Round Table Nights!

My husband and I are approaching the tenth anniversary of buying our house.  Looking back on it now, we were impossibly young.  We were completely overwhelmed by all the decisions, which needed to be made, and in our haste to get it all “finished” we made plenty of terrible choices.

One such choice, was with our dining set.  I wanted one with 6 chairs.  I was moving away from my home town, and was worried about being lonely, so imagined we would be thronged with visitors!  We had originally ordered a 5′ table, but when it arrived (and was assembled) we realised they had sent us the 6′ one in error.  Not wanting to cause a fuss, I convinced myself that it was “fine.”  It wasn’t!  The thing is completely enormous.  Totally unsuitable for two people (and one very large dog.)  I have hated it from day one and have lost count of the number of bruises its corners have bestowed upon me.

Last week, I made the decision to replace it.  I have ordered a small, round table (no more corners) and four chairs.  I am delighted.  I know the new one will be far more suitable for our limited dining needs.  The space it frees up in the kitchen will be invaluable, especially when trying to wrangle a muddy, wet dog coming in the back door.  Why then, do I also feel guilty?  Why do I find myself trying to rationalise the decision?  Even if I didn’t hate the original one, replacing it after a decade can hardly be considered frivilous.   So, why am I having such a hard time letting it go?

There will be times in life when such objects no longer serve us.  They don’t necessarily need to be broken or worn out to have outlived their usefulness.  Learning to recognise when this has happened, and how to let these items go, is definitely something I am going to have to work on.  For me, I think it is a fear of appearing wasteful, wanton and ungrateful, which causes me to hang onto things longer than I perhaps should.  Marie Kondo advises that when we come to make these decisions, we should thank the items for their service to us, and let them go.  Yes, it sounds a little silly, but I truly think it helps.

It is a similar situation when it comes to our habits and even our relationships.  There will be times when it no longer makes sense to do something, which we may have been doing for years, or even decades.  If we remain open to learning and growing, we will inevitably come to understand that maybe the path we are on is not the best one. Perhaps it never was, or maybe the landscape has shifted since our journey began.  Either way, allowing yourself to change direction is an extremely empowering thing.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that we should change course willy nilly, but being rigidly fixed on a set point, can really restrict us.  I remember being in University.  I absolutely hated it.  For the entire time I was there, I was miserable.  It had such a negative affect on me that by the time I graduated, I was physically and emotionally in a terrible state.  I became deeply depressed and more or less gave up eating.  Not through a desire to lose weight, but because I simply couldn’t have been bothered.  Most days I would eat one meal, consisting of a fried egg, two slices of toast and half a tomato.  By the time I approached my final exams, I weighed just 46kg (102lbs.)  I firmly believe that this phase in my life is where my chequered relationship with food began.

I recall, at the time my mother saying to me “Arwen, you have more staying power than anyone I have ever known.”  I thought to myself that this must be a good thing.  Surely setting a course and sticking to it no matter what is admirable and right?  It is only with the benefit of hindsight that I understand how wrong I was.  It was cowardly to continue to bang my head against a brick wall with something so clearly wrong for me.  It would have been far braver to accept I had made a mistake, and walk away with my mind and body in tact.

Even with our relationships, knowing when to walk away is a skill worth learning.  In all human relationships, there needs to be give and take.  Obviously this ratio will fluctuate during the course of the relationship, depending on where both people are in their lives.  However, if you get to the stage with someone where you feel like it is completely one sided, it might be time to ask yourself “what am I getting out of this?”  That might sound completely selfish, but if the alternative is that you end up feeling hurt, resentful and angry then the hard questions need to be asked.

If the person is important to you, then tell them how you feel.  They might have no idea that have been taking you for granted.  Asking for what you need from people is a mature and grown up thing to do, but it is never easy!  If you don’t feel able to address it, perhaps the only thing to do is walk away.  This doesn’t mean you need to have a huge confrontation and fall out with them.  You can simply stop being the first to text, call, or visit.  To put it plainly, if they want you, they know where you are.

I am a sentimental soul at heart, and my connections to people, places and things have always been important to me.  I find letting go extremely difficult.  However, I am beginning to learn that being overly attached to the past, can only serve to prevent me from moving forward.  My new table arrives on Monday and I am so looking forward to it.  It will serve as a daily reminder that sometimes it is okay to leave the past behind.  After all, even King Arthur knew that a round table was better!  Be well xxx




Roman Holiday!

Donning my over-sized sunglasses and channeling my inner Audrey, I set off on my “Roman Holiday.”  It has been a little over a week since my return.  I wanted to get this post out much sooner but, I can honestly say it has taken me this long to even begin to process everything.  If I had to describe the city and our trip in general in one word, it would be overwhelming.  I don’t mean this in any way negatively, just that there was so much to see and do and eat, that it was impossible to absorb it all as fully as I would have liked.

So, what did we do?  I think it’s fair to say we made a good attempt at doing as much sight seeing as we could.  We took the sight seeing bus as soon as we arrived.  I like to do this whenever I land in a new city.  I think it’s a great way to get orientated, with as little chance as possible of getting lost!  (We did manage to get lost later that evening, but that is definitely a story for another day.)

Historical Rome was next on the agenda.  On our second day we took a tour of the Colosseum, before rambling around the Roman Forum and Palentine Hill.  It was amazing.  The guided tour was great and I would definitely recommend it, especially if, like me, you’re not an expert on the history.  It was difficult not to feel like I was in an Episode of Spartacus as I looked down on what would have been the arena.

