“Self-care” – 4. & 5. On sweat, my favourite yoga videos, and eating less pizza

Here’s the third post in my “self-care” series, after I wrote last week that although the term “self-care” wasn’t in my childhood or teenage vocabulary, it’s become something I’ve learned is crucial, from listening to wonderful podcasts and reading great blogs on “lifestyle design”, mental health issues, and figuring out how to live and breathe in today’s changing and demanding world.

For the next week or so, I’m going to share some of the best things I do to give myself a little space, even when I’m so busy or anxious I feel like I barely have time to pause. Today, food and exercise (SIGH).

  1. Reducing carb and sugar intake, aka, limiting my Franco Manca visits
food-salad-healthy-lunch

(Credit: Pexels.com)

There are more arguments around this than people on the planet, but basically, through trial and error and diets and periods of eating rubbish I’ve found that I feel better and healthier if I generally avoid carbs with my food about 90% of the time. Everyone has to do what works for them.

I’m still fatter than I want to be and I still have a serious sweet tooth (and bread tooth, and cheese and gin) but even leaving behind all the crap about Atkins and paleo and cutting out food groups and ascribing morality to certain foods – top tip, don’t do it – I know that I feel better if I don’t eat pasta, bread, potatoes or rice, or any of their friends.

Continue reading

Advertisements

You have to stay here: One yurt, some mountains, great food…and nine dogs

It feels like a lifetime ago now (what with the glorious British weather doing its best to rain its way through June) but late May saw my boyfriend and I escape to the south of Spain.

After some time near Málaga and Marbella, we spent a couple of days in the Álora Yurts, a collection of Mongolian-style, hippie-chic yurts in the mountains an hour or so north, run by a British couple. Enter fantastic hospitality, glorious scenery, fabulous food – and oh yeah, nine lovely dogs

Getting slightly lost (our fault!) in the meandering but beautiful county lanes around the Álora Yurts – just over an hour’s drive from Málaga ‒ before being greeted by a welcoming Yorkshireman and a cavalcade of barking but friendly dogs, we knew we were somewhere special.

From start to finish, the hospitality could not have been better. The welcome was warm and genuine, with husband-and-wife team Sara and Darren inviting us to share in their beautiful Andalucian retreat, with down-to-earth company and gloriously relaxed surroundings.

Continue reading

Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 6 & 7 – All good. Now for next week. Eek.

Three words to describe the days: Controlled cheating (ha!), OK

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Cheated a bit, but got back on the horse)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Ok, managed to make up the one I missed)

Notable comments? The plan worked – I’ve lost 2kg. I am a bit worried about next week, so determined to take what I’ve learned and, for want of a better term, not screw it up…

This is what I was dealing with on Saturday….! Don’t think that’s on the plan…

Overall, the weekend was fine. I didn’t splurge as much as I could have done (I sometimes see Saturdays as my EAT ALL THE THINGS days e.g. white bread, cereal, orange juice, butter, jam, etc etc). Despite going out twice, I still managed to maintain the weightloss that I’d seen by Friday. In fact, I lost a bit more by Monday morning – 2 kilos (4.4lbs) in total.

Despite there being a few chances to  cheat, I felt OK because I was keeping up the exercise levels, and I know that if any weight loss plan is going to work, I have to give myself a break when it’s unavoidable, such as going out for birthdays, and events with work.

This weekend was my mum’s birthday, and we went out to eat for dinner and once for lunch. Each time, I didn’t go too mental, but I definitely let myself enjoy the food without going overboard, or feeling too guilty.

Even though I had duck-fat three-times-cooked chips, steak, and a chocolate brownie-based dessert for dinner (OMG), it was OK, because I ate it slowly and really savoured it. After a week of feeling pretty hungry, it felt really special to eat those things, rather than just piling on more guilt. I didn’t eat everything on  the plate, either, which is quite a feat for me, when it comes to chips…

I also cheated a bit at breakfast, because I had a driving lesson in the morning, and I really didn’t want to feel headache-y and light-headed for that. I did my workout as usual, but added in two very thin slices of toast to my smoked salmon and eggs, and felt immediately better for it. Magical things, sometimes, carbs!

