Something Old, Something New!

I have been tinkering with this blog for almost 3 years now.  It has become a dear friend and trusted confidant.  Over the years it has allowed me to express myself in ways I hadn’t known possible.  A little while ago, I entered a blogging competition and honestly had zero expectations.  I am shocked, amazed and humbled beyond belief to have made it to the final in the health and wellness category.  Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog since it started.  You guys are awesome.

I can’t help but remember back to when it was just an idea.  I had thought about it for so long.  Hmming and hawing, second guessing and procrastinating.  I worried so much about how it would be received.  What would people say?  What would they think?  I can’t speak to what they might be thinking, but as of yet I have not received any negative feedback.  I was prepared for trolls, but they have remained under their bridges up till now anyway!

Recently, my sister and I started a Podcast.  As always when I take on a new project, I was filled with trepidation and fear.  Imagining every eventuality and doing a fair amount of catastrophizing.  As I write this, we have two episodes aired.  A new episode will drop every Monday.  Naturally we have experienced some teething problems and are learning A LOT.  The learning curve is a steep one, but not insurmountable.  Astonishingly, nothing catastrophic has befallen us so far.  I am usually a solo flier, and it has been so nice to have my sister on this adventure with me.  My brother is producing the show for us, so it’s pretty much a family affair.

The Podcast is in a similar vein to the blog.  We talk about health, fitness and lifestyle and try to get to the truth behind some of the myths.  We also talk about food a lot, and anything else we stumble across.  It is all done with the honesty you have come to expect from me.  We are on all the major platforms.  I would love you to check it out, Fitty and Fatty

That’s enough of the shameless self promotion.

What I really wanted to say in this post is that incredible things do happen.  If you put yourself out there and take a chance.  Opportunity does knock, but only if you leave the porch light on.  If there’s something you have been wanting to do for ages, please go and do it.  If it doesn’t work out, so what?  If it does, who knows where it could take you!  And if you end up being up for an award, please let me know.  Be well xxx

PS.  For anyone looking for an update on Scroll Free September.  It has been going well.  I am not struggling at all really.  This blog automagically uploads to the Facebook page, so I promise I haven’t been cheating.



Green Friday?

I have great affection for America.  I spent a year living in California as a child and it proved to be a very formative experience.  In fact, I credit my time there with being at least partly responsible for some of my “out there” personality traits.  I also spent a summer working in Michigan on the beautiful Mackinac Island.  I adored every second of it, and treasure the memories made there.

I also love Americana.  Diners, coke floats, Thanks Giving Parades, you name it.  One thing, we Europeans seem to have adopted from our cousins across the pond, which I don’t love, however, is excessive consumerism.  This is prevalent all year round, but of course, never more so than on the run up to “The Holidays.”  It is the middle of November and I have lost count of the number of emails I have received from retailers, telling me about their Black Friday Week sales.

There is so much wrong with this, I almost don’t know where to begin.  Firstly, to state the obvious, Friday is a day NOT a week, so can we please just nip that in the bud?  Secondly, can we at least acknowledge that this is utter nonsense.  All these retailers want to do is clear their old stock and extend the festive spending period for another week or so.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain as much as the next girl, but we have to draw the line somewhere.  Don’t we?

Over the last week or so, I have been literally one click away (several times) from spending hundreds of euros, I don’t have, on stuff I don’t need.  We get swept away with it all.  “Oh, that coat would be lovely for Christmas morning,” or “my mother would love that bag.”  All it takes is a momentary lapse of will and they have you.  Hook, line and sinker.

I have spoken on the blog before about seasonal overspend.  This year my family have decided to do a Secret Santa, and on the face of it, it should solve a lot of problems.  Each person only has to buy one gift.  There is a spending limit in place, and each person should receive one nice, well thought out gift, instead of lots of little things.  Perfect!  Except, ironically, it almost seems as though the stress of not spending is worse than the stress of spending.

I worry about the gift I am going to buy.  Will the person like it?  They better had, as it will be the only one they receive.  Can I really arrive on Christmas morning with only one gift?  Is that going to be weird?  Yes, it probably will feel strange at first.  But if anything, it will mean that we can take the emphasis off the gift giving, and put it on to spending time together, and the food of course!

It is no secret that marketing companies are designed to make us feel inadequate.  They make money by making us feel that we are lacking something, and that their product can fix it.  It is absolutely everywhere and I fear we women can even more easily fall victim to it.

