Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 1 – BRING IT ON

Monday 15, day 1 of 7

Three words to describe today: Encouraging, okay, headache!

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✧✧ (hungry)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✦✧ (not as bad as I was expecting)

Notable comments? I can’t live with this headache. I guess the solution is more water?!

No, not *that* kind of Bring It On…awesome movie though 😛

Actually quite enjoyed the morning workout today! (Yeah, I know, sorry. I sort of want to punch me too.)

It did feel slightly like the end of the world when my alarm went off and I knew I had to get up and get going, but it wasn’t as if I had woken up earlier than usual – I usually just snooze for longer…

I think the novelty factor played a big role in getting me up and working out – I’m sure the “wow, I’m actually up!?” feeling will wear off soon. I did enjoy the workout format though – good old Jillian Michaels arse-kicking, but quite a few funny/motivational bits of dialogue, and also not-too-difficult moves (yet?!).

Food-wise, not so great. It’s only just 1pm, and I’m starving, with a big headache, and slightly lightheaded. I thought the 2-egg omelette with ¼ avocado and tomato this morning would fill me up, but nope. It was very nice as a breakfast, but wow, I am hungry.

I think the difference is that I usually graze throughout the day, and take a long time over my meals. This is partly because I read that this helps keep blood sugar constant, but also to try and stop myself from eating rubbish out of boredom.

I would normally drink either a superfood green smoothie for breakfast over a couple of hours, or have a bowl of gluten-free muesli, and then some fruit to munch on throughout the morning. But with this plan, you have one meal, and then you’re done for a few loooong hours. Eek.

Not being able to turn to fruit as a defence against snacking on whatever chocolate/cake/doughnuts are is in the office (my usual strategy) is going to be really tough, I can tell. I usually eat lunch at about 1.30-2pm, but I am tempted to have it now (1pm)…despite the fact that the prospect of tuna salad with lettuce and broccoli isn’t exactly making me jump for joy. I’m also worried that I won’t last till dinner…

The only positive to this right now is that not being able to eat is making me drink more water (another part of the plan) just for something to do!

Think I might faint after tonight’s workout at this rate..!

Update: 11pm – Well I’m happy to say that the 4pm yoghurt helped enormously (thrilling news, I know). I also drank about 3 litres of water by the end of the day, and snuck in another black coffee, and felt much better. The dinner was my version of baked tilapia salad, with lemon, olive oil rosemary and capers. I substituted salmon for the tilapia (much easier to get in the UK), and did some steamed swiss chard rather than salad greens, because psychologically I know that if I eat lettuce and cucumber at every meal, I’ll go a bit mad. It tasted  pretty great after a long, slightly-tiring day.

Workout wise, the cardio was pretty tough, but *just* on the side of fun and motivating (my calves aren’t happy with all the jumping, though), and although it worked different muscles to what I’m used to, it didn’t leave me *as* dead/falling over as some of Jillian’s harder stuff. Which is just as well, probably, because I’m eating quite a lot less than usual, and didn’t really fancy fainting on my first diet day….

And now the alarm is set for tomorrow’s morning workout! BRING IT ON.


I’m starting a Jillian Michaels diet tomorrow and here’s 10 reasons why I’m really bloody scared

Tomorrow I start another diet. And I’m REALLY BLOODY SCARED. Here’s why:

1. This is hardcore…

This isn’t just cutting out chocolate. This is the Jillian Michaels, kick-start your metabolism, all-out nightmare, diet.

Who’s Jillian Michaels, I hear you ask? Well…my near-daily workouts for the past 8 months have been Jillian Michaels DVDs – tough body-weight workouts and high-intensity interval training from the personal trainer who features on the American TV show The Biggest Loser, which sees very large people lose ridiculous amounts of weight in a few months.

The programme is controversial for its tough approach, and Jillian is often called “TV’s toughest trainer”, simply because she has a no-nonsense, kick-butt attitude. Some people hate her, and say that she yells, is mean, and expects too much.

