2017: my word for the year

Instead of setting unachievable resolutions that will be forgotten by February, this year I’m choosing a word. A word that will help me focus on what I want to achieve in 2017. At the end of 2016, I realised the year had passed me by. While it was full of stressful experiences and things I’d rather forget, I probably could have gotten a lot more out of my year. I’d love to say I have ‘no regrets’ about anything, but I’m sure I could have put more effort into some things in my life last year.

It’s hard balancing a business, a house, pets, and a job, as well as everything else in life. But I don’t want to spend my life just treading water. When people look back on their past year, listing their achievements, I’m a little jealous. I feel like I shouldn’t compare to people who’s lives I only see a hint of online, but I also wonder if I’m doing something wrong by not being proud of myself for the year I’ve just had.

I was talking with the Mr before Christmas about what I might have achieved if I’d actually stuck to things. If I’d put effort in. Instead of coasting along, where would I be if I’d spent the last year being driven and motivated in everything I do. Feeling constantly drained and exhausted does have it’s affects on my mojo, but I’m also convinced that there as steps I could take to improve my energy levels. I want to feel passionate about life again – feel ignited, enthusiastic, alive, with a sense of purpose. I need to find that thing that makes me feel energised and motivated to get stuff done.

When I was thinking about having a word for 2017, the first word that came to mind was ‘commit’. It was perfect. I’ve been so flaky and inconstant about most things over the past few years. If I could just do something consistently, I’m sure I could achieve anything I wanted. But I let excuses and laziness get in the way. I never ‘feel like doing’ anything. Again, chronic fatigue has a lot to answer for. But I also think my mental state creates fatigue too. It’s so easy to feel ‘blah’ about things and put them off. And the more I feel like I can’t be bothered, the more tired I feel, and then I feel like I can’t do anything.

So, this year, I’m committing to life, committing to myself. I need to stick things out. I need to have a plan and make it happen. No more flaking. No more excuses. No more ‘I’ll start tomorrow’. Every time I feel like I can’t be bothered, I need to remind myself of how I felt at the end of 2016…looking back wondering what could have been. One perfect example is my health – my 2016 was full of sporadic episodes of healthy eating, followed by binging on anything and everything. Going to the gym was inconstant, and aside from running prior to the race for life in the summer, my cardio was limited to dog walks and walking to the fridge (kind of a joke, kind of not!). People achieve amazing things in a year, they completely transform their bodies – that could be me, if I was consistent.

But it’s not just my health I want to commit to – it’s my business, my family, my home. I want to have the motivation to go after the things I want. Instead of wishing, actually go out and do it. I want to end 2017 feeling accomplished and proud. Here’s to 2017…and all the things I’m going to commit to!

 

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Run: The Race for Life 2016

Running is some kind of magical therapy to me – it’s hard, painful and I’m really not any good at it, but there’s something about being inside your own head, focused on the sound of your breath and each of your footsteps that make it so therapeutic. My mind wanders when I run and I find myself about to forget about the world outside myself and switch off for a bit. Like I said, I’m no good at running, but I like to do it, purely for the little bit of alone time I have for myself in my head. Having said that, I’d love to be good at running…I’d love to feel strong, powerful with every step, athletic, with the drive and motivation to run regularly. I truly admire runners of all distances – it’s a hard sport to be involved in, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have the physical fitness to run as gracefully as I dream to.

I’m trying to do things out of my comfort zone more often, be a little more independent and be a stronger person. A few years ago, I signed up for the Race for Life, which actually marked the start of a traumatic week for myself and my family. Mentally, the race was hell and the few days that followed were even worse. I won’t go into the details, but personally, the race was part of a period of my life I’m trying not to think about – I’ll never  psychologically heal from what followed, and as I associate the Race of Life with that horrible week of my life, I have feared ever doing it again. Part of me resented the race for the memories I had associated it with. But, it also stands for something important and something that I should be proud to be involved with – I’ve always wanted to do it again, but I’ve never been brave enough to put old memories aside and run for a more positive reason.

