Family Fortune

I have spent a lot of time on the blog lately talking about how manic life can be.  Work, college and other commitments seem to be all consuming these days.  I haven’t been getting to the gym, I haven’t been writing much or even reading much.  Cooking, which is normally a great source of joy, has become just about fueling my body for the next day’s battle.  In the act of just putting one foot in front of the other, I feel like I am losing myself.  Even my dreams are filled with exam anxiety!!

In the midst of all this, I had almost forgotten that I had planned a weekend away.  The plan was for myself, my mother, sister and aunt to go to visit an uncle of mine in Limerick.  We had arranged to drive down Friday evening together and return home on Sunday afternoon.  With everything that had been going on, the trip had almost slipped my mind and it was only a few days before we were due to head off when I remembered it.

Of course, conflict immediately set in.  Work was really crazy, with budgets due that week.  I was exhausted, stressed and probably not going to be great company.  Add to this, I really should have been doing college work.  My dissertation deadline is only 3 weeks out and there is an exam to look forward to after that.  I really couldn’t afford the time away.  BUT, I genuinely wanted to go.  I don’t get to see my uncle often enough and I love getting to hang out with these women.

I went back and forth with it all week.  Weighing up the pros and cons of going versus staying.  In the end, my fear of missing out teamed up with my hatred of breaking commitments to help me to decide to go.  I decided, however, not to join them on Friday (aka. budget day) but to follow them down on my own on Saturday instead.

I can honestly say, it was a great decision.  Sitting in the restaurant on Saturday night, I was acutely aware of the positive effect it was having on me.  I could feel my spirit and soul refreshed.  It is amazing how at a time when I feel like everyone wants a piece of me, I could find four people to just sit and be with.  That feeling has been resonating with me a lot this week.  Perhaps, when we feel the most like we are losing ourselves, it is the time when we most need our loved ones to anchor us.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by the people who know you best and love you regardless of your struggle.

Growing up, I always remember wanting to make my family proud, my parents in particular.  I wanted to have some great and lofty achievement to showcase and for them to be able to say “look what Arwen did!”  I wanted to feel that pride and reluctant as I am to admit it, it has probably influenced a lot of decisions I have made in my life.  I was always convinced that by doing the next thing, or by winning the next prize , I would somehow feel “good enough.”

It has taken me a lot of years and more than a little heart ache to come to the realisation, that if you are lucky, with your family, it is not the achievements that will make them the most proud.  They love you and will be proud of the person you are.  They will seek out your company, even if you feel like you have nothing to offer.  They will rejoice in your happiness and stand beside you on your darkest day.  To them, as lost and scared and sorrowful as you may feel, you will always be enough.

So, my advice to anyone who feels like life is taking over is this;  Make time for the people who know you best.  Hang out with people who don’t expect or demand anything from you.  Be with people, who want nothing other than your time.  I promise, it will do you good xxx



Timing is Everything

Life is pretty hectic just now, but I get withdrawal symptoms when I am not writing.  So I wanted to share some thoughts I have been having lately, in what could turn out to be my shortest post to date.

Have you ever noticed that after you hear a word for the first time, it suddenly seems to be everywhere?  Or your friend introduces you to a band they love and then you hear their music on TV?  When these things happen, it almost feels as though the stimulus was always there, it’s just that your consciousness was not ready to receive it.

There’s an old expression, which says that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  Lately, this has taken on a much greater meaning for me.  There has been so many times recently when I have heard or seen something, just at the moment when I needed it most.  I definitely think it is happening because I am more ready.

I owe this readiness, in no small part, to reading a great book called “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer.  I hadn’t come across  Amanda before, but I heard the book recommended and decided to check it out.  I wholeheartedly recommend it.  She is a fascinating lady and it is particularly well written.  The main theme of the book is about encouraging people to ask for the things that they need.  Having read it, this sounded like great advice.  Typically of me, I decide to embrace this, and jumped headlong into asking people for things!

My first ask was in the form of a request for a book (I didn’t end up getting the book, but it did end up opening some other doors for me.)  The funny thing about asking, is that it requires making yourself extremely vulnerable.  You expose a need in yourself and of course, you have to be open to hearing the word no.  Amanda eluded to this in her writing, but it takes experiencing it for yourself to truly appreciate how scary it is.

