Posted in Real Life

The one about eating well – weekly update #6

Happy Thursday. So as I mentioned last time, Friday 24th is going to be a messy day of eating drinking and making merry. I fully expect to fall off the healthy eating wagon almost before I wake up but rather than putting off my new regime for yet another week I’ve already started and decided to post a blog a day early in celebration.

Not only am I feeling virtuous by way of the fact that I have walked the dog and been in the gym three times this week but I’ve also spent time putting recipes together for my healthy eating plan. It’s absolutely not a diet because that suggests a short-term fix, it’s more a structured change in how I perceive food and use it to fuel my body.

I have the autoimmune skin disorder psoriasis. I have also suffered in the past with psoriatic arthritis. Whilst I no longer suffer with joint pain other than the odd twinge and the remnants of damage from historic flare-ups, my skin has steadily got worse over the past couple of years.

I have tried almost every drug, combination of drugs, herbal remedy and old wives tale. I’ve tried light therapy and every emollient and cream known to man. The ONLY thing that has worked for any length of time is eating differently. So here we are.

I stumbled across the Pagano program about eight years ago and it worked absolute wonders for my skin and had the added benefit of significant weight loss. As with all things, I fell off the Pagano wagon and never got back on. What I found the most difficult was sticking to such a strict regimen and it was very much all or nothing for me. I saw such a dramatic improvement in my skin I thought for a while that I was cured. What I failed to realise was that I needed to keep to it for good. So this time the aim is to take most of the suggestions from the regimen and stick with them, letting myself have occasional days when I’m allowed the freedom to go out with friends for a meal or enjoy an evening off and a few glasses of wine.

So I thought I’d just quickly outline the plan because it would totally work for everyone, not just those with a skin problem, as a way to lose weight. I’ll give you a quick run down of the ideas behind it together with a meal plan for a typical day.

Dr John Pagano helped and healed people suffering with psoriasis, arthritis and eczema with a regimen that has achieved abundant remarkable outcomes. The regimen, examples of results, reasons why and meal plans are all contained within the book Healing Psoriasis The Natural Alternative – John O A Pagano DC.

Simply put, the science behind Pagano’s regimen is related to how the body reacts from the inside to what is put into it. Toxins released from within the gut cause the auto immune reaction and resulting skin problem. As psoriasis happens from within it needs to be cured from within. Therefore topical creams, light therapy etc are all symptom relieving but not curing.

The book and regimen contained within it detail lots of ways to kick-start the process from colonic irrigation to a three day apple diet which enables the body to expel the maximum amount of toxins prior to starting the diet properly. These are absolutely not for me and whilst I did the three day apple thing last time it’s not something I’m committing to this time. It just means the evil toxins sitting in my body now will take a bit longer to leave. So be it!

As this post is already becoming significantly longer than I had anticipated here’s a quick, general run down of the baddies and goodies in terms of food types.

The Deadly Seven

  • Saturated fats
  • Nightshades (especially tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes and hot spices)
  • Sweets (sugar in general tbh)
  • Cigarettes (doesn’t apply to me)
  • Alcohol (definitely applies to me)
  • Junk food (also applies to me and I’m surprised cake isn’t singled out)
  • Fried foods.

The Glorious Seven

  • Fresh water (with sliced fresh lemon or lime)
  • Vegetables (fruit and veg should be the majority of the daily diet, vegetables are the builders and fruits are the cleansers)
  • Fresh fruit (the cleansers)
  • Animal protein (fish, chicken and lamb)
  • Pro biotic yogurt
  • Olive oil
  • Wholegrain breads, rice and pasta

The aim is to pick foods with low carb and sugar content and to try and stick with the kinds of foods we all associate with losing weight; fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish and lean meat. Swapping out white bread and white rice and pasta for wholemeal seedy bread and brown rice and pasta, only drinking freshly squeezed or pressed juices, avoiding juices from concentrate and fizzy sugary drinks. I’ll also be avoiding red meat and processed meats, gluten, caffeine and sugar as much as possible.

If you read Pagano’s book in a systematic and rigid way like I did last time it’s pretty challenging. However, if you think about it logically all you are really doing is thinking more carefully about what you eat, taking care to avoid trigger foods for inflammation and being kind to the inside mechanics of your body.

