Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Secret to Successful Fitness Resolutions

This is a guest post by Jacqui Porjes, Personal Trainer, BuggyFit and Yoga Instructor.

[caption id="attachment_858" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Photo by Adria Richards"]Photo by Adria Richards[/caption]

As 2010 beckons, many of us will be aiming for a healthy start to the year. One way to begin as you mean to go on is to make some fitness resolutions.

On average only about 20% of us keep our New Year's resolutions. Unfortunately, some of the biggest failures are found in fitness resolutions. No need to let the statistics get you down though. By following the tips below you'll be better equipped to fall into the successful 20% category.

Choose an attainable goal. Resolving to look like a model is not realistic for most of us, but promising to include daily physical activity in our lives is very possible.

Avoid choosing a resolution that you've been unsuccessful at achieving year after year. This will only set you up for failure, frustration and disappointment. If you are still tempted to make a promise that you've made before, then try altering it. For example, instead of stating that you are going to lose 30 pounds, try promising to eat healthier and increase your weekly exercise.

Create a game plan. At the beginning of January, write a comprehensive plan. All successful businesses start with a business plan that describes their mission and specifics on how they will achieve it. Write your own personal plan and you'll be more likely to succeed as well.

Break it down and make it less intimidating. Rather than one big end goal, dissect it into smaller pieces. Set several smaller goals to achieve throughout the year that will help you to reach the ultimate goal. Then, even if you aren't able to reach your final goal, you will have many smaller, but still significant, achievements along the way. For example, if your goal is to complete a 10K race, your smaller goals could be running a 5K in less than 30 minutes, adding upper and lower body strength training to increase your muscular endurance, and running 2 miles with a personal best completion time.

Make contingency plans: don't assume sticking to your plan will be smooth sailing. Plan on hitting bumps along the resolution road and be prepared with specific ways to overcome them. What will keep you from skipping your workout or stop you from having a cigarette? This may mean seeking help from family or a professional, writing in a journal, etc.

Give it time: most experts agree that it takes about 21 days to create a habit and six months for it to actually become a part of your daily life.

Reward yourself with each milestone. If you've stuck with your resolution for 2 months, treat yourself to something special. But, be careful of your reward type. If you've lost 5 pounds, don't give yourself a piece of cake as a reward. Instead, treat yourself to something non-food related, like a professional massage.

Ask friends and family members to help you. It's good to have someone to be accountable to. Just be sure to set limits so that this doesn't backfire and become more irritating than helpful. For example, if you resolve to be more positive ask them to gently remind you when you start talking negatively.

Don't go it alone! Get professional assistance. Everyone needs help and sometimes a friend just isn't enough. Sometimes you need the help of a trained professional. Don't feel that seeking help is a way of copping out. Especially when it comes to fitness, research studies have shown that assistance from a fitness professional greatly improves people's success rate.

Limit your number of promises. You'll spread yourself too thin trying to make multiple changes in your life. This will just lead to failure of all of the resolutions.

Test your flexibility: realize that things change frequently. Your goals and needs may be very different in April then they were when you made your resolution in January. Embrace change, even if that means that your resolution is altered.

Keep a journal. A journal helps you recognize your positive steps and makes it harder to go back to the same old habits.


Jacqui Porjes | 07947 568890 | Jacqui@porjes.com |www.buggyfit.co.uk


Mummy Zen: You'll find you can apply these same tips to many other types of new year's resolutions, not just those related to fitness.

Do you have any other tips to share? What has worked for you in the past, enabling you to stick to your goals?


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Quick-fix Calming Techniques

We all have times when we get flustered, stressed or anxious about something. Going into panic mode only makes matters worse and what we really need to do is take a moment to calm ourselves down so we can then deal with the situation appropriately. I've put together a list of techniques below.

Anything from being with a crying baby who can't seem to be consoled to dealing with a demanding boss or a stressful social occasion can result in us feeling overwhelmed. By calming ourselves down we can feel a bit more in control of what's going on and act accordingly. If you are calm, those around you will tend to also be calm and that can only be a good thing. Next time you are tearing your hair out, try a couple of these techniques and hopefully you will feel the benefit:

Take some deep breaths (count in for 4 and out for 4). Even better if you can close your eyes whilst doing so.

Actively relax your body. Try scrunching your shoulders up towards your ears, hold for a couple of seconds and then drop them purposefully. Head rolls and stretching exercises can also help.

Have a hug from a loved one or friend.

Get some fresh air. Always a good way to clear your head. A brisk walk around the block or even in your garden if you have one can work wonders. You can take a screaming baby or toddler along and it might just help them calm down too!

