4 days to go

Yep, four days left in September and I’m getting seriously meta up in here: blogging about blogging about blogging.

I don’t know whether it’s just the fact that I’ve been seriously rushed off my feet for the past week or so, what with travelling to and from Brighton for the SEO conference and then fitting all the work into another short week to get to the last (r)evolution conference on Friday but I’m starting to find it really difficult to blog.

I have a few in progress drafts but the words just aren’t flowing. I’m not even finding any inspiration in my own writing prompts, having used a few already. (And yes, I know that the Septemblog page is massively out of date because I completely FAILED to keep up with everyone else’s posts.)

In an attempt at not giving up at the last minute this is my plea to you guys… is there anything in particular you’d like me to write about? Are you after a follow up to any earlier posts? If you could ask me anything what would it be? Help a blogger out here…

My 5 key parenting principles

Although my parenting ‘method’ is very much make-it-up-as-you-go-along, I have a set of core principles that I believe are important to creating well-rounded little human beings.

Autonomy

I strongly believe in a level of autonomy for my children. Primarily this means bodily autonomy: the freedom to make choices about themselves without judgement or coercion. This means being able to choose if they want to kiss or cuddle a relative (or even me). Choosing whether or not they get their hair cut (and recently, doing it themselves… ouch). Choosing what clothes they wear (within reasonable seasonal / social restrictions, i.e. I encourage them to wear a coat in winter, and to not strip naked in the middle of Tesco). I like to think that if children understand from early on that they have a degree of control over their body, they are less likely to accept unwanted attention as something that is “ok” or “allowed” should that ever occur.

Isabel 'mowing' the lawn
Because who doesn’t like mowing the lawn in their underpants…

Freedom

I feel like I’m raising my children in a culture that is defined and imprisoned by a bogeyman-like threat. An invisible but ever-present scary monster masquerading as the “bad men” who will kidnap our children and do unspeakable things to them. The Daily Mail would have us believe that our streets are lined with rapists and child abusers.

I don’t believe in it, I don’t believe we should be controlled by it, and I certainly don’t think my children’s lives should be unfairly restricted because of it. As such I encourage my children to play unsupervised — I am the parent who goes to the park and sits away from the play area enjoying a coffee. I encourage them to seek adventure — with unrestricted access to our jungle of a garden there’s plenty of mischief to be had. I send Isabel to the local shop for bread or milk — it’s four houses down and never out of sight but to her is a sign that she’s a trusted, responsible, contributing member of the family which boosts her self esteem. Freedom to be, to do, to explore, to play: without interference and direction.

Self-sufficiency

From the moment my kids were able to navigate the world independently, I’ve encouraged them to do so. They are encouraged to walk as soon as they can walk. Fetch their own toys as soon as they can reach. They brush their own teeth, make their own toast, tidy their own room, put their own clothes in the washing machine, scrape their plates (and so on). It doesn’t always go well; teeth sometimes need a second brushing and breadcrumbs in my butter makes me wince, but practice makes perfect. There are days when Izzy ‘forgets’ how to dress herself and wants to be babied and days were Olly is being so fiercly independent that he won’t let me swap his left-foot-right-shoe with the right-foot-left-shoe but 9 times out of 10 they do OK, and I know that I can get on with things I need to do without answering calls of “muuuum” every 30 seconds.

Isabel, 18 months, "mopping" the carpet
Isabel, 18 months, “mopping” the carpet

Respect

Because I know what my kids can do when left to get on with it, I find it much easier to respect them as little independent beings. I respect them enough to assume that they can do ‘stuff’, rather than needing me to do it for them. I respect them enough to talk to them like people, with grown up words and not baby language, and respect their ability to ask when they don’t understand. I try and demonstrate respect to my children so that in turn they will learn to respect the world around them.

Love

Lastly, but most importantly, I surround my children with unconditional love and affection. Because what kind of life is one without love?

“Septemblog”: Day 1 (Attempt 1)

I recently mentioned that I needed to hurry up if I was going to squeeze in the “blog every day” challenge, just in case I mess up and need to start afresh. As it’s now September, this is one of only four months I have left to try this, so here I am. Project Septemblog: aka blog every day in September. Catchy name, I know.

(Seriously. FOUR MONTHS til I turn thirty!)

