End of an era

Not sure why I didn’t post this before. My pre-Christmas musings on life…non weight related.

So my last teaching and marking has been done last week. My keys and ID are handed over, my classroom is no longer mine and my space in the staff room has been cleared ready for its new occupant.

I was sad to leave, not the job or the colleagues but the kids. I love teaching and I’m good at it but I had to think of teaching in a different way, where I and the student have more control over outcomes and objectives than government bodies and managers. My new venture will be successful and I will get to teach in a much more humanistic manner, which suits me. It’s just a shame that the people who I teach will not need inspiration as much as the kids I used to teach did and I feel in some sense that I’ve let them down, not just the ones I was currently teaching but others to come but I had to do what was right for myself ultimately and my days of sticking at a job out of loyalty to anyone else and feeling myself sink into a bog of misery, frustration and stress are over.

I’ve made the right decision. My new business has already started to take shape and I can’t wait to give it my undivided attention. I’ve felt a little bad that Nick has been holding things together for me, he’s loved it but it was my ‘baby’ and I feel like I gave birth and then handed it straight over to a nanny. I had done all of the prep for its arrival though and it made the nanny’s life easier but even so… it wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t a bad thing, I just didn’t expect to have customers and clients so soon in the numbers they came and so that was a little bit of an underestimation of the market on my part. But anyway after Christmas break I am 100% at the helm and now that I have effectively set up two new businesses I need to be at that helm more than ever.

I couldn’t help it, I had two ideas and couldn’t make my mind up which to choose and then while getting the one I went with into shape I was offered opportunities relevant to my other choice too and so I did definitely bite off more than I could chew at that point with still having a job and other things going on in my life.

So now it’s time for the chill out over Christmas. My daughter arrives tomorrow so I’m hugely looking forward to that. Most of my prep for the festivities is done and I think I’m just at the point where I have to check the schedule to make sure I can fit in all of the visits I’ve arranged, both to other people and of other people to me and we’re good to go.

Nick’s kids are coming to us for parts of Christmas. They are coming on Christmas Day, being dropped off by their mother on her way to a city just north of us to visit her friends and they are being collected later on the same day which is wonderful for everyone, we didn’t think it was going to happen. There had been some animosity spring back up between them but fortunately it has been resolved. I think it’s always tough when our lives change, Nick’s has changed too, he’s not in London as much as he was and so hasn’t been around as much to have the kids dropped off with him as he was. He has told the kids that if they want or need him to just call and he will be there but they are happy as things are and are doing their own thing and like the arrangement they’ve made with their dad. Unfortunately that arrangement doesn’t suit their mum and so that’s where the problems have arisen and I can understand her but at the same time I can understand him and I’m just glad that they have resolved things without it affecting our relationship. Dating a divorced parent has many issues…Maybe I’ll write about some of those next year. From both perspectives.

We’re going to spend a couple of days in London closer to with my kids too at Nick’s house and we’ve got some treats lined up for them all which should be fun. Nick asked his brood if they wanted to spend time alone with him but they said they like when we’re all together and so that’s good for us.

I’m just amazed at how different life is for me this year, it doesn’t stop astonishing me how far I’ve come and how different I am, in my head I’m in a much happier place, I truly didn’t realise how depressed I was and how much it was affecting everything in my life. The most noticeable difference is my energy, I am filled with it, bursting at the seams, I find it hard to stay still and am constantly on the go which is so much like the me of old. I thought that sprightly young thing had long gone but it appears she has had a revival. Hallelujah!

For everything which has happened, all of the lovely things which have come my way and made this massive change in me, for the people who inspire and support me and have patience with me, I’m so grateful. I feel blessed to have been opened up to the opportunities which have presented themselves and for the ability to see what was wrong with my life and remove or change it. I could never have made this progress alone, that was always my big mistake, I thought I could, but sometimes we have to accept that we do need people, we just do.


Shrinking Christmas

It occurred to me this year more than any year before just how much Christmas has shrunk.

When I was little, some forty years ago, it lasted at least ten days and that was not counting the build up of carol concerts, school and work parties including big free parties thrown by employers for the children of staff. We used to go to an annual one at our Town Hall it was a very elaborate affair enjoyed by thousands of kids.

From Christmas Eve to around 3rd of January it was lock down time. We stayed home or visited friends and family and had them over to us. The Christmas calendar was filled with parties, entertaining and visits, good food and excess went on for well over a week and the spirit of Christmas; joy, peace, goodwill, love as well as the sound of Christmas music and even TV scheduling ran on for days.

Now it seems that Christmas day is it for many people it’s like a birthday rather than a festive period. I know that’s what it essentially is but you know what I’m getting at here.

People discard the decorations, go back to work and whip the Christmas spirit off along with the Christmas jumper on the night of 25th December and I think it’s sad.

I know a lot of this culture shift can be blamed on commercialisation and an emphasis put on spending and buying before the event as well as immediately after with sales starting on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Of course the knock on effects of that include people not only being drawn away from family and gatherings to shop but also to work, something unheard of when I was a kid.

We complain about that yet we choose to do it. If we didn’t put a demand on retailers on Boxing Day just like we didn’t back in the day, they would see no value in opening and paying staff to work. If we didn’t place a demand on them for a whole week they’d stay closed and workers could stay home with family and families could stay together for a whole week instead of dragging kids away from toys to go buy more stuff they don’t need before the turkey has gone cold.

I think it’s sad that instead of a buffet tea round at auntie Mary’s the Boxing Day activity of choice is now more likely to be trawling through a sale while the kid sits screaming in the pushchair and the husband gets five minutes to play his console game in peace if he’s lucky, spending hours trying to park the car is more likely.

Well not in my house, we drag it out as long as possible and this year even though my princess has headed back for work today and the world is back in full non festive swing it’s still Christmas here and we’re locked down with lovely food lovely company and are still only half way through the pile of Christmas themed dvds yet.

