Tales from new teachers

Bulging at the seams

The problem

My first year as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) started smoothly enough. Sure, the volume of planning and marking was overwhelming, but my incredibly supportive department helped to make that aspect of the job as manageable as possible.

The real problem was that the brand new work wardrobe I had spent all summer carefully piecing together no longer fit me quite as well as I'd have liked. In fact, my trousers had started groaning at the seams. I was falling prey to the so-called "NQT stone". How could this possibly happen? It felt as though I'd barely sat down since the beginning of the school year. I was gutted - in more ways than one.

The options

I talked to a few of my peers and was relieved to discover that I wasn't alone. Each of us had put on upwards of a stone in weight since starting. While most of my colleagues blamed this on the stress and mania of the NQT year, one guy was in denial and believed a knee injury was the cause. I wasn't so convinced.

On a normal day, I'd have cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and admittedly a larger-than-normal dinner, but spending hours on your feet makes you hungry, right? Sure. But should I still be hungry after the weekly departmental cake club? And picking at the snack box I received in the post? And the daily biscuit hunts? It dawned on me that therein might lie the reason why my blazer wouldn't button up any more. Something had to give, but I was determined it wouldn't be the treats.

A colleague suggested going to the gym on the school site. I politely explained that I was allergic to exercise, especially when students might be around to witness my lack of physical coordination. I briefly considered walking to school, but I couldn't help feeling that the time for the 90-minute round trip would be better spent planning, marking or in bed. So there was just one thing for it: I'd have to give up teaching for a less tiring job.

The result

I didn't give up teaching. But I did start to think seriously about my diet. Since I felt tired and hungry all the time, the treats weren't doing the job in any case. I did some research and discovered that complex carbohydrates - such as wholegrains, oats, nuts and seeds - are great at providing a long-lasting supply of energy. Fruit and vegetables, which are high in natural sugars, can provide a useful extra boost when required.

I decided to make my own lunches and snacks. It is a bit of a chore, but the few minutes a day it takes me to prepare healthy food has meant that I haven't had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. And I can attend our weekly cake club entirely guilt-free.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher in Hertfordshire

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