The Diminishing Vegan

Veganism and Weight Loss

Category: During (Page 1 of 2)

My Approach to Social Media

This post comes off the back of a mammoth post about veganism, and specifically the damage caused by red meat to both humans and the environment, made by my husband on Facebook recently which sparked a lot of debate (and outrage from some).

My husband’s general way of using Social Media is very brash, he has no care for offending anyone, deeming offence solely with the reader. I do agree with this, however, my approach to social media is the opposite to his. Instead of not caring at all about others I worry too much that I may offend them! This is on my personal page, on my diminishing vegan page I post anything as my thoughts are that people have to go there to follow it therefore are fine with what I say.

I noticed pre any vegan related posts I used to get a lot of likes on things. Now please believe me when I say that I couldn’t care less whether lots of people “liked” what I have said. But I have noticed a sharp decline since I went vegan. My assumption is that people who I’m not that close to have unfollowed me. Of course that is people’s right to, the truth is hard to take especially from someone you went to school with in the mid 90’s and have never seen in person since. It’s easier to hide than read and think.

This correlation though between veganism and likes made me think about whether I was offending people, was I doing wrong by sharing things about veganism? I never shared any graphic content, more interesting articles and information I thought people may not know, often not even saying anything of my own.

My worry about this led to this website, my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I occasionally shared something on facebook, usually about visiting a vegan festival or the like, but I pretty much stopped sharing information. That was until I witnessed the blow up on my husband’s status. A lot of people on his status said that this was not the right way about getting your point across, but having done it the other way for a year a half I can say he got more reaction than I ever have!

So I have started sharing on my personal facebook again, I ensure as far as I can what I share is from a legitimate source, try to find academic backup, and I even give a commentary on it.

So far I’ve had one bacon joke, original eh? I’m going to keep posting. It is too important not to. Climate change has been in the news so much recently and many people don’t even know the impact their diet has on the planet. If they don’t care about animals, surely they will care about what happens to their children/grandchildren. I need to take a page out of my husbands book and just get on with it, and stop worrying about things I have no control over, it is not on me to think about the offence of every single person on my Facebook!

How much do you share on Facebook? Do you think about what others think about you?

Remember you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, My Fitness Pal and Fitbit. Add me on any or all, I love new friends on all social media for support ūüôā

Impossible to lose weight?

This week I stumbled across this story as I was getting up for an early morning run. Additionally to this a popular fitness page I follow on Facebook has been discussing it at length all week. (Although the published date is 2014 so unsure why it popped up again).

So what is the jist of the article? That it is essentially impossible for people to achieve long term weight loss, in their words it only happens to “the smallest minority of people”.

This article really gave me mixed feelings. I can understand the logic behind it. When you look around the world people are generally getting larger, weight loss is difficult, most people fail, not that many reach and maintain a healthy weight.

However, is it impossible? Surely not. I’m an optimist, I like to think most things are possible. Not flying to the moon, or holding my breath for 10 minutes, but you know, achievable things, like possibly one day running a marathon, getting a good job, being happy, or reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

My issue with this article is that it may steal people’s hope. My weight loss has been slow, and not so steady, but I have maintained that weight loss (mostly) for two years. But part of me does believe that many people get bigger and bigger, and as they get bigger their body adjusts to the new “normal”, then, when you eat at a deficit and exercise more, initially some weight falls off. Eventually though your body begins to think it is under attack and will do whatever it can to stick where it is, or even worse regain what you had lost.

This is where the whole weight loss journey is most important for me, and my attitude is don’t ever give up. Keep focused. We do focus on the numbers on a scale too much, and this is part of my reason for leaving slimming world, unachievable weight loss targets. Weight loss is not linear, not for anyone I know. But I do believe it is achievable if you are willing to commit to the long long goal.

Diet’s won’t work in the long term, strict caloric deficits won’t work in the long term, going like a bat out of hell exercising won’t work in the long term. A change of lifestyle (as cliched as it sounds) is the only way out. Food, exercise, general activity levels. You don’t need to be obsessed, but you do need to be focused. We all know how easy it is for weight to go back on. And why not be focused? We only have one lifetime, surely we are worth it?

What I took from that article initially was a feeling of being disheartened. However, as I thought about it, and considered the reality of the obesity epidemic, I do understand. Is it impossible to lose weight? Never. With the right attitude, life changes, commitment and focus, not so much on the numbers but on health and lifestyle, I believe it can be done. Hopefully I’m going to keep proving it too.

Remember you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, My Fitness Pal and Fitbit. Add me on any or all, I love new friends on all social media for support ūüôā

Reaching the lowest weight ever on my fitness pal

Reaching my lowest ever weight on MFP

When I first signed up to My Fitness Pal way back in 2011 I knew I had found something that I would enjoy, I had previously counted calories in a book (like I watched my mum doing for years previously), and having a website/app to do this on just really got me hyped up. I thought wow, this is it, I will reach my goal weight in no time!

My starting weight was 270 pounds, just over 19 stone, 122.5 kg. Not a good weight to start at, I still marvel at how I got to that weight (and it wasn’t even the last time I was there!).

My weight loss was very quick in the beginning, I dropped to 225 within 4 months, then hit a bit of a blip and gained a little, and¬†reached 215 in November 2012. All I could think is just over a stone till I’m in the 100’s. I was so excited, feeling good, looking back though I was still eating crap, but not too much of it. Something changed however and I started on a gaining streak, I took my eye off the ball, and the weight piled back on.

By May of 2013 I was back to 260, almost right back where I had started. I managed to get back down to 243, going in the right direction, then my mum died in September 2013. As you can imagine, weight loss was literally the furthest thing from my mind, in fact I almost took this as a cue to rebel, eat whatever I wanted in whatever portion size I wanted, who could blame me I thought? The next year and a half where a bit of a yoyo, bouncing between 260 – 230, then my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour and off I went again, eat eat eat, I lived on takeaways. I juggled staying with my dad part time, being a mother, and completing my undergraduate degree, but my health suffered, I smoked, ate whatever I wanted, my asthma was awful, I could barely walk any distance and my weight was back at that all time high of 270 pounds. What a depressing time that was, at times I just couldn’t see a way out.

Just before my dad died at the end of May 2015, ¬†I promised him I would stop smoking, he was worried for me, he had smoked himself and quit many years previously. He also worried about my weight, general health. I quit smoking less than a week after he died, and I’m now about to reach two years free. I lost half a stone within that first week of him dying too. I knew I had to do it, and especially to not replace smoking with food. It didn’t matter how long or hard it was, I was going to improve my health, for me, for them, for my children.

It’s taken me two years, but I am now down four stone. Additionally to that I am the lowest weight I have ever been on My Fitness Pal, 213.5 pounds which is a massive milestone for me. Looking at my all time weight loss chart for years and seeing that low point in 2012 has driven me mad over the years.

Reaching my lowest ever weight on my fitness pal

It has not been straightforward, I had a blip and gained for a while but instead of reaching that 270 pounds I turned it around and have progressively lost. I am far from the fastest loser, it has been frustratingly slow in fact! However I had lost/gained for years and I am sure this messed up my metabolism and queues for weight loss. Plus it’s not a race, they say it’s more indicative of long term stability to lose it slowly, I don’t know for sure whether that’s true but I tell myself it is.

My diet is spectacularly good compared to any previous weight loss attempts, in fact compared to any period in my life. I exercise more than I ever did, I am generally more active, even with a full time desk job. I get up early, meditate, walk, run, do yoga, eat well and feel good inside and out. I’m grateful for life, and I’m even grateful for the weight loss journey. It has taught me a lot about myself I would never have known otherwise, and I know when I get to a healthy point somewhere down the line I am going to be so proud of myself, and so happy for being there. I already am.

Remember you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, My Fitness Pal and Fitbit. Add me on any or all, I love new friends on all social media for support ūüôā

Running Update – May 2017

Well, I had intended to be doing this running update about three months ago. In my usual style however I missed a couple of planned runs, stopped going to the gym and before you know it had stopped running again.

I was serious way back in January when I said I wanted to run a 10k this year however, and I often have the nagging thought that time is slipping by and I am no closer to one of my major goals for this year. So around a month¬†ago I decided to take a long hard look at my schedule and see where I could fit in running. I know that if I don’t get it in a workable schedule I just won’t keep it up, I feel this is an important step for anyone who is looking to start a new habit. If you are like me and you are not a fan of doing things in the evenings, there is no point planning to go running when you get in from work at 6 pm.