I hadn’t really thought about setting any rules for the challenge, which would give me the flexibility to ‘cheat’ and post a picture or something if I run out of words, but I don’t know whether that’s just too easy. I mean, I could schedule a post a day with a picture or a motivational quote or similar right now and have nothing to worry about. I can’t help but feel that defeats the point though. So here’s some rules I’m going to try and abide by:

  • Each post must contain at least 150 words
  • Posts shouldn’t be scheduled more than 3 days in advance
  • No more than 5 list posts over the month

As well as blogging every day — because why keep things simple and easy for myself? — I think that to truly involve myself in the spirit of blogging and the blogging community again, I will also:

  • Comment on 5 blog posts per day
  • Retweet or share one other blogger’s post per day
  • Follow on bloglovin, facebook, twitter or instagram one new blogger per day

It’d be awesome if I had some moral support in this, so if you want to take part in Septemblog (you don’t have to call it that ;)) please just join in, and drop me a note in the comments or via email with your blog URL and I’ll do a little round-up of links later on. Alternatively you can show your support by sending me blog post ideas, nagging me to post via twitter or by letting me know which of my daily posts you enjoy / which you find a bit “meh”.

<3

Juneathon Day 7 and the “home gym”

I wrote this last week but have been a tad busy – oops!

Juneathon day 7 saw me take another slightly unorthodox activity day. No, not more vacuuming (although there was plenty of that), but the second Sunday spent totally gutting my home ‘utility’ (that is, brick lean-to outside the back door). The utility is where the washer & tumble drier live, as well as the cat litter trays and 4 years worth of accumulated crap. That is: clutter and rubbish, not 4 years worth of cat crap. Ew.

I have been umming and ahhing recently about using the utility for something other than as storage space for junk I don’t need, and had considered turning it into a bit of a home gym. Nothing special, just a proper dedicated space for my weights (to stop the kids from tripping over them as they play) and my exercise bike. This would be particularly useful with Gaz moving in with all his accumulated junk soon, as the bike is taking up a huge corner of my bedroom.

I recruited the help of my sister as part holder-of-a-big-hammer and part babysitter to give me a hand, and on the 31st May set about stage 1 of decluttering and destroying. This is the utility-cum-gym a couple of hours in (because I forgot to take a proper ‘before’ picture):

utility-before_mini

And this was the same space at the end of that day, having done a fuckton of clearing and two runs to the local recycling centre:

utility-after-day-one_mini

On Sunday 7th we (I say we, my sister didn’t do a lot!) set about ripping out what was left, including the ruined kitchen cupboard which was swollen with damp from a leaky pipe, clearing out yet more junk to the tip:

utility-complete_mini

So now all I have to do is get rid of the under-counter freezer that I don’t need, get some hooks on the wall to hang my bars up, and find some cheap foam matting so that I’m not dropping my cast iron weights down on to the concrete and tada: home gym transformation complete. I might even be able to get a proper bench in there too…

Juneathon Days 4-6

I have to admit the past few days effort at Juneathon have been pretty pathetic, hence me not rushing to blog about them. My excuse is that after my epic (for me) day 2 workout and then the intervals on day 3 I was knackered.

Day 4 I wussed out and took the kids on a short walk / did roundabout spinning duties at the park and day 5 was even more pathetic, with my “activity” being walking to McDonald’s for my lunch. Yep, I’m claiming that.

Today, day 6, I can at least hold my head up and log my activity as a significant time weeding (albeit not my own garden!) and vigorous sweeping. I think that’s more legit than a walk to Maccy Ds anyway.

Juneathon Day #3

After yesterday’s badass workout I was prepared to do a nice slow and steady 5k run tonight so as not to hit my leg muscles too hard, but then a friend reminded me that some local runners were meeting at the nearby park for some speed/intervals work so I went along to that instead.

BIG MISTAKE. We did a pyramid laps session, 1/2/3/4/5/4/3/2/1 laps round the approx 300m track with a minute rest in between each set of laps. Except I wussed out and only did 4 for that middle one — but that’s still a lot of laps! I’m not going to be able to walk in the morning. (Not helped by having eaten barely anything today, either.)

Ow.

Juneathon Day #2

Today’s an easy Juneathon day for me because Tuesday is always badass workout day. For some reason it’s the one workout I rarely skip – probably because it’s early in the week, I’ve usually had a shit day (there’s something about Tuesdays!) and I need that release to get me into Wednesday.

