Mindset is key.

img_1705With social media trends like humpday and flashback Friday we have seen the rise of ‘transformation’ shares. These transformations are usually along the lines of ‘hey! look at me aren’t I good for losing 3st?’ or ‘get me! I’m now ripped to shreds after three kids and Competing in body building comps’. But these transformations are transient. They are fleeting parts of a persons life. They are the visual, aesthetic values we have been brainwashed to admire. They somehow perpetuate this ridiculous notion that if you don’t look a certain way or have everything in your life figured out then you’re failing or worth somewhat less than if you did. Ok these transformations might have taken some effort, and some discipline and they might have long lasting impacts on a persons health. However, they don’t tell of the person’s development as a character, a person, as whole being. Because being nice, being confident, strong, brave or kind doesn’t seem to matter anymore. As long as you get likes or followers, own an Audi or have taken that really expensive international trip you’re winning at life it seems.

So why am I writing this tonight? Because now more than ever I don’t recognise myself. Not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and as a ‘whole’. It dawned on me today, during a pivotal moment at work, teaching a poem to my favourite class that I am not the person I was when I started this job, shaping the minds of the next generation hoping to inspire someone somewhere to be whatever they want to be. I don’t know how I got to where I am. Some people say there is a path for everyone and some things were simply not meant to be while others are adamant that we shape our own paths and destinies. I’m not quite sure what I believe. I know I’m incredibly lucky. So lucky I’m terrified everyday that something might take it all away from me in an instant.

Where do I start? Do I start when my parents separated and I was just an 18 month old baby? Do I start with my first memory being passed about like a package with a value attached to it to each member of the family? Do I start when the one person who is never meant to give up on you had all of my clothes and belongings in a couple of black bin liners at the front door and told me to go? I was 11. Is this where I first felt inadequate, worthless, invisible, rejected? Or was that already there when I first counted the calories I was eating aged 8? It’s a tough one. I could blame the parents, I could blame the system that said I couldn’t live with my grandparents and forced me to live with a woman that left me behind as that 18 month old baby and who never really knew how to love or look after me. I could blame my pushy father who always wanted me to do my utmost best and relentlessly pushed me to study hard and get the best grades. I could blame school for not watching me closer, seeing what had happened under their noses and what was happening each and every day, how I became introvert and how I tried to disappear. But I know the only one to blame is myself. They were my own actions, my own choices.

I didn’t know I was ill at the time. You don’t with Anorexia. You don’t see it coming. You don’t know it’s there. The only thing you know is that food is the one thing you can control and nothing or no one is going to get in the way of that. I’d be at my grandparents, my safe place, my happiest place and I’d eat at the table, I’d eat proper meals. The minute I had to go ‘home’ to my mums or to visit my dads that’s when I refused to eat. I’d pick at every morsel and feed it to the dog. I’d go out of my way to avoid mealtimes, I’d hide in my room, walk for hours around the block or even force myself to sleep to blank these times out from my daily life.

School was lonely. After the first hospitalisation (of which there was so many I began to lose count) I seemed to lose my friends to new fads, trends, circles of new students that filtered into each class and became unimportant and insignificant as the closest friends forgot about me to do what every kid should do and have fun. Hospital became safe. It became home. The nurses there became my ‘friends’ and make shift family. I spent the majority of 12 years hospitalised on various wards and specialist units. Once I was sent to an ‘adolescents’ unit sharing a dormitory with girls who had violently attacked others or been addicted to drugs. I was categorised as an unruly child that was out of control. They didn’t understand of course. No-one ever does. I tried running away from that place twice and failed so ended up playing the game, eating, gaining weight and getting discharged to be free from the nightmare of the dorm to come home and ‘start again’.

I used to survive on as little as possible. Half a Weetabix with warm water was my favourite. I averaged about 160 calories a day and feared everything that might get in the way of that ‘perfect’ controlled way. The lower my weight dropped the lower my idea of what ‘perfect’ might actually be. I exercised everyday in my room, I walked the dog hours on end to burn every ounce of fat I might have ingested. I became paranoid about fat. That I might absorb it in any form through my skin or in the air I breathed. I panicked when I didn’t get to walk the dog before the chip shop opened because I was convinced I would breathe in fat as I walked past it. I would insist on fresh tea towels and  plates that had been bleached and boiled before I ate anything. Thing is you don’t realise this but your brain stops working, it fails. Rationality and reason go straight out of the window and a paranoid, stressed state unveils. A nasty, spiteful, horrible side that you never knew you had.

