Do you know what’s in your food?

IMG_5282Fresh is best in my book – homegrown if possible, and home cooked if you have the time. I’m also a big fan of batch cooking and freezing when you can. Why? Because I know what’s gone into the food, how it’s been cooked, and therefore it’s down to me to make sure it’s healthy (or naughty if I so wish!).

 

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We’re lucky enough to have an allotment and space in our garden to grow our own fruit and vegetables, and my husband is extremely passionate (and good) at doing so. It means we know that the veg is fresh as soon as we use it, and can grow the stuff we know we’ll use. On the flip side, it also means we can have a glug of vegetables at any one time, and therefore batch-cooking is required. Yesterday I made 1.5 litres of tomato sauce for pasta dishes, and today tomato soup – using up some 2kg of tomatoes I had picked over the past five days. I find it quite therapeutic and satisfying to pick veg and cook with it, then  go to the freezer a few weeks later and use what I have made 🙂  I also know it hasn’t been packed full of sugar and other additives like some supermarket and branded versions.

I read an article at the weekend that highlighted the ‘age’ of some of our foods when we buy them from the supermarket, and I was so shocked! The piece appeared in The Sun newspaper (UK) on Saturday 22 July, and was a real eye-opener. It stated that bread could be 1 year old at purchase – which is really down to part-baked dough that is frozen – and that your tomatoes could be SIX WEEKS old because they have been stored at an optimal temperature. But the one I was really shocked at was potatoes – those roasties you tuck into with your Sunday dinner could be up to a YEAR OLD – because they have been treated with a preserving chemical, particularly at seasonal time to avoid shortages! And don’t get me started on ‘fresh fish’ – there’s a reason it can’t be frozen at home……

So for me, fresh is best, and batch-cooking when I can is the way forward. And the things we can’t grow? Some educated choices when shopping. Life is busy, and we all want convenience, but with good planning and a bit of effort I can be happy I know what’s on my plate.

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Take a minute to think…

Stop

I’m getting ready to go out for a run followed by a game of netball. Normally I would have eaten my dinner around this time, but as I am exercising I have avoided eating, and may do so when I get home later (depending on the time). But for the last hour or so, I have been thinking about all the ‘snacks’ I could just have before I go, that wouldn’t affect my run or game – a biscuit, small piece of chocolate, slice of bread, fruit, the kids’ leftovers  – the list goes on. Anyway, this time I have been strong and managed to avoid it and made myself think about how I’d feel if I did eat something and then ran – and I would feel awful!

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This process made me think about how we quite often ‘just do’ things without even thinking about them – on autopilot – even if they make us feel bad. If we stop to think about what we’re doing (or what we’re about to eat and how it will make us feel), it may change the decision we make. I would have really enjoyed a piece of chocolate, or a biscuit, but I would have felt bloated, sluggish and slow later on. The fact that I was able to have that internal discussion with myself, and be strong enough not to eat, means that I have a better chance of success later, and also in the long run (not creating a snacking habit that will lead to weight issues or self-loathing).

In thinking about it a bit more, I realise that I could apply this to other decisions or actions I make in my daily life. When I start to feel down or stressed about something, I should stop and ask myself ‘why’ and if I can change it.

Why do we let ourselves make bad decisions, even when we know they are bad for us?

 

Run for your mental health!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK this week, and there is a lot of coverage of mental health issues on the TV, radio and social media. One thing I have really noticed is the amount of people talking about how exercise can really help mental health issues.

running and mental healthI watched a documentary recently called ‘Mind over Marathon’ on the BBC which focused on a group of people with mental health issues, including OCD, anxiety, PTSD and depression. They signed up to a challenge to train for the London Marathon (which took place a couple of weeks ago), with the advice that something like this would be beneficial to their mental health. Supported by fitness trainers and trained mental health professionals, along with others who had themselves been successful in using exercise to cope with their own mental health issues, they embarked on a 20 week training plan. If you get a chance to watch it on BBC iplayer, it was a fascinating watch, and really cemented for me the whole link between exercise and mental health which I have long believed (see my previous blog on Exercise – the best medicine).

