D and I are on a bit of a health kick at the moment and when we are eating healthier I tend to have smoothies a lot for breakfast. I broke my blender making smoothies and now I have a shiny new smoothie maker. I know they’re notorious for being sugary but you can make them less so but adding spinach and using fresh fruit instead of using ready made smoothies. Also in my defence I find that eating fruit earlier on in the day prevents me from craving sweet things made from refined sugars later in the day and it puts me in a happier, more energetic mood and my skin looks better. Generally we try and eat mostly vegetarian and pescatarian meals now so maybe it just fits in with these meals?
I nearly always thicken my smoothies by adding a banana. I also add oats or a nut butter to make it filling enough to see me through until lunch. Then I will add frozen fruit such as mango, blueberries or raspberries or the frozen fruit mixes designed to make smoothies with (like the banana and strawberry mix). Sometimes I use up fruit that isn’t quite at is best (minimise food waste when you can) and I also like to add frozen spinach. It is packed with all sort of nutrients and also because it has anti inflammatory properties so I find it really helpful with stomach pain or aching muscles. I switch between making smoothies with unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or sometimes normal milk depending on what I have in. (Sometimes I have coconut water too).
I don’t think there is much of a recipe for what is essentially squashed fruit whizzed up in a blender, these are just some ideas to inspire. Maybe I’m just obsessed with fruit?
“Self care” always seems a very millennial term to me. My mum often ends phone calls telling me to “look after yourself” and I think for me this isn’t about living extravagantly or being greedy with food or possessions. It’s more being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself even when things feel bleak and not going to extremes to make yourself feel better.
Caring for oneself might not be flashy, it might not give you the best social media following or Instagrammable moments 24/7 but it can keep you going when things get tough or when you’re feeling burnt out.
Here are some things that always help me when life starts getting on top of me (for whatever reason):
1. Have a bath. If you’re like me and your wonderful family and friends buy you a lot of bath stuff for Christmas or birthdays keep a stash to feel like a treat. There’s nothing like using something lovely smelling to lift your mood.
2. Soul food. There’s nothing like cooking the sort of thing you used to be fed when you were growing up to make you feel a bit better. If you’re really struggling with life even a bowl of kids cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals and soup is cheap and filling (souper).
3. Take one thing off your list. In my job I write lists to help me to remember what I have to do and I encourage the people of my team to keep lists. I advise you, if you’re feeling truly overwhelmed with everything you expect to get done be realistic. Are you really going to have time for everything? You don’t have to be superwoman. Take something of your list to ease the pressure if it’s not an urgent task.
4. Sort out your socks. This is a silly one but tidying and cleaning helps you feel in control (this from a messy person!) and I realized just this weekend but actually wearing matching socks helps with the overall feeling of taking some pride in your appearance.
5. Spend time with loved ones. When life gets hard it is so easy to withdraw but I promise you company will help. Even if you’re sitting drinking tea at your friends house or playing games with your siblings. Don’t doubt the magic of spending time with people where you can just be yourself.
6. Get outside. See some nature. Get some fresh air. Blow those cobwebs away. Simple.
7. If you have a pet there is literally nothing nicer than them coming up to you and nuzzling you. I know not everyone is an animal person but if you are you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
At New Year I think we can all confidently say that we are inundated with two opposing forces in both mainstream and social media. These being the concept of “New Year New You” or the alternate view of “making resolutions is pointless as you never stick to them anyway”.
While for most of us a complete lifestyle overhaul is unobtainable and daunting there are so many small steps you can do to make yourself feel better. It often seems to me that the whole wellness thing that really exploded between 2016 was difficult for us to stick to, expensive to obtain ingredients and often impractical for fitting into a family routine. Just ask me about the time I tried a kale smoothie and thought I was eating grass; or the time I tried the paleo diet and it was the best thing ever until the day I started crying because I was hormonal and desperately wanted some oven chips.
