Monday, 30 September 2013

When you stop and look around...

Yesterday [Sunday] was one of those days! You know the type of day you read about in a book or the kind of day you imagine happens right after the point at which your favourite movie ends. I'll never forget today... Not for the fact I was in the Weight Watchers magazine (which was pretty damn awesome might I add) but because today was one of those days where it felt like all the stars aligned and two things became so radiantly clear to me as if they had been right in front of me the whole time, I just didn't see them.

Firstly - You are AWESOME

I am surrounded by awesome people. Awesome people who care about me. I have gotten so many texts, messages, phone calls and emails from different people - from my parents who are currently away on holidays to my Weight Watchers leader Phil, from work colleagues to aunts and uncles, from some of my best friends to people I have never even met before.

I am so fortunate for having such a fantastic family and an amazing group of friends (both in real life and through Twitter & this Blog). I am a sociable person and what started as an online diary for me to voice my random WW or running thoughts and experiences has become so much more than that. It has become an online account of my journey from where I was to where I am now. It has also become a place that has made ME accountable and turned ME into a better me.

Sometimes when I am having an 'off' week, or having one of those moments of self doubt in a race where you think 'I can't push any harder'... the other part of my brain kicks in and says 'But think the blog post you can write about once this is done'. So while I accept each of your thanks that have been directed my way, I have never really said Thanks to you. Thanks for reading this blog and thanks for keeping me accountable to someone other than myself.

Secondly - Where's the Finish Line?

Looking at my pictures side by side in the magazine today, I realised that in my head I don't identify with either the people shown above as me. I don't see myself as the 19st John in the check shirt that doesn't close, nor do I see myself as the 12st John in the check shirt they had to pin around the back as it was too big the day of the photo shoot (true fact!). The only thing I do know looking at all those pictures of me is that I do love a check shirt - but that's besides the point.

With any race, there is a start, mid point and finish line. Nothing makes me happier than reaching half way in a race as I know that from that point onwards, I am heading straight for the finish line. I know that once I cross the finish line, the race is over. I can chill out, have some food and catch up with friends/my other half beyond the finish. 

Seeing the words 'Success Story' written in print with my story underneath made me realise something... I am not finished - This isn't the end. I know I am not at Goal yet but I don't even see that as the end. My goal posts have moved every time I have gotten near them. Like the stairs analogy I have used before, once I get to a mini-goal, I look forward to the next goal - be it the next half stone, the next BMI range, the next stone - I have always been looking forward. 

The "problem" now as such is that once I reach Goal... I will have reached the top of the stairs but it isn't game over. There is no finish line that marks the point at which I can stop running and now just sit back and relax with my feet up. The goal posts have moved so far apart that now something else has happened... Instead of looking AT the goalposts as my point of focus, they have moved so far apart that I have no choice but to look at the wide open space between the goals.

That wide open space IS my Finish Line. It's out there somewhere - just not at a particular point or place in time. I will not cross the finish line when I lose the last few stubborn lbs that seem to be hanging on for dear life. I will not cross the finish line when I own a goal card. I will not cross the finish line when I complete my first marathon.

I have no Finish Line. And when I stop and take the time to look around... I can see that these two facts were always in front of me, staring me in the face since before any weight loss happened. I have always been surrounded with awesome people - and it turns out that weight loss journey I started off on last year has no finish line. I'm totally cool with that because I am fortunate. 

I am fortunate that I have a wonderful amazing other half who supports and encourages me in everything that I do. I am fortunate to have found something I love in running. I am fortunate to have had the strength to start in the first place. I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to represent Weight Watchers. It has helped me stare at my success on paper and think... What's next?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

On the cover of a magazine...

Remember the photo shoot I did a few weeks ago for Weight Watchers... (see here), well, tomorrow is the big day, the Magazine will be in the Sunday World. I was sitting up in my friends house on Thursday night watching something dodge on Living TV when the ad came on for the Sunday World (I didn't even know Newspapers still advertised on TV)... 

And there I am on the cover of a magazine...

