Mindfulness Meditation update…

It has been awhile since I set myself a challenge to get involved with mindful meditation. Its been interesting and frustrating in equal measure and i’m pretty sure I get why so many people try meditation and then give up after a few trys.

I downloaded the audio book – The little book of mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard who promised me that by meditating for just 10 minutes each I would feel less stress and more peace. So i have dutifully worked through the exercises in the book and despite some funny looks from my neighbours (i have meditated outside when I could), interruptions from my children, a very busy and wandering mind who does not like being tamed, I think Dr Collard is right. I do feel calmer and more at peace.

I have a few favourite meditations from the book and if you get a chance to buy the book in whatever format you can I would recommend it. My main piece of advice is persevere!

I will give you an example of my typical meditation routine. I usually meditate on an evening – I am less busy and I can sneak in 10 minutes after dinner is done and before the kids need anything.

The best place for me is either in my bedroom or stood outside on my patio – hence the neighbour’s now thinking I have serious issues as I will happily stand outside in my coat wrapped in blanket for 10 minutes in the freezing cold!!!

It takes me a few minutes for my mind to get what I am trying to do. At first it was all over the place…did i turn the cooker off?…did i turn the dishwasher on?…..I wonder what is on TV tonight?… It would then settle into whichever exercise I had chosen for 1 second and then return to the busy over thinking that causes me so much stress…did I do my job ok today?….why didn’t I think of this or that?…What should I have done differently?…

Honestly meditation at first was exhausting and I was so frustrated that my mind wandered ALL the time. I spent most of the 10 minutes refocusing my mind. It didn’t feel very peaceful I can tell you!!!

After the first week I did find it easier – It is very normal to feel this way but I can understand why people give up. Meditation is a skill, something that requires practice. That practice isn’t always fun but the only way to get better at meditating is to keep doing it!

The second week I tried to get too technical – I tried to include yoga poses. I can honestly say if i’d videoed this I would be full on trending on youtube, twitter and facebook but for all the wrong reasons!!!! Oh dear – an overweight, unflexible 40 year old woman who has very little experience in yoga should not try to run before she can walk when it comes to combining meditation and yoga.

So in my head I wanted to look something like this:

I can definitely say i what i achieved was more akin to this:


I couldn’t reach my ankle let alone my foot and lift it up more than 2 inches of the ground? – you have got to be joking!!

So my combined yoga, mediation experiment ended and I settled with standing or sitting – even I could manage that.

Week 3 was more successful. I didn’t always manage the 10 minutes of meditation and had to ‘make do’ with 5 minutes some nights as quite honestly I would get into bed and think – Crap!! I havent meditated! What I have found is that whilst I am in the moment I can now relax, I can free my mind without it wandering too far…if it does I can bring it back without stressing out too much. It still happens, I still get annoyed but there is definite improvement.

Week 4 and I am a convert. I am even thinking about doing some ‘proper’ meditation courses. I am actually getting grumpy if I don’t have my meditation time. I have stopped meditating every night, I personally find that fewer but longer sessions is helping me focus more. I now schedule me time in 4 days a week, a bit like i would a meeting at work. I put it in my diary as ‘M Time’. I am doing 20 minute sessions as for me the first 5 minutes is still a bit of a fight. It takes awhile before I settle into whatever exercise I have chosen and yes sometimes I fall asleep 😂

Who would have thought I could sit in silence for 20 minutes (certainly not my husband :)) letting my mind free itself to go into what I can only describe as a peaceful lull. I definitely feel less stressed but more than that I feel more focused on who I am. It sounds so corny. I feel more confident in myself and more able to deal with what life throws at me.

I am not stopping my meditation journey – I am going to build on it, but I’m also realistic. People practice meditation for years before becoming a ‘master’ at it. I’m happy to do it my own way to help me and my own life. However you practice mindfulness or meditation – your way is perfect for you. Whether that’s a peaceful walk, sitting in the garden, laying in a darkened room or just having 5 minutes locked in the bathroom!!!

Keep on practising – love Helen

Today’s lunch!!

Warning boring food pic ALERT…

Spanish chicken and salad

Recipe…

4 chicken breast – tin of chopped tomatoes – 12 baby tomatoes – 1 red and 1 green sweet pepper – 1 red onion – 1 small courgette

1 tsp paprika – 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika – 1tsp oregano – 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes – chicken stick cube

Method – dissolve stock cube in boiling water. Place chicken in oven proof dish, chop and add vegetables to the dish. Add tomatoes to the stock then add spices. Pour over the chicken and vegetables.

Bake for 20 – 25 mins at 180C

A typical day on the Exante Diet!

