Archives for category: The ‘Love Yourself’ Club

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

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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?

x

Happy Valentine’s Day. How have you been getting on with loving yourself these past couple of weeks? Is it going ok? Have you been kinder to yourself in any way?

I have to say these past couple of weeks have been great for me. Just thinking about being kinder to myself has led to so many realisations about how my behaviour and thought patterns have been making me more stressed and anxious than I need to be. There are countless things I want to accomplish but the problem is I always try to do them all at once, or I do one thing on my list and then feel guilty about not doing another thing. The result is I get more and more frantic and less and less productive until I’m not achieving anything at all.

So for me, this month has been about slowing things down and focussing on one thing at a time. Every time I feel myself getting into a state because I haven’t done something, I remind myself it’s impossible to do everything at once. By giving myself time and space to breathe and by listening to what I really want to do rather than worrying about what I should be doing, I suddenly feel as though I have more time for me and for my family. I finally have time to concentrate on my health again, which in turn is giving me the energy and lift to be more creative and productive. I’m still not calm, collected and rational 100% of the time, but I’m getting better at being kind to myself and it is truly liberating. It’s the best Valentine’s gift I could have given myself. Thank you to me!

I hope you have all been getting on just as well. Please do get in touch and let me know.

x

We’re 10 days into February already. Where has that time gone?

How has your ‘Love Yourself’ month been going so far? For me, last week was all about getting back into my writing. This went brilliantly but I was still struggling with my other goal, which was to get back into my normal healthy eating habits. We’d had a flood at my house and ended up living with my parents-in-law for two weeks. It’s incredible how not having my own space to cook, exercise and relax in can have such a massive impact on my mood and eating habits. I love my parents-in-law and they couldn’t have made me feel more welcome, but I’ve never been good in other people’s environments. I’m a home-bird and for some reason, the moment I’m in someone else’s space I start to feel out of control and anxious, which leads to comfort eating. Sigh!

But, good news, we moved back into our house on Friday and I instantly began to feel better. As part of ‘Love Yourself’ February, I’ve decided to promise myself a treat each week. Last week I’d promised I would buy a brand new clean-eating cook book and set aside a couple of hours at the weekend to sit down and read through it. So I did.

I bought the new Deliciously Ella book and made a point of starting right from the beginning and reading through the introduction instead of skipping straight to the recipes. Ella is a beautiful writer and has an inspiring story and the recipes all seem to be very simple and relatively quick to make, which is always a bonus for me. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t have a lot of time in the week so I’m always looking for healthy, but convenient meal ideas. You can find out more about Ella at her website: www.deliciouslyella.com.

I took a few recipes from Ella’s book and also decided on a few of my old favourites that I hadn’t made for a few weeks. Then I got cooking. On Sunday morning, I did the fun baking stuff with my 2-year-old. We made raw chocolate energy balls (known in my household as ‘power balls’) to go in the freezer for when we want something lovely and sweet; we made blueberry muffins from the Deliciously Ella cook book and put those in the freezer too. Then I made a new batch of sweet potato gnocchi. I usually have this in the freezer at all times as a quick meal to give to my daughter. She loves it and once the gnocchi is made it’s even quicker than pasta to cook.

That was a pretty good start, but it got even better. Yesterday morning, I made my favourite homemade baked beans (just chop up and fry onion and garlic, then add tomato puree, passata, a bit of vegetable stock and some beans. I went with cannellini beans and butter beans this time. Yum!). I also made the the quinoa tabbouleh from Deliciously Ella’s cookbook, coconut chicken nuggets from I Quit Sugar and then I made a delicious frittata in the evening. OK, I know that’s a lot of cooking but it only took a couple of hours in the morning and about 30 minutes in the evening and now I have loads of delicious food waiting for me in the fridge. Just knowing I’ve put in all the hard work and have so much good food waiting for me when I need a quick meal makes me feel calmer and more positive about being able to eat healthily throughout the week. It may seem like a chore, but I definitely think it’s worth taking a little time each week to prioritise your health because if you can get that right, then you’ll have so much more energy and motivation in other areas of your life.

x

Ps. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding stories about people who have healed themselves through food intriguing and inspiring. As well as the Deliciouly Ella blog, I have found Against All Grain and I Quit Sugar so helpful and I go back to them time and time again for inspiration. I’d love to get some recommendations from readers if you know of any other good blogs.

This morning I had breakfast. I realise this isn’t the most exciting statement to open with but I don’t usually have breakfast before going out to see my first PT client. This is because a) it feels too early to eat and b) I often like to fit in a quick workout before I go. But this morning I just felt like doing things a bit differently so I decided to use my morning to eat a healthy breakfast and do some writing.

For me, this month is all about changing some of the habits that have become so ingrained I don’t even question them anymore; habits such as always putting exercise at the top of the priority list or getting in a state when my plans get disrupted in some way.

I know I said in my previous post that one of the keys to success is a bit of planning and I definitely think this is true. However, I also think I need to learn to be a bit more flexible and less hard on myself when things don’t go to plan because, let’s face it, they often don’t – that’s life.