However, I am as guilty as anyone for letting myself think that means I can lose sight of healthier living altogether. I noticed my face becoming increasingly moon like in November and took myself in hand for the 6 weeks prior to Christmas. Here were my smallest changes, but I actually enjoyed the little challenges posed and I got a bit of a spring in my step.
So here are a few suggestions to help you along with a healthier year:
If possible take advantage of your local parkrun. This is a fantastic event run solely by volunteers. Basically its a weekly Saturday morning 5k run. There’s runners of all abilities and its so well run and everyone is really encouraging, even when you’re just starting out. To be honest I am a terrible runner. My gait is like that of Kermit the frog, but the fresh air and actually doing the 5k gives me such a sense of achievement whenever I attend and you can see how you’re improving from your time each week. Its completely free and you can sign up here.
Just try and do more active things at the weekend. Swim, go to a trampoline park, ride your bikes. D and I did a walk around Ripley today and it blew away the cobwebs away and we saw some beautiful countryside.
Stop with the fizzy drinks, especially diet drinks. Full sugar fizzy drinks have so much sugar and you probably don’t really notice you’re drinking empty calories. Diet drinks seem like a sensible alternative but they’re still pretty acidic and the sweeteners can actually contribute towards you putting on weight. I have basically cut put my fizzy drink vice in favour or tea, coffee and water and I think this contributed to weight loss more than anything else and since I stopped having fizzy drinks I noticed I enjoy sweet treats way more.
Identify when you eat the worst. I am a great boredom eater at the weekend and tended to snack after we did our food shop. I also always used to get to lunchtime at work and convince myself I had worked hard enough to justify caramel shortbread from the canteen. Breaking the caramel shortbread habit was straightforward enough as it because something of an ongoing gag between myself and my friends at work but the boredom eating was a challenge. We ended up food shopping at a different time of day to avoid this habit (we also saved money buying fewer sweeties).
On prepackaged food look at the traffic lights. When you’re out and want a snack this is a great way to grab a snack without it disrupting a basic healthy lifestyle.
Don’t be hard on yourself all the time. Life is to be enjoyed and enjoying good food and wine with family and friends is part of this. Give yourself time to relax and stress less about what you’re eating and just enjoy being with people you care about and have a good time.
I wish I could apologise for my dreadful pun, but I can’t. I love a good pun especially in the context of breakfast food. I have mentioned in previous posts trying to have healthy breakfast foods, but struggling to stay full until lunch. Which I must admit I have managed since changing what I ate in the morning and I must admit that adding muesli and porridge back into my repertoire there has been no exception. The added bonus of having a sweet breakfast is that once I get round to lunchtime I don’t seem to crave really sweet food quite so much.
I got sent some muesli by Stoats along with a range of their porridge which I loved and got me back onto cereal in a big way. Its just so easy! While I love smoothies and things on toast this actually means there is less washing up overall. (Also as mentioned previously I’m a big fan of Scottish food and produce as its part of my heritage and what I grew up eating).
I have found however, that it perks me up so much to have fruit first thing and I think my skin has certainly improved since adding more fruit into my diet.
Plus, I think cereal looks so beautiful when you’re hungry.
Initially last week I planned to write a post about how to cope with the festive season when you’re really not feeling great. It can sometimes be so hard to put a brave face on when everyone wants you to be happy and to enjoy festivities. However, this time last week I got struck down with a kidney infection. I can only describe this as one of the most painful episodes of my life. It hurt to walk, it hurt to sit down. My lower back felt like someone was digging a screwdriver in at exactly the point where my kidneys apparently sit. Anyway I am feeling a tonne better and I thought I would instead post about some of the lovely people who cheered me up.
As a side note, if you do feel rubbish this week, the best thing you can really do is to talk to someone about it. Your family and friends really do only want you to be happy all the year round and will always be there with a listening ear and a cuddle; even if they can’t provide a solution to your problems. Sometimes you don’t need to even talk, just sitting together watching a favourite film, or taking a boxing day walk will help. Comfort can be found in the smallest things even just taking yourself off for a long bath or snuggling up with a good book.
