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



Are We There Yet?

I have a confession to make.  It turns out that I don’t, in fact, love the Holiday Season as much as I thought I did.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the big meal and getting to spend some time with family and friends, but it is all starting to feel like too much.  Too much eating and drinking, too much excess, too much not knowing what day it is, and dare I say it, even too much togetherness.  I find myself really looking forward to things getting back to “normal.”

I am probably in the minority of people who can genuinely say they look forward to January.  To me it feels like an enormous reset button and presents a great opportunity for a fresh start.  Few things excite me more than opening a new diary, and thinking about all of the possibility its blank pages contain.  All of the unimagined challenges, triumphs and everything in between, which will soon be jotted throughout, fill me with a sense of optimistic enthusiasm.

If you have started to think that this post is about New Years resolutions, then I can assure it is not.  In truth, my jury is still out about them.  In 20 odd years of making them, I would struggle to think of one I have managed to stick to, and I am quite sure that I am not alone in this.  Part of me believes that sitting, pen in hand, on the last day of the year, making lists of ill defined and arbitrary objectives is only setting ourselves up for failure.

As we get ready for 2017’s imminent arrival, I have decided instead to resolve only to do my best.  I know that this probably sounds trite and overly simplistic, but it feels to me like it covers all the bases.  If 2016 has taught me anything, it is that I have no idea what is going to happen next.  So, I have promised myself, that whatever I decide to undertake, I will do it with a good heart and a clear mind.

By a good heart I mean that I will be careful about the demands I let other people make of me.  Often we take on so much, because we don’t want to say no, that we end up resenting it.  We can end up feeling like everyone wants a piece of us.  I have discovered lately that when this happens, it isn’t the other person’s fault, but entirely my own.  As Matthew Kelly says

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”

I have had to remind myself of this so much this week, and tell myself that “no Arwen, you can’t expect to fit months worth of catching up with people into the week long winter break!”

As for the clear mind, this is a little more straight forward.  I have been taking a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book and clearing out the clutter.  This all started a few months back.  The girl I shared an office with was heading off on maternity leave, and there was a new guy coming it.  The office itself is about as large as a box bedroom.  I worried that a man and a woman in such tight confines might feel a little claustraphobic.  So, before he started I decided to clear as much as possible out of the office.  Years worth of boxes and files were sent to archive.  (I will admit, I was ruthless, but so far nobody has looked for anything!)

As the clutter began to be removed from my work space, I honestly could not believe how much better I felt.  The air seemed lighter somehow.  I felt like my head was clear and I could breathe easier.  It was amazing.

Since that happened, I have been trying to take the same approach in my home.  My catchphrase for the last few months has been “is it OK to throw this out?”  I have taken countless car loads to the dump and boxes to the charity shop.  The latest mini clear out included no fewer than 26 coffee mugs!  I can’t begin to tell you how cathartic and addictive it is to literally put your house in order.

Such a simple thing has had such a profound effect.  I am calmer and sleeping better.  Getting ready to meet a friend for dinner last night, in my cleared out bedroom, was an absolute pleasure.  Even being able to put our Christmas presents away was revolutionary.  Normally we would be still tripping over them until well into the New Year!  I feel like I am getting ready to welcome 2017 as I would an honoured guest, with a tidy home and an expectant heart.

As much as I can’t wait for the New Year (and I really can’t) I am tying not to wish this time away.  Before long we will be back in the routine of working, training, meal prepping etc. and longing for the next break!  A good friend of mine describes these periods as being like deserts between rivers.  I think this is particularly apt as it is almost impossible to appreciate the one, in the absence of the other.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported me in my endeavours this year.  I wish you all the very best for 2017.  Be well and don’t forget to have an adventure or two xxx



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.”






