Evening! I wasn’t planning on writing this post this evening but my mind has been whirring for the last few days, so please humour me.
For a whole host of reasons which I won’t bore you with, in the last year I have sort of accidentally decided to quit teaching, and am now focussing all of my attention on retraining to be a health coach (just in case I hadn’t mentioned it!) As a result of this, instead of teaching, I’m now able to spend my days writing, studying, food shopping and cooking, logging Fitbit steps and getting down and bendy with Jessamyn Stanley. Oh and maybe sneaking in the odd coffee with friends! I really, honestly do appreciate how lucky I am and try really hard to never take it for granted.
But every now and then, the routine has to change, and the last week has been one of those times. To start with, the kids have broken up from school. Now while I love getting the chance to spend extra time with them, it definitely means I have less time to dedicate to my usual pursuits. This has been a particular bummer this week, as it happened to coincide with the grand kick off of my long awaited IIN course. So far I have managed to fit study in after bed time, and at one point I even sat listening to a lecture on my iphone while they had their swimming lesson (Go me!) I’ve managed to complete the first module, buuuuuut I definitely haven’t been able to immerse myself as fully in it as I’d hoped.
Slightly more unsettling has been this weekend’s disruption to my food routine. As it’s been Easter weekend, we left Cornwall to visit my family in Wales and my green eating, meat dodging, reduced sugar menu had to be totally abandoned for a few days. Instead, what I’ve eaten this weekend, has been a pretty standard version of my former, non-diet-plan menu……Cheese and potato pie and sausages, Chinese takeaway and of course, the obligatory chocolate egg (or two). Now, the old me would have had a “slip” like this and it would have sent me over the edge into complete lack of self controls-ville. My fuck it switch would have been well and truly flipped. And while I must admit that my gremlin is still sitting on my shoulder screaming “Hahaha, its all gone to shit!” I know deep down that its all going to be ok.
So what’s changed? Well for starters, I’m not sticking to a plan that the rebellious part of me feels duty bound to buck against, and as a result I’m actually really looking forward to getting back to the food that I know makes me feel good. Because, when I really listen to my body I know that the food I’ve been eating this weekend hasn’t made me feel great. There have been no dramatic tummy issues or skin breakouts, but I’ve definitely been feeling more sluggish, and my positivity and general demeanour has taken a bit of a kicking and I’m utterly convinced that its mainly down to my change in diet.
But the crux of the matter is that for me, its no longer a case of having to cut out the “treats” and get “back on track”. Instead, I have finally come to realise that crap food is absolutely NOT a treat. The treat is the good stuff that I can fill up on and which makes me feel ace. This has been a monumental eye opener and is a huge part of the dramatic shift that’s occurred following a lot of soul searching and self reflection over the last few months.
I honestly believe that if we really want to get to grips with body love, then we desperately need to work on our mental connection to food, rather than just pinning our hopes on the old, outdated restricted calories in/calories out model which aids short term weight loss but has been proven to have a pretty abysmal long term success rate.
I have also come to realise that it’s really important to appreciate that there’s no point beating myself up about a blip in the the road, because ultimately I’m just doing the best I can do at this particular moment in time. We’re so quick to criticise ourselves for not being perfect all of the time. If you’re anything like the old me (ok, and maybe still occasionally, the new me!) the language I use(d) when talking to myself is just hideous. I would never, ever dream of talking to a friend, or God forbid, one of my children the way in which I regularly used to talk to my own reflection. I mean, how can you possibly hope to feel positive, confident and happy when your internal monologue is so downright abusive?? When you really stop and think about it, it’s heart breaking.
It is so, so easy to get stuck in a negative loop of self hate where we attack ourselves for not being “good enough”, but its high time we gave ourselves a break. Sometimes life is bloody hard and doesn’t always go according to plan. And at those times, we muddle on doing the best we can within the given set of circumstances. And they are the times when its even more important to be kind, gentle and loving to ourselves. It’s really not as difficult as you might think. It takes a bit of practice but it’s well worth it, I promise!
So what is it that I DO with my food to make me feel so damn good?
