Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

willPower and Grace®

I mentioned before how I was on a bit of a yoga drive, and that's still true, I bloody love it. But today, I tried something new. Realising that I've been eating like a dirty, dirty dawg recently (seriously, the Friday night before last I went to both MeatMarket and MeatMission) I thought I'd better up my game and throw some cardio in the mix in order to combat the badness.

I can't stand working out on the machines in the gym itself, and I could throw up at the thought of spinning. When I saw willPower & grace®  on the menu at my gym, Virgin Active, with the blurb, "Go barefoot and plug into some positive energy for the mind and body from the ground up. It’s a whole new kind of class that frees your mind, improves your flexibility and boosts your cardio system. It’s truly awesome!" I was a little unsure, and in truth it's taken me weeks to psych myself up to go, not sure what I was expecting.

The class is very cool (figuratively, it's actually very hot). The feet are the focus, and if you think about it, why not give them some love? We walk around on them all day, and yet we never give them any attention. Most of the bones in your body are in your feet, yet we rarely work on their strength and flexibility. The class is "designed to strengthen feet while progressively correcting imbalances in the ankles, knees and hips." (source). If you're curious, you can see a snippet of a class here.

The class is quite intense, with fast-paced music, and lots of squatting and jumping, but the instructor (Lourdes) was friendly and encouraging without singling out the newbies - I think I was the only one, but I was easily able to keep up with everybody else, some of whom spoke like they;ve been going for a while and clearly love it - I'm converted! My class was this lunchtime, and I had a bit of a sweat on afterwards, but the facilities at Virgin meant I could have a quick shower and head back to work, fuss-free. I'm a little achy already, but that just means it's working! It's a class I'll definitely go back to, while still continuing to practice yoga - this is going to be good for not only my fitness levels but also my ability to get away with eating all those burgers.

You can find a class here or see a list of instructors here - it's pretty big Stateside. Unfortunately for northerners, most seem to be south based with a handful in Scotland and Northern Ireland. But I am sure this movement is only set to grow and hopefully they'll be one in every town and city in the UK soon.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


 I have a new obsession and that obsession is yoga. I've recently joined Virgin Active via Pru Health (50% off so £46 a month as opposed to a wince-making £92) and while one of the gym instructors has given me a good circuit to work through in the gym, I hate the gym,so I'm favouring the classes instead, opting for pilates and yoga. All of the instructors are brilliant, I really rate them and I find I'm thinking about yoga all the time, I want to get better at it, I want to be able to stand on my head. I want to be able to do the stuff the gorgeous girl in this video can do.

However, yoga is about discipline, patience and control. I am going to keep going so I can reach these advanced poses in my own time, not try and rush forward to be the best (yoga isn't about competition), injuring myself in the process. Once I've moved house this weekend, I am simply going to try and fit more classes in.

One act of discipline might be actually managing to make it to the morning classes (and I am googling my new train route right this minute to see if it's doable). I can even go to later classes than I do currently. I like 6pm classes as it's straight after work, but I could wait for a 6:30pm one. My beloved is moving back to Sheffield to finish university and while I have a good social life, I'll miss him terribly so this will be a very nice, wholesome distraction.

Yoga is so good for the mind, I've been super stressed recently, with the move, wedding planning and everything seems to be just going every so slightly wrong,  but yoga seems calm me right down, and does wonders for the body, beyond improved flexibility and potential weight loss, like your heart function, brain function, lymphatic drainage, immune system, digestion...the list goes on...

My workout gear is a pair of yoga pants I picked up in TK Maxx, so very comfortably, and any old top I can find, but I've recently been ogling the ranges at Sweaty Betty and No Balls. Perhaps one day when I have some cash again I can splash out.

No Balls Tank Top at
I got a book for Christmas which was quite an amusing read, Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morisson about a city woman who goes on a yoga retreat in Bali, I'd recommend it as a far more light-hearted, self-deprecating, and far less self-indulgent read than Eat, Pray, Love!

I'm doing the exercise, wearing the clothes, reading the books, I'm well on my way to being a full-on yogini!

Friday, 15 February 2013

An Affair with Allen Carr

Ladies and gents of the bloggersphere, I am going to be frank in this post. I hate being a smoker, but the only one that can change that is me. And so I am. And I'm writing about it to finally get it all out, every last ugly, embarrassing bit and remind myself why I am changing.

