Is Wellness All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

Don’t get me wrong… there are a zillion diet fads all on the go at anyone time – Paleo, Whole30, Keto, WW, Slimming World, The Body Coach. The list is seemingly endless and no single diet is to blame. However, with these diets comes the promises of eternal happiness, flawless health and the promise of a six pack. We will instantly become inclined to be a ‘yogi’ and throw out all our clothes and replace them with activewear.

I jest of course.

However, from my own personal experience, it is easy to get caught up in the hype. I did not quite find myself at the same level of extreme as above but I can see how others could quickly end up there.

With the ongoing research to suggest that the avocado possesses super fruit powers, that chia seeds will answer our fibre problems (which I kind of agree with) and that celery juice will cleanse our souls, it’s hard not to think that the foods in front of us are going to prevent us from every disease and medical condition out there. On top of this, we have the trustworthy influencers claiming that the seeds of a strawberry cured their acne or that they gave up coffee because it caused their liver to rot (I exaggerate of course). These influencers are bright eyed and bushy tailed and give a good sales pitch.

What no one is really promoting is moderation. As a health professional, I am a huge believer in early intervention and prevention and I see the consequences of this every day at work. In addition to this I would love nothing more if a diet was going to rid me of my epilepsy or my chronic sinusitis, but as I am unwilling to sacrifice my mental health (and my physical health) for the sake of the above, I am still left relying on my medications to help me out.

Due to my yeast intolerance, my diet is already pretty ‘clean’ – apart from chocolate, cake and ice-cream – most processed foods contain some form of yeast. I rarely get cravings for cake and icecream and I openly put my hands up that I do have a significant weakness for chocolate. I drink diet fizzy drinks and we go out for dinner approximately once a month where I will have a mains and a dessert (often adapted to remove the yeast).

I do not drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs. I walk between 5000-6000 steps a day, which although isn’t the recommended 10,000, isn’t the worst. Depending on my week, I could also be in the pool for up to an hour.

I personally regard this as living in moderation. I could do more, but I could also do a lot less.

I definitely need to do more strength training. My muscle tone is shocking. But apart from that, I should be pretty happy with my lifestyle choices. Yet social media makes me feel like I’m morbidly obese and failing at ‘being my best self’.

I do not post daily photos of açai bowls (I don’t even eat açai bowls), I eat processed food on occasion and I can’t work out excessively because it puts me at a greater risk of having a seizure. As part of this ‘wellness’ movement, I do not fit in.

Nor do I want to.

I do not wish to put so much pressure on myself that I develop fears of processed food; That I feel like I have failed when my sinusitis flares up. I’m striving nothing more than for a healthy relationship with food and with myself, and trying to break into the ‘wellness’ industry isn’t going to help that.

So I’m going rogue.

Salted Caramel and Banana Smoothie

As part of my recent weight loss journey, I’ve really been experimenting with making super tasty recipes for the least amount of calories, and the Salted Caramel and Banana Smoothie might be my favourite to date.

I tend to have this for breakfast because I have such a sweet tooth in the mornings, but most people would probably prefer this later in the day.

The Salted Caramel and Banana Smoothie has similar vibes to a McDonalds Chocolate Milkshake (without the sour undertone) and it’s just 303kcals!

You will need:

  • 1/2 Frozen Banana
  • 25g Salted Caramel Whey Protein
  • 20g Rolled Oats
  • 5g of Choc Shot (or low calorie chocolate syrup)
  • 5g Chia Seeds
  • 200ml Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Handful of Ice Cubes

To make:

Chuck it all in a blender and mix until your desired thickness and enjoy!

Low Calorie Nutty Salted Caramel Chocolate Bites

OK…. firstly, I know my photo is shocking. It’s definitely time to upgrade to my new camera and ditch the iPhone 6 quick snapshot.

However, despite not looking ideal, these Nutty Salted Caramel Chocolate Bites taste like Snickers and just for 40 calories each!

Please forgive my photography and give these a go; I promise you you’ll be glad you did.

To make 17-20 of these bites, you will need:

  • 4 tbsp of natural peanut butter (I used WholeEarth)
  • 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1 tbsp Coconut oil
  • 23g of Salted Caramel Whey Protein
  • 1/2tsp Cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt

To make:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together EXCEPT for the coconut oil.
  2. Melt the coconut oil either in the microwave (approx 10 seconds) or place in a bowl sitting in hot water (don’t mix the water with the oil – just let the heat from the hot water help to melt the oil).
  3. Place baking paper on a tray and clear some room in your fridge or freezer!
  4. Once the coconut oil has melted, add it to the other ingredients and roll into 17-20 small balls and place on the baking paper.
  5. Refrigerate for a minimum of 60 minutes to allow the bites to solidify. To speed up the process, you can always put them in the freezer.
  6. Bon appetite!

