I'm a London-based freelance social media manager, Digital Mum graduate and founder of social media consultancy jennyhallsocial. I'm also the editor of Mumsnet Barnet & Mumsnet Enfield and of course love talking about all the things I love right here! Last but not least, I'm mum to two little girls who keep me on my toes!
I’m so sorry for the radio silence. Real life got in the way – again! My social media agency – Jenny Hall Social – has really taken off, which of course I’m absolutely delighted about! I have three clients who are amazing and interesting to work with. And I’ve been juggling work with looking after my two littlies while they’ve been off school for the Summer. I also found time to take a lovely two week holiday. (In Albir, Spain. Would thoroughly recommend it if you have children and like somewhere inexpensive, a little quiet, but close enough to the action (Benidorm!) if you fancy it.
But what about the fitness challenge? Did I achieve my #121tofitmum goal?
My sessions with George ended after 10 weeks, as planned. After that the idea was I continue the working out and healthy eating on my own until I reached the 121 day mark. But … I didn’t! And so that’s why I haven’t achieved my target body fat % and weight reduction goals.
In a perverse way it’s good news for George. It demonstrates just how valuable a PT can be in helping you maintain your fitness goals!
But all is not lost! The good news is that I’ve had a chat with George, he’s re-motivated me and now I just need to actually DO it! And I will. Starting not tomorrow, but today.
So no more takeaways, or wine. And later I’ll do one of George’s home workouts. It will be the first one in ages. It’ll be tough, but it will be done. And experience tells me it’ll get easier each time I do one.
I was going to say sorry again for letting you – and myself – down. But I won’t and do you know why? Women in general, whether you’re a mum or not, are always apologising. But I did the best I could and, for a time, I achieved great things. And I will again. And of course I will come back and tell you all about it. It’s likely I’ll need to book more sessions with George at some point, just to keep on the straight and narrow, and so he’s definitely on speed dial!
PS. I am still more than one stone lighter than when I started and my body fat % means I’m now classed as being ‘overweight’ rather than ‘obese’. And these are definitely steps in the right direction. More importantly I feel great about myself, and I’m enjoying life so much more – and that was also one of my #121tofitmum challenge goals. So perhaps I am a winner, after all?
Eek, I missed a blog last week. The reason? Totally overloaded with work; hours available to sleep, exercise and eat well greatly reduced by school inset days and after-school drama rehearsals. Blah blah blah, excuses, excuses!
But seriously, I have been a bit more stressed than usual as a result, and it’s really played havoc with all areas of my life!
Sleep – not been getting enough again. Desperately need to find the time to re-read my Week 5 blog to remind myself why it’s so crucial to have at least eight hours’ sleep each night. And how it can be dangerous if you don’t.
Exercise – George at GPFIT London is on holiday and left me with two home workouts to do while he was away. I didn’t find the time to do them. (And I STILL haven’t joined an exercise or dance class to supplement the two weekly personal training sessions, and I’m entering the final week of my #121toFitMum fitness challenge. Eek again).
Eating – I’ve not had time to shop and prepare meals in advance, so I’ve been grabbing more unhealthy snacks and meals than usual. And I’ve started picking off the girls’ tea plates again because I’ve allowed myself to become so hungry I can’t wait even to chop a carrot and dunk it in some hummus.
In short, I’ve gone a bit of the rails (again!) and this has stressed me out further. Argh! I guess that tomorrow is another day though, so we’ll try again.
But last week’s events got me thinking about stress, and its impact on my health, so I decided to have a bit of a Google. I was surprised – no, shocked – at what I read. Initially stress can cause you to lose weight; however, chronic stress can have the opposite effect. I now realise what I’ve been doing to myself these last few years, and am so relieved that I’m now addressing my lifestyle with GPFIT London‘s help. Here’s what your body goes through when you experience high levels of stress:
Your brain tells your body to release adrenaline, which uses up stored energy.
This results in an increase in cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’. Your body goes into what’s known as the ‘flight or fight’ (or survival) mode and is tricked into thinking you’ve used calories to cope with the stress, even though you haven’t!
What feels like real hunger kicks in, so you prepare yourself a lovely health snack, right? Um, no. You grab something high in fat or really sugary, like a doughnut – anything that causes your brain to release pleasure chemicals to reduce the stress! They don’t call doughnuts and other such foods ‘comfort food’ for nothing!
The above pattern happens each time you experience stress – you crave foods that aren’t good for you.