Ok. Well the first thing I’d like to reiterate is that I haven’t suddenly flicked a switch and arrived at this point where everything regarding my food and body is rosy and glitter filled. No sirree bob! As I mentioned in my earlier posts, my battle with my food and body has been long and hard fought and I am undoubtedly still working on it today. But I am working on it ON MY OWN TERMS. And that feels gooooooooood! I am, in the words of Jack Black in School of Rock, sticking it to the man!!!
I have spent the last year or so really thinking about the foods I eat. Not thinking about them in a controlling manner, but instead thinking about them in terms of how they make my body and mind feel. Now this is not an easy thing to do. It takes practice. And I think that a lot of the problem stems from the fact that for the previous X number of years, we have accepted the RULES that other people have given to us about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. I know I was guilty of this. Low fat you say? Oh but I can eat as many sugar laden Muller lights as I want every single day?? Well ok then. If that’s what you’re saying I should do then it must be right. Right? Wrong!!! When I really stopped and thought about what I was doing, you know, for myself, I realised that: a) I bloody hate the taste of Muller lights. That sort of chemically faux sweetness. Urghh!!! B) Eating those very sweet yoghurts did not satisfy my sweet craving. In fact, they made it worse. Often setting me off on a rollercoaster which would see me hiding in the larder cupboard cramming ginger nuts or Jaffa cakes into my mouth at break neck speed so I wouldn’t have to think about the number of them that I was inhaling – or the equivalent value in syns! And C) they made me feel a bit headachy, nauseous and left a really vile taste in my mouth that not even toothpaste could get rid of. When I write it down in black and white like this, it seems ludicrous that I continued to do this to myself for so many years. I mean, seriously, you have NO idea just how many muller lights I have hoofed during the course of my life time. And all because Mr Diet told me that they were the RIGHT THING TO EAT! Obviously Muller-gate is just one example, I could keep banging on about others for days but I’m sure you get the general gist.
So as I was saying, I’ve thought long and hard, and experimented often, and I’ve no doubt, will continue to experiment for many years to come with a whole heap of foods. Which ones work for me? Which ones do I LOVE? Which ones do I crave? (and not in an emotional way …….. this is a whole other can of worms that I’ll come back to at later date) Which ones make me feel zingy and light after eating them? Which ones give me tummy ache and make me bloated and windy?! So attractive I know, but this something I’m still working on!!! I haven’t, as yet eliminated all of the possible culprits…….
What I have discovered, and please don’t think for a minute that I’m suggesting that exactly the same list would apply to you, is that I feel infinitely better when I scale back the amount of meat that I eat. I was always quite a big meat eater. I came from a sausage and roast dinner heavy family and married a man who used to quake if I attempted to present him with a meat free meal. For a long while, I have struggled with the meat thing from a moral point of view. I couldn’t ever watch those programmes where they would happily show someone wringing the neck of a chicken and I once inadvertently Facebook clicked on one of those Peta type CCTV videos that was taken from inside a pig slaughterhouse. BIG, BIG mistake. So I started to phase out meat, not in a radical way, just in a couple of meat free meals a week kinda way….. and I discovered that my body was very happy with that.
Now this has sort of escalated because my husband has recently been diagnosed with high cholesterol and a heart problem and so he is also keen to look at ways of making sure his diet works better for his health. So I basically got the green light to really experiment with the meat free thing and currently we are eating meat free meals on at least 6 out of every 7 days. However, I wouldn’t label either of us vegetarian! In fact, when we went out for a posh meal a few weeks back I fell upon a particularly amazing fillet steak and thoroughly enjoyed every last mouthful. But this is definitely a rare rather than a regular occurrence. I suppose that as a result of this, as a family we are inevitably eating far more plants and that feels and tastes great. Due to the aforementioned cholesterol issues, I have tried to stay away from the veggie trap of relying on cheese heavy sauces (one that I definitely fell into during my teenage veggie phase).
