what’s your ‘entering the ring’ song?

I recently found my ‘entering the ring’ song thanks to Jenny Burrell

The idea of the song is to find a track that is uplifting to your ears, that stirs your soul, that lights you up, so that when you play it you are instantly in your zone, fired up and focused on whatever it is that you need to get done. Preferably you play it through headphones (to cut out other distractions) and play it on repeat for as long as you need to.

Now I am a lover of silence. I am not a player of background noise/radio/TV/anything – I like to hear NOTHING. But, given that I trust Jenny at least 100% I decided I should try to find my ‘entering the ring’ song, and I did, and actually it’s AMAZING!!

It took me a while because I like music to soothe rather than music to stir but after a few false starts I remembered a track from the film Gladiator, which was one of my favourite Body Pump cool-down tracks from another lifetime. So I found it, and it’s been on repeat every time I’ve been at my desk since, and sometimes in the car as well, and I’m feeling super-focused and getting loads of stuff done…

Here’s my ‘entering the ring’ song.

What’s yours? Please share.

(PS once you’ve found your song, you don’t have to play it all the time you’re working – its job is just to get you started – but bizarrely, I’m finding that keeping it on repeat creates a sense of order because there’s nothing unexpected, so I don’t need to take any notice of it, leaving my brain free to focus on what I’m doing. I never thought I’d be listening to noise while working!)

green soup

In February I started following a blending/smoothie plan (see my separate blog post to find out more) and although I am still blending sometimes, the thing that has stuck the longest is green soup for lunch. I have it nearly every day! It fills me up, loads my body with nutrients and is just the easiest thing to make.

Simple green soup:

This idea originally came from Jason Vale – I think it came up in one of his juice plans  and this is my version of a simple green soup, which is effectively a hot smoothie!

You will need some green vegetables (you knew that already!) – I use whatever is in the fridge/freezer: peas, fresh or frozen spinach, fresh or frozen broccoli, leeks (washed & sliced), fresh or frozen kale, a few stems of asparagus, cabbage, broad beans…really whatever you have.

You might want to add some fresh or frozen herbs at the blending stage – basil is great, mint would work too. I also add a little chopped garlic (I have the cheat version in a jar in the fridge but you could drop in a whole fresh clove). You could add spices if you like them.

You will need some stock – I use vegetable bouillon powder but you could use chicken/ham stock.

I add creamed coconut to give it a creamy flavour but this is optional.

Here’s what you do:

  • bring the stock to a boil in a pan (I have it coming about half way up the side of the pan and then fill the pan with vegetables)
  • add all the vegetables (frozen ones in the bottom, tougher ones next, leafier ones on the top where they will steam) & garlic/spices is you’re using them
  • bring back to the boil then simmer for 3-5 minutes – enough to heat through & cook the frozen vegetables and soften any leafy vegetables, but still keep the green colour
  • stir in a chunk of creamed coconut (I cut about 1” off a standard-sized block) & allow it a few moments to melt
  • ladle everything into your blender & blitz until smooth
  • pour back into the pan, check and adjust the seasoning, add more liquid if it’s too thick and gently reheat if needed
  • if you like a bit of texture in your soup you could add a topping (toasted sunflower seeds, crispy shallots, croutons) or add something to your soup after blending (peas, cooked rice, softened leeks, tinned cannellini beans or chick peas…)
  • enjoy!

I make a batch of this every 2-3 days. I use what I need when I make it, put the rest in the fridge to reheat the next day. I tend to add cooked black rice or sweetcorn when I’m reheating it rather than when I make the whole batch.

If you’re short on time, plan ahead by making a batch at the same time as you are preparing your evening meal, and then it will be ready & waiting for lunch the next day Jx

blending

(from February 2018)

I’m currently living on a (mostly) liquid diet and I’m pleasantly surprised by how it is going. I started following Jason Vale’s ‘super blend me’ plan three weeks ago with the intension of replacing meals with smoothies for seven days, but I haven’t really gone back to eating from a plate again yet!

