Improve your reality or lower your expectations…

‘Habits like blogging often and regularly, writing down the way you think, being clear about what you think are effective tactics, ignoring the burbling crowd and not eating bacon. All of these are useful habits’ – Seth Godin

I’m not normally a fan of reflective summary posts. Actually, I’ll rephrase that, I love reading other people’s (Chloe from New Girl in Toon does a regular round up of her adventures which I eagerly await every month). That’s mostly because other people have way more exciting lives than I do and your average monthly round up for me would be; pub, pub, running, x-factor, pub, running, pub, which would get very tedious very quickly.

Recently however has been a little different in the crazy world of Newman and I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the life changing events that have cropped up over the last couple of months. And before I go on I want to make clear that this isn’t a ‘look at how amazing and successful my life is kind of post’ most of the things that have happened have been a product of a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and literal tears. This is more of a reminder that it’s really easy to get bogged down in the negative and the mundane but actually, cool things do happen from time to time if you keep your head down and keep plugging away. And they should be celebrated; even by an eternal pessimist like me.

New Job

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In the back end of August I was interviewed and offered my dream job. Still within the NHS bur moving away from PA work, which I’ve done since  I left school at 18, and into a more engagement role which will also involve lots of report writing and content creation.  As someone who has found their passion in writing and creating this blog only a few years ago, being offered this opportunity to get paid for what I love to do is an absolute dream come true. It’s a total career change and it will be a challenge stepping out from the support staff role I’ve grown so used to (expect a post on my imposter syndrome coming very soon) but it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down and I’m so excited about a brand new challenge.

Great North Run

You can read a more detailed review of my GNR experience here, but needless to say this is something I never thought I’d be able to achieve. Running does not come naturally to me and the constant training, particularly towards the end, really started to get me down.  I was really pleased with the time I completed it in and all the support I got on the day and through sponsorship was absolutely overwhelming. Now that it’s over though I have a massive sense of achievement and I’m even considering doing it again next year with my bestie Angela.

Fitness

If the post so far hasn’t ventured unto the self-indulgent then strap in because it’s about to! One of the happy side effects of training for the Great North Run is that I’ve managed to lose quite a nice amount of weight and toned up where I’ve never been toned before; namely, my legs.  Thankfully running 25 miles a week has gotten them into a shape and for the first time in my life I’ve been able to wear skinny jeans and jeggings without looking like an overstuffed sausage. And that’s a massive victory for me. On a slightly more serious note it also means I’ve managed to build up a level of fitness I never had before and I’m determined not to lose that now GNR is over.

Meeting my hero

To top off my 6 weeks of life changing events, in the middle of September me and my friend Emma won a competition on Instagram to meet Jaret Reddick the lead songer of one of my favourite bands; Bowling for Soup. Despite some slight ‘rock n roll admin’ issues which meant we almost missed him for the meet & greet, we were able to get some pictures, get some stuff signed and have a quick 5 minute chat with him and he was a really lovely guy. He probably the most famous (in fact the only famous) person i’ve ever met and it was really great that he was so normal! I never win anything either so the whole thing was so surreal, especially with all the other mad stuff that seems to have been happening recently!

So suffice to say 2017 has turned out to be a year when loads of stuff has changed, can’t wait to see what happens next!

2016 Resolution number 6 – an Update

‘It’s not exactly the most relaxing activity, granted, but I always imagine I’m sweating out all the things weighing on my mind’ – Becca Fitzpatrick

Back in January it felt obligatory to jump on the blogging bandwagon that was doing the rounds that week and I created my 16 in 16. 16 resolutions for 2016 (god help me in 2072!). I remember posting it and getting a few positive comments about them and it was all lovely but I don’t think, if I’m honest with myself I was under any illusion that I would actually do any of them. Believe me I’ll say pretty much any old shit for the sake of a half decent blog post.

So fast forward a few months I  noticed on my stats page that for some weird reason, my 16 in 16 post was being read again, which made me read it again, if only to laugh at myself for spending 3 hours creating a useless list of half baked ideas that were going to somehow make my life better. The most surprising thing is, I have actually managed to do a few of them. Perhaps one of my resolutions should have been ‘be less hard on myself’?

