Lean For Life

I have dithered about writing about my new lifestyle for a while.  Truth be told, I’ve been a bit scared.  I am a self-proclaimed proud feminist.  I don’t think that all women have to offer the world is their looks.  I despise advertising which constantly tells women to be smaller, less, be good, conform, look a certain way – long hair, perfect eyebrows, shiny nails, big boobs and bum but absolutely no belly.  Don’t you dare have an ounce of fat on your belly, or cellulite, or stretch marks or wobbly thighs.

If you’ve had a baby, never mind that it took you nine months to grow it and your body has done an amazing thing – produced another human being and now it is producing food for that human being (if you choose to breastfeed, obviously) – what you should be worried about is how fast you can lose that baby weight.

There are always fad diets advertised – look!  Lose 20lbs in two days by starving yourself and then put it all back on when you start eating real food.

This upsets me. Glennon sums it up perfectly:

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Here’s the thing.  Listen well – You are not undeserving of love if you carry a few extra pounds or you have stretch marks.  The way you look?  Not the most important thing about you.  Being kind, compassionate, brave, wise?  Those things are important.

I am 31 and I love food.  Love it.  I also enjoy exercise and try to be a healthy, why?  Because I feel better, happier, more me when I am healthy.  There’s no comparison.

I used to be able to eat whatever I want (read: a minimum of two chocolate bars a day) when I was a Support Worker (read: under 25).  I was walking all the time between clients, I would say on average 4 miles a day and generally ate healthily apart from the chocolate.  I was happy with my weight, I felt healthy, I was also running and going to the gym.  I didn’t worry too much about the chocolate.

Then I got my “career job” and I sat down at a desk for 7 hours every day and I put on over a stone in a very short space of time.  None of my clothes fit.  I quickly lost 7lbs but try as I might I haven’t been able to shift that extra 10lbs.

This year I said I was going to be committed to eating healthily and exercising.  I am 31 and I want to be healthy, happy and nourish my body.

I want to exercise and run and do yoga so I can find my stride and my breath.  So I feel powerful and strong, not bloated and fatigued.

I get married this year(!) and I want to look good in my wedding dress.  I won’t apologise for that.

I do not want to look super skinny and tired and drawn.

I do not want to feel bloated and be self-conscious in my dress.

I want to look back at photos and think “I looked and felt the best I could on that day, and that was pretty amazing.”

I want to feel beautiful and strong and empowered on my wedding day.  I want it to set the tone for my marriage.

How you look and how you feel are personal to you.  It is relative.  I know I was never overweight, not a day in my life, but I didn’t feel as good as I knew I could and I didn’t like it.

In August I picked up Louise Parker’s Lean for Life book.  I flicked through it in Waitrose and thought, “Yes.  Real food, no fads, no shortcuts.  I like the look of this”.

You have to read the book, familiarise yourself with the four pillars and plan out your transform phase.  This is a lifestyle change not a diet.  It takes dedication and you have to be prepared.  You need to work out how you are going to meal plan and you need to stick to it, not keep stepping out of the circle every time you want to.

I work full time in a demanding job with minimal breaks.  Unfortunately, I cannot religiously stick to all of Louise’s principles when I am at work – I have to take my lunch and snacks in Tupperware, which isn’t particularly beautiful and often I am forced to eat at my desk, in front of a screen which is less than ideal.

I still did it though.  I moved every day, often walking part of the way home from work to get my steps up, I liked that I didn’t have to do Louise’s workouts exclusively (although I did them 2-3 times per week) and that I didn’t have to give up my running and my yoga.

I ate more food than I have ever done!  I had to train myself to eat breakfast, which is something I never did previously, and to start with I could not manage the portions in the book and had to halve them.

I found snacks and lunches that would transport to work easily and I said goodbye to alcohol and chocolate.

Sometimes it was really hard but to be honest it became easy and a natural way of eating much more quickly than I thought it would.

I forced myself to eat nuts, something I never did before and now I love almonds and cashews and pecans!

The thing is that the strict “Transform” phase is only temporary.  Nothing is off limits once you are in the lifestyle, nothing is “bad” you just have to get there and then you eat within the circle 80% of the time.

I did the transform phase for 8 weeks and I lost 10.25 lbs and the inches as you see below.  I completed the transform at the end of October, since then I’ve been on a Girls’ Weekend to Berlin, had Christmas parties and Christmas and New Year and so I have been living the lifestyle, stepping in and out of the circle, maybe a bit more out of late, and I am maintaining my weight. I have been surprised by how easy it has been.

Total Loss:

Weight – 10.25 lbs

Arms – 1 inch

Thighs – 1.4 inch

Waist  – 3 inches

Lower Belly – 1 inch

Bum/hips – 2 inches

I haven’t put up my original weight or inches because as I say, everything is relative.  It’s about being the healthiest and happiest version of you and that looks different for everyone.

I don’t want to make someone feel bad, or indeed, make myself feel bad by inviting comparison.  I have never had any children.  I will repeat that.  I have never had any children.  Also, I am 31.

I have always been a healthy weight for my height, I have pretty good self-esteem about the way I look.  Good for me.  I know it isn’t always that way for others.

In this selfie obsessed, instagrammable culture we live in where everyone puts a “filter” on their life and women are held to very high beauty standards it is very hard not to invite comparison and to feel that we are less than if we do not match up to beauty ideals.

The Louise Parker Method has never made me feel less than. 

It has never made me feel bad about the way that I look or the journey that I am on.

The Louise Parker Method is all about you as the individual – the goals you set.  What you want to achieve and how you feel.  It does not set a “standard” for everyone.

It is about nourishing your body, eating good food, learning about yourself and food and making positive changes forever.  I sleep better, my psoriasis had practically disappeared at the end of the transform phase, I have more energy and more confidence.