We attempted to take the bus back to our hotel after the Colosseum, however it actually deposited us in the middle of the biggest, loudest and most colourful Gay Pride Parade you can imagine.  We were awed and disoriented in equal measure.  There may have been another navigational issue or two before we reached home.

Day three, armed with a map, and on foot, we went to see the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and the Pantheon.  The fountain is extremely beautiful and undoubtedly a Jewel in the crown of Rome.  The experience was only slightly marred by folks attempting to sell us selfie sticks and fidget spinners.  If I return to Rome, I will make an early morning pilgrimage back to the fountain to try to avoid the sense of claustrophobia caused by being surrounded by so many people.

The Spanish Steps were a joy to behold and a very up-market shopping district has grown up around them.  Definitely worth a look, if that is your thing.  I dared not go in, for fear of having my own Pretty Woman experience.  As for The Pantheon, it was breath taking, and inside it I found an oasis of tranquility, in an otherwise crazy city.  Even the McDonald’s we visited was like an assault on the senses!

Our last day, suitably covered up, we took ourselves off to see the religious sights.  In perhaps the most overwhelming day of all, we visited The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  The day did not get off to the most auspicious start.  The area around the Vatican screams tourist trap.  You literally cannot walk two feet without someone trying to sell you something.  When you enter the Vatican at first, the building very much resembles a tax office.  Complete with clinical white walls and disgruntled clerks behind counters.  It certainly doesn’t prepare you for the wonder and splendour, which you are about to behold.

In the Vatican we decided to take another guided tour, again I would recommend this, particularly for your first visit.  The tour took two hours and we saw so many beautiful things, paintings, sculptures, tapestries and maps.  It was quite incredible.  By the end of the tour, I almost felt as though my mind was incapable of appreciating any more beauty.  I felt completely saturated.  Luckily, the tour ended at the coffee shop, which could never be described as beautiful, so we had an opportunity to revive ourselves!

From there, we entered the Sistine Chapel.  It was every bit as awe inspiring as you might imagine.  Every where you look there is something else to be appreciated.  Again, my mind struggled with the task of taking it all in.

The last thing on the agenda for the day, and the trip, was St. Peter’s.  Before we went inside, I had the opportunity to climb the 551 steps up to the Cupola.  I was able to walk around the outside of the Dome and get the most incredible 360 degree view of the Roman skyline.  This was undoubtedly the highlight of the holiday for me.

Not only were the views spectacular, but whenever I get to do something like climb up all those steps, I am presented with a rare opportunity.  I get the chance to appreciate my body and all it can do.  I am reminded to be thankful for my health and fitness, and granted perspective about the reason why I try to keep fit in general.  It is a wonderful and liberating thing that when I encounter such a physical challenge, I don’t have to ask myself “will I be able for this?”  That alone is worth all the effort in the gym!

Okay, okay, so I am sure many of you are wondering about the food, and the diet and the damage.  Food first.  We ate everything!  Or at least we tried to.  It turns out four days is not enough time to eat all the Italian food we wanted to.  However, we made a good attempt at covering all the bases.  Dinner was the only proper meal of the day, as breakfasts and lunches were quickly dispatched so as not to interfere with our adventures.  Breakfast was the typical continental affair and lunch was mostly sandwiches.  Luckily we still managed to get through a reasonable amount of pasta and gelato!

As for the damage, I weighed myself on the morning of departure and again on the morning after I got back.  Although I did put on about a kilo,  I wasn’t overly worried.  I am not a great traveler and usually retain fluid after I fly.  As of today I am back to my pre-holiday weight.

So what did I do to limit the holiday damage?  I walked!  We did in excess of 60,000 steps over the course of the four days.  I drank gallons of water.  In temperatures over 30 degrees it was needed, and I normally drink a few litres a day anyway.  I ate when I wanted and what I wanted for the most part.

I did try to be somewhat sensible though.  For example when we had the gelato, I would get at least half of it as yogurt.  It is an easy swap and I didn’t feel like I was missing out.   We stuck to just having main courses at all dinners except the last one.  (On the last night we shared a starter and a dessert.)  This wasn’t a conscious calorie counting decision particularly.  Dinner was usually late and we were too exhausted by that stage to sit through three courses.  A big thing which probably helped, is I didn’t drink as much alcohol as I usually would on vacation.  I typically had one drink with dinner and maybe one or two more back in the hotel.  Again this wasn’t really a decision.  My travel companion is pregnant, so she wasn’t drinking.

Overall, I am very happy with how it all went.  Every time I take a few days away from my routine, I tend to get a little panicked, thinking the wheels are going to come off completely.  However, each time I do it, and they don’t, I gain a little more confidence.  Of course, I would be more “comfortable” keeping to my routine, but what would be the fun in that?  After all, if we can’t go away or even take time out to enjoy ourselves, what is the point in any of it?  As Audrey herself says


Be well xxx



Lost and Found

For the last few weeks, I have been getting ready for my trip to Rome.  I am going away with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  She and I have been through a lot over the two decades we have known each other, and I am so looking forward to getting to spend time catching up.  As well, of course, as checking out all that the Italian city has to offer (read pasta, coffee, gelato, pizza!)

On the run up to my Roman Holiday I can’t help noticing that I feel really good.  I am in a good place with my health.  I feel reasonably happy with my body and self-image.  I haven’t had the usual nightmare in work, trying to get everything done before heading off.  I don’t even feel under as much financial pressure as I normally would before a trip.  In short, all is well.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever felt so good going away before.  Even my usual anxiety has not reared its ugly head.  At least not so far!

