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Melanie Melons. *sigh*

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

So this is a bit of a weird one, and I guess the only reason I’ve started to think about it is that now I have a daughter I’m hyper aware of the smug/judgemental/scaremongering (delete as you see fit) media coverage that says that Eleanor is doomed to have the same physiology as me, which means, poor lass, that she’ll probably end up on the lardy side but at least she’ll have huge boobs.

The general assumption seems to be that having big boobs is a good thing, although given the media representation of larger ladies you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re actually just an adolescent joke.

Barbara Windsor in Carry On Camping - clearly being appreciated solely for her acting talent

One of my clients a few years ago in the online agency world was a cosmetic surgery company, and breast enlargement was definitely their biggest seller. We had to be *very* careful which search terms their ads came up against (it’s a XXX minefield out there) but once you’d filtered out the porn element, what remained were lots of women who seriously thought spending £4K on bigger boobs would solve their personal and emotional issues. Now I don’t have a problem with cosmetic surgery per-se – frankly if I thought I could throw money at my excess 4 stone and it would magically disappear, I’d probably do it, but sadly liposuction doesn’t work for this level of excess so I have to face it that it’s my lifestyle/level of exercise I need to change, if I want to permanently look different.

Poo.

I did once go and ask for a professional opinion on having a boob reduction, on the basis that if I didn’t have the boobs it’d be easier to do more exercise, which would make the rest of the weight easier to get rid of. It was then that I was made aware of just how horrific a procedure it is – involving cutting the nipples off totally and re-stitching them further up the remaining boobage.  Makes me shudder.

I decided not to go ahead partly due to the ikk factor, and partly because if I’m going to be overweight, I’d prefer to *also* have big boobs, rather than being overweight with no boobs at all, and this has been my general thought process about boobs since they arrived. I say arrived because that’s how it felt – through no fault/with no input from me at all, they just happened, and changed the way that people have perceived me ever since.

There was no guarantee boobs were going to happen – my mum’s a size 8, and in fact I spent a good year of my pre-pubescent life desperately wanting boobs, and borrowing one of my friend’s trainer bras, putting carefully-arranged socks in them & thinking nobody noticed how daft I must have looked.

And then puberty struck, and within weeks they started to grow… and grow. It got to the point where I thought it was normal to change bra size every couple of months. After a few months I thought “Great, that’s enough now, you can stop”, but they just kept growing.

Jessica Rabbit - another serious actress

By the age of 14 I was getting giggling sixth form boys coming up & brazenly telling me they’d had a vote and decided that I had the biggest tits in the school… and being groped regularly… and compared to Sam Fox…  and being told (seriously) that I should consider a career in topless modelling, even though I was a total nerdy swot, in the top set for everything, planning to go to university, considering either medicine or law (my how things changed later, but that was the flush of youth).

Being called Melanie didn’t help with the annoying alliterative nicknames either.

If this sounds a bit moany, then that’s because it really can be a pain. Don’t get me wrong, I am not undervaluing the benefits of gaining attention from the opposite sex, and me and my boobs have had some great fun over the years, but the problem is just that well, they’re just always there.

They get in the way, sports are a logistical/gravity defying nightmare; clothes either hang so wide that I look like I’m wearing a tent, don’t fasten and need safety pins/a vest underneath or sometimes just make me look like a whore. It’s hard to look efficient and businesslike when you have these bloody things in the way all the time, and nomatter how much you and other people studiously avoid the issue, there are *always* moments when you catch people having a quick look, which is unnerving, and undermining when you’re trying to have a serious conversation.

Dolly Parton. Millionnairess, successful singer songwriter. but it's all about the tits.

Even breastfeeding, which is what they’re bloody well *meant for*, was harder for me because I had to hold my boob *and* the baby, there was no way of doing it discreetly like these lucky mini-boob ladies who pop the baby against their chest and you don’t even see the boob. For me once they’d been released from their (ugly and unsupportive) non-wired feeding bra, you couldn’t avoid the associated acre of boob flesh nomatter where you tried to put your eyes.

So what’s the answer then?

They’re a mahoosive faff, but I don’t want to get them removed as it’s too icky.

Removable boobs, perhaps? or is that taking us back in a circle to comedy boobs again?

The token fat bird

June 19, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been ages since I last blogged, mainly because I started a new job, which has been harder and longer work than I’ve ever done. It’s also involved a better salary than I’ve ever had before so I’m not complaining, but it’s been a logistical juggling act juggling long hours & stress, trying to see Eleanor before she goes to bed and also keeping a modicum of social life going on.