I didn’t manage an evening workout, but that was OK because I did one on Sunday morning instead, even though Jillian calls Sundays “rest days”.

It’s a sign of how much my mentality towards just “getting it done” has changed, in that I generally don’t do rest days if I can help it, unless I’m ill or genuinely busy, or totally exhausted.

My default position now is “I might as well”, which helps get it done. These workouts are so short anyway (20-30 minutes without warmup) that I tend to think it takes more time and mental energy to think about whether to do it, than to just do it.

Sunday was fine, I did cheat a bit with lunch and had some bread with my soup, but no big deal. We went out to a show in the evening, and there were crisps and spiced nuts and all kinds of deliciousness, but I snaffled a couple of peanuts and stuck to a gin and slimline tonic.

Bit miserable, but if there’s one thing this plan has taught me, it’s cutting out needless snacking and grazing, which I can be quite prone to.

Overall, I felt better over the weekend (the added sleep always helps!) and come Monday morning, I had still maintained my 2kg (4.4lb) weightloss. Woohoo!

In the meantime, I’ve planned my next week’s worth of food. I’m still trying to stick to the 1,200 total, but adding a few more foods back in (fruit, wholegrain bread/wrap at lunch some days).

It’s a bit scary as I’m out eating and drinking with work or friends three times this week, but I’m sticking to the morning workouts and will add in evening ones when I’m at home too, even though Jillian recommends only one workout a day for the rest of the plan.

I’m determined to make this work with my life, and if that means working a bit harder on the days when I’m not out, then so be it. Hopefully, if I’m lucky, this time next week I’ll be seeing another positive result…!

Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 5 – So nearly there…

Friday 19, day 5 of 7

Three words to describe today: Almost there, headache,

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Actually felt full for the first time! Cheated a bit again…)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Fine. Super bored of cardio, though.)

Notable comments? CURSE YOU, headache. I’m drinking loads of water, why are you still here?! Surely I can’t be *that* addicted to sugar or wheat, right!? Argh.

Home straight, people! Home straight!

Just two days left (well, basically). Nearly done now. I AM going out at the weekend though, which is a bit of a road bump, but I’m planning on not going too crazy, and being 100% on-plan the rest of the time. Also, if this is to be sustainable in some way, then I have to let myself go out, and not worry about it. Especially on special occasions such as birthdays.

Also, a revelation: eating protein (chicken or ham) plus a bowl of homemade vegetable soup is the WAY FORWARD when it comes to feeling full on not many calories. And you don’t even need any bread! I know! (Although a chunk of country bread with a thick wodge of butter would definitely improve things, taste-wise, anyway. SIGH!)

I’m sure I’ve heard this tell before but discovering it for myself is a nice plus to this long, long, hungry week.

I do still have a near-constant headache or slight feeling of light-headedness though, which I guess is a sign that I really should either be drinking even MORE water (I’m already on over 2 litres a day, and really, how much time can one person really spend going to the bathroom?!) or actually eating a bit more, earlier in the day.

Turns out that *this* with a few raisins is not enough for breakfast, especially after a workout…:(

The teeny-tiny breakfasts on this plan (1 yoghurt and some nuts/raisins) don’t work for me. I’d prefer to eat a more filling breakfast, and then a smaller lunch, and a no-carb dinner.

Jillian does offer “target” calories for each meal though, particularly in the next, slightly easier stage of the plan, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep seeing results if I work with the same calories, more or less, just slightly different foods – e.g. a green smoothie for breakfast instead of a yoghurt, and then maybe the yogurt for the afternoon snack, instead? Anyhoo…

Headache aside, all seems well – my calves have even stopped hurting quite as much as before!

AND – this morning I stepped on the scales, and have already lost over a kilo (3 lbs).

Whoop whoop! Maybe it’s water weight, but either way, I’d call that a little bit of a result. Now all I need to do is *not* put it all back on next week…

Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 4 – A note on diet “cheating”

Thursday 18, day 4 of 7

Three words to describe today: Perseverance, habit, positivity

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✧✧ (I cheated. But hear me out. It’s not like I ate a cheeseburger or a box of Krispy Kremes or anything.)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Fine. Getting a bit bored with the same cardio now. But otherwise all good.)