All this feeling good, has lead to some very strange happenings.  I am finding myself doing things I never would have thought of doing in the past.  Small, seemingly insignificant things really.  Like buying dresses, shorter than I usually would.  Or daring to try red lipstick.  Even just baring my legs on hot, summer days, would have been something I would have balked at previously.

The weird thing is, the more stuff I do, which is totally unlike me, the more like myself I feel.  It’s almost like the red lipstick wearing woman was stuck inside me, and has been waiting 35 years to finally make an appearance.  I feel as though I am beginning to find myself.

I wonder how much of this is a natural part of life.  As we come of age, do we unfold and stretch and become a truer version of ourselves?  Or could it be that as I have grown in confidence, I have gained the courage to try all the things I wanted to, but was afraid of?  Or maybe it is simply that I stopped giving a f$ck what other people think!  I walk down the street in a bright yellow rain coat.  I have no problem singing out loud in work or in spin class.  If I get funny looks, I just shoot them back a smile, and think what a shame it is that they have no magic left.

Being ambivalent about what other people think is the most liberating thing I have experienced.  Sure, I still care what my family and friends think of me, and certainly don’t go out of my way to upset anyone.  However, I no longer fall into the category of chronic people pleaser.  I do things now because I want to, or because they make me feel good, not because it is what is expected of me.

If you haven’t reached this point in your own life yet, don’t worry, it will happen sooner or later.  At some stage, you will reach a point where you have had enough of trying to make everyone happy, at the expense of your own joy.  When this happens, it will feel like your life has begun in earnest.  You will start discovering what it is that you like.  You will gain a new understanding of yourself.  And best of all, your mind will be freed of all the agonizing, paralysing overthinking, which comes from trying to do the “right thing” all the time.

I spent a lot of time as a girl feeling like the ugly duckling.  I was the typical teenager with acne and braces.  Painfully self-conscious and awkward.  All my pals were beautiful and had boyfriends and I always felt inadequate.  Even into adulthood, these feelings stayed with me.  I never felt like I fit in anywhere.  Never had quite the right outfit, or said quite the right thing.  I was always a little lost.

I don’t feel like that anymore.  I am going to be spending four days in a beautiful city, with one of the most gorgeous women I know, and I can honestly tell you, for the first time, I feel like I am enough.  I am like a kid experiencing the world for the first time.  I have no idea what is going to happen next, but I am very excited to find out.

As I was thinking about writing this post, the words of an Avicii song have been playing in my mind.  “All this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost.”  I wonder now if anyone ever feels themselves truly found?  I guess I will soon find out.  Be well xxx


Rescue Remedy!

I have often said that I believe people come into our lives for a reason.  They cross our paths to fulfill a specific need.  Sometimes their purpose is to become a lover, a friend or a confidant.  Sometimes their purpose is instructional.  They come to teach us a lesson about the world or about ourselves.

In the last while I have come to learn that these people, who come to shape our existence, may not always be physically present.  Occasionally it may be an author you have never met, or even some of their characters who come to your aid.  Sometimes a work of fiction has the power to reach you in a way a “real” person simply never could. Just in the same way as it happens with real life people, this always seems to occur exactly when you need it most.

I have had an experience of this very recently.  In a very convoluted and six degrees of separation type way, I came to discover Terry Pratchett.  (I had heard about Amanda Palmer on a Podcast, which prompted me to read her book.  She is married to Neil Gaiman, and so I read a couple of his books.  After Neverwhere and American Gods, I was hungry for more, so I read Good Omens, which Neil and Terry wrote together.)  It was from here that the love affair with Terry began.

It amazes me that I have not stumbled across his work before now.  I studied literature in University and even outside of that, I am usually a voracious reader.  Stranger still, is that my sister and many of my friends have all read his work, and yet until now none of it had landed in my lap.

I am a couple of months and half a dozen books in to my tour of the Discworld, and I honestly don’t know how to describe it.  The books are mesmerising and enchanting.  I have been spellbound from the start, and the series has given me more honest to goodness, laugh out loud moments, than any other.  After months of taxing my brain to its very limit, Terry’s Multiverse has been like a balm.  Being able to completely immerse myself in a fantasy world, has proved to be the tonic, I didn’t even know I needed.

Terry’s characters are where the magic really lies.  Each one I meet, instantly becomes my new favourite.  The cast of witches and wizards, dwarfs and even Death himself, are all so incredibly relatable.  It is as though they hold a mirror in front of you to show you the long forgotten parts of yourself.  I had forgotten that there was a part of me that believes in magic.  I had neglected the little girl inside me, whose wide eyed wonderment makes the world just a little more interesting.  I had stopped allowing myself to be curious, to fantasise, to be surprised.  And how “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable” it had all become!

If you had asked me last year if I liked fantasy novels, I would have said absolutely not.  I am far too sensible and busy for all that!  However, thinking about it lately, if you enquired about some of my favourite books, among them would be The Hobbit and The Eyes of The Dragon.  Both fantasy, and both read to me as a little girl.  I have loved immersing myself in Terry’s world.  I have become extremely protective of the time I spend with Rincewind, Granny and Death.  These days, I feel I dream in Octarine!  I can’t help but wonder, why I had resisted it for so long.