To add to the bad news, as your body produces more cortisol, testosterone levels decrease and, over time, this lowers your body’s muscle mass.
Lean body mass determines your metabolic rate, and so a lower body muscle mass results in your body burning fewer calories since fat cells are less active than muscle cells. Uh oh.
Now, it’s a well-known fact that, as you age, there is a tendency to lose muscle mass and you naturally burn fewer calories. But regularly high cortisol levels can speed up this process and cause you to store more fat around your middle. Higher levels of fatty acids in your bloodstream can also mean an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Not good at all!
But it’s impossible to go through life without getting stressed or feeling anxious, isn’t it? So what can we do to reduce those inevitable feelings of stress? Here are six ways:
Have a little bit of what you fancy: sometimes your body craves something because it’s lacking a certain nutrient, eg. if you have low potassium, iron or calcium levels you might crave something salty to replenish minerals. The key is to satisfy your craving, but in as healthy a way as possible. So instead of eating that bag of Frazzles’ crisps (which is what happened to me last night – yep, told you I’d gone off the rails!) eat something like slightly salted cashew nuts instead so at least you get some good fat, protein and minerals as well.
Meditate: some people find meditating or practising mindfulness techniques useful. Where I live in North London there are lots of yoga classes on offer, eg. Yoga Balance in Finchley, N12.
Go easy on the coffee (and tea): drinking high levels of caffeine can, like stress, increase cortisol levels. And we now know what this can lead to. It’s recommended you don’t drink more than one-two cups per day, and not after 2pm (and certainly not as a bedtime drink, which is what I’ve practised for years and even now. Something else for me to work on!)
Exercise: a bit rich, coming from me this week I know! But exercise can regulate hormone levels. Just don’t overdo it because a high-intensity workout can increase cortisol levels further.
Stop dieting: restricting calories can trigger cravings and encourage binge-eating (hence why dieting doesn’t work as a long-term solution for achieving fitness and wellness).
Yey, I’m entering week seven of my GPFIT London challenge and feeling like a different person (which is a good thing, by the way!)
But I couldn’t quite decide what to share with you in this week’s blog. That was, until I met up with a friend for coffee yesterday morning. My friend has, thanks to my blog, just signed up with GPFIT London for 20 personal training sessions (go, friend!) and she asked me this morning, what healthy snacks do you eat? (She also took advantage of the Mumsnet Enfield and Mumsnet Barnet 10% discount on all GPFIT London block bookings).
I had to think about it for a minute. I realised that, despite being Queen of Snacks pre-fitness challenge, I’m now snacking less than I was in-between meals. Just the odd handful of nuts or berries here, or a dollop of greek yoghurt with some seeds there. I put this down to eating three really healthy, nutritious and satisfying meals each day – meals not too low in fat, but definitely lower in sugar and often lighter on the carbs.
However, thinking back to when I started this journey, I did struggle not to snack while my body was adjusting to eating differently and exercising more, and a ready-made list of healthy, easy-to-prepare snacks would have been useful.
So here’s a list of 22 healthy snack ideas to keep you full and fit:
1. Gluten-free oatcakes with yummy toppings
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not gluten-intolerant but felt I’d like to reduce my gluten consumption a little to see if it reduced bloating. It’s hard to tell if it’s made a difference because of course my body, including my stomach, has reduced in size due to the overall healthy eating and GPFIT London personal training sessions.
When I first started out, a gluten-free oatcake with dollop of full-fat cream cheese, topped with a little raw honey, or a couple of pieces of fruit, eg. grapes or banana slices, seemed a real treat! If you eat fish, you could add a little salmon and some chives.
2. Homemade banana ice-cream (no ice cream maker needed!)
Actually I started making this to help my daughter with her Happy Eaters’ food challenge to try and eat one slice of banana each day, for 15 days (she’s now nearly eight but been a fussy eater since she was one!) What a revelation! Simply chop up a banana into small chunks or slices, place in a freezer bag, once frozen give it a whizz in the Nutribullet or similar (add some raw cacao if you fancy!) and hey presto, you have a healthy banana and chocolate ice cream!
3. Handful of nuts
Research findings last year suggested that consuming between 5-10g of nuts daily resulted in ‘a decreased risk of death from any cause as well as various specific causes, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer, compared with those who didn’t eat any nuts’. More research is needed, but either way a small handful of nuts as a daily snack is a healthy option, as long as they’re not smothered in too much salt – or chocolate!
