This is coming to you mid-pandemic from Syston, just north enough of Leicester city centre to be outside the newly announced zone to be placed under strict lockdown for a second time. Thoughts and best wishes to our family and friends stuck in the middle of it all (which includes my own Mum and Dad).
One ongoing theme of this blog is health, fitness and wellbeing; it's a subject close to my heart and something I've given priority to ever since visiting China at the age of sixteen and learning that in their culture, health and wealth are viewed as being of equal importance as the former helps you to achieve the latter for yourself and your family.
It's also something I've struggled with: I have yet to experience a serious injury or physical health problem, but have always been the recipient of (justified) concerns from health professionals because I'm heavier than I should be and carry too much body fat. As an adult, I've never been smaller than a UK size 16 in jeans, despite the best efforts I can manage.
To be honest, at the moment I'm pretty happy with how my body looks - even my big tummy! The wealth of plus-sized bloggers and larger ladies of Instagram have been hugely inspiring and proved to me that round, plump bodies with cute little rolls of chub can indeed be very beautiful and stylish. Hats off to all of you! However, though I am learning to appreciate my body, managing my weight continues to be a struggle. I love the idea of intuitive eating, so it's a shame that I utterly suck at it! If I ate what I wanted in the quantities I wanted all of the time, I would just gain weight uncontrollably and continue to do so until my fitness, wellbeing and satisfaction with life deteriorated. Them's the facts, as hard as it is.
For that reason, most of the time I need to measure portions, track what I eat and limit my food intake, which I first started doing using an app called MyFitnessPal and more recently an alternative one called LoseIt. I'm not necessarily trying to lose huge amounts of weight, just making sure it's managed so I don't increase the risk to my health any further - even though I resent the mental bandwidth it takes up.
Lots of people are experiencing the same struggle at this time it would seem: routines are disrupted, gyms and swimming baths closed, childcare arrangements in disarray and all the comfort eating/drinking caused by anxiety, uncertainty and boredom have had the result that many are finding that the balance of calories in versus calories out is becoming hard to manage.
As someone who has a complicated relationship with food and who definitely 'uses' eating (to celebrate, to commiserate, to feel happier, when I'm bored - the list goes on...) here's some things I've found over the years to give myself a 'treat' instead of using junk food:
- Do a fun workout that you'll enjoy - for me, it's Zumba or Clubbercise. There's loads of virtual classes online that you can subscribe to or do for free.
- Do something calming, such as yoga, meditation, or some simple stretches. Carving out some time just for yourself on a regular basis is really important for your wellbeing.
- Get outdoors - this could be a walk (ideally through a sunny, green space in the sunshine but this being England, we'll take what we can get!) or doing some bits around the garden you've been putting off. There's something so soothing about playing in the mud like you're a kid again!
- Make yourself a low-sugar hot drink (such as tea, fruit tea, coffee or a hot cocoa) to linger over at your leisure.
- Plan out your weekly menu of delicious, nourishing meals; incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Feeling that you're eating well and treating your body with respect is a huge mood boost! I love browsing recipes on the BBC Good Food app and adjusting them to my taste. Then... get cooking and enjoying!
- Look up some healthier treats that you can bake for yourself: Tom Kerridge, The Hairy Bikers, Pinch of Nom, Diabetes UK and My Fussy Eater all have some excellent recipes online for you to discover.
- Do an absorbing, creative, hands-on activity; such as painting, drawing, cross-stitching, sewing, knitting, weaving, photography, pottery... whatever takes your fancy!
- Do something that occupies your mind and attention - I especially like reading books, magazines or blogs; doing crossword puzzles, writing (doesn't need to be long - sum up your mood each day in one sentence if you like!) or watching a really engrossing film or TV series.
- Listen to your favourite music or podcast. The glory of this is that it can be enjoyed while doing just about anything else; I like to have something interesting to listen to while I'm folding clothes or washing up.
- If social media is your thing, find something positive and uplifting and share it on your channel/s - could be a pretty flower you saw, a moment of kindness or something awesome that happened to you. Spread the love!
- Do some big-time pampering: have a long, hot soak in the bath; take a refreshing shower, give yourself a massage with some oil or body lotion, do a manicure or pedicure, put on some nice-smelling hand/foot cream, light a candle or incense in your favourite scent - indulge your sense of touch and smell!
- Dress yourself, in whatever feels good for your mood in that moment. Maybe it's your favourite confidence-boosting outfit: a silk top, jeans, sparkly shoes, jewellery and a full face of make up. Or perhaps its your cosiest onesie with a pair of slippers for ultimate comfort. You do you.
- Lastly and perhaps most importantly - reach out. Call a friend for a chat, or write someone a letter, card or message. A problem shared is a problem halved after all, and lots of people are feeling lonely and ready to reconnect with loved ones. Thinking of something you can do to lift someone else's day is one of the most life affirming things you can do.
I hope you've found some of these suggestions useful, that concludes this blog post! Thank you all for reading and I'll see you next time!