Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Everybody’s little helper

“You have that type of face.”

“Take it as compliment.”

Just a few choice phrases I hear on many occasion.

At work I need to be super organised and plan and guide team members, at home I am the diary owner and the one who runs our social life, with friends I tend to be the one who over the years makes group arrangements or suggestions of nights out. With family I am the one contacted about meeting up and ideas for plans.

Whatever job I’ve been in and for whatever length of time I’ve always been the go to person for people across the company – Mel will know, Mel keeps records of everything, Mel can tell you, Mel will have the details of who to ask.

I’ve come to realise I just need to accept that this seems to be part and parcel of who I am, my nature, my approach. I help people. I organise.

In turn, I also admittedly get a bit uncomfortable if others do take the reins since I’m a bit of a control freak and they’ll likely not do it how I would have done.

However, last year I began to notice another pattern emerging. That of strangers.

Yes complete and utter strangers, in the street, on public transport, in any kind of random situation you’d like to think of.

People I have no knowledge of until the particular said moment, who also want my help or to talk to me.

We all know the elderly man or lady at the bus stop, they look lonely, they just want someone to make conversation with. I have no issue with them and have sympathy for them, but what is it about me that makes them think they’ll start up a conversation with me. Not the half dozen other people around them and on occasion closer to them.

On my breaks at work, quite often on my walk to or from the local coffee shop I get approached by tourists or people going for a meeting who ask me directions. Now I am based near Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Liverpool Street – you can imagine how many people there are around that area. But I’m the person that gets approached.

The best example so far was yesterday. Walking back to my office a young guy in his late 20s, early 30s, stopped and asked ‘Can I ask you a favour?’ I should add I’d been doing my usual London-commuter-super-fast-paced-stone-faced look so I don’t really think I looked all that friendly.

Me, being me, I said ‘sure’ and smiled.

He then proceeded to present me with a really teeny tiny mobile phone (whilst holding a bigger phone in his other hand) and asked ‘I’ve not got my glasses. Can you do me a favour and read out the number for me’. My getting-old, non-trusting self did even for a minute think this was a scam and he was going to distract me whilst someone else dipped in my bag and took my phone or purse! (I know, how old am I getting??)

So of course I checked which entry and read it out to him. ‘Ah thanks you’re an angel!’ and off he went.

Now, don’t get me wrong it is a compliment people clearly think I am approachable and that to me is a positive thing. However, it can – as you can appreciate – get a little exhausting.

Why is it then people choose to ask me over all these many other members of the public, workspace, social group, family?

I read recently that nowadays we live in a world where people don’t accept responsibility for their actions anymore. We all blame each other and nobody wants to go ahead and do things for others, everyone wants someone else to do it.

I’ve always been someone who can’t stand to see things unfinished or ignored. This new mantra people seem to follow in society is lost on me. It’s just not me.

And when I’ve tried to not offer myself up to do things? In all honesty it’s kind of made me miserable because it’s not the real me.

Even on calls or meetings – if someone makes a joke and nobody responds I feel forced to force a giggle, or silence to somebody’s request for ideas, I will eventually jump in just to offer something.

So maybe I bring it on myself.

Sure, I get that for people who know me a little better. But strangers? I’m baffled, what truly can it be?

Any ideas anyone?
[I say, already doubting a response because after all you’ll all be waiting for me to fill the gap and silence right?]

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Every little counts

At the risk of jumping on a cheesy Tesco tagline, I'm really mindful at times of approaching life one little step at a time.

Today I weighed myself and finally I've lost two pounds!

No, not a huge weight loss or anything monumental, but it's progress and wow was I craving that.

The odd thing is - as I've likely said before, I never learn! - I'd started to get a bit more relaxed and had been eating 'badly'. Then miraculously the weight starts to move.

I read an interesting article this week about why your weightloss might be slow, it suggested that in fact you can end up eating more by obsessing over eating less.

And a recent TV documentary suggested exercising can indeed also lead to eating more than you need as you gear yourself up to needing the extra calories or indeed being deserving of eating more/consuming more calories as a reward.