One thing that I’m super pleased that I’ve managed to squeeze in in the last couple of months is training for a “fun” triathlon, which I completed today. Most of you, like me, may wonder how the words “fun” and “triathlon” get to co-exist in the same sentence (never mind day), but the concept comes from the fact that it’s much shorter than a usual triathlon, and is meant to be a (relatively) easy introduction to the concept.

I only signed up to this by accident (ie: when pissed). A couple of friends were planning to do it together, and then one of them landed a new job in Qatar (about which I’m sure we’ll all learn more when we do our first trip); and since she’d signed up to swim/bike/run in aid of Cancer Research, and I’m a sucker for cancer causes, I felt like I had to step in to make sure the charity didn’t lose out.

So, the concept was 200m swim (8 lengths of a 25m pool – not too bad I thought), a 12.5K bike ride (longer than I would normally do but dealable with) topped off with a 2.5K run. Each of them I figured was do-able (the biggest worry being the run), so it was just a case of doing some training and going for it, right?

Me & Lorraine before we got too sweaty & hecticNot really. 8 weeks of 6am runs 3 x per week, plus a bike ride at the weekend, and I thought I was getting close, but my experience today involved being overtaken during every leg (even in the 7 minutes I spent in the pool), being the only person with seemingly more than an ounce or two of body fat, and (results pending) being probably the last person in the entire fun run to finish.

The weird thing is, I actually enjoyed it, and when people say that exercise is addictive, they’re not wrong. I’m already determined to enter next year, beat my time and raise more money.

If all this makes you want to donate a few quid on my justgiving page http://www.justgiving.com/Melanie-Mack0 then feel free.

Thanks & toodle pip.

Breaking the chain part 1

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment
Mel aged 5, Eleanor aged 2.5

Me aged 5, and Eleanor aged 2.5

This post  will no doubt be the start of a series of thoughts about the issues of food, exercise and weight management, and how to ensure I do the best for my daughter, in the face of worryingly body conscious early “tweens” , and the undoubted risk of the diseases of affluence such as heart disease that being unfit can only exacerbate.

For a bit of context, I’ve struggled with my weight for my entire adult life. I wasn’t a fat child – probably average, but remember starting to be body aware at around age 10, and already felt somehow less worthy than the very sporty/lucky girls in the class who could wear stretched jeans without a thought (it was the 80s… *cringe*). I was a pretty active kid, doing dance classes twice a week, enthusiastically swimming at weekends, and was on the school hockey team, and in retrospect all this probably staved off for a few years the creeping weight gain that began properly in my university years. Not surprisingly this coincided with a much increased intake of both alcohol and cheap unhealthy food, and a near total absence of exercise.

I’m certainly not blind to the old formula of food in – exercise = weight gain, and have twice over the last ten years lost around 3 stone, from a combination of reduced intake, portion control and getting off my bum more. This has taken monumental self control over several months at a time, and I’ve been incredibly proud of myself during the process, and while the effects last…
The weight loss industry isn’t as profitable as it is by accident, however, and as seems the usual rule, I have always gradually put the weight back on. Sadly it seems that my natural state is not to remain easily slim. I will battle on, and I’m sure I’ll lose more again, but in the meantime my priority has to be to prevent Eleanor from repeating the same destructive pattern.

As with most things once kids are involved, there are many different opinions on how to feed children, whilst hopefully avoiding the dreaded O word (obesity, in case you weren’t up to speed with the new social evil).

A lot of people still seem to think that the “We bore no truck with fussiness, so my kids eat anything” route is the way forward, and that’s what my parents did with both me and my brother. I can understand the horror of waste instilled in them from their war years parents, but for me it certainly wasn’t a successful strategy.
My brother now eats anything, and always did, so it didn’t change him in the slightest. As for me, I am still repulsed by the majority of the things I hated as a child, and we all had to suffer endless hours of tears and tantrums, throwing food on the floor etc as I was forced to try/not allowed to leave the room until I’d eaten things that physically made me gag.
Those things are almost entirely foods that although I like the flavour of (bananas/ tomatoes, peaches) the texture just makes me gag and I can’t keep them down.
It may be churlish to bring up my own constant yo-yo dieting and daliances with bulimia, but I can’t see a way that creating negative associations with food is ever going to have a healthy result.

Now Eleanor’s a toddler, and sadly past the early weaning “eat anything mushy I give her” stage. Currently I give her a selection of relatively healthy items to choose from at mealtimes, and throw away what she doesn’t want. Yes there’s food wastage, but her intake is balanced over the day and she does try different things of her own volition at different times and if not forced.

