Healthy Chocolate

If you’re going to be naughty, make it as nice as possible. Now chocolate is a special treat when I do have it I make sure it’s good stuff and lately I’ve been testing out not only the good tasting stuff but the healthiest good tasting stuff I can find.

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I have no idea how to share an Instagram post to a blog so I did a screen shot. The credit for the info and picture is contained within

I stumbled upon the info in the picture to the left on Instagram today while taking care of my business social media and it reminded me to blog and share my fave ‘good’ choc.

I can recommend Wilkie’s Organic Amazonas as a really nice tasting and ‘healthy’ chocolate and you can buy it here from the Chocolate Trading Co who also sell recently out of date bars at around half price. I’ve bought them in the past and they were just fine. You can buy cheaper from Wilkie’s direct on their website and check out their amazing range (perfect for a luxury gift treat) and see what goes into their award winning chocolate. I defy anyone to visit this website and not be drooling and gasping for chocolate at the end of it. What I love about this, which is perhaps the top of the heap when it comes to chocolate is the little chunks of raw cocoa it contains which not only give it crunch and texture but also is a fab way to get raw cocoa into your body. It has a very slight liquorice taste and is quite bitter but I like that and you can always push the boat out like I do and take the edge off that bitterness with a nice glass of rich red wine. Wilkies do a version without the ‘nibs’ as they call them too, so that doesn’t have the crunch. They do a milk choc variety, gift packs, a hot chocolate variety and also bags of nibs.

What I find is that the more rich in terms of cocoa content the chocolate is the less I can eat of it anyway due to its richness… the mass produced deliciousness of confectionery is clearly made to make you want more and more. This kind of balances out the cost for me as nearly seven quid for a bar of choc is a tad excessive but really you can only eat a little and so it lasts a long time. Nobody else in the house likes chocolate so I’m lucky that nobody shares it either.

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What I hate in the fitness and weight loss world this week…

It’s the photos doing the rounds of super ‘fit’ pregnant ladies who are at various stages of pregnancy, usually close to the end with barely a bump showing between their still toned abs. (I put fit in speech marks because we all know that looking fit, is not always indicative of being fit or healthy for that matter.)

I worry so much that this is the next big thing, for pregnant women to feel pressured to gain as little weight as possible during pregnancy and to lose as little of their pre-baby figure as possible while they are still pregnant.  I worry that women are going to feel that the only way to keep the bump small and the weight gain low is to near starve themselves and exercise themselves to an  unhealthy level and actually do some harm to the growing baby or themselves.

I feel sorry that those who try and fail to keep their bump under control feel like a fat failure and they get depressed about the baby and pregnancy when they should be enjoying that special time.

Babies grow inside of us, they need space, they make a bump and sometimes that can be a big bump or a small bump, we can’t control the size or shape of our bump, we have to leave it to nature. If we starve or over exercise, guess what happens? Our body let’s us know it. The body does this neat little thing when you’re pregnant, it keeps you alive and then puts the baby’s nutritional needs above yours, the good stuff will go to the baby so if you stop eating enough, your body will put your baby first and if there is nothing to give the baby bad things may happen. If you don’t eat enough to nourish yourself and sustain the life that’s growing inside of you, you will fast become unwell and you will not be able to sustain it. Your body will not let  you work out to extremes with no food to fuel your body or to grow your baby. Your body hopes that you will care enough about your baby to put the fuel in that you need to grow and develop him or her, but if you don’t do that it takes over, does the best with what you’ve given it and gives you a telling off in the process.

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Keeping fit and healthy during pregnancy is good, going to extremes to keep your bump small is not

If we have good posture and strong muscle tone in our core then our bump may look smaller OR bigger as we hold ourselves differently to those with poorer posture. Good posture and a strong core will help reduce or lessen the severity of back pain and hip pain but there are some conditions which cause pain which nothing is going to prevent, no posture, no exercise, no diet nothing.

