Thursday, February 19, 2015

My 2015 Health Journey: Update 1

Way back at the start of January, I blogged about starting my health journey.  Six or so weeks later, it feels like it should be time for an update.

And the good news is - it's going really well!  I wanted to hold off posting for a little while because I find Januarys pretty easy (well, not 'easy' exactly...perhaps 'easier' would be a more correct description!)'s sustaining the good work into February that's often my undoing.  This year, however, I've managed to sustain the good habits and they are starting to feel more and more like the norm.  I'll get into facts and figures at the end of this post, but I wanted to share a few observations and ideas too.

I have an app on my phone called human which monitors my activity, and it's super fun.  I don't always have my phone with me, of course, but when I do this little cheerleader is perfect!  It charts your minutes, and punctuates them with silly phrases and boosts.  There's somethings very fun about a shoutout after a hundred minutes or more :)

At the end of January, I decided to buy myself a treat for a strong start, and I went for the Fitbit Flex, which I've wanted for a while.  I love human and it's great for tracking, but the fact I can wear the Flex all day and not have to think about it is a big plus point.  It's also great if like me you get a little competitive - a few friends and I are doing weekly challenges (I'm way off pace this week due to half-term break) and it's definitely motivating - I'm walking a lot more.  Which is great because I love walking.  There's something so relaxing after a long day in popping on your walking boots and heading out for a few miles.  I feel happier and healthier, just from that one small change!

A big part of this healthkick is the adding of elements, I think, rather than trying to change everything all at once.  January was getting food under control, February has been adding in the March I'm hoping to add some rowing machine sessions into the mix, and in April I'll be putting sleep patterns under the microcope.  It feels good to be making changes!

When it comes to food, I am loving My Fitness Pal.  I've used both Sparkpeople and WW before, with success, but at the current time MFP works well for me.  It's making me more conscious of what I do eat, and is also guarding against the tendency I have to cut calories too severely.  I feel like I'm eating better, and also that my relationship with food is improving.

Food's not a punishment, nor a treat.  It's fuel, and a way to power and replenish my body and mind.  It's so simple to type that, but after (more or less) 25 years of self-loathing and issues with food it feels like a gamechanger.  I'm discovering that there are foods I really don't like that I ate out of habit (potato chips - turns out I don't like them!  Dominos pizza- I had some the other night and felt awful for a day afterwards), and I'm getting cravings for the most random things (avocado, almonds and marinara sauce being three recent favourites).  My body feels happier and I feel more in control.  Nothing's off limits this time around, and I think this is helping me to be wise and make better choices.

So, how have those choices worked out?  The proof is in the numbers, so here you go.  I'm still a little shy about putting the numbers themselves out there, so this is loss.  Hopefully once I've lost a bit more I'll feel a bit less embarassed and share more.  A bit of distance should help!

My losses since January 1st 2015 are (I'll also put the 2015 total in brackets - for this update it will be a repetition but this should change as the year progresses):

Weight: 15 pounds lost (2015 total: -15 pounds)

Body Fat: down 1% (2015 total: -1%)

Bust: down 6cm (2015 total: -6cm)

Waist: down 9cm (2015 total: -9cm)

Hips: down 9cm (2015 total: -9cm)

A decent start (which has now plateaued....I'm hoping the numbers will start to move again soon!).  We continue.  Thank you so much for all the support and tips, I'll be back in a few weeks with another update.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Fringe Hours, by Jessica N Turner

I have been reading Jessica's blog for ages.  I happened upon it once, several years ago, and was drawn to her warmth, her passion for organising and her immense skill at scrapbooking (if you remember back to when I would do Project Life Tuesday link ups - that was with Jessica).  I've watched her family grow up on the blog and read as Jessica and her husband Matthew (Matthews are the best! /biased) navigate the ups and downs of parenting, marriage, work and writing.

I was overjoyed when some time ago Jessica announced she'd be writing a book, and just as I've observed her wee ones grow up through her blog posts and tweets, so too have I seen her book, called The Fringe Hours, grow up in front of me.  I took a tiny part in one small element of the original research Jessica did (an online survey) and when she announced she was looking for people to read and review advance copies, I shot my hand up like the oh-so-overkeen child I was at school!'s really good.

In The Fringe Hours, Jessica makes an empassioned case for us all making time for the things in life which fulfil us.  Not the many things we do in order to be good wives, mothers, friends, teachers...but the things which call most to us, which make us happier and healthier.  She researches widely and is unafraid to talk about prickly subjects such as guilt and comparison.  She meets with people who utilise their 'fringe hours' beautifully, and offers guidance and practical tips for others keen to find time for their passions and hobbies.