Do something else (if possible). Anything to distract you from what's making you tense and anxious. Clean something, call a friend...

Walk away from the situation for a couple of minutes (if possible). If you're dealing with a toddler tantrum in the middle of a supermarket, this isn't really an option but if you're having an disagreement at home, go into another room for a breather.

What techniques do you use to calm yourself down in a stressful or difficult situation?

photo credit

Monday, 21 December 2009

Staying Happy Over the Festive Season

happy!As we are just days away from Christmas now, most people are busy with last-minute preparations and probably don't have a lot of spare time to think about much else! Getting wrapped up in the festivities and the feeling busy that comes with this time of year, seems to last all the way through until the new year. Are we really all so busy or is it a welcome distraction from the day-to-day normality? What is the best way of staying happy throughout the festive season?

One thing I realised I have been guilty of in the past is using Christmas and the holiday as an excuse not to do the things I'd do in any other week of the year. Things that make me feel good, like exercise. Or I do things I wouldn't usually do in a regular week, like unnecessary shopping (lured by the sales) or eating way too much chocolate. Lots of people complain that they feel unhealthy, sluggish and a bit depressed after Christmas and I think these types of things are part of the reason.

It's great to have a relaxing time over Christmas, enjoy some special treats and do activities you might not have the time to do when your partner is not at home to help with the children. I think it's important to do different, fun things as a family and not worry too much about the regular routine. However, there are some things it's good to keep doing, to help keep you feel happy and healthy. If you normally go for a run, a workout or some kind of exercise, that's probably one part of your routine you might consider keeping over Christmas. You'll feel better for it and indulging in richer festive food won't then be so bad :-)

When the Christmas holiday comes to an end, your husband or partner goes back to work, and you're left with a house that needs a good clean, a body that needs a detox, your purse strings feeling tight and a pile of new gifts and sale purchases to find uses for and space to put away, you'll probably feel pretty miserable. Instead, if you do a little bit of cleaning most days (just 10 minutes of tackling one small area of the house), you won't get a build-up of dirt and clutter. If you intersperse your rich meals with healthy light foods (fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds etc) and keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water in-between glasses of wine, you won't feel so full and bloated. A brisk family walk every day can be an enjoyable activity if you go somewhere new or stop off to see friends and getting out alone for a run or to do some other kind of exercise will be reinvigorating and mood-enhancing!

It's good to remember what Christmas is all about and what it means for you and your family. I think we need to be wary of using it as an excuse to do or not do certain activities that we enjoy and benefit from, even if they don't seem so attractive at the time. You can make these things fun so they feel less of a chore. Eating healthily after a day of indulgence, can be more enjoyable if it involves cooking a new recipe and being a bit more adventurous with food. Exercise can be easy to do if you play a game or sport with family or friends. To really have a happy Christmas, you need to feel happy yourself!

Is there anything that you do or don't do , routines that you keep or discard during the holidays to keep in the festive spirit?


Friday, 18 December 2009

Simple Changes for More Sustainable Living

Green Household Management This is a guest post by Caroline Harris, author of 'Ms Harris’s Book of Green Household Management: The Essential Thrift Bible'. I asked Caroline to share her story about how she came to write the book, and for some of her top tips.

It’s all down to my son, really. I decided to try and be greener as I contemplated what state the planet might be in when his generation inherit it, and what kind of possibly harmful cocktail might be brewing in his infant body from the 100,000 chemicals that make their way into our households. We started to buy more organic and fairtrade, we attempted the reusable nappy route, we changed to more eco-friendly cleaning brands.

But it wasn’t until one summer holiday in Cornwall that I came upon the idea for a book of green household management. We were staying at a cosily lovely holiday cottage near a family-friendly cove of beach, but beneath the sink, instead of my usual eco cleaners, was a gaggle of brightly coloured big-manufacturer potions. It started me thinking that I wished I knew how to really go back to practical, thrifty basics, and clean with the likes of baking soda and vinegar.

I began researching. The British Library, for household manuals from centuries gone by; the internet, for up-to-date advice; friends, parents, experts at green organisations. I turned our home into something of a laboratory, as I monitored our energy use, measured our greywater, composted, sowed (and sewed), tested recipes and tried out the likes of eco washing balls and soap nuts.

As I say in the book, I’m far from perfect in my greenness, and our Victorian mid-terrace is still a work in progress. But the book has taken me on a journey that I’m still exploring. From rediscovering crafts such as sewing, knitting, and making my own lip balm, to helping organise a Zero Energy Day with candle-lit story time and camp-fire cooking at my son’s school. From taking my part in local food days and workshops with our Transition Larkhall group (www.transitionlarkhall.org.uk) to the pride I feel that we are self-sufficient in jams and chutneys.