28 Days!

For the past few months, I have been feeling a little bit like my progress with my weight loss has stalled.  I have mentioned in previous posts that for one reason or another, I just haven’t seemed to be able to drag myself across the finish line to my “goal weight.”  So, when Philly Kinsella announced that he was starting a 28 Day Nutrition Program for a small number of Academy members, I jumped at the chance to take part.  The idea behind it was to get a small group of 10-12 people together, with similar goals, in order to enable us to support and encourage each other.

I have done plenty of nutrition courses, and spent hundreds of hours listening to and reading the work of the finest minds in the industry.  For me, like many others, knowing what to do is not the issue.  The issue is, actually doing what is required to get the results I want.  I am a social animal, and having something or someone to be accountable to, outside of myself is hugely motivational.  This program gives us the perfect forum to share our struggles and triumphs as well as tips, recipes and ideas.  I couldn’t be more excited to be taking part.

My starting weight on day 1 was 59.9kg and my bodyfat, also measured on day 1 with calipers, was 17.5%.  I have learned over the years to be quite detached from these numbers.  They are just objective metrics with which to track progress.  They do not impact how I feel about myself (anymore.)  The days when I feel I look my best and at my leanest usually don’t correlate to the scales at all.

What I will be doing:

  • I have calculated my current maintenance calories and have set up about a 15% deficit.  This means I will be aiming to eat just under 1600 kcals per day
  • I am aiming to get about 130g of protein per day (roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight.)  I want about 30% of my calories coming from fat and the remainder from carbohydrate.
  • I will weigh myself each morning and track my weight on a spreadsheet.  I weigh myself every morning anyway, so this is not a big change.  The idea is not to become fixated on the numbers themselves, but by tracking my weight, I can start seeing the patterns behind the numbers.
  • I will track my food intake using MyFitness Pal.  This will mean weighing and measuring food to be sure that the information is accurate.  This can be a bit of a pain, and not something I will be doing forever, but I really don’t think there is another way to go about tracking calorie intake.
  • I will be continuing to train 3-4 times per week as usual
  • I will be leveraging the power of the group when my motivation, creativity and energy are flagging
  • The photo above is showing some of the food from the first few days of the plan, as well as a picture of me before starting.  I will continue to photograph what I am eating, and I will take another one of myself at the end.

What I will not be doing:

  • Freaking out any time I see the number on the scale increase.  Body weight fluctuations are normal, especially for women.  This is why getting the overall trend of weight changes is important
  • Expecting everything to be easy
  • Giving myself a hard time if my calories or macros are not perfect on any given day.  I recognise that it is what I do consistently over the course of the program, which will bring results.

What I expect:

  • I am hoping to achieve modest weight loss over the 28 days.  1-2kg drop would be great.
  • I would also hope to see some small drop in my bodyfat percentage, but I am realistic.  28 days is not a long period of time, and it may take a little longer for results to show up!
  • I am expecting to feel hungry at times.  This is normal in a deficit.  I am eating less than my body needs, so it’s natural to expect hunger.  Even when not on a cut, it is normal to experience hunger.  If you never get hungry, chances are you are over eating
  • Not every meal is going to be an Instagram worthy masterpiece.  Sometimes eating is simply about fueling your body.  This is especially true when you are aiming for specific macros.  There will be times when I will eat something that I don’t particularly “want” #firstworldproblems
  • I expect to feel tired and lacking in energy at times.  My body will have less fuel going into it than it is used to, so there may be less energy available.
  • I am going to have to get creative.  As the wise man said “calories are scarce in a deficit,” so more thought and planning needs to go into each meal/day to ensure I get maximum benefit.

Overall, I feel confident that with a group of great people behind me, as well as great coach in my corner, I have every chance of being successful.  The community support aspect of weight loss is something, which is all too often overlooked.  If you are trying to change your lifestyle without the support of your family and greater community, you are facing an uphill battle.  This is true if your aim is to lose 1lb or 100lbs.  We may not be able to get those close to us on board all the time, but we can seek out others to support and be supported by.  Our creativity is sparked by interactions with others.  I know personally this week, I have been trying to come up with new and exciting things to try.  I feel energised and awakened by being part of a group and harnessing its power!

