It is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

Summer is here, my holiday is booked and I should feel excited by the prospect of getting away, soaking up some rays and spending quality time with my family, but instead I feel anxious. I have to wear a bikini and I’m not ready yet. Once again, I’ve left it too late to get that perfect, lean beach body; my summer clothes don’t suit me anymore; my bikinis are all old and worn. Oh, and I ate loads of cake last week, which has left me feeling angry and upset.

I take myself off to the shops in the desperate hope of finding clothes that will make me feel good about my body. But the lights in the changing rooms are too bright and the sizings in the shop are all wrong, and as I stand there in the spot lights wearing an ill-fitting bikini, and just centimetres from my own reflection, I want to SCREAM!

Does any of this sound familiar to you? That feeling when you hate what you see in the mirror so much that all you want to do is throw yourself on the floor and have a toddler tantrum, and then curl up in a ball and cry? Even as I write this, it sounds like a pretty extreme reaction, and yet if you are anything like me, you’ve experienced this feeling countless times.

There was a time when I would have given into this inner turmoil: I would have cursed my reflection, told myself how revolting I was, and then I probably would have run off to the nearest café to punish myself with cake. But I have come a long way over the past few years, so instead I look down at my five-year-old daughter, who is beaming up at me from the corner of the dressing room, and I take a deep breath and smile back.

‘I don’t really like the fabric,’ I tell her in an upbeat voice. ‘I’ll find something another time.’

I hope I managed to hide the desperation in my eyes that day, and I hope she believed me when I told her the clothes were the problem and not me; because I don’t want my funny, intelligent, dynamic, beautiful daughter to think it is normal to look at her reflection and hate what she sees. I hope that she and her sister can grow up feeling comfortable and happy in their bodies, and enjoy discovering what their bodies can do for them.

I have spent a lifetime ‘fighting’ my body. It started early for me: I was still in primary school when I began to feel self-conscious about my tummy. I didn’t even know why I felt that way, but I remember going out one day in a tight top and a baggy cardigan, and I was so hot, but I wouldn’t take the cardigan off because I didn’t want anyone to see my tummy. My tummy! I was a tiny, skinny little dancer with no boobs and no tummy and not an ounce of fat on me, but I was embarrassed by my body all the same. I can’t pinpoint where this body shame came from, but I know I am not alone. From a young age, we hear women complain about their bodies, talking about diets, worrying about whether their bum looks big or their tummy looks fat or whether their arms jiggle when they move, and then we grow up and we begin to complain too.

How often do you stand back from the mirror, observe yourself as a whole and think, ‘Yes, I am gorgeous’? I hope you do this often, but I am guessing that like so many of us, you are more likely to stare at the part of your body you hate the most and tell yourself it needs to change.

But it is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

It was my husband who first pulled me up on this when our first daughter was little. Every time I said I was fat or complained about my body in front of her, he just gave me a look: ‘You can’t talk like that in front of her,’ he told me.

Until then, I hadn’t realised just how often I called myself fat or complained about my body or asked someone else for validation – it was constant. But being aware of it was the first step towards positive change and I am proud to say how far I have come. I still have my bad moments (like the dressing room incident) and I still want to look and feel good in my bikini, but what I have come to realise is that if I only ever focus on my flaws, I will never be happy, no matter what size or shape I am. My self-worth should not be inextricably linked to what size clothes I wear. I no longer workout and diet to ‘get thin’, but I exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet because those things make me feel happy and confident. I like feeling comfortable in my skin and in my clothes. There are still days when I want to be slimmer, and I don’t think these feelings will ever go away completely, but I can change the way I react to them both internally and externally. When I begin to beat myself up about my appearance, I pause, breathe and then rationalise: what does it matter if my shorts are a bit tighter this week? That doesn’t change who I am or what I have achieved; it doesn’t change how much my family love me or how much I love them. I can eat a healthier diet for a week and feel comfortable in my shorts in no time (and I usually do) but I know that will only help me feel better if I do it from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing.

Changing life-long thought patterns is not always easy. Sometimes it is so very tempting to just give in and settle back into the familiar, self-sabotaging habits, but I owe it to my daughters to be present and happy, and to have the head-space to be able to play with them and enjoy them. I hope my efforts will pay off and that they will grow up feeling proud and confident in their own bodies.