Green household management is smart household management. It’s about making your home welcoming, people-friendly and environmentally friendly, saving carbon emissions and cash – and enjoying challenging ingrained old habits.

1. Last-minute Christmas presents
If you’re stuck for presents you could try some homemade ideas, such as clementine marmalade (the recipe is in the book, and pictures going up on my blog at www.ms-harris.com). Fabric circles, or brown paper tied with preloved ribbon (in other words, the stuff you saved from last year) will liven up the lids. Or how about kilner jars filled with biscuits or simple sweets, such as fruit-and-nut-strewn chocolate bark, which I’ve just made with my son for his teachers.

2. Visit your local charity shop
They’re great for raw materials, such as fabrics for sewing and teacups to hold soya candles, as well as fashion finds. I’ve discovered Susie Cooper ceramics, a Fenn Wright Manson jumper, and a number of good TopShop items. You can park the children in the toy section while you browse.

3. Easy bathroom cleaning
You might be surprised, given that I’ve written a household management book, but I like to do the minimum cleaning I can get away with. You don’t need headache-inducing bleaches for bathrooms. Spritz toilet bowls regularly with a distilled white vinegar spray, and tackle stubborn limescale with a couple of tablespoons of citric acid left overnight. A few drops of lavender oil on a damp sponge makes a fragrant wipe for the seat.

4. Put lids on pans
It’s amazing how much you can turn down the heat – though watch they don’t boil over. Try to double-use an oven, so you cook more than one thing at a time, and prepare double quantities of meals: heating up takes less energy than cooking from scratch, and will save your time too.

5. Plant a fruit tree
Apple trees are a lovely addition to the garden, and winter is the time to plant these and other fruit trees and bushes. You can buy a few raspberry canes or a blackcurrant for about the priced of a punnet of soft fruits, and they take very little looking after. You can even grow them in pots on a patio


Mummy Zen: This is a really enjoyable book and provides a wealth of great tips covering everything from general cleaning to eating, shopping, gardening, clothing, as well as some lovely creative (and green) ideas for special occasions. Click on the book image to get your copy or order one for a friend (it would make an excellent gift). Today is Amazon's last day to order for Christmas with their free super-saver delivery.


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

10 Simple Joys of Christmas

We got our Christmas tree at the weekend. We enjoyed it in its natural green glory for a day before decorating it but now it's looking extra pretty with some decorations and fairy lights. I've dug out a cookie recipe to make some festive shaped cookies and today it snowed for the first time this winter. The joy of Christmas is in the air!

On that note, I wanted to remind us all of the some of the very simple joys of Christmas. These might be the little things we don't even think about or some easy ideas to create a festive atmosphere and to help towards an enjoyable holiday. Here are my 10 simple joys of Christmas:

(1) The smell of a real Christmas tree.

(2) Some simple decorations. You may not have the money, space or inclination to decorate your home extensively but I think a few little things can really help create a nice Christmassy atmosphere. A couple of ideas:
  • A red candle as a table centre-piece, surrounded by a few seasonal leaves/sprigs/fir cones looks good
  • Display the Christmas cards you receive  around your mantlepiece/a large mirror/end of bookcases or hang on long lengths of wide ribbon and pin each card to the ribbon
  • A pretty bright red poinsettia always looks festive and natural

(3) Freshly baked festive-shaped cookies. Try an easy recipe like this one. They're fun to make with your children and can be used as decorations, given away to friends who stop by, as well as just eaten!

(4) Playing a game or watching a Christmas movie together as a whole family.

(5) If there's snow, building a snowman or having a family snowball fight.

(6) Music. It needn't be Christmas carols or annoying Christmas songs that all the shops play but put on some music during the festivities. It can be relaxing or can be fun for the little ones to dance to.

(7) Light some candles. As the days are shorter and it gets dark so early now, having some candlelight gives a lovely cosy feel to your home.

(8) See friends. I've always found it relaxing and fun to see friends close to Christmas day. No need to host a gathering at home, meet them at a pub or go for lunch somewhere. It's sociable without any of the stress that can sometimes be experienced around family.

(9) Time off work. For those of us not back at work, our spouse probably will have a few days off work during the holiday so enjoy those extra days together!

(10) Excitement! If like me,  your own children aren't yet of the age to understand what's going on, don't let that stop you feeling the excitement that comes with Christmas. Maybe I'm just a big kid but I love seeing all the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning and watching family open fun and thoughtful presents from each other.