Also when we are pregnant we lay down FAT, this fat is vital in milk production and is typically laid down around the hips, waist and shoulder/chest area and our boobs get bigger as milk ducts go through changes. We can’t stop this happening, some people get bigger than others, some put lots of fat down on their thighs, some on their bum and lower back. Breast feeding helps to use up this fat and so some people appear to regain their figure more quickly if they breast feed but I know people who bottle fed and were back in size 10 jeans 10 days after birth.

Nearly every pregnant woman i have ever known has had some form of swelling during pregnancy to some degree or another at some point or another, in the legs, feet, hands. Faces get rounder and plumper and there really is nothing you can do to stop it other than I guess, starve yourself, but then you’re starving your baby, which is not good. Your baby is supposed to be born with a bit of fat on it, it’s nature, we don’t want to be birthing skinny babies they have a whole lifetime to feel crap about their bodies, let them be chubby once in their life and not care.

So I just hope this doesn’t become a new craze, these women don’t have small bumps because they are super women they have small bumps because of the way nature deals with their body during pregnancy or because they are starving themselves, or because they are photoshopping, or because they are lying. I saw one picture where it said that the woman was due any day next to a photo of her naked with a neat tiny bump nestled between abs but in smaller print in the rest of the story it said that the photo above was taken at 6 months and further down the article was a picture of her now and that bump was a whopper, not surprisingly covered by a huge tee shirt and leggings and not on display at all. Pregnant women looking at the article and not bothering to read it all or not scrolling down would believe that the naked photo was taken at 9 months. Some women are huge at 6 months, some don’t even start to show until then. We’re all different.

What isn’t different is that babies need to be well nourished so a pregnant woman needs to be well nourished, well hydrated and to take exercise during pregnancy to keep her healthy, to keep her energised, to keep her mentally well, to resist avoidable painful postural conditions and to adjust better to ligament softening and other physical changes to her body. The extent and nature of that exercise is a personal choice, some women might still feel like running 10 miles a morning before work up to the day they give birth, some might prefer to drop cross fit and go for something non weight bearing like swimming, some might switch running for a fast walk, some might stop cycling later on and take up yoga, it’s up to you just don’t go bat shit crazy trying to stop your bump from growing because you will not do it.

Baby bumps are wonderful and the size of the bump used to be seen as a thing of pride, the bigger the better, just like somehow if you have a big baby you have achieved a feat worthy of a higher position in the realms of motherhood hall of fame than if you have a small baby. Ridiculous of course but one of those things.

Those who naturally see little change in their body during pregnancy… well good on them but I pity them in a way, I loved watching my body change and my belly grow (my bum as well with my daughter but not with my son), I loved (like most women do) having nice big firm boobs and a great cleavage for a while, I loved the opportunity to rest my hands on my belly and feel my little ones moving around all cocooned in there, I loved getting given seats and the way people would spark up conversation in public when they normally sat on the tube looking into space all because of my massive baby lumps. It was a fabulous time and I loved what was happening to my body, it fascinated me and reminded me how much was going on to make me ready to have a healthy baby.

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A healthy balance with diet and exercise is good all of the time especially when pregnant

However, I did lose weight during both of my pregnancies. I gained weight while I was pregnant but a week after the births I was 28lbs lighter with the first one and 21lbs lighter with the second than when I’d fallen pregnant but that was simply down to me finding it so much easier to make healthy choices when pregnant and my diet being filled with only things which would do my babies good. Breastfeeding the two hungriest babies in the world probably helped too.

I just hope people don’t forget that’s their baby growing in there and no matter what it does to their body it’s beautiful, the body that made another person is just as perfect as the body that didn’t. In time, nature helps to get you back to normal if you eat sensibly and move. Eating sensibly and moving during pregnancy is best for you and your baby and stops you piling on unnecessary unhealthy weight and after the baby is born eating sensibly and moving helps your body to get back to normal gradually and helps you cope with the stresses of motherhood. Extremes are never good, no matter if you’re pregnant or not but especially when you are pregnant. Just as living off mars bars is no good for you and your baby, living off lettuce isn’t either. Balance and capacity, it’s all about balance and capacity, always. If you can still lift weights and plank when you are 9 months pregnant and you feel comfortable do it but don’t force yourself to do something you’re not used to hoping that it will keep your bump small.. it won’t. Keep your mind on your health and your baby’s health not the size of your belly.

