The Perfect 10?

The perfect 10. It’s the number that throughout our lives we are told to aspire to, it’s a number that relates to determination, focus and success. As school children we aim to get ten out of ten in our spelling test and as we get older, particularly as women we are under pressure to reach the supposedly “perfect” 10 dress size. 

Bruno knows……..

I had a ten out of ten day today with my mum. We went shopping and I was on the lookout for a party dress. After a quick browse around a department store off I went into the changing room armed with an array of size 14 dresses only to find that none of them fitted! Having lost the weight that I have over the last couple of years I was disappointed. My inner voice, the one that is critical, puts me down and tells me I’m not good enough (let’s call her Nora Twatty for now) piped up. Nora whispered that I could do with loosing another stone…..as if the previous 15 I’d lost wasn’t enough. 

We left for the next shop and as I was pounding the street the real me kicked in and told Nora where to go. What was I doing? I was allowing a number, a label on a piece of clothing to define my worth. 

Next stop was one of my favourite shops, a real treasure trove and independent where you can find a one off without breaking the bank. A dress, THE dress, caught my eye immediately but just as soon as I saw this seasons print, an electric blue and black leopard print on a silky cream background my heart sank as my eyes drifted to the label and saw that the only size left was a 12. Why Charlotte, why are you allowing a number again to define you?! I looked at it and thought there was no way I’d get into it, after all I’m a 14 or a 16 right? Try it on the shop assistant urged and she also brought in other dresses from the same brand but in bigger sizes for me to try. I tried on the 14 first, a safe middle ground and it fitted my bottom half but was too tight on top (unusual for me as my derriere is certainly more Kardashian than Minogue). I tried on the 16 and it swamped my curves. I begrudgingly tried on the 12 and it fitted like a glove and I walked away a happy customer and may I add not just because it was the smaller size. I’d have bought that dress no matter what size because I loved it! 

Blue Leopard by Libby Loves

This not so unusual experience demonstrates how sizes across the highstreet and even within the same brand fluctuate so dramatically. It is frustrating but what irritates me more is allowing the numbers sewn into that dress or those jeans to dictate our worth. Our worth as people cannot be determined by the size of our clothes. There is more to us than the number on the scales, the grades on our university transcripts or the value in our bank accounts. We are individuals, there is only one you and that is worth so much in itself. 

Yes, I lost a lot of weight but I needed to, I was the ticking time bomb for all obseity related health woes such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The number decreasing on the scales did not give me worth. The fact that my gravitational pull on this earth is now less than it was two years ago does not make me more worthy or a better person. What it did give me though is self-confidence which is a different thing and is something I’m working on improving as the number on the scales or the dress size being less is not a magic wand to wave farewell to Nora . What it gave me is a worth that cannot be quantified and that is health, happiness and opportunities.

You may have gathered that I’m not the perfect 10…..or 12 or 14 or 16 for that matter. What is the perfect 10? You’d probably need to ask some Oxbridge or Ivy League professor to tell you and frankly do you have enough time to digest that?! We do need numbers to help us quantify things in our daily lives but let’s not correlate or determine our worth by a number that relates to the size of our clothing. If I’m lucky enough one day to have a child the only 10 I want them to be smashing is the door of 10 Downing Street. 


Walk a Mile in my Shoes….

I’ve had an unusual day today. Firstly, I had a whole day to myself!! My schedule is usually jam packed so I took the opportunity to have a day, in my own company, in London. KB is at a conference, Mr O is having a boys weekend in Dublin and my parents are sunning themselves at the Belmond in Mexico. Secondly, something truly historic, monumental and epic happened. I’ve returned home from my saunter around central London with exactly what I went looking for. I need to retire my current black patent heels which I keep in the office. They’ve served me very well (and they are ideal for desk to dinner and everything in between) but they are starting to look a bit scruffy so a new pair was needed. I didn’t just find any old pair though, oh no! I have come home with THE shoes. Shoes with red soles…..the ones you have to just close your eyes and enter the pin number into the card machine  because best not remember the price. Yes fellow slimmer’s in the city, I am the proud owner of a pair of Christian Louboutins!

