Posted in bloggers, fitness, Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery

Confessions of a Body Shaming Victim

Last week, in the middle of a stressful theatre list where I was worried about having sets and instruments for the surgical procedures we were about to do, one of my male colleagues told me that he thought I was looking “a little chubby“.

Now normally, I would be able to brush off a comment like that. But last week I was especially vulnerable because I had spent the entire week before that binge-eating as a result of the combined effects of hormones and the natural stress of having made some big career changes.

I won’t deny that my self-esteem has always been inversely proportional to my body weight. I come from a country where a UK size 4 is considered the norm and a UK size 12 is almost bordering on fat (if not outright obese). Growing up, I’ve always accepted that this is the standard of beauty against which I will be measured and I am painfully aware that in that regard I have always fallen hopelessly short.

Anyway, this one thoughtless but probably  innocent comment sent me on a downward spiral throughout the day, to the point where I couldn’t even look at food without feeling sick. That day, I saw food as the enemy rather than something that will fuel and nourish me.

My sister and I finished late that day and she asked me whether I wanted to order takeaway rather than go through the hassle of having to cook dinner. I had to tell her that I can’t even think about what to eat for dinner until I’ve stepped on a weighing scale and confirmed whether I have indeed gained weight or not.

I know, I know. Berate me all you want about how stupid and illogical this was, you’re not telling me anything I haven’t already told myself. Rationally, I know that beauty is skin deep, and there’s more to me than just my physical attributes, everyone is lovely in their own way yada yada yada

Rationally, I know that it is INCREDIBLY UNREALISTIC AND DELUSIONAL to think that I will ever be, say, a Victoria’s Secret model. To start with, I just don’t think I have the genes for it. But how do you deal with that irrational part of you that just wants to fit in? How do you deal with that part of you who just wants, FOR ONCE, to not worry every time you want to eat a brownie?

I always say to myself that I exercise and workout for my health and because its fun, not because I’m chasing this picture in my head of what a “sexy” body should like. Someone once told me that confidence is the new sexy anyway and most of the time I have confidence in spades.

I’m not one to deprive myself of food, nor do I usually stop myself from wearing certain clothes because I think I’m too “fat” to pull it off. My favourite outfit is a cropped top for goodness sake. I think there’s nothing you can’t wear as long as you choose the right size for you. Don’t stuff yourself into a size 8 when you’ll look and feel so much better in a size 12.

I guess what I’m saying is that even though I’m a well-adjusted person most of the time and I’ve developed a healthy relationship with (and a healthy acceptance of) my body over the years, my weight will continue to be the one aspect of my life that I will always be incredibly sensitive about. There’s nothing I can do to change that.

Blame it on a childhood full of teasing and being called a member of the “Spice Pigs“, a nickname my friend’s brother called my circle of girl friends because we were all “healthy“. Blame it on a culture that glorifies being skinny. Blame it on the media. But it is what it is, I will always be sensitive about it.

Not even 24 hours after the incident with my colleague, I was at a Bruno Mars concert and, as is expected in these things, people turned up in their summer outfits. Which means to say there was a bare minimum of clothing present. We saw a girl wearing a really tight stringy top that looked three sizes too small for her. Honest-to-god, she looked like a burst sausage.

But you see, what does that say about me that I have those kind of thoughts? What does it say about me that I joke and laugh at someone else’s expense when I know how much it hurts to have the same thing done to me? It doesn’t matter that I didn’t say it to her face, the mere act of mocking her behind her back makes me the worst kind of hypocrite there is

And that is the true confession. We are all of us simultaneously victims and perpetrators of body-shaming.

One of my friends once tweeted that you should change the world by example and not with your opinions. Writing this blog is my way of admitting that I also have my faults, and a way of promising that I’m going to try to be better.

I just think we should all be kinder to ourselves and to others. Believe me, whatever criticisms you make of someone does not match the amount of self-criticism that that person has already given herself. No one judges us more harshly than we ourselves do. Having other people say what we’re already thinking just adds insult to a self-inflicted injury.

I hope that this story makes other people think twice the next time they feel the need to tell other people something potentially hurtful about themselves. Try a compliment the next time. No matter how a person looks I believe you will always find something good to say about them, and it will make them feel better as well as making you feel better about yourself.

You know what I want? For once, I want someone to come up to me and say “You look chubby and its awesome”. Full-figured doesn’t have to be a bad thing. People need to know that as long as they’re happy and healthy, its okay to look the way they do. 

SAY NO TO BODY SHAMING. Focus on the positive rather than the negative and do the world a bit of good.

Posted in Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, sport

How To Get 100 People To Run In Six Easy Steps

Summer in London means people are more motivated to go out and be active.

Or so one would think.