I think the answer is simply this.  I had become so caught up in creating this “perfect” version of myself, (Arwen the accountant, Arwen the student, Arwen the writer) that I had failed to nurture any parts of myself which appeared not to fit this persona.  I stopped taking myself out to play.

Moving pictures

A very wise woman (thank you Sarah) told me recently that we need to learn to embrace our duality.  We need to try to accept that we can be both serious at times and zany at times.  Being more of one doesn’t make you any less of the other.  It’s okay to love the Beatles and still enjoy Bieber!  I am coming to realise that taking time out to refresh myself with fantasy, actually makes me better able to cope with reality.

I have written many times now, about the importance of balance.  I can’t stress how crucial it is to take time out to do what you want to do, in order that you can be re-energised to do what you need to do.  Important as well, is being open to trying new things.  Watch the movie that’s not your preferred genre, read the book your friend recommended, order the main course you haven’t tried before.  You just might discover a new passion!

As I questioned why it took me so long to trip over Terry, one phrase kept coming to mind “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear!”  I am beginning to feel that he was waiting for me.  His world has come to me right at a time when I am at leisure to explore it.  His writing has been soothing and inspirational in equal measure.  Magic!  Be well xxx






The Brain/Body Disconnect!

If there is one thing I have learned over the past few years, it is just how little I know.  In the area of health and fitness in particular, there is always new research being done, lessons to be learned and assumptions to be disproved.  It can seem at times that the more I learn, the less I know!  That being said, there are a couple of things that I do have a degree of certainty about.

The first thing is that more often than not, the scale will not behave in the way the think it will.  Let me give you an example.  As many of you know, I weigh myself each morning. This is purely for information and really is more a ritual now than anything.  For the last several weeks my weight has been in and around 59kg.  While getting below this weight might be nice, it would require a large amount of effort.  I definitely am not about to make this a priority right now, so as long as I can maintain my current level, I am happy enough.

Two weeks ago, I underwent a colonoscopy.  The procedure itself is very straightforward. The preparation for it, however, is anything but.  I had to fast for 24 hours prior to having it done, and the night before I had to take a preparation to essentially clean me out.  The morning of the procedure I literally had nothing left in my system.  I was curious about the impact of this and so decided to weigh myself before leaving for the hospital.  I honestly expected to see some ridiculously low number.  Imagine my surprise then, when I saw 60kg on the scale.  Having spent an entire day fasting and purging my body, I had put on a kilo!  My husband even jokingly asked “God, what do you actually have to do to lose weight?”

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I was not one bit concerned about this “weight gain.” Let’s face it, I had more pressing matters on my mind that day, but I did find it funny. Here I am, with all my nutrition training, having spent years managing my weight, and I can still be blindsided by the bathroom scale.  24 hours, and two McDonald’s meals after the procedure, I was back to normal weight, and in fact, weighed in slightly lighter than usual.

The scale is definitely a powerful tool, but she is also a fickle mistress.  If you, like myself find yourself getting a reading so off the wall, it literally couldn’t be possible, just brush it off.  These blips can happen for all sorts of reasons, and there really is little point in agonising over it.  It’s also important to remember that it is the overall trend of your weight that matters, not a single reading.

The second thing I have come to be certain about is that, for most of us, how we see and feel about our bodies, is usually a long way away from the reality of the situation.  We humans are complicated creatures.  We have all sorts of biochemistry and hormones, which not only impact how our body behaves, but also effect how we feel about it.  Some days we wake up feeling that we look great.  Other days, for no apparent reason, we will wake up feeling fat, sluggish and generally like a whale-blob!  I have even had times where I have experienced both in the same day!

There are two reasons why I think this happens.  Firstly, we simply don’t see ourselves how we really are.  I honestly believe we all suffer from a degree of body dis-morphia. We all have certain delusions about ourselves, be they positive or negative.  Some people think they look fat, when they are perfectly slim.  Some others think they should win the X Factor, when in fact, they are completely tone deaf!  I don’t really know what the answer to this is.  The only advice I can give is to be kind to yourself.  Stop negative self talk COMPLETELY.  Life is hard enough, without being your own worst enemy.

The other reason why I think the body and brain have a disconnect, is simply because the brain takes longer to realise that change has happened.  When I was putting my weight on, I was in complete denial.  Of course, I noticed that my clothes were no longer fitting (damn tumble dryer) and that I was more padded than I had previously been, but I was always able to explain it all away.  My light bulb moment came when I was getting ready to go out one evening.  I had laid a pair of jeans out on the bed.  When I came out of the shower, with my guard down, I actually saw them, as if for the first time.  I was horrified by how enormous they were.  I knew that I needed to do something.

When I began to lose weight, it again took a long time for my brain to catch up.  It didn’t matter what the scale said, or how many people commented on my weight loss, I just didn’t believe it.  Ironically, it was another pair of jeans that made the penny drop. Similar to before, I had them laid out on the bed.  Even though I had worn them before, this day they looked to me, impossibly tiny.  My brain said “there is no way they are going to fit you.”  My body, however, had the last word!

It’s not surprising that this disconnect occurs.  Your body really just goes with the flow.  It responds to the inputs and outputs in a very predictable way.  When we take in more fuel than we need, over time we put on weight.  We lose weight when we do the opposite. There is no escaping this, our body is designed to do this.  Our brain however, is a different beast.  When you have spent years, or even decades seeing yourself in a certain way, it can take a long time to reprogram this self image.  If every time you look in the mirror, you expect to see a fat person, that is exactly what you will see, regardless of the reality.