So you may ask why this pair of red soled shoes are so monumental for me? I suppose every woman will remember their first pair of Loubs but for me it marks something so much more. Quite simply, my feet would have never squeezed into such a pair of shoes two years ago. My feet were so puffy and wide that if I had managed to stuff my feet into them I’d be spilling over the sides and there’s no way I could have walked in them dealing with the pressure. Plus the stiletto heel would have snapped under my immense weight. Today however was a different story.

I started my search off in Selfridges. Previously Selfridges would have only catered for my perfume, makeup and handbag addiction but now it can all be mine….ok, let’s not get too carried away! I don’t want you thinking I’ve got a problem! Why is it that when you are looking for something you can’t find it?! I swear before Christmas all I could see were black patent heels but today I was struggling. Dior could have provided me with black patent sling backs but they had the white ribbon with J’adore Dior (never have more true words been spoken Christian Dior) but not suitable for the office or to wear with black tights. Yves Saint Laurent could provide sky high patent black pumps but the heel was made up of the silver or gold metal YSL. A bit too high fashion for trotting around the office and the lady at Louis Vuitton said they are so uncomfortable. I’m a bit like a magpie so I’m always drawn to the sparkly offerings of Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo but I thought I’d chance my luck in Christian Louboutin. I immediately feel for the block patent heels with a rounded toe. They were available in nude or black, they were just the right height and I thought they were the ones. They didn’t have my size but my hunting instinct kicked in and I was determined that these shoes would be mine. They phoned around and my shoes were available in the Mount Street boutique.

Two years ago, if I wanted to go the short distance from Selfridges to Mount Street, I would have needed a taxi. These days however, as Mr O would say my piston legs were going, in fact I left him a voice note as to what I was doing and confused him greatly. I literally sprinted down Duke Street, through Grosvenor Square and down towards The Connaught, turning right onto Mount Street. I walked into Louboutin and the gentleman who greeted me immediately sensed that I was on a mission. He said he liked a lady who knew exactly what she was after and he said I clearly had taste as I put down my cross body silver Diorama calfskin bag. He brought the shoes out and I was sat on a red velvet chaise. Unlike two years ago when it would have been like the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella trying to stuff their feet into the glass slipper, this time my feet glided into the pumps. I stood up and walked to the mirror. I mean, they were practically already in the bag and walking with me down the road the moment they were on my feet.

I walked back out onto Mount Street swinging my bag feeling delighted. I could have just gone home but instead I decided to go for a walk…..just because I can! I love exploring Mayfair with the red brick buildings and Mount Street is one of my favourites as there are so many gems within yards of each other. Think Hélène Derroze at The Connaught, Scott’s of Mayfair and Sophia Webster who does the most beautiful shoes. I love my silver satin bejewelled butterfly flats – I see them every morning on my shoe rack and they give me such joy! Do you know what else gives me joy? I love the freedom that walking has given me. I love to walk anywhere and everywhere whereas before I wasn’t fit enough. My journey to wellness started with a bit of ambling but now it’s a full on fast sprint, knocking out tourists kind of walk when I need to be somewhere.  

Why don’t you come and walk a mile in my shoes then (for today though, not in my new Loubs but instead in knee high black suede boots from Duo who cater for any calf size from narrow to wide).  From Mount Street I went to Berkley Square and peered into Bentley and Rolls Royce and past Sexy Fish. Instead of walking up to Piccadilly I turned onto Dover Street and went past Victoria Beckham. I liked the door which slid open as I walked past. I zig-zagged my way through the streets until I hit Old Bond Street, the home of all the finest jewellers (see I told you I was a magpie). My absolute favourite is the oldest English jewellers, Boodles. I do own a few pieces, I love the ethos of the brand and that even 220 years on it’s still a family run business and the Wainwrights are very present.