Looking at my schedule, and knowing I wanted to fit in at least three runs a week, this means that I have to run on work days, there is no way around this. When though? I leave the house pretty early and I’m not back until pretty late, at which point dinner making and cleaning takes over. The only time available to me for running is in the morning.

I already get up at 4:45 am, but ¬†I often make lunches in the mornings, so I decided to move this to the night before, on running mornings bump my alarm clock time forward to 4:30 am, with an aim to be out and running by 5. Honestly, if you had told me about a year and a half ago I would be getting up at 4:30 am with not much bother I wouldn’t have believed you.

So how is it going? Fine. Better than fine in fact. I started at week 3 of the couch to 5 k and tomorrow I’m onto week 5. After my run I still need to take my dog out which means some mornings before I even get to work I’m hitting over 8000 steps, not bad for such an early start. Am I little more tired a work? A tiny bit, but really not much. I will have an extra coffee if I need it but so far so good. How will it work as the runs get longer? I may need to get out even earlier to run, but pushing it back 10 minutes at a time makes for less of a stark shock at getting up so early.

I’m feeling good, in the last two weeks I’ve lost 3 pounds which I am putting down to running, time restricted eating/intermittent fasting and generally mostly adhering to a plant based diet. On top of some movement on the scales I’m really beginning to see the difference in my body and clothes so I’m excited for the next few weeks and months!

Remember you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, My Fitness Pal and Fitbit. Add me on any or all, I love new friends on all social media for support ūüôā

Intermittent Fasting – 12/12 and 10/14

After hearing in multiple health podcasts how great Intermittent Fasting is for you, and having read about it for some time, I have been keen to try it out but a little wary.

I think most people have heard  of 5/2, where you eat normally for 5 days then eat very restricted (around 500 calories) on the other two, I follow a lot of people on Instagram who  do this, and while it appeals, (and definitely seems to work) I think I would really struggle on my two fasting days. Food is an important part of my day, the thought of only have 500 calories twice a week just makes me sad.

Another form of fasting I heard of used Eating Windows. This is where you only eat within a limited number of hours of the day. After doing a little reading, I found that even limiting your eating to 12 hours a day showed positive side effects, and weight loss. This may seem like common sense, but for me, on a general day this never happens. I get up and often have breakfast by 5 am, don’t have dinner until 7 and sometimes a snack/pudding as late as 9. There is not a lot of space in there! Plus, I have always always¬†always¬†found that if I eat late at night I don’t lose weight. That seems to go against the common thought now that it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat, all you need to do is eat the right stuff. Well, I eat the right foods, even if I have a bowl of cherry tomatoes in the evening it will affect me the next day.

After reading about eating windows I thought I would jump right in and give it a bash, my plan is as follows:

I will finish eating by 7:15 pm every night (except maybe one day at the weekend)

I’m running again, now very early in the morning, 5 am, so on running mornings I will have my breakfast at 7:15 am. I leave for work at 7:30 so I need to be ready to go before having breakfast. This gives me a 12 hour eating window.

On days where I’m not running I will take my breakfast to work and not have it until at least 9:15, however I will attempt to extend that as far as I can. Once I’m in work sitting behind a computer I forget about food more than if I’m up walking about.

So 3 days a week I will do roughly a 12 hour fast, 3 days a week at 14-15 hour fast, and 1 whatever I fancy, fast or not.

I’m 5 days in now and how am I finding it? Fine. Like, totally fine. I’ve lost a pound this week, and I lost two last week (probably due to be restarting running, a post on that is coming soon), so my weight is on the move again.

Another thing to note, I don’t feel anywhere near as bloated in the morning, and I find running a little easier. I am running on an empty stomach (fasted cardio I believe this is called), not for any particular reason other than this is the only time I have to fit it in, but it feels good!

I may eventually stretch the fasting period to 16-8, but it’s hard when I’m out working and not home till 6pm, for the next few weeks though I’ll keep this up and see how it goes!

Remember you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, My Fitness Pal and Fitbit, feel free to follow/add me on any or all of them.

The lasting effects of yo-yo weight loss

Don’t get me wrong, my diet is far from perfect. Sometimes I eat too much, snack a little here, takeaway a little too much, but a lot of the time (at least 80%) I eat healthy wholefoods, in reasonable amounts. But I really struggle to lose weight at a normal rate, and I’m beginning to think this may have something to do with yo-yo weight loss. I have lost three stone three times separate times now, this time is the most I’ve ever managed. Every time, other than this I put it all back on (quick) plus more.

I have been at this weight loss attempt for nearly two years, and I’ve only lost four stone. I know, I know, four stone is great, but even at 1 pound a week, that should be at 104 pounds. I’m less than half of that.

I have been to the doctors and had tests carried out, Thyroid was fine, hormones were fine (these were all a fairly long time ago but I doubt anything has changed). I don’t think there is any measurable reason as to why I struggle. I do however think that years of dieting/gaining have lead to a body that isn’t sure what’s happening. I have read of the effects of yo-yo dieting, and while I’ve never heavily restricted, or tried any too crazy diets, I have been on this cycle of weight loss gain now for years, all of my adult life. Is that enough to mess up a metabolism? It might just be as I see no other reason as to why it’s happening.

On the other hand there are some seriously good things to take from this, and my life now even if I am still currently overweight. I have managed to maintain this weight loss effort for nearly 2 years. This has never happened before.

Not only that I seriously eat healthier than I ever have in my life, healthier than anyone I know. I am hitting my daily dozen nearly every day. Daily Dozen is an app by Dr Michael Greger over at NutritionFacts.org which he recommends 12 essential things every single day, you can check it out the app here and an article about on MindBodyGreen. I average around 8 Р11 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

I walk more than I ever have, and would do more if I had the time. Ideally I would like to up my exercise, and get my diet to perfect around 90% rather than the current 80%, but my lifestyle has changed and for that I’m happy, and feel great.

I may not be the weight I’d like to be, but I’m not going to let that knock me off the journey to health. It’s not just about the number on the scales. If my body needs some time to readjust after the damage I have done so be it. I’ll still be here, eating well, exercising more and living a healthy life¬†for when it’s ready.

Whole Foods Plant Based

I made a number of New Years Resolutions for 2017, as laid out in my post in January found here. I set a word for the year, Simplify. At some point I will do a proper catch up but today’s post ties into this, I’m going to discuss the difference between Vegan vs Whole Foods Plant Based, and where I lie on this.

Vegan¬†is generally for ethical reasons, this could be ethics relating to animals, or the ¬†future of the planet. Vegan is not a diet as such, although you can follow a vegan diet. The word vegan transcends diet to cover your whole lifestyle, it is a lifestyle whereby you avoid the use of animal products as far as possible in all areas. Vegan does not equate to healthy though. I think assumptions are made that if you can’t eat animals/dairy/eggs what can you eat? Surely it’s just fruit and vegetables (and pasta grains etc). No! shout the vegans, there is a huge amount of vegan junk food, accidental or deliberate. (I’m forever grateful for the accidentally vegan co-op doughuts for example).

Whole foods plant based is a diet, however, you can be a vegan following a whole foods plant based diet. WFPB does relate to what you eat, which is mainly¬†natural plant based foods in their whole form. They don’t need to be organic, or raw. Just whole, and plant based.

What counts as plant based? ¬†Fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes¬†and nuts. What isn’t plant based? Animal products, meat, overly refined foods such as sugar, white flours, and some would say oil. Why do people choose a wfpb diet? Namely health, there is mounting evidence to say this is our optimal diet for short and long term health. (Much of this evidence is reviewed on the website nutritionfacts.org, check it out if you haven’t, Dr Michael Greger is a total legend in the nutrition world).

So where am I on this scale? I would say I am a vegan, who tries to follow a Whole Foods Plant Based diet around 80% of the time, with 20% being still vegan, but not whole foods. Pasta, I just can’t quit you! (although I do try to have wholegrain as much as possible)

How does this fit in with my New Years Resolution? Well, I have a number of personal reasons for moving towards wfpb. I truly believe it is the healthiest option. I also believe it is the only way I can lose weight, whole foods are nutritionally dense but calorifically low. This fits in with my propensity to eat a lot, large portions of wfpb is preferable to large portions of junk on a purely calorific level.