I am also still working on dramatically reducing my refined sugar intake. I know that its not such a big thing now, because everybody has jumped on the sugar free bandwagon, but I really needed to sort myself out on this front because I was a serious sugar monster. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it now but for quite some time, I was eating only sugary crap all day until dinner time when I’d whip up a fabulously healthy looking thang and everyone would think I was wonderful! No wonder I felt like crap and had a hideous relationship with my poor old body. I was filling it full of rubbish and then lying to myself and everyone else that everything was hunky dory and that I was taking really good care of myself.
I did try to go complete cold turkey on the sugar front, but if I’m totally honest with you, I have actually found that, for me, the best way to go about things is by a) crowding out the sugar cravings by filling myself full of the good stuff and b) not setting myself hard and fast rules that my rebellious child brain immediately wants to argue with. I’m now at a point where my cravings have reduced massively and I am able to have a handful of mini eggs every now and then without spiralling into a relapse which puts the cookie monster to shame!
I am cooking loads. And loving it. In fact that is one thing that I would suggest is a non-negotiable part of my regime (for want of a better word). The need to get in the kitchen and get involved with the preparation of the food that I am putting into my body. As you can see, I have A LOT of recipe books………
But I usually work from two or three at any one time, and these are the ones that are currently on my newly erected, easy-to-reach shelf (thanks Ben!) I have looked at a number of veggie cook books and, I’m almost loathed to say it for fear of a backlash, but my current favourite is Deliciously Ella Every Day. I have found it to be far more accessible that her first one, with quick and easy recipe ideas that on the whole, taste bloody gorgeous. I am also loving my newly acquired Grains as Mains by Laura Agar Wilson, which is getting me excited about grains I’ve never used before (Freekeh anyone??)
So usually on a Friday, I sit down and map out the week ahead and then I start to fit meals into the slots. I think about what we’ve all got on in the evenings and how busy I’m going to be on each day, as this has an inevitable impact on the amount of time (and energy) I’m going to have left to do the cooking. For this reason, I also like to batch cook and freeze wherever possible so that there are always at least one or two meal options hiding in the freezer for the nights when I just can’t be arsed!
I use the (hastily scribbled) weekly meal planner to write my shopping list from and, Bob’s your uncle, off to Sainsburys I trot. I tend to keep the weekends free from planning, just because this gives us a little more flexibility if we want to go out or get a takeaway and it also means, that if for some reason one of the weekday meals hasn’t happened because life got in the way, then we can roll it over to a Saturday or Sunday instead. I try to make each week a nice mix of old favourites and new recipes that I’d like to experiment with and I also like to make things where I know that leftovers can be boxed up and used as packed lunches for the following day.
I hope that has given you a little bit of insight into how I feel my meal planning is currently helping me to stay happy and healthy. As I said earlier I am by no means suggesting that this is also a plan that you REALLY SHOULD FOLLOW (shudder!) but likewise, if you would like to adapt any of it to suit you, then go ahead and fill your boots…. Oh and let me know how you get on.
So, if you read my last post, you’d have seen that my first foray into the world of nutritionists sent me running for the hills. Well. Not the hills exactly. More towards the next VLCD (very low calorie diet)…….Which is essentially, a lot of water and 3 (maybe 4) chemical filled ‘shakes’ per day which add up to around 800 calories and sweet F.A in the form of actual good-for-your-body-nutrition. In fact, (as an aside) it’s even worse than that, because do you know what happens? It exacerbates the yo-yo effect. As you stick to the massively reduced calories, your metabolism slows in order to cope with the lack of food and so when you start eating normally again, ooops, helllloooo crazy fast weight gain! So you get a lot fatter in a very short space of time, your physical, psychological and emotional health take a battering, because you are so obviously a big fat failure, and so you end up in a worse state than you were in when you began! Honestly, they are the work of the devil!!!!
I know, I still haven’t properly explained the shizz about becoming a health coach. Well, in my rather extensive personal research of the diet industry, I have come to realise that there are undoubtedly some really really very bad ones (see above!) and some not so bad ones, but the two big things that they all seem to have in common is that they don’t actually teach you how to ensure good nutrition; and they make you believe that you have to commit yourself to them before you can begin to really enjoy your life!