So this morning, rather than getting straight into my workout gear as soon as I’d packed my daughter off to nursery, I chose to have breakfast and so some writing. As the guilt began to take hold at the thought of skipping a planned workout and eating breakfast instead, I reminded myself that one of my goals for February is to write more often. As I haven’t suddenly gained more hours in the day, fitting in extra writing time might mean exercise has to take back seat from time to time. Of course, I’m not giving up on exercise all together – that would be stupid and counterproductive – but if I want the odd day off then that’s OK. So long as I continue to eat healthily, nothing terrible is going to happen to my body if I skip a few exercise sessions but I might just find the time to do all the other things I’ve been promising to do for years.

Now that you’ve made your February ‘Love Yourself’ plan, take a look at it and see if there’s anything you can do differently or if there’s a bit of room for flexibility and change in there. After all, I’ve heard that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is madness!

x

Hello,

So it’s time to get ready for February. Before we start, we need to decide what it is we want to achieve this month. Try not to go to big. Remember, this is the ‘love yourself’ club and though the title is cheesy, the idea is that we approach things from a slightly different angle and hopefully learn to achieve more and succeed at our goals by being just a little bit kinder to ourselves rather than beating ourselves up.

For me, the key to sticking to anything is being a little bit organised so once you’ve decided on your goal(s), take a bit of time to plot out how your week is going to look. Plan out when you’re going to fit in whatever it is you want to fit in and what you need to do to prepare for the week.

My first goal is to find more time to write. This time is not going to just appear one day: I’m going to have to schedule it into my week and make sure I don’t give into other distractions (housework, coffee with friends, internet surfing etc.) during that time. My second goal is to curb my sugar cravings. I know what I’m like: if I let my blood sugar levels get too low or deny myself tasty treats completely, I end up caving and ‘pigging’ out, so I need to plan and prepare for this in advance to avoid it happening.

I have a day off on Monday, so I’m going to spend a few hours on Monday morning preparing some tasty sugar-free banana bread and homemade sweet potato crisps to pick at when I need something nice to munch on. I’m also going to spend 5 minutes each evening chopping up fruit and raw peppers so that I have them ready to snack on the next day. I love eating these foods but never have the patience to chop them up when it actually comes to wanting to eat them. Silly but true.

What are our goals and how are you going to go about achieving them this week? Please share on here or remember to send me a message on facebook so that I can add you to our group.

x

Hello. How has 2015 been treating you so far?

It’s been a busy few months for me: I got married in November and then there was Christmas and New Year, and then a couple of weeks ago we moved house. All of these are very happy events, but also immensely draining and I’m afraid to say they’ve left me a bit exhausted and lacking in ‘get up and go’! I know I’m not alone in this: a lot of people I’ve talked to recently have said they feel the same. We all started the year with such enthusiasm and with so many promises to be the fittest and healthiest we’ve ever been but I think the reality is that with dark mornings and evenings, cold weather, having to go back to work, and the after-effects of Christmas, many of us feel the strain in January.

That’s why I’m setting up a February ‘Love Yourself’ club. OK, I know this sounds a bit cheesy but it’s really not. This is a chance for you to spend a little bit more time focussing on yourself and what you really want to achieve. If you keep on promising to do something but never quite get around to it, now is your chance. Or if you think you’ve been too hard on yourself recently and fancy a break from all the negative, self-sabotaging thoughts, February is the month for you.

I don’t know about you, but I can be pretty nasty to myself sometimes. I boss myself about and deprive myself and judge myself in ways I would never judge anyone else, especially someone I love. I’m always telling my personal training clients to be kinder to themselves and forgive themselves when they ‘slip up’ by having a bit of chocolate or a couple of drinks, and yet I’m not always so nice to myself about these things. January can be an especially difficult month because so many of us start the year by setting ourselves harsh and overambitious resolutions; we then get down and disappointed when we don’t stick to these resolutions. Of course, it’s good to have goals and to challenge ourselves but it is also important to allow ourselves a little bit of down time to do what we want to do rather than what we think we should be doing.

This is where the ‘Love Yourself’ club comes in. It’s a chance to spend a whole month focussing on just one or two personal goals and learning how to be a bit kinder to yourself. Perhaps your goal is health and fitness related like trying out a gluten-free diet or working on a specific aspect of your fitness; perhaps you want to spend more time cooking healthy home-made meals or meditating or learning a new skill; perhaps you just want to find time each week to read a book. It can be anything really: for example, this February I want to curb my sweet tooth once and for all and I also want to find more time to write each week.

You can join in by following this blog and you can also join the private ‘Love Yourself’ Facebook group by finding me on Facebook (here) and sending me a message, asking to be added to the group. Anyone is welcome. Whatever it is you think you want to do, even if it’s as vague as being healthier in general, the ‘Love Yourself’ club is a chance for you to spend a whole month focussing on you and getting support and inspiration from others who are doing the same thing. 

Whether you’re joining me on Facebook or just joining me in spirit, here’s to a wonderful February!

x