The advice I give to anyone going through this, is just be patient.  Your body knows what to do, even if your brain is struggling.  Trust the process, control what you can, and know that eventually your jeans will show you what’s what.  Be well xxx



The Goldilocks Effect

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to buy a new mattress.   We had had our existing one since we moved in and it was long overdue for replacement.  It was flat as a pancake and I was tired of feeling like I was sleeping on springs.  It goes without saying that I am no mattress expert.  There was a million choices and it seemed impossible to differentiate between them.  But, I figured anything I chose would be a marked improvement on what we had.  So, just pick one, right?  Instead of getting overwhelmed (which I usually would) I did what people normally do in a situation like this like this.  I didn’t go for the cheapest, and didn’t go for the most expensive.  I went for something in the middle.

This is fairly standard in decision making.  It has been well documented by behavioural experts.   If you don’t believe me, just notice what you do the next time you are choosing a bottle of wine in a restaurant!  This all got me thinking, if this Goldilocks effect is so standard in decision making, that it is essentially the default, how come it doesn’t translate into the rest of our lives?  How come so much of our behaviour is one extreme or the other.

I have talked a lot on the blog about the idea of balance.  I want to have a healthy diet, but I don’t want to feel restricted.  I want to get enough exercise, but I don’t want to run myself into the ground.  I love to keep busy and active, but want to avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  Why is it that in these areas of my life, I find it difficult to determine what it “just right?”

I mean, wouldn’t it be ideal if our bodies were programmed to give us immediate feedback?  Like, “OK Arwen, that’s enough cake now.”  How perfect would it be if we were given accurate indications on how much actually is enough?  Of course, there are plenty of devices we can plug data into.  We can track our food intake, our energy expenditure, our sleep and just about any other metric you can think of.  However, is our reliance on these tools only further damaging our ability to make good decisions by ourselves?

Any regular readers will know that I have experimented with just about every diet protocol that there is.  I have gone from elimination type diets, where I ate as much as I wanted, but only from certain food groups, to diets that involved weighing and tracking every bite.  No matter how diverse these diets appear, they all have one common drawback.  They don’t feel like a “normal” or “natural” way to eat.  I am at the stage now, where I really want to be able to eat intuitively.  The only problem with this, is that I don’t trust my intuition.  Do you blame me?  It hasn’t got an awesome track record of keeping me in line!

It is a very similar situation with training.  I always wonder if I could or should be doing more.  I am constantly on the look out for new things to incorporate into my routine.  New ways to get more out of my training sessions.  Again, it would be lovely to feel in tune enough with my body to be able to relax about it.  I don’t want to spend any less time in the gym, but it would be nice if it took up less head space.  Surely the only time I need to be actively thinking about training, is when I am actually doing it?

In short, I have reached a point now where I want my training and nutrition to just tick along in the background.  I don’t want them to be a source of stress or anxiety.  I would love to be able to just rock up to the gym and do whatever workout I felt like, without worrying about how it will impact the rest of my week.  I would love to blow off meal prep if I am tired or busy, without it giving me a panic attack (not literally, but you get the point!)  As it is, I am over thinking and creating problems for myself, using up time and energy which could better serve me elsewhere.

Having given all of this a lot of thought, I think the only way I can learn to trust my inner Goldilocks is if I let her take control.  This isn’t going to be an easy transition for me.  I am a complete control freak and I always have a nagging worry in the back of my mind that if I take my foot off the gas, even for a second, I will wake up 20kg heavier.  I know how irrational this is, but you try telling that to the voices in my head.

I have a trip to Rome coming up in 3 weeks, and I think this will be the perfect time to experiment.  For the four days I am there, I will not even attempt to track a single calorie or macro.  I won’t be eating at my desk or with other distractions.  I will try to use eating in a more relaxed setting, to help me to better recognise and trust my hunger and satiety ques.  My travel companion has never struggled with her weight or food in general, so she will be a good guide.  I also won’t have access to a scale, kitchen or bathroom, so I will need to trust myself to do without the former, and not worry what is happening with the later.  (I will post my meals and snacks on my Instagram story, so you guys can see how it’s going.)

Any of you who may be reading this, thinking it all sounds crazy, let me tell you how much I envy you.  I have battled for a long time with very disordered thoughts and behaviour around diet and exercise.  At the moment I feel like I am controlling it, as opposed to it controlling me, but I am acutely aware of how quickly the scales can tip in the other direction.  Enough is enough.  Be well xxx

Ps.  Any of you who have come up against similar issues, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


Rise and Grind?

Do you remember, as a child, your mother walking into your bedroom, and in a sing song way, greeting you with “rise and shine?”  Well, I certainly do.  (Even if I am uncertain about whether it actually happened, or if I borrowed the memory from American TV)  Something about that phrase is just so uplifting.  It seems to promise that the day will be full of sunshine and positivity.  All you have to do is wake up and it will all be waiting for you.

Fast forward 30 years, and the phrase has been significantly altered.  Instead of being told to shine, Grind is the order of the day!  The sweet and uplifting message has been bastardised and now it speaks of aggression, drudgery and toil.  Certainly not something I want to wake up to every morning.

