Mindful steps to better health

It’s still January… having consumed our body weights in rich/sugary/fatty foods in December, we now have the guilt trip for said festive indulgence as fitness gurus and media know-it-alls show off their fit-ness or sell us the latest diet that will make us ‘beach ready’ by summer.

We know the rules around this, it’s okay to put on half a stone at Christmas because we’ll burn it off in the new year. But there’s actually a far more important side to this whole ‘health’ circus… mental health. 

We’re usually too busy to stop and consider that the manufacturers of the food and fitness gear know as well as us that those DVDs and smoothie makers will be gathering dust in a few weeks.

Many of us feel like we are skating on the edge of sanity, holding down busy jobs, bringing up children, keeping the house going and the bills paid, dealing with some really traumatic stuff, let alone making sure we’re blimin’ ‘beach ready’.

Most of us are dealing with so much stress that food (or drink) has become a comforter. When I’m stressed I find myself reaching for the biscuit barrel. In the evenings, I sit down in front of the TV after a tiring day and often snack a bit more (I don’t drink so food is my ‘treat’).

Many people started the month alcohol-free or ‘on a diet’. After the Christmas binge, this is fine for the first two weeks but then it soon gets dull. Most of us give up when we restrict ourselves (or feel we are being restricted), which then ends in more binges and guilt.

Nine months ago, I was about to have my fifth baby and I had no energy to care for myself. Pregnancy, grief and hormones resulted in an addiction to food.

I didn’t have the willpower to consider what I was putting into my body. I could barely put a meal together and shopping was a challenge. I opted for quick and easy options. Fast food and takeaways added to the mix.

I felt hungry from the baby (and children) sapping my energy… So I ate.
I felt peckish because I was bored stiff sitting around unable to move far… So I ate.
I felt I needed something to fill the void in my stomach when I felt low and confused about life… So I ate.

Seeing the superfit on TV only played on my inadequacies further.

Are you having twins?! Nope just a massive cream bun!
Are you having twins?! Nope just a massive cheesecake!

There was the time I ate an entire cheesecake (not an isolated incident!)… a full-size one with the red warning nutritional label shouting at me to stop. There was not one thing good about it, yet down it went. I felt terrible. I vowed that the next day I’d avoid any sugar or processed foods… but if course I didn’t. In any case, I was so confused by the conflicting health advice I didn’t know where to start!

I was a perfect candidate for a January ‘lose weight in a week with a superfood, superburn diet plan’. However…

…the last three months I’ve been intentionally looking after myself, mentally and physically. I’ve taken a daily multivitamin and probiotic, cut right back on processed sugar, fat and wheat. I eat more vegetables and mostly cook from scratch. I’ve established a better bedtime routine. I’ve started reading books again. I already feel much better for it.

Looking after yourself starts in your head; train your brain to love yourself for being alive rather than punish yourself for eating foods that you enjoyed. What we eat and how we exercise are directly controlled by our mental health. Get mentally well and you’ll eat better and want to move more. I’m all for improving our health (with the dramatic increase in diabetes we need to do something), but it’s about taking small steps to make big changes: moving more, getting outside, eating well, reading a book, doing absolutely nothing once in a while…

Now that I have the food side of things pretty much under control, I plan to get back into exercise. But I’m not going to join a gym, get a personal trainer, or run a marathon… (not yet anyway), I’m going to go for a walk, and that walk will become another and another, and then I may want to walk a bit further or possibly jog. Either way, it will be a slow but positive progression to find a pace and an activity that suits me and my life at the moment.

My 90-year-old grandma is old but she is mentally alert and still has a job! Her secret isn’t kale, or smoothies, tracking her heart rate, or busting a gut in circuit training… it’s real food, sensible portions, daily physical activity, friends and family, reading and crosswords.

If you’re feeling like you’ve failed before you’ve started, keep going at your own pace and remember, even if you’re tiptoeing you’re still going in the right direction.

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If you enjoyed this post, why not see what else I’m talking about:

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What being a mum of 5 has taught me about having babies

I know I say it a lot, but I have given birth to five babies. That’s quite a few! I often wonder how on earth my body grew and birthed these little humans! Knowing all too well how hard it is to get pregnant and the worries for nine months until the baby is safely in my arms, having five children is really something I celebrate every day, even though being a mum is exhausting and has made my tummy very wobbly!

I hear lots of new parents worrying about some of the main aspects of pregnancy and parenting – that is the birth, feeding and sleep. So, I considered what I did with each of my children and how it has affected them as they have grown up.
Continue reading “What being a mum of 5 has taught me about having babies”

I’m weaning my baby, see you in six months! 

So I’ve made it to the six-month mark. Hooray!

As much as I love newborns (I’ve been blessed to have five after all), I find it exhausting, especially with a toddler too. I know that six months is a key stage when weaning can get more established, the baby might sleep longer at night and is generally more sociable (i.e., I can give her to someone else for more than an hour!). It might sound harsh, but as much as I love my bambinos, being a parent on call 24/7 is the hardest job there is.

Weaning means I can get out a bit more…. oh, hold on, I’ve just remembered, no, it doesn’t!

