km running time. I even had to stop at one point to massage my calves. I completed it in 21 minutes and 59 seconds. A full one minute one second less than my best time a week ago. Not bad going (even though it's still a terrible time).

Tomorrow I am going to run another fartlek session to see if that will help me improve some more. Fartlek makes me feel like I am going to die, though.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Not A Happy Hippo

I feel like a blimp today. I weighed myself and I weigh the same as a blimp too. I hope it’s because I just came on my period, and not entirely down to the fact I have eaten and drunk myself into airship proportions.

In an attempt to remedy last night’s binge, I got up at 6am for a swim. Not an easy feat when you’re on your first day of your period. Anyway, I got up, headed out into the cold Dubai morning (I wore a coat for the first time today), and found the pool was being cleaned. This is good, of course, but when you have hauled yourself out of bed 40 minutes earlier than you would have otherwise, it’s kind of annoying.

I waited. The pool men said they would be a few minutes. I waited some more. They cleaned a bit more. Then I got up and asked the guy if next time it was possible to clean the pool some time when it wasn’t meant to be open. He didn’t really understand. I went and caught the bus to work. I really pray this isn’t their routine now. It’s annoying. It seems like everything in Dubai is catered for people who don’t have jobs. Hmmmpph.

Now I’m about to go for my lunchtime run. I don’t want to because I feel like a hippo, and I don’t think hippos look great when they run. I might be wrong because rhino’s are massive, but they look pretty impressive when they run. What I actually want to do this lunchtime is fall asleep in a foetal position and maybe eat some chocolate bars. The only reason I’m not doing this is because it will be counter productive for the whole ‘stop looking like a blimp’ cause I’m working on right now.

I had honey on toast for breakfast and almonds for a snack, if you’re interested. For lunch I have bought nothing because I have been too lazy to shop for days. I will get a salad from the crappy garage-type-shop over the road after my run. I have yoga tonight, so I will nip to the shop after that for some healthy food. Shopping in your gym wear always makes for the healthiest shopping basket, I find.

The Difficult Transition From Disco Diva to Downward Dog

I’ve been a bit lax over the past few days. Partly because I have done nothing but eat fatty foods and drink toxic beverages since we last spoke. I will let the photos do the talking and then we shall say no more about it…

So, today I have my penultimate dinner review. To be honest, I want it to be over with so that I can start getting rid of the 2+kgs I have put on while doing it. I can already see the bulges appearing. My ex has a nice way of putting it. He saw a girl in a dress that was maybe a little too tight for her and he said that she ‘didn’t have the qualifications for it’. I feel like I certainly don’t have the qualifications for half of the outfits I have bought since I first started losing weight. It feels horrible to be gaining again. I never want to be chunky again.

In an attempt to limit tonight’s damage I had a very good lunch – fruit and a nut bar. It might seem small, but I munch on things all the time, so my metabolism should be raring to tackle tonight’s dinner. I also had a run at lunch, and I beat my personal best. My personal best is an appalling 23 minutes for 3.5km, if you remember, but today I got it down to 22 minutes and 14 seconds. I wasn’t trying to get a PB because I felt a bit lethargic today, but because it was a bit windy I felt like I wasn’t keeping pace as much as I normally do, so I guess that’s why I did better. I pushed my comfort zone without realising it.

Yesterday I felt terrible. I was hungover and disgusting. I missed my weekend beach run, but got up for my 11am ashtanga class. I was terrible, but I’m glad I went and sweated out a few toxins. Afterwards (literally straight afterwards) I had my first private yoga session booked. It was fun. I felt ropey still (tip: don’t book a private yoga class the day after a 12 hour drinking session), but I learnt a few tips for improving my chaturanga, downward dog and hopefully some tips that will help me to roll my pelvis, which I have real trouble doing. My yoga teacher couldn’t work out why.