It's easy to get caught up in the hectic side of Christmas and especially if you are hosting a family Christmas with parents and in-laws coming to your home. You find yourself worrying about everything from how tidy the house looks to whether you've got all the festive food planned, whilst finishing off your Christmas shopping and maybe attending some Christmas parties along the way!

The truth of the matter is that families don't come to your home on Christmas day to judge you on your hosting skills, food presentation or immaculate-ness of your home. They come to spend time together and share the feeling of happiness and festive fun! That probably won't make you any less concerned about wanting to make everything perfect but try to remember that often the simplest things can make for a happy day.

What simple joys of Christmas would you add to the list?
photo credit

Monday, 14 December 2009

Seasonal Eating (Battling with the Brussels)

brusselsI've mentioned before that we get an organic vegetable box delivered to our home each week. It means we eat seasonally and consume (relatively) locally sourced food without the conscience of air miles. The boxes come in different sizes for different sized households. The contents are published on their website a week in advance so you can choose to add to your box or even create your own box if some of the vegetables are not too your liking that week, or you just can't face another week of cooking with cabbage!

For the most part I go with the standard box, as opposed to creating my own. Whilst some customers might lament of receiving spinach for five consecutive weeks when in season, I find it a fun challenge to try new recipes, cooking it in different ways. The downside to having their standard box is that sometimes you inevitably receive vegetables that you don't like. That happened last week - we got brussel sprouts and beetroot, both of which I really dislike.

The vegetables are all fresh, flavourful and of excellent quality. I'm certainly not going to waste any, even if I don't like them. Instead, I make an effort to find a recipe that involves being a bit more creative with the particular vegetable. With last week's examples, I made a soup with the brussel sprouts and a cake with the beetroot. Both are delicious! I get a real sense of satisfaction when I find a way to eat a food I wouldn't ordinarily ever choose or take delight in eating.

Just as baby food books talk about disguising vegetables for little fussy eaters, the same applies to us as adults. If like me, you groan at the mention of brussel sprouts with the traditional English Christmas dinner, try cooking them differently and see how they go down. Finely slicing them and frying with chilli and ginger renders them a whole different texture and taste to the regular boiled version.

Do you have any inventive ways to cook your least favourite vegetables?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A First Year of Motherhood

My little baby boy turns one tomorrow! Everyone says 'they grow so fast, the time time goes so quickly, bla bla bla...' but isn't it true? My son is such a joy and has given my life a whole new enriching perspective. It's been a wonderful year, full of all kinds of new challenges and experiences.

I thought it might be helpful to new mums out there especially, to share a few things I've experienced, learned and thought about this past year.

5 things I wasn't expecting from motherhood:
  1. To feel so tired so often. Even once the sleepless nights are a distant memory, it's still tiring work being a stay at home mum. An early night feels like a real treat to me these days!
  2. To find enjoyment from such little things. Examples include: smiling at my son and seeing him smile back at me, the first time he ate any new kind of food or meal, watching his excitement when he's grasped a new skill....
  3. To have so much fun! Sometimes I feel guilty that while others are at work I'm running around the flat squealing and laughing with my son, or getting to enjoy being outside with him on a sunny day.
  4. To feel fulfilled without a career. Before having my son, I had an interesting job working for an international auction house. I thought I would miss the deadlines, the research and the buzz of the art world. Instead, I am more than happy being a stay at home mum.
  5. To rely so much on a new peer group of mummies. I've made some great new friends in my local area who all have similarly aged babies. I see them almost every day and they are like a lifeline to me. As well as sharing questions, advice and suggestions on our children, we also just have a lot of fun and enjoy each others company. I'd feel lost without them.

5 things I've learned from a year of motherhood:
  1. Treasure every moment. They really do grow, change and learn so fast that you don't want to wish away any time. Enjoy them at each stage of their development.
  2. Follow your instincts. I'm a firm believer that doing what feels right often is right.  I think you get more attuned to your child's needs so it becomes easier to know what they want and how to deal with certain situations.
  3. The difficult times don't last! Those trying first few weeks, surviving on barely any sleep and feeling like you can't cope soon fade in your memory. There will be other obstacles of course but it's those tough times that help us to really appreciate the good times.
  4. Getting out lots is good for baby and you. I remember going to a postnatal yoga class when my son was 8 weeks old. It was raining and I had to take the pram on the bus for the first time to get there. I made myself do it and was so glad I did. Being around other new mums did me the world of good. I think my son has also benefited from being taken to a variety of activities. He enjoys being around other babies and it's got him used to being in different environments.
  5. Routines work! As much as you might not like the idea of having a routine with your child, it makes life easier for baby and you. They benefit from knowing what's coming next throughout the day and you know when best to schedule activities/outings.