Screenshot of the Sunday World ad on TV

Obviously that's not me looking hot in the blue dress (now that would be one hell of a different transformation story!). I'm so excited! I haven't seen any of the pictures they have used nor have I seen the write up on us...

So if you happen to be in a shop tomorrow, don't forget to have a look out for me!

Friday, 27 September 2013

New Dinner Find - Dee's Spicy Bean Burger

I found myself in an unusual predicament last night... I was home alone and had to fend for myself in the kitchen. Anyone who knows me knows that this pretty much sums me up:

(Image Source: Here)

So I wandered into Tesco after work and I was actually quite excited heading off on a little cooking adventure. My last adventure lead to me making a stir fry that you wouldn't feed to pigeons (vom) so it ended up in the bin and I had porridge for dinner. I picked myself up Dee's Organic Spicy Bean Burger, some Slimbos and a Butternut Squash and headed off with a dinner in mind.

Dee's Spicy Bean Burgers - 2 Burgers for €3.99 in Tesco

Pat The Baker Slimbos - €1.69 (for 6)

I peeled, de-seeded and chopped my butternut squash into chip-like shapes, then with a splash of oil and a generous sprinkle of Hot Chilli Powder, Mixed Herbs and Salt, threw them in the oven for 25 minutes at 200 degrees.

Butternut Squash Chips

The end result was DELICIOUS (if I may say so myself):

1 x Slimbo = 3 Propoints
1 x Burger = 4 Propoints
Butternut Squash Chips = 1 Propoint
Lettuce & Tomato = 0 Propoints

Dinner: 8 Propoints
Satisfaction Level: Delightfully stuffed, felt like proper indulgence without the guilt.

Using the Nutritional Information on the pack, one of Dee's Spicy Bean Burgers works out at 4 Propoints, but 2 work out at 7 propoints. There was more than enough in the one burger especially considering I jam packed it with lettuce and tomato. You could also add a squeeze of BBQ or Ketchup for an extra point if you wanted but the Burger was juicy and spicy enough to carry it without the sauce.

I will definitely be revisiting Dee's products. Here comes the best part, all of the products in Dee's range are gluten, dairy, eff, soy, wheat and GMO free. You can check out her range here: and they are available in all Tesco stores. Veg Pots and Burgers are available in selected SuperValu and Superquinn stores and in Irish Health stores.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Castleblakney 8K

So the promised Indian Summer arrived on Sunday, just in time for the Castleblakney 8K race. Initially I was delighted to see the clear skies and feel the heat of the sun on my face, that was until we arrived out at the start line about an hour before the race and I was already sweating... Myself and Gordon has signed up to run it but we had plenty of pre-race banter with Michelle, Paul & their boys before the race kicked off.

Indian Summer

There was a real lovely pre-race vibe around the village as we all gathered to watch the kids race take off. I will admit a slight pang of jealously when I saw the kids crossing the finish line after 2 minutes running but have to say it really is great to see! Having not grown up in or around sports, I've never seen that side of sport before (probably because I used be the one sitting in the car playing my Game Boy or the one standing in the shade eating a cone) but I think it's great to see kids up and moving. (Oh oh - Have I become like one of those militant reformed smokers now?).

After the kids race, myself and Gordon headed down the Ballymac Road to the Start Line where we stood in the sun regretting the fact we didn't have any sun-cream on. It was here, half way down a country road on a Sunday afternoon in September that I had my first encounter with someone who reads this blog (Hi Niamh!). I was so chuffed after the conv ended that Gordon was afraid I wouldn't be able to run over the Start Line due to my inflated head. I however think Gordon is just jealous... 

On your marks...

The race kicked off bang on 1pm and boy was it a hot one! By the time we hit the 1K mark, I was already sweating buckets. The race brought us out the Monivea Rd and back around into the village. Although it was a race, I kind of felt like I was running the thing on my own as there wasn't many runners around me. I could see one or two in the distance, and no-one ever passed me out. I later found out this was probably due to the fact there was about 120 runners taking part, it just looked like a lot more at the start line.