My first hospitalised weight was 6st. My lowest weight was around 3 and a half stone and I was 21 years of age. I had been diagnosed as anorexic for as long as I could remember at this point. It had been most of my life. I was 21 and I didn’t know any other way of living existed. I had just been rejected from my dream university place to study ‘English and Performance with Dance and Drama’ due to my health and whilst every one I knew was partying hard, going on holidays, forming new relationships, moving away or getting dream jobs I was laid in hospital wired up to machines suffering seizures daily, struggling to walk, see, control my bladder or even talk and make sense. My body was giving upon me as were the people around me.

I don’t know why it was then that things changed. Maybe it was sheer fear of dying. I could feel it coming. I could see myself leaving my granddad and grandma behind before I had chance to tell them how much I loved them for being the best parents when mine couldn’t put me first, before their own power struggles and need for attention. Maybe it was the fear of being completely forgotten, unnoticed, without a mark on this earth to let people know I existed, I was here? Maybe it was just hunger. Whatever happened that day, week or month (it all fades into a blurry memory now) but something changed. I wanted more. I wasn’t ready to give up.

I came home weighing 4 stone. I saw my 22nd birthday in (despite many saying that wouldn’t happen) and I got into Sheffield Uni. I still wasn’t quite there though. It was still taking its toll. I didn’t make friends at Uni, I didn’t get to party hard, hold a job or even stay up late writing essays. I was 4 and half stones and relied on being dropped off and picked up from every lecture by my dad and one kind lady at Uni, Carole Ann who took me under her wing and protected me from being invisible. I didn’t know how to win this thing.

I tried. That’s all I could do. I went to the counselling sessions, I ate what I could. I tried. I kept trying. 3 years later weighing 6 stone I was graduating Uni and it’d passed in one big blur. I had no fun memories of Uni, just hard slog and arguments in the car with my dad about the size of a jacket potato or added cheese to a unsuspected sandwich. I was still unable to work full time but it was then when someone gave me a chance. They noticed me. It felt great. I’d started going to yoga classes when I was discharged to help me regain strength, confidence and the ability to relax. I went to the local gym and it detracted me from the routine of daily hour long walks after every meal. It broke the regimental and gave me a sense of being ‘free’. Now this isn’t a hippie enlightening where yoga saved my life by no means. I was still ill and still scary to look at but people spoke to me, they saw me and they didn’t run away. I never really got to say thank you to Kev. If he reads this he will know who he is. There’s a saying somewhere about doing one small thing that can change the world, the butterfly effect. Well he did that for me. He asked me to teach a yoga class. Me! I was completely rubbish. No coordination, nervous as hell, fluffed my words, wobbled my way through but somehow he believed in me. The staff were lovely too. They all made me feel for once that I was liked, I was part of a team. I belonged. I was worth something. Isn’t that sad that a person actually feels that they are not worth anything? I look back now and can’t quite believe that I felt that way. It seems a stark reality compared to life now. But it was a reality and I can’t quite forget it either.

After that I never looked back. Life just got better. I got stronger. It’s not all been plain sailing, there’s been a few that have knocked me be back down to ground zero. There was a few times I felt like a giant reject mistreated and used by others to their advantage and viewed as a complete joke. There was a baby that didn’t make it. Not really a surprise after all my body had endured. I like to think it just wasn’t the right time or place and that little soul is somewhere better now. I’m not really religious but I’d like to think I’ve made peace with that loss and pain. Not that that ever goes away either.

There was ‘no way’ I’d ever have kids they said. My body just wouldn’t be able to do it they said. But I like to prove people wrong. I like to fight people’s doubts in me. I don’t use food to hide my insecurities anymore. I don’t over exercise to earn my worth either. I know I’m worth something to someone. More importantly I’m worth something to me. I know I have the capacity to change the world in just one small way.

I can’t say it was just one person that got me here. It’s many. I wish I could name them all. But every single one that was a friend, who didn’t giggle about that skelly bob walking miles with that dog everyday, that didn’t avoid me in passing or gave up on me. Those friends who made me go out, made me eat, made me go on that ridiculous date, buy that dress, have that vodka and dance like a loon. I owe all of them my life, my right here my right now. I really do feel like I have it all.

My right here right now? Well let’s see. It is a bit cheesy I guess. I got the degree, I got the job, I got the house, went to far away places, found the man I should have been with from the start who makes everyday filled with laughter and love. Who has taught and still encourages me when I have wobbles of my own self worth and how I should be treated by others. We have a beautiful baby girl against everyone’s expectations. What I hope for her is simply this. Self worth. I hope with love, care, attention and support she grows to be confident, independent and most of all ‘nice’.