I will let you know the final result after the 28 days, and also where I plan to go from there.  A new body is a bit like a new outfit, you don’t know how it’s going to fit until you try it on.  At the moment my goal weight is just an arbitrary number, when I get there I might decide I want to drop a little more weight.  Or equally, I could find that I want to put a little back on.  I will let you know when I get there.  Be well xxx



A Point on Patience

I will never be described as a patient person.  I like to think I have some nice qualities, but alas, patience is not one of them.  What little patience I manage to muster in my dealings with other people, I have absolutely zero with myself.  This is not a new thing.  Even as a little girl, if I tried something new, and couldn’t get to grips with it straight away, I would get frustrated and usually quit.  Roller skates were tried out exactly once, (sorry mom) sports and instruments were usually abandoned within weeks.  I just wanted to know how to do the thing, I wasn’t overly interested in the process of learning!  As I have gotten older, my staying power may have increased, but frustration and sense of urgency has definitely not abated.

For about the past 6 months or so, I have been a kilo or two away from my goal weight.  My goal is to be below 59kg (yes, 58.9kg will do)  This number may seem arbitrary, but it holds great significance to me.  Should I ever reach it, I will share the reason for this with you.  Just before my trip to Madrid in May, I was the closest I have ever been.  One of my weigh ins was 59kg on the button.  I was as close as is humanly possible to be, without actually achieving it.

Then I went on my trip, and put on a little weight.  This was to be expected and I was totally fine with it.  I had had an absolute blast with one of my favourite people, eating and drinking with abandon.  I would never accept a life where I couldn’t have weekends like this from time to time.  When I got back, I assumed I would slip into my routine and within a week or two things would be back to normal.  Not so.  Work got busy and crazy.  I was travelling a lot and it just seemed like it took me forever to get my momentum going again.

Finally, about a month ago, things started coming together.  I was hitting the gym regularly, eating well, and walking the legs off myself and my poor dog.  I had even replaced my bedroom curtains with black out ones, and removed the electronics from the room to make sure I was getting better quality sleep.  For three consecutive weeks, I was exactly on plan.  This isn’t to say that everything was “perfect” because let’s face it, that doesn’t exist, but for those three weeks, I felt like I was definitely doing enough to get results.

Can you guess what happened during these weeks?  Absolutely NOTHING!!!!  The scale did not move at all.  Not one tenth of a kilo did I lose.  I really started to wonder what was going on.  I know rationally that the scales does not tell the whole story.  I also know that sometimes there can be a lag between putting in the work and getting the results, but COME ON!  I was working my ass off and getting nowhere.  I was just at the point of saying “screw this” and ordering an extra large pizza when I stood on the scales, and as if by magic, I was down over a kilo!

That was last week, and to be honest, if I had written this post then it would have been a different article entirely.  Last week, I was thinking “finally, I have this sussed, 58kg, you will be mine!”  This week, however, I have picked a shoulder injury.  Ironically, I think it was caused by excessive dog walking!  It’s nothing major, but I can’t train and it all feels like a bit of a cosmic conspiracy.  Damn it, I am so close, and I feel between one thing and the other I will never get there.

I am finding myself reminded of all the old adages.  Remembering all the great sporting movies, with their motivational montages.  I am reflecting on the cautionary tales of people who didn’t know how close they were to success when they finally quit.  Stories of people perishing in the desert, mere meters away from water.  I know my few hundred grams pale into insignificance when compared with the struggles some people go through on a daily basis.  But, truthfully, it has become about so much more than the scale weight.  This is something I cannot quit.  This battle has been on going for years.  Were I to walk away from it now, I know that it would haunt me.  I need this to be the one thing, the first thing, that although it didn’t come easy, I didn’t walk away from.

This morning, I weighed in at 60.2kg.  I have a bit to go still, and if the last few months are anything to go by, it may take a while.  The intensity will wax and wane as life carries on, and the results will of course, not be linear.  However, if I can finally master the art of patience, I will eventually reach the finish line.  With or without the roller skates!