Additionally, I like to remove some of the needless decisions from my life. So I simplified my weekly meal plans to a mostly plant based diet (and have mostly stuck to this). This has became increasingly important now I am working a full time job. I know what I’m having every week (with a little editing), it’s fresh, healthy and filling.

I feel there are so many benefits to eating plant based, recently people have been saying my skin looks great. People at my new job were shocked when I revealed I had a teenage son and was in my mid 30’s. I know, I know, they could (probably are) just being polite, but I do feel as if I am looking healthy. Skin, eyes, hair. I can really only put this down to my diet. I’m full of energy, don’t really get tired (until bed time), don’t struggle out of bed at 4:45 am, pretty much always manage my step goal, housework, time with kids. My head is in a good place, body feels it too, and again, I think this comes back to what I’m putting in my body.

Now if I could cut the impromptu takeaways/crisp sandwiches/jam doughnuts down to maybe 5% I might actually be lose more weight!

Weaknesses

Everyone has weaknesses when it comes to being healthy and losing weight, I think the most common one I hear from nearly everyone is chocolate. ¬†I never liked chocolate much even in my pre-vegan days, and less so now. I’m not a fan of vegan milk chocolate, I have a little dark chocolate occasionally but nothing to affect me.

Another one I hear is crisps,¬†again, I do like crisps, but generally I can stop myself from eating too many (unless it’s a large bag of these, then I’m going to struggle to stop!)

If I was trying to quantify my weaknesses I would say they can be boiled down into two distinct, but related areas. Portion size and takeaway food.

Portion Size

Portion size is something that I think about a surprisingly high amount, when I see pictures of other people’s food on Instagram I actually feel embarrassed with my own. I love a big meal, I know sometimes¬†that what I am eating is just too much. I alleviate the guilt a little¬†by not overthinking¬†fruit and veg in large portions, for example yesterday I had a rice and veg teriyaki stir fry for lunch which had what I would consider a¬†large amount of vegetables (half an onion, 4 mushrooms, 2 celery sticks, 2 handfuls of spinach, 1 handful of mixed cabbage), I had this with leftover rice (1 cup), seeds (Flaxseed and hemp) and teriyaki sauce, so it was a fairly substantial lunch. Was it too big? I’m unsure, I’m not sure if my portions are large or other people’s are small! I do try to weigh my problem foods for portions, rice, pasta, grains, beans. All healthy but sometimes I eat a substantial amount. Mostly healthy, not great for weight loss.

Takeaways

Takeaways, oh how I love and hate you equally. Takeaways are no doubt a huge part of the reason I am overweight, and how I got so overweight in the first place. Takeaways also tie in heavily to the Portion Size issues I have.

I do all of the cooking in my house, I always have, and in all likelihood will continue to do so. My husband can’t cook, he was just never shown how, and has no interest in cooking, I could try to force him into it but I would feel bad, he just isn’t interested. Additionally, I quite enjoy cooking sometimes, I like making something new, I don’t do that too often though due to time constraints.

As much as I like cooking, I also like not cooking. Sometimes the thought of having to prepare a meal in the evening after working, or even on days off, it is just too much. There isn’t much I can get pre-prepared as a vegan, so I often jump to the easiest option, takeaway.

There are so many reasons I don’t want to eat takeaway, here are a few of them

  1. They are bad for me, too much oil, salt and fat
  2. I always feel ill the next day, always, doesn’t matter what I get
  3. I eat too much, I have zero self control when it comes to portions and takeaways
  4. They cost too much, for the four of us it’s at least ¬£20 for a cheap takeaway, usually more though. For one meal. I spend nowhere near that for home made, that ¬£20 would probably cover 3 meals for the four of us
  5. They are never as nice as I want them to be, there is one takeaway that is 20 minutes away that I love, but the 4 above reasons count even for there

There is one reason I want a takeaway,

  1. I can’t be bothered cooking

That’s it. Sometimes, too often, that one reason overrides the five listed above (and I’m sure there would be more if I thought about it for longer). I try techniques to avoid takeaways, I have a slow cooker that I’ve barely used, but am planning to from next week. I choose meals that although being homecooked take as little time as possible (that people in my house will eat). I pre-cook elements of meals at the weekend (Pasta Sauce, Lentils, Mashed Potato), which I’m going to try to stop doing mostly in favour of using the slow cooker. Sometimes even the putting together of meals is too much for me to be bothered to do.

I can’t really call it laziness, I’m certainly not a lazy person. It’s just at that time of the day all my willpower is depleted, and I often jump to the easiest, unhealthiest option.

I’m not sure really what steps to take to curb this, I have often wished for a takeaway that would make me ill, putting me off for life (although sadly I’m not even sure that would work). If all the takeaways within a 10 mile radius would shut that would be a good start.

I would really like to improve how I handle weaknesses,¬†I can do great all week then bam, two nights in a row I’ll have takeaway and it ruins the hard work. I also find this is only an issue with evening meals, I very rarely eat anything pre-prepared for breakfast or lunch, in fact I avoid them, I wish I could transfer that to evenings.

Both of these problems ultimately come down to resetting my head and thought processes. Portions, is the easier problem, I can weigh things. There is no reason to have tiny portions, I enjoy food and although I want to lose weight starving myself is not an option I am willing (or able!) to take. Takeaways though, that requires a shift in thinking. I need to start to see them for what they are, unhealthy, overpriced junk. They don’t align with my values to being healthy, so therefore should play a much smaller part in my diet. One every two weeks, fine, one twice a week, not fine.

If you have similar weaknesses and have any ideas how to combat them please share them with me via instagram, facebook or twitter.

Apologies for my absence…| New Job

Hello to anyone reading! I can only apologise for my absence, things have been very hectic in my life in the last few weeks.

Two weeks ago I started my first graduate job. This is something I’d been trying to get since the start of the year so I’m lucky and grateful it didn’t take me that long to get, and I’m in a place with great people, where I’m going to learn a lot of new skills, doing things slightly different from my degree but familiar enough to be comfortable with. My background is with computers, computer programming, totally different from this blog. For a long time I seriously doubted my skills in this area, ridiculous considering I got very good results at University at Undergraduate and Postgraduate, I think I suffer with imposter syndrome, which is very common according to the internet.

Getting this job has been a massive step forward for me,¬†even attending interviews and attempting to speak about my skills was a huge hurdle. I think the hardest bit was getting my head around the fact that I could actually manage a professional job, I just didn’t believe it for a long time. It has also led to a shift in my whole lifestyle. I’m no longer available to pick the kids up from school, I’m not at home during the day, I’m adjusting to having less free time.

There is another side to this too though, I’m actually beginning to believe in myself. I am gradually realising that I’m perfectly fine at what I’m doing, yes, I am needing to learn a lot of new skills but surely this can only be a good thing in the long term. It is expanding my knowledge, that in the future can be used, and I actually love learning. I’m interacting with new people daily, and I love meeting new people. And the obvious benefit to working, having more money.

I know, I consider myself a minimalist (of some version), and I will not be rushing out to start going mad with consumerism. But there are some things in life that require money, for example a car that actually works, or holidays. These are things that I’ve just not been in a position to think about, but now I will be, and I believe our family life while being different is going to improve.

So again, I apologise for my quietness, things are changing in my life, it is on a different trajectory, but that doesn’t change that I’m still me, a vegan trying to lose weight. I will be trying to post more regularly from now, so hang with me please!

Remember you can find me on facebook, twitter, instagram, my fitness pal and fitbit, feel free to follow and interact with me on any or all.

 

Finally Making Progress? | February 2017 Update

February 2017 Update

I’ve decided I’m going to do some monthly updates, previously when I was following slimming world I was doing a weekly food diary but it takes up quite a lot of time and my diary is visible on my fitness pal, so you can check it out there.