I have tried every diet… weight watchers, slimming world, keto, noom, to name a few. They all worked with varying degrees of success but for one reason or another I could never stick to them.
Exante is a meal replacement diet with hundreds of products.. most of which I love!!
Exante for me gives me good results and although it takes an immense amount of willpower and determination, it’s worth it when I get on the scales.
I have 8 stone to lose, so after the initial big weight loss on week 1 of other diets a loss of 1/2 a pond a week although perfectly healthy is a struggle for me mentally. Exante for me is different.
I also have a problem with food – if I didn’t I wouldn’t be this size. I find removing food and having meal replacements helps. I don’t snack and I only have 1 meal to plan which removes a lot of stress for me. Earlier this year I lost over a stone on Exante, then lockdown hit and I stopped trying to lose weight. I have managed to keep most of it off but I need to crack on and lose the rest of this weight.
I am starting on week 3 today. My first week I lost 5lbs. Second week I lost 2lbs. I am hoping for 3 or 4 lbs this week.

Brekkie

This was breakfast (200 cals).. and it was lush! I had coffee and 500 mls of water and am just about to have lunch which is soup (200 cals).
After lunch I’ll have a cup of coffee and another 500 mls of water – maybe more. Tea tonight will be a 400 – 600 cal meal. I make family friendly food – I’ll blog about this later.. Then after tea I will drink a litre of juice (sugar free) over the course of the evening and have 1 more pack as a dessert before bed. My total calorie allowance for the day is between 1000 – 1200 cals per day. This works for me and I’ve found it doesn’t take long to get into the swing of things And see great results. Yes I’m sometimes hungry but that happens on any diet and yes I have days when I have the odd treat, but it suits me and I love it.

Helen xx

I Am A Deeply Feeling Person

I wear my heart on my sleeve is what people would say if they described me. There’s no hiding how I feel. And I feel a lot.

I have always seen this as a weakness. I empathise so deeply that I am emotional. There is no hiding this – so I just roll with it and carry plenty of tissues 😂

I can and do cry a lot which is not always great and can make me feel less than capable of dealing with life but – I also laugh a lot and feel joy often.

My life is full and I appreciate every emotion – it has taken a long time to realise that actually feeling so deeply and empathising so much is a gift.

This empathy – this connection I feel to others is not a weakness it’s a strength. It’s the reason I do well in my job (which is in social care), because I feel so deeply. I care – not because it’s my job but because it’s built in to me.

I don’t always enjoy it- it’s draining and sometimes I’d like not to care. I’d like to be able to walk away and forget about something that may keep me awake for hours or make my tummy feel a little uneasy. BUT I am who I am and I was most definitely born with an empathy towards others.

Realising and accepting ourselves takes time and is hard. We maybe even only really start thinking about it when time has passed and the real need for understanding has long gone but nevertheless acceptance brings peace.

Love Helen x

Sunny days = holiday days – it should be law!!!

So I’ve come up with a plan that I think the government in the UK should really consider!

A rare clear blue sky!!

When the weather is sunny like this and the temperature is above 25 degrees we should all have a day off! I hate working when I could be at home sunbathing 😂😂

My theory is sound… we have very few days like this in England – particularly the north of England, so it wouldn’t cost the economy too much. Plus the benefit to our mental health would mean we are a better workforce and just nicer people in general!! See I’ve really thought about it!!

In reality it’s my lunch break and I have to snatch 45 minutes of lovely sun and fresh air before going back into my cave (office) which has no natural light and poor ventilation!! I am not bitter though (not too much anyway) I have a job which gives me the money to buy lovely things.

I am hoping we have a lovely summer with plenty of days like this for when I am not working. I have to be honest though – if I hear someone complain about the weather being ‘too hot’ I might kill them!! 🙄😊 I mean come on – it happens so rarely…ENJOY IT!!!!

Ah well … as I have no influence with the UK government at all I will just enjoy my break and count down the hours until home time. I hope you guys are enjoying the weather wherever you are!!!

Love Helen x

New gardening Vlog out now on YouTube!!

For those of you who don’t know I have a YouTube channel to record the progress in my garden and on my allotment. Helens Gardening Life.

Check out my YouTube channel

Gardening is so therapeutic for me. I love being outdoors and growing from seed is just my favourite thing. Being a little more self sufficient is also a big goal.. especially at the moment.

I didn’t start a vlog for anyone other than me. It’s hard to remember what you did when and what has been planted where – well it is when you forget to write stuff down!!

Having a video record gives me the opportunity to look back and see what went well and what was a complete disaster!!! I also love the other gardening vlogs out there as I have learnt so much and they give me inspiration for my Garden and allotment.

