Wednesday 28 November 2012

Finding the Courage To Fight for What You Want

Why is it that some people succeed beyond all expectations while others fail miserably? Why is it that some people reach their goals and others give up when only part-way there?

The answer is courage. It takes courage to deal with all of the negative influences of people who say you can't do it and to say instead, I will do it. It takes courage to want something else for yourself even when you know it will be a difficult journey. It takes courage to say "I am not giving up" and courage to keep doing the things that are good for you even when you don't feel like it. It takes courage to want to change your life and even more courage to do something about it.

Change can be scary, whether it's changing jobs, changing your lifestyle, changing your friends, changing your habits, changing your weight or even changing your dreams. Fighting to make those changes, even when they're scary, takes an immense amount of courage.

We should all be courageous warriors for change in our lives. We all have things in our lives that need changing. We all have dreams and hopes and desires, and it is going to take courage to reach for them. It'll take courage to believe in yourself, and it'll take courage to face down whatever fears or obstacles are in your way, in order to get what you want. It'll take courage to disagree with the little negative voice in your head.

But it's worth it. Being courageous, believing in yourself and fighting for your dreams is worth every second of the journey it will take you on.

So be a warrior. Be confident. Be courageous.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse? #ZAP

My friends Anna Meade over at Yearning for Wonderland and Emmie Mears drew my attention to Zombie Apocalypse Preparation (ZAP).  In order to be ready to survive the zombie apocalypse, you have to be fit, able to run, leap and survive on only the food that's necessary to keep you strong. I have some friends doing #ZAP, and I think I am going to join them.


Here are some key points to achieve for your Zombie Apocalypse Preparation:

1.  Ability to run long distances at a decent pace. Good endurance.

2. Ability to lift yourself over walls or to climb up the sides of buildings. Good strength.

3. Ability to survive off of only food that is necessary to your continued health. Good nutrition.

Here are some ways that you can gain these abilities:

1. The best way to build up endurance is to practice. Participate in aerobic exercise for long periods of time. Start slowly but build up your endurance over time. Running is an excellent way to build up your endurance. Start by running for 10 minutes straight. When that becomes comfortable, start running for 15 minutes straight and so on until you can run for at least 30 minutes. It's even better if you can train until you can reach an hour of running.

2. There are many ways to build up your strength. Lifting weights is one way, but sometimes, you can replace weights with other things around the house. (If you're a mom of young children, you have an edge on others as you can practice lifting your children while doing other activities. It's a great way to build up strength.) Another excellent form of resistance training is swimming. My 19 year old daughter has found an excellent form of training for Zombie Apocalypse Preparation; she has taken up parkour. In parkour, she is training to do somersaults off of buildings, climb many different structures and run and jump over obstacles. It's a more extreme form of training, but might be an excellent and fun way to prepare. Doing push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups are also good methods for building your strength.

3. In order to be eating for optimal nutrition and health, it is necessary to give up junk food. Sweets, chocolate and sodas are not going to do your health any good. Carbohydrates will only slow you down. You only need healthy carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, whole grain pasta and whole grain  rice, to help with some of the burn-off during your aerobic and endurance training. Protein is excellent to help with your strength training. And you need to stick to monounsaturated fats. You need fat to help you when times get lean, but you don't want the unhealthy saturated fats that will harm your heart. Eat things like fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, lean meats, eggs, fat-free yogurt, beans and legumes. Limit your breads and cereals. Get used to drinking plenty of water.

Now, I must admit that I will probably not be doing everything on this list. My endurance is already high as I have been doing a large amount of daily aerobic exercise for years now. But I do need to increase my strength training, so I am implementing this plan by adding strength training to my weekly exercise. Whether that means I will be lifting weights, training using a strength training video or taking up swimming, I don't know yet.

As most of you know, I lost over 145 pounds through healthy eating and exercise, and I maintained it for years. Recently, I have gained back about 15 pounds. This is due to old bad eating habits creeping slowly back into my daily diet, which includes a strong sweet tooth. I intend to go back to writing down my daily food intake and reducing the amount of chocolate and other junk food that passes my lips. I also intend to drink more water (something I have never been very good at) and upping the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables I eat.

I've been debating taking some form of karate classes. I haven't taken karate lessons since I was a teenager. Back then, I trained in Shotokan, which is a style that is a combination of several karate fighting styles. My eldest daughter is taking Taekwando, and my second eldest is taking a weapon's based form of Kung Fu. I will have to see what is available to me here and what the costs are before I decide what to do.

