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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Why I'm inspired...

Sadly it's become all too apparent in the last year how important it is to make the most of what we have. There was a time when I thought I was invincible. That I’d never grow old and I’d never die (to quote the Lost Boys) but now, only recently people my age have started getting sick, some unlikely to recover, and that’s just not right.

Some of the brightest, strongest, most beautiful, most intelligent people I’ve ever known are being affected by devastating illness and there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it.

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, your time to jump off this mortal plain can hit you right between the eyes, just when you’re not expecting it, so what can you do in the meantime?

I’m always banging on about being good to others. About making the world a better place one person at a time and I still stand by that sentiment. Be inspired to do good and inspire the same in others and together let’s change the world. But there’s something else we can do too and that is to become masters of our own destiny.

Believe that you deserve to be treated decently. Believe that you’re beautiful, because no matter how you look, if you’re beautiful on the inside this will always shine through. Treat others how you would expect to be treated yourself, but this works both ways. If people don’t treat you well, why hang around? If someone makes you feel unimportant, unloved and you’re not liking yourself because of it, do something about it.

Move on. Give that love that you’re so good at giving to someone who deserves it and in doing so become master of your own destiny. Allow yourself to be loved, cared about and respected in the way that you should be. If someone is making you feel less than you are, then that’s their fault, not yours. Have people around you who love you for you. Take the negative influences out of your life and surround yourself with love and laughter. In doing so bring happiness back to your life and begin to notice the beauty all around you once more.

Life is precious and life is short, so do yourself a favour and become master of your own destiny. Believe that you deserve a life and allow yourself to live it.

And back to the title of this post… if you’re wondering why I’m inspired, it’s because of those beautiful, strong, courageous people out there that I mentioned earlier. Those who I might not be able to have a coffee with for very much longer. They are the ones who have inspired me. To help myself as well as others and to start feeling better inside.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Fast Diet Kitchen – one of the great secrets to dieting success!

Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit it, I put on more than a couple of pounds on over Christmas and wasn’t happy with the flabby outcome. Yes, I was probably only just on the wrong side of the healthy/ overweight line, but the fact is I didn’t like what I saw.

So, in delightfully tacky tradition, I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit and healthy at the same time – in turn making myself feel happier with my over all appearance. But how to do it? We all know that it’s harder to lose weight the less you weigh and those last few pounds are the hardest to get off, so how was I going to make a real difference?

Well firstly HIIT!! No – I wasn’t hitting myself – HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. I chose Jillian Michaels’ punishing 30 Day Shred to push myself through every morning for 20 minutes and while hating it most of the time, loved the results on my body afterwards and the overall feeling of well being that it gave me. In fact, I went past the 30 days and am still doing it now! And Pilates once a week - lovely, lovely Pilates - now my favourite way to get a lovely stretch, relax and six pack of an evening!

But, what about food? I knew that my love affair with chocolate and sugary cakes and sweets had to come to an end, but would this be enough to lose some serious weight? Probably not. So, having found out about The Fast Diet I thought I’d give it a go. The Fast Diet or 5:2 Diet involves eating fairly healthily, but pretty much what you like for five days a week and fasting for two by having no more than 500 calories on your fast day. By harking back to many centuries ago, when food wasn't in regular supply, the body is conned into thinking it's in a potential famine situation and gets leaner and tougher as a result. Sounds easy enough, but it’s really actually quite hard getting three meals a day in that total 500 calories!

So someone told me about The Fast Diet Kitchen, which provides you with a series of healthy ready meals to assist you on the fast days. Every calorie is counted and the meals – a soup at lunchtime and an evening meal - contain some really healthy ingredients so you know you’re getting the right stuff into you on your fast days as well. To be honest though, diet food? I thought it would taste vile, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised.

Yes, some of the meals weren’t to my taste, but the majority of them were lovely. I particularly liked the aromatic chicken curry and the beef and ale casserole – they were really yummy and I couldn’t believe that each meal was loads less than 300 calories! So basically, for a few weeks I had a breakfast of around 100 calories on my fast days, then chose a soup and evening meal to add up to a total of 500 calories.