Anyway instead of a gift guide this is a nice little list of the people who cheered me up and actually made me feel all festive:
The nice NHS direct lady, who kept me calm and sorted me out with an out of hours doctors appointment with no hassle.
The out of hours doctor who went out of his way to make sure I was prescribed the most effective antibiotics, making life way easier than having to trail backwards and forwards.
The friends who kept contacting me to make sure I was feeling better, offered to go to the shops, tagged me in funny videos on Facebook, made me up a missing out on going to see Star Wars present and understood me barely showing up to one of their birthday parties. You are all very sweet and I miss those of you I don’t see as often any more.
My Mum and Dad; who cooked me my favourite tea, consoled me over the phone and generally looked after me. You are both wonderful.
My brother; thank you for making me laugh a lot with your new cat and cheering me up by being so happy in your home.
D’s mum for also contacting me to make sure I was feeling better and for always making me feel so welcome in their family.
D; thank you for it all. Driving me around, keeping an eye on me, bringing water and making me smile even when I didn’t have the energy to really get out of bed. Also thanks for the massive card that came in a box. I don’t think I have ever received a boxed card and I’m so excited to be spending Christmas with you.
Obviously I’m feeling much better now after rest, antibiotics and lots of water and I feel very loved.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and I hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones.
The most observant of my regular readers might have noticed my absence for a few weeks. While my lack of writing wasn’t exactly intentional it was very much needed. This time it didn’t come about from emotional turmoil, more sheer exhaustion.
After a busy period with work, trying to blog more often and everything else that is involved with this crazy thing they call modern life I found myself feeling more and more run down and I was getting pretty horrendous headaches and dizzy spells a lot. This culminated one Saturday lunchtime with what D likes to call “Charlotte’s little sleep on the kitchen floor” where I managed to collapse and have to spend the rest of the Saturday in A&E getting poked prodded and generally tested to make sure nothing was amiss. Joking aside, D was actually pretty fantastic. Despite having worked all night before and having been awake more than 30 hours me managed to keep me laughing in hospital while we waited. It seems that when you go to A&E you spend quite a lot of time waiting for things to happen while various health professionals busily work around you. I am so grateful for the help and attention I received and I spent most of my time sitting, wondering at the audacity of the current goverment and their attitudes towards NHS staff.
Anyway, to cut a long story short they couldn’t find anything majorly wrong with me. However, everyone concerned told me I needed to stop running myself down, give myself time to rest and recharge my batteries and stop racing about trying to do everything. I think that’s true of a lot of people. We try so hard all the time, to be Superwoman (or Superman?) at work, keep up with hobbies, exercise regimes, running a home and trying to maintain an active social life (while not neglecting your family and friends); sometimes you just need to give yourself a break. Sometimes you just need to give yourself time to physically and mentally rest, to stop putting so much pressure on yourself to do everything.
So, that’s what I have been trying to do. I’ve been staying at work late less often, huddling on the sofa reading, listening to records with D and generally trying to do the exact opposite of haring about. But obviousy I have missed blogging and I actually have a lot of recipes to share over the next few weeks.
Anyway, I think really what I wanted to get across in this post was, your general health and wellbeing is far more important than trying to live up to your own perception of what a perfect person gets up to in their lives. There are only so many hours in the day, be kinder to yourself. Make time to curl up on the sofa watching a much loved tv boxset, go on walks in the countryside and give yourself time to rest. (Or however you like to relax, I don’t actually think my experience makes me some sort of relaxation oracle).
I actually feel so refreshed now and I have so many ideas to share with you all. Christmas is coming together nicely. I don’t care if my and D’s idea of what a pretty Chrstiams tree or what good Christmas week activities aren’t intagram perfect or make anybody jealous, but I will feel pretty excellent if even one person out there reads this and thinks “yes I do need a break”, or “I think I’ll stop stressing so much about x, y, z. I might just go and ready Harry Potter in the bath tonight”.
