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.

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.

 

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.

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?

Start Your 2019 By Decluttering and Spring Cleaning Your House

Over the years I have become an avid declutterer – partly because I like to be able to see surfaces (I am officially turning into my mother) and secondly, if I did not declutter there would be no room in my house for me to live in it!

I try to apply the ‘have I used this in the past 12 months?’ to about 50% of things in my house. This includes clothing, books, DVDs, toiletries and food. I am slightly more generous with technology and items that are only meant to be used now and again.

I then collect all of these items and put them into what needs to be thrown, recycled, sent to charity or what could be sold.

The most challenging part is our very large collection of penguin memorabilia. Tim’s favourite animal is a penguin but for some reason EVERYONE buys him penguin related items every Christmas. This year alone we got 8 coasters, placemats, a jumper, shirt and ornament. We also have a duvet set, canvas, 5 other ornaments, 2 books, 2 more hoodies, a blanket, a cushion and mugs. I think you would agree with me that that rivals the gift shop in a zoo, but they are presents from close family, some of whom haven’t seen that sadly we do not have enough space to cater for all of these penguins. So for now, they live in a box and are on rotation to ensure they are used.

Yesterday I gutted our abode. It took me 4 hours to clean and I sorted through my preexisting selling pile and worked out what needed to go into recycling or the rubbish (at this point it’s been up for sale for approximately 3 years).

I always feel that when you have a good clear out and clean you can feel your home sigh with relief. We got rid of 2 bin bags of clothing to a textiles recycling bank and hoovered so much the Dyson needed emptying twice!

Research has indicated that a cluttered environment increases the cortisol (stress hormone) in women. It also overstimulates your senses and makes your brain think there’s still more work to do, making it much more challenging to relax after a stressful day at work.

As I have decided that 2019 is going to be the best possible year yet, I encourage you to put on your rubber gloves, get a couple of bags and get busy tidying away this weekend!

NB: I personally have made at least £500 over the years selling unwanted items on eBay. Don’t underestimate what people will pay for the stuff you don’t want anymore!

My Perception of the World Has Changed

I can only apologise for the lack of posts since starting my job. I’m so mentally pooped when I get home, it’s so hard to try and think of what to have for dinner not alone write a half decent blog post.

If you’ve kept up to date with my blog, you will see that during my time of unemployment I really worked hard on myself to shift my negative mindset into a more positive one. At the time I wondered if I would ever truly commit to my new thinking style… it worked in the moment but it didn’t feel real that I had changed my mindset forever.

Now I’m back in the real world and my new mindset is still very apparent. It’s also being challenged on a daily basis. I appreciate I was given a (somewhat stressful) opportunity to work on myself, and not many people get that chance and it’s so easy to see who is on the brink of needing a time out and who isn’t.

I work in a very emotive environment and it’s hard to resist getting sucked into that. But so far I’m able to identify the days that I might be slipping into old habits and work on changing to stay in my more positive mindset.

If only it was so easy for losing weight 😂

The reason I don’t want to go back to my old habits is that they are pretty darn stressful and can make life quite miserable. I’m enjoying being grateful and without meaning to oversimplify things, I wonder if that’s where most of us are going wrong. What we are not appreciating is that being positive is so much less stressful than being negative.

We aren’t grateful so we always want more.

We struggle to ‘get’ more because life gets in the way (inflation, breakdown of relationships, loss of jobs etc)

We then are hard on ourselves because we have failed to get more.

For example, Tim and I were discussing the cost of phone bills last night. When I took out my first phone contract back in 2006, I paid £30 a month for an all singing all dancing contract. Now a basic contract is around £36 and people will happily pay out £40-50 for the new iPhone. We personally could not justify spending that much to keep up with the latest trends and if we were 10 years younger this might really get to us.

Our question is….when did it become okay to pay these prices – and paying for something that is impacting on our social skills and mental health?

Don’t get me wrong, I spend hours on my phone, but it’s an interesting concept.

The one downside to this shift in mindset is that I find it harder to empathise with people’s problems that aren’t actual problems.

I appreciate that all problems are very ‘real’ in the moment to that person. But when you are able to stand back and say ‘how much of a problem is this in the grand scheme of things?’ then it’s altogether a very different story.

People still come to me for advice and their problems aren’t that significant but because they are so consumed in all the stuff they don’t have, they are forgetting to look at what they do have, and it can be quite frustrating to listen to.