The big deal for me? I have friends, real friends. Friends that I know won’t read this and have tittle tattle or have a scathing remark about it. Friends I know I can trust. That’s the big deal see, trust. It’s a hard one to earn and even harder to keep. Once it’s broken there’s never really anything left is there? That’s where I think this all started. Broken trusts that broke my idea of my self worth. From all of this I think there really is one deep and meaningful message. Be kind with your words, your actions and your intentions. You never know whose world you might change. A person’s worth is not a visual, measurable tick list. A person’s worth is their ‘whole’.

I haven’t put any ‘transformation’ photos on this. It’s not about me really and how skeletal and poorly I looked compared to now. It’s not about the illness  or how it almost killed me. This is just how one person, somewhere along the way, one kind gesture, one nice act can change a persons whole world. For others who might just see this and identify with something somewhere, you’re not alone. Peace ✌️️

A big fat lie – Why fats aren’t all bad.

Fat has had some bad press in the last couple of decades since the Jayne Fonda’s Lycra clad fitness days where fat free and low fat was the new rage. The initial understanding was that fat causes fat and that to become streamlined and ‘fat free’ you had to eat this way too. However, no one at this point addressed the fact that low fat and fat free products were being pumped full of artificial sweeteners and sugars that have a far more devastating effect on the body.

However, I’ll address that shortly. Let’s deal with the biggest lie ever told to a health conscious population where women strived to be ‘skinny’ and men strived to gain muscle. Fat free is not the way to do it. There are several categories of fat to start with. Saturated fat is the obvious one. The one that is solid at room temperature and the one that comes attached as a white streak to meat that you buy (e.g bacon or steak). This is the visceral fat of animals and is of no nutritional benefit at all. In fact the human body doesn’t digest this fat easily at all and it is usually stored until the liver can deal with it through the increase of LDL Cholesterol (the bad one).

Unsaturated fats are the ones found in oils like olive oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and so forth. These are liquid at room temperature. These fats are split into polyunsaturated varieties and monounsaturated varieties but it is acknowledged that all unsaturated fats can help cut the bad cholesterol in the body and in fact cut the risk of heart disease significantly. Omega 3 oils and Omega 6 oils found in fish, eggs, seeds, avocados are essential for healthy neurological functioning (aka brain foods) and cell repair as well as maintaining healthy joints, bones, skin and hair and metabolism. So needless to say it’s not rocket science. These fats help you use fats.

Trans fats are the new concern. These are the fats those that are heated above a specific temperature making them ‘hydrogenated’ in nature. These fats are often found in processed and fast foods but in the UK supermarkets have to state clearly whether a food contains hydrogenated vegetable oils as these fats have been linked to certain diseases and conditions. These fats help prolong the shelf life of food but when consumed they solidify within arteries and veins, obstructing blood flow and literally clogging us up from the inside.

So now we are left with a couple of generations that are afraid of full fat varieties of food. With the Body Coach, Clean Eating Alice, Fearne Cotton and so many more big names trying to encourage people to eat clean and opt for full fat it’s a few decades of scaremongering that they have to overcome. There is still a big demand for low fat and fat free alternatives perpetuated by the likes of Slimming World and Weight Watchers. What they fail to tell their ‘customers’ (not clients as they fail on so many fronts when it comes to health and fitness knowledge – losing weight doesn’t qualify anyone to label themselves a ‘Health and Nutrition EXPERT’! Yet it appears that these chocolate certificates or identities are being handed out like party bags at these so called ‘fat camp’ establishments). Now back to Full fat/low fat and fat free. There’s a range of fat free yogurts out there with a huge name, endorsed on every meal plan by slimming world. It’s ingredients contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, colourings, additives to prolong it’s best by date and guess what they taste watery and sweet but that doesn’t matter when you can consume these in ‘unlimited’ quantities right? In actual fact the sugars and sweeteners just result in your body releasing insulin and thus in effect storing the sugars as fat especially when not used as energy and then you experience that feeling of a sugar crash later reaching for yet another low fat, or fat free manufactured product that will monopolise on this cycle of a dependency on these highly processed, manufactured, nutritionally inept goods. On the other hand if a portion of full fat Greek yogurt was consumed with a few berries, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of nuts the nutritional benefits are amazing! Calcium, protein and probiotics in the yogurt as well as fats that can be digested and utilised by the body. Vitamins and minerals in the berries and honey, the honey especially protecting against allergens and inflammations. Nuts prove a source of Omega 3 and protein and all of them combined will keep you much fuller for longer regulating insulin production and metabolism so that you are less likely to feel a sugar dip or reach for the biscuit tin.