Also, one final point, the male paramedic thought I was only about 17 or 18 when we were in the ambulance the other week, so I can’t have aged that badly(!)
I generally don’t delve into my personal life too much on here; despite the slight change of pace and direction on here thebunfight will always primarily be a food blog to me, with various lifestyle, home and craft posts. However, I had a conversation with my mum over the Christmas period and it crept into my mind to write a post dedicated to something important, this being my improved attitude towards food in general (and mostly my increased appreciation of eating carbs with my meals again).
Up until I graduated from university I was slim to average and I was generally perfectly content with how I looked. I’d been brought up eating healthy, home cooked meals by two parents who absolutely doted on me. During my MSc year weight started to creep on and unfortunately during that period of feeling like my career had no direction (that is so common for a lot of us upon graduation) my weight increased to a point in which I was unhappy with how I looked.Fortunately, I ended up moving to a new place for a job related to my degree. Rather more unfortunately I was now cooking for myself and I have a bit of a sweet tooth and a major love for cheese. In addition, an unexpectedly horrible few months led to an unfortunate cycle where I gained even more weight and tried to lose weight eating a low carb diet which I couldn’t maintain and desperately unhappy I ended up comfort eating on sugary, fatty food – exactly what you want to be eating when you’re trying to lose your bingo wings, eh? I still dislike looking at photos of myself from Spring – Autumn 2013 knowing how desperately unhappy I was.
Anyway, I’ve depressed you all enough and this story has a very happy ending. So my life, and self esteem were improved by several things in 2014 which will forever be known as my unexpectedly lovely year. The first one was getting more involved with the right sort of exercise for me – gym classes and running with female friends. If ever there was a lazy woman who needed peer pressure to get off the sofa it was me. I will forever be grateful to my friends from work for barking at me as I ran round various routes in Harrogate (even if i whimpered all the way!) Exercise is so important for your physical and mental health, and although I was going to the gym before I don’t think I really understood the full benefits of fresh air and a more demanding workout.
The other thing that has helped was starting a new relationship and changing living situation. Not for any major reasons to do with looking nice, or obtaining a more positive body image. Have you ever tried to tell a 6ft 3 man with a healthy appetite that his tea that night is a salad? What about fish and vegetables? So, for the ease of cooking for two I started making meals that were a compromise – so things that were relatively healthy but more filling. So starchy carbs such as rice, pasta and bread have all returned to the daily menu and I eat until I feel comfortable.
I no longer snack as much – I get far less hungry between meals generally. I feel more awake and I don’t get as much of a 3pm slump where i feel sluggish. For a number of reasons I feel happier and my general mood has improved. We have dessert as a treat, not a nightly occurrence and neither of us is as bothered about snacking every night. I think when lower carb diets are suggested to people trying to lose weight, we forget that it is difficult to maintain this in the long term. Its not as sustainable for most people. Its far less easy to say no to a chocolate biscuit when your body thinks its missing out by not having porridge for your breakfast. When you’re trying to keep to a lower carb diet, everything outside of this dining experience becomes something of a naughty snack and we start to associate eating things we should be eating less of as a pleasurable experience. I personally have noticed gradual weight loss happening since I unconsciously changed my eating habits.
I still adore cooking and baking and I regularly bake on a Sunday afternoon and I still love blogging and writing about food. However, I don’t feel the same guilt for enjoying treats and I tend to bake more with fruit or make things we can take with our packed lunches or things that will keep during the week. Funnily enough there is a Ferrero Rocher Tart post in the pipeline but this sort of bake has become something I like to make when I have more time, at special occasions.
To summarise, this post feels like an awfully heavy topic for somebody who gets excited by Kinder Egg toys and Moomin pyjamas but diets and body image are partially related to food, right?
Anyway, after a post heavy on feelings rather than cake possibly you’d like to see a few pictures from my year?