I'll be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse in no time!

Who is with me in joining in with #ZAP (Zombie Apocalypse Preparation)? Ready to become a ZAP warrior?

P.S. Another ability that is a good one to have in preparation for the coming zombie apocalypse is the ability to make lethal weapons out of common household objects. But since this is a fitness and health blog, we'll save that training for someone else's blog.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Juggling Two Dreams

Sunflower by Fyfe Photography
When I was morbidly obese, the only thing I dreamed about was losing the weight and getting myself healthy so that I could live long enough to see my children grow up. It took a long time for me to believe in myself enough to start working towards that dream, but eventually, I made it come true.

Then I started focusing on other dreams. One of those dreams is to be a published author. While I have had some short stories and some articels for magazines published, I haven't yet finished any of my novels to the point of having them ready for publication.

I am finding that trying to maintain one dream while striving for the other is not a simple matter. Writing is a process that keeps me sitting at my computer for long periods of time. Between that and shuffling my children to and from school, keeping tabs on them while they are home and general household maintenance (cooking and cleaning), fitting my usual two to three hours of exercise into my daily regime is increasingly difficult.

I have learned to try and fit my exercise in early in the morning, and, when that is not possible, right after my youngest children go to bed (7:00pm) which leaves me with some time to write later in the evening. I also get some of my exercise through walking and do a lot of walking while taking my children to and from school.

I am also finding that writing works better when I am not hungry. The temptation, when I am writing, is to snack on junk food. I have been fighting that temptation, and sometimes the temptation wins. I have learned that I need to eat something healthy (such as fruit) before sitting down to write and that I need to make sure to stop, even when my creativity feels like it's on a roll, to have regular, healthy, balanced meals at mealtimes.

Maintaining my weight loss sometimes feels like it is harder work than losing it was but it is worth the effort. I still have more energy than I had when I was overweight, and even my creative ideas seem to flow more easily now. Juggling two dreams isn't easy, but it's worth the effort.

Monday 11 June 2012

The Skinny Dreaming Book idea

My newest project is a non-fiction book that is really still in the idea stage right now. It will be written as something to complement this weight loss, fitness and healthy living blog. I will happily take any suggestions anyone would like to leave me on how I should format the thing and on what types of content I should cover. Those of you who regularly read this blog know that it includes my weight loss story, inspirational stories about others' weight losses, informative articles on recent research into health and fitness, tips to aid with weight loss and healthy recipes. Many people have suggested that I write this book, but writing a non-fiction book is a new experience for me, so I think I have been stuck in the planning stage for it for a little too long.

I might start writing it through a series of blog posts here which will be incorporated into the book itself at a later date.

I'm serious about taking any helpful suggestions for it. I would love suggestions!

Saturday 12 May 2012

Tips for Healthier Take-Aways & Eating Out

Spinach & Cheese Cannelloni sm

Eating at restaurants and having take-aways brought to your home is risky when trying to lose wieght or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Most fast-food, take-aways and restaurants serve very unhealthy, high fat and high calorie food. So what are you to do to make those times when you are going to eat out or order in a healthier option for you?

If you are having a kebab, skip the pitta bread and sauces (add your own, healthier, sauces) and have the whole chicken pieces off the stick, not the ones shaved off the larger piece as that is held together with fat. And eat all of the salad bits that come with it.

If you are having pizza, well, there isn't really much you can do about how bad the pizza places are for you, but you can make sure not to eat more than a couple of slices and not to have any extras with it. And don't allow yourself a stuffed crust either.

If you are eating Chinese, choose boiled rice rather than fried rice. Don't have anything battered, and stay away from heavy sauces. Chicken is probably a safer choice of meat than beef, pork or duck.

If you are eating Indian, again choose boiled rice. Most of the sauces will be bad for you, but you will help yourself by passing on the Naan bread and side dishes. Find out if any of the tomato-based sauces are made without using cream.

If you are having Mexican, remove some of the cheese on your dish, if possible. The dish will taste just as good with half the cheese as it does with all of the cheese, and cheeses used in restaurants tend to be high-fat cheeses. Make sure you have lots of lettuce and tomato with your dish and don't just leave it on your plate. Remember that the shells, whether corn or flour, are not very healthy, so either choose a dish that doesn't use tortilla shells or limit your consumption of them. Taco sauce should be safe to add to your dish.

