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Monday, 16 March 2015

The Fast Diet Kitchen – one of the great secrets to dieting success!

Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit it, I put on more than a couple of pounds on over Christmas and wasn’t happy with the flabby outcome. Yes, I was probably only just on the wrong side of the healthy/ overweight line, but the fact is I didn’t like what I saw.

So, in delightfully tacky tradition, I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit and healthy at the same time – in turn making myself feel happier with my over all appearance. But how to do it? We all know that it’s harder to lose weight the less you weigh and those last few pounds are the hardest to get off, so how was I going to make a real difference?

Well firstly HIIT!! No – I wasn’t hitting myself – HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. I chose Jillian Michaels’ punishing 30 Day Shred to push myself through every morning for 20 minutes and while hating it most of the time, loved the results on my body afterwards and the overall feeling of well being that it gave me. In fact, I went past the 30 days and am still doing it now! And Pilates once a week - lovely, lovely Pilates - now my favourite way to get a lovely stretch, relax and six pack of an evening!

But, what about food? I knew that my love affair with chocolate and sugary cakes and sweets had to come to an end, but would this be enough to lose some serious weight? Probably not. So, having found out about The Fast Diet I thought I’d give it a go. The Fast Diet or 5:2 Diet involves eating fairly healthily, but pretty much what you like for five days a week and fasting for two by having no more than 500 calories on your fast day. By harking back to many centuries ago, when food wasn't in regular supply, the body is conned into thinking it's in a potential famine situation and gets leaner and tougher as a result. Sounds easy enough, but it’s really actually quite hard getting three meals a day in that total 500 calories!

So someone told me about The Fast Diet Kitchen, which provides you with a series of healthy ready meals to assist you on the fast days. Every calorie is counted and the meals – a soup at lunchtime and an evening meal - contain some really healthy ingredients so you know you’re getting the right stuff into you on your fast days as well. To be honest though, diet food? I thought it would taste vile, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised.

Yes, some of the meals weren’t to my taste, but the majority of them were lovely. I particularly liked the aromatic chicken curry and the beef and ale casserole – they were really yummy and I couldn’t believe that each meal was loads less than 300 calories! So basically, for a few weeks I had a breakfast of around 100 calories on my fast days, then chose a soup and evening meal to add up to a total of 500 calories.

Yes, fasting took some getting used to the first few times and to start with I was quite miserable on my fast days, but gradually my body got used to it and I actually felt healthier on the fast days than the other days!

I also found that exercising and keeping busy on the fast days helped with the hunger pangs too. As the weeks moved on I really started to notice the difference with a combination of HIIT and fasting and guess what? I have actually lost 10kg in two months!! That’s a flipping stone and a half in old money!!

The Mummy tummy (or so I called it, even though my oldest is now two) is no more and I feel so much better for it! Even the jeans that never used to fit me and sat in my wardrobe for years are now too big!

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to make it last for – hopefully I’ve made a fitter and healthier change for life now, but all I can say is it most definitely worked and I’m mega impressed! So thank you Jillian Michaels and the Fast Diet Kitchen – I love you both!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

10 things I'll be teaching my children

As parents we strive for the best for our children; and as good parents we strive for them to be the best they can be. I'm not talking horrendous pushy stage mums, trying to force their children into achieving their own unfulfilled dreams. I mean instilling and encouraging the right values and attitudes in our children, through setting a good example ourselves.

While schools give education - maths, English, science etc - I still believe that it’s the parents’ role to invest time and energy in raising their children to be half decent contributors to a positive and happy society. So here are some things that I think are important.

1) Be assertive – the other day, my son told me he was sad at pre school that no one came to play with him. So I suggested that if no one came to play with him, maybe he could try going to play with them. In life we can't expect things to come to us, but likewise, we should be positive and confident about going for what we want to achieve.

2) Confidence – some of the nicest children I've ever met come from military families, not only because they're polite, but because they are also some of the most confident children I've ever met. Believe in yourself and your ability and others will too.

3) Self defence – the world we live in can be a cruel and horrible place at times. I plan on equipping my children with the knowledge and ability to defend themselves both physically and mentally should disaster happen.

4) Good manners – it may sound old fashioned, but I really value hearing and seeing good manners both in children and adults. I also believe that a well mannered person will get further in life, be more successful and achieve more.

5) Tenacity - don't give up if you fail at the first hurdle. Believe in yourself and your ability. Keep trying. Most of the world’s most successful people didn't get to where they are straight away and it wasn't handed to them on a plate. Tenacity is the best way to succeed.

6) Self belief – too often children are criticised or put down by adults much more than they are praised. If your confidence is damaged from the start, what chance do you have? Praise the things your children do well and encourage them, this way they they will believe in themselves and be more likely to succeed.

7) Kindness – sometimes I just think there’s not enough kindness and caring in the world. I plan to teach my children to be kind to others and be helpful where they can. Hopefully by doing so they will be positive contributors to a good community.

8) Compassion – in a similar way to kindness, I want my children to think from another's perspective as well as their own, and try to understand about the feelings of others. When someone is hurt, for instance, I want them to be the ones who help. We’ve just had Martin Luther King Day, so, as he said: “Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”

9) Value of learning – we all know that a good education can help you be successful in life. But that's not just about doing sums or reading Shakespeare, it's about going into the world with our eyes open and sucking up all it has to offer. I want my children to be keen to learn, have understanding of its importance and to love learning too.