For recipes, tips and ideas, hit me up at the links below.  Be well xxx





Why Paleo is NOT For Me!

Even before I had ever set foot in a strength and conditioning gym, the Paleo Diet was on my radar.  The diet, often referred to as the “Caveman Diet,” is based around getting back to our nutritional roots.  Meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit and some starches are included.  All grain, dairy, legumes, sugar and alcohol are off limits.  When I first heard about Paleo, it sounded a little out there.  However, the more serious I got about my health, the more appealing this way of eating became.

Initially I dabbled with 80/20.  This means that for about 80% of the time I followed Paleo principles and for the other 20% of the time, I was more flexible.  How this panned out usually was that Monday-Friday I adhered strictly to the plan and at the weekends I relaxed a little.  I got some good results in the beginning and of course, started thinking, well if 80% is good, surely 100% would be better?   This is where trouble set in!  Those of you who know me, or have read some of my posts will probably know that I don’t do things by halves.  Once I set my mind on something, I am all in.  In some aspects of my life this can be a good thing, unfortunately nutrition is not one such aspect.

So, there I was, following a strict Paleo regime.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Fruit with coconut milk mid-morning.  Chicken and salad for lunch.  Pre-training snack was an apple and almonds.  Dinner was meat of some description and veggies, some times, but not always, I would include some sweet potato.  Notice anything?  Well I certainly didn’t.  I did not realise how chronically low my carbohydrate intake had become.  Paleo is not designed to be a low carb diet per se, but my interpretation of it meant there was little room for this macro-nutrient.

You see, in order to be fulfilling my carbohydrate requirements from the types of food I was “allowed” to eat, I needed to be eating a hell of a lot more food than I was.  Coming from a background of Weight Watchers, I was never going to be comfortable loading my plate sky high with veggies (or anything for that matter) while trying to lose weight.  My mind wouldn’t allow me to join these dots.  At this time I was training 5 times a week, for a minimum of 2 hours a night.  It’s not terribly surprising that this combination of high energy output and low carbohydrate input started to have a detrimental effect on me.

Yes, I lost weight, but I did not look lean.  I looked pale and gaunt around my face.  My hair fell out in clumps and my skin was in terrible condition.  I stagnated in the gym.  I felt I couldn’t make any progress and gutted through each workout feeling like I was dragging ass.  Luckily I knew the solution to that, why, more training of course!  I honestly felt that I needed to be training harder and dieting more strictly in order to get back on track.  I toyed with the idea of incorporating morning cardio, and researched everything I could to try to get back to making gains.

My diet had a profound impact on me socially as well.  I have never exactly been a social butterfly, but strictly adhering to Paleo made it all but impossible to interact with other people socially.  Even going for lunch with colleagues was awkward.  I would be enormously restricted with my food choices and would spend half of my lunchtime trying to explain why the hell I was eating my lunch out of a tupperware.  Even a trip to my mother’s house would mean packing my own Paleo approved snacks.

Of course, I got funny looks from my colleagues and friends.  Naturally, my family were very concerned.  They saw how obsessive and unhealthy my behaviour had become.  They tried to get through to me, but I just brushed it off.  They just don’t understand what it means to be dedicated!  They just don’t get it!  This is what I told myself.  My mother went so far as to include multi-vitamins in my Christmas stocking.  She was worried that the hair loss would become permanent before I came to my senses!

I had done, what so many others do.  I had taken something healthy to an unhealthy extreme.  My “all or nothing” personality meant that I couldn’t follow Paleo, or any regime, kinda.  In the end, I was very lucky.  As I wrote about in The Accountability Network I underwent some big changes in my life last year.  I was so busy trying to get to grips with a new job and new everything, that I didn’t have the bandwidth to be a Paleo purist.  I had to let go of it, and looking back it was the best thing for me.

