The short of it

Another title for this blog post could of been – Body Image: Current status ‘its complicated’. Let me explain…

I’m just about to go away on holiday and for the past 11 weeks I have been religiously following the Weightwatchers Flex plan my aim to lose a stone before my holiday as well as running my usual 15km a week. As ever my commitment was unwavering and I exceeded my goal losing 17.5lb and over 10% of my body weight.

In a way that was the easy part. It has been an extremely hard journey to lose the weight this time round (I am now 45 and losing weight is getting harder and harder) but more importantly during this journey I have noticed some other significant changes happening to me. One of the biggest things that has happened is I have started to wear shorts!!!

Now thats probably not a big deal to most people but it is a huge deal for me…

Obviously a trivial thing like wearing shorts is the visible change but something much more significant has changed in me. Even though I have lost a lot of weight over the last 5+years (I was at my heaviest a size 20/22 and am now a size 10/12) I find it very hard to see myself and my body as ‘ok or even *gasp* quite good. These insecurities would mean I would wear leggings under dresses and go running in capri running tights even on the hottest of days.

Body image is a strange thing and however much other people tell you your body is ok unless you believe it yourself, it means nothing.

During the last 3 months I’m not sure why I started to feel different but I realised I was feeling angry. Angry mainly at myself for limiting my choices. Why shouldn’t I wear what I wanted? Why should I be hot and uncomfortable because I was worried someone might judge me? Was I really this stupid? Was I really this vain?

So, I bought some running shorts and I ran. And bought some summer shorts and I wore them. And you know what? The world didn’t end!!! No-one mentioned my admittedly wobbly thighs and even better I didn’t feel bad. I actually felt great. I felt free…and most importantly proud of myself.

Learning to love yourself is a journey thats for sure. But here I am, standing smiling in the sun wearing the kind of ‘short’ shorts I used to fear and a vest, embracing my new body, faults and all. I have bought a white bikini and will wear it by the pool and those running shorts are packed. My body is not perfect, but its better than it was. Its healthy and strong, my boyfriend thinks its sexy, it made a beautiful child and most importantly its the only one I’m getting!

More reading:

Find previous blogs about my weight loss journey here and here.

Find previous blogs about my fitness and running here, here and here.

Me, my mental health and I…

Ostensibly this is a style blog – something to help you look and feel good, but in my experience neither is possible if you are not mentally healthy.  This week is Mental Health week, an awareness week supporting people to open up about mental health, fight some of the stigmas associated with talking about mental health problems and to seek help if it is required. This years theme is to ask ourselves if we are ‘Surviving or Thriving?’ and seeing that a mental health problem will affect 1 in 5 of us in our lifetime, this week seemed a good week to share a personal essay about my own journey with my mental health…

I was always a happy child but an anxious one – I was the oldest and an overachiever from the minute I could talk. I think anxiety is born into you – maybe even an inherited trait, as I remember worrying about lots of things as a child and already having a sense of wanting to be perfect. Nowadays theres is lots of talk about safeguarding children’s mental health but in the 70’s and 80’s that kind of thing was practically non-existent, however there was also not as much pressure on kids at an early age like there is now. For some reason though I put pressure on myself. I remember getting ‘nerves’ and being ill when worried (about a big event or test for example), getting headaches, being sick or having stomach problems – all classic signs of an anxiety disorder. By the time I was a teenager and was at a high pressure girls-only grammar school, this anxiety was exhibiting almost every day. Did I get help? God no, I just hid it…I hid it really, really well and so began a pattern of behavior that I followed for most of the rest of my adult life.

Hiding a mental illness is not uncommon. Why do we do it? Well mainly its the stigma of saying you are ill, but not properly ill, just ill in the head. This is a totally ridiculous view of course but this is how you feel – people tell you to ‘pull yourself together’ or imply you’re making a fuss about nothing. Feelings of shame overwhelmed me and I became very good at hiding my issues. By the time I was 16 eating disorders were common at my all girls school and something that the girls there encouraged each other to have. Having already developed an unhealthy relationship with food I was overweight so opted for Bulimia – it really was that simple.  I first foray into a proper mental illness – I crashed dieted then binged and purged… I lost weight and everyone praised me and told me how good I looked. It was a strange irony, I was ill on the inside but deemed as looking great on the outside. My periods stopped, the enamel started to come off my back teeth, I had a scar in my hand from making myself sick and when my parents at their wit’s end called out the doctor and I started to realise I couldn’t live like this – I was eating ice cream for breakfast and then not drinking a Diet Tango because it had 3kcals in it rather than Diet Cokes 1kcal.  Ultimately as a form of self-preservation I came to my senses and stopped the purging…it really is the most awful, destructive, disgusting illness but my issues with not feeling good enough, being anxious and my warped self-image never really went away.