So, this year, I signed up. On my own (see, I am being braver!). Partly I signed up alone because I wanted to be independent and do things without needing other people to do it with me, and partly because I was terrified of the feelings it would bring to the surface and how I’d react. And I am so glad I did. It was one of the hottest days of the year so far, the atmosphere was so much fun and I was able to replace old memories of that event with new ones. I’ll never forget that week when I raced last time, but now I won’t only associate the Race for Life with that bad period in my life…I won’t resent it for the things that happened at the same time. And I raised a nice amount of money for Cancer Research, which is what it’s all about.

My psychologically scarred self will never heal, but I’m improving. Good memories are more frequent, and the bad ones are like bad dreams, where I’m not sure if they even happened. And I’m proud of myself. It was no record breaking time, or a personal best – but in the hot sun and with no training, I did well. It’s a step forward. I’ll keep signing up and before long, I’ll no longer associate the entire event with that week. It’ll be an event to honour and remember, rather than one to forget.

I’ve already signed up for next year, and hopefully I’ll enter more races too. My fitness is awful right now and I barely made it round the course jogging. I’ll be very happy to get my 34 minute 5k time down. With the Race for Life being a fun run and family orientated, it’s a great entry to running and perfect for me as a beginner in races. I’ve already checked out the local races and hopefully I’ll get a few non-Race for Life runs down before next year.

I’d definitely recommend taking part in the Race for Life – the atmosphere is great, very upbeat and positive and there’s nothing better than running alongside ladies in pink tutus with thousands of people cheering you along the way. You don’t have to run it – walking is very popular…it’s just  a great way to do something active for a good cause.

Sign up here to take part next time: http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/index.html 

Signs of Summer, countryside walks and the great outdoors

I am most definitely at my happiest in the summer months…warm weather, sunshine-filled days, long walks in the countryside. In Northamptonshire, we have a fair bit of countryside – not quite as rural as some places, but beautiful nonetheless. With the weather warming up, I didn’t take much persuading to spend my weekends outdoors recently.

We’re lucky enough to live in walking distance to some stunning countryside views. The dogs love their walks, and I love a relaxing walk on a warm day…nothing better in my opinion! I also love taking photos of the countryside as we venture on our walks – it’s amazing to look back in my photos and see the same views in different seasons. Of course, I think it’s at it’s most gorgeous in the summer, with blue skies and green leaves, but it’s hard to deny it looking beautiful at any time of the year.

Looking at the changing seasons, it makes me realise how precious time is, how quickly the world changes without you noticing and how cyclical nature is. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was sharing photos of this same view covered in snow – where has that time gone? It certainly makes me want to savour every moment of my favourite season, as I know that before I know it the days will be colder and darker and we’ll be saying goodbye to 2016. But not just being more aware of the changing seasons, but time in general. Sometimes I think that the years are rolling by, disappearing without me making a significant impact on the world around me or making any memories. Looking back at photos from the last year or so, I realise that’s not quite the case as I see all the good times that have been had. It’s still important to value our time and savour ever moment, as I’m sure we are all guilty of letting the days, weeks and months fly by. I’m definitely going to try and remember to enjoy every second of the summer months while they’re here!

#Girlswholift: adventures in weightlifting

I’ve never been a particularly slim, or fit person. I remember being 15 or 16 years old and having size 16 trousers, but to me, it was just a number – I was never brought up to feel ashamed of my size or ever thought that was anything but a trouser size. I never associated it with an emotional feeling about my body. Looking back at old photos, I look like a completely different person then compared to now, but it wasn’t until I got older and started getting interested in health and wellbeing as a whole, that I realised that I wasn’t destined to be that size forever. Firstly, I got ill (thanks glandular fever) which caused me to lose a lot of weight, and joined a gym where I focused mainly on cardio while lifting light weights. I became what they call ‘skinny fat’ – a low weight, but I didn’t have much in the way of lean muscle, and still a high body fat percentage. With stress, grief and an unhealthy relationship with food and cardio, I looked skinny – at one point, I remember the Mr saying how I looked like a frail old lady in my oversized cardigan and my bony collarbone peeking through (said with love and concern of course).

