Monday, 20 May 2013

Fifteen Pounds

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A few days ago I stood, completely naked, in a stranger’s bathroom. On the tiled floor in front of me was a set of bathroom scales which I had been religiously standing on every Friday morning for the past three months. The same set of bathroom scales which I bought from an Argos in Southend and, along with the set and props and costume of my touring play, have been put into a Paul Matthew truck each week and taken around the country.

Tentatively I stepped on and, as I had done every week previously, held my breath a little and squeezed my eyes shut. I stood perfectly still for a few seconds before gradually opening one eye and then the other. Peering down I saw ten bright pink pedicured toes. And above them was the digital display flashing several digits. The digits which I had longed to see for so long.

My initial reaction was to shriek and whoop but Digs Landlady and Female Understudy lay slumbering just the other side of thin, hollow doors. As a woman on a diet I am aware that I can be annoying at the best of times but even more so at eight thirty in the morning. So I settled for a silent and naked little victory dance (think Uma Thurman in ‘Pulp Fiction) before pulling my pj’s back on and sneaking back into the World’s Smallest Bedroom and climbing under The Thinnest Duvet In Southampton.

Fifteen pounds. Fifteen whole pounds.

A handful of tummy wobbles……. Gone.

A generous pinch of bingo wing…….. Dissolved.

A dimpled little thigh………… Okay, that is still there. (Dieting can only do so much, people. It’s not freaking lipo.)

And you know what I was most delighted about?

I did it on tour.

In the past I have never been particularly productive on tour. And the beginning of this one was no different. My free days were spent going to the cinema to see films I had no real interest in seeing (although ‘Wreck It Ralph’ turned out to be quite the cinematic masterpiece). And then, post show, evenings were spent holed up in digs with large quantities of wine and ‘The Big Reunion’ or throwing up outside pool halls in Aylesbury.

True story. I thought that Jagerbombs were my kind of drink. Turns out they are really not.

In the February of this year I was still carrying those festive pounds and feeling rather lethargic, bloated and, dare I say it, pretty unattractive. I had no motivation to exercise and the cold weather and low self-esteem pushed me to seek solace in chocolate, alcohol and Greggs. But the booze was only making me anxious and irritable and the constant stream of beige food was affecting my skin pallor.

I didn’t start this tour with a desire to lose weight. As a rule I have always been fairly comfortable in my own skin. But then something just kind of clicked and before I knew it I was a woman on a mission. A mission to get fit, get healthy, and get a bum like Kylie’s.

(It’s more achievable these days. She’s getting on a bit, is our Kylie.)

But where did this inspiration come from? Where did this whole journey begin?

Well, I’ll tell you dear readers. It happened in the most unlikely of places. This whole sequence of events was triggered in a fairly uneventful  little corner of the world. An unremarkable location which, I am led to believe, rarely inspires memorable feats of fearlessness or motivates any course of radical action. A place which is probably usually overlooked when one is seeking influential settings.

This whole thing started in the Green Room of the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.

The company of my touring production were discussing what they would be giving up for lent. The usual suspects were being mentioned; chocolate, fags, magazines, gin. And I was just inwardly questioning if I could give up my obsession with consistently over analysing the opposite sex, when Female Understudy said that instead of giving anything up, she would be doing Weight Watchers over lent.

I eyed Female Understudy curiously. She did not look like a usual Weight Watchers candidate. Didn’t they have to be morbidly obese women with hairy chins and a penchant for manmade fibres? Didn’t joining Weight Watchers mean that you had to attend weekly meetings to discuss the amount of fat in a chocolate button and how you would have to scale Mount Kilimanjaro three times in order to burn off the calories in a KFC Bargain Bucket?

Female Understudy explained that you did not have to attend the meetings but that you could download an app and everything was explained on that. I whipped out my iPhone and downloaded it eagerly. I am keen on anything which involves my iPhone and gives me an excuse to not actually engage in conversation with other people.

‘Are you fucking Tweeting again, Jess?’

‘No I’m NOT Tweeting. I’m ACTUALLY doing my DIET, so THERE.’

The mention of the word ‘diet’ means that People Who Are Not Dieting tend to shrink away from you and also look busy with their own phone, for fear that you might list to them every single thing you have consumed that day and how it takes fifty minutes of water aerobics to burn off a Mars Bar.

From that moment in Swindon I logged my points daily and eagerly chatted to Female Understudy about my food intake. Once a week we basically held our own Weight Watchers meeting in a Pizza Express where we treated ourselves to salads WITH dressing (fuck YEAH) and compared notes on our weight loss whilst congratulating each other and exchanging tips and advice. Not only was this enjoyable for us but these more secluded meetings meant we prevented ourselves from slowly driving the company into a calorie counting insanity.