Tulips from Amsterdam

The security guard noticed that I was wearing one of the Blossom collection tulip rings so we had a long chat outside whilst I finished my cappuccino. I’m never not wearing my tulip ring. My parents bought it for me when I passed my Bar exams. Before I received it I had also been admiring it as my Nanny had just passed away, she loved tulips and also grew them in her garden. I find it quite ironic that that my tulip means so much to me in honour of my Nanny and life has led me to the land of tulips to Mr O. I do feel that maybe Nanny had a plan all along.

I stopped chattering and walked past the Royal Academy, Burlington Arcade, Cecconis and Saville Row. Now if I was a man, I’d have to get my suits from Saville Row or Jermyn Street. It really disappoints me that the men I have worked with in city law firms have not tended to dress well. Where do I start but to summarise greying white shirts, dull ties and scuffed shoes! If you hadn’t guessed already, shoes are important along with tidy nails and good eyebrows. I paced up Regents Street and it was starting to rain so I thought I’d bob into a few shops whilst I was there. I went into Michael Kors and got chatting to one of the sales assistants as I was looking for a dress for my upcoming dinner out to Park Chinois for mine and Mr O’s valentines date. To be honest I think any new purchases in the next month need to honour the new Loubs and there was only one dress in there that would have matched. It was in the sale and even though it fitted I think a size up would have been more flattering – certainly do not want to look like I’m a sausage about to burst! I love a good sales assistant and this young woman is certainly going to go far and knows how to look after a customer.

As the rain was coming down I decided that it was home time. I looked at my phone and saw that I’d actually walked 8km…certainly more than just that mile in my shoes. Walking is a mundane thing for most people but for me it’s a constant reminder of how far I have walked in my shoes to get me to where I am today and that’s right here, tapping away about my day on my laptop and you guessed it wearing my new shoes! The name of the model of my Loubs is called Lady Gena so stay tuned because I predict that CWS and the Lady Genas are going to have some fun.


We’ll Always Have Paris

Paris has always had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. When I was 5 my mum brought me back from Paris a sparkly Eiffel Tower snow globe and from that moment I’ve been enchanted by this city. Since my first visit I’ve been hooked by the sparkling Tour d’Eiffel and the chic shoulder shrugging, baguette munching citoyens.  I suppose my connection with Paris is not just because it’s a truly spectacular place but because I speak French and understand the culture having also lived and studied in France so I can never let an opportunity to visit pass me by. I hold very special memories of Paris….Rue de la Montaigne was where my first Chanel handbag was purchased. He’s called George by the way (just in case you were interested!)

Mr O and I were approaching our anniversary and as we watched a Six Nations rugby match for our first date, I thought it would be fitting to mark our milestone watching another match. Just my luck that there was the France v. England match on our anniversary weekend et voilà I informed Mr O that we were going to the city of love and light.

When in Paris, do as the Parisians do – they know how to live well! Therefore we checked into the ultra-luxe Peninsula hotel ideally located on Avenue Kléber, a stone’s throw away from the key sights and designer shops! As soon as we whirled around in the revolving door operated by a young man dressed in white with gold embroidery and a pillar box hat we entered into the chicest of lobbies. Don’t you just love it when the oh so eloquent and polite person on check in mutters those magic words. Mademoiselle, we’ve upgraded you….to a room on the top floor with a terrace and a view of the Eiffel Tower. Quelle dommage indeed. Somehow I think I’ll cope!

The room itself was stylish and elegant, every little detail had been thought of and was a generous size for Paris. Mr O loved that everything was controlled by iPad whereas I was more wowed by the walk in wardrobe and dressing area….oh and that the bathroom had mood lighting which included a spa setting where the lights would be lowered and relaxing music played. Did I not mention the gorgeous delicate scent of the Oscar de la Renta toiletries? Mr O soon found out he could watch any movie for free on the in-room entertainment system so he collapsed onto the bed to watch Cars. Didn’t he realise I needed him to be my Instagram photographer, after all we had a rooftop view of Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

One of the (many) things I love about a luxury hotel is the decadent room service. No trays in sight at the Peninsula even if it is just for a ‘let them eat brioche’ croque monsieur. You get a table on wheels delivered to your room, the waiter serves you and you can dine au dressing gown.  There was another knock on the door; had they forgotten something? Of course not! it was just a little Peninsula welcome of freshly made and delicately flavoured macarons piled under a glass cloche. Let’s just say they didn’t last long. C’était délicieux!

