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Powering Up For 2019

As the start of my second week in my new job dawned, I was determined to hit the ground running.  I went to bed reasonably early (not something I am usually very good at) and awoke refreshed and ready to face the day.  I battled the traffic and managed to arrive at my desk in good time.  Yay me!  No sooner had I made my morning coffee, than the lights went out.  Power cut.

It came back after about an hour, so at least we weren’t sitting in the dark (a tiny bit awkward with virtual strangers,) but there was a further delay before our IT systems recovered.  I started to become irritated by the interruption.  I had a to do list as long as the M50.  Besides, even though we were all in the same boat, I didn’t want to seem like I was wasting time.

The frustration quickly melted into amusement as I couldn’t help smile at the irony.  It served as a timely reminder that try as we might, we cannot control everything.  There will always be times that despite the best laid plans, everything goes tits up.

As the year draws to a close, I always like to reflect on the past 12 months.  This morning’s outage pretty much sums up the entire year for me.  2018 has been one false start after another.  It has been tempting at times to throw my hands up and shout “what’s the bloody point?”  It has taken no small amount of effort to pick myself and dust myself off.

In the words Kipling, of one of my favourite poets,

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.”

When you think about it, that is exactly what happens when you look for a new job.  You accumulate all your experience and skills, your winnings, and risk it in the hopes of obtaining something better.  You sacrifice your security, and your comfort and take a giant leap into the unknown.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my career hasn’t been the only tumultuous part of my life in recent months.  I am very much the type of person who needs stability and routine.  If one area of my life is in discord, the rest of it will inevitably follow suit.

I am loath to admit the amount of weight I have put on since this time last year.  My fitness levels have also taken a huge back slide.  In all honesty, I am very much looking forward to January and the natural reset point it always brings.

As I write this, I have a plan in place to get myself back to a level of fitness that I can be happy with.  Tomorrow evening, I am joining a Crossfit gym.  I know it probably sounds crazy to start a health kick Christmas week, but I have been putting this off long enough.  Plus, I know if I delay it any further, chances are I will talk myself out of it.

It can be difficult when not only have you failed to make progress, but you have actually gone backwards, not to feel like a failure.  It is hard not to look back with rose tinted glasses, to a time when you were slimmer, fitter or just generally had it more together.  However, if there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are peaks and valleys in life.  Progress is definitely non-linear.

With a shiny New Year on the horizon, I take comfort in the fact that I have a plan in place, and that I have walked this road before.  I know that following in old footsteps is always easier than trying to forge a new path.

Another lesson that is beginning to take root is that I am not my weight.  I am not my dress size or my body fat percentage.  Neither am I the job title I hold or my bank account balance.  Of course, it is easy to “know” these things on a rational level.  It is another thing entirely to actually feel it.

I spent more than three decades allowing these things to define me.  So much so that when I was unemployed, albeit briefly, I was surprised that people still wanted to be around me.  They sought me out and looked to me for my opinion.  They asked me for help and tasked me with projects.  The value they placed in me wasn’t tied up in my employment status.  Why then did I allow a temporary career set back to impact my confidence levels so profoundly?

I know it’s hackneyed, but I firmly believe that things to happen for a reason.  Events of the recent past are not far enough behind me yet, for me to have perspective in my rear-view mirror.  Their lessons will only begin to take shape in time.  In the meantime, I am very hopeful about the future.  I eagerly anticipate a few months of relative calm in which to get to work on myself.

In truth, we never know what is around the corner.  As prepared and ready as we think we are, there is always something which could potentially upset our little apple cart on the horizon.  All we can do is keep going.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other in the general direction of our goals.  Keep hoping the lights don’t go out.  Be well xxx

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Sober October!