Together with the new healthy eating plan I’ll be exercising by walking the dog each day for at least twenty minutes and spending time in the gym for at least thirty minutes, three times a week or more. And when I say ‘spending time in the gym’ I actually mean working out as opposed to standing looking at the equipment, watching tv and sighing. So before I go, here’s what a typical day will look like for me food wise:

Breakfast. Pro biotic yogurt, a handful of blueberries or raspberries with some honey drizzled over. A wholemeal muffin with a poached egg on top. A cup of decaf tea

Lunch. A light salad comprising of cooked chicken or tuna, egg, romaine lettuce, cucumber, beetroot and avocado. Light salad dressing. A slice of brown seedy bread. A glass of pressed apple juice.

Dinner. Chicken pesto. Made with onions, chicken, green pesto, half fat crème fraiche, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, brown pasta, black pepper and grated Parmesan.

Snacks. A small bunch of grapes, a handful of almonds and dates, peeled and chopped apple and pear.

Doesn’t look too terrifying does it? I have meal plans to put together for about ten days in total which I will rotate. The joy of this is that every evening meal is a good hearty evening meal for the whole family and not just lettuce leaves and carrot sticks for me. I’m actually looking forward to it. Of course it helps that next week our new kitchen arrives so spending time cooking in a gorgeous new space will be bliss.

So that’s me done for this week, I have a present to wrap and a bag to pack before a girls night away. Have a good one and wish me luck ….

Big love, Jules x

Posted in Real Life

The one about the uphill climb – weekly update #5

Well it’s been a while but I’m back and although I feel a complete fraud calling this a weekly update the plan is to get going again. Ready? Let’s get 2020 started.

Christmas was lovely. It’s my favourite celebration. I love the build up, shopping for gifts, gathering with friends and family, the delicious goodies. And once Christmas was done we spent a long weekend in the Lake District. We overindulged and we made precious memories with our lovely family.

As the last decade ended and the new one began, it was my birthday. And touching very briefly on the fact that I’ve now reached the age my beautiful mama was when she passed away, it has been a little emotional for me. I have no frame of reference now in terms of what she would have been to me and what our relationship might have been like. What I’m reminded of though is how important it is to be healthy in order to live a longer life.

With the fact that I am now firmly in my 50s I recognise that it really is time to get started on living that healthier and more active life. Over the last couple of years I have put on weight. A couple of years ago I had some trouble with my knee that resulted in a consultant confirming that I should expect surgery. However with exercises from a physiotherapist, using an exercise bike daily for twenty minutes and the use of a personal ultrasound machine I cured the problem myself over a number of months. So now I have only minimal joint issues related to a bad spell of psoriatic arthritis and I am absolutely ready for what will undoubtedly be an uphill climb to lose weight.

It sounds so easy right? You eat healthy food, have smaller portions, leave fat and sugar in the supermarket where it belongs and exercise more. Simple. The reality for me however, is that I go out for meals, catch up with friends and get tempted by cocktails and all the goodies associated with “having a lovely time’. I put off going to the gym even though it is literally in my house and kid myself that walking the dog for twenty minutes every day is enough.

So here’s the plan. The weekly-ness of the blog is back and each week, whether you want to hear it or not I’m going to share my little victories, together with my little setbacks! We’re all human right? I’m not expecting an overnight miracle but I am expecting to meet the challenge and here’s why.

Last weekend, we were in Grasmere (the home of an unusual gingerbread that set every single one of my teeth on edge but which was delicious nonetheless). It rained a lot. However, on the Sunday afternoon we had a break in the weather, donned our warm clothes and sturdy shoes and set off on a walk. Now, since my aforementioned ‘knee trouble’ I’ve exercised but not to the extent of anything even close to hill walking. With my trusty camera around my neck and a short-lived jaunty spring in my step, we set off together. After an hour or more we came to a turning point. My brother stood beside me and explained. ‘We can go on up there where the view is better for photos’ he said, pointing in the direction of a steep, seemingly endless path ‘or we can go back the way we have just come’. It was approaching 3 o’clock. Light would fade in an hour or so. My legs and ankles were already struggling. I felt the rest of the group were far fitter than I and I didn’t want to hold anyone back or be embarrassed at how slowly I was walking in comparison to my super fit, marathon running sister in law. My face was freezing. We were already reasonably high up and the views were lovely. And there it was. A decision to be made. Take the easy route and turn back or keep going, onwards and upwards and be rewarded with the more spectacular view? It was an easy choice in the end. ‘Let’s keep going’ I said. It was a stony, uneven path in places and I totally had moments of regret as we continued on. However we reached the highest point of our walk and I felt a feeling of unbridled joy. I thought back to the times I could barely get out of the chair and realised how far I had come and how rewarding the more difficult route was with it’s stunning vista.