4. Full-fat greek yoghurt
Greek yogurt is an easy way to add more protein in your diet. I always go full-fat because this satisfies me more than eating a low-fat version, and therefore I’m less likely to want to snack again. For a bit of decadence, grate some dark chocolate over the top. Or add some crunchy homemade granola that’s low in sugar.
5. Boiled egg
A complete protein. No need to do anything other than cook and peel. Add some spinach leaves. Boom!
6. Hummus pot
I would love to say I make my own hummus, but I don’t! Either way, hummus is a great protein-rich snack, and makes a very satisfying and healthy snack when teamed with celery and/or carrot sticks.
Avocados are packed with nutrients, and here The Kitchn shares five easy ways to snack on them. The avocado and watermelon kebabs sound delicious! Or just eating it on its own – just chop in half and season – is just as tasty!
8. Tenderstem broccoli
Cooked in coconut oil and sprinkled with seeds, tenderstem broccoli can make a rather delicious savoury snack.
9. Fruit, veg and nut butter smoothie
Just throw a small handful of fruit and veg in the Nutribullet, a dollop of nut butter, and whizz away!
10. Frozen berries & grapes
No explanation needed!
11. Dark chocolate
Just a square or two can sometimes take the edge off a craving, and dark chocolate is much lower in fat and sugar than milk chocolate.
Add a small amount of cheese and wrap them both with a wholewheat, gluten-free tortilla or wrap if you’re absolutely starving!
16. Edamame beans
I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that Tesco sells edamame beans in pods, in the freezer section. If peckish, just defrost a handful in the microwave and you have an easy-to-prepare, high protein snack. Perfect for post workout!
17. Chunk of cheese
Or a Babybel. The latter is handy if you’re on the go and need something pre-prepared and wrapped.
My youngest daughter and I are fans of these – especially the new Cocoa Crunch bar! Comprising only raw fruit and nuts, and containing no added sugar, gluten, wheat or dairy – and GM-free – they make a convenient, nutritious snack.
22. Glass of sparkling water
Sometimes I think I’m hungry. Then I have a glass of sparkling water and I’m not. So it’s worth checking that that hunger pang isn’t thirst. I often had some cucumber or other fruit, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice, just to make the water more interesting.
I hope you’ve found my 22 healthy snack ideas useful and, as ever, I’d love to hear from you if you have any to add!
Yep, it’s an upbeat one this week, people! I’m on it. Feeling good.
And this is why.
I had my mid-programme Bodymetrix consultation with GPFIT London last week and it’s working, hurrah! Here are my – am I allowed to say this? – rather fabulous results after only five weeks of training with George:
40% less fat on my hips!
And 23% less on the triceps; and 18% less on the thighs (I like to think this measurement decrease isn’t as dramatic as the other two because I’ve developed fabulous thigh muscles ha!)
The graph below explains why I’ve had to send my size 14-16 tops and bottoms to the charity shop, including the new running leggings purchased only five weeks ago!
Lost 6% overall body fat!
I have! My body fat percentage has reduced from 40% to 34%. Remember me saying that the percent of body fat has the closest correlation to predicting your health? So I’m really happy about this.
My percentage body fat result still falls in the ‘obese’ category, and a healthy range for a 43 year old female is 13.0 to 24.0. BUT, things are moving in the right direction and if I keep going I know I’ll get there!
Lost a stone in weight!
Yes, I know that this isn’t the biggest indicator of increased fitness and health, but it’s a side effect I’m pretty pleased about. When I began my #121toFitMum journey my weight was 75.8kg – or 11 stones 13 pounds. Now only five weeks later I’m at a more respectable (for me) 69kg (10 stones 12 pounds). So not quite a stone but almost.
A healthy weight range is between 52.6 and 60.3 kg (or 8 stones 4 pounds – 9 stones 7 pounds). Pre-pregnancy, I was 9 stones on the nose and I felt fit and comfortable, but that was nearly eight years ago and I had no muscle tone at all really. So, if I reach 9 and a half stones after 121 days (it’s #121toFitMum remember?) then I’ll feel very happy with that. (Mind you, I’m only training with GPFIT London for 70 of those 121 days, and it will be interesting to see how I fare when I need to go it alone!)
A healthier BMI
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a common measure expressing the relationship (or ratio) of weight-to-height. BMI, like weight, may not be the best measure of health. But at 26.3 my BMI – while still in the ‘overweight’ range – is closer to the recommended 25 and under than my previous BMI of 28.9.