Your baby bump is not FAT it is a LIFE.

Following on from this is another thing, the pressure to get back into shape within minutes after having a baby… that pisses me off too, I’ll talk about that some other time.

Exercise won’t make you slim

At least not if you are fat, obese, very overweight or whatever. It may tone, sculpt and shape, increase flexibility, endurance and strength, improve cardio vascular performance and release wonderful things in your brain that make you feel amazing… happy, lively, sexy, alert and it will increase the number of calories you use… physics tells us that but it won’t make you slim.

Gratuitous photo of ripped guy

This article in the Guardian based on some medical study or other (I’m not a technical blogger academics was my job I can’t make it my fun) states that exercise will not make you lose weight or stop being obese. Lack of exercise is not the cause of obesity, too much sugar and the wrong types of fat are to blame for that and it accuses governments and health bodies of over emphasising the need to exercise in order to reduce obesity and not putting enough emphasis on the need to have a healthy diet.

Well who would have thought it?

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I don’t know about you but every time I use one of these balls I near break my face

I know personally from my own efforts that exercise of one type or another has had various effects on my body, inch loss is more of a feature than weight loss when I step up certain types of exercise such as strength training, a more toned appearance is more of a feature with the stretchy types of exercise such as pilates, increased stamina is more a feature of cardio such as walking or cycling, a greater sense of well being, tone and improved posture (which can show as inch loss) are more evident from exercise such as Tai Chi and Yoga, with all types of exercise, my sense of mental well being is enhanced as it reduces stress levels, makes me feel happier and energises me… the more fun exercise like swimming, playing tennis, really has an even more enhanced effect on me mentally.

Does my exercise make me lose masses of weight? I don’t think so, I know that dietary changes have massive impacts on my weight loss but without the feel good of exercise I would not have the mental wherewithal to fend off stress and misery and the associated lack of resistance to bad food temptations. Exercise helps me work off my frustrations, my anxieties and at times I punch out my sadness and residual effects of bad life experiences.

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Posture matters if you want to feel fabulous

Exercise also makes the impact of my weight loss more visibly obvious as my posture improves, my muscle and skin tone, my strength, my awareness of my physiology, it all helps to make me look slimmer and that makes me feel slimmer and that inspires me to not eat crap and continue to lose weight. Take a fat person sit them slouched on a stool, hunched back, spread legs, belly flopping between and then sit that person up straight, put their legs together (or as close together as you can), straighten the back, pull in the tummy, open and press the shoulders down, extend the neck and they’ve lost 10 pounds…. well they haven’t but you know they look like they have.

Do you know I’ve got an inch taller since I started this journey of mine? I’ve regained the inch I lost during my late 30s and that is purely due to having pulled my body back into a posture more befitting a lady and less that of a potato.

So yes I believe that exercise alone is not enough and diet really is the big magic key to weight loss and the better the diet, the more it suits you and the more healthy it is (depending on what you believe, organic ultra low carb has by far had the biggest impact on weight loss for me and my family AND best equips us with energy for our active lifestyles) then the more effective it will be in terms of helping you lose weight more quickly. BUT do not abandon the thought of exercise because it has its place in your success and is important.

