Month: May 2012

Get Happy – Five and a Half Tips to Make Your Life Better

Get Happy – Five and a Half Tips to Make Your Life Better

My last few posts have been a bit serious, I know – so I thought I’d take a minute to write a nice cheery post! I am happy at the moment. Really happy. The sun’s out and I’m only a little bit burnt, which is […]

There’s No Such Thing as a Quick Fix

There’s No Such Thing as a Quick Fix

I was going to write a blog today about the importance of keeping your ‘before’ pictures for later use – but I was browsing the news over my lunch and came across this article about a girl in the UK who has been declared ‘Britain’s […]

Appreciating What You’ve Got

Appreciating What You’ve Got

It’s often all-too-easy to get complacent about what you’ve got, be it friends, family, money, warmth – and your health.

I’ve got a cold at the moment, and dammit, I feel sorry for myself. Really sorry for myself. I’ve noticed this more since I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle – the fact that I feel so much better 99% of the time means that in the 1% of the time I’m not firing on all cylinders, I’m really sad about it. But this is just a cold.

I was talking to a lovely lady yesterday whose husband has stomach cancer, and it’s terminal. It’s returned despite doctors’ best efforts through radiotherapy – they’ve even removed his stomach, but unfortunately, it’s back. That sort of thing makes you really think about what you take for granted. The health of yourself and your family is so, so important, and yet all too easily forgotten.

In my family, we have a really bad history of cancer, and I’ve lost a number of family members to it. It’s actually recently been the anniversary of my Nan’s death, so it’s been on my mind quite a lot, which is why I’m taking part in the Race for Life in June – and look! My number arrived this week:

Events like the Race for Life aren’t just about raising money, although obviously funding the research that the guys at Cancer Research UK do is incredibly important. It’s also about awareness – of the fact that everyone knows someone who’s had cancer, and that every two minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with some form of the disease. These facts are hard to ignore.

What is easier to forget, however, is the fact that lifestyle and cancer are fundamentally linked in a number of ways. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who suffers with the disease has ‘brought it on themselves’ – of course, that wouldn’t be true, and it certainly wouldn’t be fair. Most of the incidences in my family are as a result of the BRCA-1 gene, so we’re proof of that.

However, have a look at some of these statistics:

  • It’s estimated that obesity is behind around 17,000 cases of cancer each year in the UK.
  • If the average lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in nine, an obese woman’s lifetime risk is one in seven.
  • Obesity is one of the main causes of bowel cancer. Some groups have estimated that obesity causes about 11-14% of bowel cancer cases.
  • Putting on 2-10 kg (4.4 – 22 lb) after the menopause increases the risk of breast cancer by 30%.
  • Putting on 25 kg (55 lb) after the age of 18 increases the risk of breast cancer by 45%.

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding those statistics pretty terrifying – especially as I’ve still got some way to go to reaching a really healthy weight. And as an ex-smoker, and sometime drinker, there are some more pretty scary numbers too:

  • Smoking accounts for one in four UK cancer deaths, and nearly a fifth of all cancer cases. In the UK, smoking kills five times more people than road accidents, overdoses, murder, suicide and HIV all put together.
  • Every year, alcohol causes around 4% of cancer cases in the UK, about 12,500 cases. As little as 3 units a day can increase the risk of mouth, throat, food pipe, breast and bowel cancers. That’s one pint of premium lager, or a large glass of wine!

Now, I’m not saying you should give up everything fun and stay in a padded cell for fear of cancer. You should be living your life to the full, regardless of how exactly you choose to do that – it’s up to you. And I’m totally behind the philosophy that you’re here for a good time, not a long time – a life without fun isn’t really worth living.

That said, however, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that, since I ‘woke up’ and changed my life for the better – giving up smoking, eating better, getting regular exercise and drinking less – I’ve been considerably happier, and I’ve had considerably more fun. That’s why I’m so miffed at this cold – because the lethargy, the inability to get out and about, the loneliness, all remind me of the day-to-day of being morbidly obese. I didn’t realise how miserable I was until I changed – and now, the thought of going back to that fills me with despair, no matter how much the idea of a life of pizza, wine and cigarettes sounds like fun.

Because really, it’s not fun. It’s escapism, and it’s a release, but it’s not fun. Cooking yourself a delicious, super-healthy meal whilst dancing to the radio? That’s fun. Walking home from work on a sunny day without getting out of breath – and enjoying it so much you take a detour to go see a gorgeous view? That’s fun. Going to Global Gathering and dancing for two days straight? Definitely fun.