So long Scroll Free September, make way for Sober October!  I have been looking for a playful euphemism or a colourful metaphor to dress this up, but the truth of it is, for the last while I have been drinking too much.  Not in the “drinking problem” sense but simply in the “this is not good for my overall health” sense.  My husband and I have been planning to take a break from alcohol for ages now, but there was always some reason (read excuse) why it wasn’t a good time.  There was always a wedding, holiday or other occasion on the horizon, which made the idea of going tee total a daunting prospect.  We now find ourselves at the closing of the year.  Christmas is fast approaching and party season will be here before we know it, so it was pretty much now or never.

Those of you who are regular readers will know that 2018 has been a bit of a roller coaster for me.   Between my full time job, of which I have had three, and my side projects, I can end up feeling like I am working all the time.  There have been a lot of changes and often by the time the weekend comes along, I am too exhausted to attempt anything more energetic than binge watching Netflix in my pjs with a glass of wine or a nice cold beer.   Alcohol became a way to differentiate weekend nights from week nights!  I wouldn’t describe myself as a binge drinker, I rarely, if ever get drunk.  However, two or three drinks, a few nights a week quickly adds up to way more than the 11 unit safe drinking limit (17 for men.)

These habits crept in over the space of about a year.  What had once been limited to Friday and Saturday started creeping into some of the other evenings too.  I was definitely starting to feel the effect on my energy levels.  It’s never as easy getting up in the morning after even a couple of drinks.  As well as that, I am not getting any younger.  I will be turning 37 next month and it’s time to stop taking my health completely for granted.  I am well aware of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption, especially for women, and I am not arrogant enough to think I should be lucky enough to escape them.  From this week I will be teaching an extra Zumba class.  This brings the total to 4 per week, and with the stress this will put on my body, I need to do all I can to mind it.  Alcohol certainly will not help with that!

I am sure there will be lots of other benefits of having a dry month.  I am looking forward to having more energy and to waking up refreshed on the weekends.  I am also looking forward to having a little more money in my purse.  But mostly I am looking forward to the challenge.  I am sure the first weekend will be difficult.  We Irish are notorious for having our social lives revolving almost entirely around a pint!  Like many Irish families, ours has not escaped the effects alcoholism.  I am acutely aware of this, and of its tendency towards heredity.  This makes it even more important for me to get my drinking under control before it actually does become a problem!  Who knows, it might become a permanent change.

As always, feel free to join me in my latest challenge.  Wish me luck (and please send cinema recommendations) I will keep you posted on my progress.  Be well xxx

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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.

 

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Holiday, Celebrate!

This week, my husband and I are heading off on a long overdue holiday.  We will be married five years in November, and this is our first trip abroad since our honeymoon.  We are heading to Portugal, and I genuinely can’t wait.  Normally, in the days and weeks before going away, I would be frantically researching everything from the cultural hot spots to the cuisine.  The past few months have been so hectic, however, that I really haven’t had an opportunity.  What is even more peculiar is that I really don’t care.  I am so looking forward to just taking some time out.  I am excited about lying in the sun (hopefully,) sipping Super Boc and eating Piri Piri chicken.  I may also indulge in my latest guilty pleasure, listening to true crime Pod Casts.

When we booked this trip, back in January, my plan was to lose about 3kgs before jetting off.  That didn’t happen.  Between weddings, celebrating my new job, and fretting over my sick doggy, I simply haven’t had the time, energy or inclination a serious cut requires.  I was expecting to feel disappointed about this.  I mean, nobody wants to be going on vacation with excess baggage after all, but to be honest, I don’t really mind.  This has surprised me a lot.  Looking back on pretty much every major occasion in my life to date, my weight was always a serious concern.  Something has definitely changed, and it isn’t the number on the scale.

A couple of weeks ago, I did something I haven’t done in over 15 years.  I bought, and fully intend to wear, a couple of bikinis.  Yes, I will admit trying them on was approached with a degree of trepidation.  I knew I probably wasn’t going to love what I saw in the dressing room mirror.  However, it wasn’t as terrible as I had feared.  I found a few that weren’t absolutely awful and managed to complete my purchases without anyone so much as raising an eyebrow!  Yes, I am sure I will feel self conscious when I brave the bikini for the first time, but I think the extra vitamin D will be worth it.  Plus it means I won’t have to wrangle myself out of a damp swimsuit every time I need to pee!