In order to be a ready student, waiting for her teacher, I have had to learn how to really ask.  In a challenging time in my life, I have had to learn how to say “I am struggling, can you help me?”  The most recent experience of this was with my 28 day challenge.  I struggled with it way more than I was expecting to.  The rest of the group were doing great and part of me really wanted to retreat into the shadows.  I didn’t want people to see that I, of all people, did not have my shit together (not even a tiny bit!)  The crazy thing was, as soon as I did admit it, as soon as I let it be known that I was in trouble, the support I needed came to me, and I was able to turn it around.

The older I get, the more I realise that in order to have the fullest and most authentic life possible, I need to be truly open.  Yes, this means taking risks.  This means leaving myself exposed to pain.  But, it also means being open to all the joy and wonder that people and life have to offer.  When you learn to ask, you will soon discover who will step up for you and who will slink away.  Recognising a need in others, and doing what you can for them is a truly noble act.  To those who have stepped up for me recently, thank you, you know who you are.  To those who have decided to slink away, thank you, now I know who you are.  Be well xxx





My Own Worst Enemy!

I have always been the type of person who liked to keep busy.  Invariably working on some project or other and constantly focusing on the next thing.  I get bored easily and finding stimulation definitely helps keep me out of trouble.  Every so often, however, I find myself completely over committed and stressed.  Every time this happens, I promise myself never again.  I swear I will avoid taking too much on, and I even manage to convince myself that next time it will be different.  However, despite these vows, within a few months, I end up overloaded again and my old pal anxiety comes to pay a visit.

At the moment, I am certainly in an overloaded phase.  Work is getting busy, with budgets, year end and audits all on the horizon.  All of these things will be firsts for me in this job, so they don’t come without an element of uncertainty.  I have just started a new course of cookery workshops, which will be keeping me busy too.  In addition to this, I am doing a diploma course through work, for which a dissertation and exam are looming in the coming weeks.  Add to this the usual activities of writing, YouTubing, training, meal prep etc. and it all begins to feel a little overwhelming!

I know I am not alone in this.  Many of us constantly feel like we have way too many plates spinning and the anxiety that comes with it can be crippling.  Did you ever feel like you have so much to do, that you actually don’t want to do anything?  That’s where I am at right now.  I just want to pull the duvet over my head and emerge in the New Year, when all this stress will be behind me.  Of course, that’s not a solution (unfortunately!)  Luckily for me, this situation has an end date.  My exam is at the end of November, and win, lose or draw, once that is behind me, I know I will have a little more breathing space.

The course, as useful as it has been, feels very much like the proverbial straw.  So, why did I ever agree to it?  I had been asking myself that question a lot.  As much to help me avoid ending up in this predicament again as anything else.  Because, let’s face it, anxiety dreams about the Leaving Cert are something I can live without!  The answer to this question came to me in a book I read recently.  It is the latest from Ryan Holiday, Ego is The Enemy.  In this book, which I highly recommend, Ryan talks about how our ego can truly be our undoing.

The part that really struck a chord with me, talks about how when something is offered to us, like this course for instance, our ego will drown out our sensible mind.  I was flattered to be asked to do the course.  I am not terribly long in the company and I was delighted to be considered for it.  This definitely formed a large part of my decision making process.  As well as this, I concerned myself with how it would look, and what it would say about me if I turned down the opportunity.  Would my bosses think I didn’t want to progress?  Would I appear ungrateful and insolent?  Would it go against me when I tried to pursue other opportunities?  These were the questions I asked myself, when I should, in fact, have been looking at the other commitments I have.  I should have asked myself “do you really have the time to give this the effort it deserves?”

I honestly believe that had I read Ryan’s book six months earlier, I may not be in the situation I now find myself in.  In future, I am determined to let my rational mind make my decisions for me, and not allow my ego to get me in too deep.  One thing that I have learned through the years, is that you can pretty much endure anything for a short time.  I know by Christmas this will be all behind me and I know I have the fortitude to gut it out till then.  Life has a pretty steep learning curve, but I am hoping that this particular lesson will stick!

I love my job, and I enjoy all of my other projects immensely.  The last few weeks though, the pressure of being over committed has threatened to take the good out of it.  I never want to end up feeling like my life is a series of chores.  So, I am determined to pick my battles more wisely in future.  It is okay to say no.  I cannot be all things to all men, and as much as that fact irritates me, I will just have to accept it!

For any of the rest of you, who may be feeling like your plate is a little on the full side, be careful about what else you put onto it.  More importantly, be careful what you allow others to put onto it.  We have to be our own gate keepers.  If we let too many thing pile on top of us, we really do become our own worst enemy!





Half Weigh!