Earlier this year, one of those ‘low cost, no contract’ gyms opened up, less than a 5 minute walk away and we decided to give it a go. As soon as I stepped in, I felt more at home in this gym than I ever did in my previous gym and I started spending time learning how to lift weights. Something suddenly clicked into place and I realised that years of cardio and eating under my calorie goal just wasn’t enough – I had to build muscle too. I always knew that building muscle was the foundation to a slim, lean body, but I guess I didn’t know how best to do it and kept returning to the treadmill to burn more calories because that was my misguided priority.

I’m feeling less self conscious at the gym now – I think not caring what other people think, putting my music up loud and realising that everyone is there to achieve their own goals, is something that makes me feel more confident in the weights area. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best form for each exercise and I’d much rather complete my work out with perfect form at a (sometimes embarrassingly) lighter weight, than use shoddy form to lift a heavier weight. Thankfully, I am able to go to the gym during the day when it’s quieter and get my workout done quickly and well – and it’s so nice to see so many females in the weights area too. It seems that the rise of social media fitness accounts and youtube stars have made weightlifting more accessible for women – fewer people are believing the misconception that weights make you look manly (search my favourite inspirational youtuber Heidi Somers aka buffbunny, for example, for ‘girls with muscle’ fitspiration).

While I’m a long way off achieving my body goals, I’m getting stronger with each week that passes. I’m combining weightlifting with cardio and a good diet and I feel really good for it! I’m slowly noticing my body fat decreasing, my strength is increasing, and there are muscles where I never had muscles before. It’ll be a while before I have any real definition, as my body fat percentage is still quite high, but I’m noticing progress and I know that if I keep at it, I’ll be a different person months down the line, not just in body composition, but mentally, having put time, effort and discipline into my health and fitness.

My goals for 2016 are:

  • Get down to a healthy body fat of 20% (at the moment, my scales say I’m 35%, my body fat callipers say 25% – I’m not sure which to believe, haha!).
  • Do a real, unassisted pullup.
  • Run a 5k in under 30 minutes.

 

 

Beach Trip – The dogs first dip in the sea

In February, we took a visit down south to stay with family, the pup’s first little holiday. We were lucky enough to see some amazingly sunny weather, and with summer just around the corner, I’m reminiscing about warm days, the sound of waves and the sun glistening on the water. I realised I never shared the photos, even though there are only a few (I spent the morning taking videos of the dogs reaction to seeing the sea for the first time), it’s enough to make me long for the sea.

Luckily, the beach was fairly empty and we could allow the dogs off their leads to enjoy the sea unrestricted, which they loved. There’s nothing better than seeing puppies leap into the waves and chase each other in the shallow water…especially when the sun is beating down and the wind isn’t too chilly. I wish we didn’t live so far inland – trips to the beach (at least 3 hours away from where we live) are few and far between, but much loved when they happen. Now we have the dogs, it’d be lovely to spend more time at dog friendly beaches so they can enjoy the seaside too.

Bring on the summer! I love being outdoors, especially in the summer when carefree afternoons can be spent appreciating nature and getting some well needed vitamin D.

(Wellies are Emma Bridgewater too, of course….any excuse to wear them!) 

  

Whole 30 – Day 15 to the end

For those following me on Instagram and here on the blog, you’ll know I’ve been doing the Whole 30 Plan since Easter. I have a confession to make – I made it to day 19 before deciding it just wasn’t for me. I know it’s only 30 days and supposed to break the habit of eating endless junk, but by the time week 3 rolled around I really wasn’t feeling good. My energy levels were zapped, I was struggling through every workout, and I was having some sort of (maybe allergic) reaction to something I was eating. I decided to swallow my pride and bow out early.

It’s disappointing not to make it to the end, but if I’m being honest, I achieved what I set out to do – improve my relationship with food and get rid of constant food cravings. By the time I ended on day 19, I didn’t actually want to reach for the junk food…I didn’t binge after almost 3 weeks of deprivation…could I be cured of my cravings?