I must admit that I wasn't entirely sure how I'd apply the ideas in the book to myself but was pleasantly surprised!  Everyone I know is busy, and so too are the women Jessica meets and interviews.  There are a broad range of women involved in the research and case studies and it really opened my eyes to ways I could make time for the things that make me happier and more relaxed (in my case, reading, singing and walking were the three I focused on).  As my days trot by speedily I often feel guilty if I take time to go for a long walk or to read a book or to learn a new song - this book helped me to realise that I'm not alone in this guilt, and the ideas and tips within it helped me to be braver about carving out time for me.

The book made me be honest about how I used my free time, and a fair few useless apps got deleted while I made these changes.  It also made me more protective of the time I do take for me - because by recharging and recalibrating I come back stronger and better able to achieve all I need to do in a week!

If you're interested in wellbeing, self-care, organisation, or just love to see how others juggle the many elements of this ride we call life, I would heartily recommend The Fringe Hours to you.  Congratulations, Jessica, it's a cracking read!   And thank you for the genius of page 145 - I copied your 'Creative Ways to Say No' into my journal and they have been a godsend on myriad occasions since!

As a member of the 'launch team' I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of the book to review.  To buy a copy it can be found on both Amazon US, and Amazon Canada. Here in the UK it releases March 17th (although the Kindle version is available now); you can preorder the book here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Things to Remember, 1

London is a beautiful city.  As I strolled through the city today I was struck (as I often am) by how lucky I am to call this city home.  Sure it can be loud and busy and a little abrupt, but I'm constantly blown away by the big, impressive, London-ness of it all.

This evening I walked from Green Park to Liverpool Street, pausing midway for ramen and Merlot with the lovely Katie.  It's a decent swathe of the city and I love the journey through so many different parts of town.

You start at Green Park, passing through the arches of the Ritz, the juxtaposition of town cars spewing out new people to check in or play a little baccarat at the club, suits fresh from work, and homeless guys just trying to get some change for dinner.

On down St James's to Pall Mall, past the cigar shops, the yacht emporiums and the members' clubs.  On to Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and St Martin's coming into view, then behind you as you bear down on the Strand.

Past tourists and theatres, buses and black cabs.  A quick glance at St Clement Danes and a remembrance of that happiest of days.  Through the legal district, lights burning on and on, chalk protest signs scrawled on the pavements outside the Royal Courts of Justice, waiting for rain to dissolve and destroy them.

A pause for food and chat and rest, then onwards.

Up Ludgate Hill to the majesty of St Paul's, the dome so imposing and grand.  Past the columns of the Bank of England and the winding streets, so small, beneath the gargantuan towers of the financial district: Gherkin, Natwest, Heron.

And then to Liverpool Street, to crowds and trains and warmth and home.

What a pleasant walk.

What a magnificent city.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


Lately I've been thinking a lot about balance.

Maybe it's the healthkick, maybe it's taking a little more notice of things, maybe it's simply part of the process of growing up, changing, and existing in this busy old whirl we call London.

I think for a lot of the past few years I've been a little off-kilter.  A little out of balance.  Life is either proceeding at a breakneck pace or very quiet and calm.  The middle ground is reached rarely.  And that's been fine.  At times it's been lovely.  But now the season has arrived to relax the whole thing a little, to step back, to re-assess what it is that inspires and nourishes and challenges me.  When you're travelling at pace that's hard to do.

So I'm doing a lot of stock-taking at the moment.

There are lots of lists, flow charts, mindmaps.

There may even be a spreadsheet or two.

I'm happy and calm and ready for a few changes, rather than angry or blue, but nonetheless I respect and understand that in order to grow and enjoy myself more I need to be unafraid to make the call and change what I'm currently doing, in myriad areas of life.

I've already started when it comes to health and my diet.  I'm sleeping more, and drinking water more than coffee or tea (the lifeblood of most teachers!).  I'm trying to make intelligent, mindful choices about food, and enjoying paying more attention to what I use to fuel my body.  My fitbit is a recent addition but is proving useful when it comes to tracking my steps and sleep.  My Fitness Pal is opening my eyes to where I need to seek better choices (turns out sugar is my drug of choice....and I need more iron.  Always).

Now I need to turn that kind of focus and mindfulness to other areas.  Because when I feel balanced and calm, everything is better.


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