But I love her. I find her incredibly motivating, and not mean at all – well, as not mean as someone can be when they’re telling you to do five more press ups when you’re already dying and sweating on to the floor.

puke-faint-dieHer slogan is “Unless you faint, puke or die, keep going.” Sometimes, when I’m nearly on the floor during one of her workouts, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought “Well, I haven’t puked yet, so I must have to keep going.” Nice, right?! But it works.

I mean it – I LOVE HER. I stick on one of her DVDs so often, I see her more than I practically see most of my close friends (ha). She’s also on Twitter and Facebook, so it’s a bit weird how often her motivational repartee pops up in my life.

I’ve lost weight, put on muscle, lost inches, gained energy and strength, all through following her programmes.

But it’s still not enough. I can feel new “abs” in my stomach, and see the beginnings of biceps, but that’s not much use when there’s still a lovely layer of flab over the top of them, that I cannot shift.

Jillian says you can eat your way “through” any workout – i.e. Eat more than it burns off. And despite following her exercise plans religiously, I’ve always been a bit slack about going all-in with her diet plans.

But I’ve finally accepted defeat. Jillian’s good enough for my workouts, so she’s good enough for my diet. I think. Just what my sloth-like metabolism needs. Eeeeek.

2. It’s pretty brutal.

The initial week-long plan (followed by an easier, 90-day programme) features no carbs, no sugar, no fruit, and only one serving of low-fat dairy a day.

The overall calorie intake is about 1,200 – which I’m not sure I agree with anyway, as I know that there’s a whole school of thought that says you should work out your BMR (basal metabolic rate – the number of calories your body would burn if you stayed in bed all day) plus your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure, the amount of calories you actually need to function if you DO get out of bed), which is inevitably more than 1,200. But this is the plan, so I’ll see how it goes. If I feel like I’m about to fall over, I’ll eat something like an apple. Big bloody deal. BUT STILL. Scary stuff.

3. The workouts

Oh, did I mention that there are TWO half-hour workouts a day for this initial week-long stint?! A strength one in the morning, and a cardio one in the evening?!

As a total non-morning person, the idea of getting out of bed to do a workout (and then another one in the evening), is HORRENDOUS. In the past two years, I’ve managed three, yes, three, before-work workouts. And hundreds of after-work ones. I’m just not a morning person. But Jillian doesn’t care. So morning workouts it is.

Between you and me, I’m scared that they’ll be more painful than the not-eating thing.

4. I’ve already done a lot of diets, with mixed results

As well as generally watching what I eat, I have done a lot of diets in my time. There was the Atkins (lost a lot, put it all back on the moment I ate a slice of bread), the 5:2 (terrible headaches); Slimming World (the best one so far, but too slow, too expensive, and too time-consuming to go to the weekly group). The only reason I haven’t done the cabbage soup diet, or the maple syrup and lemon juice one is because I don’t really like cabbage, or maple syrup. So there we go. But I trust Jillian Michaels, so maybe this one will actually work.

5. I don’t exactly eat loads already.

I find my weight incredibly frustrating, because I try to do everything right, and it never quite works.

Take calories. I know, from daily food diary keeping over several months, that I generally eat between 1,200-1,500 calories a day. Admittedly, some days, this veers towards about 1,800 – if I go out for dinner say, or I have a drink after work, and at the weekends it can be a bit more.

But then, my workout burns around 250-300 calories, depending on how much effort I put in. Six or seven days a week, plus weight training twice a week.

I HATE to count calories as much as the next person. I only really do it to keep an eye on things, rather than because I think it’s particularly useful, or because I want to obsess over numbers.

But also, counting calories can be like a kind of vindication. All those people who say that those of us who are slightly overweight should just eat less and move more, and not eat chips?

This idea that EVERYONE who isn’t thin can just change their habits and just not be lazy, and magically they’d no longer be big? Well, balls to that (Katie Hopkins, I’m looking at you) I’m proof it isn’t true. It’s not like I’m living off chips and biscuits, let’s put it that way.