The water at 5K point was a great relief as I felt it charged me for the last 3K. I knew by my time that I was going well (all under 4:30/km) but the heat was something else. Sweat was stinging my eyes but I kept on trucking. When I re-joined the main road about 400m from the Finish Line, I took off at speed only to have started too soon and I ended up being pipped at the finish line by another guy. I really need to learn when to go for it and not just fire ahead as soon as I see the finish line.

I finished 13th (unlucky for some!) in the race... I don't think I've ever finished that high in anything before! My official time: 36 minutes 23 seconds! That makes me 2 minutes faster than the 8K I ran at the beginning of August [Streets of Galway]! Epic. I feel I could have pushed myself that little bit harder but my legs still weren't fully charged after Fridays 32K so I suppose I'll give them a break. 40K in one weekend is more than enough road-coverage for me.

Myself and Mr G

All in all, it was a great race, lovely day, great village and loads of supporters cheering us on as we approached the finish line. The best part of the whole day was going back to Michelle's where she had cooked a fab Sunday dinner for us to recover. I don't know if I was happier to see the Wine or the Rice Krispie Buns but either way it was much appreciated :) Thanks Michelle!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A Weekend of NSVs and Running...

As the sun goes down on the weekend and the Glenroe's start to set in, I am mentally & physically getting ready for the week ahead. This usually involves ironing my work clothes, catching up on X Factor and making sure my other half has made enough soup to get me through the working week. But just before I jump straight into next week, I was just thinking about this weekend - and regardless of any weight frustrations I am having at the moment (see here), I really have had a great weekend of NSV's.

If you don't know what a NSV is, its a Non Scale Victory.

Something I don't put enough emphasis on but these little guys just creep up and surprise you randomly - sometimes when you least expect it. Nobody sees the number on the scale except you (and the WW Leader). I need to learn to stop worrying about the number on the scale (within reason) and focus more on the changes happening within me.

So, back to Friday. My long run as part of the marathon training was scheduled for 32km (20 miles). I spent the week looking for a way to put it off as the weekend was 'too busy' and I wouldn't have time to fit it in anywhere. I was going to a wedding on Friday and was taking part in the East Galway Oncology 8K run in Castleblakney on Sunday. I couldn't run 32km on Saturday after the wedding as I could be hungover. Also, I wouldn't be rested in time for the run on Sunday. Oh the stress... but as the saying goes: If it's important to you, you'll find a way. If'll find an excuse.

So I set my alarm for 6.30am on Friday morning, had my bowl of museli and a coffee before tying up my shoe laces and heading out the door... This happened:

BOOM! 32km from my house in Oranmore to the end of the Prom in Salthill and back (I didn't take the most direct route but it still worked for me). What I love about the Oranmore to Salthill route is the water refill at the halfway point thanks to the tap at the end of the prom. It kept me nicely hydrated on my run. I got home in enough time that permitted a quick trip to town to buy a new shirt and tie for the wedding. My legs were surprisingly non-dead for the entire day, I'd love to say thats because I paced myself correctly or fuelled efficiently however I suspect it may have had something to do with my enthusiasm for cake which I knew I was going to tuck into later!

Three layers of amazing-cake-ness

Something I hadn't accounted for was the fact that as it was a wedding, I spent most of the day outside... with the smokers... Fup! I hadn't even brought chewing gum to keep myself occupied. At one point in the night, I wanted nothing more than a cigarette but then when I really REALLY thought about it, what I was craving was the routine/habit of having a cigarette. I promised myself that if I survived the evening, I'd treat myself to some new running gear over the weekend.

Even the statue in the hotel was tempting me...

Back at the wedding table, I earned another NSV when the couple we were sitting beside were so shocked when I told them my back story (losing 7st in the year, giving up cigs etc) - one of them said 'But you don't even look like you were once overweight... you don't have saggy skin or a lollipop head' which was funny but I completely understood her sentiment. Another thing I think will take a while to get used to will be the 'new' me. I don't see the difference between Old John and New John as I am still John... the same person. While my frame has changed, I'm still me. 