So, here’s my activity log for today:

  • Cardio-based warm-up (including vacuuming again, because I hate working out with cat hair and dust on the floor)
  • 3 x 8 30kg squats
  • 3 x 8 17.5kg barbell glute bridge
  • 2 x 5 17.5kg “bench” (floor) press (basically just did this to kill time between the sets of glute bridges)
  • 1 x 5/5/7/7/7 20kg overhead press
  • 5 x 8 11.5kg bent over dumbbell row (each arm)
  • 1 x 5 43.5kg deadlift (I need some more plates)
  • 35 second plank
  • Static stretches to cool down

I think I’m going to feel this one tomorrow (and possibly regret it!)

I’m taking part in Juneathon

Last week I saw people talking about Juneathon and as a lover of weird and wonderful challenges I figured it’d be something new to take part in and entered as a participant. The general gist is as follows:

  • Run or do some form of exercise every day.
  • Blog or tweet (#juneathon) or post on the Juneathon Facebook Group page about it within 24 hours.

Of course running every day is impossible for me because of childcare constraints, and so I’ll be making liberal use of the “or do some form of exercise” clause. In fact, how better than to start today with: vigorous vacuuming of the entire house.

(Anyone who claims that’s not exercise has obviously never come back after time away to an inch of cat hair coating everything courtesy of your resident moggies.)

I also walked to the school to get Izzy where I’d normally drive. I’m not lazy, it’s just that I pick her up on the way home from work. I picked her up today because I wasn’t at work (courtesy of waking up feeling like death; which incidentally is why I’m not doing anything more strenuous than a bit of housework!)

So anyway, is that a fail on the first day like my original #whole30 or does it totes count?

Kick up the arse

I spent nearly an hour on the phone on Tuesday night with a friend of mine who’s asked to remain nameless (I don’t know why, maybe he thinks you’ll all call him up asking for financial advice too?) Following my comfort spending confession he’s given me a bit of a virtual kick up the arse and set me a challenge (and as we all know, I can never turn down a challenge).

In an attempt to curb both my comfort spending and procrastination, I’m under instruction to:

  1. complete one project and/or
  2. log one months worth of budget figures
  3. and document my progress on here

…before I’m allowed my next glass of vodka.

I’m not sure this challenge is entirely fair. I mean for starters, vodka is important fuel for my growing body. Secondly, doing number 2 actually means pulling my head out of my bottom and unlocking my online banking which I managed to accidentally lock myself out of (but am currently too deep in a river called denial … or something) to do anything about.

But I said yes, so here goes.

My Whole30: the results!

Never mind my food, my lifting and whether or not I carry on this crazy lifestyle change, I know this is the bit you’ve all been waiting for. Have I actually lost any weight or fat?

To refresh your memory, my measurements at the start of whole30 were as follows:

  • Weight: 161.6lbs (73.3kg)
  • Thighs: L: 60.3cm / R: 60.5cm
  • Calves: L: 37cm / R: 37.2cm
  • Hips: 102cm
  • Waist: 84.4cm
  • Biceps: L: 28.6cm / R: 28.4cm

And so… my measurements this morning were:

  • Weight: 156lbs (70.8kg)
  • Thighs: L: 57.5cm / R: 57cm
  • Calves: L: 36.4cm / R: 37cm
  • Hips: 98cm
  • Waist: 79cm
  • Biceps: L: 27cm / R: 28cm

So, even accounting for me potentially being cack-handed with a tape measure, I have lost a significant amount of centimetres all over which adds up to a total 5.6lbs in weight. I have no idea if that’s good or bad as results go (and weight loss was not my motivation for trying whole30) but it does suggest that even as I moaned my way through it because “nothing was happening”: stuff was going on!

Whole 30 Log – week 4 (and a bit)

Day 22 – 22nd Feb:

Made more of an effort to eat well today as Sundays are normally so manic I only eat one meal. Also got some fresh air and light exercise tromping round the woods in Ironbridge with the kids. Still feel fairly “normal” – typical me, basically. No boost, no tiger blood, no obvious benefits to this challenge at all. Considering the amount of hype it gets and the amount of people who rave about their low carb diets being the best thing since sliced bread, well… I’m clearly abnormal.

Day 23 – 23rd Feb:

Crap night’s sleep thanks to Oliver waking me up 6 times, couldn’t get back to sleep after 4:45am. This morning would be a large Americano from Costa type of morning, why did I give up coffee for February too?*

I’ve been reading the blogs of some ultra runners who train and run during whole30 and/or with a paleo diet this evening and can’t help but feel slightly cheated that these people can run 50 miles like this and I’m struggling to run for 3. I wonder if I’m doing something “wrong”? Maybe I should track my meals this week to see if other whole30-ers can make some suggestions…

Day 24 – 24th Feb:

Another bad night’s sleep thanks to Oliver, I think he’s coming down with something. I probably am too as I have 4-5 mouth ulcers and that’s usually the first sign something’s not right.