I've been struggling to quit smoking for years, pretty much since I started. This might not make any sense to those who have never smoked, "if you don't like it, why do it?". Because it is an addiction, that's the only answer. I have tried patches, gum, cold turkey, hypnotism, Champix, electronic cigarettes, Allen Carr books and audio, the works. Nothing has worked. 

The most effective method in my opinion is the Allen Carr method, referred to as EasyWay, despite the fact that I above I say that it hasn't worked. Let me explain my experiences, and his. He was a 100-a-day man who couldn't get through the simplest of tasks without chain-smoking, who one day had a lightbulb moment and stopped and it was completely painfree. In his book or on his audio book, Allen explains the mystery of smoking, the nicotine trap, dispels those reasons that we all think we smoke. He actually makes you look forward to not smoking anymore.

My experiences with Allen are as follows. I first read the book around 2005, when I was on my placement year from university. It was great, I finished the book, stopped smoking, went on about it and then got cocky on an evening out and thought I could have just one. I was wrong. I quickly fell back into the trap. I tried to read it again in my final year of university but at that point in my life I was having major anxiety attacks about my exams and was on mild anti-depressants and just couldn't stop. I carried on smoking, with some half arsed efforts to stop in between. I even tried sitting outside and chainsmoking until I was physically sick in the hope I could 'put myself off'. The most embarrassing bit of my story, is that, and the fact that it didn't get me to stop at all.

I tried Champix, which worked temporarily. However, it came with side effects. It gave me rotten constipation, and I was in quite a lot of pain by the time I admitted defeat and stopped taking the stuff. Again, I got cocky and had "just one" and then started all over again. I tried patches, but the same happened, I ended up ripping one off one day because my will to smoke was clearly stronger than my will to not smoke. I tried Champix again but the same thing happened as before. It wasn't worth the abdominal pain.

Before Christmas 2012, I decided to try Champix again, and waited two weeks for a GP appointment, but she refused to give it to me, on account of the fact I'd tried it before, and that she thought it was a psychological thing. She advised me to try Allen Carr again. I read the book before Christmas, but the material didn't sink in, and I had the odd few over the holiday period, and as soon as I came back to work was back on my usual smoking pattern which goes something like this:

Monday morning comes, I wake up craving a cigarette. Instead of waiting for it to pass, I go straight to the shop when I leave the house and buy 10. I smoke 4 on my way to work, one mid-morning, two at lunch, two in the afternoon and one on the way home. I do this because I don't want to have any cigarettes left tomorrow. Except tomorrow, what happens? I repeat the cycle. I buy matches instead of lighters because if I had a lighter I'd be admitting I am a smoker, then at the end of the day I'd throw them away only to buy more the next day. I've wasted so much money on matches! On the odd occasion that I get to work and don't buy cigarettes, as soon as I see a colleague who smokes, I cadge one of them, just one. Then another, then another until I can tell they are getting irritated with me, and I give in and buy my own. I tell myself I can't now stop midweek so continue smoking til Friday then stop all weekend. Then Monday comes again.

The fact I can go all weekend speaks volumes. I even quit for 2 weeks when we went to Tokyo, then on the last night, got tempted, the boyfriend spent ages trying to talk me out of it bit I did it anyway, then immediately regretted it. Then Monday came again.

This, in short, is pathetic and needs to stop. Cigarettes brainwash you into thinking that you need one, that you can't get by without one. You continue to believe that one day you will wake up and not want to smoke anymore. That won't happen. You need to make a concerted effort understand the trap of smoking, and then stop doing it. Allen Carr believes that stopping smoking doesn't take willpower, because that implies there is something to give up when in fact the opposite is true. I agree with him, but seem to lack the willpower just to get through the tiny niggling craving. The second I leave the shop and light up, I regret it, knowing I don't need it, but am now lumbered with a packet of 10, which I might as well now smoke as I've wasted the money on them.

I have even tried to keep my lack of success in stopping a secret from my boyfriend. I don't consider him stupid, he must know I have been smoking but I don't want to rub his face in it, so I chew gum before I get home and cover myself in perfume so it's not shoved in his face. I want to be able to be completely honest with him, and the best way to do this is not do the thing I have to try and hide anymore.So I'm going to get him to read this to understand the horrible icky stuff that goes on in my head.