It won’t be easy bringing my girls up on this body-shaming culture, so I’m going to ask you for your help. Whether you are male or female, and whether you have your own children or not, I urge you to be aware of the messages you are putting out there. Stop hating yourself and telling yourself you are not good enough. Realise that you are not defined by the shape of your body, and for the sake of the younger generations (as well as for yourself), let’s make body-confidence the norm.

This is still a work in progress for me and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some of the things that work for me:

  1. Whether it is out loud or in your own head, be aware of your negative self-talk and begin to turn it around.
  2. Write a list of things you like about yourself that are not related to your appearance.
  3. Re-write and re-read this list as often as you need to.
  4. Take note of the things you do each day that you are be proud of: this could be something big like getting a new job or passing an exam, or it could be a small achievement like choosing a healthy salad over a chocolate bar for lunch.
  5. Try to look at yourself the way others would look at you – as a whole package rather than as a series of ‘close-up’ flaws.
  6. Think about the things that make you feel happy and good about yourself and work them into your daily routine: singing, dancing, drawing, sewing, reading, running, cooking, eating healthy foods, spending time with your family …
  7. Slow down, look up from your phone or your computer and breathe. Go outside, look at the sky and remember there is more to life than how good or bad you think you look in your bikini.
  8. Meditate. Just taking five minutes a day to sit and tune into yourself really can help you gain some perspective. I am new to this and still learning, but there are apps out there to help, or if you need a little more input, look for a good life-coach or therapist.

Do this for yourself, but do it for our children too. Good luck.

x

Whilst browsing the internet a few weeks ago, I came across the website of a weight loss coach. I am always interested in the work of other health and well-being practitioners so I started to read her introduction, but within a few paragraphs I was angry and upset and felt as though I was being personally attacked for being a personal trainer.

For the record, there was no real reason for me to take this woman’s comments personally; I don’t know her and I very much doubt that she has ever heard of me. She was merely expressing an opinion based on her own experiences and observations, but her words touched a nerve nonetheless.

To paraphrase: this coach stated that most personal trainers want to keep hold of their clients long- term and so they will purposefully confuse and misinform people to ensure they never reach their goals and never gain the confidence to go solo! In comparison, she – the weight loss coach – prefers to work with her clients for just a few weeks and get real results.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had written and I began to question my own practice as a trainer. You see, it is true that as a personal trainer, I prefer to work with clients on a long-term basis. Does that make me a bad person? Am I just in it for the money? Have I been sabotaging my clients all this time? No, of course not! Why would anyone go into this profession thinking, ‘I hope my clients fail’?

But here’s the truth: I really don’t care whether my clients are fat or thin. I want them to keep working with me for as long as possible because I love seeing them grow stronger and fitter, and because I love introducing them to new and different exercises, and because I know there is always something else I can teach them. Some of my clients lose weight when they work with me and some of them don’t, but that doesn’t mean the ones who don’t have failed in any way. We need to dispel this damaging message that the only reason you should take up exercise it to lose weight (or more accurately, lose inches). Exercise is about so much more than what size jeans you wear or whether your arms have definition or whether people are going to compliment you on your six-pack when you slip into a bikini.

My aim as a personal trainer is to instill in others the joy of moving. For me, my greatest success stories are when I see my clients learning to use and trust and enjoy their bodies in a whole new way. If people need or want to lose weight along the way, that’s fine and I help them to do that by encouraging them to address their diet and life-style as a whole, but first and foremost, I want my clients to realise that exercise can be fun and enjoyable and rewarding. I want them to witness first-hand how it can boost their mood and make them feel strong and flexible and alive. I want my clients to learn that if they start enjoying their bodies and tuning into how good it feels to get up and move, they will naturally begin to take care of themselves better in other areas of their life.

Exercising can be inspiring and energising and it can free your mind in ways you never thought possible. So, as a personal trainer, I feel it is my duty to encourage you not to have weight-loss as your main goal in life. Mental and physical health, strength and fitness, and a positive body image are much better life-goals and the likelihood is, when you start enjoying your body and appreciating everything it can do for you, you will begin to see positive physical changes anyway.

So let’s spread the word: love your body, nourish it, treat it well … and above all else, enjoy it!