And taking part in the Race for Life, raising money for a great cause and helping in the fight against cancer?

That’s going to be really fun.

If you’re not making the most of what you’ve got – and I’m willing to bet there’s at least one area of your life that you’re neglecting to fully, wholly appreciate – I’m going to set you a challenge.  Make one change today that will make your life better. Whether it’s improving your health, making contact with a friend or family member that you’ve lost touch with, or finally getting down to writing that novel – think of one thing, and commit to it.

Once you’ve made one change, you’ll make others – and pretty soon, you’ll find your life is better, and you appreciate it for what it is. The biggest tribute you can make to people who are fighting diseases like cancer isn’t running a race – as much as that will help.

Nope – the biggest tribute is making the most of your life, and being grateful every day for what you’ve got.

The Learning Curve

The Learning Curve

When you first embark on a diet, of any description, it seems like you’ve made a permanent decision to change for the better. For about two hours. Then the biscuits come out in the office, and suddenly it seems very much a temporary measure. If […]

Adventures in Gluten-Free – Courgette, Sweetcorn and Quinoa Egg Bake

Adventures in Gluten-Free – Courgette, Sweetcorn and Quinoa Egg Bake

I was reading this recipe by Naturally Zass this morning in bed, and was inspired – not least because I’m addicted to courgettes at the moment. I figure there are worse things to be addicted to. Anyway, the idea of a courgette-y egg-y thing to […]

Why You’re Not Losing Any Weight – and Why You Should Carry On Anyway

Why You’re Not Losing Any Weight – and Why You Should Carry On Anyway

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t lost a single pound in over three weeks.

Yes, that’s right – I’m considering myself a blogger about weight loss… But one that isn’t losing any weight.

It’d be very, very easy to get disillusioned at this point – after all, I’m logging at least 9 hours a week at the gym, plus yoga at home, and I eat almost comically well. Honestly, most nutritionists would be proud of my daily eats – especially now I’m gluten-free. But the dreaded plateau has a magical ability to ruin diets, fitness and sanity – it’s a silent killer. It’s matter, apparently, over mind.

Now I’ve had to call in an independent(ish) adjudicator to make sure I’m right (by which I mean my fabulous housemate) – she’s thoroughly investigated the matter, and yes, my body is definitely changing. But still, the scales refuse to move.

Fortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened. This will be my 4th looooooooooong plateau, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Each time, I’ve just about reached the point where I’m going to snap and eat a cookie, and then – right as my hand is in the proverbial jar – suddenly, I’m down 6lbs. In a day. Apparently.

This is ridiculous too – and I refuse to believe the sudden drops in weight are realistic as much as I believe that I’ve not lost any weight in three weeks. As I’ve said before, the scales are EVIL. Don’t fall for their mind games.

Just because the numbers on the scales aren’t going down, you can’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not losing fat. If you’re exercising, you’re probably gaining muscle, especially if you’re working hard at resistance training and the like. And if you’re gaining muscle, you’ll be looking stronger, leaner, and more toned – even if, like me, you’ve still got a pretty long way to go.

Or, if you’re like me (by which I mean, if you’re a girl) you’ve got all sorts of hormone cycles to contend with, which can mean water retention, bloating, and so on – so one week a month you can fully expect to plateau, or even gain a couple of pounds. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s Mother Nature (and she’s a bitch sometimes.)

Plus, I don’t believe it’s possible to guarantee 100% what your body is going to do inside on any given day. You can do everything right, or run a 10k, or only eat a lettuce leaf, whatever – and there’s still a chance that you’ll wake up the next day, hop on the scales, and have gained a pound. It’s not fair, but it’s life, and unfortunately, it can mess you up – especially when you’re on the long, hard road to fitness.

Your body is a ridiculously efficient machine, but not always in the way you need it to be. Starve it, and it’ll cling to its fat reserves and retain them; exercise it, and you’ll gain muscle and retain water; change your diet, and your metabolism will adjust itself accordingly. That’s why this is such hard work – but it’s also why you should stick to it.

I know, I know – this doesn’t help when you’re staring down at your toes wondering why you shouldn’t just go and eat a bacon sandwich and sack it off, because you’re still not skinny. But it’s important to remember two things about the bigger picture beyond the scales – firstly, that the scales don’t give you a full reflection of what’s going on in your body, and secondly (and most importantly)…

Aren’t you better off now?

Aren’t your insides reaping the benefit of a high quality diet?

Don’t your muscles feel better for getting exercise?

Aren’t you getting fitter and more capable of doing what you need to do?

Aren’t you happier?