Notable comments? Drinking water helps massively with headaches. Oh, and you have to make a plan like this work for you.

So today I cheated on the plan, more than I have all week. No major transgressions, but instead of a healthy low-fat yoghurt for a snack, I ate a small tub of what is basically a heart coronary in a pot (but a VERY delicious one) – Biscoff spread.

Allow me to introduce you if you are not already familiar. Biscoff is a brand of those “coffee biscuits”, often known in France as “speculoos”. As well as very moreish biscuits, these genuises have also made a spread version, which is creamy, sugary, unctuous, and fabulous for cheesecake bases, I’m told.

Personally, I reckon a teaspoon of it is enough for anyone, even if you have a raging sweet tooth. Because I work for a restaurant, hotel and foodservice magazine, we were sent some as a “taster” of the product. In industrial-sized quantities. AND OH MY GOD.

I had some a couple of weeks’ ago, when we were first sent it, and wow. It came very close to knocking Nutella off its pedestal as my go-to better-than-sex food (no, srsly). The Daily Mail even called it “crack in a jar”. So when we got sent some little individual tubs of it I couldn’t help but have a taste. I know, BAD DIETER.

But you know what? After nearly a week of not having super-sweet things, I was underwhelmed. I mean, it still tasted good, but there was a chemical hint I hadn’t noticed before, and it wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped.

AND THEN – nearly-instant headache. Sugar rush headache. Didn’t really believe that these existed – omg they do. How depressing. And I was like, oh, maybe I’m turning into one of those really sanctimonious arseholes who is all: “Oh, I don’t eat sugar, it makes me feel ill”, and wasn’t sure whether to feel smug or totally ashamed.

Well, not to worry, I cheated later in the evening too, with, wait for it: TWO small squares of dark Green & Black’s. I also had 2 sips of whisky, to toast the Scottish referendum vote. AND I WAS TOTALLY FINE. So that clears up that little conundrum, friends!

My favourite whisky 🙂

BUT MY POINT (I do have one) is that I included these little cheats into my calorie allowance for the day, and wasn’t really much off the average 1,200 total (we’re talking 50 extra calories here).

Now, I know that taking in extra calories of sugar, or fat, isn’t exactly great, but I’m thinking that with two workouts a day, 50 calories is sort of neither here nor there. As long as I don’t then sneak in another 50, etc.

And I realised that even though technically I didn’t 100% stick to the plan, letting myself have those little bits, a) demonstrated that I don’t NEED a rush of sugar to feel OK and that actually, it might make me feel a lot worse (no shit Sherlock), and b) a restricted plan like this is FAR more sustainable if you let yourself wobble every now and again, and get right back on it afterwards. I sort of knew that already, but it’s nice to have it reaffirmed, and actually do it.

And workout-wise? All good. Still mildly horrific getting out of bed ½ an hour earlier than I’d like, but it’s already starting to become a bit of a habit (HUH?). And we all know what I think about those.

Onwards…

Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 2 – OUCH (and a confession)

Tuesday 16, day 2 of 7

Three words to describe today: Painful, persevering, determined

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✧✧ (One yoghurt is not enough after a workout, Jillian!)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✧✧✧ (Always tough using already-sore muscles. Oh and my headache – see below…)

Notable comments? OUCH. DOUBLE OUCH.

Mainly today, I’m just achy. I still feel a bit fuzzy-headed right now, but I’m putting that down to not having had coffee yet today (it’s lunchtime, just haven’t got round to it!), and probably not drinking enough water.

But wow, not sure if it’s the cardio from last night or the after-effects of yesterday’s shoulder and back workout, or today’s thigh and back-work stuff, but I’m stiff as hell and can’t stretch my arms out straight either side without it really hurting my back. it hasn’t been this bad since I went from hardly any exercise to starting the first level of the 30 Day Shred eight months’ ago. Argh.