I recently attended a beauty workshop hosted by Suzanne Jackson.  Anyone who knows me could tell you this isn’t really my bag, by my pal asked me to go with her, and the promise of afternoon tea proved too tempting to resist.  The day was essentially an advertisement.  Hour after hour spent listening to which products we simply cannot do without.  I left the event feeling very peculiar.  I mean, if I don’t use 200 make-up products, fake lashes and fake tan, am I even a proper woman?  If my wardrobe lacks designer labels, am I just not doing it right?

It would have been so easy to get sucked into it.  I was on the brink of booking myself onto a make-up course and learning how to contour for once and for all, God damn it!  Hair extensions were being ordered and I was trying really hard to figure out how I was going to fit all this crap into my tiny bathroom!  Then the word Botox started being bandied around, and it finally brought me back to earth.  I looked at my friend and we both just laughed.  It is another world, and one which will have to do without me as a citizen!

As some of you may know, my mother and sister do a lot of work with Dublin’s homeless community.  (Check them out on Facebook A Welcome Place.)  They run a weekly soup kitchen and work tirelessly in the background to make sure they have all they need, to feed those less fortunate.  I am incredibly proud of the work they do.  They stand on Grafton Street, in often hideous weather conditions, every Thursday night, putting the needs of others before their own.

Having spent an evening or two working with them, I feel like I have some understanding of what goes into it, and how much it takes out of them.  It is utterly appalling to see people trying to survive on the streets.  It is difficult to imagine having nothing and nowhere to call you own.  So yes, I am so very proud, but I will admit that it also makes me feel guilty and conflicted.

How can I even consider buying another pair of shoes, when there are people whose whole lives fit into a rucksack?  How can I, in good conscience, spend €75 to listen to some chick tell me about lipstick, when there are people without facilities for basic hygiene?  I am really struggling to reconcile this.  Is it selfish of me to want nice things?  I want a comfortable home and a reliable car.  I am not prepared to sacrifice these things for others, yet their suffering deeply troubles me.

I have no idea what the answer to this is.  I can, however, think of a few things I can do.  I can stop buying into Black Friday and all the other consumer concepts.  I can stop fueling my own feelings of inadequacy, while lining the pockets of big business.  I can commit to spend less and save more, so that I might someday be in a position to actually help someone.  I can give thanks for all that I have, which is what this week in November is supposed to be about after all.  Be well xxx



The Wild Atlantic Way!

Last week, my husband and I spent a few days in County Donegal.  We took Annie, our German Shepherd with us, and rented a cottage in a remote area called Gweedore.  The cottage was very close to vast, unspoiled beaches and I was so looking forward to experiencing the wilderness effect.

The weeks leading up to the trip had been extremely stressful.  Work had been nightmarish and between running my nutrition group and trying to get ready to start teaching Zumba, it was all systems go (as usual!)  I felt completely exhausted.  It was to the point that I went to the doctor for blood tests.  I was convinced there must be something wrong with me.  Surely it couldn’t be “normal” to be so bloody tired all the time.  I was spending all day dragging myself around.  Dying to get to bed at night, only to lie there looking at the ceiling instead of being asleep.

Thankfully the blood tests came back all clear.  I am the picture of health, if only I felt it!!  The only thing the fatigue could be down to was either a hormonal issue (a change in pill was prescribed to try rule that out,) or stress/burn out.  The week of the trip my mouth erupted in cold sores.  A sure sign that I was run down.  I felt fragile and tearful.  I can honestly say, if I had had to last another week in work without a break, I may have had a break down!

Finally, the departure day arrived.  Even packing seemed like such an effort.  I made the decision to leave my make-up bag and hairdryer at home.  I claimed this was a nod to minimalism, but it was more that I couldn’t be bothered trying to sort that out.  It was all I could do to throw some clothes in a bag, grab my doggy and hit the road.

No sooner were we on the road, when I felt myself beginning to unwind.  A whole wonderful week lay ahead of me with no work, no gym, no housework or responsibilities.  Imagine, an entire seven days with no schedule to keep.  The thought of it made me giddy, or it would have if I hadn’t been so drained!

We arrived at the cottage just as dusk settled.  Stepping out of the car, taking a big stretch after the long drive, I took a deep breath.  As air scented with turf fires and sea salt filled my lungs, I began to wonder when was the last time I had done that?  When was the last time I had really allowed myself to breathe?

The few days we spent in Donegal were pure bliss.  Waking naturally, enjoying a leisurely brunch while planning the day’s adventures.  We spent hours tramping the beaches with Annie, watching her running through the surf.  Laughing at her jumping into boggy water and seeing her delight at how dirty she was getting.  We spent a lovely afternoon in Glen Veagh National Park, wandering and exploring.   We walked for hours every day, my FitBit was on overdrive.  The evenings were spent just hanging out, watching movies we had already seen, and enjoying not having anywhere to be.  I slept better than I had in months.