After I left school I started working as a window dresser in London in a creative whirlwind of fun, partying and no real responsibilities. It was the early 90’s and we were fuelled by alcohol, ecstasy and the energy of youth. Ironically even with all this hedonism they were some of the happiest and least anxious years of my life – but then earning decent money and living at home, real life hadn’t really begun for me yet…its like I was playing at being a grown-up, but we all know those days cannot last. And they didn’t – by the time I was 21 life suddenly got very dark.

When I had my first panic attack I honestly thought I was dying. I had experienced the sudden death of someone very close to me and was deep in the confusion of grief, loss and utter devastation. There was help around me – my worried parents paid for private counselling, my GP offered me Prozac and Valium and friends rallied round me but I just wasnt ready to help myself. As I limped out of this terrible experience my anxiety gripped hold of me as it did again 3 years later when my father died suddenly and I headed through my 20’s and then into my 30’s suffering from different types of anxiety disorders. My reliance on food as a comfort continued too and my weight ballooned leaving me morbidly obese by the time I was 30. My mental health was all over the place – I gained and lost the same 3 stone at least 3 times each time not being able to keep myself on a steady path. I also became better and better at hiding the cracks in my mental health – I was always bubbly and confident, well presented, I held down a good job, was in a long-term relationship and created a beautiful home but on the inside I was fighting myself…and my panic all the time.

At 33 I had my son.  I desperately wanted a child and when he was born he was just perfect and I instantly fell in love. I was lucky, unlike many other mothers I didn’t suffer from post natal depression and recovered quickly from the birth. Having my son made me, probably for the first time in my life, put someone else first. He changed everything, because although I still worried (mainly about him) I couldn’t focus on myself all the time, over-thinking and obsessing, and slowly my anxiety started to dissipate. Back at work full-time with my husband staying home to look after our son I decided I wanted to start to take the control back in my life. Within a year or so, I had achieved everything I set out to do but something didn’t feel right and my old enemy, anxiety started to rear its ugly head again. Migraines, sudden sickness and panic attacks become a regular occurrence but you would never of known it. I knew in the back of my mind what was wrong but decided it was better to ignore it. It’s amazing how long you can ignore your own problems but ultimately in the end you realise it is killing you slowly and by the end of my thirties I realised I was wasting my life – I felt like a zombie. After much soul-searching, in quick succession I left my husband (it had been an unhappy and unhealthy relationship for some time), I took redundancy from my senior creative role and sold my house, downsizing my lifestyle considerably. I totally changed my life.


As I entered the most stressful stage of my life I had experienced so far, at the beginning panic gripped me everyday but I fought it and the mere fact I was creating positive change made it easier and easier to control. I removed toxic people from my life, simplified how I lived and I started exercising at the age of 40. Exercising has completely changed my mental health. Gone are the panic attacks, I still get anxious about things, sure, but exercising seems to quell my demons, helps me think and fills me with endorphins. After building up my fitness using the app C25K I now run 5k three times a week every week. I have a very loving, supportive new partner, a great work/life balance and finally the understanding that I must be proactive and responsible for my own mental health. No-one else can do this for me – I wanted to change my life so I did. It wasnt easy but it was worth it. 

I now know the warning signs when things are getting too much and I speak freely to the people around me about how I am feeling. If I’m getting stressed I tell my loved ones and seek their support. I refuse to be ashamed anymore – my anxiety disorder is just as much part of me as my green eyes are, but I will not let it own me. I control my life, I control my health and I control my happiness. I have made a conscious choice to be happy and I can say I am happy in my life now – truly happy.  However there is no real end to this story – I will live with my anxieties in some shape or form for the rest of my life but I will not be beaten by them.

Find more about Mental Health week here and find links to my other blogs on my mental health below, I hope you find some things in them that are useful –

My weight
My self esteem
Exercise
Being called ‘fat’

If you need help speak to someone – a friend, family member, your doctor or call one of the many helplines available. You are not alone.