Last week I was asked to present at the Banbury Women in Business Conference. They asked whether I might be able to give them some tips on how to fit exercise and healthy eating into everyday life. Typically, I found myself thinking of far too many ideas and tips, not all of which would fit into my twenty minute speech, so I promised to post the ideas up on my blog for people to read in their own time.

So, here it is – a shortened, slightly edited version of my speech from last week:

Fitness, Wellbeing and Balance: A Holistic Approach

Modern life is hard. There are only so many hours in the day, but the list of things that need doing seems to be constantly growing: bills need paying so we need to go to work, the house needs cleaning and maintaining, children or pets (if you have them) need attention. Then there are friends to keep in touch with, family to visit, Facebook, twitter and email accounts to keep up with …

And that’s all before you’ve even started thinking about keeping up with your hobbies, staying fit or cooking healthy, nutritious meals. It can all get a bit too much and when it does, things like keeping fit and healthy are often the first things to go.

Now obviously, given that I’m a personal trainer, I love exercise. Without my regular, high energy endorphin fixes, I get miserable and my body image begins to suffer. I become more lethargic, less creative and my motivation in all areas of my life begins to wane. Even if you’re not a ‘fitness fanatic’, I’m sure you can remember times when you have felt down and stressed and unhealthy, and the last thing you want to do is eat a healthy meal or do a workout. And then if you’ve been on a ‘health kick’, I’m sure you can relate to those feelings of pride and elation when you stick to a regime for a while. Your head starts to clear, you begin to have more energy, you feel good about yourself …

The problem with a lot of ‘health-kicks’ is that they are not sustainable. It’s great to go into a new exercise and diet regime all guns blazing, but it’s also important to be realistic about what you can fit into your lifestyle in the long term because that’s what’s important: having a healthy, active lifestyle that fits around your work, your family and your other passions in life.

Top tips

  1. Just keep moving
  2. Find something you enjoy
  3. Give it a chance
  4. Make the time and make it count
  5. Workout at home
  6. Be kind to yourself
  7. Eat well

1. Just keep moving

A lot of us just don’t move enough in everyday life. We drive everywhere, sit at desks during the day and then slump on the couch in the evenings. Sitting down is terrible for our bodies.

Try to think about standing up more often. If you work from home, you can create a little standing desk area so that you are not always sitting, and if you work in an office, try to get up and walk around as often as possible.

Move around in lunch breaks and walk places whenever you can. Do gentle stretches in front of the TV at night and sit upright on a cushion on the floor rather than on a couch.

Buy a pedometer if it helps to keep you moving all day.

Try to think about your posture throughout the day too. It’s easy to find yourself slumping in your chair or sinking into one hip when you’re standing. Whenever you catch yourself doing this, try to sit or stand up tall, lengthen your spine, draw your shoulder blades back and draw your belly button in towards your spine. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you can actually begin to strengthen and tone your core and postural muscles on a daily basis.

2. Find something you enjoy

If you are after a full-on six pack or have always dreamed of doing an iron man triathlon, then you have to be bit more specific about your training regime; but if you just want to be fitter, feel healthier, and boost your energy levels, then the main thing is that you just do some sort of movement on a regular basis that gets your heart rate up, gets you sweaty and gets your muscles moving.

If you love going to the gym or doing boot camp classes, that’s great, but if the thought of that makes your heart sink and you would much rather go to a dance class or join a walking club, then do that instead! The key to keeping up an active lifestyle is enjoyment. If you can find a form of exercise that brings you joy, then you will keep it up. If you dread every single workout, you will eventually stop doing it and go back to sitting on the sofa feeling guilty!

That being said, you should still push and challenge yourself with exercise. Try new things and mix it up. Don’t always stick within your comfort zone: test your limits, set yourself short- and long-term goals … and this brings me on to my next tip …

3. Give it a chance

Most of my clients find that the first ever session I do with them is so much tougher than any of the rest because it’s such a shock to the system. However, once they begin to do regular workouts, they find it becomes easier and more enjoyable. When I say easier, I don’t mean that workouts don’t hurt anymore and that you don’t push yourself harder as you get fitter, but somehow it becomes mentally easier and your body begins to thrive on the feelings of moving and being pushed to new limits.

My normal advice is to try to establish a regular exercise regime (at least two to three times a week) and keep it up for twelve weeks, after which point, you should find that you have become hooked on the endorphin and will actually begin to crave exercise.