She did tell me that I hyper-extend in my arms when I am in postures, which stops me from strengthening my arms. I always wondered why my arms never seemed to gain strength no matter how many times I do things – apparently it’s because I’m double jointed. Sometimes being ultra bendy isn’t a good thing in yoga after all. Who knew?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Onwards and Upwards

Yesterday Hanu (my zen alter ego – see ‘Who Is Hanu?’ post) deserted me completely. I finished work to catch a bus home, and after waiting twenty minutes for my bus, it arrived and promptly drove straight past me. I wasn’t amused to say the least. The bus driver knew it, all the cars driving past knew it, the men waiting in the bus shelter knew it (and averted their eyes to my stomping and yelling) and the bus call centre certainly knew it when I rang up to complain. Why did it bother me so much to miss my bus? Well, lateness on the way home seems to be a bit of a stress trigger for me. I suppose that since, with travel, I’m out of the house from at least 6.30am to 7pm (and have to be in bed by 10.30 – 11pm) then every minute of my own time is precious. I felt like the bus driver had ruined my evening. It was irrational and I hope it doesn’t happen again, but in an effort to not so much excuse my tantrum as explain it, I will say that I haven’t lost my temper for months (which – if you had seen me a year ago is a miracle), and I am influenced by my PMT at the moment.

When I got home, I went to my vinyasa yoga class, which was great. My sides are still nicely aching today. They feel pretty solid too, so I know I must have done some good. I certainly felt quite peaceful again afterwards. I’ve signed up to have private sessions now.

Today I went for my 40 lengths swim in the morning and attempted my first fartlek run. I know this will improve my fitness (because it was REALLY hard), but I was hoping it would improve my 23 minute best time (it’s a 3.5km run), too. However, because I was sprinting some of the track, I had to power walk a bit instead of jogging the entire way round, as I usually do. It was very tiring. I feel like I did the best I could, but at the end I found that my time was… 23 minutes. EXACTLY 23 minutes to the second. Typical. What a joke. Tomorrow I will bust a gut to step it up a bit. I want to get it to a reasonably respectable 20 minutes.

Tonight I have another dinner review. It’s Thai food at Thiptera in The Palace. It should be quite swanky.

My main excitement today though is that I am going to move to South Korea. The more I think about it, the more right it feels. Also, I’ve started to realise the ex thing would never happen. The fact that we will live across the other side of the world from each other was a hint. I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but now that I am excited about life away from Dubai, I see that I really need to be on my own now. It’s nice to have mentally moved on a bit. Today I feel at peace with my decisions. More than at peace – REALLY excited about changing everything in my life again. I think it’s what I will always do.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I just read something that said 'life is so simple to be happy'. I like that.

Korean Bodega. It's In My Favour.

On Thursday, I asked for a sign that I was doing the right thing to move my life to Asia with no real source of income. I wanted a lightening bolt moment, and I wanted it on the weekend. I don’t usually ask for things like that, but this uncertainly about the future has been going on too long.

So, I asked and I got. A few things happened. They weren’t lightening bolts, but instead lots of little jolts that finally shuffled me into a position that I feel very happy about.

Firstly, I have been mulling over whether or not it’s stupid to go with no certainly of a job. I know I can write, so I could freelance and I was hoping to secure a charity job while I was away. I spoke to my friend J on Skype and she pointed out that freelancing is very uncertain, sporadic money even at the best of times. She was also realistic about how difficult it can be to get into charity work. It’s competitive and I have no experience. Fine if I could afford to volunteer for a while, but with my debts, I can’t for very long.

So, I was mulling this over in the hairdressers (I had nearly five hours to get some good, hard thinking done) and it occurred to me I could be a teacher. Hardly a revolutionary idea for somebody who wants to bum around Asia, I know, but to me it was a fairly new consideration. I have a friend who does it in Japan, and I know another who did it in China. I have a journalism degree (the same as the friend in Japan), so it’s a definite possibility. Then, after the hairdressers I went for drinks when my friend N suggested the same thing.

So, the idea was going around in my head that that is what I should do. I Googled the idea, and South Korea kept coming up. It seemed ideal. It’s progressive, has a culture I would love to explore, is buzzing, safe, the job pays well for Korean standards and about 25 per cent of the population is Buddhist. Great! For the first time since my feet have been itching, an option has really, really grabbed me. This is it.

My main sign was at work, though. Whatever I thought was the worst thing that could happen – I was wrong. I found out today what the worst thing actually is – the promotion of one of my, let’s say, ‘hands on’ editors to become my Managing Editor. Basically, the buck would stop with her, and I don’t want to be here when she has that kind of power. She will be promoted at the end of March. So, mission ‘Teaching in South Korea’ begins.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

V is for Vanilla, Vapid Or Just Plain Bland.