I know that losing weight will be a similar uphill climb. I know there will be setbacks and choices to be made. I know some days I will fail miserably (January 24th…. I see it coming already!) and other days I will surprise myself with what I can do. But I’m in it for the long-term win and for the resulting spectacular view. Bring on a healthier 2020. Come and join me why don’t you. How can you possibly regret it?

Big love,

Jules x

Posted in Real Life

The one about friendship – weekly update #4

‘Tis the season to be jolly and so writing has taken a back seat what with decorating the house ready for the festivities, catching up with friends and family and gift shopping for the most wonderful time of the year. We have also impulsively updated our smallest bedroom this last week and made it into a study. So time ran away from me but now, better late than never, here’s my latest blog offering.

Friendship. Simple yes? On the face of it, it should be easy. You like someone, they like you and bingo, you’re friends. Oftentimes it’s more complicated though.

Here in the UK, at about age three or four we are thrust out into the big wide world of play school or nursery and expected, as part of our development to ‘make friends’ and once we have, we continue to be cross-examined with monotonous regularity by parents and other well meaning family members as to whether this friend or that one has been allocated ‘best friend’ status.

From a particularly young age we are given to understand that having friends and being sociable is absolutely essential to our growth as people. Right from the word go, as well as learning valuable new proficiencies in empathy and understanding, kindness, trust, giving, sharing and loyalty we’re also heaping on the pressure to prove that not only can we demonstrate all those qualities ourselves but that we recognise them in others. The trouble is that when we are children, nobody fully explains what being a friend really means (other than being nice and sharing) so it’s hardly any wonder that we don’t always get it right and that we receive and send mixed messages from time to time in friendship as we grow.

So what is a friend? The Collins dictionary defines it as ‘someone you know well and like but who isn’t related to you.’ And it’s that simple in theory although more complicated of late where adding ‘friends’ on social media allows you to assign friendship status to someone you barely know. Sometimes it’s a great move and a terrific choice. Other times, not so much. And as if that isn’t tricky enough to navigate, along came the term BFF. Not only is it essential to have a best friend, now it has to be ‘forever’ eeeek!

And if you google ‘friendship’, there are hundreds and hundreds of definitions, all slightly different depending on the author and the expectations each person puts on what they individually value in friendship.

Friendship is complex. It’s this one all encompassing word that has a myriad of meaning and implication attached to it. From toddlerhood onwards there’s an expectation you should have a best friend. The one. The person on whom absolutely all your expectation hangs and vice versa. The one who comes to your rescue, that you can rely on, confide in and who fights your corner. Wowzers! That’s a massive responsibility. And if you have someone you consider to be your absolute best friend, you want to be pretty sure that the feeling is reciprocated. Holding someone in much higher regard than they hold you can be heart breaking if when tested the other way, the intensity of feeling is not returned.

I learned a long time ago that friendship is not a one size fits all thing. I’m fortunate. I have shopping friends, get together for a chat and lunch friends, watching sports together friends, and one or two especially close friends with whom I will confide my innermost drunken thoughts. I’m also lucky enough to have family who I absolutely choose as friends.

I love the delight of having uncomplicated relationships with people that I see a handful of times a year where the only expectation we have of each other is that we will chatter non stop, stuff our faces, glug back the wine, laugh like hyenas and have a truly lovely time.

Quite rare and precious are close friends and one of mine in particular will totally know who she is when she reads this. I’ve known her for twenty something years and she is the kind of friend we all aspire to be.

I didn’t know her back then but knowing the person she is now I imagine her to be that girl that everyone fought to be best friends with at primary school. The fiercely loyal supportive one who’d give the boys hell, pull faces at you in class, tell you when you were being a div and hold your hand if you were scared.