4. Make the time and make it count

I understand that half the battle for many people is finding the time to exercise in the first place! Obviously, this is something you need to work out for yourself, but even the busiest person can normally find the time to fit in a quick workout a few times a week if they really think about it

Perhaps you can cycle to work and back, or fit in a quick run at lunch time. Maybe you can get up half an hour earlier three times a week, or fit a short workout in between picking your kids up from school and cooking their dinner.

If you’re pushed for time (or even if you’re not) the best thing you can do is to workout as hard as you can for short periods of time. This is where intervals come in, and I’ve talked about this in previous blog posts: How to get a workout in 4 minutes and Motivational exercise. Working at a high intensities for short periods of time has been proven to improve fitness and boost your metabolism much more effectively than a slow, steady run for an hour.

You can use intervals when you go out for a run, when you cycle to work, on the rowing machine in the gym, or when you workout from home …

5. Workout at home

I enjoy going to the gym and doing exercise and dance classes, but at the moment I find that going to the gym is not a feasible option in terms of time, so I exercise at home and I do short, intense workouts.

You don’t need a lot of space or equipment and even if you have kids running around, it can still work. I must admit, I prefer to exercise on my own without having to rush, but if I don’t have much time, I will fit a short workout in between picking my daughter up from school and cooking her dinner. She is more than happy to join in (which makes it pretty funny and also teaches her good habits about staying active and building exercise into everyday life), and on the days when she is a bit grumpier or tired, I will put a film on for her. I used to feel guilty about this, but it’s only a short period of time and I find that if I’ve made time for myself, it makes me happier; and if I feel happier in myself – both mentally and physically – then I actually have more time and energy for my family the rest of the time. Just having that thirty or forty minutes to do something for me, makes me a better mum, wife, sister, daughter, and friend.

6. Be kind to yourself

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ll know this is a big thing for me!

Make time to exercise because it will make you feel better in all areas of your life. However, whilst it is great to be active and exercise regularly, you need to take rest days to give your body time to recover and you definitely need enough sleep to stay healthy.

Being kind to yourself sometimes means treating your body well by exercising, stretching and cooking healthy, home-cooked meals. But sometimes it means letting yourself off the hook – not beating yourself up about things; allowing yourself to sit and watch a good film or have a bath or turn off your emails and get into bed early and shut out the world! Being kind to yourself is about learning to listen to your body and getting the right balance in your life.

7. Eat well

Of course, a healthy diet is probably the most important part of staying healthy. I could ramble on about diet forever, but I’ve already written most of this on Cloves and Ginger so have a browse if you’re interested in finding out more.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, feel healthier, improve energy levels or just improve fitness, here are some things to look into when improving your diet:

  • Eat as close to nature as possible. Pre-packaged foods are stuffed full of chemicals and rubbish that can barely be classed as food. Try to eat simple, fresh food as often as possible.
  • Try to include vegetables and healthy greens in every meal, along with healthy proteins such as eggs, high quality meat and fish, beans, pulses and legumes.
  • Don’t be scared of fats. Healthy fats found in things such as high quality meat, coconut oil, nuts and avocados will not make you fat – they simply nourish your body.
  • Cut out the refined sugar and refined carbs. They are bad for you, pile on the pounds and disrupt your body’s natural appetite, leading to over eating and unnecessary snacking.
  • Try not to think about what you are ‘not allowed’ to eat because this only leads to cravings and self-sabotage. Instead, think of all the delicious foods your body needs every day and look forward to nourishing yourself.
  • Try starting the day with a delicious green smoothie to get you off to a good start.
  • Try eating early in the evenings and giving your digestive system a break each night.
  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated.
  • And finally, never forbid yourself anything; just know that some things won’t make you feel very good and remember there is always a choice.

Once you get into it, health and fitness is such a massive subject and it is important to remember that what works for one person, won’t work for another person. I think it is important to try things out for yourself, keep notes on how you feel, do research … and, most importantly, try to enjoy the journey.

Find a balance between exercise, healthy eating, work, sleep, family and hobbies that works for you. And keep an open mind because something that works at one time in your life, might not work at another time, so you need to be willing to adapt and change.

I hope you find this useful. Please do feel free to email me if you have any questions about anything, and remember to check out my Online Personal Training page.