Not long after joining The Performance and Fitness Academy, I started working with one of the wonderful coaches on my nutrition.  It was only then that I began to realise just how under fueled I had allowed my body to become.  I started tracking macros.  Eating more carbs actually helped me to drop body fat.  What was even better, was that I now had the energy I needed to get through my workouts.  I was alert and energetic in work.  My mood and emotions were more stable and I started feeling happy, for the first time in a long while.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  This article is not meant to malign Paleo.  I know there are a lot of people for whom it is a wonderful tool.  I am just not one of them.  I love that Paleo encourages people to eat whole, minimally processed food in as close to its natural state as possible.  This is something I still try to do, and always encourage others to do.  However, the restrictive nature of The Caveman culture is not something I can endorse.  I have learned, the hard way, that Paleo is not something I can safely do.  The older and more experienced I get, the more I have learned to accept my limitations.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned through this experience, is that people who love and care about me, only interfere when they think it’s in my best interest.  Sometimes we are so entrenched in the situation, we lose all perspective.  Other people see things which we are blinded to .  I am determined to listen to conscientious objectors in the future and I urge you all to do that same.  Be well xxx

For recipes and tips, head over to my YouTube channel  ArwenLouise


Big, Fat BUTS!

My father was born in California and has always held some of the wide-eyed optimism associated with America’s West Coast.  I lost count of the number of times growing up I heard him proclaim the Irish to be a “Nation of begrudgers!”  Unfortunately, I must admit that I have often found this to be the case myself.  People never seem to like to see their neighbours or friends doing well, or getting “ideas” about themselves.  It is only recently, however, that I have begun to notice how often we do this to ourselves.

We cheat ourselves out of celebrating our achievements with alarming regularity.  I remember the Weight Watchers meetings.  Sitting there waiting on the others to be weighed in.  They would come back and take their seats to a chorus of “well, how did you get on?”  It seemed that no matter what the weight loss was, the person always followed it up with a big fat BUT!  “I lost 5lbs, BUT I was expecting more,” or “Down 2st now, BUT still a long way to go.”

Slimmers do this too when they buy new clothes.  They will slide into a sleek size ten and no sooner then they have it zipped up then they will start exclaiming “Ah, BUT the sizes are big in here!”  Ok, yes, I acknowledge dress sizes can be whacky at times.  You can pull two seemingly identical dresses off the rack and one will fit and one won’t.  This can be frustrating and certainly I wouldn’t be surprised to fit into a dress one size bigger or smaller than normal.  However, if you were a size 18 in the past and you are now strutting around the fitting room in a 10, this is not a sizing issue.  This is what I call a “Hell Yeah moment!”

Believe me when I tell you, these moments don’t come around too often, so enjoy them to the fullest when they do.  I am not sure what it is that prevents us from doing exactly this.  Is it that we don’t want to be perceived as vain or arrogant?  Could it be that we don’t want make others, who may be struggling, feel bad?  Or is it simply that we feel we don’t deserve it?

Other areas of lifestyle change can also suffer these effects.  It seems that every time I try to learn something new, be it double unders or pull ups or handstands, I say to myself “if I could just get one, I would be so happy”  What happens in reality, is that no sooner have I done one, than I want to string ten together!  Of course a certain amount of this is healthy.  It’s good to keep pushing yourself and to want to progress.  But there is also a lot to be said for taking a beat to celebrate what you have just achieved.  You don’t need to run around the gym high five-ing everyone in sight, but a little Hell yeah is definitely encouraged.

This self deprecation, whatever the cause, is not limited to health and fitness.  We take the wind out of our own sails in work, relationships and personal achievements too.  In fact, I would find it difficult to find an area of my own life, which has not been subjected to this treatment.  You know how it is?  Yes, it’s great that you got a new car, BUT it’s not brand new.  Yes, it’s wonderful to get a promotion, BUT it didn’t come with as big a raise as you were hoping for.  We constantly begrudge ourselves our own happiness.  It’s relentless and it’s crazy.