We don’t get enough time as families we don’t get enough time to cut out the world and enjoy each other, we don’t relax our bodies and minds enough from the hum drum of life and I believe Christmas of old gave us a prolonged excuse to do that, to recharge batteries and prepare for a new year, invigorated, refreshed and rebalanced mind body and spirit and I think it’s a crying shame that we are giving that all up so easily.

The Christmas week (or fortnight in some cases) widespread closure of construction, manufacturing, service and retail industries gave working people time to spend relaxing with their loved ones indulging in the finer things in life just like more wealthy people did all year round. Essential services ran on skeleton staffing and non essential services were suspended and those who did work were suitably rewarded with time off in lieu, generous over time rates and enhanced pay. It was a taste of freedom and an escape from the grind made easier with the annual modest pay bonus or company gift (another thing which has shrunk or vanished).

We’ve more or less lost the Easter period as a break and bank holidays are a non-event and now Christmas is heading the same way and all because we are mindwashed by big corporations and media into believing we need more stuff and we need that stuff more than we need a breather and time with other people.

I know this is simplistic and nostalgic in nature and perhaps times have changed for the better for some, they can choose when to take the bulk of their leave without an extended Christmas break being forced on them, maybe in warmer months when they can enjoy time off more and it works for those who don’t celebrate Christmas in our modern multi-religious societies and it means that services and production can be better managed and spread out without sudden peaks in demand and costly troughs to negotiate or gaps in services to those who rely on them. Maybe you have another view point on this. But for me it is still Christmas!

For us it is not over until the fat (more on that when I emerge fully from hibernation) lady sings and we haven’t even come close to getting out the karaoke yet.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 9

Here we are at the end of my strategies for keeping Christmas healthy, although my Christmas blogging is probably not at an end and I’ve been running down my favourite Christmas songs on my dedicated music blog and I’m no way finished with that yet so take a look if you fancy by clicking HERE.

I’ve lost over 110lbs now since April 2014, I’m due a weigh in but I’m confident I have not gained weight since my 111lb weigh in last month. I don’t want to gain weight over Christmas but if I do then I’m like the vast majority of the population but I will be using every strategy I’ve learned so far this year and those I’ve carried over from a life time of yo yo dieting and Christmas times where I managed a weight loss to try to prevent it from happening.

If I don’t manage that then I dust myself off and get back on track. I’ve learned that beating yourself up about a stumble does no good at all, it leads to climbing back on the train to sadsville and I don’t want to go back there. It’s better to admit to yourself that you were just doing what normal people do and forgiving yourself, getting over it fast and moving on with renewed vigor to make up for lost time.

I’ve also learned that making yourself miserable during a festive or celebratory period does nothing to help you in the long run, it doesn’t help your mental health and it doesn’t help your physical if you allow yourself to feel deprived of good things, or joining in the fun then you will be more likely to binge when no one is looking and that is a really unhealthy habit that we’re trying to crack forever.download (4)

Christmas is a killer for me and I’ve written many blog posts to help myself more than anything to cope. It is just synonymous with food, over indulgence and excess and those habits and rituals and traditions are ingrained on my soul and I can’t beat them all that easily at once but I can give it a shot and being prepared, admitting that this is a terror zone for me is part way to getting through it.

I’m embarrassed that this is so hard for me, it shows me how far I have yet to go in terms of beating my mental demons but I’m not going to let that embarrassment overwhelm me, I’m going to admit it, face it and get on with being healthy AND enjoying myself.

So all that are left are W, X, Y and Z. I’ve managed somehow to fit the whole alphabet in in a few days and I’m proud of myself for doing that, for obsessing about food and health and Christmas in a positive way. I’m glad I’ve spent time writing, preparing myself for this time rather than baking or shopping for useless things.

Anyway, to the end we go…

W is for Wholegrain

As I’ve said so many times already, keeping some of your routine and some of your good habits going over Christmas is better than none so I’m going to be trying to at least stick to my regular meal times when at home, it might be more difficult when we’re out and about.download (2)

The most important meal of the day I’ve found is breakfast,it really is and I don’t think it’s a surprise that many of the obese people I speak to have a common trait in that they do not eat breakfast, or they do not feast on breakfast or eat the right things for breakfast. I consume a huge amount of food at breakfast, well it’s huge these days, it’s when I take in most of what I call my medicating food, things which might not taste great but are going to do me real good, like my wheat grass shot and my turmeric kefir and garlic cloves.

When I said back there that people often eat the wrong thing for breakfast one of the big sins if you like is not taking that opportunity to start a day off with whole grain. Breakfast is a great opportunity to stick to something that is now part of your routine, include some whole grain quite easily and also if you promise yourself you will make sure you eat a wholesome healthy breakfast each day over Christmas it will help you to resist temptations of other foods and resist snacking which for me is a killer at this time of year when food is everywhere all of the time.

This article from Whole Grains Council Website is full of information about the value of wholegrains and also links to several studies into the effects of whole grains on your health.download (3)

I’ve recently started to add Kamut and Spelt to my granola, read up about these wholegrains they are packed with good stuff. Here’s a great recipe for Dried Apricot and Kamut granola and you can make a whole batch of it for the family to last you a week saving time at this busy festive period.

But it’s not just about breakfast you can use wholegrains like Quinoa (mentioned before that it’s not actually a grain but acts like one, so see Q for more info) and Bulgar wheat to make stuffings for roasts and you can bake breads using wholegrains. There are tons of recipes on line.

At this time of year I find that dark grains, dark breads, denser starches do go well with seasonal foods and if you make a nice rich fruit loaf you can add in lots of these wholegrains for texture and crunch as well as using wholegrain flours.

Really what I’m saying is if you’re going to do it do it right and get that balance in by not neglecting whole grains, they really are a solid foundation on the path to good health.