Stay healthy and happy, and have a lovely Christmas.

x

It’s that time of year again when temptation is all around – mince pies in the café windows, chocolates at the checkout, selection box biscuits in the office … Now, whilst I am definitely not against having the odd treat at any time of year, especially at Christmas, pigging out on bad food for an entire month is never going to leave you feeling good!

I find that one of the best ways to avoid giving in to all the Christmassy snacks that are being thrust under your nose is to be prepared and have your own snacks with you. That way, if it all gets too much, you know you have something with you that will fill you up, satisfy your cravings and nourish your body.

As my job involves a lot of odd hours, working through lunch and regular ‘jumping around’ sessions throughout the day, I often take snacks out with me to graze on rather than eating a big lunch in one go. I have become a master of healthy snacking, so I’ve drawn up a list of snack ideas that I hope will help and inspire you.

Simple, stress-free snacks

I’m a big fan of simplicity when it comes to eating. Although I do a lot of cooking and preparing of home-made snacks and meals, I tend to choose the quicker, simpler recipes because I’m always so pushed for time. These snacks don’t involve any preparation, are pretty basic, and are not at all ground-breaking, but they are healthy, nutritious and nice to eat:

  • High quality 90% dark chocolate

I find this is a great mood and energy booster, and because the chocolatey taste is so rich and the sugar content so much lower than in other chocolates, you only need a small amount to satisfy your cravings.

  • Fruit

Simple but effective. It’s easy to pop a banana or a satsuma in your bag and then when you want something sweet, it’s there waiting for you.

  • Dried apricots, prunes, dates and other dried fruits

Again, this is great when you want something sweet, but be wary of dried fruit – it is quite sugary and moreish so you don’t want to eat a lot of it in one go.

  • Nuts and seeds

Try to go for raw or (even better) activated nuts rather than roasted.

  • Nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut …)

OK, so you’re going to need to remember to take a spoon with you for this one, but when I’m really hungry and just want something to see me through and give me some energy, I always turn to a teaspoon of almond or cashew butter. Mmm!

Check out www.nuts.com for a great range of raw nuts and seeds and for a wonderfully diverse range of dried fruits.

Make your own snacks

If you fancy something a little bit more interesting or filling, you might need to do a bit more preparation, but that still doesn’t mean taking up loads of your time. Put aside an hour or two once a week to prepare some snacks that you can then grab when you are in a rush:

  • Power balls

We always have raw energy balls in the freezer and then we just grab a couple to take out with us when we need them. There are loads of recipes out there, so it’s worth having a look around. Energy balls always taste really indulgent so they’re perfect for taking with you when you know there are going to be lots of chocolates and tasty bakes around.

This is the one I usually make: Raw Chocolate Energy Balls , but I’ll be trying this recipe soon as it sounds delicious: Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffles.

  • Healthy muffins

Deliciously Ella always has some nice muffin recipes. Or how about trying these recipes from my blog: Healthy Apple FlapjackNaturally Sweet Apple Muffins?

I love this recipe from I Quit Sugar.

  • Crackers

If you would rather have a savoury snack, then these crackers from I Quit Sugar are fantastic.

  • Left overs

This takes even less preparation. Depending on what you have for dinner the night before, you can always take some left overs as a little snack or light lunch. I like to make healthy, gluten-free chicken nuggets for dinner and then take the left over chicken nuggets to munch on the next day. They’re so good.

Above are just a few of my favourite snacks and recipes, but there are loads of amazing ideas on a website I have just discovered called www.nuts.com. Check out their healthy snack page and let me know if you try any of the recipes out. I’m definitely going to try out their Cranberry Almond Flour Cookies this Christmas, and their Granola Bars sound lovely too.

Ready made snacks

OK, so you’ve taken this all on board but you’re still after something that’s just a little bit more exciting to ward off those Christmas cravings, and you don’t have the time to prepare your own. Luckily, there are more and more truly healthy snacks available these days; when I say ‘truly healthy snacks’, I mean made without refined sugar and gluten, and without long lists of unnatural sounding ingredients. So have a shop around and see what you can find.