Yes, yes, I will admit, three years studying English has meant that I read more into words than is merited at times.  However, it’s not just these three little words I take exception to.  I have a problem with the entire philosophy of “grinding.”  As we stand, half way through 2017, we are in the grips of an epidemic of personal effectiveness.  We are in constant competition to see who can be seen to be working, if not the hardest, then certainly the longest.   It wasn’t too long ago, that the only thing getting people up at 5am was either a bout of insomnia, or an early morning flight.  These days it isn’t unusual to hear people say they wake at 5am each and every morning, because “there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Enough hours for what?  Well, there’s work of course, and if you want to get ahead, you have to be the first to arrive and the last to leave.  There’s the gym, if you aren’t spending hours a week there, are you even trying?  There’s books to read and Podcasts to listen to, all informative of course, because you wouldn’t want to waste time on anything that’s just for fun.  There’s meals to be prepped, FitBits and MyFitness Pals to be sated.  Meditation and mindfulness are a must.  And naturally, Social Media isn’t going to keep up with itself, now is it?  God, I am exhausted just typing all that, nevermind doing it!

The crazy thing is, not so long ago, this would have been a fairly accurate description of my life.  Work was bedlam and long hours were the norm.  I was in a new role, so everyday there was something new to learn.  I was in college as well. Even the gym was a constant source of stress.  I was either tying myself up in knots trying to get there, or beating myself up for not going.  I spent all of my very limited “leisure time” reading educational books and listening to education Podcasts.  Were they instructional and informative? Yes.  Were they what I needed at the time?  Absolutely not.

My mind was under constant pressure, and just like anything else subjected to grinding, it began to wear down.  My sleep was the first thing to suffer.  Not surprising really as all the nuggets of information I had crammed into my brain fought amongst themselves during the night.  The next thing to feel the effects was my creativity.  I had no desire to experiment with food or even to talk to my lovely readers.  Everything became a chore.  Just as it is possible to over train the body, I had over trained my mind.

I know I am not alone in this.  My news feed is awash with images of other Grinders.  I see them on a daily basis, “hustling” from dawn to dusk, fervently ticking off the never ending to-do list, so that they can be seen to #winningatlife.  Let me tell you something guys, if you constantly feel exhausted you are you doing it wrong!  If you feel like your life is dictated by an arbitrary list of tasks, you are doing the exact opposite of winning.  Who exactly are you competing with anyway?

Of course it’s important to work hard.  If you have goals, and most of us do, it will take effort to achieve them.  But this needs to be done in a balanced way.  It is okay to do things just for fun sometimes.  Not only is it okay to relax, it is vitally important.  Rest and relaxation are just as crucial to your health and well-being as your nutrition and fitness.  When it comes to your mental health, I would argue that R&R is even more important than anything else.

I like to learn lessons the hard way, and this was no exception.  I still have a lot going on.  There are still a million things I want to achieve, and I will always have moments of feeling like I will never get it all done.  However, I am learning just how important it is, to do the seemingly unimportant things.  Don’t underestimate the cathartic effect of a chat with your friends, a warm bath, a cuddle with your puppy or simply doing nothing.  Strolls don’t have to be just about step counts, and reading doesn’t always have to be “educational.”  Trust me when I say that anything, which makes you feel refreshed and revived, can never be a waste of time.

Life is constantly making demands of us, and just like any vessel, if not replenished we will eventually be emptied.  So, it is up to you to decide, do you really want to grind?  Or would you prefer to shine?  Be well xxx









Maintenance Is a Dirty Word!

Anyone who has ever managed to lose weight, will understand what I mean when I say it can be highly addictive.  Stepping on the scales and seeing it move in the right direction feels incredible.  Bumping into someone you haven’t seen for a while and hearing those magic words “have you lost weight?” can keep you smiling for hours.  This is a good thing.  During the weight loss phase, these little boosts are extremely motivating and can help us overcome all sorts of obstacles.

Let’s face is, there will be days when you won’t feel like training.  There will also be times when Susan’s hot chicken roll seems more tempting than your Tupperware of salad.  It is at these times when the motivation, which comes from seeing results, will help strengthen your resolve.  Even if it means you don’t sit beside Susan at lunch!

So, what happens when the weight loss phase is over?  You have reached your goal and decided that you don’t need or want to lose any more weight.  You are happy with where you are.  However, you have worked too damn hard to simply revert to your old ways and end up right back where you started, right?  Que the maintenance phase!  Although strictly speaking, calling it a “phase” is a misnomer, because if we do it right, this “phase” will last as long as we do.

Yes, you heard it right.  Maintenance is forever!!  In truth your weight can only ever do one of three things.  Go up (we have already established that this is a non runner,) go down (again, not ideal seeing as you are already at your target,) or stay the same.

It’s the FOREVER bit that people have a hard time accepting.  I was definitely not prepared for it.  I assumed, like a lot of others, that I would go on a diet, do that for a while, then come off the diet and go back to “normal.”  So, that’s what I did, LOTS of times.  It was a continuous cycle of weight loss, followed by almost immediate weight gain.  I was missing an important part of the puzzle.  I had failed to realise that it was my “normal” which was doing the damage.  The very definition of insanity, I was doing the same thing and expecting different results.

I credit myself with a reasonable amount of intelligence, but damn it took me a long time for the truth to sink in.  Keeping weight off requires the same amount of energy and focus as loosing it in the first place.  Good nutrition, exercise, hydration, sleep and stress management are all just as vital in maintenance as they are during weight loss.  The simple, but perhaps unpopular, reality is that taking your eye off the ball, will eventually cause a back slide.

