An update…did I make a change for the better?

At the end of September I posted about a challenge I’d been set by Special K to ‘make a change for the better’. This post might make more sense if you read that post first.

It’s quite easy to make a promise to change, but it’s a lot harder to follow through with it. Luckily, in this lovely internet era we live in, it’s impossible to make promises go away. (Even if some people like to pretend it isn’t.)

I pledged to try and change in five different ways and this is what I pledged to do:

  • I want to get a decent routine at the gym sorted which will be designed to support my swimming. To do this I’m going to make a couple of PT appointments which should help me to ACTUALLY LEARN what the hell to do, rather than my usual clumsy guesswork.


  • I want to really push myself to try and go to six classes at my gym. That’s two a month. I hate classes, I have a massive irrational fear about exercising in a choreographed way with other people. I can do live TV or radio with no qualms whatsoever, not so much as a butterfly, but Zumba?! GET OUTTA HERE. If I actually get through these classes, it will truly be a massively positive change for me in terms of my self confidence.


  • I want to learn how to use the sodding Power Plates. They look so cool in the corner of the gym, but I don’t get them. At all.



  • I want to get my five a day. This one sounds silly, but when you see what the government considers ‘a portion’ of fruit and veg, you realise it’s not the easiest thing in the world to achieve. Just because a Pret salad has seven types of veg in it, doesn’t mean it’s coming out at more than two portions of veg. Whilst I almost definitely eat five different fruit and veg a day, I don’t get five decent portions that would add up to the ‘official’ five a day we should aim for. If I get more fruit and veg I should naturally eat less crap. And my skin will be better! And my swimming will be better! AND I MAY TURN INTO BROCCOLI! But that will be fine.

BUT. And here comes the but. I didn’t manage it.

I never wrote about how ill I was after my final Thames swim, because I was wary of publicly saying THE THAMES MADE ME VERY SICK INDEED. I was wary because I would never want to put someone off open water swimming – and I know that most non-swimmy people I talk to already assume open water swimming comes with vomming and ‘other end’ vomming as standard. It doesn’t.

I enjoyed open water swimming in various lakes, real and man-made, from Spring onwards this year. I never got sick from it.

The Thames race I finished with in July had ‘famously’ left over a third of competitors sick the year before. I was very nervous about it as it had been so bloody hot in the run up that had it been a tri event, westsuits would have been banned. I donned my wetsuit and swam it though. Hated it. (More on that here). And in the days afterwards a sense of great achievement washed over me that I’d actually bloody well done it. Not only had I done it, but I had met my £3,000 fundraising target for Barnardo’s. And best of all – I wasn’t puking everywhere!

Little did I realise that the types of bugs people catch in the Thames tend to have a two week incubation period…and sure enough within a fortnight I was a broken mess.

I didn’t go the doctors (because I’m STRONG! My body should LEARN! etc etc) and I progressively became more and more ill. To the point where I was excusing myself from fancy restaurants to vomit in the street (still very embarrassed about this, felt the need to explain to passers by at Chez Bruce that it’s “just parasites – but they’re not from here!” in between heaves) and I was unable to touch a DROP of alcohol without spending all night in the bathroom. Then at one point I realised it was October and this had probably gone on for a bit longer than normal.

Blood tests became hospital tests became really gross tests became WAITING became sad.

Listening to people worry about your liver is, in itself, very worrying. Phlebotomists would joke about what exotic third world countries I’d been to – “just Kingston”, I’d reply.

Luckily they didn’t find the grody Hepatitis that they were looking for, but I’d been left with some pretty bad ulcers by not treating the original infection (nice one, me) and that was why I felt like I was carrying around an 8 month pregnancy of poison, evil and broken glass. A six week ‘diet’ of very plain food, strong drugz and no booze FINALLY fixed me. Honestly you can touch my tummy now and I won’t vomit. COME HERE AND TOUCH IT! Honestly, nothing will happen.

But this was all very time consuming – and meant I wasn’t exactly fulfilling my promises of hot dates with PTs and Power Plates. I met a fair few hot doctors, and I DID make a change for the better in that I finally stopped feeling like I was going to die, but I didn’t exactly do what I set out to do.

I was sick when I made my original pledges, but was convinced it was all about to fix itself ‘any day now’ so didn’t feel too bolshy making such promises. But yeah, it all went a bit tits up.