Yes, fasting took some getting used to the first few times and to start with I was quite miserable on my fast days, but gradually my body got used to it and I actually felt healthier on the fast days than the other days!

I also found that exercising and keeping busy on the fast days helped with the hunger pangs too. As the weeks moved on I really started to notice the difference with a combination of HIIT and fasting and guess what? I have actually lost 10kg in two months!! That’s a flipping stone and a half in old money!!

The Mummy tummy (or so I called it, even though my oldest is now two) is no more and I feel so much better for it! Even the jeans that never used to fit me and sat in my wardrobe for years are now too big!

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to make it last for – hopefully I’ve made a fitter and healthier change for life now, but all I can say is it most definitely worked and I’m mega impressed! So thank you Jillian Michaels and the Fast Diet Kitchen – I love you both!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

10 things I'll be teaching my children

As parents we strive for the best for our children; and as good parents we strive for them to be the best they can be. I'm not talking horrendous pushy stage mums, trying to force their children into achieving their own unfulfilled dreams. I mean instilling and encouraging the right values and attitudes in our children, through setting a good example ourselves.

While schools give education - maths, English, science etc - I still believe that it’s the parents’ role to invest time and energy in raising their children to be half decent contributors to a positive and happy society. So here are some things that I think are important.

1) Be assertive – the other day, my son told me he was sad at pre school that no one came to play with him. So I suggested that if no one came to play with him, maybe he could try going to play with them. In life we can't expect things to come to us, but likewise, we should be positive and confident about going for what we want to achieve.

2) Confidence – some of the nicest children I've ever met come from military families, not only because they're polite, but because they are also some of the most confident children I've ever met. Believe in yourself and your ability and others will too.

3) Self defence – the world we live in can be a cruel and horrible place at times. I plan on equipping my children with the knowledge and ability to defend themselves both physically and mentally should disaster happen.

4) Good manners – it may sound old fashioned, but I really value hearing and seeing good manners both in children and adults. I also believe that a well mannered person will get further in life, be more successful and achieve more.

5) Tenacity - don't give up if you fail at the first hurdle. Believe in yourself and your ability. Keep trying. Most of the world’s most successful people didn't get to where they are straight away and it wasn't handed to them on a plate. Tenacity is the best way to succeed.

6) Self belief – too often children are criticised or put down by adults much more than they are praised. If your confidence is damaged from the start, what chance do you have? Praise the things your children do well and encourage them, this way they they will believe in themselves and be more likely to succeed.

7) Kindness – sometimes I just think there’s not enough kindness and caring in the world. I plan to teach my children to be kind to others and be helpful where they can. Hopefully by doing so they will be positive contributors to a good community.

8) Compassion – in a similar way to kindness, I want my children to think from another's perspective as well as their own, and try to understand about the feelings of others. When someone is hurt, for instance, I want them to be the ones who help. We’ve just had Martin Luther King Day, so, as he said: “Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”

9) Value of learning – we all know that a good education can help you be successful in life. But that's not just about doing sums or reading Shakespeare, it's about going into the world with our eyes open and sucking up all it has to offer. I want my children to be keen to learn, have understanding of its importance and to love learning too.

10) Thoughtfulness – in the early stages of child development, it's obvious that to a young child the world revolves about them and that's all part of the development process. But as they grow, I want to encourage them to think about their actions and the effects it will have on others. Somebody once said to me: “Engage brain before body,” and I think it's probably some good advice.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm a perfect parent, far from it. But I do think that with a bit of effort, patience, time, faith and understanding on my part I can give my children the best possible start in life and by doing that give them the opportunity to be the best they can be.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Banish negativity; bring the happy

Someone once told me that full time mums (and dads) can be more susceptible to depression and loneliness than you might imagine.

It's easy to see why when you think about it, after all, parenting can be a hectic and pretty tough job, not to mention being more tiring than tiredness itself.