The plan is promoted as a health/weight loss plan with various suggestions for how to incorporate it into your own lifestyle. For me, the primary reason for getting started was to give myself a break from cooking. Living alone and for the past three years, I’ve been solely responsible for feeding myself – there’s no taking turns when you live alone, no-one else to offer suggestions or discuss meal plans with, no-one to share the washing up & sadly no-one to share a meal with.

Just after Christmas, still grieving the loss of my Mum, I reached a point where I just didn’t want to be a grown-up anymore! I was so sick and tired of being responsible and started to feel particularly anxious about food. With Jason Vale’s latest book in my hand & my new blender shouting encouragement from the side-lines I decided I would give myself a one-week ‘holiday’ from food.

My plan was to then sign up to a food/recipe box delivery company so that I had someone else taking on some of the work-load but three weeks later I’m still blending every day, still enjoying the benefits and feeling so much less anxious about mealtimes.

In case you’re interested in giving it a try, here are some of my thoughts on blending. I’m not on commission and I’m sure there are other blending plans available but I genuinely think this approach might be a workable solution for so many people who are struggling around food, or trying to lose weight or facing digestive issues. By the way, I’m also not a doctor so please do not read this as medical guidance or advice and do your own research before embarking on any radical dietary changes.

Pros & cons:

I was worried I’d be hungry, but surprisingly I really haven’t been. My appetite has definitely decreased over the past three weeks and I’m grazing far less than previously. Now that I’ve started to add in some solid foods again I notice that my portions are much smaller with more focus on adding lots of green vegetables.

I made sure I planned ahead by bagging & freezing the ingredients for individual smoothies on a Sunday, ready to simply add the liquid and blend them as required. The first week I made up bags for all the smoothies suggested for the seven-day plan which was great because I didn’t have to think at all about what I was eating – I just opened the book and blended what I was told to blend! Thereafter I’ve made more decisions about which ones I liked best and bagged them up accordingly.

I’m not a fan of packaged milk alternatives, so I make my own almond milk (I’ve been freezing it in small bottles so there’s no waste) and I’ve been adding coconut ‘meat’ and water to my smoothies when coconut milk is in the recipe. If I don’t have nut milk available, I just use filtered water which works just fine.

I did find myself feeling very cold after the first couple of days (I think my body has been holding back a throat/chest infection for a couple of months so the coldness might have been more to do with this than the smoothies) but as soon as I started adding in a simple green soup (see separate blog post for recipe) in place of one of the smoothies, I felt much better.

I have had to substitute avocado in place of bananas as I had a pretty extreme reaction to bananas at the end of the first week. I’ll spare you the details but can happily report that avocado is a really good alternative.

One of the best things about the plan is that I can take my breakfast with me on a morning. I never really feel like eating before I head out to work but usually do it because I think I should – and because I can’t really eat a bowl of apples and yoghurt whilst training a client or driving!! With a smoothie, I can head out and drink it when & where I want to.

My stomach feels so calm and peaceful right now, no doubt as a result of having less digestion to do and a lighter load to process. I also feel that I’m getting a far higher ratio of nutrients than previously when my evening meal would often be a piece of cheese, followed by an apple, followed by another piece of cheese, followed by some nuts, followed by a packet of oat cakes…

I feel that my blood sugars are more even right now. I haven’t had any ‘hangry’ moments in recent weeks and I think it is down to the level of nutrients and the less sporadic eating patterns. Given that my Mum died as a result of a condition linked to her diabetes (type II) I am more than a little concerned about my own blood sugar levels and tend to use how I feel as a benchmark for whether I’m eating the right things.