Changing the way you eat is never easy, we have developed as a species to have an emotional attachment to our food. It is the way we socialise, it is what we view as part of our home,, our family, our relationships. It’s hard when for years you have been brain washed into believing certain scare stories such as heart disease and cancer as being linked to consuming fat. It is hard to accept that fat actually beats fat and that it can in fact help you lose fat. But after years of fat free and low fat unsuccessfully treating a western world where illnesses such a diabetes and weight related diseases are still on the increase year on year but is time to stop feeling frightened of full fat and start nourishing our bodies the way we were always intended to.

The one with the boiled caterpillar. And Clubbercise. 

The day begun food prepping, as per usual. Salmon with rice and salad. Thought I’d add green beans to my salad. Bit of a change I thought. So while I sat with my egg whites and spinach I put a handful on to boil. All was well until I came to drain them. As I almost poured the beans onto the salad a bright red caterpillar lay across a bean. Stomach churn. And now I’m totally off green beans. I rant on about buying organic I know and I do love fresh and green food. But nothing prepared me for a boiled caterpillar this morning. I think I feel worse because it was so tiny and defenceless. 

Anyway. That was the start of the day and clubbercise was the end. I didn’t know what to expect since in reality I’m a gym rat. I’m confident and comfortable surrounded by dumbells, squat racks and treadmills but this was something else! An hour of 90’s rave blasting out, glow sticks in hand and a sudden expectation to coordinate feet and arms to twice their normal moving speed. Needless to say it wasn’t my forte. I’m definitely not a natural at steeet dance. As much as I want to I just don’t think I’m ever meant to dance. 

So I’ve made my peace with that I think too. Tomorrow I’ll be back in the gym cross fitting my way through the functional training section and eating a non bean lunch and tea. I’ll post a few recipes this weekend to inspire a few good healthy choices. 

Ones to watch out for… mystery shopper alert! 

Ones to look out for. Morrisons own brand of peanut butter costs £1.20 compared to £3.40 for ‘Whole Earth’ equivalent. Except the Morrisons own brand has no added ingredients whatsoever. It is 100% peanuts. Organic Whole Earth is only 96-97% peanuts with added palm oil from unsustainable farmlands, it also has salts and sugars that go amiss due to its promise of being organic and natural. It pays (literally) to pay attention to labels. Know what you’re buying. Know what you’re putting in your mouth. 

I also spotted the famous ‘Lucy Bee’ coconut oil yesterday priced up st £8 and that was a reduced price in a well known supermarket. Their own brand of organic coconut oil stood beneath it in less fancy packaging and wrapping at a mere £1.99. Not much difference there then. 

#shopwisely #health #food #organics #naturalgoodness #saynotopalmoil #fuelforthebody #protein #fats 

balance #wellbeing

Sleep. What’s that?

I saw the photo attached on Instagram. And my initial thought was ‘I do prioritise sleep’ but then I realised prioritising means making sure it comes before other things and that I’m afraid is where I fall short. 

Like many mums if tidgy people sleep is a long distant memory. Nights are spent ‘snoozing’ on the edge of sleep knowing that little legs is about to start squawking at any moment as she hates being in her own bed. I put her in with us. I was prioritising sleep! Too right. You have to survive the best way you can in these first few years and I’m one of those ‘smithery’ mothers that can’t deal with hearing her baby cry and so let her dictate her own sleep pattern. Bad habits right? 

Sleep in underrated. When I first had little legs I thought I could manage without sleep since she seemed to wake every hour for a feed at one point. I spent days and weeks feeling like a member of the walking dead crossed with a milking cow. Half the time my brain had seized up and body was on auto pilot. Why does something so silly as sleep affect us in such an extreme way? 

Sleep is probably the main thing that keeps us going other than water. Not only does every cell in your body renew and replenish itself. But your hormones retain balance, your metabolism is maintained and so it every cell function. If we get into the sleep debt trap all kinds of things start to occur. Leptin a fat cell that maintains the sense of being satisfied decreases, ghrelin another secretion found in our cells is increased and it is this that increases hunger and also reduces our resting metabolic rate so slowing down the rate in which we burn fat or energy. 