X is for X-Ray

Well this one got me but then I thought, no, you know what x-ray, scan … much the same thing kind of 😛

Lighter areas are fat, look at the fat inside the body, the hidden fat which does the damage. That's the first fat that we shed when we start to lose weight through healthy eating and exercise and why that first 10% of starting weight loss is so important.
Lighter areas are fat, look at the fat inside the body, the hidden fat which does the damage. That’s the first fat that we shed when we start to lose weight through healthy eating and exercise and why that first 10% of starting weight loss is so important.

If you’re never had a fat scan why not treat yourself to one after Christmas. Start off the new year with a gift to yourself, a visual of where your body fat is and how much of it there is to lose. It can be a very powerful tool in helping to shed weight and get healthy. I know people who have had one and find it fascinating and motivating to see that fat in their bodies rather than just on their bodies.

Maybe some can get one on the NHS, some can get one through health insurance or through attendance at an obesity clinic or you might have to pay but I would say it might be the best Christmas present you give yourself. I have one booked for mid January and the reason is that I have lost all of this weight and still have a way to go and I want a little new year boost if you like to keep me focused on the job in hand.

I believe that seeing where my fat still lies will really motivate me to shift it. Being an apple shape and carrying my weight more like  a man does around his mid section I know my fat is more dangerous than a pear shaped traditional fat carrying pattern of a woman. I know that I’ve shifted inches from that region but I also know that region is still obese and still a danger zone for me at 47 years old. So I’m having this scan and then I’m also having a full body scan and medical.

I did this, not as in depth as I’m going to be doing in January, a few months ago and I think it’s time to repeat it and dig a bit deeper. I was pleased at my last one that there was nothing untoward detected other than my fat. I was particularly pleased because I had worked myself into the belief that I had some nasty disease that was killing me, the papers told me I should have and I believed them and I was lucky not to have. I was too afraid to go for the full works then but now I’m ready to face the deeper probing and ensure that there is nothing lurking that shouldn’t be there and I believe that this last fear about my health being put to rest and being able to visualise that fat left to shift will give me renewed enthusiasm and strength to get through the winter and get to my ultimate goal where I can then work on a life time of maintenance.

So this is my gift to me, even though I don’t think I really need a boost, I figure I will after the come down from Christmas, I don’t cope well with winter months so I am expecting a trough in my mood and it may not come but I’m not leaving that to chance, I’m going to do something practical to off set it.

So it might not be the most romantic or exciting or indulgent of gifts to yourself but booking in for a medical check and a fat scan (x ray haha) will be one of my most important gifts to me.

Y is for Yesterday

Yesterday is gone, forget it and move on. If you can’t control yourself and over eat or if you can’t be bothered to leave the comfy sofa and go to the gym do not beat yourself up, forget it, it’s yesterday’s news, it’s history, today is where we are and today is what we shall deal with.

In short just don’t let yesterday come into today with you, shake it off and start afresh.

Z is for Zebra

I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel now but this one is important. I have often described my wardrobe as a hiding place for a zebra, it was so black and white and I find that my larger friends are almost all building zebra hiding places too, with a couple of exceptions who take it to another extreme… how I admire them.download (1)

I have been injecting more colour into my wardrobe steadily throughout the past 8 months with a real burst early on and continued pieces being added but I’ve found that lately I’ve reverted (probably due to the winter) to buying blacks and greys again.

So if this sounds familiar, pep up your wardrobe and your mood with a big bold splash of colour. You might already have your Christmas outfits picked out by now but it’s not too late (if they are bland) to pop out and purchase some big bold bright scarves or tights or jewellery pieces to let your healthy bright new way of living and thinking shine through and manifest itself in the way you show yourself to the world.

15874590036_51759b9f66I am not joking when I say that when I do wear bright colours I feel so much happier and also when I go to business meetings wearing a nice bright business dress under contrasting jacket or even when I team up a black business suit with a big red or vibrant jade green scarf I just feel better, more professional, more finished and more as if I’m representing who I am. I’m a very colourful character and black and white doesn’t tell the world anything about me, they are my hiding colours and I know it.

So treat yourself to some bright wardrobe additions, be bold and get rid of the zebra in the closet.  If anyone is struggling to buy you a gift bright bold scarves can never feature too heavily in a lady’s wardrobe. Don’t forget the footwear either. My daughter had a pair of bright red knee high suede stilleto boots and I coveted those boots, I nearly cried because I wanted to wear them and as luck would have it my feet have shrunk a size and she thinks they are boots befitting a hooker so won’t wear them and I have inherited them and I’m like a kid with a new toy. I dare wear them now and I don’t care what anyone thinks. When I wear them I feel amazing and I often team them with a black pencil skirt and top and a vivid red suit jacket and I feel a million dollars strutting to a meeting.

Something like this… doesn’t have to be a dream.

For New year’s eve my daughter who is stunningly gorgeous and has a striking to die for hour glass figure and since she’s been undertaking all manner of outdoor pursuits has developed a flat as a pancake toned abdomen allowed me to buy her a gold dress for her new year’s eve work party and I cried when I saw her in it, not because she looked amazing (that girl is having a wedding dress to end all wedding dresses one day I hope) but because I wanted to have a golden dress. I’ve never had one, not one like that all low cut and strappy and beaded and shimmery and fitted. I don’t think I’ll ever look like her in one and I wouldn’t want one the same but I can’t wait for next year when I can have a golden tight fitted strappy floor length gown for Christmas, even if I have to go on a cruise to wear it or gatecrash someone’s swanky London ‘do’, I’m having one.