The wedding rolled on into the early hours of Saturday and I resisted every temptation to smoke. I woke up Saturday morning with one thing on my mind... SHOPS! Of course I went a bit overboard but I got two new pairs of runners as I figure coming in to the winter months, if a pair get wet, I'll have backup! Also, what's better than paying full price for something... a Buy One, Get One Half Price sale!

I also went looking for one of those Runners Head-torches as the evenings are getting shorter and a lot of the roads around where I live are devoid of street lights. I've seen those miner-lights on some people so decided to splash out on one for myself. It was €25 in Halfords (Ouch!) for the Duracell one or their own brand was reduced... Bargain!

Today (Sunday), I had the 8K race in Castleblakney which I will cover in a separate blog post but basically... it was a good one! From getting a headlight for €3 to surviving a wedding without smoking, from getting up at 6.30am on my Friday off to actually running 20 miles... this weekend has been an epic one for NSVs! 

While I know every weekend can't be as epic, I wonder how many NSVs happen to each of us that we don't see/recognise? Maybe I was more susceptible this weekend than usual, but I needed and appreciate each one of them which came my way. Now, back to the Glenroe's - Hope you had a great weekend. Here's to the week ahead!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Jelly Beans - Weight Watchers - Pro Pointed

A guy at work (Thanks Kieran) recently brought in a big box of The Jelly Bean Factory jelly beans which inevitably ended in me grabbing a handful every time I passed the open jar of deliciousness.

Google couldn't tell me the Weight Watchers pro-points in the beans and I couldn't find any Nutritional Information on the packaging. I ended up contacting The Jelly Bean Factory through Facebook who got back to me with this unhelpful information about the beans:

Using my rough and ready 40kcal = 1pp rule, that makes 100g of Jelly Beans 10pps. So I wanted to know how many jelly beans are there in 10g. The answer... Between 12-14. Yes, I had my electronic scales and I weighed various combinations of beans and found on average 12 beans = 10g = 1 propoint. And what does 1 propoint of beans look like I hear you say:

Now while this is all well and good, my problem lies in the fact it is impossible not to take a small handful from a 1.4kg tub when your handful doesn't even make a dent in the packaging. I've made it my mission to find out exactly how many points are in them and when I was in Tesco this evening (looking at the Christmas stuff), I found the Nutritional Information on the back of one of their packaging:

Mystery Solved!
I can confirm that 100g (approx 120 beans) = 10 pps! 
It would be easier to crack the Da Vinci Code!

5 Propoints in a 50g Bag

10 Propoints in the 100g Tub

20 Propoints in a 200g Tub

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Have you ever brought my dog for a walk?

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@quinlivan) will be familar with this little guy, but just in case you don't know him... This is my dog CJ:


He is a spoiled little brat (a bit like me). He is also a little cutie (*waits for someone to say "just like you John"*). If you have ever had the misfortune/joy of being out with CJ for a walk or seeing us pass by, you will know he is a tad uncontrollable. Pulling you in one direction, stopping for a sniff or a pee, being distracted by another dog passing across the road. You get the idea... 


Anyway, while I was out walking the dog this morning I came to the realisation that myself and my dog are more alike than even I am comfortable admitting. My weight for the last few weeks has been all over the place... kind of like CJ's trajectory when out for a walk.

The past few weeks have been really tough as things just haven't felt like they have been going in the right direction. This feeling has been further componded by the resulting value displayed on the scales at weigh in. I've been up down up up down up... and while each of these have been relatively small in the grand scheme of things, they have repeatedly bashed my level of self-belief and confidence. If I step back and look at the timeline of the past few weeks, the following happened (in order):
  1. I was 1lb off goal (Total Loss: 99lbs)
  2. I gave up cigarettes as I figured not being at goal would keep me even more focused on reaching it
  3. I went up 1lb, 1lb and 1lb over the next three weeks
  4. I went down 3lbs (back to 1lb off goal)
  5. I went up 2lbs and 2lbs the next two weeks (Total Loss: 95lbs)
I have felt like the past few weeks have been a bit like this:

I have attributed my weight gain to being off the cigs - Five weeks today by the way! The "problem" as such with being off the cigarettes is that I find myself wandering out into the kitchen and staring into an open fridge/cupboard, which results in me picking. This is something I never had a problem with before.