Mind you, I’m glad I didn’t know her when she was a kid, the competition to be her bestie would have been immense! These days I’m happy to share her with a hundred other people who most likely regard her exactly as I do. She gets all the facets of friendship right and she’s funny (yes doll you ARE) and endlessly optimistic and I’m telling you now, that if the four horsemen of the apocalypse showed up ready to dish out pestilence, war, famine and death … and she’d had a couple of espresso martinis …. she’d 100% whoop their asses and chase them out of town. Mate, it’s true, you’re my favourite. You’re also a spade 😉

Best friend status is however reserved for my husband and that is utterly right for me. Where other girls need a female friend who is their greatest, I never have. Me and him confide in each other and have each other’s back in a way I absolutely would not expect from anyone else. He knows what I’m going to say before I say it. We have absolute trust in one another, we are committed and loyal to a fault and we laugh so much we cry. We accept each other’s quirks with a snigger or a wry, amused smile. I love him unreservedly and unconditionally. So yes, my best friend is my husband, absolutely no two ways about it. I might have had to wait forty years until I met him but boy was it worth the wait.

So finally back to the point in question. What is a friend and what is friendship? It’s everything and it’s everywhere and it touches so much of our journey through life. So whether we are casual friends or close friends, old friends or new friends, Facebook or Twitter friends and whether we have a tonne of things in common or just a few, thank you. Each and every one of you makes life more interesting and in the words of the fabulous Charlie Mackesy (main photo) this thing called friendship truly is ‘a priceless and wonderful thing’.

Posted in Real Life

The one about the Inner Critic and the Inner Coach – weekly update #3

Happy Friday!

So this week’s little victory is an interesting one. Anyone who knows me most likely thinks I am super-confident. I know I’m a good communicator, good mate, good Mama, I like people and am an eternal smiley optimist. I have an opinion on most things and I’m not shy about sharing it. However, I lack confidence and always have.

As is the case with most things that make us who we are it’s probably a throw back to my childhood. I do remember constantly seeking approval from my parents and friends. Doing my absolute best and hoping it would be good enough. I expect it was for the most part but it often didn’t feel that way. As a result I became a bit of a perfectionist as I sought reassurance and approval.

Being a perfectionist doesn’t necessarily mean life has to be perfect (because it just isn’t) but it does mean that sometimes the anxiety about the things you do being good enough can be overwhelming.

As a child I was a gymnast. I loved it. I was the best in my school, the best in my club and the best in my borough, winning every competition, and yet I always felt it wasn’t enough.

As an adult I’ve achieved lots of things, the most recent being I wrote some short stories and a novel. Despite winning a competition and getting the most glorious feedback, I have always felt a bit embarrassed and that none of it was professional enough. I felt like an imposter saying I was an author or writer and even though a mainstream publisher showed significant interest the pressure to perform was too much. Self-doubt crept in and the first ten chapters of the new novel have been abandoned.

For no apparent reason, this popped into my head this week. About 15 years ago I booked a motivational speaker for an event (Paul McGee author of Shut Up Move On, absolute top bloke). One of the best things I learned that day was that everyone has an Inner Critic and an Inner Coach. Basically, the Inner Critic is the voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough. The Inner Coach is the voice in your head that tells you that you are. I listen to the Inner Critic ALL the time. The Inner Coach is mostly crushed and sits quietly on the sidelines because the Inner Critic’s voice is sooooo annoyingly loud.

My problem with listening to the Inner Coach and enjoying a moment of self-praise is probably due to the fact that I’m waiting for everyone else’s opinion before I can allow myself to feel anything (there’s that throw back to childhood of approval seeking) ….. and then even when I get great feedback I’m speculating whether it’s really meant or whether it’s just kindness. Take my new hobby for example. I’ve made a few Christmas cards. They’re not professional. I’m not even sure about sending them (be gone Inner Critic). Hubby says they’re great and the people I know best also say they like them but still there’s something in me that thinks they’re just not quite good enough. Argh! Inner Coach where are you?

So, despite my battles with the Inner Critic lately I do have a little victory to share. We’ve been looking for a nice piece of wall art to put in our bedroom. I’ve relentlessly searched t’internet for the perfect painting or framed print and finally came across a series of photographs of our favourite place in Cornwall. And you could get them enlarged and framed. Hoorah! Imagine my delight.

I showed my husband and he said …….. ‘Why don’t we get one of your photos done? They are as good as those and apart from anything else it would be YOUR photo, our experience together, what could possibly match that?’

So without having purposely sought feedback, there it was, unsolicited but better still, something lovely happened. The Inner Coach crept back into my mind pushing the Inner Critic to one side, as we spent a couple of hours going through the photos of our last trip to Cornwall sharing our memories and choosing our favourites. The Inner Coach reminded me that what matters most is how I feel about something, it’s about my journey and the enjoyment I get from things.