See the you of the future this Christmas. As you enjoy yourselves with friends, family, pets, alone, as you face temptations of food and drink and try to muster strength and will to go to the gym or for a walk or a run, picture you next Christmas. I don’t mean like we yo yoing fat people do every year, telling ourselves next year we’ll be slim and beautiful, but really see yourself, next Christmas, thinner, fitter, healthier, with more life ahead of you to live than you imagined you had, with more adventures to come, feeling sexy, feeling beautiful, feeling like a normal, valid person, putting yourself out there on the dance floor, not being self conscious as you fill your plate at the buffet, feeling it’s OK to stick a sausage roll or two on there because you’re not fat anymore, no one notices or cares what you eat, you are just a regular person having a little bit of a treat at Christmas, in your tight fitting clothes, with your sexy santa lingerie on (guys read boxers) and see yourself enjoying your life, enjoying being you and enjoying being free of the fat and the demons which made you that way forever.

images (1)Make yourself a real promise this year and it will help you to resist temptation, it will help you to over come hiccups you have, it will help you to keep emotionally and mentally strong and focused and it will help you to achieve your dream of just being like everyone else… although you’ll never be that because inside you will know that you are a fighter, a survivor and a victor, you will know how far you came and you will know that you will never be just normal, you will always be a winner, you’ll always be amazing even more amazing than you are now for having come this far or for having even had the bravery to take this challenge on and to overcome whatever is making you use your fat body as a shield to hide behind.

I believe I can do it and I believe that anyone can do it if they just believe in themselves and find the right motivators for change.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 8

This is it the countdown is on, when I wake up in the morning, or rather later this morning, it will be Christmas Eve Eve – it doesn’t count yet as I’m still in Monday mode.

So the penultimate part of my Health Christmas A-Z of things I’m doing to keep me on the right track this Christmas time and things I’ve used in the past to help me stay healthy and fit and to maintain or even to lose weight during this time of temptation.

S is for Superfoods

If you do nothing else this festive period you can include some superfoods which will help your body to unravel the bad that the excess is doing and which will help you to at least know that you are doing some good amongst the bad. So this is a quick post as here is a link to a whole load of information about superfoods from Web MD and what I’m doing is challenging myself (I rise to challenges) to include at least 2, just two as a minimum in my daily festive diet.  Superfoods can do all kinds of amazing things for your body, reduce cholestoral, reduce high blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, clear your body of toxins and even improve your mood and energy levels. What’s not to like? What is more look at this list and then tell me that so far in this A-Z we haven’t mentioned a good few of those and how to incorporate them healthily over Christmas already:

  • Beans
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oatsdownload
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Salmon
  • Soy
  • Spinach
  • Tea (green or black)
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts
  • Yogurt

You can get some of those in over Christmas each day you really can even if you take a few and stick them in a juicer or blender you can get three or four in one hit. Remember if you’re doing harm try to balance it out with some good.

T is for Togetherness

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to spend Christmas with loved ones, be they family, friends or even pets, there is nothing more fulfilling and relaxing than sharing time with others. Laughing over a movie, taking a walk, just touching one haiku_badges_find_happiness_in_button-rf12283bdc0194a40b5485a793ce852ab_x7j12_8byvr_324another (research shows that skin to skin contact is hugely important in relaxing people and is used effectively in the form of hand massage or just hand holding to soothe anxiety in people with dementia). If you can’t physically be with someone then take advantage of the fabulous technology we have and Skype them, phone them, message them. If you can’t do any of that or have nobody then volunteer to help out at a pensioner’s lunch or a homeless shelter and be with other people while you are doing some good also, charity benefits the giver as much as the receiver especially when it is a charitable deed or service. Show your community spiritedness and if you know neighbours are going to be alone come up with a really radical idea to lunch together or share an afternoon tea together, take round some Christmas goodies as an ice breaker, offer to walk someone’s dog, get out and socialise if you can’t stay in and socialise.

I reblogged a post the other day about how we need to be with other humans as a race and how we function better, feel safer and have less anxiety when we are in groups. It’s true, seek it out somewhere in my recent history and give it a read.

Lifting your mood, relieving anxiety and stress will help you to keep mentally healthy but will also help you win the fight with food especially if you are a comfort or emotional eater.

U is for Upside Down

At this time of year our routines and rituals can be turned upside down, we might be lucky enough to have some lie ins, we might find we are staying up much later at night at events and entertaining, we might find that we are doing way more than we usually do or way less. We might watch more TV, we might spend more time in the kitchen. So much can change at this time of year and many of us have lots of added stresses and some have to work too and manage children on their own! Believe me that is no mean feat I’ve been all things to everyone at Christmas and it’s draining.

So while your world is upside down there are two things you can do to combat the ill effects on your health which have worked for me.

downloadFirstly make some time for you – find a space where you can relax, get pampered or pamper yourself, go and lie on your bed with your Christmas glass of fizz while everyone else enjoys theirs, nobody will miss you if you have a house full of people. I’ve even managed to sneak away on Christmas day for an hour’s sleep between main course and dessert in the past and although I did tell some people nobody begrudged me it knowing I’d been slaving away on the meal and preparations for hours. Or just go outside and take some fresh air, go for a short walk, whatever, just set some time for you aside.

Secondly – don’t let your whole routine go out of the window, adjust it but don’t change everything, try to keep something as normal, even if that is your meal times. This is something I have done in the past which has prevented me from snacking, I’ve still had a good breakfast, a good lunch and a light dinner and kept the timing of my meals more or less as it would normally be. Your family will be used to this and guests will accept this, they are guests, they go by your clock. More and more gyms are opening on Christmas Day these days so if you are an early gym session person then go and have that session before you let the kids know santa’s been or get someone else to prep brekkie while you go and have your workout if your kids are older.

It is so easy to fall back into bad habits, far more easy that it is to make good new ones so be very careful and mindful of how many days you spend upside down and do try to keep something, even one thing from your routine.

V is for Verging on the Ridiculous

So much of what we do at Christmas is just this, verging on the ridiculous. We buy way too much food and drink and we consume way too much of it. We buy too many gifts for our kids that they don’t need. We become crazed loons who are intent on matching if not surpassing the Jones’s next door.