I didn’t set out to lose weight but I suspect that it’s happening anyway (I don’t have scales so I have no ‘weigh’ to check but my clothes feel a bit easier as far as I can tell when I effectively wear pyjamas all day)

There has been a drastic decrease in spending on food over the past three weeks and no waste at all, which is great. Bagging and freezing the ingredients as soon as I buy them, means that there’s nothing left in the fridge being unused. The reduction in waste has also meant that the only things going in my household bin are the outer wrappers from fruit and vegetables (& if I had easy access to a fresh food market it would be reduced further).

Washing the blender three times a day is a bit dull (& obviously only a first world problem) but it’s a small price to pay. I tend to hand wash it the first two times and then place it in the dishwasher at the end of the day so it’s really not enough of a negative to get in the way of blending.

I’ve started to add in some ‘solids’ most days now but I’m still enjoying liquid meals most of the time. I usually have an apple or two or an apple and half and avocado over the day and most days I’ll eat a few almonds too. This week I’ve made myself a bowl of salad on two occasions just to add some different flavours (olives, hummus, feta cheese, balsamic vinegar). The big thing I’ve noticed now is that instead of hoovering up my food I’m really enjoying the process of chewing it. As an added bonus everything tastes great – I’m much more aware of my taste-buds now and it is helping me to connect with food again.

The longer term:

I think I’ve always had a pretty strange relationship to mealtimes.

As a child there were fairly old-school rules around eating (having to eat everything on my plate, not being allowed to get down until I had, being made to eat things I really didn’t like, being ‘tricked’ into eating things I said I didn’t like – and laughed at for doing so, etc, etc) but as a teenager I became more interested, once I could cook my own food. As an adult I have always tended to work at traditional mealtimes – first as a chef and then as a fitness class instructor – so I think I never really got into the habit of regular meals.

Now that I have no-one to cook for I realise that cooking has always been about cooking for someone else. Cooking for myself feels like a massive effort & frankly not worth the bother.

Blending, on the other hand feels like a quick and effective way to get nutrients into my body. It is really well suited to a vegetarian/plant-based diet and it gives me flexibility for my working hours. I think, for me, it is the way forward – probably not every meal forever but certainly one or two meals a day for the foreseeable future.

If you decide to try it, or you already do it, I’d love to know how you get on

Jx

self care

Written in November 2017:

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about #selfcare & what I can add to my life to fill up my bucket over the next few months. I think over the course of 2017 I lost the balance of work & life a little bit and I don’t want to continue this way.

I’m very aware that if I’m not careful the things I add will start to feel like stuff-that-has-to-be-done which of course takes away the joy of doing them… The hours I work don’t leave much time for regular extra-curricular things so I’ve decided to focus on adding ‘ad hoc’ things I can do when I feel able to. My goal is definitely to add quality but not quantity. I already have enough quantity going on…!

In the context of my own life, I was already thinking about how important #selfcare is when I had a conversation with a client one evening and was quite saddened by something she said.

She has recently experienced some leg pain and after some successful soft tissue work with her last week, I advised her on a couple of simple release exercises she could use during the week to keep her feeling more comfortable. She has been frustrated by her limited ability to exercise and is keen to get back to running. We were catching up on her week, and talking about whether she had done any of the releases I had suggested and she said that she had literally not had the required two minutes on any day since I had seen her last!!

Really??!

We had a pretty light-hearted chat about where she might have found those two minutes each day, but I really hope the message was loud & clear:

if we never put ourselves at the top of our own to-do list, we’ll never be at the top of our to-do list!

My lovely (& undeniably very busy) client had put everything else on her list – stroke the dogs, sort through the post, organise the children to practise their music, make the dinner, a large G&T…and I’m not in any way saying that those things are not important BUT I am definitely saying that those things are not more important than her leg. I hope she heard me – I’ll be checking with her next week for sure!

Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes.

If we ignore our body when it is in pain, the pain is not going to go away, and it will probably get worse and require more time in the long run.

In the same way, if we ignore a lack of balance in our work & life, it probably isn’t going to become any more balanced…

What shape does your #selfcare look like?