Operating theatre staff are notorious for being reclusive and exclusive (even though in reality we really are a nice and sociable bunch). Tucked away in some hidden corner of the hospital, we probably see more blood than sunshine (morbid, much?), so as some kind of team building activity, I thought it would be a great idea for us to join the annual run organised by the Institute of Sports, Exercise and Health. 

As you can imagine, when I raised this during the daily team brief I was met with reactions that ranged from skeptical to downright scornful. Team building for most people means having a sit-down dinner and maybe having a few rounds of beer afterwards, preferably sponsored by surgeons and anaesthetists. But. You can do that on any ordinary day. This activity is actually a chance to get everyone out in the sun and running for charity. Think of the health benefits!

But no dice. People heard the word running and they literally ran away from the idea. So I had to get creative (and manipulative) and think about how I can generate enthusiasm for my idea. I thought if I could just get 30 people to sign up, I’d consider that a good turnout. This was about two months ago. Here we are 60 days later, the event has just finished and I managed to get ONE HUNDRED people from the department to run the race.

How did I do it? I honestly have no clue. I had several moments these past couple of weeks as I was sorting out bundles of registration forms and actually collecting money in the form of COINS when I thought to myself, what in the world was I thinking? The whole thing had totally run away from me (see what I did there?) and I was petrified that I would fail to organise this properly now that its turned into such a large-scale activity.

But we did it. And a good day was had by all. Looking back I think there were six key things that really made all the difference. And I thought I’d share it with everyone just in case you’re thinking of getting your own department to do something active, and also I want everyone in my department to take note so someone else can organise this next year! Lol

Plan a picnic

I think food is the fulcrum around which all of society spins. Its not love or money that makes the world go round, its booze (haha). So when my team and I said that there will be a picnic afterwards, people became more enthusiastic about the whole thing. We told people to bring food and drinks potluck-style, and my colleague Joanne volunteered to head the food committee. Instant attendance-booster.

Appeal to everyone’s naturally competitive nature

I don’t know about other departments, but our theatre team consists of some of the most competitive bunch of individuals I know. So we made a competition within the race, telling people to get into teams, and the idea was that the first group to get all five people within their team to the finish line wins a prize. Suddenly everyone was coming up with team names, printing their own t-shirts, motivating each other to train and of course, ragging each other about whose team is going to win (mine won, by the way, JUST SAYING).

Open it up to family and friends

Look, we already work five out of seven days in the hospital. Its really difficult to get people to voluntarily come on a Sunday; for free I might add. So we made sure to encourage people to bring their family and friends and turn it into some kind of Family Day so that those with kids can be persuaded to come. It was good to see people mingling and having the kids play with each other.

I often think that seeing someone in a social situation allows you to relate better with someone. In a stressful environment such as the operating theatres, there are a hundred and one ways for people to end up in some kind of argument. There’s also a hierarchy, and in some ways that hierarchy is there for a reason, but it also makes it easy for people to forget that at the end of the day, we’re all human. We have more in common than we think.

Okay, I got a little bit sidetracked there. I was just really chuffed to see families interacting. It really warms the heart.

Un-complicate the process

I’d like to think that I have good insight and people skills. I have a sort of innate understanding about how people think and how to best get them to cooperate. And I know that in order for everyone to stay enthusiastic, I should take out as much of the administrative work as I can (and inevitably, have them fall on my shoulders).

So I asked ISEH if there was any way we could register as a group (this was back when I thought I would have at most 30 runners) and they were so great at helping me find a way to make it easy for people to sign up.

Of course, I did spend the last three weeks collecting registration forms, chasing people for payment, counting change and putting names on an Excel spreadsheet, but I looked around the number of happy, smiling faces today and I have to say, it was worth it.

Make running less intimidating

Honestly, when I first started running I never thought I could even finish a 3k, let alone a 10k (which is the longest run I’ve ever done to date). And I think most people feel that way. They think running is just for the fittest of individuals and that they’re too slow to participate.

Every time someone came up to me who was hesitant about joining the run, I told them, look, its not about finishing first or finishing within a certain time. The point is to do it, and even if you finish behind everyone else, even if you finish last, you still finish. That is an achievement in and of itself because on a Sunday, half the population of England are on their couches (or in a pub somewhere watching the Football World Cup).

Even if you choose to walk a 5k, that is literally 15,000 steps. It can be done in like an hour and a bit, which is still a good time for finishing a 5k run especially if you don’t run regularly or you’ve not trained. Also, it was good of ISEH to have a 2.5k option – especially for the kids – because that’s really what the majority of the our team chose to do.

It takes a village

The idea might have been mine, and I may have done the leg work, but this would never have been organised if I hadn’t had help from my team and if people didn’t embrace the idea. I’m really thankful for my bosses who were so supportive, and who actually came and ran themselves. It was also great of them to buy medals so we can have our own awarding ceremony. I’m thankful to everyone that came, period. I think everyone deserves a round of applause at this point.