Maybe it’s because I am getting older, or perhaps I am gaining a little in confidence, but I don’t seem to be as bothered as I once was about how my body is perceived.  As I said, for 15 years, I wouldn’t have dreamed of donning a bikini.  This brings me to the realisation that for all of my 20’s and half of my 30’s I was body shaming myself!  Because the truth is, nobody else gave a second thought about my choice of swimwear.  I am not that important.  For a decade and a half, I let my negative thoughts about my body hold me back.  Not only did it stop me from participating in certain things, but it actually made me feel guilty for enjoying myself.  Every bite of cake or fruity cocktail needed to be earned or absolved.  I over analysed every situation so much that it took the fun out of everything.  There were so many things which should have been celebrated and weren’t.  I won’t get a do over for those, the opportunity has passed, but now I make it my business to celebrate every damn thing!

Last weekend I celebrated my best friends wedding.  She and I have been through so much together during our 20 year friendship.  I was incredibly proud and privileged to stand beside her on her big day.  I have been looking at all the photos her guests have been posting on social media over the past couple of days.  All I can see is how happy we all look and how beautiful a day it was.  For once, I am not fixated on finding flaws with myself.  I am not obsessing over how fat my arms are, or how many chins I have.  I can’t begin to tell you how liberating is.  I feel like I have set myself free to be happy and to enjoy my life, now, not in 3kgs time!

This isn’t to say I never intend to lose any more weight.  I have just shifted the focus.  It isn’t the most important thing to me anymore and it will not determine my happiness.  While I wouldn’t say that 2018 has been a terrible year so far, I would admit that it has been very full on, and at times it has been challenging!  With my new job starting in a couple of weeks, it doesn’t look set to ease off any time soon.  With this is mind, I am determined to make the most of my week away.  We have worked damn hard to make it happen and I am not going to let anyone, least of all myself, ruin it for us.

For many years, I was a deeply unhappy girl.  I used to think it was because I didn’t look the way I wanted to.  Lately, I have started to think that far from being the cause of my problems, the weight was merely a convenient scapegoat.  Assuring myself that I would be happy if I just lost x more kilos, saved me from having to address what was really going on.  I weigh exactly the same today as I did on my wedding day in 2013, but I am a totally different woman.  I laugh more easily.  I love more deeply.  I see joy everywhere and none of that has the slightest thing to do with my weight.

I have made a vow to myself that I will not leave it so long between breaks ever again.  This could prove easier said than done, as sadly these things are not always within our control, but we can try.  We can learn to recognise when we need to pause.  We can identify the feeling of needing to breathe.  We can accept help when it is offered and ask for it when necessary.  But, most importantly, we can celebrate!!  Be well xx

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How Getting Sick Was The Best Thing For My Health!

I first embarked on my weight loss journey back in 2010.  My first stop en route was Weight Watchers.  Since then, I have tried lots of different diets and plans, adopting a kind of trial and error philosophy.  I have spent a number of years experimenting with Paleo and other whole food approaches and I considered my diet to be fairly “healthy.”  I had eliminated or reduced a lot of different foods throughout the years.  Refined grains and sugars predominantly.  Don’t get me wrong, I still ate bagels and birthday cake, but they were definitely what I called “sometimes foods!”

I have had a long history of stomach problems.  I was originally diagnosed with IBS in my early 20s, but in truth, I had never had an easy time with my gut.  I would frequently experience abdominal cramping, bloating and other symptoms I will spare you the details of!  I could probably write an entire post on IBS, and perhaps some day I will, but for now, let’s me just say it isn’t pleasant.  Having gone through a battery of tests, I was eventually advised by the hospital to try the FODMAP diet, late last year.