I am thrilled to have over 100 subscribers. I would love to have more but really the vlog is for me. I love looking back on them and seeing how far I’ve come. So if you fancy a nosey then please do come and check it out. If you like it please give me a thumbs up and hit the subscribe button!!

Here’s the newest video

Take care, Stay safe… Helen xxx

The trouble with isolation…

We are just over a week into what could be 12 weeks if not longer of lockdown in the UK.

We can only go out to work – if that can’t be done at home, to shop – food and essentials only, to do 1 form of exercise per day such as a walk and in case of medical emergencies. Social distancing means keeping at least 2 metres away from anyone else when you do go out, making trips to do food shops etc a stressful and unpleasant experience.

On balance we have a lot more freedoms still than some countries where a hard lock down has been enforced – and enforced quite brutally.

Self isolating in theory wasn’t a scary prospect for me. I have a large family so no worry about being lonely. I have internet access so can communicate with friends and loved ones and my job is a key worker role that can’t be done at home so I still get to venture out of my house a couple of days a week.

So the question is Why has my mental health taken a nose dive?

I have felt more anxious over the last few weeks than in years. I’ve had a racing heart, dry mouth and haven’t been able to sleep properly and restfully for days. I suspect I am not alone and I’m sharing this to give you a virtual hug and a high five to say I’m right there with you.

The uncertainty of all this is the problem. The time at home self isolating gives us time to think – too much time to think and those of us with a pre-disposition to worry means we are in a constant state of anxiety.

I have stopped watching the news more than once a day. I don’t use google and I stick to my favourite apps rather than roaming the web for stuff to do. This has helped in a way to shelter my poor over active brain from going into an absolute state of panic and causing my anxiety to sky rocket further.

I am bored. I have loads to do but no motivation to do it. Part of me wants to get into bed, pull the duvet over my head and sleep my way through Coronavirus!!!

My only plan is to take it hour by hour. Day by day. I can’t think of another 11 weeks of tension, stress and uncertainty. It sends me into meltdown.

I have written a list of activities that I can do to keep me occupied – so far I have: read, watch films, gardening, colouring, crafts, baking, cleaning, exercise video, school work with the kids, learn something new, take a nap, call a friend.

So far I have managed to do some gardening, watch films and chat to friends. Oh and take a nap – well lots of naps if I’m honest!!

I don’t know what the answer is. I can’t tell you how to motivate yourself as I’m struggling to do much of anything!! All I can say is I’m here – if you need a chat or want to have a moan. Don’t sit there and worry on your own. We are all in this together – all in the same situation. Some of us will deal with it differently to others. There is no right or wrong way, we just need to get through it. Be brave, be strong and be kind to yourself.

Love ya, Helen x

Spring has sprung!

How much better is it when the sun shines, the weather gets warmer and the nights get lighter.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

March is one of my favourite months as it holds so much promise for the year to come. I am not a fan of January and February – its usually cold, wet and just a bit miserable, so when March comes around I feel like a weight has been lifted and I can breathe again.

As it gets better weather and my mood lifts it, I start to make plans. What can I do to make the most of this year? What do I want to achieve and how can I make this year more beautiful than the last?

So what are your year plans?

If you have read my other blog posts you know I am dieting. I have lost over a stone now with quite a bit more to go. There are no timescales…i.e. i want to lose weight by my birthday in June. I have done that before and the pressure sends me loopy and I end up putting weight on instead of losing it. Instead I am plodding on taking it day by day. Some days I do amazing and others…well less so, but on the whole I am reducing my calorie intake and the weight is coming off. This will be a year long challenge…maybe a couple of years challenge but that’s ok – I am a tortoise not a hare and will win the race – eventually 🙂

I am also growing lots of fruit and vegetables this year – I plan to eat all of my lovely produce and find new and exciting ways to cook and preserve what I grow. I hate cooking but know that this will have to change if I am ever going to maintain my weight loss.

Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

As I mentioned above I am getting my growing on this year, my garden is a focus this year. It is definitely a passion of mine but I usually spend a lot of time looking at other peoples gardens and just faffing about with mine. I have started a channel on YouTube Helen’s Gardening Life. Its all about back yard gardening. Combining growing things like flowers with veggies and making use of the space I have which isn’t a lot. Please subscribe if you like gardening… this year you will see my journey from a half finished garden to one filled with lots of vegetables, fruits and flowers.

Maintaining my mental health will also be a focus. I will continue meditating and mindfulness. I love it. Taking half an hour out of my day to refocus and centre myself has had so many benefits recently. I have been having a bit of a down period…it is usual for me at this time of the year. As I said I hate January and February, the lack of light and miserable days really effect me. I have struggled to be mindful – I struggle to do anything to be honest but when I have managed I have felt calmer, happier and able to put things into perspective.