Mr O and I are mindful (most of the time) of what we eat and like to keep active so after such indulgence we decided to pay a visit to the spa. Who knew heaven could be waiting in the basement of a Paris hotel? This spa is exquisite! If swimming is your exercise of choice you could get some decent laps in here and when Mr O decides to dunk you under the water you can enjoy the sub aqua music.

The gym called for us the following morning and we were demonstrating what we get up to with our respective PT’s in London and Amsterdam. Mr O went first and then it was my turn. Thought I’d show him some slams with a 10kg ball. You slam it onto the floor from over your head and then squat down to pick it up. It really gets your heart rate up. Top tip from me is that you check to see if the ball bounces. Oh yes, I managed to bite through my lip and almost knock my teeth out and break my nose by the ball bouncing back. Instead of Nora Twatty having a meltdown I managed to stay totally calm although in agony. Poor Mr O didn’t know what to do with himself and the other gentleman in the gym just continued not doing a lot apart from posing on different equipment in his immaculate Gucci tracksuit.

I decided, after the gym incident, that if I could fathom breakfast then I’d survive and to be honest, I don’t think much would have stopped me enjoying pétit déjeuner à la Peninsula. I’m fond of a breakfast buffet but you know you are somewhere top notch when breakfast is served to you and your newspaper or handbag has its own stool. One morning I had an omelette which was healthy and packed full of goodness but the second morning I decided to treat myself and asked the waiter what he recommended. His suggestion was the French toast. I actually think it was life changing as I never knew that eggy bread could taste so sublime. That dish alone is reason enough for my next visit to the Peninsula. I asked for the recipe and before I knew it the chef was in front of me penning his secret recipe.

They say you should breakfast like a King or a Queen (maybe not the best advice in Paris as we all know how it ended for Louis and Marie Antoinette) but it set us up for the day ahead, flaneuring around Paris. We sampled the cafe culture and I took Mr O to Fouquets the ultimate people watching spot. Don’t expect a cheap drink here but it’s worth soaking up the atmosphere whilst warming up with a chocolat chaud. Next stop was arty Montmartre where I sat Mr O down at a bar for a well-earned beer as he had put up with me dragging him into all of the shops and I went off to continue a family tradition of getting an artist to do a portrait as I had changed somewhat in the last couple of years.

Every visit to Paris should involve dinner at Chez Georges nestled on Rue du Mail in the financial arrondisement. If you want an intimate dinner then this is the place to go….by intimate I mean it’s a bit of a puzzle how everyone manages to squeeze in so don’t go thinking you’ll whisper sweet nothings into your lovers ear as the stockbroker next to you will be privy to it. Think ‘Allo ‘Allo with the staff (René and Madame Edith real life equivalents), the menu is handwritten and if something has run out it’s crossed out.

Ooooooh René …..

After feasting on foie gras do not mutter ‘je suis plein’ until you’ve sampled profiteroles like no others. Real vanilla pod ice cream encased in golden cups of Choux pastry drowned in dark chocolate sauce. Mr O doesn’t have such a sweet tooth as I do but he’s good for sharing desserts with….by that I mean that we have two spoons but we know it’s mine!

These are mine!

We came to Paris to watch a rugby match….shortly speaking, England lost, France won, and we met a man with a chicken on his head. Standard for Paris perhaps….

A man, with a chicken on his head

So how can you top off a weekend of pure decadence and indulgence with your loved one in Paris? We visited the L’Oiseau Blanc, the Peninsula’s rooftop bar named after a plane that went missing in the 1920’s trying to make the first trans-Atlantic flight to New York. Trust the French and their humour noir to name such a special place after a doomed plane. On the hour every hour during hours of darkness the Paris skyline glistens with the sparkling lights on the Eiffel Tower and you have the perfect view from the Peninsula rooftop.

