Rewards – because you’re so worth it

Let’s talk rewards.   In this fast paced world,  we can feel pressured to be everything to everyone and to do it all in our home life and career.   Whether you’re a working mum or full time homemaker,  a dad providing for his family and diy-ing everything around the house,  a student trying to get good grades or a young person trying make your parents proud, in the modern world the weight of the traditional stereotypes still bares heavy.   All these things build up into stress,  which for me was one of the reasons I ended up at a very unhealthy weight.   I take full responsibility for myself.   I just didn’t make good choices about what I ate or did.

Making the decision to change my lifestyle was the first achievement.   As I’ve mentioned before,  the achievements that come along during the long journey need to be recognised.   Whether just mentally noted or written in a journal.   I’m a visual type of person,  so seeing my progress on paper,  in a chart or comparison photos helped me to realise how far I’d come.   I believe achievements should be celebrated in a practical way.  There is no harm in giving yourself rewards.

It’s important to be kind to yourself and take the time to do something for yourself.  Essentially we need to love life and enjoy the present.   I learnt to be kind to myself by using treats and rewards for reaching small targets/goals and celebrating non scale victories.   The main thing here is that these treats and rewards would not include food.   I had to break the cycle of food related treats,  I used to think, “I’ve had a great exercise session,  so now I’ve earned a chocolate bar”,  sounds crazy but true.   Besides my food treats can be worked into a daily meal plan as part of a balanced diet,  this way I stay in control.   I try not to make them an extra thing because this can get out of control and lead to overindulgence.

Some of my favourite treats are baths with a new bubble bath on the market,  scented candles,  nail polish, make up,  costume jewellery,  a book or a new cd/music download – somehow life feels better to music.   Some treats have helped to enhance my healthy lifestyle,  a new pair of shoes/trainers/walking shoes, leads to new socks or sports wear which spur me on to exercise more.  Then there’s gadgets and technology which I see as investments into my healthy lifestyle,  or just a simple bunch of flowers or a plant that brighten my day.

Photo of walking shoes    Be kind to yourself – new walking shoes or a bunch of flowers, some of my little celebration treats

Rewards and treats don’t always have to be new things.  I’ve enjoyed rediscovering clothes, cosmetics and toiletries I had stored at home and not used. There were also the clothes that were too tight or small that now fit.   I even had new clothes that I couldn’t quite fit into or didn’t like how they looked.  As my body shape changed,  I would try them on and be delighted when the day came that I was more comfortable in them.   This sort of thing also gave me a little target to aim for.   Whatever you’re choice of celebration is,  the thing to remember is to mark the moment……..after all, you’re so worth it!

He’s making a list…..checking it twice…(Gadgets)

With Christmas just around the corner,  it’s not just Santa who is making lists.   Over the years of my journey to a healthy lifestyle I’ve discovered some practical tools and gadgets that have helped me, made my life easier or more importantly jazzed things up and made life more enjoyable.

It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of buying a new gadget/toy, using it a couple of times and then it ends up in the back of a cupboard or even remains brand new in the box for months.  So I try not to buy things on impulse but rather think about how useful it will be to me.

Given that the cost of these purchases can add up, for the more expensive items I tend to go for things that I consider an investment for my healthy lifestyle and with long term use I will get my money’s worth out of it.

Here are 10 of my absolute favourite things which I would no longer be without.

(Please note I am not promoting, advertising or recommending these products. These are purely my thoughts, based on personal use.)

1 .  Kitchen scales – I bought kitchen scales at my local supermarket right at the beginning of my weightloss journey.  Accurate portion control is important to following the Weight Watchers plan.  I still weigh and measure my food, it became a habit and works for me.

2.  George Foreman Grill – My family was given one of these grills as a Christmas present many years ago and it is now a permanent fixture in our kitchen.  It is used by the whole family every day.  As soon as one breaks down, we get a replacement straight away.  It has significantly reduced our use of a frying pan.  We grill all sorts of things in it, burgers, sausages, chicken breasts, vegetables and toasted sandwiches.  Any fat in the food just runs down into the drip tray and you’re left with healthier, flavoursome food.

