Thursday, 23 April 2015

#RestartTheRescue

Once upon a time I lived in a state called Tasmania. It was and is a beautiful island of mountains and rivers, beaches and forests. The snow fell in winter, the sun shone in summer, sometimes. There were farms and orchards, fish aplenty in the seas, in Tasmania I had a life that many would envy.

Except there was darkness. A sad childhood which repercussions were still rippling through my life decades after the abuse had stopped, a marriage which ended due to violence and the loss of two babies. I had had enough of Tasmania's memories, of it's darkness, of it's prison like atmosphere, for Tasmania's first role in the British occupation was that of a prison, and to me that's what Tasmania represented.

I had to leave. I chose the UK. I arranged the correct legal documents, I sold my possessions, I saved my wages and I emigrated. I found a flat, I found a job, I built a new life. I rescued myself and restarted my life. I have a wonderful job, a beautiful family, a home of my own, and wonderful friends and contacts all around the world. I am blessed beyond measure.

I didn't have to walk the Sahara wondering with every step would I survive. I wasn't chased down by my government. I didn't have to pay people smugglers. I had a nice seat on a lovely plane next to a wonderful lady, herself an immigrant, but the other way, returning to England to see family.

Being a migrant is my identity, like my father before me, like my ancestors. We have a family history of migration, of starting again.

I have a desk in an office in Manchester and one of my colleagues John, worked for the Eritrean Community. I think of him often, and the stories he would tell me of his homeland that he loves so much and misses every day. He works tirelessly to help those in his community but also to fulfil his father's wish to share his language and culture and to get his PhD whilst also providing for his family. When I talked to him about his views on home and the risk of dying he sung this to me.



This world is not my home
I'm just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me
From heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home
In this world anymore.


I don't know what the answers are but I do know no child is born to die at sea, and they are not meant for heaven yet. I do know we need to act compassionately. Whenever faced with issues I still go to the faith of my childhood and my Sunday school belief of what would Jesus do.

"What you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for Me"

#RestartTheRescue

Save The Children 


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Thinking Slimmer - Stage 2 the next 4 weeks

So ends part one of Thinking Slimmer where I was introduced to my first Slimpod. On my first listen I thought "this is it? This is the miracle that will assist me reach my goals? Okaaaay" I was prepared to believe in it, after the miracle cure for my nightmares and flashbacks late last year with NLP, however I must admit to feeling a little disappointed that it was so simple.

Each listen I took something new out of it, and started changing. I had already made huge changes but hadn't seen the results I had hoped, and the reason was this I think. I didn't trust myself. One of the things slimpod says is "you can trust yourself" and I believe it now. I can make sound eating decisions, I can exercise and I can do this, and in fact I AM doing this. I can also be happy about my size and the changes and not feel frightened. Previously as I have shed weight I have felt vulnerable, now I feel stronger. I look stronger. And I will look how I dream, slim and strong.

I write this from my Chromebook balanced on my size 20 jeans. My size 24 jeans in the bin, not fit for donation. I  bought a size 18 t-shirt on holiday which now fits. I am progressing.

I love food for the first time in my life. I am enjoying food as my friend, not the enemy. I am loving all the colours, and textures and flavours. Fruit and some vegetables taste incredibly sweet. I am enjoying my low sugar life. The biggest surprise to me is I am eating low carb. It wasn't a conscious decision, as I believe carbs are essential but its just coming naturally to me at present. I think once I start more strenuous exercise carbs will come back more into my diet but right now what I eat feels right.

I can trust myself to make good decisions. It's amazing.

So I set goals at the beginning of my slimpod journey and I want to set some new ones.

For the next 4 weeks I will:

1. Listen to my slimpod and chillpod every day in the evening, plus listen to chill pod when I feel like stress eating.

2. I will not eat chocolate for 4 weeks. I've still been having 4 squares of dark chocolate each evening, but I don't need it any more. If I want chocolate I will have it, but I would like to see over the next 4 weeks if I can do without.