Dinner was awful last night. If it’s free do you still have the right to moan? I got annoyed because they appeared to have lots of vegetarian meals (displaying the ‘V’ sign), but thankfully I remembered to ask if they were ‘pure vegetarian’, and they weren’t. Apparently they all had a ‘tiny bit of meat stock’. They seemed to think the fact that it was a tiny amount would mean that it didn’t matter. But whether it’s a huge great cow, or tiny bit of boiled up cow bone on my plate, it still results in a dead cow. So, I asked what else they had for veggies. Apparently only a vegetable stir fry with soy sauce. If there’s one thing I can’t stand then it’s soy sauce. So, I’m being picky at this point… but the menu clearly stated that there were about six or seven vegetarian choices.

I ended up with, erm… well, this:

[pic to be added]

It’s fried tofu with rice and coconut milk. And nothing else. It was just as dull as it looks. Not a vegetable in sight. But hey - vegetarians like eating bland food, right?
I mentally displayed my own personal brand of ‘V’ sign to them. I didn’t really, but I like a cheap gag.
So, that’s Mango Tree for you. Rubbish. Don’t go. Even my meet eating friend was very disappointed, and believe me, this man isn’t a fussy eater – especially when it comes to free food.

Anyway, this blog was never meant to be one big restaurant review. It was supposed to be about my quest for mental, spiritual and physical wellness. Mango Tree did nothing for any of this.

What did help was the swim I had this morning. Today it was hard to get up. I blame the wine and cocktail I had with dinner. My body is not used to drinking so much, and it’s wearing me out. I suppose you could suggest that I drink less, which I will do after 14th when my dinner reviews dry up. But nothing tastes as good as free food and drink feel.

The swim was a bit scary this morning, actually. It was foggy in Dubai, and the fog had settled on the water. And my lifeguard had locked himself in his office (I suspect he was having a snooze), so I was alone, and it was dark and I was swimming through fog. That’s about as much of a thrill as I can get these days. I will post some pics later whether you are interested in fog or not.

Fartlek is Your Friend

Up until a few months ago, I thought fartlek was just a funny word. Now, as a fledgling runner, I am reading about it all the time.

I just got back from my lunchtime run of 3.5km around Safa Park which I finished in the rubbish time of 23 minutes. In my defense:

- I only started exercising a few months ago, and could barely run to the end of the road. My 3.5km time used to be 27 minutes.
- I have two bad knees so I deliberately go slowly.
- I run in the Dubai midday sun
- I don’t want to push myself too hard and end up really sweaty for the rest of the day at work.

But, I would like to improve my time. I run at a steady pace, so I would like to get it down to at least 20 minutes so that I can run 10km in an hour or less. So, I am going to introduce a fartlek session into my training tomorrow. I will sprint a bit, power walk a bit, jog a bit and see how that affects my fitness and timing. I will also definitely, definitely, definitely do my morning swim tomorrow.

I had a nice realisation after my run. I like exercise. I knew I loved yoga – it makes me feel calm, happier and generally great, but I also enjoy my morning swim, I enjoy my weekend runs or walks on the beach, and I enjoy my lunchtime runs. I also like the resistance machines at gyms, when I get the chance to go (I don’t have a gym membership here – most people have gyms in their building, though). The only things I don’t enjoy are evening runs and my kick boxing. Purely because they are after work and that time is precious to me (though yoga after work feels like a treat). I need to get over that way of thinking because it’s making me lazy – I make excuses to do anything else but exercise – perhaps I need to speak to somebody on Skype, apply for jobs, go for a dinner review or go to the supermarket… I need to start viewing it as ‘me time’, which it is.

So, that said, tonight I am going to do some exercise after my dinner review at Mango Tree. And tomorrow, I have a vinyasa yoga session. Can’t wait.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Weekend 'Whoops'

It’s been a couple of days since I wrote anything. I spent the weekend being incredibly naughty. On Friday I woke up and went for a walk on the beach before breakfast. My knee still hurt, so I thought it best not to run. After this the weekend descended into blissful excess.