We drove up to Donegal in the rain, and we drove home in the rain.  In between journeys we were blessed with bright sunshine and clear blue skies.  We couldn’t have asked for more.  The sea air and wild terrain were such a tonic.  As the days wore on, I felt like a weight was being lifted off me.  I began to feel myself relaxing for the first time in I don’t remember how long.  For the first time in ages, I was content just to sit and do nothing.

The best part of the trip, for me, was seeing how much fun Annie was having.  As a 35kg German Shepherd, there aren’t too many places we can let her run wild and free.  But along the deserted coast lines we were able to do exactly that.  It was amazing to see her come to life and embrace her new found freedom.  It made me realise that I am not entirely unlike her.   I spend all my time restrained and restricted.  Adhering to schedules and rules.  Just like my puppy, I am beginning to understand that I too need time to be wild and free.


Coming back to reality this week, I have made myself a few promises.  Firstly, I have vowed to never go that long without a break again.  I have also promised to be more aware of the signs of overload and to take steps to avoid ending up feeling the way I have recently felt.  I am committed to exploring more of this beautiful country of ours and to take advantage of the wildernesses on our doorstep.

The trip away has proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered.  In the isolation, I was able to find my way back to myself.  I love being around people and would consider myself very social.  I had forgotten just how important time spent alone and quiet can be.  I didn’t even miss my make-up.  Be well xxx


Seasonal Sabotage!

The time to Eat, Drink and be Merry is just about upon us.  This is the time of year when we get to relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends.  A time when the diet relaxes and the training tends to wind down.  I think it is important to have this time as a psychological break.  A season of feast and plenty, before getting right back on it in the New Year.  But, how can we manage to avoid ruining an entire year’s hard work, while still having fun?  How can we avoid feeling like we are missing out, without ending up with a stocking full of regret?  This is probably the tenth Christmas I have spent in  “weight management” mode, so I have learned a few things to help me over the years.

Firstly, be realistic:  There is very little point in promising yourself that this year you absolutely WILL NOT over indulge.  Swearing to yourself that not one Quality Street will cross your lips and the Christmas Dinner will consist only of meat and veg.  In my experience, trying to be overly restrictive in the run up to Christmas only leads to me end up diving head first into a trifle and reaching for the stretchy pants.  I have found that a far better strategy is to decide, ahead of time, which of the Christmas treats I absolutely must have.  I then allow myself to have these and actively avoid the rest.  For me, this is the turkey and ham sandwich on Christmas night, made by my super sister, I look forward to it all year.  You can keep the dessert, but if I don’t get my sandwich, did Christmas even happen?

Beware of the Bargains:  Growing up, the tin of sweets at Christmas was a really big deal.  It was the only time of year you could get them.  They would be bought ahead of time, but on pain of death, we were never allowed to open them until Christmas Eve.  Since I have moved out, I never bother buying them.  Between work and our family homes, there is more than enough junk floating around to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.  This year, however, I began to wonder if this was a little churlish.  Was I a complete Grinch to not even have a single sweet in the house.  I thought to myself I will pick up one tin, sure what harm?  I went to the supermarket and saw they were 3 for €15!  Wow, what a bargain!!  In the space of about 4 seconds, I had gone from not buying any, to buying 3 whole tins.  Luckily, I came to my senses and abandoned my purchase.

I will never forget a leader in Weight Watchers talking about buy one get one free tins of Pringles.  She said when she looked at it all she saw was “44 points for the price of 22.”  It really isn’t a good deal if you end up eating more than you intended to and feeling bad about it.  Don’t let the marketers draw you in to ruining your progress.

Let work days be “normal” days:  I will admit that routine is an absolute saviour of mine.  Automating as many decisions about food as I can has made maintaining my weight so much easier than relying on will power alone.  Every work day I have the same breakfast, and one of 2-3 different homemade lunches.  I don’t deviate from this just because it is December.  It helps me a lot to feel like at least some parts of my diet can be consistent regardless of the season.  If I were to abandon this for the month, I know I would feel completely out of control.

Offices are a minefield for the diet conscious at the best of times, and Christmas is the worst.  Across the country mince pies and selection boxes are being passed around with abandon.  My advice, and something I have always had to do, is just give it a wide berth.  I would always prefer to indulge in sweets and treats consciously.  Sitting at home relaxing with a nice cuppa and the fur babies.  Not while on a conference call and trying to get a balance sheet worked out.