And please don’t let that word exercise put you off, think of it just as moving more. To exercise you really do not have to don a lycra one piece and leg warmers and contort your body into strange shapes and lie gasping for breath by the end of the first half of a step class warm up. It doesn’t mean buying expensive equipment and paying for personal trainers. It doesn’t mean sweating your fat ass off in a gym infront of perfect bodies. It just means moving more today than you did yesterday and getting a groove on with that. That can mean cleaning out a spare room or the kitchen cupboards,   it can mean using your upstairs loo rather than your downstairs one, it can mean walking to a bus stop or train station and taking public transport rather than your car, it can mean strolling around a park during your lunch hour rather than sitting in the

Even this is better than total immobility
Even this is better than total immobility

canteen, taking the stairs rather than the lift even if for just one floor, it can mean walking the kids to school rather than driving them, it can mean you taking the dog for a walk with the kids rather than leaving it to them, it can mean standing up in your living room and stepping from one foot to the other during your favourite soap opera, or going for a five minute walk around your neighbourhood at 11pm when it’s dark and no one can see you. People exercise in chairs and in beds, there are videos to follow on You Tube of exercising lying down and sitting down, there is no excuse not to move more. Trust me you will be AMAZED by how fast your fitness levels increase, it happens in a matter of days and your capacity to exercise only increases the more you do it.

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Animal fat… do your research

But yes, I agree for real results and weight loss, to change from obese to normal you really do need to address that diet first and foremost. Read about food and what it does to your body, read about how your body deals with food, how it processes it and how it gets the best out of it and what it does with the rest and develop an eating plan to suit you. Include what you like to eat (the healthy things that is), find ways to adapt what you like into a healthier version so you do not feel deprived, treat yourself now and then, cut right back on sugar including the naturally occurring kind, cut out unhealthy fats (research animal and dairy fats before you make assumptions about them), think organic, think green and leafy, think minimal cooking, think naturally occurring, research your health issues and your health concerns ie hereditary conditions you want to fend off and see which nutrients and foods might help with that, read the pros and the cons and youno-matter-how-slow-you-go won’t go far wrong. Also, if you know your over eating or eating of the wrong foods is linked to something else and has become a habit or a boredom fix or something to do with your hands (ex smokers take heed) then change those habits. This should be a lifestyle change not just diet and not just exercise but often the thing that prevents us from getting in shape is a really bad habit.

Don’t think that if you can’t exercise you can’t lose weight because if that was the case how do we explain people in comas or incarcerated getting real thin and we all know that being bed bound with an illness and unable to eat results in dramatic weight loss… so whilst I wouldn’t advocate any of those methods of losing weight they prove that you can lose weight without moving much, but moving much makes losing weight so much more fun and you won’t run the risk of ending up a skinny weak saggy miserable mess at the end of your efforts.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust – Yum

We came across this on My Recipes site and tried it this evening for dinner and it really was yummy. A great alternative to bread if you’re a low carb or carb free guy or girl. In the ingredients it mentions riced cauliflower but don’t worry if you don’t know what that is, the video shows you how to make it. We substituted olive oil for coconut oil and it was lovely and with no real taste of coconut.

This site is cool. At the bottom you will see slots with days of the week where you can just click on a recipe and drag it into a menu planner so you have it there with all of the ingredients and a video to follow too… have a look at it if you need some help with menu planning, it does more than just that as you will discover when you check it out.

You may have to create a log in in some regions to see the video.

A baby at 48?

It’s not happened. Phew! Really strange goings on at the moment, both of my kids, who promise they are not in collaboration have separately asked if it’s too late for me to have another baby now and both have said how much they would love to have a little baby around.

Negative-Pregnancy-TestsMy response was that they don’t have long to wait before they can have one of those all for themselves and I will happily, happily play grandma of the century with spoiling, doting, sleep overs, baby sitting, early retirement … the works but the chance of me producing a child now is non-existent.

What has possessed them? Nick hasn’t influenced them, in fact when each of them mentioned it he was with me and near choked at the subject of the conversation.

Strange thing is, lately I have been feeling very broody… secretly. I’d not told anyone until this subject came up. I put it down to being a normal chemical reaction type thing when you are happy, in love, settled in the most stable relationship of your life, with a ready made nest and assurance of financial stability or perhaps a side effect of  feeling healthy, younger, rejuvenated and fit, perhaps a combination of both. Then again I wondered if it was just me being at an age where many of my friends are having grandchildren presented to them and I’m nowhere near that stage and it’s brooding for a grandchild that has gripped me and I’ve mistaken it for brooding for my own child. Or maybe it’s mother nature and the body clock giving me one last chance before it’s too late.