3. I will join the gym and attend 3 times a week at least, on top of my existing activity not as a substitute.

4. I will stay focused on my goal to be a size 16 by my holiday to Spain in January.

I am really looking forward to rejoining the gym, I actually love exercise and I am going to get myself a really nice set of gym kit and sparkle! I am not a great cardio lover but this needs to be my emphasis, as I am so muscular under all this excess stored energy, that if I do too much in terms of muscle building I will gain too much bulk, so all things in moderation, some weights but plenty of cardio, and loads of swimming. I am going to get myself a bikini to wear to the gym. Why not? A swimsuit shows nearly as much, and quite frankly if anyone is repulsed by my tummy they can a) look the other way and b) get over themselves

Last time gym was my punishment for being a fat person, now it's going to be my friend to help my slimmer me emerge, and my "me time" where I can just be me, listen to my music, exercise my heart out and have fun!

I am ready for the next 4 weeks. Bring it!

I can and I will.




Restart the Rescue

"You have pre eclampsia, and we need your consent to deliver your baby", the consultant quietly said, his voice very serious.
"Could the baby die?" I asked.
"Yes", he replied.
"And if we do nothing?" I asked.
"We lose you both".

So I signed I made the decision, to have my child born at 27 weeks and have him at the mercy of the world rather than inside me, which had become a hostile environment, the only home he had known, one he wasn't meant to leave, not yet. But although I loved him, my placenta did not. The hardest choice, knowing that for him to have any chance of survival I must expose him to great risk, to pain, to an enormous fight.

How heartbreaking that the first fluid he received was not my breast milk, not formula, but morphine, to prepare him for the troubles ahead. Not sweet air, but a ventilator. Such huge mountains did my tiny baby climb.

It was the right choice. He turns six in just 3 weeks. He wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon and save lives. It was completely the right choice.

What if that womb was my own nation? What if the land we were born to became hostile? Due to regimes so viciously determined to obliterating parts of their population we can't even imagine. Due to famine. Due to war. Due to persecution. What if the option to stay meant certain death and the option to leave meant probably death? What would you do? What would you want for your children? Would you have the courage to walk across the Sahara with your baby and partner in the hope of a safe new life?

I have sat with Eritrean children in my office, letting them draw pictures with my sharpie pens I use for work training, whilst their parents receive advice from the Eritrean community leaders who help them navigate their time in Britain, to settle, and to lead productive, worthwhile lives in their new country.

I have seen them draw pictures of flowers and sunshine and happy faces. This is what being safe means to them. Having happy families who can safely and quietly go about their business. Use their degrees, practice their Christian face (sorry UKIP so many of these migrants are more Christian than the likes of you could every hope to be.

I am a long standing supporter of Save the Children through my blog, and through my private giving.

Please join the Restart the Rescue campaign, use the hashtag #RestartTheRescue on social media, and please let's try to make a difference. I have no idea what the answers to the migrant issue are, but I know children dying at sea isn't the answer. No child is born to die.

I ask you to do what you can, write, give, make someone listen that these children deserve much more than to die at sea. They deserve safety, warmth and love, every child deserves that. Not to perish because to stay meant more certainty of death than leaving.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Taking Care of You in the NICU - the book

When I started this blog it was always my intention to write a book. There are a few good books out now, more than there were when I was going through it as a parent, but often these books are about the baby's journey. Joseph's journey was unique to him however in terms of a 27 weeker, quite ordinary. And the period after his birth up until now has been remarkable and exciting and wonderful to me, but in many ways most unremarkable.

The book I would have liked is "How to survive your baby's hospital stay whilst retaining what is left of your sanity" or "How to feed yourself, express breast milk, retain your marriage, keep up your bill repayments AND enjoy your baby". So basically self care and mindfulness.

I am a practical person, and when going through NICU I found the practicalities quite hard, and I do think had I had more insight I would have been less likely to have as severe PTSD as I did. I am keen to give other parents a framework to help them take care of themselves and each other, and to thrive as parents.

My book won't be for every parent who goes through neonatal, and that's ok! I am grateful that many parents don't need such a book, they get on with it, they thrive, their babies thrive and the neonatal journey is a small part of their lives.

But for some parents those neonatal days stay with them, they mark them, and they threaten to define their parenting. Is it possible to intervene with a book to help minimise those scars that neonatal days leave? I have no idea. Perhaps it would be of no help at all. But I feel that I want to try, by sharing tips, giving the advice I wish I'd had, and tips from others too.