I think I should be more intuitive about my eating, and one thing I felt I needed more of by week 3 was carbs. The Whole 30 gets carbs from vegetables, but I felt I wasn’t getting enough from vegetables. I incorporated more sweet potatoes and bananas into my diet as I just felt I was struggling on the Whole30 Carb guide. Some people thrive on fewer carbs, and other people need more – and I’m learning to listen to my body and do what I personally need. I think the more I listen to my body, the better I’ll get at it, and I’ll feel better for it. I also don’t think I was getting enough calories from the meals – they weren’t particularly low calorie meals, especially with each meal containing a fat source like nuts or avocado on top of a protein source (and not always a lean protein, I had a few beef portions a week) – but I was running, weightlifting and I’m busy from 6am until bedtime, and although I didn’t always feel hungry, I’m sure I was eating way under my maintenance level for the amount of activity I was doing.

For the duration of the Whole 30 plan, looking at the scales or taking any measurements are not allowed, to take emphasis off the obsessive nature of weight tracking. I don’t often weigh myself as I feel it’s not a good representation of your body composition, but I did weigh myself before and after, just for curiosity sake. I actually lost 6 lb in the 19 days I was doing the Whole30. While I’m sure some people would be thrilled at nearly half a stone gone, I’m much more interested in what fat I’ve lost (and perhaps lean body mass!). My scale is somewhat unpredictable when it comes to body fat percentage, so I’m not taking it too seriously – I lost 1% body fat, and 1% muscle mass. I think not eating enough was probably the reason why I lost muscle and perhaps adding extra meals would have done me some good.

Overall, the Whole30 is a great experience if you want to improve your relationship with food. I know so many people thrive on a paleo diet all of the time, and if it works for them, then great! However, one thing I am taking from the experience, is that everyone’s bodies are different and we need to find what works for us. While it’s had a great improvement on my mental attitude towards food, I don’t think I could stick to it full time – everything in moderation I say, even chocolate and a bit of cake every now and then! I think the Whole30 does give you a new clarity of mind when it comes to food, which is exactly the aim I started with, and it’s made me think more about how to better fuel my workouts. I want to nourish my body to the best of my ability when lifting and running, and if that means getting carbs from non-vegetable sources like oats, rice and wholemeal bread for example, I’ll do whatever best for my body.

While I’m disappointed I quit at Day 19, I’m proud I made it that far – It was exhausting cooking so many meals from scratch and I did well to keep it interesting by cooking new things. With my goals for the next few months to increase my weightlifting and lean out, I know I’ll have to continue to cut out the sugar and processed foods, but listen more to what I need and adjust accordingly. I’m excited to have a better relationship with my food and learn to give my body what it needs in terms of nutrition!

  
 

Whole 30 Experience: Week 2, Days 8-14

I’ve just completed the second week of my Whole30 experience and I must say, I’m starting to feel the benefits! The first week (see here), I was having a lot of cravings, and they didn’t go away during the second week.

The Whole30 timeline shows how people roughly feel at different points throughout the plan and although I didn’t have crazy cravings (there was never a point where I felt like quitting and satisfying those cravings), there were foods (cakes and biscuits…and toast!) that it’s hard for me to be around without grieving for them…almost like they’re taunting me. Having said that, after week 2 is complete, I’m finding my cravings are getting less. I’ve started getting some food boredom setting in, so my intention for the rest of the 30 days is to find more ways of eating according to the plan.

I purchased the The Whole 30 Cookbook and Eat, Drink, Paleo Cookbook at the start of the plan, but I topped up on my food inspiration by buying the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook this week which has been on my wishlist for years (they released it in the USA but only this week released it here in the UK). My Mum has an autoimmune disease, so I’ve spent a lot of time since her diagnosis a few years ago researching how diet plays a huge part in triggering and subsequently managing autoimmune issues – I’ll probably do a full review in time of the cookbook, but it’s a really good one for anyone considering eliminating foods from their diet to manage an autoimmune condition.