Another odd thing is that since I’ve been more healthy and slimmer my cycle has returned to normal and my hormone levels are showing signs of very early pre-menopausal changes normally present in a woman in late 30’s to 40’s so nothing drastic. My mother and sister went through menopause in their mid 50’s, they both went through it very quickly and with little fuss and one of my mum’s sisters had a very unexpected pregnancy in her early 50’s. So fertility and reproductive health would appear to be genetically sound according to my GP.

So technically there is no reason why I couldn’t have a child if I wanted to have one… that thought is scary and since it dawned on me for real (of course I kind of knew but I just don’t think of myself as fertile) I have been fighting Nick off with a stick.  He has said it’s something he’d not thought of either but now it’s in his head, it’s there, it’s a possibility and it needs some attention. I get what he means, that’s how I feel too.

We’ve discussed it at length and gladly we realised that it’s so easy to lie in crisp cotton sheets with a spring breeze wafting over you and sunshine streaming through a window in the arms of the one you love to imagine all of that soft pink or blue cuteness, so we got up and talked about it at the kitchen table instead.

He admitted that it wouldn’t do his sense of virility any harm at his age should he sire a child now (he does like to revert to old English when talking about his manliness) and he felt it would cement our families as a positive viewpoint and I could also see that and he also said that he would love to have a child with me, and I feel him on that one too. BUT we love our life, we love the way things are and the way we’ve got things planned for the future. More than that as we agreed we’ve spent a long time in unhappy relationships with the wrong people and now we’re together and everything feels right we have so much lost time to catch up on and so much life to enjoy together as a couple, being selfish. In so many ways, especially now that we both have grown up independent kids we look forward to all of the kids (we have 6 between us) being grown up and independent. We are enjoying the more adult relationships we are having with our kids and neither of us has a desire to step backwards. There is a great sense in both of us of having been there and done that.

I admitted that even though the thought is wonderful I would worry about the health of myself and the child at this age, I would hate to be set back although I know I can be healthy and pregnant I’ve done that before, I lost weight during pregnancies with both of my children and emerged thinner and healthier than when I started… it’s amazing how much your healthy eating habits improve when you’re thinking about nourishing another life inside of you. But I don’t feel it’s worth the risk, not of me getting overweight again but of something more serious going wrong, as fit and healthy as I feel I’m nearly 50. When I was 20, 50 was ancient, now I’m nearly it it feels ancient and although I don’t feel it, I am it.

Anyway, it’s a no, a definite no from us. My kids are disappointed but as I said when they have their own children they will understand that just this once mum had to deny them their request. I do kind of think it’s cute that they asked though and I’m glad that they feel that another little one would have a good time being my child and I think it really tells Nick and I a lot about their acceptance and approval of our relationship and about how they are enjoying being a part of this larger blended family of 8 when they had spent so long with just us three. Nick said that maybe the kids are aware of the fact that they are growing up and becoming more independent and they want me to have someone with me all of the time, he wondered if maybe they don’t see the two of us as the long term prospect we see ourselves as. It troubled him a bit, that thought, but I assured him they do, they wouldn’t have even thought of me having a child with him if they didn’t see us as a long term prospect. All of our kids know how it feels to be part of a split family and I’m sure that as well managed as that’s been (moreso for my kids than his sadly) they would not wish it on a sibling.

One of the most compelling reasons for me to dismiss the idea was that I have spent the last 23 years of my life going to bed praying for the chance to live long enough to see my kids grown up and I’m not too sure I could definitely count on another 20 something years of that and from a selfish point of view, I don’t think I’d want to do that. I do think it’s time for me again now, to rest easy and go to bed thanking God for getting me there.

Part of me wishes this had all happened ten years ago but there is no point in looking backwards, it didn’t happen ten years ago and now is not the right time for that for us. Sometimes you think you have it all and then something happens to remind you that you could have had more but on this occasion I’m glad to accept that what I have is more than enough. We are blessed and besides… I’ve learned not to be greedy 😉

Would love to hear thoughts on having babies in later life.