Anyway, that gave me the idea to create a few posts giving updates on some of the things I said I would do, and low and behold I actually have!

Number 6 on the list was:

Get back into running – I still have a love/hate relationship with running. I don’t particularly enjoy it and I find it difficult, but I’ve always a bit of a masochist, I like punishing myself by doing things I don’t enjoy. Health wise nothing tones me up like running, it gives me the opportunity to discover new music, and it completely clears my head when I’m down. I know all the benefits it brings, I just need to get it done.

I’m not ashamed to say I’m a fair weather runner. I don’t find anything wrong with not wanting to run outside in the pissing rain, or snow, in fact I think that’s a perfectly normal attitude to have. Problem is, spring has sprung, the clocks have changed so we have more daylight hours, which means I have less excuses not to get off my fat backside and get out and get it done.

I haven’t ran properly since I did the Blaydon Race with Dave and Steph last year and it’s worrying to think that this time last year I ran 10k everyday over Easter weekend, there’s no way I could have done that this Easter weekend. No way Jose. That’s not to say I haven’t been trying to keep fit of course, I’ve started spinning semi regularly and still going to the gym almost 6 times a week. I just haven’t been running. So I decided 2 weeks ago to start up again.

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As you’ve probably gathered if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I don’t go particularly easy on myself. My usual comfortable distance always used to be 10K but I knew that trying to do that after not running for 8 months would be ridiculously hard and I would say really horrible things to myself when I was unable to achieved it. So I’m basically starting again. Well, starting at 5k at least, then building on that whenever I can.

So far so good, I’m trying to get out at least twice a week (weather dependent) and building up a kilometre a week. I figured that if I can maintain that level of ramping up, I should be running 10k’s again by the weekend of Steph & Chris’ wedding at the end of April.

Not that their wedding requires their guests to participate any form of distance running of course, that would be weird, but it should hopefully mean I’m back to a level of fitness that enables me to wear a very unforgiving bodycon dress I’ve had in my wardrobe for 18 months and never been brave enough.

I’m really hoping I stick with it and get back into it again, even if it’s just bashing out a 10k once a week when I have time at the weekend because when I’m fitter, I do enjoy running a bit more, and the better I get at it the more adventurous I can be by running in some areas with nicer scenery – like along the river Tyne, which is one of my favourite places to run.

I’ll be perfectly honest though, the main reason I like running so much is that it absolutely melts calories which means I can eat more chocolate and drink more wine!

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10 of the Best: Girl Problems

People care less about your actions than you think. Why? They have their own problems!’ – Kris Carr

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a girl, and despite the fact that I will maintain I was a tom boy growing up because I climbed the odd tree and wore jeans a lot, i’m pretty much the most girly girl you’ll meet. I love clothes and make up and getting my nails done, I do however get jealous when my husband can shower, change and get ready for a night out in 8 minutes when the only thing I can get done in 8 minutes is decide that my hair needs it’s 5th re-straighten.

Sometimes men just don’t understand what we have to deal with. So here are 10 of the most annoying Girl Problems that haunt my very existence on a daily basis:

1. Hair bobble problems

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Is there anything more annoying than the lack of elasticity of a hair bobble? Or even worse, when you stretch one too far to get it round that third time and it snaps ricocheting off the back of your hand and causing a wound that requires immediate medical attention.

2. Short girl problems

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I’m a 5’4 gal from a family of 6’2 men, which means when giving my big brother a hug my head nestles perfectly betwixt his nipples, which is just uncomfortable for everyone involved.

3. Sweaty girl problems

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I sweat so much at the gym I could give Lee Evans a run for his money. The earbud problem is very real for me, so much so that my doctor actually told me off for wearing them because my sweaty ears were causing my Labrynthitis to flare up. But what are the other options? Beats by Dre? What am I, made of money? Or even worse listen to the Happy Hardcore they pump through the gyms sound system? I think not!