So here I am, exactly half way through my 28 day cutting phase.  At the start of the phase I weighed in at 59.9kg, and today the scales read 58.8kg.  A drop of just over a kilo so far, and almost exactly  on target to achieve my goal of 2kgs weight loss by the end of the cycle.  This however, does not tell the whole story.

I have spent a lot of time writing about and talking about the fact that weight loss is often non-linear.  I have also spent a lot of time talking about how sometimes no matter how on point you are with your inputs (diet, exercise, fluid intake, sleep etc.) the outputs are not what you would have expected.  All of this knowledge and experience, however, didn’t really prepare me for what has happened in my body over the past few weeks.  Let me tell you how it’s really been going.

The 28 day cut officially started 2 weeks ago.  I spent the week before it started getting myself organised.  I tested out meals and menus to make sure they fit my calorie and macro targets.  I worked on getting my mindset sorted.  I cleared out any foods from my home, which I felt threatened to derail me.  (I generally don’t keep junk food in the house, so this wasn’t hugely difficult.)  I used this week to plan and prepare so that when the cut kicked in, I would be as ready as I could be.

I have to say I found this first week (week minus 1) a bit of a challenge.  I experienced hunger, low energy and brain fog for the first 3 days in particular.  Some of this hunger was undoubtedly real, as I was in a caloric deficit, but some of it was definitely in my head.  When we start any diet or cut, we spend a lot of time thinking about food for the initial few days.  This can make us feel hungrier than we really are.  By about day 4, this had passed, my energy levels were recovering and I was settling in to things.

The next week (week 1) presented a different challenge for me.  I was on a very rare week off from work.  I was determined to eat as well as possible, which I did.  However, as we were on holidays, I had a drink or two most evenings.  This would have put me at my maintenance calories, or perhaps a little over.  I track my weight each morning, so I could see it was holding fairly steady, apart from the small daily fluctuations that you would expect to see.  I was not expecting to achieve weight loss during this week, so when I weighed in that Sunday at 59.6kg, I was totally fine with it.  Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

On Monday morning I got up early as it was my first say back in work, stood on the scales and it read 61.4kg!  I couldn’t believe it.  I had literally put on 2kg overnight.  Now rationally I know that this CANNOT be possible.  In order to put on that amount of weight in one day, I would have needed to over eat by about 15,000 calories.  I certainly did not do that.  I tried not to freak out.  I tried to tell myself it was a weird blip and that all would be fine by the next day.  Imagine my horror then when on Tuesday the scale said 61.5kg.  This is when I started to sort of lose it. What the hell was going on?  I haven’t weighed over 61kg in months and now suddenly, when I am actually trying to lose weight, tracking my food and doing everything as close to right as I can, I PUT ON  2 KILOS!!!!!

“Breathe Arwen, just relax, trust the process and you will get the prize.  Resist the urge to say F This and reach for the nearest chocolate bar.  Give it time, you have 3 more weeks to do.  See what happens at the end and make a decision about what to do then.”  This was my mantra and believe me when I tell you, I repeated it to myself numerous times over those couple of days.  Wednesday came and the scales happily reported 60.5kg.  Phew! It looked like maybe things were starting to normalise, thank God!  For the rest of last week, my weight continued to drop each day until by Friday, I had reached 59.8kg.  Almost my exact starting weight, after nearly 3 weeks of hard work.

Why did this happen?  I don’t know for sure, but I do have a theory.  While I was on my week off, I made the decision to change my birth control.  I had been using a Mirena coil for about 8 years, and I decided to have that removed and start using oral contraception instead.  Both of these birth control methods contain hormones, but very different ones.  I think that making this change may have resulted in some fluid retention, but honestly, who knows!

So, why am I telling you all of this?  I could have posted a 2 line update saying “everything is great, 1.1kg down and on track for my target weight loss!”  This would have been the truth, but it would not have been the whole truth.  There are far too many voices out there trying to convince us that changing our lifestyles and our bodies should be easy.  I am here to tell you that it’s not.  There will be times when you will feel frustrated and deflated.  You may feel, like I have during this phase, that your body is working against you.  The difference between success and failure during these times is in keeping your head.  Patience, persistence and consistency are what is going to get you to your goal, not lotions, potions skinny teas.

I have to say that being part of the group, has really helped me to stay the course during this up and down week.  I didn’t want to let the other guys down by throwing in the towel.  Whether they knew it or not, they were holding me accountable and keeping me focused.  My advice for anyone trying to make a change, whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned veteran is this:  Trust your process.  Leverage your network and as the wise man says “All will be well.”