Having a day out last week made me think hard about how I was going to stick to the Whole 30 Plan. It was a 2-3 hour car journey to the Emma Bridgewater factory, and then 2-3 hours home again – meaning a long day and temptation at the EB cafe with homemade cakes and although healthy and locally made food, nothing I’d be sure was 100% Whole30 friendly. My intention was to stop at the M&S food services shop but I suddenly realised the rotisserie style chicken that I was going to buy with some veggies or salad was usually coated in brown sugar – my ‘pure’ chicken was not so Whole30 friendly. So there I was at 6 am, grilling chicken and baking sweet potatoes for a meal prep style lunch. Thinking ahead saved me money and the panic of getting to the services and finding nothing suitable. And, surprisingly, cold sweet potato isn’t bad!

At the start of week 3, I’m feeling much lighter, brighter and fresher. While my energy is not through the roof yet as hoped, I’ve not felt like taking an afternoon nap and I’m getting up early in the day and getting more accomplished. The house is spotless, the washing is done, I’m getting to the gym without thinking of excuses. If the results of the full 30 days are better than this, I’ll be very happy.

Bring on week 3!


Race for Life 2016 and my Running Challenge

At the start of the year, I signed up for the Race for Life and shortly after received my sign up pack and number in the post. I’m not the greatest runner – poor health and injuries in the last few years have meant my miles are few and far between, but I enjoy it. I enjoy feeling like I’ve pushed my body hard, as running is so difficult for me it’s a real challenge whatever milage I aim for. A few years ago, I’d built up to running a respectable 6-7 mile runs about 4 times a week. I have a treadmill with built in google maps (thank you iFit for existing) and would set up a route around central London or sightsee around Paris…My favourite routes were my bucket list destinations, running around Wrigley Field in Chicago and the Red Sox’ Fenway Park.

The Race For Life course might be a little less glamorous compared to my Google street view running tourist destinations, but I signed up for it nonetheless. My fitness has been awful recently and I need a good excuse to get my trainers on and run regularly. I set a challenge at the start of 2016 to run 365 miles…one for every day of the year (even if this year is a 366 day year). I’m doing ok with that challenge…not quite averaging 1 mile a day but working well on catching up. I know I’ll be running a lot more as the weather warms up, so I’m not too bothered about falling behind on my miles during the colder months. I’m hoping that by the time the Race For Life comes round, my fitness is back up to where it was before and I can run the whole 5k without breaking a sweat. Unlikely…but I’m hopeful.

The Race for Life will be mentally hard for me – last time I ran in was in 2013, the day after my Grandma was taken into hospital and diagnosed with cancer. It was reason enough to continue running the race I’d signed up for, even though my mind was elsewhere and my heart was broken. It was undoubtably the worst week of my life – she never came out of the hospital and died just a few days later. However hard I find physically running that 5k in June, it will be 1,000,000 times tougher mentally.

If you’d like to sponsor me, any donation would be gratefully received – you can donate directly to Cancer Research UK through my Just Giving page.

If you’d like to sign up yourself to run and raise money yourself, sign up here.

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Whole30: Days 1-7 experience

A few years ago I came across the Whole30 plan via the book It Starts With Food. It’s a really eye opening book and probably one that kicked started my interest in nutrition and healthy eating. It roughly follows the paleo lifestyle – no dairy, no grains, no sugars, no legumes and no alcohol. Just real food, made with real ingredients (fruit, vegetables, meats, eggs and nuts).

Last time I did the Whole30, I was bordering on Vegetarianism which later turned to Veganism, so didn’t really have much of a true experience of the Whole30 plan – I was trying to follow the fundamentals of Whole30 with only fish and eggs as my protein source. I can’t say I had the best results in terms of health changes or fat loss, but it did start me on a path towards finding what foods made my body feel good and a passion for healthy eating.

Having indulged a little too much over Christmas and not really gotten back on track properly, Easter was another excuse to eat chocolate and goodies like there’s no tomorrow. There’s a point where my cravings are out of control, yet the food isn’t satisfying and I’m eating my bodyweight in sugar just because I can, because it’s a ‘holiday’ for example. My cravings have been insane – over easter, with Cadbury mini eggs and hot cross buns in the house, I’m sure I could actually hear them calling me. So, I picked up my kindle over the Easter weekend and found my copy of It Starts With Food again, deciding that Easter Monday would be my first day of another round of Whole30.