Easter Bank Holiday Weekend Inspiration

Happy Easter! What ever your personal beliefs, this weekend in the UK is a double bank holiday weekend for most of us that we can spend with our families, hopefully seeing some sunshine, having fun and treating ourselves to lots of naughty food.  I’m a great believer in seizing any free time I have and making the most of it while creating some great memories at the same time. However that is easier said than done – in todays blog I share some things I do to acheive just that. 

Start the day right

Make a healthy breakfast exciting using boiled eggs (well it is Easter!) and some carefully chosen egg cups – I love this stylish cutie by Buddy and Bear or try Etsy or NotOntheHighStreet.com for similar contemporary designs. For a more eclectic look, seek out vintage ones and create a mismatched set.

 photo Buddy and Bear via EtsyUK 

Or maybe choose not so healthy… Creme egg stacked pancakes, you say? Easy to make (one egg per stack was enough sweetness for us) and very, very indulgent.  Yes it’s laden with calories but for one day over Easter it makes an amazing treat! 

Dress for it     

Spring means we can start dressing in pastels and cute prints again so lets embrace it. Spend Easter digging out some of your summer clothing and styling them up to feel and look great.  I love being able to get out of dark jumpers and boots and embrace something more joyful! Fingers crossed the sun shines too…        

Get crafty

More free time means more time for activities! I do like a project with the kids – for Roald Dahl day Reuben and I made this Mr Twit beard as seen below and this Easter I want to make some of these amazing giant origami rabbits that I saw on the wonderful Oh Happy Day blog. Find the tutorial here  Photo via Oh Happy Day

Have an egg and spoon race

Want to get the kids off their games consoles/TV’s and out into the fresh air? An egg and spoon race is easy to do and you dont need to buy anything. We use plastic toy eggs (find race sets in most Easter seasonal aisles) but you can easily use chocolate or hard boiled versions instead.  On your marks, get set, GO!!!

 

Make and bake

If the weathers not so good, another great activity is to bake cakes or make some other special treats to share. We recently made homemade Lemonade as a family (à la Diary of a Wimpy kid) which the boys loved doing and often make cakes over Easter (see our 4yr olds nursery-made offering from this week below). This year we’ve made Spring themed fairy cakes together and I’m sure they will all get gobbled up soon. 

   

  
 

Go for a special day out 

Ok, it can be expensive to go on big days out but across the two weeks of the school Easter holiday we always try and fit one day trip in. Look for 2 for 1 offers, discount codes or free events – whether its to a theme park, zoo or just the beach or play area its perfect for making those special memories. And lets be honest – who doesn’t want to act like a kid again for the day?!?

     Do an Easter Egg Hunt

Easter wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate eggs but I do like my kids to work for them! Last year we hid them throughout the house and garden and our three boys had to follow clues to track them down…they loved it! We will do the same this Sunday, as well as give them a couple of their favourite chocolate bar eggs too.

 
Do some exercise

After all that indulgence some hard work is required to balance all those calories out…I know it’s boring but if you eat lots of chocolate and treats you have to exercise. As someone whos lost a lot of weight and now exercises regularly I will make sure, holiday or not, I’ll run my usual 5k run. As well as meaning you dont put on weight its great to de-stress, have some ‘me-time’ and clear your head and for me, Spring is THE best season to run in.

  
 

So make the most of those extra days of fun with the people you care for the most and make this Easter one to remember!

All photos via my Instagram unless otherwise stated. Follow me on Instagram for lots more here.

Monday Mantra

Yep, its the beginning of the week again, the weekend has flown by and here we are at Monday morning! Here is todays quote or thought that has inspired me and I hope it inspires you too. Have a great week!

Todays thought –

  Source – my Pinterest

Do you overthink? I do sometimes and its a very destructive habit. I’ve discovered a few things that help me though…

Find inspiration – use that amazing brain we have for positivity…read great books, watch fantastic films and TV, embrace art or start writing (blogging is a great way to achieve that).  

Exercise – when I run my mind works freely, exorcising all those negative thoughts we carry. You get to see nature close-up as being on foot makes you see the world at a different level. Listen to music.  And when you return, your mind will feel free of all the clutter that was there before.

Detox your life – remove toxic people and don’t allow yourself to be in negative situations. Learn to say no – we all have responsibilities of course but you don’t have do things you dont want to do. 

Life is short and I’m aiming to not spend it battling with my pointless, negative, critical thoughts. What a waste of time and energy that would be…

What words have inspired you recently? I would love to know.