I finally noticed a positive side effect of this month’s challenge: my nails are ridiculously strong compared to usual. Normally my nails rip or break on an almost daily basis, but I’ve not had that problem in a while. I have one nail that is particularly long and it’s great for nose-picking ;) Apparently this is likely to be the increased water I’m drinking, so may actually be because of giving up coffee rather than specifically whole30-related.

Had a massive chunk of turkey meatloaf (recipe coming soon) and some roasted brussel sprouts and walnuts for breakfast. Bolognese with big portions of veg instead of pasta for lunch, possibly with a banana if I’m not full. Workout night tonight so I may try and fit in some sweet potato around 5ish to see if that helps with my problems working out.

Day 25 – 25th Feb:

Another bad night with Olly so feeling knackered now. :(

Sweet potato before last night’s workout seemed to help. I was able to better cope with 3 rounds at 11.5kg (dumbbell) and then I threw in 15 back squats with the barbell bar (7.5kg; can’t afford weights for it yet) and then further dropsets down to 9.5kg. Was probably the longest/toughest workout I’ve done in ages but felt pretty damn good. Followed it up by a PWO hardboiled egg and then chicken & veg stir fry.

Unfortunately I left the other half of last night’s stir fry, which was to be my lunch, out on the side and the cats tipped it everywhere to get the chicken out so my meals are badly planned and probably a little wonky today. 2 x hardboiled eggs + lashing of homemade mayo, followed by a banana for breakfast. I’ve got 3 big chunks of turkey meatloaf with a quarter of a cauliflower for lunch. Sweet potato for pre-run later. Will probably have steak, chips & salad tonight because it’s Wednesday and I go to Gaz’s and it’s something easy to cook that we both like.

Less pissed off with whole30 affecting my strength following my good workout; my run tonight will be the real test and will confirm whether the difference was the sweet potato or coincidence. I am however pissed off with the fact that over the course of about a week I’ve suddenly lost a cup size. My boobs are disappearing under my very eyes! :( As well as being one of my favourite body features, none of my bras fit properly now. Why can’t the ring of flab around my middle disappear this quickly?

Day 26 – 26th Feb:

Guess who ran a solid non-stop 8km last night? YEAH. Only stopped at 8km because my foot started twinging and I was worried I’d injure it again if I kept going. It was really weird because as I slowed down to a walk, my muscles were almost pushing me forwards as if they wanted me to keep going. I’ve not felt that before. I definitely would have had enough in me to do another couple of km, and annoyingly I was on track for a sub 1 hour 10km as well. Oh well, better to stop short this week and still be able to run than push it to 10km and end up out for 3 months again.

No kids last night so slept better. Two hard boiled eggs and what’s left of the meatloaf for breakfast: all about that protein.

Day 27 – 27th Feb:

Oliver actually slept through last night for the first time all week and I still spent half the night awake. What is up with that?

Thigh is hurting today from Wednesday’s run. While I was running I did think I was favouring the one leg a bit so it’s probably a result of that. Going to skip tonight’s run and aim for parkrun tomorrow morning to give it some extra rest time.

Food-wise I’m still on track. Tuna, cucumber & homemade mayo for breakfast. Massive chicken & avocado salad for lunch. No idea what I’m eating this evening…

Day 28 – 28th Feb:

Nothing interesting to note. Still going. Didn’t parkrun in the morning because tiredness caught up with me – stayed in bed.

Day 29 – 1st Mar:

Didn’t sleep well last night and ended up with another typical Sunday: not eating properly because of distractions. Would have been nice to fix this while doing the whole30 but never mind, I’ll make it my next priority. DIY-ing til late night, scoffed some sort-of-chilli (i.e. it was compliant therefore didn’t contain beans and wasn’t served with rice) before bed.

Could have had a coffee today.. didn’t.

Day 30 – 2nd Mar:

Last day. I feel like I should be champing at the bit to get my chops around some cake and chocolate but to be honest I’m still sure I’ll continue a mostly whole30 approach to my meals, giving myself a bit of freedom on Fridays and Saturdays.

Scrambled eggs & avocado for breakfast. More of that chilli(ish) for lunch, with a banana if I’m still hungry after and then roast chicken tonight to make up for not having it yesterday.

