A few weeks ago, between Iceland and Beirut and back-to-back trips to Italy and Greece, I was feeling a little lazy in the wardrobe department. I’d been trying hard to eschew denim in favour of dresses, harem pants and skirts. On this particular day, however, with a to-do list brimming with household chores and a suitcase to pack, I thought I’d reach for my favourite pair of jeans.
I pulled. I tugged. I sucked in my stomach and laid down on my bed. Try as I might this pair of old faithfuls wasn’t going get over my hips let alone button at my waist. I couldn’t even give myself to a muffin top. To add torment to torture, on my last go at getting them on, my thighs waged war on the inseam and won. The result? The material ripped apart, forming a gash from crotch to cheek.
I knew that I’d put on weight. It had been inevitable. I broke my ankle in November, which landed me in hospital for four days and rendered me flat-bound for a further six weeks while the titanium helped the bones fuse and the scars began to heal. After two months in a cast and three-and-a-half on crutches, I could finally get up on two feet, but I was hobbling at best. Nearly eight months later, walking remains painful, but thanks to the awesome NHS and a very thorough physiotherapist, everything continues to improve, albeit slowly.
This, however, is just the physical side of things. I broke my ankle playing basketball. One second I was on a fast break going for a lay-up, and the next I was on the ground huffing and puffing and trying to hold back the tears. I’d only just started playing again the summer before, happy to have finally found a pick-up match of a decent standard that required no more commitment than a few hours on a Sunday evening. I was also training for the Brighton Half Marathon. I’m by no means a natural runner, but after seeing the MrMr complete the London Marathon twice and the 2012 London Olympics, I was inspired.
It was frustrating to give up my place. It was devastating to stop playing basketball. It was depressing to spend every day at home. I likened myself to Grand National horses at the start of the race. Snorting and angry and ready, oh-so-ready, to go. Only for me, the rope never dropped. I know it sounds like I’m whining and/or making excuses, and I have no idea what it must be like for people who lose their mobility permanently or are in chronic pain. I am, however, trying to be as honest as possible.
So, once I was mobile again – relatively speaking – I started feeding body in different ways. I’d given up travel writing for a couple of years to concentrate on my novel and building a life for us in London, but in flooded a number of offers that I couldn’t refuse. St Lucia was first, then Morocco, and now I find myself off for a few days here, there and everywhere. Jogging was off the cards, but flying wasn’t. And since I write a lot about food, new restaurants to try, cocktails to slurp and odd eatings times became the norm.
And then, armed with my brand new hefty ass, I destroyed my favourite jeans (J Brand, flared, in case you were wondering). The following day I was scheduled to fly out to Italy for our yearly holiday in Umbria. Reading, eating, drinking, sleeping, lying in the sun. That’s about all I had planned for seven days. It was hard not to think of the extra pounds, as my tummy bulged over the top of my bikini bottoms, but it didn’t stop me enjoying chocolate, coffee and pistachio gelatos on the square in Montone or the truffle-addled tagliatelle I polished off in Assisi (and everywhere else we visited), and nothing was going to talk me out of a daily Aperol Spritz.
I may have spent the week in denial, but it all came crashing down the minute I arrived on the Greek Island of Kos (or is it Cos?). I was there to review the Lakitira Beach Resort with Mark Warner. This is a place you come for guaranteed sun and organised activities. Yoga! Pilates! Sailing! SUP Boarding! Mountain Biking! Aerobics! Tennis! Swimming! Windsurfing! As you can imagine, the type of people who go to these resorts are of the active/fit ilk – as I used to be – and the experience turned into a massive wake-up call.
I biked until my chain fell off and I sprained my bad ankle. I capsized a sailboat. I pulled a few sweet yoga poses. I hit the pool and reconnected with the swimmer I used to be. I often say that my favourite place to be is in the water, and as I pulled my body down the 25m stretch, I felt it all come back to me. The rhythm, the breathing, the easy exertion that only happens to me in the pool. It felt so natural, like meeting up with a friend you’ve known and loved since childhood.
And I wasn’t alone. Beth, who was also on the trip with us, is a kindred sprit when it comes the water. One afternoon when we drying off in the sun – towels were superfluous – she mentioned her desire to swim the English Channel, but not in the traditional sense. This is a 21-mile distance challenge, which I’m far more amenable to (dodging floaters and tankers to complete the real thing never really appealed). Given our lifestyles, we reckon it’s doable over a week – three miles a day for seven days. We’re aiming for the end of summer and this week we’ve started our training programme – three X one mile – and we’ll build it up from there. We’re also going to be raising money, but more on that later.
Mostly this post is a long-winded way of saying that I’m putting my regular Foodie Fridays posts on hold while I endeavour to get back to my normal self. I’ll be updating you each week as I travel around the different indoor pools and outdoor lidos (if this weather keeps up) of London, join running clubs (first up Fashercise!), and other such antics. Oh, and if you want to join us in the challenge, please do! The more the merrier.