Category Archives: Healthy Hankers

Sugar Highs & Lows

On December 31st I decided to conduct a little experiment with my diet to cut out as much sugar as I could. I still have fresh fruit but no longer have fruit juice, dried fruit and, as much as possible, anything with added sugar (which is hidden in everything!).

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Fuelled by desperation as my baby doesn’t sleep well and I’m perpetually tired, I started to wonder if the sugary drinks and snacks I was increasingly reaching for was part of his sleep problem. As I’m breast-feeding, he eats what I eat after all and I was willing to try anything to get a bit more shut-eye.

A secondary reason for reducing sugar is that I have rosacea on my cheeks, which means I look quite rosy and spotty. As karma for being a smug clear-skinned teenager, this came on in my late twenties and I’ve noticed that my diet definitely affects it and I wanted to see just how much by.

I thought I ate relatively healthily. I don’t have caffeine or fizzy drinks but I did drink a lot of fruit juice and Nesquik, and cakes were an everyday staple of my diet. As a treat my husband would bring me sugar mice from the old-fashioned sweet shop on his way back from work. When I first reduced the sugar in my diet I knew I would feel it and I had some pretty bad headaches & much grumpiness in the first week. To add insult to injury my family kept forgetting and offered me things I was trying to avoid. But more than a month into my experiment and since the sugar withdrawal lessened, I can see some real benefits.

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The biggest and most immediate change was my son’s sleep, he had previously woken around nine times each night but he very quickly woke only three or four times. This may still sound like a lot, but believe me when I say I almost wept with joy after the first night. On the occasions when I slip up we certainly know about it at night.

A slower change that has become more and more noticeable over my low sugar month, is my skin. The redness of my cheeks has greatly reduced and the texture of my cheeks is much smoother. It has made a bigger improvement than anything I’ve tried over the last five years, including antibiotic creams and laser treatment. I would say it looks about 80% better and almost unnoticeable with make-up.

Another really big difference and one that I wasn’t expecting, is how much better I feel in general. My energy levels are higher and more constant and mentally I feel more level and alert. I’ve also lost a few pounds in weight.

Despite all the benefits I do have some sadness about the sweet treats I’ll be missing, but I am definitely extending this experiment to the longer term.

How do you feel about sugar? Would you give it up?

If you’re interested in finding out more there is a lot of useful information over at Happy Sugar Habits & A Life Less Bullshit.

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I Did Ride My Bicycle

After thinking about it and finally signing up, on Sunday I was up with the lark to drive to Woburn Abbey to cycle with 600 other ladies at Cycletta. I was feeling a little nervous but it was bright and sunny and with my padded knickers and cycle helmet on I was ready to give it my best shot.

The atmosphere at the start line was fantastic, there was some group stretching and everyone was chattering. The woman next to me was doing the ride as part of her training to cycle to Lands End later in the year which is 300 miles over three days and certainly put my 60km goal in perspective…

As we headed off, the first 15km was much more hilly than I had expected from the flat course that had been described and I started to question whether I had bitten off more than I could chew as scores of women overtook me. But at the treat stop after the steepest hill, I was relieved to hear that was the worst of the hills over with.

The scenery was breathtaking, the yellow rapeseed fields were glowing in the sun and contrasting beautifully with the lush greenery courtesy of the recent rain. On the flatter sections of the course I was able to look around and really enjoy it. There was a nice sense of camaraderie with women shouting ‘Pothole!’ to warn those behind them, ‘Treat stop in 100m!’ to keep everyone going and ‘Coming past on your right!’ to let you know they were there.

As I began my second lap of the course at around 32km there wasn’t another cyclist in sight. Just when I had convinced myself I’d gone the wrong way I would see one of the friendly marshalls or one of the motorcycle ride rescue crew, so I was left thinking that all the other cyclists had finished. I had expected to finish last so I wasn’t too upset, I was just hoping that they hadn’t packed up the finish line by the time I got there.