I went with my ex to Margaux, a French/ Italian restaurant for another dinner review. It was divine. The food, the wine, the location… it was all beautiful. I had the nicest wine I’ve ever drunk – will edit this later with the name of it – and I ate some truly lovely food… see pics below. What a brilliant restaurant. I ate and drank:

Fresh French breads
Grilled Italian vegetable salad
Mushroom risotto
Vegetable Lasagne
Two French pastries (one coffee, one chocolate)
A warm Madeleine

All the courses were paired with wine, and I drank a caprihina as well.

After that, I was a little tipsy. We hit the mall for a bit (as you do in Dubai), then headed back to watch a film. Needless to say I didn’t need dinner that night.

On Saturday morning, I ate breakfast in bed – some porridge with rice milk and almonds and then a nut bar before heading out to get my hair coloured. I had black hair for about a year, but recently I decided to go back to my natural blonde. It’s taking a long time – my hairdresser piles on as much bleach as my hair can take, then he evens it out with a toner.

So far, my hair is just going lighter and lighter ginger. I was in the hairdressers for nearly five hours on Saturday, which included four applications of bleach. I’m still not blonde. In fact, I look like Anne Robinson (I think we even wear the same glasses as each other). I am very, very ginger. My hairdresser promises that next time I will be blonde. I hope so. Ginger is definitely not my colour. A word to the wise: NEVER DYE YOUR HAIR BLACK. Unless you are prepared to spend weeks and weeks looking like a lemur.

Well, after emerging from the hairdressers after five hours of not eating and watching my hair grow steadily more carroty, I needed a drink. I barely ever drink usually, but what the hell – it was the weekend. So, I went to Park Hyatt’s The Terrace for a couple of glasses of Happy Hour wine and a vodka cocktail. Oh – and some bread and pasta. And perhaps a handful or two of salty almonds as well. Must. Not. Slip. Back. To. Fat. Person. Ways!

I feel terrible for missing yoga all weekend as well.

I got home at 12, didn’t get to bed until 12.30 and so couldn’t get myself out of bed for a swim. Not good. Well, I have slipped up so it’s time to get on the wagon again. Except that I have three dinner reviews this week. Roll on Feb 14th when I can get some routine into my life again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making an Eton Mess of Things

I had another lovely dinner last night. I didn’t do my evening laps of Safa park that I had planned, and instead went to the mall. Then we ate another three course meal, this time in Rivington Grill, which was nice. Not as spectacular as Cavalli Club (neither decor nor food-wise), but very pleasant.

Today I have another meal booked at 2pm. I weighed myself this morning and miraculously I am still 61.5kg despite last night’s warm bread and butter, blue cheese salad, pumpkin and blue cheese tart, hazelnut Eton mess and glass of white wine.

I started today with a walk on the beach before breakfast. I like to fire my metabolism up with a bit of pre-brekkie exercise. This morning’s was just a walk rather than my usual weekend beach run because I hurt my knee in the lunchtime jog yeterday. I hurt my other knee a few weeks ago in the same way. I have concluded that I run like an idiot.

Work Woes

Yesterday I talked about how I wanted to be able to allow the negativity I felt at work to just roll off me. I put my concerns to my yoga forum, as the advice on there is always brilliant, and often comes from very accomplished yogis. Here are a some inspirational extracts of their advice:

“Practice love and compassion for them. Forgive them and try to see it as ignorance and not evil. Try meeting negative remarks with positive remarks that show compassion for whatever or whoever is being treated with scorn. Mostly remember you can't change anyone else but you can change how you react to them. Meet negativity with love and your resentment will melt away.”

“As the snake slithers forward in her life she often leaves behind an old skin. There are times we are growing while others around us are not and we simply have outlived that relationship just as the snake no longer needs her shell. So you can, in some cases, pick other friends.”

“On the path of yoga we are constantly being distracted or drawn into the dynamics of the outer world. And, of course we must live in that world to one degree or another - work, travel, eating, family, etcetera. Therefore it is important to clean your aura frequently during the day and that would be something your teacher would share with you for use in your meditation. Creating this bubble of light or cocoon can prevent cording from things outside yourself and perhaps outside of your svadharma (personal life's mission).”

