Is it really possible to be a new me, this new year?

We’ve all been there, every new year we are bombarded with propaganda telling us that if we buy this, eat that and wear these trainers, we can uncover a new, improved version of ourselves.

And a lot of us fall for it. We believe that there is something wrong with the person we were the previous year and we try our damnedest to fix ourselves. We throw money at the situation left, right and centre and yet somehow we usually fail. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t aim to improve ourselves, because I am one of these many people trying to do this every year, but I wonder to what extent it’s really possible with the approach we tend to take.

Here’s what I mean…

Say you want to lose weight, it’s likely that you wanted to lose weight prior to January 1st and it’s also likely that during the preceding year, you had several attempts at doing so. “Diet starts Monday.” “After Easter, I’ll stay off the chocolate and I WILL lose weight.” “The summer is a great time to eat salads, so I’m sure I’ll lose weight then.”

You don’t do it, or you do it for a very short time, otherwise you wouldn’t need to make a resolution to do so the following January. So what is different about January?

Well, I’m not sure anything is except that there’s an increased focus on improving yourself in the media.

In my opinion, we can’t change things just by saying we will change them and subscribing to a few products and services to help us, we have to make a conscious decision to change our mindsets. And that is where I have a question mark. Have I really changed my mindset? There’s nothing about January itself that dictates my mindset has changed, so how do I know I’m not wasting my time?

How do I test my mindset? Am I really dedicated to the change I have publicly stated I will make?

The only answer I have is to give it time and if I fail, I guess my head’s not in the right place. If I succeed, even if only partially, then perhaps I’ve started consciously making better choices that lead me to my goal. If my head’s not in the right place for success, then I’m not quite sure how I get it there and that’s where I’ve fallen down time and again before.

And there begins the conversation again – to what extent is it really possible to uncover a new me and how would I do that if it is possible?

I’d love to hear success (or otherwise) stories from people who’ve managed to make a change for good. Let me know if you have any winning tips! x

Jawbone UP MOVE – Fitness Tracking for the Unfit

Jawbone UP MOVE

My prediction is that sales of fitness trackers are up massively year on year for the month of January. This time last year, this wearable tech was still quite niche with most of us thinking this would be a very short-lived fad. We were thinking it could be the Tamagotchi of the twenty-tens…for adults. Something people would play with for 5 minutes and then throw onto the discard pile along with their resolutions to make this the year they’d finally shift those extra pounds.

So far though, it seems to be more of a mobile phone; something that’s spawned a whole load of new brands trying to beat the ever popular Nokia 3210 (Fitbit). Everyone wants one and often they’re not really sure what they even do. Think about those 3210s for a minute; did you want one because you urgently needed to make calls on the move, or did you want to be able to play Snake and thrust your cool new tech in your friends’ faces? This is what’s happening with fitness trackers.

It’s January, we’ve all decided we’ll be happier, healthier, better people this year and since it’s now 2015, we can’t possibly contemplate doing this without a new gadget of some description. In comes the fitness tracker! (Cue round of applause)

Oh wait, what?

Fitness tracker. But that would mean I’d have to, like, get fit or something. My resolution was public declaration to show the world that I know I’m fat, it wasn’t an intention to fix it! Maybe I should get one anyway…

And so my journey began.

I did quite a lot of research into the various fitness trackers out there because most of them are pricey enough to make me think twice before impulse buying. In the end, I settled on the Jawbone UP MOVE because it has an accessible price point of £39 and it seems to have all of the functionality I need.

I haven’t turned into an athlete just because I purchased a device to track my movement and consequently, I don’t need a sophisticated tracker to tell me that. What I wanted was something to make me aware of just how sedentary my life is and how varied my sleep patterns can be. It’s working.

Every day my steps are monitored so I now know that on an average day working in my local office, I do a fraction of the exercise I assumed I was doing whereas on an average day working in London, I manage far more exercise than I had realised. This is great because I have a starting point and a real indication of how much more I need to move on those local days in order not to turn into a sloth.

I can also track what I eat with this little gadget which is useful for those who are calorie counting. I was already a fan of MyFitnessPal for that though and guess what, the two integrate! 

Basically, what I have is a little gadget I clip on to my tights or trousers in the morning to track my steps and then I press 1 button at night so it tracks my sleep instead. It’s so easy! There’s not even any charging. By charging, I mean that moment you have to separate yourself from the device for a few hours for the first time and then you never go back to it. I’ve been wearing this little Jawbone pal for about 7 days now, which is pretty much the longest I’ve ever played with any toy.

In the meantime, my friend who invested in a Fitbit is sat there staring at her wrist telling me she has no idea what the flashing lights do or how it works. She tried to track her sleep but it didn’t work and she can’t find any proper instructions. She’s 23 and works for a forward thinking software company, surely she’s meant to be able to figure it out!?!