Guilty as charged!

Being strict with my diet and exercising most days was tiring and I wasn't sleeping too well. When I jumped on the scales and saw no movement - well no positive movement - I was really starting to feel disheartened.

On Sunday we had our parents over for a meal. We had tea and biscuits and alcohol and nuts before the meal. Then we sat down to wine with dinner and three courses:

Mozarella, prosciutto Parmesan, oil and vinegar and bread to start.   

Duck breast with a plum sauce, mash, sugarsnap peas, baby corn and asparagus for main.

Ending with either apple crumble or chocolate brownie cake with cream.

I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I'd been to an rpm class in the morning but I didn't calorie count and I had a good chat and catch up with family. 

Surely I should put on? I'd been for lunch out Friday and cocktails on Friday night too. 

But no today I lost weight. 

I have no idea why but I am thankful. And I'm remembering every little counts.

It was the little boost I needed to stick at it, but also enjoy socialising and eating and drinking too. And not agonising if I don't exercise constantly.

Tomorrow I'm going to a talk by Jillian Michaels (my 30 Day Shred hero) and I hope she'll be more than a boost to my current mindset and diet and exercise  approach.

For now I'm making the most of the little steps in the right direction and I'll let you know how the talk goes.

It's her Maximise Your Life tour. Here's to minimising my body fat and maximising my progress! 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Remembering forgetting

As a keen reader I’ve started as I mean to go on and three weeks into the year I’ve nearly finished reading my third book.

This fictional piece is a dark tale about a female victim of a stalker, not the happiest of reads. It is similar to the likes of Gone Girl though and so I’m interested to see how it ends now.

However, my prior two books – fiction again – have been a bit more thought provoking. They again were hard to read – not because they are dark, but because both cover difficult topics.

One, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes follows the journey of an middle aged woman who is dying from cancer and her last week with her family and friends, looking back on her life (not as morbid as it may sound!) The other Elizabeth Is Missing introduces the reader to Maud, an old lady who suffers from dementia.

Both have touched me, as you’d imagine the first really helps you put things in perspective and value life and how short it is, the second was at times painful as it brought back memories of one of my relatives.

One of my grandparents, my Mum’s mother, known to me as Nanny Rhoda, had Alzheimer’s Disease and the wonderful way Elizabeth is Missing is written it almost made me feel I could peek into how her mind must have been running.

I know of other different relatives who were struck with this cruel illness and also relatives of friends.

Of course no illness is nice to have and if someone is deteriorating or dying it’s horrendous for their loved ones, but there’s something about losing the person in front of you whilst they are still alive that hits so hard.

It’s interesting the different ways it impacts individuals too, some people forget their nearest and dearest, others turn violent, most people seem to revert back to their past.

And what is the right way to deal with it? Should you play along with the person who thinks they’re a little girl again or are living somewhere where they grew up? Or should you correct them and explain who everyone is and where they are now?

I often wonder if they will ever find a way to cure people with the illness or do we just have to accept that for some that traumatic and confusing journey is a fact of life that’s just going to happen?

Why is it some people get it and others don’t?

I guess I’ve also been thinking about it more of late since a relative sadly passed away at the start of this year. He was actually my grandmother’s brother and Alzheimer’s really hit him hard. It seems people get so bad you end up feeling that passing on is in actual fact a blessing as they’re not really themselves and don’t have a good life anymore. I know some have said they felt they said their goodbyes to the person way before they died as they weren’t themselves for so long.

It seems often in hindsight that people have displayed signs for quite some time – I can remember Nanny Rhoda forgetting people’s names and we in fact used to tease her, it would be a running joke. Now looking back you feel awful as that was probably in fact the warning signs it started.
In the book Maud has carers come to visit and she has a pile of notes to remind her to eat/not eat/not leave the house etc. It again reminded me of Nanny Rhoda, when she started to get bad and was still living at home along, miles from where the rest of us live. She’d forget to eat but tell the carers she had eaten, as she simply couldn’t remember.