Mindfulness and gratitude are very topical at the moment.  Everyone is reminding us to appreciate all we have.  I can’t help wondering though, if we may be forgetting something important.  I wonder do we ever take the time to be grateful for ourselves.  To celebrate the milestones and to acknowledge the work that went into bringing them about.  I saw a Robin Sharma quote recently that said “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”  I was struck by how simple and powerful this message is.  These little achievements, that we are so quick to but away, are what will set the years apart from each other.

In life there will always be someone ready to talk you down.  Try not to add your own voice to the dissenting rabble.  I am just as guilty of this as anyone else.  So, I am setting myself a challenge.  For the next 30 days, if I receive a compliment, I will just say “thank you!”  I will not try to brush it off, or even tell the person that it was €3 in Penneys!  More importantly, for the next month every time I achieve something, no matter how small I will be grateful.  I will acknowledge the moment and be present in it.  NO BUTS.  Why not try this with me?  Perhaps we may see the world reflected more positively when we stop trying to take the good out of it xxx


White Jeans & Wasted Time!

Now, in my mid 30’s, I look back on my 20’s with a slight tinge of regret.  Although I spent the decade doing all the things I was supposed to do, building a career, buying a home (and populating it with pets,) and planning my wedding, I very much feel as though I wasted a lot of that time.

During my 20’s I was so unhappy with myself that it was paralyzing.  I didn’t want to go out and let everyone see what a fat mess I was.  I didn’t want to shop for clothes and have to accept the size I was.  I felt that there was no point in getting dressed up, or getting my hair and nails done.  No point either in putting on make-up, because as the saying goes “you can’t polish a turd!”  So, I became an insular person.  I withdrew from people.  Socializing only when I couldn’t get out of it, and feeling deeply uncomfortable when I did.  I was lonely and I was sad.  Of course, if you had asked me at the time, I would have told you I was fine, and I would have believed it.

I remember distinctly the moment at which I realised I needed to make a change.  I was getting ready to go out somewhere, nowhere special, just a movie I think.  I had ironed a pair of jeans and laid them out on the bed before getting into the shower.  When I came back into the room and saw them lying there all I could think was “oh my God, they are absolutely enormous.”  Tears of shame flowed freely as the reality of what I had let myself become came over me.   That was the point of no return and the story of how the change came about is one for another day.

A couple of years ago I was listening to some silly talk show on the radio.  The host was talking about the top 10 regrets of women in their 50’s.  She said she was surprised by the number 1 regret, and I admit I was too.  I was expecting to hear that women regretted staying in bad relationships, or making poor career choices.  However, overwhelmingly they reported regretting not appreciating how beautiful they were when they were young.

This has stayed with me, and I have tried to apply the wisdom of these matriarchs to my own life, and particularly to my journey towards well-being.  At each stage of the journey I have tried to remember that although I might not be where I want to be right now, I am going in the right direction and that is something.  I have tried to be conscious that I will never again be as young as I am now, and to try to be grateful for the youth that I have.  I have a strong body, capable of amazing things and that is to be celebrated.  I am trying to create a better self and although I may not feel beautiful, there is beauty in that.

So, with all of that in mind, I now try to live the 20’s that I missed the first time around.  I say yes to the invitations.  I take the trips.  I wear the make-up and the high heels.  If I think to myself that I have always wanted to try something or to wear something, I do it.  I buy clothes that my 25 year old self would have been jealous of.

My latest such purchase was a pair of white jeans.  I have wanted a pair for ages, but I was afraid.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off.  I plagued my ever patient friends with requests for their opinions.  Eventually I bit the bullet and ordered a pair from River Island.  I was so excited when they arrived, but that excitement didn’t last long.  As I pulled them out of the bag, I felt the familiar tears of shame threatening.  I thought to myself “oh my God, these are tiny!”  I felt sure they would never fit and instantly admonished myself for stupidly ordering such a small size.  Amazingly, they fit perfectly.  I was so delighted I wanted to sleep in them.