Still haven’t had a coffee.

* Giving up coffee for the month is part of my 30 before thirty challenge, not part of whole30

My #whole30 journey

Unless something happens in the next few days, I’m on track for completing my first whole30. Notice the word first in there? Yeah, that’s because I’d consider doing this again.

So what’s the deal? I thought you were fed up with it!
I have been fed up with it, for almost the entire 30 days. Fed up because I wasn’t noticing changes, positive or negative, and fed up because it was affecting my strength workouts and my running. But in dwelling on what I wasn’t seeing, I was missing the bigger picture: that if this “diet change” didn’t cause ANY negative side effects, then actually it’s probably not that big a change at all. I knew I ate well, but I have been worried about my increased sugar (cake) consumption again recently. If cutting all of this out meant NO carb flu, NO cravings, then actually I probably have this eating thing under control.

What about your workouts/running?
It was definitely super frustrating to find that this supposedly “ideal” diet was actually making me less strong, less fit, less able but in hindsight it was my own fault for not spending more time planning pre workout nutrition. Because I prefer to workout and run on an empty stomach, I normally rely on carbs eaten earlier in the day. (E.g. a pasta lunch would fuel my 7pm workout normally) But… this was obviously a flawed plan under whole30 because I just wasn’t eating as many carbs in the day – and there’s a long time between my lunch (1pm) and my workout/run (6-7pm) Eating half a sweet potato 2 hours prior seems to be the answer.

So what effects have you seen?
Visually, I can see that my boobs have shrunk. I can’t see any other changes but I guess I’ll reserve judgement until I take my measurements.

<TMI>In terms of digestion, I’ve had some weird issues with going to the loo. Normally I’m a regular-as-clockwork, first thing in the morning girl. Some days even twice. There are a few exceptions: e.g. if I eat carb-heavy meals all day I’ll sometimes find it difficult to go first thing the next day, and if I eat Indian takeaway it will often have the opposite effect ;) During the whole30 this changed. Some days I don’t go, some days I go later on in the evening, and there’s been a couple of times I’ve woken overnight needing to poop. Despite this random schedule, I don’t feel uncomfortable and bloated like I do if I’ve not pooped normally (I’m sure Gaz will testify how tetchy I get if I’ve not done a crap for +24hrs) When I do go, they’re smaller and less substantial than I’m used to.</TMI>

My nails are stronger because of my increased water consumption and my sleep is mostly better (kids wake-ups aside).

Physical/visual stuff aside, I’m planning my meals (all 3) better whereas before I only planned my evening meal and made up the other two as I went along. This often meant skipping breakfast or having porridge for both breakfast and lunch.

So what effects were you hoping for or expecting that you DIDN’T see?
I didn’t experience “tiger blood” or any of the supposed concentration / energy benefits. I don’t normally have a problem with my energy levels though.

I didn’t see any positive difference in my body’s reactions to hormone levels. Quite the contrary: because I experienced the peaks and troughs of normal monthly hormone levels my mood was much more volatile. I recognise that it’s normal to have those fluctuations throughout my cycle but the effects on my mood (high anxiety/weepiness during ovulation and then intense anger before menstruation – my doc reckons PMDD) have a massive impact upon my stress levels and as such my mental health.

I know some people claim that they need months and months for the effects of the pill to wear off but this isn’t the case for me: I can feel the effects of not taking the pill within a day and a half, which tallies with the science behind the pill (and is why you have to take it daily for the contraceptive effect to work!) I’ll be restarting the pill as soon as my period arrives (due over the weekend).

How come you managed this but not Sugar-Free September?
Who knows?! Perhaps the strict nature of the whole30 – the idea that if you screw up you have to start again – kept me on track. I do work best under pressure.

So day 31 is pizza and cake day?
Probably not. I am seriously considering continuing a mostly-whole30 approach to food. I will be reintroducing butter ASAP (as I looove my butter and know I’m not sensitive to dairy) and peanut butter in moderate amounts. I will likely continue avoiding white pasta and bread most of the time. I am looking forward to a glass or 2 of wine on a Friday night again, the odd bit of ice cream and cake, ohh cake. I’ve no interest in paleo-ising my favourite desserts, if I want to indulge I’m going to do it and do it properly.

I’m thinking if I could stick to a whole30/paleo-esque approach Sunday-Thursday, that gives me Fridays and/or Saturdays to chill out a bit, go out if I want to, enjoy a pizza with friends. Sensible, balanced approach. Or something like that.