I have also attributed my weight gain to the fact I am training for a marathon, which is in less than six weeks time, so I have found myself hungrier than before. I am running more so therefore I must need to eat more? For example, when I finished the Half Marathon last weekend I had a bottle of coke & chocolate bar to 're-fuel', then I had a big lunch, then I had a full pizza for dinner.

Last night as I left Weight Watchers 5lbs away from goal, my self-confidence bruised, I was mad at myself. I was mad that I was moving in the wrong direction. I was mad that this was happening. I was mad that everything happening was out of my control. 

When I got home from Weight Watchers, I went for a run, had dinner and then went to bed early (because I was feeling sorry for myself). My alarm went off at 7am this morning and off I went for my walk with CJ as per usual. With a clear, fresh head and a rested body, I walked up the Maree Road towards Renville Park dragging the dog along at 7.30am this morning when I had the following epiphany:

I have taken my eyes off the ball (my goal) due to the following flawed logic: 1 - I am training for a marathon so I don't really need to point/track as I am doing more than enough exercise to justify me tracking everything. 2 - I deserve a few treats because I am not smoking.

So instead of feeling like my goal has thrown me off track:

I realised that I can control of the ball:

As much as I am like my dog... I am not a dog. I should not reward my "good behaviour" with food. Looking at a possible cause for my gain, I realised what exactly I have been doing. Every time I go to the kitchen press, I am rewarding myself for not smoking with a biscuit or a slice of cake or something. Every time I go to the shop, I buy crisps or a chupa chup. Now while each of these individually are not bad, collectively they are.

One day last week I counted 2 chocolate digestives (5pps) at 11am coffee break, crisps at 3.30pm (3pps), a Chupa Chup (1pp) on the way home from work and maybe a 2 finger kit-kat after dinner (3pps) mixed in with 3 cups of tea/coffee (6pps) throughout the day = 18 propoints A DAY, thrown away without much consideration. 

This is something I can control. 

Taking above for example, 18 propoints is half my daily allowance! HALF. 18 propoints can be earned by 90 minutes of high activity! Like a Pavlov's dog reacting to the sound of the bell, I have just changed the stimulus/behaviour cycle. The pattern above shows that basically food has replaced the 'hit' I used to get from smoking. I need to find a reward that aligns itself with ALL of my GOALS - not just one that aligns itself with one of my goals (smoking).

My Goals (collectively) are:
  1. Be Fit & Healthy
  2. Reach Goal Weight
  3. Not Smoke
Another important factor to consider which I have learned time after time since starting this journey over a year ago is:

Another factor I don't place enough emphasis on is:

So while I may be LIKE my dog in many ways, I am also the one controlling the lead. A little bit of self-reigning in when I go astray along the path is needed, but I have gotten myself this far. I need to stop being so hard on myself and with myself. Being mad at myself for enjoying something (like a slice of cake etc) is counterproductive. Likewise, don't eat all the cake as a reward for something unrelated. I will have my cake, eat a slice, then walk it off.

Surely getting to goal has to be easier than bringing CJ for a walk! (If anyone disagrees, I'd like to invite you to bring CJ with them the next time they are heading out the door).

Similar but different...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Mr Photographer... Make sure you catch me from my good side!

Peter Mooney was at the Athlone Half Marathon on Saturday snapping away good-oh before, after and at the 21K mark. You can check out all the photos here: 

I have this love/hate feeling when I see a Photo Album going up on Facebook, especially after a race as you never know what state you'll find yourself in (or even if you were snapped). Much to my surprise, I found this one of me that I actually like, especially when you consider this was just around the corner from the finish line at the 13 mile mark.

And in case you didn't get the reference in the post title, it's from a Britney song (Kill The Lights). This post is my shout out to all the photographers who brave the elements to take photos like the ones Peter took that runners would otherwise never see. Thanks Peter!