You join up and they send you home with a pre-formed plan. And they promise that if you stick slavishly to this plan, you will lose weight and your life will finally begin. But guess what? LIFE IS HAPPENING NOW! Seriously. Right now! Quick, go out there and grab it with both hands. You deserve it. JUST AS YOU ARE. Not when you are 2 stone thinner, or fitting into a size 12. NOW. Right this very minute. It’s yours for the taking and do you know what, with each diet bandwagon you jump on, with each hour you waste fretting about the size of your hips in front of the mirror, you are wasting precious minutes and hours and days and weeks of it!!!!!! Don’t let the dieting industry convince you that you have to plough all of your time, effort and hard earned cash into their pockets before you are allowed to go out there and grab your own life by the bollocks!!! Phew, glad I got that out. It’s probably a theme that I’m going to return to a few more times as we get to know each other. Its something I feel really quite passionate about (in case you hadn’t guessed!)
The other problem with these diets is that they don’t equip you with the knowledge and confidence that you need to be able to listen to your own body and to actually nourish it with the foods it needs. They make you believe that you have to stick to the list of foods that they provide (which in many cases are often not particularly nutritious!) and that if you deviate from the path, even slightly, then the plan no longer “works”. Heaven forbid if you want to go out for a meal and a few drinks with your nearest and dearest, or if you’ve got an invite to a fabulous wedding………. Na-hah…..Where on earth is your WILLPOWER???!
So what happens? You rock up to the wedding with the best of intentions (I’ll just have one glass of champagne for the toasts; I’ll just choose a green salad from the buffet and I will DEFINITELY stay away from the bread basket; I WILL NOT. I REPEAT. WILL NOT EAT DESSERT!!!) But then you start to relax and have a nice time with friends you haven’t seen for months, the one glass of champagne turns into several, the nibbles and hog roast look too damn fine to ignore and the profiteroles…….? Say no more!! You wake up the next morning feeling hungover, guilty and full of remorse for stacking the plan. And then your “fuck it” gremlin shimmies into the limelight and the rest of the weekend/week/month is a total write off. You all know what I’m talking about, right?!
Now if I’m totally honest, this is something that I have only recently fully got to grips with myself but hell, its been a total revelation. I really feel that following a lot of reading, soul searching, and online obsessing over some Health Coaching legends (step forward Laura Agar Wilson!) I have finally reached a stage in my life where I am able to really tune in to my body and then nourish it with blinkin’ gorgeous, and ridiculously healthy foods. And do you know what? It feels insanely wonderful! I feel free. Don’t get me wrong, I am still overweight, but I see myself very much as a joyful work in progress……. I’ve been able to kick the vast majority of my cravings to the curb; I’m feeling light, vibrant and full of energy and perhaps the best bit is that I’m doing it all on my own terms. If we decide to go out to Pizza Express with the kids on a Friday night, I go and I damn well enjoy it. I have what I want (which is usually wine and a proper pizza, none of your leggera nonsense) and I savour every bite. Then the next morning, do you know what happens? Amazingly, my “Fuck it” gremlin seems to have taken a back seat in favour of my inner Green Goddess! These days she Downward Dogs her way into the front of my psyche and I suddenly realise that my body is asking for a bloody lovely green smoothie and some avocado toast, not a greasy fry up and a can of full fat coke!!!!! I know….. Who’d have thought it?!
And what I’ve really realised is that I want to help other people feel like this. I want to give them the map and the key that they need to escape and run far away from the diet trap. I want to be a support that they can turn to when they get a little confused or start questioning themselves. I want to be able to provide good nutritional advice and help with meal planning or prep that they may initially find a little daunting. I want to be the person that I’d imagined the nutritionist would be for me all those years ago. My only regret is that it’s taken me such a long time to reach this point. I want to make sure that other people don’t have to wait until they are very nearly 40 before they feel that they can go out and grab their own life by the balls!!!!
So here I go. IIN Holistic Health Coach Course is where its at for the next 12 months!
Yup. A Holistic Health Coach. Sounds fancy shmancy right? Well, some might say fancy shmancy, others might say mumbo jumbo. I say, hold your horses and let me explain!