I just hope I can begin to break the chain. I know this is only the start.

Two wheels good?

August 22, 2010 1 comment

I write this in my third week of using the new London hire bikes, and must say I’m hugely impressed.

Trying to get rid of the post baby fat hasn’t been easy due to mad timing schedules whilst commuting and working, so this seems like a great way to fit the exercise around a trip I have to do anyway.

For those who haven’t given them a go yet, this is the scoop:

  • At the moment it’s open to “Pioneer” (beta) members – anyone over 18 who has a UK registered credit card and an address to receive the key fobs can register, but it’s worth remembering that it’s still the trial period so a little patience is needed – it’s not perfect yet.
  • Members pay for three things:
  1. £3 deposit for the key fob (like you do for an oyster card)
  2. Access fee. This ranges from £1/day, to £5/week or £45/year. These can be set to automatically refresh, so what I did before I was convinced I’d use it that much was sign up for the £1/day membership on auto renew. The 24 hours starts when you first put your fob in the cycle dock. I’ve now used it so much that I’ve upgraded to annual membership already.
  3. Hire charge: This is free for the first 30 minutes, and you’ll find that this is more than adequate most inner London rides. £1 for 30 mins-an hour, then £4 for up to an hour and a half. They’re clearly setting the charges like this purposely to encourage short hops rather than longer journeys/stops on the way, and I haven’t had to pay a hire charge yet.
  • Once you’ve paid the deposit & access fee, you can use the bike as many times as you like within that period, so if you do three journeys in a day, each 30 mins or less, they’re still all free of hire fees, so all you pay is your access fee of £1 (or equivalent of less if you’ve signed up for a week/year).
  • In a few weeks/once issues have been ironed out it’ll be open to casual members; who will be able to swipe their credit card at the docking station.
  • There are loads of docking stations around central London, although there seems to be a huge gap around Covent Garden. It seems that the locals have dreamt up ridiculous nimby-ish excuses for not wanting the docks nearby, but I’m hoping this will change.
  • There are no locks or helmets provided, so you need to take a helmet with you if you want to wear one, and make sure you dock the bike in a docking station rather than leave it somewhere while you have a coffee.
  • If you’re not a confident London rider then take your time planning your route and stay on back roads. There are tons of them and it’s actually really pleasant to discover lots of lovely leafy Georgian squares and residential streets, 2 mins from a heaving multitude.
  • Free maps of docking stations can be found here.
  • There’s also a free iPhone app, which shows you where the docking stations are, but also how many are full/free in realtime.
  • If you arrive at a docking station and there are no bikes left, or no docking stations free to park your bike, you can find out the closest other docking stations on the info screen on the dock. If you arrive and can’t dock your bike your access period is also extended by 15 mins so that you’re not paying extra because you couldn’t find a dock in time.
  • Until the usage trends and logistics are learned and understood, there will inevitably be docks near train stations emptying with commuters, and those near offices filling up to bursting, meaning bikes won’t always be where they’re wanted at any one time. There are little lorries with trailers going around the docks specifically to redistribute them as necessary, but it’s going to take some time until they have it totally smooth.

I’m chuffed to bits – have done loads more exercise, turned up quicker (if a bit sweaty) to most appointments and enjoyed the process rather than cursing on the tube.

Give it a try!

Letter to myself at 16

July 22, 2010 6 comments
Mel aged 16, astride a pantomime horse

Me aged 16, astride a pantomime horse on school non-uniform day

Having come across a few mentions of what you’d say to your younger self – from Ellyn Spraggins (only the Americans have names like this and don’t have to laugh when they say them) to a blog post by a friend of mine who’s now a Conservative politician (of all things!) James Cleverly, and it got me thinking about what I’d say to myself at 16 if I had the glorious chance of benefiting from hindsight.

It is a bit narcissistic and self indulgent of course, but quite therapeutic.

What would you write?

Dear Mel

Firstly, stop obsessing with that boy at school. Yes one day you’ll snog him, but it won’t lead to everlasting joy and you’ll waste far too much of your time thinking about him that just isn’t worth it (and miss spending time with a couple of really nice potential boyfriends as a result).

Secondly, you are NOT fat. You are curvy, yes, and your boobs are far too big which makes you feel self conscious (and believe it or not, other people jealous) but if you carry on sticking your fingers down your throat, yo-yo dieting and being needlessly worried about what you look like doing exercise, you’ll create such an unhealthy attitude to food and activity that it’ll become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Go back to dancing lessons, treat food as fuel and try not to think about it so much.