As if this wasn’t bad enough we then have Cortisol the body’s stress hormone that is released and encourages fat storage in all the wrong places. Mainly the middle and internally around the liver. It’s been said that less than 6 hours a night on a regular basis triggers both ghrelin and cortisol production leading to uncontrollable weight gain and diseases such as diabetes. Even worse news is that lack of sleep can cause muscle loss (the things that burn fat yeah) and lead to a higher risk of injury when you donactually prioritise time to do other things like exercise.

Now has anyone got a sleep fairy that will work with a one year old? 😬😆✌️️ #sleepmatters #fatloss #bodylove #lookingafternumberone #sweetdreams #health #fitness #didyouknow

Getting down with the kids – my introductory blog.

Today someone recommended I start  this here thing called ‘blogging’. Working full time in a secondary school I know this is all the rage with the teens of today, if not ‘blogging’ then definitely ‘vlogging’! Whilst I thought my Instagram and Facebook updates about all things health and fitness (my other job of almost 16 years!) was ‘trendy’ and the latest thing to do I was wrong. So wrong. It appears that social media has it specific outlets for these things and so blogging it is. What did I post recently? I have recently had a bit of a rant at multi million pound ‘dieting’ companies. All which thrive on selling a specific promise and image to vulnerable and easily manipulated women. I say women as it is largely those that they market at. But it also impacts on men. Anyone looking to address their weight, self esteem, confidence, health and wellbeing. They promise that if you buy this and that (endorsed products often filled with artificial ingredients made of nothing more than a chemical cocktail) that you will eventually end up looking like the glamourous goddess on the advert and have a flock of hot young men dancing at your feet. In reality the company gets richer, the person makes ‘friends’ from ‘fat club’ weigh in days who  have found this miracle to rescue them from what was making them unhappy through this unbreakable net of new found support and yet they still end up bigger or still battling the same weight issue three times over since when they started. Why? because the diet that offers ‘unlimited pasta’ hasn’t quite worked in the long term.

So here’s what I said: ‘It’s not rocket science’. It’s not going to cost a subscription and the answer isn’t in a magical shake, microwavable meal plan, cereal for breakfast and dinner and snacks or some innovative ingredients in a new range of tea that blasts fat in your sleep! The solution to all of this is simple. Eat natural, wholesome foods. Foods that come from the ground, from trees, from animals from land and sea. Once you eliminate the artificial and chemically enhanced ingredients the body will start to work as it was originally intended. This means the metabolism will begin to work at full throttle using energy as it should.

When we in the western world consume on a daily basis food that comes prepared, pre packaged, manufactured, with added vitamins, added protein, processed whole grains, sweeteners (that have been known to rot the brains of tested lab rats!) and so forth it is no wonder that the body doesn’t know what the hell to do with itself! It stalls in trying to process and digest the chemical shit storm that it has been subjected to. It can’t separate the nutrients from the colourings and the digestive tract stresses itself out resulting in many intestinal issues including IBS and Coeliac disease to name but a few.

Then there’s the problem of sugar. Sugar is added to everything ‘low fat’. Because for years now we have been fed the myth that we should all opt for low fat or fat free to become a lean, mean fatless machine. Absolute tosh! Fats are essential. Fat on and in the body IS essential. Without certain fats the brain begins to shut down and stop operating as essential vitamins and minerals that aid in neurological functioning aren’t there in the quantities needed and without adequate sources of fresh, organic ingredients from other sources that supply the nutrients needed to metabolise and absorb these essential elements optimal metabolic and cell functioning is impaired. Fat is good, fat from nuts, seeds, avocados, yogurt, eggs and fish (especially the oily variety). But these natural fats come unbranded, they come without packaging and plastic wrappers. They don’t earn the multi billion pound slimming companies of today the millions that they aim to retrieve from the public unaware of the hidden myths about health and nutrition.

The equation is simple. To lose weight you need to have a lower energy intake than you had previously and expend more energy through movement. To gain weight you need to increase your energy intake in the form of calories. But the form in which these calories comes really does matter. That is why a 9st woman eating clean, exercising 3-4 times a week for 30-45 minutes a time looks vastly different from a woman of the same weight surviving on a diet of prosecco, frozen pizza, sugary cereal and ‘unlimited’ fruit and fat free yogurts.

So now I am almost at the end of my introductory rant. Ready to explore and share my journey and expertise in the world of health, wellbeing and fitness. As each should really come hand in hand. I hope from this blogging business I can help someone somewhere whether it be overcome a weakness, try a new recipe, have the confidence to join an exercise class, feel like they’re not alone in their battle with their body and food then it will be worth it. For now eat clean; food from the ground, the trees, animals of land and sea. Drink water instead of coke, green tea instead of coffee and make sure you get some sleep. Peace out.

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