Anyway, what made me blog about this today? Well, I had a really positive experience with a run today which really had me buzzing. I woke up in a pretty rubbish mood to be honest and after a day off the healthy eating wagon yesterday, I felt quite sluggish. the last thing I wanted to do was go for a run. But my husband encouraged me and told me to ‘get out there as it would do me some good’ (he knows me so well!). I was about 400 metres into my run when it hit me – my mood lifted, I woke up to my surroundings (I was in the woods which is my favourite place to run), felt the sun on my face and felt the power of the fresh air in my lungs. I felt amazing – buzzing even, and it’s been a while since a felt a run do that much for me. I was raving about it when I got back home and it reminded me of the programme and a quote someone mentioned:

‘Running and mental health are really good companions’

Any form of exercise is good for you, both physically and mentally – you just need to get out there and do it. Running in particular, does not discriminate and is open to everyone. Anyone can run, just take it at your own pace and enjoy it – your mental health will definitely thank you for it!

 

Can you be big and fit?

I’ve just watched a really interesting interview with a lady called Louise Green who was talking about how society views larger people and automatically stereotypes them as ‘unfit’, and it really struck a chord with me.

womanonscale638x425Louise is a larger lady and was really interested in getting fit, and made herself go along to a class a number of years ago, but recalls feeling like she would be out of place, she would be the biggest, the slowest there, or that people would look at her and think she was in the wrong place. However, she stayed and enjoyed the feeling, and to cut a long story short, Louise is now a personal trainer and is helping others to enjoy fitness, even if they are not the stereotypical ‘small, fit size’. Louise is indeed herself ‘overweight’ but you can see that she is fit from the videos she promotes, and from the endurance activities she talked about.

The interview was really interesting and there was a lot of live comments from viewers who said you can’t be ‘fat and fit’ or ‘fat and healthy’ and there was some debate around whether promoting that it is OK to be overweight or obese was dangerous. I agree to some extent that telling people it is OK to be fat and unhealthy is not appropriate, but what Louise is saying, and I fully believe myself, is that you can be slightly overweight but have a healthy lifestyle, and be fit and enjoy exercise if you are a bit larger than average (what is average these days?!). The danger only comes if you believe that you can be overweight/obese without any thought or action with regard to your fitness and diet and that approach is healthy – that is not OK.
fit-and-fat-artI really liked the advice given in the interview, which is something I have been saying for years. I have struggled with my weight forever, and really given myself a hard time over the years. I am not a perfect size 10 – far from it. But I’ve learnt to love myself and accept my body, and be extremely proud of what it has achieved. I will never be that size 10 again (I was once), nor would I want to be. Yet I am physically fit, love exercise, am a qualified personal trainer and nutritional advisor. I’ve run a marathon, numerous half marathons and endurance races, I’ve climbed mountains, cycled from Edinburgh to Scotland in 5 days, lifted weights and pushed myself to my limits a lot over the years. But I also love my food and socialising. My philosophy has always been ‘everything in moderation’, and don’t deny yourself. Don’t focus on your weight or the scales but try and be healthy. Life is too short.

So yes, what Louise said is so right – move your body more, eat reasonably well as much as possible, and be positive rather than giving yourself a hard time. You can be bigger than average and fit – and most definitely enjoy exercise. I’ve just ordered Louise’s book too, and am really looking forward to reading it!

Mental health – getting rid of the stigma

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Mental health has been in the UK news a lot this
week, with many high profile people highlighting their own experiences or just outlining how important it is for us to talk about it. HRH Price Harry is one of these people and has talked openly about how he struggled for a few years after his mother’s death before taking advice and talking to a counsellor – which he said really helped. His brother, The Duke of Cambridge (HRH Prince William) has also highlighted the importance of talking about it – and issued a video with Lady Gaga.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are spearheading a charity (Heads Together) campaign to end stigma around mental health. Heads Together aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing, and it looks like they are making great progress.