It’s one week since I managed to get over that 50 pound wall that I had been stuck behind for so flipping long, and I’ve lost another pound this week taking me to 51.5. I believe this is it, I’m not sure why but I have good feelings about the future and my weight loss goals. I¬†feel this week my relationship with food has began to change, I’m not thinking about it so much, one day this week I even had a massive bag of crisps (these bad boys¬†at 470 calories a big bag) for lunch. Now I know, I don’t want to fall into the unhealthy eating trap. But I also know that I can get so focused on what I’m eating and when, it becomes overwhelming. Then, when I fail to drop even a measly half a pound I get really annoyed, which often ends up with me eating more. And the circle continues.

But this week things have been a little different, I’ve stayed within my calorie amount but I’ve eaten a little differently. Nothing awful, but I’ve just not thought about it as much. And I think as a result this past week has been quite successful, and I’ve lost another pound.

Additionally this week I dug out some old clothes, jeans and a top I remember wearing to my first day of uni back in September 2012, I’m pretty sure they didn’t fit me anymore by the start of next year. But I am pleased to say I wore them all day on Friday, and dare I say it the top was maybe even a little big?

I also took measurements for the first time in about 6 weeks and I’ve lost another 3 inches, one from under my bust, one from my waist and one from my hips. After comparing with my starting measurements ¬†back in May of 2015 I have actually lost 7 inches from my waist! 7 inches! I held the measuring tape out around me at what my waist used to be and I was shocked! I often feel like there isn’t much difference in me physically but that proved me wrong, there absolutely must be. 24.5 inches all over is the difference in me. I also weighed my dog, I’ve lost 2.5 of him, and 2/3 of my daughter, you get the picture, I’m pleased to get over that hurdle!

Anyway, I’m not going to get complacent, but I have a feeling that now things are moving again they may keep going. I had a year there of maintaining, gaining a bit of it back and then losing it again, and I stuck it out, didn’t go back to my original weight or more, so I feel this has been a victory. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few months hold!

50 Pounds Lost | Weight Loss Milestone

First of all, I’m sorry for my absence of late, I have been trying to get a graduate job in the real world and it is taking up a lot of time, applications, interviews, then preparing, it’s constant, hopefully it will pay off soon.

I have reached what I feel is a¬†monumental point in my weight loss journey. I have (finally!) reached 50 pounds lost. This is a milestone I have been trying to reach for nearly a year and honestly for a long time I’ve worried I would be forever destined to reach 49 then gain weight again. Why oh why has 50 been so hard?

Last year, last May I reached 49 pounds lost, weeks (months) of trying and failing to get that ONE EXTRA POUND left me frustrated. Is it a mental block? Do I start self sabotaging when I reach a milestone such as 50? It’s difficult for me to know, but whatever the reason is it drew my weight loss efforts to a halt.

My weight eventually began to climb again by around 18 pounds (aided by too many lazy takeaways). Aware I was entering dangerous “gain it all back and more” territory I joined Slimming World hoping the public weighting would stem the tide and get me off the bad eating. It worked, I got back down to 49 (then left slimming world due to frustrations over the plan itself), and on Saturday 18th February I reached 50 pounds lost, not just 50, it was actually 50.5. The relief I felt, it was immense. It’s funny, because I still have 80 to go to my target weight of 10 stone but for some reason this one pound has been harder than the previous 50.

I’m not going to focus on why it’s been such a struggle, who knows what’s going on my head, but I’ve made it through it and now I’m focusing on one day at a time. Calorie Counting has been going well on My Fitness Pal, so I’ll keep that up and see what the future holds, hopefully reaching my target weight sometime in my lifetime!

Remember you can find me on My Fitness Pal, Fitbit, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, feel free to reach out and let me know how you manage to get through those hard points in weight loss.

Thoughts on Calorie Counting

As I stated in my previous post earlier this week, I’m firmly back on the weight loss wagon. A large part of this has been due to stopping following slimming world and going back to my fitness pal and calorie counting. Now I really don’t want this post to come across as a major moan-fest at slimming world (or other weight loss clubs), they work¬†for some people, although I do question the long term success of them. But there are some parts of slimming world specifically that I really question, not only for vegans, but for everyone.

Logic dictates to me that the most straightforward way of losing weight is to count calories, ultimately our bodies burn calories, and we take calories in via food, so therefore if you want to lose weight you should eat less calories than you burn, calorie counting. There are other things to be considered, what you are eating, how that will impact your health, but ultimately, for weight loss, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. That is why I love my fitness pal. It’s free, it has a massive catalogue of foods, it shows not only calories but nutrition, exercise, and it is a social network.

I grew up watching my mum count calories, I remember she had a book she kept in the kitchen that had the calorie content of many foods in it, I remember her looking at it regularly, I also used to study it. She was never that big, never as overweight as I was, in fact in her youth she was the opposite, but after having me, and settling into life as a mother the weight crept on. Her first thought was counting calories. She spent most of her adult life a little overweight, but not much. That is not to say her diet was healthy, it wasn’t, she added salt to everything, barely touched a vegetable, ate chicken every single day (for pretty much every single meal). She suffered high blood pressure, and died of a heart attack in the end, whether this was to do with her diet I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a correlation.

Back to slimming world, their rules about being able to eat lots of food things freely (until full), there is something about this that just sounds too good to be true. Vegetables (excluding potatoes and some other root vegetables) are very light on calories, so those I can understand, and some fruits also. These are the “speed” options, that speed up your weight loss (this also doesn’t make sense, surely the only thing that can really speed up your weight loss is eating less?), now these are all good for you, but totally freely, nothing is good for you. It’s possible to overeat anything.

Next we move onto free foods, as the name dictates these are also free (as long as you are eating a lot of speed foods too). Free foods – pasta, potatoes, rice, lean meat (including bacon!). These (minus the meat obviously) are a big part of my problem, when I hear the word free attached to these it’s like a field day. Rice, Pasta, Potatoes! I love these! Eating these freely is a no-no for me sadly(and I guess many other people). I’m just not capable of stopping myself, I have a problem telling when I’m actually full.

Healthy extras, it’s good they encourage people to eat wholegrains, dairy I disagree with, and barely any vegan dairy substitutes count so I would pretty much always not have a Healthy Extra A. Plus Hi-Fi bars are counted as a healthy extra? Isn’t that a surprise, considering they are overpriced slimming world food only available at slimming world groups? And what’s even in them? How on earth can they be deemed a “Healthy Extra?!”

Syns, these annoy me. I know, it stands for synergy, but lets face it, no one thinks of that. We all think we are sinning when we eat these foods. The things that require syns are just madness. People can pretty much freely stuff their faces with muller lights, but an avocado is 9.5 syns (out of 15 per day), I know, I know, it has fat in it, there are such things as good fats, and unless you are eating multiple avocados I think the odd one is fine, even when calorie counting you would need to watch how many you eat.

Or a smoothie, with the same amount of fruit that you would usually eat is at least 5 syns (because fibre/fullness/other nonsense reasons). So much vegan stuff has high syns, take morrisons vegan sausages, 2 syns each. Now I’m not saying they are a perfect diet choice, but you compare them with syn free (so you can literally eat as many as you want) slimming world pork sausages and morrisons meat free have less saturated fat¬†and more fibre, I personally just don’t think the syn value is justified. This is just one example, when following slimming world I found many of my syns had to go on my meals, rather than any kind of “treat”, which actually lead to me feeling a little deprived, especially after sitting in group and listening to everyone else talk about all this food that was free/very low syns, all of it not vegan.

Now, my ultimate aim is to reach a healthy weight, stop calorie counting, eat mainly plants and enjoy life, but at this point in time I need to track what is coming in. I still have a lot of weight loss to go, and this, “eat however much you want, until your full” just isn’t right for me. I also think that over the long term it’s not a good lesson for people, a few people I know who have lost large amounts of weight with slimming world have all put it back on (and more). Teaching people you can eat all of this food freely, I think could lead people back down the weight gain path. I’m no expert though, this is all my own ponderings. I know, weight loss is hard, I find it so hard myself, but I’m just not sure slimming world (or other meal plans/weight loss groups) is the right way about it, for me at least.

All of this is my own opinion of course, and if slimming world (or other weight loss groups) work for other people, then I’m happy for them! The most important thing is that people are getting healthier and losing weight. However I don’t think encouraging people to eat meat/eggs freely is healthy, and I believe calorie counting combined with eating mostly plants is the healthiest way to do it.