If you are having Italian, pasta dishes are your safest bet, along with tomato-based sauces. Add some vegetables to your order, but request that they be butter-free. Make sure the dish you choose doesn't require a lot of cheese. and if all else fails, you can have a sald with the dressing on the side.

Your best bet, if you are craving kebabs, pizza, Chinese, Indian, Italian or Mexican food, is to make it yourself. There are a multitude of healthy recipes that will satisfy these cravings (some of them on my Skinny Dreaming Recipes site).

Just make sure that you do not eat out or order in very often, and you should be okay with whatever you choose to eat. One night of eating restaurant food can ruin an entire week's work of eating healthy, so, while you don't have to eliminate it from your eating completely, limiting your eating-out and take-aways is the best plan.

Monday 2 April 2012

I Will Be on Sky News Tonight at 5:00pm!

BSkyB News Interview of me

Me with Mostyn Price, the Senior Cameraman for Sky News, West of England Bureau and Isabel Webster, the West of England Correspondent for Sky News

Obesity during pregnancy has been in the news quite a lot lately, especially now that the NHS is trying to take steps to help prevent the complications that obesity in pregnancy can cause, such as large birth weight babies.

Because of the NHS' latest move, giving obese pregnant women diabetes medicine even when they have yet to test positive for gestational diabetes as a way to prevent overly large babies, Sky News decided to do a feature on it, and Slimming World let them know about me, because I lost a lot of my weight while I was pregnant.

I don't know how much of what they filmed will actually be shown, but they interviewed me with some questions. Then they filmed me cutting up fruit for the kids and handing out fruit to the kids. (The kids included some of the neighbors' children as well.) Then they asked us all to play games outside, and the kids chose "Duck, Duck, Goose." If they show it, you will see my 17 and 18 year old daughters as well as me, a 40 year old woman, playing "Duck, Duck, Goose" with a bunch of younger children (mine and the neighbors' kids). I am laughing just thinking about it!

The kids were fascinated with the news van, especially when the film taken was being sent to headquarters so the big satellite dish on the top of the van adjusted to angle skyward.

It is supposed to air during the 5:00pm news and possibly again during the 10:00pm news.

Both Isabel and Mostyn were really nice. I just hope I don't look like an idiot on film!

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Split Into Many Fragments

I have so many things I am trying to achieve right now, so many dreams I'm aiming towards. Sometimes I think that maybe I am taking on too much. As those of you who have been reading my posts will know, I am working toward my dream of being a published author. I am taking lots of steps towards that dream. One step is that I am writing and submitting a short story every month. I am working on finishing and editing my three NaNoWriMo novels. Another step is that I am reading eveything I can get my hands on about the craft of writing so I can work on honing my skills. I have also joined the 12 x 12 in 2012 picture book challenge, just finished the Picture Book Marathon and have started a challenge of my own with the Chapter Book Challenge. (I am finding published chapter book authors to guest post and share their wisdom with the others who have joined the challenge. The challenge is to write a children's chapter book during the month of March.) I am trying to keep up with writing in my blogs as well.

Now, it stands to reason that with so much going on, some things are going to get less attention. I am still doing my daily exercise. I am usually watching what I eat and trying to eat healthy, but I must admit that, on my tired days, I don't do as well or make the best choices. And my blog posts are happening less and less frequently.

I keep reminding myself that I lost over 145 pounds, and that, if I managed that, I can manage anything, but that's where I seem to be finding difficulty. I did manage that, but at the time I was being so successful at losing the weight, I wasn't concentrating on much more than my family and my weight loss.

At this moment in time, I am working on so many different projects while still trying to maintain my weight loss and spending time with my family, and sometimes it feels like I might have taken on too much. I feel like I am being pulled in too many directions and each thing that is calling to me is pulling a piece of me towards it until I am splitting apart in many separate fragments.

And this long-winded post is my way of saying that I am sorry that I am not posting as frequently right now as I used to. I will try and create thoughtful and helpful posts every weekend though because I have no intention of abandoning this blog. This is the first of my blogs that I really put any effort into, and it's kind of like one of my babies. Blogging here not only helped me to lose weight, it also helped re-spark my interest in writing again.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Kick Self-Doubt to the Curb

self doubt quote

As some of you know, I am pursuing my dream of being a writer. Before I lost the huge amount of excess weight I carried, I didn't have enough confidence in myself to even attempt to do anything with my writing. I never shared it with anyone.