So reducing my food intake further is just plain terrifying. Argh.

6. Food helps my day go better

Don’t get me wrong, given the chance, I don’t exactly eat like a bird. I love food.

For me, it’s sociable, and emotional. Have a shit day? Look forward to the evening, when you can savour a nice biscuit. Feel bored and tired at work at 4pm? Have a square of dark chocolate and enjoy those five minutes with a coffee.

Going out for a friend’s birthday or hen do? Order a pizza or a LOT of mezze, plus some cake and also vodka and probably gin. Of course (and screw the calorie count for that day).

And also, I try to eat well too, so I feel healthier.

At least six days a week, I make sure I get lean protein in each meal, not too many “bad” fats (small amounts of coconut oil or avocado, rather than loads of chocolate and cheese), not too many carbs, and wholegrain if possible.

I also drink green smoothies five days a week, which include swiss chard, spinach (cooked, to deactivate the goitrogens that can inhibit thyroid function…), kelp powder, chia seeds, spirulina, and matcha powder for good measure. I enjoy good food, whether that’s good = tasty, or good = nutritious.

I also go to food for emotional support, sometimes.

The idea of not being able to turn to that square of dark chocolate when at work makes me feel a bit worried, I have to admit. At least this diet lets me have an afternoon snack, even if it is a low-fat yoghurt (sigh). I guess it’s only for a week. You can do anything for a week, right?

7. I have an underactive thyroid, which makes dieting in general frustrating beyond measure.

This year I’ve been officially diagnosed with mild PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and an underactive thyroid, confirming what I’ve long suspected: my metabolism isn’t so much slow, as crawling along the floor. It makes a sloth look perky.

I now take medication, but it does explain why it took me a year (and many tears) to lose a stone on the Slimming World diet plan when everyone else around me was losing weight like it was the easiest thing ever.

It also explains why I never seem to lose weight despite eating less than a LOT of slim people I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not that big, but I’m also pretty teeny (5ft tall) so am actually a bit too big for my frame.

And I’m worried that this diet will just go the way of the others, i.e. not do that much. And then what? *CRIES*.

8. Dieting, and writing about it, feels so self-indulgent and boring

Another caveat to dieting: BOO FUCKING HOO, right? Compared to pretty much everything you can think of – you know, cancer, degenerative diseases, poverty, war, the situation in the Middle East, racial hatred, domestic violence ‒ being a bit overweight is nothing. NOTHING. I realise that.

I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t care – (it’s self-obsessed, it’s boring, narcissistic, not living life to the full, over-anxious, non-feminist, an insult to larger people, over-controlling, non-realistic, a luxury most people can’t afford, etc etc etc.) Faced with all that, ACTUALLY CARING can seem like a self-indulgent exercise. Life’s too short, you think. But then, being over your ideal weight and worrying about it can make your life shorter too. Sigh.

And health wise and self-esteem wise, years and years of trying to lose weight and feeling like you’re NEVER getting anywhere, can start to get a bit wearing after a while.

Especially when a lot of people you see seem to be able to eat what they like, and stay thin, in a culture that is obsessed with equating beauty and success to thinness. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is. And it can get to you after a while, despite ALL THE REASONS why it shouldn’t. So I at least want to try.

9. Dieting can get judgemental quickly

Let me just take a second to say that I’m not critical of ANYONE who is any size (from a zero upwards) that makes them happy. Fair play to them.

But dieting can get scarily competitive and fraught with opinions and arguments. Everyone eats, so everyone’s got an opinion – “Oh, well, just cut out bread and you’ll be fine/just don’t eat fat/sugar/move more/do a fast/liquid cleanse/eat in moderation/stop obsessing/just eat when you’re hungry/life’s for living” etc etc ad infinitum.

Basically, I reckon it’s whatever works for you. And I know that I would look and feel better at my goal weight, which is about 15% less than my current weight now. And what I’m currently doing isn’t quite working, despite not being awful. That simple, really.