I maintain that if you have a roof over your head, food on the table, people that love you – then you are winning. On top of that, if you have a job that pays the bills and gives you a little spending money – then that’s the real lottery.

For the next week I challenge you to write down three things a day that you are grateful for… they don’t have to be elaborate. It can be thing such as ‘having toothpaste to brush my teeth with’. Not everyone has that luxury.

Why We Should All Try Harder To Stop Moaning

The fact that I am writing this is absolutely HILARIOUS as I was known for my moaning.

And I still moan. Today alone I have moaned about traffic lights, slow cars, being tired, not knowing what I wanted for dinner and a sore arm.

But what I have noticed is that I moan a lot less than I used to 😳

I would argue that about 80% of messages I receive from friends and family contain some form of moaning… tiredness, workload, loved ones, the weather, traffic, colleagues. The list goes on.

During my period of unemployment every penny was accounted for; we couldn’t do anything recreational, we came close to selling my car, losing our flat and my wardrobe has considerably less belongings in it than it did. As a result it made me grateful for the smaller things in life.

I realised that if we downsized our flat/apartment, we would still be able to live in Scotland, which was our main goal. In the mean time, we could still go for walks and see the gorgeous scenery Scotland has to offer. If we had still been living in Surrey and this situation had occurred, then I’m not sure what we would have done! (Fortunately it didn’t come to moving flats but we were one month away from having to inform our landlord).

As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time on social media and one thing that I found really struck a chord with me…

‘If you keep food in the refrigerator, your clothes in a closet, if you have a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head… you are richer than 75% of the population’.

Now I don’t know how accurate the statistics are before anyone starts but they are arguably within the ballpark.

We have SO MUCH to be grateful for, but instead we focus on the negative. What I should have been saying this morning is ‘I may be tired but at least I had a good sleep’ and ‘at least I can afford a car and sit at traffic lights’.

I’ve also noticed that this approach to life has had a significant impact on my happiness levels. I am happy.

As a notorious control freak I’ve noticed I’m less anxious. I’m happy for life to go the way it wants to go. What will be will be. What’s the point in stressing?

I encourage you to try the following. Instead of moaning that your soup at lunch burnt your tongue, take a moment to be grateful that you had soup AND lunch.

If you’re anything like me, it won’t take long to notice the changes in your thought processes and at least be aware that you are moaning.

Gratitude is definitely underrated.

GPs Are Now Prescribing ‘Nature’ As Treatment

GPs in the Shetland Islands are now ‘prescribing’ nature (e.g. walks and bird watching) as a treatment for mental health, diabetes, heart disease, stress and other conditions.

Now before my time in the health care system I would have said ‘well what’s that going to achieve? – what a load of twaddle’ – but now, I can’t really deny that they make a good point.

Medication is all very well and good and is certainly needed to keep me afloat, but with the findings that walking can help Type 2 diabetes and that people who don’t exercise are more unhealthy than those on dialysis and people who smoke – I think it’s definitely worth a try.

Whilst I wasn’t working between May and October, we went for a lot of walks and obviously we had our little trip to the Highlands. I actually remember saying to Tim ‘it’s hard to remember why I’m so anxious and stressed when I’m faced with these views’- I felt like a bit of a loser for saying it, but it was totally true.

Aside from the benefits of walking itself, I think getting back to basics with nature helps us put our problems into perspective. We have created this world that quite frankly at the moment, is a bit of a s*** show! The more time I spend on social media the more I wonder what an epic mistake the invention of social media was; there are so many mixed messages on EVERYTHING that it’s easy to lose sight on how to even live. It was even brought to my attention that I breathe wrong whilst I was training as a therapist. True story. And people wonder why sometimes my confidence is low!

In reality, we are no different from the other animals gracing this planet. You don’t see a sheep getting out its iPhone and Snapchatting sheep in another part of the country. They spend their days munching on grass, having the odd run in with each other and just doing their thang.

I’m also a HUGE believer in early intervention and prevention. Our bodies aren’t designed to put up with the huge amounts of crap we consume – be it processed food, smoking, alcohol, drugs, excessive exercise – and whatever else goes on in the world that I don’t know about. Yes these things are fashionable, tasty or addictive, but our bodies are not designed to effectively digest them without causing implications. Why not make the changes before we find ourselves knocking on the GPs door begging for help.

So that’s why I’m quite happy about Doctors prescribing nature. It’s sad that it’s come to that and not recognised as a starting place before the trip to the local surgery – but I think taking it back to basics is exactly what the Doctor ordered!