If you’ve read this far, thank you for putting up with my waffle. I hope you can understand that what I’m trying to say is this; if you think you want a fitness tracker but you rarely do anything to warrant one, why not start with the reasonably priced Jawbone UP MOVE and see how you get on. By the time it’s battery dies in 4-6 months’ time, you’ll know whether you’re ready for the big boys or not. It really is the fitness tracker for the chronically unfit and I love it 🙂

Mental Health Awareness Week

Can you believe it…it’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK again. I mean how is it possible that a whole year has flown by since the last one, so much has happened!?!

This year’s theme for MHAW is physical activity and exercise and the effect that can have on mental health. For me in particular, I find this a challenging theme because whilst I understand the concept and the science behind it, I just don’t understand how you get started with the whole exercise thing. Some of us aren’t good at any sports and we hate running and gyms, so what do we do to start ourselves off from a point of sub zero motivation?

Well, I’ve spoken to many people about this now and they’ve all said it’s just about getting into it and once you are into it, it becomes like an addiction and you do notice that your mood drops when you stop. So it really is about getting over the first hurdle and making it part of your life. Here are some things you could do and then I’ll let you in on what I am going to do:

  • Walk to work / the supermarket / town – anywhere you would normally go in the car that it’s feasible to walk to. This way you are just building the exercise into your life and it has a point
  • Start on holiday; who doesn’t love a swim on holiday? Or what about a beach walk every day?
  • Make the dog walk a bit longer or up the pace
  • Get the kids involved so that when they play, you play – you’ll be surprised at how much exercise is involved
  • Start small and commit yourself to just a few star jumps or squats everyday and build them up over time
  • Join a class for an active skill you want to learn, e.g. tap dancing or yoga

Obviously those are just a few of many suggestions but I think they are all do-able and you should start to feel some benefit after a couple of weeks.

I have been feeling super poorly the last couple of months and have mainly felt like a zombie. A change in diet seems to have shifted the zombie feeling at least temporarily but I still have the full body of aching joints and muscles. This is not fun but I suspect that exercise might be the thing to help me out of it and help my body fight whatever this evil inhabitant is! So, my choice is the “start on holiday” option. I wouldn’t normally delay starting something for 3 weeks but I have a combination of late work nights and a theatre production to perform in which means the next couple of weeks are rammed. I’ll provide a full update post holiday, along with a plan to maintain the increased activity levels moving forward.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has used exercise to improve their mood or anyone who has a plan to do so – show us how it’s done!!! x

4 Months Down – What Are The Chances???

Back at the end of January I updated on my progress against my objectives / resolutions for the year and had assumed I would be doing that every month. However, here I am at the end of April, a third of the year through and this is only the second time I am checking in. I’m ashamed to say I had totally forgotten about some of my objectives as I was focussing on others far too much. Here comes my update for where I am now; I’m glad I’ve done it and it’s reminded me to drive forward with some of my other objectives which aren’t so reliant on money to achieve!

  • Weight 9st7 (or less) by March – somehow have managed to reach 10st…oops!
    • Once again I am still at 10st. I did briefly drop to 9st 9 or so but I was really unhappy and put it all back on. With the threat of summer looming, I am now pushing forward with this one. In all honesty, I’ve done well to keep at 10st given how much I have been eating!
  • Weigh no more than 9st at the end of the year
    • As above
  • End the year with £3,500 credit card debt or less (fair chunk to pay off to reach that!)
    • My strategy on this has changed following my car disaster. I ended up selling the car for far less than I paid for it so the only thing I could do was to use the money to pay off a chunk of my credit card. On this basis, I have achieved this objective but on the other hand, my total debt is still higher than I would like. I do however have to say that the £750 car I drive now is awesome for it’s price; get yourself a Ford Puma if you’re on a budget – they rock! Luckily I bought mine off a friend so I knew it had been really well maintained for the last few years.
  • Read 10 new books
    • So far I have read 2, neither of them particularly intellectual but they were fun. With holidays in the summer, etc. I expect this to go up quite considerably.
  • Star in at least 1 theatre show
    • I didn’t go to the auditions I mentioned in the January post. I have however very recently landed a part in a play called Relatively Speaking which will be on in June 🙂 It’s a new theatre for me as well so it should be a great experience
  • See 12 theatre shows
    • This one is super fun. Have so far seen an amateur show at my local theatre (Neverwhere, was awesome) and went to see Cirque Du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall which was spectacular! (January update)
    • I have booked to go and see The Wizard of Oz in London on 9th May so I am still on track with this one and will get the bf involved in a bit more theatre soon. (April update)
  • Spend 3 weekends away with the bf
    • Finally we have 1 booked in. We are heading to Devon for the bank holiday in June and will be visiting the donkey sanctuary while we are down there. It took a little bit of persuasion to get this in the diary but it’s been done and hopefully we will get the others booked in too.
  • Eat in 6 new restaurants
    • I had totally forgotten about this one but luckily I have started on this path. So far I have eaten at a Yo! Sushi for the first time (first time in a sushi restaurant) and at The Greyhound in Berkshire with my daddy which was super yummy. With holidays, etc. this one should definitely happen.
  • Leave the country 3 times
    • Trip to Budapest booked for July, super luxury as well 🙂 (January update)
    • Holiday to Marrakech booked in with the girls for October; we had a  minor setback with booking but it’s done and I’m excited! (April update)
  • Exercise for at least 1.5 hours per week (up from 0 hours)
    • I am not yet there with this; I was for a few weeks but then have been so busy I haven’t managed it. I am taking a pole class on Mondays for an hour and I had been combining it with a 45min aqua class on Wednesdays but that one has dropped off recently. I’m hoping to start that up again this week…
  • Make my eBay store self sufficient by June (i.e. have enough profit to buy next lot of stock)
    • CLOSED – so many people had the same stock it was just too hard to make a good profit so I figured it was best just to have that time back and take on some other work instead (which I have done).
  • Have a trip to NY booked in (actually have at least deposit paid)
    • This one’s for later in the year
  • Make and try 3 home made beauty products
    • Nada! Have however inherited a heap of non home made products from a friend who is emigrating. The pile of products I have in reserve is MASSIVE. I will use them all though…eventually! (January update)
    • I plan to get on this next week when I have some time off. Have bought some tea tree oil to add to a scrub I have seen on someone’s blog so I’ll be reviewing that soon 🙂