Decreased risk of stroke, heart disease & diabetes *relief*
This is the result I’m most pleased about because I really did feel so unhealthy pre- programme. These comparison tables show how my #121toFitMum fitness journey is future-proofing my body – for me, and for my loved ones.
Typing that last sentence has reminded me of the answer I gave George when he asked, what are your personal goals for this journey? My answer was as follows:
To spend more time being active with my two children √
I now look forward to running around with my two; chasing after them as they scoot along; completing the obstacle course at Hatfield House rather than watching them go alone; going swimming, rather than hiding away at home while their Dad takes them to the pool – again!
To improve my fitness level so I feel less out of breath doing everyday tasks √
I was always out of breath and often experienced pains in my chest while carrying out everyday tasks. Remember how I said in a previous blog post that I used to struggle to bend down and plug in my home printer under the TV unit? I really can’t believe that used to be me. Now I use the task as an opportunity to do a few leg stretches and lunges. Funny how things change!
To feel better about myself, including looking good and being more confident about going out and socialising √
Well, in short, I’ve started going out! I still don’t have many clothes to wear, but at least I can fit in the clothes I do own! I used to avoid nights out with friends. Or only hang out with my mummy friends who’ve only ever known me as Fat Jen, and who were happy to go out down the road to the local restaurant. As opposed to – as comedian Micky Flanagan would say – go ‘out out’ to a trendy part of town. I didn’t even realise this was what I’d been doing. So, a big not-so-fat sorry to my friends living outside of Muswell Hill – I plan to make up for lost time soon, I promise!
So, I’m at the halfway point of my #121toFitMum journey. I feel great. I’ve still a long way to go but things are moving in the right direction.
Now, the twice-weekly workouts have been key to my success to date. But I do have to emphasise that also I’ve been REALLY careful about what I eat and drink. You may not want or need to do this, but I knew I had to drastically improve my diet because I had/have so much/more body fat to lose. These are the key changes I’ve made to my diet:
Increasing my water consumption.
Completely avoiding refined foods, eg. white bread and white rice.
Completing cutting out all processed foods, even the relatively healthy Quorn or Cauldron Lincolnshire vegetarian sausages. In time I’m sure I’ll reintroduce these foods but for the time being I’m eating only unprocessed foods.
Reducing the amount of carbohydrate I eat during my evening meal. I’ve not been advised to do this but I’ve been craving more protein-led meals in the evening so I’ve listened to my body.
Only snacking on fruit, nuts and gluten-free oatcakes and other healthy snacks (and also being mindful of portion sizes).
Swapping cow’s milk for almond milk for 50% of the time, and eating only nut rather than dairy butter. GPFIT London didn’t advise me to do this, but as I’ve become healthier I’ve naturally craved plant-based foods over dairy.
Not skipping meals and keeping a log of calories in and calories out using myfitnesspal. It’s amazing how a splash of milk in your coffee, or an extra daily snack here and there can all add up. Equally it’s amazing – and motivating – to see how many calories a swim or long walk can burn.
Overall I’m pleased with my progress to date and GPFIT London is, too. I just hope I can keep it up! If reading this blog has got you thinking you’d like to increase your fitness, do give GPFIT London a call to talk about your goals. And if you decide to go ahead and make a block booking, don’t forget to take advantage of my Mumsnet Barnet and Mumsnet Enfield 10% discount.
Thanks Michele. Appreciated! Particularly since I’m almost at the halfway point of my GPFIT London #121toFitMum fitness challenge and gone off the rails a bit!
I’d not seen Michele for three-four weeks and last week (which was Week Five of my challenge) I started drinking the odd glass of wine, had a piece of white bread because I ran out of granary and – shock horror – ordered a thai green tofu curry from my fave North London takeaway place, Gen Dan Fushia in Crouch End. (As ever, it was bl**dy delicous!)
So I felt like I’d let myself down. And while I could see positive changes to my body (slightly slimmer waist, less wobbly arms, reduction in back fat) my stomach is still rather large and pregnant-looking (although admittedly I now look about three months instead of six!) Quite frankly I was becoming concerned that this fitness malarkey wasn’t going to work and I’d fail spectacularly in front of you all. *Wail*
So Michele’s rather crude exclamation when I opened the door to her last Wednesday was just what the doctor ordered!