Parental Advice

Today a friend of mine was asking on Facebook for everyone who cared to, to put a top tip for parenting as a comment. The rules were it had to be a tip someone had passed on to us and one we had used successfully with a back story included and if we know her personally a photo of our kids either now or as babies.

7e3e8f7056d3f2d561509a1655036a62She is compiling a hand book of parenting for her daughter who is about to have her first child. During a conversation about the upcoming birth the daughter had said that she wished there was a handbook to parenting as she was worried about it, not just the immediate how to cut a baby’s toe nails stuff but the longer term development of a good relationship, discipline and such.

All contributions would be dressed up and printed and included in a scrapbook type affair to be presented as the handbook to parenting to her daughter at her baby shower. One of the aims was to pass on tips, another was to show the vast amount of differing advice out there and another was to show that many mothers have gone before with no guide book and we survived.

I submitted a long and a short and thought I’d share them here, if only because I thought the whole idea is a fabulous one. My short was from my aunt (my mother’s sister) when my first child was born and my mum ‘helped’ a little too much. “Just tell her ‘thank you for your advice but I am the mum now and I need to learn but you will always be the first person I turn to when I need help'”. It worked so much better than “Leave me the hell alone this is my baby”.

The long one was from an interview I saw on TV with Bill Cosby of all people many years ago, before I had kids. He said that the most important thing you can do is listen to your children. When they come home from school or from anywhere as they get older, make at least 15 minutes to sit with them, ask them about their day and then shut up and listen to them for the first 5 minutes. Don’t speak back, don’t interrupt, nod, smile, laugh, look concerned if you have to, but don’t speak and the longer you don’t speak the more they say, the more they speak to you and the more developed and deep and reflective their ‘conversation’ becomes. Not only that, but eventually they come to seek you out to talk to when they come home, it becomes a very good habit. I did this with my kids and it is so true, the less you speak the more they open up and talk to you. As much as I struggle with keeping quiet, I’ve done it and do it and listen to them. I believe that advice made the teen years the breeze they have been and kept my children and I communicating and close. Even now my daughter is grown and independent and living away from home she STILL feels compelled to call me or Skype me when she gets home from work or from any activity and talk about it and I still give her those 5 minutes and just listen.

My friend is really hoping to make this a book of epic proportions so I said I would ask if anyone in any of my networks had anything to contribute. Please share in comments if you do.

It’s 4 in the morning…

… and Faron Young is nowhere in sight.

The seagulls woke me up early this morning, I’d only had a couple of  hours’ sleep but for some reason I’m wide awake and in a musical mood. I’d had a song in my head for days so I blogged that on my musical life story blog and then this one came into my head and I’ve currently got it playing quite loud in the kitchen where I’m thinking about having a little early morning boogie. I wonder if my son and Nick will think I’ve finally lost the plot if I do. I might wait until the chickens start sounding off like the sea gulls and go on the breakfast egg hunt instead.

I’m being very brave with the chickens I don’t like birds, they scare me, I think it’s ever since I found a dead one behind myOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA sofa and didn’t have a clue where it came from or how long it had been there. It freaked me out. I wondered if I’d somehow inadvertently got involved with some small time mafia.

Anyway, this is what working late into the night and living near the coast do for you… I’m glad Nick is home all day today I’ve a feeling I may need the fort holding while I have a nap later on. I do find that on PT day I find it difficult to sleep, well that’s not really the case, I just don’t feel tired. Perhaps his sessions are over energising me or something… is that even possible? We do them first thing in the morning so I have all day to recover but I kind of feel like a dynamo after a PT session, I’m bursting with energy all day and it seems to build and build and I have trouble coming down or sitting down and my creativity goes through the roof.

Oh well maybe I will find that once Nick gets up and we’ve been over to the beach for some outdoor tai chi (my favourite part of the day, then the seagulls sound like music) I will be able to come back and have a nap.

Right that song… I am going to have a little boogie I think.