I hope these ideas will help you get through the next few weeks feeling happy, healthy and good about yourself. Remember, just because something is good for you, it doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious, so get inventive, get researching and treat yourself to some delicious snacks this December.

x

for kindleA short while ago, I wrote a non-health and fitness related blog, telling you that my children’s picture book, Lilly Mae, had just been published. I hope you will all indulge me once again and allow me to tell you about an even bigger project I have been working on – my debut Young Adult Fantasy novel, Faces In The Water.

I started writing this story quite some time ago (over ten years ago, in fact) and it has taken me a long time to get to a point where I am happy to share it with other people, but I’m finally there and I’m really proud of it.

For a sneak peek at the first chapter, head over to my writing website here.

Faces In The Water is available now on Kindle  (US & UK) and in print.

Happy Reading.

x

 

If you read my last blog and have decided to go for it on a health kick this October, then good for you! Whether you have decided to go it alone or join my online club, the main things to keep in mind are EAT CLEAN and KEEP MOVING.

If the concept of clean eating is new to you, it may all seem a bit daunting but there’s really no need to worry. Clean eating is not about being hard on yourself and depriving yourself, it’s about treating yourself to real, natural and tasty food to give your body all the nutrients it needs. There are loads of amazing blogs and cook books out there to help you get started, and there are lots of variations of clean eating out there too – paleo, vegetarian, raw food vegan…to name just a few – but the one thing they all agree on is that you need to stop poisoning your body with over-processed food, unnatural chemicals and refined foods. If you can clear the junk out of your diet and load up on nutrients, you’ll be astounded how much better you’ll start to feel.

So, here are some of my favourite blogs and recipe books. Have a browse and see if you can find some really delicious recipes to look forward to over the next few weeks. Remember, healthy eating doesn’t mean ‘tasteless’, it means using fresh, high quality ingredients, plenty of herbs and spices, lots of healthy fats and the perfect seasoning. Concentrate on all the yummy foods you should be eating rather than worrying about what you ‘shouldn’t’ be eating.

My favourite cook books:

I Quit Sugar – simple, quick and easy to make recipes. I love this book and many of my go-to recipes like Paleo Veggie Bread and Coco-Nutty Granola come from her blog.

Honestly Healthy Cleanse – I especially recommend the broccoli, grain free pizza base from this book. Believe me, it tastes about 100 times better than it sounds and it will change your views on pizza forever.

Deliciously Ella – what I especially like about this book is Ella’s introduction. I really enjoyed reading her story and found it very inspiring. There are some nice, simple recipes and ideas in this book, although Ella is very keen on buckwheat, which doesn’t seem to agree with me. It’s always worth trying these things out for yourself though as everyone reacts differently to different foods.

My favourite blogs:

The Gracious Pantry

I Quit Sugar

mindbodygreen

Gluten Free Zen

Changing Habits

As I said, there are loads out there, so just google clean eating recipes and see what comes up. Oh, and of course, don’t forget to browse my blog too for recipes and information about healthy and unhealthy foods.

Good luck

x

Walking my little girl to pre-school last week in the pouring rain, I could see the miserable expressions on other people’s faces as they realised that summer is over and autumn has well and truly begun. Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I love the change of seasons, especially the change from summer to autumn. I’m just a big kid – the moment the summer holidays are over and the weather starts turning colder and wetter, I get this little bubble of excitement because, in my head, it’s not long until Christmas! It won’t be long before the Christmas decorations are up around town and I can fish out my favourite Christmas song CD…Alright, I know I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. It’s still only September and I’m certainly not wishing away the rest of the year, but on a serious note, I always see the change of seasons as a perfect time to start afresh: to detox my body, set new goals and reassess my exercise regime.

September/October time is a particularly good time to do this because, even if you’re not a Christmas person like I am, the colder weather and longer evenings can leave a lot of people feeling depressed and lacking in energy. Even if you’re a fitness loving, health nut most of the time, at this time of year it can be tempting to slip into your pyjamas as soon as it gets dark, curl up on the sofa and fill up on heart-warming comfort food. However, you know you’ll feel much better and much happier if you stay active and keep on eating clean, refreshing, nutrient-rich foods. It’s a well-known fact that getting the right vitamins and minerals into your body and having enough endorphins flowing through you, will lift your mood and can help to fight off seasonal depression.

And then there’s the other great incentive to stay fit and healthy at this time of year – you want to look and feel great in your Christmas party clothes in a couple of months don’t you? I know I do!

