Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I'm on a diet - can I still be a feminist?

I've been on a diet, WeightWatchers specifically, for about 6 weeks now.  I've done WW before, before I had the small Scottish boy, and it worked well for me. I've now lost 4kg (that's almost 9lb) so clearly it still works for me.  I like their system and they've made some good tweaks to it since I last did it.  And if I am realistic, I need the discipline of turning up once a week and getting my card stamped in order to stick with it.

The basics are, you get a set number of points per day, in my case that was 28 until this week, it's now 27 (and will drop again to the minimum 26 at some point).  You also get 49 weekly points, which you can use for extras during the week (that's new).  If you do exercise, you earn additional points.  I've mostly used no more than my daily points and any exercise points I earn, but last week I went a bit mad and had a Domino's pizza one night so dipped into a big chunk of my weekly points.  In the old system I would have spent the week feeling dreadful because I'd gone over my limit.  Now, it was a case of "oh well, there go the weekly points" and no guilt.  I like that.  I should maybe splurge more often - I lost 1kg.

Foods have a point value, the formula calculates that based on the protein, fat, fibre and carbohydrate content.  Almost all fruit and vegetables have 0 points, so you're encouraged to fill up on those.  Nothing is off limits, but that Domino's pizza was a whole day's points, on it's own.  And that was with the low fat cheese.   Back in the old days you jotted points down in a notebook and looked foods up in wee notebooks.  Inevitably, there's an app for it now.
That's the main screen you use - click on Add to Tracker and you can look up the food and add the required quantity.  I don't usually bother to add 0 point vegetables - so that green Thai curry also had a whole load of green beans in it.  The yogurt is for dessert.
It also has a pretty graph to show what you've lost - that 7 there means I've passed 7lbs.  Although the app and website accommodate those of us who use metric, the reward system is still using imperial.  

I'm happy to be losing weight, mostly because I was aware that carrying extra was not helping my mobility.  Or indeed my hypermobility - extra weight puts extra strain on joints.  It's not really about looking slim and my target of 75kg won't make me slim.  It's just about making myself a bit healthier. There's also the fact that I was going to have to replace most of my trousers if I didn't lose a bit!  

Weight loss and in particular "the diet industry" is hotly contested amongst feminists.  So for some of my friends, I know, I am a bad feminist for not only dieting but also for paying my £19.99 a month to an American-based multinational diet company.  I don't think the fact I buy very few of their products redeems me much*.  Kate Harding's Shapely Prose is just one example of many fat acceptance sites.  She makes some very good points and since my aim is to end up a plump size 14-16 at the end of this I'll probably continue to agree with them then.  

But I don't buy that trying to lose some weight necessarily makes you a traitor to the sisterhood.  Even for people whose motivation is to look a bit better in a swimsuit.  There must be some middle ground where we can say "hey, we don't all need to be a size 10" (or 8, or 6, or 0), where we acknowledge that you can be happy and beautiful and yes, healthy, at a whole range of weights but can also be supportive of people who want to be a size or two smaller than they currently are, for whatever reason, rather than publicly castigating them for it.  

Replacing an inflexible hegemony about being slim with an equally rigid hegemony about being fat doesn't do anyone any good.  

*I do admit to rather liking WW's  Chocolate Caramel Wafers, £1 for a pack of 5 at Tesco right now.  They're pretty close to Tunnocks' version but 2 points rather than 4. . 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

More on airports

A good article from the BBC's Frank Gardner on travelling with a wheelchair and some of the problems he has had getting on and off planes.  Frank was paralysed from the waist down when he was shot while reporting in Saudi Arabia about 10 years ago.

I particularly like the shot of Frank wheeling himself across an airport with a walker slung around his neck - even with assistance I've found that sometimes, it's only for me, not anything I might have with me, even my crutches.  I end up balancing a carry on between my feet and two crutches on my lap.

I travel much lighter than most people - very seldom do you see me with a full size carry on, usually I just pack a small backpack with what is needed for the flight and check everything else in.  These days, that's an extra cost I somewhat begrudge.  When we're heading to NZ, though, we usually have a reasonably large backpack each, since we both need at least one change of clothes (I still take an extra change for the small Scottish boy, in case of knocked over drinks on board).  The boy is just about old enough to tow a decent size carry on case, but not when he is tired and grumpy.  Which I think is pretty reasonable for a 7 year old after 19 hours on a plane.

Heathrow Terminal 5, where I was last week, had a really sturdy wheelchair which had room underneath for a full size carry on bag, plus hooks on the back for small bags.  This was great as we hadn't checked anything in, so for once did have a full size cabin bag suitcase on wheels.  I was betting on the small boy pulling it, but at a push I can manage on one crutch for short distances.

They were also more than happy to take me all the way onto my underground train (to Kings Cross, which now has lifts!)  The only drawback was that it wasn't the sort you can wheel yourself, which meant a bit of juggling to get through some of the doors.

I *can* walk but I can't walk as far, nor stand as long, as is usually required in airports.  So wheelchair assistance is a great help, which I use when I need it but not when I don't, but sometimes it could be done a bit better!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Ah, Edinburgh (a rant)

I live just outside Edinburgh and mostly, I love that.  My town has a great character, lovely views of the Forth and reasonable house prices.  My two bedroom flat with a garden would cost two or three times as much in the city itself.  The small Scottish boy goes to a great school which I can literally see out of my front window.  I work 10 minutes away.  I'll write about the town at some point.

