Super Juice Me

This 28 day health kick all started a couple of days ago when I watched a documentary film called Super Juice Me. It was made by a guy called Jason Vale, who is mad about juicing and has written loads of really great books on the subject. I first met Jason when I was about 21, at a Tony Robbins event in London – he’d just published his first juicing book, which I bought, devoured (not literally), and took instantly to heart. I started juicing every day, exercising in the mornings, and eating far more lettuce than is really normal. When I look back on it, I don’t remember it being ‘difficult’, like being on a diet – in fact I remember looking in the mirror one day and wondering where all my fat rolls had gone. I really wasn’t thinking about it like a diet, or trying to lose weight, it was a genuine lifestyle change, and I really enjoyed feeling healthy.

Thirteen (ouch) years later, life has very much got in the way, and I am unhealthy, unfit, and significantly overweight. I have made half-hearted attempts to get healthy again over the years, which have all worked to some extent, but I’ve never kept them up for long. I need to get in to the mindset that worked for me before, and make a complete lifestyle change; but with an extra 13 years of emotional baggage (don’t your 20s seem brilliant when you’re looking back from your 30s!) it’s not going to be as easy as it was the first time. (And I’ve got a cold. Sniff.)

In order to succeed in this I need to be really clear on why I’m doing it, and where my motivation comes from, and in order to do THAT, I’ve decided that the first thing I need to do is face up to all the **** from the last thirteen years. It’s not that the **** is the reason I’ve not been fit and healthy – obviously it’s perfectly possible to go through tough times in life and still eat apples and exercise. However coping with stress has never been a strong point of mine, and emotional eating has been a huge part of my problem, as it is for so many people. If I’m not going to feed the emotions with chocolate, then I need to find some other way of dealing with them – and that means I have to get them out in the open. I’m going to try not to do this like a list of excuses, or a sob story, and many apologies if you find the lifestory stuff boring (feel free to skip to the end) but if I can be honest and face up to my **** and in doing so inspire someone else to face up to theirs, then it will have all been worth it!

Rewind thirteen years: I found my final year at university really hard. Looking back, I was suffering from depression, although I didn’t realise it at the time. I do remember going to see the doctor once, and finding it impossible to ask for help – breaking down in tears as soon as I left the surgery. I used junk food to get me through my coursework, sugar to keep me awake long enough to get essays finished, and then more chocolate as a reward when they were written.

After leaving uni I entered a relationship with a guy who I ended up marrying. He was an avid meat-eater and vegetable-avoider, and one of those types who can eat what they like without putting on weight, so that’s what we pretty much did. After a couple of years his dad fell ill with cancer, and died just before we got married; and shortly after the wedding we found out that his mum also had cancer. As it turned out, the relationship wasn’t a particularly good one and we probably shouldn’t have got married in the first place – but when you are dealing with something like terminal illness everything else goes out of the window, and you cling to whatever to need to get you through.

We decided to start a family straight away, and I fell pregnant with our daughter about a month after we were married. Six weeks in, I started throwing up, and got so ill that I stopped work from about 9 weeks pregnant. I lost over a stone during my first trimester (throwing up ten times a day will do that to you, but I don’t recommend it as a weight loss strategy) and by half way through my second trimester my midwife was urging me to eat whatever I liked just so that I had something inside me. It did eventually subside, by which time my pelvis had decided that it wasn’t going to play ball any more, and I developed what was then called SPD. I had such severe pain in my pelvis and back that I was on crutches for over six months, and could barely move without being in agony. This has been a big thing for me in terms of exercising – it’s not like I was superfit before, but during that six month period I entirely retrained my body to move as little as possible in order to avoid intense pain, and breaking down that programming has been (and still is) a real challenge. It’s nearly eight years since my SPD started and in that time I’m yet to have a whole day where I don’t experience any pain at all. My birth experience was awful and left me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which I had counselling, and eventually hypnotherapy. After that came the post-natal depression (naturally); I struggled to go back to work as a teacher and had to leave my job and find another one. My marriage unravelled, and I was a single working mum with an 18 month old daughter, fighting depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Looking back over all of this, I think it wasn’t so much the stuff that happened (although obviously it wasn’t that nice), but the way I was dealing with it that was the biggest problem. I was in complete denial about my depression, and even when I was actually taking antidepressants I was secretly resenting every second of it, and eventually just stopped taking them, against my doctor’s recommendation.

So far this has taken us up to about six years ago; fast forward through another disastrous relationship with an extremely controlling man (who incidentally was a very fussy eater.. I ate a lot of pizza and KFC during that year), leaving my job to go fully self-employed, and post-birth problems which led me to have an operation to remove the lining of my womb. I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression at the time (and as usual refusing to take medication for it), and was not in any state to deal with the emotional repercussions of this decision, which effectively meant I wasn’t going to be able to have any more biological children. Cognitively, I was fine with it – after going through what I did in pregnancy I knew I didn’t want to do that again! – but every month when my hormones woke up I would re-live the loss, and the guilt.