Then about 15km before the end I started catching up and even overtaking a few ladies and when I stopped to grab some water and a Jaffa Cake 13km before the end, I saw loads of women catching their breath at the treat stop. It was all the motivation I needed to hop back on my bike and carry on.

When I got to the finish line and saw my husband and daughter cheering, and the look of surprise on their faces that I wasn’t pushing my bike, I felt elated.

My Cycletta Medal

I finished the 60km course in three hours and twenty-six minutes which is by no means fast, but I came in 52nd place out of 76 cyclists. I’m so pleased I cycled all the way, as I’ve mentioned before I’m not naturally the sportiest of people and I’ve never spent three and a half hours doing anything physical in my life (barely even in labour).

Now my knees have almost stopped aching I’m hankering to sign up for another Cycletta ride this year.

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I Do Want To Ride My Bicycle

It’s taken me an age but since my post back in January about maybe wanting to ride my bicycle, I’ve finally decided I definitely want to ride my bicycle. So much so, I bought a bike and cycling helmet.

My new bike

After wobbling along by the side of the Thames and around Richmond Park with my trusty helmet on, I even plucked up the courage to ride on the road and, rather amazingly, didn’t get honked at. There were tears at one point when I bumped down on the crossbar a little hard and there may have been a mini-tantrum when I couldn’t get up a hill, but other than that I really enjoyed cycling around. My husband had fun too, insisting on me wearing a hi-vis vest and tucking my trousers into my socks and then shouting “Nerd!” at me round Richmond Park.

So, buoyed up with a false sense of competency I signed up for Cycletta’s ride at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire on 13th May. I didn’t just sign up for the 40km. Oh no. I signed up to do the 60km ride. Having ridden a bike a grand total of four times in the last twenty years it may not be my smartest idea, but I’m going to invest in some padded trousers and give it my best shot.

Cycletta organise seven 40k bike rides a year around the UK that are open to women only and cost about £45 to enter. Although fairly pricey, the routes are traffic-free and well marshalled with a ride rescue crew that come and help out if you get into any problems. There are plenty of free things after the ride like goody bags and pamper sessions. Fancy keeping me company?

P.S. I’ve chosen to ride for Tommy’s, the baby charity who have a target to halve the number of babies that die in pregnancy or birth by 2030. I’m hoping this will motivate me and stop me from chickening out on the day of the ride. If you’d like to sponsor me and help Tommy’s with their research, click through to my Just Giving page.

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I (Maybe) Want to Ride My Bicycle

Last October I chickened out of joining my new mother-in-law and sister-in-law on a Cycletta bike ride and opted to cheer them on at the finish line instead. How lame of me…

But they’re doing it again and despite having only ridden a bike twice in the last 20 years my hankering for fitness has got me thinking of joining them to test the theory of whether you do ever forget.

This gorgeous and not-so-expensive bike from Made.com is tempting me even further.

Hollander Bike Made.com

Cycletta organise seven 40k bike rides a year round the UK that are open to women only and cost about £45 to enter. Although fairly pricey, the routes are traffic-free and well marshalled with a ride rescue crew that come and help out if you get into any problems and there are plenty of free things after the ride like goody bags and pamper sessions. For spectators there are food stalls and entertainment so kids aren’t screaming round the fields like loons waiting for their mums and aunties to ride past.

For the really motivated, some of the locations have an option to do an 80k route! I am in awe of anyone who even contemplates riding the equivalent of two marathons on a bike.

Some of the locations have places where you can hire bikes and this worked really well for my sister-in-law, unfortunately my mother-in-law got a dodgy one and the gears dropped off a couple of kilometres in meaning she had to do almost the whole route in second gear. But she did it!

Cyclists out there – am I mad to consider a 40k bike ride in May when I’m not a cyclist?

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Not a New Year Resolution

I spent the last two weeks of December mainly cooking and eating so it’s hardly surprising I’m joining the masses by starting January mainly exercising.