Unfortunately she had to go into a care home, I can remember visiting her there and it was hard I won’t lie. Christmas mornings would be standing in the care home amongst other people, trying to be festive and cheerful. We tried having days where she’d come out for family gatherings, but again she would get so worked up (where she was used to the care home routine) it was kinder to stop.

I often remember – and still have – a photo album I made for her. A memory book of sorts which had labelled photos of who was who to help remind her and prompt her thinking. On the board by the dining room it would say what meals the residents had eaten and whenever you asked Nanny Rhoda what she’d have it’d be some made up meal and not really what she’d experienced. She just couldn’t remember.

Imagine, imagine every day waking up and within minutes forgetting what’s going on, where you are, why you are there? Thinking things that happened to you years back only just happened and having to relive certain traumatic times too I imagine.

I’m pretty forgetful now and I admit at times I do start to worry, maybe I will take the same path. It is such a painful illness to go through when it affects your loved one, but if you yourself have Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia how completely confusing or frightening must your life become?

What a cruel way to have to live.

I don’t have any grandparents left now, my first Granddad passed away when I was at secondary school, the second when I was still relatively young, my first Grandma when I was at University and Nanny Rhoda who I’ve referred to since I’ve been older.

So if you’ve still got your grandparents cherish them and make the most of them. I admit I get very envious of friends who talk about their grandparents, it feels I’ve not had any for so long now. You won’t believe how much you take them for granted until they’re no longer here, or if they are here but are not who they used to be. It’s not nice.

I apologise if this post is somewhat depressing and morbid to read. I guess reading these books and recent conversations has bought a lot to the surface and ironically made me remember things.

For now I guess it’s sad but true, we just have to accept this illness is here and pretty common, so in the meantime I’m going to try do something about it. I’ve already started researching, but I think this year I’m going to try take part in some sort of event – maybe the Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk – watch this space.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Beating the blues

I've decided I've found the way to beat January blues.

We all know what it’s like you have a big build up to Christmas, time off, presents, food and drink. Within 5 minutes it’s over and then bam you’re into a new year. It’s cold, it’s dark, you’re back to work and you’re skint. Happy days.

A few years back I decided to try Dry January and in turn ‘become more cultured’. The no drinking was tough and I found I just became a bit of a hermit and didn’t socialise for most of the month. I did however discover I liked ballet, am not a fan of the opera and like exhibitions/galleries depending on what they are.

Like everyone else I was feeling a bit down about the winter and having to go back to work – especially after having simply been eating, drinking and watching films over the Christmas break and totally messing up my sleeping patterns!

I’m finding it hard to get up in the mornings whilst it’s so dark and I am constantly sleepy by about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. However, I am finding a way to deal with it.

Plans. Lots of plans – I’ve been on a booking whirlwind – booking in friends to come visit our house who haven’t seen it yet, making social arrangements after work and booking shows I quite fancy the look of.

So far we’ve been to see Swan Lake at the London Coliseum, The Likes Of Us by a local group at our local theatre, a wedding exhibition at the V&A, been on a work team meal out and eaten Mexican street food.

This week I’m catching up with an old friend over a meal and drinks and am going out for cocktails on Friday night.

I’ve already got booked up next week a diet/coaching talk show, a spa day and a wedding show.

That’s not counting having family over at the weekend, booking up another ballet and already having tickets to the Ideal Home Show (thanks to my lovely friend, one of my Christmas presents).

It feels good to see my diary getting full and it doesn’t make January and winter seem so glum that’s for sure.

The other thing I’m of course doing is trying to get back in shape. I put on quite a fair bit of weight over Christmas and in fact since moving into our house together. So I’ve also been trying to be strict since New Years Day and am exercising and eating a healthy diet/watching my calories.

Last week when I weighed myself I was a tad disappointed with progress however and tomorrow I plan to weigh myself again – another week in. So let’s just see how successful this blues beating approach is then…

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Super song addict

Have you ever heard a song and liked it so much you just have to keep listening to it?

It’s always in your head?

You find yourself humming it absentmindedly?

