Healthy living: End of Week 1

With the zeal of anyone who has just started a new healthy eating/exercising plan, I raced through the week with few problems. There is no week easier than the first week when you’re changing your habits, as I’m sure most of you will know. Actually, the first couple of weeks are usually pretty golden. You’re evangelical about your new eating plan, and you tell anyone who will listen that they’ve ‘really got to try’ it, it’s ‘already made such a huge difference’. ‘Sugar? You know, you reeeeally shouldn’t eat that’, etc etc. You become a diet bore. You tend to see results quickly, depending on how bad a state you were in before. Everything is glorious, and you’re in a permanent good mood. Come weeks 3/4, it may well be a different story, but hey – let’s stick with week one.

I managed to exercise everyday, focussing on different bits of my body to exercise with Cassey’s POP Pilates videos. Then I’d finish off with 10-20 minutes of cardio. Saturday was an all cardio day, and I rediscovered Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo, a workout video (yes, video) I’d used to get me into shape in my teens. Ah, the sweaty nostalgia of it all. But that’s enough about my personal life, back to the exercising.

I was like a woman possessed – logging my food and exercise every day on, spending my ‘spare’ (haha) time on researching the best workouts to follow. I’m very happy to be following Cassey and her ‘blogilates’. She’s a lovely cheery presence and puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Useful, as I tend to workout in the morning.

Yesterday, I finally paid attention to the name that I’d heard floating around but had never really registered. Tracy Anderson. The great pretender, as some call her, or Gwyneth and Madonna’s personal trainer, to everyone else. She seems to have completely divided the fitness world. She has very strict beliefs, e.g. women shouldn’t lift more than 3lbs if they want to have thin arms. She’s created a form of exercise called ‘dance cardio’, and I’ve been told she tends to give little instruction and smile even less.

The programme of exercise that works for you is a very personal thing, so it was little wonder that I found such a dichotomy of opinion. I’ve danced for a substantial portion of my life, so can pick up routines quite quickly, and I don’t necessarily need a running commentary on it. I also hate doing weights, I really struggle to lift anything very heavy, so that side of things works for me to. The only thing to do was to try it. I looked up some of her free webcasts, along with a routine she did with Nicole Richie, and I absolutely LOVED them. It made me sweat (sorry, disgusting), which I welcomed as Pilates makes me sore but doesn’t yield any perspiration (was that less horrible sounding?!) I enjoyed all the hopping about and twisting round and kicking (sounds like my last date…badoom tish.) I liked Tracy, I found her to be earnest and not nauseatingly false.

So, I’ll be adding about 20 minutes of her to the end of my Pilates for next week, as I felt my cardio was lacking last week. I’ve also purchased the Snog healthy treats cookbook – £7.07 on Ebay as opposed to £17 in Smith’s. I love love love Snog, and it’s a beautiful book – I’ll blog a couple of recipes from it once I’ve tried them, so you can all join in. I’ve got a detox cookery class with Nosh Detox coming up on Thursday too, in South Ken. Should be fun, and I’ll report back on that too. I know it feels anti-instinctive to be doing this health kick now instead of January, but I just see it as getting a head start on my New Year’s Resolutions. I refuse to sit back, make excuses, and get even more unhealthy over the festive period. Let me know if you’re doing anything similar, or if you keep a fitness blog yourself

I promise these self obsessed health blogs won’t be the only thing I talk about these days – I’ve just been super duper busy setting up my jewellery business (nearly there, fingers crossed!), and my free time is either spent writing articles, or visiting spas and fashion events and things. I know, I know. It’s a tough life. But someone’s got to do it.

Big fat healthy Snogs xx

Tracy Anderson, my new queen

Frozen yog - my new ice cream


POP Pilates, the anti-bikini body, and a challenge…

Oh, Autumn/Winter. A good season for so many reasons, not least of all fantastic parties, open log fires, steaming cups of Earl Grey on drizzly days, tramping through woods, rubbish but totally brilliant black and white films in the afternoon, mulled wine…..