I have downloaded and listened to the Allen Carr audiobook twice since Christmas and despite understanding and believing everything he says, I haven't been able to stop putting bloody cigarettes in my mouth and smoking them. But I am going to NOW, and here is why:

1. It's BAD for me
2. It costs me a small fortune. While my habit is only 10 a day on weekdays, I could give myself an instant £1k payrise by stopping.
3. There are actually no advantages to smoking. At all. None.
4. I hate myself every time I do it.
5. My boyfriend hates it. Your boyfriend hates it. Everybody's boyfriend hates it. Everybody who doesn't do it hates it, and come to think of it, many of us that do, do too.
6. I don't want to get another year older and still be smoking (my 28th birthday is 3 weeks away). I say this every year.
7. I don't want to be craving cigarettes on our wedding day, or in fact have any other day blighted by them. Our wedding is now booked which is yet another motivation to stop.
8. I want a family. I don't want to have trouble conceiving because I smoke. I don't want my children growing up thinking smoking is OK, or not respecting me because I still do it.
9. I want to look good. Smoking ruins the way you look and smell. There is no getting round this.
10. I want to feel good, be fit, healthy, run. I can't do this if I keep smoking.
11. It doesn't help me concentrate, relax me, relieve stress, relieve boredom. Having to go out every now and again and freeze to 'relieve' my craving is actually a massive inconvenience.

There are so many reasons to start stopping and no reasons to carry on at all.

'Just one cigarette' doesn't exist. I've had so many 'just one cigarette's, 'last cigarettes'. The truth is every time you smoke, you are keeping what Mr Carr calls 'the nicotine monster' alive. So then you crave another, and another until you're smoking full time again, and despise yourself for it.

I am a drug addict. There is no escaping that. But what do drug addicts eventually do? They recover. That's what I am doing now. Patches and gum don't work either. I can't replace a drug addiction with the same drug, by doing so I'm keeping my body addicted to it. Cold turkey is the only way. I could cut down or become a casual smoker but I know already it's all or nothing, and as Allen says casual smokers are no better off than full time smokers, they just wait longer to scratch the itch, making each cigarette seem more precious and ultimately making it harder to stop.

I met a man the other day, I interviewed him for a job at my company.  He was the unhealthiest looking man I've ever met. He was clearly a smoker, with a cough and yellow fingers, he looked and came across as the saddest man you could ever hope to meet. I pitied him, but by carrying on smoking, I could only ever become him. And I'm not letting that happen.

This points in this post are a summary of pertinent points in the book which are my reasons for quitting. You can read the book yourself or listen to the tape, I'd recommend it if you find it a struggle to stop. Even though it's taken several tries, all that information is now right up there in my head and I am determined to keep it there, and not let cigarettes or other smokers tempt me back into something that is actually revolting, with NO advantages.

I'm going to look at this post every time i get that craving to remind myself why I'm freeing myself, and keep the audiobook on my phone for an instant reminder whenever I get a craving. On my way home tonight I had my last couple of cigarettes and then threw the remainder in the bin for the last time. By Monday, after more than 48 hours without smoking I'll be in a much better spot, and this time I'm taking the opportunity to use it as my leap pad. I'm going to run to work, I'm going to not see my smoking colleagues as opportunities to cadge a ciggie to scratch the itch, but instead I am going to pity them. 

I'm going to start living. Whether the 'little monster' likes it or not, I've smoked my last cigarette and I am going to rejoice in that.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My new groove...

Like many, I have got on the scales this morning and had a shock. My weight gain has not just been over Christmas, I would say it's been steadily piling on for a few months now, at least since my trip to Tokyo in September. I need to lose a whopping 17lbs to get to where I want to be, and I really want to be there, and stay there. And so it starts NOW. My new groove is HEALTHY.

1. Exercise: I started reading Run, Fat Bitch Run last night, which I got for Christmas from my sister (I'd be offended had I not asked for it!). It's a no-nonsense guide to stopping making excusing and starting running, and then carrying on running. It starts off with a couple of days walking a simple 3-4 mile route, gradually building more and more running in until you are running the whole way. This morning I walked to work (Holloway to Covent Garden, 4.5 miles), and I intend to as many days as I can. It's tricky fitting in running on this route, as there are no showers at my office and I don't really want to stink all day - that would really go against the whole "making-more-effort" thing! I will try running back from work as the plan goes on, and I will definitely fit some training in at the weekends.