What do you remember learning or experiencing from your first year of motherhood?

Monday, 7 December 2009

My Day, Yesterday

videoThe title of this post refers to a video group set up by a guy called Garrett Murray on Flickr. The idea is to shoot a video of a day in your life, put it together to last no more than 90 seconds and post it on his video group. No music or sound effects should be added.

There's something about this idea I really like. We're so wrapped up in going about our regular activities each day that we probably don't realise what we do because it all seems like the daily humdrum. Watching Garrett's video, you get the impression technology is a very important part of his life! He appears to live alone and not have a family though. I think we all might get a surprisingly interesting perspective on our own lives if we did a video along these lines. There might be something we do a lot of that we hadn't ever noticed before.

It could also be a helpful little project in the same way when you get video taken of you when you are teacher training, doing a course on presentation skills or learning a golf swing for example. Watching videos of yourself can make you cringe but also reveal things you do that you were completely unaware you did. Incidentally my husband just told me this weekend of something he's noticed me saying lots recently which I wasn't even aware of.

I think it can be good for us to look at ourselves and our actions from an outsider's view. I'm not suggesting we all go and make our 90 second video of a day in our lives but we might want to consider what that video would show us if we did make it. What do you think a stranger watching you go about your day might notice or wonder? Maybe we sit at home too much and need to get out more. Maybe the tone of voice we use with our partner or children could be nicer and more reasonable. Maybe we don't play enough with our children or have proper conversations with our partner. Maybe we're always picking at food but not eating healthy nutritious meals.

With a little reflection, we would all probably notice elements of our daily lives that could be improved. Ordinarily, we would just carry on as usual without stopping to think about it but we'd probably benefit from taking time to reflect.

Have you ever been made aware of something you didn't know you did? Have your own reflections lead you to make any big or small changes in your life?

You can see Garrett's video, 'My Day, yesterday' here.


Thursday, 3 December 2009

Unexpected Creative Cooking

This week I’m following a ‘Yogic diet’, also known as an Ayurvedic diet. My yoga teacher asked for a couple of volunteers to trial the diet for a week to help her with something she’s writing. Always one for a challenge, I was keen to participate. (It’s not a diet to lose weight, more a kind of eating regime).

I’ll provide you with a couple of links at the end of this post for those of you interested in finding out more but here’s the basic idea…. Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India, originating over 5,000 years ago. Its focus is on re-establishing balance in the body through diet, lifestyle, exercise, and body cleansing, and on the health of the mind, body, and spirit.

Firstly I had to identify my Ayurvedic type, of which there are three: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. There's then a corresponding list of foods for each type and the object is to eat the foods that are 'balancing' and steer clear of those that are 'aggravating'. As expected, caffeine and alcohol are to be avoided and the more fresh fruit and vegetables eaten, the better. Your stomach should ideally be 50% food, 25% water and 25% empty.

For my yoga teacher I am keeping a food diary that has to be submitted once the week is up. It's the first time I've kept a food diary. It certainly makes you more conscious of what you eat when you know somebody else will know about it! I don't think it would be so effective if my yoga teacher wasn't going to be reading it.

Being a vegetarian, I thought I would find this 'diet' a breeze. Instead, it has been quite challenging but in a positive way. It's given me an insight into my eating patterns and tendencies and I have had to be more creative with certain foods. As a couple of examples, in an effort to eat seeds I have had pumpkin seeds sprinkled on my porridge and sunflower seeds in a salad. That's another thing - salads. Generally I rarely eat salads in the winter, instead prefering something warming in the cold weather, like soup or jacket potatoes. I've really been enjoying the salads this week and have made a tasty variety to keep them interesting.

We get a box of organic vegetables delivered to us each week so eat fresh, seasonal vegetables on a very regular basis. This week though, I had to go and buy a load more to last me the week. It made me wonder if we really do eat a lot of vegetables or do I make myself less-nutritious lunches in an average week?

I'm enjoying the questions arrising from following this 'diet' and the need to think a bit broader when deciding what to eat for a meal. If nothing else, I will have gained a good look at my own eating habits and will have learned to be a bit more creative with the food I eat.

Have you ever kept a food diary or followed a diet that's forced you to be more creative with food?

Find out your Ayurvedic type here and list of foods to eat here.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mind the Gap

mind the gap
If anyone came to mummyzen.com last Thursday around noon, you'd have found no site! Regular readers amongst you might have noticed a couple of missing recent posts. Whilst trying to back-up my files, I accidentally deleted them! You can imagine my despair.  Luckily, not too much is missing and I can live with a little gap in my posts. Apologies to those readers who had commented on the missing posts and whose comments are therefore now lost.