If you can, try to scale down the Christmas excesses in all aspects. The expense causes stress, the food makes you fat and unhealthy and so does the drink as well as making you want to die with a hangover.

download (1)Think about messages you are sending out to the kids, don’t you want them to appreciate people and experiences more than labelled, commercialised junk? I know it’s hard but it’s possible to make your kids appreciative of things other than the latest gadgets.

Think about the state of the world and ask yourself is getting up at 4am to try to beat the queue for turkeys really that important and stress worthy when there are people starving for want of a bowl of rice, people lonely, homeless, bereaved, queuing at food banks for anything, ask yourself is it all worth it?

Try to bring Christmas back to basics and make it about people and peace and giving of ourselves rather than of things. It will leave you feeling far more healthy than the modern alternative. I saw a Facebook comment on the site of a famous UK retailer today which made me think how ridiculous we are now when a lady was complaining that this company had “totally ruined my life, my whole Christmas is destroyed, everything I’d hoped for is gone because the box my 18 month old son’s train was in was split and it’s too late to get another and I’ve had to take it out of the box and wrap it separately”.

I read this and nearly wept. Really? Her life is ruined? Her whole Christmas destroyed because a child who won’t even know what is happening will be distraught because his train isn’t in a box… actually come to think of it he probably would be because we all know that the boxes are what kids of that age love about gifts. They try to tell us from an early age but we just don’t listen and keep on buying them stuff instead of boxes. My daughter spent her first two years being entertained by a cardboard box which I covered with a sticky backed vinyl and it was variously a hiding place, a stage, a car, a bus, a train, a sledge, a house, a kennel, a toy box, a bed, a dolls house… you’ve got it. Whatever was in it was barely touched and I soon realised that she just didn’t like toys, her mind was too active and her imagination way too fertile. I still bought her them though because I felt bad if I didn’t, it was only when she pointed out to me that my excessive spending at Christmas was to fulfill a need in me not her that it stopped. Wise daughter I have.

For the sake of your own health, wealth and happiness, try to keep Christmas real. I know people who spend thousands of pounds per child at Christmas and can never afford a family holiday and I think that the family would benefit so much more from a 50% reduction in Christmas presents and a nice holiday relaxing and having fun somewhere each year.

The same goes for food, we don’t have to stuff our faces just because it’s Christmas, we don’t need to fill our cupboards to bursting, the shops are open again the next day and feeling bloated, stuffed to bursting and sick is not really a good feeling for anyone and definitely not essential.

W, X, Y and Z finish this series off tomorrow.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 6

We’re rattling through these now. I asked my kids and Nick to give me a word each for the next three letters and I promised to find a way to link that to healthy eating or healthy living somehow. So here goes with the latest in the A-Z of things to help me keep on track this Christmas and things I’ve used in the past to help me cope and see a weight loss over the festive period.

L is for Love

Well I only need refer you to my last post for you to know that love is a big feature of Christmas this year. Nick gave me this one, I think he’s as soppy as I am right now.

I thought about this and love is the reason I started out on this healthy lifestyle journey. I love my kids and I didn’t want to die and leave them too soon. Simple as that. Love is a strong motivator and if you download (6)are trying to find a reason to start a healthy lifestyle then you could do worse than to find some love to motivate you. Your kids, your family, your job, your love for yourself, your love of the outdoors … anything. Try to find a motivator which will give you more time to love, more ability to love, more likelihood of loving… anything, love really does help.

Love for yourself came to my mind and I thought about how I hated myself before I started this and when I started this and how that has changed and how much I love and respect myself and my body now and how I don’t want to let that change, I don’t want to hate me again. So just being mindful of the love I have for myself now and all of the blessings that has brought will help me to say no to over indulging or skipping exercise.

download (7)
Love Christmas Reading

Also having people you love to do things with that distract you from food cravings will also help you anytime of year but at this time why not identify when your weak spots are likely to be, for me at night when we’re sitting as a family preparing to a watch a movie, and do something else together. We do family reading every week so try that, get out a book of festive poems or an old favourite Christmas children’s story, read a chunk of Dicken’s Christmas Carol or get the bible out. Reading makes you less likely to pursue a food craving especially if you are the one who is doing the reading. It’s also lovely quality family time to sit cosied up having a story together no matter how old you or your loved ones are.

I also thought about love gainers and love losers. When I’m in a relationship, especially a new one I tend to lose weight because I have other things to comfort my stresses and I am orally fixated (I fit right into the Freudian stereotype) and so I get to talk more and kiss more and stuff like that which stops me from needing to cram food in my mouth.  But I know some are love gainers, they get into a relationship and BAM! 21lbs piles on from nowhere.

Weight Watchers worked for me in the past but I don’t do break up diets I do break up face stuffing

I think for some of my friends this has been the start of a yo-yo, where they do the break up diet, then they have the relationship gain, then the break up diet, the relationship gain and each time they gain more and more and their dependence on relationships becomes less and less healthy and they become less and less choosey and the partners become less and less desirable and the break ups become more and more harsh and the weight gain becomes heavier and heavier and the break up diets become less and less successful. I could point out at least 3 friends right now who fall into this pattern. It’s sad and I try to advise them to spend some time alone, try to get the break up diet into full swing, let it start to build good habits, let it get them to slim rather than lose a few pounds, build a little confidence and dive on the first man who looks your way, move him in within ten days and then wonder why things aren’t working after four weeks and you’re breaking up again. But they’re in as bad a cycle as obesity can bring about and it’s truly awful when that cycle adds obesity to their problems. They need to find strength to get out of it, advice isn’t going to make a difference.

Sure but don’t let your partner know that

So… love (TMI alert now)… if you’re in it, keep an eye on the waistline, spend time doing more fun things like using up some calories in the bedroom, yeeee ha! You know what I’m saying, but please don’t do like me and stop thinking about the emotional activity and start trying to isolate muscles and consider how they must be working right now and switch positions to get a more even work out on the corresponding set of muscles (Yep I do that… am I alone? I don’t think so, I hope not anyway). But yeah, get some loving going on, get the pulse rate up and a sweat happening.