3.  Day to a page diary – I’ve spoken before about how useful my diary has been to me.  I have quite a collection of diaries now.  Meal planner, shopping lists, receipe notes, thoughts journal, exercise notes, body measurements, it’s my healthy lifestyle record all in one place.

4.  Dolce Gusto Coffee Machine – We have to have a little of what we really like in life.  This machine has brought the coffee shop experience to my home and is more economical in the long term.  I like to take a little ‘me’ time when I get home from work, enjoy a coffee and sweet treat before I start to attend to the demands of home life.

Photos of healthy lifestyle aids
My favourite healthy lifestyle tools/gadgets

5.  Weighted Fitness Hula Hoop – I absolutely love a dance workout with my hula hoop.  I was never a hula hooper as a child and it took me several weeks to learn even to keep the hoop up for more than a few seconds, but it was a lot of fun trying.  Now I’ve mastered it, I hula hoop all around my living room to my favourite tunes for 30-40 minutes a few times a week.  As well as being a fun way to keep active, it has benefited my body shape, especially toning my waist, hips and legs.  You can see my hula hoop in action here.

6.  Electric slow cooker – A slow cooker is very convenient for making all sorts of dishes with minimum effort.  Simply place the ingredients in the pot and let the slow cooker do it’s magic.  It does require some advance preparation to put the slow cooker on 6-8 hours before the meal needs to be served.  I use mine to make stews, casseroles, joints of meat, dessert rice pudding, etc.  I have a couple of slow cooker recipe books containing amongst other things, slow cooker cake recipes.

7.  Milk Frother – I purchased this little battery operated gadget online for a couple of UK pounds.  I use it to make non-machine coffee with instant coffee.  There is an array of flavoured instant coffees currently available in the supermarkets.  After heating the milk, the milk frother gives it that light whipped texture of a latte or cappuccino.  See my milk frother in action here

8.  Fitness Tracker – Since starting my weightloss journey, 13 years ago, I’ve used a pedometer to keep track of my daily step count.  My original pedometer was very basic, it clipped onto my waistband/belt and showed me how many steps I’d made in a day and the distance covered.  My use of the pedometer was dependent on me actually remembering to put it on in the morning.  After a while the novelty worn off and it ended up in a cupboard.  Three years ago I became aware of the advances made in fitness tracker technology.  I decided to treat myself and now I wouldn’t be without it.  It is so motivating and I’ve never been more active.  I have the wristband model, which I only take off in the shower (even though it is waterproof).  You can set your personal targets and it tracks a whole host of satistics – steps, distance, active minutes, sleep, exercise, amongst other things.  It syncs with an app and you can connect with your friends and join in challenges.

9.  Spiraliser – These have become very popular over the last two years. There are some very fancy models on the market with price tags to match.  I prefer to keep things simple and rarely buy the latest fad thing but I came across a handheld model at my local supermarket for a very reasonable price.  It can be used to make vegetable or fruit spirals and ribbons.  My favourite so far is courgetti, which I use as an alternative to spaghetti and pasta.  See one of my delicious spiralised meals here.

Photos of healthy lifestyle aids
My favourite healthy lifestyle tools/gadgets

10.  ActiFry (Air Fryer) – This is probably my most expensive healthy eating investment.  It has transformed my cooking life, allowing me and my family to enjoy healthy fried food.  Chicken, meat, vegetables, chips, if you love fried food, you’ll love the ActiFry.  It uses hot air to cook the food with a minimal amount of oil.  It comes with a small recipe booklet which gives ideas of the dishes that can be prepared and there is also a recipe app available for mobile devices.  In my opinion, a brilliant invention that is kind to the waistline.  See one of my tasty ActiFry meals here.

So there you have it, these are the goodies I have filling my healthy lifestyle stockings.  What will you have filling yours?

Make your Christmas a cracker!

With the holiday season well underway and the big day just around the corner,  you may be wondering how you’re going to make it to the New Year without piling on the pounds.   As a Weight Watchers member for 13 years,  I’ve had a range of experiences during the festive season.   My post Christmas results have always reflected the approach I’ve taken and my actions during the holidays.