If you ran in the Athlone Flatline, check out Peters Flickr account as he has 800+ photos from the day. All of the photographs here on Peter's Flickr set have a visible watermark embedded in them "however all of the photos are available free, at no cost, at full image resolution WITHOUT watermark. We take these photographs as a hobby and as a contribution to the running community in Ireland."

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Flatline - Athlone Half Marathon

Following the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in Dublin, I had my eye out for something to fill the twelve week gap to the Dublin City Marathon. That was when I found The Flatline in Athlone conveniently located both half way between Galway & Dublin and half way between August & October. Registration was a bargain at €20. I do wonder sometimes about the prices charged for some of these races, as I was looking at the Galway Bay Half (end of September) which is coming in at €45. Feic that... This running malark is more expensive than a drug habit, that being said, I am like a magpie and can't resist shiny new medals.

I've been having a bit of a low-motivation week this week; I can't put my finger on it just something I can't seem to shake off. I was hoping this Half would kick start me back into gear. This week I've covered my lowest amount of milage in weeks - so in my head I've said I was 'tapering down', but in reality I am just being a lazy git. Despite this, I turned up at the start line yesterday morning feeling quite optimistic and well prepared for the race.

Ready... Set...

I have to say, the organisation of the entire race was brilliant. There was a pre-race meeting where we were told where the water and gel stops would be along the course and general guidelines about throwing rubbish in the drop-zones etc. I have to say this most definitely felt like the most organised race I have ever been to. As everyone was in the school (St. Aloysius) grounds, they asked people to group around their projected finish time by standing with their respective pacer (2.00, 1.55, 1.50, 1.45 etc)

St. Aloysius's - Pre Race

The start line was then filled from the back to the front by the pacers - as in, all 2+ hour people left the school yard and joined the start line (at the back), before the 1.55's joined the start line in front of the 2 hour people. This approach worked really well and we all found our way to the start line in no time in our self-assigned starting positions. I decided to push myself for this race and joined the 1.45 pacers. I know this was a bit of a stretch as it meant knocking around 7 minutes from my Dublin Half time of 1:51 but I said feic it... What's the point in running it if I'm not going to try to better myself?

At the Start Line...

The race started bang on 11am and off I took... I knew in order to meet the 1:45 finish time, I would be required to run at just under 5 minutes per km which is a pace I am comfortable with on a 5/10K but have never kept up for a full Half. Again (I reckoned), what is the point in doing something unless you are going to give it your all, so I figured I would give it a try.

The first few km's were the usual - crowded and spent running around people/dodging groups, but I kept my eyes on the 1:45 balloons and kept trucking on. You couldn't have wished for better weather for the race - it was dry and warm but not hot. There was a little breeze which occasionally would blow, cooling everyone down sporadically along the route, kind of like one of those spray mists you find outside shops in Spain. 

Every time I run, I always learn something new about myself or about racing. Today was no different. I spent the race running with the 1:45 pacers - I have never run with pacers before, I used to always err on the side of caution - so if I wanted to finish in 2.00 hours before, I would start in front of them (1.55) and make sure I never saw them again. This time around, I ran with the pacers for my projected time and found I wasn't alone with that plan.

As we ran around the country roads of Clonown, you could see a fair bit in the distance. The pacers seemed to have swarms of people around them while the runners were more sparsely spread out in-between. That being said, the benefit of running with the pacer meant that I always stayed with him in my sights... pushing me to keep up at all times.

The race just seemed to fly by... 5K, 10K, 15K. It's funny the things you think about while you run. I either spend my time working out exactly what percentage of the race is left to do e.g. "I have completed 5 of the 13.1 miles so I am '5 divided by 13 multiplied by 100 over 1' through the race" (The answer is 38%). I also spent my time contemplating how far I have come. Who would have thought that a Half Marathon would just be something I would/could do - and as I am all about self improvement, I spent the latter half of the race making lists of 2014 goals and what I would like to do next year.