Three years ago, I met the wonderful man who is now my husband (hurrah!). One morning a couple of months before we got married I woke up covered in blood, and we discovered that the lining of my womb had grown back enough that I’d got pregnant, and then miscarried. (Funnily enough, during that time I’d also done a juice detox but felt so awful the whole time that I gave up.) Cue depression, stress, grief, counselling, antidepressants (I actually took them this time), deciding that we weren’t going to try for a baby as it was too risky and the chances are I would miscarry again… and then I got pregnant again… and miscarried again. Christmas morning 2013 I had the phone call from the hospital to say my blood tests confirmed the pregnancy had failed; Boxing Day we went out with some friends as usual, and the day after that I went in to hospital for the surgery to remove the failed pregnancy. We then decided (us and my doctor) that the safest thing for me was to have a sterilisation, and avoid the whole pregnancy thing altogether – that was in Feb 2014. I’d just got back in to going to the gym, and had thought (naively) that I’d just bounce back and it would all be fine, but it then took me 6 months to properly get over the surgery.

Boxing Day 2014 I spent crying like I have never cried before.

I don’t quite know why it all hit me then, but it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. Everything that I had been pushing down, refusing to acknowledge, ignoring, it just all came flooding out in one go. I was afraid it wasn’t going to stop – and I was afraid that it would stop before it was finished, and all of that would go back inside me and I’d never be able to get it out again.

Anyway… (slightly embarrassed now). That brings us up to date. I know I’ve skipped over a lot of heavy stuff very quickly, and maybe I’ll post about the miscarriages and depression in more detail another time – today I just want to bring you up to speed, and talk about moving forward. It’s not been easy to sit and go over all of that again, but one thing it has done is made me realise I shouldn’t beat myself up too much for being overweight – just getting myself (and my daughter) through all of that in one piece is quite an achievement!

So where does my juicing motivation come in to all of this? I think after my big Boxing Day cry I just feel ready to start caring for myself again. I have spent too long just doing whatever I need in order to get through, and to a certain extent perhaps even feeling like I didn’t deserve to be cared for, loved, and nourished. I can’t believe I’m about to write this as it sounds unbelievably corny, but this 28 days is genuinely a gift that I can give to myself – of proper nourishment, health, and a kick-start to a lifestyle change. I’m starting to feel like I probably deserve it.

Cat x

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New Year, new you, and all that…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of starting afresh in January, as it seems like a crazy idea to me. It’s so cold and miserable, and heaving yourself back in to normal life after the Christmas break is hard enough already without trying to keep up a dozen New Year’s Resolutions as well. Bah humbug (if that’s still a thing once Christmas is over).

The trouble with a lot of goal setting (whether it’s New Year related or just a mini resolution all for yourself) is that it’s not specific enough. You can say something like “This year I’m going to eat more healthily” but what does that actually MEAN? If you normally get through twelve bars of chocolate a week and cut down to eleven, you are technically keeping to your resolution even though you are not eating healthily by any stretch of the imagination.

Some people might set a goal of eating more healthily, cut out one chocolate bar a week and feel that they have achieved what they wanted, or at least made a start. Others might make exactly the same resolution, reach exactly the same point, and feel like they’ve failed. If you’re not specific enough with what you’re aiming for not only will the goal be harder to achieve (if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how will you know when you get there?) but it may stop you from noticing and celebrating the small steps along the way. Cutting out that one bar of chocolate may be a fairly small thing but it’s a step in the right direction, and deserves to be acknowledged as such.

After all my griping about resolutions, it may surprise you to learn that I’m doing a *thing* this January (the timing is merely coincidental, I can assure you!). I’m joining in the World’s Biggest Juice Detox and going completely juicy for 28 days. Yes, that’s right – for the next 28 days I will be living entirely off freshly made juices and smoothies. It’s going to be a challenge (I’ve done 7 days before and that was bad enough) and I’m going to be recording my progress on this blog.

For me, one of the most important things heading in to a challenge like this is being really clear on WHY I’m doing it, why it’s important, and why I’m not going to give up – there are going to be tough moments over the next four weeks and I’m going to need to revisit this over and over again to keep myself focused. I’ve already waffled enough in this post, but if you’re interested I’ll share my story in the next post, and my motivations for doing this, and doing it right now.

If you’re reading this and you’re also on the detox – good luck! Comment below to let me know how you’re getting on 🙂

Cat x

Three steps to combat stress

There are lots and lots of good reasons to try to reduce the stress in your life. However, if you’re like me, and no matter how hard you try to find time for aromatherapy baths and meditation, sometimes it’s just not enough!