You spend the first six months with your new baby pretty much at home or only visiting a few places due to fitting around feeds and sleeps, feeling generally knackered and drowning in nappy changes and washing, and frankly, CBA (can’t be arsed) to organize yourself to go further than the local shop…

…to gallop into the second half of the first year to find yourself spending it pretty much in your kitchen. Suddenly, the thought of breastfeeding on the sofa watching daytime telly because you’re pinned under a cranky baby seems appealing. You realise that all the progress you’ve made is swapping one room of your house for another.

When my husband comes home from work and asks me in a jolly ‘I’ve-been-out-all-day talking-to-adults-and-drinking-hot-tea-in-peace’ voice what I got up to today, I look at him ‘adoringly’ with bits of apple puree in my hair, milky dribbles on my shoulder and a cranky baby on my hip whilst stirring a pot of random homemade sauce on the hob and say ‘not much’.

The feeling of being unproductive is pretty dire for me, as I like to feel I’ve achieved something. When I look back and realise that all I’ve done is feed, change and wipe up all day, it’s not really much to shout about. Yes, there are fantastic moments scattered throughout all that, I have brilliant quality time with them, but I can’t help feeling that most days I’m a robot doing the same thing from breakfast till bedtime.

Let me explain the average day. By the time the baby has had breakfast and been changed, the toddler wants changing. Then I need to get dressed and have my own breakfast and clear away the breakfast things that the others left behind. Then the baby needs her mid-morning bottle, and she wants a nap. Then the toddler wants lunch. Then the baby wakes up and wants her lunch. Then they both need changing again. We have about an hour or so before she wants another bottle and, oh look, it’s 3pm; Joe will be home in a minute and I have to collect Jen from school. We go outside, briefly, in the car to collect her. Then whip up a culinary masterpiece that they all will love quickly make a meal that they are guaranteed to moan about, and give the baby and toddler a snack. I change them both, then it’s 5pm and the joys of getting the meal on the table.

Winter makes this much worse as it’s a case of how many layers can you put on a wriggly baby and toddler before dragging them out into the cold? I find myself saying ‘Oh it looks like it might rain’ so often I swear they will become phobic of all weathers that aren’t mild and sunny (though not too sunny as that’ll involve Factor 500 suncream and hats and gallons of water).

Admittedly, it’s easier to feed older babies on the go these days with ready-made milk and food pouches, but it’s the physcial time it takes to get out. By the time I’m ready to go out someone is hungry or needs changing. I promise myself every day that ‘tomorrow’ I’ll get up at 6am and be super organized, but it never happens.

Just like after the birth, I know this will get a lot easier as they get older, but for now, the children don’t care so I might as well hibernate till spring!

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A grand day out – what Mummy did on her day off

With having to stop breastfeeding Naomi, I knew I would feel sad about it – the transition to the next stage is always emotional. However, I decided I’d focus on the positives, one of which being able to leave her so that I could have a break. Six months with a baby 24/7, not to mention the nine months of pregnancy and three other children to look after is tough. And as much as I adore my children, having some time for me is essential to my mental well-being.

So I’d asked my in-laws (who absolutely love spending time with their grandchildren) if they’d have Naomi for a few hours. They jumped at the chance and made it very easy for me to leave her. I knew she would get their undivided attention.

I was unsure what to do with my day off. I had about five hours of freedom and I know all too well that this isn’t that long! I wanted to use the time wisely but also not overload myself.
Continue reading “A grand day out – what Mummy did on her day off”

The hypervigilant mumma – will I ever switch off?

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So we’ve been a bit ill again.

Jake’s been the worst hit this autumn. Normally a very healthy child, he’s had a chest infection, sickness and now another cold virus that has brought him out in itchy hives.

On Saturday, I was home alone with Jake and Naomi. Daddy and Joe were at the football, and Jen had gone to a friend’s house. I was making a good dent into clearing up, as we have moved Naomi into her own bedroom, and I then needed to change Jake. As I was doing so I noticed raised red spots all over his legs which he wanted to scratch. I was quite alarmed as it’s most unlike him and he’d been eating well all day.

I undressed him and found more of these strange red marks on his arms. Worried, I phoned 111 and within half an hour I was talking to the consultant on the phone. With Jake not having any worrying symptoms other than this itchy rash, she was happy that he didn’t need to be seen and said it was likely viral or a reaction to something he’d eaten. As he had had another cold, I put it down to that. It was what is called ‘nettle rash‘.

Thankfully my sister lives close by so she was able to pop out and get me some Piriton and Calamine lotion. And, once dosed up, the rash started to look less angry.

I phoned Daddy at the football game. While I didn’t want to disturb him, I knew that he’d want to know this had happened. He was understandably worried but I reassured him that I was keeping a close eye on Jake, who was watching all the telly and eating all the chocolate at this stage!

As I sat there, I considered the state of hypervigilance we are living in. With young children, it’s natural to be anxious – it’s how we survive, but our personal anxiety runs much deeper now. I am so close connected to them that I almost feel everything they do, trying to absorb their pain or unhappiness. We are ready to act in an instant, we never switch off and we are always on guard. That’s not including the times when they get ill, when it goes into overdrive! Sometimes I feel like I might collapse with anxiety.