You play it and then you need to play it again straight after?

You can’t listen to it without singing along?

My name’s Mel and I have a song addiction.

Towards the end of last year I was in the car with my fiancé and a song came on the radio, I of course did my classic groan and then shriek ‘Oh I LOVE this song!’

I’ve since realised how annoying I am in the car with him (I’m surprised he’s lasted 9 years+) but if there is a song I like playing in the car I have to sing to it. Well try to sing, I have an awful voice.

This particular evening he told me how annoying I am and proceeded to crank the volume up to drown me out.

The song? Don’t Let Go, by En Vogue. I’ve not heard it in years, but it brought back so many memories from when I was young and is a proper ‘hairbrush song’ (you know, when you’re young and you sing dramatically into a hairbrush some other microphone-alternative item?)

After wailing and shrieking along to it in the car I then obsessed about it all evening and proceeded to check my iPod. What?! It’s not on there?!

So I looked on iTunes.

Oh dear…I then found Greatest Hits of En Vogue and remembered some other ‘classics’. A few minutes later and the album was on my iPod!

And since? Well when my fiancé is out and I’m along on goes the iPod dock and the song gets played on loop until I get embarrassed that my next door neighbours can hear.

I then told one of my team at work about my dilemma and ended up playing it 3 times in a row whilst at work – well you’ve somehow got to brighten up all those spreadsheets!

This is not the first time this has happened, other classics I can remember are Jennifer Paige’s Crush which old Uni flatmates of mine will remember I used to play weirdly when me and my boyfriend of the time had an argument and he’d stormed off home. Ah the random things you do when young…

I also got a tad obsessed with Kasabian’s Fire for quite some time too.

I’m sure there are many others too.

So what is it that makes certain songs stick in our head and appeal so much? And why is it you feel the need to keep playing and playing and playing the song before eventually (and I’m talking a long time here) it starts to grate on you and you get fed up?

And more importantly, please help me out here and tell me I’m not the only this happens to?


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Is Tuesday really that terrible?

This morning as I walked along in the rain, annoyed that two cars went flying over the crossing and didn't stop for me, I was taken back to my A Level days.

Studying Sociology as one of my subjects at sixth form college, we learnt about something called the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy - the idea people end up behaving or thinking a certain way if you constantly expect it of them. 

I can recall studies on children who became naughty or troublesome after their family and school teachers all labelled them as such. After a while they then started to behave and adopt traits of  being that way.

The reason I thought about this was a simple reason. Today is Tuesday.

I've blogged about it before, but for some reason for quite some time I've found on a Tuesday I tend to have a bad day. 

Even if my day seems to be going okay, later on I soon find myself annoyed or upset by something at work, or I'll have transport issues or I'll get some bad news. You get the idea.

So my default reaction this morning on having cars not stop for me and the fact it was raining on my walk to the tube station was just that. Oh typical it's Tuesday! 

I've come to almost dread Tuesdays and I think on occasion I've avoided certain things like booking important meetings  on this day of the week, just in case.

This morning I finally weighed myself and I found I've only lost 1lb in weight since I first weighed myself on New Year's Day to start my healthy eating and exercise.

What did I do? Of course, as you're guessing - as silly as it is - I thought maybe I need to re-think this day to weigh myself. Perhaps I should go back to Saturdays or Mondays like before.

I realise I've been thinking this way for quite some time now. As weird as it may seem and however slightly embarrassing it is to admit it.

For some reason this morning as I was walking I was taken back to my 16/17 year old self and I thought of Sociology and this Self Fulfilling Prophecy. 

Maybe Tuesdays aren't all bad. What if all this time I've been making them hard for myself? Could a few odd bad days have fallen on a Tuesday by coincidence and I've now shoved this label on them and am now stuck in my ways obsessing over Terrible Tuesdays? Are other days full of similar occurrences but I deal with them better because they've fallen on another day and I've not made such a big deal out of them?

So as I walked along I decided today I am not going to assume things will be bad and if things do happen I mustn't associate them with the fact it's a Tuesday.