It’s great to see all this publicity about mental health, and I hope the message is getting out to people who suffer that it is perfectly normal, and that they need to open up and let someone know what they are going through – seek help. It’s something I am really passionate about, and am looking into becoming a counsellor and coach. There are so many different types of mental issues – PTSD, anxiety, extreme stress, depression to name a few – and people need to feel OK about saying they are experiencing it. Sometimes it is long term, other times it is related to a particular point in life e.g a bereavement, physical illness, or an experience.

mental-health-thumbnailWe’ve all seen or experienced mental health issues at some point, so it’s interesting that people still find it difficult to talk about it. I struggled after the sudden death of my Dad, and sought counselling which was extremely helpful for me. I have friends who have suffered or continue to suffer with PTSD, anxiety, bi-polar and schizophrenia. The more you look for examples in your life, the more there are – which means we all need to be aware of it, and more open about it and look for signs in others, so we can help.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and if there is something wrong it impacts all parts of our lives. But it is treatable, and you can learn to live with it with coping mechanisms and medication if required. The first step though is to talk – tell someone how you feel, don’t be afraid of a reaction, or what people will think of you. Believe me, they will  be proud you are speaking up and keen to support you in whatever way they can. If you can get your mental health in a good place, it allows you to deal with everything else life throws at you.

Spring – the opportunity for a fresh approach

Here in the UK, the clocks went forward at the weekend, making it lighter in the evenings for a bit longer. Spring has finally sprung, we are enjoying some sunshine and warmer weather, and best of all, we are seeing flowers and plants bloom again. It’s just beautiful to be outdoors.

Whilst my favourite time of the year is  Autumn, as I love the colours and I am more of a cold air ‘wrap up warm’ kind of girl, I love the sense of opportunity and new beginnings that Spring brings. After a long Winter when many of us have spent a lot of time indoors, with shorter darker days and sometimes miserable weather, it’s a real treat to see the sun shining, trees budding and flowers blooming. It lifts your mood, instils a sense of anticipation and excitement, and generally makes you feel happy.

This time of year always makes me want to sort things out and clean up – I guess it’s a bit of ‘Spring cleaning’. It also makes me want to try new things and focus on what I can do to improve things. So I’ve been busy about the house painting, clearing and cleaning and having a good sort out has really made me feel good – almost cleansed!

springcleanfitness_headerAnd I’m taking a similar approach to myself – focusing on how I can improve my well being, health and general outlook. To do so, I’m cutting back on sugar and looking to up my running distances (and using my Garmin tracking app to give me stats and focus). And one more thing I’ve decided to do is to challenge myself by incorporating one body weight exercise a day to my routine for the whole of April – I’ve decided on press ups. I’m going to start with 10 a day and build it up each day. Small changes, one at a time.

Spring – it’s time to bloom and progress!

You are stronger than you think!

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Yesterday I ran a half marathon. This was something I had been training for over the last few months, covering some good distances and racking up the mileage. Despite this however, I really didn’t believe I would be able to complete the run without stopping, or in a decent time. I even had doubts on whether I would be able to finish.

This was all ridiculous, and I had to keep giving myself a good talking to at the start and throughout the run. Of course I could do it, and of course I would do it in a decent time, and I would be ecstatic at the end.

Strength and determination stem from mental willpower and belief in yourself, and quite often you are much stronger and capable than you think. This was definitely the case for me yesterday. Whilst I knew I had it in me to complete it, I did have to keep telling myself I was strong and I could do it, and I dug deep to get myself through it.

IMG_1617It’s achievements like this that make you stronger, more capable, and more aware of your own strength and ability. I finished that run with a sprint finish (I kid you not!), over taking a few people on the last 200 metres, and I felt fantastic – so proud of myself, and yet so surprised at my own ability. Others around me never doubted me and always believed I would do it

Yesterday proved to me that we have the strength inside ourselves to achieve whatever we want, to overcome those difficult situations, and to make yourself proud.

You are MUCH stronger than you think – just remember that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One small change…..

Making a decision to change something can be daunting, and quite often we bite off more than we can chew and end up failing. With good intentions we make statements – either to ourselves or publicly – saying we’re going to make a change and totally transform an aspect of our lives.

I’ve been here, and seen others do it. ‘Right that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m going on a diet and I’m going to be two sizes smaller in six weeks’…’and I’m going to do it by cutting all the bad stuff out of my diet and exercising for an hour every day’. And sometimes I’ve been so determined that I have succeeded for a few days and maybe even a week. But the habits have always crept back in and I’ve usually ended back where I started – rather disappointed in myself.Practice-One-Small-Change

Over the years, I’ve realised that you need be realistic about goals and how to achieve them and one thing I’ve found that has helped is to do things one thing at a time – incorporate one small change at a time and build on it.