All in all I am doing ok but I had definitely forgotten some of what I was meant to be focussed on. I’m pleased I have some big plans in place but I need to start doing the basic things like reading more, etc. I set these objectives with the aim of keeping a balance and that’s exactly what I need to do; stop just thinking about big things and get into the smaller stuff as well. I also think it’s interesting how many things have already changed from my original plan; a reminder that flexibility can be the key to happiness sometimes!

Is anyone else out there still working on their new year’s resolutions or has everybody given up by now!?! x

How Not to Live for the Weekend

A few weeks ago I realised I had well and truly got myself into the rut of living for the weekend, complete with hideous Sunday night feeling of dread and disturbed sleep. Now, given that one of my most annoying neuroses is my constant panic that whatever I am doing, I might be missing out on something better, this was really not a good situation for me! So I began to think about what I could do to solve this, taking into consideration the fact that my poor digestive health means that I spend my week-nights bloated to the hilt and feeling very tired.

I decided that attack was the best form of…well, attack, really! I have bought several Groupon type vouchers and now have exercise classes coming out of my ears. The best thing is that a bunch of my good friends have also bought the same vouchers so I am beating the blues by seeing my friends and holding 2 fingers up at my digestive system and getting active! Not only this, but I am also trying to plan more random things such as cinema visits, etc. midweek as well. For example: last week, Pole Fitness Monday, girly night Tuesday, night in Wednesday, out for drinks with a friend Thursday…boom, it’s the weekend!

Hopefully you can tell this isn't me...

If you suffer from the common syndrome of “work sucks and I hate 9-5 in the office-itis” then you might want to try my technique. I cannot tell you how much quicker the last 2 Mondays have flown by knowing I will have fun getting fit and seeing my mates in the evening.

So there you have it…the answer was so simple I missed it for ages. All I had to do was stop living for the weekend and use the good 4 or 5 hours I have in the evening to do the things I wish I could do for the 9 hours a day I’m at work. Sermon over. x

1 Month Down, is it Really Going to Happen?

Wowser, how quickly has January disappeared!?! It feels like I blinked and missed it even though there has been quite a lot going on in my life this last month. As I am so determined to achieve the goals I set myself this year, I thought I’d best undergo a little tracking session and see if I have managed to make any progress. If I don’t check now, soon I’ll be sitting here in June wondering how I’m going to fit it all in to 6 months. Here’s my progress:

  • Weight 9st7 (or less) by March – somehow have managed to reach 10st…oops!
    • Umm, still at 10st despite quite a few changes to the diet. I have a very poorly gut at the moment so I can only hope this will settle soon and help my weight loss
  • Weigh no more than 9st at the end of the year
    • As above
  • End the year with £3,500 credit card debt or less (fair chunk to pay off to reach that!)
    • Epic fail! My car added £650 to this for it’s MOT. Instead, I will be saving to pay off a chunky old loan this time next year
  • Read 10 new books
    • Not yet started but did finish a book today which was started in 2011. I have book no. 1 lined up and ready to go so hopefully this time next month I’ll be back on track
  • Star in at least 1 theatre show
    • Auditions in a couple of weeks 🙂
  • See 12 theatre shows
    • This one is super fun. Have so far seen an amateur show at my local theatre (Neverwhere, was awesome) and went to see Cirque Du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday which was spectacular!
  • Spend 3 weekends away with the bf
    • I blame him for the lack of progress
  • Eat in 6 new restaurants
    • January = poor month = not much eating out = fail
  • Leave the country 3 times
    • Trip to Budapest booked for July, super luxury as well 🙂
  • Exercise for at least 1.5 hours per week (up from 0 hours)
    • Simply put…not done this! I have however started Aqua Fit once a week but made one class then was too late for the next. Back on it this week but it’s only 45 mins per class :-s
  • Make my eBay store self sufficient by June (i.e. have enough profit to buy next lot of stock)
    • Sales have started picking up this week with the arrival of pay day…phew!
  • Have a trip to NY booked in (actually have at least deposit paid)
    • This one’s for later in the year
  • Make and try 3 home made beauty products
    • Nada! Have however inherited a heap of non home made products from a friend who is emigrating. The pile of products I have in reserve is MASSIVE. I will use them all though…eventually!

So as you can see, I have made fair progress in some areas whilst failing in others but nothing is a lost cause yet and I’m hoping I’ll have a bit more time in Feb. to dedicate to my goals. I still feel like these are achievable and that’s the most important thing. How are you all doing with your goals? x

The Easy Way to a Flat Stomach

Over the last few weeks I have been making a conscious effort to eat more healthily and exercise at least a bit…as per my goals for 2012. What I have been finding though is that exercise takes time I don’t have and I have literally no idea where to start. That’s when Justin Devonshire contacted me about writing a guest post and I thought…hang on…a personal trainer writing on my blog…BINGO! So here is Justin’s first post, “5-Minute Fixes for a Flat Stomach”.

If you’re reading this post I’m guessing you’re like most of the other 200+ women I’ve trained. Most of them try reading books and reading articles to find the best weight loss tips, but all they find is boatloads of complicated and contradictory information that tells them nothing.

You probably feel like screaming, “Get to the point!”

If that sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. I know your time is limited and valuable, so I am going to cut through the nonsense and tell you exactly what you need to do to get a flat stomach right now.

Here are 3 Quick-Fixes you can easily fit into your schedule to start shrinking your waist right now…

Quick-Fix #1: Use the Plank Exercise (and STOP doing crunches)

To perform a plank, get into a regular push up position, up on your toes, and rest on the underneath of your forearms. Now squeeze your tummy hard and try holding it for 30 – 60 seconds.

This exercise works ALL your core muscles in one go, and burns far more calories than doing hundreds of boring, painful crunches (which actually hurt your back and give you a forward leaning, unsexy posture).

Start getting down and holding a 30-second plank as many times as you can throughout the day. If you’re in work and getting bored, the quick rush of blood-flow from doing this exercise will even wake you up and help you to focus a little!

 Quick-Fix #2: Suck It Up!

Here’s another great exercise you can do if you are sat at the office all day and can’t fit in a full workout.

Simply sit up tall, back against the chair, and start sucking in your tummy and holding it as long as you can (whilst still taking breaths).

The easiest way to visualize it is to imagine you are trying to pull your belly button back toward your spine.

This will activate all your deep stomach muscles and improve your posture, making you look naturally taller and more confident.

Start by holding it for just 20 seconds, and getting used to breathing normal breaths at the same time. Then over the days build up your holding time until you can comfortably suck your tummy in for up to 5 minutes.

Doing this and the plank exercise alone will start taking the inches from your waist straight away!

Quick-Fix #3: The No-Sugar Drinks Challenge!

Cutting down sugar is obviously a fast way to stop fat getting stored on your belly. However, it’s sometimes more easily said than done.

Here is a dead simple way to cut out a LOAD of sugar from your diet and lose at least a pound or two in just one week:

Set yourself a challenge that you will not DRINK any calories for a week. Stick to water wherever possible, which will help flush excess fat and toxins out of your system. To flavour try cutting up some slices of lemon, lime or orange.

Switch to green tea instead of regular, and definitely cut out that Starbucks on the way to work!

This is just for one week. See how you feel after that week and decide if it was really that difficult to keep the sugary drinks at bay.

In reality there no ‘magic bullets’ to immediate fat-loss, but these are three of the closest things you’ll get to quick-fixes. Give them a try and let us know your results in 7 days time!

If you’re loving the results, check out Justin’s Blog: 

Justin Devonshire is a woman’s fat-loss & body-toning expert. He is the owner of Bodyshape Fitness – Personal Training & Bootcamp, which is run in both the UK and Cyprus.

For more free quick tips on weight loss, toning & motivation for women, visit the Bodyshape Fitness Blog, and get Justin’s “Little Black Dress Transformation Guide” as a FREE gift right now!