“Perhaps this is a push for you to re-evaluate your working situation. Perhaps you might start sending out energies to attract yourself to a better working environment. Sometimes this can be just a move to a different company, or a complete change to a different line of work. Along with the sending out of energies (which includes physically looking for job opportunities and keeping your mind and eyes open and receptive) to attract a more positive working atmosphere, accompany your search with affirmations, such as "divine light lights my way, and I am perfectly guided," or "Divine love creates a positive atmosphere around me no matter where I am or what I do." Create your positive space, and learn to detach and separate yourself from those negative energies around you. There is a reason you are in this situation, whether it is to help you learn to be and feel positive though negativity surrounds you, or whether it is to teach you to retreat when it is time to retreat for your own mental and spiritual health.”

“The negativity of the coworkers is a result of a poor corporate culture. Hanu, work to change your environment as well as your spirit. I hope you are in a position to do this.”

Put Down the Underwear

Oh dear. There was a change of plan and I ended up skipping the run and heading to Dubai Mall where I bought pants and yoga books (two of each).

Staying Serene in Stressful Situations

The Dalai Lama says to ‘be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.

I’m really trying to practice that at the moment. My good friend got together with somebody I had a grudge against recently, so I had to swallow my pride and try and be nice, after over a year of animosity. She made it easy. In fact, I enjoyed her company. I felt nice after that because, sadly, I haven’t done anything like that before. It made me want to get in touch with a whole bunch of people and say ‘let’s call it quits’. I will certainly try and wipe the slate clean with a few people where petty arguments have turned into something disproportionately horrid. Not that I have a whole load of enemies, but it would be nice to just wipe the slate clean. It takes up too much energy being mad.

While yoga and exercise have certainly helped me chill out in the last few months, I still get very stressed out about one thing in particular. Hmmm… thinking about it, there are a few things that make me mad. Time for another list? I think so:

1. People not listening to what I’m saying. If you want to see me go nuts, talk over me during an argument.
2. People disguising Islamaphobia or other racism with patriotism.
3. Voluntary ignorance. Whether it’s racism, sexism, or whatever, there is no excuse if you had access to a good education.
4. Pistachio nuts that don’t have a slit in the shell. Just annoying.

The thing that’s worrying me, and most regularly interferes with any calm I might be cultivating is negativity. I wish I knew how to stay happy and positive when you are surrounded by people who have nothing nice to say. I feel like negativity works through osmosis. My office is very depressing, and some people don’t have a nice word to say about anything. Little by little the negative energy seeps in, and by Thursday afternoon (now), I have to listen to yoga mantras (or sometimes the excellent British comedy Peep Show) on a loop to save my sanity and serenity.

I don’t think an outsider would notice per se, but my mood totally flattens when all I hear is stories about stressful scenarios or malicious gossip and remarks. I really wish I knew how to stay happy and kind through this, or even better, to turn the situation into a positive one.

Hello Weekend

I went for my lunchtime run yesterday, but it was the only exercise I did. I had planned to go to kickboxing, but I ended up on Skype to my mum and sister instead. With the four hour time difference, I have to squeeze in chats where I can. Usually they get home at the time I go to bed (I tend to crash at around 10pm on week nights).

I had an interesting chat yesterday as well. Firstly, in the morning my friend had offered me a press trip to the Philippines, which is obviously very exciting. Next up I went and interviewed Deepak Perwani, who is known as the ‘bad boy of Pakistani fashion’. He was great fun and gave really good quotes. At the end of the interview he asked if I fancied coming to Pakistan Fashion Week. And do you know what, I think I do fancy that quite a lot.

So far, I have a vague list of things I want to do in Asia coming together. How I will find the money is another matter entirely:

1. Go to Philippines for press trip
2. Go to Pakistan Fashion Week
3. Stay in Buddhist monastery in Nepal
4. Stay in Ashram in India
5. Stay with my friend who lives in Cambodia
6. Maybe go and visit friends in Bangalore

I told a few people my plan (some people pointed out that it wasn’t a plan, but more of a vague list). Nobody was too worried about how I would afford things, pay off my credit cards or buy food and shelter. If nobody else is worried, that makes me instantly calm about it. I think I might be a bit irresponsible. My bank manager would definitely agree if he could see this blog.

Let’s get back to today. This morning I went for a swim, but only had time for 30 lengths. I ate some peanut butter (organic and palm oil and sugar free) on toast and a nut bar and then went for a very, very leisurely 3.5km jog around Safa park, which took about 25 minutes. But, I wasn’t aiming for speed, I was aiming for a post-exercise high and just to fit a bit more movement into my day.