We often spend most of our days caring for our small people, with little or no adult interaction. And, while we're focusing on developing tiny minds and characters, we're spending little time on keeping our own brains active.

Before having children your brain might have been used to being permanently part of the adult world. Then, when you became a parent, chances are, things became very different. It's understandable that, as parents, we might therefore feel a bit lonely and isolated at times with such a big change to our lives and mindset taking place.

Clearly, if you're suffering from depression in the real sense of the word, then it's important to seek professional help and guidance and there are loads of treatments and therapies out there that can help, so please don't be afraid or embarrassed to go and see what they are.

If you're just feeling a little flat, unhappy, isolated or low and those negative thoughts are far too frequent, there are things you can do to change it.

I've been really into the concept of bringing the happy lately, and with Blue Monday fast approaching this can't be a bad thing, so…

Make that choice… it's not the easiest thing to do at times, but the first step is to choose to be positive rather than negative. There's no point doing things to be more positive if you don't really want to.

Exercise regularly… Exercise is a big way for me to bring that happy and keep it there. When I'm feeling a bit low, a HIIT workout or brisk walk in the fresh air goes down a treat for boosting my energy and mood. If you join an exercise class, it's also a little escape to the adult world for a change and a chance to meet others.

Bring someone else's happy… I can't quite work out out whether Blue Monday is supposed to be January 19 or 26 this year, but basically it's a Monday in the middle of January, when we're supposed to feel the worst that we’ll feel all year. The idea is to do something nice for someone else on this day and by making someone else happy, hopefully you'll do it for yourself too.

Banish the misery … All too often we find ourselves thinking negatively about someone or something and quite often it's a sub conscious thought that we’re not even aware of. Try and identify negative thoughts when they happen and turn them around. Avoid negative people and influences in your life and focus on the good things. Look for the positive in any situation and it's guaranteed to be more productive.

Music is food for the soul… A tune that makes you feel happy, whether it's something that makes you want to dance, or makes you feel peaceful and content, has to be a good thing.

Stop comparing yourself to others... If you can find a way to be happy with who you are or become comfortable in your own skin, this is a great positive step. Stop comparing yourself to others, what they do, what they look like etc, and start focusing on the good things about you.

Set small, achievable goals… Don't be unrealistic with your goals and then beat yourself up when you don't achieve them. Focus on what you can do or achieve. Then feel good about the fact that you've achieved it.

Share the positivity… While we might say that people who are overly positive can be annoying, the chances are the effect they will have on your life will be a good one. Try and be the person that brings positivity to the world. A good start is a smile.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Why I’m loving exercise..

Ok, so, before you ask, this isn't going to be one of those really annoying “look at how wonderfully fit and healthy I am posts.”

I'm fully aware that, despite being classed as a healthy weight (just), that it wouldn't hurt me to shed the odd pound or two. And I'm also not suggesting I love exercise all of the time. In fact, when I'm exercising, I hate it most the time!

It's the feeling afterwards that I'm on about. I love it!

So, with the sun shining brightly outside and me feeling the effects of my latest HIIT workout, I thought I'd blog about it.

Obviously you exercise to fit into your clothes better, maybe shed a little fat, or generally have a more healthy lifestyle.

But what I love is the boost it gives me – to my mood, my energy levels, even my quality of breathing. This way, on the days when I really don't want to exercise (which is pretty much most days), I can guarantee that afterwards I'll feel flipping fantastic!

The thing I've found that does this most for me is HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. Sounds scary, but it's only 20 minutes out of my day and you should check out Tabata – now that's scary! HIIT involves short intense bursts of exercise interspersed with periods of less intense exercise, for instance sprinting then jogging.

What I love about it too, is that apparently a HIIT workout for 20 minutes a day can be the equivalent of an hour at the gym! And believe it or not, your body continues to burn calories and fat for 24-48 hours after your workout is finished.

This is because a HIIT workout really gets your heart rate up and your body goes into its repair cycle as it works hard to pump more oxygen into your muscles.