L’Oiseau Blanc for cocktails

It fills me with joy and takes me back to my five year old self enchanted with the magic of Paris in a snow globe. I was sad as I woke up the next morning in the comfiest marshmallowy bed that our dreamy weekend in Paris was over and Mr O had another sporting commitment in Amsterdam so was on the first train out. After waving him off I packed up Louis (my globetrotting four wheeled travel companion) stuffed with as many Oscar de la Renta toiletries as possible and took one last look on our terrace of Paris waking up. À bientôt….we will always have Paris and the Peninsula


Who Ate All The Chicken Pie…. Pie

I don’t do rabbit food. Want to know why? I’m not a rabbit! Watching what you eat should not be a punishment so fuel your body with food you enjoy and that can be tailored to be healthy. I love this chicken pie recipe. It feels like a real treat and no one needs to know that it’s not so naughty.

Ingredients:

8 x skinless and boneless chicken thighs
2 x bay leaves
2 x teaspoons of dried thyme
2 x celery sticks
3 x leeks
3 x carrots
1 litre of chicken stock
6 x rashers of bacon (with fat removed or you can buy ‘skinny’ bacon which are the medallions
4 x tablespoons quark
1 x teaspoon cornflour
1 x teaspoon of mustard powder
1 x sheet of lighter puff pastry from Sainsbury’s
1 x egg

Method:

Put the chicken thighs, bay leaves, one of the teaspoons of dried thyme, 1 x chopped leek, 3 x chopped carrots, 2 x sticks chopped celery into a saucepan and cover with the chicken stock. Put on a medium heat and cover. Allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

Keep the remaining stock but remove the chicken and put on a plate, discarding the vegetables. Once the chicken has cooled cut up into bite size pieces.

Thinly slice the remaining leeks and the bacon and fry with a few pumps of fry light until the bacon has browned and the leeks have slightly softened.

Put the remaining stock on the hob and allow to simmer until the liquid has reduced to approximately 400ml. Add the chicken, leeks and bacon and allow to simmer for a further 15 minutes.

Whilst the stock is simmering, roll out the sheet of lighter puff pastry and cut into shapes. I personally like to cut mine into a heart shape with a cookie cutter. Place onto a baking tray, score the pastry and wash over the pastry using a brush with the beaten egg. Bake in the over at 200 fan for 15 minutes.

Serve it with love…..

With the pastry in the over, mix together a little water with the cornflour and mustard powder to get a paste. Add to the pie mixture and stir until the mixture thickens. Once the pastry is cooked your pie is ready to be served. I recommend serving with some steamed vegetables.


The Catalyst

Remember in Bridget Jones when she’s at her mother’s turkey curry buffet dressed like some dodgy 1970’s carpet? Mr Darcy makes a comment to his own mother within earshot of Bridget saying he’s not desperate enough to go out with someone like her and Bridget decides that that was the moment she would change things…..she wrote a diary and well the rest as they say is history! People ask me what was my moment. When did that light bulb go ding in my head to spark such a change? A change that would lead to a total transformation.

I was bringing in 2016 by having a New Year’s Eve dinner party at my new flat with friends. Earlier in the evening one of my gay best friends, Greg had presented me with a beautiful pink leather bound journal embossed with my initials CWS. After we watched the fireworks on my rooftop he asked me what I wanted to achieve in the coming year. He eventually wriggled it out of me. I think he could see me wanting to say out loud for the first time, admitting to myself that I wanted to lose some weight.

I was more than intelligent enough to realise that being the size I was wasn’t healthy in the long term. I think I’d always resigned myself to being bigger. I’d never tried dieting or exercising before because no one had pushed me to do it or was too polite to say and I guess those around me who loved me didn’t want to upset me. I’m a perfectionist so the pressure of being successful made me scared of failing.