I have another dinner review tonight with my ex boyfriend (and one tomorrow lunchtime), so I am giving up on losing weight. Instead, I am just trying to maintain a 61-62kg weight. The weight loss will commence from Feb 14th when the dinner reviews are over. Saying that, I am going to try and fit two more laps of the park in tonight. Mainly because I am meeting my ex at 8pm, and I don’t want to spend the two hours after work in the mall. Actually, I would very much like to spend two hours in the mall, but I don’t think it’s a great idea because I seem to have an underwear and bag-buying mania at the moment. Or yoga books. I have a pretty extensive yoga library now for somebody who isn’t a fully-fledged yogi.

Thursday in Dubai is the last day of the week (our week runs Sunday – Thurs). I’m going to spend the weekend thinking hard about whether I can make this Asia thing work. To be quite honest, I think I have already decided that it’s going to, whatever happens. I guess if you don’t follow you’re dream, you’ll always wonder if it would have been all you hoped, right? Though there’s always the chance that you follow it and end up stranded in Pakistan with no money and no hope of getting home, and arriving back in the UK to find a pile of CCJs have mounted up for you. But, hey – we’re thinking positively.

To end on a bit of a positive, and wildly unrelated note I am going to post a link to a lovely mantra that always makes me want to go back to Nepal, where I spent a week last year. If you’ve ever been to Goa or Kathmandu or anywhere a bit bohemian and touristy, you will have heard this. I suppose it’s a mainstream mantra. Lovely nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who is Hanu?

I am calling myself Hanu on this blog for the time being. As soon as I quit my job, I’ll come out with my full real name, but Hanu will still remain too.

Hanu came about originally from a typo. Even though I spend ten hours a day at my keyboard, I (to my shame) still cannot type without looking at the keys. When I tried, in an email to a friend, I spelled Gaby (my name) as Hanu. It kind of stuck.

I think of Hanu as the calmer me that’s emerging – the spiritual alter ego to my sometimes stressed-out personality. I’ve always had a bit of a temper, and I lose patience easily. But since I’ve been practicing yoga and being more mindful of how I react to people, I have definitely improved that. When I am feeling zen, I am Hanu. Yes, it’s stupid, but I think that anything that helps you to improve your temper – both for your own health and just to make life a little bit nicer for everyone – then it’s got to be a good thing. Some people might call it schizophrenia, I call it anger management.

So anyway, it turns out Hanu is also short for Hanuman, a Hindu god, and I find stories about Hindi gods extremely exciting. It’s one of the things I Google obsessively at work and buy books about, so Hanu has nice spiritual connotations as well. Here is what Wikipedia says about Hanuman:

Hanuman is one of the most popular concepts of devotees of God in Hinduism and one of the most important personalities in the Indian epic Ramayana. He is considered by some to be the 11th incarnation of Lord Shiva, and is considered the most powerful and intelligent amongst divine beings. His most famous feat, as described in the Ramayana, was leading an army of monkeys to fight the demon King Ravana.

Wow! The resemblence is uncanny. I will tell you about the time I led an army of monkeys some other day.

Anyway, I started to think that if I had a yoga studio of my own one day, I would call it Hanu Yoga, but somebody in Spain has already taken that name. How very disappointing.

I hope that explains Hanu without making me seem too odd.

Inside the Mind of a Daydreamer

Two things I should tell you about me before I go any further; I am fickle and I am easily led. I would prefer to think of these as endearing childlike qualities rather than bad traits. I think of it more as being flexible and adaptable to situations and ideas. Perhaps I can even bend it enough to say that I am just very open-minded. Yes, that sounds better.

To give you an idea of what I mean, in the past few months I have strongly considered the following options very seriously indeed as my next possible career move:

1. Quitting my job and moving to a Buddhist monastery in Nepal for a month. I even put down the deposit on this. I won’t go into the reasons why it didn’t pan out, unless you really want me to…
2. Trying to find media jobs in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur etc.
3. Moving in with my friends in Sydney and trying to get a job while I’m over there.
4. Becoming a volunteer in Burma.
5. Trying to find a charity job in Asia. Anywhere in Asia.

Today, I have a new idea: Quit my job, go on a press trip with my friends to the Philippines and then try and blag and freelance my way around Asia until I can secure either a lucrative freelance career or get a job working within a charity organisation.