This diet is essentially an elimination diet.  It not only calls for the exclusion of know gut irritants such as gluten and lactose, but also lots of fruits and veggies (garlic, onions, apples, butternut squash to name just a few.)  It was a tough diet to adhere to, but anyone who has experience of IBS will understand that I was happy to try just about anything if it meant no pain.  So off I went with my list of banned foods, determined to stick to it rigidly and looking forward to feeling better!

For the first week or so that was exactly what happened.  I had no stomach pain and I really felt like my insides were working properly for once.  However, towards the end of the second week on the diet, I got sick, and pretty much stayed sick for 3 months.  As discussed in The Winter of My Discontent!

I am not a good patient and I was getting really fed up with feeling crappy.  I was also quite indignant!  I look after myself, I eat well, I exercise, drink water etc.  How can my body be doing this to me when I am so “healthy?”  Except, wait a minute.  Surely if I am sick all the bloody time, that means I am NOT healthy?  As the days in pajamas passed, I had a lot of time to think about what might be going on.  Could it be that I had eliminated too many foods from my diet for it to be providing adequate nutrition?  Could it be that in my quest for health and wellness, I had pushed my body in the opposite direction?

By the beginning of January I had had enough.  I had a wretched cough which had been driving me and everyone else nuts for weeks.  I was on an antibiotic, which I knew was going to run me down even further.  Something had to be done.  I spoke to my sister and mother at length and came up with a strategy.  Firstly, I was going to start on a strong Probiotic (I take BioKult) to try to restore the balance in my gut.  Secondly, I was to start taking a “tonic” as we we have called it growing up (I was advised by my mother to try Revive Active, and mother knows best)  Thirdly, and perhaps, most importantly, I was going to reintroduce most of the foods I had eliminated.

This didn’t mean going gangbusters in the bakery aisle.  Instead it meant bringing back foods which I know to be nutritious, and which don’t seem to cause problems for my stomach.  So for example, apples are still out because I have identified them as triggers.  But all the vegetables I had been avoiding came back.  That very day, I got the recipe from my sister for a chicken stew.  Packed to the brim with veggies, and chicken cooked on the bone, it not only tasted amazing, but I could actually feel it doing me good.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, I think that stew may have saved me, or at least sped up my recovery.  Since then I have been experimenting with more stews and casseroles.  Good healthy, whole foods, just like mom used to make.  It has been a couple of months since I finished my antibiotics and I am happy to report that I feel great.  Like my old self again.  Furthermore, I feel fortified and resilient.  Confident that I can fight off any little nasties that come my way.  Even the Beast from the East doesn’t scare me, with a pot of stew on the go!

I have always said that healthy lifestyle is about trial and error.  What works for someone else, might not work for you.  What worked for you in the past might not be what your body needs now.  If something is not working for you, change it.  I clung to my ideas of what a healthy diet looks like, long after it was clear that it wasn’t working, and it was to my detriment.  My illness forced me to reexamine everything and I am so glad that I did.  As the saying goes “Don’t hang on to a mistake, just because you spent a long time making it.”  Be well xxx

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Another Run Around The Sun!

It’s my birthday next week, again!  Birthdays are always a time of mixed feelings for me.  A period of reflection on the past year and of planning for the coming one.  But this, my 36th birthday, feels very different.  When I look back on everything that has happened in the last 12 months, I actually can’t believe it.

The last year has seen me taking lots of small, seemingly insignificant steps, which have somehow accumulated to bring me so much closer to my “dream life” than I could have thought possible when I was turning 35!  Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I have begun to change.  So here’s the run down!

I started coaching nutrition clients!  Even as I type this, I almost can’t believe it.  After all the training, the research and my own trial and error, this year it was finally time to take the plunge.  I was wracked with impostor syndrome.  I felt sure someone would interrupt my presentation to ask “why should we be listening to you, what do you know?”  Surprisingly, this did not happen.  Naturally, I was very nervous during that first presentation, but I think I relaxed in to it.  Six weeks later when I was closing out with that first group, it felt like no big deal anymore!