If you use my fitness pal you can find me here, feel free to add me, I’m also on fitbit, facebook, twitter and instagram, let me know what you agree or disagree with!

Why I get up at 5 am | Early Rising

5 am

If anyone had suggested to me when I was younger that not too far in the future I would firmly believe 5 am is the best time to start your day, I would have laughed my head off. I was always an early riser, but 5 am was still the day before in my mind. 7 was acceptable, 6 was early, 5…madness.

But every day, my alarm is set for 5:02 am, that includes weekends (mostly). Why I hear you ask? There are a few reasons for me but I suppose if I was breaking it into three distinct areas, they would be as follows, peace and quiet, self reflection, routine.

Peace and Quiet

The world can be a busy, loud place. I live on a main road, it’s got cars on it at all times, a lot of cars. All day long I hear them in the background going past. When you get up at 5 am, you can hear the birds. There are cars too, but a lot less than during the later hours of the morning. In addition to being quieter externally, it is¬†also quiet in my house. When I get up it’s just me and my cat and dog. I feed them, give them some attention, they wander around after me, happy to see someone else up. The kids and my husband are asleep. I love this time for that reason. I grew up an only child and really cherish alone time. Getting up at 5 am allows me to have this.

Self Reflection

What I do at 5 am differs depending on what day it is, but there is always an element of self reflection, and self improvement. Every day I meditate for at least 5 minutes, more if I have time.¬†At the moment I’m using the free app insight timer, this has many different types of meditation, to music, nature, my favourite though at this time are guided, I find hearing the voice lead me keeps me on track. Currently I am meditating to forgiveness based meditations, but I have followed anxiety, self esteem and many other types. Starting my day with meditation is a beautiful and calming start to the day. Next up my day branches depending on later plans although I will usually have coffee at this point. I may include journalling, I try to do this daily, although sometimes if I can’t fit it in during the morning I do this at night. I also have a book of ideas to write about, to aid creativity, I find this a fun addition to my days, and do it at least 5 out of 7. I also write blog posts in the morning, scheduling them for later publishing. I may also do some yoga, especially when it’s a nice clear morning and the sun is rising.

Again, depending on the day, I leave to go to the gym around 5:45 am for a 6 am opening. On days I don’t go to the gym I take my dog out for a walk around 6 am. It is important for me to get exercise in early, it means that I can get on with the day and know I have done some activity.

Routine

Routine for me is really the underlying reason and motivation for getting up early. I have suffered with depression on and off for many years, and if I have a good, healthy routine, diet, and exercise included, this generally keeps it at bay. Getting up early gives me the chance to combine work on me, and peace and quiet, so it’s a win win. Getting up early allows for me to think about my day, and what I would like it to be about, setting an intention for myself, which I find very helpful.

One thing that does suffer as a result of getting up so early is my ability to stay up late at night, although I was never a night owl, now I like to be in bed for around 10, and I have a marvellous knack of being able to fall asleep in seconds. I usually get around 6.5 to 7.5 hours sleep, this may seem a little low but over the years I seem to have settled on this being sufficient, if I’m any under 6.5 I begin to feel a little tired, but anywhere in my 6.5 to 7.5 window and I’m great, no tiredness throughout the day. Sleep is so important, there is no point getting up at 5 am if you aren’t going to sleep until midnight. For me, those morning hours are more important and useful than the night time ones, where I would generally be sitting about watching TV, or eating!

There is a podcast I listen to that is really big advocate of early rising, plus he is also vegan, so definitely worth a listen, the 5 am miracle by Jeff Sanders, he is one of the most positive people I have listened to, his energy is really inspiring, so if you are looking for some motivation to get up early, or some productivity tips in general, I definitely recommend checking him out. What time do you get up? Do you have any other routines you would like to share? Feel free to comment on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Zombies Run | Weight Loss Apps

Zombies Run! is an app that I have been using now for over a year. It’s main aim ¬†is the gamaification of exercise, specifically, but not limited to running.

Zombies Run is a story, a funny, emotional, surprising, and very enjoyable story. You take the role of the voiceless runner 5, one of a group of people who carry out tasks for your township, Abel. It’s the zombie apocalypse, ¬†and with very little transport, some of the most important people are the runners, who risk life and limb to carry out tasks, investigate, travel to other townships, pretty much anything you can imagine.

One of the best points of this game is the story telling, there is quality there, there are ongoing characters, one of the main ones being Sam Yao, your operator (the person who speaks to you and controls your runs over headset). Janine De Luca, the military head of Abel Township, Maxine Myers, the doctor of Abel and many more. The story is very entertaining, it is ongoing, spans over 5 seasons with many hours of content.

Zombies Run Abel Township

In addition to the story, there is also a game within the game, the building of abel township, it is a little like the sims, but you earn materials to rebuild with by carrying out the missions. Although this is a neat little addition, nothing much really happens in it other thaZombies Run Mission Logn a drive to keep adding more buildings/people/get contentment as high as possible. They still regularly update the app though so may do something more here.

You can view stats of all of your past missions, as you can see I have played the game for quite a long time now! Unfortunately, for most of that I have been walking, running is something I am only recently beginning to take seriously, however, it is also fine to walk it, I have spent many many an hour (or day when it’s all added up) out speed walking with the dog listening to zombies run.

Zombies Run Previous Missions Zombies Run Mission Types

There are different types of mission available also, not just in the direct story. You can take part in air drops which means you specify a location on your map that you want to go to, and the mission will use your GPS to track when you get there, and build itself around your location. There are supply missions which get you materials to help build Abel, but you don’t need to continue the story for example.

Each mission you do is logged and stored. You can choose how to track your mission before you start, if you are outside this could be using gps, but there is also a treadmill step counter mode and a constant speed mode which simulates running if you were using a rowing machine for example. You can also allow chases, which occur at random intervals and require you to speed up for a certain amount of time, if caught you lose materials.

Zombies Run Stats

Fairly recently the makers have also added additional global races, these cost extra money to enter however you receive memorabilia from the game, medals, certificates, even T-shirts, and you get your name on the global leaderboards. These races are usually 5k or 10k, and you have to take part within a certain time frame to be ranked. I took part in the first one but as I was walking I was away down the list, I would definitely take part in another. I wear my zombies run t-shirt proudly to the gym, and use zombies run alongside couch to 5k for my treadmill runs. Zombies run integrates seamlessly with google play music (what I use for music), but many other music apps, it will interrupt and pause your music to play the next part of the story. You can also set it so that it only comes on inbetween songs, there is a lot of settings for you to choose from.

Overall, Zombies Run is a fun app if you are looking for something a little different to motivate your exercise. It costs ¬£2.30 per month to subscribe and I definitely think if you are using it regularly it is worth every penny. It’s easy to subscribe and unsubscribe as and when you are using it too, so you can use it for a while, drop out, come back etc, all of your progress is saved and it’s straight forward to pick it up. It is available for Android and App here, they also have books, a board game and other cool things available for fans. Additionally, they have a 5k training app, this is a separate app from the main game so I’m not covering that here, but it may be worth checking out.

Fitbit | Weight Loss Apps

The second app I’m speaking about really is more a tool and an app, it’s fitbit and their associated application and website. I currently own a charge 2, have previously owned a charge HR, one, and a zip. This has been over a number of years, since 2011 also, and at one point I kept accidentally washing them!

The fitbit’s first and foremost capability is that of a pedometer, for the charge 2 you wear it on your wrist and it tracks your steps. On top of that it also tracks stairs climbed (although I find this pretty inaccurate, especially on windy days), active minutes (where you are moving more than just a gentle walk)¬†and it prompts you to do 250 steps per hour to remain active throughout the day.

There are two different dashboards depending on whether you are using the mobile app or the website, however they both show the same information. The website dashboard is completely customisable, you can drag around tiles to order the information you want to see, or remove and add things as you like.fitbit mobile dashboard

fitbit website dashboard

 

 

 

 

Additionally, the charge 2 also tracks your heart rate using a little sensor which is against your upper wrist. This keeps track of your resting heart rate, and exercise heart rate. When you are completing exercise that is more than walking, you can set it into exercise mode. There are a number of modes for different types, for example run allows the charge to use your phones gps to track where your run was, there is also elliptical, treadmill, weights etc, that are better set up as opposed to the standard fitbit measurements.

fitbit heart rate

The charge 2 also tracks your sleep, it can sense when you have went to sleep, when you move around, and when you wake up. You set the time goals for this but this is a great feature. You can see your sleep on a weekly basis and also look at individual nights.

fitbit sleepfitbit more sleep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The integration with my fitness pal is very good as well, your steps are passed over as are your calories burned, although I do find these on the high side. These are added to your diary as a fitbit adjustment, you can also allow negative adjustments so if you’ve had a day you’ve not moved from the couch then fitbit will take away calories.