2. Watching what I eat: I am counting my ProPoints with WeightWatchers. I have done this before and it worked while I stuck with it. My mum has lost 4.5 stone since last October on the plan and it seems like it's changed her attitudes long term too. It works by giving you a certain number of ProPoints you can use each day for food (average is 29 for a woman), then you eat according to the Points value. What's good is you also get 49 extra points per week, which you can save up for the weekend, or use up throughout the week additional to your daily allowance. You can also earn extra points through exercise. I will see how I get on, but I think I am going to try and ignore my exercise points. Working out the points seems fairly labour intensive to start with but it gets easier as you repeat certain meals. Today I have had 2 small apples for breakfast (fruit is free), I have 3 oatcakes, half a pot of cottage cheese and half an avocado for lunch (11 points), an Activia yoghurt for lunch (3 points) which leaves me 15 points to play with for dinner and snacks tonight. I am having a chicken stirfry and I will work out the points when I get home.

Cheekily, I haven't signed up for WeightWatchers as I don't want to pay for a membership. I have downloaded a free points app and will track my points using that. I find this works fine for me, but my mum goes to the weekly meetings to weigh in, which works very well for her. I thoroughly recommend the plan, but it's up to you to work out whether you need the support or not.

3. Dryathlon: Completing Dryathlon (i.e. not drinking during January) will definitely help me shed a couple of pounds and it's such a good cause, everyone is a winner (except the pubs).

My motivations are:

1. Being fit, healthy and happy. My Grandmother at 96 struggles, not only because she's 96, but because she's been unfit and lazy for most of her life and has also been quite depressive, and I do believe that the two can't be completely seperate issues. I don't want that to be me. If I am going to live to a ripe old age, I want to be as comfortable and happy as possible, which means getting up and moving more, and eating better.

2. Looking hot on our wedding day! I don't want to look back at the wedding photos and wish I had been fitter and know that I could have done something about it but was too lazy. I have had ideas about what I want my  dress to look like and my good friend is going to make it for me, but recently I've thought about using my mum's instead which is simple, and gorgeous. It is tiny though, my mum thinks she lent it to a relative in Poland who took it in, or else mum was tinier than she remembers 37 years ago! I think even when I lose the weight it will still need alterations but it's time to find out.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Dryathlete 2013

After seeing the New Year in at home with a bottle of Moet (following red wine and spiced cider), I am now dry for a full month in order to try and fundraise for Cancer Research UK. I am hoping to do a couple of bits of additional fundraising too, maybe selling baked goods at work or having a jumble sale - I'll probably be a lot more productive with my evenings and weekends than I usually am.

The sister of a friend of mine passed away recently from Cancer. She was diagnosed with liver cancer in October. It quickly spread to her bones and she had left us by the time November was out. She was a beautiful, kind, out-going girl. She was a paediatric nurse. She was 25.

Also my good friend's husband is currently battling leukaemia. He had chemo a few months ago but found out that it had returned in December. They have a one year old son, and daddy is only 30 and due for a bone marrow transplant in March.

I'm doing it for these people. I am doing it because more than 1 in 3 of us will develop cancer up some stage in our lives. I'm doing it because we should never give up the fight.

I understand that Christmas has crippled many of us financially, but if you wish to sponsor me, you can here.

Edit: Since I posted this, the sister of another girl I went to school with has been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia. Another reason to keep fighting.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


My sewing machine is broken. It is probably easily fixed but I don't know enough about them to achieve the desired effect. I'm disappointed as I dragged all my fabric out today so I could make some progress with the mini-quilts I started early a year ago. I've got two small ones I started, a cushion cover, fabric for one more all cut, and fabric for another ready to cut. And one of my many resolutions is to get them finished and use up the scraps on the way. The first quilt I made is in the middle, in green , brown and pink, I put it there to remind myself what a finished job could look like!

I bought this beautiful book by the incredibly creative Jane Brocket a few months back, but since moving I haven't managed to do anything creative but the ideas in there are truly inspiring and after grabbing it for another look today, I really want to get cracking.

So, my resolutions, the definitive list:

1. Treat my body like a temple - eat better, exercise more, look after myself
2. Find my style and stick to it, buy good quality clothes
3. Get the sewing machine fixed and USE IT to finish all these projects so I can start exciting new ones!
4. Read more - my mountain of books to read is teetering and there's even more on my wishlist. I've had to put a stop on my book swapping until I finally get through the stack I have.
5. Watch all those classic films that I really should have seen already (I love movies, but people are always utterly shocked when I tell them I haven't seen some absolute classic).
6. Take more photographs
7. Cook new things
8. Get that wedding venue and date sorted, hopefully by the end of February so we can actually start planning the fun stuff. 
9. DO MORE! Say yes to things, trips, events, social occasions. Live!
10. Save money. I'm pretty good at this anyway, I'm a cheapskate. I'm currently saving for a trip to Australia to see my baby sister in Spring 2013. After that, I need to start saving for the future, so that I might get to be homeowner one day. So the challenge will be achieving all of the above, without spending too much money.
11. Blog about all of the above!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

In the beginning, there was a careless young lady....