When I first met my husband, I was living in a flat on my own, leading an incredibly lonely and unhealthy life. I had moved away from my friends and family in Wales, in order to pursue a career and fledgling relationship in Cornwall. Very soon after relocating, I realised that the relationship was actually pretty rubbish (to put it mildly!) but I clung on to it for dear life because he was pretty much the only person I knew in this new part of the country. I had committed to my very first teaching post, so I knew that upping sticks and running back home with my tail between my legs was not an option, but I was terrified of being all alone!! And, as it turns out, rightly so. When the relationship came to its inevitable and rather dramatic end, I was heartbroken. Not really because I was madly in love with the guy, but instead because I felt I was mourning the new life I had envisaged for myself. There followed a pretty bleak time where I lived an incredibly lonely life filled mainly with work, crap food (breakfast cereal and Haribo Starmix anyone?) and endless nights spent in front of Sex and the City box sets. Yes, I really was that cliche!
After trying many inventive ways to cultivate a group of friends (Buddhism course, group guitar lessons, volunteering for a local charity…) I finally decided that I needed to plough my energy into something I knew that I was good at – Losing Weight!!! I had heard whispers of a new meal replacement plan that you had to have prescribed by the GP and so off I trotted to get it. It was incredibly hard work (nothing but shakes and water. Nothing. I repeat, NOTHING!!!) but boy, did the weight come off! It gave me a focus and in an odd sort of way, I think that I felt I deserved the punishment and discomfort of it. Go figure! Anyway, after a few months, I started looking and feeling waaaaay more foxy (because weight loss does that. Right?!) and so I signed up to an online dating agency and went on a date! I was feeling good about myself and while the date was obviously never going to result in marriage and babies, he did introduce me to one of his girlfriends as he felt we’d get on like a house on fire……..And suddenly, I had found the buddy I’d been searching for for the last 18 months or so. I started to get happy!!! I was going out (a LOT!), meeting fellas, dancing, having a whale of a time. And still eating a really shoddy diet.
Eventually, I met my husband. And while I wasn’t skinny, I certainly wasn’t in one of my obese phases (ahhh, the joys of yo-yo dieting folks!) It was pretty obvious to both of us, right from the start, that this was the one that WAS going to end in marriage and babies (Yay!) and we both rapidly slipped into the sitting-around-drinking-and-eating-lots-of-gorgeous-food phase of our relationship. I felt more comfortable with him than I’d ever felt with anyone before and with that glorious comfort came……….. super speedy weight gain!! Ah my old friend!
I soon laid my dieting past bare to Ben and I think the poor fella wondered what the hell he’d let himself in for. He is from a big (and very lovely) family, and while the women who surrounded him while he was growing up were conscious of weight gain (aren’t ALL women?) I don’t think he’d ever encountered anyone with quite the amount of “issues” that I obviously had! When I started to freak out about the ever expanding size of my stomach and thighs Ben suggested that rather than jumping headlong onto the next weightloss bandwagon, I seek the help of a nutritionist. Now believe it or not, this was something I’d never really considered before, but the more I thought about it, the more I warmed to the idea. I convinced myself that a nutritionist was exactly what I needed. Someone who would listen carefully to me talk about my diet (past and present) and advise accordingly. Someone who would be able to help me recalibrate my undeniably knackered metabolism. Someone who, I hoped would look at me in a far more holistic and personal way than the ‘machine’ that was/is weight watchers!
What I actually found didn’t quite live up to my expectations. She was a very nice lady, with a very nice house who didn’t really listen to me at all. She could obviously see that I was very overweight and so started talking at me about my “problem” as soon as I sat down. She was very keen to “educate” me on the importance of ensuring a calorie deficit (I know right? Tell me something I don’t already know!) and then advised me on the types of meals I could enjoy for 1500 calories a day. It was nothing new. It was the science stuff. The stuff that we all already know.The stuff that I knew inside out, but was obviously failing to stick to. Because it obviously isn’t quite that simple is it? Because if it was, we all be merrily skipping along eating low calorie meals 3 times a day and there would be no “obesity crisis”! When I left her house, I don’t think I had ever felt so fat, useless, stupid and weak. It is fair to say that my first encounter with a nutritionist was an unmitigated disaster.