I am looking forward to the next few months. I feel excited and raring to go! Let’s do this!!!

Much Love. Helen. x

Getting my gardening on!!!

I love being outside in my garden. It’s not huge and is definitely a work in progress!! I have always loved pottering and it definitely helps my mental health and overall well being.

This year I have decided to grow lots of beautiful things from flowers to veggies and really get involved in my garden. I so prefer being in the garden to cleaning my house so it’s a perfect excuse 😂

I am starting with container growing and will try to get a couple of raised beds ready for planting in early summer.

Pots on the deck…

I am a complete newbie to veg growing so it’s going to be a steep learning curve. I don’t have a huge amount of space so this is going to be a challenge.

I am lucky to have a mostly south facing garden so sun isn’t an issue…that’s if the good old British weather blesses us this year!! I don’t have a greenhouse but have a conservatory that I can use. I’m planning on buying a couple of cold frames too. Eeek!! I’m excited!!!!!

I have been on YouTube for hours watching videos. My favourites are Kelly’s Kitchen Garden and homegrown.garden. Check them out – I have learnt loads already!!! I’ve also been quizzing my Dad for info. His garden is HUGE and he has his very own allotment at the end of it!! I’ll do a tour soon as it really is something to see to believe!!

Here is a quick video of my garden. It’s on a slope and is weedy and needs a bit of attention but it shows what I’ve got to work with!! I’m excited to show you the transformation and updated throughout the year!!

Sometimes life is just a bit hard!!!

The title really sums up the last couple of weeks for me. Life is a bit tough at the moment with plenty of ups and downs. On the plus side I feel in control of my emotions however on the downside the knock backs just keep coming…

I am still dieting. In the 4 weeks I have been on Exante I have lost 12lbs!!! I haven’t stuck to it rigidly either as I have had the odd day off for birthdays etc. I am still motivated and still plodding on. I am hoping for a good loss next week!!

I feel frustrated with the weather as I want to get out in the garden. It’s cold and wet and my garden actually resembles a bog at the moment! I have bought some lovely plants and have started planting seeds…I love it when they start to grow!! I am growing vegetables seriously for the first time…well I have tried before but only ended up with a few tomatoes and teeny tiny peppers!!

I am starting out with easy crops like lettuce and kale. Carrots and tomatoes will come a bit later but it’s all something to look forward to and lifts my spirits on dull days.

I am keeping my fingers tightly crossed for a decent summer…. here’s hoping for a heatwave!!!! ❤️❤️

Man DOWN!! Almost a diet disaster!

I have had an awful week. I have had the flu. I started feeling ill last Monday, just tired and achy. By Wednesday evening I felt really poorly and spent the next 4 days in bed.

It put a temporary halt to my Exante journey which i was really annoyed about. I had to be sensible though – when I take certain types of tablets I have to eat food as my body is a bit sensitive and doesn’t handle medication well. I tried to stick to protein like eggs and didn’t have much of an appetite anyway. I was mindful about what I ate which was quite easy as I was just too poorly to eat.

I was feeling a little better by Sunday but just couldn’t get back on the shakes. Instead of sticking to low carb a few little bits started creeping in..the odd mouthful here, the odd biscuit there. I then had bread – lovely, squishy, comforting bread. Oh how I have missed it!!! Instead of stopping at 1 slice I had 2, then had a piece of cheesecake later on that day.

Warning bells were ringing in my ears…the slippery slope of a binge was starting and I knew it. I finished the day with a home made chip butty, a few flapjack bites and a chocolate biscuit. Now as binges go this one was pretty tame. It was far removed from my very dark days of depression where I thought nothing of eating a whole cheesecake all at once but it was still a moment of being out of control.

I don’t want to undo all the hard work of the last 3 weeks and it has been hard. I am hungry some of the time. I have food envy some of the time and I feel frustrated and annoyed at myself that I have let myself go to this extent some of the time.

The only thing to do was to draw a line and start again. I knew when I went back to work I would start Exante again so that’s exactly what I have done today. I haven’t let myself give in to excuses – I have had them…the little voice that says….’just eat sensibly, don’t diet.’ or ‘Just have a little snack, it wont matter.’ Today has been hard but I have not given in. I have had 3 exante products…Honeycomb shake for brekkie. Chicken curry and salad for lunch. Black bean exante pot for tea and a strawberry bar for an evening snack. I have drunk 2.5 litres of water. My calories for today will be a little over 800 as I couldnt weight the chicken at lunch and have to account for the sauce it was in.

I am determined but have battled with my inner saboteur trying to derail me. To try and get over this I have set myself a goal of a 4 lb loss next weigh in. For this to happen I will have to be 100% on plan. I just need to keep focus. I really want this.