So far so good. I'm on my break at work and although a couple of things haven't been great I'm not on some sort of downer. 

Let's see if I make it to the end of the day and if this new approach works.

Anyone else got any weird habits like this? And can it really be true you can influence your whole day with the power of your thinking?

I'll let you know... 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Tutu-ly beautiful ballet

As one of my Christmas presents from my fiancé I had surprise tickets to the ballet.

Swan Lake.

I've always wanted to see Swan Lake, I remember it from when I was a little girl for some reason but I couldn't tell you why. 

I did go ballet classes for a short time when I was really little so maybe they showed us it, played the music or talked about it. I just remember knowing of Swan Lake from a young age.

Then Black Swan came out a few years back and it reminded me again. 

Knowing this - as he always does - my man got tickets so we could finally go see it.

So on Thursday evening we visited the London Coliseum and watched the English National Ballet. 

Each time I've seen this company I've been impressed, but the dancing in this performance was truly amazing.

Apparently the lead ballerina is 40 years of age? If this is true she is one talented woman. 

I lost count of the turns, pirouettes and pointes. 

The show was split across four acts. I have to say my favourite was act 2, the 'swans' dancing were so beautiful. It was mesmerising.

We were in the dress circle so I couldn't quite see the costume detailing, but I could see the sparkles on Odette's outfit. 

Even the male ballet dancers impressed me, normally I focus more on the females but the lead who played the Prince (his debut in the role that night) was so talented.

Now I can't wait to find another ballet we can go to. 

I was telling someone the other day how a few years back we tried to become more 'cultured' and visited galleries, museums, ballet and the opera.

I have to say ballet is still a firm favourite and it's good because my other half seems to enjoy it too.

The only thing I always wonder is why at times the ballerinas seem like feathers and completely weightless and you can't even hear their footsteps, yet at others it seems quite loud? 

My fiancé laughed at me but last time we saw the company I could swear I couldn't hear their feet on the floor at all. At the start of this production I really did notice the footwork sounds. 

Who I am to comment on their dancing and how light they are on the feet is anyone's guess. I certainly couldn't do it! (As my partner was quick to tell me!) 

If anyone knows what I'm talking about and if it distracts you too I'd love to know!

Regardless, I throughly enjoyed Swan Lake and can't wait for whatever we decide to experience next! 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Tired of my weight

10 days into January and 10 days into my diet and exercise. Well, sort of.

I've been strict for 8 of the 10 days. To be fair the two days I didn't exercise and ate badly were days planned by others so I had no choice (well that's my excuse anyway!) 

In 10 days I've been to two spinning classes and done my workout DVD three times. 

Rushing to get ready for the gym this morning I completely forgot to weigh myself to judge progress.

I definitely feel less bloated, but sadly still feel quite big and my clothes are tight. I'm hoping being strict for the next 10 days in a row will help. 

Let's be honest two evenings of alcohol and Mexican food isn't exactly going to help my waistline!

One thing I am pleased about is my love for spinning definitely seems to have come back. I'm loving the new dedicated spin studio in our gym.

Although I've missed the usual Saturday instructor, both classes have had cover teachers so I've really enjoyed trying something fresh and new. 

I'm exhausted though, combining the first week back at work with exercise and consuming less calories hasn't been ideal.

Most days I'm struggling to keep my eyes open! 

I won't lie the two days break eating Mexican style tapas food and alcohol was very welcomed and I enjoyed it at the time. 

However, it's funny how you start to adapt to health again. After two days I was longing to eat more healthily and on buying cupcakes for my team at work yesterday I even stayed away. Whilst they tucked into the sweet delights, I snacked on my grapes! And I wasn't envious. 

Even today making a reduced fat cheese omelette for lunch when I got in from the gym, I really enjoyed it! 

We plan to go see a scary film this evening too, so maybe that might even help burn a few calories (I'm a complete wuss and jump at everything!) 

In the meantime I'm relaxing on my sofa and as sad as it is I'm seriously considering an afternoon nap to give me a boost. After my initial exercise high earlier I definitely need some form of boost before tonight.