At the end of the day, we were all there to support each other and have a good time. I lost track of the number of people who passed by me and took the time to slow down and give me encouraging words or a thumbs up sign. One of our theatre leads actually crossed the finish line AND THEN went back to encourage and motivate the rest of his team, it was awesome.

 

I’m realistic enough to realise that all the problems of the world, and the NHS and our department in particular, will not be solved by one little fun run. But i genuinely hope, at the risk of sounding too corny or maudlin, that we can keep the momentum going and be able to see work a little better with each other than we did before this run.

And if not, well, there’s always next year. 

Thank you everyone for your support!  🙂

 

 

Posted in Health and Well-Being, Stress Relief

A reminder to BREATHE

These past two months have been incredibly weird for me. I’ve felt myself getting pulled into so many directions. I want to do so many things and I have the opportunity to do so many things but I can’t seem to committ to one. I have finally come to the conclusion that I don’t really know what I want and the only thing I should do until I figure that out is BREATHE.

Earlier I was working with a female surgeon and a female anaesthetist and they were talking about letting go and seceding control. As someone who has always been solidly Type A, the concept of not being in control is entirely foreign to me. I cannot imagine not having a plan for my life. But as my anaesthetist said, suffering equals pain times resistance and the more you try to control things the more frustrated you get when things inevitably don’t always go your way.

I honestly feel that in constantly thinking about the things I’ve yet to achieve, I’ve lost sight of the things that I HAVE achieved. I think I’m starting to see that its not always about getting to the next step. I am constantly at war with the part of me that’s ambitious and wants to get things done NOW. I need to nurture the part of me that just wants to live and be happy and content. 

My friend recently posted a quote that said ‘Gratitude turns what we have into ENOUGH’. I think I really need this weekend to refocus on the things that really matter. Like my health, and my family and my true friends. I’ve been thinking it over and I think I try to be so many things to so many people that I’ve lost sight of who I am when its just me. 

I think I just need a long holiday really. Get away from it all and recharge. I’m looking forward to going home and seeing my parents in January. It’ll give me a chance to think, regroup and plan for the future when I’m not doing the daily grind of living in London.

Thank goodness I have blogging to keep me sane. 

Posted in Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle

The Bare Necessities and how I realised that Health IS Wealth

A colleague of mine recently had to miss work for a week because he was extremely unwell. He works so hard: he shows up for work an hour before we’re meant to be there to make sure he’s ready for the day; when you’re working with him, you always know you’re safe because he has so much experience and you know that he knows what he’s doing; he has the highest standards and does not suffer fools (or laziness); he’s at work so much that people joke that he should change his post code to our place of employment.

It made me think about our motivations and what drives us to work as hard as we do. For him, he does it to support his family. He’s recently realised his dream of bringing his entire family to the UK, to provide his children with all the opportunities that would have otherwise been unavailable to them had they stayed in the Philippines. That cost a lot of money, and in his own words, they’re currently broke but they’re all broke together. 

For a lot of people, money is the biggest motivator. Let’s face it, love may make the world go round but you need cash to grease the wheels. Its kinda difficult to keep mushy feelings going if your roof is leaking because you have no money for repairs, or if you’re living off bread and beans every day.

I know a lot of people who work at least 60 hours a week just to earn extra money. Heck, I’ve done it and I often don’t recognise myself at the end of a 60-hour work week. I think we never stop to think about the impact it has on us when we work as hard as we do. We are not machines; in fact, even machines have down-time. There are times when we – human beings – DON’T. And in a stressful environment like nursing, that can have serious consequences.

Work is physically demanding, no doubt about that. I am on my feet 80% of the time, even when I’m supposed to be doing admin work. By necessity – because of the nature of our job – our brain goes into overdrive most of the time. In addition, you give so much of yourself to care for your patients and to work harmoniously with your colleagues that the work also becomes an emotional drain. Now imagine experiencing that for 60 hours per week. Is it any wonder that people get sick?

I think we need to take better care of ourselves. I think we all need to remember that money and career are no substitutes for physical, mental and emotional well-being. I guess its one of the hazards of the world that we live in. We’ve become too enamored of material things that we’ve forgotten the bare necessities (the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife), such as health and simple freakin’ joy. Do you really need the latest iPhone X and is it worth forking over almost a thousand pounds? Do you need that Burberry trench coat so badly that you’ll run yourself ragged to buy it? Do you really need to be trying London’s trendiest restaurant every Friday night? 

I guess I’m writing this blog as a reminder to myself. My favourite sushi place sells a box called Health and Happiness and I think I’m coming to realise that health IS happiness and like happiness, its a choice that you have to make every day. Don’t be blinded by the bling, or the craving to buy a Prada bag you don’t actually need, or the zeroes you want to see in your bank account. All of that means nothing if you’re bedridden for a month because you’ve worked yourself to the bone. Health is happiness and health is wealth. Let’s do ourselves a favour and take care of ourselves more than we take care of our bank account.