Weirdly, I seem to always get into some sort of heavy duty exercise/eating routine around this time of year. I naturally like salads and lighter food, so I get to a point in Winter where I don’t want to see a potato, or a hearty stew, or something with mushrooms in. I also feel like I’m getting one up on my New Year’s resolutions. Because, after all, who feels like changing anything on January 1st? I’m usually nursing a hangover and feeling violent unease at the prospect of the new year.

I’ve been trying to eat fairly healthily at the moment, but had a bit of a lapse this weekend, and I can already feel the results. I feel sluggish (the worst word known to man), unmotivated, and generally not a very happy bunny. I’ve been doing some Pilates videos I found on YouTube, hosted by a very smiley and cheerful girl called Cassey Ho. I used to think Pilates was pretty much like yoga – ok for flexibility, but generally still the home of mung bean eating, New Age music-listening, crystal waving types. Then along came Cassey, with her glam gym gear, her huge smile, her insanely tough workouts, and a soundtrack including Shakira, Gaga and Rihanna.

I barely managed 2 minutes of one workout, and I realised that this was something I really wanted to do, and get good at. I went and checked out Cassey’s site: It’s amazing – bright colours, inspirational stories, motivational slogans all over the place. It’s very, very American, and I loved it. I spotted Cassey was running a 90 day challenge (sadly with only 60 days to go) comprising of 5 days of pilates/cardio workouts a week, combined with a good healthy diet. It seemed destined to be. So much of being able to motivate yourself and keep pushing through when you’re flagging is having someone energetic, encouraging and aspirational, and I think Cassey manages to achieve all of those things.

Right, waffle over. Go and check her out. Don’t blame me if you get sore thighs (ah…how many times have I said that in my life?!) Basically, I’m going to attempt to follow her challenge – not quite to the letter, because I’m not exactly going to be eating a stir fry for Christmas lunch, am I? But I’m going to try. Out go the cakes again, refined sugars and bad carbs, in come the fruit and veg and porridge. I’ll be attempting to track in on this blog – only every week though. Nobody needs to know what I’m eating every single day, for Chrissakes. Have a look yourself – maybe you’ll be joining me?!

Then you’re going to be a star…

I just finished watching ‘Cherry’s Body Dilemmas’ on BBC3. Now, let me just explain myself. This is not at all the kind of thing I usually watch, and I wish I could claim that I found it revelatory, or that it was a cut above the rest of a slew of similar shows, or even that the people interviewed were uniquely charming. It was none of these things. Cherry Healey seems like a very sweet person with a totally darling little girl, but that doesn’t change the fact that this show gave me nothing new whatsoever. What’s that? Girls in their twenties with body issues? Someone who is ok with being ‘fat’? How strange – one girl wants a bigger bottom, not a smaller one. And a nudist! Goodness me, just mull over these different points of view! My mind has well and truly been expanded.

There was something that was different, though, which really had little to do with the actual content of the show, but more to do with my reaction to it. At some point during the last couple of years, without actually registering it at all, I’ve become really happy with my body. What?! How did that happen? It strikes me as funny that something so huge and all-encompassing has just changed for the better, and I’ve not even noticed. It’s especially bizarre when I think about all the hours spent agonising over my looks as I grew up, and even moments of claiming I ‘hated’ my body.

In the show, Cherry trawled through her old diaries, shocked at how many pages displayed scrawled longings for a thinner body. I know even without looking at mine that they contain some similar pages, particularly at a few choice periods of my life. I’m fairly sure there might even be lists somewhere, of everything that I felt was wrong with myself, or things that I wanted to change. I remember going on crazy diets, not eating for days, then falling off the wagon spectacularly. School, my lovely Private all girls school haven, was obviously an interesting place for this kind of malarkey. I distinctly remember an ‘anorexia watch’ at lunchtimes that made sure we were eating enough.

I remember one awful Summer, long ago, where I suddenly became horribly self-aware. Even in the most blazing of hot days, I kept myself swathed in a long, thick coat, because I was simply too self-conscious to go without. I weighed myself obsessively, I noted down everything I ate, I cried and cried to myself and imagined how perfect everything would be if I just lost all that terrible weight. I can’t ever have been more than 9 stone, if even that, but I felt huge. Even at uni, during stressful periods the eating was always the first to go. Break-ups, exam stress, anxiety, and suddenly I’d be eating less and less. But so what? Ask a certain type of girl, and they’ll all cite exactly the same experiences.