4. Nail varnish problems

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I don’t paint my nails these days as much as used to but when I do, you can bet your bottom dollar the left hand will look immaculate and the right hand will look like I just poured the bottle directly onto each nail and hoped for the best. Also, why is it that a heavy gust of wind will smudge your freshly painted finger nails yet paint your toe nails and they can survive a nuclear holocaust?

5. Hair grip problems

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There must me a vortex somewhere in my house that all my hair grips and bobbles go, and one day the vortex will implode and every hair accessory I’ve ever owned will come raining down on me like a biblical hair plague. Just a dream I had once.

6. Pale problems

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Turns out when you’re naturally blonde, pale isn’t interesting. You can only pull of the whole porcelain skin, English rose look if you have dark hair, blondies just look unwell. Almay liquid foundation in ‘Sand’ used to be perfect for my skin, until it was discontinued in 2008 and I haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement since, so I have to now buy 2 shades and mix them together *eyeroll*

7. Fake tan problems

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So to try and combat the pale problem, I use fake tan or tinted moisturiser a lot. Believe me when I say I’ve tried pretty much every product on the market before I settled on Garnier Summer Body lotion. So I have most definitely been guilty of slopping too much on in order to look like I’ve just come back from a fortnight in Greece and ending up looking like an over cooked roast chicken.

8. Handbag problems

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Every time I empty out my handbag I always vow to not just throw all my crap in there but it inevitably builds up. There’s stuff currently in my handbag that may or may not be alive and receipts for things I’ve never even bought! I have a rule that I never put used food wrappers in mt bag, yet how does to the bottom look like a whole packet of crumbled up Maryland Cookies? A total, total mystery.

9. Dancing problems

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I don’t have to have a drink to dance, I’ll dance pretty much anywhere given half a chance and when I do I am 100% confident I look like Beyonce. Until I see pictures or video back. At least I suppose it’s yet another thing that makes me and Taylor Swift so similar.

10. Weight problems

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No matter how much I weigh I always wish I was half a stone lighter. I’m currently about half a stone heavier than when I was at my thinnest, and I look back at those pictures and wish I looked like that again, but when I did look like that I still wasn’t happy. It’s a never ending cycle of self body shaming which I’m sure can’t be healthy! As soon as someone invents vegetables that fill you up and taste like Costco cake icing I’ll be the size zero I’ve always dreamed of!

The 5:2 Diet: Does it actually work?

‘Diets, like clothes, should be tailored to you’ – Joan Rivers

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Show me a woman who tells you she’s never dieted before and I will show you a liar. I personally have tried pretty much every diet out there, apart from the cabbage soup and the cayenne pepper one Beyoncé used to lose all that weight for Dreamgirls (I’d rather be fat than try either of those two).

Almost 10 years ago I was very unhappy with my weight and joined weight watchers where I successfully lost almost 3 stone and have managed to keep it off more or less. There’s this pesky 1 stone that I keep on fluctuating between though and it’s slowly making my weight creep up and up again. So I thought I’d try something new, the 5:2 diet.

For those who are unfamiliar the diet specifies a low-calorie consumption (600 calories for men, 500 for women) for two non consecutive days a week and ‘unmoderated’ eating the other five. The idea behind it being that fasting for only 2 days a week is easier than having to restrict you calories every day. It’s also reports other health benefits such as lowering risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer although these are unsupported by the NHS.

I’ll cut to the chase, does it work? I’ve been doing the diet for 6 weeks now and can say, for me, yes it does. I lost 1.75lbs in the first week, 1.25lbs in the second, gained 0.75lbs in the third, lost 2.5 in the fourth gained 2.5 in the fifth and lost 3.75 in the sixth. So I’ve lost an average of a pound a week, which I’m more than happy with!

Where did I go wrong on the weeks I gained? The first week I gained I completely over ate on non fast days, and I mean I went crazy! Non fast days don’t mean you can eat everything in the world, sadly. The second time I gained I was unwell, and although I did still manage to fast, I couldn’t get to the gym at all and was eating sugary Halls Soothers like they were m&ms!

So what did I eat on my fasting days?