I actually really like my fitbit and do find that it motivates me to walk more, I park further away from shops, walk to them rather than drive, if I’m close to my active hourly goal I will get up and walk around just to hit it. I like tracking my sleep, as I get up so early I find I often struggle with getting “enough” sleep, but have found with time and monitoring that I function perfectly well on less than the recommended 8 hours, in fact I can’t remember the last time I got anywhere near that, 6 and a half ¬†to seven is sufficient for me, but without the long term tracking I may have worried about this more.

You can add friends to your fitbit friends list, then you can participate in challenges, these could be the workweek challenge, or weekend challenges, or just one day challenges. These are good for motivation, they also added other challenges that take you on a journey through other places, seeing landmarks, having to walk a certain distance. I’ve only tried one of these and it was interesting, but not necessary.

The charge 2 charges by connecting it to a USB cable with special connection which they give you when you purchase it. The battery lasts around 5 days, and it will give you a warning notification on your phone around a day before it needs charged. Charging only takes around an hour which is pretty quick.

There is also a guided breathing exercise on the charge, for 2 minutes and 5. I love meditation but sometimes don’t have the time, this little exercise is good as it vibrates when you breathe in and out, so you can shut your eyes, get comfortable and breathe along with it. It’s a nice little touch.

You can also receive notifications from your phone, for example when I am receiving a call my fitbit vibrates and the number of the caller flashes on the screen. Also when I get a text message the sender name and first bit of the message scrolls across the screen, again, a nice touch.

Overall, whether you get a fitbit or not comes down to whether you like tracking. I absolutely love tracking my life, activity, food, sleep, thoughts, progress. I’m not sure why I love it so much but the fitbit really enables me to do this with lots of information. I can’t really imagine life without my fitbit and imagine I will always have one. There are fancier models than the one I have, they use gps more, look more like watches, however, for me the charge 2 is the perfect level of functionality and price. My fitbit cost ¬£120, ¬†but it really was ¬£120 well spent, some of the more expensive models are up to ¬£160, and you can get a zip (which really is just a pedometer with access to the app/website) for ¬£45. There are other pedometers but the amount of value that is given by the app, integration and the functionality as a whole definitely makes me recommend it.

My Fitness Pal | Weight Loss Apps

As part of my weight loss apps series, the first app (and website) I’m going to cover is My Fitness Pal. My Fitness Pal is a free app for android, apple and windows, all you need to provide to¬†sign up is an email address and a password, this makes you an account with a username.

my fitness pal pic

My Fitness Pal has been around for a number of years, according to wikipedia it started in 2005, and in 2015 had 80 million users. I became a member in November 2011, so just over 6 years ago. It’s highly unusual for me to use an app for that long unless I really love it, and I really do love my fitness pal.

In it’s simplest form, my fitness pal is a food tracking application, allowing you to track calories in vs calories out. When you sign up you set a number of goals, give it your personal information, and it gives you a target calorie amount to aim for. Then, when you eat or drink, you search for the food in the database and add it to your diary. When you have finished your day, you press complete and your diary is logged. You diary, weight, everything can be set to public or private depending on what you prefer.

My fitness pal is a lot more than just a food tracking app, you can add exercise, link it with other applications and devices for more accurate tracking, it has it’s own feed, where you can see you and your friends updates, there is a busy online community of forums and groups, it has a blog facility, you track your weight over the years, it really is a special app, made even more special being that it is free. They have recently introduced a premium version, but even with my high levels of use I haven’t subscribed, and don’t think it’s necessary at the moment, however I may in the future.

For food, you can set targets for your macro’s and nutrients, it really is very customisable, I have changed my aims to 60% carbs, 20% protein, 20% fat, and I find this achievable following a vegan diet. I am also aiming to lose 2 pounds a week (when my body agrees!) and using my height/weight/age and activity level, my fitness pal suggests around 1320 calories per day. Additionally, I have my fitbit linked to my fitness pal, so it also keeps track of my steps, and estimated calories burned. If I had one criticism it is that the calories burned is always, and I mean always overestimated, but I’m used to this now. It is a hot topic of debate whether to eat back any exercise calories, as any you gain via exercise are added to your total. Due to the overestimation, most people on the forums suggest eating around 50% of your calories back, I only eat any back if I’ve had a really active day.

I love the support of my fitness pal, I have real life friends on there, people who I’ve never met who we have supported each other for years, many people who are just serious about weight loss. (You can find me here, feel free to send me a friends request!). It’s a great feeling when you log a weight loss and your friends like and comment to see congratulations. You also get streaks for logging in, as you can see from the below picture I’m currently on a 410 day streak, my longest ever.¬†my fitness pal feed

The food database of my fitness pal is also comprehensive, initially, years ago a lot of the foods were American, but over the years more and more people have been adding food (myself included) and pretty much everything is on there, the only thing I would say is to keep an eye on the nutrients, sometimes entries don’t have iron/calcium etc, I will go for a different version that has similar calories if it has the nutrients.

my fitness pal diary

Calorie counting can become addictive, and of course focusing on it too much isn’t necessarily advisable, however, by logging everything in my fitness pal it allows for you to see exactly what you are eating, and when. You can customise meals, add recipes, it is very comprehensive and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to track their food, exercise and ultimately lose weight.

The app and the website are a little different, the app allows for you to see your full weight loss history since joining, whereas the website only allows for the previous year, here is mine, a bit of a rollercoaster!

my fitness pal weight

To end this post, if it’s not clear whether I would recommend using my fitness pal, the answer is a resounding yes. I love the app, love the food database, love the linking with other apps and devices, love the social aspect of it, I really just think it’s great. Over the years it has continue to mature, they have continued to add more features and I think it will just continue to grow. I’m looking forward to being there to see it.

Minimalism in 2017 | Simplify for 2017

In the spirit of my word of the year, simplify, this post lays out what I am doing regarding minimalism in 2017. As I’ve previously covered, my desire to move towards a minimalist life is driven by a few desires, one of these is using less time to clean, organise and generally think about my house, plus to cut down on the stress associated with it.

My scenario a few months ago, I was tired, swimming uphill, my house was always messy, not the end of the world messy, but messy enough for me to look about daily and inwardly say “Why is it like this? How do I spend so long tidying and it never gets any better?” The door would knock, my heart would pound, I have fairly bad anxiety attached to the house and other people, and the door knocking would send me into an inward frenzy. Don’t get me wrong, it was never awful, but the untidiness added to my anxiety meant it was bad enough for me to know I had to do something about it. I had implemented many cleaning routine, a timer, flylady, the app unfuck your habitat, breaking every task into a time limit and doing one hour a day, every day, massive weekend cleans, roping in the kids, I had tried pretty much everything, nothing worked. My house was still messy.

Why did nothing work? Because even with my good intentions, I had too much stuff. It is impossible to keep your house tidy and clean with too much stuff (unless you are willing to spend many hours doing this, which I wasn’t, and even then I think it’s impossible really). I would spend all my time moving things back to their “place” and when I got there the place was usually full, so the offending item would pile on top of other offending items. Cleaning? The surface cleaning happened with regularity, but when you have so much stuff, deep cleaning is once in a blue moon.

Having toyed with minimalism previously, and having got rid of a lot of stuff before I still hadn’t made much headway, it always seemed to creep back in somehow.

So last year I took part in the minsgame, I got rid of over 1500 items. To the normal house this may leave you in an oasis of calm and emptiness. Not to my house! It’s still full, granted a lot less full than it was previously. I actually managed to get through Christmas and New Year without household chaos, and keep the place reasonably clean and tidy. We also bought the kids a lot less this year, my son an xbox and daughter a starter laptop, but not loads of small, space consuming presents. My husband, not full on board, said on Christmas Eve, there is no big things, we should have got big things. He felt uncomfortable with the amount there was there, I felt joy. Glad I had made it to Christmas without caving. The kids were over the moon with what they got. Everything has been used, nothing discarded in the living room.