If you create a batch of 20 bites, each bite will consist of 40 calories.

Let’s Not Fight

Well, what a rubbish few days! Work went a bit ARGHH and then just as things were settling down, the events of New Zealand happened, Paris Jackson attempted suicide and Mike from Love Island sadly took his own life.

Talk about putting things into perspective. It certainly has for me.

We get so caught up in our own lives or expressing our unwanted opinions in other people’s lives that it takes something monumental to pull us back into the ‘real world’.

I was sitting on the sofa scrolling through Instagram and YouTube (standard), and once again everyone was promoting their videos/photos as ‘gluten free’, ‘dairy free’, and ‘refined sugar free’ and I couldn’t help but think to myself “what has this world come to?!” Is this truly all we care about?

No amount of ‘free’ will make you #health.

Not that I’m defining weight loss as ‘health’ but that’s what the majority of these posts imply. If you’re trying to lose weight, the only true way is to go into a calorie deficit. Whether this consists of eating 1500 calories of donuts or 1500 calories of salad, you will still lose weight* – it’s just how healthy you want to be during the process. And before anyone suggests this is a lie, I lost 35lbs on diet shakes, Starbucks hot chocolate and Dominos. I would in no way recommend it but it did happen.

On the back of this  is the ongoing battle between Paleo, Whole 30 and Keto. Cutting out processed food isn’t a revolutionary new thought – it’s what our Government recommendations mostly are (The Eat Well Guide in the UK and I know the USA and Australia have similar versions). Perhaps if the Government stopped trying to force Theresa May into having a breakdown over Brexit (not that I’m pro Theresa, but she’s been dealt a rubbish hand), they could perhaps spend 5 minutes reminding everyone that they published a guide on how to eat a healthy diet. It’s not rocket science that chemicals and large amounts of sugar with no nutritional value are not exactly going to be good for our body; it’s just the dieting industry is excellent at promoting that going ‘free’ will make up for the lack of will power and creating habits that are actually required in losing weight.

What the dieting industry forgot to mention is the importance of micronutrients – the vitamins and minerals that keep your body running efficiently. Clean eating came close, but has sadly implied that processed food is the devil. It’s true that by the time you whack your ready meal in the microwave and blast it to death, you are no doubt saying goodbye to the last of the vitamins and minerals in the few vegetables that are cut up inside. I’ve also been reliably informed that chips and cheese don’t bring much to the table either. However, surely there’s a better way to promote healthy eating without giving rise to an increase in eating disorders.

You may also be aware that refined sugar was put through the mill recently (WHAT A PUN!) and I was looking into this (as much as one can at 7am on a Sunday morning). You get zero nutritional value for a lot of calories, and there is some discussion around sugar leading to inflammation, dry skin and fatigue etc (we already know it rots the teeth). Sugar alternatives such as stevia, maple syrup, honey and coconut sugar offer more bang for your buck BUT if we were supposed to eat how the Eat Well Guide suggests, we shouldn’t be consuming much refined sugar in the first place.

Likewise, we’ve seen the rise of the ‘healthy fat’. Again, just another fashion statement. The Eat Well Guide suggests we eat 30% (ish) unsaturated (healthy) fats and just 5% saturated (animal) fat a day.

Then there was a sudden realisation that excess protein can cause you to gain body fat. This might also be because of the whole calorie deficit thing but ya know…

Anyway, what I wanted to say was not that ha. I often find online HUGE arguments about the ‘right’ way to eat to lose weight; normally the people who are pushing to cut certain food groups out. But on the back of the events of the end of this week, does it really matter?! Life is so unpredictable so should we really spend our days arguing with each other about if we ate too much gluten or dairy (unless you have an intolerance) or we dared consume something that was not cooked from scratch. In the grand scheme of things, this is barely a problem.

I’m in no way saying that I sit here on my laptop (that is beginning to overheat, eek) being all perfect. I am FAR from perfect. One of the reasons I have become interested in nutrition is because of my never ending skin complaints, easy weight gain and struggles in losing the spare tyre (or two). I know I eat far too much sugar, consume too many sweeteners and snack too much. But I am trying.

Can’t we just support each other? Congratulate each other on trying to live a healthier lifestyle? The people getting on their high horses about different diet plans will always say they are ‘supporting the consumer’ – you know, whilst encouraging said consumer to sign up to their plan which is so much better.