I’m worried I’ll be hungry, irritable, tired, achy, headachy (when I did the 5:2, I didn’t get hungry, I just got pounding headaches that wouldn’t leave).

I’m worried about not being able to turn to that little square of dark chocolate that I keep for 4pm in the office.

And what about having to actually be organised and COOK dinner and tomorrow’s lunch every evening after work? Not to mention expensive to keep myself in salmon fillets and fresh veg.

What if a murderous cake-binge mist descends during Wednesday night’s Great British Bake Off TV show, ending in a no holds-barred sprint to the nearest supermarket pastry shelf?!

But well, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that writing about something can help you evaluate it, and keep you going.

Also, sharing your progress online – and getting support back, as I did when I first started Jillian Michaels’ 30-day Shred programme ‒ can work wonders for motivation.

SO, I’m going to try and keep a log of what it’s like. I assume that log will mostly be me going “unnghhgh” and “caaaaaaaake”.

But if it stops me inhaling a packet of Jaffa Cakes in one sitting, then it might be worth it.

If it kickstarts my metabolism and shifts any weight that isn’t water, FINALLY, then it will be worth it.

Wish me luck…

A letter to heartbreak – Maya Angelou, the light and the dark


I miss all my boyfriends. You’re not supposed to say that. But it’s true.

Despite all my best efforts to have as few as possible, I’ve had three serious ones in my life – ones who I could have seen myself marrying, if the time had been right.

For someone with such a terrible memory, I remember quite a bloody lot about all of them – almost as much as the one from seven years ago as the one from this year. And I miss a lot, too.

How warm I felt when driving around that one’s uncle’s New Zealand dairy farm, and the soaring elation of standing on top of one of the huge hills, with a view in all directions. How the other one’s neck smelled when you leaned in to kiss it. The bone-crushing panic of realising you weren’t going to see that one again for six months (New Zealand again). The overwhelming joy when that one told you they loved you, too.

How his just-opened eyes collected with sleep after a long, warm night next to you. How the skin on his knuckles felt when you brushed your thumb across them, or how that one used to like to hold hands with one little finger tucked inside your palm.

How you admired their ambition, how their hips looked when they walked, how the texture of his cardigan felt on your back, how the weave of that one’s jumper lay across his chest just so.

The weird phrases they used to say, the slang they used that no-one else did. The way he moved his hand when trying to make a point; the incredible, moving-mountains-type smile he used to crack at you when you made a joke.

The nicknames they gave you, the way they encouraged you in your plans, the way they used to breathe, how they used to listen. The things they liked you to do when no-one else was there, the slightly embarrassed look they gave you when you touched their face in public.

The feel of their hips against yours when they gave you a hug; the shy look they gave you as you walked down the train platform to meet them, the way they could really get into a debate without getting angry. The passion you shared for that song; the pain you felt for them when they were tired, or frustrated, or sad. How they took their coffee, the amazing things they could cook with eggs.

The ridiculous beauty of their stupid guitar playing, and the way their hair felt in your hand, and fell over their face. The way they drove the car, their reliability in texting you back, how they humoured your indecision over what to order in restaurants, how their eyes used to roll when you faffed around getting ready.

How full of hope and joy and yes, sometimes fear (because you knew it could all end without warning), you felt when looking at them. How lucky you felt.

The poisonous, metallic feeling at the bottom of your chest when you realise they’re gone and not coming back. Different every time. Startlingly familiar nonetheless.

And while the pain lessens, it never goes away. You never quite forget. The injuries simply multiply, softly, and without warning. Even telling yourself not to get too attached doesn’t quite work. They seep into your psyche like water into cracks in the road.

It’s like that incredible Maya Angelou phrase: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Even if I’ve forgotten more than I realise – the feelings, I will never forget.

You’re not supposed to say that. You’re supposed to move on each time; nuke the memories of the last one with excitement from the next. You’re supposed to get stronger – although why getting your heart smashed in over and over would make you stronger, I’m not entirely sure.