My worst habit is getting too into things. So I’d start with ‘healthy eating’, which was just trying to be a bit more careful, you know, not a diet or anything, obviously, but just eating a bit more fruit and veg. Two weeks later and all bad foods would have vanished. Another fortnight after that and I’d be eating a bit of vegetarian sushi from M&S and obsessing over calorie free drinks. Another two weeks and I’d be falling into a pile of cake.

What changed, then? It must be a number of things, looking back. I haven’t weighed myself in years, for a start. Last time I did I think I was around 8 stone, but that doesn’t really mean anything to me in the real world. Clothes sizes are untrustworthy, so I make a point not to care too much about those. I got into exercising, but not obsessively. I ran to raise money for Cancer Research, and I loved doing that. I started listening to compliments from girls and boys, instead of shrugging them off. I learnt to dress for myself. I am now extraordinarily confident about my body, in a way I never even dreamed would be possible.

I only measure myself against myself these days, if that makes sense. Years ago I used to constantly look at other girls and think ‘are my thighs bigger or smaller than hers?’ It was ongoing, and thoroughly miserable. Now I just focus on me, because really, what’s the point? It’s not like you’re going to be able to swap thighs with that girl, so why agonise over it? Exercising has helped hugely, because you start thinking about what your body can achieve, instead of what it can’t. I eat what I want, at regular intervals, and I never look at calorie counts, because that’s a downhill slope for me. I avoid anything ‘low fat’ or ‘sugar free’, because it’s rammed full of nasties. I enjoy food, and I enjoy cooking. I started looking outside of myself. I met people who’d suffered life-threatening illnesses and were glad just to be alive. I’m now an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and I’ve learnt so much about being grateful for what I have.

But back to the confronting the day to day issues. Experimenting with my clothes has really been a huge saving grace. I have a very small waist that I used to hate, as I thought it made my hips and shoulders look bigger. Now, I’m grateful. There’s a classic Edith Piaf quote that says ‘use your faults, use your defects, then you’re going to be a star’. Now, I don’t like to think of my body as defective in any way, but I catch her drift. Sometimes it’s the things that you hate about yourself that you learn to love the most. I used to always long for blue eyes growing up, going so far as to look into coloured contacts (the ultimate in vanity, as far as I’m concerned) until I realised that my dark green eyes are one of my best features. Likewise, I am now almost inordinately happy and proud of my bottom, after years of –ahem- eyeing up Kate Moss’s boyish posterior.

I’m afraid I’m going to bring this back to a bad note, though.  Being confident about your body is not necessarily the difficult part – it’s how that confidence is received the people around you. After all, it’s not how we, as women in 2011, are expected to feel. How many times have you bonded with friends by saying ‘I wish I had her legs’, or ‘you’re so lucky to be so thin, if only I was like that’. Putting yourself down is part of the female experience. I can’t imagine myself sitting in a group and going ‘god, I’m sooo lucky to have the body I’ve got. I look great. Right guys? Right?’ It’s just totally anti-instinctive. I’m not sure it’d be a good thing to happen either, actually.

So what do we do, then? I truly believe chucking away the scales and stopping the ghastly diet is a good step. Compliment your friends. I know so many beautiful girls, and I must make sure to tell them more often. In turn, listen when you are complimented. And if you’re feeling positive about a part of your body, be proud of that! There’s no reward in putting yourself down. We are told, as women, (and very probably men are too), that it’s ok to feel insecure. This is damaging! Why should we? Why are we now expected to be so unhappy with ourselves? This is my primary issue with Cherry’s program. It was all about her insecurities, and coming to a vague happiness with herself (which I’m not sure she did.) What about actually encouraging us to be happy with ourselves?

Sorry for the long post. This is something I clearly feel strongly about. We all have the right to feel beautiful.