Another unfortunate reality of weight maintenance is that those little boosts I spoke about earlier don’t really exist.  When maintaining your weight, by definition, you won’t see the scale moving much, if at all.  Your friends and family will be used to your new sleek physique and so probably won’t dish out as many awe struck compliments as they did when you were loosing weight.  All this means is that you will have to rely on intrinsic motivation.  In other words, it’s all on you!  You will need to focus on how good you feel inside yourself to help you to make good decisions on a daily basis.


So yes, maintenance is hard, and it is un-glamourous, but one thing you do have going for you, is that you know you can do it.  You have successfully reached this point, so you know you just have to keep doing what you have been doing and you’re golden!

I am not for one minute saying you need to meticulously count calories for the rest of your life.  Neither am I saying that you need run marathons or compete in Crossfit.  I do however, recommend that you continue to track your weight, at least until you find the sweet spot and figure out what you can and cannot get away with.

I got married three and a half years ago.  I had lost about 15kg on the run up to the wedding and was pretty happy with my body by the time I walked down the aisle.  Since then I have lost a further 5kg.  I have done this so slowly that I really consider it to be more maintenance than weight loss per se.  In this period there have been holidays, birthdays and Christmases (of course.)  There have been times I have completely overdone it, and times when I knew I needed to keep a tighter rein on things.  Life does not need to stop at the end of your weight loss.  However, if you think going back to how you lived before your diet began will help you keep your results, you are just as deluded as I was.

When I gave up smoking more than a decade ago, I remember saying to my husband that I would never smoke again.  Not because I didn’t want to light up a cigarette, but because quitting was so hard that I doubted I would be able to put myself through it again.  This is similar to how I feel about my weight.  Loosing weight is as emotional roller coaster and not something I would choose to go through again.  So, maybe maintenance is worth the effort after all.  Be well xxx



Breaking Up With The FitFam – It’s Not You, It’s Me!

Loneliness is an awful emotion.  It drives us to behave in ways, which make it difficult to recognise ourselves.  It can make us feel simultaneously self conscious and invisible.

It was 2012.  I had just finished my accountancy training and had started my first “proper job.”  I was working for a huge American Corporation.  My days were filled with SOPs, KPIs and every other acronym you can think of.  Like a fish out of water, I just did not fit it.  I started to wonder if I was even in the right career, or had the last 5 years of study been completely wasted?

It was a really low point for me.  I never had a huge social circle to begin with, and the years spent doing ACCA had distanced me from a lot of the friends I did have.  I was so lonely.  The worst thing about it, was that I felt guilty for feeling this way.  I had a loving partner, a wonderful family and truly appeared to be living the dream.  I had absolutely nothing to complain about.  So, I did what any self-respecting overachiever would do, I pretended to be fine!

Not long after starting in this “proper job” I discovered Crossfit and Paleo.  This seemed to be the answer to all my prayers.  Finally something had come along to fill the void.  I threw myself into it with the same single minded determination I had put into getting qualified.  I spent up to 3 hours every night in the the gym.  When I wasn’t training, I was thinking about it, or reading about it, (I read the entire back catalogue of The Crossfit Journal in a month) or talking about it!

I was completely focused on training, and to be honest, I became an asshole!  I was so fixated on this one aspect of my life, that I lost sight of pretty much everything else.  My husband would plead with me to come home, to spend time with other people, to be more present in my life.  But, all I could think was “he just doesn’t want me to succeed.”  I kept telling myself that the next gym milestone, (the body weight back squat, the handstand push up, the kipping pull up) would make me happy.  It didn’t.

My obsession was having a terrible effect on my overall well-being.  I would train straight after work, for hours.  I would come home so hungry and depleted, that I would be shaking driving the car.  Everybody warned me I was heading for trouble, my family, my partner, even my colleagues, but I ignored them all.  I knew better.  I was “dedicated.” I distanced myself from everyone who was being, as I saw it, negative.  I took something healthy and positive to an unhealthy and dangerous place.  I risked losing everything.

In my efforts to cure my loneliness, I only ended up more isolated.  The irony of this is not lost on me!  Finally, I reached a turning point.  I slowly began to realise the error of my ways.  I found a job I love, which is both challenging and engaging enough to not allow for outside obsessions!  I began to remember other things I enjoyed doing.  I started reading again, and seeing people.  Far from being a light-bulb moment, I very much clawed my way out of the darkness.

In this digital age, we are very much at the mercy of the social media Gods and gurus.  We are bombarded hourly with images of people living seemingly perfect lives, with wonder partners, exciting careers and most of all, flawless physiques!  In my desire to feel part of something, I bought into all of it.  I so desperately wanted to be part of that #fitfam.  I needed to prove myself worthy of acceptance by showing I could train as hard, prep as well and basically obsess as much as they did.

The funny thing is, there is no membership policy.  You never receive an email, text or tweet to say “Congratulations, you are now ENOUGH, welcome on board!”  Seeking validation from an online “community” is a fool’s errand.  So, I have decided to stop.  I have come to learn that my own self-worth is far more important than the acceptance of anyone online.  I have also realised, that chasing recognition from strangers not only damages my already fragile self image, it is just plain stupid.  These people don’t care about me.

In the last few months I have discovered that exposing myself to the #fitspos, is a real trigger for me.  One glance at a woman with abs, and I launch into a full on body comparison.  What is she doing?  How come she has a 6 pack and I don’t?  What’s her secret?  How can I get to look that way?  It’s relentless and damaging.