It takes 21 times to change or make a habit, which means if you can make a small change daily for three weeks, it should start to become ingrained in your normal processes. So rather than trying to cut everything bad out of your diet, why not try cutting out crisps for three weeks, and then try something else after that.

I did this with trying to up my water intake a few years ago – I started having a pint of room temperature water every morning as soon as I got up. It worked! After a few weeks of making myself do it (and I did need to make sure I had a post-it note on my cupboard to start with), it became a habit. I still do it now, and it has encouraged me to drink more during the day.

Small-Changes

So don’t give yourself a hard time about needing to change things – do it one small change at a time, and give yourself a pat on the back for trying. Celebrate the small successes – they all lead to bigger and better things 🙂

 

Just ‘let it go’…

let-it-goSometimes things don’t work out quite as you planned, and how you deal with it can have a huge impact on the rest of your day and most definitely your mood! I had a day a bit like this yesterday, with lots of things planned out and a to-do list of things I wanted to get done. I was really motivated and woke up with a spring in my step.

The first major task of the day was where it all went wrong, and I actually surprised myself with how I felt about it and dealt with it. I decided to take my two children to a playgroup session which I regularly attend with a friend – this would be the first time I went on my own and I tried not to think about running about watching two of them at the same time without back-up! Anyway, it took me longer to get the two of them out of the car, in the buggy and into the play area in the building, than it did for my son to decide he would have a meltdown resulting in me deciding to leave -after just 15 mins!! I then had two hours of meltdown to deal with whilst trying to keep calm for the other one, so my plans went out of the window.

The rest of the day kind of followed suit – I couldn’t do some of the jobs I had planned as my son decided not to sleep at lunchtime, and continued to test me throughout the day;  the dog carried a whole load of mud into the house and decided to roll it on the cream rug (that DID test me!); I spilt a whole carton of milk on the floor (I know ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’!); my son decided he didn’t like any food put in front of him; and then my daughter had teething issues and didn’t want anyone else but me at bedtime, which meant I couldn’t go out to play netball.

let-it-go-disneyI could have had a meltdown myself, and got annoyed, but I actually stayed calm and just decided to ‘write the day off’ or in the words of that famous Disney movie (Frozen) ‘Let it go….’. I decided that I would just have to let it go and deal with my to-do list and every other plan tomorrow. But, one thing I did decide I needed to to to help me with that, was ensure I did one thing for myself that day – because that would help me feel better and I wouldn’t feel I had totally lost it. So, I enlisted the help of my mum for babysitting duties and I went for a run, and I felt so good for doing it.

So if you can do one thing for yourself, something that makes you feel good – read a book, go for a walk or run, take time out to watch your favourite film or TV programme, have a bath etc. it will help you re-focus, put things into perspective and ‘let it go’. everything else will still be there tomorrow and you will have done something for you 🙂

Look after Number 1

I was having a chat to someone yesterday who was frustrated about feeling unwell for some time, catching every sickness bug going round, not being able to get out for a run or go to the gym, and generally not having time for themselves. This had tipped over into her feeling like she hadn’t been able to look after her children as well as she wanted, and felt like she was letting them down.124226

As we chatted, it came out that she had stopped watching what she was eating – sometimes just grabbing an unhealthy snack, and  having takeaway a few times a week, couldn’t be bothered to put make-up on some days, and was generally not looking after herself. So she was in this vicious cycle of not feeling great, but not doing anything for herself to make herself feel good.
And it got me thinking – you can’t be there for other people or look out for others if you don’t look after Number 1 – YOURSELF!

If you look after yourself, and be the best most healthy person you can be, you set a good example, create positive vibes, feel good and therefore can look out for others. It’s so important to value yourself and look after yourself. YOU are responsible for your own health, well being and happiness – remember that.

Think about the safety briefing on an aeroplane flight – they always tell you to sort your own oxygen mask before you help others, including children. You’re no use to anyone else if you can’t look after yourself.

Be selfish – it really matters!