Would you have read such a book?

What would you have liked it to contain?

What piece of advice would you like to share for parents entering the NICU?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Slimpod and the German Holiday

Travelling when on a weight loss journey is always a bit of a challenge. We have travelled to Germany many times as a family and our trips have always revolved around food. My mother in law is an amazing cook and passionate about food. We eat bakery food, ice cream, lots of meals out and have lots of treats, and add to this that our trip was over Easter time, I was concerned how my new lifestyle changes would bear up.

As you may know I have been using Slimpod by Thinking Slimmer to help with this new lifestyle I am on. I decided I would trust in Trevor, the cognitive hypnotherapist who voices the slimpod, and listen twice daily. The goal of the Slimpod is to help you eat intuitively and naturally, food becoming a small, natural part of your day.

I decided not to plan and just go with it. I kept my breakfasts pretty much similar to home except having natural muesli rather than porridge, using nut based milks, and having fresh fruit. This kept me full until lunch time. Lunches were a little challenging as we were usually out. I chose as healthily as possible. German eating out food is very different to what Germans eat at home, I find. It's very heavy on cheese, so my dairy free policy relaxed a bit. I decided it was easier to go with the flow. What I did do was keep my drinks healthy, either water, black coffee or herbal tea, and no desserts following my lunch time meals.

One of the things we love to eat in Germany is ice cream. In Herford are at least 4 ice cream parlours serving the most amazing sundaes. I decided that I would have ice cream in Germany as it was our last trip to Herford. I had one sundae on day one, and one on the last day. A big change from ice cream every day.

The Easter bunny came to me on Sunday with a tray of small marzipan filled eggs. It's almost a week since, and I've had three!!!! That's a miniscule amount compared to the old me, and I have put them away and they are there for when I feel I want one.

Evening meals were easy as we had those with my parents in law, my mother in law is a healthy cook, and as a size 14 knows what to eat and how to eat it to maintain her figure. So I ate what they ate in similar portions although the "voice" told me to eat more veggies, so I did that.

My attitude to sweet foods has really changed. I love them when I have them and don't miss them when I don't. I had cake twice in Germany, an apple cake on the morning of travelling back, and a cheese cake on Easter Sunday. The cheese cake was made with quark and didn't have much sugar to speak of, and was a light sponge base, so a wise choice. 

I had to see my GP yesterday for my monthly mental health check, I jumped on the scales and I weighed 113 kilos. Before I left for Germany I was 114.6.

That's a pretty substantial loss, and fairly amazing considering I ate so well, didn't deprive myself, and enjoyed my holiday.

One thing I will add was that we were very active. I walked at least 3 miles every day, we swum twice, I had a few active trips out with Joseph, and made the most of every moment.

I have renewed confidence in my ability to see this through and also to advocate for myself. When I stepped on the scales the GP, who was yet another in the random locum lottery said "oh goodness you are heavy at 113 kilos" and I beamed and said "well done me that's amazing".

He looked at my records and was astounded. All he had seen up until then was an overweight woman with a mental health history. I am a strong woman who has had a lot of issues with food amongst other things, and I can emerge slimmer, and be fit and healthy and have a full and enjoyable life.

It's ok to enjoy food, and to love it. Food is not the enemy. It's great to enjoy getting out and about and walk and run (I know!) and swim. Swimming in Germany is particularly fab as there are all shapes and sizes in all sorts of costumes. Families spend whole days at swimming pools.

Balance and moderation don't come naturally to morbidly obese people, and the Slimpod is helping me acquire a new skill set and insight. 

I am loving life again with a new perspective, and I am confident in my ability to lose weight and use Slimpod to maintain that loss. Forever.

This is new.

This is me.

I can do this, I am doing this, and I will see this through. 


Friday, 27 March 2015

My #slimpod Journey with Thinking Slimmer

As my regular readers will know I have been on my forever journey since the beginning of the year. I have been committed to eating healthier, moving more and losing weight. Only I feel I've been a bit stuck. I have made enormous changes, and have done really well but it felt like something was missing in my journey.