I’m definitely an ‘all or nothing’ type of person, so 30 days of complete restriction is the only way I can get back to healthy eating – my normal diet involves ‘perfect days’ of whole foods, plenty of vegetables, clean protein and lots of water, followed by days of sugar binges and junk food. I definitely need something to change my relationship with food and get back to thinking of food as fuel and not letting my emotions and cravings control my eating.

So, Day 1 started on Monday and I’m now a week into this round of Whole30. I’m finding it surprisingly ok – I’ve not had any major withdrawal symptoms like headaches or brain fog. I was a little tired around days 3-5, but by day 6 and 7, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling hungry between meals (no snacking is allowed between each of the 3 meals) but it’s nice feeling hungry…it’s not something I’ve felt in a while because I’ve been snacking on junk all day long. I’m learning to make my meals a little bigger to keep myself fuller for longer.

Meals-wise, I’ve had a good selection of different things – last time I did the Whole30 in 2013, I pretty much had 30 days of eggs for breakfast, fresh cartons of tomato soup for lunch and maybe salmon and veg for dinner. This time around, as I have since reintroduced all meats into my diet, I’ve had a great time cooking and eating different meals…sure, I have a lot of eggs but because I love eggs. But, my lunches and dinners have been great – curries, soups, stews, turkey mince and veggies, and lots of vegetable pasta like butternut squash noodles and courgetti. I feel like I’m cooking a lot and am grateful that I work from home so I can set aside time to cook each meal from scratch – if I worked out there in the world and had to meal prep, it would be different. I am planning on a day out this week, so I’ll have to work out what to take with me so I can stick to my plan and not get stressed out over what to eat.

My real goal for the Whole30 was to improve my relationship with food and this week has been quite tough in regards to cravings – the other half has been eating cookies, naan breads and chocolate…three of my most favourite foods. It’s been hard to put these foods out of my mind, but I’m fully committed to finishing the 30 days which means I can say no pretty easily right now – I’m so enthusiastic about the programme, I couldn’t bring myself to cheat or start over. I’m hoping by the time the 30 days are up, my cravings for junk food are more manageable and I am more respectful of my body and what goes in it. My energy levels are such an issue for me usually, so one of the things I want to get out of the Whole30 is having more energy. Sleeping better, losing some fat, gaining some muscle and clearing my skin up would also make me very happy when Day 30 rolls around.

I’ll keep you updated…week one has been good and I’m already noticing improvements in my health (and weight!) so I’m hopefully it’ll continue to day 30!

  

Recommitting: 2016’s plans and dreams

I’m not sure why but when my busiest few months of the year were over (Valentine’s, Mother’s Day), I fell into a bit of a depressive state. I think working so hard, my whole days consumed by keeping on top of orders, I really burned out. It’s taken a good few weeks of feeling exhausted after Mother’s day to have any sort of motivation. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I am so grateful for the amount of customers who want to buy my products, especially at Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day…but it’s so hard to stay 100% motivated when you’re self employed and your business is you.

So I’ve been absent from blogging, kinda sat back from social media, and I have so many new products that need listing that I’ve just not had the energy for. Hopefully, now that I’ve had a few weeks to myself, I’m reenergised and ready to start getting back on track with my plans for 2016.

I’ve found I feel a lot happier and more fulfilled with a busier day – not necessarily the sort of busy that I get at a big seasonal event (Mother’s Day, for example) but filling my day with meaningful tasks…time for work, errands, housework, exercise etc. It’s so easy to give up on everything when you’re not feeling like your usual self, and I think for me, that’s a really destructive path to go down. I need to plan my day, purposely set myself things to do so I feel productive.

So, today is the day I recommit to life, my goals for 2016 and get back on track. A positive state of mind should be enough to motivate me out of my current mood and back to being the person I want to be. I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking and how your state of mind can affect your actions. Watch this space, the rest of the year is going to be amazing!