Now that I have managed to achieve what some people saw as impossible (losing over 145 lbs), I realize that if there is any goal that I set my mind on, as long as I am willing to work for it, I can achieve it.

But knowing this intellectually doesn't mean that it is always a constant knowledge within me emotionally. Self-Doubt, nasty as she can be, still creeps up on me.

I recently started sharing some of my writing. I have entered some of it into competitions and even shared some of it on my writing blog. My first writing submission resulted in a rejection. And it stung. Even though I know that some of the writing I was up against was excellent and even though I know it's never personal, it still stung. Self-Doubt reared her head again. With some effort, I managed to slam her back down with a well-aimed kick by submitting more of my writing to other places.

(I don't normally advocate violence, but I have to admit that kicking out at Self-Doubt feels really good!)

Even more recently, I shared some of my writing on my writing blog as a way of entering some stories into small, friendly competitions. I don't think I will feel bad if I don't win. But knowing that others are out there reading my writing, possibly even judging my writing, makes me nervous. Self-Doubt keeps rearing her head up again, and my kicks seem to be getting weaker.

I got a few nice comments, and even though I got a lovely warm feeling when I first read them, Self-Doubt had me rethinking it and wondering if they were just being nice. Then I wonder, what is wrong with me that I can't just take a compliment at face value?

I bet you are wondering what all of this has to do with your efforts to lose weight (or achieve other goals for yourself). I'm getting there; just keep reading.

The thing is, I am learning from these constant attacks from Self-Doubt and from each time I kick her back down again. I'm learning what it takes to defeat her. And in whatever you are trying to achieve, whether it's a writing goal, a goal to lose weight or even something completely different like being your town's best archer, Self-Doubt will try to get in your way of achieving your goal. You will, at times, think, I can't do this, I'm not strong enough, or I'm not good enough. (Nasty sentences, aren't they?)

But the truth is that you can do it. You are strong enough and you are good enough. You just have to believe it.

The way that I am finding works the best at fighting Self-Doubt is simple: just ignore her. Keep striving to achieve your goals. Don't give up. Every time you take another step toward your goal, despite Self-Doubt staring you in the face, you are kicking Self-Doubt to the curb. And every time you stand up to Self-Doubt in that way, she grows weaker and you grow stronger.
So don't give up. Keep reaching for your dreams. You'll get there.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

It's Always Worth It


I know many people who have lost weight and then gained it back again, or who have given up on themselves ever losing the weight long before they ever reach their goal. And every time I see it happen, it saddens me.

I am not judging anyone who does this. I have done this in the past myself. (I once lost 50 pounds on Weight Watcher's over a 6 month period and then gave up and gained it all back and more.) Fortunately, the last time I decided to lose weight, I was able to stick with it until I reached my goal weight and then I have hung on to this weight loss ever since.

It's not easy. I know some of you might think that it gets easier once you reach your target weight, but it doesn't. Maintenance isn't any easier than losing weight. In fact, in some ways it is harder. When you no longer have to face poor health and being unhappy with your size, gaining a little bit of weight back doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But that little bit of weight can easily snowball into a much larger weight gain.

I know that there are times when all of the hard work doesn't seem worth it. Sometimes, it just seems like you are giving up too much or having to work too hard to reach your goal. Sometimes, having that huge slice of frosted cake seems more worthwhile than sticking to your healthy eating plan.

And maybe you get to a point where you decide that it's not worth it because you will never be strong enough or stick with it long enough to reach your goal. Maybe you can't really picture yourself slim and healthy, living a healthy lifestyle. Maybe it is easier to give up on yourself.

But it is worth the hard work. It is worth the sacrifice. It is worth the effort and the struggle and the good choices. Because you are worth it. you deserve to be healthy, fit and confident. you will gain so much more from sticking with your healthy lifestyle than you will lose from sticking with it. You will gain yourself back.

You don't need to hide yourself behind a layer of unnecessary fat. You don't need to eat sugar and fat and junk to feel good about yourself. Besides, when has eating junk food ever helped you feel good about yourself for longer than it takes to eat the junk food?

I have reached my goal weight and I've stayed at this weight for around two years. And I am telling you that it is worth it. Believing in yourself is worth it. Making the right choices for yourself is worth it. Not giving in to temptation is worth it. Keep struggling, keep fighting and keep reaching, because it is worth every second of the effort to reach your dreams!

Don't give up. It's worth it, even though it sometimes seems hard. It does take work and dedication. But it's worth it.