10) Thoughtfulness – in the early stages of child development, it's obvious that to a young child the world revolves about them and that's all part of the development process. But as they grow, I want to encourage them to think about their actions and the effects it will have on others. Somebody once said to me: “Engage brain before body,” and I think it's probably some good advice.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm a perfect parent, far from it. But I do think that with a bit of effort, patience, time, faith and understanding on my part I can give my children the best possible start in life and by doing that give them the opportunity to be the best they can be.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Banish negativity; bring the happy

Someone once told me that full time mums (and dads) can be more susceptible to depression and loneliness than you might imagine.

It's easy to see why when you think about it, after all, parenting can be a hectic and pretty tough job, not to mention being more tiring than tiredness itself.

We often spend most of our days caring for our small people, with little or no adult interaction. And, while we're focusing on developing tiny minds and characters, we're spending little time on keeping our own brains active.

Before having children your brain might have been used to being permanently part of the adult world. Then, when you became a parent, chances are, things became very different. It's understandable that, as parents, we might therefore feel a bit lonely and isolated at times with such a big change to our lives and mindset taking place.

Clearly, if you're suffering from depression in the real sense of the word, then it's important to seek professional help and guidance and there are loads of treatments and therapies out there that can help, so please don't be afraid or embarrassed to go and see what they are.

If you're just feeling a little flat, unhappy, isolated or low and those negative thoughts are far too frequent, there are things you can do to change it.

I've been really into the concept of bringing the happy lately, and with Blue Monday fast approaching this can't be a bad thing, so…

Make that choice… it's not the easiest thing to do at times, but the first step is to choose to be positive rather than negative. There's no point doing things to be more positive if you don't really want to.

Exercise regularly… Exercise is a big way for me to bring that happy and keep it there. When I'm feeling a bit low, a HIIT workout or brisk walk in the fresh air goes down a treat for boosting my energy and mood. If you join an exercise class, it's also a little escape to the adult world for a change and a chance to meet others.

Bring someone else's happy… I can't quite work out out whether Blue Monday is supposed to be January 19 or 26 this year, but basically it's a Monday in the middle of January, when we're supposed to feel the worst that we’ll feel all year. The idea is to do something nice for someone else on this day and by making someone else happy, hopefully you'll do it for yourself too.

Banish the misery … All too often we find ourselves thinking negatively about someone or something and quite often it's a sub conscious thought that we’re not even aware of. Try and identify negative thoughts when they happen and turn them around. Avoid negative people and influences in your life and focus on the good things. Look for the positive in any situation and it's guaranteed to be more productive.

Music is food for the soul… A tune that makes you feel happy, whether it's something that makes you want to dance, or makes you feel peaceful and content, has to be a good thing.

Stop comparing yourself to others... If you can find a way to be happy with who you are or become comfortable in your own skin, this is a great positive step. Stop comparing yourself to others, what they do, what they look like etc, and start focusing on the good things about you.

Set small, achievable goals… Don't be unrealistic with your goals and then beat yourself up when you don't achieve them. Focus on what you can do or achieve. Then feel good about the fact that you've achieved it.

Share the positivity… While we might say that people who are overly positive can be annoying, the chances are the effect they will have on your life will be a good one. Try and be the person that brings positivity to the world. A good start is a smile.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Why I’m loving exercise..

Ok, so, before you ask, this isn't going to be one of those really annoying “look at how wonderfully fit and healthy I am posts.”

I'm fully aware that, despite being classed as a healthy weight (just), that it wouldn't hurt me to shed the odd pound or two. And I'm also not suggesting I love exercise all of the time. In fact, when I'm exercising, I hate it most the time!

It's the feeling afterwards that I'm on about. I love it!

So, with the sun shining brightly outside and me feeling the effects of my latest HIIT workout, I thought I'd blog about it.

Obviously you exercise to fit into your clothes better, maybe shed a little fat, or generally have a more healthy lifestyle.

But what I love is the boost it gives me – to my mood, my energy levels, even my quality of breathing. This way, on the days when I really don't want to exercise (which is pretty much most days), I can guarantee that afterwards I'll feel flipping fantastic!

The thing I've found that does this most for me is HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. Sounds scary, but it's only 20 minutes out of my day and you should check out Tabata – now that's scary! HIIT involves short intense bursts of exercise interspersed with periods of less intense exercise, for instance sprinting then jogging.

What I love about it too, is that apparently a HIIT workout for 20 minutes a day can be the equivalent of an hour at the gym! And believe it or not, your body continues to burn calories and fat for 24-48 hours after your workout is finished.

This is because a HIIT workout really gets your heart rate up and your body goes into its repair cycle as it works hard to pump more oxygen into your muscles.

My favourite HIIT workout at the minute is Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, but you can put together your own HIIT workout easily, depending on which areas you want to improve. Just have a look online, there are tons of examples there.

So, with the new year, this is my resolution, to do my HIIT workout 3-5 times per week. Even as a busy mum I reckon I could squeeze in the time. Then hopefully come summer time I can squeeze into my bikini and get all martyr like about swimming in the sea... Ha!