Admittedly I've not done any of the chores I planned today, but if I'm honest I'm not getting too worked up, after doing my 60 minutes' worth of spinning earlier I would even maybe say I've earnt it! 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Day 4: Ouch ouch ouch

Well it's my fourth day of healthy eating and exercising, trying to get back in shape.

I am so so achey.

Yesterday after doing my workout DVD my legs were wobbly as I walked up the stairs, like jelly. And today I'm in pain.

It's hurt sitting down, walking up stairs, walking in general in fact. 

I know this is good and I'm feeling the burn. Right now I just feel exhausted!

However, I am feeling pleased, I started aiming to get back on track on New Years Day and have stuck within calories allowed for four days. 

I've done one 60 minutes spinning class and gone back to my old faithful 30 Day Shred. 

The plan was to do the workout DVD tonight and tomorrow evening too, but I got home pretty late from work and am just aching too much.

I'm eating so much less than I was over Christmas that I'm hoping tonight's break from exercise won't be too big an issue.

Although I have got two 'cheat' days  approaching this week so I will need to stay on track as much as possible the rest of the week.

Apart from being in agony today I am feeling a lot better already. I must admit I am not enjoying the constant getting up in the night to go for a wee from all the water I'm drinking!! (Too much information??)

I'm going to try keep updating the blog to keep myself accountable too. And my fiancé started his diet today too so hopefully we'll help each other along.

Four days down, I imagine lots lots more to follow! 

Friday, 2 January 2015

Time to get back on the fitness wagon

A new year and I thought it was about time I get back on this blog. I know I know, I always say that and don’t worry I’m not going to start claiming my new year resolution is to blog more.

I am, however, going to be extremely stereotypical and announce how the Christmas break is over (well it is for me as I was back at work today) and that I am now aiming to get in shape. Bore. Yawn. I know I know could I be more cliché ‘new year, new me’ and all that…

However, after the vast amounts of food and drink consumed this past fortnight, something needed to be done. Well, I say past 2 weeks, what I really mean is since we moved into our house – takeaways galore and very little exercise for 3 months…

I reached that well known point we all get to after the festive indulgence, I was actually craving healthy food.

As a brand new year started yesterday I jumped on the scales when I eventually got up (after a rather late and drunken New Year’s Eve party) to survey the damage. I have to admit it wasn’t good, but it was definitely a lot better than anticipated.

Just over 7lbs put on in 3 months, bearing in mind I’ve eaten healthily for a few days out of that and only went to the gym once I’m relieved it wasn’t a lot more. I certainly feel like I’ve gained about 2 stone!!

I’m bridesmaid to one of my oldest and best friends this year too and we’re going to a wedding show at the end of the month so I really need to try and shift some of this excess fat before then – right now I don’t think any form of dress would suit me!

I have to admit (it is in all likelihood simply post-Christmas effect only and will be short-lived) I felt great yesterday. Although I was a tad hungover (mostly tired), I had healthy food and was only just over my suggested calorie allowance.

Fish, vegetables and sweet potato for dinner with a glass of water really did feel great! No fat, no booze, no junk. Lovely!

I’ve also stocked up on some more fruit and veg and low fat goodies so I plan to try and stick to this for as long as I can now.

I’d suggested a Dry January again like I did previously, however the social calendar is already against me – a team drinks thing next Wednesday and ballet (and no doubt a meal and drinks) on the Thursday! Therefore, my plan is instead to not drink alcohol unless it’s for a social occasion, I think that’s fair enough and a tad more realistic.

I’m also hoping to go to my first spinning class of 2015 tomorrow morning too to get myself back into it. I’ve already looked up the studio timetable for my gym so I can start planning visits too. I will shed this weight and more if it kills me.

A friend of mine has been dieting and exercising for a good few months now and she’s done so well she’s really inspired me. I can’t wait to be rid of this tired and bloated feeling – and also start enjoying looking good in clothes again and not wearing what’s comfortable or what I don’t look too fat in!

One, nearly two days down, and many more to go…