To be honest, as a Jillian regular, I’m surprised to be feeling sore. Even though her other workouts still kill me while I’m doing them, I’ve generally reached the point when it’s OK the next day. It just shows that this plan’s routines must be working muscles I don’t usually use, or haven’t for a while. Which is great, but man does it hurt!

(ps. the only coconut water you want, seriously, it’s so yummy.)

The food today has been OK, but I confess, I cheated and added some sugar-free coconut water to my breakfast, because I knew I couldn’t cope after a workout with just a small pot of yoghurt. That’s been my only cheat so far though, which I’m bloody proud of (nerd).

It also helps that the food has been *just* enough to stop me from eating my own arm, and the lunch and dinners seem pretty tasty so far, considering. But being properly on the edge of hunger like this all the time isn’t sustainable, not for me anyway (and certainly not every day). It’s too distracting.

But I can really feel the steely determination is beginning to kick in. I’m having to mentally remind myself that having the programme at such a difficult level (by which I really mean the no fruit and two workouts a day thing – argh) is only for a week. It’s started to become an objective challenge I have to complete, rather than simply a personal “lifestyle change”.

The “lifestyle” bit comes next week – and the 3 months after that – which will be bloody difficult, because unlike this week when I don’t have much in the way of evening going out planned (except a dinner on Saturday), next week I have something on nearly every night, a lot of it including food and drink.

I’m in no way complaining about the fact that I have nice places to go and lovely people to see, but wow, it just really hammers home how difficult it is to stick to a proper diet if you actually have a life…

Update, next morning: I have a confession to make. I didn’t eat dinner last night OR do the evening workout (cardio) OR prepare today’s food as planned. I was completely geared up to carry on as usual, but on the train home I was hit by one of my ‘migraines’ and couldn’t do a thing when I got home, except drink water and lie down in a dark room.

I put inverted commas around the word migraines, as the headaches have never been officially diagnosed or anything. Also I only get them maybe 4-5 times a year, maximum. They tend to hit when I’m overtired and have been squinting at a screen too long.

But when they do arrive, they’re pretty bad. It affects my vision – I can’t look straight at things, or focus on something right in front of me. I can’t use a screen or look at bright lights without discomfort. It sometimes stays on one side or moves around, and sometimes resembles a sinus or tension headache, going from the back of the neck to the nose and eye socket. Not good.

Now, I hesitate to blame the diet/workouts. I get these headaches no matter what diet or exercise regime I’m doing – and even if I’m not doing any.

coffee-heart

I am loath to accept that there is such a thing as too much coffee, but maybe two cups in two hours on a not-full stomach is my official limit…

But maybe the underlying stress – even the positive “lets do this” adrenaline, coupled with far less food than usual, and the twice-daily workout, might not have helped. I actually think the main trigger was too much coffee, too late in the day. So that’s a lesson.

But I was so disappointed not to be able to follow the plan. So annoyed with myself. It hasn’t even been that long – how can I be struggling this soon in; how pathetic am I? But I couldn’t fight it. With my headache as it was, I had to just ride it out. A rare case of my desperately wanting to do a workout, and not being able to. Imagine!

In any case, I figure since I didn’t eat dinner (except a little apple, whoops, sorry Jillian, breaking the no fruit rule) missing the workout won’t make too much difference. Instead I went to bed early (rock and roll!).

This morning (Weds) back as usual, with today’s am workout. All good. I’ve made a few tweaks to the meal plan so I can follow it without having done any cooking – eg. Yoghurt instead of eggs.

Encouraging words…

On balance, despite the horrible headache, it has helped. It’s been a reminder that even if you get sidetracked, you can just draw a line under, and carry on. It’s a general tenet of “dieting” – and, well, anything, really – that even if you mess up once, you can choose to *not* say, ‘to hell with it, I’ve ruined it now, I may as well mess up more’, thereby fecking up the whole thing.

Instead, you can choose perseverance, and not beating yourself up. Or as Jillian would say, right when you’re at the point of giving up on a workout move: “Finish it, people!”. Another Jillian catchphrase (gotta love em) is that if you ”know your ‘why’, you can put up with any kind of ‘how’”. So there we go.

Just keeping on keeping on…