And don’t forget, it’s so much more sexy feeding each other strawberries than slices of pie on the kitchen floor by fridge light at midnight too.

If you’re breaking up, keep on that break up plan and don’t stop when the first guy looks at you, get that healthy eating and exercise embedded for life and leave seriousness with guys until you’ve completely washed the last one out of your hair and you want a relationship with someone because you are ready to be with someone not because you can’t think of anything to fill the space your last habit left.

M is for Mince Pies

My daughter gave me this one. For anyone who doesn’t know a mince pie is something we eat traditionally at Christmas, it’s a shortcrust pastry filled with all of those fruits we would have

Mince Pies
Mince Pies

traditionally dried and preserved in the summer to see us through the winter. So they are filled with what we call mincemeat (not to be mistaken for minced meat which is animal flesh pressed through little holes). Mincemeat is made of things like sultanas and any other dried berries and cherries and citrus peel and suet. It used to contain little pieces of veal or beef hence it being called mincemeat but it no longer does. It is infused with those typical winter spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and often brandy. Christmas is not Christmas in the UK until the first mince pie has been baked or bought and consumed.

They are full of calories and fat. Suet (even though it’s a small amount), the fermented sugars in the fruit, the lard and butter in the pastry and then the custard or cream you dollop on top. I can’t avoid them at Christmas, I just can’t. It is such a tradition that I have to have some. Here’s what I do to make it less of a monster on the waist line:

I make a large tart, like an open pie in a tray bake pan. I use a very thin crisp pre-baked pastry case to minimise the amount of fat and calories coming from the pastry. So I make my pastry reducing the fat

Tray Bake Mince Pie Fingers
Tray Bake Mince Pie Fingers. These were made using a flaky patry and topped with little stars which still reduces the amount of pastry but gives a nice appearance and you could always take the star off your own.

from  half fat to flour to a third and blind bake it. This makes the pastry more crisp but who cares, it’s pastry.

Then I add my mincemeat and I tend to make my own without the suet and I mush it all together and stick it in a jar at the end of summer and fasten it up tight and leave it in a cupboard to do its thing. I add (to a big mason jar) two teaspoons of brown muscovado sugar and a tablespoon of brandy. If you buy it have a good read of the labels and check what is in it and the fat content.

This is not 100% healthy but it’s better than shop bought. I put a thin layer into my pastry case about a centimeter to a centimeter and half deep (1/2 – 3/4 of an inch) and then I pop in the oven again for about 10 minutes just to warm and let the mince spread out into all the nooks and crannies. Then I cut off the excess pastry sides so as to continue to minimise that pastry consumption and I serve it in small squares or thin fingers. For other

Less pastry on your mince pie, make a festive shape instead of a full lid
Less pastry on your mince pie, make a festive shape instead of a full lid

people I sprinkle with icing sugar. For myself I don’t. I might eat it on its own or I might have a tiny teaspoon of ice cream with it, or a teaspoon of cream drizzled on to it. You could also do like the picture on the left above and add some pastry stars or you could reduce the amount of pastry by sticking to the traditional bake and making a christmas shape on top instead of a full lid as in the picture on the right.

It gives me my fix and stops me feeling like I missed out. I’ll allow myself a couple of pieces, so I will make this on Tuesday and I’ll have a piece that same day and another maybe on Christmas evening.

Really the point of this part of the post is to say that you don’t have to go without what you enjoy at this time of year, you can either just throw caution to the wind and scoff them back, limit yourself to a regular one, or find an alternative way to enjoy the treat that isn’t going to do as much harm as a regular one or just stay clear of the things you know you have a problem with but don’t make yourself miserable or feel like you’re depriving yourself. In my experience if I’ve done that I’ve only let it eat away at me and ended up having a huge binge.

So, at the end of the day I will have two pieces of this but even if I had two regular pies (they are small pies) that would not be anywhere near as bad as last year when I probably ate about twenty of them over the festive period. So even if I ate six it would be an improvement.

Make sure you get that perspective on your eating when you are making choices at this time of  year or any time of  year where food may be an unwelcome hurdle to overcome. If you’ve been living clean and healthy you will find that you make better choices without thinking about it and that you are more restrained than you realised anyway and as I’ve said elsewhere you will feel the bad effects of rubbish food very quickly and attune yourself to those. Your body sends you signals for a reason they are a warning sign and they can be a powerful motivator. You are no longer used to feeling bloated, to having gas emissions exploding out of both ends, you don’t know what indigestion or heart burn medication is anymore and your bowel function has probably been pretty uneventful, those nasty things coming back into your life can be a major shock telling you to get back on track fast.

N is for nuts

My son gave me this one. Nuts, shelled nuts, are a real British tradition too at this time of year. Many homes will have a big bowl of them on display when they don’t usually have so much as a peanut for the birds hanging around the garden.

download (8)Nuts are super good for you so eat them! Go for nuts rather than chocs and pies and cake when you are visiting friends BUT do not over indulge. Not only do nuts contain a lot of oil (fat, much of which is good fat) some of them can be quite toxic if consumed in high doses.

One year I munched my way through a ton of Brazil nuts (chocolate coated of course) and I ended up confined to my bed for three days with the most intense debilitating head ache, extreme lethargy and such a thirst for water that I nearly drank London dry. I put it down to stress or a virus but when I finally made it to my doctor and described my symptoms he asked if I’d eaten and nuts and when I told him which nut and how many he laughed and said I’d poisoned myself and I was lucky because I could have actually poisoned myself to death! Who’d have thought it? So please take care.

My Christmas Nemesis
My Christmas Nemesis

Here’s a great little item that contains all you need to know from Super Human Coach.