Like many people,  my Weight Watchers journey began in the month of January,  I seized the New Year spirit and resolved to lose weight.   By the time I encountered my first Christmas as a member I had reached 54 pounds weight loss and felt pretty good about myself.   At this point,  my view of Christmas was a no holds barred 2 weeks break from thinking,  pointing or tracking anything I ate and drank.   To me this meant I was free to indulge or should I say over-indulge.

Christmas photo of CC before WW
The Christmas before I joined Weight Watchers – 19+ stones

My festive treats actually began in October when the supermarkets began running the promotion on tubs of chocolates.   What a bargain,  a whole tub of my favourite chocolates for £4,  I bought two tubs.   But despite being placed safely in a cupboard to be saved for December, those chocolates didn’t see the end of November as the “I’ll just have a couple” phrase became one of my daily sayings.

After getting caught in that trap for 3 years in a row,  I finally learned that if I don’t want to eat a tub of chocolate then I don’t need to buy promotional tubs of chocolate in October.   Now I just don’t buy them at all.   My children get an individual chocolate selection box,  which is more than enough for them.   As for myself,  I buy a chocolate advent calendar,  which gives me manageable individual pieces to enjoy one a day.

In reality Christmas is a season rather than a day.   Like all events and occasions,  it requires some thought and planning.   All the tools and strategies learnt during the year become very useful at Christmas time.   I know what my danger zones are so I mentally prepare myself if I don’t want to indulge at that time or simply have a little less than I would if I wasn’t thinking about it.   I also make sure that I stock up on my favourite healthier snacks so that I’ve got an alternative to reaching for whatever goodies are on the dining room table.

One strategy I particularly like is to make a personal decision about what type of season you want to have… maintain the loss you’ve already made, to register a loss at the scales after Christmas or to be comfortable with a weight gain.

Photo of CC at Christmas
My first Christmas as a Weight Watchers member after 54lbs loss

After my first Christmas as a Weight Watcher,  I gained a whopping 9 pounds in the 2 weeks between weigh-ins.   It took me a full 6 weeks to lose those pounds and get back to my pre-Christmas weight.  The following Christmas my weight gain was 5 pounds, which took 2 weeks to get off and my third Christmas registered a 2.5 pounds weight gain.   As I believe, ‘when you know better, you can do better’.

The difference over the years has been the experience and knowledge I gained not just about making better choices but more importantly about myself,  what I wanted and what works for me.   I’ve always tried not to beat myself up about not sticking to my best intentions and plans,  I try to use so called ‘failures’ as learning experiences and move forward.

For many years I’d heard about people who can lose weight over the Christmas period.   I thought it was a myth and wondered what kind of people they could be,  until it happened to me!   Two years ago,  I made a firm decision that I wanted to maintain my weight.   I continued to plan and track my meals in the run up to Christmas Day.  I decided not to track my food & drink on Christmas Day itself and Boxing Day and to resume planning/tracking on the 27th December.   I also planned in some exercise for the days that I would be at home, all in an effort to balance Christmas indulgence and healthy lifestyle.   The result was a surprising 0.5 pound weight loss!   This may not sound like anything to shout about but I was absolutely delighted. It opened my mind to what is possible and what I am truly capable of achieving.

Photo of CC Christmas 2018
Christmas 2018 – maintaining goal weight

Now this Christmas,  I find myself in a good place – at my goal weight.   The introduction of the Weight Watchers Flex/Freestyle programme with the emphasis on including more high protein/fibre foods with meals, suits my tastes and lifestyle.   I will again be keeping my meals healthy during Christmas week,  making sensible choices when attending functions and indulging on my favourite festive eats & treats on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.   I’ll be twirling my hula hoop to some Christmas tunes and probably racking up some Fitbit steps in the January sales.

So how will you approach your festive season?   Whatever you decide,  the most important thing is to enjoy yourself.   After all ‘tis the season to be jolly!   Have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.