The thing with dieting is that you really do need to put the work in. It’s not easy. A lot of magazines advertise ‘quick fixes’ and ‘simple tips’ but that is genuinely total bollocks. I hate to break it to you but the only way to ‘Get A Body Like Jessica Ennis!!!!’ is to be a professional triathlete for a decade. Several lunges three times a week just aren’t going to cut it. And the usual ‘Helpful Tips’ are fine but you need to do additional stuff to see results.

·         Don’t take the escalator!! Run up the stairs!! Burn a few extra calories and see the difference!!

·         Swap your usual mid day biscuit for a banana!!! You will get an additional energy boost and no extra calories!!!

·         Hunger pangs getting too much? Drive a rusty pin into your eye!! The overwhelming pain and blood flow will distract you and keep you strong!!!

I did, however, take a ‘helpful tip’ on board which probably gave my weight loss process a massive boost.

I gave up booze.

The first reason was that I was pretty shocked to realise how fattening a large glass of Merlot was but also because I had got into a habit of seeking emotional solace at the bottom of a bottle of Blossom Hill. When that didn’t offer up any solution to my inner angst I would fumble to locate it within the dark and sickly sweet walls of a bottle of Port.

The hours before midday were ceasing to exist for me and the hours after were spent shuffling around in pyjama’s before being forced to head into town in search of complex carbohydrates and a Turkish Delight.

So I didn’t drink. For a whole month.

Once I started, I found I didn’t actually miss it that much and rather started to enjoy waking up each day feeling like a normal human being and not Lindsay Lohan. (Admittedly never met her but I’ll hedge a bet she ain’t a morning gal).

However, I did discover that being Booze Free and being someone who Works In Theatre does not actually go hand in hand.

Several years ago I was teching a show in Salisbury with a well known director from the Reasonably Successful Company. At the end of the day he took us all to a delightful pub for beers, bitching and open fire admiring. Director very dutifully got the first round in and asked Relight Man what he would like.

‘Orange juice please.’

On the second round, Relight Man once again asked for a soft drink.

‘Do you not drink then?’ asked Director.

‘No’ replied Relight Man. ‘I don’t.’

Relight Man offered no more explanation but Director was still pretty curious.

‘Is that for health reasons or because you used to be a despicable human being?’

Everyone laughed, including myself and Relight Man. (I always laugh at Director’s jokes. Believe me, I haven’t stayed in this industry this long by being efficient. Appreciative chuckles can equal and even outweigh a sexual favour when it comes to future employment.)

People find it hard to digest that you aren’t drinking. And if you aren’t you usually have to offer up a reason or explanation. I don’t know if that is a theatre thing but my dry spell led to me being called ‘boring’ on more occasions than I wish to recall, and I found myself having to defend myself and my choices which became tiresome and dull. Throughout the course of the tour I met up with several friends who permanently resided in the places where we were visiting and it sometimes was also an issue for them.

‘You’re not drinking? But now I feel like I can’t drink!’

‘But I thought we were going to have fun!’

‘You haven’t given up forever, have you?’

On more than one occasion I was tempted to drink some kind of alcoholic placebo; a drink which looked like booze but actually wasn’t. I was pretty confident that my partner would be unaware that I was sober and be able to go on to have a perfectly pleasant evening. And on some days I was tempted to knock back a glass of wine just to stop the comments but I swiftly came to the conclusion that I was not going to drink to make someone else happy.

After my full month of no booze I started to introduce drink back in. And it was good. Lovely in fact. But it was a different kind of drinking and far less regularly. Wine with good food at company meals or one or two drinks in a pub after work. Obviously I can’t promise that I will never again slip into the habit of drinking so much that I burst into tears for no reason or wake up slumped against a friend’s toilet cistern. But for now it’s working.

Even on tour.

And also I can feel very smug when I witness and take photos of things like this.


Where I live we throw up into bushes and toilets. In Canary Wharf they throw up into sparkly top hats.

I hate to break it to you but this is actually only half of the weight loss story. There is a whole exercise and hair dying section to go yet. Exciting, isn’t it? But I have a feeling we have all had enough of this self indulgent nonsense so I will save it for another time.


It has just struck me that there is a possibility that one day I will go back to being my usual chubby, drunk self.

And when that happens, this blog post is going to come back and kick me right up my big fat, pissed bottom.


Thanks as usual for reading my nonsense. If you like it please feel free to share on your Facebook or Twitter (just click on the top left corner) or leave a comment. Always great to hear back from you lovely lot. You can also follow me on Twitter (@agirlinthedark) or 'Like' my Facebook page which is 'Girl in the dark'

And guys, I am entering the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2013. It would mean the world if you nominated me for it. Just click on the link below and nominate me for Best Lifestyle. Would mean the world.

Thanks again gang, You rule.

1 comment:

  1. You've made me chuckle quite a few times. I really like the way you tell us what happened.
    As well, I found myself nodding when you mentioned having to "justify" oneself for not drinking (and being called "boring" - *cough* reminds me of my mother *cough*).
    I really hope you're planning Part 2 (this is really interesting).
    Keep typing!!! :)