Which brings me back to the here and now…….
Hiya! So here I am. My very first blog post. I’ve been threatening to do this for quite some time, but have only just managed to pluck up the courage needed to put finger to keyboard.
So, who the hell am I and what have I got that’s worth blogging about I hear you ask? Well, they are very good questions…….
I think I’ll go with the who am I one first because I think it might be the easiest to answer. So, I’m Amy. I’m Welsh (fiercely so!) although I lose my Welsh cred a bit when I let slip that I’ve been living in Truro, Cornwall for the last 16 years. (Has to be said though, ‘tis a bleddy ansome place to live!!!) I’m married to a gorgeous fella, with a massive beard called Ben (my husband is called Ben. Not his beard. That would just be weird) and we have two wonderful, crazy, funny, stubborn and off the wall kids. My boy is 7 and my girl is 4. So still young enough to be a bit of a handful, but as the littlie started school last September, they are taking up far less of my time than they did when they were both at home all day.
I am *a-hem* in my (very) late 30’s, and am trying really, really hard to be uber positive and upbeat about this “next phase of my life” (ie. exiting my 30’s) but I am equal parts freaked out and very blasé about it. But to be honest with you, I think that the general gist is that it’s a good thing, because I guess its what has brought me to this point……
So, now for the next question. What the hell do I plan this blog to be about? Well, where do I start? In the briefest of terms, I guess it’s mainly about my journey to finally make friends with my body and eventually to become a holistic health coach. A HOLISTIC HEALTH COACH????!!! Yes, there. I said it! A Holisitic Health Coach. No, I’d never heard of one before this year either, but now I am fully on board!! I’m sure I’ll tell you more about this in a later post.
You see, here’s the thing…..I have been battling with my body for pretty much my entire life. For as far back as I can remember, I have been overweight. And maybe more crucially, I have always been desperately aware of, and embarrassed about being overweight. I could tell you my story in painstaking detail but I’m not sure anyone else would find it very interesting. Because the fact of the matter is, we all have a story. And I know that for a lot of people who might well be reading this blog, their story is probably incredibly similar to mine. Don’t get me wrong, if you really do want to hear all about my weight and body issues in all of their gory detail, I would be more than happy to string together an extra post about it, but at the moment, I guess I’ll just skip to the end….
I’ve spent the last 30 odd years on (or OFF!) some sort of diet. Yes, you read that right. I first joined Weightwatchers when I was in primary school! You name it, I’ve tried it. Probably more than once. Lighterlife, Slimming World, cabbage soup, British Heart foundation, 5:2, Body Coach……..I could keep going for quite some time! I’ve spent countless thousands of pounds on the next miracle fix, countless hours obsessing over food and calorie/syn/point/macro contents, shed countless tears over my ‘hideous’ reflection and I have finally come to the conclusion that IT HAS GOT TO STOP! And it feels fitting that the year I turn 40 is a pretty good time to finally make friends with myself.
Now this in itself is progress, because every other year I’d have been saying “I have to lose 4 stone by my birthday” but this year, something has changed. If I’m going to be completely honest with you and put all of my cards on the table, I have to say that if I could wake up tomorrow morning and miraculously be 4 stone thinner, with no exercise, diet or illness responsible, I would not knock it back, but do you know what…..? In the absence of such miracles, I’ve come to the realisation that I just need to stop fighting with ME. I am sick to the back teeth of hating myself. Of focusing on what a failure I am. Of obsessing over my “disgusting” body. Guess what? This is the only body I’m ever going to have and I’ve been pretty horrible to her over the last 39 years, and it has taken me this long to realise that its about bloody time that that shit changed!!!
So, here I am. Not only am I doing it, but I’m also blogging about it hoping that some of you will be interested enough to follow my journey and maybe even to hop on board with me and give it a go yourselves!
Vive la revolution!!!!