The thing is there are a zillion diet plans out there, some of which work wonders for some people but not others. I have learnt over time that I can’t stand people dictating to me what I can and can’t eat and would end up eating more of the high calorie foods out of rebellion. As I am yeast intolerant, I have to cut out certain foods and it’s amazing how easy it is when it’s a choice between a slice of bread or sitting on the toilet for a few hours (sorry). However, I would put good money on the fact that if I could eat yeast, I’d be all over bread and pizza.

Due to my skin complaints I will continue to experiment with sugar and try and find a good amount that works for me. I don’t know if sugar is a problem but it would make sense seeing as sugar and yeast have a somewhat complex relationship. However, if it makes no difference I will return to making better choices around the types of sugar I consume (when it’s in my control), but I need to try something as it’s rubbish waking up at 3am because you’re legs are covered in rashes (then I’ll go to the doctors, I promise).

Whatever happens, I will not obsess over striving for perfection in how to eat (I mean I’m pretty rubbish at it anyway). I don’t want to be 95, about to pop my clogs and regretting how many years I spent worrying about my weight.

*1500 calories is an example of a calorie deficit. This will vary depending on the individual.

 

Weight Loss: February Review

I don’t deny that February did not go to plan. I quite simply could not be bothered. However, someone out there had my back and I walked away with a 0.5lb loss for the month, which most certainly was not deserved.

The month was quite a sociable one for me – I had Valentines Day, a takeaway with my friends and I went to see Chvrches in Glasgow 3 nights on the trot.

Work suddenly became much more tiring as my manager left for her maternity leave and I most certainly hit the ground running. Therefore, trying to think of well balanced, nutritious meals was not high on my priority list.

Towards the latter end of the month I started taking my Vitamin D, Calcium and Folic Acid (which are prescribed) and found that my energy levels shot through the roof. Too much in fact, and I found the seizure triggers beginning to line up and had to intervene quickly!

I would say onwards and upwards through March, but we might just find we focus on the last 2 weeks of the month! The good news is I’m still currently on target for my goal weight for Florida in July!

Why We Need To Stop Thinking We Can Do It All

 

There is a lot of debate as to whether stress is good or bad for you, with some people arguing that stress makes me you more productive. Which I don’t dispute.

However, I maintain that too much stress (be it good or bad) still negatively impacts on the body… otherwise we’d be able to handle it and we wouldn’t become physically or mentally ill from it.

I have learnt a valuable lesson this week… that ‘good stress’ is just as bad as ‘bad stress’ – a predicament I’ve never experienced before.

As you may know, I started my new job about 5 months ago now (time flies when you’re having fun!) and I reckon I enjoy it as much as anyone can enjoy a job. It’s the right level of challenging yet rewarding.

Because I’ve been caught up in all the fun, I didn’t realise that the stress of the challenge has continued to impact on my body and as I’ve ended up taking on the role of 3 people’s job this past week, I’ve found myself once again being on the brink of being burnt out.

My memory is shot. I’m in bed by 8.30pm most nights. My epilepsy paranoia is out of of this world. I’ve had migraines. Last week, I had a couple of nights of being inconsolable for no valid reason. I’ve not even attempted to lose weight for the past 3 weeks. My stress management strategies are long forgotten and I’ve had random aches and pains. I accidentally ate yeast because I forgot to check the ingredients before I tucked in. But the most dangerous thing of all… I didn’t realise any of this had happened because I felt happy.

I assumed because I was mostly enjoying the challenge, it wasn’t stressing me out. However, once again I’m left wondering whether long term, working as a therapist is the right job for me.

For now, I’m off to chill out and try and regain control over my life. Starting off with car insurance. Because the joys of adulthood never stop.

How To Tackle Loneliness…

I woke up at the weekend with a sudden realisation that I am lonely.

At first I wondered why. I was at my parents and my husband was lying in the bed next to me. How could I possibly be lonely?!

The thing is, people talk at me. They share their problems, tell me what they’ve eaten and what they’re up to at the weekend. Tim will ask me how my day was but will spend the majority of the rest of the evening working on his podcast. Very rarely do people ask me about me. And trust me, this feels harsh to say.

9/10 times I am the one to send the first text message. I am the one to suggest we meet up. I am the one to visit someone’s house. And my friends are lovely. But it’s hard to maintain this when all but a few are the same.