I would have a breakfast bar (about 90 cals) for breakfast, a can of low cal soup for lunch (about 120 cals) and a ready meal for dinner (about 300 cals) and I tend not to exercise on fast days – there’s simply no gas in the tank for anything above a normal days at work on so few calories.

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On my non fasting days I eat what I want. When I say that, I mean within reason, I don’t go out ordering take always and adding double cream to my coffee just because I’m not fasting. I still try to eat sensibly, and exercise on non fast days, but if I fancy a biscuit with my coffee or a pudding after dinner, I’ll have one. What fasting doesn’t mean is you’re allowed to eat like Henry VIII on your days off (something I found out in week 3!)

So what are the pros and cons I’ve found?

Pros

  • It’s works! The scales speak for themselves!
  • You don’t have to count calories every single day (basically you get more to eat more cake and chocolate!)
  • You can fit it around your social life; as long as the days aren’t consecutive, you can fast on the days that suit you and what you have going on that week
  • No matter how miserable fast days are, you only have to make it through one day, you can eat again tomorrow – yay!
  • Now you know what real, true hunger feels like, it makes you appreciate food more on non fast days, so you don’t actually pig out that much, you’re just pleased not to be eating soup!
  • You don’t feel guilty about having pudding when you go out for dinner

Cons

  • The fast days are hellish. I’m starving all day, which equals a very tired and cranky Helen come home time.
  • I find myself wanting to go to bed at 8pm on fast days just to get the day over with
  • When you only have 500 cals to play with, you have to get creative with your food intake, which I never have time for, so fast day meals are very bland
  • I find it very difficult if not impossible to get anything done on fast day evenings because I have so little energy
    and feel quite lethargic the day after a fast day, a result of eating so little the day before.
  • The guys may want to shut your ears for this one: if you fast when it’s that time of the month, which is inevitable if you do it long-term, be prepared to experience a whole new level of hatred for that monthly ovary assassin.

Diets, like exercise are all about finding something that works for you and there’s no point in doing something if it makes you truly miserable, so if you find that having such small amounts of food would make you feel poorly, or dizzy or upset then this probably isn’t the diet for you. But if like me you’re an all or nothing type of person (I’ve always said I’m the kind of person who eats no biscuits, or ALL the biscuits!) then I would definitely recommend giving this a try.

This BBC documentary from 2015 is worth a watch if you’d like to know more about which diet may suit you the best

Related blog posts:

1. A fine line between Genius and Insanity – A review of the Insanity exercise programme.

2. The Honeymoon Stone – How much weight can one girl gain on a month long holiday?!

3. 13 things they don’t tell you at Weight Watchers – a lighthearted look at the crazy world of slimming clubs

13 Things They Don’t Tell You At Weight Watchers

‘The first few weeks of joining Weight Watchers, you’re just finding your feet’ – Jimmy Carr

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In 2005 I got stuck in the bath and decided it was time I did something about my weight, so joined my local Weight Watchers* class. I successfully managed to lose about 3 stone in total, and aside from the odd pesky half stone I’ve managed to keep it off ever since. So it is a lifestyle change and did teach me a lot about portion size, calories and the benefit of regular exercise.

Here’s what they don’t tell you happens when you lose 3 stone at a slimming club:

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1. You never lose weight off the areas you want to, small boobs get smaller and start heading south, and thunderous thighs never look like Beyonce’s no matter how much you go to the gym.

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2. When you fall off the wagon you fall off spectacularly, and before you know it you’re eating a family sized tub of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food in approximately 3.5 seconds.

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3. You all but starve yourself the night before a weigh in for the fear of being chastised for not losing any weight that week.

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4. Speaking of the dreaded weigh ins, you squeeze out every last morsel of urine before you step on those scales, and if you don’t lose any weight, you blame it on the fact you didn’t go for a pee beforehand

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5. The humble 1lb can be your best friend or your worse enemy. If you lose one, you feel like Kate Moss, if you gain one, you feel like the biggest blubbernaut  on the planet.