The other big thing that happened is that I qualified as a Zumba instructor and recently began to teach classes.  I have spoken about this in previous posts, so suffice is to say, the nerves and anxiety were back with a vengeance.  Even attending the training I felt like a fraud.  I didn’t have the right gear, I wasn’t as good as the other girls, I wasn’t fit enough, etc., etc., etc!  Of course, this was ridiculous.  Both training days were a complete blast.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than dancing with 50 like minded ladies.  I have even signed up for another course in December.

When it came to teaching that first class, I was so nervous, I thought I was going to throw up.  The things I came up with to fret about!  I was terrified of my mind going blank and forgetting all the steps, even though I had spent countless hours practicing.  I was nervous people would question my previous experience.  What was I going to say if people asked how long I had been teaching for?  Would it make me less credible if I admitted that this was my first class?  What if nobody turned up?  What if too many people showed up?  What should I wear?  On and on it went.  I can confidently say that my mind ran though every possible eventuality and even a few impossible ones!  My over thinking kept me awake at night.  For the weeks leading up to the maiden class, my walks, drives, showers and even dreams were all done to a Latin soundtrack!

The night eventually came, and although my performance was far from flawless, we all got through it.  I fumbled a few steps, but I think I got away with it.  I followed the advice of my own Zumba instructor who said “keep it simple and don’t forget to smile!”  The ladies were lovely and not one of them asked to see my credentials.  Even better, they all came back the following week!  When I woke up the morning after, my body felt like it had been run over.  It was only then did I realise just how tense I had been.

Another big change lately, has been starting the low FODMAP diet.  After more than a decade of struggling with digestive problems, I am excited to think that maybe I can “fix” it with dietary and lifestyle interventions, as opposed to medication.  I am only two weeks in and it’s really too early to tell if it’s working, but I will definitely be writing a full post about it in the coming weeks.  Ironically, the IBS issues combined with my struggles with my weight, have been what has inspired the other big changes in my life.

I trained in nutrition initially, so that I could help myself.  I was deeply frustrated by reading and listening to conflicting advice, so I resolved to become my own expert.  I figured nobody would have more of a vested interest in my health and fitness than I would, so it was ultimately up to me.  The reason I wanted to coach others, is so that I could give other people the type of help I wish I had had all those years ago.

It was a very similar story when it came to Zumba.  At the very beginning of my fitness journey, it was there.  Providing a fun, non threatening and body positive way for me to get a sweat on.  For the first couple of classes I lingered at the back, trying to make myself invisible.  As the weeks went on, I could feel myself coming out of my shell, and although I never became a #frontrowdiva, I definitely grew in confidence.  I want to give that to other people.  I want to empower women to reconnect with their bodies and to feel sexy and gorgeous, even if it is only for an hour!

If this year has taught me anything, it is the importance of Why.  If you can search inside yourself and be honest with why you want to do something, it can be extremely powerful.  I warn you, such close examination of your motivations can be painful.  I spent ages getting close to it, and then backing away.  The truth of it is this.  In my twenties, when I struggled with my weight, was unfit and unhealthy, I needed someone.  I didn’t need a nutritionist or a trainer necessarily, what I needed was for someone to say “I know you are sad now, but you won’t always be.”  I needed someone to show me there was light on the other side of the darkness.

This is what motivates me to try to help other people.  It might not be glamourous or exciting, but it is honest.  I believe that when I stand in front of people and ask them to trust me, the authenticity of my motives comes though.  While having years of experience is invaluable, being passionate and authentic is just as important.  For me, it isn’t about money, or social media “fame.”  It is about taking a chance that I could reach even one person, who might be feeling like I was back then.  I want to tell them you won’t always be sad xxx