Exercise is something I’ve never found attractive or easy and I’ve spent most of my life actively avoiding it. I didn’t just skip the occasional P.E lesson at school, each term I’d think up a reason why I couldn’t do P.E for that entire term. Lucky for me up until the age of 27 I could eat more or less what I wanted and stay roughly the same size. Not so now.

Gourmet Chocolate Pizza

The only times I’ve ever been able to exercise regularly were:

a)      When I was pregnant. Each week I did yoga, aqua-aerobics and antenatal aerobics and continued even when I was past my due date. What motivated me was that I didn’t know anyone who was pregnant or had kids and I desperately wanted a support network of people in a similar situation to me.

b)      Ten years later I decided to get fit. To start with I was phenomenally bad. I couldn’t run for more than a few minutes without feeling like throwing up but within a couple of months I was running five miles fairly easily. I loved how it made me feel so I started going to the gym too and speed walking with a colleague most lunchtimes. When I changed to a new job that included gym membership as part of my package, I started boxercise and spinning classes. My team at work signed up to a 10k and I surprised myself by running all the way, I came last in my team but whatever, I was proud I didn’t stop.

Now these are not major achievements by any stretch of the imagination, but as I had never really participated in or enjoyed exercise it was a breakthrough for me. Both times I LOVED IT. My figure changed, I felt strong and healthy and I was still slim but became toned too. These were all by-products of why I was exercising, which was originally to get fit or meet people but quickly became about how exercising made me feel. I didn’t own a set of scales and I wasn’t interested in weighing myself when I went to the gym as it wasn’t about that.

About a year into my second exercise epiphany I met my lovely husband. We were eating out more, I was drinking more and my endorphins came from the early rush of love. As I didn’t need exercise to give me my endorphin hit my exercise fell by the wayside. That old cliché of gaining happiness and gaining weight came true for me.

Since then I’ve not got back into exercise really. I’m not obese; according to the weight/height ratios I’m barely even overweight. But my body is not what it once was and I feel bad about it. This doesn’t motivate me to exercise though; even working for a fitness company with free gym membership wasn’t a motivation.

I’ve had occasional spurts of exercise and dieting, most notably driven by panic – of a beach holiday maybe, my wedding, not fitting into my bridesmaid dress two weeks before a friend’s wedding. Each panic-induced time I started exercising way too late for it to make any real difference and I just felt negative about it. In my last two and a half years of mainly being inactive I’ve weighed myself every morning. I’ve put on a few pounds, lost a few pounds, put them back on, lost them again, put them back on… and it isn’t getting me anywhere except a yo-yoing waistline.

Trainers and skipping rope

The only time exercise has ever worked for me is when I have just exercised to feel good, exercise does make me feel good. The less I exercise the more prone I am to feeling negative, unhappy, disillusioned and self-critical about everything I do, which makes it harder to do anything let alone start exercising again. I remind myself of the time I fell off the treadmill or when I fainted and threw-up in a circuit class (yeah, that was embarrassing). I tell myself bad things and don’t have any perspective. For example I often remind myself that I weigh more now than I did when I was 9 ½ months pregnant. That sounds bad doesn’t it? Now, let’s add some perspective. I was sixteen when I fell pregnant and before being pregnant had a 24” waist, i.e. the body of a teenager. It is unrealistic for me at 31 to expect to look the same as I did when I wasn’t even an adult yet. I know… I’m frustrating.

Since I’ve known my husband his exercise routine has stayed pretty much the same, he goes to the gym 2-4 times every week. For him exercise is about being healthy and nothing more. He tries to inspire me to eat better and exercise more because he wants me to be healthy and not because of what I look like (or so he tells me!). I think I need to re-learn this.

So in late November I started exercising again. I’ve been doing some running, fallen in love with Zumba (who knew it was so much fun?) and joined the gym. I’m not going to weigh myself anymore. I’m going to get fit again and enjoy myself. I’m no longer going to hanker after the perfect body but instead will hanker after all those lovely endorphins…

Now, tips please! What helps you stick at exercising?

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