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6. If you do lose weight one week,  the epic joy you feel is quickly quashed by Flabby Rebecca and Two Ton Tina, who through gritted teeth congratulate you, but walk away accusing you of cheating and having an eating disorder

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7. You give nasty weight related nicknames to people in your class who give you stink eye when you lose weight (as above)

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8. A week long stomach bug suddenly becomes the best thing ever – 5lbs down in a week, woop! (I guarantee you though you put it all back on again the week after because you’re eating normally again, so spending your week with your head down the crapper didn’t have any benefits after all!)

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9. People you work with and your friends and family invariably know you’re on a diet, because it’s all you talk about, so that the second you put anything that isn’t a piece of fruit in your mouth the ‘ooh that won’t be very good for you’ or ‘aah are you having a bad day’ comments start. You’re seemingly not allowed to treat yourself. Ever.

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10. If you do happen to treat yourself to something from the sweet menu, you spend 20 minutes working out how long you’re going to have to go to the gym for the next day to compensate.

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11. You become incredibly vain. You’ve lost a couple of stone and feel great, so great that you can’t stop looking at yourself in any reflective surface you pass by, and shopping takes twice as long because you spend an hour admiring the fact you can now get on and zip up a pair of size 12 jeans.

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12. Not only do you become obsessed with everything you put in your mouth, you become obsessed with everything everyone else puts in their mouth as well, you watch people tucking into a bacon sandwich or a double chocolate muffin like its nothing, and you think to yourself ‘350 calories, too much for breakfast’. But you’re jealous all the same.

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13. It’s doesn’t change your life as much as you think. I used to think if I was thin, I would be happy and all my problems would disappear, I wouldn’t suffer from period pain any more and I would simply skip through life all skinny and pretty without a care in the world. That, of course, is hogwash, because work, the weather and the sadistic bus driver you meet every morning don’t care if you’re skinny, and neither, sadly do your ovaries.

*other slimming clubs are available!

‘This Girl Can’ Campaign: What about the boys?

‘Healthy body image is not something that you’re going to learn from fashion magazines’ – Erin Heatherton

Something that’s been all over TV and social media this week is Sport England’s #thisgirlcan campaign which, as explained by them on their website is This Girl Can is here to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.  Here’s the advert that’s been shown on TV:

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am and always have been a massive supporter of women doing exercise, healthy body image and women and girls being supportive of each other (in fact, you can read a blog post I did a year or so ago about this here). I think women are faced daily with a barrage of totally unattainable body images and feel an enormous pressure to look or dress a certain way. We aren’t ever really encouraged to feel good about who we are or celebrate all the beautiful differences in body type. So in that respect, I think this advert and campaign is bloody brilliant. Hooray for us wobbly women everywhere!

Now, I’m sure what I’m about to say if going to have some radical hardcore feminists want to revoke my woman card but what I can’t help but think when I watch this advert is, what about the boys? When did a healthy body image become exclusively a women thing?

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The National Eating Disorder Association reports that large scale surveys concluded that male body image concerns have dramatically increased over the past three decades from 15% to 43% of men being dissatisfied with their bodies; rates that are now comparable to those found in women. So if the statistics are there, where’s the love for the men?

If you go to my gym on any given day, among all the super fit fitties there are just as many normal sized average looking guys who are there, probably after a hard day at work, pounding away on the treadmill or going for it on the crosstrainer trying to lose those love handles just the same as the women are. So where’s the advert celebrating their effort? Where’s the advert for my friend Steve who, after worrying he couldn’t keep up with his young son, started swimming and lost 3 stone? I think men are faced with just as many unhealthy and unattainable body images and impressions that they think girls want them to look like so why is it the girls get all the glory? Why, when you read an article about dieting, it always talks in terms of ‘dress sizes’ or ‘fitting into those skinny jeans’. No fair.

I get the impression that adverts like these and things like female only gyms stem from the perception that more women would exercise if they were among other women and not feel judged by men. Well, I totally disagree with that because in my experience, no one judges women more than other women!

I realise I’ve probably asked more questions than I’ve answered in this but I think for me it’s just about celebrating everyone who has the courage to admit their not happy with the way they look and get out there and do something positive to change it, whether you male or female. And perhaps have a campaign in the future called #thispersoncan!