I found myself getting pretty stressed out today – it was one of those days I could literally feel it creeping in to my body; a sickly feeling in my stomach… a gradually spreading headache… I decided that today would be the day I would come up with my stress-busting routine(!) so that on days like this I could spring it in to action and return myself to a zen-like state of calm.

Here’s what I came up with…

1. Breathe

Sounds a bit obvious I know, but when we’re stressed we tense up without even realising it, and a good deep breath will start to relax your body as well as getting more oxygen pumping round it. Close your eyes if you need to; don’t worry if the niggling voices in your head are still going, this isn’t a meditation – just breathe.

One of the best things I learnt from attending a Tony Robbins seminar is how you can use your body to trick the mind into thinking something different: sometimes it’s known as ‘fake it til you make it’! If you don’t feel confident, but *act* as if you are, you will eventually start to feel it. Similarly, if you just take a few deep breaths – acting as though you are in a relaxed and calm state – your body will begin to physically relax, and you will begin to feel calmer.

2. Identify the root cause of the stress

Often when we’re stressed we get completely overwhelmed and it can be hard to pinpoint the root cause of it. I’ve lost count of the number of times my husband has asked me what’s wrong only to have me scream “EVERYTHING!” at him!

But let’s try and dig down a little deeper here – yes, you may be overworked, yes your kids may be demanding, and your dog has just been sick on the antique rug (I don’t have a dog or an antique rug, but I imagine this is the most likely way those two items would interact together), but I would bet any money that I could give you the exact same problem on a different day and you would take it in your stride. So what *exactly* is it that’s making you stressed today? Do you feel like you have no control over your workload? Are you trying to split your time between work and kids? Do you feel like other people are making so many demands on your time you don’t have any left for yourself? Are you feeling ill? Are you worried about something else entirely? Do you feel like you’re not coping?

Be really honest with yourself here, or this bit isn’t going to work. It is not the *thing* that is stressing you out, it is your reaction to the thing. For example – I have a huge pile of un-filed paperwork on my desk, which I merrily walk past every day without a care in the world. However, when I want to find the paper part of my driving license, that pile suddenly becomes a source of quite a lot of stress! It’s a silly little example, but it’s important to recognise that it’s your reaction to the situation that is important here, not the situation itself.

3. Decide on your response

You can choose your response to this situation.

This is going to be different for everyone, depending on your source of stress, so I’ll talk you through my example.

One of my particular triggers is having a lot of different demands on my time, and feeling overwhelmed by them. When I looked closely at this, I realised that intellectually I know that I can do everything that is being asked of me, so that isn’t actually what stresses me out – the deep down root cause is feeling like other people are controlling how I spend my time.

On the surface, I had assumed that I felt stressed because I didn’t think I was good enough, or couldn’t cope with all the things I had to do. However, digging down I realised that wasn’t the problem at all, and once I had found the root cause of the problem, it suddenly felt a lot easier to deal with.

Feeling like you ‘can’t cope’ or are ‘overwhelmed’ are fairly abstract things, and there isn’t any easy solution that will help – you must get down to the root cause of why you are feeling overwhelmed.

Once I realised what the problem was, dealing with it became fairly straightforward. I was feeling overwhelmed because I felt like other people were deciding how I spent my time, so I decided to take back control in the following ways:

– Writing a list of things I needed to do, and deciding which one thing on that list was the most important for me to do right now. The list could include eating, sleeping, taking a break as well as any work obligations or housework. Once I had decided on the one thing I was going to do next, I gave myself permission to completely ignore the rest of it, knowing that I was dealing with the most important thing.

– Deciding that I was going to take control over how people interacted with me. I disabled voicemail on my mobile and landline, so that I wouldn’t feel obliged to return calls if someone left a message. If it’s important enough they will ring back or send me an email. (I also set an out of office for my emails, so people would know not to expect a response straight away.)

– I started using a programme to manage tasks in the different projects I was working on; I use Asana, but there are lots of them out there. This lets me decide in advance when I’m going to do a particular task – it’s kind of like a long-term version of the to do list step above.

Now I’m quite lucky in that I have a fair amount of control over my working life, and I’m able to make decisions like removing voicemail from my phone – you may not be able to do that. However I am confident that you will be able to find some ways that work for you, if this is a problem that you’re facing. Perhaps you can decide to only answer emails once a day? Or go for a walk during your lunch break, so that you can’t be interrupted and asked to do something else?

The last big important thing that I would like to say is this – be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for becoming stressed, as we all do it. Recognise that your mind is probably getting a bit carried away, and you need to calm it down (breathe) and address what is really at the root of the problem. You do have the ability to deal with it.

Cat x