On Tuesday I’d had a fab workout with George, and then another great session – my fave, boxing – on Thursday. George reminded me that while I’d consumed some not so healthy things this week, I’d still done two intensive workouts, which is more than the pre-challenge me would have done. And I’d not eaten terribly every day. I’d just had moments of over-indulgence.
So all was not lost, it seemed!
And rather than thinking, I’ll start again tomorrow, George said I should just think, I’ll start again now. I’ll just eat more healthily next meal. And drink lots of water. And sleep well. So I did. And I felt much better about myself. Hurrah!
Due to heavy work and child-related commitments, however, I still wasn’t organised in the food and drink department and this meant another takeaway on the weekend.
#Sorrybutnotsorry because I came across a takeaway mobile app that sells only gluten and sugar free food. Seriously. And they deliver to your door within 25 minutes. How amazing is that? Gourmet, healthy food on demand! The business is local, Crouch End-based Rose & Mary and they’re open between 5:00pm and 9:30pm Monday through Saturday. Rose and Mary can also help you cater for parties of ten or more people, which is great to know because my birthday is coming up soon (well, August – fellow Leos know we like to start planning our big day months in advance!)
Rose & Mary‘s dishes use only the freshest ingredients – meat is grass fed and free range; seafood is caught and delivered from sea to plate within 24 hours. Important for me, there is a good range of vegetarian and vegan dishes on offer. I went for the Green Minestra with Millet, described by Rose and Mary as ‘a superfood lovers’ favourite’ because millet is rich in minerals and vitamins. Perfect food for my #121toFitMum journey! The only issue I had was that it was so delicious I could’ve eaten more; but it was that attitude that got me into fat-trouble in the first place, so it was probably a blessing! My husband eats meat and went for the Lamb, Piperade, Mint and Coriander salad and said it was so fresh and tasty. He’s a keen cyclist and participates in crazy events such as Tough Mudder, so he didn’t need much persuading to eat a healthy takeaway at all.
I should point out now that I’ve not been asked to promote Rose & Mary; neither have I received any product in exchange for a review here. I simply find the service delivers exactly what is needed when you’re wanting to eat clean. And bonus – I used a discount code from the Muswell Hill Flyer, a fab magazine edited by the equally awesome Becky Beach. The code gave us £10 off our first order, so not only was the food deliciously healthy, it was a bargain, too!
But of course most of us can’t afford a full price takeaway every night, so that’s why it’s important to be organised on the food and drink front. As I’ve progressed through this journey I’ve learned (the hard way) that planning ahead means you’ll be less tempted to eat and drink the wrong things. So I’ve done a bit of digging and come up with some top food tips and hacks, so you don’t have to:
1.Prepare a weekly menu plan for you and the family
I know, I know. You know this. But do you do it? Menu planning helps ensure you buy the correct amount of food each week, and nutritionally balance your meals. What’s more, if you know what you’re going to be eating that day you can start prepping and cooking dishes on time, preventing cheeky snacking while waiting for a delayed meal!
2. Don’t buy junk food
If it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it! Simple. Your family will benefit, too!
3. Throw out any edible kids’ party bag contents
I don’t know about your kids, but mine always leave the birthday cake and my eldest doesn’t like sweets other than chocolate. So guess what used to happen? Yup, I helped them out! Now I just give the sweets to a friend’s child (with the parent’s permission, of course) or simply get rid when I get home.
4. Don’t eat leftovers from your children’s plate!
I used to be so guilty of this; and many mums I know do this, too. Tempting though it is to nibble, and as much as I hate waste, I now recycle leftover food straight away. The afore-mentioned Michele also swears by squirting a bit of washing up liquid over the food immediately!
5. Always have a bottle of water handy
And in more than one room if you’re moving around a lot, tidying up etc. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty (or you’re bored, and drinking water will give you something to do).
6. Batch cook
By doing this you minimise the amount of time you spend in the kitchen. It also means you have a ready-made lunch for the next day, so no excuses for nibbling while trying to decide what to eat.
7. Eat more fat
Sounds odd, I know, but if you don’t eat enough fat – especially if you’re working out – you won’t feel full and you’ll crave quick carb and sugar fixes that won’t give you long-lasting energy. Foods I enjoy that are high fat but healthy include nuts and nut butters, and eggs. More often than not I start the day with soft boiled eggs (which contain more protein than hard boiled ones), granary toast with almond butter and spinach, tomatoes or asparagus. This really sets me up for the day. Avocados are also good but unfortunately I’m allergic to those, boo!