Because if you’re not happier, you’re probably doing it wrong. Eat clean, workout right, and the rest will come together in time – and the scales will become a thing of the past. This shouldn’t be about being thin, as much as that’s a motivator for a lot of people. This is about being the best possible version of you – it’s about fitness, and health, and life.

Isn’t that more important than a number on the scale?

…A Gluten-Free What?

…A Gluten-Free What?

My suspicions have been confirmed – I need to bin gluten from my diet. This isn’t a big surprise – I’ve noticed over the last couple of months that I’ve been getting sick after I eat wheat, or things containing it. I’ve always thought that […]

Why I Love Yoga… and your Monday Inspiration!

Why I Love Yoga… and your Monday Inspiration!

I love yoga. This isn’t something I thought I’d ever say, being rather inflexible and a bit of a chunky monkey. When I first started on this journey, and I had two problems with yoga. Firstly, surely if you’re trying to lose weight, you should be […]

Choosing Your Goals – and My New Ones!

Choosing Your Goals – and My New Ones!

Yesterday, I made an exciting decision. In 7 weeks, I’m doing the Race for Life with my Mum and sister!

We did it once before, years and years ago when I was still at school, and I huffed and puffed my way through walking the 5k – I wasn’t exactly at my physical peak, let’s put it that way. Now I’m coming back to it, older, wiser and fitter – and I’m determined to beat my time of an hour by quite some margin. I’m aiming for 45 minutes – not all that swift, but following three knee surgeries, I think that’s a fair goal.

So that got me thinking about my other goals, and as I’ve flagged recently what with the move, and being ill, and so on, I thought it might be time to come up with some new goals for myself.

It’s important when you’re setting goals to find the balance between easy and impossible, and short- and long-term – particularly with regards to fitness and weight loss. If I’d said to myself when I first started that losing anything less than 100lbs was failure… Well, that means I’m a failure now. But I was aiming for half a stone, then a stone, then two stone, and so on – and so it’s been a process of continuously achieving goals, rather than striving towards one that’s really difficult. And for God’s sake, don’t hold yourself to the “I will lose x lbs by x date” rule – because that always fails. Your body isn’t as predictable as all that.

Every positive decision you make and decide to stick to will help you to move one step closer to achieving your goals – so try to think of things you can do in increments, with gradual changes being the goal rather than a drastic transformation. You’ll then feel good every time you take another step towards it – every workout you do with the goal of having “better legs” or “a smaller bum” will help, even if you don’t see a change in the mirror immediately.

Finally – when you’re setting your goals, think of things that will really inspire you. Having a number of dull goals that you don’t really want to do (for instance, “do a juice fast” or something of that ilk – not that there’s anything wrong with that if it works for you, but mneh… I wouldn’t be inspired by that) is doomed to failure. Whereas Michelle Obama arms?

Oh yeah. That’s inspiring.

Here’s the plan:

New Goals

  • Follow the Couch to 5k Plan: Maybe not all the way – but in the 7 weeks I’ve got before the race, I’d like to try to get as far as I can. Week 7 actually involves 25 solid minutes of running, so if I get anywhere close to that, I’ll be deserving of my very own Rocky montage.
  • Work on “The Guns”: When you lose a lot of weight, it’s important to do a lot of weight training to tone up areas like your arms to avoid flabby guns. Fortunately I’ve always done this, so my arms are pretty good – but they could always be better. I WILL BE Michelle Obama.
  • Figure out how to use the Bosu Ball: Apparently this is a favourite of Christina Hendricks, who gives me some serious body envy. So it’s definitely worth figuring out how to use it, given I’ve got access to one at the gym!
  • Find some new recipes: I love cooking, but I don’t do it all that much because my housemate is the most incredible chef – so I’m more than happy to wash up dinner instead! But I need some new lunchspiration – so I’ll post the results on the blog as I go!
  • Get festival ready: I’m going to Global Gathering at the end of July and I’m ridiculously excited. But I’m definitely going to need to be firing on all cylinders physically to survive 2 nights in a tent surrounded by three days of dancing!

So… What are your goals?

Back to the Future

Back to the Future

A very, very large part of my reason to move to this particular flat was location, location, location. It’s closer to my family, and it’s two doors down from the flat I lived in that day when I made the decision to enter the gym […]

Escaping Emotional Eating

Escaping Emotional Eating

I’m an emotional eater. No doubt about that. That’s pretty much why, when I had two broken legs, I ballooned in weight – it’s the way I deal with that stress. It’s also why I’ve always had snacks on standby when PhDing, because – believe […]