11 miles in... Pacer still in my sights

As we passed 11 miles, the pacer was still in my sights but the crowd had dispersed a little. I have to say, the pacer was absolutely amazing. He was chatting to all the runners as we ploughed on towards the finish line. I remember at one point he said "Come on, 12 more minutes and you'll be finished... Keep it up" - and that really stuck with me. I always think about my runs in terms of distances so hearing something defined in terms of time changed my thinking to "Thats only 3 more songs". With that in mind, I hit skip on my iPhone and Lady Gaga came on to turbo charge my finish.

I over-took the pacer at around 20K (Sorry Mr. Pacer!) and when I saw the sign saying '400m to go', I put my foot to the floor and sped around the corner to see the finish line in sight. The clock was seconds off 1:45:00 so I floored it, crossing the finish line just before the clock hit the time I had set in my head as a finish target.

Another Medal for the Wall...

My Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes, 56 seconds.
My Chip Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes, 19 seconds.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Blog Awards - On The Short List

I woke up this morning to find the Short List for the Blog Awards Ireland had been published. While I didn't make it out of the Best Newcomer Blog or Best Personal Blog categories onto the Short List, I did make it onto the Short List for Best Sport/Recreational Blog.

My reaction on seeing I was in the Sports Category

I know what you are thinking... Best Sports/Recreational Blog?! WTF! I didn't even know I was nominated in that category but I went back to look at the Long List and yep, there I was sitting in the Long List there alongside 32 other blogs including the likes of Elverys & Munster Running blogs - which I both read. 

So... Myself and 9 other blogs have progressed from the Long to the Short List in our category which is ace! I'm thrilled. I suppose in fairness, the chances of making Top 10 from the 170+ Personal Blogs on the short list would require something quite phenomenal, so I am just delighted to be able to hang a new Purple 'Short Listed' Badge on my Website :)

Judging re-opens on all of the Shortlisted Blogs and the Finalists will be announced at the end of September before the Awards themselves mid-October. Best of Luck to all other Blogs nominated. I'm also delighted to see my very good friend The Skinny Doll has been Shortlisted for Best Health & Wellbeing Blog. Yay - Go Doll!

Take it away Britney...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


So, @_JustGina just tweeted me:

So there you have it! I have been nominated for the #RaboTweeties under in the extremely flattering category of Inspiration. The link to the Short List is here:

First off, what are the #RaboTweeties:
The first awards show to recognise the power, reach and genius of Twitter & the people, businesses, media firms and celebrities who use it.
And what category am I nominated for:
An Irish person, artist, entrepreneur, cause, company, educational establishment, school, college or service that inspires you on Twitter, someone who makes you want to retweet and share with your followers.


So... Unlike the Blog Awards, you can help with the #RaboTweeties. Their where, when, how to vote guide (here) says:
Twitter users have one vote per category. You can vote for one category or them all, it’s up to you. You can vote for yourself and even ask your followers to vote for you. Just describe who or what you want to vote for, or include their Twitter handle and then include the relevant category hashtag. It’s that easy. Voting is open now and closes on September 18th, 2013.

So if you would like to vote for me, its simple:

Tweet mentioning me @quinlivan and #TweetieInspire 

Other nominations in the category include:
I am in absolute shock to even be considered alongside these people. And while I stand a snowballs chance in hell alongside these Tweeters, I am proud to have been nominated.

In terms of how I could possibly stand alongside some of those people is beyond me, and for that reason I am doing the following:

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Strike a pose!

Last week, I got a call. Not one of those call's a nun gets to join a monastery, but it was just as Godly. I received THE phone call - a call people secretly hope they will one day receive yet never speak of out of fear that they will never be called up to the table. Last week I got a phone call from Weight Watchers HQ...

Hilary from Weight Watchers had found my blog (this blog) and wanted me to come to the Head Office in Dublin for a Photo Shoot. Never in a million years did I think I would be one of those people on a poster/advertisement for WW but here I was being offered the opportunity - and I took it! So on Friday morning (just gone), I left Galway at 8am bound for Swords. I arrived at Weight Watchers HQ at about 10.20am where I was greeted by the lovely Hilary.