Some of this is my fault. I’ve always held the belief that you don’t need one best friend, you need lots of close friends, and this has always worked well. I have on occasions been flakey, cancelling at the last minute (usually because I’m too tired). However the biggest change in my social life came when my friends started to have children and their priorities changed (and rightly so).

At the same time, we are saving for a house (well, trying). It means we can’t justify going out and being frivolous with our money. I know I’m considerably more boring than I used to be and this isn’t helping matters either.

Then there’s the part where I don’t drink. My friends that are now parents ensure that their big nights out involve alcohol, and I am often left without an invite despite the fact that they know I’m fine without a drink in me.

So things need to change. I can’t rely on Tim to entertain me all evening every evening. I want his podcast to be a success and I appreciate this takes a lot of work.

I need to find myself some new friends. We won’t be having children any time soon (most likely ever) and it’s perfectly fine to say that friendships change and people move on. If we were to be parents, I’d be relying on getting me some new mummy friends, so there’s no difference in finding friends that I have other stuff in common with.

Tim and I will also be implementing a digital detox on at least one evening a week to ensure we spend time together. We will bring back date night which could be in our house or outside (finances dependent) and I will be trying my best to be slightly more interesting.

We will obviously crack on with trying to buy a house. I’ve found the dream house but I just need to save a few thousand 😂 – once we get a house, we can get my puppy which I swear will change my life!

I will continue to try and make friends through social media as well… even if it’s superficial. But one of our reasons for leaving Surrey and moving to Scotland was because I was lonely. I refuse to let it happen again.

Top 10 Ideas For Self-Care

Firstly, self care isn’t a new concept. It’s something we’ve been doing for years – it used to be called ‘me’ time.

‘Me’ time was considered to be for stressed out Mum’s that couldn’t wait to have some time away from the kids, but nowadays it’s much more acceptable for everyone to engage in some self care time.

The point is, we all need time on our own to regroup. Spending long hours in the office, looking after the kids, being unemployed, saving for a house or a wedding, or starting a new relationship (or keeping an existing relationship alive) all put strain on our emotional resilience.

It doesn’t even need to be something as dramatic as above. Hitting up your local supermarket on a Saturday afternoon can be just as taxing.

Having a time out from life can let your body relax, let your mind sort out its affairs and let you do something that is meaningful to you.

So on that note, here’s my 5 top go-tos for some self-care:

1) Bath – I light some candles, put YouTube on and watch some random videos of health and fitness youtubers. It inspires me to remain healthy, reminds me of how I really must exercise sometime soon and introduces me to new healthy recipes.

2) Cinema – this is dependent on what’s being shown, but if it’s worth watching I’m definitely making my way to the cinema with some popcorn or a Tango Ice-blast in tow. That’s a guaranteed 2 hours on average on focusing on something completely different, allowing my brain to have a rest.

3) Cooking – I really enjoy cooking up some new easy, tasty and (mostly) healthy recipes. I get a great deal of satisfaction creating some yummy food that is lacking in the random crap they put in processed food.

4) Yoga – normally I’m getting quite stressed out if I find myself yearning for a stretch and some meditation or mindfulness. Listening to nothing but my breathing is a great way for a mental break whilst working on your flexibility and muscle strength (I wrote ‘your breathing’ and realised I sounded super creepy 😂).

5) Shopping – retail therapy. Need I say more!

Self-care is anything you enjoy. I have focused on mostly solitary activities in this post because I spend my days interacting with about 40 people a day so I like to seek out peace and quiet when I can.

However, self care can also take form in spending time with your friends, going for a massage – literally anything goes. As long as it’s time spent on you.

5 Top Tips To Achieving a Work/Life Balance

Within the therapy world, a phrase you will often here is ‘at 3am this idea popped into my head’ or ‘I was sitting on the loo when an idea popped into my head’ or ‘I didn’t mean to check my emails at 1am but I couldn’t sleep’.

Being the heartless person I was, I always prided myself on the fact that I was very good at stopping thinking about work the minute I left the office.

However, with my most recent job, there isn’t often time to think of bright ideas during the day and I’m working with very complex cases which has resulted in the cogs never quite turning off (including managing to infiltrate regularly into my dreams). The heart seems to have defrosted a little as well. Grr.

As a result, I am feeling run down, struggling to stick to my weight loss plan, grumpy and getting home and collapsing on the sofa.

By the time I get home, I’ve been on the go for 10 hours and I just end up thinking about how much work I have to do tomorrow or next week. I sit on the sofa and collapse into a heap from 5.30PM til 9.30PM.

I have of course also been neglecting The Healthy OT which I want to continue working on and watch flourish. I’m generally feeling quite frustrated with it all. I never have quite enough brain power to think about what to write, or how to build and develop what I’m trying to achieve.