I would recommend this lifestyle change to anyone because best of all – you don’t become frightened of food.

The recipes are easy and delicious and as long as you prepare for the working week you can totally stick to everything whilst working long hours and commuting.  I feel better than I have in a long time and I am thrilled with my results.  They were right for me and no one else!

If you are looking to make a healthy, permanent change this year then this is a nutritious and healthy way to do that.  The online community over at Instagram is particularly helpful with all the #leanies helping each other out and providing encouragement and support.

Once you have made this part of your lifestyle you won’t want to go back.

If you want to see the type of food I eat – follow me on Instagram where I often post pictures of what I am eating.

 

 

N.B. All opinions are my own and I are based on my own, personal experience.

 

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Pausing, One

Anxiety is no friend to logic.  You might “know” something but your body betrays you.  You feel like you have something heavy sat on your chest.  You can’t breathe deeply enough.  Your airways are tight.  Your chest doesn’t expand properly.  It feels like there’s a rubber resistance band strapped around your lungs.  You feel sick and your stomach is upset.  You obsessively and compulsively bite all of your nails down to the quick.  Tears are never far from behind your eyes.

It is the absence of peace.

In August 2015 I turned 30.  That summer I experienced a prolonged feeling of anxiety for the first time.  Lots of things happened and turning 30 seemed to bring it all into a sharp focus.  I had changed my job four months before and I suddenly realised that it wasn’t the job, it was me.  I was working long hours and was very stressed at work.  There was an altercation with my neighbour which left me feeling vulnerable at home.  I felt unanchored and a little bit lost.  I didn’t know what I should be doing for a career, could I really change?  I had spent so much time and energy (and money) getting to where I was.  Other people really want my job, it felt a bit like a betrayal to be thinking about changing careers.

I have experience (a long time ago now) of working in mental health.  So I did what I advocate, I acknowledged the way I was feeling, tried not to beat myself up about it and I was honest with my inner circle.  I also went and spoke to my doctor.  My doctor upon listening to me said he wasn’t surprised I was feeling like that, and suddenly, just like that I started to feel better.  Sometimes all we need is someone independent, someone outside, to take a look at our life and offer us some reassurance that we are not weak or crazy.  Sometimes it takes more than that and that is okay too.

It was then that I decided I needed to make some changes.  I felt like I had missed some warning signs – just in case anyone else is unclear – throwing up before you go to work every morning is definitely a warning sign that all is not quite right.

I wanted to step back, to make more time for me, to relax.  I was so tired.  Tired of being busy and doing and pleasing everybody and feeling like I was failing myself.

I decided I had to learn to say “no”.  I wanted to be more selective about where I spent my time.  I didn’t want to be rushing all the time trying to fit everybody in and making no time for me.  I wanted to do more creative things.  Mostly, though I wanted to spend more time listening to God.  Actually, learning to listen to God, discerning his will for me rather than trying to control all aspects of my life and just ask for his help when it got hard.

I wanted to know what I was being called to do.  There is a part in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, where the boy is being taught about the path, about how if you are on the right one then the whole universe conspires to help you and you keep seeing signs to let you know you are following your destiny.

The idea of counselling as a profession had been in my mind for a few years after a throw away comment from a friend and I hadn’t done anything about it until I signed up to an Introductory 12 week course at CityLit in January 2015.  I had really enjoyed the course but then had changed jobs and kept plugging along in “the real world” when the wheels started to come loose and I realised that actually, I couldn’t keep on.  I prayed a lot about it, and decided that I would need to get a job back in London to have any hope of being able to study part-time.

In November I put my CVs out to a few places, by December I had an interview and I was honest an open with the interviewer and she gave me some names of other places where I could apply as they were interviewing someone else.  By the first week of January I had a new job a commutable distance for part-time study.

Then the doubts came.  I wondered if this really what God was calling me to do or if I just wanted to do it because I didn’t like what I was currently doing.  I decided I would give the new place “a fair go” before making my decision.

I have been chugging along, keeping on, ticking over, I tried, I did.  But I think that that constant little nudge toward counselling in the back of my head that won’t go away is there for a reason.  I have found a part-time counselling course that I can apply for this January, it will be a big commitment – every Saturday from January to July, and it will be a scary process, going back to studying part time (at my age) and giving up some security in the job I have now, but if I have learned anything over the past year and a bit it’s that it will be worth it.  The application process for the course opens next month and closes pretty soon afterwards, they make quick decisions about who they let in it seems.

Last week I was pretty stressed with work, I guess the fact that the application process will be opening soon has also been in the back of my mind, I was working long hours again, often on my own and I experienced anxiety again, seemingly out of nowhere.  That horrible sick feeling, the feeling that I am crap at my job and making all of the wrong choices.  The feeling that everything is out of control.

I went, every day last week for 10 minutes to the church across the road.  I just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus, and pour out my troubles to him and ask him for his peace, he doesn’t disappoint.  I had found this on Pinterest a few days before, and thought it may help those of you who also experience anxiety, as it helped me:

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The feeling passed more quickly this time, I have learned how to manage it better, how to acknowledge the feelings and I have learned that they will pass.  I have also learned that I need to have a positive attitude toward it, anxiety can suck you in and down if you let it.  This week I gave myself a stern talking to, I reminded myself that I am on the path and that it isn’t always straightforward, I have to push through and do hard things.  I can do that.  Paulo Coelho reminds us that:

“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure.  It’s all a question of how I view my life.”

I am definitely choosing to be a positive thinking adventurer, one who isn’t scared to try new things and grab opportunities with both hands.  I am not going to give in to the fear or the anxiety.  I am on the path and I am trusting in God and my heart to lead me to my destiny, back to the soul of the world.