8. Have healthy snacks – and brekkies -pre-prepared in the fridge
This tip is good for the kids as well. Peel and chop into sticks carrots, apple and sweet red peppers and pop into pots or sandwich bag portions next to a pot of delicious, homemade hummus. Next time you or the kids have a hunger pang, the healthy snacks are ready and waiting. Popcorn, nuts, homemade oat-based bars and (small) portions of dried fruit also work. Hard boiled eggs and spinach leaves are good and M&S now sell these in pots in the sandwich section. I used to think this was pointless because you can cook eggs at home, but last weekend I was out and about with friends who bought some fish and chips. Totally stuck, I nipped into their local M&S and bought some chicory coated nuts and a pot of two boiled eggs and fresh spinach leaves. I was happy as Larry!
I’ve also heard lots about overnight oats and chia seed smoothie bowls, but not yet tried these. If you have and you like, do feel free to share some of your recipes here.
9.Make a smoothie
If you’ve not eaten your recommended 5-10 fruit and veg portions per day, don’t panic! Add some spinach or kale to almond milk, throw in a few berries and some banana slices, a couple of spoonfuls of raw cacao powder and voila – a quick, easy and perfect post-workout protein hit!
I hope you’ve found these food planning tips helpful and do please share yours with me. I feel the training sessions with GPFIT London are essential to helping me achieve my personal fitness goals; however, I also believe that without also watching what I eat and drink that it would take me a lot longer to achieve them.
So, I’m halfway through my #121toFitMum journey. Five weeks down; five more to go. I’m desperate to know if I’ve lost percentage body fat and inches; and weight too, although the latter isn’t a key goal. But George says I need to wait until next week for my next Bodymetrix consultation to check my progress to date, so patient I must be.
Until next week!
PS. I know one North London mum has recently read one of my #121toFitMum blog posts and signed up with GPFIT London for a ten week personalised training plan. The very best of luck to you and it really motivates me knowing that my weekly ramblings have motivated someone else to set their own fitness goals. If you too would like to take control of your health, don’t forget you can get 10% off GPFIT London block bookings if you quote either Mumsnet Barnet or Mumsnet Enfield.
PPS. To read the previous #121toFitMum blog post click here.
I’m getting about 5 hours a night. Some might think I’m lucky. I guess it’s all relative.
But it’s not enough for me. Really, it’s not. I desperately need more. At least another 2 hours’ a night more.
I’m talking about sleep, of course.
Sleep. The holy grail of new parents everywhere. And the thing that, now my daughters are five and seven and sleeping soundly for 11.5 hours each night, I should be getting my fair share of.
And yet I’m not.
But why not?
Is it because I’m anxious about something? Have something on my mind? Or am I ill?
No. None of the above. I’m just rubbish at going to bed at a decent time. I’m often still awake at 2am, on social media or watching the telly and simply not feeling tired.
I’ve been a night owl since I was a teen. I was always waiting until mum was asleep and then switching my little portable TV back on and watching until the early hours. But I’d still be up and ready to leave for school on time, and always did well at school so, after a time, my mum gave up nagging me to go to bed when she went to bed. She just called me the owl and accepted my body clock for what it was.
As I got older and started working in an office I tried to be in bed by midnight, though. Otherwise I did feel a little weary at work the following day. But going on maternity leave in 2008 and again in 2011, and being woken and feeding children every few hours during the night, I got used to not much/broken sleep. And after becoming self-employed and not being a slave to the daily commute and 8.30am work meetings, I slipped back into my old ways and I started going to bed later and later.
When I became editor of Mumsnet Barnet and Mumsnet Enfield and the girls were still small, evenings and nights were the only times I could work. No interruptions. And I grew to love this time. It was my ME time! And once work was finished for the night, rather than closing down and heading off for bed, I’d start watching another episode of the TV series du jour. Watching telly and not having children talk all the way through it. Bliss! Eating without having to stop and feed/change nappy/take to the loo. Wonderful! Drinking a cup of coffee while it was still warm. Amazing!
Then in April last year I started studying advanced social media marketing with Digital Mums. Aside from this most fabulous of courses totally changing my life for the better in so many ways (and deserving of a blog post all of its own) it also encouraged my late night goings on. By the time I’d put the girls to bed, prepared and eaten supper, made packed lunches for the following day and got the school uniform ready, it was 10pm or later before I sat down to get cracking on with writing user personas or scheduling Facebook posts and tweets for the week.