ALL is not lost though, it’s not like I’ve done nothing since my original post except feel sorry for myself in various bathrooms. I’ve felt human and well for exactly one month now – and in this time I HAVE made some changes for the better.

I HAVE incorporated five proper portions of fruit and veg into my meals each and every day – and feel very alive for it.

I HAVE started taking my skin seriously, I met with Caroline Hirons as I pledged to do and I’ve followed a brilliantly thorough skincare routine twice a day since. I’ll be blogging about that properly this week. This has made feel so happy though, it’s silly how much it has pleased me. I love having so much ‘bare face’ confidence. I think Special K would be pleased with how much this has transformed me, as it was kinda the point of this campaign.

And whilst I have only just gotten back into swimming properly since being sick (literally last week) I have made one other major change and that has been taking on the 5:2 diet. I am four weeks into this (basically, been doing it since I’ve felt well again) and I’ve lost seven pounds – and that’s without having really been swimming.

I know it’s easy to praise a ‘diet’ within the first few weeks, but 5:2 really doesn’t feel like a ‘diet’ in the traditional sense and I’ve found it surprisingly easy for the simple fact that five days of the week I’m not a deprived calorie counting maniac.

Over the next month, I want to continue with 5:2, fruit & veg and fabulous skincare – but I want to revisit my original pledges too and try to tackle these now that I’m well.

So I guess I can only apologise that I’m not updating you with evangelical “I’M A BRAND NEW HUMAN BEING” news, but I know that Special K just wanted to help a few bloggers become the best version of themselves – and I’m physically well, busier than ever with work and feeling pretty healthy for the first time in ages….so whilst I may not have Ennis abs or a twice a day gym fetish out of nowhere, I do feel like a better version of myself. And I guess that was the point :)



  1. keri says

    What an inspiring and honest post, it’s nice to read something genuine by a blogger which addresses failure as well as success. Thanks for the positive vibes on a cold Tuesday morning x

    • poppyd says

      Thanks Keri! There are huge swathes of blogs I can’t read for that exact reason….do these picture perfect women NEVER have any problems?! x

  2. CP says

    How did you manage to get the five portions of fruit and veg in every day? I really try on that one, but it can be SO boring.

    • poppyd says

      I’m crap at getting fruit in to be honest, days go past where I eat loads of veg but no fruit. I try to avoid juice because of the sugar but that’s obviously an easy way to get at least one portion. I rarely snack and am unlikely to have fruit at brekkie, so I aim to have two portions covered off by lunch and three by dinner. Should add that I have it a lot easier as a vegetarian – huge chunks of my meals HAVE to be vegetables or it would just be carb city. xxx

  3. says

    Firstly am so impressed by your swimming efforts, I have always loved running but put in a pool for 5 minutes and I essentially sink-so a lot of admiration there! Secondly, I have been really intrigued by the 5:2 diet for a while, would you be able to share a sample day from a ‘diet’ day and a ‘normal’ day? Do you think it is sustainable with regular exercise? Thanks so much and congrats again on all your achievements! x

    • poppyd says

      Ah, thank you Catherine. And yes, swimming is SO hard. But then I could never run, so swings and roundabouts.

      I think 5:2 is super easy to do with exercise, I wouldn’t exercise on the fast days but plenty of people do (god knows how!) so I just make the two rest days I’d like to have in a week anyway be the two fast days.

      I still feel very unsure about 5:2 though – fasting is easy, just have 500 calories (I skip breakfast, reserve 80 cals for a soup at lunch then have the bulk of the calories all in one meal at dinner) but it’s the other days that I’m still not sure about. I try not to count calories as ‘the point’ is to be relaxed those days – but I eat out every single day of the week (well, not now on fast days!) and so I have to be relatively healthy with my choices otherwise no amount of occasional fasting will stop the fact everything is cooked in butter and washed down with wine the rest of the time.

      The best part though is that you do naturally have a much smaller appetite on the normal days, you don’t ‘want to go crazy because you can’. So in that sense it’s great.

      On normal days I still don’t snack, I probably have a 250-300 calorie breakfast (cereal and skimmed milk), 250-300 calorie lunch (something like one of those sodding veg pots by Innocent) and then I probably eat a good 1200 calorie dinner. I try not to eat that much at dinner but probably do, just by the fact I’m eating out and have so much less control!

      It definitely takes some ‘playing with’, I’ll def do a full blog post once I’m more confident on it myself. Apparently the book is actually worth getting, but there are so many books now!


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