And yet. You can’t just carry on getting hurt over and over. You can’t just keep on letting the injuries of years past build and build until there are only holes where the fabric of your heart used to be.

Instead, it might help to try and collect the tatters and the patches, seeing them with compassion, for what they are, what they represent. All those different people. Those experiences. That love, that trust, that hope. The silence – literal and not ‒ after they leave.

The key is to not become cynical, and close your heart to everything, forever and ever. (I might do that temporarily, though. This isn’t a sodding self-harm manual.)

Because, well, I hate cynics. They suck the joy out of what is already difficult enough. The temptation is to be cynical. But the truly strong thing is to carry on sitting, walking, standing up, breathing, moving, laughing – and the hardest thing, trusting ‒ when all you want to do is give up; end it all.

The hardest thing about heartbreak or grief isn’t to get up after it just happened. It’s to keep on getting up, the day after that, and the week after that, and the month after that. And the bloody year.

A wise friend of mine recently said, heartache and grief feel like you’re carrying a heavy jar where your chest used to be. That jar was full of all the things you loved about that person (those people?) – but heartache makes it empty. No matter what you do, where you are, who you see, that jar feels empty. A hidden vessel, just beneath your ribs.

But slowly, surely, the jar starts to be refilled. I like to think of it like sand – coloured, beautiful, light-reflecting sand. With time, patience, compassion, and maybe a bit more time, random experiences tip a little more bright, silky sand into that previously-empty space.

Before you realise it, the jar isn’t quite so empty, and the sand and shells and glitter that used to make you you, start to come back. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.

And I know for sure that you need light to make things shine.

Yes, the memories of past boyfriends are always there, dark shadows threatening to cloud your worst days and most difficult moments. Without warning, a memory will come back, threatening to cut off your breathing, a thousand times a day. On terrible days, the thoughts will cycle, over and over. But you keep breathing. You have to.

Because maybe, if the heart is a sheet slowly ripped through with holes, it makes sense to remember that without the holes, no light gets in.

Happiness through colour

This week’s been really quite dreary – the kind where you sort of start hoping it’s going to miraculously become Saturday mid-morning by about…erm, Tuesday lunchtime.

Not sure why, I think it’s because I had such a fab weekend (wedding dress fitting for one of my best friends, a walk and ice-cream by a West Country beach, barbecue with the boyfriend), that the commute and eight-to-ten-hours-a-day-in-front-of-a-screen was always going to seem dull in comparison.

I’ve also been feeling slightly overwhelmed by everything I want to achieve, career-wise, health-wise…just, life-wise, and wondering why I always seem to have to overthink everything instead of just letting it “flow”…the constant self-bashing internal monologue on everything I haven’t done yet doesn’t exactly help.

To try and combat this feeling, I’m going all out on colour today. My dress is a mishmash of pink and greens, but it’s the desk furniture, nails and lipstick that’s really giving me a kick.

The lipstick isn’t that new, but I decided it needed some nails to match. The daffodils are just because it’s spring, the clocks went forward last weekend, the days are longer, and because why the heck not.

Not the most original idea in the book, but it seems to be helping slightly so far… 🙂

On getting my arse in gear: In defence of motivational sayings

I love motivational slogans. I love their pithiness, their optimism, their bite-size portability and their inevitably cheesy array of colourful, artistic backgrounds. I have a couple pinned up around my desk at work and in recent weeks I’ve been Googling them on a daily basis, saving my favourite ones with an enthusiasm somewhere between obsession and glee.

But honestly? My first instinct is that I’m a teeny bit embarrassed to admit it.

As much as personally, they spur me on and keep me going, it often appears that chilled nonchalance that the most well-adjusted, cool kids seem to affect without thinking, doesn’t chime too well with a cheesy slogan or five.