But I coped. In fact, I did more than cope. I felt fine, absolutely fine. At least I did until a few months ago. I really don’t know why, but things changed. I stopped feeling OK when I woke up. I mean, I functioned. I got out of bed OK; got the girls breakfasted and to school on time. But I just didn’t feel right. And, if I’m honest, I still don’t. And I think it’s about time I did my mind and body a favour and gave it the chance to SLEEP!
So, the decision to get more kip has been made. My body’s telling me I need to, so I will. But I know it’s going to be hard to change the habit of a lifetime and get to bed ‘early’ – which, I’ve decided, for me to start with is before midnight, although I’d like to aim for no later than 11pm in due course).
To help me make this important change I’ve made a list of all the reasons sleep is important to wellness. Just to keep me on the straight and narrow, in case I start slipping back into my late night ways. And I really do urge you to read it. Really, you must. This isn’t some vanity exercise. Personally I was rather shocked by some of the information I unearthed, and I think you will be, too.
So here goes – six reasons why it’s important to get enough sleep (note that many studies have defined ‘enough’ as eight hours per night) :
1. Sleep helps you live longer.
The Bodymetrix assessment performed by GPFIT London at the beginning of my #121toFitMum journey revealed how excessive percentage body fat increased my risk of developing one or more chronic health conditions. Numerous studies also reveal how a lack of sleep can also increase your risk. Rather scarily, one study found that women who got less than four hours’ sleep per night doubled their risk of dying from heart disease. Sleep deprivation can also lead to insulin resistance; and health professionals are now recommending sleep as a way of helping to treat and prevent diabetes. In short, many studies have shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a night do not live as long. For me, this is a real wake-up call (pardon the pun).
2. Sleep boosts your immune system.
Nowadays it’s widely acknowledged that sleep is necessary for your immune system to function normally. And some studies have found that your ability to fight, for example, flu is comprised when you’re not getting enough sleep.
3. Sleep helps keep you slim.
Studies show that if you want to lose weight, you need to get more sleep. Simple as that. If you get more sleep you’re more likely to snack less, consume less calories and burn more fat- one study showed that sleep deprived people burned 20% less fat than those who had a decent amount of shut eye!
4. More sleep improves your productivity at work.
Sleep helps your brain work properly, helping it prepare for the next day. Studies show that a sleep helps you remember information, pay attention, be more creative and make decisions, which in turn improves learning and performance.
5. Sleep improves your looks.
A lack of sleep causes a decrease in blood flow, collagen production and drier skin resulting in more fine line wrinkles and sagging skin. Puffy eyes with dark circles, brittle hair, a droopy mouth and a pale complexion are just a number of other side effects of sleep deprivation. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing!
6. Sleep allows you to hope, dream & give life meaning!
Check out this video by Robert Stickgold, Director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He talks about how sleep is essential for imprinting events into your long-term memory, and helping make sense of your life. In short, sleeping allows you to assimilate what happens to you in your daily life; and dreaming helps you make sense of it all. The end result is you’re able to see the meaning of life, for you.
Writing all this down has certainly confirmed what I already know – a severe lack of sleep is affecting me mentally, emotionally and physically; and I need to do something about it. Starting tonight. Really, my health and wellbeing are too important to me and my family to ignore the sleep research evidence.
So, how can I maximise my chances of achieving an earlier bedtime? After checking out the experts’ top tips, I promise myself that – from tonight – I will:
1. Only use my bed for sleeping, not for finishing off my social media scheduling, checking my Facebook messages or watching the latest episode of Casualty on BBC iPlayer.
2. Not drink alchohol, caffeine or scoff cheeky, late night snacks just before bedtime.
3. Set myself a regular sleep schedule and stick to it, even on the weekends when it might be tempting to have a lie-in and rely on the DH (Mumsnet speak for ‘Dear Husband’) to get up and fix the kids’ breakfast.
So, tonight’s the night. Wish me luck!
Until next week
PPS. To read the previous #121toFitMum blog post click here.
It’s been two weeks since my last #121toFitMum blog post. I am sorry. It’s been a couple of weeks of tight work deadlines, nights out for friends’ birthdays and what seems like a zillion Ks1 SATs practice papers to help my eldest daughter with.