When it comes to social media, there are some great voices out there.  They are promoting health and fitness in a sensible and sustainable way.  Unfortunately they are in the minority.  It seems for every 1 intelligent and insightful person, we will encounter 10 idiots.  I was at The Better Life Project’s Empowered Women Workshop this week, and just one of the wonderful pieces of advice Sarah offered to us was “If someone in your news-feed makes you feel bad, unfollow them.”  Simple as that!  We can’t control the amount of negativity and bullshit there is online, but we can choose to limit our exposure to it.

As for my training, I still do and probably always will, love the gym.  But, crucially, I am approaching it now from a much kinder place.  I exercise because I love my body, not because I want to beat it into submission.  I am slowly learning to accept my limitations and to listen to the voices of those who love me.  Most importantly, the choices I make with my training and nutrition and for me, not to please the Fitfam.  Be well xxx



Naturally Unnatural?

I have never been what you might call naturally athletic.  In school, I avoided PE at all cost.  I feigned period pain so often, I am surprised they didn’t send me to a gynecologist!  In fact, I avoided physical activity of any description in so far as was humanly possible.

When I was about 21, my mother was getting married, and we both started taking a couple of fitness classes.  I can honestly say that that was my first exposure to anything even remotely resembling exercise.  I shouldn’t really wonder then, why physical activity doesn’t always come easy to me.  I have a long list of things which I have attempted, only to find I lacked the kind of fluency I was expecting to have.

The first time I remember experiencing this was with running.  I ran for the first time (certainly in adult life, however, I don’t recall doing much running as a child either,) when I was about 30.  I opened the hall door, and just started running, or at least trying to.  After no more than about 200m I had to stop.  Breathless and exhausted, I had no alternative but to return home with my shame.  I was completely baffled.  Other people make this look so easy, I just assumed I would be able to do it.  They are out running 10ks and marathons, and I couldn’t make it to the end of the street.

Over the coming years, I kept trying to run.  Running would routinely come up as part of our workouts, especially in the summer months.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t get it figured out.  My legs never wanted to adopt that easy rhythm other people had.  I seemed always to need to work so much harder, just to cover the same distance.  A friend of mine tried to comfort me by saying “you’re just not a natural runner.”  (I think she was trying to sweet talk me after telling me I look like Jean Claude van Damme when I run!)  As time went by, and I continued to struggle, I began to wonder if she was right.  Maybe running just wasn’t in my DNA?

I wish I could tell you that running was the only nemesis I faced in training, but alas there was another exercise I dreaded seeing even more.  Double unders!  For those of you who may not know, a double under is a form of skipping.  Each time you jump, the the rope passes your body twice.   Similar to my plight with the pavement, this movement eluded me, FOR YEARS!  I lost count of the amount of tantrums and tears I had about this particular exercise.

At the very height of my frustration, I spoke to my mother about it.  After explaining it all to her she had this insight “Arwen, you were never a natural at skipping.”  And, she’s right.  Even as a young child, I wasn’t any good at it.  I was always tripping up and tying myself in knots.

With both the running and the skipping, I had little choice but to just get on with it when they came up in workouts.  I accepted that I was never going to be the fastest, or even particularly proficient and committed to gutting through it.  Every so often, I would toy with the idea of going to a running coach, but the idea of spending a lot of time and money to get better (hopefully) at something I don’t enjoy, seemed a little foolish.

I never learned to swim as a child.   I initially took swimming lessons in my 30s, and although I have no fear of water, I more certainly am not a good swimmer.  Recently, I have started swimming again.  Each week, I go to the pool and try to complete a certain number of lengths without either drowning or swallowing half the water.  I started about 8 weeks ago with 15 lengths and last week I managed 22.  Slow progress indeed, but going in the right direction.  Every length is hard fought and usually involves stopping several times.

Last week, while I was choking on water, and wondering what the hell was wrong with me, a thought came to my mind.  You’re just not a natural swimmer!!!  I shook my head as though to physically dislodge this notion.   You see, unlike running, which I hate, and  double unders, which I would happily never do again, I actually quite enjoy swimming.  As well as that, I am determined to get better at it.   Until such time as that happens, I will have to put up with little kids and adorable old ladies lapping me with ease.  I will also have to try not to be embarrassed by my ineptitude and to resist the urge to shout “I am only learning” whenever people look at me!

One of the things I like most about being in the water, is that it gives me time to think.  I have spent some of this time mulling over this concept of natural ability.  I began to wonder a few things.  I mean is anyone ever really a natural at anything?  Or is it just that they have put hundreds of unseen hours into honing their craft, so that it now appears effortless?   Let’s face it savants and prodigies are few and far between.  For most of us, success only comes as a result of hard work and dedication.


It also raised the question for me of whether we ever appreciate the things which come easy to us.  Or is it only really the struggle, which makes the end result worthwhile?

For me, the reality is, I have little natural ability when it comes to anything sporty.  I don’t think there is anything I can do to change this fact.  However, how I choose to deal with it is entirely up to me.  I can hang up my goggles and be content to sideline myself from the swimming pool, or I can keep showing up each week and make an honest effort towards self improvement.  For once, I have made the decision not to give up.  I am determined to prove myself wrong.  I have always wanted to be able to swim in open water, so hopefully that can be ticked off my bucket list in the near future.

I think we all have an innate desire to be good at everything.  We don’t like coming last or being seen to have weaknesses.  This ego all too often gets in the way of true growth and progress.  My advice to anyone struggling with something they are not a natural at (and to myself) is just not to give up.  Keep your head up, try not to get out of your depth and you never know, you might just surprise yourself.  Be well xxx