From where I’m standing, it often seems like you’re supposed to get the results you want – whether that’s (say) writing for a national publication, eating healthily or doing more exercise ‒ without breaking too much of a sweat, sacrificing any element of your social life, feeling sorry for yourself, or really kicking your own arse.

If you’re a real success, it often feels, you’ll do something because you love it, because it comes naturally, because you were born to do it.

Especially in my industry, journalism, where people chase a story with grit, or write a winning features piece, or craft a hilarious comment based on their own life, where everything has a neat story arc, a personal story, and all the ends finally dovetail in quite nicely, without too much hassle.

Granted, it’s better to be nonchalant than a desperate, arrogant arse.

But neither are you supposed to admit that actually, you live your life according to someone else’s one-sentence maxims.

The kind of thing a lot of people say if you talk about “following my dreams” and “positive thinking”.
The other thing they say is “BOLLOCKS”.

It seems far too naïve, too childish, too simple. As you get older, society seems to say, you’re supposed to get more cynical. More unshockable. More disappointed. More negative. More “realistic”, more hard-hitting, more focused. “Positive thinking” slogans?  That’s all a bit too cheesy and contrived, thanks.

And although in some ways, I agree  – for example, I love comedians who create hilarity out every day, mundane situations, and I’m a great advocate of the “gotta laugh or you’ll cry” maxim when things get tough.

But personally, adopting a totally cynical viewpoint – where cold, cruel “reality”, rather than bumper stickers, lead my mental state ‒ doesn’t lead to realism for me.

It leads to near-crippling depression, where the world stops being manageable and appealing, and becomes an overwhelming wall of negativity, pain, tragic events, bitchy comments, jealousy and insurmountable obstacles.

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My painting: Colourful coffee trio

[Cups, cafetieres and spoons (c) Hannah Thompson, acrylic with metallic silver pen]

It’s no secret: I love coffee (and I love painting).

Coffee-wise, I’m not *too* addicted – my average is 2 cups a day, sometimes a bit more on a particularly tired day. But for me, coffee isn’t just the caffeine.

Although it’s often a quick Pret A Manger Americano, when the weekend rolls around, and you have time to do coffee properly, it’s a proper joy.


Grinding the beans; enjoying the glorious wafts of flavour; spooning it luxuriously into the cafetiere (whatever kind you have), and then either letting it heat on a hob, or pouring hot water over the grains, to let the concoction seep softly before it’s time to pour out the intense, smoky-smelling liquid into your hopefully-colourful, reassuringly large mug.

Even using the Nespresso machine at my parents’ house, once looked at with such suspicion, now proves that you’re treating coffee with the respect that it deserves – and for all the machine’s “sealed capsules”, the Nespresso system still emits a wondrous odour upon production.

Coffee cups like these would quite SERIOUSLY IMPROVE my life

I also love coffee cups themselves. Even before I started drinking coffee regularly, I would lust after dinky espresso cups and matching mug sets and painted cups in complementary colours and artfully clashing saucers. To drink from a colourful, enamelled, quality mug – whether it’s cheap and cheerful, part of a set, or a one-off classic with a slogan or a pattern that makes you smile – elevates coffee drinking from mere caffeine-inhaling exercise to gastronomic pleasure. On holiday in Istanbul a few years ago, I had to be physically restrained from filling my suitcase home with all manner of tea-and-coffee-drinking mugs in a variety of patterns and colours. If I could, I’d buy them all.

These paintings were firstly inspired by colourful crockery, which then mushroomed into a matching trio of coffee paraphernalia.

They’re a homage to the drink…and also gave me a really good chance to practice with my all-new, fairy bright Aladdin’s cave box of shiny acrylic paints (best Christmas present EVER).

Acrylic "Basics" paints, from Cass Art (link to buy)

Acrylic “Basics” paints, from Cass Art (link to buy)

For me, painting is therapeutic, satisfying, pleasingly-frustrating and best of all, it lets me faff around with colour to my heart’s delight. Things rarely look exactly how I’d imagined on the page, but that’s part of the fun.

Coffee, anyone? 🙂