Posted by: susanjcaldwell28 | August 1, 2012


“You have got to live”.  I have heard this phrase much lately in respect of the fact that Im a gym going vegan, as if somehow Im denying myself pleasure and not really living.  The implication being that not eating animals or their byproducts and exercising meant I was missing out.   Of course, you have to live, well no you don’t, but given that you are here, it would be nice to carry on living and living a happy, healthy life.  I faced this summer with no prospect of a holiday in my tiny cottage with two teens and a freelancing hubbie.  My youngest wanted to go to the Gaelteacht, but that was out of  the question, as I didnt have a spare thousand euro in my purse, so she was sent to tennis in Herbert Park for the month of July  at the very unexorbitant price of 35 euro for a month’s tuition,  and Sarah, my eldest,  supervised exams for two weeks in Muckross and then joined lA Fitness in Dartry with me for the summer at a cost of 40 per month,  and Jessie is now coming for August, summer pretty much sorted.

I told my girls that we would go on holidays again but for the moment we had to live on the memories of all the lovely holidays we had when their dad was a Business Development Manager and the joy I had felt at converting his end of year’s bonus into holidays and weekends away, something I had quite a talent for!.   The rain started in June and has pretty much never stopped, and Sarah and I raincoated and gymbagged marched unabatted to the gym most mornings, came home, did a few things and back again in the evenings.  Even the instructors began to think we were nuts, doing a mixture of body pump, step, yoga, aerobics, dance and spin.  Sarah is already slim and beautiful but she is 17 so she does not know this.  The bonding has also been fantastic, our chats to and from the gym and enjoying classes together and I think she is quite proud that her mad old mum is quite fit and we can do classes together. We both set ourselves goals, but I was really happy that she was getting fit, as she was never a sporty type of gal.  To see her go from pretty much zero fitness level to four classes  a  day, pushing me forward when I suggested skipping a class, telling me we would feel better aftewards.  She was, of course, always right.  We would come home from the gym and use our time to make healthy lunches and dinners, stirfries, mung bean dals, lentil stews etc.  I would look out at the rain and somedays I did feel despair but mostly I thought, we are losing weight, getting fit and really healthy, so we have turned a potentially disastrous summer into something good.  I hope to send my girls back to school to study for their respective junior and leaving certificates, healthy, fit and motivated.  Yes it would be lovely to get a break from the unrelenting rain or live in a house where we had room to relax and have friends around, but in the meantime we have to work with what we have, something I have to tell my youngest on a regular basis, but I think its actually getting through.

Friends have noted my weight loss and fitness and commented on my skin etc. but then invariably say  “but Susan, you have to live” It always amuses me.  Im not exercising like a lunatic because Im a martyr to the cause. Im doing it because Im genetically predisposed to weight. I have had friends who are 5 9 and lighter than me telling me Im fine the way I am and I should not  lose any more weight. Having been used to seeing me the size of a whale, I suppose its all relative, but Im not stopping till I get to my goal weight.  Ive worked too hard and come too far.  Im just looking to get into the mid point of my BMI and Im nearly there, happy daze!.  All my family of origin are very overweight.  Im also 5ft and top heavy, so its been really hard work losing the weight and gaining fitness. Ten years ago, I gave up office work.  I had been working straight through for 23 years and had gone back to work when both my babies were very young, due to the crazy maternity leave at the time (14 weeks) and the fact that both my kids were overdue and I could  not take unpaid leave.  Sarah was 7 weeks old when I went back full time. By the time I gave up, we had been paying creche fees for 7 years, 5 of that double.  We knew it was going to be a stretch but I wanted to be with my kids and I was sick of leaving them with strangers and paying through the nose for the privilage.  I was so tired and was 2 and a half stone heavier than I am now.  I felt and looked awful.  Id catch sight of myself in shop windows and I would want to cry.  I would go to buy clothes and would pick out whatever fitted me and endure the ordeal of the dressing room.  Ive been vegetarian for the last 29 years and vegan for the last year, but even as a vegetarian I struggled with weight.   Looking back, I think tiredness and stress had completely slowed down an already slow metabolsim.  I was eating very little but still could not lose weight.  I joined a gym and slowly but surely started to get fit, feel good, lose weight and gain friends.  The wonderful thing now is that I know now because Im vegan once I lose weight I will never put it on again.  Last year was my first vegan christmas and the first christmas that I never put on an ounce, so once the backlog goes, thats it.After I gave up office work,  I did loads of part time gigs working around my girls like teaching a vegi cookery class, teaching drama, working for an estate agent and going to college.  The main thing was that I was able to take my kids to their ballet, drama and art classes, help them with their homework and prepare healthy meals.  We never had any unpaid help, so it was  down to me.  There was no family to help pick up kids from school etc. so it was important that I was there.

Ten years on Im as fit as a lot of the 20 year olds in my gym, 2 and a half stone lighter and Ive gone vegan.  Ive still a little way to go, less than a stone to get to my goal but I know Im going to have to really work for every pound.  So where does the “you have to live mentality”  come into it.   In order to live happily and healthily, it is better to be at your optimum weight, be fit and eat good healthy cruelty free food.  I do love my red wine and go to loads of book launches and meet friends for coffee or lunch or the odd gig when I can.  I have found ways to do things cheaply (check out my lunch for tenner or under (with wine!!) blog.  The recession has dealt us quite a blow which is a real bummer when we never got the boom, but we are a close happy healthy family and my girls are very motivated on every level.   Besides living is not just about longevity but quality of life and having been privvy to seeing a lot of people  lead unhealthy lives and have slow lingering deaths, I feel we should try and prepare ourselves body, mind and soul for old age.  And whilst wanting to live and live well Im also happy to extend this courtesy to the animals of this planet. They want to live also, after all.  Let’s harmonise, not terrorise.  So happy healthy living and I will raise a glass of red or two to you all on Friday.  In the meantime, Im off to step and spin tonight. SLAINTE!!.XX


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