There will be moments like these in everyone’s journey and I urge you to delight in them as much as I did.  Don’t become so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the ride.  Wonderful things happen everyday, but often we are so caught up with ourselves that we barely notice.  Be open to experiences as they come your way and don’t take it all too seriously.  As they say, you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough xxx



The Balancing Act

As the 2016 Crossfit Regional season reaches its climax, I can’t help but be absolutely awed by the incredible feats and physiques on display.  Men and women are submitted to grueling workout after grueling workout and keep coming back for more.  They appear almost indefatigable and are an inspiration to all of us casual athletes.  However, as I watch these men and women perform I can’t help but ask myself if there is a point, at which, the quest to become “the fittest on earth” becomes an unhealthy thing?  Is there a point at which health must give way to performance?

Most of us train in order to become fitter and to improve our health.  You don’t need me to tell you about the numerous health benefits associated with doing some form of exercise and with becoming more active in general.  Along the spectrum of health, both diet and exercise are two things, which have a profound impact on overall well being.  Having both of these things dialed in will definitely help you to become healthier.  There is no denying that.  Is there, however, a need to be concerned with getting too much of a good thing?

When we look at the definition of health, it can be summed us as the absence of illness or injury.  In the pursuit of either peak performance or a stage worthy physique, athletes often endure numerous injuries.  You only need look at the heavy strapping and taping on display on the competition floor to realise that this is the case.  Is it fair to say, therefore, that these athletes are sacrificing health in favour of performance?  Would it be true to say that in order to achieve elite status, athletes must push themselves past the bounds of what would normally be advisable?

In any sport elite athletes must subject themselves to physical demands which most of us could not endure.  Watch any Rocky movie if you don’t know what I mean!  Most of us simply could not withstand the physical and mental stresses, which are required, in order to become the very best in our chosen discipline.  This is not a criticism.  The truth of it is, in order to achieve the levels of performance or body composition required to take center stage, we must sacrifice a great deal.  Not least of all is our health.  Social life, work life and relationships also have to take a back seat.  For most of us, achieving this level just won’t be worth it.

I have personally struggled with unblurring these lines.  As someone who had a problem getting my weight to behave, it was difficult for me to recognise when enough was enough.  Not long ago, my coach asked me a very important question.  Something which helped me gain a little much needed perspective.  He said “Arwen, where are you trying to get to?”  I didn’t have an answer for him, and he just let the question hang.  I allowed his question to marinate and a few weeks later, when I met with him again, I had a bit more of an idea.  We hashed it out together.  He basically said that when you get to a certain point with your weight and body composition, you’re going to have a choice to make.

Yes, I could continue to try to drop weight.  I could continue to try to lose another bit of body fat, but it wasn’t going to be any fun.  It would mean missing out on a lot of the things which make life worthwhile.  I needed to decide if seeing a smaller number on the scale was worth missing out on birthday cake and a glass of wine at the weekend.  As I have absolutely no desire to be on stage or to take part in competition, it was an easy decision in the end.  That’s not to say that I won’t continue to work hard with both my nutrition and my training, but it does mean refocusing my energy away from those particular metrics.

For me, life is about balance.  The more effort you put into one aspect, the less energy you have available for anything else.  This year has seen me embarking on a whole host of exciting adventures (not least of all talking to you lovely people)  None of this would have been a possibility if I can continued to obsess over every morsel of food ingested and fret over every workout.  I believe we should give our nutrition and training the amount of attention they require, but no more.  They should be life enhancing and not sources of stress.

It is up to each individual to decide where on their list of priorities these things fall.  It’s also important to realise that at different stages, they may become more or less important.  Be aware that you are a human being with limited resources.  Spend these resources in the way that brings you the most joy.  Balance your time and your efforts according to your own goals and you won’t go too far wrong.  As yourself the question my coach asked me.  Where are you trying to get to?  Once you have the answer to this, unapologetically race there.

Next week I am off to Madrid to watch the European Regionals, and I will definitely be glad to be sitting on the side lines!