I love to eat nuts with cheese and grapes. I like to keep a strict eye on the amount of dairy I eat as that is where more or less all of my animal fat consumption comes from on a daily basis. At Christmas what has worked for me in the past is saving up my daily cheese allowance so that I can enjoy a little dabble on a cheese board but I do make my selection and take it away I never sit and chop and eat, that is dangerous for me. If I’m stuck at a table I will pass the board away from me once I’ve got what I want.

Fabulously attractive cheese board. This is one of my major temptations.
Fabulously attractive cheese board. This is one of my major temptations.

What I will do though is fill up with fruits, grapes, apple slices or whatever, a little cheese and a few nuts. Again as with other things I savour every morsel, I don’t bolt it down and I don’t put it onto crackers I just savour those flavours and thank God I’m alive.

If you are doing the entertaining or preparing a cheeseboard for your family include a variety of nuts in small bowls and go heavy on the fruits and be less indulgent with the cheeses, either use smaller pieces of more cheeses or use bigger pieces of fewer cheeses and include some fat free varieties if you can or reduced fat or mix up some zero fat cream cheese with some chopped chives, olives or gherkins. Keep the crackers minimal too and again look for zero fat and low calorie options, ryvita, rice cakes and crisp rolls for example.

Nuts and seeds are one of my daily essentials anyway but they are usually ground up in my morning

Make it more basic and add nuts and lots of chopped fruit
Make it more basic and add nuts and lots of chopped fruit

granola or sprinkled onto something or into something so it’s quite nice to have a few that are still whole and crunchy and I go for those which are harder to get out of the shell so that the whole process takes me longer to accomplish which allows my stomach to register that it maybe isn’t that empty after all, especially if the cheese board comes out as a dessert or a penultimate course before coffee.

So don’t avoid nuts, educate yourself about them and don’t over indulge on them either. They’re a festive treat not to be missed but not to kill yourself with either.

This was a big one, shorter tomorrow starting with O and running on to R.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 4

Here I am on H and this one is for Holly.

images (2)Holly has long been associated with Christmas in the UK and further afield.  Doing a bit of internet research quickly shows that Holly along with other festive greenery such as Ivy, Mistletoe and Laurel were used prior Christianity in the British Isles as pagan symbols of celebrating new growth, to ward off evil and to celebrate the winter solstice. Christians adopted these plants and gave religious meanings to them and you can read all about those in this easy, quick read I found on whychristmas.com.

I discovered that Holly is native to the British Isles, Europe, North Africa and West Asia and that there are many different varieties, most identifiable by their glossy dark green leaves and red berries. Only young or lower hanging leaves are spiky, for obvious reasons I guess, but something I didn’t know before. Check out this Woodland Trust article for more info and interesting holly facts.

Why I’ve included Holly in my healthy Christmas A-Z is twofold really, firstly instead of hiding indoors under layers of blankets and in front of roaring fires why not get yourself and the family, dog, horse, kids whatever, out and about and go in search of some of this stuff growing in the wild. Do some research, have a ramble, even take advantage in reduced traffic at this time of year and drive to a woods where you may find holly. Get your wellies on, cover up your extremities with woolen gloves and hats and stride out in search of some real, authentic, living holly and don’t come back until you find some… maybe not that extreme but you get the idea.

images (4)Take an opportunity to learn something, useless or not and to teach the kids, get them talking about customs, about Christmas about the pagan rituals which are still a part of our modern day Christmas, discuss other religions and how they celebrate their significant times of the year, talk to each other, listen to each other, exercise together, breathe fresh air, get away from technology and modern life and enjoy being a family or being free and alone for a while.

It is so good for the mind as well as the body, it keeps you moving, it keeps you breathing nice and deep, it will lift your mood and prevent stress and it can help, believe it or not, to build strong stable relationships in your family. I find that when we walk together as a family we talk more than at any other time and we listen more than at any other time and we laugh more than at any other time. I don’t think my little family is any different to any other and if it works for us it will probably work for others.

Walking is huge fun and has so many, many benefits. Whether you share a walk with a loved one or as part of a rambling group or in isolation. It can be excellent thinking time. It burns calories, gets the heart beating, uses a whole host of muscles and for even the least fit among us it is really useful valuable exercise. Do not knock walking, forget about pace and speed and distance, for some very overweight people just getting one foot in front of the other is an achievement, take a few steps and a few more, rest if you have to, breathe and take a few more, before you know it and I seriously mean this, within just a few days of walking you will be amazed at how much further you can go each time and how fast your fitness begins to improve. This is not only good for your body but for your mind, it makes the unachievable seem achievable, if you can walk more easily after three days of taking a few steps what will you be doing in a year? Running that’s what! Maybe not, but never say never. You’ll definitely be walking further and you’ll be fittimages (3)er and slimmer and feeling so much more healthy.

If you find it hard to motivate yourself to get up and exercise, a holly hunt will give you that reason. Who cares if you never find any? Who cares if you don’t have any growing near you, go seek some out in a shop or garden centre or look for something else, a flower or tree which you have in your country which has some symbolic significance at Christmas or whatever religious holiday you celebrate. The point is, find reasons to move, moving is good. If holly can be a reason to get up, get out and move then anything else can be too.

Secondly, family activities again, or even solitary activities. Find a good You Tube crafting demo like the simple one below which shows you how to make a quick and easy holly wreath.