Really, I just want to travel and earn enough to pay off these credit cards.

I am of the feeling that if all I daydream about is quitting my job and going to Asia, then I really should go there. I wonder what I am waiting for sometimes

The Post-Binge Guilts

Dinner at Cavalli Club was lovely. I pushed myself a bit harder than normal in the run before I headed over to the restaurant (nice and sweaty for dinner – excellent), but I still felt like the champagne cocktail, large glass of wine, wedges of bread dipped in oil, mozzarella salad, ricotta-stuffed ravioli and dessert trio (heaven on a plate - see pic below), may have cancelled out my thirty minute run. But hey, I’m no nutritionist.

This morning I couldn’t even pull myself out of bed for a morning swim. I opted for a little lie-in instead (I hate that sleeping until 6.30am is a lie-in for me these days) and I also shunned my usual porridge breakfast for peanut butter on toast. Even after just two drinks, I still get the urge to eat lots of lovely carbs. Although really, I love any excuse to eat lots of lovely carbs. Drunk? Mmm – a veggie burger will sort that out. Hungover? A loaf of bread will see to that. Tired? A pizza and a lie-down on the sofa will help. You get the idea…

So, as I write this, I am eating a low-sugar nut bar in preparation for my lunchtime run. I like a lunchtime run for four reasons. Firsly, because it gets me out of the office and into the sunshine. Secondly, it doesn’t interfere with my social life the way that after-work exercise can. Thirdly, I feel great afterwards. The fourth and perhaps most important reason is that it makes me feel a bit smug and saintly. I never thought I would be the type of person to do exercise at lunch… I was the last person picked for teams in PE lessons at school – you know the type.

Anyway, as I have just started this blog, I am probably going to blog like crazy for a while, then hopefully settle in to just writing one entry a day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And so we begin

Good afternoon! Today I’m starting my blog. I guess I will start by mentioning what I’ve done today, and then over the next few days, I will add photos and stuff and hopefully the blog will just grow organically into something vaguely structured. That’s the plan!

Okay, so at the moment, I am working on some features that require me to do dinner reviews. Sounds awesome, right? It really is. I’m picking some of the nicest restaurants in Dubai to dine in over the course of three weeks. However, this means I am eating out every other night. And because I’m not paying for it, I am milking it for all it’s worth (this is why people hate journalists, perhaps?), so I’m having three course meals and wine. If you knew how feeble a journo’s wage is, you’d understand why I go so wild when the two magical words ‘free’ and ‘food’ come up. Anyway, to make up for the bread basket, the cocktails, the chocolate fondants and so on that tonight will bring, I started the day with a swim.

I’ve decided that getting up at 6am for a swim has three horrid moments. For some reason, acknowledging that helps me get through them. The first moment is actually hauling yourself out of bed at 6am knowing that you are about to swim 40 lengths when you would rather pull the covers over your head. This is the hardest moment. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not easy, but I just make myself do it. It’s only bad for a few seconds. Once I’ve got past that moment, then next horrid moment is stepping outside when it is still dark. It just feels so against nature. But, knowing the sun is just peaking over the horizon and that you’ll see the sunrise over the city helps ease that one. The third bad moment is stepping into the pool wondering if it will be freezing. Thankfully, they heat the outdoor pool I use, so it’s never been cold yet, but I always still worry…

After 40 lengths, I nipped back to my flat, made a hot water, lemon and honey in a Thermos for my poorly throat and got a lift into work with my flat mate.

I’m going on a bit, so I will just quickly do a run-down of what I ate…

Breakfast: porridge with rice milk and mixed fruit and nuts

Snack: Fruit yoghurt and peach

Lunch: HUGE homemade bean and herb salad

Snack: Nut bar, two oat biscuits with peanut butter, three jelly beans and two green teas with mint (err – might have been bored-snacking)

I dread to think what dinner will involve. It’s a swanky Italian restaurant (Cavalli Club), so I anticipate lots of pasta, lots of bread and lots of chocolate. Maybe a bit of wine. Does it make it better that I am going for a 3.5km run* around the park first? Oh god. These dinner reviews will be my downfall. If only I could say no to free Italian food.

*When I say ‘run’ you should know that I always mean an incredibly slow jog. The word ‘run’ just makes me feel sporty.