My friend Kate sensed my frustration with my weight loss and made a suggestion that I look at the slimpod by Thinking Slimmer. I had heard of it a couple of years ago but dismissed it. It sounded all a bit hippy dippy to me, how could a thing you listen to make any difference? I know what to do to lose weight I don't need a voice telling me what to do.

However on my journey with my mental health the thing that has worked most powerfully for me is cognitive analytical therapy and neuro linguistic programming, so now was the ideal time for me to try something different.

I started this week and have already noticed some differences. One of the things I was doing was eating healthier alternatives for naughty things. I have stopped doing this. I no longer snack, I eat three meals a day. I was setting myself challengers to drink water, but now find myself drinking water as natural as breathing.

Setting goals has been a scary thing. All I wanted was to lose weight, but as we all know for a goal to be achievable it needs to be specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and on a time frame.

So I have set a goal to be a size 16 by the time I go on holiday in mid July. This voice in my head that says it can't be done is silenced by Trevor's dulcet tones on the slimpod.

I believe in my goal so much I bought myself a dress, a size 16 dress, for Christmas.

I am really looking forward to keeping you updated about how I am doing and showing you some real progress over the next 12 weeks.

I am really excited to be part of a trial and have a group of bloggers and other women all doing it with me, it's lovely to have some support.

Thank you so much to Thinking Slimmer for this opportunity.

*I have been sent a slimpod to try and given access to the site for support, all opinions my own 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Confessions of a Sugar Addict

It's been really interesting being open about my weight on social media. Many people, even those who know me and have met me have said things like "no you can't be obese" "but you lead such a healthy lifestyle". I have had even more interesting comments like "the scales must be wrong" "maybe its the medication you take"

I am indeed obese, and the reason I am obese is that I have taken on too many high energy foods over a long period of time and not expended enough energy to compensate. Simple. Decrease my energy consumption, increase my activity = weight loss. Brilliant. Simple yes, easy no.

This in advertisement I snapped out of my latest Good Food Magazine. And this, my friends, is at the heart of my problem. I have had many difficult periods in my life and have come to rely on sugary foods which usually also contain fat, in order to cope with life and to make myself feel happier.

My dad used to regularly buy us sweets, and I came to rely on them. When at the age of 12 my mum sought advice from a chiropractor to manage my asthma he put me on a whole food diet but we made a fatal mistake. We still used raw sugar and honey. That's still sugar. My downfalls are cakes, biscuits, sugary drinks and chocolate. My meals have always been relatively healthy its the "treats" that are the issue.

This time I am approaching my weight loss in a different way, and this is why my weight loss is so slow. I am making large changes one at a time. Because these changes have to be for life. If I don't change my relationship with food  and more importantly with my self, I will just be back here again.

When I initially started this I bought some alternative sugar products like rice malt syrup, date syrup and coconut sugar. These are still sugar. I thought I would break my reliance on the more familiar sugar first then decrease those, thinking about it, kind of like a methadone programme. I also made Bliss Balls, which are highly calorific sweet hits but don't contain added sugars. I have now decreased all of these in my diet.

I have also decreased my fruit consumption. I still have fruit twice a day but what I have done in the past is immediately replaced my high sugar treats with sugary fruits like mango and grapes. I am now eating apples more often and the very occasional banana and still having the fruits I love but less often.

I have been beating myself up a little and came across this extract from a TED talk about sugar and it made me feel so much better about my situation.

Now I know what is going on, I realise that my approach is spot on. I am concentrating on eating a variety of foods and trying new foods, not relying on the same meals over and over. I have totally eliminated sweet drinks, even artificially sweetened ones. I am drinking water, herb or green teas and coffee occasionally. I am still occasionally having dark chocolate and I think that's for now.

This is a forever journey. It's ok that in the initial stages I'm only losing a small amount of weight. I am making small changes for life I think my weight loss will speed up if I keep focussed and keep making changes.

Sometimes I think it would be much easier to go to Weight Watchers or Slimming World but I am not convinced, having been there before, that that is the right approach for me.

And now I have a firm goal for 2015.

By Christmas I want to weigh 100 kilos. That's 16 kilos off from now.

I can and I will