So overall it was a good Christmas season, I am evaluating every single object that comes into our house, and I’m back on the getting rid train.

For 2017 I have joined a facebook group of lovely supportive people called 2017 in 2017. The aim, as the name suggests is to get rid of 2017 items in 2017. I’m pretty sure I can manage considering I got rid of 1500 in November 2016, however this 2017 is going to be considerably harder! I have tied it into a new round of the minsgame for January, giving me a fairly slow start. Some people in the group have already got rid of hundreds of things, myself I have got rid of 10 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4). I will keep going though with my quest to minimalism. It’s worth it. My cleaning time is already far lower than it was and I’ve implemented a new cleaning routine I’ve now followed for a month, and my house (and head) is thanking me for it. We even had a friend over the other day and all it took was a 15 minute going over.

That’s minimalism in 2017 for me, a simple goal, rid myself of 2017 items. Continue to clean my house. Be happy and spend more time on the important stuff. If you think you’d like to join in, please join the facebook group and use the hashtag #2017in2017out on social media.

New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions | Word for 2017

New Years Resolutions and my Word of 2017

The Christmas season is drawing to an end, and for me this year it has been a good one. I missed my mum and dad a lot this year, my mother in law couldn’t make it over due to illness so it was just myself, husband and kids, which made not having my mum and dad a little more raw I think, but despite that we still had a great time, completely overindulged and enjoyed the period. For New Years Eve we stayed overnight at friends, they have a little girl, so we took our kids and dog too. Said friend made a delicious meal, some of which was especially vegan, which was much appreciated!

While we had a lovely time, I’m glad for some normality to return. I do usually make some¬†New Years Resolutions, but its 50/50 whether I manage to finish them, although I believe in the past I have made them a little open ended, which doesn’t help with completion. Really, you must aim for a finish point to be able to say you succeeded. (Last year my daughters was to go through an automatic car wash for example, very random but we completed it in the Summer).

For 2017 I have decided to use a word I would like to motivate my year, and additionally i have two completable new years resolutions which tie together a lot of other areas I would like to focus on.

My word for 2017 is Simplify.

Simplifying for me means making changes in my life to cut out unecessary thinking, decisions and time. I feel I spend too much time thinking, and doing tasks and jobs that with a little work could be cut significantly, leaving time and thought process for more important areas of my life, that I would like to succeed in.

Simplifying my diet is my number one simplifcation. I’m moving to a more plant based whole foods vegan approach. Less processed food, less oil, less bread, less sugar, more whole plants, fruits, legumes, wholegrains. I love big portions and food in general, but big portions only work when food is low in calories, big portions of processed, sugary, salty food makes me (and I’d imagine others) gain weight. I love vegetables, I feel food when I eat them, so that’s what I’m going to do. I doubt I’ll be perfect, but losing weight is a massive priority for me, and I think moving to whole foods will be an amazing step in the right direction.

Simplifying exercise comes in next but is also tied to diet. One of my new years resolutions is to run a 10k race. This is a resolution that can be gained with work, it has an end point. Simplifying my exercise for me means a focus on walking and running, and not overthinking it too much, just to get out and do it. Even if it’s a walk/jog. I have my gym membership but I’ve not used it enough, so fitting in the gym and treadmill are on my list of priorities.

Simplifying my house¬†and household routines¬†via minimalism is very important to me. I took a huge step last year getting rid of over 1500 things¬†in November that I didn’t need or use, but I still have a long way to go until I reach a level I am happy with. My cleaning routine is faster now than it ever has been, and additionally, my house looks cleaner than it ever has. Funny how those things tie together. There is still a way to go though. For January I am back on the minsgame challenge, but for the year as a whole I have joined a facebook group to help me reach New Years Resolution number two, get rid of 2017 things in 2017. I don’t expect this to be too hard, and I would like to have it done well before the end of next year, but I think 2017 will be the year where I start to really put my money where my mouth is, and take minimalism seriously. We had successes at Christmas, our kids still got many Christmas presents, but less than previous years, and they were over the moon with what they go. They have used what they got, there isn’t endless piles of pointless stuff still lying around the living room. I know stuff is not the answer.

Additionally, and I guess tying in to the last simplify, I would like to simplify my waste. I can’t see me reaching the dizzying heights of zero waste any time soon, but waste is bad for the planet. I’m already doing a good job on the planetary front with veganism, but another area in my life I am interested in targeting is waste reduction. I recycle already, but could recycle more. I am looking for shops in the area where you can buy with less packaging, and if eating whole foods there will be less anyway. Additionally, I am looking into composting leftovers indoors, I don’t have a garden sadly, but that shouldn’t stop me.

There are many other things I am looking to continue throughout the year, bullet journalling, blogging, meditation and yoga, these all help me keep a healthy mind. I also have big changes on the horizon, I am in the early stages of setting up a new education business, this will require much concentration and work, and a large part of simplifying other areas of my life is so that I can give my business the focussed time it needs without many other distractions. I know the new business is massively important, but I need to clear space in my head (and home) to give it the time it deserves. Simplification does this.

So there are my aims for the year, run a 10k, get rid of 2017 things and simplify. What are your aims for the year? I’d love to hear on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Happy Birthday Mum | Grief

I’m not really sure what category to put this post under, but I would like to say Happy Birthday Mum. She would have been 73 years old today, sadly, she died on the 14th September 2013, when we were in the process of planning for her 70th birthday.

My mum was a truly wonderful person, she had her issues in life, but generally, she was a great mum and she was my true best friend. When I was a child we were very close, when I hit my teenage years we struggled. She was just trying to guide me, but in a way that made me feel like a child and often caused me to rebel. Thankfully, as I grew up and especially when I had my son, our relationship healed, and we became closer than ever.

I could talk to my mum about anything, and I did, frequently. Her number was on speed dial, we often did that thing of calling each other at exactly the same time and one of us being able to hear the other dialling. We talked ten times a day sometimes, I bounced nearly every decision off of her, valued her input, learned from her, we laughed, we cried, she was the best mum I could have wished for.

Around the start of 2013 she started suffering a shortness of breath, especially when doing anything that caused exertion. She didn’t like exercise, she didn’t even enjoy walking, and now this caused her to get out of breath even over small distances. She went for numerous tests, heart, lungs, all was found to be normal. Still the shallowness of breath continued. The doctors even insinuated that she was imagining it, she did have a habit of focusing on illness, and what was wrong with her, occasionally taking to bed for a day or two at a time. I used to joke with her, come on mum, it’s in your head! I remember the day me, my children, my mother in law and her went to view me and my husbands potential wedding venue, the walk to it was awful for her, she had to stop continually. I was worried, but the doctors had told us there was nothing wrong with her.

I suggested to her that perhaps she had asthma, I had it as a child and the symptoms seemed similar enough to suggest it. She visited the nurse, and their verdict? Not asthma, but COPD. (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). A very mild case, completely treatable with medication. She had smoked for much of her adult life, but had stopped around 20 years previous.

She was given a little inhaler and started treatment. Then she got a cold, which progressed to a chest infection. She took to bed, ill, unable to move much in part down to the shortness of breath. Eventually, after a couple of days, my otherwise completely healthy mother had to be hospitalised.

She was sent to a local hospital, but eventually they were so worried about her she was moved from the island she lived on to a larger hospital, closer to where I lived. I visited her with my children after school on Friday 13th of September, she was in bed, with an oxygen mask on, awake though and speaking to the kids. I remember she had a look of mild panic in her eyes, she hated being ill and was scared being in the hospital. I sat with her for about an hour, told her I was going to stay with my dad, he was 83 at that point, with parkinsons disease and other health problems. We would be over the next morning. I hugged her, kissed her, stroked her hand, told her not to worry. The kids jumped up on the bed and spoke to her. The last thing I told her was I would see her tomorrow and I loved her very much.

I went to my dad’s house and we settled in for a normalish evening, other than the undertones of worry, but telling ourselves she was in the best place.