Weight Watchers HQ

Inside, I was brought to the canteen where myself and Hilary had a quick chat and she filled me in on the day while I munched on some Weight Watchers bars and sipped on some much needed coffee. I was actually more nervous than I had thought I would be. Although I knew I was coming up to be photographed, it all became much more real when I was brought into the adjoining room which was set up for the photo shoot. The other two women who were also having their pictures taken were already in hair and make-up. Following a quick introduction, we were shown the clothes we would be wearing which were all picked out by Marie from Debenhams.

Lights... Camera... Action!

The Hair & Make-Up Station

I had a great chat with two women while everything was being set up. Both women have lost an incredible amount of weight - The three of us collectively have lost over 20st - so we quite proudly congratulated and applauded each other. Once the women were ready, they were sent off to get changed while I had my shot at hair and make up. 

Off The Rails

Thinking I'd be extremely quick, I was quite surprised at how long I was on the make up chair. I did double check myself in the mirror afterwards to make sure I didn't have pink lip-gloss or fake eye-lashes on but no, I was just given a gentle dusting down to keep the shine at bay (thankfully!). I was informed my overall look for the photo shoot was 'country'. I don't know how keen I was initially as the clothes I was shown I honestly would have walked straight past if I had seen them on a hanger in a store. But, that being said... my initial reservations were cast away once I got changed.

Mr. Photographer - Are you ready for my close up?

My first shoot actually flew by. The photographer seemed to love what I was doing, I even heard him mutter words like 'so natural' and 'what a stunner' - clearly all those years watching America's Next Top Model have paid off. (I'm taking the piss by the way - about the photographers comments, not  about watching America's Next Top Model, that did happen). In all honesty, the shoot was fairly quick. There is something daunting about posing, smiling, moving your shoulders towards the camera, pointing your foot more to the right etc that is slightly embarrassing in front of other people in the room but I have to say everyone there was extremely supportive and encouraging. I hope that comes across in the final edits.

Ready for Round 2

Following the first set of photos, I got changed into my second outfit which consisted of skinny jeans, a white shirt and a tweed jacket. All of my clothes were from the new Hammond range which has just come to Debenhams - so from that point of view it was lovely to wear clothes that I wouldn't normally wear, and I felt great in them. Again, the second round in front of the photographer was quite easy. Click click click and I was done.

Before, in between and after my bouts with the camera man, the women were coming in and out in a range of stunning dresses, jeans, t-shirts and jackets. They looked amazing. I just loved the way all of the Weight Watchers staff who were there on Friday were so supportive and friendly - they kept the energy up in the room by chatting to each of us like they had know us for years. It was really lovely and such a great experience. For anyone who has seen Orange is the new Black, thankfully my experience was nothing like this (which I had feared):

After the shoot, we had lunch which I was a bit afraid of as I thought it was going to be a test or something... like if they were going to see if we tracked what we had or something or like they'd kick us out if we couldn't rattle off how many propoints were in a sandwich/weight watchers chocolate bar etc. (Again, I'm kidding!). Lunch was lovely actually as we all sat around in the canteen and just chatted about everything from our WW journey to which of the outfits we preferred the most, maintenance mode to where we were from.

I left Weight Watchers HQ at 2pm feeling on top of the world. It was such a fantastic morning - I felt like I had won a prize or something by just being there. It was only when I was driving away in the car (munching on a pinched Weight Watchers bar from the kitchen table) that it really hit me - the prize isn't the photo shoot - the prize is the new life Weight Watchers has given me. 

Madonna, who sang 'Strike a pose there's nothing to it' once said: No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you've come from, you can always become a better version of yourself.

What's funny is... meeting those women on Friday, I will only ever have known them as I met them on Friday. When we saw each others 'Before' photos, it was very surreal to see the photos of what looked like a completely stranger side-by-side with the stunning, confident, beautiful women whom I met on Friday at the photo shoot. I hadn't really thought about it before, but the same must apply to me. For example, the new start at work will have been introduced to the 'new' me - yet a picture of 19st me still hangs on the wall of the canteen as a Fire Marshall... if there ever was a fire, he'd never find me.

The Old vs New Me

By the way, the photos will appear in the Sunday World at the end of this month - September 29th - so keep an eye out for that :)