My first on my new blog about how utterly uncool I am. I was telling a couple of male colleagues at our Christmas party last night how little I care about what I look like. They accused me of exaggerating this for their sakes, which may have been the case. I guess the truth is that I do put a little effort into looking passable in everyday life, but perhaps not enough, so this blog was born to help me keep focus on my efforts in taking a little more pride in myself and my wardrobe.

For a while, my shopping motto has been: Don't buy anything unless you love it more than your very favourite item of clothing. Naturally, we all need those staple items like the essential black vest top (H&M is your friend, but I do think this is a good rule to have. I don't stick to this religiously, sometimes it slips, but I think its a bloody good benchmark for making sure you're not Just Buying Tat. At university, I bought new clothes on a daily basis, I was out most nights of the week. I would wear them once then sell them on eBay when I realised my bank balance was about to enter dangerous territory. Now, I really try to think, "Do I need this, do I really want it?" and am pretty strict with myself. This has been helped by the fact that, much of the time, I find high fashion utterly ridiculous and unwearable and dress for comfort.

I've made slight improvements already. In my last job, which was going nowhere fast and had me at my lowest in terms of motivation, I would often wear a plain top and the same pair of trousers all week long. Since moving to the capital, starting a new job that's actually going somewhere, with a great, nurturing boss, I've realised that I have worn skirts and dresses every single day and felt all the better, and more professional for it.

I also pay little heed to how I treat my body and my skin. I am currently a smoker, though this is set to change very soon (again). I frequently go to bed without taking off all my makeup. Since walking a lot my holiday to Japan in September, I haven't done even a tiny bit of exercise. So like many people, I am setting a new resolution to treat myself a little better. 

As the name suggests, this isn't a fashion blog as such. I see this as a diary of the start of a new effort to start treating myself a little better, pay more attention to what my body needs, what I look like and as a result, feel happier and have a more fulfilling life, on a bit of a budget. I am going to talk about products I've started using, the gradual improvement of my wardrobe through the purchase of inexpensive and interesting items, maybe some recipes I've tried, books I've read and the occasional brief film review and suchlike. 

With that in mind, here's my latest purchase!

Essentially, it's a blue jumper. Nothing special, but I realised I didn't really have any knitwear apart from a comical Christmas jumper (45p from a flea market in Tallinn last year!) and a dodgy Pringle style number I bought for a pub golf expedition, and neither are fit for public consumption. This is by Superdry and was RRP £44.99, but I snapped it up at the Seven Dials Christmas shopping event, where everything was 20% off, so this comfortable but presentable piece of knitwear was only £35.99. My boyfriend has cultivated quite a collection of Superdry checked shirts, they are his uniform (he does look really, really good in them) and I've never really considered the ladieswear because I've always been a cheapskate but after he queued to buy the latest addition to his checked shirt collection (orange and grey this time), I thought I'd have a little ganders at the ladieswear. There were two other shades of blue which we were equally tempting but my practical side told me to go with this one, which would ultimately go with more. 

Also this week, I've been to see Pitch Perfect, which I really rated. I scored some free tickets to a preview screening at the Courthouse Hotel, which was a lovely setting, right by Liberty's of London, and managed to drag the Boy along, after I couldn't find a girlfriend that was free at short notice to attend. It was really good, and even he, hater of musicals was impressed. It's not a musical as such, but it is a movie about a capella singing, and these aren't for everyone. I'd say even if you've read the synopsis and think it sounds lame, give it a chance anyway if the opportunity arises. A feel good film, with some hilarious moments (thanks Rebel Wilson), and some really, really good musical numbers. Anna Kendrick can sing? Who knew? 

We also ate at Bi Bim Bap on Greek Street which was pretty darn yummy. I loved Bi Bim Bap when I first tried it in Shanghai in 2008 so when I saw this Korean eatery in Soho I mentally filed it for later. A shared starter of squid, two mains and two beers came to £33 including service, so it's not bank breaking either. Really yummy food, nice cosy laidback little restaurant, no complaints here!