Around 10.30 that night, the phone rang. It was a doctor, speaking to my dad he asked “Why was your wife not being treated for low oxygen?” What? We didn’t know she should have been. This sounded ominous. Around half an hour later the phone rang again, the doctor again, this time asking for a full run down of her symptoms, he had her notes but he wanted us to describe it. My dad did.

We had a cup of tea in the kitchen, and spoke about how worrying and unusual this felt. I decided to try to go to bed, my logic being the sooner I got to sleep the sooner it was the next morning. I was sleeping with my daughter, in my mums bed, surrounded by all of her belongings, her smell, everything except her.

I was woken, at around 2.00 in the morning, no light on in the room but with my dad standing over the end of the bed, a silhouette only, saying “Fiona, you need to get up, the police are here, your mum is dead”. It felt as if my head exploded and heart broke simultaneously. I started screaming from the millisecond what he had said registered. I stumbled out of bed, walked into the living room, catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror in the hall. I will never forget the look I had on my face. Horror, shock, like my world had just fallen apart. My son was awake in the living room, I glanced at him, but kept walking, into the kitchen, to find my dad sitting at the same table we had sat at a few hours previously, with two police people, a man and a woman I think.

I was still screaming. What happened? How? This can’t be happening. I need to get there. This is not happening. Shriller and shriller, the tears were flowing, time stood still.

It transpired that the doctor had phoned my dad back not long before 2, and told him¬†she had died. She had a panic attack and they had given her some tranquilliser to calm her down, it didn’t work, they thought her heart had stopped but would need to do an autopsy. There was nothing they could have done and they were very sorry. My dad, in a daze, hadn’t hung the phone up correctly, and they heard him hysterical in the background. They called the police and asked them to go to the house. My dad had known for at least ten minutes before the police came to the door. That breaks my heart, that he hadn’t told me and suffered alone. What he must have been going through.

I phoned my husband, he was stuck on the mainland, the boats to the island went off overnight. I was barely understandable, still screaming and crying. I felt as if I would never stop. He phoned his mum, she lived nearby, she came to the house and was just there. I will always appreciate that. I don’t know how I would have made it through that first hour without her. I wandered out into the street. It was the middle of the night. I was praying to be knocked over, or murdered, so the pain would go away. The pain of loss was overwhelming, every second felt like an hour, as my brain attempted to reprogram itself into the “Accept your mum is dead and you will never see her again” mindset. Safe to say that didn’t work for about a year.

I’m not a religious person, I don’t believe I will see her again. I’m happy for people who believe they will, but for me that is the easy choice, the path of least resistance. I wonder, for the people who believe they will see them again, does it make their suffering any easier? Either way, for me, she is gone. Her beautiful, supportive, loving light was out. And I was going to need to live my life without her. It was 8 days before my 31st birthday. Not a baby, but I assumed I would have her for many more years. My dad was the older parent, the sicker parent, and now the reality that my mum was dead was also bringing with it the reality that in the not too distant future I would be an adult orphan. 621 days to be exact.

The whole first year was a bit of a daze. I had my birthday a few days later, myself and some very close friends went to a local pub for drinks. Inside, I was dying, but I was grateful to be surrounded by the people closest to me. My mother in law watched the kids a lot in the first few days, I was unstable, prone to episodes of hysterical crying, my face was red raw from all the crying. I had to go and buy eye drops to moisturise my eyes. I stayed at my dad’s house for nearly two weeks, we had to wait that long for the autopsy and funeral. The funeral took place on the 30th September. I spoke at it, I felt I needed to. Everyone already knew, but I wanted to make sure everyone knew what a great person she was. Everyone said I did well. I barely remember it.

I continued going to uni somehow, it was my 3rd year, the hardest year. I made it through with one re-sit. I’m not sure how, but I did, and went on to fourth year. It was around about 6 months after my dad got diagnosed with a brain tumour. He died 2 weeks after I finished my fourth year of university. I will do a separate post about my dad at some point.

I was lucky to get the parents I had. I loved them, cherished them, respected them, and for some reason never really considered life without them. I’m now over 3 years down the line from my mum dying, and a year and a half from my dad. Life does have a way of keeping you going. Things will never be the same, but good does come out of the pain. I am able now to think about them and smile, laugh, remember the good times without having an emotional breakdown (although it still happens occasionally). But every day I think of them, what I would give for a single conversation. I’m sad my children will grow up without fully experiencing their love, but I speak about them regularly and keep the memory of them alive. I look at pictures of them, sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile.

Do I have any final words? Cherish your parents and anyone you live while you still have them, she shock of my mum dying taught me that death can come out of nowhere, a long time before you think you’re ready, so make the most of the important people every single day. Something else I’m working on, which is easier said that one, live a life you won’t regret. Time marches on quickly, and I don’t want to look back in my elderly years (if I even make it that far) and regret how I lived my youth.

Happy Birthday Mum.

Happy Birthday Mum

 

Running Aspirations | Exercise

Fairly recently I decided to take a step back towards exercise. My weight loss has been sooo slow, I’m not sure if my body is just reluctant to lose more weight, I have struggled at the three stone mark previously, never really breaking through it. Alongside joining slimming world, I have also signed up for a gym membership at the gym local to me, it’s a small gym but has all of the equipment that is required for me. Although I will eventually be taking on weights, at the moment I am really focusing on burning calories, and cardio. And I have a secret aspiration, I want to take up running, specifically running long distances.

I am slightly confused why running is something I would like to do, I hated running when I was at school, going so far as to stop with my friends and take shortcuts to avoid having to run the whole distance. When me and my now husband first got together we were both rather thinner, and he loved running. We occasionally went out running together, I remember the first time I ran a mile without stopping, I was so happy with myself. At that moment I thought wow, I could be a runner! Sadly, I put on weight massively over the years, and while I have been out for an occasional jog, I’ve never progressed.

Around a year ago I started using the app Zombies Run, I love this, but I was walking it, I have now nearly completed up to season four, all walking my dog. I have dipped my toe in the water with couch to 5k a couple of times but never completed the plan, the embarrassment of running outside and the willpower required to go out no matter the weather is just too much for me. My gym however has lots of treadmills, so this is where I find myself mainly when I go there.

Why do I want to be a runner? I’m not 100% sure, I’ve mentioned before but I listen to podcasts by¬†Rich Roll, and No Meat Athlete¬†and I find both of these highly inspirational. I have dreams of stepping out of the door and being able to run (or jog slowish) for hours. There is something about the freedom of it that just appeals to me.

My problems with running:

  • I’m very overweight – an obvious problem, when you’re lugging around all the extra weight¬†any form of cardio exercise becomes harder. I am trying to help that issue though!
  • The where and when – I’m running at the gym currently, that is good, but it means actually going to the gym. I have limited time to do this but I do try to fit it into my schedule three times a week. I need to go in the mornings which leads onto the next issue…
  • The energy expended – After a run I am often completely wiped out. Running at this weight is tiring. Being wiped out isn’t great for the rest of the day.
  • Mental weakness – I’m not sure if everyone suffers with the same mental weakness when running, it something I really should research into further. Half of the time I’m running I’m thinking don’t stop, the other half I’m thinking stop. I wish I could get that split down a little. I try to focus on how many minutes I have left, constantly repeating that to myself, 35, 35 35, 35…34, 34, 34 etc
  • Speed – I’m really really slow. I am only 5 foot 2 but I’m lucky if I’m jogging at 6 km/h. I would like to build that up.

Currently I can run for around 35 minutes at 6km/h, doing just over 3km. My first aim is to get this up to 5k at around 50 minutes. I have joined a local parkrun but don’t want to go until I know I can run 5k. I try to add 5 minutes on occasionally to my time, every 3 or 4 visits, but man it is a struggle! I need to work on my mental strategy, when you’re telling yourself that this run is killing you it can’t be good for your physical capabilities!

My running plans for the next month :

  • Rather than adding on 5 minutes (which seems like a very long time!) I will add on 2, every visit or two.
  • I will keep going 3 times a week.
  • I will research mental strategies and what is the best thing to think.
  • I will attempt to lengthen my stride. I always feel small and tight when running, and I guess I should really feel the opposite of that,

I will post about this again in a month, 11th January, with the aim of being able to run 5k in just under an hour. I would really like to join the vegan runners club, but feel I’m a bad example at the moment, so once I can do 5k I’m going to do that.

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