We found a website that would print and frame an enlargement of a stunning, unfiltered Cornish sunset (featured photo), and before I knew it, we’d created a project, framed it and bought it. It should arrive in a week or so and I absolutely cannot wait to get it and see it on the wall. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect. It’s mine and I love it.

And so I’ve finally realised that what other people think matters less than I let it (although in this case it definitely helps that hubby likes the photo that he will have to look at every night and every morning!). The feeling of receiving praise and approval is lovely but waiting for it and hoping for it isn’t. So it shouldn’t mean so much.

What matters is being happy and healthy and fulfilled and satisfied – and I am lucky enough to mostly be those things right now. I am beginning to get to grips with the fact that what other people think is their business and not mine and sometimes I need to let it go, to care less.

So my little victory is that I realised this week that I am good enough and that when I need it to be, the voice of my Inner Coach really can be louder than the voice of my Inner Critic.

Have the best weekend. Big love.

Jules x

Posted in Real Life

The Life Balance Chair – weekly update #2

This week I actually made it into the gym EVERY DAY and so that is my little victory for this blog posting. We are lucky enough to have a gym in our garage with a treadmill, punch bag, multi gym and exercise bike. You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world to pop on some gym kit and wander in. Not so. You really have to want to go in and part of that is remembering the great feeling of getting a little gym time in.

Part of my success with the gym this week was having a training partner. My younger son Connor had a week off work and is a huge gym enthusiast. Making an agreement with him and spending some quality time together in the gym really helped. So much so I thought I’d use this week’s blog to share his thoughts on maintaining a healthy life.

So he calls it the ‘Life Balance Chair’. Imagine a chair with four legs. The legs are made to fit the chair perfectly. They are equally strong and together they enable stability, comfort and balance to the structure of the chair. That is until one or more of the legs become unstable or wobbly.

Consider that in life we need four core things (the four legs of our personal chair) that enable stability for our bodies and minds.

  1. Physical Strength. This is about maintaining an active lifestyle to promote good physical health. It doesn’t mean being the strongest person or giving yourself a difficult goal it means doing some exercise, being mobile and keeping flexible and supple in a way that helps you to live from day to day in a physically healthy way. For me that means doing some stretches in the morning, spending time in the gym regularly (not just staring at the equipment) and walking the dog.
  2. Biological Strength. This is the one I probably struggle with the most. This one is about eating well enough. This is not about dieting or going crazy but more about eating a balanced diet and looking after what’s on the inside. Perhaps taking a multi vitamin or some vitamin C, getting a flu shot in winter, eating good (but not excessively naughty) food, eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on alcohol, sugar and carbs.
  3. Psychological Strength. This one is so important as it allows you to not feel guilty about spending time on your well-being. It’s about good mental health and self care. So in short, doing things for you. Just you. It might be getting your nails done, taking up a new hobby or spending time meditating or watching your favourite film. It might be admitting when you’re struggling and allowing yourself to talk it through or get help. My plan is to use the Calm app to promote a better sleep pattern and to calm anxiety through meditation and deep breathing. I’m also thoroughly enjoying my new card-making hobby, which provides an outlet for my creative side.
  4. Presentable Strength. I love this one, perhaps because it comes more naturally for me, and probably most of you than some of the others. This is about using your strengths to help or better others. It’s about sharing the things you’re good at, being a listening ear or a good friend, spending time with people and being encouraging. It’s surprising how good this makes you feel and has a big impact on your Psychological Strength.

So those are the four legs of the ‘Life Balance Chair’ and when Connor and I were talking about it I suddenly realised how important it is to have each of these areas of my life in balance. If I neglect a strength (or chair leg) then the chair becomes unstable and wobbly. If all four legs are neglected then the chair is no longer fit for purpose. It no longer provides stability comfort and balance. In effect I’m running on empty.

So here I am taking care of my Presentable Strength by sharing a special moment between my son and me. Which happened while I was taking care of my Physical Strength during a gym session. I’ve just finished making some Christmas cards, thereby adding to my Psychological Strength by taking time to do something I really enjoy and in just a moment I’ll be going out for a nice meal this evening with my husband when I will of course be thinking about my Biological Strength and will only have one glass of wine (because I deserve it) ….  instead of a bottle!

I really hope that this blog post resonates with you the way it’s helping me. Have the most splendid of weekends and a healthy happy week ahead.

Big love, Jules x