I say sorry. And I am. Because I think it’s not the done thing to not post your blog regularly, and on the same day and at the same time each week? I’m not entirely certain of the rules, though. Perhaps it doesn’t matter? Last year I’m sure I read a piece by a fabulous mummy blogger (perhaps it was Hurrah for Gin or Selfish Mother?) who said she’d managed to build a lovely blog community despite not following blogging etiquette. I wish I could remember who it was because then I could read the post again right now and instantly feel better about my tardiness.
Writing this, it’s struck me how – without realising it – I’ve embarked on two, not one, journeys in taking on this GPFIT London fitness challenge. Fitness is of course a totally new beast for me. But so is this blogging lark. I mean, I’ve blog reviewed products and events for Mumsnet Barnet and Mumsnet Enfield on and off for a year or so. But this #121toFitMum series is my first attempt at writing a themed series of blogs.
My PT, George, tells me I shouldn’t be too hard on myself if I eat something a little unhealthy, or miss a home workout. So perhaps I should apply the same logic to my blogging journey? So what, then, if a blog post is delayed? As long as I keep going and keep learning – and continue to receive lovely feedback both on- and offline – then I guess that’s progress, right?
So here I am. And I have three things to say:
1.I’VE BEEN OVERWHELMED BY THE SUPPORT
I didn’t think anyone other than me would ‘get’ how big a deal it was taking on the fitness challenge. But they did, and they do. I’ve had so many wonderfully supportive comments; but also, numerous friends have got in touch to say they’ve been inspired to get fit themselves after reading my posts. One friend has already hired her own personal trainer and has a 6am session booked for Friday (good luck Susanne!)
What’s more, I’m now considered to be a bit knowledgeable on all things fitness! Social media manager peers are keen to pick my brains on developing user personas (or customer pen portraits) for their health and wellness clients. So in addition to achieving fitness I am potentially opening up another work avenue as well.
2. I LOVE BOXING
Yep, you read right! I’m love boxing. With proper boxing gloves. And little, Michael Jackson-style white glove inserts underneath, and everything! It’s been a bit of a revelation, I can tell you.
When George first suggested boxing I was surprised and, if I’m honest, a bit scared. My younger sister always teased me about my weak arms and tiny fists – I was worried I’d look like a fool. And yet as a pre-teen I always loved watching the boxing with my granny (as you do) and so part of me was rather excited, too.
So these last two weeks I’ve had two boxing sessions. (There should have been a non-boxing workout in-between but we had to cancel that session due to poorly children on both sides) and I can honestly say I can’t wait until the next one!
Granted, my footwork needs a bit of work. As does my jab. Plus I bruised my knuckle when I went for a un-gloved cross at George at the same time as he! (I was meant to be watching him, not joining in yet.)
But compared to the lunges, squats and press ups, this boxing business doesn’t really feel like doing exercise. I’m so busy concentrating on the sequences, on where my feet need to be and also enjoying getting out all my frustration, that the hour session is up before I know it.
Although I ache a little later that day, it’s a great ache. And when I’m washing in the shower that evening I’m sure my arms feel just that little bit more toned. And my abs – well, I can feel some muscle developing on the flanks! People say you really start to notice positive changes in your body after about four weeks’ of exercise, and this has certainly proved to be right in my case. I’ve had to throw away a pair of size 16 jeans that fell down as I ran for the bus (the shame!) and already my new size 16 running leggings are a bit baggy on the waist, hips and upper thigh (shame, I really like them!) I’ve also heard it said that it’s after eight weeks that other people start to notice your increased fitness and weight loss – we soon shall see.
3. I CAN PLANK!
Oh yes I can! Despite assuming my core muscles were shot to pieces I actually planked – twice! George is my witness! And during the second boxing workout I actually managed to hold it for a whopping 45 seconds. Not bad for a fat girl!
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on GPFIT London‘s Platinum customised training plan, which works out at only £40 per session and includes an free fitness consultation, Bodymetrix analysis, nutrition advice and 20 hour-long workouts. My personal trainer has incorporated the Hatton Academy Boxing into this plan. But you can opt for the Hatton 10 or Hatton 5 plan, comprising either ten or five Hatton Boxing fitness sessions each lasting 45 minutes, plus warm up and down time. This works out at only £30-35 per session and, if you mention Mumsnet Barnet or Mumsnet Enfield then you get a 10% discount, too.
If you decide to give Boxing or any other fitness programme a try, keep me posted and I’d love to follow your progress just as you’re following mine.
And thank you for bearing with me and my tardy blogging. I do appreciate it.
Until next week.
Jenny & George
PPS. To read the previous #121toFitMum blog post click here.