SARAH THORP_PARTY DRESS PLAN FLYER 2015

I am nearly 4 months pregnant at the moment so by December, I certainly won’t be feeling sleek and trim in my party dresses, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be eating as well as I possibly can over the next few months and keeping up with regular exercise. And, although there’s not an awful lot I can do about my ever-expanding tummy, I still want to help other people feel as slim, toned, healthy and happy as possible this winter, which is why have put together The Online Barre Fit® Party Dress Plan. Starting on either Monday 5th October or Monday 2nd November, this online clean eating and exercise plan is designed to help you get fitter, slimmer and healthier than ever, just in time for the party season. I originally designed the plan for members of my local exercise classes, but I’m pretty excited about it and I want to share it with anyone who fancies giving it a go. SARAH THORP_PARTY DRESS PLAN FLYER 2015

It doesn’t matter where you live or how fit (or unfit) you think you are, you can take part in The Barre Fit Party Dress Plan, so do please spread the word and get in touch if you’d like more information: sarahthorpfitness@gmail.com

Whether you decide to sign up for The Party Dress Plan or not, remember to keep moving and stock up on those vegetables and healthy fats. You’ll be glad you did.

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Last month, I was contacted by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance who asked me to join them in spreading the word for National Safety Month. Now being the person that I am, I’m a week late. National Safety Month was in June but I have decided there is no harm in carrying it into July! After all, keeping yourself healthy and safe is important at any time of the year.

Mesothelioma Cancer is a rare, devastating cancer that has been linked to environmental toxins such as asbestos and lead-based paint. Shockingly, these environmental toxins can still be found in many homes, schools and commercial spaces built prior to 1980. This infographic gives you some tips on how to check that you are safe and protected from these toxins:

Summer Safety in the Home (1)

Until I was contacted by the alliance, I had never heard of Mesothelioma Cancer, and it’s still something I know very little about so if you would like to learn more about it, go to www.mesothelioma.com  and read up about it here. However, I don’t need to be an expert on specific types of cancer, to know that toxins in our environment, homes and food are responsible for many diseases. Even low level health problems such as digestive issues, constant tiredness, PMT, anxiety, headaches, mood swings, low energy levels (the list could go on and on and on and on…) could be attributed to the toxins that we come into contact with every day.

I’ve talked a lot about eating clean food and it goes without saying that ensuring you eat clean, natural, chemical-free food is going to do wonders for your health. However, there are other ways that unwanted chemicals and toxins can get into our bodies: chemicals from plastic containers and packaging leach into our food, toxins in cleaning products and in toiletries (toothpaste, sun tan lotion, moisturiser, make up, shower gel, mouth wash) are inhaled and seep into our skin, and there are also toxins, hormones and all sorts of chemicals in our drinking water.

Now, I don’t suggest that you do what I have done several times; which is to freak out and vow that from now on you will use only white wine vinegar for cleaning and make all of your cosmetics at home from coconut oil! Believe me, if you are already trying to maintain a happy, healthy life-style that includes regular exercise, home-cooked meals, plenty of sleep, making enough time for family, friends and other hobbies…oh, and going to work, then trying to find time to make all of your own cleaning products and cosmetics as well, may just tip you over the edge. However, it is worth looking into reducing chemicals in your home.

As it is the summer, I think a good place to start is to look at the water you are drinking and the sun tan lotion you are using. So:

  • Whenever possible, filter your cooking and drinking water.
  • Try to use stainless steel or glass containers to store water (and food) and don’t leave plastic bottles hanging around in hot temperatures.
  • Use chemical free sun tan lotion: whilst it is essential to protect yourself against UV rays, most of the more readily available sun tan lotions are packed with chemicals, many of which are suspected to be linked to various cancers and thought to disrupt hormones. I have recently purchased some Neal’s Yard sun tan lotion for my holiday and use this on my face every day in the summer. Finding the correct lotions for you can be tricky (and sometimes pricey) but it’s worth researching. I found this article very helpful.

If you’re keen to go even further this summer, here are some other things you might want to look into changing when you have the time. I’m still researching these and refuse to beat myself up about not being 100% chemical free yet; however, I think just changing things one at a time and being aware of the risks is better than doing nothing at all.