Most weekends, I head into Edinburgh to meet up with various members of City Knitty aka "scary queer knitters".  Every other Saturday, we meet up with kids, usually in the museum.  The other weeks we meet on a Sunday, mostly but not always without kids, in a cafe near Fountainbridge.  I also like to go into Edinburgh for other reasons, like shopping, eating out, the cinema or shows.

One of the things people who live elsewhere always say about living in Edinburgh is how great it must be able to go to the Edinburgh Festival (by which they invariable actually mean the Festival Fringe).  The problem is that it is extremely difficult to get to since there is so little parking in the city centre.  Public transport has it's own problems.  I don't do well on buses.  They usually mean long waits at bus stops with either uncomfortable seats or no seats.  They swerve about and judder a lot which leaves me with back pain.  Trains are better, but Edinburgh's train stations are not disabled friendly.  Haymarket lacks lift access to all but one platform.  Waverley has impressive lift access between platforms but as yet no lift access to Princes Street (a level access way used to exist, via a shopping centre, but this is closed off).  The steep, narrow pathway from the platform to Waverley Bridge meets no-one's standard.  I'm surprised not to see wheelchair users piled at the bottom of it.  The only practical way to get from the station to Princes Street at the moment is to take a taxi!

In a few years we will hopefully have trams running down Princes Street, the main shopping street in the New Town, which will be great.  I will be able to leave the car at the park and ride out by the airport and by delivered, comfortably seated and reasonably swiftly, to a stop right outside Marks & Spencer.  In the meantime, tram works just add to the misery.  Princes Street was until recently closed to traffic, for tram rails to be laid for a second time, after the first ones buckled before the trams even ran.  This shifted bus traffic onto George Street and meant all the on-street parking on George Street and a number of adjacent streets, including most of the disabled parking bays, were suspended for the duration.  Dashing (slowly) into the bank one day, I managed to get a parking ticket at a place I'd previously been able to park - poor signage meant I didn't notice the temporary "no loading at any time" signs, though the Council did cancel the ticket when I sent photos of said signage.  Here's the sign.  That's my red car.  Can you see how I managed not to see it?  Oh and that's two tickets - because they managed to issue the first one to the wrong coloured car.

Now, back to the Festival.  It adds even more fun.  Various street events take place, leading to more on-street parking bays being suspended.  In particular, the handiest for the Old Town, at the top of Victoria Street, and those in front of the Museum, in Chambers Street are pretty common targets.  On a recent visit to Chambers Street, the disabled bays by the Museum entrance had been suspended, but none of the other spaces.  Unfortunately, these are narrow spaces, running down the centre of the road (where the old tram tracks ran, as it happens) and I need space to fling two crutches and both legs out before I get out of my seat, so even without a wheelchair they're not practical.

If I do get parked, the town is so full of tourists and people trying to fling fliers in my hand (which hand, I have a crutch in each!) any attempt to get anywhere in the city during the festival is an exercise in frustration.  And endless apologies for having knocked someone round the ankles with a crutch (sometimes, it's not entirely accidental - don't cut up people on crutches!)  You can't pause for a rest without fear of being bowled over.

So, see you in September, Edinburgh.

Is this thing working?

This blog kind of got forgotten for a while there. Since I got back from New Zealand last spring, life has been taken up by a lot of studying and that's left me not in the mood for writing. The end is (sort of) in sight. The hectic round of short papers to take me to the end of my Post Grad Diploma is pretty much over, culminating in having 3 assignments due in 8 weeks over the summer this year. The exam for that course is in mid-October and then I start a long course with a much more relaxed schedule of 5 assignments over 10 months. And then, I am done.

Needless to say we've not stopped travelling. Spring this year saw us using up the airmiles we'd earned from all those trips to NZ with a short break in Dubai. It was winter there, which meant temperatures in the high 20s, just perfect for us. We swam every day in the unheated pool, saw the sights and cruised some shopping malls. Dubai is great for me, if only because of the cheap and plentiful taxis. A real contrast to London or Greece (of which, more later).


We stayed at the Arabian Courtyard in the centre of the older part of town, a few kilometres (or a £5 taxi ride) from the glitzy highrises of Sheikh Zayed Road and the 5* resorts of Jumeirah. I like this part of town though, because you can walk places and it has a bit of life. We were right opposite the old fort, now the city museum. Beyond that is the central mosque, then the old souq and beyond that the creek, where a short abra (open boat) ride takes you to the gold souk. If you want to go further afield, you just hail a taxi. Most of the 'locals' in this area are Indian and Pakistani. Tucked away just behind the central mosque are the city's Sikh and Hindu temples. We spent some time on the creek front watching boats come and go, everything from the ubiquitous abras and dhows to million dollar motorboats.

That area also contains a number of historic buildings, although historic is more akin to NZ's meaning of the word than Scotland's. Like all tourists, we had to demonstrate the fact that some of the doors were on the small side...

I've almost perfected my ability to pose for a photo while hiding the crutches, you'll see.