Practice the one bite rule:  If you take a bite of something, (especially if it’s calorie laden) and you don’t really love it, stop eating it.  If you take a slice of grannies fruit cake and it’s as dry as the Mojave desert, proclaim it delicious and yourself still full from dinner, and leave it alone.  Calories are too precious to be wasted on things which don’t make you make yummy noises.

Remember that Christmas is ONE DAY:  I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people saying that there is “no point trying to be good in December!”  This simply is not true.  When you think about it, it is one day, one dinner and maybe a party or two.  When you consider that on average in December, we will eat over 100 meals, it puts the big one into a little perspective.  There is only so much damage you can do in a day (even if you do my trifle dive) a whole month ,on the other hand, is a completely different story.  If you make a decision to abandon all your good habits in December, you can expect to have a significant backslide with your results.  If you make this decision, accept that it is a decision and own it.  Christmas did not do it to you!

Move on:  Whatever happens over Christmas, it’s not the end of the world.  Even if you eat and drink far more than you had intended and if the scales calls you out on it, it’s not terminal.  Win, lose or draw this silly season, allow yourself to move on.  The worst thing we can do is fall into the familiar negative feedback loop of self loathing.  When 2017 comes in, be mentally ready to attack it, not wasting energy worrying about what you ate last year.

Lastly, enjoy:  I for one am so ready for the break at Christmas.  Having a few days away from work, watching old movies in my pj’s sounds like just what the doctor ordered.  This is the time of year to catch up with friends and family and relax.  Reflect on the year just gone and get ready for the one to come.  However you will be spending this holiday season, enjoy it, for it comes but once a year.  Be well xxx



The Gift Is In The Present!

So here we are, it is the month of December, and we are counting down the days to the biggest consumer event of the year.  The initial flush of excitement of our “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” bargains has abated and we are ready to get to the serious spending.  Let’s face it, that’s what this time of year is all about, right?  Or am I becoming cynical in my old age?

I have always loved Christmas, but this year for some reason, I find myself not wanting to get drawn into all the hustle, bustle and craziness.  Maybe it is because the frenetic pace of the past few months is relaxing a little, so I am loath to fill the void with any more busyness.  Or could it be that the flagrant consumerism, waste and excess are feeling a little out of step with the practices of moderation, gratitude and mindfulness I have been trying to embrace for the last while?

For the last few months my husband and I have been trying to get a few bits and pieces done in the house.  We have lived there for nine years and a lot of what needs to be done is long overdue.  It has been costing money to get things in order, naturally, so there isn’t as much in the piggy bank as there normally would be at this time of the year.  My husband has told me not to get him anything for Christmas in order to ease the financial stress a little.  But, I have to admit, this isn’t really sitting well with me.  He has said he doesn’t need anything, which is true.  However,  I can’t help feeling that if I don’t spoil him like I usually do, that I will be missing out more than he will be!

This realisation has made me question the whole thing.  How much of the spending and fuss we go through during the festive period is more about filling a need in us, and less about making our loved ones happy?  Every year I promise myself I won’t go mad, I won’t stress out and I won’t buy things just of the sake of buying.  Every year I break my promises before the first door on the advent calendar has been opened.  What is fueling this compulsive consumption?

Like a lot of other families, Christmas hasn’t always been easy in our house.  Regardless of how bad things got, my mother has never stopped trying to give us all the “perfect Christmas.” No matter how old we get, she always tries to make sure that it is a magical time for us.  Everyone’s pile of presents has to be the same size and Christmas pjs will never go out of style!  No detail is left to chance and the list of traditions observed is a long as the M50 (with more being added each year!)  I don’t know if she has ever really had that fairy tale Christmas she wishes for.  But the fact that she never gives up on the dream of it, no matter how tough things get, is the true miracle of the season for me.

With this in mind, I urge everyone, myself included, to put down the Visa card for a second and try to think about what is really important.  Our family and friends are the greatest gifts in our lives, and our time and attention is worth so much more than material items.  All too often we put ourselves in debt and create stress to buy things, which will be forgotten about by New Year.  Giving your time, showing love and creating memories can be stay with the person forever.

There are some really practical things we can do for people that don’t cost any money, but do take time.  Do you have a sister who would love the offer of a babysitter so she and her husband can go out?  Do you have a grandparent who would appreciate your help cleaning their house or putting up their Christmas tree.  Do you have a colleague in work who will be alone this Christmas and would love to be invited to dinner with your family?  Of course, it’s easier to just buy something.  It’s far less effort to just throw money at it, but is the path of least resistance truly the best route?  Maybe this year, we can try to remember that the gift of Christmas really is in being present.  Be well xxx


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