The moment that really cemented the change and made me say to myself this really needs to happen was on the 2 January 2016 and I remember it clearly. It was a rainy day in London Town and I was with a friend. We had been on one of the London tourist buses and hopped (although at the size I was it was more like plopped) off to take a photo by Horseguards Parade. Looking back at this photo now I don’t recognise myself. Who is that girl? I don’t just mean my appearance. It’s difficult to explain and maybe my mind has shut off that girl because I’m angry and infuriated at myself for letting myself get to that point because I deserved to treat myself better (and by treating myself better we are obviously not just talking about buying myself even more gorgeous handbags).

From that day on, I was on a mission, a very secret mission. As secret as the naughty foods I used to eat and hide from people which helped me to get to that size. This time however I enlisted a secret agent called Sapan. He founded his own fitness studio (London Fields Fitness) with an ethos of affordable fitness for anybody. Gyms are typically seen as intimidating places by larger people but his gym is for anybody. By anybody I literally mean any body no matter your shape,  size or fitness. I didn’t want to be seen by anybody exercising so Sapan agreed to train me at 5am. He told me that it would be a challenge but that he would support me. Let’s just say that we didn’t get off to a flying start. I often wouldn’t turn up for sessions which obviously frustrated him as he was getting up so early. One of the best excuses was I couldn’t go as the door handle to my front door had broken so I was locked in.

Things that most people take for granted were difficult for me such as walking to the station to get to work. No joke the station is at the other end of my road, we are talking about a two minute walk here but embarrassingly I would struggle with that and take a taxi every morning to the office. Every morning I was regularly picked up by a lovely lady London cabbie and she is my angel and how appropriate that her name is Angela. On our morning drives we would get chatting and she mentioned that she went to Slimming World. She absolutely did not suggest or hint that I should go but something was registering in my brain and I got researching. I was nervous that going to a ‘group’ wasn’t for me and that it would be a bit like Marjorie Dawes in Little Britain. Eventually I plucked up the courage to go, accompanied by my angel Angie. I was petrified of stepping onto the scales. Everyone sat in the circle was so supportive and encouraging. I met another three amazing ladies there who I don’t just count as friends now. They are my London family and diamonds in the form of Julie, Jade and Casey.  Absolutely no shaming went on but I did it, I stood on those scales and I weighed in at just short of 27 stone.

I was devastated and shocked that it was such a big number but from that moment on I told myself that I would never ever see that number again. It was truly at that point that the lightbulb that went ding in my head on New Year’s Eve fully exploded and I was a woman on a mission. I actually turned up to my sessions with Sapan and I committed myself to healthy eating. It was daunting at first but the weight started coming off which made me want to do it even more.

All of this was happening but it was still a secret from everyone (apart from a select few). I didn’t even tell my parents.  After about two months people started asking me if I’d lost some weight so I started to open up about it. The momentum kept on going and two years later I’d gone from 27 stone to 12 stone.

My journey to wellness (because it’s not just about losing weight and as you’ve heard there have been bumps in the road) has been a huge achievement in my life. It took a lot of courage to say those words, take those steps and admit I had a problem. The greatest achievement however is having been lucky enough to have met, been inspired and have been supported by some truly wonderful people.

My life at 27 years of age at 27 stone was a good life and I was happy. I had parents who adored me along with a loving family, friends who took me for who I was, a good career and a lovely home. The journey is still continuing but at 30 years of age at 12 stone I still have everything I had before but my experience of life has been magnified to be a thousand times better, has given me opportunities and I  quite literally feel that a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Before

I truly believe that I can do anything if I put my mind to it with hard work and dedication. If you are trying to do something which seems impossible just think of my story. I will always need to work hard not to fall off the horse but if I do I know I have the strength to get back up again. Talking of horses, two and a bit years on after that fateful lightbulb exploding moment photo was taken I found myself back at Horseguards Parade for the Trooping of the Colour. I had to have another photo taken, this time with Mr O by my side, wearing a pink dress and heels. There you go – life enriched and magnified. So what if you fall? Oh, but my darlings what if you fly?

After
(with a little bit of :
Dress – Mint Velvet,
Pashmina – Louis Vuitton,
Shoes – Hobbs,
Jewellery – Boodles)