It is exhausting – physically and mentally.

Continue reading “The hypervigilant mumma – will I ever switch off?”

Social media – the friend I hate to love

I was desperate for a break. What with a new baby, my hubby having a miserable time and facing a tonsillectomy, and changing my teen daughter’s school, the last few months have been a tad stressful to say the least. I’d booked us a week in Cornwall with my two sisters and their families about six months ago and I couldn’t wait.

The run up to a holiday is always stressful, sometimes I wonder why we bother as the sheer effort of packing a family of six seems too much. It was even harder this time with everything that’s been going on as well as end-of-school-year activities and work deadlines to get on top of…blahhh! I felt like I was drowning in things to do. My phone has been permanently in my hand as I use it to manage so much of my life, but I had begun to resent the way it also saps my attention.

I’m in demand from all corners. While each member of the family constantly need me in some physical or emotional capacity, I also have a home to run, clients making demands and bills to pay. I also have a whole other life’s worth of demands on social media making me feel compelled to comment on or like posts (even though I know I don’t have to). I know I’m all too guilty of letting this bad friend distract me from all the other crap that I should really be thinking about.

So, as well as getting to spend some quality time with my sisters and their husbands and children, I really looked forward to taking a break from the social media life, in fact the entire internet! Keeping up with my stresses as well as, it feels, the stresses of masses of friends and acquaintances has not been doing me any good at all.
Continue reading “Social media – the friend I hate to love”

Growing up without a dad

Another Father’s Day has been and gone. For some, it was a case of grabbing a card and bag of sweets for their dad. Others go all out and have a big family gathering. Then there are those who have difficult emotions. Perhaps their dad wasn’t much of a dad, the relationship strained or absent. Then, of course, there are the bereaved. The children (young and grown) missing a dad. The dads missing a child or baby.

So many different thoughts of ‘dad’, so many emotions, and now at just 38, I find myself experiencing all of them!

On Father’s Day, I organised a card and gift for my hubby from our children.

Yet one of those children is already in heaven.

Continue reading “Growing up without a dad”

Has working from home made me frumpy?

Is it just me who finds wearing clothes tiring?!

No, I’m not about to reveal that I’m a secret nudist!

This is about the effort of choosing clothes to wear, putting said clothes on and walking about in them all day.

I saw a mum the other day. She had high heels on, a knee-length patterned skirt and a short jacket. She looked amazing! But as she tottered along, I thought ‘Flip, that looks tiring!’…

Having to be careful how you tread. Walking like a ‘lady’ (unlike me, charging along always late!). Legs rubbing in scratchy tights, a bit sweaty and prickly. Skirt fabric swishing around, riding up, VPL. Jingling bangles…

This mum (and most other people in fact) wear a different outfit every day – different tops, bottoms, shoes, bags… I expect even matching underwear…

Me?

I LIVE in jeans and t-shirts!
Continue reading “Has working from home made me frumpy?”

Keeping perspective in blogging

I had a rare moment of ranting yesterday. I suddenly realised I felt irritated. Irritated by people I don’t know talking about emotions I no longer understand. And I again doubted whether this blogging world was something I could be part of.

(For readers who aren’t bloggers, blogging behind the scenes is a community of people who connect on social media to read and share each other’s posts. It’s a supportive community, but like any large gathering there are always people you relate to more than others.)

I try hard not to let my grief cloud my judgement of people’s opinions, but sometimes it sneaks up and catches me unawares.

I’d been catching up on some blog reading. I read lots of the big professional parenting and lifestyle blogs as well as plenty of what I call ‘normal’ blogs, of all sizes. I’m not saying the big blogs aren’t normal, they’re just in a different league.

I came across yet another post where the writer was expressing emotion at blogging. Stressing about upcoming awards. Crying over it. Seeking love. Wanting reassurance. (I’m not naming names, this isn’t what this is about.)

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Coping with pelvic pain in pregnancy

Huffpost Parents shared a link to this blog post today about the reality of pelvic pain in pregnancy. I wrote my own post when I was heavily pregnant with Grubbalo at the end of 2013 but never got round to posting it. I know many readers have suffered with this common ailment so it might be useful to read my story.

I’m so grateful that I’ve got this far in my pregnancy; that the baby seems to be okay, squirming around in there. But I can’t deny that it’s physically and emotionally demanding. I see lots of women whose bumps seems to be attached to them and other than that they look pretty much the same, can get around the same and it doesn’t seem to slow them down. It’s hard not to envy that when you have pregnancies like mine.

I wouldn’t say I have difficult pregnancies, far from it. I’m very lucky to not have months of sickness or problems which leave me on bed rest or in hospital. I know getting pelvic pain is simply ‘how I am’ when I’m pregnant.

I had this with each of my four pregnancies, getting worse with each one. And despite being physically fitter before this pregnancy than I was with my others, I’m six years older so perhaps that’s a factor?

Continue reading “Coping with pelvic pain in pregnancy”