Despite this you are about to enter the time of your life when you are at your most popular with the opposite sex. Enjoy it, but don’t shag them all: crap sex really isn’t worth it.

I almost don’t want to tell you in advance, but I think it may help to be prepared for the fact that in two years mum will leave dad for someone she meets at Open University. It’ll be devastating at the time, and you’ll feel like the carpet’s been pulled out from under your feet, but I promise that it will get better over time. Once you have experienced a long term relationship yourself you’ll understand how rarely decisions are as black and white as they may seem at first. You will also eventually realise that 20 years of marriage is still a success, and be glad that your formative years were all spent within a lovely bubble of security.

While you’re at University (which you will *love*) you need to make a decision about where you want your future to go – is it music, or is it marketing. Whichever one you choose, you need to put everything into it, instead of “making do” at both, in case singing doesn’t work out and you have to have a profession to fall back on.

I now know that the people who do best financially at anything are the ones who love it, and would do it anyway for free. If you really want to sing for a living, then go for it – go to piano or guitar lessons so you can accompany yourself, learn how to read and write music, and give it a proper shot. Glorified karaoke is *not* particularly creatively satisfying, and you may wish you’d given it your all so at least you would have known what would have happened – even if you didn’t succeed.

For Pete’s sake, PLEASE do some revision before your finals.

You will never move back to Leeds, but you’ll be glad you’re a Yorkshire girl. You will end up living in London, finally married to a man who you knew immediately was the right one, and eventually with a daughter who you fall head over heels with. In the meantime don’t get down on yourself about not finding the right bloke – he is there, and you will one day gladly forget what it was like to be out there looking.

You will also still be very close to many of the friends that you have right now – with a few notable lovely additions. Treasure them, they will see you through a lot.

You will reach a place where you’re happy to not be rich and famous; your family and friends will give you a massive amount of joy and love, and the only things you’ll regret are the things you didn’t do.

So do them.

Tuesday is the new Friday

July 6, 2010 2 comments

I write whilst waiting for my bottle of dww (dry white wine for the uninitiated) and large bottle of sparkling water to arrive at the table, and pondering on the events that led to Tuesdays being my favourite night of the week.

5 years ago I was in my 12th year of living and working in London, and had realised that working in the online media industry, with it’s attendant parties and indulgences was not doing my health any good. Add to this the long drawn out and painful death of our best man, Clive, from bowel cancer (a family tendency, it now seems, but exacerbated by a diet consisting almost exclusively of steak and lager) and it was obvious that I too was on a one way route to health destruction.

Given that I have the self control of a very persuadable gnat, I knew that I’d never stop drinking or eating as much without some kind of excuse, so through a series of tenuous and not very financially astute reasons, I came to the answer- a Vespa ET4, 125cc.

With visions of slim Italian girls in Capri pants, touches of Motown cool and the promise of free parking and no congestion charge, the deal was done.
Interest free credit – check
35 mins to work (compared to an hour on the train) – check
£70/month payments (less than travelcard) – check

Apart from all the above reasons, I also had a cunning plan- if I was driving the scooter, I couldn’t drink! Therefore, I would stop going out, “for one drink” and rolling in singing show tunes at midnight after a £50 cab ride home. Saving money, my health and probably my marriage at the same time.

Bonus.

It worked for a while (subject to a few “sod the scooter I’ll pick it up tomorrow”s ), only became a real handicap when I got pregnant (now there’s an excuse if you’re looking for one) and suddenly realised that the bravado of “they’re all arseholes” could easily mean that my unborn child died and a whole world of fear was unleashed.

Fear of death for someone else’s sake is a great leveller for health and safety.

Fast forward two years and being a mum of a toddler continues to be the best way to stop yourself drinking too much. Quite apart from the fact that facing a loud and energetic 2 year old with a hangover is a huge disincentive, there’s also the logistics of going out in town, when there’s a nursery pick up to do and/or babysitting to organise.

Happily a compromise is possible because both Jules and I are working 4 days a week, and on his day with Eleanor (Tuesdays) I take full advantage of not having to do nursery pick up by quaffing far too much wine with the lovely Anya, and occasional others. Once a week is perfect – I feel like I’m still having an active social life, can stumble around my old Soho/Covent Garden haunts but still have the rest of the week to (apparently) be healthy.

You can guarantee that Wednesday mornings are always my worst time of the week though. Serves me right.