For the past week, I have managed to find brain space to spend some time generating a plan for how I’m going to combat a better work/life balance, so here goes:

1) Exercise (and stretch): a classic go to solution for everything ha! I do find exercise really wakes me up but I really need to persevere with just doing it the minute I get in from work. I would like to be exercising 4 times a week (as I’m currently watching my posture crumple before my very eyes with limited exercises focusing on improving my posture at the moment) and 2 of those times can be done at the weekend. Additionally, if I’m stronger, moving around will be easier and therefore more energy efficient.

Plan: exercise on a Tuesday and Thursday the minute I get in from work (2 x 25 minute HIIT).

2) Have a bath: I know baths are known for relaxation, but for a small group of us, they are known to wake us up and I am one of those people. Our bath takes FOREVER to run but that gives me 25 minutes to collapse on the sofa, get in the bath and then another energy burst for the evening 👌

3) Focus on pushing ‘work’ thoughts out my head – probably the best method for this is to add more tiny hobbies in such as reading, listening to music, getting involved in a box set or generating ideas for a blog post etc. I’m SO bad for thinking of a million different topics at once instead of focusing on one thing, which puts me at higher risk of letting work thoughts slip into my head. I need to commit to what I’m doing in the moment and not think of anything else.

4) Incorporate more healthy fats into my day and meal prep: yes you can eat fat when trying to lose weight! I find that my diet tends to consist of more saturated fat than unsaturated (and they’re the bad fats), so I need to try and add more nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut oil into my day.

Meal Prep: this may seem quite random and abstract (hence the mention of a million thoughts but go with this). I’m often so tired in the evening that I can’t always be bothered to cook what I had planned and this can throw my calories off. I then get annoyed that I can’t just stick to my weight management plan and then end up being frustrated. If meal times were covered and designed to give me a good energy boost and nutritional intake, then I could steadily be losing weight without having to think about it, allowing more brain space to think about other fun things!

5) Get up earlier: I’ve got into a terrible habit of hitting the snooze button and getting up at the last possible minute. I did wake up naturally at 6.15am the other day and I got out of bed and what a difference it made. I got to work 25 minutes early which meant I could leave earlier and have more of an evening!

And I know I said 5 top tips but here’s a free 6th tip:

6) Be less grumpy.: I’m not known for being grumpy. I’m not having any negative thoughts, but I’d like to be able to achieve more leisure activities during the week. I’m just so exhausted that I’m also being slightly more blunt when communicating with other humans. I don’t need the worry about offending people on top of everything else! I’m just going to chill out, take each day as it comes and focus on myself more than work.

Embrace You

“Two things you need to give up: 1) Processed food 2) Processed people”

I was recording a vlog earlier (before I got struck down properly with Tonsillitis) and what started off as a discussion about happiness and gratitude, ended up going into a full on rant about no one being happy because we are forcing each other to do things we don’t want to and be people we don’t want to be. I’ll probably have to re-record as to not offend 😂

In this instance I’m referring to the dieting, fitness and fashion industries. What started off as ‘this is how I get muscles’ or ‘this is how I lost fat’ has become a competition for trying to be brand ambassadors for active wear or protein powder and is no longer about encouraging each other to be healthier.

As I spend my days trying (and failing) not to be generic online, I have come to realise the pressure there is to be just like all the others that have made their social media fame.

The majority of these people landing the huge days with major fashion brands (fashion influencers too), come across as being straight out of the factory, and almost robotic in their opinions (and with great bodies).

Of course you stumble across the odd gem who has stuck to their guns and continued to show their personality (and they are my heroes), but you can easily understand why young people are feeling like massive failures because they aren’t conforming to social media’s expectations.

The reality is that to be robotic is a costly and time consuming process which most of us can’t possibly achieve whilst going to school/working full time. These influencers also tend to hire their own photographers to get the best photo, and sell the contents of their home for their ‘hauls’.

Sadly the algorithms favour these people making them an easy spot for big brands. However, rather than sacrificing our young people’s mental health to conform to a computer, why don’t we make the algorithm conform to young (and older) people expressing their own individuality.

The reason I set up my social media identity was ALWAYS to be (dare I say it) ‘the best version of myself’, but never did I say that that would be the best version of myself based on society’s expectations. I would be a massive hypocrite as an OT (which is a therapy based on what’s meaningful to the person), to try to conform and quite frankly, I don’t really want to.

I vow to maintain my identity online – do you care to join me?