Make some for your home or to gift to a family member or to take to the grave of a loved one who has already moved on from this life. Creating something is very therapeutic, it keeps your hands occupied and it keeps you out of the kitchen. It gives you a sense of usefulness and/or achievement and many obese people are down on themselves, feeling they can’t do anything right, so determine to make a simple holly arrangement or wreath and prove to yourself that you can do something and if you can do this one thing, what else can you do? Get good at it and make them and sell them and use the money to buy those himages (5)ealthy ingredients you can’t normally afford or a piece of exercise equipment, even if only a bungee band to tug on when you’re sat watching the TV. Or donate them to charities who can’t afford decorations or as prizes in local charity raffles or for local Christmas craft sales. No matter how big you are, even if you are bed bound you can do a craft activity and by the way you can pull on a bungee band. Lying in bed pulling on a bungee band is more exercise than you have been doing, it is more movement and we can all manage it, so get crafting and buy yourself a band and get exercising, you will burn more calories, strengthen muscles and start to lose weight, especially if you are making changes to the amount and type of food you eat too.

Again if you can do a Christmas project with your partner or kids or friends it is great for bonding and fun and is mood lifting and gets you talking and listening to one another. It’s surprising what you might get off your chest when you are relaxed, creative and happy and it’s amazing what your kids feel comfortable talking to you about. Sometimes other people in our lives have deep and genuine concerns about us when we are morbidly overweight, kids secretly worry about obese parents in the same way they silently worry about smoking parents, they hear the news, they have the lessons at school and they all scream to them “your mum or dad is going to die very soon and leave you all alone” and that is heartbreaking to know but it shakes you into action too when you find that your kid is worried sick about losing you.

Getting comfortable and having good quality family time gives them space and safety to come out and tell you about these things, to express their concerns and lets you have time to benefit from hearing that, to keep you inspired and to give you strength to avoid that Christmas buffet. It’s also good to hear them open up about how proud they are of your efforts and to hear them tell you what their favourite thing is about the new healthier you. Don’t miss these opportunities by not doing things together and allowing that space for such conversations to open up. The concerns and pride of your loved ones is the best food in the world, it fills you up and spurs you on and makes you strong, you want to put their fears behind them and you want to give them even more reasons to be proud of you. It dawns on you that only you can do this, it’s all up to you. Imagine the day you’re making a holly wreath with your kids and one of them says “remember that time when you used to be overweight mum and you….” that day is yours to have and it will come sooner if you can stay strong and focused on becoming that person who used to be overweight.

downloadChristmas is about togetherness for me and what better way to spend it than really talking and listening and getting to know the people you love more and letting them into new parts of you that they maybe didn’t know so well before. Make holly wreaths, make anything except unhealthy food.

The Simple Things in Life

I was really busy the other night and my son asked me if I would mind singing for him while he practiced his accompaniment for the school choir. Each year they hold a beautifully atmospheric concert in a little old church, it’s always packed to bursting and just the most important event of Christmas for us all. We’re not church goers but we find it grounds us, it prepares us in the correct spirit for Christmas. It’s when Christmas begins for us.

This year of course is the first that my daughter will not be there. We have attended each year since she used to sing in it and so this is our 12th year. We’re going to miss her so much that night.

I didn’t really feel like singing and I didn’t really have time. But I had a look at the list of songs and was already decided that I would do it of course, as long as we got it over with quick. For the first time in a number of years, all of the songs were traditional carols and I realised that this task was going to call for my best soprano which was rather rusty. I asked for a few minutes to exercise the vocal chords and to glug some warm honey and my son said that while I did that he would set up some recording equipment so we could send a recording to his sister. Glad he thought of that.

We started with Oh Holy Night and knowing what a perfectionist he is when it comes to these things, knowing that a bum note would cause him intense pain (I think he gets his dramatics from me sometimes) I feared I’d never achieve the power required going into the chorus and manage to hit and hold the appropriate notes. He said that he would forgive me this time. He had set up some accompaniment on his iPad and opted to accompany me using an electric guitar played through his wonderful iRig (great invention). I’m not sure what he does but it sounded amazing.

He began to play into the recorded track and I began to sing. It was going well, I was sounding good. I felt that beautiful heart swelling that you get from singing those timeless epic tunes and all of the memories associated with them come flooding in from somewhere in the recesses of your mind. For me, memories of singing with dad, memories of listening to choirs as kids, memories of family Christmas as a child, smells of Christmas, memories of my children being tiny snuggled up with mama in blankets listening to carols and hymns while having Christmas stories read to them, the wonderment of Christmas Eve, all of those wonderful carol concerts I’ve participated in and watched the kids in, all that and more.

You sing and that stuff comes thick and fast, flowing from your brain into your heart and it swells. Somehow that swelling lifts your voice, you hit and hold those notes because that full to bursting feeling in your heart takes over the control of your voice and you hear yourself singing without conscious thought to what you are doing.

At that moment I glanced across at my son, I’d been looking at the words (memory is not as sharp as it was) and I’d felt him looking at me. He was sitting relaxed on his guitar stool, the instrument looks like a natural part of him now, he wasn’t bothering with following the music, he knew it by heart already. He was looking right at me, his dimpled cheeks glowing red (he has yet to grow a whisker thank the Lord, I can’t bear that baby soft skin to disappear just yet) and he had a big smile on his face and his eyes were glistening with tears. We held one another’s gaze for the rest of the song and when we’d finished he came over to me and hugged me tight. “Mummy, you’re a beautiful singer. Well done” he let me go and I looked at him, my own eyes filled with tears now. “You’re a beautiful musician” I said and we had another hug.

We finally finished singing and recording music for my daughter at 1am. Nothing else mattered as much as those songs and making that precious memory with my son. It struck me each time I sang and that familiar heart swell came, how this very moment would forever be one of those heart swelling moments for each of us when we sang, played or heard these songs again for the rest of our lives. Something shared uniquely between us and through the recording which my daughter was delighted with,  perhaps for her as well.

Sometimes we make life too complicated. Sometimes we neglect wholesome talents and skills while we’re busy chasing around other things.  The simple things really are priceless.

This moment inspired my post earlier on my Music Blog too where there are three versions of Oh Holy Night to choose from, I haven’t included mine, I’m not that brave. But as I prefer male voices (I know I know so anti feminist) here is a fourth version by two of the very finest male voices.