My favourite HIIT workout at the minute is Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, but you can put together your own HIIT workout easily, depending on which areas you want to improve. Just have a look online, there are tons of examples there.

So, with the new year, this is my resolution, to do my HIIT workout 3-5 times per week. Even as a busy mum I reckon I could squeeze in the time. Then hopefully come summer time I can squeeze into my bikini and get all martyr like about swimming in the sea... Ha!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How you know you've got kids…

Ok, so we already know that children don't do bank holidays or weekends, that's the obvious one.

If you've recently become a parent for the first time, you might have just discovered that there are two 4 o’clocks in the day as well.

But what about those really cute little things that make you smile to yourself (or pull your hair out in frustration)?

Here's a list of some of the things I thought of that make me remember I'm a mum:

1) Paintbrushes and pots jostle for space with the glasses and cutlery in the draining rack.
2) Nine pm is the new bedtime.
3) Cupboard doors and the fridge are now similar to the gallery from Tony Hart’s Hartbeat.
4) The toilet is no longer a private place.
5) Your bed now plays host to half the “In the night garden” characters and some trains.
6) There are only two TV channels - cbeebies or nick jr.
7) The car you were once proud of is now a skip on wheels.
8) Leaving the house now take three times as long.
9) A visit to a posh restaurant now means crayons, fish fingers and ice cream.
10) The gorgeous scented candles in your bathroom have now been replaced with rubber toys (and not the fun ones either).
11) You know the words to all of the Peppa Pig episodes and you also know all the words to Wind the Bobbin Up, Sleeping Bunnies and many more.
12) Your cupboards that once contained the sort of herbs and spices that would make Gordon Ramsay proud now contain spaghetti hoops and Haribo.

Do you know what? Unsurprisingly, these were just off the top of my head, I'm sure you could think of many more, or if you're not a parent yourself, it may be you have all this to come!

Well, I wouldn't change it for the world (except perhaps for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I'm Loving Positive Self Talk!

Lately I've been looking at the subjects of happiness, kindness and inner peace.

Ok, don't worry, I'm not becoming a hippy 45 years too late. I just think we all need a little feel good in our lives and if done in a positive way, hopefully it will do us the world of good, maybe even those around us.

I've been lucky enough to do some work recently for the fabulous personal trainer Kelly Rennie, one of the authors of The Fit Mummy Manual

She's got some brilliant tips for getting back into shape post pregnancy, but one of her tips that really struck me was the theory of Positive Self Talk.

This is a technique sometimes used to help athletes stay focused and in an optimal state of mind. It is an internal conversation to create motivation, specific positive emotions, and belief.

The trick is not to listen to the voice that says: “This is too hard, I can't do it anymore,” because when we hear these words, they become our belief.

Instead you create a positive belief and therefore, a positive outcome. If you tell yourself you can do one more repetition or walk one more mile, you will.

It might sound a bit too idealistic to start with, but in thinking back on my life, it really makes sense.

One example – I used to be terrible at cross country at school. Then one day I thought, no, why shouldn't I be as good as the others?

From that day on I was always in the top ten finishers. It really honestly wasn't anabolic steroids, I just started believing in myself.

Even now when I go for a run, initially I start to get tired and think I'm going to stop, then I tell myself I can go further and all of a sudden it's fine again.

And for those of us who have been through problematic labours, for example, you might have got to a point where you thought "I can't do this anymore". I know I did.

Fact is you have to get through it one way or another, what other choice do you have? And this is where positive self talk can come into its own.

If you tell yourself you can do something and really believe it, chances are you will be able to do it. I honestly believe we're capable of so much more than we think. Maybe all it takes is a little more self confidence and self belief?

It's like the theory of the mum lifting the car off her run over child. Would you really believe that could happen? It just goes to show the strength of positive belief. If you want something enough you can do it.

I can't get over how strong our minds can be. Sometimes it feels like our minds are so much stronger than our bodies.

Access the true positive strength of your mind and you will be able to achieve so much more. That is something I truly believe, hippy or no hippy!