  • Look into chemical-free moisturisers, soaps, shower gels and other toiletries: making your own can be fun and cheap. One of the most effective hand moisturisers I have ever used was made by whisking up shea butter, coconut oil and a couple of essential oils. It takes a while to soak in but it leaves my hands feeling incredible. My attempts at making shower gel have been less successful. I may have another go or I might just research toxin-free products and treat myself.
  • Avoid any cleaning product that contains the words ‘anti-bacterial’ in the description. Here’s an interesting article on the truth about antibacterial products: Five reasons why you should probably stop using antibacterial soap 
  • Use natural products such as bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar to clean and/or research more environmentally friendly and toxin-free cleaning products.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I would love it if you would share your tips and ideas with me to make my never-ending quest for the perfect, toxin-free life, just a little bit easier.

x

Well, we’re a week into March and I’m still trying to keep up what I started in February with the ‘Love Yourself’ challenge. It’s been harder than you’d think to be consistently kind to myself but I’m getting better at it and just by being more aware of how I think and how I treat myself has led to all sorts of surprises. It’s amazing what you notice about yourself when you take the time to slow down and question your thought patterns. I went through February with an open mind and a new attitude.

Here’s what I learnt (or remembered in some cases):

1. It’s good to treat yourself

It sounds silly but treating myself to a new cookbook did wonders for my motivation and positive mental attitude. I allowed myself time to read through it properly and get some new ideas for meals and it made preparing meals so much more interesting. It just goes to show that treating yourself to a present from time to time is a good thing.

2. Doing what I love gives me energy

Writing is as essential to my mental and physical well-being as exercise. Exercise keeps me sane and gives me a lift, but when I’m writing fiction I get a completely different type of buzz that is just as energising and uplifting. It’s time for me to stop feeling guilty if I miss a workout in favour of doing something creative. I need to find a healthy balance between exercise and writing and remember they are both equally important to my well-being.

3. I need to stop stressing and start doing

Stressing about when I’m going to fit my workout in each day and worrying about my health and about my body shape takes up a LOT of my time; time that would be better spent doing something that would actually benefit me: cooking, writing, going for a walk, sleeping… I’m working on this one!

4. Sleep is the thing

One way or another I need to get more sleep. It doesn’t matter how good my diet is or how much I exercise and take care of myself, if I don’t get enough sleep I feel terrible. There’s no immediate solution to my toddler waking up every night and disturbing my sleep, but I have taken steps towards going to bed in a calmer state of mind. I try to turn off my computer an hour before bed and look at my phone as little as possible, and I’ve been trying this 4,7,8 breathing technique which does seem to help.

5. Drinking a green smoothie every morning ROCKS!

This is something we discovered as a group in my ‘Love Yourself’ Facebook group. You may have read my blog a while back about my first green smoothie. Since then I’ve tried a lot of green smoothies – which have been much more successful – and I have gone through phases of making them regularly and then forgetting about them again. When I started the ‘Love Yourself’ club, I was in a ‘no-smoothie’ place but one of the girls in the group mentioned she was going to have one every day and we all decided to follow suit. I really think it is one of the best ways to start your day. After I’ve had my smoothie for breakfast I feel healthy, driven and (let’s be honest) a little bit smug! You have to try it.

So that’s a little summary of how things went for me in February. I’m definitely going to keep on with my own personal ‘Love Yourself’ challenge. There’s lots for me to work on and I’ll never be perfect but I’m learning to accept that….slowly!

How about you? How did your February pan out and what are your plans for March?

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OK, so this is not really health and fitness related but since I’ve been sharing my love of writing with you over the past couple of weeks and since one of my main goals for the February ‘Love Yourself’ project was to make time for writing, I’ve decided you’d forgive me for mixing things up a little bit. One of my children’s books is finally published! I’m so excited and it was just the boost I needed to keep me motivated and inspired this month. I’ve just written a blog post about how it all began over at the publisher’s website, here, so I thought I might as well share the good news with you lot as well.

My lovely little picture book, Lilly Mae, is a collaboration between myself (the writer) and my extremely talented sister, Ruth (the illustrator). It tells the tale of a feisty little girl who lives on a cloud and changes the weather according to her moods. If you’re at all interested in children’s books and beautiful design, please do head over to our website and take a look www.lillymaebook.co.uk.

Right, there we go: shameless plug and bragging over. I shall return to well-being related posts tomorrow. 🙂

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